Mon, 17 February 2020
Indo-US trade deal unlikely during Trump's visit

Timeline  Refresh

23:45   Indo-US trade deal unlikely during Trump's visit
Negotiations are going on between India and the United States to iron out differences for a proposed trade package but chances of signing a deal during US President Donald Trump's visit to India next week are thin, sources said on Monday. 
Officials of both the countries are yet to resolve issues pertaining to sectors, including politically sensitive agriculture and dairy, even as less than a week is left for the visit of the US President, according to sources.
They said the deal between the two countries should be mutually beneficial and should not compromise India's interest.
"The US is adding more to its list of demands as trade talks are progressing," they added.
It is also not yet clear whether the US-India CEOs Forum will be convened during Trump's two-day visit, beginning from February 24.
The forum is a panel of CEOs that gives feedback to the US and Indian governments on commercial relationship between the two countries.
As the US is seeking greater market access for its dairy products, India has conveyed to them that dairy and milk products should not be derived from animals that are fed internal organs, blood meal, or tissues of ruminant origin as it would hurt sentiments of the society at large.
On the other hand, India is seeking resumption of export incentives by the US, under its Generalized System of Preferences programme.
Under this programme, India had earlier exported goods worth USD 6.5 billion. So if the US would resume these incentives, it would seek greater market access equivalent to this amount at least.
Under GSP, India was exporting 1,900 items from sectors like chemicals and engineering. It was rolled back by the US last year.
India is demanding exemption from high duties imposed by the US on certain steel and aluminium products, and greater market access for its products from sectors such as agriculture, automobile, automobile components and engineering.
On the other hand, the US wants greater market access for its farm and manufacturing products, dairy items, medical devices, and data localisation, apart from cut on import duties on some information and communication technology products. The US has also raised concerns over high trade deficit with India.
In 2018-19, India's exports to the US stood at USD 52.4 billion while imports were USD 35.5 billion. Trade deficit dipped from USD 21.3 billion in 2017-18 to USD 16.9 billion in 2018-19.
India received FDI worth USD 3.13 billion from the US in 2018-19, higher than USD 2 billion in 2017-18. -- PTI   
23:11   Good to see Muslim women at dharnas: Ex-LS speaker
Former Lok Sabha speaker and senior BJP leader Sumitra Mahajan on Monday said it was good to see a large number of Muslim women attending protests, but wondered if they completely understood the Citizenship
Amendment Act.
The CAA is at the centre of protests across the country and many of them are led by Muslim women, like in Delhi's Shaheen Bagh, which has inspired similar 'women only'sit-ins across the country.
"One thing I liked very much was that Muslim women are joining a large number of dharna and protests, be it Delhi or Indore. It has created awareness and trust in the minds of Muslim women that if they face injustice in the future, they can come out on the roads and put forward their views," she  told reporters in Indore.
"I always like women to be vocal on different issues. I have to see whether Muslim women (involved in protests against CAA) have understood the right thing. But today they are raising zindabad-murdabad slogans by coming out of the houses. I thank the people of the community, because earlier these women did not get out of the house like this," she said.
"I pray to god that the participation of Muslim women brings good results for the country. I would like to say to all the politicians of the country to ensure that this awareness among them is maintained," the former Indore Lok
Sabha MP said.
Queried on some Muslim leaders quitting the BJP due to CAA, she said, "May be they (BJP's Muslim leaders) will have to deal with a few things from their community. But I am sure they are sensible and will be able to gradually convince the people of their community that no right of any Indian citizen will be taken away by CAA".
She said she was ready to talk to anti-CAA protesters to explain them the nuances of the legislation. -- PTI 
23:08   J-K delimitation panel: Sushil Chandra nominated
Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora has named Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra as his nominee for the proposed Delimitation Commission for Jammu and Kashmir.
A commission spokesperson said following a request from the government, Arora named Chandra as his nominee for the proposed commission.
Before Parliament passed the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act in August last year, the effective strength of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly was 87 including four seats falling in Ladakh region which is now a separate UT without a legislature. 
Twenty-four seats of the Assembly continue to remain vacant as they fall under Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
"...the number of seats in the Legislative Assembly of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir shall be increased from 107 to 114, and delimitation of the constituencies may be determined by the Election Commission in the manner hereinafter provided," according to the J-K Reorganisation Act, 2019.
The law also said the Lok Sabha will have five seats from the UT of J-K, while Ladakh will have one seat
"On and from the appointed day, there shall be allocated five seats to the successor UT of J-K and one seat to UT of Ladakh, in the House of the People, and the First Schedule to the Representation of the People Act, 1950 (43 of 1950) shall be deemed to be amended accordingly," it said. -- PTI

Image: Sushil Chandra, right, with Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora, along with Election Commissioners Ashok Lavasa. Photograph: Subhav Shukla/PTI Photo
22:12   BJP wants to keep Shaheen Bagh issue alive: AAP
The Centre can end the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protest at Delhi's Shaheen Bagh but it is keeping the issue alive to avoid discussion on pressing issues like unemployment and economic slowdown, Aam Aadmi Party leader Sanjay Singh claimed on Monday.
He said the responsibility to end the logjam lies with the Centre and not the AAP-led Delhi government.
Singh's remarks came on a day the Supreme Court said the blockade of a public road at Shaheen Bagh is "troubling us" and suggested that the protestors go to another site where no public place would be blocked.
"If the central government wants, the passage along Shaheen Bagh can be certainly opened. The protest against the CAA is not directed at the Delhi government. It is against the central government. So we cannot do anything on behalf of the central government, it is for the Centre to address it," the AAP leader told reporters.
"If there is any protest or demonstration related to electricity, healthcare, water, education, etc in Delhi, then we are responsible for it. We will talk and resolve those issues," he said.
"Today, the BJP wants to keep this issue alive because banks in India have NPAs (non-performing assets) of Rs 10.50 lakh crore, unemployment has risen to a 45-year high, inflation peaked to the level that onions were sold at Rs 250 per kg and tomatoes at Rs 120 per kg...yet there is no discussion on any of these issues. There is discussion only about Shaheen Bagh," he added.
On Sunday, Singh noted, the protesters had planned a march to Union home minister Amit Shah's residence to have a dialogue with him but were not granted permission for it.
The Rajya Sabha MP said his party raised the issue of the CAA in Parliament and opposed the law, which, he said, is "against the ethos" of the Constitution framed by B R Ambedkar.
"If the Centre talks to us and the Delhi government has any role to play in the issue, we will do it," he said.
Besides Shaheen Bagh, protests were held in Zakir Nagar, Khureji Khas and other places in the national capital and elsewhere across the country in December last year to oppose the CAA and the National Register of Citizens. -- PTI
21:43   India becomes 5th largest economy
India emerged as the world's fifth largest economy by overtaking the United Kingdom and France in 2019, says a report.
A United States-based think tank World Population Review in its report said that India is developing into an open-market economy from its previous autarkic policies.
"India's economy is the fifth largest in the world with a GDP of USD 2.94 trillion, overtaking the UK and France in 2019 to take the fifth spot," it said.
The size of the UK economy is USD 2.83 trillion and that of France is USD 2.71 trillion.
The report further said that in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms, India's GDP (PPP) is USD 10.51 trillion, exceeding that of Japan and Germany. Due to India's high population, India's GDP per capita is USD 2,170 (for comparison, the US is USD 62,794).
India's real GDP growth, however, it said is expected to weaken for the third straight year from 7.5 per cent to 5 per cent.
The report observed that India's economic liberalisation began in the early 1990s and included industrial deregulation, reduced control on foreign trade and investment, and privatisation of state-owned enterprises.
"These measures have helped India accelerate economic growth," it said.
India's service sector is the fast-growing sector in the world accounting for 60 per cent of the economy and 28 per of employment, the report said, adding that manufacturing and agriculture are two other significant sectors of the economy.
The US-based World Population Review is an independent organisation without any political affiliations. -- PTI  
21:38   COVID-19: 2 more Indians infected on Japan ship
Two more Indians on board a quarantined cruise ship off Japan have been tested positive for the novel coronavirus, taking the number Indian nationals infected with the virus on the vessel to six, according to an official statement on Monday.
The Indian embassy in Tokyo said in a statement that 99 new positive cases on-board Diamond Princess have been confirmed on February 17, bringing the total number to 454.
"This included 2 Indian crew members who have been transferred to medical facilities for necessary treatment and quarantine. The number of Indian nationals who have tested positive for COVID-19 now stands at six," it said. 
"The four Indian crew members who earlier tested positive continue to receive treatment. Their health conditions are stable and responding well to the treatment," it added. 
The embassy said it is coordinating with the Japanese government and ship management company for health and welfare of all Indian national on board.
"The embassy is in constant touch with on board Indian nationals who are successfully braving out the situation and understand public health safety in such situations," the statement said.  
A total of 138 Indians, including 132 crew and 6 passengers, were among the 3,711 people on board the ship that arrived at the Japanese coast earlier this month.
The ship was quarantined after a passenger who de-boarded last month in Hong Kong was found to be the carrier of the COVID-19 on the ship.
The Embassy said it was making efforts for early de-boarding of all the Indians from the ship after the end of the quarantine period and was in discussions with the Japanese government and the ship management company for the disembarkation modalities and welfare of Indians.
The US on Monday evacuated its 340 nationals from the ship. -- PTI
21:26   Coronavirus outbreak may dampen trade prospects further: WTO
Growth in world merchandise trade is expected to remain weak in early 2020 and coronavirus outbreak may dampen trade prospects further, according to the World Trade Organisation. 

