Sun, 26 August 2018
Blog writing can't increase investment: Congress to Jaitley
21:13 Blog writing can't increase investment: Congress to Jaitley
The Congress today said that the "ad hoc" policies of the BJP-led government at the Centre has put the Indian economy in "dire straits", and took a dig at Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, saying writing blogs cannot increase investment.
In a series of tweets, AICC in-charge of communications Randeep Singh Surjewala alleged the manner in which the Modi government has sought to "suppress 'back series'" of GDP report and attempted to distort them, is now out in the open.
"Truth has a way of coming out and cannot be ever suppressed. Jaitley ji, your Govt has left our economy to dire straits ... investment is in doldrums," Surjewala said.
The GDP Back Series Report 2011 was made public earlier this month. According to the draft report, the economy recorded a 10.08 per cent growth rate in 2006-07 under then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the highest since liberalisation of the economy in 1991.
The government has said the report was an unofficial document that has not been accepted by it. It has also said the report was at discussion stage and its acceptance will be based on wider consultation.
Surjewala also claimed that the gross fixed capital formation as a per cent of GDP was 34.3 per cent in 2011-12.
In 2013-14, he said, it was 31.3 per cent.
But in the past three years, it has remained constant at 28.5 per cent and has impacted growth, he said.
"No amount of white washing/blog writing can increase that!," Surjewala wrote, mentioning Jaitley in the tweets.
He said Jaitley should know that the present government had inherited an economy that was on an upswing.
"But due to BJP's adhoc and myopic economic policies -demonetisation, flawed implementation of GST and 'tax terrorism'; that momentum was lost," he alleged.
He said the UPA-1 and UPA-2 delivered the highest decadal growth - 8.13 per cent at factor cost - since Independence.
Under Modi government, GDP growth in 2017-18 is 6.7 per cent, which is at a four-year low, he said. -- PTI
20:41 Was Vajpayee's death announced late, asks Shiv Sena's Raut
Senior Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut today questioned whether former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee died on August 16 or if his death was announced that day to ensure Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Independence day speech was not disrupted.
Raut, a Rajya Sabha member who is also editor of the Sena mouthpiece Saamana, gave no explanation or reason for questioning the day of Vajpayee's death that was announced by India's premier hospital, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, which also gave his time of death on August 16.
"Rather than our people, our rulers should first understand what is swarajya (self-rule). Vajpayee died on August 16, but from 12-13 August, his condition was deteriorating. To avoid national mourning and lowering of flag to half-mast on Independence Day, and also (as) Prime Minister Narendra Modi was to make his elaborate speech from the Red Fort, Vajpayee left this world on August 16 (or his death was announced)," Raut said.
The article in Marathi is titled "What is swarajya?".
Though Shiv Sena is an alliance partner of the BJP at the Centre as well as in Maharashtra, it has been taking swipes at the saffron party and Modi.
Raut, in the article, said National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah shouted "Bharat Mata Ki Jai"and "Jai Hind" at a condolence meeting for Vajpayee, and for this reason he was manhandled in Srinagar.
"And the government shielded the culprits. This new kind of freedom has now emerged," the Sena MP wrote.
"When it is learnt that police have captured terrorists who had planned to carry out attacks in Delhi, it tells you that Independence Day is nearing.
"This tradition continued this year too. Ten terrorists who wanted to sabotage Independence Day celebrations were arrested. Huge cache of arms was seized. So (afterwards) the prime minister celebrated Independence Day fearlessly," Raut added.
"Prime Minister Modi made several announcements for the poor (in his Independence day speech). The tone of his speech suggested that previous governments did nothing, so the freedom (until now) was a waste," Raut wrote.
He said though the prime minister says people who take bribe are facing action, bribery has not decreased.
"..It is true that welfare schemes are run on the tax which honest people pay. It is also true that Prime Minister's foreign tours are funded by the same money, and thousands of crores are spent on advertisements from the same money. This is how the new swarajya is functioning," the Sena leader wrote. -- PTI
20:14 Gorakhpur tragedy 'blown out of proportion' due to 'internal politics': Yogi
Almost a year after the deaths of scores of infants were reported from the BRD Medical College in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said the incident may have been blown out of proportion due to the institute's "internal politics".
At the launch of a campaign pertaining to the state nutrition mission in Lucknow on Saturday, Adityanath said that initially when he heard of the deaths, he was reminded of an incident where a reporter wrote an incorrect news item after he was not allowed to enter a ward by hospital workers.
"Last year when I heard of the news, I thought a similar thing had happened. But when I saw that all news channels and media had made it an issue, I sent DG (Health) to Gorakhpur and a sought a report. I also sent my health minister and the minister for medical education and told them to submit a report," Adityanath said.
Adityanath, who has represented Gorakhpur in Lok Sabha five times, said this was not enough and he decided to visit the hospital the very next day.
"I asked people there what actually the matter was, and was told there was nothing as such...And if the deaths were due to the lack of oxygen, then children put on the ventilators would have been the first to die. I said there must definitely be something. From where were the figures come from? Then it emerged it was internal politics," the UP chief minister told the gathering.
Adityanath said after the incident, the doctors at the medical college were not keen on seeing patients worrying that it may become an issue.
We had to counsel them that you do your job and not worry about anything else, he said. "If your conscience is clean, then you should not bother, we told the doctors," Adityanath said.
Nearly 60 children, mostly infants, had died at the hospital within a week in August 2017. There were allegations that the deaths occurred due to disruption in oxygen supply over unpaid bills to the vendor. The state government denied that shortage of oxygen led to the deaths.
