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Chandigarh

29 killed, 250 injured in violence after Panchkula court convicts Dera Sacha Sauda chief in rape case

At least 29 people were killed and more than 250 others suffered injuries as thousands of followers of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh went on the rampage after he was convicted in a rape case by a special CBI court in Panchkula, Haryana on Friday.
Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh
Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh
At least 29 people were killed and more than 250 others suffered injuries as thousands of followers of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh went on the rampage after he was convicted in a rape case by a special CBI court in Panchkula, Haryana today.
 
The quantum of punishment for the 50-year-old self-styled godman will be pronounced on August 28. Meanwhile, he was taken into judicial custody and flown in a helicopter from Panchkula to Rohtak, where he was lodged in a special jail.
 
Police officials said 28 people had died in Panchkula, which bore the brunt of today's violence, several of them in police firing. There were clashes between Ram Rahim's supporters and the police in Sirsa, where the Dera Sacha Sauda headquarters are located.
 
One person died and four people suffered injuries in police firing in Sirsa, where the situation remained tense, with large numbers of Ram Rahim's followers gathered inside the Dera headquarters.
 
The officials said the police had been able to clear the mobs off the streets in all other towns in Haryana.
 
About 60 policemen also suffered injuries in today's incidents, including two senior superintendents of police and one deputy superintendent of police, they said.
 
In Delhi, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who returned during the day from a visit to Kyrgyz Republic, spoke to Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and discussed the situation with them. Mr. Rajnath Singh assured them of all necessary assistance from the Centre.
 
Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi said he had talked to the Chief Secretary of Haryana who had told him that the situation was being brought under control. "The situation is tense but under control," he said, adding that the Centre was monitoring the situation continuously.
 
Thousands of Singh's supporters had gathered at different points in Panchkula and other parts of Haryana and Punjab and violence erupted shortly after news of his conviction came.
 
 
29 dead as Dera followers bring Panchkula to its knees
In Panchkula, scores of vehicles, including fire tenders, outdoor broadcast vans of television news channels and two-wheelers were set ablaze. The mobs also attacked some government property. Police used teargas, lathi-charges, pellet guns and finally resorted to firing to disperse the mobs.
 
A former follower of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh had accused him of repeatedly raping her inside the Dera campus near Sirsa in Haryana in 1999. The first information report in the case had been filed in 2002.
 
The mobs targetted media vehicles and attacked some journalists reporting from the scene.
 
Incidents of violence were also reported from various other places in Haryana as well as Punjab, Rajasthan and Delhi.
 
In Delhi, some buses in Jahangirpuri and other localities and two coaches of a train parked in the railway yard at Anand Vihar were partially burnt after they were set on fire by miscreants. Police said reinforcements had been rushed to all affected and patrolling had been stepped up all across the city. The situation was under control, they added.
 
Though thousands of policemen had been deployed in Panchkula and elsewhere in Haryana to prevent any untoward incident, they were unable cope with the wave of violence that started after the verdict was pronounced. Police used teargas shells to try and disperse the mobs. Curfew was imposed in some towns of Punjab.
 
Television pictures showed ambulances bringing scores of injured persons to the government hospital there.
 
The Railways had, as a precautionary measure, cancelled some 300 mail, express and passenger trains passing through  Haryana in the past few days.
 
The Centre had sent several companies of central armed police forces to Haryana at the request of the state government and the Army's assistance had been sought at some places.
 
Mr. Khattar urged people to stay calm and maintain peace. He said strict action would be taken against those who disturb the peace and took law into their own hands.
 
In Gurgaon, near here, the police staged a flag march which passed through Kherki Daula, IMT Manesar, Bilaspur, sohna, Bhondsi and Badshapur as a precautionary measure.
 
"A close watch is being kept on the anti-social elements and miscreants who try to take advantages of such situation," a press release from Gurgaon Police said.
 
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the "instances of violences" were "deeply distressing". He said he strongly condemned the violence and urged everyone to maintain peace.
 
"The instances of violence today are deeply distressing. I strongly condemn the violence & urge everyone to maintain peace," he said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
"The law & order situation is being closely monitored. I reviewed the situation with the NSA & Home Secretary," he said.
 
"Urged officials to work round the clock to restore normalcy and provide all possible assistance that is required," he added.
 
In Delhi, the police has imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, banning the assembly of five or more persons, as a precautionary measure in 11 districts, including New Delhi.
 
"Adequate police arrangements in place & Law & Order situation under control. Officers with reserve force on rounds to maintain peace," the Commissioner of Police said on Twitter.
 
"Appeal to all to maintain peace & order. #DelhiPolice on full alert. Strict legal action will be taken against miscreants for any violation," he added.
 
Meanwhile, the Congress has demanded the resignation of Mr. Khattar and urged the Prime Minister to put the interests and safety of Indians before his party's interests.
 
Congress President Sonia Gandhi expressed grave concern and shock at the violence.
 
Ms. Gandhi spoke to Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh about the situation. She urged the Governments of Punjab and Haryana and the Union Territory of Chandigarh to ensure the safety and security of citizens. She also appealed to the people to maintain peace and harmony.
 
"Violence & brutality have no place in our society. Condemn the rampage and lawlessness in Haryana & appeal to restore peace and tranquility," Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi said on Twitter.
 
Mr. Amarinder Singh appealed to the people of Punjab to maintain peace and harmony. "We won't allow anyone to disturb the peace and tranquility of our state," he added.
 
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Kerala braveheart conferred Neerja Bhanot Award

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A young braveheart from Kerala, Sifiya Haneef, was conferred with the Neerja Bhanot Award in a solemn ceremony here on Saturday.
 
The award was presented to her by Wendy Sue Knecht, who also worked with the Pan American World Airways in the '80s and had trained Neerja Bhanot in 1986. Knecht specially came here from Los Angeles for the award function. The award consists of Rs 1.50 lakh, a citation and a trophy.
 
