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LIVE! Dalai Lama not to attend science congress

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March 12, 2018

23:34  Dalai Lama not to attend science congress:  
Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama will not attend the Indian Science Congress which opens in Manipur later this week, a conference organiser said today.
The Nobel Laureate's decision not to attend the congress assumes significance in view of the cancellation of a recent event here where the Dalai Lama was expected to be present.
The event, which was slated to have been held at Rajghat to commemorate the Buddhist monk's 60th year in exile in India, was later moved to Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh, and will now be held at the end of the month.
The Indian Science Congress is an annual science event inaugurated by the prime minister.
The general president of the Indian Science Congress Association, Achyuta Samanta, said the Tibetan leader had been invited to the conference, but said he would not be able to attend it.
"We were also told that he had visited Manipur two months ago," Samanta said.

-- PTI

22:52  Rajini silent on various issues, says Kamal Haasan:  
Makkal Needhi Maiam founder Kamal Haasan today said his contemporary actor Rajinikanth, who is also set to launch his political party, has not reacted on various matters and it was wrong to single out his 'silence' on the Cauvery issue.

"This is not the only issue on which Rajanikanth has not expressed his opinion.  But there are several other issues also and it is not right to point only to one issue," he told reporters.
Haasan, who had met Rajinikanth before launching his party, was replying to a specific question on Rajinikanth maintaining 'silence' on the Cauvery water sharing issue with
Rajinikanth, who has earlier come under flak from various quarters for not actively taking part in protests organised by the film industry in the past over the Cauvery issue, has recently expressed disappointment over the Supreme Court verdict reducing the quantum of water to Tamil Nadu from Cauvery river.

He had also urged the state government to file a review petition in the apex court.

To a question on the constitution of the Cauvery Management Board, Haasan said the Centre must set up the board immediately.

He replied in the negative when asked whether he had discussed Bhavani river and check dam issue when he met Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan recently.

-- PTI
22:23  CBI questions CFO of Nirav Modi's co in new Rs-321 cr case:  
Top honchos of public sector banks have come under the scanner of the CBI in connection with Rs 321.88 crore of alleged loan default case registered by the agency against billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi, the officials said today.
The CBI today questioned Chief Financial Officer of Modi's company Firestar Diamonds International Limited Ravi Shankar Gupta in Mumbai who is accused in the agency FIR in connection with the case.
The agency is grilling him to know how the loans were granted and how did diversion of funds happened besides on involvement of senior executives of the PSU banks.

The loans of Rs 321 crore were given by two consortium of banks to the companies of Nirav Modi-- Firestar International Pvt Ltd -- where the Punjab National Bank is the lead bank and the Fires Star Diamonds International Pvt Ltd where Union Bank of India is the lead bank.

"There is a difference between earlier case against Nirav Modi in which Letters of Undertaking were issued in fraudulent manner and this case where credit limits were sanctioned. In the case of LoUs one can assume that it was handiwork of lower rung of employees but credit facilities are monitored at various senior level officials," an official said.
The agency will call for questioning senior officials of the lending public sector banks to understand how monitoring was being done and what steps were taken to prevent diversion of funds, the official said.

The CBI has named Modi, then president (finance) of his company Firestar Diamonds International Limited Vipul Ambani, chief finance officer Ravi Gupta, other directors and officials of the company, and unidentified public servants of the bank, they said.

-- PTI
21:50  Sonia to host dinner for oppostion parties tomorrow:  
UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi will host a dinner tomorrow which is likely to be attended by leaders of 17 opposition parties, amid talk of forging a broader front against the BJP-led NDA ahead of the 2019 general elections.

According to Congress sources, leaders of Andhra Pradesh's ruling Telugu Desam Party, which recently pulled out its ministers in the Modi government but continues to be a constituent of the NDA,  BJD, and the TRS have not been invited. The BJD and TRS rule Odisha and Telangana respectively.

They said former chief ministers of Jharkhand Babulal Marandi of Jharkhand Vikas Morcha and Hemant Soren will attend the dinner, along with former Bihar chief minister and Hindustani Awam Morcha chief Jitan Ram Manjhi, who recently quit the NDA and joined forces with Lalu Prasad's RJD, which is an ally of the Congress.

Lalu's son and Leader of Opposition in the Bihar assembly Tejashwi Yadav is also likely to attend, but there was no immediate confirmation.
Trinamool Congress leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay,  DMK's Kanimozhi and Ram Gopal Yadav of the Samajwadi Party are likely to be present, and so would be leaders of left parties - CPI-M's Sitaram Yechury and CPI's D Raja. 

Leaders of other parties like JD-S and Kerala Congress, Indian Union Muslim League, Revolutionary Socialist Party and RLD are also likely to attend.

Sources said while BSP has been invited, its leader Mayawati may not send a representative as her party has aligned with JD-S for the Karnataka polls likely in April/March this year.

The dinner being hosted at the 10, Janpath residence of Sonia Gandhi, is expected to set the tone for opposition unity in the run up to the next general elections.

Sonia Gandhi has called for opposition unity and said parties should set aside their minor differences to get together in the larger interest of keeping the BJP out of power in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. 

-- PTI
21:33  Abide by constitution, Xi tells military after term limit removal:  
A day after winning the mandate to become China's leader for life, President Xi Jinping today ordered the two-million strong military to abide by the Constitution, which has been amended to remove the term limit for him.

Xi 64, also the general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, has ordered the armed forces to firmly support the Party.

Meeting the military officials today, Xi asked every member of the armed forces to uphold the Constitution, and be its loyal supporter, active follower, and firm defender, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Unlike the other countries, the Chinese military functioned under the CPC like all other organs of the country.

-- PTI
21:18  Mangaluru pub attack: Sri Ram Sene chief, several others acquitted by court:  
A local court today acquitted right wing fringe outfit Sri Ram Sene chief Pramod Muthalik and several others in the 2009 Mangaluru pub attack case for lack of evidence.

