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Spurious liquor claims 41 lives in Punjab

CHANDIGARH, July 31: The death toll in Punjab’s suspected hooch tragedy has risen to 41 by late Friday evening and the Punjab Police has arrested seven more bootleggers from Amritsar Rural, Batala and Tarn Taran districts in over 40 raids conducted by five teams led by senior officers on Friday.

With these arrests, the total number of persons apprehended so far in the spurious liquor deaths case has gone up to eight, including Balwinder Kaur, who was arrested last night from Muchhal village.

DGP Dinkar Gupta said a huge quantity of spurious liquor, drums, storage cans etc have been recovered from the accused and the same have been sent for chemical analysis to check for constituents of spurious liquor. More arrests are likely, he said, adding that raids were continuing and the police teams would continue to crack down on all those involved in the case to unravel the extend of the spurious liquor mafia operating in the region.

While Balwinder Kaur and Mithu were arrested from Amritsar Rural district, two persons identified as Darshan Rani and Rajan were nabbed from Batala district. Four others, namely Kashmir Singh, Angrez Singh, Amarjit and Baljit, have been arrested from Tarn Taran.

An FIR has been registered under sections 304/307/120 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) at Police Station Sadar Tarn Taran against the four accused arrested from the district, said the DGP, adding that the bootleggers had admitted to supplying spurious liquor in village Norangabad. Mithu, who was arrested from village Jasso Nangal today, has also admitted to his role in the supply of spurious liquor, said the DGP.

As of Friday evening, 10 persons had died of spurious liquor consumption in Amritsar Rural, nine in Batala and 19 in Tarn Taran. The death toll could rise further as the spurious liquor network was evidently spread across many areas, said the DGP, adding that questioning of the arrested accused was expected to lead to further arrests in the case.

Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has already ordered a magisterial inquiry by divisional commissioner Jalandhar into the hooch tragedy. The inquiry will look into the facts and circumstances leading to incidents, as well as into any other issues connected or relevant to the incidents.

The chief minister has given commissioner Jalandhar division the liberty to co-opt any civil/police officer or any expert to facilitate the expeditious conduct of the enquiry. He has promised strict action against anyone found complicit in the case.

11 dead, 40 lakh affected as flood situation worsens in Bihar

PATNA, July 30: The flood situation in north Bihar has worsened following incessant rains in the catchment areas of all major rivers of the region, including Gandak, Budhi Gandak, Bagmati, Lakhandei, Kamala Balan and their tributaries.

Over 39.6 lakh people in 972 panchayats in 108 blocks of 14 districts have been affected by floods while 11 people have lost their lives.

Most of the rivers are flowing above danger marks at several places while others are showing a rising trend, an official of the water resource department of north Bihar said on Thursday.

The Burhi Gandak was flowing nearly 1.5 meter above the danger mark at Sikandapur in Muzaffarpur town while the Bagmati had touched 56 meter at Kataujha, nearly 0.75 meter above the danger mark. Gandak was flowing at 54.31 meter near Rewaghat, barely 10 cm below the danger mark.

A Darbhanga-based lawyer Sudhir Kumar Choudhary, who is stranded in his native village under Hanuman Nagar block for a week due to floods, said, “The power supply was snapped in the entire area after inundation of Poariya sub-station over a week ago.”

The state-highway between Darbhanga and Samastipur was flooded at several places between Taralahi village to Bishunpur. The district administration has enforced restrictions on plying of heavy vehicles through the marooned region.

A bulletin issued by the Central Flood Control Room stated that extreme flood situation continued even as the Adhwara river at Bishunpur was flowing at 48.71 metre, 1.31 metre above the danger level on Thursday morning.

The flood situation in Kusheshwar Asthan block continues to remain grim even as swollen Kosi, Kamla Balan and Kareh rivers inundate villages. Darbhanga district magistrate Thiyagrajan SM said district administration was taking all measures to mitigate the miseries of flood-hit people by setting up community kitchens, providing boats and medical assistance.

Muzaffarpur district disaster management officer Atul Kumar Verma said all precautionary measures were being taken to save the town from Budhi Gandak as its water had entered into six places around the town periphery and breached the safety and ring bunds.

“We are focusing to save the national highway 77 apart from the railway track along the Muzaffarpur-Sitamarhi sections of NHAI and East Centeral Railway,” he said, apprehending that the flood water would enter in Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital if any breach will occur along NH 77.

