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LIVE! BJP leader shot dead in Madhya Pradesh

January 17, 2019


23:56  BJP leader shot dead in Madhya Pradesh:  
A local Bharatiya Janata Party leader was shot dead by an unidentified person in a busy area of the city on Thursday evening, police said.

The victim, Prahlad Bandhwar, was president of the local municipal council. City Superintendent of Police (CSP) R M Shukla said Bandhwar was attacked when he was standing outside District Cooperative Bank, located in Nai Abadi area, at around 7 pm.

An unidentified person shot him from point-blank range and fled from the spot, Shukla said and added the assailant's motorcycle has been recovered.

Bandhwar was immediately rushed to a nearby hospital where doctors declared him dead, the police officer said.

He said the police have launched a hunt for the killer.

A large number of BJP supporters gathered outside the hospital after the incident. Shops in the area downed their shutters.

Meanwhile, former minister and senior BJP leader Kailash Chawala termed the attack as a heinous crime and said the culprit should be arrested immediately.  -- PTI
23:18  RTI applicants allegedly sent condoms in response to queries, probe on:  
Rajasthan's Hanumangarh district administration on Thursday began a probe into allegations that two Right to Information applicants were sent envelopes containing condoms in response to their queries, an official said.

RTI applicants Vikas Chaudhary and Manohar Lal, residents of Chani Badi in Bhadra tehsil of the district, had sought information related to development work done there in 2001.

After their second appeal, the Rajasthan Information Commission had directed the gram panchayat to provide information to the applicants. They had received two separate envelopes.

The inquiry was initiated after a video purportedly showing applicants finding condoms inside RTI envelopes had gone viral.

"RTI applicants have reiterated their allegations during investigation and gram sevak had submitted in written that he did not put any objectionable material in any RTI envelope and information was provided to the applicants against the application they had filed," SDM Bhadra Raj Kumar Kaswa said.

He said the Hanumangarh district collector has sought a factual report in the matter from the Zila Parishad CEO and the block development officer.

Sarpanch of Chani Badi panchayat Pushpa Bansal has lodged a complaint at Bhirani police station in the matter, stating it to be a conspiracy.

Hanumangarh Zila Parishad CEO Navneet Kumar said he has received information related to the matter and it is being investigated, adding that it could be the outcome of rivalry between two groups in the village.  -- PTI
22:13  Looking things positively will make world better: SC's advice to Bhushan:  
The Supreme Court on Thursday had some words of advice for activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan -- he should not take everything in a 'negative manner' and 'looking things positively will make the world better'.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and justices L N Rao and S K Kaul told this to Bhushan during the hearing of a matter related to the appointment of Lokpal in which the senior lawyer stressed for making all the developments public on the official website saying people should know what is happening.

Bhushan raised this point after the bench had passed the order.

Interrupting him from lingering the hearing, the CJI asked, "Is there any reason to doubt the search committee having imminent persons?"

The CJI said, "Mr Bhushan, don't always look at things in a negative way. Please start looking at things positively. The world will become a better place to live. Don't look at things from negative point."

Justice Gogoi then told the activist lawyer to start practising positive thinking from tomorrow.

Bhushan was making a submission that the search committee on Lokpal should publish on website the minutes of the meetings as well as the panel of names for appointment as Lokpal so that people should know.

"So tell us, what orders should we pass? On March 7, we hope that they (search committee) will give us the panel of names. We will give it to you," the CJI said.

"Mr Bhushan, do not ask the court to pass an order which is not required. At the moment, requirement is that the search committee should do this within a time frame and we have fixed the time frame," Justice Gogoi said.

When Bhushan again tried to rake up the point that people should know about the entire process, the CJI said, "Do not look at it with negative point. Look and think positively. We are trying to make the world a better place and one point of it is to look at it positively."

"Mr Bhushan, you know everything which is going on in the country. At least more than we judges," he said.

The CJI pointed out to the journalists standing in the courtroom and said, "They all are going to write it tomorrow."  -- PTI
22:00  'Unstable govt' likely after LS polls: Union minister Jayant Sinha:  
Union minister Jayant Sinha on Thursday said the 'most likely' outcome of the ensuing Lok Sabha elections is that India may not get a strong and stable government.

The country has transformed and the priority now is to inform the people about this change, the minister said.

"If indeed we end up in a situation where we don't have a strong, stable government, (which) I think that is in fact the most likely case, I think that will be something that will not be good for India going forward," he said, speaking at the CNBC-TV18's India Business Leadership Awards in New Delhi.

"For us the goal is to inform, to ensure that people understand all that we have done and all that is at risk consequently," Sinha said.

Sinha's remarks come in the backdrop of the setback the ruling BJP suffered in assembly elections in three Hindi heartland states recently.

Speaking at the event, industrialist Sajjan Jindal called the (2019 Lok Sabha) elections as one of the biggest risks (to the economy) the country is staring at.

On his expectations from the next government, he said the influence of state-run companies should diminish.

Agreeing with him, banker Uday Kotak said we need to re-imagine the financial sector, and the next government should be 'seriously considering' how to handle state ownership in this crucial sector.

He was quick to clarify that he is not pitching for the private sector to take over the state ownership, but for the ownership to be broadened in such a way that the general public's ownership in the companies grows.

Kotak also pitched for a 0.50 per cent cut in the repo rate by the Reserve Bank along with a cut in the cash reserve ratio.  -- PTI
21:01  Amit Shah doing well, will be discharged soon: BJP:  
Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah, who has been admitted to All India Institute of Medical Sciences for treatment of swine flu, is doing well and will be discharged in a day or two, the party said on Thursday.

Shah had informed people about his illness Wednesday in a tweet.

'National President of BJP, Amit Shah ji, is doing well. He will be discharged in a day or two. Thanks everyone for your good wishes!' the party's media head and Rajya Sabha member Anil Baluni said.

A team of doctors is monitoring his condition under the supervision of AIIMS director Randeep Guleria, the hospital said.

