Wed, 19 February 2020
CAA will in no way affect Muslims: Swamy

Timeline  Refresh

23:54   CAA will in no way affect Muslims: Swamy

The Citizenship Amendment Act will in no way affect Muslims living in the country and it has been brought in to correct the "betrayal" of those religious minorities who had stayed back in the three neighbouring countries on India's assurance, Bharatiya Janata Party MP Subramanian Swamy said on Wednesday.
 Delivering a talk on 'The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019: A Historical Imperative beyond Contemporary Politics' at the University of Hyderabad, Swamy cited "disinformation" on the CAA and said he had invited opposition Congress leaders for a public debate on the matter.
"I challenge Congress men to debate with me. The points they are making (against the law) on television are all rubbish," he said, adding, "For those Indian Muslims living in India as Indian citizens, there is no power that Parliament can exercise to remove their citizenship...they are not under threat."
"CAA is an Act to correct our betrayal of those Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis who on assurance stayed back (in those countries). The BJP government kept that promise. How can you find fault with us for keeping a promise which was made by Mahatma Gandhi and several leaders afterwards," Swamy said.
Under the new citizenship law, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014, and facing religious persecution there will not be treated as illegal immigrants, and be given Indian citizenship. 
There have been protests against the law, which many believed to be targeted against Muslims, in various parts of the country.
On the ongoing protests against the law, Swamy said, "Where is this question of anti-Muslim bill. They have not read it. I don't know what the protest is about."
On the anti-CAA protest at Delhi's Shaheen Bagh, the BJP leader said, "The government has been very patient. I would have lifted them to Tughlakabad."
As Swamy delivered his speech, a group of students under the banner of SFI-Hyderabad Central University staged a protest at the venue and showed placards with the messages -- "No CAA, No NRC and No NPR" and "Go Back Subramanian Swamy".
Soon, another group of students raised slogans "We support CAA" and "Gaddarao Bharat Chhodo" (traitors leave India) even as Swamy continued his address. -- PTI 
23:43   Prince Harry, Meghan fix March end for royal exit
Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on Wednesday announced March 31 as the date of their formal exit as frontline royals following discussions with Buckingham Palace on formalising their new financially independent roles.
Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, will no longer have an office at Buckingham Palace in London as they stop carrying out formal royal duties for Queen Elizabeth II from April 1, with the formal arrangements of the split to be assessed after 12 months.
"The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will formally step down as senior royals from March 31," a spokesperson for the couple said. -- PTI  
23:42   Is talking in country's interest political? RSS
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh general secretary Suresh 'Bhaiyyaji' Joshi on Wednesday slammed those labelling the Sangh as a political organisation, and asked whether talking in the interest of the country was political.
Joshi was speaking on the occasion of the birth anniversary of RSS' second sarsanghchalak (chief) Madhav Sadashivrao Golwalkar also known as Guruji.
Questioning the criticism that whatever the RSS spoke was political in nature, he said, "Is thinking about rashtra and country politics? How can this be? If there are questions about the country's border, will the common man of the country not think about it?"
"If something good happens in the country, then should we not express happiness over it? Should one remain quiet if the identity of the nation is attacked? Hence, there is a need for every section of the society to think about the good and bad things happening. But if such thinking is done, it is termed as politics. Such is the deformity we have!" he said.
"Sangh is also called political by people. But we never contested any elections and there is no possibility also of such a thing happening. In RSS, elections are held and people don't come to know about it," he added.
"Is talking in the interest of the nation political? Is it political to say that the country's Army and Army officers should become able and remove their shortcomings? Is it political to speak about how the country's economy should be? Are all these things political?" Joshi asked.
"What is true should be told. What is appropriate and necessary should be told. Hence, we have experienced during the time of Guruji- he did not say what suited people. But he tried to say what is appropriate for the people all his life, whether people liked it or not. And he said what is good for the people and the society," he added.
"Should we not talk about what is true and what is necessary before the society and the country? And such thinking comes out of Guruji Gowalkar's teaching and life," he added.
"Guruji was never a political leader, but he had from time-to-time given appropriate point of view on the things  happening in the country. He was not political, but now the word politics has become corrupt and it is a different has become so in the recent period," he said. -- PTI 
22:57   PM-led panel names President's secy Sanjay Kothari as next CVC
Sanjay Kothari, the Secretary to the President, has been selected as the new Central Vigilance Commissioner by a high-powered committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, an official said on Wednesday.
The committee has also chosen former Information and Broadcasting Secretary Bimal Julka, currently serving as an Information Commissioner, as the new Chief Information Commissioner in the Central Information Commission.
Sources said the recommendation for the appointment of Kothari and Julka, who are retired  Indian Administrative Service(IAS) officers, by a majority decision was opposed by Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury. The selection panel also included Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
"Kothari and Julka have been selected as the next CVC and CIC," said a senior government official, who did not want to be named.
