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TN CM says state govt. will promulgate ordinance to allow Jallikattu

As the protests against the Supreme Court ban on Jallikattu continued in Chennai and other parts of the state for the fourth day on Friday, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam said his government had decided to promulgate an ordinance to allow the conduct of the bull-taming spot in the next day or two.

 
Protests against Jallikattu ban continue Tamil Nadu
As the protests against the Supreme Court ban on Jallikattu continued in Chennai and other parts of the state for the fourth day today, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam said his government had decided to promulgate an ordinance to allow the conduct of the bull-taming spot in the next day or two.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam, who had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the issue yesterday, told journalists in New Delhi this morning that the draft ordinance had been drawn up in consultaiton with legal experts andsent to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs.
 
He said the ordinance would be forwarded to President Pranab Mukherjee. After his approval, it would be sent to Tamil Nadu Governor C Vidyasagar Rao for his assent, the Chief Minister said.
 
He said that, after the ordinance is promulgated with the assistance of the Centre, as assured by Mr. Modi, Jallikattu would be held in one or two days.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam urged students and youth, who have gathered at the Marina Beach here and in various locations across the state to call off their agitation in view of the state government's decision to promulgate an ordinance.
 
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He said senior Tamil Nadu government officials would stay back in New Delhi to expedite the process of promulgating the ordinance, which would introduce state-specific changes to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
 
The protesters welcomed the announcement made by the Chief Minister but made it clear that their protests would continue until the ban on Jallikattu was withdrawn once and for all.
 
Meanwhile, normal life in the state was partially affected as a one-day strike called by trade unions and various other organisations supporting Jallikattu, began this morning.
 
Shops and some business establishments in some parts of the city remained closed. Autorickshaws and trucks also stayed off the roads in some parts. With schools and colleges also closed in some districts, traffic was thin on the roads in many towns.
 
The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), the main opposition party in the state, launched a "rail roko" agitation in support of Jallikattu. As a result of the demonstrations, the Southern Railway cancelled or partially cancelled several trains today and diverted some others.
 
The film fraternity has also come out in support of the protesters and shooting and recording were cancelled and noon shows were cancelled in many theatres. Tamil actors took part in a day-long fast under the banner of Nadigar Sangam.
 
Lawyers also staged demonstrations at many places and stayed away from the courts today.
 
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Protests continue in TN against Jallikattu ban, CM meets Modi

Thousands of youth, many of them students, continued their protests in Chennai and other places across Tamil Nadu for the third today on Thursday, demanding the lifting of the ban imposed by the Supreme Court on Jallikattu, a popular bull-taming sport in the state.

 
Protests against Jallikattu ban continue in Tamil Nadu
Thousands of youth, many of them students, continued their protests in Chennai and other places across Tamil Nadu for the third today today, demanding the lifting of the ban imposed by the Supreme Court on Jallikattu, a popular bull-taming sport in the state.
 
Even as the protests appeared to be turning into a mass movement, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi today and called for the immediate promulgation of an ordinance to lift the ban.
 
"The ban imposed on Jallikattu by the Supreme Court came up for discussion. While appreciating the cultural significance of Jallikattu, the Prime Minister observed that the matter is presently sub-judice," a press release from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said.
 
It said the Centre would be supportive of steps taken by the State Government.
 
In Chennai, thousands of people -- including students, women,  children, IT professionals and lawyers, with a sprinkling of film personalities -- have gathered on the Marina beach to protest against the ban, which has meant that Jallikattu could not be held for the third successive day during the Pongal festival.
 
The protesters have said that they would continue their agitation till the ban is lifted. They argue that Jallikattu is part of the culture, heritage and traditions of Tamils.
 
Many colleges in the city declared a holiday for the day today and this is expected to increase the number of people protesting at Marina beach, which has turned into a sea of humanity. The protests have also drawn support from various organisations, including truckers and the film fraternity. Volunteers were supplying food and water to the protesters.
 
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After his meeting with Mr. Modi, Mr. Panneerselvam told reporters in New Delhi that the State Government, along with the Centre, would soon take some "good steps" to ensure the continuance of Jallikattu.
 
''You will soon see some steps. Wait, good will happen," he said.
 
He said he had presented a memorandum to Mr. Modi on the Jallikattu issue as well as on the need for urgent Central assistance to tackle the drought in the state following scanty rainfall.
 
Mr. Modi promised to send a team of Central officials to the state for an assessment of the drought situation and the acute drinking water scarcity being faced by Chennai because of the low storage levels in reservoirs.
 
Mr. Panneerselvam said Mr. Modi heard all the issues raised by him. He said the Prime Minister had high regard for the sentiments of the people of Tamil Nadu and had promised full support to the state.
 
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Jayalalithaa's condition remains "grave" after suffering cardiac arrest on Sunday

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, who suffered a cardiac arrest on Sunday evening, remained in a "grave situation" at the Apollo Hospital in Chennai, where she has been undergoing treatment for a chronic lung infection and other medical problems since late September.

 
Jayalalithaa remains in critical condition at Apollo Hospital in Chennai
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, who suffered a cardiac arrest yesterday evening, remained in a "grave situation" at the Apollo Hospital here, where she has been undergoing treatment for a chronic lung infection and other medical problems since late September.
 
"Despite our best efforts, our beloved CM remains in a grave situation," a statement from the hospital said today.
 
"I can confirm that everything possible is being done to give her the best chance of surviving this shocking event," Professor Richard Beale of London, one of the doctors being consulted, said in a statement.
 
"She is being cared for by a highly expert multidisciplinary team, and is now on extra-corporeal life support.  This is the most advanced level of support available, and is an approach that best centres internationally would take in this situation. Madam has received exceptional care from the Apollo and AIIMS Teams, which are the equal of any in the world," he said.
 
"Our team of expert doctors continue to closely monitor and treat the Honourable Chief Minister. However her condition remains critical," Apollo Hospital said.
 
It said a large team of doctors from Apollo and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi continued to provide all life saving measures.
 
"Our prayers are with her and we hope she will recover soon. We request all of you to pray for her good health and well being. The Hon'ble CM is the beloved leader of the masses. Please join us in praying for her speedy recovery," the hospital had said in a series of posts on micro-blogging site Twitter yesterday after confirming that Ms. Jayalalithaa, who was believed to be on the road to recovery, had suffered a cardiac arrest.
 
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Tamil Nadu Governor Chennamaneni Vidyasagar Rao, to inquire about Ms. Jayalalithaa's heath.
 
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Mr. Rao, who is the Governor of Maharashtra and is holding additional charge of Tamil Nadu since August 31, flew in to Chennai late last night and drove straight to the hospital where he was briefed on Ms. Jayalalithaa's health situation by a team of doctors. He also held a meeting with senior Tamil Nadu officials.
 
Hundreds of workers of Ms. Jayalalithaa's party, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) have been camping outside the hospital after hearing about the deterioration in her health.
 
Police stepped up security arrangements outside the hospital as well as elsewhere in the city and the state as a precautionary measure.
 
Earlier in the day yesterday, the AIADMK had said that Ms. Jayalalithaa would soon decide when she would leave hospital and return home after doctors had declared that she had fully recovered.
 
The hospital has said several times in the past few weeks that the Chief Minister, called "Amma" by her supporters, was well enough to return home whenever she wanted. Her party said she was involved in taking government decisions and also speaking on occasion to those who were allowed to meet her.
 