In its report submitted on August 23, 2017, a committee under the then UP chief secretary Rajive Kumar probing the hospital tragedy had recommended initiating criminal action against the then principal of the BRD Medical College Dr Rajiv Mishra, HoD Anaesthesia Paediatric department Dr Satish Kumar and in-charge of 100-bed AES ward Dr Kafeel Khan and Pushpa Sales. -- PTI
20:09 Amarnath Yatra concludes, over 2.85 lakh pilgrims offer prayers
The annual pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave shrine in the south Kashmir Himalayas concluded today with over 2.85 lakh pilgrims offering prayers at the naturally-formed ice-shivlingam.
According to officials, a total of 2,85,006 people paid obeisance at the cave shrine during the pilgrimage which commenced on 28 June through Baltal and Pahalgam routes.
They said 38 people, including pilgrims, service providers and pony-wallas, died during the course of the yatra this year.
The deaths were due to weather-related incidents or natural causes, the officials said.
The number of pilgrims who performed the yatra this year is higher than last year. A total of 2.60 lakh pilgrims offered prayers at the shrine last year.
Various security measures were taken this year for the smooth conduct of the yatra.
For the first time, the government used radio frequency tags to track Amarnath-bound vehicles, while the Central Reserve Police Force introduced motorcycle squads with cameras and various life-saving equipment.
The security was heightened for this year's yatra in view of the militant attack on a bus carrying pilgrims last year that left eight of them dead and 18 others injured.
Around 40,000 security personnel from the Jammu and Kashmir Police, paramilitary forces, National Disaster Response Force and the Army were deployed for this year's pilgrimage, the officials said.
They said the yatra this year was peacefully.
The holy mace of Lord Shiva, popularly known as 'Chhari Mubarak', carried by a group of sadhus and devotees led by its custodian Mahant Deepindra Giri, arrived at the holy cave in the wee hours for the day-long prayers, the officials said.
The group of sadhus and devotees trekked 42 kilometres from Pahalgam to reach the cave shrine with night halts at Chandanwari, Sheshnag and Panchtarani. -- PTI
20:05 Cong wasn't involved in 1984 riots, whosoever was should be hanged: Punjab CM
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh today hit out at the Shiromani Akali Dal for attacking Congress chief Rahul Gandhi on the issue of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, saying the Congress, as a party, was never involved in the carnage.
He also asserted that 'whosoever was involved' in the senseless killings in 1984 should be "hanged".
The SAD had yesterday hit out at Rahul Gandhi over his remarks on the 1984 riots, saying by disagreeing with the view that his party was involved in the "genocide", he had "rubbed salt into the wounds" of the Sikh community.
Earlier, describing the 1984 riots as a "very painful tragedy", Rahul, who was on a two-day visit to the UK, had said, "It was a tragedy, it was a painful experience. You say that the Congress party was involved in that, I don't agree with that. Certainly there was violence, certainly there was tragedy."
Castigating SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal, Amarinder Singh said the Congress chief was in school when Operation Bluestar and later the riots took place.
To blame him for 'anything' was totally absurd, said Amarinder Singh, in a hard-hitting statement issued here.
To hold Rahul Gandhi responsible for an act, of which he was not even aware when it happened, was completely ridiculous, said the chief minister.
"The Congress, as a party, was never involved in the riots that continue to haunt the Sikh community," the chief minister said.
Amarinder Singh said that if any individual was involved, he or she would be dealt with as per the law.
"To blame the entire party for the acts of a few was preposterous and typical of the political immaturity of Sukhbir," the chief minister said.
Amarinder Singh said "Rahul Gandhi's latest comments need to be seen in context with his earlier statements on the 1984 riots, wherein he himself had named some Congressmen".
"You cannot blame an entire party because of the acts of such individuals," said the chief minister reiterating that "whosoever was involved in the senseless killings in 1984 should be hanged, irrespective of political affiliations." -- PTI
19:54 'Modi received gifts worth over 12 lakh on foreign tours'
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has received 168 gifts worth Rs 12.57 lakh during his foreign visits between July 2017 and June 2018, according to data of the ministry of external affairs' treasury.
These gifts include a Montblanc wrist watch valued at 1.10 lakh, a silver plaque and set of Montblanc pens worth Rs 2.15 lakh and Rs 1.25 lakh, respectively, the Toshakhana (treasury) data on the ministry's website showed.
The prime minister was also gifted figurines, paintings, books, photographs and a model of the bullet train, it said.
The Toshakhana stores gifts above a certain value.
During this period, the prime minister visited 20 countries, including Israel, Germany, China, Jordan, Palestine, the UAE, Russia, Oman, Sweden, the UK, Indonesia and Malaysia.
Modi also received crystal and silver bowls, replicas of the Pashupatinath and Muktinath temples of Nepal, shawls, figurines of gods and goddess, tea sets, carpets, cardigans, mufflers and fountain pens, among others, according to the data.
The prime minister also received a replica of a mosque valued at Rs 50,000 and a dagger worth Rs 20,000, it stated.
Gifts valued at over Rs 5,000 received by government officials representing India abroad are deposited in the treasury of the ministry.
If the market value of the gift is less than this amount, the person is allowed to keep it. -- PTI
19:41 Vijayan urges Malayalies to donate one month salary to rebuild Kerala
As relief and rehabilitation work began in flood ravaged Kerala, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan today urged all Malayalees to donate one month salary to rebuild the state, where the death toll has now touched 302 and over four lakh are still in relief camps.
In many districts, people have started moving from camps to their homes after cleaning work has been completed.
The receding flood waters had left mounds of mud and debris in their homes and surroundings.
The toll today climbed to 302 with more bodies being recovered, a government press release.
Vijayan also reviewed ongoing relief operations.
There are still 4.62 lakh people in 1,435 relief camps.
At least three lakh houses have been cleaned so far.
As Kerala struggles to stand on her feet, waterlogging of homes in various places, especally in Kuttanad region of the worst hitAlapuzha district continues to be a worrying factor.
