Brisk voting underway in Karnataka Assembly polls

Voting began on Saturday on a brisk note across Karnataka to elect its 15th Legislative Assembly for a five-year term.
Voting begins in Karnataka Assembly Elections
Voting began on Saturday on a brisk note across Karnataka to elect its 15th Legislative Assembly for a five-year term.
"Peaceful polling is being held in 222 of the 224 constituencies, including 36 segments reserved for the Scheduled Castes (SC), 15 for Scheduled Tribes (ST) under tight security," an official told IANS here.
Denizens of Bengaluru were seen lined up outside polling booths from 6.30 a.m. to beat the rush in casting their ballots as voting began at 7 a.m.
Polling in Bengaluru's Raja Rajeshwari (RR) Nagar segment has been postponed to May 28 following the voter ID cards case and countermanded in the city's Jayanagar seat following the death of BJP contestant B.N. Vijaya Kumar on May 4.
In all, voting is being conducted across 26 of the 28 constituencies in the city.
During the initial hour of voting, there were reports of electronic voting machines (EVMs) malfunctioning in some booths; power crisis in a polling station in Rajajinagar seat; voters' names missing at few booths and women clad in burqa made to reveal their faces at a Belagavi polling booth -- that led to a few hiccups.
The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Chief Ministerial face B.S. Yeddyurappa was among the first to cast his vote in Shikaripura segment in Shivamogga district of Malnad region.
The state has over 5.06 crore voters, including 2.56 crore men, 2.5 crore women and over 5,000 who identify themselves as the third gender.
A total of 15.42 lakh voters, aged 18-19, have registered to cast their ballot for the first time.
Voting is being held in 58,008 polling stations of 30 districts across the state, with 600 of them as pink booths, manned by all-women personnel, and 28 ethnic booths.
Over 1.5 lakh personnel have been stationed across the state for the election, with paramilitary forces from 585 state and central companies at 20,826 polling booths, including 12,001 critical booths.
Voting will continue till 6 p.m. and votes will be counted on May 15. 
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Congress, BJP lock horns in Karnataka's triangular poll contest