"World merchandise trade growth is likely to remain weak in early 2020," according to the WTO Goods Trade Barometer released on Monday. 

This does not augur well for India's exports, which have recorded negative growth from August till January. 

"It does not account for recent developments such as the outbreak of COVID-19, the new coronavirus disease, which may dampen trade prospects further," it said. 

WTO trade statistics showed that the volume of global merchandise trade was down 0.2 per cent in the third quarter of 2019 as compared to the previous year. -- PTI  
20:56   NPR not to be implemented in MP, says Nath
The Congress government in Madhya Pradesh on Monday asserted there is no move "at present" to undertake the proposed National Population Register update exercise in the state.
Chief Minister Kamal Nath Monday said his government is not going to implement the NPR in the state.
Nath's clarification came in the wake of Congress MLA Arif Masood threatening earlier in the day to protest against the party-led government's "decision" to update the NPR.
The ruling party legislator from Bhopal demanded a rollback of the "decision".
In a statement, Nath clarified, At present we are not going to implement NPR in the state. The NPR notification about which talks were going on was issued on December 9, 2019.
"After this, the Centre has decided to implement the Citizen (Amendment) Act (passed by Parliament on December 11).
"It means the NPR notified by the government is not the one under the CAA 2019, but as per the provisions of CAA- 1955s 2003s rule 3. Despite this, the NPR will not be implemented in the state."
Madhya Pradesh government spokesman and Public Relations Minister P C Sharma also clarified that the gazette notification on the matter was issued earlier and maintained that the NPR will not be implemented in the state.
Earlier in the day, Masood claimed at a press conference that the Madhya Pradesh governments gazette has mentioned about the Centre implementing the NPR. This is a wrong decision and we will oppose it.
The NPR is scheduled to be carried out along with the house listing phase of the Census exercise from April 1 to September 30.
The Census Commission has said the objective of the NPR is to create a comprehensive identity database of every "usual resident" of the country.
Most of the non-BJP parties fear the NPR exercise could be a precursor to implementation of a nationwide NRC.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah had recently said the Centre has not yet taken any decision on implementing the NRC. -- PTI
20:52   Parallel probe to be conducted in Elgar case: NCP
In a move that exposes cracks in  the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi in Maharashtra, the Nationalist Congress Party on Monday said party leader and home minister Anil Deshmukh will work out modalities for a parallel probe through an SIT into the Elgar Parishad case which is already being handled by the National Investigation Agency.
Last week, the Uddhav Thackeray-led government had given its nod to handover the investigation into the Elgar Parishad case to the NIA, a move criticised by the NCP, the second largest constituent in the Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition.
In this backdrop, NCP president Sharad Pawar, who has openly expressed his displeasure over chief minister Uddhav Thackerays decision to allow the central agency to probe the case, presided over a meeting of party ministers on Monday.
Speaking to reporters, NCP chief spokesperson and state minister Nawab Malik said, "The meeting of NCP's Cabinet ministers decided that Home Minister Anil Deshmukh will examine all the required procedures and set up an SIT for the Elgar Parishad issue."
Malik justified the decision for a separate probe in the sensitive case, a move that is likely to trigger a political row.
"Legally, any state government can set up a parallel investigating team for a single incident. According to Article 10 of the NIA Act, a separate committee can be set up (to conduct a parallel probe)," the NCP minister said.
Besides the NCP, the Congress is also a part of the Shiv Sena-led government in the state.
On Sunday, Pawar alleged the Centre has handed over probe in the Elgar Parishad case to the National Investigation Agency as the previous Devendra Fadnavis government in Maharashtra wants to "hide something".
Pawar had earlier demanded constitution of a Special Investigation Team to probe the case in which human rights activists have been arrested for alleged links with Maoists.
He had said the Centre should have taken the Maharashtra government into confidence before handing over the case to NIA.
The Centre handed over the case o the NIA in late January.
The case relates to alleged inflammatory speeches delivered at the Elgar Parishad conclave, held at Shaniwarwada in Pune on December 31, 2017, which the police claimed, triggered violence near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial in the district the next day.
The Pune Police have claimed the conclave was backed by Maoists. -- PTI
20:40   154 prominent citizens support CAA, NPR, NRC
As many as 154 prominent citizens, including former judges, bureaucrats, armed forces officers and academicians, on Monday said a "false and motivated" campaign is being launched against the Citizenship Amendment Act, National Population Register and National Register of Citizens with a sinister design to harm the nation and sought action against trouble-makers.
In a letter to President Ram Nath Kovind, the citizens urged the central government to look into the ongoing protests with all seriousness and safeguard the democratic institutions of the country, and take stern action against those people behind them.
The citizens, including 11 former judges of different high courts, 24 retired IAS officers, 11 former Indian Foreign Service officers, 16 retired IPS and 18 former Lieutenant Generals, said "fear" is being spread across the length and breadth of India which appears to be "motivated and with a sinister design" to harm the nation.
They said the campaign is being carried out in a "coordinated manner" leading to violent protests in which public and private property has been destroyed.
The citizens said there has been a "false and nefarious narrative" about the recently enacted legislations like the Citizenship Amendment Act and the idea of the National Population Register and National Register of Citizens.
They said that while the CAA has been enacted, the idea of NPR and NRC which has been a part of the Indian discourse since Independence remains to be implemented.
"This (protests) has grave security implications and does not bode well for our motherland.
"These protests, while ostensibly claiming to oppose the policies of Government of India, are in effect designed to destroy the very fabric of this country and harm the nation's unity and integrity," they said.
The citizens claimed that they strongly feel that there is also an external dimension to the disturbances being created.
According to CAA, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014, facing religious persecution there will not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian citizenship.
The NPR will be carried out along with the house listing phase of the census exercise from April 1 to September 30.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah had recently said the government has not yet taken any decision on implementing the NRC. -- PTI 
19:48   India deployed P-8I jets during Doklam face-off
Indian Navy's Poseidon 8I anti-submarine warfare aircraft was deployed to carry out surveillance on movement of Chinese troops during the 73-day-long standoff between India and China in mountainous Doklam.
Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat confirmed the use of the naval aircraft while talking about the need for bringing in tri-services synergy in dealing with national security challenges.
"The P-8I aircraft of Indian Navy was deployed in Doklam (during the face-off)," Gen Rawat told a group of journalists.
Troops of India and China were locked in a standoff in Doklam from June 16, 2017 after the Indian side stopped the building of a road in the disputed area by the Chinese Army.
The face-off triggered fears of a war between the two neighbours. The standoff ended on August 28, 2017 after over 10 rounds of talks between diplomats of the two sides.
The P-8Is were also deployed to keep an eye on movement of Pakistani troops after the Pulwama terror attack last year.
"The P-8I aircraft were the most potent platform to carry out surveillance -- be it sea or mountains. The aircraft were live-streaming data to support decision making during the Doklam face-off," said defence expert Capt D K Sharma (retd).
Sharma said deployment of the P-8Is signified synergy among the Army and the Navy in dealing with the major crisis.
The P-8I, based on the Boeing next-generation 737 commercial airplane, is a variant of the P-8A Poseidon used by the US Navy.
India was Boeing's first international customer for this aircraft. 

