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Govt rolls back surcharge on FPIs to check capital outflow

With an aim to check the massive outflow of foreign portfolio investment since the Budget, the government on Friday withdrew the surcharge levied on them.
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman addressing a press conference in New Delhi on August 23, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman addressing a press conference in New Delhi on August 23, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
With an aim to check the massive outflow of foreign portfolio investment since the Budget, the government on Friday withdrew the surcharge levied on them.
 
As a result, the tax incidence for foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) will come down by 4-7 per cent, removing the anomaly created in the Budget. The move will also cheer domestic investors as the withdrawal would also apply to them. 
 
The action came weeks after FPIs turned net sellers after levy of surcharge in the Union budget and are estimated to have pulled out about Rs 8,500 crore since the budget announcement. 
 
In her maiden budget, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman raised surcharge on super-rich or those having annual taxable income more than Rs 2 crore. The surcharge of 25 per cent was levied on those having taxable income between Rs 2 crore and 5 crore, and 39 per cent on those with taxable income over Rs 5 crore. 
 
In a sort of mini-Budget which included a flurry of economy revival policy measures, Finance Minister Sitharaman on Friday announced that "the enhanced surcharge from long-term and short-term capital gains on FPIs stand withdrawn."
 
Investors hailed the government decision with Karma Capital head Nandita Parkar who also represent industry body of FPIs (AMRI) said that the Finance Minister has done an extraordinary job and has responded decisively to their issues.
 
"Surcharge reversal is of course big relief for FPIs that would eliminate the need to look for any exotic solutions like restructuring or changing PAN status of SICAV type of structures. It's a bonus for domestic investors as well," Sunil Gidwani, Partner, Nangia Advisors (Andersen Global), said.
 
It may be noted that FPIs had done hectic lobbying to remove the surcharge with many of them pulling out their investment from the capital market.
 
Sitharaman noted that government will review surcharge on HNIs after 75th Independence Day of India. 
 
Elaborating on mechanism to withdraw surcharge levy, effected through Finance Bill, she said that it will be withdrawn through government orders. Revenue Secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey said that the fiscal impact of the removal of enhanced surcharge would be to the tune of Rs 1,400 crore annually.
 
Terming it as a key measure to boost economy and investor sentiment, Sitharaman said that in order to encourage investment in the capital market, it has been decided to withdraw the enhanced surcharge levied by Finance Act, 2019 on long and short-term capital gains arising from transfer of equity shares referred in Sections 111A and 112A respectively.
 
"This is hugely positive for the market. This is something which should address the ongoing concerns as well as those structural changes that should have been brought into effect a while back. The rollback of higher surcharge on FPI as well as domestic investors is a welcome move since it was one of the factors that put a lot of dent on investors sentiment, specifically FII and FPIs," said Mustafa Nadeem, CEO, Epic Research.
 
Bhavin Shah, Partner & Leader, PwC India said: "FM announced removal of higher surcharge on capital gains for FPIs. Her presentation suggested amendment in respect of capital gains taxable under Sections 111A and 112A. FPIs are however taxable under a different section 115AD. Hope fine print makes amendment in correct section." 
 
IANS
 

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Confident that changes in Kashmir will benefit people: President

President Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday expressed confidence that the government's moves on Kashmir would be of "immense benefit" to the people of J&K and Ladakh and enable them to access the same rights and privileges as the rest of the country.
File photo of President Ram Nath Kovind
File photo of President Ram Nath Kovind
President Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday expressed confidence that the government's moves on Kashmir would be of "immense benefit" to the people of J&K and Ladakh and enable them to access the same rights and privileges as the rest of the country.
 
In his Independence Day eve address, that comes days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's address to the nation on Kashmir, President Kovind said: "I am confident that the recent changes made in Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh would be of immense benefit to those regions. They will enable the people to access and enjoy the same rights, same privileges and same facilities as their fellow citizens in the rest of the country."
 
On August 5, the Government of India revoked the special status for Kashmir and divided the state into two Union territories - J&K and Ladakh -- for better governance.
 
Referring to the Lok Sabha elections, he said the 17th general election was the largest democratic exercise in human history. "For this I must congratulate our voters. They turned up at polling stations in large numbers and with much enthusiasm."
 
He expressed happiness that the recently concluded session of Parliament saw lengthy and productive sittings of both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. "Many important Bills were passed, in a spirit of cross-party cooperation and constructive debate. I am confident this is only an indicator of what the coming five years have in store. I also urge that this culture percolates to all our legislative assemblies."
 
Commenting on governance, he said the state and the government have an important role to play as facilitator and an enabler. "As such, it is critical for our key institutions and the policy makers to study and appreciate the message being sent by citizens and to be responsive to the thoughts and wishes of our people."
 
"Indians can be very different in their tastes and habits, but Indians share the same dreams. Before 1947, the dreams were for a free India. Today, the dreams are for accelerated development; for effective and transparent governance; and yet for a smaller footprint of government in our everyday lives."
 
IANS

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Sushma Swaraj cremated with full state honours

The last rites of former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who passed away on Wednesday night, were held at the Dayanand crematorium on Lodhi Road in New Delhi with full state honours on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi pays his last respects to former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj at her funeral in New Delhi on August 7, 2019. (Photo: IANS/PIB)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi pays his last respects to former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj at her funeral in New Delhi on August 7, 2019. (Photo: IANS/PIB)
The last rites of former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj were held at the Dayanand crematorium on Lodhi Road here with full state honours on Wednesday.
 
The 67-year-old veteran BJP leader Sushma Swaraj passed away on Tuesday night following a cardiac arrest. Her body was kept at the Bharatiya Janata Party headquarters in the heart of the capital for the public to pay homage. 
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu, BJP stalwart L. K. Advani, Union Ministers Rajnath Singh and Amit Shah and senior leaders of other parties were among those who attended the funeral.
 
The mortal remains of the former Minister were brought to the crematorium amid heavy deployment of NSG and Black Cats commandos, and hundreds of armed Delhi Police personnel.
 
Earlier, her admirers were in tears as her body was taken from her residence to the BJP headquarters in the heart of the national capital.
 
It was a short journey but scores of admirers who sprinted along with the vehicle transporting her body ahead of the last rites kept shouting slogans hailing the veteran politician -- and frequently breaking down.
 
The two slogans chanted most were "Sushmaji amar rahe" and "Jab tak suraj chand rahega, Sushma tera naam rhega".
 
So shrill was the sloganeering that the sirens in the convoy carrying the BJP leader's body had to get louder to clear the path.
 
Before the body draped in the national flag was taken out of her residence, where it was kept since her death overnight, a large number of people, neighbours included, thronged the house close to Jantar Mantar monument.
 
Guided by a police pilot, the convoy included a white Ambassador car followed by the ambulance carrying the mortal remains. Her family was in another vehicle.
 
A bus at the end carried some of her supporters and close friends.
 
NNN
 

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SC seeks personal appearance of CBI officers probing Unnao cases in court

The Supreme Court on Thursday said it will consider transfer of the trial in the Unnao rape case to Delhi.
The Supreme Court on Thursday said it will consider the transfer of the trial in the Unnao rape case to Delhi.
 
Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi asked the CBI officer supervising the cases connected with Unnao rape victim to make personal appearance before the court on Thursday at 12 noon.
 
The court sought full details of the status of investigation into the rape case along with the accident case from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) by Thursday noon.
 
Justice Gogoi said the court will consider the transfer petition in connection with transfer of trial of cases to Delhi.
 
Solicitor General (SG) informed the court that the CBI officer probing the case is out of town due to the ongoing investigation.
 
The SG told the court that they can bring case records earliest by evening, and sought adjournment of the hearing till Friday 10.30 a.m.
 
The CJI replied that the CBI chief can take instructions or gather details telephonically, and brief the court on Thursday.
 
The apex court on Wednesday took suo motu cognisance of a letter written by the family of the Unnao rape victim alleging threats from Uttar Pradesh MLA Kuldip Sengar's men. The court will hear the case on Thursday.
 
The top court also summoned for the medical report of the victim. The court has also asked the Secretary General of the court to explain the reason for the delay in placing the letter before the Chief Justice, if it was indeed received on July 17.
 
The Chief Justice observed that the reports had emerged as if nothing was done on the letter received in the Supreme Court Registry on July 17.
 
Gogoi said the court will try to do something constructive "amid this highly destructive environment".
 
On Wednesday, the Chief Justice asked the court Registry to file a reply within a week as to why there was a delay in placing before him the July 12 letter written by the rape victim and her family seeking security. 
 
In the letter to the CJI, the young rape victim, her mother, sister, uncle and aunt alleged that the henchmen of the accused, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar, were threatening to implicate them in false cases if they did not settle the case.
 
The letter also contained a video recording of the criminal intimidation and the photographs of the accused.
 
On Sunday, the rape victim, who had accused Sengar of raping her in 2017, was travelling to Rae Bareli with her lawyer Mahendra Singh and two aunts when a truck being driven on the wrong side hit them. 
 
IANS
 

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India's Chandrayaan-2 lunar mission launched into orbit by GSLV Mk III

India's ambitious Chandrayaan-2 lunar mission, that will attempt a soft landing on the hitherto unexplored dark side of the moon, was injected into its planned orbit by the GSLV MkIII-M1 on Monday, a week after an earlier planned launch was aborted due to a technical glitch.
 
India launches second lunar mission Chandrayaan-2
India's ambitious Chandrayaan-2 lunar mission, that will attempt a soft landing on the hitherto unexplored dark side of the moon, was injected into its planned orbit by the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV MkIII-M1) this afternoon, a week after an earlier planned launch was aborted due to a technical glitch.
 
The Rs. 603 crore spacecraft was injected into its planned orbit by the Rs. 375 crore GSLV-Mk III-M1 with a perigee (nearest point to Earth) of 169.7 km and an apogee (farthest point to Earth) of 45475 km, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said.
 
The launch took place from the Second Launch Pad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh, on India's east coast, as scheduled at 1443 hours IST in near perfect conditions.
 
After the injection of Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft, a series of manoeuvres will be carried out using its onboard propulsion system to raise its orbit and place it in the Lunar Transfer Trajectory, a statement from ISRO said.
 
