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Punjab

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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Congress' Sunil Jakhar wrests Gurdaspur LS seat from BJP with 1.93 lakh vote margin

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Congress candidate Sunil Jakhar has won the Lok Sabha seat from Gurdaspur in Punjab, defeating his nearest rival Swaran Singh Salaria of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by a record margin of 1,93,219 votes in the bye-election held in the constituency on October 11.
 
Counting of votes was taken up this morning for the seat, which 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.
 
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In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress candidate ended up on the losing side in all the nine Assembly segments in Gurdaspur. Mr. Jakhar has managed to turn this around, winning from all the nine segments this time.
 
Gurdaspur was considered a Congress stronghold for long years, with its candidate Sukhbuns Kaur Bhinder winning the seat five times in a row from 1980 to 1996 before the BJP brought in Khanna, a top Bollywood actor, as its candidate in 1998. The actor-turned politician was re-elected from the seat in 1999, 2004 and then in 2014. In 2009, former Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa by a thin margin of 8,359 votes.
 
Mr. Jakhar described the bye-election result as a "referendum" on the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance's government at the Centre and said the people of the constituency had sent a "strong message of resentment" over its policies.
 
"Congratulations to @sunilkjakhar ji for his impressive win in #Gurdaspur bypoll, it's a victory for @INCPunjab policies & development agenda," Mr. Amarinder Singh on microblogging site Twitter.
 
"Assure people of #Gurdaspur that every single promise made by @sunilkjakhar will be fulfilled and all development works will be fast-tracked," he added.
 
Congress leader and Punjab minister Navjot Sidhu said, "This is a beautiful Diwali gift, packed with a red ribbon, for our would-be party president Rahul Gandhi."
 
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Bye-elections to be held on October 11 for Gurdaspur LS seat in Punjab, Vengara assembly seat in Kerala

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The Election Commission of India (ECI) has said that it will hold bye-elections on October 11 to fill a casual vacancy from Gurdaspur, Punjab in the Lok Sabha and another in the assembly constituency of Vengara in Kerala.
 
The notifications for the bye-elections will be issued on September 15 and the last date for filing nominations will be September 22.
 
Counting of votes will be taken up in both constituencies on October 15, an official press release said.
 
The Commission said it had decided to use electronic voting machines (EVMs) and voter verificable paper audit trail (VVPAT) units in all the polling stations in these bye-elections.
 
"Adequate numbers of EVMs and VVPATs have been made available and all steps have been taken to ensure that the polls are conducted smoothly with the help of these machines," the release added.
 
The bye-election in Gurdaspur has been necessitated by 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 Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
 
The bye-election in Vengara has been necessitated by the resignation of Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) leader P. K. Kunhalikutty, who was elected to the Lok Sabha from the Malappuram seat that fell vacant following the death of former Union Minister E. Ahamed.
 
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India’s first Technology and Innovation Support Centre to come up in Punjab

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The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) today signed an institutional agreement with the Punjab State Council of Science and Technology to establish India’s first Technology and Innovation Support Center (TISC) at Patent Information Centre, Punjab.
 
Being set up under the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) TISC program, it aims to stimulate a dynamic, vibrant and balanced Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) system in India. 
 
It is tasked with fostering creativity and innovation, thereby promoting entrepreneurship and enhancing the social, economic and cultural development by establishing a network of TISCs, an official press release said.
 
The program provides innovators in developing countries with access to locally based, high-quality technology information and related services, helping them to exploit their innovative potential and to create, protect, and manage their Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs).
 
Services offered by TISCs include access to online patent and non-patent (scientific and technical) resources and IP-related publications. It provides assistance in searching and retrieving technology information and training in database search and on-demand searches (novelty, state-of-the-art and infringement).
 
It would also monitor technology and competitors and provide basic information on industrial property laws, management and strategy, technology commercialisation and marketing.
 
The Cell for IPR Promotion and Management (CIPAM) is designated as the National Focal Point for the TISC national network. It will identify potential host institutions, assess their capacities and support them in joining the TISC program. CIPAM will also act as the main intermediary between WIPO and TISC host institutions and coordinate all the activities of the National TISC network.
 
Over 500 TISCs operate worldwide and establishing TISC in India will give the host institutions access to the global network. In upcoming years, CIPAM is planning to establish TISCs in Universities, State Science Councils and R&D institutions. TISC will give an impetus to knowledge sharing, sharing of best practices among the TISCs, capacity building, generation and commercialization of IPs, the release added.
 
