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Mon, 21 January 2019
Pak shares draft agreement on Kartarpur Corridor with India

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23:52   Pak shares draft agreement on Kartarpur Corridor with India
Pakistan on Monday said it has shared a draft agreement on the Kartarpur Corridor with India and invited New Delhi to "urgently" send a delegation to Islamabad to "negotiate and finalise" the proposal.

The proposed agreement aims at facilitating travel of Indian Sikh pilgrims to Darbar Sahib Kartarpur Gurudwara in Narowal, nearly 4 km away from Gurdaspur border on the Indian side.

"The draft agreement between the two governments has been shared with New Delhi through the Indian High Commission in Islamabad," Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal said in a statement. 

The move is in line with Pakistan's policy of promoting inter-faith harmony and religious tolerance and Mohammad Ali Jinnah's vision of a
peaceful neighbourhood, he added.

Pakistan has appointed Director-General (South Asia and SAARC) as the focal person on its side and requested India to designate its focal person soon.

Pakistan also invited India to "urgently send a delegation to Islamabad to negotiate and finalise the agreement", Faisal said.   

He also tweeted, "Continuing with PM Imran Khan's initiative, Pakistan, today, shared the proposed draft agreement on Kartarpur Corridor with India. Indian delegation invited to visit Islamabad for expedited conclusion of the agreement. Keeping promises - Work in progress on Kartarpur Corridor on Pakistan side."

Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on November 26 last year laid the foundation stone of the Kartarpur corridor in Gurdaspur district. 

Two days later on November 28, Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan laid the foundation stone of the corridor at Narowal, 125 km from Lahore. 
The much-awaited corridor will connect Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur - the final resting place of Sikh faith's founder Guru Nanak Dev - with Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district and facilitate visa-free movement of Indian Sikh pilgrims, who will have to just obtain a permit to visit Kartarpur.

-- PTI
23:16   Surat couple makes Rafale-themed wedding card; earns PM's praise
A Gujarati couple has earned praise from Prime Minister Narendra Modi for designing their wedding invitation card with a dedicated page justifying the NDA government's decision to buy Rafale fighter jets.
 
In a letter sent to the Surat-based couple - Yuvraj Pokharna and bride-to-be Sakshi Agrawal - Modi described the content of the card as "ingenious" and asserted that it had inspired him to work even harder for the country.
The couple will be tying the knot on January 22.
Talking to media, Pokharna said he received Modi's letter, which is addressed to his mother Babita Prakash Pokharna, on January 17 through e-mail.
"Heartiest Congratulations to Pokharna family on the joyous occasion of the marriage of Yuvraj and Sakshi. I noticed a unique feature of the marriage invitation card sent to the guests," read the letter signed and sent by Modi.
"The ingenuity of its content reflects your abiding concern and love for the nation. This also inspires me to keep working harder for our country," the letter said.
"Best wishes and blessings to the couple for a happy and prosperous life," Modi said in the letter shared by Yuvraj Pokharna with the media.
On the second page of the invitation card, the couple has tried to justify the multi-crore defence contract with France by enlisting several points under the heading "Some facts about Rafale deal".

-- PTI
22:06   No prison rules were violated, says Sasikala's advocate
Refuting allegations that "special treatment" was accorded to her in the Parappana Agrahara central prison at Bengaluru, an advocate representing ousted AIADMK leader V K Sasikala on Monday said no prison rules were violated.
    
"Sasikala has not violated any rules of the Karnataka prisons manual anytime. She is wearing personal clothes as per the prison rules. The allegations are all wrong," said Advocate A Ashokan.
    
According to RTI activist Narasimha Murthy, a 295-page report by retired IAS officer Vinay Kumar confirmed then DIG (Prisons) D Roopa's claims in July 2017 that Sasikala was given preferential treatment and a separate kitchen functioned for her at the Parappana Agrahara Central Jail.
    
"I have accessed the 295 pages report through an RTI query. The report confirms that Sasikala was given special treatment in the jail," Murthy had said on Sunday.
     
The reply was furnished by M R Shobha, Public Relations Officer of the Home Department.
    
Legal action would be taken after a copy of the report was issued to them, the advocate said.
    
Asked if he disregarded the RTI revelations, Ashokan said he cannot comment on it until the original report was out.
    
Sasikala, close aide of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, the late Jayalalithaa, has been lodged at the Bengaluru prison ever since her conviction by the Supreme Court in February 2017 in the disproportionate assets case along with her two relatives V N Sudhakaran and Elavarasi, all serving a 4-year jail term. 

-- PTI
21:34   IndiGo's Jaipur-bound flight grounded after 'high vibration' in P&W engine
Another P&W-powered A320neo aircraft of IndiGo was grounded on Monday after its pilot observed "high vibration" in its engine soon after taking off from Lucknow airport.
  
The flight 6E-451, which was heading to Jaipur, returned to Lucknow as a precautionary measure. It is currently being inspected by IndiGo's technical team.

Pratt and Whitney engine woes have forced both IndiGo and its smaller rival GoAir to ground some of the A320neos.

IndiGo operates around 57 P&W-powered A320neo aircraft.

Aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation on Thursday banned IndiGo and GoAir from operating their A320neo planes to Port Blair in the wake of problems with their P&W engines.
"An IndiGo flight 6E-451 was operating from Lucknow to Jaipur on January 21, 2019. The pilot observed high vibration on engine number 2. As a precaution, he returned the aircraft to Lucknow," IndiGo said in its statement.

"The aircraft is currently at Lucknow and being inspected by the technical team," the airline added.

P&W said in its statement: "The Indigo A320neo aircraft which was involved in the air turn back at Lucknow, Amausi, India on January 21, 2019, was powered by Pratt & Whitney PW1100G-JM engines. We are working with our customer to help minimize any disruption to their operations."

P&W did not give any other details regarding Monday's incident.
21:16   Modi, Nitish to launch NDA poll campaign in first-ever joint rally in Bihar
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar will address a joint rally at Patna late February or early March to launch the NDA campaign in Bihar for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. It will be the first time that they will share a stage in a political meet.

