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Over 2.5 million affected due to floods in Bihar

The flood situation in Bihar continued to remain grim on Tuesday with over 2.5 million people affected by it across the 12 districts of the state, officials said.
A road destroyed by flood waters in Katra block of Muzaffarpur, Bihar on July 15, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
A road destroyed by flood waters in Katra block of Muzaffarpur, Bihar on July 15, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
The flood situation in Bihar continued to remain grim on Tuesday with over 2.5 million people affected by it across the 12 districts of the state, officials said.
 
In the last 24 hours, all the major rivers were flowing above the danger level, leading to embankment breaches. 
 
There were reports of fresh floods in three new districts of Saharsa, Katihar and Purnea.
 
Dozens of villages have been inundated that have forced people to flee their homes and seek shelter at safer places, a disaster management official said.
 
In the worst-hit Sitamarhi and Araria districts, roads have also been damaged.
 
The floods were caused by heavy rain in north Bihar and the catchment areas of major rivers in neighbouring Nepal.
 
However, Water Resources Department officials said the water level in rivers originating in Nepal was likely to decrease as rain in those areas have stopped.
 
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar carried out an aerial survey of the affected Seemanchal and Koshi region on Sunday and Monday. He will inform the Bihar Assembly on Tuesday about the situation.
 
To date, 196 relief camps have been set up in the affected areas, with 644 community kitchens providing food to the displaced people.
 
The Disaster Management Department said relief and rescue operations were continuing in the flood-affected areas. 
 
A total of 26 companies of the National Disaster Response Force, State Disaster Response Force and Seema Sashatra Bal have been deployed to carry out the operations.
 
IANS

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JD (U)-led "grand alliance" heads for handsome win in Bihar Assembly elections

The "grand alliance" led by the ruling Janata Dal (United), which includes the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress, was headed for a handsome victory on Sunday as counting of votes progressed in the crucial and bitterly-contested elections to the 243-member Bihar Legislative Assembly.
 
Grand Alliance heads towards big win in Bihar Assembly elections
 
The "grand alliance" led by the ruling Janata Dal (United), which includes the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress, was headed for a handsome victory today as counting of votes progressed in the crucial and bitterly-contested elections to the 243-member Bihar Legislative Assembly.
 
As counting trends became available for 230 of the 243 seats, the JD (U) and its allies were ahead in 125, past the half-way mark for a simple majority, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) had established leads in 96. Others accounted for nine seats.
 
The campaigning for the elections was marked by sharp and bitter exchanges of barbs among the main contestants.
 
The elections were seen as a major test of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's appeal to the voters and as a battle for survival for Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of the JD(U) and his foe-turned-ally, RJD chief Lalu Prasad.
 
Polling in the elections was held in five phases on October 12, October 16, October 28, November 1 and November 5, and more than 56.80 percent voting was registered.
 
Polling was by and large peaceful across the state and no major untoward incident was reported from anywhere.
 
A total of 67063004 electors, including 31282535 women, were eligible to exercise their franchise in the elections and there were, in all, 3450 candidates, including 272 women, in the fray.
 
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The Election Commission had set up 65349 polling stations and made elaborate arrangements to ensure a freee and fair poll.
 
Counting of votes began at 8 am today amidst tight security at 39 centres across the state and al the results are expected to be in by this evening. 
 
All counting centres are situated in the district headquarters. There are two counting centres separated by a common road in Saharsa distict and one each in the 37 other districts.
 
The Election Commission ensured 24x7 three-tier security at all counting centres, with the inner cordon being manned by personnel of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF). Closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras have been installed at all counting centres.
 
The commission also deployed an observer each in all 243 constituencies to oversee the counting process.
  
Exit polls had produced varying forecasts, with some putting the "grand alliance" ahead and others predicting a victory for the NDA.
 
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Nitish Kumar returns as Chief Minister of Bihar

Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar was sworn in as the Chief Minister of Bihar for the fourth time in Patna on Sunday evening, two days after his loyalist-turned-political foe Jitan Ram Manjhi resigned from the position hours before a trust vote in the state legislative assembly on Friday.
 
Nitish Kumar takes oath as Chief Minister of Bihar
Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar was sworn in as the Chief Minister of Bihar for the fourth time here this evening, two days after his loyalist-turned-political foe Jitan Ram Manjhi resigned from the position hours before a trust vote in the state legislative assembly here on Friday.
 
Mr Kumar, 63, and 22 Ministers, including three women, were administered the oaths of office and secrecy by Governor Kesari Nath Tripathi at a ceremony that began around 5 pm today.
 
The ministers are : Vijay Kumar Chaudhary, Vijendra Prasad Yadav, Ramai Ram, Damodar Raut, Narendra Narayan Yadav, P.K. Shahi, Shyam Rajak, Awadesh Kushwaha, Lesie Singh, Dulal Chand Goswami, Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lallan Singh, Shrawan Kumar, Ramlashan Ram Raman, Ramdhani Singh, Jai Kumar Singh, Manoj Kumar Singh, Javed Iqbal Ansari, Bima Bharti, Ranju Geeta, Baidyanath Sahni, Vinod Singh Yadav and Naushad Alam.
 
