Thu, 07 March 2019
BJP lawmakers meet UP unit president after brawl

Timeline  Refresh

23:47   Hardik to join Cong on March 12 in Rahul's presence
Patidar leader Hardik Patel will join Congress on March 12 in presence of party chief Rahul Gandhi, the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) announced in Ahmedabad on Thursday.

The announcement came after the Samiti's core committee meeting in Rajkot. Hardik Patel is the convenor of PAAS.

"Hardik will join Congress on March 12 when Rahul Gandhi will be in Gujarat. Hardik will be inducted into the party at a rally in Ahmedabad.

"PAAS gave its permission to Hardik to join the party today," core committee member Geeta Patel said.

Hardik Patel, who is facing sedition charges and currently out on bail, had announced he would fight the coming Lok Sabha election from Gujarat.

"Hardik may fight the election from Amreli, Mehsana or Jamnagar seat. However, nothing has been finalised yet. Since he will be joining the Congress, it is the party that will take a final call about the seat," Geeta Patel said.

The Congress has announced that Gandhi and other senior leaders will be in Ahmedabad on March 12 for the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting and a public rally.

The CWC meeting, which was earlier scheduled to take place on Feb 28, had been postponed in the wake of the IAF air strike in Pakistan's Balakot.

Hardik Patel had come into limelight for leading strident protests in Gujarat over his community's demand to get reservation in education and jobs.

Before the Gujarat Assembly elections in December 2017, Hardik Patel had declared his support to the Congress.  -- PTI
23:43   BJP lawmakers meet UP unit president after brawl
The two Bharatiya Janata Party lawmakers who had exchanged blows met the Uttar Pradesh party president in Lucknow on Thursday to explain their conduct even as Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath warned of 'strict action' over the fracas.

But no immediate action has been announced against Sant Kabir Nagar MP Sharad Tripathi and Mehdawal MLA Rakesh Baghel, who fought at an official meeting.

A party leader said BJP state unit president Mahendra Nath Pandey told them sternly that they should have refrained from the behaviour they displayed at the district planning committee meeting in Sant Kabir Nagar on Wednesday evening.

The party leader said Pandey met the two separately for their versions and has also sought a report from state minister minister Ashutosh Tandon, who too was present at the meeting in Sant Kabir Nagar.

The next course of action will be decided after getting the report, he said.

Earlier, at an event in Lucknow, Adityanath said the BJP is a disciplined party.

"Indiscipline will not be tolerated. In this particular case, strict action will be taken against the guilty," the chief minister said on Thursday.

Pandey had summoned the two lawmakers to Lucknow after the fracas that was caught on tape, leaving the ruling party red-faced.

The two leaders had got into an argument at the meeting over taking credit for a newly laid road.    -- PTI
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23:19   Cong leader alleges 'match-fixing' between Modi, Pak over Pulwama
Senior Congress leader B K Hariprasad on Thursday alleged 'match-fixing' between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan over the Pulwama terror attack, prompting the Bharatiya Janata Party to accuse the opposition party of 'stooping to a new low' and claiming that he spoke at the instance of Rahul Gandhi.

"If you look at the chain of events that have taken place after Pulwama, it looks like Narendra Modi had a match-fixing with the Pakistani people," he said.

His remarks drew condemnation from the BJP, which said the Congress leader has crossed all limits of decency by insulting the armed forces with such 'obnoxious' remarks and that the party has no future under its chief Rahul Gandhi.

Hariprasad's remarks came after Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad alleged that Gandhi neither believes the Indian Air Force nor the Supreme Court verdict and asked if he needed a certificate from Pakistan about the Rafale fighter aircraft.

The Congress president believes Pakistan more than Indian forces and its leaders, Prasad said.

Hariprasad hit back saying, "Mr Ravi Shankar Prasad should clarify whether there is any match-fixing between Pakistan and Mr Narendra Modi. Otherwise, without their knowledge this Pulwama incident would not have taken place."

Prasad hit back at the Congress leader, saying it is a day of 'great pain' for the country that the Congress 'could stoop so low for political gains'.

"Congress leader B K Hariprasad says there is collusion between Modi and Imran Khan behind air strikes. He crossed all limits of decency and propriety...

"He has dishonoured the country and its army. They have insulted forces and martyrdom of 40 CRPF personnel. The entire world condemns obnoxious statement and the Congress has no future under Rahul's leadership," Prasad said.

"I do not seek any apology from Congress because people of India will respond to these insulting statements. These comments are not accidental but designed and directed on instance of Gandhi," the Union minister and BJP leader also said.

The statement came on a day when Congress president Rahul Gandhi attacked the prime minister over the Rafale deal alleging that he delayed the aircraft purchase and there should be a probe against him.

The BJP and the Congress have been engaged in a slinging match over the events in the aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack, including the air strike carried out by the IAF on a terrorist camp in Pakistan.  -- PTI
22:43   Alpesh Thakor to decide tomorrow whether to join BJP
Amid speculation of his joining the Bharatiya Janata Party, OBC leader and Congress MLA Alpesh Thakor has called a meeting of his community leaders tomorrow to arrive at a decision, his close associate said on Thursday.

"BJP has contacted Alpesh Thakor but he has not contacted any BJP leader, his close friend and Congress MLA Dhavalsinh Zala told ANI in Ahmedabad.

Not ruling out Alpesh joining the BJP, he said the OBC leader will take 'a decision that would benefit the Thakor community'.

"We have called a meeting of Thakor Sena leaders tomorrow afternoon. A decision will be taken at the meeting. We will hold a press conference and will state our decision," Zala said.

The comments come amid speculation that Aplesh is planning to join the BJP and might get a Cabinet berth in the Vijay Rupani government.

Meanwhile, addressing the media, BJP Gujarat president Jitu Vaghani said, "Anyone who believes in Prime Minister Narendra Modi is most welcome in the BJP."

Alpesh, who came to limelight due to his quota agitation some years back, joined the Congress in 2017 ahead of the last Gujarat polls and was elected from Radhanpur. -- ANI
22:29   Tipu Sultan's gun, sword discovered in UK attic
A grand flintlock gun and gold-encrusted sword are among eight rare artefacts evaluated as items from Tipu Sultan's armoury discovered by a couple in their attic in the English county of Berkshire.

