Sun, 05 August 2018
Kerala church urges Centre to reject NCW proposal on banning confessions

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21:14   Kerala church urges Centre to reject NCW proposal on banning confessions
The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church on Sunday flayed the proposal of National Commission for Women to prohibit the churches from practising confession, saying it went against the spirit of religious freedom envisaged in the Constitution.
A resolution read out in most of the Orthodox churches in the state said the proposal was against the spirit of ancient Indian culture and rich values, which respects all religions and faiths with tolerance.
"We request the government of India to reject this unilateral immature proposal of the National Women's Commission which is against the spirit of religious freedom as envisaged in the constitution," the resolution said.
The NCW's recommendation came in the backdrop of a rape case against four priests of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church who were accused of sexually exploiting a married woman.
The matter came to light after the victim's husband wrote to the church alleging that the priests 'blackmailed and raped' his wife by using her confession.
The NCW had recommended abolishing the practice of "confessions" in churches over fears it can lead to women getting blackmailed.
Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council had petitioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi against the move, calling it 'shocking.'
Union minister Alphons Kannanthanam, from Kerala, had 'rejected outright' the NCW's recommendation, insisting that the Modi government would never interfere in religious beliefs of people. -- PTI
21:02   Amit Shah meets MSD
Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah today met Indian cricketer M S Dhoni as a part of party's "Sampark for Samarthan" initiative.

The BJP's programme is meant to reach out to political allies -- as well as prominent personalities -- ahead of next year's general election.

"As part of "Sampark for Samarthan" initiative, met @msdhoni, one of the greatest finishers in world cricket. Shared with him several transformative initiatives and unprecedented work done by PM @narendramodi's govt in the last 4 years," Shah tweeted after his meeting with former Indian cricket team captain.
20:28   Helpline number cannot steal data, says Aadhaar body
The Unique Identity Authority of India today said vested interests used Google's "inadvertent" act on its helpline number to create fear about and tarnish the image of Aadhaar while emphasising that a number stored in contact list cannot steal data from a mobile phone.   

The UIDAI said rumour mongers attempted to tarnish the image of Aadhaar for an inadvertent mistake of Internet major Google that led to appearance of its old helpline number 1800 300 1947 in contact list of several mobile phone users.
"The UIDAI condemns the vested interests who tried to misuse Google's "inadvertent" act as an opportunity to spread rumours and go around fear-mongering against Aadhaar," the authority said in a statement.
Google on Friday evening admitted that the number 18003001947 was added by it 'inadvertently' along with police and fire number 112 in 2014 and has since been continuing through sync mechanism. 
The UIDAI said that it has earlier clarified and emphasised that it has not asked any agency whatsoever to include its helpline number in the mobile phones and also added that merely adding a phone number cannot steal data in the phone. 
"Just by a helpline number in a mobile's contact list the data stored on the mobile phone cannot be stolen. Therefore, there should be no panic to delete the number as no harm will be caused. Rather people may, if they so wish, update it with UIDAI's new helpline number 1947," the authority said.
Last week, a French security expert who goes under the pseudonym Elliot Alderson and describes himself as "worst nightmare" of the UIDAI had tweeted, "Hi @UIDAI, Many people, with different provider, with and without an #Aadhaar card, with and without the mAadhaar app installed, noticed that your phone number is predefined in their contact list by default and so without their knowledge. Can you explain why?" 
His tweet scared many mobile phone users on appearance of UIDAI old helpline number in their contact even though they did not add it. -- PTI   
19:48   Will take govt's advice: Gavaskar on attending Imran's swearing-in
Indian batting legend Sunil Gavaskar today said he will take the government's advice before deciding to attend his great cricket rival Imran Khan's swearing-in as the next Prime Minister of Pakistan.
Gavaskar, along with former skipper Kapil Dev, have been invited to attend the oath-taking ceremony of Imran, who led Pakistan to its maiden World Cup title in 1992.
"I would like to take our government's OK, take their view, opinion whether I should travel there even if there is a day when I am able to go," Gavaskar told 'India Today'.
Gavaskar is not certain as to whether he will be able to attend the ceremony as he has his other commitments. 
"I just got the invite yesterday, and the invite was from his (Imran's) office, his party. An official invite in a way hasn't been there. I would like to travel but whether I would be able to travel is a different matter.
"And I say this because I have got commitments to do commentary for the second Test starting at Lord's. As of now from what I gathered the date of the swearing-in is not yet certain.
"If it is on the 15th (August) I clearly won't be able to go because it's my mother's 93rd birthday, apart from it being India's Independence day. And the same evening I am going to England to cover the remaining three Test matches."
The former India skipper recalled the days following Pakistan's World Cup triumph in 1992, when he was invited for the team's felicitation ceremony in Lahore.
"Nawaz Sharif was the prime minister of Pakistan then and he invited me for the felicitation ceremony, which was held at a packed Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. It was terrific to be part of celebration because nine years earlier we had that experience in the 1983 World Cup in England.
"I remember we went to Imran's house for dinner quite often. I was there for about three or four days and he had Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan coming over to his place and singing, which was fantastic. 
"And I remember when we went out, people would come and take my autograph, he would say 'humne to jeete hain World Cup aur aapke peechhe lage saare humare mulk'. So it was quite a different experience," Gavaskar said.
The Indian great is happy with Imran's success in the elections.
"Yes, I do feel happy. He has got a great responsibility, he has worked hard for it. It is not his first election, he has tasted defeat in the earlier elections and in fact the last elections would have been little bit of a bitter blow because he was really expecting to win in that election." -- PTI
19:35   18 cows die of suffocation at shelter home in Chhattisgarh
At least 18 cows died of suffocation over the past few days at a shelter home managed by a village panchayat in Chhattisgarh's Balodabazar district, a senior official said today.
Carcasses of 18 cows were recovered from Rohasi village on August 3, Balodabazar Collector Janak Prasad Pathak told PTI.
The incident came to light after local officials received information that carcasses of cows were being transported to be buried in the village, located around 70 km from the state capital, he said.
"Preliminary investigation revealed that the cows were locked in a room for the past few days and they died of suffocation," he said.
Some villagers were earlier worried about stray cattle damaging crops in their fields.
After discussing the issue among themselves, locals captured the stray cattle, including cows and buffaloes. They locked some of the animals in a room at a 'kanji house' (cow shelter) in the village and tied other cattle in an open area on the premises, Pathak said.
When no person came to claim ownership of the animals, the villagers, who were finding it difficult to provide water and fodder, released the cattle tied in the open area of the shelter home, he said.
However, they allegedly did not notice the cattle locked in the room at the shelter home, managed by the village panchayat, he said.
When they noticed a foul smell emanating from the place on August 3, they checked the room and found the animals dead inside it, Pathak said.
While the villagers were transporting the carcasses on tractors for disposal, someone informed the local officials who reached the spot, he said.
After the autopsy, all the carcasses were disposed of in a deep pit dug in the village. Adequate measures have been taken to avoid the spread of any epidemic in the village due to the incident, the collector said.
"The cattle remained closed for four days in a room that was not large enough to accommodate 18 animals. Therefore, they died of suffocation," he said.
An inquiry has been ordered into the incident and further action will be taken accordingly, he said.
A team of veterinary doctors was sent to the spot to look after the other animals, Pathak added.
In August last year, the Raman Singh government in Chhattisgarh had came under attack from the opposition Congress over the death of a large number of cows in three state-aided shelters.
According to the state officials, over 200 cows had died in three shelters between August 16 and 18 last year allegedly due to starvation and lack of care. -- PTI