Though the dates have not been finalised yet, a Janata Dal-United spokesperson said the party has proposed three dates March 3, 4 & 5 - for the rally that will also see participation of other senior NDA leaders, especially, Lok Janshakti Party chief and union minister Ram Vilas Paswan. BJP leaders, however, said it has to be on a Sunday and hence the chances of holding the rally either on February 24 or on March 3 stand strong.

We are coalition partners. Hence, a joint rally, rather more than one rally, has always been there in our planning. One should not read much in the event or them sharing the stage, BJP state vice-president and headquarter in-charge Devesh Kumar, said.

JD-U spokesperson Ajay Alok said that there is absolutely no hitch in the duo sharing the stage. Now a formal date has to be announced. Preparations have begun to make the rally a mega success, he said.

20:39   Controversy over MEA booklet featuring MJ Akbar at Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas
A row has erupted over distribution of a booklet featuring M J Akbar, who resigned as Minister of State for External Affairs following allegations of sexual misconduct by several women, to delegates at the Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas here.
 
However, sources in the ministry said Akbar is not at all associated with the event and that the booklet was published in May last year, months before he quit as minister. The booklet highlighted achievements of the MEA in the last four years and all the ministers in the MEA featured in it.

Akbar had resigned as junior External Affairs Minister in the wake of allegation of sexual misconduct during his tenure as a senior editor. The alleged incidents came to light during the #metoo movement. Akbar had denied the allegations.

"The booklet was published months before Akbar quit as a minister. An unnecessary controversy is being created which is very unfortunate," said a government official.

In the booklet, Akbar also features in the inside pages as part of "Team MEA" alongside External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, MoS General VK Singh and others.

Its distribution at the External Affairs Ministry's top event 15th  Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas sparked sharp reactions from various quarters on social media.

"Featuring the #MeToo accused as a star? Hasn't he resigned?" Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi tweeted in response to a post on the booklet.

A number of women journalists also took to social media to criticise Akbar finding a place in the booklet handed out to NRI delegates at the 15th Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas.

-- PTI
20:06   Eight drowned as boat capsizes in Karnataka
Eight persons drowned and another was 'missing' while 17 people were rescued when a boat carrying about 26 pilgrims capsized at Karwar, the Indian Navy said Monday.

According to police, there was an annual fair at the Kurumagada island in the Arabian sea, where the Narsimha Swamy shrine (dedicated to Lord Vishnu's incarnation Narsimha) is located.

Police had earlier said nearly 1,000 people had gone there to take part in the fair and the boat capsized while returning to the Karwar beach.

The navy said in a tweet that there were 26 people in the boat.
Learning about the incident, Navy and Indian Coast Guard carried out rescue operations.

Of the 26 persons reported to be on the boat, 17 people were rescued by other civil boats operating in the area, the navy said.
       
Eight bodies have been recovered by the navy and Coast Guard while search is on for the one person still missing.

-- PTI
19:56   Cong's Kharge seeks Bharat Ratna for Siddaganga seer Shivakumara Swami
Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge on Monday requested the Central government to confer Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honour, on late Siddaganga seer Shivakumara Swami.

"He was very much committed to improving the level of education among poor and downtrodden people. He used to feed thousands of boys every year. I request the Government of India to honour him with the Bharat Ratna, which he truly deserves," Kharge said.

"His loss has created a great void in the field of education. All prime ministers have themselves seen his work, particularly in the field of education. Even he taught Sanskrit to the downtrodden sections of the society. He had come from a very poor background, but he left a great service behind him," said Kharge.

"Lakhs of his devotees and followers have become orphans today, he said, adding that except education, he never used to interfere in any matters. His only aim till his death was education," he added.

The 111-year-old Lingayat pontiff was being treated for a lung infection which he developed after an operation on December 8 last year, which was carried out to treat his liver and bile duct infection.

Shivakumara Swami is considered to be one of the most esteemed religious and social practitioners of the Lingayat-Veerashaiva faith of Lingayatism.

-- ANI
19:24   WhatsApp limits forwards to 5 chats for users globally to combat fake news
WhatsApp will now globally limit message 'forwards' to five chats at a time, a practice it had introduced in India in July last year to crack down on spread of rumours and fake news through its platform.

In an update to its blog on Monday, the Facebook-owned company said the move will help keep "WhatsApp focused on private messaging with close contacts".

"WhatsApp carefully evaluated this test and listened to user feedback over a six-month period. The forward limit significantly reduced forwarded messages around the world," it said.

It added that "starting today, all users on the latest versions of WhatsApp can now forward to only five chats at once...".

The messaging platform -- which has about 1.5 billion users globally and counts India, Brazil and Indonesia among its major markets -- said it will continue to listen to user feedback on their experience, and "over time, look for new ways of addressing viral content". Earlier, WhatsApp users could forward a message to 20 recipients.

A WhatsApp spokesperson said that during the test period, the company saw a 25 per cent reduction of forwarded messages being shared on WhatsApp.

"We believe this is a reasonable number to reach close friends, while helping prevent abuse," the spokesperson added.

The move comes at a time when governments and regulators across the world are looking at effective ways to curb the spread of fake messages through digital platforms.

In India, the Facebook-owned company had faced flak from the government after a series of mob-lynching incidents, triggered by rumours circulating on WhatsApp, claimed lives.

-- PTI
19:08   NCW issues notice to BJP's Sadhana Singh over 'extremely offensive' remarks against Mayawati
Amid a raging political controversy, the National Commission for Women on Monday issued a notice to BJP MLA Sadhana Singh and sought an explanation for making "extremely offensive and unethical" remarks against BSP chief Mayawati.

Singh was severely criticised by the BJP allies and the opposition leaders for calling BSP supremo Mayawati a "blot on womankind" and "worse than a transgender".

The Mughalsarai MLA made the controversial remarks at a rally on Saturday while referring to the infamous incident when Mayawati was assaulted by Samajwadi Party workers at a Lucknow guest house in 1995.

