Fri, 01 November 2019
Another PMC Bank depositor dies; toll rises to 7

Timeline  Refresh

23:13   Another PMC Bank depositor dies; toll rises to 7
A 64-year-old depositor of the scam-hit Punjab & Maharashtra Cooperative Bank died due to a heart attack in neighboring Navi Mumbai, her family said on Friday.
Kuldeep Kaur Vig (64) is the seventh PMC Bank depositor to have died after the alleged Rs 4,355 crore scam at the bank came to light and the RBI imposed restrictions on withdrawal of funds.
Kaur, resident of sector 10 in Kharghar locality of Navi Mumbai, died at a hospital on Tuesday night.
She was worried about her money stuck with the bank, and feeling quite stressed after watching news about depositors' protest on TV, her husband Varinder Singh Vig (74) said.
She was rushed to a hospital but declared dead during treatment, he said.
Vig, who worked as a coach at Guru Teg Bahadur High  School in GTB Nagar, also had his own salary account with PMC Bank.
"We have our accounts in PMC bank for more than 15 years. Some of our Fixed Deposits were renewed recently, and a month after that this scam came out," he said.
"We don't have money to renew our health insurance. The insurance firm had called asking for renewal. I asked them if they would accept a cheque of PMC Bank," he said.
"Seven depositors have died so far. How many more deaths the bank needs?" asked a bitter Vig. -- PTI
23:03   Trai fixes mobile call ring time at 30 seconds; 60 secs for landline
Telecom regulator Trai on Friday fixed phone call ring time at 30 seconds on mobiles and 60 seconds for landline phones, in case the call is neither answered nor rejected by the susbcriber.
"The time duration of alert for an incoming voice call, which is neither answered nor rejected by the called party, shall be thirty seconds for Cellular Mobile Telephone Service and sixty seconds for Basic Telephone Service," Trai said in an amendment to quality of service norms for basic telephone service and cellular mobile telephone service.
Till now there was no such limit for calls within India.
Reliance Jio has accused old operators, including Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, of "illegally" masquerading wire-line numbers as mobile numbers for "undue enrichment" and has exhorted Trai to slap "severest penalty" on them for violating regulations and licensing norms.
Bharti Airtel has hit back saying Jio is trying to misguide the regulator ahead the consultation on call connect charges (also called interconnect usage charges).
Telecom operators on their own were reducing incoming call ring time to attract reverse call from subscriber of other networks. -- PTI  
22:42   Better sense should prevail: Maha CM's wife
"Better sense should prevail" was how Amruta Fadnavis, wife of Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, replied when asked about the delay in government formation in the state on Friday.
Allies, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Shiv Sena, are locked in a tussle over the chief minister's post since results of the assembly elections were declared on October 24.
"Better sense should prevail upon all politicians," Amruta, who works with Axis Bank in a senior position, said, speaking to reporters at an event in Mumbai.
"Government should be formed at the earliest. Politicians should take a balanced decision keeping in mind where they stand to form a stable government," she said, when asked about the present deadlock. -- PTI 
22:14   Current situation in Kashmir 'not sustainable': Merkel
The current situation in Kashmir is "not sustainable" and needs to change for sure, German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday told German media ahead of her 'restricted meeting' with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and after co-chairing the fifth Inter-Governmental Consultations with him.
However, the Kashmir situation was not discussed during the IGC and as per sources, Merkel expected to hear from Prime Minister Modi plans for Jammu and Kashmir during their 'restricted meeting'  
"As the situation at this moment (in Kashmir) is not sustainable and not good, this has to change for sure," Merkel was quoted as having said by German sources.
The comments by the German Chancellor come amidst concerns expressed by some foreign lawmakers, including from the United States, over restrictions imposed by the government post abrogation of Article 370 to withdraw Jammu and Kashmir's special status in August. 
After their extensive delegation-level talks, the two leaders held a 'restricted meeting' at the official residence of the Prime Minister in the presence of select ministers and officials from both the sides. -- PTI
21:54   PM, Merkel hold 'restricted meeting'
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday evening held a 'restricted meeting' in the presence of select ministers and officials from both the sides.
National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhle attended the meeting at the prime minister's official residence from the Indian side.
The German delegation had a select group of senior functionaries.
After the meeting, the prime minister would host a dinner for Chancellor Markel.
Earlier in the day, Modi and Merkel co-chaired the fifth Inter-Governmental Consultations, following which the two leaders made press statements and a raft of agreements were signed between the two sides. -- PTI 
21:47   PM, Merkel walk around Gandhi Smriti, pay homage
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday undertook a guided tour of Gandhi Smriti in New Delhi with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The prime minister received the German Chancellor in front of the statue of Mahatma Gandhi sculpted by renowned artist Ram Sutar.
Explaining the significance of the place, Modi informed Merkel that the memorial is located at the site where Mahatma Gandhi spent the last few months of his life and was assassinated on January 30, 1948.
"Took Chancellor Merkel to Gandhi Smriti in Delhi. The thoughts and principles of Mahatma Gandhi reverberate in Germany and inspire its citizens," the prime minister tweeted.
He also posted pictures of the visit.
The two then visited the museum and saw sketches and paintings made by renowned artist Upendra Maharathi and Indo-Hungarian painter Elizabeth Brunner, a student of Nandalal Bose of Santiniketan. 
20:55   Will win over 65 seats in Jharkhand polls: BJP
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party expressed confidence on Friday that it will win more than 65 seats in the 81-member Jharkhand assembly, asserting that incumbent chief minister Raghubar Das will be the face of the party in the upcoming polls in the state.
The party's in-charge for the Jharkhand Assembly polls, O P Mathur, said the BJP will return to power on the basis of its state government's performance and on the popular appeal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Asked about the party falling short of its target in the recent Maharashtra and Haryana assembly polls, Mathur said every state election was different and so were the factors influencing voters.
"Our leadership has set a target of winning more than 65 seats. I am confident that we will achieve it.... Raghubar Das will be the party's face for the post of chief minister," he said.
The party cadre will also work to boost the voting percentage during the Jharkhand polls, which will be conducted in five phases between November 30 and December 20, Mathur said.
The BJP had won 37 seats in the 2014 Jharkhand polls and got past the majority mark in the Assembly as a number of MLAs from other parties joined it.
Announcing the election schedule on Friday, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said the polls will be held in the Naxalism-affected state on November 30, December 7, 12, 16 and 20. -- PTI
20:51   Don't know when Indian fisherman would be released: Bangla minister
Bangladesh Foreign Minister A K Abdul Momen on Friday said he was not aware as to when the Indian fisherman, arrested by the Border Guard Bangladesh last month for straying into the neighbouring country's territory, would be released.
Pranab Mandal was one of the three fishermen belonging to Jalangi in Murshidabad district, who had entered the Bangladesh side of the Padma river and was apprehended by the BGB personnel on October 17.
The incident was followed by a flag meeting between the border guards of the two countries, during which BGB personnel opened fire, killing a Border Security Force jawan and injuring another.
"We had made a law to not catch 'Hilsa' fish for 22 days during their breeding season. But, despite our ban, the Indian fisherman (Pranab Mandal) along with the others entered our waters. He was caught and two others escaped.
"Mandal would be released after diplomatic procedures. But, I am not aware when he would be released," Momen told reporters on the sidelines of the 'Bangladesh Book Fair' in Kolkata.
Asked whether the killing of the BSF jawan would affect bilateral ties between India and Bangladesh, Momen said both the countries share a "historical relationship" and it won't be impacted by an "isolated incident". -- PTI  
20:31   Rohit fit to play in first T20I against B'desh
India batsman Rohit Sharma, who will be leading the team in the T20I series against Bangladesh, is fit and will feature in the match.

