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Aryan Khan Gets Bail After 3 Weeks

MUMBAI, Oct 28: Aryan Khan, the son of superstar Shah Rukh Khan, has been granted bail three weeks after his arrest in the drugs-on-cruise case. He will spend at least two more nights in prison as his team can apply for his release only after the Bombay High Court's formal order tomorrow.

Aryan Khan, 23, was taken into custody on October 3, hours after drug raids on a cruise ship party by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB). The star son has been in Mumbai's Arthur Road jail since October 8 and had been denied bail twice.

Aryan Khan's friend Arbaaz Merchant and model Munmun Dhamecha have also been granted bail.

Aryan Khan's lawyer Mukul Rohatgi, former Attorney General of India, had argued in court that no drugs were found on him and that the grounds for his arrest were flimsy.

The NCB, however, claimed he was part of a conspiracy and that his WhatsApp chats revealed his involvement in illicit drug dealings.

The case ignited a debate over whether Aryan Khan's incarceration was justified, given that no drugs were found on him and there were no signs of use. Social media has been flooded with messages of support, with many calling the arrest a witch-hunt.

Aryan Khan's father Shah Rukh Khan, 55, is one of India's biggest and most-loved movie stars.

The Khans' Mumbai home, "Mannat", usually features legions of fans waiting for a glimpse of SRK, especially on his birthday November 2. In the past few weeks, scores of people showed up in solidarity, holding up posters and messages for their idol. Within the film industry, besides Salman Khan, Farah Khan and Hrithik Roshan, few others have openly showed their support.

After two bail rejections, top lawyer Mukul Rohatgi argued Aryan Khan's case before the Bombay High Court.

Shah Rukh Khan poses with his team of lawyers after his son Aryan Khan was granted bail

Rohatgi said the arrest was wrong and infringed on his constitutional guarantees. He also told the court that the case against Aryan was built entirely on two-year-old WhatsApp chats that were "irrelevant" and had nothing to do with the cruise.

"These are young boys. They can be sent to rehab and they need not undergo trial," Rohatgi said.

The special anti-drugs court that denied him bail last week had said he knew about charas hidden in his friend Arbaaz Merchant's shoe, and this amounted to "conscious possession".

Rohatgi called this view far-fetched. "I have no control over what is found in Arbaaz's shoe. There is no question of conscious possession. Arbaaz is not my servant, he is not in my control," he said.

Today, the anti-drugs agency asserted that Aryan Khan was a regular consumer of drugs and that his WhatsApp chats point at the procuring of "hard drugs" in commercial quantity.

"Accused number 1 (Aryan Khan) is not a first-time consumer," said the NCB's lawyer Anil Singh, the Additional Solicitor General.

"He is a regular consumer since last few years and he has been procuring drugs. There is a reference of procuring drugs in commercial quantity and the drugs are hard drugs. He has been in contact with peddlers," said Singh.

When the judge asked on what basis the agency had found him dealing in a "commercial quantity", the NCB referred to his WhatsApp chats.

"WhatsApp chat I am relying on will show he had made an attempt to deal with commercial quantity. Not only that, when they were apprehended on the ship, multiple drugs were found with all eight. It cannot be a coincidence. If you see the quantity and nature of drug it cannot be coincidence," Singh said.

Rohatgi countered that there were 1,300 people on the cruise. "There are 500 rooms in the Taj. If two people are consuming in two rooms will you hold the entire hotel? There is absolutely no material for purposes of conspiracy," he said.

The officer leading the drugs-on-cruise investigation, Sameer Wankhede, is facing an internal probe within the narcotics bureau and another by Mumbai Police over allegations of bribery and extortion related to the case.

Delhi Police starts removing barricades at Tikri border

NEW DELHI, Oct 28: The Delhi Police on Thursday began removing barricades put up at the Tikri border where thousands of farmers are protesting against the Centre’s three agri laws, a senior officer said.

Four out of the eight layers of barricades at Tikri border have been removed. However, the cement barricades are still there and the road remains closed for commuters, the officer said.

Thousands of farmers have been protesting at the three borders of the national capital against the contentious farm laws since November last year.

Ex-CAG Vinod Rai Apologises To Congress's Sanjay Nirupam Over 2G Spectrum Allegation

NEW DELHI, Oct 28: Former Comptroller and Auditor General or CAG Vinod Rai has apologised unconditionally to Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam for "wrongly mentioning" him as one of the MPs who had pressured him not to name former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the CAG report on 2G spectrum allocation.

Sanjay Nirupam had filed a defamation case against Vinod Rai after the former CAG in his book in 2014 made the allegation against him and repeated it in interviews to the media.

The court of Metropolitan Magistrate in Patiala House has disposed of the case after recording Sanjay Nirupam's statement accepting Vinod Rai's apology.

"Vinod Rai has been discharged in the case. Since his apology has been accepted by Sanjay Nirupam, the case has been disposed of after recording his statement," said Nirupam's advocate RK Handoo.

Vinod Rai in an affidavit filed in the court has said that he has inadvertently and wrongly mentioned Sanjay Nirupam's name earlier.

"I had inadvertently and wrongly mentioned the name of Sanjay Nirupam as one of the MPs who pressurised me to keep the then prime minister Manmohan Singh's name out of the CAG report on 2G spectrum allocation during the meetings in the PAC or the sidelines of the JPC," Vinod Rai said in his affidavit.

The former CAG has also stated that the statements made by him against Sanjay Nirupam, as televised and published, "are factually incorrect".

"I understand the pain and agony my statements have caused to Sanjay Nirupam, his family and his well-wishers and thus, would like to offer my unconditional apology for the hurt caused by my such statements to Sanjay Nirupam, his family, friends and his well-wishers. That I hope that Sanjay Nirupam will consider and accept my aforesaid unconditional apology and close this issue," Vinod Rai has said in his affidavit filed in the court.

Sanjay Nirupam later said Vinod Rai should apologise to the country over the CAG reports on 2G spectrum and coal block allocations, alleging that these were both "bogus".

"Vinod Rai should apologise to the entire country for these bogus reports that he brought out," Nirupam told reporters later.

He also expressed happiness that his stand was vindicated and the former CAG apologised for his wrongful claims made against him.

Supreme Court Forms Pegasus Probe Panel

NEW DELHI: Allegations that Israeli-made Pegasus software was used to snoop on journalists, activists and politicians in India are about the violation of fundamental rights and "could have a chilling effect", the Supreme Court said today, setting up an inquiry headed by a retired judge.

A "vague denial from the government is not sufficient", the Supreme Court said sharply, asserting that the government could not give any clarity despite being given "ample opportunity" to do so. There had been no specific denial by the Centre, it said.

The court also commented on the government's statements on lawful interception for national security purposes. The state cannot get a free pass every time national security is raised, the Supreme Court adding that "in the task of upholding of fundamental rights, the state cannot be an adversary".

Retired Supreme Court Justice RV Ravindran will head the inquiry and an IPS officer will assist him, along with officials from the National Forensic University. The committee has to "expeditiously probe" the charge and report to the court by the next hearing two months later.

The court declined the government's request to set up an expert panel, saying it would "violate the settled judicial principle against bias".

Chief Justice NV Ramana began the judgment with a quote from George Orwell's 1984 -"If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself."

The order noted that various petitions in the case had been filed by direct victims. Justice should not only be done but should be seen to be done, said the Supreme Court.

"This court gave ample time to the Centre to disclose all information regarding the Pegasus attack since 2019. However only a limited affidavit was filed throwing no light. If the Centre made its stand clear the burden on us would have been less," said the Chief Justice.

"In today's world, restrictions on privacy is to prevent terrorism activity and can only be imposed when needed to protect national security. But the state cannot get a free pass every time by raising national security concerns. National security cannot be the bugbear that the judiciary shies away from, by virtue of its mere mentioning. Although this court should be circumspect in encroaching the domain of national security, no omnibus prohibition can be called against judicial review. Centre should have justified its stand here and not rendered the court a mute spectator. The court will not encroach upon national security but that does not make the court a mute spectator."

Multiple petitions have called for an investigation into allegations that Israeli Pegasus spyware- sold only to governments - was used to target opposition leaders, journalists and others.

