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Punjab

Kartarpur corridor: Foundation stone replaced amid row over credit

A massive political slug-fest was played out on Monday in full public view, shoving protocol to the side in the presence of Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu, as political leaders from opposing sides in Punjab bared it at what was meant to be solemn celebration related to the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara corridor project.
 
Naidu lays foundation stone for Dera Baba Nanak-Kartarpur Sahib corridor
A massive political slug-fest was played out on Monday in full public view, shoving protocol to the side in the presence of Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu, as political leaders from opposing sides in Punjab bared it at what was meant to be solemn celebration related to the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara corridor project.
 
Naidu and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday laid the digital foundation stone of a road project that will link the Kartarpur corridor (in Pakistan) by pressing a button.
 
The actual foundation stone was removed by the authorities just three hours before the event after Punjab cabinet Minister and local legislator Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa objected to the names of former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Shiromani Akali Dal President Sukhbir Singh Badal and Union Minister Harsimrat Badal on the foundation stone.
 
A clearly upset Randhawa announced that he would 'boycott' the foundation stone ceremony and even put black tape on the stone where the names of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Punjab PWD Minister Vijay Singla and his own (Randhawa) were put on the foundation stone along with the names of the Badals.
 
Officials of the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), sensing that the situation could get unpleasant in the presence of dignitaries, removed the foundation stone and replaced it with the digital one.
 
The foundation on the screen carried the names of Vice President Naidu, Punjab Governor V. P. Singh Badnore, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari.
 
Though the ceremony was to celebrate the approval of the governments of India and Pakistan to allow the Kartarpur corridor to enable people to pray at the gurdwara in Pakistan, leaders of the Akali Dal and its ally BJP on one side and Punjab's ruling Congress on the other not only indulged in running each other down and claiming credit for getting the project cleared but even raised slogans against each other in the presence of the Vice President.
 
Harsimrat Badal, in her address at the function, took a dig at the Congress leaders over the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. There was immediate sloganeering against her by Congress leaders and activists.
 
When Gurdaspur MP and Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar was giving his vote of thanks, he hit back at the Akali Dal leadership by making Punjab a drugs hub. This led to protests and sloganeering by Akali Dal leaders, including Harsimrat's brother and former Minister Bikram Singh Majithia.
 
Earlier, Randhawa was seen speaking and gesturing angrily to officers while they made arrangements for the high-profile function.
 
The Minister, the Congress legislator from Dera Baba Nanak, was visibly disturbed and shouted at officers. He later told a TV channel: "I will not boycott the function but I will boycott the foundation stone itself. I cannot see my name and those of my ministerial colleagues along with the Badals."
 
"The Badals have no contribution in getting the Kartarpur corridor project cleared. They ruled Punjab from 1997 to 2002 and again for 10 years (2007-17). Did they come here to offer prayers while in power? They are only trying to take credit (for the Kartarpur corridor) just because they (Akali Dal) have an alliance with the BJP," the Minister said.
 
Randhawa blamed the NHAI officers for the foundation stone controversy. He said that he had serious objections to the foundation stone carrying the names of the Badals. 
 
"The sanctity of the function should have been kept. The foundation stone should have carried only the names of the Vice-President and Chief Minister Amarinder Singh," Randhawa said.
 
The Minister was also upset that the Congress leadership in Punjab, including him (as the local minister and legislator), Gurdaspur MP Sunil Jakhar (the Punjab Congress President) and cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu were being deliberately ignored for the function while all attention was being given to the Badal family.
 
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Randhawa's outburst came even as the SAD-BJP and Congress leaders in Punjab were in the midst of a major controversy in claiming credit for getting the Kartarpur corridor project cleared by the governments of India and Pakistan.
 
The NDA government at the Centre, of which the SAD is a part, approved the project in Punjab linked to the Kartarpur corridor on November 22. The date of the foundation stone was hurriedly decided for November 26 to ensure that it was done before Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan laid the foundation stone of the actual Kartarpur corridor in Pakistan on November 28 (Wednesday).
 
The Congress government in Punjab was going to hold its own function here this week but Chief Minister Amarinder Singh decided to be part of the central government function itself.
 
The SAD-BJP combine leadership has also been trying hard to take the credit away from state cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu who in August went to Pakistan for the swearing-in of his cricketing friend Imran Khan and was the first to announce that Pakistan was keen to open the Kartarpur corridor for devotees from India.
 
The Akali Dal leadership, including Harsimrat Badal, branded Sidhu as a 'traitor' for hugging Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the swearing-in function. They questioned his statements regarding Pakistan's move on the Kartarpur corridor.
 
Harsimrat Badal is now herself headed to Pakistan as the central government's representative for the foundation stone ceremony of the Kartarpur corridor on Wednesday. Sidhu is also going for the same event.
 
It was at the Kartarpur gurdwara, which is located around two to three kilometre from the India-Pakistan border and is situated right opposite the border belt in Dera Baba Nanak in Indian Punjab's Gurdaspur district, that Sikhism founder, Guru Nanak Dev (1469-1539), spent 18 years of his life till he died in 1539.
 
The gurdwara, which fell in Pakistan territory following the partition of India in 1947, has major significance in Sikh religion and history.
 
For the past 71 years, ever since partition, Sikhs have been offering prayers near the international border.
 
IANS
 

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Three killed, 15 injured in grenade attack near Amritsar

Three people were killed and at least 15 others injured when two motorcycle-borne masked youths threw a grenade at a religious congregation in Rajasansi area in Punjab's Amritsar district on Sunday, police said.
 
3 killed, 20 injured in grenade blast in Amritsar
Three people were killed and at least 15 others injured when two motorcycle-borne masked youths threw a grenade at a religious congregation in Rajasansi area in Punjab's Amritsar district on Sunday, police said.
 
The grenade attack took place on the Nirankari Satsang Bhawan of the Nirankari sect in Adliwala village, about 15 km from Amritsar. The sect campus is located in Amritsar's rural belt.
 
The injured were rushed to hospitals in Amritsar. A few of them were in serious condition, police said. All victims were sect followers from nearby villages who had gathered for the Sunday weekly religious meeting.
 
Witnesses told the police that two youths on a motorcycle, their faces covered, forced entry to the sect campus by pointing a pistol at a woman volunteer at the gate.
 
"Everything happened within a couple of minutes. They got in, threw the grenade and fled," one man told the police.
 
The attack came amid a high alert issued on November 14 by the Punjab Police regarding the movement of 6-7 terrorists in the state. 
 
Punjab Police Inspector General (Border Range) S.P.S. Parmar confirmed to the media that three people were killed in the grenade attack.
 
Asked if it was a terror attack, Parmar said that all angles were being investigated.
 
"The people had gathered for prayers. There were around 200 people. Preliminary reports suggest that the two persons threw one grenade. Three people have been killed and 15 to 20 are injured. No firing took place," Parmar said.
 
"We are investigating the incident from all angles," Parmar said.
 
Senior police officers rushed to the village following the grenade attack.
 
Congress legislator Raj Kumar Verka told the media that no compromise would be made by the Congress government in Punjab on terrorism.
 
"We will deal with it strictly," Verka said, admitting that the incident showed intelligence failure on the part of the Punjab Police.
 
The Punjab Police, along with the Jammu and Kashmir Police, had recently busted two modules of Kashmiri students who were studying in institutions in Punjab and having links to terrorist outfits in troubled Kashmir.
 
Posters of Kashmiri terrorist Zakir Mussa had mysteriously appeared in Punjab's Gurdaspur district on Friday saying that he had been seen in Punjab.
 
