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Supreme Court to examine whether courts can add ‘rigorous’ to life terms

New Delhi: Can the word ‘rigorous’ be added by courts when they award life imprisonment? The Supreme Court has agreed to examine the question whether courts are statutorily empowered to make life imprisonments tougher for the convicts by adding “rigorous” (harsh) to life sentence as the law does not provide for this. A bench headed by Justice PC Ghose considered a submission which said that neither the penal provision dealing with the offence of murder, nor the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) provide that the term “rigorous” can be added by courts while awarding life sentence to convicts.

Supreme Court Of India. AFPSupreme Court Of India. AFP

Supreme Court Of India. AFP

“Let notice be issued in the matter limited to the question whether life imprisonment could be coupled with the condition that such imprisonment has to be rigorous imprisonment, returnable after four weeks,” the bench, also comprising Justice UU Lalit, said.

Senior advocate Parmanand Katara, appearing for convict Ram Kumar Sivare, who has been awarded rigorous life term in a murder case, has contended that the judgement pronounced by the courts below was “unconstitutional and ultra-vires” as penal and procedural laws do not empower them to qualify the life sentence with the term “rigorous”.

“The award of rigorous life imprisonment by the lower court and the Chattisgarh High Court is violative of Article 21 (protection of life and liberty) and 14 (right to equality) of the Constitution,” the lawyer said. The apex court was hearing the appeal filed by Sivare, who is serving rigorous life term at a Chattisgarh jail, challenging the High Court verdict in a murder case.

The High Court had upheld the trial court judgement convicting and awarding life term to Sivare and Bhuneshwar Prasad for stabbing to death one Anil Bhoyar on 5 January, 2010 near a government hospital in Durg district of Chattisgarh following a tiff over a minor issue.

The trial court had acquitted the third accused Manoj, which was upheld by the High Court.

First Published On : Dec 20, 2016 15:32 IST

Delhi: Nine flights cancelled, 19 delayed due to fog leading to zero visibility conditions

New Delhi: Shallow to dense fog was witnessed in some parts of the city on Wednesday with Delhi Airport witnessing zero visibility conditions leading to cancellation of nine domestic flights and delaying 19 others.

Rail traffic was also affected as 61 trains were delayed by several hours while 13 were cancelled and seven were rescheduled, according to a spokesperson.

According to a MeT department official, there was zero visibility at Palam at 5.30 am which subsequently improved to 100 metres by 8.30 am.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

There were better visibility conditions at Safdarjung with 1,000 metres visibility being recorded at 5.30 am that dropped to 600 metres by 8.30 am.

The arrival and departure of 19 domestic and international flights was delayed and nine domestic flights were cancelled due to fog and other reasons, according to the Delhi airport website.

A Delhi Airport spokesperson, however maintained that flight operations were normal.

Last week when 362 flights were delayed and 38 flights including 24 departures were also cancelled and three flights diverted during the low visibility period at the airport, DIAL, in its statement, had not mentioned about all the flights in its statement.

It had only mentioned that 24 flights were delayed because of weather and 34 cancelled during low visibility period due to “other reasons”. It had also said that no flight was cancelled during the low visibility period.

The city, meanwhile, recorded a low of 10.5 degrees Celsius.

“The minimum temperature was recorded at 10.5 degrees Celsius, two notches above normal and the humidity was recorded at 93 percent at 8.30 am,” said a MeT department official.

The maximum and minimum temperatures are likely to hover around 25 and 10 degrees Celsius respectively with clear sky expected through the day and moderate fog tomorrow morning.

On Tuesday, the city recorded a minimum of 10.5 degrees Celsius, two notches above normal, while the maximum temperature settled at 26.6 degrees Celsius, three notches above the season’s average.

First Published On : Dec 14, 2016 12:13 IST

Kashmir: On a day Valley remains calm, Yashwant Sinha-led delegation meet separatists for peace

Senior BJP leader and former external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha said on Tuesday that his civil society group was trying to convince New Delhi to invite separatist leaders from Kashmir for talks and to hold unconditional dialogue with them to resolve the long pending issue of insurgency in the Valley.

“After our first visit, we interacted with people in Delhi and we apprised them about the ground reality in Kashmir through our reports and interactions,” Sinha told Firstpost.

Former External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha. Getty ImagesFormer External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha. Getty Images

Former External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha. Getty Images

Sinha, who is leading a civil society delegation — comprising Kashmir observers like Wajahat Habibullah, Sushoba Bharve, and former air vice-marshal Kapil Kak — said that though his group doesn’t enjoy a mandate from the government of India, the two visits did yield a positive outcome.

“Building trust and acceptance on both sides is important to have a meaningful conversation and to search for solutions,” Sinha said. “If our previous visit would have been a non-starter, we wouldn’t have come back for a second time.”

The group is visiting the state at a time when the Valley is witnessing one of longest shutdowns in history. Nearly 100 people have been killed in retaliatory action against protesters by government forces, over 12,000 protesters have been wounded — many of them blinded for life, and around 7,000 are either behind bars or detained in their homes.

“We had to build trust with the people and then start work. It’s not easy because of the mistakes previously committed. And though we don’t have the government’s mandate, we can try to influence the policy makers,” Sinha said.

However, the group’s visit has been clouded by the unceremonious binning of the report prepared by the three-member Kashmir interlocutor group headed by Dilip Padgaonkar, which was sent by the UPA government to provide a roadmap following the civilian uprising in 2010. It also meant there wasn’t much hope from the new delegation, other than providing the members an opportunity to meet with society.

In a curt six-page report, the group has written to the central government that the people of Kashmir believe that “Indian politics has taken such a turn (today) that there is no willingness to listen to even demands for autonomy. In terms of the agenda of alliance (between PDP and BJP), a dialogue process must be initiated with all stakeholders so that peace can be restored,” the report says.

Sinha had said that it is true that such processes had failed in the past, but they have started the process once again with a hope that any positive outcome will be yielded, due to which they chose to visit the Valley a second time. “The dialogue we have had from three days with people from different shade of opinion was fruitful,” he said.

First Published On : Dec 13, 2016 21:45 IST

Dowry death social crime but can’t convict husband without proof, says Delhi court

New Delhi: It is a heinous crime to hang one’s wife to death but a husband cannot be convicted without any reliable evidence, a Delhi court has said while acquitting a man and his family members in a murder and dowry death case.

The court freed the man, his father and two sisters, all residents of east Delhi, saying there was no cogent evidence that the woman was subjected to cruelty or harassment for demand of dowry.

Representational image. News 18

Representational image. News 18

“While it is proved that husband being the companion in the house ought to be able to explain as to the circumstances under which his wife was found lying hanged in the bedroom but there also exists an obligation on the part of the prosecution to prove the guilt of the accused beyond all reasonable doubt…

“Undoubtedly, it is a social and heinous crime to have the wife hanged to death but without any proper and reliable evidence, the court cannot by itself justify its conclusion of murder by the husband,” Additional Sessions Judge Sanjeev Kumar Malhotra said.

While the victim woman used to stammer and was having hearing disability, her husband was deaf and dumb.

The court absolved the four accused of the charges under sections 304B (dowry death), 498A (subjecting woman to harassment by husband and in-laws), 302 (murder) and 34 (common intention) of the IPC.

The court said prosecution has failed to prove its case against the accused beyond reasonable doubt, benefit of which must go in favour of the accused.

According to prosecution, the couple got married in May 2006, and the woman was found hanging in her matrimonial house in April 2008.

The complaint was lodged by the victim’s father at Kalyanpuri Police Station against her husband and in-laws on the allegations that she was harassed by them for dowry which led to her death.

The court said except for demand of motorcycle which was alleged to have been made after one-and-a-half month of the marriage, there are no specific allegation in respect of demand of dowry or harassment by the accused.

It noted that the prosecution witnesses said that the demand for motorcycle was withdrawn as the woman’s husband could not get driving licence due to his hearing and speaking disabilities.

First Published On : Dec 4, 2016 09:50 IST

Congress Twitter handle @INCIndia hacked hours after Rahul Gandhi’s; party blames BJP

The official Twitter account of Indian National Congress was found to be hacked on Thursday, hours after party vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s verified twitter account was hacked.

Gandhi’s Twitter account was hacked at around 8.45 pm on Wednesday and some obscene remarks were put out online for around an hour. The tweets posted through the party handle were also laden with expletives and profanities.

INC Congress hacked cropped


INC india hacked cropped 2
INC India hacked 3

The messages were deleted soon thereafter. And after the hacking, Congress raised questions on the digital safety of all Indians, saying it reflects the disturbing insecurities of the prevalent “fascist culture” in the country.

The Congress has filed a complaint with the cyber cell of Delhi Police on the hacking of its vice-president’s twitter account, by the party’s chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, demanding strict action against those behind the hacking.

According to Times Now, the Delhi Police has emailed Twitter to find out the Internet Protocol address, and all the senior officials, including the commissioner are aware of the developments.

According to CNN-News18, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has sought a report on Rahul’s Twitter activity for the last week.

CNN-News18 says that the Congress has accused the BJP for the incident and has further criticised the demonetisation move by the government, questioning the safety of a cashless and digital society where such activites take place. Congress has mentioned that all the unauthorised tweets have been retweeted by BJP ‘bhakts’ shortly after its posting and thus it could be the work of BJP.

“Such lowly tactics will neither drown the sane voice of reason nor deter Gandhi from raising people’s issues,” Surjewala had said.

“Such unscrupulous, unethical and roguish conduct of venal trolls to hack Gandhi’s Twitter handle reflects disturbing insecurities of prevalent fascist culture,” he added.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi‘s political secretary Ahmed Patel also tweeted about the incident.

Rahul Gandhi, through his twitter account has responded too.

However, according to CNN-News18, BJP spokesperson Zafar Islam has retaliated saying that no one takes Gandhi or the Congress seriously. Subramanian Swamy too was quoted as saying: “Rahul has angered a lot of people. This could have been done from someone on the inside.”

The same report goes on to say that the two accounts lacked the additional security features that Twitter provides and it is possible that the accused have access to the email addresses linked with the accounts.

With inputs from PTI

First Published On : Dec 1, 2016 12:20 IST

Uma Bharti says govt to come up with a model act to conserve ground, rain water

New Delhi: The government will soon come out with a draft model law to conserve ground, surface and rain water and increase use of treated water for non-potable purposes, Union Minister Uma Bharti said on Tuesday.

Water being a state subject, the act will, however, not be binding on states for implementation.

Addressing the inaugural session of ‘Bhujal Manthan – 2’ in New Delhi, Bharti said a committee will also be formed to suggest ways to conserve fast depleting groundwater levels through aquifer recharge, particularly in drought-hit areas such as Marathwada and Bundelkhand.

Secretaries of Water Resources, Rural Development, Environment and Agriculture will be part of the committee, which is expected to submit its report in a month, she said.

File photo of Uma Bharti. PTI

File photo of Uma Bharti. PTI

“We are going to come out with the draft model act aimed at conserving ground, surface and rain water and one which stresses on using treated water optimally. 62 percent of water used by Israel is treated water. Why can’t we too do that? We too can do it,” Water Resources Minister Bharti said.

The Minister said the act will focus on using waste water for infrastructural and industrial activities, while recycled sewage water will be used for irrigation purpose.

Special secretary in the Water Resources Ministry, Amarjit Singh, seconded the Minister and stated that 80 percent to 85 percent drinking water is sourced from underground across the country.

Around 60 percent to 65 percent of water used for irrigation is fetched from underground, he added.

“Countries like China use less ground water than us, only to the extent of 30 percent of what can be recharged in that country annually. So, we need to make sure the withdrawal is sustainable (through the proposed act),” he said.

Bharti said the government also plans to complete aquifer mapping across the country over the next three years.

At the same time, she said, the government plans to recharge groundwater on priority basis across 1066 blocks (which could either be a district/taluka/mandals) where groundwater is “hugely exploited.”

“The Marathwada, Bundelkhand, Rajasthan, Gujarat and now even the Uttarakhand…the trees atop mountains in Uttarkhand which used to hold water have been cut. Hence, we will have to give priorities to these areas and recharge ground water,” she said.

Rural Development Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, who too addressed the event, said his ministry will contribute to the purpose by creating recharge structures through Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.

“The purpose is to see village water is stopped in the village itself,” he added.

Secretaries of Ministries of Water Resources and Drinking Water and Sanitation, Shashi Shekhar and Parameswaran Iyer respectively, also addressed the event.

First Published On : Nov 29, 2016 16:26 IST

Nalanda University chancellor George Yeo resigns, claims he wasn’t notified about leadership change

New Delhi: George Yeo, the second Chancellor of Nalanda University after Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, on Friday resigned from the post saying the varsity’s autonomy was being affected as he was “not even given notice” of the leadership change in the institution.

“The circumstances under which the leadership change in Nalanda University has been suddenly and summarily effected is disturbing and possibly harmful to the University’s development,” he said in a statement to the members of the earlier Board of the university.

The Board was reconstituted by President Pranab Mukherjee as its Visitor on 21 November which severed Sen’s nearly a decade-long association with the institution after the government reconstituted the governing body of the prestigious institution.

“It is puzzling why I, as Chancellor, was not even given notice of it. When I was invited to take over the responsibility from Amartya Sen last year, I was repeatedly assured that the University would have autonomy. This appears not to be the case now.

“Accordingly, and with deep sadness, I have submitted my letter of resignation as Chancellor to the Visitor,” Yeo said.

Sources said the President, in his capacity as the Visitor of the university, approved the reconstitution of the Governing Board in accordance with provisions of the Nalanda University Act, 2010.

He also approved giving temporary charge of Vice Chancellor to senior-most Dean of the University as the current VC Gopa Sabharwal’s one year extension expired on Thursday. It will be a stop-gap measure until the new Vice Chancellor is appointed.

File photo of George Yeo. Reuters

File photo of George Yeo. Reuters

The new governing board will be a 14-member body which will be chaired by the chancellor. It will also comprise vice-chancellor, along with five members nominated by India, China, Australia, Laos PDR and Thailand.

