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India on road to become world food factory: Harsimrat

NEW DELHI, July 12:

Food processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur said here on Thursday that India was capable of supplying the growing need of food for the world population that is increasing streadily.

Speaking at a conference organised by Indo-Dutch Chamber of Commerce and Sciences, the Minister said India can become world food factory.

Expressing concern over damaging crops post harvesting, Ms Harsimrat Kaur said such losses can be tackled by tech-based interventions.

The Minister said the government was making all efforts to boost food processing industry in the country and a special fund has been created for it.


"The government has inked agreements with few countries worth $ 4 trillion to create infrastructure for the food processing industry in the country," she said.

Speaking on the occasion, the Ambassador of Kingdom of Netherlands Alphonsus Stoelinga assured to give all support to the Indian government in its endeavour to ensure food security.

Netherlands To Establish Flower Market In Gurgaon

CHANDIGARH, July 18: The Netherlands will set up a flower market yard in Gurgaon under an MoU signed with the Haryana government, a state minister said.

The flower market yard would be established at Sector 52A of the city, the minister said.

The Netherlands Ambassador to India, Alphonsus Stoelinga, today called on Haryana Agriculture Minister O P Dhankar and held discussion towards growing further mutual assistance.

The minister directed the officers to complete the construction process of proposed flower market latest by August 15.

Mr Dhankar said that Haryana is rapidly moving towards the peri-agriculture concept in National Capital Region. This flower market would be part of this project, he said, according to an official release.

Vice-Chancellor, Chaudhary Charan Singh Haryana Agricultural University, K P Singh apprised the minister that the university has worked on an integrated project of crop residue management under pilot project and it is expected to start by September 2018.

Under this project, CNG, bio oil in the form of upgradation CNG and ethanol would be produced from 14 tonnes of crop residue every day.

He also informed that the University is also carrying out research on crop residue management with the Netherlands.

Rahul Gandhi visits Karunanidhi in Chennai hospital

CHENNAI, July 31: Indian National Congress (INC) president Rahul Gandhi visited Kauvery hospital in Chennai on Tuesday evening to enquire about the health condition of DMK president M Karunanidhi and said that the veteran DMK leader was doing well.

Karunanidhi is currently undergoing treatment in the hospital since Saturday due to urinary tract infection and age- related ailments.. “I met Karunanidhiji in Intensive Care Unit. We have a long relationship with Karunanidhi and DMK. He is doing well and his health condition is stable,” Rahul said.

“Karunanidhi is tough like the people of Tamil Nadu. Karunanidhi has the spirit of Tamil Nadu. I am happy to say that the leader is stable now.”

The Congress leader was in the hospital for nearly 15 minutes. He was accompanied by the party general secretary Mukul Wasnik and Tamil Nadu Congress Committee president Su Thirunavukkarasar.

“He responded well to the medical management and his vitals have gradually normalised. Although there has been a resolution of condition which lead to his hospital admission, an extended period of hospitalisation will be necessary due to age related overall decline in his general health ...” Dr Aravindan Selvaraj, executive director, Kauvery hospital said in a statement.

Later in the day, actor Rajinikanth also visited the hospital.

After meeting Stalin, Rajinikanth said, “I enquired about Karunanidhi’s health to Azhagiri, Stalin and Kanimozhi. He should long live. I pray to the almighty for the speedy recovery of the DMK leader.”

Raped, starved, burnt: Horror tales from Bihar shelter where 29 inmates were assaulted

PATNA, July 28: Horrifying stories of torture and exploitation are emerging from the shelter home in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur where 29 girls were raped by operators and visitors last year, according to the state women commission.

Members of the Bihar state women commission who met the rescued inmates of Muzaffarpur short stay shelter home at the Mokama Nazareth Academy on Thursday said the girls were duped and drugged to keep them silent and allow sexual exploitation.

The girls were starved and beaten with shoes at any hint of rebellion.

Those who complained and protested were stripped, beaten and burnt with cigarettes. A girl who dared to stand up to the oppressors, despite repeated threats, was beaten to death and her body disposed off in a rickshaw, the commission said.

Altogether 31 girls rescued from the Muzaffarpur shelter home are staying at the Nazareth Academy, Mokama where they are being counselled by two experts from Bangalore and Delhi for the last few days.

“Most of the girls are in a better condition from the day I met them at a hospital in Patna. But the memories of physical and mental abuse they have suffered may take time to wipe out. At the shelter home they were denied food and clothes and were beaten with shoes,” Dilmani Mishra, state women commission chairperson said.

She said out of frustration, one of the inmate had even tried to end her life by slashing her wrist with a broken piece of windowpane glass, but her wounds were nursed and she somehow survived. As her wounds have not healed completely, she is undergoing treatment by a visiting doctor at the Nazareth Academy. Another girl had etched out the name of her brother on her wrist as a sign of protest, she added.

Dr Nikki Hembram, another member of the commission who had spoken to the rescued girls, said all their protests and oppositions had failed to give them any solace. “There was none to help them and in utter helplessness they had compromised and continued to bear the torture and trauma. All these years officials from child welfare committee (CWC)and district monitoring committee kept visiting the shelter home, but no one had the courage to speak out.”

She said, it was not possible for the girls to speak out before the CWC members because the shelter home employees never left them alone during those moments. “Fear of being punished if they opened her mouth loomed large on each one of them. The officials kept making routine enquiry and monitoring while the girls kept giving positive replies,” she said.

Dr Hembram said, “The girl (who was killed) continued to oppose the shelter home employees’ directions despite repeated threatening and tortures. One evening, she was brutally beaten even after she felt unconscious. When she stopped breathing, her body was packed in a sack and was thrown down the stairs. Next morning, it was loaded on a rickshaw and disposed off somewhere,” she said.