The batsman was forced to leave the net practice after he was hit on the left thigh off delivery on Friday. 

After the blow, Sharma went for the ice treatment."Sharma is fit and good to go," a Board of Control for Cricket in India source told ANI.

The first T20I between India and Bangladesh will be played on November 3 at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in New Delhi.

India's squad for T20I series against Bangladesh: Rohit Sharma (Capt), Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Sanju Samson, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Rishabh Pant(wk), Washington Sundar, Krunal Pandya, Yuzvendra Chahal, Rahul Chahar, Deepak Chahar, Khaleel Ahmed, Shivam Dube, Shardul Thakur.
19:59   Kudankulam nuclear plant safe: NPCIL
The Nuclear Power Corporation of India on Friday said its reactors at the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tamil Nadu are "safe".
The NPCIL, a public sector undertaking on Wednesday admitted to a malware attack on one of the computers in Kudankulam plant, a day after the plant authorities had asserted that cyber attacks on its systems are not possible.
"Security, be it physical or cyber, is one area which we should not discuss the details. But be rest assured the reactors are safe and are being monitored by the experts," NPCIL Chairman and Managing Director SK Sharma told PTI on the sidelines of an event in Mumbai when asked about the safety of the reactors.
The NPCIL, a public sector undertaking under the department of atomic energy, had, in its statement, also said that the plant systems were not affected.

"Computerisation in nuclear power stations had taken a tremendous amount of time for implementation because the nuclear power generating countries were having doubts about the safety. Therefore, the systems that are involved in operating of our plants are completely independent and are never connected to any other system or the internet. This is as per international safety standards," DAE Secretary KN Vyas said.
The DAE, which carried out the investigations at the plant had revealed that the infected computer belonged to a user who was connected in the internet network used for administrative purposes.
19:38   Man crushed to death during transportation of Metro girder
A 25-year-old man was crushed to death after a girder weighing about 100 tons, being transported to a Metro construction site, fell on him in the western suburb of Kandivali, the police said on Friday.
The incident took place in the early hours on the Western Express Highway, said senior inspector Raju Kasbe of Samta Nagar police station.
Arshad Shaikh, employee of the Metro contractor firm J Kumar, was driving a 'warning escorting vehicle' behind the trailer which was transporting the girder at a construction site of the Dahisar-to-DN Nagar Metro Line 2A.
According to the  Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority, the implementing agency for Metro, the accident took place when the trailer got separated from the 'puller' vehicle in the front.
While two other men in Shaikh's vehicle escaped by jumping out in time, Shaikh was crushed to death, Kasbe said.
A case under IPC section 304 (A) (death by negligence) was registered against the driver of the trailer, he said.
MMRDA spokesperson Dilip Kawathkar termed the incident as "unfortunate".
"This kind of haphazard work would not be tolerated. We hope all contractors will take utmost care in future," he said. -- PTI
19:00   Markets: Top gainers of the Day
Top gainers in the Sensex pack on Friday included IndusInd Bank, Tata Steel, Vedanta, Tech Mahindra, ONGC, Axis Bank and ITC, rising up to 5.18 per cent.
18:59   Sensex perches near lifetime high; posts weekly gain
The BSE benchmark Sensex notched up gains for the sixth straight session on Friday as risk sentiment remained skewed towards equities even amid lacklustre macroeconomic data. 

After a see-saw session, the 30-share index settled 35.98 points, or 0.09 per cent, higher at 40,165.03. 

The index is about 100 points shy of its all-time closing high of 40,267.62, hit on June 3 this year.
18:53   Won't support Shiv Sena: Maha Congress chief
Congress' Maharashtra unit president Bala Saheb Thorat on Friday said that the Nationalist Congress Party and his party have no strategy of forging an alliance with the Shiv Sena as both the parties have got mandate to sit in the opposition.

Thorat met Congress general secretary KC Venugopal at the party headquarters in New Delhi along with senior leaders Manikrao Thackerey and Vijay Wadettiwar.

Speaking to ANI, Thorat said: "This was our first meeting with the high command after the assembly results were announced. We had a detailed discussion with Venugopal ji on Maharashtra results and Congress' performance. We are analysing the political situation in Maharashtra."

Asked if the NCP-Congress was mulling to support the Shiv Sena from outside, he said: "We do not have that strategy. We are just watching how things unfold. We have got the mandate to sit in the opposition. They are fighting just to get a bigger share in the government."
18:50   Replace PW engines or face grounding: DGCA to IndiGo
Stating that "desperate measures" were required to "put things in order", aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation told IndiGo on Friday to replace the Pratt and Whitney engines under both wings of 97 A320neo aircraft "at all costs" by January 31 or they would be grounded.
Of the 97 aircraft, 23 have PW engines that have been used for more than 2,900 hours and have to be replaced in the first tranche by November 19, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) told the low-cost carrier.
The DGCA directive came after the airline faced four mid-air engine malfunctions in A320neo planes in the last one week, which "has caused a serious concern and resultant disruption", according to the regulator.
The DGCA had, on Monday, asked IndiGo to replace the PW engines of 16 A320neo planes, which were used for over 2,900 hours, by November 12, but it subsequently found out that seven more aircraft were flying with such engines.
"Kindly note that after that (November 19), none of these 23 aircraft, which does not have at least one LPT (low-pressure turbine) modified engine on its wings, shall be allowed for commercial operation and their schedule will suitably be curtailed till this is accomplished," the regulator said in a press note on Friday. 
With a fleet of 247 planes and a share of around 48 per cent of the domestic air passenger market, IndiGo is India's largest airline.
Just three days after the company placed one of the single-largest aircraft orders with Airbus, the DGCA advised it on Friday to "stagger or defer your future (aircraft) induction plan and procure a sufficient number of modified engines to keep the existing fleet in operation".
On Tuesday, IndiGo had announced that it would buy 300 "Airbus 320neo family" planes, which comprised A320neo, A321neo and A321XLR aircraft.
18:20   Merkel meets President Kovind
German Chancellor Angela Merkel met President Ram Nath Kovind at Rashtrapati Bhavan today

Welcoming German Chancellor to India, the President said that given India's strong commercial ties with Germany, India considers Germany's support important in mobilizing efforts within the European Union for early resumption and conclusion of a balanced EU-India Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement.  

"This will not only send a strong positive signal to business communities on both sides but will also boost India-Germany bilateral trade and technology collaboration," the Rashtrapati Bhavan said in a statement.
18:09   Germany says can help India double farmers' income
Germany has told India it can play key role in doubling farmers' income as the European nation has the expertise in farm mechanisation and post-harvest management, the government said on Friday.
German food and agriculture minister Julia Klockner met her Indian counterpart Narendra Singh Tomar and discussed various issues on the agriculture sector.
The two ministers also signed a 'joint declaration of intent' on cooperation in agriculture market development, the agriculture ministry said in a statement.
In the meeting, "Klockner said Germany has expertise in mechanisation and post-harvest management. She thinks this shall play a major role in achieving doubling farmers' income," the statement added.
Tomar, in the meeting, said the goal of doubling farmers' income by 2022 is being achieved by improving productivity, lowering input cost, creating competitive markets and strengthening the value chain for agriculture and allied sectors. -- PTI
17:45   Mere talk will not get back PoK: Sibal
Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal on Friday said that mere talk will not get back Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should lay out concrete steps on how he plans to take back the territory.

