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LIVE! Putin has Russia guessing before election: How long will he keep power?

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March 13, 2018


23:33  Putin has Russia guessing before election: How long will he keep power?:  
Soon after Vladimir Putin is re-elected on Sunday, his thoughts will turn to the question that is likely to dominate his next term as Russia's president: what will he do when it ends?

Putin's victory in the presidential election is not in doubt as his ratings are high and he has the state machinery behind him, but how long the man who has dominated Russia for nearly 18 years wants to stay power is uncertain.

The constitution limits the president to two successive terms, obliging him to step down at the end of his mandate as he did in 2008 after serving two four-year terms.

His mandate will not expire until 2024 but the problem needs immediate attention because the uncertainty about his long-term future is a source of instability in a fractious ruling elite that only he can keep in check.
"The Russian political scene is entering a new phase," said Gleb Pavlovsky, a former Kremlin adviser who is now critical of the country's leadership. 

"Most discussion within the ruling elite focuses not on the next stage of the Putin era but on what will constitute the post-Putin era."
23:11  Safety of passengers priority: Govt on aircraft grounding:  
Union minister Jayant Sinha today said safety of passengers was paramount for the government and aircraft with Pratt & Whitney engines could be used only after they were considered safe post technical analysis.

His comments came after the aviation regulator DGCA grounding 11 A320Neo planes with faulty Pratt & Whitney engines.

We have to give paramount priority to safety. There are 43 such engines in the worldwide, out of which 19 are currently in India, used by IndiGo and GoAir.
"We don't consider these engine safe as of now and the technical analysis is underway. They could be used only when we consider them safe, Sinha told news channels.

Budget carriers IndiGo and GoAir today cancelled as many as 65 flights after the Directorate General of Civil Aviation grounded 11 of their A320Neo planes with faulty Pratt & Whitney engines.

The Gurgaon-based IndiGo cancelled 47 of its 1,000-odd flights per day, while the Wadia Group-promoted GoAir said it had cancelled 18 flights.

The DGCA had cracked the whip after an IndiGo flight bound for Lucknow returned to Ahmedabad within 40 minutes of its getting airborne due to a mid-air engine failure yesterday.

Citing safety of aircraft operations, the Director of the DGCA, in the March 12 order, said that A320Neos fitted with PW1100 engines beyond ESN 450 have been grounded with immediate effect.

-- PTI
22:43  White House fires top Tillerson aide Steve Goldstein:  
Steve Goldstein, Rex Tillerson's top spokesman at the State Department, was fired Tuesday for contradicting the official administration account of Tillerson's firing, a White House official said. 

A State Department official confirmed the firing of Goldstein, who was an undersecretary of State, to NBC News, as well.

Goldstein had only been in post since Dec 4.

Trump announced over Twitter on Tuesday that he was replacing Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

Goldstein had said soon afterward that Tillerson had not spoken directly about the move with the president.

"The Secretary had every intention of remaining because of the tangible progress made on critical national security issues," a statement issued by Goldstein had said.

"The Secretary did not speak to the President this morning and is unaware of the reason, but he is grateful for the opportunity to serve, and still believes strongly that public service is a noble calling and not to be regretted."

NBC News reported that Tillerson had learned of his firing from Trump's tweet.

Goldstein had been senior vice president of BP Global Solutions before joining the State Department.

Goldstein's dismissal was the just the latest in a series of firings Tuesday by the Trump administration.
22:16  Shoe thrown at Imran Khan during rally in Pak:  
A shoe was hurled at Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan during a rally in Gujrat city in Punjab province today.

As Imran Khan was addressing the crowd atop a vehicle, a shoe came flying and hit PTI leader Aleem Khan, who was standing right next to Imran Khan, Dawn reported.

The attacker was overpowered by the crowd.

Soon after the attack, Imran Khan concluded his address.

Today's incident is the third such attack on politicians in the span of a week.

On Sunday, an Islamic seminary student hurled shoes at ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif during a function at the Jamia Naeemia seminary in Lahore's Garhi Shahu area. Three suspects were arrested after the episode.

On Saturday, a religious extremist blackened the face of Foreign Minister Khwaja Asif with ink during a PML-N workers convention in Sialkot. A man was arrested after the incident. 
22:09  Maoist attack: Chhattisgarh CM directs officials to intensify ops:  
On a day nine CRPF personnel were killed by suspected Maoists in Sukma district, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh convened an emergency meeting of officials and directed them to intensify the operations against the ultras.

He reviewed the situation with senior officials of the administration and police at the meeting and directed them to intensify the operations against the naxals, a government official said.

Suspected Maoists blew up a mine-protected vehicle of a patrolling party of the 212th battalion of the Central Reserve Police Force along the Kistaram-Palodi road in Sukma district at around 12:30 pm, killing nine troopers.

Top officials, including the Chief Minister's Advisor, Sunil Kumar, Chief Secretary Ajay Singh, Additional Chief Secretary (Home) BVR Subramaniam, Principal Secretary to the CM Aman Singh, Director General of Police (DGP) A N Upadhyay, Special DG (anti-naxal operations) D M Awasthi and others were present at the meeting.

Meanwhile, two injured CRPF personnel were airlifted to state capital Raipur and admitted to a private hospital.

According to the police, bodies of all the slain CRPF personnel will be airlifted tonight.

CPRF Director General Rajeev Rai Bhatnagar reached Raipur in the evening to review the situation, an official of the paramilitary force said.
21:49  How can Rane be BJP's RS candidate without membership: Sena:  
The Shiv Sena today asked how Narayan Rane be the ally BJP's candidate for Rajya Sabha from Maharashtra when he is not a member of the saffron party.