Image used only for representative purposes only. Photograph: Umar Ganie/
19:08   Indonesia issues tsunami warning after 7.0 quake off Lombok island
Indonesia's resort island of Lombok was rocked by a magnitude 7 earthquake today, prompting a tsunami warning and panic among holidaymakers and residents.

The quake, which struck at a depth of 15km off the north coast of Lombok, comes a week after a magnitude 6.4 quake killed 14 people on the island and prompted a large-scale evacuation of a volcano popular with hikers.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Residents in Lombok's main city Mataram described a strong jolt that sent people scrambling out of buildings.
The tremor came a week after a shallow 6.4-magnitude quake hit the island, killing 17 people and damaging hundreds of buildings.
It triggered landslides that briefly trapped trekkers on popular mountain hiking routes.

File image
18:54   Modi govt had attempted to stall NRC: Congress
The Congress today alleged that the Narendra Modi government had itself tried to stall the NRC process by appealing to the Supreme Court that such a move could lead to law and order issues.
Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said the Attorney General of India had used the fear of violence to delay the implementation of NRC in the Supreme Court in 2017, for which he was reprimanded by the top court.
"The Shah of lies and the Shahenshah of Jumlas tried their best to stall the NRC. I will tell you how they hatched a conspiracy to stop, delay and disrupt the NRC process," said Khera.
This statement from the Congress came a day after the party staked ownership of Assam's National Register of Citizens exercise by calling it "a baby of the Congress party," born as a consequence of the Assam Accord signed by former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1985.
Accusing BJP president Amit Shah of speaking lies in Parliament about the government's show of courage to implement NRC, Khera said the date, November 30, 2017, when the SC came down heavily on the Union government will be remembered in history.
"On November 30, 2017, Supreme Court of India came down heavily on the Modi government for its excuses to delay the NRC in Assam. The Attorney General of India gave the excuse of fear of violence," he said.
Khera said the SC had lashed out at the AG and criticised the government's "sheer inaction" and dragging the matter for more than three years on the excuse of impending violence and law and order situation.
The court, Khera said, had additionally criticised the government over the AG's statement that part publication of the draft NRC could result in a law and order situation as a large segment of people would understand that their name have been excluded from the draft NRC.
"We do not see how the aforesaid situation can even remotely arise as we have already indicated in the earlier part of the present order that claims of 47 lakh persons (regarding whom the doubt pertained to parental linkage) and 29 lakh persons (married women who had submitted Gram Panchayat Secretary Certificates) are still pending and would be subject to verification and covered by publication of another draft NRC at a subsequent point of time," Khera said quoting the SC.
He said it was shocking that the Union government's highest legal officer made this submission in the apex court. -- PTI
18:32   Oppn playing vote bank politics on NRC: Amit Shah
Bharatiya Janata Party chief Amit Shah on Sunday dared the Congress to clear its stand in the Rajya Sabha on the amended OBC bill, saying it will expose whether the party was really for the backward communities.
At the same time, he charged the opposition with playing vote bank politics on the National Register of Citizens issue.
The Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill, 2017, commonly known as OBC bill, was passed in the Lok Sabha on August 2 and will now go to the Rajya Sabha for passage.
The proposed legislation seeks to grant the National Commission for Backward Classes constitutional status on a par with National Commissions for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
"The Modi government has got the OBC bill passed in the Lok Sabha. This will go to the Rajya Sabha. Will (Congress president) Rahul Gandhi clear his stand before the country that whether his party will help in the passage of the bill in the Rajya Sabha or not. This will make it clear whether the Congress was really for the welfare of the backward," Shah said.
He was in Uttar Pradesh's Chandauli to attend a function on renaming of Mughalsarai junction after Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh stalwart Pt Deendayal Upadhyay.