"Statements made by the Prime Minister and defence minister will not get back our territory. We want PoK back in India but when we are getting it back is important. How is the prime minister going to do it and when is he going to do it, he must tell us about it," the Congress leader said while speaking to ANI.

The senior Congress leader also commented on the recent statement by China's foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang on the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.

"We should not be bothered about China. China has occupied Aksai Chin area of ours. They will always support Pakistan as they have their piece of territory as well," Sibal said.

"We should all stand by the resolution of the Parliament and we would want our Prime Minister to show red eyes to Chinese," he added. -- ANI
17:12   Jharkhand polls in 5 phases from Nov 30
Jharkhand will go to the polls in a total of five phases starting from November 30, the Election Commission of India announced Friday. The results of all the phases will be announced on December 23. 

Phase-1: Polls on 30 November, phase 2: Polls on 7 December, phase 3: Polls on 12 December, phase 4: Polls on 16th December, phase 5: Polls on 20th December, and counting on 23rd December.

The term of the 81-member Jharkhand Assembly ends on January 5 next year.Chief Minister Raghubar Das-led BJP is hoping to retain power in the tribal-dominated state, where the saffron party won 37 seats in the 2014 Assembly elections. The BJP was able to form the government after six MLAs from ex-chief minister Babulal Marandi's party Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVM) joined the BJP soon after the elections. The JMM has 19 MLAs while Congress has eight legislators in the present Assembly.
17:04   Narayanasamy's remark unparliamentary, uncivilised: Bedi
Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry Kiran Bedi on Friday said Chief Minister V Narayanasamy's remark on her was 'unparliamentary, uncalled for, uncivilised and uncouth, and unacceptable.' 

The Chief Minister had on Thursday called Bedi a demon, who was posted in the Union Territory by the Centre, because she had allegedly been impeding implementation of welfare schemes decided upon by the territorial cabinet. 

The former IPS officer aired her outrage against the Chief Minister in her whatsapp message. She said, "Demons do not work for the larger good and demons want everything for themselves and also scare people." 

She said the word 'demon' used against her is "unparliamentary, uncalled for, uncivilised and uncouth and unacceptable." The Chief Minister had made the remark while addressing a meeting organised by the ruling Congress to observe the 35th death anniversary of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. -- PTIU
16:44   Root out terror safe havens: Modi, Merkel urge world community
India and Germany on Friday called upon the international community to work towards rooting out terrorist safe havens and infrastructure, disrupting terrorist networks and their financing channels, as well as halting their cross border movements.

A joint statement released following a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that the two leaders expressed the need for presenting a unified front in the fight against terrorism, and called for the finalisation and adoption of the Comprehensive Convention of International Terrorism in March 2020.

They emphasised the need for stronger international partnership in countering terrorism and preventing violent extremism, including through increased sharing of information and intelligence and in full compliance with the rule of law and international law, including human rights law and international humanitarian law.

The two leaders underlined the need for all countries to ensure that their territory is not used to carry out terrorist attacks on other countries in any manner. 

They stressed the importance of the combined effort of all countries to fight global terrorism and to send out a consistent message that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations is not acceptable to the international community.

Both leaders agreed that India and Germany must continue their cooperation within the framework of the Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism, including on information and intelligence sharing on terror networks and work together to share experiences on dealing with the growing phenomenon of radicalisation. 
16:23   GST October collections fall by 5.3% year-on-year
Gross revenue on account of Goods and Services Tax (GST) totalled Rs 95,380 crore in October, 5.29 per cent lower in the year-ago period, the Central government said on Friday.

Of this amount, the Central GST was Rs 17,582 crore, State GST Rs 23,674 crore and Integrated GST Rs 46,517 crore (including Rs 21,446 crore collected on imports) and cess Rs 7,607 crore (including Rs 774 crore collected on imports).

This is the third consecutive month when GST mop-up remained below the Rs 1 lakh crore mark.

The total number of GSTR 3B returns filed for the month of September up to October 31 is 73.83 lakh, according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Finance.The government settled Rs 20,642 crore to CGST and Rs 13,971 crore to SGST from IGST as regular settlement.

The total revenue earned by the Centre and the state governments after regular settlement in October is Rs 38,224 crore for CGST and Rs 37,645 crore for the SGST.

During April to October vis-a-vis 2018, the domestic component has shown 6.74 per cent growth while the GST on imports has shown negative growth and the total collection has grown by 3.38 per cent, the statement said. -- ANI
16:17   China rolls out nationwide 5G telecom services
China's three major state-run telecom operators have unveiled their superfast 5G network across the country, as the Communist giant aims at becoming the global leader in next generation telecom technology surpassing the US and other western nations. State-owned carriers China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom unveiled their 5G data plans on Thursday as China and the US are embroiled in a power struggle over trade and technology. 

The three firms in simultaneous moves unveiled their monthly 5G plans with prices ranging from 128 yuan (about Rs 1,289) to 599 yuan (Rs 6,030). Subscribers will be able to enjoy connections way faster than 4G and less expensive data per gigabyte, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. 5G is the next generation cellular technology with download speeds stated to be 10 to 100 times faster than the current 4G LTE networks. -- PTI
16:15   HC notice to Delhi govt on Manu Sharma's plea for release
The Delhi High Court on Friday issued a notice to the state government on a plea filed by Manu Sharma, the convict in 1999 Jessica Lal murder case, seeking his release.

A division bench of Justices Manmohan and Sangeeta Dhingra Sehgal granted four weeks to file a response on the petition of Siddharth Vashisht, also known as Manu Sharma. 

The court will take up the matter on December 16.Sharma is serving life term for murdering Jessica Lal in south Delhi's Mehrauli in April, 1999.

The Delhi government sought time to file its response on Sharma's petition, which was filed through advocate Amit Sahni.

Sharma has completed almost 23 years (with remission) and 17 years (without remission) in jail, the petition said, adding that he is aggrieved by the Delhi government's September 19 order upholding the recommendation of Sentence Review Board which decides on the release of prisoners sentenced for life.

The board had rejected Sharma's petition for early release on July 19 this year.

The petition said the board had rejected Sharma's petition in spite of fulfilling "all required parameters" and called its decision as "unfair, arbitrary impartial".

"This is not for the first time, that the SRB has chosen to reject the petitioner's case for release, earlier too on three occasions, the case of the petitioner has been rejected by SRB in an unfair manner for extraneous reasons, despite fulfilling all required parameters and prescribed conditions," it submitted.

It said, "Aggrieved by the earlier rejection order the Manu stated that his rejection is unreasoned and cryptic manner which were contrary to the facts on record in an unfair and biased manner."

In September this year, Sharma's wife, Preity Sharma, had approached the National Human Rights Commission alleging that gross violation of Human Rights and stated that her husband is illegally detained for more than the prescribed period of incarceration (20 years with remission).

Jessica Lall was shot by Sharma, the son of former Congress leader Venod Sharma, when she refused to serve him liquor at Tamarind Court restaurant at Qutub Colonnade in south Delhi's Mehrauli on April 29, 1999.