Minister of State for Health Ashwini Choubey visited AIIMS on Thursday morning to enquire about Shah's health.

Later in the day, Union ministers JP Nadda and Anupriya Patel, Delhi BJP Chief Manoj Tiwari and other leaders visited him.

According to AIIMS sources, the BJP leader was admitted following complaints of chest congestion and breathing issues.

He was admitted in the old private ward. Union minister Piyush Goyal and other BJP leaders visited AIIMS on Wednesday night.  -- PTI
20:40  20 lakh Bangladeshi Hindus to become Indians if Citizenship Bill is passed: KMSS:  
Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, which is spearheading the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, on Thursday claimed that around 20 lakh Hindu Bangladeshis would become Indians if the controversial Bill is passed.

Addressing a press conference, KMSS Adviser Akhil Gogoi slammed the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government for its attempt to get the Bill passed despite widespread protests across the North East.

"The BJP and Himanta Biswa Sarma is saying that only eight lakh Hindu Bangladeshis, who are already staying here, will get citizenship. But our assessment is that 20 lakh people are present in Assam at this moment and they will get citizenship as soon as the Bill is passed," he added.      

Elaborating on his claim, the prominent RTI activist said that a report of former Assam Governor Lt Gen S K Sinha had mentioned that over one crore people have entered India.

"When I met former Assam Assembly Deputy Speaker Dilip Kumar Paul, who is from BJP, he said around 15-20 lakh Hindu Bangladeshis are in Assam. Himanta Biswa Sarma himself had said that out of the 40 lakh excluded from the complete draft of NRC (National Register of Citizens), 22 lakh were Hindus.

"Saugata Roy had said in Parliament that 28 lakh Hindu Bengalis are excluded from NRC. So, these different figures by various sources clearly say that around 20 lakh Hindus from Bangladesh are living in Assam, not eight lakh as claimed by BJP," Gogoi said.

He further claimed that as per Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, there are around 1.7 crore Hindus, which is 10.7 per cent of that country's total population.

"If the Bill is passed, this will pave the ways for these 1.7 crore people in Bangladesh to come to Assam and get Indian nationality as there is no cut-off date in the Bill.

So, there is a possibility that a total of 1.9 crore people are likely to get Indian citizenship in coming years," Gogoi said.

He claimed that if that happens, the entire demography of Assam will change irreparably.

Gogoi accused the BJP-led government for garnering votes in the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls by bringing in three sensitive issues one after another.

"Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, Committee on Clause-6 of Assam Accord and another committee on ST status were brought at this time only for polarising the society on communal lines for the votes. That is why we all should resist it.

"We will shed out blood, but will not allow the Bill to pass. We will do everything possible to stop it," he said.

The Bill, which was passed in the Lok Sabha on January 8, provides for according Indian citizenship to Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan after six years of residence in India instead of 12 years, which is the norm currently, even if they do not possess any document.

A large section of people and organisations in the northeast have opposed the bill saying it would nullify the provisions of the Assam Accord of 1985, which fixed March 24,1971, as the cut-off date for deportation of illegal immigrants irrespective of religion.

Massive protests broke out across the state after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in Silchar on January 4that the legislation would be passed as soon as possible in Parliament.  -- PTI
20:00  Centre curtails tenure of Asthana, 3 others from CBI:  
JUST IN: Appointments Committee of the Cabinet curtails tenures of Rakesh Asthana and three other officers from Central Bureau of Investigation with immediate effect, says order.

More details awaited.  -- PTI
19:52  Jallikattu held across TN, many bull tamers injured:  
Several bull tamers were injuredin the bull taming sport of Jallikattu which was held acrossTamil Nadu on Thursday with great fanfare as part of Pongal festivities which began on January 15.

At the bustling hamlet of Alanganallur near in Madurai, a popular venue for the sport, 800 bull tamers pitted their skills against 900 bulls.

Several hundreds of spectators egged the participants on.

Gifts worth lakhs of rupees were given to those who succeeded in taming the bulls and bull owners whose animals could not be tamed.

The events were also held at several locations including Avarangadu in Tiruchirappalli), Pudukottai, Karur and Dindigul.

Many bull tamers were injured in the events, police said.

Other rural sporting events like bullock cart rallies were also held in several villages.

At Coimbatore, traditional village dances like 'Oyilattam' were conducted and heritage musical instruments were played so that people could get to have a glimpse of those used in bygone eras.

Jallikattu had already been conducted at Palamedu (Madurai) and Periya Suriyoor (Tiruchirappalli), famous for the bull taming sport, on Wednesday and at Avaniapuram (Madurai) on Tuesday, coinciding with the Pongal festival.

Over 800 bull tamers took part while more than 700 bulls were used. About 100 youths and some spectators were injured in these events, police said.

The successful bull tamers and owners of bulls that could not be reined in were showered with gifts including motorcyle (Best Tamer) and a car (Best Bull) in the events.

Usually, temple bulls are first sent through the 'VaadiVasal', the entrance to the sporting arena as part of prayers for a good harvest and prosperity and in keeping with tradition such animals are not caught by the tamers.

Several events centred on rural sports and folk arts were also held across Tamil Nadu by the tourism department as part of the Pongal celebrations.  -- PTI
18:57  CBI files cases against two more shelter homes in Bihar:  
The Central Bureau of Investigation has registered two more cases related to alleged abuse of inmates in shelter homes in Bihar, officials said on Thursday.

The two cases pertain to as many shelter homes in Munger district, they said.

The agency has booked Manoj Kumar, the Director of Novelty Welfare Society which ran a short-stay home, and office-bearers of Panaah shelter home in Munger district.

It is alleged that the director of Novelty Welfare Society and others used to lock the room of a mentally-sick woman inmate causing wrongful restraint and confinement and ill-treated other inmates.

It also sublet a portion of the shelter home for a rent of Rs 10,000 and did not provide proper ventilation or sanitation facilities for the inmates, the first information report alleged.