Reports of repeated sexual abuse of inmates at the short stay home in Muzaffarpur surfaced after Mumbai’s Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) carried out a social audit of shelter homes across Bihar last year. The institute submitted its report in April this year. The government lodged a first information report on May 31.

Three children starve to death in New Delhi

NEW DELHI, July 26: India's public was in shock on Thursday as authorities confirmed three children starved to death in the national capital of the fastest-growing economy in the world.

Mansi, 8, Shikha, 4, and two-year-old Parul were declared dead in a New Delhi hospital on Tuesday, bringing malnourishment and hunger within India into sharp focus.

Autopsy reports show the children had gone without food for up to nine days prior to their deaths.

The disbelief was so great that authorities opted for a second postmortem to confirm the children had indeed died of starvation.

Police accounts said the children were left to fend for themselves because their father, Mangal Singh, was missing and their mother, Beena, struggled with "mental health issues".

Reports confirmed the minors died of "gross malnutrition".

"The forensic test that was done at our hospital clearly suggests the children who were looking marasmic died of hunger. The pictures depicted gross malnutrition, there was no hint of fat anywhere on their bodies," said Dr Amita Saxena, medical superintendent at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital in New Delhi.

"When we opened their bodies up, the stomach was empty, the bladder and the rectum were empty, as well. There were no signs to show that the kids had eaten anything in the past eight to nine days," she added.

The children's mother Beena, 29, is struggling to answer police queries. The case has been registered at Mandawali police station.

Nikhil Dey from Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, a peasant and workers' organisation in the western Indian state of Rajasthan, described the case as a "tragedy beyond words".

"Starvation deaths are happening under the radar in many villages across India. But these Delhi deaths are glaring because they took place in the national capital, where people have so much in terms of wealth, money and availability of resources," said Dey.

"The parents of the kids - a rickshaw puller and a mentally unstable person - these are double, triple-vulnerable Indians with young children in a big city."

According to 2011 government data, 65 million Indians live in slums that lack basic facilities. Multiple starvation deaths were reported this year in Jharkhand, one of India's poorest states.

Dey said the crisis is caused by rising inequality and a failure of the implementation of public distribution systems.

"Wealth is increasing in the hands of the one percent and is flowing less and less to those at the bottom. Our public distribution systems need to worry about the terrible tragedies that result out of these exclusions," he said.

Up to 670 million Indians, who comprise the poorest half of the population, saw just one percent increase in their wealth while the richest one percent cornered 73 percent of the national income generated in the country last year, according to a 2018 report by anti-poverty charity Oxfam.

West Bengal to be called Bangla: Assembly clears name change, needs Centre’s approval

KOLKATA, July 26: The West Bengal Assembly unanimously passed a resolution on Thursday to change the state’s name to Bangla.

However, the change will require the approval of the Union home ministry to come into effect.

The move follows months of back-and-forth between the state and the Centre over the proposal.

The Centre had earlier turned down the state government’s proposal to change the name of West Bengal to ‘Bengal’ in English and ‘Bangla’ in Bengali. Another proposal, suggesting three names — Bangla (in Bengali), Bengal (English) and Bangal (Hindi) — was also rejected.

The state government, led by chief minster Mamata Banerjee, then decided to send another proposal to change the name to Bangla in all the three languages, state education minister Partha Chatterjee said.

On Thursday, Mamata Banerjee informed the legislators that the Centre had told the state that they can accept only one name and not three. Then the House zeroed in on Bangla as the new name.

“Although we had sent the proposal earlier, the Union government decided to sit on it for a long time. However, they have sent a communication to us recently advising us to chose one name instead of three. We do not want any controversy on this issue, and therefore, we have decided to finally chose the name ‘Bangla’. So let the resolution be passed unanimously,” she said on the floor of the House.

Incidentally, the state government had decided to rename the state as ‘Bengal’ after its earlier proposal of rechristening it as ‘Paschim Bango’, made in 2011 when the Trinamool Congress took office, failed to get the Centre’s approval.

The primary reason for changing the state’s name was that whenever there was a meeting of all the states, West Bengal figured at the bottom of the list which is prepared in alphabetical order.

“If West Bengal gets the new name, it will leapfrog from bottom of the list to the top of the pecking order,” Partha Chatterjee had said in August 2016 when the state Assembly passed the three names in three languages.

A change in name would ensure the state came the fourth after Arunachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Assam.

Incidentally, the name of the state capital, Calcutta — that was also the national capital till 1911 — was changed to Kolkata in January 2001 by the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee-led Left Front government.

After she assumed power in May 2011, chief minister Mamata Banerjee changed the names of a number of roads and metro stations.

Union minister Babul Supriyo, an MP?from the state, also tweeted in 2016 expressing support for ‘Bangla’.

BJP leaders take two steps back thinking I may hug them: Rahul Gandhi

NEW DELHI, July 26: Indian politics is, by design, “confrontational” and “winner-takes-it-all,” the atmosphere in India is coloured by “hatred, anger and frustration,” but it is possible to fight the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) without “‘hating” them, Congress president Rahul Gandhi said on Wednesday.

He was speaking at the launch of senior journalist Karan Thapar’s memoir, Devil’s Advocate - The Untold Story. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Gandhi launched the book.

Former vice-president Hamid Ansari, senior BJP leader LK Advani, Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, Congress leaders Karan Singh, Ahmed Patel, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Shashi Tharoor, Digvijay Singh and Manish Tiwari, Akali Dal leader Naresh Gujral and other political, business and media figures were present.

