Mon, 02 April 2018
Bharat bandh violence: UP police detains 'main conspirator' ex-BSP MLA

Timeline  Refresh

22:31   CBSE papers leak: Police questions school principal for over six hours
The principal of a school, whose two teachers were arrested for their alleged role in leaking class 12 economics paper, was grilled today for over six hours by the police, along with the arrested accused, said an official privy to the probe.

The police have also started investigating whether the papers were leaked from Haryana since some clues have emerged that the papers might have been leaked from there, he said.

The police have ruled out the possibility of collusion of the suspended CBSE official with the accused since they found nothing to indicate his involvement.

"The official was negligent in delivering the papers early but so far, we have found nothing to indicate his connivance," the official said.

"However, he had delivered the papers of all the subjects before the scheduled time which means that the accused could have circulated other papers too. We are questioning them to ascertain whether they were involved in leaking other papers too," he said.

Meanwhile, the police today quizzed the arrested teachers, Rishabh, 29, and Rohit, 26, of the Mother Khazani Convent School in Bawana, and private coaching centre tutor, Tauqeer, 26, along with the school principal.

The four men were first questioned separately and later they were quizzed together to ascertain whether the principal had any idea about Rishabh and Rohit's actions, he said.

Some loopholes were found in their versions which indicate that the principal might have been aware about the teachers allegedly leaking the economics paper.

The police have also started looking into some places in Haryana and are probing whether some CBSE officials or schools in Jhajjar, Sonepat, Bahadurgarh, were involved in leaking the papers.

"The papers were mostly circulated in outer Delhi and areas bordering Haryana," the official said.

The Delhi Police has lodged two cases over the leaks of the CBSE question papers.

The first case related to the leak of economics question paper was lodged on March 27, while the other pertaining to the leak of mathematics paper was lodged on March 28, following a complaint by the CBSE's regional director.  -- PTI
22:28   Bharat bandh violence: UP police detains 'main conspirator' ex-BSP MLA
The Uttar Pradesh Police has said that a former Bahujan Samaj Party MLA was the 'main conspirator' behind the violence that erupted in Meerut during protests against the Supreme Court's order on SC/ST Act on Monday.

Meerut SSP Manzil Saini said ex-BSP MLA Yogesh Verma has been detained.

"He is the main conspirator of this violence and we have detained him," Saini, SSP said.

"More than 200 people have been detained and we are getting cases registered against them. All conspirators and hooligans involved in anti-social activities will be booked under NSA," Saini said.

BSP supremo Mayawati, while condemning the violence during the protests, said that 'anti-social elements were sent to incite violence'.

"I support the protest against the SC/ST Act. I have got to know that some people spread violence during the protests, I strongly condemn it. Our party is not behind the violence during the protests," Mayawati had said.

"Strict action should be taken against those who spread violence during the protests," she said.   -- ANI
21:12   Centre rushes anti-riot force to UP, MP, Rajasthan, Punjab
The Centre today rushed 1,700 anti-riot police personnel to Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab after violence erupted in the four states during a nationwide bandh called by Dalit outfits.

While eight companies of the Rapid Action Force were sent to Uttar Pradesh, four companies were despatched to Madhya Pradesh and three to Rajasthan, a home ministry official said.

An RAF company consists of around 100 personnel.

Two companies of the Border Security Force were sent to Punjab to assist the local administration quell the violence that broke out during the bandh called by Dalit groups protesting against the dilution of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

Curfew was imposed in the Morena, Gwalior and Bhind districts of Madhya Pradesh after a student leader was killed in firing and several other people were injured.

Violence was also reported from many districts of Uttar Pradesh, including Azamgarh where protesters torched two state-run buses, injuring several passengers.

Protests turned violent in Agra, Hapur and Meerut in western UP.

The Supreme Court had on March 20 diluted certain provisions of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in a bid to protect public servants discharging their 'bona fide' duties from being blackmailed with false cases under the Act.

The ruling has been widely criticised by Dalit groups and opposition parties which claim the dilution of the Act will lead to more discrimination and crimes against the community.   -- PTI

IMAGE: Smoke billows out of burning cars during Bharat Bandh against the alleged dilution of Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes act, in Muzzaffarnagar on Monday. Photograph: PTI Photo
20:15   Anti-apartheid campaigner Winnie Mandela dies
South African anti-apartheid campaigner Winnie Madikizela-Mandela has died.

She was 81.

Winnie Madikizela Mandela was the former wife of South Africa's ex-president Nelson Mandela.

More details awaited.

Photograph: Mike Hutchings/Reuters
Mortal remains of two people were brought to Kolkata. They were among 39 Indians killed by Islamic State in Iraq's Mosul. Photograph: ANI
19:51   Bedi urges PM to immediately constitute Cauvery Management Board
Puducherry Lt Governor Kiran Bedi today wrote to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to immediately constitute Cauvery Management Board and Cauvery Water Regulatory Committee.

Bedi said that she had also directed the Puducherry government to file an interlocutory petition before the Supreme Court to press for the demand of the Union Territory for the CMB forthwith.