On entering Moon's sphere of influence, onboard thrusters will slow down the spacecraft for lunar capture. Subsequently, the orbit of Chandrayaan-2 around the moon will be circularised to a 100x100 km orbit through a series of orbital maneuvers.
 
On the day of landing, the Lander (Vikram) will separate from the Orbiter and then will perform a series of complex manoeuvres comprising rough braking and fine braking. Imaging of the landing site region prior to landing will be done for finding safe and hazard-free zones. Vikram will attempt to make a soft landing in a high plain between two craters — Manzinus C and Simpelius N — at a latitude of about 70° South on 7th September 2019, it said.
 
Subsequently, the Rover (Pragyan) will roll out and carry out experiments on the lunar surface for a period of 1 lunar day which is equal to 14 Earth days. The mission life of Vikram is also 1 lunar day. The Orbiter will continue its mission for a duration of one year.
 
The 20-hour countdown for the rescheduled mission had begun at 1843 hours yesterday.
 
The mission was originally scheduled to be launched in the early hours of July 15 but it was called off about an hour before take-off due to a technical snag.
 
"Chandrayaan - 2 launch scheduled on 15th July 2019 at 2:51hrs was called off due to a technical snag noticed at around one hour before launch. An expert committee was constituted to analyze the issue and suggest remedial action," a statement posted by ISRO on its website had said on July 18.
 
"The expert committee identified the root cause of the technical snag and all corrective actions are implemented. Thereafter, the system performance is normal," it said.
 
On July 15, ISRO had said that a technical snag had been observed in the launch vehicle system at T-56 minute. It said it had called off the launch for that date as a "matter of abundant precaution".
 
Minutes before the mission was called off on that day, the countdown to the launch was suddenly put on hold, 56:24 minutes before the scheduled take-off.
 
Chandrayaan-2 is a space mission that aims to go where no country has ever gone before and conduct a soft landing on the Moon's south polar region.
 
The three-stage 44-metre tall, 640-tonne GSLV Mk-III is India's most powerful launcher to date and has been completely designed and fabricated from within the country. It is capable of launching 4-tonne class of satellites to the Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO). 
 
The Lander of Chandrayaan 2 is named Vikram after Dr Vikram A Sarabhai, the father of the Indian Space Programme. It is designed to function for one lunar day, which is equivalent to about 14 Earth days. Vikram has the capability to communicate with IDSN at Byalalu near Bangalore, as well as with the Orbiter and Rover. The Lander is designed to execute a soft landing on the lunar surface.
 
Chandrayaan 2's Rover is a 6-wheeled robotic vehicle named Pragyan, which translates to 'wisdom' in Sanskrit. It can travel up to 500 m and will leverage solar energy for its functioning. It can only communicate with the Lander.
 
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Thousands bid farewell to Sheila Dikshit

Amid chaotic scenes, three-time Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit was cremated here on Sunday as VIPs and thousands of commoners watched, a day after the veteran Congress leader suffered cardiac arrest and died.
Sheila Dikshit (File photo: IANS)
Sheila Dikshit (File photo: IANS)
Amid chaotic scenes, three-time Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit was cremated here on Sunday as VIPs and thousands of commoners watched, a day after the veteran Congress leader suffered cardiac arrest and died.
 
Security personnel forced most journalists from the print and electronic media to stay away as Dikshit's mortal remains were consigned to a crematorium powered by compressed natural gas at Nigambodh Ghat near the Yamuna river.
 
Family members broke down as the mass of men and women, mostly Congress supporters, raised full throated slogans of "Sheila Dikshit Amar Rahe" amid light rains.
 
Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, former Congress President Sonia Gandhi, her daughter and party leader Priyanka Gandhi as well as a string of other Congress veterans witnessed the last rites.
 
So thick was the crowds that security personnel had to push back people trying to surge ahead. 
 
The cremation came after a large number of people, including BJP stalwart L. K. Advani and former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, paid homage to Dikshit, 81, at her residence at Nizamuddin before the body was taken to the Congress headquarters in the heart of Delhi.
 
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah too visited Dikshit's residence.
 
From there, Dikshit's final journey to Nigambodh Ghat began in a van. Her sister Rama sat with the body.
 
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh paid his tribute to Dikshit, who was also briefly the Kerala Governor, at her residence. 
 
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath and senior leaders Ahmed Patel and Raj Babbar were among others who joined the emotionally charged crowds. 
 
Many other Congress leaders and activities followed the van carrying Dikshit's body in cars and two-wheelers.
 
Congress activists explained why they had gathered at the spot.
 
"For over 15 years, we saw Delhi flourishing every day. The amount of greenary and infrastructure that Delhi has today is because of Dikshitji," said Jagdish Sharma, a party worker.
 
Added Mubeen Firoz, another Delhiite: "Every day in the morning she used to have a public meeting at her home. I remember her listening to every citizen and working hard to make their lives easy."
 
Dikshit was the Congress President in Delhi when she suffered cardiac arrest and died on Saturday, months ahead of Assembly elections in the national capital which is now governed by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
 
The Delhi government has announced a two-day mourning and a state funeral for Dikshit.
 
Dikshit was first elected the Chief Minister of Delhi in 1998 and re-elected for two more five-year terms before the AAP washed out the Congress in the 2015 Assembly elections.
 
Dikshit lost her own seat to Kejriwal.
 
IANS
 

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SC says rebel MLAs can't be compelled to participate in trust vote

The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that 15 Congress MLAs, who have tendered their resignations, cannot be compelled to participate in the proceedings of the House.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that 15 Congress MLAs, who have tendered their resignations, cannot be compelled to participate in the proceedings of the House.
 
The top court also said the Speaker is free to decide on the resignation of the MLAs as per the Constitution. 
 
According to the order, MLAs are free to skip the trust vote in the Karnataka Assembly slated for tomorrow.
 
The court was hearing petitions filed by 15 rebel MLAs, seeking directions to the Assembly Speaker to accept their resignations.
 
"The Speaker should decide freely, as the court will not come in the way of this process....," said the court, citing the trust vote which is scheduled on July 18 in the House. 
 
The rebel MLAs are free to not participate in the trust vote, said the bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi. It said the decision of the Speaker should be placed before the court. 
 
The court said it was passing interim orders in facts and circumstances of the case and to maintain "constitutional balance" and "competing rights" of the parties."
 
The court also said the Speaker should be allowed to pass appropriate orders on the resignation of the MLAs within parameters of Article 190 of the Constitution and relevant the Rules.
 
During the day-long arguments on Tuesday, the parties involved pointed out to the bench the implications of the ongoing political crisis in Karnataka on the state as well as elsewhere, and also questioned the apex court's jurisdiction power to entertain the rebel MLAs' petition.
 
Hearing rebel MLAs counsel senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, the bench said: "We cannot say, in which way, the Speaker should decide the resignation or disqualification of MLAs. We cannot fetter him. Although, the important question is, is there any constitutional obligation for the Speaker to decide upon the resignations before the disqualification of the MLA or to club his decisions on both?"
 
The bench asked counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi what stopped Speaker K. R. Ramesh Kumar from deciding on whether to accept or reject the resignations tendered by the MLAs on July 6.
 
"You were silent on the resignations till the MLAs came to the Supreme Court. Why? If you have decided on the resignations, then where is the scope for disqualification?" the Chief Justice asked Singvhi. 
 
Singhvi replied that the Speaker had filed an affidavit in the apex court explaining what had happened. 
 
Asked why wasn't a decision taken when the MLAs went to the Speaker with their resignations, Singhvi said it was a written communication, and the Speaker was not available on that day. "But the decision was communicated to him on July 6," the court added.
 
Singhvi argued that the first condition of a genuine resignation tendered by an MLA was that "he has to be personally present before the Speaker" and added that the MLAs first met the Speaker on July 11.
 
Reacting sharply to the argument, the court said that the provision did not negate resigning by letter, but if the MLAs did make a personal visit to the Speaker then he was expected to decide on their resignations immediately. "Why didn't it happen on July 11?" the bench further queried. 
 
Asking if the Speaker was challenging the Supreme Court's jurisdiction power, the Chief Justice said: "For your benefit, the court had ordered a floor test (referring to the last year's floor test) and appointed a pro tem Speaker in a midnight hearing. The exercise of jurisdiction of our power depends only on self-restraint."
 
Singhvi said the Speaker was in no way questioning the court's jurisdiction and added: "Suppose a Speaker goes crazy, then Your Lordships can intervene." 
 
The Chief Justice also heard senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, who was representing Karnataka Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, and questioned the veracity of the petition filed by the rebel MLAs.
 
Asking the Supreme Court to look at the notice behind the petition, Dhawan said: "The court should have not entertained this petition." 
 
IANS

Jaishankar joins BJP, nominated to contest RS seat from Gujarat

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, who was nominated to contest from a Rajya Sabha seat in Gujarat hours after he joined the BJP on Monday, landed in Ahmedabad in the evening to file his nomination on Tuesday.
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar joining the BJP in the presence of its Working President J. P. Nadda in New Delhi on June 24, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar joining the BJP in the presence of its Working President J. P. Nadda in New Delhi on June 24, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, who was nominated to contest from a Rajya Sabha seat in Gujarat hours after he joined the BJP on Monday, landed in Ahmedabad in the evening to file his nomination on Tuesday.
 
Along with Jaishankar, who was inducted into the Union Cabinet by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month, the BJP has nominated Jugalji Thakore, an OBC leader from North Gujarat, to contest another Rajya Sabha seat in the state.
 
The two seats fell vacant after Union Ministers Amit Shah and Smriti Irani were elected to the Lok Sabha in the April-May election.
 
The 64-year-old former Foreign Secretary was earlier welcomed into the party by BJP Working President J. P. Nadda at the party headquarters in New Delhi.
 
BJP National General Secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan and BJP MP Bhupender Yadav were also present.
 
Jaishankar was inducted into the Cabinet and given the crucial portfolio of External Affairs on May 30, when the new Council of Ministers was sworn in.
 
As of now, he is not a member of either House of Parliament.
 
The 1977-batch officer has served in various capacities in the Ministry of External Affairs and as Indian envoy in important countries such as the US and China at crucial times.
 
