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Proclamation on President's Rule in Uttarakhand revoked, Rawat to return as CM

President Pranab Mukherjee has revoked the proclamation imposing President's Rule in Uttarakhand, paving the way for Congress leader Harish Rawat to assume office again as Chief Minister of the hill state after a gap of more than six weeks.

File photo of Harish Rawat
File photo of Harish Rawat
President Pranab Mukherjee has revoked the proclamation imposing President's Rule in Uttarakhand, paving the way for Congress leader Harish Rawat to assume office again as Chief Minister of the hill state after a gap of more than six weeks.
 
"The President of India on 11th May, 2016 revoked the Proclamation issued under the Article 356 of the Constitution on 27th March, 2016 in relation to the State of Uttarakhand," a press release from the Ministry of Home Affairs said here today.
 
Earlier yesterday, the Supreme Court had announced that Mr. Rawat had won the floor test conducted in the state legislative assembly on May 10, more than six weeks after the Centre imposed President's rule in the hill state on March 27.
 
The floor test in the assembly was held on Tuesday on the direction of the Supreme Court though the official result of the exercise to determine the legislative strength of the various parties in the house was declared only yesterday by the apex court.
 
The outcome is a major setback for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government at the Centre, which had imposed President's Rule in the hill state, stating that the Congress government headed by Mr. Rawat had lost its majority and was continuing in office illegally.
 
The Union Government's role in the entire affair was seen as an effort by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the Centre to topple the Congress government in the state and try and replace it with a BJP-led government.
 
The Supreme Court had allowed Mr. Rawat to seek a trust vote in the Assembly on Tuesday after lifting President's Rule for a few hours to enable the exercise to be conducted as the latest chapter in a high-stakes political drama which began in early March when nine members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) belonging to the Congress rebelled against Mr. Rawat's leadership.
 
The nine MLAs were later disqualified by the Speaker of the Assembly and the Uttarakhand High Court on Monday made it clear that they could not vote in the floor test. The nine MLAs approached the Supreme Court within hours on Monday itself but failed to get any relief from the apex court, too.
 
The Supreme Court formally announced the result of the floor test after perusing the papers related to the proceedings in the assembly.
 
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi urged the court to modify its order of April 22 to enable to the Union Government to take steps for revocation of the proclamation of President's Rule in the state. The court had earlier restrained the Centre from revoking President's Rule until the next date of hearing.
 
The court also said that, after President's Rule is revoked, Mr. Rawat could assume the office of the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand.
 
"Keeping in view the prayer made by the learned Attorney General, we vary the order by granting liberty to the Union of India to revoke the proclamation of President's Rule in the State of Uttarakhand in course of the day. Needless to say, after the Presidential Rule is revoked, the 1st respondent can assume the office of the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand," the court had said yesterday.
 
"Two aspects we intend to clarify. One, the issue of justifiability of the proclamation of President's Rule that was made on 27.03.2016 which has been annulled by the impugned order passed by the High Court will remain alive, for the High Court has ascribed many a reasons to arrive at the conclusion that the said proclamation was not tenable in law. It required to be scrutinized whether within the scope of judicial review, such a finding could have been arrived at or for that matter whether the opinion arrived at by the President of India to proclaim the President's Rule at the relevant point of time was justified or not. 
 
"We may hasten to add, we have directed for floor test on concession of the parties and we had varied the order today on a prayer being made by the Union of India.
 
"The second aspect that deserves mention is that nine members of the Legislative Assembly have been disqualified. Their disqualification which has been upheld by the High Court is under assail before this Court in the special leave petition no.14140 of 2016. This Court has declined to grant interim prayer for stay of the impugned order against the disqualified MLAs in the special leave petition on 09.05.2016. The said matter has been adjourned to 12.07.2016. What will be the effect, if in the ultimate eventuate case the disqualification is set at naught would be a matter of debate. We say nothing on that score at present. For the purpose of production of the order of revocation, let the matter be listed on 13.05.2016. On that date, a day shall be fixed for hearing of the special leave petitions on merits," the order added.
 
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After the disqualification of the nine MLAs, the Uttarakhand assemby had an effective strength of 62. While the Congress has 27 members in the House, the BJP has 28. The PDF has six members, including two belonging to the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). The UKD has one member and three are independents.
 
Earlier, the Supreme Court had, on April 27, kept in abeyance an order of the Uttarakhand High Court quashing the imposition of President's Rule in the hill state and restoring the government headed by Congress leader Harish Rawat back in office.
 
The Uttarakhand High Court order, which was seen as a major embarassment for the Modi government, was delivered on April 26 by a division bench headed by Chief Justice K. M. Joseph, which also asked Chief Minister Rawat to prove his majority in the state legislative assembly by taking a floor test on or before April 29.
 
President's Rule was imposed in the state on Sunday, March 27, just a day ahead of a trust vote that Mr. Rawat was scheduled to seek in the assembly on Monday on the direction of Uttarakhand Governor K. K. Paul.
 
The Centre had justified the imposition of President's Rule in the state, saying the state government was functioning in violation of Constitutional principles.
 
The Rawat government was pushed into a crisis when nine legislators of the ruling Congress rebelled against his leadership in early March.
 
The Union Cabinet had discussed the situation in the hill state at a meeting in Delhi late on March 26 night and decided to recommend the imposition of Central rule in the state to the President.
 
Briefing newspersons in New Delhi on March 27, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the Cabinet had taken into account the developments in Uttarakhand during the past nine days and come to the conclusion that Constitutional principles were being violated by the state government and that the state government could not be run in accordance with the Constitution.
 
He said the Assembly had "passed" an Appropriation Bill through a voice vote on March 18, even though as many as 35 of the 67 members present (not counting the Speaker) had sought a division. They had written to the Speaker and the Governor ahead of the sitting of the Assembly on that day and had also informed them later that the Bill could not be considered to have been passed in the circumstances.
 
Mr. Jaitley said video recordings of the day's proceedings in the Assembly showed that the Appropriation Bill had actually "failed", which implied that the State Government was not authorised to incur any expenditure from April 1 onwards.
 
He said Mr. Rawat should have resigned on March 18 itself on the "failure" of the Bill and the continuance of his government after that date was "unconstitutional".
 
Mr. Jaitley said the state Governor had, in his reports on the situation in the state, said there were serious doubts about the proceedings of the Assembly on March 18.
 
He also said the Governor had advised Mr. Rawat to seek a vote of confidence in the House without much delay, but the latter had decided to convene the Assembly only on March 28 for the purpose. He alleged that the time in between had been used for "allurement and horse-trading". He said the video of an alleged sting operation, released on March 26, had provided evidence of this.
 
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Parliament to meet from April 25 to complete financial business

Parliament will meet from April 25 to address the financial business related to the General and Railway Budgets for the financial year 2016-17.

Parliament will meet from April 25 to address the financial business related to the General and Railway Budgets for the financial year 2016-17.
 
An official press release said the session was scheduled to last till May 13, subject to the exigencies of Government business.
 
The ensuing session of the Lower House  will be the 8th Session of the 16th Lok Sabha  and that of the Upper House the 239th Session of Rajya Sabha since the previous sessions of the Parliament were prorogued in March this year, after both the Houses were adjourned on March 16 for meetings of Department Related Standing Committtees.
 
Financial business including discussion on demands for grants of various ministries in the Lok Sabha and working of some ministries in the Rajya Sabha, consideration and passing of the Railways Appropriation Bill, 2016 and Finance Bill, 2016 constitute the main agenda of this session of Parliament, the release said.
 
The release said the Lok Sabha would take up discussion on Demands for Grants of the Ministry of Railways and the related Appropriation Bill for 2016-17 on April 26. This will be followed by discussion on Demands for Grants of the Ministries of Development of North-Eastern Region, Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation, Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Social Justice and Empowerment and Civil Aviation.
 
The Rajya Sabha will discuss working of the Ministries of Health & Family Welfare, Human Resource Development, Finance, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises and External Affairs. 
 
Thereafter, Finance Bill, 2016 and application of guillotine will be taken up, the release said.
 
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According to it, other legislative agenda likely  to be taken up in Lok Sabha include:
 
1. Consideration and Passing of the Sikh Gurudwaras (Amendment) Bill, 2016 as passed by Rajya Sabha (listed for April 25);
2. Consideration and Passing of the Regional Centre for Bio-technology Bill,2016 (listed for April 25);
3. The Factories (Amendment) Bill, 2014 (Standing Committee submitted its Report);
4. The Electricity Amendment Bill, 2014 (Standing Committee submitted its Report);
5. The Lok Pal and Lok Ayuktas and other related laws (Amendment) Bill,2014 (Standing Committee submitted its report);
6. The Merchant Shipping Bill, 2015 (Standing Committee submitted its Report);
7. The Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development (Amendment) Bill,2015 (Standing Committee submitted its Report);
8. The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill, 2015 (Standing Committee submitted its Report);
9. The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code,2015 (Report of Joint Committee awaited);
10. The Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Bill, 2015 (Report of Standing Committee awaited);
11. The Consumer Protection Bill, 2015 (Report of the Standing Committee awaited);
12. The Companies (Amendment) Bill,2016 (Report of the Standing Committee awaited); and
13. The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Second Bill, 2015 (Report of Joint Committee awaited).
 
The legislative business likely to be taken up in  Rajya Sabha include:
 
1. The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order (Amendment) Bill,2016 as passed by Lok Sabha;
2. The Appropriation Acts (Repeal) Bill,2016 as passed by Lok Sabha;
3. The Repealing and Amending (Third) Bill,2016 as passed by Lok Sabha;
4. The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill,2016 as passed by Lok Sabha;
(The above four Bills listed for April 25)
5. The Constitution (One twenty second) Amendment Bill relating to introduction of GSG as passed by Lok Sabha and reported by the Select Committee of Rajya Sabha;
6. The Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill,2016 as passed by Lok Sabha and referred to Select Committee of the House;
7. The Whistle Blowers Protection (Amendment) Bill,2015 as passed by Lok Sabha;
8. The Indian Trusts (Amendment) Bill,2015 as passed by Lok Sabha;
9. The Industries (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill,2015 as passed by Lok Sabha;
10. The Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Bill, 1987 as reported by Joint Committee; and
11. The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015 as passed by Lok Sabha and referred to Joint Committee.
 
During the 15 sittings of the session, besides ratification of Presidential Proclamation in Uttarkhand under Article 356 of the Constitution, two Ordinances -- The Uttarakhand Appropriation (Vote on Account) Ordinance,2016 and The Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Second Ordinance, 2016 -- are also on the agenda.
 
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Modi urges global business community to invest in India's maritime sector

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday that it was his Government's endeavour to revive and restore India's position of eminence in the maritime sector in the world and called upon the global business community to partner with it to give shape to its process of port-led development.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing at the Maritime India Summit, in Mumbai on April 14, 2016.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing at the Maritime India Summit, in Mumbai on April 14, 2016.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said it was his Government's endeavour to revive and restore India's position of eminence in the maritime sector in the world and called upon the global business community to partner with it to give shape to its process of port-led development. 
 
"Building upon our glorious maritime tradition, we are working hard to achieve new heights in this area," he said in his inaugural address at the Maritime India Summit, 2016 here.
 
Mr. Modi said that, since his Government took over, among other things, it had laid emphasis on building futuristic infrastructure. This included building next generation infrastructure in many sectors with ports, shipping and maritime infrastructure being prominent among them, he said.
 
"In the very early days of our Government, we announced the Sagarmala programme. This is aimed at leveraging our long coastline and natural maritime advantages. It also focuses on promoting port-led development, energizing the coastal economy and infrastructure development in these areas. We particularly want to modernize our ports and integrate them with Special Economic Zones, Port based Smart Cities, Industrial Parks, Warehouses, Logistics Parks and Transport Corridors," he said.
 
Mr. Modi told the gathering that India's vast coastline of 7500 kilometres offered a huge investment opportunity.
 
"Apart from the length of the coastline, India's maritime potential also lies in its strategic location on all major shipping highways. In addition, we have an expansive and productive hinterland, through which flows a network of mighty rivers. Our maritime agenda will complement this ambitious infrastructure plan for the hinterland which is going on in parallel," he said.
 
"I am sure, the long coastline of India along with diverse coastal regions and hard working coastal communities can become an engine of growth of India," he said.
 
Mr. Modi listed the various initiatives taken by the Government to enable the growth of the port and related sectors, including steps to make India a global manufacturing hub and improve the ease of doing business.
 
"We have greatly liberalized the licensing regimes. This also includes the defence sector and ship building therein. We have taken almost sixty per cent of the defence items out of the licensing process. Most of the FDI sectors are now put on automatic approval route," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said shipyards were being given infrastructure status, at par with the ports. Rebate of service tax on coastal shipping has been increased to seventy per cent and customs duty and central excise exemption has been granted on inputs used in shipbuilding, he said.
 
He said a scheme of financial assistance to promote ship building had been approved; customs and central excise duties had been exempted on bunker fuel for Indian flagged container ships; and tax issues of sea farers had been resolved.
 
He said a new company by the name of Indian Port Rail Corporation had been established to focus on the last mile connectivity to ports. The Government had enacted a legislation for declaring 111 waterways as National Waterways. It had also taken up skill development activities aggressively.
 
"The results of our initial efforts are clearly visible: FDI inflows have gone up by 44 per cent since this government took over. In fact, the year 2015-16 has seen the highest ever FDI inflow into India. India’s highest ever quantity of cargo handled by major ports was in 2015. The port efficiency parameters have shown very good improvement. India’s fastest average turnaround time in ports was in 2015," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said that, in the last two years, India's major ports had  added 165 million tonne capacity with record additions each year. He said 94 million tonne capacity was added by these ports in 2015-16 alone which is the highest ever. The traffic in major ports had shown a healthy growth of more than four per cent in the last two years, despite global slowdown, he said.
 
He said the performance of the major ports in the last two years had been remarkable. Operating profit margins, which were declining, have increased, he said.
 
"In 2015-16 alone, the operating profit of the twelve major ports has increased by nearly 6.7 billion rupees. During 2015-16, Kandla Port in Gujarat breached the one hundred million traffic landmark and displayed twenty per cent improvement in efficiency.        Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust registered a net profit of ten billion rupees helped by a twelve per cent increase in efficiency. 
 
