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Mon, 01 January 2018
Triple talaq bill to be introduced in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday

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21:31   Triple talaq bill to be introduced in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday
The contentious bill that criminalises instant triple talaq among Muslims, already passed by the Lok Sabha, is set to be introduced in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.

The bill, which makes instant triple illegal with up to three years in jail for the husband, was passed by the Lower House last week.

The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill is listed for introduction in the Rajya Sabha by Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on January 2, according to the list of business of the Upper House.

This bill gives power to the victim to approach a magistrate seeking 'subsistence allowance' for herself and minor children in the case of instant triple talaq or talaq-e-biddat.

A victim can also seek the custody of her minor children from the magistrate.

Under the law, instant triple talaq in any form -- spoken, in writing or by electronic means such as email, SMS and WhatsApp -- would be illegal and void.

Meanwhile, the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) has claimed that various Muslim bodies in the country would move the Supreme Court if the bill is also passed by the Rajya Sabha.

The bill could get stalled in the Rajya Sabha where government lacks a majority and it may be referred to a parliamentary committee for its review. -- PTI
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20:22   India awaits consular access to Jadhav: MEA
India awaits consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav and other Indian nationals in Pakistan's custody, the external affairs ministry said today, as it exchanged with Islamabad the list of civilian prisoners and fishermen lodged in each other's jails.

"Lists of 250 civilian prisoners and 94 fishermen were handed over to Pakistan," it said.

A list of 54 Pakistani civilian prisoners and four fishermen, who have completed their sentence and whose nationality confirmation is awaited from Pakistan, was also handed over and Pakistan was asked to expedite the confirmation, the ministry said.

Asserting that it remains committed to addressing humanitarian matters, including those pertaining to prisoners and fishermen in each other's country, the ministry said the government has repeatedly emphasised the need for early release and repatriation of civilian prisoners, missing Indian defence personnel and fishermen along with their boats.

"We also await consular access to those Indian nationals in Pakistan's custody for whom it has so far not been provided, including Kulbhushan Jadhav and Hamid Nehal Ansari," the ministry asserted.

Pakistan has also shared a list of 58 civilian prisoners and 399 fishermen in its custody, who are Indians or believed to be Indians, it said.

The ministry said the list was exchanged between the two countries through diplomatic channels simultaneously at New Delhi and Islamabad. It was done as part of the 2008 Agreement on Consular Access between India and Pakistan.

The ministry also informed that a juvenile named Hasnain, whose nationality was verified by Pakistan, was being repatriated.

The Pakistan Foreign Office also issued a press release regarding the exchange of lists and said that Pakistan will release 146 fishermen on January 8.

The exchange of the lists of prisoners comes days after Indian death-row prisoner Jadhav met his family on December 25 in Islamabad.  -- PTI
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20:13   Vijay Keshav Gokhale new foreign secy
JUST IN: Vijay Keshav Gokhale appointed new foreign secretary.

He replaces S Jaishankar who completes his tenure on January 28.
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19:54   Dinakaran to visit RK Nagar on Jan 3 to thank voters
Sidelined All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader, T T V Dinakaran today said cases filed against him will not have any impact on his political career.

Dinakaran, who took oath as a member of the state assembly on December 29, said he would thank voters in the RK Nagar constitutency, from where he was elected, on Wednesday.

Cases pending against him include a Foreign Exchange Regulations Act (FERA) case.

Dinakaran, who contested the December 21 bypoll as an independent, defeated AIADMK's E Madhusudhanan by over 40,000 votes, dealing a blow to the ruling camp headed by Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami.

The byelection was held to fill the vacancy caused by death of then sitting member Jayalalithaa on December 5, 2016.  -- PTI
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18:28   Pak has only given us lies, thinks we're fools: Trump
Issuing a tough warning to Pakistan, United States President Donald Trump today alleged that this South Asian nation has given America nothing but lies and deceit and has given safe haven to terrorists.

'The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools,' Trump said in a strongly worded tweet.

'They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!' Trump said in his first tweet of the year.

This is the strongest warning that has come from the US president.

In his new South Asia Policy unveiled in August, Trump had called for tougher measure against Pakistan if it did not cooperates the US in its fight against terrorism.  -- PTI
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18:14   SBI cuts lending rates, to benefit 80 lakh customers
The State Bank of India today reduced the base rate and benchmark prime lending rates by 30 basis points each, which will benefit nearly 80 lakh customers on the old pricing regime.

The nation's largest lender revised down the base rate to 8.65 per cent for existing customers from 8.95 per cent, while the BPLR is down from 13.70 per cent to 13.40 per cent.