The Nirankari sect has millions of followers across the country and abroad. The sect has its headquarters in Delhi.
 
IANS
 

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58 dead, 72 injured as train mows down Dussehra revellers in Amritsar

As many as 58 people were killed and 72 others injured after a speeding train mowed down a large group of people who had strayed on to the railway tracks at Joda Phatak, a level crossing, during Dussehra celebrations here this evening, sources said.
A view of a train crashing through a crowd of people who had strayed on to the railway tracks during Dussehra celebrations at Joda Phatak in Amritsar, Punjab on October 19, 2018. Photo taken from a video posted on Twitter by an eyewitness.
A view of a train crashing through a crowd of people who had strayed on to the railway tracks during Dussehra celebrations at Joda Phatak in Amritsar, Punjab on October 19, 2018. Photo taken from a video posted on Twitter by an eyewitness.
As many as 58 people were killed and 72 others injured after a speeding train mowed down a large group of people who had strayed on to the railway tracks at Joda Phatak, a level crossing, during Dussehra celebrations here this evening, official sources said.
 
There were conflicting reports about what exactly happened but it appeared that, as the effigy of Ravana was set ablaze and fire crackers flew all around in the dark, several people from the crowd unwittingly moved on to the railway tracks, close to the venue of the celebrations, to avoid being singed by the fire crackers.
 
The loud noise and the blinding lights appeared to have prevented the people from noticing that a train was speeding towards them. Before the people, engrossed by the spectacle before them, realised what had happened, the Jalandhar-Amritsar train went by in a flash, running over several of them.
 
Amritsar Police Commissioner S. S. Srivastava told reporters that 58 people had died and 72 had suffered injuries in the incident.
 
The injured, many of them in a critical condition, were rushed to the Civil Hospital, the Medical College Hospital and other hospitals in the city.
 
Hundreds of people gathered at the scene. While many of them were grieving for their near and dear ones, others were angry with the authorities for failing to ensure the safety of people participating in the celebrations. Similar crowds also gathered outside the hospitals.
 
Senior officials from the district administration, the police and the Northern Railway had reached the spot and were supervising the rescue and relief efforts.
 
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said on micro-blogging site Twitter that he was rushing to Amritsar to personally oversee the relief effort. He was due to leave on a visit to Israel later tonight but the trip has now been called off.
 
Capt. Amarinder Singh also announced that the Punjab government would give Rs. 5 lakh to the next-of-kin of those who were killed in the incident and free treatment for the injured.
 
"Rushing to Amritsar to personally supervise relief & rescue in tragic rail accident on Dussehra in Amritsar. My govt will give Rs 5 lakh to kin of each deceased & free treatment to injured in govt & pvt hospitals. District authorities have been mobilised on war footing," he said.
 
"We will do everything possible to assist the injured. Have directed the district administration to leave no stone unturned to ensure the best possible treatment for them," he said, adding that a Crisis Management Group had been set up to monitor the relief and rehabilitation efforts.
 
"The state will remain in mourning tomorrow in view of #Amritsar train mishap. All offices & educational institutions will remain closed," he added.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the loss of lives in the accident.
 
"Extremely saddened by the train accident in Amritsar. The tragedy is heart-wrenching. My deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their loved ones and I pray that the injured recover quickly. Have asked officials to provide immediate assistance that is required," he said.
 
Congress President Rahul Gandhi said, "The train accident in Punjab in which over 50 people have died is shocking. I urge the state government & Congress workers to provide immediate relief at the accident site. My condolences to the families of those who have died. I pray that the injured make a speedy recovery."
 
Railways Minister Piyush Goyal, who was on an official visit to the United States, is flying back to India after cancelling his remaining engagements.
 
IANS adds:
 
A large number of some 700 people were watching the huge Ravan effigy in flames amid exploding crackers while on the tracks at Joda Phatak near Dhobi Ghat within the city when the Jalandhar-Amritsar DMU passenger train coming to Amritsar from Hoshiarpur came hurtling down around 7 p.m.
 
It took just about 10-15 seconds for the train to pass -- and leave behind a heap of crushed and dismembered bodies.
 
Amritsar Police Commissioner S.S. Srivastava told reporters that 58 people have died and 72 have been rushed to hospitals in the city. The toll could go up, Srivastava said. 
 
Video clips posted on social media showed some people who had apparently seen the approaching train trying to run away from the site. A few of them were also mowed down.
 
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Wails and cries filled the air as people frantically looked for their near and dear ones. Severed bodies, including those of children, were lying at the accident site hours after the incident with angry people not allowing authorities to remove them.
 
"I have lost my child. I want him back," an inconsolable mother was wailing at the disaster spot.
 
Most people reportedly could not hear the hooting of the train due to the exploding crackers.
 
"Out of nowhere came the train," said a man, while speaking to journalists. "Before anyone could realise what was happening, it ran over scores of people."
 
"When the effigy started to burn in full flow, people began running away from it fearing it may fall over them," said another man. "They did not realise that a speeding train was coming and the train did not sound its hooter."
 
Another man felt that the tragedy would have claimed at least 100 lives. The dead included several children, another witness said.
 
Ironically, moments before the tragedy, another train passed the area but there were no casualties, a railway official said.
 
A local resident, Nirmal Jit Sindhu, alleged that the Dussehra celebrations were organised by forcing the local administration to grant permission near the railway tracks.
 
He said last year the administration had not granted permission for the use of this venue for Dussehra celebrations owing to its proximity to the tracks.
 
Some people blamed Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu's wife Navjot Kaur, who was the Chief Guest at the celebrations, saying her late arrival delayed the burning of the effigy by more than half an hour.
 
Sidhu told a news channel on telephone from Bengaluru that the death toll was alarmingly high.
 
BJP leader and former local bodies minister Anil Joshi blamed Sidhu's wife Navjot Kaur for running away from the Dussehra celebrations site soon after the train accident.
 
"The Dussehra celebrations were organised without the local administration permission. She (Navjot Kaur) disappeared midway during the ceremony when she was apprised about the disaster," Joshi told reporters.
 
"The driver didn't slow down the train and was watching towards the burning Ravana," said one of the witnesseses.
 
Another woman was inconsolable as she said her son was missing.
 
"The administration and the Dussehra committee are at fault as they should have informed the railways authorities about the celebrations", said another eyewitness.
 
Eyewitnesses said there were no barricading near the railway tracks and the people were forced to see the Dussehra ceremony by standing on tracks.
 
The effigy of Ravana was being burnt around 200 feet away from the railway track.
 
A railway official said in New Delhi that the drop gates at the spot were down but people still massed on the tracks in violation of railway rules.
 
Several senior railway officials were set to fly by an Indian Air Force plane to Amritsar to help oversee the relief and rescue effort.
 
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Congress wrests Gurdaspur in Punjab from BJP, its ally IUML retains Vengara in Kerala

In a morale booster for the party ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress has wrested the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha seat from the BJP by a huge margin and its ally, the IUML, retained the Vengara Assembly seat in Kerala in bye-elections held on October 11.
 
Congress' Sunil Jakhar wins Gurdaspur LS bye-election
In a morale booster ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress has wrested the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha  seat from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by a huge margin and its ally, Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), retained the Vengara Assembly seat in Kerala in bye-elections held on October 11.
 
Congress candidate Sunil Jakhar drubbed Mr. Swaran Singh Salaria of the BJP by a record margin of 1,93,219 votes in Gurdaspur.
 