"Our flagship companies like the Shipping Corporation, Dredging Corporation and the Cochin Shipyard have registered higher profits as compared to the previous year. However, this is just the beginning. We want to do more. We are enhancing our own capacities of execution and implementation. The National Perspective Plan of the Sagarmala Programme has been released today.  
 
"During the last two years, major ports have awarded 56 new projects involving an investment of more than 250 billion rupees. This will create an additional port capacity of 317 million tonnes per annum.  Our vision is to increase port capacity from 1400 million tonnes to 3000 million tonnes by 2025. We want to mobilize an investment of one lakh crore, or one trillion rupees, in the port sector to enable this growth. Five new ports are planned to meet the increasing demand of the Exim trade which will rise in proportion with the fast-growing Indian economy. New ports are also being developed by several coastal States of India," he said.
 
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Mr. Modi said the multiple measures to promote coastal shipping, coupled with the anticipated rise in domestic production of coal, were expected to enhance coastal transportation of coal by at least four fold by 2025. 
 
"We are engaging with our immediate and regional neighbours to promote shipping and maritime security. Recently India has signed a Coastal Shipping Agreement with Bangladesh which will be mutually beneficial. India is also engaged in the development of Chahbahar Port in Iran. A special purpose vehicle by the name India Ports Global Limited has been established to take up Maritime Projects overseas," he said.
 
He noed that the Ministry of Shipping was showcasing about 250 projects with investment opportunity in the Maritime Sector. These projects include various infrastructure development opportunities in 12 major ports, projects in eight maritime states and other agencies. Of these, over 100 projects have been identified under the Sagarmala Programme. 
 
"With more than 14,000 kilometers of navigable inland waterways in the country, there is tremendous potential for development in this sector. My Government is committed to integration in infrastructure. We are also committed to creating an enabling environment for investors and to facilitate investments with an open mind," he said.
 
The Prime Minister said all this was being done to benefit the common man and provide employment to the youth. This was particularly being done to empower coastal communities, he said.
 
"Approximately eighteen percent of India’s population lives in 72 coastal districts. It comprises twelve percent of India’s landmass. Therefore, there is a need for holistic and sustainable development of coastal regions and communities. Development of coastal communities especially fishermen requires an integrated approach. As part of the Sagarmala programme, we will adopt a comprehensive approach with focus on capacity building and training, upgrading of technology and for improving physical and social infrastructure. This will be done in collaboration with the coastal states," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said these initiatives would create employment opportunities of approximately ten million jobs over the next ten years. This includes four million direct and six million indirect jobs. 
 
"To broaden livelihood opportunities further, we are planning to deploy modern and sophisticated fishing vessels. This would enable them to harness resources in India’s Exclusive Economic Zone. In addition, we are also focusing on value addition in fisheries, aquaculture and cold chain development.
 
"The Port Sector in India is a good mix of Private and Public Ports, with both contributing to the growth of the sector. The PPP model of development has been quite successful in this sector and has helped in bringing latest technology and best practices. Private Ports have been growing at a very healthy pace and have nearly doubled their capacity in the last 5 years. They handle around 45 per cent of the total cargo. Most of these ports are new, with modern facilities and can match the best international ports in terms of performance and infrastructure," he said.
 
"India has had a glorious maritime history. We are on the path of shaping an even better maritime future. The maritime sector not only creates and facilitates economic activities; it also connects countries and civilizations. Moreover, it is the cleanest and cheapest carrier of global trade. Investing in maritime sector is not only investing in one’s own future; but in the future of the planet and that of coming generations. However, in this sector, no country can achieve the desired results in isolation. Nations have to collaborate to realize this potential and to overcome challenges in this sector. The objective of this Summit is to provide a platform and forum for such cooperation.
 
"To conclude, I would like to say that: This is the right time to come to India. It is even better to come through the sea route. The Indian ship is well equipped for a long haul. Don’t miss it. Missing it means missing a pleasant journey and a great destination.
 
"Once you are here, I assure you that I will personally hold your hands to see that your berthing is safe, secure and satisfactory,"he added.
 
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Mukherjee says pluralism is hallmark of India's civilization

President Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday stressed that pluralism and tolerance had been the hallmark of India's civilization and that it was a core philosophy that must continue undeterred, because the country's strength lay in her diversity.

President Pranab Mukherjee delivering the Arjun Singh Memorial Lecture in New Delhi on April 9, 2016.
President Pranab Mukherjee delivering the Arjun Singh Memorial Lecture in New Delhi on April 9, 2016.
President Pranab Mukherjee today stressed that pluralism and tolerance had been the hallmark of India's civilization and that it was a core philosophy  that must continue undeterred, because the country's strength lay in her diversity.
 
"In a pluralistic democracy, it is important that the values of tolerance, respect for contrary views and patience are inculcated amongst the citizens particularly the youth," he said in the Arjun Singh Memorial Lecture at the Nehru Memorial Museum here.
 
Mr. Mukherjee pointed out that India was a multi-faceted nation of 1.3 billion people, 122 languages, 1600 dialects and 7 religions.
 
"Diversity of our country is a fact. This cannot be turned into fiction due to the whims and caprices of few individuals. Plurality of our society has come about through assimilation of ideas over centuries. The multiplicity in culture, faith and language is what makes India special. We derive our strength from tolerance. It has been part of our collective consciousness for centuries. It has worked well for us and it is the only way it will work for us. There are divergent strands in public discourse. We may argue. We may not agree. But we cannot deny the essential prevalence of multiplicity of opinion. Otherwise, a fundamental character of our thought process will wither away," he said.
 
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Mr. Mukherjee said the harmony of faiths in India stood out as an important moral example in a world where several regions had been torn apart by sectarian conflicts.
 
"We must continue to lead by example. We must work towards maintaining the continuing goodwill amongst different communities. At times, communal harmony will be put to test by vested interests. We must therefore remain alert to communal tensions rearing its ugly head anywhere. Rule of Law must form the sole basis for dealing with any challenging situation. It is our democratic underpinning that must prevail at all times," he said.
 
The President underlined that democracy was not all about numbers but also called for consensus building.
 
"A phenomenon seen in recent times is the way the common man is engaged with affairs of the nation. While we must wield no space to anarchy, efficient democratic machinery must have the means and wherewithal to absorb public opinion for formulation of sound policies," he said.
 
He said the late Arjun Singh, a former Union Minister, was one leader whose heart and mind were rooted to the ground. 
 
"He never lost his simplicity to power, nor did he lose his concern for the common man. He dedicated himself to the building of a strong nation based on the values of secularism and democracy which he dearly cherished. He held important positions in the Congress Party and was an able political organizer. He had a deep understanding of political issues and their undercurrents, which was an asset while dealing with any political situation," he said.
 
Mr. Mukherjee spoke at length about Mr. Singh's long and distinguished career as a political leader, starting with his days as a legislator, Minister and then Chief Minister in Madhya Pradesh and about his stints as Union Minister and as Governor of Punjab.
 
"On his demise in March 2011, Arjun Singhji left behind a rich legacy of administrative acumen, political statesmanship and a lifetime spent in championing the cause of weaker sections," he said.
 
He said that Mr. Singh had had the longest tenure as Human Resource Development Minister after Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. He said this peiod was marked by rapid expansion in the higher education sector.
 
Mr. Mukherjee stressed the need for Indian institututes of higher learning to improve the quality of education and emerge as world-class institutions.
 
"The role of educational institutions goes beyond mere pedagogy and classrooms. It is incumbent on them to mould students into responsible human beings. They have to instill in the students the civilizational values of love for motherland; performance of duty; compassion for all; tolerance for pluralism; respect for women; honesty in life; self-restraint in conduct; responsibility in action; and discipline," he added.
 
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India is haven of macro-economic stability, beacon of hope: Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday that India was a haven of macro-economic stability and a beacon of hope, dynamism and opportunity and asserted that it could contribute to Asian prosperity and development by being economically strong.

 
Asia a ray of hope for global economic recovery: Modi
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said that India was a haven of macro-economic stability and a beacon of hope, dynamism and opportunity and asserted that it could contribute to Asian prosperity and development by being economically strong.
 
"We all want Asia to succeed," he said in his inaugural address at the conference on "Advancing Asia: Investing for the Future" organised here by the Ministry of Finance and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) here.
 
He noted that IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde had referred to India as the "bright spot" in the global economy and said he viewed this as a great privilege and, at the same time, a major responsibility.
 
Outlining India's achievements in the last few months and its priorities for the period ahead, Mr. Modi said the country had recorded major gains in macro-economic stability. "A durable reduction in inflation, steady fiscal consolidation, a comfortable balance of payments position and build-up of foreign exchange reserves are the highlights," he said.
 
The Prime Minister said that, in a difficult external environment and despite a second successive year of weak rainfall, India had increased its growth rate to 7.6 per cent, the highest among major economies in the world. 
 
"We have improved our economic governance. Corruption and interference in the decisions of banks and regulators are now behind us," he said.
 
He said the Government had undertaken a highly successful financial inclusion programme, bringing over two hundred million unbanked people into the banking system within a span of a few months. Thanks to this, it now had the world’s largest and most successful programme of direct benefit transfers, in cooking gas. The Government planned to extend it to other sectors such as food, kerosene, and fertilizers. This has improved targeting and the quality of public expenditure, he said.
 
Mr. Modi said the Government had opened up nearly all sectors of the economy to foreign direct investment (FDI). He said India achieved the highest ever rank in the World Bank Doing Business indicators and reached an all-time high in many physical indicators in 2015, including the production of coal, electricity, urea, fertilizer and motor vehicles. He said these indicators also included cargo handled at major ports and the fastest turnaround time in ports; and award of new highway kilometers; software export.
 
He said entrepreneurship is booming, following a series of steps we have taken. India is now fourth in the world in the number of technical start-ups, after USA, Britain and Israel. The Economist magazine has called India the new frontier for E-Commerce, he said.
 
Mr. Modi said the Government did not intend to rest on these  achievements because his agenda of “reform-to-transform” still needsed to be finished. 
 
"Our recent budget provides a roadmap for our future plans and ambitions. Our underlying philosophy is clear: To create the climate for wealth generation and for that wealth to be spread to all Indians, especially the poor, vulnerable, farmers, and disadvantaged communities," he said.
 
He said the Government had increased investment in the rural and agriculture sector, because that was where a majority of India still lived. 
 
"But our help to the farmers is not based on giving hand-outs. We aim to double farmer incomes by increasing irrigation, better water management, creating rural assets, boosting productivity, improving marketing, reducing margins of middlemen, and avoiding income shocks. 
 
"We are introducing reforms in agricultural marketing and have launched a major crop insurance programme," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said that, in addition to agriculture, the Government had increased public investment in roads and railways, which would improve the productivity of the economy and the connectivity of  people. Public investment is also essential at a time when private investment remains weak, he said.
 
He said the Government had also made other reforms that would help create wealth and economic opportunity. "Given the enormous entrepreneurial potential in the country, my motto is Start Up India and Stand Up India. The budget has provided a further boost to the ecosystem for start-ups,' he said.
 
He said ensuring employability of the youth was essential for the success of the Government's Make-in-India campaign. 
 
"The Government of India has an ambitious agenda for skilling our labour force. Skill creation of the magnitude that we have envisaged, involves institution building, which we have undertaken. Now, we have a skill development programme that cuts across twenty-nine sectors and with a nation-wide coverage," he said.
 
Mr. Modi also provided details of India's plans to reduce the emission intensity of its GDP by 33 percent between now and 2030.
 
"India has moved from a regime of significant carbon subsidy to one of carbon taxes. India is one of the few countries to have a carbon tax in the form of a cess on coal. The coal cess has been doubled in the Budget of 2016-17," he said.
 
Mr. Modi expressed happiness that the long pending quota revisions agreed in 2010 have finally come into effect in the IMF. 
 
"The quotas of emerging countries will now better reflect their weight in the world economy. This will give them more say in collective decisions in the IMF," he said.
 
"I am sure, the IMF will be able to build on this success. Reform of global institutions has to be an on-going process. It must reflect changes in the global economy, and the rising share of emerging economies. Even now, IMF quotas do not reflect the global economic realities. Change in quotas is not an issue of increasing the ‘power’ of certain countries. It is an issue of fairness and legitimacy. The belief that quotas can be changed, is essential for the fairness of the system. For poor nations to respect the legitimacy of such institutions, they must be able to aspire and to hope. I am, therefore, very happy that the IMF has decided to finalize the next round of quota changes by October 2017," he said.
 
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Mr. Modi stressed that India had always had great faith in multilateralism and that it believe that, as the world became more complex, the role of multilateral institutions would increase.
 
He recalled that India was represented at the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944, which gave birth to the IMF. India’s delegate was Mr. R.K. Shanmukham Chetty, who later became independent India’s first Finance Minister. 
 
"Our ties, therefore, are more than seventy years old. We are a Founding Member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the New Development Bank. We are confident that these banks will play an important role in the development of Asia. The Fund has built up an immense stock of economic expertise. All its members should take advantage of this. All of us need to pursue policies that provide a stable macro economy, enhance growth and further inclusion. The Fund can be of great assistance in this," he said.
 
He said that, apart from advice, the IMF could help in building capacity for policy making.
 
"I am happy to announce a new partnership with Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, India and the IMF. We have agreed to set up the South Asia Regional Training and Technical Assistance Centre. The centre will provide training to government and public sector employees. It will enhance their skills and improve the quality of their policy inputs. It will also provide technical assistance to governments and public institutions," he said.
 
On the theme of the conference, Mr. Modi touched on two issues:  firstly, “Why Asia?” And secondly, “How India”? 
 
"Why is Asia so important, and how can India contribute?" he asked.
 
Mr. Modi pointed out that three out of every five people in the world lived in Asia and its share in global output and trade was now close to one-third. Its share in global foreign direct investment is about forty percent. It has also been one of the world’s most dynamic regions. 
 
"Although Asia has slowed down, it is still growing at a rate three times greater than that of the advanced countries. It is, therefore, the ray of hope for global economic recovery," he said.
 
He said many Asian countries had relied more on developmental financial institutions and banks than on capital markets. This provides an alternative model for the financial sector, he said.
 
"Social stability built on strong family values is another feature of Asia’s development. Asians tend to leave things behind for the next generation," he pointed out.
 
Mr. Modi spoke of India's special place in Asia and underlined that it had dispelled the myth that democracy and rapid economic growth could not go together. 
 