India further relaxes Covid lockdown: Yoga centres, gyms to reopen, no night curfew, schools to stay shut

NEW DELHI, July 29: Indian Government on Wednesday issued guidelines for the third phase of lifting curbs imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), announcing that gyms and yoga centres can reopen from August 5, while also removing a night curfew that restricted movement of people outside containment zones.

The Union home ministry issued the plan, “Unlock 3”, prepared after receiving feedback from states and in consultation held with central ministries and departments, to open up more activities outside containment zones, an official statement said.

The new guidelines, which will come into effect from August 1, said that a strict lockdown will continue in containment zones – areas that report clusters of the disease – till August 31 and asked authorities to maintain strict perimeter control in such zones.

The latest guidelines said that schools, colleges, theatres, swimming pools, metro rail, cinema halls and bars will continue to remain closed. Social, political, religious, sports and entertainment functions and other large congregations will also not be allowed.

“Dates for opening of these will be decided separately, based on the assessment of the situation,” the home ministry said.

The decision to keep schools, colleges and coaching institutions closed till August 31 was taken after consultations with states and Union Territories, the statement said. The guidelines added that online/distance learning shall continue to be permitted and shall be encouraged.

Independence Day functions will be allowed in all states, districts and municipalities with social distancing norms and health care protocols such as wearing of masks. Separate detailed guidelines were issued regarding this on July 21, stating that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will unfurl the Indian flag at the Red Fort and deliver the annual speech.

The fresh guidelines said that international flights, which are currently permitted under the Vande Bharat mission, will further open up in a calibrated manner at a later stage.

The phased reopening of activities – termed as “Unlock” – has already led to the resumption of several commercial activities, including restricted domestic aviation and train operations apart from restaurants, hotels, saloons and malls in the past two months. However, the government has been wary of other activities that are likely to result in mass gatherings, including Metro rail operations, entertainment parks and cinema halls.

After 68 days under a lockdown to halt the spread of Covid-19, the country began opening up widely in May, but with significant restrictions. On Wednesday, India reported 52, 406fresh Covid-19 cases, taking the tally of infections to 1,582,730. There have been 34, 974deaths from the infectious disease so far.

The latest guidelines said that states could decide on further restricting activities outside containment zones. “States and UTs, based on their assessment of the situation, may prohibit certain activities outside the Containment zones, or impose such restrictions as deemed necessary. However, there shall be no restriction on inter-State and intra-State movement of persons and goods. No separate permission/ approval/ e-permit will be required for such movements,” the guidelines said.

Like the previous guidelines for Unlock 1 and Unlock 2, the latest guidelines also advised those vulnerable (persons above 65 years of age, persons with co-morbidities, pregnant women, and children below the age of 10 years) to stay at home, except for meeting essential requirements and for health care purposes.

The guidelines also said that the use of the Aarogya Setu mobile app should be encouraged.

According to a senior official who spoke on condition of anonymity, Niti Aayog’s Dr VK Paul, who plays an important part in shaping the Centre’s Covid-19 strategy, and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) were separately consulted on what areas or activities were to be opened. “Both of them were very clear that Metro, schools and other places of mass gatherings can’t be opened at this crucial hour,” said the official involved in planning the guidelines.

The Union health ministry’s officials were skeptical about allowing activities with big crowds. According to another official, reopening of cinema halls was actively considered but it was struck down as the government maintained that a maximum 25% of the capacity can be filled up in a theatre — an offer that looked commercially unviable for many cinema hall owners.

During the interactions between state officials and the Cabinet secretary, many states opposed opening schools at this juncture. The school education department, which spoke to parents’ bodies, reverted to the home ministry that many parents want schools to open only after a Covid-19 vaccine is out in the market.

The opening of gyms, according to the two officials, saw long discussions, as health ministry officials considered them places that will have a lot of aerosol due to intense physical activities. While the Centre finally allowed gyms to reopen from August 5, the health ministry will come up with stringent social distancing norms and hygiene rules, the officials added.

Moments after Rafale fighter jets land, Rajnath Singh’s veiled warning to China

NEW DELHI, July 29: Moments after the five Rafale fighter jets landed at the Indian Air Force’s Ambala air base on Wednesday, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said the arrival of the aircraft in India would give the IAF’s combat capability a “timely boost” and make it “much stronger to deter any threat” that may be posed to our country.

