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Modi calls for multi-pronged strategy to augment irrigation network

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday called for quick adoption of a multi-pronged strategy to augment the country’s irrigation network and a relook at the administrative mechanisms, financial arrangements and technology applications in the irrigation sector.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi chairing a high-level meeting for quick adoption of a multi-pronged strategy to augment the country’s irrigation network, in New Delhi on June 8, 2015.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi chairing a high-level meeting for quick adoption of a multi-pronged strategy to augment the country’s irrigation network, in New Delhi on June 8, 2015.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today called for quick adoption of a multi-pronged strategy to augment the country’s irrigation network and a relook at the administrative mechanisms, financial arrangements and technology applications in the irrigation sector.
 
Chairing a high-level meeting of top officials from the Ministries of Agriculture, Water Resources, Rural Development, and Finance, besides the NITI Aayog and the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), he  said this should result in a shorter, more comprehensive decision-making process, which could deliver quick results for the farmers.
 
Reviewing the preparations for the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana, Mr Modi said expansion of irrigation has to be linked with a comprehensive evaluation of cropping patterns across states, as well as a judicious mix of modern and micro irrigation systems such as drip and sprinkler irrigation.
 
Simultaneously, a thorough study should be made of various traditional irrigation methods across the country, he said.
 
The Prime Minister said young researchers from universities should be involved in irrigation-policy planning. He said irrigation plans need to be worked out at the district level, and young officers from the civil services should be asked to propose district-level irrigation plans.
 
Exhorting officials to treat the challenge of below-normal rainfall as an opportunity, he called for an intensive short-term effort to boost the creation of farm ponds across the country.
 
Mr Modi noted that falling ground-water levels in some states made it essential to bring about an urgent shift in cropping-patterns. He called for focus on maize, and initiatives in value-addition in maize, to make it more attractive for farmers.
 
Union Minister for Water Resources Uma Bharati, Union Minister for Rural Development Birender Singh, and Union Minister of State for Agriculture Sanjeev Balyan were amongst those who attended the meeting.
 
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India, US sign 2015 Framework for defence relationship

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

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

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

At least two passengers died and five others suffered injuries when nine coaches of the 18101 Tatanagar-Jammu Tawi Muri Express derailed on Monday afternoon near Sirathu, about 70 km from Allahabad, in Uttar Pradesh, official sources said.
 
2 dead, 5 injured as Tatanagar-Jammu Tawi Muri Express derails near Allahabad
 
 
At least two passengers died and six others suffered injuries when nine coaches of the 18101 Tatanagar-Jammu Tawi Muri Express derailed this afternoon near Sirathu, about 60 km from Allahabad, in Uttar Pradesh, official sources said.
 
Those killed in the mishap included a man, Govind Kumar (30), and a woman, Mohini Shetty, North-Central Railway (NCR) officials said.
 
One of the injured had suffered grievous injuries, while the other five received minor injuries, the sources said.
 
The accident occurred between Sirathu and Athsarai stations in Kaushambi district on the Allahabad-Kanpur section of North-Cental Railways (NCR)
 
Minister of Railways Suresh Prabhu announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 2 lakh for the next-of-kin of those killed in the accident, Rs 50,000 for each of the grievously injured and Rs 20,000 for those with minor injuries.
 
Senior railway officials, including the General Manager of NCR and the Divisional Railway Manager of Allahabad division had left for the scene of the mishap, which occurred around 2 pm.
 
Locally available officials of the railways, police and district administration had launched rescue and relief efforts as soon as news of the mishap was received.
 
The affected coaches included one general coach, four second class sleeper coaches (S3-6), a pantry car, two 3AC coaches and one 2AC coach, they said. One of the coaches is reported to have overturned in the impact of the crash.
 
Medical and accident relief trains had been despatched to the spot from Allahabad.
 
The derailment had disrupted traffic on the main Howrah-Delhi route and efforts were on to restore the affected line at the earliest, the sources added.
 
Mr Prabhu directed Railway Board Chairman A K Mittal and Member Engineering V K Gupta to leave for the site immediately. He also directed the railway administration to effectively undertake rescue and relief operations and provide best medical care and all assistance to the injured. 
 
The Railways have set up the following helpline numbers for information and assistance: Allahabad -0532-1072, 035-23662/23763, Kanpur – 0512-2322015, Jammu -01912480116, Tata Nagar- 0657-2290324, 2290382, New Delhi – 011-23962389, 23342954, 23341074, 1072, Delhi Main -011-23962389.
 
Stranded passengers of the affected trains are being cleared through special train and by deploying buses. They were also provided with drinking water and snacks. 
 
An inquiry will be by Commissioner Railway Safety, to ascertain the cause of the accident, an official press release added.
 
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Jayalalithaa returns as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu

AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa was sworn in as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu in Chennai on Saturday, 12 days after the Karnataka High Court acquitted her in an 19-year-old corruption case and paved the way for her return to the top job in the state for the fifth time after a gap of eight months.
 
Jayalalithaa sworn in as Tamil Nadu CM
 
 
All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) supremo J Jayalalithaa was sworn in as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu here today, 12 days after the Karnataka High Court acquitted her in an 19-year-old corruption case and paved the way for her return to the top job in the state for the fifth time after a gap of eight months.
 
Tamil Nadu Governor K Rosaiah administered the oaths of offie and secrecy to Ms Jayalalithaa at a ceremony at the Madras University Centenary Auditorium.
 
Along with Ms Jayalalithaa, 67, as many as 28 other Ministers were also sworn in, including Mr O. Panneerselvam, who had functioned as Chief Minister since September 29 after she had been forced to resign following her conviction by a special court in Bangalore in the case.
 
Mr Panneerselvam will be Finance Minister, a portfolio he had held in her previous Cabinet.
 
The Governor had accepted the resignation of Mr. Panneerselvam and his Council of Ministers with effect from the forenoon of yesterday and requested him and his Council of Ministers to function until alternative arrangements were made.
 
Later yesterday, Ms Jayalalithaa, who was elected as the leader of the AIADMK Legislature Party, had called on Mr Rosaiah and staked her claim to form the new government.
 
Ms Jayalalithaa will have to get elected to the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly within six months in keeping with Constitutional requirements.
 
Mr Panneerselvam had earlier served as Chief Minister for a brief period from September 21, 2001 to March 1, 2002 after the Supreme Court had declared null and void the action of then Governor Fatima Beevi appointing Ms Jayalalithaa to the position as she had been sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment in another corruption case. Like this tim, she was then, too, cleared of all charges in 2002 and had returned as Chief Minister.
 
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On May 11, the Karnataka High Court allowed Ms Jayalalithaa's appeal against the verdict of the special court in Bangalore which had, on September 23, 2014, sentenced her to four years in prison and asked her to pay a fine of Rs 100 crore.
 
Mr Justice C R Kumaraswamy said the appeals by Ms Jayalalithaa and the three co-accused had been allowed and that they were acquitted of all charges.
 
Ms Jayalalithaa had also been barred by the special court from contesting elections and that verdict had meant that she had been disqualified as a member of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly and ceased to be the Chief Minister of the state. The acquittal by the High Court meant that Ms Jayalalithaa could return as Chief Minister.
 
The three co-accused who were acquitted along with her are her close aide Sasikala Natarajan, Sasikala's nephew and Jayalalithaa's disowned foster son Sudhakaran and Sasikala's close relative Ilavarasi, who were also convicted in the case and sentenced to four years in prison and fined Rs 10 crore each by the special court.
 
Sasikala was among the more than 3000 people present at the ceremony. Others present included film stars Rajnikanth, Sarath Kumar and Prabhu and industrialists N Srinivasan and A C Muthaiah.
 
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Centre clarifies on powers of Delhi LG, elected govt., AAP condemns move

The Centre on Friday sought to settle the public power tussle between Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung by issuing a notification which made it clear that, under the Constitution, the Lt. Governor was the "administrator" of the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
 
Kejriwal slams Centre's notification on LG's powers
The Centre today sought to settle the public power tussle between Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung by issuing a notification which made it clear that, under the Constitution, the Lt. Governor was the "administrator" of the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
 
In the notification, issued by the Ministyr of Home Affairs (MHA) superseding  an earlier notification of September 24, 1998, the President has directed that , subject to his control and further orders, the Lieutenant Governor shall in respect of matters connected with the Public Order, Police, Land and Services exercise the powers and discharge the functions of the Central Government, to the extent delegated to him from time to time by the President.
 
