Nation bids tearful adieu to Vajpayee

Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, whose appeal transcended party lines and geographical boundaries, was cremated with full military honours on Friday in the presence of the country's top leaders cutting across the political divide and adoring masses.

Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee
Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee
Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, whose appeal transcended party lines and geographical boundaries, was cremated with full military honours on Friday in the presence of the country's top leaders cutting across the political divide and adoring masses.
Amidst chanting of vedic hymns and firing of a 21-gun salute by soldiers, his foster-daughter Namita lit the funeral pyre in the presence of a galaxy of leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu, political leaders and foreign dignitaries bidding adieu to the departed leader at the Rashtriya Smriti Sthal.
Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah had earlier walked with the gun-carriage carrying the mortal remains of Vajpayee as it made its way from the party headquarters at Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg to the cremation venue, a designated spot for the last rites of Presidents, Vice Presidents and Prime Ministers. 
People had been thronging Vajpayee's residence since morning on Krishna Menon Marg, where the body was kept since Thursday night. 
The crowds swelled as the mortal remains were brought to the BJP's new headquarters and kept there for over three hours for people to pay their last respects. 
Delayed by an hour, the final journey saw a sea of people converging on the route to the Rashtriya Smriti Sthal, a distance of less than 3 km on the banks of the Yamuna river. 
In keeping with the military traditions, the three service chiefs placed wreaths on the body of Vajpayee before leaders paid their tributes for one last time. 
The tricolour that was wrapped around Vajpayee's body was given to his foster granddaughter Niharika after which the body was handed over to the family for the last rites.
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress President Rahul Gandhi, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, veteran BJP leaders and Vajpayee's long-time associates L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman were present at the funeral. 
Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk and former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai led foreign dignitaries including Pakistan Law Minister Syed Ali Zafar, Nepal Foreign Affairs Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, acting Sri Lanka Foreign Minister Lakshman Kiriella and Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali in paying homage.
Among the dignitaries who attended the funeral were former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mallikarjun Kharge and Anand Sharma, Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker M. Thambidurai, former Union Minister A. Raja, MDMK chief Vaiko and TMC leader Dinesh Trivedi. 
The cremation ground was surcharged with emotion as Vajpayee's body was consigned to the flames. People, many of them misty-eyed, raised slogans like "Atalji amar rahen". 
People gathered at places enroute the procession, including a madrassa, raising slogans hailing Vajpayee. Many of the people who came had grown up with Vajpayee's spellbinding oratory and were impressed with his poems. 
Vajpayee had a pan-India appeal cutting across boundaries of caste, community, language and his flair for foreign policy and initiatives was acknowledged globally. His political rivals were also touched by his gentleness and magnanimity. 
When the final journey started from the BJP's central office, Modi and Amit Shah walked behind the flower-decked gun carriage carrying the body of Vajpayee draped in the tricolour as security personnel kept a tight watch.
Deferring to Vajpayee's stature, Modi and Shah walked the entire route till the cremation ground leading the mourners, who included union ministers, BJP leaders and tens of thousands of people.
People threw flower petals on the casket all through the three-kilometre route as an expression of their love, respect and admiration for the late leader.
Slogans like "Atalji amar rahen", "Jab tak sooraj chand rahega, Atalji ka naam rahega", "Bharat Mata ki jai" and "Vande Mataram" rent the air as the procession progressed. Some people were carrying banners containing lines from poems written by Vajpayee. 
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath was also in the procession and supporters accompanying him raised slogans of "Jai Shri Ram". A number of BJP chief ministers including, Shivraj Singh Chouhan (Madhya Pradesh), Manohar Lal Khattar (Haryana), Union Ministers and BJP leaders accompanied the funeral procession.
Earlier, Modi, Shah, Advani, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, his deputy Manish Sisodia, CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI leader D. Raja, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister E. Palanisami were among the leaders who paid tributes to Vajpayee at the party office after his body was brought there from his Krishna Menon Marg residence.
Before the body was taken from the residence, Congress President Rahul Gandhi, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, DMK Working President M.K. Stalin, MDMK chief Vaiko, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and chiefs of the Army, Navy and the Air Force placed wreaths and paid their last respects.
Tight security arrangements had been made for the final procession by the security forces anticipating the participation of a large number of people.
The country is observing a seven-day state mourning as a mark of respect for the leader who had been decorated with the Bharat Ratna and was very popular. The tricolour is flying half-staff. 

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NRC process fair, transparent, there will be no discrimination: Rajnath

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday assured Parliament that there will be no discrimination or unnecessary harassment in the updation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and said the entire process has been fair and transparent.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday assured Parliament that there will be no discrimination or unnecessary harassment in the updation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and said the entire process has been fair and transparent.
Reiterating that the matter pertained to national security, he condemned alleged attempts by a "few" (persons) to create an atmosphere of fear based on rumours and propaganda on the social media and internationalise the issue.
Responding to a Short Duration Discussion on the issue in the Rajya Sabha, which saw disruptions and adjournments for a couple of days, the Minister said the Central and Assam governments are committed to adding the names of all genuine Indians in the list in a time-bound manner.
"I am reiterating that it is not the final NRC. It is just a draft NRC. Adequate opportunity will be provided to everyone for making claims and raising objections. Despite this, if anybody's name remains out of the list, he can approach the Foreigners Tribunal," Rajnath Singh said.
He also assured that there would be no coercive action against anybody in any situation.
The Minister said that the NRC updation was being carried out in a totally fair, transparent, non-discriminatory and legal manner.
"The entire process is being carried out under Supreme Court supervision. It is monitoring on a routine basis. Nobody will be harassed. There has been no discrimination, and there will be no discrimination," he said while dismissing allegations by some opposition parties.
He said that the draft NRC had been published on July 30 in accordance with Assam Accord of 1985 when Congress leader Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister.
The decision to update it was taken in 2005 by the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, he added.
The Minister, a senior BJP leader, also hit out at some political parties, saying they are "trying to create an atmosphere of fear" among the people.
"It is unfortunate that some persons with vested interest are running a propaganda on the social media so that the issue can be internationalised and communal harmony affected," he said.
"It is a matter of national security... no attempts should be made to create communal disharmony... I expect cooperation from all," Rajnath Singh added.
Later, Ripun Bora of the Congress suggested in the house that the Central government convene an all-party meeting.
He said that a wrong message had been sent that the Congress is against the NRC. 
"With the Home Minister's statement, it is now clear that it was the Congress which initiated the NRC. Rajiv Gandhi understood the danger to Assam. To protect the people of the state, the Assam accord was signed," he said.

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Mamata meets Sonia, opposition leaders to stitch anti-BJP alliance for 2019 polls

Seeking to rally opposition parties, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday met UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and leaders of other parties in Delhi on Wednesday and declared that her priority is to defeat the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections next year with the issue of prime ministership to be settled collectively later.

West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee meeting Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, in New Delhi on August 1, 2018. (Photo: IANS/Congress)
West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee meeting Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, in New Delhi on August 1, 2018. (Photo: IANS/Congress)
Seeking to rally opposition parties, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday met UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and leaders of several other parties and declared that her priority is to defeat the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections next year with the issue of prime ministership to be settled collectively later.
She also kept up her attack on the BJP over the exclusion of 40 lakh names from the National Register of Citizens for Assam, saying they were playing with fire and were using offensive language against those excluded. 
Banerjee personally invited Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and other opposition leaders for the January 19 mega rally she has planned in Kolkota.
The Kolkata rally is expected to help Banerjee emerge as the pivot of opposition efforts to dislodge the Narendra Modi government in 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
"There will be collective face. Ours is a collective family. Priority is to defeat BJP. If, to defeat BJP, we can fight collectively inside Parliament then why can we not outside...I haven't come to talk about my state," Banerjee said after her meeting with Sonia Gandhi and Congress President Rahul Gandhi. 
The meeting with the Gandhis capped a day of hectic activities in Parliament House where Banerjee met leaders of various parties including Shiv Sena, AIADMK, Samajwadi Party, TDP, YSCRP, DMK, RJD, Kerala Congress-Mani. She also called on JD-S leader and former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda in Karnataka Bhavan and senior BJP leader L. K. Advani in his chamber in Parliament. 
While Shiv Sena is a constituent of the the BJP-led NDA, AIADMK is friendly towards it. 
"Whenever I come to Delhi I meet Soniaji as I have very old relation with Rajivji. We have discussed political matters also. How we can fight together," she said, indicating that Congress would be part of anti-BJP front. 
"I don't want to interfere in Congress matter or what Congress will decide... Wherever, whoever is strong should fight," she said in reply to a question whether TMC will ally with Congress in West Bengal. 
Attacking the BJP, she said the BJP "is nervous politically, tense politically."
"The reason why it says whatever these days, because it knows it is not going to come back to power in 2019. If it talks with responsibility then we will talk to them. Not if they abuse us. I can fight against 500 parties in my state... We are all for all, everybody is everybody. PM will be decided later, first fight the election first," she said. 
Banerjee said she briefed Sonia Gandhi also on the problems of those excluded from the National Register of Citizens in Assam. 
"We discussed the fate of 40 lakh voters who have been decided to be deported, these people are from Bihar, Bengal, Gujarat, Rajasthan, UP, TN. If these people are deported, what does the BJP want? Does it want peace or civil war," she said. 
Earlier in her media interactions in Parliament House complex she sought to downplay questions about who will be the prime ministerial candidate of the Opposition.
"I am nobody. I am a very simple worker. Let me just continue as a commoner. I want that this BJP government must go. So we want that everybody should be united. Let us work together, don't think of Prime Ministerial candidate. Think of the country," she said. 
Banerjee alleged that BJP was "doing maximum political vendetta" and atrocities with the people.
She said NRC is "a global issue and not just an issue of Assam or India". 
"They have deleted names of about 20-25 per cent of the total population. They are calling all of them Bangaldeshi infiltrators. Is Bangladesh a terrorist country? By saying this they are insulting both Bangladesh and India. They should not level baseless allegations against Bangladesh that they are sending infiltrators."
Banerjee said if states say they will not accept people from other states, there will "be a civil war" and "bloodbath".
"There is panic within people. Only one per cent will be illegal migrants," she said.
Banerjee also said that if there was infiltration, it is government's failure. 
She said while Home Minister Rajnath Singh had assured that there will be no harassment of people excluded from NRC, BJP chief Amit Shah made remarks against those whose names have been excluded. 
Banerjee met Congress leaders Ahmed Patel and Ghulam Nabi Azad, Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav, AIADMK leader M. Thambidurai, Kerala Congress-Mani leader Jose K. Mani, suspended BJP MP Kirti Azad, Shiv Sena member Sanjay Raut, DMK's Tiruchi Siva, Vijay Sai Reddy of YSRC Party, and Misa Bharti and Jay Prakash Narayan Yadav of RJD. She also met TDP MPs. 
Former Law Minister and Congress leader Ashwani Kumar also met Banerjee. 
Banerjee arrived in Delhi on Monday and met Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar on Tuesday. She also met dissident BJP MP Shatrughan Sinha and former union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Ram Jethmalani.
She had visited the national capital in March also and met opposition leaders. 

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Varied voting in bye-elections; EVMs malfunction in UP, Maharashtra

Amid complaints of dysfunctional electronic voting machines (EVMs) in three parliamentary constituencies in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, the bye-elections on Monday to four Lok Sabha and nine Assembly seats across India saw moderate to high turnout.

Amid complaints of dysfunctional electronic voting machines (EVMs) in three parliamentary constituencies in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, the bye-elections on Monday to four Lok Sabha and nine Assembly seats across India saw moderate to high turnout.
The Congress and some other opposition parties complained to the Election Commission (EC) about "hundreds of EVMs" having malfunctioned, particularly in Uttar Pradesh's Kairana, but the poll panel said the news reports of "large scale" failure of EVMs were "an exaggerated projection of reality".
It said that adequate number of reserve EVMs-VVPAT (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail) were kept and deployed in almost half hour where there were reports of non-functioning of the machines. 
The poll panel said the malfunctioning could be attributed to "first-time use by polling staff, extreme heat, placement of the machine under direct sunlight and mishandling during use".
In Kairana, where the BJP is locked in an intense fight with combined opposition including the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Congress, the polling percentage was 54.17 per cent till 6 p.m.
In the Noorpur Assembly segment of the state, the polling percentage was 61 till 6 p.m. 
In Kairana, there were reports of firing in Bhura village and skirmishes between supporters of the opposition-supported RLD candidate Tabassum Hasan and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s Mriganka Singh, daughter of late Hukum Singh, whose death necessitated the bypoll.
Both the RLD and the BJP filed complaints alleging that over 100 voting machines were malfunctioning.
The BJP told the EC that a large number of EVMs were out of order, forcing hundreds of voters to wait outside polling booths in the scorching heat.
In the national capital, a multi-party delegation including Congress leader R.P.N. Singh, Samajwadi Party's Ram Gopal Yadav and RLD chief Ajit Singh met the EC officers and demanded a repoll in booths where there were reports of dysfunctional EVMs.
In Maharashtra, about 40 per cent polling was estimated till 6 p.m. in the Bhandara-Gondiya Parliamentary constituency. In Palghar, the polling percentage was around 47 till 6 p.m.
Senior Nationalist Congress Party leader Praful Patel alleged that "nearly 25 per cent of all the EVMs in Bhandara-Gondiya were defective or had malfunctioned".
EC officer in-charge Abhimanyu Kale told the media that around 156 EVMs were replaced or spares deployed.
Hundreds of voters patiently waited to cast their votes in the blistering heat as the EVMs were replaced.
The EC trashed reports that polling had been cancelled in 35 booths in Bhandara-Gondiya.
The defective machines hit polling severely, with barely 25 per cent of the electorate casting their votes by 2 p.m. in both constituencies.
Ruling ally Shiv Sena also strongly criticised the EC and the government for the glitches and claimed that these were reported mostly from the party's strongholds.
Sena MP Sanjay Raut said the glitch is nothing but a manifestation of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis' recent controversial statement on 'Saam, Daam, Dand, Bhed'.
Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) President Prakash Ambedkar demanded cancellation of the elections in Bhandara-Gondiya while Congress state spokesperson Sachin Sawant alleged large-scale irregularities. 
Both elections are prestigious for the state's ruling BJP, which faces the NCP in Bhandara-Gondiya and its own ally Shiv Sena in Palghar. 
The bye-election in Bhandara-Gondiya was necessitated after sitting BJP member Nana Patole quit the party in December 2017 and later joined the Congress. BJP's Hemant Patle, who was earlier in the Shiv Sena, faces NCP's Madhukar Kukde, who is supported by the Congress, while there were 18 others in the fray.
In Palghar, the bye-election came after sitting MP Chintaman Vanga died. However his son joined the Shiv Sena and was given party ticket. The BJP has fielded former Congress leader Rajendra Gavit, while the Congress has put up Damoda Shingda.
The bye-election to the Nagaland Parliamentary seat witnessed 75 per cent polling. The seat fell vacant as sitting member Neiphiu Rio resigned after being elected to the state Assembly and becoming Chief Minister.
In Bihar, Jokihat Assembly seat saw nearly 55 per cent polling.
Bye-elections to Silli and Gomia Assembly constituencies in Jharkhand saw 75 per cent and 62 per cent voting, respectively.
In West Bengal, around 70 per cent of votes were cast till 5 p.m. for the bye-election to the Maheshtala Assembly constituency. In Punjab, Shahkot Assembly constituency recorded over 73 per cent voting. 
Chengannur Assembly constituency in Kerala saw voting percentage of 77 per cent while Meghalya's Ampati Assembly seat saw a high voter turn out of 90.42 per cent.
Polling was also held at Tharali in Uttarakhand.
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Karnataka drama: SC orders floor test in Assembly at 4 pm on Saturday

The Supreme Court on Friday directed that a floor test be held at 4 pm on Saturday to determine if BJP leader B. S. Yeddyurappa, who was sworn in as the new Chief Minister of Karnataka on Thursday morning, has the requisite strength in the state legislative assembly.