Of them, 20 had resigned from the Manjhi government while the other two --  P K Shahi and Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lallan Singh -- had been removed by the former chief minister.
 
Mr Kumar has returned as Chief Minister nine months after he had stepped down on May 17 last year, taking moral responsibility for the defeat suffered by his party in the state in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
 
His return ended about two weeks of political uncertainty in the state following a bitter power struggle between him and Mr Manjhi.
 
Mr Manjhi finally met Mr Tripathi and handed in his papers on Friday morning. Shortly thereafter, Mr Kumar had called on the Governor and staked his claim to form the next government. Mr Tripathi had invited him to form the new government and asked him to prove his majority on the floor of the assembly within three weeks.
 
Mr Manjhi, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, Uttar Pradesh Chief Miister Akhilesh Yadav, former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda and Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) leader Abhay Chautala were among those who attended the ceremony.
 
Mr Manjhi's resignation came after it became clear that he did not have the numbers to win a trust vote in the 243-member assembly even though the  Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has a score to settle with Mr Kumar, had thrown its weight behind him.
 
Mr Kumar has been claiming that he has the support of 130 MLAs in the House, including 99 of his own party, 24 from the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and five of the Congress.
 
Ahead of his meeting with the Governor, Mr Kumar, a former Union Minister, had promised on Friday to provide good governance if given another chance to serve the people of Bihar and apologised to them for his decision to resign on May 17 last year after his party's poor performance in the Lok Sabha elections in the state.
 
Mr Kumar's party had ended up with just two of the 40 Lok Sabha seats from Bihar, while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), its erstwhile partner in the state, won as many as 22.
 
The Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) of former Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, an ally of the BJP, got five seats. The Congress won two seats, the NCP one, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) four and the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party won three.
 
On June 16, 2013, the JD (U) had formally withdrawn from the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and ended its 17-year-old partnership with the BJP in Bihar after it became increasingly clear at that stage that Mr Narendra Modi would be the Prime Ministerial candidate of the party.
 
Mr Manjhi, who was the Minister for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, Backward and Economically Backward Classes Welfare, was handpicked by Mr Kumar to succeed him on May 19 last year.
 
"I assure the people of Bihar that if I get an opportunity again I will serve them in the same spirit I did for eight and a half years earlier. Good governance was and will remain my priority," Mr Kumar told journalists on Friday.
 
"I also apologise for my decision to quit. I will never take an emotional decision again. Now I am ready to lead from the front," he said.
 
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The JD (U) has 115 members in the assembly, and most of them back Mr Kumar. The BJP has 88 members and the support of three independents.
 
Mr Kumar had staked claim to form the next government two weeks ago after the JD (U) removed Mr Manjhi as the leader of its legislature party and elected him to the position to enable him to return as Chief Minister. Mr Manjhi had refused to oblige and was expelled from the party. He then decided to seek a trust vote, banking on the support of the BJP.
 
Mr Kumar said Mr Manjhi had decided to quit after all the efforts made by the BJP to wean away MLAs from the JD (U) had failed.
 
Mr Manjhi, however, told journalists that he had decided to quit to protect MLAs supporting him, saying they had received death threats in the past few days. 
 
Mr Kumar has a degree in electrical engineering from the Bihar College of Engineering, Patna, now the National Institute of Technology (NIT), Patna. He joined politics after a brief stint in the Bihar State Electricity Board.
 
At the Centre, Mr Kumar has handled the portfolios of Railways and Agriculture.
 
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Five killed, 83 injured in serial blasts near Modi's rally venue in Patna

At least five people were killed and as many as 83 others suffered injuries in a series of low-intensity blasts that occurred near the Gandhi Maidan in Patna shortly before Gujarat Chief Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party's Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi addressed a huge rally there on Sunday afternoon.
Serial blasts rock Patna; 5 killed, over 80 injured
At least five people were killed and as many as 83 others suffered injuries in a series of low-intensity blasts that occurred near the Gandhi Maidan here shortly before Gujarat Chief Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi addressed a huge rally there this afternoon.
 
In all, there were seven blasts, including one in a toilet on platform number 10 at the Patna railway station, about two and a half kilometres from the ground. The other six explosions occurred around the Gandhi Maidan, the venue of the rally, which was attended by thousands of people.
 
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar told newspersons that one person suffered injuries in the first blast at the railway station and his condition was stated to be critical.
 
He said the other five blasts occurred around the Gandhi Maidan within the space of 15-20 minutes.
 
Mr Kumar said that, in all, 83 people were taken to the Patna Medical College Hospital, where 38 were admitted for treatment while the rest were discharged after first-aid. He said the condition of a few of the injured was serious.
 
Police sources said four unexploded bombs were found later and had been defused by bomb disposal squads. One policemen suffered injuries while defusing a bomb.
 
