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Mon, 30 December 2019
'No to CAA, NRC' rangoli at Stalin's residence

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23:16   'No to CAA, NRC' rangoli at Stalin's residence
Expressing solidarity with 'rangoli protesters' against the Citizenship Amendment Act, the entrance of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam president M K Stalin's house in Chennai sported a traditional rangoli, saying no to the contentious law.

Alongside the rangoli, known as 'kolam' in Tamil, a word was drawn which said 'vendam (don't need/no) CAA-NRC'.

A similar kolam greeted visitors at the residence of late DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi in Chennai.

Women who drew rangoli against the CAA, meanwhile, called on Stalin at the party headquarters here to thank him for supporting them.

Later in the day, Stalin, in a statement in Chennai, demanded withdrawal of cases filed against 'all democratic anti-CAA protesters'.

If holding pro-CAA rallies was a democratic right, it equally applied to those against it as well, he said.

Earlier, in a tweet, the DMK chief mocked the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam saying it was 'servile' to the Centre and acted against even those drew rangoli since it did not want the Union government to be 'offended' even by 'flour' used for drawing kolam.

The young men and women involved in the rangoli protest visited him, Stalin said adding following their initiative against the CAA on Sunday 'entire Tamil Nadu' was now drawing kolam against the law.

He also posted a collage of photographs featuring a slew of rangolis against the CAA on his twitter handle. DMK MP Kanimozhi was present.

Eight people, including five women, were detained briefly on Sunday when they staged an anti-CAA protest in Chennai by drawing 'kolams'.

The group of eight held the protest in the Besant Nagar locality in South Chennai.

They used the 'kolams' to express opposition to the CAA and National Register of Citizens and National Population Register and raised slogans 'No to NRC' and 'No to NPR' before police took them into custody.

Stalin had slammed the police action and hit out at the AIADMK government.

He said the police 'has not even allowed the basic right under the Constitution' to voice dissent.  -- PTI
22:32   Baby 'Nagrikta' gets birth certificate
Amid an ongoing row over the amended citizenship law, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) on Monday handed to the parents the birth certificate of 'Nagrikta', the infant daughter of a Pakistani Hindu family, residing in a resettlement colony in the national capital.

The girl's grandmother, Meera Das, 40, had earlier said the baby was born on December 9, and the family decided to name her 'Nagrikta', anticipating that the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) would be passed by the Rajya Sabha.

'Nagrikta' is the Hindi word for citizenship.

The CAB, now an Act (CAA), was passed by the Lok Sabha on December 11.

"I along with a few NDMC officials went to the family's home in Majnu ka Tila area and handed over the birth certificate to the family of 'Nagrikta'. This is in keeping with the vision of the central government as per the CAA," NDMC's Standing Committee chairperson Jai Prakash said.

The family left their home in Pakistan's Hyderabad and came to India in 2011.

The makeshift tents and unplastered walls with metal roofs in north Delhi's Majnu ka Tila area are home to about 750 Pakistani Hindus who fled the neighbouring country to seek refuge in New Delhi.

Many others live in resettlement colonies in Rohini Sector 9 and 11, Adarsh Nagar and near the Signature Bridge.

The CAA seeks to give Indian nationality to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who came to India before December 31, 2014, facing religious persecution.

"The message that we wish to send is that any refugee who is eligible to be a citizen of India, we (NDMC) can get civic amenities later. Parents of 'Nagrikta' had requested to get a birth certificate for the daughter.

"So we went to their home only and gave it to her parents. Whatever is possible to do for the people living in camps, we are doing it and will continue to do it," Prakash said.

The CAB when introduced in Parliament had sparked massive violent protests in Assam and demonstrations against the CAA still continue in the state and various other parts of the country.  -- PTI
22:03   Gen Bipin Rawat appointed as India's first CDS
Army Chief General Bipin Rawat was on Monday appointed the country's first Chief of Defence Staff whose mandate will be to bring in convergence in functioning of the Army, the Navy and the Indian Air Force.

According to a government order, Gen Rawat has been appointed CDS with effect from December 31.

Gen Rawat assumed charge as Chief of Army Staff on December 31, 2016. He was to retire on Tuesday from the service. Before becoming the Army Chief, he handled various operational responsibilities in many areas, including along the LoC with Pakistan, the LAC with China and in the Northeast.

In a landmark decision, the Cabinet Committee on Security had last Tuesday approved the creation of the CDS who will act as the principal military adviser to the defence minister on all matters relating to tri-services.

A key mandate of the CDS will be to facilitate restructuring of military commands for optimal utilisation of resources by bringing about jointness in operations, including through establishment of joint/theatre commands.

Officials said bringing about jointness in operation, logistics, transport, training, support services, communications, repairs and maintenance of the three services within three years will be another major mandate of the CDS.  -- PTI
21:31   Yogi hits back at Priyanka over 'saffron' remark
In a veiled attack at Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Monday said that those people who have got the politics in legacy would not understand the meaning of people's service.

'Whosoever creates hurdle in the path of people's works being done by a 'sanyasi' has to face the punishment. What will they understand the meaning of people's service, who have got the politics in legacy and indulge in appeasement by forgetting the nation,' said Chief Minister Adityanath in a Tweet.

Addressing a press conference earlier today, Priyanka had cited India's deep-rooted connection with the saffron while cornering Adityanath over his 'revenge' remark.

'Yogi Ji wears 'bhagwa' (saffron). It is not his personal. Saffron belongs to this country's religious and spiritual spirit. It is a symbol of the Hindu religion. He should follow that religion. There is no place for revenge and violence in that religion,' Gandhi had said. -- ANI
21:25   Church vandalised in East Midnapore district, 3 arrested
Three persons were arrested on Monday for their alleged involvement in the vandalisation of a church in East Midnapore district last Saturday, police said.