The first P-8I aircraft was inducted into the Indian Navy in 2013 and, at present, it has a fleet of eight P 8Is.
In 2016, the defence ministry had placed a follow-on order for four additional P-8I, the delivery of which will begin by April 2020.
Last year the government cleared procurement of another batch of six P-8Is. -- PTI
19:25   1st batch of Wuhan evacuees discharged
A batch of about 200 people, who were among over 400 quarantined at an Indo-Tibetan Border Police facility in Delhi after being evacuated earlier this month from coronavirus-hit Wuhan, were discharged on Monday, a senior official said.
The centre housed a total of 406 people, including seven Maldivians.
"After the final coronavirus test reports of all 406 people living at our facility were found negative, the first batch was discharged today.
"We expect about 200 people will leave by tonight. The rest will be sent on Tuesday and in the subsequent days as per the travel plans of the inmates," ITBP spokesperson Vivek Kumar Pandey told PTI.
The first batch also includes the Maldivian nationals, he said.
Union health minister Harsh Vardhan also visited the Indo-Tibetan Border Police facility in Chhawla and interacted with the evacuees.
He told them about the steps taken by the government to combat the virus and the precautions to be taken in this context.
The minister also took a quick review of the measures taken over the last fortnight from the doctors supervising the campus.
Vardhan also handed out the discharged evacuees a rose and a packet containing the annual ITBP calendar each as a token of remembrance.
The evacuees thanked the government, medical staff and ITBP personnel for ensuring proper food, hygiene, hot water, indoor games and entertainment at the facility for them. -- PTI
18:46   Jamia clashes: Sharjeel Imam sent to 1-day police custody
A court in Delhi sent Sharjeel Imam, arrested on sedition charge last month, to one day custody of Delhi Police on Monday in a separate case related to violent protests against Citizenship Amendment Act at New Friends Colony on December 15.
Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Gurmohina Kaur gave the order after the police said that they want to quiz Imam after an accused in the December 15 violence case, Furkan, has alleged in his disclosure statement that he was provoked by Imam's speeches. 

Imam has not been booked in this case.
The court granted custody to the police after Imam was interrogated in the court for half an hour.
It said Imam's custodial interrogation was necessary for proper investigation in the case.
The police had earlier told the court that Furkan was arrested on the basis of a CCTV footage which showed him carrying a container allegedly containing petrol.
In its remand application, the police said that on December 15 last year, a large gathering assembled near Escort hospital at New Friend's Colony to protests against the newly amended law.
"Gathering was warned by the police to not take law in their hands but they kept raising anti-CAA slogans. The unruly mob armed with sticks started targeting the public and broke vehicles.
"On the identification of accused Furkan was arrested in the case, who disclosed he was provoked by the speeches given by accused Sharjeel (Imam)," it said.
The police sought permission from the court to interrogate Imam and arrest him for further investigation.
It said they need to interrogate him to identify the place where he gave the alleged provocative speeches and collect evidence regarding a larger conspiracy here.
Four people were arrested in the case on December 16 and sent to judicial custody. Furkan was arrested later.
Imam, who came into the limelight during the ongoing protests at Shaheen Bagh in New Delhi against the CAA and the National Register of Citizens, was arrested from Bihar's Jehanabad on January 28 in a separate case for allegedly making inflammatory speeches at the Jamia Millia Islamia University and in Aligarh.
A case had been registered against him on sedition and other charges on January 26 in this regard.
Protesters had torched four public buses and two police vehicles as they clashed with police in New Friends' Colony near Jamia Millia Islamia during the demonstration against the CAA on December 15, leaving nearly 60 people including students, cops and fire fighters injured.
The police used batons and teargas shells to disperse the violent mob. 

They entered the Jamia university campus, saying that rioters had taken shelter there. However, the Jamia students had denied that they were involved in the violence and had alleged police brutality. -- PTI
18:23   Hope they are hanged this time: Nirbhaya's mother
Nirbhaya's mother expressed hope on Monday that the four convicts in her daughter's rape-and-murder case would finally be hanged on March 3, the latest execution date fixed by a court after two earlier death warrants were stayed.
"We hope the order (death warrant) is finally executed," she said, just after a Delhi court issued fresh death warrants against the four convicts setting up their execution on March 3 at 6 am.
This is the third time that death warrants have been issued against Mukesh Kumar Singh (32), Pawan Gupta (25), Vinay Kumar Sharma (26) and Akshay Kumar (31). 
Two earlier warrants could not be executed as the convicts were yet to exhaust the legal and other remedies available. -- PTI  
18:09   Moody's cuts India growth projection to 5.4%
Moody's on Monday slashed India's growth forecast for 2020 to 5.4 per cent from 6.6 per cent projected earlier, on slower than expected economic recovery.
In its update on Global Macro Outlook, Moody's Investors Service said India's economy has decelerated rapidly over the last 2 years and economic recovery is likely to be 'shallow'.
"While the economy may well begin to recover in the current quarter, we expect any recovery to be slower than we had previously expected. Accordingly, we have revised our growth forecasts to 5.4 per cent for 2020 and 5.8 per cent for 2021, down from our previous projections of 6.6 per cent and 6.7 per cent respectively," Moody's said. 
Moody's growth projections are based on calendar year and as per its estimates, India's GDP grew 5 per cent in 2019.
The rating agency had in November 2019 projected economic growth in 2020 and 2021 at 6.6 per cent and 6.7 per cent respectively.  

In its latest update, Moody's said the reduction in India's growth rate reflects domestic challenges rather than external factors.
Stating that the key to stronger economic momentum would be the revival of domestic demand and bank credit growth, Moody's said the Union Budget 2020 did not contain a significant stimulus to address the demand slump. 
With a weak economy and depressed credit growth reinforcing each other, Moody's said "it is difficult to envision a quick turnaround of either, even if economic deceleration may have troughed". 
"As similar policies in other countries have shown, tax cuts are unlikely to translate into higher consumer and business spending when risk aversion is high," Moody's said. 
The rating agency said it expects additional easing by the Reserve Bank. However, if the recent rise in CPI inflation, mainly as a result of higher food prices, is seen to have second-round effects, this would make it more challenging for the central bank to cut interest rates further, it added. 
The RBI has lowered the repo rate by a cumulative 135 bps in 2019.
Inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index rose to a 68-month-high of 7.59 per cent in January. RBI's mandated target range for retail inflation is 2-6 per cent and the central bank aims to keep it at 4 per cent over the medium term. 
Moody's said that resumption of credit growth is equally important as reviving demand, and banks have been reluctant to lend or lower lending rates despite successive rate cuts by the RBI, 
" impulse in the economy has deteriorated throughout the last year as a result of the drying up of lending from non-bank financial institutions as well as from banks," Moody's said.
It said the deterioration in credit growth to the commercial sector is particularly 'stark'. 
Nominal credit to industry grew at only 1.6 per cent year-on-year in December 2019, while credit to the services sector registered 6.2 per cent nominal growth, and credit to agriculture and related activities grew 5.3 per cent, it added. -- PTI
17:27   Brit MP soft on J-K denied entry into India
A British MP, critical of India's move to withdraw Jammu and Kashmir's special status, on Monday said she was denied entry despite a valid visa after she landed at Delhi airport and deported to Dubai from where she had flown into the Indian capital. 

