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SpiceJet launches flights from Kolkata to Pakyong in Sikkim

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Low-cost carrier SpiceJet has announced the launch of new daily direct flights from Kolkata to the newly opened Pakyong airport near Gangtok in Sikkim from October 4.
 
The airline also announced the launch of four other daily direct new flights from Kolkata.
 
Pakyong will be SpiceJet's ninth destination under UDAN, the government's regional connectivity scheme, a press release from the airline said. 
 
SpiceJet is the only airline to provide air connectivity to Sikkim and connecting it to the rest of the country, it said.
 
The airline is also the first and only airline to offer daily direct flights on the Kolkata-Kanpur-Kolkata route effective November 1.
 
Additionally, the airline is also set to operate flights connecting Varanasi with Kolkata effective October 4.
 
It has also introduced a third frequency on the Kolkata-Bagdogra-Kolkata and the Kolkata-Mumbai-Kolkata sectors starting November 1.
 
Shilpa Bhatia, Chief Sales and Revenue Officer, SpiceJet said, “SpiceJet is delighted to connect Kolkata, the country’s cultural capital, like never before. The city known for its food, literature and theatre has a unique tourism potential. Besides it is also the connecting gateway to key tourism hotspots like Darjeeling. We are confident that the enhanced air connectivity will boost the state’s growth prospects.”
 
The release said the airline would also introduce six new domestic flights, including new direct flights on the Delhi-Coimbatore-Delhi route on all days from October 8 and the Bengaluru-Madurai-Bengaluru sector on all days except Tuesdays. SpiceJet will become the first airline to introduce daily direct services on the Bengaluru-Udaipur-Bengaluru sector from November 7.
 
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(Our News Desk can be contacted at desk@netindian.in)

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DRI seizes 32 kg of smuggled gold worth Rs. 10.32 crore from Siliguri

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Officers of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) have seized 32 kgs of gold worth Rs. 10.32 crore, smuggled from China into India through Sikkim, from Siliguri in West Bengal.
 
This is one of the biggest seizures fo smuggled gold in the recent past in East and North-East India, an official press release said.
 
The release said the DRI had received a tip-off that a huge quantity of gold of foreign origin, that had been smuggled into India from China through the border state of Sikkim, would find its way to Kolkata via Siliguri.
 
The information said the gold would be carried by three persons who would be travelling by a hired vehicle from Gangtok to Siliguri and would thereafter go to Kolkata by train.
 
Acting on the tip off, the officers of DRI led strict surveillance over the area on Sevoke Road, Siliguri, near Payal cinema hall, where they intercepted a white Maruti Wagon R late in the night of May 31.
 
On preliminary enquiry, it was found that the Wagon R vehicle was taken on hire by three passengers. All these three passengers are natives of Maharashtra and they had hired the vehicle for their journey from Siliguri to Gangtok and back, the release said.
 
The three intercepted persons admitted that they were carrying on their persons gold bars of foreign origin that had been smuggled into India from China. They were taken to DRI office at Siliguri where, on search, three specially-tailored cloth belts having several pockets and secured by metal zip fasteners were found to be fastened around their waist. On opening of the belts, a total of 32 pcs of primary gold bars bearing foreign inscription were recovered. Each of the gold bars was found to weigh 1 kg, bringing the total haul to 32 kg, the release said.
 
According to it, the intercepted persons were found to have a temporary residence at Siliguri, which was searched by the DRI officers yesterday and Indian currency worth Rs. 20.19 lakh was recovered. The men said this was part of the sale proceeds of smuggled gold.
 
The release said that, in the current financial year, the DRI had seized more than 137 kg of gold and smuggled jewellery, valued at close to Rs. 24 crore in the market, smuggled from Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan and China from West Bengal and the North-Eastern states. In the previous financial year, 2017-18, DRI had seized close to 430 kg of gold and gold jewellery, valued at more than Rs. 100 crore from the region, it added.
 
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Rajnath Singh chairs meeting of CMs of five States on India-China border in Gangtok

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Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has said that Central assistance for Border Area Development Programmes (BADP) had been increased from Rs. 990 crore in 2016-17 to Rs. 1,100 crore in the current financial year.
 
Chairing a review meeting with Chief Ministers of five states on the India-China border here yesterday, he said that the India-China border is undemarcated and extremely cold with very difficult terrain.
 
He said it was, thus, more important that impetus should be given to boost infrastructure and peace in the border areas.
 