According to senior district police officials,suspected Bharatiya Janata Party supporters entered a small church in Bhagavanpur, over 100 km from Kolkata, and vandalised its premises.

"When the incident happened on Saturday night, Christmas celebrations were going on. We have arrested three persons so far for their involvement in the incident. Those arrested are said to be BJP supporters," a senior police official of the East Midnapore district said.

The district BJP leadership has denied the allegations and alleged that the Trinamool Congress was behind the happening which was done to defame the saffron camp.  -- PTI
20:24   Fire at PM's residence under control now
The minor fire that broke out at Prime Minister's residence at 7 Lok Kalyan Marg, is under control now.

'There was a minor fire at 9, Lok Kalyan Marg caused by a short circuit. This was not in PM's residential or office area but in the SPG reception area of the LKM complex,' the Prime Minister's Office tweeted.  -- ANI
20:06   Fire at PM's residence, 9 fire tenders rushed
JUST IN: A fire has been reported at Prime Minister's residence at 7, Lok Kalyan Marg at around 7.25 pm today.

Nine fire tenders have been rushed to the spot.

As per sources, it is a minor fire.  -- ANI
20:01   Shah to hold rally to 'spread awareness' on CAA
Union Home Minister Amit Shah will address a mass rally in Rajasthan's Jodhpur on Friday to spread awareness on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

Making the announcement in Jaipur on Monday, Bharatiya Janata Party state president Satish Poonia said more than 50,000 people are likely to attend the rally.

The party has chosen Jodhpur for Shah's rally as large number of Hindu refugees from Pakistan live there, Poonia said.  -- PTI
19:14   UP: 59 more served notices for property damage
The district administration in  Sambhal, Uttar Pradesh, has served notices on 59 persons for allegedly damaging public property during protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, and official said on Monday.

Confirming it, Additional District Magistrate Kamlesh Awasthi on Monday said so far notices against the damage worth Rs 15.35 lakh had been served on 59 people.

When asked that those given notices were claiming to be innocent, Awasthi said, "The notices have been issued. They have to answer. Everyone will be given full opportunity of hearing."

District Magistrate Avinash Krishna Singh said, "A bus was burnt during violent anti-CAA protests. Initial investigation reveal that public property worth Rs 15.25 lakh was damaged. Based on video clips, CCTV footage and photographs, 59 persons have been identified. The damage to government property will be recovered from them."

Asan Abdullah who was served notice by the district administration claimed innocence, saying he did not participate in the December 19 protests.

Similar concerns were expressed by Syed, who runs a school.

Syed said he was slapped with a Rs 11 lakh notice despite the fact that 'they never went outside their house'.  -- PTI
18:49   Delhi cold: 530 flights delayed, 40 cancelled
Dense fog played havoc with flight operations at the Delhi airport on Monday with around 530 flights delayed, 40 cancelled and 21 diverted.

Flights are operating at the airport under CAT III B conditions, which means the runway visual range (RVR) is between 50 metres and 175 metres.

Giving an update on flight operations, an official said 21 flights have been diverted and around 40 cancelled as of now.

"Around 530 flights -- which includes 320 departures as well as 210 arrivals approximately -- have been delayed on Monday," the official added.

In a statement, IndiGo airline said, "Owing to dense fog in north India our flights have been impacted across India. We will continue to review the situation and provide real time updates on our social platforms."

The airline also requested passengers to check flight status before leaving home and reach out to its customer care.

Vistara airline said on Twitter that its Delhi-Mumbai flight UK933 as well as Mumbai-Delhi flight UK996 stands cancelled due to poor visibility in Delhi.

Vistara along with GoAir, SpiceJet, AirAsia India stated on Twitter that due to dense fog and poor visibility in Delhi, their flight operations might be impacted, and advised passengers to check flight status before leaving for the airport.

Delhi, which is shivering under an intense spell of cold wave for two weeks, experienced its coldest recorded December day on Monday.  -- PTI
18:11   Will make Delhi pollution-free in next five years: Kejriwal
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday promised to make Delhi pollution-free in the next five years if re-elected in the upcoming assembly elections.

Addressing his third town hall meeting at Durgapuri Chowk in West Jyoti Nagar, Kejriwal said his government took a number of steps to tackle pollution and managed to reduce it by 25 per cent.

"But if re-elected, I will make Delhi pollution-free in the next five years,"  Kejriwal said.

Responding to a question, Kejriwal also promised to make bus rides free for students after elections.

"After the election finishes and the government comes to power again, we will do it (make bus rides free) for students also,"  Kejriwal said.  -- PTI
17:42   5 Kashmiri leaders released after 4 months
JUST IN: Two former Peoples' Democratic Party legislators, two former National Conference legislators and one former Independent legislator who were detained after abrogation of special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 in August, have been released.

The leaders include Ishfaq Jabbar and Ghulam Nabi Bhat, Bashir Mir and Zahoor Mir and Yasir Reshi.

More details awaited.  -- ANI
17:26   Hyperlocal promise
Election is tough competition, even if it is of local bodies. In Tamil Nadu, where panchayat elections are taking place in two phases -- one was held on December 27 and the next is scheduled for December 30 -- a candidate took the traditional way to win over people's trust. 


During her door-to-door campaign, Padmavathi, a candidate in Mylambadi village, Erode district (where the election is to be held on December 30), handed over a betel leaf and nut to prospective voters, promising to fulfil every promise made in her manifesto. Touching the betel leaf and nut is a traditional way to guarantee something and gaining trust.
-- Business Standard
17:16   Money platter
Legend has it that a man prayed for money and then became rich by growing multiple plants from one -- giving the plant its name. Not sure if that was the case here but officials in Odisha over the weekend unearthed property worth over Rs 1 crore in the possession of a gardener-cum-horticulture extension worker employed by the state government. 