"India has also shown that a large, diverse country can be managed in a way that can promote economic growth and maintain social stability. One way in which we are doing this is through cooperative and competitive federalism. The states and the Centre come together to pursue common objectives. States which pursue good policies and deliver essential services for the poor, induce others to follow. 
 
"Our rapid economic growth is also very distinct in Asia. We have never tried to gain in trade at the expense of our partners. We do not follow 'beggar thy neighbour' macro-economic policies. We have never undervalued our exchange rate. We add to world and Asian demand by running current account deficits. We are therefore good Asian and good global economic citizens, and a source of demand to our trading partners," he said.
 
Mr. Modi listed the various cooperative initiatives taken by India in Asia and dwelt at length on its "Act East Policy".
 
"Our approach to cooperation is based on flexible geometry. We have integrated in different ways and at different speeds with our neighbours in South Asia, our partners in ASEAN, and our partners in Singapore, Japan, and Korea. We intend to continue doing so. 
 
"My dream is of a Transformed India. I lay this dream alongside our common dream of an Advanced Asia – an Asia where more than half of the global population can live with happiness and fulfillment. Our joint heritage and mutual respect, our common goals and similar policies, can and must create sustainable growth and shared prosperity," he added.
 
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Kerala: Court orders probe against CM Oommen Chandy, Minister Aryadan Mohammad

A Vigilance Court in Thrissur on Thursday ordered registering of an FIR and initiating a probe against Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and his cabinet colleague Aryadan Mohammad on the bribery allegations raised against them by Saritha S Nair, main accused in the "solar scam".

 
Kerala solar scam: FIR ordered against CM; protestors lathicharged
 
A Vigilance Court here today ordered registering of a first information report (FIR) and initiating a probe against Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and his cabinet colleague, Electricity and Transport Minister Aryadan Mohammad, on the bribery allegations raised against them by Saritha S Nair, main accused in the "solar scam".
 
Saritha and her associate Biju Radhakrishnan are accused of having cheated several businessmen and non-resident Indians (NRIs) of large sums of money promising them partnership in a company floated by them, Team Solar Renewable Energy Solutions Pvt Limited, which offered solar energy solutions to institutions and households. 
 
They had also boasted of close connections with Mr Chandy and other ministers and even produced letters on official letterheads to support their claims. The scam came into light when an NRI, Sajad, filed a police complaint accusing them of having defrauded him of Rs 40 lakh. Subsequently, 33 cases were registered against them on various complaints.
 
Saritha, while deposing before the Justice Sivarajan Commission in Kochi yesterday, had alleged that she had paid a bribe totalling Rs 1.90 crore to an aide of the Chief Minister and Rs 40 lakh to Mr Mohammad. Both have denied the charges.
 
However, Inquiry Commissioner and Special Judge S S Vasan, taking cognisance of a private complaint, asked the Vigilance Director to file an FIR and complete the probe as early as possible. The court rejected the contention of the government counsel seeking a quick probe into the allegations before initiating proceedings against the Chief Minister. Justice should be equal for all, for the common man as well as Chief Minister, the court observed.
 
The judge said he was not looking into the merits of the complaint against the Chief Minister which is to be considered by the investigating officer. The report is to be submitted to the court on April 14. The court also rejected the submission of the state counsel regarding jurisdiction of the court since the alleged bribery took place in Thiruvananthapuram. However, the court upheld the contention of the complainant P D Joseph, a social activist, that it had also occurred in Kochi, which fell within the purview of the court.
 
Reacting to the court order, Mr Chandy told reporters in Kozhikode that he was prepared to face any inquiry and rejected the opposition demand for his resignation. “My conscience is clear and both of us have done nothing wrong,” he said, speaking on behalf of his ministerial colleague, too.
 
In a related development the Kerala High Court stayed the Thrissur Vigilance Court order of registering an FIR against Mr K Babu, who had resigned his post as Minister following the court order. 
 
Passing the order, High Court Judge P Ubaid observed that the vigilance court had acted in unnecessary haste without waiting for the order of the division bench of the High Court. The stay will be applicable for two months. In the meantime, the court directed the Vigilance Director to conduct a quick probe and submit a report within ten days.
 
Earlier, on January 25, Mr Chandy had deposed before the judicial commission. The deposition, that went on into the night, was completed only in the early hours the next day. He reportedly told the commission that he had met Saritha only three times and came to know about the financial dealings only after her arrest. He had acknowledged receipt of a contribution of Rs 2 lakh to the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund in a letter drafted by his office under his letterhead. The letterhead was later found to be misused. He also denied that he had met Saritha in his office along with Sreedharan Nair, a quarry owner and one of the complainants in the scam, as stated by Intelligence ADGP A Hemachandran.
 
The Chief Minister later told reporters that he had refused to undergo a lie-detector test as he had not lied or acted against his conscience. Neither has the state exchequer incurred any loss nor the accused obtained any monetary advantage, he added. 
 
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India, Russia lay foundation of future character of strategic partnership

India and Russia on Thursday agreed on several steps to lay the foundation of the future character of their strategic relationship, including in areas such as defence manufacturing, civil nuclear energy and hydrocarbons.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin at the 16th Annual India-Russia Summit, at the Kremlin in Moscow on December 24, 2015.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin at the 16th Annual India-Russia Summit, at the Kremlin in Moscow on December 24, 2015.
India and Russia today agreed on several steps to lay the foundation of the future character of their strategic relationship, including in areas such as defence manufacturing, civil nuclear energy and hydrocarbons.
 
"As I look to the future, I see Russia as a significant partner in India’s economic transformation and in shaping a balanced, stable, inclusive and a multi-polar world," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at a joint media interaction with Russian President Vladimir Putin after the 16th Annual India-Russia Summit at the Kremlin.
 
Mr. Modi first met Mr. Putin in the restricted format for some time before the two sides held delegation-level talks over a working lunch, official sources said. Mr. Putin had hosted Mr. Modi for a tete-e-tete at the Kremlin here yesterday evening.
 
"We have had excellent conversations over the past two days and very productive outcomes. It has deepened my conviction that this relationship truly meets the test of a special and privileged strategic partnership," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said the Inter-Governmental Agreement on manufacture of Kamov 226 helicopter in India signed today was the first project for a major defence platform under the Make in India mission. 
 
"It is rightly with our most important defence partner. We have made progress on a number of other defence proposals. These would boost defence manufacturing in India and India's defence readiness with next generation equipment," he said.
 
"The pace of our cooperation in nuclear energy is increasing. We are making progress on our plans for twelve Russian nuclear reactors at two sites. The agreement today will increase Indian manufacturing content in these reactors. It supports my mission of Make in India. I thank President Putin for his support," he said.
 
The Prime Minister said that, with one of the world’s largest reserves of hydrocarbons, Russia could be a critical source of energy security for India, especially because of their strategic partnership. 
 
"With President Putin's support, we are enlarging Indian investments in Russian hydrocarbon sector. 
 
"President Putin and I are moving creatively in expanding our economic relations. Following our last Summit, India has created a special notified zone to facilitate direct trade between the world’s largest uncut diamond exporter, Russia, and India, which processes 90% of the world’s uncut diamond," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said the two sides were working on logistics, and their Green Corridor project had taken off. He said the International North South Transit Corridor through Iran would significantly reduce transportation time and cost.
 
"Third, we are moving forward on the India-Eurasian Economic Union Free Trade Agreement. This will also benefit us in Central Asia.
 
"Fourth, we are encouraging our private sector to connect with each other more. We have just had an excellent meeting of CEO Forum. The agreements and the announcements today give me confidence that we will see huge increase in investments and trade in both directions," he said.
 
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Mr. Modi began his statement by expressing his deepest condolences on the lives in the terrorist attack on a civilian Russian aircraft and in the downing of a military jet in Syria.
 
"In this moment of grief and challenge, we stand in solidarity with the people of Russia," he said.
 
He said Mr. Putin was the architect of the India-Russia strategic partnership and, in a changing world, his leadership had kept bilateral relations on a steady course of progress and growth.
 
"Mr. President, I have always had great respect and appreciation for our strategic partnership. It has been a source of strength and success for India in defence, development and diplomacy. And, there is genuine goodwill and mutual respect between our people.
 
"President Putin and I have a high degree of convergence in our positions on global issues and a strong commitment to deepen our international cooperation," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said the two sides had strong collaboration in the United Nations. 
 
"Our membership of BRICS, East Asia Summit, G20 and now Shanghai Cooperation Organisation gives our partnership a global character. It is particularly important in the arc from Eurasia to Asia Pacific, including in Central Asia and Afghanistan. 
 
"We are one in our belief that the world must unite and take concerted action on combating terrorism, without distinction and discrimination between terrorist groups and target countries," he said.
 
He said both sides agreed that an early political settlement through dialogue in West Asia was essential for restoring stability and containing extremism in the region.
 
"Indeed, all nations must come together, with sensitivity to each other, to address the challenges of our times.
 
"I am very pleased to have deepened my association with President Putin. Together, we have also given new direction and added more momentum and content to our strategic partnership.
 
"Just as I have had the pleasure of visiting Russia twice this year, I look forward to welcoming President Putin in India next year for the BRICS Summit as well as the Annual Summit," he added.
 
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A joint statement issued by the two sides said Mr. Modi and Mr. Putin had held extensive and substantive discussions to review progress in bilateral relations since the last Annual Summit and their meeting on the margins of the BRICS Summit in Ufa in July 2015. 
 
"The interactions between the two Leaders were marked by deep warmth and mutual trust that characterize the special and privileged strategic partnership between Russia and India," it said.
 
The two sides signed several agreements in diverse fields of bilateral cooperation, including several commercial agreements between Russian and Indian companies.
 
The reconfirmed their commitment to realize the target set at the last annual summit to increase annual bilateral trade and investment.
 
Both sides reiterated their assessment that Mr. Modi's "Make in India” initiative provided a new and durable framework for engagement by Russian corporate entities in the fast growing Indian economy as well as noted the efforts made by the Indian Government to improve ease of doing business.
 
They welcomed recent announcement of several major bilateral investment proposals and called on companies in both countries to finalize new and ambitious investment proposals in promising sectors such as oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, chemical industry, mining, machine building, implementation of infrastructure projects, cooperation in railway sector, fertilizer production, automobiles and aircraft construction as well as collaborative ventures in modernizing each other's industrial facilities.
 
National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar and Defence Secretary G. Mohan Kumar are among those who are part of Mr. Modi's delegation.
 
Earlier in the day, Mr. Modi, who arrived here yesterday on his first bilateral visit to Russia, visited the National Crisis Management Centre (NCMC) here, where officials briefed him on its functioning.
 
Mr. Modi also laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier here today.
 
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National Herald case: Congress, BJP slug it out in full-scale war

A full-scale war of words broke out Tuesday between the Congress and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, hours after a Delhi Court asked the main opposition party's president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi to appear before it on December 19.

 
National Herald case: Absolute case of 'political vendetta' by Govt., says Rahul
 
A full-scale war of words broke out today between the Congress and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), hours after a Delhi Court asked the main opposition party's president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi to appear before it on December 19.
 
Ms. Gandhi, her son and four others will have to answer charges that they illegally acquired control of property worth Rs 2000 crore belonging to the now-defunct National Herald newspaper through a Section 25 company in which they hold a majority of the shares.
 
The Congress alleged that the case, based on a criminal complaint filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, was an instance of political vendetta.
 
"I am the daughter-in-law of (former Prime Minister) Indira Gandhi. I am not scared of anythng or anyone," Ms Gandhi told journalists in Parliament House.
 
Asked if she thought it was a case of political vendetta, Ms Gandhi told journalists in Parliament House that she would leave it to the media to judge.
 
Mr. Gandhi, who was on a visit to flood-affected areas of Puducherry, told reporters that it was a case of political vendetta. "This is the way the Central government tries to silence me and stop me from asking questions. It will not happen and I will continue to ask questions and put pressure on the government."
 
"They will do what they have to do. I will do what I have to do. They can make any allegation against me. Let them do whatever they want to do.
 
"My job is to to act as the opposition. I am not going to run away, I am not going to step back even one inch. Let them do what they want to do," he said.
 
Congress members raised slogans and stalled proceedings in both Houses of Parliament, forcing repeated adjournments and finally for the day.
 
The BJP denied any political motives and said Dr. Swamy had filed a private complaint on the basis of which the court had issued summons against the accused.
 
"The government had nothing to do with it. The High Court has dismissed their case and asked them to go and face trial. Nobody in this country has immunity from law," Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said.
 
The Gandhis and the other four accused were supposed to appear before the trial court today after the Delhi High Court yesterday refused to cancel the summons issued by the lower court to them as well as other accused persons in the case.
 
Congress leader and senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who represented them, told the court that all the accused persons were "extremely keen, ready and willing" to appear before it at the earliest possible date.
 
He said he was seeking exemption for their appearance today because the High Court's orders were  received only yesterday evening and that they had not had the time to study the judgement because Parliament is in session and for other reasons, including prior engagements.
 
The court directed the Gandhis and the others to appear before it at 3 pm on December 19.
 
"All the accused persons, barring one who is in the United States, will certainly be present on the 19th," Mr Singhvi told journalists outside the court later. He said the person in the US would also make every effort to remain present, subject to logistics and exigencies.
 
Mr Singhvi said that, while each of the accused had the highest regard for the court, the accused would appeal against the Delhi High Court order.
 
He said the case was an example of "political vendetta at its worst", pointing out that Dr. Swamy was a senior member of the central committee of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He cited the cases against other Congress leaders such as Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and said these were all born out of political malice.
 
"The ruling party is using proxy litigation to target Congress leaders," Mr. Singhvi said.
 
Apart from the Gandhis, the other accused in the case are Congress leaders Motilal Vora and Oscar Fernandes, journalist Suman Dubey, a family friend of the Gandhis, and technocrat Sam Pitroda.
 
Mr. Gandhi, Mr. Vora, Mr. Fernandes, Mr. Dubey and Mr Pitroda are directors of AJL, while all six are directors of YIL.
 
The National Herald was set up in 1938 by Jawaharlal Nehru, who went on to become India's first Prime Minister.
 
The trial court had issued summons against the Gandhis and other accused on a criminal complaint filed by Dr. Swamy.
 