Rane quit the Shiv Sena in 2005 on a bitter note and joined the Congress. He ended his association with the Congress in September 2017 to form Maharashtra Swabhiman Paksh, and declared support to the BJP-led NDA.

"From which party Narayan Rane has filed his nomination? If the BJP has made him a member, when did he accept BJP's membership?" senior Sena leader Anil Parab said, speaking to reporters.

If Rane has become a BJP member, did he resign from his own newly founded outfit first, the Sena leader asked.

"How can the president of one party be a member of another party? According to the rules, if a party wants to give a ticket to the chief of another party, he has to be made a primary member of the party giving the ticket. Otherwise, the candidate cannot fill the `B' form (handed out by the
party giving the ticket)," Parab said.

-- PTI
21:23  Trump believes Russian likely behind nerve gas attack on former spy:  
US President Donald Trump today said he believes British Prime Minister Theresa May's theory that Russia was likely responsible for a nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter in the UK.

Trump told reporters that he believes that there should be some response to this as soon as they have all the facts.

"Yeah (there should be a response), as soon as we get the facts straight. And we're going to be speaking with the British today. We're speaking with Theresa May today. And as soon as we get the facts straight, if we agree with them, we will condemn Russia or whoever it may be," Trump said in response to a question.
"It sounds to me like it would be Russia based on all of the evidence they have. I don't know if they've come to a conclusion but she's calling me today," said the US President.

"It sounds to me like they believe it was Russia and I would certainly take that finding as fact," Trump said.

Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were found collapsed after being poisoned last week. Both remain in a serious condition along with a police officer who came in contact with the same substance.

-- PTI
20:55  Sonia's dinner with Opposition: Tejashwi, Pawar among attendees:  
UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhis dinner with leaders of the Opposition parties, on Tuesday, is being attended by the likes of Tejashwi Yadav, Sharad Pawar, Omar Abdullah and Kanimozhi.

The dinner is expected to set the tone of a united Opposition to take on the BJP-led NDA ahead of the 2019 general elections.

Lalu's son and Leader of Opposition in the Bihar Assembly Tejashwi Yadav has also attended, but there was no immediate confirmation.
         
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.
20:43  Advisor to Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal resigns:  
The controversy over an alleged assault on the chief secretary of the Delhi government has taken a new turn with the resignation of the chief minister's advisor, V K  Jain, who was present at Arvind Kejriwal's residence when the incident is believed to have taken place.
Jain has resigned citing "personal reasons", a source said.

According to a submission by the Delhi Police in a court, Jain had disclosed that Aam Aadmi Party MLAs Prakash Jarwal and Amanatullah Khan had surrounded and assaulted chief secretary Anshu Prakash at Chief Minister Kejriwal's residence late at night on February 19.
Jain, however, had initially said he had not seen anything as he was in the washroom when the incident is alleged to have taken place.
He submitted his resignation letter to the Chief Minister's Office yesterday and sent a copy to Lt Governor Anil Baijal, the source added.

-- PTI
20:24  Mangaluru pub attack verdict: Social activists dismayed:  
As the acquittal of all accused in the infamous 2009 Mangaluru pub attack caused dismay among social activists, the Karnataka government today said it would study the court order and decide the next course of action.
   
Karnataka Women's Commission chairperson Nagalakshmi Bai said the commission finds itself helpless when the court has acquitted all the accused, adding at the most it can write to the government to file an appeal. 

Expressing dismay at the acquittal, women's rights activist Shakun Mohini of NGO Vimochana said, "This acquittal is part of a series of acquittals happening across India."

Pramod Muthalik, chief of the rightwing fringe outfit Sri Ram Sene and among the acquitted, said though "what was done was wrong" it was not a case of rape or murder.
   
Citing lack of evidence, a local court in Mangaluru had yesterday acquitted Muthalik and several others.

Muthalik was at the vortex of the controversy after the moral policing incident grabbed national attention.

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

Reacting to the court verdict, Bai said: "There is little for us to do. All we can do is write to the government to appeal against the order in the higher court after examining the order and the evidences on hand."

Mohini said, "I don't know how to react to this development."

Happy over the judicial outcome, Muthalik said, "It is a victory of our objective. Though the way it was done, it was wrong. it was not a big crime. It was not a case of rape or murder." 

-- PTI
19:45  Jaya Bachchan refuses to comment on Naresh Agarwal:  
Film actor and Samajwadi Party leader Jaya Bachchan on Tuesday refused to comment on her party's former colleague Naresh Agarwal, who termed her as a 'mere film dancer'

When reporters asked for her reaction on Agarwal's comments, Jaya said, "I am a stubborn lady, I will not answer."

Former SP leader Agarwal on Monday joined the Bharatiya Janata Party along with his MLA son Nitin Agarwal and supporters.

Agarwal also found him in the midst of a controversy over his remarks on Jaya Bachchan.

Agarwal said he was being neglected in the SP and was hurt when instead of him, the party gave the ticket to Jaya Bachchan "who used to dance in films'.

"My stature has been equated with that of a mere film actress. Just because she could dance and act in films, my candidature (to Rajya Sabha) has been sacrificed for her. I haven't taken it kindly," Agarwal said.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj took to Twitter on Monday and said, "Naresh Agrawal has joined Bhartiya Janata Party. He is welcome. However, his comments regarding Jaya Bachhan ji are improper and unacceptable."

Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani said when a woman's honour is challenged, "we stand as one in our condemnation irrespective of our politics"

-- ANI
19:18  Suhaib Ilyasi moves HC against life term in wife's murder case:  Former TV anchor and producer Suhaib Ilyasi today moved the Delhi high court challenging his conviction and life imprisonment for the offence of killing his wife Anju 18 years ago.

The appeal is likely to come up for hearing on March 15 before a bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and P S Teji.

Besides challenging the trial court verdict, Ilyasi, who was taken into custody on December 16 last year after his conviction, has also filed a bail application before the high court.

Advocate Rajiv Mohan, representing Ilyasi, said after amendment of the charge under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code for the offence of murder, he was not given an opportunity to cross examine all the witnesses.

The trial court had on December 20, 2017, sentenced Ilyasi to life term for stabbing his wife to death, saying he 'committed murder and gave it a colour of suicide'.

It had also imposed a fine of Rs two lakh on him and directed that Rs 10 lakh be paid as compensation to parents of Anju which would be borne by him.

Earlier, Ilyasi was charged with milder provisions, including 304B (dowry death) of the IPC.

However, Anju's mother Rukma Singh and sister Rashmi Singh had moved the Delhi high court which in August 2014 had ruled that the TV producer would be tried under Section 302 of the IPC for the offence of murder.

Anju was rushed to a hospital on January 11, 2000 with stab wounds she received at her East Delhi residence.

Ilyasi, who had shot into limelight after hosting TV crime show -- India's Most Wanted -- was arrested on March 28, 2000.

Charges were framed against him in the case after his sister-in-law and mother-in-law alleged that he used to torture his wife for dowry. He was granted bail later.  -- PTI
19:06  RBI discontinues issuance of LoUs by banks for import credit:   JUST IN: Reserve Bank of India discontinues issuance of Letters of Undertaking by banks for trade credits for imports into India with immediate effect.

The RBI said the decision to discontinue the practice of LoUs and Letters of Comfort (LoCs) for trade finance comes into force with immediate effect.

'On a review of the extant guidelines, it has been decided to discontinue the practice of issuance of LoUs/ LoCs for Trade Credits for imports into India by AD CategoryI banks with immediate effect,' the central bank said in a notification.

Earlier, the central bank had asked all banks to provide it with details of the LoUs, a form of credit guarantee, issued by them to business entities in recent years.

The RBI's order came days after India's second largest state-controlled lender, Punjab National Bank, informed the Bombay Stock Exchange that it had detected some 'fraudulent and unauthorised transactions' pertaining to the letters of undertaking it had issued at an estimated value of over Rs 11,380 crore.

Companies owned by billionaire Nirav Modi, a luxury diamond jewellery designer, and his uncle, Mehul Choksi, were alleged to have used these LoUs, obtained without any guarantee, to fund their businesses.  -- PTI, Agencies
18:47  60 incidents of terror violence in JK in 2018; 15 security men killed:  As many as 60 incidents of terrorist violence have taken place in Jammu and Kashmir this year in which 15 security personnel and 17 terrorists were killed, the Lok Sabha was informed today.

Union minister of state for home Hansraj Gangaram Ahir said the 60 incidents had taken place till March 4 this year, as against 39 such incidents during the same period last year.

Replying to a written question, he said 15 security personnel, 17 terrorists and two civilians had been killed till March 4 this year. During the same period last year, 10 security personnel, 26 terrorists and four civilians were killed.

"The state of Jammu and Kashmir has been affected by terrorist violence that is sponsored and supported from across the border. The levels of terrorist violence in the hinterland of J&K are linked to the infiltration from across the border," he said.

Ahir said there were 16 attempts by terrorists to enter Jammu and Kashmir in January this year.

Four infiltrating terrorists were killed by security forces, while infiltrators managed to cross into the state on five occasions.

Ahir  also informed the Lok Sabha that Pakistan violated the ceasefire along the Line of Control and the International Border in Jammu and Kashmir 633 times in the first two months of this year in which 10 security personnel and 12 civilians were killed.

Ahir said 432 incidents of ceasefire violation have taken place along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir and 201 such incidents along the International Border till February this year.

There were 860 incidents of ceasefire violation along the LoC and 111 incidents of ceasefire violation along the IB in Jammu and and Kashmir in 2017, he said in a written reply to a question.

Ahir also said that 12 civilians were killed and 59 others were injured in such incidents this year.

Six army personnel were killed and 18 other soldiers injured in these incidents.

Four Border Security Force personnel were killed and 22 BSF jawans injured in these incidents ceasefire violation.  -- PTI
18:25  You're fired! Trump dismisses Secretary of State Rex Tillerson:  
US President Donald Trump sacks Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, replacing him with CIA chief Mike Pompeo. 

Replacing Pompeo at the CIA will be Gina Haspel, making her the first woman to head the agency. 

The Washington Post first reported the news, which the president quickly confirmed in a tweet. Trump thanked Tillerson for his service and said Pompeo will do a "fantastic job."

Trump tweeted, "Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State. He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!"

Since Tillerson took the post in February 2017, mixed messages repeatedly came out of the White House and a State Department with diminishing relevance. The intramural clashes between the president and secretary of State came amid major international crises, including a potential nuclear showdown with North Korea.
18:06  Bhandari re-elected as Nepal president:  Nepal's first woman president Bidya Devi Bhandari was today re-elected for a second term in office.

Incumbent President Bhandari defeated Nepali Congress leader Kumari Laxmi Rai with an overwhelming majority in the presidential election.