In the case of Panaah, it is alleged that office-bearers of the home 'physically exploited' the inmates forcing them to do manual work including cooking and cleaning, the FIR stated.

It said the shelter home was being run from a building meant for an observation home and was not 'livable' for young children.

The agency has been tasked by the Supreme Court to probe abuse of inmates in 17 shelter homes of the state, which were red-flagged in an inspection report by the  Mumbai-based Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).

The Novelty Welfare Society-run shelter home was listed in the category of 'Grave Concerns' in the TISS report.

The new interim chief of the probe agency, M Nageswara Rao, handed over all the 17 cases to the Patna zone deputing Joint Director Bhanu Bhaskar to oversee the probe.

The TISS inspection report also mentions that the Superintendent of the Panaah shelter home beat an inmate which resulted in severe injury causing scar on the cheek of the boy. The allegation is now included in the CBI FIR.

The first case from the TISS report which attracted attention was sexual abuse of minor girls at a Muzzafarpur-based shelter home run by Brajesh Thakur.

The details of heart-wrenching sexual torture inflicted on minor inmates of the shelter home surfaced when the CBI took over investigation on the orders of the Supreme Court last year.

The apex court later directed the agency to probe all the 17 shelter homes mentioned in the TISS report.  -- PTI
18:45  Dera chief awarded lifer in journalist murder case:  
Central Bureau of Investigation special court in Panchkula awards life imprisonment to Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in journalist Ramchandra Chhatarpati murder case.

Three other convicts Kuldeep Singh, Nirmal Singh and Krishan Lal, have also been awarded life imprisonment.

The court has also imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 each.

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh is currently serving a 20-year prison term in jail for raping two of his followers.

Chhatrapati was shot in October 2002 outside his house after his newspaper 'Poora Sach' published an anonymous letter narrating how women were being sexually exploited by Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh at the Dera headquarters in Sirsa.

The case was registered in 2003 and handed over to the CBI in 2006.  -- ANI, PTI
18:34  Ex-BJP MP Savitri Phule meets Akhilesh, says talking to strengthen alliance:  
Former Bharatiya Janata Party lawmaker Savitri Phule, who resigned from the saffron party last month, on Thursday met Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav.

"I am only talking to strengthen the alliance," Phule told PTI without giving any details.

She said that nothing concrete has so far happened.

"I will inform you, if things take shape," she told PTI.

The meeting comes days after once arch-rivals Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party announced their tie-up in the state ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, sharing 38 seats each.

The meeting, which was also confirmed by SP's chief spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary, lasted for about 15 minutes.

He said both the leaders have met earlier as well.Phule, who has often been critical of the BJP leadership, resigned from the party last month, saying it was dividing society.

However, she said she will complete her tenure as a Member of Parliament and won't quit the post.

The opposition alliance for Uttar Pradesh, which also includes Ajit Singh's Rashtriya Lok Dal, has taken shape after consecutive successes in last year's by-elections.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the SP had won five seats, while the BSP failed to win any seat. The BJP bagged 73 along with its allies of the total 80 seats.

In the 2017 assembly polls, the SP and the BSP got 22 per cent votes each.Come to 2019, if both the parties continue to have a say in their traditional vote bank, the combine can create hurdles for the BJP.

In the politically-crucial Uttar Pradesh, there are about 22 per cent Dalits, 45 per cent OBCs and 19 per cent Muslims, whose vote share will be decisive in the general elections this year.  -- PTI
18:14  Miners' families to decide if they want decomposed bodies retrieved:  The families of three miners from Lumthari and two  miners from Chirang district were called to view a video provided by the Remotely Operated Vehicle and they were informed them that the bodies had decomposed and their retrieval will lead to total disintegration. The families will now have to give their views on whether it would be possible. 


This afternoon, naval divers spotted several skeletons inside the rat-hole coal mines in Meghalaya through their remotely operated vehicles. Water inside mines has high sulphur content which can decompose bodies very fast. 


Early this morning, navy divers found the body of one of the 15 miners who got trapped in the flooded rat-hole coal mine in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills district over a month ago.The Navy divers detected the body using "underwater ROV (remotely operated vehicles) at a depth of approximately 160 feet and 210 feet" inside the rat-hole mine, a Navy spokesperson said on Twitter and attached video grabs of the operation. The body has been pulled up to the mouth of the 370 feet-deep rat-hole mine and would be extricated under the supervision of doctors, the officials said. 


Image: Families of the Meghalaya miners who died in the rat-hole mine were shown the skeletons visible through a probe sent to the depths of the mine.  Pic: ANI
18:14  Miners' families to decide if they want decomposed bodies retrieved:  The families of three miners from Lumthari and two  miners from Chirang district were called to view a video provided by the Remotely Operated Vehicle and they were informed them that the bodies had decomposed and their retrieval will lead to total disintegration. The families will now have to give their views on whether it would be possible. 


This afternoon, naval divers spotted several skeletons inside the rat-hole coal mines in Meghalaya through their remotely operated vehicles. Water inside mines has high sulphur content which can decompose bodies very fast. 


Early this morning, navy divers found the body of one of the 15 miners who got trapped in the flooded rat-hole coal mine in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills district over a month ago.The Navy divers detected the body using "underwater ROV (remotely operated vehicles) at a depth of approximately 160 feet and 210 feet" inside the rat-hole mine, a Navy spokesperson said on Twitter and attached video grabs of the operation. The body has been pulled up to the mouth of the 370 feet-deep rat-hole mine and would be extricated under the supervision of doctors, the officials said. 


Image: Families of the Meghalaya miners who died in the rat-hole mine were shown the skeletons visible through a probe sent to the depths of the mine.  Pic: ANI
17:53  Now, EC wants action on fake news:  Election Commission of India directs Chief Electoral Officer Delhi to ask police to investigate the matter of fake news (of 2019 poll dates being circulated on social media), and to take action against unknown persons & entities under relevant laws to prevent rumor mongering. 
17:20  ! It's dynasty politics for Maya, inducts nephew in BSP :  Taking on allegations of nepotism levelled against her, Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati on Thursday announced that she will make her nephew Akash join the BSP "movement" and give him a chance to learn the ropes. Addressing a press conference in New Delhi, she said the rise in the BSP's popularity after its alliance with the Samajwadi Party has created unrest among some parties and leaders. 