The crux of the complaint is that the Congress had given a loan of Rs. 90 crore to Associated Journals Limited (AJL), the publishers of National Herald. On December 28, 2010, AJL had assigned this debt to Young Indian Ltd (YIL), a section 25 charitable company, for Rs. 50 lakh. The newspaper ceased publication in 2008 but has buildings in prime locations in Delhi and other cities.
 
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The fresh round of allegations between the Congress and the BJP has raised doubts about the chances of important legislation like the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill, seen as one of the important measures of economic reform, being passed in the current session of Parliament.
 
The Government does not have the numbers to get the legislation through the Rajya Sabha and needs the support of the Congress to get the constitutional amendment passed in it.
 
Congress leader Kapil Sibal told journalists at the party's headquarters that the BJP had, in the last year, been targeting the party's leaders.
 
"Since they have no idea how to govern the country they want to distract the attention of people from their promise of good governance," he said.
 
"They have targeted Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and our leaders Virbhadra Singh, who was accosted during his daughter’s wedding, Shankarsinh Vaghela, Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot. They have filed sedition cases against young people in Gujarat and are targeting West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar," he said.
 
Mr Sibal said the Congress' decision to give a loan to Associated Journals Ltd cannot be described as a criminal act. 
 
"Can I ask the BJP how it spends its money? Or, how a political party spends its money? Is it a legal matter? Does it have anything to do with criminality? BJP invested in mutual funds and got dividends from it and claimed it as a business expense in their IT returns. The BJP ran a newspaper and sought a business loss expense on its returns, can we question it?" he asked, asserting that no provision in law had been breached. Similarly, he said that 
assigning of a loan was not a criminal offence.
 
"Young India is a Section 25 Company. It is a charitable company. If any assets are sold, then the proceeds will not go to any shareholder of Young India. They can’t get any money. No one has yet leveled an accusation that Ms. Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi took even one paisa from AJL. No part of the income has come to Young India. What is the criminality?" he said.
 
Mr. Singhvi, who was also present, said the party had nothing to fear, and nothing to hide.
 
"The National Herald is the symbol of Congress thinking. It is owned by AJL, whose senior office bearers are Congress members. The new company to whom the debt is assigned, has Congress office-bearers. The control of National Herald is in the hands of the same Congress members, and they control Young India. How can that become criminal?" he said.
 
"The fact of the matter is that there is fear in the government. When they can’t tackle the Congress in a straight way, then you come at us this way...It is unfortunate that this type of politics is being played in our country," he said.
 
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National Herald case: Delhi court asks Sonia Gandhi, Rahul to appear before it on Dec 19

A Delhi court on Tuesday asked Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice-President Rahul Gandhi to appear before it on December 19 to answer charges that they illegally acquired control of property worth Rs 2000 crore National Herald newspaper through a Section 25 company in which they hold a majority of the shares.

 
National Herald case: Sonia, Rahul asked to appear in court on Dec 19
 
A Delhi court today asked Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice-President Rahul Gandhi to appear before it on December 19 to answer charges that they illegally acquired control of property worth Rs 2000 crore belonging to the now-defunct National Herald newspaper through a Section 25 company in which they hold a majority of the shares.
 
The Gandhis were supposed to appear before the trial court today after the Delhi High Court refused to cancel the summons issued by the lower court to them as well as other accused persons in the case.
 
Congress leader and senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who represented them, told the court that all the accused persons were "extremely keen, ready and willing" to appear before it at the earliest possible date.
 
He said he was seeking exemption for their appearance today because the High Court's orders were  received only yesterday evening and that they had not had the time to study the judgement because Parliament is in session and for other reasons, including prior engagements.
 
After consulting complainant and BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, the court directed the Gandhis and the others to appear before it at 3 pm on December 19.
 
"All the accused persons, barring one who is in the United States, will certainly be present on the 19th," Mr Singhvi told journalists outside the court later. He said the person in the US would also make every effort to remain present, subject to logistics and exigencies.
 
Mr Singhvi said that, while each of the accused had the highest regard for the court, the accused would appeal against the Delhi High Court order.
 
He said the case was an example of "political vendetta at its worst", pointing out that Dr. Swamy was a senior member of the central committee of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He cited the cases against other Congress leaders such as Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and said these were all born out of political malice.
 
"The ruling party is using proxy litigation to target Congress leaders," Mr. Singhvi said.
 
Apart from the Gandhis, the other accused in the case are Congress leaders Motilal Vora and Oscar Fernandes, journalist Suman Dubey, a family friend of the Gandhis, and technocrat Sam Pitroda.
 
Mr. Gandhi, Mr. Vora, Mr. Fernandes, Mr. Dubey and Mr Pitroda are directors of AJL, while all six are directors of YIL.
 
The National Herald was set up in 1938 by Jawaharlal Nehru, who went on to become India's first Prime Minister.
 
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The trial court had issued summons against the Gandhis and other accused on a criminal complaint filed by Dr. Swamy.
 
The crux of the complaint is that the Congress had given a loan of Rs. 90 crore to Associated Journals Limited (AJL), the publishers of National Heralad. On December 28, 2010, AJL had assigned this debt to Young Indian Ltd (YIL), a section 25 charitable company, for Rs. 50 lakh. The newspaper ceased publication in 2008 but has buildings in prime locations in Delhi and other cities.
 
Asked if she thought it was a case of political vendetta, Ms Gandhi told journalists in Parliament House that she would leave it to the media to judge. To a question if she was scared, she replied, "I am the daughter-in-law of (former Prime Minister) Indira Gandhi. I am not scared of anyone."
 
Mr. Gandhi, who was on a visit to flood-affected areas of Puducherry, told reporters that it was a case of political vendetta. "This is the way the Central government tries to silence me and stop me from asking questions. It will not happen and I will continue to ask questions and put pressure on the government."
 
Congress members raised slogans and stalled proceedings in both Houses of Parliament, forcing repeated adjournments.
 
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57.59% votes cast in fourth phase of Bihar Assembly elections

About 57.59 percent of the electors turned out to cast their votes in 55 constituencies in the fourth phase of polling in the crucial and keenly contested elections to the 243-member Bihar Legislative Assembly.

 
57.59% votes cast in fourth phase of Bihar Assembly elections
 
About 57.59 percent of the electors turned out to cast their votes in 55 constituencies in the fourth phase of polling in the crucial and keenly contested elections to the 243-member Bihar Legislative Assembly.
 
Polling began at 7 am and ended at 5 pm in 43 constituencies, while it ended at 4 pm in eight constituencies and 3 pm in four due to security reasons.
 
In all, 14739120 electors, including 6862426 women were eligible to exercise their franchise in these 55 constituencies.
 
There were a total of 776 candidates, including 57 women, in the fray.
 
Polling was by and large peaceful in all the constituencies, official sources said.
 
The 55 constituencies that went to the polls today are spread over seven districts of north and western Bihar -- West Champaran, East Champaran, Sitamarhi, Sheohar, Muzaffarpur, Gopalganj and Siwan. 
 
They had recorded 54.78 percent polling in the last assembly elections in 2010 and 57.59 percent in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
 
The ruling Janata Dal (United) and the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had, as allies in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), won 51 of the 55 seats involved in today's exercise in the last Assembly elections in 2010.
 
The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), now part of the "grand alliance" with the JD (U) and the Congress, had won one seat then and independents had bagged three. The three independent MLAs are contesting the elections this time as BJP candidates.
 
The RJD contested 26 of the 55 seats, while the JD (U) had fielded its nominees in 21 and the Congress in eight.
 
The BJP had fielded candidates in 42 constituencies, the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) in five and HAM (S) and RLSP in four seats each.
 
The Election Commission had made elaborate security and other arrangements to ensure a free and fair poll and has set up 14139 polling stations in the 55 constituencies.
 
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More than 57 percent of the voters had turned out to exercise their franchise in the 49 constituencies that went to the polls in the first phase of polling on October 12. In the second phase on October 16, more than 55 percent of the electors had cast their votes in 32 constituencies, while 53.32 percent polling was recorded in 50 constituencies in the third phase on October 28.
 
The fifth and final phase of polling will be held on November 5 and counting of votes will be taken up on November 8.
 
Campaigning so far has seen sharp exchanges of barbs among the main political parties.
 
The elections are being seen as a major test of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's appeal to the voters and as a battle for survival for Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of the JD(U) and his foe-turned-ally, RJD chief Lalu Prasad.
 
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India offers Africa concessional credit of $10b, grant assistance of $600m

India on Thursday offered Africa concessional credit of $ 10 billion over the next five years, in addition to their ongoing credit programme, to add strength to their partnership.

 
India pledges $ 10 billion credit to Africa
 
India today offered Africa concessional credit of $ 10 billion over the next five years, in addition to their ongoing credit programme, to add strength to their partnership.
 
Speaking at the inaugural ceremony of the 3rd India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) here, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also announced a grant assistance of $ 600 milion and an India-Africa Health Fund of $ 10 million.
 
"It will also include 50,000 scholarships in India over the next five years. And, it will support the expansion of the Pan Africa E-Network and institutions of skilling, training and learning across Africa," he said.
 
"If this century is going to be one in which all humans have a life of opportunity, equality and dignity; stand in peace with each other; and live in balance with nature, then India and Africa must rise together," he said.
 
The summit is being attended by the heads of state or government or senior representatives from all 54 African countries.
 
"Today, it is not just a meeting of India and Africa. Today, the dreams of one-third of humanity have come together under one roof. Today, the heart beat of 1.25 billion Indians and 1.25 billion Africans are in rhythm," Mr Modi said.
 
"We are among the world’s oldest civilisations. We are each a vibrant mosaic of languages, religions and cultures. Our histories have intersected since ages. Once united by geography, we are now linked by the Indian Ocean. The currents of the mighty ocean have nurtured the ties of kinship, commerce, and culture through centuries," he said.
 
Mr. Modi spoke of the inter-linkages between the two peoples and their fight against colonialism and for liberty and dignity, opportunity and justice.
 
"We have spoken in one voice in the world; and, we have formed a partnership for prosperity among ourselves. We have stood together under blue helmets to keep peace. And, we have fought together against hunger and disease. And, as we look to the future, there is something precious that unites us: it is our youth. 
 
"Two-thirds of India and two-thirds of Africa is under the age of 35 years. And, if the future belongs to the youth, then this century is ours to shape and build. Africa is already on that path," he said.
 
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Mr. Modi took note of the strides being taken by Africa towards development and modernisation and economic diversification and integration.
 
"Africa, like the rest of the developing world, has its development challenges. And, like others in the world, it has its own concerns of security and stability, especially from terrorism and extremism. But, I have confidence in African leadership and the African people to rise to those challenges," he said.
 
"For the past six decades, so much of our independent journeys have been together. Now, so much of India’s development priorities and Africa’s lofty vision for its future are aligned. Today, Africa and India are two bright spots of hope and opportunities in the global economy," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said India was honoured to be a development partner for Africa. "It is a partnership beyond strategic concerns and economic benefits. It is formed from the emotional bonds we share and the solidarity we feel for each other," he said.
 
He said that, in less than a decade, their trade had more than doubled to over $ 70 billion. 
 
"India is now a major source of business investments in Africa. Today, 34 African countries enjoy duty free access to the Indian market. African energy helps run the engine of the Indian economy; its resources are powering our industries; and, African prosperity offers growing market for Indian products," he said.
 
The Prime Minister recalled that India had committed $ 7.4 billion in concessional credit and $ 1.2 billion in grant since the first India-Africa Summit in 2008.
 
"It is creating 100 capacity building institutions, and developing infrastructure, public transport, clean energy, irrigation, agriculture and manufacturing capacity across Africa. In the last three years alone, nearly 25,000 young Africans have been trained and educated in India. They are the 25,000 new links between us," he said.
 
"There are times when we have not done as well as you have wanted us to. There have been occasions when we have not been as attentive as we should be. There are commitments we have not fulfilled as quickly as we should have. But, you have always embraced India with warmth, and without judgement. You have rejoiced in our success, and taken pride in our achievements. And, you have stood for us in the world. This is the strength of our partnership and our friendship," he said.
 
"And, as we travel on the road ahead, we will do so with the wisdom of our experience and the benefit of your guidance," he said.
 
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Mr. Modi said India would raise the level of its support for their vision of a prosperous,integrated, and united Africa that is a major partner for the world. 
 
"We will help connect Africa from Cairo to Cape Town, from Marakesh to Mombassa; help develop your infrastructure, power and irrigation; help add value to your resources in Africa; and, set up industrial and information technology parks," he said.
 
He said development of human capital in every walk of life would be at the heart of their partnership. "We will open our doors more; we will expand tele-education; and we will continue to build institutions in Africa," he said.
 
He said technology would be a strong foundation of their partnership and help develop Africa's agriculture sector, among other things. Healthcare and affordable medicines, space, digital technology, disaster response and resource management were other possible areas of cooperation, he said.
 
He said the Pan Africa E-Network, which links 48 African countries to India and to each other, would be expanded and extended. This would also help set up the Pan Africa Virtual University, he said.
 
Mr. Modi also spoke of cooperation for the sustainable development of the blue economy and development of renewable sources of energy.
 
"We will also deepen India-Africa partnership on clean energy, sustainable habitats, public transport and climate resilient agriculture. 
 
"But, it is also true that the excess of few cannot become the burden of many. So, when the world meets in Paris in December, we look to see a comprehensive and concrete outcome that is based on the well established principles in the UN Convention on Climate Change. We will all do our part for it. But, we also want to see a genuine global public partnership that makes clean energy affordable; provides finance and technology to developing countries to access it; and the means to adapt to the impact of climate change. 
 
"I also invite you to join an alliance of solar-rich countries that I have proposed to launch in Paris on November 30 at the time of COP-21 meeting. Our goal is to make solar energy an integral part of our life and reach it to the most unconnected villages and communities," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said India and Africa also sought a global trading regime that served their development goals and improves their trade prospects. "When we meet at Nairobi Ministerial of the WTO in December, we must ensure that the Doha Development Agenda of 2001 is not closed without achieving these fundamental objectives. 
We should also achieve a permanent solution on public stockholding for food security and special safeguard mechanism in agriculture for the developing countries," he said.
 
"This is a milestone year when we are setting the agenda for our future and celebrating the 70th anniversary of the United Nations. The world is undergoing political, economic, technological and security transition on a scale and speed rarely seen in recent history. Yet our global institutions reflect the circumstances of the century that we left behind, not the one we are in today. 
 