Petitioners, including former union minister Yashwant Sinha, CPM MP John Brittas, Supreme Court advocate ML Sharma, the Editors' Guild of India and individual journalists, had asked the court to order the government to produce details of the alleged unauthorised surveillance using Pegasus.

The Supreme Court said the petitions raised a concern about how technology could be used and abused.

"Without allowing ourselves to be consumed into political rhetoric, we have never refrained from protecting people from their fundamental rights being abused," said the judges.

The right to privacy, they said, needs to be discussed. Agencies used surveillance to fight terror and there could be a need to intrude upon privacy, but the court had a rider.

"Privacy is not just for journalists and politicians but also about the rights of individuals. There are restrictions on the right to privacy but those restrictions have to stand constitutional scrutiny," said the judgment.

The petitions also raised important concerns for the freedom of press, which is important pillar of democracy, and the protection of sources of journalists, the court said.

"It is undeniable that under surveillance it affects the right and the freedom of people and how it is exercised. It is also about the freedom of press and the important role played by them - such technology may have chilling effect on right to press."

The judges said it was an "uphill task" to choose independent members, and it was done based on data gathered "personally".

'PM Not Above Nation': Rahul Gandhi Hits Out After Court Order On Pegasus

NEW DELHI, Oct 27: Congress's Rahul Gandhi welcomed the Supreme Court's order to form a committee to look into the Pegasus spyware row, saying the opposition's stand on the issue is "vindicated" since the judges have flagged the same concerns.

"We protested, but no reply. We stopped Parliament, but we still did not get a reply. Now our stand is vindicated. So, our questions remain the same," Gandhi said.

The court has ordered the formation of a three-member expert committee to inquire into the alleged use of Pegasus spyware to snoop on phones of politicians, activists and journalists, saying the state will "not get a free pass" every time national security is raised and the court will not remain a "mute spectator".

Overruling virtually every argument made by the Centre, the top court said privacy is not the singular concern of journalists or social activists but of every citizen. Surveillance, said the three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, "can have chilling effect on the freedom of speech".

Gandhi said the opposition, has been asking three basic questions. "Who authorised Pegasus (and) who has bought Pegasus? Who are the victims of Pegasus snooping? Did any other nation have data on our people? What all information do they have?"

Pegasus, he said, can only be bought by a government, and "either the Prime Minister or Home Minister had given the go-ahead".

"If the PM of the nation colluded with another nation and attacked its own citizens -- which included the Chief Justice, former PMs and other Chief Ministers, leaders of opposition parties, then this is an attack on the nation," he added.

"Did the other nation have all this data? That is a very important question. Even if this data was on the Prime Ministers desk, then that too is totally criminal, and we will contest it," he said, adding "The Prime Minster is not above the nation".

The opposition, he said, will push for a debate again in parliament. "Surely the BJP will not want that discussion, but we will push for it. The matter is in court now and the court will take it forward, but we will push for a debate in Parliament.

CBI arrests serving Navy Commander, 4 others for submarine data leak

NEW DELHI, Oct 26: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has arrested a Commander-rank serving officer and two retired officials of the Indian navy along with two other persons for allegedly leaking confidential information related to an ongoing submarine project in lieu of illegal gratification, people familiar with the development said on Tuesday.

The federal anti-corruption probe agency refused to divulge any other details of the case, including the name of the serving officer arrested for the leak.

However, officials who didn’t want to be named said the secret action was initiated last month and the matter relates to the upgrade of Russian-origin Kilo class submarines in the Indian fleet.

At least 19 locations in Delhi, Mumbai, Noida and Hyderabad have been raided so far in the case and several people as well as recovered digital evidence are being examined.

It is alleged that the Commander had discussed crucial details about the ongoing modernisation project of Kilo class submarines with the two retired officers for alleged illegal gratification, said an official.

The Anti-Corruption Unit of the agency, which handles sensitive and high profile corruption cases, was tasked to unearth the leakage of information following which the operation was started, they added.

Investigation is being carried out to unearth if the information has fallen into the wrong hands.

The Indian Navy said on Tuesday that investigation related to alleged information leak of administrative and commercial nature being with some unauthorised personnel has come to light and is being investigated by appropriate government agency.

The investigation by the agency with complete support of the Indian Navy is in progress, it added.

An internal inquiry by the Navy is also underway and is being carried out by a vice admiral to find out how information leaked despite security protocols and advisories, and how lacunae, if any can be fixed, officials said.

India operates eight Kilo class submarines, four HDW German origin submarines and three Scorpene submarines built in India under technology transfer from France (three more Scorpenes will join the fleet in the future). The navy also operates an indigenous nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, INS Arihant.

India is also pursuing a project worth ₹43,000 crore for building six advanced submarines in the country under the government’s “strategic partnership” (SP) model to bolster the Indian Navy’s underwater force levels and counter the rapid expansion of China’s submarine fleet. The new submarines are part of the 30-year submarine-building programme approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security in 1999.

Aryan Khan Case Officer Lands In Delhi

NEW DELHI, Oct 25: Sameer Wankhede, the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) officer leading the probe into the drugs case involving Shah Rukh Khan's son, Aryan Khan, reached Delhi today evening but denied that he had been summoned by any agency.

At the airport, surrounded by reporters, Wankhede said he is in the national capital for some work.

"I absolutely stand by my investigation, 100 per cent," he said.

Wankhede's visit to Delhi comes amid the row over payback allegations and his war of words with Maharashtra minister and NCP leader Nawab Malik.

The NCB zonal director's name cropped up in the row over alleged paybacks following an affidavit by a witness in the case who claims to be the bodyguard of Kiran Gosavi, a private investigator whose selfie with Aryan Khan had thrown up many questions.

In an affidavit, Prabhakar Sail claimed that he had heard a conversation between Gosavi and one Sam D'Souza on October 3 about a ₹ 18 crore deal. KP Gosavi said they will have to give ₹ 8 crore to Sameer Wankhede, Sail said in the affidavit.

The NCB has backed the officer, saying he has an "impeccable record".

Also, Wankhede has been on the crosshairs of minister Nawab Malik who has alleged that the case relating to the alleged recovery of drugs from the cruise ship is "fake" and accused the BJP and NCB of spreading terrorism in Mumbai.

Malik today tweeted a photo of a document related to Wankhede's birth and claimed, "the forgery began from here".

Hitting back, the officer said in a statement, "The publishing of my personal documents is defamatory in nature and an unnecessary invasion of my family privacy. It is intended to malign me, my family, my father, and my late mother."

He has said the minister's actions had put his family under "tremendous mental and emotional pressure".

Will Probe Amarinder Singh's Friend's Ties With ISI: Punjab Minister

CHANDIGARH, Oct 22: A Pakistani journalist known to be Captain Amarinder Singh's friend should be investigated for her alleged links with the ISI, a Punjab minister has said in the row between the Congress and the former Chief Minister.

Punjab Home Minister Sukhjinder Randhawa has called for a probe into whether Amarinder Singh's friend Aroosa Alam has links with Pakistan's ISI or Inter-Services Intelligence.

"The Captain is saying that Punjab faces a threat from the ISI. So we will also probe the relation of Aroosa Alam with ISI," Randhawa said when asked about widely shared videos and images of Aroosa Alam, a defence journalist, with Pakistani military officers.

He said he had asked the Punjab police chief to investigate the allegations.

"Captain Amarinder Singh kept raising the issue of drones coming over from Pakistan for the last four-and-a-half years. So Captain (sahab) first raised this issue and later got BSF deployed in Punjab. So it seems a big plot which needs to be probed," said the minister.

This is the Punjab Congress's sharpest attack yet on Amarinder Singh, who has announced plans to launch his own party and tie up with the BJP for the Punjab election early next year after he was forced to quit as Chief Minister last month.

In an acrimonious exchange with the Congress, his party of four decades, Amarinder Singh yesterday alleged double standards in the party's criticism of his plans for an alliance with the BJP.

The Congress, he said, had no business talking of secularism when it had partnered with the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and had taken on board multiple leaders from the BJP, including current Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu.

The outburst was seen to be aimed at Congress's Punjab in-charge Harish Rawat, who called Singh's announcement "shocking" and said it appeared that he had "killed the secular Amarinder within him".

Aroosa Alam's name has cropped up even earlier when Singh targeted Navjot Sidhu for attending Imran Khan's oath in 2018 and hugging the Pakistani army chief.