On a tip-off officials raided the house of one Udhab Behera and that of his relatives in Mayurbhanj and Balasore district and found a neat stash. Besides the cash, Behera owned a three-storey house, 12 plots of land, a poultry farm, three two-wheelers, big-ticket deposits and investments in banks plus a huge amount of gold ornaments.  -- Business Standard
17:15   Question of my security not a big one: Priyanka
Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi in Lucknow on Monday hit out at Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, saying there is no place for violence or "revenge" in the country. 


Concluding her four-day visit to Lucknow days after statewide violent clashes over the Citizenship Amendment Act, she told mediapersons that her own security was not a big issue. 


 "The issue is the safety of the common man in UP," she said in an apparent reference to her alleged manhandling by the state police. The Congress leader downplayed the issue of her security, saying it needn't be discussed. "The question of my security is not a big one. It is a small question on which there is no need to hold any discussion. I will not raise the issue of security because it is a trivial matter. It has nothing to do with the public," she said.


Priyanka said, "The public is bothered about what is happening in the state today. There is anarchy; no one has job; there is unemployment; and the women are feeling insecure. There are so many bigger issues, but you are raising trivial issues." 


Earlier in the day, the Central Reserve Police Force said in a statement in New Delhi that there was no breach in the Congress leader's security during her visit to Lucknow and blamed her for "violations" for riding pillion on a scooter. The force, which provides armed commandos under the Z plus security cover to her, said the Congress leader undertook an "unscheduled movement without intimation". Therefore, an advanced security liaison could not be conducted, said CRPF Inspector General (Intelligence and VIP Security) PK Singh.
16:55   Follow dharma of saffron clothes: Priyanka to Yogi
Yogi Adityanath should follow the peacful Hindu dharma symbolised by the saffron robes he wears, Priyanka Gandhi said today as she tore into the Uttar Pradesh CM's controversial vow of "revenge" against violent anti-CAA protesters.


Yogi Adityanath said on December 19 that his government would avenge the destruction of public assets by seizing and auctioning personal property.
"In my opinion, this is perhaps the first time in history that a chief minister has given a statement like this -- that revenge will be taken against the public," Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said at press conference today.


She said the saffron in Yogi Adityanath's clothes didn't belong to him, but to India's religious and spiritual tradition. She said the colour was a symbol of a Hindu dharma that had no place for revenge, violence or enmity -- and asked Yogi Adityanath to follow it.


Priyanka Gandhi has written to Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel to ask for a judicial enquiry into the state police's "unlawful conduct" during 
protests against the CAA and the NRC.


The police, she wrote, have "run amok throughout the state creating an atmosphere of terror, discrimination, and oppression, thus ensuring that protesters are intimidated into silence and infringing on the....fundamental rights of every citizen of India".
16:43   It's Delhi's coldest day in 119 years today!
Delhi is likely to experience its coldest day in December in 119 years on Monday with the day temperature recording 9.4 degrees Celsius, the India Meteorological Department said. The temperature recorded by the Safdurjung laboratory at 2:30 pm was 9.4 degrees Celsius. "Delhi likely to record most coldest day today in last 119 year for Dec Month as day temp till 1430 IST of today has been unusually (cold) following a coldest trend with Safdarjung at 1430 IST has 09.4degC," the IMD tweeted. PTI


Image: A cold wave has gripped north India in the last days of December. Shown here are the minimum temperatures. Courtesy: KBK Graphics
16:11   J&K HC opens doors for all-India candidates
In a first step of its kind, opening of state employment in the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh for candidates from across the country, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court has invited applications from eligible candidates from all over India to fill 33 vacancies with it. This is the first such move after the nullification of Article 370. 


The 33 vacant posts of non-gazetted officials include those of a senior scale stenographer, junior scale stenographer, steno typist, compositor, electrician and driver. 


The advertisement to fill the vacancies was issued by the J&K High Court's Registrar General Sanjay Dhar on December 26 with the last date for submission of applications being January 31, 2020. 


Following nullification of the Article 370 on August 5, there had been demands from various quarters, especially in the Jammu region and Union Territory of Ladakh, carved out of the erstwhile state of J&K after its bifurcation into two UTs, for a domicile certificate or some legal restrictions on the purchase of land by outsiders as well as their appointments in government jobs. 


"The application forms shall be received by the concerned principal district judges of the UTs of J&K and Ladakh within whose jurisdiction the applicant resides against the proper receipts duly stamped. "The applicants who do not belong to the UTs of J&K and Ladakh shall submit their application to the Registrar General, J&K High Court, Jammu," the advertisement read. 
15:55   That tiny baby is Salman's new-born niece
Actor Aayush Sharma on Tuesday shared adorable pictures of his and Arpita Khan's new-born daughter. The actor took to Instagram and shared a series of pictures of the new member of their family and wrote a heartfelt post welcoming the baby girl - Ayat. "Welcome to this beautiful world Ayat. You've brought a lot of happiness into our lives. May you touch everyone's life with a lot of love and joy," Sharma wrote. 


The couple who got married in the year 2014 are parents to a three-year-old son Ahil and, were blessed with their second child on December 27 which is also the birthday of Salman Khan, Arpita's brother.


Earlier on Friday, the 'Loveyatri' actor shared a beautiful card thanking all his fans for their love and blessings on behalf of the Khan and Sharma family.
15:50   Govt launches initiative to enable blocking, tracing of stolen and lost phones
Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Monday launched a web portal that will facilitate blocking and tracing of stolen or lost mobile phones in Delhi. The initiative was launched in September this year in Mumbai on a pilot basis. The roll-out of the portal in Delhi will facilitate requests for blocking of stolen or lost mobile phones by customers, and sharing of traceable data with police authorities, a statement said. PTI


Representational image
15:31   Uddhav to lead a team of 42 ministers
If you've just joined us, here's an update: Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has expanded his council of ministers by inducting 26 Cabinet and 10 ministers of state, including NCP leader Ajit Pawar who was sworn in as deputy chief minister. The expansion took place more than a month after the Thackeray-led Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government took charge of the state. 