The award was instituted in 1990 in memory of Neerja Bhanot, who saved hundreds of lives while sacrificing her own when a Pan Am flight from Mumbai to New York was hijacked at the Karachi airport on September 5, 1986.
 
A specially constituted jury comprising three Rotarians -- Sneh Popli, Manjit Kaur and Anu Dhingra -- selected Sifiya for the honour after she met the criteria laid down by the Neerja Bhanot Pan Am Trust, which stipulates that the awardee has to be an Indian woman who when faced with social injustice, overcomes it with guts and grit.
 
Akhil Bhanot, managing trustee at Neerja Bhanot Pan Am Trust, said: "Sifiya got married when she was 16 and her studies were stopped. Unfortunately, her husband died when she was 20. She had two children by then. Sifiya wished to continue her studies, but did not get any support. Not willing to give up, she took on a part-time job and resumed her studies.
 
"After a lot of struggle and realising that life was very tough not only for her, but also for other widows as well, she started spending her salary on helping widows."
 
Sifiya started a Facebook page called 'Chithal' where she wrote about the issues facing widows.
 
She also met a lot of sick mothers, kids, elderly people and cancer patients, among others. She would update her page on the problems these people were facing and get public support to solve their issues.
 
Today, she is helping more than 300 families by providing them shelters, constructing toilets in colonies, distributing medicines and giving them pension, Bhanot said.
 
An emotional Knecht said: "Though a lifetime has passed, Neerja's generosity, her humanity and her sacrifice will never be forgotten."
 
"By fighting for justice, Neerja proved that you can re-write your story from being called a 'victim' to a 'hero'. The message that Neerja imparted upon the world was 'do the right thing, come what may'. This is what all of us must do. I too have been inspired to follow Neerja's path," she added.
 
IANS

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Haryana waives interest on co-op bank crop loans

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Eyeing the upcoming assembly polls, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Monday announced a waiver of interest and penalty on crop loans of Rs 4,750 crore taken from cooperative banks under a one-time settlement scheme.
 
The decision would benefit nearly 10 lakh farmers.
 
Khattar, who was addressing the media on the 12th day of Jan Ashirwad Yatra in Bhiwani town, also announced that the last date for payment of principal amount would be extended to November 30.
 
The decision would benefit the farmers who have taken loans from the Primary Agriculture Cooperative Societies, District Central Cooperative Banks and the Haryana Land Reforms and Development Bank, he said.
 
Khattar said those farmers whose bank accounts were declared non-performing assets (NPA) by these banks and were unable to renew their loans, would now be able to change the cycle of their crop loan accounts with this announcement.
 
He said the farmers would have to deposit their principal amount only. This one-time relief has been provided to the farmers to dispose of their interest and penalty.
 
According to Khattar, about 13 lakh farmers have taken loan from Primary Agriculture Cooperative Societies, out of which bank accounts of 8.25 lakh farmers have declared NPAs.
 
He said four per cent interest on crop loans of the Primary Agriculture Cooperative Societies will be borne by the state and three per cent by the NABARD.
 
Penalty, at the rate of five per cent, imposed on those farmers who do not repay crop loans on time, would now be completely waived off, he added.
 
IANS
 

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ED attaches assets worth Rs. 109 crore in bank fraud case

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The Enforcement Directorate (ED) today said it had provisionally attached immovable properties worth Rs. 109.03 crore under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA) in a money laundering case related to an alleged bank loan fraud by Kudos Chemie Ltd.
 
The attached assets consist of plots in villages Kuranwala, Saidpura, Gulabgarh, Madhopur and Ranguana in Mohali district of Punjab and a bungalow at Chandigarh.
 
A press release from the ED said the assets belonged to Kudos Chemie Ltd. and its directors, Jitendra Singh and Gurmeet Sodhi, and an associate company Kudos Holdings Pvt. Ltd.
 
The release said the ED had initiated investigation under the provisions of PMLA, on the basis of CBI’s FIR against Kudos Chemie Ltd. and its promoters and directors Jitendra Singh, Gurmeet Sodhi, Kabir Sodhi and others for the offences of criminal conspiracy, cheating and forgery of valuable securities.
 
"Investigations under PMLA revealed that Mr. Jitendra Singh, Managing Director of Kudos Chemie Ltd. had submitted 283 forged export bills to the Punjab National Bank (PNB) and got it fraudulently discounted in connivance with officials of the PNB and causing loss to the bank to the tune of Rs. 362 crores (approx.). The released amount of Rs. 362 crores (approx.) was further utilized for adjustments of Cash Credit accounts and other outstanding Liabilities. The proceeds were also routed through his current account and further transferred to various accounts for the adjustment of the outstanding liabilities.
 
"Investigation further revealed that the properties of Kudos Chemie Ltd. and its directors namely Jitendra Singh and Gurmeet Sodhi and associate company namely Kudos Holdings Pvt. Ltd to the tune of Rs. 109.03 crore are proceeds of crime. That the amount of Rs. 109.03 crore being proceeds of crime in this case as envisaged vide section 2(1)(u) of the PMLA, 2002, is liable for attachment under section 5(1) of the PMLA, 2002. Accordingly provisional attachment order was issued.
 
"Further investigation in this case is under progress," the release added.
 
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Flood-hit Punjab declares natural calamity

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The Punjab government on Monday declared the current flood situation in the affected villages of the state as a natural calamity, with Chief Minister Amarinder Singh directing the Financial Commissioner Revenue to issue the necessary notification at the earliest.
 
Amarinder Singh asked the Financial Commissioner to officially declare natural calamity in the villages as a unit in order to facilitate the affected people to claim insurance against the losses from various companies.
 
This would also help the banks, especially the state cooperative banks, to restructure and defer the recovery of crop loans from the farmers, as per the norms of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
 
The Chief Minister was chairing a high-level meeting to review the flood preparedness in the state.
 
During the meeting, he asked the Finance Department to immediately clear the pending relief funds to the tune of around Rs 100 crore for expeditious disbursement by the Revenue Department through the respective Deputy Commissioners.
 
