Tue, 06 February 2018
Venkaiah Naidu writes letter to Rajya Sabha members

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23:32   Venkaiah Naidu writes letter to Rajya Sabha members
After the Opposition parties boycotted the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, its chairman M Venkaiah Naidu issued a letter to the members of the House.

The united Opposition earlier in the day boycotted the Rajya Sabha for the day alleging that they were not being allowed by the Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu to speak in the House.

Naidu, in his letter, said it would be his commitment to allow any issue to be raised by anybody as per rules and procedures and nobody should have any misgivings about that.

The letter also clarifies Naidu's decision to adjourn the House for a longer period instead of frequent adjournments.

He also hinted at some sections of the House who are bent on not allowing smooth conduct of the house.

Here is the full text of Naidu's letter:

Hon'ble Members !

From the day I have assumed the office of Chairman of this august house, I have made it clear that any issue sought to be raised by any member of the House, will be allowed to be raised. I have reasons to believe that no hon'ble member would have any grouse in this regard.

I am deeply concerned with the negative public perception of this august House on account of forced adjournments and that too quite frequently over the years, which frequently follows a pattern. A pattern aimed at not allowing the House to function smoothly, come what may.

Ever since I started chairing the proceedings of this House, leaders of several parties have conveyed their anguish to me over how they are being deprived of their right to raise issue of concern to them as some parties strategise for disruptions leading to forced adjournments. I have shared this with floor leaders on more than one occasion.

Coming to the pattern of disruptions, I would like to share with hon'ble Members that I have admitted a total of 42 zero hour admissions during the last three working days i.e 2nd, 5th and 6th of this month. Only one could make the submission. Who is to be held responsible for denying 41 members of their right to bring their concerns to the notice of this august House and to the Government.

Another aspect of this pattern is that first Zero Hour is disrupted and then even question hour when the members get an opportunity to question the government is also disrupted. On many occasions over the years, house gets adjourned several times between 11 am and 1.00 pm. In this era of TV explosion, such frequent adjournments are adversely impacting the image and credibility of this house.

In this backdrop, I thought that it would be better to adjourn the House for a longer period instead of resorting to frequent adjournments. That too when it becomes evident that some sections of the house were bent on not allowing smooth conduct of the house.

I have discussed this concern of mine with Deputy Chairman first this morning and later with floor leaders. I have urged the leaders to ensure smooth conduct of proceedings. I also told leaders that if house proceedings were disrupted at the start, I would be left with no option but to adjourn the house till lunch.

My intention in doing so is to promote a sense of collective responsibility in minimizing or doing away with such forced frequent disruptions. When members and parties realise that they would ultimately be the losers of such disruptions and adjournments, they would talk to each other and enable better functioning of the house.

I realise some hon'ble Members have perhaps not properly understood my concern and anguish over the functioning of the house. I would like to reiterate again that it would be my commitment to allow any issue to be raised by anybody as per rules and procedures and nobody should have any misgivings about that. 

-- ANI
23:13   US may lift aid suspension if Pak acts against terror
The US may consider lifting its suspension of aid to Pakistan if Islamabad takes "decisive" and "sustained" actions against terror groups operating within the country, a top American diplomat said today.

Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing on Afghanistan that he intends to hold Pakistan accountable for its failure to deny sanctuary to terrorists.

"We may consider lifting the suspension when we see decisive and sustained actions to address our concerns, including targeting all terrorist groups operating within its territory, without distinction," Sullivan said.

This was the first hearing on Afghanistan after the Trump Administration last month announced to suspend nearly $2 billion in security assistance to the Pakistani military with limited exceptions for programmes that directly support US national security interests on a case-by-case basis.

"We also encourage restraint in Pakistan's military, nuclear and missile programmes, and seek continued, closer alignment of Pakistan's nonproliferation policies with our own," he added.

Noting that the US continues to value its relationship with Pakistan and recognise the benefits of cooperation, Sullivan said Pakistan played an important role in pushing al-Qaeda closer to defeat and combating in Islamic State. 

-- PTI

22:34   Pakistani troops resort to heavy shelling along LoC
Pakistani troops again resorted to heavy shelling along the Line of Control in Rajouri-Poonch belt of Jammu and Kashmir.

"There was heavy shelling by Pakistan troops along LoC in Tarkundi and Manjakote sectors this evening," DC, Rajouri, Shahid Iqbal Choudhary said.

The tension along the LoC has increased after a young army captain and three jawans were killed in Pakistani shelling on Sunday.

The army has indicated it would take retaliatory action.

Army Vice chief Lt Gen Sarath Chand said the force had been responding appropriately to Pakistan shelling, asserting that India will continue to give a "befitting reply" to such acts.

A total of 18 persons including 10 security personnel and eight civilians have died and over 75 injured in Pakistani shelling along LoC and IB in Jammu region this year.
22:17   Strong Taiwan quake topples buildings
A powerful 6.4 magnitude earthquake has toppled buildings in the Taiwanese city of Hualien, media reports say.

The tremor struck aabout 20 km off the island's east coast.
21:49   1,00,000 Bitcoin investors get notices from Income Tax Department
The Income Tax Department has issued about one lakh notices to people, who have invested in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin without declaring these in their income tax returns, a top official said.

"People who have made investments (in cryptocurrencies) and have not declared income while filing taxes, and have not paid tax on the profit earned by investing, we are sending them notices as we feel that it is all taxable," said Sushil Chandra, chairman of Central Board of Direct Taxes at an Associated Chambers of Commerce of India event.

Chandra comment came at a time, when Finance Minister Arun Jaitley while presenting Budget 2018 in the Lok Sabha on February 1 said that all cryptocurrencies, which include bitcoins, are illegal and the government will take all measures to eliminate their use. 