Former revenue secretary NK Singh, who was also member of the Nalanda Mentors Group, will represent India.

“For reasons not entirely clear to me, the Government of India has decided to form the new Governing Board with immediate effect before the Act is amended. This is of course entirely the prerogative of the Government of India,” Yeo, the former Foreign Affairs Minister of Singapore, said.

He said that pending the appointment of a new Vice Chancellor, the incumbent Gopa Sabharwal, whose term ended on Thursday, was to stay in place “to ensure that there is no hiatus in the leadership of the University.”

This was also provided in the university statutes and “fully supported by the old Governing Board.”

“However, on 22 November, the Visitor overruled the Governing Board and directed the senior-most Dean be appointed instead,” Yeo said.

He said when he was appointed Chancellor in July this year, “I was told that a new Governing Board would be formed under an amended Act, core aspects of which the Ministry of External Affairs sought my views on.”

The amended Act, he said, would have removed “a major flaw” which “in essence offers Governing Board seats to East Asian Summit countries making the highest financial contributions in the last three years.”

“This provision, which was never recommended by the Nalanda Mentor Group (NMG), would not have been a good way to constitute the Governing Board and was the reason the Government of India requested the NMG to continue functioning as the Governing Board for a number of years until the Act could be amended,” he said.

“It has been an honour and a privilege for me to be associated with the revival of Nalanda over the last decade, to serve as a member of the NMG and the Governing Board under the leadership of Amartya Sen, and to be appointed its second Chancellor.

“Despite difficult circumstances, the University has made remarkable progress through the tireless effort of Dr Gopa Sabharwal and her colleagues …. Nalanda is an idea whose time has come and larger than anyone of us,” Yeo said.

First Published On : Nov 25, 2016 14:10 IST

Demonetisation: Exchange of banned notes to continue at RBI counters, after service withdrawn from other banks

New Delhi: Banned 500 and 1,000 rupee notes will continue to be exchanged for new currency at RBI counters even after the facility was withdrawn from all banks.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The government had on Thursday announced that the demonetised 500 and 1,000 rupee notes can no longer be exchanged at bank counters and any holdings will necessarily have to be deposited in bank accounts.

“The Reserve Bank of India advises members of public that exchange of banknotes in Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denominations, whose legal tender status has been withdrawn, will continue to be available at the counters of the Reserve Bank up to the current limits per person as hitherto,” the central bank said in a statement.

The limit to exchange old notes was recently set at Rs 2,000 per person.

And the RBI said the facility of exchanging demonetised currency notes “is no longer available at other banks’ counters.”

First Published On : Nov 25, 2016 11:27 IST

Congress accuses PM Modi of holding corrupt minister as Gujarat CM

New Delhi: The Congress on Tuesday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of harbouring in his cabinet a “corrupt” minister for 12 years when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat.

File photo of Narendra Modi. PTI

File photo of Narendra Modi. PTI

Referring to a media report that reveals how Saurabh Patel’s family invested in firms dealing in gas and petrochemicals during his 14-year tenure as the state Energy Minister, Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi said Modi should come clear on this.

“It has come to light how Saurabh Patel and his family-owned companies invested in a Bahamas-based company dealing in energy and petro chemicals sector,” Singhvi said.

“Out of his 14 years tenure, he worked for 12 years as minister under the then Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi,” he added.

A four-time MLA on BJP ticket, Patel was the Energy and Petrochemicals Minister for 14 years till he was dropped from the cabinet on 7 August this year by new Chief Minister Vijay Rupani.

Singhvi said the Patels through these companies also took oil blocks from state enterprise Gujarat State Petroleum Corp (GSPC).

“Is it just conflict of interest? I think conflict of interest is a light word. This is corruption. The nation and Parliament seek answer from now Prime Minister and the then Gujarat Chief Minister,” he said.

The Congress spokesperson alleged Athat Patel was given such an important and big ministry by Modi at the behest of “the biggest and most influential industrial family of this country”.

“This is not the case of daal mein kaala‘. Here the entire daal is spoiled. There is graft all around. The Prime Minister is running away on demonetization. Will he also run away on this?” Singhvi asked.

First Published On : Nov 22, 2016 18:02 IST

Indian Navy rubbishes Pakistan’s claim of chasing away its submarine in territorial waters

New Delhi: The Indian Navy on Friday denied Pakistan’s claim of detecting and chasing away an Indian submarine in its waters, amid heightening of bilateral tensions.

Representational image, Reuters

Representational image, Reuters

The Pakistan Navy on Friday said it detected an Indian submarine near its waters and “chased it out” in time, Geo News reported.

“Indian Navy categorically denies the report as blatant lies,” Indian Navy Spokesperson Captain DK Sharma said.

According to a Pakistan Navy spokesperson, their fleet units “chased” the Indian submarine until it left Pakistani territory, Geo reported.

The spokesperson further said that the Pakistani Navy’s ability to “push back” the submarine was a testament to the country’s anti-submarine warfare capabilities.

Pakistan was “capable of giving a fitting response to any sort of aggression (by India)”, the spokesperson added. He alleged that India is “trying to station its submarines in Pakistani waters”.

First Published On : Nov 18, 2016 17:50 IST

Demonetisation: Govt eases restrictions on farmers, allows withdrawal up to Rs 50,000 per week

New Delhi: With cash crunch following demonetisation impacting agri sector, the government on Thursday eased guidelines for farmers by allowing them to withdraw up to Rs 50,000 cash per week from bank.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Besides, it has also extended the deadline for payment of crop insurance premium by 15 days and permitted APMC-registered traders to withdraw up to Rs 50,000 per week.

These steps will ensure that sowing takes place adequately in the Rabi season and enough cash is available to the farmers to buy fertiliser, seeds and other inputs, Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das told reporters in New Delhi.

“The government has decided to permit the farmers to draw up to Rs 25,000 per week against the crop loan sanctioned and credited to their accounts, subject to the limits…and this will also apply to Kisan Credit Cards,” he said.

These accounts have to be in the name of the concerned farmers, the accounts will have to be KYC compliant, Das said.

Besides, if the farmers receive payments either by way of cheques or RTGS into the bank accounts, they can withdraw up to Rs 25,000 per week, Das said.

Similarly, the registered traders with the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) markets also will be permitted to draw Rs 50,000 per week to meet various cash requirements like payment of wages to workers and other sundry expenses.

“So, this will facilitate smooth procurement process and help farmers to sell their produce without any difficulty,” Das said.

The government has also allowed its Group C employees, including from PSUs, defence and railways, to get salaries up to Rs 10,000 in cash in advance which will be adjusted against their November salary. “It is expected that this will relief pressure on banks,” Das said.

Following the demonetisation of 500 and 1,000 rupee notes on 8 November by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the government allowed withdrawal of up to Rs 24,000 per week per person through cheque and Rs 2,500 from ATMs.

First Published On : Nov 17, 2016 13:09 IST

Demonetisation: SC agrees to hear Centre’s plea seeking stay on proceedings against currency ban

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear a fresh plea of the Centre seeking a stay on the proceedings before various high courts and other courts, apart from the apex court, against its 8 November decision to demonetise high denomination currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

A bench comprising justices AR Dave and AM Khanwilkar agreed to the contention of Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Centre, that proceedings in various courts except the apex court on the issue will create a lot of confusion.

The bench said the matter will be heard by another bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur which is hearing a batch of PILs against the Centre’s demonetisation move.

The apex court, on 15 November, had refused to stay the government’s demonetisation notification but asked it to spell out the steps taken to minimise public inconvenience.

Out of the four PILs in the apex Court on demonetisation issue, two were filed by Delhi-based lawyers Vivek Narayan Sharma and Sangam Lal Pandey, while two others were filed by individuals, S Muthukumar and Adil Alvi.

The petitioners had alleged that the sudden decision has created chaos and harassment to public at large and the notification of the Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance be either quashed or deferred for some time.

The Prime Minister, in a televised address to the nation, had declared that high denomination notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 will no longer be legal tender from 8-9 November midnight. He had said the Government has declared a “decisive war” against black money and corruption.

First Published On : Nov 17, 2016 12:42 IST

Cockroach found in meal served on Air India flight, airline’s probe on

Cockroach found in meal served on Air India flight, airline’s probe on

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New Delhi: A passenger travelling on an Air India flight to Chicago found a cockroach in the meal served onboard, prompting the airline to order a probe into the matter.

Taking a serious note of the incident, the carrier has also served notice to the caterer concerned.

The incident happened in the Chicago-bound flight from Hyderabad via New Delhi.

A passenger tweeted about it along with a picture of the meals having a dead cockroach, following which Air India apologised for the inconvenience.

When contacted, the airline’s senior manager for corporate communications Dhananjay Kumar said, “Air India took serious note of the incident and issued notice to the caterer concerned immediately. Further investigation is going on.”

Earlier in the day, one Rahul Raghuvanshi tweeted the photo and said, “@airindiain now serves cockroach for vegetarian meals on AI127 #sicktomystomach #traumatised #cockroachinfood”.

In response, Air India tendered apologies for any inconvenience caused. “We have a zero tolerance policy in this respect. Obligatory action is taking place,” the airline said in a tweet.

First Published On : Nov 16, 2016 23:53 IST

Pakistan denies following India’s footsteps in demonetising higher denomination notes

Islamabad: Pakistan, unlike India, will not demonetise Rs 5,000 notes or withdraw Rs 40,000 prize bonds, with Finance Minister rebuffing media reports, saying “these rumours are baseless and no such proposal is under consideration.”

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Monday made it clear that the government was not considering demonetisation of Rs 5,000 currency notes and withdrawal of Rs 40,000 prize bonds.

The minister said that these rumours are baseless and no such proposal is under consideration of the government, Dawn reported.

Haroon Akhtar Khan, Special Assistant to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday had said the proposal to discontinue currency notes and prize bonds of the highest denomination was “under consideration”, the daily said.

Khan said the proposal came from the Tax Reforms Commission before the 2016-17 budget but the final decision was postponed and a tax reforms implementation committee was asked to look into it after the budget.

Presently, prize bonds are sold and purchased against cash without recording any identification of the seller and buyer. These are also traded in the open market and remain a major source of fraud and illegal activities.

Pakistan Peoples Party Senator Osman Saifullah Khan last week submitted a resolution in the Senate to demonetise 1,000 and 5,000 rupee notes to tackle corruption, citing the example of India which has withdrew 500 and 1,000 denominations of notes.

First Published On : Nov 15, 2016 15:00 IST

Demonetisation: Govt to use indellible ink to prevent multiple withdrawls from banks

New Delhi: The government will use indelible ink like during elections to prevent people from making more than the permissible number of times cash withdrawal from bank counters, it was announced on Tuesday.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das told the media that Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a second review meeting on demonetisation with officials of the Finance Ministry and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to ascertain why there continued to be such long queues at banks.

“It was found that in many places same set of people are visiting to get cash. They are going from one branch to another branch. As a result, the benefit of withdrawal was getting restricted to a few people,” Das said.

“To prevent this, indelible ink marks will be used, like in elections, at the cash counters,” he said, adding unscrupulous elements were trying to convert their black money into white by going to different banks branches several times over in a day.

“Operating instructions will be issued to banks on how to use indelible ink. From today, this process will start in all major cities.”

At the moment, the daily withdrawal limit from ATMs is Rs 2,500, and exchange of old notes from bank counters is Rs 4,500. This apart, the upper limit for weekly withdrawal from bank accounts stands at Rs 24,000.

First Published On : Nov 15, 2016 13:07 IST

Rs 500, Rs 1000 ban: IMF supports demonitisation but cautions against disruptions in economy

Rs 500, Rs 1000 ban: IMF supports demonitisation but cautions against disruptions in economy

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Washington: The IMF said on Friday that it supports India’s efforts to fight corruption through the currency control measures announced this week, but stressed taking care to minimize disruptions in the economy.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Indian banks reopened on Friday for the first time since the government’s decision to withdraw the two largest denomination notes from circulation in a shock move designed to tackle widespread corruption and tax evasion.

“We support the measures to fight corruption and illicit financial flows in India,” IMF spokesman Gerry Rice told reporters.

“Of course given the large role of cash in everyday transactions in India’s economy, the currency transition will have to be managed prudently to minimize possible disruptions.”

Some banks in the capital New Delhi had received the new 2,000 rupee ($30) bill and a number of ATMs were working again on Friday, two days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the 500 and 1,000 rupee notes would no longer be legal tender in a blitz against tax evasion and corruption.

Five more Indian diplomats return home: Pakistan security officials

Five more Indian diplomats return home: Pakistan security officials

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Islamabad: Pakistani security officials say five more Indian diplomats have returned to their country amid a deepening diplomatic row.

The two officials said Wednesday the five were among eight diplomats whose names were publicised by Pakistan, which said they were spies. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

A diplomatic row between Pakistan and India has deepened since 27 October, when they each expelled an embassy staffer for spying.

The situation worsened when Pakistan withdrew six of its diplomats after their names were released to Indian media amid tensions over Kashmir.

Islamabad reciprocated by publishing the names of the eight diplomats. India protested the move, and what it called “factually incorrect allegations.”

From Bhopal encounter to NDTV India ban: Is India heading towards dictatorship?

India to many is a land of paradoxes. This was again on display in the events that occurred last fortnight — ban on NDTV India, Bhopal encounter, the crackdown on opposition during Orop protests, and insensitive handling of Najeeb’s mother — which make one wonder if or not the Indian democracy is actually as deep rooted as we often believe it to be.

While our political leanings dictate our reading of these happenings that dominated public discourse in the past fortnight, I would like to argue that in many fundamental ways they expose besetting ills of our democracy, beyond political divisions. Below I have discussed what are these ills and how these incidents reveal them.

The NDTV India Ban — increasingly vulnerable freedom of press and speech

The now-stayed directive to ban NDTV India for a day was disconcerting at multiple levels. Its justification for the ban on the grounds of national security was quite flimsy. Its contention that NDTV India had aired information that adversely affected Pathankot operation was clearly short on facts.

NDTV-India

Firstly, NDTV India didn’t air anything that the terrorists may not have already known. In fact, there’s more detailed information available online. Secondly, as the Indian Express reported, the two terrorists, who are said to have benefitted from this information, may not even have existed.

