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LIVE! LRSAM missile test-fired, Raksha Mantri calls it major milestone

January 24, 2019

22:48  Moushumi Chatterjee asks woman announcer to dress 'properly':  
Veteran actor and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Moushumi Chatterjee landed in a controversy for allegedly criticising a young woman announcer for her choice of cloths during an event-cum-press conference in Surat.

Since the event was followed by a press conference by the local BJP unit, organised at a hotel on January 21, the purported advice by Chatterjee to the anchor hired to handle the event was captured by cameras of several news channels.

As soon as the woman anchor, wearing a shirt and pants, introduced the guests to the mediapersons and other audience present in a hall, Chatterjee took the mic and expressed her displeasure about the anchor's choice of dress.

"See, next time you come for such an event then make sure to wear Indian dress. We all wear modern dresses but you have to keep in mind the place too.

"We can't visit a temple wearing jeans," Chatterjee is heard saying, while addressing the woman anchor standing at some distance from the dais.

"It is better to wear salwar kameez, or ghaghra choli or sari (instead of jeans or pants). It is our duty to preserve our heritage," the BJP leader said.

While asking her not to commit such a mistake again, the actor-politician added that she was giving the advice 'as a mother'.

"You are a child to me. I am telling you as a mother. Forgive me if you are offended. Don't do such things again," she said.

When a woman reporter raised objection to Chatterjee's advice to the anchor, the BJP leader defended herself, claiming today's young generation needs such advice.

"I am just telling her as a mother. I am not dictating anything. It is my right as an Indian woman to give advice to the current generation about their choices of cloths.

"I am saying for their good, not mine," Chatterjee said when confronted by the woman reporter.

"Do not connect this with the BJP. I am saying in the capacity of an Indian woman. I have the right to advise my daughters," she said in response to a question that how a BJP leader can dictate what women should wear.

The veteran actress joined the BJP early this month.  -- PTI
22:24  LRSAM missile test-fired, Raksha Mantri calls it major milestone:  The long-range surface-to-air missile -- LRSAM -- was on Thursday 'successfully' test-fired from a warship off the coast of Odisha against an aerial target, a significant milestone in enhancing the Navy's anti-air warfare capability.

"Ship launched Long Range Surface-to-Air Missile (LRSAM) has been successfully test fired from INS Chennai against an incoming aerial target flying at low altitude, today," the defence ministry said.

It said the missile destroyed the target with a direct hit and that all the mission objectives have been met during the test-firing.

LRSAM has been jointly developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation, India and M/s Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) for the Indian Navy.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman congratulated DRDO, Indian Navy and associated team members on the successful test-fire of the missile.

'India achieves a significant milestone with successful flight test of LRSAM on board INS Chennai. The missile direcly hit a low flying aerial target,' Sitharaman tweeted.  -- PTI

Image only for representation.
22:09  Haren Pandya murder case: Plea in SC for fresh probe:  
A fresh plea has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking  court-monitored investigation into the murder of former Gujarat minister Haren Pandya.

Pandya, a former minister of state for home in the then Narendra Modi government in Gujarat, was shot dead on March 26, 2003, in Ahmedabad near Law Garden area of the city during his morning walk.

The petition, filed by NGO CPIL, said that there was a need for the fresh probe in the case as some 'startling information' has recently come to light which needs to be looked into.

"New pieces of information that have come to light regarding the possibility of IPS officers including D G Vanzara being involved in the conspiracy to kill Pandya clearly show that the involvement of the senior functionaries of the police as well as possible complicity of political figures.

"The investigation has clearly been 'botched' to benefit powerful figures in the administration," the petition claimed.

Referring to a recent testimony of a witness in Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case, the plea claimed that witness has revealed that during his deposition Sohrabuddin had told him that Pandya was murdered as a part of a contract killing for which the contract was given by D G Vanzara.      

"He also reveals that Sohrabuddin's associate Tulsiram Prajapati along with two others had murdered Pandya as part of that contract. In his deposition he mentions that he had already given this information to CBI in 2010," the plea claimed.

The NGO has made Ministry of Home Affairs and CBI as parties in the case.

It has sought production of the statement of Vanzara to the CBI and an 'inquiry into the circumstances in which an identity sketch of the assassin drawn in 2003 that matches Tulsiram Prajapati more than the accused put on trial and the nature of investigation done'.

The plea also sought an inquiry against the officers who conducted the earlier investigation and hold the errant officials accountable for the 'botched up' probe.

A special PoTA (Prevention of Terrorist Activities) court had in 2007 convicted all 12 accused in the case who were awarded life imprisonment.

However, on August 29, 2011, a division bench of Gujarat High Court had slammed CBI for the probe which it said was 'washed up' and 'blinkered', and acquitted all the accused from the charge of murdering Pandya.      

CBI has filed an appeal against the acquittal in Supreme Court.  -- PTI
21:17  Army porter injured in Pak firing in Rajouri:  
An army porter was injured on Thursday when Pakistani troops fired heavy mortar shells and small arms targeting forwards posts and civilian areas along the Line of Control (LoC) Jammu and Kashmir's in Rajouri district, officials said.

A defence spokesperson said the Pakistan Army fired small arms and mortar shells in Sunderbani Sector starting 09:15 am.

Image only for representation.

In the breach of truce, one army porter was injured in Nowshera sector this evening. He was shifted to the hospital, the official said.

The spokesperson said the Indian Army was retaliating strongly and effectively.

The Pakistani troops have targeted civilian areas close to the International Border and the LoC on 17 days this month.

They had fired mortar bombs and small arms at forwards posts and civilian areas along the LoC in Poonch district on Wednesday.  -- PTI
21:14  Maha minister says Cong-NCP will win if BJP, Sena don't join hands:  
Maharashtra minister Chandrakant Patil on Thursday said if the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Shiv Sena don't forge an alliance for the upcoming elections, the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party combine will come to power in the state.