Huge pumps will be used to flush out water from homes and premises, after which the cleaning process will be taken up by removing the accumulated silt, authorities said. -- PTI
19:38 Kapoors to sell iconic RK Studio
The Kapoor family has decided to sell off the landmark RK studio -- 70 years after it was established -- as it was not "economically viable" to rebuild it after it was gutted down in a fire last year.
Founded by legendary actor Raj Kapoor in 1948 in suburban Chembur, the studio witnessed several films made by the Kapoor family over the decades.
On September 16 last year, a major fire broke out on the sets of dance reality show Super Dancer at the studio in which its ground floor was gutted.
No casualty was reported in the mishap.
While Rishi Kapoor had earlier expressed a desire to rebuild the studio with "state-of-the-art technology", his brother Randhir said it was not practical.
"Yes we have taken the decision to sell RK Studio. It is already up for sale. After the fire that broke at the studio it was not viable to build the studio again... It was not economically viable to do it again," Randhir told PTI.
The films made under the RK banner include Aag, Barsaat, Awaara, Shri 420, Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai, Mera Naam Joker, Bobby, Satyam Shivam Sundaram, Ram Teri Ganga Maili, among others.
The last film made under the banner was Rishi Kapoor-directed Aa Ab Laut Chalen.
When Raj Kapoor passed away in 1988, his elder son Randhir took over the studio. Later, his younger brother Rajiv Kapoor directed Prem Granth. -- PTI
19:14 Kerala floods due to cow slaughtering in open: BJP MLA
Known for making controversial remarks, Vijayapura's Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Basanagouda Patil Yatnal has kicked up a fresh row by saying the devastating floods in Kerala occurred because of slaughtering of cows in the open.
"In Kerala, people openly slaughter cows. What happened? Within a year, a situation like this (flood) arose. Whoever hurts the Hindu religious beliefs will face such consequences," he told reporters on the sidelines of a function at Vijayapura yesterday.
The BJP MLA was apparently referring to an incident in Kerala last year, where a group of men slaughtered a cow in the open, triggering a controversy.
Yatnal said Hindus had sentiments attached to cows and that nobody should hurt others' religious beliefs.
He added that if the BJP came to power in Karnataka, cow slaughter will be stopped.
Known for making controversial statements, the BJP MLA had last month said if he was the home minister, he would have the intellectuals shot dead as they worked for the human rights of terrorists and not the soldiers who laid down their lives to protect the country. -- PTI
18:54 What BJP did after 2002 riots?: Cong after Rahul's remarks on 1984 riots
Drawing flak for Rahul Gandhi's remarks that the Congress was not involved in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, the party today listed steps it had taken after it and said its opponents should not sensationalise tragic events for political gains.
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi was reacting to the Shiromani Akali Dal's comments that the Congress president's remarks on Sikh riots have "rubbed salt into the wounds" of the Sikh community.
Gandhi, who was on a two-day visit to the UK, told an audience of UK-based parliamentarians and local leaders on Saturday that the incident was a tragedy and painful experiences, but disagreed with the view that the Congress was "involved".
"Constantly distorting what Rahul Gandhi says is not going to convert untruth and lies into truth," Singhvi said, noting that their opponents should not sensationalise tragic events for political gains.
He listed what the Congress did after the riots and asked the SAD to tell what their partner BJP did after the 2002 riots in Gujarat.
"The Congress party from this forum and all over the country at least a thousand times has condemned that tragic episode, calling it the most unfortunate event, condemned it and never in the remotest sense directly or indirectly supported it. Even the prime minister of that time had apologised," he said.
He also said that many senior leaders suffered serious harm in their political careers in the context of their alleged association with that event.
"A large number have faced criminal prosecution, some have been convicted, some are pending but the Congress has never interfered," he said.
He said the Akali Dal should ask if Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was Gujarat Chief Minister in 2002, and BJP president Amit Shah had done after the riots in Gujarat what the Congress did after 1984. -- PTI
17:55 ISRO will complete Gaganyaan mission as per schedule: Raghavan
The Indian Space Research Organisation will complete its first manned space mission on schedule as the programme was finalised a few years ago, K Vijay Raghavan, principal scientific advisor to the government of India, has stressed.
"This mission is not happening out of the blue, nor is it a coincidence. We were giving shape to this mission for a while," Raghavan said.
One of the most distinguished biologists, Raghavan, 64, was appointed the principal scientific advisor in March.
The post of principal scientific advisor was created by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 1999. The PSA is the topmost advisor to the government on scientific policy matters.
Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Independence Day this year that India will put a man or woman in the space on board 'Gaganyaan' by 2022, Raghavan said, ISRO has been moving ahead to complete the mission as per the schedule.
He, however, acknowledged that the project is a challenge, but added India has the knowledge and expertise required to successfully complete this mission.
Asked about scientists advising the government to take help from countries such as the US and Russia for 'Gaganyaan' mission, he said the nature of science and technology is of collaboration.
"Russia and the US are leaders in space and science and technology. Discussions with them are natural," he said.
Raghavan dismissed questions raised about the money spent on expensive space missions. He said these questions are not new, questions were raised even during ISRO's previous missions.
Initially people asked why India was investing so much to send rockets in space, but ISRO benefitted a lot from these investments, the principal scientific advisor said.
"We can anticipate the short-term and long-term benefits of this (Gaganyaan) mission," Raghavan said.
If India manages to link the manned mission with the startup sector and industry, it can become a leading technology mission anywhere in the world, he said.
India today has to import electronic spare parts and other equipment and "we can use this manned mission to promote domestic industry and science", he said.
Asked about training astronauts and developing the support system for the proposed manned mission, he said training is an important element as it helps in evolving the human psychology in challenging circumstances.
He stressed that the mission will propel India far ahead of others in the area of science and technology. It will also inspire the young generation and all Indians will be proud of it, he concluded. -- PTI
17:27 Stalin files nomination papers, set to become DMK president
Dravida Munnetra KAzhagam working president M K Stalin, who is set to be elected the party president, filed his nomination for the post at Anna Arivalayam, the party headquarters, in Chennai in Tamil Nadu today.