Mr. Rajnath Singh praised the work of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and said that the Centre was doing everything feasible for their smooth functioning in overcoming challenges. He stressed the need for the development of model villages in the border areas and said that innovative and concrete proposals are welcome. 
 
Implementation of Border Areas Development Programme (BADP) projects and construction of border infrastructures are being taken up with high priority, he added.
 
Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling said that the army, paramilitary and the Government of Sikkim are implementing a number of schemes under the BADP which are designed to meet the special developmental needs of the people living in remote and inaccessible border areas. 
 
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat and Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu also briefed the Union Minister on the issues related to development. Issues concerning border infrastructure including border roads, Border Out Posts, critical infrastructure and coordination between the concerned States and ITBP stationed in states were some of the main issues deliberated upon in the meeting. 
 
The states of Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh were represented by Senior Officers.
 
Earlier, Secretary, Department of Border Management, Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Ms. Sanjeevanee Kutty presented the broad agenda of the meeting and apprised the participants about the various programmes and initiatives being taken for development of infrastructure and other facilities for the security personnel and the population living in border areas. Likewise, a brief presentation was made by ITBP Director General Krishna Chaudhary.
 
Later, addressing a press conference, Mr. Rajnath Singh expressed pleasure that such a review meeting concerning infrastructure and other issues in India-China border states was held for the first time. He appreciated the participation and inputs provided by the Chief Ministers of Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim and officials from the states of Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh. He put on record his appreciation for the contribution of Sikkim as the host state fort the meeting.
 
The Home Minister briefed the media about the various developmental projects being implemented by the MHA in the Border States. He also shared information regarding some of the projects and proposals in the pipeline. 
 
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Mr. Rajnath Singh stated that along with the border security forces, equal impetus should be given for the upliftment of civilian people living in these border areas. He stated that these people are the strategic assets of the country and their basic needs should be addressed. He added that the State Government of the India-China border states have been requested to look into these issues.
 
The Home Minister said his Ministry was focusing on model villages, and stated that in the last financial year, 41 model villages were created for which a financial allocation of Rs. 92 crore was made. He urged the State Governments to submit maximum proposals for model villages to the Central Government. He said the concerning border areas are to be jointly addressed by the State and the Central Government in a coordinated way. He stated that any hindrances like land acquisitions, forest clearances and allocation of quarries should be sorted out diligently and in a time bound manner by the State Government with support from the Central Government.
 
Earlier, the Home Minister visited Nathula Pass and addressed a Sainik Sabha during his visit to the ITBP Border Out Post (BOP) Sherathang near Nathu La. He also laid the foundation stone of various ITBP projects in Gangtok.
 
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Modi to attend National Conference on Sustainable Agriculture at Gangtok

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be the chief guest at the plenary session of the National Conference on Sustainable Agriclture and Farmers' Welfare that will be held at Gangtok, Sikkim on January 17-18.
 
Mr. Modi is slated to pay a two-day visit to Sikkim from January 18 and the conference will be a highlight of his stay in the state.
 
Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said the conference would be a good example of "cooperative federalism", with ministers and officers responsibe for agriculture in the country deliberating together for two days.
 
They will be supported by scientists, academics, bankers, experts and practitioners so that the suggestions and recommendations are actionable. 
 
Mr. Singh said the conference would discuss challenges and identify initiatives to transform agriculture, based on sustainable and efficient use of resources like soil and water, higher per unit yields, remunerative prices on produce, risk coverage and mitigation of potential negative impact of climate change.
 
A three-day Sikkim Organic Festival would also be held during the period to give a boost to organic farming in the north-east.
 
Mr. Singh said group insurance, agriculture investment and land lease investment were his Ministry's priorities and these subjects would be discussed in separate sessions during the conference.
 
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Minister of State for Development of the North-East Region (DONER) Jitendra Singh said the North-East had the potential to be developed as a hub of organic farming.
 
Promotion of organic products, with Sikkim as the nodal State, will not only help in generating revenue and employment opportunities but will also be a great booster for the Government of India’s “Act East Policy”, he said.
 
Referring to some of the other major projects in Sikkim, Dr. Singh
referred to the greenfield airport at Pakyong, which is expected to become functional by 2017 and emerge as one of the most beautiful destinations in the region.
 
He said there were plans to connect Sikkim to the rail network in the country. He also referred to the plan for constructing an alternative highway to Gangtok via West Bengal and two ropeways, which will serve the purpose of both tourism as well as transport.
 
The Prime Minister will also inaugurate a Flower Show on January 18 and an Organic Products Exhibition on January 19.
 