On the NRC issue, the BJP chief said, "We have to push out each and every Bangladeshi infiltrator from the country."
"Mamata Banerjee and the Congress say that the NRC should not be done. I ask Rahul baba whether the NRC should be conducted in the country or not. But, he does not answer. You all should tell that whether the Bangladeshi infiltrators should be pushed out (from India) or not."
"Today I would like to ask the SP, the BSP and the Congress whether they want the infiltrators to stay in the country or they should be driven out. I know the answer of the people of UP. The answer is that not even a single infiltrator should be allowed to stay in India," he said. 
18:19   Passenger raises hoax bomb threat after altercation at Jaipur airport
A New Delhi-bound IndiGo flight from Jaipur International Airport was delayed by nearly 40 minutes after a passenger raised a hoax bomb threat following an altercation with the airline staffers today, an official said.
The accused J P Chaudhary, a resident of Jaipur, allegedly ran into an altercation with the employees of the private airline during security checking and raised a fake alarm that he had a bomb in his luggage, CISF commandant Y P Singh said.
Singh said Chaudhary's luggage was checked and nothing was found. The plane, flight 6E 203, which had to take off at 10.40 am, flew at 11.23 am, he said.
The accused was not allowed to board the plane and was handed over to Jawahar Circle police station for further investigation, he added.
IndiGo said in a statement that the passenger "irresponsibly used the term 'bomb'".
"IndiGo has filed the FIR with local police and followed the normal security protocol," the airline said in a statement. -- PTI  
17:58   Muzaffarpur rapes: Nitish Kumar won't resign, says JD-U
Under fire from the opposition over the Muzaffarpur shelter home rape case, the Janta Dal-United asserted today that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar would not resign and said it was ready for a Supreme Court-monitored probe into it.
Rejecting the demand for Kumar's resignation, senior JD-U leader K C TYagi slammed opposition leaders including Congress president Rahul Gandhi for attending the RJD-organised protest in Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Saturday. 
It was a "friendship day" of parties seeking "political mileage" from the "unfortunate and shameful" incident in the state, he said.
"How can rape of young girls which has shamed us could be an issue for opposition parties to unite against the NDA government and the Nitish Kumar-led government in Bihar and demand his resignation. This politics over hapless victims in Bihar is the most unfortunate thing," Tyagi said in a press conference.
Tyagi asserted that despite the opposition's demand, Kumar would never step down as the chief minister of Bihar and challenged them to unseat him in the assembly.
"Nitish is a sensitive person and felt ashamed over the incident which the opposition parties are trying to use to hit at his conscience so that he steps down. But, he will never step down, we will not let him do so," he said.
Tyagi also alleged that the resignation demand was aimed at "helping" sand mining and bootlegging that have been effectively checked by the state government. 
Tyagi criticised Rahul Gandhi, saying his joining the RJD protest at Jantar Mantar was "unfortunate". 
"I also condemn Sitaram Yechury and D Raja who have forgotten the killings of JNU president Chandra Shekhar and Purnia MLA Ajit Sarkar and joined the protest organised by RJD," he said.
The JD-U Rajya Sabha MP and spokesperson of the party said that Nitish Kumar had written to the Patna high vourt for monitoring the probe into the case and asserted that the party was ready for such a probe by even a Supreme Court-monitored panel.
He asserted that the Bihar government acted against the accused swiftly and, as per the wish of RJD and other opposition parties, sought a CBI probe into the incident.
"Still, they are using this incident to spread lies and conspiracy theories for political purpose and to help sand and liquor mafia who have been effectively controlled by the Nitish government in the state," he said.
He charged that the opposition parties wanted "anarchy" and "jungle raj" back in Bihar by replacing JD-U and Nitish Kumar.
Tyagi also demanded that all shelter homes for juveniles in the country be probed under a monitoring committee of the apex court.  -- PTI
16:55   Why not Mamata or Mayawati?: Deve Gowda on Oppn's PM choice
Pitching for a "formidable front" against the Bharatiya Janata Party, former prime minister and Janata Dal-Secular supremo H D Deve Gowda has said he is not averse to projecting Trinamoll Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as the Opposition's prime ministerial face for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
The remark by Gowda, 85, comes against the backdrop of reports that the Congress and other opposition parties favour leaving the issue of a prime ministerial candidate for the post-election phase as they feel that opposition unity could be hurt if the subject is taken up ahead of the polls.
The remark also comes days after top Congress sources indicated that the party will not mind a nominee for the top post from any Opposition alliance which does not have the backing of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
Gowda, whose party has formed a coalition government in Karnataka with the  support of the Congress, said the Congress will play a crucial role in forging opposition unity in the bid by the alliance to dislodge the BJP from power.
In an interview to PTI in Delhi over the weekend, the former prime minister noted while the formation of a third front is still in the "early stage", Banerjee is "trying her best" to bring all the non-BJP parties together. Gowda headed the Janata Dal-led United Front coalition government in 1996 but his tenure did not last more than a year.
Banerjee is pursuing the task of the formation of a federal front seriously after the draft National Register of Citizens in Assam that excluded 40 lakh people from the list in the eastern state, he said.
Banerjee is a bitter critic of the NRC and has pilloried the BJP over the citizenship issue. She is also seeking the support of other opposition parties to take on the ruling party. 