As per the February 16 Supreme Court order, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry would be annually entitled to get 404.25 tmcft, 284.75 tmcft, 30 tmcft and 7 tmcft of Cauvery water respectively.

Bedi said that the agricultural operations in Karaikal, an enclave of Puducherry in Tamil Nadu, depended on the water from Cauvery river.

The area under cultivation had drastically reduced in the past due to shortage of water affecting the livelihood of farmers and farming labourers in Karaikal, she said.

The former IPS officer said that she had given approval to the Puducherry administration to file an interlocutory petition before the apex court 'to expedite the process of constitution of CMB and CWRC' so as to ensure the livelihood of the farmers of the Karaikal region.

Bedi requested the prime minister to direct the concerned ministry to constitute the CMB and CWRC forthwith without further delay.

The copy of the letter was also sent to the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Union Water Resources Minister Nitin Gadkari and Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy.

In a separate message through WhatsApp to media persons, the Lt Governor said that 'there is no conflict of interest' between the Centre and the Puducherry government in protecting the interests of the farmers in the union territory.  -- PTI
19:01   Cambridge Analytica seeks more time on government's data breach notice
Cambridge Analytica -- the firm at the centre of Facebook users' data breach -- has sought an additional time of one week to respond to government's notice questioning the company on alleged misuse of data to profile Indians and influence their voting behaviour.

The IT ministry had, last month, shot off notices to social media giant Facebook as well as Cambridge Analytica on the data breach issue and the deadline for the British data analytics firm to respond to the notice was March 31. Facebook has time till April 7 to send its detailed reply on the matter.

A source said that Cambridge Analytica has sought additional time of one week to respond to the government notice.

The notice had sought the company's response on the entities which engaged Cambridge Analytica, the method used by it for possession of data and whether consent was taken from users.

"The Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology, Government of India, has issued a notice... to Cambridge Analytica, wherein the serious breach of propriety and misuse of data intended to profile and influence voting behaviour has been highlighted," the IT ministry had said in a statement last month.

"Was there any profiling done on the basis of such data?," the ministry had sought to know from the company.

Law and IT Minster Ravi Shankar Prasad had previously warned social media giant Facebook of "stringent" action for any attempt to influence polls through data theft and had even threatened to summon its CEO Mark Zuckerberg, if needed.

-- PTI
18:40   Dhoni's Padma Bhushan comes on same day Indian won World Cup in 2011
Former India skipper MS Dhoni is conferred with the Padma Bhushan by the President of India Ram Nath Kovind at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. 

Interestingly, it was on the very same day back in 2011 that Dhoni launched pacer Nuwan Kulasekara for a whacking six over the long-on to end India's 28-year-old wait and helped his team lift the coveted World Cup trophy in front of a jam-packed Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. 

India defeated Sri Lanka by six wickets to lift their second World Cup title. The spectacular victory sent the entire nation into a frenzy as people took to the streets to celebrate Indias victory.

Photograph: ANI/Twitter
Billiards player Pankaj Advani receives Padma Bhushan at Rashtrapati Bhawan in Delhi.
18:30   Trump, Japan's Abe to meet in US April on North Korea: White House
Donald Trump will meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe April 17-18 to discuss the US president's planned summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un and other matters, the White House said today.

Trump and Abe will at Trump's Mar-a-Lago in Florida where they "will discuss the international campaign to maintain maximum pressure on North Korea," the statement said.
18:21   Rajeev Chandrasekhar bids adieu to Republic TV
Media honcho Rajeev Chandrasekhar, who recently joined the Bharatiya Janata Party, has resigned from ARG Outlier Asianet News Private Limited that owns Arnab Goswami's Republic TV.

In a statement, Rajeev Chandrasekhar said, "I have taken this decision because of my recent joining of BJP and being elected as BJP MP."

"As you are aware, from 2006 I have been in public life as an Independent MI and not a member of any political party. Since I am now a member of the BJP, I believe it is in the best interest of Republic TV's brand and team that I no longer serve on the board," the official statement further read.

Chandrasekhar was one of the largest investors and a director in Republic and his resignation has come to effect from March 31.

-- ANI
17:54   AAP's Vishwas will not apologise to Jaitley
AAP leader Kumar Vishwas will not apologise to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, his close aide said today, even as his party colleagues expressed regret for their comments against the BJP leader.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal along with AAP leaders Sanjay Singh, Ashutosh, Deepak Bajpai and Raghav Chadha had alleged irregularities in the Delhi District Cricket Administration (DDCA) which was once headed by Jaitley.

A joint plea was today moved in a Delhi court by Jaitley, Kejriwal, Singh, Ashutosh, Bajpai and Chadha to "settle" their more than two years old litigation over alleged defamatory statements made against the BJP leader.

The development came after Kejriwal, Singh, Ashutosh, Bajpai and Chadha apologised for their remarks. However, Vishwas did not move any plea to settle the litigation. So, the defamation case against him will continue.