The ruling Congress and the opposition BJP have locked horns to outsmart each other in the Karnataka assembly election on Saturday, with the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) making the contest triangular.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi and BJP President Amit Shah addressing press conference on the last day of campaigning for the May 12 Karnataka Assembly elections, in Bengaluru on May 11, 2018.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi and BJP President Amit Shah addressing press conference on the last day of campaigning for the May 12 Karnataka Assembly elections, in Bengaluru on May 11, 2018.
The ruling Congress and the opposition BJP have locked horns to outsmart each other in the Karnataka assembly election on Saturday, with the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) making the contest triangular.
As the only assembly poll being held in the peak summer, wth temperatures soaring, the battle royal at the hustings has the nation glued to the southern state where the stakes are high for both the national parties whose prospects the JD-S can make or mar as a kingmaker or spoiler in a fractured verdict.
"If the Congress is desperate to retain power defying anti-incumbency, the BJP is impatient to return to power in south India after losing badly five years ago, while the JD-S wages a lone battle to play a key role in the new government formation," a poll analyst told IANS on Friday ahead of D-day.
Single-phase polling will be held across the state in 223 assembly segments, including 36 reserved for the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and 15 for the Scheduled Tribes (STs) candidates. The election in south Bengaluru's Jayanagar constituency was countermanded following the death of BJP's candidate B.N. Vijayakumar on May 4. One member is nominated in the 225-member assembly.
A total of 4.97-crore electorate includes 2.52-crore men and 2.45-crore women. They will cast their ballots in 56,696 polling booths across the state amidst tight security, with 45,000 personnel from 585 the central and state forces deployed.
"In all, 2,654 candidates are in the fray, including 219 women; 222 are from the Congress, 222 from BJP, 201 from JD-S, 1,155 Independents and about 800 from other national, regional and fringe parties," state Chief Electoral Officer Sanjiv Kumar told IANS after scrutiny and withdrawals on April 27.
With the largest number (28) of assembly seats in a district, Bengaluru will witness a battle of sorts as 449 contestants, including 37 women, are in the race.
Though the Congress returned to power in 2013 after losing the mandate in the 2004 and 2008 elections, it is betting on the 'performance" of its government, under Siddaramaiah, the only Chief Minister to have completed a five-year term 40 years after the party's legendary Devaraj Urs in 1978.
"When the votes are counted on May 15, we will know if the Siddaramaiah-led Congress is lucky to beat anti-incumbency and return power as no outgoing party could do over the last four decades," the analyst said.
As the second among the six southern states to be in power besides Puducherry, the Congress has been sweating out to hold on to Karnataka, as its outcome will decide not only Siddaramaiah's fate, but also the fortunes of his party's new president, Rahul Gandhi, who took over the mantle from his mother Sonia Gandhi in mid-December 2017.
"More than Gandhi, the party's state unit leaders are anxious to win the election at any cost so that they could credit it to him (Rahul) for leading the party to victory and revive its fortunes for the 2019 general elections," said Pradeep Puranik, a poll pandit in this tech hub.
According to Congress state unit vice-president B.K. Chandrashekar, the ruling party would get 115 seats, which are more than the halfway mark (113) and will retain power.
"Our welfare schemes like Indira canteens, 7 kg free rice per person for every household, free milk to school students and free education to girls up to post-graduation will work in our favour, with large number of women wanting to vote. We are confident of getting majority," Chandrashekar told IANS.
In contrast, the BJP has pulled all stops to free Karnataka also from the Congress yoke and consolidate its position for its expansion south of the Vindhyas.
The BJP declared its popular Lingayat leader, B.S. Yedduyurappa, as its chief ministerial nominee even before the elections were announced on March 27 although he was responsible for its defeat in the 2013 poll after he left it and formed the Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP), which split its votes.
The 75-year-old veteran politician, however, returned to BJP in early 2014, was elected to the Lok Sabha from his home district Shivamogga in the Malnad region and was made its state unit president for leading it in the crucial assembly polls.
Yeddurappa was also the party's first Chief Minister in south India for three years from May 2008 to July 2011, when he was forced to resign following his indictment by the state's anti-graft watchdog (Lokayukta) in the multi-crore mining scam that rocked Karnataka for over a decade (2001-11).
"We are hopeful of getting majority due to palpable anti-incumbency against the Congress. We are confident of a decisive mandate to form the government on our own strength and without the support of other parties, as coalitions have failed in the past," BJP spokesperson Malavika Avinash told IANS.
The BJP and Yeddyurappa were beneficiaries of a 'sympathy wave' in the 2008 assembly election after coalition partner JD-S withdrew support to them in November 2007, resulting in President's rule for six months.
The BJP is also betting on the 'popularity' of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the development model of its NDA government at the Centre over the past four years to again upstage the Congress and JD-S this time.
Modi campaigned extensively across the state with 21 rallies over five days from May 1-9 and drew huge crowds with his extempore speeches in Hindi that were translated into Kannada for the benefit of the local people.
The JD-S, on the other hand, has been working overtime to win the poll battle on the plank of being a regional party that alone takes care of the people in the face of national parties letting down the state on all fronts.
"We will be single largest party with more number of seats, followed by the BJP and the Congress. With the help of Independents, we will form the next government, as the people want a local party like ours to be in power this time, as the national parties have deceived them," JD-S spokesman Ramesh Babu told IANS.
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RSS trying to crush Karnataka's spirit: Rahul

Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Thursday accused the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh of trying to crush the spirit of the people of Karnataka and said the Congress will win Saturday's Assembly polls hands down.
BJP doesn't understand meaning of term 'Hindu': Rahul Gandhi
Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Thursday accused the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) of trying to crush the spirit of the people of Karnataka and said the Congress will win Saturday's Assembly polls hands down.
Gandhi, who addressed a press conference here on the last day of campaigning, said that the Karnataka polls were not just between two political parties but between two ideologies. 
He alleged that the RSS was imposing its idea of oneness and was against the people of Karnataka to express themselves. 
"There is an idea in India that says the entire country must be ruled with one idea, one imposition and everybody must submit to that idea. That is what RSS is trying to do. Institution after institution is being attacked by the RSS," he said. 
"Supreme Court judges for the first time are asking people for justice. The reason for this is because the RSS is placing its people everywhere. My friends in Karnataka listen to this carefully. The idea is to crush your spirit. We will never ever allow your spirit and ideas of Basavanna to be crushed," he said 
The Congress President also ruled out the possibility of a hung assembly in the state. 
"I am pretty clear that there is going to be one outcome here which is the Congress party winning the elections hands down," Gandhi said. 
"On one side you have the RSS idea of one concept in the whole country. On the other, you have an idea that every single person in the country should be able to express himself, that all my friends in Karnataka should have pride in their language, in their food. That is what this fight has become. There is no half-way answer possible in this," he noted. 
Gandhi said the media had estimated only a few seats to Congress in Gujarat but the party came very close to defeating the BJP whose campaign was spearheaded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 
"In Gujarat, my friends in the media said Congress will not get more than 20-30 seats. Congress came very close to defeating BJP. The Prime Minister put whatever effort he could," he added. 
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Congress, JD-S in poll tie-up, pretending to fight: Modi