Senior leader and party principal secretary Duraimurugan filed the nomination for the post of treasurer, hitherto held by Stalin.
They are likely to be elected during the party's General Council meeting on August 28 in Chennai.
The process to elect Stalin as DMK chief following the death of his father and party chief M Karunanidhi began with the 65-year-old leader formally filing his nomination for the post.
Before filing the papers, Stalin, Duraimurugan and senior party colleagues T R Baalu and A Raja visited Dayalu Ammal, Karunanidhi's wife, at her Gopalapuram residence.
Later they also met party veteran and general secretary K Anbhazhagan and headed straight to the memorials of DMK founder and former Chief Minister C N Annadurai and Karunanidhi at the Marina beach-front and paid floral tributes, party sources said.
Stalin, who was given a rousing reception on his arrival by partymen at the party headquarters formally, submitted the nomination papers to DMK Organising Secretary R S Bharathi.
Also the names of Stalin and Duraimurugan were proposed by all 65 DMK district secretaries for the post of president and treasurer respectively.
Talking to reporters, Raja said Stalin and Duraimurugan would be elected "unanimously" at the General Council meet.
Sibling rivalry between Stalin and his elder brother M K Alagiri came to the fore recently, when the latter claimed that true loyalists of Karunanidhi were with him.
Alagiri, who was expelled from the party by Karunanidhi in 2014, has been questioning the leadership of Stalin. He has announced he would lead a peace rally in Chennai on September 5, to the mausoleum of Karunanidhi.
Stalin, the younger son of Karunanidhi, had held several party posts, including that of treasurer and youth-wing secretary. -- PTI
16:33 Kerala fears 4 to 5% decline in tourist arrivals due to floods
Flood-ravaged Kerala, for which tourism is the mainstay of its economy, is staring at 4 to 5 per cent decline in footfalls if the sector does not pick up from October, a senior tourism official has said.
The state is reeling under devastating floods, the worst since the 1924 deluge, which has left over 230 people dead and pushed over 1.5 million people into relief camps.
The busiest airport in Kochi has been shut since August 16 and is expected to resume operations only from August 29.
The Kochi and Ernakulum regions, which have been under the waters for almost two weeks, alone accounts for around 52 per cent of all tourism in the state, according to a Care Rating report.
"We had a good first quarter with a full 17 per cent growth. However, the second quarter saw a 14 per cent decline in footfalls due to the Nipah virus that struck the state in April-May," Kerala Tourism director P Bala Kiran told PTI over phone from Thiruvananthapuram.
"August and September were completely washed out as we saw huge cancellations due to the massive floods, which will impact business in the tourist state," he said.
However, he said, if things start picking up from October, there may still be growth.
"If things do not pick up in October, we are likely to witness a 4 to 5 per cent decline over last year," he warned.
Kerala had witnessed 10.94 per cent growth in 2017, compared to the previous year, with 1.91 million foreign travellers and 14.6 million domestic tourists visiting the state.
Tourism contributes over 10 per cent to the state GDP.
Meanwhile, Kerala was promoting the Neelakurinji blooming in Munnar, which is still cut off from the rest of the state due to many landslides.
The Neelakurinji blooms once in 12 years and has been a big draw for local public and of late, the tourism department has been promoting it to incoming tourists as well. The season was supposed to begin next month.
However, Kiran said it is a lost opportunity this year as Munnar mostly remains cut off from the outside world, while Alappuzha, the land of houseboats and lagoons, is still flooded.
These are among the worst affected seven districts of the state.
"The flowering usually begins 15 days after the rains in August. We saw a great demand but stopped bookings as rains continued in August as well," he added.
The deluge has forced the state to cancel the decades-old Nehru Trophy boat race, which has been a big tourism draw, especially among foreigners, for many years now.
The Alleppey snake boat race in the Vembanadu lake was made famous by the regular attendance of the country's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and used to be annually held in the middle of August. -- PTI
16:09 Security expenses on BJP chief can't be disclosed: CIC
Expenses incurred on the security cover of Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah cannot be disclosed, the Central Information Commission has held citing RTI Act exemption clauses of "personal information" and "safety".
The commission has denied the appeal of a petitioner who had also sought to know the rules governing extension of security cover to a private individual and the authorities, which foot the bill of such cover to a private individual.
The application was filed by Deepak Juneja on July 5, 2014, when Shah was not a member of the Rajya Sabha.
He had also sought to know the list of people who have been given security by the government.
The information was denied by the Home Ministry citing Section 8(1)(g) that exempts from disclosure information that would endanger the life or physical safety of any person.
The ministry had also cited Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, which exempts information that is personal, would cause unwarranted invasion of privacy and is not linked to any "public activity".
In its previous order in the matter, the CIC had upheld denial of information as it was not disclosed before Parliament.
Juneja challenged the CIC order in the Delhi high court where Justice Vibhu Bakhru set aside the transparency panel's order stating that the commission was first required to examine whether information sought by the petitioner was exempted under clauses (g) and (j) of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act.
It lobbed the matter before the CIC again to consider private contentions in the light of the exemption clauses of Section 8(1) of the act.
The commission again heard Juneja and the home ministry in the matter.
Juneja submitted that the grant of security cover to eminent persons under threat is the duty of the state in cases where the beneficiary holds a high office as they cannot perform their vital functions while reeling under threat, Information Commissioner Yashovardhan Azad noted in the order.
However, the appellant submits that defraying cost of elite Z+ security cover to private persons must not be from the state exchequer, Azad pointed out.
"Amit Shah, who happens to be the national president of the Bhartiya Janta Party has been granted Z+ security cover by the MHA since July 2014 despite him not being holding any constitutional or statutory office," Juneja said, adding that since it was public money he has the right to know.