Speaking to reporters in Mumbai, he said Lok Sabha and state assembly elections will be held separately.

The revenue minister said since the alliance between both the parties is very strong, it has withstood numerous 'quakes' in the last four years.      

"Had the Congress and the NCP decided to fight the polls separately, then there was no harm in our going solo. However, even the Sena knows that in the present scenario, if we fight separately, the Congress-NCP combine will come to power," the minister said.

The BJP will not be affected in case it loses, as the party will come to power at the Centre. The party is already in power in 20 states, he said.

"While the BJP will win 100-110 seats and Sena 40-50seats, it is the people who will suffer. None of the political parties will be affected," Patil said.

Replying to a query, the minister said elections to the Lok Sabha and state assembly will be held separately 'without any doubt'.

When asked about the tremors felt in Palghar district, Patil,who also holds the relief and rehabilitation portfolio, said seismologists and experts from IIT Bombay were studying the recent incidents.

"The earthquake incidents are limited to two villages in Palghar. The collector has been asked to make alternate arrangements for them to stay. We will see if they should be shifted to some other place altogether or be given new homes," Patil said.

Mild tremors were felt in and around Dahanu in Palghar district on Sunday and Thursday, officials said.  -- PTI
20:29  Naidu indicates TDP will go it alone in AP polls:  
A day after Congress announced that it would fight the elections in Andhra Pradesh on its own, Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu on Thursday indicated that his party, the Telugu Desam Party, too would not have any electoral tie-up with the national party in the state.

Alliances in states would be based on the wishes of respective parties, he told TDP leaders during a teleconference.

"We are together fighting the BJP at the national level. We have come on a common platform with the slogans save nation, save democracy, united India. Ending the dictatorial rule (of Modi) is our common minimum programme," Naidu maintained.

Naidu pointed out that the Trinamool Congress and the Congress did not have any electoral alliance in West Bengal.

"Still, Congress leaders attended the opposition rally in Kolkata. We have all come together on a platform in Bengaluru and Kolkata. Protecting the Constitution is the agenda of 23 non-BJP parties," the chief minister said.

All India Congress Committee general secretary and former Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy had said the Congress party would contest all 175 Assembly and 25 Lok Sabha seats alone.

"The TDP allied with us only at the national level, so we will have no truck (with it) in the state," Chandy had said.

The TDP chief Thursday alleged that the Yuvajana Shramika Rythu Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party were engaged in committing crimes and heinous acts while the Telangana Rashtra Samiti wanted an inefficient person in power.

"All these (parties) only know to hatch conspiracies," he said.

Naidu referred to his governments decision to earmark five per cent reservation for upper caste Kapus of the 10 per cent quota for economically weaker sections provided by the Centre recently and wanted to know the YSR Congress and the BJPs stand on the matter.

The YSR congress chief, Jagan Mohan Reddy, previously said Kapu reservation was not in his purview and now he is opposing five per cent quota to the community, Naidu claimed.

BJP found fault with the Kapu quota, he added.

The chief minister said his government not only fulfilled all promises made in the TDPs 2014 election manifesto but also did much more.

"We promised Rs 1000 as (social security) pension but now we have enhanced it to Rs 2000. We promised Rs 10,000 each to self-help group women but are now giving Rs 20,000. We doubled the income of 97 per cent farmers in the state," Naidu claimed. -- PTI
19:07  Shankarsinh Vaghela set to join NCP:  
Former Gujarat chief minister Shankarsinh Vaghela is set to join the Nationalist Congress Party, the state unit of the Sharad Pawar-led party said on Thursday.

The 78-year-old Kshatriya strongman had left the Congress before the 2017 Gujarat assembly elections.

He had then helped the Bharatiya Janata Party in the Rajya Sabha polls.

"Former Chief Minister of Gujarat Shankarsinh Vaghela will join NCP in presence of party president Sharad Pawar and senior leader Praful Patel," Gujarat NCP president Jayant Patel alias Boski said.

"Vaghela ji is a dynamic leader who knows the pulse of state and the country. I welcome his entry into the NCP and it will give a boost to the party in the state," he said.

The former Union minister is likely to join the NCP on January 29, the party sources said.

However, Vaghela has so far neither confirmed nor denied that he will join the NCP. Vaghela's entry into the NCP can lead to a three-way fight on a few Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat if the Congress fails to enter into a pre-poll alliance with Pawar's party.

The state has 26 Lok Sabha seats and all of them were won by the BJP in the 2014 general elections.

Vaghela had left the Congress before the 2017 state assembly polls, after he and a few MLAs supporting him voted against Congress candidate for the Rajya Sabha, Ahmed Patel and backed BJP nominee Balwantsinh Rajput.

Vaghela, however, did not join the ruling BJP and put up independent candidates in the state assembly elections held in December 2017.

All his candidates had lost polls.

Recently, Vaghela had toured various places, including Delhi, and declared that he will fight for removal of the BJP-led government at the Centre in 2019.

In 2017, the Congress and the NCP had fought assembly elections separately.

The NCP was able to win just one seat in the 182-member assembly.

If in 2019, both the parties fail to reach a seat- sharing agreement, then it will be a three-way fight on some Lok Sabha seats where Vaghela and his supporters will contest as NCP candidates, the party sources said.

Vaghela is a prominent OBC leader, who started his political career with the BJP.

After the BJP came to power in 1995 in Gujarat and chose to make Keshubhai Patel chief minister instead of him, Vaghela engineered a split in the saffron outfit and became the CM in 1996 with outside support of the Congress.

Later, he joined the Congress and served as Textile Minister in the Manmohan Singh government.

While in the Congress, he also served as its state unit president and Leader of Opposition in the Gujarat assembly.  -- PTI
18:39  Rose Valley scam: CBI arrests Bengali film producer Shrikant Mohta:  
The Central Bureau of Investigation on Thursday arrested renowned Bengali film producer Shrikant Mohta in connection with the Rose Valley chit fund scam, sources said.