The BJP has stoutly defended the Supreme Court-mandated exercise, saying it concerned national security and safety of the country's citizens.
Asked if he would support the TMC chief as the prime ministerial face of the opposition, Gowda said: "Most welcome if Mamata is projected as PM. Indira Gandhi ruled as prime minister for 17 years. Why should we (men) alone become PM? Why not Mamata or Mayawati?" -- PTI
16:44   President visits Karunanidhi at hospital
President Ram Nath Kovind today visited ailing Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam president M Karunanidhi at a hospital in Chennai and enquired about his health.
At the hospital, the President briefly interacted with Karunanidhi's son and DMK working president M K Stalin and DMK MP Kanimozhi.
The President, who arrived here from Hyderabad, drove directly from the airport to Kauvery Hospital, where the DMK chief is undergoing treatment.
"Visited Thiru M Karunanidhi in Chennai, met Kalaignar's family members and doctors and inquired about his health. Wishing the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, a veteran of our public life, a quick recovery," the official Twitter account of Rashtrapati Bhavan said.
Kovind was accompanied by Governor Banwarilal Purohit.
A picture of the President's interaction with the family members of  Karunanidhi was shared on the micro-blogging site.
Before winding up his visit, Kovind walked down a few metres and waved at the media and crowd gathered at the hospital.
Politicians and many prominent leaders have visited Karunanidhi at the hospital.
Last week, vice president M Venkaiah Naidu visited the hospital to enquire about the health of Karunanidhi.
Yesterday, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu and Union Minister Suresh Prabhu visited him.
Karunanidhi was admitted to the hospital following a dip in his blood pressure on July 28.
On July 31, the hospital said the leader would require an extended period of hospitalisation due to "decline" in his general health although his vital parameters have normalised. -- PTI 
15:35   Muzaffarpur horror: BJP MP demands Bihar minister's resignation
Joining oppositions demand, Janata Dal-Uniteds ally Bharatiya Janata Party has asked for the resignation of Bihar social welfare minister Manju Verma to resign in the wake of the alleged rape of 34 minor girls at a government-run shelter home in Muzaffarpur.

Senior BJP leader and former Union Minister CP Thakur on Sunday said that Verma should resign on moral grounds.

"Manju Verma should resign taking moral responsibility for what had happened in the shelter home being run under her department and resign," Thakur said.

Thakur is the first BJP leader to demand the resignation of Verma since Muzaffarpur rape case came to light last month. 

He wondered how it was possible that such a crime happened and there was no information about it to the social welfare department.

Muzaffarpur incident is result of lapse of social welfare department, he said. 

Thakur revealed that he was informed about the incident in the shelter home in Muzaffarpur. But before he could visit it, this shocking case had become national headline.  

Meanwhile, six officials of social welfare department have been placed under suspension on account of "negligence and dereliction of duty".

The officials put under suspension were posted as assistant directors of Child Protection Units in Muzaffarpur, Munger, Araria, Madhubani, Bhagalpur and Bhojpur districts.

All the officials, suspended with immediate effect, have been charged with "failure to take adequate legal action" with regard to "assault, indecent behaviour and other undesirable activities" at shelter homes within their respective areas of jurisdiction.

Currently, the Central Bureau of Investigation is probing the case. 

The Muzaffarpur horror had surfaced after the Bihar social welfare department filed an FIR based on a social audit conducted by Mumbai-based Tata Institute of Social Sciences.