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Two minor quakes jolt India's North-East region

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Two minor earthquakes shook the East Gangtok region in Sikkim and the  Karbi Anglong area of Assam late this afternoon, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The first quake, measuring 3.0 on the Richter scale, had its epicentre at latitude  27.3°N and longitude 88.7°E in Sikkim and occurred at 1630 hours at a focal depth of 6 km, an IMD bulletin said.
 
The second tremor, measuring 3.1 on the Richter scale, had its epicentre at  latitude 26.5°N and longitude 93.1°E in Assam and occurred at 1642 hours at a depth of 10 km, it added.
 
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Minor earthquake shakes Gangtok region of Sikkim

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An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 3.2 on the Richter scale, shook the Gangtok regin of Sikkim tonight, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 27.3 degrees North and longitude 88.5 degrees East, occurred at 1954 hours today at a depth of 2 km, an IMD bulletin added.
 
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We have to improve our death bowling: Dhoni

Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni stressed the importance of death bowling after Chennai Super Kings stole a thriller against Royal Challengers in the Indian Premier League (IPL) here tonight.

"The performance was great, we need to improve our death bowling drastically. We didn't get off to a good start, the pressure was there on the middle order. You can't really afford to play too many dot balls, you have to be there till the 15th or 16th over to cash in," said Dhoni.
 
Man of the Match Ravindra Jadeja, who nowadays is ridiculed as Sir Jadeja on the social media, said he was not trying to play silly shots.
 
"(With reference to Sir) they are just making fun in a lighter way, not a serious way. I was confident about my batting, I scored two triple-hundreds this season. I was not trying to play any silly shots, it was a good wicket," he said.
 
Royal Challengers skipper Virat Kohli said his team lost the match in the last six over.
 
"It was our game to lose in the last six overs. We are relying on big partnership as of now, a few small partnerships will do good for us. RP, T20 is a game like that, I'm still proud of him," he said.
 
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National Veterans TT: Rai, Desai, Chopra win titles in +49, +59, +39 events

Maharashtra's Yogesh Desai after winning the +59 men's singles title at the National Veterans Table Tennis Championships at Gangtok, Sikkim, on February 24, 2012.
Maharashtra's Yogesh Desai after winning the +59 men's singles title at the National Veterans Table Tennis Championships at Gangtok, Sikkim, on February 24, 2012.
West Bengal, led by former international Nupur Santra, won the gold medal in the men's +39 team event, beating Haryana 3-1 in the finals of the 19th National Veterans Table Tennis Championships held at the Paljor Stadium at Gangtok in Sikkim last week.
 
Gujarat's Sonal Joshi and former state champion Roshan Jam helped their team win the +39 women's team event, beating West Bengal 3-2.
 
The consistent K K Rai of Maharashtra continued his dominance in the +49 event, wining his third national title in four years, beating Pankaj Sharma of Punjab 11-7,11-8,7-11,9-11, 14-12 in the final that went the full distance.
 
Another evergreen Maharashtra star Yogesh Desai, former Gujarat player, easily won his second national title by convincingly beating Sadhan Dutta of West Bengal 11-7, 11-7, 11-6. He last won the national title in +49 men's singles category in 2005 in Mumbai and was a bronze medal winner in the +49 men's singles at the 3rd Asian Championship in May 2011.
 
Harsh Chopra of New Delhi retained his men's singles title in the +39 category by beating Nupur Santra of West Bengal 3-2 in a hard fought final. Chopra is the reigning Asian Veterans Champion in +39 men's singles event, which he won last year at Pattaya, Thailand.
 
G V S V Rao of Andhra Pradesh won the title in +65 men's singles event.
 
Gujarat’s Sonal Joshi easily defeated Monto Mormu of West Bengal 3-0 to clinch the women's singles national title in the +39 category.
 
Overall, Maharashtra players performed creditably in this years championships, winning about 25 medals in the individual events.
 
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6 Bengali tourists die in Sikkim accident

At least seven people, including six tourists from West Bengal, died when their car plunged into the Dikchu river in North Sikkim last night.
 
District Collector, North, T N Kazi told UNI over the telephone that the accident occurred at Dikchu between Mangan and Gangtok.
 
Kazi said ten tourists from West Bengal were travelling in a Tata Sumo when the vehicle skidded off the road and fell into the river.
 
The driver was among the dead. Four critically injured had been admitted to the STNM Hospital here, he said.
 
Autopsy was being conducted on the bodies, he added.
 