"He (Vishwas) will not apologise and pursue the cases that have been filed against him," his aide Prabudh Kumar said. After Kejriwal started issuing apologies for the remarks made by him against his political opponents last month, Vishwas had said that he would contest the defamation cases filed against him.

Vishwas has been at the odds with the party leadership for sometime now and shares a very cold relationship with his once "close friend" Kejriwal. 

-- PTI
17:24   Navjot Sidhu announces ex-gratia for kin of those who died in Mosul
Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu on Monday announced an ex-gratia of Rs five lakh for the next kin of the 27 Indians belonging from Punjab, who was killed in Iraq's Mosul.

Apart from this, he assured job for a person from the family of victims and said that the pension of Rs 20, 000 which was currently being provided to the kin will continue.

Meanwhile, the mortal remains of 38 out of 39 Indians have reached Amritsar.

On March 20 External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in the Rajya Sabha informed the Parliament that 39 Indian nationals, who went missing in Mosul in 2014, were killed by the terror outfit Islamic State. 

-- ANI
17:07   Encrypted papers to be printed by schools: CBSE's answer to leaks
Facing flak over paper leaks, the Central Board of Secondary Education today put in place a 'leak-proof' system of "encrypted" question papers, which are supposed to be printed by the schools.

With just one dummy run, the system was implemented today and it faced  multiple glitches.
The CBSE sent a confidential note to all examination centres in Delhi on Saturday, which carried a set of ten instructions to be followed to introduce the new system.

"In the light of the recent developments, CBSE has devised a mechanism of providing encrypted question paper at the examination centres just before the commencement of examination, the note read.
The instructions issued by the board to the centres included identifying a safe and secure room for installation of computers and printers and ensuring high-speed internet connection.
All computer teachers/staff were supposed to report to the examination centre by 7:30 am on all exam days to handle downloading and printing of the encrypted question papers.
The schools were also asked to arrange adequate A4 sheets -- at least 10 pages per candidate.
"On exam day, the question paper will be available on the CBSE website. The same user ID and password as used for registration can be used. After downloading the zip file of the question paper, the centres have to use the password provided by the regional office minutes before and extract it," the note read.
The schools were also supposed to send details of the number of printers, computers installed, name of the computer staff or teacher in charge by 4 PM yesterday.
The board had directed those schools which do not have required facilities to hire the same, and centre superintendents to personally supervise the arrangements and ensure adequate security arrangements.

-- PTI
16:49   NHRC notice to WB govt, police chief over violence in Asansol-Raniganj area
The National Human Rights Commissiontoday sent a notice to the West Bengal government and the state's police chief over alleged failure of law enforcement agencies "in protecting the liberty and dignity" of people who have become victims of violence in Asansol-Raniganj area during Ram Navami celebrations.

Expressing serious concern over the situation, the NHRC has issued the notice to the state's chief secretary, home secretary and the director general of police, seeking detailed report in four weeks, senior officials said.

The rights panel, in a statement, has also asked its Director General (Investigation) to depute a team headed by an officer not below the rank of an SSP to visit the disturbed areas of Asansol-Raniganj for spot investigation or inquiry to assess the actual situation and submit a report within three weeks.

The Asansol-Raniganj belt had witnessed clashes between two groups over Ram Navami celebrations, resulting in the death of one person. Two police officers were also injured in the clashes.

-- PTI
16:13   Jobs are not biscuits: VK Singh on compensation for families of Iraq victims
VK Singh, MoS MEA on if there would be some compensation announced today for the kin of the 38 Indians killed in Iraq: "Yeh biscuit baantne wala kaam nahi hai, ye admiyon ki zindagi ka sawal hai. Aa gayi baat samajh mein? Main abhi elaan kahan se karoon? Jeb mein koi pitaara thodi rakha hua hai. Jobs are not biscuits which can be distributed, this is a matter of the lives of people, you understand? How can I announce anything now? I don't have a kitty in my pocket."

Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu has announced compensation for 27 of the 39 Indians killed in Iraq who were from Punjab. He said an ex-gratia compensation of Rs 5 lakh per family, job for one person per family will be given and the current pension of Rs 20,000 will continue.
15:11   Plane carrying bodies of 38 Indians killed in Iraq lands in Amritsar
The special flight carrying the mortal remains of the 38 Indians killed in Iraq's Mosul, lands in Amritsar. MoS MEA VK Singh who was on the flight back, when asked whether the kin of the Indians killed would be given jobs, said, "This is not a game of football. Both the state and central governments are sensitive. The External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had asked the families for the details of their members who can be given jobs etc. The government will review it."

On Sunday, Singh left India, with a special flight to bring back the mortal remains of the Indians. 27 of the 38 bodies will be deboarded in Amritsar and will be sent to their respective homes, and the rest of the coffins will be sent to Patna.

The militants initially abducted 40 workers. One managed to escape, while the presumed remains of another have yet to be positively identified. Authorities are awaiting DNA samples from a relative.

