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Updated: 59 min 35 sec ago

Gujarat poll panel chief orders probe against controversial video

1 hour 19 min ago

Gandhinagar, Nov 18 (IANS) The Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Gujarat has ordered the cyber crime cell of Ahmedabad to probe a complaint filed by a rights activist about a video that’s viral on social media, alleging it was made with an intention to cause communal divide in the context of the Gujarat Assembly elections.

The Gujarat CEO B.B. Swain ordered the cyber crime cell Ahmedabad to investigate the complaint of Govindbhai Parmar, a human rights activist and lawyer, who has objected to the video saying it was made with the intention of spreading communal hatred between Muslims and Hindus and demanded that it be banned.

“Yes, it’s true that a complaint has been filed with the ECI regarding this and I have ordered an inquiry into the matter by the Cyber Crime Cell of Ahmedabad,” Swain told IANS.

The Human Rights Law Network through Govindbhai Parmar has also sought action against those who made the video, saying it can hurt the sentiments of the minority community.

The 1.15 minute-long video in Gujarati, widely circulated on social media, shows people of the majority community being terrified of Muslims. The video propagates that women are safe under BJP reign. “I had filed a complaint with the ECI as well as the crime cell. From both the places I have got the response that they have initiated action. The cyber crime cell has stated that adequate procedure will be carried out against the makers of the video,” Parmar told IANS.

The video starts with the text: “Gujarat maa saanjh 7 pachi aavu thai shake chhe (After 7 p.m. this thing can happen in Gujarat).” Next you see a young woman in a terrified state walk through deserted streets as the sound of azaan (The call to prayers from a mosque) can be heard in the background. When she finally enters her house, her worried parents jump in relief and embrace her. Her mother looks at the camera and says, “Surprised that this is Gujarat?” The father adds: “This was Gujarat 22 years ago. And this can happen again if they return.”

“But don’t worry, no one will come because here it’s Modi” says the daughter.

The video concludes with Gujarati words in saffron colour: ‘Aapno Vote, Aapni Suraksha (your vote, your security).’

–IANS

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Categories: India News

Delhi’s air quality deteriorates, becomes ‘very poor’

1 hour 21 min ago

New Delhi, Nov 18 (IANS) Hours after slight improvement in the air quality of Delhi-NCR, the national capital again started inhaling toxins as the quality of air deteriorated from “poor” in the morning to “very poor” in the evening on Saturday.

The major pollutant, PM2.5, or particles with diameter less than 2.5 micro metre, was recorded above 300 units.

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on Saturday recorded the Air Quality Index (AQI) of Delhi-NCR at 301 and Delhi recorded 308 at 7 p.m.

PM2.5 across Delhi and NCR was above 300 units throughout the day — at least 12 times beyond the safe limit.

On Saturday evening, Ghaziabad was most polluted in NCR with the city recording 370 units, Gurgaon recorded 325 units. While Noida recorded 363 units, Faridabad recorded 315 units.

Mahesh Palawat, Director of Skymet, a private weather forecast agency, said due to rain, dust particles had settled in the morning.

“However, by evening, there was a fall in temperature and the wind speed was low, hence the particles got condensed and there was a drop in the air quality.”

He added Delhi may again witness drizzling on Saturday tonight and the pollution level could go down.

According to SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research), an app instituted by the Ministry of Earth Science, Delhi’s air quality on Saturday evening was “very poor” and is expected to remain “very poor” for next three days.

Of 10 monitoring stations of SAFAR spread across Delhi-NCR, 7 recorded very poor air quality with Mathura road in south Delhi and IGI T-3 recording the worst PM2.5 concentration — at least 320 units.

Earlier in the morning, notably, most of the 17 monitoring stations of the CPCB in Delhi found air quality on Saturday in the “poor” bracket.

In neighbouring Noida, Ghaziabad and Gurugram, the AQI also showed “poor” category.

Experts said the rain in the national capital on Friday night and early Saturday morning was responsible for the improvement in air quality.

Palawat said air quality had improved due to overnight rain, wind from the northwest and cyclonic formation in Rajasthan.

“The western disturbance has moved away from hills and hill states that have witnessed rainfall and snowfall. So winds from northwest with speed of upto 15 kmph are bringing pollution levels down. The situation will be better day-by-day,” Palawat said in the morning.

He said rains always had a washout effect on particulate matter.

SAFAR records 24-hour rolling averages of PM10 and PM2.5 and uses this data to estimate the AQI. PM10 and PM2.5 are ultra-fine particles that are the dominant pollutants in Delhi. The acceptable levels of PM10 and PM 2.5 are 100µg/m3 and 60µg/m3 respectively.

The larger particulate matter, measured by PM10, docked at 199 µg/m3 in the morning while PM2.5, which measures very poor and more dangerous particulate matter, hovered around 130 µg/m3.

An official of the India Meteorological Department said the city recorded one mm rainfall in the 24 hours till 8.30 a.m. on Saturday.

The Safdarjung observatory recorded 1 mm rainfall, Palam 0.4 mm, Lodi Road 0.2 mm, Ayanagar 0.3 mm and Ridge 0.4 mm.

