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Former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley passes away at 66

Former Finance Minister and senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley passed away in New Delhi on Saturday after a prolonged illness. He was 66.
Arun Jaitley (File photo: IANS)
Arun Jaitley (File photo: IANS)
Former Finance Minister and senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley passed away here on Saturday after a prolonged illness. He was 66.
 
Jaitley had been admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) on August 9 after he complained of breathlessness. His condition had steadily deteriorated, and he was put on life support. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stalwart had undergone dialysis on Thursday.
 
"It is with profound grief that we inform about the sad demise of former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Member of Parliament at 12.07 p.m. on Saturday. Jaitley was treated by a multi-disciplinary team of senior doctors," said Aarti Vij, Chairperson, Media and Protocol AIIMS.
 
The veteran BJP leader served as the Finance Minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's previous cabinet from 2014 to 2018. He was also the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha from 2009 to 2014.
 
During his stint in the Finance Ministry, Jaitley was instrumental in implementing the Goods and Service Tax (GST) aimed at streamlining India's indirect tax structure. It was also during his tenure that the controversial decision of demonetisation was taken.
 
Jaitley will be cremated on Sunday at the Nigam Bodh Ghat at 2 p.m. His body is being shifted to his home in Kailash Colony. It will be shifted to the BJP headquarters at 10 a.m. on Sunday for people to pay their tributes.
 
Condolences poured in for Jaitley who was one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's most trusted colleagues and an accomplished lawyer.
 
President Ram Nath Kovind said that Jaitley's death leaves a huge void in the intellectual ecosystem.
 
"Extremely saddened by the passing of Shri Arun Jaitley after battling a long illness with fortitude and dignity. A brilliant lawyer, a seasoned parliamentarian, and a distinguished minister, he contributed immensely to nation building," he tweeted.
 
Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu said his death is an irreparable loss to the nation. 
 
Naidu, who was to leave from Chennai to Nellore in Andhra Pradesh, cut short his visit and is returning to Delhi.
 
Prime Minister Modi, who is in the UAE, said he has lost a valued friend and that the BJP and Jaitley shared an unbreakable bond.
 
"BJP and Arun Jaitley ji had an unbreakable bond. As a fiery student leader, he was at the forefront of protecting our democracy during the Emergency. He became a much liked face of our party who could articulate the party programmes and ideology to a wide spectrum of society."
 
Modi also said that he has lost a valuable friend in Jaitley. "I have lost a valued friend whom I have had the honour of knowing for decades. His insight on issues and nuanced understanding of matters had very few parallels. He lived well, leaving us all with innumerable happy memories. We will miss him!"
 
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman paid rich tributes to her predecessor Jaitley, describing him as a mentor with matchless astuteness.
 
"No words can describe the loss of Shri @arunjaitley. A mentor to many of us, a guide and a moral support and strength. Have learnt so much from him. A fine large-hearted person. Always ready to help anyone/everyone. His intelligence, sagacity, astuteness have no match," she said in a tweet.
 
Congress President Sonia Gandhi said Jaitley's contribution to public life will forever be remembered.
 
"Jaitley had a long innings as a public figure, parliamentarian and minister and his contributions to public life will forever be remembered," she said.
 
Congress leader and former Defence Minister A.K. Antony said he had a long-standing and good relationship with Jaitley.
 
"He was a person who used to maintain a very good relation with all, irrespective of political affiliations. He is certainly going to be missed by all those who knew him," said Antony.
 
IANS

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Confident that changes in Kashmir will benefit people: President

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

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Kerala flood toll hits 67; over 2.54 lakh in camps

The heavy rains that lashed Kerala over the last few days have lessened in intensity, even as the toll rose to 67 while over 2.54 lakh displaced people were in relief camps, the state government said on Sunday.
The scene at Puthmula village, Mepaddi, Wayanad district of Kerala where a landslide caused large-scale destruction, on August 9, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
The scene at Puthmula village, Mepaddi, Wayanad district of Kerala where a landslide caused large-scale destruction, on August 9, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
The heavy rains that lashed Kerala over the last few days have lessened in intensity, even as the toll rose to 67 while over 2.54 lakh displaced people were in relief camps, the state government said on Sunday.
 