Jessica's sister, Sabrina Lall, had written a letter to Tihar Jail for Sharma's early release, saying that she had no objection to his release. -- ANI
15:33   No hospitalisation, PC fine: SG on AIIMS report
The Delhi High Court was informed Friday that former finance minister P Chidambaram, lodged in Tihar jail in the INX Media money laundering case, is fine and does not require hospitalisation. 

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta read out the report of AIIMS Medical Board, set up on the court's order to examine Chidambaram's health condition, and said the Congress leader does not require a sterile environment. 

Justice Suresh Kait, who was hearing Chidambaram's interim bail plea, directed the Tihar jail superintendent to provide clean and hygienic surroundings to the politician and also home-cooked food, mineral water, mosquito protection net and repellant. The court also directed that Chidambaram's regular medical check up be done. 

The court disposed of the plea after senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing Chidambaram, said they do not require any further direction. PTI
15:25   Unseasonal showers sweep away harvested crops in Maharashtra
Expect foodgrain prices to go up.

The recent unseasonal rains have destroyed the harvested crops across the Maharashtra and farmers have suffered heavy losses, said caretaker Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Friday after chairing a meeting to take stock of the situation.

Earlier today, Fadnavis held a meeting with the district collectors to discuss the current situation and work accordingly.

"Maharashtra has witnessed unseasonal and unprecedented rains recently, due to which the farmers have suffered a huge loss across the state. I also held a meeting today with the district collectors and the officers of the Indian IMD to discuss this issue," said Fadnavis.

"Four big cyclones have hit the state in the past four months. Due to Kyarr cyclone, Maharashtra witnessed heavy rains in the last two weeks of October. The harvested crops have been destroyed largely. Lakhs of hectares of farmlands have been destroyed in 335 tehsils," he added.

Fadnavis further asserted that the respective authorities and administration have been directed to take on-field stock of the situation. "We are preparing the records to give compensation to the farmers. We have also sensitised insurance companies. The insurance companies would not be able to reach so many places hence the government machinery which is evaluating the extent of damage," said Fadnavis.

"In case the government authorities are unable to reach the affected villages on time, the villagers can upload the photograph of the affected areas and that would be taken as a proof to help the affected farmers. We will also seek help from the central government," he added.

Fadnavis also stated that a meeting of cabinet sub-committee will be called tomorrow to discuss the prevailing problem. ANI

Image: NCP chief Sharad Pawar at a rally in Satara in October ahead of the Maharashtra polls. The 78-year-old stalwart continued his speech as unseasonal rains drenched him to the skin. 
15:03   Puducherry CM calls Kiran Bedi a demon
Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy referred to Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi as a 'demon' while addressing an event on the 35th death anniversary of former prime minister Indira Gandhi in Puducherry.

"People have faith in us. They have faith in Congress its alliance partners and that is why we are in power. We will do good things for people. And that is why people believed in us and voted for us. So we are bound to perform and do good things for them. We are ready also to do good things. I and my cabinet colleges work day and night to give good things to people--But a Demon has been put here, who does not let us work," he had said.

The Chief Minister blamed Bedi for creating hindrances in the implementation of the schemes introduced by the government.

On a closer look, the state government has been at loggerheads with the Lieutenant Governor from the past few months over administrative issues.

On October 12, Puducherry Health and Tourism Minister Malladi Krishna Rao accused Bedi for delaying implementation of developmental schemes for Yanam region, an enclave of Puducherry in Andhra Pradesh.

He claimed that Bedi has been threatening ministers and officials in the name of the Central Bureau of Investigation after they complained about her negligence towards Yanam to the Central government. -- ANI
15:00   India-Germany to strengthen cooperation on terrorism: PM
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said that the future of Indo-German relationship is "bright" and added that the two countries will further strengthen bilateral and multilateral cooperation to deal with threats such as terrorism and extremism.

"India and Germany's trust and friendly relationship is based on shared values such as democracy, rule of law. So, there is a similarity in our approach to the serious challenges of the world. We will further strengthen bilateral and multilateral cooperation to deal with threats such as terrorism and extremism. We are grateful for Germany's strong support to India's membership in the Export Control regimes and various international fora," Prime Minister said while addressing a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.India and Germany held delegation-level talks and exchanged five documents including a Joint Declaration of Intent for consultations for the period 2020 to 2024 and another Joint Declaration of Intent Indo German partnership for green urban mobility. Both leaders--Merkel and Prime Minister Narendra Modi-- witnessed the ceremony of exchange of documents."The two countries will continue to cooperate and make efforts to expedite necessary reforms in the Security Council, the United Nations, and the international order. Future of Indo-German relationship is bright," added.PM Modi said that the two countries have given special emphasis on expanding cooperation in new and advanced technology, Artificial Intelligence, Skills, Education and Cyber Security.Expressing happiness that cooperation between the two countries is moving forward in every field, the Prime Minister said, "We are encouraging the private sector to further accelerate our growing participation in trade and investment."The Prime Minister also praised the German Chancellor for her contribution to strengthening the relationship between the two countries."Chancellor Merkel is counted among the leaders who served not just Germany and Europe but the world as well. I am happy and proud that she is a good friend of India as well as mine. As Chancellor for nearly a decade and a half, she has made a significant contribution to deepening India-Germany relations. I thank her for that," said PM Modi.The Prime Minister also invited Germany to "take advantage of opportunities in Defence Corridors in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu."(ANI)
14:48   Not ideal but no one will die: Bangladesh coach on Delhi pollution
The prevailing smoggy conditions in the national capital are not perfect admitted Bangladesh coach Russell Domingo but said "no one is dying" as pollution is an issue in their country as well. 

Domingo said getting exposed to poor air quality air in India was not as big a shock for them as it is for some other countries. Bangladesh players Al Amin, Abu Hider Rony and team's spin consultant Daniel Vettori were seen wearing masks during their fielding session this morning. 

 "We know the Sri Lankans struggled last time and look there's a bit of pollution in Bangladesh as well, so it's a not a massive shock unlike some other countries. The players have just got on with the game and haven't complained too much about it," Domingo told reporters. As the situation got better, the players removed their masks, except Vettori and other non-Bangladeshi support staff. 

"It's only three hours so it's going to be easy. There maybe scratchy eyes, sore throat but that's ok. No one is dying," Domingo added. The pollution levels in the Delhi-NCR region entered the "severe plus" category" on Friday, propelling the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority to declare a public health emergency. -- PTI
14:28   Odisha to attack poverty with Nobel winner Banerjee
The Odisha government has entered into partnership with an organisation co-founded by Nobel laureates- Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo- to maximise the impact of anti-poverty programmes across a wide range of sectors in the state. 

The step has been taken as part of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's ministry 5Ts initiative. The state has adopted 5Ts (Teamwork, Technology, Transparency, Time leading to Transformation) as its policy. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed by the state government with the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) South Asia on Thursday to devise a strategic evidence-based approach to policy-making. 

"As part of the 5Ts initiative, the state government signed an MoU with J-PAL. This is regarding development and welfare in various core sectors of our state," the chief minister said after signing the MoU. 

This partnership aims at bringing transformation in the lives of people through research-based intervention in policy formulation, an official said. Under the joint efforts, the organisation will provide Odisha government with technical assistance for scaling up evidence-backed programme to improve development outcomes. -- PTI
14:23   Govt fixes sugar sale quota of 20.5 lakh tonne for Nov
Sugar mills can sell 20.5 lakh tonne of sugar in the open market during November, according to a notification by the food ministry. As per the notification, 535 mills have been allocated 20.5 lakh tonne of sugar for sale in the current month. 