The artefacts, brought back by Major Thomas Hart of the East India Company after the Tiger of Mysore's defeat at Seringapatam in 1799, are now set to go under the hammer at an auction later this month.

The items were passed down generations and could fetch millions of pounds for the unnamed family in whose home it was discovered.

"This is a very exciting discovery, made in an ordinary little home in Berkshire after lying wrapped up in an attic for 220 years," said Anthony Cribb, of Anthony Cribb Ltd auctioneers who specialise in arms and armoury related sales.

"The family is not motivated by money and sincerely hopes these items find their way back to India, maybe to a museum, for future generations to have access to it," he said.

The auction house will put up all eight items for auction on March 26 as individual pieces, without any price estimates, due to 'special' nature of the discovery.

Cribb said it was impossible for him to put a price to any of the items and would rather let the market and buyers decide.

The lots came to light in January this year when the couple who made the discovery of this innocuous family heirloom contacted Anthony Cribb Ltd about a sword they had in their attic.

After an evaluation, a gold 'Haider' symbol found on the sword confirmed that the sword belonged Haider Ali Khan -- Tipu Sultan's father.

Three other swords bearing similar gold markings were found soon after, along with a bayonet and gun.

"The gun is definitely the highlight as it not only bears the symbol of Tipu Sultan's armoury but is also battle-worn.

"There is a chance that this gun was among the weapons used by the ruler in his famous last stand against the British in the Anglo-Mysore battle," said Cribb.

Alongside the arms, an intricately designed Betel Nut Casket and a shield belonging to Tipu Sultan as well as a Gold East India Company Seal ring belonging to Major Thomas Hart will also go under the hammer.

In 2014, a solid gold ring belonging to the 18th century ruler of Mysore had fetched 145,000 pounds at a Christie's auction in London and a collection of items associated with him sold at another auction for around 6 million pounds in 2016.

The upcoming sale is described as special because of its rare discovery under one roof after hundreds of years and bearing the trademark Tipu Sultan tiger and tiger stripes as proof of provenance.  -- PTI
21:54   Minor fire in Vande Bharat Express, none hurt
A minor fire broke out in the transformer of a coach of the railways' ambitious Vande Bharat Express, sources said on Thursday, making it the latest in a series of incidents plaguing India's fastest train.

Even before its first commercial run on February 15, the train's windows were damaged by stones thrown at it on more than one occasion during its trial runs.

On its first commercial run, it developed snags and broke down twice. Thereon it again faced stone pelting and ran over cattle more than once.

"A minor incident had occurred on board Vande Bharat Express yesterday. Smoke was reported," a railway spokesperson said.

On Wednesday during its return journey to Delhi, a signal went off at 7.04 pm after the train reached Kanpur Central railway station.

A minor fire was detected in the transformer of C-7 coach, the temperature of which was found to be 90C, sources said.

"It was after extinguishing the fire and isolating the transformer by the maintenance staff that the train was allowed to leave," said a source.

No one was injured in the incident. It was stranded at Kanpur station for around 25 minutes. Barely 10 minutes later, it stopped again at 7.39 pm at Govindpuri railway station after smoke was reported from the same coach.

"The maintenance staff again checked and found that the smoke was of the powder of the fire extinguisher that has been used to extinguish fire at Kanpur," the source said.

This time the temperature of the transformer was found to be 45C.

The train left the station at 7.45 pm.  -- PTI
21:25   Sonia to contest LS polls from Rae Bareli, Rahul from Amethi
JUST IN: Congress releases first list of 15 candidates for Lok Sabha elections.

The list contains 11 candidates from Uttar Pradesh and four from Gujarat.

United Progressive Alliance chairman Sonia Gandhi to contest from Rae Bareli and Congress president Rahul Gandhi to contest from Amethi. -- ANI
21:06   IAF in 'high-state of preparedness' to deal with 'threat from Pak'
The Indian Air Force on Thursday said it was in a high state of preparedness to pro-actively engage any perceived threat from Pakistan, in clear indication that underlying tension between the two countries remained.

Citing a document of Pakistan's civil aviation authority, the IAF said the neighbouring country has opened its airspace with Oman, Iran, Afghanistan and China only and the 11 entry and exit points located along Indo-Pak airspace were still closed.

"The Indian Air Force is in a high state of preparedness, to pro-actively engage any perceived threat in the present security scenario," the IAF said in a statement.

It said a strict vigil in the skies to detect and thwart any act of aggression from Pakistan Air Force is being maintained.

Officials said all the frontline IAF bases along India's western border have been kept on maximum alert.  -- PTI
21:04   US will no longer report drone-strike deaths in countries like Pakistan
President Donald Trump has revoked an Obama-era policy that required the United States government publish an annual report on the number of civilians killed in drone strikes on high-value terrorists in countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia.

The 2016 executive order was brought in by then-President Barack Obama, who was under pressure to be more transparent on drone strikes carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Since the 9/11 Al Qaeda terror attack, drone strikes have been increasingly used against terror and military targets.

The Trump administration said the 2016 rule was 'superfluous' and distracting.

The order applied to the CIA, which has been carrying out drone strikes in countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia.

The CIA-operated drone strikes in Pakistan have killed top terrorists like Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansoor in 2016, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Baitullah Mehsud in 2009 and Hakimullah Mehsud, TTP chief, in 2013.

Khalid Mehsud, the TTP deputy chief was killed in a US drone strike in 2018 Pakistan's North Waziristan.  -- PTI
19:51   Pak takes control of JuD, FIF headquarters
Pakistan's Punjab government takes control of headquarters of banned Jamaat-ud-Dawah and Falah-e-Insaniat, it will also take control of JuD mosque and madrasa in Lahore's Chauburji tonight, ANI reports quoting sources.

Meanwhile, Pakistan on Thursday said it will 'soon' respond to a dossier handed over to it by India on 'specific details' of involvement of the Jaish-e-Mohammad in the deadly Pulwama terror attack as also the presence of camps of the United Nations-proscribed terror outfit in the country.

"It's being evaluated and a response would be given soon," Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Mohammad Faisal told reporters in Islamabad.

The JeM had taken the responsibility of the attack in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district on February 14.

