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LIVE! Cong seeks Goyal's resignation over Mumbai bridge collapse

March 14, 2019


23:41  Cong seeks Goyal's resignation over Mumbai bridge collapse:  
The Congress on Thursday held the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central and state governments responsible for the Mumbai bridge collapse, which has killed at least five people, saying they are 'criminally culpable' of inaction and also demanded the ouster of Railway Minister Piyush Goyal.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi offered condolences to the families of those killed in the incident and prayed for speedy recovery to the injured.

"I am saddened on hearing the news of the Mumbai foot overbridge collapse. I express my heartfelt condolences to the families of those who have died. I pray that injured get relief soon," he said in a Facebook post in Hindi.

Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said he was deeply saddened to learn about the Mumbai bridge collapse where several people are still reportedly trapped under the debris.

'Modi government and Maharashtra government are criminally culpable for inaction leading to repeat tragedies - 29/9/2017 - Elphistone Stampede. 3/7/2018 -- Andheri Bridge Collapse.

'Railway minister's tall claims of audit have failed time and again. Railway Minister Piyush Goyal must resign or be sacked,' he said on Twitter.

He offered condolences to the families of the victims and expressed hope that the administration will take swift action and provide urgent medical help to the injured.  -- PTI
23:04  CSMT bridge collapse: Rescue op over, NDRF team withdrawn:  
UPDATE: National Disaster Response Force team was withdrawn from the accident spot near Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Termimus at 10.34 pm after the completion of the rescue operation.

Five people have died and 36 have been injured in the incident where part of a foot over bridge near CSMT railway station collapsed in Mumbai earlier this evening.  -- ANI
22:20  
Mumbai CSMT foot overbridge collapse update:

The deceased people are identified as:

Zaheed, 32;
Apoorva Prabhu, 32;
Anjana Tambe, 48;
And 2 unknown.
22:10  Mumbai CSMT bridge collapse: CM orders high-level probe:  
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has said that he has 'ordered a high level inquiry' into the foot overbridge collapse incident.

"A structural audit of the bridge had earlier been done and it was found to be fit. Even after that if such incident happened, it raises question on the audit.

"Inquiry will be done. Strictest action will be taken," the CM said.

"Ex gratia of Rs 5 Lakh each will be given to the families of those who died in the incident and compensation of Rs 50,000 each will be given to the injured.

State govt will provide for the treatment of the injured," Fadnavis said.  -- ANI
21:48  PM, Fadnavis condole loss of lives in Mumbai CSMT bridge collapse:  
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, 'Deeply anguished by the loss of lives due to the foot overbridge accident in Mumbai. My thoughts are with the bereaved families.

'Wishing that the injured recover at the earliest. The Maharashtra Government is providing all possible assistance to those affected.'

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis tweeted, 'Pained to hear about the foot over bridge incident near TOI building in Mumbai.

'Spoke to BMC Commissioner and Mumbai Police officials and instructed to ensure speedy relief efforts in coordination with Railway Ministry officials.'

State minister Vinod Tawde said, "A slab of the bridge had collapsed. Railways and BMC will conduct an inquiry into its maintenance. The bridge wasn't in a bad condition, it required minor repairs for which work was underway.

"Why was it not closed until the work was completed, it'll also be probed."

"The state will provide for the treatment of the injured...We will give further update to you as and when we get information," he said.

Raj Purohit, Bharatiya Janata Party MLA said, "It's unfortunate, it shouldn't have happened. Action should be taken against the engineer who gave certificate to this bridge in auditing, he should be arrested. He should be punished."  -- ANI
21:34  UPDATE: The number of injured has risen to 36, including two with critical injuries, says Mumbai police.
21:28  Mumbai CSMT footbridge collapse: Toll rises to 5:  UPDATE: Disaster Management Unit of BMC updates the death toll in CSMT bridge collapse to five.
21:09  
Visuals from St Georges Hospital where some of the people injured in foot overbridge near Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus railway station collapse, have been taken.

Four people are dead and 34 people are injured in the accident. -- ANI
21:02  Footbridge at Mumbai CSMT crashes, 4 killed, toll likely to rise:  
UPDATE: Disaster Management Unit of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation says four people have died in the incident where part of a foot overbridge near Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus railway station collapsed.  -- ANI
20:52  Mumbai bridge collapse: 3 dead, 34 injured; toll likely to rise:  
UPDATE: Death toll rises to three in the Mumbai bridge collapse incident where a portion of foot over bridge near Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus railway station collapsed.

Over 34 people are injured in the incident.

The death toll is likely to rise.

Railway said the bridge was of BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation).

"However, we're extending all our supports to the victims. Railway doctors and personnel are cooperating with BMC in relief and rescue operations," it said.  -- ANI
20:31  2 dead, 23 injured as bridge collapses near Mumbai CSMT:  
UPDATE: Mumbai Police says two people have died and 23 people injured in foot over bridge collapse near Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj railway station, they have been shifted to hospital.

The National Disaster Response Force has said that 'as per the initial information 10-12 persons are feared to be trapped under the debris'.

"An NDRF team has been moved from Andheri center," it said.

in the foot over bridge collapse near CSMT in Mumbai.

One team from Regional Response Center (RRC) Mumbai has also been rushed to the spot.  -- ANI
20:00  Foot overbridge near Mumbai CSMT station collapses:  
JUST IN: A foot over bridge near Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) railway station in Mumbai collapses.