The three-member panel also decided by majority the appointment of Suresh Patel as Vigilance Commissioner and Anita Pandove as Information Commissioner.
The orders relating to the appointments are awaiting a formal approval from President Ram Nath Kovind.
The Congress termed the process adopted for the appointment of the next Central Vigilance Commissioner as "illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional" and demanded immediate scrapping of the decision.
Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said the government should initiate a fresh process for appointing the next CVC by inviting applications again.
"We demand that the entire process be scrapped in its entirety and a de novo process started by inviting applications afresh. There needs to be proper application of mind," he told reporters.
Tewari claimed that it is clear that the government has a lot to hide and wants the CVC to be a "rubber stamp".
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala also attacked the government over the appointment of the CVC and CIC and alleged there is no place for transparency, accountability and constitutional processes in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'New India, which was fatal for democracy.
He alleged that the appointments of CVC and CIC are being made arbitrarily on the lines of "khul ja sim sim" (open sesame).
"Arbitrariness in top judicial institutions is fatal for democracy," he said.
"The appointments of CVC and CIC are being made on the lines of 'open sesame'. Bring out names from the pocket and make appointments, that's it. There is no place left for transparency, accountability, constitutional processes and compliance of law in Modi ji's 'New India'," he charged on Twitter.
The Central Vigilance Commission is an-corruption watchdog with autonomous status. -- PTI
22:46   Army HQ to be shifted from South Block: Sources
The army headquarters will be moved from the iconic South Block at Raisina Hill to the Delhi Cantonment area, sources said on Wednesday.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is slated to "perform the 'bhoomipujan' (ground-breaking) ceremony" on Friday for the construction of the new 'Sena Bhawan', they said.
"The 'Sena Bhawan' spread over 39 acres would come up in five years time near the Manekshaw Centre in the Delhi Cantonment area," a source said.
South Block is part of the historic Raisina Hill complex built during the colonial era as part of the "new imperial capital" of the British Raj.
The North Block and South Block, Viceroy's House (now Rashtrapati Bhavan) and Parliament House, surrounded by lush green landscape and imposing fountains, were built during the construction of 'New Delhi' starting 1912.
The North and South Blocks, which symbolise the government authority since their inception in Lutyens' Delhi, are likely to be converted into a museum, as part of the government's Central Vista redevelopment project, officials in the Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry had said in January.
The official in the HUA Ministry, the nodal agency for the ambitious redevelopment project of the Modi government, had said people would have access to North and South Blocks once they are turned into museums. -- PTI
21:39   Indigo passenger tries to open plane door, deplaned
A group of five people were off-loaded from IndiGo's Delhi-Jeddah flight on Tuesday for "unruly behaviour" with one of them trying to forcibly open a door of the aircraft as it was taxiing for takeoff, insisting that their two companions who lost their boarding passes be allowed to take the flight, officials said.
As the incident unfolded on board, the pilot brought the plane back to the parking bay and off-loaded the group.
The flight departed from the Delhi airport after a delay of around three hours, the official said on Wednesday.
"A group of 110 passengers of connecting flight from Srinagar were travelling on this A321neo aircraft. Their two co-passengers were off-loaded at boarding gate as they had lost their boarding passes.
"During taxiing (for takeoff) the group leader demanded that two members of their group be accepted on board. Crew stopped him and convinced him to be seated on his place but again passenger shouted on board and tried to open the door," the official told PTI.
Accordingly, the captain decided to return to parking bay.
Along with the group leader, three female and a male co-passengers were also off-loaded from the plane, according to the official.
The official stated that once the passengers were deplaned, anti-sabotage drill was performed. -- PTI
21:16   Security agencies gear up for Trump's visit
A multi-tier security arrangement comprising the Delhi Police, United States Secret Service and other agencies will be in place in the national capital, including at the ITC Maurya hotel where US President Donald Trump is likely to stay when he visits India next week, officials said on Wednesday.
"In connection with the US President's visit, the Delhi Police is making all necessary arrangements. Security unit will be duly assisted by the district police and the traffic unit.
"Police will make elaborate arrangements at the place of stay and all venues where he is likely to pay a visit," Police Commissioner Amulya Patnaik told PTI.
Patnaik said other sister agencies are also involved in the task and necessary tie-up has been made with the US secret service.
"It will be a multi-layered security arrangement with due assistance from the central armed police forces," the police chief added.
At the ITC Maurya, a three-layer security will be in place, another senior police officer said.
The officer said that the hotel, located in Diplomatic Enclave in Chanakyapuri, has 438 rooms and every floor of the hotel will have policemen in plainclothes.
The Delhi Police's security wing personnel will form part of the inner cordon that will work in close coordination with the United States Secret Service.
The security wing of the Delhi Police is a specialised unit tasked with the security of VIPs and visiting foreign dignitaries.
"The second layer of security will be deployed around the lobby area, parking, lawn area and the pool area, while the third one will comprise police personnel from the district police," another officer added.
There is a large stretch of green ridge area opposite the hotel and security personnel will be deployed there as well. 