–IANS

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Categories: India News

Don’t foresee immediate changes to GST rates: Adhia

1 hour 23 min ago

New Delhi, Nov 18 (IANS) Finance Secretary Hasmukh Adhia on Saturday said the recent reduction in GST rates on mass consumer goods items has resolved nearly 90 per cent of problems and discontentment related to the indirect tax regime.

According to Adhia, he does not foresees any immediate rate revisions after the latest changes which were incorporated after the last GST Council meet.

The GST Council last week had removed 178 items from the highest 28 per cent category and also reduced tax on all restaurants outside starred-hotels to 5 per cent.

Currently, only 50 products, including luxury and sin items, white goods, cement and paints, automobiles, aircraft and yacht parts have been retained in the top 28 per cent slab.

However, as and when required, rates on other items may be changed, Adhia said.

Adhia, who was speaking on DD News television channel, asked FMCG companies and retailers to sell products on the reduced rates as applicable from November 15.

He observed that anti-profiteering authority under the GST regime will ensure that the benefit of lower rates is passed on to consumers.

The anti-profiteering measures approved by the Union Cabinet on last Thursday are designed to ensure that the full benefits of input tax credits and reduced GST rates on supply of goods or services flow to the consumers.

On the inclusion of other sectors like petroleum in the GST structure, Finance Secretary said that the GST Council will take a call on it after the revenue trends of the indirect tax regeime are clearly established.

Elaborating on the medium-to-long term benifits of GST, Finance Secretary said that it will enable ease of doing business resulting in more investments. This he said will push the GDP growth higher and also increase tax buoyancy.

A high tax buoyancy will allow the government to directly help the MSME, agriculture and other sectors and would result in more job creation, he said.

On the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) and bank recapitalisation, he said that the two measures are expected to strengthen bank balance sheets and improve their ability to lend.

He added that country’s key economic parameters like low inflation, reduction in fiscal deficit and increasing tax buoyancy show that economy is in robust shape and that Union government in recent times has taken long-term structural reforms to increase the tax-to-GDP ratio and to curb tax evasion through the use of technology.

–IANS

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Categories: India News

Goa illegal mining scam: Kamat’s plea for relief turned down

1 hour 25 min ago

Panaji, Nov 18 (IANS) A Special Court in Panaji, hearing an anticipatory bail petition filed by former Chief Minister Digambar Kamat, on Saturday refused to grant him interim relief, even as an SIT of Goa Police raided his residence in Margao.

Kamat, who is one of the key accused in a multi-crore illegal mining case, had filed for anticipatory bail before a special anti-corruption court in Panaji on Saturday, the hearing for which has been posted for Monday.

“After the court refused to grant the former Chief Minister any interim relief today, we raided his residence in Margao, but he was not there. We are on the lookout for his whereabouts,” a police official attached to the Special Investigation Team (SIT) said on the condition of anonymity.

Kamat, along with then Principal Secretary – Mines Rajiv Yaduvanshi and several other bureaucrats is accused of allowing mining companies to fraudulently avail of the ‘condonation of delay’ clause to renew their iron ore mining leases.

Yaduvanshi, who is currently the Health Secretary in the Delhi government, turned state approver on Saturday, which has added an edge to the police efforts to nab Kamat.

Kamat could not be contacted on phone for his comments.

The former Chief Minister, currently a sitting Congress MLA from the Margao assembly constituency, has also served as a minister in a BJP-led coalition government in the early 2000s.

–IANS

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Categories: India News

Karnataka inks 10 technology deals at Bengaluru summit

1 hour 27 min ago

Bengaluru, Nov 18 (IANS) Karnataka has signed 10 agreements with stakeholders at the three-day Bengaluru Technology Summit to leverage emerging technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), Cloud, Analytics and Big Data, said a minister on Saturday.

“We have signed agreements at the summit with 10 stakeholders, including Virgin Hyperloop One, CoE for Data Science and AI, Intel Corporation, Business France India, 3M, NUMA and Growth Enabler Global,” said state IT & BT Minister Priyank Kharge.

The tech-savvy government also unveiled an ambitious project to provide free broadband connectivity to 500 local bodies (gram panchayats) in the first phase and extend it to 2,150 more local bodies in the rural areas in phases.

“We are also setting up Centres of Excellence (CoE) in IoT, robotics, cybersecurity, data analytics and aerospace. We plan to incubate about 20,000 start-ups by 2020 across the state and mobilise Rs 2,000-crore corpus to fund them,” said state Industries Minister R.V. Deshpande on the occasion.

“Our goal is to make Karnataka the creative capital of India with expertise in emerging technologies and harnessing the talent pool in Bengaluru and other cities across the state,” asserted Kharge.

Hosted by the state IT and BT department at Bengaluru Palace grounds in the city centre, the mega event had participation from 11,000 visitors, 3,173 delegates, 267 speakers and 250 exhibitors, which showcased leading edge technologies.

