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Thu, 13 February 2020
Pak Army chief Gen Bajwa to stay till Nov 2022

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23:40   Pak Army chief Gen Bajwa to stay till Nov 2022
General Qamar Javed Bajwa will remain as the Pakistan Army chief until November 28, 2022, according to a notification by the Ministry of Defence.
The notification was issued on January 28 after the country's Parliament passed a law  to settle the issue of the extension of army chief's tenure.
It said that the new tenure of army chief will be for an additional tenure of three years, effective from November 29, 2019 to November 28, 2022.
 
Bajwa was to retire on November 29 last year at the end of his three-year original term but Prime Minister Imran Khan gave the 59-year-old Army chief another extension of same length citing regional security situation through a notification on August 19.
 
However, the Supreme Court on November 28 suspended the government order, observing that there is no law to give extension to the Army chief's tenure. But the apex court granted a six-month extension to Gen Bajwa after being assured by the government that Parliament will pass a legislation on the extension/reappointment of an army chief within six months.  
Later the government and the Opposition joined hands to amend the Army Act of 1952 to appoint and re-appoint an army chief and also extend his services. -- PTI  
22:57   Shaheen Bagh protesters invite PM on V-day
The anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protesters at Shaheen Bagh have extended an invitation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to come and celebrate Valentine's Day with them on Friday.
 
The protesters, who are staging a demonstration since December 15 last year demanding withdrawal of the contentious CAA and a proposed all-India National Register of Citizens, will also unveil a "love song" and "a surprise gift" for Modi.
Posters at the protest site in south-east Delhi and also circulating on social media platforms read: "PM Modi, please come to Shaheen Bagh, collect your gift and talk to us."
"Whether Prime Minister Modi or Home Minister Amit Shah or anyone else, they can come and talk to us. If they can convince us that whatever is happening is not against the Constitution, we will end this protest," Syed Taseer Ahmed, one of the first protesters at Shaheen Bagh, told PTI.
He said according to the government's claims, the CAA was "to award citizenship and not to take away someone's citizenship", but nobody explained "how is it going to help the country".
"How is CAA going to help us tackle issues of unemployment, poverty and economic slowdown, which are the most pressing issues," Ahmed said.
Protests against the CAA and the NRC unfolded at Shaheen Bagh, Zakir Nagar, Jamia Nagar, Khureji Khas and other places in the national capital and elsewhere in the country in December.
The protesters at Shaheen Bagh have pitched a tent on a main road linking Noida to south-east Delhi via the Kalindi Kunj bridge, which, according to an official estimate, witnesses movement of around 1.75 lakh vehicles on a daily basis.
Ahmed said school buses, ambulances and emergency vehicles were allowed hassle-free movement since the protest started two months ago and the claim that the stir was causing a lot of problems to the common people was "exaggerated".
"Had it been at the levels as it is being portrayed by some people, we would have been evacuated from here long ago. The BJP would have won the Delhi polls and the Centre would have removed us. So, this claim that the Shaheen Bagh protest is causing major inconvenience is unsubstantiated," he added.
According to the CAA, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have come to the country from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014 after being subjected to religious persecution will not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian citizenship. The law excludes Muslims. -- PTI
22:18   Ex-TERI chief R K Pachauri passes away
R K Pachauri, a former chief of The Energy and Resources Institute, passed away on Thursday after a prolonged cardiac ailment, TERI Director General Ajay Mathur said.
 
He was 79.
"It is with immense sadness that we announce the passing away of R K Pachauri, the founder Director of TERI. The entire TERI family stands with the family of Dr Pachauri in this hour of grief," Mathur said in a statement issued by the TERI.
"TERI is what it is because of Dr Pachauri's untiring perseverance. He played a pivotal role in growing this institution, and making it a premier global organisation in the sustainability space," said Mathur, who succeeded Pachauri at TERI in 2015. 
Pachauri was admitted to Escorts Heart Institute in the national capital where he underwent open heart surgery and was put on life support on Tuesday, sources said.
In 2015, Pachauri was accused of allegedly sexually harassing a woman colleague after which he quit the post. 
In the statement issued by TERI, its Chairman Nitin Desai hailed Pachauri's contribution to global sustainable development as "unparalleled". -- PTI 
21:51   Delhi polls: AAP holds meet to find out reasons behind defeat in 8 seats
Two days after the Delhi assembly election results, Aam Aadmi Party national convener Arvind Kejriwal held a meeting with senior leaders to review the party's defeat in eight seats.
   
The reasons behind the defeat in each seat were discussed in detail during the meeting, a statement issued by the party said.
 
Inputs on the reasons for the loss in these seats were also taken from the respective candidates, it added.
 
The Aam Aadmi Party won 62 seats in the 70-member Delhi Assembly, while the BJP bagged the remaining eight seats. 

The Congress drew a blank for the second consecutive time in the Delhi polls.

Results for the assembly polls were declared on February 11.
 
"The AAP national convener, Arvind Kejriwal, instructed all the leaders to keep in touch with the public even in the seats where the party has lost," the statement said.
 
Kejriwal told them to understand the problems that people face and resolve them promptly. He suggested to establish a close relationship with the public, to which all the leaders agreed, it said.
 
The AAP leaders during the meeting expressed surprise on why the Aam Aadmi Party lost eight seats even after so much work by the government, the statement said.
 
"Also, the seats where the margin of defeat was narrow got a special mention. Among which Laxmi Nagar was the most prominent where the party lost by just 800 votes," it said.
21:36   RS official demoted for 'offensive' posts on PM
Rajya Sabha Secretariat has demoted a security officer for his "offensive, derogatory, demeaning and sarcastic posts" against Prime Minister Narendra Modi on social media, saying he violated rules and failed to maintain "political neutrality".
 
The officer had also shared a number of posts that "indicated his active involvement in political activities".
In an order dated February 12, the Rajya Sabha Secretariat said that the Chairman of the house Venkaiah Naidu in pursuance of the rules has "imposed the penalty of reduction to the lower grade of security officer for a period of five years on Urujul Hasan, Deputy Director (Security), who is under suspension" for violation of the rules by failing to maintain "political neutrality".
According to the order, besides demotion, Hasan would not get increments in his salary for five years or regain his current position on the expiry of the punishment period. 
The Rajya Sabha Secretariat concluded the disciplinary proceedings initialed against Hasan on the charges of sharing several "offensive, derogatory, demeaning and sarcastic posts on social media against the Hon'ble Prime Minister of India and some Union Ministers and Chief Ministers", the order reads.
The Secretariat said Hasan also shared a number of posts "indicating his active involvement or assistance or indulgence in political activities, canvassing in connection with an election to the legislature and failure to maintain political neutrality etc. and thereby violating the rules".
The Rajya Sabha Service Rules 1957 and Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules bar employees from indulging in any activity that is considered "unbecoming of a government servant" besides prohibiting any involvement in political activities. -- PTI 
21:34   Govt renames 2 prominent institutes after Sushma
The Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra, a cultural centre reflecting India's connect with its diaspora, was Thursday renamed Sushma Swaraj Bhavan in honour of the late external affairs minister known for her empathy in reaching out to distressed Indians globally.
 