Mohta allegedly duped the Rose Valley of Rs 25 crore, CBI sources said.

Mohta was served a notice by the investigating agency regarding 'acceptance of money from Rose Valley' and CBI sleuths questioned him in his office at a shopping mall in south Kolkata.

Later they took him to the CBI office at CGO Complex in Salt Lake for further interrogation and he was arrested there.

The agency is probing both the Saradha and Rose Valley multi-crore scams.

Enforcement Directorate is also probing the Rose Valley scam.

Rose Valley chairman Gautam Kundu is currently in jail in money laundering case.

Mohta's company Shree Venkatesh Films has produced many award-winning films like Chokher Bali, Memories In March, Autograph, Raincoat and Iti Mrinalini.

The firm also distributes most Bollywood and Hollywood movies in eastern India.

Some of Indian film industry's top actors and directors have worked with him.  -- PTI
18:19  Centre may announce package to farmers soon: Minister:  
The government will soon announce a package for farmers to boost their income, Minister of State for Agriculture Parshottam Rupala said on Thursday amid speculations that the Centre is considering various measures to address distress in the farm sector.

The minister, however, did not clarify whether the relief package would be part of the upcoming Budget on February 1 or it will be announced before that.

Rupala also declined to share recommendations sent to the Finance Ministry for the Budget of 2019-20 fiscal.

"You will not have to wait for a long time," Rupala said while replying to a query about the proposed package for farmers.

Sources had earlier said that the government is considering waiving interest on crop loans for farmers who pay on time, costing an additional Rs 15,000 crore to the exchequer.

There is also a proposal to completely waive premium for taking insurance policy for food crops.

The Centre is also evaluating the scheme followed by the Telangana and Odisha governments wherein a fixed amount is transferred directly to farmers.

Earlier addressing the National Conference on Agriculture Zaid/Summer Campaign 2019, the minister said the government is focusing on increasing area under cultivation between Rabi (winter-sown) and Kharif (summer-sown) seasons so that farmers income can be increased.

This is the first time a campaign has been initiated to focus on these aspects, he added.

Agriculture Secretary Sanjay Agarwal said the acreage in the summer crop season is about 45 lakh hectares currently, of which 20 lakh hectare is rice.

Rice output in this season is around 4.5 million tonnes from 20 lakh hectares.

The government is targeting to increase area of non-rice crops like pulses, coarse cereals and oilseeds to 50 lakh hectares from the current 25 lakh hectares, he said, adding that this would take the total area under summer season to 70 lakh hectares.

"We do not want to increase area under rice that requires more water," Agriculture Commissioner S K Malhotra said.

The commissioner said the production of non-rice crops in summer season could double to 5 million tonnes if targeted increase in area is achieved.  -- PTI
17:47  CoA lifts suspension of Pandya, Rahul:  
The Committee of Administrators lifts the suspension on Hardik Pandya and K L Rahul; probe pending.

The CoA said that the matter and decision has been taken with the concurrence of Amicus Curiae, P S Narasimha.

In view of the above, the suspension orders dated 11.01.2019 are immediately lifted pending appointment and adjudication of the allegations by the BCCI Ombudsman, the committee said.

More details awaited.  -- ANI
17:34  Defence Ministry sacks 5 civilian officers over poor performance:  
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman approved the sacking of five civilian officers of the Defence Ministry over poor performance in the job.

The officers belong to the Military Engineering Services which is the construction arm of the armed forces and deals with maintenance and upkeep of the military buildings.

"Five officers have been sent on compulsory retirement due to poor performance after 55 years age or 30 years of service whichever is less by the Defence Ministry a couple of days ago," Defence Ministry sources told ANI.

The employees are of the rank of Assistant Engineers in the MAs and have been given three months' salary.

Sources said the sacking of the officers has been done based on Department of Personnel and Training guidelines of September 11, 2015, read along with instructions of March 21, 2014.

A total of 484 Group B Gazetted officers of MES were considered by the Review Committee set up based on DoPT instructions.  -- ANI
16:59  India, China review progress of ties post Wuhan summit:  
Indian envoy to China Vikram Misri called on Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou and they took stock of 'positive developments' since the 2018 Wuhan summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping, the Indian Embassy said in  Beijing on Thursday.

Misri, who took charge early this month, called on Kong on Tuesday.

The meeting between Misri and Kong was termed as a 'courtesy call' by the Indian officials in Beijing.

'They took stock of positive developments since Wuhan Informal Summit and also exchanged views on further strengthening of India-China relations,' the Embassy tweeted.

Modi and Xi met at Wuhan in April last year in the first informal summit between the two leaders.

It was conceived by both sides following the 2017 military standoff at Doklam which ratchet up tensions between the two countries.

Since the summit, the two countries steadily normalised relations with intensified dialogue on various fronts including the military and trade. India's Commerce Secretary Anup Wadhawan also concluded his two-day tour to China on Tuesday.