The Supreme Court today directed that a floor test be held at 4 pm tomorrow to determine if BJP leader B. S. Yeddyurappa, who was sworn in as the new Chief Minister of Karnataka yesterday morning, has the requisite strength in the state legislative assembly.
Governor Vajubhai Vala, while inviting Mr. Yeddyurappa to form the government after the May 12 elections to the assembly threw up a split verdict, had told him to prove his majority in the house within 15 days.
The order by a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Mr. Justice A. K. Sikri, on petitions filed by the Congress and the Janata Dal (S), said the Karnataka government could not nominate a member from the Anglo-Indian community to the assembly till the vote of confidence is held.
Senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who appeared for the petitioners, told newspersons later that the court had also made it clear that the Chief Minister could not take any major policy decisions during this period.
The apex court also directed the Director General of Police to ensure the security of all the newly-elected MLAs so that they can reach the Assembly safely.
The Governor will now appoint a pro tem Speaker, usually the senior-most among the newly-elected MLAs, who will preside over the House when the legislators take oath in the House.
Mr. Singhvi said the court had also agreed to address the larger question of whether the Governor had acted correctly or not in inviting Mr. Yeddyurappa to form the government as the leader of the single largest party when a post-poll alliance had claimed in writing that it had a clear majority in the House with the signatures of the members on its side. The court said it would take up this aspect after ten weeks.
Mr. Singhvi said the letter written by Mr. Yeddyurappa to the Governor, staking claim to form the new government, which was submitted to the court today, clearly showed that he had not given any details on how the BJP would bridge the eight-member gap between its strength and the number required for a simple majority. "He had no basis for laying claim to forming the government," he said.
The Supreme Court had held a rare midnight hearing on Wednesday on the petitions filed by the Congress and the JD (S) seeking a stay on the swearing-in of Mr. Yeddyurappa, pointing out that the Governor had overlooked their claim that their post-poll alliance had a clear majority in the Assembly.
The BJP had won 104 of the 222 seats for which polling was held on May 12, while the Congress, which was ruling the state for the past five years, ended up with 78 seats and the JD (S) with 37 seats.
The Congress and JD (S) announced a post-poll alliance even as the results were coming in, and also claimed that they had the support of two of the three other members in the house, adding up to 117 in all. The Congress had agreed to let JD (S) leader and former Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy to head the government in case the alliance was invited to form the new government.
Mr. Yeddyurappa, also a former Chief Minister, was, meanwhile, elected leader of the BJP legislature party and he, too, staked claim for forming the government, asserting that he would be able to prove his majority in the House. Late on Wednesday night, the  Governor invited Mr. Yeddyurappa to form the government and take the oath of office on Thursday morning.
The three-judge bench of the Supreme Court heard the appeals by the Congress and JD (S) from 2 am yesterday till about 5.30 am, when it declined to stay the swearing-in ceremony  but directed that a further hearing on the matter would be held at 10.30 am today.
The court had, however, sought the communications which Mr. Yeddyurappa had written to the Karnataka Governor informing him his election as leader of the BJP legislature party.
The court said that the swearing-in would be subject to the final outcome of the matter before it.
Fearing poaching by the BJP, the Congress and the JD (S) shifted their MLAs out of Karnataka to Hyderabad in Telangana overnight last night. They were lodged in a resort near Bengaluru and a hotel in the state capital for two days after the results of the elections were declared on May 15. The MLAs, who reached Hyderabad by road only this morning, will now have to make their way back to Bengaluru so as to be in time for tomorrow's proceedings.
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No stay on Yeddyurappa swearing-in after midnight battle in Supreme Court

Amid jockeying for power in Karnataka, the Supreme Court early on Thursday after a midnight hearing refused to stall the swearing-in of BJP leader B.S. Yeddyurappa as Karnataka's new Chief Minister.

BJP's chief ministerial candidate B. S. Yeddyurappa speaking to journalists after being elected to the Karnataka Assembly from Shikaripura, in Bengaluru on May 15, 2018. (Photo: IANS)
BJP's chief ministerial candidate B. S. Yeddyurappa speaking to journalists after being elected to the Karnataka Assembly from Shikaripura, in Bengaluru on May 15, 2018. (Photo: IANS)
Amid jockeying for power in Karnataka, the Supreme Court early on Thursday after a midnight hearing refused to stall the swearing-in of BJP leader B.S. Yeddyurappa as Karnataka's new Chief Minister.
The court, however, sought the communications which Yeddyurappa had written to Karnataka Governor informing him his election as BJP legislature party.
Yeddyurappa would take the oath as the Chief Minister of Karnataka on Thursday at 9.00 a.m. at Raj Bhavan. 
The court said that the swearing-in is subject to the final outcome of the matter before it.
The bench headed by Justice A.K. Sikri, while seeking Yeddyurappa's response on the petition by Congress and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) seeking to stall his swearing-in, has directed further hearing of the matter at 10.30 a.m. on Friday.
During the hearing, that commenced at 2.20 a.m. and concluded with the court passing order at 5.30 in the morning, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal was asked to produce the letters which the court was told are with the Karnataka Governor.
The top court heard a joint petition by the Congress and JD-S challenging Governor Vajubhai Vala's decision inviting Yeddyurappa to form a new government in the state despite having 104 MLAs -- eight short of simple majority.
The court also issued a notice to Yeddyurappa, asking them file a reply even as former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who appeared for the BJP said how long Yeddyurappa should be given to prove majority could be debated after two days.
The petition was filed late on Wednesday night after Governor Vala invited Yeddyurappa for an oath taking ceremony on Thursday at 9 a.m. and gave him days to prove his majority in the legislative assembly.
The Congress and the JD-S, who formed a hurriedly stitched post-poll alliance after a hung assembly verdict to claim a majority of 116 members in the new assembly, called the Governor's decision "unconstitutional".
"The BJP has only 104 MLAs, the Governor invited Yeddyurappa to form government in an unconstitutional manner," senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who appeared for the Congress, told the three-member bench of Justices A.K. Sikri, S.A. Bobde and Ashok Bhushan.
Chief Justice Dipak Misra constituted the bench shortly after midnight on Wednesday to hear the matter in court number six of the Supreme Court.
Singhvi argued in the fully packed court room and talked about occasions when post-poll alliances have been called despite single largest party.
He cited the instances of Goa and Manipur where the Congress had emerged as the single largest party sans majority but post-alliances were invited to form governments.
He said in the case of Karnataka, it was unheard of that a Chief Minister who does not have a majority was given 15 days to conduct floor test.
"There is only one way a party which got 104 will get 113... I heard he asked for seven days, but the Governor gave 15 days. Elementary common sense and arithmetic against this kind of giving of time," Singhvi said.
He said in Jharkhand in 2005, Goa in 2017 and in the Jagadambika Pal case in Uttar Pradesh, the court advanced the date of floor test from seven days to 48 hours.
"It is biggest license to poaching if Governor gives 15 days to the BJP to prove majority," he said.
To this, the Justices Sikri, Bobde and Bhushan said they were wondering whether the Supreme Court can restrain a Governor that might lead to constitutional vacuum in a state.
They said that the general trend of the past Supreme Court judgements was not to issue injunction to Governor or to restrain Governor.
Singhvi responded: "It is not like restraining the Governor, who only acted in pursuance of the BJP letter. Act of swearing-in is less than they make it out to be.
"If President's rule under Article 356 can be stayed by a court, why not this (decision to invite BJP and give 15 days for floor test) in which a Governor has exercised his discretion without the aid and advice of the Cabinet?"
Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, in his argument said everything was in the realm of "speculation" as the entire matter was still "a grey area".
Rohatgi who appeared for the BJP questioned the urgency of the matter to hear it at midnight.
"Will heavens fall if a person is sworn in in the morning?" he said.
Justice Sikri asked him to submit before the court how his side was claiming a majority in the House.
Venugopal intervened and said, "Everything is reversible. What is the great loss by waiting for 15 days."
Justice Bobde countered: "That is the other point. Why wait for 15 days?"
Venugopal said it was the Governor's decision and it was an area of darkness how Yeddyurappa was claiming to form the government.
"But let the swearing-in go on. This is a purely reversible situation."
The court observed that it was "preposterous" to argue that before MLAs take oath they were not amenable to anti-defection law. "It means open invitation to horse-trading."
"In a case like this where the opposite side is showing 117 MLAs support, how will you have 112?," Justice Sikri asked Venugopal.
The case was still being heard till early morning on Thursday.
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Tharoor charged with abetting wife's suicide, says it's 'preposterous'

Delhi Police on Monday filed a chargesheet in a court in Sunanda Pushkar's suicide case, accusing her husband and Congress leader Shashi Tharoor of abetment to suicide, a charge he dubbed "preposterous" and his party called "baseless".

File photo of Shashi Tharoor and Sunanda Pushkar Tharoor
File photo of Shashi Tharoor and Sunanda Pushkar Tharoor
Delhi Police on Monday filed a chargesheet in a court in Sunanda Pushkar's suicide case, accusing her husband and Congress leader Shashi Tharoor of abetment to suicide, a charge he dubbed "preposterous" and his party called "baseless".
The chargesheet was filed in the court of Metropolitan Magistrate Dharmender Singh here. It mentions that the body of Pushkar bore "scuffle marks" when it was found in a luxury hotel room in New Delhi on January 17, 2014.
"These (marks) seem to have been caused due to scuffle between Sunanda Pushkar Tharoor and her husband Shashi Tharoor as per the statement of their personal attendant Narain Singh. However, this fact is being examined further."
Tharoor has been charged under Sections 306 and 498A of the Indian Penal Code that deal with abetment to suicide and subjecting a woman to cruelty by her husband or his relative respectively, which entail a jail term that may extend up to 10 years.
Delhi Police Chief Spokesperson Deependra Pathak said the chargesheet was filed in the case on the basis of medico-legal and forensic evidence analysed during investigation as well as the opinion of experts regarding Pushkar's death, which was investigated by a Special Investigation Team of South District police.
The Congress, however, said that there "could be no more falsehood about this charge except that a conspiratorial BJP leadership, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, were seeking revenge against Tharoor by using the Delhi Police which, he said, was a willing tool to subserve BJP's political agenda". 
BJP Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy said that all witnesses and documents in the case were destroyed during the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) rule by the "corrupt" police.
"Under Section 301 CrPC and also via JK International judgment of SC, I am entitled to assist the prosecutor in the Sunanda unnatural death case," he tweeted.
He said he will appear in court on the next date of hearing on May 24.
Congress leader Randeep Surjewala told the media here that top BJP leaders had "conspired against Tharoor" and accused him of murdering his wife while the chargesheet filed by Delhi Police on Monday was for abetment of suicide. 
Surjewala dubbed these charges "baseless" and a conspiracy by the Bharatiya Janata Party leaders who "hounded, prosecuted and maligned" Tharoor. 
He said that the BJP continued to leak unfounded evidence so that a media trial going on for a year-and-a-half against Tharoor could continue.
The Congress leader questioned the police investigation, saying how could it be called a suicide too when there were no suicide note or witnesses. 
"We will not be cowed down, we will not bow. We have full faith in the justice system," he added. 
The chargesheet says that the brothers and son of Pushkar made "no allegations against anyone".
Pushkar, 51, was found dead in her suite at Leela Hotel in south Delhi, days after she alleged that her husband was having an affair with a Pakistani journalist.
There was no evidence of Pushkar's murder but she may have been driven to suicide as she had not been eating or even leaving her room days before her death, according to the chargesheet.
Tharoor took to Twitter in his defence, saying he had taken note of the filing of this "preposterous chargesheet". He said he intended to "contest it vigorously".
"No one who knew Sunanda believes she would ever commit suicide, let alone abetment on my part."
He said if that was the conclusion arrived at after four plus years of investigation it "does not speak well of the methods or motivations of Delhi Police".
In October 2017, Tharoor said, a law officer made a statement in the Delhi High Court that they have not found anything against anyone "and now in six months they say that I have abetted a suicide". 
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Dust storm lashes Delhi and NCR, air traffic and Metro services hit

A powerful dust storm accompanied by rains on Sunday evening brought down the temperature in the national capital and adjoining areas, seriously disrupting air traffic and Metro services, officials said.

A dust storm hit Delhi, on  May 13, 2018.
A dust storm hit Delhi, on May 13, 2018.
A powerful dust storm accompanied by rains on Sunday evening brought down the temperature in the national capital and adjoining areas, seriously disrupting air traffic and Metro services, officials said.
As the storm blew at a highest speed of 70 km per hour, the mercury crashed from 39 degrees Celsius at 4 p.m. to 25 degrees half hour later, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) told IANS. By early evening, the skies had turned dark. 
Power supply was affected in many areas in Delhi and Gurugram in Haryana. 
More than 40 incoming flights to the Indira Gandhi International Airport were diverted between 4.15 and 5.30 p.m. due to poor visibility and strong winds, an airport official said. 
Delhi Metro operations were also hit. Thousands of commuters were stuck on the winding and busy Blue Line, which links Dwarka in west Delhi to Noida and Vaishali in Uttar Pradesh, for more than 45 minutes.
The Violet Line, one of the six lines of the Delhi Metro that connects Kashmere Gate in north Delhi to Escorts Mujesar in Faridabad in Haryana, was also disrupted.
In both cases, toppling trees fell and damaged overhead Metro wiring, an official spokesman said.
When the Metro services finally resumed after around two hours, the trains plied at halting speed. 
The rains and storm brought down trees and tree branches in some areas and led to traffic snarls, forcing two-wheeler drivers to take shelter under bridges and flyovers. Motorists switched on headlights to find their way in the enveloping darkness. 
The Delhi Fire Service said it received over 30 calls linked to falling trees and two calls related to wall collapse within two hours of the storm hitting the national capital. But no casualty was reported. 
The dramatic change in weather, however, did bring respite to residents from the sweltering heat. 
The Met department had forecast rain and thunderstorm with gusty winds on Sunday. 
Mahesh Palawat, Director of the private weather forecast agency Skymet, told IANS that the change in weather was due to western disturbance which reached Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh on Saturday evening. 
"A cyclonic circulation formed near Haryana and north Rajasthan along with the western disturbance. South-easterly and easterly winds are creating moisture and high temperature in the region which caused the formation of thunder clouds. The strom blew over a trough which is spread from north Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. 
"Delhi falls within the trough, but now this will move towards western Uttar Pradesh. There is a likelihood of light rains with thunder towards the afternoon or evening for two more days. Westerly winds will form again and temperature will begin to rise after May 15," Palawat said. 
Just after the dust storm hit Delhi and the National Capital Region, Delhi, Gurugram and Noida received heavy to moderate rains. 
The Met official said Sunday morning was the hottest of the season, with minimum temperature recorded at 30.6 degrees Celsius, five notches above the season's average. 
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India, China agree on joint economic project in Afghanistan

India and China on Saturday agreed on a joint economic project in Afghanistan, sources said after a two-day summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Wuhan, China.