Amarinder Singh, who had earlier in the day visited the flood-hit areas in Ropar to make an on-the-ground assessment of the situation, also directed all the Deputy Commissioners, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and all other state government departments and entities to closely monitor the flood situation in close coordination with the police with a view to providing not only expeditious rescue and relief operations, but also to take pro-active preventive measures.
 
Compensation as per the prescribed norms should be disbursed expeditiously in case of death to the next of kin forthwith, the Chief Minister directed, while also ordering temporary subsistence allowance to the migrant labours, who may otherwise not be covered in the existing relief norms under the state policy, to be paid out of the Chief Minister's Relief Fund.
 
IANS
 

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After backlash, Haryana CM says 'daughters are our pride'

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Following sharp criticism from Rahul Gandhi and several women's organisations to comments by Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Kashmiri women, the Chief Minister clarified saying "daughters are our pride".
 
In a reply to Rahul Gandhi's tweet, Khattar tweeted on Saturday: "Dear Rahul Gandhi ji, at least at your level, you shouldn't react on distorted news. I'm attaching the video of what I actually said, and in what context -- this will give you clarity of mind."
 
In another tweet, Khattar said: "I have always had an honest dialogue with the public. Daughters are our pride and daughters from all over the country are our daughters."
 
The controversy began when Khattar was speaking at an event in Fatehabad about the state's poor sex ratio on Friday. Khattar had said that people were claiming that Kashmiri women can be brought to the state for marriage now after Jammu and Kashmir's special status was scrapped.
 
"You know Haryana is infamous for its poor sex ratio and female foeticide, but we started a campaign that brought our sex ratio up from 850 to 933. This is a big work of social change."
 
"So our (minister O.P. Dhankar) Dhankhar ji said we will have to bring 'bahus' (daughters-in-law) from Bihar. Now some people are saying Kashmir has been opened, we can bring girls from Kashmir also. Jokes aside, if (sex) ratio is fine, then there will be balance in society."
 
However, his comments triggered a political row drawing sharp reactions.
 
Outgoing Congress President Rahul Gandhi described Khattar's remarks as "despicable", saying that it reflected what "years of RSS training does to the mind of an insecure man".
 
IANS

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Elderly couple found dead at home in Chandigarh

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The blood-soaked bodies of an elderly couple were found under mysterious circumstances at their residence in Chandigarh early on Sunday.
 
Prima facie it seemed that the man, Laxmi Dass (76), first slit his wife Shashi Bala's throat with a knife and then used the same weapon to kill himself, a police officer told IANS.
 
The couple had deep wounds on their necks and bodies.
 
Bala (73) had been bedridden for five years.
 
A suicide note recovered from the crime scene purportedly written by Laxmi Dass, who retired from Punjab's Personnel Department as the Deputy Director, said they were fed up with the illness and for this reason they were tired of their lives.
 
The police, however, didn't rule out the possibility of murder and have started investigation to find out the exact cause of death.
 
IANS
 

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Punjab man ends life after killing 5 family members

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A 27-year-old agriculturalist who was under depression committed suicide after he shot dead five members of his family in a village in Punjab with a stolen revolver over alleged land sale dispute, police said on Saturday.
 
The incident took place at Nathuwal village near Moga on Friday night, police said.
 
Sandeep Singh allegedly shot dead his grandmother, father, mother, sister and her three-year-old daughter and later shot himself, a police officer said.
 
His grandfather Gurcharan Singh received bullet injuries.
 
A 19-page suicide note said the ancestral land sale by the family disturbed him.
 
He also cited his proposed marriage in December, which was against his wishes, as the reason for the extreme step. He wrote that he was "impotent", but his family deliberately concealed this fact from his would-be bride.
 
Locals said Sandeep, who was the only child, took the extreme step in a fit of rage.
 
Village sarpanch Jagsir Singh said as per the suicide note, the weapon used in the crime was stolen from a relative's place.
 
The victims had a big house built in the village.
 
IANS
 

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Actor Rahul Bose's tweet costs JW Marriott dear

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Charging Goods and Services Tax (GST) of Rs 67.50 on two bananas in JW Marriott here to actor Rahul Bose has cost the hotel Rs 25,000.
 
The Chandigarh Excise and Taxation Department on Saturday imposed a penalty on the high-end hotel for the illegal collection of tax on a fresh fruit that is not taxable.
 
The penalty comes following Bose's tweet, saying: "You have to see this to believe it. Who said fruit wasn't harmful to your existence? Ask the wonderful folks at @JWMarriottChd"
 
In a video post, he showed a receipt that showed that Rs 442.50 was charged on a fruit platter that included a nine per cent Central GST of Rs 33.75 and a nine per cent Union Territory GST of Rs 33.75.
 
Assistant Excise and Taxation Commissioner Rajeev Chaudhary said the hotel has been penalised for illegal collection of tax on bananas which come under the category of fresh fruits that are tax free item.
 
A penalty of Rs 12,500 was imposed under Central GST and Rs 12,500 under Union Territory GST.
 
IANS
 

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Punjab Chief Minister accepts Navjot Sidhu's resignation

Navjot Singh Sidhu. (File photo: IANS)
Navjot Singh Sidhu. (File photo: IANS)
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday accepted his Cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu's resignation.
 
The Chief Minister forwarded the resignation to Governor Punjab V. P. Singh Badnore for formal acceptance, an official in the Chief Minister's Office told IANS.
 
Sidhu, who had been at loggerheads with the Chief Minister, formally resigned on July 14 as Minister for Power and New and Renewable Energy Sources, the portfolio he had not taken charge of.
 
Amarinder Singh has said that if Sidhu did not want to do his job, there was nothing that he could do about it.
 
The Minister should have accepted his new portfolio instead of shunning work in the middle of the crucial paddy season, said the Chief Minister, reiterating that Sidhu was given a job, which he should have accepted and done.
 