Image: MoS VK Singh oversees a coffin, containing the body of one of the 38 Indians killed by ISIS in Iraq, being loaded on to a vehicle in Iraq. 
14:29   4 dead as protests over SC/ST Act rage across N India
Just in: IG Law and Order Makrand Deuskar says that four people have died in protests in Gwalior and Morena (Madhya Pradesh).  -- ANI
14:27   North India disrupted over protests on SC/ST Act
Update on Bharat bandh:

The Supreme Court has declined an urgent hearing of the review of the SC/ST Act.  The Centre today had filed a review petition in the Supreme Court against its order that there would be no automatic arrest on any complaint filed under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

As Dalit organisations called for protests and a Bharat bandh, this is what it looks like now.

19 people injured in Gwalior of which 2 are in critical condition. Internet services have been blocked in Gwalior district till 6 am tomorrow.

Morena: One person has died in Morena, curfew imposed in the area.

: Nearly 30 people were detained as Dalit groups protesting against the Supreme Court order on the SC/ST Act today blocked rail and road traffic and vandalised public property, including a train, in several parts of Rajasthan, disrupting normal life in the state.
Protestors gathered at major roads in the state capital lead to traffic snarls, while incidents of stone pelting and damage to public property were also reported, police said.

Odisha: Normal life was partially affected in several parts of Odisha today as dalit outfits staged protests and strike as part of a countrywide agitation against the Supreme Court order on the SC/ST  Act. Vehicular movement was affected in several areas including Jharsuguda, Sundargarh, Malkangiri, Sambalpur and other tribal-dominated districts,  police said. Buses also remained off the roads in Biramitrapur, Malkangiri, Kalahandi and Bolangir.

: Traffic came to a standstill in Lutyens' Delhi today as hundreds of protesters marched in unity   against the dilution of the SC/ST Act.
The protesters gathered at Mandi House protesting the Supreme Court order banning automatic arrest and registration of cases for alleged harassment of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
They blocked road outside the Mandi House Metro Station, bringing traffic to a halt as commuters faced inconvenience while travelling towards ITO and other stretches.
13:15   Kejriwal apologises to Jaitley
Just in: Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, AAP leaders Sanjay Singh and Ashutosh in a joint letter have apologised to Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the defamation case he had filed against them.

Jaitley had filed a Rs 10-crore defamation suit against Kejriwal and five other AAP leaders -- Raghav Chadha, Kumar Vishwas, Sanjay Singh, Ashutosh and Deepak Bajpai. All six alleged financial irregularities in the Delhi and District Cricket Association when Jaitley was its president. 

Last month, Kejriwal had apologised to Union Minister Nitin Gadkari and  senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal. Read that story here.
12:45   ICICI Bank's board to meet today
Private sector lender ICICI Bank said its board will meet today to review insolvency cases before National Company Law Tribunal, and other routine matters. This is the first time ICICI Bank's board will meet after the controversy over alleged conflict of interest involving its CEO Chanda Kochhar and Videocon group broke out.

ICICI Bank pointed out that the board meeting is routine in nature. "ICICI Bank's board meeting being held today is a pre-scheduled board meeting convened for review of cases which are before National Company Law Tribunal under Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, and other routine matters," the bank said in a BSE filing.

"It's important to note that the board has been meeting regularly in the first week of April in the previous years too, to review progress in resolution of large cases," it said.

Earlier this week, media reports mentioned the alleged involvement of Kochhar and her family members in a loan provided to Videocon group on quid pro quo basis. Concerns were also raised about transactions of Videocon group and NUPower Renewables, a company operated by her husband Deepak Kochhar.

The CBI has also questioned few ICICI Bank officials as part of a preliminary enquiry to find if any quid pro quo was involved in the bank's issuance of Rs 3,250-crore loan to the Videocon Group in 2012. ICICI Bank's board, however, has reposed full faith in Kochhar. -- PTI
Bharat bandh: Protests in Ghaziabad
12:40   1 dead in Bharat bandh in MP, curfew imposed
Bharat bandh: Curfew imposed in parts of Gwalior & Section 144 (prohibits assembly of more than 4 people in the area) imposed in Sagar. In Madhya Pradesh, one dead in Morena;, curfew imposed in the area.

Various Dalit organisations have called for a nationwide shutdown to protest against the Supreme Court's ruling on amendments under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989.

The National Democratic Alliance government has filed a petition seeking a review of the apex court's order diluting the provisions of the act that protects marginalised communities against discrimination and atrocities.

The apex court on March 20 had introduced the provision of anticipatory bail in the act while directing that there would be no automatic arrest on any complaint filed under the law.

Image: Curfew has been imposed in Morena after violence erupted over a bandh called to protest the amendments on the SC/ST Protection Act.
12:30   Protests erupt in Punjab, Haryana; CBSE postpones exams
Dalits calling for a Bharat Bandh protested at many places in Punjab today against the alleged dilution of the SC/ST Act, even as the state government ordered closure of educational institutions, suspended bus services, and curtailed mobile and internet connectivity.