Singh, who had travelled to France last year to formally receive the first fighter jet, showered praises on the multi-role aircraft for its capabilities, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the decision to buy 36 fighter jets.

Singh also packed in a sharp, even if veiled, message to China’s military.

Defence minister Rajnath Singh didn’t name China. He didn’t have to. China’s People’s Liberation Army has parked troops near the Line of Actual Control where it had been in a standoff with Indian defence forces since May this year. It agreed to withdraw its troops from the standoff points after a bloody clash in Ladakh’s Galwan area following PLA’s attempts to erect structures on the Indian side led to the death of 20 Indian soldiers and an unspecified number of casualties on the Chinese side.

But Beijing has been slow to carry out a complete disengagement of troops as agreed between the two sides in several rounds of military and diplomatic talks. Besides, the army has also reported that the PLA, which thinned out its troops in the forward areas, had mobilised nearly 50,000 troops in the depth areas.

“I would like to add, if it is anyone who should be worried about or critical about this new capability of the Indian Air Force, it should be those who want to threaten our territorial integrity,” Rajnath tweeted and posted a video clip of the Rafale jets landing at the Ambala base of the Indian Air Force.

The fighter jets are widely seen as a game changer for India’s strategic capabilities who underline that it will significantly enhance the offensive capabilities of the Indian Air Force (IAF) with their advanced weaponry. The jet is capable of carrying out a variety of missions — ground and sea attack, air defence and air superiority, reconnaissance and nuclear strike deterrence, they say.

Rajnath also credited PM Narendra Modi for taking a timely decision to purchase the aircrafts in 2016 that had led to a huge controversy, especially after the Congress rested its campaign for the 2019 General elections around the allegation that India had bought overpriced fighter jets. The government, however, fought it out, defending the deal in the Supreme Court and campaigning for the Lok Sabha elections. It won.

Rahul Gandhi Congrats IAF on Rafales; But has three posers for Modi Govt

NEW DELHI, July 29: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday congratulated the Indian Air Force for the Rafale aircraft, but asked three pointed questions to the Government of India.

"1) Why each aircraft costs Rs 1,670 Crores instead of Rs 526 Crores? 2) Why 36 aircraft were bought instead of 126? 3) Why was bankrupt Anil given a Rs 30,000 Crores contract instead of HAL?" he wrote in a tweet, hours after five Rafale jets landed at the Ambala air base after a 7,000-km journey from France.

The Congress – led by Rahul Gandhi – had last year mounted allegations of irregularities in the procurement process of the Rafale aircraft.

Earlier on Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed the jets to India with a tweet in Sanskrit, saying, "There is nothing more virtuous than national defence."

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had said that the "touchdown of Rafale combat aircrafts in India marks the beginning of a new era in our military history."

"The Rafale jets were purchased when they fully met the operational requirements of the IAF. The baseless allegations against this procurement have already been answered and settled... I would like to add, if it is anyone who should be worried about or critical about this new capability of the Indian Air Force, it should be those who want to threaten our territorial integrity," the defence minister said in a series of tweets, in a veiled attack at the Opposition.

Man falls into river after UP police officer kicks him, video goes viral

NEW DELHI, July 29: A video, showing an Uttar Pradesh police personnel kicking a bystander watching an ongoing search operation at a Ganga ghat in Mirzapur resulting in the man falling into the river, has gone viral with netizens raising questions on the conduct of police personnel in the state.

An embarrassed police department had to order a departmental inquiry into the incident involving the station house officer of Vindhyachal Kotwali police station in Mirzapur. The officer’s name is reported to be Sheshdhar Pandey.

The inquiry was ordered after the incident invited condemnation from political fronts including the Bahujan Jagriti Manch of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

“This is how Mirzapur Police kicks the helpless from behind. A man standing near Ganga was kicked by the Kotwal (station incharge). The youth fell into river Ganga,” a tweet from the organisation’s official handle said.

A statement released by the Mirzapur police, however, defended Pandey’s behavior and claimed that he was only trying to enforce social distancing at the river bank, where a crowd had gathered to watch an ongoing search operation for the body of a man who had drowned in the river some time ago, according to a news report in the Print.

It added that Pandey was only trying to nudge the man, which threw him off balance, resulting in the fall.