Multiple injuries reported.

Mumbai police tweeted, 'Foot overbridge connecting CSMT platform 1 north end with BT Lane near Times of India building has collapsed. Injured persons are being shifted to hospitals. Traffic affected. Commuters to use alternate routes. Senior officers are on spot.'

More details awaited.  -- ANI
19:45  Market top gainers today.
19:44  BSE Sensex today.
18:53  Modi surrendered to China on Masood Azhar: Omar Abdullah:  
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said the BJP cannot claim to have been tough on terror as Prime Minister Narendra Modi "surrendered" to China on Masood Azhar.
He also said the NDA government had given Pakistan a "big victory" by not conducting the assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir simultaneously with parliamentary polls.
"PM Modi surrendered to China on Azhar and surrendered to Pakistan & its proxies by delaying elections in J&K. How can the BJP claim to have been tough on internal security and tough against terror?" Omar, the vice-president of the NC, wrote on Twitter.
He targeted Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad over his remarks on Congress president Rahul Gandhi who had criticised the prime minister for being "scared" of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
"Mantri jee, your Government gave Pakistan a small victory when you postponed the Anantnag by-poll in 2017 and a big victory now that you've failed to conduct assembly elections. If anyone is giving Pakistan a reason to celebrate it isn't @RahulGandhi. Look closer to home sir," the former chief minister said.  
China on Thursday defended its fourth "technical hold" on the designation of Pakistan-based JeM chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist, saying the move would give it time for a "thorough and in-depth assessment" of the case and help the parties concerned to engage in more talks to find a "lasting solution" acceptable to all.

-- PTI
18:44  J-K: Political worker Mohd Ismail Wani shot at by terrorists:  
Political worker Mohd Ismail Wani was shot at by terrorists on Thursday.

Wani has been admitted to a hospital in Srinagar. More details are currently awaited.

National Conference leader Omar Abdullah took to Twitter and wrote, My JKNC colleague Mohd Ismail Wani, block President Bijbehara block in South Kashmir of has been shot and injured. He has been referred to Srinagar. Praying for his recovery.

-- ANI
18:41  Sting on BJP MPs:  
A Congress Rajya Sabha MP who owns a TV channel is planning a sting on three top BJP leaders and a union minister. The MP has asked the TV crew
and the editorial team to work overtime to expose the BJP. The sting will be telecast after the first week of April, as the first phase of the Lok Sabha polls nears. 

Wait and watch. 
18:33  Something is brewing with Saudi Arabia :  
We have been listening in to the political grapevine in South Block, Delhi and we hear that in the first week of April, a big political coup is likely to happen.

The clue lies in the visits of Saudi Arabia foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir to India. He has met FM Sushma Swaraj thrice in a fortnight and Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well. This happened after Saudi monarch Mohammed bin Salman's visit to India.

What is cooking in India's foreign policy, which has been lambasted by the opposition?  At the meetings with Saudi Arabia are Sushma Swaraj and NSA Ajit Doval.


The gossip is that a coup is in the offing and will happen in April. Watch this space.
18:19  Modi gears up for poll campaign :  Immediately after the Election Commission announced the dates of the Lok Sabha polls on Sunday, PM Narendra Modi reached out to 258 people, mostly from the fields of advertising and information technology appealing to them to vote. 


Modi has been prioritizing the planning for the 2019 Lok Sabha poll campaign and ideating on slogans, short videos of 30 to 60 seconds, and identifying locations for his rallies. He has had meetings with top BJP ministers on the way ahead to the polls and we hear that he wants to write blogs once a week. He will also be interacting with BJP karyakartas from the first week of April onwards through the Narendra Modi app and will be spending half an hour every day between 8 am and 8:30 am with them. 


All guns blazing. 
17:59  Vadakkan was in touch with BJP since February:  
Congress national spokesperson Tom Vadakkan jumping ship to join the BJP is a major setback for the party, especially since he is perceived to be a close confidante of of Sonia and Rajiv Gandhi and has been a Gandhi family loyalist for close to 30 years.

But Vadakkan's decision to abandon mother ship has been some time in making. 


Sources tell us he has been in touch with BJP leaders since February and finally made up his mind to quit the Congress yesterday. Nobody in the Congress got wind of his move till it was announced by union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad today. 


BJP chief Amit Shah made sure the news was broken to the Congress soon after the Congress Working Committee meeting ended in Ahmedabad for maximum impact. 

Vadakkan is likely to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Trissur in Kerala. 

The BJP is telling anyone willing to listen, 'ab picture toh baki hai' in other words, more sitting MPs of the Congress from West Bengal will be joining the BJP. 
17:22  Chargesheet filed against Mohd Shami for dowry, sexual harassment:  
A chargesheet has been filed against Indian cricketer Mohammed Shami, and he has been charged under IPC 498A (dowry harassment) and 354A (sexual harassment).

In March last year, Shamis wife Hasin Jahan had accused him of domestic violence and extra-marital affairs. The Bengal pacer had then been probed by the Board of Control for Cricket in India's anti-corruption officials after allegations were made by his estranged wife that he had taken money from Pakistani contacts.

But at the end of the investigations by the head of the BCCI anti-corruption unit Neeraj Kumar, the paceman was found not guilty.

Shami was part of the Indian squad that lost the five-match ODI series against Australia on Wednesday, March 13.
17:03  Manmohan Singh not as tough on terror as Modi: Sheila Dikshit:  In an interview with CNN News18, veteran Congress leader Sheila Dikshit says that former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was not as tough on Pakistan and terror as Narendra Modi is. 