Mr Kumar said the police were questioning some suspects and had gathered valuable clues. He said he was confident the police would find those responsible for the blasts. 
 
He said there were no intelligence inputs about the possibility of such blasts. According to him, the police had made elaborate arrangements for Mr Modi's rally and it was a matter of serious concern that such an incident had occurred.
 
He said that the way in which the serial blasts were carried out indicated that somebody had planned to vitiate the atmosphere in the state.
 
The Chief Minister announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 5 lakh to the next of kin of those killed in the blasts. He said the state government would meet the medical expenses of those injured in the explosions.
 
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condemned the blasts and called for urgent steps to identify and ake action against those responsibility. He also appealed to the people to maintain peace and calm.
 
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Dr Singh spoke to Mr Kumar to enquire about the situation and called for immediate and firm action against those responsible.
 
He also assured the Chief Minister of all assistance from the Centre in the investigations.
 
Mr Kumar held a meeting with senior state government and police officials to take stock of the situation.
 
In Delhi, Union Minister of State for Home R P N Singh told journalists that the explosions were caused by crude devices.
 
Condemning the blasts, he said teams from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the National Security Guard (NSG) had been rushed to Patna to probe the incident.
 
He said the Ministry of Home Affairs was in continuous touch with the Bihar government in this regard.
 
The rally continued, with none of the speakers, including Mr Modi making any reference to it. However, towards the end, Mr Modi did urge people to return home from the meeting in a peaceful manner.
 
Later, he condoled the loss of lives in a post on micro-blogging site Twitter. 
 
"Blasts in Patna are deeply saddening & unfortunate. Condolences with families of deceased & prayers with injured. I appeal for peace & calm," he said.
 
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Floods disrupt train services, death toll at 127 in Bihar

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The railway services on the Samastipur-Darbhanga route were suspended on Sunday as it got submerged in the flood, which has affected as many as 13 districts in Bihar.
 
According to Chief PRO of East-Central railway Rajesh Kumar, 10 trains have been cancelled and 12 others re-routed as the flood water reached the bridge number 16 at Hayaghat station in the Samastipur division. 
 
Due to the suspension of services, train travel from Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata to Darbhanga, Madhubani, Jaynagar, Jhanjharpur and Nirmali has become difficult. 
 
According to a Bihar State Disaster Management Authority official, over 85 lakh people in Shivhar, Sitamarhi, Muzaffarpur, East Champaran, Madhubani, Darbhanga, Saharsa, Supaul, Kishanganj, Araria, Purnia, Katihar and West Champaran districts have been affected. The flood and rain death toll had reached 127, he added. 
 
While the water level in major rivers has started receding, at some places they are still flowing above the danger-mark.
 
According to the Water Resources Department, river Bagmati is flowing above the danger mark in areas like Denga, Dubadhar and Benibad. Mahananda, Kamala-Balan and the Adhwara group of rivers are still in the spate. 
 
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Six new AES cases reported from Bihar's Muzaffarpur

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A month after 153 children died of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in Bihar's Muzaffarpur, six fresh cases were reported in the district on Saturday, leading to panic among health officials.
 
According to district health officials, two of the six children admitted at the Shri Krishna Memorial College Hospital (SKMCH) are critical. "Four children are undergoing treatment in the general ward, while two are in the Intensive Care Unit," officials said.
 
Cases of AES declined in Bihar since the arrival of monsoon last month.
 
Till date, 132 children have died of AES at SKMCH and 21 at Kejriwal Hospital in Muzaffarpur. More than 650 cases of AES have been reported this year. 
 
IANS
 

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32 killed by lightning in Bihar

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At least 32 people, including women and children, were killed and over a dozen injured in incidents of lightning strikes across Bihar in the last 24 hours, an official said on Wednesday.
 
Eight deaths were reported in Jamui, seven in Aurangabad, five in Banka, three each in Bhagalpur and Rohtas districts followed by two deaths in Nalanda and one death each in Gaya, Munger, Katihar and Araria districts.
 
"The state government has ordered ex-gratia payment of Rs 4 lakh each to the kin of those who lost their lives," said an official of the Disaster Management Department.
 
According to the weather office, lightning strikes occur in the state during the June-September monsoon season.
 
IANS

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Opposition disrupts Bihar Assembly, demands discussion on mob-lynching

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Opposition parties -- the RJD, Congress and CPI-ML -- created a ruckus in the Bihar Assembly on Monday demanding a discussion and strict action in incidents of mob-lynching at different places across the state. They also staged a protest outside the Assembly with placards in their hands.
 
Soon after the Assembly proceedings started for the day, Opposition members demanded a discussion on the rising number of mob-lynching incidents and action against the accused.
 
Members of the RJD, Congress and CPI-ML shouted slogans disrupting the proceedings during the question hour.
 
Last week, four people were lynched in two different places in the state.
 
In another case of street justice in a village in Saran district, three men were allegedly thrashed to death and one was critically injured by villagers over suspicion of cattle theft on Friday. The same day, another man was beaten to death in Vaishali district.
 