The 36 ministers sworn in on Monday include 10 Cabinet and four ministers of state of the NCP, eight Cabinet and four MoS of Shiv Sena, eight Cabinet and two MoS of the Congress. With this, NCP leads with 12 Cabinet ministers and four MoS, the Shiv Sena has 10 Cabinet ministers and four MoS while the Congress has 10 Cabinet ministers and two MoS. The state now has 43 ministers, including the CM.
15:27   Come together and isolate BJP: Mamata
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday made an appeal to the public to come together and isolate the BJP. During a rally in Purulia, against the Citizenship Amendment Act, Mamata said, "I would like to appeal to everyone, come together and isolate BJP."


"India belongs to all of us. In West Bengal, whether a person is from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan or anywhere else, everybody has the right to live and work here. BJP does not have the right to remove anyone from the country. The BJP has contracted to a few states in the country now in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka. There will come a time when people would have to find BJP via binoculars," she added.


She further appealed to the public requesting everyone to ensure that their names are there in voters list without any error.


"Just do this much. We will not let the removal of a single person from the nation. This is our promise," she said.


The West Bengal Chief Minister further posed questions for the union government and said that she is committed to the movement against CAA. "The movement took place in all parts of the country. The student community is involved in the movement. A student above 18 years old can vote and elect the Prime Minister but he cannot express his opinion. Is this a democracy? We support the movement against CAA," she contended.
15:19   Punjab will fight CAA tooth and nail: CM
Punjab joins the list of states that refuses to implement the Citizenship Amendment Act. Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh's office said today that their government will not allow the implementation of the CAA in Punjab and the Congress will continue to fight it tooth and nail. Maharashtra, Kerala, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh have already declared they will not be implementing the CAA.


Prime Minister Narendra Modi today initiated a campaign in support of the Citizenship Amendment Act. "#IndiaSupportsCAA because CAA is about giving citizenship to persecuted refugees & not about taking anyone's citizenship away", read a tweet from the official account of Prime Minister's personal website.


"Check out this hashtag in Your Voice section of Volunteer module on NaMo App for content, graphics, videos and more. Share and show your support for CAA..," Modi said in the tweet.

Major protests were held across the country against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, which grants Indian citizenship to refugees from Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist and Parsi communities fleeing religious persecution from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh, who entered India on or before December 31, 2014.
15:02   Sarita Devi alleges fixing of final bout in Olympics Qualifiers trials
Boxer Sarita Devi has alleged that her bout against Simranjeet Kaur in the Olympics Qualifiers trials that concluded on Saturday was fixed.The Arjuna Awardee pugilist in her letter to Boxing Federation of India president Ajay Singh stated that 'unfair trial selection happened especially in her 60kg weight category against Simranjeet Kaur'.


In the final bout of the 60kg category, Sarita Devi lost to Simranjit in a split decision 8-2. According to her, BFI Executive Director RK. Sacheti, Foreign coach Raffael and Chhote Lal Yadav ganged up against her and fixed the bout."I'm telling you again, it was a fixed bout. Premediated bout. I'm telling more clearly that our BFI Executive Director RK Sacheti, Foreign coach Raffael and Chhote Lal Yadav are the people who have always ganged up against me and they are the ones who have fixed the bout today," the letter read. -- ANI
14:53   Railway property worth Rs 80 crore damaged in anti-CAA protests
Railway property worth Rs 80 crore damaged during anti-CAA protests, recovery to be made from those involved, says news agency PTI quoting Chairman of Railway Board.
14:49   Flying out of Delhi?
Delhi flights update: Over 500 flights delayed, 21 diverted; 5 flights cancelled due to dense fog at Delhi Airport.
14:41   Gen Bipin Rawat named 1st Chief of Defence Staff
Indian Army chief General Bipin Rawat has been named as India's first Chief of Defence Staff.

The announcement of the name of India's Chief of Defence Staff was made months after PM Narendra Modi, in his Independence Day speech, promised that his government would establish the top military post.

On December 24, the government formally established the post of Chief of Defence Staff. The government released the charter and duties of the CDS and said that the post would be occupied by a four-star officer from the Indian Army, Indian Navy or the Indian Air Force.

Days later, the government amended the rules of the Army, Navy and the Air Force to allow a Chief of Defence Staff to serve until the age of 65. Currently, the three service chiefs retire after either completing three years in office or once they reach the age of 62, whichever is earlier

The CDS will be the "first among equals" with respect to the three service chiefs, all four-star officers themselves who will retain the operational command of their respective forces.

The government said that the CDS will head the newly established Department of Military Affairs within the Ministry of Defence. Among the areas the CDS will focus on will be promoting jointness in procurement, training and staffing and facilitation the restructuring of military commands for optimal utilisation of resources.

14:18   Aaditya Rashmi Uddhav Thackeray... takes oath
Shiv Sena's Aaditya Thackeray takes oath as minister in the Maharashtra government. Taking the oath in Marathi, Aaditya, a first-time MLA, who contested the elections from Worli invoked his parents on the dais, saying, 'Mee Aaditya Rashmi Uddhav Thackeray'. 


A total of 36 ministers will be inducted in Maharashtra Cabinet as part of the much-delayed expansion, with NCP leader Ajit Pawar taking oath as Deputy Chief Minister.

A total of 10 MLAs including Shiv Sena's Abdul Sattar will become ministers of state.

