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17 dead in major fire in factory at Bawana in Delhi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heavy rains lashed many parts of south Kerala and south Tamil Nadu and at least 10 people have died since yesterday as cyclone Ockhi intensified into a very severe cyclonic storm and hurtled past the coasts of the two states towards Lakshadweep Islands on Friday.

 
Cyclone Ockhi: 8 killed, several fishermen missing
Heavy rains lashed many parts of south Kerala and south Tamil Nadu and at least 10 people have died since yesterday as cyclone Ockhi intensified into a very severe cyclonic storm and hurtled past the coasts of the two states towards Lakshadweep Islands today.
 
Four people were killed in south Kerala and five in south Tamil Nadu in rain-related incidents yesterday even as the authorities mounted a massive search and rescue operation for scores of fishermen reported missing at sea.
 
One fisherman, who was among those rescued today, died in hospital here today, taking the toll in Kerala to five, official sources said.
 
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) issued a warning of a very severe cyclone for Lakshadweep Islands this evening and said the system was likely to intensify further in the next 24 hours.
 
In a Red message issued at 1730 hours today, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the system, now over the Lakshadweep  area and adjoining southeast Arabian Sea, continued to move west-northwestwards with a speed of 15 kmph during the past six hours and intensified further into a "Very Severe Cyclonic Storm".
 
It lay centred at 1430 hours IST today near latitude 9.1º N and longitude 73.0º E, about 90 km north of Minicoy and 220 km south-southeast of Amini Divi. 
 
"The system is very likely to intensify further during next 24 hours. It is very likely to continue to move west-northwestwards across Lakshadweep Islands during next 24 hours and then move north/ northeastwards during the subsequent 48 hours," the bulletin said.
 
The IMD warned that, under the influence of the system, heavy to very heavy rainfall was very likely at most places over Lakshadweep area during the next 24 hours, with isolated extremely heavy falls. There could be isolated heavy to very heavy falls during the subsequent 24 hours, it said.
 
The bulletin also said that rainfall was very likely at many places over Kerala during the next 24 hours, with heavy rainfall at isolated places.
 
According to it, gale winds, with speed reaching 120-130 kmph, gusting to 145 kmph, were very likely over and around Lakshadweep Islands during the next 24 hours and gradual decrease thereafter.
 
Squally winds, with speed reaching 45-55 kmph, gusting to 65 kmph, were very likely along and off Kerala during the next 24 hours and along and off Karnataka coast during the next 24 hours, it said.
 
The bulletin said sea conditions would be phenomenal over and around Lakshadweep Islands during the next 24 hours and very high during the subsequent 24 hours.
 
Sea conditions would be high to very high along and off the Kerala coast during the next 24 hours and along and off the Karnataka coast during subsequent 24 hours.
 
The cyclone could cause damage to power and communication lines due to breaking of tree branches and uprooting of large avenue trees; major damage to thatched houses, huts and kutcha houses; some damage to pucca roads; flooding of escape routes; and damage to banana and papaya trees and standing crops.
 
Storm surge of about one metre above astronomical tides was very likely to inundate low lying areas of Lakshadweep Islands, the bulletin said.
 
Fishermen along and off Lakshadweep Islands were advised not to venture into the sea during the next 48 hours. Similarly, fishermen were advised not to venture into the sea along and off the Kerala and Karnataka coasts during the next 48 hours.
 
Ships and aircraft of the Indian Navy, the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) and the Indian Air Force (IAF) were involved in the rescue efforts at sea while teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were deployed in the affected areas in the two states and units of the Indian Army were on standby to come to the aid of the civil adminstration, if necessary.
 
Official sources here said more than 220 people had been rescued from the sea by the Navy, ICG and IAF. Many of them were admitted to hospitals here for treatment, they said. 
 
Some of the fishermen were rescued by a Japanese cargo ship in the area. As many as 37 people were rescued by Advanced Light Helicopters (ALHs) of the Indian Navy which flew between Thiruvananthapuram and the sea.
 
The ICG said it had deployed nine ships and two Dornier aircraft in the area and rescued as many as 52 fishermen so far.
 
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The International Safety Net (ISN) had been activated to advise Merchant Traffic to render assistance to stranded fishermen, it said.
 
Among others, Indian Naval Ships Sagardhwani, Jamuna and Nireekshak were in the affected areas in the Arabian Sea. INS Sharda and Shardul are also sailing out soon to augment the search effort. Both ships were in final stages of embarking HADR items for assistance at Lakshadweep and Minicoy Islands, Indian Navy sources said.
 
In Poonthura, a coastal village near here, angry groups of fishermen and their families staged protests, alleging that the government had not acted in time and not done enough as far as the rescue efforts were concerned. 
 
Former Chief Minister and Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, both senior leaders of the Congress, visited the area today to listen to the woes of the villagers.
 
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told newspersons that the state government had received an alert about the cyclone only on Thursday afternoon. He said the rescue efforts were also hampered by the bad weather conditions.
 
Mr. Vijayan said all possible efforts were being made to locate and rescue the missing fishermen. He said the state government had urged the Ministry of Defence to deploy more aircraft for the search and rescue operations.
 
In Lakshadweep, the authorities had issued orders for the evacuation of people from low-lying areas in Kalpeni, Minicoy, Kavratti, Agatti, Androth, Kadamath and Amini islands.
 
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Modi invites entrepreneurs from across world to be part of India's growth story

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday invited entrepreneurs from across the globe to invest in India and become a part of the country's growth story, assuring them of the government's whole-hearted support.

 
Modi, Ivanka Trump attend GES 2017 in Hyderabad
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today invited entrepreneurs from across the globe to invest in India and become a part of the country's growth story, assuring them of the government's whole-hearted support.
 
"To my young entrepreneur friends from India, I would like to say: each of you has something valuable to contribute towards creating a New India by 2022. You are vehicles of change and instruments of India’s transformation," he said in his inaugural address at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, 2017 here, an event hosted by the Government of India in partnership with the Government of the United States of America.
 
The Summit is being held in South Asia for the first time. It brings together leading investors, entrepreneurs, academicians, think-tanks and other stakeholders to propel the global entrepreneurship ecosystem.
 
Ms. Ivanka Trump, Advisor to US President Donald Trump and also his daughter, is leading the US contingent to the three-day event.
 
"This event not only connects the Silicon Valley with Hyderabad but also showcases the close ties between the United States of America and India. It underlines our shared commitment towards encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation," Mr. Modi said.
 
He noted that the topics picked for this year’s summit include healthcare and life sciences; digital economy and financial technology; energy and infrastructure; and media and entertainment, which are important issues, relevant to the well-being and prosperity of mankind. 
 
"The theme 'Women First, Prosperity for All' makes this edition of GES stand out... We believe women empowerment is vital to our development," he said.
 
"Indian women continue to lead in different walks of life. Our space programmes, including the Mars Orbiter Mission, have had immense contribution from our women scientists. Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams, both of Indian origin, have been part of US space missions. Three out of four oldest High Courts in India are now headed by women judges. Our sportswomen have done the country proud. This very city of Hyderabad is home to Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu, and Sania Mirza, who have brought laurels to India.
 
"In India, we have provided for not less than one third of women representation in rural and urban local bodies, ensuring women’s participation in grass-root level decision-making. More than sixty percent of workers in our agriculture and allied sectors are women. Our milk co-operatives in Gujarat and the Shri Mahila Griha Udyog Lijjat Papad, are examples of highly successful and globally acclaimed women-led co-operative movements.
 
"Here at the GES, more than 50 percent of the delegates are women. Over the next two days, you will meet many women who have dared to be different, in their own walks of life. They now inspire a new generation of women entrepreneurs. I hope the deliberations in the summit would focus on how women entrepreneurship can be further supported," he said.
 
"The power to think differently and ahead of the times for the betterment of mankind is what sets entrepreneurs apart. I see that power in India's young generation today. I see 800 million potential entrepreneurs who can work towards making the world a better place," Mr. Modi said.
 
He said the number of smartphone users in India is projected to grow to over 500 million by 2018. This offers immense potential for the growth of any venture, in terms of outreach and job creation, he felt.
 
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He said the Government's Start-Up India programme is a comprehensive action plan to foster entrepreneurship and promote innovation. It aims to minimize the regulatory burden and provide support to startups. Over 1200 redundant laws have been scrapped, 87 rules for FDI have been eased in 21 sectors, and several government processes have been taken online, he said.
 