-- M I Khan/
15:05   Doing mainstream films is like going to office: Manoj Bajpayee
Manoj Bajpayee is often regarded as the face of independent films and the actor hopes indie cinema becomes a fashion in the country and make money.
The actor says after gaining recognition in the commercial space he could have easily said no to indie projects but backing content driven films was always his aim.
"I just hope independent films make money. I want independent movies should become a fashion in this country. I could easily afford not to do independent films but it is my passion for good cinema that I do it and I always wanted to be on the path of content and quality," Bajpayee told PTI.
Though he leans more towards indie films, Bajpayee has acted in conventional Bollywood potboilers like Veer Zaara, Bewafaa, Shootout at Wadala, Tevar among others. The actor cites maintaining relationships as the reason he did commercial films.
"I have been part of many superhit films... which could get me the chance to get into commercial zone. There is a conscious decision to do independent films."
Bajpayee, 49, likes coming back to indie films as he gets more opportunity to showcase his acting skills.
"I am not regularly part of commercial films. This year I did Baaghi 2 and Satyameva Jayate and then I don't have any hardcore commercial films lined up. I keep distance from it because I like what I do in independent cinema or middle of the road films."
For the Aiyaary actor, doing mainstream entertainers is like going to office.
"In commercial films things are conveyed easily and I don't get a chance to work on a character. Here it is like wear your costume, say your dialogues with conviction and get out.
"For me it is like going to office, which I don't like. Doing commercial films is like going to office, like a 9 to 5 (job), which I don't like it," he adds.
His next release is Satyameva Jayate that touches upon the topic of corruption and molestation. Bajpayee says today common man is troubled all the time in real life and sadly not much is done to prevent these things.
15:02   Swaraj pays floral tributes at Lal Bahadur Shastri bust in Tashkent
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj paid floral tributes at the bust of India's second prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri at his memorial in the Uzbek capital today.
Swaraj, who arrived in Tashkent yesterday on her first visit to Uzbekistan, visited the Shastri memorial this morning.
"EAM Sushma Swaraj paying floral tribute to freedom fighter and 2nd Prime Minister of India Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri at his memorial in Tashkent," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted along with a photograph of the minister.
At the memorial, Swaraj also met with Yakov Shapiro who sculpted the bronze bust of Shastri.
Shastri had died in Tashkent in January 1966 after signing the Tashkent Declaration that formally ended a war between India and Pakistan.
 A memorial was built here in his memory. -- PTI
14:54   Mamata's 'civil war' comment on NRC does not behove of a CM: Assam CM
Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said that his West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee's "inflammatory" comment on National Register of Citizens does not behove of a senior politician and asserted that his government was committed to complete the exercise as per the Supreme Court order.
Sonowal, a student-leader-turned politician, said precious time of Parliament were wasted by stalling its proceedings by Banerjee's party, the Trinamool Congress, by spreading "false propaganda" and "wrong information" on NRC, a list of Assam's citizens.
"Not a single law and order situation has arisen in Assam after the the publication of the draft NRC, which was complete fair and transparent. 
"The statements of the West Bengal chief minister were inflammatory and divisive and aimed at her vote bank in her own state. It does not behove of a chief minister," he told PTI in a telephonic interview from Guwahati.
Sonowal, 55, was responding to a question on Banerjee's comment that the NRC exercise in Assam was done with a "political motive" to divide people and it would lead to "bloodbath" and a "civil war" in the country.
He said rumours have been spread about the NRC in the country as well as abroad but he was thankful to the people of Assam, especially those from the Barak valley and the Bengalis, who did not fall to the prey to the "evil design" of the "outside" forces which tried to instigate people for "narrow political gain".
Sonowal also blasted the Congress for trying to take credit for the publication of draft NRC after initially criticising it.
"The Congress government in the state even failed to complete a pilot project on NRC launched in 2010 due to law and order problems. It was our government which took the initiative under the Supreme Court order and expedited the whole process in the last two years," he said.
The chief minister, who first went to the NRC office after taking oath in 2016 even before attending his office, said he was committed to complete the entire NRC update process as per the apex court mandate.
He said, as a chief minister, he will ensure that not a single Indian is left out from the final NRC.
Sonowal also dwelt on the Assam's relations with West Bengal saying the two states share harmonious relations since ages and scholars like Ashutosh Mukherjee helped introducing Assamese language in the Calcutta University early 20th century.
He said the people of Assam were guided by the humanitarian and unifying philosophies of singers Bhupen Hazarika and Hemanga Biswas and the former spent his prime time of his career in Kolkata producing some of his immortal creations both in Assamese and Bengali. 
Sonowal said even renowned Assamese littrateur Lakshminath Bezbaroa strengthened the intrinsic relations by marrying Noble Laureate Rabindranath Tagore's grand-daughter Pragya Sundari.
"Therefore, being a chief minister of such a state which has its deep-rooted culture and traditions, Mamata Banerjee should not have made such baseless comments which have got communal undertone aimed at disturbing the strong relations between Assam and Bengal," he said. 
Sonowal also thanked the Registrar General of India and the NRC authorities for carrying out the successful work of the NRC update as per the Supreme Court directive.
The massive Supreme Court-monitored exercise to identify genuine Indian nationals living in Assam excluded over 40 lakh people from the draft list published on July 30, creating a huge political controversy. -- PTI
14:31   Nawazuddin has many traits that are similar to Manto: Nandita Das
Nandita Das says she chose Nawazuddin Siddiqui to portray the title role in Manto as he has a lot of similarities with legendary Urdu author-writer.
Nandita said she always had Nawaz in mind while writing Manto, based on the life of Saadat Hasan Manto, whose work continues to remain relevant to this day.
"He has many traits that are similar to Manto --  a deep sensitivity and intensity, anger, and a dry sense of humour. These innate qualities in Nawaz helped him transition into Manto on screen quite effortlessly," Nandita said in a statement.
She said she needed an actor who could portray many contradictory emotions as Manto was a complex character.
"For instance , he was a person with moral courage, but was also scared of going to jail, confident but vulnerable, deeply sensitive yet very angry. You will know Nawaz's range when you see 'Manto'," she added.
Nawazuddin, who has been receiving rave reviews for his performance in Sacred Games, will be seen next in Rome Rome Mein to be directed by Tannishtha Chatterjee, in Debamitra Hassan's Motichoor Chaknachoor, a fun story on an unlikely couple and Thackeray, a biopic based on the late Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray. -- PTI   
14:07   PM to launch India Post Payments Bank on Aug 21
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 21 will launch long-awaited India Post Payments Bank that will have at least one branch in every district and focus on financial services in rural areas, a senior official said.
"The prime minister has given time on August 21 to launch IPPB. Two branches of the bank are already operational. Rest of the 648 branches will be launched across country in every district," a senior official of the communications ministry told PTI.
IPPB will leverage reach of 1.55 lakh post office branches to provide banking and financial service to people in rural area.