Opposition leaders blamed the state government led by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for not being tough against mob-lynching.
 
IANS
 

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PKL 7: Bengaluru pip Patna 34-32 in campaign opener

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Defending champions Bengaluru Bulls made a stunning comeback to pip Patna Pirates 34-32 in their campaign opener of the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) Season 7.
 
Defenders Amit Sheoran (5 points) and Ashish Sangwan (4 points) were the main reason for Bengaluru's narrow win. Also, their ace raider Pawan Sehrawat scored nine points.
 
For Patna, skipper Pardeep Narwal scored a Super 10 and Mohammed Maghsoudlou came up with nine points. However, it wasn't enough to help them cross the line.
 
Bengaluru forced multiple super tackles to begin their campaign with a win.
 
In the first few minutes of the match, it was all Bengaluru as captain Rohit Kumar scored consecutive raid points to give his team a 5-1 lead, even as Maghsoudlou put in a tremendous super tackle to revive Patna.
 
Patna's famed "record breaker" raider Narwal got going as he scored his first raid point in the ninth minute.
 
On the other hand, Bengaluru high-flier Sehrawat had a quiet beginning to the match as Patna's defence did a fine job on him.
 
Patna led 9-7 after 12 minutes when Bengaluru put in a super tackle through Sangwan to show their brute strength.
 
In the 16th minute, Patna inflicted the first all-out of the match to lead 14-11. At the end of the first half, they held a slender four-point advantage to lead 17-13.
 
Bengaluru's defence showed their mental and physical toughness in the second half as they piled on super tackles to make a comeback in the match. Sangwan and Sheoran marshalled the defence brilliantly and in the 32nd minute, they only trailed 23-24.
 
In the 34th minute, Bengaluru inflicted an all-out to lead 30-26 and Patna were staring at a defeat in their first encounter of the season.
 
Bengaluru showed tremendous teamwork in the 37th minute to send Narwal to the bench to lead 32-27.
 
Maghsoudlou made two quick raid points in a minute as Patna trailed 30-33 in the 39th minute, while Narwal attained a super 10 but it wasn't enough as Patna crashed to a defeat in their first match of the season.
 
IANS

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3 suspected cattle thieves lynched to death in Bihar's Saran

Police personnel at the site where three men were allegedly thrashed to death and one critically injured by villagers over suspicion of cattle theft in Bihar's Saran district on July 19, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
Police personnel at the site where three men were allegedly thrashed to death and one critically injured by villagers over suspicion of cattle theft in Bihar's Saran district on July 19, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
In another case of street justice in a Bihar village, three men were allegedly thrashed to death and one critically injured by villagers over suspicion of cattle theft on Friday, police said.
 
The deceased were identified as Naushad Quraishi, Raju Nut and Videsh Nut. The incident took place in Pithori Nandlal village under Baniyapur police station in Saran district, according to the police. 
 
"Four suspected cattle thieves were caught by villagers, three were beaten badly and they died on the way to the hospital. One was seriously injured and was admitted to a hospital. Police have arrested the three accused in the case, but it was not a case of mob lynching," said Saran Superintendent of Police Hari Kishore Rai.
 
Police have lodged a case of murder against half-a-dozen unidentified people.
 
IANS
 

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6 Bihar districts stare at flood as rains swell rivers

People wade through flood waters to higher places in Forbesganj, Araria district of Bihar on July 13, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
People wade through flood waters to higher places in Forbesganj, Araria district of Bihar on July 13, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
Rising water levels in many rivers due to continuous rain had created a flood-like situation in as many as six districts of Bihar and had affected rail services, officials said on Saturday.
 
Rail services were affected as flood waters submerged tracks at many places. Several trains had either been diverted or cancelled, East Central Railway Chief PRO Rajesh Kumar told IANS.
 
A railway official, however, said the train services were resumed on Saturday morning.
 
According to officials, the water level in Koshi river is increasing continuously and at the Gandak barrage it has risen sharply due to heavy rain in the Terai region of Nepal. 
 
Stating that the state government is on high alert to tackle the situation, Pratyay Amrit, Principal Secretary at the Bihar State Disaster Management Authority, said six districts -- Sheohar, Sitamarhi, East Champaran, Madhubani, Araria and Kishanganj -- had been affected. 
 
The relief and rescue works were underway, he added. 
 
According to a state disaster department official, the rising water levels of Koshi, Gandak, Budhi Gandak, Ganga and Bagmati have caused panic among the people living along the river banks.
 
According to reports, hundreds of people have fled or are fleeing their homes in Supaul, Muzaffarpur, East Champaran, West Champaran, Araria and Kishanganj districts.
 
The Water Resources Department had issued a high alert in vulnerable districts, particularly those that border Nepal, said an official.
 
North Bihar districts received a record rainfall during the last 24 hours with East Champaran reporting 214.92 mm rain, Sitamarhi 154.55 mm and Muzaffatpur 125.15 mm, said Met Department officials.
 