"Instead of fighting us fairly, they are making absurd remarks against us and conspiring with the help of some casteist and anti-Dalit TV channels. I will make Akash join the BSP movement and give him a chance to learn," she told reporters. 


Her comments follow reports in a section of the media that her nephew would be her heir apparent. Accusing the "casteist and anti-Dalit" media of raising issues of nepotism, she said she was a disciple of Kanshi Ram and would give them a befitting reply. If anyone has problems with that, so be it, her party does not care, Mayawati said. 


She said her younger brother Anand Kumar and his family had selflessly struggled since 2003 to support her and the BSP but never sought a party position. -- PTI
16:41  Pak national carrier PIA bans entertainment on flights to Saudi:  
The Pakistan International Airlines has banned in-flight entertainment for pilgrims travelling to Jeddah and Madina and will only play Quranic verses and naats for them, an official of the national carrier said on Thursday.

The decision was taken 'in light of the peoples' sentiments', PIA spokesman Mashhood Tajawar told PTI.

Cash-strapped PIA has been running into huge financial losses. Its current liabilities stand at Rs 431 billion.

For years, the airline with 18,000 plus employee and a fleet of 32 airplanes has only been adding billions to its loss sheets.

"The decision to play Quranic verses and naats (recitation of poetry praising the Prophet) during taxing and landing for flights to Jeddah and Madina has been taken in light of the peoples sentiments," Tajawar said.

No other music will be available in the in-flight entertainment system, he said, adding that the impression that the PIA has banned music on all routes is incorrect.

"This is only for Jeddah and Madina as the people go there on holy journey. Therefore playing music/songs on these routes is not appropriate," Tajwar said, adding passengers of other flights will have access to the in-flight entertainment system available on the aircraft.

"The PIA has also decided to welcome passengers on board with the Qaseeda Burda Sharif (Islamic hymn) playing in the background instead of soft music.

"A rendition of the Qaseeda Burda Sharif, a popular Islamic hymn, will be played while passengers board PIA airplanes for all domestic and international flights," Tajwar said.  -- PTI
16:31  Justices Maheshwari, Khanna to be sworn in as SC judges on Friday:  
Karnataka high court Chief Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Sanjiv Khanna of the Delhi high court will be sworn in as judges of the Supreme Court on Friday.

The government had notified on Wednesday the appointment of justices Maheshwari and Khanna as judges of the apex court.

Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi will administer the oath of office to the two judges on Friday, an official circular said.

"The swearing-in-ceremony of Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna as judges of the Supreme Court will be held on January 18, 2019 at 10:30 AM in the Chief Justice's court," the circular said.

The five-member SC Collegium, comprising CJI Gogoi and Justices A K Sikri, S A Bobde, N V Ramana and Arun Mishra, on January 10 recommended names of justices Maheshwari and Khanna for elevation as apex court judges.

Names of chief justices of Rajasthan high court and Delhi high court -- justices Pradeep Nandrajog and Rajendra Menon -- were considered by the Collegium on December 12, 2018 for elevation but the deliberation remained inconclusive and one member of the Collegium, Justice M B Lokur, retired on December 30, 2018.

His place in the Collegium was taken by Justice Arun Mishra.

The new Collegium on January 10 ignored their prospect of elevation as apex court judges.

The Bar Council of India on Wednesday protested the Supreme Court Collegium's recommendation to elevate Justice Sanjeev Khanna by superseding several other judges and termed the decision as 'whimsical and arbitrary'.

Before the BCI made a statement protesting the decision of the collegium, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul of the Supreme Court also wrote a note to the CJI and other members of the collegium for ignoring the seniority of Chief Justices of the high courts of Rajasthan and Delhi, Pradeep Nandrajog and Rajendra Menon, respectively.

Sources said Justice Kaul was of the view that a wrong signal would go out if the two chief justices, who are up in the seniority list than Justice Khanna, would be left out for elevation as apex court judges.  -- PTI
15:55  ! Skeletons spotted in Meghalaya rat-hole mine :  
Naval divers have spotted several skeletons inside the rat-hole coal mines in Meghalaya through their remotely operated vehicles. 


Water inside mines has high sulphur content which can decompose bodies very fast. By evening, forensics experts are likely to reach the spot and suggest the future course of action.


This morning, navy divers found the body of one of the 15 miners who got trapped in the flooded rat-hole coal mine in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills district over a month ago.


The Navy divers detected the body using "underwater ROV (remotely operated vehicles) at a depth of approximately 160 feet and 210 feet" inside the rat-hole mine, a Navy spokesperson said on Twitter and attached video grabs of the operation. 


The body has been pulled up to the mouth of the 370 feet-deep rat-hole mine and would be extricated under the supervision of doctors, the officials said. 


A team of doctors has been rushed to the site to advise the rescuers on how to pull the body out safely, they added. 


The arduous multi-agency search and rescue operation -- perhaps India's longest -- had begun after the workers became trapped in the illegal mine on December 13 due to flooding. 


Image: Several agencies including Navy, NDRF, Air Force are involved in the rescue operation, which has now turned into a body retrieval operation. 
15:45  People make mistakes, let's move on: Ganguly on Pandya-Rahul comments row:  Former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly Thursday said "we should move on" from the controversy surrounding Hardik Pandya and K L Rahul's sexist comments because he is sure the two will learn from it and become better persons. Speaking at an event in Mumbai, Ganguly said he hasn't seen the 'Koffee with Karan' episode in which Pandya and Rahul's misogynistic comments on women led to a provisional suspension on them. But he offered a sympathetic view on the under-fire duo. "


People make mistakes, let's not go too far here. I am sure, whoever has done it will realise and come out a better person. We are human beings not machines that we will always be perfect. We should move on and make sure it doesn't happen again," Ganguly said on the raging controversy. 