He said the Government had taken several steps to improve the business environment. "The jump in India’s ranking in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report, from 142 to 100, in three years, is a result of this. We have improved on indicators like dealing with construction permits, getting credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, enforcing contracts and resolving insolvency," he said.
 
"The process is not yet complete. This is an area where we are not satisfied with 100th rank. We would strive towards 50th rank.  
 
"We have launched the MUDRA scheme to provide easy finance of upto one million rupees to entrepreneurs. Since its launch in 2015, over 90 million loans worth 4.28 trillion rupees have been sanctioned.  Of these, more than 70 million loans have been sanctioned to women entrepreneurs," he said.
 
The Prime Minister also mentioned the Atal Innovation Mission and the opening of Tinkering Labs in more than 900 schools to promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship among children. 
 
"Our Mentor India initiative engages leaders to guide and mentor students through these tinkering labs. In addition, 19 incubation centers have been created in various universities and research institutions. These will nurture innovative start-up businesses to become scalable and sustainable," he said.
 
He also mentioned Aadhaar, the world’s largest biometric based digital database. This currently covers over 1.15 billion people and digitally authenticates over 40 million transactions daily. He said the Government now digitally provides monetary benefits of various government schemes to the beneficiaries through Direct Benefit Transfer using Aadhaar.
 
"Almost 300 million bank accounts with deposits of over 685 billion rupees, or over 10 billion dollars, have been opened through the Jan Dhan Yojana. These bring previously un-banked sections of society into the formal financial system. Of these, 53 per cent accounts are of women.
 
"We are steadily working towards a less cash economy and have launched a Unified Payment Interface App called BHIM. In less than a year, this platform is processing almost 280 thousand transactions daily.
 
"Having almost completed our programme to connect all villages with electricity, we have launched the Saubhagya scheme. This will provide electricity connections to all families by December 2018.
 
"We have launched a programme to provide high-speed broad-band internet to all rural areas by March 2019," he said.
 
The Prime Minister also mentioned initiatives in areas such as renewable energy, the national gas grid, the national gas policy, the Swachh Bharat Mission to improve sanitation and cleanliness, the rural and urban housing missions, and infrastructure and connectivity programmes like Sagarmala and Bharatmala, and said they offered entrepreneurs many business opportunities for investment.
 
"Our recent World Food India initiative helped us engage with entrepreneurs in the food processing industry and agricultural waste sectors.
 
"My government understands that an environment of transparent policies and a rule of law providing a level-playing field are necessary for entrepreneurship to flourish. A historic overhaul of the taxation system has been recently undertaken, bringing in the Goods and Services Tax across the country. Our Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code introduced in 2016 is a step towards ensuring timely resolution for stressed ventures. We have recently improved this further, preventing wilful defaulters from bidding for stressed assets.
 
"Tough measures have been adopted to tackle the parallel economy, check tax evasion and control black money. Our efforts have been recognized by Moody’s recent upgrade of India’s government bond ratings. This upgrade comes after a gap of almost 14 years.
 
"India has improved its rank from 54 in 2014 to 35 in 2016 on the World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index. This signifies the relative ease and efficiency with which products can be moved into and from a country," he said.
 
Stating that an investment-friendly environment needs to be stable from the macro-economic perspective, he said the Government had succeeded in containing the fiscal and current account deficits, and curbing inflation. 
 
"Our foreign exchange reserves have crossed 400 billion dollars, and we continue to attract large foreign capital flows," he said.
 
"I am informed that President Trump has declared November 2017 as National Entrepreneurship Month. America has also observed National Entrepreneurs’ Day on November 21st. This summit will certainly resonate with those themes. Let me conclude by wishing you fruitful, engaging and rewarding deliberations at this summit," he added.
 
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Modi says humanitarian forces must fight terrorism unitedly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday performed ‘shramdaan’ for the construction of a twin pit toilet at Shahanshahpur village in Varanasi district of Uttar Pradesh as part of the Swachh Bharat Mission, the national cleanliness campaign.

 
Governance is not about vote banks: Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today performed ‘shramdaan’ for the construction of a twin pit toilet at Shahanshahpur village in Varanasi district of Uttar Pradesh as part of the Swachh Bharat Mission, the national cleanliness campaign.
 
Mr. Modi, who was on a two-day visit to his Lok Sabha constituency, interacted with the people, who have resolved to make the village open-defecation-free (ODF). He appreciated their initiative of naming the toilet "Izzat Ghar."
 
Mr Modi also visited a ‘Pashudhan Arogya Mela’ organised at the village. He was briefed on various health and medical activities being performed at the premises. These included surgeries on cattle, ultrasonography, and so on.
 
Addressing a gathering on the occasion, the Prime Minister congratulated Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and the State Government for the successful setting up of the Pashudhan Arogya Mela. This is a new effort which would benefit the animal husbandry sector in the State, he said.
 
The increase in milk productivity will lead to economic benefit for the people. Cooperatives can help consolidate the gains in the dairy sector, as has been the case in other parts of the country.
 
Describing the well-being of people as the priority for governance, the Prime Minister reiterated the pledge to double farm incomes by 2022. He noted that soil health cards are benefiting farmers significantly. “Each one of us should resolve to make a positive contribution by 2022, to achieve the India that our freedom fighters dreamt of,” he added.
 
Mr. Modi said the feeling of "cleanliness being our responsibility" needs to be inculcated among all. He said this would go a long way towards ensuring wellness, and protecting the health of the poor. He said Swachhta is like a prayer for him and cleanliness a way to serve the poor.
 
On the first day of his Varanasi visit yesterday, Mr Modi visited the historic Tulsi Manas temple in the evening. He released a postal stamp on “Ramayana,” on this occasion.
 
Speaking on the occasion, the Prime Minister said stamps have a special place in society. “They are a wonderful way to preserve our history,” he added. The Prime Minister also spoke of how the life and ideals of Lord Rama continue to inspire everyone. He later visited the Durga Mata Temple and Durga Kund.
 
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Mumbai building collapse toll rises to 34, rescue efforts continue

The death toll in Thursday's collapse of an old, dilapidated five-storeyed building in the Bhendi Bazaar area of Mumbai rose to 34 on Friday with the recovery of more bodies from the debris in search and rescue efforts that continued throughout last night.

 
Mumbai building collapse: Death toll reaches 34
The death toll in yesterday's collapse of an old, dilapidated seven-storeyed building in the Bhendi Bazaar area of Mumbai rose to 34 with the recovery of more bodies from the debris in search and rescue efforts that continued throughout last night.
 
At least 12 others suffered injuries in the incident and have been admitted to the nearby J. J. Hospital for treatment, where the condition of some of them was stated to be serious, official sources said.
 
Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) Assistant Commissioner J S Ghegadmal told NetIndian over the telephone from the scene that 46 victims had been extricated from the debris, of whom 34 were found dead.
 
With at least two more persons feared trapped under the tonnes of rubble,  scores of men from the Mumbai Fire Brigade, the Municipal Corporation, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and local residents continued to be engaged in massive search and rescue efforts at the scene of the disaster.
 
Cranes, gas cutters and other equipment were being used to clear the debris and cut through the mangled steel and concrete to look for possible survivors.
 
The structure, Husaini Building, was 117 years old, sources said. It was located in a heavily congested area in south Mumbai's C Ward, near the J. J. Junction, and rescue teams with their big vehicles and heavy equipment had a tough time reaching the spot.
 
The building had a playschool on the premises which would have opened at 10 am as usual. However, the building came down at about 8.30 am yesterday, much before the children were scheduled to arrive.
 
This is the third major incident of building collapse in the metropolis in recent weeks. On July 25, at least 17 people died and 11 others suffered injuries when a four-storeyed residential building collapsed in the suburban area of Ghatkopar. On August 26, six people lost their lives when a part of a seven-storeyed under-construction building collapsed at Chandivali while some unauthorised portions of the structure were being demolished.
 
Municipal officials said they received a call about the collapse of the building around 8.40 am yesterday and the fire brigade was immediately rushed to the spot. Police have cordoned off the area to facilitate the smooth conduct of the search and rescue operations.
 
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The incident occurred two days after Mumbai experienced its heaviest rainfall since the July 2005 floods on Tuesday.
 
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis expressed grief over the loss of lives in the incident and is personally monitoring the situation. He visited the site yesterday and announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs. 5 lakh to the next-of-kin of those who had lost their lives in the collapse.
 
He also ordered a detailed inquiry into the incident by a committee headed by the Additional Chief Secretary (Housing).
 