In Motihari, district headquarters of East Champaran, incessant rainfall for the last four days caused waterlogging in the town. District Magistrate Raman Kumar had ordered closing of schools and other educational institutions till July 15, district disaster officer Anil Kumar said.
 
Schools in Araria and Kishanganj districts have also been closed.
 
Though the rising water levels have increased pressure on embankments at several places, officials claimed they were safe and there was no need to panic. The state government has alerted engineers concerned and asked them to keep 24-hour vigil. 
 
"All engineers have been directed to be ready with necessary equipment and boulders to face any situation and protect the embankments," an official of Water Resource Department said.
 
IANS
 

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Super 30's Anand Kumar suffering from brain tumour

Anand Kumar (File photo: IANS)
Anand Kumar (File photo: IANS)
Patna-based educationist and founder of the 'Super 30' programme Anand Kumar recently revealed that he is suffering from a 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 told IANS: "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.
 
IANS

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Rahul granted bail in defamation case by Bihar court

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Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was on Saturday granted bail by a court in connection with a defamation case filed by Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi.
 
The Patna civil court granted the bail to Gandhi, a government lawyer said. 
 
In April, Modi filed a defamation case against Gandhi for his statement "all thieves have Modi as their surnames". 
 
The senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader had filed the case in the CJM court in Patna under Section 500 of the IPC alleging him of defaming and hurting the sentiments of people with Modi surnames. 
 
IANS
 

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Rahul Gandhi to appear in Bihar court today

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Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Saturday said that he will appear in a court in Patna in connection with a defamation case filed by Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi over his statement that "all thieves have Modi in their surnames".
 
"I will appear in person at the Civil Court in Patna today at 2 p.m., in yet another case filed against me by my political opponents in the RSS/BJP to harass and intimidate me. Satyameva Jayate," Rahul Gandhi tweeted. 
 
The senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader had filed a defamation case and said that "Rahul defames and hurts the sentiments of everyone who has the Modi surname".
 
IANS
 

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Bihar AES death link killed litchi business worth Rs 100 crore

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The luscious litchi has become an uncanny victim of unsubstantiated claims, which have affected both its cultivators as well as sellers in a place where it is abundantly grown.
 
Litchi sales worth at least Rs 100 crore have suffered following reports that the fruit contained toxins that caused Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES), which led to over 160 deaths in Bihar. 
 
The AES deaths occurred late into the litchi season, but unverified reports about Methyl Cyclopropyl Glycine (MCPG), a naturally occurring toxin also known as hypoglycin in the succulent fruit, causing death have devastated its cultivators.
 
The owner of a litchi orchard told IANS: "A box of litchi that sold for Rs 800-1,000 is now selling for Rs 100-200. A lot of fruit was wasted as it found no buyers. With no one to buy, we've stopped plucking the fruit and tonnes of it went bad on the trees itself."
 
K. P. Thakur, the owner of Litchica International Private Limited, told IANS that wholesalers had been forced to cut down purchases following sudden drop in sales. 
 
Bachcha Singh, President, Bihar Litchi Producers Union said: "Last year, the Central government's Intellectual Property Rights Department granted Bihar the patent for Shahi Litchi, following which the state government initiated steps to obtain a Geographical Indication (GI) tag for the variety. Shahi Litchi is a juicier and pulpier variety of the fruit grown in and around Muzaffarpur district. This year, a few uninformed politicians and journalists have given it a bad name." 
 
Singh was referring to State Agriculture Minister Prem Kumar, who insisted on a probe into links between litchi and Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) even though the director of Muzaffarpur-based National Research Centre on Litchi (NRCL) Vishal Nath categorically denied any such connection. 
 
By one estimate, 52 per cent of the country's entire litchi is grown in Bihar. "At least 32,000 hectares of land in Bihar is under litchi cultivation, which provides employment to over one lakh people. It's a 200-crore business a season. But business worth Rs 100 crore has been hurt since rumours about toxins started," Singh added.
 
Retailers, too, feel the pinch. "The business has halved. The prices have fallen from Rs 100-150 per kg to Rs 40-50 per kg. We're still not getting customers," said a retailer here. 
 
"The demand has fallen to 60-70 per cent. I have stopped ordering litchi since the past week," said fruit merchant Mohammed Mustafa. 
 
Some traders also see a conspiracy in it. Litchi cultivator S.K. Dubey, a recipient of the state government's Kisan Bhushan award, said: "The southern states produce mangoes in the summer months when litchi arrives in the market. And litchi sales have picked up big time in the south over the past few years. It could be a conspiracy by the mango traders down south to give litchi a bad name and benefit at its expense."
 
IANS
 

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30 die in Bihar lightning strikes

At least 30 people died and over a dozen others suffered injuries in incidents of lightning strikes
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across Bihar in the last 24 hours, an official said here on Thursday.
 
The deaths occurred in Bhagalpur, Begusarai, Saharsa, Purnea, Araria, Katihar, Jamui, Khagaria, Madyepura, Madhubani, Darbhanga, Sitamarhi, Mitigari and Gaya districts, the state disaster management department official said.
 