"Government is trying to link all the 1.55 lakh post office branches with IPPB services by the end of this year," the official said.
This will create the country's largest banking network with direct presence at village level.
Last week, IPPB CEO Suresh Sethi said that IPPB will go live with 650 branches in addition to 3,250 access points co-located at post offices and around 11,000 postmen both in rural and urban area will provide doorstep banking services.   
IPPB has permission to link around 17 crore postal savings bank (PSB) account with its account. 
With IPPB in place, people in rural area will be able to avail digital banking and financial services, including money transfer, to any bank account either with help of mobile app or by visiting a post office. 
IPPB was the third entity to receive payments bank permit after Airtel and Paytm. Payments banks can accept deposits up to Rs 1 lakh per account from individuals and small businesses.  
The postal payment bank has permit to carry RTGS, NEFT, IMPS transaction that will enable IPPB customers to transfer and receive money from any bank account.
The payment bank will be used by government to distribute NREGA wages, subsidies, pension etc 
The IPPB app which is expected to be launched on same day will enable customers to pay for services of around 100 firms including  phone recharges and bill, electricity bill, DTH service, college fees etc that are present on Bharat Bill payments system of National Payments Corporation of India. -- PTI  
13:58   India hands over request to Antigua to extradite Mehul Choksi
India has handed over a request to Antigua for extradition of bank fraud fugitive Mehul Choksi who has obtained citizenship of the Caribbean nation.
Official sources said a team from India was sent to Antigua few days back to pursue the authorities there to extradite Choksi.
"The team met the foreign ministry officials of the island nation yesterday and handed over the request to extradite Choksi to India," an official source said.
Choksi is one of the alleged masterminds of the USD 2 billion scam in state-run Punjab National Bank and is an uncle of fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi. 
He is wanted in India by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate probing the fraud, the biggest banking scam in the country. 
As per reports, Antiguan authorities cleared his citizenship in November 2017 after India did not give any adverse report to stall his application. 
Choksi had fled India on January 4 this year and took oath of allegiance in Antigua on January 15.
The CBI had sent its request to the ministry of external affairs for extradition of Choksi.
Choksi's application for citizenship in Antigua in May 2017 was accompanied with clearance from the local police as required by norms, Antiguan newspaper the Daily Observer reported, citing a statement from the Citizenship by Investment Unit of Antigua and Barbuda.         
It said the police clearance certificate from the regional passport office in Mumbai said that there was no adverse information against Choksi which would render him ineligible for grant of travel facilities including visa for Antigua and Barbuda.
When asked about the PCC to Choksi, a spokesperson for the ministry of external affairs had said it was given on the basis of a clear police verification report available on his passport. -- PTI
13:01   JD-U, LJP will cease to be politically relevant if they stay with BJP: Congress
Parties like Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal-United and Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party will cease to be politically relevant in Bihar if they stay in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party as there is "discontent" among backward classes, Congress leader in-charge of the state Shaktisinh Gohil said today.
Gohil, also a party spokesperson, said "winnability" will be the main criteria for seat sharing among 'grand alliance' parties in Bihar and opposition unity there will show the way for cooperation in other states. 
He said that in Bihar, National Democratic Alliance constituents the JD-U, the LJP and Upendra Kushwaha's Rashtriya Lok Samta Party which primarily draw their support from people belonging to backward classes, are likely to quit the alliance before the Lok Sabha polls.
"There is a loud and clear message in Bihar that the central government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is against the SCs, STs, backward and most backward classes. All those in alliance with the BJP, be it Nitish Kumar ji, Paswan ji, Kushwaha ji, they all seek support of people belonging to these sections, so how will they stay with the BJP," he told PTI..
"I don't think these parties will stay with the NDA and if they stay, the BJP will just lose, but they will cease to be politically relevant," he said.
Gohil said that the best law for the SCs and STs was the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act that was brought by former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and the NDA government committed the "sin" of diluting it. 
The judge who gave two judgements against the SCs and STs was given a big post in the National Green Tribunal after retirement by the government, he said, referring to the appointment of AK Goel as NGT chairman.
"Not going by what we are saying or the RJD is saying, for their own sake, they will have to get out of the alliance with the BJP," Gohil said of NDA alliance partners in Bihar.
Asked if opposition's doors are open for Kumar, Paswan and Kushwaha, he said, "I would not like to answer a hypothetical question, I will only react if such a situation arises."
Dalit groups under the banner of the All India Ambedkar Mahasabha have given a call for Bharat bandh on August 9 against the dilution of the Act.
A bill to overturn  the Supreme Court order, which had laid down certain safeguards in the SC/ST law to prevent atrocities against people of scheduled castes and tribes, was introduced in the Lok Sabha on Friday.
This is being seen as a move by the NDA government to reach out to Dalits.
The LJP and Kushwaha had made statements expressing their concerns over issues related to SCs and STs and seemed to be on a collision course with the government.
However, the LJP has since softened its stand following the tabling of the bill with LJP leader and MP Chirag Paswan saying that the proposed Bharat bandh should be called off as the Centre has decided to bring an amendment to restore the law.
Gohil said the tabling of the bill was a late move by the BJP as it was under pressure from some of its allies and MPs. He said there was still "discontent" among the backward classes. -- PTI
12:50   Bald is beautiful, says Sonali Bendre
In a heartwarming post Sonali Bendre today said she is happy and staying positive by looking for joy in every moment.
The 43-year-old actor, who is currently in New York undergoing treatment for high grade cancer, said she does go through moments of "pain and low energy" but spending time with loved ones keeps her motivated. 
"This is me. And in this moment, I am really happy. People give me strange looks when I say that now, but it's true and I'll tell you why. I am now paying attention to every moment, looking for every opportunity to find joy and Switch On The Sunshine. Yes, there are moments of pain and low energy, but I am doing what I like, spending time with people I love, and feeling very loved and happy," Bendre posted on Instagram along side a picture of herself with her friends Sussanne Khan and Gayatri Oberoi, clicked by actor Hrithik Roshan.  
Sussanne and Gayatri visited the actor in the United States and spent some quality time with her ahead of Friendship Day. Bendre thanked her friends for being her constant source of strength.
"I am extremely grateful to my friends, my pillars of strength, who at a moment's notice, arrived to be with me and help me through this. In between their busy schedules they find time to visit, call, message, FaceTime... basically never leaving a moment for me to feel alone. Thank you for showing me what true friendship is. Happy Friendship Day, ladies. Blessed to have you all in my life (including the ones not in the picture... You know who you are)," she added. 
The actor ended her post with a funny postscript.
"Nowadays I spend far less time getting ready because I don't have to fuss over my hair! #BaldIsBeautiful #FindThePositive #OneDayAtATime".
Bendre revealed last month that was diagnosed with a "high grade cancer". -- PTI