On June 6, Sidhu had been divested of the charge of Local Government and Tourism and Cultural Affairs portfolios and given Power and New and Renewable Energy Sources in a Cabinet reshuffle, the first after the Lok Sabha election results.
 
Barring four, there were changes in the portfolios of all the ministers as a result of the reallocation, which Amarinder Singh said, would help further streamline the governing system and bring more transparency and efficacy to various departments.
 
However, Sidhu, who had been at loggerheads with the Chief Minister ever since his wife Navjot Kaur was denied a ticket for the Lok Sabha polls, refused to take charge of his new portfolios.
 
On June 10, Sidhu met Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi and Ahmed Patel in New Delhi and told them that his department had been singled out and publicly blamed for the party's Lok Sabha poll defeat. Patel was entrusted with the task of resolving the rift between the Amarinder Singh and Sidhu.
 
The Chief Minister even met Patel during his visit to Delhi last month, but his office described the meeting as merely a "courtesy call".
 
IANS

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Sidhu sends resignation to CM Amarinder Singh

Navjot Singh Sidhu. (File photo: IANS)
Navjot Singh Sidhu. (File photo: IANS)
Ending the suspense in this regard, Punjab Cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu on Monday said he had sent his resignation to Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.
 
"Today I have sent my resignation to the Chief Minister Punjab, has been delivered at his official residence...," he said on Twitter.
 
However, the Chief Minister was away in Delhi to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi. There was no comment on the issue from the Chief Minister's Office.
 
IANS
 
 
 
 

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Navjot Singh Sidhu resigns as Punjab minister

Navjot Singh Sidhu. (File photo: IANS)
Navjot Singh Sidhu. (File photo: IANS)
The rift between Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and his Cabinet colleague Navjot Singh Sidhu deepened on Sunday, when the latter resigned as Minister for Power and New and Renewable Energy Sources.
 
"I hereby resign as Minister from the Punjab Cabinet," the former-cricketer-turned politician wrote in his resignation letter. Posting the letter on Twitter, Sidhu tweeted: "My letter to the Congress President Shri. Rahul Gandhi Ji, submitted on 10 June, 2019." 
 
"Will be sending my resignation to the Chief Minister, Punjab," Sidhu tweeted after the Chief Minister's media adviser Raveen Thukral told IANS that the CM office had not received his resignation. 
 
Reacting to the development, Punjab Minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa said it was technically wrong of Sidhu to submit his resignation from the Cabinet first to the party President.
 
Urging Sidhu to reconsider his decision, he said the politician should talk to the Chief Minister and resolve the issues between them. "He is an intelligent man and can contribute a lot to his new department," he added.
 
On June 6, Sidhu was divested of the charge of Local Government and Tourism & Cultural Affairs portfolios and given Power and New and Renewable Energy Sources in a Cabinet reshuffle, the first after the Lok Sabha election results. 
 
Barring four, there were changes in the portfolios of all the ministers as a result of the reallocation, which Amarinder Singh said, would help further streamline the governing system and bring more transparency and efficacy to various departments.
 
However, Sidhu refused to take charge of his new ministry. On June 10, he met Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi and Ahmed Patel in New Delhi and told them that his department had been singled out and publicly blamed for the party's Lok Sabha poll defeat. He had gone into hibernation since then. 
 
In his absence, Amarinder Singh on July 10 took crucial decisions related to electricity shortage as it was affecting paddy sowing in the state.
 
IANS
 

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Massive mudslides block Chandigarh-Shimla highway

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Massive mudslides hit the Chandigarh-Shimla national highway between Parwanoo and Solan towns in Himachal Pradesh on Saturday owing to heavy overnight rains, that led to traffic snarls and posed a serious threat to motorists.
 
The movement of traffic was hampered almost throughout the day due to massive landslides along the highway in Solan district.
 
Motorists said the maximum landslips were on a 30-km stretch between Parwanoo and Kumarhatti, where over 20 km was either damaged or piled with boulders and muck.
 
They said the falling debris threatens their safety while travelling through this stretch that has been excavated recently for highway widening.
 
The executing agency - National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) - for the project which aims to cut the travel time between Chandigarh and Himachal capital Shimla by shortening the distance by 17 kms -- cleared the road of boulders and mud.
 
The entire stretch from Parwanoo to Solan has become a permanent landslide zone particularly Chakki ka Mor. The risk of driving is aggravated after dusk, said motorist Deepak Nayyar.
 
He said there were frequent incidents of landslips and falling rocks hitting moving vehicles owing to fragile and loose strata with vertical cutting of the hills for the expansion of the highway.
 
Geologists blame unscientific cutting of precipitous hills, largely of shell, sandstone and clay, for the frequent landslips.
 
"Most of these mountain slopes are of sedimentary formation and have become destabilised with the reckless cutting by heavy earth-moving machinery. The loose and naked boulders with muck will continue to roll down on the highway for eight to 10 years more," former state geologist Arun Sharma told IANS.
 
"On the Parwanoo to Solan stretch, most of the hill cutting was done largely vertically than horizontally. At some points, large-scale vertical cutting was carried out," added Sharma, a member of the Environment Ministry's State Expert Appraisal Committee to assess projects.
 
Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari informed the Rajya Sabha on July 8 that the work on four-laning of the stretch between Parwanoo and Solan would be completed within the next six to eight months as the bottlenecks have been removed.
 
He said the project was being undertaken at a cost of Rs 750 crore and almost 75 per cent of the work has been completed.
 
IANS
 

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Congress needs charismatic Gen Next leader: Punjab CM

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Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday backed a young leader to galvanise the Congress in the wake of Rahul Gandhi's resignation as the party President.
 
Pointing to the large and growing youth population in the country, the Chief Minister urged the Congress Working Committee (CWC) to look for Gandhi's replacement in a charismatic Gen Next leader, who can enthuse the people with his pan-India appeal and grassroots presence.
 
"Gandhi had shown the way for youth leadership to take the party's reins and steer it to greater heights", said the Chief Minister, adding that with India leading the world in terms of the largest youth population, it was natural that a young leader would understand and relate to the desires and aspirations of the people more effectively.
 