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Planning Commission clears Storm Water Drainage Scheme for Sikkim Airport

The Planning Commission has given investment clearance for a scheme for improvement of Storm Water Drainage below the Greenfield Airport at Pakyong, Sikkim. 

The scheme is estimated to cost Rs. 48.55 crore as per 2010 price levels, an official press release said.
 
The proposal includes training four natural drains for dissipation of their energy and also checking outflanking and spilling, besides erosion of bed and bank. An area of 171.43 hectares will benefit from the scheme, the release added.
 
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PM visits quake-hit Sikkim, announces Rs 1000 crore relief

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made an aerial survey of the areas of Sikkim devastated by the magnitude 6.8 earthquake that struck the state and neighbouring areas on September 18 and announced that the Centre was ready to provide assistance of Rs 1000 crore for relief, restoration and reconstruction work.

Quake toll rises to 89 as relief efforts continue in Sikkim round the clock

Rescue and relief operations continued round the clock in Sikkim as the death toll in the powerful magnitude 6.8 earthquake that struck the region last Sunday evening rose to 89 today.

HM visits quake-hit Sikkim, announces Rs 50 cr as initial relief

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Union Home Minister P Chidambaram today announced an initial relief package of Rs 50 crore for quake-devastated Sikkim.

Rahul Gandhi reaches Sikkim to visit quake-hit areas

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Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi today arrived in Sikkim to visit the areas affected by last Sunday's 6.8 magnitude earthquake and meet the victims.

Mr Gandhi landed at Bagdogra airport in West Bengal at around 0810 hours, about an hour behind schedule due to inclement weather.

From Bagdogra, nearly 40 minutes later, he took an army helicopter and reached Gangtok at around 1000 hours.

Mr Gandhi will visit different parts of Sikkim to take stock of relief and rescue operations and also hold meetings with local administration.

Weather permitting, he is expected to fly back to Delhi later today, sources said.

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Rescue, relief efforts continue as quake toll rises to 68

Rescue and relief teams continued their operations round the clock in Sikkim and parts of Bengal and Bihar as the death toll in the powerful magnitude 6.8 earthquake that struck the region on Sunday evening and shook most of North, East and North-East India rose to 68.

A view of an area affected by Sunday's earthquake in Sikkim from an Indian Air Force helicopter on September 20, 2011
A view of an area affected by Sunday's earthquake in Sikkim from an Indian Air Force helicopter on September 20, 2011

Rescue and relief teams continued their operations round the clock in Sikkim and parts of Bengal and Bihar as the death toll in the powerful magnitude 6.8 earthquake that struck the region on Sunday evening and shook most of North, East and North-East India rose to 68 today.

Official sources said at least 50 people had died in Sikkim, where the quake - the strongest to hit the region in decades - was epicentred and the number was expected to rise further as rescue and relief teams pushed further into the interiors.

The worst-hit North District accounted for 33 of the deaths (Mangan/Lachan – 10, Toong – 4, Chungthan – 10, Salimpokyel – 9) while 12 deaths were reported from East Sikkim (Rangpo – 1, Singtam – 2, Chubakola – 5, 15th Mile – 2, Sang – 1, Makha – 1), 4 from West District (Mangalbaria -2, Geyzing -1, Kalukh-1); and 1 from South District (Jorethang -1).

Besides, 12 deaths were reported from West Bengal (Darjeelling – 8, Jalpaigudi – 1, North West Dinajpur – 3) and 6 from Bihar (Nawada – 1, Nalanda – 1, Darbhanga -1, Shivhar -1 and Samastipur -2), the sources said.

The sources said the highway from Gangtok to Mangan, near the epicentre of the quake and about 65 km from the Sikkim capital, was open while the road from Mangan to Chungthan was yet to be opened because the damage to it was reported to be heavy.

Two rescue teams of 30 personnel each from the Jat Regiment were airdropped at Mangan and Chungthan yesterday for search and rescue efforts. The teams have started their work.

A team of ten doctors from Delhi has also reached Chungthan, the sources said.

Members of Border Roads Organisation clearing a road after a landslide at Mirik, 70 km from Siliguri on the way to Sikkim on September 19, 2011, a day afer an earthquake rocked the region. UNI PHOTO
Members of Border Roads Organisation clearing a road after a landslide at Mirik, 70 km from Siliguri on the way to Sikkim on September 19, 2011, a day afer an earthquake rocked the region. UNI PHOTO

Of the five teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) placed at Gangtok yesterday, one left for Mangan this morning. Arrangements were being made to airlift another team to Chungthan.