All the 14 districts in the state, except Kollam, have people taking shelter in over 1,600 relief camps. Malappuram district with over 54,000 people has the largest number of people in the camps.
 
Earlier in the day, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told the media that compared to last year's floods which ravaged the entire state, the intensity this time is not that bad and has affected fewer districts.
 
"In a big relief to those engaged in rescue efforts, the rains today appear to have come down," he said.
 
The worst-affected areas are Meppadi in Wayanad and Kavalapara in Malappuram. Various rescue teams are working hard to recover bodies of those trapped.
 
"As of now, eight people are still missing in Meppadi and with the rains subsiding, the rescue works are going on well. However, more rains are predicted in the coming days. All should be on high alert and be receptive to warnings," Vijayan said.
 
Earlier in the day, former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, who is the MP from Wayanad, reached Kozhikode and drove first to Kavalapara and visited a church where 360 people were taking shelter. He listened to their woes and assured them of all possible help.
 
Gandhi will be touring Wayanad on Monday where he is expected to visit a few relief camps and affected areas.
 
Meanwhile, Vijayan expressed anguish at the manner in which some sections are spreading rumours about contributions to the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund.
 
"This fund will be used only for the needs of the affected and not for anything else. Knowing well about this, it's unfortunate that some negative campaigns are currently on... what we have found out is that the origin of this is from outside our state. The media also has a role in this to ensure that these anti-social measures are curbed," he said.
 
"We have not yet asked for funds from the Centre and they are providing us all the support for the ongoing relief and rescue work," added Vijayan.
 
Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala told the media that he has called on everyone to contribute to the fund generously.
 
The maximum deaths --  18 -- were reported from Wayanad, while Malappuram, Palakkad, Idukki, and Kozhikode have also reported casualties.
 
"Today (Sunday) there is a red alert in Kannur, Kasargode and Wayanad and orange alerts in six other districts," Vijayan said.
 
The Chief Minister said despite heavy rains, the water level had increased only in three dams while water level at dams in Idukki and Pathanamthitta continued to be low.
 
Even as a few long-distance trains were cancelled for the day, Railways were able to operate short-distance ones in several sectors while in a few other sectors, operations are expected to begin soon.
 
The Cochin International Airport that was closed a few days back, was also opened for service Sunday afternoon when the first flight landed.
 
"Operations have resumed and passengers can come for check-in according to the schedules," said an airport official.
 
IANS
 

60 killed in Kerala flood; 2.27 lakh in relief camps

Even as the heavy rains that lashed Kerala in the past few days abated, the death toll stood at 60 on Sunday, according to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
The scene at Puthmula village, Mepaddi, Wayanad district of Kerala where a landslide caused large-scale destruction, on August 9, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
The scene at Puthmula village, Mepaddi, Wayanad district of Kerala where a landslide caused large-scale destruction, on August 9, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
Even as the heavy rains that lashed Kerala in the past few days abated, the death toll stood at 60 on Sunday, according to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
 
Compared to last year's floods which ravaged the entire state, this time it is not that bad and has affected fewer districts, Vijayan said soon after chairing a meeting of the disaster response team that functions from near his office here.
 
"The rains today appear to have come down and have been a big relief for those engaged in the rescue and relief operations in the worst affected areas. Today there are 1,551 camps operating in which 2,27,335 people are housed," said Vijayan.
 
The worst affected places are near Meppadi in Wayanad and Kavalapara in Malappuram districts and those are the places where the various rescue teams are working hard to recover bodies of those trapped under a huge pile of mud.
 
"As of now, eight people are still missing in Meppadi and with the rains subsiding, the rescue works are going on well. The forecast, however, appears that more rains are predicted in the coming days and hence all should be on high alert and the need of the hour is all should be receptive to warnings and alerts and should listen to what authorities ask," added Vijayan.
 
He also expressed anguish in the manner in which some anti-social elements are taking to social media spreading canards about contributions to the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund.
 