Taking head-on the two rival parties of the BJP, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday charged the ruling Congress and the JD-S of being in tacit alliance for the May 12 Karnataka assembly polls while pretending to fight in parts of the southern state.
Congress doesn't care about farmers,says Modi
Taking head-on the two rival parties of the BJP, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday charged the ruling Congress and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) of being in tacit alliance for the May 12 Karnataka assembly polls while pretending to fight in parts of the southern state.
"The people of Karnataka have right to know about the alliance between Congress and JD-S because they pretend to fight in some parts of the state while being together in the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) as evident from the latter's support to the ruling party's corporator (Sampath Raj) in becoming the city mayor last year," asserted Modi at a public rally, organised by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to campaign for its candidates in the northwest district, about 70 km from here.
The Congress and JD-S had tied up to run the Bengaluru civic body after the 2017 elections for the state capital's 198 wards, denying BJP the mayoral post.
The JD-S also supported the Congress candidate Sampath Raj in becoming the city mayor in 2017.
Incidentally, Raj is a Congress contestant in the C.V. Raman Nagar assembly segment in the city's southeast suburb against P. Ramesh of JD-S and the two-time legislator S. Raghu of BJP.
Modi also alleged that the JD-S was working towards saving the Congress in the assembly elections.
"The Congress doesn't speak the truth. Its members lie every day and if anyone is trying to save the image of the Congress, it is the JD-S," he alleged.
Reiterating his argument from earlier rallies, Modi told the voters that there was no way the JD-S could defeat the Congress to form a government.
"If there's a party that is capable of bringing change in the government and to the state of Karnataka and its people, it is the BJP, under the leadership of (its Chief Ministerial face) B.S. Yeddyurappa," thundered Modi.
The Congress-led government in the state failed to even ensure supply of water to the state, due to which several farmers had to commit suicide, he lamented.
Alleging the Congress was doing only "lip-service" to the farmers' issues, while indulging in corruption themselves, he said BJP has taken on a full-fledged battle against corruption.
"There is no way this kind of corruption can be tolerated," he reiterated.
Modi is on his third visit to the poll-bound state this month ahead of the May 12 Assembly polls.
He will later be addressing rallies in Gadag, Mangaluru and Shivamogga.
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Asaram Bapu convicted in minor rape case

Five years after charges of rape were levelled against Asaram Bapu, the Jodhpur Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe Court on Wednesday convicted the self-styled godman and four others in a 2013 rape case.
File photo of Asaram Bapu. (Photo: IANS)
File photo of Asaram Bapu. (Photo: IANS)
Five years after charges of rape were levelled against Asaram Bapu, the Jodhpur Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe Court on Wednesday convicted the self-styled godman and four others in a 2013 rape case.
Asaram was convicted under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) act and Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act.
The judgement was pronounced by Judge Madhusudan inside the Jodhpur Central Jail, where Asaram is lodged.
Asaram Bapu was arrested in 2013 on the complaint filed by a teenage girl from Uttar Pradesh's Shahajahanpur. She had accused him of raping her at his Jodhpur ashram in August. The victim was a Class 12 student at his Chhindwara Ashram in Madhya Pradesh.
The 77-year-old godman is facing trial in two other sexual assault cases: one in Rajasthan here and the other in Gujarat. 
He was arrested in Indore and brought to Jodhpur on September 1, 2013. He has been in judicial custody since September 2, 2013. 
He also faces multiple charges, including wrongful confinement, criminal intimidation, criminal conspiracy and sexual harassment.
The chargesheet named Asaram and four others -- Sanchita alias Shilpi, Sharad Chandra alias Sharat Chandra, Prakash and Shiva alias Sava Ram Hethvadiya.
The quantum of punishment will be announced later.
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Salman gets bail against personal bond of Rs 50,000

