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Bihar, Jharkhand, UP among poorest states; Kerala, Goa have lowest poverty: Niti Aayog

NEW DELHI, Nov 26: Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh have emerged as the poorest states in India, according to Niti Aayog’s first Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) report.

As per the index, 51.91 per cent population of Bihar is poor, followed by 42.16 per cent in Jharkhand, 37.79 per cent in Uttar Pradesh. While Madhya Pradesh (36.65 per cent) has been placed fourth in the index, Meghalaya (32.67 per cent) is at the fifth spot.

Kerala (0.71 per cent), Goa (3.76 per cent), Sikkim (3.82 per cent), Tamil Nadu (4.89 per cent) and Punjab (5.59 per cent) have registered the lowest poverty across India and are at the bottom of the index.

Among union territories (UTs), Dadra and Nagar Haveli (27.36 per cent), Jammu & Kashmir, and Ladakh (12.58), Daman & Diu (6.82 per cent) and Chandigarh (5.97 per cent), emerged as the poorest UTs. Puducherry having 1.72 per cent of its population as poor, Lakshadweep (1.82 per cent ), Andaman & Nicobar Islands (4.30 per cent) and Delhi (4.79 per cent) have fared better.

Bihar has the highest number of malnourished people followed by Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

Bihar is also the worst performer when it comes to the percentage of population deprived of maternal health, percentage of population deprived of years of schooling, school attendance and percentage of population deprived of cooking fuel and electricity.

Uttar Pradesh ranked the worst in the child and adolescent mortality category, followed by Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, while Jharkhand performed the worst when it comes to the percentage of population deprived of sanitation, followed by Bihar and Odisha.

According to the report, India’s national MPI measure uses the globally accepted and robust methodology developed by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Importantly, as a measure of multidimensional poverty, it captures multiple and simultaneous deprivation faced by households, it added.

The report said India’s MPI has three equally weighted dimensions, health, education and standard of living – which are represented by 12 indicators namely nutrition, child and adolescent mortality, antenatal care, years of schooling, school attendance, cooking fuel, sanitation, drinking water, electricity, housing, assets and bank accounts.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) framework, adopted by 193 countries in 2015, has redefined development policies, government priorities, and metrics for measuring development progress across the world.

The SDG framework, with 17 global goals and 169 targets, is significantly wider in scope and scale relative to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), its predecessor.

Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar in his foreword said, “The development of the National Multidimensional Poverty Index of India is an important contribution towards instituting a public policy tool which monitors multidimensional poverty, informs evidence-based and focused interventions, thereby ensuring that no one is left behind.” Kumar further said this baseline report of India’s first-ever national MPI measure is based on the reference period of 2015-16 of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS).

The national MPI measure has been constructed by utilising 12 key components which cover areas such as health and nutrition, education and standard of living, he said.

Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant in his foreword said the year 2021 marks the sixth anniversary of the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals which envisage ending poverty in all its forms everywhere.

“Steered by the government of India’s Global Indices for Reforms and Growth (GIRG) initiative, the National Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) for India is aimed at leveraging the monitoring mechanism and methodology of the globally recognised MPI to rigorously benchmark national and subnational performance and drive programmatic actions and reforms,” Kant said.

He said India’s national MPI highlights the need for a whole-of-government approach towards addressing poverty and its multidimensionality.

The report said the national MPI, an aggregate measure, which defines poverty, in simple terms, as the deprivation in crucial and basic parameters of health, education, and living standards, is a significant departure from the way poverty has been understood and conceptualised historically.

“While this report is an indispensable first step in mainstreaming MPI, it is based on a dataset which is five years old. The success of numerous development interventions in the recent past have resulted in progress in key parameters on health, education, and standard of living,” it added.

In early 2020, the Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, identified 29 global indices to monitor, analyse and evaluate with the aim of improving India’s position in global rankings.

Under this mandate, also known as the Global Indices for Reforms and Growth (GIRG) mandate, Niti Aayog was identified as the nodal agency for the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI).

12 Of 17 Congress MLAs Join Trinamool In Meghalaya In Late Night Coup

NEW DELHI, Nov 24: Former Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma, along with 11 of the 17 Congress MLAs in the state, has joined the Trinamool Congress in a huge coup for Bengal's ruling party in the northeast. The Meghalaya MLAs have already written to the assembly speaker Metbah Lyngdoh regarding this. The assembly has 60 seats.

The induction -- which made Trinamool the principal opposition party in the state -- came as the party chief Mamata Banerjee is in Delhi and candidly spoke of her plans for a united opposition.

Over the last couple of months, the Trinamool has been on an expansion mode -- most of it at the cost of the Congress.

Ms Banerjee, known to share a cordial relationship with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, has not met her this time, although there was a buzz about a meeting.

Asked about the matter, the Trinamool chief flared up. She had sought no appointment with Sonia Gandhi, as "they are busy with Punjab polls", Ms Banerjee said. Then she pointedly added, "Why should we meet Sonia every time? It is not constitutionally mandated".

The Trinamool has been trying to expand its footprint in Tripura and Goa with an eye to the next round of assembly elections in these states.

In Tripura, the party has been at loggerheads with the state's ruling BJP ahead of tomorrow's civic elections. In Goa, it is banking on Luizinho Faleiro, the state's former Chief Minister.

Yesterday, Ms Banerjee's party made three key acquisitions – that gave her a toehold in at least two more states – Haryana and Punjab.

Besides Team India batsman Kirti Azad, former Rahul Gandhi aide Ashok Tanwar, and Rajya Sabha MP Pawan Verma for Janata Dal United, who fell out with his boss Nitish Kumar.

The earlier Congress entrants in the party included late president Pranab Mukherjee's son Abhijit Mukherjee, Sushmita Dev, the former Congress MP from Silchar and daughter of late Congress stalwart Santosh Mohan Dev.

In Delhi today, Ms Banerjee -- whose massive victory in the April-May assembly elections in Bengal had set off a buzz about her spearheading the opposition challenge to the BJP in the 2024 general elections – said she was willing to help oust the BJP in Uttar Pradesh.

She said she would visit Varanasi – PM Modi's Lok Sabha constitution – and the big opposition hub of Mumbai to meet Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.

Rulers need to introspect daily, people ‘ultimate lords’ of democracy: CJI Ramana

PUTTAPARTHI, Nov 22: Rulers should introspect everyday whether the decisions taken by them are good and also check if they have any bad characteristics, Chief Justice of India NV Ramana said on Monday.

Addressing the 40th convocation of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning in Puttaparthi town in Anantapuramu district, Justice Ramana, quoting Mahabharata and Ramayana, said there are 14 bad qualities of rulers which they should avoid.

“All the rulers in the democratic set-up, before beginning their routine work, should introspect whether they have any bad characteristics. There is need to offer just administration and it should be according to people's needs. There are several wise men here and you are watching the developments that are taking place worldwide and countrywide,” he said.

He said people are the ultimate lords in democracy and whatever decision has been taken by the dispensation should benefit them. He further said it was his desire that all the systems in the country should be independent and honest aiming to serve the people which Sathya Sai Baba also used to say the same thing.

Unfortunately, the modern education system tends to focus only on the utilitarian function and such a system is not equipped to deal with the moral or spiritual function of education which builds the character of students and allows them to develop a social consciousness and a sense of responsibility, Justice Ramana said.

“True education is one which imbibes moral values and virtues of humility, discipline, selflessness, compassion, tolerance, forgiveness and mutual respect,” He said. On Sathya Sai Baba, Justice Ramana said, "I had the good fortune of having Baba's darshan. I have always carried with me his words of wisdom."

He further said: "There is no greater proponent of service, no greater mentor to follow than Baba himself. Sathya Sai means love, Sathya Sai means service, Sathya Sai means sacrifice.”

“…Be it education, medical care, providing clean drinking water, relief work, Baba has showed us the righteous path. This is the concept embedded in our cultural ethos of 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam' (the world is one family),” he said adding Baba's life should be an inspiration to one and all.