He was Foreign Secretary from January 2015 to January 2018 and played a key role in shaping Modi's foreign policy during his first term, which saw a significant growth and expansion of India's ties with key countries, particularly the US and Arab nations.
 
Prior to that, during his tenure as India's Ambassador to the US from September 2013 till taking over as the Foreign Secretary, Jaishankar played a major role in bringing the US administration and the Modi government closer.
 
He also planned and executed the maiden visit of Prime Minister Modi to the US in September 2014 and his address to the Indian diaspora at the Madison Square in New York.
 
A major highlight of his diplomatic career was his tenure as Joint Secretary in-charge of Americas Division from 2004 to 2007, during which he was involved in negotiating the historic civil nuclear agreement which was finalised in 2006.
 
He also led the Indian team of negotiators for the subsequent 123 Agreement with the US, which was linked to the civil nuclear deal and concluded in 2009.
 
Jaishankar, who was honoured with India's fourth highest civilian award Padma Shri in January this year, also played a key role in improving the defence cooperation between India and the US in the shape of a new framework.
 
Jaishankar's tenure as India's Ambassador to China from 2009 to 2013, which was the longest by any IFS officer, coincided with several major developments in relations between the two countries.
 
It was his briefing to the Cabinet Committee on Security in 2010 regarding China's refusal to issue a visa to the Northern Army Commander which led to suspension of Indian defence cooperation with China and military exercises, before the matter was resolved in April 2011.
 
Also in 2010, Jaishankar negotiated an end to the Chinese policy of issuing stapled visas to Indians from Jammu and Kashmir.
 
Born on January 15, 1955, Jaishankar joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1977.
 
IANS
 
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Making India 5-trillion-dollar economy challenging but can be achieved: Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday that the goal to make India a five-trillion-dollar economy is challenging but can be achieved and asked the states to recognise their core competence and work towards raising GDP targets.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi chairing the fifth meeting of the Governing Council of NITI Aayog, in New Delhi on June 15, 2019.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi chairing the fifth meeting of the Governing Council of NITI Aayog, in New Delhi on June 15, 2019.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday that the goal to make India a five-trillion-dollar economy is challenging but can be achieved and asked the states to recognise their core competence and work towards raising GDP targets.
 
In his opening remarks at the fifth meeting of the Governing Council of NITI Aayog, the Prime Minister said that empowerment and ease of living have to be provided to each and every Indian.
 
"The goal to make India a five-trillion-dollar economy by 2024 is challenging but can surely be achieved. The states should recognise their core competence and work towards raising GDP targets right from the district level," he said.
 
He noted that the export sector was an important element in the progress of developing countries and said both the Centre and the states should work towards growth in exports, in order to raise per capita incomes.
 
"There is immense untapped export potential in several states, including the north eastern states. A thrust on export promotion at the state level will provide a boost to both income and employment," he said.
 
Describing Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana as illustrations of what the Centre and the states can accomplish together, the Prime Minister urged the states to focus on collective responsibility for achieving short-term and long-term goals.
 
"Empowerment and ease of living have to be provided to each and every Indian. Everyone at this platform has a common goal of achieving a New India by 2022," he said.
 
The meeting was attended by the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, Chief Ministers, Lieutenant Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and other delegates.
 
IANS
 

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Cyclone Vayu likely to cross Gujarat coast early Thursday morning

Cyclone Vayu over the Arabian Sea is very likely to intensify into a severe cyclonic storm and cross the Gujarat coast between Porbandar and Mahuva early in the morning of Thursday, June 13, the India Meteorological Department said on Tuesday.
(Image: IMD)
(Image: IMD)
Cyclone Vayu over the Arabian Sea is very likely to intensify into a severe cyclonic storm and cross the Gujarat coast between Porbandar and Mahuva early in the morning of Thursday, June 13, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said today.
 
A bulletin issued by IMD at 0410 hours today said the cyclonic storm over Eastcentral and adjoining Southeast Arabian Sea had moved north-northwestwards with a speed of about 11 kmph in the last six hours.
 
It lay centred at 0230 hrs IST of today near latitude 14.2°N and longitude 70.6°E, about 410 km north-northwest of Aminidivi (Lakshadweep), 600 km south-southwest of Mumbai (Maharashtra) and 740 km nearly south of Veraval (Gujarat). 
 
"It is very likely to intensify further into a Severe Cyclonic Storm during the next 24 hours. It is very likely to move nearly northward and cross Gujarat coast between Porbandar and Mahuva around Veraval & Diu region as a Severe Cyclonic Storm with wind speed 110-120 kmph gusting to 135 kmph during early morning of 13th June 2019," the bulletin said.
 
Under the influence of the system, widespread rainfall, with heavy falls at isolated places, was likely over Kerala, coastal Karnataka and Konkan & Goa in the next two or three days.
 
In Gujarat, the IMD forecast rainfall at isolated places today; fairly widespread rainfall with heavy falls at isolated places tomorrow; widespread rainfall with heavy to very heavy falls at a few places and extremely heavy falls at isolated places over Saurashtra and Kutch on June 13; and widespread rainfall with heavy to very heavy falls at isolated places on June 14.
 
In South Gujarat, there could be rainfall at isolated places today, fairly widespread rainfall with heavy to very heavy falls at isolated places tomorrow; fairly widespread with heavy falls at isolated places on June 13; and rainfall at a few places on June 14.
 
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The IMD said wind speed is very likely to increase gradually and become gale wind speed reaching 90-100 kmph, gusting to 115 kmph, over Eastcentral & adjoining Southeast Arabian Sea by today evening. It is very likely to be 40-50 kmph gusting to 60 kmph over Lakshadweep area, Kerala, Karnataka & south Maharashtra coasts.
 
Tomorrow, wind speed is very likely to increase further becoming gale wind speed reaching 110-120 kmph gusting to 135 kmph over eastcentral & adjoining northeast Arabian Sea by night. It is very likely to be 60-70 kmph gusting to 80 kmph over Gujarat coast from tomorrow morning and become gale wind speed reaching 110-120 kmph gusting to 135 kmph by 12th night. It is very likely to be 50-60 kmph gusting to 70 kmph over Maharashtra coast.
 
Wind speed is very likely to decrease and become 100-110 kmph gusting to 125 kmph over north Arabian Sea and Gujarat coast in morning hours of June 13 and decrease gradually thereafter. It is very likely to be 50-60 kmph gusting to 70 kmph over north Maharashtra coasts & northern parts of eastcentral Arabian Sea. 
 
The sea condition is very likely to be high to very high over eastcentral & adjoining southeast Arabian Sea today. It is very likely to become very high to phenomenal over eastcentral & adjoining northeast Arabian Sea & Gujarat coast from tomorrow evening and over north Arabian Sea on June 13.
 
"The sea condition is very likely to be rough over Lakshadweep area, along & off Kerala, Karnataka & south Maharashtra coasts today; rough to very rough along & off Maharashtra Coast on 12th; very rough to high along & off Gujarat, north Maharashtra coasts & northern parts of eastcentral Arabian Sea on 13th June.
 
Fishermen were advised not to venture into the sea in these areas and those out in deep sea were advised to return to the coast.
 
Storm surge of height of about 0.5 m above the astronomical tides was likely to inundate the low lying coastal areas of Porbandar, Junagadh, Gir Somnath and Amreli districts of Gujarat at the time of landfall, the bulletin said.
 
The IMD warned of possible major damage to thatched houses and huts in  Porbandar, Junagadh, Gir Somnath and Amreli districts, minor damage to power and communication lines, major damage to "Kutcha" and some damage to "Pucca roads", breaking of tree branches and uprooting of large avenue trees. 
 
Apart from total suspension of fishing operations, the bulletin said coastal hutment dwellers should be moved to safer places. People in affected areas should remain indoors, it added.
 
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Narendra Modi sworn in for second term as Prime Minister

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was sworn in for a second straight term in office at the head of a 58-member Council of Ministers at a ceremony in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on Thursday evening.
President Ram Nath Kovind swearing in Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a second term in office at a ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi on May 30, 2019.
President Ram Nath Kovind swearing in Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a second term in office at a ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi on May 30, 2019.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was sworn in for a second straight term in office at the head of a 58-member Council of Ministers at a ceremony in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan here this evening.
 
Modi was administered the oaths of office and secrecy by President Ram Nath Kovind even as hundreds of supporters of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) cheered loudly.
 
Along with Modi, members of the new Council of Ministers were also sworn in, including Rajnath Singh and BJP President Amit Shah. 
 
Former Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar is among the new Cabinet Ministers.
 
Apart from the Prime Minister, the Council has 34 Ministers of Cabinet rank, nine Ministers of State with independent charge and 24 Ministers of State.
 
Thousands of guests, including leaders of BIMSTEC member-countries, Kyrgyz Republic and Mauritius, were present on the occasion.
 
The invitees for the event included political leaders, including Congress President Rahul Gandhi, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Chief Ministers of States, leading industrialists, film stars, sportsmen, top officials, foreign diplomats and other dignitaries.
 
The Cabinet Ministers sworn in today include Nitin Gadkari, D V Sadananda Gowda, Nirmala Sitharaman, Ram Vilas Paswan, Narendra Singh Tomar, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Thaawar Chand Gehlot, Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank", Arjun Munda and Smriti Irani, who had defeated Congress President Rahul Gandhi in his family bastion of Amethi in the just-concluded Lok Sabha elections.
 
Other Ministers with Cabinet rank are Harsh Vardhan, Prakash Javadekar, Piyush Goyal, Dharmendra Pradhan, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Pralhad Joshi, Mahendra Nath Pandey, Arvind Ganpat Sawant, Giriraj Singh and Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.
 
The Ministers of State with independent charge are Santosh Kumar Gangwar, Rao Inderjit Singh, Shripad Naik,  Jitendra Singh, Kiren Rijiju, Prahalad Singh Patel, Raj Kumar Singh, Hardeep Singh Puri and Mansukh L. Mandaviya.
 