In Vengara, Mr. K. N. A. Khader, the candidate of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), who is a member of the IUML, won from Vengara, defeating his nearest rival, P. P. Basheer of the Left Democratic Front (LDF), by a margin of 23,310 votes in the October 11 bye-election.
 
Counting of votes was taken up in both constituencies this morning, and the results were out by noon.
 
Gurdaspur had fallen vacant following the death on April 27 of well-known Hindi film actor Vinod Khanna, who represented the constituency in the Lok Sabha as a candidate of the ruling BJP.
 
Mr. Jakhar polled 4,99,752 votes against the 3,06,553 votes secured by Mr. Salaria. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate Suresh Khajuria got just 23,579 votes.
 
Considering the fact that Mr. Khanna had won the seat by an impressive margin of 1.35 lakh votes in 2014, the bye-election ended up being a cakewalk for Mr. Jakhar, 63, the Congress Punjab unit chief and son of late Lok Sabha Speaker Balram Jakhar.
 
In between, in March this year, the Congress won a resounding victory in the elections to the Punjab Legislative Assembly and its leader Amarinder Singh returned as Chief Minister of the state. The bye-election had turned into a battle of prestige for both sides.
 
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress had ended up on the losing side in all the nine Assembly segments in Gurdaspur. Mr. Jakhar has managed to turn this around, winning from all the nine segments this time.
 
Gurdaspur was considered a Congress stronghold for long years, with its candidate Sukhbuns Kaur Bhinder winning the seat five times in a row from 1980 to 1996 before the BJP brought in Khanna, a top Bollywood actor, as its candidate in 1998. The actor-turned politician was re-elected from the seat in 1999, 2004 and then in 2014. In 2009, former Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa by a thin margin of 8,359 votes.
 
Mr. Jakhar described the bye-election result as a "referendum" on the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance's government at the Centre and said the people of the constituency had sent a "strong message of resentment" over its policies.
 
"Congratulations to @sunilkjakhar ji for his impressive win in #Gurdaspur bypoll, it's a victory for @INCPunjab policies & development agenda," Mr. Amarinder Singh on microblogging site Twitter.
 
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"Assure people of #Gurdaspur that every single promise made by @sunilkjakhar will be fulfilled and all development works will be fast-tracked," he added.
 
Congress leader and Punjab minister Navjot Sidhu said, "This is a beautiful Diwali gift, packed with a red ribbon, for our would-be party president Rahul Gandhi."
 
In Vengara, Mr. Khader polled 65,227 votes against 41,917 secured by Mr. Basheer, a member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the main constituent of the ruling LDF in the state.
 
Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) candidadte K. C. Naseer ended up third with 8,648 votes while Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) nominee K. Janachandran  Master, finished fourth with 5,728 votes in the results announced today.
 
The bye-election in Vengara was necessitated by the resignation of IUML leader P. K. Kunhalikutty, who was elected to the Lok Sabha on April 12 from the Malappuram seat that fell vacant following the death of former Union Minister E. Ahamed.
 
While the UDF celebrated the victory, the LDF drew satisfaction from the fact that they had reduced the IUML candidate's victory margin from 38,057 votes in the 2016 Assembly elections, when Mr. Kunhalikutty had won, to 23,310 votes in this bye-election.
 
Today's results have come just three days after the Congress swept the municipal elections in Nanded-Waghala in Maharashtra, considered a stronghold of the party. The party won 67 of the 81 seats, while the BJP won four and its ally Shiv Sena got just one.
 
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29 killed, 250 injured in violence after Panchkula court convicts Dera Sacha Sauda chief in rape case

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

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

Punjab and Goa went to the polls on Saturday to elect new state legislative assemblies -- the first two of five states holding crucial elections midway through the five-year term of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre and two months after the November 8 demonetisation of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 bank notes.
 
Voters queue to cast their votes amidst tight security
Punjab and Goa went to the polls today to elect new state legislative assemblies -- the first two of five states holding crucial elections midway through the five-year term of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre and two months after the November 8 demonetisation of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 bank notes.
 
Voters began queueing outside polling stations in both states from early morning and their numbers were steadily increasing as the day progressed. 
 
Voting, which began at 7 am in Goa and at 8 am in Punjab, will end at 5 pm in both states.
 
Polling also took place today for the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat, which fell vacant after the resignation of Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh.
 
The Punjab Assembly has 117 seats and the Goa Assembly 40 seats and both states have single-phase polling today.
 
Uttarakhand will have single-phase polling on February 15, Manipur will have polling in two phases on March 4 and 8 and Uttar Pradesh, the country's most populous state, will have polling in seven phases between February 11 and March 8.
 
Counting of votes in all the five states will be taken up on March 11 and all the results are expected by late evening that day.
 
The terms of the Goa and Punjab assemblies are due to expire on March 18.
 
The Election Commission has made elaborate arrangements for smooth, free and fair elections in both the states.
 
Punjab has a total of 19879069 voters, including 10503108 males and  9375546 females. There are 1145 candidates in the fray, including 81 women and one of the third gender. The Election Commission has set up 22,615 polling stations across the state.
 
In Goa, there are a total of  1110884 electors, including 546742 men and 564142 women. A total of 251 candidates, including 19 women, are in the fray.  The Commission has set up 1642 polling stations across the state.
 
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is making a determined effort for another term in office in Goa, while the Congress is hoping to come back to power in Goa. The three-party alliance forged by Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, Goa Suraksha Manch and Shiv Sena is the other major player in the state.
 
Similarly in Punjab, the Congress is trying to wrest power back from the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-BJP combine, which has been in office for a decade.
 
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The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the ruling party in the National Capital Territory of Delhi, has gone all out to emerge as the alternative to the established players in both the states.
 
In Punjab, SAD leader and Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, 89, is seeking re-election for the sixth time. He will face Capt. Amarinder Singh, the chief ministerial candidate of the Congress, in the Lambi constituency. The Congress leader is also contesting the elections from his traditional seat of Patiala, where his opponent is former Army chief Gen J J Singh, a candidate of the SAD.
 
The Chief Minister's son Sukhbir Singh will face AAP's Bhagwant Mann, MP, who is his party's likely chief ministerial candidate, in Jalalabad.
 
Former Indian Test cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu, who joined the Congress weeks ahead of the polls, is contesting from Amritsar East, a part of the Amrtisar Lok Sabha constituency that he represented in Parliament as a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for two terms.
 
Prominent candidates in Goa include Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar (BJP) and five former Chief Ministers -- Ravi Naik, Digambar Kamat, Pratapsinh Rane and Luizinho Faleiro (Congress) and Churchill Alemao (NCP). There have been indications that Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar might return to Goa as Chief Minister if the BJP retains power.
 
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Punjab Chief Minister accepts Navjot Sidhu's resignation

Navjot Singh Sidhu. (File photo: IANS)
Navjot Singh Sidhu. (File photo: IANS)
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday accepted his Cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu's resignation.
 
The Chief Minister forwarded the resignation to Governor Punjab V. P. Singh Badnore for formal acceptance, an official in the Chief Minister's Office told IANS.
 
Sidhu, who had been at loggerheads with the Chief Minister, formally resigned on July 14 as Minister for Power and New and Renewable Energy Sources, the portfolio he had not taken charge of.
 
Amarinder Singh has said that if Sidhu did not want to do his job, there was nothing that he could do about it.
 
The Minister should have accepted his new portfolio instead of shunning work in the middle of the crucial paddy season, said the Chief Minister, reiterating that Sidhu was given a job, which he should have accepted and done.
 