Ms. Jayalalithaa was admitted to the hospital on September 27 for treatment of dehydration and fever. Later, there were reports that she was also being treated for a chronic lung infection and that she had been put on respiratory support. Specialist doctors from London and Delhi had been flown in to monitor her condition.
 
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Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa suffers cardiac arrest in hospital

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, who has been undergoing treatment at the Apollo Hospital in Chennai for the last three months for a lung infection, suffered a cardiac arrest on Sunday evening, the hospital said.

 
Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa suffers cardiac arrest
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, who has been undergoing treatment at the Apollo Hospital here for the last three months for a lung infection, suffered a cardiac arrest this evening, the hospital said.
 
"The Hon'ble Chief Minister of Tamil Nau who is undergoing treatment at Apollo Hospitals, Greams Road, Chennai, suffered a cardiac arrest this evening," the hospital said in a statement late tonight.
 
"She is being treated and monitored by a team of experts, including Cardiologists, Pulmonologists and the Critical Care Specialists," the statement added.
 
The hospital said Ms. Jayalalithaa was on extracorporeal membrane heart assist device and was being treated by a team of expert doctors and critical care specialists.
 
The hospital said Dr Richard Beale from London had also been consulted and he had concurred with the line of treatment by its cardiologists and pulmonologists.
 
"Our prayers are with her and we hope she will recover soon. We request all of you to pray for her good health and well being. The Hon'ble CM is the beloved leader of the masses. Please join us in praying for her speedy recovery," the hospital said in a series of posts on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Tamil Nadu Governor Chennamaneni Vidyasagar Rao, to inquire about Ms. Jayalalithaa's heath.
 
Mr. Rao, who is the Governor of Maharashtra, is holding additional charge of Tamil Nadu, since August 31 following the end of the tenure of Mr. K. Rosaiah. He told Mr. Rajnath Singh that he would leave for Chennai tonight.
 
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Hundreds of workers of Ms. Jayalalithaa's party, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), her supporters and leaders of the party began converging outside the hospital after hearing of the news of her cardiac arrest. Police stepped up security arrangements outside the hospital as a precautionary measure.
 
Earlier in the day, the AIADMK had said that Ms. Jayalalithaa would soon decide when she would leave hospital and return home after doctors had declared that she had fully recovered.
 
The hospital has said several times in the past few weeks that the Chief Minister, called "Amma" by her supporters, was well enough to return home whenever she wanted. Her party said she was involved in taking government decisions and also speaking on occasion to those who were allowed to meet her.
 
Ms. Jayalalithaa was admitted to the hospital on September 27 for treatment of dehydration and fever. Later, there were reports that she was also being treated for a chronic lung infection and that he had been put on respiratory support. Specialist doctors from London and Delhi had been flown in to monitor her condition.
 
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Parliament paralysed for seventh day as demonetization woes continue

Parliament remained paralysed for the seventh day on Friday and both Houses were adjourned without transacting any substantial business as the Opposition continued to create a ruckus over the Government's November 8 decision to demonetize Rs. 1000 and Rs. 500 notes and related issues.

 
Their problem is they couldn't prepare before demonetisation: PM Modi on critics
Parliament remained paralysed for the seventh day today and both Houses were adjourned without transacting any substantial business as the Opposition continued to create a ruckus over the Government's November 8 decision to demonetize Rs. 1000 and Rs. 500 notes and related issues.
 
Opposition parties continued to demand that Prime Minister Narendra Modi apologise for remarks he made against them earlier in the day.
 
They alleged that Mr. Modi had accused them, while speaking at a function, of holding black money.
 
Congress, Trinamool Congress, SP, BSP and Left in the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha, took strong objection to Mr. Modi’s comments that “some people” were criticising demonetisation because “the government did not give any time to them to make any preparation (to convert black money into white).” 
 
In the Rajya Sabha, as soon as the House met for the day and mourned the death of its former member Dipen Ghosh, BSP leader Mayawati was on her feet saying the Prime Minister had this morning “wrongly accused opposition of holding black money” and demanded that he should apologize for his remarks.
 
Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad asked how Mr. Modi could allege when former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and others had clearly said that the Opposition was against black money. Opposition leaders said the Prime Minister was making allegations that the Opposition was against demonetization outside the house but did not have the courage to do so inside Parliament.
 
Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan adjourned the House twice following noisy scenes with Opposition members trooping into the well. The same scene prevailed in the Rajya Sabha which saw repeated adjournments.
 
The Opposition has been demanding the Prime Minister's presence in Parliament, besides admission of adjournment motions with voting to discuss demonetization. The Government has rejected the demands.
 
Meanwhile, the Government stopped the exchange of old Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes across the counter at banks. People will now have to deposit these notes in their bank accounts before the deadline of December 30.
 
There have also been reports that the Government was considering amendments to the Income Tax Act in Parliament to allow people to deposit their unaccounted money in their bank accounts and pay 50% tax and penalty on it. There may also be a provision for lock-in of the funds for about five years, the reports said.
 
Meanwhile, reputed rating agency Fitch said demonetisation would have a negative impact on India's GDP growth in the short run but, on the positive side, it may improve the fiscal position. 
 
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Thomas Rookmaaker, Director in Fitch's Asia-Pacific Sovereigns Group, said macroeconomic effects of cash crunch due to demonetisation include a temporary delay of consumption and investment, disrupted supply chains, farmers being unable to buy inputs, and some loss in productivity due to time lost to deal with cash issues, according to media reports quoting him.
 
“There are many elements to demonetisation, which make it difficult to quantify the impact on real GDP growth and explains the wide range of forecasts by different analysts,“ he was quoted as saying. 
 
Fitch felt that the impact on GDP growth depended to a large extent on how long the cash crunch is going to take to ease. A significant decline in growth number for this quarter is highly likely, but for the fiscal year as a whole the decline may still be relatively moderate.
 
Despite demonetisation, Fitch still expects India’s GDP growth to trend higher than China’s in the medium term. In India it expects GDP growth to accelerate in FY2018 on the back of reform implementation, monetary easing of the past year and infrastructure spending, while in China a continued increase in leverage in the broader economy is more and more becoming a burden for growth.
 
The rating agency said beyond the immediate policy issues of managing the cash crunch as best as possible and trying to mitigate the worst side-effects, it would be interesting to see what further steps the government will take to formalize the economy and structurally generate higher government revenues, the reports added.
 
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Demonetisation: Long queues continue at ATMs, govt. tries to ease farmers' woes

The Opposition continued to block proceedings in both Houses of Parliament for the fourth day on Monday, demanding a discussion under a rule that entails voting, even as long queues continued at ATMs, 13 days after the Government suddenly demonetized Rs. 1000 and Rs. 500 notes on November 8 as part of its fight against black money.

 
ATMs out of cash, residents face tough time making ends meet
The Opposition continued to block proceedings in both Houses of Parliament for the fourth day today, demanding a discussion under a rule that entails voting, even as long queues continued at ATMs, 13 days after the Government suddenly demonetized Rs. 1000 and Rs. 500 notes on November 8 as part of its fight against black money.
 
The Government, meanwhile, tried to address farmers' woes by allowing them to purchase seeds with the old Rs. 500 notes from Central or State Government outlets and agriculture universities as part of efforts to support them for the current Rabi crop.
 