The Foreign Service Institute, a renowned institution where diplomats are trained, has also been renamed the Sushma Swaraj Institute of Foreign Service.
The government's decision to name the two institutions after Swaraj came a day before her 68th birth anniversary.
The illustrious leader who brought rare empathy and a human approach to India's diplomacy as external affairs minister in the previous Narendra Modi government died on August 6 last year following a massive cardiac arrest.
The ministry of external affairs, in a statement, said the two institutions have been renamed in solemn tribute to the "invaluable contribution" of Swaraj to Indian diplomacy, the cause of the Indian diaspora and the ethos of public service.
"The announcement is being made on the eve of her birth anniversary falling on February 14 in honour of the legacy and decades of public service of the former external affairs minister," it said.
As external affairs minister, Swaraj brought a sense of assertiveness in India's diplomacy besides engaging the diaspora, a central focus of the country's foreign policy priorities.
Swaraj was one of the most followed foreign ministers on Twitter globally.
She was known for helping Indians stuck abroad as she was quick to respond to their calls for help on Twitter. Swaraj even became popular in Pakistan for her response to people wanting to get visas for medical treatment in India.
The Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra located in the heart of the Capital was set up to recognise the contributions of the overseas Indian community to India's growth and development.
A museum in the Kendra depicts the history of migration of the overseas Indian community as well as their experiences and contributions.
Swaraj had many firsts to her credit -- the youngest cabinet minister in the Haryana government, the first woman chief minister of Delhi and the first woman spokesperson for a national political party in the country.
She was Information and Broadcasting minister in the 13-day Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 1996 and got the Cabinet portfolio again after he led the BJP to power in 1998.
Long seen as a protege of veteran BJP leader L K Advani, she also was the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha between 2009-14.
Swaraj, a law graduate who practised in the Supreme Court, was elected seven times as a member of Parliament and three times as a member of the legislative assembly. -- PTI 
21:10   Debasish Panda appointed finance secretary
Senior IAS officer Debasish Panda was on Thursday appointed as the new finance secretary, according to a Personnel Ministry order.
 
Panda, a 1987-batch IAS officer of the Uttar Pradesh cadre, is at present special secretary, department of financial services.
 
The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet has approved his appointment as secretary, department of financial services, in place of Rajiv Kumar, who superannuates this month end, the order said. -- PTI 
21:09   Cops should be allowed to sit during VIP visits, rallies: Pawar
Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar has written a letter to Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh saying that the police staff on duty during VIP visits and rallies should be allowed to sit.
Pawar said the home department should frame guidelines about making it mandatory for the organisers of the events to make chairs available for the police.
Members of the police staff have to stand for hours during the VIP visits and rallies, Pawar said in the letter dated February 10.
"They face immense stress for crowd control, maintaining law and order, security during the arrival and departure of VIPs," he said.
"During bandobast, police need to be alert. But the police staff, including women constables and senior officers, should be allowed to sit when public meetings are going on peacefully," he said. -- PTI 
21:07   Delhi assembly likely to meet next week for new lawmakers to take oath
The newly-constituted Delhi assembly is likely to meet for two days next week for lawmakers to take oath, sources said on Thursday.
 
The assembly is likely to meet on February 18 and 19, the sources said.
One of the senior-most legislators will be sworn-in as pro-tem speaker to oversee the oath process, they said.
The term of the previous assembly will end on February 22. The seventh legislative assembly of Delhi was constituted on Wednesday.
Shahdara MLA Ram Niwas Goel, who was the speaker in the sixth legislative assembly, is one of the senior-most lawmakers.
Asked whether Goel will retain the post in the new assembly, an Aam Aadmi Party functionary did not rule it out, but said a decision has not been taken yet.
On Sunday, AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal will take oath as the chief minister of Delhi for a third consecutive time.
Kejriwal is likely to retain all six incumbent ministers in the new cabinet.
The AAP returned to power winning 62 of the 70 assembly seats in the Delhi election held on February 8. 

While the BJP has won eight seats, the Congress drew a blank. -- PTI
20:50   PM's letter of appreciation to crew involved in Wuhan evacuation
Appreciating the "high level of commitment" to duty shown by officials of Air India and the health ministry who evacuated Indians and Maldivians from the coronavirus-hit Chinese city of Wuhan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has written a letter of appreciation to those involved in the exercise, the Prime Minister's Office said on Thursday.
 
"The prime minister has issued a letter of appreciation to the team members of the evacuation operations. This letter would be handed over to the crew by the Minister of State for Civil Aviation," the PMO statement said.
 
Air India had conducted an emergency evacuation operations from Wuhan, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak in China.
 
"Despite being aware of the aforementioned severe situation in the region, the Air India sent two B-747 aircraft with teams of Air India as well as teams from Ministry of Health for two consecutive days, on January 31 and February 1, returning the next day,"  the statement pointed out.
 
In its February 5 meeting, the Union Cabinet had congratulated crew members of the two Air India special flights that evacuated 647 Indians from Wuhan, saying they did not express any fear and gave primacy to their duties. -- PTI  
20:48   BJP ally: Present situation matter of grave concern
Shiromani Akali Dal stalwart Parkash Singh Badal on Thursday said minorities have to be taken along to successfully run a government, asserting that all religions should be respected.
 
The remark came against the backdrop of criticism of the Bharatiya Janata Party, an old ally of the SAD, over the amended Citizenship Act and plans to implement a National Register of Citizens.
Addressing a rally in Amritsar, Badal also expressed "grave concern" over the situation in the country.
"It is a matter of grave concern that the present situation in the country is not that good. I will say that all religions should be respected and take along minorities, take along your allies if you have to be successful in running the government so that all brothers (countrymen) consider themselves part of a family," Badal said.
"Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs brothers should embrace each other rather than we sow seeds of hatred," he added.
The SAD had earlier wanted Muslims to be included in the CAA, a legislation which seeks to give citizenship to the persecuted minorities of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
The Akalis, who are part of the National Demoratic Alliance even refused to contest the recently held Delhi assembly polls after it was asked by the BJP to change its stand on the CAA.
Badal said those in power at the Centre and the states should ensure that the country was run strictly in accordance with secular democratic ethos as enshrined in the Constitution.
"It is written in our Constitution that our country will have secular and democratic rule," he said.
"Any deviation from the sacred principles of secularism can only weaken our country. Those in power at the state as well as others must work unitedly and tirelessly to safeguard, preserve and protect India as a secular democracy.
"This is the legacy we inherited from the great Guru Sahiban, saints and seers. And this is the legacy we must leave for the coming generations," Badal added. -- PTI
19:54   Rajiv Bansal appointed Air India chief
Senior bureaucrat Rajiv Bansal was on Thursday appointed as the chairman and managing director of Air India, according to a personnel ministry order. 