Tensions between India and Pakistan flared up after the attack. India launched a counter-terror operation in Balakot on February 26.

The next day, Pakistan Air Force retaliated and downed a MiG-21 in an aerial combat and captured its pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was handed over to India on March 1.

Responding to questions during his weekly media briefing, Faisal claimed Pakistan 'defeated India militarily, diplomatically and politically in the ongoing border row, which has de-escalated over the past few days'.

"Our desire is peace but when we talk it is considered weakness," he added.

On the Kartarpur corridor, Faisal said it was a project initiated by Prime Minister Imran Khan and Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, for which a Pakistani delegation will be visiting India on March 14.

He said India first suggested that meeting be held in New Delhi, which Pakistan accepted, however, the venue was later changed to Attari.

"Pakistan again agreed with Indian suggestion and if circumstances are not changed until March 14, then the Pakistani delegation will visit India," he said.

India and Pakistan agreed to open up a special border crossing linking Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan's Kartarpur - the final resting place of Sikh faith's founder Guru Nanak Dev -- to Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India's Gurdaspur district to facilitate visa-free visit of Indian Sikh pilgrims to Kartarpur.  -- PTI
19:27   A 'majboot' government put metro rail on fast track: Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday metro connectivity in the country has expanded by 400 km since 2014 when a 'strong' government took charge at the Centre.

He said work on 800 km of metro lines is currently in progress in different parts of the country, adding projects of rapid transport system have created employment opportunities.

The PM said it was the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government which conceived the metro rail project to deal with traffic woes in cities.

He was addressing a gathering via video conferencing after inaugurating the 13.5 km first phase of Nagpur Metro connecting Khapri-Sitaburdi areas in the city.

"After a new government (led by the Congress) took over (in 2004), it could build only 250 km of metro network (till 2014). But since 2014, the connectivity has increased to 650 km and work is in progress on another 800 km," the prime minister said.

He said, "Since you replaced a 'majboor' (helpless) government with a 'majboot' (strong) one, metro connectivity rose from 250 km to 650 km, an increase of 400 km in a short span of time."

"Work on 800 km metro lines is in progress in different parts of the country, including Mumbai, Thane and Pune," he said.

Modi recalled he had laid the foundation stone of Nagpur Metro in 2014 and was happy to launch its first phase. The Nagpur Metro is a green rail system since it is pollution free and will ease traffic woes and reduce people's dependence on smaller vehicles, Modi said.

He said Nagpur was among the fast developing cities in world, where there is a vast scope for trade, industrial development and investment.

"The population of Nagpur will double by 2050 and the state and central governments are working to modernise the traffic system in the city to meet future needs," he said.

Metro projects have also boosted employment opportunities, he said, adding during its construction, the Nagpur Metro created 20,000 jobs.

He said his government has put in place a policy to expand the metro network in the country and position it as a viable public transport system.

Speaking about the national common mobility card, Modi said the card was an indigenously developed payment system for transport for use anywhere in the country.

The RuPay card, Bhim app and common mobility card have upgraded digital infrastructure in the country, he said.  -- PTI
19:06   Army chief asks troops to remain prepared to deal with any situation
Army Chief General Bipin Rawat has directed army personnel deployed along the border with Pakistan to remain prepared for all eventualities in close coordination with the Indian Air Force, officials said.

Gen Rawat issued the direction after visiting the forward locations along the LoC and international border in Jammu and Kashmir and several border posts in Rajasthan.

During the visit, the Army chief was briefed on the prevailing security scenario and preparedness of the formations to deal with any eventualities.

"The Army chief expressed his complete confidence in the capabilities of the Indian Army to thwart any nefarious design of Pakistan," the Army said.

'He praised high state of morale of troops and instructed them to remain prepared for all eventualities in close coordination with the Air Force,' it said in a statement.

In Rajasthan, Gen Rawat visited forward locations like Barmer and Suratgarh to review the operational deployment.

Tensions between the two countries escalated after Indian fighters bombed terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed's biggest training camp near Balakot deep inside Pakistan on February 26.

Pakistan retaliated by attempting to target Indian military installations on February 27. However, the IAF thwarted their plans.

The Indian strike on the JeM camp came 12 days after the terror outfit claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on a Central Reserve Police Force convoy in Pulwama.  -- PTI
18:49   Indiscipline not to be tolerated: UP CM on clash of lawmakers
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Thursday said indiscipline will not be tolerated in the party, a day after two elected representatives of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party came to blows during an official meeting.

The fight, caught on tape, took place during a meeting at the district collectorate in Sant Kabir Nagar in the presence of minister in charge of the district, Ashutosh Tandon.

Speaking at a programme in Lucknow, Adityanath said, "The BJP is a disciplined party. Indiscipline will not be tolerated. In this particular case, strict action will be taken against the guilty."

Sant Kabir Nagar MP Sharad Tripathi and Mehdawal MLA Rakesh Baghel got into an argument at the meeting over taking credit for a newly laid road.

After a brief exchange of words, the MP got up from his seat and began thrashing the MLA with his shoe, as television cameras recorded the episode.

The MLA reacted, landing a few blows on Tripathi. The incident had left the party red-faced.

Meanwhile, the UP CM exuded confidence that the BJP will win over 74 seats in the northern state, including Amethi and Azamgarh.   -- PTI
18:08   SC to decide tomorrow whether to refer Ayodhya dispute for mediation
The Supreme Court is scheduled to pronounce order on Friday on whether to refer Ayodhya's Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case for mediation for amicable settlement.

A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi on Wednesday had reserved the order after hearing various contesting parties.

Hindu bodies except Nirmohi Akhara have opposed the suggestion of the apex court to refer the issue for mediation, while Muslim bodies have supported it.  -- PTI
17:59   Prove your words have weight: Omar to PM after assault on Kashmiris in UP
National Conference vice president Omar Abdullah Thursday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to prove that his words have heft and are implemented on the ground following an assault on two Kashmiris in Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh. He said Lucknow-like incidents hurt the idea of India. 

Two Kashmiris selling dry fruit were thrashed by a group of saffron-clad men in Lucknow Wednesday evening, following which four persons have been arrested. 