The sources said choppers were being pressed into service with the officials of the NDRF and the state government for aerial surveillance of the affected areas and to ascertain the damage and casualties.

Food packets were airdropped in the northern areas of North District this morning. The state government has opened relief camps in each district and deputed senior secretaries to the four districts.

The Centre has deputed a joint secretary from the Ministry of Home Affairs to Sikkim to coordinate the relief operations.

The rescue and relief efforts are being spearheaded by the Armed Forces, para-military organisations and the state police as well as by personnel of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and other agencies.

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Massive relief operations in Sikkim as quake toll rises to 49

Massive relief operations were underway in Sikkim and nearby states even as the death toll in the powerful magnitude 6.8 earthquake that struck the region on Sunday evening and shook most of North, East and North-East India rose to 49 on Monday.

Members of Border Roads Organisation clearing a road after a landslide at Mirik, 70 km from Siliguri on the way to Sikkim on September 19, 2011, a day afer an earthquake rocked the region. UNI PHOTO
Members of Border Roads Organisation clearing a road after a landslide at Mirik, 70 km from Siliguri on the way to Sikkim on September 19, 2011, a day afer an earthquake rocked the region. UNI PHOTO

Massive relief operations were underway in Sikkim and nearby states even as the death toll in the powerful magnitude 6.8 earthquake that struck the region yesterday evening and shook most of North, East and North-East India rose to 49 today.

Official sources said here today that as many as 35 people were killed in Sikkim, including two Army personnel as well as a junior engineer of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), who died during the rescue efforts.

At least 12 people were killed in West Bengal, while two people died in Bihar, a UNI report said.

The quake also shook neighbouring Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Tibet. Seven deaths were reported in Nepal and seven in Tibet, reports said.

At least 75 people have been hospitalised in Sikkim and several hundred public buildings and private houses had suffered damage in the quake, said to be the strongest to hit the region in decades.

The sources said the Secretariat building at Gangtok was also badly affected.

The worst affected area in Sikkim was the north district, which is close to the epicentre of the quake near Mangan, about 60 km from Gangtok, which occurred at 1812 hours yesterday.

The Sikkim government has announced ex-gratia compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the next of kin of those killed, Rs 50,000 for those who have suffered serious injuries and Rs 30,000 for those with minor injuries.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 2 lakh for the next of kin of those killed and Rs 1 lakh for those serious injured.

Rescue and relief equipments and materials being loaded on an Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft for the earthquake victims in Sikkim in the North-East sector in the night of September 18, 2011. UNI PHOTO
Rescue and relief equipments and materials being loaded on an Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft for the earthquake victims in Sikkim in the North-East sector in the night of September 18, 2011. UNI PHOTO

Personnel of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), who had arrived in the wee hours of today at Bagdogra airport from Delhi and Kolkata, were stranded there because the National Highway 31 A had suffered landslides at over 21 places over a cumulative length of 700 metres. Men of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) were able to make the highway functional till Singtam by this afternoon.

The sources said the damage of the 61 km road from Gangtok to Nathula wais yet to be assessed fully. The first 24 kms of road has been surveyed so far showing 12 landslides and severe damage to the road-formation over a cumulative stretch of 90 meters. Restoration of this road is unlikely to take place immediately, they said.

The North Sikkim Highway from Gangtok to Chungthang (95 km) was also affected badly, with at least 16 landslides. The road was likely to be opened for traffic today itself.

The sources said120 columns of Army including 10 engineering columns, have also been deployed in restoration and relief work.

They said the power situation had improved, with all the major power generating stations becoming operational and the 220 Kv lines fully restored. The 66 Kv line from Gangtok to Tadong was yet to be restored, however.

Landline telephone lines had been fully restored, and more than half of the mobile telephone towers were also functioning.

The sources said a team of nine doctors and 10 paramedics from Delhi has already reached Siliguri and would proceed to Gangtok once the Siliguri-Darjeeling road is restored.

ITBP personnel inspecting a damaged house in Pegong on September 19, 2011, a day after several people were rendered homeless after an earthquake of 6.8 magnituade rocked Sikkim and neighbouring states. UNI PHOTO
ITBP personnel inspecting a damaged house in Pegong on September 19, 2011, a day after several people were rendered homeless after an earthquake of 6.8 magnituade rocked Sikkim and neighbouring states. UNI PHOTO

The state governments of West Bengal and Sikkim have been advised to take care to regulate and prioritise the movement of traffic on the road to avoid blockade due to the sudden rush of vehicles and to ensure that essential manpower, equipment and supplies for relief and rescue work were able to get through first.

