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24 July 2014

Train rams into school bus, kills 20 children in Telangana

Hyderabad, July 24, 2014

A passenger train rammed into a school bus at an unmanned railway crossing in Telangana's Medak district on Thursday killing at least 20 children and injuring 15 with fears the death toll could rise further, officials said.

Screen grab from Sakshi TV footage of the school bus-train crash site in Medak, Telangana.

South Central Railway officials said the accident occurred between Masayipet and Wadiaram railway stations on Secunderabad-Nizamabad section of Hyderabad division at 9.10am.

Masayipet is in Veldurti mandal of Medak district, about 70 km from Hyderabad.

The bus was ferrying at least 40 children to a private school - Kakatiya Techno School - located at Tupran. Three of the children travelling on the bus are safe.

The bus driver was also killed on the spot. The bus was dragged several hundred metres down the tracks.

Mangled remains of the bus and the bodies of the children could be seen near the tracks.

The Nanded-Secunderabad Passenger train was travelling from Nanded in Maharashtra to Hyderabad.

No one on the train was killed, officials said.

The injured were moved to nearby hospitals in Kompally.

"We are moving the kids to Hyderabad. We are making every effort to save the lives of the injured kids," said Telangana education minister Jagadeeswar Reddy at a local hospital.

Tense scenes prevailed at the accident site as the locals demanding justice – compensation and action against officials - blocked the authorities from taking away the bodies in ambulances.

Police had to resort to a mild baton-charge to control the stone pelting mob.

Locals alleged that the crossing was left unmanned despite their requests in the past.

Some of the parents who arrived at the accident site fainted after seeing their little ones.

Reports said a father of two kids, who were killed in the accident, died of heart attack after the news of the accident came in.

Telangana chief minister K Chadrasekhara Rao expressed shock over the accident and reviewed the situation with chief secretary Rajiv Sharma and director general of police Anurag Sharma.

Rao will visit Yashoda Hospital in Secunderabad where some of the injured children have been admitted.

He ordered the officials to take necessary steps to extend all medical assistance to the injured.

Telangana irrigation minister T Harish Rao and transport minister P Mahender Reddy visited a hospital where the injured were admitted and also rushed to the accident spot.

State home minister Naini Narsimha Reddy expressed his condolences.

"It is a sad incident. A thorough inquiry will be conducted and action will be taken against those responsible," he said.

Andhra Pradesh CM N Chandrababu Naidu and leader of opposition Jaganmohan Reddy expressed shock and paid their condolences over the unfortunate incident.

Reddy also visited the accident spot.


Unmanned crossings
Accidents at unmanned railway crossings are common and the Indian Railways says they happen because of negligence of road users.

There are about 14,000 unmanned crossings across the country.

Railway minister DV Sadananda Gowda had put greater emphasis on passenger safety and security in his maiden budget earlier this month.

To ensure passenger safety, funds to the tune of Rs. 40,000 crore would be required to be invested in track renewals, elimination of unmanned level crossings and construction of road under-bridges and over-bridges.

For 2014-15, Gowda has allocated Rs. 1,785 crore for the construction of road underbridges and overbridges.

Railway officials say this would go a long way in bringing down casualties at level crossings; 40% of all rail casualties occur at unmanned crossings.
 
The railway minister had also announced the government's decision to eliminate unmanned level crossings altogether.

(With PTI and AFP inputs)

 


Press Council chairman Katju alleges ally forced UPA govt to protect corrupt judge
New Delhi, July 21, 2014
Press Council of India chairman and former Supreme Court judge Justice Markandey Katju made serious allegations of corruption in judiciary on Sunday, highlighting the direct appointment of a district judge in Tamil Nadu.

At a time when there is a raging debate on how judges should be appointed following the Gopal Subramanium controversy, Katju wrote a blog, pointing to a nexus between a political leader and the judge in question, "against whom there were several allegations of corruption".

He later became the Additional Judge of Madras high court, Katju said, dragging an influential political party from Tamil Nadu that supported the UPA government into the controversy.

Even though there was "as many as 8 adverse entries against him", an acting Chief Justice of Madras high court had deleted all of them by a single stroke of pen, according to Katju.

The Press Council of India chairman also said the judge later "became an Additional Judge of the High Court".

Katju wrote in his blog that the judge had "solid support" from an influential politician in Tamil Nadu, adding the judge had once granted bail to the leader.

Katju also said he had requested former Chief Justice of India Ramesh Chandra Lahoti to conduct a secret IB inquiry against the judge. The probe, according to Katju, found "enough material about the Judge's corruption".

But, the judge "got another 1 year appointment as an Additional Judge", according to the Press Council of India chairman.

"I later learnt how this happened. The Supreme Court Collegium consists of 5 seniormost Judges for recommending names for appointment as a Supreme Court Judge, and 3 seniormost Judges for dealing with High Courts (sic)," Katju wrote.

The three senior judges — "Justice Lahoti, Justice Sabarwal, and Justice Ruma Pal" — had recommended the judge should be removed since his two-year term was over.

After the proposal was sent to the then United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, an ally backing the "corrupt Judge" opposed the move, alleged Katju.

According to Katju, former prime minister Manmohan Singh "panicked" after being told by the ministers of "that party of Tamil Nadu" that his government would fall.

Katju said a senior Congress minister jumped into firefighting and told Justice Lahoti that "there would be a crisis if that Additional Judge" was discontinued.

 

 

Ahead of Modi visit, US Senate slams Obama administration for 'uncertainty' over India ties
Washington, July 17, 2014
US President Barack Obama’s India policy, or the lack of it, came under withering attack at a Senate hearing on Wednesday in the run up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's upcoming visit to Washington.As White House gears up to do business with a man it struck off its visa list, there are mixed feelings about Narendra Modi. (Agencies) Powerful Republican Senator John McCain, who recently met Modi and his senior cabinet colleagues in New Delhi, led the charge asking for the administration's strategy. At his meeting with Modi, Senator McCain said, the Prime Minister told him he wanted to focus “our partnership” on an “ambitious strategic agenda”. “Would you tend to agree with that,” he asked assistant secretary of state Nisha Biswal, who was also in India recently, the main administration official at the hearing. Biswal said that was the impression she got at the meeting she attended between Modi and the US deputy secretary of state William Burns. Read: India to host annual talks with US again “What does the administration think the elements of that agenda might be,” the Senator asked her.
“We think that we have a very strong opportunity in terms of security cooperation and defence partnership …,” Biswal offered only to be cut off by McCain.“What, specifically, would that be?” he asked.Biswal said Modi told them “defence manufacturing was a key area that India would like to pursue”. She went on to speak about India raising the FDI cap in defence.The Senator cut in again, but showing no sign of irritation or impatience at not getting the answer he was seeking: “Not exactly sure that that is a strategic agenda.”Biswal, who is directly in charge of relations with India as head of the South Asia and Central Asia desk at state department, launched into a litany of ongoing engagements.“Greater cooperation in defence partnership, in the security partnership … strategic objectives in region — East Asia, maritime security … South and Central Asia …”“We certainly look to increase our relationship with respect to how to work together to address problems in the region and across the world …” she added.Read: India, US put Khobragade issue behind, focus on ties
McCain paused for a bit after Biswal was through.
“Strategic agenda,” he resumed, “what is our overall strategy?”
The same question was now posed differently.
Biswal tried again. “Senator as you noted … we think that as India grows, as India prospers and as India increases its capabilities … that India as a partner in the region …”

McCain cut in yet again.

“No … go ahead but you still haven’t (got on to) the strategy.”

He now gave up: “Strategy, as I understand it, is specific measures to ensure certain aspects of security,” he said again, patiently, without showing any signs of his famous temper.

“You haven’t mentioned China, you haven’t mentioned Japan. You haven’t mentioned … (the) strategy and the threats we (it wasn’t clear here if he meant “we” as in the US or “we” as India and the US) are facing and the challenges we are facing.”

Read: Want ties with Modi govt to meet people's hopes, says US

Unconvinced by Biswal’s follow-up, the Senator said, “I look forward to the articulation of that strategy.”

And he moved on to the next witness, and a new subject.

Former US ambassador to India, Frank Wisner picked up from where McCain left off, when he took his seat as part of the non-government panel following Biswal’s.

“Since 2010 (President Obama’s India trip), the relationship has been on hold,” said the former ambassador, who is now a general-purpose India-hand in this town.

“If anything,” he added, “it has atrophied.”

It is a serious charge from a diplomat trusted by this administration enough to be sent to convince Hosni Mubarak to step down.

Both McCain and Wisner were making the same point: the India-US relationship had run out of steam, ideas and handed over to bureaucrats to quibble over small things.

Richard Rossow, newly appointed head of the India chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a DC think-tank, added another dimension to the stalled relationship.

Since the exit of deputy defence secretary Ash Carter, he said there was no one at the cabinet level looking after the relationship with India on a daily basis.

Others have argued that the lack of leadership on relations with India goes back further — the White House lost interest soon after US companies lost the MMRCA deal.

 

 

Supreme Court puts on hold death sentence for two convicts
New Delhi, July 14, 2014
The Supreme Court on Monday suspended the death sentence of Vinay Sharma and Akshay Thakur, the two remaining convicts in the Dec 16, 2012, Delhi gang-rape case, as it extended its March 15 order blocking execution of two other death row convicts - Mukesh and Pawan Gupta - in the same case.


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"We have to pass the same order," said the bench of Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai and Justice NV Ramana, referring to the March 15 order, as counsel for Vinay Sharma and Akshay Thakur urged the court to suspend their execution.

The court declined to pass an order on Vinay and Akshay's plea that in view of the amendment in the apex court rules, their plea should be heard by a three-judge bench.

They referred to a newspaper report quoting Chief Justice RM Lodha as saying that the president has given assent to the amended rules and from Aug 16, all appeals in death sentence cases would be heard by a three-judge bench.

However, the court declined to pass an order, saying that the amended rules are yet to be notified.

The court on March 15 decided to keep on hold execution of the death sentence of Mukesh and Pawan Gupta, who had challenged the March 13 Delhi high court order upholding their death sentence by a fast-track court.

The execution of their death sentence was suspended by an interim order of the bench of Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh at a special sitting of the court.

In the April 28 hearing of the plea by Mukesh and Pawan Gupta, the apex court bench of Justice BS Chauhan and Justice J Chelameswar asked the Delhi government to place before it all the records, including those of the trial court along with their English translation, in the gang-rape case.

The court also directed the listing of the matter in the second week of July for final hearing.

On March 13, the high court bench of Justice Reva Khetrapal and Justice Pratibha Rani upheld the death sentence of Mukesh, Pawan, Vinay and Akshay.

"Society's abhorrence to atrocious crimes perpetrated upon innocent and helpless victims has resulted in the death penalty being retained on the statute book to remind such criminals that human life is very precious and one who dares to take the life of others must lose his own life," the high court had said in its order.

Mukesh, Pawan, Vinay Sharma, Akshay Thakur and Ram Singh along with a juvenile were convicted of gang-rape and assault on a 23-year-old physiotherapist student inside a private bus. The woman victim and her male friend were thrown out of the bus after the crime to die by a roadside.

The victim died of grave intestinal injuries on Dec 29, 2012, at Singapore's Mount Elizabeth Hospital.

Of the two other convicts, Ram Singh committed suicide inside Delhi's Tihar jail, and the juvenile was sent to three years in an observation home in Delhi.

 

 

 

3 more universities under UGC scanner for FYUP
New Delhi, July 12
Just a few weeks after asking the University of Delhi to roll back its four-year-undergraduate programme, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has put three more universities under its scanner for running four year courses.

The UGC had written to Shiv Nadar University, Ambedkar University and the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, seeking an explanation on why they still had four year courses.

“We have got an explanation from all three of them. We will once again ask them for a detailed report. A committee of experts will look into the explanations and then decide accordingly,” a senior UGC official said.

Sources said that as per the explanations given, Ambedkar University said that they run a dual degree programme while IISc said their four year programme is a research degree. Shiv Nadar University, however, might be asked to follow a three-year degree programme.

Shiv Nadar University vice-chancellor Nikhil Sinha could not be contacted despite several attempts.

The UGC had on Friday written letters to more than 650 higher education institutions asking them to comply with the gazette notification of July 5.

The detailed letter had also mentioned the consequences if the universities failed to comply.

 

 

 

Don't see 'good days' yet : Omar Abdullah on Union budget

Srinagar. 11 July 2014

"But this budget neither talks about 'achche din' nor has it given us a feeling of that bitter-pill. (However), it has not been even two months yet (for the government), let some time pass then we will see," Omar told reporters here.

Referring to the FM's announcement for allocation of Rs 200 crore for upgrading indoor and outdoor stadiums to international standards in Jammu and in Kashmir Valley, the CM said there were one or two things which the state was expecting from the budget, especially those related to the youth. "When the finance minister was here on his maiden visit and I met him, I had asked him for a package on sports infrastructure and which he has accepted," Omar said.

"He (Jaitley) had talked about a hospital on the pattern of AIIMS. I had told him that we have super-speciality hospitals at both places - Jammu and Srinagar. I had said that rather than building a new hospital, give us a package to upgrade the two hospitals on AIIMS pattern.

"We have not heard anything on that yet. We hope that when the Finance Minister has talked about AIIMS-pattern hospitals, our two hospitals will also be included," he said.

Referring to the Rs 500 crore package for displaced Kashmiri migrants in the Union budget announced yesterday, the Chief Minister said he would like to know the fine prints of the package because there already was a package and the state had asked for its upgradation because the amount earmarked earlier was less. "If these Rs 500 crores have been earmarked under a new package, then it is a good thing and I hope our migrants take advantage of it. But if it is on the past pattern, then I am sorry, this package would not benefit us," he said.

 

Robert Vadra quietly closing down six companies
New Delhi, July 08
Robert Vadra, the husband of Priyanka Gandhi, is quietly closing down six companies set up just two years ago.
The firms have never filed annual returns or balance sheets, an examination of company records by HT shows. Lifeline Agrotech, Greenwave Agro, Rightline Agriculture, Future Infra Agro, Best Seasons Agro and Prime Time Agro are all private limited companies established between June and August 2012, purportedly as agriculture or agro-processing firms. Vadra is named as managing director and promoter in company records.
Listed as a director and promoter alongside him is Amit Mehta, who is also a director of joint venture companies formed by Vadra and the real-estate giant DLF. The property deals that they concluded in Haryana were the subject of controversy over allegations of impropriety in the acquisition of clearances, and the quick profits booked by Vadra.
Vadra’s office did not respond to questions from HT. Telephone calls, emails and SMS messages to his spokesperson Manoj Arora also went unanswered.All six companies are now listed by the ministry of corporate affairs as “having status under the process of being struck off”. When that process is complete they will legally cease to exist.

 

3 in 10 Indians poor, old poverty line unrealistic: Rangarajan report
New Delhi , July 07
Nearly one in three Indians was poor in 2011-12, according to a new report that was commissioned following widespread criticism two years ago that the government grossly underestimated the number of poor in the country by choosing an unrealistic poverty line for such estimates.The panel, headed by former RBI governor C Rangarajan who also was the chairman of the prime minister's economic advisory council in the UPA government, estimates there were 363 million people, or 29.5% of India's 1.2 billion population, who lived in poverty in 2011-12. The number is significantly higher that the official estimate of 269 million and the difference – of about 94 million – is attributed primarily to a change in the definition of the poverty line.The Rangarajan panel considers people living on less than Rs. 32 a day in rural areas and Rs. 47 a day in urban areas as poor. In contrast, the official estimate- based on recommendations made by late economist Suresh Tendulkar -- defines people living on less than Rs. 27 a day rural areas and Rs. 33 a day in urban areas as poor. These figures, ever since they were adopted by the UPA government during its first term, have been criticised for being unrealistic and artificially seeking to lower the poverty numbers. The official estimates in use put the poverty ratio in 2011-12 at 21.9%, almost 8 percentage points lower than Rangarajan's estimates.The sharp revision in the poverty line is partly a result of a change in methodology. For sustenance, the new methodology includes all such expenses on account of basic amenities that are often covered by public expenditure. The new numbers mean that 363 million Indians would have struggled to survive if there was no public spending," said a member of Rangarajan panel, who did not want to be named.Although the new estimates push up the poverty numbers compared to the earlier methodology, what may come as a relief for the UPA is that the number of poor steadily declined during its rule, no matter which methodology is chosen. According to Rangarajan, the number of poor declined from 454.6 million in 2009-10 to 363 million in 2011-12 and the poverty ratio from 38.2% to 29.5% in the same period.India's poverty estimates are based on consumption expenditure surveys done by the National Sample Survey Office
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23-Year-Old Teacher Allegedly Raped in Muzaffarnagar, Act Filmed by Friends of Accused

Muzaffarnagar, 6 July 2014

  In yet another shocker from Uttar Pradesh, a 23-year-old teacher was allegedly kidnapped and raped in the Balwakheri village of Muzaffarnagar district on Saturday evening.
Two friends of the accused, who were present at the spot, reportedly made a video of the act to blackmail the teacher. The incident happened when the 23-year-old was coming home after giving tuition.
"Mohit (the accused) came from behind, covered my mouth so I could not shout and dragged me to an empty house. Then he phoned his two other friends who came and filmed him raping me with their phone. They also threatened me and warned me against speaking about this to anyone," the rape survivor said.
The three accused, who are college students, were arrested late Saturday night under charges of rape and on charges under the IT act.
This incident comes close on the heels of a similar horrific incident which took place in Muzaffarnagar just two weeks ago. A 20-year-old woman was gang-raped by eight men, and the video circulated on WhatsApp. The woman alleged that the men threatened her that if she complained to the police, they would post the video online. 
Statistics from the National crime records bureau paint a shocking picture. According to the bureau, there were 32,546 incidents of crime against women in Uttar Pradesh last year and 3050 rape cases were registered, one of the highest in the country. Despite this, the lawlessness continues in the state.

 

 

'Hoarders Taking Advantage of Poor Monsoon Forecast', says Finance Minister Arun Jaitley

New Delhi, 4 July 2014.

The NDA government, which has been confronted with the spectre of spiralling prices of food items soon after its advent to power at the Centre, today once again sought the cooperation of the states in battling a problem which, it said, had been an annual fixture at this time of the year.
"During July-December every year, prices of some food items increase because of hoarding,'' said Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley while addressing a conference of state food ministers here today. The problem, he argued, had been aggravated because of the below-normal monsoon forecast.
"Hoarders are taking advantage of the forecast of below normal monsoon. State governments should take stern action against hoarders to rein in prices. The Centre will give complete support,'' he added.
The Union Finance Minister, at the same time, sought to underplay reports that the prices of food items had touched an all-time high. "Onion prices are lower than last year, so there is no panic situation,'' he said, adding, that the Centre was keeping a close tab on the situation.
Controlling prices has been accorded top priority by the Narendra Modi government. Prices of commodities such as potatoes, onion, rice, pulses and milk have been showing an upward curve since January this year, the government's failure to rein them in has exposed them to taunts from the opposition parties. The Congress, in fact, used the BJP's "Acche Din Aa Gaye Hain" (Good days are here) slogan to take a jibe at the government.
The government has taken a series of steps to rein in prices. Earlier this week, it brought onions and potatoes within the ambit of Essential Commodities Act, 1955, and authorized the states to set stock-limits for these two food items. 
It also ordered the release of 50 lakh tonnes of rice for BPL and APL families for the remaining part of the fiscal. It also raised the export prices of the two commodities in order to ensure their availability for domestic consumers.
The Centre has also asked the states to crackdown on hoarders and black-marketeers. 

Network outage halts trading at Bombay Stock Exchange
Mumbai, July 03, 2014
The Bombay Stock Exchange, India's second-biggest financial market, shut down during morning trade Thursday owing to computer network problems, a spokesperson said. People walk past the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) building in Mumbai. (Reuters Photo)
"Due to a network outage being currently faced, BSE has decided to close all markets," spokesperson Yatin Padia said in a message to AFP, after trading stopped soon before 10.00am local time (0430 GMT). Padia said technicians were working to resolve the problems, after which the markets would restart. The BSE suffered another technical glitch last month, which left real-time data feeds blank for nearly an hour and forced deals to be struck using prices from a rival bourse, traders said. The Sensex, the leading index for Indian shares on the BSE, ended at a record high Wednesday on hopes the newly elected government will announce reforms to revive the economy in its first budget next week.

 

 

 

 

Is the BJP emulating the worst of Congress' political culture?
New Delhi, July 02, 2014
Chief Justice of India RM Lodha has finally spoken. A week after the controversy over the government's objection to the Gopal Subramanium being elevated as an SC judge - as proposed by the SC collegium - the CJI has taken strong objection to the executive's move. He has reiterated his commitment to the independence of judiciary and clearly said the executive's unilateral move was not proper.
Read: CJI RM Lodha calls Subramanium decision unilateral
The only quibble with Lodha's statement can be that it has come a bit late in the day, but he has done great service in standing up to a government, which, riding fresh on an overwhelming mandate, appears to think that it need not respect institutional autonomy. Subramanium's move to withdraw his candidature may appear a bit hasty, but the manner in which his name was segregated shows the Modi regime had an axe to grind with him. This, Subramanium has argued, relates to his role as amicus curiae in the Sohrabuddin encounter case.
The objection to Subramanium's name is ostensibly because of a CBI input, but we do know that his name was cleared by security agencies only a few weeks ago. The tendency of government agencies to toe the line of the political regime and tailor reports accordingly is not new- Congress, in fact, was a master at this. Remember the manner in which former Law Minister Ashwini Kumar sought to influence the CBI in the Coalgate case.
The BJP must remember that it has been a political beneficiary of the UPA's moves to cripple institutions. This dented the previous government's credibility, eroded the checks and balances within the system, and may have made certain ministers more powerful in their respective turfs temporarily but caused more lasting damage to the larger ecosystem of governance. It is natural for those in power to seek to expand their power, and get rid of 'inconveniences'. But they have to operate within the rules of the game.
The signs in the first month of the Modi government are not encouraging in this regard. Its willingness to bring in an ordinance - after criticising UPA for ordinance raj - to appoint its own man as the PM's principal secretary: the tendency to bypass elected representatives and rely on bureaucrats even though it is the minister who is accountable to Parliament; the desire to appoint their own loyalists as governors; and now the Subramanium issue are all instances of a certain unhealthy trend.
Make no mistake, this is all exactly what the Congress has done all these years. But weren't we told that BJP is different, that there will be change, and acche din are about to come? Emulating the worst of Congress' political culture may not be the way to do it.
- See more at: http://www.hindustantimes.com/comment/analysis/is-the-bjp-emulating-the-worst-of-congress-political-culture/article1-1235776.aspx#sthash.eKuLRHpv.dpuf

 

Army Chief Heads to China in Key Confidence Building Measure

New Delhi, 1 July 2014.

 Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh leaves for China late tonight as part of the new emphasis on increased military-to-military contact between the armed forces of the two countries. An Indian Army Chief is visiting China after nine years.
 Gen Singh is scheduled to meet the Chinese Vice President. More importantly, he will hold one-on-one meetings with the Vice Chairman of the all-powerful Central Military Commission and the Chief of General Staff of the People's Liberation Army. 
The Indian Army Chief will also address China's National Defence University. 
The three-day visit is part of a plan for Confidence Building Measures or CBMs drawn up earlier this year by the two neighbours, who treat each other warily, not the least because of their long-standing border dispute. According to the plan, 10 Chinese and nine Indian military delegations are to visit each other throughout this year. 
 A Chinese PLA delegation led by one of its top military leaders, the deputy chief of general staff (operations)  Lieutenant General Qi Jianguo, visited India in April this year and a team from  the Indian Army's Eastern Command is scheduled to visit the Lanzhou Military Area Command in Gansu Province.later this year.
 Also this week, for the first time, a Chinese military-media delegation will be in India to hold talks with the Indian Defence Ministry's media and publicity wing. 
During the April visit of the high-level Chinese delegation, India and China earmarked four locations along their contested border for holding emergency meetings to quickly resolve possible standoffs and intrusions of the kind witnessed recently, which have led to tension at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) as the unsettled border between the two countries is known. 
Last year, a group of Chinese soldiers intruded deep into Indian territory in the Depsang plains of Ladakh and camped for over a fortnight, leading to heightened diplomatic and border tension.  
New Delhi and Beijing decided to pursue the CBMs after their prime minsters signed of the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement in October 2013.
 The plan to increase the frequency of military-to-military contacts will get a further boost when a two-year plan to post Indian Naval and an Air Force Attaches is implemented by end-2014. So far only an Indian Army Colonel and a Lt Col were posted in the Indian Embassy in Beijing.

Eyes on Defence Deals, Western Powers Court PM Narendra Modi

New Delhi, 29 June 2014 .

 Western governments are rushing to visit Prime Minister Narendra Modi, drawn by the prospect of multi-billion-dollar deals as the Indian government prepares to open the nascent defence industry to foreign investment.
Senior politicians from France, the United States and Britain arrive in quick succession over the next 10 days as Prime Minister Modi prepares to accelerate the modernisation of the country's mostly Soviet-era weaponry.
The PM intends to build up the India's military capabilities and gradually turn the world's largest arms importer into a heavyweight manufacturer - a goal that has eluded every prime minister since independence in 1947.
On the table is a proposal circulated within the new government to raise caps on foreign investment - with one option to allow complete foreign ownership of some defence projects.
"All the countries are trying to make their case, especially as there is the sense that the Indian market will undergo a shift," said Harsh Pant, professor of international relations at King's College London.
"They get a sense from their dealings that something dramatic is going to happen and they want first-mover advantage," said Pant, who specialises in defence.
First to arrive in New Delhi will be French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, whose top priority is to close a stalled deal to sell India 126 Rafale fighter jets, built by Dassault Aviation, for an estimated $15 billion.
Fabius, who arrives on Monday, will meet PM Modi as well as Defence Minister Arun Jaitley who also holds the finance portfolio - and can therefore decide both whether to sign the deal and when to release the money.

US Senator John McCain is also due in India next week. Mr McCain, whose Arizona constituency includes weapons makers such as Boeing and Raytheon, told the Senate on Thursday that Washington should seek to bolster New Delhi's economic and military rise.
"This is an area where US defence capabilities, technologies, and cooperation - especially between our defence industries - can benefit India enormously," McCain said of India's drive to modernise the armed forces.

UK STILL HOPEFUL ON FIGHTER JET


In the second week of July, Britain is likely to send in Foreign Secretary William Hague and finance minister George Osborne, a British government source said on Friday.
Britain has drawn some cheer from the slow progress of the negotiations for the Rafale deal. The Eurofighter Typhoon was shortlisted along with the Dassault fighter before India announced the French jet was the winner.Cost escalations and disagreements about building the Rafale in partnership with the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited have complicated New Delhi's talks with France, and London has never entirely given up hope that it will return to the race.
However, on Thursday, one source at India's defence ministry said the deal was likely to be finally closed during Fabius' visit and could be signed this year. A French foreign ministry source said talks were ongoing, but refused to provide more detail. (India's Rafale Fighter Jet Deal in Final Lap, Awaits Government's Nod)

Russia, for years India's top weapons supplier, pipped all three countries to the post, sending Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin to visit the new government in Delhi two weeks ago. Washington last year replaced Moscow as India's top defence supplier, according to IHS Jane's. 
The Western nations will have noted that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj expressed displeasure with Russia's recent offer to sell Mi-35 attack helicopters to arch-rival Pakistan.

"I don't think it's a competition," US Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal said after an early post-election visit to New Delhi.
"India will have strong and positive relationships with a variety of countries and that is to be encouraged," said Biswal. "We want to see India taking on a stronger and a leadership role in the region and around the world so we welcome that."

$6 BILLION SPREE
India spent some $6 billion (approximately Rs. 36,000 crore) last year on weapons imports. It makes few of its own weapons, beyond ballistic missiles and assembly lines for foreign jets. 
On Thursday, the government signalled it was in the mood for liberalisation by allowing manufacturers to build more defence components without licences, making it easier for domestic firms to partner foreigners.
At present, foreign companies can only invest 26 percent in Indian defence projects without committing to technology transfer, which has put off many investors.
Before the election, sources in PM Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said there was a plan to increase the cap to 49 percent.
"For higher-tech intellectual property we would want to go over 50 percent to be in a position to share technology that we have significant investments in," said Phil Shaw, chief executive of Lockheed Martin India Pvt Ltd.
"An uplift from 26 to 49 percent maintains the status quo and may not be sufficient incentive to make an investment here."
Lockheed Martin already has a 26 percent investment in an Indian joint venture with Tata Advanced Systems that manufactures airframe components for the C-130J Super Hercules cargo lifter.
India's Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion has circulated a discussion document that proposes allowing up to 100 percent foreign direct investment, or FDI, in defence production, two government officials told Reuters.
The note suggested allowing 100 percent FDI in manufacturing of state-of-the art equipment, one of the officials said. It also recommends a cap of 49 percent for investments which do not involve transfer technology and a 74 percent ceiling in such cases where the foreign investor is ready to share technology know-how, the official added. 
Last week, Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said foreign investment in the sector would help increase defence preparedness of the country and reduce import dependence, saving billions of dollars in foreign exchange.
However, she said the government was yet to take a final call on increasing the FDI ceiling and the decision would be taken by Mr Jaitley and PM Modi. The proposals face pockets of resistance in the Indian industry, Mr Modi's party and the military establishment.
AK Antony, who was the country's longest serving defence minister until his Congress party's election defeat in May, said this week that allowing higher foreign investment in defence would be "suicidal".

DU admissions likely to start on Tuesday, but some questions still remain
New Delhi, June 28
Admissions to Delhi University are likely to finally kick off on Tuesday with colleges expected to come out with the first cut-off list late Monday evening, sources said.
Delhi University Student and ABVP members hold a celebration march at Delhi Arts Faculty. (HT Photo) DU vice-chancellor, Dinesh Singh issued a statement on Friday confirming that the university will revert to the three-year undergraduate programme, and start the admission process soon.Colleges are now finding a way to go back to the old system, a process which shouldn't take long since the background work has been done for the past week."We have already redistributed seats according to the 2012 formula. The cut-offs to won't be a big problem as we have been working on them since the UGC wrote to us directly, asking to revert to the three-year system," said Pradyumn Kumar, officiating principal, Hindu College.Read: DU gives in, scraps FYUP; admissions to begin

DU has set-up a 12 member committee of college principals to discuss the modalities of admission and monitor the process. The committee will also decide if existing applications are valid or some other method to admit students will have to be employed.

"The university can finally start admissions, though there are some key issues to address before we do that. This will take a couple of days to figure out," said a principal.

The biggest issue that is facing the university as of now is the reintroduction of the BA and BCom programmes as well as BSc physical sciences and life sciences courses that were scrapped under the FYUP.

The university invited applications for courses under the FYUP scheme. This did not include the previously mentioned courses. The conundrum, therefore, is if the same applications can be used for the three-year course that will be implemented again now.

According to university officials, this could create problems for the university as many who did not apply this year could say that they did not do so because the scrapped courses were not there in the application forms.

Read: FYUP gone but need to overhaul education system, say teachers

"This is a big danger and using those forms could create more problems for the university, which it certainly cannot afford at this time," said a college teacher who has been handling admissions for the past 10 years.

The university cannot call for new applications either as it will take an additional 20 days. The admission was supposed to start on June 24 and has already been drastically delayed. The university has said that it is committed to conducting admissions as soon as possible.

The only solution then, it seems, is to announce cut-offs based on previous years' experience and the school board results and then admit all those who meet the benchmark. The university followed this

 

14 killed in blast at GAIL pipeline in Andhra Pradesh
Prasad Nichenametla, June 27
The incident occurred around 6 am when many of the villagers were still sleeping. The dead were mostly people living in the huts in the coconut groves through which the gas pipeline passes. The bodies are charred beyond recognition. The impact of the blast could be seen in the flames that leapt over 200 metres in the air. Most of the village took the impact and people ran to safety in horror. Half a dozen fire engines were rushed to the spot to control the fire. The injured were rushed to the hospitals in Kakinada, the district headquarters.Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed grief over the incident."My thoughts with the families of those who lost their lives in the GAIL Pipeline fire in AP. Prayers with the injured," he tweeted.Andhra Pradesh home minister N Chinarajappa rushed to the spot. Naidu who is in Delhi expressed shock over the incident. Naidu along with the union petroleum minister are leaving from Delhi to visit the site.The incident lead to angry reactions from the villagers, who blamed the GAIL authorities as not taking enough precautions to avoid such incidents
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Five Killed After Rajdhani Express Derails in Bihar; Sabotage, Say Some Officials

25 June 2014, Chapra.

A passenger train headed from New Delhi to Assam derailed early this morning in Bihar, killing four people.
Initially, officials said an explosion on the tracks may have caused the accident, which left 12 carriages of the Rajdhani Express toppled over near the Chapra station. (See pics)
"Prima facie, it appears to be a case of sabotage," Railway Board chairman Arunendra Kumar told the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency. "There was a blast on the track, which could have caused the derailment."
Maoist rebels had earlier called for a strike in the area to protest against the security forces.
But Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda said there was no confirmation about what caused the derailment.
"As far as the Rajdhani Express is concerned, we practically don't have much news about the cause of derailment (but) of course there was a bandh (shutdown) call given by Maoists," he told reporters.
A senior police officer, Superintendent Sudhir Kumar, said that a thorough investigation had been ordered into the incident, adding that a "technical fault" could also have been the cause.
If confirmed as an attack by the Maoists, it would be the first by the insurgents since Prime MinisterNarendra Modi's government took office last month.
Bihar leader Lalu Yadav, a former railway minister, alleged negligence by railway officials. He said a pilot train should have sanitised the tracks before the passenger train passed the Maoist-affected area but the rule was not followed in this case.

Cancel Hike in Train Fares, Government is Urged by Its Own MPs

24 June 2014, New Delhi

A day before train journeys start costing substantially more, the government is being asked to withdraw the hike in fares by its own lawmakers from Maharashtra, where assembly elections are expected in October.
A group of MPs from the BJP and the Shiv Sena met Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda this morning to stress the impact that the new fares will have on lakhs of commuters in Mumbai, whose daily routine is navigated by the local trains which will cost twice as much starting tomorrow. Some 75 lakh commuters travel on these trains each day.
"The Railways Minister assured us that feelings of Mumbaikars will be considered," said the BJP's Kirit Somaiya after the meeting. 
The Shiv Sena is the BJP's oldest ally and has been unsparing in its criticism of the 14.2% hike in train fares announced last Friday. Yesterday, it compared the hike to "a train being run over the common man".
For 15 years, the BJP and Sena have been consigned to the role of the opposition in Maharashtra. But in the recent national election, the alliance won 41 of the state's 48 seats, suggesting that a window has opened for wresting power from the coalition of the Congress and Sharad Pawar's NCP which has governed the state since 1999.
Costlier train rides could stymie the BJP-Sena's comeback by alienating voters just when they seem to be ready for a change, the parties' representatives have informed top leaders.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and other BJP leaders have defended the hike as necessary; they say the previous UPA government backtracked on a plan to increase fares just before the national election, leaving the unpopular decision to Narendra Modi's new administration. (Rail Fare Hike Difficult But Correct Decision, Says Finance Minister Arun Jaitley)
The Indian Railways, one of the world's largest rail networks, is desperate for funds after years of low investment and populist policies to subsidise fares.

 

At One-Month Mark, PM Gives His Team Three Focus Areas

23 June 2014,New Delhi.

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi's new government completes its first month in office this week,  the PM's Office has identified three target areas for immediate attention and action.
Apart from prodding the economy out of its slow crawl, the PM wants special attention to be paid on improving the relations between the Centre and state governments, addressing public complaints and grievances, and giving the armed forces vital equipment that has been long-delayed.
The PM has already issued clear instructions to bureaucrats asking them to reduce delays, cut red tape and ensure greater accountability and efficiency. Now he has asked the team of bureaucrats in his office to monitor that complaints listed on social media accounts and websites of government departments must be handled urgently if they relate to problems with flights (state-run airlines or private or both), train tickets and journeys, telecom, banking, health and pensions.
A special cell has been formed in the Prime Minister's Office to monitor how quickly these complaints are resolved.
Through his campaign, the PM had vowed that if he were elected, he would respect and promote the federal structure of governance by improving the ties between the Centre and the governments of the country's 29 states.
Determined to improve upon the previous government's record in this area, the PM has ordered that any request from a state government for the Centre's attention or assistance that is three months old must be taken up immediately. Civil servants in his office have been asked to meet representatives from each state in turn. The cycle of meetings will be repeated every three months, sources said.
In response to repeated alerts from the armed forces about outdated and inadequate equipment, the PM has held a series of consultations with Defence Minister Arun Jaitley and the chiefs of the army, air force and navy.  They have been asked to list in order of priority which weapons they need; a plan that outlines how to best use funds to modernize the armed forces has also been ordered.
To improve morale, a plan to build a national war memorial in the capital near the majestic India Gate has been revived.
 In a significant development, the Prime Minister has also decided to directly meet service chiefs once every month they can directly brief him on security concerns, if any. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh rarely met service chiefs alone.

ISIS militants may use Indian hostages as human shields, reveals escaped worker
New Delhi, June 22
ISIS militants may use the remaining 39 Indian hostages as human shields in case of a military offensive by Iraqi or US authorities, the only person among the group to flee the captors has told government officials.
While there is little information on the other captives, in its conversations with Harjit Singh, now in the safe custody of Kurdish authorities in Erbil, the government has concluded that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant may use the Indians as their first line of defence, an official told HT on Saturday.

Iraqi Red Crescent Society, a humanitarian agency, told this paper that it “shares the assessment.’’

Read: Stranded Indians safe, assures govt
Singh was among 40 Indian construction workers snatched by the ISIS men from their place of work in Mosul in northern Iraq on June 15.
HT was first to report, on June 20, that an Indian worker had managed to flee and was in the town of Erbil, 100km west of Mosul. Erbil is in northeast Iraq where Kurds have expanded their zone in what they regard as part of Kurdistan.

Read: Iraq militia parades as insurgents seize crossing
Singh told Indian and Kurdish officials that he managed to melt into a group of Bangladeshis and ‘’jumped over a barbed-wire fence’’ to flee. He and others were used as porters and cooks by their captors, Singh told Baghdad-based Indian embassy officials.
“The abductees are being used as porters to carry weapons,’’ a government official said.
The al Qaeda-inspired Sunni militia seen to be working towards an Islamic emirate that straddles Syria and Iraq now controls swathes of territory in northwest and central Iraq, including cities of Mosul and Tikrit, the home town of former dictator Saddam Hussein.

Read: Indian workers in Iraq share their plight
Singh, who used the phone of one of his Bangladeshi friends to contact the Indian embassy, was sharing information with Iraqi authorities looking for insights into the workings of the jihadi group, said sources.
Indian side, too, is in touch with him but a government official told HT that ‘’all of Singh’s account is not matching the version of the Bangladeshis with whom he travelled to Erbil”. “Singh appears to be traumatised and keeps saying ‘get me out of here’.”
The government continues to work with different organisations and countries in a bid to rescue the hostages but the task is complicated because ISIS, according to a government official, “keeps changing the location of the kidnapped Indians’’. The group is believed to be in or around Mosul, which adds to the problem, as ISIS controls the area.
- See more at: http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/iraqonthebrink/isis-may-use-39-indian-hostages-as-human-shields-fears-govt/article1-1232180.aspx#sthash.XD3al2vz.dpuf

 

 

 

Need to dispel the perception that only English speakers are intelligent: BJP

New Delhi, 20 June 2014.

Adding fuel to the ongoing 'linguistic war', Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Friday said that a person who speaks Hindi was considered illiterate while the English speaking populace was considered elite.
In a tweet written in Hindi, Naqvi cited that the Hindi needed to be promoted as it was increasing being perceived that only the English speaking were the intelligent lot.
The Home Ministry had stirred a hornet's nest with its directives to political leaders to use Hindi language in their social media interactions. DMK chief K Karunanidhi was the first to object asking if non-Hindi speakers would now be treated as second class citizens in the country.
While the Home Ministry said that Hindi being the national language needed to be promoted, Naqvi argued that there was a need to dispel the perception that only English-speakers in the country were intelligent.
Minister of State, Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju said that the whole controversy of Hindi's promotion was unwanted and asserted that the step was not being taken at the cost of regional languages.
"We haven't issued any directive that Hindi should be the dominating language over other languages. It's not imposition of Hindi, we want every language to get due importance. I had a review meeting on Hindi sent an internal message to the system," said Rijiju.
In an e&clusive interview to CNN-IBN, Naqvi said that even as government aimed at promoting Hindi, it never wanted to attack other languages.
He added that the government's initiative to promote Hindi would act as a confidence booster for the Hindi speaking people.

Location of Kidnapped Indians in Iraq Known: Foreign Ministry

New Delhi, 19 June 2014

 The Iraqi government has identified the location of 40 Indians kidnapped near the captured city of Mosul, the foreign ministry said today.
"The Iraqi foreign ministry has told us they have found the location of the workers," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said.
Asked whether they were safe, he said, "There is no safety in captivity. Safety is in places where people are welcome. As regards their location, we have an understanding but given that the matter is underway, we won't be able to share the location or what the Iraqis have shared." 
 Many of the Indians are from Punjab and worked for Baghdad-based construction company Tariq Noor al-Huda. No ransom demand had been made yet, the government reiterated today.
Earlier, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said "all efforts are underway" to rescue the kidnapped Indians.
"We are doing all that a government should do. I am personally supervising the efforts. I will leave no stone unturned in keeping our countrymen safe," she told reporters.
About 100 Indian workers are trapped in areas overrun by the Al Qaeda-inspired insurgent group ISIS, including Mosul, Iraq's second largest city. 
Their relatives in Punjab feared that their return would be difficult as their passports had been taken away by their employers.
Mr Akbaruddin said, "Documentation is not an issue in the return and repatriation of any Indian national. Documentation can be sent by fax, other means."
ISIS fighters who aim to establish a Muslim caliphate across the Iraqi-Syrian frontier launched their revolt against the Iraqi government by seizing Mosul and have seized large swathes of northern Iraq while advancing towards Baghdad.
India has sent a senior diplomat to help in repatriation efforts.

Stopped for speeding, cabbie mows down Delhi traffic cop
New Delhi, June 15
A 24-year-old traffic constable died after he was run over and dragged several metres by an errant cabbie he had pulled up for speeding in northwest Delhi on Saturday night. Raman Kumar, who was driving the white Ritz that mowed down constable Manna Ram, has been arrested. Two other occupants of the car, both minors, have also been apprehended.Constable Ram was manning a busy traffic diversion at Zakhira intersection near Moti nagar with a colleague when Raman Kumar’s Ritz came racing straight at them at around 7.30pm Saturday. “The driver applied the brakes suddenly at the barricade and insisted that he be allowed to go straight through despite the diversion. This led to a heated argument between him and Ram,” said Muktesh Chander, special commissioner of police (traffic). Kumar, a resident of Shastri Nagar, then reportedly reversed his car and raced ahead, breaking the barricades. In his attempt to stop Kumar, Ram jumped on to the car, holding on to the windshield wipers. But Kumar refused to slow down and the constable, who had joined the force just four years ago, was flung to the ground and came under the wheels.He is suspected to have died instantly but was dragged on for close to 150 metres before he fell by the wayside, lifeless.
Incidents of road rage are notoriously routine on Delhi’s roads with people losing their lives over the most petty squabbles. “Such incidents depict the kind of callous attitude people have not only towards the law but also towards their own safety as well as that of others,” Chander said. ccording to police records, 10 traffic personnel have been killed in the past five years while manning the traffic diversion at the intersection near Liberty cinema.Ram was the sole breadwinner for his family of six. He leaves behind a wife and infant son, parents and a sister.

On first trip abroad, PM Modi reaches destination Bhutan
Thimphu, June 15
Prime Minister Narendra Modi began on Sunday his first visit abroad since taking office as he arrived in Bhutan to launch a drive to reassert Indian influence in the region, offering financial and technical help and the lure of a huge market.

The tiny Buddhist nation, wedged in the Himalayas between India and China, is the closest India has to an ally in South Asia, a region of bristling rivalry where China is making inroads.

While India has been struggling recently with policy paralysis and a slowing economy, China has been building ports in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and in its "all-weather ally" Pakistan. China overtook India as the biggest foreign investor in Nepal in the first six months of this year.

Modi's Hindu nationalist party has vowed to end the neglect of neighbours and in an unprecedented gesture, he invited all regional leaders to his inauguration last month.

On Sunday, Modi will lay the foundation of a 600 MW hydroelectric power station in Bhutan and inaugurate a parliament building constructed by India.

"Bhutan and India share a very special relationship that has stood the test of time," Modi said before his departure for Bhutan's capital, Thimphu, which is nestled in mountains and was for centuries closed to outsiders.

"Thus, Bhutan was a natural choice for my first visit abroad."

In the longer term, Modi's government aims to make India the dominant foreign investor across South Asia as well as the main provider of infrastructure loans, in the same way China has done in much of the rest of Asia and in Africa.

Consolidating ties with difficult neighbours like Pakistan and Bangladesh could reduce poverty and transform regional security relationships, Indian officials say.

"Although India would like to have a greater say in South Asian matters beyond trade, so far we have not been able to exercise substantial political clout," said PD Rai, a member of parliament from the Sikkim, which shares a border with Bhutan.

 

 

 

 

Preity Zinta files molestation case against ex-boyfriend Ness Wadia
New Delhi, June 14
Actor Preity Zinta registered a case of molestation against former boyfriend and industrialist Ness Wadia in Mumbai late on Thursday night.
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Deputy commissioner of police, zone I, Ravindra Shisve confirmed the filing of the complaint to HT.
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In her complaint, the actor alleged that Wadia not only outraged her modesty but also abused and threatened her.
In her statement to the police, Zinta said the incident happened during the IPL qualifier for the final between Kings XI Punjab and Chennai Super Kings at the Wankhede Stadium on May 30.
She stated that during the match, while in the Garware Pavilion, Wadia came up to her, grabbed her by the hand and started using abusive words in front of other spectators.
Zinta and Wadia are co-owners of the IPL team Kings XI Punjab.
The actor, however, registered a complaint only on Thursday night.
A case under sections 354, 504 and 506 (assault on a woman, intentional insult and criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code has been registered.
The police said they were in the process of locating witnesses and would also be calling Wadia to record his statement.
The actor and the industrialist ended a five-year relationship in 2011. In an interview to a film magazine, Zinta had once said, “I walked out of my relationship with Ness Wadia.”

Lt General Suhag's Appointment as Army Chief is Final, Says Government

New Delhi,11 June 2014

 The government faces the ignominy of a minister - former army chief General VK Singh - tweeting against the Army Chief-designate, linking him of supporting "dacoity" by an army unit that once worked under him.

General Singh's tweets were raised in Parliament today by other parties with the Congress demanding his removal.  "The appointment is final," stressed Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, adding that the post of the army chief "must be kept out of controversy."
 
Lieutenant General Dalbir Singh Suhag is scheduled to take over as the Indian army's top man at the end of August.  While he was army chief, General VK Singh had tried to block his promotion, and he has recently defended his actions. 
 
The appointment  of the next army chief was one of the last major decisions cleared by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government before it was trounced in the election by the BJP.
 
Defence Minister Jaitley says the appointment was rushed by a lameduck government but has since supported the move to make Lt General Suhag the next army chief.
 
But the issue is now riddled with controversy.  In addition to General VK Singh's public criticism, senior officer Lt Gen Ravi Dastane's case against Lt Gen Dalbir Suhag (first filed in 2012) has reached the Supreme Court. In the petition, Gen Dastane has said that Lt General Suhag's selection as the new army chief smacks of "favouritism."  
 
Refuting that stand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has told the court that the action taken against Lt General Suhag by General VK Singh was "illegal" and incorrect  - an opinion based on the  conclusion reached by an extensive internal army inquiry.  The Congress says that the government's comments, expressed in writing, amount to a "vote of no confidence" in General Singh who must now resign as minister. 
 
But sources in the government say that the tenor and slant of its affidavit in the Supreme Court has to follow the line taken by the earlier UPA government in the armed forces tribunal where Gen Dastane had first filed his case since the litigation is a personal matter of the individual officer
  
Yesterday, General VK Singh, who is now a minister of state in government, tweeted in reference to the man whose promotion he is opposing-   "If unit kills innocents, does dacoity and then head of organization tries to protect them, should he not be blamed? Criminals should go free!!" 
 
In May 2012, just before he retired as army chief,  General Singh took disciplinary action against  Lt General Suhag for a botched intelligence operation under his command in the north-east General Singh tried unsuccessfully to block the promotion of Lt Genal Suhag as Eastern Army Commander, a move that placed the latter in line for the post of army chief. 

Terrorist attack near Karachi airport; security forces camp under fire
Karachi, June 10
A security checkpost outside Pakistan's Karachi airport was attacked by some unidentified gunmen on Tuesday, an official spokesman said, a day after an all-night siege by the Taliban left 37 dead. "Gunmen are exchanging fire with Airport Security Force (ASF) personnel at a checkpost guarding the airport," an ASF spokesman said.TV footage showed paramilitary vehicles and ambulances racing to the scene of the attack.
"We have suspended all flight operations at Karachi airport and we are evacuating passengers," said Mashud Tajwar, a spokesman for Pakistan International Airlines.Ghulam Abbas Memon, a spokesman for the Airport Security Force, says gunmen tried to enter the facility from two different entrances on Tuesday but the security forces were fighting them back.- See more at: http://www.hindustantimes.com/world- ews/another-attack-at-pakistan-s-karachi-airport-by-gunmen/article1-1227943.aspx#sthash.fsEV15zO.dpuf

Greatest challenge is to end curse of poverty, says President Pranab Mukherjee
New Delhi, June 09
President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday addressed a joint session of Parliament and said the greatest challenge before the new government is to end the curse of poverty in India. The President listed the priorities of the NDA government which include ushering the economy on the path of fast and all-round growth besides tackling price rise and inflation. "My government will function with the mantra of 'Minimum Government, Maximum Governance'," the President said. He was speaking in the Central Hall of Parliament. The President added containing food inflation will be the topmost priority of the government. "We will not settle for only poverty alleviation, we are aiming for poverty elimination," said Mukherjee. Both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha will have separate sittings 30 minutes after the conclusion of the address and the secretaries general of both the Houses will table a copy of the speech. The Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha will hold a discussion on the Motion of Thanks on the President's address on Tuesday and Wednesday according to the provisional list of business in the Houses. On behalf of the ruling party, while BJP vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi will initiate the discussion in Rajya Sabha, party general secretary Rajiv Pratap Rudy will do so in Lok Sabha.

India and China hold first major talks since Modi's win
New Delhi, June 08
China's foreign minister begins a two-day visit to India on Sunday for the first high-level talks between the world's two most populous nations since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge.

Wang Yi is coming to New Delhi as a special envoy of Chinese President Xi Jinping to "establish contact with the new government of India", the foreign ministry said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been making overtures to traditional rivals China and Pakistan since his party - the Bharatiya Janata Party - swept to power last smonth.

Modi has invited Xi to visit later this year.

Wang is coming "to engage with our leadership and we will take it from there", foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin told a news briefing last week.

"We would be in a listening mode to engage and see."

Read: The great folly of China – A lesson for India

The Chinese foreign minister is set to meet Indian government officials, including his new Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj and President Pranab Mukherjee. He is slated to see Modi on Monday.