Third Judicial Magistrate of First Class Court R Manjunath stated in his order, "The accused are acquitted."

Over 30 Sri Ram Sene activists had allegedly barged into the pub on January 24, 2009, and assaulted some women and men, claiming they were violating traditional Indian values.

The incident had generated national outrage after the video clip of the attack went viral.

It depicted several men allegedly dragging women at the pub by their hair, slapping and roughing them up and accusing them of "loose morals".

Counsel for the accused, Vinod, had earlier submitted before the magistrate that his clients were not present when the attack took place at the pub.

He had also submitted that the police had falsely filed complaints against them.

The petition was filed by one Rajshekhar, seeking punishment against the accused under several IPC sections, including rioting, house tress pass, dacoity, causing hurt, intentional insult with an intent to provoke breach of peace, criminal intimidation and criminal conspiracy.

Vinod had also submitted that the victim, one of the allegedly assaulted women, did not visit the police station as a witness to establish the crime.

Speaking over the phone, Muthalik said "Through this verdict, we have got justice. It is a victory of truth. It is also a fitting reply for those who had termed my activists as Talibanis."

"We did not have any intention to beat up women, but we are against the bar and pub culture. It is because of our efforts that many illegal pubs and bars have been closed," he said.

The BJP, in 2014, months ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, had inducted Muthalik, but within hours disowned him after the party's central leadership expressed surprise at the decision of its Karnataka unit.

-- PTI
21:11  Aditya Narayan detained by cops after car hits auto:  
Aditya Narayan, son of veteran singer, Udit Narayan has been detained by Versova Police in an accident case. 

According to News 18, his car hit a rickshaw injuring a passenger and the driver. 

He has been booked under sections 279 (rash driving or riding on a public way) and 338 (causing grievous hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) of the Indian Penal Code. 

He has been taken for a medical examination. The incident took place near Lokhandwala Circle in Mumbai's Andheri.

This is not the first time that Aditya has grabbed the headlines for the wrong reasons. Last year, the TV anchor, singer and actor was caught on camera threatening an airline employee during an argument over the fees for excess baggage. The episode took place in Raipur.
20:53  JUST IN: Two hospitalised after 'suspicious package' found at UK parliament
20:40  Hubert de Givenchy, creator of style icons, dies aged 91:  
Hubert de Givenchy, the aristocratic French fashion designer whose understated style represented a golden age of elegance, has died aged 91.

Givenchy dressed Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Kennedy and is famous for the little black dress. He died at the Renaissance chateau near Paris that he shared with his partner and fellow designer Philippe Venet.

At 6ft 6in tall, Givenchy, whose full name was Count Hubert James Marcel Taffin de Givenchy, was a giant of the fashion world in every sense.

He created on- and off-screen wardrobes for Hepburn for films including Breakfast at Tiffanys and Funny Face. His enduring muse, Hepburn inspired Givenchys first perfume, lInterdit, and is credited with the designers subsequent success and popularity in the US.
20:19  PM, President to get their own planes by early 2020:  
India's first set of brand new planes for the prime minister, president and vice-president will be customised and be ready for use by early 2020, senior government officials said.

Two Boeing 777-300 ERs, bought by Air India recently, will be retrofitted to have VIP enclosures, a press conference room and a patient transport unit for medical emergencies.

The aircraft will also be equipped with Wi-Fi on board and have anti-missile protection, a senior official said.

A Boeing 777 unlike the older Boeing 747, which were borrowed from Air India as and when a VVIP visited overseas, can fly non-stop to the US, thereby dispensing with the need to halt for refuelling.

In February and March, Air India inducted three Boeing 777 aircraft, completing an order of 68 planes placed with the aerospace major in 2006. Two of these three planes will be set aside exclusively for VVIP use.

"The government will buy these aircraft from Air India," a senior official said.

An aircraft exclusively for VVIPs --such as the president, vice-president and prime minister --will mean that Air India will no more have to ground aircraft from its fleet for special flights and re-configure them to include VIP enclosures, a press conference room etc for these operations.

Earlier, during the budget announcement for the next fiscal, the government had set aside an amount of Rs 4,469.50 crore for the purchase of these aircraft from Air India. 

-- PTI
19:49  White House to help arm school staff:  US President Donald Trump's administration will step up aid to states that want to arm school employees under a plan to increase campus safety after the killing of 17 people in Florida, officials have said.
The controversial idea to put weapons in schools, which has drawn little support from educators, is part of a "pragmatic plan to dramatically increase school safety and to take steps to do so right away," Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in a conference call with reporters.
"We are committed to working quickly because there's no time to waste," said DeVos, who will chair a federal commission on school safety.
Among other measures, the Trump administration is urging states to pass temporary "risk protection orders," as Florida recently did, with technical assistance coming from Washington, said Andrew Bremberg, a presidential assistant who heads the Domestic Policy Council.
These court-issued orders allow for law enforcement officers to remove guns from people who pose a demonstrated threat, "to temporarily prevent such individuals from purchasing new firearms, all while still protecting due process rights," he said.

 The moves come during a national gun control debate revived by survivors of last month's massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 14 students and three staff were gunned down by a man with a semi-automatic rifle.
19:24  No more controversies over me, says Hadiya:  Kerala-based Hadiya, an alleged victim of 'love jihad', today said she was grateful to the Supreme Court for allowing her to reunite with her husband.

Days after the apex court set aside a Kerala high court order annulling her marriage with a Muslim man, Hadiya told reporters that the order was one that gave freedom to her to stand by a faith which she believed was right.

No other person in the country should experience the pain and suffering like the one she underwent, Hadiya said.

Flanked by her husband Shafin Jahan, Hadiya said she got freedom and justice from the apex court and thanked all those who stood by her during the legal battle.

"There should be no more controversies over me," she said.

The apex court had on March 8 set aside a Kerala high court order annulling her marriage to Jahan.