"What message do they (attackers) want to convey? What do they want to tell us? That this state is theirs but not its people, that Kashmir will remain part of India, but not Kashmiris? When accession (with the Union) took place, it was not only about land, but its people as well. 

"You own the land, but not its people, then how do you even think that the people here will say yes they are your integral part. Just owning the land is not enough, you have to own the people here," Abdullah said. 

 He was addressing a function in Sringagar where former PDP MLA Mohammad Shafi Wani joined the National Conference. Referring to prime minister's speech in the Tonk area of Rajasthan last month where he asserted that "our fight is for Kashmir, not against Kashmiris", Abdullah said either his words were not being implemented or they were just a "jumla". "You (PM) have to prove whether your words have weight or not, you have to prove that when you talk as the PM of this country, your words are implemented or not, you have to prove that the political structure you have grown up in, learnt politics from and, to some extent, lead, whether you have your say or not in that structure," the former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister said. -- PTI

Image: Former J-K CM Omar Abdullah along with senior party leaders during a function in Srinagar. Pic: Umar Ganie 
17:50   Revealed: The BJP's poll blitzkrieg in Tamil Nadu
The BJP will soon be unleashing its poll blitzkrieg in Tamil Nadu. The party has roped in chief ministers from 14 states to hold mega rallies in Tamil Nadu. Also on the cards is a road show by UP CM Yogi Adityanath, ostensibly summoned to counter the DMK's atheist policies. And of course, there will be rallies by PM Narendra Modi. 

Between March 24 and April 10, the BJP will hold at least 25 rallies in Tamil Nadu for its alliance partner in the state, the ruling AIADMK. 

Apart from the 14 CMs of BJP ruled states, around 35 Union ministers are also expected to attend the public meetings in Tamil Nadu. 

The Special Protection Group has already sanitised all the venues where the PM will address rallies. The exact venues will be announced after consultations with allies.  

Following is the number of rallies held by each leader. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi: 6
BJP President Amit Shah: 6
UP CM Yogi Adityanath: 6
LK Advani: 2
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani: 4
Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis: 2 

Union minister Piyush Goyal has written to BJP chief ministers to mark in dates for Tamil Nadu, while BJP General Secrerary Bhupendra Yadav is coordinating these rallies assisted by Muralidhar Rao observer of Tamil Nadu. 

This massive grouping of resources by the BJP indicates that Modi is likely to take on the DMK head on espcially after the DMK's 'Modi go back chants', the last time the PM was in the state. 

Tamil Nadu has 39 Lok Sabha seats, while Pondicherry has 1. 
17:11   Jammu grenade attacker arrested: DGP
The person who threw the grenade at Jammu bus stand earlier today has been arrested, says Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Police Dilbagh Singh.

A teenager was killed and 32 others were injured in the grenade attack at the crowded general bus stand area in the heart of Jammu, officials said.

This is the third grenade attack by terrorists in Jammu bus stand since May last year, viewed by security agencies as an attempt to disturb communal harmony and peace in the city.

More details awaited.  -- ANI/PTI
17:00   Jaish terrorist from Pak killed in Kupwara encounter
A Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorist from Pakistan was killed in an encounter with security forces in Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday, police said.

Security forces launched a cordon-and-search operation in the Kralgund area of Handwara in the north Kashmir district late Wednesday night following information about the presence of some terrorists in the area, a police official said.

He said the cordon was maintained during the night and contact was established with them in the morning after the forces zeroed in on the location.

There was an exchange of fire between the two sides, in which one terrorist was killed, the official said.

He said the slain terrorist was identified as a Pakistani national, known as Anwar, who was affiliated to the JeM.

Incriminating materials, including arms and ammunition, were recovered from the site of the encounter, he added.  -- PTI

IMAGE: Soldiers take position during an encounter in Handwara, Kupwara on Thursday. Photograph: Umar Ganie for
16:37   UN rejects Hafiz Saeed's plea for removal from list of banned terrorists
In a significant development, the United Nations has rejected an appeal of JuD chief Hafiz Saeed, the 2008 Mumbai terror attack mastermind, to remove his name from its list of banned terrorists, government sources said on Thursday. Notably, the decision comes at a time when UN's 1267 Sanctions Committee has received a new request to ban Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar after the Pulwama terror attack in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed. Pakistan-based JeM has claimed responsibility for the strike. 

The UN decision to reject the appeal of Saeed, also a co-founder of terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), came after India provided detailed evidence including "highly confidential information" about his activities, sources told PTI, adding that the verdict of the global body was conveyed to his lawyer Haider Rasul Mirza earlier this week. 

Saeed, chief of UN-designated terrorist organisation Jammat--ud-Dawa, was banned on December 10, 2008 by the United Nations Security Council after the horrific Mumbai attacks in which 166 people were killed. 

Saeed had filed an appeal with the UN through Lahore-based law firm Mirza and Mirza in 2017, while he was still under house arrest in Pakistan, for removal of the ban. 

Independent Ombudsperson Daniel Kipfer Fasciati, appointed by the UN to examine all such requests, has informed Saeed's lawyer that it has been decided following examination of his request that that he will "continue as a listed individual", sources said. 

The Ombudsperson recommended that after gathering all information, it has been decided to continue with the ban as "there was sufficient information to provide a reasonable and credible basis for continuing the listing," sources said, adding the recommendation was endorsed by the UN's Sanctions Committee. 

Saeed's request was opposed by India as well as other countries that had originally listed him - US, UK and France, sources said. Significantly, Pakistan did not oppose the appeal despite claims by the new Imran Khan-led government there that it was taking action against the banned terrorists and their organisations in what they call a 'Naya Pakistan' (new Pakistan).  -- PTI
16:17   Rahul should be ashamed of seeking air strike proof: Shah
BJP president Amit Shah Thursday said Congress chief Rahul Gandhi should feel ashamed of asking for proof of India's air strike on a terror camp in Pakistan. People will give Gandhi a reply for (saying) it during the ensuing Lok Sabha polls, the BJP leader said.

Addressing the party's booth-level workers at Bamora near Sagar town in Madhya Pradesh, Shah said an IAF official at a press conference asserted that the IAF had hit terror targets. Even after this conclusive statement, Gandhi is insulting thousands of martyrs of India by asking for evidence of the air strike, Shah said. 