Foreign policy expert Ranjit Gupta told AFP the visit was a "good augury".

"China has gone all out to woo the new Indian government, which is a great gesture," Gupta, a member of the Indian Security Advisory Council of the US-India Institute, a Washington-based think-tank, said.

"India and China are emerging global powers and with better relations, India will hopefully resume its growth path and reclaim its position in Asia."

Trade and suspicion
China is India's biggest trading partner, with two-way commerce totalling close to $70 billion. But India's trade deficit with China has soared to over $40 billion from just $1 billion in 2001-02, Indian figures show.

Experts say Modi must bridge the deficit by seeking greater access to the Chinese market, with the two sides targeting annual bilateral trade of $100 billion by 2015.

"The deficit is a huge embarrassment that keeps growing," said Gupta.

But, despite the strong trade ties, relations are still dogged by mutual suspicion -- a legacy of a brief, bloody border war in 1962 over the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, nestled in the eastern stretch of the Himalayas that China claims as its own.

Modi warned China to shed its "expansionist mindset" at an election rally earlier this year. China hit back, saying it "never waged a war of aggression to occupy any inch of land of other countries".

The nuclear-armed nations, both with one-billion-plus populations, are expected to focus on economic ties and border issues during Wang's visit, following a territorial flare-up in April 2013.

India accused Chinese troops of intruding nearly 20 kilometres (12 miles) into Indian-claimed territory, triggering a three-week standoff that was resolved when forces from both sides pulled back.

The border between China and India has never been formally demarcated, although they have signed accords to maintain peace.

Read: India's defence budget is one-third of China's, says US

Meanwhile Tibet's government-in-exile, based in India, has pinned its hopes on Modi's government to speak up for Tibetans during Wang's visit.

"This is in the interest of India as well because Tibet, as a buffer zone between India and China, has served the interests of all neighbouring countries," exiled Tibetan premier Lobsang Sangay told AFP.

The government-in-exile launched a renewed push this week for greater autonomy from Beijing, which has ruled the Himalayan territory since 1951.

But China last week dismissed any possibility of discussions on Tibet, calling Sangay an "out-and-out separatist".

India hosts the world's largest Tibetan exile population after offering refuge to the Dalai Lama. The spiritual leader fled across the Himalayas to India after a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule.

PM’s silence on some issues has certainly been perplexing
New Delhi June 07
Even if he has earned the ire and suspicion of his own colleagues, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor is right in arguing that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has, so far, been distinctly different from Modi the principal challenger in a bitterly fought election. In fact since the moment of his resounding victory he has made a distinct and swift shift in both language and approach. This columnist has argued that the new prime minister is all set to use the element of surprise as a key weapon in his armoury. His first set of decisions (whether it was inviting Saarc heads of government, including Pakistan, to his swearing-in, tweeting personal congratulations to political adversaries to indicate that his days of abrasiveness are consigned to the past or spending his first afternoon in office at the residence of former PM Manmohan Singh) have taken aback both his staunchest advocates and fiercest opponents. Having re-written the rules of politics, with a presidential campaign centred on his own personality, as prime minister, Modi can be expected to recast his own image. That process has already begun.

Some aspects of his campaign however will spill over into his governance style as well, primarily the understanding that in an age of hyper-information, communication is power. That the prime minister’s new website was up and running a few seconds after he was formally sworn-in was an early indication that this is a regime that will focus on getting its messaging right. This will also be a Prime Minister who converses directly with the citizenry. I wouldn’t be surprised if American style State of the Union national addresses became the norm in India under Modi. Unlike the exasperating silence of Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, it’s quite clear that we will hear from Prime Minister Modi often and directly, whether via social media or on television.
Given the emphasis on effective communication as well as the clear break from the abrasiveness and aggression of the election campaign, the otherwise articulate prime minister’s silence on some issues has certainly been perplexing. In recent days, the twitter-friendly prime minister has shared many things with us — Nawaz Sharif’s gift for his mother, the prime minister’s meeting with all secretaries, his views on World Environment Day and World No Tobacco Day, his condolences for Gopinath Munde and his congratulations to Sumitra Mahajan. Of course this is welcome; we like having a vocal, talkative prime minister.
But this has also been a time for both shock and horror, as gut-wrenching news has come in from two different states — Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. First, the two young Dalit sisters, still in their teens, gang-raped and then strangulated by hanging them from a mango tree — a tree that has come to symbolise not shelter, but shame. A murder that was facilitated by sexual violence, caste bias, police complicity and the lawlessness that has come to be typical of UP under Akhilesh Yadav. It’s true and utterly tragic that the Badaun horror has not led to the kind of mass protests that turned out to be a political game-changer in the aftermath of the December 16 gang-rape two years ago. But just because class biases tend to steer our collective outrage (or the absence of it) should not mean that we should not hear from our prime minister on this. Remember how we pilloried Manmohan Singh for his silence and attacked Rahul Gandhi for his absence back then after the Delhi rape? Yes, the primary responsibility for Badaun is that of the government of Uttar Pradesh and Akhilesh Yadav’s brazen defiance has dented his already collapsing frame. Yet, since the PM has made talking to us a key characteristic of his political persona, we would have expected him to offer us his opinion, his anger, or his assurances on the gruesome murder and rape of these two young girls.
What’s happened in Pune is in some ways even more spine-chilling. Morphed online photographs of Bal Thackeray and Chhatrapati Shivaji resulted in communal friction and street protests in the city. Soon after, Mohsin Mohammed Sadique Shaikh — a computer engineer still in his twenties and in no ways connected to the circulation of these photographs — was beaten to death for being Muslim. His friend, Riyaz, said they were returning from offering prayers at the local mosque when Mohsin was singled out and targeted because he was wearing a skull cap.

Police say the suspects behind this brutality — Mohsin was thrashed with sticks — are members of an ultra-Right-wing group called the Hindu Rashtra Sena. Its supporters have since been accused of exchanging congratulatory text messages about the murder of this young man, describing it as the successful falling of a ‘first wicket’. The same group was also seen to be behind the assassination of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar.
Maharashtra is governed by a Congress-NCP government and its role as well that of the Pune Police will come under fierce scrutiny. But unjustifiable comments were also attributed to the Pune MP, Anil Shirole from the BJP who is quoted as saying “what happened on Facebook was very painful. Some amount of repercussion was natural.” Later Shirole insisted he’d been misunderstood; he said the repercussion he meant was the protest and damage to public property, not the murderous assault.
But as we confront the shame of the Pune murder — every such assault is an affront to our pluralism — we would have certainly expected the prime minister to make an unequivocal public condemnation of Mohsin’s murder. Modi has always argued that the Constitution is his “holy book” and that law is equal for all faiths. Mohsin’s murder is the one moment, where a communicative PM cannot and must not remain either silent or ambiguous.
- See more at: http://www.hindustantimes.com/comment/barkhadutt/leave-no-room-for-ambiguity/article1-1226826.aspx#sthash.s8sgqOGg.dpuf

PM Modi accepts Barack Obama's invite, off to US in September
New Delhi, June 05
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has accepted an invitation from US President Barack Obama to have bilateral discussions in Washington in September, potentially opening a new chapter in a sometimes edgy relationship between the world’s two biggest democracies.As White House gears up to do business with a man it struck off its visa list, there are mixed feelings about Narendra Modi. (Agencies) Government sources in Delhi said that the United States has offered September 30 as the date for the meeting, and the Indian side has asked for it to be advanced to September 26, around the time of Modi’s maiden address at the United Nations General Assembly. S Jaishankar, the Indian ambassador to the United States, is flying to New Delhi on June 8 for consultations with South Block and the prime minister’s office (PMO), and will brief Modi on the relationship and how to take it forward. The meeting between Modi and Obama will mean that the US view on the Indian PM has come full circle from the time it imposed a visa ban on him in 2005 in connection with the Gujarat riots three years earlier. The process of rapprochement started in February, when its recently retired ambassador to India, Nancy Powell, went to Ahmedabad to meet Modi, then a PM candidate.http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/popup/2014/6/05_06_14-metro1.gif It also comes after an especially difficult period in the relationship, sparked by the arrest and humiliation of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade in New York over allegations of visa fraud, and a particularly sharp retaliation by the Indian side.But there could be a meeting of minds on economic ties: Modi has spoken often of the need to make India’s diplomacy trade-focused, and wants big ticket investments from mega corporations like GE, IBM and Microsoft.The US companies, while broadly enthusiastic about India, have turned skittish of late due to stalled economic reforms, slow growth, and issues over tax, intellectual property and preferential market access. With Modi’s entry into the PMO, the Indian embassy in Washington has started serious diplomatic efforts to lure investment. For their part, some US defence contractors are keen to sell military hardware to the world’s biggest arms importer.“All pending bilateral issues will be discussed in the one-day meeting as Modi is keen to push the relationship forward for its economic returns for India,” said a senior South Block official.Substantive sticking points are the Indian nuclear liability law that makes it difficult for US firms to build nuclear reactors in India, and the waning US support for India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group, Missile Technology Control Regimes and other export regimes.

Lok Sabha adjourned on opening day after tributes to Munde
New Delhi, June 04
The 16th Lok Sabha was on Wednesday adjourned till Thursday soon after paying tribute to Union cabinet minister Gopinath Munde, who died after a road accident on Tuesday.Earlier, Congress' Kamal Nath, the senior-most member of the House, took oath as pro tem speaker at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.Till a regular speaker is elected, a pro tem speaker administers oath to a new House and conducts the proceedings.Nath will preside over the proceedings of the House till the election of the speaker on June 6.Nath was administered oath by President Pranab Mukherjee at Rashtrapati Bhavan.Read: Munde's body brought home to Beed for last rites Immediately after the House assembled, Lok Sabha secretary general P Sreedharan read out the notification constituting the 16th Lok Sabha. The House took up the obituary reference to Munde, which was moved by Nath.
After observing a two-minute silence as a mark of respect to the departed member, the House was adjourned for the day.As per the earlier schedule, newly-elected members were to be administered oath on Wednesday and on June 5.The House could sit late on May 5 and would continue the exercise of oath taking by members till the afternoon of June 6, parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu told reporters on Tuesday. According to reports, Sumitra Mahajan, an eight-time BJP member of Parliament from Indore, is set to take over as the next speaker of Lok Sabha. Mahajan will be only the second woman speaker ever after Meira Kumar, who presided over the House for the last five years. On June 9, President Mukherjee will address the joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament, laying down the roadmap of the new government. The discussion on the Motion of Thanks will take place on June 10 and 11 before the session is adjourned sine die.

Union minister Gopinath Munde dead after car crash in New Delhi
New Delhi, June 03
Union rural development minister Gopinath Munde died on Tuesday in a hospital in New Delhi after meeting with a road accident.

Gopinath Munde recently took oath as a Union minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Cabinet. He died in a car accident early Tuesday morning. (AFP Photo)
Munde was on his way to the airport when his car met with an accident at 6.30am in the Moti Bagh area of the capital.

"When Munde was brought to the emergency, there was no spontaneous bleeding, no cardiac activity, no pulse," said a doctor at the Jai Prakash Narayan Apex Trauma Center of AIIMS.
Munde was brought to the hospital by his personal assistant and driver, the doctor said.

Munde, who had collapsed in the car after the accident, was declared dead at 7.20am by the doctors at the trauma centre after 50 minutes of trying to resuscitate him.
His post-mortem will begin shortly and his body will be handed over to his relatives after that, the doctor told reporters.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his condolences to Munde's family and hailed him as a "true leader".

 

K Chandrashekhar Rao takes oath as first CM of Telangana; Modi assures support

New Delhi, June 02, 2014

Nine other cabinet ministers who took oath of office are Mohammed Mahmood Ali, T Rajaiah, Nayani Narasimha Reddy, Eatela Rajender, Pocharam Srinivasa Reddy, T Padma Rao, P Mahender Reddy, Jogu Ramanna and G Jagadish Reddy. New Delhi, June 02, 2014

Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the formation of Telangana and promised complete central support to help take the state to newer heights of progress. He congratulated Rao on becoming the first CM of the 29th state and expressed best wishes to its people.

"India gets a new state! We welcome Telangana as our 29th state. Telangana will add strength to our development journey in the coming years," he tweeted. "My best wishes to people for the state's development journey," the Prime Minister said. Rao will now head to the Parade Grounds for more inaugural celebrations. He is likely to assume office at 1pm which will be followed by the state's first cabinet meeting. KCR will reportedly expand his cabinet towards the end of the month.


 

UP rape shame: Outrage after Dalit cousins' hanging, another victim's mother thrashed

New Delhi, 30th May 2014

As outrage spread over the horrific gangrape and hanging of two Dalit cousins in Badaun, Uttar Pradeshgovernment sacked two constables in connection with the crime and informed Union home ministry that the guilty will be punished. The sacking of the constables, Chhatrapal Yadav and Sarvesh Yadav, came three days after the girls were gang-raped and their bodies were found hanging from a tree.

Superintendent of police Atul Kumar Saxena said one more accused, Awadhesh Yadav, has been arrested by the police. of the seven wanted in the case, the three who have been arrested so far include policeman Sarvesh Yadav and brothers Pappu Yadav and Awadhesh Yadav. Four others, Urvesh Yadav (brother of Pappu and Awadhesh), Chhatrapal, and two unidentified persons are at large. The two girls, who were cousins and aged 14 and 15, went missing from their house on the night of May 27 and their bodies were found hanging from a mango tree in the village in Ushait area the next morning. The incident had triggered protests in the area with villagers alleging police apathy, following which an FIR was registered against seven persons. The postmortem report of the two girls confirmed that they were raped before murder, Saxena had said. Sarvesh and Chhatrpal have been booked under section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of IPC, while the three brothers --Pappu, Awadhesh and Urvesh-- and two others have been booked under section 302 (murder) and 376 (rape) of IPC. Meanwhile, Basant Yadav, charged with savagely assaulting the mother of a rape victim with the intention of coercing her into withdrawing the rape complaint was arrested from Ferozabad four days after the crime following a massive public outcry. The raped girl's family alleges the police were under tremendous political pressure to let Basant off. Two other accused, Yadav's son Mudesh Yadav and Rahul Pandit continue to remain at large.Basant's son Sunny Yadav, the key accused in the rape complaint is in jail. He had allegedly raped the girl on May 11 in village Gaurapura, a settlement close to Civil Lines, where several members of Mulayam's family live. Two weeks later, Basant and two others attacked the girl's mother when she refused to withdraw the FIR she had lodged with Civil Lines police station. The assault was brutal and she suffered grievous injuries and multiple fractures in hand. "Mother and daughter, both are in a state of shock. Anyone will be at this brazen display of might," said brother of victim. Senior superintendent of police (Etawah) Dinesh P said the police acted tough and arrested Sunny within hours of the crime. While the state was reeling under the ignominy of the horrific double rape, a teenage Dalit girl was allegedly gang-raped by four persons in Saraimeer area of Azamgarh, SP supremo's Lok Sabha seat. The incident took place last night when four men allegedly caught the 17-year-old girl here and gang-raped her in a nearby field, they said. The accused have been identified as Mukesh, Arvind, Vikram and Durgesh. Police said all four accused fled the spot after the crime. An FIR has been lodged in this connection and the hunt is on to nab the four accused, they said. Akhilesh Yadav-led government came under sharp criticism from former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati for the spurt in rape cases, saying the "increasing lawlessness" was a matter of concern. Citing the gangrape and murder of two minor Dalit girls in Badaun, she termed the state of affairs in UP as "jungle raj". She also demanded a CBI inquiry into the crime, while accusing the UP government of not handling the matter seriously. She called for imposing President's rule in the state.

PM Narendra Modi to unveil top 10 policy priorities, says aide
New Delhi, May 29
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to unveil his top 10 policy priorities on Thursday, seeking to unblock an investment logjam and setting deadlines for action in order to revive the economy.

A top aide flagged the action points ahead of a cabinet meeting at which Modi will begin the task of meeting the aspirations of voters who handed his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) the strongest electoral mandate in India in 30 years.

"The entire machinery will be geared up to fulfil the mandate of the new leader," Nripendra Misra, newly named as principal private secretary in the Prime Minister's Office, told The Hindu in an interview.

Misra said that Modi's policy priorities will "necessarily have to be implemented in a time-bound manner". They would focus on overcoming delays to major infrastructure projects and addressing why India has become a coal importer, he added.

Reuters reported exclusively last week that Modi was considering restructuring Coal India, the state-controlled mining behemoth, in a bid to halt a decline in output.

The Prime Minister's Office is expected to become a powerful centre of policy making under Modi, who has named loyalists such as Arun Jaitley to key posts like finance but whose cabinet team lacks strength in depth.

Modi was due to chair a cabinet meeting at 11am on Thursday, his office said, with a briefing to follow afterwards.

Congress attacks Smriti Irani over qualification, govt says unfortunate
New Delhi, May 27
The government on Tuesday described as "unfortunate" the Congress swipe over human resource development minister Smriti Irani's educational qualification and said the opposition should focus on its own affairs.

Briefing media after the first cabinet meeting of the new government, law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad contended that Irani, an actor-turned-politician, had been given the portfolio by Modi on the basis of her "capabilities".

"The way Smriti speaks, both in Hindi and English... The Prime Minister has given her the portfolio (of HRD) on the basis of her capabilities," said Prasad, who also holds the portfolio of telecommunication and IT.

The issue of Smriti Irani's educational qualifications was raked up by Congress leader Ajay Maken.

"What a Cabinet of Modi? HRD Minister (looking after education) Smriti Irani is not even a graduate! Look at her affidavit at ECI site pg 11," he tweeted, wondering how could someone who has not even clearly mentioned her educational qualification be made in charge of HRD.

In her affidavit submitted to the Election Commission, Irani has stated her last education as "Bachelor of Commerce Part-1, School of Open Learning (Correspondence), University of Delhi-1994".

Irani's biodata at the Rajya Sabha website states "Educated at Holy Child Auxilium, Delhi and School of Correspondence and Continuing Education, University of Delhi, Delhi."

To the Congress' embarrassment, ally National Conference leader and Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted, "To say that someone needs to be educated to be HRD Min is like saying one needs to be a pilot for Civil Aviation or a miner for Coal Min."

 

SIT formed to unearth black money – Narendra Modi Cabinet's first decision

NEW DELHI,27 May 2014. In its first decision after taking charge, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government on Tuesday announced the formation of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe black money, mostly stashed abroad. 
The decision was taken in the first meeting of the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Modi. 
Addressing a media conference after the Cabinet meeting law and telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the SIT will have retired Supreme Court judge MB Shah as its head. 
"It is a matter of great satisfaction that we have constituted a SIT to bring back black money as per Supreme Court orders," Prasad said. 
Secretary revenue, deputy governor of the Reserve Bank of India, director of the Intelligence Bureau, director of the Enforcement Directorate, director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), chairman of the Central Board of Direct Taxes and director of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) will be among the members. "The highest level of financial, revenue and economic management of the country are members of the SIT. This indicates the commitment of the new government of India," said the minister. 
"We are committed to fighting black money," he added.  Although there is no official figure, various estimates put the quantum of black money upto $1.4 trillion. 
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in a report in 2011, had estimated India's black economy to be between $500 billion to $1.4 trillion. BJP was the main opposition party at that time. The US-based thinktank Global Financial Integrity has pegged the illicit money outflow from India to the tune of $462 billion. 
The black money refers to the money that is earned and transferred illegally abroad in tax havens like Cayman Islands and Mauritius, generally to avoid tax. Nearly a third of black money transactions are believed to be in real estate. Manufacturing and gold and consumer goods purchases are the other major areas of black money transactions.

PM Narendra Modi announces portfolios; to meet Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif'
New Delhi, May 27
Prime Minister Narendra Modi begins his first day in office with an announcement of the cabinet portfolios and a series of bilateral meetings with South Asian leaders who witnessed his swearing-in on Monday.
A combination picture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his council of ministers taking oath at the swearing-in ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi. PTI Photo
He is expected to hold landmark talks with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif

The new cabinet portfolios were announced as he assumed his first day at work. Here's a list:

PM Narendra Modi: Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Department of Atomic Energy, Department of Space, All important policy issues and all other portfolios not allocated to any Minister

Here is what team Modi looks like:

Rajnath Singh - Home Minister
Arun Jaitley - Finance, Corporate Affairs and Defence
Sushma Swaraj - Ministry of External Affairs
Venkaiah Naidu - Urban Development, Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, Parliamentary Affairs
Nitin Jairam Gadkari - Road Transport and Highways, Shipping
DV Sadananda Gowda - Railways
Uma Bharti - Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation
Najma A. Heptulla - Minority Affairs
Gopinathrao Munde - Rural Development, Panchayati Raj, Drinking Water and Sanitation
Ramvilas Paswan - Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution
Kalraj Mishra - Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises
Maneka Sanjay Gandhi - Women and Child Development
Ananthkumar - Chemicals and Fertilizers
Ravi Shankar Prasad - Communications and Information Technology, Law and Justice
Ashok Gajapathi Raju Pusapati - Civil Aviation
Shri Anant Geete - Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises
Harsimrat Kaur Badal - Food Processing Industries
Narendra Singh Tomar - Mines, Steel, Labour and Employment
Jual Oram - Tribal Affairs
Radha Mohan Singh - Agriculture
Thaawar Chand Gehlot - Social Justice and Empowerment
Smriti Zubin Irani - Human Resource Development
Harsh Vardhan - Health and Family Welfare

Ministers of State

Gen VK Singh - Development of North Eastern Region (Independent Charge), External Affairs, Overseas Indian Affairs
Inderjit Singh Rao - Planning (Independent Charge), Statistics and Programme Implementation (Independent Charge), Defence
Santosh Kumar Gangwar - Textiles (Independent Charge), Parliamentary Affairs, Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation
Shripad Yesso Naik - Culture (Independent Charge), Tourism (Independent Charge)
Dharmendra Pradhan - Petroleum and Natural Gas (Independent Charge)
Sarbananda Sonowal - Skill Development, Entrepreneurship, Youth Affairs and Sports (Independent Charge)
Prakash Javadekar - Information and Broadcasting (Independent Charge), Environment, Forest and Climate Change (Independent Charge), Parliamentary Affairs
Piyush Goyal - Power (Independent Charge), Coal (Independent Charge), New and Renewable Energy (Independent Charge)
Jitendra Singh - Science and Technology (Independent Charge), Earth Sciences (Independent Charge), Prime Minister Office, Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, Department of Atomic Energy, Department of Space
Nirmala Sitharaman - Commerce and Industry (Independent Charge), Finance, Corporate Affairs
GM Siddeshwara - Civil Aviation
Manoj Sinha - Railways
Nihal Chand - Chemicals and Fertilizers
Upendra Kushwaha - Rural Development, Panchayati Raj, Drinking Water and Sanitation
Radhakrishnan P - Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises
Kiren Rijiju - Home Affairs
Krishan Pal - Road Transport and Highways, Shipping
Sanjeev Kumar Balyan - Agriculture, Food Processing Industries
Mansukhbhai Dhanjibhai Vasava - Tribal Affairs
Raosaheb Dadarao Danve - Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution
Vishnu Deo Sai - Mines, Steel, Labour and Employment
Sudarshan Bhagat - Social Justice and Empowerment

 

UP train accident: 40 feared dead as Gorakhdham Express rams into goods train

LUCKNOW, 26 May 2014 .

40 people are now feared dead in the Gorakhdham Express train accident as Gorakhpur-bound train rammed into a goods train at Chureb station between Basti and Gorakhpur in UP on Monday morning. Nearly 100 people have been hurt in the accident.
However, railway officials did not confirm the number of dead and injured.
As per initial reports, both the trains came on the single track due to signal error. Three general coaches of Gorakhdham Express were badly crushed while six others were derailed.
Locals were the first to rush for rescue operations. Earlier the district administration said that 30 people had died in the accident. 
"People are saying this based on their own assessment. There are lot of people inside the coaches who need to be rescued first," said CPRO, Ner, Alok Kumar Singh.
Officials in the Railway Board said the mishap occurred due to derailment of the express train.
They said six coaches of the train then rammed into a stationary goods train standing on the adjoining track at the station.
Out of the six coaches, four were general coaches and two were AC coach — AC first class and AC two tier.

NaMo's biggest party to break records
New Delhi, May 25
Rashtrapati Bhavan will see it's highest-ever turnout which includes eight heads of state, almost 150 envoys with their retinue and personal guests of both the President and the new Prime Minister. The sitting arrangements in the Rashtrapati Bhavan forecourt have been made for 4,000 guests.

Prior to this oath-taking event, the largest gathering had been for former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's swearing-in ceremony in 1999 of about 1200 guests.

In a first, almost 150 heads of foreign missions based in New Delhi have been invited. "Most of them have confirmed their presence for the function," an official added.

While request for passes, mostly by the BJP leaders, are pouring in routinely at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, PM-designate Modi has invited at least 17 governors for the event, among other guests. All of them have confirmed their presence.

Around 20 seats have been reserved for Modi's personal guests like his family members and friends. They will sit along with President Pranab Mukherjee's personal guests.

All parliamentarians have been invited and, Congress sources said that both its president Sonia Gandhi and deputy Rahul Gandhi will attend the ceremony.

Outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will also come. Singh will also be present during the dinner that President will host for the eight heads of states on Monday evening.

Modi's 'right' shift
Modi enjoyed a pleasant break from the Rashtrapati Bhavan protocol recently when he called on Mukherjee. He was invited to sit on the chair on the right side of the President's designated seat which is exclusive to Prime Minister, vice-president and former Presidents, although he is yet to take over as the PM. "On all earlier occasions, Modi occupied sat on the sofa at left side of President. He was the first guest who shifted from left to right," quipped an official.

Officials, however, added that protocols often stem from precedents and long-standing practices rather than solid reasons.

US ready for high-level interactions with Narendra Modi
Washington , May 23
The United States on Thursday said it was ready for high-level interactions with prime minister-elect Narendra Modi, but it will wait to hear from his government on the logistics.
The US does not want to “impose an architecture or a time-table” on the new government. “We will be waiting to hear from them,” said US assistant secretary of state Nisha Biswal.
The Gujarat-born state department’s senior-most official for India, and South and Central Asia, was speaking to DC reporters working for Indian news organizations.
Her boss, secretary of state John Kerry, is keen to visit India “soon” to meet Modi and re-extend President Barack Obama’s invitation to him to visit the US.
The annual strategic dialogue between the two countries, held alternately in their respective capitals, could have afforded Kerry that chance if the dialogue was happening in Delhi.
It’s DC’s turn to host it this year.
But the US was open to considering changes in the timetable and structure of the dialogue to facilitate that meeting, if that was the earliest meeting possible with Modi.
Would the US like the dialogue to be hosted by Delhi?
“There are a lot of different possibilities that can be discussed,” Biswal said, not rejecting it outright. She added that it’s best for her to wait until her counterparts were in place in India.
But, she stressed, “we are open, we are very open”.
Not in the least to counter the perception that the US was too late to end its boycott of Modi — some have suggested the visa ban on him should have gone a long time ago.
So, since the end of elections in India, the US has tried — through tweets, statements and a phone call from Obama to the PM-designate — to expunge its anti-Modi record.
Modi, then chief minister of Gujarat, was denied a diplomatic official visa in 2005 over his alleged failure to stop the 2002 riots. The US had also cancelled his tourist visa.
Stung, the chief minister never applied for a visa again.
As prime minister, Modi will require a different category of visa— A-1 — which he should have no trouble getting with an outstanding invitation from the US president.
But the US is nervous about Modi.
And not just the White House. A number of US lawmakers, therefore, had themselves paraded at an event on Capitol Hill on Thursday in support of the new government.
Ed Royce, Republican chairman of the powerful House foreign relations committee, recalled meeting Modi after the 2002 earthquake and being impressed by his response.
The US, with all of its different wings, wants to work with Modi. And it is willing to wait for his government to get through the transitional pains before engaging it vigorously.
But don’t expect it go easy on recent trade tensions. Those “vexing” issues will continue, Biswal said, adding, the US has its worst such problems with Canada and EU, its closest allies.

- See more at: http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/us-ready-for-high-level-interactions-with-narendra-modi/article1-1221989.aspx#sthash.iGnv3CIW.dpuf

Modi gesture yet to be reciprocated by Pakistan, no word on Sharif's presence
New Delhi, May 22
As Narendra Modi extended an olive branch to Pakistan by inviting Prime minister Nawaz Sharif to his oath-taking ceremony in New Delhi on May 26, there is still no word from Islamabad about his presence.

A combo photo of Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif (L) and prime minister-designate Narendra Modi (R). (Photo courtesy: Agencies)
News channel CNN-IBN quoted unnamed sources in the Pakistan Foreign Office saying that no decision has been taken yet on whether Sharif will attend Modi's swearing-in ceremony.

If Sharif were to attend the ceremony in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhawan it will be the first in the history of both the countries.

Sharif was among the first leaders to call Modi and formally invite him to visit Pakistan soon after the BJP emerged as the clear winner in the Lok Sabha elections.

With the invitation, Modi has signaled the primacy of neighbourhood in his foreign policy that is focused on regional integration and peace in India’s backyard.

With this move Modi has also created a chance for his government to start afresh in soothing India’s fraying relations with its immediate neighbour.

The BJP has advocated a tough stance on Pakistan and Modi is seen as an uncompromising hardliner on issues of national security.

But his huge election victory also gives him the political capital to reach out to difficult neighbours, including Pakistan, in a way his predecessor Manmohan Singh could not.

After his own election last year, Sharif's administration had also suggested that Singh be invited to attend the ceremony, but the Indian Prime Minister had declined.

Sharif is known to have faced resistance from hardliners at home, notably within the armed forces, over his more dovish stance toward India.

The gesture to invite Sharif was welcomed by Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah on Wednesday.

“Excellent move by @narendramodi to invite SAARC leaders, especially Pak PM for his swearing in. Hope this is beginning of sustained talks,” he wrote on Twitter.

Kashmir has been the trigger for three of the four wars between India and Pakistan since Independence, with both the countries claiming sovereignty over it.

Ties with Pakistan hit a low following the 2008 Mumbai attacks and a four-year-old peace dialogue which resumed after a 2004 visit to Pakistan by then BJP prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee were put on hold.

The ties between the two countries had received a boost when the then Pakistan PM Yousuf Raza Gilani accepted Singh's invitation to watch the India versus Pakistan World Cup semifinal match on March 30 in Mohali.

The dialogue that had resumed in February 2011 stalled again following the beheading of Indian soldiers in Kashmir along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.

India is also upset with the fact that Pakistan hasn't taken steps yet to normalise trade ties, despite promising to do so.

Modi has also extended invitations to other heads of governments of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries and world leaders for his oath-taking ceremony.

Modi will be administered the oath of office by President Pranab Mukherjee in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan at 6pm on May 26.

Thailand army declares martial law
20 May

Jonathan Head reports from Bangkok on the surprise announcement
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Thailand turmoil The Thai army says that it is imposing martial law amid a political crisis "to preserve law and order". The surprise announcement also granted the army wide-ranging powers to enforce its decision. The military insisted that its assumption of responsibility for national security was not a coup. Martial law comes amid a long-running political crisis, and months of escalating tensions between the government and the opposition. Correspondents say the move could enrage supporters of the government, especially if it is seen as amounting to a coup. The army has staged at least 11 coups since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932. 'No need to panic' Roads in the capital, Bangkok, have been blocked off by tanks. The military has taken over TV and radio stations, and ordered media censorship in the interests of "national security".Soldiers have also moved into the main government building, which has been unoccupied following months of violent demonstrations by opponents who want to be rid of an administration they say is corrupt.

Both pro and anti-government protesters have been told not to march anywhere in order to prevent clashes.

Thai soldiers take their positions in the middle of a main intersection in Bangkok"s shopping district
The military said it was taking the dramatic step in the interests of law and order
Thai anti-government protesters wave national flags as they rally at parliament in Bangkok (May 2014)
The move came after six months of anti-government demonstrations aimed at ousting the government
Pro-government red shirt supporters react to a speech during a large rally on the outskirts of the Thai capital
Red shirt supporters of deposed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra have warned of the threat of civil war if power is handed to an unelected leader, as demanded by the opposition
Thai soldiers stand in front of the National Broadcasting Services of Thailand television station in Bangkok
The BBC's Jonathan Head in Bangkok says the sight of troops on the streets is now likely to be much more commonplace
Continue reading the main story
Thailand's troubles

Sep 2006: Army ousts Thaksin Shinawatra
Dec 2007: Pro-Thaksin party wins election
Aug 2008: Thaksin flees Thailand
Dec 2008: Huge anti-Thaksin protests; court bans ruling party; Abhisit Vejjajiva comes to power
Mar-May 2010: Huge pro-Thaksin protests; more than 90 killed over 10-week period
Jul 2011: Yingluck Shinawatra elected PM
Nov 2013: Anti-government protests
Feb 2014: Snap election held, but protesters disrupt polls; court rules polls invalid
May 2014: PM ordered to step down
May 2014: Army announces martial law
An announcement on military-run TV said martial law had been imposed "to restore peace and order for people from all sides".

"The public do not need to panic but can still live their lives as normal," it said.

The military statement was signed by army chief Prayuth Chan-Ocha, citing a 1914 law that allows it to intervene during times of crisis.

The chief security advisor to the interim prime minister said the government had not been consulted about the army's decision, but says it remains in office.

"Everything is normal except the military is responsible for all national security issues," said Paradorn Pattanatabut.

An army spokesman also insisted the imposition of martial law would have no impact on the caretaker government.

Power struggle
The BBC's Jonathan Head, in Bangkok, reports that the army's move - which it claims is to stop "ill-intentioned groups from using war weapons" - has come as a surprise.

He says the military has made it clear that it is in charge of security, and the sight of troops on the streets is now likely to be much more commonplace.

Pedestrians stroll past armed Thai soldiers guarding outside the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (20 May 2014)
The army has staged at least 11 coups since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra (7 May 2014)
Critics of Ms Yingluck, seen here in Bangkok, say her exiled brother still controls the government
Observers say the deadlock in south-east Asia's second-largest economy has got worse since Ms Yingluck dissolved the lower house of parliament in December, and a court ordered her removal earlier this month for abuse of power.

On Monday, acting Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan insisted his government would not resign, resisting pressure from anti-government protesters.

Thailand has faced a power struggle since Ms Yingluck's brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, was ousted by the military as prime minister in a coup in 2006.

Anti-government protests began in the Thai capital late last year, with demonstrators blockading several parts of the city.

In response, Ms Yingluck called a snap general election in February that her party was widely expected to win. But protesters disrupted the polls and the election was later annulled.

Why Modi must not go for the kill against Nitish
May 18, 2014In the context of India's current political narrative, Nitish isn't an ordinary character. If there is one politician cast in the role of Modi's exact opposite, it is Nitish. Like Arjuna and Karna—two warriors tied to their loyalties—they were the arch enemies of this epic battle. Like Sherlock Holmes and James Moriarty (not to say who is who), they were each other's nemesis in the game of shadowy politics e represented skull-cap as the emblem of India's inclusive politics; the other rejected it as an exclusive mark of its pseudo secular past. One was ridiculed for failing to perform Raj Dharma when riots broke out in his backyard; the other was pilloried for getting frozen when bombs went off at the other's rally in his state capital.

One represented Gujarati asmita and its development model, the other championed Bihar's achievements and its pride as the better alterantive.

The two Ns were not just different personalities; they were different ideologies, economies and development models.

Now that Nitish lies vanquished on the poll turf, his Bihari pride destroyed, skull-cap metaphor rejected and development model discarded, Modi has the political license to go for the kill. But should he?

Everybody expects—and that is why Nitish has resigned-- Modi to encourage defections and resignations to make the Nitish government fall. But should he?

Modi doesn't need to extract revenge from Nitish for being 'stabbed in the back', as he bellowed at his Hunkar Rally, by thrusting the dagger deeper into his enemy's already broken heart. The voters have already done that for him. Now it is time to heal, not hurt.

As the world waits for him, as his fans silently chant 'kill him, kill him', Modi should seek to forgive and forget. Not only should he discourage defections and resignations, he should ensure that Nitish lasts the full term.

Consider the advantages. In one stroke he would prove his critics wrong, assuage the fears of his foes, impress the minorities and heal the Biharis—who have been divided like never before because of a divisive campaign. By dealing with Nitish the way Sikander (Alexander) had treated another vanquished king Porus, he can prove that his '56-inch' claim is indeed a metaphor for his large heart.

Moral high ground apart, Modi can gain a lot politically. Let us not forget Nitish is a popular chief minister. Pre-poll surveys had come up with extremely high approval ratings for his government. It can be argued that there are many in Bihar who want Modi as PM and Nitish as CM. By not disturbing Nitish, Modi can help those torn between the two the pain of another bitter election.

His resignation will make Nitish a martyr. Some may turn against the BJP for engineering his fall and causing instability. The exigency of an impending election and the lessons from the humiliation of the recent election may unite him and Lalu, a move that has already been initiated by Sharad Yadav.

Modi should let the Nitish government run its full course. By turning his arch enemy into an enduring symbol of his magnanimity, Modi may lose Bihar in the short run. But he will win over India for ages.

 

Narendra Modi: The man who made his own luck, all the way
May 17
The ultimate outsider has been knocking at the doors of Lutyens’ Delhi for months now. On Friday, the people’s verdict came through loud and clear: Let him in. As triumphs go, a one-time tea seller winning the right to rule India is bigger than most. But Narendra Modi’s life has always been about squeezing out improbable victories, big and small.
Narendra Modi greets his supporters after addressing a public meeting in Vadodara. (Reuters)
He may be a relative stranger to Delhi, but it was from here that he pulled off an earlier, defining triumph. It was 2001, and Modi was the RSS pointsman in the BJP, living in one room next to the party headquarters in Ashoka Road, a far cry from the luxury of the Race Course Road bungalow now set to be his home. A devastating earthquake struck Gujarat in the early hours of January 26. When the magnitude of the disaster became apparent, Modi, keen to get there before Gujarat CM Keshubhai Patel, got on the phone to a tycoon.“He said ‘you provide me your aircraft for one day only. I want to be the first to reach there tomorrow morning.’ I arranged the aircraft for him and he flew in early in the morning. When Keshubhai learnt that Modi was already in Bhuj, he was furious and told his bureaucrats that this man would now make his life miserable,” the businessman, who wishes not to be identified, said. Keshubhai was right. Within a few months of the earthquake, which killed 20,000, Modi and his supporters hit out against the CM’s “failure to carry out proper relief and rehabilitation works” and by October, the BJP high command had replaced Keshubhai with Modi. As CM, he empowered bureaucrats and dealt directly with them. Many who know him describe him as a rapt listener, who will give you his entire attention. He is also an adept gatherer of information. “He uses multiple sources of information and that is also his strength because he knows in detail about individuals he is meeting or events,” a RSS leader in Ahmedabad said, adding, “Modi realised information is power very early in life and used information to advance his career.”
It had been a long journey from the dusty by-lanes of small-town Vadnagar, through the well-chronicled tea stall and RSS years. The manically hard-working but rough RSS pracharak turned into a high-flying CM with a fondness for glitzy watches and designer clothes. But the trappings of office did little to blunt his killer instinct. Talk of Modi as PM was first mooted by industrialists in 2009. But it was when he was campaigning for his third term as CM in 2012 that it became clear he wanted the PM’s job. He won Gujarat again, and the state became one giant platform for a national bid. Mentor LK Advani was ruthlessly sidelined, and others not in his camp sullenly made way. The stars did align themselves nicely, but Modi made his own luck so effectively that his rise to India’s top job had an eerie sense of inevitability about it. His victory suggests that the ghosts of 2002 are consigned to an uneasy burial, for now. Some sort of reconciliation would be in order, setting apart Modi the PM from Modi the CM. Whether that happens or not, it’s already clear that the new occupant of 7, RCR has at least three attributes that his predecessor Manmohan Singh lacked. He is his own man, he is a sharp political strategist and he is an ace communicator. That India’s new prime minister will make his presence felt is not in doubt.

 

 

 

 

LS polls live: Amid violence, West Bengal rocks the vote with 56% turnout at 1pm; Bihar 38%

West Bengal. May 12, 2014 .

Bengal, however, continued to put up strong numbers much like the previous rounds of polling. The turnout at 1pm stood at 56%. By 1pm Bihar had recorded 37.86% voting for 6 seats. Uttar Pradesh witnessed relatively slower polling. Varanasi turnout stood at 35% at 1pm.Violence was reported from Bengal when at least four villagers received bullet injuries in Haora in Basirhat constituency when several people, allegedly Trinamool Congress supporters, attacked a group of people as they were going to cast their vote. Over 506 million people — more than the combined population of the US, Germany, Canada and the UK — have exercised their franchise in 502 constituencies where polling has already been held in eight phases. With the summer elections registering a voter turnout of 66.21% so far, all eyes are on whether the Indian electorate can surpass the record of 64% established in 1984 elections held shortly after Indira Gandhi's assassination. In the ninth phase, 600 candidates are in the fray in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. Nearly 66 million voters are expected to seal their electoral fortunes.Of the 41 seats where polling is underway, the Trinamool Congress (Bengal's ruling party) had won 14 seats in 2009, followed by six each by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Samajwadi Party (UP's ruling party), five by the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and four by the Congress. The spotlight in this round is on Varanasi, where BJP's prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi will take on Aam Aadmi Party's (AAP's) Arvind Kejriwal and Congress' Ajay Rai.Altogether 42 candidates are in the fray for the Varanasi parliamentary seat which has 1.7 million registered voters. Over 45,000 security personnel have been deployed in the constituency to ensure free and fair polls. Central paramilitary forces have been deployed at all the 1,562 polling stations which are also under CCTV coverage. The high-voltage campaigning in the temple town was marked by Modi's mega road show during his nomination filing, Kejriwal's public meetings, clashes between AAP volunteers and alleged BJP workers as well as a rally by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. The district administration's denial of permission for a Modi rally in a sensitive area of Varanasi had triggered a political storm recently, with the BJP accusing the election commission of being partial and the poll watchdog refuting the allegations in rare press conference.  Modi fighting the poll battle in Varanasi is strategically important for the BJP, which hopes to put up a good show in Poorvanchal comprising eastern UP and parts of Bihar. In 2009, the Samajwadi Party (SP) had won six of the 18 UP seats going to polls on Monday. The BSP had won five seats, the BJP four and the Congress three. Considering the importance of the region, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav has decided to contest from Azamgarh. Other prominent leaders in the last phase are Union minister Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury (Behrampur- West Bengal), BJP leader Jagdambika Pal (Domariyaganj), Union minister RPN Singh (Kushi Nagar— both UP) and former minister and RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh (Vaishali-Bihar). In Bihar, six seats are up for grabs. Of them, the BJP and the ruling Janata Dal (United) — which was then an ally of the saffron party — had won two each, while Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) had bagged a solitary seat five years ago. One seat had gone to an independent candidate. The Congress-RJD alliance is hoping for a comeback by scoring over Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar's JD(U), which had parted ways with the BJP last year.Seventeen seats go to polls in Bengal as well. The last phase of polling is a key test for the ruling Trinamool, which had won 14 of these seats.With the BJP trying to find a foothold in Bengal, chief minister Mamata Banerjee and Modi featured in heated verbal duels in the campaigning phase. The Left Front, which was ousted by the Trinamool in 2011 after its 34-year rule, is hoping for a turnaround.

 

Varanasi turns into fortress for the blockbuster poll battle on May 12
None May 11
The temple town has turned into a fortress with over 45,000 security personnel being deployed to ensure free and fair polls tomorrow in the city where two of most talked about politicians -- BJP's Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal of Aam Aadmi Party -- are locked in a high-stake contest.

A sadhu or holy man wears a hat used by supporters of chief minister of Gujarat and main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi as he walks on a ghat in Varanasi. (AFP Photo)
Top police officers of Uttar Pradesh have personally come down to the city to assess the security situation and make foolproof arrangements for what is being dubbed as the blockbuster battle of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, with the Election Commission too already appointing a Special Observer.

Gun-toting security personnel could be seen in almost every part of the city as well as in rural areas and police said there should not be any apprehension about any irregularities including rigging and booth capturing during the polls.

Prakash D, Inspector General of Police (Varanasi Division), said "adequate" number of security personnel from state police, BSF, Rapid Action Force and CRPF have been deployed besides all possible measures to ensure free and fair polls in the high-profile constituency.

Central paramilitary forces have been deployed at all the 1,562 polling stations which are also under CCTV coverage.

The police have conducted raids and precautionary checks in various areas in the last two days besides keeping a strong vigil in localities identified as "sensitive".

The administration has already asked all those who were involved in campaigning but do not belong to the city to leave Varanasi.

There have been searches by police at hotels, guest houses and dharmasalas to flush out "outsiders" who are not from Varanasi and were involved in campaigning.

Areas around ghats along Ganges are also being sanitised while vigil has been increased in certain minority dominated areas.

"We have made elaborate security arrangements. Adequate number of forces have been deployed and we are confident that polling in Varanasi will be peaceful and without any irregularities.

"I am satisfied with the security preparedness," Prakash told PTI.

Vehicles are also being checked to ensure that money and liquor are not being used to influence voters.

Top officials in the police and civil administration have held a number of meetings in the last couple of days to plug any loopholes in the election process.

Police have also been told to keep an eye on local criminals.

Varanasi's District Magistrate and Returning Officer Pranjal Yadav has personally been visiting various areas to have first-hand assessment of the ground situation.

BJP had launched a major offensive against Yadav and even demanded his removal after he refused permission to Modi to hold a rally at Muslim-dominated Beniabagh locality on Thursday.

However, a number of senior officials said it did not affect his morale and he was working hard to have a "successful" election.

The party had expressed concern whether free and fair polls will be possible in the sacred city but Prakash said there was no basis for such apprehensions.

"We are determined to ensure free and fair polls and there is no ground for such apprehensions," he said.

The Aam Aadmi Party yesterday had announced that it deployed 250 spy cameras across the city to keep a tab on BJP workers, alleging that the saffron party may try to influence voters by offering money and liquor considering huge support for AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal.

Sale of liquor has been banned since yesterday and it will remain so till the end of polling.

The city witnessed a high-voltage campaign in the last three days with Kejriwal, Rahul Gandhi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav holding impressive roadshows to woo the voters.

 

EU mango ban: Onus on Indian exporters, says UK

London, May 10, 2014

Britain has said it will push to lift the European Union’s ban on Indian mangoes and somevegetables if there was a clear message from India that export procedures had improved to ensure that consignments were free of pests and insects.
 Responding to a debate on the ban in the House of Commons on Thursday evening, Dan Rogerson, minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said it was up to exporters in India to improve their processes and meet the criteria for export to the EU.
 He said: “Clearly the key action resides with the exporters, in their ability to demonstrate that what they are exporting meets the criteria that we need to have confidence in. As soon as we have a clear message that things are improving, I and my ministerial colleagues will be happy to press the European Union to have an early re-inspection so that we can get the ban overturned”.
 Rogerson added: “Despite…the Indian authorities’ recognition of the problems and their undertaking to address them, the number of pests found in produce imports continued to rise during 2013. There have been 20 interceptions of pests in Indian produce coming into the UK in 2014 alone”.
Moved by senior Labour MP Keith Vaz, the debate saw MPs across the political spectrum expressing concern over an issue that has adversely affected exporters in India as well as importers in Britain, which is the largest importer of Indian mangoes in the EU.
Vaz said he met Indian agriculture minister Sharad Pawar on Wednesday, and had then been informed by his ministry of the steps India had taken. Commerce minister Anand Sharma had also written to the EU, stating that the ban was “surprising”, Vaz said.
 “The United Kingdom is the mango’s true home in the EU as we are the largest importer of the fruit. In 2013 we consumed well over 56,000 tonnes of mangoes, 4,800 tonnes of which came from India. That is 12 million mangoes, which is equivalent in weight to 800 elephants”, Vaz said.

 

DU admissions likely to start on Tuesday, but some questions still remain
New Delhi, June 28
Admissions to Delhi University are likely to finally kick off on Tuesday with colleges expected to come out with the first cut-off list late Monday evening, sources said.
Delhi University Student and ABVP members hold a celebration march at Delhi Arts Faculty. (HT Photo) DU vice-chancellor, Dinesh Singh issued a statement on Friday confirming that the university will revert to the three-year undergraduate programme, and start the admission process soon.Colleges are now finding a way to go back to the old system, a process which shouldn't take long since the background work has been done for the past week."We have already redistributed seats according to the 2012 formula. The cut-offs to won't be a big problem as we have been working on them since the UGC wrote to us directly, asking to revert to the three-year system," said Pradyumn Kumar, officiating principal, Hindu College.Read: DU gives in, scraps FYUP; admissions to begin

DU has set-up a 12 member committee of college principals to discuss the modalities of admission and monitor the process. The committee will also decide if existing applications are valid or some other method to admit students will have to be employed.

"The university can finally start admissions, though there are some key issues to address before we do that. This will take a couple of days to figure out," said a principal.

The biggest issue that is facing the university as of now is the reintroduction of the BA and BCom programmes as well as BSc physical sciences and life sciences courses that were scrapped under the FYUP.

The university invited applications for courses under the FYUP scheme. This did not include the previously mentioned courses. The conundrum, therefore, is if the same applications can be used for the three-year course that will be implemented again now.

According to university officials, this could create problems for the university as many who did not apply this year could say that they did not do so because the scrapped courses were not there in the application forms.

Read: FYUP gone but need to overhaul education system, say teachers

"This is a big danger and using those forms could create more problems for the university, which it certainly cannot afford at this time," said a college teacher who has been handling admissions for the past 10 years.

The university cannot call for new applications either as it will take an additional 20 days. The admission was supposed to start on June 24 and has already been drastically delayed. The university has said that it is committed to conducting admissions as soon as possible.

The only solution then, it seems, is to announce cut-offs based on previous years' experience and the school board results and then admit all those who meet the benchmark. The university followed this

 

14 killed in blast at GAIL pipeline in Andhra Pradesh
Prasad Nichenametla, June 27
The incident occurred around 6 am when many of the villagers were still sleeping. The dead were mostly people living in the huts in the coconut groves through which the gas pipeline passes. The bodies are charred beyond recognition. The impact of the blast could be seen in the flames that leapt over 200 metres in the air. Most of the village took the impact and people ran to safety in horror. Half a dozen fire engines were rushed to the spot to control the fire. The injured were rushed to the hospitals in Kakinada, the district headquarters.Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed grief over the incident."My thoughts with the families of those who lost their lives in the GAIL Pipeline fire in AP. Prayers with the injured," he tweeted.Andhra Pradesh home minister N Chinarajappa rushed to the spot. Naidu who is in Delhi expressed shock over the incident. Naidu along with the union petroleum minister are leaving from Delhi to visit the site.The incident lead to angry reactions from the villagers, who blamed the GAIL authorities as not taking enough precautions to avoid such incidents
.