Pandya and Rahul were forced to return midway through the ongoing ODI series against Australia and India captain Virat Kohli condemned their statements on hookups with multiple women as "inappropriate". 


They have been issued a show cause notice twice by the BCCI since then and are also being put through an inquiry. Ganguly said most cricketers are "great guys". "...they (cricketers) are humble, every now and then one or two make mistakes but I know most of them personally and they are great guys," Ganguly said during the trailer launch of '22 Yards' at a suburb in Mumbai. 


Pandya and Rahul, pending the outcome of the inquiry, will not be a part of the Indian team. After missing the ongoing ODI series, they are set to miss the upcoming New Zealand Tour as well.  -- PTI
15:39  News briefs at this hour:   Committee of Administrators today mentioned before the Supreme Court about the comments made by cricketers Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul on Karan Johar's chat show 'Koffee with Karan' and sought directions on appointment of ombudsman to deal with the issue.


Naval divers are seeing skeletons inside the Meghalaya mines through their remotely operated vehicles. Water inside mines has high sulphur content which can decompose bodies very fast. By evening, forensics experts would reach the spot and suggest the future course of action.
15:31  Here comes the hotstepper :  A stray dog walks the ramp with models showcasing the spring-summer collection 'Gul-Dastah' by designer Rohit Bal during the Blenders Pride Fashion Tour 2019 at Bandstand, Mumbai,  yesterday. Photo: PTI
15:09  Why Amit Shah has swine flu according to this Cong leader :  
Congress leader BK Hariprasad has this to say about the BJP: "In Rafale, they (BJP) got Rs 30,000 crore. With that, they're trying to destabilise the Karnataka govt and it's a desperate attempt to divert the minds of people from the Rafale issue. Even if they bring Rs 1 lakh crore it's not possible for them destabilise the Karnataka govt. Bogus Chanakya tried thrice and failed. They are daydreaming. Amit Shah has kidnapped 4 Congress MLAs and their family members will file a habeas corpus. That's why Amit Shah is suffering from swine flu so he should calm down."

14:48  3 injured in grenade attack at security forces in Srinagar :   Terror attack in Srinagar: Three persons have been injured after terrorists hurled a grenade at security forces at Zero Bridge in Srinagar today.  The injured have been admitted to a hospital and are currently stable.  


PTI has some more details: Those injured in the grenade attack include traffic personnel. The grenade was hurled at a security picket at Zero Bridge in the city, police said. 


"Militants hurled a grenade at a security forces' picket near Zero Bridge on Rajbagh side. At least two cops were hurt in the attack," a police official said. 


He said security forces have cordoned off the area and launched a hunt for the attackers. The attack took place less than 100 metres from the National Conference headquarters and the local office of the All India Radio.
14:24  Caliphate has 'crumbled', Islamic State 'defeated': US VP Pence:  
The Islamic State has been "defeated" and the caliphate has "crumbled", United States vice president Mike Pence has said, following a fiery explosion in Syria in which two American service members were killed among others.
The vice president was speaking at a global summit of American envoys on Wednesday.

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the deadly explosion.
 
Two US service members -- one Department of Defense civilian and one contractor supporting the DoD were killed -- and three service members injured while conducting a local engagement in Manbij, the US Central Command said.
 
The blast occurred at a market in the northern Syria town of Manjib.
 
Initial reports indicate an explosion caused the casualties, and the incident is under investigation, it said.
"We promised under this president's leadership to take the fight to radical Islamic terrorists on our terms on their soil. The president and I couldn't be more proud," Pence said in his address to the global chiefs of mission conference at the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department.
 
Prior to Wednesday's attack, only two US service members had been killed in action in Syria since the start of the campaign in 2014.
"Thanks to the leadership of this commander-in-chief and the courage and sacrifice of our armed forces, we're now actually able to begin to hand off the fight against ISIS in Syria to our coalition partners and we are bringing our troops home. The caliphate has crumbled and ISIS has been defeated," he asserted.
Later in a statement, Pence condemned the terrorist attack in Syria that claimed American lives . 
Thanks to the courage of our armed forces, "we have crushed the ISIS caliphate and devastated its capabilities", he said. -- PTI
14:08  Amit Shah to be discharged soon: BJP:  BJP on Thursday informed that party president Amit Shah is doing well and will soon be discharged from the All India Institutes of Medical Science where he is currently undergoing treatment for swine flu.


BJP took to Twitter to share the news and thank people for their wishes for the president, and tweeted, "Update: BJP President Shri @AmitShah is doing well. Doctors, post check up this morning, have opined that he is recovering well and would soon be discharged. Thank you all for your kind wishes and several messages. We are overwhelmed by your affection."


Shah was diagnosed with swine flu on Wednesday and is being treated under the supervision of AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria. Shah also took to Twitter to inform the countrymen about his ailment and wrote: "I have been affected by swine flu disease and the treatment for the same is going on. With the blessings of God and love and good wishes of all of you, I shall be healthy soon." -- ANI
14:06  Jet Airways shares fall further; plunge over 5%:  Shares of Jet Airways fell for the second straight session Thursday, plunging over 5 per cent, amid continued uncertainty over the revival plan of the company. 


 The scrip declined 5.31 per cent to Rs 256.60 on BSE. On NSE, shares of the company slumped 4.93 per cent to Rs 256.40. The stock has been falling since Wednesday and, in the process, its market valuation has been eroded by Rs 365.48 crore in two days on BSE.  Jet Airways' shares slumped nearly 8 per cent on Wednesday too. 


 The airline's Chairman Naresh Goyal has told the State Bank of India that he is ready to invest up to Rs 700 crore in the airline on the condition that his stake does not fall below 25 per cent. Goyal's offer comes against the backdrop of strategic partner Etihad reportedly putting forward strict conditions, including that Goyal should give up control, for infusing funds into the crisis-hit carrier. 