The IAF conducted air strike last month on a camp of Jaish-e-Mohammed in Pakistan, in retaliation to the terror outfit's attack at Pulwama district in Jammu and Kashmir in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed. 

Shah lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his work and untiring attitude. "Earlier "only two countries" were known for avenging attack on their forces. Modiji has now ensured India's name is also counted among such countries," he said. In the last 25 years, Modi has not taken a single vacation, Shah said. 

He targeted Gandhi for "going on vacations frequently." The country has got a prime minister who works for 18 out of 24 hours a day and is very dedicated towards the nation, the BJP chief said. "What the Modi government has done in 55 months of rule, the Congress was unable to do in 55 years with Gandhi family's four generations ruling the country," he said. -- PTI
Hyderabad: According to police, one toddler has died, 16 toddlers fell ill after they were administered vaccination at the Urban Health Centre located in Nampally, today. 
15:42   1 dead in grenade blast in Jammu bus stand
One person injured in grenade explosion at Jammu bus-stand succumbs to injuries. Suspected terrorists Thursday carried out a grenade attack in the crowded general bus stand area in the heart of Jammu city, injuring 28 persons, three among them critically, officials said. This is the third grenade attack by terrorists in Jammu bus stand since May last year, viewed by security agencies as an attempt to disturb communal harmony and peace in the city. 

"So far 28 persons were brought with splinter injuries. Three are critical, of whom two are being operated," Principal, Government Medical College hospital, Sunanda Raina told PTI.  

Inspector General of Police, Jammu, M K Sinha said preliminary investigation suggested that someone lobbed the grenade in the bus stand area around noon, causing the explosion. The scene of the blast along B C Road was sealed off by police and a massive hunt has been launched to nab the grenade thrower, Sinha, who immediately rushed to the scene to take stock of the situation, told reporters.  

A parked bus of the state road transport corporation suffered extensive damage in the blast which caused panic among the people.  

"Whenever there is heightened state of alert, we strengthen checking and frisking but there is always a possibility of someone slipping through and this one seems to be a case like that," the IGP said.  

"Obviously the intention is always to disturb the communal harmony and peace," he said and requested the people to maintain calm. The IGP said the police is collecting the evidence and "we are sure to hunt him down (the attacker)." Immediately after the explosion, people ran to safety and later as the situation returned to normal evacuated the injured to the hospital. 

Image: Some of the injured at the Government Medical College hospital, Jammu. 
14:46   JKLF Chief Yasin Malik booked under PSA, being shifted to Jammu jail
Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chief Yasin Malik has been booked under the Public Safety Act, said a party spokesman on Thursday. "Malik sahab has been booked under the draconian law, Public Safety Act. He is being shifted to Kot Balwal jail in Jammu," he said. JKLF strongly condemns this "arbitrary arrest' and use of PSA against a political leader, he added.

Malik, who was detained on February 22, was lodged at Kothibagh police station.

Earlier, the National Investigation Agency had also conducted raids at the residence of Malik on February 26. In the aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack which claimed lives of 40 CRPF soldiers on February 14, Jammu and Kashmir government withdrew security cover of several separatists including Malik, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Shabir Shah and Saleem Geelani. -- ANI

File pic: Yasin Malik
14:33   Rahul Gandhi to address public rally in Tripura on March 20
Congress president Rahul Gandhi is set to visit Tripura on March 20 to kick off the party's Lok Sabha poll campaign with a public rally. A senior leader in the party said preparations were afoot to welcome the Gandhi scion.
14:31   Prannoy Roy's book, The Verdict' is out
NDTV executive editor, Nidhi Razdan (holding the book), tweets this picture with her colleagues and the channel's co-founder Prannoy Roy, (peeking cheekily behind his team), saying, "Its here ! The "launch" of @PrannoyRoyNDTVs book The Verdict. Order here (the Amazon link)." 

The book co-authored with psephologist  Dorab Sopariwalla, talks about the Indian elections. The Amazon description of the book says: "What are the key factors that win or lose elections in India.  What does, or does not, make India's democracy tick? Is this the end of anti-incumbency? Are opinion polls and exit polls reliable? How pervasive is the 'fear factor'? Does the Indian woman's vote matter? Does the selection of candidates impact results? Are elections becoming more democratic or less so? Can electronic voting machines (EVMs) be fiddled with? Can Indian elections be called 'a jugaad system'?Published on the eve of India's next general elections, The Verdict will use rigorous psephology, original research and as-yet-undisclosed facts to talk about the entire span of India's electoral history from the first elections in 1952. Crucially, for 2019, it provides pointers to look out for, to see if the incumbent government will win or lose. Written by Prannoy Roy, renowned for his knack of demystifying electoral politics, and Dorab R. Sopariwala, this book will be compulsory reading for anyone interested in politics and elections in India."
The book is priced at Rs 419. 

The image tweeted by Nidhi Razdan is the key to the way India's most respected news channel is run with the boss taking a step back and allowing his team to shine. 
14:19   Gender pay gap still high, women in India earn 19% less than men: Report
Gender pay gap is still high in India, as women in the country earn 19 per cent less than men, and wage inequalities in favour of men are present in all the relevant sectors, a survey said Thursday. 

According to the latest Monster Salary Index, the current gender pay gap in India stood at 19 per cent where men earned Rs 46.19 more in comparison to women. 

The median gross hourly salary for men in India in 2018 stood at Rs 242.49, while for women it stood at around Rs 196.3. According to the survey, the gender pay gap spans across key industries. 

IT/ITES services showed a sharp pay gap of 26 per cent in favour of men, while in the manufacturing sector, men earn 24 per cent more than women. Surprisingly, even in sectors like healthcare, caring services, and social work, men earn 21 per cent more than women, even as notionally these sectors are more identified with women, the survey said. 

Financial services, banking and insurance is the only industry where men earn just 2 per cent more, it added. According to the report, gender pay gap widens with the years of experience. In the initial years, the gender pay gap is moderate but rises significantly as the tenure increases. 