 

 

Five Killed After Rajdhani Express Derails in Bihar; Sabotage, Say Some Officials

25 June 2014, Chapra.

A passenger train headed from New Delhi to Assam derailed early this morning in Bihar, killing four people.
Initially, officials said an explosion on the tracks may have caused the accident, which left 12 carriages of the Rajdhani Express toppled over near the Chapra station. (See pics)
"Prima facie, it appears to be a case of sabotage," Railway Board chairman Arunendra Kumar told the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency. "There was a blast on the track, which could have caused the derailment."
Maoist rebels had earlier called for a strike in the area to protest against the security forces.
But Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda said there was no confirmation about what caused the derailment.
"As far as the Rajdhani Express is concerned, we practically don't have much news about the cause of derailment (but) of course there was a bandh (shutdown) call given by Maoists," he told reporters.
A senior police officer, Superintendent Sudhir Kumar, said that a thorough investigation had been ordered into the incident, adding that a "technical fault" could also have been the cause.
If confirmed as an attack by the Maoists, it would be the first by the insurgents since Prime MinisterNarendra Modi's government took office last month.
Bihar leader Lalu Yadav, a former railway minister, alleged negligence by railway officials. He said a pilot train should have sanitised the tracks before the passenger train passed the Maoist-affected area but the rule was not followed in this case.

Cancel Hike in Train Fares, Government is Urged by Its Own MPs

24 June 2014, New Delhi

A day before train journeys start costing substantially more, the government is being asked to withdraw the hike in fares by its own lawmakers from Maharashtra, where assembly elections are expected in October.
A group of MPs from the BJP and the Shiv Sena met Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda this morning to stress the impact that the new fares will have on lakhs of commuters in Mumbai, whose daily routine is navigated by the local trains which will cost twice as much starting tomorrow. Some 75 lakh commuters travel on these trains each day.
"The Railways Minister assured us that feelings of Mumbaikars will be considered," said the BJP's Kirit Somaiya after the meeting. 
The Shiv Sena is the BJP's oldest ally and has been unsparing in its criticism of the 14.2% hike in train fares announced last Friday. Yesterday, it compared the hike to "a train being run over the common man".
For 15 years, the BJP and Sena have been consigned to the role of the opposition in Maharashtra. But in the recent national election, the alliance won 41 of the state's 48 seats, suggesting that a window has opened for wresting power from the coalition of the Congress and Sharad Pawar's NCP which has governed the state since 1999.
Costlier train rides could stymie the BJP-Sena's comeback by alienating voters just when they seem to be ready for a change, the parties' representatives have informed top leaders.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and other BJP leaders have defended the hike as necessary; they say the previous UPA government backtracked on a plan to increase fares just before the national election, leaving the unpopular decision to Narendra Modi's new administration. (Rail Fare Hike Difficult But Correct Decision, Says Finance Minister Arun Jaitley)
The Indian Railways, one of the world's largest rail networks, is desperate for funds after years of low investment and populist policies to subsidise fares.

 

At One-Month Mark, PM Gives His Team Three Focus Areas

23 June 2014,New Delhi.

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi's new government completes its first month in office this week,  the PM's Office has identified three target areas for immediate attention and action.
Apart from prodding the economy out of its slow crawl, the PM wants special attention to be paid on improving the relations between the Centre and state governments, addressing public complaints and grievances, and giving the armed forces vital equipment that has been long-delayed.
The PM has already issued clear instructions to bureaucrats asking them to reduce delays, cut red tape and ensure greater accountability and efficiency. Now he has asked the team of bureaucrats in his office to monitor that complaints listed on social media accounts and websites of government departments must be handled urgently if they relate to problems with flights (state-run airlines or private or both), train tickets and journeys, telecom, banking, health and pensions.
A special cell has been formed in the Prime Minister's Office to monitor how quickly these complaints are resolved.
Through his campaign, the PM had vowed that if he were elected, he would respect and promote the federal structure of governance by improving the ties between the Centre and the governments of the country's 29 states.
Determined to improve upon the previous government's record in this area, the PM has ordered that any request from a state government for the Centre's attention or assistance that is three months old must be taken up immediately. Civil servants in his office have been asked to meet representatives from each state in turn. The cycle of meetings will be repeated every three months, sources said.
In response to repeated alerts from the armed forces about outdated and inadequate equipment, the PM has held a series of consultations with Defence Minister Arun Jaitley and the chiefs of the army, air force and navy.  They have been asked to list in order of priority which weapons they need; a plan that outlines how to best use funds to modernize the armed forces has also been ordered.
To improve morale, a plan to build a national war memorial in the capital near the majestic India Gate has been revived.
 In a significant development, the Prime Minister has also decided to directly meet service chiefs once every month they can directly brief him on security concerns, if any. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh rarely met service chiefs alone.

ISIS militants may use Indian hostages as human shields, reveals escaped worker
New Delhi, June 22
ISIS militants may use the remaining 39 Indian hostages as human shields in case of a military offensive by Iraqi or US authorities, the only person among the group to flee the captors has told government officials.
While there is little information on the other captives, in its conversations with Harjit Singh, now in the safe custody of Kurdish authorities in Erbil, the government has concluded that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant may use the Indians as their first line of defence, an official told HT on Saturday.

Iraqi Red Crescent Society, a humanitarian agency, told this paper that it “shares the assessment.’’

Read: Stranded Indians safe, assures govt
Singh was among 40 Indian construction workers snatched by the ISIS men from their place of work in Mosul in northern Iraq on June 15.
HT was first to report, on June 20, that an Indian worker had managed to flee and was in the town of Erbil, 100km west of Mosul. Erbil is in northeast Iraq where Kurds have expanded their zone in what they regard as part of Kurdistan.

Read: Iraq militia parades as insurgents seize crossing
Singh told Indian and Kurdish officials that he managed to melt into a group of Bangladeshis and ‘’jumped over a barbed-wire fence’’ to flee. He and others were used as porters and cooks by their captors, Singh told Baghdad-based Indian embassy officials.
“The abductees are being used as porters to carry weapons,’’ a government official said.
The al Qaeda-inspired Sunni militia seen to be working towards an Islamic emirate that straddles Syria and Iraq now controls swathes of territory in northwest and central Iraq, including cities of Mosul and Tikrit, the home town of former dictator Saddam Hussein.

Read: Indian workers in Iraq share their plight
Singh, who used the phone of one of his Bangladeshi friends to contact the Indian embassy, was sharing information with Iraqi authorities looking for insights into the workings of the jihadi group, said sources.
Indian side, too, is in touch with him but a government official told HT that ‘’all of Singh’s account is not matching the version of the Bangladeshis with whom he travelled to Erbil”. “Singh appears to be traumatised and keeps saying ‘get me out of here’.”
The government continues to work with different organisations and countries in a bid to rescue the hostages but the task is complicated because ISIS, according to a government official, “keeps changing the location of the kidnapped Indians’’. The group is believed to be in or around Mosul, which adds to the problem, as ISIS controls the area.
- See more at: http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/iraqonthebrink/isis-may-use-39-indian-hostages-as-human-shields-fears-govt/article1-1232180.aspx#sthash.XD3al2vz.dpuf

 

 

 

Need to dispel the perception that only English speakers are intelligent: BJP

New Delhi, 20 June 2014.

Adding fuel to the ongoing 'linguistic war', Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Friday said that a person who speaks Hindi was considered illiterate while the English speaking populace was considered elite.
In a tweet written in Hindi, Naqvi cited that the Hindi needed to be promoted as it was increasing being perceived that only the English speaking were the intelligent lot.
The Home Ministry had stirred a hornet's nest with its directives to political leaders to use Hindi language in their social media interactions. DMK chief K Karunanidhi was the first to object asking if non-Hindi speakers would now be treated as second class citizens in the country.
While the Home Ministry said that Hindi being the national language needed to be promoted, Naqvi argued that there was a need to dispel the perception that only English-speakers in the country were intelligent.
Minister of State, Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju said that the whole controversy of Hindi's promotion was unwanted and asserted that the step was not being taken at the cost of regional languages.
"We haven't issued any directive that Hindi should be the dominating language over other languages. It's not imposition of Hindi, we want every language to get due importance. I had a review meeting on Hindi sent an internal message to the system," said Rijiju.
In an e&clusive interview to CNN-IBN, Naqvi said that even as government aimed at promoting Hindi, it never wanted to attack other languages.
He added that the government's initiative to promote Hindi would act as a confidence booster for the Hindi speaking people.

Location of Kidnapped Indians in Iraq Known: Foreign Ministry

New Delhi, 19 June 2014

 The Iraqi government has identified the location of 40 Indians kidnapped near the captured city of Mosul, the foreign ministry said today.
"The Iraqi foreign ministry has told us they have found the location of the workers," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said.
Asked whether they were safe, he said, "There is no safety in captivity. Safety is in places where people are welcome. As regards their location, we have an understanding but given that the matter is underway, we won't be able to share the location or what the Iraqis have shared." 
 Many of the Indians are from Punjab and worked for Baghdad-based construction company Tariq Noor al-Huda. No ransom demand had been made yet, the government reiterated today.
Earlier, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said "all efforts are underway" to rescue the kidnapped Indians.
"We are doing all that a government should do. I am personally supervising the efforts. I will leave no stone unturned in keeping our countrymen safe," she told reporters.
About 100 Indian workers are trapped in areas overrun by the Al Qaeda-inspired insurgent group ISIS, including Mosul, Iraq's second largest city. 
Their relatives in Punjab feared that their return would be difficult as their passports had been taken away by their employers.
Mr Akbaruddin said, "Documentation is not an issue in the return and repatriation of any Indian national. Documentation can be sent by fax, other means."
ISIS fighters who aim to establish a Muslim caliphate across the Iraqi-Syrian frontier launched their revolt against the Iraqi government by seizing Mosul and have seized large swathes of northern Iraq while advancing towards Baghdad.
India has sent a senior diplomat to help in repatriation efforts.

Stopped for speeding, cabbie mows down Delhi traffic cop
New Delhi, June 15
A 24-year-old traffic constable died after he was run over and dragged several metres by an errant cabbie he had pulled up for speeding in northwest Delhi on Saturday night. Raman Kumar, who was driving the white Ritz that mowed down constable Manna Ram, has been arrested. Two other occupants of the car, both minors, have also been apprehended.Constable Ram was manning a busy traffic diversion at Zakhira intersection near Moti nagar with a colleague when Raman Kumar’s Ritz came racing straight at them at around 7.30pm Saturday. “The driver applied the brakes suddenly at the barricade and insisted that he be allowed to go straight through despite the diversion. This led to a heated argument between him and Ram,” said Muktesh Chander, special commissioner of police (traffic). Kumar, a resident of Shastri Nagar, then reportedly reversed his car and raced ahead, breaking the barricades. In his attempt to stop Kumar, Ram jumped on to the car, holding on to the windshield wipers. But Kumar refused to slow down and the constable, who had joined the force just four years ago, was flung to the ground and came under the wheels.He is suspected to have died instantly but was dragged on for close to 150 metres before he fell by the wayside, lifeless.
Incidents of road rage are notoriously routine on Delhi’s roads with people losing their lives over the most petty squabbles. “Such incidents depict the kind of callous attitude people have not only towards the law but also towards their own safety as well as that of others,” Chander said. ccording to police records, 10 traffic personnel have been killed in the past five years while manning the traffic diversion at the intersection near Liberty cinema.Ram was the sole breadwinner for his family of six. He leaves behind a wife and infant son, parents and a sister.

On first trip abroad, PM Modi reaches destination Bhutan
Thimphu, June 15
Prime Minister Narendra Modi began on Sunday his first visit abroad since taking office as he arrived in Bhutan to launch a drive to reassert Indian influence in the region, offering financial and technical help and the lure of a huge market.

The tiny Buddhist nation, wedged in the Himalayas between India and China, is the closest India has to an ally in South Asia, a region of bristling rivalry where China is making inroads.

While India has been struggling recently with policy paralysis and a slowing economy, China has been building ports in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and in its "all-weather ally" Pakistan. China overtook India as the biggest foreign investor in Nepal in the first six months of this year.

Modi's Hindu nationalist party has vowed to end the neglect of neighbours and in an unprecedented gesture, he invited all regional leaders to his inauguration last month.

On Sunday, Modi will lay the foundation of a 600 MW hydroelectric power station in Bhutan and inaugurate a parliament building constructed by India.

"Bhutan and India share a very special relationship that has stood the test of time," Modi said before his departure for Bhutan's capital, Thimphu, which is nestled in mountains and was for centuries closed to outsiders.

"Thus, Bhutan was a natural choice for my first visit abroad."

In the longer term, Modi's government aims to make India the dominant foreign investor across South Asia as well as the main provider of infrastructure loans, in the same way China has done in much of the rest of Asia and in Africa.

Consolidating ties with difficult neighbours like Pakistan and Bangladesh could reduce poverty and transform regional security relationships, Indian officials say.

"Although India would like to have a greater say in South Asian matters beyond trade, so far we have not been able to exercise substantial political clout," said PD Rai, a member of parliament from the Sikkim, which shares a border with Bhutan.

 

 

 

 

Preity Zinta files molestation case against ex-boyfriend Ness Wadia
New Delhi, June 14
Actor Preity Zinta registered a case of molestation against former boyfriend and industrialist Ness Wadia in Mumbai late on Thursday night.
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Deputy commissioner of police, zone I, Ravindra Shisve confirmed the filing of the complaint to HT.
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In her complaint, the actor alleged that Wadia not only outraged her modesty but also abused and threatened her.
In her statement to the police, Zinta said the incident happened during the IPL qualifier for the final between Kings XI Punjab and Chennai Super Kings at the Wankhede Stadium on May 30.
She stated that during the match, while in the Garware Pavilion, Wadia came up to her, grabbed her by the hand and started using abusive words in front of other spectators.
Zinta and Wadia are co-owners of the IPL team Kings XI Punjab.
The actor, however, registered a complaint only on Thursday night.
A case under sections 354, 504 and 506 (assault on a woman, intentional insult and criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code has been registered.
The police said they were in the process of locating witnesses and would also be calling Wadia to record his statement.
The actor and the industrialist ended a five-year relationship in 2011. In an interview to a film magazine, Zinta had once said, “I walked out of my relationship with Ness Wadia.”

Lt General Suhag's Appointment as Army Chief is Final, Says Government

New Delhi,11 June 2014

 The government faces the ignominy of a minister - former army chief General VK Singh - tweeting against the Army Chief-designate, linking him of supporting "dacoity" by an army unit that once worked under him.

General Singh's tweets were raised in Parliament today by other parties with the Congress demanding his removal.  "The appointment is final," stressed Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, adding that the post of the army chief "must be kept out of controversy."
 
Lieutenant General Dalbir Singh Suhag is scheduled to take over as the Indian army's top man at the end of August.  While he was army chief, General VK Singh had tried to block his promotion, and he has recently defended his actions. 
 
The appointment  of the next army chief was one of the last major decisions cleared by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government before it was trounced in the election by the BJP.
 
Defence Minister Jaitley says the appointment was rushed by a lameduck government but has since supported the move to make Lt General Suhag the next army chief.
 
But the issue is now riddled with controversy.  In addition to General VK Singh's public criticism, senior officer Lt Gen Ravi Dastane's case against Lt Gen Dalbir Suhag (first filed in 2012) has reached the Supreme Court. In the petition, Gen Dastane has said that Lt General Suhag's selection as the new army chief smacks of "favouritism."  
 
Refuting that stand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has told the court that the action taken against Lt General Suhag by General VK Singh was "illegal" and incorrect  - an opinion based on the  conclusion reached by an extensive internal army inquiry.  The Congress says that the government's comments, expressed in writing, amount to a "vote of no confidence" in General Singh who must now resign as minister. 
 
But sources in the government say that the tenor and slant of its affidavit in the Supreme Court has to follow the line taken by the earlier UPA government in the armed forces tribunal where Gen Dastane had first filed his case since the litigation is a personal matter of the individual officer
  
Yesterday, General VK Singh, who is now a minister of state in government, tweeted in reference to the man whose promotion he is opposing-   "If unit kills innocents, does dacoity and then head of organization tries to protect them, should he not be blamed? Criminals should go free!!" 
 
In May 2012, just before he retired as army chief,  General Singh took disciplinary action against  Lt General Suhag for a botched intelligence operation under his command in the north-east General Singh tried unsuccessfully to block the promotion of Lt Genal Suhag as Eastern Army Commander, a move that placed the latter in line for the post of army chief. 

Terrorist attack near Karachi airport; security forces camp under fire
Karachi, June 10
A security checkpost outside Pakistan's Karachi airport was attacked by some unidentified gunmen on Tuesday, an official spokesman said, a day after an all-night siege by the Taliban left 37 dead. "Gunmen are exchanging fire with Airport Security Force (ASF) personnel at a checkpost guarding the airport," an ASF spokesman said.TV footage showed paramilitary vehicles and ambulances racing to the scene of the attack.
"We have suspended all flight operations at Karachi airport and we are evacuating passengers," said Mashud Tajwar, a spokesman for Pakistan International Airlines.Ghulam Abbas Memon, a spokesman for the Airport Security Force, says gunmen tried to enter the facility from two different entrances on Tuesday but the security forces were fighting them back.- See more at: http://www.hindustantimes.com/world- ews/another-attack-at-pakistan-s-karachi-airport-by-gunmen/article1-1227943.aspx#sthash.fsEV15zO.dpuf

Greatest challenge is to end curse of poverty, says President Pranab Mukherjee
New Delhi, June 09
President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday addressed a joint session of Parliament and said the greatest challenge before the new government is to end the curse of poverty in India. The President listed the priorities of the NDA government which include ushering the economy on the path of fast and all-round growth besides tackling price rise and inflation. "My government will function with the mantra of 'Minimum Government, Maximum Governance'," the President said. He was speaking in the Central Hall of Parliament. The President added containing food inflation will be the topmost priority of the government. "We will not settle for only poverty alleviation, we are aiming for poverty elimination," said Mukherjee. Both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha will have separate sittings 30 minutes after the conclusion of the address and the secretaries general of both the Houses will table a copy of the speech. The Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha will hold a discussion on the Motion of Thanks on the President's address on Tuesday and Wednesday according to the provisional list of business in the Houses. On behalf of the ruling party, while BJP vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi will initiate the discussion in Rajya Sabha, party general secretary Rajiv Pratap Rudy will do so in Lok Sabha.

India and China hold first major talks since Modi's win
New Delhi, June 08
China's foreign minister begins a two-day visit to India on Sunday for the first high-level talks between the world's two most populous nations since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge.

Wang Yi is coming to New Delhi as a special envoy of Chinese President Xi Jinping to "establish contact with the new government of India", the foreign ministry said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been making overtures to traditional rivals China and Pakistan since his party - the Bharatiya Janata Party - swept to power last smonth.

Modi has invited Xi to visit later this year.

Wang is coming "to engage with our leadership and we will take it from there", foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin told a news briefing last week.

"We would be in a listening mode to engage and see."

Read: The great folly of China – A lesson for India

The Chinese foreign minister is set to meet Indian government officials, including his new Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj and President Pranab Mukherjee. He is slated to see Modi on Monday.

Foreign policy expert Ranjit Gupta told AFP the visit was a "good augury".

"China has gone all out to woo the new Indian government, which is a great gesture," Gupta, a member of the Indian Security Advisory Council of the US-India Institute, a Washington-based think-tank, said.

"India and China are emerging global powers and with better relations, India will hopefully resume its growth path and reclaim its position in Asia."

Trade and suspicion
China is India's biggest trading partner, with two-way commerce totalling close to $70 billion. But India's trade deficit with China has soared to over $40 billion from just $1 billion in 2001-02, Indian figures show.

Experts say Modi must bridge the deficit by seeking greater access to the Chinese market, with the two sides targeting annual bilateral trade of $100 billion by 2015.

"The deficit is a huge embarrassment that keeps growing," said Gupta.

But, despite the strong trade ties, relations are still dogged by mutual suspicion -- a legacy of a brief, bloody border war in 1962 over the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, nestled in the eastern stretch of the Himalayas that China claims as its own.

Modi warned China to shed its "expansionist mindset" at an election rally earlier this year. China hit back, saying it "never waged a war of aggression to occupy any inch of land of other countries".

The nuclear-armed nations, both with one-billion-plus populations, are expected to focus on economic ties and border issues during Wang's visit, following a territorial flare-up in April 2013.

India accused Chinese troops of intruding nearly 20 kilometres (12 miles) into Indian-claimed territory, triggering a three-week standoff that was resolved when forces from both sides pulled back.

The border between China and India has never been formally demarcated, although they have signed accords to maintain peace.

Read: India's defence budget is one-third of China's, says US

Meanwhile Tibet's government-in-exile, based in India, has pinned its hopes on Modi's government to speak up for Tibetans during Wang's visit.

"This is in the interest of India as well because Tibet, as a buffer zone between India and China, has served the interests of all neighbouring countries," exiled Tibetan premier Lobsang Sangay told AFP.

The government-in-exile launched a renewed push this week for greater autonomy from Beijing, which has ruled the Himalayan territory since 1951.

But China last week dismissed any possibility of discussions on Tibet, calling Sangay an "out-and-out separatist".

India hosts the world's largest Tibetan exile population after offering refuge to the Dalai Lama. The spiritual leader fled across the Himalayas to India after a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule.

PM’s silence on some issues has certainly been perplexing
New Delhi June 07
Even if he has earned the ire and suspicion of his own colleagues, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor is right in arguing that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has, so far, been distinctly different from Modi the principal challenger in a bitterly fought election. In fact since the moment of his resounding victory he has made a distinct and swift shift in both language and approach. This columnist has argued that the new prime minister is all set to use the element of surprise as a key weapon in his armoury. His first set of decisions (whether it was inviting Saarc heads of government, including Pakistan, to his swearing-in, tweeting personal congratulations to political adversaries to indicate that his days of abrasiveness are consigned to the past or spending his first afternoon in office at the residence of former PM Manmohan Singh) have taken aback both his staunchest advocates and fiercest opponents. Having re-written the rules of politics, with a presidential campaign centred on his own personality, as prime minister, Modi can be expected to recast his own image. That process has already begun.

Some aspects of his campaign however will spill over into his governance style as well, primarily the understanding that in an age of hyper-information, communication is power. That the prime minister’s new website was up and running a few seconds after he was formally sworn-in was an early indication that this is a regime that will focus on getting its messaging right. This will also be a Prime Minister who converses directly with the citizenry. I wouldn’t be surprised if American style State of the Union national addresses became the norm in India under Modi. Unlike the exasperating silence of Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, it’s quite clear that we will hear from Prime Minister Modi often and directly, whether via social media or on television.
Given the emphasis on effective communication as well as the clear break from the abrasiveness and aggression of the election campaign, the otherwise articulate prime minister’s silence on some issues has certainly been perplexing. In recent days, the twitter-friendly prime minister has shared many things with us — Nawaz Sharif’s gift for his mother, the prime minister’s meeting with all secretaries, his views on World Environment Day and World No Tobacco Day, his condolences for Gopinath Munde and his congratulations to Sumitra Mahajan. Of course this is welcome; we like having a vocal, talkative prime minister.
But this has also been a time for both shock and horror, as gut-wrenching news has come in from two different states — Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. First, the two young Dalit sisters, still in their teens, gang-raped and then strangulated by hanging them from a mango tree — a tree that has come to symbolise not shelter, but shame. A murder that was facilitated by sexual violence, caste bias, police complicity and the lawlessness that has come to be typical of UP under Akhilesh Yadav. It’s true and utterly tragic that the Badaun horror has not led to the kind of mass protests that turned out to be a political game-changer in the aftermath of the December 16 gang-rape two years ago. But just because class biases tend to steer our collective outrage (or the absence of it) should not mean that we should not hear from our prime minister on this. Remember how we pilloried Manmohan Singh for his silence and attacked Rahul Gandhi for his absence back then after the Delhi rape? Yes, the primary responsibility for Badaun is that of the government of Uttar Pradesh and Akhilesh Yadav’s brazen defiance has dented his already collapsing frame. Yet, since the PM has made talking to us a key characteristic of his political persona, we would have expected him to offer us his opinion, his anger, or his assurances on the gruesome murder and rape of these two young girls.
What’s happened in Pune is in some ways even more spine-chilling. Morphed online photographs of Bal Thackeray and Chhatrapati Shivaji resulted in communal friction and street protests in the city. Soon after, Mohsin Mohammed Sadique Shaikh — a computer engineer still in his twenties and in no ways connected to the circulation of these photographs — was beaten to death for being Muslim. His friend, Riyaz, said they were returning from offering prayers at the local mosque when Mohsin was singled out and targeted because he was wearing a skull cap.

Police say the suspects behind this brutality — Mohsin was thrashed with sticks — are members of an ultra-Right-wing group called the Hindu Rashtra Sena. Its supporters have since been accused of exchanging congratulatory text messages about the murder of this young man, describing it as the successful falling of a ‘first wicket’. The same group was also seen to be behind the assassination of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar.
Maharashtra is governed by a Congress-NCP government and its role as well that of the Pune Police will come under fierce scrutiny. But unjustifiable comments were also attributed to the Pune MP, Anil Shirole from the BJP who is quoted as saying “what happened on Facebook was very painful. Some amount of repercussion was natural.” Later Shirole insisted he’d been misunderstood; he said the repercussion he meant was the protest and damage to public property, not the murderous assault.
But as we confront the shame of the Pune murder — every such assault is an affront to our pluralism — we would have certainly expected the prime minister to make an unequivocal public condemnation of Mohsin’s murder. Modi has always argued that the Constitution is his “holy book” and that law is equal for all faiths. Mohsin’s murder is the one moment, where a communicative PM cannot and must not remain either silent or ambiguous.
- See more at: http://www.hindustantimes.com/comment/barkhadutt/leave-no-room-for-ambiguity/article1-1226826.aspx#sthash.s8sgqOGg.dpuf

PM Modi accepts Barack Obama's invite, off to US in September
New Delhi, June 05
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has accepted an invitation from US President Barack Obama to have bilateral discussions in Washington in September, potentially opening a new chapter in a sometimes edgy relationship between the world’s two biggest democracies.As White House gears up to do business with a man it struck off its visa list, there are mixed feelings about Narendra Modi. (Agencies) Government sources in Delhi said that the United States has offered September 30 as the date for the meeting, and the Indian side has asked for it to be advanced to September 26, around the time of Modi’s maiden address at the United Nations General Assembly. S Jaishankar, the Indian ambassador to the United States, is flying to New Delhi on June 8 for consultations with South Block and the prime minister’s office (PMO), and will brief Modi on the relationship and how to take it forward. The meeting between Modi and Obama will mean that the US view on the Indian PM has come full circle from the time it imposed a visa ban on him in 2005 in connection with the Gujarat riots three years earlier. The process of rapprochement started in February, when its recently retired ambassador to India, Nancy Powell, went to Ahmedabad to meet Modi, then a PM candidate.http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/popup/2014/6/05_06_14-metro1.gif It also comes after an especially difficult period in the relationship, sparked by the arrest and humiliation of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade in New York over allegations of visa fraud, and a particularly sharp retaliation by the Indian side.But there could be a meeting of minds on economic ties: Modi has spoken often of the need to make India’s diplomacy trade-focused, and wants big ticket investments from mega corporations like GE, IBM and Microsoft.The US companies, while broadly enthusiastic about India, have turned skittish of late due to stalled economic reforms, slow growth, and issues over tax, intellectual property and preferential market access. With Modi’s entry into the PMO, the Indian embassy in Washington has started serious diplomatic efforts to lure investment. For their part, some US defence contractors are keen to sell military hardware to the world’s biggest arms importer.“All pending bilateral issues will be discussed in the one-day meeting as Modi is keen to push the relationship forward for its economic returns for India,” said a senior South Block official.Substantive sticking points are the Indian nuclear liability law that makes it difficult for US firms to build nuclear reactors in India, and the waning US support for India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group, Missile Technology Control Regimes and other export regimes.

Lok Sabha adjourned on opening day after tributes to Munde
New Delhi, June 04
The 16th Lok Sabha was on Wednesday adjourned till Thursday soon after paying tribute to Union cabinet minister Gopinath Munde, who died after a road accident on Tuesday.Earlier, Congress' Kamal Nath, the senior-most member of the House, took oath as pro tem speaker at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.Till a regular speaker is elected, a pro tem speaker administers oath to a new House and conducts the proceedings.Nath will preside over the proceedings of the House till the election of the speaker on June 6.Nath was administered oath by President Pranab Mukherjee at Rashtrapati Bhavan.Read: Munde's body brought home to Beed for last rites Immediately after the House assembled, Lok Sabha secretary general P Sreedharan read out the notification constituting the 16th Lok Sabha. The House took up the obituary reference to Munde, which was moved by Nath.
After observing a two-minute silence as a mark of respect to the departed member, the House was adjourned for the day.As per the earlier schedule, newly-elected members were to be administered oath on Wednesday and on June 5.The House could sit late on May 5 and would continue the exercise of oath taking by members till the afternoon of June 6, parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu told reporters on Tuesday. According to reports, Sumitra Mahajan, an eight-time BJP member of Parliament from Indore, is set to take over as the next speaker of Lok Sabha. Mahajan will be only the second woman speaker ever after Meira Kumar, who presided over the House for the last five years. On June 9, President Mukherjee will address the joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament, laying down the roadmap of the new government. The discussion on the Motion of Thanks will take place on June 10 and 11 before the session is adjourned sine die.

Union minister Gopinath Munde dead after car crash in New Delhi
New Delhi, June 03
Union rural development minister Gopinath Munde died on Tuesday in a hospital in New Delhi after meeting with a road accident.

Gopinath Munde recently took oath as a Union minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Cabinet. He died in a car accident early Tuesday morning. (AFP Photo)
Munde was on his way to the airport when his car met with an accident at 6.30am in the Moti Bagh area of the capital.

"When Munde was brought to the emergency, there was no spontaneous bleeding, no cardiac activity, no pulse," said a doctor at the Jai Prakash Narayan Apex Trauma Center of AIIMS.
Munde was brought to the hospital by his personal assistant and driver, the doctor said.

Munde, who had collapsed in the car after the accident, was declared dead at 7.20am by the doctors at the trauma centre after 50 minutes of trying to resuscitate him.
His post-mortem will begin shortly and his body will be handed over to his relatives after that, the doctor told reporters.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his condolences to Munde's family and hailed him as a "true leader".

 

K Chandrashekhar Rao takes oath as first CM of Telangana; Modi assures support

New Delhi, June 02, 2014

Nine other cabinet ministers who took oath of office are Mohammed Mahmood Ali, T Rajaiah, Nayani Narasimha Reddy, Eatela Rajender, Pocharam Srinivasa Reddy, T Padma Rao, P Mahender Reddy, Jogu Ramanna and G Jagadish Reddy. New Delhi, June 02, 2014

Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the formation of Telangana and promised complete central support to help take the state to newer heights of progress. He congratulated Rao on becoming the first CM of the 29th state and expressed best wishes to its people.

"India gets a new state! We welcome Telangana as our 29th state. Telangana will add strength to our development journey in the coming years," he tweeted. "My best wishes to people for the state's development journey," the Prime Minister said. Rao will now head to the Parade Grounds for more inaugural celebrations. He is likely to assume office at 1pm which will be followed by the state's first cabinet meeting. KCR will reportedly expand his cabinet towards the end of the month.


 

UP rape shame: Outrage after Dalit cousins' hanging, another victim's mother thrashed

New Delhi, 30th May 2014

As outrage spread over the horrific gangrape and hanging of two Dalit cousins in Badaun, Uttar Pradeshgovernment sacked two constables in connection with the crime and informed Union home ministry that the guilty will be punished. The sacking of the constables, Chhatrapal Yadav and Sarvesh Yadav, came three days after the girls were gang-raped and their bodies were found hanging from a tree.

Superintendent of police Atul Kumar Saxena said one more accused, Awadhesh Yadav, has been arrested by the police. of the seven wanted in the case, the three who have been arrested so far include policeman Sarvesh Yadav and brothers Pappu Yadav and Awadhesh Yadav. Four others, Urvesh Yadav (brother of Pappu and Awadhesh), Chhatrapal, and two unidentified persons are at large. The two girls, who were cousins and aged 14 and 15, went missing from their house on the night of May 27 and their bodies were found hanging from a mango tree in the village in Ushait area the next morning. The incident had triggered protests in the area with villagers alleging police apathy, following which an FIR was registered against seven persons. The postmortem report of the two girls confirmed that they were raped before murder, Saxena had said. Sarvesh and Chhatrpal have been booked under section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of IPC, while the three brothers --Pappu, Awadhesh and Urvesh-- and two others have been booked under section 302 (murder) and 376 (rape) of IPC. Meanwhile, Basant Yadav, charged with savagely assaulting the mother of a rape victim with the intention of coercing her into withdrawing the rape complaint was arrested from Ferozabad four days after the crime following a massive public outcry. The raped girl's family alleges the police were under tremendous political pressure to let Basant off. Two other accused, Yadav's son Mudesh Yadav and Rahul Pandit continue to remain at large.Basant's son Sunny Yadav, the key accused in the rape complaint is in jail. He had allegedly raped the girl on May 11 in village Gaurapura, a settlement close to Civil Lines, where several members of Mulayam's family live. Two weeks later, Basant and two others attacked the girl's mother when she refused to withdraw the FIR she had lodged with Civil Lines police station. The assault was brutal and she suffered grievous injuries and multiple fractures in hand. "Mother and daughter, both are in a state of shock. Anyone will be at this brazen display of might," said brother of victim. Senior superintendent of police (Etawah) Dinesh P said the police acted tough and arrested Sunny within hours of the crime. While the state was reeling under the ignominy of the horrific double rape, a teenage Dalit girl was allegedly gang-raped by four persons in Saraimeer area of Azamgarh, SP supremo's Lok Sabha seat. The incident took place last night when four men allegedly caught the 17-year-old girl here and gang-raped her in a nearby field, they said. The accused have been identified as Mukesh, Arvind, Vikram and Durgesh. Police said all four accused fled the spot after the crime. An FIR has been lodged in this connection and the hunt is on to nab the four accused, they said. Akhilesh Yadav-led government came under sharp criticism from former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati for the spurt in rape cases, saying the "increasing lawlessness" was a matter of concern. Citing the gangrape and murder of two minor Dalit girls in Badaun, she termed the state of affairs in UP as "jungle raj". She also demanded a CBI inquiry into the crime, while accusing the UP government of not handling the matter seriously. She called for imposing President's rule in the state.

PM Narendra Modi to unveil top 10 policy priorities, says aide
New Delhi, May 29
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to unveil his top 10 policy priorities on Thursday, seeking to unblock an investment logjam and setting deadlines for action in order to revive the economy.

A top aide flagged the action points ahead of a cabinet meeting at which Modi will begin the task of meeting the aspirations of voters who handed his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) the strongest electoral mandate in India in 30 years.

"The entire machinery will be geared up to fulfil the mandate of the new leader," Nripendra Misra, newly named as principal private secretary in the Prime Minister's Office, told The Hindu in an interview.

Misra said that Modi's policy priorities will "necessarily have to be implemented in a time-bound manner". They would focus on overcoming delays to major infrastructure projects and addressing why India has become a coal importer, he added.

Reuters reported exclusively last week that Modi was considering restructuring Coal India, the state-controlled mining behemoth, in a bid to halt a decline in output.

The Prime Minister's Office is expected to become a powerful centre of policy making under Modi, who has named loyalists such as Arun Jaitley to key posts like finance but whose cabinet team lacks strength in depth.

Modi was due to chair a cabinet meeting at 11am on Thursday, his office said, with a briefing to follow afterwards.

Congress attacks Smriti Irani over qualification, govt says unfortunate
New Delhi, May 27
The government on Tuesday described as "unfortunate" the Congress swipe over human resource development minister Smriti Irani's educational qualification and said the opposition should focus on its own affairs.

Briefing media after the first cabinet meeting of the new government, law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad contended that Irani, an actor-turned-politician, had been given the portfolio by Modi on the basis of her "capabilities".

"The way Smriti speaks, both in Hindi and English... The Prime Minister has given her the portfolio (of HRD) on the basis of her capabilities," said Prasad, who also holds the portfolio of telecommunication and IT.

The issue of Smriti Irani's educational qualifications was raked up by Congress leader Ajay Maken.

"What a Cabinet of Modi? HRD Minister (looking after education) Smriti Irani is not even a graduate! Look at her affidavit at ECI site pg 11," he tweeted, wondering how could someone who has not even clearly mentioned her educational qualification be made in charge of HRD.

In her affidavit submitted to the Election Commission, Irani has stated her last education as "Bachelor of Commerce Part-1, School of Open Learning (Correspondence), University of Delhi-1994".

Irani's biodata at the Rajya Sabha website states "Educated at Holy Child Auxilium, Delhi and School of Correspondence and Continuing Education, University of Delhi, Delhi."

To the Congress' embarrassment, ally National Conference leader and Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted, "To say that someone needs to be educated to be HRD Min is like saying one needs to be a pilot for Civil Aviation or a miner for Coal Min."

 

SIT formed to unearth black money – Narendra Modi Cabinet's first decision

NEW DELHI,27 May 2014. In its first decision after taking charge, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government on Tuesday announced the formation of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe black money, mostly stashed abroad. 
The decision was taken in the first meeting of the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Modi. 
Addressing a media conference after the Cabinet meeting law and telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the SIT will have retired Supreme Court judge MB Shah as its head. 
"It is a matter of great satisfaction that we have constituted a SIT to bring back black money as per Supreme Court orders," Prasad said. 
Secretary revenue, deputy governor of the Reserve Bank of India, director of the Intelligence Bureau, director of the Enforcement Directorate, director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), chairman of the Central Board of Direct Taxes and director of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) will be among the members. "The highest level of financial, revenue and economic management of the country are members of the SIT. This indicates the commitment of the new government of India," said the minister. 
"We are committed to fighting black money," he added.  Although there is no official figure, various estimates put the quantum of black money upto $1.4 trillion. 
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in a report in 2011, had estimated India's black economy to be between $500 billion to $1.4 trillion. BJP was the main opposition party at that time. The US-based thinktank Global Financial Integrity has pegged the illicit money outflow from India to the tune of $462 billion. 
The black money refers to the money that is earned and transferred illegally abroad in tax havens like Cayman Islands and Mauritius, generally to avoid tax. Nearly a third of black money transactions are believed to be in real estate. Manufacturing and gold and consumer goods purchases are the other major areas of black money transactions.

PM Narendra Modi announces portfolios; to meet Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif'
New Delhi, May 27
Prime Minister Narendra Modi begins his first day in office with an announcement of the cabinet portfolios and a series of bilateral meetings with South Asian leaders who witnessed his swearing-in on Monday.
A combination picture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his council of ministers taking oath at the swearing-in ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi. PTI Photo
He is expected to hold landmark talks with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif

The new cabinet portfolios were announced as he assumed his first day at work. Here's a list:

PM Narendra Modi: Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Department of Atomic Energy, Department of Space, All important policy issues and all other portfolios not allocated to any Minister

Here is what team Modi looks like:

Rajnath Singh - Home Minister
Arun Jaitley - Finance, Corporate Affairs and Defence
Sushma Swaraj - Ministry of External Affairs
Venkaiah Naidu - Urban Development, Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, Parliamentary Affairs
Nitin Jairam Gadkari - Road Transport and Highways, Shipping
DV Sadananda Gowda - Railways
Uma Bharti - Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation
Najma A. Heptulla - Minority Affairs
Gopinathrao Munde - Rural Development, Panchayati Raj, Drinking Water and Sanitation
Ramvilas Paswan - Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution
Kalraj Mishra - Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises
Maneka Sanjay Gandhi - Women and Child Development
Ananthkumar - Chemicals and Fertilizers
Ravi Shankar Prasad - Communications and Information Technology, Law and Justice
Ashok Gajapathi Raju Pusapati - Civil Aviation
Shri Anant Geete - Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises
Harsimrat Kaur Badal - Food Processing Industries
Narendra Singh Tomar - Mines, Steel, Labour and Employment
Jual Oram - Tribal Affairs
Radha Mohan Singh - Agriculture
Thaawar Chand Gehlot - Social Justice and Empowerment
Smriti Zubin Irani - Human Resource Development
Harsh Vardhan - Health and Family Welfare

Ministers of State

Gen VK Singh - Development of North Eastern Region (Independent Charge), External Affairs, Overseas Indian Affairs
Inderjit Singh Rao - Planning (Independent Charge), Statistics and Programme Implementation (Independent Charge), Defence
Santosh Kumar Gangwar - Textiles (Independent Charge), Parliamentary Affairs, Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation
Shripad Yesso Naik - Culture (Independent Charge), Tourism (Independent Charge)
Dharmendra Pradhan - Petroleum and Natural Gas (Independent Charge)
Sarbananda Sonowal - Skill Development, Entrepreneurship, Youth Affairs and Sports (Independent Charge)
Prakash Javadekar - Information and Broadcasting (Independent Charge), Environment, Forest and Climate Change (Independent Charge), Parliamentary Affairs
Piyush Goyal - Power (Independent Charge), Coal (Independent Charge), New and Renewable Energy (Independent Charge)
Jitendra Singh - Science and Technology (Independent Charge), Earth Sciences (Independent Charge), Prime Minister Office, Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, Department of Atomic Energy, Department of Space
Nirmala Sitharaman - Commerce and Industry (Independent Charge), Finance, Corporate Affairs
GM Siddeshwara - Civil Aviation
Manoj Sinha - Railways
Nihal Chand - Chemicals and Fertilizers
Upendra Kushwaha - Rural Development, Panchayati Raj, Drinking Water and Sanitation
Radhakrishnan P - Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises
Kiren Rijiju - Home Affairs
Krishan Pal - Road Transport and Highways, Shipping
Sanjeev Kumar Balyan - Agriculture, Food Processing Industries
Mansukhbhai Dhanjibhai Vasava - Tribal Affairs
Raosaheb Dadarao Danve - Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution
Vishnu Deo Sai - Mines, Steel, Labour and Employment
Sudarshan Bhagat - Social Justice and Empowerment

 

UP train accident: 40 feared dead as Gorakhdham Express rams into goods train

LUCKNOW, 26 May 2014 .

40 people are now feared dead in the Gorakhdham Express train accident as Gorakhpur-bound train rammed into a goods train at Chureb station between Basti and Gorakhpur in UP on Monday morning. Nearly 100 people have been hurt in the accident.
However, railway officials did not confirm the number of dead and injured.
As per initial reports, both the trains came on the single track due to signal error. Three general coaches of Gorakhdham Express were badly crushed while six others were derailed.
Locals were the first to rush for rescue operations. Earlier the district administration said that 30 people had died in the accident. 
"People are saying this based on their own assessment. There are lot of people inside the coaches who need to be rescued first," said CPRO, Ner, Alok Kumar Singh.
Officials in the Railway Board said the mishap occurred due to derailment of the express train.
They said six coaches of the train then rammed into a stationary goods train standing on the adjoining track at the station.
Out of the six coaches, four were general coaches and two were AC coach — AC first class and AC two tier.

NaMo's biggest party to break records
New Delhi, May 25
Rashtrapati Bhavan will see it's highest-ever turnout which includes eight heads of state, almost 150 envoys with their retinue and personal guests of both the President and the new Prime Minister. The sitting arrangements in the Rashtrapati Bhavan forecourt have been made for 4,000 guests.

Prior to this oath-taking event, the largest gathering had been for former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's swearing-in ceremony in 1999 of about 1200 guests.

In a first, almost 150 heads of foreign missions based in New Delhi have been invited. "Most of them have confirmed their presence for the function," an official added.

While request for passes, mostly by the BJP leaders, are pouring in routinely at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, PM-designate Modi has invited at least 17 governors for the event, among other guests. All of them have confirmed their presence.

Around 20 seats have been reserved for Modi's personal guests like his family members and friends. They will sit along with President Pranab Mukherjee's personal guests.

All parliamentarians have been invited and, Congress sources said that both its president Sonia Gandhi and deputy Rahul Gandhi will attend the ceremony.

Outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will also come. Singh will also be present during the dinner that President will host for the eight heads of states on Monday evening.

Modi's 'right' shift
Modi enjoyed a pleasant break from the Rashtrapati Bhavan protocol recently when he called on Mukherjee. He was invited to sit on the chair on the right side of the President's designated seat which is exclusive to Prime Minister, vice-president and former Presidents, although he is yet to take over as the PM. "On all earlier occasions, Modi occupied sat on the sofa at left side of President. He was the first guest who shifted from left to right," quipped an official.

Officials, however, added that protocols often stem from precedents and long-standing practices rather than solid reasons.

US ready for high-level interactions with Narendra Modi
Washington , May 23
The United States on Thursday said it was ready for high-level interactions with prime minister-elect Narendra Modi, but it will wait to hear from his government on the logistics.
The US does not want to “impose an architecture or a time-table” on the new government. “We will be waiting to hear from them,” said US assistant secretary of state Nisha Biswal.
The Gujarat-born state department’s senior-most official for India, and South and Central Asia, was speaking to DC reporters working for Indian news organizations.
Her boss, secretary of state John Kerry, is keen to visit India “soon” to meet Modi and re-extend President Barack Obama’s invitation to him to visit the US.
The annual strategic dialogue between the two countries, held alternately in their respective capitals, could have afforded Kerry that chance if the dialogue was happening in Delhi.
It’s DC’s turn to host it this year.
But the US was open to considering changes in the timetable and structure of the dialogue to facilitate that meeting, if that was the earliest meeting possible with Modi.
Would the US like the dialogue to be hosted by Delhi?
“There are a lot of different possibilities that can be discussed,” Biswal said, not rejecting it outright. She added that it’s best for her to wait until her counterparts were in place in India.
But, she stressed, “we are open, we are very open”.
Not in the least to counter the perception that the US was too late to end its boycott of Modi — some have suggested the visa ban on him should have gone a long time ago.
So, since the end of elections in India, the US has tried — through tweets, statements and a phone call from Obama to the PM-designate — to expunge its anti-Modi record.
Modi, then chief minister of Gujarat, was denied a diplomatic official visa in 2005 over his alleged failure to stop the 2002 riots. The US had also cancelled his tourist visa.
Stung, the chief minister never applied for a visa again.
As prime minister, Modi will require a different category of visa— A-1 — which he should have no trouble getting with an outstanding invitation from the US president.
But the US is nervous about Modi.
And not just the White House. A number of US lawmakers, therefore, had themselves paraded at an event on Capitol Hill on Thursday in support of the new government.
Ed Royce, Republican chairman of the powerful House foreign relations committee, recalled meeting Modi after the 2002 earthquake and being impressed by his response.
The US, with all of its different wings, wants to work with Modi. And it is willing to wait for his government to get through the transitional pains before engaging it vigorously.
But don’t expect it go easy on recent trade tensions. Those “vexing” issues will continue, Biswal said, adding, the US has its worst such problems with Canada and EU, its closest allies.

- See more at: http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/us-ready-for-high-level-interactions-with-narendra-modi/article1-1221989.aspx#sthash.iGnv3CIW.dpuf

Modi gesture yet to be reciprocated by Pakistan, no word on Sharif's presence
New Delhi, May 22
As Narendra Modi extended an olive branch to Pakistan by inviting Prime minister Nawaz Sharif to his oath-taking ceremony in New Delhi on May 26, there is still no word from Islamabad about his presence.

A combo photo of Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif (L) and prime minister-designate Narendra Modi (R). (Photo courtesy: Agencies)
News channel CNN-IBN quoted unnamed sources in the Pakistan Foreign Office saying that no decision has been taken yet on whether Sharif will attend Modi's swearing-in ceremony.

If Sharif were to attend the ceremony in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhawan it will be the first in the history of both the countries.

Sharif was among the first leaders to call Modi and formally invite him to visit Pakistan soon after the BJP emerged as the clear winner in the Lok Sabha elections.

With the invitation, Modi has signaled the primacy of neighbourhood in his foreign policy that is focused on regional integration and peace in India’s backyard.

With this move Modi has also created a chance for his government to start afresh in soothing India’s fraying relations with its immediate neighbour.

The BJP has advocated a tough stance on Pakistan and Modi is seen as an uncompromising hardliner on issues of national security.

But his huge election victory also gives him the political capital to reach out to difficult neighbours, including Pakistan, in a way his predecessor Manmohan Singh could not.

After his own election last year, Sharif's administration had also suggested that Singh be invited to attend the ceremony, but the Indian Prime Minister had declined.

Sharif is known to have faced resistance from hardliners at home, notably within the armed forces, over his more dovish stance toward India.

The gesture to invite Sharif was welcomed by Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah on Wednesday.

“Excellent move by @narendramodi to invite SAARC leaders, especially Pak PM for his swearing in. Hope this is beginning of sustained talks,” he wrote on Twitter.

Kashmir has been the trigger for three of the four wars between India and Pakistan since Independence, with both the countries claiming sovereignty over it.

Ties with Pakistan hit a low following the 2008 Mumbai attacks and a four-year-old peace dialogue which resumed after a 2004 visit to Pakistan by then BJP prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee were put on hold.

The ties between the two countries had received a boost when the then Pakistan PM Yousuf Raza Gilani accepted Singh's invitation to watch the India versus Pakistan World Cup semifinal match on March 30 in Mohali.

The dialogue that had resumed in February 2011 stalled again following the beheading of Indian soldiers in Kashmir along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.

India is also upset with the fact that Pakistan hasn't taken steps yet to normalise trade ties, despite promising to do so.

Modi has also extended invitations to other heads of governments of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries and world leaders for his oath-taking ceremony.

Modi will be administered the oath of office by President Pranab Mukherjee in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan at 6pm on May 26.

Thailand army declares martial law
20 May

Jonathan Head reports from Bangkok on the surprise announcement
Continue reading the main story
Thailand turmoil The Thai army says that it is imposing martial law amid a political crisis "to preserve law and order". The surprise announcement also granted the army wide-ranging powers to enforce its decision. The military insisted that its assumption of responsibility for national security was not a coup. Martial law comes amid a long-running political crisis, and months of escalating tensions between the government and the opposition. Correspondents say the move could enrage supporters of the government, especially if it is seen as amounting to a coup. The army has staged at least 11 coups since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932. 'No need to panic' Roads in the capital, Bangkok, have been blocked off by tanks. The military has taken over TV and radio stations, and ordered media censorship in the interests of "national security".Soldiers have also moved into the main government building, which has been unoccupied following months of violent demonstrations by opponents who want to be rid of an administration they say is corrupt.

Both pro and anti-government protesters have been told not to march anywhere in order to prevent clashes.

Thai soldiers take their positions in the middle of a main intersection in Bangkok"s shopping district
The military said it was taking the dramatic step in the interests of law and order
Thai anti-government protesters wave national flags as they rally at parliament in Bangkok (May 2014)
The move came after six months of anti-government demonstrations aimed at ousting the government
Pro-government red shirt supporters react to a speech during a large rally on the outskirts of the Thai capital
Red shirt supporters of deposed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra have warned of the threat of civil war if power is handed to an unelected leader, as demanded by the opposition
Thai soldiers stand in front of the National Broadcasting Services of Thailand television station in Bangkok
The BBC's Jonathan Head in Bangkok says the sight of troops on the streets is now likely to be much more commonplace
Continue reading the main story
Thailand's troubles

Sep 2006: Army ousts Thaksin Shinawatra
Dec 2007: Pro-Thaksin party wins election
Aug 2008: Thaksin flees Thailand
Dec 2008: Huge anti-Thaksin protests; court bans ruling party; Abhisit Vejjajiva comes to power
Mar-May 2010: Huge pro-Thaksin protests; more than 90 killed over 10-week period
Jul 2011: Yingluck Shinawatra elected PM
Nov 2013: Anti-government protests
Feb 2014: Snap election held, but protesters disrupt polls; court rules polls invalid
May 2014: PM ordered to step down
May 2014: Army announces martial law
An announcement on military-run TV said martial law had been imposed "to restore peace and order for people from all sides".