Any change in the party leadership must reflect India's societal reality, with 65 per cent of its population under 35, said Singh said in a statement.
 
He said Gandhi's decision to stand firm on his resignation was a major disappointment and setback for the party, from which it could recover only under the dynamic leadership of another young leader.
 
Only a youth leader could revive the grand old party, said the Chief Minister, urging the Congress leadership to keep the energy infused by Gandhi going.
 
The Congress needs young blood to galvanise its rank and file, and once again make it India's preferred and only choice, said Singh.
 
The leadership of the party should be such that it reflects the realignment of its vision to the evolving aspirations of the nation, he added.
 
A youth leader, with a forward-looking approach, would not only connect better with the large majority of India's young population but would inculcate the party with a dose of fresh thinking, desperately needed to pull the nation back from the regressive and divisive policies of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), he said.
 
Singh said under the guidance of the experienced party veterans, a young leader, with a visionary approach and modern outlook, would pave the way for the birth of a new India -- more vibrant, dynamic and progressive.
 
It was time, he said, for the old to give way to the new, without which the Congress could not effectively tackle the challenges faced today.
 
IANS

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Haryana Congress leader shot dead in Faridabad

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Haryana Congress leader Vikas Chaudhary was shot dead by two assailants outside a gym in Faridabad on Thursday, police said.
 
Chaudhary, 42, who was considered close to state Congress Chief Ashok Tanwar, was fired at from close range when he came out of the gym. 
 
He was rushed to a hospital where doctors declared him dead.
 
The crime was recorded on CCTV camera, the police said.
 
IANS
 
 
 
 

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Bargari sacrilege accused murdered in Punjab prison

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The prime accused in Punjab's Bargari sacrilege case was killed in an attack by other inmates in a jail in the state's Nabha town on Saturday, an official said.
 
The attack on Mahinderpal Bittu, who was arrested last year, occurred around 5.15 pm. He was rushed to the Civil Hospital at Nabha, where doctors declared him brought dead, an official spokesperson told IANS.
 
Initial investigations have revealed that Bittu (49), a resident of Faridkot, was attacked by two men who were in jail in a murder case.
 
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday ordered an inquiry into the fatal assault on Bittu.
 
Additional Director General Prisons Rohit Chaudhary will head the fact-finding committee, which has been asked to submit a report within three days.
 
The inquiry will be in addition to the mandatory judicial inquest into the murder of the accused, the spokesperson said.
 
The Chief Minister has ordered beefing up of security in the state in the wake of the attack, while appealing to all communities to maintain peace and not give in to rumours.
 
Those involved in the attack would face punishment for the crime, he asserted.
 
The sacrilege case relates to the alleged desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib in Bargari village in Faridkot in October 2015. Two people were killed and many others injured in Behbal Kalan village of the district on October 15, 2015, when police resorted to firing on hundreds of people protesting the sacrilege. 
 
IANS
 

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Rescuers close to child trapped in Punjab borewell for 76 hours

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Rescuers of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) on Sunday evening said they were close to reaching a two-year-old boy who has been trapped in a 150-foot-deep abandoned borewell for over 76 hours in a village in Punjab's Sangrur district.
 
The operation resumed in the morning after a delay of five hours due to a technical snag to recover the boy who fell into the narrow and deep borewell on the evening of June 6.
 
Special teams have worked day and night in a tunnel that was dug parallel to the borewell.
 
The digging was almost over in the newly-laid 36-inch-diameter parallel shaft to reach the child who is believed to be stuck at a depth of 110 feet in the borewell that has a nine-inch diameter.
 
A team of doctors and ambulances have been stationed at the spot.
 
A movement in the child's body was noticed at 5 a.m. on Saturday, almost 40 hours after the incident. After that there was no movement in his body.
 
The parallel tunnel was dug manually to reach the child, who will turn two on June 10, a rescuer told IANS on phone.
 
After digging the parallel tunnel, a passage to create access to the child is being made through another horizontal tunnel, he said.
 
Adequate supply of oxygen inside the well is being provided and a camera is being used to monitor the child's condition.
 
A special NDRF team that has experts in rescuing people trapped in wells has been deployed, Deputy Commissioner Ghanshyam Thori told reporters.
 
He said the child's hands were clamped within seven-eight hours of the incident so he could not have slipped further.
 
The child stumbled into the borewell that was covered with cement bags at around 4 p.m., his mother said.
 
The rescue team, comprising 26 members of the NDRF and the Indian Army with district administration staff, has been involved in the day-and-night operation at Bhagwanpura in Sunam subdivision, some 15 kms from district headquarters at Sangrur.
 
Followers of Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda were also involved in the rescue operation.
 
An attempt was made earlier to pull out the child with the help of a rope. He has been tied with a rope to prevent him from slipping down, a rescuer said.
 
The NDRF said this is one of the most complex rescue operations undertaken in the country.
 
The borewell had been abandoned for over seven years. This was the second such incident in the area in less than three months.
 
Thousands of people have been sending messages to TV channels, wishing luck to the rescuers.
 
On March 22, a one-and-a-half-year-old boy, who fell into a 70-foot narrow borewell in Haryana's Hisar district, was rescued after a 48-hour operation.
 
In July 2006, Army engineers in Haryana's Kurukshetra town had rescued a little boy trapped in a 60-foot well for two days.
 
IANS

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Amarinder Singh rejigs portfolios of most of his ministers, including Sidhu

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh with state Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu (File photo: IANS)
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh with state Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu (File photo: IANS)
Hours after the first state Cabinet meeting post the Lok Sabha elections, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Thursday evening rejigged the portfolios of most of the ministers, including Navjot Singh Sidhu.
 
Barring four ministers, there are some changes in the portfolios of all the ministers as a result of the reallocation, which the Chief Minister said would help further streamline the government system and processes and bring more transparency and efficacy to the various departments.
 