The world has gone through unprecedented changes during the past two years and the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and highlighted deep-rooted vulnerabilities and has increased the inequalities in society, the CJI said. “In such times, selfless service is the need of the hour. I feel so encouraged by the fact that this idea of service is still strong in the hearts and minds of the people, including students of this institution, to provide relief to those in need,” he added.

After Centre's Climbdown, Farmers Announce 'Sansad Chalo' On Nov 29

New Delhi: Emboldened by the Centre's climbdown on three contentious farm laws, farmers' front Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) today met at Singhu border and decided on a series of upcoming programmes, including a march to parliament on November 29 -- when the houses meet for Winter Session.

In their first meeting after the Prime Minister's announcement, farmer leaders decided to send an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, raising their pending demands, the most notable being a central legislation to guarantee a Minimum Support Price (MSP).

Despite the Prime Minister's announcement that the three farm laws, against which the farmers have been agitating for a year now, will be withdrawn, the farmers have asserted that their protest will continue till the laws are officially withdrawn. Besides a law on MSP, they have also demanded withdrawal of the police cases filed against many of them over the last year.

A statement issued by SKM today said that a Kisan Mahapanchayat will be held in Lucknow tomorrow, a Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Diwas will be observed on prominent British India politician Sir Chhotu Ram's birth anniversary on November 24, a march to Delhi borders will be organised on November 26 and a march to Parliament on November 29.

The farmers' front has called another meeting on November 27 to review the situation.

At today's meeting, the SKM lauded the Telangana government's decision to financially support the families of the farmers who died during the agitation, "while Narendra Modi or his govt does not acknowledge the heavy and avoidable sacrifices made by around 700 brave farmers".

In a counter to the Prime Minister's remark that there may be something lacking in the government's "tapasya" that they could not "explain the truth" about the laws to some farmers, the SKM said it was the protesting farmers "who did the true tapasya with faith".

"These annadaatas have taken the historic movement to the cusp of a historic first victory with their tapasya and are steadily taking this towards full victory, which will actually be a victory for democracy itself. This victory is not a question of someone's pride or ego, but a matter of lives and livelihoods of millions of ignored and marginalised Indians," it said, asserting that their movement is bigger than a farmers' agitation.

After Rajasthan Cabinet Reshuffle, 6 MLAs Named Chief Minister's Advisors

JAIPUR, Nov 21: Six MLAs, including three Independents, have been appointed advisers to Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot in Rajasthan, hours after 15 ministers took oath in a cabinet expansion.

Twelve new faces have been inducted into the cabinet, fulfilling a key demand of former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot whose rebellion last year shook the state's Congress government.

The Congress MLAs who have been appointed advisers are Jitendra Singh, Rajkumar Sharma and Danish Abrar.

Independent legislators Babu Lal Nagar, Sanyam Lodha and Ramkesh Meena have also been appointed advisers to Gehlot, according to a list released by the Chief Minister's Office. All six MLAs are considered close to Gehlot and were in the race to become ministers.

Danish Abrar was among the three Congress MLAs, who were in Delhi on the day Pilot revolted against Gehlot in July last year.

It was speculated that they were with Pilot but they returned to Jaipur and claimed that they had gone to Delhi for personal reasons.

He is now considered in the Gehlot camp.

Jitendra Singh, Rajkumar Sharma and Babu Lal Nagar are former ministers.

Gehlot had earlier in the day said those who did not make it to the council of ministers will be adjusted in other political appointments.

After the oath ceremony was over, Gehlot said parliamentary secretaries, advisers and chairpersons of boards and corporations will be appointed.

"Now, some will become advisers, parliamentary secretaries and chairpersons of boards and corporations. So, it is an effort that how we adjust most MLAs and move forward," Gehlot had told reporters.

A party leader said the role and participation of the newly appointed advisers in the government will be equally important.

"They will be given equal importance in the government," the party leader said.

Sources said 15 parliamentary secretaries may be appointed.

Congress general secretary Ajay Maken, however, indicated that it was not the last cabinet reshuffle by saying that new faces would be given the opportunity when some desire to work for the party.

Maken, while addressing MLAs at the party office before the oath ceremony, also appreciated state party chief Govind Singh Dotasra, Harish Chaudhary and Raghu Sharma, who quit as ministers to work for the party.

Dotasra, Chaudhary and Sharma resigned on Friday from the council of ministers according to the party's "one man, one post" formula.

Sharma has been appointed the All-India Congress Committee (AICC) in-charge for Gujarat and Chaudhary as the in-charge for Punjab.

"The party high command and the chief minister have taken a balanced stand. All regional and social equations have been considered in the cabinet reshuffle," a party leader said.

"Since there were limitations, it was not possible to accommodate everyone who had expectations. For this, 15 parliamentary secretaries and seven advisers to the Chief Minister will be appointed and other political appointments will also be made," the leader said.

The Congress has 108 MLAs in the 200-member Assembly. It also has the support of 12 out of 13 independent MLAs.

With the induction of 12 new ministers and elevation of three ministers from MoS to cabinet rank today, the state now has 30 ministers, the maximum it can have.

The state now has 19 cabinet and 10 ministers of state, apart from the chief minister.

Indian Govt to repeal three farm laws: Modi

NEW DELHI, Nov 19: Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Friday that the government will repeal the three farm laws introduced last year that led to a massive protest of farmers, especially in Punjab and Haryana.

In his address to the nation, Modi also appealed to the protesting farmers to return to their homes. He said the government will set up a committee to address all issues impacting farmers. Scientists, farmer groups, state and central officials will be a part of this new panel.

The goal of bringing the three farm laws was to empower farmers, especially small farmers. The three laws were in farmers' benefit and many farmers across the country welcomed it, said Modi. However, there was a section of farmers that protested against it.

"We couldn't convince that section of farmers despite best efforts. We have decided to repeal those three farm laws," he said. He added the government will complete the process in the winter session of Parliament.

In September 2020, Parliament passed three bills the government said were aimed at freeing up pricing, production and trade in agriculture through ways such as contract farming, allowing farmers to sell their produce wherever they wanted instead of restricting them to local government-controlled mandis.

Experts said these reforms will enable farmers to escape from the clutches of middlemen and trader cartels, open new channels and foster competition in the supply chain, and provide some stability to an occupation beset with volatility.

However, farmers, especially from Punjab and Haryana, rose in protest demanding the repeal of the laws and replacing them with another set of laws enacted after taking all stakeholders into confidence.

Farmers were especially concerned about one of the laws which broke the monopoly of agriculture produce marketing committees (APMC) - they feared that it will lead to corporatisation of agriculture and signal the end of the minimum support price (MSP) system.

Among other things, they also demanded a guarantee on continued MSP procurement.

Victory against injustice: Rahul Gandhi

NEW DELHI, Nov 19: The country’s 'annadatas' have made "arrogance bow its head" through 'satyagraha’, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said on Friday and described the Centre’s decision to repeal the farm laws as a "victory against injustice".

His remarks came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in an address to the nation this morning, announced that the government has decided to repeal the three farm laws, which were at the centre of protests by farmers for the past year.

"Country’s 'annadatas' (food providers) have made arrogance bow its head through satyagraha," Gandhi said in a tweet in Hindi.

"Congratulations on this victory against injustice!” the former Congress chief said. 'Jai Hind, Jai Hind ka Kisan'," he added.

Many farmers had been protesting and were encamped at Delhi’s borders since November 2020 with a demand that the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 be rolled back and a new law made to guarantee MSP for crops.

Withdrawal of farm laws impelled by 'fear of elections': Chidambaram

NEW DELHI, Nov 19: Calling the Centre’s decision to repeal the farm laws as a "great victory for the farmers and the Congress", senior party leader P Chidambaram on Friday took a dig at the government, saying that the move was not inspired by a change of heart but impelled by "fear of elections".

His remarks came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in an address to the nation this morning, announced that the government has decided to repeal the three farm laws, which were at the centre of protests by farmers for the past year.

"What cannot be achieved by democratic protests can be achieved by the fear of impending elections!" Chidambaram tweeted. The PM’s announcement on the withdrawal of the three farm laws is not inspired by a change of policy or a change of heart. It is impelled by "fear of elections", the Congress leader charged in a series of tweets.

