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LIVE! Highlight issues of farm distress and unemployment: Rahul to party

February 09, 2019

21:16  Highlight issues of farm distress and unemployment: Rahul to party:  
Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday asked office-bearers of the party to raise the Modi government's "dictatorial style" of governance and "burning issues" such as farm distress and unemployment in the Lok Sabha poll campaign.
Two days after meeting All India Congress Committee general secretaries and state in-charges, Gandhi held a meeting with state Congress Committee presidents and Congress Legislature Party leaders and discussed the party's strategy for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.
In the meeting, the Congress chief said the candidate selection process should be more inclusive and participation of maximum party stakeholders and workers should be ensured.
He also instructed the leaders to complete the candidate selection process as soon as possible, according to a statement released by the Congress general secretary in-charge of organisation.
Gandhi urged state unit chiefs and Legislature Party leaders to expose the "anti-farmers, anti-youth, anti-women and anti-people" policies of the Modi government.

He stressed on highlighting in the party's campaign the "burning issues of unemployment, farmers distress, sabotage of constitutional bodies, misuse of the institutions and investigative agencies".

Gandhi stated during the meeting  that the "dictatorial style" of governance should be highlighted in the campaign, the statement said.

He also emphasised that the pro-people policies proposed by the Congress party such as the minimum income guarantee programme should be taken to the people across the country.

-- PTI
20:34  BJP warns Twitter of repercussions after it declines to appear before panel:  
The BJP on Saturday warned Twitter of "repercussions" after the social network company's CEO and top officials declined to appear before the parliamentary committee on information technology, saying no agency has the right to disrespect institutions of the country.
The parliamentary panel had summoned Twitter CEO and officials over the issue of safeguarding citizens' rights on social media platforms.

"In any country, no agency has the right to disrespect the institutions of that country. In this situation, if Twitter is disrespecting the established institution of Parliament, then there are repercussions," BJP spokesperson and New Delhi MP Meenakshi Lekhi told reporters.

"There are repercussions because in any democratic country, institutions need to be respected by the world powers. If there is any violation of any sort, then there are repercussions to those violations...The institutions need to be respected," she said.

The parliamentary committee, headed by BJP MP Anurag Thakur, had issued a summon to Twitter via an official letter on February 1.

Its meeting was scheduled for February 7, but was later postponed to February 11 to allow the Twitter CEO and senior officials more time to make themselves available, sources in the panel said.

Twitter cited "short notice of the hearing" as the reason, despite being given 10 days to travel, the sources said. 

-- PTI
20:10  Delhi EC issues advisory over anonymous misleading calls to voters:  
The Chief Electoral Officer of Delhi on Saturday cautioned people against "misleading calls" claiming deletion of their names from electoral rolls, a day after a BJP delegation met the Chief Election Commissioner and alleged that the Aam Aadmi Party had been making such phone calls.
The statement from the poll panel drew sharp reaction from AAP national convener and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who said the Election Commission "must not be allowed to become agent of a political party".
The office of the Delhi CEO, in the statement, said it had been brought to its notice that "large number of calls have been received from unknown persons/entities/sources by many citizens of Delhi telling them that their names have already been deleted in the electoral roll and the callers will get the same restored in the electoral roll".

"The citizens of Delhi are hereby advised to beware of such misleading calls coming from unknown persons/entities/sources. The only authority to add or delete a name in the electoral roll is Electoral Registration Officer... Separate legal action as required/deemed appropriate is being taken," the statement said. 

The BJP delegation led by Union minister Vijay Goel had on Friday requested the Chief Election Commissioner to issue clarification on "bogus claims" by the AAP that names of 30 lakh voters in Delhi were deleted from electoral rolls.

The Election Commission should come out with a press statement to "expose" lies spread by the Arvind Kejriwal-led party, Goel had said.

After the poll panel came out with the final voter list in January, the AAP has launched sustained attacks on the BJP alleging its hand behind the "deletion" of names of 30 lakh voters, particularly of Purvanchali, Muslims and Bania communities, since the assembly election in Delhi in 2015.

Reacting sharply to the statement by the poll panel, Kejriwal said on Twitter, "Incumbents come n go. EC is too precious an institution for Indian democracy. EC's integrity n credibility ought to be protected. EC must not be allowed to become agent of a political party (sic)." 

-- PTI
19:54  Rahul Gandhi's failings forced sister's entry into politics: Smriti Irani:  
Prime Minister Narendra Modi usually refers to himself as Kaamdaar (ground worker) and Congress president Rahul Gandhi as Naamdaar (dynast), but Union Minister Smriti Irani today changed the narrative a little to cover new political developments on the national front. 

She said that Naamdaar Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was forced to take the plunge into politics because her Kaamdaar brother -- Rahul Gandhi -- was failing miserably at his job ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

"Five years back, in 2014, we all saw Congress president Rahul Gandhi running from pillar to post in Amethi. Now, the Kaamdaar's work is such that Naamdaar (Priyanka Gandhi) had to enter. Rahul Gandhi should not show the country dreams of development when he cannot develop his own constituency," she said.