Thirdly, if NDTV India indeed endangered security with its broadcast, why only NDTV‘s Hindi channel had been acted against when its English version too broadcasted the same information.

Finally, why did the government stay the ban when faced with Supreme Court hearing and protest ? If it actually believed its case had merit, backtracking does not make sense.

The apparent absence of merit in the government’s case and its subsequent backing down strengthens the apprehension that this was nothing more than an attempt to send a signal to the media house to resist from being critical of the government.

It is no secret that many among the ruling regime have no love for NDTV India, which they believe is hostile to the Modi Government. There have already been social media campaigns that were organised with NDTV as the target. While even such organised social media campaign would make anyone who values freedom of the press, wary, the use of government’s coercive power in the pretext of national security to get even with a media house that may not tow the government line is clearly abundant with dangers.

Firstly, it has a chilling effect on the freedom of press and expression. These media houses operate commercially, and a fear of getting entangled in legal tussles with the government can be a strong deterrent to them being able to offer information that can help the public make informed choices about their government.

Secondly, using national security as a pretext is even more disturbing, especially since those in power assume that anything done in the name of national security can be shielded from public questioning and will be readily accepted. This is detrimental to a democracy’s ability to question the government, which is the bedrock of democracy.

Bhopal Encounter — fraying confidence in Rule of law

If the NDTV India ban undermined the freedom of the press, the Bhopal encounters have brought to fore a diminishing commitment to law both among the ruling regime and the public.

The audio-visual material that has emerged in relation to the Bhopal encounter suggest conclusively that the encounters were fake right from the video of cops shooting an unarmed SIMI activist lying injured, to SIMI activists trying to surrender along with confessions of senior officers that the SIMI activists were unarmed, or the audio clip with instruction from control room to stage fake encounters.

Police at the encounter site at the hillocks of Acharpura village after the STF killed 8 SIMI activists. PTI

Police at the encounter site at the hillocks of Acharpura village after the STF killed 8 SIMI activists. PTI

While fake encounters in themselves are worrying, what is even more disturbing is that there is near total support for these encounters right from the bottom to the top. The entire state apparatus, which is supposed to uphold the law of the land, seems to be not just upholding the flagrant violation of law, but also appears to be celebrating it. There is no concern as to how such encounters criminalise the police force, or how their thirst for blood can lead to a destructive spiral that may kill many innocents.

One can sympathise with the frustration that is born out of a slow pace of justice, but if we are going to respond by legitimising kangaroo justice, then the rule of law — another essential feature of democracy — may not have a future. This is why when the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan tried to justify the encounter, it revealed to me his loss of faith in the rule of law. It makes me worry about our democracy.

Crackdown on Opposition’s protest on Orop — muzzling political expression

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi talking to media at Tilak Marg Police Station. PTI

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi talking to media at Tilak Marg Police Station. PTI

The suicide of a decorated soldier frustrated at government’s failure to implement Orop (One rank one pension) in it’s purest form was understandably worrying for the government as it threatened to derail its ambition to milk nationalistic fervour. But what one couldn’t fathom was its indiscriminate crackdown on the opposition rank, simply because they were trying to make political capital out of the government’s embarrassment.

Using police to detain opposition leaders and denying them their democratic right to politicise the issue, is dangerously bordering on dictatorial conduct. It is fine for a government to counter the politics of the opposition with its own politics, but to unleash police to muzzle oppositions’ political expression, is undemocratic. Besides, our silence about it has made me more worried.

If the government can so brazenly swoop down on the opposition and suppress the opposition’s right to dissent and disagree with the regime of the day, without inviting widespread backlash from citizens, then it speaks lowly of the commitment of the citizenry to protect our political rights.

Mishandling of Najeeb’s mother — insensitive and brazenly partisan administration

The pictures of the missing JNU student Najeeb Ahmed’s mother being dragged caused much consternation in the opposition’s rank. But politics aside, the indifferent attitude of the police towards its search for Najeeb and dealing emphatically with his family has lead many to feel that the police is denying Najeeb his constitutional right to equal protection of law both due to his identity (a Muslim and student of JNU) and his actions (being hostile to ABVP).

Also, it is inexplicable as to why has the Modi Government not tried to reach out to Najeeb’s family. Consoling a bereaved citizen is the least any sensitive government could do.

Representational image. Image courtesy: News18

The wide loss of confidence in the administration in securing the basic rights of its citizens is corrosive for democracy. It undermines public cooperation with an administration. The incident also raises doubts on whether justice exists for all in India or is it reserved only for those in the good books of the administration.

In conclusion, the last fortnight has indeed been worrying for Indian democracy from multiple perspectives. The ignominious conduct of the regime made it resemble dictatorship more than democracy. Hopefully, this will prove to be an aberration instead of a trend. And, if it makes us more cautious, it can, in fact, enrich democracy since eternal vigilance of actively involved citizens is the greatest strength of a democracy.

Theresa May in India: Siddaramaiah raises concern over visas during meeting with British PM

Bengaluru: British Prime Minister Theresa May, who arrived in Bengaluru on Tuesday from New Delhi for a day-long visit, met Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah who during their talks raised the issue of rising cost of British visas.

“The two met at a star hotel near the international airport at Devanhalli and discussed bilateral issues,” said an official in Bengaluru.

File photo of Theresa May. AP

File photo of Theresa May. AP

Among the issues the Chief Minister raised with May were the rising cost of British visas to Indian IT professionals and visa curbs on Indian students going for higher studies in Britain.

“Siddaramaiah also briefed May about the state’s proactive policies for foreign direct investment in diverse sectors from British investors and the British industry.

“Karnataka is an attractive destination for investments in aerospace, biotech, IT, financial services, pharma and research and development,” said state Industries Minister RV Deshpande on the occasion.

Admitting that the British government’s recent decision to hike visa fee and tighten its rules for techies and business executives had caused disquiet to Indian firms and investors, Deshpande said the state government was as much concerned about their prospects as much as Britain is on passport rights for the financial services industry after Brexit.

“We are concerned about the difficulties in cross-border work. Restrictions prevent bright talent from working globally and inhibit competitiveness of the British industry,” asserted Deshpande.

The Chief Minister also prevailed upon May to grant time-bound visas for Indian software engineers to work on projects in Britain and return.

“Our IT professionals or software engineers are not looking for immigration visas but for projects, which are global operationally,” added Deshpande.

May also visited the state-run Stonehill primary school at Papanahalli on the city’s northern outskirts and interacted with its girls and boys.

After visiting Dynamatic Technologies Ltd at the Peenya industrial state in the northwest suburb and inspecting its aerospace facility in the afternoon, May will drive into the city for two-three other engagements, including a visit to an ancient Someshwara temple in the eastern suburb for the blessing of Hindu deity Shiva.

The 15th century temple is one the oldest in the southern state, dating back to the Chola period.

Elaborate arrangements have been made to ensure the safety and security of the visiting dignitary and her accompanying official delegation.

May is on a three-day maiden official visit to India since Sunday and the first country outside the European Union after she assumed office in July this year.

On way back to the airport, May will hold an hour-long interactive session with chief executives of India Inc at a start hotel in the city.

A delegation of Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) will call on her at the venue.

May is the fourth British Premier to visit Bengaluru after her (Conservative) Party’s then leader John Major on 9 January, 1997, Labour Party’s leader Tony Blair on 4 January, 2002 and David Cameron on 28 July, 2010.

“Vehicular traffic has been restricted and regulated on the routes May’s motorcade will take to the venues where her engagements are scheduled and to avoid grid lock on the main roads,” said a police official.

Chhath Puja: Devotees pay obeisance to Sun God at ghats in Delhi

New Delhi: Thousands of devotees celebrating Chhath Puja gathered on the banks of the Yamuna river, lakes and canals in the national capital early this afternoon to pay obeisance to the Sun God on the third day of the festival.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his cabinet of ministers visited several Chhath ghats and greeted people on the occasion. Water minister Kapil Mishra took a boat ride to take stock of the preparations. Leaders from other political parties also met people at the ghats.

East Delhi Mayor Satya Sharma visited the ghats under the EDMC jurisdiction and greeted people on the occasion.

“The first day of ‘Arghya’ went off peacefully with large number of people gathering at Geeta Colony and Sonia Vihar ghats. The crowd is much bigger than last year, but we have made adequate arrangements,” she said.

Devotees worshiping on the occasion of the Chhath festival on the banks of Ganga river at Varanasi  on Sunday. PTI

Devotees worshiping on the occasion of the Chhath festival on the banks of Ganga river at Varanasi on Sunday. PTI

Married men and women observing the over 38-hour fast stood in knee-deep water and prayed for the well-being and prosperity of their families.

The observance on Sunday, as part of the four-day festival, saw people offering prayers at more than 50 major sites across the national capital. Thousands of devotees thronged Qudsia Ghat, Wazirabad Ghat, Rambagh Ghat, Kalindi Kunj Ghat, Sonia Vihar and Geeta Colony ghats.

For the first time, ghats in North Delhi had CCTV cameras to monitor the crowd. Delhi government and civic bodies had worked in tandem to ready the river banks, and making safety arrangements for people thronging the ghats.

Makeshift pandals, sandbanks, floodlights and barricades were put up at the ghats’ premises.

Traffic police said traffic situation this time is better compared to last year, when there were huge snarls on roads. Apart from a few areas surrounding Kalindi Kunj Ghat and ITO, traffic was smooth in the other areas.

“Since Chhath Puja fell on a Sunday, there were no school buses. Many people preferred to stay indoors because of smog. We could manage the traffic situation,” a senior traffic police officer said.

The age-old tradition of paying obeisance to the Sun God, is observed mainly by the people from Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh or Poorvanchalis. The national capital has a sizeable population of people hailing from these two states.

The puja starts with the ritual of ‘Nahai-Khai’, in which devotees prepare traditional food after bathing. The second day is ‘Kharna’, during which devotees observe a day-long fast which ends after sunset.

On the third day, the devotees stand in water and offer ‘Arghya’ to the setting sun. On the final day of the puja, devotees and their friends and relatives assemble at the river bank before sunrise and offer ‘Arghya’ to the rising sun.

With an aim to woo the Bihar-UP migrant community that is seen as a major voting population in the city, Kejriwal had announced that ‘kachha’ Chhath ghats will be made into ‘pucca’ ones by next year.

Bird flu scare: Odisha sounds high alert following Delhi and Gwalior

Bhubaneswar: With detection of avian influenza in Delhi and Gwalior, Odisha goverment health department has sounded high alert in the state and has asked chief district medical officers (CDMOs) to take precautionary measures.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Health secretary Arti Ahuja in letters to all CDMOs has informed that bird flu H5N8 has been detected at National Zoological Park, New Delhi and Gandhi Zoological Park in Gwalior. It was confirmed by National Institute of High Security Animal Disease Laboratory at Bhopal.

As the virus is carried by migratory birds, Odisha is on high alert as a large number of migratory birds visit the state in the onset of winter.

All the poultry farms and bird sanctuaries have been advised to take all precautionary measures, the health secretary said, adding the district administration have asked owners of all the poultry farms report to the administration if they found any sick or dead chicken.

Ahuja said awareness campaigns would be conducted by the state government and the district administrations have been asked to prepare contingency plan for surveillance,
deployment of rapid response teams, screening, case management facility and protection of human health during culling operation.

Nepal-India Joint Commission commences in New Delhi

New Delhi: The fourth meeting of the Nepal-India Joint Commission began in New Delhi on Wednesday, setting the tone for the minister-level meeting scheduled for Thursday.

At the Joint Commission talks, Foreign Secretaries Shankar Das Bairagi and S Jaishankar are leading the Nepali and Indian delegations. The Nepal-India ministerial level meeting is expected to focus on implementing the past agreements and accords signed between the two countries.

Modi and Dahal PTI380

Nepal PM Prachanda with PM Modi. PTI

The Joint Commission, the highest level bilateral mechanism between Nepal and India that is mandated to review entire gamut of relations between the two countries, directs relevant officials to resolve the pending issues and chart out the future course of the ties.

The meeting will focus on securing agreements on select points, and will seek understanding on those issues that require more time to settle. The agreed issues will be pushed for early implementation so that India-funded projects in Nepal will see tangible progress in near future.

“The meeting will make a comprehensive review of the bilateral ties,” said Foreign Minister Mahat ahead of his India visit, adding that those issues and agendas agreed in recent high-level visits between Nepal and India will be put for implementation.

The Joint Commission was first formed in 1987. Its third and last meeting was held in Kathmandu in July 2014 after a hiatus of 23 years. The meeting will review progress on issues that featured during the last Joint Commission meeting two years ago and other high-level exchanges between the two sides.

Sushma Swaraj is leading the Indian side at the ministerial level meeting comprising secretaries from various ministries.

Minister Prakash Sharan Mahat said that bilateral matters like roads, cross-border connectivity (railways, roads and bridges), water resources, inundation, security matters, boundary adjustments, completing the detailed project of much touted Pancheshwor Development Authority that is executing 4,800 mw hydropower in Nepal are some key agendas.

According to Mahat, issues like construction of integrated checkposts on Nepal-India border, power trade, implementation of Mahakali Treaty, connecting roads, construction of cross-border petroleum pipeline, compensation for various victims affected by inundation, trade, transit and fixing the modality of Indian reconstruction aid to Nepal.

On boundary issues, Nepal and India will seek some changes on design of pillars located in river areas though the both sides have achieved progress in installing the boundary pillars.

“The meeting will review the progress made by the technical level in installation of boundary pillars and clearing the no-man’s land,” said Mahat.

Nepal will also call for the construction of the Sunkoshi Diversion, splitting from Sapta Koshi Multi Purpose Project.

RSS polarising Kerala with political and communal violence, claims CPM

New Delhi: The CPI(M) on Tuesday accused RSS of engaging in politics of violence to sharpen communal polarisation in Muslim-dominated pockets of Northern Kerala and described the tactic as a “standard” practice the Sangh resorts to spread its wings.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“The RSS seeks through such politics of violence and terror to sharpen communal polarisation in predominantly Muslim populated areas of northern Kerala to increase its following amongst people. These are standard RSS tactics,” the CPI(M) Politburo said in a statement.