A tweet by the Mirzapur police later claimed that the SHO had been served a warning and an initial inquiry in the incident has been ordered.

“The station house officer of Vindhyachal was served a warning over the incident and a senior police officer has been asked to conduct a preliminary inquiry into the matter,” a tweet from Mirzapur Police’s official handle claimed.

Uttar Pradesh police has recently been under scrutiny in Vikas Dubey encounter case and also in the murder case of a scribe in Ghaziabad. While it is accused of human rights violations by allegedly conducting a fake encounter in the first case, in the latter, it is under the spotlight for alleged inaction against local goons leading to murder of a journalist.

Kapil Sibal attacks Govt and asks if rule of law become law of he who rules?

NEW DELHI, July 22: Congress leader Kapil Sibal used the recent developments in the country to attack the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government at the Centre.

He tweeted on Wednesday morning to allege that the rule of law has become the law of “he who rules” in the country.

“In my country, has the “Rule of Law” become the law of “He who Rules”. Custodial deaths, Fake encounters, Toppling elected governments (money +), Intemperate language by the powerful, Persecuting the innocent, Highly questionable judicial verdicts. Save my country!” Sibal tweeted.

With this tweet, Sibal continued the Congress’ attack on the government in the recent days. The attack has been led by Rahul Gandhi, who has been targeting the central government over the border row with China and a host of other issues.

On Tuesday, he took a swipe at the Centre, listing the alleged “attempt to topple” the government in Rajasthan and the “Namaste Trump” event among its “achievements” in the Covid-19 times. He said due to such “achievements” of the government, the country is now “Aatmanirbhar (self-reliant)” in the fight against the pandemic.

“Achievements of the government in the Covid-era: February - Namaste Trump, March - toppling the government in Madhya Pradesh, April - making people light candles, May - government’s sixth anniversary, June - Bihar virtual rally, July - attempt to topple the government in Rajasthan,” Gandhi said in a sarcastic tweet in Hindi.

The BJP hit back, saying the Congress will become a “party of tweets” as it is doing no work among people and “losing” one leader after another.

Union minister Prakash Javadekar responded to Gandhi, calling protests against the amended citizenship law, the Delhi riots in February the Congress’s “achievements” followed by loss of Jyotiraditya Scindia and power in Madhya Pradesh in March, and “incitement” of migrant workers in April.

Sibal then released a video message in which he said that Javadekar should stop polluting the country’s politics with his harsh words and instead focus on better governance.

Sibal said the BJP does not know how to govern but knows how to attack and use harsh words.

Rahul Gandhi warns India’s next million Covid-19 cases could come in weeks

NEW DELHI, July 17: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday once again warned India would record two million cases of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) by the second week of August, a day after the country reported a million infections.

India has now become only the third country in the world after the United States and Brazil with more than a million cases of the coronavirus disease.

The country crossed the million-mark in 137 days and half of these were in a hard nationwide lockdown announced in the early days of the pandemic.

“10,00,000 figures exceeded. If #COVID19 spreads at the same speed, more than 20,00,000 will be infected in the country by August 10,” Rahul Gandhi tweeted.

“The government must take concrete, planned steps to stop the epidemic,” he added.

Rahul Gandhi also attached his tweet from July 14 in which he had talked about the country’s infection tally crossing the million-mark during that week.

“This week the figure will cross 10,00,000 in our country,” he had tweeted in Hindi.

Gandhi had also tagged a news report quoting the World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who had said that if concrete steps were not taken, the coronavirus pandemic would turn from bad to worse and that “there will be no return to the old normal for the foreseeable future.”

The WHO director general said that while numerous countries have now brought their previously explosive outbreaks under control, namely those in Europe and Asia, “too many countries are headed in the wrong direction.”

Ghebreyesus, without naming specific politicians, also chastised political leaders for their “mixed messages” amid the coronavirus outbreaks, saying that they are “undermining the most critical ingredient of any response: trust.”

The Congress leader has been criticising the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Gandhi had on Monday questioned the Centre’s claims on battling Covid-19, asking if India was at a “good position” in the battle against the virus.

The country’s tally reached 1,004,652 with 36,247 new Covid-19 cases and 690 new fatalities putting the disease death toll in the four-and-a-half months of the outbreak at 25,594, according to an HT tally.

India had 343,268 active cases and the case fatality rate (CFR) or the proportion of people who succumbed to the illness from among known infections or was 2.5%.