Irani claimed that the Congress president lacks vision to develop the country. "I have heard Rahul's speeches at the Parliament, and he is always saying that if you die, I will get you money. He does not talk about empowering the nation," ANI quoted her as saying.

Priyanka Gandhi's husband, Robert Vadra, also came in for criticism over the ongoing investigation against him in a money-laundering case. "The Gandhi family has turned corruption into a tradition. Such shameless gestures cannot be done by any other person," Ms Irani told the news agency.

Vadra was questioned by the Enforcement Directorate today for the third time this week.

For a long time now, PM Modi has been terming the upcoming elections as a battle between a Kaamdaar (in a reference to himself) and a Naamdaar (Rahul Gandhi). "Unlike some people, I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth. We are not seeking votes for our grandsons or granddaughters but to help fulfil your dreams," he had said at a rally in Nagaur ahead of the Rajasthan elections on November 7.
Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar leaves from Central Bureau of Investigation office in Shillong after being questioned by CBI in connection with Saradha chit fund scam. He will be questioned tomorrow as well.

19:04  BSP calls off alliance with INLD, forges ties with Saini's LSP:  
The Bahujan Samaj Party on Saturday called off its nearly nine-month-old alliance with Haryana's main opposition INLD and forged ties with Loktantra Suraksha Party an outfit floated by rebel BJP MP Raj Kumar Saini.

The development comes days after Om Prakash Chautala-led Indian National Lok Dal suffered a humiliating defeat in the Jind bypolls, with party candidate Umed Singh Redhu forfeiting his security deposit, amid the ongoing family feud in the Chautala family.

"On the directions of BSP national president and former UP chief minister Mayawati, the BSP today ends alliance with the INLD and ties up with the LSP," BSP Haryana incharge Meghraj told reporters.

Meghraj said the decision to snap ties with the INLD was taken by BSP chief after considering the demand of the people of Haryana.

"Our leader Mayawati gave them a chance for staying united. When we entered into an alliance, the INLD was one party. But after Chautala family split, we got a chance to judge them in Jind bypoll," Meghraj said.

He said the BSP gave a rethink on the alliance with the INLD after drubbing of its candidate in the Jind bypoll.

"Out of around 3,400 votes polled to INLD candidate, Redhu managed just 1,000 votes and rest of them were BSP votes. Thereafter, we decided to rethink on the alliance. Our votebank was disturbed," he claimed.

The BSP leader said the objective of ousting the BJP out of power was unachievable in alliance with the INLD.

Under the new arrangement, the BSP and the LSP will contest the upcoming Lok Sabha elections and Haryana assembly polls.

-- PTI
18:37  3 months after surgery, doctors find forceps inside woman's abdomen in Hyderabad:  
A woman in Hyderabad went through excruciating pain for three months before an X-ray revealed a pair of surgical forceps in her abdomen that doctors forgot to remove after a surgery in November.

The mistake came to light when the patient Maheshwari Chowdary of Mangalhat area in Hyderabad, returned to the same hospital Nizams Institute of Medical Sciences, a prestigious state-run hospital in Hyderabad, on Friday with severe stomach pain.

An X-ray of her abdomen revealed that a pair of artery forceps (a scissors-like instrument used by surgeons to remove tissues and hold internal parts during surgery), was firmly embedded in her stomach.

Accusing the doctors of their criminal negligence in conducting surgeries, relatives of the patient on Saturday staged a dharna in front of the hospital and demanded action against the surgeons who botched up the surgery.

The doctors pacified them saying they would conduct another surgery by evening to remove the instrument from the abdomen. They ensured that they would take care of Maheshwaris health.

Director of NIMS Dr K Manohar said Maheswari had been admitted to the hospital with severe abdominal pain on October 28 and had undergone a surgery for hernia in the first week of November. She was discharged on November 12.

Mahadev, a close relative of the patient told media that a few days after returning home, Maheshwari started feeling pain in the abdomen. She continued taking medicines for pain, as suggested by doctors, but it intensified in the last few days. So, she came back to NIMS for further check-up, where it was revealed that the medical instrument embedded in her abdomen.

She was complaining of stomach ache within days of surgery at NIMS. We tried different kinds of medicines but her condition did not improve. This is totally negligent on the part of surgeons because of which she had to suffer, said Mahadev.

Dr Manohar said an enquiry had been ordered into the episode. According to preliminary investigation, three doctors Beerappa, Venu and Varma participated in the surgery. We have constituted an internal committee to probe the issue and action would be initiated against them after due inquiry process, he said.
18:27  Hanoi to host Trump summit with North Korea's Kim Jong-un:  
US President Donald Trump says his second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will be held in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi.

The two men will meet on 27-28 February for talks expected to focus on persuading the communist state to give up its nuclear weapons programme.