Bansal, a 1988-batch IAS officer of Nagaland cadre, is at present additional secretary in the ministry of petroleum and natural gas. 

The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet has approved his appointment as chairman & managing director, Air India in the rank and pay of additional secretary, the order said, without mentioning further details. 

The post became vacant after incumbent Ashwani Lohani completed his tenure. -- PTI 
19:38   Memorial to CRPF jawans killed in Pulwama attack to be inaugurated on Friday
A memorial to the 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel killed in the Pulwama terror attack in February last year will be inaugurated at the Lethpora camp on Friday, a top official said.
 
"It is a way to pay homage to the brave jawans who lost their lives in the attack," Additional Director General of CRPF Zulfiquar Hasan said on Thursday here after a visit to the site where the memorial has been erected.
 
The names of all the 40 personnel along with their pictures will be part of the memorial along with the moto of the CRPF -- 'Seva and Nishtha' (Service and Loyalty).
 
"It definitely was an unfortunate incident and we have learnt our lessons now. We were always extra alert during our movement but now an extra layer of alertness has been added to it," Hasan told PTI here.
 
The supreme sacrifices of the 40 jawans has furthered increased "our resolve to eliminate enemies of the country".
 
"We fight with extra vigour during an encounter with terrorists and that is why we were able to eliminate the entire Jaish-e-Mohammed commanders immediately after the attack on our jawans," he said.
 
While he refused to spell out the precaution that is taken during troop movements in the aftermath of the February 14 attack, officials in the security establishment said the movement of troops is now done in coordination with other security forces and the army.
 
The ministry of home affairs had also allowed the CRPF to carry its troops by air to avoid the possibility of any such attack.
        
The Jammu and Kashmir government had imposed a ban on plying of private vehicles on two days in a week to facilitate movement of troops. The order was later rescinded after the situation became normal. 
       
The process of bullet-proofing of vehicles carrying the troops was expedited and more and more bunker-type vehicles were seen on roads carrying the jawans.
       
The memorial has been set up inside a CRPF camp adjacent to the place where Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist Adeel Ahmed Dar, driving an explosive-laden car, blew himself next to a convoy of security forces killing the 40 personnel.
         
Almost all the conspirators behind the dastardly attack have since been killed with the last one being Qari Yasir, the self-styled chief of Jaish-e-Mohammad terror group, who was killed last month. -- PTI  
19:15   'Goli maro', 'India-Pak' hurt BJP in Delhi: Shah
Union home minister Amit Shah on Thursday said hate speeches like 'goli maro' and 'Indo-Pak match' should not have been made by BJP leaders during the recent Delhi Assembly election campaign and that such remarks may have resulted in the party's defeat.
   
Shah, however, said the BJP does not fight elections just for victory or defeat but believes in expanding its ideology through polls.
 
"Statements like 'goli maro' and 'Indo-Pak match' should not have been made. Our party has distanced itself from such remarks," he told at a Times Now programme.
 
Replying to a question, Shah admitted that the BJP may have suffered because of the statements made by some party leaders in the Delhi polls.
 
The home minister said his assessment on Delhi elections went wrong but asserted that the result of the polls was not a mandate on the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens.
 
Shah said anyone who wants to discuss issues related to CAA with him can seek time from his office. "(We) will give time within three days," he added.
 
He blamed the Congress for the Partition on basis of religion. -- PTI 
18:46   Left parties will protest during Trump's visit: Yechury
CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury said on Thursday that his party will stage a protest during US President Donald Trump's visit to India later this month, as he was coming to boost the American economy at the cost of India's interest.

Yechury said the Left workers will launch agitations wherever Trump goes during his tour on February 24 and 25.

"Maybe in Delhi or in Gujarat, the party activists will certainly protest," he said.

The CPM leader said the protests would be held on two counts.

"Firstly, America is putting pressure and (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi is succumbing to completely open up our economy which is the gain they want to achieve in order to give support to Modi on issues like CAA, Article 370 and others," Yechury told reporters on the sidelines of an anti-CAA rally in Bhubaneswar.

"That is the quid pro quo going on, which is not in India's interest.

"This apart, we will be spending billions of dollars for buying US military equipment, to bail out the US economy while destroying our own," Yechury remarked.
18:37   Narayana Murthy's son-in-law named new UK FM
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday appointed Indian-origin politician Rishi Sunak as the new finance minister in a Cabinet reshuffle.

Sunak, the son-in-law of Infosys Co-founder Narayana Murthy, will join Home secretary Priti Patel on the top government bench as UK Chancellor of the Exchequer. 

Earlier, Pakistani-origin Sajid Javid resigned as Chancellor in a shock move in one of the biggest shakeups since Johnson won a thumping majority in the December 2019 general election. -- PTI  
18:21   Massive fire in commercial building in Mumbai; no casualty
Firefighters battled to contain a major blaze that started in one of the floors of a three-storey commercial building on Thursday and later spread to other parts of the structure in suburban Andheri, but no casualty has been reported so far, a civic official said.
The fire broke out in the ground-plus-three storey building located in Rolta Technology Park in the Marol area around 11.30 am and was yet to be brought under contral, he said.
Around 4.30 pm, the Fire Brigade informed that the operation to douse flames was still going, but so far there was no report of any casualty or anyone being trapped in the premises.
At least 12 fire engines and 11 jumbo water tankers are engaged in extinguishing the inferno, the official said.
According to civic sources, initially the fire was confined to the server room of the building, but later it spread to other parts of the strucuture, gutting a major portion of it.
As a major part of the building was engulfed by flames, the Fire Brigade escalated the fire call to "level four" (serious) around 1.50 pm, they said.
Mumbai's Chief Fire Officer Prabhat Rahangdale said dense smoke engulfed the building and its staircases, posing difficulties in the fire-fighting operation.
"The situation is deteriorating as there is no ventilation in the building. Firemen are facing difficulty in the operation due to intense heat and dense smoke inside the building, he said.
The situation is grave because of aluminium cladding, glass facade and lack of ventilation in the building, the Fire Brigade said.
"The firemen are battling to contain the blaze from inside as well as outside using special equipment and donning breathing apparatus sets, Rahangdale said.
The cause of the fire was not yet known, the sources said. -- PTI

Image: Firefighters try to douse a fire which broke out in a commercial building at Rolta Technology Park at MIDC, Andheri in Mumbai. Photograph: PTI Photo
18:07   Sanjeev Chawla sent to 12-day police custody
A Delhi court on Thursday sent Sanjeev Chawla, an alleged bookie and key accused in one of cricket's biggest match-fixing scandals that involved former South African captain Hansie Cronje, to 12-day police custody. 

Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Sudhir Kumar Sirohi sent Chawla to 12-day custody after the Delhi police sought his 14-day custodial interrogation. 

The police told the court that Chawla, extradited from London on Thursday, was involved in fixing of five matches and has to be taken to various places and confronted with certain people in order to unearth the larger conspiracy. 

Cronje, who died in a plane crash in 2002, was also involved, the police told the court. 

Chawla is alleged to have played a central role in conspiring with Cronje to fix a South African tour to India in February-March 2000. 

The British court documents say Chawla is a Delhi-born businessman who moved to the United Kingdom on a business visa in 1996, but continued to make trips to India.
17:18   'Baby Mufflerman' special invitee at Kejriwal's oath-taking ceremony
Baby Mufflerman' Aavyan Tomar, who stole the hearts when he dressed up as AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal, will be a special invitee at the swearing-in ceremony at the Ramlila Ground on February 16. 


An AAP functionary said Tomar has been invited for the oath-taking ceremony. Tomar, who is little more than a year old, hogged the headlines after he was spotted at the party office dressed like Kejriwal -- with spectacles, party cap, a sweater and muffler. The child even sported a moustache like the AAP chief. Aavyan Tomar lives at Mayur Vihar in east Delhi. His father Rahul Tomar is an AAP supporter. PTI
17:01   Slum on Trump's route in Ahmedabad walled off
Ahead of US President Donald Trump's visit to India later this month, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation is building a wall in front of a slum along the road connecting Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport to Indira Bridge.


However, city mayor Bijal Patel denied having knowledge in this regard. "I have not seen it. I do not know anything about it," Patel said. 


On Wednesday, a thorough security check was conducted at Sabarmati Ashram ahead of Trump's visit to Ahmedabad.


According to the Ministry of External Affairs, Trump is expected to attend an event at the Motera Stadium in Ahmedabad on the lines of the 'Howdy Modi' function that was addressed by the US President and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Houston in September last year.


Trump is slated to pay a two-day visit to India on February 24-25. During the visit, Trump, who will be accompanied by First Lady Melania Trump, will attend official engagements in New Delhi and Ahmedabad, and interact with a wide cross-section of the Indian society, the MEA said in a statement.
16:47   Nobody heard blast in Lucknow court, say cops
Update: A crude bomb reportedly went off in a Lucknow court compound on Thursday, "injuring" three lawyers in an incident which police said was triggered by rivalry between two groups.


Two live bombs were recovered, police said. But they added that nobody appeared to have seen or heard the blast, which a lawyer claimed took place outside his chambers. Police have launched an inquiry. 


A large number of policemen and a bomb disposal squad were rushed to the site. Lucknow Bar Association joint secretary Sanjiv Kumar Lodhi claimed he was the target of the "attack' because he has been complaining about some judicial officers. He said about 10 people hurled crude bombs outside his chamber around 11.30 am.

"I and two other lawyers were injured," he told reporters. "One bomb exploded but two still lay unexploded," he said, adding that the attackers left brandishing firearms. Lodhi questioned the security on the premises of the collectorate, which houses the district courts. He demanded security for himself. 


Joint Police Commissioner Naveen Arora said Lodhi has filed a complaint against the Bar Association's general secretary Jitu Yadav and three others, alleging that he was attacked with crude "sutli bombs'. 
16:41   Nirupam on Maha govt's 5-day week plan: Awarding kamchors
Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam on Thursday slammed Maharashtra government for adopting five working days a week norm for the government employees.


Nirupam took to his Twitter handle to term the decision as senseless and asked for the reason for giving two holidays a week.


"A senseless decision by Maharashtra Govt to provide 5-day working week for state employees. What's point in having to holidays every week? Govt staffs are already infamous for laziness. Are we rewarding them for their Kamchori? What's point in having to holidays every week?," reads his tweet.


Recently, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra government approved the decision to implement five days a week norm for the government employees from February 29.


In various states like Rajashthan, Bihar, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, five days a week is applicable. -- ANI
16:19   Mamata not invited for Kolkata metro corridor inauguration
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's name is missing from the invitation of the inauguration of Phase I of East-West Metro corridor between Salt Lake Sector-V to Salt Lake Stadium on Thursday.In the card, Union Ministers Piyush Goyal Babul Supriyo have been invited for the inauguration ceremony.


The metro line is scheduled to be flagged off at 5 pm.


Apart from these two cabinet ministers, state minister for Fire and Emergency Services Sujit Bose and Lok Sabha MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar are expected to attend the programme.The development comes as Banerjee has been at loggerheads with the central government over several issues, including CAA and NRC.The TMC supremo have taken out marches and protests against CAA and NRC and said they will not be implemented in West Bengal. -- ANI
16:17   Bengal BJP divided on strategy for 2021 state polls
After the BJP's defeat in the Delhi Assembly elections, poll managers of its West Bengal unit are divided whether to push its aggressive strategy on the CAA-NRC or mellow it down and lace it with alternative policies of governance. The BJP that recently suffered a defeat at the hands of the AAP, which won the polls for the third consecutive time on the plank of good governance, is in two minds about its strategy for 2021 Assembly polls in West Bengal. In West Bengal, the BJP had won 18 out of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in 2019 parliamentary polls, while it had swept all the seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi. 


"But within a few months, we see that the results are completely opposite in Lok Sabha polls and Assembly polls in Delhi. So we cannot take it for granted that just because we won 18 seats in Bengal, we will also win the Assembly polls."  -- PTI
15:55   #Throwback Thursday: Rahul takes a dig at Smriti
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Thursday took a dig at the BJP over the LPG cylinder price hike by tweeting a UPA-era picture of the saffron party's leaders protesting an increase in prices of cooking gas at the time, and demanded a rollback. 


Cooking gas LPG price was hiked on Wednesday by a steep Rs 144.5 per cylinder due to spurt in benchmark global rates of the fuel. "I agree with these members of the BJP as they protest the astronomical 150 Rs price hike in LPG cylinders," Gandhi tweeted along with the picture of BJP leaders, including Smriti Irani, protesting rise in cooking gas prices. Gandhi's tweet used the hashtag 'RollBackHike'. 


The Congress on Wednesday had accused the Modi government of "electrocuting" the budget of the common man by raising the price of LPG cylinders by Rs 144 and demanded its immediate rollback. PTI
15:41   Nirbhaya convict refuses lawyer offered by court
Tihar Jail authorities told a Delhi court Thursday that Pawan Gupta, one of the four death row convicts in the Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case, has refused to take a lawyer offered by DLSA as legal aid. 


Additional Session Judge Dharmender Rana had on Wednesday offered a counsel to Gupta and expressed displeasure over delay from his side. Gupta said he has removed his earlier lawyer and will need time to engage a new one. 