After spending two nights in a Jodhpur jail, Bollywood superstar Salman Khan was granted bail on Saturday in the 1998 blackbuck poaching case on a personal bond of Rs 50,000 by District and Sessions Court Judge Ravindra Kumar Joshi.
Salman Khan convicted in black buck poaching case
After spending two nights in a local jail, Bollywood superstar Salman Khan was granted bail on Saturday in the 1998 blackbuck poaching case on a personal bond of Rs 50,000 by District and Sessions Court Judge Ravindra Kumar Joshi.
Arguments on the actor's bail application, which had been taken up yesterday, continued this morning before the judge reserved his order for the post-lunch session.
While granting him bail, the judge asked Salman, 52, to furnish a personal bond of Rs. 50,000 and two sureties of Rs. 25,000 each with guarantees that he will adhere to all the bail conditions.
The court said Salman would have to secure special permission from it to travel abroad.
He is expected to be released by this evening after completion of various legal procedures, sources said.
Salman had spent a second night in the Central Jail here last night because the arguments on his bail plea could not be completed yesterday.
The superstar was convicted by a local court on Thursday and was sentenced to five years imprisonment in the two-decade-old case.
Salman and other Bollywood stars Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Sonali Bendre and Neelam allegedly went hunting on October 1-2 in 1998 outside a forest reserve near Kankani village in Jodhpur while shooting for "Hum Saath Saath Hain" in 1998. 
While Salman was found guilty, the four co-stars and a local, Dushyant Singh, were acquitted.
Chief Judicial Magistrate Dev Kumar Khatri convicted Salman under Section 9/51 of the Wildlife Protection Act.
(With  inputs from IANS)
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Class 12 re-test on April 25, Class 10 only in Delhi, NCR