For those with over 10 years of experience, the gender pay gap in favour of men reaches the peak, with men earning 15 per cent more than women. In 2018, the gap has narrowed only by one per cent from 20 per cent in 2017. -- PTI
13:29   Attempt to use Official Secrets Act against media reprehensible: Editors Guild
The Editors Guild of India on Thursday "unequivocally' condemned the Attorney General's remarks before the Supreme Court pertaining to the documents based on which the media had reported on the Rafale deal, saying any attempt to use the Official Secrets Act against the media is as "reprehensible" as asking journalists to disclose their sources. 

The Guild, in a statement, also denounced "threats' against the media in the matter and urged the government to refrain from initiating any action that might undermine the media's freedom and independence. 

"The Editors Guild of India unequivocally condemns the Attorney General's comments before the Supreme Court pertaining to documents based on which the media, including The Hindu, had reported on the Rafale deal,' the statement said. 

Attorney General K K Venugopal on Wednesday sought dismissal of a petition for a review of the apex court's earlier judgment on allegations over the Rafale deal on the ground that the fresh petition had relied on documents that were "stolen' from the defence ministry and that investigations were going on to find out if it was a crime and violative of the Official Secrets Act, it said. 

"Although the Attorney General later clarified that the investigation and contemplated action would not be initiated against journalists or lawyers who used these documents, the Guild is perturbed over such threats,' the statement said. These will intimidate the media in general and curb its freedom to report and comment on the Rafale deal in particular, the Guild said. 

"Any attempt to use the Official Secrets Act against the media is as reprehensible as asking the journalists to disclose their sources," it said. 

"The Guild denounces these threats and urges the government to refrain from initiating any action that might undermine the media's freedom and independence,' the statement said. Congress president Rahul Gandhi has been attacking Modi over the Rafale deal, alleging corruption and favourtism. The government has denied the charges. -- PTI
13:22   18 injured in grenade attack in Jammu bus stand
Update: At least 18 people were injured Thursday in a grenade attack by suspected terrorists at the crowded general bus stand in the heart of the city, a senior police officer said. This is the third grenade attack by terrorists in the bus stand area of the city since May last year. 

The scene of the blast along the BC Road was sealed off by police and a massive hunt has been launched to nab the grenade thrower, Inspector General of Police, Jammu, M K Sinha said. Sinha, who immediately rushed to the scene to take stock of the situation, said preliminary investigation suggests that someone lobbed the grenade, causing injuries to 18 people who were evacuated to the Government Medical College hospital. 

Windscreens of a parked state road transport corporation bus were damaged in the blast, a police official said, adding condition of one of the injured was stated to be "critical". -- PTI

Image: MK Sinha, IGP Jammu: It was a grenade explosion, it has caused injuries to approximately 18 people, all shifted to hospital. Pic: ANI
12:28   Grenade attack at bus stand in Jammu, several injured
Just in: There's been a grenade attack at the main bus stand in Jammu leaving a several people injured, police said. The injured have been admitted to hospital and believed to be out of danger. The area has been cordoned off by security personnel. Eyewitnesses say there was a loud noise, similar to a tyre being burst, and at least 10 to 12 people were injured. Police officials said not more eight people were injured. Details awaited. 

Image: Police at the site of the terror attack at the bus stand in Jammu. Pic: ANI
11:58   Encounter breaks out in J&K's Kupwara
Well, the uneasy calm we just mentioned in Kashmir has been broken. 

An encounter broke out between militants and security forces in Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir, police said on Thursday. The security forces launched a cordon and search operation in the Kralgund area of Handwara in north Kashmir district late Wednesday night following information about the presence of militants in there, a police official said. 

He said the cordon was maintained during the night and the forces zeroed in on the location of the militants in the morning. There was a brief exchange of fire between the two sides, the official said. He said a search operation is going on in the area. Further details are awaited.  -- PTI
11:51   Def min calls off scheduled visit to Jammu, uneasy calm in Kashmir
An uneasy calm prevailed along the Line of Control (LoC) in the twin districts of Poonch and Rajouri in Jammu and Kashmir with no report of ceasefire violation by Pakistan over the past 20 hours, officials said on Thursday. 

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman called off her scheduled visit to Jammu province on Thursday to review the situation along the borders in the wake of intense shelling over the past nine days besides inaugurating two vital bridges in Samba and Akhnoor sectors, they said.

A defence spokesman said there was no report of ceasefire violation by Pakistan anywhere along the LoC in Jammu province, especially in the worst-hit Rajouri and Poonch districts since Wednesday afternoon. 

Pakistan had used artillery guns and long-range mortars to target civilian areas in the two districts, prompting strong and effective retaliation by the Army. 

The cross-border skirmishes between the two sides had caused panic among the border residents. "The Army remains on high alert all along the LoC and the International Border and is keeping a close watch on the situation," the spokesman said. 

There has been a spurt in ceasefire violations by Pakistan after India's preemptive air strike on a Jaish-e-Mohammad terror camp in Balakot on February 26 following the February 14 suicide bombing in Pulwama in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed. 

Four civilians, including three members of a family, were killed and several others injured as Pakistan targeted over 80 villages in over 100 incidents of ceasefire violations along the LoC in the state last week. 

On Wednesday, the Indian Army issued a stern warning to Pakistan against targeting civilians along the LoC, saying any further provocation or misadventure by it will have "dire consequences". 

The warning came after Pakistan targeted forward posts in Nowshera sector of Rajouri with 155 mm artillery guns which was retaliated by the Indian Army with Bofors guns. The spokesman said the visit of the defence minister to Samba and Akhnoor sectors for inauguration of Bein bridge and Dhok bridge has been called off.
11:20   1 arrested for thrashing Kashmiri street vendor in Lucknow
Lucknow police have arrested one person for thrashing two Kashmiri dry fruit vendors in the city yesterday. A video of the incident which occurred in the Daliganj area of Lucknow that surfaced online and has been shared widely shows some men dressed in saffron kurtas beating a vendor with a stick. After receiving a few blows the man manages to free himself from the attackers. Another vendor is seen collecting his things while being slapped and hit by one of the men. 

Taking cognizance of the incident, Lucknow police has arrested a man seen in the viral video. Kalanidhi Naithani, SSP said, "The culprit Bajrang Sonkar has been arrested by Police. Sonkar has criminal background and has 12 cases including a murder case against him."