"Anyway, it is a great victory for the farmers and for the Congress party which was unwavering in its opposition to the farm laws," Chidambaram said. Many farmers had been protesting and were encamped at Delhi’s borders since November 2020 with a demand that the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 be rolled back and a new law made to guarantee MSP for crops.

China Constructs Second Enclave In Arunachal

NEW DELHI, Nov 19: New satellite images show that China has constructed a second enclave or cluster of at least 60 buildings in Arunachal Pradesh.

The new enclave did not exist in 2019 according to the satellite images; a year later, it can be seen. It lies 93 km east of a China-constructed village in Arunachal Pradesh, a big encroachment first reported by NDTV in January and which was confirmed by a Pentagon report just days ago.

India reacted sharply to that report, which corroborated NDTV's exclusive story, stating "China has undertaken construction activities in the past several years along the border areas, including in the areas that it has illegally occupied over the decades. India has neither accepted such illegal occupation of our territory, nor has it accepted the unjustified Chinese claims."

Chinese enclave within Shi Yomi district of Arunachal Pradesh constructed between March 2019 and February 2021.

The second enclave lies approximately 6 kilometres within India in the region between the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and the International Boundary. India has always claimed this as its own territory. The images do not offer any clarity on whether the enclave is occupied.

When asked for comment, the Indian Army said, "The location corresponding to the coordinates mentioned in your query lies to the North of LAC (Line of Actual Control) in Chinese territory."

This statement does not refute the fact that construction of this enclave seems to lie between the Line of Actual Control and the International Boundary, in other words, within Indian territory illegally occupied by China. In response, a senior Army officer said that there is no change in their response: "The area indicated is North of LAC." So again, there is no rejection of the new enclave being constructed on Indian turf.

It is important to note that the government's statement last week - in response to the Pentagon report - not just acknowledged but emphasized that China has tried to appropriate, through exactly this sort of construction, parts of Indian territory.

In a statement in Parliament a year ago, a BJP MP from Arunachal Pradesh had commented on the encroachment by China. Tapir Gao said in the Lok Sabha: "I want to tell media houses in the country that there is no coverage of the extent to which China has captured Indian Territory (in Arunachal Pradesh)." Referring to the India-China standoff in Doklam in 2017 which lasted several months, Mr Gao warned: "If there is another Doklam, it will be in Arunachal Pradesh."

The new enclave, the second of its kind, is established through images from two of the world's premier satellite imagery providers, Maxar Technologies and Planet Labs. These images of the Shi-Yomi district of Arunachal show not just dozens of buildings, including a structure with a flag of China painted on a roof top, large enough to be spotted by imaging satellites. The giant flag appears to assert a territorial claim to the area.

The exact location of the new enclave is clearly indicated on Bharatmaps, a Government of India online map service. A digital map of India, detailed carefully by the Surveyor General of India, also confirms the location is within India.

"Based on GIS [Geographic Information System] data obtained from the official Survey of India website, the location of this village indeed falls within Indian territorial claims," said Sim Tack, Chief Military Analyst at the Europe based Force Analysis, which provides data and analysis on armed conflicts and defense policy.

"This appears to be a location where local geography makes access to this valley much more conducive from the Chinese side than from the Indian side. The valley connects directly to nearby Chinese communities on the Yarlung Tsangpo [Brahmaputra] River, while it is separated by steep mountain ranges from Indian controlled territory."

Indian experts confirm this. ''An examination of Bharatmaps shows that the point is well within 7 kilometres of the International Boundary, as defined by the Survey General of India under whose jurisdiction the boundaries of India are depicted in all official maps,'' says Arup Dasgupta, who has decades of experience in satellite-imaging technology.

A photograph of this enclave was published in July this year by the Xinhua News Agency, the state-run press agency of the People's Republic of China. That is when China's President Xi Xinping visited the same region and inspected a new, strategically-important railway line along the Arunachal border. The newly-constructed Chinese enclave lies approximately 33 kilometres south of the airport used by Xi for his visit to this area.

"The new village shows how, bite by bite, China is eating away at India's Himalayan borderlands. The pictures of the sparkling new village vividly show its artificial nature," says strategic analyst Brahma Chellaney, one of India's leading strategic analysts on China. "China has even coined a Chinese name for the village, located in an area where traditionally no one spoke Chinese," he says.

China's continued construction activity along its frontier with India comes at a time when it has introduced a new Land Borders Law which pledges state support for establishing civilian settlements in border areas. Building border villages is seen to be a key part of China's strategy of attempting to make its territorial claims permanent since international law recognises civilian settlements as evidence of a nation's effective control over an area.

 

TRF commander among five militants killed in twin Kulgam gunfights

SRINAGAR, Nov 17: The Resistance Front (TRF) commander, Afaq Syed was among five militants killed in two separate gunfights with security forces in Pombay and Gopalpora areas of south Kashmir's Kulgam district on Wednesday.

The identity of the other four militants was not immediately known.

"#GopalporaEncounterUpdate: #Terrorist Commander of proscribed #terror outfit TRF Afaq Sikander killed in #encounter," IGP Kashmir said in a statement.

In a tweet, a police spokesman said, "KulgamEncounterUpdate: 02 unidentified #terrorists killed. #Operation in progress. Further details shall follow".

The gunfights broke out barely half an hour apart shortly after security forces cordoned the areas following inputs about the presence of militants.

Executive suffering from policy paralysis: SC on Delhi’s pollution crisis

NEW DELHI, Nov 17: The Supreme Court on Wednesday said that the executive in the country is suffering from a “policy paralysis” and “inertia”, waiting for the top court to step in for bringing down the rising levels of air pollution in Delhi-NCR.

Expressing dissatisfaction over the steps taken by the Centre and the state governments of Delhi, Haryana and Punjab, a bench headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana added it had expected the authorities to do much more than calling upon the court to issue directions on issues such as work-from-home, carpooling, and use of sprinklers.

“What I have been observing as a judge that bureaucracy has developed an inertia... a policy paralysis where they want this court to do everything. As if we should give directions take a bucket, put out fire, use sprinkler and all. We have to do everything,” the CJI told solicitor general Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the union government.

The bench, which also comprised justices Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud and Surya Kant, added: “This is an unfortunate situation to which the bureaucracy has come down to. They say ‘we won’t do anything. Let the court pass directions and we will simply put signatures saying the court has directed it’... This is the attitude developed by the executive.”

“When Delhi is completely choked, this court is forced to step in. Tell us what has Centre and the states been doing in the remaining parts of the year? When the house is on fire, you start digging a well... Just because Delhi and some adjoining areas in UP, Haryana and Punjab are involved, we have to intervene. Otherwise, this is something a high court could look at,” remarked the bench.

The court’s comments came as the SG urged the bench not to issue “harsher directives”, such as making it mandatory even for the central government employees to work from home or imposing a complete lockdown in Delhi and the adjoining areas in the national capital region (NCR).

Mehta requested the court to put off any directive on such measures till November 21 in view of statements by officials from the metrological department in the emergency meeting of Centre and states on Tuesday that situation could improve after Sunday due to a change in wind directions.

The bench reluctantly agreed to defer its orders but not before it pointed out severe deficiencies by all the authorities concerned in implementing statutory and regulatory norms regarding industrial and construction activities.

The bench agreed with senior counsel Vikas Singh, who appeared for the 17-year-old petitioner, Aditya Dubey, that the rules are already there to control emissions from power plants; dust and other pollutants from industrial and construction activities; BS-VI norms for vehicles, but there is no oversight and implementation.

“These are activities that take place throughout the year. There are already norms in place but there is no implementation. Nobody wants to do it. There is a lack of will,” rued the bench, while adjourning the case to Wednesday next week.

“We will take it up after November 21. But, in the meantime, don’t think you can lower your guard just because we are not issuing any direction,” the bench told Mehta while adding that the central government should also “contribute more” in terms of reducing strength of its employees in offices as well as by providing common transport instead of letting its employees use private vehicles to travel to offices.