"These institutions have served us well, but unless they adjust to the changing world, they risk becoming irrelevant. We cannot say what will replace them in an uncertain future. 
 
"But, we might have a more fragmented world that is less capable of dealing with the challenges of our era. That is why India advocates reforms in global institutions. This is a world of free nations and awakened aspirations. Our institutions cannot be representative of our world, if they do not give voice to Africa, with more than a quarter of UN members, or the world’s largest democracy with one-sixth of humanity. That is why India and Africa must speak in one voice for reforms of the United Nations, including its Security Council," he stressed.
 
Mr. Modi also spoke about terrorism, violence and instability. 
 
"Today, in many parts of the world, the light of a bright future flickers in the storm of violence and instability. When terror snuffs out life on the streets and beaches, and in malls and schools of Africa, we feel your pain as our own. And, we see the links that unite us against this threat. We also see that when our oceans are no longer safe for trade, we all suffer together. 
 
"And, when nations are caught in conflict within, no one around remains untouched. And, we know that our cyber networks bring opportunities, but also carry huge risks. So, when it comes to security, distance no longer insulates us from each other. 
 
"That is why we wish to deepen our cooperation in maritime security and hydrography, and countering terrorism and extremism; and, why we must have a UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism," he said.
 
"From connecting lives to collaborating for our prosperity, from keeping our people safe to advancing our global interests, the agenda of our partnership stretches across the vast territory of our linked aspirations," he added.
 
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Modi leaves for Ireland, US; will address UN Sustainable Development Summit

Prime Minister Narendra Modi left on Wednesday on a week-long visit to Ireland and the United States of America during which he will address the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit in New York for formal adoption of post-2015 new sustainable development agenda.

File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi left here today on a week-long visit to Ireland and the United States of America during which he will address the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit in New York for formal adoption of post-2015 new sustainable development agenda.
 
Mr Modi's visit to Ireland today will be the first by an Indian Prime Minister in nearly 60 years.
 
"In Ireland I will hold talks with Mr. Enda Kenny, the Taoiseach of Ireland. We hope to further develop strong people-to-people and economic ties with Ireland in the years to come. In Ireland I will also interact with the Indian community," Mr Modi had said in a series of posts on Facebook earlier this week.
 
The Irish Prime Minister will also host a working lunch in honour of Mr Modi today.
 
"The meeting will provide an opportunity for the two leaders to review bilateral relations between the two countries as well as to discuss regional and global matters of mutual interest," an official press release from the Ministry of External Affairs said.
 
India and Ireland have traditionally had cordial and friendly relations going back to the time of our freedom movement. 
 
"The present visit will provide an excellent opportunity to bolster economic relations between the two countries as there are clear complementarities between our flagship programmes, in particular Skill India and Digital India programmes and Ireland’s proven educational institutions. Information technology, smart agriculture and food processing industry provide other areas for closer cooperation for mutual advantage, the release said.
 
The visit will also provide an opportunity for the two leaders to discuss global issues particularly in the context of the coming UN session which both Prime Ministers will be attending. India and Ireland will explore possibilities of working together in the multilateral fora on global challenges including climate change, poverty alleviation, sustainable development goals, environment and disarmament.
 
 
Modi leaves on visit to Ireland, United States
 
Ireland also has a 26,000 strong Indian community. Engagement with the diaspora provides another commonality between India and Ireland, which has a 70 million strong diaspora spread across the world.
 
The Prime Minister will depart from Dublin later today and reach New York tomorrow.
 
Mr Modi had said on Facebook that his visit would seek to build on the substantial ground covered during his last visit to that country and US President Barack Obama's visit to India early this year. 
 
"I am going to USA at a historic moment when the United Nations is celebrating its 70th anniversary. India attaches great importance to the United Nations. In July, I had written a letter to heads of governments of 193 nations outlining India’s vision for UN agenda and reforms. I am glad that leaders of several nations wrote back appreciating our vision," he said.
 
"Coming from a culture that regards harmony as central to its ethos, I am glad to have an opportunity to address this forum. The new goals are closely aligned with India’s vision for sustainable development and our flagship programs for the same," he said about his address to the UN Sustainable Development Summit.
 
He will also also participate in a summit hosted by President Obama on peacekeeping. 
 
"India has historically been one of the largest contributors to the UN peacekeeping forces. Over 180,000 Indian troops have participated in UN peacekeeping missions - more than from any other country. We are proud of our peacekeeping forces spread across the world, ensuring peace in difficult circumstances. I will pay homage to all those brave men and women who sacrificed their lives for peace. And I look forward to sharing my thoughts on how to make peacekeeping more effective," he said.
 
This year, India will host a summit of G-4 leaders in New York where the main agenda would be UN Security Council reforms.
 
"The 70th anniversary of the UN is an apposite moment for reform discussions to be accelerated. Recently, the UN General Assembly finally adopted a document after over 20 years that would form the basis of formal discussions on this matter," he said.
 
Mr Modi said he would meet several world leaders during the visit and also have interactions with leading investors and financial sector firms. There will be a working dinner where major Fortune-500 companies will be present to deliberate on investment opportunities in India. 
 
"We have been interacting with several American business leaders over the last year and the outcomes have been encouraging," he said.
 
Mr Modi will visit the West Coast of the US on September 26 and 27, where he will attend several programmes.
 
"It would be after a gap of almost 33 years that an Indian PM would be visiting the west coast – the home of start-ups, innovation and technology. 
 
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"I will be part of a Townhall Q&A at the Facebook HQ along with Mr. Mark Zuckerberg. We will discuss some global issues and issues relating to India, particularly on the economy and society. This is a Townhall you shouldn’t miss. I have already invited you all to share your questions through Facebook or the ‘Narendra Modi Mobile App.’ I will also see some recent technological innovations at the Google (Alphabet) campus and Tesla Motors. I will address a Renewable Energy Roundtable with USDOC and Stanford University," he said.
 
Mr Modi said that an event that he was enthusiastic about is the  ‘India-US Start-up Konnect.’
 
"India is emerging as a hub of start-ups in a wide range of areas and we aspire to take this further. We want the world to see our innovation capabilities in the start-up sector. At this event, a group of Indian start-ups will showcase their innovations and forge partnerships with the vibrant American start-up industry. 
 
"In San Jose, I will interact with the Indian community on the 27th September. The Indian diaspora has left no stone unturned in strengthening India-USA ties. We are very proud of the accomplishments of our diaspora that has made immense contributions to both our societies. I am sure my US visit will be fruitful and further deepen the bond between the world’s oldest and largest democracies," he added.
 
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Sonia Gandhi hits out at Modi with "hawa baazi" jibe

Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday launched a sharp attack against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying that it had become painfully clear that most of the pledges made by him during his election campaign were "nothing more than hawa baazi".

Sonia Gandhi targets Modi govt on land ordinance, economy, security issues
Congress President Sonia Gandhi today launched a sharp attack against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying that it had become painfully clear that most of the pledges made by him during his election campaign were "nothing more than hawa baazi".
 
"The U-turn on the Land Ordinance is evidence that the government is  out of touch with ground realities," she said in her opening remarks at a meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) here.
 
Ms. Gandhi said the Modi government had failed abysmally to match words with deeds, to match media events with actual accomplishments, and to match headlines with substance. 
 
"The economy is on a downward slide while prices continue on their unrelenting rise. As for promises such as the creation of jobs or slogans such as Make in India, the less said about them the better. Autonomy and integrity of vital institutions which have stood the country in good stead are being systematically eroded. Writers and progressive thinkers are being physically eliminated. The media is being threatened with notices and other repressive measures. History is sought to be rewritten with special targeting of Jawaharlal Nehru," she said.
 
"This should hardly come as a surprise to us. The country last week was given clear evidence of what has been obvious for a long time—that the Modi government is controlled and directed by the RSS, whose agenda is well known to all of us," she said.
 
Ms. Gandhi noted that the CWC had last met barely two weeks after the Modi government had first promulgated the land ordinance.
 
"For reasons best known to it, the Modi government chose to disregard the will of Parliament and displayed an inexplicable hurry to snatch lands from our farmers. Thanks to our party’s sustained campaign, the government has been compelled to withdraw its anti-farmer amendments," she said.
 
She said the credit for this went to every worker of the Congress party who, under the guidance of Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi's active guidance, carried out a sustained agitation.
 
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"I should make a mention of all like minded political parties  and all members of the  civil society who joined hands with us in this fight.  It goes without saying that lakhs of farmers across the countrty  tirelessly demonstrated and agitated against this ordinance.  Even today they are under great distress  because of excess rain or drought conditions, yet no adequate relief has reached them thanks to the Modi government’s insensitivity to their plight," she said.
 
She said similar campaigns would now need to be mounted against the assault on tribal welfare, on women and child welfare, on labour laws, on laws that protect the environment and forests, on the Right to Information and on the previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government's flagship initiaties such as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, which, according to her, were being systematically undermined.
 
Ms. Gandhi said the security situation in the country's neighbourhood had deteriorated considerably.
 
"Our jawans and civilians are being increasingly targeted. Instead of a coherent policy on Pakistan , this government can’t seem to make up its mind on what it should do. From aggressively targeting Dr. Manmohan Singh and his policies during the election campaign, the Prime Minister has been reduced to unedifying flip-flops creating confusion on what he really stands for," she said.
 
Ms Gandhi said the Congress party had always been and would be accountable to party workers and to the people of India. 
 
"And today we have gathered to deliberate on another important agenda. Our priority must be to strengthen our existing support base and actively reach out and win the confidence of new constituents," she said.
 
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"To successfully implement these initiatives we will need to bolster organisational institutions right from the grassroots level. The party unit which is closest to the people, the Block Committees and Booth Committees, must be sufficiently empowered. As we are embarking on registering new members, we have to ensure that our internal processes and systems are sufficiently robust to recognize, reward and nurture talent. A transparent mechanism to recognize and reward hard working and performing workers should be institutionalized. As a party we have always championed the rights of the marginalized sections of society such as women, adivasis, dalits, minorities and OBCs. It is only through affirmative action that we will guarantee greater say in the working of our party to these sections of society," she said.
 
Ms. Gandhi said the proposed amendments to the party's constitution would require some time to be implemented. "But once done they shall go a long way in making our party institutions truly responsive and equip it to face the challenges that lie ahead," she added.
 
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India advises Pakistan to avoid meeting with Hurriyat ahead of NSA- level talks

India said on Friday that it had advised Pakistan on Thursday that it would not be appropriate for its National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz to meet Hurriyat representatives during his visit to New Delhi next week for talks with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval.

 
India advises Pakistan NSA against meeting Hurriyat leaders
 
India today said it had advised Pakistan yesterday that it would not be appropriate for its National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz to meet Hurriyat representatives during his visit to New Delhi next week for talks with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval.
 
Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup said in response to a question that India had made it clear to Pakistan that a meeting between Mr Aziz and Hurriyat representatives "would not be in keeping with the spirit and intent of the Ufa understanding to jointly work to combat terrorism".
 
"We have also sought confirmation of our understanding of the agenda for the NSA-level talks that was conveyed to the Pakistani side on 18 August 2015," Mr Swarup added.
 
Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit's invitation to Hurriyat leaders to a reception here on August 23, soon after Mr Aziz's arrival in the capital, has cast a shadow over the proposed talks between the NSAs of the two countries.
 
The decision to hold the meeting between the NSAs was taken at a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif on July 10 on the margins of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in the Russian city of Ufa.
 
Mr Modi had, at that meeting, conveyed to him India's strong concerns about continuing cross-border terrorism, infiltration and ceasefire violatons across the Line of Control (LoC).
 
In a joint statement to the media after the talks, Foreign Secretaries S. Jaishankar of India and Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry of Pakistan announced, among other things, that the two leaders had agreed that their National Security Advisers would meet soon in New Delhi to discuss all issues connected to terrorism.
 
India had, on August 18 last year, called off its Foreign Secretary-level talks with Pakistan after Mr Basit held a meeting with a separatist leader from Kashmir here earlier that day in the first of a series of such interactions.
 
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Then Indian Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh was due to meet her Pakistani counterpart Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry in Islamabad on August 25, 2014 as part of the efforts by both sides to resume their stalled dialogue process.
 
That meeting was scheduled nearly three months after Mr Modi had met Mr Sharif here on May 27, a day after assuming office, when the two leaders had agreed that their Foreign Secretaries would remain in touch to explore how the two neighbours could move forward in various areas.
 
The decision to call off the meeting also came against the background of several incidents of alleged violations of ceasefire from across the border in the preceding weeks.
 
India has blamed the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai, which claimed 166 lives, on groups based in Pakistan and has been demanding action against them, among other things. The attacks were carried out by ten Pakistani terrorists who sneaked into Mumbai in a boat.
 
On February 13, Mr Modi had spoken to Mr Sharif over the telephone as part of conversations with leaders of the four other SAARC nations which were participating in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. He had later announced that he would send Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar to visit all the SAARC countries, including Pakistan.
 
Accordingly, Dr Jaishankar had visited Islamabad on March 3, when he met Mr Chaudhry and raised India's known concerns on cross-border terrorism. He had also called on Mr Sharif on that trip.
 
On June 16, Mr Modi had again spoken to Mr Sharif over the telephone to convey to him and the Pakistani people his good wishes for the holy month of Ramadan.
 
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Mr Modi had on that occasion reiterated to Mr Sharif his message of peaceful, friendly and cooperative relations between the two countries.
 
In Islamabad yesterday, meanwhile, the Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson told journalists that inviting Kashmiri leaders for meetings and participation in various events hosted by the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi was a long standing practice. 
 
"Such meetings normally take place before talks between the senior officials of the two countries on various issues are held in Pakistan or India. It is in this context that Kashmiri leaders have been invited by our High Commissioner to attend a reception at the High Commission on 23rd August 2015," he said.
 
To a question about reports regarding the brief detention of Kashmiri leaders yesterday, he said, "Pakistan expects India to allow Kashmiri leaders to meet the Advisor to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs. Kashmiris are important stakeholders in the context of Jammu and Kashmir dispute and efforts to seek its peaceful settlement in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolutions."
 