Hadiya is pursuing her mandatory house surgeon internship at the Sivaraj Homeopathic Medical College and Research Institute in Tamil Nadu's Salem district for completing her Bachelor in Homoepathy Medicine and Surgery (BHMS) course.

The apex court had in August last year asked the National Investigation Agency to probe the case of conversion and marriage of Hadiya, as the agency claimed a 'pattern' was emerging in Kerala.

The matter came to the fore when Jahan had challengeda Kerala High Court order annulling his marriage with her andsending the woman to her parents' custody.        On November 27 last, the supreme court had freedHadiya from her parents' custody and sent her to college topursue her studies, even as she had pleaded that she should beallowed to go with her husband.        The high court had in May last year annulled themarriage terming it as an instance of 'love jihad', followingwhich Jahan had approached the apex court. PTI JRKBN03121846
19:21  Centre: Will take action on Chidambaram relaxing gold import norm:  Stepping up the heat on former finance minister P Chidambaram, the government today said it will take action against the persons who relaxed gold import norms for private trading houses during the dying days of the United Progressive Alliance regime resulting in a windfall of Rs 4,500 crore to 13 such entities in just six months.

Faced with barrage of attack from the Congress over the Rs 12,700 crore fraud at Punjab National Bank, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party had earlier this month accused Chidambaram of aiding jewellers Mehul Choksi and Nirav Modi -- main accused in the country's biggest bank fraud case -- through an 80:20 gold import scheme.

Without naming any of the jewellers who may have benefited from the scheme, the government said in a statement that it had taken the 'bold' step to scrap the scheme within months of coming to power to end all discrimination in the favour of private gold importers.

It said the scheme had increased the shipments of gold into the country and put pressure on current account deficit in 2012-13.

This resulted in placing of restrictions on imports including by way of higher customs duty.

These were in July/August 2013 modified into 20:30 scheme wherein only banks and PSUs like MMTC and STC were allowed to import gold if only a fifth of it is exported.

"However, from May 21, 2014, the Premier Trading Houses and Star Trading Houses were also allowed to import gold under 20:80 scheme," the statement said, referring to Chidambaram's decision to allow even private traders to import under the scheme.

"The then Finance Minister approved the modified scheme on May 13, 2014, even though the model code of conduct was in place since March 5, 2014 with the announcement of the Lok Sabha Polls, and the counting was due on May 16, 2014," said a statement by the Commerce Ministry.

It said there was a shortage of gold for domestic use and a premium of between $100 to $150 per ounce (about Rs 2 lakh per kg) was being charged.

"Allowing private companies like PTHs and STHs to import gold provided these agencies an opportunity of windfall gain, as the benefit of the high premium on gold could now be availed of by these agencies," the government said.

The statement referred to a CAG report that put gold imported by 13 trading houses during June 2014 to November 2014 at 282.77 tones, 'which means a windfall gain of about Rs 4,500 crore to these agencies during this period, assuming a premium of Rs 2 lakh per kg and 80 per cent of imported gold supplied to domestic market earning the premium'.

It further said: "Even the export obligations were being met through export of plain jewellery, viz., bangles and chains, which were re-melted in offshore locations through front/ shell companies for the purpose of re-import."

Stating that the increase in gold import had disproportionately benefited the STH/PTHs whose imports shot up by 320 per cent, the government said, 'This benefit stemmed from a de facto discrimination in their favour because of expanded 20:30 scheme privileged these STHs/PTHs'.

The government will definitely examine the circumstances 'as to why private parties PTHs/STHs were benefitted by being allowed to import gold under 20:80 scheme by the previous government when the Government was in transition and will take necessary action against the persons involved', the statement said.

It went on to state that the advantage to the STHs/PTHs extended in May 2014 was unfair and 'the new government took a bold decision of ending the discrimination and liberalising the import and scrapped the 20:80 scheme altogether on November 28, 2014'.  -- PTI
19:00  Theni forest fire toll rises to 10:  JUST IN: Toll from Tamil Nadu's Theni forest fire rises to 10.

Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami announces Rs 4 lakh solatium to next of kin of the deceased.

The CM orders probe into the matter; directs legal action against those who arranged expedition sans Forest department approval.  -- PTI
18:57  Tripura: 78.45 per cent votes polled till 4 pm in Charilam:   Over 78 per cent votes were polled till 4 pm in the Charilam (ST) Assembly constituency in Tripura today, an election official said.

The figure is likely to go up as many voters are still standing in queue to exercise their franchise, additional chief electoral officer Tapas Roy said.

He said that a total of 78.45 per cent votes have been polled in the assembly constituency.

Polling has been peaceful and incident free, Roy said.

Newly-appointed Deputy Chief Minister and state Bharatiya Janata Party vice-president Jishnu Deb Burman were among the contestants for the seat.

Communist Party of India-Marxist opted out of the race for the seat on March 9 alleging large-scale post poll violence in the constituency.

It was the death of the CPI-M candidate Ramendra Narayan Debbarma that had led to the countermanding of the poll at Charilam.

Jishnu Dev Burman is pitted against Congress' Arjun Debbarma, Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura's Uma Shankar Debbarma and Independent Jyotilal Debbarma.

Dev Burman, who belongs to the Tripura royal family, was sworn-in by Governor Tathagata Roy on March 9, along with Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb and others.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was present on the occasion.  -- PTI
18:45  Welcome you, not your comment: Sushma on Naresh Agarwal:  Sushma Swaraj tweets:  'Naresh Agarwal has joined Bhartiya Janata Party. He is welcome. However, his comments regarding Jaya Bachhan ji are improper and unacceptable.'

Earlier, while joining the Bharatiya Janata Party, Agarwal, who lost out in the race for re-nomination to the Rajya Sabha to Jaya Bachchan, had said that the Samajwadi Party had equated him with the film actor 'who used to dance in films'.

"I have been compared with those who dance and work in films," Agrawal said.

BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra, however, immediately distanced his party from Agrawal's remarks, saying his party respects people from all fields and welcomed them in politics.   -- ANI, PTI
18:35  Karti Chidambaram moves Delhi HC seeking bail:  Karti Chidambaram, the arrested son of former Union minister P Chidambaram, today moved the Delhi high court seeking bail, hours after a court sent him to judicial custody till March 24.

A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar said the matter would be heard tomorrow by an appropriate bench after the counsel for Karti, senior advocate Dayan Krishnan, moved the court seeking bail.

A special court had earlier in the day sent Karti to judicial custody in the INX Media corruption case and dismissed his plea that he be put in a separate cell in Tihar Jail in view of a threat perception.

The court also dismissed his appeal for an urgent hearing on his bail plea and the threat perception due to the fact that his father, as a Union minister in the previous UPA government, had handled several sensitive issues.

Karti was produced before the trial court on the expiry of his three-day police remand.

The court sent him to Tihar Jail after the CBI, in whose custody he was quizzed for 12 days in a row after his arrest on February 28 from Chennai, said he was no longer required for further custodial interrogation.

The court said his bail plea would be heard on March 15 as scheduled.  -- PTI
18:06  DGCA grounds 11 A320 neo planes on Pratt & Whitney engine woes:   Aviation regulator DGCA today grounded 11 A320 neo aircraft powered by a certain series of Pratt & Whitney engines following instances of engine failures during flights. Of these, 8 are operated by IndiGo and 3 by GoAir. The decision comes hours after an A320 neo aircraft of IndiGo suffered engine failure mid-air and made an emergency landing at Ahmedabad airport. Citing safety of aircraft operations, the DGCA said, A320 neos fitted with PW1100 engines beyond ESN 450 have been grounded with immediate effect.  -- PTI
17:58  Naresh Agarwal scores self goal on day 1 with dance girl remark:  Rajya Sabha MP Naresh Agrawal, who lost out in the race for re-nomination to the upper house to Jaya Bachchan, today quit the Samajwadi Party and joined the BJP, which was left embarrassed after he remarked that the SP had equated him with the film actor "who used to dance in films".

Agrawal, who has courted controversies in the past too over his statements, made the remarks in the presence BJP leaders, including Union minister Piyush Goyal, at a press conference held at the party headquarters in New Delhi to announce his joining the BJP.

"I have been compared with those who dance and work in films," Agrawal said, leaving the BJP leaders on the dais squirming. BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra, however, immediately distanced his party from Agrawal's remarks, saying his party respects people from all fields and welcomed them in politics. Agrawal also expressed his affection for SP patriarch Mulayam Singh. 
17:53  'This morcha is like life and death for me':  "I broke my slippers, I stitched it, but again it broke. After that, I started walking barefoot. This morcha is like life and death for me. I did not give up hope and kept walking till we reached Mumbai."

Sanjay Namdeo Navsare, a farmer from Sakur taluka, Nanded, marched the 180-km from Nashik to Mumbai.

Syed Firdaus Ashraf/ speaks to him.  Do read
17:47  Only promising to fulfill the demands won't work: Anna :  Only promising to fulfill the demands won't work, it's now the duty of the govt to work towards fulfilling what they've committed. They should think about the welfare of farmers so that they don't have to take it to the road next time: Anna Hazare on farmers agitation in Mumbai.
17:37  '4 hours, 8 km: Marching with farmers left me heartbroken':  As thousands of protesting farmers marched into Mumbai on Sunday, Hemant Waje walked along with them. This is his account. Do read

IMAGE: Mumbaikars generally don't stop for anyone, except when they come face-to-face with this sight.
17:21  Mehbooba Mufti drops minister after comments on Kashmir :  Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti today dropped finance minister Haseeb Drabu from the council of ministers over his remarks at a function in New Delhi that Kashmir was not a political issue, PDP sources said in Srinagar. The sources said the chief minister wrote a letter to Governor N N Vohra, advising him to drop Drabu from the council of ministers.

The development comes after Drabu, speaking at an event in New Delhi on Friday, had said: "It (JK) is not a political issue as far as I can see. They have been barking up the wrong tree for the last 50 or 70 years by talking about the politics of it, that the political situation has never improved.

"We seriously need to look at in terms of how it is a society that is in search for itself," he said at the event organised by the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry. --  PTI
17:18  13 demands accepted, farmers satisfied, says Maha govt :  This is what happened at the meeting between the delegation of farmers and the Maharashtra government. Girish Mahajan, state minister for water resources: "We've had a positive meeting with farmers in which all their demands were discussed. They had around 12-13 demands out of which we've accepted some and will be giving them a written draft of it. I think they're satisfied with our decisions."

And this what BJP ally the Shiv Sena had to say about the farmers' stir.

The party today threw its weight behind the farmers who marched from Nashik to Mumbai to highlight their problems and said the party would back them regardless of their red flags. The saffron party also said the role of leaders with communist ideology -- a red flag usually symbolises communism -- in the agitation for a separate Maharashtra cannot be forgotten.

The CPI(M)-affiliated All India Kisan Sabha is spearheading the protest that turned south Mumbai's Azad Maidan into a sea of red today as thousands of farmers carrying red flags converged there after walking around 180 km from neighbouring Nashik district.

The farmers plan to surround the state Assembly complex to press for their demands of an unconditional loan waiver and transfer of forest land to tribal farmers who have been tilling it for years.

"It is possible that the government may talk of assurances to farmers and even deploy some of its ministers to temporarily confuse them," the Sena, an ally of the ruling BJP in Maharashtra and at the Centre, said in an editorial in its mouthpiece 'Saamana'.

Image: Women farmers marched with their male compatriots reaching Azad Maidan in Mumbai early this morning. Pic: Uttam Ghosh.
16:43  Nepal plane crash: Death toll crosses 38:  Nepal police official says at least 38 killed, 23 injured in Kathmandu plane crash; 10 people still unaccounted for, reports ANI.