"The public do not need to panic but can still live their lives as normal," it said.

The military statement was signed by army chief Prayuth Chan-Ocha, citing a 1914 law that allows it to intervene during times of crisis.

The chief security advisor to the interim prime minister said the government had not been consulted about the army's decision, but says it remains in office.

"Everything is normal except the military is responsible for all national security issues," said Paradorn Pattanatabut.

An army spokesman also insisted the imposition of martial law would have no impact on the caretaker government.

Power struggle
The BBC's Jonathan Head, in Bangkok, reports that the army's move - which it claims is to stop "ill-intentioned groups from using war weapons" - has come as a surprise.

He says the military has made it clear that it is in charge of security, and the sight of troops on the streets is now likely to be much more commonplace.

Pedestrians stroll past armed Thai soldiers guarding outside the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (20 May 2014)
The army has staged at least 11 coups since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra (7 May 2014)
Critics of Ms Yingluck, seen here in Bangkok, say her exiled brother still controls the government
Observers say the deadlock in south-east Asia's second-largest economy has got worse since Ms Yingluck dissolved the lower house of parliament in December, and a court ordered her removal earlier this month for abuse of power.

On Monday, acting Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan insisted his government would not resign, resisting pressure from anti-government protesters.

Thailand has faced a power struggle since Ms Yingluck's brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, was ousted by the military as prime minister in a coup in 2006.

Anti-government protests began in the Thai capital late last year, with demonstrators blockading several parts of the city.

In response, Ms Yingluck called a snap general election in February that her party was widely expected to win. But protesters disrupted the polls and the election was later annulled.

Why Modi must not go for the kill against Nitish
May 18, 2014In the context of India's current political narrative, Nitish isn't an ordinary character. If there is one politician cast in the role of Modi's exact opposite, it is Nitish. Like Arjuna and Karna—two warriors tied to their loyalties—they were the arch enemies of this epic battle. Like Sherlock Holmes and James Moriarty (not to say who is who), they were each other's nemesis in the game of shadowy politics e represented skull-cap as the emblem of India's inclusive politics; the other rejected it as an exclusive mark of its pseudo secular past. One was ridiculed for failing to perform Raj Dharma when riots broke out in his backyard; the other was pilloried for getting frozen when bombs went off at the other's rally in his state capital.

One represented Gujarati asmita and its development model, the other championed Bihar's achievements and its pride as the better alterantive.

The two Ns were not just different personalities; they were different ideologies, economies and development models.

Now that Nitish lies vanquished on the poll turf, his Bihari pride destroyed, skull-cap metaphor rejected and development model discarded, Modi has the political license to go for the kill. But should he?

Everybody expects—and that is why Nitish has resigned-- Modi to encourage defections and resignations to make the Nitish government fall. But should he?

Modi doesn't need to extract revenge from Nitish for being 'stabbed in the back', as he bellowed at his Hunkar Rally, by thrusting the dagger deeper into his enemy's already broken heart. The voters have already done that for him. Now it is time to heal, not hurt.

As the world waits for him, as his fans silently chant 'kill him, kill him', Modi should seek to forgive and forget. Not only should he discourage defections and resignations, he should ensure that Nitish lasts the full term.

Consider the advantages. In one stroke he would prove his critics wrong, assuage the fears of his foes, impress the minorities and heal the Biharis—who have been divided like never before because of a divisive campaign. By dealing with Nitish the way Sikander (Alexander) had treated another vanquished king Porus, he can prove that his '56-inch' claim is indeed a metaphor for his large heart.

Moral high ground apart, Modi can gain a lot politically. Let us not forget Nitish is a popular chief minister. Pre-poll surveys had come up with extremely high approval ratings for his government. It can be argued that there are many in Bihar who want Modi as PM and Nitish as CM. By not disturbing Nitish, Modi can help those torn between the two the pain of another bitter election.

His resignation will make Nitish a martyr. Some may turn against the BJP for engineering his fall and causing instability. The exigency of an impending election and the lessons from the humiliation of the recent election may unite him and Lalu, a move that has already been initiated by Sharad Yadav.

Modi should let the Nitish government run its full course. By turning his arch enemy into an enduring symbol of his magnanimity, Modi may lose Bihar in the short run. But he will win over India for ages.

 

Narendra Modi: The man who made his own luck, all the way
May 17
The ultimate outsider has been knocking at the doors of Lutyens’ Delhi for months now. On Friday, the people’s verdict came through loud and clear: Let him in. As triumphs go, a one-time tea seller winning the right to rule India is bigger than most. But Narendra Modi’s life has always been about squeezing out improbable victories, big and small.
Narendra Modi greets his supporters after addressing a public meeting in Vadodara. (Reuters)
He may be a relative stranger to Delhi, but it was from here that he pulled off an earlier, defining triumph. It was 2001, and Modi was the RSS pointsman in the BJP, living in one room next to the party headquarters in Ashoka Road, a far cry from the luxury of the Race Course Road bungalow now set to be his home. A devastating earthquake struck Gujarat in the early hours of January 26. When the magnitude of the disaster became apparent, Modi, keen to get there before Gujarat CM Keshubhai Patel, got on the phone to a tycoon.“He said ‘you provide me your aircraft for one day only. I want to be the first to reach there tomorrow morning.’ I arranged the aircraft for him and he flew in early in the morning. When Keshubhai learnt that Modi was already in Bhuj, he was furious and told his bureaucrats that this man would now make his life miserable,” the businessman, who wishes not to be identified, said. Keshubhai was right. Within a few months of the earthquake, which killed 20,000, Modi and his supporters hit out against the CM’s “failure to carry out proper relief and rehabilitation works” and by October, the BJP high command had replaced Keshubhai with Modi. As CM, he empowered bureaucrats and dealt directly with them. Many who know him describe him as a rapt listener, who will give you his entire attention. He is also an adept gatherer of information. “He uses multiple sources of information and that is also his strength because he knows in detail about individuals he is meeting or events,” a RSS leader in Ahmedabad said, adding, “Modi realised information is power very early in life and used information to advance his career.”
It had been a long journey from the dusty by-lanes of small-town Vadnagar, through the well-chronicled tea stall and RSS years. The manically hard-working but rough RSS pracharak turned into a high-flying CM with a fondness for glitzy watches and designer clothes. But the trappings of office did little to blunt his killer instinct. Talk of Modi as PM was first mooted by industrialists in 2009. But it was when he was campaigning for his third term as CM in 2012 that it became clear he wanted the PM’s job. He won Gujarat again, and the state became one giant platform for a national bid. Mentor LK Advani was ruthlessly sidelined, and others not in his camp sullenly made way. The stars did align themselves nicely, but Modi made his own luck so effectively that his rise to India’s top job had an eerie sense of inevitability about it. His victory suggests that the ghosts of 2002 are consigned to an uneasy burial, for now. Some sort of reconciliation would be in order, setting apart Modi the PM from Modi the CM. Whether that happens or not, it’s already clear that the new occupant of 7, RCR has at least three attributes that his predecessor Manmohan Singh lacked. He is his own man, he is a sharp political strategist and he is an ace communicator. That India’s new prime minister will make his presence felt is not in doubt.

 

 

 

 

LS polls live: Amid violence, West Bengal rocks the vote with 56% turnout at 1pm; Bihar 38%

West Bengal. May 12, 2014 .

Bengal, however, continued to put up strong numbers much like the previous rounds of polling. The turnout at 1pm stood at 56%. By 1pm Bihar had recorded 37.86% voting for 6 seats. Uttar Pradesh witnessed relatively slower polling. Varanasi turnout stood at 35% at 1pm.Violence was reported from Bengal when at least four villagers received bullet injuries in Haora in Basirhat constituency when several people, allegedly Trinamool Congress supporters, attacked a group of people as they were going to cast their vote. Over 506 million people — more than the combined population of the US, Germany, Canada and the UK — have exercised their franchise in 502 constituencies where polling has already been held in eight phases. With the summer elections registering a voter turnout of 66.21% so far, all eyes are on whether the Indian electorate can surpass the record of 64% established in 1984 elections held shortly after Indira Gandhi's assassination. In the ninth phase, 600 candidates are in the fray in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. Nearly 66 million voters are expected to seal their electoral fortunes.Of the 41 seats where polling is underway, the Trinamool Congress (Bengal's ruling party) had won 14 seats in 2009, followed by six each by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Samajwadi Party (UP's ruling party), five by the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and four by the Congress. The spotlight in this round is on Varanasi, where BJP's prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi will take on Aam Aadmi Party's (AAP's) Arvind Kejriwal and Congress' Ajay Rai.Altogether 42 candidates are in the fray for the Varanasi parliamentary seat which has 1.7 million registered voters. Over 45,000 security personnel have been deployed in the constituency to ensure free and fair polls. Central paramilitary forces have been deployed at all the 1,562 polling stations which are also under CCTV coverage. The high-voltage campaigning in the temple town was marked by Modi's mega road show during his nomination filing, Kejriwal's public meetings, clashes between AAP volunteers and alleged BJP workers as well as a rally by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. The district administration's denial of permission for a Modi rally in a sensitive area of Varanasi had triggered a political storm recently, with the BJP accusing the election commission of being partial and the poll watchdog refuting the allegations in rare press conference.  Modi fighting the poll battle in Varanasi is strategically important for the BJP, which hopes to put up a good show in Poorvanchal comprising eastern UP and parts of Bihar. In 2009, the Samajwadi Party (SP) had won six of the 18 UP seats going to polls on Monday. The BSP had won five seats, the BJP four and the Congress three. Considering the importance of the region, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav has decided to contest from Azamgarh. Other prominent leaders in the last phase are Union minister Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury (Behrampur- West Bengal), BJP leader Jagdambika Pal (Domariyaganj), Union minister RPN Singh (Kushi Nagar— both UP) and former minister and RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh (Vaishali-Bihar). In Bihar, six seats are up for grabs. Of them, the BJP and the ruling Janata Dal (United) — which was then an ally of the saffron party — had won two each, while Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) had bagged a solitary seat five years ago. One seat had gone to an independent candidate. The Congress-RJD alliance is hoping for a comeback by scoring over Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar's JD(U), which had parted ways with the BJP last year.Seventeen seats go to polls in Bengal as well. The last phase of polling is a key test for the ruling Trinamool, which had won 14 of these seats.With the BJP trying to find a foothold in Bengal, chief minister Mamata Banerjee and Modi featured in heated verbal duels in the campaigning phase. The Left Front, which was ousted by the Trinamool in 2011 after its 34-year rule, is hoping for a turnaround.

 

Varanasi turns into fortress for the blockbuster poll battle on May 12
None May 11
The temple town has turned into a fortress with over 45,000 security personnel being deployed to ensure free and fair polls tomorrow in the city where two of most talked about politicians -- BJP's Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal of Aam Aadmi Party -- are locked in a high-stake contest.

A sadhu or holy man wears a hat used by supporters of chief minister of Gujarat and main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi as he walks on a ghat in Varanasi. (AFP Photo)
Top police officers of Uttar Pradesh have personally come down to the city to assess the security situation and make foolproof arrangements for what is being dubbed as the blockbuster battle of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, with the Election Commission too already appointing a Special Observer.

Gun-toting security personnel could be seen in almost every part of the city as well as in rural areas and police said there should not be any apprehension about any irregularities including rigging and booth capturing during the polls.

Prakash D, Inspector General of Police (Varanasi Division), said "adequate" number of security personnel from state police, BSF, Rapid Action Force and CRPF have been deployed besides all possible measures to ensure free and fair polls in the high-profile constituency.

Central paramilitary forces have been deployed at all the 1,562 polling stations which are also under CCTV coverage.

The police have conducted raids and precautionary checks in various areas in the last two days besides keeping a strong vigil in localities identified as "sensitive".

The administration has already asked all those who were involved in campaigning but do not belong to the city to leave Varanasi.

There have been searches by police at hotels, guest houses and dharmasalas to flush out "outsiders" who are not from Varanasi and were involved in campaigning.

Areas around ghats along Ganges are also being sanitised while vigil has been increased in certain minority dominated areas.

"We have made elaborate security arrangements. Adequate number of forces have been deployed and we are confident that polling in Varanasi will be peaceful and without any irregularities.

"I am satisfied with the security preparedness," Prakash told PTI.

Vehicles are also being checked to ensure that money and liquor are not being used to influence voters.

Top officials in the police and civil administration have held a number of meetings in the last couple of days to plug any loopholes in the election process.

Police have also been told to keep an eye on local criminals.

Varanasi's District Magistrate and Returning Officer Pranjal Yadav has personally been visiting various areas to have first-hand assessment of the ground situation.

BJP had launched a major offensive against Yadav and even demanded his removal after he refused permission to Modi to hold a rally at Muslim-dominated Beniabagh locality on Thursday.

However, a number of senior officials said it did not affect his morale and he was working hard to have a "successful" election.

The party had expressed concern whether free and fair polls will be possible in the sacred city but Prakash said there was no basis for such apprehensions.

"We are determined to ensure free and fair polls and there is no ground for such apprehensions," he said.

The Aam Aadmi Party yesterday had announced that it deployed 250 spy cameras across the city to keep a tab on BJP workers, alleging that the saffron party may try to influence voters by offering money and liquor considering huge support for AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal.

Sale of liquor has been banned since yesterday and it will remain so till the end of polling.

The city witnessed a high-voltage campaign in the last three days with Kejriwal, Rahul Gandhi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav holding impressive roadshows to woo the voters.

 

EU mango ban: Onus on Indian exporters, says UK

London, May 10, 2014

Britain has said it will push to lift the European Union’s ban on Indian mangoes and somevegetables if there was a clear message from India that export procedures had improved to ensure that consignments were free of pests and insects.
 Responding to a debate on the ban in the House of Commons on Thursday evening, Dan Rogerson, minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said it was up to exporters in India to improve their processes and meet the criteria for export to the EU.
 He said: “Clearly the key action resides with the exporters, in their ability to demonstrate that what they are exporting meets the criteria that we need to have confidence in. As soon as we have a clear message that things are improving, I and my ministerial colleagues will be happy to press the European Union to have an early re-inspection so that we can get the ban overturned”.
 Rogerson added: “Despite…the Indian authorities’ recognition of the problems and their undertaking to address them, the number of pests found in produce imports continued to rise during 2013. There have been 20 interceptions of pests in Indian produce coming into the UK in 2014 alone”.
Moved by senior Labour MP Keith Vaz, the debate saw MPs across the political spectrum expressing concern over an issue that has adversely affected exporters in India as well as importers in Britain, which is the largest importer of Indian mangoes in the EU.
Vaz said he met Indian agriculture minister Sharad Pawar on Wednesday, and had then been informed by his ministry of the steps India had taken. Commerce minister Anand Sharma had also written to the EU, stating that the ban was “surprising”, Vaz said.
 “The United Kingdom is the mango’s true home in the EU as we are the largest importer of the fruit. In 2013 we consumed well over 56,000 tonnes of mangoes, 4,800 tonnes of which came from India. That is 12 million mangoes, which is equivalent in weight to 800 elephants”, Vaz said.

 

Varanasi Muslims veer towards AAP
Varanasi, May 08
The oldest city in the world was in a frenzy on Thursday. From early evening to nearly 9.30pm, from the BHU campus to the BJP headquarters 5km away, Narendra Modi's road-show was thronged by BJP supporters in their saffron caps. On a low key but as energetically, AAP volunteers continued their street corner meetings and padyatras, convincing doubtful voters that an upset was possible.

Watching the political drama quietly were the city's Muslims, carefully weighing their options.

Sceptical of the BJP's show of strength but confused about how to stop the tide, they were clear about wanting to defeat Modi but somewhat resigned to his possible win. Torn between old loyalties and new possibilities, and irritated at the constant gaze of politicians and the media on their voting behaviour, Muslim community leaders are grappling with their dilemmas. But if there is one common thread, it is their increasing support for AAP.

Mohammad Abdullah Ansari, a respected elder in Bazar Sadanand who had once fought an assembly election on a BSP ticket, told HT that Muslims are impressed with Kejriwal for his willingness to take on Modi. Giving a glimpse into how Muslims decide to vote, he said, “Look, we cannot decide the outcome on our own. We are 3.5 lakh in a 15-lakh-strong constituency. We can judge who the best candidate positioned to defeat Modi is, depending on who has the most Hindu votes to which we can add.”

Ansari said the support of local strongman Mukhtar Ansari to Congress candidate Ajay Rai had backfired. “Mukhtar doesn't control Muslim votes to the extent thought. And Rai's own community of Bhumihars got upset with the support and have moved to the BJP.” He feels that Kejriwal now has the support of educated Hindus as well as people in rural pockets. “The decision will be taken on the final day (May 12), but 70-80% Muslims have made up their minds to go with AAP,” he says.

Traditional Congress supporters, however, say the division in the community is sharper. In Jagjivanpur, weaver Badrul Hassan says about 60% of the votes will go to Kejriwal and 20% to Rai. He is irritated when asked why Muslims are not consolidating. “Why is everyone asking only about Muslims? We are just 20% of the population. Does Hindu society vote together? Why this expectation that we will vote together? I am with the Congress.”

In Nakkighat, the mood is similar. At a paan shop, sitting with its owner Sagar Chaurasia, is Bilal who says he is impressed with Kejriwal because he is a clean man whose teams have come to the area and campaigned vigorously. Chaurasia nods. Reyazuddin, sitting nearby reiterates the sentiment. “25% votes to Congress from this area is confirmed. But the rest are with AAP,” he says. But he looks down wistfully and says, “But Modi will win.”

Back in Jagjivanpur, when asked about the implications of a Modi win, Shamshul Arifeen said, “We may not want him, but we are not scared of him either. Varanasi will remain home to all communities living in harmony. Modi or no Modi, that cannot be changed.”

 

Modi slams EC for bias, appeals BJP workers 'to maintain peace' during Varanasi dharna
New Delhi, May 08
The Election Commission has expressed "surprise" and "disappointment" over the Bharatiya Janata Party's decision to hold protests against denial of permission to its prime ministerial pick Narendra Modi for a rally in Varanasi's Beniyabagh area on Thursday.

BJP PM candidate Narendra Modi waves to supporters as he arrives in an open vehicle to file his nomination in Varanasi. (AP photo)
Hours ahead of his "protest" roadshow in Varanasi, Narendra Modi tweeted on Thursday, "It is unfortunate that EC is not concerned about the institution's neutrality & that is why our Karyakartas have to embark on a Satyagraha."

He also appealed to his party workers to maintain peace: "I appeal to my Karyakarta sisters & brothers to maintain peace & ensure that people do not face any difficulty."

He also tweeted: "My profound apologies to Ganga Maa for not being able to perform Aarti today. Wish these people know that a Mother's love is above politics."

Modi is contesting from the seat, which goes to polls on May 12. The BJP had written to chief election commissioner VS Sampath and demanded the removal of the electoral officer, district magistrate Pranjal Yadav.

In a letter to senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley on Wednesday, the EC said the protests were announced despite the poll body trying to resolve the matter "in accordance with law and the ground situation".

Principal secretary in the EC, RK Srivastava, said while earlier a BJP representative Vidyasagar Rai had requested for an alternative site on May 6, Jaitley later urged the returning officer not to process the permission.

"In the whole matter, the Commission decided not to go by the version conveyed by the district magistrate alone, but consulted the UP chief secretary and the DGP, who endorsed the security and suitability aspects including capacity of the ground, raised by the district officials.

"You will appreciate that the Commission cannot overlook the security concerns expressed by competent authorities," the letter said.

The letter said the Commission has given prompt attention to any issue raised by political parties, including BJP, over the ongoing elections.

Read: BJP denied permission for Modi rally in Varanasi; party leaders to sit on dharna today

"Hence the Commission is surprised and disappointed that your party has chosen to hold protests over the matter, which was being sought to be resolved in accordance with law and ground realities," it said.

Accusing the EC of being a "mute spectator" to returning officer Yadav's "highly partisan" role in denying permission for the rally on Thursday, the BJP had demanded his immediate removal.

In a strong rebuttal, the EC said it did not accept any "insinuation or inaction" in this regard and would take action against the officer if he was found guilty of "partisan" behaviour.

"The commission is getting all facts about Varanasi and will do everything under the law and its mandate to conduct free and fair polls," it said in a rare statement.

Jaitley had also announced he and other senior leaders would sit on a dharna outside the Banaras Hindu University at 11am on Thursday in protest. The BJP leaders will also protest outside the EC office in New Delhi.

Jaitley said the district magistrate was making "unbelievable" excuses to "deny" security approval for the rally, which was a right of any candidate.

"The returning officer has lied... This is not a banana republic. I have written three letters to the EC. We will hold protests at Lanka Gate outside BHU," Jaitley said.

The DM, however, late on Wednesday allowed Modi to attend a 'Ganga pujan' ceremony at the Dashashwamedh Ghat in the temple town.

Yadav also approved Modi's meeting at Surya Hotel with 150 eminent persons of the society and a public meeting at the Chota Cutting memorial ground.

Read: Rahul Gandhi will campaign in Varanasi, hold roadshow on May 10

Modi's close aide and the BJP's UP in-charge Amit Shah, in press conference late on Wednesday, said the permission came too late and the BJP PM nominee's 'pujan' and rally plan remained cancelled as the party could not make preparations.

Shah also said the protests would go on as planned.

The BJP leadership is planning to convert Modi's journey from the Banaras Hindu University - at the helipad of which he would land - to the party's central election office at Sigra into a roadshow of sorts on Thursday.

Modi would reach the BHU after addressing a rally at Jagat Inter College, Rohaniya, a rural assembly segment of Varanasi.

The Rohaniya rally has been allowed while permission for the rally at Beniyabagh ground has been denied.

Top officials sought to blame the permission issue to non-receipt of ground report from security agencies and said a final decision could be taken by evening. They claimed the request for the rally at the Beniyabagh ground was received on Tuesday.

Terming the situation as "unprecedented", Jaitley said, "Holding public meeting in his constituency is right of every candidate and Narendra Modi cannot be denied the same.

Read: In Varanasi, it's urban Modi versus rural Kejriwal

"If the approval is denied on the basis of some backdated letter or so-called intelligence alerts about security issues, they are only excuses. We have written to the CEC and hope the situation to become clear very soon."

Asked if the BJP suspected that the Uttar Pradesh government was behind the "denial", Jaitley said, "I do not know who is interfering, but the DM as an electoral officer is free to decide on such things and not supposed to come under any kind of pressure."

BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said the Varanasi administration was obeying an "unwritten order" and there was an "undeclared understanding" between them and the ruling Samajwadi Party.

Thursday's dharna would be yet another example of the BJP turning an adverse situation to its advantage.

 

Bengal LS polls: 61.62% voter turnout till 1 pm
Kolkata, May 07
Polling began in six Lok Sabha constituencies, including those in erstwhile Maoist hotbed Jangalmahal, in West Bengal on Wednesday.

The state recorded a polling percentage of 61.62 till 1 pm.

More than 8.8 million voters are eligible to exercise their franchise in 11,321 polling stations to decide the fate of 72 candidates in the fray.

Polling is underway in West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura districts — once considered a bastion of the Left Front before Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress was voted to power in the state in 2011.

West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura recorded polling percentages of 56, 63.34, 61.36 till 1 pm.

None of the six seats where polling is on, however, has a Trinamool parliamentarian. While the CPI(M) had won four seats in 2009, the CPI and the Forward Bloc had bagged one each.

This time, the Trinamool Congress is confident about a good show.

Singer Babul Supriyo is the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP's) candidate in Asansol, the only seat outside Jangalmahal. Riding on a projected 'Modi wave', he is hopeful about winning the seat. Asansol recorded a polling percentage of 60.84 till 1 pm.

Supriyo is pitted against former CPI(M) minister and incumbent MP Bansa Gopal Chowdhury and Dola Sen, the chief of Trinamool's trade union wing.

A prestigious poll battle is on in Bankura, where CPI(M)'s nine-time MP Basudeb Acharya is facing Trinamool's actor-turned-politician Moon Moon Sen.

She and her two actor daughters, Riya and Raima, have attracted big crowds during campaigning.

Another important seat is Jhargram — not because of any heavyweight but due to its history of violence. The constituency recorded a polling percentage of 65.48 till 1 pm.

It comprises areas such as Lalgarh, Salboni, Jhargram, Jamboni and Belpahari, which were hotbeds of Maoist activities from 2008 to 2011 — before Maoist leader Kishenji's death in November 2011.

In 2009, about 75,000 voters had boycotted the elections in the area.

With this phase, polling will be completed in 25 of the 42 seats in Bihar. The remaining 17 seats go to polls in the last phase of elections next Monday.

 

Rahul greeted with 'har har Modi' slogan in Amethi, sees lotus symbol at polling booth
Amethi, May 07
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi is in Amethi to supervise polling and going from one polling station to another, encountering some tough breaks on the Congress turf. During his visit to one polling booth in a school at Phoola village, Rahul noticed lotus drawn on a black board. Pointing toward the drawing, he said it was the BJP symbol and they had done it.

At a polling station some BJP workers raised the “har har Modi” slogan when he left the venue.

Amethi is one of the most keenly watched constituencies in this phase. The BJP’s Smirti Irani and AAP’s Kumar Vishwas have mounted a spirited challenge.

Amid brisk voting, the turnout reached 27.80% at 11am.

Earlier in the day, Vishwas accused Congress workers of indulging in booth capturing to save the prestigious seat, won by Rahul in 2004 and 2009.

"Booth capturing is going on at booth number 42 of Mehmoodpur...," Vishwas alleged on Twitter.

In another tweet, he alleged that information about booth capturing, fake voting and intimidation of workers was coming from various places, but the observers and district administration were not taking any action on complaints being sent through phone, email and SMSes.

District magistrate Jagat Raj Tripathi, however, dismissed the charges. "No such complaint has been found correct. Polling is going on smoothly," he said.

 

I belong to a lower caste that's why I'm accused of low-level politics: Modi responds to Priyanka

6 May2014, Tuesday

Modi on Monday had taken the poll battle to Gandhi family's power seat and declared he would begin building India from what he called UP's "worst-performing district", once in power.

He had also responded to Priyanka Gandhi's barb of "Smriti, who?" by saying "They ask who is Smriti Irani. I want to say Smriti Irani is my younger sister...Look at their arrogance.

In response, she had said each polling booth in Amethi will exact revenge for his "neech rajniti (low-level politics)".

"I belong to the lower caste of society that's why they think my politics is low-level politics," Modi tweeted on Tuesday.

"Some people can't see the fact that the sacrifice and hard work of the people from the lower castes has helped the country reach great heights," he posted.

"This low-level politics will rescue our country from 60 years of misrule and vote-bank politics, and wipe the tears of millions."

Modi has consistently attacked Rahul and Sonia Gandhi in his election rallies by addressing them as "shehzada" and madam and their family as the "raj parivar".

He has also alleged that Priyanka's husband, Robert Vadra, amassed a huge fortune through illegal land deals.

Priyanka’s counter-attack on Modi had come within hours of the Gujarat chief minister's rally in Amethi saying its people would give him and the BJP a befitting reply for insulting her father late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

"Inhone Amethi ki dharti pe mere shaheed pitaa ka apmaan kiya hai, Amethi ki janta is harkat ko kabhi maaf nahi karegi. Inki neech rajniti ka jawaab mere booth ke karyakartaa denge… Amethi ke ek ek booth se jawaab aayega… (He has insulted my martyred father on Amethi’s soil. The people of Amethi will never forgive him for it. My booth-level workers in Amethi will reply to his low-level politics. There will be a reply from each and every booth of Amethi),” she had said.

The war of words between Priyanka and Modi has come as an effort on her part to lift the Congress' sagging political image and dominated the last stages of this Lok Sabha election.

 

Accused of TMC bias, EC sends 15K troops to Bengal
New Delhi, May 04
The Election Commission has decided to send out about 150 more companies, or 15,000 jawans, of central forces to manage the next two phases of polls in West Bengal, following allegations of large-scale rigging and violence by the ruling Trinamool Congress.

The move came after opposition parties in West Bengal came together to allege that the EC turned a blind eye to poll violence by Trinamool workers during the April 30 polls.

A Union home ministry official, who refused to be quoted on the issue, rejected the charge that the Centre had not deployed adequate forces in the state, arguing that Bengal already had the highest number of central forces, about 35,000 jawans.

But he confirmed that the problem in West Bengal was one of flawed deployment of forces and not shortage of manpower. “For some strange reason, we heard central forces were heavily deployed in non-sensitive areas, leaving huge gaps in sensitive booths,” the official said.

The EC, however, rejected a demand by the Left parties of re-polling in 1,317 booths across south Bengal, saying, “There was no such incident in support of the demand by the opposition parties.”

The Left Front, Congress and the BJP have all demanded immediate removal of the EC’s special observer, Sudhir Kumar Rakesh, claiming that he didn’t force district administrations to deploy central paramilitary forces in several sensitive booths across south Bengal, traditionally a Trinamool stronghold.

“The remaining two rounds on May 7 and 12 will not be peaceful unless Rakesh is removed. We don’t trust him after what happened in the third phase. Our candidates tried to get in touch with him, but he did not answer calls or messages,” said state Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury on Saturday.

Rakesh, however, rubbished the allegations, saying, “You are making me laugh. The elections were free and fair.” He also dismissed any possibility of a show-cause notice served to him by the EC.

Left Front chairman Biman Bose also wrote to the EC seeking the removal of Rakesh and Bengal’s chief electoral officer Sunil Gupta. He said referring to Rakesh’s sudden trip to Patna in the middle of the polls: “When Rakesh went to Patna he was a tiger. By the time he came back to Kolkata he had become a cat.”

A complaint to the EC by the BJP candidate from Hoogly Chandan Mitra alleged that “not a single member of central paramilitary forces was present in any booth”. Mitra also mentioned unusual voting patterns and the “large presence of Trinamool workers, who are widely feared due to their reputation for indulging in wanton violence” as factors that intimidated voters. No representative from any opposition party was present inside the booths, the letter said, accusing the EC of not responding in time. A delegation comprising CPI(M) politburo member SR Pillai, party central-secretariat member, Nilotpal Basu and CPI national secretary D Raja also met Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampat on Friday afternoon, demanding Rakesh’s removal.

 

Pakistan ready to work with Narendra Modi, says ties flourished during Vajpayee's rule
New Delhi, May 03
Pakistan is ready to talk to any government elected by the Indian voters, including one headed by Narendra Modi, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s advisor on security and foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz told HT. Advertisement
“We are ready to do business with any leader, including Modi,’’ Aziz said in a telephone interview from London.

Aziz’s comments are significant since they come a day after Pakistan army chief General Raheel Sharif’s controversial remarks, where he referred to Kashmir as Pakistan’s ‘jugular vein’.

On Wednesday, Sharif had claimed that Kashmir was an internationally-recognized dispute that needed to be resolved in accordance with the wishes of Kashmiris and in line with the United Nations’ resolution for lasting peace in the region.

The army chief’s comments were viewed by Indian strategic experts as a signal by the Army to the civilian leadership on the Kashmir issue, but when asked, Aziz denied this.

“That is our standing position. Kashmir is an issue that both India and Pakistan need to negotiate and remains on the dialogue table but if statements are made during the course of your elections about Kashmir being an atoot ang (integral part) of India, there will be reactions and responses,” Aziz said.

Backing his statement that indicated Pakistan’s willingness to work with Modi, Aziz emphasized that the last time there was any real progress between the two neighbours was “under a BJP-led government with Vajpayee as PM.’’

Vajpayee, in 1999, had undertaken a bus journey across the Wagah border to Lahore when Nawaz Sharif was the PM of Pakistan.

The two had signed the Lahore declaration in which both countries committed themselves to ‘’intensify their efforts to resolve all issues, including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir’’. In the declaration, both also agreed to confidence-building measures in the nuclear and conventional military fields.

Reiterating his government’s desire for normalizing ties with India, Aziz said, “Peace with India was Nawaz Sharif’s poll plank and he launched his peace mission immediately after becoming PM. In fact, he told me that he was taking up peace as a poll issue so it will help him once he comes to power. We had a good start with Manmohan Singh and now look forward to restarting the dialogue once a new government is in place in Delhi.”

 

We enjoy Rajini jokes over dinner, discloses his wife Latha Rajinikanth -
New Delhi, April 30
She is the better half of the cult ­phenomenon called Rajinikanth. Latha Rajinikanth, — a film producer, singer and ­philanthropist — evidently has a lot more to her than just being superstar Rajinikanth’s wife.Lata Rajinikanth
However, when you get the rare chance to meet the 54-year-old, you can’t stop thinking about all those epic jokes on the 63-year-old actor. Yes, she has heard them.“We get to know of everything that happens around him on social media,” Latha smiles, adding, “I take it very positively. I don’t think those are jokes, those are tributes by his fans to his greatness. They attribute grandness and greatness to him, and it’s very kind of the people.” She further says that the “love we have got is divine blessing”.And, the entire family enjoys the jokes over dinner. “People send something or the other to us on Rajini. We read it to each other and enjoy it and share laughs. It’s very creative and imaginative of people to treat him like that,” she says. Her favourite joke on him? “I don’t remember, there are so many!”Both Mr and Mrs Rajinikanth have had quite a filmy life themselves. The two first met when Latha interviewed Rajini for a college magazine in 1980, and he popped the question to her halfway through it! “And in a few months, we were ­married,” she says.And they’re still going as strong, says Latha, adding that she often cooks for her husband as he loves homemade food. And, despite being in public view all the time, they have managed to stay humble and raise kids who are equally humble.
“Both of us have a spiritual bent of mind and a very traditional upbringing. We belong to a generation of values. When my daughters (Aishwarya, 32, and Soundarya, 29) were growing up, they didn’t know about their father’s stardom. And when they were old enough to understand that, they were already wise human beings,” says Latha, who makes it a point to watch her husband’s film “first day, first show”.
While Aishwarya, married to actor Dhanush, has established herself as a director, Soundarya is making her directorial debut with Kochadaiyaan, starring Rajnikanth and Deepika Padukone. Interestingly, Latha has also sung a song in the film.
- See more at: http://www.hindustantimes.com/entertainment/regional/we-enjoy-rajinikanth-jokes-over-dinner-discloses-his-wife-latha/article1-1214073.aspx#sthash.X0pedwfs.dpuf

LS polls live: Polling picks up in 89 seats in phase seven
New Delhi, April 30
Voters across seven states and two Union Territories made a beeline to polling booths on Thursday morning in the seventh phase of the Lok Sabha elections, which will decide the fate of 1,295 candidates including BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and Congress president Sonia Gandhi. A combination picture of eight key candidates in the fray for the Lok Sabha elections, phase 7. (Agencies) BJP leader and actor Vinod Khanna arrives at the party's national executive in
Sangrur Congress candidate Vijay Inder Singla (R) during campaigning at Malerkotla. (HT photo/Bharat Bhushan)
A file photo of former Gujarat chief minister Shankersinh Vaghela. (Agencies)
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi during a road show for party candidate Rita Bahuguna Joshi in Lucknow. (
President of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Rajnath Singh attends an election rally at Kalyan in Mumbai
PPCC president Partap Singh Bajwa (L) with during a meeting of the Congress workers in Patiala. (HT photo/Bharat Bhushan)
BJP candidate from Ahmedabad East Paresh Rawal is seen during an election rally Supporters welcome RJD leader Pappu Yadav atBJP's PM candidate Narendra Modi addresses an election campaign rally in Anand Patna airport. MIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi is seen with his supporters after filing nomination papers in Hyderabad
A file photo of People's Party of Punjab (PPP) president Manpreet Singh Badal. A file photo of Madhusudan Mistry, Congress candidate from Vadodara. (Agencies) A file photo of fomer cricketer and BJP leader Kirti Azad TRS president K Chandrashekar Rao with party leaders addresses the media at Telangana Bhavan in Hyderabad.
A file photo of Jitin Prasada, minister of state, defence and human resource development Congress candidate S Jaipal Reddy files his nomination in Hyderabad. A file photo of National Conference party president Farooq Abdullah in New Delhi. (HT Photo/Sanjeev Verma) Singer and BJP candidate Bappi Lahiri seeks blessings from an elderly woman during his election campaign at Bally in Sreerampore constituency. BJP candidate for Amritsar's parliamentary seat Arun Jaitley speaks during an election campaign event in Amritsar.A file photo of information and broadcasting minister Ambika Soni addressing a press conference in Ahmedabad. (Agencies) A file photo of Congress leader and candidate from Amritsar Amarinder Singh.
A file photo of senior BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani attending a conference in New Delhi. (HT photo/Sonu Mehta)
Modi, in fact, was among the early voters in his home state Gujarat where he is the party candidate from Vadodara.

The BJP is aiming for a clean sweep of all the 26 seats in the state, where polling is being held in one go.

"On my way to vote. I consider myself extremely blessed & fortunate to be a voter in Advaniji's Parliamentary Constituency. Urging all those voting in 89 Lok Sabha seats across India to vote in record numbers today! Hope my young friends show the way in doing so," Modi Tweeted before casting his vote at Ranip in Ahmedabad.

Modi's mother Heeraben also cast her vote in Gandhinagar in the morning.

Advani, whose sudden wish to contest from Bhopal had caused some unease in the party, is a candidate for capital Gandhinagar. In the 2009 elections, the BJP had won 17 seats and the Congress nine.

Among other states, the first trends of the morning trickled in from Bihar where 12.33% voting was recorded till 9 am in the seven seats going to the polls in the fourth phase of elections in the state.

Importantly, this will be the first real poll test for the ruling JD(U), more specifically chief minister Nitish Kumar, after snapping ties with the BJP.

TV reports said that polling at two booths in Begusarai had to be stopped after it was discovered that "wrong EVMs" had been sent there.

In neighbouring Uttar Pradesh – the biggest in terms of MPs it sends to the Lok Sabha – polling is being held in 14 seats.
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati -- trying to emerge as a king-maker or, perhaps, even the 'queen' -- was among the early voters in Lucknow.

Amid tight security arrangements, polling in the 14 constituencies in central UP and Bundelkhand started at 7am.

Even before the polling started at 25,485 polling stations, people had queued up outside to exercise their franchise.

With the presidents of two national parties -- Sonia Gandhi (Congress) and Rajnath Singh (BJP) -- contesting from Rai Bareli and Lucknow respectively, the stakes are high for both the parties.

While Sonia Gandhi is seeking re-election for the third time from her traditional constituency, Rajnath Singh has laid claim on the legacy of BJP stalwart Atal Behari Vajpayee from Lucknow.

In Punjab, where polling is being held in all 13 seats on a single day, Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) workers clashed in Moga village leaving 7 persons injured. Details were not available.

One of the most keenly-watched contests in the state is in Amritsar between BJP leader Arun Jaitley and former Punjab chief minister and Congress candidate Capt Amarinder Singh.

The stakes are very high for the ruling SAD which has four seats and is locked in a bitter contest with Congress.

In the south, polling is being held for the first phase of simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and the Andhra Pradesh assembly Wednesday in the Telangana region, which becomes a full-fledged state in June.

Voting is being held in 17 Lok Sabha seats and 119 assembly seats in the Telangana region.

As Telangana will formally become a separate state on June 2, the Election Commission is holding the polls in undivided Andhra Pradesh, which is now under President's rule.

After the formation date, the elected legislators will be allotted to their respective states -- Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

Elections to 175 assembly and 25 Lok Sabha seats in Seemandhra or the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh are scheduled May 7.

Andhra has been paying the Congress rich electoral dividends. In 2009, the party had won 33 of the 42 seats in the state (up from the 29 it won in 2004).

Statehood for Telangana, however, has left the Congress facing an uphill task in Seemandhra (Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra). In Telangana too, Telangana Rashtra Samithi chief K Chandrashekar Rao has shied away from a merger with the Congress.

In West Bengal, polling is being held in nine seats including Howrah, Sreerampur and Birbhum. The BJP has fielded music composer Bappi Lahiri from Sreerampur against incumbent Trinamool MP Kalyan Banerjee.

Voting is taking place in the backdrop of a bitter war of words between the BJP and Trinamool.

In Jammu and Kashmir, polling is being held for the key Srinagar seat featuring Union minister and National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah, father of chief minister Omar Abdullah.

A big fight erupted between the Abdullahs and Modi in the run-up to voting day over secularism and Article 370 (which grants special status to the state) of the Constitution. The BJP's stated position is it will scrap Article 370 if it comes to power.

Election authorities rescheduled the duration for polling in Srinagar from
7am to 5pm instead of 7am to 6pm.

Official sources said the decision was taken keeping in view the law and order problems that took place in Anantnag Lok Sabha seat which went to polls on April 24.

The fight in Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu is for one seat each. Both seats are with the BJP in the outgoing Lok Sabha.

In the seventh phase, nearly 140 million voters will have their say.

After phase 7, polling will end for 438 of the total 543 Lok Sabha seats, leaving 105 to be decided in two phases in May.

 

Poll battles: Vicious barbs exchanged as Congress, Trinamool, NC unite against Modi
New Delhi, April 29
The Lok Sabha elections are in the final lap and the torrent of vitriol flows unchecked in the name of electioneering. As campaigning for the seventh phase ended on Monday, bare-knuckle fight for votes intensified. BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi yet again took on Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, hit back at union minister Farooq Abdullah while coming under heavy fire from both the leaders as well as West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. The discourse is getting bitter, personal and shriller by the day but no one seems to care.A combination photo shows West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. (HT photo/files)
Read: Dirty tricks help parties take poll campaign to new low
Read: More people died due to terrorism in NDA rule than UPA: Rahul

Rahul vs Modi Mocking Rahul Gandhi, Narendra Modi dubbed the Congress vice-president namuna (which loosely translates to clown/joker) for his “little knowledge” about Gujarat. Addressing a rally in Kheralu in Gujarat, Modi said Gandhi’s claim of vast job vacancies and lokayukta smacked of ignorance, and were short on facts. His speeches were good stress-busters, Modi said. “Rahulbhai, if you don’t have that much knowledge, what would happen to India?” he said.

In distant Bathinda, Gandhi hit back with force, questioning Modi’s ties with Adani Group and the BJP leader lampooning his visits to Dalit houses. Gandhi said after handing over land worth thousands of crores of rupees to an industrialist, the state government claims that Gujarat is shining.

He also asked whether it was wrong to ask Dalits about their problems and wrong to meet or hug them. “Kya main koi galti kar raha hun (Am I doing something wrong)? he asked audience in the reserve constituency of Faridkot.

Read: Modi wants to erode Kashmiri identity and make Kashmiris his slaves: Farooq Abdullah
Read: Omar turns the tables on Modi, says exodus was under BJP man

Modi vs Abdullahs
A day after Farooq Abdullah said Kashmir won’t be part of a “communal India” and those voting for Modi should drown in sea, the Gujarat CM said the biggest blow to secularism in India was delivered in Kashmir by the Abdullah family when Kashmiri Pandits were forced out due to their religion.

He accused the Union minister, his CM son Omar Abdullah and his father Sheikh Abdullah of communalising Kashmir for political gains.Omar took on Gujarat CM, accusing him of twisting history. The CM challenged Modi to visit Kashmir and ask for votes. “He wanted a debate on Article 370 but chickened out, with BJP saying I was not his league," Omar said.

Farooq picked from where he left on Sunday. Addressing a poll rally in central Kashmir, he said Modi wanted to erode Kashmiri identity and make “Kashmiris his slaves’’ by proposing to abrogate Article 370 that gave Kashmir special status.

Read: Trinamool calls Modi 'arrogant, snob' for slamming Mamata, writes to EC

Mamata vs Modi
Unleashing a vicious attack on Modi after he questioned the “big money” fetched by her paintings, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee labelled her Gujarat counterpart “devil and a blood thirsty rioter”. The country would be “ruined” if he comes to power and the “architect” of Gujarat riots would drench Bengal in an “ocean of blood”, she said in Kolkata.

Her Trinamool Congress demanded a public apology from Modi for doubting the integrity of Banerjee. On Modi’s allegation she was indulging in vote-bank politics ignoring non-Bengalis and laying the red carpet for Bangladeshis, Banerjee said he did not know history.

“He is polarising Bengalis and non-Bengalis. After shedding blood in Gujarat, does he want to unleash bloodbath in Bengal...” she said.

Read: Congress hits back at BJP for attacking Vadra, alleges Modi has links with Hawala accused

Video vs video
The Congress responded to the BJP’s video on Robert Vadra with one of its own. The video, and photographs, showed Modi in company of a Surat-based diamond trader being probed in a hawala case.

Congress spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala claimed the Enforcement Directorate had unearthed Rs. 700 crore hawala racket linked to the businessman Afroz Phatta just last month and demanded an “independent probe”. “What is the nature of relationship of Modi with the alleged hawala kingpin?” Surjewala asked. Minutes later, Modi’s aide Amit Shah re-tweeted a picture of Phatta and Congress MP Mohammad Azharuddin but curiously deleted his tweet soon after.

 

May god save the country from 'Modi model': Sonia
PTI Barnala, April 26, 2014
"BJP's chief campaigner is selling Narendra Modi model in the name of Gujarat. What is happening in Gujarat under this model? Sikhs living there since past 50 years were being forced to leave the state," Sonia said while addressing an election rally in Malwa belt of Punjab. "May God please save this country from this model," she said.

She attacked the Akali Dal for joining hands with BJP and not raising its voice for the Sikhs in Gujarat. "Akalis rather than raising voice against them (BJP) are colluding with them and they are partners in this atrocity against Sikhs in Gujarat," said Sonia. "In Gujarat every second five-year-old child is malnutritioned and those who get Rs. 11 per day are not considered below poverty line in Modi model," she added.

Sonia said that around 45000 acres of land in Gujarat had been given to one businessman at a cheap rate and under this model several people in the villages are still not getting potable water.

Accusing BJP of adopting an ideology in which common man will be identified not by his capabilities and skills but by his religion, language and caste, she said, the saffron party's ideology is of "hatred, narrow mindedness and consistent hunger to achieve power" at the centre.

"Their (BJP) ideology wants to take the country on that path where nation's entire power wrests with one person," she said in an indirect reference to Narendra Modi. "They will take the country to a situation where the poor, weak and farmers will beg for their rights," she said.

However, in contrast the ideology of Congress is development of farmers, poor, weak and every citizen of the country, she said adding that Congress is for peace and communal harmony.

 

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to visit Varanasi, Narendra Modi to rally in Amethi in May
New Delhi, April 26
An unwritten code followed by political parties may be breached next month with a visit by Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to Varanasi and a rally by BJP PM candidate Narendra Modi in the Gandhi pocket borough of Amethi.A combination photo shows BJP's prime ministerial pick Narendra Modi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. (Agencies)
Top leaders of key political parties usually avoid campaigning in each other’s constituencies. Varanasi is the constituency of Modi, who is expected to reach the city for his final campaign push on May 8 or 9. Priyanka’s visit to the holy city is being planned around the same time. Other candidates from Varanasi include AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal and the Congress’ Ajay Rai.

Read: 1,000 Modi men moved in from Gujarat to boost his campaign

The proposed Priyanka visit comes in the backdrop of BJP leaders in Uttar Pradesh pushing for a rally by Modi in Amethi where BJP’s Smriti Irani and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi are in the fray.

Congress leaders say that Priyanka will not campaign in Varanasi but only wants to visit so that she can offer a puja at the famous Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple.
However, Congress leaders say her proposed visit can boost the morale of local party workers.

Referring to the possibility of Modi campaigning in Amethi, a senior BJP leader told HT that the party had received a request from its leaders there. “It is under consideration. A decision hasn’t been taken yet”.

Read: A day after Modi’s road-show, Cong wakes up in Kashi

But Congress leaders said that they had information that the BJP had asked for permission for a Modi rally in Amethi in early May. Amethi goes to polls on May 7 and campaigning would have to end by the evening of May 5.

Congress leaders indicated that they would further tweak their strategy if the BJP went ahead with a Modi rally in Amethi. “We are keeping a close watch. If he goes to Amethi, we will respond appropriately,” a Congress leader said.

Amethi is witnessing an interesting contest this time with the entry of poet-turned-politician Kumar Vishwas of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the fray.

 

Priyanka targets Modi, says people know 'where you gave thousands of acres of land to friends'
Rae Bareli, April 25
Priyanka Gandhi on Friday tore into the Gujarat model of development in which "thousands of acres" of land has been given to "friends" of chief minister Narendra Modi at "throwaway prices" and accused him of treating the country as a "classroom".Priyanka Gandhi speaks to supporters during an election rally in Raebareli. (AFP Photo) Campaigning for her mother Congress president Sonia Gandhi in Rae Bareli, she also took a dig at him for his 'ABCD' and 'RSVP' jibes and said he should instead tell people what he planned to do for them. Priyanka said that people possess an unmatched understanding and they knew about Modi's Gujarat model of development "where you (Modi) gave thousands of acres of land to your friends."

Modi should tell people what is the situation of farmers and workers under his model or what had he done for women, she said.

Addressing the people, she said that they must have seen the huge campaigns on TV.

"Kabhi ABCD, kabhi RSVP. Aur kabhi da se desh aur ka se kouva. Ba se band bhi to kariye. (Sometimes ABCD, sometimes RSVP. Other time d for desh (country) and c for crow. Now please stop it).

"You are not addressing a primary school but people of the country," she said, apparently referring to the jibes that Modi had directed at the UPA and Gandhi family in the past.

Modi had recently described UPA's governance as "RSVP model" in which a person was able to multiply his earnings from Rs. one lakh to Rs. 400 crore in five years.

Giving his own meaning to RSVP, he said it stood for "Rahul, Sonia, Vadra and Priyanka".

He had also attacked Congress saying 'ABCD' has become a symbol of corruption by Congress party with 'A' referring to Aadarsh scam and 'B' denoting Bofors.

Priyanka said any leader whether from her own party or from any other should speak about what they would do for the people.

She said Congress ideology had always respected the country's unity and tradition of generosity.

 

Mumbai records highest voter turnout in more than two decades
Mumbai, April 25,
On Thursday, Mumbai shrugged off some of its apathy and came out to vote, with 52.66 % (initial estimates by the Election Commission) of the total registered voters making it to the polling booths.Congress candidate from South Mumbai Milind Deora cast his vote at a polling booth for Lok Sabha polls in Mumbai. (Kunal Patil/HT Photo)
While the city did not break any national records, this turnout is the highest re, since the 57.37% in the 1989 Lok Sabha elections. The polling percentage was 11.24% higher than in the 2009 elections, which took place six months after the 26/11 terror attacks.

Between 1989 and now, only once has Mumbai posted 50% voting — during the 1998 polls (50.26%), when the collapse of the United Front government led to mid-term polls and the city rallied to vote for a stable government.

Read: Mumbai’s affluent queue up to get finger inked

So what prompted Mumbaiites to vote? Did the BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi and his highdecibel campaign push people towards polling stations with people voting for and against him, as seems the common perception?

“It was a combination of factors — a personality-dominated election, increased awareness because of efforts by the Election Commission, massive mobilisation by the candidates. The fact is there was a democratic upsurge with people not wanting to be left out of the voting process,” said B Venkatesh Kumar, political analyst.