“The atmosphere in India today is coloured with hatred, anger, frustration and politics. Us politicians, members of the government, tend to see the world as us or them. This is not my natural way. This is the design of our politics. It is confrontational and it is winner-takes-all,” said Gandhi.

The Congress chief spoke of a visit to Vietnam, an encounter with a boatman who lost his mother to an American bomb and fought the US soldiers, but harboured no hatred for the Americans.

“You can fight someone with all your might but hate is an active choice you make. I might disagree with Advaniji, can have a different conception of the country, but I can hug him and fight,” Gandhi said, as Advani looked on.

In a reference to his hug of Narendra Modi in Parliament on Friday, he said, “Whenever I come across BJP MPs, they take two steps back, thinking I may hug them. It is not such a bad thing.”

Gandhi credited veteran Congress leader Karan Singh for teaching him a lot about the country and his religion. “If there is one thing this religion teaches us, you cannot get imprisoned by hatred. We’ll fight them, but we don’t need to hate them. I don’t know if we can expect the same from them.”

Tharoor read excerpts from the book; Thapar engaged in a conversation with journalist Rajdeep Sardesai about the book.

29 of 44 girls in Muzaffarpur shelter home raped

PATNA, July 24: Bihar will not recommend a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation in a case where 29 out of 44 girls were raped in a shelter home in Muzaffarpur, the state’s senior-most police officer said on Tuesday, even as opposition parties accused the government of shielding the accused.

Director general of police KS Dwivedi said he was satisfied with the investigation being conducted by the department into the case that has triggered an outrage in the state.

Dwivedi said 42 girls out the 44 rescued from the shelter home, 70km north of Patna, were medically examined and reports show 29 were raped. The two other girls are reportedly unwell and could not be sent for the tests till Tuesday afternoon.

The senior police officer deflected a question on the involvement of politicians in the case while addressing the media along with principal secretary, social welfare department, Atul Prasad, in Patna.

“Ten of the 11 accused have so far been arrested,” he said.

When asked why a test identification parade had not been done as yet, Dwivedi said, “We will do it, if required.”

Reports of repeated sexual abuse of inmates at the short stay home in Muzaffarpur surfaced after Mumbai’s Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) carried out a social audit of shelter homes across Bihar last year. The audit report pointed to sexual abuse of girls at the Muzaffarpur home.

Prasad said the institute submitted its report in April this year. The government lodged a first information report on May 31.

“The department first discussed and reviewed the report, which was in three parts — good practices being followed, administrative lapses, and criminal negligence at shelter homes,” said Prasad.

“The lapses at the Muzaffarpur shelter home came on the criminal side. We held a workshop on May 26 in which we deliberated on the report threadbare,” he added.

A medical board of Patna Medical College Hospital (PMCH) in June had confirmed the sexual abuse of a majority of the girls of the ‘Balika Grih’.

The Nitish Kumar-led government is under pressure from opposition parties in the state to act against the culprits and Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav has even accused it of shielding the culprits in the case.

Opposition parties raised the case in the Lok Sabha and Congress member Ranjeet Ranjan demanded a probe by the central agency into the case.

Union home minister Rajnath Singh said it was a serious issue.

“If there is a recommendation from the state government, the Centre will consider ordering a CBI probe,” Singh said during Zero Hour.

And, an aggressive opposition led by RJD, Congress and CPI-ML(Liberation) disrupted the proceedings in the Bihar assembly and pressed for their demand for a CBI probe into the sexual exploitation of the inmates of Muzaffarpur shelter home.

Yadav, Leader of opposition in the Bihar legislative assembly, also demanded a CBI inquiry under the Patna high court’s watch and slammed the state government for rejecting the central probe.

The RJD leader accused that the leaders of the ruling Janata Dal(United) were involved in the case.

He also wondered about the reason behind the state government’s opposition to an impartial probe by the CBI if the Centre was willing to get it done.

He alleged that chief minister Kumar had gone to campaign during the 1995 assembly elections for the main accused in the case.

Authorities had on Monday dug the vacant space inside the Muzaffarpur short-stay home over allegations that one girl was allegedly killed and buried after an argument with the staff. The authorities, however, did not find any human body.

Following the expose, the girls were rescued from the shelter home and shifted to Madhubani, Patna and Mokama.

Alwar lynching victim died in police custody, says Rajasthan home minister

NEW DELHI, July 24: Rajasthan’s home minister Gulab Chand Kataria said on Tuesday that Rakbar Khan who was beaten up by a mob of cow vigilantes died in police custody.

“According to the evidence we have collected, it looks like a custodial death. Further investigation is underway,” Kataria said about the Alwar lynching case. “We have written to the additional chief judicial magistrate to initiate a probe.”

The minister also said an initial compensation of Rs 1.25 lakh had been ordered for the family of the deceased.

“I met the victim’s family and they told me that they are satisfied with the action taken so far. I told them to come and meet me whenever they want if they want to tell me something more,” Kataria said.

Rakbar (31) and his associate Aslam of Kol village in Haryana’s Mewat region, were herding two cows when they were intercepted by suspected cow vigilantes and assaulted at Alwar’s Lalavandi village on the intervening night of Friday and Saturday. While Rakbar was beaten up, Aslam managed to escape.

On Tuesday, BJP MLA from Ramgarh (Alwar) Gyandev Ahuja had also accused the police of beating up Rakbar in custody.

Alwar police had come under fire for a suspicious conduct in the death of Rakbar Khan. On Monday, Rajasthan Police suspended as assistant sub inspector Ramgarh police station and sent three constables to the police lines following an uproar over the delay in taking Rakbar to a hospital. The man was declared brought dead to the hospital, more than three hours after found him.