Narendra Modi, Xi Jinping hold one-on-one meeting
India and China on Saturday agreed on a joint economic project in Afghanistan, sources said after a two-day summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping here.
The long-standing border issue also figured in the meeting where Modi and Xi decided to give "strategic guidance" to their armies to prevent a Doklam-like military stand-off in 2017.
"The two leaders endorsed the work of the Special Representatives in their efforts to find a fair, reliable and truly acceptable settlement. They also underscored that in the meantime it is important to maintain peace and tranquility in all areas of the India-China border region," India's Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said here.
"And to this end, the two leaders decided that they would issue strategic guidance to their respective militaries to strengthen communication and to build trust and understanding to implement the various confidence-building measures which have already been agreed upon by the two sides and to strengthen existing institutional mechanism to prevent and manage situations in the border areas," he added.
Earlier on Saturday, Modi and Xi walked by the East Lake as they began their second round of talks.
On Friday, the two leaders agreed that healthy bilateral ties were important for a better world as they met to re-set the ties between the two nations hit by the military face-off.
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Class 12 re-test on April 25, Class 10 only in Delhi, NCR

Amid outrage over leak of CBSE question papers, the government on Friday said re-examination of Class 10 maths paper will be held only in Delhi, NCR and Haryana, "if at all", while fresh Class 12 test for economics students will be conducted on April 25.

Amid outrage over leak of CBSE question papers, the government on Friday said re-examination of Class 10 maths paper will be held only in Delhi, NCR and Haryana, "if at all", while fresh Class 12 test for economics students will be conducted on April 25.
Anil Swarup, Secretary School Education in Union Human Resources Development Ministry, said the CBSE Class 10 mathematics question paper was leaked only in Delhi and Haryana as there was no evidence that it was a pan-India affair.
"The leak was restricted to Delhi and Haryana, if at all a re-exam will happen, it will happen only in these states in July. A decision will be taken on this in the next 15 days," Swarup told reporters.
He said the Class 12 economics re-exam will be held on April 25. But there will be no fresh test outside of India.
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CBSE to re-conduct exams for Class XII Economics and Class X Mathematics

The Central Board of Secondary Education on Wednesday decided to re-conduct examinations in Economics for Class XII and Mathematics for Class X following reports about leakage of question papers.

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) today decided to re-conduct examinations in Economics for Class XII and Mathematics for Class X following reports about leakage of question papers.
The dates for the retest would be announced on the CBSE website within a week, the Board said.
"Board has taken cognizance of certain happenings in the conduct of certain examinations as are being reported. With the view to uphold the sanctity of the Board Examinations and in the interest of fairness to the students, the Board has decided to reconduct the examinations in the following subjects," a notice from the Board said, listing the subjects as Economics (Code 030) for Class XII and Mathematics (Code 041) for Class X.
"Dates for fresh examinations and the other details shall be hosted on the CBSE website within a week," the notice added.
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Modi says Govt. focused on improving Ease of Living for common citizens

Prime Minister Narendra Modi today on Saturday the Union Government had focused on improving the "Ease of Living" for the common citizen and all its schemes and programmes were oriented towards this end.

Modi launches Amma scooter scheme for working women in Tamil Nadu
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said the Union Government had focused on improving the "Ease of Living" for the common citizen and all its schemes and  programmes were oriented towards this end.
"Be it financial inclusion, easy availability of credit for farmers and small business, healthcare or sanitation, this is the basic mantra, with which the NDA Government at the Centre is working," he said at a function to launch the Amma Two-Wheeler Scheme at Kalaivanar Arangam here on the occasion of the 70th birth anniversary of late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa.
The scheme for subsidised scooters for working women was launched in the presence of Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit, Chief Minister E. K. Palaniswamy and Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam.
Mr. Modi said the two-wheeler scheme and the planting of 70 lakh saplings in  the state on Ms. Jayalalithaa's birth anniversary would go a long way towards the empowerment of women and the  protection of nature.
"When we empower the women in a family, we empower the entire house-hold. When we help with a woman's education, we ensure that the entire family is educated. When we facilitate her good health, we help keep the entire family healthy. When we secure her future, we secure the future of the entire home. We are working in this direction," he said.
Referring to the various schemes launched by the Union Government, Mr. Modi said more than 11 crore loans had been sanctioned under the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana. An amount of Rs. 4.6 lakh crore had been given to people without any bank guarantee and, most importantly, seventy per cent of the beneficiaries are women, he said.
"The success of this scheme, therefore, is proof that the women of India are now stepping out of the age-old shackles, and seeking self-employment. We have taken a number of other steps, too, for women empowerment. In the recent Union Budget, we announced that the EPF contribution for new women employees will be reduced from 12 percent to 8 percent for three years. The employer contribution will remain 12 percent," he said.
The Prime Minister said that, under the Stand Up India scheme, women entrepreneurs will be given loans worth Rs. 10 lakh to Rs. 1 crore. He said a change has been made in the Factories Act and the Centre has suggested to the States that they allow women to work in the night shift as well. He said the Government had also extended maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks.
Under the Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana, the registry of the house is done in the name of the woman, he said. The Jan Dhan Yojana has also benefited women in a big way. Out of 31 crore Jan Dhan Bank Accounts, 16 crore are of women, he said.
He said the percentage of total bank accounts held by women had gone up from 28 percent in 2014, to 40 percent now. "The Swachh Bharat Mission has given women respect and dignity, which is their right .Rural sanitation coverage in the country has expanded from 40 percent to 78 percent. We worked in a mission mode, to provide toilets for girl children in all government schools," he said.
"The schemes of the Union Government are protecting nature, even as they are empowering people. 29 crore LED bulbs have been distributed so far under the Ujala scheme. They have led to a saving of 15 thousand crore rupees in electricity bills. They have reduced carbon dioxide emissions by a significant amount.
"The Union Government has so far given over 3.4 crore free gas connections under the UjjwalaYojana. As women benefit from a smoke-free environment, the reduction in kerosene usage is also helping the environment. Nine and a half lakh women in Tamil Nadu have benefited so far, from this scheme," he said.
Mr. Modi said that, keeping in mind the issues of gas supply and sanitation in rural areas, the Union Government has come up with the Gobar-Dhanscheme. He said the aim is to convert animal dung and agricultural waste into compost, bio-gas, and bio-CNG. This will raise incomes, and reduce expenditure on gas, he said.
The Prime Minister said projects worth more than Rs. 24,000 crore were currently being implemented by the Centre in Tamil Nadu. "All these projects have begun after the NDA Government assumed office.  They include solar power plants, crude oil pipelines, National Highways, and port-related works. More than Rs. 3,700 crore have been sanctioned for the Chennai Metro Rail, he said.
He said that, when there was a Congress-led Government at the Centre, Tamil Nadu had received Rs. 81,000 crore under the 13th Finance Commission. After the NDA came to power, Tamil Nadu received Rs. 1.80 lakh crore rupees under the 14th Finance Commission, an increase of about 120 percent.
Mr. Modi said the Government is working to provide a home to every poor person by 2022. About one crore houses have been built in the last three years, he said.
He said Tamil Nadu had been given about Rs. 700 crore in 2016-17, and about Rs. 200 crore in 2017-18, for rural housing. For urban housing, the State has been given over Rs. 6000 crore, he said.
"Farmers in Tamil Nadu have also benefited from the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana. I am told that claim amounts worth over 2600 crore rupees have been given to farmers in Tamil Nadu so far, under this scheme.
"The Union Government is working towards modernization of fishing in Tamil Nadu. Under the Blue Revolution Scheme, we are providing financial assistance to fishermen for long liner trawlers. Last year, we gave the State Government 100 crore rupees, to convert over seven hundred and fifty boats to long liner trawlers. Besides making their lives easier, such trawlers will also help the fishermen earn more.
"India's vast ocean resources, and long coast-line offer immense possibilities. The Union Government is working on the Sagarmala programme, to overhaul our logistics sector. This will reduce the cost of both domestic and foreign trade. It will also benefit people living along India's coast-line.
"We have announced the Ayushman Bharat scheme in the recent Union Budget. Each poor family will be given the facility of free medical treatment upto a cost of 5 lakh rupees per year, at identified hospitals. This will help 45 to 50 crore people across the country.
"The Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Beema Yojana and the Jeevan Jyoti Yojana have provided insurance cover to more than 18 crore people. We have also taken other steps such as providing medicines at economical rates, through more than 800 Jan Aushadhi Kendras.
"We remain committed towards working hard in bringing a positive change in the lives of people," he added.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Modi visited the Union Territory of Daman & Diu, where he launched various development projects worth Rs. 1,000 crore. He also distributed certificates to beneficiaries of programmes.
Addressing a public meeting, Mr. Modi urged the people of Daman to  continue giving topmost importance to cleanliness as the opportunities in tourism increase when there is cleanliness. He congratulated the people and local administration for making Daman Open Defecation Free (ODF)  He said that the manner in which Daman has taken to cleanliness as a mass movement, using e-rickshaws and CNG, is a shining example for the country.
Lauding the inclusive culture of Daman, he said that Union Territory had become a mini-India, with people from all over the country living and working there. He said that the Government is taking several steps for the welfare of fishermen and his entire emphasis is on the 'blue revolution' inspired by the commitment to bring a positive difference in the lives of fishermen.
The Prime Minister inaugurated Air Odisha's flight connecting Ahmedabad with Diu under the UDAN scheme. He flagged off Pawan Hans helicopter services from Daman to Diu through a video link.
He presented the  Badhai kit to a newly born girl child under Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao yojana. He handed over certificates to women given free driving training by Daman and Diu administration and cycles to school going girls. He distributed permits for CNG driven vehicles. He distributed certificates to the beneficiaries of Pradhan Mantri Aawas Yojana, Grameen and Urban, Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Suraksha Yojana  and Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana. He also flagged off E-Rikshaws, Pehli Savari and Ambulances.
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Modi says India poised to join five trillion dollar economy club in few years

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday that India was poised to join the five trillion dollar economy club in the next few years, thanks to the continous efforts made by his Government in areas such as economic reforms and infrastructure development in the last three and a half years.

Focus of our Budget is on outcome: Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said India was poised to join the five trillion dollar economy club in the next few years, thanks to the continous efforts made by his Government in areas such as economic reforms and infrastructure development in the last three and a half years.
"I remember the big headlines there were when India joined the trillion dollar club some years. But after that, some years were lost to various scam. There was a totally different atmosphere in the country then. At that time, there was talk, not of trillion dollar economy but of the 'fragile five'," he said in his inaugural adddress at "Magnetic Maharashtra: Convergence 2018", a global investors' conference.
"In the last three and a half years, due to the continous efforts of the government, we are now talking of joining  the five trillion dollar club. The world's big agencies are saying that India will in the next few years join the five trillion dollar club," he said.
Mr. Modi praised the development and growth efforts in Maharashtra and expressed happiness that the state government had set itself the target of becoming the first trillion dollar economy state in the country.
"It is not difficult to meet any target in the land of Shivaji Maharaj. I am hopeful that, with his blessings, Maharashtra government will achieve this goal," he said.
"I believe that the country's development is possible when the states also develop. Maharashtra's development is an indication of India's growing strength and it is now able to set itself such ambitious targets. It is a living example of the new thinking, the new climate in India," he said.
Mr. Modi said the Magnetic Maharashtra summit was a good example of cooperative federalism. He said all Indian states were in a healthy competition and were organising such events to attract investment in diverse areas, based on their local strengths, advantages and other factors. "This trend started in Gujarat, its effect is now seen all over the country," he said.
Mr. Modi praised the Devendra Fadnavis government in Mahrashtra for the steps taken by it to develop the state and improve its investment climate. He said Maharashtra's efforts were a major factor in the improvement in India's ranking in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business report.
He said the massive changes being seen in the country were possible only when, through policy reforms, a new work culture is developed in governance and when hurdles in implementation of programmes are debottlenecked, inter-departmental cooperation is increased, and decisions are taken in a given time-frame.
He said Maharashtra topped the country in expenditure on infrastructure projects last year and was first in Frost and Sullivan's rankings on overall development. He said that last year the state accounted for nearly half of FDI received by India. Out of the MoUs signed for Rs. 4 lakh crore of investment during the Make in India Week here in February 2016, work had already begun on projects worth nearly Rs. 2 lakh crore, he said.
According to him, the infrastructure projects being implemented in Maharashtra have attracted the interest of the entire world. The Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor project is listed among the 100 Most Innovative Projects in the world. The new Navi Mumbai International Airport and the Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link will bring about a big change in the lives of crores of people of this region. Also, the Metro rail projects being implemented in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, 350 km of network, will create new possibilites for development and investment, he said.
He also made mention of the Maharashtra Samrudhi Corridor, which will take rural areas, the agriculture sector and agro-based industries to new heights. The development of 700 kms of Super Communication Expressway, development of 24 nodes on the route on the lines of Smart cities, will create job opportunities for 20 to 25 lakh people, he said.
"This confidence in India has not come by accident. Behind it there is a vision of creating a people-friendly, development-friendly and an investmen-friendly climate, there are efforts behind this. We are sorting out the smallest of issues, overcoming the smallest of challenges, we are solving major problems. We are taking governance to a level where there would be the least involvement of the government," he said.
"The country makes progress when there is a holistic vision, when it is inclusive and comprehensive. We are moving ahead on a path where things are policy-driven and governance is performance-driven, where the government is accountable, democracy is participative. We are creating a transparent ecosystem in the country for building a New India, which will be the least dependent on Government systems. For this, rules are being simplified, processes are being made easier, laws are being changed where necessary, and, where necessary, obsolete laws are being repealed.
"Some of you may be aware that, in the past three years, we have repealed more than 1400 obsolete laws. In the new laws that are being framed, we are ensuring that they do not complicate things but simplify them. We are keeping the human interface with government to the minimum. In areas such as labour laws and tax compliance, we are using technology to make processes easier," he said.
"We believe potential plus policy plus planning plus performance leads to progress," he said.
"It is the result of such thinking that in the speed of laying new roads and railway lines, electrification of railway lines, building of houses, handling of traffic at ports, addition of solar energy capacity, we are two to three times faster than before. I can cite several more such examples," he said.
"On the one hand, we have stressed on optimum utilisation of resources and, on the other hand, we are focusing on resource-based development policies. We are laying importance on development policies-based Budget. The reforms we have carried out in the Budget, the thinking behind the Budget, they have created a new work culture in the country, transformed the socio-economic scene in the country," he said.
"The Railway Budget is now a part of the General Budget. There used to be an artificial wall between Plan and Non-Plan in the Budget, that we have removed. We have advanced the date of presentation of the Budget by  a month, this ensures that the allocated funds reach the Departments in time, they have more time for implementation of programmes," he said.
Mr. Modi said such structural changes and policy interventions had helped the country's farmers, the poor, the Dalits and backward classes and the neglected sections. 
"Our Budget is not limited to outlay, our Budget is not limited to only output, the focus of our Budget is on outcomes," he said.
"We were already working on Housing for All by 2022, Power for All by 2019. In this year's Budget, we have speeded up work on Clean Fuel for All, Health for All. We have increased the target to providing LPG connections to 8 crore households from 5 crore households under the Ujjwala scheme.  There are about 25 crore families in India.
"These figures show the direction in which we are moving. Jan Dhan Mission, Skill India, Digital India, Mudra, Stand-Up India, Start-Up India, these schemes are empowering the nation's poor, middle and lower middle classes, youth and women," he said.
Mr. Modi said the new healthcare mission announced in the Budget is attracting the attention of the world. "We will provide a Rs. 5 lakh cover for about 10 crore families, that is about 50 crore people. We will also set up 1.5 lakh wellness centres across the country. It will create affodable health care institutions, with more doctors, paramedical staff. This will impact all other sectors connected with healthcare," he said.
He also mentioned the initiatives to strengthen the education sector, the MSME sector, self-employment schemes and in the agriculture and rural infrastructure sectors.
"All these are improving the ease of living in the ountry, empowering people, bringing about socio-economic development," he said, adding that all sections had to work together to meet the aspirations of the people, build a New India and reap the country's demographic dividend.
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India, UAE resolve to strengthen cooperation in combating extremism, terrorism