Also, the virtual currencies values have been tumbling on worries about government regulation. Bitcoin fell to its lowest since November at $5,992 in the Hong Kong market in early trade on Tuesday.
21:17   Kasganj: 1 more accused nabbed in Chandan Gupta murder case
One more person allegedly involved in the Chandan Gupta murder case was arrested today and a pistol recovered from him, police said.

Meanwhile, the family of Gupta, killed in communal violence last month, met Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in Lucknow today.

"One of the accused persons in the Chandan Gupta murder case - Salman - has been arrested. We have recovered a country-made pistol and two cartridges from him. The arrested accused is a resident of Mohalla Nawab of Kasganj," Superintendent of Police Piyush Srivastava said today.

Earlier, on January 31, the police claimed to have held Saleem, who they called the prime accused in the Chandan Gupta murder case. Subsequently, on February 3, one more person, Rahat, was arrested in connection with the killing.

-- PTI
20:41   Opposition trying to manufacture issue where none exists: Jaitley
Leader of Rajya Sabha and Union Minister Arun Jaitley today accused the opposition of trying to "manufacture an issue where none existed" after they boycotted the proceedings claiming that they were not being allowed to speak.

"What opposition parties have done in Rajya Sabha is absolutely unprecedented. The Congress and some other parties have tried to manufacture an issue where none existed," the senior BJP leader said.

The Congress, Trinamool Congress, DMK and other opposition parties had wanted to raise several issues in the Upper House but Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu did not allow them and adjourned the House till 2 pm. 

After the Chair did not allow them again when the House met, they boycotted it for the rest of the day.
Jaitley said the opposition parties could have raised any issue during the discussion on the motion of thanks to the president's address, which had started in the House yesterday and was continuing, and then during the debate on Union Budget.

-- PTI
20:25   Why should I quit BJP, let the party throw me out : Sinha
Dissenting BJP leader Yashwant Sinha said today he has no intention of quitting the BJP, which can throw him out if it so wants.

Sinha said he had been trying for an audience with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and had sent numerous letters to him, but failed to elicit a response, something that prompted him to float a political action group called 'Rashtra Manch'.

He said one of the tasks before the Manch was to ensure that the NDA government's policies are aligned with the BJP's election manifesto.

"Why should I quit the BJP? I had toiled hard during 2004-14 when the UPA was in power. Let the party throw me out if it wants," Sinha said.

Sinha, who served as the finance minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee cabinet, said the policies of the present NDA government were not in line with what had been promised in the election manifesto.

"My protest is to bring those back on track along the lines of the election manifesto of the BJP. I have been protesting for the last four years and this has culminated in the formation of the platform Rashtra Manch," Sinha said.

The Manch, he said, is a broad-based platform with people from many political parties and farmers' organisations.

-- PTI
19:59   Assange loses bid to overturn UK arrest warrant
Julian Assange has lost his bid to have the warrant declared invalid at Westminster Magistrates' Court.

A British judge has upheld a UK rrest warrant for the WikiLeaks founder, leaving his legal position unchanged after more than five years inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

Judge Emma Arbuthnot said the warrant stands, rejecting a call from Assanges lawyers for the warrant to be revoked because he is no longer wanted for questioning in Sweden.

Assange has been holed up in the embassy since he took refuge there in June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden. Swedish prosecutors were investigating allegations of sexual assault and rape made by two women in 2010.

Swedish prosecutors dropped the case last year, but Assange was still subject to a British arrest warrant for jumping bail in 2012.
19:53   Modi to reply to debate on motion of thanks to president's address in LS tomorrow
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to reply to the debate on the motion of thanks to the president's address in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, BJP sources said on Tuesday.

The discussion started on Monday and the motion is likely to be adopted by the House, where the ruling NDA has a big majority, on Wednesday, following the prime minister's reply.

The BJP has issued a whip asking its members to be present in the House on Wednesday and the day after. The government may introduce some important bill on Thursday, sources said.

In his reply, Modi is expected to respond to the opposition attack on his government over a host of issues, including alleged tardy employment generation, the state of economy, agriculture and foreign affairs, among others, and will list its achievements.
19:20   India 'disturbed' by declaration of emergency in Maldives
Reacting strongly to political turmoil in the Maldives, India today said it was "disturbed" on the declaration of an emergency by the government there and described as a matter of "concern" the arrests of the Supreme Court Chief Justice and political figures.

India issued an advisory to its nationals yesterday, asking them not to undertake non-essential travel to the island nation.

"We are disturbed by the declaration of a State of Emergency in the Maldives following the refusal of the government to abide by the unanimous ruling of the full bench of the Supreme Court on February 1, and also by the suspension of constitutional rights of the people of Maldives," the ministry of external affairs said in a statement.

"The arrest of the Supreme Court Chief Justice and political figures are also reasons for concern," it added.

Earlier, exiled former Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed asked India to intervene militarily to resolve the ongoing political crisis in the Maldives amid a deepening confrontation between the judiciary and President Abdulla Yameen, who has declared a state of emergency and arrested the country's top judge.

Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and another judge, Ali Hameed, were arrested hours after Yameen declared a state of emergency yesterday. No details were given about the investigation or any charges against them.

Former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who has allied himself with the opposition, was also detained at his home.

-- PTI
19:01   Anupam Kher, Ram Madhav's Twitter accounts hacked, pro-Pak messages posted
Some Twitter accounts, including those of actor Anupam Kher, Rajya Sabha member Swapan Dasupta and BJP general secretary Ram Madhav were hacked today, allegedly by pro-Pakistani Turkish hackers. 

Kher, who is in Los Angeles right now, said he was informed about the hack by his friends in India and had flagged the issue to Twitter. The actor said he had got a link as a direct message from BJP lawmaker Swapan Dasgupta.

"Got a DM yesterday from Mr Swapan Dasgupta's account about a link. A first from him. So opened it. Have spoken to Twitter already," Kher said.