Mr. Fadnavis has asked the Municipal Commissioner to submit a detailed report on the tragedy. He also asked the Municipal Commissioner to focus on ensuring immediate medical assistance to the injured persons. State Minister Subhash Desai visited the spot and later briefed Mr. Fadnavis about the situation.
 
In Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed sadness over the loss of lives in the tragedy.
 
“Collapse of a building in Mumbai is saddening. My condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and prayers with the injured," he said on Twitter.
 
Civic officials said the building had been declared unsafe for living six years ago. The residents had been served with evacuation notices in 2011 and ordered to vacate the building to enable redevelopment of the area under the Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust (SBUT) project.
 
"We are extremely saddened and concened about this unfortunate incident, and our thoughts and prayers are with the affected families," a statement from the SBUT said here yesterday.
 
"All the necessary support from SBUT and the disaster management teams, including MCGM, Mumbai Police, Fire Brigade and MHADA are being mobilized towards ensuring the safety of all tenants in the affected area," it said.
 
The SBUT said the ground+six building housed a total of 13 tenants -- 12 residential and one commercial. Out of these, the Trust had already shifted seven families in 2013-14 to the SBUT transit homes.
 
"MHADA notices dated 28-03-2011 and 20-05-2011 declaring  the building dilapidated were issued along with offer of transit accommodation to the remaining tenants and occupants," it said.
 
The 150-year-old Bhendi Bazaar is home to more than 20,000 people. More than 80 percent of the 250 buildings in the locality are old and wornout and have been declared dilapidated and unfit for living by MHADA, the release added.
 
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16 dead, 15 injured, several trapped as five-storeyed building collapses in Mumbai

At least 16 people died and 15 others suffered injuries when an old, dilapidated five-storeyed building collapsed in the Bhendi Bazaar area, near J J Junction, in south Mumbai here this morning, official sources said.

 
16 dead, 15 injured in Mumbai building collapse
At least 16 people died and 15 others suffered injuries when an old, dilapidated five-storeyed building collapsed in the Bhendi Bazaar area, near J J Junction, in south Mumbai here this morning, official sources said.
 
Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai Assistant Commissioner J S Ghegadmal told NetIndian over the telephone from the scene that 31 victims had been extricated from the debris, of whom 16 were found dead.
 
The injured were rushed to the nearby J. J. Hospital, where the condition of some of them was stated to be serious, sources said.
 
With several more people feared trapped under the tonnes of debris, scores of men from the Mumbai Fire Brigade, the Municipal Corporation, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and local residents were engaged in massive search and rescue efforts.
 
Cranes, gas cutters and other equipment were being used to clear the debris and cut through the mangled steel and concrete to reach the victims and look for possible survivors.
 
The structure was more than a hundred years old, sources said. It was locted in a heavily congested area in south Mumbai's C Ward, and rescue teams with their big vehicles and heavy equipment had a tough time reaching the spot.
 
The building had a playschool on the premises which would have opened at 10 am as usual. However, the building came down at about 8.30 am, much before the children were scheduled to arrive.
 
This is the third major incident of building collapse in the metropolis in recent weeks. On July 25, at least 17 people died and 11 others suffered injuries when a four-storeyed residential building collapsed in the suburban area of Ghatkopar.
 
On August 26, six people lost their lives when a part of a seven-storeyed under-construction building collapsed at Chandivali while some unauthorised portions of the structure were being demolished.
 
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Municipal officials said they received a call about the collapse of the building around 8.40 am and the fire brigade was immediately rushed to the spot. There was no immediate word on the number of people living in the building and how many of them were trapped under the debris. Police have cordoned off the area to facilitate the smooth conduct of the search and rescue operations.
 
The incident has come two days after Mumbai experienced its heaviest rainfall since the July 2005 floods.
 
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis expressed grief over the loss of lives in the incient and is personally monitoring the situation.
 
He has ordered a detailed inquiry into the incident by a committee headed by the Additional Chief Secretary (Housing).
 
Mr. Fadnavis has asked the Municipal Commissioner to submit a detailed report on the tragedy. He also asked the Municipal Commissioner to focus on ensuring immediate medical assistance to the injured persons. State Minister Subhash Desai visited the spot and later briefed Mr. Fadnavis about the situation.
 
Civic officials said the building had been declared unsafe for living six years ago. The residents had been served with evacuation notices in 2011 and ordered to vacate the building to enable redevelopment of the area under the Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust (SBUT) project.
 
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29 killed, 250 injured in violence after Panchkula court convicts Dera Sacha Sauda chief in rape case

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

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

Six coaches of the 18477 Utkal Express, from Puri in Odisha to Haridwar in Uttarakhand, derailed at Khatauli, about 25 km from Muzzafarnagar, in Uttar Pradesh, this evening.
 
The mishap occurred around 5.46 pm today, railway sources said, adding that details of casualties were not immediately available.
 
Television pictures from the scene showed that one of the coaches had climbed on to the top of another coach, and one of its ends had crashed into a building on the side of the track.
 
Gas cutters were being used to cut through the mangled steel to pull out those trapped inside the coaches. 
 
"Our focus right now is on rescue and relief operations. Officers and staff from the nearby railway stations have reached the spot," Ministry of Railways spokesman Anil Saxena told journalists in New Delhi.
 
Khatauli is located on the Meerut-Saharanpur section of the Delhi Division of Northern Railway.
 
"We have geared up our rescue and relief machinery. Senior officials of Delhi Division have rushed to the accident site. Staff and officers from the nearby stations have already reached there," Mr. Saxena said.
 
He said personnel of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) would also reach the site soon.
 
The train had left Puri yesterday and was due to reach Haridwar at 9 pm today, they said.
 
Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu said on micro-blogging site Twitter that he was personally monitoring the situation and had instructed senior officers to reach the spot immediately and ensure speedy rescue and relief operations. He said medical vans had been rushed to the site of the accident.
 
"Have instructed Chairman Rly Board, Member Traffic to oversee rescue and relief operations. I am personally monitoring situation," he said. "Instructed General Manager, other senior officers to ensure all possible help to the people."
 
"In close touch with @CMOfficeUP , State Government officials, district administration to coordinate rescue and relief operations," he said.
 
Mr. Prabhu said he had instructed the Member, Engineering of the Railway Board, the Director General, Health and other senior officers to rush to the scene.
 
"Have ordered inquiry into the unfortunate accident to ascertain the cause. Strict action will be taken against any lapse," he added.
 
Mr. Prabhu said Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha and Minister of State for Water Resources Sanjeev Kumar Baliyan were on their way to the scene of the accident.
 
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath told journalists that two State Ministers -- Satish Mahana and Suresh Rana -- have also left for the spot.
 
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Modi interacts with young entrepreneurs at NITI Aayog's Champions of Change initiative

Prime Minister Narendra Modi interacted with young entrepreneurs at the "Champions of Change" event organized by the NITI Aayog in New Delhi on Thursday and said the initiative would be taken forward and institutionalised in the best way possible.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing young entrepreneurs at the Champions of Change programme, organised by NITI Aayog, in New Delhi on August 17, 2017.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing young entrepreneurs at the Champions of Change programme, organised by NITI Aayog, in New Delhi on August 17, 2017.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi interacted with young entrepreneurs at the "Champions of Change" event organized by the NITI Aayog here today and said the initiative would be taken forward and institutionalised in the best way possible.
 
Addressing the gathering, he said one possibility in this regard could be to associate the groups that made presentations today with the respective Departments and Ministries in the Union Government.
 
Mr. Modi described the "Champions of Change" initiative as one effort to bring together diverse strengths for the benefit of the nation and society.
 
Six groups of Young Entrepreneurs made presentations before the Prime Minister on themes such as: Soft Power: Incredible India 2.0; Education and Skill Development; Health and Nutrition; Energizing a sustainable tomorrow; and Digital India; New India by 2022.
 
Appreciating the new ideas and innovations envisaged in the presentations made by the entrepreneurs, Mr. Modi said that, in times past, social initiatives had catered to the requirements of people at large, and these movements were spearheaded by eminent people in society.
 
Mr. Modi cited the example of Padma Awards to point out how processes could be transformed to recognise hitherto unknown heroes of society.
 
The Prime Minister said senior officers in Union Government are keen to explore new avenues and ways for the betterment of people. He encouraged the entrepreneurs to continue their ideation in their respective groups.  He said that if they did so, they could go a long way in furthering the cause of governance.
 