Bhandari, 56, won since her nomination was backed by the ruling Left alliance of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist and CPN (Maoist Centre), the Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum-Nepal and other fringe parties.

She became Nepal's first woman president in 2015.

With 148 lawmakers in the Federal Parliament and 243 in Provincial Assemblies, the CPN-UML commands a total vote of 23,356.

CPN (Maoist Centre) has 65 lawmakers in parliament and 108 in provincial assemblies, which account for 10,319 votes.

The Nepali Congress, which has 76 seats in parliament and 113 in provincial assemblies, has a total vote of 11,428.

As Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum-Nepal and other fringe parties also deciding to support Bhandari, she could easily garner 26,921 votes for her re-election.

An electoral college, including members of parliament and provincial assemblies, will vote in the election.  -- PTI
17:45  Sushma Swaraj to travel to China next month:  External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will travel to China next month to participate in the foreign ministers meeting of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), ahead of its summit that is expected to be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Chinese city of Qingdao in June.

Swaraj's visit also comes in the backdrop of efforts being made by India and China to move forward after last year's military stand-off in Doklam, which still remains an area of monitoring and strategic significance for New Delhi amidst China building infrastructure for its troops there.

According to officials, Swaraj is scheduled to travel to Japan on a bilateral visit from March 28, and will also undertake a trip to the US to participate in the strategic dialogue in the '2+2' format (foreign and defence consultations) in Washington on April 18.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is also scheduled to travel to the US for the dialogue.

"The external affairs minister will be travelling to China to attend the SCO foreign ministers' scheduled for April 23-24," a senior official said.

India, which had been an 'observer' in the Eurasian grouping since 2005, was made full member last year along with Pakistan.

During her China visit, Swaraj is also expected to hold bilateral meeting with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on the sidelines of the summit.

The two leaders had held a bilateral in December here on the sidelines of the Russia-India-China (RIC) trilateral.

The minister is also likely to hold bilateral talks with her counterparts from other SCO countries on the sidelines of the meeting but it was not clear whether she will have any bilateral interaction with her Pakistani counterpart.

The visit is also seen as an opportunity for both India and China to work on the agreement, reached between Prime Minister Modi and President Xi Jinping in Xiamen in September last year, that sound development of relations between India and China are a factor of stability amidst today's global uncertainties, and that the two countries should not allow their differences to become disputes.

The meeting between Modi and Xi was the first top-level interaction between the two countries after the Doklam face-off. Troops of India and China were locked in a 73-day-long standoff in Doklam from June 16 last year after the Indian side stopped the building of a road in the disputed area by the Chinese Army.

The face-off ended on August 28.

Sources said China has been keeping its troops in north Doklam and significantly ramping up its infrastructure in the disputed area.  -- PTI
17:22  Rio government sails through trust vote in assembly:  The Neiphiu Rio-led government in Nagaland won the floor test in the assembly today.

The legislators, who met for the first time since the formation of the new government, elected Vikho-O Yhoshu of the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party as the new speaker.

In the 60-member Assembly, 33 votes were cast in favour of the confidence motion and 26 against it. Barring the speaker, all 59 legislators signed a register to cast their vote for the motion today.

Of the 33 MLAs that voted in favour of the Rio government, 17 were NDPP members, 12 were of the Bharatiya Janata Party, two of the National People's Party, one was a Janata Dal-United MLA and another was an Independent legislator.

Yhoshu had served as an MLA for three terms in the past.

He represents the southern Angami-I constituency.

Polling to 59 seats was held in Nagaland on February 27.

Rio, who had won unopposed from the Northern Angami-II Assembly constituency on February 12, staked claim to form government with the support of 34 legislators on March 4, a day after the results were announced.

The chief minister, along with 10 other ministers, were administered the oath of office by Governor P B Acharya on March 8.

Acharya had asked the newly-elected chief minister to prove his majority on the floor of the House by March 16.  -- PTI
17:14  Delhi court grants bail to Karti's CA in INX Media case:  A Delhi court today granted bail to Karti Chidambaram's chartered accountant S Bhaskararaman, arrested in the INX Media money laundering case. Special judge Sunil Rana granted bail to Bhaskararaman, who was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on February 16 from a five-star hotel in the heart of the national capital. The court granted the relief to the CA and asked him to furnish a bail bond of Rs 2 lakh and a surety of like amount. It asked Bhaskararaman to cooperate in the investigation as and when required by the ED and asked him not to leave the country without its permission.
16:36  SC extends deadline for linking Aadhaar indefinitely:  The five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, said the government cannot insist for mandatory Aadhaar. The Supreme Court therefore says mandatory Aadhaar linking with bank accounts and mobile phones will stand extended indefinitely till the judgement is pronounced. 
16:30  SC extends deadline for linking Aadhaar to bank accounts, phones:  Just in: The Supreme Court extends the deadline for linking Aadhaar to bank accounts and telephone linking. The deadline was supposed to be March 31 for linking Aadhaar with both bank accounts and mobile phones. The deadline has been extended till the SC delivers the verdict on the validity. However, Aadhaar linking is validity for social subsidy schemes.  Details awaited.  
16:24  60% of Narendra Modi's 40.3 million followers are fake:  @Twiplomacy has the figures on something we all knew -- fake followers on Twitter accounts of world leaders.
16:06  The killing of Gauri Lankesh:  What the assassination of a Bangalore journalist says about media complacency in the face of Hindu nationalism's violent rise in India. Do read
15:12  Rajnath on Sukma attack:  Home Minister Rajnath Singh on the Naxal attack in Sukma: My heartfelt condolences to the families of those personnel who lost their lives in Sukma blast. I pray for the speedy recovery of the injured jawans. I spoke to DG CRPF regarding the Sukma incident and asked him to leave for Chhattisgarh.
15:07  @rahulpandita CRPF casulaties in #Sukma IED blast: ASI RKS Tomar, Constables Ajay Kr Yadav, Manoranjan Lanka, Jitendra Singh, Shobhit Sharma, Manoj Singh, Dharmendra Singh, Chandra HS, Head constable Lakshman
15:06  CRPF's mine-protected vehicle blown up by multiple IEDs:  Update on the Naxal attack in Sukma.