However, PTI, quoting Tribhuvan International Airport General Manager Raj Kumar Chhetri, says over 50 people are feared dead in the crash.

A United States-Bangla Airlines aircraft with 67 passengers and four crew members on board on Monday overshot the runway and crashed at Nepal's international airport in Kathmandu.

The plane caught fire after it careened off the runway during landing and crashed onto a football ground near the airport, the Tribhuvan International Airport spokesperson, Prem Nath Thakur, was quoted as saying by the Kathmandu Post.

Image: The burnt carapace of the plane at Kathmandu airport. Pic: ANI
16:36  SP's Naresh Agarwal joins BJP:  Samajwadi Party's Naresh Agarwal joins the BJP in the presence of Union Minister Piyush Goyal at the BJP headquarters in Delhi. 
16:33  Maharashtra farmers likely to end stir:  Just in: Maharashtra farmers are likely to call off the protest after they seem to have reached an agreement with the government. CM Devendra Fadnavis has apparently promised a written assurance, one of their demands, soon. 

Earlier in the day, Fadnavis said his government was "sensitive and positive" towards the demands of farmers and tribals, who have marched from Nashik to Mumbai to draw the administration's attention towards their problems.

Fadnavis was responding to a discussion in the Assembly, initiated by Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, who lauded the farmers participating in the 'Kisan Long March' for their peaceful protest while demanding a complete loan waiver and compensation for hailstorm and pink bollworm pest attack on crops.

The CPI(M)-affiliated All India Kisan Sabha is spearheading the protest.  -- PTI

Image: Farmers at Azad Maidan today. Pic: Uttam Ghosh/
16:26  CPI (M) @cpimspeak tweets: These are no "Urban Maoists" @poonam_mahajan, these are the people who feed the nation. But yes they also have the power to bring down arrogant, out-of-touch corporate agents like you and your party!
16:14  Kathmandu plane crash: Eight bodies recovered so far from plane crash in Nepal; more deaths feared, reports ANI.
16:10  Karti sent to jail till March 25 :  A Delhi Court on Monday sent Karti Chidambaram, son of former finance Minister P Chidambaram, to judicial custody till March 25 in connection with the INX media case.

In the application submitted in Patiala House Court, the Central Bureau of Investigation has mentioned that Karti in the police custody had been evasive and non-cooperative.

"During the entire period of police custody remand, Karti Chidambaram was evasive and non-cooperative. Hence, CBI is conducting an investigation of the case without the co-operation of the accused. Therefore, under the circumstances when there is sufficient material clearly implicating the accused in this serious economic offence, it is absolutely necessary that the accused be remanded to the judicial custody," the CBI has stated.

Earlier on March 10, the Delhi High Court restrained the Enforcement Directorate (ED) from arresting Karti Chidambaram till March 20.

In May 2017, the ED registered a money laundering case against Karti for allegedly facilitating Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance for INX Media Ltd and Peter and Indrani Mukerjea when his father was the finance minister in the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. -- ANI
15:33  Meeting with the delegation of farmers and all political parties begins at Vidhan Bhawan under the chairmanship of Maharastra CM Devendra Fadnavis.
15:32  Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport has been closed following the plane crash.
15:17  Plane crash at Kathmandu airport:   Just in: A passenger plane crashes at Tribhuvan International airport, Kathmandu at around 2:20 pm IST.

Early reports say that the plane, operated by US-Bangla, a Bangladeshi airline, veered off the runway while landing on Monday afternoon, causing a blaze that firefighters have been tackling.

About 71 people were thought to be on board, of which 17 have been rescued.

A number of people have been injured, Nepal police spokesperson Manoj Neupane told BBC News Nepali.

The plane can reportedly carry 78 passengers, local news site My Republica reported. More details awaited.
15:01  Mumbai walks with farmers:  @KisanSabha Today, early morning, large groups of civilians waiting at roads greeted the #FarmersMarchToMumbai with water, dates & biscuits, to which peasants reciprocated with loud slogans of Lal Salaam.
14:56  Rahul walks into Kisan March: Accepts their demands :  Congress president Rahul Gandhi today urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to shed their egos and accept the "just demands" of the thousands of farmers and tribals protesting in Mumbai.

The mammoth farmers march to Mumbai is a "stunning example of people's power", Gandhi said on Twitter. The Congress, he added, stands with the farmers and tribals marching to protest against the apathy of the central and state governments.

"I appeal to PM Modi and the CM to not stand on ego and to accept their just demands," Gandhi tweeted. Fadnavis said today his government was "sensitive and positive" towards the demands of farmers and tribals, who have marched from Nashik to Mumbai to draw the administration's attention towards their problems.

Fadnavis was responding to a discussion in the Assembly, initiated by Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, who lauded the farmers for their peaceful protest.

Azad Maidan in South Mumbai turned into a sea of red this morning as thousands of farmers, carrying red flags, converged here after walking around 180 km from neighbouring Nashik district over the last six days.

The farmers plan to surround the Assembly complex to press for their demands of an unconditional loan waiver, and transfer of forest land to tribal farmers who have been tilling it for years. The CPI(M)-affiliated All India Kisan Sabha is spearheading the protest. The Shiv Sena has also lent its support to the farmers stir. --  PTI
14:23  What does the nation get out of the CBI?:  "What does the nation get out of the CBI's fabulous infrastructure? Very little that is useful," says Aakar Patel. Read the column here.
14:18  What the marching farmers want:  The All India Kisan Sabha, which is spearheading the farmers' protest march has tweeted a list of demands. These include...

-- The Kisan Long March demands that the burning issues connected to the public distribution system be resolved.

-- It demands increase in pension schemes to poor peasants & agricultural workers.

-- Peasants' lands are being grabbed for fancy, elitist, unnecessary, anti-people projects like super highways & bullet trains.

-- It demands that the temple lands & pasture lands to be vested in the name of the tillers.