The sources said there was no shortage of essential commodities in Sikkim.

The Chief Secretary, Sikkim has been advised to open community shelters and feeding centres in inaccessible pockets. At present, 1500 persons have taken shelter in Army camps and 10 "langars" are being run to feed them.

The Chief Secretary, West Bengal has been advised to keep enough quantity of packets of dry foods, matchboxes, candle and medicine ready at Siliguri for air-dropping. Presently, air dropping of food packets is not possible because of adverse weather conditions/heavy rains in and around Gangtok, But Defence Secretary has been advised to drop some packets quickly, weather permitting.

The sources said the weather in Sikkim continued to be inclement. As a result, sorties by helicopters were not possible today. However, helicopters, including an MN-17 for air-dropping of supplies, are in readiness.

The National Crisis Management Committee, which met here today to assess the situation under the chairmanship of Union Cabinet Secretary Ajit Kumar Seth, was due to meet again this evening.

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PM sanctions ex-gratia payment to earthquake victims

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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today expressed his grief over the loss of lives due to the earthquake which struck Sikkim and neighbouring states yesterday evening.

An official press release said Dr Singh had sanctioned an ex-gratia payment of Rs 2 lakh from the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund to the next of kin of those killed in the quake and Rs 1 lakh to each of those who suffered serious injuries.

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Quake toll mounts to 27 as rescue operations continue

At least 27 people have died in the powerful magnitude 6.8 earthquake that struck the Sikkim-Nepal border on Sunday evening and was felt across most of North, East and North-East India.

 

At least 27 people have died in the powerful magnitude 6.8 earthquake that struck the Sikkim-Nepal border yesterday evening and was felt across most of North, East and North-East India.

A UNI report said scores of people were injured in the quake, which also caused heavy damages to property and infrastructure.

It said at least 14 people, including two army personnel, were killed in different parts of Sikkim's four districts, which were cut off from the rest of the country after massive mudslides triggered by the tremors.

The worst affected was the north district, which is close to the epicentre of the quake, which occurred at 1812 hours yesterday.

Reports reaching here said six people had died in West Bengal, two in Bihar and at least five in the neighbouring country of Nepal.

The epicentre of the quake was near Mangan, about 60 km from Gangtok.

Several landslides were reported along the 120 km National Highway (NH) 31, the main artery connecting Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim, with the nearest railhead at Siliguri in West Bengal.

Of the six deaths reported in north Bengal, three were in Siliguri district and one each in Kurseong, Kalimpong and Mal Bazar in Jalpaiguri district.

Buildings of the Siliguri Muncipal Corproation, fire brigade and some multi-storied structures developed cracks in the quake.

At least 200 people were injured in Siliguri, Kurseong, Kalimpong, Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri, initial reports said.

Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling said rescue operations had been taken up round the clock by personnel of the army, paramilitary organisations and the police.

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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had spoken to Mr Chambling soon after the quake yesterday and assured the state all help from the Centre to cope with the crisis.

The Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) had rescued 300 villagers and moved them to safety yesterday, along with some 25 foreign tourists.

About 1000 people have been given shelter in tents in and around Gangtok.

Teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) had reached Siliguri in the night, after landing at Bagdogra from Delh and Kolkata, but their movement to Sikkim was hampered by the mudslides and bad weather.

In Bihar, two people, including a girl child, were killed in Darbhanga and Nalanda district. Several high-rise buildings had developed cracks.

In Darbhanga, a person died in a stampede when people were trying to rush out of their houses after the quake. In Nalanda disrict, a girl died when a wall collapsed at Harnaut.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced a compensation of Rs 1.5 lakh to the families of those killed in the earthquake.

A UNI report from Kathmandu said at least five people were killed and more than 60 injured in the Himalayan country. The five deaths were reported from the capital city of Kathmandu and Sunsari district in eastern Nepal.

Three people - a man, his daughter and a motorcyclist - died in Kathmandu when the compound wall of the British embassy collapsed due to the tremor. In Dharan, a man and a five-year-old boy died when the ceiling of their house caved in, the report said.

In Delhi, the Union Home Ministry said five teams of the NDRF, comprising 203 personnel, along with necessary rescue equipment, had reached Bagdogra from Delhi in the early hours of today.

Another five teams of NDRF personnel, consisting of 200 men, had also flown in from Kolkata. Yet another group of 100 personnel were due to land shortly.

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These personnel as well as a medical team of 20 doctors, including four surgeons, seven orthopaedicians, five anaesthists, two neuro surgeons and two physicians, were held up at Bagdogra due to the landslides which had caused road blocks at various points on the highway.