He held talks with Chinese Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen and Zhang Jiwen, Chinese Vice Minister of General Administration of Customs of China (GACC) to enhance Indian exports to China to reduce over $57 billion trade deficit.  -- PTI
16:37  Bombay HC gives green signal to Kangana Ranaut's 'Manikarnika':  
The Bombay high court on Thursday refused to give relief to a lawyer seeking a stay on the release of film Manikarnika - The Queen of Jhansi on the ground that it wrongly depicted historical facts.
Advocate Vivek Tambe, who claims to be a fifth generation descendant of the family of Rani Lakshmibai, the Queen of Jhansi, had moved the high court earlier this week claiming that the Kangana Ranuat-starrer had got several historical facts wrong.
According to the petitioner, the film shows the birth year of the queen of Jhansi as 1828.
However, her birth year was actually 1835, his plea said.
It further claimed that there are certain scenes which show that the queen suffered a miscarriage, which is not correct.
The producers of the film opposed the plea, saying the birth year was provided by historians and that there is no scene in the movie showing a miscarriage.
Central Board for Film Certification counsel Advait Sethna told a division bench of Chief Justice N H Patil and Justice N M Jamdar Thursday that its examining committee has given due consideration before certifying the movie.
"A disclaimer has also been included in the movie saying certain elements have been dramatised and fictionalised and that it does not intend to hurt any person's sentiments," Sethna said.
The bench, after hearing the arguments, said it was not inclined to grant interim relief by way of staying the release of the film.
The court directed the producer to file their affidavit responding to the petition in two weeks.
The movie is slated for release on Friday. -- PTI  
16:32  JeM member arrested for allegedly planning attacks on R Day:  
A man alleged to be a member of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) has been arrested on charges of planning to carry out terror strikes in the national capital during Republic Day celebrations, Delhi Police officials said Thursday.
Abdul Latif Ganai, alias Umair alias Dilawar, was arrested by Delhi Police's Special Cell late night on January 20, they said.  
The arrest was made after police got a tip-off that a JeM terrorist, the mastermind behind a series of grenade attacks in Srinagar recently, was planning similar terror strikes in heavy footfall areas in Delhi during Republic Day celebrations, an official said. 
Dilawar was arrested with incriminating material during the night of January 20-21, he said.
A team rushed to Jammu and Kashmir and recovered two IED/grenades. It also arrested another terrorist, Hilal, from Bandipora who had carried out recce of target areas in Delhi.
Information about the module was shared with Srinagar Police, which thereafter arrested terrorists involved in grenade attacks in Jammu and Kashmir. -- PTI
16:14  Feel pained, even if a terrorist dies, says J-K Guv:  
Stressing that he was "pained" by the death of "even a terrorist", Jammu and Kashmir governor Satya Pal Malik Thursday urged the valley's insurgents to shun violence and return to the mainstream.
The governor also lauded the security forces including the state police for their success in curbing terror activities.
Malik highlighted that his administration was in the process of formulating a fresh package for the rehabilitation of terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir. 
"The police is performing its duty in the best possible way. But even if a terrorist loses his life, I feel pained... They all should come back (to the mainstream)," Malik told reporters here on the sidelines of an event.
"When I took over as the governor of Jammu and Kashmir, I tried to give them (security forces) the best possible facilities. I have seen they conduct their operations in tough situations and heavy snow. It's a difficult task," Malik said.
While we are sleeping in our homes at night, they are conducting operations, sometimes till three in the morning, Malik said.
The governor also addressed the 9th Sat Paul Sahni memorial lecture on 'ethics and the media: yesterday, today and tomorrow' organised by the J&K regional branch of Indian Institute of Public Administration. -- PTI
16:09  After China, Foxconn eyeing India to make iPhones: WSJ:  'Apple Inc's  largest iPhone assembler, Foxconn Technology Group, is considering producing the devices in India,' the Wall Street Journal has reported, quoting 'people familiar with the matter, in what it said was a move 'that could reduce Apple's dependence on China for manufacturing and potentially for sales'.   

The WSJ report added that 'executives at Foxconn, a contract manufacturer that assembles a large portion of the world's iPhones in China, are studying whether to include an India project in budget plans,' and that 'senior executives, possibly including Chairman Terry Gou, plan to visit India after next month's Lunar New Year to discuss plans.'   

If it materialises, then it will be the second batch of the pricey smartphone to be made in India, after the cheaper SE models being assembled in the country by the Taiwanese Wistron Corp. 