The spokesman said both sides were in contact with each other with regard to finalization of the agenda for talks between the two NSAs. "During the meetings in New Delhi, Pakistan will raise all issues of importance including Kashmir," he said.
 
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No discussion without resignations, asserts Rahul Gandhi

Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi on Thursday asserted that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and BJP Chief Ministers Vasundhara Raje of Rajasthan and Shirvraj Singh Chouhan would have to resign first before there could be any discussion in Parliament on the alleged scams involving them.

 
PM's credibility declining, his silence benefitting me: Rahul
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi today asserted that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Chief Ministers Vasundhara Raje of Rajasthan and Shirvraj Singh Chouhan would have to resign first before there could be any discussion in Parliament on the alleged scams involving them.
 
"We have said there have to be action before any discussion," Mr Gandhi said, defending his party's disruption of proceedings in Parliament for the third day, demanding the resignation of the three senior BJP leaders.
 
The Congress has been gunning for Ms Swaraj and Ms Raje for the help they provided to former Indian Premier League (IPL) chief Lalit Modi, who is currently based in London and is wanted for questioning by Indian agencies.
 
Mr Chouhan has been under fire over the Vyapam scam, a massive scandal involving rigging of recruitment and professional college admission examinations in Madhya Pradesh, which has seen the deaths of about 45 people linked the case as witnesses or accused in the past few years.
 
The Congress has been demanding for the past few weeks that the three leaders must resign to facilitate a free and fair investigation into the cases.
 
The ruling BJP has been insisting that none of the Ministers will resign, because they have done nothing illegal or immoral, but the Government has offered to discss the issue in Parliament. But the Congress has been unrelenting in its demand that the resignations must come first and the discussion can follow later.
 
Mr Gandhi attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi yet again, reminding the people of his election slogan of "Na Khaoonga, Na Khaane Doonga" (Neither will I be corrupt, nor will I allow corruption).
 
"The Prime Minister's words must carry weight. But our Prime Minister talks in the air, he says whatever comes to his mind. His credibility is being eroded," he said.
 
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Mr Gandhi said the Opposition had been asking the Prime Minister to speak out on the Lalit Modi issue, on Vyapam, on the alleged corruption in Chhattisgarh, and on Sushma Swaraj but he has chosen to remain silent so far.
 
He pointed out to Mr Modi that he was the Prime Minister of all of India and its people, not just the BJP. "You must listen to the people. They want action," he said.
 
He said that, even before taking any action in the matter, the Prime Minister must tell the people about what he thought about these issues.
 
Mr Gandhi said Ms Swaraj had "done a criminal act" by helping Mr Lalit Modi get travel documents from the UK government when his passport had already been revoked by the Indian government. He said she had done this without the knowledge of the Indian High Commission in London or anyone in the government.
 
Similarly, he felt action needed to be taken against Ms Raje for having helped Mr Lalit Modi get a UK residence permit by signing a testimony in support of his application.
 
Mr Gandhi said the Vyapam scam was so big, but the Prime Minister had not spoken a word about it so far. "More than 40 people have died, one of your own colleagues has died, and the Prime Minister does not have even a word to say on that," he told the journalists, referring to the recent death of an Aaj Tak journalist probing the case.
 
"The Prime Minister may think that he does not have to answer Rahul Gandhi. But these are not my questions, this is what the people of India are asking. His silence is helping me.
 
"But the people did not vote for Sushma Swaraj...they voted for Mr Narendra Modi because they trusted his word. That balloon has now been pricked. The people now look at him and think they have made a mistake. I am happy he does not speak. The less he speaks, the better it is for me," he added.
 
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Combative Opposition forces Parliament to adjourn over Lalit Modi, Vyapam cases

Both Houses of Parliament were adjourned for the day on Wednesday without transacting any substantive business as a combative and united Opposition remained unrelenting in its demand for action by the Government in the Lalit Modi and Vyapam cases involving senior ruling BJP leaders.

 
Opposition weak on arguments, strong on disturbance: Jaitley
Both Houses of Parliament were adjourned for the day today without transacting any substantive business as a combative and united Opposition remained unrelenting in its demand for action by the Government in the Lalit Modi and Vyapam cases involving senior ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders.
 
While the Government once again expressed its readiness for an immediate discussion on the cases, the Opposition insisted that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan must resign first to facilitate a free and fair investigation.
 
In the Rajya Sabha, which witnessed disruption of proceedings for the second day running, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, the Leader of the House, strongly defended Ms Swaraj, who has been under attack for having helped former Indian Premier League (IPL) chief Lalit Modi, currently based in London, get UK travel documents at a time when he is wanted for questioning by Indian agencies.
 
He said Ms Swaraj had presented her side of the story to the BJP Parliamentary Party meeting today and she wanted now to present it to the nation and the Opposition but was being denied an opportunity to do so in Parliament.
 
Mr Jaitley said the Opposition, led by the Congress, was "weak on arguments" and "strong on disturbance".
 
Responding to senior Congress leader Anand Sharma, who raised the issue, he said, "Nobody has been able to point out which law the External Affairs Minister has breached. They must make clear which provision of the law has been violated."
 
Ms Raje is under attack for having supported Mr Modi's residence permit application in the UK, while Mr Chouhan is under fire over the Vyapam case, a massive job recruitment and admission scam in his state.
 
The Opposition has been insisting on the resignations of Ms Swaraj, Ms Raje and Mr Chouhan before a discussion on the two cases can be taken up.
 
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In the Rajya Sabha, members of the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPIM) spoke about the notices they had given and wanted the House to take a call on them.
 
Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said that the chair could allow a discussion under Rule 267 if the House and the Govrnment had no objection.
 
Mr Jaitley said some of the issues raised in the notices related to the States.
 
"If the Opposition wants the rules to be changed and the State issues are to be discussed, we will discuss issues of various States and we are ready for that," he said.
 
"We will discuss so that we set a new precedent that al State issues, ranging from what has been happening in Kerala, in Himachal Pradesh, Assam and Goa, and all such State issues can be discussed.
 
"If they want to discuss the issue relating to Mrs Sushma Swaraj, please start the discussion right now. That was our offer yesterday and that is our offer today," he said, amidst continuous interruptions.
 
When the House reassembled after an adjournment, BSP leader Mayawati said the Lalit Modi case, in which Ms Swaraj and Ms Raje had helped the former IPL chief, was a serious national issue and not a state issue. 
 
Amidst continuous disturbances from the Treasury benches, she said it was unfortunate that the Government was unwilling to act against the two leaders.
 
Similarly, she said the massive rigging of recruitment and professional college admission examinations in Madhya Pradesh, in what is known as the Vyapam scam, was also a serious national issue. 
 
She said Mr Chouhan, Ms Swaraj and Ms Raje must be asked to submit their resignations in the interest of a fair probe into the two cases, after which there could be discussion in Parliament.
 
At this juncture, Mr Jaitley sought to raise a point of order, saying the rules did not allow any references to allegations against Chief Ministers of States and said they must be struck off from the records.
 
To this, Mr Sitaram Yechury of the CPIM said the Vyapam scam had seen the deaths of people outside Madhya Pradesh, too, and was not, therefore, something related to madhya Pradesh alone.
 
He also stressed that it was Parliament's duty to ensure the accountability of the Government. "A discussion is not a substitute for an investigation and tilll that investigation is ordered by the Government and till the concerned people step down from office, there cannot be a discussion here," he said.
 
As heated arguments continued from both sides, Mr Kurien adjourned the House for some time.
 
When the House re-assembled, Mr Sharma clarified that his notice was for the suspension of the business to discuss the Prime Minister's response to the demand of fixing accountability in the Lalit Modi matter.
 
To this, Mr Jaitley responded angrily, saying, "What we are finding is, day after day, his pomposity without any facts. That is not acceptable...Therefore, if you have any fact with regard to improperconduct, start the discussion... I dare you to start the discussion. You don't have a single fact. Therefore, noise-making is all that you want to do, and you don't want to discuss," he said.
 
As Mr Sharma pressed on with the issues related to Ms Swaraj and then Ms Raje, Mr Jaitley asked, "How much cash has your Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh deposited in a bank? Are you ready to discuss that?", leading to more uproar in the House.
 
"Five Ministers of Kerala government are being prosecuted," he went on to say.
 
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Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said the BJP, when it was in the opposition for the ten years of UPA rule, had established the convention that Ministers must resign first before there could be a discussion in the House and they must now be prepared to follow that. "You cannot change this merely because you have changed to the other side. We want a discussion, but there must be action first, there must be resignations first," he said.
 
The Deputy Chairman said he had no option but to adjourn the House for the day.
 
In the Lok Sabha, as the House assembled for the day, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan took strong exception to the placards displayed and black bands worn by Congress members.
 
She also disallowed the notices of adjournment motion given by several members of the Congress and other opposition parties.
 
"The matters, though important enough, do not warrant interruption of business of the day. I have, therefore, disallowed the notices of Adjournment Motion," she said.
 
When the House reassembled at noon after a brief adjournment, Ms Mahajan said she had already, at the start of the day's proceedings, observed that members must refrain from displaying black flags, placards and resorting other disorderly conduct.
 
Despite that, I have been deeply concerned to note that several mmbers came to the well of the House shouting slogans, displaying placards and disrupting the proceedings of the House which had constrained me to adjourn the House till 12 noon.
 
"Maintaining of discipline and decorum in the House is of utmost importance for maintaining the credibility and dignity of Parliament. We have well-settled norms of standards to be observed by members which have been provided for in our Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business. These are also invariably brought to the notice of all the members," she said.
 
"I am, however, pained that none of the norms of etiquettes and standards are being observed by the members. I have always provided adequate opportunity to all sections of the House to raise matters of topical interest provided the members give proper notice and seek to raise these matters within the parameter of the rules and accepted norms of behaviour. I would also like to emphatically stress here that in the event of disorderly conducts, I would be constrained to initiate appropriate disciplinary action against the erring members. I hope that all the members would adhere to the set norms of etiquettes, standards of behaviour with regard to discipline and decorum in the House.
 
"I request all the members who are displaying placards and other exhibits to immediately refrain from doing so," she added.
 
As members continued to disrupt proceedings, the Speaker finally adjourned the House for the day.
 
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Congress attacks Swaraj over Lalit Modi's directorship offer to her husband

The Congress on Tuesday mounted a fresh attack on External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj after new documents surfaced showing that former IPL chief Lalit Modi had proposed appointing her husband Swaraj Kaushal as an alternate director on the board of one of his compaies, Indofil.

 
Congress mounts fresh attack on Sushma Swaraj
The opposition Congress today mounted a fresh attack on External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj after new documents surfaced showing that former Indian Premier League (IPL) chief Lalit Modi had proposed appointing her husband Swaraj Kaushal as an alternate director on the board of one of his compaies, Indofil.
 
Mr Kaushal, who has been Mr Modi's lawyer for more than two decades, told television channels that he had not given his consent for the appointment and the proposal was withdrawn.
 
The Congress has been demanding the resignation of Ms Swaraj for having helped Mr Modi get travel documents from the UK government  at a time when he was wanted for questioning by Indian authorities and his passport had been revoked by the Government.
 
The main opposition party today attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his "deafening" silence over the controversy.
 
“The Prime Minister owes it to the nation to break his silence on the issue,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said.
 
"The Prime Minister is maintaining a deafening silence. BJP is trying to brazen it out. We demand that the silence should be broken. It is a situation where the more you try to hide, the more the truth comes out,” he said.
 
Mr Singhvi said the Modi government seemed to be espousing different rules of morality for its own ministers. “Any attempts by the London-based Modi to divert attention from the India-based Modi will not succeed,” he said.
 
The documents released today showed that Mr Lalit Modi, the son of well-known industrialist Krishan Kumar Modi, head of the Modi Enterprises group, had written to Indofil in April this year, saying he proposed to identify Mr Kaushal as the alternate director in his place.
 
Mr Lalit Modi has been in London since late 2010 and has not travelled to India since then, citing security reasons. 
 
Ms Swaraj had helped the former IPL chief get travel papers from the UK government in July last year.
 
“Different ministers are saying there is no stigma. There is no guilt. Who is giving this certificate of innocence? The BJP ministers,” said Mr Singhvi. 
 
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Congress party’s Communication In-charge Randeep Surjewala asked Ms Swaraj to come clean on the Lalit Modi issue. “Ms. Sushma Swaraj must tell the people of the country how many times she has met Lalit Modi or if any of her family members had been in touch with him," he said.
 
He demanded that the BJP government make public all letters exchanged between the previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government and authorities in Britain over the Lalit Modi issue.
 
“From Maulana Masood Azhar to Lalit Modi, from Kandahar to London, from then External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh to present External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, the NDA government has been helping such people on humanitarian grounds,” he added.
 
Ms Swaraj had admitted on June 14 that she had helped Mr Lalit Modi to get the travel papers as a "humanitarian" gesture to enable him to be present for his wife's surgery for cancer in Portugal in July last year, leading to calls for her resignation by the Opposition parties.
 
She was dragged into the controversy when The Sunday Times of London said in a report that Labour MP Keith Vaz used her name to put pressure on the UK's top immigration official to give Mr Lalit Modi  the documents.
 
Ms Swaraj said she had helped Mr Modi on "humanitarian" grounds so that he could be present in Lisbon, Portugal where his wife was due at that time to undergo surgery for cancer.
 
Mr Lalit Modi, 49, who had successfully conducted the first three editions of the IPL, travelled to London in 2010 amid claims of match-fixing and illegal betting in that year's edition of the tournament and allegations by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) of misappropriation of funds, among other things.
 
He refused summons issued by the Chennai Police on the basis of a complaint by the BCCI. The Indian government later revoked his passport, which left him grounded in the UK. He has always denied any wrongdoing in the IPL scam and claimed that he had left India because of death threats.
 
The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) had, on the request of the Enforcement Directorate, issued a light blue corner notice against Mr Modi in 2010 after he failed to appear before it for questioning with regard to allegations of violation of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).
 
As the issue swirled into a major controversy, Ms Swaraj took to micro-blogging site Twitter on June 14 to admit that she had been in touch with Mr Lalit Modi and that she had done so on humanitarian grounds because his wife was suffering from cancer and her surgery was fixed for August 4 in Portugal. 
 
"He told me that he had to be present in the hospital to sign the consent papers," she had said.
 