An official press release said this was in addition to the decision taken earlier for making cash available with the farmers by permitting them to draw up to Rs.25,000 per week from their KYC-compliant accounts subject to the normal loan limits and conditions apart from the other facilities announced on 17.11.2016.
 
"The Government is committed to ensure that the farmers are suitably facilitated during the Rabi season," it added.
 
Farmers can now purchase seeds from the centres, units or outlets belonging to the Central or State governments, public sector undertakings, national or state seeds corporations, Central or State agricultural universities and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), on production of proof of identity.
 
In Parliament, a united Opposition led by the Congress and Trinamool Congress raised their level of attacks on the Government on the after-effects of demonetization, leading to adjournment of both Houses several times.  In the Lok Sabha, Congress and other parties insisted for a debate under rule 56 which provides for voting and suspension of all other business by allowing adjournment motions. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said the government was prepared for any discussion but under rule 193 that did not entail voting or passage of any resolution. 
 
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told the Rajya Sabha on Monday that the Opposition did not appear to be ready for any debate but was merely inventing newer techniques to disrupt the proceedings of the House. As the House assembled , Congress wanted to raise what it termed the alleged illegality in the introduction of new Rs 2,000 notes.
 
The Opposition was also unrelenting in its demand that Prime Minister Narendra Modi reply to the discussion in Parliament and address the concerns of the members on the issue that had inconvenienced the general public and small merchants. If the Prime Minister can speak at rallies, why not in Parliament, the opposition asked. 
 
With commercial banks opening for the week after a day’s break for the first time since demonetization, people turned up in large numbers to  exchange old invalid notes and withdraw cash. Even after two weeks since demonetization, people still had to sweat it out in long queues for hours as most ATM machines either ran out of cash or were yet to be recalibrated for the new notes.
 
Media reports from different parts of the country suggested that people were frustrated with banks running out of cash, leading sometimes to arguments with the staff. Despite the Government's concession to families hosting weddings to withdraw about Rs 2.50 lakh, such people could not withdraw the money as the banks turned them away for lack of  operational guidelines from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in this regard.
 
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To prevent exploitation of the situation by currency mules, depriving others of a chance to withdraw money, banks at many places have started using indelible ink to prevent them from queueing up again to exchange defunct notes.
 
India’s rural economy depends mainly on cash transactions, and a large percentage of the rural population is yet to be connected with the formal banking system. Glitches in the last mile delivery of new currency notes has left rural India virtually scrambling for cash. Farmers and rural folk have also suffered because because the RBI did not allow gramin banks or local cooperative banks to exchange or deposit the defunct notes by the farmers who had accounts in them. 
 
Taking into view the sufferings of the rural folk, the government has issued orders to ease the burden on the cash strapped agrarian economy. Apart from announcing the relaxation in buying seeds, the government had on Thursday increased the withdrawal limit for farmers to Rs. 25,000 apart from allowing them a 15-day grace to pay their crop insurance premia. 
 
The state governments have mobilized their efforts on a war-footing to ease the pressure on the agro economy, ahead of the sowing season. While the Uttar Pradesh government has asked the district magistrates to ensure cash availability in their respective regions, Punjab government decided to provide fertilizers and other farm inputs in kind to farmers for sowing of the Rabi crops, media reports trickling from different states suggest. 
 
The Himachal Pradesh government , according to reports , deployed helicopters for dispatching Rs 2,000, Rs 100, Rs 50 and other small denomination notes to far-flung, remote and tribal areas of the state to ensure adequate supply of valid currency.  
 
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97 dead, more than 120 injured as Indore-Patna Express derails near Kanpur

At least 97 people died and more than 120 others suffered injuries when 14 coaches of the 19321 Indore-Patna Express derailed near Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh in the early hours of Sunday in one of the worst rail disasters in the country in recent years, official sources said.

 
63 dead as Indore-Patna Express derails near Kanpur
At least 97 people died and more than 120 others suffered injuries when 14 coaches of the 19321 Indore-Patna Express derailed near Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh in the early hours of today in one of the worst rail disasters in the country in recent years, official sources said.
 
Senior railway and police officials said the injured had been taken to hospitals in Kanpur.
 
They said the death toll could rise further as rescue teams cut through the mangled and twisted steel of the remaining one of the two worst affected coach.
 
Rescue and relief personnel had evacuated all the other affected coaches of the train, they said.
 
The two coaches and turned turtle and telescoped into each other and a crane and gas cutters had to be used to reach the victims trapped inside them. One of the coaches had climbed onto the other, crushing the coach below, they said.
 
The mishap occurred around 3.10 am between Pokhrayan and Malasa stations on the Jhansi-Kanpur section of North-Central Railway, about 60 km from here, at a time when most passengers were fast asleep, official sources said.
 
Accident relief trains and medical teams rushed to the spot and scores of ambulances were deployed to rush the injured to hospitals, the sources said.
 
Personnel of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the Army also reached the scene to help in the rescue and relief efforts, in which scores of local people joined.
 
Senior district administration, police and railway officials rushed to the scene to oversee the rescue and relief efforts. 
 
Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu and senior Railway officials also left for the spot.
 
"All rescue relief work on to deal with unfortunate accident. All medical and other help rushed. Enquiry ordered. Situation monitored closely," Mr. Prabhu said on micro-blogging Twitter said.
 
"Strictest possible action will be taken against those who could be responsible for accident. All possible mobilisation for relief initiated," He said.
 
"Enquiry team will start investigation for cause of accident immediately All necessary assistance provided to the  affected, We r taking care," he said.
 
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The stranded passengers were moved in buses from the site to Malasa station, from where a special train was arranged to take them to their destinations.
 
The Ministry of Railways has announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs. 3.5 lakh to the next-of-kin of those who died in the accident, Rs. 50,000 to those with grievous injuries and Rs. 25,000 for those with simple injuries.
 
This is in addition to the compensation which will be available through the Railway Claims Tribunal.
 
In addition, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced ex-gratia payment of Rs. 2 lakh for the next-of-kin of each of those killed, and Rs. 50,000 for those seriously injured from the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund (PMNRF).
 
The Railways have also promised to provide the best possible medical treatment for the injured.
 
Mr. Modi expressed his shock and grief over the loss of lives in the acident. "Anguished beyond words on the loss of lives due to the derailing of the Patna-Indore express. My thoughts are with the bereaved families," he said on Twitter.
 
"Prayers with those injured in the tragic train accident. I've spoken to @sureshpprabhu, who is personally monitoring the situation closely," he added.
 
Traffic on the section, which has only a single line, has been affected and several trains have been cancelled or diverted. Efforts are being made to restore normal traffic at the earliest, sources said.
 
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to the Director General of NDRF and instructed him to rush NDRF teams to the scene of the tragedy.
 
An official press release said five search and rescue teams of NDRF had been mobilized to Kanpur. One team, comprising 35 responders, rushed to the spot from the Regional Response Centre (RRC) of NDRF at Lucknow, reached the spot at 0810 hours. Two more teams, comprising 79 responders left the NDRF Base at Varanasi and two additional teams of 75 responders were airlifted from HIndan Airbase at Ghaziabad, near Delhi.
 
NDRF teams comprise trained responders equipped with state-of-the-art disaster management gadgets and medical components.
 