Image: Sonali Bendre, Gayatri Oberoi and Sussanne Khan. Photograph: Kind courtesy @iamsonalibendre/Twitter
12:39   Muzaffarpur rape: Bihar govt suspends six officials
Six officials of Bihar's social welfare department, which has drawn flak after the sexual abuse of girls at a state-funded shelter home in Muzaffarpur came to light, have been placed under suspension on account of "negligence and dereliction of duty".
Notifications to this effect were issued late last night. The officials put under suspension were posted as assistant directors of Child Protection Units in Muzaffarpur, Munger, Araria, Madhubani, Bhagalpur and Bhojpur districts.
All the officials, suspended with immediate effect, have been charged with "failure to take adequate legal action" with regard to "assault, indecent behaviour and other
undesirable activities" at shelter homes within their respective areas of jurisdiction.
The Muzaffarpur shelter home incident had surfaced in a social audit conducted by Mumbai-based Tata Institute of Social Sciences.
An FIR was lodged by the state social welfare department in June, which led to the arrest of 10 people.
Medical reports have confirmed sexual abuse of more than 30 girls formerly lodged at the shelter home, which has since been sealed. The case has been handed over to the CBI.
The suspension orders also pointed out that TISS had flagged anomalies, which the officials "did not bring to the notice of higher officials in inspection reports".
The six officials were directed at a state-level meeting in May to take necessary action in the light of the audit report's findings, but their failure to do so resulted in lack of timely action against the guilty, which has caused "an embarrassment to the department and the government", the suspension orders added. -- PTI 
12:27   Prez gives nod to law to deter fugitive economic offenders from fleeing country
President Ram Nath Kovind has given assent to a law that will deter fugitive economic offenders to evade legal process in India and flee the country.
A fugitive economic offender is any individual against whom warrants for arrest is issued for his involvement in select economic offences involving amount of at least Rs 100 crore or more and has left India so as to avoid criminal prosecution.
The Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018 has got the nod from the president, according to an official order.
The new legislation will prevent big economic offenders like Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi from fleeing the country and evading the law.
Both Mallya and Modi, wanted in cases being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation), are out of India.
The new law allows designated special court to declare a person as fugitive economic offender and to confiscate his property, including 'benami' ones.
"All the rights and title in the confiscated property shall, from the date of the confiscation order, vest in the central government, free from all encumbrances," the act says.
The Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018 was passed by the Rajya Sabha on July 25. 