Protests were witnessed at Ambala and Rohtak in Haryana as well as in Chandigarh. Amid tight security arrangements, the Dalits held protests at Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Ropar, Bathinda, Amritsar and Ferozepur in Punjab against the dilution of the Act.

The Supreme Court had on March 20 diluted certain provisions of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, in a bid to protect 'honest' public servants discharging bona fide duties from being blackmailed with false cases under the Act.

The verdict is being widely criticised by the Dalits and the Opposition who claim that the dilution of the Act will lead to more discrimination and crime against the backward community.

The Congress-led Punjab government had yesterday ordered a security clampdown as a precautionary measure, while the Army and paramilitary forces have been asked to be on standby to prevent any exigency.

Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had ordered that schools, colleges and other educational institutions would remain shut today, while the Internet services were suspended from 5 pm yesterday till 11 pm today.

Meanwhile, the CBSE postponed Class 12 and Class 10 examinations scheduled to be held today in Punjab at the request of the state government in view of the 'Bharat Bandh'.

"Taking cognisance of the letter of the director general (school education), the CBSE decided to postpone all class 12 and 10 examinations scheduled for April 2 , 2018 in the state of Punjab ," it said in a statement issued late in the night.

"Exams will carry on as per schedule in UT of Chandigarh and rest of the country," it said.

In a later development, the education department said the final practical examinations of Classes 10 and 12 of the Punjab School Education Board will be conducted on April 11 instead of April 2.

Public and private transport remained off the road. "Buses run by the Pepsu Road Transport Corporation (PRTC), Punjab Roadways, PunBus, and private operators will remain off the road during the bandh. Banks too will remain closed," an official spokesperson said.

The orders were issued after the chief minister reviewed the security arrangements with top police and administration officials last evening. Chief Minister makes appeal

The chief minister appealed to the protestors not to take the law into their own hands, obstruct transport movement or harass commuters.

He also appealed to them that the mortal remains of the 39 Indians killed in Iraq which are expected to arrive in Amritsar today, be allowed to be transported to their native villages without any impediment. As part of the elaborate security measures, four battalions each of the Rapid Action Force and the Border Security Force, and 12,000 additional police personnel will remain on duty to maintain law and order, an official spokesperson said.
Visuals of a Bharat bandh protest from Morena, Madhya Pradesh, over the SC/ST Protection Act.
12:10   Malala flies back to London
Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner, today returned to London after her first visit to Pakistan since she was shot in the head by Taliban militants for advocating girls' education more than five years ago.

Malala, 20, arrived in Islamabad on March 29. Local media footage showed a smiling Malala along with her parents at the airport in Islamabad to take a flight back to London after the four-day visit.

The visit was kept highly secret and hardly anyone knew until she landed in Islamabad and was driven in security to a hotel. On her visit, she met Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi at the PM House where a ceremony was also organised in her honour.

"I have been dreaming of returning to Pakistan for the past five years," teary-eyed Malala had said. She also made an emotional visit to her hometown in Mingora area of Swat district where she lived, went to school and was attacked in 2012.

"So much joy seeing my family home, visiting friends and putting my feet on this soil again," she had tweeted about the visit, terming Swat as "The most beautiful place on earth to me." Malala, who is currently studying at Oxford University, also said that she plans to return to Pakistan after completing her studies in Britain. -- PTI

Image: Malala had tweeted this picture with her family at the Swat province in Pakistan where she used to live, and was attacked.
12:06   Adityanath appeals for peace
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath appeals for peace even sporadic incidents of violence break out in the state. "The central and state govts are dedicated towards the welfare of backward castes, SC & ST. I appeal to all to not disturb the law & order. If at all there are any issues you can bring them to govt's notice," Adityanath said.
SC/ST protection act protests: Protesters stop a train in Jaipur.
11:48   Govt files review petition in SC/ST Act
The Centre has filed the review petition in the SC/ST Act .

This is what Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said: "I wish to convey that today we've filed a petition on the judgement by the Supreme Court on the SC/ST Act. We have filed a comprehensive review petition which will be presented before the court by the senior lawyers of the government."
Protests at Mandi House in Delhi.
Dalit protestors block the road in Bharatpur, Rajasthan. 
The Punjab government has suspended Internet services from 5 pm Sunday to 11 pm today. The army has been asked to remain on stand-by. Public transport services have also been temporarily suspended in the State. 
11:27   Bharat bandh call: Sporadic violence in parts of north India
There have been sporadic incidences of violence in Meerut, Agra, Patna, Rohtak, Delhi and Bagpat during the Bharat Bandh called by Dalit organisations and parties today to protest the amended SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act.

The government is expected to file a petition seeking a review of the Supreme Court order diluting the provisions of Act. The Act protects SCs and STs against discrimination and atrocities. The Supreme Court amended the SC/ST Act on March 20.

In the review petition drafted by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, the Centre says the the order will weaken the provisions of the Act.

The SC said that under the amended Act, public servants can't be prosecuted without the approval of the appointing authority, and private citizens can only be arrested after an inquiry.