Taking suo motu cognisance, the NCW said the remarks made are "extremely offensive, unethical and shows disrespect towards the dignity and respect of women in general".

"The Commission strongly condemns such irresponsible and disparaging views of persons holding responsible positions. In view of the above, you are hereby required to provide a satisfactory explanation to the Commission on the matter on receipt of this notice," NCW Under Secretary Barnali Shome said. 

Singh's comments drew criticism across the party lines with Union minister and Republican Party of India president Ramdas Athawale said such personal comments should not be made. RPI is also a constituent of BJP-led NDA.

Akhilesh Yadav, Samajwadi Party president, said the language being used by ruling party leaders is the result of their frustration.

-- PTI
18:32  
Congress suspends its MLA J N Ganesh who allegedly hit lawmaker colleague Anand Singh at a resort near Bengaluru. 
18:28   Face of the MLAs' brawl that's embarrassing the Congress
That's Congress MLA Anand Singh at Apollo Hospital after an alleged brawl with Congress MLAs JN Ganesh and Bheema Naik. 


However, MLA Ganesh, who allegedly hit Anand Singh during an alleged brawl at a private resort, Monday claimed he too was injured in the scuffle, an incident that has given an embarrassing twist to the party's bid to keep its flock together. The legislator said no "bottle attack" had taken place as projected in the media, while indicating that some kind of a brawl had taken place between him and Singh at Eagleton Resorts in Bengaluru late Saturday night. A jittery Congress had shifted its legislators to the resort on Friday last, as it feared that the BJP might lure some of them in its alleged bid to destabilise the Congress-JDS coalition government in the state. 


Singh, who suffered injuries in the scuffle, was admitted to a private hospital on Sunday. Both had come to blows, according to party sources.
18:25   Kamala Harris to run for US president in 2020
Kamala Harris announced on Monday that she is running for US president in 2020, arguing that the time has come to fight against what she views as the injustices of the past two years of the Trump presidency.

In a brief video from her campaign that was released on social media on Monday morning at the same time she appeared on ABC's "Good Morning America," Harris called on her supporters to join with her to "claim our future."

"Justice. Decency. Equality. Freedom. Democracy. These aren't just words. They're the values we as Americans cherish. And they're all on the line now," Harris said in the video, teasing her official kickoff in her birthplace of Oakland next Sunday.

"The future of our country depends on you and millions of others lifting our voices to fight for our American values," the Democratic California senator said. "That's why I'm running for president of the United States. "I'm running to lift those voices, to bring our voices together."

Harris is the first African-American woman to announce a run for the White House in 2020, and the third woman in the field. Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York have both announced exploratory committees, a step that Harris is skipping.

In a 2020 field that could include as many as four women, her allies believe that her life's work as a prosecutor -- from her start in Alameda County trying grisly crimes such as sexual assault to felonies including homicide -- will help set her apart. The style developed over those years helped her build a national following when she grilled US President Donald Trump's nominees, including Brett Kavanaugh when he was a Supreme Court nominee.

18:09   Meghalaya miners' bodies disintegrating but retrieval ops still on
The Centre on Monday told the Supreme Court that it is not abandoning the operation to rescue 15 miners trapped for more than a month inside an illegal rat-hole coal mine filled with water in a remote part of Meghalaya.


The state government in its status report told the top court that on January 16, the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) of the Indian Navy had detected a body at a depth of 210 feet in the flooded mine and efforts were being made to retrieve it but could not be completed as the body parts started disintegrating.


A bench of justices AK Sikri and S Abdul Nazeer said the Centre and the state should look into the suggestions made by petitioner Aditya N Prasad with regard to the rescue operation and posted the matter for further hearing next week.


The court is hearing a public interest litigation filed by Prasad, who sought urgent steps to rescue the 15 miners trapped in the mine since December 13. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Centre, said it is a human tragedy and the matter cannot be treated as adversarial.


He said both the Centre and the state government are not abandoning the operation and taking measures to rescue the miners. Advocate Amit Kumar, appearing for Meghalaya, submitted the status report, detailing the steps taken to rescue the miners from January 7 to January 17.


Kumar read from the report and said the ROV was used to move the body detected on January 16 from a depth of 210 feet to 100 feet, but due to the condition in the rat-hole, there are signs of decay, making the extrication process difficult. 


"In the process of pulling the body, the skull, the left wrist, and the leg from the knee level got disengaged. It is the considered opinion of the naval team that if the body is pulled further, there will be total disintegration of different parts, rendering the same virtually impossible to retrieve... Presumably and as per the latest reports, the bodies of the remaining miners are behind the body detected on January 16," the report said.


It said a medical team has advised them against pulling the body as it may cause complete disintegration. The status report said that rescue teams have so far pumped over one crore litres of water from the main shaft and the adjoining shafts but there has been no substantial decrease in the water level.


"The further course of action as regards recovery of the detected bodies and the pumping activities shall be decided on the basis of consultation between the medical team, the Navy ROV team and the family members of the deceased miner," it said.



Image: NDRF personnel and other rescuers try their hardest to get the 15 miners out of the 'rat hole' mine. Photograph: Anuwar Hazarika/Reuters
17:08   Plot to attack Kejriwal? Call to Delhi CM's house sends cops into tizzy
Arvind Kejriwal's office at his official residence received a call on Monday from a person informing about threat of a possible attack on the Delhi chief minister, official sources said. According to the sources, the person did not identify himself but said he was calling from Vikaspuri, a locality in west Delhi.

The caller said he has heard that somebody is planning to attack the chief minister, the sources said. As the caller ID of the phone was not working, the number from which the call was made could not be identified, they added.

Caller ID installed at the office's landline telephone is not functional since May last year, the sources said, claiming that despite several reminders to the General Administration Department of Delhi government it has not been fixed.

A senior police official said they were informed about the call by Personal Security Officer of the chief minister and efforts are underway to identify the caller. A couple of weeks ago, Kejriwal's office received an email threatening to kidnap his daughter. Subsequently, the accused was arrested.
16:35   BJP should come out with new PM face, if it has one: Akhilesh Yadav
The country is looking for a new prime minister and the BJP needs to come out with a new face, if it has one, Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav said Monday while side-stepping a question on the leadership issue of opposition parties.
   