"The state government has ordered an ex-gratia payment of Rs 4 lakh each to the victims' kin," the official added.
 
According to the weather office, lightning strikes occur in the state during the June-September monsoon season.
 
IANS

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12 killed by lightning in Bihar

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At least 12 people, including four women and two girls, were killed on Wednesday when they were struck by lightning in separate incidents in various Bihar districts, officials said.
 
Four deaths were reported from Begusarai district and three each in Purnea and Saharsa districts.
 
Similarly, one person each was killed in Sheohar and Nawada districts.
 
"The state government has ordered ex-gratia payment of Rs 4 lakh each to the next-of-kin of those who lost their lives," an official of the Disaster Management Department said.
 
According to the weather office, lightning strikes are usually reported during the June-September monsoon season.
 
IANS
 

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4 killed, 12 injured as bus hit electric pole in Bihar

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Four people were killed and 12 others injured when a high tension wire fell on a bus in Bihar's Nawada district on Wednesday, police said.
 
A district police official said 40 people were travelling in the bus when it hit an electric pole near Yogiya Sthan under Kawyakaul police station.
 
All the injured were admitted to a hospital. 
 
IANS
 

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RJD not adverse to Nitish Kumar: Senior party leader

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Senior Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh on Monday strengthened speculation about a realignment ahead of the Bihar Assembly polls, saying he and his party are not adverse to JD-U President and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
 
"We are not adverse to Nitish Kumar, we are not against him," Singh said.
 
He said all secular parties should unite and join hands to fight against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). 
 
Singh said he welcomes non-BJP parties to join the Grand Alliance in the state.
 
Singh held a closed door meeting with senior Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leader Narendra Singh.
 
Singh, a former Union Minister and considered close to RJD chief Lalu Prasad, had earlier also showed a soft attitude towards Nitish Kumar and asked him to join the Grand Alliance.
 
He said Nitish Kumar should join hands with the non-BJP parties to fight against the saffron party.
 
However, the JD-U, an ally of the BJP-led NDA, has repeatedly claimed that it was with the BJP and part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
 
The RJD failed to win even a single seat in Bihar in the Lok Sabha elections. 
 
IANS
 

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Central medical teams to strengthen management of AES cases in Bihar

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Wednesday directed that five teams of senior paediatricians and paramedics be sent immediately to help manage the cases of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome/Japanese Encephalitis in Muzaffarpur district of Bihar.
Children with encephalitis symptoms being treated at a hospital in Muzaffarpur, Bihar. (Photo: IANS)
Children with encephalitis symptoms being treated at a hospital in Muzaffarpur, Bihar. (Photo: IANS)
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan today directed that five teams of senior paediatricians and paramedics be sent immediately to help manage the cases of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES)/Japanese Encephalitis (JE) in Muzaffarpur district of Bihar.
 
The teams will strengthen the State government's efforts and measures in Muzaffarpur and other affected districts, an official press release said.
 
Ten paediatricians (including five senior consultants) and five para-medics from RML Hospital, Safdarjung and Lady Hardinge Medical College will be part of the five teams. “The teams will strengthen the clinical care to the existing patients in the hospitals and also strengthen surveillance of cases from the peripheral areas,” Harsh Vardhan stated.
 
“A high-level central team led by Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary, Health, has been stationed in the area to monitor the operations for the past three days. Teams have also been constituted for socio-economic survey in these areas to identify and pinpoint causes linked with the economic status," he added.
 
Ten additional ambulances have been deployed in the most affected blocks of the districts for round-the-clock services. Also, 16 nodal officers (teams of senior doctors and an administrative officer) have been deployed at the primary health centres (PHCs) in the affected blocks.
 
To strengthen the health infrastructure and facilitate the transportation of patients to the health facilities, the State Government has also made a provision to reimburse the ambulance charges if the patients are shifted privately by the family to the hospitals.
 
IANS adds from Patna:
 
Children have been dying in Bihar's Muzaffarpur and neighbouring districts due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) for over a fortnight, but doctors and health officials are still in the dark about the exact nature of the disease and precise cause of deaths.
 
The state and central governments are also clueless in the matter. As per official figures, 113 children have died due to AES in Muzaffarpur and neighbouring districts, so far. 
 
Bihar Health Department Principal Secretary Sanjay Kumar said here that of the total 113 deaths, 91 had died in the state-run Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH), 16 in the private Kejriwal hospital, both in Muzaffarpur, two in the Nalanda Medical College and Hospital in Patna, and 4 in other districts.
 
This year, 501 AES cases have been reported in the state till date.
 
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Doctors and health officials have different views on the factors behind the AES epidemic and the cause of the deaths. This confusion has further complicated the process to combat or control the seasonal outbreak of AES, which has been recurring every year.
 
Bihar Chief Secretary Deepak Kumar has publicly admitted that even the government is unclear about what exactly was causing the AES outbreak, which has been recorded regularly in Muzaffarpur since 1995.
 