The notification pointed out that Article 239 of the Constitution provided that every Union Territory shall be administered by the President acting, to such extent as he thinks fit, through an administrator to be appointed by him with such designation as he may specify.
 
Article 239AA provides that the Union Territory of Delhi shall be called the National Capital Territory of Delhi and the administrator thereof appointed under article 239 shall be designated as the Lieutenant Governor.
 
The notification said sub­clause (a) of clause (3) of article 239AA states that the Legislative Assembly shall have power to make laws for the whole or any part of the National Capital Territory with respect to any of the matters enumerated in the State List or in the Concurrent List in so far as any such matter is applicable to Union Territories except matters with respect to Entries 1, 2 and 18 of the State List and Entries 64, 65 and 66 of that List in so far as they relate to the said Entries 1, 2, and 18.
 
Entry 1 relates to 'Public Order', Entry 2 relates to 'Police' and Entry 18 relates to 'Land'.
 
The sub­clause also qualifies the matters enumerated in the State List or in the Concurrent List in so far as any such matter is applicable to Union Territories. 
 
The notification drew attention to Entry 41 of the State List which deals with the State Public Services and State Public Sevice Commission which do not exist in the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
 
It also pointed out that the Union Territories Cadre consisting of Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and Indian Police Service (IPS)personnel is common to Union Territories of Delhi, Chandigarh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Puducherry and State of Arunachal Pradesh, Goa and Mizoram which is administered by the Central Government through the Ministry of Home Affairs.
 
Similarly DANICS and DANIPS are common services catering to 
the requirement of the Union Territories of Daman & Diu, Dadra Nagar Haveli, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshdweep including the National Capital Territory of Delhi which is also administered by the Central Government through the Ministry of Home Affairs. 
 
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"As such, it is clear that the National Capital Territory of Delhi does not have its own State Public Services. Thus, 'Services' will fall within this category.
 
The notification said that it was well-established that where there was no legislative power, there was no executive power since executive power is co­extensive with legislative power.
 
it said that matters relating to Entries 1, 2 & 18 of the State List being 'Public Order', 'Police' and 'Land' respectively and Entries 64, 65 & 66 of that list in so far as they relate to Entries 1, 2 & 18 as also 'Services' fall outside the purview of Legislative Assembly of the National Capital Territory of Delhi and consequently the Government of NCT of Delhi will have no executive power in relation to them and that that power in relation to these subjects vests exclusively in the President or his delegate, the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi.
 
"Now, therefore, in accordance with the provisions contained in article 239 and sub­clause (a) of clause (3) of 239AA, the President hereby directs that ­-
 
(i) subject to his control and further orders, the Lieutenant Governor of the National Capital Territory of Delhi, shall in respect of matters connected with the 'Public Order', 'Police', 'Land' and 'Services' as stated hereinabove, exercise the powers and discharge the functions of the Central Government, to the extent delegated to him from time to time by the President.
 
"Provided that the Lieutenant Governor of the National Capital Territory of Delhi may, in his discretion, to obtain the views of the Chief Minister of the National Capital Territory of Delhi in regard to the matter of 'Services' whereever he deems it appropriate," the notification said.
 
The notification also made it clear that the Anti-Corruption Bureau of the Delhi Government had no jurisdiction over bureaucrafts and police officers belonging to the Central Government and working for the Delhi Government.
 
The current controversy arose after Mr Jung had appointed Ms Shakuntala Gamlin as the interim Chief Secretary, overriding the objections raised by Mr Kejriwal, who had alleged that she had lobbied for power distribution companies in the capital.
 
Mr Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) slammed the notification, saying that it showed how nervous the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the Centre had become after the recent Delhi Assembly elections in which his party had won 67 of the 70 seats.
 
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, however, said the notification was aimed at clarifying the powers of the elected Delhi government and the Lt. Governor.
 
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IAF's Mirage-2000 lands on Yamuna Expressway as part of emergency drill

An Indian Air Force Mirage-2000 on Thursday landed on the Delhi-Agra Yamuna Expressway near Mathura as part of the IAF's plans to use national highways for emergency landings by fighter aicraft.
 
IAF fighter aircraft lands on Yamuna Expressway near Mathura
 
 
An Indian Air Force (IAF) Mirage-2000 today successfully landed on the Delhi-Agra Yamuna Expressway near Mathura as part of the IAF's plans to use national highways for emergency landings by fighter aicraft.
 
"This capability was demonstrated by IAF on May 21, 2015 by a Mirage-2000 aircraft which got airborne from one of the IAF bases in Central India," a press release from the Air Force said.
 
"All facilities like make shift Air Traffic Control, safety services, rescue vehicles, bird clearance parties and other requirements were set up by IAF personnel from Air Force Station Agra," it said.
 
The IAF had, in coordination with the District Magistrates and Superintendents of Police of Agra and Mathura tied up all the necessary arrangements for activation of the selected stretch.
 
"The aircraft made a practice approach on the highway, coming down to a height of 100 mtrs before landing off the next approach. The operations were conducted with active support from the government of Uttar Pradesh, Yamuna Expressway Authority, Toll authorities of JP Infratech and Civil Police," the release said.
 
"The IAF has plans to activate more such stretches on highways in the future," it added.
 
The 165 km Yamuna Expressway stretching 165 kms., which connects Delhi and Agra, is a six-lane controlled expressway.
 
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Aruna Shanbaug, in vegetative state for 42 years after being raped in 1973, dies

Aruna Shanbaug, a nurse who remained in a vegetative state for nearly 42 years after being brutally raped in1973, died on Monday morning in Mumbai's KEM Hospital after a bout of pneumonia, hospital sources said.
 
Aruna Shanbaug dies after 42 years in vegetative state
Aruna Shanbaug, a nurse who remained in a vegetative state for nearly 42 years after being brutally raped in1973, died this morning in Mumbai's KEM Hospital after a bout of pneumonia, hospital sources said.
 
Shanbaug, 67, was put on ventilator support in the intensive care unit of the hospital for more than a week, they said.
 
She breathed her last at around 9.30 am today, they said. She would have turned 68 in the first week of June.
 
Shanbaug had been in a semi-comatose condition after the horrific incident of November 23, 1973 in which her assailant, Sohanlal, used a dog chain around her neck to pin her down during the assault, resulting in serious damage to her brain cells.
 
Her colleagues at the KEM Hospital had been caring for her for the past four decades, meeting her every need and ensuring, among other things, that she did not have even a single bedsore during this period.
 
On March 7, 2011, the Supreme Court had, in an important ruling, dismissed a petition filed by Ms Pinki Virani, who claimed to be the next friend of Shanbaug, seeking permission for euthanasia since she was in a vegetative state for more than 37 years at that time.
 
A bench comprising Justices Markendey Katju and Gyansudha Misra  held that active euthanasia is illegal but passive euthanasia is permissible with the permission of the concerned high court in appropriate cases.
 
The bench in its 110-page judgement held that the real next friend of Shanbaug was the staff of the K E M Hospital, Mumbai, who had een looking after her for decades.
 
The apex court while permitting passive euthanasia in appropriate cases with the permission of the concerned high court, however, put a rider that the high court will have to set up a medical court before permitting passive euthanasia and it will be the law of the land till Parliament enacts appropriate law on the issue of mercy killing.
 
The Central Government as well as the KEM Hospital had vehemently opposed the petitioner.
 
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Jayalalithaa acquitted in corruption case, paving way for her return as TN CM

Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa was on Monday acquitted by the Karnataka High Court in Bangalore in an 18-year-old corruption case, clearing the way for her return to the top job in her state.
File photo of J. Jayalalithaa.
File photo of J. Jayalalithaa.
Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa was today acquitted by the Karnataka High Court here in an 18-year-old corruption case, clearing the way for her return to the top job in her state.
 
The High Court allowed Ms Jayalalithaa's appeal against the verdict of a special court in Bangalore which had, on September 23, 2014, sentenced her to four years in prison and asked her to pay a fine of Rs 100 crore.
 
Reading out the operative part of the judgement at 11 am in the court, Mr Justice C R Kumaraswamy said the appeals by Ms Jayalalithaa and the three co-accused had been allowed and that they were acquitted of all charges.
 
Ms Jayalalithaa, 67, had also been barred by the special court from contesting elections and that verdict had meant that she had been disqualified as a member of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly and ceased to be the Chief Minister of the state.
 