"...as far as the leadership issue is concerned, it is actually the people who decide it...you will see, in time to come, how many options we have," he told reporters here when asked who would be the leader of opposition parties against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
 
"But one thing is totally clear that the country is waiting for a new prime minister...if the BJP, which is so concerned about us, has a new prime minister they should tell the people," Yadav, who recently shared platform with opposition leaders in Kolkata, said.
 
To a question, the SP president said the leadership of the SP and the BSP have taken a decision on most of the seats and an announcement in this regard will be made soon.
 
"As far as SP patron Mulayam Singh Yadav is concerned, the party will field him from the seat of his choice," he said.
 
On the controversy over BJP MLA Sadhana Singh's remarks against BSP president Mayawati, Yadav said the language being used by ruling party leaders is the result of their frustration.
 
"Since the BJP did nothing during its tenure, how will its leaders talk about work...now that the elections are coming nearer, there will be a lot of more things as well," he said.
 
Without naming the prime minister, Yadav said, "The one who is occupying the highest position is also using such language."
 
On the Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas, which started Monday in Varanasi, he said, "Since the past many years, we are waiting for the NRIs to invest in the state...maybe those coming here will have a change of heart after seeing Kumbh and taking a holy dip in the Ganga, and they will invest in a big way." -- PTI
16:23   PM 'frontman for corporate friends': Congress attack PM on Rafale
The Congress on Monday took objection to Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman describing the opposition's questions on the Rafale deal as "corporate lobbying" and instead accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of acting as a "frontman for corporate friends".
 
The party's senior spokesperson Anand Sharma said Sitharaman, who spoke for the deal in the Lok Sabha, was reduced to being an "apologist defending the indefensible".
The Congress, which has alleged corruption and favouritism in the contract and accused the prime minister for it, also dubbed the fighter jet deal "opaque and flawed".
 
The government has denied the charges levelled by the Congress and said the deal is clean, without any corruption or middlemen.
 
Claims by the government and the BJP that the Rafale deal is transparent and cut out middlemen are "laughable and ridiculous", Sharma said.
 
"The fact is it was opaque and flawed. surely no middlemen... good. But what when Pradhan Mantri ji acts as a frontman for corporate friends?
 
"Why has the PM not personally denied former French President Franois Hollande's statement? Any answers?" he asked on Twitter.  
 
The opposition, he said, had raised fundamental questions on the Rafale jet acquisition. 
 
"These include compromising national security, hurting national manufacturing and denial of technology to HAL and loss to national exchequer.
 
"Defence Minister terming it as corporate lobbying is objectionable. Sad to see defence ministry misused to cover up and minister reduced to being an apologist defending the indefensible," Sharma tweeted. PTI 
16:12   Printing of budget documents begins with halwa ceremony
Minister of State for Finance and senior officials of the Finance Ministry Monday observed the symbolic 'Halwa Ceremony' to mark the launch of formal printing of documents relating to the Union Budget 2019. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, however, missed the customary pre-Budget event as he is currently in the US for a medical check up. 


The NDA government on February 1, would unveil the interim Budget for 2019-20 as the general elections are due in the next couple of months. The final Budget for the next fiscal would be presented by the new government. 


"Halwa Ceremony was held today in North Block, New Delhi to mark the Ceremonial beginning of printing of #Budget2019 documents- Both the MoS (Finance) Shiv Pratap Shukla and Pon Radhakrishnan jointly launched the ceremony and shared the Halwa with the Ministry officials, the finance ministry said in a tweet. 


Finance Secretary A N Jha, Economic Affairs Secretary Subhash Chandra Garg, Revenue Secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey, DIPAM Secretary Atanu Chakraborty and Financial Services Secretary Rajiv Kumar too attended the customary pre-Budget event. As part of the ritual, 'halwa' is prepared in a big 'kadhai' and served to the entire staff in the ministry. 


The significance of the sweet dish is that after it is served, a large number of officials and support staff, who are directly associated with the Budget making and printing process, are required to stay in the ministry and remain cut off from their families till the presentation of the Budget in the Lok Sabha. 


They are not even allowed to contact their near and dear ones through phone or any other form of communication, like e-mail. Only very senior officials in the finance ministry are permitted to go home. 


In the run up to the Budget, Finance Ministry has started a series on Twitter providing definitions of various terms used in the budget seeking to educate general public about the budgetary process. PTI
15:53   Kala Pani saza: CBI's Bassi moves SC against transfer
CBI Deputy Superintendent of Police AK Bassi on Monday moved the Supreme Court challenging his transfer to Port Blair saying it was vitiated by mala fide and would prejudice the probe against former special director Rakesh Asthana. 


Bassi has challenged the transfer order issued on January 11 saying it is violative of the directions issued by the top court in its judgment on the plea of the former CBI director Alok Kumar Verma. 


"It is passed by an officer/authority not competent to pass such orders. The impugned order intends to victimize the Petitioner herein," said Bassi, who was the investigation officer in the Asthana case. 


During the colonial era, Kala Pani ki saza was a term used for the incarceration of criminals who were deemed to be extremely dangerous by the British Indian administration. These were generally revolutionaries, political dissidents and hardened criminals.

These prisoners were interred at the Cellular Jail, the British Indian prison on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands was known as Kala Pani. 
15:26   NSA Ajit Doval's son files defamation suit against Caravan, Jairam Ramesh
NSA Ajit Doval's son Vivek Doval Monday filed a criminal defamation complaint against a news magazine for allegedly publishing a defamatory article. Doval also sought prosecution of Congress leader Jairam Ramesh in the case. The complaint has been filed against The Caravan and the author of the article, besides Ramesh. 


The article claimed that Doval was running a hedge fund whose promoters are of dubious antecedents. Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal is likely to hear the matter on Tuesday. PTI
15:13   WhatsApp to cap message forwarding to 5 chats globally
WhatsApp will now globally limit message 'forwards' to five chats at a time, a practice it had introduced in India in July last year to crack down on spread of rumours and fake news through its platform. 