Modern relations with Vietnam are seen as a model for US ties with the North.

A US envoy held "very productive" talks with the North to prepare for the new summit, Trump said.

The first summit between President Trump and Kim in Singapore last June generated significant coverage and optimism but delivered very few concrete developments.

Both sides said they were committed to denuclearisation but gave no details of how this would be carried out or verified.

Trump announced in his State of the Union address on Tuesday that he would meet Kim in Vietnam but did not say where exactly the summit would take place.

On Friday evening Washington time, he tweeted that they would meet in Hanoi for "advancing the cause of peace".
17:48  Rajasthan CM Gehlot deflects Gujjar quota protest to PM Modi:  
A section of the Gujjar community is on the streets in Rajasthan blocking roads and railway lines demanding five per cent reservation in jobs and education. 

Sawai Madhopur is the epicentre of the protests leading to cancellation of four trains in the Kota division and diversion of more than a dozen others. Reaching out to the protesters, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Saturday asked them to address their concerns to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Their demands (for reservation in jobs and education) can only be met after amendments in the constitution, so they should submit a memo to PM, news agency ANI quoted Gehlot as saying. The Rajasthan chief minister appealed to the Gujjar community to vacate the railway lines.

The protesters from the Gujjar community erected tents on the railway tracks disrupting movement of the trains. They occupied the tracks near Malarna Dungaar station in Maksudanpura village of Sawai Madhopur district.

We have a good Chief Minister and a good Prime Minister. (But) We want that they listen to the demands of the Gujjar community. It isnt an uphill task for them to provide reservation, the news agency quoted one of the protesters as saying.

The Gujjars had staged a rasta-roko dharna on Friday in Sawai Madhopur stating that they were promised implementation of five per cent reservation by the state government. The protests are being held under the banner of the Gujjar Arakshan Sangharsh Samiti led by Gujjar leader Kirori Singh Bainsla.

The Rajasthan government, in October last year, had passed a bill providing for raising the quota for Other Backward Classes from 21 per cent to 26 per cent. Two months later, in December 2018, the state government approved one per cent quota for Gujjars and four additional OBCs.
17:31  Nuns protesting against Bishop Mulakkal that they won't be transferred:  
Days after nuns protesting against rape-accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal were asked to leave the convent in Kottayam, the Jalandhar diocese has written to them assuring that they will not be transferred out till the case is in court. 

"I'd like to assure the five of you that, as far as lies within my power, there will be no move form the Diocese of Jalandhar to oust you from the Kuruvingalad Convent as long as you are needed for the court case," read a statement from Jalandhar diocese.

Sister Neena Rose, Sister Anupama, Sister Ancitta, Sister Alphy and Sister Josephine were asked to go back to the convents they were earlier assigned by the Missionaries of Jesus.

The nuns have been staying at the convent in Kuravilangadu, Kottayam, and were asked to leave immediately.

Bishop Mulakkal, a senior member of the Roman Catholic clergy in India, was arrested last year following allegations by the nun that he repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted her at the Kuravilangad convent between 2014 and 2016, a charge denied by him. 
17:18  None can raise questions on PM Modi's honesty: Rajnath:  
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday that no one can question the integrity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

"I have known Modi ji personally for many years. I have worked with him," he said.

"He (Modi) has worked a lot in the past five years, and he should do more work for the people. One may criticise him for something, but none can raise questions on his intentions and honesty," said Rajnath."

The home minister targeted the UPA-led coalition and said people cannot be misled. Earlier, India was ranked among under-developed and poor nations. But now it is recognised as one of the most powerful countries.

"The day is not far when India will be among the top three countries in the world. This can be possible only under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. We don't want to be a superpower as it will generate fear among people. But we want them to love our country, our people and culture," said Rajnath.

The home minister said Bihar played an important role in India's independence. "It is a land of ancient culture and traditions, which gave birth to legends like Atal Bihari Vajpayee ji."

-- ANI
17:12  Packed schedule awaits Priyanka Gandhi on Lucknow visit:  
Newly appointed Congress general secretary in-charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will have her hands full during her four-day visit to Lucknow as she will meet senior leaders and office bearers of the party.
This will be Priyanka Gandhi's maiden visit to Uttar Pradesh after she formally entered politics last month.

She will arrive in the state capital, Lucknow, accompanied by her brother and Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Congress general secretary in-charge for western Uttar Pradesh on Monday.

The party in Uttar Pradesh is seeing the visit as the virtual launch of the Congress campaign in the state, ahead of the coming Lok Sabha elections.

In-charge of 42 of the 80 Lok Sabha constituencies in Uttar Pradesh, Priyanka Gandhi will meet senior leaders and office bearers of the party constituency-wise during her visit till February 14, Congress spokesperson Anshu Awasthi said. 

Besides, the district and city unit presidents, office bearers and other senior leaders will also be meeting Priyanka Gandhi and Scindia during their visit, Awasthi said.

Rahul Gandhi is likely to return the same day after a meeting with the state leaders, he added.