FoxConn, incidentally, is also Taiwan-based.  
16:04  Won't extend NRC deadline beyond July 31, 2019: SC:  
The Supreme Court on Thursday made it clear that the exercise of making the final report of National Register of Citizens in Assam has to be completed by the July 31, 2019 deadline.
The top court also said that the upcoming general election and exercise of NRC should not be affected, and asked the competent authorities to sit together to plan them.
The apex court asked chief secretary of Assam government, secretary of Election Commission and the NRC coordinator in the state to hold a meeting to decide how the officials have to be accommodated for the two exercises.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice R F Nariman said Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was appearing for the Assam, will ensure that the meeting is held within seven days. The outcome of the meeting will be informed to the apex court on February 5, when the matter will be taken again to the bench. 
15:36  CBI books Chanda Kochhar in ICICI Bank-Videocon loan case:  
The Central Bureau of Investigation has booked former ICICI Bank CEO and MD Chanda Kochhar, her husband Deepak Kochhar and Videocon group MD Venugopal Dhoot in connection with alleged cheating and irregularities in loans sanctioned by the bank to the group in 2012, officials said Thursday.
The agency Thursday carried out searches at multiple locations, including the offices of Videocon group in Mumbai and Aurangabad, offices of Nupower Renewables Pvt Limited which is operated by Deepak Kochhar, and Supreme Energy after registering a case. 
"It was alleged that the accused sanctioned certain loans to private companies in a criminal conspiracy with others to cheat ICICI bank," the CBI spokesperson said.
In addition to Chanda, her husband Deepak and Dhoot, the agency has also named companies Nupower Renewables, Supreme Energy, Videocon International Electronics Ltd and Videocon Industries limited as accused in the FIR registered under IPC sections related to criminal conspiracy and provisions of prevention of corruption act, they said.
It is alleged that Videocon promoter Venugopal Dhoot allegedly invested crores of rupees in Nupower months after the Videocon group got Rs 3,250 crore as loan from the ICICI Bank in 2012, they said.
15:24  4 injured at Jaipur Literature Festival:  
Four people were injured on the first day of the annual Jaipur Literature Festival when a part of a tree fell on them in a restricted delegate area, according to a statement issued by JLF organisers.
The incident occurred at the Diggin Palace in Jaipur, they said.
"A part of a tree has fallen which resulted in injuries to four people. First aid has been administered to them and precautionary measures have been taken," the statement said. 
The 12th edition of the five-day festival, billed as the largest free literary event in the world, will host over 350 speakers including authors, scholars, actors, humanitarians, politicians, business leaders and sports persons from across India and the world.
Among a galaxy of literary stars set to speak at this year's event are Booker Prize-winning Nigerian writer Ben Okri and Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Andrew Sean Greer and Colson Whitehead. -- PTI 
15:23  Railways announcement of giving jobs to 3 lakh people another 'jumla': Chidambaram:  
Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram Thursday termed the announcement by the Railways that nearly 3 lakh people will be recruited in the next two years as "another jumla (gimmick)".
In a series of tweets, the former Union minister said the story is the same across many departments of the government as on one hand, there are vacant posts and on the other, there are unemployed youths.
"Railways leave 2,82,976 posts vacant for nearly 5 years and suddenly wake up to say we will fill them in 3 months! Another jumla!," Chidambaram said.
Railways Minister Piyush Goyal had on Wednesday said the national transporter will recruit around 1.31 lakh employees within the next six months and about a lakh more over the next two years.
The Indian Railways has a sanctioned strength of 15,06,598 employees. Out of these, 12,23,622 personnel are on roll. The remaining 2,82,976 are vacant posts. 
The recruitment for 1,51,548 posts in the railways is going on, leaving 1,31,428 posts still vacant, Goyal had said. -- PTI
15:07  Where are acche din promised, asks Rahul in Amethi :  
Wrapping up his two-day Amethi tour, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday said his party will contest the Lok Sabha polls with full strength.
He also exuded confidence that it will win the next Uttar Pradesh assembly polls.
"We will contest the Lok Sabha polls with full strength and will win the next UP Assembly polls," he said.
The Congress chief was addressing a public meeting in Amethi before returning to Delhi at the end of his two-day visit to his Lok Sabha constituency.
Slamming Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said Modi has waived only industrialists' loans.
"The chowkidar proved to be a thief," he said, and remarked, "Gali gali mein shor hai, chowkidar chor hai."
Rahul charged Modi swears by God and then speaks lies.
"Where are the 'achchey din' promised?" he posed.
At the same time, Rahul said, "We have delivered the promise of loan waiver."
The Congress leader also questioned the "hurry" in removing the CBI chief.
He described note ban as the biggest scam. -- PTI 
14:38  Pak violates ceasefire along LoC:  
The Pakistan Army on Thursday targeted forward posts and civilian areas along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir's Rajouri district with mortars and small arms, official said. 
The Indian Army is effectively retaliating. 
"Pakistan Army initiated unprovoked ceasefire violation by small arms fire and shelling with mortars in Sunderbani Sector since 0915 hours",  the Defence PRO said.
The Pakistan Army also targeted forward posts in Mendhar sector of Poonch district on Wednesday night, officials said. 
Officials said the Pakistan Army is continuously firing 120 mm and 81 mm mortars when last reports came in.
The shelling and firing has triggered panic among border dwellers.
Northern Army Commander Lt Gen Ranbir had said on Thursday last that a befitting reply will be given to ceasefire violations by Pakistani troops. -- PTI
13:49  Not going back to ballot papers, says CEC amid EVM hacking row:  
As the chorus grows for conducting Lok Sabha elections through ballot paper, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora on Thursday made it clear that the election body will not go back to the era of ballot papers.

"I would like to make it very clear that country is not going back to the era of ballot papers," Arora said at an event in New Delhi.

"We had one result in 2014 Lok Sabha elections, we had a completely different result four months later in the state elections held in Delhi. We conducted elections in Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and so on and we have seen that results have been different every time," he added.

Stating that the EC is open to criticism from any stakeholder including political parties, Arora stated, "We will continue to use EVMs and VVPATs. We are open to any criticism and feedback from any stakeholder including political parties. At the same time, we are not going to be intimidated, bullied or coerced into giving up these and start an era of ballot papers."

Clearing the doubts over the possibility of EVMs prone to hacking, the election body chief said that "the machines are manufactured under highly-secured conditions by the two PSUs, which are doing a lot of hard work for the defence establishment of our country." 

Recently, an event was organised in London, where a self-proclaimed hacker Syed Shuja claimed that the EVMs can be tampered with. 

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that a four-member committee has been formed to take a call on the stand of the opposition parties on voting machines in view of the coming general elections.
13:31  HC judge recuses from hearing plea of Virbhadra Singh, his wife in DA case:  
A Delhi high court judge Thursday recused herself from hearing the plea of former Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and his wife Pratibha Singh challenging a trial court order to frame charges against them in a disproportionate assets case.
Justice Mukta Gupta said the matter be listed before another judge on Friday.
Virbhadra Singha and his wife had approached the high court on Wednesday against the December 10, 2018 trial court order to frame charges against Singh, his wife and seven others in the case lodged by the CBI.
The trial court has fixed the matter for January 29 to formally frame the charges against the couple and the other accused. -- PTI 
12:46  SC refuses to stay amendment to SC/ST Act:  
The Supreme Court refused to stay amendment to SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, passed by the Parliament to override its verdict on automatic arrests and anticipatory bail.

The Supreme Court said that the petitions against the amendment and review pleas against the March 20 judgment should be heard together. 

"No interim order can be passed in these matters," the top court said.

In March 2018, the top court had diluted the provisions of the stringent SC/ST Act against government servants and held that there shall be no immediate arrest on any complaint filed under the law.

However, the Parliament negated it by passing the amendments in August. 