The ministry said the respondent's contention is that revelation of expenses incurred in providing security cover would reveal the intricacies, and magnitude and rigour of security cover.
It said rules governing the entitlement of grant of security cover and process of threat assessment among others are framed in consultation with central security agencies, which are exempted from the purview of the RTI Act, and disclosure would nullify the exemptions.
15:20 Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary: IR to display Swachch Bharat logo all train coaches
All coaches of the Indian Railways will now display the logo of the government's pet project Swachch Bharat and the national flag as part of the national transporter's plans to celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
The Railway Board has said that the 'Swachchta Pakhwara' from September 15-October 2, would mark the beginning of the railways' plans to commemorate Gandhi's birth anniversary.
It has identified 43 stations with special association with Mahatma Gandhi which will be painted thematically while 28 others near iconic places would undergo massive cleanliness drives.
Among the 43 stations are Delhi, Lucknow, Mumbai, Surat, Danapur, Asansol, Bengaluru, Vadosara and among the iconic stations are Puri, Amritsar, Haridwar, Kurukshetra.
The board has also picked up themes for the next six months starting October 2018 - sanitation, non-violence, voluntary community service, communal unity, removal of untouchability, and women empowerment.
The zonal railways have been asked to use these themes to paint the identified stations.
Instructions have also been sent out to plant trees along railway tracks and get both serving and retired railway personnel along with passengers to participate in 'Shram Daan'.
Special focus, the board has said, should be given on the cleanliness of approaches to golden triangle region- to and from Delhi, Agra and Jaipur.
It has also said that administrative offices - zonal and divisional headquarters - should have "murals of Gandhiji with his quotes".
October 2 this year has been set as a deadline for completion of these activities.
Railways' effort is part of the government's plans to celebrate Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary starting October 2. Events and activities will not only be held across the country, but Indian missions abroad too will participate actively in propagating the teachings and life of the Father of the Nation.
Every government department has been asked to firm up their plans from October 2018 to March 2019. -- PTI
15:18 MEA refuses to share details on extradition request of Zakir Naik to Malaysia
The ministry of external affairs has refused to share details of request to Malaysia seeking extradition of controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, being probed in India for alleged terror charges, citing RTI clauses that bars disclosure of information received in confidence from foreign government, among others.
In response to an RTI application filed by this PTI correspondent, the ministry said there are 160 extradition requests from India pending with various foreign countries.
To a query seeking details of extradition request made by India and response received from Malaysia, it said "the information cannot be provided pursuant to Section 8 (1) (a) (f) and (h) of the Right to Information Act, 2005."
The Section (h) bars disclosure of information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders.
As per Section (f) of the transparency law, "information received in confidence from foreign government" cannot be disclosed.
The Section 8 (1) (a) bars "information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the state, relation with foreign state or lead to incitement of an offence".
The MEA was asked to provide copy of letter or request made to Malaysia seeking extradition of Naik and also the copy of any communication response from that government.
Naik, who left India in July, 2016, is wanted for alleged terror and money laundering charges.
MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had last month said that India's request to Malaysia to extradite Naik was under active consideration of that country.
India has an extradition treaty with Malaysia.
In January, the MEA made a formal request to Malaysia to deport Naik.
Naik, who is in Malaysia, in a statement published in Malaysian newspapers in July, had thanked Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad for examining his case from an "unbiased perspective".
Mahathir, who had met the radical Indian cleric last month, has made it clear that his government will not easily give in to India's demand to deport Naik. -- PTI
14:42 Former Bengal cricket captain Gopal Bose passes away
Former Bengal cricket captain Gopal Bose died after suffering a cardiac arrest at a Birmingham hospital today.
He was 71 and is survived by his wife and son Arijit.
An opening batsman, Bose had scored 3757 runs in 78 first-class games with eight hundreds and 17 fifties. He also took 72 wickets with his handy off-breaks including one five-wicket haul.
He was the first cricketer from Bengal to play an ODI against England in 1974, which was incidentally only the second ODI that India played.
Interestingly, Bose was the manager of the Virat Kohli-led India U-19 team that won the colts World Cup in Kuala Lumpur in 2008.
After a prolific 1973-74 season, during which he scored a big hundred for Rest of India in the Irani Cup, Bose was included for India's unofficial tour of Sri Lanka, where he scored a hundred and shared a 194-run opening stand with Sunil Gavaskar.
He was picked for India's 1974 tour to England and his struggles against the moving delivery meant that he didn't play a Test match on that tour.
He was also picked in the squad for a 1975 Test match against the West Indies in Chennai when Gavaskar was injured but the erstwhile selection committee decided to promote Eknath Solkar as Farokh Engineer's opening partner.
Bose never got a call-up after that.
However, he made a name for himself as one of the most respected coaches in Bengal with sharp insight. S
ome of the Bengal stars of later years like Ranadeb Bose, Devang Gandhi, and Avishek Jhunjhunwala learnt their cricket under Bose's tutelage.
There was a popular saying in the late 80's and early 90's that "it can't be that you are a resident of South Kolkata and you have not learnt your cricket under Gopal da".
Known to speak his mind, Bose was never a favourite with the establishment in Bengal cricket. It was only after Sourav Ganguly became the president of the Cricket Association of Bengal that he was conferred with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
"Lost a very dear person today ..luckily he was with his entire family in Birmingham ..will miss him ..may his soul rest in peace," former India captain Sourav Ganguly wrote on his twitter page.
Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said: "Saddened at the passing away of Gopal Bose, former India cricketer, shining star of Bengal cricket for many years and captain. My condolences to his family, admirers and friends in the sports fraternity."
The likes of Manoj Tiwary and Wriddhiman Saha also expressed their condolences. -- PTI
14:27 Social media platforms won't be allowed to abuse election process: Prasad
India has taken "serious note" of reported data misuse of social media platforms and such tools will never be allowed to abuse the election process for extraneous means, information and technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has said.