With the Congress government in the state nearing its mid-term mark, Amarinder Singh hoped the exercise would also re-energise his team.
 
The Chief Minister, who had hinted at changes in the portfolios of his Council of Ministers after the completion of the poll process, has allocated the crucial Local Government to his senior-most colleague, Brahm Mohindra, who was earlier handling Health and Family Welfare, which has now been entrusted to Balbir Sidhu.
 
Local Government was earlier with Navjot Singh Sidhu, who now gets Power and New and Renewable Energy Sources.
 
His other previous portfolios of Tourism and Cultural Affairs goes to Charanjit Singh Channi, who retains Technical Education, Industrial Training and Employment General, with his Science and Technology portfolio taken over by the Chief Minister.
 
Balbir Sidhu's portfolio of Animal Husbandry, Fisheries and Dairy has been entrusted, under the new scheme of things, to Tript Bajwa, along with Higher Education.
 
Bajwa also retains Rural Development and Panchayats.
 
However, Bajwa has been divested of Housing and Urban Development, which the Chief Minister has handed over to Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria, in place of Revenue, which goes to Gurpreet Singh Kangar, who is also handling Rehabilitation and Disaster Management.
 
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Manpreet Singh Badal continues to take care of Finance, Planning and Programme Implementation, but the Chief Minister has decided to take Governance Reforms into his own fold. School Education has been shifted from Om Prakash Soni to Vijay Inder Singla, who retains Public Works but hands over Information Technology to Captain Amarinder.
 
Soni will now take care of Medical Education & Research, Freedom Fighters and Food Processing departments.
 
In addition to Sports & Youth Affairs, Rana Gurmeet Sodhi will now also be in charge of NRI Affairs, which was under the Chief Minister's purview earlier. 
 
Transport has been moved from Aruna Chowdhary's basket and handed over to Razia Sultan, who retains Water Supply but has been divested of Higher Education. 
 
Aruna Chowdhary takes over the Social Security, Women & Child Development departments.
 
The four ministers in whose portfolios no changes have been made are Sadhu Singh Dharamsot (Forests, Printing & Stationery, SC/BC Welfare), Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa (Cooperation, Jails), Sunder Sham Arora (Industries & Commerce), and Bharat Bhushan Ashu (Food & Civil Supplies, Consumer Affairs).
 
IANS
 

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Sidhu skips Cabinet meet, says can't be taken for granted

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Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, who is at loggerheads with Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, skipped a Cabinet meeting on Thursday and declared later that he could not be taken for granted.
 
This was the first meeting of the Cabinet after the Lok Sabha elections, and the Chief Minister set a deadline for the completion of his government's flagship programmes within six months.
 
A defiant Sidhu said he can't be taken for granted.
 
This is the second time in a week when Sidhu, the Local Government Minister who was in the city, boycotted a crucial meeting in evident protest.
 
Earlier, Sidhu was absent from the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting chaired by Amarinder Singh here last week.
 
Even as the cabinet meeting was in progress on Thursday, Sidhu presented to the media at his residence a list of what he said were his ministry's achievements.
 
He refuted charges against him of poor performance.
 
Sidhu provided "facts" to prove that the Congress performed well in the Lok Sabha elections in the urban areas of Punjab too.
 
He made it clear that he cannot be taken for granted as he had been a performer throughout his life -- be it in cricket, showbiz or politics.
 
The strife between the cricketer-turned-politician and the Chief Minister is not new.
 
On several occasions, Sidhu has said that Congress President Rahul Gandhi was his 'Captain', reportedly irking Captain Amarinder Singh, a retired Indian Army officer popularly referred to as "Captain'.
 
The war of words between the Chief Minister and Sidhu intensified when Amarinder Singh blamed Sidhu for the Congress' poor performance in the state's urban areas and said his actions during the parliamentary elections had not only harmed him but also Rahul Gandhi.
 
The cause of the provocation was Sidhu's controversial remarks on the sacrilege issue. He also blamed the Chief Minister for denial of party ticket to his wife from Chandigarh.
 
Referring to Sidhu's remarks on the investigation into the sacrilege cases in Bathinda, the seat the Congress lost to Akali Dal's Harsimrat Kaur Badal by 21,772 votes, the Chief Minister said the Minister evidently did not understand that a Special Investigating Team (SIT) had been set up by the Assembly.
 
The Chief Minister had also reiterated that Sidhu's 'yari and jhappi' (friendship and hug) with the Pakistani Army Chief would not be tolerated, especially by Indian Army personnel, who were being killed by ISI-backed terrorists.
 
Thursday's meeting took crucial decisions, including changes in Cabinet portfolios, insiders told IANS.
 
IANS
 

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Indian, Pakistan security forces exchange sweets on LoC, IB

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Indian and Pakistan security forces on Wednesday exchanged sweets and greetings on the Line of Control (LoC) and the International Border on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr.
 
Defence sources said Indian soldiers greeted Pakistan soldiers on the LoC in Chakan Da Bagh area of Jammu and Kashmir's Poonch district and the two sides exchanged sweets.
 
The Border Security Force (BSF) and Pakistan Rangers deployed on either side of the International Border in the state's Samba district also had an exchange of goodwill and greetings, BSF sources said.
 
BSF troopers also exchanged sweets with the Rangers counterparts at the Attari-Wagah joint checkpost, some 30 km from Amritsar, in Punjab to celebrate the festival.
 
It is for the first time after Narendra Modi was sworn in as the Prime Minister of India for the second five-year term that security personnel have exchanged greetings with each other.
 
Exchange of greetings and sweets takes place on the Independence Days, national days and festivals like Eid and Diwali.
 
In recent years, both sides have not greeted each other or exchanged sweets on some occasions due to tensions between both countries following ceasefire violations on the Line of Control and the International Border in Jammu and Kashmir or terrorist activities in the state.
 
