Fri, 09 November 2018
Sirisena dissolves Parliament as Rajapaksa remained short of majority

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23:12   RLSP has gained strength, needs more than 3 seats: Kushwaha
Claiming that the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party has gained significantly in strength in Bihar, Union minister Upendra Kushwaha on Friday demanded that his party be allotted more than three seats in the state by the National Democratic Alliance to contest the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

Bihar has 40 Lok Sabha seats. Kushwaha's RLSP had contested and won three seats in the 2014 general election.

"My party had contested three Lok Sabha seats in 2014 but now this party's strength and base have increased... Our party should be given more than three seats after making a neutral assessment of its strength," Kushwaha told reporters at his party office in Patna.

Kushwaha, the Union minister of state for human resource development, said there is little doubt the RLSP has gained strength but how much could be a matter of debate.

Replying to a query, Kushwaha admitted that he had raised the demand for more number of seats with BJP general secretary and Bihar in-charge Bhupendra Yadav.

If need be, he added, he would also speak to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the matter.

Kushwaha said the seat-sharing issue between NDA partners in Bihar -- Baharatiya Janata Party, Janata Dal-United, RLSP and Lok Janshakti Party -- has not been finalised, otherwise it would have been announced.

The BJP had won 22 seats in Bihar in the 2014 election, while Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan's LJP had contested seven seats and won six.

On October 26, BJP chief Amit Shah had announced that the BJP and the JD-U would contest an equal number of seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha election in Bihar.

Kushwaha asserted his alliance with the BJP and LJP was intact but expressed displeasure over Chief Minister and JD-U chief Nitish Kumar's statement apparently directed at him.

Kushwaha said Kumar should retract the statement or explain what he actually meant.

On the seat-sharing issue with particular reference to Kushwaha's RLSP, Kumar had told a TV channel on November 3, "Do not take the debate to such a low level."

Kushwaha said he felt the remark was laden with casteist overtones.

"I am extremely hurt and pained by CM Nitish Kumar's statement in which he referred to me as 'neech'. The kind of language Kumar has used for me is intolerable. Nitish Kumar should withdraw his statement," Kushwaha said.

"I am being asked to make sacrifices for the new entrant JD-U to the NDA fold, but RLSP was ignored when the benefits (in terms of ministerial berth in Nitish Cabinet) were to be distributed among the partners," he said.  -- PTI
22:53   Sirisena dissolves Parliament as Rajapaksa remained short of majority
Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena has dissolved Parliament after power-struggle, agency reports said.

Sirisena's move comes hours after Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa's his spokesman acknowledged on Friday that he remains short of the 'magic number' 113 required to prove his majority in Parliament, days ahead of the floor test in the House.

Sri Lanka is facing a major constitutional crisis after Sirisena ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and replaced him with Rajapaksa and suspended Parliament.

The President's move has cleared the way for snap elections, that are likely to be held in January.   -- PTI, Agencies
22:20   Union minister Naik says leadership change required in Goa
Union Minister Shripad Naik on Friday said a change in leadership in Goa is a 'requirement' 'today or tomorrow' considering the health of Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar.

Parrikar has been undergoing treatment for a pancreatic ailment for several months now and arrived in the state on October 14 post hospitalisation at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi.

"We will have to have a change in leadership either today or tomorrow. It is a requirement. You all know that the chief ministers health is not well but still he is working under such circumstances," the Union AYUSH minister said on the sidelines of a press conference in Panaji to announce International Yoga Day.

While there has been periodic talk about a change in leadership in the state, the Bharatiya Janata Party has consistently ruled it out.  -- PTI
22:10   Kedarnath, Yamunotri shrines close for winter
Amid special prayers and the chanting of Vedic hymns before hundreds of devotees braving cold winds, the Himalayan shrines of Kedarnath and Yamunotri closed on Friday for the winter months.

The gates of the Kedarnath temple closed at 8.30 am while those at Yamunotri were shut at 12.15 pm on the occasion of Bhai Dooj, officials of the two temple management bodies said.

The deities at the two temples, which form part of the popular Char Dham yatra in Uttarakhand, were being ceremoniously shifted to their winter homes.

The idol of Lord Shiva at Kedarnath was placed in a flower-bedecked palanquin, to be taken to the Omkareshwar temple in Ukhimath where it is worshipped during winter, Badri-Kedar Mandir Samiti spokesperson Harish Gaud said.

The special puja started at 4 am and lasted for over four hours, he said. The palanquin carrying the Shiva idol will reach Ukhimath on Sunday morning.

A record 7,32,241 devotees visited the shrine this year, Samiti CEO B D Singh said.

The number of pilgrims visiting the Kedarnath shrine had dropped substantially after the 2013 flash floods.

As the gates of the Yamunotri shrine closed, devotees and priests carrying the idol of goddess Yamuna in an ornate palanquin, left for Kharsali village where the deity will be worshipped  during winter, Yamunotri Mandir Samiti vice president Jagmohan Uniyal said.

Nearly four lakh people visited Yamunotri this year, Uniyal said.

The shrines close every winter when the area becomes snowbound.  -- PTI
21:29   Kerala HC disqualifies IUML MLA
The Kerala high court on Friday declared as invalid the election of Indian Union Muslim League MLA K M Shaji on a plea claiming that he indulged in a communal campaign, amounting to corrupt practices, to win the 2016 assembly polls.

Disqualifying Shaji, who had won from the Azhikode seat, Justice P D Rajan also barred him from contesting polls for six years.

The judge, however later stayed his order for two weeks on a plea by Shaji's lawyer, seeking adequate time to file an appeal in the Supreme Court against the verdict.

The MLA would continue to be a legislator for this brief period, legal experts said.

The IUML, a partner in the Congress led opposition United Democratic Front, won 18 seats in the 140-member assembly in the 2016 elections.

One IUML member passed away last year.

The court on Friday also directed the assembly Speaker and the Election Commission to take appropriate action.

It gave the judgement on the plea by Left Democratic Front candidate M V Nikesh Kumar, who contested against Shaji.

The court directed Shaji to pay Rs 50,000 as costs to Kumar.

It, however, declined Kumar's plea that he be declared the winner of the polls.

The stay was granted on condition that Shaji deposit Rs 50,000 within a week to facilitate him file an appeal before the apex court.

In his petition, Kumar alleged that Shaji won by a margin of 2,287 votes using corrupt practices.

He accused Shaji of having violated the norms prescribed under various sections of the Representation of People's Act to win the elections.

Kumar had alleged that Shaji, who belongs to the Muslim community, had appealed to voters, his agents and other people to vote for the UDF candidate on grounds of religion.

He also charged that pamphlets were circulated in the constituency urging people not to vote for a candidate who is not a believer of Islam.