Mr. Modi said a lot of small changes have been brought in by the Union Government, which have brought significant results. He said trusting the common man, through self attestation of documents is one such initiative. He also mentioned the abolition of interviews for Group C and D positions in the Union Government.
 
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He said that today there is an "app" for filling every gap. He said technology and innovation should be harnessed to transform governance. He said decentralised structures are important to nurture the rural economy. In this context, he mentioned the role of startups in catalysing transformation.
 
The Prime Minister emphasized the importance of good teachers in society. He said technology can provide a big boost to the quality of education.
 
Mr. Modi encouraged the entrepreneurs to work towards promoting the social welfare schemes of the Government among their employees.
 
He emphasized that New India could only be built through the efforts of crores of ordinary citizens. He invited the entrepreneurs to join in this effort.
 
Several Union Ministers, NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Arvind Panagariya, and senior Union Government officers were present on the occasion. The event was coordinated by NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant.
 
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Polling begins to elect new Vice-President, Naidu has edge over Gandhi

Polling began on Saturday morning to elect a new Vice-President of India from two candidates: former Union Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu, who has been fielded by the ruling BJP-led NDA and former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi, the Opposition nominee.

M. Venkaiah Naidu
M. Venkaiah Naidu
Gopalkrishna Gandhi
Gopalkrishna Gandhi
Polling began here this morning to elect a new Vice-President of India to succeed Mr. Mohammad Hamid Ansari, whose term of office will end on August 10, from two candidates: former Union Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu, who has been fielded by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi, the Opposition nominee.
 
Voting, which  began at 10 am, will end at 5 pm. Counting of votes will be taken up this evening, and the result is expected to be announced in a few hours after that.
 
Mr. Ansari, 80, who was the candidate of the then ruling Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was elected for a second five-year term in office on August 7, 2012. Earlier, he had served a five-year term as Vice-President from August 11, 2007.
 
An election to fill the vacancy to be caused by the expiration of the term of office of the outgoing Vice-President needs to be completed before the expiration of the term of the present incunbent. 
 
Article 324 of the Constitution read with the Presidential and Vice-Presidential Elections Act, 1952 and the Presidential and Vice-Presidential Elections Rules, 1974, vests the superintendence, direction and control of the conduct of election to the office of the Vice-President of India in the Election Commission of India. 
 
The Vice-President is elected by the members of the Electoral College consisting of the members of both Houses of Parliament in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote. The nominated Members of Rajya Sabha  as well as  of Lok Sabha are also eligible to be included in the Electoral College and, therefore, are entitled to participate in the election.
 
In today's election, the electoral college consists of 233 elected and 12 nominated members of the Rajya Sabha and 543 elected members and two nominated members of the Lok Sabha, adding up to a total of 790.
 
The Election Commission of India has, in consultation with the Central Government, appointed the Secretary-General of the Rajya Sabha as the Returning Officer for the election. 
 
Mr. Naidu, 68, who was Union Minister for Urban Development, Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation, and Information and Broadcasting until his nomination for the post, clearly has the numbers on his side in this contest, given the strength of the BJP and its allies in both Houses of Parliament.
 
He began his career in politics as a student leader and made his way through the ranks to the top of the BJP leadership. He had served as the President of the BJP from July 2002 to October 2004.
  
Muppavarapu Venkaiah Naidu was born on July 1, 1949 at Chavatapalem in Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh. He has a B. A. degree from V. R. College, Nellore and a B. L. from the Law College, Andhra University at Visakhapatnam.
 
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Plunging into student politics in 1971, Mr. Naidu was also associated with the Jayaprakash Narayan movement in 1974. He became the president of the youth wing of the Janata Party in Andhra Pradesh in 1977-80 and was elected for the first time as a member of the Legislative Assembly in Andhra Pradesh in 1978 and re-elected in 1983.
 
He served as president of the Andhra Pradesh unit of the BJP in 1988-93 and as General Secretary of the BJP in 1993-2000. He was elected to the Rajya Sabha in April 1998 from Karnataka. 
 
Mr. Naidu served as Minister of Rural Development from September 2000 to June 2002 in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government before becoming president of the party in July 2002.
 
He was re-elected to the Rajya Sabha for a second term from Karnataka in June 2004 and for a third term in June 2010.
 
He was appointed Minister for Urban Development, Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation and Parliamentary Affairs in the Narendra Modi government from May 26, 2014. In June last year, he was re-elected to the Rajya Sabha from Rajasthan for his fourth term. 
 
Mr. Gandhi, 72, the joint candidate of 18 Opposition parties led by the Congress, is a grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and has had a long career as a bureaucrat and diplomat and later as a writer and commentator on contemporary matters.
 
Among the parties supporting his candidature is the Janata Dal (United), which had since announcing its backing for him broken off its alliance with the Congress and the RJD in Bihar and aligned once again with the NDA.
 
Born on April 22, 1945, Mr. Gandhi is the son of Devadas Gandhi, son of Mahatma Gandhi, and Lakshmi Gandhi. His maternal grandfather was C. Rajagopalachari, the last Governor General of India. He is the younger brother of Rajmohan Gandhi, the late Ramchandra Gandhi and Tara Bhattacharjee, all distinguished in their own right.
 
A former officer of the 1968 batch of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) , he served as Secretary to the President of India and as High Commissioner to South Africa and Sri Lanka. He had also served as Secretary to Vice-President of India and as Ambassador to Norway and Iceland. He was appointed as Governor of West Bengal in 2004.
 
Mr. Gandhi has a Master's degree in Literature from St. Stephen's College, University of Delhi. He has authored one novel (Saranam, ­ "Refuge" in English) and a play in verse (Dara Shukoh). His other books are­ "Gandhi and South Africa", "Koi Acchha Sa Ladka" (translation into Hindustani of Vikram Seth's novel 'A Suitable Boy', "Gandhi and Sri Lanka", "Nehru and Sri Lanka", "India House, Colombo­ Portrait of a Residence", "Gandhi Is Gone. Who Will Guide Us Now? (edited), "A Frank Friendship/ Gandhi and Bengal: A Descriptive Chronology" (compiled and edited).
 
Mr. Gandhi has also served as Chairman of Kalakshetra Foundation, Chennai and as Chairman of the governing body of Indian Institute of Advanced Study. He has also been associated with the Ashoka University as a Professor of History and Politics.
 
Mr. Gandhi and his wife Tara Gandhi have two daughters.
 
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Several injured as huge fire breaks out in London high-rise

A huge fire engulfed a 27-storeyed building of apartments, Grenfell Tower, in North Kensington in West London in the early hours of Wednesday and several people were being treated for a range of injuries, official sources said.

 
Huge fire engulfs London high-rise
A huge fire engulfed a 27-storeyed building of apartments, Grenfell Tower, on Latimer Road in North Kensington in West London in the early hours of today and several people were being treated for a range of injuries, official sources said.
 
London Fire Brigade sources said as many as 40 fire tenders and 200 firefighters were at the scene to fight the blaze and the entire area had been cordoned off by the police.
 
Emergency services received the first calls about the fire at around 0054 hours today, various sources said.
 
The fire had spread to almost the  entire building, from the second floor to the top floor of the 27-storeyed structure, the Fire Brigade said.
 
Police said residents continued to be evacuated from the tower block. "A number of people were being treated for a range of injuries," they said.
 
Apart from ambulances, numerous resources and specialist appliances were deployed at the spot, fire brigade sources said.
 
Fire crews from North Kensington, Kensington, Hammersmith and Paddington and from surrounding fire stations were also at the scene.
 
London Fire Brigade Assistant Commissioner Dan Daly said: "Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus are working extremely hard in very difficult conditions to tackle this fire. This is a large and very serious incident and we have deployed numerous resources and specialist appliances.“
 
Eyewitnesses told television channels that they saw people waving flashlights from the windows on the upper floors of the building to draw attention to where they were stranded. Pieces of debris could be seen falling to the ground and questions were being raised about the integrity of the structure.
 
More than four hours after the fire was first reported, the entire building was still engulfed in flames and thick columns of black smoke rose into the skies. 
 
There was no estimate about the number of people who could have been trapped in the building. Most of them would have been asleep when the blaze started.
 
The cause of the fire could not be immediately ascertained, the Fire Brigade said.
 
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India, Turkey agree to effectively counter terrorism

India and Turkey on Monday agreed to work together to strengthen their cooperation to effectively counter the menace of terrorism and underlined the need for nations of the world to work as one to disrupt the terrorist networks and their financing and put a stop to cross-border movement of terrorists.