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Punjab Police arrests an inspector for allegedly facilitating smuggling, trafficking of drugs

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The Special Task Force (STF) of the Punjab Police yesterday arrested a police inspector, Inderjit Singh, for allegedly providing protection to narcotics smugglers and organizing trafficking of drugs through his associates.
 
The officer had acquired a reputation over the years with several drug seizures in all his postings.
 
Additional Director General of Police Harpreet Singh Sidhu, the head of the STF, told journalists here yesterday that, after registration of a case against the accused inspector, joint raids were conducted by various STF teams.
 
Based on the investigations a case was registered by the STF under section 59 (2) (b) of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985,  and under sections 218, 466, 471, 120-B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) at STF Police Station SAS Nagar against Inspector Inderjit Singh and DSP Jaswant Singh.
 
Mr. Sidhu said that, during search operations, live cartridges of various calibre, one illegal 9 mm pistol made in Italy, cash to the tune of Rs. 16.50 lakh and 3550 GB pounds were recovered from his residences.
 
“On the initial interrogation and his disclosure statement, further recovery of 4 kg heroin and 3 kg smack was made from his second residence at Government quarter No. 3, Phagwara. After these recoveries, more sections were added to the FIR which included sections 22, 61, 85 of the NDPS Act, 1985 and 25, 54, 59 of Arms Act," he said.
 
Mr Sidhu said reliable sources had provided information to the STF that Inderjit Singh, who was under transfer to Ferozepur Range and had earlier worked in Tarntaran district for a long period, was allegedly involved in nefarious activities with some narcotics smugglers. 
 
The STF chief added that during the years 2013 and 2014, the accused had allegedly played a big role in providing protection to smugglers operating in his jurisdiction and he himself was allegedly organizing smuggling and trafficking of narcotics through his associates.
 
He said the accused inspector had made recoveries of narcotics in the past but allegedly with the motive of obtaining illegal gratification from those in his custody on the promise of helping them in their cases and later getting some of them acquitted through flaccid investigation.
 
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Mr. Sidhu said the STF was already analyzing the cases of acquittal during the  last five years in which commercial quantity of narcotics was recovered. On receipt of information from field units, it was found that in two cases in Tarntaran district, the trial courts have acquitted the accused smugglers on grounds that Inspector Inderjit Singh, who held the substantive rank of Head Constable at the time of registration of cases and subsequent investigation, was not competent to investigate the narcotic cases as per the provisions/rules of the NDPS Act, 1985.
 
Mr Sidhu alleged that the accused Inspector had deliberately committed glaring discrepancies during investigation of above said cases to favour the accused. “These cases were referred to IGP/Border Zone and SSP/Tarntaran, who in their reports have ascertained these facts and recommended criminal action against the accused Inspector Inderjit Singh and DSP Jaswant Singh under section 59(2) of the NDPS Act, 1985," he said.
 
He said that a case had already been registered against Inspector Inderjit Singh by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau under section 7, 8, 13 (2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 which was under investigation. 
 
Mr Sidhu added that the State government was committed to foil the nefarious designs of smugglers in the State and STF was on the right track to curb the smuggling. He added that no person would be spared if found guilty after investigation. 
 
He said that the investigation of this case was entrusted to Mr. Mukhwinder Singh AIG/STF, Jalandhar under the supervision of Mr Pramod Ban IGP/STF Jalandhar Zone with the objective of unearthing the entire network of smugglers. 
 
The STF was set up by Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Sungh after he assumed office in March this year. Mr. Amarinder Singh had vowed during the election campaign that he would crack down on the massive drug problem in the state.
 
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USFDA to lift import alert on Sun Pharma's Mohali facility

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Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd today said it was informed by the United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) yesterday that it would lift the import alert imposed on the company's Mohali, Punjab manufacturing facility and remove it from the Official Action Initiated (OAI) status.
 
This proposed action will clear the path for Sun Pharma to supply approved products from the Mohali facility to the US market, subject to normal US FDA regulatory requirements, a press release from the company said.
 
The Mohali facility was inherited by Sun Pharma as part of its acquisition of Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd. in 2015. The US FDA had taken action against the Mohali facility in 2013 when it ordered the facility to be fully subject to Ranbaxy’s Consent Decree of Permanent Injunction. Certain conditions of the consent decree will continue to be applicable to the Mohali facility, the release said.
 
"This development illustrates Sun Pharma’s commitment to work closely with the US FDA and strive for 100% cGMP compliance at its manufacturing facilities," the release added.
 