India and the United Arab Emirates have resolved to deepen cooperation on combating extremism and further strengthen their efforts in countering terrorism.

Modi meets Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed
India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have resolved to deepen cooperation on combating extremism and further strengthen their efforts in countering terrorism.
In a joint statement issued here yesterday at the end of a two-day visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the UAE, during which he held talks with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al Nahyan, the two sides recognized that they were multicultural and pluralistic societies and reiterated their common resolve in promoting the values of tolerance, peace, inclusiveness and in countering extremist ideologies. 
The two leaders recognised the critical role interfaith dialogue could play in achieving this worthy aim.
"Both sides underlined that as diverse societies, India and UAE exemplify as credible models against the tendencies of extremism and radicalism. While appreciating the existing cooperation in this area, including through exchange of visits and best practices, both sides resolved to deepen cooperation on combating extremism and further strengthen their efforts in countering terrorism," the statement said.
The two leaders agreed that extremism and terrorism cannot be defeated by use of force only, and acknowledged the need for a holistic approach, which includes disrupting the use of web and social media for promotion of extremist and violent ideologies; preventing the use of religious centres to radicalize youth and recruit terrorist cadres; and promoting tolerance. In this context, the leaders welcomed the contributions of initiatives such as the UAE-based Sawab and Hedayah centres to countering extremist ideologies and enhancing on-going international counter extremism cooperation.
The two leaders expressed strong condemnation of extremism and terrorism in all forms and manifestations, irrespective of who the perpetrators are and of their motivations. They reiterated their condemnation for efforts, including by states, to use religion to justify, support and sponsor terrorism against other countries, or to use terrorism as instrument of state policy.
They further deplored efforts by countries to give religious and sectarian colour to political issues and pointed out the responsibility of all states to control the activities of the so-called ‘non-state actors’, and to cut all support to terrorists operating and perpetrating terrorism from their territories against other states. The two leaders agreed that resolute and credible steps must be taken to eliminate safe havens and sanctuaries that provide shelter to terrorists and their activities.
The two leaders noted the importance of efforts to disrupt and dismantle terrorist networks, their financing and movement, in accordance with the relevant principles and objectives of the UN Charter and international laws. The two sides deplored the adoption of double standards in addressing the menace of international terrorism and agreed to strengthen cooperation in combating terrorism both at the bilateral level and within the multilateral system. 
The two sides resolved to continue working together towards the adoption of India’s proposed Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism in the United Nations, the statement said.
The statement noted that Mr. Modi's visit had further enriched the rapport established at the highest political levels between India and the UAE and followed his earlier visit to the UAE during August 2015 and Sheikh Mohamed's visits to India during February 2016 and then during January 2017 as the Chief Guest at India’s 68th Republic Day celebrations.
Apart from holding one-to-one and delegation-level talks with Sheikh Mohamed, Mr. Modi also met UAE Vice-President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum in Dubai yesterday.
He delivered the keynote address on the theme "Technology for Development” at the sixth World Government Summit in Dubai, where India was invited as the Guest of Honour. On the side-lines of the World Government Summit, Prime Minister Modi met with a select group of senior GCC CEOs and business leaders.
"This visit allowed leadership of the two countries to take regular stock of the bilateral ties and to review the progress made in implementing the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership agreement signed during the last visit of Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed to India in January 2017. Both sides also welcomed the signing of various agreements and MoUs during the visit," the statement said.
The statement said Mr. Modi and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed reaffirmed their abiding commitment to further consolidating the comprehensive strategic partnership and expressed satisfaction at the meticulous follow-up on the decisions taken during their previous meetings to achieve the set targets. Both leaders noted the robust and forward-looking bilateral engagement in the past two years across a whole range of spheres, including political, economic, trade and investment, energy, education, culture, defence and security, etc.
"Both leaders noted that the frequent high-level visits between the two countries have facilitated expeditious and regular implementation of a result-oriented and mutually beneficial comprehensive strategic partnership.
"The two leaders noted that the institutional mechanism of UAE-India Strategic Dialogue established under the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership agreement has proven to be a useful mechanism to monitor the progress in the agreed areas of engagement and to steer in new promising directions. In this context, they welcomed the fruitful outcome of the second ministerial-level India-UAE Strategic Dialogue held in Abu Dhabi in October, 2017.
"In order to further strengthen the agreed institutional cooperation and understanding between the two countries, the two sides renewed their pledge to deepen cooperation between India’s Ministry of External Affairs and the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation," it said.
The two leaders expressed satisfaction at the ongoing bilateral cooperation in the identified areas of security, defence and space. They committed to augment this cooperation further to promote regional security, peace and prosperity and agreed to further deepen collaborations on maritime security, including joint anti-piracy, training and exercises, cyber space and outer space, and so on.
The two leaders noted with satisfaction the robust cooperation between the security agencies of the two countries. They also expressed satisfaction at the on-going cooperation under the institutional mechanism of the security dialogue established at the level of the respective National Security Adviser and National Security Council aimed at enhancing cooperation in counter-terrorism operations, intelligence-sharing and capacity-building.
The two leaders expressed satisfaction at the progress made in the area of security cooperation and directed their respective officials to hold the first meeting of the Joint Task Force on prevention and combating human trafficking during 2018. The two sides welcomed the finalisation of an MoU on Cooperation in the Exchange of Financial Intelligence related to Money Laundering, Associated Predicate Offences and Terrorist Financing, which could be signed at the earliest. They agreed to further deepen cooperation in combating transnational crimes and welcomed the proposal to establish institutional mechanism for cooperation to combat drug-trafficking.
The MoU signed in February 2016 has established an institutional mechanism for undertaking joint research activities. For effective implementation of the MOU, they directed that efforts to establish joint Research and Development Centres of Excellence be expedited.
The statement said the agreement on Defence Cooperation renewed in 2014  provides a general framework for strengthening bilateral defence ties. The two sides noted the growing defence cooperation, including through regular high-level visits, training programmes, joint exercises, participation in defence exhibitions and ship visits/port calls, etc.
It was noted with satisfaction that the Joint Defence Cooperation Committee (JDCC) formed under the existing Defence Cooperation Agreement has been meeting regularly. The two leaders welcomed the decision taken during the latest round of JDCC held in New Delhi in December 2017 to conduct the first bilateral Naval Exercise during 2018. They also noted the holding of the sixth round of Naval Staff Talks in New Delhi during September, 2017.
The two sides renewed their commitment to work closely to strengthen maritime security in the Gulf and the Indian Ocean region, which is vital for the security and prosperity of both countries.
The UAE side renewed its interest in the coastal surveillance systems and patrol vessels developed by India. The two leaders noted with satisfaction the agreement for supply of Naval Offshore Patrol Vessels by India to UAE and the successful testing for Factory Acceptance Trials in Sharjah during March 2017.
Acknowledging India’s highly successful and cost-effective space programme, the UAE side evinced interest in deepening cooperation with India in space exploration under the existing MoU on Space cooperation signed during February 2016. In this context, both sides welcomed the launch of UAE Nano satellite Nayif-1 by Indian Space Research Organisation in February, 2017. The UAE side welcomed the joining of the former ISRO Chairman on the Advisory Board of the UAE Space Agency.
The leaders expressed satisfaction at the holding of the first Joint Working Group Meeting in December 2017 under the existing MoU on space cooperation. They welcomed proposed cooperation in the identified areas of remote sensing, space science, satellite navigation, launching services, academic cooperation and industry interactions.
The two sides expressed satisfaction at the current level of trade, which amounted to about $ 53 billion in 2016-17, and agreed to further strengthen these ties, particularly through diversifying non-oil trade.
With an aim to devise a long-term strategy on trade enhancement, the two leaders decided to examine various tariff and non-tariff barriers, and agreed to focus on encouraging trade in identified commodities and to expand access of goods and services in both markets. 
They welcomed the decision to open of an office of Confederation of Indian Industry in Dubai and of the Dubai Chambers of Commerce in Mumbai to support businesses at both ends.
"Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan valued the continued efforts by India to enhance economic growth, and the recent economic reforms undertaken by the Indian Government, which would facilitate the ease of doing business and promote market integration. Both sides noted the improvement in the ease of doing business in India and the UAE as per the World Bank's latest global rankings.
"Both leaders reviewed the progress in realizing the USD 75 billion target for UAE investments in India committed towards infrastructure development. Prime Minister Modi welcomed ADIA’s participation in India’s National Infrastructure Investment Fund as an anchor investor and welcomed DP World's agreement with NIIF to create a joint investment platform for ports, terminals, transportation and logistics businesses in India. He also welcomed UAE’s continued interest in investing in infrastructure development in India, especially in priority areas such as renewable energy, power generation and transmission, defence production, real estate, industrial corridors and parks, railways, roads, ports, shipping, logistics and food processing among others. Similarly, Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan welcomed interest from Indian IT and technology companies in investing in the UAE, and encouraged them to use the UAE as a platform for expanding their businesses in the region. Both leaders welcomed the signing of an MOU for strengthening of technical cooperation in the Railways sector during the visit," it said.
Both leaders reiterated their common desire to transform the buyer-seller relationship in the energy-sector to one of deeper partnership with focus on investment and joint ventures in petrochemical complexes, and cooperation in joint exploration in India, UAE and in third countries. Prime Minister Modi invited ADNOC and Mubadala to invest in downstream projects in India’s hydrocarbon sector also.
Both sides reviewed the progress being made in early implementation of the agreement on Oil Storage and Management between Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and the Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves Limited signed in January 2017 and underscored that crude oil supply from UAE for the Mangalore cavern would be a significant transformational step in building a strategic partnership in the energy sector.
Mr. Modi welcomed the decision to award a major oil concession to ONGC-led consortium from India in the ADMA-OPCO field in Lower Zakum. Both sides described this as another example of the emerging strategic engagement in the energy sector.
The two sides agreed to further enhance their cooperation in areas of green energy and Climate Change under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. They took note of the strides made by the two countries in achieving the ambitious renewable energy targets and welcomed Masdar’s intention to invest in India’s solar energy projects.
Sheikh  Mohamed conveyed appreciation for the positive contribution made by the Indian community in the UAE in the development of their host country. Mr. Modi thanked the UAE leadership for ensuring continued welfare and well-being of the Indian community and for the continuing labour reforms by the UAE Government.
Mr. Modi thanked Sheikh Mohamed for allotting land and for facilitating the construction of a temple in implementation of the decision conveyed by the UAE Government in August 2015 to address the request of Indian community in UAE. He noted that the temple would be an important symbol of UAE’s firm commitment to the principles of tolerance and to building a pluralistic society where diverse communities enjoy the freedom to practice their religion, language and culture.
The two sides welcomed participation of India as the "Guest of Honour Country” at the prestigious Abu Dhabi Music and Art Foundation Festival in March 2018 and Sharjah’s participation as the Guest of Honour at the New Delhi World Book Fair 2019. The leaders also looked forward to intensifying exchanges between scholars, academics and cultural delegations.
Prime Minister Modi congratulated the leadership of UAE on opening of Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum. Both sides agreed to enhance collaboration between the National Museum of India and Louvre Abu Dhabi.
Both sides agreed to enhance consultations on mutual recognition of educational degrees. They agreed to deepen cooperation especially in areas of smart classroom and digital education.
Appreciating the importance of cooperation in responding to global challenges, the two sides were pleased to note the growing convergence on regional and global issues and agreed to enhance India-UAE cooperation in multilateral fora. Both leaders noted the common desire to strengthen cooperation in the framework of the Indian Ocean Rim Association and other important regional bodies.
The two sides reiterated their common desire to work together in the spirit of South-South cooperation in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly through capacity-building, grants and loans, collaboration in trade and technology, and joint projects aimed at supporting the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals. The UAE side valued India's steadfast contribution to peace and development in Africa, including its participation in UN Peacekeeping Missions. Prime Minister Modi in turn, noted the UAE’s contribution to the G5 Sahel Force, which will be important to counter terrorism in the region.
The two leaders also discussed the importance of sharing each other’s experience in the field of development and aid. In line with this, they agreed to initiate joint development projects for third countries, including exploring joint projects in Afghanistan in line with the need of the people of Afghanistan. 
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India, UAE sign five pacts as Modi meets Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince

Prime Minister Narendra Modi held wide-ranging talks with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al Nahyan here yesterday evening following which India and the UAe signed five agreements, including a pact under which a consortium of Indian oil companies has been awarded a 10% stake in an offshore oil concession.