The bank however did not change the marginal cost of funds-based lending rate (MCLR) which would have brought down the cost for all borrowers.

The one-year MCLR of the bank stands unchanged at 7.95 per cent.

The new rates will be effective today, the bank said in a statement.

"We had done the rate review in the last week of December, and based on whatever deposits rates we had, our base rate was brought down by 30 basis points to 8.65 per cent now," managing director for retail and digital banking, P K Gupta told reporters in a conference call.

Nearly 80 lakh customers who are on the old lending rate regimes and have not moved to MCLR, will be benefited from this reduction.

Banks review MCLR on a monthly basis, while the base rate revision happens once a quarter.

"The MCLR was reduced earlier also as the gap between MCLR and base rate had become quite wide. This move will help in reducing that gap," he said.

The revision will ensure transmission of reduction in the policy rates in the recent past, he said.

The bank also extended its ongoing waiver on home loan processing fees till the end of this March for new home loan customers and other customers looking to switch their existing loans to SBI.  -- PTI
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17:08   Pulwama attack: Counter op ends, 3rd terrorist's body recovered
The counter-operation launched by security forces against the terrorists who attacked a Central Reserve Police Force camp in Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir ended today following the recovery of the body of another terrorist, the police said.

Finally, the operation has concluded with the recovery of the body of the third terrorist, Director General of Police S P Vaid said.

The bodies of two terrorists had been recovered yesterday.

The search operation, however, is still going on,  CRPF Special DG (J&K zone) S N Srivastava said.

The attack was claimed by Pakistan-based Jaish-e- Mohammed.

The two ultras whose bodies were recovered yesterday were Manzoor Ahmad Baba from Drubgam (Pulwama) and Fardeen Ahmad Khanday from Nazeempora (Tral).

Khanday was the son a serving policeman.

Srivastava said the third terrorist was a Pakistani.  -- PTI, ANI

IMAGE: Smoke rises from the CRPF training camp in Pulwama during a terrorist attack. Photograph: Umar Ganie/ Rediff.com
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16:01   IIMs can now award degrees instead of diplomas
The Indian Institutes of Management in the country have got more autonomy in their functioning with restricted government's role in their functioning and power to award degrees instead of diplomas to their graduates, according to a new law.

President Ram Nath Kovind has given assent to the Indian Institutes of Management Bill, 2017, and it has now become a law.

The new law -- which was passed in the Lok Sabha in July, 2017 and by Rajya Sabha on December 19 -- grants statutory powers to the IIMs in their running, including the appointment of directors and faculty members.

The Indian Institute of Management Act, 2017, gives the IIMs powers to award degrees instead of postgraduate diplomas.

"The bill offers autonomy to these institutes. Through this bill we will remove all interference of the government, bureaucracy in the functioning of the IIMs. They will themselves decide how to manage and run these premier institutes," HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar had said while initiating a discussion on Rajya Sabha last month.

As per the provisions of the Act, the Board of Governors of each institute shall be the principal executive body comprising up to 19 members.

It will consist a chairperson from amongst eminent persons distinguished in the field of industry or education or science or technology or management or public administration, to be appointed by the board; one nominee of the central government having charge of the management education or his representative and a nominee of the respective state government or representative of such nominees, within whose territorial jurisdiction the institute is located.

The Board of Governors will appoint the Director of each IIM, who will be the Chief Executive Officer of the institute.  -- PTI
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16:01   IIMs can now award degrees instead of diplomas
The Indian Institutes of Management in the country have got more autonomy in their functioning with restricted government's role in their functioning and power to award degrees instead of diplomas to their graduates, according to a new law.

President Ram Nath Kovind has given assent to the Indian Institutes of Management Bill, 2017, and it has now become a law.

The new law -- which was passed in the Lok Sabha in July, 2017 and by Rajya Sabha on December 19 -- grants statutory powers to the IIMs in their running, including the appointment of directors and faculty members.

The Indian Institute of Management Act, 2017, gives the IIMs powers to award degrees instead of postgraduate diplomas.

"The bill offers autonomy to these institutes. Through this bill we will remove all interference of the government, bureaucracy in the functioning of the IIMs. They will themselves decide how to manage and run these premier institutes," HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar had said while initiating a discussion on Rajya Sabha last month.

As per the provisions of the Act, the Board of Governors of each institute shall be the principal executive body comprising up to 19 members.

It will consist a chairperson from amongst eminent persons distinguished in the field of industry or education or science or technology or management or public administration, to be appointed by the board; one nominee of the central government having charge of the management education or his representative and a nominee of the respective state government or representative of such nominees, within whose territorial jurisdiction the institute is located.