This quota is 1.5 lakh tonne less as compared to the allocation for November 2018. Additional quota of sugar has been given to those mills that have completed more than half of the export quota during the 2018-19 season (October-September). 

According to experts, the quantity of sugar allocated for the current month is lower because there is no festival demand. Last year, Diwali and other festivals fell in November and therefore the quota was fixed higher. 

The government has decided to create 40 lakh tonne of buffer stock of sugar in the 2019-20 season. Sugar mills are likely to commence crushing operations from November 15. India's sugar output was 331 lakh tonne in the 2018-19 marketing year (October-September) as against the annual domestic demand of 250-260 lakh tonne. -- PTI
14:20   Delhi pollution: Javadekar accuses Kejriwal of playing blame-game
Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar on Friday accused Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal of playing blame-game over rising pollution level in Delhi and said blaming Punjab and Haryana would not solve the problem.

"Delhi Chief Minister is playing politics and blame-game on pollution levels," he said.

He further said, "Instead of blaming Punjab and Haryana, he would think about Modi ji's proposal to curb pollutants produced by industries in five states (adjacent to Delhi)."

The Minister accused Kejriwal of not releasing the state's share for the Eastern Peripheral Way and bypass road that could reduce the pollution levels in the national capital. 

"The state government had to release Rs 35 crore but they did not give it. They had to release Rs 1000 crore on a court order," Javadekar said.

Earlier today, Kejriwal blamed the Haryana and Punjab governments for rising pollution levels in the national capital region. "The (Manohar Lal) Khattar and Captain (Amarinder Singh) governments are forcing farmers to burn stubble, which is causing severe pollution in Delhi," he tweeted.

The air quality has been "hazardous" in the national capital for the past several days. According to Punjab Remote Sensing Centre, straw burning in the two states has increased this year. -- ANI
13:46   Prez rule in Maha if no govt by Nov 7: BJP minister
Maharashtra may head for President's rule if the new government is not in place by November 7 in the state, Finance Minister and senior BJP leader Sudhir Mungantiwar said on Friday. The minister's comments came as there appeared no headway in government formation even eight days after results of the October 21 Assembly elections. Talking to a Marathi TV channel, he attributed the delay in talks between BJP and Sena to Diwali festival, adding parleys will start in a day or two. -- PTI
13:34   Don't flirt with Shiv Sena, Nirupam warns Cong
Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam on Friday criticised party leaders who are mulling supporting the Shiv Sena in formation of the next government in Maharashtra, where the ruling saffron allies are engaged in a tug of war over sharing of power. Nirupam said the ongoing war of words between the BJP and its ally Shiv Sena was nothing but "drama" and the Congress should stay away from it. 

"Have they lost? How can some Congress leaders think of supporting the Shiv Sena," the former Mumbai Congress president tweeted. "Congress should not get into Shiv Sena-BJP drama. It's fake. It's their temporary fight to grab more power share," said the ex-MP, who is miffed with party leadership over ticket distribution for the October 21 polls. 

"To the best of my understanding, Shiv Sena will never come out of BJP's shadow," said Nirupam, who was associated with the Bal Thackeray-founded party before joining the Congress. 

He cautioned his party against "flirting" with the Uddhav Thackeray-led party. "It is going to be a futile exercise. Hope the state leaders realise the truth. Instead we must introspectwhy the party lost 2 per cent of votes as compared to 2014 assembly elections. 

"We are down from 17 to 15 per cent (in terms of vote share). As a party we have come down from 3rd to 4th position (in term of seats)," he said. Former Congress chief ministers Ashok Chavan and Prithviraj Chavan have spoken about the need for the Shiv Sena to break away from the BJP in case it wants to form government with their party's support. -- PTI
12:49   EC to announce poll schedule for Jharkhand this evening
The Election Commission will announce the schedule for the Jharkhand Assembly polls on Friday evening, an official statement said. The term of the 81-seat Jharkhand Assembly ends on January 5 next year. There were speculations that the EC would announce schedule for the Delhi Assembly elections along with that of the Jharkhand, but the EC invite only refers to poll schedule for the eastern state. PTI
12:46   Modi-Merkel helm delegation-level talks
India and Germany on Friday held delegation level talks at Hyderabad House here. Indian delegation was led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the German side was headed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Merkel is in New Delhi to participate in the fifth India-Germany Inter-Governmental Consultations.

Earlier in the day, she was accorded a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhavan and was received by PM Modi.

The Ministry of External Affairs had earlier said that Modi and Merkel will exchange views on regional and global matters of mutual interest. Both leaders will have a separate engagement with CEOs and business leaders of both countries.

The German Chancellor is also expected to meet President Ram Nath Kovind during the visit. She will also visit Gandhi Smriti.Merkel is also scheduled to interact with Indian Women leaders and address a business forum.

On Saturday, Merkel will pay a visit to Continental Automotive Components India Pvt Ltd facility in IMT Manesar in Gurgaon. She will also visit a metro station in Dwarka area.India and Germany have established a strategic partnership that is characterised by a high degree of trust and mutual understanding. 

The two leaders have regularly interacted on the sidelines of multilateral meetings. Germany is a leading trade and investment partner.In September, Merkel had met Modi on the sidelines of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. 

The two leaders held wide-ranging dialogues on several issues. In April last year, Modi made a brief stopover in Berlin and met Merkel after his visit to Sweden and Britain.

On Sunday, Merkel had informed that the focus of her talks with Modi would be on economic and trade relations, climate protection, and sustainable development, amongst other areas. -- ANI
12:29   Sena will get required numbers to form stable govt: Raut
Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut on Friday claimed that if his party decides, it will get the required numbers to form a stable government in the state."If Shiv Sena decides, it will get the required numbers to form a stable government in the state. People have given the mandate to form the government on basis of 50-50 formula that was pitched in front of people of Maharashtra," he said while speaking to reporters in Mumbai.

"If Uddhav Thackeray has said the Chief Minister will be from Shiv Sena, take it in writing that it will be from Shiv Sena," he said.

Commenting on Shiv Sena leaders meeting with the Governor on Wednesday, Raut said, "Farmers have suffered heavy losses. Our leaders met Governor yesterday and requested him to take stock of the situation.

"Reacting to the reports of Maharashtra Congress leaders meeting Sonia Gandhi to discuss about lending support to Shiv Sena, Raut said, "I don't agree with that. There is this particular thinking, agenda, the ideology of every party. The kind of politics that Congress has been doing, they too will not want BJP to be in power."Raut also defended his tweet, where he took a veiled dig at BJP.

"This is for the world. This is human nature. What I think is good, I always put that. Whether, it is personal, social or political life, people or organisations, high on arrogance will sink," he said.

Raut in his tweet had said, "Sahib, mat paliye, ahankar ko itna, waqt ke sagar me kai Sikander doob gaye."When questioned about BJP's offer of giving more cabinet berths to Shiv Sena, Raut said, "We are not here for trading."
12:20   Media watchdog slams Pakistan's curbs on news anchors
Reporters Without Borders says regulatory body's 'draconian' orders for TV anchors violate journalistic independence. Read more 
12:18   Vodafone clears the air on exit, stock surges 23%
Shares of Vodafone Idea on Friday zoomed over 23 per cent in early trade after the company clarified that it is not going to exit the Indian market. Shares of the telecom operator jumped 22.87 per cent to Rs 4.78 apiece on the BSE. Similarly, the stock rose 23.07 per cent to Rs 4.80 on the NSE. 