“All of you are saying transportation is a major source. All guzzlers including high-end cars are on the road. You say you will encourage people to carpool but who will implement it? This will be left to the mercy of the car owners,” the bench told Mehta.

The SG had earlier submitted that the number of vehicles being used by the central government employees were miniscule as compared to other vehicles and that stopping them would do “more harm” because they deal with pan-India issues.

“We have resorted to a graded response mechanism. We cannot bring the entire capital to a standstill,” Mehta had emphasised while requesting the bench to not issue any further directives in the wake of a variety of directions already issued by the Commission on Air Quality Management on Tuesday.

In response to a 24-hour deadline set by the Supreme Court on Monday to meet and prepare a list of urgent action that can be taken, the commission held its meeting with officials of Centre, states government officials and agencies and issued a slew of directions that included extension of ban on construction work and offline classes in Delhi to all cities falling in the NCR and stoppage of trucks carrying non-essential supplies in Delhi.

The order added a strict enforcement of the ban on diesel generator sets, and the closing of schools and colleges for in-person classes indefinitely. Industries using fuel are only allowed to run if they use gas, or will need to close, and six of 11 thermal plants in 300km of radius of Delhi will have to stop functioning till November 30.
Authorities in the NCR “shall ensure that no vehicle of more than 10 years (diesel) and 15 years (petrol) are found plying on the road”, it further mandated.

The SG read out all these directions to the bench, requesting the bench to defer any further order until November 21.

On their part, the governments of Delhi and Haryana maintained that they have already implemented “90%” of what has now been directed by the commission and that they are willing to abide with any further directives.

Senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing the Delhi government, sought to highlight that the court must also address the issue of stubble burning since it is a chief contributor of rising levels of pollution in the months of October and November.

As he implored the bench to have hearings on pollution every year in October instead of “firefighting at the last moment”, Singhvi also said that 90% of the measures, mandated by the commission on Tuesday, have already been in place in the national capital.

At this point, the bench emphasised on the need to have adequate number of mechanised machines for road cleaning in the city to tackle the dust which is a major source of pollution.

Singhvi said that the Delhi government has spoken to the municipal corporations about their requirements and the government shall provide complete financial assistance for whatever number of machines are required.

The court suggested that the Delhi government should augment its fleet of CNG buses and should encourage its employees to use public transport.

About removing old vehicles from the road, the bench said that the exercise of identifying old vehicles will take long and that the city government should instead take some urgent measures to bring down the number of vehicles plying in the city.

Singhvi maintained that such an exercise can be successful only if vehicles are stopped in the entire NCR and not just in Delhi.

Haryana’s additional advocate general Anil Grover was also asked by the court about curtailing the number of vehicles on roads, suggesting that some inspection and enforcement measures must be taken to bring down unnecessary and casual traffic in Delhi’s adjoining districts of Gurugram, Faridabad and Jhajjar.

“We want you to take steps within a day or two? Why don’t you stop unnecessary vehicles? Don’t leave it to the mercy of others,” the bench told Grover, who further informed the bench that work-from-home orders have also been issued for the areas falling in the NCR, and the schools are shut.

While the counsel for UP said that they are complying with the directions issued by the commission, Punjab government’s counsel pointed out that the state does not have any district in the NCR and that its submissions confined to the issue of stubble burning.

During the last hearing on Monday, the top court lamented that it was being “forced to set the agenda” on the pollution crisis in NCR as it pulled up the Delhi government for “passing the buck”, the Centre for not proposing “drastic measures”, and NCR states for doing little to control what has become an annual public health crisis.

The bench gave the Centre and state governments of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh 24 hours to hold an emergency meeting and prepare a list of urgent steps that can be put in place immediately to bring down the levels of pollution in the “forseeable future”.

It also listed out the areas of concern, including work for home for all offices in Delhi, and dissuading farmers from burning stubble for two weeks in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

The focus of the court, however, was clearly on emergency mitigation to control local sources of pollution, asking for a Centre and states to focus on curtailing activities such as construction, traffic and road transport, industries, and power plants.

Cancelling Cases Against Farmers For Farm Fires: Punjab Chief Minister

CHANDIGARH, Nov 17: The Punjab government will cancel all police cases against farmers who burn stubble, or agricultural waste, Chief Minister Charanjit Channi said Wednesday, as nearby Delhi and the national capital region lie smothered under a toxic and poisonous haze that has been partially linked to these fires.

The decision comes months before an Assembly election in which farmers (the farm laws protest and stubble burning) will likely play a major role. Chief Minister Channi also said cases filed during such protests will also be dropped.

"We want farmers to stop stubble burning and government will take strict action. But we are cancelling all FIRs registered for stubble burning till now. I am appealing to farmers not to burn stubble. The centre also needs to ensure farmers don't burn stubble " he said after a farmer leaders from 32 unions.

"Many FIRs were (also) registered against farmers by the state government since this agitation started. We have decided to cancel all FIRs related to farm agitation," the Chief Minister added.

Ex-Mumbai police chief Param Bir Singh, 2 others declared proclaimed offenders in extortion case

MUMBAI, Nov 17: Former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh and two others were Wednesday declared proclaimed offenders by a court in Mumbai. This is in connection with an extortion case filed against Singh by the city police.

Mumbai Police had on Saturday approached the magistrate court seeking to declare its former commissioner Param Bir Singh a proclaimed absconding offender in connection with an extortion case registered by the Goregaon police, along with two other accused – Vinay Singh and Riyaz Bhati — stating that they are absconding and could not be traced.

The city police will now paste the notice on their known addresses and publish it in newspapers directing them to appear before it within 30 days. If they fail to appear, police will initiate the process for attachment of their properties.

The magistrate court had last month issued a non-bailable warrant (NBW) against the three in the case. A court in Thane had also issued an NBW against Singh in October. The third NBW was issued against him last week in connection with an extortion case lodged at the Marine Drive police station.

On Monday, the metropolitan magistrate’s court sought a report on the non-bailable warrant issued against Singh.

The crime branch in its plea had said that officers were deputed to comply with a non-bailable warrant issued against Singh last month. It said that teams were sent to all the last known residences of Singh and the two co-accused, but they could not be traced. At Singh’s Malabar Hill residence, his staff told the police that he has not stayed at the house for the past three months, nor have his family members visited the home.

Singh was removed from the post of Mumbai Police chief in March and transferred as Director General (Home Guards), where he has not reported since May 4 after initially going on sick leave.

In October, the Maharashtra government had told the Bombay High Court that Param Bir Singh could not be traced. The submission by the state government came nearly three weeks after state Home Minister Dilip Walse Patil flagged reports that the senior IPS officer, who went on leave from his post of DG Home Guards citing ill health in May, may have left the country.


 

Modi inaugurates 341 km long Purvanchal Expressway

LUCKNOW, Nov 16: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said the Purvanchal Expressway in Uttar Pradesh’s Sultanpur district is the symbol of the state’s development and will strengthen its economy as he inaugurated the 341 km road.

“Those who have any doubt about the capabilities of UP and its people should come to Sultanpur today to witness their strength. Such a modern expressway has now come up where it was just a piece of land three to four years ago,” Modi said as he addressed a gathering in Karwal Kheri of the Sultanpur district.

Targeting the opposition, Modi also said that the “earlier governments neglected the development of the eastern region" of the state. "The airstrip on the Purvanchal Expressway will give a message to those who neglected the country's security," Modi said.

As he started his address, Modi invoked Lord Hanuman who killed the demon Kalnemi. “I bow to the people of that land," he said.

The Purvanchal Expressway starts from village Chaudsarai in the Lucknow district and ends at Haidaria village on National Highway number 31, 18 kilometres east of the Uttar Pradesh-Bihar border. The key feature of the Expressway is the 3.2 km long airstrip to enable landing and take-off of Indian Air Force fighter planes in case of emergency.