The summit also focussed on the biotech sector and its technologies changing the world, with personalized medicine, rare diseases and orphan drugs, bio therapeutics, agro biotech and new technology.

–IANS

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Categories: India News

IT raids at Jaya’s residence divides AIADMK (Roundup)

1 hour 35 min ago

Chennai, Nov 18 (IANS) The Income Tax raid at the Poes Garden residence of late Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa

on Friday night has created a major controversy with AIADMK leaders calling it “unfortunate and regretful” but Chief Minister K. Palaniswami laid the blame squarely on the doors of V.K. Sasikala and her family for the action.

J. Deepa, niece of Jayalalithaa, termed the raid a conspiracy of the Sasikala family.

Deepa added the IT officials did not inform her about the Friday night raid. She is a legal heir of Jayalalithaa.

Speaking to reporters in Madurai, around 500 km from here, Palaniswami without naming anybody said due to wrongdoings of some persons the raids had happened at Jayalalithaa’s residence.

Palaniswami said the state government has nothing to do with the IT raid. The raid at Jayalalithaa’s residence is “painful”.

Sasikala, a long time confidante of Jayalalithaa, lived in the latter’s residence.

The Chief Minister said the raid was the result of the “several mistakes” of Sasikala and her family members that resulted in the “temple” being desecrated.

Palaniswami told reporters that the IT raid in Jayalalithaa’s house was a continuation of the raids that have been taking place for the last few days in the residences and properties of Sasikala and her family members in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere.

“The Tamil Nadu government is in no way connected with the raids, which are being done by the Income Tax department which comes under the Central government. It pains us that there has been a raid at Jayalalithaa’s house which we consider as a temple and the state government was in the process of converting it into a memorial,” he said.

He also dismissed Sasikala’s nephew T.T.V. Dinakaran, asking “who is he?”. “He has nothing to do with AIADMK. We are the ones in the party for over 40 years and have made sacrifices for it,” he said when asked about Dinakaran’s charge that it was Palaniswami and Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam who were responsible for the raid at “Veda Nilayam”, where the late Chief Minister lived.

Speaking to reporters here, Fisheries Minister Jayakumar said it is “painful” to note the IT raids at Jayalalithaa’s residence.

“It is the family of Sasikala and T.T.V. Dinakaran to be blamed for the IT raid,” Jayakumar said.

Jayakumar said Dinakaran is blaming Chief Minister Palaniswami and Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam for political gains.

Responding to the media in Tuticorin, 600km from here, Minister of State for Finance and Shipping Pon Radhakrishnan said: “The raids were done on the basis of specific information and not for political vendetta.”

However, senior leaders Dr V. Maitreyan and K.P. Munuswamy said whatever may be the reason it was painful and not acceptable.

Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker Thambidurai said Jayalalithaa’s residence was a “sacred” place and nothing should be done to bring disrepute to it.

Dinakaran, who heads a faction of the AIADMK, called the raid a conspiracy to drive him and Sasikala out of politics. He accused the Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister of being responsible for the raid at Jayalalithaa’s house.

DMK Working President M.K. Stalin waded into the controversy seeking details as to what came out of the raid at Jayalalithaa’s house and in various other places connected with Sasikala and her family. He also wondered what had happened to the raids at former Chief Secretary Rammohan Rao, contractor Sekar Reddy and some Ministers earlier this year.

On Friday night, IT officials recovered a laptop, a desktop and four pen drives from two rooms used by Sasikala at Jayalalithaa’s residence here, said a senior official.

“We received an input that some important electronic storage devices are going to be clandestinely removed from two rooms used by Sasikala in Veda Nilayam (Jayalalithaa’s residence),” the IT official told IANS preferring anonymity on Friday.

According to him, it was a “limited mission”. “We are not searching the entire premises,” he had said.

The raid comes days after IT officials carried out a massive search operation at the residences and premises of Sasikala’s kin and their business associates and unearthed Rs 1,430 crore of tax evasion.

The Friday IT search comes 21 years after an earlier search at Jayalalithaa’s residence.

–IANS

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Categories: India News

Amidst US shadow, nearly 200 nations pledge climate action

1 hour 45 min ago

Bonn, Nov 18 (IANS) Amidst the shadow of the US decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, nearly 200 nations on Saturday pledged to launch a process next year to start reviewing existing plans to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

A set of decisions to accelerate actions to minimise emissions ahead of 2020 included allocation of finance by the developed world and adopting climate adaptation policies.

Stepping up climate risk insurance, Germany pledged additional $125 million to support provision of insurance to 400 more million poor and vulnerable people by 2020, in addition to the climate adaptation fund Germany’s further contribution of 50 million euros.

Climate experts told IANS the design for the ‘Talanoa Dialogue’, a process to take stock and test options for enhanced ambition during 2018, was one of the major outcome at the two-week negotiations that saw assembly of 197 country delegates.

Talanoa is the Pacific tradition of decision-making based on respect and understanding to a negotiating process that has often lacked both.

The countries endorsed the ‘Talanoa dialogue’, which will help countries and non-state actors push new boundaries for enhancing climate action, said an expert.