The 80-year-old Congress leader's comment is expected to stir a row as parliamentary elections are just weeks away. 

Dikshit though, added that action taken by PM Modi was aimed at gaining political mileage. Dikshit earlier served as the chief minister of Delhi for three consecutive terms and is presently leading the Congress party in Delhi for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
16:40  IAF completes Abhinandan's debriefing, pilot to go on sick leave:  The debriefing of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman has been completed by the Indian Air Force and other agencies. The officer will be going on sick leave for a few weeks on the advice of doctors of the Army's Research and Referral Hospital. 


Varthaman was captured by Pakistani authorities on February 27 after an air combat between the air forces of the two countries, a day after New Delhi had conducted counter-terror operations in Pakistan's Balakot. He was handed over to Indian authorities at Attari-Wagah border on March 1. 


He was wearing a civilian clothes -- a dark jacket and khakhi trousers, walking proudly toward the gates that separated his captors' country from his homeland. "We are happy to have him back," said a top IAF officer shortly after Varthaman was handed over to Indian authorities.
16:27  Nehru original sinner, favoured China for UNSC seat: Jaitley:  Hitting back at the Congress, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Thursday said first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was the "original sinner" who favoured China over India for permanent membership into the United Nation Security Council. This comes within hours of Congress President Rahul Gandhi terming Prime Minister Narendra Modi as "weak" and "scared" of Chinese President Xi Jinping after Beijing blocked a UN resolution to designate JeM chief Masood Azhar a global terrorist.


"The original mistake, both on Kashmir and China, was committed by the same person," said Jaitley while quoting a letter written by Nehru to Chief Ministers on August 2, 1955. 



Jaitley, who heads the publicity committee of the BJP for the ensuing general elections, has quoted a part of the letter. "Pt. Nehru's infamous letter to Chief Ministers' dated August 2, 1955, states 'Informally, suggestions have been made by the United States that China should be taken into the United Nations but not in the Security Council, & that India should take her place in the Security Council. "..We cannot, of course, accept this as it means falling out with China and it would be very unfair for a great country like China not to be in the Security Council," he said in a series of tweets. 


Making a jibe at Rahul Gandhi, Jaitley asked, "Will the Congress President tell us who the original sinner was?" 


India's bid to designate the chief of Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed as a global terrorist suffered a setback with China putting a technical hold on a proposal to ban him following the Pulwama terror attack. -- PTI


Also read: Revealed: Nehru didn't trust the Chinese
15:41  Rafale documents can't be produced in court without permission: Govt tells SC :  The Centre today claimed privilege over documents pertaining to the Rafale fighter jet deal and told the Supreme Court that no one can produce them in the court without the permission of the department concerned. Attorney General K K Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, referred to section 123 of the Evidence Act and provisions of RTI Act to buttress his claim. 


Attorney General KK Venugopal says the Supreme Court should direct the removal of the leaked pages from the review petitions as the government claims privilege over these documents.  


The court asked the AG, "What privilege do you claim? They have already produced them in court." The Attorney General replied that the papers were produced after stealing them. "State documents can't be published without explicit permission," the AG said. 


The SC while referring to the RTI Act has overriding effect on Official Secrets Act as per Section 22 and Section 24 RTI Act says 'even intelligence and security establishments are bound to give information about corruption and human rights violations'. "The security of state supersedes everything," Venugopal said. 

The hearing is currently underway before a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph. 

-- PTI and ANI
15:25  Rahul accuses PM of listening only to Ambani, Nirav Modi:  Accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of ignoring voices of farmers, fishermen and small businessmen, Congress President Rahul Gandhi Thursday said the NDA government listened only to industrialists such as Anil Ambani and Nirav Modi. Interacting with fishermen at the National Fishermen Parliament organised by All India Fishermen Congress in Thriprayar near Thrissur. 


Gandhi said in India, the most important thing is giving voice to the people. "In today's government, Anil Ambani or Nirav Modi has a lot of voice. Whatever they want to say to the prime minister can do so in 10 seconds. And they don't have to shout. They can even whisper it and the message goes whereas farmers, fishermen and small businessmen...they have to shout very loudly before the government listens to them," he said launching the Congress's campaign for the Lok Sabha elections in Kerala. 


Gandhi said he was talking about the "dishonest" people associated with Modi and "it is really the fight between Congress and Modi". He also alleged the "dishonest" people help Modi in marketing himself. 


Taking a dig at Modi, he said, "I don't call Anil Ambani Anil Bhai, I don't call Nirav Modi Nirav Bhai, I don't call Mehul Choksi Mehul Bhai..." He also took a dig at Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for allegedly meeting industrialist Vijay Mallya, accused of defaulting on banks loans, before he fled the country. -- PTI
14:43  China defends blocking Azhar terror listing, promises lasting solution:  China on Thursday sought to defend its fourth technical hold at the UN Security Council to block the designation of Pakistan-based JeM chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist, saying it would help the parties concerned to engage in more talks to find a "lasting solution" acceptable to all. 


The proposal to designate Azhar under the 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council was moved by France, the UK and the US on February 27, days after a suicide bomber of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) killed 40 CRPF soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama, leading to a flare-up in tensions between India and Pakistan. 


The Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee members had 10 working days to raise any objections to the proposal. Just before the deadline ended, China put a "technical hold" on the proposal seeking "more time to examine" it. 


The proposal was the fourth such bid at the UN in the last 10 years to list Azhar as a global terrorist. Asked why China once again resorted to block the move, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a media briefing that Beijing's decision is in line with the rules of the committee. China "sincerely hopes that relevant action taken by this committee will help relevant countries to engage in dialogue and consultation and prevent adding more complicated factors into regional peace and stability," he said. 


"As to the technical hold at the 1267 Committee our action is to make sure that the committee will have enough time to study the matter so that the relevant sides will have time for dialogue and consultation," Lu said. "Only a solution that is acceptable to all sides could fundamentally provide a chance for a lasting solution to the issue. China is ready to communicate and coordinate with all sides including India to properly handle this issue," he said. 


The Security Council 1267 Committee has clear standards on the procedures of designating terrorist organisations and individuals, Lu said. "China conducts thorough and in-depth assessment of these applications and we still need more time, so that is why we put forward the technical hold," he said. -- PTI
14:36  'Modi seems to have got his mojo back':  Pulwama, Balakot and an aggressive stance on terror will be the main platform for Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi's campaign. The Congress, on the other hand, will have to work a lot harder to be back in the game -- and shift focus from the national security crisis to economic concerns.


"Modi is again trying to present himself as an Opposition while being in government. Pulwama and Balakot have given him the opportunity to use his aggressive style of campaigning," says Rahul Verma, psephologist and co-author of Ideology & Identity -- The Changing Party Systems of India.


Verma is currently a fellow at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi and is also pursuing a PhD in political science at the University of California at Berkeley.


"In the two months since winning the December state elections, the Congress did not do anything extraordinary. To challenge a leader like Narendra Modi or Indira Gandhi you need to do extraordinary things," Verma tells Rediff.com's Archana Masih


Read the interview here
14:27  On Mr Vadakkan's Twitter bio he's still a Cong spokesperson:  Tom Vadakkan's Twitter timeline is replete with criticisms of the BJP and he hasn't changed his bio either, which still reads: National Spokesman Congress ex Secretary AICC ex Convenor Grievance cell AICC ex Appellate member film certification tribuna RT does not imply endorsement.
14:19  Son did not consult me before joining BJP: Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil :   Congress leader and Maharashtra Leader of Opposition in the assembly, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil on his son's defection to the BJP: "Sujay did not consult me before joining the BJP. About my resignation from the post of Leader of Opposition, I would say that I will follow whatever my party leadership asks me to do." 


On the Cong-NCP alliance: "Sharad Pawar made a statement against my father which shows that he has no respect for me or my family. So there is no question of me going to campaign for NCP candidate in Ahmednagar. I won't campaign for anyone else either. "


Pawar recently alluded to how he ensured the defeat of Balasaheb Vikhe Patil (in an election in early 1990s) and that he also remembered the lawsuit the late Congress leader filed against him. Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil is son of Balasaheb Vikhe Patil, a former Union minister. 


His son Sujay Vikhe Patil, a neurosurgeon, on Tuesday joined the BJP in the presence of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who said he will recommend his name for the Ahmednagar LS seat to BJP leadership.


Also read: Nila Vikhe Patil, Swedish politics' Indian star
14:05  TMC MLA joins BJP:  The other crossover today... Trinamool Congress MLA Arjun Singh has joined the BJP. 
13:58  Cong stalwart Tom Vadakkan joins BJP:   IN a huge loss to the Congress, the party's national spokesperson and senior leader, Tom Vadakkan has joined the BJP in the presence of Ravi Shankar Prasad. 

He said he quit the party for two reasons: the Congress's response to the Balakot air strike and terror attack by Pakistan and the party's dynastic politics. 


He said he was extremely hurt when the Congress questioned the integrity of the armed forces in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack and the Balakot air strikes. He says its not about ideology, and is upset about the attempt to change the narrative on the developmental policies of PM Narendra Modi. 

The second point was that dynastic politics in the Congress had reached its zenith. He said he had spent over 30 years in the Congress, but there were too many power centres. "Who do we listen to, who are the power centres? The use and throw phenomenon of the party is not acceptable for self respecting members like me." 

13:08  Nehru gifted UNSC seat to China: Ravi Shankar Prasad:  
The BJP reacts to Rahul Gandhi's tweet slamming the BJP's diplomatic failure with China on Masood Azhar. 


Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad addressed the media after China blocked India's bid to designate JeM Chief Masood Azhar as global terrorist in UNSC 1267 list and asked, "Would the Congress party adopt a different voice even in the case of a cruel killer & a global terrorist Masood Azhar? It was Congress which failed to blacklist Azhar." He asked, "Why is Rahul celebrating? It was Nehru who gifted UNSC seat to China. Nehru's error is costing India." 


The Congress chief attacked the prime minister and said he had not spoken on China blocking the resolution in the UN Security Council. The party accused the BJP of letting Masood off the hook again and also questioned Modi what was the use of "swinging" with Xi. 


"Weak Modi is scared of Xi. Not a word comes out of his mouth when China acts against India. NoMo's China diplomacy: 1. Swing with Xi in Gujarat. 2. Hug Xi in Delhi. 3. Bow to Xi in China," Gandhi said on Twitter.


Former J-K CM Omar Abdullah tweeted, "PM Modi surrendered to China on Azhar and surrendered to Pakistan and its proxies by delaying elections in J&K. How can the BJP claim to have been tough on internal security and tough against terror?