The Board of Governors will appoint the Director of each IIM, who will be the Chief Executive Officer of the institute.  -- PTI
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14:56  
Pulwama attack update : Operation over, body of third terrorist has been recovered. -- ANI
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14:55   Cricket unlikely till Pak stops terrorism: Swaraj to House panel
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has hinted that any bilateral cricket series between India and Pakistan is unlikely unless Pakistan stops cross- border terrorism and firing.

Swaraj said this to Parliament's consultative committee on external affairs during a meeting which was also attended by Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar and Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar.

During the meeting, Swaraj also said that she had met Pakistan's envoy to India and proposed to him that both countries release the prisoners who are above 70 years of age or women or of unsound mind as part of humanitarian aspect of the relationship, a member who was present in the meeting said.

The agenda of the meeting was 'Relationship with the Neighbourhood'.

Responding to a query on India-Pakistan cricket series on a neutral venue, the external affairs minister hinted that it seemed unlikely until Pakistan stopped cross-border terrorism and firing, the member said.

She clarified that terrorism and cricket can't go hand in hand, the member said. Members also sought to know from the ministry various aspects of the recent Maldives-China Free Trade Agreement and increasing proximity between the two nations and its impact on India.

The ministry in its reply said that the relationship between India and Maldives remained close and cordial.

It also mentioned about the increasing defence cooperation between the two nations.  -- PTI
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14:28   Rahul Gandhi celebrates New Year with mother Sonia in Goa
Congress president Rahul Gandhi welcomed the New Year in Goa along with his mother Sonia Gandhi, a senior party leader said today.

The newly appointed party president joined in the celebration with his mother, who earlier this month retired as the Congress president and is vacationing in the coastal state.

"Rahul Gandhi joined his mother at a five-star hotel at Mobor in South Goa on Saturday. Both of them celebrated the New Year at the hotel," a senior Congress leader told PTI.

"It was a private function so the party functionaries or other dignitaries were not allowed," he added.

Sonia Gandhi has been in Goa since December 27 and was seen riding a bicycle at the beach resort last week.  -- PTI
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13:42   Use vernacular languages in science communication: Modi to scientists
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today pitched for using vernacular languages in promoting science communication in a 'big way' to develop 'love of science' in the youth, saying language should not be a barrier but a facilitator.

Addressing the curtain-raiser ceremony of the commemoration of professor Satyendra Nath Bose's 125th birth anniversary in Kolkata via video-conference, he said Bose was a 'crusader' for teaching of science in vernacular languages and had started a Bengali science magazine.

"To promote understanding and love of science among our youth, it is vital that we promote science communication in a big way. Language should not be a barrier but a facilitator in this task," Modi said.

The prime minister also asked the scientists to use their fundamental knowledge to help the general public in today's life.

He said it was important in today's world that the final outcome of the innovation and research should be judged for their positive impact on the lives of poor people.

"Whether through your innovations, life of any poor is getting easier, whether difficulties of middle class are reducing?" he asked.

He asked scientists to determine their subjects of research keeping in mind the socio-economic challenges faced by the country.

Born on January 1, 1894, physicist Bose is best known for his work on quantum mechanics in the early 1920s.

Bose discovered what is known as bosons and worked with Albert Einstein to define one of the two basic classes of subatomic particles.  -- PTI
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12:57   Modi hair of moustache, Congress leaders hairs of tail: Tomar
Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar has remarked that there was a major difference between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the leaders of the Congress party, citing a rather atypical example -- the hair of the moustache and that of the tail.

"Narendra Modi ji aur Congress ke neta mein jo antar hai wo itni doori ka hai, jitna antar mooch ke baal aur pooch ke baal mein hota hai. [There is no comparison between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress leaders. They are as different as the hair of moustache and hair of tail.]," Tomar said, while addressing a gathering of Bharatiya Janata Party workers in Kolaras of Madhya Pradesh, on December 30.

The minister further said that Congress leaders would take a long time to become like Prime Minister Modi, adding Congress had collapsed in the country and had been heading towards a decline since 2014.

This remark has added to the ever-growing list of innuendos exchanged between the two national parties.

Reacting to Tomar's comments, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said, "I can't understand how even experienced people in BJP are talking like this. It damages image of Parliament members. The PM should at least clarify & ask them to not use such words."  -- ANI
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12:32   Kamala Mills fire: 2 managers of '1 Above' pub arrested
Two managers of Mumbai pub '1 Above' in the Kamala Mills complex where a fire claimed 14 lives on December 29 have been arrested, PTI quotes Mumbai police as saying.

An NDTV report says after talking to survivors, 'the police believes the fire had started at '1Above' pub.