In an update to its blog Monday, WhatsApp said the move will help keep "WhatsApp focused on private messaging with close contacts". 


"WhatsApp carefully evaluated this test and listened to user feedback over a six-month period. The forward limit significantly reduced forwarded messages around the world," it said. 


It added that "starting today, all users on the latest versions of WhatsApp can now forward to only five chats at once..." The messaging platform -- which counts India, Brazil and Indonesia among its major markets -- said it will continue to listen to user feedback on their experience, and "over time, look for new ways of addressing viral content". 


A WhatsApp spokesperson told PTI that during the test period, the company saw a 25 per cent reduction of forwarded messages being shared on WhatsApp. 


"We believe this is a reasonable number to reach close friends, while helping prevent abuse," the spokesperson added. The move comes at a time when governments and regulators across the world are looking at effective ways to curb the spread of fake messages through digital platforms. 


In India, the Facebook-owned company had faced flak from the government after a series of mob-lynching incidents, triggered by rumours circulating on WhatsApp, claimed lives. Under pressure to stop rumours and fake news, WhatsApp had last year, restricted forwarding messages to five chats at once as well as removed the quick forward button for media messages in India - a market that has over 200 million WhatsApp users. 
-- PTI
14:15   Siddaganga Math seer Shivakumara Swami passes away
Karnataka CM HD Kumaraswamy announces that Siddaganga Math seer Sri Shivakumara Swami passed away at 11.44 am today. The cremation will be done on 22nd January at 4.30 pm. Making the announcement, standing beside him, was former Karnataka CM BS Yeddyurappa. 


Dr Parameshwar, who has been Shivakumara Swami, the main pontiff of Sree Siddaganga Mutt, told the media this morning, that the seer was critical. "We noted variations in health parameters of the seer last night. He is on ventilator support and is in critical condition. We will give a further update in an hour."


Shivakumara Swami is considered to be one of the most esteemed religious and social practitioners of the Lingayat-Veerashaiva faith of Lingayatism. 


The 111-year-old Lingayat is being treated for a lung infection which he developed after an operation on December 8, which was carried out to treat his liver and bile duct infection.


Owing to the seer's health condition, former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa cancelled his engagements and rushed to Tumkuru. 
14:08   NCW notice to BJP MLA over remarks against Mayawati
The National Commission for Women has issued a notice to BJP MLA Sadhana Singh and sought explanation for making "extremely offensive and unethical remarks" against BSP supremo Mayawati. Singh came under stringent criticism from allies and opposition leaders for calling BSP chief Mayawati a "blot on womankind" and "worse than a transgender". 


The Mughalsarai MLA made the controversial remarks at a rally on Saturday while referring to the infamous incident when Mayawati was assaulted by Samajwadi Party workers at a Lucknow guest house in 1995. 


Taking suo motu cognisance, the NCW said the remarks made are "extremely offensive, unethical and shows disrespect towards the dignity and respect of women in general".


"The Commission strongly condemns such irresponsible and disparaging views of persons holding responsible positions. In view of the above, you are hereby required to provide a satisfactory explanation to the Commission on the matter on receipt of this notice," NCW Under Secretary Barnali Shome said. -- PTI
14:06   Aspirational society do not commit collective suicide: Jaitley on mahagathbandhan
And another response to Saturday's opposition rally at the Brigade Ground in Kolkata: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Monday said India has moved ahead of 1971 and the aspirational society will not commit a "collective suicide" in the forthcoming general elections. The two-fold strategy of the opposition parties for the general elections is to pursue anti-Modi agenda and take advantage of the electoral arithmetic, he said in a Facebook post titled 'Agenda for 2019 -- Modi Vs Chaos'. 


 "Will 2019 be a replica of 1971? It is Modi vs an unviable and an unworkable short-lived combination. OR is it Modi vs Chaos," Jaitley wondered. The Minister is currently in the US for a medical check up. 


Recalling the 1971 General Elections, Jaitley said the opposition had formed a 'Grand Alliance' or the 'Mahagathbandhan' teaming up against the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. "We had powerful leaders and a head-start in the media. Additionally, the Congress had split into two.... The results were announced, India rejected negativism. The India of 2019 has moved way ahead of India of 1971. Aspirational society never commit a collective suicide. They do not suffer from a Lemming Syndrome," Jaitley said. 


Stating that every General Election has its own script that is dictated by the prevailing political environment, Jaitley said for 2019 political battle, India's opposition has a two-fold strategy, firstly, negative anti-Modi agenda and secondly, random political grouping to gain from the electoral arithmetic. 


He said Opposition politics has thrown up four desirous Prime Ministers wishing to challenge Narendra Modi. "It is obvious that the level of satisfaction with PM Sh @narendramodi ji is very high. If that weren't so, what was the need for multiple disparate forces to come together against him? It is only the fear of his popularity & a certain comeback that is bringing them together," Jaitley said.


Image: The mahagathbandhan rally at the Brigade Ground in Kolkata. 
13:41   Indians have faith in BJP, Modi: Rajnath dismisses mahagathbandh
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh Monday said there was no "challenge" for his government in the forthcoming general elections as the common man had faith in the present dispensation. 


Singh said he was confident about his party's chances at the hustings as there has been no allegation of any "serious corruption" in the last 4.5 years of the present  government. 


"You know the situation of the past Congress governments (on the corruption issue)," he said, pointing to previous cases of graft during the UPA regime. Asked if the forthcoming general elections in the country were a big challenge for his government, Singh replied in the negative. "There is no challenge for the government," he said, speaking to reporters on the sidelines of laying the foundation stone for a Kendriya Vidyalaya at a Central Industrial Security Force camp in Greater Noida. 


 Asked about the opposition's show of strength as part of the 'mahagathbandhan', Singh said it was the fear of his party's successes that made them come together. "They (mahagathbandhan parties) are afraid that BJP will form government again...we are assured that the masses are with us. We also have a strong and popular leadership under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the common man has faith in us," he said.   