On June 6, Sidhu had been divested of the charge of Local Government and Tourism and Cultural Affairs portfolios and given Power and New and Renewable Energy Sources in a Cabinet reshuffle, the first after the Lok Sabha election results.
 
Barring four, there were changes in the portfolios of all the ministers as a result of the reallocation, which Amarinder Singh said, would help further streamline the governing system and bring more transparency and efficacy to various departments.
 
However, Sidhu, who had been at loggerheads with the Chief Minister ever since his wife Navjot Kaur was denied a ticket for the Lok Sabha polls, refused to take charge of his new portfolios.
 
On June 10, Sidhu met Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi and Ahmed Patel in New Delhi and told them that his department had been singled out and publicly blamed for the party's Lok Sabha poll defeat. Patel was entrusted with the task of resolving the rift between the Amarinder Singh and Sidhu.
 
The Chief Minister even met Patel during his visit to Delhi last month, but his office described the meeting as merely a "courtesy call".
 
IANS

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Sidhu sends resignation to CM Amarinder Singh

Navjot Singh Sidhu. (File photo: IANS)
Navjot Singh Sidhu. (File photo: IANS)
Ending the suspense in this regard, Punjab Cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu on Monday said he had sent his resignation to Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.
 
"Today I have sent my resignation to the Chief Minister Punjab, has been delivered at his official residence...," he said on Twitter.
 
However, the Chief Minister was away in Delhi to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi. There was no comment on the issue from the Chief Minister's Office.
 
IANS
 
 
 
 

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Navjot Singh Sidhu resigns as Punjab minister

Navjot Singh Sidhu. (File photo: IANS)
Navjot Singh Sidhu. (File photo: IANS)
The rift between Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and his Cabinet colleague Navjot Singh Sidhu deepened on Sunday, when the latter resigned as Minister for Power and New and Renewable Energy Sources.
 
"I hereby resign as Minister from the Punjab Cabinet," the former-cricketer-turned politician wrote in his resignation letter. Posting the letter on Twitter, Sidhu tweeted: "My letter to the Congress President Shri. Rahul Gandhi Ji, submitted on 10 June, 2019." 
 
"Will be sending my resignation to the Chief Minister, Punjab," Sidhu tweeted after the Chief Minister's media adviser Raveen Thukral told IANS that the CM office had not received his resignation. 
 
Reacting to the development, Punjab Minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa said it was technically wrong of Sidhu to submit his resignation from the Cabinet first to the party President.
 
Urging Sidhu to reconsider his decision, he said the politician should talk to the Chief Minister and resolve the issues between them. "He is an intelligent man and can contribute a lot to his new department," he added.
 
On June 6, Sidhu was divested of the charge of Local Government and Tourism & Cultural Affairs portfolios and given Power and New and Renewable Energy Sources in a Cabinet reshuffle, the first after the Lok Sabha election results. 
 
Barring four, there were changes in the portfolios of all the ministers as a result of the reallocation, which Amarinder Singh said, would help further streamline the governing system and bring more transparency and efficacy to various departments.
 
However, Sidhu refused to take charge of his new ministry. On June 10, he met Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi and Ahmed Patel in New Delhi and told them that his department had been singled out and publicly blamed for the party's Lok Sabha poll defeat. He had gone into hibernation since then. 
 
In his absence, Amarinder Singh on July 10 took crucial decisions related to electricity shortage as it was affecting paddy sowing in the state.
 
IANS
 

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Congress needs charismatic Gen Next leader: Punjab CM

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Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday backed a young leader to galvanise the Congress in the wake of Rahul Gandhi's resignation as the party President.
 
Pointing to the large and growing youth population in the country, the Chief Minister urged the Congress Working Committee (CWC) to look for Gandhi's replacement in a charismatic Gen Next leader, who can enthuse the people with his pan-India appeal and grassroots presence.
 
"Gandhi had shown the way for youth leadership to take the party's reins and steer it to greater heights", said the Chief Minister, adding that with India leading the world in terms of the largest youth population, it was natural that a young leader would understand and relate to the desires and aspirations of the people more effectively.
 
Any change in the party leadership must reflect India's societal reality, with 65 per cent of its population under 35, said Singh said in a statement.
 
He said Gandhi's decision to stand firm on his resignation was a major disappointment and setback for the party, from which it could recover only under the dynamic leadership of another young leader.
 
Only a youth leader could revive the grand old party, said the Chief Minister, urging the Congress leadership to keep the energy infused by Gandhi going.
 
The Congress needs young blood to galvanise its rank and file, and once again make it India's preferred and only choice, said Singh.
 
The leadership of the party should be such that it reflects the realignment of its vision to the evolving aspirations of the nation, he added.
 
A youth leader, with a forward-looking approach, would not only connect better with the large majority of India's young population but would inculcate the party with a dose of fresh thinking, desperately needed to pull the nation back from the regressive and divisive policies of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), he said.
 
Singh said under the guidance of the experienced party veterans, a young leader, with a visionary approach and modern outlook, would pave the way for the birth of a new India -- more vibrant, dynamic and progressive.
 
It was time, he said, for the old to give way to the new, without which the Congress could not effectively tackle the challenges faced today.
 
IANS

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1 dead in Ludhiana jail clash; inmates post live videos on FB

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One person died and five prisoners and six police personnel received injuries after a bloody clash erupted between two groups of inmates in Ludhiana Central Jail on Thursday as they pelted stones at each other.
 
The inmates even made video clips of the incident on their cellphones and posted them live on Facebook.
 
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who is in New Delhi, has ordered a magisterial inquiry into the incident, to be conducted by the Deputy Commissioner of Ludhiana. Taking serious note of the incident, the Chief Minister asked for a detailed probe to identify the instigators of the violence.
 
The police fired several rounds in the air to bring the situation under control, a jail official told IANS. In the melee, 11 inmates tried to escape but most of them were apprehended.
 
State Jail Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, who did not rule out the possibility of using mobile phones in jails, admitted that there was no work culture in the prisons.
 
He also demanded the deployment of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in all the high-security jails in Punjab.
 
Deputy Commissioner of Ludhiana, Pradeep Aggarwal, told the media outside the jail that all the inmates have now been locked in the barracks.
 
He said the death of jail inmate Sunny Sood due to illness at a hospital on Wednesday night provoked the violence.
 
The news of Sood's death triggered a riot in the jail premises with the 3,100-odd inmates refusing to return to their barracks and taking to pelting stones, which were available due to some ongoing construction work.
 
The rioting inmates also set on fire the record room and the car of the Jail Superintendent apart from vandalising jail properties, officials said.
 
As they tried to break the prison gates, the police tried to stop them by firing in the air, as per initial reports.
 
Thursday's incident took place less than a week after Mohinder Pal Bittu, the prime suspect in a case relating to the desecration of Guru Granth Sahib in Bargari in 2015, was beaten to death in the high-security prison in Nabha, near Patiala, by a murder convict and a murder accused on June 22.
 
Demanding the sacking of the Jail Minister, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) President Sukhbir Singh Badal said the violence in Ludhiana jail was the latest proof of 'jungle raj' in the state.
 
"Prisoners rebelled, used gas cylinders to conduct blasts and even chased and injured prison guards, including a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DCP), besides breaking out from the jail. This is indicative of a complete breakdown in administration of jails in Punjab," he said.
 
A clean-up exercise was needed which could only be done by immediately sacking Randhawa, Sukhbir Badal added.
 