District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) had provided Pawan's father with a list of its empanelled advocates to chose from. Pawan is the only one among the four convicts who has not yet filed a curative petition -- the last legal remedy available to a person which is decided in-chamber. He also has the option of filing a mercy plea. PTI
15:19   nCov: India asks travellers to fill info form
Travellers arriving in India from the coronavirus-affected countries, including Singapore, have been asked by the Health Ministry to fill up a "self-reporting form" at the airport, requiring them to share details such as contact number and address, among others, as part of precautionary measure amid the outbreak of deadly virus.


The travellers are required to share the date of their arrival to India, flight and seat numbers, 'port of origin of journey', 'port of final destination', passport number, email id, and contact number, among other details.In addition, they will be required to share the name of cities, if any, they visited in China 14 days prior to their arrival in India.


"All persons coming to India from 2019-nCoV affected countries are required to fill up this proforma. You are requested to provide the following information to safeguard your own health," the form read.


Coronavirus originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December, last year, and since then has killed over 1300 people in that country alone, while cases have been registered in several nations across the world, including India.
15:01   Kashmir: Internet restored after being snapped to plug rumours about Geelani's health
Mobile Internet services was restored in Kashmir on Thursday afternoon, hours after authorities had suspended the facility to prevent rumours about the health of separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani. The services were snapped late Wednesday night after some social media posts claimed the health of the 90-year-old Geelani deteriorated, they said. Adequate number of security forces have been deployed at vulnerable places in Kashmir to maintain law and order and prevent miscreants from fomenting any trouble. Geelani's family said he has has been ill for some time but his condition is stable. PTI
14:50   14-day jail for 10 men accused of molesting students at Gargi college
A Delhi Court on Thursday sent all accused arrested, in connection with the alleged molestation of students during a cultural festival at the all-women Gargi College in Delhi, to judicial custody for 14 days.


Ten people have been arrested by the Delhi police in connection with the recent incident at Delhi University's all-women Gargi College, where students were allegedly molested and sexually assaulted during a cultural festival last week after outsiders barged into the college.


All the accused were produced at Saket district court where the concerned magistrate decided to send all the accused to Tihar Jail under judicial custody for 14 days.


The case was registered at Hauz Khas Police Station and several teams were constituted to investigate the case. They have been looking into technical details available and visited various sites in NCR for identification of suspects.-- ANI
14:18   J-K UT's 1st Panchayat polls from March 5-20
J&K Chief Electoral Officer, Shailendra Kumar announces that the panchayat polls for the union territory will be held from March 5 to March 20th in eight phases for Kashmir and four phases for Jammu. 

The first phase of elections will be held on 5th March, second phase on 7th March, 3rd phase on 9th March, fourth phase on 12th March, fifth phase on 14th March, sixth phase on 16th March, seventh phase on 18th March and the 8th phase on 20th March.  

This will be the first major political exercise since the Centre abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution in August last year, which took away the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir and turned it into a union territory. A separate union territory of Ladakh was also carved out.

Jammu and Kashmir is now governed by the Centre which has appointed GC Murmu as the Lieutenant Governor to look after the affairs of the union territory. The new status also means that law and order is now handled by the Centre.

The Model Code of Conduct is enforced and will be implementable in all the places where elections are being held. 

"Union territory of Ladakh has not yet sent us request for conduct of elections so we've not included Ladakh. In any case, Ladakh is snow-bound and it is very cold out there. So it is not feasible to have election at this point of time," the CEO said. 

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14:02   2 more passengers test +ve for coronavirus in Kolkata
Two passengers who arrived at NSCBI Airport from Bangkok have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, Airports Authority of India officials said on Thursday. 


With this, a total of three passengers have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Kolkata. A passenger called Himadri Barman tested positive on Tuesday, and Nagendra Singh tested positive on Wednesday, the Director of NSCBI Airport, Kaushik Bhattacharjee, told PTI. Both of them were sent to Beliaghata ID Hospital, he said. 


"Earlier a passenger called Anita Oraon had also tested positive during thermal scanning," Bhattacharjee said. Already two airlines which had direct flights between Kolkata and China have suspended their flights. Low cost carier IndiGo has temporarily suspended its flights between Kolkata and Guangzhou from February 6. -- PTI
14:00   Kaam karo yaro: Sibal attacks Centre on inflation
Referring to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's 'goli se saamna karna padega' remark, Congress leader Kapil Sibal attacked the Centre over rising inflation in the country and said that the government's slogan should be 'Kaam Karo Yaro' (work my friends).


"Patient unwell, doctor missing, retail inflation near six year high: 7.59 per cent price jumps: vegetables 50.19 per cent pulses: 16.71 per cent food and beverages: 11.79 per cent meat and fish: 10.50 per cent eggs: 10.41 per cent, Yogi Adityanath said: goli maro slogan should be: kaam karo yaaro," Sibal tweeted.


Earlier this month, Adityanath in an election rally in Delhi, had warned against those targeting Kanwariyas and said that they will face bullets from police. "boli se nahi goli se saamna karna padega" (If they do not listen to talks, they will have to face the bullets), he had said. -- PTI
13:28   Did not commercialise pain of Pandits: Filmmaker
Director Vidhu Vinod Chopra slammed those alleging that he "commercialised the pain of Kashmiri pandits" with his film 'Shikara' and termed them donkeys."'3 Idiots' earned 33 crores on first day and we knew the first day of Shikara will be 30 lakh. I make a film in the memory of my mother for 30 lakh collection on first day and some people say I commercialised the pain of Kashmiri Pandits. These people are donkeys," said Chopra at an event on Tuesday.


Earlier, on the day of the release of the film, a woman belonging to the Kashmiri Pandit community broke down and lashed out at Chopra after watching the film at a theatre here where he had come to get a firsthand public review of the film.


The woman alleged that Chopra commercialised the entire issue of the exodus of the community which took place in 1990 and did not portray the actual suffering of the community including the genocide, mass rapes and mass murders committed by Islamic radical groups in his film.


This further stirred a debate on the credibility of the portrayal of the sensitive issue in the flick.


The period-drama 'Shikara' which is a love story that revolves around the true event of the mass exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits from the valley was released across the country on Friday, February 7. -- ANI


13:22   Bottled drinking water in Kerala to cost Rs 13 a litre
Bottled drinking water in Kerala will henceforth cost Rs 13 a litre with the Left government deciding to bring packaged water under the ambit of the Essential Commodities Act with a view to regulate its price.


One litre of bottled water presently costs Rs 20 in the state. Food and Civil Supplies Minister P Thilothaman on Thursday said the government decided to regulate the price of bottled water after receiving widespread complaints from the public about its exorbitant price.