A four-member panel appointed of the Rajasthan Police to probe the circumstances surrounding Rakbar’s death has admitted that there were lapses on the part of the police.

“At the preliminary stage, we have found that there was some error in judgment. There was a time lapse of three hours, and the incident could have been avoided if the police had responded more efficiently,” said inspector general of police (law and order) NRK Reddy on Monday. Reddy heads the probe committee.

The police have been accused of further beating Rakbar after the assault and squandering over three hours in having tea and shuttling the cows to a bovine shelter before finally admitting him to a hospital.

Congress gives privilege notices against PM and defence minister over Rafale deal

NEW DELHI, July 24: The Congress on Tuesday served notices for breach of privilege against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman for “misleading” the Lok Sabha on the Rafale deal during a debate in the House on the no-confidence motion against the government on July 20, following through on its threat to do so, and further raising the pitch of its battle with the government on the deal.

The notices, addressed to Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, were given by Congress members Mallikarjun Kharge, M Veerappa Moily, KV Thomas, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Rajiv Satav.

The Congress party’s notice comes three days after BJP members, Nishikant Dubey, Anurag Thakur, Dushyant Singh and Prahlad Joshi, submitted a similar notice to the Speaker against the Congress chief, accusing him of “misleading” Parliament by making “false” allegations against the Prime Minister and the defence minister during the no-trust vote debate.

In his notice, Kharge alleged that the Prime Minister’s claim on transparency in the Rafale deal is “factually incorrect, untrue and deliberately made with the intention to mislead” the House.

“The Prime minister has along with the defence minister deliberately misled the House; it is, therefore, requested that this notice of breach of privilege be accepted and referred to the privilege committee for further proceedings,” he said.

In his notice against Sitharaman, Kharge said, “The minister knowingly and intentionally misled Parliament by withholding the information that the government is obliged to reveal to Parliament.”

The BJP termed the Congress’ move as “boastful chest thumping after misleading” Parliament and the country on the Rafale deal, maintaining that Congress president Rahul Gandhi wants details of the aircraft weaponry be made public, which it cannot be done in the national interest.

The Congress has been asking the government to reveal the price of each fighter aircraft and the total amount of the Rafale deal, alleging that the Modi government struck the deal to purchase 36 aircraft at a higher cost than what the United Progressive Alliance government had negotiated with France.

However, the Modi government has maintained that the price cannot be revealed, citing a secrecy clause in the agreement between India and France.

On Monday, the Congress and the government exchanged more fire over the deal.

The main opposition party said it will launch a nationwide campaign on the issue.

On Tuesday, KV Thomas (Congress MP from Ernakulam) raised the issue in the Lok Sabha, demanding a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe into the Rafale deal.

Participating in a debate on Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, Thomas questioned the “secrecy” behind not revealing the cost.

“The Prime Minister promised clean and transparent governance. It (the deal) will (anyway) come under the scrutiny of the Comptroller and Auditor General. The cost will also be revealed when it comes before the Public Accounts Committee. People have the right to know about the cost,” he said.

The notices given by the Congress members also mentioned that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet, as per the Constitution, are collectively accountable to Parliament and through it to the people of the country.

“The Prime Minister in his speech endorsed the defence minister’s claims, which contradicted the reply of his minister of state for defence in Lok Sabha on November 18, 2016 and in Rajya Sabha on March 19, 2018,” the notice said.

BJP’s chief whip in the Lok Sabha Anurag Thakur said: “This agreement is between two nations and both the countries have honoured the secrecy clause by not disclosing the details of the agreement.” The BJP leader said India’s position was also articulated by the French government through a written statement, which also contradicted Gandhi’s claim in Parliament that the French had no problem with the details being made public.

Thakur said the BJP has already moved a privilege notice against the Congress president for making unsubstantiated allegations regarding the deal.

‘Violence can’t be allowed’: SC

NEW DELHI, July 17: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked Parliament to consider bringing a new law to deal with offences of mob violence and provide deterrent punishment to offenders amid rising attacks by self-styled cow vigilantes and crowds in the country.

“Citizens cannot take the law into their hands and cannot become the law unto themselves ... Horrendous acts of mobocracy cannot be allowed to become a new norm and have to be curbed with iron hands,” the bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said.

The bench, which also comprised justice AM Khanwilkar and justice DY Chandrachud, passed a slew of directions to provide “preventive, remedial and punitive measures” to deal with offences like mob violence and cow vigilantism.

“In case of fear and anarchy, the state has to act positively. Violence can’t be allowed,” it said.

The top court directed state governments to designate a senior police official as the nodal officer in each district for taking measures to prevent incidents of mob violence and lynching. It asked them to immediately identify districts, sub-divisions and villages where such incidents have been reported in the last five years.

The Centre and state governments were also asked to broadcast on radio, television and other media platforms, including the official websites of the home department and police, that lynching and mob violence of any kind shall invite serious consequence under the law.

They must curb and stop the dissemination of irresponsible and explosive messages, videos and other material on various social media platforms which have a tendency to incite mob violence and lynching of any kind, the top court said.

It was hearing a bunch of petitions including those by social activist Tehseen Poonawalla and Tushar Gandhi, great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, seeking formulation of guidelines to curb such violent incidents in the country.

It posted the public interest litigation for further hearing on August 28 and asked the Centre and state governments to take steps to deal with such offences in pursuance of its directions.

The court had said earlier in July that states are under obligation to prevent lynchings and mob violence and such incidents cannot happen by the remotest chance.

More than 20 people have been reportedly beaten to death in different parts of the country since the first week of May following rumours, mostly propagated on social media and messaging platforms, that peddle fear of outsiders kidnapping children.

Police and government warnings to people not to believe in such messages have gone unheeded and in Tripura, a mob lynched a person hired by the government to dispel such rumours.