12:26  Jassi Sidhu honor killing: Mother, uncle extradited to India:  
Eighteen years after the 'honour killing' of Canada-born Jaswinder Kaur Sidhu, her mother and uncle, accused of the murder, have been extradited to India by Canadian authorities, police said Thursday.  
A team of Punjab Police has been dispatched to Delhi to bring the duo to the state for presenting them in a court in Sangrur, they said. 
Jaswinder's mother Malkit Sidhu and uncle Surjit Badesha had been charged with the murder. A case in this regard had been registered at Amargarh police station in Sangrur.
"They will be handed over to our team (Punjab Police) at the Delhi airport today," Sangrur Senior Superintendent of Police Sandeep Garg told PTI over phone.
"They will be brought to Sangrur and then presented in a court," he said.
A Canadian court had in 2016 stopped the extradition of Malkit and Surjit to India to face trial for the honour killing of Malkit's daughter over concerns that they may not get justice in the country.
However, the Supreme Court of Canada ordered the extradition of the duo in 2017, but the decision was later stayed after the accused sought judicial review of the decision.
Their plea for staying the extradition proceedings was rejected by a court in Canada in December 2018, finally paving the way for their extradition to India.
Jaswinder, better known as Jassi, had fallen in love with Sukhwinder Singh Mithu, an autorickshaw driver, after she visited Punjab. She was the resident of Maple Ridge, British Columbia.
Both got married against the wishes of Jassi's affluent family in 1999.   
Jassi, 25 at that time, and Mithu were reportedly attacked by contract killers on June 8, 2000 at village Narike of Malerkotla in Sangrur. 
The police had said that the contract killers were hired by Jassi's mother and uncle.
Jassi's body was dumped in a drain with her throat slit, while Mithu was severely attacked and left to die. He, however, survived. 
The Punjab Police registered a case in this connection in July 2000 and named Malkit and Surjit in the FIR for allegedly conspiring to kill Jassi.
11:42  CBI registers FIR in Videocon-ICICI Bank loan case:  The Central Bureau of Investigation has registered an FIR in connection with alleged irregularities in the Rs 3,250 crore ICICI Bank-Videocon loan case and was carrying out searches on Thursday at the group headquarters in Mumbai and offices in Aurangabad, officials said. 

The search operation started Thursday morning and also covered offices of Nupower, a company operated by ICICI Bank's former CEO Chanda Kochhar's husband Deepak Kochhar and Supreme Power, they said. 

It is alleged that Videocon promoter Venugopal Dhoot allegedly invested crores of rupees in Nupower months after the Videocon group got Rs 3,250 crore as loan from the ICICI Bank in 2012, they said. The agency had registered a preliminary enquiry against Videocon promoter Venugopal Dhoot, Deepak Kochhar and unidentified others in March last year, they said. 

A PE is a precursor before the agency lodges an FIR to probe criminal charges on the basis of evidence collected during the former exercise. The agency has now converted it into an FIR which means a full blown investigation has been started by the agency after registration of a case.   

The details of the FIR and names of the accused are awaited, they said.

Image: Deepak Kochhar.
11:39  Another SC judge recuses from hearing plea challenging interim CBI chief's appointment:  
After Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Supreme Court judge A K Sikri has recused himself from hearing a plea challenging the appointment of M Nageswara Rao as interim Central Bureau of Investigation director.

A bench led by Justice Sikri has now listed the plea for fresh hearing tomorrow before a different bench. 

Earlier, the CJI recused himself from the case saying he would be part of the selection committee to choose the agency's new chief.

The high-powered committee to select the Central Bureau of Investigation director comprises the prime minister, the leader of the largest opposition party and the CJI or his nominee judge of the apex court.
11:14  Indian-American Senator Kamala Harris leads in Daily Kos straw poll:  
Indian-American Senator Kamala Harris has emerged at the top of a Daily Kos straw poll released Wednesday, two days after she officially plunge in the 2020 US presidential race. 
Harris, 54, garnered 27 per cent of the 28,000 votes, followed by Senator Elizabeth Warren with 18 per cent, Daily Kos said Wednesday as it released the results of its second straw poll.
Former US vice president Joe Biden who has not announced his 2020 bid yet was on the third slot with 13 per cent and Senator Bernie Sanders fourth with 12 per cent. Sanders is yet to announce his candidature.
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has been at the bottom of the straw poll with just one per cent of the straw poll members voting for the first Hindu presidential candidate.
Harris announced her presidential bid on Monday, the Martin Luther King Jr Day. Within the first 24 hours of her announcement, she raised USD 1.5 million from small donors. She is not accepting donations from political action committees, a strong indication that she will not be influenced by lobbyists and special interest groups.
Fox News on Wednesday said she has hired a number of staff from the 2016 Clinton campaign.
Harris has announced to hold her first presidential rally in her hometown of Oakland in California on January 27.
On Wednesday, Harris slammed President Donald Trump for the ongoing partial government shutdown.
"It's completely irresponsible that this president has kept the government closed for over a month. That's 33 days of anxiety and hurt for more than 800,000 federal workers who are trying to figure out how they are going to pay their rent or mortgage," Harris said. -- PTI 
11:01  Lance Naik Nazir Wani conferred Ashok Chakra posthumously:  Lance Naik Nazir Ahmad Wani, who was killed during an anti-terror operation in Batagund village in Shopian, Jammu and Kashmir, in November last year, has been conferred the Ashok Chakra, the highest gallantry medal awarded by India during peacetime.    

A notification from Rashtrapati Bhavan said, 'Lance Naik Nazir Ahmad Wani exhibited the most conspicuous gallantry in personality eliminating two terrorists and assisting in the evacuation of his wounded colleagues and made supreme sacrifice in the highest traditions of the Indian Army.'    

Ahmad Wani, a former militant, went on to become a two-time Sena Medal winner in the Indian Army after his surrender.    

During the November anti-terror operation that claimed his life he was with the 34 Rashtriya Rifles. He was given a 21-gun salute and hundreds of villagers turned up for his funeral. 

A resident of Cheki Ashmuji village in Kulgam, he is survived by his wife and two children.    