The Politburo sought to refute RSS’ allegation that the CPI(M) had launched violence against Sangh workers, saying the charges are part of the Goebbelsian tactics the RSS-BJP combine “always” resorts to “propagate a lie as truth” by repeating it hundred times.

The truth, the Politburo said, is the “other way round” and accused the RSS of killing five Left workers and injuring 300 others in Kerala ever since Pinarayi Vijayan government was formed in the state.

“Every single judicial commission of enquiry into communal riots all over the country since independence has severely indicted the RSS and their role in perpetuating communal polarisation through violence and terror.

“…while it is clear that it is the RSS which is mounting large-scale attacks against the CPI(M) all over Kerala, it is fallaciously seeking to portray itself as the victim,” it added.

The CPI(M) also forewarned that the RSS appears determined to continue with its violence against it given the Sangh allegedly refused to hold talks with the state’s ruling party to restore peace and harmony in the areas concerned.

“The RSS bluff shall be called. The people of Kerala and the entire country are determined to defeat such diabolical politics of the BJP,” it said.

Varun Gandhi rejects Swaraj Abhiyan leaders’ allegations of being honey trapped

BJP MP Varun Gandhi is at the centre of a controversy over allegations that he had leaked defence secrets to middleman Abhishek Verma and arms manufacturers after being honey trapped, a charge he stoutly denied.

Varun rejected these charges, saying he has not met Verma since 2004 and threatened to file a defamation suit against Bhushan and Yadav over the charges, saying, “The entire information presented does not contain an iota of proof that either I had access or shared any communication regarding sensitive information to Verma.”

File photo of Varun Gandhi. Reuters

File photo of Varun Gandhi. Reuters

He said that he last met Verma when he was a post graduate student in London at the age of 22 years. “I am going to turn 37 now. I have never met him since I entered public life in 2004. The only reason why I even know of him is because his parents were members of parliament and was a respected family. I knew them as many other leaders knew them,” he said. Asked if he had come across any sensitive information during his tenure on the consultative committee on defence, he said, “Any MP who has been on that committee knows that not even 0.1 percentage of any confidential information is shared with the committee.”

At a press conference in New Delhi, Swaraj Abhiyan leaders Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav had released a letter written by Edmonds Allen, a New York-based lawyer, to the PMO last month that Varun was honey trapped and compromised by Verma. The lawyer alleged that Verma “blackmailed” Varun, a member of the Defence Consultative Committee, into sharing sensitive information on crucial arms matters.

Referring to the recently signed deal between India and French aircraft manufacturer Dassault for 36 Rafale aircraft, Bhushan had alleged that despite having all the details, the BJP government did not blacklist Thales, the company that sold scam-tainted Scorpene submarines, as Dassault acquired it. Dassault Aviation has 25.3 percent stake in Thales. “Any action against Thales may have jeopardised the Rafale deal. Moreover, contrary to previous announcements of getting 126 aircraft, the government bought 36 aircraft, paying double the price for individual units. It certainly appears to be the case that something is fishy,” he said.. However, Bhushan and Yadav did not take Varun’s name during the press conference and instead asked journalists to refer to the letter. They claimed to have withheld photographic evidences pertaining to the matter.

Allen had written to the PM, Defence Minister, CBI and the NSA with all the details on August and September this year. He was Verma’s partner but fell out with him in 2012 and Verma is facing trial in the 2006 Naval War Room leak case.

Abhishek Verma himself rejected allegations of purported defence leaks by saying the emails and photographs being circulated are “fabricated” and questioned the motive of the releases made on Thursday. He said the so-called “emails and photos are fabricated as I had not issued nor photographed Gandhi nor referred to him anywhere…These are attempts on part of Allen to defame me, and others named in the letter.”

“Allen is a known forger and he had in the past also morphed some photos of another individual and I had filed a case of criminal defamation against Allen in Patiala House Court on 6 February, 2012. The case trial is on and the matter is subjudice,” Verma said in a statement issued on Thursday. The pending suit against him under sections of Information Technology Act and forgery and the letter orchestrated by Allen is true to his nature of character assasination by forgery and deceit, he claimed. “I will be initiating a suit for criminal defamation against C Edmonds Allen and maybe against Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav shortly,” he added.

He questioned as to why Allen did not disclose these contents, made public on Thursday, when a joint team of CBI and Enforcement Directorate visited the latter in New York in 2012. “Why is it that Allen did not provide these photos or talked a bout the angle of blackmailing of Gandhi to the CBI and ED? Why now after four years when last month I was granted bail by Honourable Courts?” he said. With regard to the Scorpene deal, Verma said that the “Delhi High Court had on 13 January, 2016 dismissed the PIL filed by Bhushan on Scorpene Submarines purchase in which I was implicated as a party by Bhushan, as it had no merit. Bhushan suppressed the above fact of dismissal of his PIL in this issue in his tweet of last week and also in today’s press conference. The act of Bhushan today tantamounts to contempt of court,” he said.

Rejecting Bhushan and Yadav’s allegation that India paid double the price, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Thursday asserted that the recently-signed Euro 7.878 billion-deal for 36 Rafale fighter jets was the best ever offered to any country. “Rafale is the best deal that we have managed. It was because Prime Minister of India and President of France agreed that we have this deal which has not been offered to any other country,” he said. “How much does it cost to level allegation?” he added angrily.

Parrikar said nothing has been proved in the alleged Scorpene leak and hence the case for banning any firm does not arise. He, however, refused to comment on the duo’s allegation that BJP parliamentarian Varun Gandhi was “honey trapped” into leaking defence secrets, a charge stoutly denied by the leader.

With inputs from PTI

Bird Flu scare in Delhi: After Delhi zoo, Deer Park too shut as eight more birds die

New Delhi: With eight more birds succumbing to bird flu in Delhi, authorities on Thursday shut down the popular Deer Park and warned people not to touch any dead bird.

Deaths of two more birds each were reported in Delhi Zoo and Deer Park while three dead birds were spotted in Sundar Nagar, near the zoo, and one in Tughlakabad in the city’s deep south.

Giving details, Delhi’s Animal Husbandry Minister Gopal Rai said the total number of deaths of migratory birds in the capital since last week had touched 18.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“We are trying our level best to control the situation before it gets bad. For now, citizens need not worry and just be careful and alert,” Rai said.

“Reports of dead birds have come from various areas including Sundar Nagar, Tughlakabad and Deer Park. Deer Park has been closed for reasons of safety,” Rai said, adding he will visit the park on Friday at 2 p.m.

“I appeal to the citizens not to touch any dead bird and to instead inform the Animal Husbandry Department on the Helpline,” he added.

The government fears that the deaths may be due to H5 influenza virus which causes avian or bird flu.

Rai said 50 samples from the zoo, various bird sanctuaries in the city and poultry markets in Delhi had been sent to labs for analysis.

Both the Delhi zoo, closed on Tuesday, and the Deer Park will remain shut until normalcy returns.

On Wednesday, the Delhi government announced a Helpline (011-2389 0318) to report cases of bird flu and seek help.

Rai said he would write to the concerned ministers of neighbouring states urging them to take precautionary steps and to coordinate with the Delhi government in its attempts to curb the outbreak.

The Delhi government has set up a 23-member committee to coordinate work among various departments and to probe the reasons behind the bird deaths since last week.

The committee will be headed by Development Commissioner Sandeep Kumar.

On Wednesday, Rai set up six rapid response teams to visit various places including bird sanctuaries and poultry markets. On Thursday, Rai increased their number to 10.

All leave in the concerned departments have been cancelled.

The first deaths of two migratory birds were reported on October 14 in the Delhi Zoo, where six more birds were found dead the next day. One more bird each died on October 17 and 19.

Samples of the eight birds were sent to a lab in Jalandhar and to Bhopal, which confirmed the presence of H5 influenza virus.

Delhi court dismisses fake degree complaint against Smriti Irani, says it was filed to ‘harrass’ her

New Delhi: In a relief to Smriti Irani, a Delhi court on Tuesday dismissed a complaint against her for allegedly giving false information on her educational qualification to the Election Commission, saying it was filed to “needlessly harass” her as she was a union minister.

Metropolitan Magistrate Harvinder Singh said there was a “great delay of around 11 years” in filing the complaint as it rejected the plea to summon her as an accused. “Therefore, prayer for summoning the proposed accused (Irani) is hearby declined,” the court said while pronouncing the order.

In his complaint, freelance writer Ahmer Khan had alleged that Irani, now Textiles Minister, had deliberately given discrepant information about her educational qualifications in affidavits filed before the Election Commission in 2004, 2011 and 2014 and not given any clarification, despite concerns raised on the issue. He had urged the court to take cognisance of the offences alleged in the plea under Section 125A of the RPA and “summon the accused person, Smriti Z Irani, for trial”.

“After conducting trial hold the accused guilty, convict and sentence the accused person in accordance with law, in the interest of justice to the complainant and also the public at large”, he had prayed.

File photo of Smriti Irani. PTI

File photo of Smriti Irani. PTI

The complainant had earlier claimed in court that in her affidavit for April 2004 Lok Sabha polls, Irani had said she completed her BA in 1996 from DU(School of Correspondence), whereas in another affidavit of 11 July, 2011 to contest Rajya Sabha election from Gujarat, she had said her highest educational qualification was BCom Part I from the School of Correspondence, DU. In the affidavit filed for nomination of 16 April, 2014 Lok Sabha polls from Amethi constituency in Uttar Pradesh, Irani said she had completed Bachelor of Commerce Part-I from School of Open Learning, DU. A poll panel official had earlier told the court that the documents filed by Irani regarding her academic qualification while filing nominations were not traceable. However, the information on this was available on its website, he had said.

The court, while declining the prayer, said the original evidence was already lost due to passage of several years and the court needed to be “relieved of the burden of adjudicating such inconsequential claim or case”. It said the fate of the case could be foreseen as inevitable failure as original evidence was lost due to the “great delay” and the complainant may not have even bothered to file the plea if Irani was not a central minister.

“So, where the original evidence has already been lost due to passage of number of years, the secondary evidence available will probably be not able to withstand the test of judicial scrutiny, there is great great delay of around 11 years in filing of the complaint…The said delay could not be condoned as complainant is not an aggrieved person, the complaint does not appear to have been filed for vindication of majesty of justice and maintenance of law and order, the complaint appears to have been filed to needlessly harass the proposed accused,” the magistrate said.

Section 125A of RPA deals with penalty for filing false affidavit and entails a jail term of up to six months or fine or both. The court said the alleged offence under the IPC entailed a maximum punishment of three years for which the limitation for filing the complaint was three years under the CrPC.

The court had on 20 November last year allowed the complainant’s plea seeking direction to the officials of EC and DU to bring the records of Irani’s qualifications after he said he was unable to place them before the court. In pursuance to the court’s earlier direction, Delhi University had also submitted that the documents pertaining to Irani’s BA course in 1996, as purportedly mentioned by her in an affidavit filed during 2004 Lok Sabha elections, were yet to be found.

Khan had alleged that Irani had knowingly furnished misleading information about her qualifications and that a candidate, deliberately giving incorrect details, could be punished under provisions of the IPC and under section 125A of the Representation of the People Act (RPA).

Foreign Secretary clarifies that ‘no message’ on past surgical strikes was conveyed

New Delhi: Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar on Tuesday said whether cross-LoC surgical strikes were undertaken by the army in the past only the military will know as no “message” about such assaults were conveyed.

File photo of S Jaishankar. PTI

File photo of S Jaishankar. PTI

“What FS said is that the key issue is that we went public after conducting the surgical strikes which conveyed a politico-military message. Whether any previous crossings had been done only the army would know. But it is irrelevant anyway because there was no message,” sources in the government said.

The clarification about what transpired at a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on External Affairs, which was briefed on the strikes by Jaishankar, came after some opposition MPs quoted him having said the army had carried out “target specific, limited-calibre, counter-terrorist operations” across the LoC in the past too but this was for the first time the government had gone public about it.

An earlier report by PTI said, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar gave this information to the Parliamentary Committee on Exernal Affairs when he was specifically asked by MPs whether surgical strikes have been done in the past. His comments assume significance in the context of claims by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar‘s claims last week rejecting Congress’s claims that surgical strikes were undertaken during the UPA government too. Manohar Parrikar had said that it was the first time that surgical strikes had taken place in the aftermath of the Uri terror attack and what was undertaken previously were operations locally executed by commanders without involving the government.

Meanwhile Congress has not stopped quoting the Foreign Secretary’s earlier remarks, in an attempt to still try and milk the situation.

Boycott of Chinese goods fails in festive season, sale hits record high

Beijing: Calls for boycott of Chinese goods in India following China’s opposition to a UN ban on JeM chief Masood Azhar have failed as sales of Chinese products in the country hit a record high during the festive season, official media in Beijing said on Friday.

“Diwali, one of the most important Hindu festivals and one of the biggest shopping seasons in India, is coming at the end of October, but encouragement to boycott Chinese goods has been spreading in the last few days on Indian social media, and even a few Indian politicians are exaggerating facts,” an article in the state-run Global Times said.

“However, regardless of the passionate boycott in India and Indian media’s hysteric reports of a “doomsday” for Chinese products, Chinese goods have never been condemned by Indian government and are popular across the nation,” it said.

“The boycott has not achieved success. Sales figures for Chinese products on the top three Indian online retailers in the first week of October hit a new record. Amazingly, the Chinese mobile phone company Xiaomi sold half a million phones in just three days on the Flipkart, Amazon India, Snapdeal and Tata CLiQ platforms,” the article said.

Referring to the boycott calls over China’s technical hold on moves to bring about a ban on Azhar as well Beijing obstructing India’s membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, (NSG), it said.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“Chinese products are often the victim when regional situations get tense, and this phenomenon has been existing for quite a few years. Now Chinese goods are on the stage again due to the Kashmir issue,” it said.