Kumar had accused Shaji and his agents of circulating another pamphlet with an aim to lower his reputation.

Reacting to the judgment, Shaji said he would move the Supreme Court against the order. Denying that he had indulged in a communal campaign, Shaji said he stands for secularism and an accusation contrary to that was a 'humiliation' to a person like him.

He said people who know him would not believe such allegations.

Leader of the Opposition in the Kerala Assembly, Ramesh Chennithala, said the UDF would fight the case legally. He also claimed that Shaji's credentials as a secular leader was 'unquestionable'.

Welcoming the judgement, Communist Party of India-Marxist Kannur district secretary P Jayarajan alleged it had been proved that the IUML candidate used 'heinous means' like communal campaign to win the polls.

He also urged UDF leaders to accept the verdict and get ready for the bypoll in the constituency, instead of adopting other means like taking to legal recourse to retain Shaji's post.  -- PTI
21:26   BJP attacks Rahul over his criticism of demonetisation
Hitting back at Rahul Gandhi over his criticism of demonetisation, the Bharatiya Janata Party said on Friday that a war is going on in Indian politics with the Narendra Modi-led government working to curb black money while the Congress president trying to save it.

BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said Gandhi's comments were nothing but a pack of lies and that he has been speaking from the same script for long.

India has been progressing under Modi while the Gandhi family has been left behind, he said.

Demonetisation, whose second anniversary fell on Friday, destroyed the 'ill-gotten wealth of the four generations of the Gandhi family', Patra alleged, claiming that the move, which had made notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 invalid, led to many benefits, including increase in tax base, curbing black money and hitting Naxalism.

In his criticism, the Congress chief had said that demonetisation was a planned 'brutal conspiracy' and a 'shrewd scheme' to convert the black money of Modi's 'suited-booted friends'.

What Gandhi has said is ridiculous and another lie from him, Patra said.

Referring to Gandhi's reported comments that rich people in big car did not stand in queue to deposit their demonetised notes, the BJP leader took a dig, saying the Congress leader himself had stood outside a bank for this.

The BJP is winning the war against those working to save black money, he claimed, adding that Income Tax searches had yielded revenue of over Rs 35,000 crore while a law against 'benami' properties had led to seizure of over Rs 4,300 crore worth of assets.

Deaths in Naxal violence have come down by 60 per cent in 2017 as compared to 2009, he said, crediting demonetisation as a factor behind it.

He also quoted a report that claimed that maximum number of Maoists had surrendered in a month following the decision.

Gandhi had called 'urban Naxals', a term used by the BJP to refer loosely to those accused of helping Naxals, NGO and his party had described them as revolutionaries, Patra claimed.

To a question about demands of Hindutva bodies and also of some Union ministers that the central government bring a law to pave the way for constructing Ram temple in Ayodhya, he said people have a right to express their opinion.  -- PTI
20:56   11-day puja held to resolve Tej Pratap's marital problems: Priest
Amid strains in the marriage of former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad Yadav's son Tej Pratap Yadav, an 11-day puja was performed at the Maa Vindhyavasini Devi temple in Mirzapur, a priest said on Friday.

Lalu Yadav's family members have immense faith in the goddess enshrined there and have been frequent visitors to the temple in eastern Uttar Pradesh, bordering Bihar, said priest Raj Mishra.

The priest said he performed the 'havan puja' for them so that they can overcome their current problems.

"A havan puja was held for 11 days to please the 'grah nakshatra' and for peace in the entire family," Mishra said.

He said he talked over the phone with Tej Pratap Yadav, who asked him to pray to the goddess.

Yadav could not be contacted to confirm this.

"I have been talking to him and the family all through, ever since the present problems surfaced. We held special prayers to the goddess for the entire family to overcome them," the priest said.

Mishra said he got the puja conducted by 11 priests and the 'purnahuti', marking the end of the prayers, was performed on Thursday night.

Tej Pratap Yadav, a former Bihar minister who has been in the news for his failing marriage, Friday said he is currently in Haridwar.

He told a TV channel that he would not return home until his family backs his decision to divorce his wife of six months.  -- PTI
20:11   CBI ropes in Sri Sri to 'motivate' its staff
The Centreal Bureau of Investigation, caught in an unprecedented clash between its top brass, has roped in Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to motivate its staff and bring positivity in the agency.

Guides of the Art of Living run by Ravi Shankar will visit the CBI headquarters, where over 150 officers, from inspectors to the director (in-charge), will attend workshops 'to improve positivity, enhance synergy and generate a healthy atmosphere in the agency', a CBI spokesperson said.

Asked whether organising this camp qualifies as a 'policy decision' as a major chunk of the agency's investigative force in Delhi will attend it, the CBI spokesperson refused to comment.

The agency is grappling with an internal feud between its top two officers.

The government has sent Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana on leave after their bitter public spat over allegations of corruption.

The Supreme Court has asked the CVC to probe the matter within two weeks.

The three-day workshop will end on Monday when Supreme Court will hear the matter.

The Supreme Court has given the agency's charge to Joint Director M Nageswara Rao and asked him to not take any 'policy decision'.  -- PTI
19:24   India slams Pak for expressing concern over deployment of INS Arihant
India on Friday hit back at Pakistan for expressing concern over the recent deployment of nuclear submarine INS Arihant, saying the comments come from a country for whom the 'tenet of responsibility' does not exist.

Pakistan's Foreign Office spokesperson Mohammad Faisal, at a media briefing Thursday, said: "This development marks the first actual deployment of ready-to-fire nuclear warheads in South Asia which is a matter of concern not only for the Indian Ocean littoral states but also for the international community at large."

Responding to a question on Faisal's remarks, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, during a media briefing New Delhi, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made India's stand clear on the issue.

Modi has made it clear that India's nuclear arsenal was not a part of an aggressive policy, but it was an important means for peace and stability.

Kumar said,"We are a responsible nation and I think these comments are coming from a country for whom the tenet of responsibility does not exist."

Marking the country's nuclear triad, Indian nuclear submarine INS Arihant, or the 'destroyer of enemies' has successfully completed its first deterrence patrol.

On the issue of opening of the Kartarpur Sahib corridor, Kumar said Pakistan had not officially communicated anything to India on the issue.

Asked about Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh writing to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on the issue, he said he would have to look at the contents of the letter and then could comment on it.

He, however, said India has taken up the matter with Pakistan in the past on the opening of the border for Sikh pilgrims to go and visit the Gurdwara on the other side.

"We have heard from Pakistan that this is something that they want to do, but I am not aware of any official communication which we have received from Pakistan that they are keen to work with us on this matter," Kumar said.