Today's acquittal means that Ms Jayalithaa, supremo of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), can return as Chief Minister.
 
After she had stepped down, senior AIADMK leader O. Panneerselvam was sworn in as the new Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu on September 29 last year.
 
Mr Panneerselvam, 63, had earlier served as Chief Minister for a brief period from September 21, 2001 to March 1, 2002 after the Supreme Court had declared null and void the action of then Governor Fatima Beevi appointing Ms Jayalalithaa to the position as she had been sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment in another corruption case. She was later cleared of all charges in 2002 and had returned as Chief Minister.
 
Ms Jayalalithaa, a film star-turned-politician, and the three co-accused persons were accused by the prosecution of amassing assets valued at Rs 66.65 crore disproportionate to their known sources of income from 1991-96 during her first term in office.
 
The special court had sentenced the co-accused -- her close aide Sasikala Natarajan, Sasikala's nephew Sudharakan, who is Jayalalithaa's disowned foster son, and Sasikala's close relative Ilavarasi -- also to four years in prison and fined them Rs 10 crore each.
 
 
Jayalalithaa acquitted by Karnataka HC in corruption case
Celebrations broke out among Ms Jayalalithaa's supporters all across Tamil Nadu as well as outside the high court here, where they had gathered in large numbers.
 
Hundreds of people who had congregated outside her Poes Garden residence in Chennai since early morning burst firecrackers, danced and distributed sweets as soon as news of the verdict by Mr Justice C R Kumaraswamy ame in.
 
Mr Panneerselvam and many of his Cabinet colleagues also turned up to congratulate her.
 
On October 17 last year, Ms Jayalalithaa had been granted bail by the Supreme Court in the case after the Karnataka High Court had turned down her application.
 
Along with her, the apex court also granted bail to Ms Natarajan, Mr Sudhakaran and Mr Ilavarasi.
 
The case was filed in 1997 by the Tamil Nadu government's Department of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) during the tenure of Ms Jayalalithaa's rival and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader M Karunanidhi as Chief Minister.
 
The Supreme Court ordered the case to be transferred to a special court in Bangalore in 2003 on a petition filed by DMK leader K Anbazhagan, who had expressed doubts about a fair trial in Tamil Nadu after Jayalalithaa returned as Chief Minister.
 
The prosecution had alleged that Jayalalithaa had just Rs 3 crore when she took over as Chief Minister for the first time in 1991 and had taken a token salary of just Re 1, but her wealth and that of her three co-accused had grown to Rs 66.6 crore during her five years in office, vastly disproportionate to her known sources of income.
 
The alleged wealth included 2000 acres of land, 30 kg of gold and thousands of sarees. She was also accused of spending more than Rs 5 crore on her foster son's wedding in 1996, though she had claimed that the expenditure was borne by the bride's family.
 
Ms Jayalalithaa had all along maintained that the case was an act of political vendetta by the DMK. Among other things, she had agued that her previous assets were undervalued, her property was overvalued and her income from various sources were not taken into account.
 
In 2011, Jayalalithaa had appeared in the Bangalore court for four days to answer more than 1390 questions posed by the judge.
 
In the Lok Sabha elections last year, the AIADMK had made a near clean sweep in Tamil Nadu, winning 37 of the 39 seats from the state.
 
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Modi invokes spirit of Team India; says Centre, states must work together

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday described the Central government and the 29 state governments in the country as "30 pillars of Team India" which would together take the country forward.
 
Delhi alone will not run nation: Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today described the Central government and the 29 state governments in the country as "30 pillars of Team India" which would together take the country forward.
 
Addressing a public meeting after dedicating to the nation the 2.5 million tonne modernised and expanded IISCO steel plant at Burnpur in West Bengal, he mentioned various instances of cooperative federalism of recent months, including the setting up of the NITI Aayog, and the devolution of additional revenues to the States through acceptance of the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission. 
 
He also mentioned that the decades-old land boundary issue between India and Bangladesh had been successfully resolved through the same spirit of Team India, with all state governments concerned and political parties coming together to support a solution of the problem.
 
He said the nation would move ahead faster when the Centre and the states worked together.
 
"Sadly Centre-State relations were tensed for a long time. I have been Chief Minister for a long time and I know that such behaviour will not be good. We have brought in a change, we focused on co-operative federalism. Delhi alone will not run the nation," he said.
 
"India will not change without a 'Team India'. The Prime Minister and Chief Ministers are one team that will take India ahead. The nation is bigger than any party," he said.
 
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Mr Modi said the time had now come for India to address the issue of "geographical imbalance" along with the economic and social imbalances. He said that eastern India, too, should develop as fast as western India is developing, and for that, development of West Bengal is essential. 
 
"The eastern part of India has immense potential. The people are also skilled," he said.
 
He said District Mineral Foundations would be set up to help speed up progress and welfare of the poor in mineral-rich districts. He said that, within a year, the atmosphere of gloom in the country had lifted, and all global rating agencies were now agreed that India is among the world's fastest growing economies.
 
"A year ago the world had a different perception about India. Now the world says in one voice that India is a fast growing economy," he added.
 
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Modi appeals to left-wing extremists to shun violence, join mainstream

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday made an emotional appeal to left-wing extremists to shun the path of violence and join the mainstream of development.
 
Violence does not have any future, peace does: Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today made an emotional appeal to left-wing extremists to shun the path of violence and join the mainstream of development.
 
Addressing a large public meeting at Dantewada in Chhattisgarh, one of the hotbeds of Naxalism in the country, Mr Modi urged all misguided youth to cast aside their weapons and spend a few days with children who have lost their parents to incidents of left-wing extremism.
 
He said those children would inspire such youth to lay down arms forever. "The shoulders of youth should now bear ploughs, rather than guns," he said.
 
Mr Modi, who had an extensive interaction with children of Dantewada earlier in the day, said that those children had both the dreams and the confidence to achieve them. He said those children and the state of Chhattisgarh needed an atmosphere of peace for their dreams to be realized. 
 
Mr Modi pointed out that Punjab had successfully overcome violence, and expressed confidence that Chhattisgarh too would be able to overcome left-wing extremism.
 
He said Chhattisgarh had the potential to emerge as one of the most developed states in India. He added that the investment of Rs. 24,000 crore that would flow into the region, as a result of the memoranda of understanding (MoUs) signed at Dantewada today in his presence for projects in the railways and steel sectors, would bring about a big change in the lives of people. 
 
The Prime Minister said that employment for youth was the first and foremost requirement of all parts of India, and his Government was working to achieve that goal. He said India had successfully left behind its past of corruption and slow pace of development. He said the whole world had now recognized India to be one of the fastest growing economies. 
 
The Prime Minister, who had visited the Livelihood College before arriving for the public meeting, appreciated the initiatives for skill development being taken by the Government of Chhattisgarh. 
 
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh and Union Ministers Narendra Singh Tomar and Vishnudeo Sai were amongst those present on the occasion. 
 
The MoUs signed today in the presence of Mr Modi include one between the government of Chhattisgarh, NMDC, IRCON and SAIL for a 140 km rail line between Rowghat and Jagdalpur at an estimated project cost of Rs 2000 crore.
 
An MoU was signed between the Ministry of Steel, government of Chhattisgarh, SAIL and NMDC fo a 3 million ton Ultra Mega Steel Plant with an investment of approximately Rs. 18,000 crore. 
 
The third MoU was signed between the Chhattisgarh government and NMDC for a slurry pipeline and a 2 MTPA pellet plant at Nagarnar in Bastar district with an investment of Rs 4000 crore.
 
The fourth MoU was signed between the Chhattisgarh government and SAIL for setting up a 1 MTPA pellet plant at Dalli-Rajhara, Balod district with an investment of Rs. 826 crore. 
 
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Earlier, at his interaction with students at Education City at Jawanga n Dantewada, Mr Modi called for development of the innate sporting talent that exists among the tribal youth. 
 
He said tribal youth could excel in the global sports arena. He added that sports was important for children, because it led to the development of sportsman spirit in society. 
 
Responding to questions from students, the Prime Minister said life should not be measured on a scale of success or failure. Talking about his own experiences, he said he had faced failure often in life. However he added that one could learn more from failure, than from success. He said one should be clear about one's goals, and have a firm resolve, in order to achieve success. 
 
The Prime Minister also visited 'Saksham' - a school for specially-abled children - and interacted with students there. 
 