Kher's Twitter handle -- @AnupamPKher -- was briefly changed to @AnupamPKherTC. It has now been restored after it was suspended for a while. The actor has close to 12 million followers on the microblogging site. 

Dasupta's account though is still not accessible. A message on the landing page says - "Caution: This account is temporarily restricted". 

Madhav's account, though still open, still has several messages in Turkish and pictures posted by Ayyildiz Tim, the same group that had targeted the Twitter accounts of some supporters of US President Donald Trump last month.

One of the messages posted Mr Madhav's handle read,  "Your account has been hacked by Turkish cyber army 'Ayyildiz Tim'. Your DM correspondence and important data have been captured. I Love Pakistan."

Twitter responded to the hackings by saying, "Our teams are working to resolve an issue affecting a small number of Indian users. We will notify affected account holders directly." It put out a note of caution as well -- "do not click on links in DMs coming from unknown accounts".
18:30   'Rafale deal is a scam': Rahul questions Modi govt for not sharing details
Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday called the Rafale deal with France a scam after Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in Parliament that details of the agreement for 36 jets could not be disclosed as it was classified information. 

Gandhi, who had also raked up the issue during the Gujarat elections, alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally went to Paris to change the deal and favour a businessman.

The defence minister says that we will not reveal the amount paid for buying Rafale aircraft. What does this mean? This only means there is a scam. Modi ji personally went to Paris, he changed the deal. The whole country knows about it, Gandhi said.

Sitharamans response came to a question by Samajwadi Party member Naresh Agrawal. Agrawal had sought to know why the government was not disclosing details of the multi-role combat aircraft deal in which Congress had alleged that the price of the fighter jets being paid by NDA government was higher than what was finalised by the UPA in a previous deal.

Last year, Congress had alleged that a huge scam is brewing in the procurement of the 36 fighter jets from France and accused the PM of promoting interests of Reliance Defence Limited. Can you explain Reliance on someone with nil experience in aerospace for Rafale deal? Self Reliance is obviously a critical aspect of Make in India, Gandhi had tweeted.
18:15   Rahul Gandhi now more than a match to Narendra Modi: Moily
Rahul Gandhi has emerged as "more than a match" to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the aspiration of the party and youth is to see him as the country's PM, senior Congress leader M Veerappa Moily said.

Asked about media reports suggesting that senior leaders like NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee, both of whom were earlier in the Congress, may be nursing an ambition to lead the UPA, he said, "Ambition is different, but practical reality is another (matter)."

"The Congress has a pan-Indian person and identity," the former chief minister of Karnataka, stressing that only a party having nationwide presence fits the bill to lead the opposition bloc against the BJP.

The former Union minister claimed the Congress's victory in the recent bypolls in Rajasthan is a clear indication that the NDA government is facing a lot of "unpopularity" and the "national-level graph" of the prime minister is "steeply coming down".

-- PTI
17:46   Bombay HC stays revoking of meat-sellers' licence over suspicion of selling beef
In a relief to meat-sellers in the neighbouring Palghar district, the Bombay high court today stayed a notice issued to them by the civic body concerned asking them to shut shop on suspicion that they had been selling beef.   

A bench of justices A S Oka and P N Deshmukh asked whether mere suspicion was a valid ground to suspend the licences of the meat-sellers, who had apparently not breached any terms and conditions of their licences.   

The bench was hearing a petition filed by about 20 meat-sellers from Palghar's Nallasopara area, challenging a notice issued to them on December 16, 2017 by the Vasai Virar Municipal Corporation (VVMC).   

"On what basis has the corporation suspended the licences. On mere suspicion? Is it a common practice to go about suspending licences even if there is no apparent breach of terms and conditions?" the bench asked.   

Through the notice, the civic body had informed the petitioners that their licences to sell meat had been suspended until further notice.   

The VVMC had also written to the local police asking them to help ensure that the petitioners did not keep their shops open.   

As per the VVMC, on December 15-16 last year, it seized around 550 kg of beef from the area where the meat shops are located.   

Since any slaughter and sale of beef across Maharashtra is illegal, the civic body initiated an inquiry.   

Suspecting that the beef might have come from one of the local meat sellers, it suspended the licences of all meat-sellers in and around the locality.   

The petitioners, however, denied that they were involved in the matter.   They also said the VVMC's notice did not even make any allegations that they had breached their licence terms, or they had been found selling anything illegal.   

They said the notice simply revoked their licences and asked them to shut shop.   

"We are aware that some illegal slaughter and sale of beef is rampant in the locality. We have no role in it," the petitioners' lawyer, Drupad Patil, told the HC.   

"We are licensed meat-sellers and sell only the meat that is permitted by the state. We purchase such meat from a licensed slaughter house in Thane," the petitioners said.   

They also submitted receipts for the meat that they purchased from the adjoining Thane district.   

Taking note of the above, the bench, in an interim order, stayed the VVMC's notice and also directed that no coercive action be taken against the petitioners.   

"First of all there is no allegation in the notice that the petitioners have committed any breach of licence terms," the bench said.   

"Secondly, there is no proof that they were found to be selling beef. The notice (issued by the VVMC suspending the licences) is ex-facie illegal," the high court said.
17:37   No Tamil film releases after March 1, announces producers body
Come March 1, no new films will be released by the Tamil producers in protest over a fee dispute with digital service providers, the apex body of the movie makers said today.   

The Tamil Film Producers Council said it will join its counterparts in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala and Karnataka in this regard and stop releasing new films till their 'just' demands were met.   

The digital service providers, who extend content solutions to cinema theatres in getting the films for exhibition, were charging "exorbitant fee", it said adding the film industry was already facing many issues.   

Multiple representations in person and through written communication had been made by the industry seeking lowering of the rates but "to of no avail," a TFPC release said.   