Senior Nationalist Congress Party leader Nawab Malik, legislators Anil Deshmukh, Hasan Mushrif, Rajendra Shingne, Rajesh Tope, Jitendra Awhad, and Balasaheb Patil will take oath as Cabinet ministers from NCP quota.
13:59   Farah, Raveena apologise to Cardinal Gracias
Filmmaker Farah Khan and actor Raveena Tandon met Indian Cardinal of Roman Catholic Church, Cardinal Oswald Gracias to tender an apology after the duo, along with comic Bharti Singh, were booked for allegedly hurting the religious sentiments of the community in a TV show.


Farah earlier took to Twitter to apologise on behalf of entire team of Flipkart Video Original's quiz show "Backbenchers", on which she serves as the host. The said episode has also been taken off by Flipkart Video. 


In a statement, the host-director said she along with Raveena paid a visit to Gracias to tender an unconditional apology. "His Eminence Cardinal Oswald Gracias met us. We apologised and asked him to forgive our mistake and he very graciously accepted our apology. He also issued a statement on our behalf to end this matter," Farah said. 


Dr Abraham Mathai, president of Indian Christian Voice, said the Christian community accepted the apology tendered by Farah, Raveena and Bharti Singh. "We appreciate Flipkart video and Walmart CEO for removing the episode off air. The Christian community expresses appreciation to Flipkart video and Mr Doug McMillon, the global CEO of Walmart for having considered our demands and sentiments. "This evening Farah Khan and Raveena Tandon went in person to His Eminence Cardinal Oswald Gracias to tender a written and unconditional apology, which the Cardinal graciously accepted. I appeal to the Christian community in this nation who have been enraged by this whole episode to accept their apology in the true spirit of Christ," Mathai said in a statement. Farah on Monday took to Twitter to express her gratitude to the cardinal. "To err is human to forgive divine. Thank you, Your Eminence Cardinal Oswald Gracias for meeting us and accepting our heartfelt apologies and putting this unfortunate matter to rest," her tweet read. Bharti, who is out of the country, also apologised to the community for "hurting their sentiments".  -- PTI
13:50   Amit Deshmukh takes oath
Congress party's Latur MLA Amit Deshmukh takes oath in the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra government. Deshmukh is the son of former Maharashtra CM Vilasrao Deshmukh. 
13:45   Nawab Malik takes oath
Nationalist Congress Party leader Nawab Malik takes oath as minister in the Maharashtra Government.
13:30   India's forest cover up by 5188 sq km: Report
The total tree and forest cover in the country increased by 5,188 square kilometer in the last two years, said the India State of Forest Report 2019 which was released on Monday by Union Minister Prakash Javadekar. 


While releasing the report, Javadekar said that there is an increase of 42.6 million tonnes in the carbon stock of the country as compared to the last assessment of 2017. 


"This report gives us confidence that we are on track to achieve our Paris Agreement goals," he said.


He also said that the current assessment shows a decrease of forest cover to the extent of 765 sq km (0.45 per cent) in north east India region. Except Assam and Tripura, all states in the region show decrease in forest cover. 


The mangrove cover in the country has increased by 54 sq km (1.10 per cent) as compared to the previous assessment, he said.


"In the present assessment, the total forest and tree cover of the country is 80.73 million hectares which is 24.56 % of the geographical area of the country. There has been an increase in forest cover in Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh in last 2 years," the minister said.


13:14   Ashok Chavan takes oath
Ex-CM Ashok Chavan takes oath as Cabinet minister in Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra govt.
13:10   Ajit Pawar takes oath, will be Maha Dy CM
Ajit Pawar takes oath as minister in Maharashtra Government, he will be the Deputy Chief Minister of the state.  Ten Congress MLAs, including former chief minister Ashok Chavan, will join the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra council of ministers during its expansion. The swearing-in is taking place in the Vidhan Bhavan (state legislature) premises where a total of 36 ministers are likely to take oath. 
13:07   Priyanka took unscheduled movement without intimation: CRPF
There was no breach in Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's security during her recent trip to Lucknow, the CRPF said on Monday, blaming her for "violations" for travelling as a pillion rider on a scooter. The force, which provides her armed commandos under the 'Z+' category of security cover to her, said the Congress leader undertook "unscheduled" movement without intimation. Therefore, an advanced security liaison (ASL) could not be conducted, it said in a statement.


"During travelling the protectee used non-bullet resistant civil vehicle without a personal security officer," the statement said. "The protectee took a lift in scooty as a pillion rider," it added. Despite the security constraints, the CRPF provided appropriate security cover, it said. 


"Such security lapses are communicated to the protectee and advised for ensuring proper security arrangements," it said. Gandhi was in Uttar Pradesh's capital city Lucknow on December 28 and alleged that threats were issued to her security personnel by local police and that she was warned to restrict her movements. PTI
12:39   Listen to Sadhguru's 'brilliant' take on CAA: PM
As part of the government's upcoming outreach programme to educate citizens on what CAA and NRC entail, PM Narendra Modi begins by retweeting Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev's take on the two contentious issues that have seen mass protests across India with several protesters killed in UP. 


The PM tweeted, "Do hear this lucid explanation of aspects relating to CAA and more by @SadhguruJV. He provides historical context, brilliantly highlights our culture of brotherhood. He also calls out the misinformation by vested interest groups. #IndiaSupportsCAA."


The prominent spiritual leader supported the CAA saying it is "too little compassion, coming too late."

"In my opinion, CAA is too little compassion, coming too late. This Bill is only focused on religious persecution. Looking at the reactions on the street, the vehemence with which people are fighting, I was wondering did I miss something. Am I not getting something here," Sadhguru told a gathering while speaking on the CAA, NRC and the protests against them.


"This is a dangerous game people are playing. I think there is certain desperation among certain people, who misinformed illiterate masses of religious groups who went wild thinking that the local Indian Muslims will lose their citizenship. That's what they conveyed," he added.He also said that such "mischief should not have worked on the scale that it worked."