“Countries also came together on urgent action, pre-2020 ambition. As impacts have intensified and low carbon opportunities have grown, the demand for climate action has deepened. Creating space for this important discussion has been a crucial trust building process and bodes well for securing robust Paris rules by COP24 next year,” the expert added.

The common message from all sides at this conference has been that action to get on track towards the objectives of the Paris Agreement and to ultimately achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals is urgent, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Secretariat said.

Pledging to continue with its commitments to minimize emissions, it said: “Time is really running out and everyone simply must do much better together to drive climate action further and faster ahead now.”

“Above all, this means rapidly raising the current global ambition to act on climate change that is captured in the full set of national climate action plans (NDCs) which sits at the heart of the Agreement.”

The two-week negotiations were aimed to take a number of decisions necessary to bring the 2015 Paris Agreement to life, including meaningful progress on the agreement to implement guidelines to keep global warming within 1.5 degrees Celsius with an aim to cut greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels.

According to an environmental advocacy, the decision to maintain the Adaptation Fund under the Paris Agreement speaks to the necessary balance that the Paris regime requires in pursuing efforts to adapt and build resilience to impacts whilst the planet warms as countries decarbonise.

“The outcome is testament to countries’ unwavering commitment to the Paris Agreement following the announcement of the US government’s intent to withdraw. US non-state actors rose to the occasion, as the ‘We Are Still In’ coalition of businesses, cities, states, etc. showed that many parts of the US society remain in Paris,” it said.

The talks, however, missed many prominent issues like financial support for developing nations for cutting emissions and climate adaptation.

Among the major announcements are funds to support the poorest and most vulnerable, whose plight has been brought into sharp perspective by this year’s extreme weather, a UNFCCC spokesperson said.

In the InsuResilience Initiative, additional $125 million from Germany will support provision of insurance to an additional 400 million poor and vulnerable people by 2020.

According to recent estimates, only about 100 million people in developing countries and emerging economies are currently covered by climate risk insurance.

Likewise, the climate adaptation fund exceeded its target with Germany’s contribution of 50 million euros and Italy’s contribution of seven million euros, which means the fund has now surpassed its 2017 target by over $13 million and stands at the equivalent of $93.3 million dollars.

At Bonn, India reiterated provisions for finance — both for adaptation and mitigation, technology transfer for climate actions from the developed nations.

A day after a major victory for India and developing countries on climate action before 2020 that the developed world agreed to discuss in subsequent two years, India’s Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Harsh Vardhan has said provisions for finance, technology transfer and capacity building support to developing nations are critical.

Stressing that this Conference of Parties (COP23) is crucial as it would set the stage for the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue, accelerate pre-2020 action and firm up the modalities for implementing the 2015 Paris Agreement, he said India has undertaken ambitious mitigation and adaptation action.

The action is in the fields of clean energy, especially renewable energy; enhancement of energy efficiency; development of less carbon-intensive and resilient urban centers; and promotion of waste-to-wealth and efforts to enhance carbon sink through creation of forest and tree cover.

On the demand of BASIC countries (Brazil, South Africa, India and China), Fiji, which was presiding over the conference, has also been asked to send letters to all the countries which are yet to ratify the Doha amendments to the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 to do so “as soon as possible”.

(Vishal Gulati is in Bonn at the invitation of Global Editors Network to cover COP23. He can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

–IANS

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Categories: India News

Assam CM Sonowal inaugurates Namami Barak festival

1 hour 51 min ago

Guwahati/Silchar, Nov 18 (IANS) Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Saturday inaugurated the Namami Barak festival at Silchar, Karimganj and Hailakandi in the state’s Barak Valley region.

He also announced construction of three new bridges over Barak river and a helipad in the region to boost connectivity.

Reiterating the government’s commitment towards development, Sonowal said a bridge in each of the three districts in the Barak Valley would be built and added that the PWD Department has already been directed for preparing Detailed Project Report (DPR) for the same.

“Barak and Brahmaputra rivers have same language and that language is of brotherhood, unity and harmony. Namami Barak is not only a festival but it is a new journey to explore these parts of Assam,” said the Chief Minister while adding that the festival is being organised to revive humanistic values, to discover resources and possibilities of the land.

“Namami Barak would boost our commitment to develop the economy of the state and motivate us to engage with renewed vigour to take Assam into high growth trajectory,” said the Chief Minister, while adding that Barak Valley had been neglected for long and people have lots of anguish and disappointments.

Saying Namami Barak is an effort to ensure that the people of Barak Valley can move forward in equal footing with the rest of the state, Sonowal stated that just like Namami Brahmaputra was inaugurated by then President Pranab Mukherjee, Namami Barak is also fortunate to have President Ram Nath Kovind’s participation.

He also said that those forces inimical to state’s peace and development must be defeated by the people living across the plains and hills, Barak and Brahmaputra Valley of the state, by staying united.

He also urged the people to strive for building a society based on equality and harmony as envisioned by Swami Vivekananda.

Chief Minister also said that the Central Government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is giving lot of importance to develop Barak valley along with the whole of northeast.