Labour Party MP Debbie Abraham's charge of a valid visa was rebutted by India's Home ministry which said she was informed about her e-visa being cancelled. 

Abrahams, who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group for Kashmir, said she was travelling on a valid e-visa to India to visit family and friends but her visa was revoked without explanation. 

A Home Ministry spokesperson in New Delhi said the British parliamentarian had been duly informed that her visa was cancelled and she arrived Delhi despite knowing this. 

When contacted, Abrahams told PTI she "had not received any emails before February 13". After that, she had been travelling and was away from office. Her office in the UK confirmed she was put on a plane to Dubai, which is where she flew into Delhi from earlier on Monday. 

Her e-visa was reportedly issued last October, and was valid until October 2020. Recounting her experience at Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport, she said in a statement on Twitter that she arrived here on Monday morning and was informed that her e-visa been cancelled. In her statement, Abrahams said she had presented herself at the immigration desk along with her documents and e-visa. "...the official looked at his screen and started shaking his head. Then he told me my visa was rejected took my passport and disappeared for about 10 minutes. 

"When he came back he was very rude and aggressive, shouting at me to 'come with me'. I told him not to speak to me like that and was then taken to a cordoned off area marked as a Deportee Cell. He then ordered me to sit down and I refused. I didn't know what they might do or where else they may take me, so I wanted people to see me," the British MP said. 

The immigration officer disappeared again, she said, adding that she phoned her sister-in-law's cousin who she was going to be staying with. "Kai got in touch with the British High Commission and he tried to find out what was going on," she wrote on Twitter. 

She said later several immigration officials came to her but none of them knew why her e-visa was cancelled. "Even the person who seemed to be in charge said he didn't know and was really sorry about what had happened." Abrahams was among a group of MPs who issued formal letters following the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir's special status under Article 370 in August last year.

"We are gravely concerned at the announcement by Indian Home Minister, Amit Shah, that Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir, has been removed by Presidential Order,' the Opposition MP had noted in her letter to the UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab at the time. -- PTI
Voda Idea pays Rs 2,500 crore, Tata Group over Rs 2,190 crore to DoT: Sources.
16:39   Pak no longer 'safe haven' for terrorists: Imran
There are no "safe havens" for terror groups in Pakistan "right now", Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Monday while acknowledging publicly that it was possibly not the case earlier.

Addressing an international conference marking 40 years of hosting Afghan refugees in the country, he said Pakistan seeks peace in Afghanistan and instability in the war-torn neighbouring country was not in its interest. Khan's assertion on terror safe havens came as the Financial Action Task Force, the global anti-money laundering watchdog, began a crucial meeting in Paris where Pakistan is trying to wriggle out of being blacklisted for not doing enough to combat terror financing. 

The United States, India and Afghanistan have long accused Pakistan of providing safe havens to terror groups like the Taliban, the Haqqani network, the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed. "I can tell you that there are no safe havens here," Khan said at a conference in Islamabad also attended by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. 

"Whatever the situation might have been in the past, right now, I can tell you... there is one thing we want: peace in Afghanistan." Khan said. He admitted that it was possible that such safe heavens were operating in the country after 9/11 in the Afghan refugee camps, The News reported.

"How is the government capable of checking how militants operate from the camps," Khan said, adding that it was not possible because the Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan have had a population of over 100,000. Prime Minister Khan's assertion came after Afghanistan's second vice president, Sarwar Danish accused Pakistan of allowing the Taliban to recruit new fighters from Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan to launch attacks in his country. -- PTI
16:20   Nirbhaya convicts to hang at 6 am, March 3
2012 Delhi gang-rape case: The court issues a fresh date for the execution of death warrants, March 3 at 6 am, against the four death row convicts. Additional Session Judge Dharmender Rana today appointed advocate Ravi Qazi to represent convict Mukesh Singh. 

The court was also informed that another death row convict, Vinay Sharma, is on hunger strike in Tihar jail. Vinay was assaulted in jail and has head injuries, his lawyer told the court, adding that he was suffering from acute mental illness and hence the death sentence cannot be carried out. 

The court directed the Tihar jail superintendent to take appropriate care of Vinay as per law. Another convict Pawan Gupta's counsel told the court that he wanted to move curative petition before the Supreme Court and the mercy plea against the death sentence before the President. 

Gupta is the only one among the four convicts who has not yet filed the 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. Akshay Kumar's counsel informed court that he has prepared fresh mercy petition to be moved before the President. 

The court was hearing the applications by Nirbhaya's parents and the Delhi government, seeking fresh death warrants for the four convicts after the Supreme Court granted liberty to the authorities to approach the trial court for issuance of fresh date for the execution of these convicts. -- PTI

Image: Asha Devi, the mother of the Delhi gang-rape victim says she still has hope that the convicts will be hanged on the new date given by the court. 
16:04   Cong leaders want Priyanka as RS nominee from MP
Four Congress leaders from Madhya Pradesh on Monday urged the party leadership to field Priyanka Gandhi Vadra from the state in the Rajya Sabha election. Three Rajya Sabha seats from the state are falling vacant in April this year. One of the seats is currently represented by Congress veteran Digvijaya Singh, while the other two are held by the BJP.

The Congress is likely to bag two of these three seats following the party's victory in the 2018 Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections.

In view of the forthcoming Rajya Sabha polls, Madhya Pradesh Congress leaders, including former Union minister Arun Yadav and three current state ministers Sajjan Singh Verma, P C Sharma and Jaivardhan Singh, urged the party to field Priyanka Gandhi Vadra from the state. 

"Indira Gandhi was committed for the upliftment of scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and women. Priyanka is following her footprints. Just as Indiraji brought @OfficeOfKNath (Kamal Nath) to Madhya Pradesh, it is time to bring @priyankagandhi (Priyanka Gandhi) ji to Rajya Sabha from the state," Sajjan Singh Verma said in a tweet. 

Former state Congress chief Arun Yadav also took to Twitter to support the demand. "It is time that Rahul Gandhi ji once again be handed over the partys command. It will also be appropriate that Priyanka Gandhi ji be given the opportunity to represent the Rajya Sabha from MP to give an edge to the ground struggle against the fascist ideology," he said.

Public Relations Minister P C Sharma said people see Indira Gandhi's image in her granddaughter and Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. "Priyanka Gandhiji should be sent to the Rajya Sabha from Madhya Pradesh, or any other state in that case. This will strengthen the party," he told reporters.
16:02   Shaheen Bagh plea said law-enforcement machinery held hostage:
Shaheen Bagh hearing update: The apex court was hearing an appeal filed by advocate Amit Sahni, who had approached the Delhi high court seeking directions to the Delhi Police to ensure smooth traffic flow on the Kalindi Kunj-Shaheen Bagh stretch, which was blocked by anti-CAA protesters on December 15. 

While dealing with Sahni's plea, the high court had asked local authorities to deal with the situation keeping in mind law and order. Separately, former BJP MLA Nand Kishore Garg has filed a petition in the apex court seeking directions to the authorities to remove the protestors from Shaheen Bagh. 

One of the pleas has sought laying down of comprehensive and exhaustive guidelines relating to outright restrictions for holding protests or agitations leading to obstruction of public place. 

In his plea, Garg has said that law enforcement machinery was being "held hostage to the whims and fancies of the protesters" who have blocked vehicular and pedestrian movement from the road connecting Delhi to Noida. 

State has the duty to protect fundamental rights of citizen who were continuously being harassed by the blockage of arterial road, it said. 

"It is disappointing that the state machinery is muted and a silent spectator to hooliganism and vandalism of the protesters who are threatening the existential efficacy of the democracy and the rule of law and had already taken the law and order situation in their own hand," the plea had said. 