Modi meets Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed
Prime Minister Narendra Modi held wide-ranging talks with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al Nahyan here yesterday evening following which the two sides signed five agreements, including a pact under which a consortium of Indian oil companies has been awarded a 10% stake in an offshore oil concession.
Mr. Modi, who arrived here from Palestine on the second leg of a three-nation tour that will also take him to Oman, and was received by Sheikh Mohamed and several other members of the Abu Dhabi ruling family.
Before their delegation level talks, Mr. Modi and Sheikh Mohamed had a tete-a-tete, during which they discussed steps to upgrade the relationship between India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Abu Dhabi is the largest and Dubai is the second largest of the seven emirates that make up the UAE federation.
The talks were held at the Royal Palace here. Mr. Modi became the first foreign leader to be invited to this palace by Sheikh Mohamed, who appreciated the role played by Indian workers in the development of the UAE as a modern nation.
Under the MoU signed today with the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), an Indian consortium consisting of ONGC Videsh Limited (OVL), Bharat PetroResources Limited (BPRL) and Indian  Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) will acquire 10% participating interest in the offshore Lower Zakum Concession.
The two sides also signed MoUs to institutionalise the collaborative administration of contractual employment of Indian workers in UAE; for cooperation in the rail sector; and to enhance cooperation between the Bombay Stock Exchange and the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange.
An MoU was also signed between the Government of Jammu and Kashmir and DP World, the Dubai-based logistics major, to establish multi-modal logistics park and hub in Jammu comprising warehouses and specialized storage solutions.
This is Mr. Modi's second visit to the Gulf State as Prime Minister, having visited the country in August 2015. In between, Sheikh Mohamed had visited India in February 2016 and again in January 2017, when he was the Chief Guest at India's Republic Day celebrations.
Apart from the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince, he will also told talks with  Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice-President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
He will address the 6th edition of the World Government Summit in Dubai, where India is the Guest Country of Honour.
He will also meet leading UAE and Arab CEOs in Dubai on the vast economic opportunities in India and what more can be done together to bolster business collaboration.
This morning, Mr. Modi will travel to Wahat Al Karama, a memorial built by the UAE in honour of its soldiers who were martyred in 1971 in the first war on Tunb Island.
He will also meet members of the Indian community, during which he will lay the foundation stone of a Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi. The temple is coming up on land donated by the UAE leadership and members of the temple committee presented its plans and other details to Mr. Modi and Sheikh Mohamed here yesterday. This will be the first stone temple to be built in Abu Dhabi off the Dubai-Abu Dhabi highway. Plans for the construction of the temple had been announced during Mr. Modi's previous visit to the UAE.
The UAE, Oman and the four other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states account for almost 20 percent of bilateral trade. They are by far the largest trading bloc for India with about $ 110 billion of trade, of which oil is a very small portion. About 50 percent of India's oil comes from these countries.
There are some nine million non-resident Indians (NRIs) in the region and they remit some $ 35 billion every year, which sustains millions of families back home.
The UAE committed in August 2015 to invest $ 75 billion in India. The UAE is a partner in India's strategic oil reserves. It has also come the first partner in India's National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF).
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17 dead in major fire in factory at Bawana in Delhi

As many as 17 people died when a major fire razed through a three-storeyed factory building in the Bawana industrial area in north-west Delhi on Saturday evening, official sources said.

17 dead in fire in facgory in Delhi's Bawana area
As many as 17 people died when a major fire razed through a three-storeyed factory  building in the Bawana industrial area in north-west Delhi this evening, official sources said.
The fire was reported in the evening and more than 15 fire tenders and water tankers fought the flames for over three hours before bringing them under control.
Fire brigade personnel retrieved the charred bodies of 17 workers from the building -- one from the basement, three from the ground floor and 13 from the first floor, Delhi Fire Services chief G C Mishra told journalists.
Sources said the 17 deceased workers included ten women and seven men.
Two workers -- a man and a woman -- managed to escape by jumping from the terrace of the building, though he broke his legs in the process and has been admitted to a hospital for treatment.
According to various accounts, the building housed a fire cracker unit on the ground floor and a rubber unit on the upper floor.
The bodies of the 17 victims were kept in a mortuary, pending identification. Their relatives were being informed, the sources said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the loss of lives in the fire. "Deeply anguished by the fire at a factory in Bawana. My thoughts are with the families of those who lost their lives. May those who are injured recover quickly," he said.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said he was saddened by the large number of casualties and that he was keeping a close watch on the rescue operations.
Mr. Kejriwal announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs. 5 lakh for the next-of-kin of those killed in the incident and Rs. 1 lakh for those who suffered injuries.
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India says Jadhav's meeting with wife, mother in Islamabad lacked credibility

India said on Tuesday that the manner in which the meeting between former Indian Naval officer Kulbhushan Yadav and his wife and mother was conducted in Islamabad on Monday was clearly an attempt to bolster a false and unsubstantiated narrative of his alleged activities.

Jadhav's family was harassed in Islamabad: MEA
India today said the manner in which the meeting between former Indian Naval officer Kulbhushan Yadav, who has been sentenced to death in Pakistan in an espionage case, and his wife and mother was conducted in Islamabad yesterday and its aftermath were clearly an attempt to bolster a false and unsubstantiated narrative of his alleged activities.
"You would all agree that this exercise lacked any credibility," Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.
Jadhav met his mother Avanti and wife Chetankul for about 40 minutes, separated by a glass screen, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad.
They had reached Islamabad yesterday morning and had stopped for some time at the Indian High Commission here before reaching the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. After the meeting with Jadhav, the two women travelled back to India yesterday evening.
During the day today, Jadhav's wife and mother met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj here.
"The meeting took place after requests by India for family access. Prior to the meeting, the two Governments were in touch through diplomatic channels to work out its modalities and format. There were clear understandings between the two sides and the Indian side scrupulously abided by all its commitments," Mr. Raveesh Kumar said.
"However, we note with regret that the Pakistani side conducted the meeting in a manner which violated the letter and spirit of our understandings. This included:
"The Pakistani press was allowed on multiple occasions to approach family members closely, harass and hector them and hurl false and motivated accusations about Shri Jadhav. This was despite a clear agreement that the media would not be allowed close access.
"Under the pretext of security precautions, the cultural and religious sensibilities of family members were disregarded. This included removal of mangal sutra, bangles and bindi, as well as a change in attire that was not warranted by security," he said.
Mr. Raveesh Kumar said Jadhav's mother was prevented from talking to him in their mother tongue, although this was clearly the natural medium of communication. She was repeatedly interrupted while doing so and eventually prevented from proceeding further in this regard, he said.
He said Indian Deputy High Commissioner J. P. Singh was initially separated from the family members who were taken to the meeting without informing him. The meeting was started without his presence and he could join only after pressing the matter with concerned officials. Even then, he was kept behind an additional partition that did not allow him access to the meeting as agreed, he said.
"For some inexplicable reason, despite her repeated requests, the shoes of the wife of Shri Jadhav were not returned to her after the meeting. We would caution against any mischievous intent in this regard.
"From the feedback we have received of the meeting, it appears that Shri Jadhav was under considerable stress and speaking in an atmosphere of coercion. Most of his remarks were clearly tutored and designed to perpetuate the false narrative of his alleged activities in Pakistan. His appearance also raises questions of his health and well being.
"We also regret that contrary to assurances, the overall atmosphere of the meeting was intimidating insofar as family members were concerned. Family members, however, handled the situation with great courage and fortitude," Mr. Raveesh Kumar added.
In Islamabad yesterday, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Mohammad Faisal had told journalists that the Indian diplomat was present during the meeting and he could see Jadhav.
He said Pakistan wanted Jadhav's wife and mother to be present at the media briefing and speak to journalists, including those from India.
"We had formally proposed this to India. This was done in the spirit that Pakistan has nothing to hide and like all of you seeks answers to many questions that remain unanswered. However, the Indian side requested that they wanted to avoid media interaction. Hence, I speak today without the presence of the mother and wife in due deference to the Indian request," he said.
Jadhav was awarded the death sentence on April 10 this year by a Field General Court Martial (FGCM) in Pakistan, which tried him under the Pakistan Army Act (PAA) for his alleged involvement in espionage and sabotage activities against that country, drawing sharp reactions from India.
Two weeks after Jadhav was sentenced to death, India had sought visas for his parents to visit Pakistan and meet him. 
Pakistan has accused Jadhav of being an agent of India's Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and claimed that he was arrested on March 3, 2016 through a counter intelligence operation from Mashkel, Balochistan.
"He confessed before a Magistrate and the Court that he was tasked by RAW to plan, coordinate and organize espionage / sabotage activities aiming to destabilize and wage war against Pakistan by impeding the efforts of Law Enforcement Agencies for restoring peace in Balochistan and Karachi," a press release from Pakistan's Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) had said at that time.
India had then warned Pakistan that, if the sentence were carried out, the Government and people of India would regard it as a case of premeditated murder.
"Shri Jadhav was kidnapped last year from Iran and his subsequent presence in Pakistan has never been explained credibly. The Government of India, through its High Commission in Islamabad, has repeatedly sought consular access to him, as provided for by international law. Requests to that effect were formally made 13 times between 25 March 2016 and 31 March 2017. This was not permitted by the Pakistani authorities.
"The proceedings that have led to the sentence against Shri Jadhav are farcical in the absence of any credible evidence against him. It is significant that our High Commission was not even informed that Shri Jadhav was being brought to trial. Senior Pakistani figures have themselves cast doubt about the adequacy of evidence. The claim in the ISPR release that Shri Jadhav was provided with a defending officer during the so-called trial is clearly absurd in the circumstances.
"If this sentence against an Indian citizen, awarded without observing basic norms of law and justice, is carried out, the Government and people of India will regard it as a case of premeditated murder," India had said at that time.
India had moved the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague in The Netherlands against the verdict and, on May 18 this year, the world court asked Pakistan to take all measures at its disposal to ensure that Jadhav was not executed, pending the final decision in the proceedings intiated by India in the matter.
The Government of India, through its High Commission in Islamabad, had repeatedly sought consular access to him, as provided for by international law. Requests to that effect were formally made 13 times between 25 March 2016 and 31 March 2017. This was not permitted by the Pakistani authorities, India has said.
India has also said that the proceedings that led to the sentence against Mr. Jadhav were farcical in the absence of any credible evidence against him. It said its High Commission had not even been informed that Mr. Jadhav was being brought to trial.
In its plea before the ICJ, India said it was not informed of Mr. Jadhav’s detention until long after his arrest and that Pakistan failed to inform the accused of his rights. It further alleges that, in violation of the Vienna Convention, the authorities of Pakistan are denying India its right of consular access to Mr. Jadhav, despite its repeated requests. 
India also pointed out that it learned about the death sentence against Mr. Jadhav from a press release. 
At yesterday's press briefing in Islamabad yesterday, Dr. Faisal repeated the charges against Jadhav and claimed that the former Naval officer had saidthat he had been tasked by India's Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) to plan, coordinate and organize espionage, terrorism and sabotage to destabilize and wage war against Pakistan.
"In his mercy petition to the Chief of Army Staff on compassionate grounds, in June 2017, he again admitted his involvement in espionage, terrorist and subversive activities against Pakistan and expressed remorse at the resultant loss of precious innocent lives and damage to property. He has admitted of involvement in the assassination of SSP Aslam Chaudhry in Karachi. He has also confessed to targeting various workers of FWO, who were conducting different construction activities, in Balochistan and many IED attacks which were carried out in Quetta, Turbat and other cities, especially in Balochistan. He supported TTP and other groups, especially in the attacks on the Mehran Naval Base, various Radar installations and the Sui gas pipeline. All these were directly sponsored by RAW. Let us be very clear that Commander Jadhav is the face of Indian terrorism, especially in Pakistan. 
"India was provided with a copy of the passport that was in the possession of Commander Jadhav, when he was apprehended. The passport bears a Muslim name, Hussein Mubarak Patel which clearly is not Commander Jadhav. India has been unable and unwilling to provide an explanation abouthow and why an authentic Indian passport was used on a false ID, not once but at least 17 times, as Commander Jadhav travelled in and out of India. Indian silence is telling," Dr. Faisal said.
He said that, upon completion of investigations and the trial, Pakistan offered to India that the wife of Commander Jadhav may visit to meet him. "We received an Indian request that the mother of Commander Jadhav may also be permitted to meet him and a diplomat of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad to accompany the ladies. The request was considered in Pakistan and it was granted," he said.
"To reiterate, let me be very clear that Pakistan permitted the request by India purely on humanitarian grounds," he said.
"The visit was allowed in line with Islamic practices and teachings. Islam is the religion of peace and advocates mercy. It is a gesture of good faith and compassion. Commander Jadhav's actions at Indian behest have deprived many mothers of their sons and daughters. Pakistan upholds the Islamic morals and values which teach mercy, grace and compassion for all. 
"One good deed should beget another. Such decisions should serve as templates for others to follow, including in Indian occupied Jammu & Kashmir where innocent blood continues to be spilled," Dr. Faisal added.
The Pakistan Foreign Office also released a pre-recorded video message in which Jadhav thanked the Pakistan Government for arranging the meeting. He said the Pakistani authorities had treated him in a dignified, respectful and professional manner, for which he is thankful.
Local media reports also said that Jadhav again confessed to working for RAW and that he had been arested in Balochistan while attempting to infiltrate into Pakistan from Iran.

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Day after BJP's Gujarat win, Rahul Gandhi says Modi has a "credibility problem"

A day after the ruling BJP retained power in Gujarat with reduced numbers and Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the results as a victory for development, Congress President Rahul Gandhi today hit out at him, saying that he has a "credibility problem".