“Railway ministry has introduced many new trains from Barak Valley and today also a new train connecting Silchar-Dibrugarh-Trivandrum has been flagged off,” he said adding direct air connectivity between Dibrugarh and Silchar has also started.

The Chief Minister also requested Union MoS Railways Rajen Gohain to start a new train from Saurashtra to Dibrugarh and Silchar.

Construction of the mini secretariat at Silchar would start soon and Vivekananda Cultural and Research Institute is also going to be set up here, he said.

“River navigation from Silchar to the Bay of Bengal via Bangladesh would be started and this would boost the trade and business activities in the region, he said.

He said that Panchgram Paper Mill, which has a key role in the region’s economy, would also be revived be within the next six months.

–IANS

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Amid controversy 48th IFFI gets underway on Monday (Curtain Raiser)

2 hours 1 min ago

Panaji, Nov 18 (IANS) Even as the controversy surrounding the dropping of two films “Nude” and “S. Durga” from the screening schedule of the 48th IFFI continues, India’s largest film event gets underway on Monday, with over 195 films from 82 countries scheduled for screening over 10 days.

The festival which kicks off on November 20 in Panaji, will screen 10 world premieres, 10 Asian and international premieres and over 64 Indian premieres as part of the official programme and will open with noted Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi’s movie “Beyond the Clouds”, organisers said.

Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan will inaugurate the festival on November 20, while well-known actress Sridevi will inaugurate the Indian Panorama section. India’s top actor through decades Amitabh Bachchan will be awarded with the Indian Film Personality of the Year award, while the Lifetime Achievement award will be presented to celebrated Canadian director Atom Egoyan.

The focus country in this edition of the festival is Canada and curated cinema from the North American country will be screened in the presence of leading Canadian actors and film personalities.

This edition of the Festival, will also be presenting films from a record number of women filmmakers in addition to a carefully curated section of restored classics from across the globe, which includes the recently completed restorations of Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” and Tarkovsky’s “Sacrifice” among some other notable films.

“The International Competition section of IFFI 2017, which carries a cumulative cash prize of over Rs 1 Crore will showcase 15 of the finest films of this year, competing for the Golden and Silver Peacock awards,” organisers said, adding that the International Competition jury will be headed by renowned filmmaker Muzaffar Ali, along with Maxine Williamson from Australia, Actor-Director Tzahi Grad from Isreal, Russian Cinematographer Vladislav Opelyants, Director and Production Designer Roger Christian from the United Kingdom.

The IFFI this year will also pay its homage to cinematic master spy James Bond, in a special section where nine films featuring the various leading actors who have essayed the iconic character, will be screened.

Filmmakers including Atom Egoyam, Shekhar Kapur, Nitesh Tiwari and Farah Khan, as well as Oscar winning sound designer Craig Mann, will be conducting master classes and panel discussions during the event.

–IANS

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Farooq Abdullah reiterates his stand on autonomy

2 hours 1 min ago

Jammu, Nov 18 (IANS) Defending his assertion for internal autonomy to both parts of divided Kashmir without obliterating the Line of Control (LoC), National Conference (NC) President Farooq Abdullah on Saturday said if India wants to get Pakistan-administered Kashmir (PoK), let it move towards the LoC with guns.

“If India wants to liberate the PoK, let it move towards the LoC with guns,” Abdullah told a party meeting in winter capital Jammu, adding that wars were no solution as these bring only death and destruction.

Abdullah also reiterated his demand for grant of regional autonomy to different regions in Jammu and Kashmir to assuage the aspirations of people.

“J&K is a unique state and needs special dispensation in terms of regional autonomy to satiate the urges of various regions,” he said.

Without naming the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), he lambasted the alleged overt and covert attempts being made to weaken Article 370 and said demand of autonomy was within the framework of the Constitution.

He said the NC would not allow the attempts of repealing Article 35-A to succeed. He said its fallout would be more disastrous for Jammu than other two regions of the state.

“People will come here to take your land,” he said accusing the BJP of raising the issue to make electoral gains and divide the people.

He questioned the ruling Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for advocating self-rule for Jammu and Kashmir, saying the PDP could not safeguard the state’s special status and surrendered fiscal autonomy over GST.

“What could have been our own prerogative over tax structure rests with the central GST Council now,” he said.

He also hit hard at the coalition government for abandoning the border residents, who stand exposed to harsher winter due to lack of shelter.

He referred to his recent visit to various parts of the LoC in north Kashmir including Teetwal and Machil and said the border dwellers were facing lots of problems due to failure of the government to provide better roads, communication and electricity facilities to them.

“The PDP-BJP alliance will have to pay for all its wrongs,” he said, adding that the people were suffering due to non-governance, development deficit and lack of accountability.

He alleged that survivors, widows and the families of soldiers, who laid down their lives for the country, were being neglected in the state.

Abdullah referred to his visit to the bereaved family of Sohanlal Bhagat, the soldier killed in Manipur, and said the family was totally shattered and devastated.

He lamented that none of the ministers in Jammu and Kashmir Government had time to visit the family.