In his appeal, Sahni had sought supervision of the situation in Shaheen Bagh, where several women are sitting on protest, by a retired Supreme Court judge or a sitting judge of the Delhi High Court. Sahni has said in his plea that protests in Shaheen Bagh has inspired similar demonstrations in other cities and to allow it to continue would set a wrong precedent. PTI
15:37   Can't protest on public roads: SC on Shaheen Bagh
The Supreme Court said on Monday that people have a fundamental right to protest against a law but the blocking of public roads is a matter of concern and there has to be a balancing factor. Hearing pleas over the road blocks due to the ongoing protests at Shaheen Bagh against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), a bench comprising Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph said its concern is about what will happen if people start protesting on roads. 

Democracy works on expressing views but there are lines and boundaries for it, the court said. It asked senior advocate Sanjay Hegde and advocate Sadhana Ramachandran to talk to Shaheen Bagh protestors and persuade them to move to alternative site where no public place is blocked. People have a fundamental right to protest but the thing which is troubling us is blocking of public roads, the bench said. 

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that let a message not go that every institution is on its knees trying to persuade Shaheen Bagh protestors on this issue. If nothing works, we will leave it to the authorities to deal with the situation, the apex court said. 

Restrictions have been imposed on the Kaindi Kunj-Shaheen Bagh stretch and the Okhla underpass, which were closed on December 15 last year due to the protests against CAA and Register of Citizens. PTI 
15:20   Air India gets a new boss
IAS officer Rajiv Bansal takes charge as the Chairman and Managing Director of Air India.
15:17   India's steel industry may benefit from NCov
The impact of Coronavirus outbreak will be felt on the global steel industry for at least two to three years, as China is the largest producer of the alloy, Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said on Monday. 

The minister also asked Indian steel companies to enhance output, particularly special steel, to grab a larger global market share. A strategy paper was being prepared for producing 10 million tonnes of special steel at a cost of Rs 50,000 crore with 50,000 employment potential in the present scenario, he said. 

India is the second largest global producer of steel with an annual output of over 106 million tonne (MT), but lags much behind China that accounted for 928.3 MT of the alloy in 2018. "When some markets in the globe face pressure, its positive reflection is felt in some other markets. This is an automatic (natural) law. India occupies number two slot in steel production. From capital goods to finished products - how can we derive benefit - we are holding talks with stakeholders," Pradhan said on the sidelines of a CII event. 

Pradhan also said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has offered a helping hand to China to fight the deadly virus. He urged players - both large and small - including the startups to come forward for production of special steel and check its import, as countries like Japan and Korea where exporting finished goods to India after adding value to raw material imported from India. 
15:14   Shiva's seat in Mahakal Express one-time affair: IRCTC
The IRCTC on Monday said a seat was reserved for Lord Shiva in the Kashi Mahakal Express during its inaugural run as a "one-time affair" to seek "blessings" for the success of the new project, as some questioned the move. The train staff had "temporarily put the photos of Shri Mahakaal" on an upper berth during the inaugural run on Sunday to perform pooja, the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation said in a statement. 

AIMIM President Asaduddin Owaisi questioned the move and tweeted a photo of the Preamble of the Constitution, tagging the Prime Minister's Office (PMO). 

The railways had reserved seat number 64 in coach B5 for Lord Shiva on the train that will connect three Jyotirlingas -- Omkareshwar near Indore, Mahakaleshwar in Ujjain and Kashi Vishwanath in Varanasi. The train's first commercial run is scheduled on February 20. 

"The staff of the new Kashi-Mahakal Express train temporarily put the photos of Shri Mahakaal on an upper berth so as to do pooja to seek blessings for the success of the new project (new train and new rake). It is meant only for the inaugural run as a one-time affair. "The inaugural run was also not open to passengers. There is going to be no such reserved or dedicated berth for this purpose in the commercial run of the train which is starting from February 20, 2020 onwards," the IRCTC said in the statement. 

 It will be third train to be run by the IRCTC, a subsidiary of the Indian Railways that handles the catering, tourism and online ticketing operations. The train was flagged off by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 16 from the Varanasi junction. -- PTI
14:51   Nirbhaya convict Vinay on hunger strike
Mukesh Kumar Singh, one of the four death row convicts in the Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case, told the court on Monday that he does not want to be represented by advocate Vrinda Grover. The court has now appointed Advocate Ravi Qazi to Mukesh Singh. Additional Session Judge Dharmender Rana was also informed that another death row convict in the case, Vinay Sharma, is on hunger strike in Tihar jail. The court is hearing applications moved by Nirbhaya's parents and the Delhi government, seeking fresh death warrants for the four convicts after the Supreme Court granted liberty to the authorities to approach the trial court for issuance of fresh date for the execution of these convicts. PTI
14:32   India slams Turkey over Kashmir remarks
The MEA statement on Turkish president Erdogan's remarks on Kashmir during his visit to Islamabad over the weekend. 

"India has made a strong demarche with the Turkish government on remarks made by President Erdogan on the Indian Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir during his recent visit to Islamabad. These remarks reflect neither an understanding of history nor of the conduct of diplomacy. India finds that completely unacceptable. We particularly reject the repeated attempts by Turkey to justify the cross border terrorism practiced so blatantly by Pakistan. These developments have strong implications for our bilateral relationship. They distort events of the past to advance a narrow minded view of the present," the MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said. 

India also made a strong demarche with the Turkish Government. This recent episode is but one more example of a pattern of Turkey interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.

Erdogan made the remarks during a joint declaration of the Pakistan-Turkey high-level strategic cooperation council in Islamabad. 

In his speech to the joint sitting of the Pakistani parliament, Erdogan had asserted that sufferings of Kashmiris had been aggravated by Indias steps taken in recent months, referring to the removal of constitutional autonomy and restrictions on communications. This approach, which aggravates the current situation and revokes the freedom and rights of the Kashmiri people, does not bring any benefit to anyone, said the Turkish president.
14:23   Mamata-Dhankar meet
Civil society: That's West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee meeting Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar at Raj Bhawan, today. The two leaders have been at loggerheads over several issues in the state, including CAA. 
14:07   China mulls postponing annual parliament session amid coronavirus spread
China is considering a rare move to postpone its annual parliament session scheduled to be held in early March as the country grapples with the coronavirus outbreak that has claimed over 1,700 lives, official media reported on Monday. 

The 13th National People's Congress, the country's top legislature, is due to hold its annual session in Beijing on March 5, according to an official announcement in December last year. But amid the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the NPC Standing Committee is to discuss postponing this year's NPC plenary session, the state-run China Daily said in a brief report. If the NPC, which is held every year along with the advisory body Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), is postponed, it will be regarded as an unprecedented move.

The ruling Communist Party of China considers two sessions as significant political event to adopt its national agenda, including the annual budgets. Together the NPC and the CPPCC have over 5,000 delegates. China is discouraging large gathering to prevent the spread of the virus. 

The postponement is reportedly being contemplated as the coronavirus continued its virulent run, though officials say it is slowing down. China reported 105 new deaths due to the coronavirus on Monday, increasing the overall death toll to 1,770. The National Health Commission said 2,048 new cases of the virus have been confirmed, taking the total number of infected cases to 70,548, Xinhua news agency reported. PTI
13:57   Massive fire breaks out at GST Bhavan in Mumbai
A level III fire broke out at the GST Bhavan in Mumbai's Tadwadi area this afternoon. Fire tenders have been rushed to the spot. The fire first broke out on the 7th floor of the building which then spread to the 8th floor. No casualties or injuries have been reported so far. The reason for the fire is yet to be ascertained. Fire-fighting operations are currently underway. 

Image: The seventh and eighth floor of the GST Bhavan building in Mumbai are on fire. Pic: Sahil Salvi
13:51   No problem with AI disinvestment this time: Puri
Air India's disinvestment will not face any problems this time as the interest shown by prospective buyers has been reassuring, Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Monday. He said the government wants Air India to keep flying as a brand for years to come. 

The minister also assured the employees at Air India that their requirements would be foremost in the airline and factored in whatever arrangement is decided with the successor. In the Preliminary Information Memorandum issued a few weeks ago for Air India's stake sale, the government had stated that the brand name would have to kept as it is by the future owner.