The following are the Ministers of State: Faggan Singh Kulaste, Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Arjun Ram Meghwal, General (Retd.) V. K. Singh,  Krishan Pal, Dadarao Danve, G. Kishan Reddy, Parshottam Rupala, Ramdas Athawale, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, Babul Supriyo, Sanjeev Kumar Balyan, Sanjay Dhotre, Anurag Thakur, Suresh Angadi, Nityanand Rai, Rattan Lal Kataria, V. Muraleedharan, Renuka Singh Saruta, Som Parkash, Rameswar Teli, Pratap Chandra Sarangi, Kailash Choudhary and Debasree Chaudhuri.
 
The portfolios of the new Ministers are expected to be announced soon.
 
Those from the previous Modi government who do not figure in the new Council of Ministers include Arun Jaitley, who opted out for health reasons, Sushma Swaraj, Suresh Prabhu, Jayant Sinha, Maneka Gandhi,  Manoj Sinha, J P Nadda, Uma Bharti, Mahesh Sharma, Radha Mohan Singh, Ananth Kumar Hegde, Birender Singh, K J Alphons, Vijay Goel, Ram Kripal Yadav, Anant Geete, Anupriya Patel and Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore. Swaraj has also been suffering from ill-health for a long time and she did not contest the Lok Sabha elections this time.
 
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President appoints Narendra Modi to second term as Prime Minister

President Ram Nath Kovind on Saturday appointed Narendra Modi to a second consecutive term as Prime Minister after the BJP leader led the National Democratic Alliance to a stunning victory in the Lok Sabha elections held in seven phases between April 11 and May 19.
President Ram Nath Kovind at a meeting with Narendra Modi, when he appointed him to a second term as Prime Minister of India, at Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi on May 25, 2019.
President Ram Nath Kovind at a meeting with Narendra Modi, when he appointed him to a second term as Prime Minister of India, at Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi on May 25, 2019.
President Ram Nath Kovind today appointed Narendra Modi to a second consecutive term as Prime Minister after the BJP leader led the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to a stunning victory in the Lok Sabha elections held in seven phases between April 11 and May 19.
 
While doing so, the President exercised powers vested in him Article 75 (1) of the Constitution of India.
 
A press communique from Rashtrapati Bhavan said the President requested Modi to advise him about the names of others to be appointed members of the Union Council of Ministers; and indicate the date and time of the swearing-in-ceremony.
 
Modi was formally intimated about this when he called on the President at Rashtrapati Bhavan today in his capacity as leader of the BJP Parliamentary Party, which has majority support in the House of the People following the general election to the 17th Lok Sabha.
 
Earlier in the day, a delegation of the National Democratic Alliance led by Amit Shah, President, BJP, and comprising Prakash Singh Badal, Rajnath Singh, Nitish Kumar, Ram Vilas Paswan, Sushma Swaraj, Uddhav Thakeray, Nitin Gadkari, K. Palaniswami, Conrad Sangma and Neiphiu Rio, called on the President at Rashtrapati Bhavan.
 
"A letter stating that Shri Narendra Modi has been elected leader of the BJP Parliamentary Party was handed over to the President. Letters of support from NDA constituent parties were also handed over to the President," the communique added.
 
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Earlier in the day, Modi was elected the leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the NDA parliamentary party at a function in Central Hall of Parliament.
 
"I am happy to announce that the BJP parliamentary party has unanimously elected Narendra Modi as its leader," BJP President Amit Shah announced.
 
Veteran Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader and former Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal moved the resolution to elect Modi as the leader of the NDA parliamentary party. 
 
The resolution was supported by Janata Dal-United (JD-U) President and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) chief Ram Vilas Paswan, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and other leaders of the NDA.
 
"Modiji has been unanimously elected leader by the 353 NDA members. I thank all the newly elected members and congratulate Narendra Modi for his election," Shah said.
 
After being elected leader of the NDA, Modi touched the feet of BJP veterans L.K. Advani, Murali Manohar Joshi and Parkash Singh Badal and sought their blessings.
 
Chief Ministers of various NDA-ruled states were present, among others.
 
(With inputs from IANS)
 
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Congress Working Committee meets to discuss LS rout

The Congress Working Committee (CWC) met in New Delhi on Saturday to discuss the reasons for the party's abysmal performance across the country in the 2019 general elections.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other party leaders at a meeting of the Congress Working Committee in New Delhi on May 25, 2019.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other party leaders at a meeting of the Congress Working Committee in New Delhi on May 25, 2019.
The Congress Working Committee (CWC) met here on Saturday to discuss the reasons for the party's abysmal performance across the country in the 2019 general elections.
 
Foremost on the table is the challenge to keep the flock together in states like Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, where efforts were on to destabilise the government.
 
The party is also likely to discuss the coming Assembly elections in Haryana, Jharkhand and Maharashtra, a source said.
 
Out of the 23 CWC members, only four won in the just concluded elections -- party chief Rahul Gandhi, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Gaurav Gogoi and A. Chella Kumar.
 
The 12 other CWC members, who lost the polls, include heavyweights like Mallikarjun Kharge, former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat, former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Raghuveer Singh Meena, Jitin Prasada, Deepender Hooda, Sushmita Dev, K.H. Muniyappa and Arun Yadav.
 
Seven CWC members did not participate in the Lok Sabha elections this year.
 
The party has also called the Chief Ministers of five Congress-ruled states and Union Territories to the CWC. 
 
Heads have already started rolling after the party managed to win only 52 seats in the lower house, only eight more than 2014. Congress Uttar Pradesh in-charge Raj Babbar resigned from the post on Friday, along with campaign committee chief H. K. Patil, Odisha party chief Niranjan Patnaik and Amethi District Congress President Yogendra Misra.
 
In Uttar Pradesh, the party failed to even retain the Gandhi bastion of Amethi, where Rahul Gandhi lost to Union Minister and BJP candidate Smriti Irani by a margin of over 55,000 votes.
 
In Karnataka, the party won only one seat with senior party leader Mallikarjun Kharge losing by a huge margin.
 
According to sources, a few other senior leaders and party in-charges from states where the party drew a blank, are expected to offer to step down. The final call will be taken at the CWC, the party's highest decision-making body.
 
Congress won only 3 seats in three states -- Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh -- where it formed governments in December 2018.
 
"The chief ministers and party incharges from these three states will answer for the debacle and issues that needs to be prioritised in their respective states," the source added.
 
IANS
 

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BJP-led NDA appears set to sweep Lok Sabha polls for second term in power

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance appeared set to retain power for a second consecutive term as it surged ahead in 329 of the 542 Lok Sabha constituencies where elections were held between April 11 and May 19.
BJP workers burst fire crackers as they celebrate after the counting trends for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections show that the party appeared set to retain power at the Centre, in New Delhi, on May 23, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
BJP workers burst fire crackers as they celebrate after the counting trends for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections show that the party appeared set to retain power at the Centre, in New Delhi, on May 23, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) appeared set to retain power for a second consecutive term as it surged ahead in 329 of the 542 Lok Sabha constituencies where elections were held between April 11 and May 19.
 
Counting of votes in the elections began at 0800 hours and early trends indicated that the BJP was leading in 290 constituencies, while its main rival Congress was ahead in 50.
 
Among its allies, the Shiv Sena was leading in 19, the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) in 15, the Lok Jan Shakti Party (LJP) in six, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in two, the Asom Gana Parishad in two, the AIADMK in one, the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) in one and the AJSU in one.
 
Among the Congress allies, the DMK was leading in 22 seats, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in five, the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) in three, the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) in two, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) in one, the National Conference in one and the Kerala Congress (Mani) in one.
 
Among other parties, the Trinamool Congress was leading in 25 seats, the YSRCP in 24, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)-Samajwadi Party (SP) combine in 20, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in 12,  the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in 1, the Naga People's Party in one, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in two, and the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) in two and the All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen in one.
 
The BJP appeared to be doing well in most parts of the Hindi heartland, including in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh as well as in states like Gujarat.
 
Congress President Rahul Gandhi was involved in a tight contest with Union Minister Smriti Irani of the BJP in Amethi in Uttar Pradesh but he was far ahead of his Left rival in Wayanad in Kerala. His mother and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi was ahead in Rae Bareli.
 
BJP leaders who were ahead included Union Ministers Rajnath Singh and Maneka Gandhi.
 
Votes are also being counted in the Legislative Assembly elections which were held in Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim along with the Lok Sabha polls.
 
Polling for 542 of the 545 seats in the Lok Sabha was held in seven phases on April 11, April 18, April 23,  April 29, May 6, May 12 and May 19. The poll in one constituency, Vellore in Tamil Nadu, has been rescinded by the Election Commission of India (ECI). Two seats in the House of the People are filled up by nomination from the Anglo-Indian community.
 
This time, the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips will be counted from five randomly chosen polling stations in each Assembly segment in each Lok Sabha constituency, after the counting of the votes polled in electronic voting machines (EVMs), and this is expected to delay the final results by a few hours, sources said.
 
More than 8000 candidates were in the fray for the 542 seats, while 67.11 percent of the 90.99 crore electors exercised their franchise -- the highest ever turnout in Indian elections.
 
The Opposition parties had urged the Election Commission to tally the VVPAT slips with the EVM count in the five randomly chosen polling stations in each assembly segment first before counting the votes polled in the EVMs.
 
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The Election Commission said on Wednesday it had deliberated on the issue in detail and found that the suggestion was neither possible nor feasible to accede to in the overall context and especially in view of a judgement of the Supreme Court on April 8 which directed that the random selection of VVPATs shall be subjected to the process of slip verification as per the guidelines of 16.6 of the EVM Manual in force.
 
The Commission assured the Opposition parties and all the electors of the country that the entire counting, especially guarding the strong rooms and counting centres, was already being done in an absolutely fair and transparent manner.
 
The Commission has also set up a 24-hour EVM Control Room at its headquarters here to monitor complaints relating to polled EVMs. Complaints related to storage issues at strongrooms, the security of strongrooms, permissions to candidates to post their agents at strongrooms, CCTV monitoring, movement of any EVMs and any complaints during counting related to EVMs can be registered at the Control Room. The Control Room contact number is 011-23052123.
 
Meanwhile, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has alerted the Chief Secretaries and Directors General of Police of all States about the possibility of violence during the counting of votes.
 