"This fund will be used only for the needs of the affected and not for anything else. Knowing well about this, it's unfortunate that some negative campaigns are currently on and what we have found out is that the origin of this is from outside our state. The media also has a role in this to ensure that these anti-socials are curbed," said Vijayan.
 
"We have not yet asked for funds from the Centre and they are providing us all the support for the ongoing relief and rescue work," added Vijayan.
 
The maximum deaths -- 18 -- were reported from Wayanad, while Malappuram, Palakkad, Idukki, Kozhikode have also reported casualties.
 
"Today there is a red alert in Kannur, Kasargode and Wayanad and orange alerts in six other districts," he said.
 
The Chief Minister said despite heavy rains, the water level had increased only in three dams while water level at dams in Idukki and Pathanamthitta continue to be low.
 
Even while a few long-distance trains were cancelled for the day, they were able to operate short-distance ones in several sectors while in few other sectors, operations are expected to begin soon.
 
The other good news was that the Cochin International Airport that was closed a few days back, was opened for service Sunday afternoon when the first flight landed.
 
"Operations have resumed and passengers can come for check-in according to the schedules," said an airport official.
 
IANS
 

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Kerala floods toll 55, over 1.5 lakh shifted to relief camps

The Kerala floods death toll has reached 55 and over 1.5 lakh people have been shifted to around 1,300 camps across the rain-battered state even as the Meteorological Department has predicted more rains in the coming days.
The scene at Puthmula village, Mepaddi, Wayanad district of Kerala where a landslide caused large-scale destruction, on August 9, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
The scene at Puthmula village, Mepaddi, Wayanad district of Kerala where a landslide caused large-scale destruction, on August 9, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
The Kerala floods death toll has reached 55 and over 1.5 lakh people have been shifted to around 1,300 camps across the rain-battered state even as the Meteorological Department has predicted more rains in the coming days.
 
The maximum deaths -- 15 -- were reported from Wayanad, while Malappuram, Palakkad, Idukki, Kozhikode were other badly-hit districts, officials said here on Saturday. A red alert for Sunday has been issued in Kasargode, Kannur and Wayanad. More rain is predicted in a few other districts.
 
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Saturday took stock of the situation. Officials informed him that the maximum number of relief camps had been set up in Kozhikode, followed by Wayanad.
 
Vijayan had earlier said 80 landslides had been reported from eight worst-hit districts. "Authorities are yet to ascertain the actual number of missing in the landslides at Meppadi in Wayanad district and Kavalapara in Malappuram district.
 
According to unconfirmed reports, 41 were missing in Kavalapara, he added.
 
Stating that no aerial survey could be conducted due to inclement weather, he said as soon as the weather cleared ups the aerial survey could be carried out.
 
The Chief Minister said despite heavy rains, water level had increased only three dams and continued to be low in Idukki and Pathanamthitta. 
 
Floodgates of the Banasura dam, which was overflowing, were opened as per the announcement and no damage was reported as those living downstream had been shifted to secure places.
 
He said all the government officials and departments engaged in relief works would be working on holidays as well. "Cellphone towers on wheels are being set up in areas where communication has snapped," said Vijayan.
 
The railways were working overtime to start trains' operations and army's help had been sought for inspection of bridges, he said.
 
Earlier in the day with rain subsiding in Ernakulam, water receded from the Cochin International Airport and air operations are likely to start on Sunday. But officials are keeping their fingers crossed as rain started again on Saturday afternoon.
 
Emirates Airlines on Saturday announced that it would operate additional flights from Thiruvananthapuram airport, following cancellation of flights at Cochin airport over the past few days.
 
Meanwhile, while former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi is expected to arrive at Kozhikode on Sunday to proceed to Wayanad, his parliamentary constituency, senior BJP leader V. Muraleedharan said Kerala had no funds shortage as around Rs 1,400 crore provided to the state as part of the Rs 2,047 crore flood relief last year had remained unused.
 
IANS
 

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Sushma Swaraj cremated with full state honours

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

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

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

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Missing Cafe Coffee Day founder V G Siddhartha's body found from river

The body of Cafe Coffee Day founder V. G. Siddhartha was found in the Netravathi river near Mangaluru in Karnataka on Wednesday morning, about 36 hours after he went missing on Monday evening.
V G Siddhartha
V G Siddhartha
The body of Cafe Coffee Day (CCD) founder V. G. Siddhartha was found in the Netravathi river near Mangaluru in Karnataka on Wednesday morning, about 36 hours after he went missing on Monday evening.
 