BJP's marketing of Gujarat model is good, but it is hollow: Rahul Gandhi
A day after the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) retained power in Gujarat with reduced numbers and Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the results as a victory for development, Congress President Rahul Gandhi today hit out at him, saying that he has a "credibility problem".
"Mr. Modi said yesterday that casteism had lost and that it was a stamp of approval for GST. He said it was an election about development, a stamp of approval for GST. Strange, because in his election speeches, he did not talk about development or GST, or demonetisation," Mr. Gandhi told journalists here.
"The elections have raised a big question about Modiji's credibility. And frankly, Modiji has a credibility problem and he will find it very difficult, because what he says, his forces, his organisation, they repeat it. But the people of the country are not listening to them," he said.
"This was shown by the Gujarat elections and you will see it in the coming times very clearly. It is simple, I am talking about credibility. Modiji talks about corruption non-stop, but on the Rafale aircraft issue or on the Jay Shah  issue, he does not utter a word," he said.
Mr. Gandhi said the people wanted to know what the Prime Minister had to say about the allegations about the Rafale deal or the media reports about Mr. Jay Shah, the son of BJP President Amit Shah, whose company's reviews increased from Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 80 crore in three months. "This is a credibility issue," he said.
Counting of votes was taken up in both Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh yesterday, and the BJP extended its 22-year reign in the former and wrested power from the Congress in the latter. In Gujarat, however, the BJP's tally of 99 was lower than the 115 it had won in the 2013 elections. The Congress, on the other hand, increased its tally from 61 in 2012 to 77 this time.
Mr. Gandhi, who took over as the new President of the Congress two days after polling ended in Gujarat, said that three or four months ago, when they first went to the state for campaigning, people said the party could not fight against the BJP.
"In three-four months, we did solid work, not just me, members of the AICC, the team in Gujarat. And the results you have seen, the BJP has suffered a big jolt, and it has happened in Gujarat," he said.
Mr. Gandhi said that he came to know during the campaign that the people of the state did not beleive in the so-called Gujarat model of development. "The propaganda is very good, the marketing is very good, but that model is hollow from inside. The questions we raised during the campaign, they could not answer. They talk about 'vikas', but the feality is that they could not answer questions we raised about it," he said.
"You must have seen that Modiji did not have anything to say before the elections. He talked about himself, he talked about the Congress. 
"It is a good result for us.  True, we have lost. We could have won. There was a shortcoming there," he said.
Mr. Gandhi said that, in the last three months, he had learnt from the people of Gujarat that "no matter who your opponent is, who you are fighting, no matter how much anger there is in him, no matter how much money they have, how much wealth, how force they have, you can with love, brotherhood, take them on. This is what Gandhiji taught the nation and it is deeply ingrained in the minds of Gujaratis," he said.
"This is the main message that Gujarat has given me, and I am grateful from my heart to the people of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, and I congratulate the winners in the elections," he added.

Rahul Gandhi takes over as Congress President with scathing attack on Modi, BJP

Rahul Gandhi on Saturday formally assumed charge as the President of the Congress with a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling BJP and pledged to defend the voice of every single Indian and to never back down from his party's commitment to India's past, present and future.

Congress guided by service of community: Rahul Gandhi
Rahul Gandhi today formally assumed charge as the President of the Indian National Congress with a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and pledged to defend the voice of every single Indian and to never back down from his party's commitment to India's past, present and future.
"The Congress took India into the 21st century while the Prime Minister today is taking us backwards, to a medieval past where people are butchered because of who they are, beaten for what they believe and killed for what they eat," Mr. Gandhi said after taking over as the 49th President of the 132-year-old party that had spearheaded the nation's freedom struggle.
"This ugly violence shames us in the world. Our country, whose philosophy and history is born out of love and compassion, is tarnished by such horror and no amount of hugs can repair the damage done to this great country of ours," he said
Mr. Gandhi has succeeded his mother Sonia Gandhi, who was the longest serving President of the Grand Old Party, having been first elected to the position in 1998, seven years after the assassination of her husband and former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
His election unopposed as the party marks a generational shift in the organisation at a time when it has been reduced to its lowest ever strength in the Lok Sabha and finds itself out of power in most major states, in some cases for more than two decades.
At the ceremony, held at the Congress headquarters, Mr. Gandhi received the election certificate from Mr. Mullapally Ramachandran, chairman of the party's Central Election Authority.
Apart from Mrs. Gandhi, most other senior leaders of the party, including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, were present at the ceremony. Members of the Gandhi family, including Mr. Gandhi's sister Priyanka Vadra, were also amongst those present.
Hundreds of party workers celebrated outside the Congress headquarters at 24, Akbar Road, as the ceremony was held, bursting loud firecrackers and breaking into song and dance.
Mr. Gandhi said the vision of the ruling dispensation "belonged to a time where people did not have the rights and freedoms that have made our country the profound entity it is – a time when people did not have voice, did not have the right to dissent, to disagree, to differ, to be."
"We are now being compelled to imagine that businesses can be built without harmony, that only one man, one man himself – is the voice of reason, that expertise, experience and knowledge can be cast aside for personal glory, that it is acceptable for our foreign policy to lie in tatters so that one man can feel strong, and that everything in fact is subservient to the leader’s personal image.
"These regressive forces don’t win because they are right, they do not win because they stand on the side of what is correct, they win because they are powerful. Their power is manipulative and distortive and it stains everything it touches," he said.
Mr. Gandhi, 47, began his address by saying that, like many Indians across the country, he was idealist.
"I joined politics 13 years ago because of my profound belief in this country, its people and its path ahead. I travelled constantly over the past years and have had the fortune to speak to many of you and like me you are also idealists," he said.
He said that many of them were disillusioned today by the politics of the present times. "Because what we see before us is a politics devoid of kindness and truth. Politics belongs to the people, it is their greatest weapon in dismantling the structures that oppress, silence and disempower them," he said.
Mr. Gandhi said that, today, politics was not being used in the service of the people. It is being used to crush them, not to lift them up, he said.
"When I joined politics as a 34 year old, I came into this world having watched the generation before me fight the structures of oppression, the structures whose very fuel is lies and silence. When I entered politics 13 years ago I wished to be a part of the awakening that would transform India at home, by ensuring dignity for all its people, and in the world, where we would step into a role that resonated globally," he said.
Mr. Gandhi said that, early on, he learned the moment that when people challenged the structures of power to stand with the weak, the moment they announced that they stood for the poor, they were attacked and hit on all fronts to defeat them.
"They lie and they distort. Those in power in India today are shaped by the very structures that keep India poor," he said.
He said he had realised over the last few years is that such forces attacked the Congress and tried to weaken it but they could defeat the party only if it back down. "Stand up to them - and their anger and hatred makes all of you and us stronger," he said.
"We, in the Congress, will never back down and away from our promise to our country and our beloved people: our commitment to India’s past, its present and its future will stand today and evermore. And our commitment is this: we will defend the voice of every single Indian. We will never allow the democratic dreams and longings of our people, not one of them, to ever be silenced," he said.
"In this, I and all Congressmen and women, those who stand before us today and those who will rise in the times to come, will always stand strong," he said.
Mr. Gandhi said he wanted the Congress party to become an instrument for dialogue between Indian people – all of them, from all corners of the  country, all religions, all ethnicities, all ages, genders and people – and for dialogue to always be led by love and affection.
Mr. Gandhi told the BJP that they must realise that a fire, once started, could not easily be put out. He said the ruling party was today stoking fires and violence all over the country. He said the only force which could combat such elements were the Congress workers and leaders.
"They break, we join; they set fire, we douse it; they become angry, we show love, that is the difference between them and us," he said.
"The Congress is an ancient idea. The BJP would have you believe that they are the oldest idea in the universe. As usual, that is not the truth. In India there are two ideas that have historically clashed: the idea of the self versus the idea of the other. The BJP are soldiers fighting for the self: How much can they have? How can they protect their power? And how can they stop others from taking what they think is theirs?
"We, the Congress, have always been guided in service of our community of brothers and sisters. We fight for everyone, for all those in the periphery, all those relegated to the fringes. We fight for those who cannot fight alone and our struggle has always been one of brotherhood and of love. This defence of our fellow man was the spirit of the freedom movement and it remains the lifeblood of our party today.
"We consider the BJP our brothers and sisters, even though we do not agree with them. They want an India free of Congress, they want to erase us but the Congress’s inclusion and respect for all Indians extends even to the BJP. We do not fight hate with hate," he said.
"The Congress has met and will always meet our challenges and struggles with love and affection. They crush voice, we allow the most vulnerable to sing. They defame, we respect and defend. They might control the structures of power, the machinery of silence and fear but, we in the Congress, we are the bastion of the people. It is in this service that my idealism, your idealism and our hope for politics always rests.
"In the 13 years that I have served in politics, I have had the honour of listening and learning from my elders, Dr. Manmohan Singh Ji, Congress President Sonia Gandhi Ji and others on the stage and my friends seated here who have shown India democracy with dignity. Thank you for your lessons and your guidance.
"I am humbled by all the people who have stood here before me, not only those in the position of Congress President, but all Congress workers and leaders who have fought and died for our beautiful country. It is with the utmost humility, the deepest humility that I accept this position, knowing that I will always be walking in the shadow of giants," he added.
Mr. Gandhi had been declared elected unopposed to the position on December 11 at the end of the deadline for withdrawal of candidatures in the election for the post. 
Congress leaders from across the country had filed 89 nominations proposing Mr. Gandhi for the post. He was the only candidate in the fray. The Election Commission had set a deadline of December 31 for the Congress to complete its organisational elections, after giving it an extension.
Mr. Gandhi is the sixth person from the Nehru-Gandhi family to hold the position after Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehu, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi.
Mr. Gandhi's assumption of the leadership of the party has taken place just two days ahead of the counting of votes in the crucial elections to the Gujarat Legislative Assembly, which had seen him leading from the front in a campaign that had stretched over the last three months and more.
Under his leadership, the party made a spirited bid to wrest power back in Gujarat from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has been ruling the state for 22 years. For the first time in a long time, the Congress sees a chance for itself in Gujarat -- the home state of both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah -- and Mr. Gandhi travelled extensively throughout the state, addressing several meetings.
Counting of votes in Gujarat as well as Himachal Pradesh, where polling was held on November 9, will be taken up on December 18 and all results are expected by that evening.
Mr. Gandhi was elevated as Vice-President and, therefore, the number two in the party  on January 19, 2013, ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, at the Chintan Shivir of the party in Jaipur. He has been virtually leading the party in recent times because Mrs. Gandhi has been unwell and has cut back on her public engagements.
Born on June 19, 1970, Mr. Gandhi is the son of late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Mrs Sonia Gandhi. He represents Amethi constituency in Uttar Pradesh in the Lok Sabha. He was elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time in 2004 from Amethi and re-elected in 2009 and 2014.
He attended St. Stephen's College, Delhi, Harvard College and Rollins College, Florida, from where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts. He went on to receive an M. Phil. in Development Studies from Trinity College, Cambridge University in the United Kingdom.
Thereafter, he joined the Monitor Group, a strategy consulting group, in London, and worked there for three years.

Modi says humanitarian forces must fight terrorism unitedly

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday that terrorism and extremism were trying to weaken and destroy the social fabric and the need of the hour was for humanitarian forces to become more alert and cautious.

File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said terrorism and extremism were trying to weaken and destroy the social fabric and the need of the hour was for humanitarian forces to become more alert and cautious.
"Terrorism has threatened humanity across the globe. Terrorism has challenged humanity. It is bent upon destroying the humanitarian forces. So, not only India but all humanitarian forces will have to keep fighting unitedly to defeat the menace of terrorism," he said in the 38th edition of Mann  Ki Baat, his radio address to the nation.
"Lord Budha, Lord Mahavir, Guru Nanak, Mahatma Gandhi – this is the land which gave the message of love and non-violence to the world," he said.
Recalling the horrific November 26, 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, in which more than 160 people lost their lives, Mr. Modi said the nation could never forget this day.
"The country remembers and bows to those brave citizens, policemen, security men and each one who lost their lives then. This country can never forget their sacrifice. Terrorism has taken an ugly shape and has become a global threat almost as a daily routine. We, in India, are facing to lot for the last 40 years on account of terrorism. Thousands of our innocent people have lost their lives. But, a few years ago, when India used to talk about the severe threats of terrorism many people in the world were not ready to take it seriously.
"Now that, terrorism is knocking at their doors, every Government in the world, those who believe in humanity, Governments having faith in democracy are seeing this as one of the biggest challenges," he said.
Mr. Modi said November 26 was Constitution Day, marking the day in 1949 when the Constitution of India was adopted by the Constituent Assembly. 
"The Constitution of India is the spirit of our democracy. This is the day to remember the members of the Constituent Assembly. They all worked hard for about three years to draft the Constitution. And, whoever reads that debate will feel proud about what actually the vision of a life dedicated to the nation is. Can you imagine how hard their task would have been to frame the Constitution of our country which has such big diversities? They must have shown a great sense of understanding and farsightedness and that too at a juncture when the country was getting rid of the bondage of slavery. Now, this is the responsibility of all of us to make a New India in the light of the thinking of the makers of our Constitution. Our Constitution is all encompassing. There probably is no area, no aspect of nature which remained untouched," he said.
The Prime Minister said equality for all and sensitivity towards was a unique characteristic of the Constitution.
"It guarantees fundamental rights to each & every citizen, whether underprivileged or oppressed, backward or deprived, a tribal or a woman. It protects their fundamental rights and safeguards their interests. It is our duty that we abide by our Constitution in letter and spirit. Citizens and administrators alike must move ahead in accordance with the spirit of our Constitution. The message that our Constitution conveys is that no one should be harmed in any way. 
"It is but natural to remember Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar on the Constitution Day today. Seventeen separate committees were constituted by the Constituent Assembly on various important issues. One of the most significant of these was the drafting committee and Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar was the Chairman of this drafting committee. He was playing a pivotal role in it. The Constitution of India, which we feel so very proud of, bears an indelible stamp of his able leadership. He ensured the welfare of every section of society. We remember him and bow before him on his Mahaparinirvan Diwas on 6th of December. Babasaheb’s contribution in making the country prosperous and strong can never be forgotten. 15th of December is the death anniversary of Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel. Sardar Patel rose from being a farmer’s son to be known as the Iron Man of the country, undertaking the extraordinary task of uniting India into one nation. Sardar Saheb was also a member of the constituent Assembly. He was also the Chairman of the Advisory Committee on fundamental rights, minorities and tribals," he said.
Mr. Modi also pointed out that Navy Day would be observed on December 4.
"Indian Navy secures and protects our maritime boundaries. I congratulate all those who belong to the Navy. 
"All of you must be knowing that our civilization developed along river banks. Be it the Indus, the Ganges, the Yamuna or the Saraswati – our rivers and seas are both economically and strategically important. These are our gateway to the whole world. This country, our land has an unbreakable bond with oceans. And as we peep into our history, we come to know that about 800 to 900 (eight to nine hundred) years ago, during the rule of the Cholas, the Chola Navy was considered one of the strongest navies. This navy had a big role in the expansion of the Chola-rule and in making it an economic super power. Numerous references of voyages and expeditions of the Chola Navy are found even today in 'Sangam - literature'. 
"Very few people might be aware that most navies of the world allowed women on their warships pretty later. But in the Chola Navy, a large number of women played leading roles and that too about eight to nine hundred years ago; to the extent that women actively took part in battles. The Chola rulers possessed a very rich and sound knowledge of ship building. 
"When we talk of navy, who can ignore Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and the capabilities and might of his navy. Konkan coast, where the sea has a significant role, was under Shivaji Maharaj’s realm. Many forts associated with Shivaji Maharaj like Sindhu Durg, Murud Janjira, Swarn Durg, etc were either situated on the sea coast or were encircled by sea. The security of these forts was the responsibility of the Maratha Navy. There was a combination of large ships and small boats in the Maratha Navy. His naval forces were very efficient and skilled in attacking the enemy and in defending their attacks. And how can we refer to the Maratha Navy and not remember Kanhoji Aangre! He took the Maratha Navy to newer heights and established Maratha Naval Bases at a number of places. After Independence, our Indian Navy showed its valour on various occasions; be it the liberation struggle of Goa or the Indo-Pak war. When we talk of the Navy, we see only war but the Indian Navy has come forward in humanitarian ventures as well. In June this year when Cyclone Mora hit Bangladesh and Myanmar, our naval ship INS Sumitra rendered a big help in rescue operations; many fishermen were rescued from the sea and handed over to Bangladesh. 
"In May-June this year when there was a severe flood in Sri Lanka, three ships of our navy reached there immediately and helped the government and the people there. In September, during the Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh, our naval ship INS Ghadiyal delivered humanitarian assistance there. The Government of Papua New Guinea sent an SOS-message to us in June and our navy rendered help in saving the fishermen of a fishing boat. On 21st November, during an incident of piracy in a merchant vessel in the Western Gulf, our naval ship INS Trikand reached there to help them. Carrying medical services to Fiji, sending urgent relief, or delivering humanitarian aid during crisis to a neighbouring country – our navy has always rendered glorious service. We Indians, always nurture a feeling of pride and respect towards our security forces- be it the army, the navy or the air force and every countryman salutes the courage, bravery, valour, chivalry and sacrifice of our soldiers. They sacrifice their youth for the country so that 125 crore countrymen may live in peace. We observe Armed Forces Flag Day every year on 7th December. This is a day to feel proud of and show respect to our country’s armed forces," he said.
Mr. Modi said he was happy that the Ministry of Defence had decided to run a campaign from December 1 to December 7 during which they will reach out to the people of the country to disseminate information about our Armed Forces and to make them aware. 
"Throughout the week every one, old or young, should wear the flag. A movement to instill respect for our forces will come into being in the country. We can distribute Armed Forces flags on this occasion. Experiences and acts of valour of those from the armed forces who are our neighbours or acquaintances and related videos and pictures can be posted on hash-tag armed forces flag day (#armedforcesflagday). People from the forces could be invited to schools and colleges to share information about the forces. Our new generation can get a good opportunity to get information about the forces. This is also an occasion to collect funds for the welfare of the jawans of our armed forces. This amount is spent through the Sainik Kalyan Board on the dependents of those who lost their lives and also for those who got injured during wars, for their rehabilitation," he said.
"Come, let us do something on this occasion which may raise the morale of our armed forces. We should also contribute towards their welfare," he said.
Mr. Modi also spoke about World Soil Day, which is on December 5 and about the important role of soil in the food chain.
"Our farmers across the country have got more than 10 crore soil health cards made so that they may understand their soil better and accordingly sow the crop," he said.
"We worship mother Earth but have we ever thought as to how much damage is caused to the health of our mother- Earth because of the usage of fertilizers like Urea? This has been proved by all scientific methods that a serious damage is caused because of an excessive use of urea. The Farmer is the son of the soil, how can a farmer see the mother Earth falling sick? The need of the hour is to revive the mother-son relationship. Can our farmers, the sons of our soil make a resolve that by the year 2022, when we complete 75 year of our independence, they will cut down the urea usage to half of what is being used presently? If this son of the soil, my farmer brother once make this resolve then we will see the health of mother Earth improve and production will increase. A transformation shall start to usher into the life of the farmer," he said.
Mr. Modi also spoke about global warming and climate change as well as the national cleanliness campaign.
He also mentioned the disabled and their achievements in many spheres, including sports.
"These days special emphasis is being laid on accessibilities and opportunities for persons with disabilities, our Divyang brethren. Our endeavour is to ensure that each and every person in the country is empowered. Let the essence of ‘Sama’ and ‘Mama’, that is a confluence of collective and the individual, foster a sense of syncretic harmony in our society; let us move forward with each other, together," he said.
"A few days from now, the pious occasion of Id-e-milad-un-nabi will be observed. Paighambar Hazrat Mohammad Sahab was born on this day. I extend best wishes to all countrymen. And I hope that this holy occasion of Id gives us new inspiration, fresh energy and the strength to resolve anew, to foster peace and communal amity," he said.