A probe by a sitting judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court should be ordered to ascertain what led to this incident and why the jail administration failed to control it, he added. 
 
"Earlier, we have continuously witnessed cases of drug seizures and use of mobile phones in jails. The Patiala jail has even witnessed sodomy on jail inmates in league with jail officials to extort money from them. There are also widespread reports of corruption and mismanagement," he said in a statement.
 
The Ministry of Home Affairs in a communication to the state government on June 25 announced the deployment of CRPF in three high-security prisons in the state in Amritsar, Ludhiana and Bathinda.
 
IANS
 

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Child retrieved from Punjab borewell dead

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A two-year-old boy who was pulled out on Tuesday from a 150-foot-deep abandoned borewell in a village in Punjab's Sangrur district, into which he had fallen five days ago, was declared dead.
 
The child, Fatehveer Singh, was brought to the PGI hospital in Chandigarh, some 130 km from the accident spot, soon after he was retrieved from the well, officials said.
 
However, there is no official confirmation from doctors about the health of the child.
 
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh expressed grief over his death.
 
"Very sad to hear about the tragic death of young Fatehveer. I pray that Waheguru grants his family the strength to bear this huge loss," he said in a tweet.
 
"Have sought reports from all DCs (Deputy Commissioners) regarding any open bore well so that such terrible accidents can be prevented in the future," he added.
 
As he was retrieved, the child's grandfather Rohi Singh told the media on the spot: "Why was he taken to the hospital when he is no more."
 
He claimed that the body of the child had grievous wounds. "He was pulled out (of the borewell) by using strings."
 
A health worker in the PGI's emergency ward told reporters the child's body was badly decomposed and smelly.
 
"It seems the child died two days ago," he added.
 
The boy, who had been trapped in the abandoned borewell since June 6, was retrieved by the rescuers of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF).
 
Sangrur Deputy Commissioner Ghanshyam Thori said it was one of the toughest operations carried out by the NDRF.
 
Lack of expertise and technical snags one after another were blamed for the delay in the massive rescue operation.
 
Special teams had been working day and night in a tunnel that was dug parallel to the abandoned borewell.
 
Meanwhile, tension prevailed among villagers in Sangrur over the inability of the state government to ensure timely retrieval of the toddler.
 
Thousands of angry protesters blocked the road leading to Bhagwanpura village in Sunam sub-division, some 15 km from district headquarters at Sangrur, where the incident occurred.
 
On March 22, a one-and-a-half-year-old boy, who fell into a 70-foot narrow borewell in Haryana's Hisar district, was rescued after a 48-hour operation.
 
In July, 2006, Army engineers in Haryana's Kurukshetra town had rescued a little boy trapped in a 60-foot well for two days.
 
IANS

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Life term for mastermind, 2 others in Kathua rape-murder case

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A Special Court in Pathankot on Monday convicted six people for the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir's Kathua last year. It pronounced life imprisonment of 25 years for three -- temple priest and mastermind Sanji Ram, Deepak Khajuria and Parvesh Kumar.
 
Investigating officers Raj and Dutta, and Special Police Officer Surinder Kumar were sentenced to five years in jail for destroying crucial evidence in the case. 
 
Sanji Ram's son Vishal was acquitted due to lack of evidence, but the fate of his minor nephew, the eighth accused in the case, will be decided by the juvenile court.
 
His trial is yet to begin as a petition to determine his age is awaiting judgment in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
 
Pathankot District and Sessions Judge Tejwinder Singh announced the verdict in open court. The in-camera trial in the case ended on June 3.
 
All the six accused can move the High Court against the trial court verdict within one month.
 
Families of the convicted, who were present in the court in Pathankot, some 100 kms from Jammu and 30 kms from Kathua, blamed the media for the verdict. "This is a bad judgment and we are going to challenge it in appropriate court," said a defence counsel.
 
Elaborate security arrangements had been made at the trial court for the verdict because of the high-profile nature of the case.
 
According to the charge sheet, the girl, who belonged to a Muslim nomadic tribe, was kidnapped and held captive at a village temple in Kathua district on January 10, 2018.
 
The 15-page charge sheet against the accused said that the eight-year-old girl was starved, sedated and repeatedly raped in captivity over the next four days before being bludgeoned to death.
 
Her mutilated body was found in a forest on January 17. Three days later, one of the accused -- reportedly a juvenile -- was arrested by the police, the charge sheet said.
 
The abduction, rape and killing of the child were part of a carefully planned strategy to remove the minority nomadic community from the area, it added.
 
The case sparked outrage across the state, forcing the government to hand over the case to the Crime Branch of Jammu and Kashmir Police.
 
The case strained relations between the then ruling coalition partners, the PDP and the BJP after two ministers of the latter, Chowdhury Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga, participated in a rally organised by the Hindu Ekta Manch in support of the arrested accused.
 
The Supreme Court later ordered that the case be shifted out of Jammu and Kashmir and be heard on a daily basis by the trial court in Punjab's Pathankot.
 
Hailing the judgment, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti tweeted: "Relieved about the Kathua verdict. Credit goes to the Crime Branch team for ensuring facts came to light despite hindrances. People all across too galvanised support & stood up for this child."
 
IANS
 

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Kathua rape-murder case: Six held guilty

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A Special Court in Pathankot of Punjab on Monday convicted six out of the seven accused in the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir's Kathua last year.
 
Pathankot District and Sessions Judge Tejwinder Singh announced the verdict in open court. 
 
Those convicted include former revenue official Sanji Ram, Special Police Officers Deepak Khajuria and Surinder Kumar, two investigating officers -- head constable Tilak Raj and sub-inspector Anand Dutta and Parvesh Kumar.
 
Ram's son Vishal was acquitted due to lack of evidence, while an accused juvenile faces a separate trial. His trial is yet to begin as a petition to determine his age is waiting judgement in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
 
Families of the convicted present at the court blamed the media for the verdict.
 
"We are going to challenge the judgment," said a defence counsel, after coming out of the court.
 
The quantum of punishment will be pronounced at 2 p.m.
 
The in-camera trial in the case ended on June 3, following which District and Sessions Judge Tejwinder Singh announced that the verdict would be delivered on June 10.
 
Elaborate security arrangements have been put in place because of the high-profile nature of the case.
 
According to the charge sheet, the girl, who belonged to a Muslim nomadic tribe, was kidnapped and held captive at a village temple in Kathua district on January 10 last year.
 
The 15-page charge sheet against the accused had said that the eight-year-old girl, who was kidnapped on January 10 last year, was raped in captivity in a small village temple in Kathua district after having been sedated for four days before she was bludgeoned to death.
 
She was drugged, starved and repeatedly raped for days. She was finally strangled and her head was bashed in with a rock. Her mutilated body was found in a forest area on January 17. Three days later, one of the accused -- reportedly a juvenile -- was arrested by police, the charge sheet said.
 
The Supreme Court had ordered that the case be shifted out of Jammu and Kashmir and be heard on a daily basis by the trial court in Pathankot.
 
The case had strained relations between the then ruling coalition partners, PDP and the BJP, after two ministers of BJP, Chowdhury Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga, participated in a rally organised by the Hindu Ekta Manch in support of the accused arrested by the state crime branch.
 
The rape and killing of the girl had sparked outrage across the state, forcing the government to hand over the case to the Crime Branch of Jammu and Kashmir Police.
 
IANS
 

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Defiant Sidhu calls on Rahul, Priyanka

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Punjab Cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, who is at loggerheads with Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and was allocated a new portfolio last week, met party President Rahul Gandhi here. He is yet to assume charge at the new ministry.
 