The journalist, who met Amarinder Singh during his Pakistan visit in 2004, is reportedly a regular visitor to his home and had also attended his oath ceremony.

India hits 1 billion COVID vaccination milestone

NEW DELHI, Oct 21: India reached one billion COVID-19 vaccinations milestone on Oct 21. The government is also aiming to get the country’s 944 million adults vaccinated this year.

“Congratulations India! This is the result of the leadership of our visionary Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya tweeted.

The development comes nine months after the nationwide inoculation drive started on January 16, 2021. While citizens are celebrating the vaccination drive picking up pace, opposition parties have questioned the government over its promise to administer both the doses of the vaccine to the country’s entire adult population by December.

Congress spokesperson Gourav Vallabh said that India has 95 crore adults and it is yet to see how the government covers all of them in the 70 days left in this year. Parties questioned if India will achieve the year-end target of vaccinating all adult population against Covid-19 when only 31 per cent people have received both doses till now.

Of all the states, Uttar Pradesh has administered the most vaccine doses (above 12 crore), followed by Maharashtra and West Bengal with 9 and 6 crores respectively. The list continues – Gujarat, MP, Bihar, Karnataka, Rajasthan, TN, AP. These are the top ten states with highest vaccine coverage.

Congress To Put Up 40 Per Cent Women Candidates in UP Polls: Priyanka Gandhi

LUCKNOW, Oct 19: The Congress will reserve 40 per cent of its tickets in the coming Uttar Pradesh elections for women, party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said today. "Women can bring about change and they need to step forward," Ms Gandhi Vadra said at a press conference today.

"This decision is for the girls of Uttar Pradesh… ... This decision is for women who want change," said Priyanka Gandhi, who was tasked with winning Uttar Pradesh for the Congress three years ago by her brother Rahul Gandhi.

There was a caveat. "The candidate's competence will determine the ticket," added the 49-year-old, who took the plunge into politics in January 2019 ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

Traditionally, caste has played a major role in elections in Uttar Pradesh. For the elections due next year, it is likely to be on traditional lines, with the BJP seen as trying to placate the Brahmins.

The so-called upper caste has been miffed with the selection of Yogi Adityanath, a Rajput, for the top post.

This is seen as a key factor in Ajay Mishra, whose son has been arrested in the case involving running over of farmers at Lakhimpur Kheri, continuing as the junior minister for home at the Centre..

Opposition parties including the Congress have repeatedly called for the minister's resignation.

Amid this, the Congress is seen as highlighting the gender issue in a state where multiple crimes against women have been reported in the last few years. Some of these cases -- including the gangrape of a Dalit woman in Hathras, and the case in Unnao -- made headlines and evoked outrage across the country.

Targetting Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Priyanka said those who "speak up" in the state are crushed.

34 Dead As Rain Slams Uttarakhand

DEHRADUN, Oct 19: At least 34 people are dead as heavy rainfall battered Uttarakhand for a third straight day today, leaving authorities fearing for the lives of many more who may be trapped under debris and in flooded areas.

"Prime Minister and Home Minister have been briefed on the situation. Houses, bridges etc. have been damaged. Three (Army) helicopters to be deployed for rescue operations," said Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami.

"So far 34 people have died and five are missing. ₹ 4 lakh compensation will be given to the families of the deceased. Those who lost their houses will be given ₹ 1.9 lakh. All possible help to be extended to those who lost their livestock," he said.

The Chief Minister who, with Education Minister Dhan Singh Rawat and Kumar, conducted an aerial survey, also told reporters damage had been done to farmers' crops and fields.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken to Dhami to take stock of the situation.

In what will come as some relief going forward, the weather department has indicated a "significant reduction in rainfall activity over Uttarakhand from today", predicting "isolated to scattered" showers.

The rains have led to scenes of chaos and disaster across the hilly state, with scary visuals emerging of roads and buildings flooded and submerged, bridges destroyed and rivers overflowing.

Picturesque Nainital was cut off after all three access roads were blocked by landslides, but the connectivity was restored later in the day. Roads to Kaladhungi, Haldwani and Bhawali were also been closed by debris from landslides.

Eleven deaths were reported today; seven people died after house collapse incidents in the Mukteshwar and Khairna areas of Nainital and one person was swept away in Udham Singh Nagar.

Five were reported Monday, including three labourers from Nepal who, were staying near Lansdowne when they were buried alive by rubble flowing down from a field above.

The two other deaths from Monday came after a house collapsed in Champawat district, where an under-construction bridge (over the Chalthi river) has been washed away due to a rise in water levels.

Apart from the state and national disaster response forces, the Army has also been called to action, with three Army helicopters set to join rescue and relief efforts.

Two will be sent to the Nainital region and the third to Garhwal to aid in rescue of stranded people.

The iconic Nainital lake has overflowed after more than 500mm of rain in 24 hours meant water levels surged to a record high.

Visuals this morning showed water rushing into nearby houses and streets. The famous Mall Road and Naina Devi temple have been flooded, and a hostel was damaged by landslides.

4 Including BJP Leader In SUV That Mowed Down Farmers In UP Arrested

LUCKNOW, Oct 18: Four more people, including a BJP leader who was seen inside the SUV that mowed down protesting farmers in Uttar Pradesh's Lakhimpur Kheri, have been arrested today.

"Accused Sumit Jaiswal, Shishupal, Nandan Singh Bisht and Satya Prakash Tripathi have been arrested by Lakhimpur Kheri Police and SWAT team of Crime branch. Licensed revolver and three bullets were recovered from Satya Prakash Tripathi and seized," said a police statement.

Local BJP leader Sumit Jaiswal, who was seen in a video leaving the SUV, had earlier filed a murder FIR against unnamed farmers, claiming his driver, friend and two BJP workers were beaten to death and that he found out from social media later.

In the video, Jaiswal was seen running from the Thar SUV that drove into protesters from behind.

Four farmers and a journalist were ran over on October 3 by a convoy of three vehicles, one of which belongs to Union Minister Ajay Mishra. Mishra's son was arrested on October 9, five days after he was named in a murder case on charges which usually merit immediate arrest. His arrest followed 12 hours of police questioning which in turn came after an intervention by the Supreme Court.

An FIR was lodged at the Tikonia police station on October 3 over the episode. Later, a counter-FIR was lodged at the same police station on the basis of a complaint by Sumit Jaiswal, who has now been arrested.

Sumit Jaiswal had also claimed that the protesters attacked Ajay Mishra's convoy, not the other way round. He also claimed the car was not moving, and it was the protesters that attacked the convoy.

"We were at the programme venue. There was an atmosphere of fear. They were armed with sticks and rocks and they kept attacking us, abusing us," he said. They also shouted "Khalistan Zindabad. They climbed the car," he said.

Ashish Mishra has denied the charge that he was at the crime scene when the murders took place; he has claimed he was in his paternal village (around two km away) and stayed there all day.

2 Bihar Labourers Shot By Terrorists In J&K; Civilian Killings At 11

SRINAGAR, Oct 17: Two labourers from Bihar were gunned down by terrorists today, taking the number of civilians killed in targeted attacks in Jammu and Kashmir this month to 11.

Terrorists opened fire at the labourers at Vanpoh in Kulgam district today. Another labourer was injured in the incident.

The killings came a day after a gol-gappa hawker from Bihar and a carpenter from Uttar Pradesh were shot dead by terrorists in the Valley.

The hawker, Arbind Kumar Sah, was shot at point-blank range in Srinagar. The carpenter, Sagir Ahmad, was shot dead by terrorists in Pulwama, the police said.

Of the 11 people killed in the spate of attacks on civilians, five were from other states. This indicates that the terrorists want to drive people from other states out of Kashmir, an official said.

Among the victims are Makhan Lal Bindroo, a prominent member of the Kashmiri Pandit community and owner of a pharmacy in Srinagar, Mohammad Shafi Lone, a taxi driver, teachers Deepak Chand and Supunder Kaur and street food vendor Virender Paswan.

The killings have sparked fear in the Valley, prompting an exodus of the Kashmiri Pandit families living in transit camps. Dozens of families, including those of government employees who returned to the Valley after getting jobs under the Prime Minister's special scheme for Kashmiri migrants, have left.

In the wake of the attacks, police have launched a massive crackdown and detained about 900 people across the Union Territory for alleged links with separatists.