Snipers of the Delhi Police and National Security Guards will be stationed atop high-rise buildings near the hotel.
In 2015, the then US president Barack Obama had come to India on a three-day visit, during which he was also the chief guest at the Republic Day event.
Trump, who is scheduled to visit India on February 24 and 25, will be accompanied by a high-level delegation.
Prime Minister Modi will host a lunch for Trump, while President Ram Nath Kovind will host a banquet in honour of the visiting dignitary. -- PTI 
21:14   Will ask to take early call on JNU case: Kejriwal
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday said he will ask the department concerned to take an "early decision" on the prosecution sanction against former Jawaharlal Nehru University students' union president Kanhaiya Kumar and others in a sedition case. 
The chief minister's comments come hours after a court directed the Delhi government to file a status report till April 3 on the issue of sanctions to prosecute Kanhaiya Kumar and others.
"I don't have a say in the department concerned (home). I cannot change their (department's) decision, but will ask them to decide as soon as possible," Kejriwal told reporters when asked about prosecution sanction pending with the Delhi government in the sedition case.
Sources in the government said the home department has to take a decision in connection with the case.
While hearing the case, Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Purushottam Pathak also directed the Delhi Police to send a reminder to the city government seeking requisite sanctions to prosecute Kumar.
The court passed the directions after police submitted that permission to prosecute Kumar and others has not been granted yet and the letter requesting sanction is pending with GNCTD.
On January 14, the police had filed a charge sheet in the court against Kumar and others, including former Jawaharlal Nehru University students Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, saying they were leading a procession and supported the seditious slogans raised on the campus during an event on February 9, 2016. -- PTI 
20:31   Govt doesn't acknowledge word 'slowdown': Ex-PM
Attacking the Modi government on the state of the economy, former prime minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday said the current dispensation does not acknowledge the word "slowdown" and the real danger is that if problems are not recognised, then finding credible answers to take corrective action is unlikely.
Addressing a gathering at the launch of Montek Singh Ahluwalia's book Backstage, Singh said the former planning commission deputy chairman has written about the good as well as the weak points of the United Progressive Alliance government. 
"I think these issues will be debated and should be debated because we have today a government that does not acknowledge that there is such a word as slowdown. I think this is not good for our country," the former prime minister said.
"If you do not recognise the problems that you face, you are not likely to find credible answers to take corrective action. That is the real danger," he said, attacking the government on the state of the economy. 
The book will be of great help to the future growth of the country, Singh said.
"Montek has also pointed out that contrary to what the ruling group may say, today the $5 trillion economy by 2024-25 is wishful thinking. Also there is no reason to expect that farmers income will be doubled in a three- year period," he said.
Singh also hailed the role played by former prime minister Narasimha Rao, P Chidambaram and Ahluwalia for supporting his liberalisation of the economy in the 1990s and enabling him to carry out the reforms despite resistance from different quarters. -- PTI 
20:16   PM's ex-advisor to head Ram temple construction committee
Mahant Nritya Gopal Das was elected president and Champat Rai general secretary of the Ram Temple trust at its first meeting in New Delhi on Wednesday.
The meeting, held at the residence of senior lawyer K Parasaran, also elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi's former principal secretary Nripendra Misra as the head of the temple construction committee of the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Tirth Kshetra Trust.
The meeting was aimed at working out modalities to speed up the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya. It was also decided to open an account in Ayodhya's State Bank of India branch for donations for the Ram temple construction, Chanmpat Rai told reporters after the meeting.
Swami Govind Dev Giri of Pune was appointed as treasurer of the trust at the meeting.
Among those present at the meeting were the central government representative, additional secretary in Home ministry Gyanesh Kumar, UP government's representative Avinash Awasthy and Ayodhya District Magistrate Anuj Kumar Jha.
The Trust was constituted by the Narendra Modi government.
Modi had announced the formation of the 15-member trust in Parliament on February 5. The Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra Trust has seven members, five nominated members and three trustees. The trust was formed in adherence to the Supreme Court verdict on the Ayodhya dispute in November last year.
Senior lawyer Parasaran was named as the head of the Trust and its other members include Jagatguru Shankracharya, Jyothishpeethadheeshwar Swami Vasudevanand Saraswati Ji Maharaj from Allahabad, Jagatguru Madhavacharya Swami Vishwa Prasannatheerth Ji Maharaj, Pejawar Math in Udupi, Yugpurush Paramanand Ji Maharaj from Haridwar, Swami Govinddev Giri Ji Maharaj from Pune and Vimlendra Mohan Pratap Mishra from Ayodhya. -- PTI  
19:34   Nagraj Manjule, Riteish Deshmukh announce trilogy on Shivaji
Sairat director Nagraj Manjule and actor Riteish Deshmukh are teaming up for a trilogy on Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj on his 390th birth anniversary.
Deshmukh took to Twitter to share a teaser of the project. Music composers Ajay-Atul will be scoring the music for trilogy, the first of which will release this year.
Manjule also shared the promo on his Twitter handle.
"Standing at the threshold of a dream, this might be the case... Today, on the occasion of Shivaji's birthday, it is a pleasure to say that Shivratri is coming along with Ritesh Deshmukh and Ajay-Atul," the filmmaker wrote in the caption.
Riteish, meanwhile, will next feature in Tiger Shroff-starrer Baaghi 3