Nine CRPF personnel were today killed after suspected Naxals blew up their mine-protected vehicle in Chhattisgarh's Sukma, around a year after a dozen jawans were killed in a similar ambush in the district. Officials said the incident took place around 12:30 pm along the Kistaram-Palodi road of the district when the troops of the 212th battalion of the Central Reserve Police Force were out on an operation.


At least nine men have been killed, while two other jawans suffered injuries after the mine-protected vehicle was blown up by multiple improvised explosive devices (IEDs) concealed under the dirt track, a senior official said. The injured personnel are being airlifted to Raipur, they said.


The rebels used a lot of explosives to blow up the vehicle, a state police official said. Soon after the incident, reinforcements were rushed to the spot, around 500 km from state capital Raipur, he said, adding further details were awaited.


Officials added that the first encounter between the two sides took place at 8 am and later this contingent was targeted by the Maoists. Twelve personnel of the force were killed on March 11 last year in the Bheji area of the district and their arms looted, when Naxals ambushed their patrol party.


A few days later on April 24, twenty-five personnel of the paramilitary were killed in a similar ambush in Sukma. -- PTI


Image: The remains of the mine-protected vehicle which was blown up by Naxals
14:58  Karti's 1st day in Tihar jail :  A trial court yesterday, sent Karti Chidambaram, son of former Union minister P Chidambaram, to judicial custody till March 24 in the INX Media corruption case.


Karti was sent to the notorious Tihar jail in Delhi; this was how his first day in prison panned out.


Karti was given prison clothes but he chose to keep what he was wearing -- a pair of jeans. Sources say Karti did not want to wear a dhoti because he did not want other prisoners to identify him as a south Indian.


This morning, Karti had to stand in queue to get his breakfast and at night, his dinner. Karti said he was feeling suffocated and so as standard operating procedure, two doctors checked his health and submitted the report to the jail superintendent. The superintendent, incidentally, was speaking to Karti in Hindi, but Karti asked him to speak in English. Karti wanted three English newspapers and two tamil papers, which were provided to him.


His mother Nalini Chidambaram and his wife are likely to visit him at 4 pm.


Tihar Jail is manned by the Tamil Nadu police and Karti finds some solace in being able to speak to Tamil with them. He wanted coffee and asked to meet his daughter, which the jail superintendent permitted.


The court had rejected Karti's plea seeking allotment of a separate prison in Tihar Jail saying that in view of social status of the accused and his father, he cannot be treated different from the other accused.


File pic.
14:18  Naxals kill 8 CRPF men in Chhattisgarh:  Eight personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force were killed when suspected Maoists blew up their mine-protected vehicle (MPV) in Chhattisgarh's Sukma district today, an official said.


Some jawans were also reported to be injured in the explosion, but there was no official confirmation yet, he said.


The blast occurred when a team of CRPF's 212th battalion was patrolling in a forest in Kistaram area of Sukma, located around 500 km from Raipur, a paramilitary official told PTI.


"Eight paramilitary personnel, belonging to the 212th battalion, were killed in the blast," he said.


The security men were conducting an area-domination operation in the forest of Kistaram when the Maoists blew up the CRPF's mine-protected vehicle, he said.


The rebels used a lot of explosives to blow up the vehicle, the official said. Soon after the incident, reinforcement was rushed to the spot, he said, adding that further details were awaited. -- PTI


Representational image.
14:01  Eight CRPF personnel killed in a Naxal attack in Chhattisgarh's Sukma district, says official.
13:57  Nepal plane crash caused by confusion about runway?:  Nepalese investigators have retrieved the black box from the wreckage a Bangladeshi plane that crashed here, killing 49 people, authorities said today as the conversation between the air traffic controllers and the pilot before the tragedy indicated a possible confusion over the runway.


The Dhaka to Kathmandu US-Bangla Airlines flight, with 67 passengers and four crew members on board, caught fire after it careened off the runway and ploughed into a football ground near the Tribhuvan International Airport yesterday.


"The flight data recorder has been recovered we have kept it safely," said Raj Kumar Chettri, the airport's general manager, adding that an investigation into the cause of the crash had begun.


The airline and airport authorities have blamed each other for the tragedy, the worst in the country in 25 years, after it emerged that there was confusion over landing instructions.


The last four minutes of the conversation between the pilot and Air Traffic Control at the airport indicates a possible confusion in the mind of the pilot about Runway 02 (the southern end) and Runway 20 (the northern end), a Nepalese newspaper reported.


The Nepali pilots of other aircraft are heard warning the ATC that the US-Bangla pilot seems disoriented, according to the Nepali Times. At the very outset of the tape, the control tower was heard warning the pilot, "I say again, do not proceed towards Runway 20." And later, he is warned to remain on hold and not to land because there is another aircraft on approach.