“This is how soldiers and their families are treated,” he said and mentioned the state funeral accorded by Himachal Pradesh to the soldier killed along with Sohanlal Bhagat in Manipur.

He sought constitution of a commission to look into the plight of war widows and families of the killed soldiers.

“Army chief General Bipin Rawat must work for this and formulate a report on the condition of war widows to be tabled in Parliament,” the NC chief said while assailing those indulging in war mongering.

Referring to over-reaction on his recent statement on PoK, Abdullah invoked then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee saying that the sanctity of LoC could not be trampled by crossing over during Kargil incursion.

He also referred to the return of the strategically crucial Haji Peer picket in north Kashmir to Pakistan after India conquered it in 1965.

“NC had not advocated this, but the Indian nation as such took this decision,” he said.

–IANS

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Man’s body with slit marks found in Delhi

2 hours 7 min ago

New Delhi, Nov 18 (IANS) A 30-year-old man’s body bearing slit marks was found lying under a stationary truck laden with cement bags in the national capital, police said on Saturday.

Police said the body was spotted by some local traders in Ghazipur Paper Market of east Delhi when the driver moved the truck.

“Prima facie, it seems that the man had been killed somewhere else on Friday night and his body was hidden under the static truck,” said a police officer.

“When I moved the truck to a side to off-load the cement bags, local traders got panicked to find the body of a man lying under it with slit marks. We informed the police,” Bir Singh Pradhan, the truck driver, told IANS.

“The body has not been identified yet and efforts are on with the help of residents of adjoining areas to establish the identity of the deceased,” the police officer said.

–IANS

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Man held for sexually exploiting woman journalist

2 hours 7 min ago

New Delhi, Nov 18 (IANS) A 30-year-old man was arrested on Saturday for allegedly sexually exploiting a woman journalist on the pretext of marriage for over three years, police said.

Police said the woman, who works with a news agency in central Delhi’s Connaught Place area, had filed a complaint on Thursday against the accused person, Tanuj Chaudhary, for raping her on the pretext of marriage.

“We have arrested Tanuj Chaudhary on Saturday from his hideout at his friend’s house in Ghaziabad. Two police teams raided his residence in Ghaziabad but he was not found there,” Deputy Commissioner of Police B.K. Singh told IANS.

“The woman in her complaint stated that she met Chaudhary on a social networking site ‘Facebook’ in 2014 and started chatting with him. After some days, Chaudhary insisted on meeting her and they met in a restaurant in Delhi where he expressed his feelings and said he loves her,” Singh said.

“Initially, she refused his proposal but later she agreed when he won her trust saying he wanted to marry her. Chaudhary developed physical relations with the victim many times without her will on the pretext of marriage. He also took her to various outstation locations from 2014 to 2017 till August,” the officer said.

“The victim also assisted the accused and helped him in getting a job near her office six months ago but Chaudhary quit it. When she asked when he would marry her, he refused her marriage proposal and started ignoring her. He also changed his phone number and blocked her on Facebook,” he added.

“The victim later filed a complaint against Chaudhary for cheating and raping her,” he added.

–IANS

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Russian bombers strike IS targets in Syria

2 hours 11 min ago

Moscow, Nov 18 (IANS) Russian long-range military bombers launched an airstrike on Islamic State facilities in eastern Syria on Saturday, the Russian Defence Ministry said.

The strike was carried out by six Tu-22M3 strategic bombers on the IS facilities near the city of Abu kamal in the Deir ez-Zor province, with the air cover provided by Su-30SM fighters deployed at the Khmeimim airbase in western Syria, a ministry statement said, Xinhua news agency reported.

All targets including a number of terrorists, equipment and weapons were destroyed as a result of the strike, the statement said.

The aircraft returned to their bases after completing the combat mission, it added.

The Russian military has recently intensified its efforts to combat the IS. Dozens of strikes have been launched by Russian bombers and submarines near Abu kamal, one of the last IS strongholds in Syria, since the beginning of November.

–IANS

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Categories: India News

BJP announces second list of 36 candidates for Gujarat

2 hours 17 min ago

Ahmedabad, Nov 18 (IANS) The Bharatiya Janata Party on Saturday evening announced its second list of 36 candidates for the Gujarat Assembly elections.

There are as many as 19 new faces in it while the rest, including those defeated in the 2012 elections, have been repeated.

The party leadership decided to drop three sitting legislators and fielded new faces in their place.

With this, the BJP has declared contestants for 106 out of total 182 seats.

–IANS

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Categories: India News

Protests continue over ‘Padmavati’ in Rajasthan

2 hours 21 min ago

Jaipur, Nov 18 (IANS) Protests over Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s movie “Padmavati” continued to rock Rajasthan as protesters blocked entry to the Kumbhalgarh fort in Rajsamand on Saturday while protests were witnessed in some other towns and cities.

“Hundreds of protesters on Saturday blocked entry for a few hours to Kumbhalgarh Fort. It was a peaceful protest and no untoward incident was reported,” SHO Kelwara Yogesh Chauhan told IANS on phone.