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

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

Samajwadi Party candidates backed by the Bahujan Samaj Party have inflicted shock defeats on the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in the March 11 bye-elections to the Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh, about a year ahead of the 2019 General Elections.
Samajwadi Party workers celebrate their victory in UP LS bye-elections
Samajwadi Party (SP) candidates backed by the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have inflicted shock defeats on the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the March 11 bye-elections to the Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh, about a year ahead of the 2019 General Elections.
What made the loss even more humiliating for the BJP, which is in power at the Centre as well as in Uttar Pradesh, was the fact that the Gorakhpur and Phulpur seats were held by its leaders Yogi Adityanath and Keshav Prasad Maurya, who had resigned after taking over as Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister, respectively, of Uttar Pradesh.
The bye-election results have come a year after the BJP had scored a resounding win in the elections to the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly, held in February-March 2017, in which it won 312 seats in the 403-member House. Its allies Apna Dal (Soneylal) and Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party won nine and four seats, respectively.
The Samajwadi Party (SP), which was then ruling the state, could manage only 47 seats, while its ally Congress ended up with a single-digit tally of just 7.
The Bahujan Samaj Party of former Chief Minister Mayawadi picked up 19 seats and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) one. The Nirbal Indian Shoshit Hamara Aam Dal secured one seat and independents three seats.
As counting of votes was taken up in the bye-elections today, Samajwadi Party candidate Praveen Nishad won the Gorakhpur seat, defeating his BJP rival Upendra Shukla by a margin of 21,881 votes. In Phulpur, Nagendra Singh Patel of the SP prevailed by a margin of more than 59,000 votes over Kaushalendra Singh Patel of the BJP.
The BJP ended up on the losing side in Bihar, too, where its candidate Pradeep Kumar Singh lost to Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) nominee Sarfaraz Alam in the bye-election for the Araria Lok Sabha seat by a margin of more than 57,000 votes. 
The vacancy in Araria was caused by the death of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) MP Mohammad Taslimuddin in September last year.
In bye-elections for Assembly seats in Bihar, the BJP's Rinki Rani Pandey won the Bhabua seat by a margin of more than 15,000 votes while the RJD's Kumar Krishna Mohan defeated Aviram Sharma of the Janata Dal (United) by a margin of more than 35,000 votes in Jahanabad. The two seats had fallen vacant due to the deaths of RJD MLA Mudrika Singh Yadav and BJP MLA Anand Bhusan Pandey, respectively.
In Bihar, the bye-elections were the first electoral test for the RJD and Bihar's ruling Janata Dal (United) after the collapse of their grand alliance, which also included the Congress. JD (U) leader Nitish Kumar continued to be the Chief Minister of the state after forging an aliance with the BJP.
Adityanath said the party accepted the people's verdict in Uttar Pradesh and would work on ironing out the flaws. "There are lessons for us in the results," he said.
Gorakhpur was considered to be the Chief Minister's bastion, with Adityanath having won the seat for five consecutive terms from 1998 onwards. Before that, his mentor Mahant Avedyanath had won the seat for three consecutive terms from 1989 to 1998, the first time as a candidate of the Hindu Mahasabha and then twice as a candidate of the BJP.
Adityanath, 45, is the head of the Gorakhnath Mutt in Gorakhpur, which has a huge following in eastern Uttar Pradesh, Nepal and other parts. 
Phulpur, which was the constituency of India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, was won by the BJP for the first time in 2014. After Nehru passed away in 1964, the seat was won by his sister Vijayalakshmi Pandit in a bye-election that year and retained by her in 1967. V P Singh, who served as Prime Minister in 1989-90, had won the seat as a Congress candidate in 1971.
Samajwadi Party leader and former state chief minister Akhilesh Yadav thanked the people of Uttar Pradesh for the victory as well as BSP leader Mayawati for her support. Mr. Yadav met Ms. Mayawati to convey his gratitude to her and her party.
Ms. Mayawati's decision to back the Samajwadi Party nominee in the bye-elections caught the BJP unawares. Adityanath called their understanding as the coming together of "a snake and a mongoose", but it was the Opposition which had the last laugh today. The arrangement between the two parties has given rise to speculation about a grand alliance by the Opposition parties against the BJP and its allies in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
The BJP, on its part, tried to explain the defeat by saying that the low turnout of voters -- 49% in Gorakhpur and 38% in Phulpur -- was a factor. The party's leaders also said they did not anticipate the understanding between the SP and the BSP and could not respond to the new situation in the short time available to it. The results suggest that the BSP was able to transfer its votes to the SP candidate.
The Congress candidates -- Sureetha Kareem in Gorakhpur and Manish Mishra in Phulpur Lok Sabha -- ended up losing their deposits.
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BJP's Biplab Kumar Deb sworn in as Chief Minister of Tripura

Biplab Kumar Deb is new Chief Minister of Tripura
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Biplab Kumar Deb was today sworn in as the 10th  Chief Minister of Tripura at a ceremony that was attended by, among others, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who assured the people that the new government would work for the welfare of all citizens.
Mr. Deb was administered the oaths of office and secrecy by Governor Tathagata Roy in the ceremony that was held at the Assam Rifles ground here.
Mr. Jishnu Deb Burman, a veteran BJP tribal leader, took oath as the Deputy Chief Minister. Seven other Cabinet Ministers were also sworn in.
Others present on the occasion included BJP President Amit Shah, senior party leaders Lal Krishna Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, DoNER Minister Jitendra Singh and the Chief Ministers of BJP-ruled states.
The BJP had won an impressive victory in the February 18 elections to the state legislative assembly, winning 35 of the 59 seats for which polling was held, ending 25 years of Left Front rule. The BJP's partner, the tribal-based Indigenous People's Front of Tripura (IPFT), picked up eight seats, while the Communist Party of India (Marxist), could get only 16 seats.
Mr. Deb, 48, has been the state BJP president since January 2016 and had led his party in last month's elections. He has been elected to the Assembly from Banamalipur constituency.
Addressing the gathering on the occasion, Mr. Modi said the 2018 Tripura assembly elections would be always discussed by people in the history of India.
“I am here to assure the people of Tripura that this BJP Government is for people who voted for us and for those who did not vote for us. Elections are over and we have to look ahead. We will serve every citizen of Tripura”, he added.
The Prime Minister said that those in the opposition in Tripura today had been in power for long and they surely had a lot of experience. “Ours is a new and fresh team. In age, too, our team is younger. They have Anubhav, we have Umang and Utsah. We have to work together for the progress of Tripura,” he said.
He said last month's elections in Tripura as well as those in Meghalaya and Nagaland had renewed focus on the North-East.
He assured the full support of the Central Government to the state of Tripura and said the BJP and the Government would take all sections of society  together and work to fulfil the dreams of the people. "Tripura's dreams are our dreams as well," he said.
"It feels like the state is celebrating Diwali. We are lighting the lamp of progress and prosperity. There is new vigour and enthusiasm here. I congratulate all those who have taken oath and wish them the very best as they begin their work," he added.
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Modi says Govt. focused on improving Ease of Living for common citizens