NDRF DG R. K. Pachnnda also left for the site from Delhi, the release said.
 
The Railways have set up the following helplines for the benefit of passengers and their relatives:
 
Indore- 0731 1072, Ujjain 0734 2560906, Ratlam 07412 1072, Jhansi 0510-1072, Orai 05162-1072, Kanpur 0512-1072, Pokhrayan 05113-270239, Patna 0612-220 2290, 220 2291, 2202292
 
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Long queues continue outside banks, Govt. takes fresh steps to ease crisis

Thousands of people stood for hours in serpentine queues outside banks across India for the sixth day on Tuesday to withdraw cash, after the sudden demonetisation of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes on November 8 even as the Government announced fresh measures to ease the crisis.

 
Indelible ink to be used to prevent cash exchange frauds
Thousands of people stood for hours in serpentine queues outside banks in cities and towns across India for the sixth day today to withdraw cash, after the sudden demonetisation of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes on November 8 even as the Government announced fresh measures to ease the crisis and allay fears among the public.
 
People lined up outside banks and ATMs long before dawn and the lucky ones were able to exchange their old Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes for the maximum permitted limit of Rs. 4500, while others were able to withdraw cash of upto Rs. 2500 from the ATMs before the cash ran out, leaving thousands of others in the lurch everywhere. 
 
The rush was more today because banks were closed in many parts of North India yesterday, but it appears that it will be several days, even weeks, before normalcy returns.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi reviewed the situation about the supply and availabiity for the second consecutive day late yesterday.
 
The meeting decided, among other things, to continue give the highest importance to ensure convenience for the public.
 
A major decision taken was to use indelible ink, normally used in elections, to ensure that the same people did not turn up repeatedly to exchange their old currency notes.
 
The meeting, which went on till about midnight, was attended among others by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Minister of Coal and Power Piyush Goyal, Mr. Nripendra Misra, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Dr. P. K. Mishra, Additional Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Cabinet Secretary P.K.Sinha, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Urjit R Patel, Secretaries from the Finance Ministry and other officials from the Prime Minister's Office.
 
A detailed review was made with regard to the steps that have been taken for smooth distribution and dispensing of cash through various channels of disbursement, an official press release said.
 
The release said efforts would be made to avoid long queues in branch branches and at ATMs. Already, separate queues for senior citizens, divyang persons, and so on, have been announced. The drawing limits against bank accounts and from ATMs and over the cash disbursement have also been increased. 
 
The meeting noted that one of the primary reasons for long queues was that the same persons were visiting bank branches and ATMs repeatedly. It was also noted that certain unscrupulous elements are using the services of poor and innocent people to convert their black money into white. 
 
To prevent such misuse of the facility and enable larger number of persons to draw cash, indelible ink used during elections shall be used for over the counter exchange against old Rs.500 and Rs.1000 notes. This is not applicable in the case of withdrawal from or deposit into accounts, the release said.
 
Cash disbursement points, especially bank branches, will be advised to put up notices outside their branches advising people to avoid exchange of old notes over the counter multiple times. 
 
Already instructions have been issued permitting District Central Cooperative Banks (DCCBs) for cash withdrawal from existing accounts, subject to limits applicable in the case of banks. Arrangements have been made to enhance the availability of cash with the DCCBs. 
 
Arrangements have been made to make available adequate cash to the Postal Department for their use including the branch Post Offices. There are 1.3 lakh branch Post Offices having wide coverage in the rural areas. Availability of adequate cash with the branch Post Offices will ensure wider coverage of the rural areas, it said.
 
The release noted that contributions are made in hundis and separate boxes in places of worship. Such establishments have their accounts with the bank branches. Bank branches have been advised to approach the concerned authorities in these establishments to obtain the currency notes, especially of lower denomination and put them back into circulation. This will help in improving the circulation of lower denomination currency notes. 
 
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The Government has also received information of a sudden spurt in the quantum of deposits in several Jan Dhan accounts. There are also reports of unscrupulous elements using Jan Dhan Accounts of poor and innocent persons to convert their black money into white.
 
"Such spurt in deposits will be looked into closely. Jan Dhan Account holders are requested not to allow their accounts to be misused by anyone. Further, it is also clarified that Jan Dhan Account holders will not be put to any kind of inconvenience for carrying-out their legitimate activities," the release said.
 
Old Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes are accumulating in Post Offices and Bank branches. Special efforts will be made to shift such notes and create space in the Post Offices and Bank branches to receive new notes, the release added.
 
A high level Task Force consisting of representatives from various agencies is being set up to monitor movement and receipt of fake notes in vulnerable areas. This Task Force will also make special efforts to monitor black money being deposited into Bank/Postal Accounts, especially under fictitious and other names. 
 
A technology team is being set up to popularize the use of e-wallets. Government is closely monitoring the supply of essential commodities. 
 
A coordination group chaired by the Cabinet Secretary and including representatives of various Departments and major banks is holding regular meetings to monitor the implementation of all the steps. 
 
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Demonetisation: Cash crunch continues, Govt. moves to ease situation

As thousands of people queued up outside banks in cities and towns across India for the fifth day on Monday to withdraw cash, after the sudden demonetisation of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes on November 8, the Government has announced a series of measures to ease the crisis and allay fears among the public.

 
India seeks to quell public anger by raising bank cash withdrawal
As thousands of people queued up outside banks in cities and towns across India for the fifth day today to withdraw cash, after the sudden demonetisation of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes on November 8, the Government has announced a series of measures to ease the crisis and allay fears among the public.
 
Among other thing, the Government has increased the limit for exchange of the old notes at banks and post offices from Rs. 4000 to Rs. 4500.
 
With banks closed in parts of North India today and many ATMs still not functional yet because they are awaiting recalibration, people continued to face difficulties with regard to availability of cash in hand for daily necessities, leading to anger and frustration among those in the queues at several places.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi reviewed the situation regarding the supply and availability of currency notes at a high-level meeting here late last night, following which the Government announced various decisions to  further activate the dispensing of cash through the networks of Banking Correspondents (BCs), Post Offices, ATMs, Banks and E-payment systems 
 
The meeting, which went on well past midnight, was attended by, among others, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Urban Development and Information & Broadcasting Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu and Coal and Power Minister Piyush Goyal.
 
The Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, all Secretaries of the Ministry of Finance and senior officials from the Prime Minister's Office were also present.
 
An official press release said banks would increase the cash holding limit of BCs to at least Rs.50,000 each.  Banks will also allow higher limits in appropriate cases. Banks will replenish the cash with BCs multiple times in a day as per requirement of the BCs. BCs have wide presence in the rural areas.  Totally there are 1.2 lakh BCs in the country. 
 
These decisions are expected to facilitate wider reach in the rural areas for exchange and withdrawal of cash from bank accounts.
 
The Government also decided to enhance the supply of cash to the 1.3 lakh Branch Post Offices in the country to facilitate cash withdrawals from Postal Accounts.
 
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With 1.2 lakh BCs and 1.3 lakh branch Post Offices getting further activated, a total number of 2.5 lakh points in rural areas will be available to disburse cash and facilitate cash withdrawals from bank accounts, the release said.
 
To expedite the process of recalibration of ATMs, a Task Force is being set up under Deputy Governor, RBI consisting of representatives of banks and the Finance Ministry.  This Task Force will draw up an action plan and ensure its implementation for quick recalibration of the ATMs to enable them to dispense new bank notes of Rs. 500 and Rs. 2000.
 