"We are still not aware if the disease is caused due to some virus, bacteria, toxin effect due to the consumption of lychees, malnourishment or due to environmental conditions such as high temperature and humidity," he said. 
 
"Several research projects have been conducted, including by a team of experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta (US), but the finding is inconclusive."
 
SKMCH Chief Medical Officer S. P. Singh said the reason behind the outbreak of the disease was yet to be confirmed. "We don't know it and it is being ascertained medically," Singh said.
 
Harsh Vardhan, himself a doctor, who had visited Muzaffarpur three days ago and examined several children in SKMCH, said the deaths could have something to do with electrolyte imbalance and the metabolic system. 
 
He also did not rule out the possibility of AES due to viral infection or toxin effect, which could possibly be caused by the consumption of litchi, as well as high temperature and humidity.
 
Taking this into consideration, Harsh Vardhan stressed the need for research on AES and setting up of a state-of-the-art, multi-disciplinary research unit in Muzaffarpur in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research, the National Centre for Disease Control and AIIMS Patna.
 
He said there should be research to identify the disease that has still not been identified and for it a research facility should be developed in Muzaffarpur. He said the government will take support from Atlanta based Centre for Disease Control and WHO for research in order to ascertain the causative factor of the disease.
 
However, Hardeo Manjhi, a landless labourer from Muzaffarpur, whose 4-year-old son is being treated at SKMCH, said: "My son suddenly developed a high fever in the early hours last week, followed by convulsions, and he later turned unconscious, after which we brought him to hospital for treatment. His condition is showing little improvement."
 
Manjhi pointed out that most of the children first develop high fever, followed by symptoms like weakness and convulsion, and then lose consciousness.
 
Marla Devi, the mother of a 6-year-old child undergoing treatment for AES, said doctors treating her daughter informed her that she had lost consciousness due to brain swelling and high fever. "We have noticed only high fever and convulsion," she said. 
 
SKMCH's Paediatrics Department head Gopal Shankar Sahni said the AES outbreak happened during extreme summer.
 
"We have collected information that suggests that children's body temperatures would shoot up followed by convulsion. They also suffer from hypoglycaemia (very low blood sugar) due to shortage of sodium".
 
Rajiv Kumar of Kejriwal Hospital said it was common for children struck by AES to suffer from mental disorientation after the sudden onset of fever.
 
"In such a situation, we have been advising parents to bring their children to the nearest PHC or hospital without delay for treatment. Chances of survival increase with early arrival"," he said.
 
Most of the child victims of AES belong to poor and marginalised sections, including Dalits, Other Backward Classes (OBCs), Economically Backward Classes (EBCs) and Muslims.
 
"AES victims are mostly the malnourished children from underprivileged sections of society, they are from categories below the poverty line (BPL)," said a district health official in Muzaffarpur.
 
After Chief Minister Nitish Kumar visited Muzaffarpur on Tuesday, the government has commissioned a survey in blocks and villages which reported high death toll to study the socio-economic profiles of the affected families and their living conditions.
 
A team of experts sent by the Central government has expressed dissatisfaction over the weak health infrastructure and poor hospital facilities.
 
IANS
 

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Heatwave kills 90 people in last 72 hours in Bihar

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A severe heat wave has killed 12 more people in Bihar in the past 24 hours, taking the death toll over the past three days to 90, official sources said on Tuesday.
 
Unofficial reports reaching here, however, said the number of people killed was much higher in a dozen districts.
 
Deaths were reported from Aurangabad, Gaya, Nawada and Jamui districts, where temperatures hovered around 45.8 to 42 degrees Celsius on June 15, 16 and 17.
 
According to the State Disaster Management Department website, some 90 deaths had been recorded till Tuesday. Of these, Aurangabad recorded 41 deaths, Gaya 35 and Nawada 14.
 
In a first, prohibitory orders have been imposed in the wake of extreme weather conditions under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) in Gaya, Begusarai, Darbhanga, Gopalganj, Madhubani and Sitamarhi districts 
 
Bihar Chief Secretary Deepak Kumar told the media here that the government will conduct an enquiry into how intense the heatwave was between 3-5 p.m. on June 15 that it resulted in the highest number of deaths in a day due to heatstroke.
 
Kumar said the Chief Minister had also ordered an environment survey of the state over the next four days.
 
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has already announced a compensation of Rs 4 lakh to the next-of-kin of the victims.
 
The government has also issued a heat alert and advised people to avoid going out during the day time.
 
Additional Health Director of Magadh range Vijay Kumar said that nearly 100 people had been admitted in government-run hospitals in Gaya, Aurangabad and Nawada, while dozens were being treated at primary health centres in the three districts.
 
IANS
 

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Harsh Vardhan visits AES-hit Muzaffarpur, death toll rises to 81

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Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Sunday visited Bihar's Muzaffarpur district, where 81 children have died due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in the past fortnight.
 
Seven children died on Sunday, taking the total number of casualties due to AES to 81, health officials said. Seventy three children had died till Saturday night.
 