"The strongest support that you have on your future comes from the government. We not only want to keep Air India flying as a brand but we want to ensure that continued operation will end the uncertainty of last many years," Puri said at an event. 

The fact that Air India has been facing financial challenges is not something that is unknown, he added. "I don't think anyone can run an airline without the people that actually make it," Puri said. "Somebody asks what will happen to the staff. The staff will be required by whoever will be the new entity managing or owning it. There has been no recruitment for how many years. There is no surplus staff," he said. "Don't ever be under the impression that this time around, there will be any problems (in disinvestment). There will not be. The amount of interest I am seeing in the acquisition and the quarters from where I am seeing it, I am reassured," he added. Various employee unions of Air India in the last few months have expressed uncertainty about their future as the government has moved ahead with the stake sale plan. 

"Whoever are the eligible bidders, the requirement of the staff the people who run the airline would be foremost," the minister said. Addressing the concerns of employees, he said, "Your good work is not only being appreciated but will also be factored into the successor arrangement which will come in after this." -- PTI 
13:43   India may set up separate theatre command for J&K: Rawat
India is looking at setting up a separate theatre command for Jammu and Kashmir, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat said on Monday. The air defence command is to be rolled out by the beginning of next year and the Peninsula command by the end of 2021, Gen Rawat told a select group of journalists.

The Indian Air Force will helm the air defence command and all-long range missiles as well as air defence assets will come under it, he said. "India is looking at setting up a separate theatre command for Jammu and Kashmir," Gen Rawat said. 

Indian Navy's Eastern and Western commands will be integrated into the Peninsula command, he said. India will also have a separate training and doctrinal command and logistics command, he said. He also favoured a policy of staggered procurement of big ticket purchases, including acquisition of 114 fighter jets.

The Navy's demand for a third aircraft carrier will be considered after assessing performance of indigenously-built aircraft carrier, he said. Gen Rawat also said that submarines are a priority over aircraft carrier for the Navy. India is also looking at overseas bases for logistics, he added. --  PTI
13:14   Reliance Infra shares rise 5 pc on strong results
Shares of Reliance Infrastructure on Monday surged over 5 pc after the firm reported 18 per cent rise in consolidated net profit to Rs 345.51 crore for the third quarter ended December 31. 

The stock rose 5.13 per cent to trade at Rs 20.50 on the BSE. It gained 5.38 per cent to Rs 20.55 on the NSE. Reliance Infrastructure on Friday reported 18 per cent rise in its consolidated net profit to Rs 345.51 crore for the quarter ended December 31, 2019.

The Anil Ambani-led company had clocked a net profit of Rs 293.77 crore in the corresponding quarter previous fiscal, it had said in a regulatory filing. -- PTI
13:03   'Copycat' BJP launches outreach programme in Bengal
Taking cue from TMC's 'Didi ke Bolo' (Tell Didi) mass outreach programme, the West Bengal BJP is mulling to launch 'BJP ke bolo' (Tell BJP) initiative before the upcoming municipal elections in the state. The BJP leaders, however, denied that the initiative -- that is expected to be launched in a few days -- is meant to outsmart the TMC's programme and insisted it is aimed at inquiring about people's grievances against TMC-run civic bodies and understanding their needs and demands. 

The elections to 107 municipalities and the Kolkata Municipal Corporation to be held this year, are being dubbed as 'mini assembly elections' ahead of the 2021 polls. 

As part of the 'BJP ke Bolo' initiative, a helpline number will be launched wherein people will be able to call and register their grievances and if the saffron party is elected to the civic bodies, it will try to solve the problems, a senior party leader said.

"First, a pilot project will be launched wherein only BJP workers in the 107 municipalities will be asked to register feedback of the masses. Later, a statewide toll free number will be launched for the people," he said.

This initiative will increase the party's direct mass outreach and help it identify issues in the civic bodies, the BJP leader said. 'BJP ke Bolo' will be the second mass outreach programme of the party in the state. It had earlier launched 'Cha chakra Dilipdar sange' (Discussions with Dilip da over tea) in which West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh had visited various areas in the state and discussed with people issues faced by them. The initiative had received positive response from the people, the BJP leader said. Reacting to the development, TMC secretary-general Partha Chatterjee alleged that the saffron party was trying to copy the Trinamool Congress' initiative.
12:49   Big thaw? Mamata in closed-door meet with guv
In what seems to be a sign of reconciliation between the West Bengal government and the Raj Bhavan, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday called on Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar at his official residence to hold a meeting with him, officials said. Banerjee is holding a one-on-one meeting with Dhankhar for the first time since he assumed charge in July last year. The agenda of the meeting is yet to be known.

"The chief minister reached Raj Bhavan at noon. The meeting has now begun," sources in the governor's official residence said. Dhankhar has been at loggerheads with the state government over a host of issues. PTI
12:30   Delhi HC seeks Centre, CBI response on PIL for probe into Gargi college molestation incident
The Delhi High Court on Monday sought response of the Centre and the CBI on a plea seeking a court-monitored probe by the agency into the alleged molestation of students during a cultural festival at Delhi University's all-women Gargi College last week. 

A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar issued notice to the Centre and Central Bureau of Investigation on a plea filed by advocate ML Sharma. 

The plea was filed on Thursday, hours after the Supreme Court declined to entertain the petition and asked the petitioner to move the high court. Sharma has sought the preservation of all video recordings and CCTV camera footage of the college campus in his plea. 

On February 6, a group of men broke into the Gargi College during the festival 'Reverie' and allegedly groped, harassed and molested the students who claimed that security officials stood watching. 

The incident came to light after some students took to Instagram to narrate their ordeal and alleged that security personnel did nothing to control the unruly groups. PTI
12:23   Airtel pays Rs 10,000 crore to govt towards statutory dues
With the government coming down heavily on telcos after the Supreme Court's rap, Bharti Airtel on Monday said it has paid Rs 10,000 crore to the telecom department towards statutory dues. The company said it will make the payment of the balance amount after a self-assessment exercise. 

"The...amount of Rs 10,000 crore has been paid on behalf of Bharti Airtel, Bharti Hexacom, and Telenor," the Sunil Mittal-led company said in a statement. As much as Rs 9,500 crore has been paid on behalf of Bharti Airtel (including Telenor India which merged with the company), and another Rs 500 crore for Bharti Hexacom. 

As per the government's assessment, Airtel owes nearly Rs 35,586 crore in statutory dues, including licence fee and spectrum usage charge.

After facing the ire of the Supreme Court for putting on hold recovery of dues from telecom companies, the telecom department on February 14 began issuing orders asking firms such as Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea to clear past dues immediately. -- PTI
12:09   Arvind Kejriwal takes charge as Delhi CM
Arvind Kejriwal takes charge as the Chief Minister of Delhi at the Delhi Secretariat. 

Yesterday, setting his government's road map for the next five years after being sworn in as chief minister, Kejriwal sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "blessings" for fast paced development of the national capital and asserted that people may have voted for different parties, but he is the "chief of minister of all".

Kejriwal along with his cabinet colleagues Manish Sisodia, Satyendar Jain, Gopal Rai, Imran Hussain, Rajendra Pal Gautam and Kailash Gahlot were administered the oath of office and secrecy by Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal at the historic Ramlila Maidan that was a sea of tricolour with a large number of people and party supporters turning up for the event.
11:33   India among countries whose actions compliant with Paris Agreement goal: PM
India is one of the few countries whose actions are compliant with the Paris Agreement goal of keeping rise in temperature to below two degree Celsius, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday. 

Addressing COP13 delegates in Gandhinagar via video conferencing from Delhi, Modi said India has been championing climate action based on values of conservation, sustainable lifestyle and green development model. He also said that India is working to conserve migratory birds. 

"India has prepared a national action plan to conserve migratory birds along the Central Asia flyway," he said. "We are ensuring that development happens without harming the environment," he added. -- PTI
11:32   Conservation of wildlife part of our ethos: PM
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said conservation of wildlife and habitat have been a part of India's cultural ethos, which encourages compassion and coexistence.