On whether there was any development on the issue of waiver for India in the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act after its S-400 missile systems deal with Russia, Kumar said India was engaged with different stakeholders on this matter.

"We have explained our objectives and position to the US side at different levels. We feel that it has contributed to a better understanding by the US about our concerns, about our objectivity and expectations.

"We do intend to continue to remain engage with the US side, but it is important to note that our defence purchases and acquisitions are dictated by our national interest," he said.

Asked about the political turmoil in Sri Lanka, Kumar said India continues to closely monitor the situation.

"At this situation, I think the situation remains unclear. We do hope the democratic values and the constitutional process in Sri Lanka will be respected," he said.  -- PTI
19:14   Rahul again promises loan waiver to Chhattisgarh farmers
If the Congress was voted to power in Chhattisgarh, it will write off farmers' debts within 10 days, party president Rahul Gandhi said on Friday.

Addressing a poll rally in chief minister Raman Singh's home turf Rajnandgaon, Gandhi attacked the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government at the Centre over the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax, which he alleged, was rather a 'Gabbar Singh Tax'.

The 47-year-old Congress chief told the gathering he did not want to make 'false' promises like the ruling BJP had allegedly made.

Gandhi said his party had promised loan waiver for farmers during polls in Punjab and Karnataka and kept its word after coming to power in the two states.

"If elected to power, the Congress will write off debt of each farmer in Chhattisgarh in 10 days," Gandhi told the gathering.

If elected, he also promised to give bonus to the farmers of the poll-bound state, where the Congress has been in opposition for the last 15 years.

Elections to the 90-member Chhattisgarh Assembly will be held in two phases -- on November 12 and November 20 -- and counting of votes will take place on December 11.  -- PTI
18:13   Sarkar filmmakers agree to make four cuts
The makers of 'Sarkar', a Tamil political thriller starring actor Vijay, have under immense pressure from the Tamil Nadu government edited out parts of the movie seen as critical of the ruling AIADMK and former chief minister J Jayalalithaa, reports NDTV. The film, released on Tuesday, will be screened with a five-second video cut and audio muted at three points after protests and vandalism by AIADMK supporters.

The film's director AR Murugadoss, who tweeted last night about the police banging at his door when he was not at home, has been granted protection from arrest by the Madras High Court, which made strong observations about "interference" from the government.

"If censor board has certified the film why is there interference from the government," asked the court, stating that the director cannot be arrested till November 27. The court also questioned whether the government had taken any action against the protesters.

The AIADMK is furious over a scene in the film in which Murugadoss, playing a cameo, flings a mixer-grinder given as a freebie into the fire. The party also objected to the name of a villain - Komalavaalli - which is the original name of Jayalalithaa.
17:59   Won't return home till family backs divorce decision: Tej Pratap
Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad's son and MLA Tej Pratap Yadav, who has been in the news for his failing marriage, on Friday said he was currently putting up in Haridwar and would not return home till his family backed his decision to divorce his wife of six months.

Talking to a regional news channel here over telephone, he extended his greetings to younger brother Tejashwi Yadav on his birthday, but said he would not be able to join the celebrations in New Delhi, where the RJD heir apparent has gone to meet their sisters.

The mercurial RJD leader was last seen in Bodh Gaya onSaturday where he had checked in at a hotel after meeting his ailing father at a hospital in Ranchi.

Lalu Prasad is learnt to have been upset over his elder son's decision to seek divorce.

Prasad is serving sentences in a number of fodder scamcases. At present, he is lodged at a hospital in Ranchi on medical grounds.

Tej Pratap Yadav and Aishwarya Rai -- daughter of RJD MLA Chandrika Rai and grandchild of former Bihar chief minister Daroga Prasad Rai -- had tied the knot on May 12.

"Our differences are irreconcilable. I had said this to my parents before the marriage was solemnized. But nobodylistened to me then and nobody is listening to me now. Untilthey agree with me, how can I return home?" Yadav said.

The former Bihar minister also expressed displeasure over the role played by some of his close relatives, including in-laws, in his marital dispute.

In an apparent rebuttal of reports that he has been feeling slighted over the growing clout of his younger brother, Yadav said, "I offer my blessings to Tejashwi.

"May he become the next chief minister of Bihar. I would be by his side and help him the way Krishna had assisted Arjuna in the battle of Mahabharata".

Meanwhile, party national general secretary and Lalu Prasad's close aide Bhola Yadav requested journalists 'not to make news out of differences within the family'.

"Lalu ji has been not keeping well. The developments have only made the matters worse for him and the way things are being highlighted in the media is causing him furtheranguish," Bhola Yadav -- who has been by the side of the RJD supremo for most part of his incarceration -- said.

He also said that Prasad's wife Rabri Devi will not be performing 'Chhatth' this year.

"She has decided to stay away from the festivities as she is also not keeping well. But please do not jump to anyconclusions upon hearing this," Bhola told reporters.

Chhath is arguably the most popular festival in Bihar and the Lalu Prasad family arranges for fervent celebrations on the occasion every year.

The RJD national general secretary also extended hisbirthday greetings to Tejashwi and expressed hope that Tej Pratap would return home soon. -- PTI
17:40   5 die as earth caves in Samastipur
Five people died when the earth caved in Bihar's Samastipur district on Friday while they were digging it to make earthen ovens for the 'Chhath' festival.

The incident happened in the morning at Nazirpur village -- 80 km east of Patna.

Local villagers said eleven people were digging the soil to make earthen ovens for preparing prasad during the four-day 'Chhath' festival that begins on Sunday.

Five people, including two women and a minor, died on the spot and six were injured after a mound of earth fell on them, District Magistrate (DM) Chandrashekhar Prasad Singh told PTI.

The deceased have been identified as Amit Kumar (15), Runa Devi (30), Ram Kumari Devi (35), Lal Paswan (43) and Shivji Singh (50), the district magistrate said.

The injured have been admitted to a hospital, the official said, adding that the kin of the deceased would be provided financial assistance.  --  PTI
17:28   Swati Chaturvedi wins Press Freedom Award for Courage in UK
An Indian freelance journalist, who has been the target of online trolling and harassment for her investigative reports, has bagged the 2018 London Press Freedom Award for Courage.

Swati Chaturvedi, author of the book I am a Troll: Inside the Secret World of the BJP's Digital Army, beat shortlisted journalists from Italy, Turkey and Morocco for her work in exposing the 'IT cell' within the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party for keeping an army of angry trolls.

"This means a lot. But I think it is very sad that you have to win an award for courage just for doing your job," Chaturvedi said at the first award ceremony organised by the UK chapter of Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) or Reporters Without Borders in London on Thursday evening.

"The US President (Donald Trump) saying we are the enemy of state; in India last year journalist Gauri Lankesh being gunned down outside her house; it is very frightening. There is something clearly very wrong," she said.