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

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday that one of the two Defence Industrial Corridors announced in this year's Budget would be established in Uttar Pradesh with likely investments of up to Rs. 20,000 crore which would help in the development of the state, especially the Bundelkhand region.
Modi praises Yogi for bringing positivity in Uttar Pradesh
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said one of the two Defence Industrial Corridors announced in this year's Budget would be established in Uttar Pradesh with likely investments of up to Rs. 20,000 crore which would help in the development of the state, especially the Bundelkhand region.
Delivering the inaugural address at the Uttar Pradesh Investors' Summit 2018 here, he said the corridor -- which will cover Agra, Aligarh, Lucknow, Kanpur, Jhansi and Chitrakoot -- would provide jobs to nearly 2.5 lakh people.
Mr. Modi said that the organisation of such a major event in Uttar Pradesh, with the participation of so many investors, was indicative of the change that has come about in the state. He congratulated the State and its Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath for establishing itself on the path of development and prosperity in such a short timeframe.
He said the State is blessed with an abundance of resources and capabilities. He noted its strengths in agriculture. He complimented Yogi Adityanath for changing the negative atmosphere in the State, to one of positivity and hope. He said the State is making appropriate policies for various sectors. He said the State Government is serious about fulfilling the promises made to farmers, women and youth.
He said the State is working on a “One District, One Product” scheme. He said the Union Government’s schemes such as Skill India Mission, Stand Up India, Start Up India and Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana, will prove useful in implementing the “One District, One Product” scheme.
He said the Union Government’s Pradhan Mantri Kisan Sampada Scheme would help reduce wastage in the agriculture sector. He said the State had immense potential in ethanol production, due to large sugarcane cultivation.
The Prime Minister said that the Kumbh Mela to be organized next year at Prayag, would be the largest such event of its kind in the world.
Mr. Modi referred to the many strengths and attractions of Uttar Pradesh -- the chikan work of Lucknow, jari and zardosi of Varanasi, brassware of Moradabad, glassware of Firozabad, pethas of Agra and the perfumes of Kannauj; its places of tourist importance such as Agra, Ayodhya, Mathura; its mighty rivers Ganga and Yamuna; and its educational institutions like IIT Kanpur, IIM Lucknow and Banaras Hindu University (BHU).
He pointed out that it was the number one state in production of foodgrains, sugarcane, milk and potatoes; number two in vegetables and number three in fruits; and among the top states in the small scale industries sector.
He stressed the need for the state to develop a better work culture and a business culture and introduce investment-friendly policies to take full advantage of its enormous potential.
Mr. Modi referred to the many projects under implementation, including plans for two new international airports at Khushinagar and Jhevar in the state, new airports at Agra, Kanpur, Allahabad, Bareily, Jhansi, Chitrakoot, Moradabad, Aligarh and Azamgarh, and so on.
He said that when the Eastern and Western Dedicated Freight Corridors as well as the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor and the Amritsar-Delhi-Kolkata Industrial corridor, all of which will pass through Uttar Pradesh, are completed, they will give a major boost to the state's economy.
Similarly, work was on on the Haldia-Varanasi national waterway and for metro rail projects in Meerut, Kanpur and Varanasi, and all these projects would help create a world class transport infrastructure in the state, he said.
Stating that Gujarat was the first state to host investor summits, a trend that has now spread to all the states, he stressed the importance of setting up a monitoring mechanism to ensure that MoUs are translated into projects on the ground.
Finland, the Netherlands, Japan, Czech Republic, Thailand, Slovakia and Mauritius are the partner countries at the two-day summit.
President Ram Nath Kovind will address the valedictory session of the summit tomorrow.
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Lalu Prasad, Jagannath Mishra convicted, given 5 years in jail in fodder scam case