Preparations are underway to accord a grand welcome to the three leaders on their arrival, Awasthi said.

-- PTI
16:47  Snowfall damages over 50 per cent fruit orchards in J-K:  
About 50 per cent fruit orchards were damaged due to recent snowfall in this picturesque valley and adjoining areas in Doda district of Jammu and Kashmir, a senior government official said on Saturday. 
Bhadarwah, along with Kellar, Bhallesa, Dessa, Chatroo and Marmat, experienced heavy snowfall between Wednesday and Friday.

"Nearly 50 per cent of the fruit trees have suffered irreparable losses in the latest snowfall," Bhadarwah horticulture development officer Rohan Kumar said, quoting preliminary information received from the field staff. 

Putting the loss suffered by the orchards in the snow-bound areas to about 100 crore, Kumar asked the farmers not to let snow accumulate on trees. 

"We appeal to the farmers not to let snow accumulate on trees and remove it as early as possible," he said. 

The meteorological department has predicted another spell of snowfall from February 12.

-- PTI
16:21  'Delighted to be back home': Jaitley returns from US after treatment:  
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who could not present the Interim Budget this year after he had to fly to the US for treatment, tweeted today for the first time on returning home. 

Though he was not in the thick of political business when he was in the US, he was regular in sending his point across continents with tweets and blog posts, as back home the political temperature rose with the Lok Sabha elections just months away.

"Delighted to be back home," the finance minister tweeted this afternoon.

Jaitley, 66, stopped attending office at North Block in April last year. A month later he was admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Science in Delhi for treatment. He returned to office in August last year before he went to the US in January.

While in the US, Jaitley kept up pressure on the opposition on a range of issues, from the controversy over selection of CBI chief to the 'Grand Alliance' of opposition parties, which he called a club of "nawabs of negativity".
15:48  Sonam's 'Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga' to be part of Oscar library:  
Actor Sonam Kapoor on Saturday said she is "overwhelmed" with the news of her latest release 'Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga' being considered by Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences to be included in Oscar library.

The film revolves around a same-sex relationship and shows the struggles to find acceptance in the family and the society. 
According to reports, AMPAS has requested the makers for a copy of the film's screenplay for its permanent Core Collection.
Sonam said 'Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga' is a special film for her. 

"It is my first movie with my father and also because it has a strong message that deserves to be told. I'm really happy that it was selected to be part of the Oscar library and I'm overwhelmed by the kind of love audiences have showered on the film," Sonam said in a statement. 

Also featuring Anil Kapoor, Juhi Chawla and Rajkummar Rao, the film has earned around Rs 20 crore at the box office.

-- PTI
15:23  China condemns PM Modi's visit to Arunachal Pradesh:  
Chinas foreign ministry on Saturday condemned Prime Minister Narendra Modis visit to Arunachal Pradesh, also claimed by China, saying it resolutely opposes activities of Indian leaders in the region.

Modis visit was part of a series of public meetings in the region aimed at garnering support for the Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of elections that are due to be held by May.

Despite recent efforts to improve bilateral ties in both countries, disputes over the mountainous Indo-China border -- which triggered a war in 1962 -- and the region that China claims as southern Tibet have remained a sensitive issue.

China urges the Indian side to proceed from the overall situation of bilateral relations, respect Chinas interests and concerns, cherish the momentum of improving relations between the two countries, and refrain from any actions that intensify disputes and complicate the border issue, the countrys foreign ministry said in a statement.

On Saturday, the foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Both India and China have sought to rebuild trust after an armed standoff over a stretch of the Himalayan border in 2017.
15:06  Citizenship Bill will in no way to cause harm to Assam & NE: PM:  
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday assured the people of Assam and the North East that the citizenship bill will in no way cause harm to their interest.
He was addressing a public rally in the assembly constituency of Assam health minister and BJP-led NEDA convener Himata Biswa Sarma.
"It is a national commitment to the people of the North East that they will not be harmed in any way and citizenship will be only granted after due investigation and recommendation of the state governments," Modi said. 

It must be understood that there is a difference between those who forcefully entered the country and those who were "forced to flee their homes to save their lives due to their faith. Both are not the same", he said.

"We have committed to provide shelter to those who are minorities in neighbouring countries and had to leave everything due to the atrocities inflicted on them. They have come to our country and embraced the idea and ethos of Mother India," he said.

The BJP is committed to implement the 36-year old Assam Accord and a committee set up on the implementation of its Clause 6 is a step in that direction, Modi said.

The BJP-led NDA government is committed to protect the language, culture, resources, hopes and aspirations of the people of Assam and North East, he said.