Modi says India poised for swift take-off, hits out at critics of reforms

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday the jump in India’s global ranking in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report meant that the country was poised for a “swift take-off” and lashed out as those questioning the achievement, saying that they never did anything themselves and were now questioning those who are trying to do something.

Prime Minister  Narendra Modi with World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva at an event on India's Business Reforms, in New Delhi on November 4, 2017.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva at an event on India's Business Reforms, in New Delhi on November 4, 2017.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said the jump in India’s global ranking in  the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report meant that the country was poised for a “swift take-off” and lashed out as those questioning the achievement, saying that they never did anything themselves and were now questioning those who are trying to do something.
He was speaking at a conference on “India’s Business Reforms” organised here by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotions (DIPP), four days after the World Bank released its report which showed that India had moved into the top 100 in the global rankings on the back of sustained business reforms over the past several years.
In an obvious reference to the Congress, Mr. Modi said that if the party had carried out many of the reforms during its tenure in government, it could have claimed credit for the improvement in the rankings, which were launched by the World Bank in 2004, the year the Congress-led UPA government’s ten-year reign began.
“I am a Prime Minister who has not even seen the building of the World Bank, while earlier people who used to run the World Bank were sitting here,” he said.
“Instead of raising questions about the rankings, they should cooperate with us so that the country can be taken to higher levels. They should resolve to work together with us to build a New India,” he said.
Mr. Modi said India had been identified in the report as one of the top performers and reached a position from where it would now be easier to improve further. “Our efforts have gathered momentum. In management terms, we have achieved critical mass for a swift takeoff,” he said 
Last year, the  report had ranked India at 130, from which it has moved up 30 places this year to 100. India is the only large country this year to have achieved such a significant shift. The report also recognized India as one of the top 10 improvers in this year’s assessment, having implemented reforms in 8 of the 10 Doing Business indicators. 
“I am very happy to be here today. I sense a well-deserved mood of celebration here. The World Bank has recognized the stupendous work done by us towards improving Ease of Doing Business. We are now among the top hundred countries in the Doing Business rankings. In a short time of three years we have improved forty-two ranks,” Mr. Modi said.
He also expressed happiness at the presence of World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva at the event, saying that it showed the bank’s commitment to encourage nations to undertake reforms which benefit society and economy. 
“Over the last three years, I have been constantly telling the domestic and foreign investor community that we in India are making sincere efforts to improve ‘ease of doing business’. And Friends! India has Walked the Talk,” he said.
“This improvement is important: because it is an indicator of Good Governance in the Country; because it is a measure of the quality of our public policies; because it is a benchmark of transparency of processes; because, ease of doing business, also leads to ease of life; and, ultimately, it reflects the way people live, work and transact in a society,” he said.
“But all this is for the benefit of concerned stakeholders. For me, the World Bank report shows that quantum change is possible through commitment and hard work. Continued efforts can help us improve even further,” he said. He said there was more work to be done. “I want to bring some change in in the lives of the 100 crore people of my country. I assure you that we will not leave any stone unturned in meeting the expectations of the world from India,” he said.
Mr. Modi noted, for example, that the World Bank report had not taken into account the implementation of the Goods and Service Tax (GST) which, he said, was the biggest tax reform in the Indian economy and impacts many aspects of doing business. “With GST, we are moving towards a modern tax regime, which is transparent, stable and predictable,” he said.
He recalled that the Government would study the working of the new system for three months and that the GST Council was addressing the various issues that had cropped in the implementation of the new regime. He said many issues would be sorted out the coming meeting of the GST Council and all necessary improvements made even after that.
“There are many other reforms which have already happened, but need gestation and stabilization time, before they are taken into account by the World Bank. There are a few other reforms where our team and the World Bank team need to find common ground. All this, combined with our conviction to do even better, gives me the confidence that India will occupy a place of pride in the World Bank report next year and in the years thereafter. 
“I compliment the World Bank for engaging with countries to improve ease of doing business across the world. I also compliment them for the theme of this year’s report – ‘Reforming to create jobs’. There can be no denying that business is a major force in our lives. It is an engine for growth, employment generation, wealth creation and delivery of goods and services that make our lives comfortable,” he said.
Mr. Modi said India was a young country and job creation was an opportunity as well as a challenge. “Therefore, to leverage the energy of our youth, we are positioning India as a Start-up nation and a global manufacturing hub. For this purpose, we have launched various initiatives, such as Make in India and Start-up India,” he said.
He said that, through these initiatives, combined with the new eco-system of a formal economy and a unified tax regime, the Government was trying to create a New India. “An India where opportunities are created and harnessed to the advantage of the needy. We are particularly keen to develop India into a knowledge based, skill supported and technology driven society. A good beginning has been made through the Digital India and Skill India initiatives,” he said..
Mr. Modi said India was swiftly changing for the better and went on to list some more global recognitions which indicate this.
“We have moved up thirty two places in the last two years in the Global Competitiveness Index of the World Economic Forum. This is highest for any country. We have also moved up 21 places on the Global Innovation Index of WIPO in two years. We have moved 19 places on the Logistics Performance Index of 2016 of World Bank. We are among the top FDI destinations listed by UNCTAD,” he said.
“Our mantra is reform, perform and transform. We want to do better and better. I am happy to note that for the first time, the World Bank is helping us in this exercise at the sub-National level too. In a federal democracy like India, it is often not easy to take on board every stakeholder while undertaking reforms. However, over the last three years, there has been a sea change in the response of Governments, both at Central and State level. State Governments are finding innovative ways to create a business friendly environment. While often competing with each other in implementing business reforms, they are also helping each other in implementing them. This is an exciting universe in which competitiveness and cooperation co-exist,” he said.
The Prime Minister said the agenda for boosting growth and employment required many structural changes, many tough decisions and many new regulations. Besides this, the mind-set of the bureaucracy required change to enable them to work fearlessly and honestly. He said that, over the last three years, his Government had done a lot on these fronts and resolved a number of regulatory and policy issues facing businesses and companies. 
“Alongwith manufacturing, we are also pushing for faster progress in infrastructure sectors. Therefore, we are continuously working to improve our investment climate. In the last three and a half years we have undertaken bold Foreign Direct Investment reforms in twenty one sectors, covering eighty seven areas of policy,” he said.
He said these reforms had touched significant sectors like Defence, Railways, Construction Development, Insurance, Pension, Civil Aviation and Pharmaceuticals. More than ninety percent of the FDI approvals have been put on the automatic route. “We are now among the most open economies for FDI,” he said.
Mr. Modi said this had resulted in increased FDI inflow, which year after year is making new records. “The FDI inflows of 55.6 billion US dollars for the year ending March, 2016 were an all-time high. The following year, India registered an FDI inflow of 60.08 billion US dollars, thereby scaling an even higher peak. As a result, the total FDI received in the country has gone up by 67% in a short span of three years,” he said. “During the current financial year till August, total FDI of 30.38 billion US dollars has been received, which represents an increase of 30% as compared to the corresponding period last year. In August, 2017, India received a total FDI of 9.64 billion US dollars, which is the highest ever FDI received in any month,” he said.
“Over the last three years, we have systemically and critically evaluated business regulations. We have tried to understand the pain points of businesses with regard to interface with government. We engaged with businesses on a regular basis, understood their concerns and sought to modify regulation to address their concerns. 
“I have often emphasized that technology must be used to transform governance. Use of technology should minimize physical interface and assist time bound decision-making. I am glad to see that a number of Government Departments and State Governments are deploying technology to improve governance and deliver services. 
“Alongwith the tools of technology we also need a complete change of mind-set while dealing with business. Total re-engineering is required both at the level of Mind and Machine. The past mindset of excessive control has to be replaced by the concept of minimum government, maximum governance. This is our goal and my Government is determined to achieve this objective. 
“With this objective, an extensive exercise was undertaken to redesign laws and re-engineer government processes to make business environment simpler and more conducive. An attempt has been made to align the Indian regulatory environment to international best practices. Though, we were putting in efforts to improve India’s rank in the Doing Business Report, reforms undertaken by the Government are far more extensive. To give you one example; we have abolished more than 1200 archaic laws and Acts which were only complicating Governance. They have been deleted from the statute book. Similarly, thousands of important reforms have been carried out by the states as well. These additional efforts are not part of the World Bank’s requirement,” he said.
Mr. Modi said all Ministries of the Central Government, Public Sector Undertakings, State Governments as well as regulators should identify international best practices, consult their stakeholders and align their regulations and processes with international best practices. “I have no doubt that people working in these agencies are second to none in the world in respect of their capability and commitment to public service,” he said.
He said the Ease of Doing Business rankings were also rankings of Ease of Living Life. The improvement in India’s rankings means that life had become easier for the common man, the middle class, he said. He said India had managed to improve its ranking because the Government had, over the last three years, undertaken various reforms to reduce the difficulties being faced by people on various fronts.
“I must make a special mention of the fact that while Ease of Doing Business is important for all businesses, it is critical for small businesses including small manufacturers. This sector provides the bulk of employment in the country and to make them more competitive, we have to reduce the cost of doing business. The work on Ease of Doing Business must address the issues of these small businesses and manufacturers. 
“Once again, let me congratulate the team working on various aspects of ease of doing business for their commitment and dedication. I am sure that together we will write a new chapter in India’s history and transform India so that the dreams and aspirations of our people take wing. 
“I would like to thank the World Bank again for their guidance in our efforts to improve ease of Doing Business. I am told that the experience of bringing about decisive changes in a large country like India without affecting the growth process may become an example for many other nations. There is always scope to learn from others. If required, we will be happy to share our experience with other countries,” he added.

Congress wrests Gurdaspur in Punjab from BJP, its ally IUML retains Vengara in Kerala

In a morale booster for the party ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress has wrested the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha seat from the BJP by a huge margin and its ally, the IUML, retained the Vengara Assembly seat in Kerala in bye-elections held on October 11.