Singh also commented on media reports that said absconding accused in the Punjab National Bank scam case, Mehul Choksi, had surrendered his Indian citizenship. "We have brought the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act and there is a process under that law (to curb big fraud cases). He (Choksi) will be brought to India for sure and no one will be spared. Action will be taken against everyone," the minister said. -- PTI
13:28   Unknown Auschwitz victims are finally laid to rest
Ceremony comes 77 years to the day since Nazi extermination plan was finalised. Read the report  here 
13:01   Rare case of cannibalism in Kanha Tiger Reserve
In a rare case of cannibalism, a tiger is suspected to have killed and eaten a tigress in the famous Kanha Tiger Reserve of Madhya Pradesh, a forest official said Monday.


Some ground duty officials found the tigress' skull and limbs, one of which was partially eaten, at Mundi-Dadar in the reserve's core area in Mandla district during patrolling on Saturday, Kanha Tiger Reserve's field director K Krishnamurthy told PTI.


"A tiger was noticed in the area, suggesting that it may have killed the big cat, which appears to be female. Circumstantial evidence suggests that the tiger, during a territorial fight, dragged the tigress for about 700 metres," he said. 


Asked about the possibility of the tiger seen around the carcass having eaten it, Krishnamurthy said cannibalism was "not uncommon" among tigers. He, however, said scavengers also might have eaten the tigress after it was killed. -- PTI
12:51   Congress diagnosis: PM overexposure flu
The party believes Narendra Modi's ceaseless public exposure is doomed to be counter-productive. Read the report here. 
12:29   Did not hurt him: K'taka Cong MLA
Karnataka Congress MLA JN Ganesh over reports of an alleged brawl with Congress MLA Anand Singh: I did not hurt him. It is all a lie. If he's hurt, I along with my family will go and apologise to him.
12:14   Citizenship bill not be applicable to Nagaland: CM to Rajnath Singh
Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio has written to Home Minister Rajnath Singh, saying the citizenship bill is not be applicable to the state as it is protected under Article 371 (A) of the Constitution.


A Cabinet meeting, chaired by Rio, on Friday asserted that the state is protected under provisions of Article 371 (A) and the Inner Line Permit (ILP) as per Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, (BEFR) of 1873, a release issued by the Chief Minister's Office said Sunday. 


The article deals with special provisions with respect to Nagaland. It states that no act of Parliament with respect to religious or social practices of the Nagas, Naga customary law and procedure, administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Naga customary law, ownership and transfer of land and its resources, shall apply to the state unless the Legislative Assembly by a resolution so decides. 


The Cabinet deliberated on the matter in view of the citizenship bill being passed by the Lok Sabha on January 8 and its consequent impact on Nagaland and other north-eastern states. -- PTI
11:45   CJI recuses himself from hearing PIL against CBI chief's appointment
Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi today recused himself from hearing a plea challenging the appointment of M Nageswara Rao as the interim CBI director. The CJI said he would be part of the selection committee meeting to choose the new CBI director. The high-powered selection committee comprises the prime minister, the leader of the largest opposition party (Congress, Mallikarjuna Kharge) and the CJI or his nominee judge of the apex court. 


A bench comprising CJI and Justice Sanjiv Khanna was hearing a PIL filed by NGO Common Cause challenging the appointment of Rao as interim CBI director. -- PTI
11:29   Decoding the politics of food cooked up over the years in India
Did you know the Mughals only drank Ganga jal? That the Dalai Lama eats meat? That the heroes of Hindu epics were often non-vegetarians? Food is more complex than politicians make out. Read Vir Sanghvi's column here.  
11:14   Mexico: Death toll mounts to 79 in gasoline pipeline explosion
The gasoline pipeline explosion in Tlahuelilpan has taken the lives of at least 79 people as of Sunday. At least 66 people have been injured in the tragic incident.


The governor of the State of Hidalgo, Omar Fayad confirmed with CNN that a few of the victims are minors.The general prosecutor of Mexico, Alejandro Gertz Manero stated that investigation into the incident has started. However, he added that a "preliminary belief" holds that static electricity from the clothing of people around the pipeline caused the explosion.


No arrests have been made as of yet. The fire from the explosion has been completely doused.


Meanwhile, residents living close to the pipeline have been evacuated, according to State oil company Pemex.The explosion comes at a time when there is a dearth of gas in several Mexican states, including the capital. -- ANI
10:46   Choksi surrenders Indian passport, extradition gets tougher
Absconding Punjab National Bank fraud accused Mehul Choksi, who is wanted by investigating agencies for loan fraud, has given up his Indian citizenship by surrendering his passport to the Antiguan government.


The move is seen as an attempt to avoid extradition to India, where he is wanted by multiple agencies for loan fraud.


Choksi had been living in Antigua for over a year now. On December 25, 2018, Choksi had told a court that he cannot return to India to face probe for loan fraud because his 'poor health' will not allow him to undertake a 41-hour long journey from Antigua to India.Choksi, 59, also submitted 177 dollars with his passport to the Indian High Commission in Antigua. Officials say he has given his new address as Jolly Harbour Marks Antigua.


The foreign ministry had said that Mehul Choksi could not have dual citizenship. Antigua is hearing India's case for the businessman's extradition. 
10:41   Encounter underway in Kashmir's Budgam
An encounter broke out on Monday between security forces and militants in Budgam district of Jammu and Kashmir, police said.  Security forces launched a cordon and search operation in Hapatnaar area of Budgam District following information about presence of militants in the area, a police official said.  He said the search operation turned into a gunbattle after militants opened fire on security forces.  No casualties have been reported so far in the encounter, he added. PTI
10:35   A white blanket over Himachal
Keylong in Lahaul-Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh received fresh snowfall today.
10:29   One 3 under-trial prisoners in India is either SC or ST: Study
"These facts together point to a pattern of targeting Dalit and Adivasis," the report says. Read 
10:09   Siddaramaiah to hold K'taka CLP meeting at 11 am today
Former chief minister and Congress leader Siddaramaiah has called for another Congress Legislature Party meeting at 11 am on Monday. All MLAs have been directed to attend the meeting, which comes in the wake of an alleged rift in the Congress-JD(S) coalition government.