IANS
 

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Punjab Congress chief resigns for losing election

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Punjab Congress President Sunil Jakhar, who lost the Lok Sabha election from Gurdaspur to BJP candidate and actor Sunny Deol, on Monday sent his resignation from the post to party chief Rahul Gandhi.
 
In the resignation, he took moral responsibility for losing his seat and party's not so outstanding performance in the Congress-ruled state.
 
The Congress has won eight of the 13 seats. The Akali Dal and the BJP won two seats each while the Aam Adami Party (AAP) won one seat.
 
In his letter, Jakhar said he was unable to retain his seat despite the best support by the Congress President, General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi and Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.
 
"Everyone supported me fully and put in their best for me but I was unable to defend my seat. In such a scenario I cannot continue as state chief. I feet a moral responsibility to quit," said Jakhar, who lost by over 77,000 votes.
 
IANS
 

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Golf: Rashid Khan fires final round of 66, bags second title of season

Rashid Khan
Rashid Khan
Delhi’s Rashid Khan fired an awesome final round of six-under 66 to register a two-shot victory at 13-under 275 in the Tata Steel PGTI Players Championship here on Friday.
 
Rashid, who largely went unnoticed on the first three days of the Rs. 30 lakh event, knocked out all his closest rivals with a gallant showing in the last round. 
 
The 28-year-old Rashid (70-68-71-66), a two-time Asian Tour winner, earned a just reward for firing the last day’s best score as he lifted his 12th professional trophy which was also his 10th on the PGTI. 
 
His second title of the season pushed him up from second place to first position in the 2019 Tata Steel PGTI Order of Merit as his season’s earnings now read Rs. 25,68,453. Rashid overtook previous money list leader Chikkarangappa of Bengaluru.
 
Noida’s Gaurav Pratap Singh (69-67-71-70) and round three leader Shankar Das (68-68-68-73) of Kolkata, who were both in contention till the final stages at the Chandigarh Golf Club (CGC), claimed joint second position at 11-under 277.
 
The highest-placed golfers from the host city of Chandigarh were the trio of Aadil Bedi (67), Karandeep Kochhar (68) and Harendra Gupta (69) as they all ended up in tied-eighth with matching totals of seven-under 281.
 
Rashid Khan, lying overnight tied fifth and five off the lead, turned the tables with a top-notch performance on Friday to continue his hot streak which began late last year. Rashid, who took home the winner’s cheque worth Rs. 4,84,950, has now recorded three wins in the last six months on the PGTI.
 
The winner, who had struggled to hole putts all week, had a quiet start to round four as he was one-under over the front-nine today having sunk two birdies at the cost of a bogey.
 
But his fortunes were suddenly on the upswing when he birdied the 10th and 11th. He played a fantastic second shot to recover from the trees on the 10th that left him an eight-feet birdie putt which he converted. A 25-feet birdie conversion on the next hole added to the confidence of the 2013 and 2016 PGTI Order of Merit champion.
 
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His consistent ball-striking set up three more up and down birdies for him on the 13th, 16th and 17th that helped him snatch the lead and finally the title from Gaurav Pratap Singh in what can be termed as a memorable come-from-behind victory.
 
Rashid said, “It’s great to win my second trophy this year. I’ve gone through some tough times over the last two years but I’m glad that my game is peaking once again.
 
“I was hitting it well through the week but was just not able to make the putts. But the turnaround happened on the 10th hole today where I recovered from a tricky position and then converted an eight-footer for birdie. I made an important minor adjustment in my putting stroke on that hole. That proved to be the game-changer for me as I sank all the putts thereafter.
 
“I knew three to four birdies on the last six holes would probably take me into a playoff with Gaurav. Once I made a brilliant par-save on the 15th, I told myself to just focus on hitting fairways to give myself a chance. I then grabbed my opportunities on the 16th and 17th. If one has to win, one has to always convert those half chances and that’s what I did successfully.”
 
Gaurav Pratap Singh, lying overnight tied third and three off the lead, emerged as leader on day four and a favourite for the title when he traded four birdies for a bogey over the first 11 holes.
 
After conceding the lead to Rashid, Gaurav once again drew level with him, thanks to his birdie on the 17th. But a couple of erratic shots on the 18th resulted in a double-bogey for Singh and dashed his title hopes.
 
Shankar Das had an off-day with a 73 after his three rounds of 68. He thus finished tied second with Gaurav Pratap Singh. Greater Noida’s Sudhir Sharma (73), who set the new course record of 64 earlier in the tournament, secured fourth place at 10-under-278.
 
Veteran Jyoti Randhawa  finished  tied 40th at one-over-289.
 
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Golf : Shankar Das fires third straight 68 to emerge third round leader

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Seasoned campaigner Shankar Das of Kolkata fired a third straight four-under 68 to take a one-shot lead at 12-under 204 ahead of the final round of TATA Steel PGTI Players Championship here on Thursday.
 
Greater Noida’s Sudhir Sharma, who was overnight tied fourth along with Shankar after setting a new course record on Wednesday, also moved up two spots in the penultimate round. Sudhir’s 69 on Thursday placed him second at 11-under 205.
 
Bengaluru’s Trishul Chinnappa, the half-way leader, slipped to tied third as a result of his third round of 73. Chinnappa shared third place with Noida’s Gaurav Pratap Singh (71) at nine-under 207.
 
Panchkula’s Angad Cheema was the highest placed among the Tricity golfers. Cheema (68) closed the day in tied 12th at five-under 211.
 
The conditions during round three were unforgiving as it was the windiest day of the tournament and the breeze kept switching directions. The tough scoring conditions meant that only 17 players out of a total of 57 could break par on day three.
 
Shankar Das (68-68-68), a seven-time winner on the PGTI, negotiated the conditions well to shoot the day’s joint best score and keep his card bogey-free. Das struggled to find greens in regulation but more than made up for that with his fine chipping and putting.
 
He made a couple of chip-putt birdies on the second and 16th and landed his wedge shots within six feet for birdies on the sixth and 18th. The man with three top-10s this year will now be looking for his first win since September 2017.
 