-- Change the proposed river linking scheme in Nashik, Thane and Palghar districts. Make water available to these and other drought prone districts. Do not submerge tribal villages.

-- It demands implementation of Swaminathan Commission's recommendations & Forest Rights Act.

-- It demands remunerative prices for agricultural produce.

-- It demands the loan waiver which the Maharashtra CM Dev Fadnavis had promised and took a U-turn later.

Image: Farmers walking to Azad Maidan last night. Pic: Sahil Salvi.
13:54  Kumar Ketkar files nomination for RS:   Kumar Ketkar, Chief Editor of the newspaper Dainik Divya Marathi, files his nomination for the Rajya Sabha as a Congress candidate. Standing behind Ketkar, is former Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan and seated next to him is Sushil Kumar Shinde. To Ketkar's right (seated) is former Maharashtra CM Ashok Chavan.  
13:46  Hillary visits Mandu :  Hillary Clinton is at Mandu today. She visited the romantic city of Baz Bahadur and Roopmati and went to the Jahaz Mahal there. The former US Secretary of State is on a three-day private visit to Madhya Pradesh. She arrived in MP yesterday.
13:36  President to visit Mauritius:  President Ram Nath Kovind is on a four-day official tour to Mauritius. The visit is low-profile with no media contingent accompanying him.
13:28  5-member govt committee to talk to farmers :  Replying to the discussion in the Maharashtra Assembly on the farmers' march CM Devendra Fadnavis said the demands of protestors were very important.

"Around 90 to 95 per cent of the participants are poor tribals. They are fighting for forest land rights. They are landless and can't do farming. The government is sensitive and positive towards their demands," the chief minister said.

"A ministerial committee has been formed to discuss the demands with protesters. We will take a decision to resolve their issues in a time-bound manner," he said.

Fadnavis said his government was in touch with the march organisers since March 6.

"But they were adamant on the march. We tried to talk to them. All help was provided, like traffic management and deployment of medical vans," he said.

The chief minister said he has invited the march leaders for talks at the Vidhan Bhavan later today.

The committee formed to resolve the farmers' issues includes revenue minister Chandrakant Patil, water resources minister Girish Mahajan, co-operation minister Subhash Deshmukh, public undertakings minister Eknath Shinde and tribal welfare minister Vishnu Savra.

The march has been organised to protest the alleged failures of the BJP government on the farm front, including non-implementation of recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission and the Forest Rights Act. -- PTI
13:02  Written assurance for accepted demands, says Maha minister:  Update on the farmers' protest.

Girish Mahajan (pictured), Maharashtra Minister for Water Resources: There will be a meeting with farmers at 1 pm. I think we'll give solutions for 80-90% of their issues. We're serious about the demands including loan waiver and will come up with best decisions. Written assurance will be given for accepted demands.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis today said his government was "sensitive and positive" towards the demands of farmers and tribals, who have marched from Nashik to Mumbai to draw the administration's attention towards their problems.

Fadnavis was responding to a discussion in the Assembly, initiated by Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, who lauded the farmers participating in the 'Kisan Long March' for their peaceful protest while demanding a complete loan waiver and compensation for hailstorm and pink bollworm pest attack on crops.

The Azad Maidan in South Mumbai turned into a sea of red this morning as thousands of farmers, carrying red flags, converged here after walking around 180 kms from the neighbouring Nashik district over the last six days.

The CPI(M)-affiliated All India Kisan Sabha is spearheading the protest. 
12:56  Care for marching farmers? Donate footwear:  Govindraj Ethiraj @govindethiraj We are collecting footwear in Lower Parel, Mum, for protestors in Mumbai who have worn them out in the march from Nashik...pref new, hawaii/flip flop ideal, mid can hook up with @KaleKrutika. Deadline is tomorrow noon.
12:50  Modi, Macron inaugurate UP's biggest solar power plant:  Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron today inaugurated Uttar Pradesh's biggest solar power plant in Mirzapur district's Chhanvey block. The prime minister, Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath received the French president and his wife Brigitte at the airstrip in Dadar Kalan.

The prime minister and the French president pressed a button to energise the solar panels and dedicated the 75 MW facility to the people. Built at a cost of around Rs 500 crore by French firm ENGIE, the 75 MW solar plant has come up at Dadar Kalan village on the hilly terrain of the Vindhyas range. Some 1,18,600 solar panels have been set up in over 380 acres. Power would be transmitted to Jigna sub-station of Mirzapur range of Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation Ltd, officials said.

The plant will generate 15.6 crore units of electricity annually, about 1.30 crore units per month.
12:48  Finance Minister Arun Jaitley files nomination papers for Rajya Sabha elections in Lucknow.
12:24  3000 cops at Azad Maidan, not a single incident of violence:   Huge police bandobast at Azad Maidan this morning. Unofficial numbers suggest between 2,000 to 3,000 policemen have been posted at the maidan and at CST. The road in front of BMC has also been barricaded. There has not been a single incidence of violence all through the six-day march from Nashik to Mumbai. Reports say the organisers ensured that mischief-mongers were kept out of the march. Almost all the parties other than the BJP have extended their support to the protest.

CPI(M) leader Ashok Dhawle said over 50,000 people have joined the protest. Tribals from Thane district have joined the farmers from Nashik district in the protest.

Pic: Syed Firdaus Ashraf/
11:54  A thirst for justice :  Farmer protestors at Azad Maidan quench their thirst at a water tanker this morning. To the right of the tanker is an ambulance on standby. Newspaper reports had said that along the 180-km journey from Nashik to Mumbai, farmers carried their own water bottles and refilled them at water tankers, roadside taps and wells along the road.