-- PTI
14:29  PM should answer if Rafale deal meant to strengthen IAF or industrialist: Sena:  
The Shiv Sena on Saturday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi should answer whether the Rafale deal was meant to strengthen the air force or a financially-troubled industrialist.
The party's remarks came after a report in The Hindu newspaper Friday claimed that the defence ministry had raised strong objections to "parallel discussions" conducted by the PMO during the negotiations over the Rs 59,000 crore Rafale deal between India and France.
The Sena, in an editorial in its mouthpiece 'Saamana' said Modi gave a speech on "patriotism" in Parliament on Thursday and defended the deal. "But the very next day, the 'black page' (document) came out, which silenced those raising patriotic slogans and thumping benches in the House," it said.
Without naming anyone, the Shiv Sena said that Modi was expected to answer if the deal was finalised to strengthen the Air Force or a financially-troubled industrialist.
Referring to Congress president Rahul Gandhi's constant criticism of the government on the Rafale issue, the Uddhav Thackeray-led party also asked why the opposition should be blamed for it.
"The opponents may perish (politically), but truth will stay alive," it said.

"The prime minister made the oft-repeated allegation (in Parliament) that the Congress does not want strengthening of the defence services. And the next day, documents surface, showing how extreme Modi's personal interest in the deal was. What to make out of it?" the Sena asked.

"Modi was directly 'dealing' in the Rafale transactions. Key people like defence minister, defence secretary were kept away from it. Modi himself took decisions on issues like prices of Rafale (planes) and who would get its contract. Hence, he will have to face allegations and criticism," it claimed.

"How does seeking explanations on issues of national security become criticism of the country," the party asked.
The Sena on Saturday further alleged that the definitions of nationalism and patriotism stood "changed" under the current BJP-led regime.
"Those who sing paeans of Rafale deal are patriots, while those raising questions about its pricing are being labelled as traitors now," it claimed.
14:20  After SC rap, Mayawati says memorials of Dalit icons earn revenue for govt:  
A day after the Supreme Court asked BSP chief Mayawati to return the crores of public money spent on grand statues of herself and the BSP party symbol, the elephant, the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister on Saturday said the monuments and parks built in the memory of great men and saints born in backward classes are not just a part of the states identity, but they also add regular revenue to the state coffers. 

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi was hearing a plea filed by advocate Ravi Kant in 2009 against the installation of statues. 

We primarily think Ms Mayawati should return this money she has spent from the public exchequer on statues, elephants," said Justice Gogoi.

Urging the media and BJP leaders not to distort the apex courts observation, the BSP supremo wrote on Twitter that she was confident of justice being meted to her by the court. 

Posting the matter for hearing on April 2, Justice Gogoi said: "Please come prepared on the next date of hearing. And you now know our tentative view." 

The comment from the bench prompted senior lawyer and BSP MP Satish Mishra to seek a date in May, perhaps because the voting for the general election is likely to take place in April and the party would not want any adverse news against its top leader around the voting.

However, the CJI said, "No. We won't defer it. Please don't make us say anything more. We would want to say a lot more and but don't make us. Come prepared on the next date." 

The PIL alleges that spending over Rs 1,200 crore on statues was completely unjustified when UP has more than 50 million people below the poverty line, besides the lowest literacy rate in the country. 
13:51  Twitter CEO, officials decline to appear before Parliamentary Committee :  
Twitter CEO and top officials have declined to appear before the Parliamentary Committee, said sources. 

The social media giant was summoned before the parliamentary panel to present its views on "safeguarding citizens' rights on social/online news media platforms."

The notice was tweeted by Anurag Thakur who heads the Parliamentary Committee on Information Technology and is a member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. 

Local news outlets reported the notice was issued after a volunteer group supposedly wrote to the committee, alleging that Twitter was biased against right-wing and pro-BJP accounts.

Twitter was asked to appear before the committee on February 11 at 3 pm along with representatives from ministry of electronics and information technology.
13:10  Suspended BJP MP Kirti Azad to join Congress on Feb 15 :  
Suspended Bharatiya Janata Party MP Kirti Jha Azad on Saturday said he will join the Congress on February 15 and will contest next Lok Sabha polls from Darbganga. 

Kirti Jha Azad, a cricketer-turned-politician, who was a member of the Indian cricket team that won the world cup cricket tournament for the first time in 1983, said he will join the Congress in presence of party president Rahul Gandhi. 

Kirti Jha Azad is certain to be denied a party ticket to contest the 2019 polls for his criticism of the party. 

-- M I Khan/
13:00  Jammu-Srinagar National Highway closed for fourth day:  
The strategic Jammu-Srinagar national highway remained closed for the fourth consecutive day on Saturday as efforts were on to restore the only all-weather road connecting Kashmir with the rest of the country, officials said. 
Men and machinery are on the job to clear the landslides which had blocked the 270-km highway at nearly a dozen places between Ramban and Banihal, while the snow clearance operation around Jawahar Tunnel in Kulgam district is also going on at war footing, Inspector General of Police (Traffic) Alok Kumar said. 

"Efforts are on to restore the highway as soon as possible," he said. 

A traffic department official said major landslides had struck the highway at Peeda, Sherbibi, Digdole, Maroog, Anokhifall, Panthiyal, Nashri, Khuni Nallah and Gangrasoo over the past couple of days due to incessant rains. 