"A notification on the new price-- Rs 13 per litre-- will be issued within two days. We have taken legal opinion on bringing bottled water under the category of essential commodities," he told PTI.


Though the government had mulled cutting the price to Rs 11-12 two years ago, it could not be implemented due to protests from large scale bottled water manufacturers and traders, the minister said. 
13:20   Coronavirus: Embassy providing all assistance, says Jaishankar
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Thursday said the Indian mission in Tokyo is providing all assistance to the crew and passengers of the cruise ship that has been quarantined off the Japanese coast in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Two Indian crew on board the cruise ship 'Diamond Princess' have tested positive for the coronavirus infection. 


"2 Indian crew members have tested positive for Coronavirus. Will keep you updated," Jaishankar said in a tweet. "Our Embassy @IndianEmbTokyo is in constant touch with the crew and passengers of Diamond Princess off Yokohama, Japan, rendering all necessary support & assistance. Passengers & crew are currently quarantined by Japanese authorities," he said. 


The cruise ship with 3,711 people on board arrived at the Japanese coast early last week and was quarantined after a passenger who de-boarded last month in Hong Kong was found to be the carrier of the virus on the ship. A total of 138 Indians, including passengers and crew, were on board the ship. PTI
13:05   Bomb blast at Lucknow sessions court
Breaking news: Reports coming in say there's been a bomb blast at the Lucknow sessions court. Between two and three live bombs have been recovered from the court premises with reports saying several lawyers have been injured. Early reports say the bomb blast was a result of an internal clash between two groups of lawyers. Developing story.  
12:38   No changes in BJP's Maharashtra, Mumbai chiefs
The BJP has reappointed Chandrakant Dada Patil, the party's Maharashtra unit president and Mangal Prabhat Lodha its Mumbai chief, a statement said Thursday. An order issued by BJP national general secretary Arun Singh said the appointments are applicable with immediate effect. Both the leaders, who were appointed in July last year, have been given full terms. PTI
12:35   SC rejects Nirbhaya convict Vinay's plea
The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected the request of Nirbhaya case death-row convict Vinay Sharma to peruse recommendation for rejection of his mercy plea. Sharma's counsel alleged in the court that the Delhi lieutenant governor and its home minister had not signed the recommendation for rejection of his mercy plea.


However, a bench of Justices R Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan and A S Bopanna perused the record and said the LG and the home minister indeed signed the recommendation for rejection of his mercy petition. Sharma, through advocate A P singh, moved the apex court on Tuesday challenging the rejection of his mercy petition by the president. He claimed the "hurried rejection" was "malafide" and violated the letter and spirit of the Constitution. -- PTI
12:11   Foreign envoys briefed by Army on security situation in J-K
Army officials on Thursday briefed the delegation of foreign envoys visiting Jammu and Kashmir on the security situation in Srinagar. The 25-member delegation arrived here on Wednesday on a two-day visit as part of a union government-facilitated trip to help the envoys have a first-hand assessment of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, a region which faced months of harsh restrictions after its special status was stripped of in August. 


The envoys were briefed about the security situation at Badami Bagh Cantonment here, officials said. The delegation later flew to Jammu for further engagements, they said. 


The group comprises envoys from Afghanistan, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, the European Union, France, Germany, Republic of Guinea, Hungary, Italy and Kenya. Envoys from Kyrgyztan, Mexico, Namibia, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Rwanda, Slovakia, Tajikistan, Uganda and Uzbekistan are also part of it. This is the second batch of foreign envoys visiting the union territory in the last one month.


The government had taken a group of 15 envoys to Jammu and Kashmir last month with an aim to make them see the efforts to bring back normalcy in the Kashmir Valley. A number of opposition parties called it a "guided tour". -- PTI
12:04   Cricket 'bookie' Sanjeev Chawla brought to Delhi after extradition from London
Sanjeev Chawla, allegedly involved in a match-fixing racket that was busted by the Delhi Police, has been brought to the national capital on Thursday.  Chawla was allegedly involved in a match-fixing racket that was busted by the Delhi Police in 2000. He was extradited from London on Wednesday.    Decks were cleared for his extradition to India after his plea against expulsion was rejected by London's Royal Courts of Justice on January 16.
--ANI
12:02   Help Pak students stuck in Wuhan: Imran Khan
Prime Minister Imran Khan has directed authorities to take every possible step to help Pakistani students stuck in China's Wuhan, the epicentre of the deadly coronavirus, after mounting pressure about their fate.


The government, however, has said that it would not evacuate its citizens from Wuhan in an attempt to stem the spread of the coronavirus which has killed over 1,000 people and infected nearly 50,000 since its outbreak, The Express Tribune reported. "I have issued instructions to our Foreign Office and Overseas Ministry to do everything possible for our students who are stuck in Wuhan city," Khan tweeted on Wednesday night. Khan also expressed support for China and promised to provide every help to combat the deadly virus. "Pakistan stands with the people and govt of China in their difficult and trying time and it will always stand by them. We will be extending every material and moral support to China just as China has always stood by us during all our times of trial and tribulation," he said in another tweet. 


According the Foreign Office, more than 28,000 Pakistani students, including 500 in Wuhan, are studying in China. Some of them, have through social media had been persistently asking Pakistan government to help them come back. Pakistani students of a Chinese medical university got panicked as patients infected with the deadly virus were shifted to a building located near their university, Dawn reported. Islamabad has contacted the Chinese authorities with the request to shift those patients somewhere else, according to the report, which did not name the university.-- PTI
11:46   Nirbhaya: SC defers hearing on separate hangings
The Supreme Court deferred the hearing on Centre's plea seeking separate execution of four convicts in the 2012 Nirbhaya gangrape and murder case to Friday and asked the convicts to file their counter replies by then. 


A bench of Justices R Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan and A S Bopanna appointed senior advocate Anjana Prakash as amicus curiae on Thursday to represent the convict Pawan Kumar Gupta. The bench said it is deferring the hearing till 2 pm Friday in wake of a trial court order on Wednesday, which directed the District Legal Services Authority to provide Gupta's father with a list of its empanelled advocates to choose from to represent the convict. 


Gupta is the only convict who has not yet filed a curative petition -- the last legal remedy available to a person which is decided in-chamber. He also has the option of filing a mercy plea against the death sentence. PTI 
11:42   SC refuses to entertain plea on Gargi College incident
The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to entertain a plea seeking a CBI probe into the alleged molestation of students during a cultural festival at the all-woman Gargi College here last week. 