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BJP rides to stunning wins in UP, Uttarakhand; Congress wrests Punjab, close call in Goa, Manipur

The BJP rode to stunning victories in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand in what is being seen as a resounding endorsement of the Narendra Modi government's policies and performance at the Centre as votes in the crucial elections to legislative assemblies in five states were counted on Saturday

 
Modi party wins India's biggest state
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rode to stunning victories in Uttar Pradesh, the country’s most populous state, and Uttarakhand in what is being seen as a resounding endorsement of the Narendra Modi government's policies and performance at the Centre as votes in the crucial elections to legislative assemblies in five states were counted today,
 
The Congress, whose alliance with the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) in Uttar Pradesh came a cropper and which was handed a crushing defeat in Uttarakhand, however, wrested Punjab from the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-BJP combine which had been ruling the state for the past ten years.
 
With nearly all the results available by late this evening, the Congress emerged as the single largest party in Goa, winning 17 seats in the 40-member assembly. The ruling BJP got only 13 and saw its Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar and several Ministers falling by the wayside. Both parties were now looking at getting support from the ten others, including three independents. The Mahararashtrawadi Gomantak Party and Goa Forward Party won three seats each, while the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) had got one.
 
Similarly, in Manipur, the ruling Congress ended up as the single largest party with 27 seats in the 60-member house, while the BJP put up a creditable performance to get 21, while the others have won 10.
 
In Uttar Pradesh, the BJP garnered an overwhelming 311 seats on its own in the 403-member Assembly, while its allies have got another 14, as the party stormed back to power in the state after a gap of 15 years.
 
The SP-Congress alliance could together manage only 55 seats – 48 for the SP and just seven for the Congress. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) headed by former Chief Minister Mayawati got just 19 seats as all the other parties were crushed by the BJP juggernaut.
 
Nine seats went to Apna Dal (Soneylal), one to the Nihal Indian Shoshit Hamara Aam Dal, four to Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party and three to independent candidates.
 
In Uttarakhand, the ruling Congress bit the dust as it could manage just 11 seats in the 70-member house, while the BJP secured 57 and independents took the rest. Chief Minister Harish Rawat lost from both the seats he contested from.
 
In Punjab, the Congress won 77 seats in the 117-member Assembly, while the SAD-BJP alliance could manage only 18. 
 
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is ruling the National Capital Territory of Delhi, emerged as the second largest party with 20 seats, but it failed to make an impact in Goa.
 
The elections in the five States came 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. As such, the results of these elections are expected to have a major bearing on national politics in the next two years.
 
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.
 
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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).
 
BJP workers began celebrating their victory in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand by mid-morning as early counting trends left no room for doubt about the ultimate numbers. The party attributed the wins to Mr. Modi's leadership and campaign and to its president Amit Shah's stewardship.
 
Mr. Shah said Mr. Modi had emerged as the country's "tallest leader" since independence. "The only factor for our win is the performance of the Modi government. The results have shown the faith the poor have reposed in Modi. Even his political rivals will have to admit that he has emerged as the tallest leader in the country since independence," he told a press conference.
 
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi congratulated Mr. Modi and the BJP on their victory in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, but said his party's fight would continue and would not end till it won the hearts and minds of the people.
 
"Our fight continues and will not end till we win the hearts & minds of people," he said on micro-blogging site Twitter. 
 
Mr. Modi responded within minutes. “Thank you… Long live democracy," he said.
 
Mr. Gandhi thanked the people of Punjab for their immense faith and support. "This is a mandate for a brighter future for Punjab and its youth," he said. "My heartiest congratulations to Capt Amarinder Singhji & all our party workers who worked tirelessly," he said.
 
Capt. Amarinder Singh, a former Chief Minister of the state, was the chief ministerial candidate of the party in the elections and is expected to be formally elected as the leader of the Congress Legislature Party tomorrow.
 
"I thank the people of Goa & Manipur for their love &support to the Congress Party. Congratulations to our workers & leaders in both states. 
 
"To all Congress workers across India: We stand resolute & committed to our values & our belief in an India united in strength & purpose," Mr. Gandhi said.
 
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Assembly elections: BJP surges ahead in UP, Uttarakhand, Congress leads in Punjab

The Bharatiya Janata Party, which is in power at the Centre, on Saturday surged ahead in spectacular fashion in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand as initial trends became available in the counting of votes in the crucial elections to the State Legislative Assemblies in five States.

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The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is in power at the Centre, today surged ahead in spectacular fashion in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand as initial trends became available in the counting of votes in the crucial elections to the State Legislative Assemblies in five States.
 