The film will release on March 6.
Manjule next directorial will be Jhund with Amitabh Bachchan. 

The movie has a release date of May 8. -- PTI  
19:18   Prashant Kishor defends "pichhlaggu'' jibe at Nitish
Defending his "pichhlaggu" (underling) barb at Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, poll strategist-politician Prashant Kishor on Wednesday said he was upset with the Janat Dal-United chief's "surrender" before the Bharatiya Janata Party just to cling to power without extracting any benefit for the state.
Facing flak for linking the BJP with (Nathuram) Godse, while having worked with the party in the past, Kishor asserted that public praise of Mahatma Gandhis assassin by a mainstream political outfit was "a recent  phenomenon, seen in the last six to eight months".
He said in the seven decades since Independence only fringe elements extolled Godse here and there.
"It has been only after the last Lok Sabha polls that we have seen workers of a mainstream party chanting slogans in his praise, even a Member of Parliament doing the same on the floor of the House," he told a news channel, referring to the incident involving Bhopal MP Sadhvi Pragya Thakur.
The expelled JD-U vice president lamented the pity was that, "those aligned with the BJP, did not muster the courage to even condemn the outrageous act".
Bihar deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi had on Tuesday taken a swipe at Kishor, saying the man who had cut his teeth as an election strategist for Narendra Modi in 2014, was now accusing the BJP of following "Godse".
"As regards the controversy over picchlaggu remark, I have been expressing my reservations about people of the state accepting a leader who appears to be playing second fiddle (to the BJP). I might be wrong, but that is my view," the election strategist said.
"However, I was ready to accept the surrender before the BJP had it been for extracting benefits for the state from the party in power at the Centre. If the capitulation is just to ensure continuance in power in the state, that might be detested by the people", he added.
Former BJP president and Union Home minister Amit Shah has already announced that Kumar would be the face of the NDA in the Bihar assembly polls to be held later this year.
During his press conference the previous day, Kishor had refered to denial of special status to Bihar by the Centre and Prime Minister Narendra Modi not entertaining Kumar's request for grant of central status to Patna University.
Kishor, however, disapproved of epithets like "kursi kumar" lobbed at the chief minister by the opposition RJD, saying "It is my personal belief that civility must be maintained in political discourse though all are entitled to
their own convictions". -- PTI 
19:17   UP BJP MLA booked for raping woman
An FIR was lodged against local Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Ravindra Nath Tripathi and six others in Uttar Pradesh's Bhadohi on Wednesday for allegedly raping a woman repeatedly for a month in 2017, police said.
The 40-year-old woman, who is a widow, had lodged a complaint on February 10, they said.
The woman alleged that she was first raped by Tripathi's nephew Sandeep Tiwari, who has also been named in the FIR, in 2016. She said she did not lodge a complaint back then as Tiwari had promised to marry her, Superintendent of Police Ram Badan Singh said.
She has alleged that in the run-up to the 2017 Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, she was kept at a hotel for a month by Tiwari. All the seven accused would visit the hotel and repeatedly rape her, the officer said.
She also claimed that she got pregnant and was forced to undergo abortion, he added.
A probe in this regard was handed over to Assistant Superintendent of Police Ravindra Verma. On the basis of his report, an FIR was registered against the seven men at the city police station, the SP said.
Singh said the woman's statement will be recorded before a magistrate and further action will be taken in the matter as per law. -- PTI  
18:28   Trump's remarks an insult to country: Cong
The Congress on Wednesday alleged that the remarks made by United States President Donald Trump ahead of his visit to India are an insult and affront to the country's dignity and the government should respond accordingly. 

Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said the issue is serious as it seeks to undermine the progress made in the last many years as regards Indo-US ties.
He also said that the tone and tenor of Trump's visit seems to be "transactional and not strategic".
"The president of the United States, on the eve of his visit for the first time to India, has made certain remarks. I think it is an insult and affront to the dignity of the country and the ministry of external affairs should respond to it," he told reporters.
Trump has said he is "saving the big deal" with India for later and does not know if it will be signed before the US presidential election in November, signalling that a bilateral trade pact may not materialise during his maiden visit to New Delhi next week. -- PTI  
18:21   Shri Ramayana Express to run from March 28: IRCTC
The railways will run a special tourist train for those wishing to go on a pilgrimage of sites associated with Lord Ram from March 28, the IRCTC said on Wednesday.
The special train-- Shri Ramayana Express -- will have ten coaches which include five sleeper class non-AC coaches and five AC 3 tier coaches. 
The booking will purely be on first come first take basis, it said.
A similar tourism train on this circuit was introduced last year with only sleeper class coaches which was a tremendous success. The response of the general public was such that all the available seats were booked in merely seven days.
Shri Ramayana Express will commence its journey from Delhi on March 28. 
The interested tourists may board the train from - Delhi Safdarjung, Ghaziabad, Moradabad, Bareily and Lucknow.
In a 16 nights -17 days tour, passengers will be visiting the tourists places associated with Lord Ram also known as the 'Ramayana Circuit of India'. 
Major places covered in this journey are Ram Janmbhoomi and Hanuman Garhi at Ayodhya, Bharat Mandir at Nandigram, Sita Mata Mandir at Sitamarhi (Bihar), and Janakpur (Nepal), Tulsi Manas Mandir and Sankat Mochan Mandir at Varanasi, Sita Samahit Sthal at Sitamarhi (UP), Triveni Sangam, Hanuman Mandir and Bharadwaj Ashram at Prayag, Shringi Rishi Mandir at Shringverpur, Ramghat and Sati Anusuiya Mandir at Chitrakoot, Panchvati at Nasik, Anjanadri Hill and Hanuman Janm Sthal at Hampi and Jyotirlinga Shiva Mandir at Rameshwaram.
The tourists will be offered pure vegetarian meals, accommodation and wash and change facilities in dharmashala (SL Class booking travellers) or hotels (AC Class booking travellers), all transfers and sight-seeing arrangements by non-AC buses and a dedicated tour manager of IRCTC will be travelling with them during the entire tour.
Considering the 'Navratra' period, food served to the travellers will be cooked without onion and garlic. 