"We have unanimously decided that we will not release any films till our just demands are met," it said.   

TFPC, at its recent consultative meeting, had decided to extend support to its counterparts in the rest of the southern states in the matter and also work out alternatives to the digital service providers, the release said.   

"For our just demands to be met, it has been decided by the council on behalf of all the producers that from March 1 onwards no films will be released across Tamil Nadu," it said. 
17:18   Global mkt meltdown, LTCG bleed Sensex; down 561 points
The market continued to crumble during closing trade, as the indices saw a significant dip on Tuesday evening.The Sensex plunged by 561.22 points to 34,195.94, while Nifty saw a 168.30-point dip to 10,498.25.

Shares of Lupin and Tata Motors incurred maxiumum losses among Nifty stocks, falling more than five percent.

Meanwhile, market experts claimed the slump would continue in the days to come, owing to a fall in global markets.

"There is a selling pressure and there is no new buying emerging. So first, the scenario will stabilise at some point of time. The scenario will stabilise when the valuations become attractive, then we will see new buying emerging. Till that time, we are in the midst of huge volatile markets and this will remain for some days," market expert Sunil Shah told ANI.

Experts also believe that the tax on long-term capital gains (LTCG), which Finance Minister Arun Jaitley reintroduced in the Budget 2018-19, is also a possible reason why the stock markets are rallying in red, even as global trends remain the major driving force.

Earlier on Tuesday morning, the Sensex crashed to 1,240.45 points lower, with the 30-share BSE down 3.57 percent to 33,516.71, Nifty 369.60 points lower at 10296.90. 
16:50   India successfully test-fires nuclear capable Agni-I (A)
India successfully test fired indigenously developed surface-to-surface nuclear capable Agni-I (A) ballistic missile from Abdul Kalam Island off the Odisha coast at 8.30 am. The test was conducted by the 'Strategic Forces Command of Indian Army as part of their training exercise', as told by the Defence sources.

The medium range single stage missile was launched from the mobile launch complex-IV of Integrated Test Range situated at Abdul Kalam Island formerly known as Wheeler Island. Defence Research and Development Organisation earlier had successfully conducted the eighteenth trial of Agni-I from ITR complex on Nov. 22, 2016. -- ANI
16:38   Rajiv, Benazir were ready to resolve Kashmir dispute: Zardari
Rajiv Gandhi and Benazir Bhutto were ready to resolve the Kashmir issue amicably but the Indian leader was assassinated during the election campaign, Pakistan's former president Asif Ali Zardari has claimed.

Zardari also revealed that former dictator Gen (retd.) Pervez Musharraf had come up with a plan on Kashmir issue but other generals could not agree to it.

"BB (Benazir Bhutto) sahiba had spoken to Rajiv Gandhi in 1990 who agreed to resolve the Kashmir issue amicably. Rajiv told Benazir that during the last 10 years no one including Gen Zia from Pakistan spoke with us on this issue," Zardari said at a Kashmir rally here last evening.

"He (Rajiv) admitted that Kashmir was an important issue and should be resolved. Rajiv said he would take up this issue with Pakistan after coming to power but he was assassinated (in 1991)," the former president added. Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated while campaigning for the Congress party candidate in Sriperumbudur on May 21, 1991. -- PTI
16:33   Yes, it's true. Hot chai may cause cancer
Drinking extremely hot tea may increase the risk of oesophageal cancer by up to five times, especially if a person also consumes alcohol and is a smoker, a study has warned.

The research, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, found that drinking very hot tea, along with smoking and drinking alcohol, was linked to an increased risk of squamous cell carcinoma of the oesophagus.

Although the exact mechanism is not known, research has suggested that frequently consuming scalding liquids may result in long-term injury to the cells lining the oesophagus, said Jun Lv, an epidemiologist at Peking University in China.

Frequently drinking very hot liquids, prepared at temperatures of 65 degrees Celsius - which is much hotter than a typical cup of coffee or tea - can increase the risk of squamous cell carcinoma of the oesophagus, researchers said.

These heat-related changes to the oesophageal lining may also increase the likelihood of damage from other risk factors for oesophageal cancer, such as smoking and heavy drinking, which may damage the DNA in cells that line the oesophagus, Lv told Live Science. In the study, researchers looked at data from about 456,000 people in China ages 30 to 79.
15:58   Govt approves 14,460 bunkers for civilians hit by Pak firing
Amid the continuing firing from Pakistan, the government has approved construction of 14,460 bunkers for the protection of the people living in forward areas.
Union Minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir said the home ministry recently approved a proposal for construction of 14,460 bunkers to mitigate the hardships of the people living along the International Border and the Line of Control due to cross-border firing.
"These include 1,431 large community bunkers and 13,029 individual bunkers in the districts of Samba, Jammu, Kathua, Poonch and Rajouri. The project is being implemented by the Jammu and Kashmir government," he told the Lok Sabha while replying to a written question.
Pakistani troops have been repetitively violating the ceasefire since the beginning of 2017.
At least four BSF personnel were killed in firing by Pakistan last month.
An Army Captain and three jawans were killed and at least four people injured on Sunday in heavy Pakistani shelling along the LoC in Poonch and Rajouri districts of Jammu and Kashmir.
India shares a 2,526.86-km-long border with Pakistan that include 237.2 km of the Line of Control.  -- PTI
15:36   'Muzzled' opposition boycotts parliament
A group of opposition parties including the Congress today boycotted the proceedings of Rajya Sabha, alleging that their voice was being "muzzled". Among the parties which boycotted the proceedings after lunch include the Congress, TMC, NCP, DMK, Samajwadi Party, CPI-M, CPI and the AAP. Members of the parties stayed away from the House when the proceedings resumed at 3 pm after two adjournments during the day.