"Mantrijee, your Government gave Pakistan a small victory when you postponed the Anantnag by-poll in 2017 and a big victory now that youve failed to conduct assembly elections. If anyone is giving Pakistan a reason to celebrate it isnt  @RahulGandhi. Look closer to home sir."
12:57  Rahul promises separate ministry for fishermen if Cong voted to power:  Congress chief Rahul Gandhi Thursday vowed to set up a separate ministry for fishermen if the Congress is voted to power in the Lok Sabha elections, saying unlike Prime Minister Narendra Modi he did not make "fake promises". 


He was addressing the National Fishermen Parliament organised by All India Fishermen Congress in Thriprayar in Kerala. 


"My commitment to you is that the moment we win the 2019 elections, all the fishermen of the country will get their own dedicated ministry in Delhi," Gandhi said. Assuring the fishermen that he would fulfil the promise if the Congress wins, the Congress chief said, "I am not like Narendra Modi. I don't make fake promises." "Please look at my speeches. When I say something, I only say it because I have decided to do it," he said.
12:39  Sasikala gets a visitor in jail :  Bengaluru: TTV Dhinakaran arrives at Parapanna Agrahara Central Prison Jail to meet his aunt VK Sasikala. 
12:30  Hero loco driver saves elephant herd :  This elephant family would have met with certain death had it not been for the alertness of loco pilot S Sharma of 15768 Dn Alipur Duar-Siliguri Intercity Express. 

At 6:15 am, Sharma spotted this herd of wild elephants crossing the tracks and he stopped the train by applying the emergency brake.

Alipur Duar in north Bengal is an elephant migration corridor and many places the railway tracks passes through the buffer zones of forests in the Dooars. 


The picture was tweeted by the official handle of the Alipur Duar division of the North East Frontier railway and was marked to Railway minister Piyush Goyal. Wild animals have routinely been killed while crossing the tracks in the Dooars. 
12:18  Prez confers PVSM to army chief :   Army Chief General Bipin Rawat conferred with Param Vishisht Seva Medal by President Ram Nath Kovind, at Rashtrapati Bhawan, today.
12:07  Punjab: Talks begin between India and Pakistan to discuss and finalize the modalities for the Kartarpur Corridor at Attari, Amritsar.
12:06  India, US seek tangible, irreversible action by Pakistan against terrorists:  The US and India have asked Pakistan to take "tangible and irreversible action" against terrorist groups on its soil and deny safe haven to them to launch cross-border attacks, as Washington reiterated its firm support to New Delhi in the fight against terrorism. 


The US' support to India was expressed by America's National Security Advisor John Bolton during a meeting with Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale on Wednesday. 


"Met with Indian FS Gokhale to advance progress on the US-India strategic partnership & our shared vision for the Indo-Pacific, as well as reiterate that the US stands shoulder-to-shoulder with India in the fight against terrorism," Bolton said in a tweet.


Post the February 14 Pulwama attack by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) that left 40 CRPF personnel dead, Bolton and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have emerged as strong supporters of the India-US relationship.


"Both (Gokhale and Bolton) underlined the importance of Pakistan taking tangible and irreversible action against terrorist groups based in territories under its control and denial of safe haven for these groups to launch cross -border attacks," the Indian Embassy said in a readout of the meeting.


The US support came on the day when China for the fourth time blocked a bid to get Pakistan-based JeM chief Masood Azhar designated as a global terrorist by the UN Security Council. China put a technical hold on the move by the US, the UK and France, seeking "more time to examine" the proposal, a diplomat at the United Nations has told PTI. 


A day after the Pulwama attack, Bolton had told his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval that the US supports India's right to self-defence as tensions escalated with Pakistan. -- PTI
11:36  Rafale deal row: SC to hear review petition today:  The Supreme Court will hear on Thursday the review petition against its December 14 order in the Rafale deal row. The government on Wednesday filed a fresh affidavit in the apex court in the Rafale case, saying that "unauthorisedly-accessed' documents related to "internal secret deliberations' had been presented in a "selective' manner to mislead the court and amounted to damaging national security.


The Ministry of Defence sought dismissal of both the review petition and the miscellaneous application in the matter while contending that "it has become imperative for the Union of India to seek removal of these documents from the record of the Review Petition and Miscellaneous application filed by the petitioners'.


It told the court that the documents attached by the petitioners in the Rafale review case are sensitive to national security and relate to war capacity of the combat aircraft.


The government said the unauthorised photocopying of such documents has "adversely affected the sovereignty, security and friendly relations with the foreign countries".
11:03  PVSM for Army Chief, Kirti Chakras, Shaurya Chakras for others :  Army Chief General Bipin Rawat has been conferred the Param Vishisht Seva Medal from President Ram Nath Kovind today. Army's Sepoy Vrahma Pal Singh and CRPF jawans Rajendra Nain and Ravindra Babban Dhanwade to receive the Kirti Chakra posthumously. 


Major Tushar Gauba of 20 Jat regiment to receive the Kirti Chakra for killing three terrorists in close combat along the Line of Control in Kupwara sector of Jammu and Kashmir. 12 officers and jawans from the Army and CRPF will also receive the Shaurya Chakra today. 
10:32  Kartarpur Corridor talks begin at border :  This is the Pakistani delegation at the Wagah Border to hold discussions with their Indian counterparts over the Kartarpur Corridor. The Deputy High Commissioner of Pakistan to India, Syed Haider Shah said Wednesday that talks on visa-free access to the corridor will be held today. 