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Kerala: Four female rowers attempt suicide in SAI hostel; one dead, three hospitalised

A 15-year-old rower died and three female athletes were hospitalised in a serious condition after they consumed poisonous fruit on Wednesday in an alleged suicide attempt at their hostel at the Sports Authority of India's Water Sports Centre at Alappuzha in Kerala.
 
Kerala suicide attempt: DG SAI says priority to save lives of girls
A 15-year-old rower died and three female athletes were hospitalised in a serious condition after they consumed poisonous fruit yesterday in an alleged suicide attempt at their hostel at the Sports Authority of India's (SAI) Water Sports Centre at Alappuzha in Kerala.
 
The decased was identified as Aparna Ramachandran, a resident of Avalookunnu in Alappuzha district, official sources said. The three others are also from Kerala, they said.
 
The four athletes allegedly consumed the fruit of cerbera odollam (Othalanga in Malayalam) sometime during the afternoon yesterday and were rushed to the Alappuzha Medical College Hospital, about 150 km from here, in the evening after they started showing symptoms of food poisoning.
 
While Aparna failed to respond to treatment and breathed her last around 4 am today, the other three girls were said to be in a serious condition.
 
The reason for the extreme step taken by the rowers could not be ascertained immediately, but parents and relatives of the girls said they were subjected to mental and physical harassment at the hostel in recent times.
 
The hostel authorities, however, denied these allegations and said there were no complaints of any harassment. Media reports quoted them as saying that the girls had recently been caught consuming beer and were questioned about it, and they must have resorted to the extreme step fearing further action.
 
The State Government as well as the Sports Authority of India have ordered inquiries into the incident.
 
Kerala Home Minister Ramesh Chenithala told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram that he had asked Inspector General of Police (Kochi Range) M R Ajithkumar to conduct an inquiry into th incident and the officer would reach Alappuzha later today.
 
In Delhi, SAI Director General Injeti Srinivas said SAI had taken an extremely serious view of the incident and he had submitted an initial report to Union Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. He said SAI would conduct a probe into all aspects of the incident.
 
Mr  Sonowal said in a statement later that he had asked the Director General of SAI to rush to the spot and give a factual report on the incident.
 
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“I am deeply aggrieved by the incident that has happened in Kerala. The young girl who has died was a very promising sportsperson. It is a big loss to the country in general and Sports Authority of India and sports fraternity in particular. I convey my condolences to the bereaved family. We will give all possible help to the bereaved family," he said.
 
"Three girls are still undergoing treatment. I pray for their speedy recovery. To provide them the best possible treatment is our top priority," he said.
 
"Local police is investigating the matter. I have also directed the Director General of SAI to rush to the spot and give me a factual report. I have specifically directed him to ensure that the best possible treatment is made available to the three girls who are undergoing treatment. 
 
"While law will take its own course, at this stage I would only like to say that if anyone from Sports Authority of India is found guilty in connection with this tragic incident, strictest possible action will be taken against him or her," he added.
 
Mr Srinivas told newspersons in Delhi that it was the most shocking and tragic incident in the three-decade-old history of SAI, which is tasked with nurturing sports talent in the country.
 
He said he had been informed of the incident around midnight last night and has been in touch with Kerala government and local SAI officials since then.
 
"Our immediate priority is to deal with the medical emergency, to save the lives of the three trainees" he said. He said he had been told that there was no real antidote for the poisonous fruit and that, since the entire matter came to light only after some hours after they had consumed the fruit, the poison appeared to have entered their bloodstream and complicated matters.
 
Mr Srinivas said the four girls had reportedly left a suicide note jointly signed by them. One of the three girls in hospital, who is conscious and is able to speak, has deposed before the sub-divisional magistrate, he said. "All these matters will be investigated," he added.
 
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Salman Khan given 5 years in jail in 2002 case, HC extends his bail by two days

Bollywood star Salman Khan was on Wednesday convicted and sentenced to five years in prison by a court in Mumbai for causing the death of a pavement dweller in a 2002 hit-and-run case in which he was accused of driving under the influence of liquor, but got bail for two days from the Bombay High Court a little later.
 
Salman Khan gets five years in jail in 2002 hit-and-run case
 
 
Popular Bollywood actor Salman Khan was today convicted and sentenced to five years in prison by a sessions court here for causing the death of a pavement dweller in a 2002 hit-and-run case in which he was accused of driving under the influence of liquor, but got bail for two days from the Bombay High Court a little later.
 
Sessions judge D W Deshpande held that all the charges against the actor, including culpable homicide not amounting to murder, had been proven.
 
Since the quantum of sentence was more than three years, Khan could not have applied for bail in the sessions court and, therefore, approached the High Court. Khan was already on bail in the case, and the High Court extended it by two more days until Friday, when it will hear his bail application.
 
Khan's lawyers had sought bail on the ground that the detailed order of the sessions judge had not been made available yet.
 
Once the copy of the High Court's order reached the session court, he left for home around 7.15 pm after completing various formalities. Hundreds of his fans and well-wishers had gathered outside his residence in Bandra to greet him on his arrival.
 
The sessions judge accepted the prosecution's case that Khan, 49, was at the wheel at the time of the accident, rejecting the defence plea that it was his driver Ashok Singh who was actually driving the vehicle then.
 
Khan and members of his family present in the court room were visibly upset after hearing the verdict.
 
During the argument on the quantum of sentence, lawyers for the actor pleaded for a lesser term, citing his philanthropic work and the fact that he had paid Rs 19 lakh as compensation to the family of the victim. They also said he was prepared to pay more if ordered to do so. "We are not running away from responsibility," his counsel said.
 
The prosecution, on the other hand, argued for the maximum sentence of 10 years.
 
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The case related to the incident, nearly 13 years ago, on September 28, 2002 when the actor's Land Cruiser went out of control and ran over five persons sleeping on a pavement outside a bakery in the Bandra area of the city. One person died and the four others suffered injuries in the incident.
 
The prosecution said Khan was driving the vehicle when the mishap occurred, that he was driving without a licence and that he was drunk at that time. They also accused him of fleeing from the scene. The actor, on the other hand, said he was not driving, that he was not drunk and that he had not run away from the spot.
 
The prosecution produced eyewitnesses, those who were injured in the accident, employees of the bar where the actor had consumed drinks, doctors who examined his blood samples and forensic experts, among others, as witnesses.
 
In a surprising development, Khan's driver Ashok Singh turned up in court recently, after more than 12 years, and deposed that it was he who was driving the car on that day. He said the front left tyre of the car had burst, leading to the mishap
 
Large crowds of Khan's fans, mediapersons, lawyers and others had gathered outside the court at Kalaghoda to find out about the judgement.
 
The judge pronounced his guilty verdict within minutes after arriving in court and later prounced the quantum of sentence, about two hours later, at 1.10 pm.
 
Khan was charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, rash and negligent driving, causing hurt by act endangering life,  causing grievous hurt, causing damage to property, driving vehicle in contravention of rules and driving at great speed after consuming alcohol.
 
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Nepal quake toll crosses 7056, relief efforts continue apace

The death toll in the devastating 7.9 magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25 has crossed 7056 even as search and rescue teams continued their efforts amidst fading hopes of finding any more survivors.
 
Remote areas in quake-hit Nepal await aid
 
 
The death toll in the devastating 7.9 magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25 has crossed 7056 even as search and rescue teams continued their efforts amidst fading hopes of finding any more survivors.
 
Rescue teams from the Nepal Army as well as from the Indian Army and several other foreign agencies continued to dig through the debris of hundreds of collapsed buildings across the country for the ninth day today.
 
Official sources in Kathmandu said more than 14, 225 people had suffered injuries in the earthquake.
 
Sindhupalchowk, the worst affected district, accounted for 2580 deaths, while 1185 people died in capital Kathmandu, 659 in Nuwakot, 410 in Gorkha, 311 in Kavre and 306 in Rasuwa. 
 
Nepalese media reports, quoting the sources said more than 41,200 houses had been destroyed and 149,650 had been severely damaged. More than 10,470 government buildings were completely destroyed and another 14,180 partially damaged.
 
The earthquake was the worst to hit the Himalayan country since the 1934 quake, which measured 8.5 on the Richter scale and killed more than 8000 people.
 
Apart from causing widespread devastation in Nepal, the April 25 tremors were also felt across several parts of north, east, north-east, west and central India as well as Bangladesh. As many as 79 people have been reported killed in the Indian states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Rajasthan.
 