"The voice of the opposition is being muzzled outside and we do not want this to happen with the opposition parties inside the House. Which is why we wanted to raise this issue since morning and which is why we have boycotted the House for the whole day," Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad told reporters.

He alleged that various issues happening in the period between proceedings of two days are meant to be raised during Zero Hour, but the moment MPs get up to raise these issues the House is adjourned till 2 pm.

"The framers of rules have provided that should anything of national importance happens between the previous day and this morning, we are supposed to raise that particular issue. "We are not intruding into Question Hour or government business. What we want is provided in the rules. Unfortunately, for the last one week, we are not allowed to make use of rules," he said.

Rajya Sabha was adjourned till 2 pm today after TMC members sought to raise issues concerning the state. PTI
15:25   Now 'Manikarnika' faces allegations of distorting history
Controversy over films based on historical characters fails to die down in Rajasthan as yet another right wing fringe group Sarva Brahmin Mahasabha has demanded the state government to immediately stop the shooting of the Kangana Ranaut starrer 'Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi'.

The film appears to be heading the "Padamaavat" way, as the group alleged the team of the period drama filming a love song in which Rani Laxmibai romances a British agent of the erstwhile East India Company, a claim which producer Kamal Jain denied.

"We have come to know that the filmmakers are shooting for a love song in which Rani Laxmibai is seen with a British agent of East India Company. "We suspect that the producers are making the film based on the controversial book, Rani, written by Jaishree Misra,' state president of the group Suresh Mishra said.

He said the protest would escalate, if the administration failed to ensure that no historical facts are distorted in the epic biographical film. Shooting would be allowed only after the film owners give an undertaking that no controversial scene would be shown in the movie, he said.  -- PTI
15:23   43% rise in youths joining militancy in Kashmir: Mehbooba
The number of local youths joining militancy in Kashmir Valley went up to 126 in 2017, a sharp increase from 88 the year before, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti informed the state assembly in Jammu today. Data for the number of youths recruited is available from 2010.

"As many as 66 youths joined militancy in 2015, 88 in 2016 and 126 in 2017," the chief minister said while replying to a written question by National Conference leader Ali Mohammed Sagar.

PTI had reported in December last year that 2017 had seen the highest number of local recruitments to various militant groups in seven years. This was denied by Director General of Police S P Vaid.

According to data placed before Parliament in March last year, there has been a steady increase in the number of youths taking up arms in the Valley from 2014 onwards -- as compared to 2011, 2012 and 2013.

In 2010, 54 youths joined militancy. This dipped to 23 in 2011 and slipped further to 21 in 2012 and 16 in 2013. In 2014, the number shot up to 53 and went up to 66 in 2015 before touching 88 in 2016, according to the data.

The spurt in locals joining militancy began after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen terror group's poster boy Burhan Wani in an encounter in south Kashmir on July 8, 2016.

Security officials feel there is a difference between present day militants and those of the early 1990s. The ideological conviction of the present lot is stronger than that of the terror groups during the early days, they said. There is concern that the Valley is witnessing a trend of 'pan-Islamisation', where young boys are opting for terrorism knowing full well that they are at the risk of being killed, the officials said. PTI

Image: College student and footballer Arshid Majid Khan surrenders before security agencies in Novmber last year barely days after he had joined the Lashkar-e-Tayiba terror outfit. He said impassioned pleas from his mother and appeals from his father compelled him to return home.
14:59   UP shocker: 40 test HIV positive
At least 40 people in Uttar Pradesh's Unnao have been tested HIV positive. A quack who was treating people in the vicinity had allegedly used an infected needle to treat all the victims.

It is also being suspected that numerous truck drivers dislodge themselves in Unnao which is a transit point and might be acting as the HIV carriers.

Meanwhile, area councillor Sunil Bangarmau said if proper tests are done, at least 500 cases of HIV would come up. "40 positive cases have been found. If proper tests are done, at least 500 cases would come up. It is being told that the people here used to go to a quack for treatment of diseases. He used a single syringe on all of them," said Bangarmau.

Now, health camps have been setup by the local health authorities to curtail the spread of HIV. "We had set up health camps where these cases were found to be confirmed. We have received orders and are deciding our further course of action," said Medical superintendent, community health centre, Pramod Kumar.Uttar Pradesh Health Minister has assured an investigation in the connection.

"It is being investigated. Action will be taken against the culprits and those who practice medicine without the license. Since it's a transit point, HIV carriers are likely to come there. So we're mapping truck drivers who come there and offer treatment to them," Sidharth Nath Singh told ANI. 
14:38   She's Warina. The ladki Salman tweeted about
That's the girl who's launched a million tweets. Or a thousand, may be. Her name is Warina and Salman Khan will be launching her with his brother-in-law Aayush Sharma in his home production Loveratri. Ayush is married to Salman's sister Arpita.

Posting this picture of Warina, Salman tweeted, "Nothing to worry na @aaysharma ki film #Loveratri ke liye ladki mil gayi Warina, Toh dont worry na be happy na."

Salman Khan, ever the bachelor, created a frenzy on Twitter today, after announcing that he has found a girl, "Mujhe ladki mil gayi."
13:57   Nasheed wants Indian boots to stamp out Maldives' emergency
Exiled former Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed today sought India's diplomatic and military intervention to resolve the ongoing political crisis in the island nation after President Abdulla Yameen declared a state of emergency and troops arrested the top judge.

The picturesque Indian Ocean archipelago was plunged into chaos on Thursday when the Supreme Court called for the release of nine imprisoned opposition politicians, ruling that their trials were politically motivated and flawed. The government refused to implement the ruling, prompting a wave of protests in the capital, Male, with angry clashes between police and demonstrators. Yameen yesterday declared a state of emergency. Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and another judge, Ali Hameed, were arrested hours after the government declared a state of emergency. No details were given about the investigation or any charges.