An official press release quoted the Director General, Border Roads, as saying that there were some 16 landslides in a stretch of 10 km. Efforts were on to clear the roads, but a clear estimate of the time that would be taken was not available, it said. Access through an alternate road was also being explored.

More than 700 personnel of the ITBP were already engaged in rescue and relief operations in Sikkim, the release said.

According to the release, Home Ministry officials, along withNational Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and the NDRF personnel, have been working round the clock since the quake occurred to mobilize and facilitate response teams.

"The situation is being closely monitored and every possible assistance is being extended to the State Government," the release added.

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13 killed, over 100 hurt as 6.8 quake jolts Sikkim, Nepal, North & East India

At least 13 people were killed and more than 100 were injured as a powerful earthquake, measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale, jolted the Sikkim-Nepal border region Sunday evening and was felt across most of North, East and North-East India.

 

At least 13 people were killed and more than 100 were injured as a powerful earthquake, measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale, jolted the Sikkim-Nepal border region this evening and was felt in Delhi and across most of North, East and North-East India.

A UNI report said at least three people were killed in Sikkim, two in Bihar, two in West Bengal and six in Nepal..

The tremors, which lasted for several seconds, were felt, among other places, in Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, parts of West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. They were also felt in Bangladesh.

There were also reports of damage to buildings in capital Sikkim and other districts of Sikkim as well as in parts of West Bengal and Bihar.

A UNI report from Kokata said at least six people were injured in Siliguri when a wall collapsed on Agrasen Road. The injured were rushed to a hospital where their condition was stated to be serious.

Power supply in the affected areas was disrupted and communication was affected after the tremors damaged mobile telephone towers.

Sikkim Chief Secretary Karma Gyatso said the quake claimed one life at Singtham in East Sikkim district, while another died just outside Sigtham.

The maximum damage was reported from Mangan in northern Sikkim, which is located close to the epicentre.

He said all the emergency units had been alerted and the army was on stand by to help the civilian authorities in coping with the aftermath of the quake.

He said no reports of major damage had been received from the other districts so far, but pointed out communication lines had been disrupted.

In New Delhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke to Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling on the telephone and later directed Union Cabinet Secretary Ajit Kumar Seth to ensure that all possible assistance was provided to the state governments by the Centre.

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Mr Seth told television channels that two Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft would leave shortly for Bagdogra in West Bengal with teams from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and equipment. Another IAF plane would fly empty from Agra to Kolkata and then transport NDRF personnel from there to Bagdogra, he said.

Mr Seth the army had also been requested to render all possible assistance. He said mobile telephone towers had been affected by the quake and the authorities had to depend on landlines for communication. The disruption in power supply had also added to the difficulties, he said.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the quak had its epicentre at latitude 22.7 degrees North and longitude 88.2 degrees East on the Sikkim-Nepal border region.

The tremors occurred at 18.11.47 hours at a focal depth of 10 km, the IMD said in its preliminary report.

The United States Geological Survey said the epicentre of the quake was at a place 69 km north-west of Gangtok and 120 km north-north-west of Siliguri in West Bengal.

Apart from Delhi, the tremors were felt in other towns of the National Capital Region (NCR), Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Assam and other north-eastern states as well as in the neighbouring countries of Nepal and Bhutan, the reports said. Tremors were also felt in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

Many people in Delhi and other places said they felt their buildings shake and chairs they were sitting on sway for quite a few seconds. Others said they experienced two jerks, separated by a few seconds and each lasting several seconds. Many of them rushed out of their buildings, especially high-rises, in panic.

Reports said cracks had appeared in buildings in Gangtok and other towns in the affected areas.

Meanwhile, the IMD said there were two aftershocks, one measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale about 10 minutes later and another one of 5.3 magnitude another 21 minutes later.

Reports said the quake had triggered landslides in some areas, leading to blocking of roads.Some houses had collapsed in parts of Bihar, they said.

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Man accused of 1992 murder of Indian family in Dubai sentenced to death

A CBI court in Ahmedabad has convicted Ravjibhai Manubhai Pawar of the murder of his Indian employer and four other members of his family in Dubai in 1992 and sentenced him to death.

A press release from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said that its investigations had shown that Pawar, while working as a domestic servant in Dubai, had kileld Mr Ramesh K Sagar and four others of Mr Sagar's family on January 4, 1992.

He was also accused of rape and of stealing household articles, including clothes, ornaments and cash.