The US, which has 3,648,250 cases and 140,518 deaths, has a fatality rate of 3.9%; and Brazil, with 1,978,236 cases and 75,697 infections, is at 3.8%.

Experts have also said the next million cases in India could take less than a month and that the focus now needs to shift to India’s rural areas.

India’s main opponent is China not Pak, Govt’s foreign policy has failed: Pawar

MUMBAI, July 12: Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief and former defence minister Sharad Pawar said that the issues with China should be resolved with dialogue and diplomatic strategies with the help of intervention by other nations and the United Nations. Pawar also said that India’s main opponent is China and not Pakistan but New Delhi cannot afford a direct war with it.

Pawar, in the second part of the three-part interview to Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamana, said that the Modi government tried to take a different stand on India’s relations with other countries but it did not work.

“We never changed our foreign policies for the relations with other countries and they were in continuation since Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi or even Atal Behari Vajpayee’s rule. Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi tried to take a different stand by calling Chinese President Xi Jinping on friendly visits and treated him on a swing (at the banks of Sabarmati). Modi tried to create a picture of having created ties of friendship with the neighbour. But these efforts have not worked,” he said.

Pawar said that China has successfully wooed all neighbouring countries including Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka against India. “PM Modi’s first visit after taking over as the prime minister was to Nepal, but the neighbour now stands by China. Pakistan has already shifted its loyalty. India played a major role in the liberation of Bangladesh, but the country recently inked an agreement with China. Same is the case with Sri Lanka. This means all the countries surrounding India have started talking against it. The disagreement in relationship with these neighbours is the ‘latest contribution’ (of Modi government),” he said.

The NCP chief said that the issues with China cannot be resolved by war. “Our military strength is just a tenth of China’s and in such a backdrop, we cannot have direct war with the neighbour. It is true that we have readied our military forces and could have a war and are ready to pay the price if the need be. But instead of that, we should try to solve it with diplomatic strategies and dialogue. We have lost our territory to China more than 50 years ago and we have our dispute with it over it. We should build pressure with the help of other countries and the United Nations to regain it,” he said.

Pawar said that though China’s first enemy, almost three decades back, was the United States or Japan, it has now started posing against India and it was its strategy. “When I visited China as defence minister in 1993 and met the then president of China, he had hinted at this. He had said that the country does not want to have any clashes with the neighbouring countries as their main target at that point of time was the US. He had said that they will look at neighbouring countries after about 25 years,” he said.

Pawar, while replying to a question by Saamana’s executive editor Sanjay Raut, said that the country’s economic crisis needs to be handled differently. He said that the Modi government needs to adopt a different policy for the revival of the economy which has been in the crisis in the view of the global Covid-19 pandemic.

Indian economy showing green shoots of recovery: Modi

NEW DELHI, July 9: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today invited the world to invest in India, saying the economy here is already "putting up green shoots of recovery".

Addressing the inaugural event at the India Global Week 2020 -- pitched as one of the biggest international events on India's globalization -- the Prime Minister said, "We are rolling out a red carpet for all global companies to come and establish their presence in India. Very few countries will offer the kind of opportunities India does today".

The three-day virtual event -- themed "Be The Revival: India and a Better New World" --- is expected to discuss ways to boost the world economy, which sustained a huge hit following the lockdown induced by the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier this week, the World Bank had predicted that the global economy will shrink by 5.2 per cent this year -- the steepest downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.India's growth rate for 2020 will be 1.9 per cent, the International Monetary Fund said in April.

Inviting the 5,000-plus delegates of the event to invest in India anywhere from agriculture sector to defence and space industry, he said, "Indians have the spirit to achieve what is believed to be impossible... India is ready to do whatever it can to further global good and prosperity. This is an India that is reforming, performing and transforming".

Over the last six years, Modi said, India has made great gains in areas such as "total financial inclusion, record housing and infra construction, ease of doing business, bold tax reforms including the Goods and Services Tax".

Reforms have been made in the sector of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, which will complement big industry, the Prime Minister said, highlighting the recent loan initiative to boost the flagging MSME sector, which has been hit hard by the lockdown.

"There are investment opportunities in the defence sector... Now, there are more opportunities for private investment in space sector. This will mean greater access to commercial use of space technology for the benefit of people," he said.