He had last been seen on a bridge on the river near Mangalaru and the police had launched a massive search to trace Siddhartha, who was suspected to have committed suicide by jumping off the bridge into the river.
 
Mangaluru Police Commissioner Sandeep Patil told journalists this morning that fishermen had found the body around 6.30 am today and informed the police.
 
Senior police officers rushed to the scene and took charge of the body, which was then sent to the Wenlock Hospital in Mangaluru for post-mortem examination.
 
Patil said the family of Siddhartha had been informed and his relatives were expected to arrive soon and help in the identification of the body and completion of other formalities.
 
The body will be later handed over to the family, who will decide on the time and place of the last rites, he added.
 
About 200 people, including policemen, Coast Guard personnel, divers and fishermen, had been engaged in the search for the missing coffee tycoon, one of the best-known businessmen of Karnataka.
 
Siddhartha was on his way to Mangaluru from Ullal on Monday evening. Around 6.30 pm, when his car reached the bridge, he told his driver to stop so that he could take a walk for some time. He asked the driver to wait for him at the other end of the bridge.
 
When Siddhartha did not come even after an hour, the driver returned to the spot to look for him. He then informed the businessman's family who, in turn, informed the police.
 
Siddhartha, 60, who was the Chairman and Managing director of Coffee Day Enterprise Limited (CDEL), the holding company of all his companies, is the eldest son-in-law of former External Affairs and former Karnataka Chief Minister S. M. Krishna. Krishna, who had also served as the Governor of Maharashtra for some time, was a senior Congress leader who shifted to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in March, 2017.
 
In his complaint to the police, Siddhartha's driver Basavaraj Patil said that the businessman had gone missing after he got out of the car at the bridge and started walking while talking to someone on his mobile phone.
 
"Siddhartha got down from the car on the side of the bridge and asked me to wait for him at the other end, as he wanted to walk for a while. But he did not turn up even after an hour," said the driver in his complaint filed in Kannada.
 
Siddhartha had on March 18 this year sold his entire 20 per cent stake in the city-based software major Mindtree to the Mumbai-based Larsen & Toubro (L&T) for Rs 3,300 crore at Rs 980 per share. He wanted to raise funds to reduce his company's mounting debts.
 
"Sir (Siddhartha) and I left in a car from Bengaluru on Monday afternoon for Sakaleshpur near Hassan, where he has a house near one of his coffee estates. On reaching there by evening, he told me to drive to Mangaluru on National Highway 66. When I drove onto the bridge, he asked me to stop the car and got down, saying he would walk and get into the car at the end of the bridge on the other side," the driver recounted.
 
When Siddhartha didn't reach the other side of the bridge, the driver went in search of him but he was nowhere to be found. "I filed the complaint with the local police past midnight on his family's advice, when I told them how Siddhartha suddenly went missing," Patil told the police.
 
The port city of Mangaluru is about 350 km west of Bengaluru.
 
During the day yesterday, a fisherman in the area had claimed that he saw a man jumping off the bridge into the river at the place and time where Siddhartha was seen last.
 
"When I heard a thud-like sound in the river, I turned and saw the same man in the water struggling to float but drowned by the time I could reach the spot. As the current was strong, I could not find him in the fast-moving water, as the river is almost full and deep," the fisherman told the police.
 
Siddhartha had left Bengaluru on Monday afternoon for Sakleshpur near Hassan where he has a house and one of his coffee estates. As it was on the way to Mangaluru, he told Patil to drive towards Mangaluru after a short break at Sakleshpur to freshen up.
 
In a letter to the Coffee Day Board of Directors and employees, dated July 27, Siddhartha spoke about pressure from one of the company's private equity partners, who was forcing him to buy backshares, as well as from other lenders. He also wrote about a "lot of harassment from the previous Director General of Income Tax".
 