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India and Turkey today agreed to work together to strengthen their cooperation, both bi-laterally and multi-laterally, to effectively counter the menace of terrorism and underlined the need for nations of the world to work as one to disrupt the terrorist networks and their financing and put a stop to cross-border movement of terrorists.
 
"They also need to stand and act against those that conceive and create, support and sustain, shelter and spread these instruments and ideologies of violence," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at a joint media interaction here with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after they held bilateral talks.
 
"We live in times where our societies face new threats and challenges every day. The context and contours of some of the existing and emerging security challenges globally is our common concern," he said.
 
"In particular, the constantly evolving threat from terrorism is our shared worry. I held an extensive conversation with the President on this subject. We agreed that no intent or goal no reason or rationale can validate terrorism," he said.
 
"The nations of the world, therefore, need to work as one to disrupt the terrorist networks and their financing and put a stop to cross border movement of terrorists," he said.
 
"President and I agreed to work together to strengthen our cooperation, both bi-laterally and multi-laterally, to effectively counter this menace," he added.
 
Mr. Modi began his remarks by pointing out that India and Turkey have nurtured deep and historical links.
 
"The people of India and Turkey have nurtured deep and historical links. Ties of culture and language connect our societies for hundreds of years. While Rumi found his home in Turkey, his legacy continues to enrich the Sufi traditions of India as well," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said Mr. Erdogan and he, in their comprehensive discussions today, had taken stock of the full range of bilateral relations, particularly their political, economic and cultural engagement. They also shared perspectives on developments in the region.
 
Stressing that India and Turkey were two large economies, Mr. Modi said Mr. Erdogan and he were clear that the strength of their economies presented an enormous opportunity to expand and deepen commercial linkages between the two countries. 
 
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"I also feel that, at the level of the two governments, we need to approach the entire landscape of business opportunities in a strategic and long-term manner. Our bilateral trade turnover of around 6 billion dollars does not do full justice to convergences in our economies. Clearly, the business and industry on both sides can do much more," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said both Mr. Erdogan and he addressed the high-level business delegation accompanying the Turkish President and captains of the Indian industry here this morning.
 
"I am sure that Turkish businesses would be quick to tap the diverse and unique opportunities inherent in rapidly growing India. I also believe that India’s infrastructure requirements, and I listed some of them this morning at the business Summit, and our vision of developing Smart Cities match well with the Turkish capacities," he said.
 
He said India would like to encourage stronger partnership of Turkish companies with the country's flagship programmes and projects, either on their own or in collaboration with Indian companies. "I have no doubt that the agreements signed today and the substance of our conversation will further strengthen institutional cooperation between our two countries," he said.
 
The two leaders also discussed the need for comprehnsive United Nations reforms including the Security Council expansion to make the body more representative accountable and effective. "Both of us recognize the need for the UN Security Council to reflect the world of the twenty first century and not of the century gone by," he added.
 
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Parrikar quits as Defence Minister, to be sworn in as Goa CM on Tuesday

Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Manohar Parrikar on Monday resigned as the Defence Minister and will be sworn in as the new Chief Minister of Goa on Tuesday at the head of a BJP-led coalition government that will be formed by the party with the support of regional outfits and independent legislators.

Manohar Parrikar
Manohar Parrikar
Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Manohar Parrikar today resigned as the Defence Minister and will be sworn in as the new Chief Minister of Goa tomorrow at the head of a BJP-led coalition government that will be formed by the party with the support of regional outfits and independent legislators.
 
"The President of India, as advised by the Prime Minister, has accepted the resignation of Shri Manohar Parrikar, from the Council of Ministers, with immediate effect, under clause (2) of Article 75 of the Constitution," a press communique from Rashtrapati Bhavan said.
 
Further, as advised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Pranab Mukherjee has also assigned the charge of the Ministry of Defence to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in addition to his existing portfolios, the communique added.
 
Mr. Jaitley held the Defence portfolio as an additional charge in the initial months after the Narendra Modi government assumed office at the Centre in May 2014. He relinquished the charge in November 2014 when Mr. Parrikar, who was Chief Minister of Goa, was shifted to the Centre as the Defence Minister.
 
The Congress had emerged as the single largest party in the elections to the Goa Legislative Assembly, polling for which was held on February 4 and votes counted on March 11, with 17 seats in the 40-member house. 
 
The ruling BJP ended up with 13 seats, with Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar and many of his Cabinet colleagues losing their seats. However, the BJP has managed to get support from two regional outfits -- the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and Goa Forward Party -- which won three seats each as well as two of the three independents. 
 
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The 13 BJP MLAs and the other eight legislators met Governor Mridula Sinha yesterday evening and she later invited Mr. Parrikar to form the new government.  
 
Mr. Parrikar will have to be elected to the State Assembly within six months in keeping with the Constitutional requirements. He is currently a member of the Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of Parliament, from Uttar Pradesh.
 
For Mr. Parrikar, 61, this will be his third time as Chief Minister of Goa, having first served in that position from October 2000 to February 2005 and then from March 9, 2012 till Novemer 9, 2014. He had also served as Leader of the Opposition in the Goa Legislative Assembly from June 1999 to November 1999 and from June 2005 to March 2012. In all, he was elected six times to the Goa Assembly since 1994. 
 
He has a B.Tech. in Metallurgy from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Mumbai and was the first IIT alumnus to serve as the Chief Minister of a state.
 
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Assembly elections: Counting of votes to be taken up on Saturday

Counting of votes will begin on Saturday morning in the crucial elections to the State Legislative Assemblies of five States -- Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa -- and most of the results are expected to be out within a few hours after that.

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Counting of votes will begin tomorrow morning in the crucial elections to the State Legislative Assemblies of five States -- Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa -- and the keenly-awaited results are expected to have far-reaching implications for national politics.
 
The elections in five States have taken place mid-way through the five-year term of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre and just weeks after the sudden decision of the government on November 8 to demonetise Rs. 1000 and Rs. 500 banknotes.
 
Polling in Uttar Pradesh -- India's most populous state -- was held in seven phases between February 11 and March 8, while Manipur had polling in two phases on March 4 and 8. Punjab and Goa had single-phase polling on February 4 and Uttarakhand had single-phase voting on February 15.
 
The terms of the Goa, Manipur and Punjab assemblies are due to normally expire on March 18, Uttarakhand on March 26 and Uttar Pradesh on May 27.
 
The Uttar Pradesh legislative assembly has 403 seats, including 84 reserved for Scheduled Castes (SC) and two for Scheduled Tribes. Punjab Assembly has 117 seats (34 SC), Goa 40 (1 SC), Uttarakhand 70 (13 SC, 2 ST) and Manipur 60 (1 SC, 19 ST).
 
The Election Commission will give out counting trends and results of the elections through its website from 8 am tomorrow.
 
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Among other things, the website will give details such as the number of votes secured by the candidates round-wise and constituency-wise and political party-wise and candidate-wise trends.
 
The website can also be accessed through the main website of the Election Commission of India.
 
For the first time, the Commission will also provide analytics through interactive dashboard in the form of clickable infographics. Users can download data, crosstab, PDF and images for analysing the elections further at their end. It will include comparative analytics between 2012 and 2017. 
 
An official press release said users will get constituency analysis with respect to participation of electors (constituencies with more female electors, constituencies by slabs of voter turnout, turnout by poll days) and candidates (gender wise participants, winners and major competitors). To assess performance of political parties, analysis on seats won by them, the percentage vote-share in the State and the profile (age and social category)of candidates fielded by them have been included. Candidates have been mapped to their constituencies and the votes polled in their favour, it said.
 
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Mukherjee says tragic to see universities caught in vortex of violence, disquiet

Declaring that there should be no room in India for the intolerant Indian, President Pranab Mukherjee said on Thursday that the country's premier institutions of higher education must resound with creativity and free thinking.

President Pranab Mukherjee delivering the 6th K.S. Rajamony Memorial Lecture on the topic ‘India@70’ at Kochi in Kerala on March 2, 2017.
President Pranab Mukherjee delivering the 6th K.S. Rajamony Memorial Lecture on the topic ‘India@70’ at Kochi in Kerala on March 2, 2017.
Declaring that there should be no room in India for the intolerant Indian, President Pranab Mukherjee today said the country's premier institutions of higher education must resound with creativity and free thinking.
 
"Those in Universities must engage in reasoned discussion and debate rather than propagate a culture of unrest. It is tragic to see them caught in the vortex of violence and disquiet," he said while delivering the 6th K.S. Rajamony Memorial Lecture on the topic ‘India@70’ in Kochi.
 