Pic: Syed Firdaus Ashraf/

11:46  CM Fadnavis to meet 20-member delegation of farmers at noon:   Professor Ajit Navale, CPI (M) leader of the Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha, speaking to Syed Firdaus Ashraf/ said Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis had agreed to meet a delegation of around 20 farmers at around noon today. "We will not be fooled like we were last year. We need a written assurance. There are policemen everywhere, all around Azad Maidan and at CST too. If the government does not meet our demands we will not leave. We will sit right here (at Azad Maidan). We will gherao the Assembly, have a sit-in agitation here and finally go on a hunger strike.
Navale was a member of the committee that had led the farmers' agitation last year.
11:21  HC grants bail to AAP MLA in chief secy assault case:  The Delhi High Court today granted bail to AAP MLA Amanatullah Khan in the Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash assault case. Justice Mukta Gupta granted relief to the Okhla MLA, who was arrested on February 21, with certain conditions as imposed on AAP legislator Prakash Jarwal earlier.

"The petitioner (Khan) has served an incarceration of more than 20 days and no further custodial interrogation is required. So the petitioner is released on bail," the court said.

During the hearing, the Delhi Police counsel submitted a status report stating that Khan was named in 12 criminal cases, out of which he has been discharged in three cases.

The court had on March 9 granted bail to AAP MLA Prakash Jarwal in the chief secretary assault case with a warning that any such illegal activity in future would lead to the cancellation of his bail. Deoli legislator Jarwal was arrested on February 20 for allegedly assaulting the chief secretary during a meeting at Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's residence on the midnight of February 19. --  PTI
11:13  9 members of trekking expedition killed in TN forest fire:   Nine people, who were part of a trekking expedition, have been killed in a forest fire in the Western Ghats, the Tamil Nadu government said today.

"Nine persons are dead, while 17 of the rescued have been hospitalised and 10 did not require hospitalisation," Commissioner of Revenue Administration K Sathyagopal told reporters. Among the dead, six were from Chennai and three from Erode, local police said.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister K Palaniswami is rushing to Theni to oversee rescue operations. A 36-member team -- 24 people from Chennai and 12 from Tiruppur and Erode districts -- on a trekking expedition reached Kurangani hills on March 10.

The team included 25 women and three children, according to Theni District Collector Mariam Pallavi Baldev. Four helicopters of the IAF and their 10 commandos are involved in the rescue operation, according to a tweet by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan said rescue teams comprising officials and health department personnel were camping in the hills.

Besides the IAF which has deployed four choppers from its Sulur Air base in Coimbatore, personnel drawn from fire and rescue and forest departments, police, and local officials are involved in the rescue operations assisted by local tribals and employees of nearby tea estates.

According to Pallavi Baldev, the trekkers after staying overnight at an estate in Kozhukumalai started their return journey to the plains yesterday morning when they heard about the sudden forest fire and got separated while attempting to find a safe way.

Kurangani-Kozhukumalai hills in the Western Ghats are located near Bodinayakanur, about 40 kms from here. State health minister C Vijayabhaskar said the injured trekkers were received at Kurangani by a medical team. -- PTI
10:59  CM Fadnavis likely to meet farmers this afternoon:   Azad Maidan in south Mumbai turned into a sea of red this morning as thousands of farmers, carrying red flags, converged here after walking around 180 km under the blazing sun over the last six days.

The farmers plan to surround the Vidhan Sabha, the state Assembly, to press for their demands of an unconditional loan waiver, and transfer of forest land to tribal farmers who have been tilling it for years.

Syed Firdaus Ashraf/ reports that the farmers began reaching Azad Maidan from the KJ Somaiya Ground in Chunabhatti, at around 4 am and by 6 am, the entire congregation was there.

The CPI(M)-affiliated All India Kisan Sabha, which is spearheading the protest, said it will consider what the government has to offer. CPI(M) leader Ashok Dhawle (Read his interview to here) said over 50,000 people have joined the protest. hief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is expected to meet Dhawle this afternoon, but there are no confirmations on the same. The Kisan Sabha wants a written assurance from the government that their demands will be met.

"We will begin our rally after 11 am today so that students appearing for their Class 10 board exam don't face any difficulties," he said. Tribals from Thane district have joined the farmers from Nashik district in the protest.

Maharashtra minister Girish Mahajan, who welcomed the march at Mulund in suburban Mumbai yesterday, said the government, which has met earlier demands by farmers, will consider their latest ones.

The opposition Congress, NCP, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and also Shiv Sena, which is part of the BJP-led ruling alliance in the state, have extended support to the farmers' demands.

MNS chief Raj Thackeray and Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray met the farmers yesterday. In November last year, the state government announced a farm loan waiver, terming it the "biggest loan waiver in Maharashtra's history".

Volunteers across party lines -- the Shiv Sena, CPI-M, Samajwadi Party,
Jamaiyat Ulema-e-Maharashtra -- were at Azad Maidan distributing snacks and water. There were also huge tankers of drinking water at the maidan.

Last month, state Governor Vidyasagar Rao told the state legislature that the government has transferred over Rs 12,000 crore into bank accounts of 31 lakh farmers.

Farmers also want the implementation of the M S Swaminathan Commission report, which says farmers should be paid one-and-a-half times the cost of production and the Minimum Support Price should be fixed keeping this in mind.

While there is no likelihood of all farmers being allowed to proceed to the Assembly complex from Azad Maidan, a delegation of farmer leaders will be allowed to meet Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.

Image: Volunteers at Azad Maidan distribute snacks to the farmers. Pic: Syed Firdaus Ashraf/
10:54  Red alert:  Shamianas have been erected at Azad Maidan to provide a measure of relief under the daunting March sun. Mumbai Mirror reports that marchers are carrying water bottles covered with cloth to keep the water cool. They fill the bottles from drinking water tankers, roadside taps, wells and hand pumps along the 180-km journey from Nashik to Mumbai.

Pic: Syed Firdaus Ashraf
10:43  Mumbai: 'No traffic diversions due to Farmers' Morcha' :  Amitesh Kumar, Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic) on Monday said that no road would be closed due to the protest march by the All India Kisan Sabha's farmers. Kumar said, "No road closure or diversions will happen due to Farmers' Morcha now".