The security forces have also intensified anti-terror operations. According to the police, 13 terrorists have been killed over the past one week.

"13 terrorists have been killed in nine encounters after civilian killings. We have killed three out of five terrorists in Srinagar in less than 24 hours," Inspector General of Police Vijay Kumar has said.

23 Killed In Kerala Rain, Armed Forces On Guard, Rescue Efforts On

NEW DELHI, Oct 17: At least 23 people have been killed in Kerala as heavy rain triggered landslides in Idukki and Kottayam districts. Lord Ayyappa devotees have been asked to avoid visiting Sabarimala Temple today and tomorrow. The rescue ops are underway.

Rain intensity in most parts of Kerala has reduced as of morning, however, there was continuous rain through the night. No new instances of flooding yet.

"We are continuously monitoring the situation in parts of Kerala in the wake of heavy rainfall and flooding. The central govt will provide all possible support to help people in need. NDRF teams have already been sent to assist the rescue operations. Praying for everyone's safety," Home Minister Amit Shah tweeted this morning.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his condolences to the families of those killed in the deluge. "It is saddening that some people have lost their lives due to heavy rains and landslides in Kerala. Condolences to the bereaved families," he tweeted. The prime minister also spoke to Pinarayi Vijayan and "discussed the situation in the wake of heavy rains and landslides in Kerala". "Authorities are working on the ground to assist the injured and affected. I pray for everyone's safety and well-being," he said in a tweet.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan held a high-level meeting on Saturday to intensify the rescue efforts and said that all means will be used to evacuate people stranded in areas flooded due to heavy rain in the state, including Kottayam.

The Chief Minister has directed that camps have to be started by following Covid protocol. Masks, sanitisers, drinking water, medicines should be made available in camps, he said. Caution should be taken for people who have co-morbidities and those who have not taken vaccination, he added.

State colleges that were to open from October 18 will now only begin from October 20.

Rahul Gandhi, who is an MP from Wayanad, tweeted, "My thoughts are with the people of Kerala. Please stay safe and follow all safety precautions."

Due to the heavy rain in the district, the water levels continue to rise in the catchment areas of dams. The shutters of the Maniyar dam have been opened due to an increase in the water levels in the reservoir.

Landslides have been reported in Kottayam and Idukki districts. Twelve people are reported missing in Kottayam. The bad weather condition at Kottayam is delaying the rescue operation by the defence personnel.

On the state government's request, the Army, Navy and Air Force have stepped in to help the civil administration handle the situation. The National Disaster Response Force has decided to deploy 11 teams. The weather office has pointed to creation of a low pressure area over southeast Arabian sea off the Kerala coast as the reason behind the downpour.

Bihar Hawker, UP Carpenter Shot Dead As J&K Civilian Killings Rise To 9

SRINAGAR, Oct 16: A gol-gappa hawker from Bihar and a carpenter from Uttar Pradesh were shot dead by terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir today, in the ninth such killings of civilians in the past two weeks. The hawker, Arbind Kumar Sah, was shot at point-blank range in Srinagar. The carpenter from UP, Sagir Ahmad, was shot dead by terrorists in Pulwama, the police said.

"Terrorists fired at two non-local labourers in Srinagar and Pulwama. Arbind Kumar Sah from Banka in Bihar died in Srinagar and Sagir Ahmad from Uttar Pradesh is critically injured in Pulwama. Areas have been sealed and searches are on," the Union Territory's police said in a tweet earlier. About an hour later, the police said Ahmad died of his injuries.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has announced ₹ 2 lakh ex-gratia from the Chief Minister's Relief Fund for the family of Arbind Kumar Sah, according to a news agency.

Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha has condemned the killings.

A spate of targeted civilian killings in Kashmir had led to exodus of several Kashmiri Pandits living in transit camps over a week ago. Dozens of families - many government employees who returned to the valley after being given jobs under the Prime Minister's special employment scheme for Kashmiri migrants - have quietly left accommodations.

"Strongly condemn the killing of street vendor Arbind Kumar in a terror attack in Srinagar today. This is yet another case of a civilian being targeted like this. All Arbind Kumar did was come to Srinagar in search of earning opportunities and it's reprehensible that he was murdered," former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweeted.

Jammu and Kashmir People's Conference leader Sajad Lone tweeted, "This is pure terror. Yet again a non-local vendor shot and killed in Idgah. What a shame. How cowardly can it get."

Five of the nine victims in the past two weeks were not Muslims, a clear indication that Hindus and outsiders are the main target of the attacks.

The police had launched a massive crackdown and detained some 900 people across Jammu and Kashmir for their suspected links with separatists.

The police have also intensified anti-terrorist operations. According to the police, 13 have been killed in the past one week. "13 terrorists have been killed in nine encounters after civilian killings. We have killed three out of five terrorists in Srinagar in less than 24 hours," the Inspector General of Police said.

The targeted killings have sparked massive outrage and the police are under pressure to prevent these attacks.

Bodies Of Soldiers Recovered After 48-Hour Op In J&K, Casualties Now 9

SRINAGAR, Oct 16: The Army has retrieved the bodies of the two soldiers, including a junior commissioned officer (JCO), who went missing during a fierce gun battle with terrorists on Thursday evening in Jammu and Kashmir's Poonch.

The bodies were recovered 48 hours after the Army launched a major combing operation in the area and heavily pounded the forests where the terrorists were suspected to be hiding.

With the recovery of bodies, the Army casualties suffered during the ongoing counter terrorist operation has risen to nine - highest in a single encounter in recent times in Jammu and Kashmir.

According to sources, the JCO and the soldier went missing after the Army came under heavy firing from the terrorists on Thursday. "Subedar Ajay Singh and Naik Harendra Singh were killed in action during search operations being conducted by the Indian Army along with Jammu and Kashmir Police in densely forested area of Nar Khas forest in Mendhar, Poonch," the army said in a statement today.

Two soldiers - Rifleman Yogambar Singh and rifleman Vikram Singh Negi - were earlier killed in action in the encounter that erupted in Poonch-Rajouri forests, four days after five army personnel were killed in action in the same area.

The Army lost contact with the JCO on Thursday evening, an officer said.

A major offensive was launched this morning in Nar Khas forest area in Mendhar. Heavy firing and explosions were heard in the area as the Army tried to flush out terrorists believed to be hiding deep in the forests.

The Army launched a combing operation in Dera Ki Gali on Monday after receiving information about the presence of terrorists there. In the initial shootout, five soldiers including a junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) were killed.

Reinforcement was rushed to the area and since then the Army is engaged in one of longest counter terrorist operations..

The Poonch-Jammu highway has been closed since Thursday evening as a safety measure.

Congress Party to Elect President by September 2022, Rahul Gandhi to 'Consider' Leadership

NEW DELHI, Oct 16: The Congress party on Saturday finally announced a schedule for internal elections, including electing the next party president, a move that was on hold since former party president Rahul Gandhi stepped down from the top post in July 2019. The elections will be concluded by September next year, a decision that was taken during a meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) on Saturday.

Three key developments took place at the CWC meeting. One, a detailed schedule of the internal elections was announced. Two, the party’s interim chief Sonia Gandhi made a strong remark by saying that she is a “full-time and hands-on Congress president”. Three, Rahul Gandhi responded to the request of party leaders to take over the top post by saying that he would “consider” it but not without reminding them about the need to align it with the party’s ideology and vision.

The detailed election schedule was shared by K.C. Venugopal, party’s general secretary in-charge of organisation, after the meeting. He said that the process for the election will kick off on November 1 when the membership drive for the party will begin and will go on till the end of March next year. Over the next five and a half months till mid-August, the process to elect members, office bearers of the district and state units will take place.

He added that the election of Congress president will take place between August 21 and September 20 next year while the election of CWC members will take place at a plenary session – the dates for which would be announced later, but would preferably be in September or October next year.

“Every leader at the meeting today said that they deeply trust the leadership and competency of Congress president Sonia Gandhi who despite her health issues works for the party 24 hours. These constant talks about interim or full-time president were disapproved by the CWC members themselves. They urged Sonia Gandhi should lead the party till internal elections get over,” Randeep Singh Surjewala, Congress chief spokesperson told reporters after the meeting on Saturday.