"India was a world leader in the field of education when our Universities like Nalanda and Takshshila were at the height of their glory. Nalanda and Takshshila are not mere geographical expressions but representations of the idea for free thought which flourished in these great Universities of the past.  Our premier institutions of higher education are the vehicles on which India has to propel itself into a knowledge society.  These temples of learning must resound with creativity and free thinking," he said.
 
"There should be no room in India for the intolerant Indian.  India has been since ancient times a bastion of free thought, speech and expression.  Our society has always been characterized by the open contestation of diverse schools of thought and debate as well as discussion.   Freedom of speech and expression is one of the most important fundamental rights guaranteed by our Constitution. There must be space for legitimate criticism and dissent," he said.
 
Mr. Mukherjee began by speaking about Kerala, which has been the gateway to India for traders and religious missionaries from different parts of the globe. He said the people of Kerala were known for their progressive thinking and the State's impressive achievements in the field of literacy, education, health, gender equality, tourism and culture had brought it global acclaim.
 
Turning to the topic of the lecture, India@70, he said that for 50 years before independence in 1947 the economic growth rate of India was 0% to 1%. "In the fifties, our growth rate rose to 1 – 2%, the sixties 3 – 4% and in the 90s, with economic reforms, to 6 to 7%.  In the last decade, our growth rate has averaged around 8%, making us the fastest growing large economy of the world," he said.
 
"India’s population in 1950 was 360 million. Today, we are a 1.3 billion strong nation.  Our annual per capita income has gone up from Rs. 7,500 at the time of independence to over Rs. 77,000. GDP growth rate has risen from 2.3 percent to 7.9 percent in 2015-16.  Poverty ratio has declined from over 60 percent to less than 25 percent.  Average life expectancy has gone up from 31.4 to 68.4 years. Literacy rate has gone up from 18 to 74 percent. Food grains production has gone up from 45 million to an estimated 272 million tonnes in 2016-17," he said.
 
Mr. Mukherjee spoke about the progress achieved by the country in the field of food and industrial production, as well as in areas such as space, information technology, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. He said that, in the last 70 years, India had transformed itself from a poor, under-developed nation into the third largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity.
 
He said equally important was India's success in consolidating the unity of its nation and democracy in the midst of extraordinary challenges and tremendous diversity.  
 
"We have firmly established within our country the rule of law, an independent judiciary and vibrant media as well as civil society.  We have also created strong institutions like the Election Commission and the CAG who stand as pillars of our political system.  Every known religion in the world, over hundred different languages used in everyday life, 1600 dialects and multiple cultures are united under one flag and one Constitution. Around 553 million people voted in the 2014 General Elections, an exercise matched in scale and scope by none else in the world," he said.
 
The President said the most important legacy bequeathed to the nation by its founding fathers was its Constitution.
 
"A Constitution is a charter for the governance of a nation. The notion of what is good governance must be defined by the need of the times and enriched by the experience of the decades. Yet, the Constitution enshrines certain timeless values that should never be compromised. It is against the touchstone of these values that we must constantly measure our performance," he said.
 
"The Preamble records the resolve of the people of India to secure to all citizens justice - social, economic and political as well as liberty, equality and fraternity.  It also establishes the principle of secularism. Justice - social, economic and political - is in the life of any nation a journey more than a destination. To achieve social justice requires not mere governance but a recasting of mindsets and the transformation of social ethos.  That is the job not just of the legislature, the executive or the courts, but of each one of us.
 
"The ultimate goal of any democracy is the empowerment of the individual, irrespective of his economic, religious or social standing. This may appear to be a utopian dream for many, but the strength of a system lies in its capacity to ceaselessly work for its accomplishment.  The goal of political justice requires the continuous empowerment of marginalised sections of our society. We owe ourselves to create a system in which access to politics is not limited to a privileged few but an average Indian also feels empowered enough to contribute," he said.
 
Mr. Mukherjee said economic development was vital to good governance but stressed that this must be imbued with the principle of equality on which there could be no compromise.
 
"An egalitarian society can only be created when growth is inclusive. It is important to ensure that there is justice and equality of opportunity and the state does not create conditions in which the privileged few gain at the cost of the multitudes who suffer endemic poverty. A sustainable society can only be based on the principles of equity and justice," he said.
 
He said democracy required constant nurturing and at no cost should the exploitation of fault lines be allowed. In this context, he underlined the importance of protection and safety of women and children.
 
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Mr. Mukherjee said the country's leaders and political activists must listen to the people, engage with them, learn from them and respond to their needs and concerns. "Our law makers must never take the people for granted. They must focus on the fundamental task of law making and raising of issues of concern to the people as well as finding solutions to their problems," he said.
 
"Legislation is the first and foremost responsibility of a Parliamentarian. It is most unfortunate that time devoted towards legislation has been gradually declining in our Parliament," he said, citing figures for time lost due to interruptions and adjournments.
 
"No one who holds any elected office has been invited by the voters to occupy that office.  Each one has gone to the voters and pleaded for their votes and support.  The trust placed by the people in the political system and those elected should not be betrayed. Our Legislatures and Parliament must not turn into arenas for combat.  Floor tests are not meant to be muscle tests.  The opportunity to represent the people is not a right or entitlement but a moral obligation and duty.  Our elected representatives owe it to the people of our country to act as models of exemplary conduct," he said.
 
Mr. Mukherjee said Parliament and State Legislative Assemblies were central pillars on which the edifice of democracy   rested. 
 
"They are the supreme institutions comprising of members directly elected by our people.  It is through them that governments are held accountable by the people.  If they become dysfunctional, it results in not just paralysis of those institutions but creates an adverse impact across the system.  The debate and discussions which ought to take place in the open in the House of Parliament and Assemblies cannot be replicated elsewhere.  When they cease to function effectively, issues spill out onto the streets.  The very basis of our democracy gets undermined," he said.
 
The President said the time had come for collective efforts to re-discover the sense of national purpose and patriotism that alone can lift the nation on to the road of sustained progress and prosperity.
 
"The nation and the people must always come first.  Let us strive to arrest the moral decline in our society and ensure that our core civilisational values find firm root.  Let us exert ourselves to strengthen India’s pluralism and diversity.  Let us be uncompromising in rooting out violence, prejudice and hatred.  
 
"Let us strive for rapid progress but even as we do so, ensure that the benefits of economic progress percolate down to the poorest of the poor and those living in the furthest corners of our country.  Let us make the poorest in our land part of the story of a rising India.  Let us embrace education, skill development and innovation which will enable us catapult India into the future and build a knowledge economy, riding the technological wave of the 21st century.
 
"I see a very bright future for India. Our Constitutional values, young population and entrepreneurial abilities as well as capacity for hard work provide us the fundamentals required for rapid progress as well as the building of a caring and compassionate society. India has changed dramatically in the last 70 years.  I am confident that in the next ten years, we will see even greater progress as we steer our nation, focused on further strengthening our open, democratic and inclusive society," he added.
 
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Modi urges youth to lead fight against black money by pushing digital transactions

Stating that digital transactions in India are witnessing a very rapid surge, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday urged the youth to become ambassadors of schemes in this regard and lead the movement against corruption and black money.

File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Stating that digital transactions in India are witnessing a very rapid surge, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today urged the youth to become ambassadors of schemes in this regard and lead the movement against corruption and black money.
 
"Take it further as it has a very major and prominent role in the fight against corruption and black money. To me, each and every individual involved in this mission constitute a new anti-corruption cadre in the country. In a way you are a soldier in the cause of cleanliness and purity," he said in Mann Ki Baat, his radio address to thenation.
 
"You know that this scheme will complete its 100 days on 14th April, the birth anniversary of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, a truly memorable day. There is going to be a very big draw of prizes worth crores of rupees on 14th April. There are still about 40-45 days left for that. Can you do one thing in the memory of Babasaheb Ambedkar? We have recently celebrated 125th birth anniversary of Baba Saheb Ambedkar. Remembering him, you teach at least 125 persons about downloading the BHIM App. Also teach them about the procedure of making transactions through this App; teach this specially to small traders in your neighbourhood. 
 
"Give special importance to Baba Saheb Ambedkar’s birth anniversary this time and the BHIM App. For this, I would like to say that we have to strengthen the foundation laid by Dr. Baba Saheb. We have to go from door to door associating everybody in order to place the BHIM App in 125 crore hands. Since its beginning about two-three months ago, this movement has had a clear impact and has been a very big success in many townships, villages and cities," he said.
 