After the plane apparently takes a right orbit, the ATC asks the pilot whether he wants to land on Runway 02 or 20. The latter responds and says "We would like to land on 20"; he is cleared to land on that end of the runway, the report said.


The pilot was then asked if he has the runway in sight, to which he replies, 'Negative', it said. He was asked to turn right, but immediately after that, the Flight 211 pilot says "Affirmative", that the runway is in sight.


The pilot then says, "Cleared to land Runaway 02", even though he had sought permission for 20. However, ATC too now clears him to land on Runway 02.


Meanwhile, speaking to the Army 53 aircraft which is on hold about 10 kilometres away, the ATC says the Bangladesh aircraft is "on final for 20".


The last recorded words of the pilot are: "[Unintelligible] said sir, are we cleared to land?" After some silence, the clearly alarmed ATC controller shouts, "I say again, turn'!".


There is silence for a while, then a 'Fire One' calls the tower, indicating that a crash has occurred and the airport fire tender has been activated. The Dhaka-based US-Bangla Airlines is a private carrier that launched in July 2014 with the motto "Fly Fast Fly Safe". The airlines is a unit of the US-Bangla Group, a US Bangladeshi joint venture company. -- PTI
13:30  Is party hopping a sign of machismo: Renuka Chowdhury on Naresh Agarwal:  Ministers unite across party lines to condemn Naresh Agarwal's comment on Jaya Bachchan. Congress party's Renuka Chowdhury reacts: Jaya-ji is an achiever, even before marrying Amitabh Bachchan she was famous as Jaya Bhaduri. Saari party ghumte hain (Naresh Agrawal), fayda dekh ke dusri party mein kood padte hain, ye mard ki pehchan hai? What he thinks doesn't matter, question is what is BJP doing?"


Facing a backlash for belittling actor-politician Jaya Bachchan, BJP leader Naresh Agrawal today offered his regrets but said his comments were twisted by the media. Agrawal, who lost out to Bachchan in the race for re-nomination to the upper house and yesterday quit the Samajwadi Party to join the BJP, had said at a press conference that the SP denied him the RS ticket and gave it to somebody who used to dance and act in films.


"My intention was not to hurt anybody's sentiments. I regret if my comment has hurt somebody's feelings and withdraw my words," he said today. He also claimed that the media had twisted his comments. His comments invited strong criticism from many BJP leaders, including Sushma Swaraj, who said they were "improper and unacceptable".
13:02  Rajinikanth tries to find peace in the Himalayas:  Tamil superstar and debutant politician Rajinikanth is on a multi-state pilgrimage. First up is Himachal Pradesh, followed by Uttarakhand and then meditation in Jammu for two days.

Four close associates will be accompanying Rajni on this tour.

Former Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh Prem Kumar Dhumal welcomed Rajini, annointing him as the future chief minister of Tamil Nadu.

Rajini who is fluent in Hindi quickly retorted  that he is yet to launch a political party.

Correspondents of many television channels who were tipped off about Rajini's whereabouts by BJP officials in Himachal Pradesh covered his visit to the state.

Rajini avoided political questions asking the media to leave him alone. "I have come here to find peace and to pray, meditate and keep maun vrat (complete silence) for two days," he told the media.  

Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand governments have provided police protection to the superstar.


Image: This picture was tweeted by the BJP's Sambit Patra, saying, "Chance meeting."
12:48  Harsimrat Kaur: Why are such things said only for women?:  Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal on Naresh Agrawal's jibe at SP's Rajya Sabha MP Jaya Bachchan: "It is sad, if elected representatives will talk like that then what is the difference between them and roadside romeos? Even men dance and sing in movies then why are such things said only for women?"
12:41  Malala's next book to focus on refugee experience:  Nobel peace prize winner Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai has announced her next book "We Are Displaced".


Little, Brown Books for Young Readers has acquired the rights of the book, which will focus on the refugee experience and is described as an introduction for young readers to "what it means to lose your home, your community, and the only world you've ever known."


According to Entertainment Weekly, Yousafzai will begin by recounting her own experience, and then share the personal stories of those she has met on her journeys to various refugee camps and the cities where refugee girls and their families have settled.


"What tends to get lost in the current refugee crisis is the humanity behind the statistics. We hear about millions of refugees, hundreds of migrants trapped on a boat or in a truck, but it's only when a truly shocking image appears in the news that people consider what's really going on.


"I know what it's like to leave your home and everything you know. I know the stories of so many people who have had to do the same. I hope that by sharing the stories of those I have met in the last few years I can help others understand what's happening and have compassion for the millions of people displaced by conflict," Malala said in a statement.


"We Are Displaced" will be published on September 4. Malala is best known for her best-selling memoir "I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World,". The book ranked on the New York Times best-seller list. -- PTI
12:36  SC to hear ED's plea against Delhi HC order on Karti:   The Supreme Court will hear the ED's plea challenging the Delhi High Court order granting interim protection to Karti Chidambaram, son of Congress leader P Chidambaram, in a money laundering case related to the INX Media corruption matter on March 15.


A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud today considered the Enforcement Directorate's submission for urgent hearing of its appeal and said it would be heard day after tomorrow.


Advocate Rajat Nair, appearing for the probe agency, mentioned the ED's appeal for urgent hearing. On March 9, the Delhi High Court gave Karti Chidambaram a breather in a money laundering case and restrained the ED from arresting him till March 20.


A CBI court yesterday sent Karti Chidambaram to judicial custody till March 24. The court also refused his plea for urgent hearing on his bail plea which was already listed for March 15.