The BCCI had suspended Mr Modi as IPL Commissioner on the night of April 25, 2010, minutes after the final of that year's edition of the IPL T-20 tournament ended and served him with a 34-page chargesheet.
 
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There were allegations against him about the investments in IPL teams by his relatives and the contracts awarded to various firms. 
 
The controversy had led to nationwide search operations by the Income Tax Department, the Enforcement Directorate and other agencies at the offices of some of the teams as well as other companies.
 
Even as the controversy refused to go away, the BJP was embarassed further when details emerged of Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje having given a signed testimony in support of Mr Lalit Modi's immigration application to the UK government.
 
Since then, there have also been reports about Mr Lalit Modi having invested in a firm owned by Ms Raje's son and Lok Sabha member Dushyant Singh, buying the shares at a huge premium. Later, there were reports that said that Ms Raje also owned a large chunk of that company.
 
In the past few days, the Congress has also alleged that Ms Raje had illegally occupied the Dholpur Palace and converting the government property into a private luxury hotel with the help of the former IPL chief.
 
The BJP, however, denied the allegations, saying that the Dholpur Palace had been restored by the government to Mr Hemant Singh in 1958 and that he had given it to his son in 2007 by a court settlement.
 
The party also said that, in 2010, the then UPA government had  recognized Dushyant Singh as the owner of the Dholpur Palace and that he had been paid compensation for a part of the land taken from the palace grounds for a highway.
 
The party had earlier cited the palace as one of the factors to justify the high valuation that Mr Modi had allegedly paid for shares in Mr Dushyant Singh's company.
 
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Congress calls for SIT to probe Swaraj's help to Lalit Modi for travel papers

Keeping up its relentless attack on External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj for having helped former IPL chief Lalit Modi to get travel papers from the UK government, the Congress on Tuesday demanded that the Supreme Court should set up a special investigation teamto probe the entire issue.

 
Congress demands SIT to probe Swaraj role in Lalit Modi issue
Keeping up its relentless attack on External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj for having helped former Indian Premier League (IPL) chief Lalit Modi, wanted by law enforcement agencies in India, to get travel papers from the UK government, the Congress today demanded that the Supreme Court should set up a special investigation team (SIT) to probe the entire issue.
 
Addressing a press conference here, Congress leader Anand Sharma alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's senior colleagues were hiding facts when they defended Ms Swaraj and alleged that they were "protecting a wanted offender".
 
"What Sushma Swaraj did was unwarranted. Moreover, the row is not about Lalit Modi's travel papers but about protection being given to him," he said.
 
Ms Swaraj, 63, is at the centre of a major controversy after she admitted on Sunnday that she had helped Mr Modi to get the travel papers as a "humanitarian" gesture to enable him to be present for his wife's surgery for cancer in Portugal in July last year, leading to calls for her resignation by the Opposition parties.
 
She was dragged into the controversy when The Sunday Times of London said in a report that Labour MP Keith Vaz used her name to put pressure on the UK's top immigration official to give Mr Lalit Modi  the documents.
 
"We have to ask Prime Minister Modi directly about why he is quiet. Can there be different sets of rules when you talk of probity," Mr Sharma said.
 
Stating that Mr Modi, who has been in London since mid-2010, had, on the one hand, declared himself bankrupt but, on the other, was holidaying at resorts regularly, Mr Sharma wanted the government to tell the people what the Enforcement Directorate and other agencies had done since May 26, 2014 to get the former IPL chief back to India.
 
"Not only the External Affairs Minister, but the entire government was keen to help Lalit Modi to get his passport," he alleged.
 
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On Ms Swaraj's help to Mr Modi get travel papers from the UK government, when his passport had been revoked by the UPA government in 2010, he wondered why this "unacceptable concession" was made by her when there were no specific queries from authorities from the UK.
 
He said this was done when the previous government had specifically requested the UK government in writing to not allow Mr Modi to move out of the UK.
 
He described as "tearjerkers" and "false" the claim by Ms Swaraj that she had done it as as a "humanitarian" gesture to help Mr Modi be present in Portugal where his wife was supposed to undergo surgery for cancer.
 
Mr Sharma also alleged that there was "no invasive surgery" though the travel document was made on that ground.
 
He said that, once his passport was restored to him by the Delhi High Court, Mr Modi was seen holidaying in places like Ibiza in Portugal and the Indian government did not file any appeal in the Supreme Court against the order.
 
He said the decision to not file an appeal was not a case of default but one taken "by design".
 
"This person for whom a humanitarian empathy was invoked was holidaying in various countries, despite declaring bankruptcy," he said.
 
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"Can there be one set of rule for UPA Ministers? Narendra Modi himself pressed for resignations, even if there was a shadow," he said.
 
"Why is the govenrment protecting Mr Lalit Modi. The Prime Minister has to speak," he said.
 
"We demand a thorough investigation in this affair not restricted to travel documents, under the supervision of Supreme Court," he said.
 
Mr Sharma said Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who has intelligence inputs about all illegal offenders, was endorsing Ms Swaraj's position. He said there were others in the government who could also be accused of protecting Mr Modi and dereliction of duty.
 
"We have to ask Prime Minister Modi directly, why is he quiet," Mr Sharma said.
 
Meanwhile, some volunteers of the National Students Union of India (NSUI) staged protests near Ms Swaraj's residence here to press their demand for her resignation.
 
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Koirala invites Modi for donors' conference in Kathmandu

Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala called Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the telephone on Thursday morning and invited him to address the First Donors' Conference in Kathmandu on June to support reconstruction efforts in the earthquake-hit country.

File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his Nepalese counterpart Sushil Koirala
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his Nepalese counterpart Sushil Koirala
Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala called Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the telephone this morning and invited him to address the First Donors' Conference in Kathmandu on June to support reconstruction efforts in the earthquake-hit country.
 
Mr Koirala briefed Mr Modi on the steps being taken by his government for rehabilitation and reconstruction in Nepal following the massive 7.9 earthquake of April 25 that left more than 8000 people dead and caused widespread destruction of public and private property.
 
Another powerful earthquake, of magnitude 7.3 struck the Himalayan nation on May 12, claiming about a hundred lives.
 
Mr Koirala said he had sent his Finance Minister Ram Chandra Mahat to Delhi with a personal invitation for the conference being hosted by the Nepal Government.
 
He also briefed Mr Modi about the recent political developments in Nepal, including drafting of the Constitution. 
 
An official press release said Mr Koirala congratulated Mr Modi on a successful visit to Bangladesh, describing it as yet another example of his successful “Neighbours First Policy” and his commitment to deepen relations with India’s neighbours. He congratulated Mr Modi on the historic agreements signed in Dhaka and welcomed his support for sub-regional connectivity between Bhutan, Bangladesh, India and Nepal. 
 
Mr Modi reiterated India’s unwavering and sustained support to Nepal in its rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts, guided by the preference and priorities of Government of Nepal. He assured Mr Koirala that India would respect and be with Nepal in all its decisions in this regard. 
 
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Mr Modi reaffirmed that India had always been guided by humanitarian concerns in a spirit of equality and friendship. 
 
He conveyed his best wishes for the Donor’s Conference in Kathmandu. He thanked Mr. Koirala for the invitation, conveyed that he would participate, if his schedule permitted, and assured him that India would, in any case, be represented at a high ministerial level. 
 
Mr Modi also conveyed his appreciation to Mr Koirala on the progress in the political process on drafting of the Constitution and conveyed his best wishes for the successful conclusion of the peace process and adoption of a Constitution. 
 
He reiterated that India’s only desire was success, peace and progress for the people of Nepal, the release added.
 
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Modi calls for multi-pronged strategy to augment irrigation network

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday called for quick adoption of a multi-pronged strategy to augment the country’s irrigation network and a relook at the administrative mechanisms, financial arrangements and technology applications in the irrigation sector.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi chairing a high-level meeting for quick adoption of a multi-pronged strategy to augment the country’s irrigation network, in New Delhi on June 8, 2015.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi chairing a high-level meeting for quick adoption of a multi-pronged strategy to augment the country’s irrigation network, in New Delhi on June 8, 2015.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today called for quick adoption of a multi-pronged strategy to augment the country’s irrigation network and a relook at the administrative mechanisms, financial arrangements and technology applications in the irrigation sector.
 
Chairing a high-level meeting of top officials from the Ministries of Agriculture, Water Resources, Rural Development, and Finance, besides the NITI Aayog and the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), he  said this should result in a shorter, more comprehensive decision-making process, which could deliver quick results for the farmers.
 
Reviewing the preparations for the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana, Mr Modi said expansion of irrigation has to be linked with a comprehensive evaluation of cropping patterns across states, as well as a judicious mix of modern and micro irrigation systems such as drip and sprinkler irrigation.
 
Simultaneously, a thorough study should be made of various traditional irrigation methods across the country, he said.
 
The Prime Minister said young researchers from universities should be involved in irrigation-policy planning. He said irrigation plans need to be worked out at the district level, and young officers from the civil services should be asked to propose district-level irrigation plans.
 
Exhorting officials to treat the challenge of below-normal rainfall as an opportunity, he called for an intensive short-term effort to boost the creation of farm ponds across the country.
 
Mr Modi noted that falling ground-water levels in some states made it essential to bring about an urgent shift in cropping-patterns. He called for focus on maize, and initiatives in value-addition in maize, to make it more attractive for farmers.
 
Union Minister for Water Resources Uma Bharati, Union Minister for Rural Development Birender Singh, and Union Minister of State for Agriculture Sanjeev Balyan were amongst those who attended the meeting.
 
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Not just paas-paas, but also saath-saath, Modi tells Bangladesh

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday that, even as his two-day visit to Bangadesh was drawing to a close, the real journey was beginning only now and the world would see that the two countries were not just "paas-paas" (near to each other) but also "saath-saath" (together).

 
Journey for us has just begun, Modi tells Bangladesh
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said that, even as his two-day visit to Bangadesh was drawing to a close, the real journey was beginning only now and the world would see that the two countries were not just "paas-paas" (near to each other) but also "saath-saath" (together).
 
Addressing a gathering comprising eminent Bangladeshis, including politicians, cultural figures, business persons, academicians and Dhaka University students, as well as members of the Indian community, he said the welcome accorded to him was, in effect, a welcome to 125 crore Indians.
 
He said he was especially happy that a Mukti Jodha President, in the presence of the Bangabandhu's daughter, had presented the Bangladesh Liberation War honour to former Atal Bihari Vajpayee, which he had the honour to receive on behalf of the veteran leader.
 
He said that as a young man, his first exposure to politics was in the form of a satyagrahi in support of the liberation struggle in Bangladesh. 
 
Mr Modi said the world rarely noticed developing countries. He said Bangladesh had had to often face natural disasters. But nevertheless, he said, Bangladesh had done unparalleled work in many fields. He said the work done by Bangladesh in the garment sector is well appreciated. He said that he was happy to hear this on a recent visit to China, for the fact that a developing country had achieved such a feat. He said that if Bangladesh prospers, India too would benefit. 
 
The Prime Minister said many states in India could learn from Bangladesh on several social indicators, such as infant mortality rate. He said when Bangladesh progresses, India feels proud, because Indian soldiers too have shed blood for the birth of the country.
 
Mr Modi congratulated Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for her single-minded focus on economic development. He said a firm foundation is being laid for Bangladesh's economic progress. 
 
He said India and Bangladesh were both blessed to be young nations, with young dreams. He said a nation with such leadership and such strength, like Bangladesh, would progress inexorably. 
 
The Prime Minister said the era of expansionism in geopolitics had ended. He said the world now needs vikaswaad (development), not vistaarwaad (expansionism). 
 
Referring to the Land Boundary Agreement between the two countries, he described it as one which bonded hearts together. 
 
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Mr Modi said both India and Bangladesh wanted to establish the Buddhist circuit - and where there was Buddha, there could be no Yuddha (war). He quoted a newspaper editorial that said that the Land Boundary Agreement was equivalent to the fall of the Berlin Wall. He said the world would have to acknowledge that they were people who find ways to move ahead. 
 
He said the younger generation deserved the chance to achieve its aspirations. He appreciated the contribution of the Dhaka University to Bangladesh. He said that India would work with Dhaka University on oceanography, to build the ocean economy. 
 
The Prime Minister said SAARC countries were keen to establish connectivity at the last SAARC summit - but then - not every country is Bangladesh. He said India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan had now decided to move ahead in this direction. He said the European Union had developed a lot because of better connectivity. He said today no country could work alone, as the whole world has become interdependent. He said India and Bangladesh had recognized this fact, and this was reflected in the 22 agreements that had been signed during his visit. He congratulated the farsighted leadership of Bangladesh for accomplishing this. 
 
Mr Modi said a satellite picture would reveal that the SAARC countries were still dark - had no access to electricity. He said if India Nepal Bhutan and Bangladesh worked together, this darkness would be dispelled. He said recently Bangladesh helped India transport equipment for a power plant in Tripura, and now Bangladesh was receiving 100 MW of power from that power plant. 
 
He spoke of shared potential in sectors such as solar energy and space. 
 
Mr Modi noted that Bangladesh had done a lot for women empowerment and that it was a matter of pride. He recalled billboards in Dhaka featuring the woman cricket player, Salma Khatun. He added that the rise of the Bangladesh cricket team reflects the potential of Bangladesh. He said that he was proud that he had come to walk together with this Bangladesh. 
 
The Prime Minister acknowledged that some tasks were still to be accomplished. He said he believed that panchhi (birds), pawan (wind), and paani (water) needed no visa - and therefore - the Teesta issue had to be solved with a human approach. 
 
Referring to unfortunate incidents on the border, he said it was the responsibility of both sides to ensure that a solution is found. He said illegal human trafficking and fake currency were issues which Bangladesh had expressed an intention to resolve. 
 
Mr Modi called for reform of the United Nations. He said India still had not got a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. He said this was a country which never fought to gain land. He said 75,000 Indian soldiers had sacrificed their lives for others in the First World War, and 90,000 in the Second World War. He referred to India's role in peacekeeping operations across the world. He said Indian soldiers had fought alongside Mukti Jodhas as well, for Bangladesh. Yet India had still not got a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. 
 
Referring to the Pakistani prisoners of war after the 1971 war, he said India released 90,000 soldiers, because it was only interested in the welfare and progress of Bangladesh. He said this incident, in itself should have been enough to convince the world that India should get a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. 
 