Four officers and soldiers have been conferred the Kirti Chakra while 12 others have been awarded the Shaurya Chakra this year.
10:43  Pakistani Sikh motorcyclist issued challan for not wearing helmet, authorities apologise :  
The traffic police authorities in Pakistan's Peshawar on Thursday apologised to the Sikh community after a Sikh motorcyclist was "mistakenly" issued a challan for not wearing a helmet.
A traffic warden had on Tuesday issued the challan to the Sikh youth riding the motorcycle for non use of the helmet.
A spokesman of the traffic police said the youth was "mistakenly" challaned by the warden. 
He said the authorities have tendered an apology to a delegation of the Sikh community, who brought the issue to their notice.
Sikhs are exempted from use of helmet while riding motorcycles, the spokesman said.
The provincial legislature in northwest Pakistan is likely to debate the issue. -- PTI  
10:35  Under construction building collapses in Gurugram, 7 feared trapped:  
Seven labourers are feared trapped under debris after an under-construction four-storey building collapsed in a village Gurugram on Thursday, officials said.
The fire department control room received a call at 5.15 am from a local about the building collapse in Ullawas village.
Rescue teams along with the district administration, local police, fire department and national disaster management team are at the spot.
"Rescue teams are still searching for trapped labourers by removing heavy concrete material and iron grills. Efforts are on to save them", Gurugram Police PRO Subhash Bokan said.
"Rescue teams are facing difficulty as they are removing concrete, iron grills, debris. There could be seven people, all labourers, feared trapped", Isham Singh, a fire officer, said.
The incident happened when work was underway to lay the lantern for the fourth floor of the building, he said.
Police are on the lookout for the owner of the building, a resident of Ullawas village. -- PTI
09:59  Snatch voting rights, govt jobs of people with more than 2 kids: Ramdev:  
Yoga guru Ramdev has advised that the government should snatch away the voting rights of people who has more than two children.

Citing the rising population of India as reason for need of such actions, Ramdev at an event in Aligarh on Wednesday, said: "To control population of the country, voting rights, jobs and treatment facilities should be taken away from people who give birth to more than two kids and whether they are Hindus or Muslims. Then only the population will be controlled."

While inaugurating Patanjali garment in Aligarh, Ramdev, a bachelor himself told media that such people should not be allowed to contest elections, denied admissions in government schools, do not seek treatment in a government hospital and not allowed to take government jobs.  

This was not the first time when that Ramdev had made such statement. 

In November last year, he said that people like him, who do not get married, should be accorded special honours.

"In this country, people like me, who never get married, should receive a special honour. Those who get married and produce more than two children should be denied voting rights," Ramdev said at an event. -- ANI
09:40  Modi's Bengal rally likely to be rescheduled: BJP :  
A rally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi which was proposed to be held on January 28 in North 24 Parganas district's Thakurnagar area is likely to be rescheduled to February 2, a senior party leader said.
"As of now, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's January 28 rally at Bongoan' Thakurnagar area has been rescheduled to February 2. On February 2 he will address another rally at Durgapur and on February 8 he will address a rally at Siliguri. However, nothing is final as of now," BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha said.
This is the second time in one month that the West Bengal BJP has rescheduled Modi's rallies.
Earlier it was decided that the prime minister will address a rally at Brigade Parade Ground on February 8. It was recently cancelled and the party said he would attend three rallies in the state starting next week.
It was then decided that Modi would address a rally at Thakurnagar on January 28, another at Siliguri in north Bengal on February 2 and the third one at Asansol -- represented by Union Minister Babul Supriyo -- on February 8.
However, on Wednesday evening the state BJP announced that the dates are likely to be altered.
The BJP kick-started its Lok Sabha poll campaign in the state from Tuesday, with party president Amit Shah addressing a rally in Malda district.
Shah has set a target to win more than 23 out of the total 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state. -- PTI  
09:29  Congress will benefit from Priyanka's entry, says BJP ally :  
Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said that the Congress will benefit from Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's entry into politics.

"It's a good decision by Rahul Gandhi. People of India always had a relationship with Gandhi family. Indira Gandhi's legacy will always remain in this country. The Congress will benefit from this," Raut said.

The Congress on Wednesday formally ushered Priyanka Gandhi Vadra into the party fold ahead of the Lok Sabha elections due in few months.

Priyanka, whose formal entry into politics has been a matter of speculation for several years, was given the charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh, a key state which sends 80 MPs to Lok Sabha.

She will be working in the capacity of general secretary in-charge of Uttar Pradesh East, the Congress announced on Wednesday.