"It's unfortunate. Still in today's day and age where you can just open up your phone and read the Act, what does it say. Any student can read it, but all of them are coming and behaving like illiterate people. They are studying in premier universities and how come they can't read the Act. It's really sad that such a thing can happen," he said.

Sadhguru further stated that in some way the government has "failed to communicate this properly."

"Otherwise, personally I don't see one issue on these things. But communication-wise, the way it is communicated unfortunately a certain number of people are perceiving it as a threat to them. That must definitely change," he said.

Talking about NRC, Sadhguru said that it is a normal procedure and every citizen in the country should be registered.

Talking about partition, Sadhguru stated, "The country, at least one part, not India, the other two parts that happened, happened on a religious basis. People divided the land on a religious basis. Fortunately, we chose to be a secular nation, but the others chose to be religious republics. But not everybody changed sides... Not everybody will leave their property, their life, their everything, and travel just because somebody drew a line."

He said that 72 years ago a "whole lot of people did not understand what this meant really."

"So, quite a substantial number of them stayed back. There is a lot of debate about percentages, I am not an expert on this either. They say 23 per cent stayed back in West Pakistan and nearly 30 per cent stayed back in East Pakistan. That's what people saying. Because nobody has perfect numbers I believe, but it is somewhere around that, it can't be totally wrong," he said.

"But then the 1971 war happened and East Pakistan became Bangladesh. Then, widespread persecution of the minorities happened. At that time, nearly 18-19 per cent of the people left and came back to the Indian side. They have got mixed up, there was no proper arrangement. They just got mixed up with the local population. Some of them are still in refugee camps, unfortunately," he added.
12:21   CAA outreach: Nadda to meet general secys today
BJP working president Jagat Prakash Nadda is scheduled to hold a meeting of party general secretaries later on Monday. The meeting will be held over different issues including the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) outreach program and party's organizational elections.


On December 26, party sources said that senior cabinet ministers and BJP leaders would be deployed across the country in an effort to dispel misgivings about the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, and National Register of Citizens (NRC) being allegedly spread by the opposition.


All these senior leaders would be contacting eminent personalities of their respective fields and common people to spread awareness regarding the CAA, sources said.


Among the senior leaders that will be deployed by the party till January 15 are Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, former Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, Culture and Tourism Minister Prahlad Singh Patel, Minister of State for Finance Anurag Singh Thakur and Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju to name a few.


Every BJP morcha has been asked to reach out to common people, sources added.


BJP has been in a fire fighting mode on the issue and Prime Minister Narendra Modi too had tried to give clarification on it during his rally at Ramlila maidan. -- ANI
11:58   Delhi fog: 16 flights diverted, 4 cancelled
Sixteen flights were diverted and four cancelled from the Delhi airport on Monday due to heavy fog, an official said. Flights are operating at the airport under CAT III B conditions, which means the runway visual range (RVR) is between 50 metres and 175 metres. Giving an update on flight operations at 11:08 am, the official said 16 flights have been diverted and four cancelled as of now. 


"Owing to dense fog in north India our flights have been impacted across India. We will continue to review the situation and provide real time updates on our social platforms," said Indigo airlines in a statement. The airline also requested passengers to check flight status before leaving home and reach out to its customer care. -- PTI


Representational image
11:52   India proud of Mary Kom and Nikhat: Rijiju
Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju on Monday said not much should be made of the "ugly spat" that marred the trial bout between M C Mary Kom and Nikhat Zareen and the country is proud of both the six-time world champion and her promising challenger. Mary Kom defeated Zareen 9-1 in the trials held on Saturday to make the squad for Olympic Qualifiers in China in February. 


The bout was marred by acrimony as the two boxers didn't shake hands after the contest and Mary Kom ignored an attempted hug by Zareen. "Mary Kom is a legend who has achieved what no other boxer has ever achieved in the World Amateur Boxing. Nikhat Zareen is an amazing boxer who has the potential to follow the footsteps of Mary Kom. India is proud of both of them. Period," Rijiju tweeted. "...passions & emotions are the souls of Sports! The only point to bear in mind is, in professional sports, the players & money matter more whereas in amateur sports it's the nation. The ugly spate (sic) shouldn't have adverse effects on players while representing India," he added. 


Zareen had approached Rijiju with an open letter when the Boxing Federation of India (BFI) flip-flopped on a stated policy and announced direct selection of Mary Kom for the Olympic qualifiers. 


 Rijiju had steered clear of the matter at that time citing the Olympic charter. On Saturday, Mary Kom said she was upset about being dragged into the selection controversy as the call on selection was not hers to take. The Manipuri icon defended her refusal to exchange post-bout pleasantries with Zareen, saying that the former junior world champion will get her respect only if she "herself shows respect to others". The 23-year-old Zareen said she expected better from the senior boxer and felt hurt when her attempt at sharing a hug was rebuffed. PTI 
11:21   Anti-CAA/NRC kolams at Stalin, Kani's homes
Update on the rangoli story: Kolam, which is a traditional form of Rangoli was drawn against the CAA and NRC outsides homes of former Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, DMK chief MK Stalin and party MP Kanimozhi in Chennai on Monday.

"No CAA, No NRC," one of the Kolam design's read.

While the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) gives citizenship to non-Muslim refugees of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, the National Register of Citizens (NRC), which is only in talks so far, aims to identify illegal immigrants.

These Kolams outside the DMK leaders houses have been spotted a day after seven people were detained and later released for making Rangoli at public places against the CAA and NRC.

On Sunday, Chennai Police detained seven people for 'unlawful assembly' and for making Rangoli at public spaces in Besant Nagar.

Chennai is continuing to witness protests against the amended Citizenship Act and NRC, with people opting for different mediums of protest.