In the meantime, Micro ATMs will be deployed to dispense cash against Debit/Credit cards up to the cash limits applicable for ATMs.  The handheld Micro ATMs have the facility of mobility and deployment at the required places. 
 
The withdrawal limit of Rs. 20,000 per week has been enhanced to Rs. 24,000.  The withdrawal limit of Rs. 10,000 per day has been removed.
 
The limit of Rs.4000 for over the counter exchange against old Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes has been increased to Rs. 4500.  This will enable the banks to give lower denomination notes for Rs. 500 while dispensing the remaining Rs. 4000 through Rs. 2000 notes.
 
The ATMs are progressively getting recalibrated.  As and when they are recalibrated, the cash limit of such ATMs will stand enhanced to Rs. 2500  per withdrawal.  This will enable dispensing of lower denomination currency notes for about Rs.500 per withdrawal.  Other ATMs which are yet to be recalibrated, will continue to dispense Rs. 2000 till they are recalibrated. 
 
Business entities having Current Accounts which are operational for last three months or more will be allowed to draw Rs. 50,000 per week.  This can be done in a single transaction or multiple transactions.  This will enable the small business entities to pay wages to their workers and make sundry payments.
 
Adequate cash will be made available with District Central Cooperative Banks (DCCBs) to facilitate withdrawal from existing accounts.  The cash withdrawal limits for Banks will apply in case of DCCBs also.
 
These measures would substantially enhance the reach of the banking system to exchange notes and facilitate cash withdrawal from bank accounts, the release said.
 
All Central Government Departments and Public Sector Enterprises are being instructed to use the method of e-payments to the maximum extent possible.
 
RBI has advised National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) to waive its transaction charges on transactions settled through National Financial Switch(NFS) till 31st December, 2016. Banks are also being advised to waive similar charges currently levied by them.
 
The release said banks had been advised to arrange separate queues in their branches for senior citizens and divyang persons; customers for transactions against accounts held with the bank; and exchange of notes.  There will, therefore be, three or more separate queues in every branch.
 
Pensioners are required to submit Annual Life Certificate during the month of November.  This time limit has been extended up to 15th January, 2017.
 
The existing exemptions for acceptance of old Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes for certain types of transactions are being extended beyond 14th November, 2016 midnight up to 24th November, 2016 mid night.
 
"There is enough cash in the system to meet the requirement.  Members of the public are, therefore, advised not to have any sense of panic," the release added.
 
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India, New Zealand agree to strengthen cooperation against terrorism, radicalization

India and New Zealand on Wednesday agreed to strengthen their security and intelligence cooperation against terrorism and radicalization, including in the domain of cyber security.

 
Modi, New Zealand PM John Key hold talks in Delhi
India and New Zealand today agreed to strengthen their security and intelligence cooperation against terrorism and radicalization, including in the domain of cyber security.
 
"Terrorism remains one of the greatest challenges to global peace and security," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at a joint media interaction with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key after their bilateral talks.
 
"Today, the financial, logistical and information networks of terror span the entire globe. The barriers of geography do not safeguard against the threat of radicalization and terrorism. Nations who believe in humanity need to coordinate their actions and policies to counter this threat," he said.
 
Mr. Modi began by saying that it was a particular pleasure  to receive Mr. Key in India during the festive season. "I am told that it is now a regular feature for the New Zealand Parliament to celebrate the festival of Diwali and, you yourself have participated in several of these festivities. So, it is a particular pleasure to receive you in India during the festive season," he said.
 
He said Mr. Key and he had met several times on the sidelines of multilateral summits and it was an honour for India to welcome him on a bilteral visit.
 
"In a little while from now, our cricket teams will take the field in Ranchi for the fourth One Day International. In many ways some of the cricketing terminology reflects progress in our bilateral linkages. In our ties, we have moved from fielding at Long Off to taking a fresh guard at the batting pitch. Defensive play has given way to aggressive batting," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said Mr. Key and he had had "detailed and productive discussions" on all aspects of their bilateral engagement and multilateral cooperation.
 
He said trade and Investment ties had been one of the key areas of their conversation.
 
"We both recognized the need for greater economic engagement in order to effectively respond to the growing uncertainties in global economy and, agreed that expanding business and commercial ties should continue to be one of the priority items of our partnership. I am sure that the large business delegation accompanying Prime Minister Key will not only witness firsthand the investment opportunities on offer in India’s growth story. Their interactions will also build new commercial partnerships between our two countries. I would like to mention food processing, dairy and agriculture, and related areas in their supply chain as some of the areas of particular potential for bilateral cooperation. New Zealand’s strength and capacity in these sectors can combine with India’s vast technology needs to build partnerships that can benefit both our societies," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said they also agreed that actions by both governments should also promote greater business connectivity, including through movement of skilled professionals, between their two economies and societies. In this regard, they agreed to continue to work closely towards an early conclusion of a balanced and mutually beneficial Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement.
 
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He said that, alongside extensive bilateral engagement, their close cooperation also extends to the global arena. 
 
"On regional issues, we have agreed to enhance our cooperation, including in the East Asia Summit process. The reform of international governance institutions is a shared priority for us both. We are thankful for New Zealand’s support to India joining a reformed UN Security Council as a permanent member. As we make our own contribution to the developmental efforts of the Pacific Island countries, we will continue to consult closely with New Zealand to complement and supplement each other’s efforts.
 
"I am also thankful to Prime Minister Key for New Zealand’s constructive approach to the consideration of India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group," he said.
 
"The people of New Zealand have expressed their confidence in your leadership time and again and, I can see why. I thank you for your personal commitment to take our bilateral partnership forward, and to strengthen the bonds of friendship and people to people relations between our countries," he added.
 
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Modi underlines need for vibrant ecosystem for international arbitration

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday creation of a “vibrant ecosystem” for international arbitration was one of the foremost priorities of the government and major amendments had been made recently in the Arbitration and Conciliation Act.

 
India is experiencing a digital revolution: Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said creation of a “vibrant ecosystem” for international arbitration was one of the foremost priorities of the government and major amendments had been made recently in the Arbitration and Conciliation Act.
 
Delivering the valedictory address at the international conference on National Initiative towards Strengthening Arbitration and Enforcement in India, Mr Modi said this had made the arbitration process easy, timely and hassle-free.
 
“Our law is based on the UNCITRAL model law. The objective is to ensure tha,t in normal circumstances, arbitral tribunal makes its award within 12 months. In case of a fast track procedure, such award can be given in 6 months.
 
“Even the appointment of the arbitrator has to be decided by the court within a period of 60 days. The impediments encountered earlier in the grant and process of award have been removed,” he added.
 
Further, as per the new law, any application challenging the award is to be disposed of by the court within one year. The enforcement of award can be refused by the courts only as per international practices, the Prime Minister said.
 
“These amendments have brought our arbitration process in tune with global best practices. This has given us an opportunity to emerge as a leading arbitration jurisdiction,” he added.
 
However, great opportunities pose great challenges. These challenges include: Availability of excellent quality and globally recognized arbitrators; Observance of professional conduct, ensuring neutrality, and timely completion of proceedings; and, Cost effective arbitration proceedings, Mr Modi said.
 