Protesters shouted slogans against Bhansali and in speech after speech demanded a ban on the movie. They said they will send memorandums to the President of India and Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting requesting a ban on “Padmavati”.

Police had taken measures to deal with any untoward incident.

Kumbhalgarh fort, situated in Rajsamand district, is one of the prominent forts of Rajasthan. It is the birth place of famous Rajput king Maharana Pratap.

Reports of protests also came in from Sikar where women associated with the Karni Sena held swords in their hands as a mark of protest. They also shouted slogans against Bhansali and demanded ban on the film.

In Mundru town in Sikar district, Brahmins protested against the film while here in Jaipur a protest was organised by some people against the film.

A Karni Sena leader on Thursday threatened actress Deepika Padukone, who plays the lead in the movie, with physical harm over her “provocative statements”.

Deepika, in an interview to IANS, had said: “The only people we are answerable to is the censor board, and I know and I believe that nothing can stop the release of this film.”

A Brahmin group on Thursday conducted a signature campaign in blood demanding a ban on the film here.

Even the dargha diwan of Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti Dargah in Ajmer has issued a statement requesting a ban.

Activists of the Karni Sena had on Tuesday vandalised a theatre in Kota, Rajasthan, over reports that it was showing a trailer of “Padmavati”.

In January, activists of the Karni Sena had manhandled the crew of “Padmavati” in Jaipur, claiming that Bhansali was “distorting” historical facts in the movie.

They had also damaged some cameras and other equipment. Bhansali had to stop shooting.

“They are trying to defame queen Padmavati by distorting historical facts. It is not acceptable,” an activist of the Karni Sena said.

In March, some miscreants broke the mirrors at the Padmini Mahal in Chittorgarh Fort where Alauddin Khilji is alleged to have seen Rani Padmavati or Padmini’s reflection.

The Karni Sena claims the mirror story was invented years later.

–IANS

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Categories: India News

Odisha receives Rs 3,548 cr under DMF trust fund

2 hours 27 min ago

Bhubaneswar, Nov 18 (IANS) The Odisha government has received Rs 3,548 crore under District Mineral Foundation (DMF) trust fund to carry out development works in mineral bearing areas, said an official on Saturday.

Chief Secretary A.P. Padhi, who reviewed the status of DMF in the state, said the total contribution received in the DMF Trust Fund till October this year is Rs 3,548 crore.

The total amount allocated for projects, schemes and works sanctioned for funding out of DMF is Rs 1,862 crore.

Padhi directed the officials to identify and build up a shelf of projects at least three times of the annual accrual in the DMF Fund under high priority and other priority areas indicated in the Odisha District Mineral Foundation Trust Rules.

The high priority items include drinking water, health, education, women and child welfare, and nutrition while the other priority items include infrastructure, electricity and irrigation.

These projects are to be forwarded to the respective DMF Trust Boards through Planning and Convergence Department for their consideration, said the official.

The Chief Secretary further directed the Line Departments to strengthen their field formations by redeployment for faster implementation of the DMF sponsored projects.

–IANS

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Categories: India News

Hundreds of students join organic rice harvesting in Bihar

2 hours 27 min ago

Patna, Nov 18 (IANS) It was a celebration with a difference on Saturday when hundreds of students and teachers from 22 schools began harvesting of organic rice at Tarumitra (friends of trees) farm in the capital of Bihar.

With traditional sickles in their hands, students assisted by their teachers spent hours at the organic farm and harvested organic rice like millions of farmers across the state.

“It was a rare experience for us as students, thanks to the initiative by Tarumitra,” Nandini, one of the students who joined others to harvest organic rice, said.

Another student said it was his first experience of harvesting in a farm. “Really, it was something different. I will not forget it and will spread the message of organic farming.”

Most of the students in their respective colourful school uniforms gathered at Tarumitra, a student movement to protect and promote a healthy environment on earth, and joined harvesting of organic rice in the adjacent field.

Father Robert Athickal, the man behind Tarumitra, said students were involved and motivated to join us in harvesting of organic rice to make them understand agriculture, environment and impact of climate change.

“These students are future of the country. If they develop interest in organic farming, it will pave the way for a sustainable agriculture growth.

“Tarumitra has been promoting organic rice by cultivating in its organic farm and creating awareness for organic rice by engaging students, teachers and farmers in rural areas,” he said.

Tarumitra got into organic farming seven years back to bring health back to the dining table, he added.

Athickal told IANS that Tarumitra had been cultivating organic rice varieties of Mirchaiya, Manipuri and Jhilli, and also near-extinct varieties of paddy were being cultivated through organic methods.

“We are not using any type of chemical fertilisers at all. Our cultivation of organic rice is real. It is fully based on organic substances prepared by the members of Tarumitra.”

He said in a bid to avoid any use of pesticides, the Tarumitra members got dry branches of trees planted all over the field to attract Drongo birds which ate up many of the insects and thus controlled the pests.

“It is an old practice that we have been reviving for cultivation without pesticides.”

Devopriya, one of the officials of Tarumitra, said students gathered for harvesting organic rice were upbeat and expressed happiness over learning many things related to agriculture and organic farming for the first time.