Pawar feld from Dubai on January 5 and came to India. On the basis of an Interpol alert, he was nabbed on January 10 by the Gujarat police and a first information report (FIR)was registered.

Since the accused was an Indian national and the offence took place outside India, the case was entrusted to the CBI. The Dubai Police had also registered an FIR and collected evidence, which was used by the CBI during investigation and trial of the case, the release said.

The chargesheet was filed on January 23, 1992 in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Chikhli. The trial court found him guilty and convicted him.

The case was registered by the CBI, Ahmedabad (now Gandhinagar) Branch on April 27, 1992 on the basis of the request and consent of the Government of Gujarat for futher investigation of the case filed at the Chikhli Police Station, the release added.

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Sikkim High Court upholds conviction of former CM Nar Bahadur Bhandari

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The Sikkim High Court has upheld the conviction of former Sikkim Chief Minister Nar Bahadur Bhandari and then Rural Development Secretary P K Pradhan on charges of corruption in a 27-year-old case.

Mr Bhandari, Mr Pradhan and others were convicted under section 120 (B) of the Indian Penal Code and section 5(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947.

A press release from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said the court, however, reduced the sentence of simple imprisonment of six months passed by the trial court to one month with a fine of Rs 5000 as more then 27 years have passed since the commission of the offence.

During the interregnum, the appellant had no doubt suffered in body and mind, the court noted.

Against the other accused, the sentence of imprisonment was set aside and sentence of payment of fine remained unaltered. Sentence against 4 of the private parties was set aside.

The CBI had registered a case in 1984 against Mr Bhandari and others, including Mr Puran Kumar Pradhan, an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, who later became Chief Secretary of the State.

They were accused of entering into a criminal conspiracy during 1983 -84 by abusing their official position as public servants in the matter of awarding a contract on higher rates in Rural Water Supply Scheme to private contractors by which wrongful loss was caused to Government and corresponding wrongful gain to private contractors.

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The CBI filed charge sheet in 1994 and charges were framed in the year 2002 against the accused.

The case ended in conviction in the court of Special Judge, Gangtok on October 25, 2008. The accused persons filed an appeal before the Sikkim High Court. The High Court on August 9 this year upheld the conviction.

As per the directions of the High Court, Mr Bhandari surrendered before the Special Judge, PC Act, Gangtok and has been subsequently sent to judicial custody, the release added.

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Sikkim HC Chief Justice Dinakaran resigns, says was being "calculatively targeted"

Sikkim High Court Chief Justice P D Dinakaran, who is facing impeachment on charges of corruption, today resigned from his position, alleging that he was being "calculatively targeted" as he belonged to an under-privileged group.

Mr Justice Dinakaran, who was earlier Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court, sent his resignation to President Pratibha Patil, official sources said.

Mr Justice Dinakaran has been accused of acquiring land illegally in Tamil Nadu.

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Justice Dinakaran chargesheeted by panel appointed by RS Chairman


Sikkim High Court Chief Justice P D Dinakaran, who is facing allegations of corruption and land grabbing, he has been chargesheeted by the panel appointed by Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari.


Justice Dinakaran, ex-chief Justice of Karnataka High Court, is facing impeachment proceedings. His elevation to the Supreme Court was stalled because of the allegation of land grabbing and corruption.


Vice President Hamid Ansari had appointed a three-member panel headed by sitting Supreme Court Justice Aftab Alam, which has found him guilty on 16 charges.


Justice Dinakaran has been given time till April 9 to respond to the charges levelled against him.


Justice Dinakaran was shifted to Sikkim High Court following his refusal to step down and judicial work had already been withdrawn from him by the Supreme Court collegium.


Justice Soumitra Sen of Calcutta High Court is also facing impeachment proceedings but the impeachment resolution against him is not likely to be introduced in Parliament during the current session and the resolution is likely to be brought before Parliament during the Monsoon Session.


Two-third majority of the members of Parliament is required to remove a sitting High Court or Supreme Court judge through impeachment and during the 64 years of independence, not even a single judge has been removed through impeachment.


Charges against Justice Dinakaran also include those of judicial misconduct.


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Student drowns in Rangeet river in Sikkim


A tenth standard student of Sadam Senior Secondary School drowned in the Rangeet river near Champa bridge here today.


Sanjeev Pradhan (20), son of Mani Kumar Pradhan of Melli Bazaar, West Bengal, drowned while taking a dip in the river, police said.


The father son duo had come to attend a funeral. The body was sent for post-mortem examination, police added.


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