Meanwhile, former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah also tweeted about the incident and demanded action in the matter."Dear PM @narendramodi Sahib, this is what you had spoken against and yet it continues unabated. This is the state governed by your handpicked Chief Minister. Can we expect action in this case or do we file your concern and assurances as a jumla, meant to placate but nothing more?" wrote Abdullah. -- ANI
11:14   Pak used Jaish to carry out attacks in India during my tenure: Musharraf
Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has admitted that Jaish-e-Mohammad is a terror organisation and claimed that Pakistani intelligence had used the outfit to carry out suicide attacks in India during his tenure.

In a telephonic interview with Pakistani journalist Nadeem Malik of Hum News on March 5, Musharraf welcomed the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government's move of taking action against JeM and blamed the terror outfit for carrying out a suicide attack on him at Jhanda Chichi in Rawalpindi in 2003 when he was Pakistan's president.

"I have always said that JeM is a terror organisation and they tried to assassinate me in a suicide attack at Jhanda Chichi in Rawalpindi in 2003. The suicide bomber pressed a button a few seconds late and I had crossed the bridge by that time. Action should be taken against them (JeM). I am happy that the government is taking a tough stand against them," said Musharraf, who served as Pakistan's president from 2001 to 2008.

Facing mounting international pressure, the Pakistan government on Tuesday said that 44 activists of various outfits, including Azhar's brother Mufti Abdur Rauf and son Hamza Azhar, have been taken into "preventive detention" as part of a crackdown on terror groups.

Asked why he himself had not taken any action against the Masood Azhar-led outfit when he was in power, Musharraf acknowledged that he should have done so while claiming that "those were different times."

"Our intelligence was involved in a tit-for-tat between India and Pakistan. They were carrying out bomb blasts in Pakistan and we were getting it done there (in India). This was going on and amidst this, no action was taken against JeM. I also did not insist on taking action," he said.

Musharraf's statement is contradictory to what the Pakistan Army had said, claiming that JeM "does not exist" in the country."Jaish-e-Mohammad does not exist in Pakistan. It has been proscribed by the United Nations and Pakistan," Major General Asif Ghafoor, the Pakistani Army's spokesperson, told CNN on Wednesday.

Earlier this week, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had said that the Imran Khan-led government had contacted the Jaish leadership after the Pulwama terror attack and it had denied responsibility. He had also admitted that Azhar was in Pakistan and is "very unwell."

"He (Azhar) is in Pakistan. According to my information, he is very unwell. He's unwell to the extent that he cannot leave his house because he is really unwell. So, that's the information I have, Qureshi told CNN in an interview.There has been intense global pressure against Pakistan to stop supporting terrorists and terror outfits after India mounted a diplomatic campaign in this regard. -- PTI
10:49   118-year-old woman gets a pacemaker
In Punjab, Kartar Kaur Sangha, believed to be 118 years old (or so the family claims) was operated upon successfully and a pacemaker was implanted, at a hospital in Ludhiana. Dr Ravninder Singh says, "I saw her brother's (born in 1903) record and her daughter is 90. I found 2-3 records corroborating her age. To operate at this age was a challenge, but she is doing fine. We have applied to the Guinness Book of World Records and the Limca Book of Records."
10:39   I have an opinion, but I'll keep it to myself: Alia on Kangana
After Kangana Ranaut slammed Alia Bhatt for not speaking over contemporary issues, the actor said while she respects the "Queen" star for voicing her opinions, she would like to keep hers private. Kangana had called Alia and her "Gully Boy" co-star Ranveer Singh's comments of being apolitical "irresponsible" and lashed out at the duo for refusing to speak on politics. 

Asked about Kangana's comments, Alia told reporters, "I definitely don't have the ability to speak as candidly as Kangana does, and I really do respect her for that and maybe in a way she is right, sometimes we do hold back."

"My dad also says that there are already so many opinions in the world that it can do with one less opinion. So, I have an opinion but I'll keep it to myself. But, kudos to her as she genuinely speaks really well," she added. 

Alia was speaking at the fourth edition of 'Outlook Business Women of Worth' on Wednesday night. The actor recently turned producer and launched the banner, Eternal Sunshine Productions. "I am somebody who loves being an actor, I love acting. But in life I want to do so much more. I want to produce films, I won't ever direct though. I want to work on social causes. I can do so much more with my life, this is just a beginning."

Alia will next be seen in "Brahmastra" and "Kalank", both the films' journey she described as "beautiful."
10:17   Modi is the poster boy of Pakistan: Rahul
Congress president Rahul Gandhi holds a press briefing and primarily speaks about the Rafale deal.  Excerpts...

-- Investigate everybody, investigate prime minister as well in Rafale deal. 

-- In defence ministry files it is written that PMO carried out parallel negotiations in Rafale deal, why can't PM be investigated?

-- The  Rafale files disappeared like jobs for 2 crore youths, right price for farmers' produce and promise to give Rs 15 lakh. 

-- Yes, of course take action on those involved in this missing documents case but also initiate an inquiry on PMO making parallel negotiations. 

-- On one hand you are saying the documents are missing, so this means the documents are genuine and its clearly written in them that PMO was carrying out parallel negotiations. 

-- PM Modi performed bypass surgery in the Rafale deal, purchase delayed to benefit Anil Ambani. 

-- Media warned of probe in Rafale deal but no probe against those involved in scam, govt manipulating institutions to save PM Modi. 

-- Rafale files disappeared, it was said that an investigation should be conducted against you (media) because Rafale files disappeared; but the person who was involved in Rs 30,000 crore scam, no investigation against him? 

-- On the 2019 polls: Overall our alliances are on track, in Delhi the party unit unanimously said no to an alliance.  

-- Balakot air strike: I won't talk much about it (evidence of IAF strikes), but yes I read that families of some of the CRPF personnel who were martyred have raised this issue, they are saying we were hurt so please show us what happened.

-- Modi got ISI to probe Pathankot attack, invited then Pak PM Nawaz Sharif for his swearing-in. He not us is poster boy of Pakistan. 

09:10   Hardik Patel likely to join Congress on March 12
Patidar leader Hardik Patel is said to join the Congress soon and is likely to contest the Lok Sabha election from Jamnagar constituency in Gujarat, top party sources said.

"Patel, who led the agitation demanding reservation for the Patidar community in Gujarat is likely to join the Congress on March 12 in the presence of party chief Rahul Gandhi," the sources said.