"For ages, conservation of wildlife and habitat have been a part of our cultural ethos, which encourages compassion and coexistence," said Prime Minister Modi while addressing a convention on Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals at Gandhinagar.

"Our Vedas spoke of the protection of animals. Emperor Asoka put great emphasis on preventing the destruction of forests and the killing of animals," he said.

Stating that India is blessed with diverse ecological habitats, and also has 4 bio-diversity hotspots, he said: "With 2.4 per cent of the world's land area, India contributes to about 8 per cent of the world's known bio-diversities. 

They are the Eastern Himalayas, the Western Ghats, Indo-Myanmar landscape, and Andaman and Nicobar Islands."He said India is also home to around 500 species of migratory birds from across the globe.

Emphasising on values of conservation, he said: "India has been championing Climate Action based on the values of conservation, sustainable lifestyle and green development model."

"Inspired by Gandhiji, the ethos of non-violence and protection of animals and nature has been suitably enshrined in the Constitution of India. It also finds mention is several laws and legislations," he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi today inaugurated the United Nations Convention on Migratory Species through video conferencing.

The UN CMS being organized in Gandhinagar, Gujarat began today and will conclude on February 22.The summit will bring together 1200 delegates from over 110 countries to deliberate on the alarming decline of migratory species.

Topics such as the impact of infrastructure development on the migratory patterns of animals will be discussed in the 13th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS COP13). 
-- ANI

Image: PM Modi with Bear Grylls in August last year. 
11:02   SC nod for permanent commission for Army women
The Supreme Court today today ruled that women officers in the Indian Army were allowed "command appointments" or permanent commissions on par with male officers. This means women in the army will have similar career prospects and opportunities as their male counterparts, though it is still unclear if this would pave the way for women being allowed to fight in combat.

"Physiological features of women have no link to their rights. The mindset must change," the Supreme Court said today.

In a note from a report, the government had told the Supreme Court that "troops are not yet mentally schooled to accept women officers in command of units" since they are "predominantly drawn from a rural background".

"Women work shoulder to shoulder with men. The centre's submission is based on gender discrimination and stereotype. Women Army officers brought laurels to the county," Justices DY Chandrachud and Ajay Rastogi said today. 

Image: Major Sheena Nayyar commandeered the Transportable Satellite Vehicle at the 2020 Republic Day parade 
Airtel pays Rs 10,000 crore to Telecom Department towards AGR dues: Company statement. Details awaited. 
10:56   Shaheen Bagh protestors postpone march to Shah's residence
After holding several rounds of negotiations with the police, anti-CAA protestors who had gathered here in large numbers on Sunday agreed to not proceed with their march from Shaheen Bagh to the office or residence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

Protestors had stated that approximately 5000 people will start marching from Shaheen bagh to Shah's residence at 2 pm for a dialogue over the Citizenship Amendment Act.

Following this, rounds of negotiations were held with protesters by senior police officers and they were persuaded to not take out the march. They were informed to take prior appointment from the Home Minister before trying to meet him.

Police personnel were deployed at Shaheen Bagh to maintain law and order in the area.

Meanwhile, in Tamil Nadu, in what is being called Chennai's Shaheen Bagh, protestors continued to agitate against the Central and State governments and against the CAA, National Population Register (NPR) and the National Register of Citizenship (NRC) for the third consecutive day.Muslim women who participated in the protest said they will not stop their agitation until CAA is revoked. -- ANI

Image: Senior police officials of southeast district also interacted extensively with a group of protesters, especially the grandmothers of Shaheen Bagh, urging them to postpone their march as it was unlawful and did not have necessary permission from concerned law enforcement agencies. Pic: ANI
10:49   Owaisi reminds PMO of Preamble after train seat is turned into temple
AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi on Monday reminded the Prime Minister's Office about the Preamble of the Constitution, after a seat of the Kashi Mahakal Express, which was inaugurated by Narendra Modi, was turned into a Shiva temple.

The Kashi Mahakal Express (Varanasi-Indore) was flagged off by Prime Minister Narendra Modi via video conferencing yesterday.

Seat number 64 of coach B5 in the train, that connects three Jyotirlingas in two states, was turned into a mini-temple devoted to Lord Shiva.

Quoting ANI's tweet on the mini-temple, Owaisi shared a picture of the Indian Constitution's Preamble and mentioned PMO's handle. "We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign socialist secular democratic republic and to secure to all its citizens: justice, social, economic and political; liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; equality of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the nation; in our constituent assembly this twenty-sixth day of November 1949, do hereby adopt, enact and give to ourselves this Constitution," read the photo shared by Owaisi.

Kashi-Mahakal Express connects Omkareshwar (near Indore), Mahakaleshwar (Ujjain) and Kashi Vishwanath (Varanasi) Jyotirlingas. It will start plying regularly from February 20. The railway authorities have kept pictures dedicated to Lord Shiva on the seat, they are also mulling to keep this seat reserved for the Lord in the days ahead. 
10:45   Hope for fresh death warrants today: Nirbhaya mom
Asha Devi, the mother of the 2012 Delhi gang-rape victim, on Monday voiced hope that fresh death warrants would be issued against all four convicts by a Delhi court today.

Delhi's Patiala House Court will today hear a plea seeking the issuance of a fresh death warrant against the convicts in the Nirbhaya case.

Speaking to ANI, Asha Devi said, "Several dates (of court hearing) have come and gone but fresh death warrants have not been issued yet. But we go with new hope in every hearing. Their (convicts') lawyers use new tactics every day, I cannot say what will happen today but I am hopeful."

A Delhi court had on February 17 adjourned the hearing on the plea of the state and Nirbhaya's parents seeking issuance of death warrant as a petition challenging the rejection of mercy plea of convict Vinay Kumar Sharma is pending before the Supreme Court.

The Patiala House Court had observed that Article 21 of the Constitution protects the life and liberty of the convicts till the last breath of life.

The case pertains to the gang-rape and brutalising of a 23-year-old paramedical student in a moving bus on the night of December 16, 2012, by six people including a juvenile in Delhi. She died at a Singapore hospital a few days later. -- ANI
10:40   Feeling sexy and missing Saif: Kareena@LFW
Designer Amit Aggarwal couldn't have asked for a bigger platform to showcase his eponymous line.

With Lakme's ambassador Kareena Kapoor as his showstopper, Lakme Fashion Week Summer/Resort got its perfect grand finale.

The actor who has been a part of Lakme since 2011 was clearly excited. "I love walking the ramp and the only thing I hope when I walk is that I don't fall," Kareena told the media.

She also revealed why she missed her husband Saif Ali Khan."The only person missing here is my husband, he should have been here because I'm feeling so sexy tonight." 

We couldn't agree more... take a look
10:36   Rupee slips 10 paise to 71.47 against US dollar in early trade
The rupee declined by 10 paise to 71.47 against the US dollar in opening trade on Monday, amid sustained foreign fund outflows and weak opening in domestic equities. Forex traders said strengthening of the US dollar vis-a-vis other currencies overseas kept pressure on the Indian rupee. 

The rupee opened weak at 71.45 at the interbank forex market and then fell further to 71.47, down 10 paise over its last close. The rupee had settled at 71.37 against the US dollar on Friday. 

Meanwhile, easing crude prices supported the local unit and restricted the fall. Brent crude futures, the global oil benchmark, fell 0.19 per cent to USD 57.21 per barrel. 

Foreign institutional investors remained net sellers in the capital markets, pulling out Rs 704.92 crore on Friday, as per provisional data. The BSE Sensex was trading 65 points, or 0.16 per cent, lower at 41,192.74. Likewise, the NSE Nifty was trading down by 28 points, or 0.23 per cent, at 12,085.45. The dollar index, which gauges the greenback's strength against a basket of six currencies, fell marginally by 0.01 per cent to 99.11. The 10-year government bond yield was at 6.36 per cent in the morning trade. -- PTI
10:20   Sonam Kapoor asks if RSS chief is sane
Sonam Kapoor reacts to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat's statement yesterday that cases of divorce are found more in "educated and affluent" families in India. The actress tweeted saying, "Which sane man speaks like this? Regressive foolish statements."