639 farmers ended lives in Maharashtra in three months: Govt

MUMBAI, July 13: In Maharashtra, 639 farmers committed suicide between March and May this year due to crop failure, debt and inability to repay bank loans, the state government has said.

State Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil gave this information in the Legislative Council in Nagpuron Friday in reply to a question by Leader of Opposition Dhananjay Munde and NCP members Hemant Takle, Sunil Tatkare, Amarsinh Pandit, Kiran Pawaskar, Narendra Patil, and others.

“639 farmers have committed suicide between March 1 and May 31, 2018. Of these 639 farmers, 188 were declared eligible for compensation as per government schemes, based on the government’s criteria of crop failure, debts and their failure to repay loans,” Patil said.

“Of the 188, families of 174 farmers have received compensation,” he said, adding 122 cases were declared ineligible for compensation, while 329 cases are pending for probe.

The opposition members had sought to know the number of farmers that had committed suicide in the last three months and details of the compensation provided to the family of the deceased. They also sought to know steps taken by the government to help the families of the deceased farmers.

Munde alleged that all schemes of the government, including the loan waiver, compensation to farmers for crop loss, crop loans, and minimum support price (MSP) for agricultural goods, have failed, which led to the rise in the number of farmer suicide.

He claimed in the last four years as many as 13,000 farmers have ended their lives, of which 1,500 committed suicide in the last one year alone.

Replying to another query, Patil told the house that according to the parameters set by the state government in October last year for declaration of drought, eight talukas of Yavatmal, Washim and Jalgaon districts were declared affected by medium intensity drought in April this year.

“Accordingly, compensation and other assistance was provided to the affected farmers,” the minister said.

On May 29 this year, the Centre made amendments in the rules for declaration of drought-hit areas based on the suggestions made by the states. Accordingly, the state revenue and forest departments made the changes on June 28, he said.

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, while replying to a calling attention motion moved by NCP MLC Vidya Chavan, asserted that appropriate action will be taken to recover mortgaged lands of farmers from lenders.

Co-operative Minister Subhash Deshmukh said availing benefits under the government’s ‘lender-free farmer’ scheme by submitting fake and forged documents was a crime and that strict action would be taken against those found guilty.

“Efforts will be made to get back the mortgaged jewellery of a victim farmer from lenders,” he said.

My father lived and died for India, ‘Sacred Games’ can’t change that: Rahul Gandhi

NEW DELHI, July 14: Breaking silence on complaints of Netflix series Sacred Games ‘insulting’ former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, Congress president Rahul Gandhi said on Saturday he believed in freedom of expression.

The Congress president wrote on Twitter that his father and former PM, Rajiv Gandhi, “lived and died” for the country and no fictional series can change that.

“BJP/RSS believe the freedom of expression must be policed & controlled. I believe this freedom is a fundamental democratic right... My father lived and died in the service of India. The views of a character on a fictional web series can never change that,” he said.

A petition was filed in the Delhi high court on Wednesday seeking the removal of certain content from Sacred Games, a web series by over-the-top media services provider Netflix, on the grounds of insulting former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

A day before, a Congress activist in West Bengal had also filed a police complaint against actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Netflix and the makers of Sacred Games for allegedly “insulting and abusing” Rajiv Gandhi.

The series is based on author Vikram Chandra’s novel of the same name. It has been directed by Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane.

India government is 'failing' to protect Taj Mahal

NEW DELHI, July 11: The Supreme Court was harsh on both the central government and the government of Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday on what it saw as their apathy and lethargy in protecting the Taj Mahal, and said that because no one seemed to be doing anything to protect the monument, it would start hearing the matter every day from July 31.

“You can shut down Taj. You can demolish (it) if you like and you can also do away with it if you have already decided,” said a bench of Justice MB Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta.

Despite a Parliamentary Committee’s report on the effects of pollution on the monument, both the state and central governments had failed to take action, the court observed.

“Uttar Pradesh is not bothered. There is no action plan or vision document. We want you to give us an action plan as to what you propose to do. We will hear it and finally dispose (of) it. If it has to be shut down let it be shut,” the bench told additional solicitor general AS Nadkarni who appeared on behalf of the ministry of environment and forests.

Nadkarni told the court the Centre has set up a committee subsequent to the court’s advice during the last hearing on the hiring of experts. “The Centre has taken a serious view of the matter. The committee will find out exact source of pollution in and around Taj. Three to four months are required for the report to be prepared,” the ASG said.

The court wasn’t mollified and said it found the move “vague”. It also drew a parallel between the Taj Mahal and the Eiffel Tower of Paris to say that the mausoleum was perhaps more beautiful and yet did not attract many tourists.

“Eiffel Tower gets 80 million visitors every year. This is eight times more than what Taj Mahal attracts and it is more beautiful than Eiffel tower, which looks like a TV tower,” the judges said. “(But) due to (the) sheer apathy of the officials, this country is losing (out on) crucial foreign exchange,” the bench noted.

The top court has been monitoring developmental activities in and around the area to protect the Taj Mahal.

It ordered a moratorium on the expansion of industrial units in the Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) that also includes cities such as Mathura and Vrindavan.

The bench also ordered the personal appearance of the chairman of the TTZ following allegations against the board that it was violating court orders.

According to an application filed by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Uttar Pradesh, the board (TTZ) was allowing companies to restart factories that had been closed two decades ago.

“This permission is granted against the moratorium,” SC noted in its order, fixing July 16 for the personal appearance of the chairman.

Nadkarni told the court that the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) is conducting an assessment of air pollution levels in and around the mausoleum and TTZ and would submit a report within four months.