"I don't think journalists have stopped what they are doing, but the governments across the world have become very intolerant of any criticism or scrutiny."

The columnist for print and broadcast media in India commended the work of organisations like the RSF, a non-profit organisation that works to document and combat attacks on journalists around the world.

Charturvedi added: "I get a lot of online threats but if I let that affect me, I won't be able to do my job. It is heartening to see RSF speaking up for journalists because we have become an attacked, endangered species. At least there is someone advocating the rights of journalists."

"I think it is scary to be a journalist in today's world, especially if you are doing investigative journalism. But at the same time, it is very necessary," she said.

Chaturvedi was among four worldwide winners at the awards held at Getty Images Gallery in London.

"Recognising great journalism is important, not least because it sends a message of solidarity, proving that there is an international community will stand up for the free media no matter where it is threatened, or by whom," said RSF UK Bureau Director Rebecca Vincent.

The ceremony highlighted the importance of press freedom and safety of journalists, especially in the wake of the killing of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul last month. -- PTI
16:59   Not seeking Rs 3.6-lakh crore reserve transfer from RBI: Centre
Confident of meeting fiscal deficit target, the government on Friday clarified it is not seeking transfer of Rs 3.6 lakh crore reserves from the RBI and the only proposal under discussion is to fix appropriate economic capital framework of the central bank.

'Lot of misinformed speculation is going around in media. Government's fiscal math is completely on track. There is no proposal to ask RBI to transfer Rs 3.6 or 1 lakh crore, as speculated,' Economic Affairs Secretary Subhash Chandra Garg tweeted.

On the fiscal road map, he said, the government will stick to the fiscal deficit target of 3.3 per cent for the current financial year.

'Government's FD (fiscal deficit) in FY 2013-14 was 5.1%. From 2014-15 onwards, Government has succeeded in bringing it down substantially. We will end the FY 2018-19 with FD of 3.3%. Government has actually foregone 70,000 crore of budgeted market borrowing this year,' he said.

Garg further said the only proposal 'under discussion is to fix appropriate economic capital framework of RBI'.

The clarification comes amidst report that the government is seeking transfer of at least a third of Reserve Bank's Rs 9.6 lakh crore reserves.

Besides, it has also been pointed out that the government wants the RBI to part with most of its profit as dividend.

The central bank, however, feels that it needs to retain a share of profits to make its balance sheet stronger.

According to another official, the government wants the RBI to have a new policy in place for dividends and capital reserves.

"Currently, the RBI's capital needs put its provisioning at 27 per cent, while most central banks have theirs at 14 per cent. Our calculations state that if RBI provisions at 14 per cent, it can free up to Rs 3.6 lakh crore," the official said.

The RBI board is likely to discuss capital framework and other issues at its meeting scheduled to be held on November 19.

Earlier this year, the RBI decided to pay Rs 50,000 crore as dividend to government in line with the Union Budget provisions, helping the Centre to stick to its fiscal roadmap.

The Reserve Bank, which follows July-June financial year, has paid about 63 per cent higher dividend than previous year (2016-17).

The RBI made a dividend payout of Rs 30,659 crore for the fiscal ended June 2017.

As per the Budget Estimate, the government projected to collect Rs 54,817.25 crore as dividend or surplus of Reserve Bank, nationalised banks and financial institutions.

The government realised Rs 51,623.24 crore under this head in the previous fiscal. It is to be noted that the RBI transferred a surplus of Rs 30,659 crore as dividend to the government for the year ended June 30, 2017, which was less than half of what it paid in the previous year (Rs 65,876 crore).  -- PTI
16:37   Indian, Chinese troops meet at Arunachal, vow to boost ties
A high-level meeting between Army officials and Chinese People's Liberation Army troops was organised on Friday at Bumla, near Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh, where the two sides reaffirmed their resolve to strengthen friendship and maintain peace along the Line of Actual Control.

The 4057-km-long Line of Actual Control separates India from China.

The delegations, led by Major General P G K Menon from India and Major General Li Xi Zhong from China, hoisted flags of both the countries and discussed ways to boost relationship between the neighbours, a defence ministry release said.

This was the first time major generals of the two countries took part in a border personnel meeting (BPM), since its initiation in 1990, the release said.

On Wednesday, too, the army personnel of the two sides exchanged greeting and gifts on the occasion of Diwali.

The BPM at Bumla was yet another milestone in the ongoing efforts by both the nations to increase interactions at all levels -- diplomatic as well as military channels, the defence release said.

Located at an altitude of 15,000 ft and situated 42 km North of Tawang town, Bumla is one of the five designated venues for BPMs between two of the world's largest armies.

Both the delegation expressed satisfaction over the 'growing mutual trust and harmony' between the two countries and expressed hope that the Sino-Indian relationship would only get stronger with time, the release added.  -- PTI

Image only for representation.
16:07   PM to attend swearing-in of Maldives president-elect on Nov 17
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the swearing-in ceremony of Maldivian president-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih next week, the ministry of external affairs announced Friday.
The prime minister will also visit Singapore to take part in the 13th East Asia Summit and other meetings on November 14 and 15, MEA Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said at a media briefing.
The prime minister has accepted the invitation extended by Maldives' president-elect Solih to attend his swearing-in ceremony on November 17, he said.
On the US waiver to India from Iran sanctions, Kumar said the US has shown understanding of India's position on the issue.
India, China and Japan were among eight countries temporarily allowed to continue buying Iranian oil as they showed significant reduction in oil purchase from the Persian Gulf country after the US reimposed crippling sanctions on Tehran, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said earlier this week. -- PTI
16:05   Avni was starving, stomach filled with fluid, gas: Report
Tigress Avni died due to excessive internal haemorrhage and cardio-respiratory failure and her stomach and intestines were filled with fluid and gas, indicating she had not hunted or eaten for 4-5 days, according to a provisional necropsy report.
The tigress, who was believed to have turned man-eater and killed 13 people in the last two years in Yavatmal district's Pandharkawda area, was shot dead in Borati forest there last Friday.
The examination, conducted by veterinarians of various institutions, has also revealed that two "major" parts of the bullet, used to kill the 119 kg tigress, were observed and that it died due to excessive internal haemorrhage and cardio-respiratory failure.
Explaining the contents of the report, a wildlife expert said, "Observation of fluid and gas, without any solid content, means that the tigress had not hunted or eaten for about 4-5 days. However, it is commonly observed in large cats that they eat 25-30 kg meat on a single day and do not eat for 7 days at a stretch."
The necropsy report states that a circular punctured wound on the skin of 0.5 cm diameter on left thoracic region was found and that the gunshot was fired from below the left scapular caudal angle.
Explaining the report, the wildlife expert said the shot was fired from the left side of the chest and hit the scapula (shoulder bone) near the shoulder and punctured the lungs.
Interestingly, the report further says a dart on the middle of the left thigh cranially was observed and that 5 ml capacity plastic dart with stabilisers and 1.5 inch collared needle "placed subcutaneously" was observed.
It added that fascia (connective tissue underneath the skin) beneath the darted needle was intact.
The wildlife expert said, ideally, the dart should have pierced the muscular region so that the tranquilising fluid can be absorbed by the blood.
"However, the report indicates that the dart did not even pierce through fascia (in between muscle and skin), which does not have blood supply, and just punctured the skin," the expert said.
The killing of T1, as the tigress was officially known, led to outrage among animal lovers and wildlife organisations. 
Union minister Maneka Gandhi had lashed out at the Maharashtra government and had dubbed it a "ghastly murder".
The Maharashtra government, however, defended itself calling the incident "sad" but necessary after the tigress attacked forest staff trying to tranquilise it.
Avni was the mother of two 10-month-old cubs. -- PTI 
15:36   India's talks with Taliban at non-official level, clarifies MEA
The Ministry of External Affairs statement on India's talks with the Taliban.