The expressway is 6-lane wide which can be expanded to 8-lane in the future. t It is constructed at an estimated cost of about ₹22,500 crore and set to give a boost to the economic development of the eastern part of Uttar Pradesh especially the districts of Lucknow, Barabanki, Amethi, Ayodhya, Sultanpur, Ambedkar Nagar, Azamgarh, Mau and Ghazipur.

Chief minister Yogi Adityanath, who was also at the inauguration event, said, “The work of Purvanchal Express was completed in three years amid the Covid-19 pandemic. It will become the lifeline of the development of Eastern UP. Congratulations to the people of Purvanchal."

The UP chief minister also said there is a focus on overall and inclusive 'vikas' across the state as part of a big development push.

Along with Modi and Adityanath, Governor Anandiben Patel and other leaders were also present at the occasion.

2 Businessmen Killed In Srinagar Op; "Supported Terrorists," Say Cops

SRINAGAR, Nov 16: Four persons, including two businessmen, were killed during an anti-terror operation by security forces in Srinagar. The police said that two terrorists were killed in the operation and the killed businessmen were "terrorist supporters".

The killed businessmen - Dr Mudasir Gul and Altaf Bhat - had shops in the commercial complex at Hyderpora where the encounter took place last evening.

Mudsir Gul, a dental surgeon by training, ran a computer centre in the complex. Altaf Bhat was the owner of the commercial complex and also ran a hardware and cement shop there.

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti demanded an inquiry into the killings.

"Using innocent civilians as human shields, getting them killed in cross firing & then conveniently labelling them as OGWs is part of GOIs rulebook now. Imperative that a credible judicial enquiry is done to bring out the truth & put an end to this rampant culture of impunity," tweeted Ms Mufti.

The families allege that the businessmen were killed by security forces but the police insist that both of them were either killed in terrorist firing or killed during the crossfire.

The families have been demanding their bodies for the last rites. The police, however, said that the bodies cannot he handed over to families because of the law and order situation. Police said all the four bodies were buried in Handwara area of north Kashmir, 100 km from Srinagar.

"You killed my innocent uncle Mohammad Altaf Bhat in cold blooded murder in Hyderpora, you used him as human shield and now saying he was "OGW". return us his body" tweeted Saima Bhat.

Vijay Kumar, Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, said the computer center by Mudasir was an unauthorised call centre, which had six computers.

"We approached families of Mudasir and Altaf to participate in burial. Since we have apprehensions of law and order problem we cannot handover bodies to families. We took bodies to Handwara where burial took place" said Kumar.

Police said two pistols have been recovered from encounter site and the call centre being run in the commercial complex was used for terrorist activities.

Initially police said both the businessmen were injured and eventually killed in terrorist firing but later said that they may have been caught in the cross-firing.

"I'm saying Altaf was killed in cross-firing. I'm not saying if he was killed by militants or we have fired at him. During the encounter whose bullet hit him is matter of investigation. If he was hit by pistol bullet then terrorists have killed, if hit by AK rifle, then we can say he was hit by our bullet," said Mr Kumar.

Locals say soon after security forces launched an operation to track down suspected terrorists and a volley of gun fire ensued. What followed was a nightmare for locals and those stranded in sub zero temperature.

Families of Altaf and Mudasir said they visited the police station several times demanding that the bodies be returned to them but they were denied.

"At 10 pm last night we heard Dr Mudasir was killed. Please do justice and give us his body. He was a dental surgeon and running his business in the complex in Hyderpora," said a relative.

"It's a lie that he was an OGW (overground worker of terrorists)" the family said.

Srinagar has been witnessing frequent terrorist related incidents for last few months. On Sunday evening, one policeman was injured in terrorist firing in downtown area of Srinagar. The police said terrorists fired during a raid by the security forces.

There have been several incidents of targeted attacks by terrorists on migrant workers and members of minority community since last month.

Last week, a terrorist was killed at Bemina neighbourhood. Police said he was part of a terrorist group planning to carry out a suicide attack in the city.

Congress Leader Salman Khurshid's Home Set On Fire In Nainital

NEW DELHI, Nov 15: The Nainital home of Congress leader Salman Khurshid was vandalised and set on fire today, days after his new book on Ayodhya sparked a controversy by drawing a parallel between "Hindutva" and radical Islamist groups.

Visuals shared by Khurshid on Facebook show tall flames, charred doors and shattered window panes at his Nainital home. Two men are seen trying to douse the fire by throwing water.

Sharing the visuals, the Congress leader said in a post, "I hoped to open these doors to my friends who have left this calling card. Am I still wrong to say this cannot be Hinduism?"

"So such is the debate now. Shame is too ineffective a word. Besides I still hope that we can reason together one day and agree to disagree if not more," he wrote in another post.

DIG (Kumaon) Neelesh Anand told a news agency that a case has been registered against 21 people in connection with the incident. "Rakesh Kapil and 20 others have been booked. Strict action will be taken against perpetrators," he said.

Congress leader and MP Shashi Tharoor slammed the incident. "This is disgraceful. @salman7khurshid is a statesman who has done India proud in international forums & always articulated a moderate, centrist, inclusive vision of the country domestically. The mounting levels of intolerance in our politics should be denounced by those in power."

Senior party leader Digvijaya Singh, too, condemned the incident. "I strongly condemn attack on Salman Khurshid ji's residence. These illiterate don't even know what is in the Book," he tweeted.

Khurshid, a former Union Minister, has been under the spotlight ever since the launch of his new book, "Sunrise Over Ayodhya: Nationhood in Our Times". At the centre of the controversy is a passage that reads, "Sanatan Dharma and classical Hinduism known to sages and saints were being pushed aside by a robust version of Hindutva, by all standards a political version similar to the jihadist Islam of groups like ISIS and Boko Haram of recent years."

Hitting out, the BJP said Khurshid's remark has hurt sentiments of Hindus and alleged that the Congress is resorting to "communal politics" to corner Muslim votes.

Soon after, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi sought to differentiate between "Hinduism" and "Hindutva" and the BJP, in a scathing response, said Gandhi and his party have a "pathological hatred" of Hinduism.

Khurshid also faced some criticism from within his party, with Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad terming his "Hindutva" parallel "exaggeration".

"We may not agree with Hindutva as a political ideology but comparing it with ISIS and Jihadist Islam is factually wrong and exaggeration," Azad said.

Multiple police complaints have been filed against Khurshid in this matter.

2 Women Journalists Detained Over Tripura Report Granted Bail

TRIPURA, Nov 13: Two women journalists detained after they accused the Tripura police of "intimidation" have been granted bail by the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) Court in the Gomati district of Tripura.

Sammriddhi Sakunia and Swarna Jha were covering the recent violence in Tripura. They were detained in Assam on Sunday after a case was filed against them by the Tripura police for "spreading communal disharmony" following their reportage on the vandalism at a mosque in the state.

The Editors Guild of India had denounced police action against the journalists and demanded their immediate release and "restoration of their freedom to travel".

Presenting his arguments for the bail of the journalists, advocate Pijush Biswas asserted there was no evidence that they spread communal hatred. "The charges made against the journalists are completely baseless. Police filed the case with mala fide intention," he insisted. Biswas said his clients will move the Supreme Court for quashing the case.

Sakunia and Jha are journalists with HW News Network. They were detained in Assam's Karimganj on Sunday and were brought to Tripura on transit remand for production before the magistrate's court in Udaipur, around 50 km from state capital Agartala.

The Tripura police had said in a statement that the case involved a tweet by Samriddhi Sakunia, who visited a half-burnt prayer hall at a private house where claims were made of a Quran being burnt. A press release issued by the office of Tripura police chief VS Yadav claimed that the posts by Sakunia were not true and promoted a sense of hatred between communities.

The police said they found no religious document was burnt and the journalists were asked to come to Agartala for questioning. They were detained after they were found to have left the state.

Tripura police suspect that the videos uploaded by them are doctored. In a tweet on November 11, Sakunia had written, "#Tripuraviolence Darga Bazaar: On 19th October at around 2:30 am, some unidentified people burnt down the mosque in Darga Bazaar area. People in the neighborhood are very upset with the fact that now they don't have any place nearby to go and pray. There's no other masjid nearby."