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who has allied himself with the Opposition, was detained at his home. Nasheed, whose Maldivian Democratic Party functions from Colombo, appealed for India's help.

In a statement issued by the MDP, Nasheed said, "We would like the Indian government to send an envoy, backed by its military, to free the judges and the political detainees, including former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, from their detention and to bring them to their homes. We are asking for a physical presence".

Nasheed said President Yameen has illegally declared martial law. The Maldivian government holds that Nasheed is convicted for a crime and is wanted in the Maldives to serve a jail sentence. Nasheed said he will seek UN support to ensure he is allowed to contest this year's election. PTI

File pic of of former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed.
13:36   Is only Pakistan firing? India firing too: Farooq Abdullah
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah on Tuesday called for dialogue to resolve the issue of ceasefire violations.

While asserting that war is not a solution, the National Conference president said that it is not only Pakistan which is firing. "Are they (Pakistan) the only ones who're firing? We're firing too. Both sides are doing this. This has led to the destruction of people. This is leading to a war-like situation. War is never a solution to anything. The only solution is dialogues on ceasefire violation by Pakistan," he said.

His statement came a day after four army personnel lost their lives in heavy Pakistani shelling. On February 4, an Army Captain and three jawans were killed and at least four people suffered injuries in heavy Pakistani shelling along the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch and Rajouri districts of Jammu and Kashmir. -- ANI
13:21   Srinagar hospital shootout: Critically injured cop dies
Update: Policeman who was critically injured after shooting by Pakistani prisoner Naveed Jatt at Shri Maharaja Hari Singh hospital in Srinagar, succumbs to his injuries.
12:51   One cop dead in shoot-out at Srinagar hospital
Update on the attack on the Srinagar hospital.

A policeman was killed today and another injured as militants staged a daring attack outside a hospital in Srinagar to free a Pakistani terrorist from police custody, police said.

Mohammad Naveed alias Usman, a Pakistani terrorist linked with the Udhampur attack, was being taken to the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh hospital in Srinagar, when  the ultras opened fire on the police party. Reports also say that Naveed snatched a weapon from the police personnel accompanying him and escaped in the ensuing melee.

One policeman was killed while another is battling for life in the hospital, a police official said. A carbine rifle of one of the cops is also reported
missing, the official said. The area has been cordoned off and searches are on to track down the ultras, he added.

There were five other prisoners accompanying him, who have all been remanded to custody. 

SSP Srinagar Imtiaz Ismail Parray said, "Six detainees were being brought from Central Jail. Out of them, one snatched weapons from the police and fired at the protection party. The prisoner's name is Naveed. He is probably an outsider."

The hospital has been closed to patients for a while.
12:41   Pak terrorist taken to Srinagar hospital for check-up escapes
In an audacious attack in the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh hospital in Srinagar, Mohammad Naveed Jatt alias Abu Hanzulla, a Pakistani terrorist fired upon the policemen escorting him to a hospital for a routine check-up and escaped.  The prisoner had snatched a weapon from the cops escorting him, fired at them, and escaped in the ensuing melee. There were five other prisoners accompanying him, who have all been remanded to custody.  

Two policemen have been injured, out of whom one is critical. SSP Srinagar Imtiaz Ismail Parray said, "Six detainees were being brought from Central Jail. Out of them, one snatched weapons from the police and fired at the protection party. One policeman is critically injured & another is injured. The prisoner's name is Naveed. He is probably an outsider."

Naveed Jatt was arrested a few months ago in Shopian. Details awaited.

Image: Naveed Jatt who escaped after firing at the police protection party at Shri Maharaja Hari Singh hospital in Srinagar today.

12:18   Kulbhushan Jadhav faces more charges in Pakistan: Report
Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav, who was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on spying charges, is now facing trial in multiple cases related to terrorism and sabotage, according to a report in media. Jadhav, 47, was sentenced to death by the military court in April last year.

Pakistan claim that its security forces arrested Jadhav from its Balochistan province on March 3, 2016 after he reportedly entered from Iran. India denies all charges. India moved the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in May last year against the verdict.

The ICJ halted his execution on India's appeal pending the final verdict by it. Dawn reported quoting an official that Jadhav has multiple cases against him in which he had been indicted on terror and sabotage related charges. The cases are progressing, the paper quoted the official saying. He said only the spying case against Jadhav has been concluded out of the multiple cases against him.

The paper quoting a source also said that Pakistan on a number of occasions had sought access to 13 Indian officials to ascertain information in the case. But New Delhi has remained stubbornly uncooperative, the paper said. The Pakistani source did not disclose the names of the 13 Indian officials that the government wants to quiz. He, however, said: "We want to reach Jadhav's handlers". -- PTI
12:00   Uttarakhand CM spent Rs 69 lakh on chai-paani
An RTI query has revealed that Uttarakhand, Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat has spent a hefty amount on refreshments and snacks for his guests from the state government's fund. In a reply to an RTI query, an RTI officer stated that a whopping amount of Rs, 68,59,865 has been spent by the Chief Minister after assuming his office last year.

In the query, the RTI activist Hemant Singh asked as to how much money has been spent by the Rawat after assuming office as the Chief Minister of the state. It is to be noted that Rawat, a Bharatiya Janata Party leader assumed his office on March 18 last year. -- ANI
11:36   Rupee slumps 23 paise to 64.30 in late morning deals
The rupee fell by 23 paise to hover near one-and-a-half-month low at 64.30 against the US currency in late morning on sustained bouts of dollar demand from importers and banks amid sell-off in local equities.