Shankar said, “If I can drive and putt well in the final round I will have a really good chance of winning. I think a fourth straight round of 68 might just be good enough for me."
 
“I’ve already posted three top-10s this season so the form is good and the momentum is slowly building up for me. I think it’s just a matter of time before I can get my next win,” added Das.
 
Sharma (72-64-69) began the day splendidly as he landed his approach within a foot on the first hole to set up a tap-in birdie. Sudhir picked up five more birdies at the cost of a bogey till the 17th to enjoy a two-shot cushion over Shankar Das.
 
However, it all changed when Sharma found the water with his approach on the 18th and thereby conceded a double-bogey at the end. There was a three-shot swing in favour of Shankar who snatched the lead from Sudhir after making a birdie on the last hole.
 
Round two leader Chinnappa got off to a promising start with two birdies on the first four holes but he soon slipped with two bogeys and a double-bogey between the eighth and the 11th. He managed to pull one shot back on the 16th.
 
Patna’s Aman Raj and Bangladesh’s Md Dulal Hossain, who were both overnight tied second, shot identical scores of 74 in round three and thus dropped to tied fifth at seven-under 209. The three others in tied fifth were Delhi golfers Kapil Kumar (68) and Rashid Khan (71) and Bengaluru’s C Muniyappa (71).
 
Jyoti Randhawa was in tied 29th at one-under 215.
 
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Golf: Chinnappa holds on to lead; Sharma’s super 64 eclipses course record

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Bengaluru’s Trishul Chinnappa held on to the lead for the second day in succession, but it was Greater Noida-based golfer Sudhir Sharma’s exquisite eight-under 64 that hogged the limelight in round two of the Tata Steel PGTI Players Championship here on Wednesday. 
 
Chinnappa’s three-under-69 gave him a one-shot lead at 10-under 134 at the half-way stage of the Rs. 30 lakh event. 
 
The second position was shared by Patna’s Aman Raj (68) and Bangladesh’s Mohammad Dulal Hossain (68) at nine-under 135. 
 
The 31-year-old Sharma’s magnificent effort eclipsed the long-standing course record at the Chandigarh Golf Club (CGC) and saw him return to form after a long gap. On day two, Sharma climbed 44 positions to tied fourth at eight-under 136.
 
The previous course record of 65 was broken after 13 long years as it was first set by legend Mukesh Kumar in 2006. Thereafter, it was matched by the likes of Gaganjeet Bhullar, Gaurav Ghei, Ranjit Singh, Shiv Kapur and Trishul Chinnappa. Chinnappa had equaled it on Tuesday during the first round of the ongoing event.
 
The cut came down at even-par 144 with 57 professionals progressing to the last two rounds.
 
Sharma (72-64), lying tied 48th and seven off the lead after round one, began the second day with a birdie on the first which was soon neutralized by his bogey on the third.
 
A whirlwind back-nine saw Sharma, a joint runner-up at the Asian Tour’s Panasonic Open India 2017, gain six more shots. Some fabulous approach shots on the 10th, 12th and 13th left him birdie putts within six feet of the flag, all of which he converted.
 
He ended the round in style with birdies on the last three holes to etch his name in the record books at the CGC. 
 
Sudhir said, "It’s great to have the new course record in my name. This encourages me to keep up the intensity over the next two days. The key from here on will be to continue hitting it well off the tee and seizing the opportunities on the greens with some solid putting. ” 
 
Aman Raj (67-68) and Hossain (67-68) clung on to their overnight tied second place with matching rounds of 68. Aman mixed five birdies with a bogey and narrowly missed his eagle putt on the 13th. 
 
Dulal made an eagle, four birdies and two bogeys. His round featured two chip-ins, one for eagle on the 13th and the other for birdie on the 18th.
 
Noida’s Gaurav Pratap Singh (67) and Kolkata’s Shankar Das (68) were both in tied fourth along with Sudhir Sharma at eight-under 136.
 
Mumbai’s Anil Bajrang Mane slipped from overnight tied second to tied 10th at five-under 139 as a result of his 72 on Wednesday.
 
The trio of Yuvraj Singh Sandhu, Harendra Gupta and Aadil Bedi, were the best-placed among the Chandigarh golfers as they occupied tied 12th at four-under 140. Jyoti Randhawa (71) was a further shot back in tied 19th.
 
Local amateur Sanju Kumar made a hole-in-one on the 14th during his round of 74. However, he missed the cut since he totalled six-over 150.
 
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Congress annoyed that 'chaiwala' bringing reforms: Modi

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said the Congress was annoyed that a 'chaiwala' was bringing about reforms.
 
Addressing an election meeting in favour of party's outgoing MP Kirron Kher, Modi said when the middle class was in distress due to inflation, the Congress used to think 'hua to hua'.
 
Trying to woo the working class of the 'City Beautiful', Modi said: "The Congress has always insulted middle class and honest tax payers, whereas our government has given respect to the middle class. For the first time in history, income tax for salary up to Rs 5 lakh has been made tax-free."
 
Taking a jibe at Sam Pitroda's controversial remark in connection with the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, he said: "The Congress 'naamdaar' (Rahul Gandhi) used to say Congress is an ideology. Now 'naamdaar's guru' (Pitroda) has revealed that the Congress' ideology is 'hua to hua' (it just happened)."
 
"When inflation was breaking the back of the middle class, the Congress was thinking 'hua to hua'."
 
Saying that he would fight for justice for the 1984 anti-Sikh riot victims, he said not all perpetrators of the anti-Sikh riots have been brought to justice yet.
 
Taking a jibe at Congress candidate and former Railway Minister Pawan Bansal, he said when his relatives were caught in corruption in railway recruitment, the Congress thought "it happened".
 
Speaking on his government's vision for India's progress, the Prime Minister took credit for "one mobility card as a tool to bring about transparency in governance" and shaping up the International Solar Alliance.
 
Chandigarh will vote for its lone Lok Sabha seat on May 19.
 
IANS
 

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