Last week, DMK-led opposition parties carried out a massive rally in the city peacefully. On Saturday, Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamath (TNTJ) took out a rally to the state Governor's residence against the new law. 
11:15   SBI cuts external benchmark-based rate by 25 bps
The country's largest lender State Bank of India on Monday announced reduction in its external benchmark-based rate by 25 basis points to 7.80 per cent from 8.05 per cent. The new rates will be applicable from January 1, 2020, the bank said in a statement. SBI "has announced the reduction in its external benchmark-based rate by 25 basis points to 7.80 per cent p.a from 8.05 per cent per annum with effect from January 1, 2020," it said. 


With this reduction, interest rate for existing home loan customers as well as micro, small and medium enterprises borrowers who have availed loans linked to external benchmark based rate would come down by 25 basis points, it said. The new home buyers will get loans at an interest rate starting from 7.90 per cent per annum compared to earlier 8.15 per cent per annum, it said. -- PTI
11:13   Now, TN wages CAA battle with rangoli
Tamil Nadu had sprung upon a novel and colourful way to protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act. 

The DMK, which is against the act, has organised drawing of rangolis in front of the houses of AIADMK and BJP workers. The rangolis will have a message written as well -- scrap CAA -- and will only be made with white colour. 

BJP is countering this by drawing colourful rangolis in front of the houses of DMK leaders.

Peace prevails... so far. 
11:03   Who else will be sworn in to the Maha cabinet?
According to sources in the Maha Vikas Aghadi, Congress leaders Vijay Wadettiwar, KC Padvi, Amit Deshmukh, Sunil Kedar, and Yashomati Thakur will be taking oath as ministers as part of the Cabinet expansion. MLAs Varsha Gaikwad, Aslam Sheikh, Satej Patil and Vishvajeet Kadam will also be sworn-in as ministers from Congress quota, ANI reported.


Congress will get 12 berths in the state Cabinet expansion, minister and state Congress chief Balasaheb Thorat said on Sunday.


Meanwhile, NCP leader Ajit Pawar is also expected to be sworn-in as Deputy Chief Minister, the largest party in the alliance, sources said. -- ANI
10:56   Indian-origin Irish PM to bring in 2020 in Goa
In a break from news on CAA and the protests thereof, Ireland Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who has his roots in India, would ring in the New Year in the coastal state of Goa, an official said on Monday. 


Varadkar, who is currently on a private visit to India, would arrive in Goa on Monday afternoon, a senior police official said. 


"Prime Minister Varadkar's visit is entirely private. There are no official functions planned during his visit. He would be in Goa till January 1 alongwith his family," he said. He will take a flight from the Dabolim Airport on January 1 afternoon to return to his country, the official added. 


On Sunday, Varadkar along with his family members visited his ancestral village Varad in the coastal Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra. It was his first visit to the village, said Varadkar, who became prime minister of Ireland in June 2017. 


His father Ashok Varadkar, a doctor, moved to the United Kingdom in the 1960s. The visit was a "special moment" as three generations of his family gathered at Varad, the Ireland prime minister said after the villagers felicitated him. He also visited a temple of the village deity. -- PTI
10:48   Air quality in Delhi remains in severe zone
Delhi's air quality continued to be in the severe zone on Monday morning. The air quality index (AQI) stood at 448 at 9.38 am. The air quality had entered the severe zone on Saturday. In the neighbouring areas of Ghaziabad (439), Faridabad (465), Noida (471) and Greater Noida (448) also, the AQI was in the severe category. Gurugram's AQI stood at 344. An AQI between 0-50 is considered good , 51-100 satisfactory , 101-200 moderate , 201-300 poor, 301-400 very poor, and 401-500 severe. Above 500 is severe-plus emergency category. The frigid temperatures, high humidity and low wind speed allowed accumulation of pollutants leading to further deterioration in the national capital's air quality on Sunday. The overall air quality index stood at 437 at 4 pm.
10:33   Bijnor family lodges complaint against cops over death of boy during anti-CAA protest
Family members of a man, who had died during an anti-CAA protest on December 20, have lodged a complaint against police for allegedly shooting him dead.

The family of Suleiman alleged that he was picked up by the police and was shot dead outside a madrassa on the day when protests erupted in Bijnor against the Citizenship Amendment Act. 

Suleiman's brother Shoaib said, "My brother had gone to offer prayers on Friday. He was picked up by three cops when he came out of the mosque and was shot dead outside a madrassa."

"I have full faith in the judiciary. I feel that justice will be served," Shoaib said.

Suleiman's father also said: "Police have shot dead my son. I have full faith in the system and I urge the police to ensure justice for us."

Vishvajeet Shrivastava, SP Rural, said that the complaint will be part of the ongoing investigation lodged by the police against the protesters.

At least 19 people have been killed in protests against the new law in different parts of Uttar Pradesh.

-- ANI
10:14   Aaditya Thackeray to be sworn in as minister
More than a month after Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackerays swearing-in as Maharashtras chief minister, the state Cabinet will be expanded on December 30 to accommodate other leaders of the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress.

The oath-taking ceremony for around 30 leaders will be held in the Vidhan Bhavan premises in Mumbai, Maharashtra around 1 pm.

Senior NCP leader and former deputy CM Ajit Pawar is expected to be inducted into the Cabinet. He could return as the deputy chief minister of Maharashtra, reports suggest.

Aaditya, Thackerays son and first-time Member of Legislative Assembly from Mumbais Worli constituency, is likely to be inducted into the Cabinet.
09:54   Burari's 'horror house' is now a diagnostics center
The ground floor of the house which is 'haunted' after 11 members of a family committed suicide in July last year, is now a diagnostic centre. 

The owner of the diagnostic centre said that he doesn't believe in superstitions.

"I don't believe in superstitions. If I have believed in such things I would not have come here. My patients have no problem coming here for the test," said Dr Mohan Singh. "I have no problem with it, this house is convenient as it is near the road. I am not superstitious", he said.