The rupee opened sharply lower at 64.35 per dollar as against yesterday's closing level of 64.07 at the inter-bank foreign exchange here. It plunged further to 64.40 taking cues from weak domestic equities reacting to global sell-off. The benchmark Sensex fell by over 900 points in early trade. The Indian unit was trading between 64.40 and 64.30 per dollar during morning deals.
11:26   Merchant ship with 22 Indians on board released by pirates
Good news for the families of the 22 Indians on board the merchant ship that went missing off the Benin coast. External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj tweets, "I am happy to inform you that Merchant Ship Marine Express with 22 Indian nationals on board has been released."

The oil tanker with 22 Indians onboard went missing off the Benin coast in the Gulf of Guinea near West Africa, the Ministry of External Affairs had said yesterday. The missing merchant vessel is owned by  Mumbai-based Anglo Eastern shipping company.

MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted that the Indian mission in the Nigerian capital Abuja is in contact with authorities in Nigeria and Benin. The two countries are coordinating efforts to locate the missing vessel and are monitoring the situation.

The Anglo Eastern shipping company has requested the Directorate General of Shipping in Mumbai to get in touch with the Nigerian and Beninese authorities to conduct search operations for the missing vessel which was carrying gas oil, reported news agency ANI.  The agency, citing reports, said that there is a high possibility that the ship might have been hijacked by pirates off west Africa.
11:16   Congress set for culture shift under Rahul
Congress president Rahul Gandhi is unlikely to appoint a political secretary in a significant departure from Sonia Gandhi's tenure as chief when Ahmed Patel played a pivotal role in that position.

"I am reasonably sure Rahul will not have a political secretary," a leader told The Telegraph. Party leaders who have worked closely with both mother and son said their style of functioning was spectacularly different. "We already have the feel of a new Congress, culturally and at the functional level," the leader, a Sonia aide, said.  Read more
India successfully test-fires short range nuclear capable Agni-I ballistic missile from test range off Odisha coast: Defence sources. -- PTI
10:37   Maldives' top judge arrested as state of emergency declared
The Chief Justice of Maldives Abdulla Saeed and another Supreme Court were detained while Opposition leaders across the Maldives are being rounded up and placed under detention as draconian measures are being put in place by President Abdulla Yameen.

Early Monday evening President Yameen declared a state of emergency for 15 days.Yameen, who has been defying Supreme Court's orders on releasing former president Mohamed Nasheed, and free eight other political opponents from prison, has now given sweeping powers to security forces in the country, which is facing widespread domestic protests against the president.

According to the local media reports, Maldives' Legal Affairs Minister Azima Shakoor read the announcement on state television.

A Member of Parliament Abdulla Shahid took to Twitter to inform that an emergency has been declared in the Maldives.

"President has just Declared State of Emergency," he tweeted.Ahmed Mahloof, the spokesperson of Joint Opposition, told ANI that "He's (President Yameen) playing his last card and his game is over."Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Eva Abdulla said, "All basic rights suspended. Security forces have sweeping powers to arrest and search."

"All basic rights suspended. Security forces have sweeping powers to arrest and search," Eva added. "This was expected and the only card left for President is this.

Also according to article 258 of constitution Supreme Court can cancel State of Emergency," a senior opposition leader said.Ambassador of the United States to Sri Lanka and the Maldives informed on Twitter that he spoke with the Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed to reiterate U.S. support for democratic freedoms.

"I spoke tonight with Chief Justice Saeed to reiterate U.S. support for democratic freedoms, human rights, and #RuleofLaw in #Maldives. Any robust #Democracy requires a judiciary that functions without hindrance or intimidation," he tweeted. -- PTI
10:23   Child kidnapped from school bus rescued; 1 abductor shot dead
A five-year-old boy, who was brazenly abducted from a school bus here on Republic Day eve, was rescued today after an encounter between police and the kidnappers in Ghaziabad, an official said.

Rehan was rescued in the early hours after a Crime Branch team received a tip-off and laid a trap in a residential area on the Loni border, a Crime Branch official said. In the shoot-out one of the kidnappers Ravi was killed and his associate Pankaj suffered injuries to his leg. The third, Nitin, was arrested. No police personnel was hurt, he said.

The boy was kidnapped on January 25 from a school bus near the GTB Enclave in Shahdara by two bike-borne persons who had also shot and injured the driver when he tried to stop them. The accused had also demanded a ransom from the boy's father, the official said. The case was transferred to the Crime Branch from the local police by the Commissioner after they failed to rescue the child. PTI

Image: It's smiles all around for the relieved family, pictured here with the boy.
10:17   Dow erases all its 2018 gains
The US Dow suffered its deepest fall in history, erasing all of its 2018 gains, while the S&P 500 took a beating to sit down for the year yesterday. Asian markets followed the trend with Tokyo diving more than 5 per cent, Hong Kong 4 per cent and Sydney 3 per cent, Singapore 2.3 per cent, Seoul 3 per cent, Taipei 3.7 per cent, and Shanghai 2.1 per cent. The heavy profit booking comes after months of surges fuelled by corporate earnings, global outlook and optimism over the US economy.

In domestic markets, caution ahead of RBI monetary policy meeting which begins later in the day and the rupee depreciating by 29 paise to 64.36 against the dollar too dampened the sentiment, brokers said. Strong selling pressure dragged down all the Sensex and the Nifty components.

Foreign institutional investors sold equities worth Rs 1,263.57 crore in yesterday's trade, as per provisional data. The laggards include Tata Motors, Yes Bank, Axis Bank, SBI, Asian Paints, Tata Steel, Adani Ports, ICICI Bank, IndusInd Bank, HDFC Bank, Maruti Suzuki, L&T and Hero MotoCorp, plunged by up to 7.55 per cent. -- PTI
10:13   NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant granted extension till June 2019
NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant has been granted an extension of his tenure until June 30, 2019.

An official order stated that the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet approved the extension in the tenure of the NITI Aayog head to June 30, 2019, on the same terms and conditions as approved earlier.