"Met the Congress President, handed him my letter, appraised him of the situation!" Sidhu tweeted on Monday.
 
Along with the tweet, he posted a picture in which he was standing alongside Gandhi and party leaders Priyanka Vadra Gandhi and Ahmed Patel.
 
The rift between the Chief Minister and Sidhu came to the fore once again with Amarinder Singh preferring to keep Sidhu out of crucial consultative groups that were announced on Saturday to review progress and make changes, if needed, in the government's flagship programmes and schemes.
 
Sidhu had been camping in the national capital since Friday to have an audience with the party's top leadership.
 
Hours after the first state Cabinet meeting following the Lok Sabha election, the Chief Minister on June 6 had reshuffled the portfolios of most of the ministers, including Sidhu.
 
Barring four, there were some changes in the portfolios of all the ministers as a result of the reallocation, which the Chief Minister said would help further streamline the governing system and processes and bring more transparency and efficacy to various departments.
 
The Local Government portfolio was earlier with Sidhu who now has Power and New and Renewable Energy Sources. His other portfolio of Tourism and Cultural Affairs was also taken over by the Chief Minister.
 
Most of the ministers, except Sidhu, have assumed their new offices, a senior government functionary told IANS.
 
IANS
 

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Rescuers close to child trapped in Punjab borewell for 76 hours

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Rescuers of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) on Sunday evening said they were close to reaching a two-year-old boy who has been trapped in a 150-foot-deep abandoned borewell for over 76 hours in a village in Punjab's Sangrur district.
 
The operation resumed in the morning after a delay of five hours due to a technical snag to recover the boy who fell into the narrow and deep borewell on the evening of June 6.
 
Special teams have worked day and night in a tunnel that was dug parallel to the borewell.
 
The digging was almost over in the newly-laid 36-inch-diameter parallel shaft to reach the child who is believed to be stuck at a depth of 110 feet in the borewell that has a nine-inch diameter.
 
A team of doctors and ambulances have been stationed at the spot.
 
A movement in the child's body was noticed at 5 a.m. on Saturday, almost 40 hours after the incident. After that there was no movement in his body.
 
The parallel tunnel was dug manually to reach the child, who will turn two on June 10, a rescuer told IANS on phone.
 
After digging the parallel tunnel, a passage to create access to the child is being made through another horizontal tunnel, he said.
 
Adequate supply of oxygen inside the well is being provided and a camera is being used to monitor the child's condition.
 
A special NDRF team that has experts in rescuing people trapped in wells has been deployed, Deputy Commissioner Ghanshyam Thori told reporters.
 
He said the child's hands were clamped within seven-eight hours of the incident so he could not have slipped further.
 
The child stumbled into the borewell that was covered with cement bags at around 4 p.m., his mother said.
 
The rescue team, comprising 26 members of the NDRF and the Indian Army with district administration staff, has been involved in the day-and-night operation at Bhagwanpura in Sunam subdivision, some 15 kms from district headquarters at Sangrur.
 
Followers of Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda were also involved in the rescue operation.
 
An attempt was made earlier to pull out the child with the help of a rope. He has been tied with a rope to prevent him from slipping down, a rescuer said.
 
The NDRF said this is one of the most complex rescue operations undertaken in the country.
 
The borewell had been abandoned for over seven years. This was the second such incident in the area in less than three months.
 
Thousands of people have been sending messages to TV channels, wishing luck to the rescuers.
 
On March 22, a one-and-a-half-year-old boy, who fell into a 70-foot narrow borewell in Haryana's Hisar district, was rescued after a 48-hour operation.
 
In July 2006, Army engineers in Haryana's Kurukshetra town had rescued a little boy trapped in a 60-foot well for two days.
 
IANS

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Infant trapped in Punjab borewell for over 40 hours

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A massive operation continued for the third day on Saturday to rescue a two-year-old boy who fell into a 150-foot deep abandoned borewell in a village in Punjab's Sangrur district, officials said here.
 
A movement in his body was noticed at 5 am, almost 40 hours after the incident.
 
A parallel tunnel is being dig to reach the child, who will turn two on June 10, believed to be stuck at a depth of 110 feet in the borewell that has a nine-inch diameter, they said.
 
The parallel tunnel still needs digging of 45-50 feet and it is going on manually as mechanical digging may lead to caving in of a large nearby portion, a rescuer told IANS on phone.
 
After digging the parallel tunnel, a passage to make access to the child would be made through another vertical tunnel, he said.
 
Adequate supply of oxygen inside the well is provided and a camera has been planted to keep a watch on the child. His movements were being monitored regularly, Deputy Commissioner Ghanshyam Thori told reporters.
 
The child fell into the man-made structure on Thursday at around 4 pm, officials said.
 
The rescue team, comprising 26 members of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and Indian Army and district administration staff, has been involved in the day-and-night rescue operation at Bhagwanpura in Sunam subdivision.
 
An attempt was made earlier to pull out the child with the help of a rope. He has been tied with a rope to prevent his slipping down, a rescuer said.
 
The NRDF said this is one of the toughest operations as the well where the child is trapped is abnormally deep.
 
The borewell has been abandoned for over seven years. This was the second such incident in the region in less than three months.
 
After a 48-hour-long rescue operation, a one-and-a-half-year-old boy, who fell into a 70-foot narrow borewell in Haryana's Hisar district, was rescued on March 22.
 
IANS

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Amarinder Singh rejigs portfolios of most of his ministers, including Sidhu

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh with state Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu (File photo: IANS)
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh with state Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu (File photo: IANS)
Hours after the first state Cabinet meeting post the Lok Sabha elections, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Thursday evening rejigged the portfolios of most of the ministers, including Navjot Singh Sidhu.
 
Barring four ministers, there are some changes in the portfolios of all the ministers as a result of the reallocation, which the Chief Minister said would help further streamline the government system and processes and bring more transparency and efficacy to the various departments.
 
With the Congress government in the state nearing its mid-term mark, Amarinder Singh hoped the exercise would also re-energise his team.
 
The Chief Minister, who had hinted at changes in the portfolios of his Council of Ministers after the completion of the poll process, has allocated the crucial Local Government to his senior-most colleague, Brahm Mohindra, who was earlier handling Health and Family Welfare, which has now been entrusted to Balbir Sidhu.
 
Local Government was earlier with Navjot Singh Sidhu, who now gets Power and New and Renewable Energy Sources.
 
His other previous portfolios of Tourism and Cultural Affairs goes to Charanjit Singh Channi, who retains Technical Education, Industrial Training and Employment General, with his Science and Technology portfolio taken over by the Chief Minister.
 
Balbir Sidhu's portfolio of Animal Husbandry, Fisheries and Dairy has been entrusted, under the new scheme of things, to Tript Bajwa, along with Higher Education.
 
Bajwa also retains Rural Development and Panchayats.
 
However, Bajwa has been divested of Housing and Urban Development, which the Chief Minister has handed over to Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria, in place of Revenue, which goes to Gurpreet Singh Kangar, who is also handling Rehabilitation and Disaster Management.
 
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Manpreet Singh Badal continues to take care of Finance, Planning and Programme Implementation, but the Chief Minister has decided to take Governance Reforms into his own fold. School Education has been shifted from Om Prakash Soni to Vijay Inder Singla, who retains Public Works but hands over Information Technology to Captain Amarinder.
 
Soni will now take care of Medical Education & Research, Freedom Fighters and Food Processing departments.
 