According to Jet Airways' shareholding pattern on BSE, as of the quarter ending December 2018, Goyal owns 5,79,33,665 shares, amounting to 51 per cent stake in the company. -- PTI
13:44  Women who entered Sabarimala seek 24X7 security, hearing Friday:  The Supreme Court will hear on Friday a plea of two women seeking 24X7 security after they recently entered the Sabarimala temple in Kerala. Senior advocate Indira Jaising listed the matter before a bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and justices L N Rao and S K Kaul on Thursday. 


In the plea, one of the women, who had been attacked by her mother-in-law following her entry into the hilltop shrine, has sought security for both the women.


The plea sought directions to all authorities to allow women of all age groups to enter the temple without any hindrance and to ensure security and safe passage, including police security to women wishing to enter the temple in future. It also pointed to danger to her life and liberty.


It sought directions declaring all authorities not to conduct the rite of purification or to shut the temple on account of any woman of the age of 10-50 having entered the temple.


"Issue directions to declare that the rite of purification diminishes the dignity as human beings and violates their fundamental right," it said.


It also sought directions declaring that any form of prevention of women aged between 10 to 50 years from visiting the hilltop shrine is contrary to the September 28, 2018 judgment of the apex court. 


On September 28 last year, a five-judge Constitution bench, headed by then Chief Justice Dipak Misra, in a 4:1 verdict paved the way for entry of women of all ages into the Sabarimala temple, saying the ban amounted to gender discrimination.


Two women of menstruating age group had stepped into the Sabarimala temple of Lord Ayyappa, breaking a centuries-old tradition and defying dire threats from the Hindu right. Kanakadurga, 44, and Bindu, 42, stepped into the hallowed precincts guarded by police three months after the apex court's historic judgment lifting the ban on entry of girls and women between 10 and 50 years of age into the shrine of Lord Ayyappa, its "eternally celibate" deity. 


Following the entry of the women into the shrine, the chief priest had decided to close the sanctum sanctorum of the temple to perform the 'purification' ceremony. The top court has said it may not start hearing pleas seeking a review of the Sabarimala verdict from January 22 as one of the judges was on medical leave.


IMAGE: Kanakadurga (left) and Bindu Ammini were the first women to enter Sabarimala temple, which traditionally bans the entry of women of menstrual age. Photograph: Sivaram V/Reuters
13:05  SC sets aside restrictions on Maharashtra dance bars :  
Mumbai Dance bar matter: The Supreme Court relaxes the stringent conditions set by the Maharashtra government for getting licences for running dance bars and upheld the time of five-and-half hours for dance performances. 

The court modified the provisions of licencing under the 2016 order and overruled the ban on the functioning of dance bars in the state. The court said there cannot be total prohibition on dance bars. No licence has been granted by Maharashtra since 2005. "There may be regulations but that should not amount to total prohibition," the court said.  The modifications include:


-- Supreme Court allows orchestra in dance bars.
-- Tips can be given but showering of cash and coins is not allowed inside bars. 
-- Court quashes conditions of Maharashtra government of putting CCTV cameras in dance bars of Mumbai, says it violates privacy.
-- SC quashes provision of giving licence to people of good character as 'vague'. 
-- SC quashes provision mandating that Maharashtra dance bars should be 1 km away from religious places and educational institutions. 
-- SC quashes provision saying there must be partition between bar rooms and dance floor.
-- SC upholds condition fixing timing of dance bars in Maharashtra from 6 pm to 11.30 pm.
-- Court has upheld a rule of the Maharashtra government by which working women should have contract so they can't be exploited, however quashed a rule of monthly salary for bar dancers.

More details awaited. 
12:48  The forgotten heroes of Indian democracy:  Ornit Shani drew applause from the audience while she described the amazing story of the making of India's first voters list. The Israeli academic spoke about the forgotten bureaucrats who drew up the first electoral rolls, the crucial exercise of making every vote equal and how those first electoral rolls laid the plinth of Indian democracy.


Ornit Shani discussed her fascinating book  (Penguin) at the Times Lit Fest last month with journalist Vikram Doctor, whose grandfather Ambassador AV Padmanabhan was among the civil servants who worked on that historic enterprise -- India's first electoral rolls.

Rediff.com's Archana Masih listened in. Do read 
12:46  UP: Police remove woman's body from pyre to probe cause of death; husband booked:   Police have pulled out the body of a 50-year-old woman from the funeral pyre at a village in Muzaffarnagar and booked the husband and four others suspecting a foul play behind her death. 


The incident took place at Godhna village in the district Wednesday evening, police said. Police reached the spot on the basis of information received from a villager and pulled out the body from the funeral pyre that had already been lit, allegedly by the woman's in-laws, Station House Officer Amardeep Lal said. 


The woman's brother lodged a complaint, alleging that her in-laws had killed her and were secretly trying to cremate the body in order to destroy evidence, he said. 


The body was sent for post-mortem and five people, including the woman's husband, identified as Vijaypal, were booked, the SHO said, adding that all the accused have gone absconding. The complainant alleged that the in-laws used to harass the woman and she was killed over domestic dispute. A case has been registered and efforts are on to nab the accused, the SHO said. -- PTI
12:42  Jaitley accuses 'compulsive contrarians' of subverting democracy:  Terming opposition parties as 'Compulsive Contrarians', Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Wednesday accused them of manufacturing falsehood and subverting democracy by weakening an elected government. 


Nations are built by those with positive mindsets and a national vigor, not by the 'Compulsive Contrarians', he said in a Facebook blog without naming Congress or other opposition parties. 


Jaitley, according to sources, is in the US for a medical checkup. "The Compulsive Contrarians had no qualms about manufacturing falsehood. They could concoct arguments even if they went against the general interest of the country. They could masquerade corruption as crusade. They could adopt double standards whenever it suited them,' he said in a Facebook post titled 'The Compulsive Contrarian and his Manufactured Logic'. 