A 1980-batch IAS officer from the Kerala Cadre, Kant was appointed as the CEO of the government's think tank in 2016, for a two-year term.

Prior to this, Kant has served as the national secretary of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), National Project Director of the Rural Tourism Project of UNDP, and Secretary - Tourism of the Government of Kerala. -- ANI
09:54   RBI likely to keep policy rates on hold
In the Reserve Bank of India's Monetary Policy Committee meeting, which will be held today in Mumbai, the apex bank is expected to keep policy rates on hold for this week.

The six-member MPC, which is headed by RBI Governor Urijit Patel will meet for the sixth bi-monthly Monetary Policy Statement for 2017-18, later in the day.

However, the bank may toughen its warning against inflation, lying on the ground for a hike in 2018 after prices accelerated at the fastest pace in the last 17 months. The bank is also worried about high global crude prices.

Though RBI has held the rates steady since a 25 basis point cut in August 2017, the prospects of rate hike have increased, as annual inflation accelerated to 5.21 percent in December 2017.

Further, in the Union Budget, which was presented last week, the government proposed to buy agricultural produce at 1.5 times the cost of production, marking a major policy shift after keeping the average Minimum Support Price (MSP) increase in low single digits over the past three years.This move may change the inflation trajectory in a country where at least three in five citizens rely on farm output for a living. -- PTI
09:28   Bloodbath on Dalal Street after Wall Street crash
Indian markets have tumbled in opening trade day after Wall Streets worst crash in six years. 

The benchmark BSE Sensex opened at 33,543.20 points -- 1,213 points or 3.49% down. 

The 50-share Nifty opened at 25,149.50 points, down by 376 points or 3.53%. 
09:07   Bill introduced in US House to end non-defence aid to Pakistan
A bill was introduced in the United states House of Representatives to end non-defence aid to Pakistan as it "provides military aid and intelligence" to terrorists.
It sought that the amount be redirect to infrastructure projects in the country.
Introduced by Congressmen Mark Sanford from South Carolina and Thomas Massie from Kentucky, the legislation will prohibit the US State Department and the United States Agency for International Development from sending American taxpayer money to Pakistan.
Instead, these funds will be redirected to the Highway Trust Fund, the account that pays for road infrastructure in the US.
The lawmakers alleged that Pakistan "knowingly" provides resources to terrorists.
Massie said the US should not funnel money to a government that "provides military aid and intelligence to terrorists".
This common-sense bill puts America first by reallocating tax dollars to roads and bridges at home instead of funnelling money overseas, he added.
Sanford said, "When the American people support other nations, our generosity shouldn't be used to reward terrorists with US taxpayer dollars. Couple this with the fact that the Highway Trust Fund will be USD 111 billion short by 2026, and it simply makes financial sense to repurpose these funds for our infrastructure."
Senator Rand Paul, who introduced the companion legislation in the Senate, said we fail to protect the country and steward taxpayers' hard-earned money when we support countries that chant "death to America and burn our flag".
"Let's bring that money home and use it to help rebuild our infrastructure instead of giving it to a nation that persecutes Christians and imprisons people such as the doctor that helped us get Osama bin Laden," he said.
The US, post 9/11, has provided nearly USD 34 billion in aid to Pakistan, including USD 526 million in 2017 alone. -- PTI
08:55   US stocks suffer worst day as Dow tumbles over 1,000 points
The Dow Jones industrial average has tumbled more than 1,000 points, dropping below 25,000, the worst fall in points since September 2008.

Amid a two-day loss of more than 1,600 points, it has lost its gains for the year.

However, it later gained back some ground as volatility returned to the stock market with a vengeance after a year of rare tranquillity, The Washington Post reported.

The Dow has swung more than 2,100 points in the last two sessions, a decline pushing more than 8 per cent and shattering long-term momentum.

"The index gave up 500 points in a matter of minutes on Monday afternoon as Wall Street wags tried to decode events," it added.

In the given situation, the Federal Reserve chairman, Jerome Powell is likely to slow the economy and accelerate interest rate hike.

The previous record for losses was 777.68 points on September 29, 2008. -- ANI
00:07   Hugh Grant settles phone-hacking case with UK papers
British actor Hugh Grant has settled his phone-hacking damages claim against Mirror Group Newspapers.

Grant was at the High Court when the details of the settlement were provided at a hearing.

Grant said the newspaper group had engaged in "industrial scale" phone hacking.

"This newspaper group has misled the public and its shareholders for many years; and it has let down its readers and its hard-working journalists," Grant said outside the

Settlement details weren't made public. British media said the payment involved a six-figure sum which the actor donated to the anti-hacking activist group Hacked Off.

Grant's claim involved the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and Sunday People newspapers. He has for a number of years spoken out against intrusive and sometimes illegal British press activities.
00:01   SpaceX poised to launch 'world's most powerful rocket'
 SpaceX is poised for the first test launch tomorrow of its Falcon Heavy, which aims to become the world's most powerful rocket, capable of ferrying people to the Moon or Mars some day.

No people are on board, just a mannequin wearing a futuristic spacesuit, strapped into CEO Elon Musk's very own cherry red Tesla car.

"Starman in a Red Roadster," Musk posted on Instagram today, showing the rocket's payload on a pedestal, aiming skyward.

The blast-off is scheduled for 1:30 pm (local time) from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The destination is deep space, into an orbit about the same distance from the Sun as Mars -- but not all that close to the Red Planet itself.

Musk has cautioned that the maiden launch of the Falcon Heavy may indeed fail.

"Will be in deep space for a billion years or so if it doesn't blow up on ascent," Musk, said on Twitter in December.

But the test launch could be a game-changer for SpaceX -- already a top cargo supplier to the International Space Station under a $1.6 billion contract with NASA -- as it seeks to gain a bigger piece of the commercial space market.