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 “Our Government has been working on a strategy for convergence of existing tribunals. This will help transform the existing complicated tribunal system into a simpler structure,” the Prime Minister said.
 
“We need to simultaneously facilitate a vibrant ecosystem for alternate dispute resolution, including arbitration, mediation and conciliation. This will provide additional comfort to investors and businesses. More importantly, it will also ease the case-load on Indian courts,” he added.
 
Today, corporates and financial institutions want legal experts who can help close business deals and transactions without any disputes and litigations.
 
If a dispute arises, corporates want to resolve them quickly through arbitration, without going to courts. For this, they require specialized arbitration lawyers. Alternative dispute resolution processes also preserve personal and business relationships that might otherwise be damaged by the adversarial process.
 
“Recent trends indicate that Asian centres like Hong Kong and Singapore have emerged as preferred arbitration destinations. As popular business hubs, they also rank high in the levels of ease of doing business,” Mr Modi said.
 
“Thus, availability of quality arbitration mechanisms is an integral component of Ease of Doing Business, to which our Government is committed,” he added.
 
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13 killed, 15 injured as terrorists open fire near Kokrajhar in Assam

At least 13 people were killed and more than 15 others suffered injuries when a group of terrorists opened fire at a crowded weekly market near Kokrajhar town in Assam on Friday afternoon.

 
13 kiled in terror attack at Kokrajhar in Assam
At least 13 people were killed and more than 15 others suffered injuries when a group of terrorists opened fire at a crowded weekly market near Kokrajhar town in Assam this afternoon.
 
Sources said the three or four masked gunmen, wearing Army-style fatigues, struck at Balajan Tiniali near the town, about 220 km west of Guwahati, around noon, leaving at least 12 civilians dead.
 
The gunmen arrived in an autorickshaw, hurled grenades and then opened fire indiscriminately in the market before fleeing from the scene.
 
Security forces managed to shoot down one of the militants and have launched a manhunt for the remaining men, who are believed to have escaped into a nearby forest.
 
The attack has taken the security forces as well as the Assam Government and the Centre by surprise. Media reports quoted top police officials as saying that they suspected the militants were part of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland-Songbijit (NDFB-S) faction.
 
Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who was in Delhi, told journalists that both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Narendra Modi had been in touch with him and had promised all help from the Centre to tackle the situation. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval met Mr. Sonowal to discuss the latest developments.
 
Condemning the attack, Mr. Sonowal said the state government was committed to ensuring protection of the lives and property of the people of Assam. He said the security forces would deal strictly with the situation.
 
He said the Director General of Police (DGP) of Assam and other senior officials were rushing to the scene of the incident.
 
Mr. Sonowal announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs. 5 lakh for the next-of-kin of those killed in the attack and Rs. 1 lakh each for those who suffered injuries. He also appealed to the people of Assam to maintain peace and harmony. 
 
The Chief Minister said senior Minister Hemanta Biswa Sarma had left for Kokrajhar.
 
Reports said additional columns of the Army and teams of para-military forces had been moved to the area. Police officials said an AK-56 rifle and some grenades were recovered from the scene.
 
The injured persons were rushed to nearby hospitals for treatment even as security forces cordoned off the area and launched a combing operation.
 
In Delhi, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju described the incident as "unfortunate" and said it had taken place at a time when peace was returning to the state. 
 
“This incident has given us a shock and it is unfortunate so many people have lost their lives," he said, adding that the elements behind the "dastardly" attack would have to be identified.
 
This is the first major incident of violence in Assam since Mr. Sonowal assumed office as the head of the first Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the stte on May 24 this year.
 
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Switzerland backs India's bid for membership of Nuclear Suppliers Group

In a significant development, India on Monday won Switzerland's support for its bid to become a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the 48-member group of nuclear supplier countries that seeks to contribute to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

 
Economic links between India, Switzerland are strong, vibrant: Modi
In a significant development, India today won Switzerland's support for its bid to become a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the 48-member group of nuclear supplier countries that seeks to contribute to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.
 
"We have promised India support in its efforts to become a member of NSG," Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann said at a joint media interaction with Prime Minister Narendra Modi after they met for talks in Geneva.
 
The Swiss President also said that India and Switzerland were making considerable progress in fighting tax fraud and evasion.
 
"I am also thankful to the President for Switzerland's understanding and support for India's membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group," Mr. Modi said.
 
"Combating the menace of 'black money' and tax evasion is also our shared priority. We discussed the need for an early and expeditious exchange of information to bring to justice the tax offenders. An early start to negotiations on the Agreement on Automatic Exchange of Information would be important in this respect," he said.
 
India has been trying to join the NSG for the last few years and moved a formal application on May 12. The application is expected to come up at NSG's plenary meetings on June 9 in Vienna and June 24 in Seoul.
 
Mr. Modi said India and Switzerland also shared a commitment to reform international institutions in line with current global realities. "We have both agreed to support each other for our respective bids for the non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council," he said.
 
Mr. Modi began by saying, "I feel the weight of history, standing here with you in this truly international city-Geneva. And, not just international, but a city with a humanitarian soul. After all, it is home to the Red Cross, and headquarters of several international organizations devoted to serving mankind."
 
He said India and Switzerland had both been the voices of peace, understanding and humanitarian values in the world. 
 
"In the last seven decades, our friendship has consistently seen an upward trajectory. Today, President and I reviewed our multifaceted bilateral ties. We also held detailed discussions with Swiss CEOs," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said the economic links between the two countries were strong and vibrant.
 
"Many Swiss companies are household names in India. Ties of collaboration in trade, investment, science and technology and skill development benefit both our societies. India has affirmed its readiness to resume FTA talks with EFTA. We are all aware of the strengths of the Swiss economy. But, India too is undergoing profound transformations. We are today the fastest growing economy in the world. 
 
"But, that alone is not enough. I want the Indian economy to be driven by smart and sustainable cities, robust farm sector, vibrant manufacturing and dynamic service sector. And, its engines to run on world class network of rail, roads, airports and digital connectivity. Where a home for everyone, and electricity in every home is a reality. And, its 500 million plus youth is skilled and ready to meet the global needs of manpower. President and I agreed to build on the Swiss Vocational and Educational Training system suited to India's needsYesterday we observed World Environment Day. In tune with its objectives and India's civilizational ethos an economically prosperous India will also be friendly to the planet and our environment. Reliance on renewable energy, rather than on fossil fuels would be our guiding motto," he said.
 
Pointing out that there was a perfect connect between India's development needs and Swiss strengths, Mr. Modi invited Swiss companies to avail of the great opportunity to be a key partner in India's economic growth. "Ultimately, the economic prosperity of 1.25 billion plus would also benefit the entire world," he said.
 
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Mr. Modi said strong ties between the people of their two countries were an important base and benchmark of their linkages. 
 
"Thanks to the Indian film industry, we are very familiar with the enchanting beauty of the Swiss landscapes. But, we are also keen to welcome larger number of Swiss visitors to India. For this, we have opened the facility of e-Tourist Visa for Swiss nationals earlier this year," he said.
 
"There are many success stories of our relationship. One that has been making waves in the Grand Slams of the tennis world is the partnership of famous Swiss player Martina Hingis with Sania Mirza and Leander Paes of India. I am confident that our common commitments and values, people to people links and a strong and growing economic partnership will take our relations to new heights," he added.
 