“There were also several CWC members who demanded that Rahul Gandhi should lead the party strongly going ahead. The entire CWC was unanimous on this. He thanked everyone and said he was grateful for their trust in him,” he added.

During the meeting, Rahul Gandhi is known to have said that he was “humbled” by the request of the members asking him to take over as party president, but that they need to be cognisant of the “strong ideology” of the party. He is known to have taken the example of appointing a Dalit chief minister, Charanjit Singh Channi in Punjab, a move that he said would not have been possible in any other party.

“He said he would consider it but not unless all the party leaders (those present in the meeting) understood that the party needs them to stand together for the party’s ideology and vision which supports the unheard voices. To this, some leaders asked if he doubts, they would not do it. To which he replied saying that he has no doubts, but it was necessary to reiterate this,” a senior party leader who attended the CWC meeting on Saturday said requesting anonymity.

With this, the party has in-principle ruled out a mid-term election for the Congress president, as demand arose from a section of party leaders calling for a systemic overhaul of the organisation. Senior party leaders said that Sonia Gandhi would continue as the interim party chief until the entire process of internal election concluded by late next year.

If the Congress had gone for a mid-term election of a party president, the tenure would have ended by late next year given that the last election took place in 2017 when Rahul Gandhi took over the top post in December. The tenure of the party president in Congress is five years beginning from when the last organisational election took place according to the amended party constitution.

“The question of that does not arise anymore since the election schedule has already been announced,” Venugopal told reporters at a press meet on whether Rahul Gandhi could take over earlier before elections take place as some leaders had demanded.

According to people aware of developments, Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot spoke in the meeting on Saturday about how Rahul Gandhi should take over as Congress president and that “almost all” attendees extended support to the proposal.

“The plenary session could take place somewhere around the end of September next year. A schedule like this allows the overall organisational elections. If the election for Congress president alone had taken place, the tenure would have ended in a few months and so this seems to be a more practical approach,” a senior party leader aware of developments said requesting anonymity.

Earlier in the day, the tone of the meeting was set by party chief Sonia Gandhi in her opening address where she said that she is a “full-time and hands-on Congress president” who has been “regularly keeping in touch” with like-minded political parties. The statement is seen as a sharp response to some of the recent criticism by a section of party leaders who had said that there is “no president” in the party.

“I have always appreciated frankness. There is no need to speak to me through the media. So let us all have a free and honest discussion. But what should get communicated outside the four walls of this room is the collective decision of the CWC,” Gandhi said in her address to party leaders.

Interestingly, Saturday’s meeting was one of the first in-person meeting of the CWC ever since the Covid-19 pandemic struck India early last year. The CWC on Saturday also passed three resolutions on the current political situation, inflation and agrarian crisis. General secretaries and in-charges of poll bound states also shared a roadmap of electoral strategies for those states.

Former party president Rahul Gandhi stepped down from the top post in July 2019 taking responsibility for Congress’ performance in the Lok Sabha elections. CWC appointed former Congress president Sonia Gandhi as the interim chief of the party, a month later. With the party scheduling its polls for October next year, it would in effect be without a full-time president for more than three years now as Sonia Gandhi is serving as interim chief.

Nihang, who lynched farmer at Singhu border, surrenders

NEW DELHI, Oct 15: Saravjeet Singh, a man associated with the Nihang group, surrendered to the police, claiming the brutal mutilation and the killing of a 33-year-old man at the border. Saravjeet will be produced at the court on Saturday.

The incident of mutilating and lynching a person allegedly for disrespecting Guru Granth Sahib has created unrest at the protest site as the farmers' unions have distanced from the incident and protesters at Singhu too are dissociated from the incident.

A Dalit labour from Punjab's Tarn Taran, identified as Lakhbir Singh, was found tied to an overturned police barricade near the main stage of the farmers' protest. His left hand was severed. A video of the incident also appeared on social media which showed the man lying in a pool of blood with his chopped off left hand lying next to him.

In the video, the Nihangs were heard saying that man was punished for desecrating the holy book of the Sikhs. Lakhbir apparently put the holy book in an unclean place. The incident took place around 4.30am.

An order of Sikh warriors, Nihangs are identified by their blue robes and armours. As the farmers started their protest against the three contentious farm laws, the presence of the Nihang Sikhs atop their horses at the protests sites was noticed.

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of farmer unions, said the Nihangs had no connection with them. Neither the deceased has any association with the farmers' unions. It said it denounced any form of violence and will cooperate with the police.

"When we reached the spot some people were saying that the deceased man, before dying, admitted he was sent by someone and given ₹30,000. I don't have the video proof of it. Government should probe this matter thoroughly," Jagjit Singh Dallewal of Samyukta Kisan Morcha said.

Security was upped at Singhu following the incident with increased police presence at the site. "The situation in the morning was tense as people were angry about the incident. There are two parties. One who are saying that taking law in hand is not the appropriate thing, while the other faction was with the sentiments of Guru Granth Sahib," one Sukhwinder Singh said.


Ashish Mishra denied bail, another accused sent to police custody

LAKHIMPUR KHERI, Oct 13: Ashish Mishra, son of Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra, was denied bail by a court here on Wednesday in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence case.

Senior prosecution officer (SPO) SP Yadav said that Chief Judicial Magistrate Chinta Ram rejected the bail applications of Ashish Mishra and his alleged accomplice Ashish Pandey.

Ashish Mishra, who was arrested on October 9 by the special investigation team after 12 hours of questioning, had been sent to three days in police custody from Tuesday.

The court also remanded Shekhar Bharti, arrested on Tuesday, in police custody for three days.

Police have so far arrested four people in connection with the case -- Ashish Mishra, Luvkush, Ashish Pandey and Bharti.

One Ankit Das, who is said to be a close friend of Ashish Mishra, appeared before the SIT at the crime branch office in Lakhimpur earlier in the day.

The investigators had summoned Das for questioning in connection with the October 3 violence that had left eight people, including four farmers, dead.

Das is the nephew of former minister Akhilesh Das and the black SUV which allegedly knocked down the four farmers is said to be owned by him.

At around 11 AM, Das along with a team of lawyers arrived at the crime branch office in the reserved police lines area, the police said.

On Tuesday, Das and one other identified as Latif had moved an application for surrender before the chief judicial magistrate.

Rahul Gandhi-led Congress delegation meets President Kovind on Kalhimpur incident

NEW DELHI, Oct 13: A Rahul Gandhi-led delegation of the Congress party on Wednesday met President Ram Nath Kovind at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi and demanded the resignation of Union minister Ajay Mishra in connection with the violent incident at Uttar Pradesh's Lakhimpur Kheri where eight people, including four farmers, were allegedly mowed down by the minister's son Ashish Mishra.

Following the meet, Rahul Gandhi said that the Congress delegation duly placed before the president its demands, which include the removal of Union minister Mishra and in his absence, a fair probe conducted by two sitting judges of the Supreme Court. Congress general secretary in-charge of Uttar Pradesh, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, also said that President Kovind provided the assurance of following up the matter with the government within today itself.

“We told the President that the accused's father, who is the Union minister of state (MoS) for home affairs, should be removed from the post as a fair probe is not possible in his presence,” said Rahul Gandhi. “Likewise, we also demanded that inquiry be done by two sitting judges of the Supreme Court.”

Speaking to reporters, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said, “The President has given us the assurance that he will discuss the matter with the government today itself.”

Besides Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi, others who were part of the Congress delegation to the President on Wednesday include senior leaders such as Mallikarjun Kharge, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, KC Venugopal and AK Antony.

The delegation presented a detailed memorandum of facts and placed its demands before the President. The party, earlier on October 10, wrote to the Rashtrapati Bhavan seeking an appointment with President Kovind for a seven-member party delegation to meet him.

As many as eight people including four farmers had died in the violence that took place on October 3. Uttar Pradesh police have so far arrested three people including the son of Union minister of state Ajay Mishra's son Ashish Mishra. Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), a body of several farmer unions, had issued a statement regarding the incident.

Meanwhile, refuting SKM's allegations, the minister said his son was not present at the spot, adding that some miscreants merged with protesting farmers and pelted stones on the car, which lead to the ‘unfortunate incident’. Ashish Mishra also refuted SKM's allegations and reiterated his absence at the spot where the incident took place.