Nepal's Chief of Army Staff General Gaurav Shumsher Rana has said that the death toll in the quake in his country could cross 10,000.
 
“Around 4,000 people might still be laying beneath the rubble. Rescue operation is being carried out with utmost diligence," he was quoted as telling local journalists.
 
The Indian Army continued its relief operations in Nepal, providing engineer support, medical assistance and relief material in coordination with the Nepalese Army. Army relief convoys moving by road from India have started arriving in Kathmandu, official sources here said.
 
Five Army Aviation advanced light helicopters (ALHs) have been deployed for rescue and relief efforts in Pokhra and adjoining areas inspite of weather and terrain limitations. 
 
The Army has also set up field hospitals at Lagenkhel, Barpak and Senamangal where people are being provided medical relief.
 
The engineer task forces (ETFs) at Barpak are opening roads and have cleared 85 meters track using skid steers and JCBs. They are also helping to clear the debris of collapsed buildings and repair damaged houses.
 
Meanwhile, the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) met here yesterday under the chairmanship of Cabinet Secretary, Ajit Seth and reviewed the status of the rescue and relief operations undertaken by different agencies of the government of India in different parts of Nepal.
 
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Personnel of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) continue to be engaged in search and rescue operations. Various state governments have also intensified their efforts towards providing relief materials to Nepal.
 
These materials include tents, tarpaulins, medicines, dry food and water.  The medical teams sent by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare have made two operation theaters functional and have operated more than 20 cases so far.  Experts from India are involved in restoration of power-lines, communication network and other relief related activities in various parts of Nepal, an official press release said.
 
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has also provided a Missing Persons Registration Page, it added.
 
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Nepal quake toll crosses 6200, rescue and relief efforts continue

The death toll in the devastating magnitude 7.9 earthquake that struck Nepal last Saturday has crossed 6200 as search and rescue teams continued to dig through the debris of hundreds of collapsed buildings across the country for the seventh day on Friday.
 
Daily life in earthquake-hit Kathmandu's makeshift tents
 
 
The death toll in the devastating magnitude 7.9 earthquake that struck Nepal last Saturday has crossed 6200 as search and rescue teams continued to dig through the debris of hundreds of collapsed buildings across the country for the seventh day today.
 
Official sources said the number of those injured was around 10,000.
 
The central region of Nepal accounted for the highest number of deaths, including 1130 in Kathmandu, 266 in Bhaktapur and 171 in Lalitpur. 
 
The earthquake was the worst to hit the Himalayan country since the 1934 quake, which measured 8.5 on the Richter scale which killed more than 8000 people.
 
Apart from causing widespread devastation in Nepal, Saturday's tremors were also felt across several parts of north, east, north-east, west and central India as well as Bangladesh.
 
The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) said the temblor, with its epicentre at latitude 28.1°N and longitude 84.6°E, occurred at 1141 hours IST on April 25 at a focal depth of 10 km. This was followed by a second quake, measuring 6.6 on the Richter scale, about 34 minutes later in the same area, about 80 km north-west of Kathmandu, the capital of the Himalayan country.
 
As many as 72 deaths were also reported in India, including 57 in Bihar, 12 in Uttar Pradesh, two in West Bengal and one in Rajasthan, official sources said.
 
The earthquake had been felt in several other parts of India, including Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, the North East and Madhya Pradesh as well as in neighbouring Bangladesh.
 
The earthquake also triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest and caught several climbers unawares on the mountain, the reports said. A spokesperson for the Indian Ministry of Defence said 19 bodies of climbers from various countries had been recovered from the Everest base camp. 
 
The Indian Army's medical teams, Army aviation helicopters and Engineer Task Forces (ETFs) continued to assist in the rescue efforts in Nepal.
 
The helicopters are being used to evacuate people and rescue those stranded in remote locations as well as to transport relief material.
 
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The Army has set up three field hospitals to provide succour to the affected people. Mobile medical teams from these hospitals are reaching out to people in nearby areas.
 
The ETFs are helping to open roads and establish road communication in the affected areas as well as in clearance of debris.
 
The Indian Air Force (IAF) has deployed several transport aircraft to carry relief personnel and material to Nepal from India and to bring back home stranded Indian tourists and pilgrims.
 
President Pranab Mukherjee conveyed to Mr Deep Kumar Upadhyay, the new Ambassador of Nepal who presented his credentials to him here yesterday, that India sood with the people of Nepal in this hour of distress.
 
He said India felt strongly for their brothers and sisters in Nepal who have been affected by the tragedy and hoped the situation would return to normalcy soon.
 
Mr Upadhyay said Nepal was struggling to come to terms with the devastation caused by the earthquake. The support and sympathy of the government and people of India was a great source of strength for Nepal, he said.
 
Nepal is grateful for the swift action by the Government of India, Mr Upadhyay added.
 
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More than 700 dead as 7.9 earthquake hits Nepal, at least 34 deaths in India

A massive earthquake of magnitude 7.9 struck Nepal just before noon on Saturday, claiming nearly 700 lives in that country and leaving at least 34 dead in the Indian states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
 
More than 700 killed in Nepal quake, 34 in India
A massive earthquake of magnitude 7.9 struck Nepal just before noon today, claiming nearly 700 lives in that country and leaving at least 34 dead in the Indian states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
 
The quake caused widespread devasation in Nepal, especially in the Kathmandu valley, and the tremors were felt across several parts of north, east, north-east, west and central India.
 
The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) said the temblor, with its epicentre at latitude 28.1°N and longitude 84.6°E, occurred at 1141 hours IST at a focal depth of 10 km, clearly one of the most powerful earthquakes to hit Nepal in nearly eight decades.
 
This was followed by a second quake, measuring 6.6 on the Richter scale, about 34 minutes later in the same area, about 80 km north-west of Kathmandu, the capital of the Himalayan country.
 
There were more than a dozen aftershocks reported over the next few hours.
 
Mr Laxmi Prasad Dhakkal, the spokesperson for Nepal's Ministry of Home Affairs, told television channels, on the basis of information received from 29 districts, that at least 686 people had died in the Himalayan country. 
 
The death toll is expected to go up as search and rescue teams dig through the rubble of collapsed buildings and reach some of the remote affected areas.
 
He said hundreds more had suffered injuries and that there was large scale devastation of public and private property.
 
At least 180 people were reported killed in Kathmandu alone, reports reaching here said.
 
At least 34 deaths were reported in India -- 23 in Bihar, eight in eastern Uttar Pradesh and three in West Bengal. Scores of people have suffered injuries, official sources said.
 
An Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft left for Kathmandu this afternoon with 45 personnel of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and with tonnes of relief material, rescue equipment, food and medicines.
 
Official sources said another plane was on standby and would leave soon, and a medical team would leave by a third aircraft later.
 
Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar told journalists that more aircraft would fly to Nepal today. At least eight helicopters would also be sent for evacuation and supplies of essential commodities, he said.
 
Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju told journalists that NDRF teams had been mobilised for rescue and relief operations in the affected areas of India. He also said that 10 NDRF teams had been kept in readiness to fly to Nepal.
 
He said that paramilitary forces and civil defence organisations were being mobilised to join the rescue and relief efforts.
 
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The earthquake caused caused widespead damage to buildings and other structures across the Kathmandu valley and many other parts of Nepal.
 
Nepalese officials told journalists that a lot of people were feared trapped under the debris of the collapsed buildings in different parts of the country.
 
The landmark nine-storeyed Dharahara tower in the centre of Kathmandu, a major tourist attraction, had collapsed in the quake, the sources said. Dozens of people were believed trapped under the debris of the structure.
 
Television pictures from the affected areas showed dozens of buildings had collapsed. Hundreds of people could be seen helping to clear the debris to search for survivors.
 
The pictures also showed some people being rescued from the rubble and being rushed to hospitals. Hospitals reported receiving scores of injured people.
 
Hundreds of tourists and pilgrims from India are believed to be in Nepal, and they have been advised to establish contact with the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu.
 
The tremors were felt in several parts of India, including Delhi, Lucknow, Patna, Kolkata, Jaipur, Bhopal and Bhubaneswar.
 
People in many parts of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam and Meghalaya ran out of offices and homes in panic.
 
The tremors were also felt in many parts of Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat, sources said.
 
The ground also shook in several parts of Bangladesh, the sources said.
 
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a high-level meeting of Ministers and senior officials to review the situation and directed immediate dispatch of relief and rescue teams as well as medical teams to Nepal as well as to the affected areas in India.
 