The stock exchange had sought clarification from the company over the rumours of the telecom operator exiting the Indian market because of mounting losses and debt recast issue. British telecom giant Vodafone on Thursday said it will continue to stay invested in the Indian market and is seeking the government's support to tide over the current challenging times. 

"Vodafone is aware of the unfounded and baseless rumours circulating in some of the Indian media that we have decided to exit the market. We would like to categorically state that this is not true and is malicious," Vodafone group said in a statement on Thursday. -- PTI
12:09   Priyanka questions BJP's role in WhatsApp snooping
Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Friday said if the BJP or the government engaged Israeli agencies to snoop into the phones of journalists, lawyers, activists and politicians, it is a "scandal" with grave ramifications for national security. 

Her remarks come after WhatsApp said that Indian scribes and human rights activists were among those globally spied upon by unnamed entities using Israeli spyware Pegasus.

"If the BJP or the government has engaged Israeli agencies to snoop into the phones of journalists, lawyers, activists and politicians, it is a gross violation of human rights and a scandal with grave ramifications on national security," Priyanka Gandhi said in a tweet. 

Waiting for the government's response, the Congress general secretary said. The Congress on Thursday attacked the Modi government over the issue, alleging that it had been "caught snooping". 

The opposition party demanded a Supreme Court-monitored probe into the "illegal hacking" of cellphones. Amid the controversy, government asked the Facebook-owned messaging service to explain the breach and list out measures that have been taken to safeguard privacy of millions of Indians. 

IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the government is committed to protecting the privacy of Indian citizens. -- PTI
12:04   Bats in Nagaland may carry Ebola family of viruses: Study
Bats in some parts of northeast India's Nagaland state may harbour filoviruses, a family of viruses that includes the Ebola and Marburg viruses, putting people who hunt them at the risk of contracting deadly diseases, according to a recent study. 

The researchers, including Ian Mendenhall from Singapore as well as Pilot Dovih and Uma Ramakrishnan from Bangalore's National Centre for Biological Sciences, analysed the blood serum samples from bats hunted by people in Nagaland's Mimi village. 

The results of the study, published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases on Thursday night, revealed that some bats sampled in the study may have been exposed to filoviruses as they found antibodies (proteins reactive to specific parts of an infective agent) in the serum taken from the bats. 

"In the Northeast Indian state of Nagaland, local ethnic groups have conducted bat harvests for at least seven generations as a source of food and traditional medicine. These bat hunters are exposed to saliva, blood, and excreta from the bat species Rousettus leschenaultii and Eonycteris spelaea," the researchers wrote in the study. 

The study calls for better community-based monitoring of bats in specific regions to prevent an epidemic outbreak in the future. "We report the presence of filovirus (e.g. ebolavirus, marburgvirus and dianlovirus) reactive antibodies in both human (e.g. bat hunters) and bat populations in Northeast India, a region with no historical record of Ebola virus disease," the researchers wrote in the study. 

Five of the 85 human serum samples taken from the villagers contained antibodies, they said. This meant there was evidence of immune reaction against three different filoviruses, they explained. 

"We have antibodies in the bats that react against three different filovirus surface proteins '" these are the part of the virus against which most antibodies are made," study co-author Ian Mendenhall from the Duke-National University of Singapore told PTI in an email interview. 

"One is most likely Mengla virus, described earlier this year from a site in China 800 kilometres away, and in one of the same bat species in the harvest. The other two filoviruses are probably unknown," he added. However, the researchers said that they did not detect evidence of the filoviruses themselves. 

Mendenhall reasoned that this could either be due to the bat sample size in the study being small, due to a weak presence of the virus in the serum, or high genetic diversity of the filovirus family that is not captured by the tests employed. It is unknown if these viruses are pathogenic or if they are present in the bats without causing any symptoms, he added.
11:54   Lakshadweep, Kerala likley to receive heavy rainfall today: IMD
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) on Thursday said that isolated places over Lakshadweep, Kerala and Mahe are likely to receive heavy rainfall today.

The weather forecast agency further predicted that heavy downpour is also likely over Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Karaikal, Konkan, Goa and South Interior Karnataka.After taking stock of the prevailing weather system, the IMD has issued Orange alert in four districts of Kerala. Ernakulam, Trissur, Malappuram and Kozhikode districts have Orange alert.All other districts of Kerala have a yellow alert.A Red alert has also been issued for Lakshadeep.

In view of the heavy downpour battering the state of Tamil Nadu, the district Collecter Veeraragavarav has ordered all schools in the district to declare a one-day holiday today.

In Delhi, the sky will generally be clear with the minimum and maximum temperatures hovering around 19 degrees Celsius and 32 degrees Celsius.

The thunderstorm accompanied with lightning is very likely at isolated places over Vidarbha, Madhya Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Assam, IMD stated in its All India Weather Warning Bulletin.

The gale winds, becoming 80-90 kmph gusting to 110 kmph likely over Lakshadweep area; speed reaching 100-110 kmph gusting to 125 kmph over the southeast and adjoining east-central the Arabian Sea and speed reaching 90-100 kmph gusting to 110 kmph over west-central and adjoining north-west Arabian Sea.

The sea condition is very likely to be high to very high over Comorin-Maldives area; very rough to high along and off Kerala-Karnataka coasts; high to very high over Lakshadweep area; very high to phenomenal over south-east and adjoining east-central Arabian Sea and very high to high over west-central and adjoining the northwest the Arabian Sea, according to weather forecast agency. The organisation has advised fishermen not to venture in sea in these areas for the next few days.The IMD has also alerted about the Cyclonic Storm 'Maha' and said that places over Lakshadweep and adjoining southeast Arabian Sea and Maldives area.

Image: Sea water flooded streets, entered homes in Chellanam, Ernakulam yesterday, following rough sea conditions due to Cyclone Maha.
11:42   Saamna's new dig at BJP: Farmers awaiting aid, not new govt
Amid standoff with ally BJP over formation of the next government in Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena on Friday demanded immediate relief for farmers affected by unseasonal rains in parts of the state. In an editorial in its mouthpiece "Saamana", the Uddhav Thackeray-led party said farmers who have suffered crop loss should be provided adequate compensationwithout attaching any conditions. 

"The farmers in the state are awaiting immediate assistance and not a new government," the editorial said. It said farmers who were bearing the brunt of dry drought all these years are now facing wet drought as rains have continued despite end of monsoon over a fortnight ago. 

The Marathi daily said adequate compensation should be given to affected agriculturists without considering any terms and conditions like whether the damage was caused by heavy rains or unseasonal showers. Due to the rains since the last one month, all expenditure done by cultivators on farming had been wasted, the Sena mouthpiece rued. 

Taking a dig at senior ally, the BJP, the editorial said, "Instead of standing by farmers, efforts are focussed on garnering support for government formation. "Despite getting a mandate, there is still no new government in place," it said. The editorial, however, did not name the BJP, which has rejected the Sena's demand to split the chief minister's post for 2.5 years each. There is a caretaker government in place which is busy shoring up its numbers to stake claim to form the next dispensation, the paper said. -- PTI

Image: The farmers' protest at Azad Maidan in March 2018.
11:28   India manufacturing growth drops to 2-year low
Manufacturing activity in the country continued to weaken in October, with factory orders and production rising at the weakest rates in two years, a monthly survey said on Friday. 