Citing the tirade mounted by political parties on host of issues including 10 per cent reservation for economically weaker sections and the Rafale defence deal, Jaitley said that the 'Compulsive Contrarians' believe that this Government can do no good and hence its every act must be opposed. 


"Nations are built by those with positive mindsets and a national vigor, not by the Compulsive Contrarians. Didn't left-liberals find fault with the various actions that Gandhiji took during the freedom movement? Weakening a Sovereign Elected Government and strengthening the unelectable is only a subversion of democracy,' he wrote. -- PTI
12:28  BJP's health update:  Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad discharged from AIIMS Delhi after sinus treatment. 

BJP chief Amit Shah under treatment at AIIMS for swine flu. 

BJP General Secretary (Organization) Ram Lal admitted to Noida based hospital due to high fever. 

Arun Jaitley in US for medical treatment.
11:50  Will Dinakaran get pressure cooker symbol? SC decision tomorrow:  Supreme Court asks Election Commission to respond by tomorrow whether 'pressure cooker' symbol can be allotted to TTV Dinakaran's Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) party for the upcoming election, as an interim measure.
11:44  Section 144 in Panchkula ahead of Ram Rahim's sentencing:   Police have imposed Section 144 across Panchkula in view of the pronouncement of quantum of punishment on Thursday to Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim by the CBI Special Court of Jagdeep Singh, which has convicted him in the case pertaining to the murder of journalist Ramchander Chhatrapati.


Speaking to ANI, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Kamaldeep Goel on Thursday said: "We have imposed Section 144 across the city. The CBI Special court is in Sector 1. We have also restricted the vehicular movement on all four roads connecting to the court premises."


Section 144 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) prohibits assembly of five or more persons, holding of public meetings, and carrying weapons.


"Today no one is being allowed to park his vehicle inside the court. Each and every person, entering the court will be frisked. Moreover, we have deployed scores of security personnel near the borders. All the vehicles are being thoroughly checked before entering Panchkula," said Goel.


Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim will be produced in the court through video conference from Sunaria jail in Rohtak, where he is currently serving 20-year prison term since 2017 for raping two of his women followers.


Three other accused, who were also convicted in the journalist's murder case, will be produced in the court from Ambala jail through video conference.


The Dera chief has been found guilty of orchestrating the killing of Chhatrapati, a Sirsa-based journalist after the scribe wrote against Ram Rahim in his newspaper titled 'Poora Sach.' The scribe was shot in 2002, and the case was registered in 2003. -- ANI
10:58  NIA raids in Punjab, UP against ISIS-inspired group :  The NIA Thursday carried out searches at eight places in western Uttar Pradesh and Punjab in connection with its probe against an ISIS-inspired group, which was allegedly planning suicide attacks and serial blasts, targeting politicians and government installations, in Delhi and other parts of north India. 


The agency has arrested 12 people in this connection since December 26 last year. The fresh raids come five days after the National Investigation Agency arrested Muhammad Absar (24) from Hapur on January 12. 


The NIA said that searches were being conducted based on inputs from interrogation of the people arrested for allegedly being part of 'Harkat ul Harb e Islam' module of global terrorist group ISIS. 


The agency had earlier said it had seized a locally made rocket launcher, material for suicide vests and 112 alarm clocks to be used as timers besides recovering 25 kg of explosive material -- Potassium Nitrate, Ammonium Nitrate and Sulphur. 


The group had allegedly purchased remote-controlled cars and wireless doorbells to use their circuits in assembling remote-controlled improvised explosive devices. Besides, the NIA had also seized steel containers, electric wires, 91 mobile phones, 134 SIM cards, 3 laptops, knife, sword, ISIS-related literature during the searches conducted earlier. -- PTI
10:32  Minimum temp in Delhi 4.2 deg C, fog delays 11 trains:  It was a cold foggy Thursday morning in the national capital with the minimum temperature settling at 4.2 degrees Celsius, three notches below the average in the season. 


Railways officials said 11 north-bound trains, including the Purushottam Express, Bhubneshwar-Delhi Duranto, Poorva Express, Brahmputra Mail, were running late by an average of 2-3 hours. 


The fog dropped visibility in various parts of the city. The visibility was 400 metres at Safdarjung at 8.30 am and 250 metres at Palam at 7.30 am, said a MeT department official. Relative humidity was 100 per cent in the morning. As per forecast of the department, the day will be marked with clear skies. Haze and smoke will occur later in the day, the weatherman said. The maximum temperature would be around 22 degrees Celsius. On Wednesday, the maximum and minimum temperatures were 21.3 degrees Celsius and 4.5 degrees Celsius, respectively. -- PTI
10:27  Megalithic ruins found in Maharashtra :  In Maharashtra, an exciting discovery, in fact, quite a bone-chilling one, literally. 3000-yr-old artefacts, including the remains of a human skeleton of the Megalithic times have been unearthed in Nagpur's Gorewada forest during excavations by Pune's Deccan College Post Graduate & Research Institute in tie-up with Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra. 
10:15  6.0 quake strikes Nicobar, no tsunami warning :  Earthquake measuring 6.0 on the Richter scale strikes Nicobar Islands region, says the IMD. The Indian Tsunami Warning center says there is no threat of a tsunami. The earthquake struck in the Nicobar region under the sea near Cambbell Bay at 8.23 am. Andaman and Nicobar islands are prone to big earthquakes. 
10:04  Gurmeet Ram Rahim's sentencing in journalist's murder case today:   The Special Court of CBI in Panchkula on Thursday will pronounce the quantum of punishment to Gurmeet Ram Rahim, convicted in the murder of journalist Ramchander Chhatrapati along with three others, through video conference.


Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim will be produced in the court through video conference from Sunaria jail in Rohtak, where he is currently serving a 20-year prison term since 2017 for raping two women followers.


Three other accused, who were also convicted in the journalist's murder case, will be produced in the court from Ambala jail through video conference.