Ravinder a local, said "What happened, happened. All things are okay now."

"They were very good people and there is no such things like an evil spirit. Their souls have gone directly to heaven," said Suresh, another local.

The house caught eyeballs last year when bodies of seven women and four men were found on July 1. The post-mortem report confirmed suicide.

-- ANI
09:29   Navy bans use smartphones within naval areas
Indian Navy has issued orders to ban the use of social media site Facebook. The order was issued on December 27. This banning order comes on the heels of December 20 arrest of 8 persons, seven Navy personnel from Vishakhapatnam and a Hawala operator from Mumbai.

The Andhra Pradesh Intelligence Department launched an operation in association with Central Intelligence Agencies and Naval Intelligence and had busted an espionage racket having links with Pakistan.

Apart from banning the use of Facebook, the order bans use of smartphones within the naval areas like all the bases and even onboard ships forthwith.

The ban has been extended to the messaging apps and social networking sites as well. Further, the ban on Facebook is being seen as a ban on all other Facebook-owned sites as well. WhatsApp and Instagram are Facebook-owned. 

This banning step has been attributed to the recent cases where the enemy had targeted the naval personnel using these sites and social media network and had tried to elicit operational information.

The total number of personnel serving in the Indian Navy is 67,252. The bigger worry faced by the service will be of a large number of civilian staff working in the harbours and naval dockyard as they do not come under the naval rules and act. 
09:05   Irfan Habib is urban naxal, revoke his Professor Emeritus status: BJP leader to HRD minister
A BJP leader has written a letter to the Union HRD minister asking him to revoke the "Professor Emeritus" status given to historian Irfan Habib alleging that he inculcates divisive views among students of Aligarh Muslim University against the Constitution, Hindu community and country.

Nishit Sharma, Aligarh BJP spokesperson, has also requested that Habib should not be allowed to enter the premises of AMU. 

"It is highly dangerous for such Urban Naxal to stay inside the premises of AMU and present his divisive views among students. This is dangerous for the country, society and students. He has always presented views against the orders of the Supreme Court, Constitution, Hindu society etc," read the letter.

"In order to secure the future of students it is essential to revoke his "Professor Emeritus" status and not allow him to enter the premises of AMU," it read.

-- ANI
08:46   Jharkhand CM Soren withdraws sedition cases
The JMM-led coalition government led by Hemant Soren on day one decided to withdraw all cases registered against supporters of Pathalgadi movement and against those who had opposed to the proposed amendments in the Chhota Nagpur Tenancy Act and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act.

Cases related to Pathalgadi movement and connected with opposition to proposed amendments in land tenancy laws will be dropped and FIRs lodged in various police stations will be withdrawn, said cabinet secretary Ajoy Kumar Singh while briefing the outcome of the first cabinet meeting on Sunday.

Some of tribal belts, especially in Khunti district had witnessed a separatist movement--Pathalgadi. Pathalgadi is a practice of raising stone plaques at village outskirts with warnings and declarations inscribed on it. The plaques declared village gram sabha, the only sovereign authority. It banned entry of outsiders in the village.

Reportedly, there were more than 75 FIRs registered in different police stations in Khunti district .

The then Raghubar Das governments decision to amend the tenancy laws in 2017 also witnessed widespread protests.
08:34   CAA demonstration in NYC's Time Square
Members of the Indian diaspora demonstrate at Times Square in support of the Citizenship Amendment Act. 

Photograph: ANI/Twitter
08:22   All eyes on Maharashtra Cabinet expansion today
NCP leader Ajit Pawar, who had joined hands with BJP in an overnight coup to become deputy CM for 48 hours, may make a dramatic return on Monday as Maharashtra cabinet expansion is set to take place today.

Recently when NCP supremo Sharad Pawar was asked if Ajit would become deputy CM in the Shiv Sena-Congress-NCP government, the NCP chief refused to make any clarification. A sources said that as many as 36 ministers could take oath on the day.

Currently the Uddhav Thackeray-led cabinet has six ministers besides chief minister Thackeray. The swearing-in is likely to take place at the Vidhan Bhavan (state legislature complex) in Mumbai.

State Congress chief Balasaheb Thorat had told reporters that his party's list of the leaders who would take oath as ministers was ready. When asked if the Congress was seeking the post of deputy Chief Minister, Thorat said, cryptically, "Media can run this story."

Thorat and Nitin Raut of the Congress, Eknath Shinde and Subhash Desai of the Shiv Sena and Jayant Patil and Chhagan Bhujbal of the NCP took oath along with Thackeray on November 28. According to the power-sharing formula agreed on by the three parties, the Shiv Sena would have 16 ministers (apart from chief minister), NCP 14 and the Congress 12.
07:49   Delhi fog hits rail traffic, flights diverted
A thick blanket of fog was seen in Delhi and neighbouring cities this morning, leading to disruptions in rail traffic. Airlines have also issued an advisory for passengers taking flights from Indira Gandhi International Airport.

At least 30 trains are running late, officials said.

The air quality in the national capital fell to "severe" category this morning, with the Anand Vihar observatory recording air quality index of 462 and the Okhla Phase-2 centre reporting an AQI of 494.

Poor visibility caused problems for commuters, with many people driving slow on the main roads. "There was heavy fog on the road that connects Delhi and Noida. We had to drive carefully," said Saba Arora, a private firm executive.

At Delhi airport, CAT III B compliant aircraft are currently able to land using instrument landing system or ILS, officials said. The airlines have asked people to stay in touch for updated flight information. Three flights have been diverted so far. 

In Delhi, commuters were seen driving with emergency lights on as the visibility on city roads plummeted below 50 metres. "I had a harrowing driving from my home in west Delhi to my workplace," said Aakash Kohli, who works with a media firm in Noida.

According to the weather office, severe cold weather is likely to remain over northern India for two more days.

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