 The headline seasonally adjusted IHS Markit India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) fell to a two-year low of 50.6 in October from 51.4 in September. This indicates only a marginal improvement in the health of the manufacturing industry, the survey said. In PMI parlance, a print above 50 means expansion, while a score below that denotes contraction. As per the IHS Markit survey, the cooling of manufacturing sector conditions in India continued in October, with both factory orders and production rising at the weakest rates for two years. 

"Subsequently, job creation softened to a six-month low, while companies were reluctant to hold excess stock and lowered input buying in response," it noted. The PMI data for October showed a continuation of manufacturing sector weakness in India, "with sales growth softening to the slowest in two years", said Pollyanna De Lima, Principal Economist at IHS Markit. "Weakening demand had a domino effect in the manufacturing industry, knocking down rates of increase in production, employment and business sentiment," Lima said. With quantities of purchases contracting for the third month in a row, Lima pointed out that input costs fell for the first time in over four years during October. -- PTI
11:24   UN chief appeals to India, Pak to deal with Kashmir issue through dialogue
As Jammu and Kashmir transitioned from a state into two union territories, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres reiterated his appeal that India and Pakistan deal with the Kashmir issue through dialogue and ensure full respect for human rights. 

Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday transitioned from a state into union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, nearly three months after the NDA government abrogated the state's special status. Asked about the Secretary General's comment as Jammu and Kashmir ceased to be a state, the UN chief's Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq during a media briefing on Thursday said, "Well, just to reiterate our basic concerns that the Secretary General has previously expressed his concerns about the situation in Kashmir. As you know, he has met with representatives of India and Pakistan at their request to discuss the situation." 

Haq said the UN chief has appealed to both India and Pakistan "to deal with the issue through dialogue, and, as we've made clear and, particularly, as the High Commissioner for Human Rights has made clear, the situation in Kashmir can only be solved with full respect for human rights.' Tension between India and Pakistan has escalated after the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir's special status. -- PTI
10:57   Kejriwal wants school children to write letters to 'Capt uncle, Khattar uncle'
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday told school children in the city that smoke emanating from stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana was causing air pollution here and asked them to write letters to chief ministers of the two states urging them to control it.  

Kejriwal distributed masks to school children as part of the government's initiative to protect them from pollution and also explained children about stubble burning. 

The Delhi government has procured 50 lakh N95 masks for distribution among children in private and government schools. He said the smoke emanating from stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana causes pollution in Delhi.  

"Please write letters to Captain uncle and Khattar uncle and say, 'Please think about our health'," he told children.  He also urged Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar and Punjab CM Capt Amarinder Singh to think about the health of children and take steps to stop stubble burning.  The chief minister also urged students to help in stopping garbage burning in the national capital.  

"We have to stop garbage burning in Delhi. If you see anyone doing so, request them to not do it. If they do not listen, there is a WhatsApp number to report it," he said. -- PTI
10:54   Maharashtra will have Shiv Sena CM: Raut
Maharashtra will have chief minister from the Shiv Sena, senior party leader Sanjay Raut said on Friday amid standoff with ally BJP over sharing the top post. Talking to reporters he said there has been no talks yet between the BJP and the Sena on government formation. The Maharashtra chief minister will be from the Shiv Sena, he asserted. 

"No ultimatum to the BJP (on government formation). They are big people," the Rajya Sabha MP said. If the Sena decides, it can get the required numbers to form a stable government in Maharashtra, he said. 

"People have given mandate to form government on the basis of "50:50 formula" that was reached in front of the people of Maharashtra," Raut said. 

In the just-held state polls, the BJP won 105 seats, while the Sena got 56 in the 288-member assembly. The Uddhav Thackeray-led party is demanding the post of Chief Minister for 2.5 years and 50:50 division of portfolios. Both these demands have been rejected by the BJP which has insisted that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis will continue to hold the post for the next five years. -- PTI

Image: Worli MLA Aaditya Thackeray is the Shiv Sena's CM candidate. 
10:51   Delhi's air quailty enters emergency category
The blanket of haze over Delhi thickened on Friday morning with the national capital's pollution levels increasing overnight by around 50 points, taking the overall air quality index to 459. 

A Central Pollution Control Board official said the AQI entered the "severe plus" or "emergency" category late Thursday night, the first time since January this year. If the air quality persists in the "severe plus" category for more than 48 hours, emergency measures such as odd-even car rationing scheme, banning entry of trucks, construction activities and shutting down schools are taken under the Graded Response Action Plan, the official said. The hazardous pollution levels forced a number of people to miss morning walks and other activities. Shubhomoy Sikdar, a Delhi-based journalist, said the pollution levels gave him a throat infection and he had to skip his daily sports session. Amanpreet Singh, a resident of Jangpura, said he has been avoiding morning and evening walks and preferring to stay indoors. The number of masked faces continued to grow as the city remained shrouded in pungent haze for the fourth consecutive day. -- PTI
10:37   It's Merkel's 4th visit to India and this is what's planned
A number of agreements will be signed between India and Germany signifying their broad-based ties and the "very close" relationship between the two countries, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday.

She made the remarks after being received by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Rashtrapati Bhavan where she was accorded a ceremonial welcome after arriving here on Thursday night on a two-day visit. 

Speaking to reporters with Prime Minister Modi by her side, Merkel said she was delighted to be in India for the fifth Inter-Governmental Consultations. 

"I would like to thank the prime minister for the very warm and gracious welcome with which we have been received here. This is my fourth visit to India and I look forward to the very interesting programme," she said. 

"Germany-India are linked by very close ties. We will have discussions on issues of mutual interest. We also have the opportunity of signing a number of MoUs and agreements that shows that we have a very broad-based and deep relationship," Merkel said. 

Germany and India have been cooperating for many years and will build on this cooperation in future, the German chancellor said. "This is a very close relationship. We have great respect for this vast country and its diversity," she added.  She will co-chair the fifth IGC with Prime Minister Modi, following which the two leaders will make press statements and a raft of agreements will be signed between the two sides. 

Merkel will be holding talks with Modi on a host of bilateral issues and nearly 20 agreements are expected to signed between the two countries, the sources said. 

Merkel will call on President Ram Nath Kovind in the evening and will also hold a meeting with the prime minister at his Lok Kalyan Marg residence.
10:25   Maharashtra Cong leaders to meet Sonia today
Amidst the ongoing tussle between BJP and Shiv Sena over the government formation in Maharashtra, senior Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee leaders will be meeting interim party president Sonia Gandhi at her residence in New Delhi today.

The meeting is scheduled to take place today morning.Ashok Chavan, Prithviraj Chavan, Balasaheb Thorat, Vijay Vadettiwar, Manikrao Thackeray are among the leaders expected to meet the interim Congress president.

In the recently concluded Maharashtra elections, the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance won an absolute majority in the Maharashtra assembly polls with the former emerging as the single largest party in the state with 105 seats. 

However, they are yet to stake a claim for the formation of government in the state.The Shiv Sena has been saying that there was a 50-50 power-sharing agreement between the two parties but Fadnavis has said that the party's ally was not promised the Chief Minister's post for two-and-a-half years when the alliance was finalised before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Shiv Sena bagged 56 seats in the elections. NCP won 54 seats in the assembly while the Congress won 44 seats in the 288-member assembly. 
-- ANI
10:01   Sensex holds firm, rises over 100 points
Market benchmark BSE Sensex rose over 100 points in early trade on Friday led by gains in Infosys, HDFC twins and ITC amid positive global cues and sustained foreign fund inflow. The 30-share index was trading 136.83 points, or 0.34 per cent, higher at 40,265.88, and the broader NSE Nifty advanced 33.90 points, or 0.29 per cent, to 11,911.35. Top gainers in the Sensex pack included IndusInd Bank, Hero Motocorp Tech Mahindra, Tata Steel, ITC and Infosys, rising up to 2.68 per cent. On the other hand, Bharti Airtel, Tata Motors, Yes Bank, TCS, RIL and SBI fell up to 1.98 per cent. 