The CBI Special Court agreed to pronounce the punishment through video conference after Haryana government on Tuesday filed an application in this regard.


The Dera chief has been found guilty of orchestrating the killing of Chhatrapati, a Sirsa-based journalist after the scribe wrote against Ram Rahim in his newspaper titled 'Poora Sach.' The scribe was shot in 2002, and the case was registered in 2003. -- ANI
09:51  Kumaraswamy offering money, ministerial posts to BJP MLAs: Yeddy :  BJP state unit chief and former Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa has alleged that Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy was indulging in horse-trading by offering money and ministerial posts to his MLAs.


"We are not indulging in any poaching. It is Chief Minister Kumaraswamy who is indulging in horse-trading. He himself is offering money and ministerial posts to our MLAs," Yeddyurappa said in Bengaluru on the intervening night of Wednesday and Thursday.


BJP MLAs from Karnataka who have camped themselves in Gurugram since Monday evening said that they were in the Garden City to strategize for the coming Lok Sabha polls and had not run away fearing poaching by the ruling Congress-JDS alliance.


The charges of horse-trading were triggered after three Karnataka Congress MLAs visited Mumbai earlier on Monday, reportedly along with some BJP MLAs. This was followed by the Congress' allegation that the BJP was trying to poach the ruling party's MLAs to destabilise the JDS-Congress alliance government in Karnataka.


Yeddyurappa has refuted these charges, saying that his party had nothing to do with the three Congress lawmakers' Mumbai visit, and accused the Congress-JDS alliance of making a poaching bid.Chief Minister Kumaraswamy has also accused Yeddyurappa of fabricating stories, adding that there was no need for the Congress-JDS alliance to poach on any party's lawmakers. -- ANI
09:44  IMD: Earthquake measuring 6.0 on the Richter scale strikes Nicobar Islands region.
09:35  Over a month later, navy detects 1 body in Meghalaya mine:  
The navy has detected the body of one the miners more than a month after operations to search and rescue 15 miners trapped in a deep coal mine in Meghalaya. 

The body was detected at a depth of more than 200 feet inside the "rat-hole" mine. 

Efforts are on to rescue the remaining 14 miners.

Around 200 rescue personnel of the Indian navy, the Coal India, the National Disaster Response Force, the Odisha fire service and private pump maker Kriloskar are involved in the search operations.
08:41  US service members killed in Islamic State-claimed attack in Syria:  
Two United States service members were among those killed in a fiery explosion at a market in the northern Syria town of Manjib, the US military officials said.
Prior to Wednesday's attack, only two US service members had been killed in action in Syria since the start of the campaign in 2014.
Two US service members -- one Department of Defense civilian and one contractor supporting the DoD were killed -- and three service members injured while conducting a local engagement in Manjib, the US Central Command said.
Initial reports indicate an explosion caused the casualties, and the incident is under investigation, it said.
In accordance with DoD's policy, the names of the service members are being withheld until 24 hours after notification of next of kin is complete, CENTCOM said.
"US service members were killed during an explosion while conducting a routine patrol in Syria today. We are still gathering information and will share additional details at a later time," according to a tweet from the spokesperson for the Operation Inherent Resolve.
Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the deadly explosion.
 
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group, at least 15 people, including a US serviceman, were killed in the rare attack in Manbij. It said the cause of the explosion was a suicide bomb outside a restaurant. 

"The President (Donald Trump) has been fully briefed and we will continue to monitor the ongoing situation in Syria," White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said. 
The explosion took place in a market wedged along a crowded street thick with cars. Video that Hawar identifies as from the scene shows people gathered on a crowded sidewalk when the fiery blast occurs.
 
The attack comes less than a month after Trump announced that US troops would withdraw from Syria. -- PTI
08:23  British PM Theresa May wins confidence motion:  
Embattled British Prime Minister Theresa May won a confidence vote on Wednesday and averted a general election, a day after her government suffered a historic parliamentary defeat over her Brexit divorce deal with the European Union. 
Her government won by 325 votes to 306 -- a majority of 19. 
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn argued that May's "zombie" administration had lost the right to govern during a six hour debate on his motion.
His party has not ruled out tabling further no-confidence motions.  
After her victory May told MPs that she would "continue to work to deliver on the solemn promise to the people of this country to deliver on the result of the referendum and leave the European Union".
She invited leaders of all parties to have individual meetings with her on the way ahead for Brexit, starting tonight, but called on them to approach them with a "constructive spirit".
"We must find solutions that are negotiable and command sufficient support in this House," she added.
May also reiterated a promise to return to the Commons on Monday to give MPs another vote on her plans.
"The House has put its confidence in this government," she said.
"I stand ready to work with any member of this House to deliver Brexit and ensure that this House retains the confidence of the British people."
May's divorce deal to leave the EU was overwhelmingly rejected by MPs on Tuesday, triggering a no-confidence motion against her government and leaving the country with no plans for Brexit on March 29.   
00:42  Raja Krishnamoorthi appointed to key House committee:  
Indian-American Raja Krishnamoorthi on Monday was appointed as the member of a key United States House committee handling intelligence related issues.

Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, appointed Krishnamoorthi, 45, to the panel. Krishnamoorthi from Illinois, Congresswoman Val Demings of Florida, Sean Patrick Maloney of New York and Peter Welch of Vermont are the four new Democratic members of House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence for the 116th Congress.

"Members of Congress take a solemn oath to protect the American people and support and defend the Constitution," said Pelosi in a statement.

"Our new Members of the Intelligence Committee bring exceptional judgment, expertise and determination to our mission to honour that oath and, guided by the strong, principled leadership of Chairman Adam Schiff, will restore the long tradition of bipartisanship and integrity of this critical committee," she said.

Krishnamoorthi was born into a Tamil-speaking family in New Delhi. His family moved to Buffalo, New York when he was three months old. Krishnamoorthi attended Princeton University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering.

He then received a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School. Early this week, Pelosi had appointed Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal to the House Education and Labor Committee.  -- PTI

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