Congress' Sunil Jakhar wins Gurdaspur LS bye-election
In a morale booster ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress has wrested the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha  seat from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by a huge margin and its ally, Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), retained the Vengara Assembly seat in Kerala in bye-elections held on October 11.
Congress candidate Sunil Jakhar drubbed Mr. Swaran Singh Salaria of the BJP by a record margin of 1,93,219 votes in Gurdaspur.
In Vengara, Mr. K. N. A. Khader, the candidate of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), who is a member of the IUML, won from Vengara, defeating his nearest rival, P. P. Basheer of the Left Democratic Front (LDF), by a margin of 23,310 votes in the October 11 bye-election.
Counting of votes was taken up in both constituencies this morning, and the results were out by noon.
Gurdaspur had fallen vacant following the death on April 27 of well-known Hindi film actor Vinod Khanna, who represented the constituency in the Lok Sabha as a candidate of the ruling BJP.
Mr. Jakhar polled 4,99,752 votes against the 3,06,553 votes secured by Mr. Salaria. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate Suresh Khajuria got just 23,579 votes.
Considering the fact that Mr. Khanna had won the seat by an impressive margin of 1.35 lakh votes in 2014, the bye-election ended up being a cakewalk for Mr. Jakhar, 63, the Congress Punjab unit chief and son of late Lok Sabha Speaker Balram Jakhar.
In between, in March this year, the Congress won a resounding victory in the elections to the Punjab Legislative Assembly and its leader Amarinder Singh returned as Chief Minister of the state. The bye-election had turned into a battle of prestige for both sides.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress had ended up on the losing side in all the nine Assembly segments in Gurdaspur. Mr. Jakhar has managed to turn this around, winning from all the nine segments this time.
Gurdaspur was considered a Congress stronghold for long years, with its candidate Sukhbuns Kaur Bhinder winning the seat five times in a row from 1980 to 1996 before the BJP brought in Khanna, a top Bollywood actor, as its candidate in 1998. The actor-turned politician was re-elected from the seat in 1999, 2004 and then in 2014. In 2009, former Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa by a thin margin of 8,359 votes.
Mr. Jakhar described the bye-election result as a "referendum" on the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance's government at the Centre and said the people of the constituency had sent a "strong message of resentment" over its policies.
"Congratulations to @sunilkjakhar ji for his impressive win in #Gurdaspur bypoll, it's a victory for @INCPunjab policies & development agenda," Mr. Amarinder Singh on microblogging site Twitter.
"Assure people of #Gurdaspur that every single promise made by @sunilkjakhar will be fulfilled and all development works will be fast-tracked," he added.
Congress leader and Punjab minister Navjot Sidhu said, "This is a beautiful Diwali gift, packed with a red ribbon, for our would-be party president Rahul Gandhi."
In Vengara, Mr. Khader polled 65,227 votes against 41,917 secured by Mr. Basheer, a member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the main constituent of the ruling LDF in the state.
Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) candidadte K. C. Naseer ended up third with 8,648 votes while Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) nominee K. Janachandran  Master, finished fourth with 5,728 votes in the results announced today.
The bye-election in Vengara was necessitated by the resignation of IUML leader P. K. Kunhalikutty, who was elected to the Lok Sabha on April 12 from the Malappuram seat that fell vacant following the death of former Union Minister E. Ahamed.
While the UDF celebrated the victory, the LDF drew satisfaction from the fact that they had reduced the IUML candidate's victory margin from 38,057 votes in the 2016 Assembly elections, when Mr. Kunhalikutty had won, to 23,310 votes in this bye-election.
Today's results have come just three days after the Congress swept the municipal elections in Nanded-Waghala in Maharashtra, considered a stronghold of the party. The party won 67 of the 81 seats, while the BJP won four and its ally Shiv Sena got just one.

SC says sex with minor wife is rape as it aligns anti-rape, child protection laws

In a significant judgement, the Supreme Court today held that sexual intervourse with a girl below 18 years of age is rape, regardless of whether she is married or not, as it aligned the country's anti-rape and child protection laws with each other.

In a significant judgement, the Supreme Court today held that sexual intervourse with a girl below 18 years of age is rape, regardless of whether she is married or not, as it aligned the country's anti-rape and child protection laws with each other.
In their judgement on a writ petition filed by Independent Thought, a two-judge bench, consisting of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta, said Exception 2 to Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860, under which sexual intercourse between a man and his wife, being a girl between 15 and 18 years, was not rape, had created "an unnecessary and artificial distinction between a married girl child and an unmarried girl child and has no rational nexus with any unclear objective sought to be achieved."
"The artificial distinction is arbitrary and discriminatory and is definitely not in the best interest of the girl child. The artificial distinction is contrary to the philosophy and ethos of Article 15(3) of the Constitution as well as contrary to Article 21 of the Constitution and our commitments in international conventions. It is also contrary to the philosophy behind some statutes, the bodily integrity of the girl child and her reproductive choice," Mr. Justice Lokur said in his judgement.
"What is equally dreadful, the artificial distinction turns a blind eye to trafficking of the girl child and surely each one of us must discourage trafficking which is such a horrible social evil," he said.
The judges made it clear that they had efrained from making any observation with regard to the marital rape of a woman who is 18 years of age and above since that issue was not before them at all. "Therefore we should not be understood to advert to that issue even collaterally," the judgement said.
Mr. Justice Lokur said: "On a complete assessment of the law and the documentary material, it appears that there are really five options before us: (i) To let the incongruity remain as it is – this does not seem a viable option to us, given that the lives of thousands of young girls are at stake; (ii) To strike down as unconstitutional Exception 2 to Section 375 of the IPC – in the present case this is also not a viable option since this relief was given up and no such issue was raised; (iii) To reduce the age of consent from 18 years to 15 years – this too is not a viable option and would ultimately be for Parliament to decide; (iv) To bring the POCSO Act in consonance with Exception 2 to Section 375 of the IPC – this is also not a viable option since it would require not only a retrograde amendment to the POCSO Act but also to several other pro-child statutes; (v) To read Exception 2 to Section 375 of the IPC in a purposive manner to make it in consonance with the POCSO Act, the spirit of other pro-child legislations and the human rights of a married girl child.
"Being purposive and harmonious constructionists, we are of opinion that this is the only pragmatic option available. Therefore, we are left with absolutely no other option but to harmonize the system of laws relating to children and require Exception 2 to Section 375 of the IPC to now be meaningfully read as: 'Sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under eighteen years of age, is not rape.'
"It is only through this reading that the intent of social justice to the married girl child and the constitutional vision of the framers of our Constitution can be preserved and protected and perhaps given impetus," Mr. Justice Lokur added.
Mr. Justice Gupta, while fully agreeing with the both reasoning given by Mr. Justice Lokur and the conclusions arrived at, expressed his own views in a separate concurring judgement in which  he gave some other reasons while reaching the same conclusion.
"I am clearly of the opinion that Exception 2 to Section 375 IPC in so far as it relates to a girl child below 18 years is liable to be struck down on the following grounds:–
(i) it is arbitrary, capricious, whimsical and violative of the rights of the girl child and not fair, just and reasonable and, therefore, violative of Article 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution of India;
(ii) it is discriminatory and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India and;
(iii) it is inconsistent with the provisions of POCSO, which must prevail.
"Therefore, Exception 2 to Section 375 IPC is read down as follows:
'Sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being 18 years, is not rape'. It is, however, made clear that this judgment will have prospective effect.
He also clarified that Section 198(6) of the Code will apply to cases of rape of “wives” below 18 years, and cognizance can be taken only in accordance with the provisions of Section 198(6) of the Code.
The petitioner is a society working in the area of child rights. The society had filed the petition under Article 32 of the Constitution in public interest with a view to draw attention to the violation of the rights of girls who are married between the ages of 15 and 18 years.
According to the petitioner, Section 375 of the IPC prescribes the age of consent for sexual intercourse as 18 years meaning thereby that any person having sexual intercourse with a girl child below 18 years of age would be statutorily guilty of rape even if the sexual activity was with her consent. Almost every statute in India recognizes that a girl below 18 years of age is a child and it is for this reason that the law penalizes sexual intercourse with a girl who is below 18 years of age. 
"Unfortunately, by virtue of Exception 2 to Section 375 of the IPC, if a girl child between 15 and 18 years of age is married, her husband can have non-consensual sexual intercourse with her, without being penalized under the IPC, only because she is married to him and for no other reason. The right of such a girl child to bodily integrity and to decline to have sexual intercourse with her husband has been statutorily taken away and non-consensual sexual intercourse with her husband is not an offence under the IPC," the petition had said.

Congress uses Sinha's criticism to mount fresh attacks on Modi's economic policies

The opposition Congress on Wednesday gleefully latched on to senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha's scathing criticism of the government's handling of the economy to mount fresh attacks on the Narendra Modi regime even as Ministers came out to rebut the allegations made by one of their own.

Yashwant Sinha
Yashwant Sinha
The opposition Congress  today gleefully latched on to senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Yashwant Sinha's scathing criticism of the government's handling of the economy in a newspaper article to mount fresh attacks on the Narendra Modi regime on the issue even as Ministers came out to rebut the allegations made by one of their own.
"Ladies & Gentlemen, this is your copilot & FM speaking. Plz fasten your seat belts & take brace position. The wings have fallen off our plane," Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi said on micro-blogging site Twitter, sharing the link of an article by Mr. Sinha in today's edition of Indian Express.
Mr. Gandhi, who was on the last day of a three-day tour of poll-bound Gujarat, also referred to Mr. Sinha's lacerating criticism of the BJP government's performance at various meetings here addressed in the state. "We are not saying it, it is one of their own leaders," he said.
"I shall be failing in my national duty if I did not speak up even now against the mess the finance minister has made of the economy. I am also convinced that what I am going to say reflects the sentiments of a large number of people in the BJP and elsewhere who are not speaking up out of fear," Mr. Sinha, 79, who was Finance Minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government and now finds himself sidelined within the party, said in his article.
He wrote about how Finance Minister Arun Jaitley at one stage handled as many as three different portfolios, including Defence and Corporate Affairs. "I have handled the ministry of finance and know how much hard work there is in that ministry alone. Finance ministry, in the best of times, calls for the undivided attention of its boss if the job has to be properly done. In challenging times it becomes more than a 24/7 job. Naturally, even a superman like Jaitley could not do justice to the task," he said.
"Jaitley was, to begin with, a lucky finance minister, luckier than any in the post-liberalisation era. Depressed global crude oil prices placed at his disposal lakhs of crores of rupees. This unprecedented bonanza was waiting to be used imaginatively. The legacy problems like stalled projects and bank NPAs were no doubt there and should have been managed better like the crude oil bonanza. But the oil bonanza has been wasted and the legacy problems have not only been allowed to persist, they have become worse.
"So, what is the picture of the Indian economy today? Private investment has shrunk as never before in two decades, industrial production has all but collapsed, agriculture is in distress, construction industry, a big employer of the work force, is in the doldrums, the rest of the service sector is also in the slow lane, exports have dwindled, sector after sector of the economy is in distress, demonetisation has proved to be an unmitigated economic disaster, a badly conceived and poorly implemented GST has played havoc with businesses and sunk many of them and countless millions have lost their jobs with hardly any new opportunities coming the way of the new entrants to the labour market. For quarter after quarter, the growth rate of the economy has been declining until it reached the low of 5.7 per cent in the first quarter of the current fiscal, the lowest in three years. The spokespersons of the government say that demonetisation is not responsible for this deceleration. They are right. The deceleration had started much earlier. Demonetisation only added fuel to fire," Mr. Sinha said.
He pointed that the methodology for calculation of the GDP was changed by the present government in 2015 as a result of which the growth rate recorded earlier increased statistically by over 200 basis points on an annual basis. "So, according to the old method of calculation, the growth rate of 5.7 per cent is actually 3.7 per cent or less," he said.
"The reasons for this decline are not far to seek nor have they appeared suddenly. They have been allowed to accumulate over time to cause the present crisis. It was not difficult to anticipate them and take counter measures to deal with them. But that called for devoting time to the task, serious application of mind, understanding of the issues and then working out a game plan to tackle them. It was perhaps too much to expect from a person who was carrying the heavy burden of so many extra responsibilities. The results are there for all of us to see," Mr. Sinha said.
"The prime minister is worried. A meeting convened by the prime minister with the finance minister and his officials appears to have been postponed indefinitely. The finance minister has promised a package to revive growth. We are all waiting with bated breath for this package. It has not come so far. The only new thing is the reconstituted Economic Advisory Council of the prime minister. Like the five Pandavas they are expected to win the new Mahabharat war for us.
"The performance of the monsoon this year has not been flattering. This will further intensify rural distress. The farmers have received 'massive' loan waivers from some state governments varying from one paise to a few rupees in some cases. Forty leading companies of the country are already facing bankruptcy proceedings. Many more are likely to follow suit. The SME sector is suffering from an unprecedented existential crisis. The input tax credit demand under the GST is a whopping Rs 65,000 crore against a collection of Rs 95,000 crore. The government has asked the income tax department to chase those who have made large claims. Cash flow problems have already arisen for many companies specially in the SME sector. 
"But this is the style of functioning of the finance ministry now. We protested against raid raj when we were in opposition. Today it has become the order of the day. Post demonetisation, the income tax department has been charged with the responsibility of investigating lakhs of cases involving the fate of millions of people. The Enforcement Directorate and the CBI also have their plates full. Instilling fear in the minds of the people is the name of the new game.
"Economies are destroyed more easily than they are built.  It took almost four years of painstaking and hard work in the late nineties and early 2000 to revive a sagging economy we had inherited in 1998. Nobody has a magic wand to revive the economy overnight. Steps taken now will take their own time to produce results. So, a revival by the time of the next Lok Sabha election appears highly unlikely. A hard landing appears inevitable. Bluff and bluster is fine for the hustings, it evaporates in the face of reality.
"The prime minister claims that he has seen poverty from close quarters. His finance minister is working over-time to make sure that all Indians also see it from equally close quarters," Mr. Sinha added.
The article came in handy for Mr. Gandhi, who had for the past two days relentlessly attacked Mr. Modi and the BJP for their handling of the economy and especially on demonetisation and GST.
His party colleague and former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said on Twitter: " Yashwant Sinha  speaks Truth to Power. Will Power now admit the Truth that economy is sinking?"
"No matter what Power does, ultimately Truth will prevail," he added.
Later, Mr. Chidambaram addressed mediapersons at the Congress headquarters, where he said that he had been writing about the "same weaknesses in the economy" and that his party had been pointing them out regularly over the past several months.
"We are happy Yashwant Sinha has spoken the truth, echoed our views about economy...he has spoken truth to the power," he said.
“The government is completely clueless about what is causing the economic decline. How long will it hide behind the rhetoric of the Prime Minister and the slogans of the party?” he asked. 
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Railways Minister Piyush Goyal defended the government, asserting that the Indian economy was the fastest growing in the world. They said measures such  as demonetisation and GST were bound to create some "uncertainty".
“The whole world acknowledges that India is the fastest growing economy in the world. No one should forget this fact. In the matter of economy, in the international arena, India’s credibility has been established,” Mr. Rajnath Singh said.
Mr. Goyal said the government would not be affected by the criticism and would stay the course as far as reforms were concerned.
“There is bound to be some uncertainty when some transformative changes are made. It may take some amount of time to absorb these changes but this will pass. Challenges come but we will stay the course. The government is steadfast in its resolve to end black money and corruption. It won’t flinch due to some criticism,” he said.

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

At least 29 people were killed and more than 250 others suffered injuries as thousands of followers of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh went on the rampage after he was convicted in a rape case by a special CBI court in Panchkula, Haryana on Friday.

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