Nation Latest India News - read breaking news, politics, crime stories from all states in India on Onmanorama. en Sat, 01 Jun 2019 13:26:10 GMT D Raja appointed new CPI general secretary New Delhi: Rajya Sabha MP D Raja was appointed as the general secretary of the Communist Party of India (CPI) on Sunday. The veteran leader, who replaced S Sudhakar Reddy, said the party's fight against "retrograde" forces would continue. "The country is going through a critical period under the fascist regime of (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi. The Left might have lost seats in the Lok Sabha election and might have been reduced to a smaller force in Parliament, but it does not mean that we have shrunk within the country or our ideological and political influence has shrunk," Raja told a press conference here. "We are the hope for the people of this country," he added. Raja said the Left parties would continue to fight against the "retrograde policies" of the present government. "The BJP government may have won the electoral battle but not the social or the political one. We want all communist parties to come together. We will have to rework our strategies. That's what our parties are trying to do," he said. Raja was unanimously chosen as Reddy's successor at a three-day meeting of the CPI National Council, the top decision-making body of the party, earlier this week. The change in leadership comes after the party's worst-ever performance in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. Reddy, who stepped down as the CPI general secretary due to ill health, was also present at the press conference. Sun, 21 Jul 2019 13:00:26 GMT Glitch fixed, countdown for Chandrayaan-2 launch commences New Delhi: India's ambitious second mission to the Moon Chandrayaan-2 will lift off at 6.43 pm on July 21 with scientists resolving the technical glitch in GSLV-MkIII-M1 rocket that led to the aborting of the launch last week. Chandrayaan-2, which will be launched on-board the most powerful Geostationary Launch Vehicle GSLV-MkIII dubbed 'Baahubali, is ready "to take a billion dreams to the Moon", the Indian Space Research Organisation said on Twitter. In an update on its website, ISRO later said remedial action had been taken based on the findings of a committee formed by it to analyse the cause of the glitch following which the rocket performance was 'normal'. "The expert committee identified the root cause of the technical snag and all corrective actions are implemented. Thereafter, the system performance is normal", it said. The launch of the 3,850 kg Chandrayaan-2, a three-component spacecraft comprising an orbiter, lander and rover that would explore the unchartered lunar south pole, will now take place from the second launch pad of Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota. Veteran scientists heaped praise for ISRO for calling off the launch rather hurrying into a major disaster. The launch of Chandryaan-2 had missed its date earlier too when it was fixed for the first week of January. But it was shifted to July 15. The mission would explore the unchartered lunar south pole, 11 years after ISRO's successful rst lunar mission Chandrayaan-1 which scripted history by making more than 3,400 orbits around the Moon and was operational for 312 days till August 29, 2009. Chandrayaan-2 will take 54 days to accomplish the task of landing on the Moon through meticulously planned orbital phases, ISRO has said. Ahead of the July 15 aborted launch, the ISRO had said it was planning to make the soft landing of the lander - Vikram carrying rover 'Pragyan' - on September 6. With the rescheduling of the launch, it is not clear when the soft landing will take place. Billed as the most complex and prestigious mission undertaken by the ISRO since its inception, Chandrayaan-2 will make India the fourth country to soft-land a rover on the lunar surface after Russia, the United States and China. Sun, 21 Jul 2019 13:20:28 GMT Week after building collapse, Mumbai battles fire near Taj Mumbai: A fire broke out in a four-storey residential building located behind the iconic Taj Mahal Palace Hotel here on Sunday, leaving one person dead and injuring two, including a fireman, officials said. Fourteen people, including some senior citizens, were rescued from the Churchill Chamber building where the blaze erupted shortly after noon, they said. "The fire brigade got a call around 12.17 pm about the blaze in the ground plus four-storey building, located on the Merry Weather Road, following which fire fighters rushed to the spot and managed to rescue 14 people with the help of ladders," a fire official said, adding that it was a level-2 fire. As smoke engulfed the entire premises, some of those rescued complained of breathing problems and were treated in a state-run hospital, he said. The deceased has been identified as 54-year-old Shyam Aiyar, a resident of the building, police said. Another resident, Yusuf Poonamwala (50) was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of a private hospital while the injured fireman, Burmal Patil (29), was discharged after treatment, a police official said. The cause of the fire was yet to be ascertained, he said. The flames were put out completely around 4 pm with the help of four fire engines and as many water tankers, the fire official said, adding that the rescue operation is over now. This is yet another incident that points to the many infrastructure flaws of the Mumbai that is seeking to build on new territories paying little or no heed to the perilous state the rest of the city is in. Last week, a building collapsed in south Mumbai's congested Dongri locality killing many. Mumbai needs enforcement of building safety norms: Experts The accident in the congested Dongri area and the Merry Weather fire has once again put the focus on Mumbai's stressed infrastructure with experts and realtors calling for strict enforcement of safety norms and regular audits to avoid such tragedies in the future. Every year, the financial capital sees instances of building collapse, foot overbridge accidents and other life-threatening but preventable incidents. The situation gets aggravated during the monsoon. Dongri accident was the latest addition in the list of such tragedies in the Mumbai metropolitan area which is replete with tales of sheer negligence and apathy by authorities tasked with overseeing development and maintenance of buildings and infrastructure assets. Earlier this month, the city witnessed instances of wall collapse caused by the worst monsoon rains in a single day in 14 years, killing over 20 people. "People continue to die, and India has so far failed to enforce safety norms for highrises in the country strictly," said Ramesh Nair, CEO and Country Head, JLL India, a global real estate services firm. "As opposed to the scenario witnessed in more developed countries, India lags on implementing tighter norms for the structural and fire safety for all kinds of buildings," said Nair. He said a large section of the real estate development fraternity is now aware of these guidelines and follows necessary construction norms relating to natural disasters such as earthquake, water, fire and floods to make safer structures. "However, there remains a section of unorganized builders who continue to flout structural safety norms. Law should strictly deal with them," Nair maintained. At least six people were killed and 32 injured when a major portion of a foot overbridge near the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) railway station in south Mumbai collapsed in March. In July last year, the pedestrian section of the Gokhale bridge in suburban Andheri gave way, killing two persons and injuring three others. The basic requirement is to decongest existing overcrowded urban spaces by creating new cities in periphery areas with mass rapid transport linkages to the CBDs (central business districts), which will provide breathing space for overburdened and overworked infrastructure. "We need to promote the idea of planned suburbs on the periphery of Mumbai to decongest existing infrastructure and ensure ease of mobility," Hiranandani added. After every such a tragic incident, it is often seen that government agencies like the BMC, Mhada and Railways engage in a blame game and pass the buck. Every year before the monsoon, Mhada (Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority) and BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) released a list of dilapidated and dangerous buildings and issue eviction notices to occupants. "But while doing so, they do not take into consideration where will the tenants go. We cannot continue living with this and passing the blame." "With RERA (Real Estate Regulatory Authority) in place, we have asked the authorities from Mhada and the government to sit together and create a regulatory framework for redeveloping such structures in a time-bound manner," Deshpande said. Ramesh Prabhu, founder-chairman, Maharashtra Societies Welfare Association, said the current infrastructure in Mumbai is not capable enough to hold the burgeoning population. "On one hand we cannot stop the influx, and on the other hand, we are unable to provide adequate infrastructure and housing. This has resulted in mushrooming of slums," he said. At the same time, there is no proper assessment or structural audits of the existing establishments, Prabhu said. It is necessary for the government to take proactive steps in this regard or else such incidents will continue to recur with fatal consequences, he warned. Prabhu said the state government, in a July 4 order, has asked the authorities to give priority to redevelopment to buildings which are declared dangerous for settlement. "We now need to see how this is implemented," he said. Sun, 21 Jul 2019 13:23:59 GMT Centre clears Rs 5,800cr for cleaning 34 polluted rivers New Delhi: Over Rs 5,800 crore has been sanctioned for pollution abatement at 34 river stretches in 16 states across the country, excluding River Ganga, the Environment Ministry has said. Out of the total of Rs 5,870 crore sanctioned under the National River Conservation Plan (NRCP), the Centre has released its share of Rs 2,522 crore to states, Minister of State for Environment Babul Supriyo recently told the Lok Sabha. Project proposals are received from states from time to time for taking up pollution abatement works in town along various rivers and are considered for financial assistance under the NRCP. NRCP has covered polluted stretches of 34 rivers in 77 towns spread over 16 states at a sanctioned cost of Rs 5870.55 crore, the MoS said while responding to a query in this regard. In the last one year, Rs 143 crore has been released to nine states for pollution abatement in rivers under NRCP, the minister said. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in association with State Pollution Control Boards, monitors the water quality of rivers on a regular basis. 351 stretches of polluted rivers have been identified by the apex pollution body. On another question on lakes and wetlands conservation, the ministry said it has released Rs 181 crores to 20 states for pollution abatement in lakes and wetlands in last three years, with Rs 1.58 crore being released in the current financial year so far. The Environment Ministry is currently implementing a centrally sponsored scheme named National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Eco-systems(NPCA) under which 180 wetlands including lakes have been prioritised for conservation and management, the minister said. Sun, 21 Jul 2019 11:08:05 GMT Taslima Nasreen gets nod to stay in India for one more year New Delhi: Controversial Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen'sresidence permit has been extended for one year by the Union Home Ministry, officials said on Sunday. Taslima, a citizen of Sweden, has been getting residence permit on a continuous basis since 2004. A Home Ministry official told PTI that her residence permit has been further extended for one more year till July 2020. The 56-year-old writer was last week given a three-month residence permit following which she took to Twitter requesting Home Minister Amit Shah for extending it for one year. "Hon'ble @amitshah ji, I sincerely thank u for extending my residence permit. But I'm surprised it's only for 3M. I apply for 5yrs but I've been getting 1yr extension. Hon'ble Rajnathji assured me I wd get an extension for 50yrs. India is my only home. I'm sure u'll come to my rescue (sic). "Everytime i apply for the extension of my Indian residence permit for 5years, i get extension for 1year. This time i applied for the extension for 5years, i get for 3 months only. Hope Honourable Home Minister @HMOIndia will reconsider to extend my residence permit for at least 1year,(sic)," she tweeted on July 17. Following the extension of the residence permit for one year, Taslima again took to Twitter. "Twitter is so powerful ! On July16 I tweeted my residence permit wasn't extended. On July 17 it was extended, but only for 3 months. So many Twitter friends requested MHA to extend it for longer period. It's extended for 1yr today. Thanks MHA to change decision. Love my Twitter friends," she said. Taslima had to leave Bangladesh in 1994 in the wake of death threat by fundamentalist outfits for her alleged anti-Islamic views. Since then she has been living in exile. She has also stayed in the US and Europe during the last two decades. However, on many occasions she had expressed her wish to live in India permanently, especially in Kolkata. Taslima had also applied for permanent residency in India but no decision has been taken on it by the Home Ministry, another official said. The writer also had to leave Kolkata in 2007 following violent street protests by a section of Muslims against her works. Taslima had said that if she is not able to stay on in India she will suffer from an identity crisis which will affect her writings and championing the cause of women's rights. Sun, 21 Jul 2019 10:09:29 GMT Replace EVMs with ballot papers, demands Mamata Kolkata: Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee has demanded return of ballot papers in place of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and said electoral reforms are required in the country to save democracy and stop the use of black money during polls. Banerjee, the chief minister of West Bengal, also demanded state funding of elections. "Do not forget that the EVMs were earlier used in England, France, Germany and America. But they have now stopped using them.... So why cannot we bring the ballot papers back?" she said. During Sunday's rally, she is expected to highlight issues like EVMs and electoral reforms. "Since 1995, I have been demanding electoral reforms. If we want to stop use of black money in elections, save democracy and let political parties maintain transparency, you must go for electoral reforms," Banerjee told reporters here on Saturday. State funding is necessary in such reforms, she said alleging that political parties use black money during polls. The TMC chief had earlier claimed that several crores of rupees were spent during the recently-held Lok Sabha elections. "Some are saying it amounts to thousands of crores. I want to know, where did all this money come from? Every party cannot spend so much money. This is corruption. Money was sent to different fake bank accounts. Money was transferred even using RTGS," she said. Sun, 21 Jul 2019 09:29:33 GMT Sheila Dikshit was behind Delhi's infrastructure revolution New Delhi: Affable, courteous and always smiling, Sheila Dikshit came across more as a friendly neighbourhood aunt than a quintessential haughty politician. A chirpy Miranda House girl who loved car rides married into a political family and her fortunes changed forever. Daughter-in-law of Uttar Pradesh leader Uma Shankar Dikshit, she was first noticed by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, and later became a "family" loyalist after she worked closely with Rajiv Gandhi. Born in Punjab, raised in Delhi and honing her politics skills in Uttar Pradesh, the national capital became her work space. It has been six years since she was voted out of power but there is broad consensus - even her political opponents will not disagree - that she was the force behind the transformation of Delhi. Despite being a small state, governing Delhi is a complex affair because of the multiplicity of authorities. Cutting through this maze of layers without friction, she managed to deliver, bringing in an infrastructure revolution in the city by building roads and fly-overs. She achieved what she did with dignity and earned respect from the opponents. As she is no more now, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) veteran Vijay Kumar Malhotra described her as his sister while BJP MP Manoj Tiwari, who defeated her in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, said that she was a mother figure in his life. During her 15-year rule from 1998 to 2013, the face of Delhi changed completely from being an extended outpost of Punjabi-Haryanvi culture to a thriving cosmopolitan. Her political career was a roller-coaster ride during which she touched the peak and hit the bottom with same velocity. She was written off when she was made the Delhi Congress chief in a surprise move ahead of Assembly elections in 1998, replacing Choudhary Prem Singh. In complete disarray, the Congress was then in the grip of tainted stalwarts like H K L Bhagat, Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar. To her advantage, the BJP government too had lost its sheen because of continuous infighting, as a result of which Delhi saw three chief ministers - Madan Lal Khurana, Sahib Singh Verma and Sushma Swaraj - in five years. Amid this backdrop, Sheila Dikshit led the party to a resounding victory, winning 52 out of 70 seats and never looked back from there. She repeated the feat in 2003 though with lesser number of seats and again won in 2008. An explosion of corruption scandals against the Congress government at the Centre also engulfed her and she came under scanner for the Commonwealth Games fiasco in 2010 which was the beginning of her downfall. The anti-corruption movement gained ground, leading to the birth of a new entity - the Aam Admi Party (AAP). The Sheila Dikshit government also bore the brunt of the 2012 Nirbhaya gang rape case with street demonstrations breaking out in the city. In the 2013 Assembly elections, the Congress was reduced to just eight seats with Sheila Dikshit herself losing the polls to AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal in the hung results. AAP went on to form the government with support from the Congress despite the two parties fighting each other tooth and nail. The government fell soon and in the elections held in 2015, the Congress failed to open its account in the state Assembly for the first time ever. Sheila Dikshit returned to oblivion as the city politics changed forever. She made a comeback ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections as the chief of Delhi Congress. She contested from North East Delhi but lost to city BJP president Manoj Tiwari. Sheila was in the middle of a daunting task of reviving the party from dust to prepare for the Assembly elections due next year. She left the task incomplete as she could never recover from her illness. Sun, 21 Jul 2019 03:51:14 GMT CPI(M) flays draft education policy for elitist proposals New Delhi: The draft National Education Policy "is not acceptable" as it will ensure centralisation, commercialisation and communalisation of the education system and structures, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury has said. In a letter to Union Human Resource Development Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank on Friday, Yechury shared the Left party's observations on the draft policy. He claimed that the policy "completely contravenes" with the powers of state governments. "The DNEP (Draft National Education Policy) in the present form will ensure the centralization, commercialization and communalization of the Indian education system and structures. "Instead of arriving at a balance between quantity, quality and equity in the education system, this DNEP is promoting a more elitist and pro-corporate thrust. This DNEP in its present form, is hence, not acceptable," he said. Yechury said that the policy needed wider consultations. Some of the observations include the policy's failure to identify and address the socio-economic challenges that have daunted India's educational progress. While the cost of quality education continues to rise, increasing numbers of pupils drop out before completing compulsory education. "While the DNEP pays more importance to higher education and research than has hitherto been given, it builds castles in the air instead of assessing the impact of growing commercialisation and privatisation at this level of education. "It sets up an ambitious GER target of 50 per cent by 2035 but hopes that the target will be achieved without binding the Union Government to funding commitments. Its policy recommendations are based on one-sided diagnoses derived entirely from the Niti Aayog's Action Agenda. It replicates currently identified evils by advocating increased private investment, uniform regulatory and assessment parameters for public-funded and private higher educational institutions," the party said. Sun, 21 Jul 2019 03:48:35 GMT Here's one of the last interviews of Sheila Dikshit Delhi Chief Minister of 15 years, Sheila Dikshit, who passed away on Saturday, had firmly believed that BJP’s nationalism campaign was aimed at diverting attention from its failures. In a candid interview with The Week, published on May 11, 2019, Sheila had said that there was no merit in the AAP’s demand for full statehood. Excerpts from the interview ahead of the Lok Sabha Election results: How have people responded to your campaign? I am getting a wonderful response. There is a lot of warmth and affection. They remember the development work that was done when the Congress was in power in Delhi. The dominant feeling now is that the development has come to a standstill. There is tremendous dissatisfaction with both the BJP and the AAP. It is said you were initially reluctant to contest. Yes, I was not very keen on contesting. It was for personal reasons. But when the party leadership asked me, I said, OK. I obeyed. How have things changed in the national capital since the Congress lost in 2013? Things have taken a turn for the worse in Delhi in several aspects. It is being regarded as one of the most polluted cities in the world. The condition of hospitals and schools has worsened. The urban infrastructure has to be revamped at constant intervals to deal with the growing demands of the city. That is just not happening. The biggest change that has taken place in Delhi, politically, is that there is a third force at play now, which is the AAP. However, Arvind Kejriwal has proved to be an extremely inept chief minister, blaming others for his government’s lapses. What about national issues? The BJP is running a campaign high on nationalism. The people of Delhi would like to vote for a party which they are confident will deliver for them, be it at the state level or at the Centre. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP stand exposed in terms of not having fulfilled the promises made in 2014. Their seven MPs in Delhi are all extremely unpopular. The people of Delhi can see through the BJP’s effort to try and divert attention from its failings by harping on nationalism. They will not be fooled. The AAP’s main election plank is full statehood for Delhi. Again, that is a ploy to divert attention from the local government’s failures. We worked in a similar situation and could bring about so much development in the capital. One needs to be practical. I do not think any Central government would be willing to concede this demand because of the simple reason that Delhi is the national capital. Why were you opposed to an alliance with the AAP? It was my firm belief that the Congress would have benefited little from the alliance. The party is on a comeback trail in Delhi, and an alliance with the AAP would have been detrimental to its future prospects. Moreover, any talk of an alliance is based on the number of seats that the parties involved will get. What was proposed by the AAP was not at all a fair deal. Are there concerns that anti-BJP votes will get split between the Congress and the AAP? It is true that if the votes get split, the BJP will have an advantage. However, I am confident that such a situation will not arise. The Congress is getting tremendous support in the capital, and it is best placed to unseat the BJP from the seven seats. Except for, maybe, the areas of electricity and water supply, the people are extremely unhappy with the Kejriwal government. I am quite sure that they are left with little support in Delhi. Sat, 20 Jul 2019 15:12:20 GMT Delhi bids adieu to former CM Sheila Dikshit New Delhi: The funeral of veteran Congress leader and former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit was conducted here on Sunday afternoon. The 81-year-old leader, who passed away here on Saturday evening, was cremated with full state honours at the Nigambodh Ghat on the banks of the Yamuna. Her funeral cortege reached the crematorium from the Congress headquarters where the body was kept for over an hour at noon. The mortal remains were cremated in an environment-friendly way using the CNG-based facility, instead of the traditional funeral pyre, as per her wish. Prior to that hundreds of people, including political leaders and activists, paid homage to the departed leader at her Nizamuddin East residence where her body was brought from the hospital on Saturday evening. Prominent people who paid homage to her here included Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee president was admitted to Fortis Escorts Heart Institute on Saturday morning. She breathed her last around 3:55 pm yesterday. She was a heart patient and had undergone a cardiac surgey last year. Sheila, who was Delhi CM for 15 years in a row, had also served as Kerala governor for five months. Rich legacy Sheila is credited with improving Delhi's green cover and introducing CNG-powered buses to reduce air pollution. She was also lauded for her work on introducing the Delhi Metro system. Known as a warm and affable politician, Sheila carried out massive infrastructure development of Delhi during her tenure. She also launched a number of social welfare schemes with involvement of resident welfare associations as part of her participatory model of governance. An able administrator, Sheila could get along well with politicians from all parties for which she drew widespread respect. Early life Sheila Dikshit, nee Kapoor, was born into a Punjabi family on March 31, 1938 in Kapurthala. She studied at the Convent of Jesus and Mary School and Miranda House in New Delhi. In 1962, a young Sheila married Vinod Dikshit, an IAS officer and son of freedom fighter Uma Shankar Dikshit. Vinod died while the family was on a train journey. Her father-in-law was close to Jawaharlal Nehru and served as Union Home Minister briefly during 1973-74. Later he became the Governor of West Bengal and Karnataka. After her political entry, Sheila became the Congress MP from Kannauj constituency in Uttar Pradesh during 1984-89. She served as Union Minister during 1986-89 in the Rajiv Gandhi government. Though she lost the 1998 Lok Sabha elections from the East Delhi constituency, that year itself she became the chief minister of Delhi and continued in the position until 2013 when her Congress party was routed by the fledgling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). She herself lost to Arvind Kejriwal who scripted AAP's historic win in the Delhi Assembly election. Dikshit's son Sandeep also was an MP. Dikshit made a surprise return to Delhi politics, by contesting in the Lok Sabha polls this year, but lost from North-East Delhi to Manoj Tiwari of the BJP. Prior to the Lok Sabha election, in January, she was appointed as the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee chief, days after Ajay Maken resigned from the post citing ill health. The Congress leadership relied on her even to strengthen the party in Uttar Pradesh. In 2016, she was projected as the chief ministerial candidate of Uttar Pradesh, as the state went to polls. Tributes pour in "I express my profound sorrow and grief over the demise of former Chief Minister of Delhi, Smt. Sheila Dikshit today. She was a good administrator," Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu's secretariat tweeted. "Deeply sad and anguished to know about the demise of Sheila Dikshit ji. It is a great loss for Congress," Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot tweeted. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal mourned the death of his predecessor, saying Sheila's contribution to the city will always be remembered. Former prime minister Manmohan Singh said the country has lost a dedicated Congress Leader of the masses. Kerala Governor P Sathasivam and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan condoled the demise of Sheila. In a condolence message, the Governor said: "I am deeply grieved by the sad demise of Smt Sheila Dikshit, who had won people's hearts with her endearing personality and strong administrative capability, during her tenure as Chief Minister of Delhi and as Governor of Kerala." In his message, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said he was deeply saddened to hear about the demise of Sheila. Sun, 21 Jul 2019 10:52:26 GMT Analysis | Too much at stake in 2 days for Congress in Karnataka Do 48 hours really matter in politics? Definitely, it matters a lot. At least the Congress in Karnataka, where its coalition government with the JD(S) is on the verge of collapse, would like to believe so. With the impending floor test set to take place in the assembly on Monday, the national party is playing all last-minute tactics to save the government. The alliance, hastily stitched up after the 2018 polls, will survive the floor test only if its rebel MLAs, housed in a Mumbai resort, reach the House and vote in favour of the government. This seems to be an impossibility at the moment, considering the political circumstances in the state as well as national level. The Congress alleges that the ruling MLAs have been poached by the opposition BJP and are held captive in the resort. In trying to woo them back, the party's lone hope is that it could convince the rebel MLAs of the consequences of their decision to stay away from the assembly procedures. Sixteen MLAs from the ruling coalition -- 13 from Congress and three of JD(S) -- have submitted their resignation to the assembly speaker, who is yet to take a call on the letters. “They (dissident MLAs) were hoping that the Supreme Court would ask the speaker to accept their resignations. However, the court has directed the speaker to use his discretion. The BJP has made them believe that there won't be any threat of disqualification if they resign. But on Monday, when the assembly meets, they all will still be MLAs and if they choose to abstain from the procedures, they will have to face disqualification,” AICC secretary in charge of Karnataka, P C Vishnunadh, who is camping in Bengaluru, told Onmanorama over phone. The Supreme Court had recently ruled that the rebel MLAs cannot be forced to take part in the ongoing assembly session. However, the Congress and the JD(S) have moved the apex court seeking clarification in the order saying it obstructs their freedom to issue whip to their MLAs. Asked if the move to approach the SC was a bid to buy more time to conduct the floor test, a Congress leader said the floor test will happen on Monday even if the SC pronounced its order by then or not. “If we fall short of majority on Monday, the government will fall. However, we are trying to bring an end to BJP's brazen horse-trading. We want to convince our MLAs that the BJP can't help them at this moment. Those who violate the whip will have to face disqualification anyway,” the leader said. The leader said attempts were on to bring back the dissident MLAs to the ruling fold. “We have actually given them two days for a rethink,” he said, adding that the coalition leaders have been trying to contact them through some common friends. He said the MLAs are in the custody of the BJP and their mobile phones have been seized. “Now, even if they want to come back on Monday they may not be allowed,” he added. However, once they are back, options, including accommodating some of them in the Cabinet, are still open,” the leader said. The Karnataka Assembly was on Friday adjourned till Monday without a floor test despite Governor Vajubhai Vala extending the deadline he gave on Thursday to Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy for proving his majority. The government slumped into a minority earlier this month following the resignation of the dissident MLAs. The Congress' strength has been reduced to 65 from 79, including the Speaker, while that of JD(S) to 34 from 37 and their combined strength to 99. In contrast, the BJP has 105 of its own and a total of 107 with the support of the two independents. The state Assembly has 225 members, including one nominated MLA. The majority mark in the 225-member Assembly is 113. If the resigned MLAs stay away from the procedures, the total strength would come down to 209 and the minimum majority mark would be 105. Sat, 20 Jul 2019 10:04:07 GMT Anandiben Patel shifted to UP Raj Bhavan, 4 new governors appointed New Delhi: In a major reshuffle on Saturday, President Ramnath Kovind transferred Anandiben Patel from Madhya Pradesh and appointed her as the Governor of Uttar Pradesh, besides appointing new governors in West Bengal, Tripura, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Nagaland. A Rashtrapati Bhavan press communique said: "The President of India is pleased to make the following appointments. Anandiben Patel, Governor of Madhya Pradesh is transferred and appointed as Governor of Uttar Pradesh." Anandiben Patel has been replaced by Lalji Tandon in Madhya Pradesh, who was so far the Governor of Bihar. Fagu Chauhan replaces Lalji Tandon as the new Governor of Bihar. Besides, the President appointed Jagdeep Dhankar as the Governor of West Bengal and Ramesh Bais as the Governor of Tripura. R N Ravi, the government's representative and interlocutor for the Naga peace talks, has been appointed the Governor of Nagaland. Sat, 20 Jul 2019 09:39:16 GMT Taj Mahal security to be beefed up over Shiv Sena threat Agra: The district administration of Agra has agreed to beef up security outside the Taj Mahal at the request of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), following Shiv Sena's threat of performing 'aarti' at the monument on each Monday of the holy month of 'Sawan'. The ASI authorities wrote a letter stating that under the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 any kind of religious practice and beginning of new tradition in the protected monument is against the rules of the Act. Agra Shiv Sena president Veenu Lavania on July 17 challenged the district