All the results in the five States, which include Punjab, Manipur and Goa, are expected to be in by this evening.
 
In Uttar Pradesh, the BJP was leading in 246 seats, while the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) and its ally Congress were ahead in 72 seats. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP )headed by former Chief Minister Mayawati was leading in 26 seats.
 
In Uttarakhand, the BJP was leading in 56 seats, while the ruling Congress was ahead in six.
 
However, the Congress was doing well in Punjab, where it surged ahead in 56 constituencies and appeared set to dislodge the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-BJP combine, which has been ruling the state for 10 years. The SAD-BJP alliance was leading in 27 constituencies and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is in power in the National Capital Territory of Delhi, was ahead in 24.
 
In Goa, the ruling BJP and the Congress were engaged in a close contest, with both parties establishing leads in seven seats each. In Manipur, the Congress was leading in 10 seats and the BJP in eight.
 
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. As such, the results of these elections are expected to have a major bearing on national politics in the next two years.
 
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).
 
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The Election Commission is giving out counting trends and results of the elections through its website eciresults.nic.in.
 
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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Counting of votes begins in crucial Assembly elections in five States

Counting of votes began on Saturday 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.

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Counting of votes began this 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.
 
Initial counting trends are expected to be available by mid-morning and all the results are expected by this evening.
 
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 is giving out counting trends and results of the elections through its website eciresults.nic.in.
 
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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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Assembly elections: ECI issues directions for fool-proof security arrangements for counting of votes

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The Election Commission of India (EC) has issued directions to the Chief Electoral Officers (CEOs) of Punjab, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Goa and Manipur to ensure fool-proof security arrangements for counting of votes, slated for March 11, in the Assembly elections in the five States.
 
The Commission had earlier issued detailed instructions to the CEOs regarding storage and safety arrangements for the electronic voting machines (EVMs), appointment of counting staff/counting agents and counting procedures.
 
An official press release said the Commission had held several rounds of video conferences with the CEOs and Returning Officers of all five states to take first hand inputs on their preparedness for counting of votes.
 
The ECI has set up 157 counting centres in the five states -- 53 in Punjab, two in Goa, 75 in Uttar Pradesh, 15 in Uttarakhand and 12 in Manipur.
 
"The ECI has taken feedback from all political parties and candidates, based on which these additional instructions have been issued with a view to further bolster security arrangements to tackle both general as well as situation specific exigencies and ensure a smooth counting process in a transparent manner," the release said.
 
According to the release, the instructions are:
 
1.      All the existing instructions of ECI on counting arrangement to be strictly followed by the DEOs and ROs in letter and spirit.
 
2.      Proper barricading arrangements to be ensured inside each of the counting hall with weld wires mesh to segregate the counting agents from the counting personnel and EVMs etc. as per the Commission’s instructions.
 
3.      In each of the counting hall proper arrangement for videography should be made to record the general happenings in the counting hall for effective monitoring of the counting process as per the Commission’s instructions.
 
4.      Effective barricading from the strong room door up to the counting hall door shall made in such a way that EVMs of each constituency should go to its respective counting hall only and shall not criss-cross each other.
 
5.      For ease of identification, coloured badges may be given to the staff engaged for transporting the EVMs to a particular counting hall each of constituency.
 
6.      As per the Commission’s instructions, all counting arrangements must be completed by the night of 7th March, 2017. The Observers shall visit the counting halls on the 8th March, 2017 and shall send a report to the Commission on counting arrangements.
 
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7.      It should be ensured that security protocol of strong rooms, as given in the Commission’s letter no. 51/8/VVPAT/2015-EMS dated 5th May 2015, in no way shall be breached while making the barricading arrangements and other preparatory work for the counting hall. If anywhere, counting hall is in the proximity of the strong room or the passage to the counting hall is near the strong room, then proper strong barricading should be erected to ensure that the access to the inner perimeter of the strong room is completely blocked. In all such matters, the DEO shall personally oversee and approve all such arrangements and ensure that security of EVMs in no way breached. Further, in all such places CCTV cameras may be placed, before under taking the counting arrangements, from where all the happenings of the movement are recorded and shown on a separate TV placed next to the TV fixed already for round the clock viewing of strong room doors by the candidates.
 
8.      On the date of counting, additional CCTV camera may be installed at such locations from where carrying of EVMs from the strong room to the counting hall can be recorded for effective monitoring.
 
9.      The CEO shall personally monitor and ensure that all the counting arrangements are done as per the instructions of the Commission.
 