Read: Modi wave brings Gujaratis out in large numbers

“Whether it was a vote for Modi or against him will be analysed post elections. But it seems that people came out to also vote for stability.”

Aamir Khan after casting his vote in Mumbai (ANI Photo)
The earlier spikes in voting in Mumbai were seen during defining moments — in 1977 postEmergency (61.77%), in 1984, after Indira Gandhi’s assassination (56.36%) and in 1989, following the Bofors scandal and the antiCongress wave (57.37 %).

Read: Wary, minorities in city stick to Congress

Unusually, there was a palpable buzz on the streets and at polling stations across Mumbai, with citizens who voted flaunting their inked fingers and those who were left out showing agitation. The increased polling percentage could indicate a tough contest in the city, with opposing alliances securing their traditional votebanks.

 

LS polls live: Voters head to polling booths in 117 constituencies
New Delhi, April 24
Voters headed to the polling stations on a balmy Thursday morning as the sixth phase of the staggered elections began in 117 constituencies spread across 11 states and a union territory.

A polling officer marks the finger of a woman voter at a polling booth in Gailpur in Alwar, Rajasthan. (AFP photo)

A Kashmiri Muslim voter (L) has her finger marked with ink before casting her ballot at a polling station at Bijbehara some 42kms south of Srinagar. (AFP photo)

Army officers patrol near a polling station in Bijbehara, some 42kms south of Srinagar. (AFP photo)

A Kashmiri Muslim woman (C) casts her ballot at a polling station at Bijbehara some 42kms south of Srinagar. (AFP photo)

A Kashmiri Muslim woman looks on after casting her ballot at a polling station in Bijbehara, some 42kms south of Srinagar. (AFP photo)

Women voter queue to cast their votes at Gailpuri in Alwar, Rajasthan. (AFP photo)

Voters go to cast their ballot at a local polling station during the early morning at Sangam, some 42kms south of Srinagar. (AFP photo)
The second-largest phase in terms of Lok Sabha seats, Thursday's polls will determine the fate of 2,076 candidates including Union ministers and sitting MPs.

As trends started to trickle in, voters in Uttar Pradesh – where polling was underway in 12 constituencies -- appeared to have taken the lead with 11.20% polling recorded till 9 am.

Bihar recorded 9.12% polling till 9 am in the seven seats where polling is being held.

In Mumbai, where polling was under way in six constituencies, unofficial reports put the polling percentage at around 10% polling in the first two hours. Polling is being held in 19 seats in Maharashtra.

In this round of polling, the stakes are very high for the Congress but more for the BJP which is tipped to form the next government under the leadership of its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.

The Congress had won 36 of 117 seats in 2009, the BJP 26, the DMK 18, the AIADMK 9 and the Samajwadi Party 5.

The focus is on 39 Lok Sabha seats in Tamil Nadu where the BJP has struck an alliance with five regional parties, which had got about 20% of votes in 2009 Lok Sabha polls.

BJP prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi addressed at least seven meetings in Tamil Nadu in this campaign. The saffron party's best showing in Tamil Nadu was four seats in 1999, as junior partner to the DMK.

Tamil Nadu will see voting for all its 39 seats in one go. Chief minister and AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa is aiming for a clean sweep, including the Puducherry seat.

This round will also have a bearing on the prime ministerial ambitions of the Jayalalithaa and Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, who is in the fray from bastion Mainpuri.

In fact, in Uttar Pradesh, it is a showcase of heavyweights with Mulayam, his daughter-in-law Dimple Yadav, external affairs minister Salman Khurshid, Amar Singh and Hema Malini in the fray.

Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, who exercised his franchise in Saifai (Etawah), said the SP was emerging stronger after every phase of polling.

Most pollsters have viewed UP as a three-cornered contest between the BJP, SP and Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). The Congress will be hoping to prove pollsters wrong. It had won 21 seats from the state in 2009.

The voting process in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh will end with the final tranche of 10 seats. Sushma Swaraj, one of the saffron party's top leaders, is in the fray.

The voting process will also end in Chhattisgarh (7 seats), Assam (6 seats), Rajasthan (5 seats) and Jharkhand (4 seats).

Cricketer-turned-politician Mohammad Azharuddin is in the fray in Rajasthan.

In Bihar, polling is being held for 7 seats. The political dynamics of Bihar have changed since the BJP-Janata Dal (United) split. The BJP has managed to seal a pact with Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party (LJP). The big interest, however, is in what kind of impact Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad makes.

In West Bengal, where polling is taking place in 6 seats, President Pranab Mukherjee's son, Abhijit Mukherjee, and Deepa Dasmunshi are among the central figures in the poll ring.

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader Mehbooba Mufti is the big name in the Anantnag contest in Jammu and Kashmir.

Thursday will see polling coming to end in Assam (six seats), Chhattisgarh (seven seats) and Jharkhand (four seats).

 

BJP govt will create special courts to punish corrupt people in all parties: Modi
April 22
BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi on Tuesday responded to a questionnaire sent by HT. Excerpts: BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi greets the crowd at an election rally in Dhanbad on Tuesday.(Bijay/HT Photo)
Did you expect this kind of response when you set out on your role as PM candidate?
From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, from Kutch to Kohima I am seeing unprecedented support for BJP and NDA. This election campaign is very unique. Never before has so much groundswell of support and enthusiasm been seen for the BJP even from areas where we have not been traditionally strong. I have been overwhelmed by the support I have seen in the northeastern region, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Odisha, apart from of course our traditional strongholds.

The two recent books by Sanjay Baru and PC Parakh reveal India has not had a functioning prime minister for nearly a decade. What Baru calls an "Accidental PM" has presided over a "detrimental government" for India. In the NDA, the youth and the voters of this country have been presented with an alternative that connects with their dreams and aspirations. The response we are seeing is a reflection of that.

This election is seen as more of a vote for Modi than BJP. Is it so?
It is a vote for India. It is a vote for the aspirations of our youth. It causes me a lot of pain when some people say that Modi has become bigger than the party. I have always maintained that a son can never grow to be bigger than the mother. This has been the way I have grown up and this is the way I think. Our guiding mantra remains "nation first, party second, self last" and each and every one of us are living by this ideal.

Why are some people spreading fears about you becoming the PM?
This is a question you should ask those people but yes, I can say that spreading such fear is the last refuge of a vested interest group, whose survival is at stake in these elections. For the last decade, Modi has been a source of employment for these people--- abuse Modi and receive patronage. The mood of the people tells you this time it's going to be different. Thus, it has become a question of their survival and that explains their actions.

For too long, our opponents have stoked fears to communalise elections in the name of secularism. Today I am proud that we have changed that. They are no longer able to do so. Hence this stop-Modi project. They fear the change that is coming.

What will be your first priority if you become the Prime Minister?
We are a large nation and so it would be very unfair to call any priority first or second or third. Development of India is our only priority. And that will begin by ending the trust deficit that has crept-in since the last decade.

Employment creation is a major focus area for us. We have a very talented, but unemployed, pool of youngsters. We want to change that. We need both a skills revolution and a manufacturing revolution.

Just this week you would have read how even the American president announced measures to invest in skills development in their economy. Some people say that the next international competition is going to be a jobs war. China has understood this and it is better we also understand it sooner rather than later.

We must look at opening up our economy so every possible opportunity is tapped into to create jobs in India for our youth. All of this will happen when you have a strong government that is capable of taking strong decisions. The mantra is that of skill, scale and speed. the same time, we need a government that is going to walk the extra mile to bring a definite change in the lives of the farmers. The suffering of the farmers and neglect of the agriculture sector has been one of the biggest failures of the UPA.

What can we look for in your new team? On what basis will you choose your top team?
We in the BJP and the NDA are blessed with many experienced leaders many years of experience in governance both at the Central and state levels. We have top notch talent in our team and I expect this talent to make a big impact if we are chosen by the voters to form the next government. This is not the appropriate time to speculate on what the team will look like but I can tell you this much that it will be a team that will work day and night round the year to fulfill the dreams of 125 crore Indians.

How will you strike a balance between youth and experience?
As I have said, it is slightly premature to talk in detail about government formation.

How will BJP change under you?
The BJP has moulded me and shaped me over the decades. I grew upholding the hand of the many senior stalwarts. I am what I am today because of the BJP. The party has been built brick by brick by the sweat and hard work of the millions of BJP workers across India. We are not a dynastic party but we are a dynamic party. We are not controlled by one single family. It is not for me as an individual to change it. It is the workers who will continue to take the party forward in the years to come.

You have already spoken of action against those guilty of corruption. Should the top Congress leaders fear action against them?
I have never believed in being vindictive nor will I be vindictive against any person, party or organisation. For nearly a decade, vested interests have hounded me with a vengeful agenda. I know what that feels like. It is not in my political culture to indulge in such a vindictive brand of politics. There are a lot better things to do like tackling the problems India faces. As far as corruption goes, we have a judicial system that ensures justice is done. The corrupt and criminal elements in every party must be punished within a year, for which we will create special courts. In this, no party will be excluded.

There are concerns about how this election has polarised the people. If the BJP gets to form the government, how will you heal the wounds and reach out to minorities?
Yes, we surely have polarised people between those who want development and those who are against development and for corruption and misgovernance. The polarisation is between those who want the politics of development and good governance on the one hand and those who are stuck up in the politics of vote banks on the other hand.

Your manifesto talks about making India a global manufacturing hub. With China decades ahead of us, how will you manage to compete?
Firstly, in this ever expanding world, there is room for everybody. But if there is a specific comparison to China, our nation has three distinct advantages over them. These are the three Ds as I have often spoken about i.e. Demography, Democracy and Demand. The first is the demographic dividend. We are a very young nation with 65% of the population below the age of 35. This demographic dividend can not only help provide a skilled, effective work force, but will also act as one of the world's largest consumer base.

Media and other forums abroad have expressed concern about the direction India is taking? How do you plan to reach out to foreign governments to tackle this perception?
We stand for engaging with the global community to work together for achieving a peaceful world. At the same time, we are committed to safeguarding India's interests. I am not sure what perception you are talking about. If you are referring to vested interests in some sections of foreign media, then it is a many decades old problem, nothing new about their fear mongering. Similar fears were raised by them when Vajpayee ji became prime minister but you have seen how NDA proved them wrong.

We will continue Vajpayeeji's foreign policy legacy and work in the direction he showed us a decade back. I would urge you to not get carried away by motivated propaganda by certain vested interests in some sections of foreign media. As a responsible Indian newspaper it is important that you make the distinction between propaganda of a few in foreign media and the long history of engagement we have had both at the Center and state levels with many foreign governments over the years.

AAP leader Shazia Ilmi sparks row, says Muslims should be communal for own good
New Delhi, April 22,
Days before the crucial fifth phase of Lok Sabha elections, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Shazia Ilmi has landed into a controversy because of her alleged "Muslims ought to be communal this time" remark.

The party distanced itself from her remark and said she should not have said it.

"Muslims are very secular. Muslims ought to be more communal. (They) do not vote for their own. (AAP leader) Arvind Kejriwal is your own. I say, it is enough of secularism," Ilmi, who contested the Lok Sabha polls from Ghaziabad earlier in the month, is seen saying in the video.

"Here helping the Congress win, there someone else. Please do not be so secular. Muslims are secular. They will continue to vote for others. Other parties don't do such things?" she said.

It is a short 1.19 minute video clip, apparently a sting operation, where Ilmi is seen talking to Muslims. The video, believed to be shot in Mumbai, where she had gone for campaigning for AAP's South Mumbai candidate Mira Sanyal, shows Ilmi talking with her head covered with a dupatta. Mumbai goes to polls on April 24.

A file photo of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Shazia Ilmi. (HT file photo)
Read: Stones pelted during AAP leader Shazia Ilmi's rally

Ilmi, a member of AAP's national executive, is seen further saying "agree, this is controversial, but this is important" in reaction to a person sitting next to her who said "we are afraid, we have to vote".

The clip ends with Ilmi saying, "Kaam badal dijiye … lado aur jito (change the work. Fight and win)."

Read: 86 and counting: Nothing aam about AAP’s crorepati club

On being contacted, the AAP leader told HT, "Communal means 'of the community', not in a hateful manner. What I was telling them is not to be a political slave to a party. Not to live in fear."

"It was more of a sarcastic comment, play of words," she added.

Later talking to a television channel, Ilmi did not deny the contents of the video but said she does not remember where she said it as she had attended several meetings.

"I haven't said anything wrong. Congress has done nothing for us all these years," she told the news channel.

She also said, "This is my interpretation of secular versus communal."

Manish Sisodia, AAP spokesperson, said: "It is wrong. She should not have said it. The party does not believe in this."

Read: Vishwas, Shazia unhappy with AAP, rift out in open

Ahead of the Delhi assembly elections in 2013, when Ilmi had contested for the MLA seat from RK Puram, her name was embroiled in an alleged sting operation showing her and several other AAP candidates asking for donation in lieu of favours.

 

Modi tweets disapproval over 'irresponsible' remarks, Cong says he is shedding 'crocodile tears'
April 22
The Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi on Tuesday tweeted his disapproval over recent statements made by Vishwa Hindu Parishad president Pravin Togadia and BJP leader Giriraj Singh.

Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi addresses at Shri Ram College of Commerce in New Delhi. PTI
Modi's reaction comes after the Election Commission sought the tape of Togadia's alleged hate speech where he said that people from Muslim community should be stopped from buying properties in Hindu-dominated areas.

Modi, however, did not name anyone in his tweets.

 

The BJP's prime ministerial candidate said, "I disapprove any such irresponsible statement & appeal to those making them to kindly refrain from doing so."

"Petty statements by those claiming to be BJP's well wishers are deviating the campaign from the issues of development & good governance," he said in another tweet.

The Congress was quick to attack Modi's reaction.

"Modi has not even cancelled ticket of Giriraj Singh, so these are crocodile tears," Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi told ANI.

An FIR was filed against Togadia on Monday over remarks which drew sharp attacks from various political parties. The VHP leader has denied making any anti-Muslim remark.

Read: FIR against VHP leader Pravin Togadia for ‘hate speech’, EC seeks report

As Togadia's remarks went viral, Modi was said to be very upset. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and other Sangh bigwigs too were displeased as Togadia had been advised to avoid such controversies.

Last year, Togadia was among those Sangh leaders who had vehemently opposed Modi's elevation as PM pick. Given his long-standing rivalry with Modi, Togadia had conveyed to Bhagwat that the Sangh was making a "big" mistake in pushing for Modi as he would eventually turn against them, RSS insiders said.

Modi's tweet also targetted Giriraj Singh who had said on Saturday that those who opposed the party's prime ministerial candidate Modi would have to move to Pakistan after the Lok Sabha election results came out during a poll speech.

Former BJP president Nitin Gadkari had said on Saturday that casteism was embedded in the DNA of Bihar, evoking sharp reactions from both Congress and JD(U).

 

'Gujarat Congress shied away from attacking Hitler-like Modi'
New Delhi, April 20, 2014
Former union minister Mani Shankar Aiyar feels the Congress failed to build upon Sonia Gandhi’s observation that Narendra Modi was a merchant of death. Likening Modi to Adolf Hitler, he said the Gujarat chief minister gave away 76% tribal land in his state to the Adani Group. Excerpts from an interview:
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Some UPA leaders think the Modi wave is visible even in states like Tamil Nadu.
In a country known for its tolerance, a man like Modi cannot create any ripple, let alone wave. I am confident that 2014 is not going to be 1933 — the year Hitler came to power in Germany. But mistakes do happen. Germans are the most civilized people and yet they voted for Hitler. So, if the voters elect Modi, we have to topple that government by prevailing upon other parties. Modi knows nothing about India; he has no qualifications to be the PM.

But inflation and corruption during the UPA regime are bigger issues.
I agree there is some anti-incumbency factor against the UPA. But we have got our acts together. I can see in my constituency Mayila-duthurai how MGNREGA changed lives of poor people. And Modi had slammed this scheme. Believe me, there is no relevance of Gujarat model in large parts of the country. In Gujarat, tribals had only 8% land. Modi gave away 76% of it to the Adani Group. His campaign is funded entirely by black money.

Observers feel that the Congress is too late to counter Modi’s propaganda.
I agree we should have continuously attacked this man from 2002. But our party leadership in Gujarat shied away from attacking Modi, allowing him a lot of political space. We failed to build upon Sonia Gandhi’s correct observation that Modi is maut ka saudagar (the merchant of death). But nevertheless we have to make an all-out effort now to stop this dangerous man.

But Sanjaya Baru’s book has also added to the opposition’s ammo.
I have worked with the government for 21 years before entering the PMO. Baru had no such background and his only qualification seems to me is that his father was a teacher or a colleague of Manmohan Singh in his early years. Baru had no sense and he still hasn’t. He was an accidental media advisor to the PM. But his book has become the latest tool for the BJP but whatever he has written is his individual views.

Why did you call J Jayalalithaa the greatest magician after PC Sorcar?
A magician creates an illusion around himself as well as the audience. Jayalalithaa herself is in delusion and is now trying to bring people into a world of delusion that she will be the next PM!

 

EC allows Amit Shah to campaign in UP, ban on Azam Khan likely to stay

Apr 18, 2014
NEW DELHI:
The Election Commission on Thursday revoked its order barring BJP general secretary Amit Shah from campaigning in Uttar Pradesh, even as sources indicated that a similar ban on Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan is likely to stay.

The commission, which held several meetings over the last couple of days to discuss the pleas of the two leaders, came around to the view that Shah deserved leniency since he, unlike Khan, had acknowledged that he may have erred in his choice of expressions. Besides, he gave an undertaking to the EC that he would not use abusive or derogatory language in the campaign and would not indulge in any act that would be deemed a violation of the model code of conduct.

Accepting Shah's "solemn pledge" that he "shall in no manner give cause to be accused as having indulged in any act of commission or omission which has the effect of prejudicially affecting the public tranquillity and law and order," the EC decided to modify its order dated April 11, 2014, and declared that he may be granted permission to hold public meetings, processions, rallies, road shows etc.

At the same time, the EC made it clear to Shah that he was being given a second chance. "The commission shall closely monitor your campaign activities by constant video tracking by the district election authorities concerned," the poll body said in its order.

However, the EC is unlikely to reconsider the ban on Khan. The reasons, according to sources, being that Khan, even after receiving EC's notice, continued to make inflammatory and provocative speeches. In his reply filed a day after he was banned from public meetings, the SP leader refused to acknowledge any violation of the model code or regret his remarks. In fact, he slammed the EC in a recent media interview, accusing the poll body of being dictatorial and violating the principles of natural justice by ignoring his response to its notice.

SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, too, challenged the EC's ban on Khan, saying that "before acting too strict, the commission should test the political waters itself".

Explaining the reasons why EC put the case against Shah on a different footing, sources said the commission also factored in the BJP leader's decision not to challenge the order. He only objected to being bracketed with a "habitual offender", saying it was unfair. The close aide of Narendra Modi also emphasized that while he could be faulted for his selection of words, he had only asked voters to express themselves through the ballot.

Shah had reacted to EC's censure on Wednesday by saying even the "best bowler sometimes bowls no-balls".

Earlier in the day, he had been strongly defended by BJP's PM nominee. In an interview, Modi said so far as he could understand, Shah had done no wrong by asking voters to use the democratic process to articulate their feelings.

Modi also disputed the suggestion that Shah owed his prominence in the party to him, saying that to say this will be unfair to a man who has worked his way up.

Aam Aadmi Party? 86 crorepatis and counting

New Delhi, April 12, 2014
For a party that touts itself as being for the common man, many of the candidates fielded by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) certainly aren’t — financially speaking.

Aam Aadmi Party's candidate Yogendra Yadav addressing people at Firojpur Jhirkha in Mewat, Gurgaon. (Manoj Kumar/HT photo)
Of the 200 people contesting on an AAP ticket — in the first five phases of the Lok Sabha elections — an astounding 86 have declared assets worth more than a crore, according to a report by the Association for Democratic Rights, a poll watchdog.

Leading the pack is the party’s candidate from Bangalore Central and former Infosys CFO V Balakrishnan with Rs. 189 crore.

As comparison, the party has only Rs. 25 crore in its kitty and is facing a fund crunch in supporting the nearly 400 candidates fielded by it in the polls.

Others on the list are: whistleblower in Maharsatra’s irrigation scam Anjali Damania (Rs 19 crore), retired general RS Kadyan (Rs 13 crore), actor and activist Gul Panag (Rs 12 crore).

All journalists fielded by AAP made the list. In front, AAP candidate from Ghaziabad and former Star News anchor Shazia Ilmi (Rs 30 crore), followed by Anita Pratap (Rs 20 crore), Ashutosh (Rs 8 crore), Ashsish Khetan (Rs 1 crore) and Jarnail Singh (Rs 1 crore).

The party’s ideologue and chief strategist Yogendra Yadav, contesting from Gurgaon, has declared assets worth Rs. 2 crore.

 

BJP says UPA's dual power centre led to people's yearning for 'decisive' Narendra Modi
New Delhi, April 12, 2014
The BJP has targeted Congress with ammunition provided by a book written by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's former media adviser, saying that the UPA's dual power centre led to a "yearning" among the people for a "strong and decisive leadership" of Narendra Modi.

'The Accidental Prime Minister: The Making and Unmaking of Manmohan Singh', written by Sanjaya Baru, claims that Singh was reduced to a figure-head with Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi calling the shots in the government. The book hit the stands on Friday.

The BJP's campaign for the ongoing Lok Sabha elections has centered on the "decisive leadership" of its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and the party has played up the UPA government's alleged procrastinations on crucial policy matters.

"I have been saying from day one that the PM presides and madam decides. This has been proved by this book now," BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu said.

He said even this has been "outdated" now with the current norm being "PM presides, nobody decides."

Naidu said such a situation had caused a "yearning" among the people for a "strong and decisive leadership" of Modi.

BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said the book proves true the "fear" the party had been expressing over the years.

"Between the two of them, the decision is taken by Sonia Gandhi," she said.

In his book, Baru quotes the PM as saying that the system of two power centres could not work and he had "to accept that the party president (Sonia Gandhi) is the centre of power".

"I have come to terms with this. There cannot be two centres of power. That creates confusion. I have to accept that the party president is the centre of power. The government is answerable to the party," Singh is quoted to have told his former media adviser soon after being re-elected in 2009.
The Prime Minister's Office, however, dismissed the claims saying they "smacks of fiction".

Singh's media advisor Pankaj Pachauri said Baru was misusing his privileged position.

In a statement released by the PMO, Pachauri said, "It is an attempt to misuse a privileged position and access to high office to gain credibility and to apparently exploit it for commercial gain. The commentary smacks of fiction and coloured views of a former adviser."

The statement recalled that the question about comments of the former media adviser was raised by senior editors when they met the Prime Minister in October last year. His answer was "Do not believe all he is saying".

Women having sex outside marriage should be hanged: Abu Azmi
New Delhi, April 11, 2014
Samajwadi Party's leaders are trying to outdo each other by making one shocking statement after the other. After his boss Mulayam Singh Yadav's comment that death penalty for rape is unfair, Maharashtra unit chief Abu Azmi has now said women, including rape victims, who have sex outside marriage should be hanged. Advertisement On Thursday, Mulayam had said it was unfair to award death penalty to rapists for their 'mistakes' at a rally in Uttar Pradesh's Moradabad.

Watch: Women should not have sex before marriage says Abu Azmi

"Rape ke liye phaansi dena ghalat hai, ladkon se ghalti ho jaati hai, hum satta mein aaye to kanoon mein badlav karenge (Handing death sentence for rape is not fair... boys make mistakes... there will be changes in the law if we come to power)," an ANI tweet quoted Mulayam as saying.

Azmi, told Mid-day when asked for a solution to the problem of rapes: "Any woman if, whether married or unmarried, goes along with a man, with or without her consent, should be hanged.

Read: Lalu slams Mulayam's comments on rape, says SP chief talking rubbish

Both should be hanged. It shouldn't be allowed even if a woman goes by consent."

"Rape is punishable by hanging in Islam. But here, nothing happens to women, only to men. Even the woman is guilty. Girls complain when someone touches them, and even when someone doesn't touch them. It becomes a problem then... If rape happens with or without consent, it should be punished as prescribed in Islam."

He went on to say that the solution to rape was hanging both the man and woman.

He also defended his party chief by saying Mulayam respects women.

"He made Phoolan Devi an MP. He made a regulation in the party if anyone is harassing women, they would not be given a ticket. I don't know in what context he said this," Azmi told CNN-IBN.

 

Sensex records fresh high of 22,769; Nifty holds 6,800 level
10 Apr, 2014
The benchmark BSE Sensex climbed to anew record high of 22,769.20 in early trade on Thursday on sustained buying by funds and retail investors amid a firming trend in Asian markets.

The 30-share index, which had gained 358.89 points in the previous session, rose further by 66.86 points, or 0.29%, to 22,769.20 points.

The wide-based Nifty of the National Stock Exchange moved up by 14.40 points, or 0.21%, to 6,810.60.

Brokers said continued buying by funds as well as retail investors, tracking a firming trend on the other Asian bourses, mainly buoyed the trading sentiment.

They said the rally was led by stocks of realty, auto, power, oil and gas, capital goods and health care sectors.

Among Asian markets, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose by 0.47%, while Japan's Nikkei moved up by 0.69% in early trade on Thursday.

 

Second phase of Lok Sabha elections begins, 4 northeast states vote for 6 seats
New Delhi, April 09, 2014
Voting began on Wednesday in six constituencies spread across four northeastern states - Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Manipur - in round two of the nine-phase Lok Sabha elections.

Electoral staff carry EVMs in Jamri village of Arunachal Pradesh on Tuesday, the eve of the second phase of LS polls. Reuters
People will vote for one seat each in Nagaland and Manipur and two seats each in Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya. In Arunachal Pradesh, simultaneous elections will be held for 49 of the 60 assembly seats.

Elections to the sole Lok Sabha seat in Mizoram was postponed to April 11 on Tuesday following a state-wide bandh called against exercise of franchise by Bru voters lodged in Tripura camps through postal ballots.

Nagaland's lone Parliamentary seat will see only three candidates - chief minister Neiphiu Rio (NPF), Congress' KV Pusa and Akheu Achumi of Socialist Party (India) in the race. An electorate of 11,79,881 will be eligible to cast their votes.

Elections will be held on Wednesday in Outer Manipur Lok Sabha seat, one of the two Lok Sabha constituencies in Manipur.

Among the 10 contestants are nominees of BJP, Congress, Trinamool Congress, Naga People's Front, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Janata Dal(U) and Aam Aadmi Party.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/popup/2014/4/09-04-14-pg08a.jpgThree independents are also in the fray. Prominent candidates are sitting Congress MP Thangso Baite, Gangmumei Kamei (BJP), C Doungel (NCP), Kim Gangte (Trinamool Congress), Soso Lorho (Naga People's Front), L Gangte (JD-U) and MK Zou (AAP).

Out of total electorate of 9,11,699, 4,63,068 are women.

There are 511 polling booths. Polling for the second seat in the state, Inner Manipur constituency will be held on April 17.

In Arunachal Pradesh, Western and Eastern parliamentary constituencies will witness a multi-cornered contest among Congress, BJP, NCP, PPA and independents.

Among the eight candidates in the Western seat are Congress nominee and sitting MP Takam Sanjoy locking horns with former MP Kiren Rijiju, a BJP nominee.

In the Eastern Arunachal Parliamentary seat, Union minister of state for minority affairs Ninong Ering of Congress is contesting against BJP nominee Tapir Gao and Wangman Lowangcha on a People's Party of Arunachal ticket.

Both the Lok Sabha seats have been won by Congress since 1975, but for 2004 when it was won by BJP for the first time.

In Meghalaya, elections will be held for two Lok Sabha seats which will decide the fate of 10 candidates, including National People's Party (NPP) chief PA Sangma, sitting Congress MP Vincent Pala, former student leader Paul Lyngdoh and church leader PBM Basaiawmoit.

The Shillong seat will witness a multi-corner contest among the ruling Congress, the United Democratic Party and an independent candidate supported by two smaller regional parties while the ruling Congress will contest against the PA Sangma-led NPP for the Tura seat.

PA Sangma held the Tura seat eight out of 10 times while the Congress won the Shillong seat seven times between 1977 and 2009. Since 1996, the Congress candidate has consistently won the Shillong seat.

Of the electorate of 15,53,028, women voters numbering 13,512 are in the majority.

The Election Commission on Tuesday had deferred the polling date for election to the lone Lok Sabha seat in Mizoram and by-poll to Hrangturzo assembly seat to April 11 from April 9 in view of a state-wide bandh called against exercise of franchise by Bru voters lodged in Tripura camps through postal ballots.

However, the Joint NGO Coordination called off its bandh on Tuesday afternoon, saying the EC and the state government have agreed to its demands.

In the first round of voting on Monday, a high turnout of 85% was recorded for one Lok Sabha seat in Tripura, while Assam registered 76% in five seats.

 

Polls in West Bengal could be cancelled if EC orders on officials' transfer not followed
New Delhi, April 08, 2014
Sources said that disciplinary action could be taken against the West Bengal's chief secretary.

The EC's warning came after West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said she would not "remove a single officer".

On Monday, Banerjee lashed out at the Election Commission of India (ECI), describing it as an agent of all her rivals — the Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

Her outburst came after the poll body ordered the transfer of five superintendents of police, one district magistrate and two additional district magistrates earlier in the day.

Read: Mamata fumes as EC transfers 5 Bengal cops, DM

The ECI has the authority to transfer or suspend administrative officials after the poll dates are announced.

But Banerjee said, "I am not going to transfer any of the officials. ECI is acting as an agent of Congress, BJP and CPI(M). It is a conspiracy of the ECI, the Centre, Congress and the BJP."

She also challenged the poll body, saying it can do anything it wanted. "I don't care. Not a single transfer will take place as long as I am the chief minister. Either accept my resignation, or the transfer won't happen."

The ECI's transfer order came a day after the visit of the chief election commissioner to Bengal. There were allegations that the officials were acting in a biased manner and helping the ruling Trinamool Congress.

Banerjee's remark drew a sharp response from the opposition parties.

Former state Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya said the Constitution of India gave the ECI the powers to suspend an official.

"Those who are opposing it (the transfer order) should think again so that they don't create a constitutional crisis."

Suryakanta Mishra, CPI(M) leader and the leader of Opposition in Bengal assembly, said the chief minister's ignorance about the constitution prompted her to challenge the ECI.

 

This election, UP is anything but an open and shut case
April 06, 2014
In Lucknow, two Muslim clerics with considerable influence — one among the Sunnis and the other among the Shias — unanimously tell me how Narendra Modi’s relentless media blitz, particularly on TV channels, will strengthen the resolve of Muslim voters in Uttar Pradesh to vote against the BJP. It’s a constant reminder to the people about who not to vote for, they say.
A few hours later, Lucknow’s sitting BJP MP and septuagenarian leader, Lalji Tandon, who has had to step aside, not happily, from re-contesting his seat in favour of his party’s president, Rajnath Singh, says just the opposite. Modi’s ubiquitous media appearances are what, in part, power the wave that he says is sweeping through UP.
Some kilometres away, at his plush official residence, the state’s Samajwadi Party government’s young chief minister Akhilesh Yadav laughs off talk of the “wave”. He’s sanguine that his party will fare “much better” than it did in the last Lok Sabha polls when the SP had won 22 of the 80 seats in a state where elections can be a notoriously complex affair.
Uttar Pradesh is a state that can confound psephologists: Its 134 million voters are fragmented into communities and castes and sometimes factors that are a permutation of both. Muslim voters are a significant force in as many as 55 of the 80 seats and in 22 of those they account for more than a fifth of the electorate. Many of these are in the western part of UP, where, in Muzaffarnagar, bloody communal riots took place last September.
Read: First phase in UP likely to impact rest
Will Muslim votes make a difference in LS polls? Here's a look at the top 7 states

Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav waves to his supporters before filing his nomination for the upcoming general election at Mainpuri in Uttar Pradesh. (Reuters Photo)
The impact of those riots will be felt in the elections: Polarising not just the Muslim votes but also those of the Hindus. It is here that a fourth contender, former chief minister Mayawati’s BSP, which represents the backward castes and minorities, hopes to gain the most seats and offer big resistance to the Modi wave. It is here too that the state’s ruling party, the SP, has lost the faith of Muslims because of what is perceived as its slow and inept response during the riots.
BJP leaders say their main fight in western UP is against the BSP, while in central and eastern parts of the state, where Modi himself is contesting from Varanasi, it is the SP that is its main rival. Its own forecasts, ostensibly fuelled by the oft-mentioned wave, suggests that it could get 50 seats or even more in a state where the number of seats it gets will substantially impact its efforts to get a tidy tally out of all 543 Lok Sabha seats if it has to realise its dreams of forming the next government.
But UP is not an open and shut case during elections. Not for the BJP, nor for the SP or the BSP or even the Congress. On Friday, the religious leader of Delhi’s Jama Masjid, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, called upon Muslims to vote for the Congress and not the SP or BSP, both of which, he said, had let the community down during the Muzaffarnagar riots.
If UP’s Muslim voters follow his writ, things could change — for all the contesting parties, particularly in constituencies where the Muslim vote matters. Voters in Western UP will poll in the first of the six phases that UP’s lengthy elections are divided into and many believe that what happens in the first phase, just as in a game of dominoes, can affect the other phases.
Also on Friday, two big opinion polls forecast big numbers for the BJP and its ally, Apna Dal, in UP: One gave it 42-50 seats; and the other, 53. Not surprisingly, that translated into big overall numbers for the BJP-led alliance in the same polls: 234-246 in the first; and 259 in the second.
Opinion polls sometimes go horribly wrong but there’s no disputing the fact that how it does in UP will crucially determine whether the BJP gets to win the right to form the next government. Of course, its tally in other big-seats states such as Bihar (40) and Maharashtra (48), and the outcome of its talks with new potential allies will matter too, but UP, a state from where both its prime ministerial candidate and its president are contesting, will hold the key.
- See more at: http://www.hindustantimes.com/comment/sanjoynarayan/everything-is-up-in-the-air-in-uttar-pradesh/article1-1204689.aspx#sthash.FDsUaa6p.dpuf

 

Biggest search yet for Malaysian plane in Indian Ocean
Reuters | Apr 5, 2014
PERTH: Four weeks after the disappearance of a Malaysia Airlines jetliner, searchers on Saturday launched the most intensive hunt yet in the southern Indian Ocean, trying to find the plane's black box recorders before their batteries run out.

Up to 10 military planes, three civilian jets and 11 ships will scour a 217,000-sq-km (88,000-sq-mile) patch of desolate ocean some 1,700 km (1,060 miles) northwest of Perth near where investigators believe the plane went down on March 8 with the loss of all 239 people on board.

"If we haven't found anything in six weeks we will continue because there are a lot of things in the aircraft that will float," Retired Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, the head of the Australian agency coordinating the operation, told reporters.

"Eventually I think something will be found that will help us narrow the search area."

Authorities have not ruled out mechanical problems as a cause but say the evidence, including the loss of communications, suggests Flight MH370 was deliberately diverted thousands of kilometres from its scheduled route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

Dozens of flights by a multinational taskforce have so far failed to turn up any trace of the plane, and investigators concede the task has been made more difficult by the lack of data.

The Boeing 777 was briefly picked up on military radar on the other side of Malaysia and analysis of subsequent hourly electronic "handshakes" exchanged with a satellite led investigators to conclude the plane crashed far off the west Australian coast hours later.

SONAR SEARCH

Sonar equipment on two ships joining the search may help find the plane's black box voice and data recorders that are key to unlocking what happened on the flight. The black box is equipped with a locator beacon that transmits "pings" when underwater, but its batteries may only last 30 days.

Australian authorities said the so-called Towed Pinger Locator will be pulled behind navy ship HMAS Ocean Shield, searching a converging course on a 240-km (150-mile) track with British hydrographic survey ship HMS Echo.

Experts have warned the Towed Pinger Locator may be of little use unless investigators can get a much better idea of exactly where the plane went into the water, because its limited range and the slow speed at which it must be pulled behind the ship mean it cannot cover large areas of ocean quickly.

"I won't even call it an area. What we are doing is we are tracking down the best estimate of the course that the aircraft was on," U.S. Navy Captain Mark Matthews told Reuters. "It takes a couple of days on each leg so its a slow-going search."

Britain is also sending HMS Tireless, a Trafalgar-class nuclear submarine with sonar capabilities, and a Malaysian frigate was due to arrive in the search area on Saturday.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and his Australian counterpart, Tony Abbott, this week toured RAAF Base Pearce, near Perth, from where aircrews seven countries have been operating.

"The world expects us to do our level best, and I'm very confident we will indeed show what we can do together as a group of nations; that we want to find answers, that we want to provide comfort to the families and we will not rest until answers are indeed found," Najib said.

Malaysian authorities have faced heavy criticism, particularly from China, for mismanaging the search and holding back information. Most of the 227 passengers were Chinese.

 

Lok Sabha polls to be conducted in 9 phases from April 7 to May 12, counting on May 16
New Delhi, March 05, 2014

The Election Commission on Wednesday announced the schedule for the 2014 Lok Sabha electionssaying they will be held in nine phases from April 7, 2014 to May 12, 2014.

Chief election commissioner VS Sampath announced the dates in a press conference. The two election commissioners HS Brahma and SNA Zaidi were also present.

The counting of votes to be held on May 16 and will be over in a day, Sampath told reporters.

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The first date of poll shall be on April 7, 2014 which will be held in two states and six parliamentary constituencies will be covered. The second phase of poll on April 9 will cover seven constituencies in five states. The third phase on April 10 to cover 92 constituencies in 14 states and the fourth day of poll on April 12 to cover three states and five constituencies.

The fifth will be on April 17 which will cover 13 states and UTs and 122 constituencies and sixth phase will be on April 24, covering 12 states and 117 constituencies.

Read: Money power causing concern: VS Sampath

The seventh phase will be held on April 30 to cover nine states and 89 constituencies, eighth phase on May 7 will cover seven states and 64 constituencies and the last and ninth phase on will be on May 12 and cover 3 states and 41 constituencies.

He said that the model code of conduct has come into immediate effect. It prevents the government from making any decisions that can be seen as influencing voters. It also prohibits political parties from making unsubstantiated allegations against opponents.

He said that the total number of electorate this year stands at 81.4 crore and has increased by 10 crore as compared to the last parliamentary elections in 2009.

The chief election commissioner also said there has been a 12% increase in the number of polling stations in the country with 9,30,000 stations this year. There were 8.3 lakh stations in the last elections.

Govt hikes DA by 10% for 80 lakh employees and pensioners
New Delhi, February 28, 2014
Government on Friday raised dearness allowance to 100%, from 90%, benefiting its 50 lakh employees and 30 lakh pensioners.
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The decision to hike DA for its employees, and to provide dearness relief for pensioners, by 10% to 100% was taken by the Union Cabinet in its meeting held in New Delhi.

"The Union Cabinet has approved the proposal to hike Dearness allowance for its employees and dearness relief for its pensioners to 100% in its meeting held here," a source said.

This increase in the dearness allowance by the UPA-2 government comes ahead of the imposition of the model code of conduct by the Election Commission.

The code is likely to come into force with the announcement of the schedule for the forthcoming general elections in a week or so. Also it would be the second double digit DA hike in a row. The government had announced a hike of 10% to 90% in September last year, effective from July 1, 2013.

The new hike in DA would be effective from the January 1, 2014. As per practice, the government uses Consumer Price Index-Industrial Workers data of the past 12 months to arrive at a quantum for the purpose of any DA hike.

Thus, the retail inflation for industrial workers between January 1 to December 31, 2013 was used to take a final call on the matter. According to the provisional data released by government on January 31, the retail inflation for factory workers in December was 9.13%.

The revised retail inflation data for January is scheduled to be released on Friday. An official had said earlier that the preliminary assessment suggests that DA hike will not be less than 10% and would be effective from January 1.

 

Interim budget 2014-15 live updates: Chidambaram rejects argument of policy paralysis
New Delhi, February 17, 2014

India's fiscal deficit - shorthand for amount of money government borrows to fund its expenses - will be controlled at 4.6% of GDP, Union finance minister P Chidambaram said on Monday.Presenting the interim budget, he said the Congress-led UPA government's growth record was unparalleled despite the recent slowdown.

 

PM ambitions driving Jayalalithaa, Modi apart?
 New Delhi, February 08, 2014 The AIADMK chief is reportedly miffed with the BJP prime ministerial candidate’s remark that the newly cobbled together “third front”, of which she is a part, would turn India into a “third rate” country. And as Modi heads to Chennai for a rally on Saturday, the big question is whether he will reach out to her as he did to Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata on Wednesday.

At the Chennai rally, the BJP hopes to present a new alliance in Tamil Nadu. But with the ruling AIADMK joining the non-Congress, non-BJP front, leaders of the two parties — as well as of the opposition DMK — are keenly watching what tone the rally would take.

According to insiders, Modi and Jayalalithaa haven’t met since the former addressed his first rally in Tiruchi last September. But the two leaders are said to have kept their lines open and Jaya’s administration has always acceded to requests for travel facilities for Modi during his campaign trips.

Modi’s strategists see the Tamil Nadu CM as a potential post-poll ally who could help the BJP get the numbers to form the next government at the Centre. However, Jayalalithaa has never hidden her own PM ambitions — her party has a ‘Jaya for PM’ slogan — and is hoping to win a maximum number of the 40 seats in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.

With the DMK family feud exploding, her chances of sweeping the state have become that much brighter.

However, with Jaya joining the Left-inspired front and announcing an alliance with the Left parties for the Lok Sabha polls, things may not be the same for the BJP and AIADMK, said party insiders. After the alliance with the Left was cemented on Sunday, veteran CPI leader AB Bardhan seemed to almost endorse her for the top post. Asked if Jayalalithaa was a PM candidate, he said, “If we succeed in the election, the prospect will open up.”

A day later, in the company of CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat, the CM sought to down play the issue, saying “this is not the time to decide who the next PM will be. It will be arrived at only after the elections”.

 

Delhi: Arunachal MLA's son beaten to death, autopsy report awaited; 3 detained
New Delhi, January 31, 2014
An 18-year-old college student died on Thursday after being allegedly beaten up mercilessly at a marketplace in the Lajpat Nagar area of Delhi, triggering widespread protests in the Capital.

Nido Taniam, the son of Arunachal Pradesh Congress legislator Nido Pavitra, was attacked around 2pm on Wednesday after an altercation broke out between him and a shopkeeper over his hair colour.

The police reportedly detained three persons in connection with the case. In the face of growing outrage, the Delhi government ordered a magisterial inquiry into the case.

Read: AAP hits out at Delhi Police over youth's death

The incident has once again raised concerns over the security of students from the north-east in the Capital.

Micro-blogging site Twitter was abuzz on Friday, with some of the users suggesting racism played a part in Taniam's death. The mysterious death of 21-year-old Manipur resident Reingamphi Awungshi at Chirag Dilli in May 2013 also featured in the discussions.

"The death of a north-east student in New Delhi after being beaten up is barbaric and condemnable," Bharatiya Janata Party leader Arun Jaitley said on Twitter.

Read: Arunachal student a victim of hate crime, says Family

Taniam went to Lajpat Nagar to visit a friend on Wednesday, Arunachal Pradesh resident commissioner Avinash Mishra said while talking to a TV channel.

Unable to find the address, he entered a shop and sought the shopkeeper's help, Mishra added.

According to JT Tagan, president of the Arunachal Students' Union in the Capital, the shopkeeper and some people present at the shop teased Taniam over the colour of his hair.

Irked, Taniam broke a glass item in the shop, for which he later paid Rs. 7,000, Mishra said.

An altercation broke out and the youth was allegedly beaten up with sticks and iron rods by a group of around seven men. He succumbed to his injuries on Thursday, Tagan said.

A youth claiming to be Taniam's cousin alleged he saw an injury mark on his neck and his lips were torn. "The family has been informed. As they won't be able to come here, we will take the body back home," he said.

Read: Students from northeast face daily harassment

"This is surely about racism. Everybody in Delhi discriminates against us based on our looks. We are living in India, but we don't know whether we are actually living in India or not," he told a TV channel.

A police official said, "Taniam's post-mortem has been carried out in AIIMS. The cause of death would be clear only after the autopsy report. There was some altercation he had on Wednesday, we are investigating the case."

Some reports claimed the police had intervened into the matter and detained Taniam, but later dropped him at the same spot.

Reacting to the incident, ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Dilip Pandey said the Delhi Police should take prompt action and book the accused at the earliest.

Read: Police forced a compromise, says Nido's family

Turning the heat on the police force, he added, "The way lawlessness is prevailing in the state needs to be checked... Delhi Police will have to take the responsibility to stop such incidents."

According to TV reports, students from the north-east are likely to stage a protest in Delhi on Saturday.

Binalakshmi Nepram, founder of non-governmental organisation Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network, accused the police of initially refusing to register an FIR in the case.

The government condemned the incident in a statement, saying, "We are working on ordering a magisterial inquiry into this death, which is not only tragic but raises serious questions on the alleged beating reportedly in public view."

Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal directed education minister Manish Sisodia to probe the matter and revert with the details, news agency IANS reported.

 

Expelled AAP leader Binny ends protest in 5 hours, warns of bigger agitation if demands not met in 10 days

27 Januray, 2014

New Delhi Vinod Kumar Binny, expelled by the Aam Aadmi Party yesterday, has ended the protest he began about five hours ago with the warning that he will be back if his demands are not met by the Delhi government in 10 days. 
Mr Binny wound up his protest at Delhi's Jantar Mantar reportedly at the advice of Gandhian activist Anna Hazare and Delhi's Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung. "I give AAP and (Arvind) Kejriwal 10 more days to fulfill promises. I will come back with a bigger agitation if that is not done," he said.
He claimed that Anna Hazare had advised him that "sitting on hunger strike for four days won't work, he asked me to protest against AAP by spreading awareness."
The legislator has accused the Arvind Kejriwal-led party of cheating the people of Delhi by not fulfilling in letter and spirit the promises it made during its election campaign. He also wants Law Minster Somnath Bharti to resign for the controversy over his midnight raid that targeted a group of African people in a south Delhi locality earlier this month.  ('Dear Chief Minister, sack Somnath Bharti': Pressure on AAP to act against Law Minister)
Mr Binny had also made these allegations on January 16, when he called a press conference and went public with his disagreement with his party, and had made a direct attack on party chief and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, who he called a "liar" and a "dictator." ('Arvind Kejriwal is a dictator': rebel Vinod Binny's 5 big complaints against AAP)
AAP said in a curt statement late last evening, "This disciplinary committee has decided to expel Vinod Kumar Binny and terminate his primary membership from the party, for publicly making false statements against the party and its leadership, thereby bringing disrepute to the party." 
This morning Mr Binny claimed that he had not been formally informed of his expulsion and had learnt about it from the media. He also claimed that several other AAP legislators were "upset with the party. They would have joined me today. Which is why I think I have been expelled." 
More rebellion in the AAP ranks will mean trouble for Mr Kejriwal, who heads a minority government with 28 MLAs and the external support of eight Congress legislators and two others. The Chief Minister reacted to Mr Binny's comments by saying, "We do not have to do the politics of saving the government."

Chhattisgarh: Auditor raps Raman Singh's govt for paying for coverage
New Delhi/Raipur, January 24, 2014
The Chhattisgarh accountant general (AG) has hauled up the state government for its "unjustified and avoidable" expenditure of over Rs. 90 crore on publicity via advertisements to electronic channels and newspapers and on travel, living arrangements for visiting journalists.

In an inspection report, the AG said payments were made without an assessment of the need for coverage and, in some cases, without budgetary provisions.

Most payments were made for news items and ‘live’ coverage of speeches and programmes featuring chief minister Raman Singh. The report said TV channels like Sahara Samay, ZEE 24 Ghante Chhattisgarh, ETV, Bansal News, Sadhna News and NDTV 24x7, as well as Radio Mirchi, were paid about Rs. 18 crore to broadcast ‘news’ events; the implication being that the channels would have covered these events anyway.

To curb paid news in print, the draft Press and Registration of Books and Publications Bill, 2013, states that publications found indulging in paid news may be suspended. But electronic channels must regulate themselves through the national broadcasters association.

Paying for news in electronic media

The AG studied records of the public relations (PR) department from February 2010 to January 2013. It found the TV and radio channels in question were paid to cover national events like Independence Day, Republic Day and the national budget as well as local events such as the Chitakote and Sirpur Mahotsavas. It says though channels were paid for this coverage, some channels used the "live/news" tag during broadcast.

OP Choudhary, director of Chhattisgarh’s PR department, justified the expense, saying channels tend to air the Prime Minister and President’s speeches during national events as a result of which state CMs — who highlight achievements, policies and welfare schemes in speeches — get little air time. The ‘coverage’ helps create awareness, he said, adding that the AG’s observations were part of a draft audit report.

However, activists don’t buy his argument. "Taxpayers money has been misused by the state to influence media. This… prevents ordinary citizens from knowing the correct facts," said Ajay Dubey, an activist, who obtained the report under the Right to information Act.

The state spent Rs. 1.18 crore for coverage of the Gram Suraj Abhiyan in which the CM goes on surprise inspections to examine the implementation of welfare schemes. "The event is a news item… and would probably have been covered by the media… it does not seem justified to incur a large expenditure for coverage." The report adds that the coverage ‘arrangement’ was at the initiative of the electronic media.

KK Naik, CEO-IBC 24, previously Zee24 Ghante Chhattisgarh, and SK Gupta, ETV, GM-marketing refused to comment, saying the issue was between the state and the AG; Praful Pare, state bureau head of Bansal News said the channel sold slots to the government based on its needs and the process is clearly defined. Ganesh Dubey, marketing head, Sahara Samay, Chhattisgarh, said only the AG knew the grounds on which they have raised objections.

Smeeta Chakrabarti, CEO, NDTV GoodTimes, said: "Chhattisgarh govt issued a work order in favour of NDTV Lifestyle Limited, an NDTV group company… for the production, promotion and airing of a six-part series… The series was not carried on NDTV 24x7. Our news channels only carried the usual internal advertising spots to promote the series."

Nitin Choubey, vice-president, Sadhna News, accepted that the AG’s objections seem justified to an extent. But Radio Mirchi station head, Nikhil Trivedi, didn’t see a problem with the channel airing such content. "… we have no news content. We sell spot (air-time) to meet the cost we are incurring…"

Favours for journalists

The report highlights irregular payments of about Rs. 22 crore to newspapers for publication of classifieds without assessing whether these were published. Three fledgling newspapers – Dainik Patrika, Lokmaya, Pioneer (English) were given lakhs without any record made of it. Rules say newspapers should complete a year to qualify for government advertising.

Suryakant Tiwari, marketing head of Pioneer, Raipur, and Ashok Bhatnagar, owner of Lokmaya, denied their papers were ineligible for advertising. Tiwari said since his paper was a franchise of Delhi-based Pioneer, it qualified within six months. Bhatnagar argued that any newspaper published for three months was eligible. Dainik Patrika refused comment.

Choudhary said, "A roster can’t be maintained to issue equal advertisements to all newspapers as advertisements are not issued for financial assistance."

The report also points out that the government spent crores to make arrangements for visiting journalists even though the purpose of these visits was not clear from records scrutinised. The AG also found fake taxi bills during its audit. Choudhary denied making irregular payments, saying everything was done with the sanction of higher authorities.