He said fresh landslides and shooting of stones from the hillock overlooking the highway were hampering the road clearance operation.

The highway was closed for traffic on Wednesday after heavy snowfall and rains lashed the area. 

Snow from Banihal to Shaitani Nallah was cleared but the road is slippery and not trafficable, the official said, adding the snow clearance operation from Jawahar Tunnel to Qazigund was on.

-- PTI
12:46  Sharad Pawar may rethink retirement, says party insisting he fight from Madha seat:  
Almost a year after he announced that he will not fight the Lok Sabha elections, Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar is likely to take a U-turn on his position. 

Pawar announced that the party leaders have insisted that he contest in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, so he will think about it. Senior party leaders said that in view of the current national political scenario, NCP was keen to see Pawar get elected in Lok Sabha.

"Look at the political situation in the country today. There is so much of disappointment against the BJP government. People are unhappy with Modi. In such a scenario, we think that Pawar Saaheb should be in Lok Sabha. We have insisted that he should fight the coming elections," a senior NCP leader said.

Sources said that NCP leaders like Jayant Patil, Chhagan Bhujbal, Vijaysingh Mohite Patil have tried to convince Sharad Pawar during a Lok Sabha candidates' review meeting held in Pune. They told him that the party listened to him, and that is why he too should listen to the party.
12:01  On Rahul Gandhi's Rafale attack, BJP's 10-point rebuttal:  
The BJP has tweeted a series of counter-attacks over Rahul Gandhis pointed jibes on the controversial Rafale fighter jet deal, accusing the Congress president of peddling lies.

Ahead of the Lok Sabha election in summer this year, Rahul Gandhi has stepped up his line of questioning of Prime Minister Narendra Modis National Democratic Alliance government over the Rs 59,000-crore Rafale deal.

And, a new report has added fresh ammunition to Gandhis attacks. The report had said that the Prime Ministers Office had conducted parallel talks with the French government over the Rafale jet fighter deal and had prompted the ministry of defence to protest that the PMO was undermining Indias negotiating position.

Gandhi has reiterated his demand for a joint parliamentary committee  probe of the Rafale deal after the report published in The Hindu. The Bharatiya Janata Party, on its part, tweeted a 10-point lie versus fact rejoinder to defend the Rafale deal on Saturday.

While you are starting a new day of honesty and hard work, #LiarRahulGandhi is preparing to peddle more lies. Its difficult to track all his lies, but weve tried to track major lies peddled by him on #Rafale. A heads up before his todays quota! the BJP tweeted from its official handle.

Lie No.1: #LiarRahul tried to twist some report in a French media house to say making Reliance an offsets partner was a tradeoff for Dassault to get the deal with India. Fact: Both Supreme Court & Dassault CEO said Indian govt had nothing to do with choosing of offsets partners, it tweeted.

Lie No.2: #LiarRahul tried to create false impression that SC has found grave irregularities with the deal. Indulged in third grade level propaganda on a sub judice matter, it went to say.

The ruling party tweeted memes, photographs of documents and videos to point out, what it said, holes in Rahul Gandhis attacks over the Rafale deal, which was signed between India and France in 2016 for the purchase of 36 fighter jets.

It also attacked The Hindu over its report that claimed the French side took advantage of parallel parleys by the PMO that weakened Indian teams position in negotiating the Rafale deal with France as it cited a November 24, 2015 note of the defence ministry.

If #LiarRahul and his partner in crime, The Hindu, really had faith in their discovery they shouldve ideally wanted to approach Honble SC with these discoveries. But they know they wont stand a chance. Even now, we challenge liar to approach SC with his new evidence, the BJP tweeted.

We have tried to document most of Rahul Gandhis #RafaleLies. But given his superhuman capabilities of lying, we realized its humanly impossible to document it all. We hence invite you to tweet with #LiarRahul and further this cause of exposing the pathological liar! ruling party signed off by tweeting.
11:29  PM inaugurates and lays foundation of projects worth Rs 4,000 crore in Arunachal Pradesh:  
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday inaugurated several projects and laid foundation stone of many vital schemes worth over Rs 4,000 crore for Arunachal Pradesh at a function in Itanagar.

Modi laid the foundation stone for construction of greenfield Airport at Hollongi and inaugurated a retrofitted airport at Tezu in Lohit district through a remote.

He inaugurated the new Doordarshan channel for Arunachal Pradesh, DD Arun Prabha.

The prime minister also dedicated to the nation the 110 MW Pare Hydroelectric Plant and laid the foundation stone for a permanent campus of Film and Television Institute of India  at Jote.

The prime minister inaugurated 50 health and wellness centers in the state also through remote at the function at IG Park.

-- PTI
11:24  Kolkata top cop at Shillong CBI office for questioning:  
A Central Bureau of Investigation team from New Delhi has arrived at the agency's office in Shillong to question Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar in connection with Saradha chit fund scam.