A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde asked lawyer M L Sharma, who mentioned the matter seeking urgent hearing, to move the Delhi High Court with his plea. "Why don't you go to the Delhi HC. If they dismiss the petition then you come here," the bench, also comprising justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant, said. The apex court said it would like to have advantage of Delhi HC's view on this matter. Sharma expressed apprehension that electronic evidence related to the case might be destroyed. On this, the top court said, "Delhi High Court can also pass order like the Telangana High Court in the police encounter case to preserve electronic evidence". -- PTI


Image: Students show their ID cards in the aftermath of the alleged molestation at Gargi College 
11:23   Priyanka slams Yogi govt over women's safety
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Thursday slammed the Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government over the issue of the women's safety in the state.Priyanka Gandhi also claimed that the crime rate has increased in the state since the BJP came to power.


"There are shocking incidents against women every day in UP. A [rape] victim's father was murdered in Firozabad. A young girl was raped and murdered in Sitapur. Where is the government? Under the BJP, crimes against women have gone up but they are not even taking the responsibility," Priyanka wrote in Hindi on Twitter.


Priyanka Gandhi, who is in-charge of Eastern Uttar Pradesh, has also been questioning the state government on issues like stray cattle, payment of dues to sugarcane farmers, irregularities in the procurement of paddy and suicide of farmers in Bundelkhand.Meanwhile, Yogi Adityanath on Tuesday said there was a need to make people aware of women empowerment and women's safety at the local level.


Noting that there should be no discrimination between boys and girls in the state, he had said Uttar Pradesh government was in the process of forming 218 fast track courts in order to curb crime against women in the state. 
-- ANI

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11:12   Sisodia bats 'positive politics' for state-run schools
Senior AAP leader Manish Sisodia on Thursday called for a "time-bound" campaign by the states and the Centre to improve the quality of learning in government schools to make India a developed country, saying this is "positive politics". Governments shutting down schools are obstacles in the path of developing the nation, he added. 


His remarks came in response to a tweet by his party's Rajasthan unit claiming government schools in the Congress-ruled state will be developed on the lines of those in Delhi. "This is positive politics. All the states and the Centre should run together a time-bound campaign on facilities and quality of learning in government schools. Only then India will become a developed nation. Governments closing down government schools are obstacles in the path of making the country developed," Sisodia said in a tweet in Hindi. 


Sisodia, who was incharge of the education department and the deputy chief minister in the previous AAP government in Delhi, had been leading reforms in school education in the national capital through a huge budgetary expenditure, happiness curriculum, advanced teacher training and other such initiatives. -- PTI


Image: Manish Sisodia with 'Super 30' teacher Anand Kumar who has been co-opted to teach in Delhi's government-run schools. 
10:58   SC to parties: Post names of criminal candidates
Political parties must upload on their websites details of criminal cases against candidates and the reasons for selecting them, the Supreme Court said today, flagging an "alarming rise in the criminalization of politics" in the last four national elections.


The Supreme Court said it would be mandatory for parties to upload the details on their websites and on social media within 48 hours.


Parties must submit the details within 72 hours to the Election Commission, the court said. "The reason to select candidates should be based on merit and not winnability," the top court directed.


Also read: 43 out of 70 new Delhi MLAs have criminal cases
10:30   Tharoor: Am I a closet Sanghi for mourning demise of an RSS man?
My more than 30 years of being at odds with BJP and the Hindutva movement was irrelevant to my critics. For them, I had revealed my 'true colours', writes an upset Shashi Tharoor, the Congress party's MP from Thiruvananthapuram. Read the column here
10:17   No CMs, netas, invited for Kejriwal swearing-in
Here's a confirmation: No chief minister or political leaders from other states will be part of AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal's oath ceremony at Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi on February 16, said a senior party leader on Thursday. 


Kejriwal will take oath as chief minister for a third term in a "Delhi-specific" ceremony, AAP's Delhi unit convener Gopal Rai told PTI.


"No chief minister or political leader from other states will be invited for the ceremony that is going to be specific to Delhi," he said. Kejriwal will take oath with the people of Delhi who have reposed their faith in his leadership, he added. The AAP returned to power winning 62 of the 70 assembly seats in the election held on February 8. -- PTI
10:13   More coronavirus cases 'highly likely' in UK as London confirms first case
More cases of the new strain of coronavirus are highly likely to be reported in the United Kingdom, country's health officials have warned, as they confirmed the ninth case of the deadly virus, involving a woman who flew into the country from China -- the epicentre of the outbreak.


Health experts in the UK speculate that the virus will continue to spread in the country until it peaks in the summer. 


"We are planning that we are into this for the next few months," a source told The Guardian. 


This comes after a Chinese woman, who lives in London with relatives, and is in her late 20s or early 30s, was tested positive for coronavirus. The woman had flown into Heathrow from China at the weekend and called NHS 111 when she developed symptoms after landing.


In an attempt to slow the spread of the virus, officials have now been ordered to trace all who she may have been in contact with since returning to the British capital, as well as the fellow passengers in her flight from China.


Coronavirus first originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December last year and has killed more than 1,300 people in that country alone. Cases have been reported in several countries across the world, including India.The UK has reported a total of nine cases, including the recent case reported in London. Officials have told Britons to brace themselves for the spread of the virus. -- ANI
09:56   Internet snapped in Kashmir over Geelani's health
Mobile internet services have been suspended in Kashmir to prevent rumours about the health of separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, officials said on Thursday. The services were snapped late Wednesday night after some social media posts claimed the health of the 90-year-old Geelani deteriorated, they said. Adequate number of security forces have been deployed at vulnerable places in Kashmir to maintain law and order and prevent miscreants from fomenting any trouble. Geelani's family said he has has been ill for some time but his condition is stable. -- PTI
09:54   SC to hear Nirbhaya convict's plea today
The Supreme Court will hear on Thursday the plea of Vinay Sharma, a convict in the 2012 Nirbhaya gang-rape case.The hearing is scheduled to take place at 10:30 am. The bench of Justice R Banumathi will hear the case.


Vinay has filed the petition in the top court against President Ram Nath Kovind's decision to reject his mercy plea. Vinay, one of the four convicts in the Nirbhaya case, challenged the President's decision to dismiss his mercy petition in the apex court on Tuesday.


The convict, through his lawyer AP Singh, has requested the death penalty to be commuted to life imprisonment.


On February 1, Vinay's mercy petition was rejected by the President.

On January 31, the death sentence of four convicts Mukesh Singh, Pawan Gupta, Vinay Sharma and Akshay Thakur were stayed by a lower court till further orders.All the four convicts are currently lodged in Tihar Jail.

Pawan has not exhausted all his legal remedies as he has not filed curative and mercy petitions till now.  -- ANI
09:31   China coronavirus: Record 242 new deaths
China's Hubei province, the epicentre of the deadly coronavirus, has reported a record 242 new fatalities and nearly 15,000 fresh cases in a single day, local health officials announced on Thursday, the fastest rise in the daily count since the virus outbreak was first identified in December.

The hard-hit Hubei province for which Wuhan is the provincial capital has reported 14,840 new coronavirus cases, including 13,332 clinically diagnosed cases on Wednesday the local Health Commission said.