administration and police to stop him and his aides from offering 'aarti' at the Taj Mahal. Lavania had said: "Taj Mahal is not a mausoleum but Tejo Mahalaya, a temple of Lord Shiva. We will perform 'aarti' at Tejo Mahalaya on every Monday of 'Sawan'." The Superintending Archaeologist of ASI of Agra circle, Vasant Swarankar, said that no 'aarti' or 'puja' has ever been performed in the Taj Mahal. "We have requested the district authorities to make proper security arrangements outside the Taj Mahal," he said. Additional District Magistrate (ADM) K P Singh said that no one would be allowed to disturb the law and order situation in the city. He said that proper arrangements would be made as per the ASI's request. This is not the first time when right wing groups have attempted to create controversy over performing 'puja' inside the Taj Mahal. Last year, a group of women from right wing organizations had performed 'puja' in the mosque inside the Taj Mahal to prove that the monument was originally a Shiv temple. In 2008, a group of Shiv Sena activists had sneaked into the Taj Mahal, and performed religious ritual of a parikrama with folded hands, and when the cops spotted and challenged them, they got into a scuffle, which led to their arrest by the police. The Shiv Sena says that the 17th century monument was built by Emperor Shah Jahan on an older Shiva temple called Tejo Mahalaya. Sat, 20 Jul 2019 06:09:13 GMT Priyanka vows to come back as UP officials set her free, sit-in called off Mirzapur/Lucknow: The standoff between Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi and the Uttar Pradesh government ended Saturday, a day after she was detained by the Mirzapur administration when she insisted on travelling to the scene of a recent shootout in Sonbhadra. Gandhi spent Friday night at the Chunar guesthouse, insisting she will not return to Delhi unless she meets the families of the victims. On Saturday, some of the villagers from Sonbhadra, where 10 people were gunned down over a land dispute, came to the guesthouse itself. Later, a Congress leader said she was returning to Varanasi, where she had landed on Friday. The Congress general secretary had earlier met some of those injured in Wednesday's clash at the BHU Trauma Centre in Varanasi. But she was stopped while she and her supporters were travelling to Sonbhadra by road. "I am now leaving because my purpose of meeting the families of the victims has been fulfilled. But I will return very soon. I had come here on the instructions of my brother Rahul Gandhi," she said before ending her 24-hour dharna. Mirzapur District Magistrate (DM) Anurag Patel took a u-turn on Saturday and said that the Congress leader was free to go since she had neither been detained, nor arrested. The DM on Friday night had asked her to furnish a personal bond of Rs 50,000 so that she could be allowed to go. Several senior Congress leaders who were on their way to Sonbhadra were detained by the police at Varanasi airport. A three-member delegation of the Trinamool Congress was also detained at the airport. The detention of the political leaders came a day after Priyanka was detained and stopped in Mirzapaur district from going to Sonbhadra to meet the injured and the victims' families. The Congress termed the entire episode as a 'major victory for the party' and slammed the Yogi Adityanath-led government in Uttar Pradesh for resorting to fascism and preventing their leaders from visiting Sonbhadra. Sat, 20 Jul 2019 10:01:54 GMT Is encounter specialist Pradeep Sharma, who quit police force, flirting with politics? Mumbai: 'Encounter specialist' Pradeep Sharma, a Maharashtra Police Senior Police Inspector, who once featured on the cover of Time magazine and is reputed to have gunned down over 150 criminals and terrorists has put down his papers after 35 years of service. Presently, chief of Thane Anti Extortion Cell (AEC), Sharma sent in his resignation to the Director-General of Police a fortnight ago, and is awaiting his relieving orders from the state government. Openly harbouring political ambitions since long, Sharma is likely to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and contest the Assembly elections from Andheri constituency in north-west Mumbai, or Nalasopara town in Palghar district. Though confirming his resignation, Sharma kept mum on taking the political plunge to media-persons, claiming he has not yet made up his mind, and remains busy with social work through his NGO, PS Foundation. Once dreaded by the underworld and idolised by the masses as an "Encounter Specialist", Sharma along with other prominent "encounter specialists" of the 1990s like Vijay Salaskar, Praful Bhosale, Arun Borude, Aslam Momin, Raju Pillai, Ravindra Angre and Daya Nayak helped "clear up the city of organized crime activities". Many of these "gun-masters" were trained by retired DGP Arvind Inamdar, sported sophisticated weapons, and they frequently grabbed headlines for "encounter killings" of one or the other criminals from various gangs which used to operate in Mumbai, and occasionally even terrorists. Many movies were inspired by their gangland exploits. At one point, as with many of his other "encounter specialist" colleagues, he got embroiled in the custodial death of a terror suspect Khwaja Yunus in 2003, and was transferred to Amravati. In 2008, he was dismissed for allegedly harbouring links with the very same mafia he was battling, and arrested two years later for an alleged fake encounter. Undeterred, Sharma fought his dismissal before the Bombay High Court and Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal, and was acquitted to be reinstated in the police force in 2016. At his new posting as Thane AEC chief, two years ago, he shot to national prominence in September 2017 by arresting absconder mafia don Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar's younger brother, Iqbal and blew the lid off a major extortion racket in Mumbai and Thane. Born in Uttar Pradesh and raised in Dhule (Maharahstra), the 59-year-old AEC chief is due to retire from Maharashtra Police in May 2020. Fri, 19 Jul 2019 13:54:50 GMT Rape, murder of British teen in Goa: Beach shack worker sentenced to 10 years RI Panaji:The Bombay High Court Friday sentenced beach shack worker Samson D'Souza to ten years' rigorous imprisonment in the 2008 British teenager murder case. The fifteen-year-old girl was found dead with bruises on her body at Anjuna beach in Goa on February 18, 2008. D'Souza and Placido Carvalho were accused of leaving her to die after drugging and sexually abusing her. D'Souza, a beach shack worker who was found to have attacked the British teenager and then left her to die on the Anjuna beach, will perform hard labour for a decade. A division bench comprising of Justices R D Dhanuka and Prithviraj Chavan also imposed a fine of Rs 2.60 lakh on the accused. This will be the compensation awarded to the mother of the victim, who has waited everyday of the last 10 years for justice. Police initially claimed her death was due to accidental drowning, but the victim's mother insisted on a second autopsy. A police sub inspector was also dismissed from service on account of the lapse, while a forensic specialist was under the scanner for the dubious first autopsy. A subsequent postmortem showed there was ecstasy, cocaine and LSD in the teenager's body, along with 50 cuts and bruises and evidence of sexual assault. It was alleged that D'Souza plied her with drugs, raped her and left her unconscious face down on the beach. D'Souza was booked under several sections of the Indian Penal Code -- culpable homicide, criminal assault and outraging a woman's modesty, providing narcotics to a person with knowledge that it could cause serious harm or death, and destruction of evidence, besides Section 8(II) of the Goa Children's Act. The beach shack worker was on Wednesday pronounced guilty of all charges in connection with the 2008 incident. The other accused Carvalho, however, was acquitted for lack of evidence. Earlier on Friday, CBI prosecutor Ejaz Khan sought maximum punishment for D'Souza and compensation for Mackeown for the trauma she underwent following her daughter's death and her quest for justice. "In addition to seeking a very severe punishment, I seek that the victim may be compensated adequately. In this case the victim will mean the victim's mother. She has had to run from pillar to post besides suffer trauma and severe pain in a foreign land," Khan argued, speaking of Mackeown's plight and subsequent crusade for justice. The case was hampered by constant setbacks, including a change of prosecutor, long delays and the failure of a British witness to give evidence. In 2016, D'Souza was acquitted on charges of rape and culpable homicide at Goa children's court. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) prosecutor also sought maximum punishment under law, because Goa being a "state of tourist importance it was important to send a message that such kind of crimes won't be tolerated". Mackeown's lawyer Vikram Varma told the High Court on behalf of the mother that paedophilia should be treated with the "highest level of seriousness". Defence lawyer Shailendra Bhobe, however, sought leniency from the court, arguing that D'Souza was trying to reform himself. Bhobe argued that his client did not have criminal antecedents and that he has cooperated with the trial at every stage. D'Souza has a wife and a child, who is now 12-years-old. Fri, 19 Jul 2019 13:28:50 GMT Sonbhadra carnage triggers Priyanka Gandhi vs Yogi Adityanath battle in UP Lucknow: What the Congress could not do during the Lok Sabha elections, Priyanka Gandhi has done now - she has pitted herself against Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on the Sonbhadra carnage issue. With the Congress now ready to throw its weight behind Priyanka, Uttar Pradesh is set for a 'Priyanka versus Yogi' battle which is likely to continue much after the Sonbhadra incident is forgotten. Priyanka was one of the first opposition leaders to express her dismay at the killing of 10 persons in Sonbhadra over a land dispute on Wednesday through a tweet that said, "Criminals are so fearless that they have killed 9 tribals including three women. The chief minister is sleeping. Is this the crime-free Uttar Pradesh?" Priyanka's decision to go to Sonbhadra on Friday - within 48 hours of the incident - is a clear indication that she is ready to battle for her party's revival in the state and will not let the leadership crisis in the Congress make her wait and watch like others. The Congress is the first party that reached out to Sonbhadra victims while the Samajwadi Party followed a few hours later. The Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have not gone beyond issuing press statements, condemning the incident. Yogi Adityanath has, perhaps, sensed trouble that could emerge with Priyanka's political activism and that too at a time when Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh are only two-and-a-half years away. The chief minister on Friday blamed the Congress for the land dispute that led to the carnage. His contention was that since the dispute began way back in 1955 when the Congress was in power, the party was to blame for what happened on Wednesday. Adityanath, however, seemed ill-advised when he ordered the detention of Priyanka even though she had agreed to go to Sonbhadra with only four persons, without violating the prohibitory orders in the affected district. Priyanka's detention in the Chunar Guest House instantly mobilised Congress workers across the state as she refused to return without meeting the Sonbhadra victims. Senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted, "The illegal arrest of Priyanka in Sonbhadra, UP, is disturbing. This arbitrary application of power, to prevent her from meeting families of the 10 Adivasi farmers brutally gunned down for refusing to vacate their own land, reveals the BJP Govt's increasing insecurity in UP." Protests were reported from Ballia, Varanasi, Mirzapur, Kanpur, Kannauj, Sitapur, Lucknow, Allahabad and several other districts where Congress workers staged demonstrations and burnt effigies of Chief Minister Adityanath. Almost all of these protests were spontaneous and leaderless to an extent. The All India Congress Committee (AICC) has also given a call for demonstrations and protests across the country. A veteran Congress leader, now into semi-retirement, said, "It is after decades that we are seeing this kind of reaction and outburst from Congress workers. When the late Indira Gandhi was arrested after the Emergency, Congress workers had spilled on to the streets. I see this as the first step towards the party's revival because Priyanka is not the one to give up this battle so easily." The battle, political analysts say, is bound to be long drawn since the prevailing law and order situation in the state will give innumerable opportunities to the Congress to position itself as the main opposition party and the direct involvement of Priyanka at the grassroots level could be a game changer for the Congress. Sat, 20 Jul 2019 00:41:07 GMT Karnataka Assembly adjourned till Monday, trust vote drama drags on Bengaluru: In a face-off with Governor Vajubhai Vala, the JD(S)-Congress government in Karnataka defied the two deadlines set by him to demonstrate its majority in the Assembly Friday itself, worsening the political logjam. The assembly was adjourned till Monday after the governor's 1:30pm deadline and the second one to conclude the confidence motion process by Friday itself was ignored, prolonging the climax to the ceaseless power struggle. As the first deadline neared, the ruling coalition vociferously questioned the governor's power to issue such a direction, with Kumaraswamy citing a Supreme Court verdict that a governor cannot act as ombudsman of the legislature. The second missive by the governor was dismissed as a "love letter" by Kumaraswamy who criticised Vala for talking about horse-trading now "when it had been happening" for the last several days. Before adjourning the House for the day, Speaker Ramesh Kumar said the motion of confidence would reach finality on Monday and it would not be prolonged further under any circumstances, to which the government agreed. As the crisis sparked by the resignation of 15 MLAs of the ruling coalition a fortnight ago deepened, Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy and Karnataka's Congress unit moved the Supreme Court, contending its July 17 order was coming in the way of the party issuing whip to its legislators in the ongoing trust vote proceedings. The court had held that the MLAs cannot be compelled to participate in the Assembly proceedings. Kumaraswamy told the apex court that the governor cannot dictate the House on the manner in which debate of Confidence motion has to take place while the Congress contended a political party has a constitutional right to issue whip and the court cannot restrict it. "No such direction on trust vote could have been issued by the governor when confidence motion was already initiated," the chief minister said. Governor Vajubhai Vala fixed a second deadline asking the chief minister to complete the floor test on Friday itself, shortly after the 1:30pm deadline set on Thursday night for the JD(S) leader to prove his majority ended without the assembly taking up voting on the motion of confidence to decide the fate of his shaky government. Pointing out that the debates and discussions in the assembly appeared to be merely to delay the floor test, Vala in his letter to the chief minister referred to wild allegations about horse-trading and said it was Constitutionally imperative the floor test be completed without any delay and Friday itself. Kumaraswamy responding saying he has received a "second love letter" and that he was hurt by it. "I have received a second love letter," said Kumaraswamy in the assembly on the governor's second missive to him in two days. The ruling coalition appeared to be in no hurry to face the trust vote with Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Siddaramaiah saying the debate may go on till Monday after which the voting would take place since many MLAs have given their names to participate in the debate. As the deadline neared, it vociferously questioned the governor's power to issue such a direction with Kumaraswamy citing a Supreme Court verdict that a governor cannot act as ombudsman of the legislature. Kumaraswamy said he would not criticise the governor and requested Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar to decide whether the governor can set a deadline. Allegations of bribery flew thick and fast as the debate progressed with the ruling coalition ministers and members targeting the BJP for its alleged toppling game. "Legislators were offered Rs 40-50 crore to lure them; whose money is it?" asked Kumaraswamy hitting out at the BJP even as the opposition members remained unruffled apparently to ensure there was no disorder that would disturb voting. JD(S) MLA Srinivas Gowda alleged he was offered Rs 5 crore bribe by BJP to defect to bring down the government. Minister Sa Ra Mahesh alleged Vishwanath (JD-S former state president) had told him that he needs money as he has election-related loan of Rs 28 crore. Krishna Byre Gowda alleged hundreds of crores of were being pumped in to bring down the government. In his speech, Kumaraswamy accused BJP of resorting to ways to circumvent the anti-defection law. He asked BJP why it is in a hurry to end the trust vote debate in one day if it was sure of its numbers. "Why is the BJP in a hurry, if they have the numbers... why the hurry to end the debate in one day.... I know it is not easy to get your MLAs," Kumaraswamy said looking towards BJP leaderr B S Yeddyurappa. As the clock in the assembly struck 1:30pm, the BJP insisted on a division on the confidence motion moved by Kumaraswamy Thursday in accordance with the letter by the governor sent to him. The House was then adjourned till 3pm amid ruckus with both BJP and Congress members locked in heated exchanges over the Governor's role. Vala on Thursday set the 1:30pm deadline for proving the majority within hours after the voting on the confidence motion could not take place with the Speaker adjourning the day's proceedings in the assembly. The Governor in his letter to the Chief Minister had observed resignation of 15 MLAs of the ruling JD(S)-Congress and withdrawal of support by two independents "prima facie" indicated Kumaraswamy had lost confidence of the House. After the assembly resumed its sitting Friday morning and as the deadline fast approached, Yeddyurappa stood up and pressed for division on the confidence motion and his party insisted that Kumaraswamy should make it clear whether he would obey the governor's directive or not. The Speaker said there was a process to be followed and the motion would be put to vote, if pressed for, according to rules after discussion. He also reminded BJP members that until the discussion, they cannot press for division. Amid pandemonium, Congress members accused the BJP of misusing the governor's office to conspire against the government and shouted slogans, "Go back governor." The House reassembled after an overnight drama that saw BJP members camping in the assembly to protest against the House not taking up the voting. Making it clear that there was no scope for any other discussion except the trust vote, the speaker also dismissed suggestions that he was trying to delay the vote on the confidence motion. As many as 16 MLAs -- 13 from the Congress and three from JD(S) -- had resigned, while independent MLAs R Shankar and H Nagesh have withdrawn their support to the coalition government, putting the government on the edge. One Congress member Ramalinga Reddy retracted, saying he would support the government. The ruling front's strength is 117-- Congress 78, JD(S) 37, BSP 1, and nominated 1, besides the Speaker. With the support of the two independents, the opposition BJP has 107 MLAs in the 225-member House, including the nominated MLA and Speaker. If the resignations of 15 MLAs (12 from Congress and 3 from JD(S)) are accepted or if they stay away, the ruling coalition's tally will plummet to 101, (excluding the Speaker) reducing the government to a minority. (With inputs from PTI & IANS) Fri, 19 Jul 2019 15:46:31 GMT Mob lynches three in Bihar on suspicion of cattle theft A mob on Friday beat to death three men suspected of trying to steal cattle in Bihar, police said, the latest in a spate of attacks that have provoked alarm among religious minorities. In recent years angry mobs have lynched many people from marginalised groups, especially Muslims and the Dalits, often over suspicions of cow slaughter. The deceased have been identified as Raju Nat, Bides Nat and Naushad Qureshi, Superintendent of Police Har Kishore Rai said. He said two of the deceased were beaten to death at the village, while another succumbed to injuries when he was being taken to a hospital by family members. All the deceased belonged to Paigambarpur village, Rai said, adding the bodies were sent for post mortem. The three men were caught by some villagers early on Friday while trying to load cattle on a pickup truck, police official Har Kishore Rai said. "They were trying to load a buffalo and a calf when some villagers woke up and took the three into their custody and beat them up," he said, adding that the men had died. Police have arrested three people from the village of Pithauri and have filed a case of murder against four more from the village, administrative official Lokesh Mishra told Reuters. Police have filed a case of theft against the three men, and the villagers face a separate case of murder filed by the victims' families, naming three accused people, although more names are likely to be added, Mishra said. Activists have tracked a rise in the number of mob lynchings in the last five years that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has been in power. Critics accuse it of not having done enough to rein in such violence. The Supreme Court last year recommended making mob lynching a separate offence. In July, opposition parties in Bihar demanded a separate law against mob lynching in the state, where they say the problem is growing. Fri, 19 Jul 2019 11:01:09 GMT Absconding jeweller Mansoor Khan arrested over ponzi scam Bengaluru: Mohammed Mansoor Khan, the owner of IMA jewels, has been arrested in New Delhi and is being questioned by the Enforcement Directorate, said a special investigation team here which is probing the alleged ponzi scam. Khan, who had fled to Dubai, flew back to India and was arrested on landing in Delhi, it said in a statement. The SIT said that its sources in Dubai persuaded him to come back and submit himself before the law. "Accordingly he travelled from Dubai to New Delhi (Flight AI 916) and landed at 01550 hours IST. SIT officers are in Delhi to secure and arrest the accused," it said. A lookout circular was issued against him by both SIT and ED and he would be handed over according to procedure, the SIT said. Sources told PTI that he is being quizzed by ED officials in New Delhi and will later be sent to Bengaluru for a detailed probe by the SIT. More than one lakh people had invested in the IMA Jewels which started 17 companies. Khan invited people, mostly Muslims, to invest in five companies, said the SIT, adding that Rs 4,084 crore was invested in the company. He has to refund approximately Rs 1,400 crore to his investors, the SIT said. Around one and half months ago, Khan had fled to Dubai leaving thousands of investors in lurch. Khan had promised his investors that he would return to India and would refund their money. Based on thousands of complaints, the SIT registered a case against him and others. It has so far arrested 22 people, including Khan, 12 directors of the firm, deputy commissioner of Bengaluru urban district Vijay Shankar, assistant commissioner L C Nagaraj, a Bangalore Development Authority officer, a nominated corporator of Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike and a village accountant. Before fleeing he had accused Shivajinagar Congress MLA R Roshan Baig of taking Rs 400 crore and not returning it. Baig categorically refuted the charge, terming it false and frivolous. The MLA who had rebelled against the party was suspended for anti-party activities. Baig then joined the bandwagon of rebel MLAs who resigned. The SIT had served him a notice to depose before it on July 15, but he sought time till July 26. The SIT then asked him to be present before it on July 19. The day Baig was supposed to appear before SIT, he planned to fly to Mumbai by a special chartered plane but the SIT detained him and quizzed him extensively. The SIT released Baig and asked him to appear on July 19. Fri, 19 Jul 2019 09:16:39 GMT Governor's deadline ends, Kumaraswamy says Rs 50 crore being offered to MLAs Bengaluru: Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy on Friday asserted he would not misuse power to save his government, as he spoke on the confidence motion moved by him in the Assembly to decide the fate of his ministry. Interestingly, at 1:30pm on Friday, the 'deadline' issued by Governor Vajubhai Vala to Kumaraswamy to prove his majority ended. The House has been adjourned till 3pm. Kumaraswamy alleged legislators were being offered “Rs 40-50 crore” to “lure” them. Kumaraswamy asked whose money this was. JD(S) MLA Srinivas Gowda alleged he was offered a Rs 5 crore bribe by the BJP to defect to bring down the government. In his speech seeking the trust vote, Kumaraswamy charged that an atmosphere was created from day one that "this government will go" and it was unstable. "After 14 months (in power), we have come to the final stage," Kumaraswamy said. "Let's have discussion. You can still form government. Nothing urgent. You can do it on Monday or Tuesday also. I am not going to misuse power," Kumaraswamy told the BJP. Kumaraswamy also told BJP, "from the day I came to power, I know it won't be for long... how long you will sit in power, I am here to see... how stable your government will be with the people who are now helping you". Kumaraswamy began his speech after Speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar made it clear when the House commenced its proceedings that there was no scope for any other discussion except the trust vote. The speaker dismissed suggestions that he was trying to delay the vote on the confidence motion. "I don't have to be partisan," Kumar said, expressing anguish over suggestions that he was trying to delay the trust vote. He said there was discussion and "indirect comments" made that he was delaying the process (vote of confidence). After making his remarks, the speaker asked the chief minister to speak on the debate on the trust vote, saying, "I am clear... no scope for any other discussion (except the trust vote)". Within hours after the confidence motion could not take place with the speaker adjourning the day's proceedings in the Assembly, the governor had on Thursday shot off the letter to the chief minister setting the deadline of 1.30pm. Not surprisingly, the debate on Friday saw Congress and JD(S) MLAs protest against the governor. The governor had observed that resignation of 15 MLAs of the ruling JD(S)-Congress and withdrawal of support by two independents "prima facie" indicated Kumaraswamy has lost the confidence of the House. Fri, 19 Jul 2019 08:44:31 GMT Priyanka detained on way to meet kin of 10 shot dead in UP, Cong fumes Lucknow/New Delhi: Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was on Friday detained and stopped from going to Sonbhadra where 10 people were gunned down this week and taken to a guesthouse after she squatted on the road, insisting that she be allowed to proceed, UP Police officials said. The Sonbhadra shootout acquired a sharp political edge with Congress leaders, including former party president Rahul Gandhi, alleging she was "illegally" arrested and the Uttar Pradesh government was attempting to crush democracy while local police officials maintained she was just detained in Narainpur in the state's Mirzapur district. As the issue snowballed, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath promised justice and said the sub-divisional magistrate and four other officials were suspended. Besides, 29 people, including the village headman Yagya Dutt and his brother, were arrested. A committee under the additional chief secretary (Revenue) has also been constituted and will give its report within 10 days, Adityanath said in a statement in the assembly. Ten people were killed and 18 injured in the clash between supporters of the village head and Gond tribals over a piece of land in Sonbhadra's Ghorawal area on Wednesday. Dutt's supporters allegedly opened fire on the tribals. Priyanka Gandhi landed in Varanasi and met the injured at the BHU Trauma Centre before making her way to Sonbhadra, about 80 km away. The Congress general secretary UP (East) was stopped on the Varanasi-Mirzapur border. She was taken to the Chunar guesthouse in nearby after she sat on 'dharna'. Priyanka Gandhi and other members of the Congress were "stopped and detained" at Narainpur while they were on their way to Sonbhadra, Deputy Inspector General Piyush Kumar Srivastava told PTI. The district magistrate and the superintendent of police are in discussions with her at the Chunar guesthouse to persuade her not to move to Sonbhadra, the DIG said. Prohibitory orders are in force in the Ghorawal area in Sonbhadra district and a through checking of vehicles was on to monitor the movement of people, he added. An agitated Priyanka Gandhi said she only wanted to meet the affected families and demanded to be shown the orders under which she was stopped. "A boy of my son's age was shot at and is lying in hospital. Tell me on what legal basis have I been stopped here," she said. "I can move ahead only with four people. I want to meet the victims... I only want to meet the affected families, whose members have been mercilessly shot dead." Congress leader Ajai Rai from the area said she was taken into police custody along with other Congress leaders and workers. Back in Delhi, former party chief Rahul Gandhi termed the action against his sister "illegal arrest". "This arbitrary application of power reveals the BJP government's increasing insecurity in UP," he said. Congress general secretary in-charge Uttar Pradesh West Jyotiraditya Scindia also hit out at the UP government for stopping Priyanka Gandhi from proceeding to Sonbhadra, saying the action was "open disrespect" of democracy. "Meeting families of victims and expressing condolences is the responsibility of public representatives. The government has attempted to crush democracy which is highly condemnable," he said in a tweet in Hindi. "By arresting Priyanka Gandhi, keeping her in Chunar, will the UP government be able to cover up the killing of 10 people of a tribal family in Sonbhadra?" Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala asked in a tweet in Hindi. Asked to comment on the development, UP Deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma told reporters, "Whether it is the ruling party or the opposition, everyone's collective responsibility is to ensure that the situation does not aggravate further. The opposition should help the government in building bonhomie among the people." Fri, 19 Jul 2019 15:12:23 GMT Flood toll in Assam, Bihar, Meghalaya crosses 100 New Delhi:The flood situation in Bihar, Assam and Meghalaya remained grim on Thursday with the death toll crossing the 100-figure mark. Several million people are living in camps and makeshift settlements in India's eastern state of Bihar and northeastern Assam, officials said, with heavy rains and flooding since last week driving even animals to seek shelter in people's homes.The monsoon brings heavy rains to South Asia between June and October, often triggering floods later in the season. Inadequate supplies are also a concern in the Indian state of Assam, where more than 5.8 million people have been forced out of their homes, but the situation is improving. "No fresh areas have come under floodwaters since Wednesday night," Assam's health and finance minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma, said. Parts of north and eastern India were also lashed by rains and the Army was called out in Punjab's Sangrur district following a 50-foot breach in the Ghaggar river that inundated over 2,000 acres of agricultural field and inhabitants of a few nearby villages fled fearing flood threat. The national capital witnessed a fresh bout of rains on Thursday that resulted in a drop in temperatures and pollution levels. The Safdarjung Observatory, which provides official figures for Delhi, reported 12.1 mm rains overnight. Between 8.30 am and 5.30 pm, it measured 3.6 mm precipitation. A total 78 people have died so far in the flash floods that have hit Bihar in the wake of torrential rainfall in adjoining Nepal, the state disaster management department said. Sitamarhi district accounted for the maximum number of 18 deaths. Of Assam's 33 districts, 28 remained under the grip of floods that has displaced nearly 54 lakh people and killed 36 people. The mighty Brahmaputra and its tributaries are flowing above the danger mark in Guwahati and other parts of the state, and according to the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA), 53,52,107 people are reeling under the impact of the deluge. Nine fresh deaths -- three from Morigaon, two from Biswanath, and one each from Sonitpur, Udalguri, Bongaigaon and Barpeta districts -- were reported on Thursday, the ASDMA said. Barpeta is the worst-hit district with 13.48 lakh people suffering due to the deluge that has damaged over 4,000 houses across the state, swept away 130 animals and affected over 25 lakh big and small animals. Over 2.26 lakh displaced people have taken shelter in 1,080 relief camps and 689 relief distribution centres set up by the district administrations, the ASDMA bulletin said. NDRF (National Disaster Response Force) and SDRF (State Disaster Response Force) teams were working round-the-clock in the flood-affected areas to evacuate those stranded, it said. With two more deaths in Meghalaya, the toll in floods in the state rose to eight while over 1.55 lakh were affected by the deluge. Meanwhile, in Kerala, the IMD has sounded a red alert in Idukki, Pathanamthitta and Kottayam districts which are likely to receive extremely heavy rainfall upwards of 20 cm in the next two to three days. Other districts are predicted to get isolated heavy to very heavy rains on these days, though a red alert has not been issued for them. In northern India's Haryana and Punjab the maximum temperatures were below normal limits, with the weatherman forecasting light to moderate rains at a few places in the two states for Friday. Both Chandigarh and Haryana's Ambala recorded maximum temperature of 32.8 degrees Celsius, one notch below normal limits, while Karnal registered a high of 30 degrees Celsius, four notches below the average. Narnaul, which received 71 mm rainfall during the day, recorded a maximum temperature of 29 degrees Celsius. In Punjab, Amritsar recorded a high of 33.5 degrees Celsius, one notch below the normal while Ludhiana and Patiala recorded below normal maximums of 32.7 degrees Celsius and 32.4 degrees Celsius. Rajasthan received rainfall ranging from 2 cm to 12 cm since Wednesday with Khetri town in Jhunjhunu district recording 12 cm of rains. Rupbas town in Bharatpur district and Sujangarh city in Churu district each received 6 cm of rains followed by Bhuhana in Jhunjhunu and Tibi in Hanumangarh districts each of which gauged 5 cm rainfall. Bikaner, with 40.8 degrees Celsius, was the hottest place in the state, followed by 38.9 degrees Celsius in Jaisalmer, 38.8 degrees Celsius each in Jodhpur and Barmer, 38.6 degrees Celsius in Sriganganagar and 35.8 degrees Celsius in Jaipur. Sub-Himalayan West Bengal and parts of Odisha, Jharkhand, Sikkim and also Bihar received rains. Poaching Large parts of Manas National Park and Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary are also submerged, forcing wild animals, including rhinos, elephants, deer and wild boars, to take refuge in artificial highlands constructed within the parks or migrate to the southern highlands of Karbi Anglong hills. Several famed one-horned rhinoceros and other animals have reportedly died in the floods. Images of a fully grown tiger "relaxing" on a bed inside a shop in Assam's flooded Kaziranga National Park has created a buzz on social media and thrown spotlight on the plight of animals as the state battles the deluge. On Thursday, an adult tiger was found sleeping on a bed in a house on the edge of the sanctuary in Kaziranga National Park. "It appears the tiger strayed into a human settlement area to escape the floods and now appears very tired," park director Shiv Kumar told Reuters. "We are preparing to tranquilise the tiger." The floods have killed at least 43 animals, but authorities worry that poachers could take advantage of the deluge to target animals, especially one-horned rhinos, whose numbers are down to about 3,500 worldwide. "The biggest worry during the floods is from poachers who might take advantage of the rhinos moving to the hills and kill the animals for their horn," said Assam Forest Minister Parimal Suklabaidya. (With inputs from PTI and Reuters.) Fri, 19 Jul 2019 02:40:10 GMT 'Drama' of Hafiz Saeed's arrest and release enacted 8 times before: India New Delhi: India on Thursday wondered if the arrest of Mumbai terror attacks mastermind and Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed this time would be "more than a cosmetic exercise" as Pakistan has enacted the "drama" of his arrest and release eight times since 2001. Responding to reports of Saeed's arrest in Lahore on Wednesday, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said: "This is not the first time that Hafiz Saeed has been arrested or detained. "This drama has taken place at least eight times since 2001. The question is whether this time it would be more than a cosmetic exercise and whether Saeed will be tried and sentenced for his terrorist activities," he said at a weekly media briefing. He reiterated India's stand that "effective action mandated internationally against Hafiz Saeed and his terrorist organisations is an obligation on the part of all UN member states, including Pakistan. He also carries a reward of $10 million under US law". Kumar said that Saeed and his front organisations - Lashkar-e-Taiba and the JuD - "recruit and train hundreds and thousands of persons and motivate and indoctrinate them on a violent agenda against India". The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) "has drawn attention to the clear evidence that organisations supported by Saeed continue to be involved in supporting and financing terrorist activities". He said that "Pakistan's sincerity to take action against terrorists and terror groups will be judged on the basis of their ability to demonstrate verifiable, credible and irreversible actions against terrorists" and to disrupt and dismantle terror groups operating from their soil. "We hope that this time Hafiz Saeed will genuinely be brought to justice," he added. India has long maintained that the United Nations Security Council 1267 provisions relating to the listing and proscribing of terrorist groups and individuals "must be effectively and sincerely enforced by all member states," he said. On Wednesday, Saeed, who was travelling to Gujranwala from Lahore to appear before an anti-terrorism court to seek pre-arrest bail, was taken into custody. Saeed was later presented in an anti-terrorism court and sent to prison. The arrest comes days ahead of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's visit to the US where he is to meet President Donald Trump at the White House. Earlier this month, Pakistani authorities had filed 23 cases against Saeed and his aides for terror financing. At the time, the MEA had also termed the steps by Pakistan as "cosmetic steps", and said that Islamabad's sincerity would be judged on the basis of its taking "verifiable, credible and irreversible action" on terror and not "half-hearted measures". Thu, 18 Jul 2019 15:40:46 GMT Sunanda Pushkar case: Delhi court to hear arguments on charge from Aug 20 New Delhi: A Delhi court on Thursday said it will hear from August 20 arguments on charge likely to be framed against Congress leader Shashi Tharoor in a case related to his wife Sunanda Pushkar's death. Special Judge Arun Bhardwaj fixed the date while disposing of an application by Tharoor seeking a direction to the prosecution and the Delhi Police not to share the charge sheet as well as any document on record in the case with any person not related to the case. The court said there were already provisions in the law, which restrained the prosecution and the Delhi Police from sharing official documents with any other person to whom it is not authorised to communicate such document or classified information. "No further direction is required to be passed restraining them from sharing the charge sheet and documents of this case with any third person or stranger," the court said. It, however, said the prosecution was at liberty to seek advise of any expert to equip itself to address arguments on charge. "The experts consulted by the prosecution shall not share the documents of this charge sheet with any other third party or stranger and the prosecution shall serve a copy of this order on such expert consulted by it for information and compliance by the said expert. "The prosecution shall maintain a record of experts consulted by it with whom it would be sharing the documents of this case and produce before the court, if so directed," the court said. After disposing of the application, it said, "The list for arguments on charge now on August 20." The Delhi Police had opposed Tharoor's application, saying it needed to discuss various things with the experts concerned and any blanket ban on sharing the documents with the third party will hamper the agency's right. The former Union minister, who is currently on bail in the case, was charged by the Delhi Police under Sections 498-A (husband or his relative subjecting a woman to cruelty) and 306 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), but has not been arrested in the case. Pushkar was found dead in a suite of a luxury hotel in the city on the night of January 17, 2014. The couple was staying in the hotel as the official bungalow of Tharoor was being renovated at that time. Thu, 18 Jul 2019 15:14:12 GMT Flood fury forces Kaziranga tiger to take shelter in shop Guwahati: Images of a fully grown tiger "relaxing" on a bed inside a house-cum-shop in Assam's flooded Kaziranga National Park Thursday created a buzz on social media, bringing under spotlight the plight of animals in the state battling a deluge. The pictures of the Royal Bengal Tiger on the bed at a shop at Harmoti near Bagori range of the World Heritage Site along National Highway 37 on Thursday were widely shared on social media after the Wildlife Trust of India posted it on Twitter. "The tiger has entered a house and is relaxing on a bed. #AssamFloods bring in unusual guests!" "#JustIn our vet @samshulwildvet is making plans with #AssamForestDepartment @kaziranga_ to tranquilise the #tiger", the WTI said. "Our vet @samshulwildvet is on a mission to tranquilise this #tiger to get him out of bed!" the organisation which is cooperating with the state's forest department in the massive efforts to save wildlife during the flood, said in a series of tweets. Locals told reporters the tiger entered the shop of Rafikul Islam at around 7 am and was noticed relaxing on his bed. Over 95 per cent of the Park is submerged, rendering animals shelterless and forcing them to look for refuge in human habitations. KNP Bagori Range Officer Pankaj Bora, however, said the tiger was not being disturbed and only its movement was being monitored. Forest officials are waiting for the animal to leave on its own. As the animal refused to leave the safe haven for several hours, foresters burst firecrackers, forcing it out into the jungle. Several famed one-horned rhinoceros and other animals have reportedly died in the floods that have engulfed vast swathes in Assam's 29 out of 33 districts. Large parts of Manas National Park and Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary are also submerged, forcing wild animals, including including rhinos, elephants, deer and wild boars, to take refuge in artificial highlands constructed within the parks or migrate to the southern highlands of Karbi Anglong hills. Thu, 18 Jul 2019 16:56:41 GMT Govt issues notice to TikTok, Helo; asks them to reply by July 22 or face ban New Delhi: The government has issued notices to popular Chinese social media apps TikTok and Helo along with a set of 24 questions regarding the alleged misuse of their platforms for "anti-national activities" in India, official sources said. The Centre has warned these apps that they might face a ban if they do not submit appropriate responses by July 22, the sources added. The action from the Ministry of Electronics and IT (Meity) follows a complaint by the RSS-affiliated Swadeshi Jagran Manch, which had written to the Prime Minister alleging that these platforms are being used for anti-national and illegal activities. When contacted, TikTok and Helo in a joint statement said India is one of their strongest markets and they will fully collaborate with the government to meet their obligations. Meity has sought reply from TikTok and Helo on allegation that these platforms have become "a hub of anti-national activities", and has sought assurance that the data of Indian users are not being transferred and will not be transferred in future "to any other foreign government or any third party or private entity", according to sources. Meity has also sought response on the initiatives being taken to check fake news and steps being taken to be compliant under Indian laws. The IT ministry has asked Helo to reply on allegations that it paid a huge sum for putting 11,000 morphed political ads on other social media sites. Flagging concerns around the violation of child privacy norms, the ministry has sought explanation on why the minimum entry age has been fixed at 13 years since a person below 18 is considered a child in India. Meity also asked TikTok and Helo about excessive data collected by them, number and kind of information sought by law enforcement agencies, employees and offices they have in India, details of charges and outcome of investigation by the UK Information Commission against TikTok, and if minors are prevented from watching content with "risk warning tag", the sources said. TikTok and Helo are owned by China-based internet firm ByteDance. In their joint statement, TikTok and Helo said they are grateful for the immense support given by India's growing digital community. "Our continued success in India will not be possible without the support of our local community. We take our responsibilities to this community seriously and welcome this opportunity to fully collaborate with the Government to meet and exceed our obligations," the statement said. India is one of the strongest markets for TikTok and Helo, it said. "In line with our commitment to India, we are investing USD 1 billion dollars in India over the next three years, with a strategic focus on developing technology infrastructure, establishing local partnerships and supporting initiatives such as the Skill India Program which we are proud to be assisting with already," the statement added. Thu, 18 Jul 2019 14:56:33 GMT DRDO ship embarks on mission Sagar Maitri Kochi: INS Sagardhwani, a marine acoustic research ship (MARS), on Thursday set sail from the naval base here for a scientific venture called 'Marine & Allied Inter-disciplinary Training and Research Initiative' (MAITRI). The ship belongs to the Naval Physical & Oceanographic Laboratory (NPOL) and is operated by the Indian navy. The vessel was jointly flagged off by Vice-Admiral A K Chawla, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Naval Command (SNC), and Dr G Satheesh Reddy, secretary to Department of Defence R&D and chairman of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). It would be visiting Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia and would be interacting/initiating collaborative research programmes with selected institutes in these countries as part of the present SAGAR MAITRI Track-2, a defence press release said. Track1 of SAGAR MAITRI mission was held in April 2019, when she visited Yangon, Myanmar. The ship's mission which was conceptualised by the DRDO, is in line with the Prime Ministers vision of 'Safety And Growth of All in the Region (SAGAR)', the release said. The vision is to promote closer cooperation in socio-economic aspects and scientific interaction, especially in ocean research in underwater acoustics, among Indian Ocean Region (IOR) countries, it said. The mission by the Indian Navy and NPOL is a step towards enhancing research and strengthening relationship with South East Asian countries and is, therefore being termed as SAGAR MAITRI, it said. The objectives of the SAGAR MAITRI mission are data collection from the entire North Indian Ocean, focusing on the Andaman Sea and adjoining seas and establishing long- term collaboration with eight IOR countries in the field of 'Ocean Research and Development', the release said. INS Sagardhwani was built indigenously by GRSE Ltd, Kolkata, and commissioned in 1994. During the last 25 years, the ship has carried out intensive oceanographic observational programmes/ research. The Navy and NPOL have been jointly working in the field of research & development of sonar systems, technologies for underwater surveillance and study of the ocean environment and underwater materials. NPOL is continuously striving to enhance the performance of underwater sensors by undertaking research in underwater acoustics and physical oceanographic conditions through its platform INS Sagardhwani. The ship is fitted with state-of-the-art equipment, including newly fitted wave height measuring radar for this purpose. Thu, 18 Jul 2019 16:22:24 GMT The rise and fall of 'Dosa King' Rajagopal Chennai: From a remote village to ruling the taste buds of Indians across the world, Saravana Bhavan founder and 'Dosa King' P Rajagopal saw it all - a meteoric rise due to dint of hard work and landing behind bars for obsession for a married woman much younger to him. However, his detailed platter of mouth-watering south Indian delicacies never disappointed his avid customers as his chain of restaurants spread across India, the US, Europe, Australia and Singapore, continue to attract immense patronage. He is known as the 'Dosa King' after south India's popular dish Dosa, or crisp, wafer-thin, rice flour pancakes. What stands out, according to his regular customers, is the taste of Saravana Bhavan's 'Sambar' or chutney almost remaining the same across restaurants, what is called in Tamil as 'kaimanam.' 'Kaimanam' loosely means the uniqueness of food cooked by a person which differs from individual to individual. On Thursday, the 73-year-old hotelier died in a private hospital here against the backdrop of having to face the ignominy of surrendering before a court to serve a life term upheld by the Supreme Court in March this year. Hailing from Punnai Nagar village in Tuticorin, he started off as a grocer, like many from his Nadar community are known to. 'Annachi' (elder brother), as he was addressed, later treaded the uncharted territory of food business, which reportedly did not earn him profit initially. However, a determined Rajagopal is said to have turned his focus on quality, laying high stress on oil and fresh vegetables, a feature still commended by his patrons. After a humble start in the early 80s with the opening of his first hotel at KK Nagar here, Rajagopal started dishing out quality vegetarian spread, almost mastering the art in the coming decades. Soon, Saravana Bhavan became a household name in Tamil Nadu and a visit to one of its many outlets for a bite became a thing to brag about for the average middle class. His spread of Dosas, ranging from the humble 'saada dosa' to those stuffed with paneer or cheese, and the spicy sambar besides colourful varieties of chutney soon saw him venture out beyond Tamil Nadu like in Delhi, even as the chain spread wings across continents. However, his obsession for a married woman was going to cost him dear. He became besotted with Jeevajothi, daughter of his former employee, who was married to Prince Santhakumar. The top court noted in its judgment earlier this year that Rajagopal initially attempted to make her his third wife and after failing in his endeavour, plotted abduction and murder of her husband. After having helped the woman financially, in October 2001, Rajagopal got her and Santhakumar abducted, it noted. He first persuaded and then threatened them to separate so that he can marry her. Few days later, Santhakumar was again abducted and then killed. From being the uncrowned hotelier, Rajagopal was soon being discussed for his follies vis-a-vis Jeevajothi, with newspapers and magazines carrying detailed description of what turned out to be his worst misadventure. A local court sentenced him to a 10 years imprisonment but the Madras High Court later enhanced it to life term. While upholding the life sentence given to Rajagopal for murdering Prince Shantakumar, the Supreme Court had early this year ordered him to surrender in the trial court. Following the apex court order, he surrendered before a local court and was admitted to a government hospital. He was subsequently shifted to a private hospital in the city following a Madras High Court order on his son's plea, and died Thursday. He leaves behind a rich legacy of culinary treat, symbolised by brand Hotel Saravana Bhavan. Rajagopal, who is survived by two sons, earned the unflinching loyalty of thousands of his employees due to his munificence. Be it providing assistance for marriages of their daughters or helping them in other ways, the multi-millionaire Dosa king, had it all. In turn, the hotel chain owner expected the employees to provide to the customers high quality dishes and timely service, which he never compromised with. He was also known to personally visit Saravana Bhavan hotels regularly to ensure their smooth functioning. He opened his first hotel in 1981 and the rest was history. Currently Rajagopal's Saravana Bhavan chain has presence in over 20 countries across the world, including the US and the UK, and several cities all over India. Thu, 18 Jul 2019 15:01:19 GMT Former Congress MLAs Alpesh Thakor, Zala join BJP in Gujarat Gandhinagar: In a major blow to the Congress in Gujarat, former party legislators Alpesh Thakor and Dhavalsinh Zala joined the BJP on Thursday. Thakor and Zala had resigned as MLAs on July 5, apparently after voting against Congress candidates in the Rajya Sabha bypolls. A prominent OBC leader of Gujarat, Thakor described the BJP as a party of "disciplined workers" and said it was difficult for him to work for his community when he was in the Congress. "I was feeling suffocated in the Congress as I could not work for development of the poor people of my community. In that party (the Congress), no work can be done due to infighting and attitude of its leaders, said Thakor. He praised the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who is also the BJP chief. The 43-year-old ex-MLA from Radhanpur in Patan district said the BJP is a "disciplined party" where the voice of its workers is heard. Thakor and Zala joined the ruling party at a function held in its headquarters here in the presence of Gujarat BJP president Jitu Vaghani. Zala, a close associate of Thakor, was the MLA from Bayad in Sabarkantha district. In the past, Zala had said he was not feeling comfortable in the opposition party. Thakor had joined the Congress in 2017 just ahead of the assembly polls that year. The opposition party fielded the OBC leader from Radhanpur in the December 2017 assembly polls and he emerged victorious from the seat. During the 2017 assembly poll campaign, Thakor had shared the dais with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on multiple occasions. However, Thakor soon got disillusioned with the Congress and frequently expressed his displeasure over the functioning of the state party leadership. Thakor resigned from all posts in the Congress in April just before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in the state, where the BJP won all the 26 parliamentary seats for a second time in row. Vaghani, welcoming Thakor in the saffron fold, described him as a self-made leader who wants to work for development of OBC communities of the state. He also welcomed Zala in the ruling party. Thakor had emerged as a prominent OBC leader after the 2015 Patidar quota agitation led by Hardik Patel. He mobilised members of his OBC community under the banner of Thakor Sena and vehemently opposed the demand to include Patels in the list of Other Backward Classes. With the resignation of Thakor and Zala, the Congress's strength in the 182-member assembly has come down to 69. The Congress, which is out of power in Gujarat for more than two decades, had won 77 assembly seats in 2017. Thu, 18 Jul 2019 13:45:05 GMT Dawood's nephew arrested at Mumbai airport while trying to flee India Mumbai: Mumbai Police has arrested terrorist Dawood Ibrahim's nephew Rizwan Kaskar in connection with an extortion case, an official said Thursday. Rizwan Kaskar, the son of Ibrahim's brother Iqbal Kaskar, was arrested on Wednesday night from the international airport here when he was trying to flee the country, the official said. Iqbal Kaskar was also earlier arrested in an extortion case and is currently lodged at a jail in neighbouring Thane. Two days ago, Mumbai Police's anti-extortion cell arrested Ahmed Raza Wadharia, a close aide of Ibrahim's gang member Fahim Machmach, in an extortion case, a senior official of the Crime Branch said. "During his interrogation, Rizwan Kaskar's name cropped up. Based on the information, a trap was laid and he was detained at the Mumbai international airport on Wednesday night when he was trying to escape from the country," he said. He was placed under arrest after detailed interrogation, the official said. Wadharia, a native of Surat in Gujarat, allegedly worked as a 'hawala' operator in Dubai. Based on a tip-off, he was arrested from the Mumbai airport a couple of days back when he was going to Surat after being deported from Dubai, another official said, adding that he was part an extortion racket here and in Surat. In June 2017, a Mumbai-based businessman allegedly received an extortion call and was threatened with dire consequences by Machmach, the official said. During the investigation, it came to light that Wadharia played a key role in that extortion bid, he said. After Wadharia's arrest from the airport, the Mumbai Police questioned him and at that time Rizwan Kaskar's name cropped up along with other suspects, who live in Mumbai and Dubai, he said. "When Rizwan got the information about Wadharia's arrest, he tried to escape from the country, but was apprehended by the anti-extortion cell team," he said. Wadharia earlier also tried to extort money from some other businessmen in Mumbai and Gujarat and threatened them, the official said, adding that a probe was underway. Thu, 18 Jul 2019 12:32:19 GMT Two dead, 23 injured after building collapses in HP's Solan Shimla: At least two people, including an Army man, were killed and 23 injured after a four-storey building collapsed in Himachal Pradesh's Solan district Sunday, a district official said. The building, located on the Nahan-Kumarhatti road, housed a restaurant and collapsed amidst heavy rains in the area, he said. An Army man and a civilian were killed in the incident, Solan Deputy Commissioner (DC) K C Chaman said. Chaman, who is on the spot, told PTI that 37 people were trapped, and till now 23 people have been rescued and two bodies pulled out of the debris. The rescued people sustained multiple injuries and have been admitted to a nearby hospital. Twelve others are still trapped under the debris, the official said. Eighteen Army personnel are among the injured, he added. The Indian Army, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and police are jointly carrying out the rescue operation, the official said, adding that National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team has also been called from Panchkula in Haryana. The Army personnel and their family members had reportedly stopped for lunch at the restaurant. Sun, 14 Jul 2019 16:36:40 GMT Rajiv Gandhi assasination: Nalini's plea seeking direction to Governor for early release dismissed Chennai: The Madras High Court Thursday dismissed a petition filed by Nalini Sriharan, a life convict in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, seeking a direction to the Tamil Nadu Governor for her premature release. A division bench comprising Justices R Subbaiah and C Saravanan held that Article 361 of the Constitution insulated the Governor of a state from being questioned or answerable before any court with respect to discharge his official duties. Quoting Supreme Court verdicts, the bench said the law gives complete immunity and privilege to the Governor in discharge of his Constitutional obligations. Therefore, questioning the discharge of the act of a Governor or failure to discharge his Constitutional obligations cannot be subjected to judicial review under Article 226 of the Constitution by arraying the Governor as a party to the writ proceedings, the bench said. In this case, even arguing that the Governor did not take into account the advice given by the council of ministers will not be a ground for the petitioner to approach the court contending that the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution has been infringed, it said. "The privilege and immunity conferred on the Governor under Art 361 is a clear bar on the petitioner to file the present petition. The Governor cannot be equated with the instrumentalities under Article 12 of the Constitution who are amenable to the jurisdiction of this court through writ petition," the bench said in its order. The bench had on July 12 reserved orders on the petition after hearing arguments during which the counsel for Nalini had contended that a direction can be given by the court to the Governor. The state Advocate General had countered it saying the Governor enjoys unqualified immunity under Article 361(1) of the Constitution and hence no direction can be given to him. The matter relates to the September 9, 2018 advice of the council of ministers to Governor Banwarilal Purohit to release Nalini and six others involved in the assassination of the former prime minister. The cabinet had adopted a resolution to this effect and Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar had said the Governor had to accept the decision by virtue of being the executive head of the state. Nalini had moved the High Court, seeking a direction to the Governor to countersign the advice of the council of ministers. The cabinet decided to release the convicts -- V Sriharan alias Murugan, T Suthanthiraraja alias Santhan, A G Perarivalan alias Arivu, Jayakumar, Robert Payas and Nalini -- under Article 161 of the Constitution, The seven are serving life sentence for their role in the assassination of the former prime minister by an LTTE suicide bomber on May 21, 1991 in nearby Sriperumpudur. On July 5, the high court had granted one month parole to Nalini after she argued in person her plea seeking the relief to make arrangements for her daughter's wedding. Thu, 18 Jul 2019 08:46:40 GMT Chandrayaan-2: Fault rectified, ISRO reschedules launch for July 22 Chennai: India's ambitious second mission to the Moon Chandrayaan-2 will now lift off at 2.43 pm on July 22 with scientists resolving the technical glitch in GSLV-MkIII-M1 rocket that led to the aborting of the launch three days ago, space agency ISRO said on Thursday. Chandrayaan-2, which will be launched on-board the most powerful Geostationary Launch Vehicle GSLV-Mk-III dubbed 'Baahubali, is ready "to take a billion dreams to the Moon", the Indian Space Research Organisation said on Twitter. In an update on its website, ISRO later said remedial action had been taken based on the findings of a committee formed by it to analyse the cause of the glitch following which the rocket performance was 'normal'. "The expert committee identified the root cause of the technical snag and all corrective actions are implemented. Thereafter, the system performance is normal", it said. The launch of the 3,850 kg Chandrayaan-2, a three-component spacecraft comprising an orbiter, lander and rover that would explore the unchartered lunar south pole, will now take place from the second launch pad of Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota at 2.43 pm. Chandrayaan-2 launch, which was called off due to a technical snag on July 15, 2019, is now rescheduled at 2:43 pm IST on Monday, July 22, 2019, ISRO tweeted on Thursday. It thanked the public for their support, which it said "propels us (ISRO) forth, yet again". Reaching greater heights is part physics and part faith. Thank you for giving us more than enough of the latter! ISRO wrote in another tweet. Chandrayaan 2 is ready to take a billion dreams to the Moon - now stronger than ever before! Join us for the launch on Monday - 22 July, 2019 - at 2:43 PM IST, it added. The update by the ISRO, however, did not elaborate on the glitch that had led to abrupt stoppage of the countdown with 56.24 minutes left for the blast-off at 2.51 am Monday. The snag had occurred when the liquid propellant was being loaded into the rocket's indigenous cryogenic upper stage engine. Veteran scientists heaped praise for ISRO for calling off the launch rather hurrying into a major disaster. Soon after the snag was noticed several scientists began working on identifying the cause, addressing the issue that temporarily halted the ambitious Rs 978 crore lunar mission. The rescheduled launch would also be witnessed by nearly 5,000 people who will be accommodated at a viewing gallery, located a few kms from the launch pad, thrown open to the public by the ISRO in May last. However, public wishing to view the launch have to register again for the July 22 lift-off, the ISRO said. The launch of Chandryaan-2 had missed its date earlier too when it was fixed for the first week of January. But it was shifted to July 15. The mission would explore the unchartered lunar south pole, 11 years after ISRO's successful first lunar mission Chandrayaan-1 which scripted history by making more than 3,400 orbits around the Moon and was operational for 312 days till August 29, 2009. Chandrayaan-2 will take 54 days to accomplish the task of landing on the Moon through meticulously planned orbital phases, ISRO has said. Ahead of the July 15 aborted launch, the ISRO had said it was planning to make the soft landing of the lander - Vikram carrying rover 'Pragyan' - on September 6. With the rescheduling of the launch, it is not clear when the soft landing will take place. Billed as the most complex and prestigious mission undertaken by the ISRO since its inception, Chandrayaan-2 will make India the fourth country to soft land a rover on the lunar surface after Russia, the United States and China. It will involve a series of critical manuovers to take the spacecraft to the Moon's orbit first and then make the soft landing. Thu, 18 Jul 2019 14:13:28 GMT Saravana Bhavan founder, sentenced for life, dies in Chennai hospital Chennai: Founder of popular South Indian food chain 'Saravana Bhavan', P Rajagopal (72), who had been sentenced to life for murdering his employee's son-in-law in a bid to marry his daughter, died at a hospital in Chennai on Thursday, a week after surrendering before court. Rajagopal had surrendered along with another accused to serve life term after the Supreme Court rejected his plea seeking more time on grounds of ill-health. Last week, he was brought to the premises of the Fourth Additional Sessions Court in an ambulance. He appeared in the Chennai court in a stretcher with an oxygen mask affixed. Passing an interim order on a petition filed by Rajagopal's son, the Madras High Court had directed the state government and the prison authorities to transfer the hotelier from the Government Stanley Medical College Hospital to a private hospital in Chennai for further treatment.. Rajagopal was to surrender on July 7 to serve life imprisonment for commissioning the murder of Prince Santhakumar, the husband of his employee's daughter Jeevajyothi in October 2001 for marrying her. Jyothi's 15-year-old legal battle succeeded in convicting him. In 2004, Rajagopal was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment. The sentence was raised to life sentence considering an appeal submitted against the sentence in High Court. In May 2009, the Supreme Court had granted bail to Rajagopal after he claimed that he had paralysis and needed medical treatment. He had served only 11 months of his jail term. His appeal against the Madras High Court order upholding the trial court's judgement convicting him was rejected by the apex court in March this year. The case In the 1990s, Rajagopal, who had two wives, was interested in marrying Jeevajyothi. Her father used to work at a Saravana Bhavan outlet. Jeevajyothi however married Shanthakumar in 1999. Rajagopal allegedly used to harass the couple to break off the marriage. Reports also suggested that Rajagopal's interest in Jeevajyothi was based on an astrologer's advice. In 2001, the couple filed a police complaint that Rajagopal is harassing and intimidating them. Soon after the complaint, Shanthakumar was abducted from Chennai and taken to Kodaikanal. He was later found dead in the Tiger Chola forests. Though Rajagopal surrendered in a month after the murder, he was granted bail the next year and was also accused of trying to bribe Jeevajyothi and intimidating her family. (With inputs from PTI) Thu, 18 Jul 2019 07:22:21 GMT Ayodhya case: SC allows mediation process to continue, seeks report on outcome by Aug 1 New Delhi: The mediation process to amicably resolve the politically sensitive Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute at Ayodhya will continue as the Supreme Court Thursday sought from the panel concerned its "outcome" report by August 1. The outcome of the mediation process undertaken by the three-member panel, headed by former apex court judge F M I Kalifulla following the March 8 order, would be considered by a five judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi on August 2 to decide the future course of action. "We request the mediation panel to inform the court the outcome of the mediation proceedings as on July 31 by August 1 to enable us to proceed further in the matter in terms of the present directions," said the bench, also comprising Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer. The bench, which perused a report about the progress of mediation process till July 18, said that its contents will remain confidential as per its earlier order. "However, taking into account what has been brought to our notice by the said report, we now fix the hearing of the cases on and from July 2. The bench will assemble again on the said date that is August 2 at 2.00 pm. Office to make the cases ready for hearing," the bench said. It also took on record a fresh application filed by the legal heir of M Sidiq, one of the original Muslim litigants, seeking permission to point out discrepancies in the translations, if any, at the time of referring the relevant document during the final arguments of the matter. "The application is taken on record and liberty as prayed for is granted. The application accordingly stands disposed of," it ordered. The apex court had on July 11 sought a report on the mediation process and said that a day-to-day hearing might commence from July 25 if the court decides to conclude the mediation proceedings. It had requested Justice Kalifulla to apprise it by July 18 of the progress of mediation till date and its present stage. It had passed the order while hearing an application filed by a legal heir of one of the original litigants, Gopal Singh Visharad, seeking a judicial decision on the dispute and conclusion of the mediation process, alleging that not much was happening there. The panel, also comprising spiritual guru and founder of the Art of Living foundation Sri Sri Ravishankar and senior advocate and renowned mediator Sriram Panchu, was earlier granted time till August 15 by the apex court for completion of mediation after its earlier report had said that the mediators were "optimistic" about an amicable solution. The top court had fixed the seat for the mediation process in Faizabad of Uttar Pradesh, around 7 km from Ayodhya, and said adequate arrangements, including those related to the venue of the mediation, place of stay of the mediators, their security and travel, should be arranged forthwith by the state government so that the proceedings could commence immediately. The bench was earlier told by Hindu bodies, except the Nirmohi Akhara, and the Uttar Pradesh government that they were not in favour of the court's suggestion for mediation. The Muslim bodies had supported the proposal. Fourteen appeals have been filed in the apex court against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment, delivered in four civil suits, that the 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya be partitioned equally among the three parties - the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla. On December 6, 1992, the Babri Masjid, constructed at the disputed site in the 16th century by Shia Muslim Mir Baqi, was demolished. Thu, 18 Jul 2019 14:11:22 GMT India hails ICJ verdict in Jadhav case, asks Pak to implement it immediately New Delhi: India hailed the verdict of the International Court of Justice in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and leaders across the political spectrum calling it a victory of "truth and justice". The ICJ ruling that Pakistan must review the death sentence awarded to Jadhav and that it should provide consular access to him comes as a major victory for India. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said the "landmark judgement" validated India's position in the case "fully" and asked Pakistan to implement the directive of the ICJ like extending consular access to Jadhav immediately. The MEA added that India will continue to work vigorously for his early release and return to India. Modi, in a tweet, assured that his government will always work for the safety and welfare of every Indian, adding he was sure Jadhav will get justice. "We welcome today's verdict. Truth and justice have prevailed. Congratulations to the ICJ for a verdict based on extensive study of facts," the prime minister said. Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu expressed his confidence that justice will prevail ultimately. "I appreciate the government for its relentless efforts to secure justice for Kulbhushan Jadhav and hope that this verdict would serve as a source of solace to the family members," his secretariat tweeted. The opposition Congress too joined in on the chorus welcoming the verdict but also pointed out that Jadhav's safety is unaddressed and he remains "vulnerable" to another "miscarriage of justice" by Pakistan. Jadhav, 49, a retired Indian Navy officer, was sentenced to death by the Pakistani military court on charges of "espionage and terrorism" after a closed trial in April 2017. His sentencing evoked a sharp reaction in India. India had approached the ICJ against Pakistan military court's decision in May 2017 and the world court stayed his execution then. The ICJ, by a vote of 15-1, upheld India's claim that Pakistan is in egregious violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, 1963 on several counts in the case. "I welcome the ICJ verdict. My thoughts tonight are with #KulbhushanJadhav, alone in a prison cell in Pakistan & with his distraught family for whom this verdict brings a rare moment of relief, joy & renewed hope, that he will one day be free to return to his home in India," Rahul Gandhi tweeted. Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said she was "heartened by the Kulbhushan Verdict". "At last justice has prevailed. All of India joins his family in their joy!" she said. Home Minister and BJP chief Amit Shah termed it a victory of truth which protects human dignity. "A great day at the @CIJ_ICJ! The verdict is a victory of truth and protects human dignity. It is yet another manifestation of Modi Government's diplomatic efforts and commitment to protecting all Indians. I congratulate Harish Salve Ji for his stupendous efforts through the case," he tweeted. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said he spoke to Jadhav's family and applauded their courage. "Satyameva Jayate," he tweeted. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh described the judgement as a big win for India while former external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj hoped it will provide much- needed solace to Jadhav's family. "The ICJ's verdict on Kulbhushan Jadhav is a big victory for India. The ICJ directing Pakistan to grant consular access to Jadhav and asking them to review the conviction and the sentence is a welcome decision. It is also a big win for PM Narendra Modi's diplomatic initiative," Singh said. Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram tweeted saying that justice has been delivered in the true sense of the word. "ICJ delivers 'justice' in the true sense of that word, upholding human rights, due procedure and the rule of law," senior Congress leader P Chidambaram tweeted. "A 15:1 verdict is actually a unanimous verdict," he said. Sushma Swaraj termed it a great victory. "I wholeheartedly welcome the verdict of International Court of Justice in the case of Kulbhushan Jadhav. It is a great victory for India," she tweeted. She thanked Prime Minister Modi for taking the case to the ICJ and senior advocate Harish Salve for arguing the matter very effectively and successfully. BJP working president J P Nadda credited Modi's strong foreign policy and diplomacy for the development and expressed confidence that India will be able to ensure justice to Jadhav in the same way it ensured the return of IAF pilot Abhinandan, who was captured by Pakistan after the Balakot strikes. The Trinamool Congress also hailed the verdict. "The ruling of the ICJ in the #KulbhushanJadhav case is a welcome development. Hope he is reunited with his family soon," the party tweeted. MEA expects Pakistan to implement the directive of the ICJ immediately. "We note that the court has directed that Pakistan is under an obligation to inform Jadhav without further delay of his rights and to provide Indian consular officers access to him in accordance with the Vienna Convention," MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said. The verdict in the case comes nearly five months after the bench led by Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf had reserved its decision on February 21 after hearing oral submissions by India and Pakistan. Calls to release Kulbhushan Jadhav in Rajya Sabha In a statement in the Rajya Sabha, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said Jadhav was innocent of the charges levelled against him. "No forced confession that too without legal representation and due process will change this fact. We once again call upon Pakistan to release and repatriate him forthwith," Jaishankar said in the Rajya Sabha. "I am confident that the House will join me in expressing its strongest solidarity with Jadhav's family. They have shown exemplary courage in difficult circumstances. "I can assure that the government will rigorously continue its efforts for Jadhav's safety and well-being," the Minister added. All the members in the House across parties expressed their whole-hearted support for Jadhav. (With inputs from PTI) Thu, 18 Jul 2019 07:07:58 GMT 71 per cent lower rainfall in Kerala last week, El Nino fear looms large New Delhi: India's monsoon rains were 20 per cent below average in the week ending on Wednesday, as rainfall was scanty over the central, western and southern parts of the country, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said, raising concerns over the output of summer-sown crops. Monsoon rains are crucial for farm output and economic growth, as about 55 per cent of India's arable land is rain-fed, and agriculture forms about 15 per cent of a $2.5 trillion economy that is the third biggest in Asia. Soybean- and cotton-growing central regions received 68 per cent less rainfall in the week, while the rubber- and tea-growing southern state of Kerala received 71 per cent lower rainfall, data from the weather office showed. Overall, India has received rains that were 16 per cent less than average since the monsoon season began on June 1. Monsoon has picked up steam in July but prospects of El Nino effects are still looming, according to forecaster Skymet Weather. "Although now on decline, weather models are still indicating towards 50 per cent chances of El Nino during July. In fact, the probability would continue to be around 40 per cent throughout the leftover Monsoon months," said a Skymet Weather report. Skymet Weather's President, Meteorology and Climate Change, G.P. Sharma said that guards should not be lowered on El Nino. El Nino is known to suppress monsoon in India and hits periodically. El Nino years are associated with dry spells. It relates to warming up of surface water in equatorial Pacific Ocean and the reverse of it is known as El Nina which brings more rain. Meanwhile, it has been pouring in parts of Delhi with Palam recording season's highest rainfall of 58mm in last 21 hours and Safdarjung recording 10 mm rains. (With inputs from Reuters and IANS.) Thu, 18 Jul 2019 05:31:49 GMT School students enrolled as BJP members in UP Chandauli: Making a mockery of the BJP's much-publicized membership drive, Sushil Singh, party MLA from this seat in Uttar Pradesh, on Wednesday enrolled school students as party members. Sushil Singh, nephew of mafia don-turned-politician Brijesh Singh, asked the students to fill in membership forms and made them wear saffron 'angavastram' with the BJP's symbol lotus embossed on it. They also read out the party pledge. Sushil Singh addressed the students in their classroom and welcomed them into the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fold. A video of the MLA in the school has gone viral on the social media. The membership drive was carried out during school hours and classes were suspended for the event. A senior teacher said: "Sushil Singh is a 'bahubali' (strong man) of the area and no one can dare to refuse his word. A number of children were minors but no one is concerned." The BJP launched its membership drive on July 6 and every constituency has been given a target. A party functionary said: "This is the easiest way to fulfil the target. Other leaders can now go to universities and colleges and reach their target within no time." Thu, 18 Jul 2019 07:11:45 GMT Pistol dance costs Uttarakhand BJP MLA his party membership Dehradun: Uttarakhand Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator Kunwar Pranav Singh Champion was expelled from the primary membership of the party for six years on Wednesday, after a video of him dancing with two pistols and a carbine went viral on the social media. Faced with embarrassment and Opposition criticism, the BJP had earlier suspended Champion on disciplinary grounds for an indefinite period. State BJP President Ajay Bhatt last Wednesday served him a show cause notice demanding an explanation in 10 days as to why he should not be expelled from the party. Not satisfied with his reply, the BJP Disciplinary Committee in New Delhi, decided to expel Champion, state BJP spokesman Davendra Bhasin said. Haridwar district authorities had on Saturday suspended licences of Champion's three weapons. Haridwar District Magistrate Dipendra Kumar Chaudhary said Champion had been asked to reply within 15 days why licences of all the three weapons should not be cancelled for the security and safety reasons. This isn't the first time action has been taken against Champion. Last month, the BJP suspended the Khanpur MLA for three months from the party after another video went viral in which he was allegedly threating a journalist. Champion was among the nine Congress MLAs, who had rebelled against Harish Rawat and crossed over to the BJP in 2016. Later all the nine MLAs were disqualified by the Speaker under the anti-defection law. Thu, 18 Jul 2019 05:12:39 GMT Parliament passes bill to give NIA more teeth New Delhi: Parliament passed a bill on Wednesday giving more powers to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to probe terrorist acts against Indians and Indian interests abroad. The Bill amends NIA Act of 2008 that provides for a national-level agency to investigate and prosecute offences listed in the scheduled offences. The amendments to the NIA Act also extends to cybercrimes and cases of human trafficking. Further, the Act allows for the creation of Special Courts for the trial of scheduled offences. The bill was already passed by the Lok Sabha on July 15. The NIA was set up in 2009 in the wake of the Mumbai terror attack that had claimed 166 lives. Since 2017, the Union Home Ministry has been pushing for giving more powers to the NIA to meet fresh challenges. Defending the bill, the government refuted opposition's allegations of "misuse" of the NIA law to target members of a community and stressed that people have given the mandate to the government to protect the country from terrorism. Home Minister Amit Shah asserted that the law will be used to finish off terrorism and not to target any community. He added that the bill sends a clear message to terrorists and the world. Wed, 17 Jul 2019 14:09:48 GMT 2,110 Indian prisoners repatriated from Pakistan since 2014: Govt New Delhi: India has been successful in securing the release and repatriation of 2,110 Indian prisoners, including fishermen, from Pakistan's custody since 2014 due to its persistent efforts, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on Wednesday. Replying to a question in Lok Sabha, Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan said, "This includes release and repatriation of 362 Indian prisoners, including fishermen, this year, so far." He said the government attaches high importance to the safety, security and well-being of Indian nationals abroad and consistently takes up with the government of Pakistan the matter of early release and repatriation of all Indian civilian prisoners and fishermen, along with boats. Giving year-wise details regarding release and repatriation of Indian civilian prisoners and fishermen in the last three years, Muraleedharan said 410 fishermen and two civilians were released and repatriated in 2016. In 2017, 508 fishermen and seven civilians were released and repatriated while in 2018, 174 fishermen and five civilians were released and repatriated, according to the data given by him. In 2019 till July 11, 355 fishermen and seven civilians were released and repatriated, the data said. "As per available information, there are 64 Indian and believed-to-be Indian civilian prisoners and 209 Indian and believed-to-be Indian fishermen in Pakistan's custody," Muraleedharan said, adding that "Pakistan has, on July 1, 2019, acknowledged the custody of 52 civilian prisoners and 209 fishermen." Wed, 17 Jul 2019 12:55:23 GMT Analysis | SC verdict leaves Congress-JD(S) and BJP happy in Karnataka Forget India’s loss in the cricket World Cup. Politics today is the TRP driver for television channels and invites clicks on news portals. You’d agree if you are remotely interested in politics and either live in Karnataka or are interested in checking where the Karnataka politics is headed, with a coalition government always being in news over its tumultuous existence ever since JD(S) and Congress forged an alliance to grab power in the state nearly 14 months ago. On Wednesday, the much-awaited Supreme Court ruling is out on the matter of 15 rebel MLAs who have submitted their resignation to Karnataka Assembly Speaker Ramesh Kumar. The court has upheld the discretion of the speaker in the matter of accepting resignations of the ‘rebel’ MLAs and said the issue should be settled within a certain time frame, without specifying what the ‘certain’ part of it means. One would wonder if that would mean days, or weeks or months. The chances of Karnataka coalition government surviving this tight rope for long (read days/weeks) look too bleak at the moment owing to the fact that the party whip does not apply to the rebel MLAs, giving them a benefit of doubt. Thursday being the day when Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy has to seek the trust vote, the Supreme Court exempted the rebel MLAs from being compelled to be present in the Assembly. All of them at the moment are housed in a resort, along with BJP honchos. Disqualification awaits 'rebel' MLAs? The Supreme Court verdict has two sides to it, and that has made both warring parties happy. If the trust vote is held on Thursday, and the current government does not get the required number of votes in its favour, it is bound to fall. But that does not make the rebel MLAs happy because there is an anti-defection law that is waiting to cut short their ‘illustrious’ careers as people’s representatives. The speaker, a man who has deep knowledge of the Constitution and the rule book, may go ahead and disqualify the rebel MLAs who have submitted their resignations. And the BJP may not court them for too long after their utility is over. Who will lead BJP if government falls? But well within the BJP, things are not fine either. Even if the coalition government falls, BJP has to keep their president B S Yeddyurappa in good books for some time for many reasons. One being he commands a good voter support from the Lingayat community, who have stood by him since 2008 as he is seen as ‘their leader’. Should he be replaced for whatever reasons, even under the guise of him voluntarily giving up the seat for the sake of any other leader, the Lingayat vote base may well turn their focus to another party over a period of time. But BJP cannot take that risk since Lingayats are among the crucial segment of population in Karnataka alongside Vokkaligas, Kurubas and other assorted communities who, owing to their sheer numbers, can vote a government to power based on who from their own community will get the top chair. But then, age is not on Yeddyurappa’s side to be nominated or to continue in the seat of power. He had quit BJP once and floated his own party called Karnataka Janata Paksha or KJP, and eventually merged it with BJP after he was offered the top post. As per BJP’s own policy, leaders cannot occupy a power position after they have crossed 75 years. Yeddyurappa is now 76. Even if the exception is made in this case, the strong dissident voices within BJP, who are not in favour of Yeddyurappa, may sooner or later begin to voice their opinion causing the party a major embarrassment. The fact that BL Santosh, whose abhorrence for Yeddyurappa is well known, was elevated to the post of organisation general secretary (National) says a lot about which side the wind would turn in the coming days. This apart, Yeddyurappa himself was remanded in judicial custody three years ago, in a case involving allegations of corruption when he was the chief minister. BJP would like to improve its image without losing too much of the voter base, before it selects its next chief minister, should the coalition government fall. Even if the rebel MLAs are given some goodies in exchange of their ‘loyalty’ for helping the BJP clinch its dream government in Karnataka, keeping them happy forever will be a challenge for the top leadership as they are not saffron loyalists. One of the prominent voices among the ‘rebel’ MLAs, H Viswanath, has said the MLAs who are miffed with the government will not appear for the trust vote on Thursday. This puts the whole thing in a fresh quandary again. While the Speaker has the freedom to exercise his discretion, any decision may tilt the chances of the coalition government’s survival. While minister D K Shivakumar is trying his best to bring about some truce and is wielding the threat of disqualification against the rebel MLAs, nothing seems to have made a cut so far. This is like a suspense thriller leading into unending twists and turns till time runs out. Whatever be the case, Karnataka, known for its value-based politics during the 1980s forging bonds with national politics while the neighbouring states opted for regional or Left parties, is now staring at a very uncertain future. This is the kind of NOTA a voter couldn’t have envisaged for his own vote, by the people he/she voted for. (Preethi Nagaraj is an independent journalist and political analyst based in Karnataka) Thu, 18 Jul 2019 03:44:26 GMT Karnataka crisis: SC rules speaker is the boss, but rebel MLAs can skip Assembly New Delhi/Bengaluru: In a crucial order, the Supreme Court on Wednesday made it clear that it will not force the Karnataka speaker to accept the resignations of the rebel Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) MLAs. The apex court stated that the “speaker cannot be forced to take a decision within a time frame." A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi further said Karnataka Assembly Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar was free to decide on the resignations of the rebel legislators within the time-frame decided by him. The court also said the speaker's decision be put before it. The bench, also comprising justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose, said the speaker's discretion in deciding the resignation issue of the 15 MLAs should not be fettered by the court's directions or observations and he should be free to decide the issue. The bench, while pronouncing the order, said it was necessary to maintain the constitutional balance in the matter. The court said other issues raised in the matter would be decided at a later stage. The court directed that the 15 rebel Congress-JD(S) MLAs ought not to be compelled to take part in Assembly proceedings or the trust vote to be held on Thursday. Ramesh Kumar welcomed the Supreme Court decision putting the onus on him to decide on the resignations of rebel MLAs, and said he would conduct himself responsibly in accordance with the principles of the Constitution. "With utmost humility I welcome and respect the Supreme Court decision," Kumar said soon after the apex court pronounced its order on the issue of resignations of the lawmakers that has pushed the state into political turmoil. "The SC has put extra burden on me, I will conduct myself responsibly in accordance with constitutional principle," he told reporters in Kolar, his home town. Moral victory for rebel MLAs: Yeddyurappa Karnataka BJP chief B S Yeddyurappa welcomed the SC order, asserting that it was a "moral victory" for the rebel MLAs. Yeddyurappa underlined that the political parties cannot issue a whip to the 15 rebel lawmakers, who have resigned their Assembly membership, and they cannot be compelled to attend the House proceedings. The apex court gave its verdict keeping all the facts about Karnataka in mind, he said. Against this backdrop, Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy will have to resign on Thursday when he will face the confidence vote in the Assembly, Yeddyurappa told reporters here. "When there is no majority, he (chief minister) will automatically resign tomorrow," he said. The BJP president also emphasised that the speaker has been directed to take a decision at the earliest and submit his order to the Supreme Court. "I welcome the Supreme Court decision. It is a victory of the Constitution and democracy. It is a moral victory for rebel MLAs. "It is only an interim order and in the future, the SC will decide the power of the speaker. It will set a new trend in the parliamentary democracy," Yeddyurappa said. The court decision capped high-voltage arguments Tuesday during which Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy said the rebel MLAs are "hunting in a pack", alleging their motive is to bring down his government while the dissidents submitted the speaker wants to prop up a government which has lost majority. The Speaker on his part said that he, being a constitutional functionary, cannot be directed to first decide on the resignations of the MLAs and thereafter the pending disqualification applications. The chief minister is due to face a trust vote on Thursday and his government could collapse ahead of it if the resignations of the rebel MLAs are accepted by the Speaker. The ruling coalition's strength in the House is 117-- Congress 78, JD(S) 37, BSP 1, and nominated 1, besides the Speaker. With the support of the two independents who have withdrawn support, the opposition BJP has 107 MLAs in the 225-member House, including the nominated MLA and Speaker. If the resignations of the 16 MLAs are accepted, the ruling coalition's tally will be reduced to 101. The nominated member too has a right to vote. In a bid to keep their flock together ahead of the floor test, the Congress, BJP and JD(S) have shifted their MLAs to resorts. The Congress Tuesday shifted its MLAs from a hotel in the city to a resort on the outskirts, amid fears that some more legislators may resign. Wed, 17 Jul 2019 06:52:37 GMT Yeddyurappa in a playful mood as Kumaraswamy govt stares at downfall Bengaluru: As the focus Tuesday shifted to the Supreme Court, which is hearing the pleas of 15 Karnataka MLAs against alleged delay by the Speaker in accepting their resignations, the state BJP President was seen in a relaxed mood playing cricket with party legislators who are camped at a resort on the outskirts of the city. Yeddyurappa, who had been busy in hectic meetings with senior party colleagues and legislators strategising as the wobbly coalition government headed by Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy is on the brink of collapse, Tuesday spent most part of the day at a resort near Yelahanka. Later in the day, BJPs' state unit media cell released a photo of Yeddyurappa playing cricket with party MLAs Renukacharya and S R Vishwanath, among others. He was seen batting. After over a week long heightened political activity in the city, it was relatively a calm on Tuesday with the focus shifting to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court on Wednesday made it clear that it will not force the Karnataka speaker to accept the resignations of the rebel Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) MLAs. A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi further said Karnataka Assembly Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar was free to decide on the resignations of the rebel legislators within the time-frame decided by him. The court also said the speaker's decision be put before it. The order from the top court comes a day before the Congress-JD(S) government faces the floor test in the assembly, which would end suspense over the numbers game triggered by a raft of resignations by the ruling coalition lawmakers. As many as 16 MLAs – 13 from the Congress and three from JD(S) – have resigned while two independent MLAs S Shankar and H Nagesh have withdrawn their support to the coalition government, keeping it on the edge. In a bid to keep their flock together ahead of the floor test, the Congress, BJP and JD(S) have shifted their MLAs to resorts. The Congress Tuesday shifted its MLAs from a hotel in the city to a resort on the outskirts, amid fears that some more legislators may resign. Wed, 17 Jul 2019 05:51:31 GMT Vistara Mumbai-Delhi flight lands in Lucknow with low fuel, pilot grounded New Delhi: Aviation regulator DGCA on Tuesday grounded a pilot who issued a 'Mayday' distress call due to low-fuel near Lucknow airport on Monday while operating a Mumbai-Delhi flight. A senior Vistara official confirmed to PTI that the pilot has been "de-rostered" as per the instructions of the regulator. "The pilot who was operating UK944 flight and issued a 'Mayday' call on Monday has been suspended by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA)," another source said. A Vistara spokesperson said, "Flight UK944 operating Mumbai-Delhi on July 15, 2019, initiated a diversion to Lucknow due to bad weather over Delhi. However, over Lucknow, the visibility suddenly dropped and a safe landing was not possible. The crew then considered alternative airfields, including Kanpur and Prayagraj to land in comparatively better weather condition". He said the Lucknow Air Traffic Control then informed the crew that the weather in Lucknow had improved significantly following which the crew decided to return to the city due to better passenger and aircraft support there. "The unexpected drop in visibility at the destination alternate was the main reason why the aircraft ended up in a low-fuel situation despite carrying excess fuel over and above the required Flight Plan Fuel as per regulations. Safety of passengers and crew was kept at the highest priority throughout the flight," the spokesperson added. Tue, 16 Jul 2019 18:16:33 GMT 222 lions died in Gir forest region in 2017-19: Minister Gandhinagar: As many as 222 lions died, most of them due to natural causes, in the Gir forest region in Gujarat in the last two years, the Legislative Assembly was told Tuesday. Among them, only 23 lions died because of "unnatural" causes such as getting hit by trains or falling into wells between June 2017 and May 2019. In a written reply a query by Congress MLA Shailesh Parmar, Forest Minister Ganpat Vasava stated that 82 lions, including 30 cubs, have died between June 2017 and May 2018 while the number of deaths stood at 140, including 60 cubs, for the June 2018--May 2019 period. "While 199 deaths occurred because of natural causes, such as infection and ailments, 23 deaths have been attributed to unnatural causes," Vasava stated. Though the state government did not mention the last year's viral outbreak as one of the main reasons for the high number of deaths between 2018-19, Vasava had told the Assembly in February that as many as 34 lions had died last year due to diseases including Canine Distemper Virus (CDV), Babesia, Streptococcal bacteria and Gram-negative bacilli infections. Gir Forest National Park is a wildlife sanctuary established to protect Asiatic lions. As per the last census carried out in 2015, Gir forest had 523 big cats. The state government had recently said that the number of lions has gone up to 600. In his reply, Vasava listed various preventive measures, such as building parapets around wells situated near the forest, fencing railway tracks, construction of speed-breakers on roads passing through the sanctuaries, and continuous patrolling. The minister said Forest department recently purchased 75 radio collars for Asiatic lions to monitor their movements. A hi-tech monitoring centre was also set up at Sasan-Gir, he said, adding that a dedicated ambulance service was launched recently to treat the injured or ill big cats. Responding to another query raised by Congress MLA Pratap Dudhat about illegal lion shows held in Gir, Vasava said as many as 74 persons have been arrested in the last two years for organising such shows in the forest area. In his speech on budgetary demands for Forest department, Vasava said the state government has allocated Rs 123 crore this year for conservation of lions. He said the funds will be spent on building a dedicated hospital and a research lab for big cats and for setting up a CCTV network and a GPS-based surveillance system. In order to reduce the concentration of tourists in Sasan-Gir, the headquarter of Gir National Park, the state government is planning three safari parks in Narmada, Surat and Dang districts. Tue, 16 Jul 2019 16:12:44 GMT 71 per cent feel press freedom under threat in India: Survey New Delhi: As many as 71 per cent people feel that press freedom is threatened in India, according to a new poll. Neta app, a technology platform that lets users rate and review politicians, conducted a poll to get people's opinion with respect to freedom of the press in the country. The firm said more than 75,000 people across 19 states and the NCR took part in the poll. It found that 71 per cent respondents feel press freedom is threatened in India, 26 per cent feel that freedom of the press is adequate, while 3 per cent could not give an opinion. "As per our data, this sentiment is highest in northern states like Bihar, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh, and lowest in southern states like Telangana, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, said Pratham Mittal, founder of the Neta app. According to the survey, 88.89 per cent of respondents from Jharkhand feel press freedom is threatened in India, while the figure stood at 55 per cent for Telangana. Tue, 16 Jul 2019 17:37:50 GMT Try to solve this viral math equation! New Delhi: If you are baffled by a viral mathematical equation that has taken the social media platforms by storm, you do not actually need to go too far but to check it. The debate started on Twitter after a science enthusiast K J Cheetham posted a Maths equation: 230-220x0.5 and declared "5!" as its answer. "A Maths meme that is actually funny rather than stupid. Solve carefully! You probably won't believe it but the answer is '5!," Cheetham tweeted. Netizans were left scratching their heads but do you know the actual answer? The puzzle is not so difficult to solve and the answer is, indeed, "120" and not "5". If you look closely, Cheetham has written the answer as '5!'