Mr. Modi, who reached Geneva last night on the third leg of a five-nation tour that first took him to Afghanistan and Qatar and will now take him to the United States and Mexico also met Swiss CEOs there today.
 
The focus at the meeting was on deepening the economic ties between the two countries. Those present at the meeting includedthe CEOs, including ABB, Lafarge, Novartis, Nestl, Rieter and Roche.
 
Mr. Modi said India's economy was growing rapidly and the coming together of India's development needs and Swiss strengths could be beneficial for both countries.
 
Expressing happiness that the economic linkages between the two nations were strong, he said India was not just a market of 1.25 billion, but it also had skills and a government which is open to business. He added that India wanted to have manufacturing of global standards and hence the Swiss model of skill development was very relevant to it.
 
A group of Indian scientists and students at CERN also met the Prime Minister in Geneva today. 
 
Mr. Modi later left for Washington on a two-day bilateral visit to the United States at the invitation of US President Barack Obama.
 
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16 dead, 14 injured in major fire at ammunition depot in Maharashtra

At least 22 defence personnel died and 14 others suffered injuries in a major fire that broke out in the early hours of Tuesday and triggered huge explosions at one of India's biggest ammunition depots at Pulgoan in Wardha district of Maharashtra.

 
16 dead, 14 injured in ammunition depot fire in Wardha
At least 16 people died and 14 others suffered injuries in a major fire that broke out in the early hours of today and triggered huge explosions at one of India's biggest ammunition depots at Pulgoan in Wardha district of Maharashtra.
 
Wardha district officials said the injured had been admitted to hospitals in Wardha town, about 30 km from Pulgaon, for treatment, official sources said.
 
The massive fire and the explosions that followed lit up the night sky in the town, located about 100 km from Nagpur.
 
The fire broke out in the Central Ammunition Depot around 1.30 am today and was brought under control by around 6 am today, they said.
 
The cause of the fire could not be immediately ascertained and would be established only after an inquiry, they said.
 
The sources said families living in accommodation near the depot were evacuated to safer places as a precautionary measure.
 
Fire brigade personnel worked throughout the night to bring the blaze under control.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grief over the loss of lives in the fire.
 
“Pained by loss of lives caused by a fire at central ammunition depot in Pulgaon, Maharashtra. My thoughts are with the bereaved families," he said on micro-blogging site Twitter
 
"I pray that those who are injured recover quickly," he said, adding that he had asked Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar to rush to the spot and take stock of the situation. 
 
Chief of Army Staff Gen Dalbir Singh is also rushing to Wardha for an assessment of the situation, the sources added.
 
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Proclamation on President's Rule in Uttarakhand revoked, Rawat to return as CM

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

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

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

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

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

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

More than 80.92 percent of the voters exercised their franchise in the first phase of polling in the elections to the legislative assembly of West Bengal and 78 percent in Assam amidst tight security on Monday.

More than 80.92 percent of the voters exercised their franchise in the first phase of polling in the elections to the legislative assembly of West Bengal and 78 percent in Assam amidst tight security today.
 
Polling was by and large peaceful in both the states, with no major untoward incident reported from anywhere, official osurces said.
 
In West Bengal, voting was held today in 18 constituencies in Phase IA of polling. They include six seats in Paschim Medinipur, nine in Purulia and three in Bankura district.
 
These constituencies have a total electorate of 40,09,171 voters, including 20,47,202 men and 19,57,453 women. There are 4500 service electors in these constituencies.
 
There were a total of 133 candidates in these constituencies, including 11 women.
 
The Election Commission had set up 4945 polling stations and made elaborate arrangements to ensure a smooth poll in these constituencies.
 
As many as 65 constituencies went to the polls in the first phase of voting in Assam. There were 566 candidates in all, including 44 women. Prominent candidates in the fray included Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi of the Congress, who is seeking a fourth conseccutive term, and Union Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, the chief ministerial candidate of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).
 
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16 dead, 63 injured as under-construction flyover collapses in Kolkata

At least 16 persons died and 63 others suffered injuries when an under-construction flyover, which has been more than six years in the making, collapsed in the busy and congested Bura Bazaar area of north Kolkata on Thursday.

 
Kolkata: 10 dead in under-construction bridge collapse
 
At least 16 persons died and 63 others suffered injuries when an under-construction flyover, which has been more than six years in the making, collapsed in the busy and congested Bura Bazaar area of north Kolkata today.
 
Police sources told NetIndian that the 16 dead included 14 men and two women, all of whom were crushed under the tonnes of concrete and steel that came crashing on them around 1215 pm today without any warning.
 
They said nearly 60 others had been taken to various hospitals in the city for treatment of injuries.
 
Officials feared the number of casualties could increase as search and rescue teams made their way through the mangled steel and concrete through the night.
 
Army personnel and teams from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) joined the local police, the fire brigade, other agencies and hundreds of volunteers in a massive rescue effort with specialised equipment, sniffer dogs and so on.
 
Several people were feared trapped below the debris of the bridge and frantic efforts were being made to reach them without loss of time. As people dug through the rubble, they found cars, taxis and other vehicles trapped under the concrete.
 
Hundreds of people of the locality and passers-by rushed to the spot and began trying to remove the debris with their bare hands, using whatever equipment they could lay their hands on, even as the authorities made arrangements to rush cranes, gas cutters and other machinery as well as ambulancesto the scene. 
 
Scores of witnesses told journalists at the scene that they heard a loud rumble and then a massive thud as the huge bridge suddenly came down without any warning.
 
Footage from a closed circuit television (CCTV) camera in the area showed people going about their normal business and traffic moving as usual under the flyover when it suddenly came crashing down.
 
Traffic in the entire area came to a total standstill and there were traffic snarls in several nearby areas as a consequence.
 
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West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who was campaigning for the state assembly elections outside Kolkata, rushed back to the state capital and visited the scene of the tragedy.
 
She said stringent action would be taken against officials of the construction company, the Hyderabad-based IVRCL Limited, or any others found guilty of negligence.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is currently in the United States on an official visit, took stock of the situation and expressed shock and grief over the incident.
 
“Shocked and saddened by collapse of under construction flyover in Kolkata. Took stock of the situation and rescue operations. 
 
"My thoughts are with the families of those who lost their lives in Kolkata. May the injured recover at the earliest," he said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who was touring West Bengal as part of the BJP's election campaign, asked the Director General, NDRF, Mr. O.P.Singh, to rush rescue teams to the spot.
 
An official press release said seven NDRF teams had been deputed to the site and two more teams were being mobilized for the rescue operations.
 
"I am deeply saddened to know that precious lives have been lost in the Kolkata accident," he added.
 
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Kerala: Court orders probe against CM Oommen Chandy, Minister Aryadan Mohammad

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

 
Kerala solar scam: FIR ordered against CM; protestors lathicharged
 
A Vigilance Court here today ordered registering of a first information report (FIR) and initiating a probe against Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and his cabinet colleague, Electricity and Transport Minister Aryadan Mohammad, on the bribery allegations raised against them by Saritha S Nair, main accused in the "solar scam".
 
Saritha and her associate Biju Radhakrishnan are accused of having cheated several businessmen and non-resident Indians (NRIs) of large sums of money promising them partnership in a company floated by them, Team Solar Renewable Energy Solutions Pvt Limited, which offered solar energy solutions to institutions and households. 
 