The rupee depreciated by 6 paise to 70.98 against US dollar in early trade on Friday as weak macro environment and rising crude prices kept investors edgy. However, a weak dollar against major currencies overseas, persistent foreign fund inflows and a positive opening in the domestic equity market extended support to the rupee, forex dealers said. 

Image: Tata Steel was among the top gainers in the pack.
09:52   Beed farmer asks Guv to make him interim CM
Meanwhile, this in Maharashtra and a point to ponder. 

As the impasse between the BJP and Shiv Sena continues over government formation in Maharashtra, a farmer from Beed district wrote a letter to Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyar, urging to make him the Chief Minister till the differences are sorted out between the two parties.Shrikant Vishnu Gadale wrote the letter to Governor Koshyar through Beed District Collector and stated he should be made the Chief Minister of the State for the meantime.

In his letter written in Marathi dated October 31, Gadale stated said that crops have got heavily damaged due to untimely rains and hence the state needs a government at the earliest for the betterment of the farmers.

The BJP-Shiv Sena alliance won an absolute majority in the Maharashtra assembly polls with the former emerging as the single largest party in the state with 105 seats. 

Representational image
09:49   Grim report from Kashmir
The largest fact-finding team to visit the Kashmir Valley after August 5 has found a virtually inaccessible judicial system, widespread and repeated claims of torture and an overwhelming majority afflicted with psychological trauma. 

The team included human rights lawyers Mihir Desai, Lara Jesani, Veena Gowda, Clifton DRozario, Aarti Mundkur and Saranga Ugalmugle, psychiatrist Amit Sen, trade unionist Gautam Mody and Bangalore-based activists Nagari Babaiah, Ramdas Rao and Swati Seshadri. They visited five Valley districts between September 28 and October 4.  
Read the report here
09:44   Sikhs to Kartarpur won't need passport: Imran
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday announced several concessions for Indian pilgrims going to Darbar Sahib gurdwara at Kartarpur in Pakistan's Punjab where Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, spent the last years of his life.

"For Sikhs coming for pilgrimage to Kartarpur from India, I've waived off 2 requirements: they won't need a passport-just a valid ID; ii)they no longer have to register 10 days in advance. Also,no fee to be charged on day of inauguration&on Guruji's 550th birthday." Khan tweeted.

India and Pakistan have already signed an agreement for Kartarpur corridor that will connect Darbar Sahib with Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district of Punjab and will facilitate visa-free movement of Indian pilgrims, who will only have to obtain a permit to visit Kartarpur Sahib, which was established in 1522 by the founder of the Sikh faith.

09:33   Germany's Merkel receives ceremonial welcome in Rashtrapati Bhavan
German Chancellor Angela Merkel received a ceremonial welcome at Rashtrapati Bhavan. She was received by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

Merkel will hold talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi today. Nearly 20 agreements are expected to be signed between India and Germany during Merkel's visit. This will be in fifth meeting between PM Modi and Merkel this year.

Merkel has a packed schedule today --  she will go to Rajghat, Mahatma Gandhi's memorial.

Later, she will participate in the fifth India-Germany Inter-Governmental Consultations in the capital.

She will also meet President Ram Nath Kovind in the evening and will later hold talks with the PM at his Lok Kalyan Marg residence.

Tomorrow, she will meet a business delegation and visit a German company in Gurgaon. She will also visit a metro station in Delhi's Dwarka before returning.
09:04   Delhi CM distributes free masks to children
Amid the soaring levels of air pollution, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal distributed free masks to school children. 

Delhi's air level is in the severe category, prompting residents to cover up and stay indoor. 

08:13   German embassy on standby with face masks as Merkel visits smoggy Delhi
From the clean, crisp air of Berlin in the "good" category of the Air Quality Index, German Chancellor Angela Merkel landed in New Delhi that has been grappling with air quality in the "severe" levels.

With the AQI touching the 300-mark in South and Central Delhi where Merkel will stay and interact with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on a two-day visit, the embassy is ready with its protective measures. 

Reports state that anti-pollution face masks have been kept for the delegation that has left Germany and is heading for India. All hotel suites where they stay have air purifiers in place.

Merkel will be accompanied by three cabinet ministers, nine junior ministers, and secretary-level officers. In all, 12 of the 15 ministries will be represented in her team.

During her visit from October 31 to November 2, Modi and Merkel are expected to deliberate on key regional and global issues including the situation in Afghanistan, West Asia and Korean peninsula. The two are expected to sign nearly 20 agreements as well.
07:51   US leader applauds Modi for 'bold' steps in J-K
An influential American Congressman applauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi for taking the "bold steps" on Jammu and Kashmir by abrogating an "outdated and temporary" provision of the Constitution.
"The steps that Prime Minister Modi and the Parliament have taken are needed, they're good for the long-term stability of the region, and they should be applauded, Congressman George Holding said on the House floor.
The Republican lawmaker said the Indian Parliament passed the legislation changing the status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and modified provisions that were an "obstacle to economic development and promoted a sense of separatism."
"Up until recently, Kashmir had been governed by Article 370, which was an outdated provision of law that the Indian constitution recognized as temporary. Article 370 might have worked well for those with political connections, but it denied economic opportunities for the people, he said.

The temporary provision of the Indian Constitution, he said, also created a "polarizing environment" that was exploited politically and during the past decades, thousands of people lost their lives due to terrorist attacks.
Several groups based in Pakistan were able to conduct cross-border terrorism that wreaked havoc on individuals and families, and led to a morbid economy, he said.
Hence, Modi government had to make a decision on whether to continue with the old policy or to pursue progress by changing the region's legal status, Holding asserted.
-- PTI
00:02   PM to inaugurate Kartarpur corridor PTB on Nov 9
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the state-of-the-art Passenger Terminal Building at Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab on November 9, formally opening the Kartarpur Corridor connecting two historical gurdwaras on either side of the India-Pakistan border for pilgrims, officials said on Thursday.
The prime minister will also address a public meeting nearly three kilometres from the building after the inauguration, following which he will attend the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak being organised at Sultanpur Lodhi, they said.
The much-awaited corridor will connect the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur, Punjab, with the gurdwara at Kartarpur, just around four kilometres from the international border, located at Shakargarh in Narowal district of Pakistan's Punjab province.
Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism, had spent more than 18 years of his life at the Darbar Sahib gurdwara in Kartarpur, Pakistan, located on the banks of the river Ravi, making it one of the holiest sites for devotees.
Spanning over an area of around 2.5 lakh sq feet, the terminal will have a facilitation centre to host government officials responsible for ensuring hassle-free travel of pilgrims, food kiosks, parking areas and security points. 
The government had acquired 50 acres land for the project which can accommodate 5,000 passengers.
The foundation stone for the Rs 178-crore Kartarpur Corridor was laid by Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu in November 2018.
A total of 55 immigration counters are being set up at the passenger terminal.
There will be no visa requirement but pilgrims will have to carry their passports. -- PTI