. Here, the exclamation mark denotes the factorial of 5 as a number. It means 5 X 4 X 3 X 2 X 1 = 120, which is the correct answer, hidden in his question itself! "Even if we solve without using the brackets, from left to right, subtraction is performed last. The explanation is 'DMAS' rule - division, multiplication, addition and then subtraction - from left to right," Sunita Tulsani, an MSc and B.Ed in Mathematics and a teacher told IANS. Applying the basics of mathematics, several users took up the challenge and solved the equation using the "BODMAS" method that suggests the sequence of solving as - brackets, of, division, multiplication, addition and subtraction - and derived "120" as the answer. On the other hand, some users solved the equation face front - subtracted first and multiplied later to derive "5!" as the answer. Some users, however, termed the equation "ambiguous". "Not at all ambiguous as multiplication always comes before subtraction," tweeted Thony Christie, British-born historian of early modern science and Mathematics. Even though math experts claim the correct answer is "120", some users said they would not be convinced unless the original poster of the question accepts he was wrong and declares "120" as the answer. "If the answer is '120', the author of the question must admit it," a user tweeted. However, Cheetham claimed that he did not invent the question but had merely shared it. Tue, 16 Jul 2019 11:52:11 GMT Death toll in Mumbai building collapse rises to 13 Mumbai: The death toll in a building collapse in south Mumbai's congested Dongri locality has risen to 13, the NDRF said on Wednesday, even as rescue and search operation from the rubble was still on. "So far, 13 people, including six males, four females and three children have been declared dead, while nine have got injuries and getting medical treatment," Sachidanand Gawde, the PRO of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) battalion, told PTI. Gawde said the search and rescue operations continued the whole night and was still on. "It (search and rescue operations) will go on till the last piece of rubble is not removed from the spot," he said. The official said his team members had been told that there were few customers at an eatery situated in the ground floor and no one knew the exact numbers. "So our job is still left to rescue those men," he said. In a statement, Mumbai fire brigade chief P S Rahangdale said two kids -- one aged between six-eight and the other aged about four -- were rescued from under the debris by the fire fighters. "Both kids were sent to Sir JJ hospital in 108 Ambulance, but they were declared dead," Rahangdale said, adding one fireman was also injured in the line of duty. Mumbai police has made lightning arrangements to carry out rescue operation in night. It has so far registered an ADR into the mishap and will launch a detailed inquiry. An official from the BMC disaster management cell said three more bodies had been recovered early on Wednesday morning and had been sent to nearby hospital, and awaiting doctors report about them. "The death toll likely to up further," he said. The state government, has so far not announced compensation to the victims. Local MLA Amin Patel will meet Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis in the afternoon to demand a hefty compensation and speedy rehabilitation for the victims. Mumbai needs enforcement of building safety norms: Experts The accident in the congested Dongri area has once again put the focus on Mumbai's stressed infrastructure with experts and realtors calling for strict enforcement of safety norms and regular audits to avoid such tragedies in the future. Every year, the financial capital sees instances of building collapse, foot overbridge accidents and other life- threatening but preventable incidents. The situation gets aggravated during the monsoon. Dongri accident was the latest addition in the list of such tragedies in the Mumbai metropolitan area which is replete with tales of sheer negligence and apathy by authorities tasked with overseeing development and maintenance of buildings and infrastructure assets. "Mumbai needs to urgently work on strengthening existing infrastructure even as it goes in for new infrastructure development," said Niranjan Hiranandani, president of Naredco, a national body of real estate developers. Earlier this month, the city witnessed instances of wall collapse caused by the worst monsoon rains in a single day in 14 years, killing over 20 people. Mumbai had received a record-breaking 400 mm of rainfall on the night of July 1, disrupting rail, road and air traffic and prompting officials to shut schools the next day. In another incident, three people died when a school wall collapsed in Kalyan, 42km north of Mumbai. Besides, around 200 metres of an internal road in the area caved in, forcing 100 families to vacate two residential buildings. "The instances of deaths caused by building collapses during monsoons have now become frequent in the last few years. "Unfortunately, people continue to die, and India has so far failed to strictly enforce safety norms for high-rises in the country," said Ramesh Nair, CEO and Country Head, JLL India, a global real estate services firm. "As opposed to the scenario witnessed in more developed countries, India lags on implementing tighter norms for the structural and fire safety for all kinds of buildings," said Nair. He said a large section of the real estate development fraternity is now aware of these guidelines and follows necessary construction norms relating to natural disasters such as earthquake, water, fire and floods to make safer structures. "However, there remains a section of unorganized builders who continue to flout structural safety norms. Law should strictly deal with them," Nair maintained. At least six people were killed and 32 injured when a major portion of a foot overbridge near the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) railway station in south Mumbai collapsed in March. In July last year, the pedestrian section of the Gokhale bridge in suburban Andheri gave way, killing two persons and injuring three others. "The basic requirement is to decongest existing overcrowded urban spaces by creating new cities in periphery areas with mass rapid transport linkages to the CBDs (central business districts), which will provide breathing space for overburdened and overworked infrastructure. "We need to promote the idea of planned suburbs on the periphery of Mumbai to de-congest existing infrastructure and ensure ease of mobility," Hiranandani added. After every such tragic incident, it is often seen that government agencies like the BMC, Mhada and Railways engage in blame game and pass the buck. Mumbai Grahak Panchayat chairman Shirish Deshpande said such incidents are not a matter of blame game and there is an urgent need to look at them very seriously. Every year before the monsoon, Mhada (Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority) and BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) release a list of dilapidated and dangerous buildings and issue eviction notices to occupants. "But while doing so, they do not take into consideration where will the tenants go. We cannot continue living with this and passing the blame. "With RERA (Real Estate Regulatory Authority) in place, we have asked the authorities from Mhada and the government to sit together and create a regulatory framework for redeveloping such structures in a time -bound manner," Deshpande added. Ramesh Prabhu, founder-chairman, Maharashtra Societies Welfare Association, said the current infrastructure in Mumbai is not capable enough to hold the burgeoning population. "On one hand we cannot stop the influx and on the other hand we are unable to provide adequate infrastructure and housing. This has resulted in mushrooming of slums," he said. At the same time, there is no proper assessment or structural audits of the existing establishments, Prabhu said. It is necessary for the government to take proactive steps in this regard or else such incidents will continue to recur with fatal consequences, he warned. Prabhu said the state government, in a July 4 order, has asked the authorities to give priority to redevelopment to buildings which are declared dangerous for settlement. "We now need to see how this is implemented," he said. Wed, 17 Jul 2019 02:35:26 GMT ISRO fixes snag in Chandrayaan-2 rocket, new launch date shortly Chennai: Renewed efforts to ready India's second lunar mission Chandrayaan-2 are on after the first scheduled launch had to be cancelled by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) at the eleventh hour early on Monday owing to a glitch attributed to the helium tank in the GSLV-Mark III rocket. Latest reports say this issue has been rectified and the space agency is eyeing another bid at launching the lunar craft probably in a few days. The new date of the launch could be announced in a day or two. It is said non-building of sufficient pressure in the helium tanks of the GSLV-Mark III rocket forced the cancellation of the launch on Monday. The ISRO has decided to go ahead with the launch at the next best available date even if conditions are not totally perfect. The rocket Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-Mark III (GSLV-Mk III) was supposed to lift off at 2:51am on Monday, July 15, with India's second moon mission spacecraft Chandrayaan-2. If the launch had taken place according to plan, the lander from Chandrayaan would have landed on the moon's surface after 54 days, on September 6. The ISRO is currently, trying to ensure that the rocket reaches the moon on the same date by adjusting the speed and orbiting path of the rocket. The rocket will take at least 22 days to circle Earth's orbit and move on the Moon's orbit. The agency is trying to shorten the next 28 day duration taken by the spacecraft to reach the Moon's surface. Sources reveal that the ISRO scientists were able to fix the issue without dismantling the rocket or shedding the fuel. According to the retired officials of ISRO there should be proper pressure in the liquid fuel tanks so that there is continuous flow of fuel to the combustion chamber. "While the fuel is fed into the combustion chamber from the bottom, helium gas is filled from the top. It seems sufficient pressure was not being built up and hence the launch was called off," a retired ISRO official informed. According to him, the flow of fuel to the combustion chamber should be uniform for the rocket to fly. In 2006, the GSLV-F02 (different variant of GSLV) went out of control less than a minute after lift-off and had to be destroyed in air after it started breaking up. The reason for the failure, an expert committee in its failure analysis report said, was that a propellant regulator in one of the four strap-on liquid motors had much higher discharge coefficient in its closed condition. "The reason for this could be an inadvertent error in manufacturing, which escaped the subsequent inspection, and acceptance test procedures. This regulator has functioned satisfactorily in all the previous 50 engines manufactured and tested so far," the report said. "The primary cause for the failure was the sudden loss of thrust in one out of the four liquid propellant strap-on stages (S4) immediately after lift-off at 0.2 sec. With only three strap-on stages working, there was significant reduction in the control capability," the report said. "However the vehicle attitude could be controlled till about 50 sec. At the same time the vehicle reached the transonic regime of flight and the vehicle attitude errors built up to large values, resulting in aerodynamic loads exceeding the design limits thus leading to break up of the vehicle," the report added. According to that report, the thrust of the liquid engines used in the strap-on stages is precisely controlled by a set of regulators. "Detailed analyses have indicated that in S4 engine the thrust control was not effective. Instead of stabilizing at 5.85 MPa (Mega Pascal) chamber pressure, it reached 7.11 MPa at 2.8 sec. This was much beyond the design limits and the engine failed at 0.2 sec after lift-off, that is 5 sec after its ignition," the report said. "The larger flow of propellant led to higher operating pressure in the gas generator (4.7 MPa against design specification of 3.6 MPa). Due to this higher operating pressure of the gas generator, the water flow rate into it got reduced. The combined effect of larger flow of propellants and reduced flow of water led to a very high gas temperature of 1,823 K against design specification of 900 K and pressure of 4.7 MPa against the design specification of 3.6 MPa. "The very high operating pressure and temperature resulted in the structural failure of the gas generator. The consequent abrupt stopping of the turbo pumps that feed propellants at very high pressures to the engines led to loss of thrust of S4 engine. "The water calibration tests conducted simulating the malfunction of the propellant regulator hardware could closely reproduce the flight phenomenon thereby confirming the larger flow area," the report said. At that time ISRO ruled out any sabotage theories and said the quality checks and inspections has been strengthened. Incidentally, even the very first flight of GSLV slated for March 28, 2001, was automatically aborted seconds before the lift-off. That launch was aborted with the automatic shutdown of the main engine just a second before the lift off. That too after the four liquid propulsion strap-on boosters started burning. The automatic shut off system was activated when it sensed that one of the strap-on boosters did not develop the required thrust. The vehicle was immediately disarmed. The rocket was later flown on January 18, 2001, carrying GSAT-1 satellite. (With inputs from IANS) Wed, 17 Jul 2019 11:12:59 GMT Delhi Police arrests JeM terrorist from Srinagar New Delhi:The Delhi Police have arrested a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist from Srinagar, it said on Tuesday. The terrorist has been identified as Basir Ahmad Ponnu, carrying a reward of Rs 2 lakh, said Sanjeev Yadav, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Special cell. Ahmad along with three other JeM terrorists -- Shahid Gafoor, Fayaz Ahmed Lone, Abdul Majid Baba -- were apprehended by the Delhi Police Special Cell in 2007 after a brief encounter in New Delhi's Deen Dayal Upadhayay Marg area. Police had recovered highly explosive material weighing 3 kg, four detonators, timer, six hand grenades, a .30 bore pistol, magazine with two live cartridges, currency worth Rs 50,000 and fake US currency ($10,000) from their possession. "In 2013, a court convicted Gafoor and acquitted the three others. On appeal against their acquittal, the High Court of Delhi convicted all three terrorists," said Yadav. After being convicted, Ponnu, Lone and Baba did not surrender before the High Court of Delhi and evaded their arrest. "Non-bailable warrants were issued against them several times since 2014. Multiple raids had failed to nab any of them. Ponnu is being brought to Delhi to face sentencing by the Delhi High Court while his activities over the past four years are also being probed," Yadav added. Tue, 16 Jul 2019 05:55:31 GMT Raja Dhale, cofounder of Dalit Panther, dies Mumbai: Well-known author Raja Dhale, one of the founders of the radical outfit Dalit Panther, died at his residence here on Tuesday, family sources said. He was 78. He breathed his last around 5 a.m. at his home in Vikhroli here. The author is survived by his wife Deeksha and daughter Gattha. After waking up in the morning as usual, Dhale fell on the floor at home. He was taken to a nearby hospital where doctors declared him dead, a family member said. His daughter Gatha Dhale is currently a leader of the Republican Party of India (A). Hailing from Maharashtra's Sangli district, Dhale along with others in 1972 founded Dalit Panther, a youth-based organisation inspired by the Black Panther outfit of African Americans in the US, with an aim to raise the voice of Dalits more aggressively in the state. Raja Dhale's article titled "Kala Swatantrya Din" (Black Independence Day), published in Sadhana, the Dalit Panthers' official publication, on 15 August 1972, created a great sensation and built recognition for the Dalit Panthers through Maharashtra. Apart from being a social worker, he authored several books based on his thoughts and works. Renowned for his firebrand oratory and literary works, he had unsuccessfully contested the 1999 and 2004 Lok Sabha elections from the Mumbai North-East constituency. Top Dalit leaders, including Union Minister of State Ramdas Athawale expressed grief over Dhale's demise and paid glowing tributes to the leader for his contributions to the Ambedkarite movement in the country. "Dhale brought me into this organisation (Dalit Panther) and mentored me. His death is a personal loss for me," Athawale said. On Wednesday morning, Dhale's mortal remains shall be taken out in a procession from Vikhroli to Dadar where the last rites shall be performed at the Chaityabhoomi Crematorium. (With inputs from PTI and IANS) Tue, 16 Jul 2019 08:41:29 GMT Maiden Indian lunar mission too faced glitch similar to Chandrayaan-2: ISRO ex-chief New Delhi: Hours after Chandrayaan-2 launch was called off because of a technical glitch, ISRO's former chief G Madhavan Nair recalled Monday that India's first mission to the Moon too had experienced a similar problem shortly before the rocket could blast off. But Indian Space Research Organisation scientists found and rectified the error and the mission took off as planned, said Nair, the chairman of the space agency during Chandrayaan-1 launch in 2008. Chandrayaan-1 made more than 3,400 orbits around the Moon during its operational life of 312 days and detected water in vapour form on the lunar surface. The Chandrayaan-2 mission was aborted 56 minutes and 24 seconds before the lift-off early Monday. ISRO said a "technical snag" was observed in the launch vehicle system and mission was called off for now. It did not specify the nature of the problem. Recalling the 2008 incident, Nair told PTI, "There was a leakage in propellent that was detected two hours before the launch of Chandrayaan-1. It was corrected and the mission was launched on the same day." Referring to Chandrayaan-2, the former ISRO chief said scientists apparently found leakage when pressurising one of the gas bottles. "It has to be identified where exactly it is taking place and corrective action has to be taken. That process is on now," Nair said. He added such glitches just before the launch are not "uncommon". He stressed that a catastrophe was avoided as the anomaly was detected in time. "The success rate of Moon missions is nearly 60 per cent. Unlike satellite launching, lunar missions are very complex in nature. However, with the accumulation of experience over the last six decades, the success rate is improving," Nair said. Chandrayaan-2 was to attempt a soft land of a rover on the south pole of the Moon, making India the fourth country to do so after the US, the erstwhile Soviet Union and China. Tue, 16 Jul 2019 10:11:08 GMT Karnataka crisis: SC order on rebel MLAs' plea today New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Karnataka Speaker what stopped him from deciding whether to accept or reject the resignations tendered by the MLAs of the JD-S-Congress coalition on July 6. A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi sought a clear response from senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi representing Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar. "You were silent on the resignations till the MLAs came to the Supreme Court... Why?" Chief Justice Gogoi asked. Singhvi said in response that the Speaker filed an affidavit in the apex court explaining what had happened. Chief Justice Gogoi shot back asking why wasn't a decision taken when the MLAs went to the Speaker with their resignations, to which Singhvi replied that it was a written communication, and the Speaker was not available on that day. "But the decision was communicated to him on July 6," the court added. Singhvi said the MLAs first met the Speaker personally on July 11, under the rules of the Assembly they are supposed to make personal presentation before the Speaker. "The first condition of a genuine resignation tendered by MLA is that he has to be personally present before the Speaker," argued Singhvi. The court taking a sharp jibe on this line of argument said the provision does not negate resigning by letter, but if the MLA has made a personal visit to the Speaker then he has to decide on the resignation immediately. "Why it (decision) didn't happen on July 11?" the court further queried. Referring to the Karnataka Speaker, the Chief Justice said that he cannot question the jurisdiction power of this court. "The court to your benefit had ordered a floor test (referring to the last year floor test), appointed a protem Speaker during a midnight hearing. The exercise of jurisdiction of our powers depend only on self-restraint," he added. On this question of the apex court whether the Speaker is challenging the power the court, Singhvi replied: "Suppose a Speaker goes crazy, then Your Lordships can intervene." He emphasized the Speaker was in no way questioning the court's jurisdiction. Before Singhvi, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi representing the rebel MLAs had argued before the court. The Chief Justice asked Rohtagi: "We cannot say, in which way, the Speaker should decide resignation or disqualification of MLAs. We cannot fetter him. Although, the important question, is there any constitutional obligation for the Speaker to decide resignation before disqualification or to club his decision on both?" Karnataka Assembly Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar had urged the Supreme Court Tuesday to modify its earlier order directing him to maintain status quo in the ongoing political crisis in the state even as the rebel Congress-JD(S) MLAs accused him of acting in a partisan manner by not deciding on their resignations. A M Singhvi, appearing for the speaker, told a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi that he would decide on both disqualification and resignation of the rebel MLAs by Wednesday but the court should modify its earlier order asking him to maintain status quo. Mukul Rohtagi, appearing for the rebel MLAs, told the apex court that the speaker can be directed to decide on the resignation of these MLAs by today itself and he can later take a call on the disqualification proceedings. Ten rebel MLAs of the ruling Congress-JD(S) coalition had said in the Supreme Court that their resignations "have to be accepted" as there is no other way to deal with the present political crisis and contended that the Speaker has to see only if the resignation is voluntary or not. A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi first dealt with the case of 10 lawmakers who approached the court first. Rohatgi told the court that the Speaker has to only see if the resignation is voluntary or not. "Resignation has to be accepted, there is no other way to deal with it," Rohatgi told the court. "It is my fundamental right to do whatever I want to do and cannot be bound due to non-acceptance of resignation by speaker," submitted Rohatgi. There is vote of confidence in assembly and the rebel MLAs may be forced to follow whip despite resigning, he said. Rohatgi told the court that the 10 MLAs resigned on July 6 and disqualification proceedings against two lawmakers were pending. "When was the disqualification proceedings filed against rest eight MLAs," the top court asked, to which Rohatgi responded that disqualification proceedings started against them on July 10. The rebel MLAs, who have moved the apex court alleging that the Speaker was not accepting their resignations, are Pratap Gouda Patil, Ramesh Jarkiholi, Byrati Basavaraj, B C Patil, S T Somashekhar, Arbail Shivaram Hebbar, Mahesh Kumathalli, K Gopalaiah, A H Vishwanath and Narayana Gowda. Disqualification proceeding is mini-trial under the Constitution's 10th Schedule, Rohatgi said, adding that resignation is different and its acceptance is based on single criterion -- it is voluntary or not. There is nothing to prove that the rebel MLAs conspired with BJP, he said. The apex court, which was dealing with the plea of 10 rebel MLAs on July 12, will now be hearing five more lawmakers who have sought identical relief that Karnataka Assembly Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar accept their resignations as well. The five MLAs – Anand Singh, K Sudhakar, N Nagaraj, Munirathna and Roshan Baig -- mentioned their application before a bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Deepak Gupta Monday seeking impleadment as parties to the pending plea on which it was ordered that the speaker would not take any decision till Tuesday on the resignations and disqualifications. The top court had on Friday restrained the Speaker from taking any decision till July 16 on the resignation and disqualification of the rebel MLAs. The top court had said an incidental question that would arise in the matter is the kind and extent of the directions that should be issued by a constitutional court to another constitutional functionary, which in the present case happens to be the Speaker of the Assembly. Rebel MLA Roshan Baig detained at airport Rebel Congress legislator and former state minister R Roshan Baig was detained at the Bengaluru airport and prevented from taking off in a chartered aircraft, police said. The move was made a day before the SC hearing of the petition submitted by five rebel legislators including Baig seeking its directive to the state Assembly Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar to accept his resignation forthwith. "Baig was detained for questioning at the Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) when he was about to take off in a private aircraft to an unconfirmed destination from Bengaluru," Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) B R Ravikantha Gowda said in a statement here on late Monday night. Baig, an eight-time legislator and former minister in the previous Congress government, resigned on July 10 from the Shivajinagar assembly segment in the city centre. "We will verify if Baig's sudden plan to leave Bengaluru has anything to do with the recent release of a video in Youtube by the multi-crore Ponzi scheme prime accused Mansoor Ali Khan," Gowda said. Gowda heads the Special Investigation Team (SIT) set up to probe the Ponzi scheme in which about thousands of investors were allegedly cheated. The Congress also suspended Baig on June 19 for alleged anti-party activities, including criticism of the party's state leaders after the recent Lok Sabha elections in which the party was routed in the southern state. Incidentally, documents (crew and passenger manifest) of the private aircraft operator Finnacle Air Ltd police shared shows it was to fly to Pune from Bengaluru with Baig and another passenger – N R Santhosh, private secretary to opposition BJP leader B S Yeddyurappa. Sensing trouble and seeing the police in large presence at the airport waiting for Baig's arrival, Santhosh left quietly as his name was struck off in the manifest. Commenting on the dramatic development, Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy tweeted: "I was told that on seeing the SIT, Santhosh ran away while the police apprehended Baig." Accusing the BJP of engineering the defection of the 16 rebel legislators from the ruling Congress and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) allies to destabilise his 13-month-old coalition government, the Chief Minister said in another tweet: "It's shame that @BJPKarnataka is helping a former minister to escape, who is facing a probe in the IMA (Ponzi) case." "This clearly shows #BJP's direct involvement in destabilising the government through horse trading," Kumaraswamy added. Refuting the Chief Minister's charge, BJP's state unit tweeted: "CM @hd_kumaraswamy is using the state machinery to save his government now. Baig was given time till July 19 to appear before the SIT. This shows the how the state government was blackmailing treating its own MLAs by using the state-run institutions." The Speaker on Monday asked the Chief Minister to move the trust vote on July 18 to prove he has majority in the Assembly to save his government, which has been reduced to minority after the rebels retired and two Independents withdrew support to it. (With inputs from PTI & IANS) Wed, 17 Jul 2019 02:09:32 GMT PM dials Sonowal on Assam flood; assures Centre's support Guwahati: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday telephoned Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and took stock of the flood situation in Assam, assuring all support from the centre to the state in dealing with the situation. Sonowal apprised Modi of the large-scale devastation the floods have caused on the lives of the people besides the state's economy and informed him about the details of relief, rescue and rehabilitation operations undertaken by the Assam government, said a government release here. The Chief Minister also told the Prime Minister that the state government has sensitised the administration- both in Barak and Brahmaputra Valleys- and asked the Deputy Commissioners to reach out to the flood affected people with their men and materials. Sonowal briefed the PM on the entire gamut of relief and rescue operations that have been pressed into service to help the marooned people, the release said. He also informed him that he has asked the state ministers and all public representatives, including MLAs, to extend a helping hand to the victims of floods and personally involve themselves in the rescue operations. To a query of the Prime Minister, Sonowal informed that flood control mechanisms, including 24X7 control rooms, have been pressed into service with state government officials put on duty, manning them round the clock, the release said. The health department and the Public Health Engineering department have been directed to respond to medicare related issues and provide medicines and clean drinking water, Sonowal informed. Veterinary and Animal Husbandry department has been asked to take care of the marooned animals and keep adequate fodder stock ready for the stray animals of Kaziranga National Park, other national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, he added. He also told the Prime Minister about his direction to the authorities of national parks to supply fodder to the animals taking shelter on the high lands. Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured all help, support and cooperation from the Centre to help Assam government bailout from the situation and asked the Chief Minister to undertake relief, rescue and rehabilitation measures on a war footing, the release said. Earlier, on Saturday, the chief minister had briefed Union Home Minister Amit Shah about the flood situation in the state. Shah directed the National Disaster Response Force and other agencies to provide all necessary help to the flood-affected people. The flood situation in Assam worsened on Sunday with the death toll rising to 11 and affecting nearly 26.5 lakh people. Barpeta is the worst-hit district with 7.35 lakh people facing the flood fury, followed by Morigaon where 3.50 lakh people are hit. In Dhubri district, 3.38 lakh people are affected, the Assam State Disaster Management Authority said. Mon, 15 Jul 2019 16:30:53 GMT Simple GST slabs, credit to MSMEs on 100-day agenda of Centre New Delhi: The Union government's 167 'transformative ideas for implementation in the first 100 days of the Modi governments second stint - that is by October 15 - is likely to see the Finance Ministry taking measured steps turning India into a $5 trillion economy by 2025 and work towards its promise to double farm income by 2022 among others. The ideas which were also part of the government's earlier action plans while elections were underway have recently been reiterated by the Cabinet Secretary P K Sinha in a meeting with sectoral secretaries where he asked them to start implementing these ideas and update on the progress weekly. Sources said the ideas are a compilation of those aggregated during the elections time and also later as part of the Budget and the main aim is to lift the economy out of the slow growth, push consumption, demand and private investment which are the catalyst for any growth economy. The other plans for finance ministry to be taken within October 15 time period are simplification of GST by doing away with the two top rates of 18 per cent and 28 per cent where GST tax slabs could be merged into two main rates from four at present. The 100-day action is also to focus on freezing the bank accounts of the shell companies and those struck off from the MCA list. The agenda includes some reforms and procedural bottlenecks in the departments to let the pace of transformation more faster. The sell-off department DIPAM will focus on fully privatising certain loss making CPSEs. The government is even considering lifting the foreign direct investment cap on Air India, the loss-making state-owned flagship carrier, to make it easier to sell after it failed to get any buyer last fiscal. DIPAM is expected to aggressively pursue strategic divestment within the year and more so lay the roadmap in the next 100 days with concrete progress. It will also have set the tone for more proceeds through launching more ETFs, list of companies already cleared by CCEA. The Department of Financial Services would have to carve out the roadmap for banking reforms and consolidation of PSU banks at a later stage and the reduction of government holding in PSU banks through ETFs. But the 100-day immediate action would involve Bank credit offtake in MSMEs, NBFCs. Tue, 16 Jul 2019 04:13:01 GMT Govt introduces bill to ban commercial surrogacy New Delhi: Commercial surrogacy will soon be banned and only close relatives will be permitted to act as surrogates to infertile couples for "ethical altruistic" reasons. On Monday, the government introduced the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019 in the Lok Sabha that also provides for constitution of surrogacy boards at national and state levels, as well as that the intending couples should not abandon such a child under any condition. Only Indian couples who have been legally married for at least five years would be allowed to opt for surrogacy, as per the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the bill, which was introduced by Health and Family Welfare Minister Harsh Vardhan. The bill seeks to "allow ethical altruistic surrogacy to the intending infertile Indian married couple between the age of 23-50 years and 26-55 years for female and male, respectively". A woman should be allowed to act as a surrogate mother only once and should be a close relative of the intending couple and "should be an ever-married woman having a child of her own and between the age of 25-35 years". According to the statement, India has emerged as a surrogacy hub for couples from different countries for the past few years. "Due to lack of legislation to regulate surrogacy, the practice of surrogacy has been misused by surrogacy clinics, which leads to rampant commercial surrogacy and unethical practices...," it noted. The bill was passed by Lok Sabha in December 2018 but lapsed as it could not get a nod from Parliament. Mon, 15 Jul 2019 14:19:07 GMT Lok Sabha passes bill to give NIA more power, Amit Shah promises not to misuse it New Delhi: Seeking to give more teeth to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), Lok Sabha on Monday passed a bill to allow it to probe terrorist acts against Indians and Indian interests abroad. The amendments will also allow the NIA to probe cybercrimes and cases of human trafficking. The NIA was set up in 2009 in the wake of the Mumbai terror attack that had claimed 166 lives. Since 2017, the Union Home Ministry has been pushing for giving more power to the NIA to meet fresh challenges. Defending the bill, the government refuted opposition's claims of "misuse" of the NIA law to target members of a community and asserted its only goal is to finish off terrorism. In an intervention during the discussion on National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Home Minister Amit Shah said Parliament should speak in one voice in giving powers to the NIA to send out a message to terrorists and the world. Some MPs said the anti-terror law is misused at times to target members of a particular community. "Let me make it clear the Modi government has no such intention. Its only goal is to finish off terrorism but we will also not look at the religion of the accused while taking action," Shah said. Replying to the discussion, Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy said that the government is committed to protect the country from terrorism. "This is a government run by chowkidar and will be at the forefront for the security of the country," he said adding terrorism has no religion or caste or region, "it's just terrorism". He said that there are no issues of federal system with NIA and it works in close coordination with states and their agencies. He added that NIA often writes to chief secretary and DGP of state before initiating an investigation. He said that surgical and air strikes have shown that there are other means available with the government to deal with terrorism cases when it comes to Pakistan. "Things were not properly worked out during your (Congress) government, that we are fixing, he said adding the government is working that. NIA is investigating as many as 272 cases and in that they have filed charge sheet in 199. The minister said that out 272, in 51 cases the courts have already delivered their judgements and in 46 cases, people have been convicted and "there is a 90 per cent conviction rate". He said that the people have given the mandate to the government to protect the country from terrorism. "We want to strengthen NIA" and it does not have any link to any religion or political party, he said. Later Asaduddin Owaisi (AIMIM) sought division when the bill came up for passage. Even Home Minister Amit Shah said that division should be taken up to show "who all are for or against terrorism". While 278 members supported its consideration, only six opposed it. The bill was later passed by a voice vote. Mon, 15 Jul 2019 13:23:44 GMT Saravana Bhavan hotel owner moves HC for treatment in pvt hospital Chennai: A petition has been filed in the Madras High Court seeking to shift hotelier P Rajagopal, who has been admitted to a government hospital here after he surrendered in a murder case, to a private hospital citing deterioration in his health condition. When a special mention was made by his lawyer before a division bench of Justices MM Sundresh and M Nirmal Kumar, the additional public prosecutor said he would get instructions from the Tamil Nadu government on Tuesday. In a habeas corpus petition filed by Rajagopal's son, it was stated that his condition worsened after he was admitted to Stanley Medical College Hospital here following his surrender. The founder of popular South Indian food chain Saravana Bhavan had surrendered along with another accused before a sessions court here on July 9 to serve life term in a murder case, hours after the Supreme Court had rejected his plea seeking more time. Rajagopal, who had moved the apex court citing health reasons, was brought to the premises of the trial court in an ambulance and sent to jail. However, he was taken to Stanley hospital for a check-up and admitted to the "convict ward" as per the doctors' advice. Alleging that the doctors at the government hospital changed the medicines taken by his father, the petitioner said, because of it his condition started deteriorating and on July 13 he suffered a cardiac arrest. Some of the medical tests which were suggested by the doctors could not be done at Stanley due to inadequate facilities, he claimed. A representation was made to the authorities to shift him to any private hospital for better treatment, he said praying for a direction from the court for the relief. Rajagopal was to surrender on July 7 to serve life imprisonment in the murder of Prince Shantakumar in 2001. The motive for the killing was to marry Shantakumar's wife Jeevajothi, who was the daughter of a former employee -- an assistant manager - in his hotel. Mon, 15 Jul 2019 12:15:22 GMT 20th anniversary of 'Operation Vijay': Rajnath Singh ignites 'victory flame' New Delhi: Commemorating the 20th anniversary of 'Operation Vijay', Defence Minister Rajnath Singh Sunday ignited a 'victory flame' at the National War Memorial here. According to the Army, the 'victory flame' will be carried by a team of motorcyclists over 11 towns and cities to finally merge with the eternal flame at the Kargil War Memorial in Dras. Kargil Vijay Diwas is celebrated every year on July 26 to honour those who laid down their lives during the Kargil War. "I pay homage to Army jawans who sacrificed their lives while securing the country's borders. I also offer sincere condolences and respects to their families," Singh told reporters. A number of events have been planned by the Army in Delhi and Dras to mark the 20th anniversary of the war. One of the major events planned during the celebrations was the relay of the victory flame from the National War Memorial (NMW) in New Delhi to the Kargil War Memorial at Dras. All along the journey, Army personnel will be paying homage to the heroes who fought valiantly for the nation, the Army said in a statement. The Army said the Union defence minister handed over the flame to ace Army shooter Subedar Jitu Rai at the NMW here. Before that, Chief of the Army Staff General Bipin Rawat ignited the torch from the eternal flame of the NMW. The victory flame symbolises the coalescence of souls of the Kargil War martyrs, it stated. "The victory flame will be carried by the Indian Army's outstanding sportsmen and war heroes. "It will pass through nine major towns/cities of North India and finally culminate at the karambhoomi of the martyrs at the Kargil War Memorial on July 26, where it will be received by the CoAS," the statement read. The design of the victory torch has been inspired by the grit, guts and glory displayed by those who made the supreme sacrifice for the motherland in the finest tradition of the Indian Army, it stated. The torch is made of copper, brass and wood which symbolises the tenacity and determination of the war heroes. The upper part of the torch has a metal etching of the Amar Jawan, epitomising unknown soldiers. "The lower wooden portion of the torch has 20 gold embossed inscriptions of the Amar Jawan, exemplifying 20 glorious years of the Kargil victory," the statement read. The event was attended by Lt Gen Ranbir Singh, GOC-in-C, Northern Command; Lt Gen Y K Joshi, GOC, Fireand Fury Corps; Subedar Sanjay Kumar and a large number of dignitaries. Mon, 15 Jul 2019 11:05:48 GMT Karnataka CM Kumaraswamy to seek trust vote on Thursday Bengaluru: Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy will seek a vote of confidence of the state Assembly on July 18, against the backdrop of 16 MLAs of the ruling Congress and JD(S) tendering their resignation. "I have directed the chief minister to hold the floor test in the Assembly on Thursday (July 18)," Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar told reporters after a meeting of the Business Advisory Committee of the House here on Monday. The meeting was attended by Kumaraswamy, Congress Legislature Party leader Siddaramaiah and opposition BJP leader B S Yeddyurappa. The floor test will be held at 11am on Thursday. The BJP has been demanding the floor test in the wake of resignation by 16 MLAs of the ruling alliance - 13 of the Congress and 3 of the JD(S) - and withdrawal of support to the Kumaraswamy government by two other legislators. The resignations have not yet been accepted by the speaker, who has said he would need time to study whether these were in proper format. Unhappy with the delay by the speaker in accepting their resignations, 15 of the rebel MLAs have moved the Supreme Court, apprehending that they could be disqualified. The top court on July 12 ordered a status quo on the petitions till Tuesday when the matter would be heard again. The Congress-JD(S), along with lone legislators each of BSP and a regional party and an Independent, have 118 MLAs, including the speaker, in the 225-member House. If all the 18 legislators, including 16 rebels and 2 Independents do not attend the session, the effective strength of the House for voting will be 205, including 105 of the BJP and excluding the speaker and the nominated member. "As the new halfway mark will be 103 for a simple majority, the ruling combine with 100, including one from the supporting party BSP will fall 3 short off it (halfway mark) to win the trust vote and certain to be defeated," according to BJP spokesman G Madhusudana. Mon, 15 Jul 2019 10:29:30 GMT One among these leaders may become the next Congress president New Delhi: While the national leadership of the Congress remains clueless about a new president for the party after Rahul Gandhi submitted his resignation, some names are already doing the rounds. Party sources said that a decision will be taken after weighing the pros and cons of each potential leader. Meanwhile, apart from the national president, the party is looking at appointing working presidents at the regional level too. These are some of names being considered to succeed Rahul Gandhi as the Congress chief: • Sachin Pilot (41): Currently the Deputy Chief Minister of Rajasthan. If the party is looking at a young leader for the party president's post, Sachin Pilot fits the bill perfectly. He is credited for successfully spearheading assembly election campaign as the PCC chief, but faced a huge setback in the Lok Sabha elections. • Mukul Wasnik (59): Equally acceptable by both the young and old leaders in the party. A former national president of the NSU and the Youth Congress, Wasnik is a known Nehru-Gandhi family loyalist. An AICC general secretary for long, Wasnik has the support of senior leaders. The party believes that since Maharashtra is going to assembly polls soon, making a Dalit leader from the state the party president will help it reap rich dividends. • Jyotiraditya Scindia (48): Rahul Gandhi's trusted man. Though there are demands that Scindia be made the party chief as a representative of youth, Scindia made it clear recently that he is not interested in the post. He has also resigned from the post of AICC general secretary. • Mallikarjun Kharge (76): He is prominent among senior leaders in the party. Those seeking a party chief from south India support Kharge, a Dalit leader from Karnataka. • Sushil Kumar Shinde (77): A former Union home minister, Shinde is also a senior Dalit leader from Maharashtra. • Ashok Gehlot (68): He is the Chief Minister of Rajasthan. It is argued that his past role as general secretary in-charge of organisation and training will help him in leading the party. But, Gehlot is reluctant to leave the chief minister's seat. • Ghulam Nabi Azad (70): The senior-most among party general secretaries in terms of tenure. But a section of the leaders says that making a minority community member the party chief will damage the party, besides giving the BJP enough opportunity to take advantage. • Sonia Gandhi (72) or Priyanka Gandhi (47): There is strong demand that one of them should come forward to rescue the party from the current crisis it is in. Ill health may not allow Sonia to take up the post. Since Rahul made it clear that nobody from the Gandhi family should succeed him, the chances of Priyanka becoming the party chief are low. Mon, 15 Jul 2019 07:47:39 GMT Muslims, Dalits to seek arms licence to escape lynching Lucknow: Muslims, Dalits and tribals will now start applying for arms licenses for self-defence, following increase in incidents of mob lynching. The pan-India movement will commence from Lucknow on July 26. Shia cleric and General Secretary of Majlis-e-Ulama-e-Hind, Maulana Kalbe Jawwad will be organising the first camp in Lucknow on the suggestion of Supreme Court lawyer Mehmood Pracha. According to the cleric, these camps would be organised in at least 12 cities, including six in Uttar Pradesh, where these communities are under threat and need legal help. "SC/ST and minorities have been pushed to the edge by the government, which is soft on perpetrators of mob violence," Maulana Kalbe Jawwad said. "In such a scenario, there is no option left, but self-defence. Many from these communities face discrimination and they will avail of our legal expertise to fill up forms and apply for arms license." The camp will ensure that applicants with criminal antecedents or those with political or business interests are kept out. "This campaign is not for the Shia community, in particular, but for all minorities who feel threatened. Once the applicants get their licenses, we will deploy experts for arms training. And we will also act against those who misuse their license," he said. "Legal experts will be coming to Lucknow for holding the camp. Clerics from others sects will also be included in the movement. The brunt of mob lynching is borne by Sunnis and Dalits too," Jawwad added. "If the government had taken strong steps against perpetrators of hate crime, we would not have had to take up such a measure. There are tough laws in the Constitution and Indian Penal Code (IPC) which the government should invoke. The draft bill on lynching is a mere eyewash. If the government wakes up, we will withdraw the movement," the cleric said. Mon, 15 Jul 2019 11:06:47 GMT Chandrayaan-2 launch called off due to technical snag Sriharikota: Less than an hour before lift off, India's second mission to Moon, Chandrayaan-2 onboard GSLVMkIII-M1 was Monday called off due to a technical snag, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said. The countdown to the launch scheduled for 2.51 am was stopped 56 minutes and 24 seconds before lift off at 1.55 am following the announcement from the Mission Control Centre. Confusion prevailed for several minutes before ISRO came out with an official confirmation about the launch being cancelled. "A technical snag was observed in the launch vehicle system at t-minus 56 minutes. As a measure of abundant precaution Chandrayaan 2 launch has been called off for today," ISRO Associate Director (Public Relations), B R Guruprasad said. "Revised launch date will be announced later," he added. Another ISRO official said: "Launch is called off due to technical snag. It is not possible to make the launch within the (launch) window. (A new) launch schedule will be announced later." The space agency had earlier scheduled the launch in the first week of January but shifted it to July 15. The lift-off of the three-component spacecraft weighing 3,850 kg and comprising an orbiter, the lander and the rover was scheduled from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) here. President Ram Nath Kovind was in Sriharikota to witness the launch. The Chandrayaan-2 was supposed to explore the uncharted lunar south pole, 11 years after ISRO's successful first lunar mission-- Chandrayaan-1, which made more than 3,400 orbits around the moon and was operational for 312 days till August 29, 2009. The Rs 978 crore Chandrayaan-2 onboard the heavy-lift rocket Geosynchronous Launch Vehicle GSLV-MkIII-M1, nicknamed Baahubali, would have taken 54 days to accomplish the task of landing on the Moon through meticulously planned orbital phases. After a full dress rehearsal last week, the countdown for the mission commenced at 6.51 am on Sunday and scientists had undergone various stages of propellant filling to power the rocket ahead of the launch. Billed as the most complex and prestigious mission ever undertaken by the ISRO since its inception, Chandrayaan-2 would make India the fourth country to soft land a rover on the lunar surface after Russia, the United States and China. Sun, 14 Jul 2019 22:35:35 GMT Karnataka crisis: Cong-JD(S) leaders in hectic parleys on future course of action Bengaluru: Leaders of the crisis-hit ruling Cong-JD(S) coalition in Karnataka were locked in hectic parleys Sunday to discuss the future course of action to save the government that is on the brink of collapse, even as efforts to mollify rebel Congress MLA M T B Nagaraj failed. However, the embattled leaders continued with efforts to woo back some legislators who have resigned, especially seven time Congress MLA Ramalinga Reddy, ahead of Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamys trust vote expected this week. This, even as rebel legislators, who are camped in Mumbai, made it clear that they were united and "firm" on their resignations. Meanwhile, opposition BJP reiterated that the coalition has lost majority and demanded that Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy resign immediately or seek a trust vote on Monday itself. The coalition government is on a shaky wicket with 16 MLAs - 13 of the Congress and three of the JD(S) resigning their assembly membership. Besides, two independent legislators, who were made ministers recently to provide stability, have quit the ministry and withdrawn support. The coalition leaders received a major jolt Sunday morning as Nagaraj, with whom they had held day long talks on Saturday in a bid to woo him back to save the government, flew to Mumbai and joined the rebel MLAs camped there. After reaching Mumbai, Nagaraj, speaking to reporters, made it clear that there was no question of withdrawing his resignation and that he was "firm" on the decision. Just ahead of leaving the city, the Hoskote MLA had told reporters that he intended to take a final decision on the withdrawal of his resignation after talks with Chikkaballapura MLA K Sudhakar, as both had together submitted resignations to the speaker on July 10. "I'm also trying for it (withdraw). Only thing is that I have to meet Sudhakar, I haven't met him. I will meet him, he should be somewhere," he said, adding "my intention is that we have to withdraw it (resignation) together." After almost day-long negotiations on Saturday, it appeared Congress had made some headway in pacifying Nagaraj, who had hinted he might consider withdrawing his resignation, but had fallen short of making any final announcement. Visuals of Nagaraj boarding a chartered flight and BJP leader R Ashoka's presence in the vicinity had surfaced on local news channels soon after he spoke to the media, following which senior Congress leaders, including Minister D K Shivakumar had alleged that the saffron party was behind it. Denying that Ashoka flew with him and that the saffron party's influence was behind his resignation, Nagaraj said, Shivakumars statements are "far from the truth". As news of Nagaraj boarding a flight to Mumbai surfaced, Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy rushed to residence of his father and JD(S) supremo H D Deve Gowda and held discussions. Meetings were also on in Congress circles at a hotel, where party legislators have camped under the leadership of CLP leader Siddaramaiah, who has convened the legislature party meeting on Monday morning. Later, leaders of both parties, including Kumaraswamy, Minister D K Shivakumar, CLP leader Siddaramaiah, KPCC president Diensh Gundu Rao, Mallikarjun Kharge among others held discussion. Ahead of the meeting, Kumaraswamy and Shivakumar met Congress MLA Nagendra, undergoing treatment at a hospital here, amid reports that BJP leaders were in touch with him. In an attempt to pacify MLAs, coalition leaders tried to convince senior legislator Ramalinga Reddy, to withdraw his resignation as they feel that if he does so, three Congress legislators from Bengaluru city, S T Somashekar, Munirathna and Byrathi Basavaraj may also follow suit. Reddy however did not make any comments and said he would not speak politics until July 15, the day he has been asked by the speaker to appear before him on his resignation as MLA. Congress leaders H K Patil and Eshwar Khandre, who met Reddy, said they requested him to withdraw his resignation and continue to lead the party. Later in the day senior Congress leaders, including Siddaramaiah, Rao, Shivakumar, Kharge, Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara, AICC General Secretary K C Venugopal visited Reddy's residence and made attempts to convince him. Kumaraswamy on Friday had made a surprise announcement in the Assembly that he would seek a trust vote. To win the trust vote, the coalition needs to woo back several of its MLAs who have resigned. However, amid all these developments, 12 rebel MLAs of the ruling coalition, who are camped in Mumbai, said they were all together and firm on their resignations. Speaking to reporters in Mumbai,S T Somashekar, flanked by the other MLAs, said "we had individually decided to resign. There was no force or influence on us. We are together here." Stating that Chikkaballapur MLA K Sudhakar, who has resigned, was currently in Delhi and would soon join them, he said they have not decided about their return to Bengaluru. The MLAs also made it clear that there was no question of them withdrawing their resignations and added that they were not in touch with anyone, nor intended to meet anyone. Meanwhile, asserting that the coalition government had lost majority, the state BJP Sunday demanded that Kumaraswamy immediately resign or seek a trust vote on Monday itself. "I demand that the chief minister, if he is honest and cares for the democratic system, immediately resign or move a motion, seeking a trust vote on Monday itself," state BJP chief B S Yeddyurappa said. He held discussions with party MLAs, who are put up at a resort on the outskirs of the city According to sources, at the Business Advisory Committee meeting on Friday Kumaraswamy had proposed that the trust vote be held on Wednesday. However, no decision was taken as the principal opposition BJP did not attend the meeting. BJPs demand that chief minister should seek a trust vote immediately is likely to create a uproar in the assembly on Monday, a day prior to the Supreme Court hearing the petition of five rebel MLAs, who have resigned. The MLAs- Anand Singh, K Sudhakar, N Nagaraj (MTB), Munirathna and Roshan Baig had Saturday sought to be impleaded in the already pending application filed by the 10 other rebel MLAs, on which hearing is scheduled for Tuesday. The ruling coalition's total strength is 116 (Congress-78, JD(S)-37 and BSP-1), besides the speaker. With the support of the two independents, the BJP has 107 MLAs in the 224-member House, where the half-way mark is 113. If the resignations of the 16 MLAs are accepted, the coalition's tally will be reduced to 100. Sun, 14 Jul 2019 15:59:36 GMT Health Ministry proposes scrapping of NEET-PG exams New Delhi: In a relief to medical students wanting to pursue post-graduate courses, the Union Health Ministry has proposed to do away with NEET-PG and instead the final MBBS examination would be enough for admission to MD and MS programmes. The amendment has been incorporated in the revised draft National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill which would be sent to the Cabinet soon, official sources told PTI. According to them, the changes have been incorporated in the bill on the directions of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO). "According to the amendments made in the fresh NMC Bill, entry into the PG programmes will be on the basis of the results of the National Exit Test (NEXT), which would be held as a common exam across the country. So the candidates would not have to appear in a separate exam after clearing the MBBS final exam for admission to PG courses," the source explained. The students would also not be required to appear in a separate exam after MBBS to obtain a license to practice. However, for admission to PG programmes at AIIMS, clearing a separate exam will remain mandatory. Also, the NEET Super Speciality, which is a national-level entrance exam for admission in DM/MCh courses, will continue, sources said. Every year 80,000 students take admission into MBBS courses in about 480 medical colleges in the country, while 1.5 lakh students appear for entrance exams for admission to around 50,000 PG seats. The NMC Bill was introduced in Parliament in December 2017, but it lapsed with the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha. After its introduction in the lower house in 2017, the Bill, which aims to replace the Medical Council of India Act, 1956 and included the contentious provision of a "bridge course" to allow practitioners of alternative medicines to pursue allopathy, was referred to a Department-Related Parliamentary Standing Committee following massive protests from the medical fraternity. The first version of the Bill also proposed a national-level licentiate exam for all MBBS graduates for getting a licence to practice in India. But it was removed following strong protests by several doctor bodies. The provision of the 'bridge course' was also strongly opposed by health bodies, including the Indian Medical Association, which claimed that allowing AYUSH doctors to practice modern medicine would promote "quackery", although the ministry had argued that the provision seeks to address the "acute shortage" of doctors in the country. The parliamentary panel gave its recommendations in March 2018, following which the Health Ministry scrapped the provision of 'bridge course and also made some other changes as suggested by the committee before moving the official amendments in the Lok Sabha. "It has been left to state governments to take necessary measures for addressing and promoting primary healthcare in rural areas," the amendment stated and also made the punishment for unauthorised practice of medicine more severe with imprisonment of up to one year along with a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh. Mon, 15 Jul 2019 03:00:53 GMT Imam forced to chant 'Jai Sri Ram' in UP, 12 youths booked for assault Baghpat: Police have booked nearly 12 youths for allegedly pulling the beard of a Muslim cleric and forcing him to chant 'Jai Shri Ram'. Superintendent of Police Shailesh Kumar Pandey Sunday said, "Prima facie it seems to be a matter of physical assault. Even then, the police have registered a case against 12 youngsters on the basis of the cleric's complaint. Action will be taken against them on the basis of the probe." Citing the cleric's complaint, the SP said Imam Imlaq-ur-Rehman, a Muzaffarnagar resident, was going to his village on his motorcycle yesterday, when nearly 12 youngsters accosted him, beat him up and also pulled his beard. The Imam claimed he was also forced to chant 'Jai Shri Ram', the SP said. The cleric said he was rescued by two people of his village when he raised an alarm, added SP Pandey. The complainant also said the youths told him to come to the village, only after shaving off his beard. The SP said the cause of beating up is yet to be known. SP Pandey said the Imam had registered a similar case in Muzaffarnagar district, which was later found to be true. Sun, 14 Jul 2019 14:13:25 GMT Pakistan agrees for visa-free travel to Kartarpur Sahib Amritsar: Pakistan on Sunday agreed in-principle to allow visa-free, year-long travel for Indian passport holders and OCI card holders to the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara. Everyday, 5,000 pilgrims will be allowed to visit the Gurdwara on foot, both as individuals or in groups, Home Ministry's Joint Secretary (Internal Security) S C L.Das told reporters here after the second joint secretary-level bilateral meeting at Wagah, across the international border in Pakistan. Pakistan highlighted the infrastructural constraints on their side and conveyed that they may be able to accommodate many of the Indian proposals in a phased manner, he said. India raised the demand of allowing 10,000 additional pilgrims to visit the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara on special occasions. The Kartarpur shrine in Pakistan's Narowal district across the Ravi is where Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism, spent his final days, and is highly revered by the Sikh community. It is about 4 km from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur. Sun, 14 Jul 2019 10:32:29 GMT Chandrayaan-2 cheaper than 'Avengers Endgame': What the foreign press says New Delhi: India's second Moon mission, Chandrayaan-2, has evoked great interest in Western media and scientific journals, with many saying the mission that costs less than half of the budget of Hollywood blockbuster "Avengers Endgame" will put India in league with lunar pioneers - the US, Russia and China. The Chandrayaan-2 mission, that takes off exactly 50 years after the astronauts of Apollo II made their historic voyage to the Sea of Tranquillity on the Moon, will attempt a historic touchdown near the Moon's south pole, "where water ice lurks in permanently shadowed craters". Only one other mission -- China's Chang'e-4 spacecraft -- has soft-landed in this rugged, forbidding region, says the Scientific American. "The total cost of the Chandrayaan-2 mission is about $124 million, which includes a $31 million price tag for the launch and $93 million for the satellite. The cost is less than half of the budget of Hollywood blockbuster "Avengers Endgame", which had an estimated budget of $356 million," says Sputnik. The Guardian, in a piece titled 'Everyone's going back to the Moon. But why?' writes: As the 50th anniversary of the first Apollo landing approaches, a host of countries are undertaking lunar missions. What's behind the new space race? "At 2.51 a.m. on Monday, July 15, engineers at India's national spaceport at Sriharikota will blast their Chandrayaan-2 probe into orbit around the Earth. It will be the most ambitious space mission the nation has attempted." The New York Times, with a similar sounding headline, 'Why everyone wants to go back to the Moon', says, "For India, reaching the Moon would highlight its technological advances. China would establish itself as a world power of the planet. For the United States and NASA, the Moon is now an obvious stop along the way to Mars." The US' National Public Radio writes: "China, India and even smaller nations like Israel and South Korea are all pursuing robotic Moon missions. Their lunar ambitions are being driven both by a desire to flex their technological muscles and by the rise of global nationalism." The Washington Post, in an article titled 'India's Moon mission signals country's growing space ambitions', writes: "Although India's space program began as early as the 1960s, it has gained new prominence under Prime Minister Narendra Modi... Modi has promoted the space program as a symbol of the country's rising stature internationally and a bulwark of its defense capabilities." "India's first Mars satellite cost less than the budget of the space movie, 'Gravity'. At $141 million, the cost of the current lunar mission is far less than the $25 billion spent by the United States on its Apollo program," the Post says. Giving details of the Moon mission, the website says: "Chandrayaan-2 consists of an orbiter, a lander called Vikram and a rover known as Pragyan. If all goes according to plan, touchdown will occur on September 6 on a high plain between two craters, Manzinus C and Simpelius N, about 70 degrees south of the equator. "The Moon's polar regions are intriguing to scientists and exploration advocates because water ice is abundant there, on the floors of permanently shadowed craters. Such 'lunar cold traps' contain a fossil record of the early solar system and also harbour a precious resource that could aid human exploration of Earth's nearest neighbour." Science news portal, says "India will step up the international space race on Monday when it launches a low-cost mission to become only the fourth country to land a probe on the Moon. Almost the entire Chandrayaan-2's orbiter, lander and rover have been designed and made in India." Scientific American website says: "The new mission's journey could yield vital information about the Moon's mysterious troves of water, which could be used for scientific studies of deep lunar history - or for manufacturing rocket fuel, potable water and breathable air in support of future human outposts." Website Planetary News says that "One of the most compelling results from Chandrayaan-1 was the detection of water (OH) on the Moon by both the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3), a NASA provided instrument, and ISRO's Moon Impact Probe (MIP). Contact with the spacecraft was lost in August 2009, putting an end to the science mission, but NASA has since relocated the spacecraft in lunar orbit using ground-based radars. Though it operated at the Moon for less than half of its expected two year lifetime, the mission accomplished approximately 95 per cent of its mission objectives." Sun, 14 Jul 2019 10:29:38 GMT 10 trains to depict saga of Kargil War New Delhi: Ten trains depicting the saga of the Kargil War will be flagged off by railways on Monday on the occasion of Kargil Diwas, a spokesperson of the national transporter said Sunday. Vinyl wrappings depicting the tale of the war and sacrifices of martyrs will be put up on trains, one of which will leave from New Delhi Railway Station on Monday, marking 20 years of the war. "The history of the Kargil War will be told by 10 trains which will have pictures of heroic tales on them. In the images, passengers will get information about the martyrs of the war," tweeted Railway Minister Piyish Goyal's office. The first train will be the Delhi-Varanasi Kashi Vishwanath Express which will be flagged off by Health Minister Harsh Vardhan and MoS Railways Suresh Angadi. Families of some of the martyrs will also be present on the occasion. The other trains include, the Brahmaputra Mail, Seemanchal Express, Gondwana Express and Goa Sampark Kranti Express. Sun, 14 Jul 2019 10:04:30 GMT Stage set for