According to an official statement, Prasad, speaking at the plenary of the G-20 Digital Economy Ministerial meeting in Salata, Argentina, also emphasised that the purity of democratic process should never be compromised and promised that India will take measures to deter and punish those who seek to vitiate the process.
"...Prasad also said that India had taken a serious note of reported misuse of social media platform data...such platforms will never be allowed to abuse election process for extraneous means...," the release said.
It is pertinent to mention here that the issue of abuse of social media platforms has been under scanner in India over the last few months and the government has resolved to take tough action to prevent any platform misuse.
In fact, the CBI has recently initiated a preliminary enquiry against British political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica for alleged illegal personal data harvesting of Indians from Facebook.
Meanwhile, speaking at the G-20 event, Prasad also mooted that a part of revenue generated by digital platforms need to be reinvested in host markets, the official release said.
The IT minister said that the borderless nature of cyber world posed limitless potential for trade and commerce but only a safe and secure cyberspace can yield benefits of digital transformation for the global economy.
He cautioned that nefarious use of internet is a reality that needs to be countered by concerted action, the official release added.
Prasad further said that the use of cyber mediums to spread radical thought posed a challenge that needed to be addressed both domestically through better regulations as well as international cooperation.
Assuring that India is taking all possible steps to make the cyberspace safe, he warned that instances of cybercrime or cyber threat will be dealt with severely by the government.
Outlining India's concerns about data protection and individual privacy, Prasad said that while privacy cannot prohibit innovation it can neither become the shield for the corrupt or terrorists.
He noted that the Supreme Court, while upholding the right to privacy has also elaborated these aspects and hence a fine balance needs to be struck between data availability, innovation, anonymity and privacy. -- PTI
13:57 Dalits, Muslims, women, press are living in fear today: Chidambaram
Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram has said that a formidable alliance of opposition parties can be stitched together to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party and free India from the "reign of fear" in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
Chidambaram, however, avoided directly answering a question on the leadership issue or who would be the prime ministerial candidate of the alliance, saying it is a premature question.
"Let us form the alliance and let the elections take place. All of you want to know the answer even before the script is written," he said.
The former finance minister said the most important issue on which all opposition parties agree to is that the saffron party should be defeated.
"On that point, there is a convergence of views in many states like Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Bihar, etc. That convergence will bring together opposition parties and alliances will be formed state-wise," Chidambaram told PTI in an interview here.
He said for the first time, "we are witnessing a sense of fear" among a large section of people in the country.
"The Dalits live in fear, the Muslims live in fear, the women live in fear, the press live in fear," he said.
"We are moving away from the accepted democratic rights and democratic positions. This is a dangerous trend for the country. We wanted freedom (from British rule) because we want to live without fear. And today, a vast section of the country lives in fear and this has to end," Chidambaram said.
Asked whether the Congress will replicate the Karnataka model, where despite being the largest party in the Congress-Janata Dal Secular alliance it gave away the CM's post to JD-S to keep the BJP at bay, he said it is too early to comment on it.
"Karnataka was a state election. We talked about Karnataka after the election results were announced. Now, the major challenge is the Parliament election and eight months ahead of the polls, we can't talk about what will happen after election.
"There will be alliance in each state depending upon the context of the state... The alliance has to be state-specific. So I think a formidable alliance can be stitched together state-wise for the Parliament elections," he said.
On reports of certain opposition parties like the Telangana Rashtra Samiti and the Trinamool Congress not being very comfortable with the Congress leading the front, Chidambaram said it is advisable to wait till the election and the alliance talks to begin.-- PTI
13:19 Delhi Sikh body chief attacked by pro-Khalistan supporters in US
President of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee Manjit Singh GK was attacked in California allegedly by pro-Khalistan individuals, during which one of his associates was injured.
Singh, who had travelled to California following a visit to New York, said the purpose of his visit was to hold discussions among the Sikh community about the 550th birthday anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak, to be commemorated next year.
This is the second attack on the Shiromani Akali Dal leader.
He was earlier attacked in New York.
Three people have been arrested for the attack.
Singh was visiting the main Gurudwara in Yuba City, California yesterday when, he said, a group of 30-35 people supporting the 'Khalistan 2020 referendum' attacked him.
"I am hurt. They pushed me and kicked me brutally. It was a brutal murderous attack," he told PTI over phone from California.
He said one of his associates has been hospitalised while the police has arrested three people in connection with the attack.
The DSGMC chief said that the attack will not deter or intimidate him.
"We are not going to shy away," he said, adding that those demanding Khalistan can continue their fight but resorting to violence is not the answer.
"We will not be part of this fight for Khalistan," he said.
Meanwhile, 'Sikhs For Justice', a group demanding justice for the 1984 anti-Sikh riots victims and supporting the 'Khalistan 2020 referendum, in a statement issued through its legal advisor Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, accused Singh and his supporters of "instigating violent attacks on pro-Khalistan activists" who were "peacefully protesting" in the SAD leader's presence in Yuba City Gurdwara.
Pannun said the SFJ has also filed a complaint against Singh with the US Department of Justice for violations of the Foreign Agent Registration Act laws.
He said SFJ filed the complaint against Singh for holding, attending and addressing political gatherings in the US in violations of FARA laws.
"We will now ask US Immigration to take notice of illegal activities of Singh and make him inadmissible to the United States," he said. -- PTI
12:54 Big willful defaulters' dues to PNB drop to Rs 15,175 cr in July
Liabilities of big willful defaulters of scam-hit Punjab National Bank fell by 1.8 per cent to Rs 15,175 crore by July-end over the previous month, according the state-run's bank data.
Big willful defaulters are those who took loans of over Rs 25 lakh from the bank.
Such borrowers had an outstanding of Rs 15,355 crore at end of June this year.