He also directed that proper arrangements be made for rendering assistance in evacuation of stranded tourists.
 
The meeting was informed that the first set of NDRF teams had aleady left for Kathmandu.
 
The meeting was attended by Union Ministers Arun Jaitley and Rajnath Singh, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Mr Nripendra Misra, the Additional Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Mr P.K. Mishra, and senior officials from the Government, IMD and NDRF. 
 
The Prime Minister had earlier spoken to Nepal President Ram Baran Yadav and Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, and the Chief Ministers of the States of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Sikkim and Madhya Pradesh.
 
He has assured Nepal of all assistance in dealing with the aftermath of the earthquake. 
 
Mr Modi was briefed on the inputs regarding the extent of damage to life and property received so far from various places in India and Nepal. 
 
The Union Government's Crisis Management Committee, which met earlier today, will be meeting again later today.
 
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Massive 7.5 magnitude earthquake in Nepal, tremors felt across north India

A massive earthquake, measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale, hit Nepal on SAturday and powerful tremors were felt across north, east, north-east and western India India, including Delhi, Lucknow, Assam and Meghalaya.
 
Massive earthquake hits Nepal, causes widespread devastation
A massive earthquake, measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale, hit Nepal today and powerful tremors were felt across north, east, north-east and western India India, including Delhi, Lucknow, Assam and Meghalaya.
 
People in their offices and offices ran outdoors in panic in many parts of Delhi and other places even as they experienced a series of aftershocks.
 
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the temblor, which had its epicentre at latitude 28.1°N and longitude 84.6°E, occurred at 1141 hours at a focal depth of 10 km.
 
IMD officials said the earthquake was followed by an aftershock of 6.6 magnitude. The magnitude of the quake felt in Delhi was around 5, they said.
 
The quake also shook several parts of Himalayan and sub-Himalayan West Bengal as well as Sikkim.
 
Reports reaching here said the tremors were also felt in several parts of Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
 
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Modi says solution must be found to agrarian crisis, farmers' woes

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday political parties must collectively find a solution to the deep-rooted problems in the agricultural sector leading to suicides by farmers across the country and promised to consider all suggestions made by the Opposition in this regard.
 
We must find a solution to farmers' woes: Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said political parties must collectively find a solution to the deep-rooted problems in the agricultural sector leading to suicides by farmers across the country and promised to consider all suggestions made by the Opposition in this regard.
 
"Farmer suicides have been a matter of concern for many years," he said in a brief intervention in the Lok Sabha, where the Congress and other opposition parties raised the issue of the suicide by a farmer from Rajasthan in full public view during a rally organised by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) at Jantar Mantar here yesterday.
 
As the political blame game over the incident continued both inside and outside Parliament, Mr Modi said successive governments had tried to solve the problem in different ways over the decades.
 
Joining the members in expressing deep pain over the death of the farmer, Gajendra Singh, Mr Modi said the House must resolve to find a solution to the issue.
 
"It is a huge problem, it is an old, deep-rooted and widespread problem. It has to be addressed in that context," he said.
 
"Nothing is more important than farmers' lives. nothing is more important than a human being's life. We have to identify flaws in the system, we have to identify shortcomings in the system," he said.
 
"We cannot leave the farmers to fend for themselves in a helpless condition. We will have to be a part of his pain and sorrow. We have to be a part of his future," he said.
 
"I appeal to the House to resolve to ensure that farmers would not be allowed to die like this," he added.
 
“There should be a collective resolve in this regard. We have an open mind to consider any suggestion that is made... We cannot let the farmers die,” he said.
 
The Congress and other parties raised the issue in the Lok Sabha as soon as the House assembled but Speaker Sumitra Mahajan agreed to allow them to speak on it in zero hour, even as the government said it was prepared to discuss the matter.
 
Congress leader Mallikarjun Mansur urged the government to order a judicial inquiry into the incident, saying that the probe by the Delhi Police could not be regarded as unbiased in view of the allegations of inaction made against the police.
 
Responding to the concern expressed by the Members, Home Minister Rajnath Singh made a statement on the incident and said that the crowd at the AAP rally had clapped their hands and raised slogans as Gajendra Singh climbed the tree.
 
He said that individuals who threaten to commit extreme acts in such manner need to be handled with great care and engaged in a discussion so that he could be calmed down and what the crowd did had the exactly opposite effect of provoking him further.
 
Mr Singh said the policemen on the spot had informed the police control room of the man climbing the tree and asked for help from the fire brigade in the form of tall ladders so that he could be brought down safely. The police officers also tried to dissuade the crowd from raising slogans or egging him on.
 
The Minister gave details of how the man tied a cloth around his neck and to a branch of the tree and hanged himself. Some people reached him and tried to untie the cloth, but he fell down to the ground in the process, he said.
 
AAP leaders denied the Minister's allegations and accused him of "spreading lies". They said volunteers of the party had, in fact, climbed the tree to try and rescue the farmer, even as the police remained mute spectators.
 
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Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers staged a demonstration against the AAP rally outside Police Headquarters this morning, while members of the Youth Congress held a protest outside Delhi Chief Miniser and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal's residence.
 
Meanwhile, the body of the 42-year-old Gajendra Singh was taken to his village in Dausa district of Rajasthan, where it was cremated. A large number of political leaders reached the village to offer their condolences to the bereaved family.
 
Congress leader Ajay Maken said at a press conference here that only a judicial inquiry headed by a judge of the High Court could establish the truth in the matter.
 
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Farmer commits suicide at AAP rally in Delhi, sets off political blame game

A farmer from Rajasthan committed suicide by hanging himself from a tree in dramatic circumstances, as hundreds of people watched, at a rally organized by the Aam Aadmi Party against the Narendra Modi government's contentious land acquisition bill at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Wednesday.
 
Farmer commmits suicide during AAP rally in Delhi
A farmer from Rajasthan committed suicide by hanging himself from a tree in dramatic circumstances, as hundreds of people watched, at a rally organized by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) against the Narendra Modi government's contentious land acquisition bill at Jantar Mantar here today.
 
The man was identified as Gajendra Singh, 42, a father of three, from Dausa in Rajasthan, who left a note at the scene saying that he was in deep distress because of the loss of his crops and his inability to look after his family.
 
The man climbed the tree and put his "gamcha" (towel around his neck and tied the other end to a branch of the tree. He kept shouting slogans from there in an apparent bid to draw the attention of the crowd to the plight of farmers. Many people urged him to come down, but he stayed put. 
 
As some people climbed the tall tree to reach him and try and bring him down, the man hanged himself and soon his body became still. When the other men reached him and tried to untie the knot from the branch, it fell to the ground.
 
He was rushed to the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, and the rally went ahead, with AAP leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal stepping up to address the gathering. At the end of his address, he announced he would go to the hospital to see the farmer.
 
The body was later sent to Lady Hardinge Hospital for post-mortem examination. 
 
AAP leaders blamed the Delhi Police for remaining mute spectators and not acting in time to bring the man down and save him.
 
They also said the alleged anti-farmer and anti-poor polices of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the Centre was leading to such tragedies.
 
They said that it was normal for people to climb onto trees to get a better view during meetings at Jantar Mantar and they could never imagine that the man would kill himself in this manner.
 
The BJP ridiculed Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and other AAP leaders for continuing to make speeches even though they were aware that the man had died.
 
Doctors at the hospital said the man was brought dead. AAP leaders they came to know of the man's death only much later. They also said that a sudden dispersal of the crowd could have led to law and order problems.
 
Delhi Police said they had transferred the case to the Crime Branch, which has set up a team to establish the sequence of events.
 
As news of the tragedy spread, political leaders, including Mr Kejriwal, made a beeline to the hospital.
 
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Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, who has been attacking the Modi government on the Land Acquisition Bill and related issues for the past few days, told journalists at the hospital that it was a very sad moment.
 
"We want to assure farmers and farm labourers that they should not worry, we are with them. We will help them fully," he said.
 
He also said that members of the Indian Youth Congress would provide all possible assistance to the farmer's family in the matter of transporting the body to his village.
 
"The Modi government is fuly focused on heping the corporates of the country, not all corporates, but three or four of their cronies. This is causing tremendous pain and damage to farmers and labourers.
 
"The foundation of this country has been built by farmers. The government is saying that suicides are not taking place. It is sad," he said.
 