The two journalists told the media that they were detained by the police while on their way to the airport. After three-and-half hours at the police station, the escort team from Tripura came. "We asked them to wait, saying our lawyer is on way. But they loudly said, 'no one is coming'. They also did not show us a copy of the order," they said.

The journalists accused the police of "intimidating" them on Sunday morning. They said they were not allowed to leave the hotel and move to Agartala.

In an official statement, the HW News Network - where the women work - said the detention took place "despite the police allowing them to leave the hotel and giving them a week's time to record a statement... This is sheer harassment and targetting of the press on part of Tripura police".

Last week, tweets were circulated on social media alleging that a mosque in Tripura has been vandalised during a rally by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. The Union home ministry issued a strong denial, saying the reports were fake and "complete misrepresentation of facts". The mosque in Dargabazar area of Kakraban has not been damaged. But the fake news has been followed by reports of protests and violence in Maharashtra, the ministry said.

Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube were asked by the Tripura Police to provide details of over a hundred accounts from which the posts were allegedly shared. The Tripura police have registered five cases against 71 people - including Supreme Court lawyers, activists, and religious campaigners - for the posts.

 

Assam Rifles CO, wife, son and four personnel killed in Manipur ambush

NEW DELHI, Nov 13: A colonel of the Assam Rifles, his wife and eight-year-old son and four soldiers were killed in a terror attack in Manipur's Churachanpur on Saturday.

The Commanding Officer of 46 Assam Rifles, Colonel Viplav Tripathy, had gone to a forward camp on Saturday and was returning when his convoy was ambushed said.

This is the first time that civilians have died in an ambush in this remote area of the district. The location is an extremely remote village around 50 km from Churachandpur.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, however, Manipur-based terrorist group People's Liberation Army, or PLA, is believed to be behind the attack.

The Assam Rifles, a paramilitary force, is used for the maintenance of law and order in the northeast. It also guards the Indo-Myanmar border in the region.

"Their sacrifices will never be forgotten," said Prime Minister Narendra Modi while strongly condemning the attack near the border with Myanmar in Manipur.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi slammed the BJP-led government at the Centre Modi government over the attack. "The terrorist attack on the army convoy in Manipur once again proves that the Modi government is not capable of protecting the nation. My condolences to the those killed in action and condolences to their families. The nation will remember your sacrifice," he said in a tweet in Hindi.

To fight Delhi's toxic air, Govt shuts schools, construction work

NEW DELHI, Nov 13: Delhi schools will shift to online classes starting Monday, all construction activity will be shut down, and government offices will work from home, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said Saturday, as the national capital fights the toxic smog that has blanketed the city for over a week now.

The WFH order for government offices is also, for now, for seven days.

However, construction work - among those that contributes to dust and microscopic pollutants in the air - will only be shut down for four days - from November 14 to 17, the Chief Minister said.

Kejriwal's four-step pollution control plan, which includes planning for a city-wide lockdown, comes hours after an angry Supreme Court demanded the government at the centre and in Delhi prioritise an emergency response over long-term efforts to tackle the problem.

"For a week from Monday onwards, schools will be physically closed (they can continue virtually) so children don't have to breathe polluted air. Construction activities will not to be allowed between November 14 and 17," Kejriwal told reporters.

"Government offices will operate from home (WFH) at 100 per cent capacity for a week. Private offices will be issued an advisory to go for WFH option as much as possible," he said.

Delhi and surrounding areas, including Gurgaon, Noida and Ghaziabad, have been choking under a deadly blanket of polluted air for over seven days now - beginning with Diwali last week.

Before, during and after Diwali thousands in these and other areas burst firecrackers in blatant violation of orders by the Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh governments, contributing greatly to the shocking deterioration of air quality levels.

According to the Central Pollution Control Board, at 6.30 pm the overall AQI in Delhi was 427.

AQI readings in excess of 400 are considered 'severe' or 'hazardous'. At these levels, the polluted air has high concentrations of PM2.5 particles and these can cause cardiovascular and respiratory diseases such as lung cancer.

Air quality levels in Delhi have also been affected by farmers in nearby areas burning stubble - another annual problem that increases pollutants in the atmosphere.

Earlier today the Supreme Court pulled up the centre over the Delhi air crisis.

Chief Justice NV Ramana said: "You see how bad the situation is.... even in our houses, we are wearing masks. Tell us how you plan to take emergency measures. Two-day lockdown? What is your plan on lowering AQI?"

Breathing the Delhi air is "like smoking 20 cigarettes a day," the state government admitted in the court, stressing, "We agree to the gravity of the situation."

The Chief Justice warned the centre to look beyond politics and work with the Arvind Kejriwal government to solve what is an annual (and worsening) problem in the city.

In a sharp rebuke to the Delhi government, the court said: "You opened all schools two weeks back... All kids are exposing their lungs to this hazardous air."

The court also questioned the centre's plans to stop stubble burning, and was distinctly unimpressed by blame being placed on farmers in Punjab.

"Why are you projecting like (the) pollution is because of farmers? It is only a certain percentage of pollution. What about the rest? What are you doing to control the pollution in Delhi? You tell us what the plan is... not about 2-3 days," the court insisted.

Delhi's Smog Worsens, India's Pollution Board Says Prepare For Emergency

NEW DELHI, Nov 12: The centre's pollution control board on Friday ordered states and local bodies to be in "complete readiness" for emergency measures to tackle New Delhi's worsening smog conditions due to a drop in temperature and wind speeds.

A thick haze of toxic smog hung over Delhi, exacerbated by a spike in the burning of crop waste in surrounding farmlands. It reduced visibility and the Air Quality Index (AQI) hit 470 on a scale of 500, according to the pollution control board.

This level of pollution means the air will affect healthy people and seriously impact those with existing diseases. According to the pollution board's "Graded Response Action Plan", air quality remaining "severe" for 48 hours must prompt states and local bodies to impose emergency measures that include shutting down schools, imposing 'odd-even' restrictions on private cars based on their number plates, and stopping all construction.

In a circular late on Friday, the board said the government and private offices should reduce the use of private transport by 30% and advised the city's residents to limit outdoor exposure. "Meteorological conditions will be highly unfavourable for dispersion of pollutants till November 18, 2021 in view of low winds with calm conditions during the night," the board said.

Earlier this week, local authorities had ordered a shutdown of brick kilns, increased the frequency of mechanized cleaning and a crackdown on garbage burning and dust.

The concentration of poisonous PM2.5 particulate matter averaged 329 micrograms per cubic meter of air.

The government prescribes a "safe" PM2.5 reading at 60 micrograms per cubic meter of air over a period of 24 hours.PM2.5 is small enough to travel deep into the lungs, enter the bloodstream and can cause severe respiratory diseases, including lung cancer.

"This is becoming a nightmare," said Gufran Beig, founder project director of air quality and weather monitor SAFAR that falls under the Ministry of Earth Science. "Fire counts are in the range of 3,000-5,000 and not declining," Beig said, referring to crop stubble fires in the regions around the capital.

India's efforts to reduce crop-waste burning, a major source of air pollution during winter, by spending billions of rupees over the past four years have done little to avert a sharp deterioration in air quality.

Delhi, often ranked the world's most polluted capital, faces extremely bad air in winter due to the crop stubble burning, emissions from transport, coal-fired plants outside the city and other industrial emissions, open garbage burning and dust.

Rs 2 Lakh For Every Protester Arrested In Delhi Tractor Rally: Punjab

CHANDIGARH, Nov 12: The Punjab government has announced financial help for 83 people arrested in Delhi after violence broke out during a farmers' tractor rally on Republic Day this January. The move is likely to spark a controversy and set up Punjab's Congress government and the centre for a new battle.

Farmers especially from Punjab and Haryana have been camping around Delhi for a year in protest against three new farm laws that they say will give control in private hands. The centre has denied this allegation and even agreed to amend the laws. But the farmers want nothing short of withdrawing the laws.