Among major defaulters who took loans solely from PNB included Winsome Diamonds & Jewellery Rs 899.70 crore; Forever Precious Jewellery & Diamonds Ltd Rs 747.97 crore; Zoon Developers Rs 410.18 crore; Shree Sidhbali Ispat Rs 165.98 crore; Ramsarup Nirmaan Wires Rs 148.10 crore; S Kumar Nationwide Rs 146.82 crore.
Among others were Ramsarup Industrial Corporation Rs 133.20 crore; Ramsarup Lohh Udyog Rs 129.34 crore; Mahuaa Media Rs 104.86 crore; KG Corporation Rs 98.92 crore and Vishal Exports Overseas Rs 98.39 crore.
Those who borrowed money through a consortium lending from several banks were Kudos Chemie Rs 1,301.82 crore, Kingfisher Airlines Rs 597.44 crore; Jas Infrastructure and Power Ltd Rs 410.96 crore; VMC Systems Ltd Rs 296.08 crore; MBS Jewellers Rs 266.17 crore; Arvind Remedies Ltd Rs 158.16 crore; ICSA (India) Ltd Rs 134.76 crore.
Of the others included: Bhawani Industries Rs 106.66 crore; Tulsi Extrusion Rs 175.40 crore; Vibha Agrotech Rs 125 crore; Indu Projects Rs 102.83 crore; BBF Industries Rs 101 crore and Rupana Paper Mills Rs 100.49 crore.
Punjab National Bank which was hit by a scam of more than Rs 14,000 crore unearthed earlier in February allegedly carried out by jeweller Nirav Modi and his associates, posted a net loss of Rs 940 crore in the first quarter ended June of the current fiscal.
In 2017-18, the lender had registered a net loss of Rs 12,283 crore - the highest ever by any bank in India so far, due to rising bad loans and parking huge sum to cover for losses due to the scam.
The bank made a recovery from bad loans to the tune of Rs 7,700 crore in the first quarter ended June, 2018-19 as a result of its turnaround strategy it adopted last year.
The bank's gross NPAs or bad loans as on June end stood at Rs 82,889 crore -- 18.26 per cent of the gross advances. -- PTI
12:47 Always hoped to get accepted: Kangana Ranaut
Her rise in the movies as one of the best female actors of this generation and her sartorial fashion choices has made her a ramp favourite and Kangana Ranaut says as an aspiring actor she always had a vision that one day she will make it to the runway as a showstopper.
The 31-year-old actor, who played the role of a supermodel in Madhur Bhandarkar's critically-acclaimed film "Fashion", said as a kid the idea of walking the ramp always fascinated her and she used to practice it in front of the mirror.
"When I was young, I didn't had any guarantee that I will make it big in the entertainment industry. But I hoped that I will get accepted. I used to rehearse in the night. I was a science student and had the habit of working really hard.
"I used to wake up in the night nervous and stand in front of the mirror and impersonate the walk which I would see on Fashion TV. So, I remember working very hard and hoping that I will make it someday," Kangana told reporters on the sidelines of Lakme Fashion Week Winter/Festive 2018.
The "Rangoon" actor walked the ramp for designers Pankaj and Nidhi in the show presented by Nokia. -- PTI
Photograph: Kind courtesy Lakme Fashion Week
Children tie Rakhi to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the occasion of Raksha Bandhan.
12:15 India stands with Kerala in this hour of grief: PM in Mann ki Baat
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said that the whole nation stands shoulder to shoulder with the people of flood-affected Kerala.
"India stands shoulder to shoulder with the people of Kerala in this hour of grief. Our condolences are with the people who have lost their loved ones in the floods," he said.
He also hailed the role of forces who were involved in rescue operations in the flood-hit state while addressing the nation on the 47th edition of his radio programme 'Mann Ki Baat'.
"The Air Force, the Army, the Navy, the BSF, the CISF, the RAF, the NDRF have left no stone unturned in the rescue and relief operations in Kerala. I appreciate their efforts," he said.
In his address, Modi also touched upon the topic of triple talaq.
"The triple talaq bill was passed in Lok Sabha but could not be passed in the Rajya Sabha. I would like to assure Muslim women that the entire nation is there with them and will ensure that they get justice," he said.
Modi remembered former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpaye and said, "If there was one topic on which most people wrote, asking PM Narendra Modi to speak, it was the life of Atal ji. He brought a very distinctive and positive change in India's political culture. Tributes have poured in from all sections of society."
He also wished the nation on the occasion of Rakshabandhan and Sanskrit Diwas.
11:12 Don't have visions of becoming PM: Rahul
Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday said that he does not have visions of becoming next prime minister while adding that he only sees himself as the one who is 'fighting an ideological battle'.
Gandhi's reply came after he was asked about his vision of becoming next prime minister during an interaction with the Indian Journalists' Association in London.
"I don't have these visions. I view myself as fighting an ideological battle and this change has come in me after 2014. I realised that there's a risk to Indian state, to Indian way of doing things and I'm defending that. I just get up in morning think of how do I defend the Indian institutional structure and how do I make sure that the country I love works together," he added.
Interestingly, in May this year, Gandhi had asserted that he was ready to become prime minister if the Congress emerges as the single largest party in the 2019 general elections. -- ANI
11:11 Non-communal forces should ally for 2019 polls: Amartya Sen
Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has said all non-communal forces should come together for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and the Left should not hesitate in joining them as 'democracy is in danger'.
"We must express our opposition to autocracy, we must fight against their autocratic trends, we must criticise the issues where we need to oppose the non-communal right wing forces, but we must not take back our hands when it comes to fighting communalism which is the biggest threat," he said.
Sharply criticising the Bharatiya Janata Party government at the Centre, Sen said a party having got '31 per cent votes and ill motives in politics' came to power in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
"What happened in 2014 polls? A party having got 55 per cent seats but actually having secured 31 per cent of the total votes, came to power... A party with ill motives," Sen said on Saturday during a question-answer session at Sisir Manch auditorium in Kolkata.