Gangster Vikas Dubey Arrested At Madhya Pradesh Temple

BHOPAL, July 9: Uttar Pradesh gangster Vikas Dubey, accused of killing eight policemen last week, was arrested on Thursday morning from a temple in Madhya Pradesh after a five-day chase across four states. He was caught just as he emerged after praying at the Mahakal temple in Ujjain, where he had arrived after a 700-km road journey.

CCTV footage showed Vikas Dubey, in a mask, being taken away by half a dozen cops. "Main Vikas Dubey hoon, Kanpur wala (I am Vikas Dubey from Kanpur)," he shouted out while being taken to the police van.

Vikas Dubey was spotted around 7 am when he was apparently trying to enter the temple from a back gate. One version says he was buying prayer offerings to take inside the temple when the shopkeeper recognized him and alerted security guards. When he emerged from the temple, the guards questioned him.

He first produced a fake ID card of a much younger man with the last name "Paul". When prodded, he hit out at the guards, who dragged him to the police.

It is not clear how Dubey, last spotted at a hotel in Faridabad, Haryana, on Wednesday, landed up in Ujjain with the police on his trail.

According to the police, Dubey drove to Ujjain from Kota in Rajasthan after he was spotted in Faridabad, Haryana.

He was in his own car with two associates and could pass off as an ordinary visitor in a white t-shirt and mask.

Eight policemen were killed on Friday when they went in a large team to Bikru village in Chaubeypur area of Kanpur to arrest Vikas Dubey

"It is a big success for the police, Vikas Dubey is a cruel killer. The entire Madhya Pradesh police force was on alert. He has been arrested from Ujjain Mahakal temple. We have informed Uttar Pradesh Police," said Narottam Mishra, Madhya Pradesh Minister.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said he was in touch with his UP counterpart Yogi Adityanath on the arrest and the criminal would be handed over to the UP police.

How Vikas Dubey, after evading cops for five days, managed to travel from Haryana to Rajasthan to Madhya Pradesh is among the questions being raised about the arrest.

"We could not arrest Vikas Dubey and he surrendered in Ujjain. We could not arrest him even after such a huge incident and he kept travelling around. This should be investigated," tweeted Amitabh Thakur, an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer posted in Uttar Pradesh.

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav also raised questions about whether it was an arrest or surrender. "We hear that the main accused of the Kanpur-Kand is now in police custody. If true, then the government should clarify whether this was a surrender or arrest. Also his call records should be made public so the nexus can be exposed," the former UP Chief Minister tweeted.

Eight policemen were killed on Friday when they went in a large team to Bikru village in Chaubeypur area of Kanpur to arrest Vikas Dubey.

Dubey - charged in 60 criminal cases including murder, kidnapping, extortion and rioting - had allegedly been alerted to the raid by local policemen and had set up an ambush. When the policemen reached the village, Dubey and his men, armed with AK-47s, fired from rooftops.

The notorious gangster escaped after the massacre. A massive hunt was launched and the bounty on him was raised to Rs 5 lakh.

The police inspector in charge of the police station near Dubey's village was arrested yesterday over allegations that he tipped off the gangster and regularly helped him escape the law.

National interest is paramount. GOI’s duty is to protect it: Rahul Gandhi

NEW DELHI, July 7: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday questioned the government over the tension on the border between India and China, including the separate statements issued by the Indian and Chinese foreign ministries over talks held between two seniors officials.

National Security Advisor Ajit Doval had spoken with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi over video call on Sunday before soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) moved back from the standoff points in the Galwan area and near Pangong Tso.

Doval and Wang’s conversation is learnt to have focused on “full and enduring restoration of peace and tranquillity” along the Line of Actual Control. The two sides also spoke about working together to avoid such incidents in future, a top government official had said.

Doval and Wang, the two special representatives on the boundary issue, had “a frank and in-depth exchange of views on the recent developments in the Western Sector of the India-China border areas”, an external affairs ministry statement had said.

On Tuesday, the former Congress president tweeted two photographs of the statements issued by India and China after Sunday’s talk between Doval and Wang.

A part of the Chinese statement has been highlighted in one of the photographs.

“National interest is paramount. GOI’s duty is to protect it,” Rahul Gandhi posted on Twitter.

“Then, 1. Why has Status Quo Ante not been insisted on? 2. Why is China allowed to justify the murder of 20 unarmed jawans in our territory? 3. Why is there no mention of the territorial sovereignty of Galwan valley?” Gandhi asked.