Indian Teen raped by teachers and classmates for months in Bihar

Ekma (Bihar), July 11: Seven persons have been put under arrest in India after a 15-year-old alleged she was repeatedly raped by 19 people -- three adults and 16 minors -- over six months, according to police.

The girl allegedly was raped by a group of three to four boys in an initial incident, Kumar said. The others learned of the rape and threatened to expose it, then also raped her, said the police.

The victim filed a complaint on July 6, Kumar said. The police have arrested the principal, two teachers and four minor boys.

"We are investigating," said Vijay Kumar Verma, deputy inspector general in Saran, a district of Bihar state. "We will take warrants out from the court and conduct raids" to catch the rest of the boys.

The suspects deny involvement in the incidents, said Kumar.

"They are saying that they are innocent and they have not done it," he said.

The alleged incident is the latest in a string of violent sexual assaults on minors reported in India.

About 100 sexual assaults are reported to the police in the country every day, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. In 2016, more than 55,000 women, including minors, were raped across the country.

In April, massive protests broke out as demonstrators took to the streets to protest the rape and murder in January of an 8-year-old girl in the northern state of Jammu.

The incident became a flashpoint for legal reform, mirroring the outrage and subsequent reforms that took place after the infamous 2012 gang rape in New Delhi.

The Indian government in April introduced a temporary law which guarantees the death sentence to the rapists of minor victims as well as in cases of gang-rape.

UP BJP politician charged with rape of girl

LUCKNOW, July 11: Indian federal investigators have charged a politician from the country’s ruling party with raping a teenager whose plight was ignored by police until she tried to set herself alight.

The Central Bureau of Investigation charged Kuldeep Singh Sengar with the 2017 rape of a 16-year-old girl, whose father was later .

The sense of impunity enjoyed by Sengar, a powerful Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) state lawmaker, and his brother, sparked revulsion and protests across India demanding justice.

Sengar, who, like his brother, was not charged until the crime made national headlines, had smiled and bragged on television that he and his family would be proven innocent.

But CBI spokesman Abhishek Dayal said that Sengar had been formally charged with rape, criminal conspiracy and child sex offences.

The victim accused Sengar of assaulting her in June 2017 at his home in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh. Police in the notoriously lawless state refused to take action when her family reported the rape.

Her father, who kept pursuing her case, was detained by police and severely beaten. He later died from his injuries.

In April, nearly a year after her assault, the girl tried to set herself on fire outside the home of Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister and BJP stalwart Yogi Adityanath.

The chief minister ordered an investigation into the crime and the case was handed over to federal investigators.

The CBI last week charged Sengar’s brother, Atul Singh Sengar, and four others, with the murder of the girl’s father.

The girl’s ordeal went public as India was reeling from the rape and murder of a nomadic Muslim girl in Jammu and Kashmir whose attackers were defended by local BJP figures.

The two crimes underscored India’s atrocious record on rape. Protesters took to city streets in numbers not seen since the 2012 gang-rape and murder of a student in Delhi.

That horrific killing drew global attention and unleashed public anger in India about rampant sexual violence against women.

It led to an overhaul of India’s rape laws but high numbers of assaults persist. Nearly 40,000 rape cases are reported every year, according to official figures.

Campaigners though say the real number is higher, with victims wary of how their complaints will be dealt with or the social stigma attached to sex crimes.

IAS topper gets government notice for tweet against rape, calls it love letter from boss

SRINAGAR, July 11: An Indian Administrative Services officer from Kashmir who topped the coveted civil services exam in 2010 said on Friday that the government has issued him a show-cause notice over an April tweet commenting on a story of a man raping his mother.

“Love letter from my boss for my sarcastic tweet against rape-culture in South Asia,” Shah Faesal wrote while sharing on Facebook and Twitter an official letter from the general administration department of the Jammu and Kashmir government.

The letter says the central government’s department of personnel and training has asked for action to be initiated against Faesal over his tweets. It also enclosed screenshots of the tweet which allegedly violated service rules.

“Patriarchy+Population+Illiteracy+Alcohol+Porn+Technology+Anarchy = Rapistan!,” Faesal had tweeted in April over a story titled “Porn addict rapes 46 year old mom, arrested in Gujarat”.

“..You have allegedly failed to maintain honesty and integrity in discharge of your official duty and thus acted in a manner unbecoming of a public servant. Now therefore, you are asked to explain your position within a period of 15 days positively after receipt of this communication, failing which the action as warranted under rules shall follow,” the notice issued on Tuesday said.

“The irony here is that service rules with a colonial spirit are invoked in a democratic India to stifle the freedom of conscience. I’m sharing this to underscore the need for a rule change,” Faesal tweeted on Friday.

Faesal, from Jammu and Kashmir’s Kupwara district, was the first person from the state to top the IAS exam in 2010 and is a household name across the state. He is currently on leave while taking a course at Harvard University.

Mumbai drowning under haphazard planning, changing weather patterns

MUMBAI, July 11: On June 21, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) assured the Bombay high court that it was prepared to “tackle all natural calamities” this monsoon. It had mapped 186 flooding spots, installed water suction pumps in areas prone to waterlogging and installed special safety grilles on manholes. On paper, the civic body was ready for the annual rainy season – until the torrential rainfall of July struck the city.

On Tuesday, Mumbai surpassed more than 65% of its average annual rainfall in just the first month of the monsoon and the city’s infrastructure has struggled to cope with the downpour. In addition to places like Hindmata, which are low-lying and known to be prone to flooding, Tuesday saw waterlogging in Goregaon, Chembur and Mankhurd. In Vasai, the National Disaster Response Force had to be deployed. Stretches of the local train network’s tracks were submerged. Flights were delayed and traffic was disrupted all over the city.