In a letter to the Coffee Day Board of Directors and employees, dated July 27, Siddhartha spoke about pressure from one of the company's private equity partners, who was forcing him to buy backshares, as well as from other lenders. He also wrote about a "lot of harassment from the previous Director General of Income Tax".
 
"I have failed to create the right profitable business model despite my best efforts.
 
"I would like to say I gave it my all. I am very sorry to let down all the people that put their trust in me. I fought for a long time but today I gave up as I could not take any more pressure from one of the private equity partners forcing me to buy back shares, a transaction I had partially completed six months ago by borrowing a large sum of money from a friend. Tremendous pressure from other lenders lead to me succumbing to the situation. There was a lot of harassment from the previous DG Income Tax in the form of attaching our shares on two separate occasions to block our Mindtree deal and then taking possession of our Coffee Day shares, although the revised returns have been filed by us. This was very unfair and has led to a serious liquidity crunch," he said.
 
"I have enclosed a list of our assets and tentative value of each asset. As seen below our assets outweigh our liabilities and can help repay everybody," he added.
 
NNN

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Massive efforts launched to rescue stranded train passengers in Thane

The Indian Air Force, Navy, Army and the National Disaster Response Force launched a massive aerial and surface operation to rescue an estimated 1,500 passengers stranded in the Mahalaxmi Express on the flooded railway tracks at Vangani here on Saturday, officials said.
The Kolhapur-Mumbai Mahalaxmi Express, with about 1500 people on board, stranded in 4-5 feet flood waters near Vangani station, Thane, since Friday night after heavy rains lashed Mumbai and surrounding areas. (Photo: IANS)
The Kolhapur-Mumbai Mahalaxmi Express, with about 1500 people on board, stranded in 4-5 feet flood waters near Vangani station, Thane, since Friday night after heavy rains lashed Mumbai and surrounding areas. (Photo: IANS)
The Indian Air Force (IAF), Navy, Army and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) launched a massive aerial and surface operation to rescue an estimated 1,500 passengers stranded in the Mahalaxmi Express on the flooded railway tracks at Vangani here on Saturday, officials said.
 
Following an SOS from the Maharashtra government to the Defence authorities, at least two helicopters, including a Seaking and a MI17, with relief material and personnel were despatched from Mumbai to the site.
 
Simultaneously, teams of the NDRF reached the train from Badlapur, around 7 km away in inflatable rubber boats and started extracting the passengers from the train, which left Mumbai for Kolhapur on Friday around 8 p.m.
 
The teams, which included divers with special equipment and medical aid, managed to rescue around 120 passengers, including women, children and toddlers, by noon though work was hampered due to continuing heavy rain.
 
Officials said it may take several hours to complete the rescue operation depending on the rain and the floodwaters.
 
The IAF/NDRF teams also brought to safety a group of around seven passengers, who got down from the train to start walking towards Badlapur station but found themselves stuck in the swirling floodwaters, running between 3-6 feet, for over two hours until some local villagers threw ropes to them.
 
Torrential rain since the past three days in Mumbai, Palghar, Thane, Raigad, Ratnagiri, and in some areas over 100 mm, have led to chaos on the roads, partially hitting rail operations and affecting around two dozen flights at the Mumbai Airport in the past 24 hours.
 
On Saturday, Guardian Minister for Thane Eknath Gaikwad said two helicopters were dispatched for the rescue operation, along with eight NDRF teams on the ground from Mumbai, Thane and Pune which were rushed there with inflatable rubber boats and other equipment.
 
The government response came after hundreds of panicking, starving and thirsting passengers on the Mumbai-Kolhapur train started sending out videos appealing for help on the social media videos as the water levels continued to rise around the train.
 
They said they had no drinking water or food since nearly 15 hours and no escape route as the train was practically cut off with five-six feet water on all sides.
 
The towns of Badlapur, Ulhasnagar and Vangani were practically underwater since early today as heavy rain lashed the region, flooding local rivers and other water bodies.
 
The Central Railway (CR) warned the Mahalaxmi Express passengers against stepping out of the trains in view of the dangerous water levels outside and requested them to wait for help which was on the way.
 