The court also said that preliminary inquiry in a case under the Act would be conducted by the Deputy Superintendent of Police to ensure the allegations are not frivolous.

The amendment in the law was a bid to protect honest public servants discharging bona fide duties from being blackmailed with false cases under the Act.

However, dalit organisations and some political parties fear the dilution of the provisions of the Act might lead to increase in violence against Dalits.

Several dalit outfits have called for a Bharat Bandh today.

There have been sporadic incidences of violence in Meerut, Agra, Patna, Ranchi, Rohtak, Delhi, Bagpat and in Odisha.

A delegation of dalit MPs is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi today.

Image: A car from a media organisation was damaged in Meerut.
10:58   'Tough' H-1B visa application process begins
The process of filing petitions for H-1B visa has begun amidst unprecedented scrutiny by United States President Donald Trump's administration.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is the federal agency responsible to process the visas, has indicated that there will be zero tolerance for even minor errors.

H-1B is considered as the most sought-after work visa among highly-skilled Indian professionals.

It is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.

Earlier in March, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services had announced that it will temporarily suspended the premium processing for the H-1B visa.

"The USCIS will begin accepting applications for the fiscal year 2019 (October 2018 to September 2019) from April 2. The suspension will last until September 10," the body had said."

This temporary suspension will help us reduce overall H-1B processing times. By temporarily suspending premium processing, we will be able to.process long-pending petitions, which we have currently been unable to process due to the high volume of incoming petitions and the significant surge in premium processing requests over the past few years," the USCIS added.

The Donald Trump administration recently announced a new measure, making the approval of H-1B visa more tougher.

As per the new policy, any company will have to make one more clarification to prove that its H-1B employee at a third-party worksite has specific and non-qualifying speculative assignments in a speciality occupation.

The updated policy is a part of Trump's "Buy American and Hire American" Executive Order, which directs to protect the interests of US workers.

According to the US administration officials, the scrutiny is needed to ensure the integrity of the controversial visa programme, which according to critics has cost American jobs. -- ANI
The Supreme Court to hear on April 9 the Tamil Nadu's contempt plea against the Centre for not constituting the Cauvery Management Board. The CJI said the Cauvery issue will be solved.
10:48   Bharat bandh: Punjab CM appeals for Iraq victims' remains to reach home safe
In the wake of the 'Bharat Bandh' called by several Dalit organisations, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has appealed to protesters to ensure that mortal remains of the Iraq victims, that are expected to arrive in Amritsar tomorrow, are allowed to be transported to their villages without any impediment. He also directed the state police to provide strict security for the same.

On March 20, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj informed the Rajya Sabha members in the Parliament that all 39 Indian nationals, who went missing in Mosul in 2014, were killed by the terror outfit Islamic State.

The 39 persons, most of whom hailed from Punjab, were working on projects near Mosul when they were kidnapped.

On a related note, the Punjab police also made it clear to the protestors that a strict action will be taken against those who indulge in violence on April 2 across the state.

The Commissioner of Police in Ludhiana said, "4000 police personnel along with one company of Rapid Action Force to be deployed tomorrow. Strict action will be taken against those who indulge in violence."

Dalit organisations have called for a countrywide bandh on April 2 to protest the Supreme Court's verdict on March 20 that protects public servants from arbitrary arrests under the Act.

On March 20, the apex court, in a bid to check misuse of the SC/ST Act, ruled that preliminary enquiry in a case under the Atrocities Act would be done by the DSP to ensure the allegations are not frivolous, and to avoid the false implication of an innocent.

The court also held that a government official cannot be prosecuted on a mere allegation of committing an offense under the Act without the sanction of the appointing authority. -- PTI

Image: Police bandobast in Amritsar.
10:16   Baby snatched by monkey found dead
A newborn, who had been snatched away by a monkey from its mother's side at Talabasta village of Banki in Cuttack district on Saturday, was found dead today inside a well near the house, the police said.

The police and forest department officials could not trace the 16-day-old boy during their day-long searches.The family members of the new born first spotted the body floating in the 15-feet-deep well and retrieved it with the help of villagers, police said.

The eyewitnesses said the body bore an injury mark and was probably inside the well for over 24 hours, although it had not bloated.

"We are waiting for the autopsy report to ascertain the cause of death of the baby, which had a premature birth under Caesarean section," said investigating officer Priyabrat Rout, adding that a case of unnatural death has been lodged in this connection.

It appeared the new born might have slipped from the clutches of the monkey and subsequently died after falling into the well, but the investigation is in progress and is taking all possibilities into consideration, the police said.

The baby was sleeping next to his mother in the house when the monkey allegedly carried him away. His mother said she saw the monkey fleeing with the baby and raised an alarm. The villagers subsequently reported the incident to the authorities.-- PTI
10:06   INX Media case: SC to hear ED's plea against Karti
The Supreme Court will on Monday hear the plea filed by Enforcement Directorate against Karti Chidambaram, in the INX media money laundering case.