 

Rahul asks AAP workers to remove cap, join Cong
Amethi, January 23, 2014
In rare political style, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi asked some Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) workers in Amethi to take off their caps and join the Congress instead.

On a day two-day visit to his family’s political home ground, he stopped to meet the AAP workers and had a quick chat. “Are you from Amethi,” he asked the youths. Seeing their caps, he jokingly asked the workers to take them off and join the Congress.”

Despite the courteous meeting, AAP workers started shouting “takht badal do taaj badal do - beimano ka raj badal do” as soon as Rahul left.

Later speaking to media persons at the party office, Rahul said, “We do our work and are not in the habit of speaking much.” He also disapproved of Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal’s dharna in the national capital saying it wasn’t justified.

Turning his guns on the ruling Samajwadi Party government for lack of development in Amethi, he said, “Ek cheej ki kami rah gayi - jaisa bijli ka hona chahiye nahin hua- aur national highway ko chodkar sadak ka bhi nahin hua – yeh rajya sarkar karti hai - (I have not been able to improve the power situation and the roads barring the national highways).

 

Arvind Kejriwal hospitalised, police file FIR against his stir
New Delhi, January 22, 2014
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal was admitted to Yashoda hospital near his residence in Kaushambi early on Wednesday morning. He has been suffering from severe cough for the past several days.

The ailing Delhi chief minister, who called off the stir at Rail Bhavan last evening, had to spend the night on the roadside in chilling cold on Monday and Tuesday was the second coldest day of this winter season because of the rain.

Meanwhile, the Delhi Police have registered an FIR against Aam Aadmi Party protesters who demonstrated outside Rail Bhavan in the Capital. The FIR has been filed against unknown persons. Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, who had led the demonstration, has not been named in the FIR.

 

There are lot of question marks about Modi's governance in Gujarat: Delhi CM Kejriwal
New Delhi, January 19, 2014
Barely three weeks into office, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Delhi is jumping from one controversy to another but chief minister Arvind Kejriwal is unfazed. Listing out his government's achievements and asserting that his ministers will keep working for the people, Kejriwal says his government will not spare the corrupt, be it a common policeman or Congress bigwigs involved in CWG or

A photo of Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal at his Kaushambi residence in Ghaziabad. (Burhaan Kinu/HT)
DJB scams. He says if his party asks, he will fight the Lok Sabha polls.
Excerpts from an interview to HT:

How do you explain law minister Somnath Bharti’s midnight raid and the allegations of vigilantism and racism?
Somnath Bharti had no personal enmity with any one the people involved. He was getting repeated complaints from the residents and the RWA about the alleged sex and drug racket in the area. The people had also written to the police commissioner, the home minister. Somnath has copies of the complaints.

That night, when Somnath was going to the spot, he saw a PCR van and asked the personnel to accompany him. At first, the policemen did not know where he was taking them. But when they realised where they were, they stood aside and refused to take action.

He called the SHO and the ACP. They came but also refused to take action. He knocked on the door of the flat and asked ‘How much?’ The answer he got was “Rs 10,000 for a night”. When the door opened, there were women inside. They started running. Bharti pleaded with the policemen to take action. But they abandoned him.

We are not against people from a particular country. We are only against anti-social elements. They could belong to any country. Let’s not try to make it a diplomatic issue. As a chief minister, I would be very concerned about every single foreign national staying in Delhi. But at the same time, if any people are indulging in unlawful activity, they need to be brought to book.

But the police say they were going by the law and that you need a warrant to conduct raids and make arrests?
The CRPC says that if somebody seeks help or if there is a crime happening, it is my duty to inform the police and go there and help those in distress.

Also, Section 42 of the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act gives you power to raid any place without any warrant. If there is prima facie evidence at the spot, the police can take action. If they wanted, they could have cordoned off the place and waited for the warrant, but the police went away.

Read: Kejriwal defends Somnath Bharti in 'sex racket' row, terms Binny greedy

Had Somnath Bharti sat inside his house, sleeping, wrapped in a quilt, people would have called him a very good minister. His fault was that he left his home late at night to help someone. When I heard the stories of the two ministers – Somnath Bharti and (women and child development minister) Rakhi Birla -- it brought tears in my eyes.

That night, Rakhi Birla called police commissioner Dipak Mishra. The police personnel present there were saying the girl (who complained to the minister) was missing. The entire neighbourhood was saying she was inside that house. The SHO kept standing. The people kept requesting the police to go inside, take a look and then take action but the police refused. The minister was calling the commissioners at 12.30 in the night. What else could she do? They didn’t take any action. She came back.

When we had a meeting with the police commissioner yesterday, he asked me to tell the ministers to sit at home. If there are any complaints, forward them to us, he said. This is what the old governments have done. This is not the way complaints are solved. Our ministers are not going to sit at home.

 

Sunanda found dead days after accusing Shashi Tharoor of being 'unfaithful' on Twitter
New Delhi, January 17, 2014
Sunanda Pushkar, the 52-year-old industrialist wife of Union HRD minister Shashi Tharoor was found dead on Friday at a seven-star hotel where the couple had checked in together a day earlier, the police said.

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File photo: Union minister Shashi Tharoor and Sunanda Pushkar on their wedding at his ancestral home in Elavanchery in Kerala.

Union minister Shashi Tharoor and Sunanda Pushkar on their wedding at his ancestral home in Elavanchery village at Palakkad district in Kerala.

Union minister Shashi Tharoor and Sunanda Pushkar on their wedding at his ancestral home in Elavanchery village at Palakkad district in Kerala.

File photo: Union minister Shashi Tharoor with Sunanda Pushkar at a book release function in New Delhi.

Sashi Tharoor and Sunanda Pushkar at a friendly cricket match between FICCI and Ministry of External Ministry in New Delhi.

Union minister Shashi Tharoor performs a puja with his friend Sunanda Pushkar at the Shani Shingnapur temple in Maharashtra.

Union Minister Shashi Tharoor and Sunanda Pushkar during a Bharatnatyam recital in New Delhi. (PTI photo)

File photo: Union minister Shashi Tharoor and Sunanda Pushkar in Tharoor's ancestral home at Kerala. Agencies

File photo: Union minister Shashi Tharoor along with his wife Sunanda Pushkar arrive to watch the Cricket World Cup semi-final match between India and Pakistan in Mohali.

(L-R) Actor Anupam Kher, TV personality Suhel Seth, Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor, Sunanda Pushkar, Maharashtra Governor K Sankaranarayanan and Shah Rukh Khan at Shashi Tharoor's book launch.

Shashi Tharoor and his wife Sunanda Pushkar. (Photo/Manoj Verma)

Sunanda Pushkar, wife of union minister Shashi Tharoor, maharani of Amethi and wife of maharaj Sanjay Singh and actress Dimple Kapadia at a ceremony in Himachal Pradesh. Shalender Kalra/HT

A photo of Union minister Shashi Tharoor's wife Sunanda Pushkar. (PTI photo)

News of her death emerged late in the evening, coming within two days of her Twitter spat with a Pakistani journalist, Mehr Tarar, over an alleged affair with the minister.

related story

Hours before tragedy, Shashi Tharoor was active on Twitter
Hotel staff quizzed, CCTV footage, call details under scrutiny
PM speaks to Tharoor, condoles Sunanda's death
Celebs mourn Sunanda Pushkar on Twitter
She did not leave a note behind, said a police official who did not want to be named.


Pushkar, who has business interests in Dubai and was the Congress minister’s third wife, was found dead in the bedroom of The Leela Palace suite number 345 around 8.15pm.

Read: Shashi Tharoor admitted to AIIMS

There were no visible injury marks and nothing to suggest poisoning either, said Deepak Mishra, special commissioner of police (law and order).

Her body was found on the bed, with no signs of struggle, the police added.

Officials said Tharoor came back from a Congress meeting around 8.15pm and discovered his wife's death. He informed the police.

Tarar, a columnist with Pakistan’s Daily Times, reacted to news of Pushkar’s death in two consecutive tweets: “What the hell. Sunanda. Oh my God” and “I just woke up and read this. I’m absolutely shocked. This is too awful for words. So tragic I don’t know what to say. Rest in peace, Sunanda.”

 

Head injuries like Michael Schumacher's triple risk of early death
London, January 16, 2014
Amid reports that Michael Schumacher, the Formula One legend who suffered severe head injuries in a skiing accident on December 29, may never come out of coma, here comes an alarming study saying that traumatic brain injuries (TBI) triple the long-term risk of early death.

A


German publication had quoted medical experts as saying that Schumacher's condition is so grave that there is a chance he will not awaken, adding that doctors currently had no plans to try to rouse him from his coma.
According to researchers at Oxford University and Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, survivors of traumatic brain injuries are three times more likely to die prematurely than the general population, often from suicide or fatal injuries.
A TBI is a blow to the head that leads to a skull fracture, internal bleeding, loss of consciousness for longer than an hour or a combination of these symptoms, said the study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.
Schumacher, 44, who remains in critical condition at a hospital in Grenoble, France, after suffering severe head injuries, has been in a medically induced, unconscious state for 18 days.
Researchers examined Swedish medical records going back 41 years covering 218,300 TBI survivors, 150,513 siblings of TBI survivors and over two million control cases matched by sex and age from the general population.
"We found that people who survive six months after TBI remain three times more likely to die prematurely than the control population and 2.6 times more likely to die than unaffected siblings," said study leader Seena Fazel, a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow at Oxford University's department of psychiatry.
The results show that TBI survivors who also have a history of substance abuse or psychiatric disorders are at highest risk of premature death, said the study.
This new finding offers key insight into the longer-term impact of TBI's on the brain and their effect on survival later in life.
"We hope that further research into understanding which parts of the brain are responsible would help improve future management programmes and reduce the potential for premature death," said Fazel.
Premature deaths were defined as before age 56. The main causes of premature death in TBI survivors are suicide and fatal injuries such as car accidents and falls, added the study.
TBI survivors should be monitored carefully for signs of depression, substance abuse and other psychiatric disorders, which are all treatable conditions, it said.
Concussions, sometimes called mild TBIs, do not present with these symptoms and were analysed separately, said the study.
- See more at: http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/head-injuries-like-michael-schumacher-s-triple-risk-of-early-death/article1-1173718.aspx#sthash.dXhpbtM1.dpuf

 

Delhi shamed again: Police say Danish tourist assaulted for 5 hrs, accused were intoxicated
New Delhi, January 16, 2014
Delhi Police on Wednesday night arrested two persons for allegedly robbing and gang-raping a 51-year-old Danish tourist who had apparently lost her way near the New Delhi Railway Station on Tuesday.

The arrested persons have been identified as Mahender alias Ganja, 25, and Mohammad Tahir alias Raja — both small-time criminals. The police recovered the woman’s iPod and a Nokia mobile phone worth Rs. 1,200 supposedly purchased by Ganja using her money. Her spectacle case and Rs. 1,000 cash was found on Raja.

Read: A new band of faceless, nameless criminals

A police officer associated with the investigation said the first breakthrough came after the woman identified two of the accused from the dossier of criminals that was shown to her. These criminals have earlier been arrested by the central district police for minor crimes.

“Both the arrested men are homeless and members of a local gang of robbers. They had earlier been arrested in cases of drug abuse, pick-pocketing and thefts. Their interrogation helped us in establishing the identity of the other accused, who are currently on the run,” the officer said.

Read: India shamed again: Danish woman gangraped in Delhi

Investigation into the case revealed that the woman was allegedly sexual assaulted at knife-point for almost five hours by the eight accused. Some of them raped her more than once.

The police confirmed that the crime took place in the campus of Railway Officer’s club near the New Delhi railway station. Investigators suspect that all the accused were under the influence of either alcohol or drugs.

A police officer said that besides robbing the Danish woman of around 750 Euros, `3,000 cash in Indian currency and other valuables, one of the accused also fled with her pair of jeans.

Read: AAP seeks control over Delhi Police after gang-rape of Danish woman

The woman had to use a pair of pajamas left at the spot to cover her body and reach her hotel at Paharganj where she had checked in on Monday after having visited Agra.

The woman herself is a professional tourist guide back in Denmark who visited India quite often. She had arrived in India on January 1 and was visiting the country on a tourist visa. Since she refused to undergo a medical examination, the police convinced the woman to leave the clothes she was wearing at the time of the crime for further probe.

“We have seized the clothes of the two arrested men. The clothes of both the woman as well as the accused will be sent to forensic lab and it will be used as evidence in the case,” said the officer. They police had rounded up around 100 homeless people in the case.

 

Danish woman allegedly robbed and gang-raped near New Delhi railway station
Jan 15, 2014
NEW DELHI
: A Danish national has alleged that she was gang-raped by a group of men near New Delhi railway station on Tuesday night.

The Danish woman reportedly left the country on Wednesday morning. She took a flight to Copenhagen. She has also refused to undergo a medical test, police said.

The accused suspects are vagabonds, police said. The victim, who is around 51-year-old, has claimed that the men also robbed her after the sexual assault.

In her statement to the police, the woman has said she was in India for the past one week. The victim first went to Agra and then arrived in the capital on Tuesday.

The woman checked in a hotel (hotel Amax). Later she went to visit National Museum on Tuesday evening. On her way back to hotel in the evening, she lost her way.

When she was inquiring about the hotel she was accosted by suspects. The victim claims she was sexually assaulted by vagabonds near New Delhi Railway Station. The tourist was also robbed of her belongings including cash and other valuables.

She somehow reached her hotel and informed the police and the Danish embassy.

Police have detained six suspects in the case on the basis of information provided by the woman. A case of gang rape under section 376 G (2) of IPC and robbery has been registered and Delhi Police teams are raiding several places to nab the suspects.

The incident comes weeks after a 16-year-old woman claimed she was sexually assaulted in a similar manner around the same place. She had however retracted her statement later and said she had not been raped at all. The police are investigating all angles in this case as well.

Somnath Bharti denies 'tampering with evidence', CM Kejriwal defends him
NEW DELHI:Jan 14, 2014,
In the latest twist to the controversy surrounding AAP leader Somnath Bharti, Delhi's CM Arvind Kejriwal defended his law minister saying that the court's observation in the matter is "completely wrong".

"A sting operation has been called tampering of evidence — it is not tampering of evidence," the chief minister said.

Defending his stand on the issue, Somnath Bharti has stated that the allegations against him are "lies". He has also maintained that his actions were a measure to add to the evidence and not "tampering with it". He also appealed to the CBI to investigate the matter properly and to 'catch' the real culprit.

He added that, "It was me who wanted to bring out this audio record; we never tried to influence the prosecution witness. We made an audio CD to expose the witness who was giving out false claims."

In order to maintain his stand regarding the alleged tampering, Bharti said that he "will make public the transcripts of the conversations we had with the witness".

The law minister's track record as a successful lawyer involves an indictment for "tampering with evidence" by a Patiala house court.

The case relates to Pawan Kumar's prosecution by the CBI in three separate cases for his alleged acts of omission and commission while employed with the State Bank of Mysore since 2006. As one of the cases came up for trial, testimony of BS Diwakar, a prosecution witness was recorded in court. During his cross-examination, Kumar through Bharti told the court he wanted to confront Diwakar with an audio conversation and wanted to place the same on record.

A surprised court then learned from Kumar that he/his advocate Bharti, had a telephonic conversation with Diwakar. Kumar claimed during the talk on phone, Diwakar expressed a different opinion relating to the corruption case than what he testified in court.

The CBI demanded that Kumar be sent back to jail, accusing him and Bharti of influencing a witness and trying to tamper with evidence.

No more janata durbar, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal says
Jan 13, 2014
NEW DELHI: Arvind Kejriwal's AAP govt in Delhi will not hold any more janata durbar for the aam aadmi.

Delhi chief minister on Monday announced there will be no more janata durbar, instead he will meet people once in a week.

However, no complaints will be entertained during this meeting.

The Delhi govt has urged people to place their grievances online and through calls.

The move comes after the huge chaos at the first such janata durbar of the Delhi govt which was held on last Saturday.

The meeting ended in a chaos because of huge rush and mismanagement.

Kejriwal had announced to hold the durbar every Saturday alongwith his cabinet. On other days, one minister was to sit at the secretariat to receive complaints of the common man.

Kumar Vishwas greeted with black flags in Amethi, says rally a challenge to dynasty politics
Lucknow, January 12, 2014

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Kumar Vishwas on Sunday said that holding a rally in Amethi is a challenge to "dynasty politics and corruption". Amethi is the parliamentary constituency of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.

"Amethi has to decide now. I am an aam aadmi and he (Rahul Gandhi) is a prince. If Amethi wants, it can get rid of dynasty politics. Winning and losing is not the point but what is important is, we are challenging dynasty politics and corruption," Kumar Vishwas told the media on his way to Amethi.

Read: AAP to contest UP's all 80 Lok Sabha seats

While on his way to Amethi, black flags were waved at Kumar Vishwas.

To a query on protest at his press conference on Saturday, he said: "What is the protest all about? Is it because that Amethi's dynasty politics should not be challenged or is it about the poems that I have read which had hurt the sentiments of certain community, for which I have already apologised."

Vishwas on Saturday said if reports that Rahul Gandhi was mulling contesting Lok Sabha polls from both Chikmagalur and Amethi were true, then it would be deemed that he had conceded defeat even before the contest.

Read: Cong, AAP workers clash in Rahul’s constituency

The AAP leader also said that his party would field the "best candidate" against BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, though it would take some time.

Speaking ahead of the event on Saturday, Vishwas said that he expected it to be disrupted by activists of other political parties, including possibly the Congress and the Samajwadi Party.

Read: Vishwas apologised for Muharram comments: Kejriwal

On Saturday, a man, identified later as Saif Jafari, threw an egg in the direction of Vishwas and waived a paper stating that the latter had hurt religious sentiments of both majority and minority communities and it "will not be tolerated".

Jafari, a native of Bijnore, was later nabbed by AAP workers and handed over to the police.

Vishwas described the incident as a political conspiracy of opposition parties which feel threatened by the growing popularity of the AAP.

"If these (opposition) political parties think that by throwing eggs, inks, organising attacks they can win elections they should better look towards Delhi," he said.

Vishwas was addressing the press conference after presiding over a function in which over 2000 traders joined the AAP in Lucknow.

Even though the AAP will release its first list of candidates for the 2014 general elections after January 15, party sources said Vishwas is most likely to contest from Amethi.

 

Row not over? Devyani returns; India gives US diplomat 'little more than 48 hours' to leave
New Delhi/Washington, January 11, 2014
The diplomatic row between New Delhi and Washington flared up Friday, with India asking the American embassy to withdraw one of its officials soon after Devyani Khobragade was asked to the leave the US after being charged with visa fraud and making false statements.

Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade with her father Uttam Khobragade at Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi. (PTI Photo)
The 39-year-old diplomat, whose December 12 arrest and strip search triggered a furore in India and a standoff with the US, reached Delhi on Friday night.

Earlier in New York, a grand jury indicted Khobragade for visa fraud and making false statements about employment of her housekeeper Sangeeta Richard. She was told to leave the US immediately after India refused to waive her diplomatic immunity to face trial and transferred her to Delhi.

Charges against Khobragade will remain pending, which means that if she returns to the US without diplomatic immunity, she will be tried. She is married to an Indian-American and the couple have two children, both US citizens.

Read: Khobragade logjam over, but show not over

Read: Charges against me are 'false and baseless', says Devyani

Khobragade’s return seems to have widened the rift between the two sides, with India asking Americans — only the second time ever — to remove an officer from its embassy in Delhi.

HT has learnt that the diplomat given “little more than 48 hours” to leave India is Wayne May, a counsellor instrumental in granting visa and helping Richard’s husband and two children’s “evacuation” to the US.

Both Indian and US officials refused to respond to HT’s query about the name of the diplomat, which has not been made public.

The US deeply regretted India’s decision to “expel” one of its diplomats, but hoped a closure had been reached on the Khobragade issue, the US said.

Another US diplomat, who purchased the tickets for the Richards availing tax exemption, could be in trouble next.

“India has reason to believe that this officer was involved in processes relating to Khobragade case and subsequent unilateral action by the US,” official sources said.

Read: Happy at Devyani’s return, her father thanks govt, media and public

On Thursday, the US finally approved Khobragade’s accreditation to the UN which gave her full immunity against the partial immunity she had as deputy consul general at the time of her arrest.

Devyani Khobragade is seen with her father Uttam Khobragade at Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi. (PTI photo)
“There will not need to be an arraignment on the indictment scheduled at this time. We understand that the defendant was very recently accorded diplomatic immunity status,” main prosecutor Preet Bharara, who is the US attorney for the southern district of New York, said.

“The US requested a waiver of immunity, India denied,” said a US government official. “The US requested her departure.” But she was not declared persona non grata, which can be serious.

“The US government requested the government of India to waive the immunity of counsellor Khobragade. On 9th January 2014, the government of India declined to do so and transferred counsellor Khobragade to the ministry of external affairs in New Delhi,” the ministry said in a statement.

With Khobragade refusing to plead guilty, and the US refusing to drop charges, the best case scenario for India was getting a G-1 visa meant for diplomats working for international organisations such as the US. However, she can be in trouble if she goes back to the US without such an immunity. “... the charges will remain pending until such time as she can be brought to court to face the charges, either through a waiver of immunity or the defendant’s return to the United States in a non-immune status...,” Bharara said.

In a statement, Richard thanked rights groups and US officials for support. “I would like to tell other domestic workers who are suffering as I did -- you have rights and do not let anyone exploit you,” the statement read.

 

Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade indicted, asked to leave US; flying home
Washington, January 10, 2014
Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade was on Friday indicted by a United States jury on charges of visa fraud and making false statement even as she headed back to India after being accorded full diplomatic immunity.

A file photo of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade in New York. (Reuters)
Khobragade was granted the immunity on January 8 under the India-US Headquarters agreement.

"Devyani Khobragade given G1 visa by #USA according her full diplomatic immunity. #India transfers her back. She is now flying home (sic)," Syed Akbaruddin, ministry of external affairs spokesperson, posted on Twitter.

related story

Dec 13: Devyani arrested in US for visa fraud
Dec 17: India curtails 'privileges' accorded to US diplomats
Dec 19: Kerry calls Menon, expresses regret over Devyani's arrest
"Devyani Khobragade given G1 visa with full diplomatic immunity on 8 Jan2014," he wrote.

"The charges against me are false and baseless. I look forward to proving them wrong," Khobragade told PTI as she boarded the plane back to India.

She also affirmed her determination to ensure that this episode does not leave a lasting imprint on her family, in particular her children who are still in the US.

When the US finally granted Khobragade diplomatic immunity for her transfer to the United Nations it asked India to waive it on January 9 so that she could be prosecuted.

"The request to accredit was accepted," said a US government source, adding, "it would be almost without precedent to deny such a request except in the event of national security risks including espionage."

The US then asked India to waive her immunity so her prosecution in the case could proceed.

"US requested a waiver of immunity, India denied," said a government source, adding, "US requested her departure."

"The charges remain in place."

That’s what Manhattan US attorney Preet Bharara told a New York court earlier in the day.

Bharara said in a letter to district judge Shira Scheindlin that the 39-year-old diplomat will have to face trial, if she returns to the US without diplomatic immunity,

Bharara said the grand jury has indicted the diplomat on two counts of visa fraud and making false statements in connection with the visa application of her domestic help Sangeeta Richard.

"We understand that the defendant was very recently accorded diplomatic immunity status and that she departed the United States today," said Bharara.

"Therefore, the charges will remain pending until such time as she can be brought to court to face the charges, either through a waiver of immunity or the defendant’s return to the United States in a non-immune status."

"We will alert the court promptly if we learn that the defendant returns to the United States in a non-immune capacity, at which time the government will proceed to prosecute this case and prove the charges in the Indictment," he added.

Khobragade had indeed been granted immunity, but the Indian-born US attorney, knowingly or unknowingly, skipped the part about the US asking India to waive it, and which it refused.

Bharara’s office issued a correction later, setting the record straight, but only partly.

His spokesman said a statement the US attorney’s office had been "advised by the state department that, pursuant to their request, Devyani Khobragade was to have left the United States this afternoon".

And then he quoted her lawyer Daniel Arshack to say she had not left the country yet, as earlier stated and conveyed to the court and the media.

This should hopefully bring an end to a crisis in relations between India and the US starting December 12, when Khobragade was arrested in New York, and strip-searched.

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A 1999-batch IFS officer, Khobragade, was arrested on charges of making false declarations in a visa application for her housekeeper, Sangeeta Richard. She was released on a $250,000 bond.

She was arrested by the US state department’s bureau of diplomatic security.

She was charged with paying Richard less than she had promised during the visa process, according to US laws.

At the time of arrest, Khobragade had limited immunity, covering only her actions in line of her duties as a consular officer with the Indian consulate in New York.

Her consular immunity, US government argued at the time of her arrest, did not protect her from local laws.

The Indian government immediately transferred her to its Permanent Mission to the UN, whose staff have full diplomatic immunity from local laws.

A critical part the transfer process was the US, which as the host nation of the UN, grants the relevant G-1 visa which was applied on Khobragade’s behalf on December 20.

There was no indication till Bharara’s note that Khobragade had indeed been granted a visa - the state department spokesperson had said on Wednesday there was no progress.

India had been cranking up pressure on the US through retaliatory actions, canceling energy dialogue most recently.

New Delhi had also withdrawn all privileges from US diplomats posted in India and removed security barriers from outside its embassy in New Delhi.

As India ratcheted up the pressure, US secretary of state John Kerry called national security adviser Shivshankar Menon to express regret, which India said will not suffice.

New Delhi, and Khobragade, also wanted the case against her dropped, which the US government refused to do but initiated plea bargain talks with her.

With the indictment deadline of January 13 (30 days from arrest) looming, a sense of urgency and panic had gripped India with no sign of her G-1 visa, and its promise of full immunity.

 

What AAP leaders must know: some VIP privileges are necessary
January 06, 2014
How big is big is a question of much debate in Delhi.The Aam Aadmi Party promised in the manifesto that its MLAs, ministers or chief minister would not shift to a “big” government accommodation if elected to power. CM Arvind Kejriwal accepted two duplex houses — with five bedrooms each — in the heart of New Delhi on Friday. Those 9,000 square feet of real estate, he clarified, was below his entitlement and half the space would anyway be used for a home office. “If you want, take your cameras to the flat, see for yourself and compare with the earlier CM’s house,” he told reporters.
The media inspection of the two houses didn’t throw up a response the AAP had hoped for. The next day, Kejriwal dropped the idea of moving in there, saying the Aam Aadmi didn’t approve. As a result, the government is in the house hunting mode all over again, this time for “a smaller, modest” dwelling.
Meanwhile, all six ministers accepted sarkari cars for official use. This was not out of line with the AAP’s stated position. Their manifesto rejects use of beacons but not official cars if driven without VIP traffic privileges. The CM continues to use his WagonR but the ministers have taken the Toyota Innovas that the Congress cabinet left behind.
It wouldn’t have triggered a media scrutiny had the ministers not indulged in all the grandstanding. We certainly do not expect them to queue up at Metro stations or look for autos every time they need to get to meetings and conduct spot inspections across the city, particularly during peak or odd hours. An average Delhiite has more to worry about than the size of the CM’s house or how a minister commutes.
For example, she would be concerned if the CM stopped meeting the citizens at the janata darbar, meant for public grievance redress. Though declared an open house, the secretariat is still too walled in for the CM and his ministers to conduct daily public interactions. When he tries it in a housing society in Ghaziabad, swelling crowds become a nuisance for the neighbours.
VIP status is misused across India. It is not unusual to see ‘lal batti’ cars taking VIP wives shopping or gun-wielding bodyguards intimidating citizens. VIP takeover of public roads violates our fundamental right. But certain official privileges are necessary because these ensure security and maximize efficiency. With all the problems of the city waiting on their plate, do we want the ministers to spend most of their working hours crawling in autos or standing in metro queues? Similarly, a security cover for a CM is a must in a city that has seen political assassinations and an attack on Parliament.
Chief ministers are not judged for their homes and cars but for their governance agenda, which the AAP clearly doesn’t lack. If followed efficiently, its 50-page manifesto and 17-point agenda can bring about a sea change in Delhi. And if the new government really cares for the taxpayers’ money, it must focus on improving the delivery mechanisms.
For example, cleaning the Yamuna has been the biggest waste of public money in Delhi’s history. In the last 20 years, the government has spent more than Rs. 1,500 crore to clean the river but ended up making a drain out of it. The signature bridge across the river to improve connectivity between central Delhi and the northeast district, the most ignored part of the capital, has seen a cost escalation of more than Rs. 500 crore since it was commissioned in 2008.
The BRT project was abandoned by the previous government after an investment of more than Rs. 300 crore. The never-ending Connaught Place revamp has already sucked up more than Rs. 600 crore. But some sections still look war-ravaged. The façades and colonnades restored three years back look frayed and timeworn, and in some places literally falling apart.
Anxious to deliver on its key poll promises in the first 48 hours, the new government should relax and breathe easy now it has won the trust vote. It’s time to focus on governance instead of symbolism.
- See more at: http://www.hindustantimes.com/comment/shivanisingh/it-s-time-for-aap-to-govern-end-symbolism/article1-1169756.aspx#sthash.n2q93eKv.dpuf

 

A bestselling author, she works as a domestic help in Gurgaon
New Delhi, January 05, 2014
She has been on book tours to cities such as Paris, Frankfurt and Hong Kong; her books have been translated into 12 foreign languages -- including French, German and Japanese. She is often invited to speak at literary festivals across the country.

Baby Halder at the house of Prabodh Kumar, for whom she works as a maid, in Gurgaon. (Manoj Kumar/ HT Photo)
Her new book is set to hit the stands later this month.

However, there is an intriguing twist in the tale of Baby Halder. This 39-year-old prolific writer does not like to be called an author.

"I am a domestic help, not a writer," said Halder, who has two best-selling books to her credit and first shot to fame in 2006, with her work A Life Less Ordinary.

For the past 14 years, Halder has been working as a maid at the house of Prabodh Kumar in Gurgaon, where she lives in a temporary house on the terrace.
Kumar, 80, her employer, is not only her employer, but also her literary mentor and translator.

"When she started working at my house, she had enormous interest in books. She would pick Bengali books from the bookshelf and avidly read them. As I interacted with her, I realised that she had a story that needed to be told," said Kumar, a retired professor of Anthropology.

Halder had a motherless childhood and an abusive father. Her step-mother married her off at the tender age of 13 years to a man twice her age. She was raped on her wedding night.

Fed up with her abusive husband, she boarded a train from Durgapur in West Bengal for Delhi, where she started working as a maid at a house. She, however, soon left the house after her employers started mistreating her. Soon, she found work at Prabodh Kumar’s house and life took a turn for the better.

One day, Kumar handed Halder a pen and asked her to write her story in her mother tongue, Bengali.

"I was nervous when I held the pen in my fingers. I had not written anything since my school days. But when I started writing, words began to flow effortlessly. In fact, writing turned out to be a cathartic experience," revealed Halder, who has studied up to 7th grade.

"What she wrote had enormous depth. In fact, I showed it to my friends and they agreed with me," said Kumar, who has translated Halder’s books into Hindi.

In fact, her first book ‘Aalo Aandhari’ (Light and Darkness) was published in 2002 in Hindi. In 2006, it was published in English, titled ‘A Life Less Ordinary: A Memoir.’

In 2010, she published her second book ‘Eshast Rupantar’, -- a sequel to her first book -- the English translation of which is slated to be released next month. Her third book -- the story of her progression from childhood to teenage -- will be published by the end of this month.

Halder said she writes between cooking, sweeping and swabbing and it took her a year to finish each of her books. "I am not organised or disciplined as far as writing is concerned. I write anytime, anywhere," she added.

Halder has rubbed shoulder with many top writers at literary festivals and seminar across the world.

She is a fan of Arundhati Roy, Taslima Nasrin and Jhumpa Lahiri. Nasrin’s ‘Amar Meyebela’ (My Girlhood) is her favourite book. "I have met her several times; she has always been very encouraging," said Halder.

And what do writers talk to her about?

"They mostly discuss my life and my writing; but one question that everyone asks is why I continue as a domestic help," Halder said.

Halder has built a house in Kolkata with earnings from her books. "I need not work as a domestic help anymore, but I am not comfortable leaving my employer who is a father-like figure to me. But eventually I hope to move to Kolkata someday, which I think is the best place for people who want to write in Bengali," said Halder.

Her two children, Tapas, 20, and Piya 17 -- who want to become a fashion designer -- often complain about not being sent to a private English-medium school.
"They do not understand that when they started going to school, I did not have enough money. Today, I would have certainly sent them to a private school," Halder added.

A voracious reader, Halder is looking forward to reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s ‘The Lowland’ and ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’. "Many people say it is similar to my first book," Halder said.

She has been closely following the Devyani Khobragade issue and feels that it was Sangeeta Richard, the maid, and not her employer who is the victim in the case.

"I appreciate the domestic help’s courage in taking on her powerful employer, who I believe shortchanged her in terms of salary. Unfortunately, there is no respect for physical labour in India. The rich and the powerful feel that they have a right to exploit their domestic help," she added.

 

BJP secretly happy with PM Manmohan’s attack on Modi
New Delhi, January 04, 2014
Besides their visible angry reactions, there was a sense of glee within the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s unprecedented attack on its mascot Narendra Modi.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addresses a press conference in New Delhi. (AFP Photo)
BJP leaders feel that the PM’s comments may actually reboot Modi’s campaign for the Lok Sabha polls, and bring its prime ministerial candidate back in the spotlight. The campaign has been overshadowed recently by the Aam Aadmi Party’s outstanding performance in last month’s Assembly elections in Delhi.

On Friday, Singh said “it will be disastrous for the country to have Modi as PM,” adding that the Gujarat CM presided over a “massacre of innocent citizens on the streets of Ahmedabad.”

BJP leaders said attacking Modi weeks after a Gujarat court found no evidence that he conspired to stoke the 2002 communal riots will work against the Congress.

“The Congress and its allies may think that the PM’s attack on Modi will endear to their vote base. But harping on the issue could be counter-productive in states like Uttar Pradesh where Modi is looking for a huge haul of parliamentary seats,” said a BJP functionary.

The PM could have inadvertently handed Modi and the BJP with an “advantage”, said the leaders. A BJP leader recalled that during the 2012 polls in Gujarat, the Congress consciously avoided falling into what its leaders called “the Modi trap” and the word “Godhra” did not find mention in the Congress manifesto, or in the party’s 34-page “chargesheet” against Modi. The PM’s criticism now means that the Congress will be forced to harp on the issue, “which should suit Modi and us,” said the leader.

Reacting to the PM’s comments, BJP president Rajnath Singh said, “Whatever happened in 2002 is sad. But when the SIT (Special Investigation Team) and court have given him a clean chit, such a statement is unfortunate and condemnable.”

Read: Manmohan's comment on Modi laughable, says Rajnath

Asked if the PM’s comments would adversely affect the BJP’s prospects, party leader Arun Jaitley said Sonia Gandhi’s “maut ka saudagar” (merchant of death) comment against Modi in the Gujarat 2007 polls did cause the BJP any damage, indicating that it should not now. But Jaitley criticised the PM for his choice of words. “It does not add to the dignity of the PM office… If the dirty tricks department of the Congress had used such language, it is understandable.”

Asserting that Modi would make a “very good” PM, Jaitley pointed out that the Gujarat CM has gone through immense scrutiny involving the police, Supreme Court and a commission of inquiry. “Even if one were to use the same logic advanced by the PM to defend corruption under UPA I because it won the polls in 2009, Modi has won three polls since the 2002 riots,” he added.

 

Arvind Kejriwal passes floor test, but dodges Opposition's questions
New Delhi, January 03, 2014
However, in his 20-minute long speech, which was high on emotions, Kejriwal ignored some of questions while giving a strong rebuttal to many others.

The two big decisions that the Kejriwal government has taken since it assumed office on December 28 — free water up to 20 kilolitres to every household with functional meter and 50% reduction in power tariff to customers who consume up to 400 units in one billing cycle — were questioned by leader of the opposition Harsh Vardhan and Delhi Congress chief and MLA Arvinder Singh.

Read: Cong assures AAP of support, BJP questions their alliance

Interestingly, both Vardhan and Singh were on the same page when it came to criticising the new government’s decisions on power and water.

“You are taking decisions in a hurry,” Singh said. “Water subsidy is not benefitting many and you have actually made water costlier in Delhi,” Singh added.

“If you are so concerned about the poor, why did you raise water tariff by 10%?” Vardhan asked.

On the issue of giving subsidy to power consumers, Vardhana and Singh questioned the logic of diverting taxpayers’ money for other purposes. “You will have to divert money from the heads of the other departments to fund the subsidy.”

Kejriwal, though he accepted that his decisions would only benefit a few, ignored pointed questions on where the money would come from for the freebies that his government has announced.

The chief minister, however, reiterated that his government would take strictest action against the corrupt — both in the previous Delhi government and the BJP-ruled civic bodies.

“The condition of education, health, roads, water and power is bad in Delhi because the politics is bad,” the chief minister said.

“We are here to provide a corruption-free politics and governance to the people of Delhi,” said Kejriwal. By repeating the promises his party made in election manifesto, Kejriwal said he wanted to see how many members in the assembly were ready to support the issues that concern the aam aadmi of Delhi.

 

Can Narendra Modi's magic help win BJP allies? Three southern parties to decide soon
New Delhi, January 01, 2014
The BJP's ability to win over new allies highlighting its prime minister candidate Narendra Modi will taste its first success when a few parties in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh join the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

The first expansion of the NDA after Nitish Kumar-led JD(U)’s exit in July is expected mid-January, which marks the festivities of Pongal and Sankranti in the two southern states.

Vaiko-led MDMK and S Ramadoss-led PMK in Tamil Nadu and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh are set to join the NDA.

The BJP also hopes it will successfully woo Tamil actor-turned politician Vijayakanth, who leads the DMDK and is assiduously being wooed by the Congress and the DMK too.

To try its luck in coastal areas, the saffron party finally decided to stay hitched to the TDP led by Chandrababu Naidu than with Jagan Mohan Reddy-led YSR Congress in Andhra Pradesh. Naidu was with the NDA till 2004.

Senior BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu, who is keen for a tie-up with the TDP, is counting on some Union ministers from Seemandhra region to contest under the BJP banner.

In Tamil Nadu, the PMK and the MDMK will formalise their decision to support Modi this week. Vaiko and Ramadoss concluded parleys with central BJP leaders a few days ago.

Vaiko confirmed that he had held talks with BJP leaders, saying his MDMK's main objectives were to remove the Congress-led government at the centre and also prevent formation of any other Congress-supported government.

According to Vaiko, support for the BJP was gaining and a "Modi wave" was visible across the country.

In fact, both Vaiko and Ramadoss had welcomed the BJP’s announcement of Modi as the PM candidate. While Vaiko has pockets of influence in southern Tamil Nadu, Ramadoss' party influence is over the Vanniyar community in northern part of the state.

Besides the MDMK and the PMK, the BJP hopes it could stitch a rainbow alliance by including regional outfits like Kongunadu Munnetra Kazhagam and Thevar Paervai.

The BJP's decision to leading a front of smaller parties came after Modi addressed a huge rally in Tiruchi in September. Its leaders decided against aligning with the DMK due to its image as a corrupt party. Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK made it clear that it was not keen for any alliance with a national party.

The saffron party eyes Kanyakumari, Coimbatore, Tiruchi, Tirupur and the Nilgiris Lok Sabha constituencies it had won in the 1998 and 1999 Lok Sabha polls.

Already, BJP cadres are on village-to-village campaign called "Veeduthorum Modi, Ullamthorum Thamarai (Modi in every household and lotus in every heart)".

 

UP govt hurts Muzaffarnagar riot victims with words and deeds
Lucknow, December 30, 2013
The UP government’s performance since the riots in Muzaffarnagar four months ago has left a lot to be desired.
The riots, which left 63 people dead and 50,000 displaced, had started with an incident of harassment leading to the killing of three persons in Kaval village of Muzaffarnagar on August 27.

And now, insensitive statements from all quarters, including the official machinery, have only rubbed salt into the wound.

The latest case in point is the use of the ‘Siberia’ analogy to deny the fact that children in refugee camps have died of cold.

Principal secretary (home) Anil Kumar Gupta said: "None of the children staying in the riot relief camps in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts died of cold but of pneumonia. Nobody can die of cold. If people died of cold nobody would have been alive in Siberia."Though UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav slammed Gupta for the statement, the damage had been done.

Initially the officials denied the deaths altogether. Only after a Supreme Court rap was a fact-finding committee set up and it accepted that 34 children had died in the camps.

Earlier SP president Mulayam Singh Yadav had stirred up a hornet’s nest by claiming there were no riot victims in the relief camps but people sent by political rivals.

Soon after his statement the administration sent bulldozers to evict the riot victims and uproot the relief camps, notwithstanding the dipping temperatures.

Muslim organisations have threatened to launch an agitation against forcible eviction.

Gupta had said 4,783 riot victims were staying in five relief camps in Loi (Muzaffarnagar), Taimpur Shah, Mallakpur, Barnabi and Idgah (Shamli). However, countering Gupta’s claim, Rehana Adib, whose organisation Astitva is running relief work in the camps, said at present 20,000 riot victims were staying in the relief camps.

Private organisations and madarsas were running 10 relief camps in Shamli and eight in Muzaffarnagar, she said.

This is one side of the picture.

Though the police took into custody around 12 persons allegedly involved in the triple murders on August 27, sources said under political pressure some of the accused were released.

The then senior superintendent of police (SSP), Manjil Saini, who objected to the release, was transferred. The local Khap Chaudhary organisation opposed the release of the murder accused, leading to tension in the area.

The state government announced financial assistance of Rs. 5 lakh to displaced Muslim families. However, in turn the family members were told to give in writing that they would not return to their villages.

This too turned out to be messy decision because a Supreme Court bench of chief justice P Sathasivam and justice Ranjana P Desai and justice Ranjan Gogoi took serious exception to the notification. The court said relief and rehabilitation could not be denied on the grounds of religion. A red-faced state government issued fresh notification announcing compensation to all displaced families.

 

 

Gauhar Khan wins Bigg Boss 7, says 'it's a dream come true
New Delhi, December 28, 2013
Model-turned-actress Gauhar Khan on Saturday won the seventh season of Bigg Boss and took home the prize money of Rs. 50 lakh and the trophy. She said now her aim is to attain superstardom in showbiz. Gauhar, seen in films like Game and Ishaqzaade, wishes to gain superstardom after the


show.
"I wish this platform helps me gain superstardom. There is a very different feeling when people start calling you a superstar. And that's what I want," Gauhar said.
The show went on air on September 15 with 14 celebrities. Five wild card entries also added to the glamour on the show.
Bigg Boss Saath 7 was not Gauhar's first stint on a reality TV. She had earlier participated in the third season of Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa and Khan Sisters. But after winning the reality show, she says she is on seventh heaven.
"It's a dream come true. I feel lucky, honoured and happy to won the show. The 15 weeks of hard work paid off and I feel on the seventh heaven right now," she said.

Gauhar has been one of the strongest contestants on the show: be it taking a stand for what she thought was right, or standing with the one she loves, Gauhar did it all on Bigg Boss 7.
The final episode of seventh season of Bigg Boss was quite entertaining, with all the contestants performing for the audience. Armaan and Kushal performed a dual on the Rockstar song Sadaa Haq, while Gauhar teamed with Kushal for a romantic number Tere Mere Beech Mein Kya Hai from Shuddh Desi Romance.

Salman Khan presents the Bigg Boss Season 7 reality television series winner's trophy to model and actress Gauhar Khan in Mumbai. (AFP Photo)
Predictably, Gauhar has had her share of fights and controversies on the show. And, many believe that could make her the winner. She made a strong impression as she quit the show with Kushal, when he was evicted for attacking co-contestant Andy.
Gauhar, however, later returned to the show, reportedly on the condition that Kushal would be brought back as well. Interestingly, Gauhar also won the heart of co-contestant Kushal on the show. Kushal and Gauhar confesed their love on national television in the reality show. Talking to Hindustantimes.com, Kushal said that he wanted to spend his life with Gauhar. The TV actor had earlier said on the show that he wanted to grow old with actress.

Salman Khan poses with actresses Gauhar Khan and Tanisha Mukherjee during an event for the Bigg Boss Season 7 reality television series in Mumbai. (AFP Photo)
Best known for her dance numbers ‘Jhalla’ and 'Chokra Jawaan' in Ishaqzaade and 'Parda Parda' in Once Upon a Time in Mumbai, the 39-year-old actress also featured in Bollywood movie 'Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year' opposite Ranbir Kapoor.
Gauhar kick-started her career as a model and was Miss India international 2002. She was widely appreciated for her variety performance on the dance reality show Jhalak Dikkhla Jaa. She was also seen in another reality show 'Khan sisters' on UTV Bindass, with her sister Nigaar Khan.
- See more at: http://www.hindustantimes.com/entertainment/television/gauhar-khan-wins-bigg-boss-7-says-it-s-a-dream-come-true/article1-1167282.aspx#sthash.8l2EVfTS.dpuf

 

Team Kejriwal brimming with new ideas at the helm in Delhi
New Delhi, December 29, 2013
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal sought the help of commoners to root out corruption after he was sworn in as the Delhi chief minister at a packed Ramlila Maidan by Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung.

Within a few hours of being sworn in, Delhi's new chief minister Arvind Kejriwal got down to organising the work set-up, and allocated bureaucrats to the six cabinet ministers.

Here's a lowdown on Kejriwal's team.

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Crackdown on schools charging exorbitant fee, says Sisodia
Education minister Manish Sisodia has said the government crack down on private schools that are charging exorbitant fees and taking donations.

“My top priority is schools. They cannot be profit-making businesses as they are foundations of nation building. Our job is very critical right now because of ongoing nursery admissions. We will work to provide relief to parents and students.”

The education minister seemed happy with the recent nursery admission guidelines issued by the Lieutenant Governor and said the government would like to make it more transparent. “There are schools which charge exorbitant amounts; it needs to be regulated. Even the fee structure is arbitrary. We will seek details from them.”

Read: Delhi, know your 'Aam Aadmi' cabinet

He has already taken stock of school buildings whose construction plans have been cleared but work has not started. “There is land available for 104 government schools. Land is awaited for 95 more. Parents still don’t look at our schools as their first preference. We want to change this notion,” he said.

Sisodia, who is also in charge of the urban development department, said his focus was decentralisation of power and encourage self rule. “I personally worked on the concept of Swaraj. We will bring in a legislation to ensure it’s fully implemented.”

“I have only met officials of the education department. I have called a meeting of other departments to discuss the issue of unauthorised colonies,” he said.

Sisodia will also be looking after the public works department. The 41-year-old routed BJP’s Nakul Bhardwaj by 11,478 votes.
-Neelam Pandey

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Women’s safety top priority: Birla
Women and child development minister Rakhi Birla (26) said making women feel safe was her top priority. To achieve this, said Birla, the government would start working on setting up an informal force comprising ex-servicemen to keep a watch in colonies.

“We know Delhi Police is not under our control but will work closely with them to check crimes against women. We will be holding frequent meetings with police officials,” said the youngest minister in the Kejriwal cabinet.

Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal earlier in the day, said he had already asked Birla to focus specially on women’s security. Birla, who will also be responsible for the social welfare department, said, “I met officials today to assess the situation and take stock of various schemes being run for street children and senior citizens. I will meet them again for a follow-up on Monday,” she said.

Despite no political experience, Birla emerged as a giant killer, defeating Congress stalwart and then PWD minister Raj Kumar Chauhan by a thumping margin of 10,585 votes.

Asked about the promises made by the party, she said, “Whatever we have said in our manifesto, we will implement; how and when is to be decided. I have taken charge and I am trying to understand the department.”

With safety and security becoming major concerns for people in Delhi after the December 16 gang-rape, the party proposed to set up a “Citizen’s Security Force” with special focus on safety of the elderly, women and children.
- Darpan Singh

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Govt to review BRT mess in Delhi, says Saurabh Bhardwaj
Transport minister Saurabh Bhardwaj has said the government will review a high court order on the controversial bus rapid transit system (BRT) in Delhi.

“We will see what we as a government can do about it. We’re looking at all aspects. We will take a decision on it very soon,” he said.

The BRT, a dream project of former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, had received a lot of public criticism because instead of easing traffic chaos it added to it.

Clad in casual clothes, the 34-year-old MLA from Greater Kailash said, “It’s too early to decide on priorities, but we do have certain plans and we’re working on them.”

Bhardwaj, who is also in charge of environment and food and supply, said, “We didn’t discuss environment issues today but any move we make will also address green concerns.”

Bhardwaj, an engineer who also has a law degree, defeated BJP’s Ajay Kumar Malhotra, son of BJP stalwart VK Malhotra, by more than 13,000 votes. He was earlier working with a private engineering firm.

“Today, I met officers of the departments I am in-charge of. I have sought all relevant details about ongoing projects. If need be, we will work even on Sundays,” he said.

The minister said he had also discussed with his officials -- Annashree -- another dream project of Dikshit, which provides `600 to the poor to purchase foodgrains. He said the government will take a call on its feasibility very soon.
- Darpan Singh

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Contractual workers to get permanent status: Girish Soni
Employment minister Girish Soni has said his first priority will be to create jobs.

The 49-year-old MLA from Madipur said, “We are aghast to see despite its 15-year rule in Delhi, the Congress failed to create jobs for the youth.”

Reiterating AAP’s promise made in the party manifesto, he said, “All contractual labourers will be made permanent,” he said. There is a large workforce of contractual labourers engaged with various departments for the past many years but they are yet to be made permanent staffers and hence are denied the perks and salaries they deserve.”

Asked how much time the government will take to fulfill these promises, he said, “We will act swiftly.”

Soni, who also holds development, labour and SC/ST portfolios, said he was making separate plans for each department. “I will first understand the problems. On Monday, I am meeting department heads and will chalk out plans accordingly.”

He said labour was a key department because of rampant exploitation of the work force. Soni is one of the two Dalit faces in the cabinet. AAP had fielded 12 Dalit candidates and nine of them have won.

Soni, who studied till class XII, has been a social activist, worked for the party during protests against inflated water and power bills. He defeated BJP’s Kailash Sankla by 1,100 votes.

“I have just taken charge. Give me some time. I am making myself available to the people of Delhi in line with our party’s stand. I have asked the departments for a detailed presentation on ongoing schemes and future plans. I will study them,” he said.
- Neelam Pandey

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New health minister gets cracking, visits hospitals
Health minister a (49) got down to business soon after taking charge. Jain visited several government hospitals to get first-hand information of their condition.

He interacted with the doctors, staff and patients, saying this was required before corrective measures were taken to set things right.

“In many hospitals, I found, there was shortage of beds. There is shortage of doctors in hospitals as well as dispensaries and recruitment of these staff will be our priority,” said Jain, who lives in Saraswati Vihar in a joint family.He added, “Medicines will be available in all dispensaries soon.” Jain had actively participated in Anna Hazare’s Jan Lokpal movement where he came in touch with Arvind Kejriwal.

An architect by profession, Jain used to work with the central public works department. He defeated Shyam Lal Garg of BJP by more than 7,000 votes in Shakur Basti. Jain has said he got fed up with the level of corruption in the department and had to quit his job.