In addition to Sports & Youth Affairs, Rana Gurmeet Sodhi will now also be in charge of NRI Affairs, which was under the Chief Minister's purview earlier. 
 
Transport has been moved from Aruna Chowdhary's basket and handed over to Razia Sultan, who retains Water Supply but has been divested of Higher Education. 
 
Aruna Chowdhary takes over the Social Security, Women & Child Development departments.
 
The four ministers in whose portfolios no changes have been made are Sadhu Singh Dharamsot (Forests, Printing & Stationery, SC/BC Welfare), Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa (Cooperation, Jails), Sunder Sham Arora (Industries & Commerce), and Bharat Bhushan Ashu (Food & Civil Supplies, Consumer Affairs).
 
IANS
 

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Sidhu skips Cabinet meet, says can't be taken for granted

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Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, who is at loggerheads with Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, skipped a Cabinet meeting on Thursday and declared later that he could not be taken for granted.
 
This was the first meeting of the Cabinet after the Lok Sabha elections, and the Chief Minister set a deadline for the completion of his government's flagship programmes within six months.
 
A defiant Sidhu said he can't be taken for granted.
 
This is the second time in a week when Sidhu, the Local Government Minister who was in the city, boycotted a crucial meeting in evident protest.
 
Earlier, Sidhu was absent from the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting chaired by Amarinder Singh here last week.
 
Even as the cabinet meeting was in progress on Thursday, Sidhu presented to the media at his residence a list of what he said were his ministry's achievements.
 
He refuted charges against him of poor performance.
 
Sidhu provided "facts" to prove that the Congress performed well in the Lok Sabha elections in the urban areas of Punjab too.
 
He made it clear that he cannot be taken for granted as he had been a performer throughout his life -- be it in cricket, showbiz or politics.
 
The strife between the cricketer-turned-politician and the Chief Minister is not new.
 
On several occasions, Sidhu has said that Congress President Rahul Gandhi was his 'Captain', reportedly irking Captain Amarinder Singh, a retired Indian Army officer popularly referred to as "Captain'.
 
The war of words between the Chief Minister and Sidhu intensified when Amarinder Singh blamed Sidhu for the Congress' poor performance in the state's urban areas and said his actions during the parliamentary elections had not only harmed him but also Rahul Gandhi.
 
The cause of the provocation was Sidhu's controversial remarks on the sacrilege issue. He also blamed the Chief Minister for denial of party ticket to his wife from Chandigarh.
 
Referring to Sidhu's remarks on the investigation into the sacrilege cases in Bathinda, the seat the Congress lost to Akali Dal's Harsimrat Kaur Badal by 21,772 votes, the Chief Minister said the Minister evidently did not understand that a Special Investigating Team (SIT) had been set up by the Assembly.
 
The Chief Minister had also reiterated that Sidhu's 'yari and jhappi' (friendship and hug) with the Pakistani Army Chief would not be tolerated, especially by Indian Army personnel, who were being killed by ISI-backed terrorists.
 
Thursday's meeting took crucial decisions, including changes in Cabinet portfolios, insiders told IANS.
 
IANS
 

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Football: Sethu FC overpower Manipur Police to win Hero Indian Women"s League

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Riding on Sabitra Bhandari's brace, Sethu FC  (Madurai) overcame Manipur Police SC 3-1 to win the Hero Indian Women’s Football League trophy in Ludhiana, Punjab on Wednesday.
 
Manipur Police led 1-0 at half time, but Sethu staged a comeback in the second session, pumping in three goals to win their first title.
 
Radharani Devi had put Manipur Police in the lead towards the end of the first half, but an own goal by Umapati Devi put Sethu back in the game, before Nepal international Bhandari turned up the heat to score two goals and win it for the Madurai-based side.
 
Sethu got off with more chances in the first half, as they kept the Manipur attackers in check and built on their swift counter-attacks to move the ball up the pitch quickly. 
 
Their left winger Sandhiya had the first clear chance a little after 10 minutes, when she received the ball just inside the box but she muffed it as she scuffed her instep shot.
 
The winger had another good chance when she received the ball from a melee inside the Manipur box, but her shot rolled inches wide of the post.
 
Manipur’s prolific goalscorer Bala Devi was tightly marked, and she often had to drop to the midfield or to the right wing, in order to make some space for herself. 
 
Manipur’s goal came with a little over a minute of regulation time left for the first half, as Radharani leaped above the rest to nod in a corner from the left.
 
In the second session, Sethu  started on an attacking note and got the equalizer when Dangmei Grace cut through the right flank  and sent in a low cross to captain Indumathi Kathiresan, whose powerful drive was deflected by Manipur Police defender Umapati Devi into her own goal (1-1).
 
Five minutes later, the Madurai side took the lead as mercurial striker Bhandari was set through on goal. She  rounded off the keeper, before slotting it into the net from an angle.
 
Bhandari scored her second goal when Sandhiya broke swiftly down the left and played her in through the channel between the left back and the left centre-back. The Nepal international opened up her right foot and slotted it into the bottom corner to make it 3-1
 
From then on, it was a matter of seeing out the Manipur attacks and, Sethu defenders Ashalata Devi and Sweety Devi, and midfielders Sumithra, Ratanbala and Indumathi  foiled  all the attempts.
 
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Women's football: Manipur Police to take on Sethu FC in final of Hero Indian League

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Manipur Police and Sethu FC (Tamil Nadu) chalked out contrasting victories over their respective rivals on Monday to set up a title clash in the Hero Indian Women’s Football League in Ludhiana.
 
In the first semi-final, riding on Bala Devi’s four goals, Manipur Police overpowered Gokulam Kerala FC 4-2 despite being one player down in the second half, while in the other semi-final Sethu FC thrashed SSB Women FC 8-1.
 
Thanks to Bala Devi, Manipur Police ousted Gokulam after trailing 1-2 at one stage and played with one player less after defender Romi Devi was sent off in the 47th minute.
 
Manipur took the lead at the quarter-hour mark. Daya was played into the box via an aerial through ball, but was fouled by Gokulam centre-back Poli Koley, resulting in a penalty and Bala Devi made no mistake in converting it.
 
Gokulam started to play their counter-attacks off Manisha and got their equalizer through a corner, as Bina Devi turned it into her own net from a melee.
 
In the second half, Gokulam striker Anju Tamang penetrated the Manipur box and fired a shot that was blocked off the line. However, it had struck Romi Devi’s hand and she was subsequently sent off. Ranjana Chanu converted the ensuing penalty to put Gokulam in front for the first time.
 
Manipur, however, did not lie low, despite being one player down. They pressed forward, and earned another foul inside the opposition box, which gave them a penalty to equalise from. Bala Devi duly converted it to put her side level.
 
Bala put Manipur ahead again with a superb goal. A minute later, Bala with a powerful left-footer sent the ball home (4-2)/
 
With this performance, Bala now moves on to 26 goals in six matches in this tournament so far.
 
In the other semi-final, Sabitra Bhandari scored four goals enabling Sethu FC to rout SSB Women FC 8-1.
 
Dangmei Grace put them in the lead within the first quarter of an hour. The India international was in form as she created the chance that led to the second goal which was scored by Nepal international Sabitra Bhandari. Grace soon added a third on the stroke of half-time.
 
Grace scored one a few minutes after the restart, while Sabitra Bhandari scored two more as both the India and the Nepal internationals completed their hat-tricks, before Dular Marandi pulled one back for SSB. However, Ratanbala soared up the pitch from the restart and immediately restored Sethu’s six-goal cushion just a minute later.
 