It has asked the States and UTs  to  maintain  law  and order and peace  and   public tranquility. States and UTs have been further asked to take adequate measures for the security of strongrooms and venues  of counting of votes. 
 
"This is in the wake of calls given and statements made  in various quarters for inciting violence and causing disruption on the day of counting of votes," an official press release said.
 
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Modi, Shah to hold dinner meet with NDA leaders

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah will hold a dinner meeting on Tuesday with leaders of the National Democratic Alliance.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah at a press conference in New Delhi on May 17, 2019.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah at a press conference in New Delhi on May 17, 2019.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Amit Shah will hold a dinner meeting on Tuesday with leaders of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
 
The meeting, which comes two days ahead of the counting of votes of the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections, is likely to chalk out a strategy for the post poll scenario.
 
Senior BJP leaders are also likely to meet at the party headquarters prior to the dinner meeting.
 
Party sources said Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal-United President Nitish Kumar and Lok Janshakti Party President Ram Vilas Paswan will attend the meeting.
 
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and Shiromani Akali Dal leader Sukhbir Singh Badal might give it a miss and are likely to send their representatives.
 
IANS
 
 
 
 

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62% polling for 59 seats in final phase of LS elections

More than 62 per cent of the voters turned out to exercise their franchise in 59 constituencies that went to the polls today in the seventh and final phase of polling in the crucial elections to choose 543 members of the new Lok Sabha.
Voters waiting in a queue outside a polling station in Madhya Pradesh, in the final phase of voting in the Lok Sabha elections, on May 19, 2019.
Voters waiting in a queue outside a polling station in Madhya Pradesh, in the final phase of voting in the Lok Sabha elections, on May 19, 2019.
More than 62 per cent of the voters turned out to exercise their franchise in 59 constituencies that went to the polls today in the seventh and final phase of polling in the crucial elections to choose 543 members of the new Lok Sabha.
 
The highest polling percentage, at 73.51%, was reported in West Bengal where stray incidents of violence marred voting in nine constituencies.
 
According to the Election Commission (EC) data at 8 p.m., Jharkhand registered 71.11 per cent voting, followed by Madhya Pradesh 70.33 per cent, Himachal Pradesh 68.46 per cent, Chandigarh 63.57 per cent, Punjab 61.81 per cent, Uttar Pradesh 57.30 per cent and Bihar 53.36 per cent.
 
Voting began at 7 am and ended at 6 pm in all 59 constituencies.
 
The 59 seats that went to the polls on Sunday were spread across seven states and a Union Territory. They had a total of 10.01 crore voters, who decided the fate of 918 candidates in the fray.
 
Prominent candidates in this phase included Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is seeking a second term from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh and Union Ministers - Manoj Sinha, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri. 
 
Others in the fray included actors-turned-politicians Shatrughan Sinha, Sunny Deol, Kirron Kher and Ravi Kishan as well as other leaders such as Sukhbir Badal of the SAD, Meira Kumar of the Congress and Shibu Soren of the JMM.
 
The ECI had set up more than 1.12 lakh polling stations and made elaborate security and other arrangements to ensure the smooth conduct of polls.
 
The first six phases of polling were held on April 11, April 18, April 23,  April 29, May 6 and May 12, covering 483 of the 543 constituencies. The poll in one constituency, Vellore in Tamil Nadu, has been rescinded by the Election Commission of India (ECI).
 
The final phase of polling covered 13 seats in Uttar Pradesh; all 13 in Punjab; nine in West Bengal; eight each in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh; all four constituencies in Himachal Pradesh; three in Jharkhand and the lone seat of Chandigarh.
 
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Counting of votes will be taken up on May 23 and most of the results are expected to be in by late that evening or the next day.
 
Two seats in the 545-member Lok Sabha are filled by nomination from the Anglo-Indian community.
 
In this phase, the BJP was defending 30 seats -- 11 of the 12 it won in Uttar Pradesh in 2014 (it later lost Gorakhpur in a bye-election), seven in Madhya Pradesh, all four in Himachal Pradesh, five in Bihar, one each in Punjab, Jharkhand and Chandigarh.
 
Allies Apna Dal won one in Uttar Pradesh and the Akali Dal four in Punjab, while then ally Rashtriya Lok Samta Party of Upendra Kushwaha had won two in Bihar. The Janata Dal-United, which is now an ally, won one seat in Bihar. 
 
The Congress had won five seats -- one in Madhya Pradesh and four in Punjab. 
 
Four seats were won by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Punjab and two by the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) in Jharkhand. One seat is currently held by the Samajwadi Party.
 
In West Bengal, all nine seats were won by the Trinamool Congress.
 
Re-polling was also held today in several booths in parliamentary constitutencies in six states and in Assembly constituencies in two. These seats include Kerala's Kannur and Kasargod, Tamil Nadu's Dharmapuri, Theni, Thiruvallur, Cuddalore and Erode, Haryana's Faridabad, Uttar Pradesh's Azamgarh, West Bengal's Bankura, Andhra Pradesh's Chittoor parliamentary and Chandgiri Assembly constituencies and 34 Assembly segments in 10 Odisha districts.
 
Voting was also held in bye-elections to four Assembly seats in Tamil Nadu, two in Karnataka and the Panaji Assembly seat, which fell vacant after the death of Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar. 
 
According to election officials, angry voters ransacked the polling booth in Nalanda in Bihar and held the Block Development Officer hostage. The officer was freed after police intervention. No voting took place at the booth. 
 
Glitches in electronic voting machines (EVMs) were also reported from the eight constituencies, leading to delay in the poll process in a few booths.
 
West Bengal reported a few incidents of sporadic violence and reports of EVM failures in several booths leading to either delay or stalling of the poll process.
 
Anupam Hazra, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate from West Bengal's Jadavpur seat, and a party leader accompanying him were attacked and the latter's car damaged after the two visited a booth on receiving reports of rigging.
 
Hazra alleged that he was pushed and shoved and accused the TMC of rigging all 52 polling booths under the Kolkata Municipal Corporation ward number 109 in Jadavpur.
 
"The BJP Mandal President was hit and one of his tooth was broken. A CISF officer posted at the booth was also injured in the attack by the Trinamool," Hazra told the media.
 
The Trinamool, however, denied the allegations. 
 
Modi is re-contesting from Varanasi seat in Uttar Pradesh. Besides Modi, 25 other candidates are in fray from Varanasi. Modi's main challengers are Congress' Ajay Rai and SP-BSP's joint candidate Shalini Yadav.
 
(With inputs from IANS)
 
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SC extends term of mediation panel on Ayodhya dispute till August 15

The Supreme Court on Friday extended the term of the mediation committee on the Ayodhya dispute till August 15.
The Supreme Court on Friday extended the term of the mediation committee on the Ayodhya dispute till August 15.
 
The court said the members of the committee were not experiencing any difficulty in the mediation process. 
 
It observed that the Chairman of the committee, former Supreme Court judge F. M. I. Kalifulla, had indicated progress in mediation so far and sought extension of time to complete the task. 
 
The court refused to divulge the details on the mediation efforts. 
 
"We will not tell you the progress made, that is confidential," replied the court to a counsel's query regarding the mediation. The court observed that the mediation process can be also extended, if required. 
 
The court's observation came after a report was submitted on the mediation efforts. 
 
Senior counsel Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for one of the Muslim litigants, told the court that they have no objection to the mediation process taking time. 
 
Iqbal Ansari, the son of Muslim litigant Hashim Ansari in the Ayodhya case, said: "This matter is very old and the issue cannot be resolved in two months."
 
Iqbal Ansari said that an eventual decision should be such that brings peace in the country
 
Swami Satyendra Das, the main priest at the Ram temple in Ayodhya, said the mediation team had submitted its report in the Supreme Court which will decide on the matter.
 
Das told IANS: "The meditation team has spoken to all the parties and come to a conclusion and given it to the court. Now the court will decide on the matter." 
 
The top court had on March 8 set up a three-member committee headed by Kalifulla to mediate to find a possible settlement of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid Ayodhya title dispute.
 
The Kalifulla panel has Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and senior advocate Shriram Panchu as its other members.
 
The mediating is taking place at Faizabad, close to Ayodhya. 
 
While ordering mediation, a five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had said: "We have considered the nature of the dispute arising. Notwithstanding the lack of consensus between the parties in the matter we are of the view that an attempt should be made to settle the dispute by mediation."
 
The other judges on the bench are Justice S.A. Bobde, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer.
 
While those representing the litigants for the temple had resisted the move, the Muslim litigants agreed to mediation as it was not at the expanse of the regular hearing on the batch of petition challenging the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment.
 
While ordering mediation, the court barred both the print and visual media from reporting on the mediation proceedings.
 
IANS
 

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SC rejects plea on Rahul Gandhi citizenship

The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed a plea on Congress President Rahul Gandhi's citizenship.
Rahul Gandhi.
Rahul Gandhi
The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed a plea on Congress President Rahul Gandhi's citizenship.
 
A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna rejected the petition.
 
"Some company in some form has mentioned Rahul Gandhi as a British citizen, so does he become a British citizen? Dismissed," CJI Gogoi said.
 
The court was hearing the petition moved by two activists seeking direction to the Home Ministry to decide on the matter and it also sought the disqualification of Gandhi from contesting the Lok Sabha polls.
 
The Home Ministry issued a notice to Gandhi on April 29 to clarify his nationality within a fortnight after Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Subramanian Swamy alleged that he was a British national.
 
Swamy in his representation to the Home Ministry alleged that Gandhi served as one of the Directors and Secretary of the British firm Backops Ltd, which is registered in the UK since 2003, with address 51 Southgate Street, Winchester, Hampshire.
 
IANS
 

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Extremely severe cyclone Fani to hit Odisha coast on Friday afternoon

The extremely severe cyclonic storm, Fani, over westcentral Bay of Bengal, was very likely to cross the Odisha coast between Gopalpur and Chandbali, around Puri, on Friday afternoon, the India Meteorological Department said on Thursday.
The extremely severe cyclonic storm, Fani, over westcentral Bay of Bengal, was very likely to cross the Odisha coast between Gopalpur and Chandbali, around Puri, tomorrow afternoon, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said here today.
 