On January 26 this year, a tractor rally by farmers was allowed on certain routes after talks between the Delhi Police and farmer leaders. However, the situation soon fell into chaos after groups reached the Red Fort and overran the police. The police have said the protesters did not follow the prearranged route and broke barricades to enter Delhi. They also entered the Red Fort and unfurled flags from its ramparts.

Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi in a tweet today confirmed his government would pay compensation to the people who were arrested by Delhi Police.

"Reiterating my government's stand to support the ongoing farmers' protest against three black farm laws, we have decided to give ₹ 2 lakh compensation to 83 people arrested by Delhi Police for carrying out a tractor rally in the national capital on January 26, 2021," the Chief Minister tweeted.

That day the national capital saw unprecedented scenes of chaos and violence as groups of farmers clashed with police and security forces. In visuals, around a dozen police and paramilitary personnel were seen forced to scramble and jump over a 15-foot wall at the Red Fort complex to escape a mob of lathi-wielding attackers.

The Punjab government has been backing the farmers. The state feels the three laws are not useful for their farmers, and has went ahead with resolutions in the state assembly, which may be made into a state law that would negate the effects of the central laws.

Punjab alleges that agricultural produce marketing committees or mandis will become private mandis and lead to financial loss to the state government, which would in turn harm rural development. The centre has, however, said the new laws are good for farmers since they cut out middlemen.

Operation cover up by Modi govt in Rafale deal once again exposed: Congress

NEW DELHI, Nov 9: The Congress on Tuesday accused the Modi government of conducting an operation to "cover-up" corruption in the Rafale fighter jet deal and asked why it did not initiate an investigation into the role of a middleman despite recovering incriminating documents from him.

Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera also alleged that the BJP government has sacrificed national security, jeopardised the interests of the Indian Air Force and caused losses worth thousands of crores of rupees to the state exchequer.

"French investigative journal Mediapart, in fresh revelations in a report, has exposed how middleman Sushen Gupta got hold of confidential documents belonging to the Indian Negotiating Team (INT) in 2015 from the ministry of defence," he said.

The documents detailed the stance of Indian negotiators during the final lap of negotiation and in particular how they calculated the price of the aircraft. This gave clear advantage to Dassault Aviation (Rafale), Khera claimed, citing the Mediapart report.

"The 'operation cover-up' by the Modi government to bury the melting pot of corruption, kickbacks and collusion in Rafale deal is once again exposed," he said.

"The BJP government undermined national security, jeopardised the interests of the Indian Air Force and caused losses worth thousands of crores to our exchequer," Khera said at a press conference.

Each revelation in the "murky affair in the last five years, every single allegation and each piece of the puzzle leads right up to the topmost leadership of the country- the prime minister's doorstep", he said.

Khera alleged that the latest revelations in the "Operation cover up" reveal the "dubious nexus" between the Modi government-CBI-ED to bury the corruption in the Rafale deal.

The Congress leader asked whether it is not correct that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) recovered "secret defence ministry documents" from the middlemen in a raid conducted on March 26, 2019.

The documents, he claimed, included the 'benchmark price document' of August 10, 2015, the 'record of discussions' by the INT of the defence ministry, the 'excel sheet of calculations made by the defence ministry' and 'Eurofighter's counter offer of 20 per cent discount to the government of India'.

Khera alleged that a note of June 24, 2014, sent to Dassault by Gupta, offering a meeting with "the political high command" was also recovered and asked if such a meeting had taken place with the "high command" in the Modi government.

"This is nothing short of endangering national security, sedition and a gross violation of the Official's Secrets Act," he alleged.

"Why did the ED not pursue this evidence further to investigate the scam? Why did the Modi government then not take action against Dassault, the political executive or the defence ministry officers who leaked the documents? Which 'Chowkidar' sold India's national secrets," Khera asked.

The Congress leader also alleged that Prime Minister Modi abrogated the anti-corruption clauses -- "no bribery, no gift, no influence, no commission, no middlemen".

These are mandatory clauses in defence contracts according to the defence procurement procedure and were part of the tender by the UPA for the purchase of 126 fighter aircraft, he said.

"Were the anti-corruption clauses deleted to escape responsibility for bribery and commissions to be paid in the Rafale deal? Why was the deletion of anti-corruption clauses approved by the prime minister and the Modi government in September 2016, despite the defence ministry's insistence upon including it in the inter-governmental agreement in July 2015," Khera asked.

"Is this the reason that CBI-ED refused to probe the corruption in the Rafale deal from October 11, 2018, till date," he asked.

Khera claimed that on October 4, 2018, two former BJP Union ministers, Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and a senior lawyer submitted a complaint to the director of the CBI citing massive corruption in the Rafale deal.

On October 11, 2018, the government of Mauritius, through its attorney general, supplied documents to the CBI regarding alleged payment of commission connected to the Rafale deal, he said.

But, on October 23, 2018, CBI Director Alok Verma was removed in a "midnight coup" after the CBI headquarters was raided by the Delhi Police, Khera said, alleging that this was part of a concerted conspiracy to bury the Rafale ghost through the CBI.

"Why has the Modi government and the CBI not acted upon the evidence of commission and corruption for the last 36 months? Why has it been buried ? Why did the Modi government remove the CBI Chief in a midnight coup," the Congress leader asked.

Farmers To March To Parliament On Nov 29, 'Will Sit Wherever Stopped'

NEW DELHI, Nov 9: Farmer unions protesting against the Centre's new farm laws, have decided to march to Parliament on November 29 -- shortly after their protest at the Delhi border completes one year. The decision was taken today by the nine-member committee of the United Kisan Morcha -- an umbrella body of farmers' unions.

On November 29, farmers from Ghazipur border and Tikri border will leave for Parliament House on their tractors. They said they will hold a sit-down protest wherever they are stopped.

The farmers had warned that they would escalate their protest if the government does not revoke the controversial farm laws by November 26.

"The central government has time till November 26, after that from November 27, farmers will reach the border at the protest sites around Delhi by tractors from villages and strengthen the protest site with solid fortifications," farmer leader Rakesh Tikait had tweeted on November 1.

The farmers had given the government time till November 26 during their last dialogue on January 22, he had told reporters.

Asked how long the protest will continue, he said "If governments can run for 5 years, the protest can also go on for 5 years".

The farmers held their last protest near parliament in July, when the monsoon session was in progress. The police had given permission, but had warned that there should be no march.

More than 200 farmers were present at the protest. Many MPs also "visited" the Kisan Sansad, but did not take the stage or make any address. Strong security was put in place to ensure that there was repetition of the chaos of January 26.

Unprecedented chaos was unleashed upon Delhi on the Republic Day this year as the tractor rally by protesting farmers went off the designated course and reached the Red Fort.

The farmers entered the fort's forecourt, climbed the ramparts and hoisted a religious flag. The police finally managed to remove them after a lathicharge.

A protester died on the way to Red Fort in what the police said was an accident.

Tikait pointed out that around 750 farmers had died during protests across the country.

"But there was no condolence (message) from the Central government. The country's farmers feel that perhaps Modi is not 'farmers' PM'... and consider them (the farmers) as separate from the country," he added.

The farmers have been protesting at the Delhi borders since November 26 last year against the three farm laws: Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; the Farmers Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and farm Services Act 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.

The Centre has repeatedly said the laws will be beneficial to the farmers.

Several rounds of talks between the government and farmer leaders have failed to resolve the impasse.

Man Shot Dead By Terrorists In Srinagar, 2nd Targeted Attack In 24 Hours

SRINAGAR, Nov 8: A man at a shop owned by a Kashmiri Pandit was killed when terrorists opened fire at the store in Jammu and Kashmir's Srinagar today. This was the second targeted killing after a policeman was also shot dead by terrorists on Sunday.

Soon after the shooting, the man, identified as Mohammad Ibrahim, was rushed to the hospital in a critical condition but was declared dead.

He was a salesperson at the shop and a resident of Bandipora district.

The shop was re-opened in early 2019 after remaining closed for 29 years.

Former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Omar Abdullah, in a tweet, said, "The dastardly killing of Ibrahim is reprehensible & I unreservedly condemn it. Unfortunately Ibrahim is the latest in a series of targeted killings in the valley, especially Srinagar. May Allah grant him place in Jannat."