In a March 26 hearing, the apex court extended the interim protection of Karti from March 26 to April 2.

Earlier, the apex court granted interim protection to Karti from arrest by the ED in connection with the case.

On February 28, Karti was arrested at the Chennai airport on his return from the UK for his alleged role in facilitating Foreign Investment Promotion Board clearance for INX Media Ltd and its directors, Peter and Indrani Mukerjea.

Karti allegedly took service charges for getting the clearance to INX Media for receiving funds from abroad worth Rs 305 crore in 2007 when his father P Chidambaram was the Union finance minister in the Congress-led UPA government. -- ANI
10:02   Sensex begins FY19 on a firm note, rises over 100 points
Domestic equities opened on a firm note on the first trading day of the new financial year 2018-19 today, with Sensex reclaiming the 33,000-mark by rising over 100 points amid positive global cues.

The 30-share BSE benchmark, which had lost 205.71 points on the last session of FY18 on Wednesday, rose 133.32 points, or 0.40 per cent, to 33,102.00. The gains were led by auto, infrastructure, oil & gas, capital goods, healthcare, IT and metal stocks. Auto stocks such as Tata Motors, Maruti Suzuki, M&M and Bajaj Auto rose up to 2.46 per cent on the back of firm March sales data.

Other gainers include Adani Ports, Dr Reddy's, L&T, RIL, Yes Bank, Tata Steel, Kotak Bank, Infosys, HDFC, ONGC, Sun Pharma, SBI, HDFC Bank and TCS that gained up to 1.51 per cent.

In contrast, ICICI Bank, Coal India, Axis Bank, Asian Paint, Wipro and Hindustan Unilever were trading in the negative zone.
09:55   Mushroom coffee, folks?
Mushrooms are the new quirk for coffee lovers. Tero Isokauppila, the founder of the brand that introduced mushroom coffee to the world says it has numerous health benefits. The mushroom coffee is purportedly an anti-inflammatory, and is supposed to regulate blood sugar levels and boost metabolism.
09:41   Bodies of 38 Indians to be brought back from Iraq today
The mortal remains of 38 out of 39 Indians, who were killed in Iraq, are due to reach India by late Monday.

Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh, who left for Mosul on Sunday, informed that one man's remains would not be brought as his case was still pending.

On returning, Singh will travel to Amritsar and Patna to hand over the mortal remains to the respective families of the victims.

On March 20, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj informed the Rajya Sabha members in the Parliament that the 39 Indian nationals, who went missing in Mosul in 2014, were killed by the terror outfit Islamic State.

The 39 persons, most of whom hailed from Punjab, were working on projects near Mosul when they got kidnapped. -- ANI

Image: Family members of some of the 39 Indians at a village in Amritsar. Photograph: PTI Photo
09:17   Chinese space lab crashes in Pacific Ocean
China's prototype space station, Tiangong-1, today crashed in the Pacific Ocean, according to the country's space agency.

The spacecraft re-entered the earth's atmosphere at 00:15 GMT (0545 hrs IST) today over the South Pacific and mostly burnt up on re-entry, China's state-run news agency Xinhua confirmed.

The United States military too confirmed the re-entry of Tiangong-1 with a statement from its Joint Force Space Component Command.

"UPDATE: #JFSCC confirmed #Tiangong1 reentered the atmosphere over the southern Pacific Ocean at ~5:16 p.m. (PST) April 1. For details see @US_Stratcom @usairforce @AFSpaceCC @30thSpaceWing @PeteAFB @SpaceTrackOrg," a tweet from 18 Space Control Squadron (18SPCS) said.

The 10.4-metre-long (34.1-foot) Tiangong-1, or Heavenly Palace 1, was launched in 2011 to carry out docking and orbit experiments as part of China's ambitious space programme, which aims to place a permanent station in orbit by 2023.

It was originally planned to be decommissioned in 2013 but its mission was repeatedly extended.

However, China told the United Nations last year that the space lab "ceased functioning" in March 2016, without giving any reasons.

In September 2016, the country successfully launched Tiangong-2 space lab, which was put into orbit.

In 1979, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's first space station, Skylab fell to Earth during its re-entry to the atmosphere, burning up harmlessly in the process.