Satyendra Jain, is from Baghpat in Uttar Pradesh. He will look after the ministries of health, industries and gurdwara elections. He will be assisted by PK Panda, special commissioner (Trade and Taxes).

Jain, a well known social worker, helped Chitrakoot-based social organisation Drishti, working for visually impaired girls, with construction of the organisation’s building.
- Neelam Pandey

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‘I want to understand the functioning of the law dept’
Law minister Somnath Bharti expressed concern over shortage of staff in the law department and said he would make an effort to address the problem.

A team of law department officials met him at 4 pm.

“We cater to a number of departments, vetting proposals, bills and cabinet notes and we only have two assistant legal advisors,” a senior official told him. A lot of infrastructure projects in Delhi are stuck because files do not move swiftly in the law department because of shortage of hands. “We have to deal with about 100 files, seeking legal advice from us, in a day,” another official told the minister.

The 39-year-old MLA from Malviya Nagar said, “I will look into all this. I want to first understand the functioning of the department so that we can take right decisions.”

 

 

23 killed as Nanded Express catches fire in Andhra Pradesh

Hyderabad,December 28, 2013

 At least 23 people have died after a fire broke out in an air conditioned bogie of the Nanded Express in Anantapuram district in Andhra Pradesh in the wee hours today.Nine others have been injured; they've been shifted to a hospital in the district.  The fire broke out in the second AC bogie of the train numbered 16594 which was headed to Nanded from Bangalore. There were at least 64 passengers in the bogie.The train had left Bangalore at 10:45 pm yesterday. The fire broke out in the Anantapuram district at around 3 am. A few people jumped out of the train on noticing the fire. "It happened at 3:15 am. Someone in the corner seat said there was fire. We hurriedly de-boarded all the passengers," said a person who was on-board the train. The cause of the fire has still not been determined. The blaze has been completely doused now but fog and smoke are hampering rescue work, said officials. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, expressing shock and grief, has directed the Railways and State government authorities to extend all possible help to the victims in rescue and relief operations.
A compensation of Rs. 5 lakh for the dead and Rs. 50,000 for the injured has been announced by Railways Minister M Mallikarjun Kharge.

Delhi Police to make one last request for security to CM-to-be Kejriwal
New Delhi, December 27, 2013
For the past four days, the Delhi Police has been engaging in discussions with Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief Arvind Kejriwal to convince him about the merits of personal security — but to no avail.

Aam Aadmi Party leader, Arvind Kejriwal waves at mediapersons before his meeting with the Delhi LG Najeeb Jung in New Delhi. (Sonu Mehta/HT Photo)
Far from giving his nod for accepting personal security, the capital’s chief-minister-to-be is refusing to even acknowledge written communications through which the security department of the Delhi Police keeps writing to him.

“We first wrote to him on December 23 to offer security to which he replied stating that ‘God was his protector’. We sent him another letter on December 24 to which he hasn’t replied to date,” said a senior police officer.

The police admitted they would now try their luck for the third — and probably the last — time on December 28, that is the day Kejriwal takes oath as the Delhi chief minister at the Ramlila Maidan.

If that too fails, sources said, Delhi police would write to the ministry of home affairs (MHA) for their intervention in the matter.

Read: Delhi CM-designate Kejriwal says he has no magic wand for city’s problems

“We are completely equipped to provide security to Mr. Kejriwal and will provide it as and when he agrees to it,” said JK Sharma, special commissioner of police (security).

Meanwhile, if Kejriwal and his six legislators who are set to become ministers, stick to their decision of not taking security cover, as many as 100 security personnel who were engaged in the job will be relieved from their duties, said police.

The services of these 100 security personnel can be taken for curbing crime or patrolling the streets in the city. Though the number is not very big, a police officer said, these security officials, who are professional shooters, can be diverted to other important wings of the Delhi police like the Special Cell or the Crime Branch.

Read: Kejriwal to take oath as Delhi's CM on Dec 28, floor test by Jan 3

“Given the good number of crimes that take place everyday in the city, we need more policemen to keep the criminals at bay. We have been requesting the home ministry for increasing our strength. But if our police personnel who are engaged in providing security to VIPs are relieved from their present job, they can best be utilized in law and order functions and ensuring safety for women in the city,” said the officer.

Kejriwal has also refused to take security from UP police at his house in Kaushami, Ghaziabad.

 

Court rejects petition against Narendra Modi for 2002 riots; Zakia Jafri says will fight on
Ahmedabad, December 26, 2013
A court on Thursday rejected the petition of Zakia Jafri, who had challenged the report of a Special Investigation Team that gave a clean chit to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi in Gulberg Society massacre during the 2002 Gujarat communal violence.

Zakia’s husband and former Member of Parliament Ehsan Jafri was burnt alive by a mob in the massacre on February 28, 2002.

A Special Investigation Team had cleared Modi’s name in the case, saying no prosecutable evidence could be found against those named in the Zakia's complaint. She had challenged the SIT’s investigation and filed a petition. "I am not going to lose hope. I will take the case to a higher court," said Zakia at a press conference after the court's order.

Her lawyer Mihir Desai was asked if the Gujarat chief minister should feel relieved. "Mr Modi can feel easy for the next 20 days but not longer," he replied.

The BJP welcomed the court order, saying it was a victory for "truth". "Truth has prevailed. The conspiracy and falsehood to implicate Shri Narendra Modi in an offence stands exposed," tweeted senior party leader Arun Jaitley.

"The Congress party and its sponsored NGOs are unable to fight Narendra Modi politically. They used falsehood in court against him but failed," said Jaitley.

2002 Gujarat riots case

Zakia's lawyers had argued that adequate evidence was available to initiate criminal proceedings against Modi and others, who had allegedly conspired to target the minority community after a Muslim mob torched the Sabarmati Express on 27 February 2002 near Godhra in which 59 kar sevaks were burnt to death.

The Gujarat strongman has been finding it difficult to shake off allegations that he did not act decisively to prevent the 2002 riots in Gujarat. According to state government records, of more than 1,200 people killed in the riots, nearly 950 were Muslims.

In her petition, Zakia has stated that "Modi instructed top officials to allow Hindus to vent their anger on Muslims after the Godhra train burning incident. IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt's affidavit supports this allegation. Modi indulged in hate speeches that amounted to creating enmity between communities. Ministers were posted at police control rooms to interfere with effective police functioning."

Following the September 2011 Supreme Court order, the SIT filed a closure report in the magisterial court in February 2012.

SIT lawyer RS Jamuvar had said that the investigative agency did not find any evidence against Modi and hence the closure report had been filed.

 

Gujarat riots: verdict on Zakia Jafri's plea against clean chit to Modi today
Ahmedabad, December 26, 2013
A court in Ahmedabad is likely to deliver its verdict on Thursday on Zakia Jafri's protest petition challenging the clean chit to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and others in the Gulbarg Society massacre case.

File photo of Zakia Jafri, widow of Congress MP Ehsaan Jafri killed during the Gujarat riots, who filed a petition against the SIT report in the Gulbarg Society massacre case.
Zakia's husband, former Congress leader Ehsan Jafri, was among the 69 people of Gulberg Society in Ahmedabad, killed by a mob on February 28, 2002.

The court will decide whether the clean chit granted by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) can be upheld as the SIT found no prosecutable evidence against those named in the Zakia's complaint.

Zakia's lawyers had argued that adequate evidence was available to initiate criminal proceedings against Modi and others, who had allegedly conspired to target the minority community after a Muslim mob torched the Sabarmati Express on 27 February 2002 near Godhra in which 59 kar sevaks were burnt to death.

In the subsequent riots across the state, more than 1,000 people were killed under the watch of Modi administration.

In her petition, Zakia has stated that "Modi instructed top officials to allow Hindus to vent their anger on Muslims after the Godhra train burning incident. IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt's affidavit supports this allegation. Modi indulged in hate speeches that amounted to creating enmity between communities. Ministers were posted at police control rooms to interfere with effective police functioning."

Following the September 2011 Supreme Court order, the SIT filed a closure report in the magisterial court in February 2012.

SIT lawyer RS Jamuvar had said that the investigative agency did not find any evidence against Modi and hence the closure report had been filed.

 

2014 polls: will Manmohan complicate Rahul's anointment?
New Delhi, December 25, 2013
The clamour for Rahul Gandhi’s anointment as the party’s prime ministerial candidate will get louder ahead of the January 17 session of the All India Congress Committee (AICC). It is not a done deal yet but the “issue is under active consideration”, a senior party source told Hindustan Times.

“Until May 2014, it is Manmohan Singh and after that it is Rahul Gandhi. The only question in debate is whether you announce it today or after the election,” he added.

After the drubbing that the Congress got in the recently-concluded assembly elections, many leaders in the party believe that Gandhi’s projection will act as a morale booster for the cadre.

If Gandhi is projected as the PM candidate, it will mean two things — one, Manmohan Singh is not in the race for a third term; and two, it will deflect a substantial part of the anti-incumbency against the central government. It will be a fresh promise rather than the performance of the outgoing government that will drive the Congress campaign in that case. It is logical and reasonable, but it is a bit complicated too.

Both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have been very protective of the authority and dignity of Singh. They have been sensitive to the BJP’s criticism that Singh as the Prime Minister is an appointed one as opposed to an elected one.

People claiming to be close to the PM and the Gandhis have sought to create a wedge between the family and the PM on various occasions. However, in public and private, both the president and the vice president of the Congress have strongly defended Singh.

On and off in the past five years, many in the party have floated the idea of Rahul Gandhi joining the Union cabinet but it did not happen because it would have weakened the PM’s command. Going by this trend, the Gandhis may not like to initiate a move that will by implication mean a retirement chit for Singh.

On his part, Rahul Gandhi has said that aiming to become the prime minister is not his priority, but he has not ruled himself out either. He is definitely open to the idea of being declared the prime ministerial candidate, provided that it is proposed to him by the senior leadership of the party.

That is the reason why, what PM Singh says on the issue between now and January 17 is of extreme importance. Through 2013, Singh has spoken on his post-2014 plans several times.

In March, he did not rule out the possibility of serving a third term; in September, he said that Rahul Gandhi would be the ideal PM candidate for 2014 and he would be happy to serve under him. Everything accounted for, however, Singh has not yet announced that he will retire after May 2014.

Singh has had an uninterrupted 10 years in power, with a mixed record. Circumstances have been harsh on him — a global economic slump, a sudden awakening of the Indian middle class that has turned hostile to him.

It is a certainty that delegates at the AICC session in January will be screaming out “bring Rahul, save Congress”. Wisdom lies in the ability and willingness to pre-empt that uproar from turning into a cry for Singh’s blood. The Congress cadre have not been known to be kind towards those outside of the Gandhi family.

 

Kejriwal picks his team of ministers, Sisodia to get imp post; no place for Binny in cabinet

Delhi, 24 December 2013

A day after staking claim to form the government in Delhi with outside support from the Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is decided on its first Cabinet. Arvind Kejriwal, who will be sworn in as the seventh chief minister of Delhi, will have Manish Sisodia, Rakhi Birla, Saurabh Bhardwaj, Satyendra Kumar Jain, Somnath Bharti and Girish Soni as his ministers, an AAP leader said on Tuesday.The leader, who did not want to be named, said Sisodia, 41, was likely to get an important portfolio. A former journalist, Sisodia, who won from Patparganj, is seen as 45-year-old Kejriwal’s closest aide.The ministers are likely to take oath at Ramlila Maidan on December 26.

There was unease in some sections of the AAP over Vinod Kumar Binny’s name not figuring in ministerial discussions. Binny, 40, had defeated health minister AK Walia in Laxmi Nagar by around 8,000 votes.

A Delhi University graduate, Binny was a member of Congress from 2009 to 2011 but left it after joining the Jan Lokpal movement. He was a corporator and is said to be inventor of the AAP's 'Mohalla Sabha' (neighbourhood meeting) plan.

Senior IAS officer Rajendra Kumar is tipped to become the principal secretary to Kejriwal.HT Column | Yes, he can: how Arvind Kejriwal became people's championKumar and Delhi chief secretary DM Spolia met Kejriwal at hisresidence on Tuesday. The probable ministers also visited the AAP leader.
The rookie party’s probable ministers are from varied backgrounds. At 26, Rakhi Birla has no political experience, but that did not stop her being a giant killer in the polls. She won from Mangolpuri, defeating Congress minister Raj Kumar Chauhan by 10,585 votes. Having done masters in journalism, she worked as a TV journalist before jumping on the AAP’s anti-corruption bandwagon.“It’s a generational shift if you compare the average age of BJP and Congress leaders. Our young profile benefited me and the party across Delhi,” she recently told HT.
Saurabh Bhardwaj, 34, an engineer who also has a law degree, defeated BJP’s Ajay Kumar Malhotra by more than 13,000 votes in Greater Kailash. He works in a private engineering firm.Somnath Bharti, 39, pursued a degree in law after doing his masters in science from IIT-Delhi. He was also president of the IIT-Delhi alumni association. He defeated two heavyweights — BJP's Arti Mehra and Kiran Walia of Congress — in Malviya Nagar.

Satyendra Kumar Jain, 49, who used to work with the central public works department, defeated BJP’s Shyam Lal Garg by more than 7,000 votes in Shakur Basti.Jain said he got fed up with the level of corruption in the department and quit his job.

 

Narendra Modi targets Rahul again, says Cong 'immersed in corruption'
Mumbai, December 22, 2013
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi on Sunday took potshots at Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, saying people “immersed in corruption” had the audacity to give "sermons" on it.
BJP supporters arrive at Lokmanya Tilak Terminus in Mumbai from various parts of the country for Narendra Modi's rally. (Kalpak Pathak/ HT Photo)
“I heard the speech of a big Congress leader yesterday. He was speaking against corruption. See their audacity. No one else can dare do this. These people are so immersed in corruption."

Read: Congress-NCP says Modi erred on history once again

Read: BJP’s PM candidate draws large crowd in Mumbai, Congress unimpressed

The Gujarat chief minister did not name Gandhi during his first public rally in the country’s financial capital, but left little room for doubt that he was tearing into Gandhi’s speech to industry leaders at a Ficci conference on Saturday.

Gandhi had admitted corruption was “bleeding the nation dry”.

In his speech at the Bandra-Kurla Complex, Modi also brought up the Congress-led Maharashtra government’s rejection of a probe panel report into the Adarsh society scam and said the chief minister was protecting ex-CMs and ministers involved.

"On one hand, Maharashtra government decides to save the corrupt and on the other, a Congress leader is giving sermons in Delhi," he told the gathering, which the BJP put at more than half a million.

Read: Will Gujarat strongman’s appeal work in Maharashtra?

Read: 40 volunteers drive NaMo’s online publicity drive in rally

A wax statue of Modi was also unveiled at a city hotel. Around 10,000 tea vendors were invited to the rally as a response to a Samajwadi Party leader insulting Modi by saying that a tea vendor cannot become the Prime Minister.

Modi coined a new slogan — Vote for India. “I don’t believe in seeking votes for the party. I want you to vote for the country.”

Keeping Gandhi in his crosshairs, Modi dared the Congress leader to make a law to retrieve all black money from Swiss banks in three years. “But he will not do it because that will land own party colleagues in trouble. Making speeches is an easier job.”

Modi also said minorityism and communalism were Congress traditions. “This party has a tradition of dividing people on communal lines for vote bank politics. The PM had announced a special scheme for 90-Muslim dominated districts in the country, but later told Parliament not a single rupee was spent on this programme.”

He said, on the other hand, the BJP was committed to developing the country and gave examples of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh. “I will not talk much about Gujarat because that induces pain in some people. I draw your attention to MP, which has made rapid strides in development under (chief minister) Shivraj Singh Chouhan.”

Modi asked the people to oust the Congress. “Before independence we asked the British to quit India from Mumbai’s August Kranti Maidan, and now, from this venue, we should ask Congress to quit. Congress-free India should be our sole aim.”

The Gujarat CM tried to bond with the state, and Mumbai in particular, recalling the days of unified Maharashtra.

“After our separation in 1960, Gujarat has made everything possible fighting against all odds, but Maharashtra has remained deficient on many accounts only because of the Congress’ policies and bad governance.”

Slamming the Maharashtra government, he asked, “Why are farmers in the state committing suicide?”

Earlier, BJP president Rajnath Singh slammed the Congress for rising prices and said there was a wave for change in the country.

 

Overworked, isolated, had little money, but she didn’t try to extort: Sangeeta Richard's lawyer
Washington, December 21, 2013
Sangeeta Richard, the diplomat’s housekeeper at the centre of the India-US stand-off, never tried to extort money from her employer, Devyani Khobragade, or made any of other demand as alleged, the former’s lawyer has stated.

People protest against the arrest of Devyani Khobragade, an Indian consular officer in New York, outside the US consulate in Hyderabad.

A group supporting domestic workers' rights demonstrates across the street from the Indian Consulate General in New York. (AFP)

Activists of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, linked to the BJP, burn an effigy depicting US President Barack Obama during a protest in Bhubaneswar. (Reuters)

A file photo India's Deputy Consul General in New York, Devyani Khobragade, during an event at India's consulate general in New York. (Reuters)

Dana Sussman, the lawyer for the housekeeper at the center of a diplomatic furor between the US and India, speaks to reporters in New York. (AP)

Uttam Khobragade, the father of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, gestures as he addresses the media in Mumbai. (AFP)

A sketch of India's deputy consul general in New York, Devyani Khobragade, in Manhattan Federal court. (Reuters)

Students participate in a march to American consulate in Kolkata to protest against the alleged ill-treatment of India's deputy consul general in New York, Devyani Khobragade. (PTI)

Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade is seen at an AIA event recently in New York. (PTI file photo)

Supporters of Rashtrawadi Shiv Sena, a Hindu hardline group, shout anti-US slogans during a protest near the US embassy in New Delhi. (Reuters)

Police detain a student during their protest march to American Consulate against the alleged ill-treatment meted out to Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade in the US. (PTI photo)

RPI activist burn USA flag poster during the protest for Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade outside RPI office at CST in Mumbai. (Kunal Patil / HT photo)

The consulate general of India building on East 64th Street in New York. (AFP)
Richards’ lawyer Dana Sussman, a staff attorney with Safe Horizon, a New York non-profit that works with victims of trafficking and violence, said she just wanted a better deal for herself — better wages and more reasonable working hours. Turned down, she left one day.

"There was no extortion or anything along those lines," Dana Sussman told a US news agency.

"She essentially worked very long hours, was isolated within the home, and attempted to ask for more time off, ask for more reasonable hours, but those attempts to resolve the issues were unsuccessful."

The Indian government has alleged Richard tried to extort $10,000 from Khobragade, wanted to be allowed to work elsewhere as well and be given a different passport.

Read: Khobragade's transfer to UN mission won't save her, US tells India

Read: India has other options to get diplomat out

Read: India applies to UN to try to solve diplomat crisis

A file photo of Sangeeta Richard, whose allegations led to diplomat Devyani Khobragade's arrest in the US. (PTI)
These demands were conveyed to Khobragade first on the phone by a woman who refused to identify herself.

Two meetings followed, according to Indian officials, at the offices of a New York immigration services firm. Richard was present in one of them, the officials added.

The Indian government has said Khopragade couldn’t meet Richard’s demands because she was on an official passport, and hence could not be allowed to work elsewhere.

And, they have said if she was not happy with her working conditions or her wages or the atmosphere at Khobragade’s home, she could have gone back to India.

That, however, may have ceased to be an option once Khobragade went to court in India and obtained an arrest warrant for Richard in September. Richard had left Khobragade’s residence in New York on June 23.

Read: A timeline of events emerging since the arrest of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade

HT Blog: Its open season for all on Devyani

A group supporting domestic workers' rights demonstrate across the street from the Indian Consulate General in New York. (AFP)

A group supporting domestic workers rights demonstrate across the street from the Indian Consulate General in New York. (AFP photo)
Sussman said from then Richard was on her own, living largely on help from strangers in the Indian-American community, including a Sikh gurudwara.

The housekeeper and Sussman subsequently complained to the state department. Though it isn’t clear from the published interviews when that happened, possibly it was late August.

"She was basically just trying to find her way. She was left with the clothes on her back, with very little money," said Sussman, who was not available for more interviews, said Safe Horizon.

 

US says won't drop case against Devyani, UN posting won't shield her
Washington, December 20, 2013
Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade's transfer to the United Nations mission will not protect her from the criminal charges that led to her arrest last week, said the US on Thursday adding that those charges will not be dropped.
India's deputy consulate general Devyani Khobragade at an AIA event recently in New York. (PTI Photo)
India is hoping to end this stand-off, described as the worst between the two countries since 1971, with Khobragade's transfer to India's Permanent Mission to the UN.

It will bring her full diplomatic immunity, which she didn't enjoy as an official at India's consulate in New York, and will thus protect her from prosecution.

But the US doesn't quite see it that way.

Read: Sangeeta Richard, real victim in Indian diplomat controversy, says lawyer
Read: India demands US apology, wants case against Devyani Khobragade dropped

"If there's a change in immunity, because of a different diplomatic status, that immunity would start on the date it's conferred," said state department spokesperson Marie Harf.

India had said that this move would give her the necessary diplomatic immunity. Harf, however, said this immunity would not be retroactive.

They are yet to receive any request from the Indian government with regard to transfer of Khobragade to India's Permanent Mission to the UN, she said.

"Generally speaking, if there's a change in immunity, because of a different diplomatic status, that immunity would start on the date it's conferred, after the process," she added.

"So there's a process: it goes to the UN Secretariat, comes to the US state department, everybody has to say yes. There's a process, a bureaucratic process. And then, if a different diplomatic status is conferred, it?s conferred at that date."

Police detain a student during their protest march to American Consulate against the alleged ill-treatment meted out to India's deputy consul general Devyani Khobragade in the US. (PTI photo)
"We haven't received an official request for re-accreditation. Obviously, if we do, we'll look at it. I don't want to venture to guess hypothetically what a new position might look like because we haven't received that yet," she said.

A 1999-batch IFS officer, 39-year-old Khobragade was arrested on December 12 on visa fraud charges in connection with her housekeeper Sangeeta Richard by the state department's diplomatic security wing, and then handed over to the US Marshals Service (USMS).

Khobragade was taken into custody as she was dropping her daughter to school before being released on a $250,000 bond after pleading not guilty in court. If convicted, she could get 15 years in jail.

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The US made clear on Thursday it was not planning to withdraw those charges.

"We take these allegations very seriously. We're not in any way walking back from those allegations or the charges. Again, this is really a law enforcement issue," Harf said.

But it's not up to the state department now. If the judge dealing with the case is convinced of Khobragade's changed immunity status, the case will be dismissed.

Read: US media ignored issue till Kerry call

Read: US ignored requests by India to resolve Khobragade maid issue

Khobragade’s lawyer Daniel Arshack has been citing a state department guideline on immunity to claim his client will be protected proactively by the transfer.

The document issued by the state department's bureau of diplomatic security in 2011 said, "Criminal immunity precludes the exercise of jurisdiction by the courts over an individual whether the incident occurred prior to or during the period in which such immunity exists."

Khobragade is safe at the UN, according to this paper.

But Harf said she was not aware of this guideline.

"Don’t even know what statute you're looking at," she said when it was read out to her at the daily briefing.

Even if the state department is right, India believes full immunity that comes with the transfer will protect Khobragade future prosecution for those same charges.

Harf said Khobragade's housekeeper's father in law was "privately employed" by a US diplomat in New Delhi, but not by the embassy or the government.

Read: PM upset; directs full resolution of issue

"I can confirm that he either was or is. I don't know the current status, employed in a personal capacity by a US diplomat, not as a US government employee."

Harf called "highly inaccurate" India's allegations that the United States did not respond to the series of letters and communications that were made by it.

"It's highly inaccurate to say that we ignored any Government of India communiques on this issue, period," she said, but refused to divulge the details citing legal nature of the case.

"We're still compiling a precise sequence of all of our government-to-government communications on it, goes back months. Some of these communications are private diplomatic conversations or law enforcement sensitive," she said.

Read: Devyani’s sister says nanny was treated like family

Read: US attorney Preet Bharara says Devyani treated very well

The Indian and US interpretation of the issues and allegations at play throughout this entire scenario, she said.

"But I would say that we have engaged in extensive conversations with the Government of India about this issue in Washington, in New York, in New Delhi, going back to the summer."

"We've also requested the Government of India to provide us with the results of its own enquiry into the allegations made by Dr Khobragade's domestic worker and to make her available to discuss them, I don't think either of which was done," she alleged.

 

Kerry calls Menon, voices regret over Devyani's arrest; US prosecutor defends treatment
York, December 19, 2013
The US attorney in Manhattan defended on Thursday the treatment of an Indian diplomat who was strip-searched after her arrest last week on charges of underpaying her nanny, a case that has strained US-Indian relations.

A photo of India's deputy consul general in New York, Devyani Khobragade. (chevening.org)
Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara, in an unusually lengthy written statement in a pending case, said he wanted to clear up the "misinformation" surrounding the arrest of diplomat Devyani Khobragade, and he questioned why there was more sympathy for Khobragade than her alleged victim.

"Ms Khobragade was accorded courtesies well beyond what other defendants, most of whom are American citizens, are accorded," Bharara said, adding that his sole motivation was to "hold accountable anyone who breaks the law - no matter what their societal status and no matter how powerful, rich or connected they are."

He said Khobragade had been "fully searched" by a female deputy marshal after her arrest. "This is standard practice for every defendant, rich or poor, American or not," said Bharara, who was born in India, raised in New Jersey and has built a reputation as "The Sheriff of Wall Street" for his prosecution of insider trading cases.

India has been furious about what it considers the degrading treatment of a senior diplomat by the United States, a country it sees as a close friend, and retaliated on Tuesday by removing security barriers at the US Embassy in New Delhi. The barriers would offer some protection against a suicide bomb attack.

Bharara's statement came after US secretary of state John Kerry discussed the case with India's National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon.

Kerry called to express regret about the case and his concern it not hurt the two countries' relationship, the state department said on Wednesday.

"As a father of two daughters about the same age as Devyani Khobragade, the secretary empathises with the sensitivities we are hearing from India about the events that unfolded after Khobragade's arrest," state department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a written statement.

The US justice department confirmed that Khobragade was strip-searched. A senior Indian government source has also said the interrogation included a cavity search. A spokeswoman for the US Marshals Service, Nikki Credic-Barrett, said Khobragade did not undergo a cavity search but did go through a strip search.

Under the agency's regulations governing prisoner searches, a strip search can include a "visual inspection" of body cavities, including the nose, mouth, genitals and anus, without intrusion.

Khobragade told colleagues in an e-mail of "repeated handcuffing, stripping and cavity searches, swabbing" and being detained in a holding cell with petty criminals, despite her "incessant assertions of immunity."

While common in the United States, jail strip searches have prompted legal challenges from civil liberties groups concerned that the practice is degrading and unnecessary.

Ezekiel Edwards, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said that despite a Supreme Court ruling last year upholding strip searches even in the absence of any suspicion the individual has contraband or weapons, law enforcement authorities should make an effort to distinguish between prisoners who merit invasive searches and those who pose no risk.

"Saying that it's not unusual is not to say that it should be acceptable," he said.

'No handcuffs'

Bharara denied media reports that Khobragade had been arrested in front of her children. "The agents arrested her in the most discreet way possible, and unlike most defendants, she was not then handcuffed or restrained," he said.

Officers allowed her to make calls, including to arrange child care, and even brought her coffee, the prosecutor said. Bharara said Khobragade clearly tried to evade US law designed to protect from exploitation the domestic employees of diplomats and consular officers.

"One wonders why there is so much outrage about the alleged treatment of the Indian national accused of perpetrating these acts, but precious little outrage about the alleged treatment of the Indian victim and her spouse?" he said.

The Indian housekeeper whose paycheck is at the center of the dispute, Sangeeta Richard, is said to be upset and disappointed the focus of the affair has shifted.

"The victim in this case is not a criminal defendant but the person who was denied her wages and underpaid for her work," said Dana Sussman, an attorney with the Safe Horizon anti-trafficking Program who is representing Richard.

Read: Why a maid in Manhattan doesn’t come easy

Khobragade, who was released on $250,000 bail after giving up her passport and pleading not guilty to the charges, faces a maximum of 15 years in jail if convicted on both counts.

Harf, the state department spokeswoman, said Kerry had used the word "regret" in his conversation with Menon, but she declined to elaborate on whether this constituted an apology or to offer greater detail on their discussion.

An expression of regret, in the world of diplomacy, is generally viewed as something short of an outright apology.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the administration is looking into the arrest "to ensure that all standard procedures were followed and that every opportunity for courtesy was extended."

The White House has told Indian officials it expects New Delhi will "fulfil all its obligations" for the safety and security of US diplomats in India, Carney said.

Immunity

India has appointed Khobragade to its permanent mission at the United Nations and her attorney Daniel Arshack said that, in her new role, she would have diplomatic immunity from prosecution retroactively.

However, the state department would have to sign off on a request to move her from the consulate to the UN mission, and no such request has been received, Harf told reporters. She said the US government notified India of the allegations against Khobragade in September.

India and the United States have become close trade and security partners, but they have not totally overcome a history of distrust.

"It is no longer about an individual, it is about our sense of self as a nation and our place in the world," foreign minister Salman Khurshid told Parliament, whose usually fractious members showed rare unity on the issue.

Khurshid said work conditions of Indians employed in US consulates would be investigated to root out any violations of labor laws, adding that there would be a freeze on the duty-free import of alcohol and food for diplomatic staff.

Read: Three unrelated forces caused escalation of US-India diplomatic crisis

In New Delhi, supporters of a right-wing opposition party held a small protest near the US Embassy on Wednesday.

About 30 demonstrators, some wearing masks of President Barack Obama and sarongs made from the US flag, demanded an apology.

The controversy over Khobragade's experience is not the first time that overseas observers have been horrified at the treatment of a foreign criminal defendant in the United States.

In 2011, when then-International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was paraded before TV cameras in handcuffs during what is known in the United States as a "perp walk," or perpetrator walk, after being arrested in New York on charges of sexual assault, French media reacted with shock.

Prosecutors ultimately dropped the charges. In France, the presumption of innocence legally bars the media from showing defendants in handcuffs before they are convicted.

 

Lokpal bill gets Parliament nod, just a step away from becoming law
New Delhi, December 18, 2013
Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Samajwadi Party's Mulayam Singh Yadav took part in the debate amid uproar in the house.

Swaraj said the credit should be given to Anna Hazare, who has been fasting for a strong lokpal bill, and the people of India.

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After Lok Sabha's approval, it will be sent to the President whose assent is necessary for it to become a law.

It became the first bill to be passed during the ongoing winter session of Parliament.

Anna Hazare and his supporters cheered the passage of the bill in Ralegan Siddhi where the social activist has been fasting since the last nine days.

The proposed law provides for a lokpal or national ombudsman to investigate corruption charges against public functionaries.

Among the amendments accepted by the government are delinking of the mandatory creation of lokayuktas by the state governments, one of the provisions which had stalled the passage of the bill in December 2011.

The bill was brought back to the Upper House after being considered by the Parliamentary Select Committee which recommended several amendments to make it widely acceptable among political parties.

All major parties, with the exception of the Samajwadi Party which walked out in protest against the legislation, took part in the over five-hour long debate in Rajya Sabha.

Renewed support for the bill came after Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party trounced Congress in state polls in Delhi this month in a key test ahead of general elections due by May next year.

Kejriwal, who campaigned on a promise of cleaning up dirty politics, was a key member of the grass-roots movement that demanded the tough law back in 2011.

The campaign was spearheaded by Anna Hazare who led countrywide protests that tapped into a rich seam of public anger at corruption and caught Congress unawares.

 

Homosexuality is unnatural, says BJP prez Rajnath Singh
New Delhi, December 15, 2013
Breaking his party’s silence, BJP president Rajnath Singh said that his party backed section 377 of IPC despite widespread demand to decriminalise gay sex.

Endorsing the Supreme Court’s verdict, Rajnath Singh in an interview to a newspaper said that the BJP supported section 377 as they believe that homosexuality is an unnatural act and cannot be supported.

Rajnath also added that, “The court does not have to legalise or illegalise such a thing. It is not against the order of nature.”

The party president’s remark is the first conclusive statement from the BJP that makes the legislative option difficult for the UPA to make gay sex legal. It is a widely debated and sensitive issue that has caught the eye of the political bigwigs of the country.

“We will state (at an all-party meeting if it is called) that we support Section 377 because we believe that homosexuality is an unnatural act and cannot be supported,” Singh said.

Singh, however, added that BJP did not want to hurt people’s feelings. Till now, the BJP has been running shy of articulating its position since the Supreme Court ruled that section 377 did not suffer from any constitutional infirmity.

On the other hand, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have come out against section 377, prompting reports that the UPA may even decide to promulgate an ordinance.

The two polar views held by the country’s leading political parties – the BJP and Congress – might have serious repercussions on the final outcome of the issue as none would like to stand down while keeping in mind the interests of their core voter groups.

 

 

Kejriwal throws back onus of govt formation in BJP and Congress' court
New Delhi, December 14, 2013
am Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday threw back the ball for formation of government in Delhi in Congress and BJP's court.

Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal speaking to reporters after his meeting the Lt Governor Najeeb Jung. (ANI)
Coming out after meeting the Lt Governor (LG), Kejriwal said that he has written a letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and BJP president Rajnath Singh asking them to spell their views on as many as 17 issues, including passing of jan lokpal bill at Ramlila Maidan on December 29, audit of power discoms and ending the water mafia.

Kejriwal said he would like to wait for Congress and BJP's response before taking the matter to the people of Delhi. "There is no such thing as unconditional support. We did not ask for Congress' support, if they want to support us here are our conditions," Kejriwal said.

He told reporters that AAP has given copies of these letters to Sonia and Rajnath Singh to the LG.

Kejriwal further said that the LG has agreed to wait for their response.

Highlights from Kejriwal's press meet:

• Neither BJP nor Congress care about Delhi and its people. We wish to unmask them

• We have written letters to Sonia Gandhi, Rajnath Singh. Want to know what is their stand on Lokpal and AAP manifesto

• We can't seek support from corrupt parties for govt formation

• We wrote in the letter we want to know the clear stand of both the parties on the issues we have raised in our manifesto

• All the parties have betrayed Anna. They have fallen back on the promisses they made to him regarding the Lokpal Bill

• We want to know their stand on the jan lokpal bill. We want to pass this bill for Delhi. Will Congress or BJP support us now?

• There should be auditing of companies providing electricity in Delhi. The meters should be chacked. In case of discrepancies, public be paid compensation

• Delhi needs clean drinking water, electricity, proper housing and corruption-free governance. Will Cong, BJP support us in this?

 

 

Indian diplomat held for visa fraud in US, released on bail
New York, December 13, 2013
In a major diplomatic setback for India, its deputy consul general in New York was arrested by law enforcement authorities on charges of visa fraud but was released on a $250,000-bond after she pleaded not guilty in a court. Devyani Khobragade, 39, was taken into custody on Thursday after


India-born US attorney for the southern district of New York Preet Bharara announced charges of visa fraud against her and alleged that she had made false statements in connection with the visa application of an Indian national employed by her as a babysitter and housekeeper.
Khobragade was also serving as the acting consul general at the Consulate General of India in New York at the time of her arrest.
She was charged with one count of visa fraud and one count of making false statements, which carry maximum sentences of 10 years and five years in prison, respectively.
Khobragade, mother of two daughters and a Chevening scholar, was taken into custody and produced before judge Debra Freeman late in the afternoon for an arraignment hearing.
The judge read out Khobragade her rights and the charges against her. Khobragade did not speak during the hearing except to say that she agrees with the terms and conditions of the bail. The next hearing has been set for January 13.

A photo of India's deputy consul general in New York Devyani Khobragade. (Via Twitter)
Wearing a purple sweater and dress, Khobragade appeared composed during the hearing but looked pale and stressed.
Khobragade submitted her diplomatic passport to the court. Freeman ordered that Khobragade cannot leave the country but can travel within the US only if she gives advance notification of her travels.
Her lawyer told the judge that his client is "not subject to prosecution" as she "enjoys immunity as a consulate officer". Her lawyer will be filing claims of diplomatic immunity in the case and relevant papers in court.
Announcing the charges against Khobragade, Bharara said, "Foreign nationals brought to the United States to serve as domestic workers are entitled to the same protections against exploitation as those afforded to United States citizens.
"The false statements and fraud alleged to have occurred here were designed to circumvent those protections so that a visa would issue for a domestic worker who was promised far less than a fair wage. This type of fraud on the United States and exploitation of an individual will not be tolerated."
Eminent Indian-American lawyer Ravi Batra said Bharara has "acted, as always, to defend the United States, while acknowledging that Constitutional presumptive innocence belongs to the accused."
"Absent the creation of a new legal category for diplomatic foreign domestic workers, which exempts them from US labor laws, including, wages and hours, American laws must be followed to avoid both criminal and civil liability as well as diaspora and foreign-sovereign embarrassment.
"Foreign nations who pay their workers at or near US labour rates are free from this risk, however of 194 countries, most nations are below US-mandated hours and wage standards, and to this later group's diplomatic corps - they remain at high risk to be in the cross-hairs of illegality and reputation-suicide," Batra said.
The Indian embassy in Washington released a statement saying it had "immediately conveyed its strong concern" to the US Government on action taken against Khobragade.
READ: India concerned over arrest of diplomat in New York
"The US side have been urged to resolve the matter with due sensitivity, taking into account... the diplomatic status of the officer concerned," the embassy said in the statement.
The embassy said it had been informed that Khobragade was taken into custody by law enforcement authorities.
It added that the action was apparently taken against Khobragade on the basis of allegations raised by the officer's former India-based domestic assistant, Sangeeta Richard, who is absconding since June this year.
In this context the Delhi high court had issued an-interim injunction in September to restrain Richard from instituting any actions or proceedings against Khobragade outside India on the terms or conditions of her employment.
"The US government had subsequently been requested to locate Richard and facilitate the service of an arrest warrant, issued by the metropolitan magistrate of the South District court in New Delhi under Sections 387, 420 and 120B of the Indian Penal Code," the embassy said, adding that the existing court case in India against Richard has already been brought to the attention of the US government.
An 11-page criminal complaint unsealed in Manhattan federal court alleged Khobragade had made false statements about the salary and employment terms of the domestic help she had got from India. The complaint, however, did not name Richard.
Diplomats and consular officers can get domestic workers, personal employees and servants on A-3 visas. The diplomats have to submit proof that the helper will receive a fair wage, sufficient to support himself financially, comparable to that being offered in the area of employment in the US.
The complaint alleged that Khobragade prepared and electronically submitted an application for an A-3 visa for the Indian national who was to be her personal employee beginning in November 2012 in New York.
The visa application stated that the domestic help would to be paid $4,500 per month. Khobragade and the domestic help also signed an employment contract which stated that she would pay her the prevailing or minimum wage, whichever is greater, resulting in an hourly salary of $9.75.
The complaint said that Khobragade knew that the employment contract that she caused her domestic help to submit to the US state department contained "materially false and fraudulent statements about hourly wage and hours worked."
Prior to the signing of the contract, it was agreed between Khobragade and her domestic help that she would be paid Rs. 30,000 per month. At 40 hours per week, it was equivalent to $573.07 monthly or $3.31 per hour.
However, Khobragade instructed the help to say that she would be paid $9.75 per hour, and not to say anything about being paid Rs. 30,000 per month. Khobragade also instructed the help to say that she would work 40 hours per week.
After the employment contract was submitted to the US department of state, Khobragade allegedly told her domestic help that she needed to sign another employment contract which provided that the domestic help's maximum salary per month including overtime allowance will not exceed Rs. 30,000 per month. The second employment contract did not contain any provision about the normal number of working hours per week.
The domestic help worked for Khobragade as a household employee from November 2012 through June 2013. The complaint said that regardless of the terms of the first employment contract, she worked far more than 40 hours per week and was paid less than $9.75 per hour by Khobragade.
Suneeta Dewan, an attorney present at the hearing, said Khorbragade had employed the domestic help in her personal capacity and not diplomatic capacity. This is why the reason of diplomatic immunity may not apply in the case.
Two officials from the consulate were also present during the hearing.
As she walked out of the courtroom after the hearing, Khobragade smiled and hugged a couple of her friends who had come for the hearing.
She told PTI that she cannot talk to the press since the matter is "subjudice" but said that she is doing fine. She was flanked by her attorney Daniel Arshack and her colleagues from the consulate who escorted her outside the court.
Dewan, a friend of Khorbragade who was among the first people she had called following the arrest, said it was "very unfortunate" that she was arrested.
"She is a very fine person, accomplished and hardworking."
Khobragade joined the consulate last year and was previously posted in Germany, Italy and Pakistan.
The arrest sent shock wave among the Indian diplomatic corps and some officers said it is
- See more at: http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/indian-diplomat-held-for-visa-fraud-in-us-released-on-bail/article1-1162085.aspx#sthash.hMGL6i9w.dpuf

 

 

Supreme Court sets aside Delhi high court order, says gay sex is illegal
New Delhi, December 11, 2013
In a jolt to the gay community in India, the Supreme Court on Wednesday held that consensual sex between adults of the same gender was an offence.

Human rights activists and the LGBT community are disappointed with the SC judgement. (PTI photo)
A two-judge SC bench cancelled a 2009 Delhi high court ruling that section 377 of the Indian penal code prohibiting people from engaging in "carnal acts against the order of nature" infringed the fundamental rights of Indians.

“It is up to Parliament to legislate on this issue,” judge GS Singhvi, head of the two-man bench, said in the ruling which found the ban to be constitutionally valid. The judgment was pronounced by justice Singhvi on the day he was scheduled to retire.

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Gay activists disappointed with SC verdict on homosexuality
Timeline: Legality of homosexuality in India
While hearing the appeal, the apex court had pulled up the Centre for its "casual" approach on decriminalisation of homosexuality and also expressed concern over Parliament not discussing such important issues and blaming the judiciary instead for its "overreach".

While pleading for decriminalisation of gay sex, the Centre had told the court that the anti-gay law in the country had resulted from British colonialism and the Indian society was much more tolerant towards homosexuality.

The high court had on July 2, 2009, decriminalised gay sex as provided in section 377 of the IPC and ruled that sex between two consenting adults in private would not be an offence.

The HC decision was strongly opposed by religious groups such as All India Muslim Personal Law Board, Utkal Christian Council and Apostolic Churches Alliance.

"Such a decision was totally unexpected from the top court. It is a black day for the community," Arvind Narayan, a lawyer of the Alternative Law Forum gay rights group, told reporters.

"We are very angry about this regressive decision of the court."

Protests were expected later on Wednesday from the gay community that is still largely closeted but was emboldened by the 2009 ruling.

Though prosecutions under section 377 are rare, conviction carries a fine and a maximum 10-year jail sentence and it is used by police to harass gay couples, activists say.

"We will explore all options, probably look into the option of a review petition," T Tandon, a lawyer appearing for Naz Foundation, a non-profit group that works with HIV-AIDS patients, said outside the court.

Read: Gay activists disappointed with SC verdict on homosexuality

"The movement of gay rights is so much stronger now. It is not 2001, it is 2013. You can't have a decision like this."

Dominic Emmanuel, spokesman of the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese, said before the verdict that the church was ready to accept any decision from the Supreme Court.

"Though we did not welcome the decision of the high court, we did not object to it. If there is a decision like that from the Supreme Court, we will not object to it either,” he told a TV channel.

"The church has a very clear stand on people with different sexual orientations. Though they are different from ... normal people, they should be respected, accepted and there should be no signs of discrimination against them."

Gay sex has long been a taboo subject in India, where many still regard homosexuality as a mental illness.

In recent years, however, the country's gay community has raised its profile, organising gay pride marches in major cities such as New Delhi and Mumbai which have created awareness and encouraged many to come out of the closet.

Jeffrey O'Malley, director of the United Nations Development Programme on HIV/AIDS, had argued in 2008 that decriminalising homosexuality would help India to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS.

India has an estimated 2.5 million people living with the virus.

 

AAP Seemapuri MLA Koli faces molestation charges
New Delhi, December 09, 2013
A day after the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP’s) unprecedented success in the Delhi Assembly polls, supporters of newly elected AAP MLA from Seemapuri constituency, Dharmendra Singh Koli, were involved in a mild clash with former MLA Veer Singh Dhingan’s supporters on Monday afternoon.

 

Brother of late Santosh Koli, newly elected AAP MLA from Seemapuri constituency, Dharmendra Singh Koli, who was the original choice for Seemapuri. (HT Photo)
The incident took place during AAP’s victory procession in the area .

The quarrel started outside Dhingan’s residence in Seemapuri following an alleged argument that broke out between the two groups.

The Congress supporters alleged that AAP cadres had apparently misbehaved with them.

In a police complaint filed by Dhingan, it has been alleged that Koli and his supporters molested and misbehaved with Dhingan’s wife and other women who were present at his residence, a senior police officer confirmed.

"On the basis of the complaint, a case of molestation, outraging the modesty of a woman and unlawful assembly has been registered at the Seemapuri police station against newly elected AAP MLA Dharmendra Singh Koli and his supporters," the senior officer said.

Supporters of Dhingan blocked roads for several minutes near Tahirpur Sarai and GTB Enclave traffic signals, police said.

The Congress supporters were demanding action against AAP supporters.

Several police personnel, including some senior police officers, arrived at the protest sites and pacified them by ensuring a probe into the incident.

"Newly elected AAP MLA Dharmendra Singh Koli has refuted the allegations levelled against them. He accused Congress supporters of misbehaving with his supporters. We are looking into the matter," the senior police officer said.

According to the officer, Koli along with scores of supporters were on the streets carrying out a victory march on Monday morning.

The victory march began from Nand Nagri at around 11.30 am with a musical band and reached Dhingan’s residence.

"It has been alleged that AAP supporters created a ruckus outside his house and they misbehaved with some women, the officer said.

 

Assembly elections results BJP nears halfway mark in Delhi
New Delhi, Sun Dec 08 2013,
Counting of votes in four states – Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh began at 8 am on Sunday. The fate of several political heavyweights in these Assembly elections have been sealed by the voters, who turned out for the polling in huge numbers.

Here are live updates on the results of Assembly elections 2013 as the counting proceeds:

11.01 am Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said the Congress planned a campaign on its developmental projects but failed to communicate the achievements to the people. He accused the BJP of spreading lies about the Congress government in the state.

10.51 am The BJP struggles to reach the halfway mark as it is leading in 34 seats while the AAP stands second with 24 seats. The Congress is decimated with leads in nine seats.

Meanwhile, the AAP has ruled out a possibility of alliance with either the Congress or the BJP.

10.40 am There's neck-and-neck fight in Chhattisgarh with the Congress leading in 41 seats and the BJP in 40.

10.31 am Shivraj Singh Chouhan is set to become the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh for third consecutive term. As per trends in 207 seats, the BJP leads in 136 seats while the Congress leads in 59.

10.23 am Latest from Madhya Pradesh:

- Industry Minister Kailash Vijayvargiya leading from Mhow.

- Animal Husbandry minister Ajay Vishnoi trailing from Patan

- Women and child development minister Ranjana Baghel and forest minister Sartaj Singh leading

- Congress leader Digvijay Singh's son Jaivardhan Singh comfortably ahead in Raghogarh

10.19 am Former Union minister and former PCC chief Suresh Pachauri trailing in Bhojpur, Madhya Pradesh.

10.11 am After trailing for some time, the BJP has again moved ahead of the Congress in Chhattisgarh with the former leading in 39 seats and the latter in 33.

 

India is a model example of how stable democracy works, says Condoleezza Rice
New Delhi, December 07, 2013
India is a model example of how a stable democracy works, former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice said on Saturday. “India and the US share values of democracy, religious tolerance and an inclusive society."
http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/popup/2013/12/live_band_ht.gif
“When two countries share values, there is no limit to cooperation,” Rice said, addressing the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in New Delhi.
Referring to the Arab Spring — the fight for democracy in some West Asian countries — Rice said the “protests in Middle East” asking the government to take the “consent” of people in running a country was an important development.
Democratic countries, which have “respect for minorities”, will have to be a bit more patient in the present world, she said.
“Democracy is not a destination but a journey,” Rice said, adding it requires “leadership and partnership.”

 

 

Manmohan recognises Modi as a challenger
New Delhi, December 06, 2013
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday said the Congress cannot afford to “underestimate” its opponents.

“There’s no room for complacency,” Singh said at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in New Delhi after being asked whether the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi was a challenge to the Congress.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/popup/2013/12/live_band_ht.gif

Replying to the query by Hindustan Times editor-in-chief Sanjoy Narayan, Singh added, “The Congress will go to polls (the 2014 Lok Sabha elections) with self-confidence.”

The impact of the Modi factor — or the absence of it — in the next parliamentary elections has triggered a debate in the Congress of late.

Home minister Suhilkumar Sinde had said on November 11 — the day Chhattisgarh went to polls for the first-phase of assembly elections in the state — Modi was “no challenge” to the Congress.

His comments came just a day after finance minister P Chidambaram had recognised the Gujarat chief minister as a “challenger” saying, “We cannot ignore him.”

Another Congress leader Digvijaya Singh, known to be fierce critic of Modi, on Thursday welcomed that Modi was moving away from “fanatic” ideology.

Referring to Modi’s humble background, he had said, “Even a tea vendor can become the prime minister.”

However, he had contended, “Modi will not be acceptable to the people of India.”

Communal violence bill a recipe for disaster: Modi to PM
Ahmedabad, December 05, 2013
Questioning the timing of bringing the communal violence bill, Narendra Modi on Thursday wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, describing the proposed legislation as "ill-conceived, poorly drafted and a recipe for disaster".

Terming the bill as an attempt to encroach upon the domain of states, the BJP's PM candidate sought wider consultations among various stakeholders, such as state governments, political parties, police and security agencies, before making any move on the issue.

Modi's letter comes on the morning of beginning of the winter session of Parliament in which the bill is likely to be taken up.

"Communal Violence Bill is ill-conceived, poorly drafted and a recipe for disaster," Modi said in his letter.

The Gujarat Chief Minister said, "the timing to bring the bill is suspicious owing to political considerations and vote bank politics, rather than genuine concerns".

Expressing strong concern that the proposed legislation would further divide people on religious and linguistic lines, Modi said, "religious and linguistic identities would become more reinforced and even ordinary incidents of violence would be given a communal colour thus giving the opposite result of what the bill intends to achieve".

He also brought out various "operational issues" in the proposed Prevention of Communal Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2013.

"For example, Section 3(f) that defines 'hostile environment', is wide-ranging, vague and open to misuse. Likewise, the definition of communal violence under Section 3 (d) read with Section 4 would raise questions on whether the Centre is introducing the concept of 'thought crime' in the context of the Indian criminal jurisprudence," the letter said.

Modi wrote in his letter to the PM that these provisions have not been examined from the view of the Evidence Act.

"The move to make public servants, police and security agencies criminally liable can adversely impact the morale of our law and order enforcement agencies and it may also make them vulnerable to political victimisation," Modi said.

He also criticised the manner in which the Centre was bringing the communal violence bill, saying it showed no consideration for the nation's federal structure.

"Law and order is an issue under the State List and (if) it is something that would have to be implemented by the state governments, then it should be legislated by the state governments," the letter said.

Modi said if there was something the Centre wished to share, it was free to prepare a "model bill" and circulate it among various state governments for their consideration.