Fasting food will also be available for the tourists including Sabudana Khichdi, fruits, curd and potato chat, IRCTC said.
Interested tourists may opt SL Class package at a cost of Rs 16,065 per person, whereas the AC Class package will cost  Rs 26,775 per person.
Further, to cover the tourist places of Ramayana Circuit of Sri Lanka along with the Indian Ramayana Circuit, an add-on tour to Sri Lanka has been launched with limited 40 seats.  
Those interested to travel in both these circuits will be required to de-board the Ramayana Express Tourist Train on the 15th day at Chennai on April 11, from where they will be taken on a flight in economy class by the Sri Lankan Airlines to Colombo.
The tourists will be offered three nights stay in Sri Lanka at Kandy, Nuwara Eliya and Negombo. 

This Sri Lankan leg will be charged additionally at Rs 37,800 per person. 
This leg of the journey includes Sita Mata Mandir, Ashok Vatika, Vibhishana Temple and the famous Shiva Temple at  Munneshwaram - Munnavari and much more, it said.
The return journey will be booked by flight in economy class from Colombo to Delhi. The tourists will reach Delhi on April 15, IRCTC added. -- PTI
17:35   Will meet again tomorrow: Mediators@Shaheen Bagh
Supreme Court mediators Sanjay Hegde and Sadhana Ramachandran leave Shaheen Bagh. Advocate Ramachandran said, "We met them and listened to them. We asked them if they want us to come back tomorrow as it's not possible to complete the talks in one day. They said they want us to come back tomorrow, so we will."

The two interlocutors appointed by the Supreme Court on Wednesday visited Shaheen Bagh to initiate talks with the protesters, asserting that the top court has upheld their right to protest but it should not affect the rights of other citizens. The two interlocutors are advocate Sadhana Ramachandran and senior advocate Sanjay Hegde. 

"The Supreme Court has upheld your right to protest. But then other citizens also have their rights and it should also be maintained," Ramachandran told the crowd assembled at the spot in large numbers. "We want to together find a solution to the problem. We will listen to everyone," she said in Hindi. Earlier, Hegde explained the Supreme Court order to the protesters. This was translated into Hindi by Ramachandran. The protesters have been on a sit-in against the new citizenship law for over two months.
17:21   One more Indian tests positive for coronavirus on cruise ship off Japan
One more Indian aboard a quarantined cruise ship off Japan was tested positive for the novel coronavirus and shifted to hospital, taking the number of Indian nationals infected with the virus on the vessel to seven, according to the Indian Embassy on Wednesday.

Among the 3,711 passengers and crew, 621 people were found to be infected with the new coronavirus as of Wednesday. On Tuesday, 88 people tested positive and a day earlier 99 others were found to have been infected. In a tweet, the Indian Embassy in Tokyo said, "One Indian crew who tested positive for COVID19 among 88 new cases on Diamond Princess shifted to hospital for treatment."

Earlier, six Indians were tested positive for COVID-19. The mission said that infected Indians were responding well to the treatment. 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. -- PTI
17:10   China expels three Wall Street Journal correspondents
China on Wednesday expelled three Wall Street Journal correspondents, the largest expulsion of overseas media personnel from the country in more than three decades, after the newspaper declined to apologise for a column which Beijing criticised as "racist" and tarnishing its efforts to combat the deadly coronavirus epidemic.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China made repeated representations to the US newspaper over the opinion piece which had the headline: "China is the real sick man of Asia', but regretted that it had not offered a public apology. The move comes less than one day after United States officials announced they would be treating five major Chinese state-run media companies as effective extensions of the Chinese government. 

A senior State Department official said Tuesday that Xinhua, China Global Television Network, China Radio International, China Daily and People's Daily will be designated as "foreign missions", effective immediately. Without directly linking the expulsions to the US move, Geng said China has decided to revoke the "press cards' (accreditation) of three WSJ journalists as the daily has not apologised to "racist headline' it carried recently. -- PTI
16:53   Trade talks but no deal during Trump visit
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump will hold talks on February 25 to deepen cooperation in a range of key sectors including defence and trade, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Wednesday. 

Trump, who is scheduled to visit India on February 24 and 25, will be accompanied by a high-level delegation, Shringla said. India and the US have an unprecedented level of convergence, he said.

Shringla said the Namaste Trump event in Ahmedabad will be similar to the Howdy Modi event that was held in Houston last year. Trump and Modi will hold extensive talks on February 25 on a range of issues, including defence and trade, he said. Modi will host a lunch for Trump, while President Ram Nath Kovind will host a banquet in honour of the visiting dignitary, he said. 

Sources said India and US do not want to rush in finalising a trade deal and both sides will take a decision on it considering a long-term view. Some defence deals may fructify during Trump's visit, the sources said. PTI 

Image: Donald Trump with PM Modi during the Howdy Modi event in Houston last September. 
16:49   Arnab Goswami owns over 82 pc of Republic TV: Company
Journalist and broadcaster Arnab Goswami owns over 82 per cent stake in Republic TV, his company said on Wednesday, clearing the air around ownership of one of the country's most-watched news channels. In a statement, Republic Media Network said Goswami holds over 82 per cent of ARG Outlier Media Pvt Ltd -- the firm that owns and operates Republic TV. His company also owns 99 per cent equity in the downstream digital entity that controls the digital assets of the network. PTI
16:43   No talks with Sonia on Priyanka for RS: AICC
No discussion has taken place with Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi regarding the nomination of party leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to Rajya Sabha, AICC general secretary Avinash Pande on Wednesday said.