10.  The entire plan would  be shared with contesting candidates by each DEO. The actual work of preparing for the counting shall be started thereafter for which all the contesting candidates/representatives may be invited to be present, if they wish so.
 
 The EC officer further said that these arrangements would ensure prevention of access to any anti-social element ,and that frisking will be done so that  no one enter the area with arms & ammunitions. Further, no one would be able to enter the counting arena without getting frisked.
 
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Punjab, J&K sign agreement to resume work on Shahpur Kandi Dam

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In a major step towards utilization of India’s rights on Eastern rivers of Indus basin, Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir have signed an agreement to resume work on the Shahpur Kandi Dam.
 
The mediation efforts of the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation (MoWR, RD &GR) persuaded the two States to reach an agreement, an official press release said.
 
The agreement was signed by Mr. K S Pannu, Secretary (Irrigation), Punjab and Saurabh Bhagat, Secretary ( Irrigation), J&K in the presence of Union Water Resources Secretary Amarjit Singh here last evening.
 
The project is being built with an estimated cost of Rs. 2285.81 crore (April 2008 price level) and is included in the Scheme of National Projects by the Union Government.
 
Under the scheme, MoWR,RD&GR provides central assistance @ 90% of the balance cost of works component of irrigation and water supply.
 
The construction of Shahpur Kandi project was taken up in May 1999 but later halted in 2014 due to dispute between Punjab and J&K. The Ministry of WR,RD&GR had been making all out efforts to resolve the issues and resume construction.
 
The design of the project will be as already agreed by both the states while concurrently model studies will be done to ensure that the mandated share of 1150 cusecs of water is available to the State of J&K, which will be binding on both the States.
 
The project will continue to be implemented by the Punjab Government. However, there will be a tripartite team headed by Member, Central Water Commission (CWC) and consisting of Chief Engineers of the two States to monitor the project as and when required but at least once in three months to ensure that the construction is as per the agreement.
 
The balance costs on account of compensation for land acquisition in respect of Thein Dam, as per the agreement, would be paid for by Punjab promptly. In addition, jobs to the oustees would be given by Punjab as per the agreed R&R policy of both the State Governments.
 
Punjab would also make available to J&K 20% share in the total power generated at the Thein Dam at the mutually agreed rate of Rs. 3.50 per unit immediately, subject to the confirmation of the rates by the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission.
 
Both the States agreed that other issues will be referred to arbitration mechanism provided in the agreement signed between two states in 1979 without affecting the progress of work.
 
It was unanimously agreed that the work on the Shahpur Kandi Dam Project would resume as soon both the State Governments formally approve the agreed decisions, the release added.
 
The 55.5 high Shahpur Kandi dam, located in Gurdaspur district of Punjab, will help in providing irrigation facility to 5,000 hectares of land in Punjab and 32,173 hectares in J&K besides generation of 206 MW power.
 
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Strong tremors felt in Delhi,,other parts of North India

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A strong earthquake shook Delhi, the National Capital Region (NCR) and other parts of North India late tonight.
 
The tremors, which lasted several seconds, were felt, among other places, in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, reports reaching here said.
 
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70% polling in Punjab Assembly elections, record 83% turnout in Goa

About 70 percent of the electorate in Punjab and a record 83 percent in Goa exercised their franchise in elections to choose new state legislative assemblies amidst tight security on Saturday.

 
Voters queue to cast their votes amidst tight security
About 70 percent of the electorate in Punjab and a record 83 percent in Goa exercised their franchise in elections to choose new state legislative assemblies amidst tight security today.
 
The turnout in Goa was better than the 81.8 percent recorded in the last assembly elections in 2012, while Punjab had recorded 78 percent voting in the last elections.
 
The final numbers may be slightly higher since reports from many polling booths were still coming in, Election Commission officials said this evening.
 
Polling was by and large peaceful in both states and no major untoward incident was reported from anywhere.
 
Punjab and Goa were the first two of five states holding crucial elections midway through the five-year term of the Narendra Modi government at the Cente and just two months after the November 8 demonetisation of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 banknotes. The polls are being seen as a test of the Modi government's popularity as well as an indication of how the people have reacted to the sudden and drastic move to withdraw high-value notes, which accounted for 86 percent of the total cash in circulation in the country.
 
Voters began queueing outside polling stations in both states from early morning and their numbers steadily increased as the day progressed. Voting, which began at 7 am in Goa and at 8 am in Punjab, ended 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 had 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 had made elaborate security and other arrangements for smooth, free and fair elections in both the states.
 