Speaking to media persons upon his arrival at the Amritsar airport, Shah said, "Talks will be held tomorrow. It is an initiative of Pakistan. Pakistan wants to open the  Kartarpur corridor so that the Sikh pilgrims can visit it."


He also said that talks will also be held on no-visa access to the Kartarpur corridor. 
10:11  Weak Modi is scared of Xi: Rahul mocks govt's 'China diplomacy':  Congress president Rahul Gandhi mocks PM Modi for India's diplomatic failure to push China to ban Masood Azhar. 


Rahul tweeted, "Weak Modi is scared of Xi. Not a word comes out of his mouth when China acts against India. NoMo's China Diplomacy: 
 1. Swing with Xi in Gujarat 
 2. Hug Xi in Delhi 
 3. Bow to Xi in China


The Congress on Wednesday attacked the BJP government after China blocked a bid at the UN to designate Pakistan-based terror group JeM chief Masood Azhar as a "global terrorist", saying Prime Minister Narendra Modi's foreign policy has been a series of "diplomatic disasters". The opposition party also slammed China for blocking the move. 


In yet another setback to India's bid to designate the Jaish-e-Mohammed's chief as a global terrorist, China Wednesday put a technical hold on the proposal in the UN Security Council to ban him following the Pulwama terror attack.


The proposal to designate Azhar under the 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council was moved by France, the UK and the US on February 27, days after a suicide bomber of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) killed 40 CRPF soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama, leading to a flare-up in tensions between India and Pakistan.


Reacting to the development, Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said it was a sad day in the global fight against terrorism.


"China blocking Masood Azhar's designation as a global terrorist reaffirms Chinese position of being an inseparable ally of terrorism's breeding ground -- Pakistan," he tweeted.


"Sadly, Modiji's foreign policy has been a series of diplomatic disasters," the Congress spokesperson said. The Congress has been attacking the BJP over Masood Azhar's release in exchange for passengers of a hijacked Indian plane. Congress chief Rahul Gandhi has asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to tell the nation that it was a BJP-led government which released Azhar from an Indian jail in 1999.


Azhar and two other terrorists, Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar and Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, were released from an Indian prison in 1999 by the then BJP-led government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee in exchange for the passengers held hostage on board  flight IC-814 hijacked to Kandahar in Afghanistan. 


Image: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on a jhoola at the Sabarmati waterfront in September 2014.
10:01  UNSC upset with China shielding Masood Azhar, may 'pursue other actions':   Outraged by China blocking for the fourth time a move to designate JeM chief Masood Azhar a global terrorist, responsible UNSC members warned they "may be forced to pursue other actions" at the Security Council if Beijing continued with this policy.


"If China continues to block this designation, responsible member-states may be forced to pursue other actions at the Security Council. It shouldn't have to come to that," a Security Council diplomat told PTI in an unusual tough warning to China. 


The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity to give a sense of the feeling of other members of the Security Council after China blocked the move to designate Azhar a global terrorist. 


Beijing previously put a technical hold on similar proposals at the UNSC thrice. In the aftermath of the Pulwama terrorist attack, three permanent members of Security Council '" the US, France and the UK '" had moved a resolution to designate Azhar a global terrorist. Except for China, which wields veto power in the Security Council, all other UNSC members were on board with the move before the al-Qaida (1267) Sanctions Committee. India has expressed disappointment over China's decision but said it will "pursue all available avenues" to bring to justice terrorist leaders involved in attack on Indians. 


"This is the fourth time that China has placed a hold on this listing. China should not prevent the Committee from doing the job the Security Council has entrusted it to do," another security council diplomat told PTI in response to a question. 


"China's move to hold the listing is inconsistent with its own stated goals of combatting terrorism and furthering regional stability in South Asia," said the diplomat, requesting not to be named to speak frankly, given that the deliberations of the UN sanctions committee are confidential, thus preventing member-countries from talking about it in public. 


The second security council diplomat also slammed Pakistan for depending on China to protect terrorist groups and leaders that operate from its soil. "Pakistan has quite often depended on China to protect it from the listing of Pakistan-based terrorist groups and individuals in the UN 1267 sanctions committee," the diplomat said.  -- PTI
10:01  Priya Dutt's guardian angel:   Former MP Priya Dutt tweets this image with her father, Sunil Dutt, writing, "My Dad, My Hero, My Guardian Angel. I am what I am because of you."