This clarification comes after media reports claimed that Priyanka would be nominated for Rajya Sabha.

"Priyanka ji is a well-accepted leader in the party, Rajasthan is one of the states which is in a position to send two people to Rajya Sabha. All the workers and the leaders of the party wish to send her to Rajya Sabha," Pande told ANI.

He also mentioned that all leaders of the Congress party want to send Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to the Upper House and said, "As far as I am concerned, no discussion has taken place with the Congress president regarding this issue yet, whenever the time comes, Congress president will take the call.The states which are in the position to send their members to Rajya Sabha are competing with each other on this."  
16:39   Indices rebound as govt assures industry on virus scare
Benchmark Sensex rebounded over 428 points on Wednesday, snapping four days of losses, as investors took heart from a decline in new coronavirus cases in China and the Indian government's assurance on tackling the economic impact from the virus epidemic. Starting off on a strong footing, the BSE barometer gained strength during the session to touch a high of 41,357.16. The index finally settled at 41,323, clocking a gain of 428.62 points or 1.05 per cent. 

 Likewise, the NSE gauge Nifty shot up 133.40 points or 1.11 per cent to close at 12,125.90. On the Sensex chart, Bajaj Finance, HUL, RIL, ONGC and HDFC emerged as the top gainers. Among the major losers were Sun Pharma, TCS, Bharti Airtel, L&T and IndusInd Bank. -- PTI
15:50   One for the album
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal met Union Home Minister Amit Shah at the latter's residence earlier today, their first meeting since the savage Delhi poll fight. 
15:48   SC interlocutors ask media to leave Shaheen Bagh
Advocates Sanjay Hegde and Sadhana Ramachandran, the mediators appointed by the Supreme Court speak to the protesters at Shaheen Bagh. Sadhana Ramachandran tells them that the Supreme Court has said that they have the right to protest.

"The law (CAA) has been challenged in the Supreme Court. But like us, others too have their rights, like right to use roads, open their shops. And the protests were hampering those rights.

As the two mediators took to the makeshift stage, the protesters welcomed them with a huge round of applause. The advocates began speaking to them, telling them to consider moving to an alternative place so that people are not inconvenienced. Roads in the area are blocked because of the sit-in which is on its 67th day today. The mediators said they are not here to listen to the reason for the protests but to suggest that they relocate. The mediators also told the media to stop filming and allow the talks with the protesters to continue with a certain amount of privacy.  

The Shaheen Bagh area of Delhi had lately gained nationwide attention due to a continued anti-CAA sit-in by people, especially Muslim women against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Population Register and National Register of Citizens.

The PIL, filed by Nand Kishore Garg and Amit Sahni through their lawyer Shashank Deo Sudhi earlier last week, sought appropriate directions to the Centre and others for removal of protestors from Shaheen Bagh near Kalindi Kunj.

Image: SC advocate Sanjay Hegde listens carefully to a protester at Shaheen Bagh 
15:09   SC interlocutors at Shaheen Bagh
Shaheen Bagh interlocutors Sanjay Hegde and Sadhana Ramachandran reach the protest site in Delhi. The mediators were appointed by the Supreme Court while hearing a plea against a road blockade, the result of anti-CAA protests at Delhi's Shaheen Bagh. 

A two-judge bench of the apex court comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and KM Joseph on Monday appointed senior advocates Hegde and Ramachandran to mediate with the demonstrators and persuade them to move the protest elsewhere. The court also suggested that the advocates seek help from former information commissioner and IAS officer Wajahat Habibullah.

Protesters at Shaheen Bagh, however, had varied opinions about the interlocutors' visit. While some respected the court's decision, others were skeptical that the discussion would be limited to the issue of clearing the road and not the purpose behind the protest.
14:47   2 crew members of Chinese ship under isolation in TN
Two Chinese crew members of a ship, which arrived from the novel coronovirus-hit China have been kept in isolation due to fever, while the vessel has been "kept away from access", the Chennai Port Trust said on Wednesday. 

The blood samples of the isolated individuals have been collected and sent to a city-based institute for further tests, a release from the Port Trust said. "It was observed that two of the 19 crew members had mild fever without other respiratory symptoms and otherwise healthy in all respects."

"These crew members were isolated within the ship and the ship is kept away from access of anybody from shore side and no crew is allowed shore access," it added. -- PTI
14:26   India to switch to world's cleanest petrol, diesel from Apr 1
India will switch to the world's cleanest petrol and diesel from April 1 as it leapfrogs straight to Euro-VI emission compliant fuels from Euro-IV grades now - a feat achieved in just three years and not seen in any of the large economies around the globe. 

India will join the select league of nations using petrol and diesel containing just 10 parts per million of sulphur as it looks to cut vehicular emissions that are said to be one of the reasons for the choking pollution in major cities.

Sanjiv Singh, Chairman of Indian Oil Corp (IOC) - the firm that controls roughly half of the country's fuel market, said almost all refineries began producing ultra-low sulphur BS-VI (equivalent to Euro-VI grade) petrol and diesel by the end of 2019 and oil companies have now undertaken the tedious task of replacing every drop of fuel in the country with the new one.

"We are absolutely on track for supplying BS-VI fuel from April 1. Almost all refineries have begun supplying BS-VI fuel and the same has reached storage depots across the country," he said. 

From storage depots, the fuel has started travelling to petrol pumps and in the next few weeks all of them will only have BS-VI grade petrol and diesel, he said. 