In Punjab, a total of 19879069 voters, including 10503108 males and  9375546 females, were eligible to exercise their franchise. There were 1145 candidates in the fray, including 81 women and one of the third gender. The Election Commission had set up 22,615 polling stations across the state.
 
In Goa, as many as  1110884 electors, including 546742 men and 564142 women, were eligible to vote in today's elections.  A total of 251 candidates, including 19 women, were in the fray.  The Commission had set up 1642 polling stations across the state.
 
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The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has made a determined effort for another term in office in Goa, while the Congress is hoping to come back to power in the state. 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 has tried to wrest power back from the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-BJP combine, which has been in office for a decade.
 
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the ruling party in the National Capital Territory of Delhi, went all out to emerge as the alternative to the established players in both the states, turning the elections into a triangular contest.
 
In Punjab, SAD leader and Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, 89, sought  re-election for the sixth time. He faced Capt. Amarinder Singh, the chief ministerial candidate of the Congress, in the Lambi constituency. The Congress leader also contested the elections from his traditional seat of Patiala.
 
The Chief Minister's son Sukhbir Singh faced 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, contested 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 included 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, Goa to vote on Saturday to elect new legislative assemblies

Punjab and Goa will go to the polls on Saturday to elect new state legislative assemblies -- the first of five states that will hold crucial elections in the coming weeks, 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.

Punjab and Goa will go to the polls tomorrow to elect new state legislative assemblies -- the first two of five states that will hold crucial elections in the coming weeks, 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.
 
The Punjab Assembly has 117 seats and the Goa Assembly 40 seats and both states will have single-phase polling tomorrow.
 
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 the state, 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.
 
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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.
 
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 Chief Minister's son Sukhbir Singh will face AAP's Bhagwant Mann, MP, who is his party's likely chief ministerial candidate, in Jalalabad.
 
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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Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Sidhu joins Congress ahead of Punjab polls

 
Navjot Singh Sidhu joins Congress ahead of Punjab polls
Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, who has served as a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member of Parliament, joined the Indian National Congress (INC), just ahead of the crucial elections to the Punjab Legislative Assembly after a meeting with the party's Vice-President Rahul Gandhi here today.
 
Punjab is slated to go to the polls in a single phase on February 4 along with the elections in four other states -- Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa.
 
"Beginning of a new inning. On the front foot........  Punjab, Punjabiyat & every Punjabi must win !!!", Mr. Sidhu, 53, who is also a popular television personality, said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
Congress spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala also announced Mr. Sidhu's entry into the party after his meeting with Mr. Gandhi.
 
Mr. Sidhu's wife, Ms. Navjot Kaur Sidhu, a former Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in Punjab, and former Indian hockey captain Pargat Singh had joined the Congress some time ago.
 
"INC welcomes S. Navjot singh Sindhu into the Congress family and we thank Congress Vice-President for his visionary approach in bringing together like-minded people on a common platform under the Congress umbrella," Mr. Surjewala said in a press release.
 
"Known for his straight talking, ideological commitment to the cause of nationalism as also wit and humour, we are certain that Congress Party will be immensely strengthened in Punjab and elsewhere with  the entry of S. Sidhu," the statement added.
 
On July 18, 2016, the BJP, which is in power at the Centre and is part of the ruling alliance led by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in Punjab, had suffered a setback when Mr. Sidhu resigned from the Rajya Sabha, just weeks after he had been nominated to the Upper House of Parliament by President Pranab Mukherjee on April 22, 2016.
 
His move had led to speculation at that time that Mr. Sidhu was likely to join the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is contesting the Punjab polls in a big way.
 
Mr. Sidhu had also represented the Amritsar constituency in Punjab in the 14th and 15th Lok Sabha as a member of the BJP, but was disappointed when the party decided to field senior party leader Arun Jaitley from the constituency in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
 
As it turned out, Mr. Jaitley lost the seat to Congress leader Amarinder Singh but was made the Finance Minister in the Narendra Modi cabinet and is now a member of the Rajya Sabha. Capt. Amarinder Singh is the Chief Ministerial candidate of the Congress for the Punjab elections. He resigned his Lok Sabha seat some weeks ago.
 
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Mr. Sidhu's nomination to the Rajya Sabha last year had come amidst reports that he was increasingly unhappy within the BJP and that the party was making one last effort to appease him and keep him within its fold. His ties with the SAD had also gone cold and he kept accusing Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal of blocking funds for Amritsar's development.
 