But the pub's managers have blamed the adjacent Mojo's Bistro. They claim they are being targeted as the owners of the adjacent pub are influential, the report said.

More details awaited. -- Agencies

Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters
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12:13   Nuclear button is always on 'my desk': Kim Jong-un
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has warned the United States that 'the nuclear button' is always on his 'desk'.

"The entire mainland of the US is within the range of our nuclear weapons and the nuclear button is always on the desk of my office. They should accurately be aware that this is not a threat but a reality," he said, according to a CNN translation of his speech, during his national New Year's address.

He also declared that North Korea was 'a responsible nuclear nation that loves peace' and that 'the US cannot wage a war' against it, adding, "As long as there's no aggression against us, we do not intend to use nuclear powers."

Moreover, North Korea's state-run news agency KCNA released a report on Saturday promising that the country would remain committed to its nuclear development in 2018.

"Do not expect any change in its policy. Its entity as an invincible power can neither be undermined nor be stamped out. The DPRK, as a responsible nuclear weapons state, will lead the trend of history to the only road of independence and justice, weathering all tempests on this planet," the report said.

Rising tensions between the US and North Korea, which conducted its largest nuclear test in September and fired off a powerful ICBM in late November, have raised deep concern worldwide.  -- ANI

Photograph: KNCA/via Reuters

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11:19   Operations resume at IGIA, but several flights delayed
Operations at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi resumed after remaining suspended for a few hours in the wake of a dense fog canopying the whole national capital region on the morning and the visibility dropping to below 50 metres.

Many flights, however, continue to be delayed at the time of filing this report.

Earlier in the day, low visibility led to the cancellation of one flight and rescheduling of five domestic and seven International flights.

Hundreds of passengers at several railway stations in north India were also left stranded after multiple trains got delayed due to the thick fog Delhi woke up to on Monday.

As many as 56 trains were delayed, 20 were rescheduled and 15 were cancelled, according to CPRO, Northern Railways. -- ANI
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10:49   Prez, PM extend New Year greetings to nation
President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi today greeted nation on the occasion of new year.

"Happy New Year to everybody. May 2018 bring laughter, friendship and prosperity to all our families, to our country, and to our unique and beautiful planet #PresidentKovind," Kovind said in a tweet.

Modi also extended his New Year greetings to the nation.

"Wishing you all a happy 2018! I pray that this year brings joy, prosperity and good health in everyone's lives," he said in a tweet. 

-- PTI
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10:21   US will have a fantastic year ahead: Trump
US President Donald Trump has said the US will have a "fantastic year" ahead as he touted the economic success during his first year in office.

The remarks came as the president walked into the New Year's Eve party at Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach, with first lady Melania Trump.

The US president said the country is already "off to a very good start" while highlighting some of provisions included in the Republican tax cut plan, his administration's first major legislative victory.

He touted opening Alaska's remote Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and natural gas drilling and repealing ObamaCare's individual mandate, which requires individuals to buy health insurance or face a fine, The Hill
reported.

"We are off to a very good start, as you know, with the great tax cuts and ANWR and getting rid of the individual mandate, which is very, very unpopular, as you know," he said.

"We're going to have a great year. We're going to have a fantastic 2018," Trump said.

"But we are going to have a tremendous year. Stock market, I think, is going to continue to go up. Companies are going to continue to come into the country. And they're doing it now, soon to be a record clip," he continued.

-- PTI
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10:02   Muslim body objects allowing women to travel for Haj alone
The All India Muslim Personal Law Board does not concur with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's announcement of allowing the Muslim women to travel for Haj without 'Mehram' or male guardian.

"This is a religious issue, and not something to be brought up in legislation and passed in the parliament," AIMPLB secretary Maulana Abdul Hamid Azhari said, adding, "99 per cent men and Muslims follow their religion in accordance with what their religious authorities say, and not what PM Modi ji or anybody else says."

According to Islam, Azhari said, a woman cannot travel longer than three days or more than 78 miles without a male guardian, be it for Haj or to any other place.

Addressing the nation in the 39th edition of his 'Mann ki Baat' radio programme on Sunday, Prime Minister Modi suggested single women pilgrims be excluded from the lottery system implemented to select Haj pilgrims.

Azhari, however, countered the suggestion saying single women were not obliged to go for Haj.

"If a woman does not have a Mehram (male guardian) and does not have the funds to take a male guardian with her to Haj, then she is exempted from the obligation to go," he said.

-- ANI
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09:50   My dear fellow deshbhakts
As 2017 makes way for 2018, The Indian Express has asked me to write a New Year card in the form of an essay about what concerns you and the nation. Since I am older than most readers, permit me to begin by looking backwards. 