MEA spoksesperson Raveesh Kumar said India would support any Afghan-led initiative. "Our participation will be at the non-official level. We are not holding talks with the Afghans. We are supportive of any process in Afghanistan," he said.  

On Thursday, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj had confirmed the participation of India in talks with the Taliban and said, "Our participation at the meeting will be at the non-official level. India supports all efforts at peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan that will preserve unity and plurality, and bring security, stability, and prosperity to the country. India's consistent policy has been that such efforts should be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, and Afghan-controlled and with the participation of the Government of Afghanistan," the MEA said.

Elaborating on India's participation in this meeting, the MEA said India has have participated twice at an official level to preserve the unity and plurality and to bring security and peace in the region.

"If any process is consistent with our policy on Afghanistan then we will be part of it. We have made it clear already that our participation is at a non-official level. Don't know how people are concluding there will be talks with the Taliban; it's a meeting on Afghanistan in Moscow. We have no official confirmation," Raveesh Kumar said.  
He also said PM Narendra Modi has accepted Maldives President Elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih's invitation to attend the swearing-in ceremony on November 17. 

Image: External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj.
14:24   India tanks up on Howitzers, artillery guns
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Friday inducted three major artillery gun systems, including the M777 American Ultra Light Howitzers and the K-9 Vajra, into the Army. The third gun system inducted is the 'Composite Gun Towing Vehicle' for towing some of the existing guns in service with the country, while K-9 Vajra is a self-propelled artillery gun.

The induction ceremony here comes ahead of establishing the first regiment- each comprising of about 18 guns- of the M777s and the Vajra by around mid next year, an official said.

For procuring 145 M777s, India in November 2016 had entered into a contract with the United States under the Foreign Military Sales programme for Rs 5,070 crore. The M777s, which have been used in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, can be easily transported to high altitude areas by helicopters. -- PTI

Image: PRO Defence Nagpur tweets this image, saying, "Major  capability enhancement of #IndianArmy, Defence Minister dedicated globally combat proven M777 A2 ULH, K-9 Vajra-Tracked Self Propelled Guns & 6x6 Gun Tower to the the Nation. Ceremony was held at Firing Range Devlali."
13:50   Demonetisation was an ill-conceived move: Chidambaram
In a scathing attack on the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre, senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Friday said the demonetisation was an "ill-conceived" move.

Chidambaram's statement comes after the BJP celebrated the second anniversary of demonetisation on Thursday. The Congress party marked it as a 'black day' for the Indian democracy and economy.

"Demonetisation was an ill-conceived move, inspired by one or more persons who are totally oblivious of matters concerning money and the economy," Chidambaram said.

On November 8, 2016, the Central government had declared Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes as non-legal and introduced new Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 notes. Since then, various opposition parties have been highly critical of the Centre's move, while the members of the BJP and its allies have backed the decision.

On the second anniversary of demonetisation on Thursday, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley posted a strong defense of demonetisation, saying that the note ban had a huge impact on formalising the Indian economy.
-- ANI
13:27   1 dead in Melbourne knife attacks
At least one person has been killed and two others wounded in a rush hour stabbing incident in Melbourne's central business district, police said Friday.

The perpetrator was arrested and is in a critical condition after he was a shot by police as he lunged at officers with a knife at the busiest Bourke Street mall in the CBD.

Police initially responded to a report of a car on fire near the corner of Swanston Street about 4:20pm (local time), Victoria Police said in a statement.

A man, believed to be the driver, stabbed three people and was then shot by police. "A man was arrested at the scene and has been taken to hospital under police guard in a critical condition," it said. Police are not looking for anyone further at this early stage.  -- PTI
13:15   Encounter in J&K's Pulwama
An encounter broke out Friday between militants and security forces in Tral area of Pulwama district in Jammu and Kashmir, police said. No casualties have been reported so far, they said. "There has been an exchange of fire between security forces and terrorists at Tral in Pulwama district," a police spokesman said. Cordon and search operations are being carried out in the area, he added.
12:52   Omar tears into Centre for participating in talks with Taliban in Russia
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Friday tore in to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre and questioned that if New Delhi can participate at a non-official level in the Moscow format meeting on Afghanistan, which will be attended by Taliban delegation, then why can't it hold a dialogue with "non-mainstream stake holders' in regard with the issue of Jammu and Kashmir.

Abdullah tweeted, "If "non-official" participation in a dialogue that includes the Taliban is acceptable to the Modi government why not a "non-official" dialogue with non-mainstream stake holders in J&K? Why not a "non-official" dialogue centered around J&K's eroded autonomy & its restoration?"

On Thursday, Ministry of External Affairs headed by Sushma Swaraj confirmed the participation and said, "Our participation at the meeting will be at the non-official level. India supports all efforts at peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan that will preserve unity and plurality, and bring security, stability, and prosperity to the country. India's consistent policy has been that such efforts should be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, and Afghan-controlled and with the participation of the Government of Afghanistan," the MEA said. -- ANI
12:37   Serial stabber in Melbourne held, three injured
A man was shot by police in Melbourne, Australia, after setting a car on fire and allegedly stabbing a number of people in an area called Bourke Street in the central business district.

The man was arrested at the scene and has been taken to hospital in critical condition. He is under police guard.

Paramedics have assessed three people at the scene, one with a neck injury and another with a head injury. They are believed to be in a critical condition. A third person has also been taken to hospital.

Local media showed footage of a large man slashing wildly at police officers before being shot.