Pockmarked by Metro and Monorail construction sites as well as road works and other projects, Mumbai is drowning under haphazard urban planning and changing weather patterns. The concretization of the city is considered to be a sign of development by many, but experts warn that these projects are significantly lowering Mumbai’s ability to drain rainwater.

City-based architect Roshni Udyavar Yehuda said the rapid concretization meant shrinking surface area in Mumbai, which makes the city becoming more vulnerable to waterlogging. “In new projects, there is next to no open space that will allow water to seep into the ground,” said Yehuda.

Studies conducted by the Indian Institutes of Technology at Mumbai (IIT-B) and Gandhinagar (IIT-Gn) suggest that considering the rainfall projections for Mumbai, the city will have to increase the carrying capacity of its storm water drains. “There’s been rapid urban growth, but the drainage system is based on past rainfall records and does not take into account the changing nature and characteristic of rainfall that has led to an underestimation of the old design,” said Vimal Mishra, associate professor at IIT-Gn.

Meteorological data suggests Mumbai is likely to face more intense flooding in the near future. In 2017, the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in Pune found that across India, there had been a threefold rise in rainfall extremes during the monsoon over the past three years. IIT-B studied rainfall data for Colaba (1901-2008) and Santacruz (1951-2008) and found there was now one percent chance that Colaba could record 164mm of rain in an hour.

One percent may sound like a low probability, but on July 26, 2005, Mumbai witnessed 190mm of rainfall per hour.

After the 2005 deluge, the Brihanmumbai storm water disposal system (Brimstowad) project was put in place. The plan involved eight pumping stations and 58 projects to improve the city’s century-old pipelines. Fewer than half of these projects have been completed and Joshi said that even Brimstowad is not equipped to deal with the rainfall projections suggested by the data. “The existing drainage system should have been designed considering changes in rainfall patters based on future climate projections,” said Pankaj Joshi, director of Urban Design and Research Institute (UDRI).

Extreme rainfall and drainage are problems that are likely to become more severe in the near future. “The new Development Plan allows open space to be available on top of a podium,” said Joshi. “Essentially, these buildings are occupying the surface with construction and going underground to cover the entire plot area with multi-storied basements, taking away the permeability of the ground. Where will the water go?”

It doesn’t help that different government departments seem to be undercutting each other instead of working in tandem. “In a city like Mumbai, you have the railways, the BMC, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority, the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation, the Public Works Department, and all are at loggerheads about jurisdiction, which leads to carelessness on behalf of all parties involved. Each one believes the other will do the job,” said Nandkumar Salvi, former chief engineer of BMC’s SWD department.

In the BMC, for example, while the department of storm water drains (SWD) works hard to clean drains, nullahs and water laterals to maintain the drainage system, the department of building proposals sanctions projects without adhering to urban planning standards. Excessive and unchecked laying of utility in storm water drain culverts – such as telephone cables and gas pipelines – can choke drains, said Salvi. There is also the problem of ineffective solid waste management, which chokes storm water drains.

Researchers said bad urban planning has helped give rise to extreme rain that is not uniform across the city. “If there are a series of buildings with a road running in the middle, wind with all its moisture narrows down and follows the path of the road. With buildings acting as obstacles, the wind profile and flow gets disturbed, the atmosphere becomes unstable leading to more rainfall over a specific location,” said Subimal Ghosh of IIT-B’s civil engineering department.

“We are in a situation when we won’t witness urban flooding just once or twice during the entire monsoon season, but every time it rains,” warned Mishra.

Meanwhile, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has forecast heavy to very heavy rain in parts of Mumbai and its suburbs till Friday.

Kejriwal meets Rajnath Singh, seeks control of transfer, postings of bureaucrats

NEW DELHI, July 11: Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and deputy Manish Sisodia on Wednesday met union home minister Rajnath Singh to seek control of powers to appoint and transfer bureaucrats in the city government.

According to Union home ministry officials, Singh assured Kejriwal that he would seek legal opinion on the matter.

The meeting took place at Singh’s residence where Kejriwal sought his intervention on the services issue, which has become a bone of contention between the AAP dispensation and lieutenant-governor Anil Baijal.

Kejriwal had sought an appointment with Singh last week, requesting him to implement the Supreme Court’s July 4 order that defined the role of the elected government and the L-G in the city administration.

The CM has been insisting that the services department was under the elected government’s purview as the court had made it clear the L-G had control over only land, police and public order.

But the L-G said the issue over control of the services department was still pending before the regular bench of the court.

“We met Rajnath ji and told him that the L-G and the central government were interpreting the order in a ‘strange’ manner. They say they would accept only half part of the order (which says L-G’s concurrence is not required) but will not accept the part related to ‘services’. I read out the SC judgment to Singh para by para and he gave us a patient hearing,” Kejriwal said.

“Arvind Kejriwal came and met the home minister. The HM listened to him and assured he will seek legal opinion on the issue,” said a home ministry official requesting anonymity.

Kejriwal said para 277 (21) of the SC order said that files would not go to the L-G and the Delhi government was independent to take decisions. He said para 14, 15 and 16 clarified that except three subjects (land, police and public order), the power to take decisions on all other subjects rested with the city government, which means that AAP government will have control on “services”.

“How can you (L-G) say that you would follow half of the constitution bench judgment and half of the regular bench decision (which is yet to come)? Like this, they will disrupt the Supreme Court as they did in case of the Delhi government,” Kejriwal told reporters.

The CM said Singh assured him of full cooperation.

“He (Singh) looked satisfied with our explanation on the issue. He assured he will meet us again on July 16 after discussing the matter with his officers. Let’s see what he discusses with his officers,” Kejriwal said.