The province reported 242 new deaths on Wednesday from the infection on the same day, double than Tuesday taking the total death toll to 1,310 so far, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. 

With this the total confirmed cases in the province has jumped to 48,206, raising concerns over the faster pace with which the virus is spreading in the province.

The Hubei health commission said the adjustment in the calculation has been made to give those who have been clinically diagnosed with the timely standard treatment of confirmed cases, the report said.

China is yet to release the nationwide figures on Thursday.

Until Tuesday, the virus outbreak has claimed 1,115 lives with 97 new fatalities reported mostly in the worst-affected Hubei province while the confirmed cases of infection jumped to 44,763, the state-run CGTN TV reported.

The number of confirmed cases abroad rose to 440 with one death so far in the Philippines. Japan reported the highest number of 203 cases with a majority of them from a cruise ship in which two Indian crew on board tested positive for the coronavirus.

A 15-member team of specialists of World Health Organisation is currently in China assisting the local health officials in containing the virus.

-- PTI
09:14   MNS receives letter from EC over new party flag
The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena has received a letter from State Election Commission on a complaint filed against the party's new flag which bears Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj's insignia.

The commission has asked MNS to take appropriate action on the complaint. 

"Yes, we have received it but it is not a notice. It is just a letter with complaint copies with the State EC informing us to take appropriate action on the same. According to me, it is unclear about the kind of action state EC expects from us by sending that letter," MNS General Secretary Shirish Sawant said.

"Both the flags were sent to the EC before the launch. We need more clarity in this letter from the State EC," he added.

In January, the Raj Thackeray-led MNS had launched its new party flag. The new saffron-coloured flag of the party features Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj's Raj Mudra, the royal seal of the Maratha king. 

-- ANI
08:52   Efficacy of Hafiz arrest to be seen: Govt source
The efficacy of Pakistan's decision to convict Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed in terror financing cases "remains to be seen" and whether the country would take action against all other terrorist entities and individuals operating from its soil, government sources said on Thursday.

Saeed was sentenced to 11 years in prison by an Anti-Terrorism Court in Lahore on Wednesday - a development that came "on the eve of the (Financial Action Task Force) Plenary meeting", sources said. 

"We have seen media reports that a court in Pakistan has sentenced UN-designated and internationally proscribed terrorist Hafiz Saeed in terror financing cases. It is part of a long-pending international obligation of Pakistan to put an end to support for terrorism," they noted.

"The decision has been made on the eve of the FATF plenary meeting, which has to be noted. Hence, the efficacy of this decision remains to be seen. It has to also be seen whether Pakistan would take action against other all terrorist entities and individuals operating from territories under its control, and bring perpetrators of cross border terrorist attacks, including in Mumbai and Pathankot to justice expeditiously," sources said.

Saeed's conviction comes days ahead of the Plenary and Working Group meetings of the FATF - a Paris-based global watchdog which, last year, had warned Pakistan to deliver on its commitments to curb terror financing and money laundering.

The Jamaat-ud Dawa chief and three of his associates -- Hafiz Abdul Salam bin Mohammad, Mohammad Ashraf and Professor Zafar Iqbal -- had been indicted by the ATC on terror financing charges on December 11 last year in a case filed by the Counter-Terrorism Department.

-- ANI
08:20   Conviction of Hafiz Saeed an important step towards holding LeT accountable: US
Welcoming the conviction of the 26/11 Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed, the United States called it as an important step towards holding the Lashkar-a-Tayiba accountable.

"Today's conviction of Hafiz Saeed and his associate is an important step forward -- both towards holding LeT accountable for its crimes, and for Pakistan in meeting its international commitments to combat terrorist financing," Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice G Wells said.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has said it is in the interest of his country's future that it does not allow non-state actors to operate from its soil, Wells said in a tweet. 

Wells' tweet came after a court in Pakistan sentenced Saeed, a UN designated terrorist, for five-and-a-half years.

Saeed-led Jamat-ud Dawa is believed to be the front organisation for the LeT which is responsible for carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people. 

The US Department of the Treasury has designated Saeed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, and the US, since 2012, has offered a $10 million reward for information that brings Saeed to justice. 

-- PTI
07:55   Excited for India trip, says Melania Trump
US First Lady Melania Trump has said that she is "excited" for her trip to India along President Donald Trump later this month.
In a tweet, Melania Trump said her maiden trip to India as the First Lady is an occasion to celebrate the close ties between the two countries.
She also thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the "kind invitation" to visit India.

"Looking forward to visiting Ahmedabad and New Delhi later this month," she said. President Trump and "I are excited for the trip and to celebrate the close ties between the USA and India," she said. 
Melania Trump was responding to a tweet by Modi tweet wherein he termed the US President and First Lady's visit to India as a "very special one".
"India will accord a memorable welcome to our esteemed guests. This visit is a very special one and it will go a long way in further cementing India-USA friendship," Modi had said in the tweet.
US President Trump and the First Lady are scheduled to travel to India on February 24 and 25.

-- PTI
01:30   Sabarmati Ashram sanitised ahead of Trump visit
A thorough security check was conducted at Sabarmati Ashram on Wednesday ahead of United States President Donald Trump's visit to Ahmedabad.

According to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Trump is expected to attend an event at the Motera Stadium in Ahmedabad on the lines of the 'Howdy Modi' function that was addressed by the US President and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Houston in September last year.

Trump is slated to pay a two-day visit to India on February 24-25.

During the visit, Trump, who will be accompanied by First Lady Melania, will attend official engagements in New Delhi and Ahmedabad, and interact with a wide cross-section of the Indian society, the MEA said in a statement.

The announcement of Trump's first official visit to India was earlier made by the White House on Monday, which, in a statement, said that the US President and PM Modi had agreed during a recent phone conversation that the trip will 'further strengthen the United States-India strategic partnership and highlight the strong and enduring bonds between the American and Indian people'.  -- ANI
01:27   Sabarmati Ashram sanitised ahead of Trump visit
A thorough security check was conducted at Sabarmati Ashram on Wednesday ahead of United States President Donald Trump's visit to Ahmedabad.

According to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Trump is expected to attend an event at the Motera Stadium in Ahmedabad on the lines of the 'Howdy Modi' function that was addressed by the US President and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Houston in September last year.

Trump is slated to pay a two-day visit to India on February 24-25.

During the visit, Trump, who will be accompanied by First Lady Melania, will attend official engagements in New Delhi and Ahmedabad, and interact with a wide cross-section of the Indian society, the MEA said in a statement.

The announcement of Trump's first official visit to India was earlier made by the White House on Monday, which, in a statement, said that the US President and PM Modi had agreed during a recent phone conversation that the trip will 'further strengthen the United States-India strategic partnership and highlight the strong and enduring bonds between the American and Indian people'.  -- ANI

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