“The bilateral trade relationship is one of the pillars of the Sino-Indian relationship. The trade volume was over $70 billion in 2015, and China’s investment in India soared to around $870 million in 2015, six times what it was in 2014,” it said.

India has been expressing concern over the trade deficit which last year touched $46 billion.

“To some extent, the economic relationship is the barometer of the political relationship. There shouldn’t be huge fluctuation in terms of economic cooperation if the political relationship keeps steady between the two,” it said.

“For the dragon and elephant, enhancing economic ties would be a preferable way to promote the comprehensive bilateral relationship. The more economic cooperation exists, the more opportunities there will be for Chinese products to enter the Indian market.

“India is a big potential market, and people using smartphones and doing online shopping has become the irreversible trend in the new era,” it said.

The commercial cooperation between these two countries could also be focused on e-commerce, service and financial investment.

Another article in the same daily said India has to upgrade its industrial structures to address $46 billion trade deficit.

Official data during September showed India had exported goods worth $922 million to China, while importing goods worth $5.4 billion from China.

“The huge trade deficit with China has become an increasingly unharmonious factor in bilateral ties between the two countries, requiring China and India to take practical measures to narrow the trade imbalance when leaders of the two nations meet in India over the weekend for the Brics Summit,” the article said.

“The two countries have made concerted efforts to narrow the trade imbalance, including signing a five-year trade and economic cooperation agreement in 2014, but it seems that such moves have had only limited effects. What we need to do now is find out the root causes of the trade imbalance,” it said.

The major imports from China include electronic components, telecom instruments, chemicals and pharmaceutical products, while India’s major exports to China include ore, plastics and cotton.

“The imbalanced bilateral trade structure is actually a result of the fact that China and India are at different developmental stages in terms of industrialisation. It won’t be easy to reduce India’s trade deficit with China simply by relying on measures such as seeking greater access to the Chinese market for India’s raw materials and agricultural products – India also needs to upgrade its industrial structure,” it said.

“In other words, India seeking to solve the problem of the China-India trade imbalance cannot anchor its hopes on efforts such as persuading Chinese people to consume more Indian goods at a time when more and more Indian young people are keen to use Chinese-made goods such as smartphones,” it said.

“Efforts such as encouraging Chinese smartphone makers to set up production lines in India may be the most effective way to reduce the trade deficit, which is partly the result of a price gap between India’s imports of finished goods and its exports of raw materials,” it said.

“But sadly, it seems that India is not on the right path, as the  country is trying to reduce its trade deficit with China through trade protectionism,” it said, adding that there had been 322 anti-dumping cases in India so far, of which 177 cases involved Chinese products.

“Besides, a social media campaign urging people to refrain from buying China-made products has recently been building in India. Such moves will not help contribute to reducing India’s trade deficit, but could damage bilateral ties instead,” it said.

All work and no holidays for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, PMO responds to RTI

The Prime Minister of India is on duty all the time, the PMO said, adding that no leave records of former prime ministers are available with it. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said this when an RTI applicant sought a copy of leave rules and procedures for the prime minister of the country and the Cabinet Secretariat.

File photo of PM Narendra Modi. Reuters

File photo of PM Narendra Modi. Reuters

“The Prime Minister can be said to be on duty all the time,” the Right to Information (RTI) response from the PMO said.

The applicant also wanted to know if former prime ministers Manmohan Singh, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, HD Deve Gowda, IK Gujral, PV Narasimha Rao, Chandrashekhar, VP Singh and Rajiv Gandhi had availed any leave and were there any records.

“The information regarding leave record of previous prime ministers is not a part of records held by this office. However, it may be noted that no leave has been availed by present Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi since taking over the charge,” the RTI response said.

A similar RTI application was also filed by the RTI applicant to other authorities like Cabinet Secretariat to ascertain if they have any information about leave of former prime ministers and rules regarding this for the Head of the government. But there was no response and the application was transferred to the home ministry which further sent it to the PMO which said it does not have any information about leave records of former prime ministers.

This comes after the recent news story about Ajay Kumar from Maharashtra, who filed an RTI request asking the Ministry of Home Affairs whether the government is equipped to deal with an alien invasion or a zombie attack. One of his many questions was if we could fight them off without the help of Will Smith.

According to The New Indian Express, the number of RTI applications to the PMO has increased 10-fold between 2006-2007 and 2014-2015, as revealed in the research by the NGO — Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI). During Narendra Modi‘s office, both the number and the rejection rate of RTIs has grown.

There have been submissions of 1,500 petitions a day for the last 20 months and a sum of 10 lakh petitions including RTI applications, grievances, complaints, from 1 June, 2014 to 31 January, 2016 to the PMO, reported the Times of India. Allegedly, the PMO receives many silly questions that ask the number of gas cylinders, the speed of the internet, lists of phone calls, the manufacturing company of the teleprompter, expenditure on spices and vegetables and such used by the Prime Minister. Some of these questions went on to create political controversies like that about the Prime Minister’s mark sheet from the Delhi University.

With inputs from PTI

Triple talaq: Law Commission requests public response on uniform civil code

New Delhi: Should the practice of triple talaq be abolished and whether a uniform civil code should be optional, the Law Commission has on Friday asked the public seeking its response on these sensitive issues broached perhaps for the first time.

Amid a raging debate on uniform civil code, the law panel has sought public views on the subject to revise and reform family laws, saying the aim is to address social injustice rather than plurality of laws.

In an appeal issued on Friday, the Commission said the objective behind the endeavour is to address discrimination against vulnerable groups and harmonise the various cultural practices even as it assured the people that the “norms of no one class, group or community will dominate the tone and tenor of family law reforms”.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

In an accompanying questionnaire, the Commission has asked whether the existing personal laws and customary practices need codification and whether it would benefit people.

Should the practice of triple talaq be abolished, retained or retained with suitable amendments; and whether a uniform civil code should be optional are among 16 queries by the commission.

It has also sought to know whether the uniform code should include subjects like divorce, marriage, adoption, child custody, succession and inheritance.

It has asked people and stake holders as to whether a common code would infringe an individual’s right to freedom of religion.

“The Commission hopes to begin a healthy conversation about the viability of a uniform civil code and will focus on family laws of all religions and the diversity of customary practices, to address social injustice rather than plurality of laws,” law panel chairman Justice B S Chauhan (retd) said.

He said responding to the demands of social change, the panel will consider the opinions of all stake-holders and the general public to ensure that the “norms of no one class, group or community dominate the tone and tenor of family law reforms”.

Justice Chauhan said in the appeal that the family law reform has to view women’s rights as an end in itself rather than a matter of constitutional provision, religious right and political debate.

Indicating need for wider consultation before taking a call on a uniform civil code, the government had in June asked the Law Commission to examine the issue.

Implementation of a common code is part of the BJP’s election manifesto.

The move asking the law panel to examine the issue assumes significance as the Supreme Court had recently said it would prefer a wider debate, in public as well as in court, before taking a decision on the constitutional validity of ‘triple talaq’, which many complain is abused by Muslim men to arbitrarily divorce their wives.

However, a section of Muslim leaders have opposed any move to abolish triple talaq and other personal laws.

Kashmir unrest: ‘Unabated repression’ of civilians will prolong cycle of violence, says Omar Abdullah

Srinagar: National Conference working president Omar Abdullah on Wednesday said the “unabated repression” of civilians in Kashmir seemed like an effort to punish people for the ongoing unrest, but would only prolong the cycle of violence that has left the Valley on the boil.

File image of Omar Abdullah. PTI

File image of Omar Abdullah. PTI

“Nocturnal raids, imposing slapping of Public Safety Acts indiscriminately, ransacking peoples’ homes and burning their crops and animal fodder cannot be an acceptable modus operandi of the state’s security forces in dealing with a political situation,” Omar said.

He said it was imprudent to expect that such acts would lead to sustainable peace and normalcy. “Hundreds of electric transformers in rural areas have been damaged beyond repair in a clear attempt to persecute people en-masse by depriving them of essential services. People in rural areas are now trying to protect electric transformers in their areas with sand bags because security forces are firing bullets to damage them,” he said in a statement.

The former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister said trying to “arm twist” people into political adherence was a dangerous policy and would only lead to more violence. “New Delhi accepted that dialogue is the answer to the simmering discontent in Kashmir and their current assumption that the agitation can be seen off by tiring people is fraught with enormous risks because when the fatigue wears out – as it eventually will, the agitation will spark off again.

“To deal with Kashmir as cyclic problem of agitations and managing agitations defies the overarching interests of peace and prosperity,” Omar said. He said the fundamental rights of the people in Kashmir have to be upheld and the state’s “intentional reluctance” to do so fuels the perception of isolation and alienation in Kashmir.

“Treating all Kashmiris as hostile combatants who deserve to be persecuted into discipline and coerced into normalcy is a validation of those voices that question the State’s sincerity in dealing with the people of Kashmir fairly, humanely and in a just manner,” he said.

HC accepts sacked AAP MLA Sandeep Kumar’s plea to appear in court via video conference

New Delhi: Sacked Delhi minister Sandeep Kumar, arrested on rape charges, will be produced in a Delhi court via video conferencing from jail following his apprehension of threat to life from his political opponents during transportation.

File image of Sandeep Kumar. PTI

File image of Sandeep Kumar. PTI

Special Judge Poonam Chaudhry allowed Kumar’s plea that he be produced before the court through video conferencing till the filing of charge sheet in the case, as the police did not object to it.

“In view of the facts and circumstances, the accused (Kumar) need not be produced and further remand will be extended through video conferencing till the filing of charge sheet,” the court said.

It also issued notice to Tihar Jail superintendent directing him to file a report on Kumar’s plea, filed through advocate Pradeep Rana, seeking a separate van for his production from jail to court apprehending threat to life from supporters of other political parties and other miscreants during transportation.

The court extended Kumar’s judicial custody till 19 October after he was produced before it.

During the hearing, Rana said some miscreants may try to harm Kumar in the jail van and the case against him was “politically motivated”.

The police, in its reply, said the remand proceedings could be done through video conferencing as significant force was being deployed to produce the AAP MLA before the court.

Kumar was arrested on 3 September after a woman lodged a complaint at the Sultanpuri police station in North Delhi alleging sexual harassment by the former Social Welfare and Women and Child Development minister, following which a case was filed. The woman had allegedly figured in an objectionable video with him.

The MLA from Sultanpur Majra was removed from AAP government and the party on 31 August by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal after the CD surfaced. He had defended himself saying he had been targeted.

Hyderabad rains: Three killed and three injured, CM urges Centre for help

Hyderabad: Three persons were killed as heavy rains lashed various parts of Telangana on Friday, an official said.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

All the deaths were reported from Medak district, which has received heavy rains since Thursday night. A 35-year-old woman and her seven-year-old daughter were killed when their house collapsed in Medak town.

In another incident of house collapse in Mubarkpur village, a 65-year-old man was killed. Three others were injured in the two incidents.

Authorities in Medak, Nalgonda and Warangal districts have declared two-day holiday for all schools and colleges in view of the heavy rains.

Hyderabad, Nizamabad, Karimnagar and Adilabad districts were also receiving heavy rains.

Lakes and streams were overflowing in these districts, inundating low-lying areas. Roads were also flooded in some parts of Telangana, affecting the movement of vehicles.

Hyderabad-Nizamabad road was also inundated, leading to long traffic jam.

Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao has asked officials to be an alert in view of the forecast of more rains over next two days.

Rao, who is in Delhi, reviewed the situation on Friday and directed Chief Secretary Rajiv Sharma to prepare a report about the loss due to the heavy rains. He said tanks breached at many places while roads and bridges were damaged.

He asked the District Collectors to assess the damage. The Chief Minister urged the Centre to provide help for relief operations.

India rips into Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif’s needling UN speech, phony talks offer

India ripped into Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s speech to the UN General Assembly on Wednesday calling him out for glorifying the 22-year old Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.

“It is shocking that a leader of a free nation can glorify a self-declared terrorist. This is self-incrimination by Pakistan,” Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar told a press conference in New York.

Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif at the UNGA. AP

Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif at the UNGA. AP

Sharif’s 20-minute speech, quite incendiary in tone was aimed at Indian paramilitary forces in Kashmir which he accused of using excessive force. He used the UN platform to accord martyr status to Wani, a separatist leader who advocated a Kashmir free of both Indian and Pakistani rule. Sharif described Wani as a “young leader murdered by Indian forces” who has become the “symbol of the latest Kashmiri intifada.”

Tensions between India and Pakistan are boiling over after Sunday’s terrorist assault in Uri. With 18 soldiers dead, Prime Minister Narendra Modi should toughen India’s stance against Pakistan and its sponsorship of militancy in the Kashmir valley.

India has a few military options that it could consider against Pakistan. It could attempt a surgical artillery strike on Pakistani army positions which are used to help militants cross over into parts of Kashmir, military experts say. A second option on the table would be sending special forces inside Pakistan to attack guerrilla training camps.

Indian forces killed at least 8 suspected Islamic militants along the 800 kilometre border with Pakistan, ahead of Sharif’s rambling speech on Wednesday to the UN General Assembly. More skirmishes are widely expected on the troubled Kashmir border.

Responding to Sharif’s claim that Pakistan has “gone the extra mile and repeatedly offered dialogue,” Akbar tartly replied, “We haven’t seen the first mile, where is the question of the extra mile?”

“Pakistan wants dialogue while holding a gun in its hand. Talks and guns don’t go together,” said Akbar.

“We have always been ready for dialogue, but will not succumb to a government of blackmail that uses terrorism as a policy,” he added.

For the last 15 years, India has followed the course of “strategic restraint” despite mounting public anger after the 2008 Mumbai attacks carried out by Pakistani militants that left 166 dead. Instead, New Delhi has used international gatherings like the UN platform in New York to highlight Pakistani support of terrorists.

India was heartened that despite Sharif’s repeated appeals for UN intervention in Kashmir, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon made no reference to Kashmir in his last address to the 71-year-old institution.

“The terrorist tag clung even harder to Pakistan following the arrest of the New York serial bomber Ahmad Khan Rahami who was radicalized after extended stays in Pakistan. The episode has brought further attention to the terrorist eco-system in Pakistan selectively fostered by its military and political elite,” wrote Chidanand Rajghatta in The Times of India.