Karnataka farmers get loan waivers of Rs 34,000-cr

BANGALORE, July 5: The Karnataka government on Thursday announced a much-expected farm loan waiver up to Rs 34,000 crore, giving relief to lakhs of farmers across the state with loan liability of less than Rs two lakh as he presented a Rs 2.13 lakh crore budget.

“I propose to waive farm loans up to Rs 34,000 crore, with Rs two lakh per farmer family,” Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy said in the Assembly while presenting the Congress-JD(S) government’s first budget.

“I have decided to waive all defaulted crop loans of farmers up to 31 Dec 2017 in the first stage. Farmers who repaid the loan within time, as an encouragement to the non defaulting farmers, I have decided to credit the repaid loan amount or Rs 25000 whichever is less,” he said.

The loan waiver package is an attempt to stick to the Rs 53,000 crore write-off Kumaraswamy had announced in the election manifesto of the JD(S). The modality of the waiver was the primary focus in the intervening period since this government took office in May.

Farm loan waiver had been an election promise of the JD (S). The chief minister also announced provisions to allow farmers to avail of new loans.

“To facilitate the farmers to avail new loans action will be taken by the government to issue clearance certificate by waiving the arrears form the defaulting account. For this purpose, Rs 6500 crore is earmarked in 2018-19 budget,” Kumaraswamy said.

Additionally, the government has also reiterated its commitment to allocate Rs 4,000 crore as part of the farm loan waiver announced by the previous Siddaramaiah-led government.

In July, 2017, Siddaramaiah had announced waiver of up to Rs 50,000 on agricultural loans taken from cooperative banks, worth Rs 8,165 crore. Only Rs 4,165 crore was released as of last year, Kumaraswamy said.

The Budget has also seen an increase in size since Siddaramaiah’s pre-election Budget in February from Rs 2.09 lakh crore to Rs 2.18 lakh crore. Receipts have increased from Rs 2.02 lakh crore in the February Budget to Rs 2.13 lakh crore.

The fiscal deficit has increased from 2.49% of gross state domestic product to 2.89% of GSDP. The state’s liabilities have seen an increase of around Rs 6,000 crore, from Rs 2.86 lakh crore to Rs 2.92 lakh crore, or an increase from 20.36% of GSDP to 20.75% of GSDP.

But the loan waiver has come with a cost. To mobilise additional resources, the government has increased tax on petrol and disesel. For petrol the increase on tax is from 30% to 32%, and for diesel it is 21% from the earlier 19%. This will mean tha petrol will be more expensive by Rs 1.14 per litre and diesel by Rs 1.12 per litre. Additional excise duty has also been increased on all slabs of Indian made liquor by 4%.

Delhi police tracking ‘godmen’ based on call records to solve mysterious deaths of family of 11

NEW DELHI, July 3: More strange details emerged over what appears to be the ritualistic deaths of a family of 11 in Burari in North Delhi on Sunday, even as police started investigating the role of godmen or occultists in the incident, and the autopsies revealed that all 11 died from hanging.

A police officer said on condition of anonymity that investigators have come across four possible numbers of occultists or godmen in the phones of the dead, and were following these leads. The phones themselves were taped, in silent mode, and stored in a cupboard in the house. Interestingly, detailed notes recovered by the police asked people practising a ritual that promised “salvation” to not use mobile phones during the ritual.

The police say the notes also promised practitioners that “God” would, at the last minute, prevent them from dying, even if they hanged themselves.

“One of the godmen we are focusing on leads a group of devotees of a deity. Based on findings from the call records, we are also looking at the role of followers of another deity whose temple is located in Rajasthan,” said the officer.

The 11 members of the Bhatia family who were found dead included 77-year-old Narayan Devi, her two sons Bhavnesh Bhatia (50) and Lalit Bhatia (45), their wives Savita (48) and Tina (42) respectively, a daughter Pratibha (57), and five grandchildren, Priyanka (33), Neetu (25), Monu (23), 15-year-olds Dhruv and Shivam. Nine of the victims were hanging from a metal frame that covered the courtyard.

The search for a potential occultist comes after the possibility that Narayan Devi was strangled dimmed. The initial autopsy said she died of “partial hanging”. Police suspect Narayan, whose body was found on the floor away from others, died after she was hanged from a doorknob.

The viscera samples of all 11 people have been sent for forensic examination to ascertain if they were drugged or poisoned before the hanging. The autopsies went on for nearly 24 hours, making it possible for only six of them to donate their eyes despite the family approving donations by all.

Alok Kumar, joint commissioner of police (crime branch), said the relatives, friends and neighbours of the dead were being questioned for clues. “All possible angles are being probed,” he said.

The police have not ruled out the possibility of a twelfth person’s presence in the house during the deaths. While the CCTV footage from 6pm on Saturday until Sunday morning did not show any suspicious person visiting the house, the police are checking videos beginning last week.

“The only person seen in the footage was a delivery boy who visited the house at 10.40pm to deliver 20 chappatis. The delivery boy told us that the family had not ordered any curry, dal or vegetables,” said the first police officer.

Sujata Nagpal, one of the two surviving members of the Bhatia family, refused to buy the police version of a suicide pact or a ritual gone wrong. “I believe it was a planned mass murder,” she said.

The first officer said the notes recovered are in two notebooks used by Lalit since 2015. “He appears to be the main motivator, but refers to all the ritualistic activities of the family to ‘upar se aadesh’ (orders from a higher power).”

Lalit was unable to speak for three years following an accident but then made a miraculous recovery, friends and relatives said. The police are investigating whether he was merely pretending to be mute. The relatives and friends said he lost his voice when a plywood plank fell on him ten years ago.


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