Following the high court order, he cannot be arrested by the ED if the CBI court grants him bail on March 15.


Karti Chidambaram has approached the high court to strike down the powers of arrest of the ED under Section 19 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) as unconstitutional and in violation of Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution, which deal with the rights of people for equality before law and protection of personal liberty. -- PTI
12:09  SBI reduces charges on non-maintenance of minimum balance:  The State Bank of India today reduced its charges on non-maintenance of an average monthly balance in savings account by up to 75 per cent, effective April 1.


The charges for non-maintenance of AMB for customers in metro and urban centres have been reduced from a maximum of Rs 50 per month plus goods and services tax, to Rs 15 per month plus GST.


The above revision will benefit 25 crore bank customers. For semi-urban and rural centres, the charges have been reduced from Rs 40 per month plus GST to Rs 12 and Rs 10 per month plus GST, respectively, the bank said in a release.  -- PTI
11:52  Amitabh Bachchan falls ill during shoot in Jodhpur:   Just in: Superstar Amitabh Bachchan has fallen ill while shooting the Aamir Khan film, Thugs of Hindostan, in Jodhpur. He was taken suddenly ill during the middle of the shoot. A team of doctors were flown in from Jodhpur to check on him and his condition is reported to be stable. The cause of his uneasiness is not clear as of now. More details awaited.  
11:29  Delhi HC judge recuses herself from hearing Karti's bail plea:  Justice Indermeet Kaur of the Delhi High Court today recused herself from hearing the bail plea of Karti Chidambaram, arrested by the CBI in the INX Media corruption case.


Justice Kaur, who did not give any reason for her recusal, said she would refer the matter to the Acting Chief Justice for assigning the bail plea to another bench for today itself.


The bail plea was yesterday mentioned before a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar and was listed for hearing today. Karti's parents P Chidambaram and Nalini Chidambaram, both senior advocates, were present in the courtroom.


Karti, the arrested son of former Union minister P Chidambaram, had moved the high court seeking bail, hours after a court here sent him to judicial custody till March 24.


A special court had yesterday 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. -- PTI
11:08  Sunanda Pushkar case: Delhi Police fail to identify fingerprints:  The Delhi Police have failed to identity the "unknown fingerprints" found in the room at Hotel Leela where Sunanda Pushkar, wife of Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, was found dead four years ago, derailing the investigation in the mysterious death.The police had stumbled upon the crucial evidence -- the fingerprints -- at the crime scene, but investigators could not turn this into a lead.

Read the DNA report on Sunanda Pushkar's death here.

11:04  These traditional Chhattisgarh dishes are in Gordon Ramsay's menu :  In other news, two tribal foods from Bastar in Chhattisgarh -- Chapda chutney and Dona Pudga - have made it to the international food menu, thanks to, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, who loved them so much he decided to add them in his menu.


Chapda chutney is chutney made of red ant, which is deemed as not only healthy but also keeps diseases at bay. Dona Pudga is a dish wherein the chicken seasoned with basic spices is wrapped in a leaf and roasted over a fire. No oil is used in the cooking.


A while back, Gordon was traveling across India for his documentary on Indian food when he decided to visit Bastar on the suggestion of his assistant Sarah.


In the 12 minutes he dedicated to these dishes in the documentary, Ramsay termed Chapda chutney the world's best chutney and called both the dishes as healthy.


Ramsay travelled in the Naxal-prone areas of Darba's Manjhipal on a bullet motorcycle and spent three days and two nights here.


During his stay, he learned about the red ant. He got completely floored by Chapda chutney when he had it with the local Mahua alcoholic beverage.


Ramsay's 16-member team thoroughly enjoyed this food too. -- ANI
10:32  Naresh Agarwal expresses 'regret' for remarks on Jaya Bachchan:  Former Samajwadi Party leader and now BJP leader Naresh Agarwal expresses regret for his remarks on SP MP Jaya Bachchan.


Speaking to ANI, Agarwal said, "Agar meri kisi baat se kisi ko thes pahuchi hai toh main khed vyakt karta hun. I express regret if anyone has been hurt by my comments."


In his initiation ceremony at the BJP headquarters yesterday, Naresh Agrawal said that he was humiliated by the SP as he lost the Rajya Sabha election ticket to Jaya Bachchan.


"My status was reduced to that of a film actor. Because of her, the ticket was not given to me, which I did not find right. Films mein kaam karne wali se meri hesiyat kardi gayi, unke naam par humara ticket kataa gaya, maine isko bhi bahut utchit nahi samjha," he said.


He was welcomed at the BJP's Delhi headquarters by union minister Piyush Goyal, but the party was soon left acutely embarrassed by his attack on Jaya Bachchan in his first speech.


BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra immediately distanced his party from Mr Agrawal's remarks, saying the BJP respects people from all fields and welcomes them in politics.


Union minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted, "Shri Naresh Agarwal has joined Bhartiya Janata Party. He is welcome. However, his comments regarding Jaya Bachchan ji are improper and unacceptable."


Agrawal represents the Hardoi constituency at the Upper House, and at the expiration of his term, the party choose to field Bachchan from that seat.


Bachchan is a three-time MP and was first elected to the Upper House by the Samajwadi Party in 2004 till March 2006. She got a second term from June 2006 and was re-elected in 2012 for the third term. Her third term comes to an end on April 3.
10:14  And that's how it ended. The Maharashtra government organised trains for the farmers to return home. The government has accepted two of their nine demands.
10:00  25 years later: Mumbai's 12 blast sites today:  In the high-voltage Kisan Long March that ended yesterday with the Maharashtra government seemingly agreeing to most of their demands, the date yesterday -- March 12 -- India's first tryst with terrorism -- was forgotten. The serial bomb blasts in Mumbai of 1993 left 257 dead and a country scarred forever.