All India Kisan Sabha protest march, led by over 30, 000 farmers, reached Mumbai's Azad Maidan, after walking with blistered feet for about 180 km in the sun over the last five days.

They will proceed to the state assembly later in the day.The protest, which is held to demand a complete farm loan waiver among other things, commenced on March 5 from the CBS Chowk in Central Nashik.

Shiv Sena's Aditya Thackeray had also met the farmers and interacted with them.

The farmers of the state have been demanding a complete waiver of loans and electricity bills.Last year, the Maharashtra government had announced a loan waiver of Rs 4,000 crore under the first phase of the farm loan waiver scheme. -- ANI

Image: Samajwadi Party volunteers at the farmers' rally at Azad Maidan. Pic: Syed Firdaus Ashraf
10:35  Security forces kill 3 militants in pre-dawn encounter in Anantnag:   Update on the Anantnag encounter:

Three militants were killed in an encounter with security forces in Anantnag district of Jammu and Kashmir today, the army said. An anti-militancy operation was launched in Hakura area of Anantnag district late last night following information about the presence of militants in the area, an army official said.

He said three militants were killed in the pre-dawn encounter with security forces.

A police spokesman said two of the slain militants were identified as Eesa Fazli of Srinagar and Syed Owais of Kokernag in Anantnag. The identity of the third militant was being ascertained.

"In the process, arms and ammunition which include AK 47 rifles, pistols, hand-grenades, etc. were recovered from the encounter site. There was no collateral damage during the operation, " the spokesman said.

He said one of the slain militants was involved in a recent attack on a police guard post at Soura in the city, in which one police constable had been killed.

Meanwhile, authorities ordered closure of schools and other educational institutions as a precautionary measure. A senior official of the administration said the schools and colleges have been closed to maintain law and order.

Kashmir University has suspended classes for the day and postponed examinations as well. -- PTI

Representational image.
09:25  This govt can't do anything for you: Raj Thackeray to protesting farmers:  
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray on Sudnay came out in support of the farmers who have reached in Mumbai after undertaking a 'Long March' to Mumbai from Nashik to press their various demands including full loan waiver.
"This government is incapable of doing anything," the MNS chief said, addressing thousands of farmers.
"I have come to greet you. You have come all the way in this heat. Give me the reins of power and I will show what can be done," the MNS chief said.
"Don't forget your bleeding feet. These people (the BJP-led Maharashtra government) have shown you dreams, but have not kept their word," Thackeray said.
"Don't fall prey to their promises. They value you only during elections. Farmer suicides haven't stopped in this state yet. Tomorrow the government will try to fob you off with some promises. But the government itself is pauper, so what can it offer you?" Thackeray said.
Leader of Opposition in Maharashtra Assembly, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil also lashed out at the government and asked why it "waited so long" to understand farmers' woes.
"Govt has woken up so invited farmers for talks. Why didn't they show such understanding earlier. Come what may government has to fulfil all demands of farmers. All Congress legislators (are) with the farmers," the Congress leader said. -- PTI 
09:07  UPDATE: To avoid inconvenience to Mumbaiites, farmers walk overnight:  
To avoid inconvenience to Mumbaiites, including SSC students attending exams today, protesting farmers walked overnight to reach Azad Maidan. 
Initially, the plan was to camp at the Somaiya Ground in Sion on Sunday night and start walking towards Maharashtra assembly on Monday morning. 

But the state government came up with a last-minute plan in view of Class 10 board exam in the city on Monday.

Instead of resting after a long day of continuous walking, the organisers and farmers took the difficult decision to continue walking well past midnight and make the 5-hour journey on foot to Azad Maidan, a large ground designated for protests in South Mumbai, about 15 km away from Sion.
09:04  Congress names journalist Kumar Ketkar as RS poll candidate:  
The Congress on Sunday cleared the names of its 10 candidates, which included that of senior journalist Kumar Ketkar, for the upcoming Rajya Sabha elections, with party spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi to contest from West Bengal.
The Trinamool Congress has already announced its support for Singhvi's candidature. 

Singhvi is representing the party in the Supreme Court in some high-profile cases.
He also represents Karti Chidambaram, son of former finance minister P Chidambaram, in the INX Media case.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi approved the names of 10 party candidates. The last date for nominations is today.
The party cleared the names of Amee Yagnik and former Union minister Naranbhai Ratwa from Gujarat, Dhiraj Prasad Sahu from Jharkhand, and Rajmani Patel from Madhya Pradesh.
According to a statement issued by party general secretary Oscar Fernandes, journalist Kumar Ketkar has been nominated from Maharashtra.
The party has also nominated L Hanumanthaiah, Syed Naseer Hussain and G C Chandrasekhar from Karnataka, while Porika Balram Naik has been nominated to contest from Telangana.
The election is slated on March 23 and the results will be out on the same day after 5 PM.
The party has preferred local leaders in some key states which are going to polls later this year. -- PTI 
08:40  Maha farmers all set to gherao state assembly, CM says ready for talks :  
As thousands of farmers ready to gherao state assembly, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has that said his government will talk to the farmers who have undertaken a `Long March' to the city to press their various demands.
He also appealed agitators not to hold up the traffic today so that students appearing for Std 10th exams in the city are not delayed.
Over 35,000 farmers have arrived in Mumbai after a six-day-long march from Nashik and are planning to lay siege to the state legislature complex in Mumbai today.
"We will talk to them and sort out their issues. The Government is positive on their demands. Most of the agitators are tribals, and their main demand is forest land rights," Fadnavis told PTI.
"We have set up a committee of ministers to hold discussions on their demands. I have invited them (farmer leaders) for talks," he said.
"I have only made an appeal that they should not cause any problem to the traffic since it's an exam day and more than one lakh students will get affected," Fadnavis said, referring to the ongoing Std 10th exams. -- PTI

Photograph: Sahil Salvi

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