Mr Modi said that on the first day itself, his Government had invited SAARC leaders, indicating its intention to progress together with SAARC.  
 
He said he was happy that the Prime Minister of Bangladesh had declared zero tolerance for terrorism. He said terrorism was the  enemy of humanity, and therefore all humanitarian forces had to unite to fight it. 
 
Mr Modi said his vision and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's vision matched perfectly - that of development. 
 
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India, US sign 2015 Framework for defence relationship

India and the United States on Wednesday signed the 2015 Framework for the India-US Defence Relationship, which which builds upon the previous framework and successes to guide the bilateral defence and strategic partnership for the next ten years.

 
US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter meets Modi
India and the United States today signed the 2015 Framework for the India-US Defence Relationship, which which builds upon the previous framework and successes to guide the bilateral defence and strategic partnership for the next ten years.
 
The new framework agreement, signed by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and visiting US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter here, provides avenues for high level strategic discussions, continued exchanges between the armed forces of both countries, and strengthening of defence capabilities. 
 
An official press release said the framework also recognizes the transformative nature of the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI). Both India and the United States have finalized two project agreements for joint development of Mobile Electric Hybrid Power Sources and the Next Generation Protective Ensembles. 
 
In addition, building on the areas of agreement during President Barack Obama’s visit to India in January 2015, Mr Parrikar and Dr Carter agreed to expedite discussions to take forward cooperation on jet engines, aircraft carrier design and construction, and other areas. 
 
The two also agreed to pursue co-development and co-production projects that will offer tangible opportunities for American defence industries to build defence partnership with the Indian industries including in manufacturing under ‘Make in India’. 
 
Mr Parrikar and Dr Carter agreed to continue their efforts to enhance bilateral cooperation in areas of mutual interest, such as maritime security and knowledge partnership in the field of defence. 
 
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Dr Carter thanked Mr Parrikar for the help extended in the search for the US helicopter which went missing during the relief operations in Nepal after a massive 7.9 earthquake struck the Himalayan country on April 25.
 
The two also discussed the broader India-US Strategic Partnership and reviewed the existing and emerging regional security dynamics.
 
The US Defence Secretary, who had arrived in Visakhapatnam yesterday and visited the Eastern Naval Command there at the start of his visit to India, also called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi here today. He also met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval.
 
During their meeting, Mr Modi told Dr Carter that the two summit meetings between him and Mr Obama in the past year had provided new energy and momentum to the bilateral relations.
 
He expressed satisfaction at the implementation of the decisions taken during those summit meetings. He expressed hope that US companies, including those in the defence manufacturing sector, would actively participate in the "Make in India" initiative and set up manufacturing units in India with transfer of technology and link to the global supply chain. 
 
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Mr Carter conveyed to the Prime Minister that India was an important strategic partner for the US. The US policy of rebalance in Asia Pacific complimented India's Act East Policy, he said.
 
He said the US authorities were committed to the expeditious implementation of the decisions reached between the leaders of the two countries. In this context, the US was encouraging US companies to set up manufacturing units in India with transfer of technology, he said.
 
Both sides also exchanged views on regional issues, including the situation in Afghanistan, and the recent developments in the Indian Ocean and the Asia Pacific region. 
 
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Cabinet recommends re-promulgation of Land Acquisition Ordinance

The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, decided on Saturday to recommend to the President the re-promulgation of the conversial Land Acquisition Ordinance for the third time, inviting sharp reactions from the opposition Congress.

 
Cabinet recommends re-promulgation of land ordinance: Ravi Shankar Prasad
The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, today decided to recommend to the President the re-promulgation of the conversial Land Acquisition Ordinance for the third time, inviting sharp reactions from the opposition Congress.
 
The decision by the Cabinet came just days before the previous ordinance in this regard is due to expire on June 3.
 
Minister for Communications & Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad told journalists that the decision was taken to ensure continuity and prevent any difficulties in the matter of compensation for farmers whose land might be acquired.
 
The Bill to replace the ordinance was passed by the Lok Sabha but the Rajya Sabha, where the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) does not have the required numbers, decided to refer it to a joint committee of both Houses of Parliament.
 
The Congress has mounted a major campaign against the Bill, terming it as "anti-farmer" and as a measure aimed at benefitting a few industrialists close to the present regime.
 
The Bill seeks to amend the 2013 Land Acquisition Act enacted by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.
 
The Congress and other Opposition parties have refused to support the proposed legislation, describing it as anti-farmer and pro-industry, and have demanded that the 2013 law, enacted during the Congress-led UPA government's term, be brought back in totality. Among other things, the NDA Bill does away with the consent clause for a variety of projects and also the requirement of social impact asssessment, both of which were there in the 2013 Act.
 
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Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, who has been spearheading the campaign against the Bill, said his party would continue to fight for the rights of farmers and labourers.
 
"Modi ji in an amazing hurry to grab land from poor farmers at any cost. A 3rd attempt at pushing the anti farmer Land Ordinance!" he said on microblogging site Twitter.
 
"Congress Party will continue to fight for the rights of the kisan and mazdoor against this #suitbootkisarkar," he said.
 
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the decision to re-promulgate the ordinance for a third time was a "cruel breach of faith and travesty of justice with India's farming community".
 
He said it was also an affront to Parliament which had "refused to put its stamp of approval" on the Bill.
 
Mr Surjewala said the decision exposed the "duplicity" of Mr Modi who had said only yesterday that his government was open to reviewing the ordinance.
 
He said the Congress condemned the "sinister design of the Modi government to surreptitiously push through the Land Ordinance after agreeing to get it re-examined through a Joint Committee of Parliament".
 
He said the Congress demanded that the government should withdraw the ordinance forthwith and apologise to the nation for its "subversive designs".
 
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Manmohan Singh denies corruption charges, attacks Modi govt

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday denied allegations of corruption against his government by leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and launched a rare attack on his successor Narendra Modi, saying that institutions of democracy were under threat under the new regime.

 
Manmohan Singh denies corruption charges against his government
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today denied allegations of corruption against his government by leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and launched a rare attack on his successor Narendra Modi, saying that institutions of democracy were under threat under the new regime.
 
"As far as I am myself concerned, I can say in all humility that I have not used my public office to enrich myself, enrich my family or enrich my friends," he said at the national convention of the National Students Union of India (NSUI), the student wing of the Congress.
 
Dr Singh's remarks came a day after media reports quoted former Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Chairman Pradip Baijal as saying in a new book on the 2G spectrum allocation and related matters that the then Prime Minister had approved the actions of his Ministers and was, therefore, equally culpable for all the losses computed by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).
 
Dr Singh said there were two constant themes that the BJP leadership kept harping on, including one that the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government was very corrupt.
 
"I want to assure you that we have been fighting corruption, that we will continue to fight corruption and that there will be no compromise with corruption," he said.
 
He said the BJP government kept harping on the theme of corruption just because it wanted to detract the attention of the people to non-issues.
 
He said the other thing that the BJP constantly talks about is that there was a policy paralysiswhen the UPA government was in office.
 
"This is also totally untrue. When we left office, in 2014, in the pas ten years our economy grew at an averange annual rate of 8.5 percent. This is an all-time record. When we left ofice, we were the fastest growing eonomy in the world, after China," he said.
 
Dr Singh said that, in the past one year that it had been in office, the Modi government had "manufactured and modified" statistical data to show that the year had "not been that bad" for the economy.
 
"But their own people are of the view that the recovery they talk about in the last one year is a very fragile recovery," he said.
 
He said the Chief Economic Adviser and the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had both ben of the view that the recovery was fragile.
 
"And, indeed, if you look at the harsh realities you will find that all is not well the state of our economy under the BJP dispensation," he said.
 
He said investment was not going up, agricultural production was declining, farmers were in distress and exports were falling.
 
"What is more, throughout the country, there is an acute distress in rural areas. Sixty-five percent of our people live in rural areas and if they are dissatisfied, if they are fed up with the present regime in one year, then obviously things cannot be that good," he said.
 
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Dr Singh said that his government had enacted many new laws and launched various programmes that had led to profound social transformation and unprecedented economic growth as well.
 
"Many of our programmes are now being repackaged and marketed as the initiatives of the Modi government. What the BJP had oppoosed when we were in power are now being sold as its contribution. But this does not suprise us, this is the compliment that the BJP government pays to the constructive work done by the UPA government," he said.
 
Dr Singh said institutions of democracy in the country were under threat today and the entire edifice of the welfare state was being dismantled in the guise of promoting faster economic growth, whereas they were two sides of the same coin.
 
"The past is being continually belittled to promote a highly biased and communal view of history. Disent is being suppressed," he said.
 
He said the Congress had strived hard to ensure that India flourished as an open, pluralistic, liberal, secular democracy, proud of its composite heritage. 
 
"This very idea of India is now under systematic assault. We must understand how this assault is being mounted and come up with our response. You are the foot soldiers who will make this happen," he said.
 
Dr Singh urged the NSUI members to convey to the people the facts about the achievements of the UPA regime and the "false" claims of the BJP government.
 
He said that, for instance, Mr Modi's Make in India campaign was nothing but a "carbon copy" of the UPA government's New Manufacturing Policy, under which it had pledged to raise the share of manufacturing in GDP to 25 percent.
 
He spoke of the UPA government's initiatives in the areas of education, health, urban renewal and so on.
 
"I could go on...I want to tell you that we have nothing but to be proud of our achievements. You have the responsibility to go to the people at large and explain to them what was our contribution, what done to lift the masses from poverty, ignorance and disease," he said.
 
Dr Singh said the aspirations of the youth of the country had grown and the new communication technologies had created new expectations. He said former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had ushered India into the modern IT age.
 
But he felt that the Congress, as a party, had not been able to take full advantage of these technologies in its efforts to reach out to the people, an area in which the BJP had left it far behind.
 
"This gap we have to fill. We have much catching up to do and no time to lose," he stressed.
 
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Centre clarifies on powers of Delhi LG, elected govt., AAP condemns move

The Centre on Friday sought to settle the public power tussle between Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung by issuing a notification which made it clear that, under the Constitution, the Lt. Governor was the "administrator" of the National Capital Territory of Delhi.

 
Kejriwal slams Centre's notification on LG's powers
The Centre today sought to settle the public power tussle between Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung by issuing a notification which made it clear that, under the Constitution, the Lt. Governor was the "administrator" of the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
 
In the notification, issued by the Ministyr of Home Affairs (MHA) superseding  an earlier notification of September 24, 1998, the President has directed that , subject to his control and further orders, the Lieutenant Governor shall in respect of matters connected with the Public Order, Police, Land and Services exercise the powers and discharge the functions of the Central Government, to the extent delegated to him from time to time by the President.
 
The notification pointed out that Article 239 of the Constitution provided that every Union Territory shall be administered by the President acting, to such extent as he thinks fit, through an administrator to be appointed by him with such designation as he may specify.
 
Article 239AA provides that the Union Territory of Delhi shall be called the National Capital Territory of Delhi and the administrator thereof appointed under article 239 shall be designated as the Lieutenant Governor.
 
The notification said sub­clause (a) of clause (3) of article 239AA states that the Legislative Assembly shall have power to make laws for the whole or any part of the National Capital Territory with respect to any of the matters enumerated in the State List or in the Concurrent List in so far as any such matter is applicable to Union Territories except matters with respect to Entries 1, 2 and 18 of the State List and Entries 64, 65 and 66 of that List in so far as they relate to the said Entries 1, 2, and 18.
 
Entry 1 relates to 'Public Order', Entry 2 relates to 'Police' and Entry 18 relates to 'Land'.
 
The sub­clause also qualifies the matters enumerated in the State List or in the Concurrent List in so far as any such matter is applicable to Union Territories. 
 
The notification drew attention to Entry 41 of the State List which deals with the State Public Services and State Public Sevice Commission which do not exist in the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
 
It also pointed out that the Union Territories Cadre consisting of Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and Indian Police Service (IPS)personnel is common to Union Territories of Delhi, Chandigarh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Puducherry and State of Arunachal Pradesh, Goa and Mizoram which is administered by the Central Government through the Ministry of Home Affairs.
 
Similarly DANICS and DANIPS are common services catering to 
the requirement of the Union Territories of Daman & Diu, Dadra Nagar Haveli, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshdweep including the National Capital Territory of Delhi which is also administered by the Central Government through the Ministry of Home Affairs. 
 
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"As such, it is clear that the National Capital Territory of Delhi does not have its own State Public Services. Thus, 'Services' will fall within this category.
 
The notification said that it was well-established that where there was no legislative power, there was no executive power since executive power is co­extensive with legislative power.
 
it said that matters relating to Entries 1, 2 & 18 of the State List being 'Public Order', 'Police' and 'Land' respectively and Entries 64, 65 & 66 of that list in so far as they relate to Entries 1, 2 & 18 as also 'Services' fall outside the purview of Legislative Assembly of the National Capital Territory of Delhi and consequently the Government of NCT of Delhi will have no executive power in relation to them and that that power in relation to these subjects vests exclusively in the President or his delegate, the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi.
 
"Now, therefore, in accordance with the provisions contained in article 239 and sub­clause (a) of clause (3) of 239AA, the President hereby directs that ­-
 
(i) subject to his control and further orders, the Lieutenant Governor of the National Capital Territory of Delhi, shall in respect of matters connected with the 'Public Order', 'Police', 'Land' and 'Services' as stated hereinabove, exercise the powers and discharge the functions of the Central Government, to the extent delegated to him from time to time by the President.
 
"Provided that the Lieutenant Governor of the National Capital Territory of Delhi may, in his discretion, to obtain the views of the Chief Minister of the National Capital Territory of Delhi in regard to the matter of 'Services' whereever he deems it appropriate," the notification said.
 
The notification also made it clear that the Anti-Corruption Bureau of the Delhi Government had no jurisdiction over bureaucrafts and police officers belonging to the Central Government and working for the Delhi Government.
 
The current controversy arose after Mr Jung had appointed Ms Shakuntala Gamlin as the interim Chief Secretary, overriding the objections raised by Mr Kejriwal, who had alleged that she had lobbied for power distribution companies in the capital.
 
Mr Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) slammed the notification, saying that it showed how nervous the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the Centre had become after the recent Delhi Assembly elections in which his party had won 67 of the 70 seats.
 
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, however, said the notification was aimed at clarifying the powers of the elected Delhi government and the Lt. Governor.
 
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