The former Test cricketer is likely to contest from his wife's seat of Amritsar East in the Punjab assembly elections. The Congress is also expected to use his mass appeal by making him one of its star campaigners.
 
After flirting briefly with AAP, Mr. Sidhu had floated his own outfit, Awaaz-e-Punjab with Olympian Pargat Singh and some others such as the Bains brothers. But the front did not last very long, with the Bains brothers joining AAP and Ms. Navjot Kaur Sidhu joining the Congress along with Mr. Pargat Singh.
 
Sidhu, an attacking right-handed batsman, represented India in 51 Test matches between 1983 and 1999 with a batting average of 42.13 and 136 one-day internationals (ODIs) between 1987 and 1998 with an average of 37.08.
 
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Minor earthquake shakes Jalandhar district of Punjab

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An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 3.6 on the Richter scale, shook Jalandhar district of Punjab this morning, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 31.4°N and longitude 75.7°E, occurred at 1037 hours at a focal depth of 13 km, an IMD bulletin added.
 
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NHAI awards contract for four-laning of Phagwara-Rupnagar section of NH 344A in PunjabNHAI awards contract for four-laning of Phagwara-Rupnagar section of NH 344A in Punjab

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The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has issued Letter of Award (LOA) for four-laning of the Phagwara-Rupnagar section of national highway (NH) 344A in Punjab under phase IV of National Highways Development Projects (NHDP).
 
The 81 km project, estimated to cost Rs. 1444 crore, has been awarded to G.R. Infraprojects Ltd, an official press release said.
 
The Phagwara-Rupnagar section passes through Banga town and proposed Nawashahir bypass and terminates at Rupnagar. This will be the shortest route for movement between Amritsar and Chandigarh, the release said.
 
The project will have four grade separators and flyovers, one major bridge, 22 minor bridges, one vehicular underpass and one pedestrian underpass. It will be executed on hybrid annuity mode and the scheduled time of completion of the project is 30 months from the date of commencement, the release added.
 
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Two injured as Jhelum Express derails near Ludhiana

At least two people suffered injuries when ten coaches of the 11078 Jhelum Express from Jammu Tawi to Pune derailed near Ludhiana in Punjab in the early hours of Tuesday, official sources said.

 
Ten coaches of Jhelum Express derail, two injured
At least two people suffered injuries when ten coaches of the 11078 Jhelum Express from Jammu Tawi to Pune derailed near Ludhiana in Punjab in the early hours of today, official sources said.
 
The two injured were taken to the Civil Hospital in Ludhiana for treatment, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Railways said on Twitter.
 
The mishap occurred around 3.10 am while the train was approaching the bridge on Sutlej river on the Phillaur-Ladowal section in Ferozepur division of Northern Railway, near Phillaur, about 125 km from here.
 
The derailed coaches were B5,S1,PC,S2, S3,S4,S5,S6,S7 and S8, the Ministry said.
 
Rescue and relief teams were rushed to the scene of the mishap and buses were arranged to transport the passengers to the Ludhiana station, from where arrangements were made to send them to their destinations.
 
The derailent affected rail traffic on the Ludhiana-Jalandhar section, causing delays in the running of some trains. Efforts were being made to restore normal traffic on the route.
 
The Railways have set up the following helplines to provide information to passengers: Jammu Tawi -- 0191-2470116, Jalandhar 0181-2225966, Ludhiana -- 0161-2741143, Amritsar -- 0183-2225087 and Pathankot 0186 -- 2233532
 
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Foundation stone laid for Mega Food Park in Ludhiana

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Union Minister Food Processing Industries Harsimrat Kaur Badal laid the foundation stone of a Mega Food Park here yesterday.
 
“Ludhiana Food Park is the gift of the Prime Minister to Punjab and will give benefit to farmers and processors of Ludhiana, Fatehgarh Sahib, Rupnagar, S.B.S. Nagar, Jalandhar, Moga, Sangrur and Barnala district of Punjab,” Ms. Badal told mediapersons.
 
She said that, in order to give an impetus to the growth of the food processing sector in Punjab, the Ministry had approved three Mega Food Parks in the state. Out of these, the first Mega Food Park located at Fazilka has already become operational, she said.
 
A third Mega Food Park (Sukhjit Mega Food Park) has been approved by the Ministry in Kapurthala District.
 
Ms. Badal said the Ministry of Food Processing Industries had been implementing the Mega Food Park Scheme in the country to give a major boost to the food processing sector along the value chain from the farm to the market with strong forward and backward linkages through a cluster based approach.
 