Image: Police shoot the man who is believed to be hospitalised. Picture courtesy: @hipstergeddon
12:17   Multiple stabbings in Melbourne
Australian police report multiple people hurt in a rush hour stabbing in Melbourne, reports ANI quoting AFP.  Details awaited.
12:15   Fresh 'Sarkar' controversy
Sarkar' producers' Sun Pictures have put out a shocking tweet stating that Tamil Nadu police were at film director AR Murugadoss' residence to arrest him Thursday night.  "Police reach director AR Murugadoss residence to arrest him," the production house tweeted. Read more
11:57   Among the Brahmins
By telling the story of Brahmins in Benares, Aatish Taseer becomes the storyteller of an India struggling through its own existential confusions. Read the review here.
11:51   Umesh, Bumrah, Kuldeep rested for final T20I against WI
Pace duo of Umesh Yadav and Jasprit Bumrah and spinner Kuldeep Yadav have been rested for the third T20I against West Indies ahead of India's tour to Australia.

Punjab seamer Siddarth Kaul was included in the squad for the final T20I to be held at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on Sunday.

"The Indian team management has decided to rest Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah and Kuldeep Yadav from the upcoming third Paytm T20I against the Windies in Chennai," BCCI acting secretary Amitabh Choudhary said.

India begins its tour of Australia with the opening T20I at Brisbane on November 21. India's squad for the 3rd T20I: Rohit Sharma (c), Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Manish Pandey, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant (wk), Krunal Pandya, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Khaleel Ahmed, Shahbaz Nadeem, Siddarth Kaul. -- PTI
11:21   Priyanka Chopra, Nick Jonas obtain marriage license
Seems like, Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas are one step closer to tying the knot. According to The Blast, the couple recently obtained a marriage license in the United States, reports People magazine. Priyanka and Nick stopped by the Beverly Hills courthouse last week to fill out the necessary paperwork.

In August, Priyanka and Nick confirmed their engagement during a trip to Mumbai, where their families gathered for festivities, including a Roka ceremony and a big engagement celebration.

Priyanka's bridesmaids Mubina Rattonsey and Anjula Achari recently hosted a bridal shower for her at Tiffany's Blue Box Cafe in New York City. It was attended by all her family members and close friends and the actor looked all excited and happy during the bash.

Last week, the bride-to-be was joined by her cousin Parineeti Chopra and her future sister-in-law and 'Game of Thrones' actor Sophie Turner, among others, as they headed to Amsterdam to enjoy Priyanka's final days as a bachelorette.

Reportedly, Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas will get married in Jodhpur in December. -- ANI
10:51   Thick haze, smog continue in Delhi, air quality hazardous
The thick blanket of smog and fog have shrouded the national capital after the country celebrated the festival of light- Diwali. According to the autonomous meteorological body set up under the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences, SAFAR, the overall Air Quality Index of Delhi at 8:15 am was recorded at 428, which falls under the 'hazardous' category.

An AQI between 0-50 is considered good, 51-100 is satisfactory, 101-200 moderate, 201-300 poor, 301-400 very poor and 401-500 is marked as severe/hazardous.

At Dhirpur, the AQI was 724 at 8:30 am, while in Mathura Road area it dipped to 'very poor' category at 625. Furthermore, AQI near Pitampura, Airport, Terminal 3 and Delhi University stood at 679, 481 and 801 respectively. The haze and smog will continue to persist during the early morning and late evenings for the next couple of days.

According to a report published by a research group Urban Emissions, as much as 5 million kilograms of firecrackers were burnt in the region leading to an emission of 150,000 kilograms of Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5 despite the Supreme Court's order stating that bursting of firecrackers will only be allowed from 8 pm to 10 pm on Diwali. Not only that, the judiciary only allowed the sale of 'green crackers' this festive season.

Experts believe that not only the burning of crackers has been responsible for the deteriorating air quality but replacement of moderate winds with light and calm winds, low temperatures, increased humidity levels are also contributing in increasing the toxicity in the air by a whopping figure.

If one looks closely, not only Delhi but many cities around the world such as Kampala, Bushehr, Narayangong, Rawalpindi, etc are gasping for breath owing to the increasing air pollution.It is believed that in order to combat air pollution New Delhi must follow Beijing's footsteps steps. In a span of less than four years, Beijing has shown tremendous improvement in its air quality by strictly enforcing comprehensive regional action plan and setting up time-bound targets.

For instance, the Xi Jinping-led government in 2013 first identified the major pollution regions such as Hebei, Tianjin, and Beijing and set up specific pollution reduction targets and rolled out ten measures for the proper implementations of the regional action plans. -- ANI

Image: Early morning walkers at Lodhi garden brave the smog. Doctors have advised people not to walk in the mornings when the air quality is at its worst.  Pic: ANI
10:34   A day on, CBI director to meet CVC again
Central Bureau of Investigation Director Alok Verma reaches Central Vigilance Commission for the second time in as many days. He was examined by the Commission yesterday.

Verma had met CVC commissioner KV Chowdary and denied corruption charges levelled against him by his deputy and special director in the probe agency Rakesh Asthana, officials said. Verma had come to the CVC office in the late afternoon and stayed there for about two hours, they said. He met Chowdary and Vigilance Commissioner Sharad Kumar, the officials said, without giving any other details.

The Supreme Court had on October 26 asked the Central Vigilance Commission to complete within two weeks its inquiry into allegations against Verma levelled by Asthana. Verma and Asthana have been sent on leave by the government.  Officials said Asthana also met the CVC.

The Commission had recently examined some CBI officials probing crucial cases which figured in Asthanas complaint of corruption against the probe agencys chief Verma, they said.

The officials said CBI personnel from the rank of inspector up to superintendent of police were called and their versions recorded before a senior CVC official.
10:29   US vice president Pence to meet Modi next week: White House
US vice president Mike Pence would meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his four-nation trip next week, during which he will also attend the US-ASEAN Summit and the East Asia Summit in Singapore, the White House has said.
Generally the summit is attended by US President. 