The Jamnagar Lok Sabha seat is currently represented by Poonamben Maadam of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Patel's joining will coincide with the Congress Working Committee meeting in Ahmedabad, following which top party leaders will address a public rally there.

The Congress is focusing on Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and had given a tough fight to the ruling BJP in the last assembly polls in the state.
08:45   2 Kashmiri dry fruit sellers thrashed in Lucknow, attackers make video
Two Kashmiri men selling dry fruits on a roadside were assaulted by members dressed in saffron robes in Lucknow on Wednesday. 

The two men were abused, slapped and beaten with a stick because of their identity and were rescued by some locals. The locals also called the police. 

A video of the incident, which took place in Daliganj area, has gone viral on social media sites. The Lucknow Police nabbed one of the attackers, Bajrang Sonkar, late Wednesday night. Meanwhile, the second perpetrator, Amar Mishra, who is also seen in the video clip is on the run.

When the two attackers were asked why they were beating up the Kashmiri men, they replied that they were Kashmiris. The Kashmiri men were also asked to produce Aadhar cards, but that did not stop the assault. 

Kashmiris have also been attacked in other parts of the country in the aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack, in which a local youth rammed an explosive-laden car into a CRPF convoy, leading to the death of 40 soldiers. The attacker, Adil Ahmad Dar, was affiliated to Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed.
08:34   1 terrorist killed by security forces in Handwara in J-K
One terrorist was killed in an exchange of fire between terrorists and security forces in Handwara in Jammu and Kashmir, officials said on Thursday.

Another terrorist is believed to be trapped in the joint operation of security forces that is continuing in Handwara.

A search operation is underway.

Meanwhile, internet services have been snapped in the Valley.

Details are awaited.

-- ANI
08:08   Pakistan identifies pilots who shot down 2 IAF fighter jets
For the first time, Pakistan identified its two fighter pilots who were involved in an aerial combat with the Indian Air Force jets as Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told Pakistani parliament that two Indian planes were shot down by them.

Tensions between India and Pakistan flared up after a suicide bomber of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed killed 40 CRPF personnel in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district on February 14.

India launched a counter-terror operation in Balakot on February 26. The next day, Pakistan Air Force retaliated and downed a MiG-21 in an aerial combat and captured its pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was handed over to India on March 1.

Lauding the PAF pilots in the National Assembly, Qureshi said, "Pakistan Air Force shot down two Indian aircraft violating the Pakistani airspace. One Indian jet was shot down by Squadron Leader Hassan Siddiqui while other was downed by Wing Commander Nauman Ali Khan."

Qureshi officially identified Wing Commander Nauman Ali Khan as the Pakistan Air Force pilot who shot down the second Indian fighter jet in the dogfight last week, Dawn news reported.

Pakistani military on February 27 claimed that two Indian IAF were hit. One plane crashed in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir while the other fell in Jammu and Kashmir after being hit.

India has maintained that Pakistan downed a MiG-21 aircraft of the IAF while Indian Air Force shot down an F-16 jet of the PAF during the dogfight.

The Pakistani foreign minister made the statement after Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, during his speech, praised Squadron Leader Siddiqui for downing the IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman's MiG-21 jet on February 27.

"One clarification: Bilawal paid tribute to Hassan Siddiqui as he's absolutely a national hero," Qureshi said.

"But I would like to clarify that two Indian planes were shot down. The other one was shot down by Wg Cdr Nauman Ali Khan," he added, asking that the second pilot also be given due credit.

-- PTI
00:12   Pak used artillery guns to shell areas along LoC in J&K
The Pakistan army on Wednesday targeted several forward posts and villages along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir's Rajouri and Poonch districts with artillery guns and small arms, officials said.

The intense shelling and firing from across the border continued throughout the night in Sunderbani sector of Rajouri district, while it started in Krishna Ghati sector of Poonch in the early hours of Wednesday, they said.

The officials said Pakistan also targeted areas in the Nowshera sector in Rajouri.

However, the firing and shelling from across the border stopped this afternoon in the Sunderbandi, Nowshera and Krishna Ghati sectors, they said.

The Indian army retaliated strongly and effectively to the Pakistani firing and there was no report of any casualty on the Indian side, though some structures, including residential houses and cow sheds, were damaged, the officials said.

The firing in the Krishna Ghati took place from 6 pm to 8.15 pm.

Firing in the Sunderbani sector started at 8.30 pm on Tuesday and ended around 4.30 am on Wednesday, the officials said.

They said the unprovoked ceasefire violation by Pakistan took place from 6 am to 8 am in the Mankote area of the Krishna Ghati sector.

Minutes later, they said Pakistan fired on areas in the Nowshera sector.

The shelling lasted from 10.30 am to 12.30 pm on Wednesday.

There was no fresh report of ceasefire violation by Pakistan from anywhere later in the day, the officials said.

There has been a spurt in ceasefire violations by Pakistan after India's preemptive air strike on a Jaish-e-Mohammad terror camp in Balakot on February 26 following the February 14 suicide bombing in Pulwama. -- PTI
00:09   Air India's Delhi-Frankfurt flight faces mid-air decompression
An Air India flight from Delhi to Frankfurt on Wednesday suffered a mid-air decompression and consequently it returned to the airport 'keeping safety of 220 passengers in mind', said the national carrier in a statement.

According to airline officials, the flight faced decompression at the height of approximately 20,000 feet around 15 minutes after taking off.

"Air India flight AI121 operating from Delhi to Frankfurt today faced an issue of decompression and keeping safety of the 220 passengers in mind, the flight had returned to Delhi. No passenger has suffered any injury," said the Air India spokesperson.

"The flight will now operate with a change of aircraft at 0600hrs on 7th March from Delhi. All passengers are safe and are being extended all assistance at Delhi. Air India is committed to maintaining highest standards of passenger comfort and safety," the spokesperson added.

The standard time of departure of AI121 Delhi-Frankfurt flight is 1.35 pm daily.

At a higher altitude, the air is extremely thin due to low atmospheric pressure and low oxygen content.

Therefore, an aircraft has to maintain an internal cabin pressure so that passengers do not face ill-effects on their health.  -- PTI