"We are going to fight the new ordinance of theirs," he said, referring to the Congress' opposition to the government's Bill to replace the ordinance on land acquisition issued by it.
 
"We are not going to let the BJP government to take away the land of the poor farmers," he added.
 
Mr Modi condoled the death of Gajendra, saying it had saddened the nation.
 
"We are all deeply shattered and disappointed. Condolences to his family. At no point must the hardworking farmer think he is alone. We are all together in creating a better tomorrow for the farmers of India," he said.
 
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Canada to supply uranium for civilian nuclear power plants in India

India on Wednesay signed an agreement in Ottawa on procurement of uranium from Canada for its civilian nuclear power plants, launching a new ero of bilateral cooperation.
 
Modi meets Canadian PM Stephen Harper in Ottawa
India today signed an agreement on procurement of uranium from Canada for its civilian nuclear power plants, launching a new ero of bilateral cooperation.
 
"It also reflects a new level of mutual trust and confidence. Further,it will contribute to India's efforts to power its growth with clean energy," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at a joint media interaction with his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper after their talks in Ottawa.
 
"Prime Minister Harper and I are absolutely committed to establish a new framework for economic partnership.I am pleased that we have made rapid progress on long pending agreements," he said.
 
Mr Modi said he was confident that the two countries could conclude the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement very soon. They will also implement the road map to conclude the Comprehensive Economic Co-operation Agreement (CECA) by September 2015, he said.
 
Mr Modi said he attached the highest importance to India's relatins with Canada, which had been reinforced by his excellent experience with that country as Chief Minister of Gujarat.
 
"Our relationship had drifted in the past. In recent years, Prime Minister Harper's vision and leadership changed the course of our relations. I am consciousof the significance of this visit in the history of our relations," he said, referring to the fact that his was the first standalone Prime Ministerial visit to Canada in 42 years since the last such visit in 1973.
 
"I have come at a time when the importance of this relationship for our two countries has never been stronger. We are two major democracies with deeply shared values. Few countries in the world can match Canada's potential to be a partner in India's economic transformation. And, it exists in a new environment in India, which is open, predictable, stable and easy to do business in," he said.
 
"Equally, the vast scale of India's transformation, and our rapid economic growth, offers immense opportunities for Canada," he said.
 
Mr Modi sought Canada's cooperation and investment in every area of India's national development priority -- energy and infrastructure, manufacturing and skills, smart cities and agro-industry, and research and education.
 
He said the agreements on skill development signed today reflected his commitment to empower the youth of India with world class skills for India and the global economy.
 
He said that, as the agreement today on space highlighted, the two countries had strong synergy for cooperation in areas of advanced technologies.
 
He said that, to support greater engagement and people-to-people contacts, his government had  liberalised its visa policy for Canada. He said India would issue Electronic Visa Authorisation for tourist visa for Canadian nationals. They will also be eligible for ten-year visas now.
 
Mr Modi said Mr Harper and he agreed that a strong bilateral relationship would provide a solid foundation to pursue their common international interests. They also agreed that, in the troubled world of today, their cooperation would help advance their shared values and peace in the world.
 
"We in India felt Canada's pain when this city was struck by a senseless act of terrorism. The threat of terrorism is growing; its shadow extends over cities and lives across the world," he said.
 
He said the two countries would deepen their cooperation to combat terrorism and extremism. They would also promote a comprehensive global strategy, and consistent policy and action against all sources of terrorism and its support.
 
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"We also agree on the need to enhance our defence and security cooperation. I welcome our recent agreement on cyber security," he said.
 
Mr Modi said both countries recognised that peace and stability would make them safer at home, so would Afghanistan's successful transition.
 
"I believe that Canada is a major Asia Pacific power and should play a more active role, including in regional institutions, in promoting a stable and prosperous future for the region. I look forward to our continued partnership in G 20.
 
'In conclusion, let me say that ours is a natural partnership of shared values. It is an economic partnership of immense mutual benefit. It is a strategic partnershipthat can help address many of our shared global challenges. And, it is a relationship nurtured by the emotional bonds of a vibrant Indian community of 1.2 million," he said.
 
"I am confident that this visit will be a springboard for a new strategic partnership between our two democracies," he added.
 
Mr Harper said the initiatives taken today would help to further advance bilateral relatins between the two countries.
 
"The initiatives announced today will promote greater collaboration in the areas of civil aviation, railway transportation, education and skills development, space, social security and maternal, newborn and child health," he said.
 
“The historic visit by Prime Minister Modi to Canada combined with the number and scope of agreements signed today between our governments clearly demonstrate the commitment of both countries to taking bilateral relations to new heights," he added.
 
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Modi says judiciary has "divine role" in ensuring rule of law, delivering justice

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday that the judiciary should be both empowered and capable to play its "divine role" in ensuring the rule of law and delivering justice to the common man.

 
Judiciary must be powerful, perfect: Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said the judiciary should be both empowered and capable to play its "divine role" in ensuring the rule of law and delivering justice to the common man.
 
Addressing the Joint Conference of Chief Ministers of States and Chief Justices of High Courts, he said that while the executive was under constant assessment and scrutiny in public life, through various institutions, the judiciary normally did not face any such scrutiny.
 
Mr Modi said judiciary had built up an enormous faith and reputation among the people of India, and should evolve its own in-built systems for self-assessment, so that it could live up to the high expectations placed on it by the people. 
 
He said good infrastructure for the judiciary was a priority for the Government, and an amount of Rs. 9749 crore had been earmarked for strengthening the judiciary under the 14th Finance Commission. 
 
Mr Modi said that under the Digital India Programme, technology should be deployed to bring about a qualititative change in the judiciary. He stressed that quality manpower was required for the judiciary and said the government was as concerned about human resources as it was about physical infrastructure.
 
Without going into the details of pendency in litigation and corruption in the Judiciary, the Prime Minister hoped that the forum would suggest some fresh approaches to deal with such issues. He said Lok Adalats were an effective way of dispensing justice for the common man, and this mechanism should be strengthened further. Similarly, he stressed the importance of "Family Courts." 
 
He also called for a comprehensive review of the system of Government-appointed tribunals, to assess their efficacy and effectiveness. 
 
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Mr Modi said laws were sometimes not drafted well, and therefore lead to multiple interpretations. He said there should be minimum grey areas, and therefore, drafting of laws required special attention. He said he was committed to removal of obsolete laws. 
 
He stressed the need to prepare for emerging areas of litigation such as maritime law and cyber crime. He said acquaintance with forensic science was now a must for those associated with the legal profession. 
 
Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu, and Union Minister for Law and Justice D.V. Sadananda Gowda were amongst those present on the occasion.
 
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Coal blocks allocation: SC stays summons for Manmohan Singh, others

The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the order issued by a special court here on March 11 summoning former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as an accused in a case related to allocation of coal blocks to Hindalco, a part of the Aditya Birla Group of companies.
File photo of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
File photo of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
The Supreme Court today stayed the order issued by a special court here on March 11 summoning former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as an accused in a case related to allocation of coal blocks to Hindalco, a part of the Aditya Birla Group of companies.
 
Along with him, Aditya Birla Group Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla, former Coal Secretary P C Parakh and three other officials were also summoned as accused in the case for the alleged offences of criminal conspiracy and breach of trust and under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
 
All of them were asked by Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar to appear in court on April 8. While doing so, the court rejected the Central Bureau of Investigation's (CBI) finding in its final report that there was "no prosecutable evidence against anyone".
 
A bench headed by Justice V Gopala Gowda also stayed the summons issued against Mr Birla, Mr Parakh and the others.
 
Senior Congress leader and advocate Ashwani Kumar told newspersons that the court felt that there were some important and substantive questions of law and processes that had been raised and it would like to decide on them.
 
He said that, in the meantime, the apex court had stayed the orders summoning Dr Singh and the others as well as the proceedings in the trial court.
 
Acting on six petitions filed by Dr Singh and the others in the case, seeking quashing of the summons, the court also issued notices in this regard to the CBI and others and gave them three weeks to file their replies.
 
Dr Singh was Prime Minister from May 2004 to May 2014 at the head of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government.
 
He was reportedly questioned by a team of CBI officials in January this year at his Motilal Nehru Marg residence here in connection with the allocation of the Talabira II block to Hindalco when he was also holding the portfolio of Coal.
 
The former Prime Minister is understood to have defended the decision and stressed that it was made after due deliberations.
 