Twenty-five years ago, Madhav Gadgil and I published This Fissured Land, a book on Indias environmental predicament, past and present. One reviewer, the British historian, E P Thompson, said he put down our book in a state of depression. Is it absolutely necessary that so much ecological writing should be so deeply depressing? he asked. Then he continued: Maybe it is, and should be. Yet, despite all exploitation and abuse, that vast area of fissured land, from the Himalaya to the tip of the peninsula, is so rich still in so many resources and species that one wonders if one might be permitted a glimmer of utopian encouragement. Might the downward drift not yet be turned around?

Read Ramchandra Guha's full column HERE
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09:18   Fog disrupts Delhi airport operations, passengers stuck
For the second consecutive day, operations at the Delhi airport have been suspended this morning after the visibility level on the runways dropped below 50 metres. Thick fog covered many parts of Delhi and the National Capital Region leading to slow moving traffic on day one of 2018. Train services too have been severely hit in Delhi and several other parts of north India. 56 trains headed towards the capital are late and 20 have been rescheduled.

All domestic and international flights to and from the Delhi airport have been put on hold. Departures have been stopped since 6 am. The last arrival was at 6:20 am. Fifteen trains have been cancelled, said the Northern Railways.

On Sunday too, hundreds of passengers at the Delhi airport and railway stations in north India were left stranded after multiple flights and trains got delayed due to dense fog. Visibility levels at the Delhi airport went below 50 metres on Sunday morning. Over 270 flights were delayed, nearly 50 diverted and an estimated 35 cancelled. No flight could take off from the Delhi airport for nearly four hours between 7.30 am and 11.05 am, according to an airport official.

Many took to Twitter to share pictures of the overcrowded domestic terminal where passengers could be seen sitting on floors and occupying staircases.

Take-offs from the Indira Gandhi International Airport require a minimum visibility range of 125 metres. However, as Delhi airport has advanced technology for low-visibility landings, called the CAT IIIB system (short for category three), aircrafts qualified to land in visibility of 25-50 metres could arrive on Sunday. 

Pollution levels in Delhi have shot up in Delhi since last night. The levels of Particulate Matter are in the "Very Poor" category, according to System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research.
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09:09   Triple talaq petitioner Ishrat Jahan joins Bengal BJP
Ishrat Jahan, one of the petitioners in the triple talaq case, has joined the BJP, the party's state unit general secretary Sayantan Basu said.

"Ishrat Jahan joined the BJP at our Howrah office yesterday (Friday)," Basu said.

Sources said Ishrat was felicitated by the Howrah BJP unit on Friday and inducted into the party. Basu said a state-level programme to felicitate her was yet to be organised.

Ishrat was one of the five petitioners in the triple talaq case. Her husband had divorced her over the phone from Dubai in 2014 by uttering 'talaq' thrice.

The controversial Islamic practice was struck down by the Supreme Court on August 22.
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08:43   North Korean leader says nuclear launch button on his desk
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un said he was always within reach of the nuclear button in a defiant New Year message today after months of escalating tensions over his country's weapons programme.

"The nuclear button is always on my table. This is not blackmail but reality," said Kim, reiterating his claims that North Korea was a nuclear state.
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08:13   Assam recognises 1.9 crore legal citizens in first NRC draft
The Assam government published its first draft of the National Register of Citizens that includes the names of 1.9 crore people out of the 3.29 crore total applicants, recognising them as legal citizens of India. 

The rest of the names are under various stages of verification, Registrar General of India Sailesh said at a press conference held at midnight where he made the draft public. This is a part draft. It contains 1.9 crore persons, who have been verified till now. The rest of the names are under various stages of verification. As soon as the verification is done, we will come out with another draft, he added.


Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal also asked the genuine citizens who had been left out to not panic as they could still get their names included in the final list. This is going to be a historic moment, not just for Assam, but for the entire country. While Assam was the only state which prepared an NRC way back in 1951 in the wake of post-Partition migrations, Assam will again be the only state to have a register which will contain the names of all genuine Indian citizens residing in the state, said Sonowal.


People can check their names in the first draft at the NRC Sewa Kendras across the state from 8 am on Monday. They can also check for information online and through SMS services. Helpline numbers are also made available for the people. The toll-free number for people from Assam is 15107, while that for people from outside the state is 18003453762, he said.

Elaborate security arrangements were made in the state ahead of the release. About 45,000 security personnel including Assam Police and 50 companies of central forces have been deployed, and the Army has been asked to be on standby, in view of the inputs about some groups trying to foment trouble after the data is released.