The IMD has already issued a cyclone warning for the coastal areas of Odisha and West Bengal and Srikakulam, Vijayanagaram and Visakhapatnam districts of Andhra Pradesh.
 
In a bulletin issued at 1230 hours today, the IMD said Fani had moved further north-northeastwards with a speed of about 16 kmph in the previous six hours and lay centred at 1130 hours IST near latitude 16.7°N and longitude 84.8°E, about 360 km south-southwest of Puri (Odisha), 190 km south-southeast of Vishakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh) and 550 km south-southwest of Digha (West Bengal). 
 
"It is very likely to move north-northeastwards and cross Odisha Coast between Gopalpur and Chandbali, around Puri by the afternoon of 3rd May with maximum sustained wind speed of 170-180 kmph gusting to 200 kmph," the bulletin said.
 
The cyclone is being tracked by Doppler Weather Radars Vishakhapatnam & Machilipatnam.
 
The bulletin said light to moderate rainfall would occur over most places in North Andhra Pradesh with isolated heavy to very heavy falls over Visakhapatnam and Vijayanagaram districts and isolated heavy to extremely heavy falls (>20 cm) over Srikakulam district today.
 
There could be heavy to very heavy rainfall at isolated places over Srikakulam district tomorrow, it said.
 
In  south coastal and adjoining interior Odisha, the IMD said there could be light to moderate rainfall at most places today, with heavy to very heavy rainfall and extremely heavy falls over Ganjam & Gajapati districts at isolated places.
 
"It is likely to increase with moderate rainfall at most places and heavy to very heavy rainfall at a few places and extremely heavy falls at isolated places over coastal Odisha and adjoining districts of interior Odisha on 3rd. Light to moderate rainfall at most places with heavy to very heavy falls at isolated places over Balasore, Mayurbhanj districts of north Odisha on 4th May," it said.
 
The bulletin also forecast light to light to moderate rainfall at most places with heavy to very heavy rainfall at a few places and extremely heavy falls at isolated places very likely over coastal and adjoining districts of West Bengal tomorrow; and heavy to very falls at isolated places over Gangetic West Bengal on May 4.
 
"Light to moderate rainfall at most places with heavy falls at isolated places over sub-Himalayan West Bengal and Sikkim on 4th May," it said.
 
The bulletin said Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Meghalaya would experience light to moderate rainfall at most places, with isolated heavy to very heavy falls on May 4 and 5. There could be isolated extremely heavy falls over Assam and Meghalaya on May 4.
 
There could also light to moderate rainfall at many places over Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura on May 4, with isolated heavy falls.
 
The bulletin said gale winds, with speed reaching 180-190 kmph, gusting to 210 kmph, were very likely to prevail over westcentral Bay of Bengal around the system centre during the next 24 hours and decrease thereafter.
 
It said squally winds, with speed reaching 40-50 kmph, gusting to 60 kmph, were very likely to prevail along and off north Andhra Pradesh and Odisha Coasts and become gale wind, speed reaching 60-70 kmph gusting to 85 kmph, from tonight. It is very likely to become 170-180 kmph, gusting to 200 kmph, along and off south Odisha and adjoining north Andhra Pradesh (Srikakulam district) coasts; and 90-100 kmph gusting to 115 kmph along and off remaining districts of coastal Odisha and north Andhra Pradesh (Visakhapatnam and Vijayanagaram Districts) by tomorrow forenoon for the subsequent 12 hours and decrease thereafter.
 
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"Squally wind speed reaching 40-50 kmph gusting to 60 kmph is very likely along & off West Bengal coast from 2nd May evening. It is very likely become gale wind speed reaching 60-70 kmph gusting to 85 kmph from 3rd May afternoon and become 90-100 kmph gusting to 115 kmph from 4th May early morning for subsequent 12 hours and decrease thereafter," it said.
 
The sea condition will be phenomenal over westcentral Bay of Bengal, off north Andhra Pradesh coasts, till tomorrow and over northwest Bay of Bengal off Odisha and West Bengal till May 4.
 
Sea conditions are very likely to be very rough to high off north Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, along and off south Andhra Pradesh coasts till May 3.
 
The bulletin warned that storm surge of 1.5 metre height above astronomical tide was very likely to inundate low-lying areas of Ganjam, Khurda, Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts of Odisha at the time of landfall.
 
Fishermen were advised not to venture into deep sea areas and those out in deep sea in the above aeas were advised to return to the coasts.
 
The bulletin said the cyclone could cause extensive damage to kutcha houses and old pucca and badly managed pucca structures in Ganjam, Gajapati, Khurda, Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts of Odisha.
 
It said there could be extensive uprooting of communication and  power poles. There could also be disruption of rail and road links and extensive damage to standing crops, plantations and orchards. Large boats and ships may get torn from their moorings.
 
The IMD suggested total suspension of fishing operations, extensive evacuation of people from coastal areas, and diversion or suspension of rail and road traffic. People in affected areas have been advised to remain indoors.
 
The cyclone could also cause damage, on a lesser scale, in Kendrapara, Bhadrak, Jajpur, Balasore districts of Odisha and east and west Medinipur, south and north 24 Parganas, Howrah, Hoogli, Kolkata districts of West Bengal and Srikakulam, Visakhapatnam and Vijayanagaram districts of Andhra Pradesh, the bulletin added.
 
NNN
 

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Congress says will deliver on Nyay, jobs, farmers welfare, education and healthcare

Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday released his party's manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections with five main themes -- Nyay, a minimum income guarantee scheme, jobs and an expanded MGNREGA, steps to address the farm crisis, education and healthcare.
Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, A K Antony and P Chidambaram unveiling the party's manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, in New Delhi on April 2, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, A K Antony and P Chidambaram unveiling the party's manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, in New Delhi on April 2, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
Congress President Rahul Gandhi today released his party's manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections with five main themes -- Nyay, a minimum income guarantee scheme, jobs and an expanded MGNREGA, steps to address the farm crisis, education and healthcare.
 
The manifesto, titled "Congress will Deliver" in English and "Hum Nibhayenege" in Hindi,was unveiled by Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and senior Congress leaders A. K. Antony and P. Chidambaram at a function at the party's headquarters here this morning.
 
Gandhi told the gathering, including journalists, that he had urged Antony, Chidambaram and other leaders such as Rajeev Gowda, who had worked on the manifesto, that it must reflect the voice of the people across the country and not contain even one lie or false promise.
 
He said Manmohan Singh had assessed and vetted the manifesto and given his expertise to the drafting committee, while Sonia Gandhi had also provided her inputs.
 
Gandhi said that, under Nyay (Nyunatam Aay Yojana), the Congress, if voted to power at the Centre in the April-May elections, would guarantee a minimum income of Rs. 6,000 every month (Rs. 72,000 each year and Rs. 3,60,000 during the next five years) to the 20 percent poorest families in the country.
 
He said that the amounts, which will be directly transferred to the bank accounts of the beneficiaries, would create increased demand for goods and services, especially in the rural areas, and help kickstart the stalled economy.
 
Gandhi said the Congress, if voted to power, would fill up the 22 lakh vacancies in government jobs and also provide jobs to 10 lakh people through the gram panchayats across the country.
 
He also said that no permissions from government would be required for new businesses for three years, a move aimed at giving a boost to entrepreneurs.
 
He announced that the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Scheme (MGNREGA), which now guarantees 100 days of employment in a year for those who seek work in rural areas, would be expanded to guarantee 150 days of employment.
 
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Gandhi said the Congress, if it forms the next government, would introduce a separate "Kisan Budget" so that farmers would have a clear idea about the allocations made for various schemes aimed at their welfare.
 
He also said that non-repayment of loans by farmers would not be treated as criminal offences, as at presence, but only as civil offences. He said that while rich industrialists fled the country after defaulting on bank loans worth thousands of crores of rupees, poor farmers were jailed for defaulting on small loans.
 
Gandhi said the Congress would allocate 6 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for education in an effort to make quality education in institutions such as IITs, IIMs and other such institutions accessible to all.
 
In the area of healthcare, he said the Congress would upgrade and modernise government  hospitals and other institutions across the country to make the best medical facilities available to the poorest people.
 
He said the Congress did not have much faith in healthcare schemes based on private sector health insurance providers which, he said, was the case in the  Ayushman programme launched by the Narendra Modi government.
 
Gandhi also said that the Congress would accord the highest priority to national and internal security, stating that the party's record in this regard was known to all. He said the BJP-led NDA government was dividing the people and spreading hatred and pointed out that the consequences could be seen in Jammu and Kashmir.
 
"We will unite the people and bring the nation together," he said.
 
Responding to questions from the media, Gandhi said the lack of jobs and the farm crisis were the main issues in the coming elections and argued that all surveys and polls had pointed to this.
 
He said that people across the country felt the economy had stalled as a result of demonetisation and the hasty implementation of the Goods and Service Tax (GST) and declared that his party would take steps to revive the economy.
 
Gandhi said the Nyay scheme, GST, corruption, the Rafale fighter jet deal, the "lies" of Prime Minister Modi and the BJP's "false promises were among the issues uppermost in people's minds across the country.
 
In reply to a question, he said MGNREGA had contributed in a major way to India's dramatic growth in the ten years of the Congress-led UPA government and had helped to kickstart the economy.
 
On Modi's attempts to keep the focus on issues such as nationalism, national security and so on, Gandhi said the Prime Minister was in a state of shock after the Congress unveiled Nyay and other such schemes and was now trying to hide behind "some issue or the other".
 
He said the truth was that there was a lack of enough jobs, farmers were committing suicide, the promised "Achhe Din" (good days) had not come and that the "Chowkidar" (watchman), as Modi describes himself, had "facilitated thefts".
 
"The  chowkidar can hide, but he cannot escape," he said.
 
To a question, Gandhi said the Congress, if voted to power, would reform the "Gabbar Singh Tax" and introduce a single tax at the lowest possible rate, instead of the multiple tax slabs at present, and simplify forms and all other compliance requirements.
 
Asked about the BJP's criticism that the Nyay and such other schemes were not doable, he said, "It is not doable for the BJP, but for the  Congress it is doable. Trust us, I don't make false promises."
 