The meeting has been called for a day after two Congress MLAs -- Anand Singh and JN Ganesh -- had a "minor fight". However, Congress leader Zameer Ahmed said the two leaders had minor differences after a discussion between the "two friends."


Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge had said on Saturday that the party would issue a show-cause notice to MLAs who did not attend the CLP meeting held in Bengaluru on Friday. "First, we will issue a show-cause notice asking for an explanation. Then we will take some action after discussion with the party members," he told ANI.


Kharge said out of the four MLAs who were absent at the meeting, two MLAs clarified their absence. "We will issue notices to the two who did not respond," he had said.


Four Congress MLAs skipped Friday's meeting, following which the Congress moved rest of the 76 legislators to a resort.


The meeting was convened by the party to assess whether its flock was intact amid speculation that some of the party MLAs had switched over to the BJP.


The Congress, which shares power with JD-S, has 80 MLAs in the 224-member Assembly, including the Speaker. Accordingly, 79 MLAs were expected to attend the CLP meeting held under the supervision of central leaders K C Venugopal and Mallikarjun Kharge. -- ANI
09:59   Citing Ambedkar, Rajnath justifies 10% quota
Accusing the Congress of trying to secure votes of Dalits in the name of B R Ambedkar, Union home minister Rajnath Singh said that the new law guaranteeing 10 per cent quota for the poor among the general category was in tune with Modi government's commitment to ensure development of all sections.
The Constitutional amendment to provide the 10 per cent quota in government jobs and higher education to the economically weaker secions among the general category received assent of President Ram Nath Kovind January 12. 
Some sections of the society have opposed this provision saying it has violated the Constitution which doesn't recognise economic backwardness as the criterion for reservation.
Addressing a public rally in Nagpur on the concluding day of the national convention of BJP's Scheduled Caste cell, Singh said Prime Minister Narendra Modi introduced the new reservation to realise Dalit icon Ambedkar's dream of the egalitarian society.
"Babasaheb Ambedkar had talked about liberty, equality and fraternity. He enshrined reservation in Constitution to ensure equality and the quota facility was provided for people who were economically and socially backward. Ambedkar's dream was to ensure equality," Singh said.
The home minister further said those people who could not get benefits of reservation, and those among them who are economically backward who could contribute in the development of the country, should also get reservation.
"With this objective, the prime minister provided 10 per cent reservation to fulfil the goal of 'Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas'," Singh said. -- PTI
09:42   Wife of K'taka Congress MLA, injured in 'brawl', threatens legal action
The wife of Karnataka Congress MLA Anand Singh, who had to be hospitalised after being injured in an alleged brawl with party legislator J N Ganesh, has threatened to take legal action against the errant MLA.
   
"If it is true that Ganesh beat up my husband, my children and I will not keep quiet and will take legal action against him," Laxmi Singh told a section of media from Mumbai.
 
She is currently in Mumbai to attend a relative's wedding and is expected to return to Bengaluru soon.
 
Anand Singh was hospitalised after he and Ganesh, both from Ballari district, had a heated argument and came to blows late last night at the resort where the party MLAs are herded together amid the BJP's alleged poaching attempt, according to sources.
 
Asked if she has been informed that Ganesh provoked Singh, Laxmi said, "I do not know whether Ganesh provoked my husband, but can anybody try to kill somebody for  provocation? Is it right?"
 
Asked if there was a scuffle between Ganesh and Singh in the recent past, she said, "No, they are good friends. Yes, my husband told me that in the last Congress Legislature Party meeting, there was a heated exchange with (legislator) Bheema Naik. Other than that he did not tell me anything."
 
Replying to another query, Laxmi said she does not know when Singh would be discharged from the hospital.
 
"My relatives, including my brothers, who are at the hospital, said my husband is in pain," she said.
 
"I have made several calls, but I was told he was sleeping. Nobody is telling me the exact account of my husband's condition," she said, adding that her son had spoken to Minister D K Shivakumar, who said Singh was fine.
 
Singh was admitted to a private hospital.
 
Singh had "a black eye and suffered blunt injuries"  and also complained of uneasiness in the chest, hospital sources said.
 
Ganesh is among the disgruntled Congress MLAs who was reportedly in touch with other dissidents in the party and was on BJP's radar in its alleged toppling game. -- PTI
09:35   2 killed in Jammu cable car crash days before inauguration by PM
Two workers were killed and four others suffered injuries on Sunday after a cable car of the under-construction Jammu ropeway project crashed during a mock rescue drill, days before it was likely to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, officials said.
 
The crash took place due to some technical snag near the Mahamaya temple this evening, a police official said.
 
The executing agency was conducting a mock rescue drill and due to imbalance, one of the trolleys carrying six workers fell down.
 
One of them, 45-year-old Rakesh Kumar from Bihar, died on the spot.
 
The rest five -- Hari Krishan (45), Manjeet Singh (32) and Lovely of West Bengal, Ravinder (30) of Uttar Pradesh, and Engineer Balkirat Singh (32) of Jammu -- were rushed to the Government Medical College hospital where Krishan died later, they said.
 
Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik ordered a magisterial inquiry into the accident and announced an ex-gratia relief of Rs five lakh to the next of kin of  those killed.
 
He also directed the divisional administration to provide free medical treatment to the injured, an official spokesman said.
 
On the instructions of the Governor, Advisor Khurshid Ahmed Ganai and Chief Secretary B V R Subramanyam visited the injured in the hospital late this evening.
 
The Chief Secretary also visited the accident site and took stock of the situation, the spokesman said. 
 
The Jammu ropeway project, planned to boost tourism in the winter capital, is likely to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 3. -- PTI

Photograph: PTI Photo
09:20   JD-U to vote against citizenship bill in Rajya Sabha
The Janata Dal-United said it would vote against the controversial citizenship bill when it is tabled in the Rajya Sabha, notwithstanding the party's alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party.
 