Kumar has also arrived at the CBI office for his questioning.

Kumar reached Shillong, Meghalaya's capital city, on Friday to face questioning for his alleged role in destroying evidence in the Saradha chit fund scam, an official said in Shillong.

He is accompanied by three IPS officers of the Kolkata police.

"Kumar has been lodged in a top hotel in the city. The state police is giving security cover to him," the senior Home Department official told PTI.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Kolkata Police commissioner to appear before the CBI and 'faithfully' cooperate into the investigation of cases arising out of the Saradha chit fund scam, while making it clear that he will not be arrested.   -- PTI/ANI
10:37  Cong: Yeddyurappa offering Rs 200 cr to MLAs, Rs 50 cr to Speaker:  
Congress leader K C Venugopal addresses a press conference:

"Entire country is shocked by hearing the news from Karnataka yesterday.

"The Karnataka CM released audio clippings of deliberation of Yeddyurappa with the brother of one of the JD-S MLAs revealing dirty politics of Modi ji and Amit Shah to destabilise the Karnataka government.

"It (audio clips) states that B S Yeddyurappa is offering Rs 10 cr per MLA and in his deliberation, it's clear there are 18 MLAs.

"Therefore it comes at the rate of around Rs 200 cr. He's offering 12 MLAs ministerial posts, six were offered chairman posts in different boards.

"He is also offering election expenses to MLAs after they resign.

"They offered Rs 50 crore to the speaker for not disqualifying his MLAs.

"Clippings are referring to the names of Amit Shah and Narendra Modi ji for managing here and there through Yeddyurappa himself," Venugopal said.   -- ANI
09:52  Swine flu claims 4 more lives in Rajasthan, 100 so far:  
Four people died of swine flu in Rajasthan on Friday, taking the total death toll to 100 in the state so far this year.

The patients who lost their lives were from Kota, Jodhpur, Hanumangarh and Dausa districts of the state.

Also, 87 new cases have been reported in the state, taking the tally of patients to 2,793 in 39 days.

Amongst the fresh cases, Jaipur witnessed the highest number of 43 patients, followed by Barmer where nine people were tested positive.

Four cases each were reported from Dausa and Udaipur. Three positive cases each were reported from Jaisalmer and Jodhpur. Two cases each were reported in Sawai Madhopur, Kota, Bikaner, Churu, Hanumangarh, Alwar, Sikar. Ajmer, Bhilwara, Bharatpur, Ganganagar, Jhunjhunu, Baran and Rajsamand reported one positive case each.

Swine flu is an infection caused by one of the several swine influenza viruses (SIV), with the H1N1 strain being the most common across the country

H1N1 virus spreads when an individual touched an infected or breathes droplets of coughs and sneezes that are in the air.The symptoms are the same as the seasonal flu, also known as viral fever. This includes a cough, sore throat, and body ache.   -- ANI
09:43  Gujjars' protest for quota coniues:  
Members of Gujjar community sitting on railway track in Maksudanpura of Sawai Madhopur in protest as part of reservation movement say, "We have good CM&a good PM.

'We want that they listen to the demands of Gujjar community. It isn't an uphill task for them to provide reservation."-- ANI
09:04  Trump is in 'very good health', says White House doctor:  
United States President Donald Trump, 72, is in a very good health, his White House physician said following his annual physical checkup.

"While the reports and recommendations are being finalized, I am happy to announce the President of the United States is in very good health and I anticipate will remain so for the duration of his Presidency and beyond," Sean P Conley, physician to the president said in a statement.

Trump underwent a nearly four-hour annual physical test on Friday-- his second periodic examination after becoming the US President in January 2017.

A White House official said Trump was examined by a team of doctors led by Conley, a Navy officer. The 72-year-old president is a teetotaler and does not smoke, but likes a sedate lifestyle.

Trump, however, has said that he walks a lot in the White House complex. Trump loves fast food and had ordered burgers, french fries and pizza when he invited the college football champion Clemson Tigers to the White House last month.  -- PTI
08:10  PM in Northeastern states today, security beefed-up:  
Preparations are on in full swing ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit in Agartala on Saturday.

Tight security has been put in place for the Prime Minister's visit.

The prime minister will on Saturday make a whirlwind tour of northeastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, and Tripura during which he will lay the foundation stone of new greenfield airport and Sela tunnel, launch DD Arun Prabha channel and will unveil various other development projects.Prime Minister Modi will lay the foundation stone of northeast gas grid foundation in Guwahati, and will inaugurate Garjee-Belonia railway line in Tripura, said a statement from the PMO on Friday.

As per the official statement, PM Modi will reach Itanagar from Guwahati on Saturday morning and will unveil a series of development projects at IG Park in Itanagar.

He will lay the foundation stone for the construction of greenfield airport at Hollongi.At present, the nearest airport to Itanagar is at Lilabari in Assam at a distance of 80 km.