On the proposal to bring the National Human Rights Commission and and SHRC into the process of exercising powers that are vested in the executive wing of an elected government, Modi felt these bodies are already empowered under the existing statute to deal with serious human rights violations during incidents of communal violence.

"Burdening these bodies with redressal of all issues, handling of appeals and monitoring individual incidents is neither practical nor desirable. Thus, the role of the NHRC and the SHRC should pertain to their present roles under the existing laws," Modi said.

Welcoming the establishment of a Communal Violence Reparation Fund, Modi, said use of the word 'compensation' was arguable, and added, "the government should leave the issues of compensation to the competent courts and should instead provide ex-gratia relief/assistance to provide immediate relief and succour to the victims".

"The introduction of compensation for 'moral injury' under the bill is strange and it does not take into account implementability," Modi said.

"As chief minister of a government that is sensitive to the issue of communal violence and a state that has been riot- free for over a decade now, I agree that there is a need to be vigilant on communal violence but the contents and timing of the bill are suspicious," he said.

Voters cast their ballots in Delhi assembly elections, 23% turnout till noon
New Delhi, December 04, 2013
Vice-president Hamid Ansari, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and chief minister Sheila Dikshit were among the early voters in the Delhi assembly polls which recorded an impressive 23% turn out in the first three hours.

A combination picture of Delhi CM hopefuls: Arvind Kejriwal, Sheila Dikshit and Harshvardhan
"Twenty-three percent of the electorate have cast their votes till 11am. The polling has so far been peaceful and there have been no reports of any untoward incident," a top Delhi Election Commission official said.

Sonia was accompanied by Dikshit and stood in the queue for a little while before being escorted inside the poll booth at Nirman Bhavan.

When asked about the prospects of Congress, Sonia said with a smile, "We will win".

Maneka Gandhi too exercised her franchise at the booth a little after Sonia voted.

Clad in a while kurta-pyjama and a half-jacket, Rahul queued up for around 32 minutes before his turn came at booth Number 88 at Aurangazeb Lane in New Delhi constituency from where the chief minister is contesting.

Exuding confidence over Congress' victory, Rahul said that Dikshit has "done a lot of good work in Delhi. I think she will do well."

Dikshit struck a cautious note when asked about the possible poll outcome, saying she has kept her "fingers crossed".

Priyanka Gandhi and her husband Robert Vadra also queued up cast their votes.

The other two prominent contestants in the constituency are Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal and former Delhi BJP president Vijender Gupta.

Kejriwal voted at polling booth No 47 at Hanuman Road at around 8:15am.

"People of Delhi will win and corruption will be defeated in the election," he told reporters.

Vice-president Ansari and Delhi's chief electoral officer Vijay Dev were also among the first people to cast their votes.

Dev hoped that people will vote in large number to create a new record. In 2008 assembly polls, the overall voting percentage was 57.58%.

Ansari reached New Delhi constituency's polling booth No 8586 at Nirman Bhavan at around 8:10am while Dev exercised his franchise at 8am at polling booth No 47 at Hanuman Road. He was the first voter at the booth.

Malfunctioning EVMs

There were some reports of malfunctioning of electronic voting machines (EVM) in some parts of the city but they were rectified, election officials said.

The EVM at polling booth in Aurangazeb Lane, where Rahul cast his vote, malfunctioned when polling began.

In Jungpura, Badli and Krishna Nagar constituencies, some voters complained that their names had been struck from the electoral rolls and they could not vote.

Elaborate security arrangements were made in the capital with deployment of 32,801 personnel of Delhi Police and 10,700 central paramilitary force personnel to ensure peaceful elections.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi casts his vote at Aurangzeb Lane polling booth for Delhi polls in New Delhi. (Ajay Aggarwal/ HT photo)

READ: Delhi, it’s time to rise and shine at polling booths

READ: All you wanted to know about voting

The voting began at 8am at 11,753 polling booths out of which 630 have been identified as critical and hyper critical.

The Election Commission has appealed to people not to carry mobile phones while going to cast their votes.

Number game A total of 1.19 crore voters are eligible to exercise their franchise, out of which 66.11 lakh are men and 53.20 lakh are women. The number of first time voters is 4.05 lakh.

810 candidates are in the fray in the three-cornered contest between Congress, BJP and AAP.

While BJP has fielded candidates in 66 constituencies Congress and AAP are contesting from all 70 seats. BSP, which was the third largest party in last assembly election, has fielded candidates in 69 seats, NCP in nine and Samajwadi Party in 27 seats.

A total of 224 independents are also in the fray.

The Delhi vote concludes the state polls this year. The state elections are setting the tone and serving as a virtual semi-final for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal casts his vote at a polling station in New Delhi. (Reuters photo)

Tug of war

While the Congress is looking to extend its winning streak with chief minister Dikshit eyeing a fourth consecutive term, the BJP is keen to end its 15-year power drought in the national capital.

It is, however, Kejriwal’s debuting AAP that seems to have stirred the pot. It is expected to dent the vote bank of its political rivals who are veterans in the field.

The AAP's extensive and focussed grassroots campaign has helped the party to make its presence felt and turn it into a real triangular contest.

With both Dikshit and Kejriwal having filed their nomination from New Delhi, the stage is set for a riveting contest in that constituency.

The BJP has put up its former Delhi unit chief Gupta for the seat to make the contest triangular.


The polls in Delhi are keenly watched as it is the centre of the country's political power and has, many times in the past, served as a pointer to the Lok Sabha polls.

The BJP threw in all its might with the party's prime ministerial candidate and lead campaigner Narendra Modi holding five rallies in the metropolis.

Party sources said that 230 public meetings were held by its leaders in the past 10 days.

Capital watch With the assembly polls to be followed by the Lok Sabha elections about six months later and a few of its senior leaders apparently interested in contesting from Delhi in the general elections, the BJP has tried not to leave anything to chance.

A victory in Delhi is crucial for the Congress to balance against its probable loss to the BJP in some other states which have gone to the polls in this round of assembly elections.

With a number of surveys having predicted BJP victories in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and a tight race in Chhattisgarh, the Congress is pinning a lot of hopes on winning Delhi.

The elections are crucial for the AAP for its ambitions to expand its political base to other parts of the country.

A good showing in Delhi will enhance its electoral appeal while a poor showing could dampen the spirits of its growing rank of supporters, particularly the young, the working class and sections of the middle class.

The counting of the ballots cast in Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh will take place December 8 and in Mizoram December 9.

Rajasthan polls: 40% voter turnout 2pmk
Jaipur, December 01, 2013
An average polling of 40 per cent was recorded till 2 pm in 199 Assembly seats of Rajasthan.

People stand in a queue to cast their vote in Jodhpur. (PTI photo)
Sriganganagar recorded a polling percentage of 46.55 per cent followed by Jhunjhunu 46, Jhalawar 37.63, Karauli 33.45, and Jaipur 35 per cent, a chief election office PR said in Jaipur.

Of the 200 Assembly seats, polling has been adjourned in Churu constituency to December 13 following the death of a BSP candidate.

related story

Rajasthan: two booth capturing bids foiled
Women and youth were seen in large numbers at polling booths. Polling will take place between 8 am and 5 pm. Over 4.08 crore voters are eligible to cast votes in 47,223 polling booths.

The election in Churu was countermanded after the death of the BSP candidate and voting will take place there on December 13.

Read: Two booth capturing bids foiled

Read: It will be a one-sided victory for Congress: Gehlot

There were some reports of attempts to disrupt voting in a couple of villages in Alwar district. There were also complaints from various polling stations about names of voters missing or glitches in the EVMS. However, by and large the voting process was smooth and peaceful.

Chief minister Ashok Gehlot cast his vote in Mahamandir area of Jodhpur.
He said the Congress would emerge victorious in the polls as the party had carried out development work and welfare schemes for the people.

State BJP president Vasundhara Raje cast her vote in Topkhana School in Jhalawar. She was accompanied by her son Dushyant Singh, who is a BJP MP. Raje said the BJP would win the polls by a huge margin.

Goa court to give order on Tarun Tejpal's bail plea shortly
Panaji, November 30, 2013
Goa Police on Saturday strongly opposed Tarun Tejpal's anticipatory bail petition in a sessions court and sought his custodial interrogation saying "prima facie" a case of rape is established as the judge adjourned hearing till 4.30pm.

Tarun Tejpal, founder and editor-in-chief of Tehelka, speaks with the media at the airport on his way to Goa, in New Delhi (Reuters).
District and sessions Judge Anuja Prabhudesai, who heard the arguments, had on Friday given Tejpal interim protection till Saturday morning against arrest in the case of alleged sexual assault of a former colleague in a five-star hotel in Goa.

After the defence lawyer concluded her arguments, public prosecutor Saresh Lotlikar argued in the court that the Tehelka founder should be in police custody so that he can be properly interrogated.

He said Tejpal has been changing his version and is now claiming that he has not been heard.

"The accused has been changing colours like a chameleon through different statements," he told the judge.

The public prosecutor noted that the victim has been consistent in her statements.

Lotlikar said the CCTV footage of the hotel in Goa, where the incident occurred early this month, gives enough hints confirming the allegation of rape.

The lawyer also said that what Tejpal described as a "light hearted banter" needs to be probed.

Read More: Tejpal withdraws bail plea from Delhi HC; Shoma resigns

He also argued that Tejpal was not available for Goa Police and appeared only after getting interim relief from court on Friday.

He alleged that Tejpal has in the past tried to influence the family of the complainant and referred to an FIR filed in Delhi in this regard. That the accused is interfering in the investigation is well corroborated by his past conduct, he added.

At the end of prosecution's arguments, judge Prabhudesai adjourned the matter till 4.30pm, when the order is expected.

Tejpal, who was present in the court, was later heckled by a protester who hurled a black flag at him, but missed.

Meanwhile, Panaji police detained a person identified as Mangal Chowdhary, who hails from Rajasthan and is living in Goa, for throwing the black flag on Tejpal outside court.

Earlier, as the hearing resumed on Saturday morning, Tejpal's lawyer Geeta Luthra said he was ready to stay in Goa till the time the investigating agency needed him. He was ready to surrender all documents including his passport, she said, telling the police his arrest was not necessary.

She said he will also not visit Mumbai, where the victim is currently residing.

"There should not be any fear that he (Tejpal) will tamper with witnesses or evidence," the defence lawyer said.

Read More: NCW angry after Lekhi tweets Tehelka victim’s last name

Luthra also ruled out the possibility of Tejpal fleeing the country saying he has not fled before the FIR or after that.

"My client cannot tamper with the aggrieved girl as she will stand by her statement," the lawyer said.

Wrapping up her arguments, Luthra said false allegation of rape can bring distress to the accused and cause equal damage to him as to the complainant.

She said as the rape law has become more stringent, so it it all the more required for the accused to defend himself for which "his liberty may be preserved".

Ahead of hearing on his bail petition, Tejpal visited the crime branch office in Goa on Saturday morning and said he was cooperating in the investigation.

Police sources said Tejpal was not questioned and stayed for 10 minutes.

Read More: Vilification of woman journalist unfortunate, says Omar

"We have joined the investigation started by the crime branch yesterday (Friday). We will join today (Saturday) also," Tejpal told reporters after coming out of the office.

Tejpal landed in Goa on Friday evening after dodging Goa Police for more than 24 hours, after the deadline for him to respond to police summons.

His legal team, which appeared before the court on Friday, had managed to secure interim relief until 10am on Saturday, claiming that the editor was being politically victimised and the charges levelled against him were fabricated.

The crime branch, which is investigating the case, wants custodial interrogation of Tejpal.

Shortly after his arrival from Delhi, Tejpal, accompanied by his family members and lawyers, drove to Dona Paula to appear before the police which had called him for questioning.

He brushed aside questions from journalists who mobbed him and asked him "would you confess".

Read More: future tense for staffers at Tehelka

The questioning lasted 90 minutes after which Tejpal left the crime branch office.

Tejpal is not evading the law and he is fully cooperating with Goa police, his lawyer Sandeep Kapoor said.

He said Tejpal was in the crime branch from 6.30pm to 9.15pm. A personal bond of Rs. 20,000 and a surety of the same amount was furnished, Kapoor said.

Tejpal on Friday questioned the legitimacy of the FIR and subsequent probe in the case and lashed out at the media accusing it of "screaming and shouting" all the time.

"... There is no complaint officially. An internal mail from the office decides a suo motu FIR?" he told a news channel in Goa at the airport.

Indicating a political conspiracy in the entire episode, Tejpal said, "It is being monitored on an hour-to-hour basis by some people in Delhi."

The former Tehelka editor, who has been under sharp criticism from various quarters ever since the incident came to light around a week ago, said, "... And the media is just screaming and shouting all the time."

Tejpal applies for anticipatory bail in Panaji; Goa cops raid his Delhi house, find him missing
New Delhi, November 29, 2013

Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal on Friday filed anticipatory bail petition with the north Goa district and sessions court.

The anticipatory bail hearing is expected to come up for hearing in the first half of the day. The same court had issued a non-bailable warrant against Tejpal, who has been accused of sexual assault by a junior colleague, Thursday.

Earlier on the day, a Goa police team raided the Tehelka editor's house in Delhi in a bid to arrest him but returned empty handed after finding that he was not there.

Armed with a non-bailable warrant, the team reached the residence of Tejpal, who has been accused of sexually assaulting a woman colleague, in Jungpura area of South Delhi a little after 6am and spent over 90 minutes.

One of the officials later said they did not find Tejpal in the house. Crime Branch personnel from Delhi police also accompanied the Goa Police team.

Tejpal's wife Geetan Batra refused to divulge to the police any detail of his whereabouts, police said.

Police left his house and may look at other possible locations where he could be found. The police action came after they rejected Tejpal's request for time till Saturday to appear before them for the investigation into his involvement in the case of sexual assault that had allegedly taken place at a hotel in Goa earlier this month.

A joint team of Goa and Delhi police also carried out searches at various places, including that of Tejpal's relatives, to trace him.

After the rejection of his request, Tejpal's lawyer said he would appear before the police on Friday in Panaji and extend "complete and full cooperation" in the investigation.

Goa police, however, on Thursday moved a court and secured a non-bailable warrant after Tejpal failed to appear before them by the stipulated time of 3pm on Thursday.

The police had moved a court for the warrant even as Tejpal informed them through a fax he would appear on Friday and extend "complete and full cooperation" in the probe into the alleged sexual assault case.

Read: CCTV grab shows Tejpal entering lift with woman journo, say police

A request made by Tejpal at about 12pm on Thursday to the investigating officer (IO) Sunita Sawant by fax and through a hard copy of the letter, delivered by an advocate, for an extension of the deadline was rejected by the police.

Before moving the court, deputy inspector general of police OP Mishra had said the IO had not accepted Tejpal's request "in view of the seriousness of the crime and is proceeding in this case as per law empowered".

Asked whether securing a non-bailable warrant was an option before the police, he said, "These are logical steps that we are required to follow. I cannot divulge to you each and every step of investigation."

When pressed further whether arrest was being thought of, he said, "There should be no doubt that the next logical step is that. The IO is proceeding as per logical and legal protocol."

Earlier, Tejpal had told Goa police he will present himself before them on Saturday.

"We have just been given to understand that our plea for extension till Saturday has been disallowed, as per the news reported on the TV channels. Accordingly, please note that I shall be reporting for investigation to you tomorrow itself and as always assure you of my full cooperation," Tejpal said.

Tejpal also sought withdrawal of his petition seeking anticipatory bail from Delhi high court on Thursday, saying he would move the appropriate court for appropriate remedy.

In the meantime, sources said, the Tehelka journalist, who Tejpal had allegedly sexually assaulted, was still in Goa and was taken to the scene of the alleged crime, a five-star hotel in Bambolim, for the panchnama and to reconstruct what happened on November 7 and 8, the days the alleged incidents took place.

Hotel authorities refused to allow visitors into the hotel all day on Thursday.

The journalist's statement was recorded before a judicial magistrate in Goa in a day-long procedure on Wednesday.

Sushma Swaraj tweets 'Union minister shielding Tarun Tejpal', Sibal dismisses charge as lie
New Delhi, November 27, 2013
]Union minister Kapil Sibal on Wednesday lashed out senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sushma Swaraj saying that he is not connected with news magazine Tehelka, whose founder-edtior Tarun Tejpal has been charged with sexual assault by a young journalist, in anyway.

His comments came hours after Swaraj said that a Union cabinet minister and founder-patron of Tehelka is shielding Tejpal in the sexual assault case.

Without naming anyone, but probably referring to law minister Kapil Sibal, Swaraj tweeted, "Union cabinet minister who is the founder and patron of Tehelka is shielding Tarun Tejpal."

Speaking to reporters and promising he will say more at a press conference tomorrow (Thursday), Sibal said, “I didn’t expect RSS and BJP to stoop to this level. They have the patent to spread lies, but I didn’t expect the same from the leader of Opposition.”

He dismissed reports that he owned 80% of Tehelka shares.

“I don’t have a single share in Tehelka. I have never owned any shares in that magazine,” Sibal said.

Reacting to the messages on social media that said Tarun Tejpal’s mother was Sibal’s sister, he said, “It is a lie. I have only one sister and she lives in Maharani Bagh.”

“People are trying to politicize the issue and bring my name into picture. Politicians should not comment on the issue and law should take its course. As the time for general election is nearing, we should be debating issues.”

Read: Goa Police summon Tarun Tejpal; victim records statement in Panaji

Tehelka sting operations, which showed former BJP president Bangaru Laxman accepting bribes for facilitating a defence deal and accused in Gujarat anti-Muslim pogrom confessing to murdering innocent people, had bought a bad name to the saffron party. Its leaders have been very vocal in condemning Tejpal.

Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar rejected allegations that he was showing undue interest in and interfering with the probe and said the state government has a duty to do justice to the girl.

"I am the administrator of the state. As chief minister of the state my job is to ensure justice to the girl...if what she says has legal support to ensure that justice is made out," he told a press conference here.

"The state government does not intend to monitor (the case) except asking the police department for a speedy disposal of the case. I have told the police not to take any pressure from any quarters," he said.

Replying to questions about Tejpal's charge in his bail petition before the Delhi High Court that the BJP government was targeting him, Parrikar said he (Tejpal) did not realise that when he held the function nor when he "confessed" or when he went on "sanyas".

"So suddenly he has realised it is the BJP government," he said.

Yesterday, BJP leader M Venkaiah Naidu had said, "This (plea to give case to CBI) can be an excuse. It may be an escape route to get away... Congress likes Tejpal and he likes Congress."

Congress, however, rejected BJP's contention and claimed that there is no reason why this issue should be linked to politics.

Party spokesperson P C Chacko drew parallels of this case with the snooping scandal allegedly involving Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.

In his anticipatory bail petition filed yesterday, while dismissing the encounter with the woman journalist as “light-hearted bantering”, Tejpal had pointed finger at Goa police and BJP government in the state for hatching a conspiracy against him.

Woman journalist deposes before magistrate in Goa

Noose tightened around Tehelka founder Tarun Tejpak after the woman journalist who accused him of sexual assault recorded her statement before a judicial magistrate in Goa capital.

A day after Goa police recorded her statement at her residence in Mumbai, the journalist was flown secretly to Goa and taken to a trial court complex in Panaji, where her statement was recorded under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

The statement made under this section becomes evidence that can be used against the person giving it.

She is also learnt to have corroborated the FIR the Goa police filed after taking suo moto cognizance of the complaint she had mailed to Tehelka managing editor Shoma Chaudhury, making Tejpal’s arrest imminent.

Under the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 2013, Tejpal’s alleged assault made in the elevator of a starred hotel in Goa during the magazine’s THiNK festival falls in the definition of rape.

Rajesh, Nupur convicted for the murders of Aarushi Talwar and Hemraj

Ghazaibad, 25 November 2013. Dr Rajesh and Nupur Talwar have been found guilty for the murders of their daughter Aarushi and domestic help Hemraj by a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) special court at Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh. The Talwars were convicted by the court of special judge Shyam Lal on Monday afternoon in the almost five-and-a-half-year old sensational double murder case.

While Rajesh has been convicted under the Indian Penal Code Sections 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender), 203 (giving false information in respect to an offence committed), 302 (murder) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) his wife Nupur has been found guilty under Sections 201, 302 and 34. The Talwars and their family members broke down as soon as judge Lal pronounced the verdict. They also issued a statement saying they are deeply hurt and anguished over their conviction and will move Allahabad High Court against the court order.

Terrorist threat to Lok Sabha and assembly polls, says Manmohan
New Delhi, November 23, 2013
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday warned that terrorist groups may try to disrupt the forthcoming Lok Sabha and Assembly polls and asked security forces to remain alert.

Voicing concern over a "substantial increase" in the number of communal incidents in some states, he said they must be tackled with utmost firmness, without prejudice, fear or favour.

"There is a likelihood of attempts (by terror groups) to disrupt the forthcoming Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. The security forces need to be careful," the prime minister said while addressing a conference of country's top police brass in New Delhi.

Referring to the recent communal clashes in Muzaffarnagar and adjoining districts in Uttar Pradesh which claimed many lives and displaced thousands, Singh said law and order agencies must ensure that trivial or local issues are not exploited by vested interests to inflame communal passions.

"During the current year some states have witnessed a substantial increase in the number of communal incidents. We cannot afford such a state of affairs.... Once disturbances occur they must be tackled with utmost firmness, without prejudice, fear or favour," he told the conference of Directors General Police and Inspectors General of Police.

The Prime Minister said state DGPs have the responsibility to ensure that their police force acts in the required manner in preventing communal actions.

Expressing concern over misuse of social media for fanning tension in the society, Singh said the country has witnessed misuse of social media and SMSes during the recent disturbances in Muzaffarnagar and also last year.

"There is a need to find creative solutions which do not curb the freedom of expression and the ease of communication that social media provides," he said.

Tehelka is not hushing up allegations against Tejpal: Shoma Chaudhury
New Delhi, November 22, 2013
Tehelka's managing editor, Shoma Chaudhury, on Friday defended herself over criticisms that she handled the complaint of sexual assault by a young woman journalist against the news magazine's founder editor, Tarun Tejpal inefficiently, saying that she was not defending or judging anyone but addressing the issues of the woman.

"I do feel a sense of outrage and betrayal. Tarun Tejpal had a different version of the event after I got this email. I extremely angrily confronted him after speaking to the girl. I got to know of the incident on Monday. The girl had marked three other journalists on it and I confronted Tejpal even without checking with the others," Chaudhury said.

Chaudhury said that it was presumptuous of the media to jump to conclusions by insinuating that it was rape only on the basis of leaked emails adding that Tehelka did not hush up the matter nor was there any "private treaty" as Tejpal's stepping down was in the public domain.

"I want to do right by her," she told CNN-IBN's Rajdeep Sardesai.

She wanted an institutional redressal and her focus was "solely and wholely" on that and seeking justice does not have to be through punitive action, Chaudhury said.

The young journalist will have access to redressal mechanism keeping the Vishakha guidelines in accordance and both versions will be presented before the committee, Chaudhury said.

"Looking back, I do realise that the mails that were sent through the organisation were not enough."

Tehelka's managing editor inisisted that the young journalist wanted an institutional response and not a legal one and that filing a police case is her prerogative.

"The complaint is three days old, she wanted an institutional response. If it goes into a legal domain then it asks for an investigation."

But the Goa Police has begun an enquiry into the incident and sought CCTV footage from the five-star hotel where the assault allegedly took place, according to reports.

Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar too has ordered a probe.

Chaudhury said she will cooperate with the police only if the young journalist approaches them.

"You cannot say it is a criminal case because the girl has not gone to the police. Let's not conclude it is a sexual assault or rape."

She added that Tehelka's reputation will not take a beating since Tejpal's act was that of an individual.

Tejpal stepped down from his post on Wednesday for six months after tendering an unconditional apology for what he termed as his misconduct with a female colleague at the THiNK festival in Goa earlier this month.

He admitted "misconduct" in an email to Chaudhury and offered to step aside temporarily to atone for his behavior on Wednesday.

"A bad lapse of judgement, an awful misreading of the situation, have led to an unfortunate incident that rails against all we believe in and fight for," Tejpal wrote in his email which was sent to staff at the magazine.

"I must do penance that lacerates me," he added.

Chaudhury was accused of stonewalling the whole incident by the media, women activists, politicians and on social media platforms alike.

Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley condemned it saying, "It is unheard of that a private treaty between Tarun Tejpal and Shoma Choudhary wipes out the penal consequence of rape".

"How can Shoma Choudhary so definitely say that the victim will not depose before the police? Is she not guilty of tampering with evidence in a rape case by pressuring a young employee to conceal the offence?" Jaitley said on Thursday.

Referring to the victim's complaint to Choudhary against Tejpal through an e-mail, the BJP leader said it makes out a clear case of rape.

"The definition of rape was amended by Parliament subsequent to Justice Verma Committee's recommendations. The ingredients of an offence of rape as amended by Parliament are squarely made out in the victims e-mail."

Her failure to report the complaint to the police was also questioned. It was also pointed out that Tehelka did not have an internal committee to receive and investigate complaints of sexual harassment.

Tejwal 's letter was too criticised over the words that he chose to describe the alleged sexual assault and the apology that he tendered.

The woman journalist told a news channel that Tehelka's response had "deeply disappointed" her.

"To claim that other journalists in Tehelka are satisfied is also false since my testimony has not been publicly circulated within Tehelka, only Tarun's letter of 'atonement' has," she said.

"What penance? What atonement? An apology and offer to step down may be his personal way of pitying himself and feeling remorse, but that doesn't absolve him of his crime," women's activist Ranjana Kumari told AFP.

Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi termed the "atonement" letter of Tejpal "immensely shocking".

"In today's amended definition, the doing of Tarun Tejpal is called rape," she said.

"I would want the home minister to ensure lodging of an FIR and immediate arrest of Tejpal," she said.

Goa Police to probe charge against Tarun Tejpal; Tehelka seeks more time
New Delhi, November 21, 2013
Goa Police will conduct a preliminary enquiry into allegations of sexual misconduct levelled by a journalist against editor-in-chief of Tehelka news weekly Tarun Tejpal, Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar said on Thursday.

Parrikar told IANS that if the preliminary enquiry reveals


that the incident took place in Goa, formal charges would be filed.

"I have asked the police to conduct a preliminary enquiry. Right now we do not have an clear indication if the incident happened in Goa," Parrikar said.

"If the enquiry reveals that the incident took place here, then we will proceed further as per the law," the chief minister said.

In New Delhi, Shoma Chowdhary, the magazine's managing editor, told journalists that she needed time to respond to the matter. "Give me time to do the correct thing, under pressure I will falter. Give me the time to prioritise this," she said when journalists asked her if the magazine had responded correctly to the allegations against Tejpal.

Tejpal has been accused of sexual misconduct by a junior colleague at Tehelka during a high-profile conference held in Goa earlier this month.

Tejpal, who has not denied the charges, resigned from his post for six months, calling it "atonement" for his actions.

"A bad lapse of judgement, an awful misreading of the situation, have led to an unfortunate incident that rails against all we believe in and fight for," Tejpal wrote in an email sent to staff at the magazine on Wednespoday. Women's right groups criticised his response as insufficient and the revelations led news bulletins on cable networks.

Chhattisgarh elections: second phase of voting underway in 72 seats; 35% polling till noon
Raipur, November 19, 2013
About 35% voting was recorded till noon on Tuesday in the 72 assembly constituencies in the second phase of elections in Chhattisgarh to decide the fate of 843 candidates including nine ministers, an election official said.

No untoward incident has been reported so far from any part of the state.

Joint chief electoral officer DD Singh told Hindustan Times that the polling has been peaceful with around 35% electorate exercising their franchise so far till noon.

"The security forces recovered three tiffin bombs some distance away from Amamora polling centre in Maoist-affected Gariyaband district. No violence reported from anywhere", the police said.

A few Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) were changed at around 10 polling stations after they developed technical problems, he added.

State governor Shekhar Dutt exercised his franchise in Raipur city's north seat where Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Srichand Sundarani and Congress's sitting MLA Kuldeep Singh Juneja are locked in a close contest.

Polling is underway in central and north Chhattisgarh, where 72 each from the BJP and Congress, are contesting.

READ: Centre wary over safety of policemen

The fate of state assembly speaker Dharamlal Kaushik (Bilha) and nine other ministers -- home minister Nanki Ram Kanwar (Rampur); school education minister Brijmohan Agrawal (Raipur city south); housing and environment minister Rajesh Munat (Raipur city west); health minister Amar Agrawal (Bilaspur); water resources minister Ramvichar Netam (Ramanujganj); panchayat and rural development minister Hemchand Yadav (Durg city); agriculture minister Chandrashekhar Sahu (Abhanpur); Punnulal Mohile (Mungeli) and revenue and rehabilitation minister Dayaldas Baghel (Nawagarh) -- will be sealed.

State BJP president Ramsewak Paikra (Pratappur), leader of Opposition Ravindra Choubey (Saja), wife of the former chief minister Ajit Jogi, Renu Jogi (Kota), son of late PCC chief Nandkumar Patel, Umesh Patel (Kharsiya) and Ajit Jogi's son Amit (Marwahi) are also in the fray in this phase.

In 11 constituencies - Kota, Lormi, Takhatpur, Beltara, Chandrapur, Kasdol, Raipur city south, Durg city, Bhilai Nagar, Vaishali Nagar, Bemetara more than one ballot unit will be used. Three ballot units will be placed only in Raipur city south.

The first phase of polls, in the 18 seats spanning Bastar and Rajnandgaon, on November 11 witnessed a 75% voter turnout, despite a Maoist boycott call.

This has raised expectations that second phase will also see a high turnout. In 2008, this areas had witnessed a turnout of 71% and both the Congress and the BJP won 35 seats each out of the 72 seats.

In central and north Chhattisgarh, the Maoist presence is not as strong compared that in to Bastar, but pockets of influence do exist and authorities remain vigilant.

"Maoist presence exists in Dhamtari, Gariyaband, parts of three districts of Mahasamund, Raigarh and Jashpur besides few pockets of Balrampur in north," additional director general of police (anti-Maoists operation) RK Vij told HT.

Around 80,000 Election Commission officials and over 100,000 security personnel have been roped in to conduct the polls in 18,010 polling booths to ensure peaceful voting. Around 3,000 surveillance cameras have been installed at the booths.

'With iron rod in her hand, Jagriti told maid to crawl like a dog'
New Delhi, November 18, 2013
Investigators probing the death of BSP MP Dhananjay Singh’s maid Rakhi Bhadra have unearthed an unsettling video clip of his wife ‘teaching their maid dog tricks’ as she wields and punishes her with an iron rod, sources claim.

BSP MP Dhananjay Singh's wife Jagriti Singh, accused of murdering her maid, being brought to Chankyapuri police station in New Delhi. (PTI Photo)
This, police sources close to the investigation said, was just one of the video clips they planned to submit in court as evidence of Jagriti Singh’s sheer brutality that culminated in Bhadra’s death a day after Diwali.

“The clip shows Jagriti sitting in a chair in the living room with a iron rod in her hand as she orders Rakhi to sit, kneel and crawl like a dog on the ground,” said a police officer.

“She apparently murmurs instructions to Rakhi and flicks the rod every time she gives a command; the clip also shows her beating Rakhi relentlessly with the same rod when she tips over due to imbalance or requests to get back on her feet.”

The police said the clip, weaned from footage recorded between November 1 and 4, would serve greater purpose as evidence than the admission of Meena, another maid employed by the couple, who stated that she and her colleagues were made to only eat their food off plates as dogs.

Delhi Police was granted two days’ custody of the MP and his wife by a city court to allow the couple to be confronted with evidence weaned from the digital video recorder containing footage from a network of 20 CCTVs installed across their South Avenue residence.

India stands still as 'god of cricket' Sachin Tendulkar bows out
New Delhi, November 16, 2013
Sachin Tendulkar, one of cricket's greatest heroes, on Saturday thanked everyone involved in his career that lasted 24 years as screaming fans on and off the ground and colleagues bid the Master Blaster an emotional farewell.

Sachin takes a lap of the ground as his teammates carry him on their shoulders in Mumbai. (PTI Photo)
India crushed a hapless West Indies by an innings and 126 runs to complete a 2-0 whitewash in one of the most lopsided contests in recent history.

"It's hard to believe that my life on the cricket field is coming to an end," said Tendulkar in his farewell speech asking cheering fans at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai to settle down.

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Tendulkar thanked his family and friends and said that it was his father who gave him the freedom to play and the power to chase his dreams.

"The most important person in my life is my father and every time I do something special I dedicate it to my father," he said.

He acknowledged his wife Anjali for "bearing with all my dreams, frustrations and all the rubbish I spoke" and "two diamonds" - daughter Sara and son Arjun.

"You are the best partnership I've had in my life," Tendulkar told Anjali.

He said that the turning point of his career came when his brother took him to cricket coach Ramakant Achrekar.

"Sir took me to all over Mumbai on his scooter to make sure I got enough match practice," said Tendulkar as he talked about 82-year-old Achrekar who groomed him.

He also thanked the Mumbai Cricket Association and the BCCI for their support "during all times, good or bad".

Sachin Tendulkar with his wife Anjali during his farewell ceremony at Wankhede stadium in Mumbai. (PTI Photo)
His teammates, Tendulkar said, were his family away from home.

"It is going to be difficult to not be a part of the dressing room."

After his side completed the formalities of a victory over West Indies, Tendulkar collected a stump as a memento and wiped tears from his eyes as he slowly made his way off the field through a mobile guard of honour formed by his team mates.

As television coverage broadcast images of a huge banner in the stands proclaiming "Legends Never Retire", the 40-year-old Tendulkar shook hands with opposing players and staff before climbing the stairs leading to the dressing room.

Sachin carries a stump as he walks out of the ground at Wankhede. (PTI)
Earlier, responding to chants of "We want Sachin, We want Sachin" from a packed Wankhede Stadium crowd, India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni allowed Tendulkar to bowl two final overs in his 200th Test match, fittingly at his home ground.

A wicket was not forthcoming for the world's most prolific run-scorer but he did show off a full repertoire of deliveries in his cameo, offering leg-spin, off-spin and an immaculate googly which tail-ender Shane Shillingford somehow defended.

The regular bowlers returned to finish off a match that will be largely forgotten as a contest but remembered as a fitting farewell for a man who may be small in stature but cast a giant shadow of greatness over cricket in India and beyond.

His son Arjun, who was doing the duty of a ball-boy, stood applauding at the boundary line.

Starting the day at 43 for three, the West Indies were skittled out for a paltry 187 in their second innings as Pragyan Ojha completed a match-haul of 10 wickets taking his second five-for.

Starting with a 8-1 off-side field, Ashwin bowled on Gayle's pads as he was clipped for three boundaries in a single over by the big-bodied Jamaican.

Marlon Samuels (11) stepped out to a flighted delivery from Pragyan Ojha, only to find that Dhoni had effected the easiest of stumpings.

Gayle also followed suit as he edged a straighter one from Ojha for Dhoni to take a sharp catch. At 87 for five, there was a fear that the match may well get over even before lunch session as Narsingh Deonarine (0) offered a simple return catch to become Ojha's fourth victim of the innings and ninth of the match.

However Chanderpaul, playing his 150th Test match offered some resistance in company of Denesh Ramdin (53) as they added 68 runs for the seventh wicket before the veteran padded up one from Ashwin that went straight after pitching. Chanderpaul scored 41 with four boundaries.

Skipper Darren Sammy (1) who had demoted himself in the batting order didn't fare any better.

Ramdin, however, continued hitting the odd boundaries in between as he reached half-century as wickets fell at the other end.

It was Mohammed Shami, who brought an end with a typical inswinging delivery that brought curtains down on a wonderful career.

As Team India begins a life without Tendulkar, one question that will haunt everyone is that who will fill the void left by him.

Cricket lovers now look up to the likes of Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Rohit Sharma to keep the flag of Test matches high for India.

The man who dominated the cricket scene in India and the world over has played his knock and will be missed sorely.

Mars Mission completes last orbit raising manoeuvre: Isro
New Delhi , November 16, 2013
The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) or Mangalyaan completed a fifth and last repositioning to take it almost two lakh km from Earth successfully on Saturday morning, Indian Research Space Organisation (Isro) said.

Now, the spacecraft will brace itself for the next critical event on December 1 when it has to move out of the Earth's sphere of influence and move towards Mars.

"The fifth orbit raising manoeuvre of Mangalyaan starting at 01.27 hrs on November 16 with a burn time of 243.5 seconds has been successfully completed. The observed change in apogee is from 1,18,642km to 1,92,874km," Isro said in a statement.

Saturday's operation was the culmination of the various baby steps the spacecraft has been taking since November 7, by gradually soaring to higher apogees around Earth.

After about 300 days, it will finally enter the Mars orbit on September 24, 2014. The five payloads on the spacecraft will then perform various experiments to know about more about the Red Planet.

During the orbit raising operations, Isro has been testing and exercising autonomy functions that are essential for Trans-Mars Injection (TMI) and Mars Orbit Insertion.

Mangalyaan is being launched on its way via an unusual "slingshot" method for interplanetary journeys.

Lacking a large enough rocket to blast directly out of Earth's atmosphere and gravitational pull, the spacecraft is orbiting Earth until the end of the month while building up enough velocity to break free.

The Mars Orbiter Spacecraft, India's first interplanetary spacecraft, blasted off on Nov 5 into an elliptical earth orbit by the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle on its 25th flight (PSLV-C25) for a 11-month trip to the Red Planet from Sriharikota

A billion heartbreaks as Sachin misses century in farewell Test
Mumbai, November 15, 2013

West Indies were 43 for three in their second innings against India at stumps on day two of the second cricket Test at Wankhede stadium in Mumbai on Friday.
Chris Gayle (6) was at the crease for the visitors, who are trailing by 270 runs. Kieran Powell (9), Tino Best (9) and Darren Bravo (11) were the three batsmen to be dismissed in second innings of West Indies.

Fans watch Sachin Tendulkar during his last and 200th Test match against West Indies at Wankhede Stadium. (Ajay Aggarwal/ HT photo)

Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar plays an upper-cut shot against West Indies during his final Test at Wankhede Stadium. (PTI photo)

Sachin Tendulkar's son Arjun Tendulkar sitting at the boundary as a ball boy at Wankhede Stadium during his father's last Test. (PTI photo)

Sachin Tendulkar plays a sweep during his last and 200th Test match against West Indies at Wankhede Stadium. (Ajay Aggarwal/ HT photo)

Sachin Tendulkar arrives to bat during his final Test match against West Indies at Wankhede Stadium. (Ajay Aggarwal/ HT photo)

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi watches the Sachin Tendulkar's last and 200th Test match against West Indies at Wankhede Stadium. (Ajay Aggarwal/ HT photo)

Fans watch as Sachin Tendulkar plays during his last and 200th Test match against West Indies at Wankhede Stadium. (Ajay Aggarwal/ HT photo)

Cheteshwar Pujara celebrates his 5th Test century during the second Test match against West Indies at Wankhede Stadium. (Ajay Aggarwal/ HT photo)

Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar thanks the crowd after his innings during his final Test match against West Indies at Wankhede Stadium. (Ajay Aggarwal/ HT photo)

Sachin Tendulkar leaves the ground after his dismissal during his last and 200th Test match against West Indies at Wankhede Stadium. (Ajay Aggarwal/ HT photo)

Fans watch as Sachin Tendulkar plays during his last and 200th Test match against West Indies at Wankhede Stadium. (Ajay Aggarwal/ HT photo)
Earlier, India were all out for 495 runs in their first innings today. Rohit Sharma remained not out on 111 while Shami Ahmed (11) was the last man to go. India have taken first innings lead of 313 runs against the visiting side.

R Ashwin (30), B Kumar (4) and P Ojha (0), MS Dhoni (4) were the four batsmen to get out before Shami Ahmed.

Cheteshwar Pujara made a brilliant century and was dismissed for 113 runs while Virat Kohli made 57 runs before being declared out.

Tendulkar failed to break the 15-year-old jinx of not scoring a century at his home ground today. He was dismissed for 74 runs in the first innings of his 200th and final Test match, shattering the hopes of a billion Indians praying that the legendary batsman would bow out with a century.

In what may have been his last-ever innings for India, the record-breaking cricketer was caught in the slips on the second morning of play at Mumbai's Wankhede stadium, television footage showed.

He took to the crease to resume against the West Indies to a deafening roar from the crowd and with Indians across the country praying that he could end his glittering career on a high.

Election Commission pulls up Rahul; Modi gets notice over poll code violation
NEW DELHI:Nov 13, 2013,
The Election Commission has pulled up Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi for having violated the model code of conduct with his "communal" remarks during poll speeches in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh last month. The commission has advised him to be more circumspect in his public utterances during election campaigns.

The commission, in an order issued on Wednesday, said it took exception to the "tone, tenor and content" of Gandhi's speeches, wherein he had accused the BJP of instigating one community against the other and suggested that Pakistan's ISI was in touch with youth affected by Muzaffarnagar riots.

"Having regard to totality of facts and circumstances of the case and submissions and contentions made by you in your reply ... the commission hereby conveys its displeasure and advises you to be more circumspect in your public utterances ..." the EC conveyed to Rahul in its order.

Stating that the commission was not satisfied with Gandhi scion's explanation that his remarks were only a criticism of BJP's policies and progammes and that the emphasis of his speeches was on maintenance of communal harmony rather than creating hatred or communal tension, the EC held that his utterances were not in consonance with the spirit of the model code.

The model code prohibits speeches that aggravate differences between religious communities and restrains politicians from criticizing rival parties based on unverified allegations.

Rahul had, in his reply to the EC notice over his Churu and Indore speeches last month, denied any violation of the model code, claiming that he was only criticising the BJP's policies. He said his contentions linking BJP to communal riots were based on facts established by various judicial commissions and by the guiding philosophy of the party as reflected on its website.

The EC however rejected his explanation.

Rahul was issued notice by the EC based on BJP's complaints. The party had moved EC though its state units in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, Rajya Sabha MP R Ramakrishna as well as its central unit. The party had demanded action against him for violating the poll code and even suggested that an FIR be registered against him under Section 153A of the IPC (creating communal tension). The EC had rejected the latter demand.

EC notice to Modi over 'khooni panja' remark

Acting on a Congress complaint, the Election Commission on Wednesday slapped a notice on Narendra Modi for prima facie violating the model code of conduct over his " khooni panja" (bloodied hand) remark on the Congress poll symbol.

The poll panel has asked Modi to explain by 5pm on November 16, why action should not be initiated against him for the said remark made while campaigning in Chhattisgarh.

"Whereas, it has been, prima facie, observed that by making the aforesaid statements, you have violated the provisions of the model code of conduct ... Now, therefore, you are hereby called upon to explain by 5pm of November 16, 2013 as to why action should not be taken against you for aforesaid violation of model code of conduct," the EC notice said.

The Election Commission said if no reply is received within the prescribed time, it will be presumed that he has nothing to say and the commission will take appropriate action without any further reference to him.

A copy of the video CD of Modi's speech of November 7 in Dongargarh Rajnandgaon of Chhattisgarh was obtained by the commission alongwith remarks by the returning officer before issuing the notice to him.

Modi while campaigning in Chhattisgarh on November 7 had said, "When Atal Behari Vajpayee formed Chhattisgarh, whose hands did it first go into ... Do you want such a 'khooni panja' (bloodied hand) again ... Brothers and sisters, don't commit that mistake again. Even by mistake, don't ever let Chhattisgarh go into the hands of a 'zalim panja' (cruel hands)."

Cash at Judge's door scam: CBI Court decides to frame charges against Nirmal Yadav

Chandigarh, Mon Nov 11 2013, 

Justice (retd) Nirmal Yadav is in trouble. For, the special CBI Court here on Monday announced that the Court will go ahead and frame charges against her and other accused involved in the infamous Judge Bribery case.

Nirmal Yadav
The court made it clear that it will remain unaffected with the revision petition filed by Yadav in the Punjab and Haryana High Court which, on September 13, had admitted her petition summoning the entire original record of the trial.

However, last month the High Court had returned the original record to the special CBI Court and decided to keep only the photo copy of it, as first reported by The Indian Express.

During the resumed hearing of the trial, special CBI Judge Vimal Kumar announced that the Court will go ahead and frame charges against Yadav and other accused on charges of corruption under the Prevention of Corruption Act. It was made clear that there is no stay ordered by the High Court on the trial and that the CBI Court was empowered and entitled to frame charges against the accused.

Yadav and the other accused have been given time to approach the High Court to obtain stay on the trial if they are aggrieved of the CBI Court's decision.

Two years after the CBI had filed a chargesheet (March 3, 2011) against Yadav, the CBI Court had decided to frame charges against Yadav and other accused. However, even before the CBI Court could frame charges against her, the former Punjab and Haryana High Court Judge had petitioned the High Court demanding quashing of trial Court's orders.

Justice Sanghi had admitted the revision petition filed by Yadav ordering that it be heard within three months.

In a damaging judgment, special CBI Judge Vimal Kumar, on July 31, had ruled that there is "overwhelming evidence" against Yadav and other accused in the scam. In a 63 page judgment, first reported by The Indian Express, the special CBI Judge had rejected the defence taken by Yadav and co accused as "untenable".

Gauhati ruling: 2G accused, Sajjan take cover, more may follow suit
New Delhi, November 09, 2013

Legal experts on Friday expressed apprehensions about the implications of the Gauhati high court judgment, which declared as illegal the 1963 resolution of the home ministry, by which the CBI was set-up.
They were of the opinion that till the decision is stayed by the Supreme Court, the CBI will not be in a position to register fresh cases or make any arrest and the fate of cases pending with the CBI was uncertain.

READ: 1984 riots: Sajjan seeks to declare CBI probe illegal

2G accused use Gauhati HC ruling against CBI as shield
Govt to move SC against HC calling CBI illegal
Senior advocate KTS Tulsi said the high court judgement was contrary to the Supreme Court verdict in the Vineet Narayan case. On whether the CBI functioning would be affected, Tulsi said: "The CBI can file charge sheets which it is scheduled to do so during this time before the verdict is set aside but it will not be able to make any search or conduct any arrests or investigate any matter."

READ: Govt to move SC against HC calling CBI illegal

His views were echoed by former additional solicitor general Mukul Rohatgi, who said, "This is a judgement of momentous proportions and I hope the Supreme Court will stay it."

Rohatgi said the CBI would be unable to do anything unless the centre moves the Supreme Court and the verdict is stayed.

READ: CBI calls verdict unconstitutional, will move SC

"As of today, CBI cannot register any case, it cannot interrogate anyone. Whomsoever they have arrested will have a right to go to court and seek release, in the present situation, said Rohatgi, who is representing several corporate executives in the 2G telecom spectrum allocation case and other high profile matters.

Former law minister and veteran lawyer Shanti Bhushan said the HC judgment was totally wrong and will be reversed by the SC.

"CBI has been recognised by the SC and if a high court passes such an order, it is rather surprising and the judgement is flawed," he said.

Two more ministers oppose PM’s visit to Lanka for CHOGM

Delhi/Chennai, 4 November 2013. Voices within the Cabinet grew lounder against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visiting Sri Lanka with two more ministers saying today that he should not attend Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in view of alleged atrocities against ethnic Tamils. Minister of state in the PMO V Narayanasamy and environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan came out openly to oppose the Prime Minister's visit, joining their Cabinet colleague G K Vasan. "I have conveyed my opinion to the Prime Minister that he should not visit Sri Lanka," Narayanasamy said. Representing Pudducherry which has substantial Tamil population, he said majority of Congress ministers and MPs from Tamil Nadu do not want the Prime Minister to participate in the CHOGM taking place in Lanka later this month. "Some ministers have met the Prime Minister insisting that he should not attend the meeting while few others have not met. But the majority opinion is that he should not visit Sri Lanka," he said. Echoing similar sentiments, Natarajan said in Chennai that she would write a letter to the Prime Minister urging him not to attend the Commonwealth summit. "With the atrocities against Tamils in Sri Lanka and the sentiments of people in Tamil Nadu, I hope the Prime Minister will take a good decision," she told reporters. However, at the same time, another Congress leader from Tamil Nadu S Natchiappan, who is Minister of State for Commerce, has been striking a different note. He said the Prime Minister should visit Sri Lanka for the welfare of the Lankan Tamils. Some officials of the External Affairs Ministry also favour the Prime Minister's visit. "He (PM) should travel to Jaffna and other Tamil-dominated areas before reaching Colombo. Perhaps this is the demand of the elected government in the Northern region of the island nation," said Natchiappan.
Earlier today, as many 45 persons belonging to different pro-Tamil outfits were arrested for attempting to picket trains and bus-stand in nearby Tirupur and Udhagamandalam, demanding that India should not participate in the CHOGM scheduled in Sri Lanka this month.

Coal Scam: CBI knocks on PMO door, seeks details of Hindalco files

23 October 2013,Delhi.Three days after the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) came out with a detailed explanation for its allotment of a coal block to Hindalco, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has written to the PMO, seeking the details of relevant files and the letter from Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, which backed the company's case.Top CBI officers probing the case against Hindalco and Aditya Birla Group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla said the agency wanted to examine the "public interest" which Patnaik referred to in his 2005 letter to the Prime Minister , following which the coal ministry reversed its original decision on the allocation.CBI sources said they would also like to examine whether the then coal secretary P C Parakh — whom the agency has named in an FIR — had, in his communication with the PMO, justified his earlier decision of not allocating the block to Hindalco, and whether any explanation for reversing the decision was put in the files.In its clarification, the PMO said, "...The ownership ratio in the joint venture was not in congruence with the guidelines approved by PM on 09.06.2005 which required this ratio to be in proportion to the assessed requirement of coal of each allocate. As per these guidelines, the NLC: Hindalco ratio in their 30 per cent share should be 22.5:7.5 and not 15:15 as was proposed."The sources said CBI had sought these guidelines that the PM approved in 2005.The agency plans to also examine the circumstances under which the decision to change the ratio in favour of Hindalco was taken.The CBI FIR has alleged that the decision was reversed after Birla met Parakh.The sources said CBI would like to examine the reason why the government preferred a private company over a public sector undertaking (Neyveli Lignite Corporation), due to which, according to the FIR, "the proposed power project of NLC which was approved by the Ministry of Power could not take off as planned".


Narendra Modi's dig: rupee in ICU, why did Tamils send Chidambaram to Delhi?

 

18 October 2013,Chennai: Narendra Modi today launched a sharp attack on the Centre's foreign policy, stating that without a strong economy, the world would not "get attracted" to India.
Addressing the 2013 Nani Palkhivala memorial lecture at Madras University this evening, Mr Modi dwelled at length on what he called the government's weak foreign policy.
"A strong economy is the driver of an effective foreign policy, we have to put our own house in order so that the world gets attracted to us," Mr Modi said. He took a dig at Finance Minister P Chidambaram on his home turf with the remark, "Today our rupee is in ICU, I don't know why Tamil people sent this person to Delhi."

Tearing into the government on its approach to Pakistan and China, Mr Modi said India was making a mockery of itself. "We remained weak where we needed to be strong, insensitive where we needed to be sensitive. One of the pillars of Foreign policy should be strategic and security interests," said the BJP's presumptive Prime Minister for 2014. Stating that many neighbours looked upon India as a big brother because of its size and resources, Mr Modi said India can become the alchemist of the world. "That status casts a lot of responsibility," he said.
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