The Lok Sabha had cleared the measure on July 19.
Justifying the financial limit of Rs 100 crore for invoking the provisions of this new law, Finance Minister Piyush Goyal had recently said in Parliament that it was being done to "catch the big offenders and not to clog the courts".
"This bill is an effective, expeditious and constitutional way to stop these offenders from running away. Legislative changes or a new law must be in place to confiscate assets of such absconders till they don't present themselves in front of the courts. We will also work out what has to be done with the confiscated assets," Goyal had said in Rajya Sabha.
The Enforcement Directorate will be the investigative agency under the Act, he had said. -- PTI
11:37   Article 35-A: Complete shutdown in Kashmir
Life in Kashmir today came to a standstill due to a complete shutdown called by separatist against the legal challenge in the Supreme Court on the validity of Article 35-A, which bars people from outside Jammu and Kashmir from acquiring any immovable property in the state.

The situation across the valley is peaceful with no untoward incident reported from anywhere so far, officials said. Shops and business establishments were closed across the Valley while all kinds of transport remained off the roads due to the strike called.

The Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) has called for a two-day strike -- today and tomorrow -- as Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a PIL challenging the validity of the Article 35-A tomorrow.

The state government has filed an application before the Registrar of the Supreme Court, informing that it is going to seek adjournment of the hearing of the petition in view of the 'ongoing preparations for the upcoming Panchayat and urban local body and municipal elections in the state'.

The officials said security forces have been deployed in strength at vulnerable places in the city and elsewhere in Kashmir for maintaining law and order.

Various organisations included Bar Association, transporters and traders' bodies have extended support to the shutdown call of the JRL, comprising Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik. Protests have been held across the length and breadth of Kashmir over the past few days with mainstream parties like the National Conference and PDP also holding rallies in support of continuing Article 35-A.  -- PTI
10:18   Cattle trader killed, another injured in Army firing
A cattle trader was killed and another injured when Army personnel allegedly opened fire on them in Ramban district of Jammu and Kashmir today, the police said.

Mohammad Rafiq Gujjar, 28, and Shakeel Ahmad, 30, both residents of Gool, were allegedly fired upon by soldiers of the 58 Rashtriya Rifles when they were leaving Kohli village around 4 am, a police official said.

He said while Gujjar died on the spot, Ahmad was injured in the firing and was shifted to hospital.

Both of them were cattle traders and had come to the village in connection with their business, the official said quoting preliminary investigation.

Senior Superintendent of Police, Ramban, Mohan Lal confirmed the death of a civilian and injuries to another in the firing and said an FIR is being registered in this connection.

"Investigation is on and a case is being lodged against Army personnel,' he told PTI. An Army officer, when contacted, said the soldiers opened fire after observing suspicious movement of some persons.

"We are on the job and getting details of the incident," the officer said.  -- PTI
08:46   Venezuela's Maduro escapes 'assassination attempt'
An explosive drone went off in Caracas when President Nicolas Maduro was addressing a live televised speech, said the Venezuelan officials.

Venezuela Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez termed the incident as an attempt on Maduro's life, reported the Radio New Zealand.

Maduro was unharmed, but seven soldiers sustained injuries in the incident.

The Venezuelan President was speaking at the celebration of the National Guard's 81st anniversary when he was reportedly attacked.

Maduro abruptly cut short a televised speech and soldiers present broke ranks and scattered after hearing several explosions.

However, firefighters near the scene disputed the government's version of events.

Maduro was giving a speech yesterday in the capital of Caracas during a celebration of the National Guard's 81st anniversary.

Later, Maduro said he escaped an 'assassination' attempt using an explosive-laden drone, and accuses neighboring Colombia and unidentified financiers in the United States.

IMAGE: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro reacts during an event which was interrupted, in this still frame taken from video, in Caracas, Venezuela. Photograph: Venezuelan Government TV/Handout via Reuters
08:09   Quota won't help, there are no jobs: Gadkari
Stating that reservation will not guarantee employment as jobs are shrinking, Union minister Nitin Gadkari on Saturday said there is a 'school of thought' which wants policy-makers to consider the poorest of poor in every community.

Gadkari made the remarks, responding to reporters' questions on the ongoing agitation by the Marathas for reservation and similar demands by other communities in Maharashtra.

"Let's us assume the reservation is given. But there are no jobs. Because in banks, the jobs have shrunk because of IT. The government recruitment is frozen. Where are the jobs?

"The problem with the quota is that backwardness is becoming a political interest. Everyone says I am backward. In Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, Brahmins are strong. They dominate politics. (And) They say they are backward," the senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader said.

"So one school of thought is that a poor is a poor, he has no caste, creed or language. Whatever may be the religion -- the Muslim, the Hindu or the Maratha (a caste), in all communities there is one section which has no clothes to wear, no food to eat.

"One school of thought also is (that) we must also consider the poorest of the poor section in every community," he said.

This is a 'socio-economic thinking' and it must not be politicised, the Union minister said.

Maintaining that Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis was trying to resolve the Maratha quota demand by holding talks, Gadkari urged people to maintain peace.

"The responsible political parties must not add fuel to the fire," he added.

The development, the industrialisation and the good prices for rural produce would ease the economic distress that the Maratha community is suffering from, he said.  -- PTI