The airport at Hollongi will reduce the distance by a fourth.

In addition to providing better connectivity to the region, the airport will also unravel the tourism potential of the state.

The airport will boost the economic growth of the region and will be of strategically important to the nation.

The airport will have various sustainability features like a green belt along approach road to act as a noise barrier, rainwater harvesting, use of energy efficient equipment, and so on.

Prime Minister Modi will lay the foundation stone of Sela tunnel in Arunachal Pradesh, which will provide all-weather connectivity to Tawang Valley for civilians as well as security forces throughout the year.

The tunnel will reduce travel time to Tawang by an hour and boost tourism and related economic activities in the region.

A new dedicated DD Channel for Arunachal Pradesh -- DD Arun Prabha will be launched by PM Modi at IG Park, Itanagar. The channel will be the 24th channel operated by Doordarshan.

He will also dedicate 110 MW Pare Hydroelectric Plant in Arunachal Pradesh to the nation.

The project constructed by NEEPCO will harness hydropower potential of the river Dikrong, a tributary of Brahmaputra, and provide cheap hydroelectric power to the North Eastern states, thereby improving power availability in the region.Foundation stone for a permanent campus of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) at Jote, Arunachal Pradesh will be laid by the laid by PM Modi on this occasion.

Modi will inaugurate the upgraded Tezu Airport in Arunachal Pradesh. The airport has been retrofitted and a new terminal constructed for making it fit for commercial operations under UDAN scheme.

From Itanagar, PM Modi will return to Guwahati, where he will lay the foundation stone of North East Gas Grid which will ensure uninterrupted availability of natural gas across the region and boost industrial growth in the region.

The grid is part of the governments plan to provide cheap and quality gas to the entire North East Region.

He will also inaugurate a Hollong modular gas processing plant in Tinsukia, Assam. Once inaugurated this facility will deliver 15 per cent of the total gas produced in Assam.

He will also inaugurate LPG capacity augmentation of mounted storage vessel in north Guwahati.The foundation stone of NRL biorefinery at Numaligarh and a 729-km gas pipeline from Barauni-Guwahati passing through Bihar, West Bengal, Sikkim, and Assam will be laid by the Prime Minister on this occasion.

The last leg of PM Modis visit will be in Agartala, where he will dedicate to the nation Garjee - Belonia railway line through the unveiling of a plaque at Swami Vivekananda stadium.

This line will boost Tripura as the gateway to South and Southeast Asia.

He will also inaugurate the new complex of Tripura Institute of Technology at Narsingarh.Prime Minister will unveil the statue of Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur at Maharaja Bir Bikram Airport, Agartala.

Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur is widely regarded as the creator of modern Tripura. He is credited with the planning of Agartala city.  -- ANI
00:17  No angel tax recovered from start-up firm: Govt:  The government on Friday rejected allegations by a start-up firm that Rs 36 lakh was recovered from it as part of a recovery action on account of angel tax, a move that is now being discouraged in view of concerns raised by budding entrepreneurs.

The Central Board of Direct Taxes, that frames policy for the Income Tax Department, issued a statement late night, saying the additions in the case of the company Travel Khana were made 'under section 68 of the Income Tax Act on account of unexplained cash credits and not under section 56(2)(viib) on account of premium on shares, as has been alleged'.

Section 56(2)(viib) of the I-T law deals with angel tax.

Certain start-ups have raised concerns against notices being sent to them on this account and the government has assured that it will come out with solutions.

"During the assessment proceedings, the assessing officer requested for confirmation of the persons from whom deposits had been received. Wherever confirmations were submitted, the same were accepted by the assessing officer and no addition was made.

"However, where no confirmations were furnished by the assessee, the assessing officer made the addition after issuing proper show-cause notice and obtaining reply in the matter," the statement issued by CBDT spokesperson Surabhi Ahluwalia said.

Thus, she added, the addition was made only when the assessee failed to substantiate the source of the deposit resulting in demand of Rs 2.22 crore approximately.

She added that as there was 'no stay' against recovery and the demand had become due, the department recovered Rs 36 lakh after attaching the bank accounts of the assessee.

"Thereafter, all the bank accounts of the company were released," it said.

"Thus, it is clear that the case of Travel Khana is not covered by the instruction issued by CBDT of December 24, 2018, prohibiting coercive measures for enforcing recovery of outstanding demand in angel tax cases, as the addition was made under section 68 of the IT Act and not under section 56(2)(viib).

"Therefore, the action of the assessing officer of enforcing recovery of demand is not in violation of CBDT's instructions," the spokesperson said.

She added the firm also did not furnish the mandatory certificate of being a start-up firm from the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) under the Commerce Ministry.

Notwithstanding the above, the spokesperson said, the benefit of doubt 'should and must' be given to entrepreneurs.

"However, when after repeated reminders, records of funds received are not provided, the department is unfortunately left with no other choice. It is also our duty to prevent and expose suspected evasion," she said. -- PTI

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