The party's national general secretary and chief spokesman K C Tyagi said this while criticising the Congress for staging a walkout from the Lok Sabha when the bill was being put to vote, saying it was a "farce" and "tantamount to support".
 
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, passed in the Lok Sabha on January 8, seeks to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslims 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 the people and several 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.
 
Tyagi was speaking to reporters after a meeting of the party's national office bearers here at the residence of chief minister Nitish Kumar, who heads the JD-U.
 
Poll strategist-turned-politician Prashant Kishor, who joined the party in September last year and was elevated to the post of national vice-president a few weeks later, was among those who attended the meeting chaired by Kumar.
"The national office-bearers of the party reaffirmed the commitment to the legacy of socialist movement and to our old stand on issues like Ram temple, Article 370 and uniform civil code," Tyagi said.
 
"As far as the new citizenship bill concerning Assam is concerned, we condemn the attitude and behaviour of the Congress when the bill was put to vote in the Lok Sabha," he added.
 
Staging a walkout is tantamount to support and it is our apprehension that the Congress, by enacting a farce, wants to support the bill. We are going to oppose it when it comes before the Rajya Sabha, Tyagi said further.
 
The stance of JD-U assumes significance in the backdrop of the BJP, its ally in Bihar, facing the heat on the issue in Assam where it is in power and has lost the support of its former ally Asom Gana Parishad following differences on the matter.
 
The JD-U leader also said a party delegation, which would comprise Kishor and himself, among others, would soon visit Assam to take stock of the ramifications of the legislation. -- PTI
09:14   Bhagwant Mann pledges to quit alcohol; earns high praise from Kejriwal
Senior Aam Aadmi Party leader and Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann on Sunday said he has left taking liquor on his mother's advice.
   
Mann, who is often criticised by political opponents for "excessive drinking," earned high praise from party supremo Arvind Kejriwal for giving up alcohol.
 
"My political opponents often level accusations against me, saying 'Bhagwant Mann takes liquor and remains intoxicated day and night'. Brothers, it always pained me when I saw old videos of myself on social media where I was being defamed," Mann said, at a rally in Barnala.
 
He said he has left drinking from January 1 and that he hopes to shun liquor for the rest of his life.
 
"I admit I used to take liquor occasionally. But my political opponents maligned me. Today my mother is here. She had told me that people defamed me excessively on the television and then asked me to stop taking liquor. Now they cannot defame me," said Mann, who is set contest the Lok Sabha elections from Sangrur seat again.
 
In 2016, the suspended AAP MP Harinder Singh Khalsa had complained against Mann to Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, requesting her to change his seat in the Parliament as Mann, who sat next to him, was stinking of alcohol.
 
Later during his address, Kejriwal lauded Mann for leaving liquor, saying his commitment was "not a small thing".
 
"Friends, Bhagwant Mann has won my heart. Not only mine, he also won the hearts of whole Punjab. A leader should be like him who is ready to make any kind of sacrifice for the people. It is not a small thing to make such a big commitment. After January 1, he says he will not touch liquor. It is a very big thing," said Kejriwal.
 
Kejriwal said Mann, who was a stand up comedian, left his career to serve the people of Punjab.
 
"Today Punjab is sinking because of drugs. In the last Punjab elections, Mann fought against Sukhbir Singh Badal from Jalalabad seat because he felt at that time Sukhbir was the biggest guilty for the situation Punjab was in. Today, Sukhbir Badal is responsible for drugs in Punjab," alleged Kejriwal.
 
Kejriwal asked how many people are ready to leave liquor for the people. -- PTI
08:42   Indian billionaires' wealth rose by Rs 2,200cr a day in 2018: Report
Indian billionaires saw their fortunes swell by Rs 2,200 crore a day last year, with the top 1 per cent of the country's richest getting richer by 39 per cent as against just 3 per cent increase in wealth for the bottom-half of the population, an Oxfam study said Monday.
Globally, billionaires' fortunes rose by 12 per cent or USD 2.5 billion a day in 2018, whereas the poorest half of the world's population saw their wealth decline by 11 per cent, the international rights group said in its annual study released before the start of the five-day World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos.
Oxfam further said that 13.6 crore Indians, who make up the poorest 10 per cent of the country, continued to remain in debt since 2004.
Asking the political and business leaders who have gathered in Davos for the annual jamboree of the rich and powerful of the world to take urgent steps to tackle the growing rich-poor divide, Oxfam said this increasing inequality is undermining the fight against poverty, damaging economies and fuelling public anger across the globe.
Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima, one of the key participants at the WEF summit, said it is "morally outrageous" that a few wealthy individuals are amassing a growing share of India's wealth, while the poor are struggling to eat their next meal or pay for their child's medicines.
"If this obscene inequality between the top 1 percent and the rest of India continues then it will lead to a complete collapse of the social and democratic structure of this country," she added.
Noting that wealth is becoming even more concentrated, Oxfam said 26 people now own the same as the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity, down from 44 people last year.
The world's richest man Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, saw his fortune increase to USD 112 billion and just 1 per cent of his fortune is equivalent to the whole health budget for Ethiopia, a country of 115 million people.
"India's top 10 per cent of the population holds 77.4 per cent of the total national wealth. The contrast is even sharper for the top 1 per cent that holds 51.53 per cent of the national wealth.
"The bottom 60 per cent, the majority of the population, own merely 4.8 per cent of the national wealth. Wealth of top 9 billionaires is equivalent to the wealth of the bottom 50 per cent of the population," Oxfam said while noting that high level of wealth disparity subverts democracy.
Between 2018 and 2022, India is estimated to produce 70 new dollar millionaires every day, Oxfam said.
"It (the survey) reveals how governments are exacerbating inequality by underfunding public services, such as healthcare and education, on the one hand, while under taxing corporations and the wealthy, and failing to clamp down on tax dodging on the other," Oxfam India CEO Amitabh Behar said.
The survey also shows that women and girls are hardest hit by rising economic inequality, he added. -- PTI

Image used for representational purpose only.

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