This Mega Food park has a Central Processing Centre (CPC) at Ludhiana and four Primary Processing Centres (PPCs) are being set up at Hoshiarpur, Amritsar, Fazilka and Bathinda to provide strong backward linkages.
 
The park is expected to provide direct and indirect employment to about 6000 people and benefit about 25,000 – 30,000 farmers in its catchment area.
 
Ms Badal said the Mega Food Park would be set up with a project cost of Rs. 117.61 crore in an area of 100.20 acres.
 
The park will have facilities of 500 kg/spiral freezer, 1000 MT cold store of onion and garlic, 1000 MT frozen cold store of vegetable produce, 10000 MT dry warehouse, 10000 MT silos, 100 MT ripening chamber (ECRC), 1 MT/Hr dehydration line (ir dried), 400 MT cold storage, reefer vans, food incubation centre (ICRESAT) and testing laboratory, she said.
 
She expressed confidence that the Mega Food Park project will create a modern infrastructure for arresting post-harvest losses of horticultural and non-horticultural produce and provide impetus to the growth of food processing sector in Punjab. 
 
The project will help in providing better prices to farmer, reduce wastage of perishables, add value to agricultural produce and create huge opportunities for entrepreneurship and employment for the youth of the state.
 
Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and Union Minister of State for Food Processing Industries Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti were also present on the occasion.
 
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National SC/ST Hub to be launched at Ludhiana on October 8

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A National Scheduled Caste (SC)/Scheduled Tribe (ST) Hub to promote entrepreneurship in the communities will be launched at Ludhiana in Punjab on October 8, Union Minister for Micro, Small and Medium enterprises (MSME) Kalraj Mishra said here yesterday.
 
Chairing a meeting of the national committee to review the progress of the SC/ST Hub, he said it would be launched within a record time of seven months from the announcement in the budget speech of 2016-17.
 
The Union Government was keen to inculcate the spirit of self-employment among the SC/ST population, he said, and urged all the participants, especially industry associations, to take it up in a mission mode.
 
The Ministry has made an initial allotment of allocation of Rs. 490 crore for the period 2016-2020 for the project. 
 
he Hub would primarily aid in strengthening market access and linkage, monitoring, capacity building, leveraging financial support schemes and sharing industry best practices.
 
It would operate from National Small Industries Corporation (NSIC) headquarters in Delhi, supported by a special cell created for the purpose, he added.
 
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Punjab Governor V. P. Singh Badnore given additional charge as Administrator of Chandigarh

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The President today appointed Mr. V. P. Singh Badnore as the Administrator of the Union Territory of Chandigarh in addition to his duties as Governor of Punjab.
 
Mr. Badnore, a former member of Parliament from Rajasthan and leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was among the four new Governors appointed by the President yesterday.
 
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Navjyot Sidhu quits RS amid speculation that he might join AAP

 
Navjyot Singh Sidhu resigns from Rajya Sabha
In a setback for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), former Indian cricketer Navjyot Singh Sidhu today resigned from the Rajya Sabha, setting off speculation that he was likely to join the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) ahead of the assembly elections in Punjab.
 
Mr. Sidhu, 52, now a television commentator, was among the six persons from various walks of life nominated by President Pranab Mukherjee to the Rajya Sabha on April 22 this year.
 
Rajya Sabha sources confirmed that Mr. Sidhu's resignation had been accepted by Chairman Mohammed Hamid Ansari with effect from today.
 
Mr. Sidhu had also represented the Amritsar constituency in Punjab in the 14th and 15th Lok Sabha as a member of the BJP, but was disappointed when the party decided to field senior party leader Arun Jaitley from the constituency in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
 
As it turned out, Mr. Jaitley lost the seat to Congress leader Amarinder Singh but was made the Finance Minister in the Narendra Modi cabinet and is now a member of the Rajya Sabha. 
 
Amid reports that Mr. Sidhu was increasingly unhappy within the BJP, the Government nominated him to the Rajya Sabha, a move that was seen as an effort to appease him and keep him within the fold.
 
Media reports suggested that Mr. Sidhu could be AAP's Chief Ministerial candidate in Punjab, though the party, which is in power in the National Capital Territory of Delhi did not confirm or deny this.
 
"People can give their rt hand for an RS seat. Ever seen a sitting RS MP resigning to save his state? I salute Sidhu ji for his courage," Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
The reports also said Mr. Sidhu's wife, Navjot Kaur Sidhu, who is a member of the legislative assembly in Punjab, might also quit the BJP.
 
The BJP is part of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-led ruling coalition in Punjab.
 
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