Priya Dutt will be contesting the national election after she was named as the party's candidate from Mumbai North-Central when the Congress released its second list of contenders. Sunil Dutt was an MP from Mumbai North West. 
09:14  India, US agree to build 6 nuclear power plants in India:  
India and the United Satets said they have agreed to build six American nuclear power plants in India, in a boost to bilateral civil nuclear energy cooperation.
The two countries said this in a joint statement issued at the conclusion of the 9th round of India-US Strategic Security Dialogue, co-chaired by Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale and Andrea Thompson, the US under secretary of state for arms control and international security, on Wednesday.
"They committed to strengthen bilateral security and civil nuclear cooperation, including the establishment of six U.S. nuclear power plants in India," the joint statement said.
India and the US signed a historic agreement to cooperate in civil nuclear energy sector in October 2008. The deal gave a fillip to bilateral ties, which have been on an upswing since.
A major aspect of the deal was the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), that gave a special waiver to India enabling it to sign cooperation agreements with a dozen countries.
Post-waiver, India signed civil nuclear cooperation agreements with the US, France, Russia, Canada, Argentina, Australia, Sri Lanka, the UK, Japan, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan and South Korea.
On Wednesday, the United States also reaffirmed its strong support to India's early membership in the 48-member NSG. Notably, China has blocked India's pending membership to the elite grouping that seeks to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons.
09:11  Now, US grounds Boeing 737 Max 8 planes :  
The United States issued an emergency order to ground all Boeing 737 Max aircraft, a decision a number of countries, including India, have taken following the second deadly crash of the plane in less than five months in Ethiopia.
"All those planes are grounded immediately," US President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House on Wednesday.
The United States is one of the major last countries to have taken a decision to ground Boeing 737 Max 8 and 9 aircraft. These planes would be grounded till further orders, he said.
Several other countries, including India, China and all of Europe, have ordered the jets off air after the crash of a Boeing 737 Max 8 in Ethiopia on Sunday. The aircraft crashed minutes after takeoff, killing all 157 people on board. Four Indians were among those killed.
That crash was the second involving the jet, after a 787 Max operated by Lion Air, an Indonesian carrier, crashed into the Java Sea in October similarly and 189 people died.
Trump's announcement came as political and international pressure on the airliner started to build.
He said all 737 Max planes currently in the air would be grounded upon reaching their destination. Boeing, the company, agree with the action, he added.
"Safety is our paramount concern," Trump added.
He expressed hope that Boeing will get to the bottom of the problem with the planes, but until then the jets will remain grounded.
Boeing said "out of an abundance of caution", it has decided to recommend to the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) the temporary suspension of operations of the entire global fleet of the jets.
"On behalf of the entire Boeing team, we extend our deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of those who have lost their lives in these two tragic accidents," said Dennis Muilenburg, president, CEO, and chairman of Boeing Company. -- PTI
09:10  UK Parliament rejects no-deal Brexit:  
British MPs have voted to reject the possibility of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union without a withdrawal agreement in place, a move set to delay the March 29 Brexit deadline.
British Prime Minister Theresa May had tabled a government motion against a no-deal Brexit within the March 29 deadline, which was passed by the House of Commons with a majority of 43 votes as 321 MPs backed it and 278 opposed it on Wednesday.
This would now require the Commons to pass a new vote, expected on Thursday, which will authorise May to go back to the EU and seek an extension to Article 50 -- the legal mechanism for Britain's exit from the union.
May said there was a "clear majority" against a no-deal Brexit but the "legal default" was that the UK would leave without a deal on March 29 if no deal is reached unless that is legally changed with another vote and EU ratification.
"The legal default in UK and EU law remains that the UK will leave the EU without a deal unless something else is agreed. The onus is now on every one of us in this House to find out what that is," May said in her statement soon after another long Brexit day in the Commons.
She also warned that any extension to the Brexit deadline will be pointless unless the House also set out a plan for the kind of deal it can support.
Before the vote on the government's motion, a non-binding vote tabled to demand that a no-deal Brexit is ruled out under all circumstances marked yet another defeat for May as her Conservative Party MPs defied the government whip to vote in favour of it --312 to 308.
While that vote was intended as indicative rather than prescriptive, it reinforced the Parliament view to ensure that some kind of a withdrawal agreement must be in place before Britain can formally leave the EU.
MPs also voted by 374 to 164 to reject a plan to delay the UK's departure from the EU until May 22, so that there can be what its supporters call a "managed no-deal" Brexit. -- PTI
08:43  'Diplomatic disaster': Congress slams Modi govt over Masood Azhar:  
The Congress on Wednesday attacked the Bharatiya Janata Party government after China blocked a bid at the United Nations to designate Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as a "global terrorist", saying Prime Minister Narendra Modi's foreign policy has been a series of "diplomatic disasters".
 
The opposition party also slammed China for blocking the move.
In yet another setback to India's bid to designate the Jaish-e-Mohammed's chief as a global terrorist, China Wednesday put a technical hold on the proposal in the UN Security Council to ban him following the Pulwama terror attack.
Reacting to the development, Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said it was a sad day in the global fight against terrorism.
"China blocking Masood Azhar's designation as a global terrorist reaffirms Chinese position of being an inseparable ally of terrorism's breeding ground -- Pakistan," he tweeted.
"Sadly, Modiji's foreign policy has been a series of diplomatic disasters," the Congress spokesperson said.
The Congress has been attacking the BJP over Masood Azhar's release in exchange for passengers of a hijacked Indian plane. Congress chief Rahul Gandhi has asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to tell the nation that it was a BJP-led government which released Azhar from an Indian jail in 1999.
Azhar and two other terrorists, Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar and Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, were released from an Indian prison in 1999 by the then BJP-led government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee in exchange for the passengers held hostage on board  flight IC-814 hijacked to Kandahar in Afghanistan. 
"After 56 inch's 'hugplomacy' and the game of sitting on a swing also, the China-Pakistan duo is showing red eyes to India," Surjewala added in a tweet in Hindi.
The Congress has slammed Modi for being allegedly soft on China by holding a summit meeting with President Xi Jinping in Wuhan "without an agenda" and hosting him in India earlier. -- PTI
08:19  India 'disappointed' after China blocks move to ban JeM chief :  
India expressed disappointment soon after China blocked yet another move at the United Nations to designate Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed's chief Masood Azhar as a "global terrorist".
 