However, the unofficial number of deaths due the disease is said to be over 100 as some children died in villages before being admitted to hospital.
 
Harsh Vardhan, accompanied by Union Minister of State for Health Ashwani Kumar Choubey and Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey, visited the state-owned Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH).
 
"The Ministers are holding a closed-door review meeting with the doctors and health officials to take stock of the situation," a district health official said.
 
Meanwhile SKMCH and private Kejriwal Hospital in the city continue to recieve fresh cases with symptoms akin to AES. The two hospitals are reverberating with the cries and wailing of helpless parents as children continue to die of AES.
 
According to reports, two children died in Begusarai district and three died in East Champaran district on Saturday.
 
IANS
 

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AES kills 43 kids in Bihar, spreads to new victims

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Seven more children died of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES)-like symptoms in Bihar in last 24 hours, taking the toll to 43 even as new cases are being reported, officials said on Thursday.
 
Amid fears that the toll might go up, as dozens of children are still being treated in various hospitals, the state and Central governments are scrambling to contain the spread of the disease.
 
Regional Additional Director, Health, Ashok Kumar Singh, who is based in Muzaffarpur that has been worst hit by the disease outbreak, confirmed deaths of 43 children so far
 
As many as 36 children died in the government-run Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) and seven in the private Kejriwal hospital as of Wednesday evening, he said. 
 
With dozens of children undergoing treatment, Singh did not rule out more deaths on Thursday even as some reports said that the toll had risen above 60.
 
Principal Secretary, Health, Sanjay Kumar admitted that many children with symptoms akin to AES are still undergoing treatment in Muzaffarpur and a few new patients were also admitted in the hospitals in last 24 hours. 
 
Till date, 143 cases of AES have been reported from 11 districts - Muzaffarpur, Vaishali, Samastipur, Sheohar, Sitamarhi, East Champaran, Patna, Gaya, Jehanabad, Bhojpur and Aurangabad.
 
Kumar said that most of children died due to hypoglycaemia (loss of sugar in the blood) and shortage of sodium in their bodies after developing symptoms akin to AES.
 
A day after the seven-member Central team headed by senior paediatrician Dr Arun Kumar Sinha, national advisor in the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry, visited Muzaffarpur to review the situation and to help the state in control of the disease, Union Minister of State for Health Ashwani Kumar Choubey reached Muzaffarpur on Thursday.
 
His visit came as Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan's visit was cancelled at the last momemnt.
 
Choubey, who belongs to Bihar, will meet doctors, health officials and parents of children battling for their lives during his visit. 
 
SKMCH superintendent Sunil Kumar Shahi said team of doctors have been working day and night to provide proper treatment to save the lives of the affected children. "We are in alert mode... taking no chances," he said.
 
Health officials said that experts are of the view that monsoon rains will not only help bring down cases but also help to treat children. "In the last few years, we had closely seen that heat wave conditions help the virus to spread and intensify the disease... monsoon rains are the best antidote for the disease," an official said. 
 
The state Health Department had already issued advisory to people to take care of their children during daylight hours and not allow them to play under the open sky.
 
After Chief Minister Nitish Kumar stressed the need to sensitise the people, health officials have launched the campaign from primary health centres to block and district hospitals.
 
IANS
 

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Bihar Cabinet expansion, 8 JD-U MLAs appointed ministers

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Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday inducted eight new JD-U MLAs as Ministers in his Cabinet. The Cabinet expansion comes two days after Janata Dal-United (JD-U) chief opted out of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's new government at the Centre.
 
There are now 33 ministers in the Nitish Kumar Cabinet, up from 25 ministers.
 
The newly appointed ministers are Ashok Coudhary, Shyam Rajak, Narendra Narayan Yadav, Sanjay Jha, Ramsewak Singh, Lakshmeshwar Rai Neeraj Kumar and Bima Bharti. Bima Bharti is the only woman among the new ministers. 
 
Governor Lalji Tandon administered the oath of office and secrecy to the Ministers at a simple ceremony held at the Raj Bhavan. Five of the eight sworn-in are first-time ministers.
 
IANS
 

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Pragya Thakur should be expelled from BJP: Nitish Kumar

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BJP ally and JD-U chief Nitish Kumar on Sunday lashed out at Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur for her statement in favour of Mahatma Gandhi assassin Nathuram Godse and demanded the party to expel her.
 
Pragya Thakur, who is a Malegaon blast accused, spurred a row and drew flak after she lauded the killer of Mahatma Gandhi and called him a "patriot".
 
"The BJP should take action against her. She should be expelled from the party for what she had stated," Nitish Kumar told media here after casting his vote in the final phase of the Lok Sabha elections. 
 
"The BJP should think about such comments. We condemn such remarks," he said.
 
Thakur is contesting from Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh against senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh. 
 
Thakur had earlier too, created controversy after she claimed that 26/11 martyr Hemant Karkare, who died fighting against terrorist in Mumbai, lost his life because he tortured the BJP leader in jail.
 
IANS
 

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