The United States has finally run out of patience with Pakistan and has been sending a message to Sharif. It has seen so much double-dealing by Pakistan in Afghanistan that it is now far more sympathetic to the Indian position. President Barack Obama refused to meet with the Pakistani prime minister before his UN address. Two American lawmakers on Tuesday also introduced legislation in the US Congress aimed at designating Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism in a humiliating setback to Islamabad ahead of Sharif’s speech.

“Not only is Pakistan an untrustworthy ally, Islamabad has also aided and abetted enemies of the United States for years. From harboring Osama bin Laden to its cozy relationship with the Haqqani network, there is more than enough evidence to determine whose side Pakistan is on in the War on Terror. And it’s not America’s,” Congressman Ted Poe from Texas said bluntly while announcing the bill.

“It is time we stop paying Pakistan for its betrayal and designate it for what it is: a state sponsor of terrorism,” Poe added.

According to author and South Asia expert Sumit Ganguly, the United States is much more willing to cut Pakistan loose after learning hard lessons about Pakistan’s support of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

“Pakistan is of far lesser significance to the United States today than it was in 2008. The circumstances are markedly different and consequently there is much less interest in coddling Pakistan,” said South Asia expert Sumit Ganguly, who holds the Rabindranath Tagore Chair in Indian Cultures and Civilisations at Indiana University in Bloomington.

Delhi stalker case: Stalking is a crime, but is anybody interested in enforcing the law?

Three years after the Indian Penal Code (IPC) was amended to designate stalking as a serious crime, stalkers continue to claim victims with impunity. Worse, incidences of stalking have phenomenally increased over the last two years. Clearly, law-enforcement agencies have a lot to answer for because they seem plainly unaware of the amended legislation passed by Parliament in February 2013. The amendment came just a year after a medical student was gang-raped in the heart of Delhi, jolting the conscience of the general public and legislators alike. The brutal crime catalysed a national discourse of the kind that seldom occurs on issues of gender-based violence.

This was the background against which stalking came to be identified and designated as a serious crime. But the effort, it seems, has come to no avail. Consider the latest, shocking statistics: Within 48 hours, three women in the National Capital were attacked by stalkers. Two of the victims died while the third is reported to be in a critical condition. Despite the violence of the crime and its prominent display in news media, these events have not set off public anger at large.

File image of Delhi police. ReutersFile image of Delhi police. Reuters

File image of Delhi police. Reuters

What we instead encounter is the same deadening social and political indifference to the routinisation of violence against women. The alarming depths of lack of social empathy can be surmised in light of the fact that one of the deadly attacks in questions occurred out in the streets of a residential area, Burari, a locality in outer Delhi. The onlookers watched on but did little to save Karuna, the victim. The 21-year-old woman was stabbed at least 22 times with a pair of scissors, in the glare of public scrutiny.

“In the CCTV footage, Aditya (the stalker) is seen repeatedly stabbing Karuna on the torso while dragging her on the road. The footage also shows several people stop and stare before fleeing the spot. After being stabbed about a dozen times, Karuna falls and a passerby tries to intervene, but is driven away by Aditya, who continues to stab her motionless body,” The Indian Express reported on 21 September. Just a day earlier, a 25-year-old beautician was pushed off a building in Delhi’s Mongolpuri area. While another 28-year-old woman was stabbed to death by her stalker in Inderpuri. The spiral of violence is never ending.

Media reports suggest that the Centre has sought a report from the Delhi police about incidents involving stalking. But this gesture is simply not enough to given the grave situation. Besides, in light of the gravity of the crime and it escalation, Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju’s remark — “What has happened is very sad” — sounds both weak and inadequate.

According to a report published in the Times of India this August: “If the ‘rape capital’ tag was not embarrassing enough, Delhi has earned another dubious title, India’s stalking capital, according to the latest data from the National Crime Records Bureau. Stalking cases more than doubled in the city last year, jumping from 541 in 2014 to 1,124 in 2015. That put Delhi in second spot among all states. Only Maharashtra, with 1,399 cases, had higher number of stalking incidents. No other city came anywhere close.”

Callous indifference defines our general approach to stalking and violence against women. Time and again we come across a disturbing tendency among the general population pay no attention to victims of violence — event when it unfolds before their eyes. In the past, onlookers have left injured victims — of road accidents and other incidents of violence — to simply bleed to death. This display of inhumanity goes hand in hand with us patting ourselves on the back for being a compassionate people, who belong to the land of Gandhi and Buddha.

These considerations bring us back to the question raised at the beginning. What good are laws if the will to enforce them is forever absent? Our legislators would like to claim credit for passing progressive laws. But the continued weak enforcement defeats the very purpose of such laws. The matter of strict enforcement cannot simply be the civil society’s responsibility.

The law enforcement machinery has to be made accountable to the people. Most important, the political class has to prioritise violence against women as a top concern. Unfortunately, the tendency of the executive and the legislature so far has been to ignore gender-based crimes, unless and until they lead to massive public outcry. Without a sea-change in our collective, national mindsets, India will never be able to truly ensure gender justice in all spheres of life.

Ex-minister Eknath Khadse snubbed, returns empty-handed from Delhi

Mumbai: Senior BJP leader Eknath Khadse, who stepped down recently as Revenue Minister following a string of allegations, on Friday made a futile bid to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval as well as senior party leaders in New Delhi.

Eknath-Khadse-and-Devendra-Fadnavis_380_IBN

File photo of Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Eknath Khadse. CNN News18

Khadse is also facing a probe by ATS in connection with his mobile number purportedly figuring in the call records of the landline number of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim’s residence in Karachi.

However, barring Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, other senior party leaders declined the audience with the heavyweight politician from North Maharashtra who went to Delhi on Friday with the documents to present his case before the party leadership.

A Maharashtra BJP leader said here that Khadse tried to meet Modi who has returned from his five-nation tour, but without success.

“The party has already begun to groom Khadse’s arch rival in Jalgaon district and state Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan to head the party in the district,” he said.

BJP is more concerned now to ensure the party’s victory in upcoming elections to Zill Parishad, Municipal Councils and Panchayat Samitis in Jalgaon district.

The party has a sizable support among the dominant Leva Patil community in Chopda, Yaval, Faizpur, Savda and Raver municipal councils, in Jalgaon Zilla Parishad and across panchayat samitis in the region.

According to the BJP leader, the major worry for the saffron party is the clout enjoyed by Khadse in the region which was reflected in the recent move by 14 corporators from Jalgaon Municipal Corporation who threatened to resign in protest against Khadse’s unceremonious exit as minister.

“In order to replace Khadse, a OBC leader from the region, we have directed Mahajan to be proactive in the party matters in Jalgaon district,” he said.

The first indication that Mahajan is being directed to fill the vacuum in Khadse’s absence came early this week when he was dispatched to state BJP headquarters near Mantralaya to deal with a motley group of Khadse’s supporters who had come to protest against their leader’s ouster.

Khadse resigned last week, days after Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis submitted a detailed report to BJP president Amit Shah on the controversies surrounding the minister and also met Modi in the national capital.

Earlier, he had deputed his daughter-in-law and BJP MP from Raver, Raksha Khadse who had met Modi to argue the case on his behalf.

Attacks on Africans: MoS Rijiju promises ‘strictest possible action’ against racist assaults

New Delhi: With attacks on African nationals continuing to hog limelight, the government today promised
strictest possible action if such assaults were found to have a racial angle.

“If racial angle is found in any of the case, strictest of possible action will be taken,” Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju told reporters in New Delhi.

The minister was replying to a question on whether the recent incidents of attacks on African nationals in Delhi allegedly had a racial angle.

MoS, Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju. Image courtesy PIB

MoS, Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju. Image courtesy PIB

“We have taken up all the incidents very seriously. Action is being taken and some arrests have already been made,” he said.

On the attack on a taxi driver allegedly by a group of Africans in New Delhi on Monday, Rijiju said anyone taking law in their hands would be punished.

“Maintaining law and order is our responsibility. Be it Indian citizens or foreign nationals, anyone who takes law in their hands won’t be spared,” he said.

There has been a series of attacks on African nationals in the last few days, including killing of a Congolese youth in the national capital. A 23-year-old Nigerian student was also assaulted in Hyderabad.

Five people have been arrested in connection with the attacks on African nationals here.

Digvijaya Singh seeks judicial probe into Batla House encounter

Nagpur: AICC general secretary Digvijaya Singh on Tuesday asked the central government to order a judicial probe into the “fake” 2008 encounter at Batla House in Delhi in which two suspected terrorists and a police officer were killed.

Digvijay Singh. PTI

Digvijay Singh. PTI

“Batla House encounter was fake. I dare the BJP to go for a judicial probe. I still stand by my remarks on the encounter. I don’t know who is Bada Sajid or Chhota Sajid,” Singh told reporters here.

According to the reports, Mohammed Sajid alias Bada Sajid is one of the six persons who feature in the 22-minute video allegedly posted by the Islamic State recently, though NIA is still identifying them.

The issue of the encounter, which had taken place when the Congress-led UPA government was in power, cropped up again recently amid a claim by an alleged ISIS operative that he had fled Batla House right before the police raided it.

When asked if he should apologise as the claim of the ISIS operative insinuates that the shootout was genuine, Singh shot back saying, “Why should I apologise?”.

When Singh had claimed first time that the encounter was fake it caused a sharp political divide with BJP, which was then in opposition, accused the Congress of playing vote bank politics.

Interestingly, then Union Home Minister P Chidambaram had insisted that the gunfight between security forces and terrorists was “genuine”.

Latching on the ISIS video, BJP had on Monday alluded to Singh as a “pseudo secularist” and stated the saffron party’s stand that the gunbattle was “genuine” has been vindicated.

When asked about the ISIS video, Singh said he would not like to say anything, “but I stick to my stand (that the encounter was fake)”.

On mega star Amitabh Bachchan hosting the second anniversary event of the Modi government at India Gate on 28 May, Singh said, “BJP is known for displaying such pomp and show-off (sic)”.

Singh said he would visit the Prime Minister’s Lok Sabha constituency, Varanasi on May 26 and “expose” Modi’s development claims of last two years.

On reports that Sharad Pawar-led NCP is in favour of continuation of Sonia Gandhi as the president of Congress, Singh said, “If they (NCP) are so worried about Congress, then they should better merge their party with us”.

In 2009, the Delhi High Court had declined to institute a judicial probe into the gunbattle.

A Delhi court in 2013 had sentenced to life the lone convict and suspected Indian Mujahideen operative Shahzad Ahmad in the case for killing decorated police officer MC Sharma and injuring two other policemen.

Final blow: Delhi Court finds sufficient evidence to prosecute Pachauri on sexual harassment charges

In a setback to noted environmentalist RK Pachauri, a Delhi Court on Saturday said that there is enough evidence to prosecute him on charges of sexually harassing a women colleague at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), The Economic Times reported.

Business Standard quoted an ANI report which said that the court will proceed to persecute him under section 354 A, 354 B, 354 D, 509 and 341 of the Indian Penal code. The court has, however, dropped section 506 – punishment for criminal intimidation.

RK Pachauri. Getty Images

RK Pachauri. Getty Images

Metropolitan Magistrate Shivani Chauhan considered the charge-sheet and fixed 11 July for further hearing.

Delhi Police has charged Pachuari, a former executive chairman of TERI, under various sections of the Indian Penal Code dealing with assault or criminal force against a woman with intent to outrage her modesty, sexual harassment, stalking, criminal intimidation and words, gestures or acts intended to insult the modesty of a woman.

The police have cited around 23 prosecution witnesses and several text messages, e-mails and WhatsApp messages exchanged between the accused and victim as evidence to support its case.

Pachauri was accused of sexually harassing a female colleague in 2015. He stepped down as chairperson of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in February last year and proceeded on leave from TERI, where he was the director general.

In November, the woman researcher who accused him of sexual harassment quit her job at TERI, alleging she was treated badly. TERI denied the charge.

On 8 February, Pachauri was appointed executive vice chairman of the organisation. Following severe criticism, TERI on 12 February asked him to proceed on indefinite leave.

With inputs from agencies

Ban on diesel taxis in Delhi: Govt to approach SC after cab drivers protest

New Delhi: As protesting taxi drivers created a traffic chaos here on Monday, the government said it will request the Supreme Court to reconsider the ban on plying of diesel taxis in the national capital.

“The government has decided to request the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision on ban. The ban has created an unprecedented situation of thousands of taxis getting off road and people facing severe hardships,” Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari told reporters.

Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari. AP

Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari. AP

The decision was taken at an inter-ministerial meeting, attended by Gadkari, Heavy Industries Minister Anant Geete and Environment and Forest Minister Prakash Javadekar.

Hundreds of taxi drivers today blocked National Highway 8 and the Ring Road here to protest against the action by enforcement agencies following the court order.

The Supreme Court on Saturday refused to extend the 30 April deadline fixed for conversion of diesel cabs into less-polluting CNG mode for plying on city roads, sending off-road thousands of diesel taxis, including those run by aggregators like OLA and UBER.

According to Delhi transport department, about 60,000 taxis are registered in the national capital of which 27,000 run on diesel.

Gadkari said the government “respects” Supreme Court and is committed to the issue of environment and has already taken a slew of steps to curb pollution.

“We respect Supreme Court…We have to be sensitive towards pollution. We have been inundated with updates on people facing hardships. That is why we have decided to update the Court on all the measures we had taken in the last two years to curb the pollution,” the minister said.

Gadkari said there are reports that the ban has resulted in immediate loss of jobs to thousands of people and also serious commuting problems to working men, women and youth in the National Capital Region.

He said the government is aware that many establishments in Delhi-NCR, particularly in IT and BPO sectors have late working hours and non-availability of safe transport facilities would pose a security threat to those.

After the ban, major companies in Delhi-NCR have decided not to provide any transport facility to their employees.

It was observed in the meeting that initiatives taken by the government during the last two years to check pollution, which include decision to implement BS VI norms from 1 April, 2020 for which oil companies shall be investing over Rs 60,000 crore, need to be properly presented before the apex court.