Rahul Gandhi has been relentless with his attack on the government over the border standoff with China in Galwan Valley of eastern Ladakh.

The Congress party has also been taking jibes at the Centre since the June 15 violent face-off between Indian and Chinese troops in Galwan Valley, which resulted in the killing of 20 Indian Army soldiers, including the commanding officer of 16 Bihar Regiment.

It has also been questioning the government whether Indian land has been occupied by China.

The Bharatiya Janata Party, on its part, has attacked the opposition party for what it called the demoralising of the country’s armed forces.

Pro-khalistan group websites blocked

NEW DELHI, July 5: The Centre on Sunday blocked 40 websites linked to the banned pro-Khalistan group - Sikhs For Justice (SFJ)-- being used to propagate an anti-India sentiment across the world and for enticing Sikh youth to join militancy, people familiar with the development said.

The ministry of information technology took down the websites on a recommendation from the ministry of home affairs after it was found that SFJ, primarily operating from the United States, was aggressively using the medium for its agenda.

The outfit has already been banned by the government in July 2019 while its leader - Gurpatwant Singh Pannun has been declared an “individual terrorist” under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act on Wednesday.

Both MHA and IT ministry refused to divulge the details of websites that have been blocked, one of the key websites associated widely with the group –www.referendum2020.org-- through which support from Sikh youth for a separate Khalistani state is sought by SFJ, could not be accessed as it has been blocked by the department of telecommunications.

According to a gazette notification issued last year while banning SFJ, “The outfit is involved in anti-national and subversive activities in Punjab and elsewhere, intended to disrupt the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India.”

The central government’s order had stated that SFJ was in close touch with the militant outfits and activists, and was supporting violent forms of extremism and militancy in Punjab and elsewhere to carve out a sovereign Khalistan out of the territory of Union of India.

“SFJ is encouraging and aiding the activities for secession of a part of the Indian territory from the Union of India and supporting (the) separatist groups fighting for this purpose in India and elsewhere by indulging in activities and articulations intended to disrupt the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India,” the notification had said.

The declaration to ban the group was upheld by the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Tribunal headed by Delhi High Court chief justice DN Patel.

In its judgment, issued on January 6 this year, the tribunal said, “The notification dated July 10, 2019 issued by the Union of India under the Act, declaring Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) to be an unlawful association is hereby confirmed. The reference is answered in the affirmative.”

It is in the judgment that a mention to the website, www.referendum2020.org, “which is replete with pro-Khalistani posts and anti-India insinuations” is found.

Agencies are trying to get an Interpol red notice issued against Pannun. Indian officials have claimed that Pannun is getting support from Pakistan for his anti-India activities.

Last date for filing income tax returns extended to November 30

NEW DELHI, July 5: The Income-Tax Department said on Saturday that the deadline for filing of income-tax returns (ITR) for financial year 2019-20 has been extended from July 31 to November 30, 2020.

“Understanding & keeping in mind the times that we are in, we have further extended deadlines. Now, filing of ITR for FY 2019-20 is extended to 30th Nov, 2020. We do hope this helps you plan things better,” the department tweeted.

The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) decided extension of various time limits last week in view of the challenges faced by taxpayers in meeting the statutory and regulatory compliance requirements across sectors due to the outbreak of Covid-19.

According to CBDT’s June 24 notification, the time for filing of original as well as revised income-tax returns for the FY 2018-19 or assessment year (AY) 2019-20 has been extended to July 31, 2020. “Hence, the returns of income which are required to be filed by 31st July, 2020 and 31st October, 2020 can be filed up to 30th November, 2020,” CBDT had said in a statement.

The date for making various investments for claiming deductions has also been extended to July 31, 2020.

Criminals kill 8 UP Policemen

KANPUR, July 3: The Uttar Pradesh Police on Friday killed at least three criminals during an encounter in Uttar Pradesh's Kanpur. The criminals were believed to be members of wanted gangster Vikas Dubey. The report said that Vikas Dubey, however, managed to escape from the site.

The incident comes shortly after at least eight policemen including senior police officer of the rank of deputy superintendent of police and four constables were shot dead in Uttar Pradesh's Kanpur during a police raid to nab noted history-sheeter Vikas Dubey's house. Six police personnel and a civilian were also injured in the attack.