However, this time Pence would be representing the country at the request of President Donald Trump.
Pence will travel to Japan, Singapore, Australia, and Papua New Guinea between November 11 and 18 to attend the US-ASEAN Summit and the East Asia Summit in Singapore as well as the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings in Papua New Guinea.
Pence will also participate in meetings with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Singapore premier Lee Hsien Loong, India's Narendra Modi, Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister Peter O'Neill, and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, in addition to other bilateral meetings, the White House said.
National Security Advisor John Bolton will join Vice President Pence for the US-ASEAN Summit and East Asia Summit in Singapore and APEC meetings in Papua New Guinea.
"The Vice President is honoured to represent President Donald Trump at the US-ASEAN Summit and APEC next week, where he will highlight American leadership in the region and reaffirm our commitment to freedom, economic prosperity, and security in the Indo-Pacific," Alyssa Farah, Press Secretary for the Vice President said.
This will be Pence's third trip to the region as the Vice President and he will reaffirm President Trump's commitment to the final, fully verified denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, she said.
"He will also deliver the message that authoritarianism, aggression, and the disregard for other nations' sovereignty by any nation in the Indo-Pacific will not be tolerated by the United States," Farah said. -- PTI
10:15   'Dramatic increase' in H1B visas being held up, claims US employers' group
Claiming that there has been a "dramatic increase" in the number of H-1B visas being held up, a coalition of American employers representing top IT companies like Google, Facebook and Microsoft has alleged that the US Citizenship and Immigration Services is acting outside of its own regulations.
The H1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. The technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.
"We have observed three changes in H-1B adjudication practices under the current administration that seem to permeate most of the increased H-1B adjudication inconsistencies experienced by employers," Compete America said in a letter to the Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and Francis Cissna Director, USCIS.
Expressing concerns over legal issues regarding the recent changes in adjudication standards for H-1B non-immigrant visa petitions at USCIS, the coalition -- Compete America -- said the agency's current approach to H-1B adjudications cannot be anticipated by either the statutory or regulatory text.
This leaves employers with a disruptive lack of clarity about the agency's practices, procedures, and policies.  
This lack of certainty and consistency wreaks havoc among the nation's employers which are hiring high-skilled Americans and foreign-born professionals, it said in the letter dated November 1. 
Compete America alleged that the agency appears to be acting "outside of its own regulations and the controlling statute" by requiring petitioners to comply with the agency's current view that a comparatively entry-level job, and corresponding wage level, cannot be a specialty occupation.
The specific field of study requirement for a specialty occupation means the job must necessitate completion of a single major or qualifying degree, and the requirement for an occupation to usually carry a degree prerequisite means a degree must always be needed.
In its letter, Compete America said that its members have reported dramatic increases in the issuance of Requests for Evidence (RFEs) and denials regarding H-1B petitions for the last 18 months.
More recently they are experiencing a sharp increase in the issuance of Notices of Intent to Deny (NOIDs) and Notices of Intent to Revoke (NOIRs) concerning H-1B petitions.
"These reported shifts in agency action have been perplexing to our coalition's members, especially because the agency's changes in approach were unannounced and unexplained and are not previewed in the regulations governing a qualifying H-1B specialty occupation that have been in effect since 1991," it said.
According to Compete America, USCIS has been denying H-1B petitions exclusively because an entry-level wage is applicable for the specific position, even though the occupation itself is clearly a specialty occupation.  
"Nothing in the statute or regulations contemplates or suggests, much less states, that USCIS could ever take the position that it per se excludes or disfavours entry-level jobs in an occupation, or young professionals working in jobs in an occupation, as qualifying for H-1B specialty occupation approval," it asserted.
Further, employers have reported repeated instances of USCIS denying an H-1B petition on the basis that the degree held by the sponsored foreign professional is not within a single field of acceptable study for an occupation.
Employers are also reporting repeated instances of USCIS denying H-1B petitions for occupations that may have some limited instances of jobs where a bachelor's degree or higher is not required, even when those occupations normally do require that level of education for the majority of roles, as contemplated by the statute, Compete America said. -- PTI  
10:07   Rupee rises 35 paise to 72.65 against US dollar in early trade
The rupee appreciated 35 paise to 72.65 against the dollar in early trade Friday, following US mid-tem election results and easing crude oil prices. Forex traders said the rise was also supported by dollar-selling by exporters and banks and the US unit's weakness against some currencies overseas.

They said the US mid-tem election results which showed Democrats wresting the House of Representatives from the ruling Republican party, also supported the rupee. The Democrats now have majority in the 435-member House, while Trump's party has retained majority in the 100-member Senate. -- PTI
10:00   Sensex down over 100 pts on weak global cues
Benchmark stock indices opened on a negative note Friday following weak global cues after the US Federal Reserve left key interest rates on hold last night, but hinted a rate hike next month. The BSE Sensex was trading 114.08 points, or 0.32 per cent, lower at 35,123.60. It had dropped 226.45 points in opening trade.

The 30-share index had surged 246 points in the special Muhurat session Wednesday to mark the beginning of Hindu Samvat year 2075.

The NSE Nifty saw similar movement, and was trading 31.05 points, or 0.29 per cent, lower at 10,567.35. The stock market was closed Thursday on account of Diwali Balipratipada.

Top losers in the morning session include Bharti Airtel, Wipro, Infosys, Tata Steel, ITC, ONGC, HDFC, NTPC and SBI, falling up to 1.65. per cent. Bucking the weak market trend, Yes Bank, Adani Ports, IndusInd Bank, PowerGrid, Asian Paints, Sun Pharma and Hero MotoCorp rose up to 2.36 per cent.

Shares of aviation companies gained due to softening of crude oil prices. InterGlobe Aviation, SpiceJet and Jet Airways were trading up to 2 per cent higher.
09:36   Bangladesh to go to polls on Dec 23; to use EVMs for the first time
Bangladesh will hold its general election on December 23 and for the first time will use electronic voting machines on a limited scale, the electoral body announced on Thursday, amid an impasse between the government and the main opposition alliance over the timing of the polls.
"The 11th general election will be held across Bangladesh on December 23," Chief Election Commissioner Nurul Huda said in a nationally televised address.
Huda made the announcement hours after his meeting with four election commissioners to finalise the poll date which came amid calls from the newly-floated National Unity Front (NUF) to defer the election schedule while the ruling Awami League urged the commission to stick to its plan.
The candidates have to submit their nomination papers between November 9 and November 19. The nomination papers will be scrutinised on November 22.
Nearly 104.2 million people, including a little more than 51.6 million women, are registered as voters. They will elect 300 representatives to Parliament through the balloting in about 40,199 polling stations.
Huda also announced the plan for the use of electronic voting machines, or EVMs on a limited scale.
He said, "The countdown of the national election has already begun and the works of buying polls materials and printing have been completed," as he promised to ensure a "level playing field for all".
"We believe that if EVMs are used, it will improve the quality of the voting process and save time, money and labour," Huda said.  
Earlier, EVMs were partially used in local government elections, reported.
Despite objections from many political parties, the use of EVMs became possible through the amendments to the Representation of the People Order last month. -- PTI
09:13   Entry of heavy and medium goods vehicles into Delhi banned for 3 days
The entry of heavy and medium goods vehicles into the national capital has been banned for three days from 11 pm on Thursday night as Delhi's air quality worsened to the "severe-plus emergency" category following cracker burning on Diwali.
The transport department of the Delhi government has issued a notification regarding the ban. 