Dr Singh had held the Coal portfolio between 2006 and 2009, which is part of the period that is being probed by the CBI.
 
Dr Singh's tenure in office was marred by the finding of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) that the delay in introduction of the process of competitive bidding in the allocation of coal blocks to private companies for captive mining had led to likely financial gains of Rs 1.86 lakh crore to them.
 
The CAG had, in his report tabled in Parliament on August 17, 2012 said that a part of this financial gain could have accrued to the national exchequer by operationalising the decision taken years earlier to introduce competitive bidding for allocation of coal blocks.
 
The CAG estimated the financial gains to the private coal block allottees on the basis of the average cost of production and average sale price of opencast mines of the public sector Coal India Limited (CIL) in 2010-11.
 
The CBI had earlier sought closure of the case, in which Mr Birla, Mr Parakh and others were named as accused. The court directed it to carry out further investigations and submit a report on January 27. It also said that it would be appropriate if the then Coal Minister were examined first.
 
 
SC stays summons issued to Manmohan Singh in coal blocks case
The CBI had registered the case in October 2013, following which the Prime Minister's Office had, on October 18, 2013, issued a detailed statement saying that Dr Singh was satisfied that the final decision taken in the matter relating to the allocation of Talabira-II and III coal blocks in Odisha to Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd (MCL), Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC) and Hindalco was entirely correct and based on the merits of the case placed before him.
 
On September 24, 2014, the Supreme Court had scrapped 214 of the 218 coal blocks allocated between 1993 and 2010, sparing only four  -- two allocated to an ultra mega power project (UMPP) and two to public sector companies, Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) and NTPC.
 
The Government put up more than 30 of those blocks for auction recently.
 
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16 trapped in landslide in J&K as authorities issue flood alert in state

At least 16 persons were believed trapped after a landslide buried several houses in the Chadoora area of Budgam district of Jammu & Kashmir on Monday even as the authorities issued a flood alert after incessant rains in the state since Saturday.
 
Water level in Jhelum rises in Kashmir, rescue efforts underway
At least 16 persons were believed trapped after a landslide buried several houses in the Chadoora area of Budgam district of Jammu & Kashmir today even as the authorities issued a flood alert after incessant rains in the state since Saturday.
 
The police and the army, along with the people of the area, have launched a major effort to rescue those feared trapped under the tons of mud in Laiden village of Chadoora area, official sources said.
 
The continuous rains of the past few days have raised fears of a repeat of the devastating floods that hit the state in September last year -- the worst in six decades.
 
But officials said the rain gods had relented a bit today and they were hopeful of an improvement in the situation.
 
However, the Jhelum was flowing close to the danger level in many areas and the authorities have alerted those living on its banks to be vigilant and be prepared to move to safer areas if necessary.
 
Schools have been closed for the next two days as a precautionary measure, they said.
 
In New Delhi, the Ministry of Home Affairs said it was in touch with the state government and closely monitoring the situation of increasing water levels in the Jhelum. No breach of embankment has been reported, it said.
 
'However, as a precautionary measure, to assist the state government authorities, two teams of NDRF have been deputed and another four teams kept stand-by. 
 
"The state government has been asked to indicate the assistance required by them," an official press release added.
 
Officials said they had learnt from last year's disaster and are taking several precautionary steps to prevent a repeat of that kind of tragedy. Boats, sandbags and other facilities are being made available in all the vulnerable areas.
 
In particular, a close watch is being kept on the embankments of the river, which had suffered breaches at many places last year and which were not plugged fully yet.
 
"There is no reason for panic, but we have asked the people to be alert," the officials said.
 
Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed went around some parts of Srinagar to take stock of the situation.
 
Meanwhile, with the meteorological department forecasting more rains over the next few days, the civil administration has reached out to the Arm for rescue and relief efforts in Srinagar and Pulwama districts.
 
The Army is keeping a close watch on the situation and 20 columns with rescue boats and other equipment have been kept on alert.
 
An official spokesperson said the Army was assisting the civil administration in flood control measures in Baramulla since yesterday and a relief operation is under progress in South Kashmir to rescue people trapped in collapsed houses. 
 
Army engineers are also undertaking strengthening of identified weak spots on the bunds of Jhelum river near Sonwar in Srinagar. 
 
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh discussed the situation in the state with Mr Sayeed and assured him of full Central assistance to tackle any eventuality.
 
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A meeting of the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) was held here today under the chairmanship of Cabinet Secretary, Ajit Seth to take stock of the situation and to review the arrangements made or required to be made to deal with it.
 
The meeting was attended by the Secretaries and other senior officers of the relevant departments of the Government of India. The Chief Secretary of Jammu & Kashmir and other officers of the State Government participated through video conferencing. 
 
The Chief Secretary gave an account of the ground situation indicating that the Jhelum is flowing above the danger mark at certain places and as a result, flood alert has been issued by the State Government.
 
He said the State Government was geared up to deal with the situation and all steps had been taken to safeguard life and property from the flood waters. They have adequate sand bags and river bank reinforcement material. As a precautionary measure adequate quantities of rice, potable water and medical supplies are being stocked at various locations. There is no shortage of various types of fuel as there is a minimum stock level of all varieties of fuel for 10 days. 
 
The National Highway 1-A between Jammu and Srinagar, which is blocked due to landslides, is likely to be cleared for vehicular traffic later today.
 
Mr Seth reviewed the preparatory arrangements made to handle the flood situation and issued necessary directions to all departments of the Government of India to provide all possible assistance to tide over the crisis. 
 
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AAP removes Bhushan from disciplinary panel, replaces Ramdas as Lokpal

In its continuing drive against dissidence, the Aam Aadmi Party on Sunday removed its founding leader Prashant Bhushan from its disciplinary committee even as it named a new internal Lokpal in place of former Chief of Naval Staff Admiral (Retd.) L Ramdas.
 
AAP removes Bhushan from disciplinary panel
In its continuing drive against dissidence, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) today removed its founding leader Prashant Bhushan from its disciplinary committee even as it named a new internal Lokpal in place of former Chief of Naval Staff Admiral (Retd.) L Ramdas.
 
At a meeting of its national executive (NE) here, the party reconstituted its Lokpal panel, saying the term of the rpevious panel headed by Admiral Ramdas had ended.
 
The new Lokpal panel comprises former Indian Police Service (IPS) oficer N. Dilip Kumar, former Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) Deputy Inspector General Rakesh Sinha and educationist S P Verma.
 
The party's reconstituted three-member national disciplinary committee will now be headed by Mr Dinesh Waghela and include Mr Pankaj Gupta and Mr Ashish Khetan.
 
The latest moves came a day after the party's National Council had yesterday, amidst acrimonious scenes, removed Mr Bhushan, Mr Yogendra Yadav, Prof Anand Kumar and Mr Ajit Jha from its National Executive for alleged anti-party activities.
 
Admiral Ramdas said he was greatly surpised and saddened tohear from a journalist that the party no longer required his services as its internal Lokpal.
 
"I am disappointed that the leadership of the party did not accord me the courtesy of informing me first before making this decision public. I still await their phone-call," he said in a statement.
 
"I am surprised because less than two weeks ago the party publicly reaffirmed its confidence in me.  At no point in my tenure did the party express to me any dissatisfaction with my service.  Neither did its leaders question my neutrality or my objectivity in this position. As recently as January 2015, I was asked to investigate complaints against potential electoral candidates. I took it as a sign of the party's confidence in me when on February 15th, at an informal meeting at the home of Mr Kejriwal, in the presence of many other senior leaders of the party, including members of the executive committee, I was actually requested to consider serving an additional five years as Lokpal.
 
"I am, however, more sad than surprised. It was with a sense of excitement and hope that I became part of this movement to bring a new kind of politics to India.  I believed in the ideals of transparency, accountability and fairness that was encapsulated in the institution of the Lokpal. And, I was honoured to be the first person to serve in this capacity," he said.
 
Admiral Ramdas said he had tried to discharge his duties and responsibilities to the best of his abilities. 
 
"My two previous letters, one which became public, the other which was intended to be public, reflected my effort to encourage the various leaders of the party to work together to remember the principles on which it was founded and to make sure that the promises made to the electorate - to the people- were fulfilled. Unfortunately I did not succeed in that effort.
 
"I still hope that the party which has fired the imagination and hopes of so many Indians will be able to fulfill its promises of good governance, both internally and externally, in the exercise of political power in its new capacity as the government of Delhi. I wish them well in this endeavour," he added.
 
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