5 Army Personnel Killed During Encounter in J&K's Poonch Sector

JAMMU, Oct 11: A junior commissioned officer (JCO) and four soldiers were killed in action during a gunfight with militants in Jammu and Kashmir's Poonch sector, according to a news agency.

Lt Colonel Devender Anand, defence ministry spokesman, said following specific information, a cordon and search operation was launched in the villages close to Krishna Ghati sector of the Line of Control (LoC) in the Surankote area of Poonch district.

The fresh spate of killings of the minorities in Kashmir has ruptured the semblance of peace and vitiated the overall environment. It also exhibits that the government of India’s invalidation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution doesn’t automatically translate into neutralisation of Islamist terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).

The ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has widely publicised a hunky-dory picture of Jammu & Kashmir while not paying much heed to the ever-growing radicalisation, particularly in Kashmir.

The killings of Makhan Lal Bindroo and Virendra Paswan on 5 October 2021, followed by Supinder Kour and Deepak Chand on 7 October, by Islamist terrorists in Srinagar have sent shock waves across Kashmir. These are reminiscent of the targeted killings of Hindus in 1989-90, when the armed insurgency against India, in which many Kashmiri Muslims actively participated and were backed by Pakistan, had just started in Jammu and Kashmir.

Power Situation 'Very Critical' In Entire Country: Arvind Kejriwal

NEW DELHI, Oct 11: Two days after a Delhi minister warned of a power blackout if the coal supply to power plants in the national capital didn't improve, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has said the power situation is "very critical" in the entire country.

"The situation is very critical in the entire country. Several chief ministers have written to the Centre about it. All are trying together to improve the situation," he told the media today.

Several states, including Gujarat, Punjab, Rajasthan, Delhi, Odisha and Tamil Nadu have been raising concerns over blackouts.

Kejriwal said all efforts were being made to address the power crisis and his government did not want any "emergency situation" to arise.

Earlier in the day, Delhi's Power Minister Satyendra Jain claimed that the state government has to depend on costly gas-based power and spot purchase at high market rate as the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) has halved electricity supply to the city.

Countering the Delhi government's claims, sources at the Centre said that NTPC has adequate coal supplies to meet any power requirement in Delhi, and added that the discoms can schedule power from its Dadri Power plant.

The Ministry of Coal on Sunday had dismissed fears of disruption of power supply as "entirely misplaced".

Union Home Minister Amit Shah also met his cabinet colleagues in charge of the coal and power ministries today to discuss the issue of insufficient coal supply and power shortage.

Jain claims most of the NTPC plants are running at 50-55 percent capacity as their coal stocks are reduced to meet one-two days need.

Delhi purchases most of its power from NTPC but supply has been halved, he told reporters.

NTPC supplies Delhi with 4,000 MW power.

Jain further claimed that the Centre has terminated the quota of cheap gas. "We have to purchase it and the generation cost is ₹ 17.50 which is not sustainable. Also, we have to resort to spot purchase of power due to the crisis at a high rate of ₹ 20 per unit," said the power minister.

Jain said the Centre should accept that coal crisis and address it instead of being in denial mode. He also drew a parallel between the coal crisis and the oxygen shortage during the COVID-19 second wave peak in April-May this year. "When we had an oxygen crisis, they kept saying there was no such crisis," he has said.

Earlier in the day, Union Power Minister RK Singh said "a panic has been unnecessarily created about coal shortage", adding the situation will be handled in the next few days. Mr Singh also said that "sufficient power is available".

Sources at the Centre said that there was ample rolling coal stock available, which means coal was being replenished every day.

Jain termed the union minister's statement "irresponsible". "Chief ministers of many states, including Yogi Adityanath of Uttar Pradesh, have written to the Centre on the issue. Punjab is also facing power cuts," he said.

"If there is no power crisis, then why has Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath written a letter to the central government. There is a power crisis in the country; the central government should consider it as a problem, then only its solution can be found," he said.

Ashish Mishra remanded in 3-day police custody in Lakhimpur Kheri violence case

LUCKNOW, Oct 11: The Uttar Pradesh police on Monday got three-day custody of Ashish Mishra, the son of Union minister of state for home affairs Ajay Kumar Mishra ‘Teni’, for his alleged role in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence.

The court of chief judicial magistrate Chinta Ram allowed Uttar Pradesh the custody of Ashish Mishra between October 12 and October 15.

Senior prosecuting officer SP Yadav said that as per Supreme Court guidelines, no coercion or torture would take place and Ashish Mishra may have a lawyer of his choice during interrogation but the lawyer would watch the process from a distance so that no interference is caused.

The Uttar Pradesh police arrested Ashish Mishra on Saturday despite his attempts to evade the law enforcement agencies. He was then interrogated for nearly 12 hours following which a local court remanded him to judicial custody for 14 days.

However, the Uttar Pradesh police sought Ashish Mishra's police custody and he was produced before the court earlier in the day. Two other accused, Luv Kush and Ashish Pandey, known to be close aides of Ashish Mishra, were arrested on Thursday.

Indian Union Minister’s son Ashish Mishra arrested

LUCKNOW, Oct 10: Ashish Mishra ‘Monu’, son of Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra, was arrested late on Saturday after over 11 hours of questioning, for non-cooperation during interrogation in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence and farmers’ deaths case, a senior police officer said.

DIG in-charge of the probe Upendra Agrawal said Ashish did not co-operate during interrogation and was not willing to share certain things asked of him. “For non-cooperation and evasive reply, on these grounds we are taking him into custody and arresting him,” Agarwal said.

Ashish would be produced before court, said the officer, adding that police would do a sustained custodial interrogation of the accused.

The Minister’s son has been named as an accused in the murder case lodged by farmers after cars belonging to his father’s convoy ran over protesting farmers in Tikonia on October 3. Eight persons, including four farmers, were killed in the incident.

On Saturday morning, Ashish appeared for questioning at the Crime Branch office in Lakhimpur after the police issued him a second summon as he failed to turn up after the first one on Friday. Ashish was asked by police to appear before them at 11 a.m. The Uttar Pradesh police had on Thursday arrested two persons in connection with the case.

On Friday, Ashish's father Ajay Mishra, told reporters in Lucknow that Ashish did not go to the police as he was unwell and that he was lodged in their Shahpur Kothi residence.

Ajay Mishra maintained that his son was not at the site of the incident or in any of the cars that mowed down the farmers. Ashish was in their ancestral village Banveerpur attending the annual wrestling event organised by the family, said the Minister.

"My son would also have been killed had he been here," he said, adding that hundreds of spectators present at Banveerpur on the day of event were willing to submit their affidavits about Ashish's presence.

He said the allegations against his son were “fake”. Mishra said that the probe in the case was being done in an impartial manner as even though he was a Minister, an FIR had been lodged against his son.

Mishra said “riotous elements” masked as farmers had attacked the BJP workers during the incident.

NIA searches multiple locations in connection with Mundra Adani port drug haul case

NEW DELHI, Oct 9: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Saturday conducted searches at multiple locations across the country in connection with its probe into the drug haul at Mundra Adani Port in Gujarat.

“Searches were conducted in Chennai, Coimbatore, Vijaywada at the premises of the accused/suspects… During the searches, various incriminating documents, articles and other items have been seized,” the NIA said in a statement.

The case is related to the seizure of 2,988.21 kg of heroin by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) at the Mundra Port in Gujarat on September 16. The case was transferred to the NIA on October 6.

The heroin was found in two containers, which were declared to be carrying “semi-processed talc stones”, that landed at the Mundra Port. The containers came from Afghanistan via Iran’s Bandar Abbas Port.

The NIA said it had registered a case in the matter following an order from the Ministry of Home Affairs. Besides sections of the IPC and the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, the NIA has also invoked Section 17 (Punishment for Raising Funds for Terrorist Act) and Section 18 (Punishment for Conspiracy to Commit Terror Acts) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

The NIA FIR has named Machavaram Sudhakaran, Durga P V Govindaraju and Rajkumar P as accused, among others. “Pursuant to registration of the case, requisite actions as per law for expeditious investigation of the case have been initiated,” the NIA said in a statement.

Sudhakaran and Govindaraju, a Chennai-based couple, own the company which was shipping the contraband. Govindaraju is the proprietor of the firm, M/s Aashi Trading Company, which is registered in Andhra Pradesh’s Vijayawada, that was importing the talc from a company called M/s Hasan Husain Ltd. Rajkumar, from Coimbatore, worked in Iran and was allegedly “coordinating with foreign suppliers”.