She said: “Excited to get an opportunity, nearly 250 students, including locals and from Delhi and abroad, participated in the Organic Rice Plantation Festival last July. They got into wet, slushy and muddy field and actually planted rice seedlings.”

Three rare varieties of paddy were sown this year, namely Bauna Mansuri, Kunjunju and Kakshan.

Veteran organic farmer trained in Japan, Margaret Molomoo, who supervises the entire organic farming, said it was time to take a break from the pesticide-laden rice cultivation which was further enervated by the heavily expensive chemical fertilisers.

“Poison is flowing out of our farms. It is high time we shifted our focus to organic farming — the only available option,” she said.

–IANS

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Categories: India News

Don’t foresee more changes to GST rates in next few months: Adhia

2 hours 29 min ago

New Delhi, Nov 18 (IANS) Finance Secretary Hasmukh Adhia on Saturday said the recent reduction in GST rates on mass consumer goods items has resolved nearly 90 per cent of problems and discontentment related to the indirect tax regime.

According to Adhia, he does not foresees any further changes in GST rate structure in the near future after the latest changes which were incorporated after the last GST Council meet.

However, as and when the need arises rates on other items may be changed, he said.

Adhia who was speaking on DD News television channel said that the country’s key economic parameters like low inflation, reduction in fiscal deficit and increasing tax buoyancy show that economy is in robust shape.

He added that Union government in recent times has taken long-term structural reforms to increase the tax-to-GDP ratio and to curb tax evasion through the use of technology.

–IANS

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Dyal Singh College (Evening) is named Vande Mataram Mahavidyalaya, triggers controversy

2 hours 33 min ago

Delhi, Nov 18 (IANS) Controversy erupted on Saturday after Delhi University’s Dyal Singh College (Evening), which since the past few months has been functioning as a day college, decided to change its name to Vande Mataram Mahavidyalaya. The Congress’ student wing NSUI criticised the move, saying the governing board should have focused on improving the college infrastructure rather than name change.

Amitabh Sinha, Chairperson of governing body of Dyal Singh College, said on Saturday that the decision was taken to overcome the confusion in the name.

A notification to change the name was issued on November 17 and was sent to the Vice Chancellor for his approval. The NSUI questioned the decision and accused the governing body of “disgracing the legacy” of Punjab’s first freedom fighter – Sardar Dyal Singh Majithia.

“There were two colleges in Dyal Singh College. One was day and other was evening. The evening shift students were rated as second grade students. They used to face difficulties even while seeking jobs. That’s why the governing body converted it into a day college,” Sinha told IANS.

“After it was converted into a day college, there was confusion among the students over the name, and to overcome the confusion it was decided to change the name of the college,” he said.

Sinha said that he, himself, proposed the name Vande Mataram, which was unanimously adopted by the governing body.

“They (governing body members) hailed the decision, saying there can’t be a better name than this,” he said.

Asked about controversy being created by NSUI over the issue, he said, “I am not bothered about the controversy and the opposition. You can not please all the people all the time.”

He said that “No one should have objection to the name Vande Mataram as it is associated with our mother.”

DUSU President Rocky Tuseed told IANS that rather than renaming and creating controversy, the governing body should have focused on improving the infrastructure.

“Rather than renaming it the governing body should have discussed about the basic needs of the students. They should have focussed on infrastructure. The students need a new campus. I will go with the students and talk to the VC regarding the developments in Dyal Singh College,” he said.

Dyal Singh (Evening) College was given a nod by the Delhi University (DU) Executive Council (EC) to be converted into a morning college in July, leading to protests by the faculty of the morning college. The evening college began holding morning classes for first year students from July 20, till the time it is able to operate as a full-fledged morning college.

Students and teachers from the original morning college protested the decision citing space crunch which the ‘merger’ had occasioned.

Currently, the colleges are sharing a campus space of eight acres.

–IANS

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Categories: India News

Development top priority of UP government: Adityanath

2 hours 41 min ago

Ghaziabad, Nov 18 (IANS) Uttar Pradesh will be the compound of development and religious highness, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said here on Saturday.

Addressing a public meeting, Adityanath said it is necessary to constitute the municipal boards in tune with state and central government so that the government’s agendas are fulfilled without any hassle.

The Chief Minister assured the Ghaziabad residents that the industrial character of the city would be revived. He also said he will make Ghaziabad a smart city through the local bodies, if voted for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the local self-government.

Elaborating upon the government’s agenda, the Chief Minister said maintaining law and order is the primary and foremost priority.

“Kailash Mansarovar House was inaugurated in this city, so our priority is to maintain development and religion at top,” Adityanath said.

The Chief Minister also said that he is planning to replace all the conventional tube lights with LEDs and promised to provide clean water and allocation of land for street vendors so that the city could be made encroachment free.

Ghaziabad MP and the Union Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh, Baghpat MP and Union Minister of State for HRD Satya Pal Singh along with Uttar Pradesh BJP President Mahendra Nath Pandey were also present in the programme.

–IANS

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