Speaking about steps taken by the government to check pollution, Gadkari said standards for bio fuel such as ethanol, bio diesel, electric hybrid have already been notified and projects have been taken for introducing up to 20 per cent ethanol blending in petrol.

“Retro fitments of existing polluting vehicle into electric hybrid and electric vehicle have already been permitted and pilot project has successfully completed,” he said.

Gadkari said work is in full swing on eastern and western peripheral expressway (WPE) projects to decongest Delhi and 53 km of WPE between Manesar to Palwal has been opened to commuters.

“We have also finalised Delhi decongestion plan with eight arterial roads and concept note for voluntary vehicle scrapping policy is ready. E-tolling has been started on national highways and E-rickshaw policy has also helped in pollution reduction to a great extent,” he said.

On Environment Ministry front, five ministerial level meetings have already been held with NCR states and Punjab and short-term and long-term action plans for control of air pollution have been formulated.

“Stubble burning has been banned in all NCR States as well as Punjab and has reduced by 40 per cent in Punjab and 17 per cent in Haryana as compared to last year,” he said adding action has been initiated against non-compliant industries.

“Satellite monitoring of stubble burning is being carried out and online transmission of data from 772 PUC Centres in Delhi is being done for better monitoring of check on vehicular pollution in Delhi,” he said.

The minister said three non-complying units of NTPC have already been closed and a comprehensive order covering all major sources of pollution has been issued by CPCB in consultation with Ministry of E&F under Air Act.

Geete said to promote cleaner vehicles, incentives are being given to buyers of hybrid and electric vehicles.

“Measures have been initiated to introduce hybrid and electric vehicles for public transportation (buses and taxis),” he said and added the government has introduced an ambitious plans to infuse 7 million hybrid and electric vehicles on road by 2020 under National Mission on Electric Mobility.

The other measures include introducing up to 20 per cent ethanol blending in petrol.

Stressing that vehicles are not the only cause of pollution, Gadkari said, “IIT Kanpur study has also suggested that vehicular pollution is not the only cause of pollution in Delhi. In fact, study shows that vehicular pollution is contributing 9 per cent in summer and 19 per cent in winter.”

Gadkari said government will take all necessary steps to reduce the pollution in Delhi.

“We have decided to again put forward all these points to Supreme Court and request them to reconsider their decision in the background of initiatives taken by Government of India,” the Minister said.

Nitin Gadkari, a man with dreams of an Indian wonderland: A Firstpost exclusive

It requires amazing gift of the gab or the consummate skills of a conjurer to sell Nitin Gadkari’s idea of India to someone. The Union Transport Minister possesses neither. Yet, he manages it with certain ease.

Much before the end of his government’s term in 2019, India will be a changed place in terms of infrastructure, he said during a 50-minute exclusive interview with Firstpost. For instance, he is working on a plan to connect Dehradun with Mansarovar in China by blasting a way through the Himalayas. Similarly, if you have to go from Mumbai to Goa, you need not take a long detour by road. Park your car and get yourself onto a ship near Panvel and reach any destination in Goa in just 40 minutes, he said.

If some disbelief is creeping in already, savour this from the minister: You may soon be able to hire a vessel at Varanasi and cruise along the Ganga for two days along with your friends and family, organise a function and go deep into the sea, far away from the proverbial madding crowd. If this isn’t enough, imagine boarding a luxury boat in Delhi on the banks of the Yamuna and alighting at the Taj Mahal in Agra.

Firstpost/Naresh Sharma

Firstpost/Naresh Sharma

“You may not believe it right now, but let me assert that all this will happen. My words are not empty rhetoric,” he told Firstpost, a week after he was feted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and a section of the media for holding a successful Maritime India Summit (MIS) in Mumbai.

Gadkari’s assertions indeed do have a sense of authenticity. In common perception, he is the best performing minister in the Modi government. “I do not say what I cannot do,” he pointed out many-a-time in the course of the conversation.

“You see India is a classic case of a rich nation with poor people,” he said. It sounded like an oxymoron.

“What do you mean by this?” I asked in a rather bewildered tone.

“We have the problem of management of resources which are aplenty,” he replied.

Conversion of knowledge into wealth seems to be the guiding motto for Gadkari. India’s waste management will spawn an economy of Rs five lakh crore and create employment for 15 to 20 lakh people, he said, adding “I have given around 15,000 young persons employment in my area through this,” he asserted.

But what about the perception of him being the most efficient minister in the government? Though pleased with the flattering question, Gadkari like a seasoned politician did not allow his emotions to show. “No, everyone in the government is doing a good job. My work seems to be getting noticed as it relates to development of infrastructure,” he said in an apparent show of modesty which he seems to have cultivated during his stint in Delhi.

The Sagarmala project

Then Gadkari explained the significance of his Sagarmala project which envisages huge transportation of goods through the sea and inland waterways.

“It is going to be a game changer for the country. In India, when we send goods outside the country, we incur huge transport costs which we call ‘logistics cost’. Our logistics cost is 18 percent and China’s is eight percent. If you send material from Mumbai to London or from Mumbai to Dubai, it costs comparatively less than sending it from Mumbai to Delhi. Whenever we make any product for the world market, the logistics cost makes it comparatively expensive, thus less competitive. If we reduce the cost to 10 percent then our exports will double. What I am doing is a game changer. If you go by road and you spend Rs 1.50 per kilometre and using railways may cost you Rs one, using waterways will cost you only 20 paisa. You see how economical this is,” Gadkari pointed out.

Firstpost/Naresh Sharma

Firstpost/Naresh Sharma

Big plans on the rivers

 Statistics come easy to the minister and he overwhelmed me with data. For instance, he said, “One hundred and eleven rivers are being converted into waterways. Work on five rivers has already started. Contracts worth Rs 4,000 crore have been given in the case of the Ganga. Waterways have been built from Varanasi to Haldia (a distance of 1,620 kilometres).”

Giving examples of his projects, Gadkari said, “Work on the Varanasi, Haldia and Sahebganj multi-modal hub is on. Water ports are being built at 40 places between Varanasi and Haldia. Twenty of these water ports are floating and 20 are of concrete. The gate in Farakka is being converted into a water gate that will be used for navigation. At five places we are starting Roll-on/Roll-off (RO-RO) service. Hundred trucks or buses will be ferried on one ship. We have started this service in Assam. This drastically reduces the travel distance.”

My skepticism did not wane despite the bombardment of these facts and figures and I said, “You see, all this sounds too good to believe in the face of the fact that I have been hearing these assertions since 1998 but nothing could be done to make rivers navigable.”

“I am not talking to you without doing homework,” he asserted, adding that “In the middle of the river we are maintaining a width of 45 metres and a draft of three metres. For this we are using very modern foreign technology with the help of World Bank. We will maintain the three-metre draft throughout the year.”

When asked whether the three-metre draft will be sufficient, he explained: “A European company has designed the barge in such a way that instead of 1,500-tonne, 5,000-tonne loads of goods can be transported.”

When govt ports beat private players

At the MIS, Gadkari he claimed that his PSU ports and shipyards were running huge profits while private ports were incurring losses. “How did you do it?” I asked. “By improving efficiency,” he answered.

When asked what he did that the private sector didn’t, the minister said, “One day after taking over as the minister, I called chiefs of all ports and shipyards and told them to turn around their projects or face removal within a year. And they turned it around.”

“Across the world the growth rate is 0.5 percent whereas we have witnessed a growth rate of 4.6 percent. For the first time, private ports like that of Adani and others have growth in the negative and we have a growth rate of 1.6 percent. We have proved to be more efficient than the private players.”

Once again, Gadkari delved deep into statistics and threw figures at me. He said “In maritime, we have till now given out contracts worth Rs 80,000 crore. This year our profit through 12 major ports and three flagship organisations that include Kochi Shipyard is Rs 6,000 crore. Through ports, we have earned a profit of Rs 4,200 crore.”

Firstpost/Naresh Sharma

Firstpost/Naresh Sharma

The road to the future

Asked how realistic his rosy projection of the road transport infrastructure is, Gadkari said, “When I assumed office, 403 projects worth Rs 3.85 lakh crore stood stalled. Still there are problems. Currently 22 to 23 projects worth Rs 20,000 to 25,000 crore remain stalled. But I have tried to resolve the issue and get the projects started. You go anywhere in the country and you will see work being done. Ask any Congress person, he will say that roads are being built. Ask our critics, they will also accept that a lot of work is being done.”

“After becoming minister I had signed a contract for building 18,000 kilometres of road. Now it must have reached 19,000 kilometres. Rs two lakh crore in roads and Rs 60,000 crore on ports are the investments that we have made till now,” he pointed out.

“But from where will the money for these mind-boggling projects come?” I inquired.

Gadkari seemed prepared for this question. “We don’t have a shortage of funds. We have a budget of Rs 55,000 crore. Every year it will increase by Rs 20,000 crore. The budget for four years will be around Rs three lakh crore. Of this, I can avail Rs 70,000 crore from tax-exempted bonds from the market. Toll income is around Rs 10,000 crore every year. I have a list of 103 projects that we have completed. We have to securitise the toll tax of 15 years that accounts for Rs one lakh crore. So this is around Rs 5 lakh crore. Then there are few projects that can be in public-private partnership (PPP) mode completely. Money is not a problem at all.”

Found encouragement from PM Modi

Gadkari’s confidence level indicates that he is given enormous autonomy in his ministry. This is in contrast to the impression that most oUnion ministers either work under restraint or try to second-guess Modi. “Do you second-guess Modi or ever feel any constraints?” In reply, Gadkari spoke his mind, “I do my work and do not look for appreciation. I have never felt any constraints, instead found encouragement from the PM and all colleagues”.

“You see I have never gone to anyone with a biodata or sought any post for myself. Whatever I got is more than enough for me,” he added.

Firstpost/Naresh Sharma

Firstpost/Naresh Sharma

The plan for Delhi

When asked for his thoughts about the odd-even formula of the Delhi government, Gadkari said, “Don’t drag me into this, I will not comment.” However, he explained his own vision of Delhi in the future and said, “Let me tell you that we are spreading a maze of roads around the NCR to divert traffic from Delhi and shortly, you will find roads in Delhi with smooth traffic flow,” he said, adding that there is a slew of projects of elevated roads that have been commissioned in Delhi. “Unfortunately we have consistently ignored even fundamental problems of traffic management in Delhi,” he said.

And outsider makes Delhi his home

Gadkari’s tryst with Delhi was never smooth.

When he came over to the National Capital as BJP president, he was quite averse to staying here and was uncomfortable with its political cabal. “Yes I was not enamoured of Delhi and wanted to stay in Maharashtra,” he admitted.

“Have you started liking Delhi now?”

“Now staying in the city is my destiny and I like it very much,” he replied. He ruled out the possibility of going back to Maharashtra.

At the end of the conversation, Gadkari literally conjured up an image of an India which is incredibly modern and advanced in infrastructure.

“Will it fructify?”

Gadkari assured me that it would not be long before we can test the veracity of his claims.

Gadkari_quote4

Firstpost/Naresh Sharma

Mr Kejriwal, please mind the inconvenience for round 3 of odd-even

From spontaneous cooperation to finding a way around – there’s something odd about people’s response to odd-even round two. There are more cars and more two-wheelers on roads compared to round one in early January. Wrong vehicles are out on wrong days and media reports say sale of second hand vehicles are up. There are traffic jams at several busy points that remained congestion-free last time. That suggests something might not be going well with the odd-even experiment in Delhi this time. Dilli bole dil se, odd-even phir se, says the AAP government’s message. There are clear indications that it’s not happening dil se this time.

The Arvind Kejriwal-led government should be worried. Some studies so far show no remarkable dip in air pollution level compared to last year. While others suggest a change for the better, the gains from the odd-even experiment have been more or less neutralised by dust storms and burning of crop residue in the neighbouring states. It means the government has to think afresh its strategy to fight air pollution. Keeping half the vehicles off the roads every day, even if managed successfully, may not make Delhi’s air less toxic. The challenge is much, much bigger and it requires a comprehensive action plan.

Traffic moves at slow pace at ITO, Vikas Marg during the second phase of odd-even scheme, in New Delhi on Monday. PTI

The odd-even solution appears to be de-congesting the city’s roads only, not doing anything more. That was never the original purpose. It could be the government overemphasised the contribution of vehicular emission to the overall air pollution in the city. Road and construction dust account for nearly 35 percent of PM 2.5. Its contribution to total pollution goes up in summer. The government probably had not factored this in while going for round two of road rationing or it anticipated even if the pollution scenario didn’t get better, it would at least not get worse.

The sincerity of the Kejriwal government in getting the odd-even experiment going is appreciable, however, it should take careful note of the response of people in different seasons. In winter they can afford to be patient and be forgiving of lapses by the implementing agencies, but not so in summer. Experts attribute more vehicles on roads this time to the heat. People are not comfortable with the idea of getting packed like sardines in buses and trains and the government cannot keep forcing them to bear the uncomfortable all the time.

It also does not help that there are not enough buses to ferry people and the Metro cannot take load beyond a point. Unlike in January, this time there has been mischief from other players such as auto-rickshaws and taxis, both critical to the success of such a scheme. There have been complaints of excessive fare demand and poor service from both. Simply put, the government cannot afford to have too many displeased people around. If the displeasure grows into hostility, it would be disastrous for the government and the party too.

Since it does not make sense antagonising people in an experiment where their support is critical, Kejriwal must think better before going into the next phase of odd-even. The fact that the government is planning to introduce 1000 buses by August and has a given a go ahead to app-based AC buses is acknowledgement of the problems on the ground. But it would be better if it puts the round three on hold till a majority of the 3000 additional buses planned originally hit the road.

The government has proved that it can make a difficult concept like odd-even work in a difficult place such as Delhi. Now, it should be better prepared. And yes, it must do much more about road dust, construction dust and burning of farm waste in other states. In short, it must go the whole hog the now.