Till date, nine people have been arrested in the case, including four Afghans and a Uzbek national, according to a release issued by the Press Information Bureau (PIB). All the arrests have been made by the DRI. The Narcotics Control Bureau and the Enforcement Directorate are also probing the case.

Last month, a special NDPS court in Gujarat had directed the DRI to investigate if the “Mundra Adani Port, its management and its authority gained any benefits” from the import of the consignment.

Coal supplies decline in country, states seek reserves for uninterrupted power

NEW DELHI, Oct 9: Amid reports of severe power crisis due to a sharp decline in coal supplies in several states, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy on October 9 asked the coal and railway ministry for 20 coal rakes for Andhra Pradesh Power Generation Corporation (APGencos).

The AP CM also asked for supplies so that revival of non working pithead power plants on emergency basis can take place. Reddy added that there is a deficit of 500MW from central power generating companies. As situation looks grim, even banks may be instructed to provide working capital to discom to tide over coal payment issue.

Meanwhile, the state government has sought supply of gas available from ONGC and Reliance for 2300 MW gas power plants in AP.

Earlier on Friday, the Jagan Reddy government sent a virtual SOS to the Centre, and requested urgent allotment of coal and revival of defunct coal-fired power plants. Reddy in his letter to PM Narendra Modi said that the power demand in the state rose by 20 percent in a month and 15 percent in the last six months.

Reddy in the letter also added that the situation has become alarming and increasingly difficult to meet the grid demand and the circumstances are pushing the state towards load shedding.

“The power generation stations operated by AP power generation corporation (APGenco), which meet about 45% of state’s energy needs, have coal stocks hardly sufficient for one or two days. The coal-based power plants are operating at less than 50% of their 90 MU/day capacity because of coal shortages. Even the Central Generating Stations have not been able to supply more than 75% of their 40 MU/day capacity,” Reddy said.

"More water is required in the last stage of harvesting and if it is denied, fields would dry up and farmers stand to lose. Unplanned power cuts once resorted to, will lead to chaotic conditions," he added.

Meanwhile, Delhi Power Minister Satyendar Jain on Saturday held a high level review meeting on the possible power crisis due to coal shortage. CM Arvind Kejriwal had even warned of a looming power crisis in the Indian capital of 20 million people due to coal shortages which have already triggered electricity cuts in some eastern and northern states in the past couple of days.

Power discom Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited (TPDDL) CEO Ganesh Srinivasan on October 9 has said the national capital may go through intermittent rotational load shedding in coming days due to coal shortage across the nation. Srinivasan added the coal-based power stations supplying electricity to Delhi discoms have coal stocks to meet generation requirements for one-two days against 20 days.

"As a result, Delhi might go through intermittent rotational load shedding. However, proactive steps by both Delhi as well as the central government for handling the grim situation are under consideration to arrange or divert coal for power generation," Srinivasan said.

TPDDL, which supplies power to north and northwest Delhi areas,
also sent an SMS to power consumers, saying, "Due to limited coal availability in generation plants across north, power supply scenario between 2 pm to 6 pm is at critical level. Kindly use electricity judiciously. Be a responsible citizen. Inconvenience caused is regretted."

As on October 3, Central Electricity Authority (CEA) report on coal stocks for power plants showed that 25 such power plants had coal stocks for less than seven days for Delhi. The report also showed that 17 plants -- with a cumulative installed power generation capacity of 21,325 MW -- had zero coal stocks while 20 power plants of 22,550 MW capacity had one day of the dry fuel stocks.

In Punjab and Rajasthan too power cuts have been intermittent. While Punjab has cut power for three to four hours, Rajasthan has said that it will schedule one-hour power cuts. Punjab had shut two units each at Talwandi Sabo power plant, and one unit at the Lehra Mohabbat plant because of coal shortage. In addition to this, two units at Ropar were shut due to technical glitches by the state.

Maharashtra and Karnataka too are facing coal shortage issues. Thermal stations in the two states only have coal reserves for two to three days. Meanwhile Telangana Genco officials have claimed they have sufficient coal reserves for next one week to 10 days.

Sidhu begins ‘maun vrat’ demanding arrest of accused in Lakhimpur Kheri case

LUCKNOW, Oct 8: Congress leader Navjot Singh Sindhu on Friday sat on a ‘maun vrat’ (fasting for silence) at the residence of journalist Raman Kashyap who was killed in the violence that broke out in Lakhimpur Kheri district last Sunday.

Sidhu, who paid a visit to the late journalist’s house at Nighasan in the district, said the silent agitation would continue till the accused in the case were arrested.

Besides Kashyap, at least seven persons, including protesting farmers were killed during the clashes that took place following an agitation over the three centrally passed agri laws.

The former president of the Punjab unit of the Congress was detained for a few hours on Thursday at a police station in Saharanpur a day ago along with other state ministers and MLAs before being allowed to go ahead with their visit to the violence-hit district.

Meanwhile, the chorus for the arrest of Union minister Ajay Kumar Mishra’s son Ashish Mishra has been growing with the latter failing to appear before the police on Friday despite being issued a summons. The farmers have alleged their compatriots were mowed down in a car in which Ashish was sitting.

Demands for the junior home minister's resignation have also been growing as the Opposition has alleged that a fair probe was not possible until Mishra was holding on to his post.

Amid a nationwide uproar, the Supreme Court also slammed the Uttar Pradesh government for its handling of the case and asked to apprise the top court of an alternative agency that can conduct the probe.

A bench, headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana, also asked the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government to direct its state police chief to ensure that the evidence in the case is protected till the time another agency takes over.

Indian Govt's Chief Economic Adviser Quits

NEW DELHI, Oct 8: KV Subramanian will return to academia at the end of his three-year stint as Chief Economic Adviser next month. "I have decided to return back to academia following the completion of my 3-year fulfilling tenure. Serving the nation has been an absolute privilege. I have wonderful support and encouragement," Subramanian tweeted.

"To get an opportunity to serve one's nation is an absolute privilege. Each day that I have walked into North Block I have reminded myself of this privilege while endeavouring my best to do justice to the responsibility that comes with the privilege," Subramanian said in a statement that he tweeted.

"I have received tremendous encouragement and support from within the government and have been fortunate to enjoy a warm relationship with senior functionaries. In close to three decades of my professional life, I am yet to encounter a more inspiring leader than the Hon'ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modiji," Subramanian said.

"His intuitive understanding of economic policy combines with an unmistakable determination to use the same to elevate the lives of common citizens."

Prime Minister Modi took to Twitter to wish Mr Subramanian the very best in the future endeavours.

Subramanian also thanked Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for her "feedback" on important matters, which he said was "as committed as her support". "In the periodic meetings at North Block, Madam's sense of humour and easy manner play a critical role in enabling a healthy debate that is so essential amidst epochal change," the Chief Economic Adviser said.

"India is witnessing dramatic change. After all, as my late father had dreamt and worked so hard for, a person who was the first ever in his entire clan to step into the hallowed portals of a university gets the honour to serve the nation. Such an opportunity to 'Live the Indian Dream' manifests under a leader who takes equal pride in his humble origins. That such a savant comes away genuinely admiring the leader symbolises an India where meritocracy is in and entitlement is out. To be at the helm during such a time of spectacular change is an incredible honour that I will cherish forever," Subramanian said.

Minister’s son Ashish Mishra named in Lakhimpur Kheri FIR; farmers end agitation

LUCKNOW/ LAKHIMPUR KHERI, Oct 4: Union minister of state for home Ajay Kumar Mishra Teni’s son Ashish Mishra and others have been booked for murder, criminal conspiracy and 20 other charges in an FIR (First Information Report) filed by a farmer in connection with Sunday’s violence in Lakhimpur Kheri where eight people died, senior Uttar Pradesh police officials said on Monday.

The development came even as the farmers in the district ended their protests and agreed to perform the last rites of the deceased farmers.

Lakhimpur Kheri superintendent of police (SP) Vijay Dhull said the FIR was filed under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 302 for murder, 304-A for causing death due to reckless driving, 120-B for criminal conspiracy and 147 for rioting at the Tikunia police station.