In its reaction, the external affairs ministry said India will continue to pursue all available avenues to ensure that leaders of terror groups involved in heinous attacks on Indian citizens are brought to justice.
"We are disappointed by this outcome. This has prevented action by the international community to designate the leader of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), a proscribed and active terrorist organization which has claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack in Jammu and Kashmir on February 14," the MEA said.
Without naming China, it said the UN's 1267 Sanctions Committee was not able to come to a decision on the proposal for listing Azhar on account of a member placing the proposal on hold.
The JeM had claimed responsibility for the Pulwama attacks in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed. 
In yet another setback to India's bid to designate Azhar as a global terrorist, China put a technical hold on the proposal in the UN Security Council to ban him.
A diplomat at the UN told PTI that China put a "technical hold".
00:11  UK set for another major Brexit vote to rule out no-deal exit:  
A day after British Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit divorce bill was rejected in a bruising 149-vote defeat, MPs returned to the House of Commons on Wednesday to vote on whether to prevent the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union by the March 29 deadline without any deal in place.

The latest motion to try and avert the no-deal Brexit, which would see UK crash out of the 28-member economic bloc without any transition phase, follows a rejection of May's withdrawal agreement 391 to 242 despite a final push by her to try and convince hard-Brexiteers that the concessions she had won to the controversial Irish backstop clause would not see the UK tied to EU rules indefinitely.

"I may not have my own voice, but I understand the voice of the country," May said as she took to the Commons despatch box for her weekly Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) on Wednesday, still struggling with a sore throat.

"I believe we have a good deal. No deal is better than a bad deal but I have been working for us to leave on 29 March and leave with a good deal," she said.

The motion tabled by her to be voted on Wednesday evening reads: 'This House declines to approve leaving the European Union without a withdrawal agreement and a framework on the future relationship on 29 March.'

Besides, Speaker John Bercow announced that MPs will debate on two amendments to the government motion during yet another long day at Parliament in Westminster.

While one amendment will consider ruling out a no-deal Brexit indefinitely, the second one will direct the government to pursue a Plan B divorce strategy.

May will whip her MPs to vote against the first amendment, which is tabled by the backbench Conservative MP Caroline Spelman and Opposition Labour MP Jack Dromey and seeks to remove a phrase from the government's motion saying a no-deal Brexit remains the default option if a deal is not in place.

However, her party MPs will be allowed to vote freely on the Plan B amendment, which seeks a so-called managed no-deal Brexit.

If, as expected, MPs reject a no-deal Brexit on March 29 in the final vote on the government motion, May will have to announce how she plans to proceed.

Rival groups of MPs are therefore seeking to influence the process by tabling amendments to any motion the government brings at this stage.

If, on the other hand, MPs vote in favour of a no-deal exit from the EU, then the UK will cease to be a member of the economic bloc by March 29 and automatically revert to World Trade Organisation (WTO) norms on trade.

Speaking moments after yet another Parliament defeat over Brexit on Tuesday night, May said MPs would have to decide whether they want to delay Brexit, hold another referendum, or whether they 'want to leave with a deal but not this deal'.

While some hard-Brexiteers such as former Cabinet minister Boris Johnson are in favour of a no-deal exit, there is unlikely to be a majority for it in Parliament.

The Opposition Labour Party has been demanding no-deal be taken off the table for months now.

If no-deal is rejected, MPs will then vote on Thursday on delaying Brexit by extending Article 50 -- the legal mechanism that takes the UK out of the EU.

This would have to be ratified by the EU and the length of extension will become the next focus on both sides.

However, how the EU will react to an extension request remains unclear at this stage, given that it is preparing for its own EU elections towards the end of May.

The EU side has expressed dismay at the agreement being rejected by Britain for a second time since the last vote in January and said it would need 'a credible justification' before agreeing to any extension.

Unless agreed otherwise, Britain leaving the EU by March 29 remains the default Brexit option by law.

With that in mind, the UK government also unveiled plans for trade across borders under such a scenario.

As a temporary measure, most imports into the UK would not attract a tariff in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the UK's Department for International Trade (DIT) announced.

Under a temporary scheme 87 per cent of imports by value would be eligible for zero-tariff access -- up from 80 per cent at present.

The government also announced it will not introduce any new checks or controls, or require customs declarations for any goods, moving from across the border from Ireland to Northern Ireland if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

The move comes amid a hectic week in politics at Westminster, when MPs have a flurry of crucial decisions before them that would determine UK's future with the EU.

Although May managed to convince about 40 Tory MPs to change their mind since her historic 230-vote defeat on the Brexit withdrawal deal in January, she failed to get it through the Commons finish line.

The Irish backstop, an insurance policy designed to maintain an open border on the island of Ireland between UK territory Northern Ireland and EU member-state -- the Republic of Ireland -- proved insurmountable in the end, despite some 'legally binding' changes May hoped would be enough for the second vote on the agreement this week.

The March-end deadline had kicked in when the UK triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty following a referendum in favour of Brexit by nearly 52 per cent to 48 per cent in June 2016.

Unless MPs are able to rule out leaving by March 29 without any exit strategy or agreed terms, the UK is set to crash out of the bloc leading to deep uncertainties for businesses relying on cross-border arrangements.  -- PTI

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