Chandrayaan-2 as ISRO eyes dark side of the moon Sriharikota: Aimed at taking a giant leap in its space programme, India will launch its second Moon mission Chandrayaan-2 onboard its heavy-lift rocket GSLV-MkIII, nicknamed Baahubali, from the spaceport here on Monday, to land a rover near the unexplored Lunar Southern Pole. The lift-off of the three-component spacecraft weighing 3,850 kg and comprising an orbiter, the lander and the rover has been scheduled for 2.51 am from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) here. Eleven years after its successful first Lunar mission, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will launch the Rs 978 crore Chandrayan-2 onboard Geosynchronous Launch Vehicle GSLV-MkIII on a voyage which will then take 54 days to accomplish the task of landing on the Moon through meticulously planned orbital phases. After a full dress rehearsal last week, the countdown for the mission commenced Sunday and scientists were involved in propellant filling, ISRO officials said. "The launch countdown of GSLV-MkIII-M1/Chandrayaan-2 commenced today (Sunday) at 0651 hrs IST," ISRO said in its latest update Sunday. Billed as the most complex and prestigious mission ever undertaken by the ISRO since its inception, Chandrayaan-2 will make India the fourth country to soft land on the lunar surface after Russia, the United States and China. Indicating the challenges involved in soft landing, which will feature a series of critical manoeuvres by scientists, ISRO Chairman K Sivan said they will undergo about "15 minutes of terror (filled moments)." After offering prayers at the hill shrine of Lord Venkateshwara at Tirumala Saturday, Sivan said all preparations for Chandrayaan-2 were on for the launch scheduled at 2.51 am on July 15. "Chandrayaan-2 is the next leap in technology as we attempt to soft land close to South Pole of Moon. The soft landing is extremely complex and we will experience approximately 15 minutes of terror," he said. ISRO, which has planned for the landing around September 6, said the mission aims at going where no other nation has so far forayed - the Lunar South Pole and seek to improve understanding of the Moon which could lead to discoveries that will benefit India and humanity as a whole. The Chandrayaan-2 has 13 payloads in total with eight of them in the orbiter, three payloads in Vikram and two in Pragyan. Five payloads are from India, three from Europe, two from the US and one from Bulgaria. A Laser Retroreflector Array (LRA) of NASA is among the payloads and is aimed at understanding dynamics of Earth's Moon system and deriving clues on Lunar interior. President Ram Nath Kovind will witness the launch at Sriharikota. About 16 minutes after the lift-off, the GSLV MkIII will inject Chandrayan-2 into 170 x 40400 kms Earth orbit. From then onwards, the mission will witness a series of manoeuvres by scientists to carry out different phases of the mission. For the first 17 days from lift-off, the spacecraft will be in Earth-bound phase before its orbit is finally raised to over 1.05 lakh km. After that, it will be nudged into the Lunar Transfer Trajectory taking it to the proximity of Moon in the next two days. Then gradually over the next few days it will be brought to 100 X 100 km circular orbit when the lander will separate and after another few days of orbiting it will make a soft landing at a chosen place on Lunar surface. Through Chandrayaan-2, in which home grown technology is deployed, scientists aim to expand India's footprint in space, shed light on unexplored section of Moon-- the South Pole region, enhance knowledge about space, stimulate advancement of technology and promote global alliances. It is first expedition by ISRO to attempt a soft landing on the lunar surface equipped with "home grown" technology. It would also be the first mission to explore the lunar terrain. But why the South Polar region of the Moon? According to ISRO, the lunar South Pole is an interesting surface area which remains in shadow than North pole. There is a possibility of the presence of water in permanently shadowed areas around it, the agency said, adding craters in the South Pole region have cold traps and contain fossil record of the early solar system. The lander 'Vikram', named after father of Indian space research programme Dr Vikram A Sarabhai, carrying the rover 'Pragyan', will be landed in a high plain between two craters at a latitude of about 70 degree South of the moon. Then the 27-kg 'Pragyan' meaning 'wisdom' in Sanskrit and a six-wheeled robotic vehicle, will set out on its job of collecting information on lunar surface. The rover can travel up to half a km leveraging solar energy and both Pragyan and Vikram have a mission life of one Lunar day, which approximately equals 14 Earth days. ISRO officials said the challenges involved in the Moon landing were identifying trajectory accurately; taking up deep space communication; trans Lunar injection, orbiting around the moon, taking up soft landing on the moon surface and facing extreme temperatures and vacuum. Scientists have pegged to make the landing of lander 'Vikram' on September 6 and then undertake a series of complex manoeuvres comprising "rough braking" and "fine braking." A safe site free of hazards for landing would be decided based on pictures sent back by the camera onboard the lander and after touchdown the rover will carry out experiments for 14 Earth days. Sun, 14 Jul 2019 14:17:43 GMT Navjot Singh Sidhu resigns as Punjab cabinet minister Chandigarh: Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu, who has been at loggerheads with Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and was stripped off key portfolios in the cabinet reshuffle in June, has resigned from the state cabinet. The 55-year-old Sidhu took to Twitter on Sunday, making public his resignation letter, which was sent just four days after his portfolio was changed. The resignation letter dated June 10 was addressed to Congress President Rahul Gandhi. "I hereby resign as Minister from the Punjab Cabinet," Sidhu said in the letter to the Congress chief, which he posted on his Twitter handle on Sunday. The date of his resignation letter was a day after he had met Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi when his portfolio was changed. In another tweet later, Sidhu said he would be sending his resignation letter to the chief minister. On June 6, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had divested Sidhu of the Local Government and Tourism and Cultural Affairs Departments and allotted him the power and new and renewable energy portfolio. Portfolios of several other ministers too had been changed in the reshuffle exercise. In an apparent snub, Sidhu, the Congress MLA from Amritsar East, was also left out of the consultative groups formed by the chief minister on June 8, two days after the cabinet reshuffle, to accelerate implementation of government's flagship programmes. Over a month after he was stripped of key portfolios, Sidhu had not taken charge of his new assignment, as a stalemate with the chief minister had continued. Congress veteran Ahmed Patel had been entrusted with the task of resolving issues between Sidhu and Singh. Singh had met Patel during his visit to Delhi last month, but the party reportedly described the meeting as a "courtesy call". The fact that Sidhu waited for over a month before making his resignation letter public indicated that he could have been waiting for reconciliation. Ever since the portfolio reshuffle exercise, the Punjab minister and his wife Navjot Kaur have been maintaining a distance from the media. Sidhu had approached Congress president Rahul Gandhi on June 9 and had "apprised him of the situation" besides handing over a letter to him. He had also shared a picture with Rahul Gandhi, party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi and senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel on his Twitter handle and Facebook page on June 10. Since then, he had not shared anything on Twitter and Facebook. Sidhu, a former BJP leader who had joined the Congress just ahead of the 2017 Punjab assembly polls, has been at loggerheads with Singh for sometime now. The tension between Singh and his cabinet colleague had come out in the open last month when the CM blamed Sidhu for the "inept handling" of the Local Government Department, claiming that it resulted in "poor performance" of the Congress in urban areas in the Lok Sabha polls. The CM said last month that the urban vote bank had been the backbone of the Congress in Punjab but Sidhu's "failure" in carrying out any development work impacted the party. Sidhu, however, had said that his department was being "singled out publicly" while asserting that he could not be taken for granted as he had been a "performer throughout". Earlier, Singh had taken umbrage at Sidhu's "friendly match" jibe during electioneering in Bathinda on May 17. Sidhu had allegedly cornered the Congress government in the state over the issue of desecration of religious texts, questioning why no FIR was lodged against the Badals, who ran the previous government in the state. This had evoked sharp reaction from Singh. Hitting out at Sidhu, the chief minister had said, "If he was a real Congressman, he should have chosen a better time to air his grievances, instead of just ahead of voting in Punjab." "He is harming the party with such irresponsible actions. It is not his election but that of the entire Congress," he had said. "Perhaps he is ambitious and wants to be the chief minister," Singh had said. Earlier also, the tension between Singh and Sidhu had come out in the public. Last year, Sidhu had said in Hyderabad, "(Congress chief) Rahul Gandhi is my captain...Rahul Gandhi is the captain of the captain (Singh) also." Singh had earlier disapproved of Sidhu hugging the Pakistan Army chief during his visit to the neighbouring country. Sun, 14 Jul 2019 09:50:24 GMT Allahabad Bank reports Rs 1,775 core fraud by Bhushan Power & Steel New Delhi: After Punjab National Bank (PNB), another state-owned lender Allahabad Bank on Saturday reported fraud of over Rs 1,774 crore by Bhushan Power and Steel to the Reserve Bank of India. Allahabad Bank in a regulatory filing said on the basis of forensic audit investigation findings and CBI filing FIR against the company and its directors, alleging diversion of funds from banking system by Bhushan Power and Steel Ltd (BPSL), a fraud of Rs 1,774.82 core has been reported by the bank to the Reserve Bank. Last week, PNB reported a fraud worth Rs 3,805.15 crore by the bankrupt steel company BPSL by misappropriating bank funds and manipulating its books of accounts. Around 85 per cent of PNB's Rs 4,399 crore exposure to the company had been siphoned off. Allahabad Bank further said it has been observed that the company has misappropriated bank funds, and manipulated books of accounts to raise funds from consortium lender banks. The bank has already made provisions amounting to Rs 900.20 crore against exposure of the bank in BPSL, it said. At present, the case is in the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), which is in advance stage and the bank expects good recovery in the account. It is expected that more banks may report fraud committed by BPSL as the CBI complaint registered in April names several other lenders. According to the CBI, BPSL diverted around Rs 2,348 crore through its directors and staff from the loan accounts of PNB (IFB New Delhi & IFB Chandigarh), Oriental Bank of Commerce (Kolkata), IDBI Bank (Kolkata) and UCO Bank (IFB Kolkata) into the accounts of more than 200 shell companies without any obvious purpose. The agency said that the company in doing so had misused the funds and the FIR named chairman Sanjay Singhal, vice-chairman Aarti Singhal, along with other directors as suspects. "It was further alleged that the said Company availed various Loan facilities from 33 banks/financial institutions during the year 2007 to 2014 to the tune of Rs 47,204 crore (approx) and defaulted on repayments. Subsequently, lead bank PNB declared the account as NPA followed by other banks and financial institutions," the CBI had stated. Sun, 14 Jul 2019 04:19:52 GMT Virender Sehwag's wife files complaint against business partners for forgery New Delhi: Former Indian cricketer Virender Sehwag's wife Aarti Sehwag has filed a complaint against her business partners for forging her signature to get a loan of Rs 4.5 crore, the police said on Saturday. In her complaint, Aarti has alleged that her partners at SMGK Argo Export influenced a company by using her husband's name and took a loan of Rs 4.5 crore from it after forging her signature, they said. She alleged that they later defaulted in payment of the loan, the police said. "Her partners hatched a conspiracy and approached Lakhanpal Promoters and Builder Pvt Ltd to take a loan of Rs 4.5 crore. They approached the creditor without any knowledge and consent of her," the complaint stated. While approaching the creditor, the accused, in order to get the loan, used the name of her husband Virender Sehwag to show credibility of the firm and influenced the creditors and availed a loan of Rs 4.5 crore, the FIR stated. In order to take the loan, they forged her signatures and also issued two post-dated cheques to the firm, Arti said in her complaint. When they failed to return the loan, the firm took the case to court, following which she came to know about the loan and later found out that her signature has been forged, the police said. Sun, 14 Jul 2019 06:13:20 GMT Chandrayaan-2 mission will go where no country has ever gone before New Delhi: Chandrayaan-2, India's most ambitious second lunar mission to be launched on July 15, will be the first of its kind as it will shed light on a completely unexplored section of the Moon - its South Polar region. Leveraging nearly a decade of scientific research and engineering development, the mission is aimed at helping in better understanding of the origin and evolution of the Moon by conducting detailed topographical studies, comprehensive mineralogical analyses, and a host of other experiments on the lunar surface. It will explore the topography of the moon and its composition and will search for water besides conducting in-situ studies. Chandrayaan-2 will be launched from Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota on-board heavy-lift rocket Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle - Mark III (GSLV Mk III), nicknamed as 'Bahubali', at 2.51 am on July 15. The Lander, Vikram, will land near South Pole of the moon on September 6. Subsequently, the Rover will roll out and carry out experiments on Lunar surface for a period of one Lunar day, which is equal to 14 Earth days. The Orbiter will continue its mission for one year. The Orbiter payloads will conduct remote-sensing observations from a 100 km orbit while the Lander and Rover payloads will perform in-situ measurements near the landing site. The lunar South Pole is especially interesting because of the lunar surface area here, that remains in shadow, is much larger than that at the North Pole, according to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) which is making preparations for the successful launch. There is a possibility of the presence of water in permanently shadowed areas around it. In addition, the South Pole region has craters that are cold traps and contain a fossil record of the early Solar System, it said. What makes Chandrayaan-2 special is that it is the first space mission to conduct a soft landing on the Moon's South Polar region. It is also the first Indian expedition to attempt soft landing on the lunar surface with home-grown technology. Other specialities of the mission are that it is the first to explore the lunar terrain with home-grown technology and India will be the fourth country ever to carry out soft landing on the lunar surface. Chandrayaan-2 will "boldly go where no country has ever gone before - the Moon's South Polar region", according to the ISRO. "Through this effort, the aim is to improve our understanding of the Moon - discoveries that will benefit India and humanity as a whole. These insights and experiences aim at a paradigm shift in how lunar expeditions are approached for years to come - propelling further voyages into the farthest frontiers. "Chandrayaan-2 attempts to foster a new age of discovery, increase our understanding of space, stimulate the advancement of technology, promote global alliances, and inspire a future generation of explorers and scientists," the space agency added. Chandrayaan-2 has several science payloads to expand the lunar scientific knowledge through detailed study of topography, seismography, mineral identification and distribution, surface chemical composition, thermo-physical characteristics of top soil and composition of the tenuous lunar atmosphere, leading to a new understanding of the origin and evolution of the Moon. "This mission will help us gain a better understanding of the origin and evolution of the Moon by conducting detailed topographical studies, comprehensive mineralogical analyses, and a host of other experiments on the lunar surface," the ISRO said. "While there, we will also explore discoveries made by Chandrayaan-1, such as the presence of water molecules on the Moon and new rock types with unique chemical composition. Through this mission, we aim to expand India's footprint in space, surpass international aspirations and inspire a future generation of scientists, engineers and explorers." About the scientific objectives of Chandrayaan-2 and reasons for exploring the Lunar South Pole, the ISRO says the Moon provides the best linkage to Earth's early history and offers an undisturbed historical record of the inner Solar system environment. "Though there are a few mature models, the origin of Moon still needs further explanations," the space agency said. "Extensive mapping of lunar surface to study variations in lunar surface composition is essential to trace back the origin and evolution of the Moon. Evidence for water molecules discovered by Chandrayaan-1, requires further studies on the extent of water molecule distribution on the surface, below the surface and in the tenuous lunar exosphere to address the origin of water on Moon." Sun, 14 Jul 2019 05:24:15 GMT NIA conducts raids at four places in Tamil Nadu New Delhi: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Saturday conducted raids in Chennai and Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu against members of the Ansarulla terrorist group that seeks to establish Islamic rule in India. The members of the group had conspired and conducted preparations to wage war against India by forming the terrorist gang Ansarulla, the NIA said in a statement. The members and their associates had collected funds and made preparations to carry out terrorist attacks in India, with the intention to establish Islamic rule in the country, it said. The raids were conducted against Syed Bukhari, a resident of Chennai; Hassan Ali Yunusmaricar, a native of Nagapattinam; Mohammed Yusuffudeen Harish Mohamed, a native of Nagapattinam and others. During searches at the house and office of Bukhari, Hassan Ali and Harish Mohammed, nine mobiles, 15 SIM cards, seven memory cards, three laptops, five hard discs, six pen drives, two tablets and three CDs/ DVDs, besides documents including magazines, banners, notices, posters and books were seized by the NIA. The three accused were being questioned by the investigation agency. The NIA registered cases against them on July 9 under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Sun, 14 Jul 2019 03:13:35 GMT Police head constable beaten to death in Rajasthan Jaipur: A police head constable was beaten to death in Rajasthan's Rajsamand district on Saturday, the police said. Abdul Gani, 48, who was posted at the Bhim Police Station, had gone to Hamela ki Ber village while investigating a case. "He was returning from the village on his motorcycle when some 4-5 unidentified persons attacked him with sticks," Superintendent of Police Bhuvan Bhushan said. He was rushed to a hospital in Bhim area where he succumbed to injuries, the officer said. Postmortem will be conducted on Sunday, he said, adding that efforts were being made to identify those involved. Sun, 14 Jul 2019 03:09:14 GMT Heavy rain and floods kill at least 10 in Assam and displace more than 1 million Guwahati: Heavy monsoon rains in Assam displaced more than a million people from their homes and flash floods killed at least 10 in the past 72 hours, state authorities said on Saturday, warning the situation could worsen in coming days. The Brahmaputra river has burst its banks, swamping more than 1,800 villages in the state. "10 people have died in separate incidents of drowning in the past three days and more than one million people (have been) affected, with the flood situation turning grave," a state government flood bulletin said. Torrential rains have affected at least 25 of Assam's 32 districts and the federal water resources body said water levels in the Brahmaputra were expected to rise, with more rains forecast over the next three days. "The flood situation remains extremely critical," Assam's Water Resources Minister Keshab Mahanta told Reuters. Assam has for several years battled floods and heavy rains that have claimed dozens of lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of people. Assam was on a maximum alert due to heavy rains forecast over the next few days, government officials said. People in the state were also at threat from Japanese encephalitis, a mosquito-borne viral infection, government officials said. More than 160 people have been killed since January by the infection. The government said it had met on Saturday to review flooding across different parts of the country, and emergency teams had rescued 750 people in Assam and nearby Bihar state, where the Kosi River had risen above the danger mark. Flash floods and landslides in Nepal also triggered by monsoon rains killed 15 people and injured 12 overnight. Sat, 13 Jul 2019 17:46:02 GMT TN cops sacrifice goats in bid to improve 'law and order' Coimbatore: In a bizarre incident, cops at a police station in Coimbatore district in Tamil Nadu performed a goat sacrifice in a bid to reduce the number of crime and accidents within the station limits. Two goats were sacrificed at the Kovilpalayam police station, which falls under the Karumathampatti division, around 4am on Wednesday. It is also alleged that mutton was cooked and served to the police personnel and certain political workers. Reportedly, some local people had ‘advised’ the cops to perform 'keda vettu' (goat sacrifice) and sprinkle the blood on the station premises to ward off the problems. A political party had donated the goats, it is said. The incidents of crime, including robbery, are common within the jurisdiction of the Kovilpalayam police station. At least one person gets killed in accident in the region in a week. Adding to the worries, former inspector Shekaran was arrested by the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption officers last year for taking bribe. Police constable Tirumoorthy had recently died of health issues. Two weeks ago three workers had died while cleaning the septic tank of a pig-breeding centre at Keeranatham, within the police station limits. District police superintendent Sujith Kumar has asked the Karumathampatti sub-division deputy police superintendent to submit a detailed report on the incident. Kovilpalayam is about 18 km from Coimbatore city. Sat, 13 Jul 2019 15:51:07 GMT No intrusion by Chinese soldiers in Ladakh's Demchok sector: Bipin Rawat New Delhi: Army chief General Bipin Rawat Saturday said there has been no intrusion by the Chinese in Ladakh's Demchok sector. "There is no intrusion," Rawat said on the sidelines of an event. His statement comes amidst reports of Chinese soldiers crossing the Line of Actual Control (LAC) last week after some Tibetans hoisted Tibetan flags on the occasion of Dalai Lama's birthday on July 6. The Army chief said both sides have different perspectives on the Line of Actual Control. "There are gaps in between. So both sides patrol and come into each other's areas. Chinese come and patrol to their perceived LAC which we try and prevent. We try and attempt to reach out to LAC or based on the limit of patrolling given to us, we visit those areas," he said. South Block sources had on Friday said some 11 Chinese in civilian clothes arrived in two vehicles when Ladakhi villagers were celebrating Dalai Lama's birthday on July 6. They then showed them banners and waited there for 30-40 minutes but did not cross the Line of Actual Control, they said. The Tibetans were celebrating the 84th birthday of the Dalai Lama. "At times, there are celebrations that take place at the local level. Celebrations were going on our side by our Tibetans in the Demchok sector. Based on that, some Chinese also came to see what was happening," General Rawat said. When asked whether the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers were present during the July 6 incident, he said security officials from both sides accompany civilians whenever they go the LAC. "...when the civilians go forward, obviously there will be PLA and when our civilians go to LAC, the ITBP (Indo-Tibetan Border Police) or the Army will accompany them. We are not going to allow the civilians to go the LAC without being monitored. So, both sides will monitor," he said. The matter was also raised in the flag meetings between the security officials of the two countries, the Army chief said. "Everything is normal. You need to dispel this myth that there has been any kind of intrusion or activity by the Chinese which is detrimental to our security," he said. "We have a very good working relationship with the Chinese. Anytime such things happen, we have the local commanders talking to each other. We are meeting regularly," the Army chief added. India and China share a disputed border and the armies of the two countries were engaged in a stand-off for 73 days in 2017 in Doklam. Sat, 13 Jul 2019 15:38:31 GMT Karnataka crisis: 5 more rebel Congress MLAs move SC against speaker New Delhi: Five more rebel Congress MLAs from Karnataka moved the Supreme Court on Saturday against the Assembly speaker not accepting their resignation. These MLAs are Anand Singh, K Sudhakar, N Nagaraj, Munirathna and Roshan Baig. They have sought impleadment in the already pending application filed by the 10 other rebels MLAs on which the hearing is scheduled for Tuesday. These 10 rebel MLAs of Congress- JD(S) coalition who moved the apex court earlier alleging that the speaker was not accepting their resignations were Pratap Gouda Patil, Ramesh Jarkiholi, Byrati Basavaraj, B C Patil, S T Somashekhar, Arbail Shivaram Hebbar, Mahesh Kumathalli, K Gopalaiah, A H Vishwanath and Narayana Gowda. Hearing their plea, the Supreme Court had on Friday restrained Karnataka Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar from taking any decision till Tuesday on the resignation and disqualification of these 10 MLAs. Citing "weighty issues that have arisen", the apex court said it will consider the matter on July 16 and ordered that the status quo as of Friday should be maintained. The resignation of these MLAs has plunged the H D Kumaraswamy government in Karnataka into a crisis as it faces the risk losing majority in the Assembly. Apart from the question of maintainability of the writ petition filed under Article 32 of the Constitution by the MLAs, the apex court had said it needs to address as to whether the speaker is obligated to decide on disqualification proceedings before accepting the resignations of MLAs. The counsel for the rebels MLAs had contended that the speaker has not decided on the resignations of the lawmakers to bind them with the party whip and disqualify them from the membership if they violate the whip on the floor of the House. Sun, 14 Jul 2019 02:37:09 GMT Man, son held for raping teen relative in Maharashtra Palghar: A 55-year-old man and his 19-year-old son were arrested Saturday for allegedly raping and making pregnant their 17-year-old relative in Vasai in Palghar district of Maharashtra, police said. According to police, the victim girl has been staying with the accused, a resident of Jambulpada, because her father is an alcoholic. The accused allegedly sexually assaulted the girl, a student of class 8, between January and June this year, a Valiv police station official said. The accused have been booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for rape, molestation and under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, he added. Sat, 13 Jul 2019 11:46:02 GMT Induction of Cong MLAs is death of Parrikar's legacy: sacked Goa deputy CM Panaji: Outgoing deputy chief minister of Goa, Vijai Sardesai, Saturday said the induction of ten MLAs of the Congress into the BJP was the "death of the legacy" of late Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar - the tallest saffron leader in the coastal state credited for forming the coalition government in 2017 by bringing together regional parties. The Congress in Goa suffered a body blow Wednesday when 10 of its 15 MLAs switched over to the BJP, a development that raised the ruling stock in the 40-member House to 27. Subsequently, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant dropped four ministers - three of the Goa Forward Party (GFP), including Sardesai, and one Independent - from his cabinet. "Parrikar died twice...once on March 17 physically while today it is the death of his political legacy," Sardesai told a gathering held near Parrikar memorial at Miramar. Meanwhile, Sardesai also announced that the Goa Forward Party (GFP) was "withdrawing" its support to the BJP- led government. He alleged that the ruling government wanted to finish Parrikar's legacy, which won't be allowed. "We supported the Pramod Sawant government because I had given my word to Parrikar that the support to the government will continue in any circumstances. We now feel cheated and ditched by the NDA," he said. Sardesai reiterated that he had not received any communication from Central leaders of the BJP. "The central leadership of the BJP has lost its face. The NDA has ditched their partners," he said. Sat, 13 Jul 2019 11:34:31 GMT First LGBTI job fair in India held at Bengaluru Bengaluru: An LGBTI job fair, billed by organisers as the first such event in India, attracted more than 250 people on Friday looking for employment with companies including Intel, Goldman Sachs and Uber. The event in Bengaluru comes after the Supreme Court overruled a law banning homosexuality in 2018, which the organisers said now enables companies to freely hire people who have been marginalised for years. Many Indians who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI) still face stigma and violence. But the 2018 ruling has helped some in the LGBTI community come out and it now forces companies to be more inclusive, said Srini Ramaswamy, co-founder of Bengaluru-based consultancy Pride Circle, which organised the job fair. "Now these companies are not going to give an excuse that it is against the law," Ramaswamy said. "If you're not being inclusive, it indirectly means you're being homophobic." Western companies including Goldman Sachs, PayPal, Lowe's, JP Morgan, Deutsche Bank, Accenture and American Express took part in the event, with more than 250 jobs on offer. A total of 350 candidates had registered for the event which offered roles ranging from experienced positions to entry-level and support-staff, Ramaswamy said. Software engineer Arun Gnanavignesh said he had felt ostracised by fellow workers when they learned he was gay. "Colleagues who were really close to me suddenly stopped calling me for movies or to their homes ... I was really hurt," said Gnanavignesh, 22, who has since resigned from that job. The turnout at the fair was relatively thin, partly because many still fear stigma, and several of the those people Reuters spoke with asked not to be identified. Uber, which had a booth and was looking to recruit people at the job fair, changed all its route maps in Bengaluru to rainbow colours on Friday in a show of support. "We are committed to creating an environment that works for everyone," Vishpala Reddy, Uber's regional human resources director, said in an email. "We also want dignity. Am I not qualified enough to work in an office? Of course I am," Mala Bai, 27, a transgender law student, who applied for jobs at JP Morgan and Accenture, said. Sat, 13 Jul 2019 07:21:04 GMT 4 madrasa students in UP thrashed for not chanting 'Jai Shri Ram' Unnao, UP: Four students of a madrasa were allegedly thrashed by some persons for not chanting "Jai Shri Ram" in Uttar Pradesh's Unnao, police said Friday. The incident allegedly took place at the playground of Government Inter College in the Civil Lines area here Thursday, resulting in injuries to the madrasa students. The students of Dar-ul-Uloom Faiz-e-Aam were playing cricket, when the accused allegedly beat them up with bats and sticks. Unnao SP Madhav Prasad Verma said the incident took place during a cricket match. An FIR had been registered against four persons, he said, adding that two of them had been detained. He, however, said in the initial probe it had come out that the madrasa students were not forced to chant "Jai Shri Ram". We are probing the matter and situation is under control, the SP added. The FIR was registered on the complaint of madrasa operator Nisar Ahmad against four persons under IPC Sections 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 352 (assault or criminal force), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace) and 506 (criminal intimidation), he said. In the FIR, the complainant alleged that the students were thrashed as they did not chant "Jai Shri Ram". Some BJP leaders reached the police station in support of the accused later. Sat, 13 Jul 2019 05:09:25 GMT 3 former Congress MLAs among 4 sworn in as ministers in Goa Panaji: Days after 10 Congress MLAs in Goa joined the BJP, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant Saturday reshuffled his cabinet, dropping three members of ally Goa Forward Party (GFP) and an Independent legislator as ministers. Michael Lobo, who resigned as the deputy speaker of Goa Legislative Assembly, and three of the 10 MLAs who had earlier this week joined the BJP - Chandrakant Kavlekar, Jeniffer Monserratte, Philip Neri Rodrigues - were sworn in as new ministers. Goa Governor Mridula Sinha administered the oath of office and secrecy to the new ministers at a ceremony held at Raj Bhavan in the afternoon. Prior to the swearing-in, the chief minister issued a notification, dropping all three Goa Forward Party (GFP) ministers - Deputy Chief Minister Vijai Sardesai, Water Resources Minister Vinod Palyekar, Rural Development Minister Jayesh Salgaonkar - and Independent MLA and Revenue Minister Rohan Khaunte from the cabinet to accommodate the new members. Ten Congress MLAs had Wednesday joined the BJP, increasing the strength of the party to 27 in the 40-member House. Strengthened by their support, Sawant decided to drop the GFP, a regional party that was instrumental in forming the Manohar Parrikar-led government in 2017. This is the second cabinet reshuffle by Sawant since he took over as the chief minister three months ago. Sat, 13 Jul 2019 11:14:55 GMT Marine fish catch falls by 9 per cent, reveals national data Kochi: India's marine fish production recorded a nine per cent decline in 2018 with the data of annual marine fish landings released here Friday showing a sharp drop in oil sardine catch. The catch of oil sardine from the Indian coasts suffered a sharp fall of 54 per cent and fish fell to 9th position from the first spot, according to India's marine fish landing estimates for 2018. The total marine fish production in 2018 recorded 3.49 million tonnes with a drop of 3.47 lakh tonnes (9 per cent) compared to the previous year, the data said. This was mainly due to reduced catch in West Bengal, Karnataka and Maharashtra with a drop of 2.01 lakh tonnes, 0.95 lakh tonnes and 0.86 lakh tonnes respectively, said the data released by the Kochi-headquartered Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) at a press conference here. Also, the date showed Indian mackerel (2.84 lakh tonnes) is the most landed marine fish in the country during the year followed by cephalopods (2.21 lakh tonnes), non-penaeid prawns (1.94 lakh tonnes), ribbon fish (1.94 lakh tonnes) and penaeid prawns (1.84 lakh tonnes). The catch of sardine dropped to 1.55 lakh tonnes all over the country from 3.37 lakh tonnes in 2017. While a steep fall was recorded in West Bengal, Karnataka and Maharashtra among the nine maritime states, Gujarat remained in the first position in the landings with 7.80 lakh tonnes followed by Tamil Nadu (7.02 lakh tonnes) and Kerala (6.43 lakh tonnes). Unusually, the huge catch of red toothed trigger fish (about 72,000 tonnes) was another highlight of the estimates, with Karnataka recording high landings of this species. The estimate of the value of marine fish landings based on price at landing centres across the country during 2018 was Rs 52,632 crores, with 0.4 per cent increase over 2017. The average price per kg of fish at landing centre rate was Rs 152 (11.1 per cent increase). At the retail-level, the estimated value of marine fish was Rs 80,320 crore (2.4 per cent increase). The unit price at the retail market level was Rs 232 (13.4 per cent increase). The fishery resources assessment division of the ICAR- CMFRI estimated the annual marine fish landings of the country through its online data collection system. Fri, 12 Jul 2019 14:12:43 GMT DGCA finds safety lapses by IndiGo, issues notices to 4 executives New Delhi: Four senior executives of IndiGo airline were issued show cause notices Friday by the DGCA after a special audit team of the aviation regulator found safety lapses, according to sources privy to the development. