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BREAKING NEWS

23 April 2014

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.
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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.

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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.
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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.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/popup/2013/12/Devyani1.jpg

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.
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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.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/popup/2013/12/20_12_13-metro12b.gif

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.

related story
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."
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“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.

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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.

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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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