Mr. Modi spoke at length on the recent launch of 104 satellites in one mission by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and an interceptor missile by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
 
"Our scientists have brought laurels to the nation, witnessed by the whole world. And we know that over the last few years, ISRO has accomplished various unprecedented missions with flying colours. After the successful mission of sending Mangalyaan to planet Mars, recently ISRO scripted a world record in the arena of space. In a mega mission, ISRO has successfully launched 104 satellites simultaneously into space. These satellites belonged to various countries such as America, Israel, Kazakhstan, Netherlands, Switzerland, UAE and, of course, India. India has created history by becoming the first country to launch successfully 104 satellites into space at one go.
 
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"This is a historic achievement for not just ISRO but for all of India. This cost effective, efficient space programme of ISRO has become a marvel for the entire world; the world has admired this success of Indian scientists of India whole-heartedly," he said.
 
"In the field of defence also, India has successfully test fired the Ballistic Interceptor Missile. During its trial, this missile, based on interceptor technology, destroyed an enemy missile at an altitude of about 100 km above the surface of the earth and thus marked its success. This is a significant, cutting edge competency in the arena of security. And you will be happy to know that hardly four or five countries in the world possess this capability. India’s scientists have demonstrated this prowess. Its core strength lies in the fact that if, even from a distance of 2000 km, a missile is launched to attack India, our missile can pre-emptively destroy it in the space itself," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said the country needed more scientists who could become catalysts for enduring change.
 
Turning to agriculture, he said all indications were that farmers had helped achieve record foodgrains production this year. He also thanked the people for the support for the cleanliness drive and for the Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao movement.
 
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OPS gets boost as more AIADMK bigwigs back him in power tussle with Sasikala

Tamil Nadu caretaker Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam received a major boost in his open power tussle with ruling AIADMK General Secretary V. K. Sasikala when one of her key supporters and State Minister K. Pandiarajan and party spokesman and former Minister C. Ponnaiyan crossed over into his camp on Saturday.

 
TN Education Minister Pandiarajan backs OPS
Tamil Nadu caretaker Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam received a major boost in his open power tussle with ruling AIADMK General Secretary V. K. Sasikala when one of her key supporters and State Minister K. Pandiarajan and party spokesman and former Minister C. Ponnaiyan crossed over into his camp today.
 
As Ms. Sasikala moved quickly to keep her flock together amidst reports of growing desertions, three Lok Sabha members, V. Sathyabama of Tiruppur, Ashok Kumar of Krishnagiri and P R Sundaram of Namakkal also threw in their lot with Mr. Panneerselvam today.
 
Ms. Sasikala, on the other hand, voicing concern over the delay by Tamil Nadu Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao in responding to her claim to form the next Government in the state, wrote to him again today, seeking an opportunity to parade before him the MLAs supporting her.
 
Mr. Pandiarajan, the state Minister for School Education and Sports and Youth Welfare, arrived at Mr. Panneerselvam's residence, bringing cheer to the large crowd camping there and which has seen its support base growing slowly in the past few days.
 
The decision of Mr. Pandiarajan, one of the founders of well-known recruitment and consultancy firm Ma Foi, to switch loyalties is significant, given the fact that he was one of Ms. Sasikala's most ardent supporters during the past several days of political crisis in the state.
 
An indication of his impending shift was available from a "tweet" he posted on micro-blogging site Twitter this morning.
 
"Will surely listen to the collective voice of my voters & decide in a way to uphold the dignity of Amma's memory & unity of AIADMK!" he said.
 
Mr. Ponnaiyan said Mr. Panneerselvam was capable of leading the party with discipline and of running a corruption-free government.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam's Twitter handle said that state Rural Industries Minister P. Benjamin would shortly visit him to extend his support to him.
 
In her letter to the Governor, Ms. Sasikala noted that she had written to him on February 5 and February 7, seeking an appointment with him.
 
The Governor met her and nine Tamil Nadu Ministers in the evening of February 9 when she formally informed him of her election as the leader of the AIADMK legislature party last Sunday.
 
O. Panneerselvam
O. Panneerselvam
"... I submitted my elaborate presentation to invite me to form the Government as I have absolute majority. Original letter and true copy of the resolution were also handed over to Your Excellency," she said.
 
"Thus, as it has been seven long days since the Chief Minister Thiru. O. P. Panneerselvam submitted and Your Excellency accepted his resignation, taking the urgency of the situation at hand, I would like to seek an appointment with Your Excellency by today along with all MLAs who extended their support to me regarding further course of action to form the Government," she said.
 
"I believe Your Excellency will act immediately to save the sovereignty of the Constitution, democracy and the interest of the state," she added.
 
Ms. Sasikala addressed her supporters outside Veda Nilayam, the Poes Garden residence of the late Ms. Jayalalithaa, and said, "Amma has given me 1.5 crore party brothers and sisters.When they are with me,the sinister intentions of many will not  harm me."
 
"Amma is confident that I will look after AIADMK with all care," she said.
 
She said the relentless work done by Ms. Jayalalithaa had made AIADMK the third largest party. "Amma is with us now. Our Amma is now showing us the betrayers of our party," she said.
 
"People who think they can separate our party which has 1.5 crore people will only face defeat. Amma won over the hurdles, we are facing the same situation,we will also win over it. I believe in justice and democracy," she added.
Later, Ms. Sasikala drove in a motorcade to the resort where about 120 AIADMK MLAs have been staying for the past few days and met them for discussions on their future course of action.
 
"After meeting the party MLAs, I feel happy," she said. "All the party MLAs are fine and happy."
 
She said the "created time lag", in inviting her to form the government, appeared to be intended to create a split in the party.
 
Ms. Sasikala said she and her supporters were "waiting patiently" till now for a response to their claim, adding that "necessary measures will be taken".
 
Mr. K. A. Sengottayan, who has been appointed as the new chairman of the AIADMK Presidium, told journalists at the resort that all the MLAs there would remain with Ms. Sasikala till the end. "Our only aim is to make her the Chief Minister," he said.
 
However, there has been no indication whatsoever from Raj Bhavan in the past few days on when and how the political stalemate would be ended.
 
Even as the two rival groups continued to swipe and snipe at each other, Raj Bhavan clarified yesterday that the Governor had not sent any report to the President or the Ministry of Home Affairs on the political situation in the state.
 
The clarification came after media reports which said that Mr. Rao, who is the Governor of Maharashtra and is holding additional charge as the Governor of Tamil Nadu, had sent a report to the Centre after his meetings with Mr. Panneerselvam and Ms. Sasikala.
 
"Thiru Ch. Vidyasagar Rao, Governor of Tamil Nadu has not sent any report either to the Ministry of Home Affairs or to the President of India, as reported in some of the media," a statement from Raj Bhavan said.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam, 65, had submitted his resignation last Sunday after Ms. Sasikala, 60, a long-time aide of late Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, was chosen by AIADMK MLAs as the new leader of their legislative party and, therefore, his successor. The Governor accepted his resignation on Monday and asked him to continue in office till alternative arrangments were made. 
 
Mr. Panneerselvam had been sworn in as the Chief Minister in the early hours of December 6, 2016 shortly after the death of Ms. Jayalalithaa, who was both the head of the government and the party supremo.
 
The usually reticent and self-effacing Mr. Panneerselvam made a surprise visit to the memorial of Ms. Jayalalithaa late in the night last Tuesday and then told waiting newspersons that he had been forced to resign and that he was willing to continue as Chief Minister if the people and the party so wished.
 
Ms. Sasikala was widely expected to be sworn in on Tuesday, but the Governor has not yet taken a final view on the situation confronting the state. Mr. Rao, who reached here from Mumbai on Thursday afternoon, met ten-member delegations led by the rivals, Mr. Panneerselvam and Ms. Sasikala, later that day.
 
While Mr. Panneerselvam told the Governor that he was forced to quit as Chief Minister and that he should be allowed to continue and take a floor test in the Assembly, Ms. Sasikala submitted to Mr. Rao a list of about 130 of the AIADMK's 135 MLAs and staked claim to forming the next Government.
 
The Governor is understood to be consulting legal and Constitutional experts and weighing his options.
 
Yesterday, Mr. Rao met State Chief Secretary Girija Vaidyanathan and Director General of Police T. K. Rajendran as well as Chennai Police Commissioner S. George amidst complaints by the Panneerselvam camp that the Sasikala group was holding about 120 MLAs at a nearby resort, many of them against their will.
 