The Nobel laureate said during his visit to Kolkata this time, he has heard whispers in certain quarters that to stop the autocratic trends in the state, BJP can be the viable medium and not the weak Communist Party of India-Marxist.
"This is a strange logic. To stop autocracy, we will be sowing the seed of communalism. This seed can be weeded after a lot of time, effort and battle in future," he said, adding every political question should not be interpreted through leftist and rightist prisms.
Sen said democracy was under threat in the country but it can only be rectified by the people.
"I think democracy is in danger but we can do rectification. If we say democracy is under threat, we can be beaten up by some people. But still we, the people, can do the rectification. It is not like a sinking boat which we all should abandon," he said.
Sen referred to Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) to draw parallels with the situation in the country, but did not specifically refer to any particular incident.
"Some students had been taken to custody in JNU on charge of sedition in the past, a charge which had not been proved in any case. They were beaten up in custody which was against any law. It is not fathomable how they were charged under sedition," the eminent economist said.
"We had all seen how an illegal act was committed and there was no fair justice. Till now, there was no proof of sedition charge. This time it was faced by students. but this can be faced by any citizen of this country," he said.
On the National Register of Citizens (NRC) issue, he said the Trinamool Congress had led the protests much before the Left parties.
"The TMC went there to protest before the left. Such a thing won't make the left proud. If you take pride for being Left make your voice heard on issues."
To a question on the efficacy of multi-party system in the country, Sen said, "I found no example which said democracy won't function without multi-party system. In one-party system we had seen example of autocratic rules over the years." -- PTI
10:36 Talk with Pak only when theres peace at border: Akbar
Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar said on Saturday India was ready to talk to 'all prime ministers' but asserted the country's prime minister could not be held hostage to terrorism.
He said talks with Pakistan were possible when there was peace.
"Our prime minister will never be held hostage to terrorism," Akbar said during a talk on 'India's Foreign Policy for 21st Century' at Mapusa near Panaji.
Pakistan should learn from its 'great friend' China, with whom India has not 'exchanged a single bullet' in many years despite having differences, the minister added.
"Yes, we have differences with China, but our differences with China must not become disputes and disputes must not become confrontations and confrontations must not become conflicts," the minister said.
"It is some achievement that during perhaps years not a single bullet has been exchanged with China," he said.
"Those who wonder why our relationship with our western neighbour, Pakistan, does not improve....Pakistan is China's great friend. Pakistan should learn from China.
"If not a single bullet was exchanged (with Pakistan), then we would talk. I had said 'Aman ki bat hogi jab aman hoga' (there will be talk of peace when there is peace)," Akbar added.
"Our prime minister will never be held hostage to terrorism, he will not. Let there be an end to this continuing torrent of terrorism. And yes, we are ready to talk to anyone. We are ready to talk to all prime ministers," he said. -- PTI
09:56 Body of witness in Unnao rape case exhumed
The body of Yunus, a witness in the Unnao rape case who died recently, was exhumed on Saturday, officials said.
"The body of Yunus was exhumed tonight and it was sent for post-mortem examination. The body was exhumed in presence of Qazi sahab (religious leader)," Unnao Additional District Magistrate BN Yadav told PTI.
Earlier in the day, district authorities met relatives of the witness seeking consent to exhume his body for a post-mortem examination.
Yunus was a witness in the case registered after the death of the father of a minor who was alleged rape by Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar.
The victim's father died in April after being beaten up, allegedly by Sengar's brother and others.
The victim's uncle had alleged foul play after the death of Yunus last week.
Meanwhile in Lucknow, the family members of Yunus wanted to meet Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Saturday.
"The family members of Yunus had come to Lucknow and were adamant about meeting the CM and getting inside his residence. Police have taken them to Hazratganj Police Station, so their grievances can be heard, and the district concerned be informed about it," SHO Gautampalli Police Station Vijay Pandey said.
On Twitter, Congress president Rahul Gandhi termed the death 'mysterious' and his burial 'hurried'.
The man's family, however, said he had died due to a liver ailment for which he was being treated.
Sub-divisional magistrates from Hasanganj and Unnao Sadar met the family members on Saturday, officials said.
But Jaan Mohammad, brother of Yunus, told reporters at the district collectorate that the family was against exhumation.
"The administration is building pressure on us. We do not want the post-mortem examination to be done as it is against our Shariat," he had earlier said.
Yunus had claimed to have seen the rape victim's father being beaten up by the brother of the BJP MLA.
The victim's uncle had written to the police on Wednesday, demanding a post-mortem examination.
Earlier, the police had said the family members had submitted medical prescriptions, indicating the man was undergoing treatment for liver cirrhosis.
His brothers had claimed the victim's uncle said they would get Rs 10-12 lakh if they agree to the post- mortem examination. -- PTI
09:14 Senator, former presidential candidate John McCain dead
Republican Senator and former presidential candidate John McCain passed away on Saturday at the age of 81 after a prolonged illness.
The news was confirmed by the senator's daughter Meghan McCain, who penned an emotional post on her father's demise on Twitter, captioned 'I love you forever -- my beloved father @SenJohnMcCain'.
Last year, McCain was diagnosed with primary glioblastoma, a type of brain tumour, and was operated upon to remove a blood clot, in Phoenix, Arizona.
In April this year, the senator underwent surgery once again to treat an intestinal infection related to diverticulitis.
Considered a staunch critic of Donald Trump, McCain had called on the US President to cease his attacks on the American press, when he was undergoing treatment in his home state.
He also called the Trump administration's attitude towards the press 'inconsistent at best and hypocritical at worst', in an op-ed published in the Washington Post.
Following McCain's demise, the US President took to Twitter to extend condolences to the senator's family.
'My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!' Trump tweeted. -- ANI