"We are 100 per cent confident that fuel that will flow from nozzles at all the petrol pumps in the country on April 1 will be BS-VI emission compliant fuel." 

India adopted Euro-III equivalent (or Bharat Stage-III) fuel with a sulphur content of 350 ppm in 2010 and then took seven years to move to BS-IV that had a sulphur content of 50 ppm. From BS-IV to BS-VI it took just three years.
14:12   Rs 100 crore budget for 3.5 hours in Ahmedabad
The Trumps will spend less than three-and-a-half hours in Gujarat before heading to Agra, but the Gujarat government is expected to spend over Rs 100 crore (Rs 1 billion) on road renovation, security cover, cultural shows, decorations, etc. This is apart from the Government of India's spend on the Trump visit.

Image: Posters such as this have been put up all over Ahmedabad ahead of the Trumps's visit to the city on February 24, 2020. 
14:09   Motera stadium spruces up ahead of prez visit
While on President Trump, here's a look at the Motera stadium in Ahmedabad, touted to be the world's largest cricket stadium with a seating capacity of 1,10,000. Trump says PM Modi has promised a turnout of 'millions and millions' of people when he arrives in Ahmedabad on Monday. The picture of the Motera stadium was tweeted by BCCI.  

13:59   Is Trump God for 70-lakh-strong welcome: Adhir
Hitting out at the Central Government for making elaborate arrangements for US President Donald Trump's first visit to India later this week, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury on Wednesday asked what is the need of congregating 70 lakh people to welcome Trump, "Is he God".

Speaking to ANI, the Congress leader said, "Is Trump God that 70 lakh people will gather around to welcome him. He is coming here for his own interests. Trump is not doing the trade deal. He just wants to work for the benefit of America and is not coming to make us happy... (Trump kya Bhagwan hai kya? 7 million log khada karne ki kya zaroorat hai? Vo trade deal nai kar raha hai, uske liye America first hai, vo sirf America ka dhandha karna chahta hai, hamko khush karne nahi aa raha)"

President Trump and US First Lady Melania Trump will be visiting India on February 24 and 25.On his first day, he will visit Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state Gujarat and take part in a roadshow with Prime Minister Modi. He will also address the Indian crowd at the "Namaste Trump" event in Ahmedabad.

This will also be the first visit of a US President to Gandhi Ashram in Sabarmati situated in Gujarat.
13:17   Deepika shares first look as Romi Dev from '83'
Actor Deepika Padukone on Wednesday shared her first look as Romi Dev, wife of legendary cricketer Kapil Dev, from the upcoming film "'83". In the photo, which Deepika shared on social media, she is seen sporting a bob and flaunting a black polo-neck top with cream bottom. 

Also in the picture is actor Ranveer Singh, who plays Kapil Dev in the sports drama, in the official Team India blazer. Deepika said, for her, "'83" is an ode to every woman who prioritises her husband's dreams over hers. 

"To be able to play a small part in a film that captures one of the most iconic moments in sporting history has been an absolute honour. "I've seen very closely the role a wife plays in the success of her husband's professional and personal aspirations in my mother and ''83' for me in many ways is an ode to every woman who puts her husband's dream before her own," the actor wrote on Instagram. 

Ranveer too shared the same photograph on Instagram and wrote, "The wind beneath my wings. The heart of the hurricane." 

83, directed by Kabir Khan, will chronicle India's win under Kapil Dev's captainship, when the Men in Blue defeated West Indies in the final to clinch their first-ever World Cup trophy in 1983. It is produced by Madhu Mantena, Vishnu Induri and Kabir Khan, and presented by Reliance Entertainment. The film is slated to be released on April 10. -- PTI
13:13   Kejriwal to meet Amit Shah at 2:30 pm
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal will meet Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday, sources said, in the first meeting between the two leaders after the assembly poll in the national capital.

Sources said the meeting will take place at the Ministry of Home Affairs office at 2.30 pm. It will be a "courtesy" call, they said. Shah had led the BJP offensive against Kejriwal in the Assembly poll in which the AAP trounced the saffron party, bagging 62 of the 70 seats. -- PTI 
13:00   Court raps CBI for no polygraph test on Asthana
A Delhi court on Wednesday asked the CBI as to why there no psychological and lie detector test conducted on its former special director Rakesh Asthana, who was recently given a clean chit in a bribery case.

Special CBI Judge Sanjeev Aggarwal directed the initial investigating officer, Ajay Kumar Bassi, in the case to appear before it on February 28. 

The court had on Wednesday last expressed displeasure over the CBI's investigation into the case and had asked why the accused with bigger roles were roaming free while the probe agency has arrested its own DSP. Asthana and DSP Devender Kumar, who was arrested in 2018 and later got bail, were named in column 12 of the charge sheet in the case since there was not enough evidence to make them accused.

The CBI registered the case against Asthana on the basis of a complaint from Hyderabad-based businessman Satish Sana, facing probe in a 2017 case involving meat exporter Moin Qureshi. PTI
12:36   CAA: Thousands of Muslims take to streets in TN
A large number of anti-CAA protesters, majority of them Muslims, held a massive protest against the amended Citizenship Act at Chepauk here, even as agitations were held across Tamil Nadu on Wednesday. The protest call here was given by a collective of Muslim outfits.