V. K. Sasikala
V. K. Sasikala
DMK working president and leader of the Opposition M. K. Stalin met Mr Rao yesterday and submitted a representation in which he said the state administration could not be allowed to drift any further. He urged the Governor to take steps to ensure that a democratically and Constitutionally valid government was in place at the earliest through a free and fair floor test.
 
Meanwhile, Ms. Sasikala yesterday expelled AIADMK presidium chairman E. Madhusudanan from the primary membership of the party, a day after he threw in his lot with Mr. Panneerselvam. Mr. K. A. Sengottayan has been appointed as the new chairman of the presidium.
 
Mr. Madhusudanan, on his part, wrote to the Election Commission stating that Ms. Sasikala's election as General Secretary of the party was in violation of its rules and urging it to reject her claims in this regard.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam had said on Thursday that he would issue orders to convert Veda Nilayam, the Poes Garden residence of late Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, into a memorial for her. The announcement assumes significance in view of the fact that Ms. Sasikala is functioning from that house.
 
To take this a step further, his camp has launched a signature campaign outside his residence on the proposal.
 
Two days after Ms. Sasikala removed him from the post of AIADMK treasurer, Mr. Panneerselvam on Thursday also wrote to banks asking them to not allow any one to access the party funds without his written permission. He said his removal from the post of treasurer was illegal.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam has been always regarded as a trusted lieutenant of Ms. Jayalalithaa and had stood in for her as Chief Minister twice when she faced crises.
 
Among those who have openly come out to support Mr. Panneerselvam is AIADMK Rajya Sabha member V. Maitreyan and former Tamil Nadu Assembly speaker P. H. Pandian.
 
There has been opposition to Ms. Sasikala's elevation from a section of the public, in social media and from the Opposition in the state. They point to the fact that she has never contested any election and has no administrative experience. They also point to the fact that an appeal against her acquittal in a two-decade-old corruption case is pending before the Supreme Court and its verdict could be delivered as early as next week.
 
Ms. Sasikala and two others were co-accused with Ms. Jayalalithaa in the case, in which they were all acquitted by the Karnataka High Court in May 2015. The two others are her nephew Sudhakaran, who is Ms. Jayalalithaa's disowned foster son, and her close relative Ilavarasi.
 
The Karnataka High Court had allowed Ms. Jayalalithaa's appeal against the verdict of a special court in Bangalore which had, on September 23, 2014, sentenced her to four years in prison and asked her to pay a fine of Rs 100 crore. The special court had sentenced Ms. Sasikala, Sudharakan and Ilavarasi  also to four years in prison and fined them Rs 10 crore each.
 
Ms. Jayalalithaa was admitted to the Apollo Hospital here on September 22 and died on December 5 after a sudden cardiac arrest. Doctors who treated her had told a press conference here on Monday that the AIADMK leader had been treated for septicemia and a host of other medical problems.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam was Finance Minister in Ms. Jayalalithaa's Cabinet and was also handling all the portfolios held by her after she was hospitalised on September 22.
 
He had stood in as Chief Minister for Ms. Jayalalithaa twice in the past. On September 29, 2014, he took over the position when Ms. Jayalalithaa resigned after being sentenced to four years in prison by a special court in Bangalore in a corruption case. Ms. Jayalalithaa returned to office on May 23, 2015, twelve days after the Karnataka High Court acquitted her in the 19-year-old corruption case.
 
He had earlier served as Chief Minister for a brief period from September 21, 2001 to March 1, 2002 after the Supreme Court had declared null and void the action of then Governor Fatima Beevi appointing Ms Jayalalithaa to the position as she had been sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment in another corruption case. Ms Jayalalithaa was cleared of all charges in 2002 and returned as Chief Minister.
 
Ms. Sasikala's control over the party was in evidence in the manner in which she carried out Ms. Jayalalithaa's last rites and then took hold of the reins of the AIADMK a few days later. Since then, there has been a clamour from a group within the AIADMK that, after being chosen as the new General Secretary, she should also take charge of the Government. Ms. Jayalalithaa held both the posts and they argued that it was better if the same person held both positions.
 
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Panneerselvam's resignation accepted, Sasikala likely to be sworn in on Tuesday

Tamil Nadu Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao on Monday accepted the resignation of Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam and his Council of Ministers and his successor, Ms. V. K. Sasikala, a long-time aide of late AIADMK supremo J. Jayalalithaa, is expected to be sworn in on Tuesday.

V. K. Sasikala
V. K. Sasikala
Tamil Nadu Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao today accepted the resignation of Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam and his Council of Ministers and his successor, Ms. V. K. Sasikala, a long-time aide of late AIADMK supremo J. Jayalalithaa, is expected to be sworn in tomorrow.
 
The Governor requested Mr. Panneerselvam and his Council of Ministers to continue to function until alternate arrangements are made, a press release from the Raj Bhavan said.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam, 65, had resigned from office yesterday after the ruling All India Anna Dravid Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) legislature party met here and chose Ms. Sasikala as its new leader.
 
Ms. Sasikala, 60, is expected to be sworn in as the new Chief Minister of the State tomorrow morning at a function at the Madras University auditorium. 
 
Mr. Panneerselvam had been sworn in as the Chief Minister of the state in the early hours of December 6, succeeding Ms. Jayalalithaa who passed away at a private hospital here late night on December 5.
 
"Chinnamma elected as the AIADMK Legislature Party Leader," the AIADMK had said on micro-blogging site Twitter yesterday. Ms. Sasikala is referred to as "Chinamma" by party workers, just as Ms. Jayalalithaa was called "Amma".
 
It said Mr. Panneerselvam himself, known to be a long-time Jayalalithaa loyalist, had proposed Ms. Sasikala's name as the new leader of the AIADMK legislature party leader.
 
"Chinnamma all set to become the next Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu," the party said.
 
Ms. Sasikala had then made a brief appearance in the balcony of Ms. Jalayalalithaa's residence in Poes Garden here, dressed in a green saree and blouse, the AIADMK's colour, and greeted the crowds gathered outside with a "namaste" and then the "V" sign.
 
She later drove to the AIADMK headquarters where she said that it was Mr. Panneerselvam who had urged her first to take charge as General Secretary of the party and it was he who insisted, first, that she become the Chief Minister of the state. Ms. Sasikala has never held any position in Government before nor has she ever contested any elections.
 
She assured the people that her government would always work for the welfare of the people. "Tamil Nadu Government will follow the principles of Amma," she said.
  
Mr. Panneerselvam, 65, was Finance Minister in Ms. Jayalalithaa's Cabinet and was also handling all the portfolios held by her after she was admitted to the Apollo Hospital here on September 22.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam had stood in as Chief Minister for Ms. Jayalalithaa twice in the past. On September 29, 2014, he took over the position when Ms. Jayalalithaa resigned after being sentenced to four years in prison by a special court in Bangalore in a corruption case. Ms. Jayalalithaa returned to office on May 23, 2015, twelve days after the Karnataka High Court acquitted her in the 19-year-old corruption case.
 
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He had earlier served as Chief Minister for a brief period from September 21, 2001 to March 1, 2002 after the Supreme Court had declared null and void the action of then Governor Fatima Beevi appointing Ms Jayalalithaa to the position as she had been sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment in another corruption case. Ms Jayalalithaa was cleared of all charges in 2002 and returned as Chief Minister.
 
Ms. Sasikala's control over the party was in evidence in the manner in which she carried out Ms. Jayalalithaa's last rites and then took hold of the reins of the AIADMK a few days later. Since then, there has been a clamour from a group within the AIADMK that, after being chosen as the new General Secretary, she should also take charge of the Government. Ms. Jayalalithaa held both the posts and they argued that it was better if the same person held both positions.
 
Ms. Sasikala, along with her nephew Sudhakaran, who is Ms. Jayalalithaa's disowned foster son, and her close relative Ilavarasi , were  co-accused with Ms. Jayalalithaa in an 18-year-old corruption case, in which they were all acquitted by the Karnataka High Court in May 2015. An appeal against the acquittal is pending before the Supreme Court and its verdict in the matter is awaited.
 
The Karnataka High Court had allowed Ms. Jayalalithaa's appeal against the verdict of a special court in Bangalore which had, on September 23, 2014, sentenced her to four years in prison and asked her to pay a fine of Rs 100 crore. The special court had sentenced Ms. Sasikala, Sudharakan and Ilavarasi  also to four years in prison and fined them Rs 10 crore each.
 
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