The CR added that a relief train has been stationed at Badlapur to ferry the passengers, along with food, water and medical supplies, besides making arrangements to take the passengers onward to Kolhapur.
 
While the city's lifeline, the suburban trains in Mumbai, functioned with delays of 15-20 minutes on Western Railway and CR, the latter had to cancel services between Karjat-Kalyan (in Thane) owing to floods and waterlogging on the tracks since Friday.
 
Though the country's commercial capital continued to get intermittent showers and rain, the worst-hit were Thane and Ratnagiri with towns of Ulhasnagar, Murbad, Badlapur, Tiwala, Vangani, Khed, Chiplun and surroundings practically submerged.
 
In Mumbai, Minister of Education Ashish Shelar authorised school and college principals to declare a holiday to ensure students are not inconvenienced if heavy rain continued.
 
IANS
 

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

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

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

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

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

Over 2.5 million affected due to floods in Bihar

The flood situation in Bihar continued to remain grim on Tuesday with over 2.5 million people affected by it across the 12 districts of the state, officials said.
A road destroyed by flood waters in Katra block of Muzaffarpur, Bihar on July 15, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
A road destroyed by flood waters in Katra block of Muzaffarpur, Bihar on July 15, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
The flood situation in Bihar continued to remain grim on Tuesday with over 2.5 million people affected by it across the 12 districts of the state, officials said.
 
In the last 24 hours, all the major rivers were flowing above the danger level, leading to embankment breaches. 
 
There were reports of fresh floods in three new districts of Saharsa, Katihar and Purnea.
 
Dozens of villages have been inundated that have forced people to flee their homes and seek shelter at safer places, a disaster management official said.
 
In the worst-hit Sitamarhi and Araria districts, roads have also been damaged.
 
The floods were caused by heavy rain in north Bihar and the catchment areas of major rivers in neighbouring Nepal.
 
However, Water Resources Department officials said the water level in rivers originating in Nepal was likely to decrease as rain in those areas have stopped.
 
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar carried out an aerial survey of the affected Seemanchal and Koshi region on Sunday and Monday. He will inform the Bihar Assembly on Tuesday about the situation.
 
To date, 196 relief camps have been set up in the affected areas, with 644 community kitchens providing food to the displaced people.
 
The Disaster Management Department said relief and rescue operations were continuing in the flood-affected areas. 
 
A total of 26 companies of the National Disaster Response Force, State Disaster Response Force and Seema Sashatra Bal have been deployed to carry out the operations.
 
IANS

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Jaishankar joins BJP, nominated to contest RS seat from Gujarat

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

Hundreds of angry protesters staged a demonstration on Tuesday against Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's visit to Muzaffarpur district, where 107 children have died due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES).
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar accompanied by Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi visiting children with encephalitis symptoms at a hospital in Muzaffarpur, Bihar, on June 18, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar accompanied by Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi visiting children with encephalitis symptoms at a hospital in Muzaffarpur, Bihar, on June 18, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
Hundreds of angry protesters staged a demonstration on Tuesday against Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's visit to Muzaffarpur district, where 107 children have died due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES).
 
The protest took place outside the state-run Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH), where Nitish Kumar arrived with Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi. 
 
The protesters, annoyed over poor medical treatment and lack of facilities, shouted slogans like "Chief Minister wapas jao (Go back Chief Minister)".
 
The Chief Minister and his deputy visited children admitted at the hospital as well as their parents and left without stopping to acknowledge the protesters.
 
The Chief Minister will hold a review meeting with the doctors and health officials later in the day to take stock of the situation.
 
Of the 107 victims, 88 died at SKMCH and 19 at the private Kejriwal Hospital. In both the hospitals, over 100 seriously ill children with symptoms of AES are undergoing treatment.
 
However, unofficial reports say the number of deaths is much higher because some children died in the villages before they could be taken to hospital.
 
On Sunday, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had visited SKMCH to review the situation.
 
IANS
 

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Cyclone Vayu likely to cross Gujarat coast early Thursday morning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SC rejects plea on Rahul Gandhi citizenship

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

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Extremely severe cyclone Fani to hit Odisha coast on Friday afternoon

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