The last space lab to fall to Earth was Russia's 135-ton Mir space lab in 2001. -- ANI
08:46   Teesta Setalvad booked for 'fraudulently' getting funds worth over Rs 1.4 cr for NGO
Social activist Teesta Setalvad has been booked for allegedly securing central government funds worth Rs 1.4 cr fraudulently for her NGO Sabrang between 2010 and 2013, the police said.
A case has been filed against Setalvad and Sabrang trustees by Ahmedabad Crime Branch on Friday night on the basis of a complaint lodged by her former close associate Raees Khan Pathan, the police said.
"We had received a complaint alleging that Setalvad and the trustees of her NGO, Sabrang Trust, used fraudulent means to get funds of Rs 1.4 crore from Union HRD Ministry between 2010 and 2013. Based on that, we registered an FIR against her and trustees of the NGO," said Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime Branch) Rajdeepsinh Zala.
According to the complainant, Setalvad's NGO, which was given the grant for educational purposes, also distributed printed materials that could cause communal disharmony, Zala said.
The accused were booked under various sections of the IPC including 403 (dishonest misappropriation of property), 406 (punishment for criminal breach of trust), and 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant, or by banker, merchant or agent) besides under relevant sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act, he said.
Pathan had alleged that Setalvad and Sabrang Trust tried to "mix religion with politics" and spreading disharmony through the curricular material prepared for the erstwhile UPA government which had given it a grant of about Rs 1.4 crore.
The complaint had taken into account the report of a panel of the Ministry of Human Resource Development which in its finding has claimed that a prima facie case existed against her under section 153A and 153B of the IPC for promoting enmity on grounds of religion and making imputations and assertions, prejudicial to the national integration.
The sources said the Crime Branch of Ahmedabad police had sent a communication to the deputy secretary of the Department of School Education and Literacy under the Union HRD Ministry, urging it to "furnish a point-wise reply on the application/ complaint at the earliest."
The HRD ministry in 2016 had sought the opinion of the top law officer endorsing the report of its three-member committee, saying "the report of the inquiry committee is exhaustive and deals with every aspect of the matter and that action as suggested in the said report may be undertaken in terms of fixing liabilities/lapses, action for inciting disharmony and hatred and also for recovery of the money as is stipulated in the scheme itself". -- PTI
08:43   7 Indians among 15 killed in Kuwait bus collision
Seven Indians were among 15 oil workers killed on Sunday in a head-on collision between two buses in southern Kuwait, Kuwaiti officials said.
The Kuwait Fire Service Directorate put the death toll at 15.
It said the two buses collided head-on thus causing the high casualty figure, KUNA news agency reported.
Firefighters rushed to the scene to rescue the injured.
One of them was taken by an ambulance and the other by air to hospital.
The firefighters had immediately intervened to help four individuals who were trapped in the wreckage of mangled metal.
The Kuwait Oil Company said the buses were transporting employees of contracting firms that work for the company when the accident occurred near Burgan oil field.
Seven of the victims were Indians, five Egyptians, three Pakistanis, in addition to two who were injured -- one Indian and the other Kuwaiti. -- PTI
08:38   Govt to file review plea on SC/ST ruling today
The government will file a review petition before the Supreme Court today, challenging its order banning automatic arrest and registration of cases for alleged harassment of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
The petition will be filed by the social justice and empowerment ministry, a senior government official said.
Meanwhile, Union Social Justice Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot had on Friday appealed to organisations and individuals opposing the Supreme Court's verdict on the SC/ST Act to withdraw their protests in the wake of the government's decision to file a review petition challenging the order.
Top law officers are constantly brainstorming with officials of the ministry of social justice to prepare a credible review plea, sources in the government said.
The top court had recently banned automatic arrests and registration of criminal cases under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989.
The law protects the marginalised communities against discrimination and atrocities.
A delegation of NDA's SC and ST MPs, led by LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan and Gehlot, had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday to discuss the apex court judgement diluting provisions of the SC/ST atrocities act.
The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes and the National Commission for Scheduled Castes have also conveyed their views and demanded a review of the verdict, saying the original Act, as it existed before the SC verdict, should be restored.
The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities (PoA) Act, 1989 was amended recently to include new offences and to ensure speedy justice to victims. The amended law had come into effect from January 26, 2016. -- PTI
08:25   CBSE postpones class 10, 12 exams in Punjab due to Bharat Bandh
The Central Board of Secondary Education has postponed class 12 and class 10 examinations scheduled to be held today in Punjab at the request of the state government in view of 'Bharat Bandh' called by several Dalit organisations against the alleged "dilution" of the SCs/STs (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
The board said it has received a letter of request, dated April 1, 2018,  from the director general (school education) of the Punjab government to postpone all its examinations scheduled to be held today on account of apprehensions of law and order problems and other disturbances in the day during the 'Bharat Bandh'.
The state government has also taken a decision to keep all schools shut for the day, the CBSE said referring to the letter of the state government.
"Taking congnisance of the letter of the director general (school education), the CBSE decided to postpone all class 12 and 10 examinations scheduled for April 2 , 2018 in the state of Punjab," it said in a statement issued late in the night.
"Exams will carry on as per schedule in UT of Chandigarh and rest of the country," it said.
The next date of the examinations in Punjab will be announced soon by the board, it added.
An official spokesperson of the Punjab government in Chandigarh said the public transport services across the state has been suspended in view of the bandh call.
The Supreme Court had on March 20 diluted the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, in a bid to protect honest public servants discharging bona fide duties from being blackmailed with false cases under the Act.
The apex court said government servants should not be arrested without prior sanction and private citizens too should be arrested only after an inquiry under the law .
But Dalit organisations, including the Dalit Shoshan Mukti Manch, and some political parties fear the dilution of the provisions might lead to increase in violence against Dalits. -- PTI