Security forces have cordoned off the area to trace the attackers.

This was the second terrorist attack in Srinagar in the last 24 hours. On Sunday, a policeman was killed by terrorists in the city's Batmaloo area, officials said.

There have been series of targeted attacks in Srinagar and some parts of Kashmir in the last month. At least 11 civilians, mostly migrant workers and members of minority community, have been targeted.

The police have launched a major crackdown in Kashmir and detained over 900 people suspected to be linked with separatists. The police claim that most of the terrorists involved in recent targeted attacks were killed in encounters.

The police also carried out 11 encounters in which 17 terrorists were killed. Over 5,000 additional troops were also brought in to deal with the situation even as Kashmir is already saturated with security forces.

 

Congress Stuns BJP In Bypolls, Sweeps Himachal, Claws Back In Karnataka

NEW DELHI, Nov 2: The Congress sprung a surprise victory in Himachal Pradesh today, wresting two BJP seats in the state and one in Karnataka as votes were counted for 29 assembly seats and three Lok Sabha seats.

In Himachal Pradesh, the Congress retained Fatehpur and Arki and posted a win in Jubbal-Kotkhai -- thanks to the infighting and miscalculation by the BJP. It also bagged the Lok Sabha seat of Mandi.

The party hailed it as a straight victory in contests against the BJP. Senior Congress leader Randeep Surjewala tweeted: "BJP has lost 2 out of 3 Lok Sabha seats. In Assemblies, BJP has lost at most places in direct contest with INC. HP, Rajasthan, Karnataka & Maharashtra have witnessed it. Modi ji, Shed arrogance! Repeal 3 Black Laws! Stop Petrol-Diesel-Gas Loot! Disdain for people's pain is harmful".

"Every victory for the Congress is a victory of our party worker. Keep fighting hate. No fear!" tweeted Congress's Rahul Gandhi.

While traditionally, the party in power in a state wins the by-polls, the Congress managed to retain Fatehpur and Arki in Himachal Pradesh. Off the record, state leaders attributed it to anti-incumbency, petrol price rise and unemployment.

The party's big gain was the state's apple heartland Jubbal-Kotkhai, which was held by the BJP. The seat fell to Congress after the BJP's last-minute move to withhold ticket from Chetan Singh Bragta, the son of sitting MLA Narinder Singh Bragta whose death made the election necessary. Upset, Chetan Singh Bragta contested as an Independent, dividing the anti-BJP votes and pushing the contest in favour of the Congress. The BJP candidate Neelam Saraik, lost her deposit.

The party also bagged the Mandi Lok Sabha seat, where the BJP had won with four lakh vote margin in 2019. Pratibha Singh, the wife of late Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, beat her BJP rival, Kargil war hero Brigadier Khushal Thakur (Retd.), by over 7,000 votes in what was widely regarded as sympathy vote. Virbhadra Singh - the six-time Chief Minister - had been the party's towering presence in the state.

It was seen as a black mark for Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, as Mandi was home district where he had been personally involved in the campaign.

As the state Congress chief Kuldeep Singh Rathore demanded the resignation of the Chief Minister after the BJP's defeat, Thakur alleged that some BJP workers had operated against the party candidates.

"Action will be taken against them," he said, adding "The party will formulate a strategy to overcome its shortcomings and do everything possible to ensure victory in the 2022 Assembly elections".

In Karnataka's Hangal, widely regarded as the backyard of Chief Minister Basavraj Bommai, Congress' Srinivas Mane won over his BJP rival Shivaraj Sajjanar of BJP by a margin of over 7,000 votes, sending shock waves through the BJP. The Chief Minister had campaigned in the areas for about 10 days, and deputed at least 10 ministers to ensure the party's victory.

With the defeat being projected as a setback to him, Chief Minister Bommai said, "Elections are won and lost... these by-elections are fought on particular time and issues, and its outcome is not a complete verdict. However, I have taken this election setback very seriously and we will do all the corrections."

State BJP strongman and former Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa came to the rescue of Bommai, saying there is no question of raising doubts on Chief Minister's leadership as bypolls are contested under collective leadership.

The party, he added, will introspect about the loss in Hangal. "We will rectify the shortcomings if any," he said.

Virat Kohli's 9-Month-Old Daughter Gets Rape Threats

NEW DELHI, Nov 2: The Delhi Commission for Women has issued a notice to Delhi Police over online rape threats to the daughter of Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli and Bollywood actor Anushka Sharma.

The way the nine-month-old was threatened on Twitter is "very shameful", DCW Chairperson Swati Maliwal tweeted, urging the police to share information regarding the investigation in the case.

"The team has made us proud thousands of times, why this silliness in defeat," Ms Maliwal said.

The DCW has sought information, including a copy of the FIR (first information report), details of the accused identified and arrested, and also a detailed "action taken report", in the matter.

"If no accused has been arrested, please provide the details of steps taken by Delhi Police to arrest the accused," the notice - sent today - said.

The police have been asked to provide the requested information by November 8.

Hateful comments against Virat Kohli's daughter started appearing on social media after India's loss to Pakistan in the T20 World Cup in Dubai. Kohli was also attacked after he spoke against the incessant trolling of his teammate, Mohammed Shami, who was targeted over his religion after the loss.

"Attacking someone over their religion is the most pathetic thing one can do as a human. That is a very sacred and personal thing. People take out their frustration because they have no understanding of what we do," Virat Kohli told reporters during a pre-match press conference on the eve of the Super 12 encounter against New Zealand.

"Dear Virat... ": Rahul Gandhi On Rape Threats To Kohli's Daughter

NEW DELHI, Nov 2: Congress MP Rahul Gandhi has tweeted a message of support to India cricket captain Virat Kohli, after sickening rape threats to his nine-month-old daughter because he spoke out in support of teammate Mohammed Shami in the wake of defeat to Pakistan in the ongoing T20 World Cup.

"Dear Virat, These people are filled with hate because nobody gives them any love. Forgive them. Protect the team," Gandhi tweeted Tuesday evening.

Last week Kohli issued a powerful statement against religious discrimination.

"Attacking someone over their religion is the most pathetic thing one can do as a human. That is a very sacred and personal thing. People take out their frustration because they have no understanding of what we do," he told reporters before the match against New Zealand.

"We're playing on the field, we're not a bunch of spineless people on social media. This has become a source of entertainment for some people which is very sad. All this drama created on the outside is based on people's frustrations," he said.

Anil Deshmukh, Maharashtra's Former Home Minister, Arrested In Money Laundering Case

MUMBAI, Nov 1: Maharashtra's former Home Minister Anil Deshmukh has been arrested by the Enforcement Directorate after more than 12 hours of questioning at their office in Mumbai in connection with a money laundering case.

Deshmukh, who had stepped down earlier this year from his post amid a row over bribery allegations against him, was refused relief by the Bombay High Court on Friday as he appealed for the cancellation of the summons by the probe agency.

In a video statement on Monday, the 71-year-old NCP leader had said: "All allegations against me are false."

Deshmukh was accused of corruption and extortion by Mumbai's ex top cop Param Bir Singh.

In a letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Param Bir Singh had accused Deshmukh of interference and using the police to extort up to ₹ 100 crore every month. He had written the letter days after being removed from his post over tardy progress in the Mukesh Ambani bomb scare matter under his watch.

Deshmukh had said some "unforgivable" lapses had been revealed in the Mukesh Ambani security scare probe under the police chief.

Even as the NCP leader rubbished the allegations and threatened a defamation case over the bribery claims, the allegations triggered a huge political storm in the state amid calls for his resignation by the opposition leaders.

Now, the former top cop is also missing and a lookout notice has already been issued against him. He also faces allegations of extortion and several cases have been filed against him.

Deshmukh on Monday slammed the former top cop: "Where is Param Bir Singh, who made allegations against me? Today the officers of Param Bir Singh's own department and several businessmen have filed their complaints against him."

On Sunday, the CBI made the first arrest in the bribery case linked to the former minister.

 

 



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