Gandhi said the Congress would reach out to millions of people, especially those in the lower strata, with schemes like Nyay, MGNREGA and those in education, healthcare, employment and other such segments.
 
About his decision to contest from a second constituency, Wayanad in Kerala, apart from Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, from where he has been elected for three consecutive terms, Gandhi said there was a "feeling in South India that they are not being carried by the current government and that there is hostility from Narendra Modi."
 
"There is a feeling that they are not included in decision-making in the country. We want to send a message to them that we are with you," he said.
 
To another question about a possible electoral alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi, Gandhi said the Congress had tied up electoral alliances in many states and was open to such arrangements in general. "We are open to alliances," he said, without going into the specifics of Delhi.
 
Asked about Modi's attacks on the Congress on issues such as nationalism, Gandhi challenged the Prime Minister to have a one-to-one debate with him on national security, foreign policy, corruption or such issues.
 
He said Modi was running away from facing questions on such issues and that is why he had not addressed a single press conference. He wondered why Modi was scared of facing journalists. He said the media grilled him on all kinds of issues at every opportunity but was afraid of posing any question to the Prime Minister.
 
The Lok Sabha elections will be held in seven phases between April 11 and May 19.
 
NNN
 

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Extremely severe cyclonic storm Fani likely to cross Odisha coast on May 3

The extremely severe cyclonic storm Fani, over westcentral and adjoining southwest Bay of Bengal is very likely to intensify further and cross the Odisha coast between Gopalpur and Chandbali, to the south of Puri, around May 3, the India Meteorological Department said.
 
The extremely severe cyclonic storm Fani, over westcentral and adjoining southwest Bay of Bengal is very likely to intensify further and cross the Odisha coast between Gopalpur and Chandbali, to the south of Puri, around May 3, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
In a bulletin issued at 2230 hours today, the IMD issued a cyclone alert for the coastal areas of Odisha and West Bengal and the districts of Srikakulam, Vijayanagaram and Visakhapatnam districts of Andhra Pradesh.
 
The bulletin said Fani, pronounced as Foni, had moved west-northwestwards with a speed of about 16 kmph in the previous six hours and lay centred at 2030 hrs IST of today near latitude 13.4°N and longitude 84.5°E, about 720 km southsouthwest of Puri (Odisha) and 490 km south-southeast of Vishakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh). 
 
"It is very likely to intensify further and move northwestwards till 01st May noon and thereafter recurve north-northeastwards and cross Odisha Coast between Gopalpur and Chandbali, to the south of Puri around 3rd May afternoon with maximum sustained wind of speed 175-185 kmph gusting to 205 kmph," it said.
 
The bulletin said light to moderate rainfall was very likely at many places over north coastal Andhra Pradesh (Srikakulam, Visakhapatnam and Vijayanagaram districts) on May 2, with heavy to very heavy rainfall at isolated places.
 
Rainfall was likely at most places in the area on May 3, with heavy to very heavy rainfall at a few places.
 
In Odisha, light to moderate rainfall was very likely at many places over south coastal Odisha on May 2, with heavy to very heavy rainfall at isolated places.
 
"It is likely to increase with rainfall at most places and heavy to very heavy rainfall at a few places with extremely heavy falls (>20 cm) at isolated places over coastal Odisha and its adjoining districts of interior Odisha on 3rd and over north Odisha on 4th May," it said.
 
In West Bengal, light to moderate rainfall was very like at most places in  the coastal districts, with heavy falls at isolated places, on May 3 and  heavy to very heavy rainfall at a few places with extremely heavy falls at isolated places over Gangetic West Bengal on May 4.
 
The bulletin said gale winds, with speed reaching 170-180 kmph, gusting to 200 kmph, were prevailing over westcentral and adjoining southwest Bay of Bengal. 
 
"It is very likely to increase gradually becoming 180-190 kmph gusting to 210 kmph over westcentral and adjoining southwest Bay of Bengal off north Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and south Andhra Pradesh coast from 1st May evening onwards.
 
"Strong wind speed reaching 30-40 kmph gusting to 50 kmph very likely along and off Tamilnadu coast, Comorin area, Gulf of Mannar and Kerala during next 12 hours.
 
"Squally wind speed reaching 40-50 kmph gusting to 60 kmph is very likely to commence along and off north Andhra Pradesh and Odisha coasts from 2nd May and very likely to become gale wind speed reaching 60-70 kmph gusting to 85 kmph from 3rd May morning and become 175-185 kmph gusting 205 kmph over Odisha Coast and 90-100 kmph gusting to 115 kmph over adjoining districts of north Andhra Pradesh (Srikakulam, Visakhapatnam and Vijayanagaram districts) by 3rd May evening," it said.
 
"Squally wind speed reaching 40-50 kmph gusting to 60 kmph is very likely along and off West Bengal coast on 2nd May. It would become gale wind speed reaching 60-70 kmph gusting to 85 kmph from 3rd May evening and become 90-100 kmph gusting to 115 kmph from 4th May morning," it said.
 
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The bulletin  said the sea condition is phenomenal over southwest Bay and adjoining southeast and westcentral Bay of Bengal, off north Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and south Andhra Pradesh coasts. It is very likely to be phenomenal over westcentral Bay of Bengal during May 1-3 and over northwest Bay of Bengal during May 2-4.
 
The bulletin said sea conditions were very likely to be very rough to high along and off north Andhra Pradesh coasts during May 1-3 and high to phenomenal along and off Odisha and West Bengal coasts during May 2-4.
 
The bulletin said storm surge of about 1.5 metre height above astronomical tide was very likely to inundate low-lying areas of Ganjam, Khurda, Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts of Odisha at the time of landfall.
 
Fishermen were advised not to venture into deep sea areas of southwest and adjoining southeast Bay of Bengal during the next 12 hours; southwest and adjoining westcentral Bay of Bengal, along and off Puducherry, north Tamil Nadu and south Andhra Pradesh coasts till May 1; westcentral Bay of Bengal, along and off north Andhra Pradesh coast during May 1-3.
 
Those, who are out in deep sea above areas are advised to return to the coasts.
 
The bulletin said the cyclone could cause extensive damage to kutcha houses and old pucca and badly managed pucca structures in Ganjam, Gajapati, Khurda, Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts of Odisha.
 
It said there could be extensive uprooting of communication and  power poles. There could also be disruption of rail and road links and extensive damage to standing crops, plantations and orchards. Large boats and ships may get torn from their moorings.
 
The IMD suggested total suspension of fishing operations, extensive evacuation of people from coastal areas, and diversion or suspension of rail and road traffic. People in affected areas have been advised to remain indoors.
 
The cyclone could also cause damage, on a lesser scale, in Kendrapara, Bhadrak, Jajpur, Balasore districts of Odisha and east and west Medinipur, south and north 24 Parganas, Howrah, Hoogli, Kolkata districts of West Bengal and Srikakulam, Visakhapatnam and Vijayanagaram districts of Andhra Pradesh, the bulletin added.
 

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Rahul promises Rs 72K minimum income to 25 crore poor

Congress President Rahul Gandhi said on Monday that nearly 25 crore poor people in the country will get financial assistance of Rs 72,000 per annum if the party is voted to power under the ambitious minimum income guarantee scheme which the party has named "Nyay".
Congress President Rahul Gandhi addressing a press conference in New Delhi, on March 25, 2019
Congress President Rahul Gandhi addressing a press conference in New Delhi, on March 25, 2019
Congress President Rahul Gandhi said on Monday that nearly 25 crore poor people in the country will get financial assistance of Rs 72,000 per annum if the party is voted to power under the ambitious minimum income guarantee scheme which the party has named "Nyay".
 
Announcing the details of the party's promised scheme at a media briefing here, Gandhi said the Congress will provide Rs 72,000 per annum to 20 per cent of the poorest families in the country. The scheme will benefit 5 crore families and 25 crore individuals directly, according to Gandhi. 
 
He said the scheme was "unprecedented in the world". "Nyay" (the minimum income scheme) will be the Congress' major poll promise ahead of the Lok Sabha elections and Gandhi termed it as "a final assault on poverty". 
 
He said the "minimum income line" is Rs 12,000 per annum and the scheme will benefit individuals earning less than that. 
 
"Congress guarantees that 20 per cent of the most poor families will be given Rs 72,000 crore every year. The amount will be transferred directly to the accounts of 20 per cent of the poorest families," Gandhi said at the beginning of his press conference. 
 
However, he subsequently clarified that the scheme will supplement the income of the poor if it is less than Rs 12,000 per month. 
 
"The minimum income line is Rs 12,000 per month. Whatever the difference -- say the income is Rs 6,000 -- we will top it up. Those who earn less than Rs 12,000, we will take their earnings to Rs 12,000," Gandhi said.
 
Gandhi said the scheme will be implemented in phases and there will be a pilot project. 
 
He said the scheme was "fiscally perfectly possible" and the entire calculations have been already done. The Congress also held detailed analysis with leading economists on the matter.
 
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"It is doable and we are going to do it," the Congress President said. 
 
Gandhi also targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the PM-KISAN scheme launched last month, saying that it hardly provides any assistance to the farmers. 
 
"You are being misled. If Modi can provide money to the rich, the Congress can give it to the most poor. Our pockets are being cut daily," he said. 
 
"We have kept our promise of farm loan waiver in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh," he added.
 
Gandhi also referred to the MGNREGA, the rural employment guarantee scheme introduced by the UPA government, and said that it had taken 14 crore people out of poverty in its first phase.
 
"This is the second and final operation. We will bring 25 crore people out of poverty. This ground-breaking idea is the final assault on poverty," he said. 
 
Gandhi, who addressed the media after a meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), refused to take questions on other political issues.
 
Sources in the Congress said that party General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was among the leaders who had suggested giving a Hindi name to the ambitious scheme to have better connect with the voters.
 
IANS
 

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Yeddyurappa paid Rs 1,800 crore to BJP leaders: Report

Former Karnataka Chief Minister B. S. Yeddyurappa made payouts of Rs 1,800 crore to senior leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party, judges and lawyers, reported The Caravan on Friday.