Bhagwat on Sunday said education and affluence brings arrogance along, which results in families falling apart.He also said that there is no alternative to a Hindu society in India. Bhagwat was addressing RSS workers who were present in Ahmedabad along with their family members.

"Nowadays, the number of divorce cases have increased a lot. People fight over trifle issues. The cases of divorce are more in educated and affluent families, because with education and affluence comes arrogance, as a result of which families fall apart. The society also falls apart because society is also a family," Bhagwat was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the RSS.

"We expect swayamsevaks to tell their family members about their activities in the Sangh, because many times women members of the family have to carry out more painful work than us to ensure that we can do what we do," he said.
10:10   Encounter with an ex-king
Our former colleague Abhishek Mande Bhot, who was returning from an assignment in Nepal, reports meeting the former kingdom's former monarch Gyanendra on a Kathmandu-Delhi Vistara flight on Sunday evening. Gyanendra, says Abhishek, 'was extremely polite and warm. 

When, towards the end of the flight, the crew asked if they could take a picture with him and his wife, he gladly obliged. The crew thanked him for the picture and the former king replied, "Thank you for taking care of me!"

He was the last person to get on to the flight and the first person out. His wife and he hold diplomatic passports so they were cleared out almost immediately but they were travelling with some other people, presumably, their family. So, he patiently waited for everyone to get done at immigration and they left together, notes Abhishek.

"On the tarmac, I excused myself and asked him if it'd be forward of me to request for a picture, he said 'not at all' and happily obliged. I told him this was my first time in Nepal and he said he hoped I'd enjoyed my time there and we made some small talk thereafter," says Abhishek. 

''We ran into each other after immigration again and greeted each other," adds Abhishek who told the former monarch, "I hope you have a good stay in India."

He was smiling throughout and he said thanks. Then he patted Abhishek's back and they parted ways.
09:42   It will be 'Namaste Trump' at Motera stadium
From 'Kem Chho Trump' to 'Namaste President Trump', now the mega event at Ahmedabads Motera stadium will be called Namaste Trump, in which US President Donald Trump and Indias Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be addressing around 1.25 lakh people on February 24.

The event at the Motera stadium will be called Namaste Trump, a senior Gujarat government official said.

The Gujarat Cricket Association is the nodal agency organising the mega event to inaugurate the facility with a capacity of 1.1 lakh, the worlds largest cricket stadium.

The stadium will be full to capacity, while more than 10,000 persons will be sitting on the floors circling the stage from where both leaders, representing the worlds oldest democracy and the worlds largest democracy, respectively, will be speaking.

Top Bollywood singers like Kailash Kher and performers and top Gujarati singers like Kirtidan Gadhavi, Parthiv Gohil and others will be performing at the stadium before and after the main even Namaste Trump, a senior official involved in the preparations said.

Besides the main program at the stadium, another big program the state authorities have planned is 22 km long road show from the airport to the Sabarmati Ashram and from there to the stadium.
09:11   SC to pronounce judgment on Centre's plea against permanent commission for women in army
The Supreme Court will pronounce judgment on Monday on the Centre's appeal against Delhi high court's directions passed in 2010 for granting permanent commission to women officers in Indian Army.

The army said that women officers selected for the permanent commission will be given appointments as per organisational requirements in line with the commitments given by the force. 

Talking about the ongoing litigation in the Supreme Court for granting permanent commission to women officers, they said the special army instructions of September 7, 1992, issued while the women officers were first commissioned in the army, clearly state that women officers will be liable for service in any part of the world on selected appointments as decided from time to time by the army headquarters.

"The Indian Army stands by this commitment and has clarified that women officers selected for permanent commission will be given appointments as per organisational requirements," they said.

Earlier, sources said that the army is in favour of granting pension benefits to women officers, who have fulfilled the service conditions.

Sources earlier informed that the induction of women in the army is progressing well and that these women officers will be given all suitable assignments as deemed fit by the organisation.

All decisions taken towards the smooth integration of women in various assigned roles in the army will be taken in the best interest of the individuals and the organisation, army sources had added.

In April last year, the Army had kicked off the process of inducting women as jawans by starting their online registration for recruitment in the corps of military police.

-- ANI
08:41   Ajay Maken slams Deora for Kejriwal praise
While several Congress leaders congratulated Arvind Kejriwal for his third consecutive victory in the recently held Delhi assembly elections, Milind Deora took his admiration for the Aam Aadmi Party a step ahead by showing praise on it in a late night tweet on Sunday.

Posting a gushing video of Kejriwal listing out achievements of the AAP government, Deora said Delhi managed to double its revenues to ₹60,000 crore and maintained a revenue surplus over the last five years.

His post got 2,700 retweets and over 11,000 likes. Kejriwal, who took oath as Delhi Chief Minister on Sunday, was also quick to retweet the video that came amid growing criticism that his party won the polls because of its welfare measures such as free electricity, water and bus rides.

But Deoras open praise for the rival party, as expected, did not go down with his colleagues. Senior party leader Ajay Maken lambasted Deora by asking him to "leave Congress" and not propagate half-baked facts.

"Brother, you want to leave INC India-Please do-Then propagate half baked facts! However, let me share even lesser know facts-1997-98-BE (Revenue) 4,073cr2013-14-BE (Revenue) 37,459cr. During Congress Govt Grew at 14.87% CAGR2015-16 BE 41,1292019-20 BE 60,000AAP Gov 9.90% CAGR," tweeted Maken, who has served as the Speaker of the Delhi Assembly in the past.
08:30   China virus death toll rises to 1,770; total cases climb to over 70,500
China reported 105 new deaths due to the new coronavirus on Monday, pushing the overall death toll to 1,770, as officials announced stringent measures such as closing non-essential public venues and traffic restrictions to control the epidemic in the worst-hit Hubei province.

The National Health Commission said 2,048 new cases of the virus have been confirmed, taking the total number of COVID-19 infected cases to 70,548, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Of the new deaths, 100 were from Hubei Province, three in Henan, and two in Guangdong.

Though 10,844 people had been discharged from hospitals after recovery, the commission said in its daily report said that 7,264 people were still suspected to be infected by the deadly virus.

By Sunday, 57 confirmed cases including one death had been reported from Hong Kong, 10 in Macao, and 20 in Taiwan including one death.

-- PTI
08:02   UN chief offers to mediate on J-K; India rejects
India on Sunday flatly rejected UN chief Antonio Guterres's offer of mediation on Kashmir and said the real issue needed to be addressed is to vacate territories "illegally and forcibly" occupied by Pakistan.

The assertion by the ministry of external affairs came after Guterres said in Islamabad that he was concerned over the situation in Kashmir, and that he was ready to mediate between India and Pakistan to resolve the long pending issue.

MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said Jammu and Kashmir is and will continue to be an integral part of India and hoped that the UN secretary general would press Pakistan to take credible and irreversible action to stop cross-border terrorism against India.  

"India's position has not changed. Jammu and Kashmir has been, is, and will continue to be an integral part of India. The issue that needs to be addressed is that of vacation of the territories illegally and forcibly occupied by Pakistan," Kumar said.

"Further issues, if any, would be discussed bilaterally. There is no role or scope for third-party mediation," he said.

Guterres is currently undertaking a four-day visit to Pakistan. 

"We hope the UN secretary general would emphasise on the imperative for Pakistan to take credible, sustained and irreversible action to put an end to cross-border terrorism against India, which threatens the most fundamental human right -- the right to life -- of the people of India, including in J&K," the MEA spokesperson said.

Addressing a press conference after his meeting with Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in Islamabad, the UN secretary general said he was "deeply concerned" over the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and tensions along the Line of Control.

Guterres said it was important for India and Pakistan to de-escalate "militarily and verbally" and exercise "maximum restraint" on the Kashmir issue.

He said he was ready to help if both countries agreed for mediation.

-- PTI