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) carried out the audit at the IndiGo office in Gurgaon on July 8 and July 9, the sources said. "Captain Sanjiv Bhalla, Head of Training; Captain Hemant Kumar, Chief of Flight Safety; Captain Ashim Mitra, Senior Vice President - Operations; Captain Rakesh Srivastava, QA (Quality Assurance) and Ops Safety - these four executives of IndiGo have been issued show cause notices today," a source told PTI. The DGCA is conducting special audit of all airlines and airports which are in monsoon-affected areas in the wake of multiple landing incidents across the country. Fri, 12 Jul 2019 13:28:07 GMT Priest denies solemnising BJP MLA daughter's marriage to Dalit boy Bareilly: The controversy over BJP MLAs daughter Sakshi's marriage to a Dalit youth Ajitesh Kumar has apparently taken a new turn with the priest of the Ram Janki temple denying that he had solemnized the marriage. The marriage certificate posted by the couple on the social media shows that the marriage was solemnized at the famous Ram Janki temple in Prayagraj on July 4. In an interview to a news channel, the chief priest of the temple, Mahant Parshuram Singh, denied that he had solemnized the marriage and alleged that the certificate was fake. Sources close to the couple said that the priest was under pressure to deny the marriage. Meanwhile, the Allahabad High Court has fixed July 15 for hearing of a petition filed by the couple who went into hiding, fearing threat to their lives form the BJP MLA Rajsh Misra and his henchmen. Harish Kumar, father of Ajitesh Kumar, said that he had no knowledge of the whereabouts of the couple and added that he and his family have also left Bareilly, fearing a threat to their lives. He said that his son Ajitesh had sent him the video clip on basis of which he had informed the police that the couple faced a threat to their lives. "Ajitesh and Sakshi have not got in touch with me after that and I am apprehensive about their safety," he added. Special Superintendent of Police Bareilly Muniraj said that he did not know the location of the couple but if they informed him about their whereabouts, he would provide security to them. BJP MLA Rajesh Misra on Thursday said that his daughter was an adult and free to take her own decisions. He denied having threatened her with dire consequences. He said he was concerned about the age difference between the husband and wife and also the boy not having any proper employment. The BJP, meanwhile, has chosen to remain tight-lipped on the raging controversy. Fri, 12 Jul 2019 10:11:55 GMT 'Super 30' fame educationist Anand Kumar battles brain tumour Patna: Patna-based educationist and founder of the 'Super 30' programme Anand Kumar recently revealed that he is suffering from brain tumour. Kumar, whose life is the subject of the new Hrithik Roshan-starrer "Super 30", has opened up about his battle with acoustic neuroma, a non-cancerous tumour. In an interview with a wire agency, Kumar said that trouble began in 2014, when he was "unable to hear" in his right ear. Tests revealed nearly 90 per cent of his hearing ability in the ear had been destroyed. Kumar then got himself checked at Delhi's Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital. "They told me I had no issues with my ear. Instead a tumour had developed in the nerve that runs from ear to brain," he recalled. Due to his health conditions, Kumar, who is currently on medication, wanted his biopic to be completed as soon as possible. Kumar recalled that the film's writers requested him to give permission to start work on the project as soon as possible. "You have no idea of life and death, so I wanted this biopic to be made while I was alive," he added. Talking about the film, he had earlier said: "Hrithik is a huge star and has a global reach. So, I believe people will get to know the essence of my life in detail now." "Super 30" releases on Friday. Fri, 12 Jul 2019 08:23:47 GMT Diplomat, author Vikas Swarup appointed Secretary of Overseas Indian Affairs New Delhi: Senior diplomat and writer Vikas Swarup has been appointed as Secretary, Overseas Indian Affairs, according to an order issued by the Personnel Ministry on Friday. Swarup, a 1986-batch officer of the Indian Foreign Service, is at present India's High Commissioner in Ottawa. He has been previously posted in countries including Turkey, United States, Ethiopia, United Kingdom and South Africa. He has been appointed as the Secretary, (consular, passport, visa and Overseas Indian affairs) in the External Affairs Ministry with effect from August 1, 2019, the order said. Swarup is also known for his popular pieces in fiction such as Q & A, Six Suspects and The Accidental Apprentice. His first novel Q & A was adapted into the Oscar winning movie 'Slumdog Millionaire'. He has regularly contributed articles to TIME, The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Financial Times and other internationally acclaimed publications. (With inputs from PTI.) Fri, 12 Jul 2019 06:09:27 GMT Why Karnataka speaker could use anti-defection law against rebel MLAs Political defections in Karnataka today are a continuation of the national malady that called for an anti-defection law in the country in 1984, says Karnataka Assembly Speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar. Karnataka has been in a political crisis for over a week after 14 rebel MLAs from the JD(S)-Congress combine resigned and two independent MLAs withdrew support to the coalition, reducing the government to a minority. But the coalition sure got a breather on Thursday as the speaker indicated that the mass resignations will now have to pass the anti-defection test. The rebel MLAs, who petitioned the Supreme Court against the speaker, alleged delay in accepting the resignations to favour the ruling coalition. But on the eve of the Monsoon Session of the Karnataka legislature, the state witnessed the high drama. Ten of the rebel MLAs equipped with the Supreme Court order flew in from Mumbai on a special flight to meet the speaker at his office. The MLAs submitted their resignations afresh in the prescribed format, as the earlier ones were held back citing flawed format. But all they got was only an audience with the speaker but no respite. The rebels now face the risk of disqualification under the anti-defection law, as Congress Legislature Party leader Siddaramaiah had issued a whip to all members, making their presence in the House mandatory all through the session that begins on Friday (July 12) till July 26. The rebels who flew back to Mumbai are in a fix. The MLAs who resigned are still the members of the Congress party as their resignations have not been accepted. And skipping the session or violating the whip might attract disqualification, argue Congress leaders. The Congress has sought disqualification of 10 rebel MLAs while exempting Ramalinga Reddy, M.T.B. Nagaraju and Dr K. Sudhakar. The Karnataka stalemate continues as the speaker insists he is a stickler for rules. Kumar, who was upset at being targeted by the rebels and the critics, hit back, saying he was only going by the rulebook. "Should MLAs go to the Supreme Court to meet me? Even the SC should have thought about it. Who stopped them from meeting me? Instead, they sat in Mumbai and went to Supreme Court and you accuse me of delay," said the speaker. Recalling the sequence of events that led to the deadlock, Kumar said, "On July 6, I was in my chamber till 1.30pm. The MLAs came there at 2pm and didn't even take prior appointment. So, it's untrue that I ran away because they were coming. On Monday, I scrutinised the resignations based on Rule 202 of the Karnataka Assembly Rules and Procedures. Unfortunately, eight of the 12 letters were not according to the prescribed format. They were informed to submit the resignations in the right format. Now, I am obliged to look at whether the resignations are voluntary and genuine.” "I am no astrologer to predict how long the scrutiny of the resignations takes. In fact, many states have these resignations and disqualification proceedings have taken years. I am going by the rulebook and have given them appointments to meet me in person," adds Kumar. The speaker also hinted that he had every reason to believe it was not a case of resignation but defection. "The MLAs don't communicate to me and rush to the governor. What can he do? Is it not misusing the noble functionary of the nation? They approached the Supreme Court, come here under police protection. I have to think over this all night and take a decision and see whether this is voluntary and genuine. They are flying in and out in special flights. They have the means to do it," he observed. "I am delaying because I love this land. I am not acting in haste. My obligation is to the people of this state and Constitution of this republic," said the speaker, who also recalled how several governments had been felled by political defections in the country. The speaker informed that the Supreme Court had asked him to take a decision. "I have videographed the entire procedure and I will send it to the Supreme Court," he said. On the disqualification petition by the Congress against Ramesh Jarkiholi and Mahesh Kumathahalli, the speaker said, "If the member is disqualified, he cannot enter the House for the rest of the term of the House. So, to be fair, I cannot hurriedly decide on this. I am in a fix, I want to go by my conscience." The BJP which is in a wait-and-watch mode is hoping the Supreme Court's hearing on Friday would help break the deadlock. The BJP leaders feel the speaker has dishonoured the Supreme Court direction by not taking a decision on the resignations. "The Speaker should have given a time limit within which he would make the decision. He has also misinterpreted the anti-defection law as he is equating it to resignations. Every legislator has the right to resign," said MLC N. Ravikumar. (This story first appeared in The Week) Fri, 12 Jul 2019 05:57:45 GMT Special water train reaches Chennai Chennai: A special 50 wagon train carrying water from Tamil Nadu's Vellore district reached Chennai on Friday afternoon, a Southern Railway official said. According to the official, each wagon carried 50,000 litres of water. The total water carried was 25 lakh litres. Technicians in the railway station at Jolarpettai, located over 135 miles (217 km) from Chennai, worked from early on Thursday to fill fifty wagons with 50,000 litres of water each. The train was flagged off from the Jolarpettai station in the morning. The unusual water train will provide much needed relief to the carmaking centre dubbed "India's Detroit." The shortage has forced some schools to shut, companies to ask employees to work from home, and hotels to ration water for guests. Earlier, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami had announced the state government's plans to transport 10 million litres of water daily by rail from Jolarpettai to meet the needs of parched Chennai. He said a sum of Rs 65 crore had been allocated for this purpose. Currently the Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (Chennai Metro Water) is supplying about 525 million litres per day (MLD) in the state capital. The water from Jolarpettai will augment the existing supply. While the Cholavaram (full capacity 1,081 mcft) and Redhills (full capacity 3,300 mcft) reservoirs and Chembarambakkam lake (full capacity 3,645 mcft) that supply water to Chennai have run dry, 16 mcft water is left in the Poondi reservoir (against a full capacity of 3,231 mcft), according to the Chennai Metro Water. Bad water management and lack of rainfall mean all four reservoirs that supply Chennai have run virtually dry this summer. Other Indian cities, including the capital New Delhi and technology hub Bengaluru, are also grappling with water shortages. The train was supposed to reach Chennai on Thursday, but leakages in valves connecting the tank to the railway station forced authorities to push back plans by a day, officials at the railway station said. People living on the outskirts are blocking roads and laying siege to tanker lorries because they fear their water reserves are being sacrificed so city dwellers, businesses and luxury hotels do not run out. Ground water levels in Chennai and in regions around the city have been falling due to lack of rainfall. Like many Indian cities, Chennai's growth over the past 20 years has been rapid and haphazard. Fri, 12 Jul 2019 09:28:00 GMT Govt considers farmers 'inferior' to rich businessmen: Rahul in Lok Sabha New Delhi: Attacking the Modi government over the "suffering" of farmers, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said it has given them no relief and wondered if it considered them "inferior" to businessmen who have been given concessions and loan waivers running into lakhs of crores. Union minister Rajnath Singh countered Gandhi's charge in Lok Sabha, as he blamed the long rule of the Congress for the plight of farmers and asserted that no prime minister has done as much for peasants as has Narendra Modi. Taking up the issue in the Zero Hour, Gandhi in his brief maiden speech in the 17th Lok Sabha mostly focused on Kerala and made specific mention of problems facing farmers in Wayanad, from where he has been elected to Lok Sabha. No relief has been given to farmers by the government, he said, claiming that businessmen have been granted tax concessions of Rs 4.3 lakh crore and waivers of Rs 5.5 lakh crore. He asked why the government thinks farmers are "inferior" to rich businessmen. In his reply, Singh said the government's move to give Rs 6,000 to farmers annually will lead to a rise in their income by 20-25 per cent and claimed that more farmers committed suicide before the BJP-led dispensation came to power. "It is not that the condition of farmers deteriorated in the last one, two or four years. Those who ruled the country for a long time are responsible for their state. The amount of increase in MSP (minimum support price) that our prime minister has effected has not been done by anybody in independent India's history," he claimed. Gandhi said farmers are suffering throughout the country and are in terrible condition in Kerala. One farmer ended his life in Wayanad on Wednesday due to crushing debt, he added. Farmers have been facing threats of immediate eviction from their properties, he said, as banks from which they had taken loans have have pressing them hard for recovering their due. In Wayanad alone, bank notices for non-payment have been given to almost 8,000 farmers and they are facing the threat of immediate eviction under certain Acts, the Congress MP said. Their properties are attached against their bank loans. This is resulting in a spate of farmer suicides, he said, adding that 18 farmers in Kerala have committed suicide due to this. "The Kerala government has announced moratorium on repayment of farm loans for all Kerala farmers till December 31. The government of India is refusing to direct the RBI to consider this moratorium and get it implemented. In the last five years, the BJP government gave Rs 4.3 lakh crore in tax concession and waived Rs 5.5 lakh crore for rich businessmen. Why is this shameful double standard," he asked "Why does the government act as if our farmers are inferior to the rich? I was sad to see that no concrete step was taken in this budget to provide relief to the farmers," he added. Gandhi said Modi made certain commitments five years ago to the farmers on prices and on farm loans among other issues and added that a terrible situation for the farmers exist in this country. He requested the Union government to fulfil these promises. As soon as Gandhi finished his speech, other Congress leaders wanted to raise the issue of desertions of MLAs from their party's ranks in Karnataka and Goa, for which they have blamed the BJP. With the Speaker not permitting them to speak on the matter, they staged a walkout and were joined by other opposition parties such as the TMC and the BSP. Fri, 12 Jul 2019 05:11:50 GMT Extensive repair work on Taj Mahal minar begins Agra: The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has begun extensive repair work on one of the four minarets of the iconic 17th-century monument of love, the Taj Mahal. The ASI has undertaken the exercise after reports of damage and cracks in the stones and rusting of iron clamps. ASI chief in Agra, Vasant Swarnakar told IANS that this was a "special exercise" and not a routine one. Soon scaffolding would soon be erected and the area fenced to keep visitors at a safe distance. Officials said this repair work to replace damaged stones and fix lining in black stones that had peeled off was being undertaken after almost 90 years. Around two dozen marble slabs of the stairs would be replaced. The dome of the main mausoleum will also be given mud pack treatment to contain "discolouration" and cleanse the yellow stains. This "beauty parlour treatment" is now a regular feature, to ensure the world heritage monument appeared sparkling white. Meanwhile, the greenish patches on the white marble stones at the rear, towards the Yamuna, have appeared again as bacterial colonies have developed in the highly polluted water of the river. Tiny insects identified as Goeldichironomus, feeding on pollutants, leave their poo on the surface, giving a green look, according to experts. Fri, 12 Jul 2019 04:03:51 GMT Karnataka crisis: CM Kumaraswamy to seek trust vote New Delhi: Karnataka CM H D Kumaraswamy on Friday said he would seek a trust vote and asked Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar to fix the time for it as the monsoon session of the legislature began here. The embattled JD(S) leader also said he was ready for everything and that he was not here to cling to power. Kumaraswamy made the plea seeking the trust vote in the Assembly, which met here amid a flurry of political developments that have pushed his already wobbly government on the brink of collapse. Resort politics returns It's resort politics time again as all three key players have herded their MLAs in luxury stays to keep their flock intact amid the continuing imbroglio triggered by the legislators' resignation saga. The JDS has chosen the serene surroundings of Nandi Hill on the city outskirts while its partner Congress opted for a star hotel in Bengaluru, sources in the parties said. The MLAs of the BJP are staying in the cozy comforts of a resort near Yelahanka. While several rebel MLAs have been staying in a Mumbai hotel since their resignations last Saturday, the Congress and JDS are apparently keen to avoid any further erosion in their strength. SC asks Speaker to maintain status quo The Supreme Court asked the Karnataka Assembly speaker on Friday to maintain status quo on the resignation and disqualification of 10 rebel Congress and JD(S) MLAs. A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi posted the matter pertaining to the Karnataka political crisis for further hearing on July 16. The bench, also comprising justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose, specifically mentioned in the order that Karnataka Assembly Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar would neither decide the issue of resignation nor that of the disqualification of the rebel MLAs to enable the court to decide the larger issues raised during the hearing of the matter. The bench noted in its order that the issue of maintainability of the rebel MLAs' petition under Article 32 of the Constitution was raised by the speaker and Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy. Further, the bench noted that senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the rebel MLAs, had countered the speaker's submission that the disqualification plea of the ruling coalition in the southern state had to be decided before taking up the issue of resignation of the lawmakers. The bench said taking all these aspects and the incomplete facts before it into consideration, there was a need for further hearing. "In view of the weighty issue that have arisen, we are of the view that the matter be considered by us on Tuesday. We are of the view that the status quo as of today with regard to the prevailing situation be maintained. Neither the issue of resignation nor that of disqualification be decided till Tuesday," the bench said. Blame game in Supreme Court Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy alleged in the SC that the top court's order on the resignations of the rebel Congress-JD(S) MLAs was passed without issuing a notice to the state Assembly speaker. Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for Kumaraswamy, told a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi that the pleas of the MLAs should not have been entertained. He further said the MLAs, in their plea, had levelled corruption allegations against the state government and still the order concerned was passed without hearing him. Dhavan also told the bench that one of the rebel MLAs was involved in a Ponzy scheme for which "we (state government) are being accused of". He said the speaker had the responsibility to satisfy himself as regards whether the resignations were voluntary. Dhavan also said when the apex court order was passed without hearing the other side, what could the speaker do in such a situation. Senior advocate AM Singhvi, appearing for Karnataka Assembly Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar, told the bench that his client was not served the copy of the petition and the plea was controverted by the rebel legislators. He also said disqualification proceedings had been filed against eight of the rebel MLAs. "The speaker is duty-bound and empowered to decide on disqualification of MLAs first," Singhvi told the bench. At the outset, the bench had asked him whether the speaker had the power to challenge its order, while hearing a plea moved by Kumar against the top court order asking him to take a decision on the resignations of 10 rebel MLAs on Thursday. Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the MLAs, said the speaker could be given one or two days to decide on the resignations and if he did not take a decision on the matter within that time-frame, a contempt notice could be issued against him. Rohatgi said the speaker had questioned the move of the rebel MLAs to approach the apex court and asked them to "go to hell" in front of the media. "The idea behind keeping the resignation issue alive and pending is to bind the MLAs to the party whip," he submitted. The lawmakers also told the bench that the speaker had not taken any decision on their resignations, adding that he had no immunity with regard to the acceptance of the papers. However, Singhvi said the speaker was constitutionally obligated to decide on a plea for disqualification of the rebel MLAs. "The speaker is a very senior member of the Assembly. He knows constitutional law. He cannot be maligned, lampooned like this," he told the bench. SC asks if speaker has power to challenge its order The SC also asked whether the Speaker had the power to challenge its order, while hearing his plea against the top court order asking him to take a decision on the resignation of 10 rebel MLAs on Thursday. A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi was hearing a bunch of pleas moved by the speaker and the rebel Congress and JD(S) MLAs. The MLAs told the bench on Friday that the speaker had not taken any decision on their decision to step down, adding that he had no immunity with regard to the acceptance of the resignations. However, the counsel appearing for the Karnataka Assembly speaker said he was constitutionally obligated to decide on a plea for disqualification of the rebel MLAs. The Kumaraswamy-led Congress-JD(S) coalition government is on a sticky wicket following resignation of 16 of its MLAs. The BJP has even petitioned Governor Vajubhai Vala seeking his intervention. With 16 resignations yet to be accepted, all eyes are now on the Speaker, who has said he will take a decision only after examining whether they are "voluntary and genuine." The apex court had asked the Speaker to decide "forthwith" about the resignation of 10 rebel MLAs, allowing them to meet him at 6 pm on Thursday. Of the 16 MLAs who have resigned, 13 are from the Congress and three from the JD(S). The coalition's strength in the House is 116 (Congress 78, JD(S) 37 and BSP one), besides the speaker. With the support of the two independents, who resigned from the ministry on Monday, the opposition BJP has 107 MLAs in the 224-member House, where the halfway mark is 113. If the resignations of the 16 MLAs are accepted, the ruling coalition's tally will be reduced to 100. (With inputs from PTI.) Fri, 12 Jul 2019 17:34:42 GMT Goa CM meets Shah, 10 Cong MLAs formally join BJP New Delhi: Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant held deliberations with BJP president Amit Shah and other senior leaders on Thursday over the likely reshuffle of his Cabinet as 10 Congress MLAs formally took the saffron party's membership here. The 10 MLAs had crossed over to the BJP on Wednesday. Sawant arrived in the national capital with these MLAs and met Shah and BJP working president J P Nadda. There was no official word over what transpired in his meeting with the top party brass but sources said a Cabinet reshuffle in Goa is likely with the induction of the 10 MLAs. Sawant will have to drop current ministers, many of whom are BJP allies whose support was crucial to his government's survival, to accommodate the defectors from the Congress. With its numbers in the 40-member assembly swelling to 27, the BJP is no longer dependent on its allies, including Goa Forward party and Independents. With the Congress accusing the BJP of "murder of democracy" over its MLAs' switchover, the Goa chief minister asserted that they have joined his party "willingly" and "unconditionally". They want to push development work in the state, he said. Chandrakant Kavlekar, who was the leader of the opposition in the assembly before he spearheaded a coup in his own party and joined the BJP along with nine other MLAs, told reporters that they wanted development work in their constituencies. It was not possible if they were in the opposition, he claimed. He also cited the "struggle" in the Congress, an apparent hit at the party's leadership crisis after its president Rahul Gandhi resigned following its rout in the recent Lok Sabha polls, and wondered how long they could have continued in such conditions. He also praised policies of the state and central governments, saying they had made a good impact. After the 2017 assembly polls, a hung assembly had emerged, with Congress winning 17 and BJP 13 seats. But the BJP outsmarted the Congress by cobbling together a coalition quickly. With steady erosion from its ranks, the Congress's strength is now only five. No clarity on allies' fate The induction of ten Congress MLAs into the BJP in Goa has put a question mark on the fate of the saffron party's allies, with Chief Minister Pramod Sawant saying that no decision has been taken about them yet. With the BJP's strength in the 40-member Goa Assembly increasing to 27 with two-thirds of Congress legislators joining it, the Sawant government does not need allies' support any longer. Sawant, who is in the national capital along with the ten MLAs, met party president Amit Shah Thursday. “We have not taken any decision on coalition partners. We will take the decision when we return to Goa," Sawant told PTI over phone from Delhi. It is believed that Sawant and Shah discussed cabinet reshuffle. Sawant will have to drop some of the current ministers to accommodate the defectors from the Congress. Three MLAs of the Goa Forward Party (GFP) and as many independents are part of the BJP-led coalition in the coastal state. All three MLAs of GFP including its chief Vijai Sardesai and independents Rohan Khaunte and Govind Gawade are part of Sawant's cabinet. The 2017 assembly polls threw up a hung assembly with Congress emerging as the single largest party with 17 MLAs. However, a quick-footed BJP, with 13 MLAs, managed to form government with the help of GFP, Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and independents. In March this year, two of the three MGP MLAs joined the BJP, while senior MGP leader Sudin Dhavalikar, then deputy chief minister, was dropped from the cabinet. Sardesai, who is deputy chief minister, said Thursday that his party remained "steadfast with this government in good and bad times". Thu, 11 Jul 2019 15:51:37 GMT Indrani Mukerjea turns approver in INX Media case New Delhi: Jailed-media baron Indrani Mukerjea Thursday turned approver in the INX Media corruption case in which former Union minister P Chidambaram and his son Karti are accused. Mukerjea, who was granted pardon in the case by the court on July 4, appeared before special judge Arun Bhardwaj and accepted the conditions put on her. She told the court that she will record the statements "truthfully with all the facts". "I am aware that the court has allowed the application and granted me pardon, subject to the conditions as mentioned in the order, Indrani told the court. In case of giving false evidence and not complying with the condition, she would be tried for the offence, the court had said in its order granting her pardon. She is currently lodged in Byculla jail, Mumbai, in her daughter Sheena Bora's murder case. Her husband Peter Mukerjea, the company's founder, is also in jail in the same case. They are facing trial for allegedly conspiring to kill Bora, Indrani's daughter from an earlier relationship, in April 2012. The judge pardoned Indrani Mukerjea, also accused in the INX case, after she submitted that she voluntarily agreed to become the approver. Their names had cropped up in the case involving Rs 305 crore relating to Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) approval granted in 2007 for receipt of funds by INX Media. Responding to the application, the CBI had earlier told the court that the agency had come across evidence, in the form of conversations, to which only Indrani Mukerjee is privy and will help consolidate the case. Karti Chidambaram, elected MP from Shivaganga, Tamil Nadu, is on bail in the case. The former Union minister's anticipatory bail plea is however pending before the Delhi High Court. CBI had registered an FIR in the case on May 15, 2017 alleging irregularities in the FIPB clearance granted to the media group for receiving overseas funds to the tune of Rs 305 crore in 2007 during P Chidambaram's tenure as finance minister. Thereafter, ED also lodged the money laundering case against the company's founders, the Mukerjeas, and others under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). Thu, 11 Jul 2019 15:45:53 GMT Anantnag terror strike: 3 overground workers of Jaish-e-Mohammed arrested Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir Police achieved a breakthrough in the June 12 attack in Anantnag by arresting three overground workers of banned Jaish-e-Mohammed who provided shelter to a Pakistani terrorist who carried out the strike in which six people including station house officer Arshad Ahmed Khan were killed, officials said on Thursday. After the incident, crack teams were formed under the command of Senior Superintendent of Police Altaf Khan, who carried out investigation into the attack at busy KP road in Anantnag, they said. The investigation led them to three youths - Amir, Kaisar and Irfan - who were allegedly working as overground workers for the terror group, they said. The Pakistani militant was kept in the house of one of these three youths for nearly four days during which he was taken around the Anantnag town for scouting for potential targets for carrying out the terror strike. The trio, during their interrogation, told the police that the terrorist was brought by local Jaish commander Fayaz Punzoo. On June 12, the Pakistani terrorist carried out the strike killing five CRPF personnel on the spot besides injuring station house officer Khan, who succumbed to his injuries four days later. Khan had reached the spot within four minutes after the strike and was injured after he was hit by a bullet near his waist. Recently, Home Minister Amit Shah, during his maiden official trip to the Kashmir valley, had visited the residence of Khan and expressed his condolences to the family. Shah had termed Khan as a brave son of the country and also handed over a letter of employment to the wife of the police officer. Thu, 11 Jul 2019 15:42:47 GMT