The raid was carried out at around 1 am on July 3 in Bithoor's Dikru village in Chaubepur police station area in Kanpur.

Teams from three police stations had gone to Bithoor's Dikru village in Chaubepur police station area in search of Vikas Dubey, who has 60 cases registered against him. A raid was planned at his village after he was accused in a fresh attempt to murder case.

As the police team was about to reach the hideout of the dreaded criminal, it came under attack of Dubey's men who were prepared with arms on the rooftop of a building, leaving Deputy SP Devendra Mishra, three sub-inspectors and four constables dead. The police believe that Dubey, along with his men, had inputs about the police raid, and were alert with arms.

They had also placed a JCB machine on the road to block police team's route from approaching them. Following the attack, all criminals managed to flee from the spot and fled into a jungle.

Among the deceased included 1 DSP, 3 Sub-Inspector and 4 constables. The other four policemen, who received bullet shots and were injured in the ambush, were immediately rushed to a nearby hospital in a critical state.

The area was immediately cordoned off and a search was launched to nab the culprits. Till late at night, the police continued the search to catch the criminals. The borders of Kanpur was sealed following the attack.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has expressed his condolence to the families of the eight police personnel who lost their lives after being fired upon by criminals in Kanpur. He has directed DGP HC Awasthi to take strict action against criminals and has also sought report of the incident. The CM is constantly in touch with DGP Awasthi and Additional Chief Secretary Home on the incident.

Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav too offered his condolence on the incident and tweeted: "Tribute to the martyrdom of 8 policemen in the tragic incident in Kanpur! This shameful incident in Uttar Pradesh where a nexus between political bigwigs and criminals has cost dutiful officers."

Vikas Dubey, a notorious criminal, carries a reward of Rs 25,000 on his head. He has also been a former member of the district panchayat and has at least 53 cases of murder attempts against him.

Priyanka Gandhi clears dues on Lutyens’ bungalow hours after govt notice

NEW DELHI, July 1: Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi cleared her pending dues hours after the government announced it has cancelled the accommodations at 35 Lodhi Estate stating that she is no longer protected by the Special Protection Group (SPG) and hence not eligible anymore.

“Ms Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has made online payment of balance amount due on her. Hence, now dues as on 30.06.2020 is nil against her,” a spokesperson for the ministry of housing and urban affairs said.

The ministry has also said that she had accumulated dues of RS 3,46,677 till 30th June.

The directorate of estate department of the ministry had issued a notice to her to vacate her house within a month.

“Consequent upon withdrawal of SPG protection and grant of Z+ security cover by Ministry of Home Affairs, which does not have provision for allotment/retention of Government accommodation on security grounds to you, the allotment of Type 68 house No. 35, Lodhi Estate, New Delhi is hereby cancelled w.e.f 01/07/2020. One month concessional period on the same rent up to 01.08.2020 is allowed as per rule,” the letter sent by the ministry said.

“Any stay beyond 01.08.2020 will attract damage charges/penal rent as per rules,” it added.

According to the current norms, there are no provisions for allotment or retention of government retention unless exceptions are made based on recommendations given by the Union home ministry.

“In view of this, she is no longer entitled for Government accommodation and her allotment has been cancelled by the Directorate of Estate,” the spokesperson of the ministry of housing and urban affairs added

Gandhi was allotted bungalow 35, Lodhi Estate on February 21, 1997 on security ground as an SPG protectee.

“Cabinet Committee on Accommodation (CCA) in its meeting held on 07.12.2000 reviewed the guidelines on allotment of Government accommodation on security ground and decided that in future no private person, other than those who are SPG protectees, shall be given Government accommodation on security ground. Such allotments were to be done at the market rate i.e. 50 times of normal rent,” the official said.

However, the decision to modify the rules was formally taken by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in 2015.

Congress chief minister Captain Amrinder Singh has protested the move and urged Centre to revoke the order.

“Captain Amrinder Singh takes exception to orders asking Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi to vacate govt house, urges Centre to restore her SPG cover and revoke allotment cancellation on security grounds in view of threat perception to Gandhi family,” the Punjab Chief minister’s office said.

“Blind hatred and a sense of vengeance with the Congress leadership is evident by the BJP and Modi government… The notice to clear Priyanka’s house shows the uneasiness of Modi ji-Yogi ji. We are not afraid of the frustrated decisions of the authoritarian government,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said.

 



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