They had also boasted of close connections with Mr Chandy and other ministers and even produced letters on official letterheads to support their claims. The scam came into light when an NRI, Sajad, filed a police complaint accusing them of having defrauded him of Rs 40 lakh. Subsequently, 33 cases were registered against them on various complaints.
 
Saritha, while deposing before the Justice Sivarajan Commission in Kochi yesterday, had alleged that she had paid a bribe totalling Rs 1.90 crore to an aide of the Chief Minister and Rs 40 lakh to Mr Mohammad. Both have denied the charges.
 
However, Inquiry Commissioner and Special Judge S S Vasan, taking cognisance of a private complaint, asked the Vigilance Director to file an FIR and complete the probe as early as possible. The court rejected the contention of the government counsel seeking a quick probe into the allegations before initiating proceedings against the Chief Minister. Justice should be equal for all, for the common man as well as Chief Minister, the court observed.
 
The judge said he was not looking into the merits of the complaint against the Chief Minister which is to be considered by the investigating officer. The report is to be submitted to the court on April 14. The court also rejected the submission of the state counsel regarding jurisdiction of the court since the alleged bribery took place in Thiruvananthapuram. However, the court upheld the contention of the complainant P D Joseph, a social activist, that it had also occurred in Kochi, which fell within the purview of the court.
 
Reacting to the court order, Mr Chandy told reporters in Kozhikode that he was prepared to face any inquiry and rejected the opposition demand for his resignation. “My conscience is clear and both of us have done nothing wrong,” he said, speaking on behalf of his ministerial colleague, too.
 
In a related development the Kerala High Court stayed the Thrissur Vigilance Court order of registering an FIR against Mr K Babu, who had resigned his post as Minister following the court order. 
 
Passing the order, High Court Judge P Ubaid observed that the vigilance court had acted in unnecessary haste without waiting for the order of the division bench of the High Court. The stay will be applicable for two months. In the meantime, the court directed the Vigilance Director to conduct a quick probe and submit a report within ten days.
 
Earlier, on January 25, Mr Chandy had deposed before the judicial commission. The deposition, that went on into the night, was completed only in the early hours the next day. He reportedly told the commission that he had met Saritha only three times and came to know about the financial dealings only after her arrest. He had acknowledged receipt of a contribution of Rs 2 lakh to the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund in a letter drafted by his office under his letterhead. The letterhead was later found to be misused. He also denied that he had met Saritha in his office along with Sreedharan Nair, a quarry owner and one of the complainants in the scam, as stated by Intelligence ADGP A Hemachandran.
 
The Chief Minister later told reporters that he had refused to undergo a lie-detector test as he had not lied or acted against his conscience. Neither has the state exchequer incurred any loss nor the accused obtained any monetary advantage, he added. 
 
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Five killed as magnitude 6.7 earthquake hits Manipur, other NE states

At least five people were killed when a strong earthquake, measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale, hit Manipur and other North-Eastern states of India and neighbouring countries like Myanmar, Bangladesh and Bhutan in the early hours of Monday.

 
Massive 6.7 quake strikes northeast India
 
At least five people were killed when a strong earthquake, measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale, hit Manipur and other North-Eastern states of India and neighbouring countries like Myanmar, Bangladesh and Bhutan in the early hours of today.
 
Official sources in Imphal said more than 45 people had been reported injured in the quake.
 
A bulletin from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 24.8°N and longitude  93.5°E, occured at 0435 hours at a focal depth of 17 km.
 
According to IMD, the epicentre of the earthquake was in Tamenglong district of Manipur, about 35 km from Imphal, the state capital.
 
The tremors were also felt in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Bihar, among other places.
 
Initial reports from Manipur spoke of damages to many buildings and houses. People in many places ran out of their homes to safety as a precautionary measure. Many people posted pictures of damaged buildings and walls with cracks on social media sites. Some government offices and a six-storeyed building in Imphal were among those affected.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke over the telephone to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who is on an official visit to Assam, and asked him to oversee the situation.
 
Mr. Modi also spoke to Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Nabam Tuki on the situation.
 
The Manipur Government has sought the assistance of the Army and the Assam Rifles in the rescue and relief efforts.
 
The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said Mr. Modi was continuously monitoring the situation.
 
Two teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have been instructed to move from Guwahati to the areas affected by the earthquake.
 
Mr. Rajnath Singh said he had spoken to Mr. Gogoi and the Manipur Chief Secretary about the situation and assured them of all possible help from the Centre.
 
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"I'm also contacting other North Eastern states to know the extent of damage caused by the earthquake," he added.
 
In New Delhi, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) is coordinating with the State Governments concerned, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Ministry of Defence (Mod), NDRF, Ministry of Communications and other Departments and agencies for seach, rescue and relief efforts.
 
NDMA officials have spoken to the Control Rooms and Relief Commisioners of all the States in the North-East and West Bengal.
 
Communication systems are functioning, particularly those of state-owned BSNL, in the affected areas.
 
The National Crisis Management Committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary held a meeting here this morning to assess the situation and provide all necessary help from the Government of India.
 
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National Herald case: Congress, BJP slug it out in full-scale war

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

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

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

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

The "grand alliance" led by the ruling Janata Dal (United), which includes the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress, was headed for a handsome victory on Sunday as counting of votes progressed in the crucial and bitterly-contested elections to the 243-member Bihar Legislative Assembly.

 
Grand Alliance heads towards big win in Bihar Assembly elections
 
The "grand alliance" led by the ruling Janata Dal (United), which includes the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress, was headed for a handsome victory today as counting of votes progressed in the crucial and bitterly-contested elections to the 243-member Bihar Legislative Assembly.
 
As counting trends became available for 230 of the 243 seats, the JD (U) and its allies were ahead in 125, past the half-way mark for a simple majority, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) had established leads in 96. Others accounted for nine seats.
 
The campaigning for the elections was marked by sharp and bitter exchanges of barbs among the main contestants.
 
The elections were seen as a major test of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's appeal to the voters and as a battle for survival for Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of the JD(U) and his foe-turned-ally, RJD chief Lalu Prasad.
 
Polling in the elections was held in five phases on October 12, October 16, October 28, November 1 and November 5, and more than 56.80 percent voting was registered.
 
Polling was by and large peaceful across the state and no major untoward incident was reported from anywhere.
 
A total of 67063004 electors, including 31282535 women, were eligible to exercise their franchise in the elections and there were, in all, 3450 candidates, including 272 women, in the fray.
 
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The Election Commission had set up 65349 polling stations and made elaborate arrangements to ensure a freee and fair poll.
 
Counting of votes began at 8 am today amidst tight security at 39 centres across the state and al the results are expected to be in by this evening. 
 
All counting centres are situated in the district headquarters. There are two counting centres separated by a common road in Saharsa distict and one each in the 37 other districts.
 
The Election Commission ensured 24x7 three-tier security at all counting centres, with the inner cordon being manned by personnel of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF). Closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras have been installed at all counting centres.
 
The commission also deployed an observer each in all 243 constituencies to oversee the counting process.
  
Exit polls had produced varying forecasts, with some putting the "grand alliance" ahead and others predicting a victory for the NDA.
 
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57.59% votes cast in fourth phase of Bihar Assembly elections

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

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