The final   will be played on Wednesday.
 
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Women's football: Bangalore record first victory, Kolhapur wins but out of contention

Bangalore United FC in action against Baroda Football Academy in the Hero Indian Women's Football League in Ludhiana on May 16, 2019
Bangalore United FC in action against Baroda Football Academy in the Hero Indian Women's Football League in Ludhiana on May 16, 2019
Bangalore United FC and Kolhapur City chalked identical 2-0 victories over Baroda Football Academy and SAI-STC Cuttack, respectively, in the Hero Indian Women’s Football League in Ludhiana on Thursday.
 
Bangalore United got their first win as they beat Baroda Football Academy through goals from Sivakumari Arumugam and Paromita Sit. With this win Bangalore now move on to four points from as many games in Group II.
 
Bangalore were the dominant of the two sides as they kept the ball for long spells and passed it around.
 
Captain Amoolya Kamal was perhaps their most influential player from the middle of the park, combining well with Khushbu Kumari to form a formidable mid-field partnership.
 
The winners got their breakthrough with a little less than 10 minutes left for the half-time whistle, when Sivasankari gave them the lead.
 
After the changeover, Baroda attempted to orchestrate their attacks through left winger Mona. However, Bangalore pushed their defence stalwart Komal Kumari into the holding mid-field position to neutralise the threat.
 
Bangalore threw forward Paromita into the mix in the second half, and she had an influence on the play, linking up with Amsa.
 
With a little under 10 minutes of regulation time left, Paromita once again linked up with Amsa, who cut inside and relayed it off for captain Amoolya. The Bangalore captain's first-time shot rattled the crossbar.
 
The combination finally worked out with about five minutes of regulation time left. Amsa was fed the ball on the right wing, as she dashed into the box and sent in a low cross that Paromita merely had to tap into the goal from inside the six-yard-box.
 
In the other match of the day, it was a mixture of both experience and youth, as captain Kamala Devi and Renu scored the two goals for Kolhapur.
 
With this win, Kolhapur climbed over SAI to the third place on the table with seven points, but it was not enough for them to make it to the semi-finals.
 
Kolhapur were on the offensive from the very start and got the lead early on when Kamala Devi dribbled past two defenders and fired it in from outside the box on the seventh minute.
 
They went on to double their lead in a little over 10 minutes before the half-time whistle, when Renu put one in from long range. The India U-19 international received the ball on the right, dribbled past a defender and sent in a cross that sailed over SAI keeper Subha Patra into the goal.
 
The proceedings continued to be dominated by Kolhapur in the second half, as they looked up to their strong backbone -- Jabamani Tudu in defence, Kunti Kumari Lakra holding the middle, and Nigerian Crystal Eke leading the line.
 
With less than 10 minutes left on the clock, Renu had a chance to score a brace when she controlled a cross from the left and unleashed a fierce shot that thudded the crossbar. 
 
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Women's football: Gokulam (Kerala) top group 1, SSB (Bengal) closer to semi-final

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Gokulam Kerala outplayed Hans Club Delhi 3-1 to top Group 1 with an all-win record in the Hero Indian Women's Football League in Ludhiana on Wednesday.
 
Earlier, SSB Club (Bengal) thrashed Panjim Footballers 6-2 to keep their hopes alive for a semi-final berth.
 
For Gokulam, who have already secured a spot in the semi-finals, the goal scorers were Anju Tamang, Ranjana Chanu and captain Dalima Chhibber while Anushka Samuel netted one for Hans Women.
 
Gokulam forward Anju Tamang put her side in the lead in the 10th minute. However, Hans  drew parity in the 20th minute through  Anushka Samuel.
 
However, the Kerala team, dominated the play for most of the first half, and eventually regained their lead, when Ranjana Chanu scored an absolute blinder of a goal. 
 
Gokulam captain Dalima Chhibber extended their lead a little after the hour mark, when the ball was crossed in from the left and she tapped it into the goal from inside the box.
 
Hans had the chance to halve the lead mid-way through the second half, when Anushka was played through on goal as she beat the Gokulam offside trap. She only had goalkeeper Linthoi to beat, but the latter made a fine save to keep Gokulam’s two-goal cushion.
 
With this result, Gokulam finished the group with five wins out of as many matches, having scored a total of 16 goals and conceded just one.
 
In  an another match, Ranjita Devi, Sumila Chanu and Sangita Basfore scored a brace each for SSB, while Karishma Shirvoikar netted two for Panjim.
 
It was Panjim which took the lead against the run of play when Karishma finished a swift move to put them in the lead.
 
However, once SSB settled into the game they equalized through international Sangita Basfore as they went on to dominate the game for the rest of the half.
 
In the second half, Chanu and Basfore struck in quick succession to give SSB a 3-1 lead.
 
Chanu struck again a few minutes later as she dribbled past two defenders inside the box and slotted it into the bottom corner. Ranjita  added a fifth for SSB, when she nodded in a corner from close range.
 
With a little under 10 minutes to go, Ranjita scored again, this time from a melee inside the penalty area, before Karishma added a consolation goal for Panjim in the dying seconds of the game.
 
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Women's football: Manipur Police in semi-finals, Cuttack FC keeps hopes alive

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Striker Bala Devi fired three goals as Manipur Police trounced FC Kolhapur City 7-1 to storm into the semi-finals while SAI-STC Cuttack pipped Bangalore United FC 1-0  to keep their hopes alive for a last-four berth in the Hero Indian Women's Football League in Ludhiana on Tuesday.
 
Apart from Bala Devi, other goal scorers for Manipur were Irom Prameshwori Devi (2) Pramodini Chanu and Daya Devi (one each).
 
Manipur started on an aggressive note and went 2-0 up in the first 15 minutes itself, with Irom Prameshwori Devi and Bala Devi being the goal scorers.
 
Kolhapur retaliated and their Nigerian forward Crystal Eke broke the offside trap, dummied Manipur keeper Roshini Devi, and walked the ball into the goal (1-2).
 
However, Manipur took  a two-goal lead again as Bala Devi scored another right on the stroke of half time (3-1).
 
Manipur dominated the second half by playing a highly effective offside trap. Daya Devi added a fourth for Manipur when Bala played her into space on the right and the former beautifully chipped Kolhapur keeper Gyurme Dolma Tamang.
 
The winners added two more goals, thanks to Bala Devi, who dribbled past three players and laid it off for Salam Pramodini Devi to fire it past the keeper. A couple of minutes later, Bala scored her third goal to complete the rout.
 
In another match,  Deepa Nayak converted a penalty late in the second half to earn three points for SAI, after the side from Odisha suffered a 0-10 loss against Manipur Police SC in their first game.
 
Jyoti Kumari was awarded the Player of the Match for her gutsy display in defence.
 
Bangalore United started off the game at a high tempo, enjoying long bouts of possession, as they pushed the likes of Paromita Sit and UK forward Tanvie Hans up front. While Sit led the line, Hans dropped back to pick up the ball and spray it around the park.
 
SAI, however, defended resolutely till the end of the first half, and came out with more purpose in the second. India U-18 international Soni Behera played a crucial role in the middle of the park, aiding the defence to thwart the Bangalore attacks.
 
Their plan worked perfectly and a counter-attack with a little under a quarter-of-an-hour left, when a hand ball inside the Bengaluru box by Sivasankari Arumugam resulted in a penalty for SAI, which was duly converted by Deepa Nayak.
 
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