A Special CBI in Ranchi on Wednesday convicted and sentenced former Bihar Chief Ministers Lalu Prasad Yadav and Jagannath Mishra to five years in prison in a fodder scam case.
File photo of Lalu Prasad Yadav
File photo of Lalu Prasad Yadav
A Special CBI Court convicted and sentenced former Bihar Chief Ministers Lalu Prasad Yadav and Jagannath Mishra to five years in prison in a fodder scam case here today.
Special CBI Judge Swarn Shankar Prasad also imposed a fine of Rs. 10 lakh on both of them in the case pertaining to the fraudulent withdrawal of Rs. 33.67 crore from the Chaibasa Treasury, then a part of undivided Bihar and now in Jharkhand, in 1992-93.
Mr. Yadav and Mr. Mishra were convicted on two separate counts and sentenced to five years in prison on each, but the sentences will run concurrently and the period of jail term already served would be set off.
In all, as many as 50 people were convicted in the case, while six were acquitted. The 50 people convicted today included six politicians, three former Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers and four woemn. They were given three years of imprisonment and fined Rs. 50,000 each.
There were a total of 76 accused persons in the case, of whom 14 died during the trial, three turned CBI approvers, two admitted to their crime and one is absconding.
This is the third fodder scam case in which Mr. Yadav, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief, has been convicted, while it is the second for Mr. Mishra.
Mr. Yadav had, on September 30, 2013, been sentenced to five years of five years of rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs 25 lakhs for his role in another case in the multi-crore fodder scam, which broke out 17 years ago when he was Chief Minister of Bihar.
He and 44 others were convicted by the CBI Court in Ranchi in one of the several cases related to the Rs 950 crore scandal, in which Rs 37.70 crore had been fraudulently withdrawn from the treasury at Chaibasa. Mr. Mishra was sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for four years with a fine of Rs 2 lakhs in that case.
On December 13 that year, the Supreme Court granted bail to Mr. Yadav. He had moved the apex court after the Jharkhand High Court had dismissed his application for bail until his appeal against his conviction by the Special CBI Court in Ranchi was decided by the High Court.
The bail was granted by a bench headed by then Chief Justice P Sathasivam after it noted that many other similarly placed convicts had been been granted bail in the case.
Lalu Prasad given three years in third fodder scam case
On January 6, Mr. Yadav was sentenced to three and a half years in prison by a CBI Special Court for his role in a second fodder scam case, relating to the fraudulent withdrawal of funds from the Deoghar Treasury. Fifteen others were convicted in that case, while Mr. Mishra and five others were acquitted.
The former Union Minister is an accused in two other cases related to the alleged scam, pertaining to illegal withdrawal of Rs 3.97 crore from the Dumka Treasury and Rs 184 crore from the Doranda treasury. 
Despite the charges he is facing, Mr. Yadav remains popular with large sections of the people in Bihar and had led a grand alliance that included the Janata Dal (United) and the Congress to a handsome victory over the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2015 Assembly elections. The alliance later came apart when Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar walked out of it and later joined hands with the BJP to return as Chief Minister.
Mr. Yadav's conviction is likely to be a setback for the efforts to put together a similar alliance against the BJP for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Mr. Yadav's son Tejaswi Yadav, former deputy chief minister of Bihar, told journalists today that they would file appeals against the verdicts in the High Court. He said the people of the state consider Mr. Yadav as a hero and believed he was innocent. He also said that the people could see that Mr. Yadav was being framed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar, who is heading a JD (U)-BJP coalition government in Bihar.
Mr. Yadav, who is lodged in the Birsa Munda Central Jail here following his conviction in the Deoghar Treasury case, was brought to the CBI Court to hear the verdict in today's case.
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17 dead in major fire in factory at Bawana in Delhi

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 dead in Kerala, TN, several fishermen missing as cyclone Ockhi heads for Lakshadweep

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

Modi invites entrepreneurs from across world to be part of India's growth story

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

Modi says humanitarian forces must fight terrorism unitedly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Modi performs ‘Swachhta Shramdaan’ in Varanasi, visits ‘Pashudhan Arogya Mela’

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

Mumbai building collapse toll rises to 34, rescue efforts continue

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