Rediff.com photographers Hitesh Harisinghani and Afsar Dayatar revisit the sites of the blasts. Take a journey with them here.
09:38  IndiGo cancels 47 flights after DGCA grounds planes with faulty engines:  
Budget carrier IndiGo has cancelled as many as 47 flights today after the country's aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation grounded its eight A320Neo planes with faulty Pratt and Whitney engines, along with three such aircraft of GoAir.
 
IndiGo has cancelled 47 flights across its domestic network on March 13, the airline announced on its website.
 
The flights that have been cancelled are from Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Patna, Srinagar, Bhubaneswar, Amritsar, Srinagar and Guwahati, among others.
 
The DGCA cracked the whip after an IndiGo flight bound for Lucknow returned to Ahmedabad within 40 minutes of its getting airborne due to a mid-air engine failure yesterday.
 
Citing safety of aircraft operations, the director of the DGCA, in the March 12 order, said that A320 Neos fitted with PW1100 engines beyond ESN 450 have been grounded with immediate effect.
 
Three other IndiGo A320Neo planes have been on the ground since February following similar engine problems.
 
Yesterday, hundreds of passengers were stranded across the country as dozens of flights were cancelled by IndiGo and GoAir following the grounding of 11 planes.
 
IndiGo operates about 1,000 flights daily.
 
IndiGo carries about 40 per cent of domestic flyers, while GoAir has a market share of around 10 per cent.
09:16  If you truly respect women, then act against Naresh Agarwal: Akhilesh to BJP:  
Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav today dared the Bharatiya Janata Party to take action against Rajya Sabha MP Naresh Agarwal over his indecent comment against actor-politician Jaya Bachchan.

"We condemn BJP's Naresh Agrawal for using indecent comment against Jaya Bachchan. It is an insult to the film industry and every woman in India. If the BJP truly respects women, then they should act against him. The women commission should also take action," Akhilesh tweeted.

On Monday, the former SP leader created a furore after calling Bachchan as someone "who used to dance in films".

Agrawal, who lost out to Bachchan in the race for re-nomination to the upper house to Jaya Bachchan, on Monday quit the Samajwadi Party and joined the BJP.

"I have been reduced to somebody working in films. For somebody who used to dance in films, act in films, I was denied a ticket (for Rajya Sabha). I did not find it appropriate," Agarwal said while joining the BJP at its headquarters.

A couple of hours later, senior BJP leader and its most prominent woman face Sushma Swaraj took to Twitter to criticise Agarwals comments.

"Naresh Agrawal has joined Bhartiya Janata Party. He is welcome. However, his comments regarding Jaya Bachhan ji are improper and unacceptable," the external affairs minister tweeted.
08:55  Ex-spy's poisoning in UK 'will trigger a response', says US:  
United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has stated that the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal in Britain "clearly came from Russia" and it "certainly will trigger a response."

However, he said that he would not dwell upon what response might follow, according to a media report.

Tillerson spoke to reporters on his aircraft as he flew from Nigeria to Washington.

Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were found collapsed after being poisoned last week. Both remain in a serious condition along with a police officer who came in contact with the same substance.

The United States has expressed "outrage" over a nerve agent attack on a former spy and his daughter in an attempted murder in the United Kingdom allegedly by Russia. -- ANI, PTI
08:48  Trump-Kim meeting will happen only if N Korea fulfills promises: WH:  
The meeting between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un would go as planned if Pyongyang sticks to the promises it made, particularly regarding missiles and nuclear test, the White House said on Monday.
Last week, a South Korean delegation, led by its national security advisor, informed Trump that Kim Jon-un has invited him for a meeting. The invitation, conveyed to orally, was accepted by Trump, a decision that took the world by surprise.
"We fully expect that it (the meeting) will (take place). The offer was made and we've accepted. North Korea made several promises and we hope that they would stick to those promises and, if so, the meeting will go on as planned," White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters at her daily news conference.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration is continuing to prepare on a number of levels for the meeting.
"Most of that is an inter-administration, interagency process and I'm not going to get ahead of any of the details of the where, the when, or any of that here today," she said, responding to a series of questions on the meeting between the two leaders.
Sanders said that the maximum pressure campaign on North Korea is working. 
"We know that they have responded due to that, and they have pushed this message through the South Koreans to us. We have accepted their invitation on the three promises that they made, and were going to move forward in this process," she said.
Meanwhile, in New York, US' National Security Advisor HR McMaster and US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, briefed members of the UN Security Council on developments related to North Korea. -- PTI
00:12  Maybe Jews, minorities behind US poll meddling: Putin:  
Jewish groups are criticising Russian President Vladimir Putin after he suggested Russian minorities such as Jews or Tatars could be behind alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.

Putin was speaking with NBC News' Megyn Kelly as she repeatedly asked him about Russian involvement in the election. Last month, special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities for allegedly meddling in the 2016 presidential election, charging them with conspiracy to defraud the United States.

At one point, Putin suggested that other ethnic groups may have been involved.

"Maybe they're not even Russians," he said. "Maybe they're Ukrainians, Tatars, Jews, just with Russian citizenship. Even that needs to be checked. Maybe they have dual citizenship. Or maybe a green card. Maybe it was the Americans who paid them for this work. How do you know? I don't know."

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