File photo of B S Yeddyurappa (Photo: IANS)
File photo of B S Yeddyurappa (Photo: IANS)
Former Karnataka Chief Minister B. S. Yeddyurappa made payouts of Rs 1,800 crore to senior leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party, judges and lawyers, reported The Caravan on Friday.
 
The report said the news magazine accessed copies of diary entries in the handwriting of Yeddyurappa that note payoffs amounting to over Rs 1,800 crore to the BJP leaders such as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, the BJP stalwart L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, among others. 
 
"The copies of the diary pages note that Yeddyurappa paid the BJP Central Committee Rs 1,000 crore; that he paid the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and the Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari Rs 150 crore each; that he gave the Home Minister Rajnath Singh Rs 100 crore; and that he paid the BJP stalwart LK Advani and the senior party leader Murli Manohar Joshi Rs 50 crore each," reads the report.
 
"Besides this, the entry notes, Yeddyurappa paid Rs 10 crore for 'Gadkari's son's marriage'. The diary entries also state that Yeddyurappa paid Rs 250 crore to 'judges'; and Rs 50 crore to 'advocates (fee paid for cases)', but does not mention any names."
 
The alleged payouts were recorded by Yeddyurappa in a Karnataka state assembly legislator's 2009 diary, in Kannada, in his own hand, the report said.
 
Copies of these entries have been with the Income Tax Department since 2017. 
 
The entries regarding payments to the BJP leaders, judges and advocates were written against rows dated January 17, 2009, while the entry regarding the BJP central committee was written against rows dated January 18, 2009, said the report, adding it was unclear whether the entries were made on these dates or written in the diary on a later date.
 
Yeddyurappa served as the Chief Minister in Karnataka from May 2008 to July 2011. 
 
IANS
 

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Modi to fight from Varanasi again, Shah from Gandhinagar

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will fight to retain his Varanasi seat while BJP President Amit Shah will contest his first Lok Sabha polls from Gandhinagar in the 2019 polls, BJP leader J.P. Nadda announced on Thursday.
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will fight to retain his Varanasi seat while BJP President Amit Shah will contest his first Lok Sabha polls from Gandhinagar in the 2019 polls, BJP leader J.P. Nadda announced on Thursday.
 
Among the prominent leaders announced in BJP's first list, which had 182 names, were Union Ministers Rajnath Singh, who will contest again from Lucknow, Nitin Gadkari from Nagpur, Gen. V. K. Singh (retd) from Ghaziabad, Satyapal Singh (Baghpat), Sakshi Maharaj (Unnao) and Kiren Rijiju (Arunanchal East). All are sitting MPs.
 
Union Minister Smriti Irani will again contest against Congress President Rahul Gandhi in Amethi. 
 
Film actress-turned politician Hema Malini will again contest from her Mathura seat.
 
IANS
 
 
 
 

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Modi says focus on social and physical infrastructure to shape future of gen-next

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday the engine of growth for his government was running on two parallel tracks -- one providing social infrastructure to all and the other providing physical infrastructure for all and particularly for generation-next to shape their future as per their dreams.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaking at The Economic Times Global Business Summit in New Delhi on February 24, 2019.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaking at The Economic Times Global Business Summit in New Delhi on February 24, 2019.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said the engine of growth for his government was running on two parallel tracks -- one providing social infrastructure to all particularly for those who were left out and the other providing physical infrastructure for all and particularly for generation-next to shape their future as per their dreams.
 
"What happened in the past is not in our hands, but what will happen in the future is firmly in our hands," he said in his inaugural address at The Economic Times Global Business Summit.
 
"We often lament at missing the industrial revolutions in the past, but today it is a matter of pride that India is an active contributor to the fourth Industrial Revolution. The extent and magnitude of our contribution will surprise the world.
 
"I am also confident that India may have missed the bus during the first three industrial revolutions, but this time, it is a bus India has not only boarded but will also drive. Innovation and Technology will form the bed-rock of this resurgence," he said.
 
Modi began by speaking about the challenges facing the country during the second half of 2013 and early 2015 on parameteres such as inflation, current account deficit and fiscal deficit which, according to him, were threatening the macro-economic stability of the country and indicating a gloomy future.
 
"The country was facing total policy paralysis. This was preventing the economy from reaching the level which it was worthy of; the global fraternity was worried about the health of this member of fragile five club. There was a perception of surrender to existing circumstances," he said.
 
"It was in this background that our government came to serve the people and today change is clearly visible," he said.
 
"After 2014, hesitations have been replaced by hope. Obstacles have been replaced by optimism. And issues have been replaced by initiatives.
 
"Since 2014, India has made significant improvements in almost all international rankings and indices. This not only shows how India is changing but also represents how the world’s perception about India is changing," he said.
 
He went on to speak about the improvement in India's rankings in the Ease of Doing Business and World Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index and the Global Innovation Index.
 
"The change is due to a new style of governance and is often visible in interesting ways.
 
"We are now witnessing various forms of competition. A competition between ministries, a competition between states, a competition on development, a competition on achieving targets.
 
"Today, there is a competition as to whether India will get 100% sanitation first or 100% electrification first. There is competition as to whether all habitations will be connected by road first or all homes will get gas connection first. There is competition as to which state will attract more investment. There is competition as to which states will build houses  for the poor fastest. There is competition as to which aspirational district will progress fastest.
 
"Before 2014 also, we heard of about a competition, although of a different kind. A competition between ministries, a competition between individuals, a competition on corruption, a competition on delays.
 
"There was competition on who can do maximum corruption, there was competition on who can do fastest corruption, there was competition on who can do most innovation in corruption.
 
"There was competition as to whether coal will get more money or spectrum. There was competition as to whether CWG would get more money or defence deals. We all saw that and we also know who were the main players involved in this competition. I will leave it to you to decide which form of competition you would prefer," he said.
 
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Modi said that, for decades, a narrative was made that certain thiiings were just impossible in India. "The progress our nation has achieved since 2014 gives me confidence that nothing is impossible for 130 crore Indians," he said.
 
He went on to list the government's achievements in areas such as sanitation, fighting corruption, use of technology and  removing discretion and arbitrariness in policy making.
 
"It was said that economic  reforms in India were impossible, but people of India are making it possible. It was said that governments cannot be pro-growth and pro-poor at the same time, but people of India are making it possible. I have also been told, that there is a perception or theory that a developing economy cannot grow at higher rate for a longer period, without facing the problem of inflation.
 
"Post liberalisation, that is after 1991, almost all governments formed in our country had to face this problem – what many experts call 'over-heating' of economy after a short period of growth. As a result of this we never had sustainable higher rate of growth. You may recall, that we had a government, between 1991 and 1996  where the average growth was about five percent, but the average inflation was more than ten percent.
 
"The government just before us between 2009 to 2014 had an average growth of about six and half percent with an average inflation again in double digit. During 2014 to 2019, the country would register average growth of seven point four percent and the average inflation would be less than four and half percent. Post liberalisation of Indian economy, this will be the highest rate of average growth and lowest rate of average inflation witnessed during the period of any government," he said. 
 
Modi said that, with these changes and reforms, transformation is happening in the way the economy has moved. He said not just domestic investors but also investors from all across the world were showing confidence in the Indian economy.
 
"In the last four years, the amount of Foreign Direct Investment received in the country was almost equal to what was received in seven years before 2014. 
 
"To achieve all this, India needed reforms to transform. And by having the Bankruptcy Code, GST, Real Estate Act to name a few, – a solid foundation for decades of higher growth has been laid," he said.
 
"Four years ago, who would have believed that rupees three lakh crore or about forty billion dollars would be returned by defaulting borrowers to financial and operational creditors. This is the impact of Bankruptcy and Insolvency Code. This  will help the country in allocating financial resources more efficiently," he said.
 
The Prime Minister said all these reforms were implemented without halting work for the well-being of the larger sections of society.
 
"India is a country of 130 crore aspirations and there can never be a singular vision for development and progress. Our vision of new India caters to all sections of the society, irrespective of their economic profile, their caste, creed, language and religion. We are working hard to create a New India which fulfils the aspirations and dreams of 130 crore Indians.
 
"Our vision of new India includes addressing the challenges of the future while also solving problems of the past," he said.
 
"So today, while India has made its fastest train, it has also eliminated all un-manned railway crossings. Today, while India is building IITs & AIIMS at a rapid pace, it has also built toilets in all schools across the country. Today, while India is building a 100 smart cities across the country, it is also ensuring rapid progress in over 100 aspirational districts.
 
"Today, while India has become a net exporter of electricity, it has also ensured that crores of households which were in darkness since independence have got electricity. Today, while India aims to land on Mars, it is also ensuring that every Indian has a roof over his head. Today, while India is the fastest growing world economy, it is also removing poverty at the fastest speed," he said.
 
"We are reaching out to twelve crore small and marginal farmers by providing them a comfort of rupees six thousand every year. This will transfer 7.5 lakh crore rupees or about one hundred billion dollars to our farmers over the next ten years.
 
"We are rolling out a pension scheme for crores of our informal sector workers. The outcomes of our focus on Digital India, Start-up India, Make In India and Innovate India are converging and reaping rich dividends," he said.
 
"You would be happy to know that today 44 percent of the startups registered in India are from tier 2 and tier3 cities. A network of hundreds of Atal Tinkering Labs is coming up across the country and helping foster an atmosphere of innovation. This will give a solid foundation for our students to help them become innovators of tomorrow.
 
"It is equally heartening to see how youth in villages are leveraging Wi-Fi and digital tools to help in clearing competitive exams. It is technology which is bridging the gap between the haves and have-nots in our country.
 
"With the support and partnership of the people, India has made rapid strides since 2014. This could not have been possible without Jan Bhagidaari. It is this experience that gives us confidence that our country can provide adequate opportunities to all its citizens, to grow, prosper and excel. 
 
"We look forward to making India a ten trillion dollar economy. We look forward to making India the third largest economy. We want to make an India of countless startups. We want to lead the global drive towards renewable sources of energy. We want to give our people energy security. We want to cut down on import dependence.
 
We want to make India a world leader in electric vehicles and energy storage devices. 
 
"With these goals in mind, let us re-dedicate ourselves to create a New India of our dreams," he added.
 
NNN
 

(Our News Desk can be contacted at desk@netindian.in)

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