Eight people, including four farmers and a local journalist Raman Kashyap, died on Sunday in violence that broke out after at least one car, allegedly driven by the minister’s son, hit protesting farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri, prompting an angry crowd to burn two vehicles and widen their agitation.

The minister and his son have denied involvement in the incident.

Several opposition leaders tried to make their way to the Lakhimpur Kheri village through the night but were prevented from doing so.

Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait, later announced at a joint conference with Uttar Pradesh additional chief secretary (agriculture) Devesh Chaturvedi and additional director general (ADG) of police (law and order) Prashant Kumar, that the farmers have decided to end their protest.

Additional chief secretary (Home) Awanish Kumar Awasthi said the Uttar Pradesh government will give ₹45 lakh each and a government job at the local level to the family members of all eight deceased persons, while the injured will be given ₹10 lakh each.

Prashant Kumar said the situation was normal in Lakhimpur Kheri after the farmers ended their agitation with the state government agreeing to their demands. He said police deployment in the district will continue for a few more days as a precautionary measure.

“We have assured them of strictest action against those involved behind the violence and deaths of eight people. The inquiry of the incident will be carried out by a retired judge of the high court,” ADG Prashant Kumar said.

Earlier in the day, arson was reported near the Samajwadi Party (SP) headquarters in Lucknow when a police jeep was set afire by unknown people. A huge crowd had gathered amid police deployment to restrict the party chief, Akhilesh Yadav, from going to Lakhimpur Kheri.

Apart from Yadav, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, SP president Akhilesh Yadav, Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel, Bahujan Samaj Party’s SC Mishra and Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) Sanjay Singh were among those also prevented by police from going to the trouble spot, about 80 km from the district headquarters and 225 km from Lucknow.

Yadav, along with his supporters, was detained for a few hours in Lucknow. Besides, several political leaders were placed under house arrest to restrict their movement towards Lakhimpur Kheri. Priyanka Gandhi also was detained in Sitapur as she managed to cross the Lucknow limits.

Priyanka Gandhi put out a video message alleging that this country belongs to the farmers and not to the BJP. She said she was going to Lakhimpur to share the pain of the farmers injured in the violent clashes and it was no crime.

The ADG stated that leaders of political parties were not allowed to visit Lakhimpur Kheri as Section 144 of CrPC was in place. However, members of farm unions were allowed, he added.

Uttar Pradesh government spokesperson and cabinet minister Sidharth Nath Singh termed the opposition attempt to go to Lakhimpur a “political stunt” aimed at vitiating the peace.

Navjot Sidhu To Stay, 'Agreement' With Chief Minister On Sticking Points

NEW DELHI, Oct 1: Navjot Singh Sidhu is back on board after an agreement was reached with Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Channi on Thursday over contentious appointments that had plunged the Congress into fresh turmoil ahead of the polls next year.

Charanjit Channi will be in Delhi today to meet the top leaders. A discussion on balancing Mr Sidhu's demands with the MLAs' expectations is likely to be the key agenda. The Congress has slammed its critics, targeting the party amid the turmoil, by calling them "anti-Dalit" after Channi became the first Dalit Sikh face to lead Punjab.

Navjot Sidhu, whose shock resignation as Punjab Congress chief - described as an "emotional" outburst by his advisers - took the party by surprise on Tuesday, will be kept in loop while picking a replacement for the state's advocate general Amar Preet Singh Deol, sources said.

Punjab saw a reshuffle in the top bureaucracy after Channi took charge last month. APS Deol, who had represented a former top cop in the controversial 2015 police firing case, was appointed for the role on Monday as Atul Nanda resigned from the post following the unceremonious exit of Amarinder Singh as the Punjab Chief Minister.

A 10-member panel has been sent to the UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) for the appointment of a new director general of police (DGP) - another sticking point. Sources indicated that Channi is ready to drop Iqbal Preet Singh Sahota as Punjab police chief. He was also picked for the role just last week.

Sahota's appointment was a problem because he was the head of a Special Investigation Team to probe the 2015 sacrilege case - a highly emotive issue. The probe in the sacrilege incident and subsequent police firing had also been a reason of discord between Amarinder Singh and Sidhu.
The Congress has also agreed to set up a government-party panel ahead of the state polls due early next year.

Sidhu was also upset about the cabinet changes made by Channi right after he took charge.

Navjot Singh Sidhu was appointed as the Punjab Congress Chief after a year-long bitter feud with Amarinder Singh. "My fight is issue-based and I have stood by it for a long time. I cannot compromise with my ethics, my moral authority," Sidhu had said in a video statement, a day after his resignation.

"What I witness is a compromise with issues, agenda in Punjab. I cannot misguide the high command nor can I let them be misguided," he had added.

Amarinder Singh, one of the tallest leaders in Punjab, on Thursday declared he will quit the Congress but he won't join the BJP. The remark came a day after his meeting with Home Minister Amit Shah, which his aide said was about farmer issues.

He had earlier took a jibe at the Congress over Sidhu's shock move with his "I told you so" tweet.

Captain also admitted that the Congress turmoil will benefit the AAP, which is preparing to give a tough fight in the state election. A survey -- done by the Congress between July and September -- shows that it has "seen a 20% decline", said the former Chief Minister.

Not a good thing if Param Bir Singh has left country: Maharashtra Home Minister

MUMBAI, Oct 1: Maharashtra Home Minister Dilip Walse Patil on Thursday said the state government was looking for IPS officer Param Bir Singh and that it was not a “good thing” if he left the country. Patil was responding to reports about investigating agencies fearing that Singh had fled the country.

Talking to reporters after an event in South Mumbai, Patil said, “We are looking for his whereabouts.” When asked whether Singh has left the country, Patil said, “I have heard something like that but as a government servant, he cannot leave the country without informing us. We have issued a Lookout Circular (LOC) and if he went away, it is not good.”

The CID has been looking for Singh in order to execute the bailable warrant issued against him by the KU Chandiwal commission after Singh did not appear before it after repeated summons.

The Commission was asked to investigate allegations of corruption made by Singh against former Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh.
Additionally, there are five FIRs registered against Singh in Maharashtra while the Anti Corruption Bureau is conducting two open enquiries against him. Apart from the state police, the NIA, investigating the Ambani terror scare case, had issued summons to Singh but he could not be reached.

Singh had gone on leave from his positing as DG Home Guards on May 7 citing health concerns. He left for Chandigarh from Mumbai and extended his leave citing poor health. He was shunted out as the Mumbai Police Commissioner after the Ambani terror scare case earlier this year.

SC Tells Farmer Group You Have Strangulated Entire City

NEW DELHI, Oct 1: The Supreme Court today lashed out at a farmers' group protesting the three agricultural laws saying they have "strangulated the entire city (Delhi) and blocked highways".

The farmers' body, Kisan Mahapanchayat, had sought permission from the Supreme Court to hold a 'Satyagrah' at Jantar Mantar, the designated protest site in the heart of Delhi. The group sought the top court's direction to the authorities to provide space to at least 200 farmers or protestors at the Jantar Mantar for organising a peaceful and non-violent 'Satyagrah'.

"You have strangulated the entire city, now you want to come inside the city. The residents around, are they happy with the protest? This business should stop," a bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and CT Ravikumar said.

The Supreme Court told the group that once they have approached the court against the three farm laws, they should have trust in the judicial system and let the matter be decided.

"If you have faith in courts, pursue that for urgent hearing instead of protesting. Are you protesting against the judicial system also? Are you protesting against the judicial system also?" the court asked.

"You block highways and then say protest is peaceful. Citizens also have their rights to move around. Their properties are being damaged. You are affecting security also. You stopped defence personnel also," Justice Khanwilkar said.

"We have not blocked highways. The police has detained us there," the lawyer representing the farmers' body told the Supreme Court.

The court asked the group to file an affidavit saying they are not a part of the protest that is "blocking the national highways".

In July, farmers, led by two other groups - Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) and Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (KMSC) - held a massive protest at Jantar Mantar amid the monsoon session of parliament.

Farmers have been protesting at Delhi's borders for over a year against the centre's three agricultural laws. Even after 11 rounds of talks, government and farmers have not yet reached a conclusion on three farm laws, which the protesters say will leave at the mercy of corporates.

Delhi had witnessed violent protests during a farmers' tractor parade on Republic Day as thousands of agitators clashed with the police.


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