The 47-year-old daughter of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and sister of Congress President Rahul Gandhi will take charge of her responsibility as AICC General Secretary from February first week. -- ANI
09:24  US could see 'zero' growth in 1st quarter if shutdown continues: WH chief economist:  
The United States could post zero economic growth in the first quarter if the federal government does not reopen, the chairman of President Donald Trump's Council of Economic Advisers said Wednesday.
"If (the shutdown) extended for the whole quarter, and given the fact that the first quarter tends to be low because of residual seasonality, then you could end up with a number very close to zero in the first quarter, Kevin Hassett, Chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said in an interview to CNN. 
Asked whether GDP growth could hit zero in the quarter, he said, "Yes, we could."
At the same time, he asserted that the second quarter would be humongous if the government reopened. "It would be like four or five per cent," Hassett said.
He also said the chances of a recession in 2020 is close to zero. "They're very, very close to zero," he said.
"We have so much momentum. There was just a great industrial production number. We just had a great jobs number. There's a lot of momentum carrying into this year. The government shutdown adds a lot of uncertainty. You're starting to see that uncertainty in some pieces of data," Hassett said.
The federal government shutdown over Trump's demand for USD 5.7 billion for a wall along the Mexican border entered 33rd day on Wednesday, with little sign of relief for the roughly 800,000 federal workers going without pay.
Hassett said talks with China are moving forward and exuded confidence that the US can reach a trade deal with China before the March 1 deadline. 
Trade negotiations between Washington and Beijing have stretched for months amid their tit-for-tat trade war. The countries reached a 90-day truce following Trump's meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Argentina on December 1 last year. -- PTI 
09:00  Pelosi blocks Trump from delivering State of the Union speech:  
US President Donald Trump and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi exchanged barbs and letters after she barred him from speaking in the House of Representatives until the partial government shutdown ends.
The traditional State of the Union Address by the president in a joint session of the US Congress is done at the invitation of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, a powerful position that is currently being occupied by Pelosi.
Pelosi on Wednesday told Trump that there would be no State of the Union Address as she had earlier scheduled on January 29 and insisted that the annual address of the president cannot happen till the time the partial government shutdown continues.
The government shutdown now into its 34th day is because of the sharp differences between Trump and the opposition Democrats over constructing a wall along the US-Mexico border to prevent illegal immigrants from entering the country.
Democrats, led by Pelosi, have said they will not let the Congress pass any legislation that has funding provision for the wall. Trump is seeking USD 5.6 billion for the wall.
"I am writing to inform you that the House of Representatives will not consider a concurrent resolution authorising the President's State of the Union Address in the House Chamber until government has opened," Pelosi wrote in a letter to Trump, hours after she received a letter from the president that he has accepted her earlier invitation for State of the Union Address and as such he would be showing up at the US Congress next Tuesday, January 29.
"I look forward to seeing you on the evening of January 29th in the Chamber of House of Representatives. It would be so very sad for our country if the State of the Union were not delivered on time, in schedule and very importantly, on location!" Trump said in his letter to Pelosi.
Soon, thereafter, the House speaker made it clear that the President is not welcome at the Congress on January 29.
After receiving the letter from Pelosi, Trump said he would soon announce his next course of action. "We'll see.  We'll see. Well, it wouldn't be very hard, but that's not what she means," he said.  
"We will have a response to Nancy Pelosi in due course. But what she's doing to the American people, what she is doing to our Constitution, is a disgrace," he rued.
"And it's very sad. I think it's a very, very bad thing for our country, and it's a horrible precedent. And we have many positive things to say, but we also have things that we want to turn into positives that are big negatives," Trump said.
Ruling out any change in his position on the wall, Trump said that it was "too bad" what Pelosi has done.  
"It's radical Democrats. They've become a radicalised party. They really have. They have become a radicalised party. I actually think they've become a very dangerous party for this country. If you listen to what they're saying, what they're doing, I think they've become a very very dangerous party for this country," he asserted. -- PTI
08:41  LS poll fight is between BJP and mahagathbandhan: Prashant Kishor:  
Janata Dal-United vice-president Prashant Kishor on Thursday said it will be a fight between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections as the Congress is still not strong opposition.

In an interview with ANI, Kishor, who is also an election strategist, said: "The fight is between the BJP and the mahagathbandhan as the Congress is still not strong opposition."

Kishor, who had worked as an election strategist for both Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 and Nitish Kumar in 2015, joined the JD-U in September last year. 

He was made JD-U national vice-president after a month of joining the party. 

On being asked to respond on reports of him being recommended by BJP president Amit Shah to become JD-U vice president, Kishor said that media has distorted Nitish Kumar's statement.

"In an interview by a channel, Nitish Kumar was asked that why Prashant Kishor has been given such a big post and named JD-U vice president then Kumar clarified that it is not monarchy and not only us but the president of our alliance partner Amit Shah has called up and said to induct me to the party. It is because Nitish Kumar and I thought we need approval from the BJP, who is our alliance partner. Nitish Kumar has said it was not just JD-U's decision but also approval from our alliance to include me to his party," Kishor said. 

This clarification came after a few media reports started doing rounds that Amit Shah dialled the Bihar chief minister twice as the recommendation to appoint Prashant Kishor as JD-U vice president.

"Nitish Kumar has said that I have been working with his party for a long time and we share good terms and it's not only him but Amit Shah has also called to induct me in JD(U)," Kishor told ANI.

"It clearly shows that both the BJP and the JD-U have an understanding between each other and whatever decision we take we take in unison," he added.

Talking about the upcoming polls, Kishor stated that he has been tasked with the job of connecting the party with the youth ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. -- ANI
00:03  Trump to deliver State of Union on Jan 29 as planned:  
United States President Donald Trump on Wednesday in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said he will deliver his annual address to the joint session of the US Congress as scheduled on January 29, despite her request that he delay his speech because of security concerns until a partial government shutdown is resolved.

The move is the latest in a game of political brinkmanship between Trump and Pelosi as they remain in loggerheads over the president's demand for border wall funding that has forced a partial government shutdown that is now in its second month. Pelosi has become the face of Democratic opposition to Trump in Congress.

'There are no security concerns regarding the State of the Union address. Therefore, I will be...fulfilling my constitutional duty to deliver important information to the people and Congress of the United States of America...,' Trump wrote in the letter dated January 23.

The letter was sent in response to a January 3 letter from the Speaker of the House in which she had requested the president to reschedule his State of the Union Address, expressed concern over the security of such a high-profile event in the wake of the ongoing partial government shutdown which has badly hit the functioning of the law enforcement agencies.

Insisting that he would be delivering the State of the Union address on January 29, Trump said, "It would be so very sad for our country if the State of the Union were not delivered on time, in schedule and very importantly, on location!"

Trump refused to give up his demand of a border wall as the partial government shutdown entered 33rd day, which is the longest in the US history and has virtually brought to standstill the functioning of the key departments.

'Build a Wall and Crime will fall! Trump said on twitter twice on Wednesday morning and asserted that this will be his new theme for the next two years.

'BUILD A WALL & CRIME WILL FALL! This is the new theme, for two years until the Wall is finished (under construction now), of the Republican Party. Use it and pray!' Trump said.

His demand for more than $5 billion to build the wall triggered a partial government shutdown that has lasted 33 days and counting. The shutdown has resulted in at least 800,000 federal employees not receiving their salaries for two consecutive fortnights now.  -- PTI

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