It has also appealed to private diesel vehicle owners to avoid using their vehicles during the period.
As per the notification, entry of heavy and medium goods vehicles into the national capital has been banned from 11 pm of November 8 till 11 pm of November 11, special commissioner of transport department K K Dahiya said.
"The notification has been issued to comply with the direction of the Environmental Pollution Control Agency and the Traffic Police and municipal corporations have been directed to enforce the ban," he said.
Vehicles carrying vegetables, fruits, grains, milk, egg, ice etc., that is to be used as food items and tankers carrying petroleum products has been exempted, Dahiya said.
Joint Commissioner (Traffic) of Police Alok Kumar said adequate deployment of police personnel has been done at all border entry points to enforce the ban.
"Support from police of neighbouring districts of Delhi-NCR has also been sought to ensure smooth and hassle-free movement for other motorists during this period," he said.
Vehicles which need to reach other destinations are being suggested to take the Eastern Peripheral Expressway instead of entering Delhi, Kumar said.
A senior official of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation said as per instructions issued by the EPCA, the ban on entry of trucks carrying non-essential commodities will be strictly enforced.
Over 50,000 goods carriers enter Delhi mostly through 13 toll points managed by the civic body. Besides, there are also several less-used entry points from neighbouring Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, he said. -- PTI 
08:42   Now, BJP MLA wants to rename Hyderabad as Bhagyanagar
The Bharatiya Janata Party would "aim" to rename Hyderabad and other cities in the state after the names of great people if it is elected to power in Telangana in the December 7 poll, party leader Raja Singh said Thursday.
"Our aim is, when our Bharatiya Janata Party government comes to power in Telangana, our first (priority) is development, second is these names should be changed. They should be named after great people, those who worked for our nation, righteousness and Telangana," he said.
Singh, who was a member of the recently-dissolved legislative assembly, said the Qutb Shahis, who ruled the region during the 16th century, had changed the name of the city, Bhagyanagar, to Hyderabad.
They had also changed the names of other places, he said, adding Secunderabad and Karimnagar were among them.
Singh also found fault with AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi's comments earlier Thursday that BJP president Amit Shah wants a "Muslim-free" India.
He said Muslims should not believe Owaisi, who had often spoken against Telangana.
Owaisi is Lok Sabha member from Hyderabad.
Telangana goes to polls on December 7. -- PTI
08:29   People not interested in names, they want jobs, income security: Congress
The Congress on Thursday said that people were not interested in changing of names of places but they wanted other things such as jobs, income security, safety of women.
Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma, responding to questions on the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Uttar Pradesh announcing renaming of Allahabad and Faizabad as Prayagraj and Ayodhya, respectively, said: "When the mindset is to distort and rewrite history, then changing names is immaterial."
Changing people's life for the better is more important, he said.
"People have no interest in names, the youth of India wants jobs, the farmer wants income security, women and daughters need security, people are burdened with high prices and inflation...
"If these things are going to solve all the problems then the prime minister has the right to change our name also. Never heard of such a discourse," Sharma said.
His remarks came after the Gujarat government said Thursday that it was considering renaming Ahmedabad as Karnavati. -- PTI 
08:07   Air India ground handling staff call off strike at Mumbai Airport
A strike by a section of employees of Air India's ground handling subsidiary, Air India Air Transport Services Ltd, over non-payment of Diwali bonus and other issues, was called off late Thursday, a senior official said.
The strike was called off after discussion with the management, a senior AIATSL official said.
All other issues have been sorted out and employees are back to work and flight operations are normal now, he added.
The employees of the AIATSL struck work at the Mumbai airport from the intervening night of Wednesday and Thursday, demanding payment of Diwali bonus and reinstatement of three of their colleagues whose contracts were not renewed by the company, he said.
The employees whose contracts were not renewed have not been taken back, the official said.
The AIATSL, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the national carrier, provides ground handling services to Air India across airports in the country. It has about 5,000 employees, including those on contract.
"Some AIATSL employees at the Mumbai airport are on strike since Wednesday-Thursday (intervening) night over non-payment of Diwali Bonus and reinstatement of the services of some of their former colleagues. This stand-off has resulted in flight operations getting hampered," the official said.
He said around 37 flights, including international ones, were delayed by 2.5 hours-3 hours till 1500 hours Thursday.
However, no flight has been cancelled so far, the official added.
Air India has pressed into service its permanent employees to handle the ground handling operations at the Mumbai airport, he said.
"The company has already paid the bonus after negotiations but the employees are now insisting that the services of three of their colleagues, whose contracts were not renewed last month, be restored," he said. -- PTI  
08:01   Mumbai: Fire breaks out in goods train wagon, 10 long-distance trains halted
A fire broke out in two wagons of a goods train near Dahanu in Palghar district of Maharashtra late on Thursday night, as a result of which at least 10 long-distance trains were halted, police said.
According to an official, the incident took place around 11 pm between Dahanu Road and Vangaon Railway Stations.
The fire brigade, Railway Police Force and Government Railway Police were rushed to the spot, he said, adding the blaze was doused around 2 am on Friday.
The overhead electric wire melted due to the heat as a result of which at least 10 long-distance trains were halted, the official said.
Work is on to remove the burnt wagons from the tracks and to repair the overhead wires. A probe is underway to ascertain the exact cause of the fire, he said. -- PTI  
07:49   Trump to celebrate Diwali in Oval Office next Tuesday
United States President Donald Trump would celebrate Diwali in his Oval Office next Tuesday, the White House has said.
"The president will be celebrating Diwali with a ceremonial lighting of the diya (lamp) in the Oval Office next Tuesday," deputy assistant to the president Raj Shah said in a statement on Thursday.
A day earlier Trump had greeted people celebrating the festival of lights the world over and said it is a special opportunity to reflect on the bond of friendship between India and the United States.
Trump said First Lady Melania joins him in sending their best wishes for a very happy and memorable Diwali. 
He also recognised the "extraordinary" contributions of Indian-Americans in the development of the United States.
"We recognize the extraordinary contributions of Indian-Americans to the strength and success of our nation. Their achievements in business and industry, public service, education, scientific research, and other fields continue to represent the very best of our American virtues and the spirit of the Diwali season," said Trump, who had celebrated Diwali last year by lighting the ceremonial lamp in the Oval Office.
Asserting that Diwali is a joyous and spiritual time marked by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists, Trump said lighting of lamps on the occasion symbolises the true meaning of Diwali, which is triumph of light over darkness and good over evil.
Earlier this week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said nearly a billion people from around the world will light the lamp "as a reminder that good ultimately overcomes evil, understanding over ignorance, and kindness over animosity". -- PTI