Delhi court summons Kejriwal for providing false information in poll affidavit

New Delhi: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was on Tuesday summoned as an accused for allegedly giving false information in an affidavit filed in run up to 2013 assembly polls by a court here which said he had prima facie “willfully concealed” and “suppressed” the details.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

Metropolitan Magistrate Snigdha Sarvaria directed the AAP leader to appear before the court on 30 July, saying that there was “sufficient ground” to proceed against him on the allegations that he had concealed his correct address and suppressed the market value of his property in his affidavit given before the Election Commission.

“There is sufficient material on record to summon accused Arvind Kejriwal for offences punishable under section 125-A of the Representation of People Act, 1951, section 31 of the Representation of People Act, 1950 and section 177 of Indian Penal Code committed by him before holding the office of Chief Minister of Delhi.

“Thus let summons be issued to accused Arvind Kejriwal… returnable on July 30,” the court said.

It said that the allegation against Kejriwal that he falsely gave the address of Delhi so as to qualify for contesting the polls in the Capital while he was living at Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh, “prima facie amounts to wilful concealment and suppression and also furnishing of false information and thus there is sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused Arvind Kejriwal under section 31 of RP Act.”

“The factum of concealment of proper address by giving improper address so that the proper/correct address remains untraceable and also giving improper valuation of the said same property prima facie amounts to wilful concealment and suppression and also furnishing of false information and thus there is sufficient ground for proceeding against accused Arvind Kejriwal under section 125-A of the RP Act and section 177 (furnishing false information) of IPC,” the court said.

The court passed its order on the criminal complaint filed by Neeraj Saxena on behalf of the NGO, Maulik Bharat Trust, through advocate Rahul Raj Malik.

The offence under section 125-A of the RP Act entails a punishment of six months’ imprisonment and/or fine or both.

Earlier, the NGO had approached Delhi High Court with a plea seeking quashing of Kejriwal’s nomination papers on the grounds of “illegalities” in his affidavit.

High court had refused to entertain the plea and directed the petitioners to approach a magisterial court for remedy.

The NGO in its petition before high court had alleged that Kejriwal violated provisions of the RP Act by submitting an affidavit which had incorrect details of his assets and income at the time of the filing of nomination.

PTI

Four taken into preventive detention for attempting attack on Kanhaiya Kumar at rally in Delhi

New Delhi: Four persons were on Tuesday taken into preventive detention for allegedly attempting attack on JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar during a march in Delhi led by him demanding release of JNU students Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya.

While three persons hurled abuses at Kumar during his speech near Parliament Street police station and were whisked away by the police who perceived threat in connection with the matter, one managed to climb the truck over which Kumar was standing while addressing the gathering.

The moment the persons started shouting on Kanhaiya over his comments on security forces, the JNU students formed a human chain and raised an alarm. The fourth man managed to break the chain but he too was whisked away by police by the time he could reach Kumar.

A file photo of Kanhaiya Kumar. PTIA file photo of Kanhaiya Kumar. PTI

A file photo of Kanhaiya Kumar. PTI

“Four persons have been put under preventive detention in view of law and order issues,” a senior police official said.

While one of the four turned out to be a barber, another was a steward at a hotel. One was an insurance agent and the other a car dealer, a police official, said adding that they were released later in the evening.

Last week, Kumar was allegedly attacked inside the JNU campus by an outsider, who later turned out to be a
Ghaziabad-based builder.

The attacker called Kumar for an interaction when he was attending the “nationalism” lecture at the varsity’s
administration block and slapped him after a heated argument.

However, no official police complaint was lodged in connection with the incident.

On 17 February, the day Kumar was presented at the Patiala House Court at the end of his police custody, a group of
lawyers led a brazen attack on him.

Delhi Police was at the receiving end of severe criticism for its failure to provide security to the student leader. After this incident, senior officials of the district were pulled up at the court.

Kumar, Khalid and Bhattacharya were arrested under charges of sedition and criminal conspiracy in connection with an event in JNU campus in which anti-national slogans were allegedly raised.

Khalid and Bhattacharya are currently in judicial custody.

PTI

CBI books five Syndicate Bank officials in Rs 1,000-crore scam

New Delhi: The CBI on Tuesday registered a case against five Syndicate Bank officials, a CA, three private people and others on charges of causing a loss of Rs 1,000 crore to the bank by discounting of fake cheques and bills against fake insurance policies and overdraft limits against non-existent policies.

Syndicate Bank. GETTY IMAGES

Syndicate Bank. GETTY IMAGES

The bank officials have been identified as New Delhi branch’s then general manager Satish Kumar Goel, Jaipur regional office deputy general manager Sanjeev Kumar, Jaipur branch chief manager Deshraj Meena and assistant general managers of Malviya Nagar branch in New Delhi and Jaipur branch Adarsh Manchanda and Awdhesh Tiwari respectively.

Sources said that the fraud was unearthed recently and a Central Bureau of Investigation complaint was made after the suspension of the bank officials.

Goel was recently transferred to the Syndicate Bank’s New Delhi Branch.

The other accused have been identified as chartered accountant Bharat Bamb, a resident of Udaipur, and three Jaipur residents identified as Shankar Khandelwal, Piyush Jain and Vineet Jain.

All of them have been booked by the CBI under charges of criminal conspiracy, using a forged document as genuine, cheating and forgery of Indian Penal Code (IPC) and sections of Prevention of Corruption Act.

“It was alleged that the accused persons in connivance with the bank officials committed a fraud of Rs. 1,000 crore by resorting to discounting of fake cheques and fake inland bills against fake LICs and arranging over-draft limit against non-existent LIC policies,” said CBI spokesperson Devpreet Singh.

He said that the fraud was allegedly committed at Jaipur and Udaipur branch in Rajasthan and Malviya Nagar branch in Delhi.

“It was further alleged that the bank officials of the two branches were colluded with private persons in the crime since 2011. The amount involved in individual transactions ranged from Rs. 40 lakh to Rs.5 crore but majority of them were in the range of Rs.2.5-4 crore,” the official said.

To avoid detection, many of these transactions were nullified from the proceeds of new fraudulent transactions, he added.

“Searches are being conducted at 10 locations including Jaipur, Udaipur and New Delhi which led to recovery of incriminating documents,” the official added.

IANS

Corruption case: CBI summons staff of Kejriwal’s principal secretary Rajendra Kumar

New Delhi: The CBI on Tuesday called the staff of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal‘s principal secretary Rajendra Kumar for questioning in connection with its probe into an alleged corruption case against him, an official said.

“Two-three members of (Rajendra Kumar) Kumar’s staff were called for questioning,” a CBI official told IANS on condition of anonymity.

Representational image. IbnliveRepresentational image. Ibnlive

Representational image. Ibnlive

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had earlier said the documents seized from the office of Kumar “prima facie reflect criminal conspiracy and criminal misconduct and abuse of official position by the accused persons”.

The CBI had conducted raid on Kumar’s office on 15 December last year at the Delhi Secretariat.

The issue came to light after Kejriwal on Tuesday tweeted and alleged that his staff was also called for questioning. “The CBI summons Delhi chief minister’s staff ‘informally’ on phone without notice. Staff of other ministers called earlier like this.”

The CBI, however, denied that it called Kejriwal’s staff for questioning.

IANS

Delhi govt proposes setting up ‘Local Complaints Committee’ to help those facing sexual harassment

New Delhi: The Delhi government has proposed setting up Local Complaints Committee (LCC) in every district of the national capital which the victims of sexual harassment at workplace denied justice by the Internal Complaints Committees (ICC) can approach.

According to the proposal drafted by the Women and Child Development department, District Magistrates or Additional District Magistrates will be notified as District Officers (DOs) to exercise the powers and discharge functions under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013.

The DO will constitute the LCC in his district and will further appoint a nodal officer in every ward, municipality to receive the complaints and forward it to the concerned Committee within a period of seven days.

The DO will also monitor the timely submission of reports furnished by the local complaints committees and take measures as may be necessary for engaging NGOs in creating awareness about sexual harassment and the rights of women.

Representative image only. Image courtesy: Twitter/@JimBeasleyCARepresentative image only. Image courtesy: Twitter/@JimBeasleyCA

Representative image only. Image courtesy: Twitter/@JimBeasleyCA

The members of the LCC will include a chairperson, to be nominated from among eminent women in the field of social work and committed to the cause of women. There will be one member from among the women working in municipality in the district, two members, of whom at least one shall be woman, to be nominated from among such NGOs or associations as are committed to the cause of women or a person familiar with the issues related to the protection of women from sexual harassment.

Also, an officer dealing with women and child development in the district, shall be it ex-officio member.

The chairperson and every member of the LCC will hold office for three years from the date of their appointment as may be specified by the DO.

Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) chairperson Swati Maliwal has expressed sadness over the fact that even after two years of the passage of the Act, the DOs and LCCs have not been notified in the city till date. She had written to Delhi Lt Governor Najeeb Jung about it.

“There has already been a considerable delay in this regard. It cannot be overemphasized that the Act virtually exists on paper and steps are yet to taken for its effective implementation,” she had said in her letter, adding, the Commission has been receiving a large number of complaints regarding sexual harassment at workplace.

Under Section 5 and 6 of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, state is required to set up a LCC to investigate complaints related to sexual harassment from cases which cannot be dealt with by the ICC or where there is no ICC.

PTI

The unending AAP-BJP farce: Cynical politics gone too far, Delhiites it’s time to get angry

Delhiites, get angry, teach them a lesson. Their cynical political game has just gone too far. It has started affecting your lives. If that does not upset you nothing will. Send this message loud and clear to both the AAP and the BJP: stop this nonsense now. We already had too much of your tu tu mein mein. If don’t mend your ways get ready to be punished.

Really, how bad can it get? As employees of the three civic bodies in Delhi go on strike again, the fourth in the last 12 months, over non-payment of salary, garbage accumulates in the city, young children of civic body schools are sent back home, hospitals and dispensaries catering to the poor remain affected and maintenance of parks and cleaning of streets go unattended. While all these threaten to make life hell for the common man, the AAP government and the BJP, which controls the corporations, are busy fighting a political battle over the matter. To those not in the know, the three civic bodies cater to more than 90 per cent of the basic amenities of the city.

The Arvind Kejriwal-led government claims – Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia made clear as much yesterday – that it has cleared the dues of the corporations and it was up to the latter to make payments to their staff. While the civic bodies have not come up with a clear denial to it, the BJP has been busy slamming the government over the issue. For both parties it is only another episode in their running political battle in Delhi. It’s a battle where noise overwhelms the truth and nothing is clear.

MCD Strike in New Delhi. IBNLiveMCD Strike in New Delhi. IBNLive

MCD Strike in New Delhi. IBNLive

But what about the staff of these civic bodies? Their salaries have not been paid for months. And they are not highly paid people. Nothing has moved in their favour despite repeated strikes. Citizens may be angry with them for littering garbage on the streets, but they must realize it’s an act of utter frustration. These people also have families to take care of and the right to lead their lives normally. Students in the civic body schools are mostly from poor families. The continuing protest by unpaid teachers may lead to them dropping out. Someone must spare a thought for them.

For the corporations it has been a lingering crisis ever since the single municipal body managing the city was trifurcated in 2012. While the number of staff and expenses have gone up almost two-fold, the means of revenue remain unchanged. East Delhi and North Delhi corporations have been affected particularly badly. In fact, they have called for a unification to tide over the continuing problem.

This is a genuine problem; why cannot political parties sit and work a way out? What we see instead is an unending bitter, pointless fight between two parties. Chief Minister Kejriwal has tweeted calling for dissolution of the civic bodies and holding of fresh elections while the BJP has reacted to it sharply.

Who’s paying for it? The ordinary citizens of Delhi. If the present protest, it enters its third day today, continues then all of us are bound to suffer. Issuance of birth certificates and collection of property tax has been affected already. And checks on illegal construction have been hit too. How long can we allow this farce involving the big parties to carry on?

There has to be an end to this. And Delhiites, unless you get angry nothing will change.

Rohith Vemula suicide: 150 students go on hunger strike in Delhi to protest ‘delay in justice’

New Delhi: Alleging “delay in justice” to Hyderabad University research scholar, 150 protesting students from varsities across Delhi who were detained earlier on Wednesday decided to go on an indefinite hunger strike at Parliament Street police station in New Delhi.

According to police, due to security concerns, around 150 students were detained from outside Shastri Bhawan and taken to Parliament Street police station.

“Every time we try to go to the Ministry and raise our demands with HRD Minister Smriti Irani, we are held back and detained by police. Protesting is a basic right. We can’t be denied that at a time when the government is trying to cover up an ‘institutional murder’,” JNU Students Union vice president Shehla Rashid Shora said.

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

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

Members of Krantikari Yuva Sangathan (KYS) and Left-backed All India Students Association (AISA) were among the protesters.

Sucheta De, national president, AISA said, “We will not budge from the premises of the Parliament Street police station now and sit on an indefinite hunger strike here till our demands are met.”

“We are protesting the delay in justice to the student who had to end his life due to the harassment by the institution,” she said and asked “who will be held accountable for similar such suicides in varsities across country which go unreported?”

The protests over the issue have been rocking the national capital since last week with three JNU students sitting on an indefinite hunger strike since Sunday.

Rohith Vemula, a 26-year-old Dalit PhD scholar, was found hanging at Hyderabad Central University’s hostel room on 17 January.

He was among the five research scholars who were suspended by Hyderabad Central University (HCU) in August 2015 and also one of the accused in the case of assault on an ABVP student leader. They were also kept out of the hostel. The suspension was revoked later.

Union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya and Hyderabad University Vice-Chancellor Appa Rao Podile were named in an FIR over the death of the scholar, which triggered massive protests and demands for their removal from their posts.

The issue also took a political turn with allegations that the extreme action was a result of discrimination against Dalit students after Dattatreya had written a letter to Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani seeking action against their “anti-national acts”.

In a bid to defuse the raging controversy, the Centre had last week decided to set up a judicial commission to go into the suicide, and announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 8 lakh to his family but protests continued.

Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke his silence and expressed grief over the death of Vemula, students are demanding the removal of Irani and Dattatreya and the vice-chancellor.

PTI