Agitators carrying placards against CAA, NRC and NPR, besides the Indian flag, converged at Chepauk as part of their original plan to lay seige to the Tamil Nadu Assembly, located inside the state Secretariat, and raised slogans against the amended law. 

 Scores of Muslim women joined the agitation also. The Muslim outfits in the state have demanded that the state Assembly adopt a resolution against the controversial legislation in the ongoing session, concluding tomorrow. 

The Madras High Court had on Tuesday restrained the Muslim outfits from going ahead with their seige protest. Earlier, protesters converged at Chepauk here, resulting in traffic congestion at key points on the arterial Anna Salai. -- PTI
12:32   Farmer's issue unaddressed in UP budget, says Priyanka
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Wednesday targeted the Central Government over the budget and said that the issues pertaining to farmers have not been addressed in the state budget, which was presented yesterday by the Yogi Adityanath led government.

Priyanka tweeted, "The budget of the Uttar Pradesh has come. The problem of stray animals belonging to farmers has not been mentioned. The issue of payment of sugarcane to the farmers is missing from the budget. The issue of compensation for crop wastage of farmers is also missing. The problem of the price of the crop to farmers is also not mentioned in the budget."

The Congress leader also shared a video in which farmers are narrating their ordeals.In the 1:55 minutes long clip, Priyanka also did a voice-over and claimed that farmers are in deep trouble. 

"They are not able to sleep at night as the animals enter their farms during the night. The investigation must be carried out on the same."

Yesterday, leader of Opposition in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly and Samajwadi Party leader Ram Govind Chaudhary had also called the budget brought out by the state government as anti-poor, anti-students and anti-farmers.

The Yogi Adityanath government presented a budget of Rs 5,12,860.72 crore for the financial year 2020-21 on Tuesday.

This year's budget amount was Rs 33,159 crore more than the previous financial year 2019-20, which in percentage terms is an increase of 6.5 per cent year on year.For the financial year 2020-21, the Yogi government has included schemes of Rs 10,967.87 crore in the budget. -- ANI
11:44   500 passengers set to leave quarantined ship today
Hundreds of passengers who have been tested negative of coronavirus began leaving the Diamond Princess Cruise ship on Wednesday after their two-week quarantine.

According to Al Jazeera, around 500 passengers are expected to leave the ship. The two-week quarantine exercise has been criticised much for its failure to stop the new virus from spreading among passengers and crew.

So far 540 people have been tested positive of coronavirus including six Indians. 

Meanwhile, results are still pending for some passengers who have been tested for the coronavirus.

The 3,711 people including 1,100 crew members on the Diamond Princess went into quarantine off Japan on February 5 after it emerged that a former passenger had tested positive for the virus.

Crew members, who could not be confined to their rooms over the last two weeks because they were working, are expected to stay on the ship.

Over the weekend, the United States started evacuating more than 300 of its citizens who are now in quarantine in the US for another 14 days. -- ANI
11:38   Sister says Mahesh Bhatt threw 'chappal' at Kangana
Rangoli Chandel on Wednesday alleged that poet-lyricist Javed Akhtar threatened her sister Kangana Ranaut and told her to say sorry to Hrithik Roshan.

She also claimed that Mahesh Bhatt threw a 'chappal' at Kangana because she refused to play a suicide bomber.

"Javed Akhtarji called Kangana home and intimidated her threatened her to say sorry to Hrithik, Mahesh Bhatt threw chappal on her cos she refused to play a suicide bomber, they call PM Facist, chacha ji aap dono kya ho?" Rangoli wrote in a tweet.

The Kangana Ranaut and Hrithik Roshan controversy in the year 2016 was widely publicised with both accusing each other of maligning their images. -- ANI
11:20   First meeting of Ram Mandir Trust today
The first meeting of the Ram Mandir Trust to oversee construction of a Ram temple at Ayodhya will be held here on Wednesday at the Delhi residence of K Parasaran, the head of the Trust. 

The Trust has been constituted by the Narendra Modi government. 

The trust meeting is likely to finalise the date to start construction of the Ram Temple. Modi had announced the formation of the 15-member trust in Parliament on February 5. 

The Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra Trust has seven members, five nominated members and three trustees. The trust was formed in adherence to the Supreme Court verdict on the Ayodhya dispute in November last year. 

Senior lawyer Parasaran has been named the head of the Trust and its other members include Jagatguru Shankracharya, Jyothishpeethadheeshwar Swami Vasudevanand Saraswati Ji Maharaj from Allahabad, Jagatguru Madhavacharya Swami Vishwa Prasannatheerth Ji Maharaj, Pejawar Math in Udupi, Yugpurush Paramanand Ji Maharaj from Haridwar, Swami Govinddev Giri Ji Maharaj from Pune and Vimlendra Mohan Pratap Mishra from Ayodhya. -- PTI
11:06   What did Prez Bush eat during India visit?
Ahead of US President Donald Trump's maiden visit to India on the 24th, here's what Rashtrapati Bhavan served up when the last Republican president George W Bush came calling. The President at the time was Dr APJ Kalam. 

10:54   PM pays tributes to Shivaji on his 390th birth anniversary
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday paid tributes to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj on his 390th birth anniversary, saying his life continues to inspire millions.

"Bowing to one of the greatest sons of Mother India, the embodiment of courage, compassion and good governance, the exceptional Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj on his Jayanti," Modi tweeted in Marathi and English. The prime minister said Shivaji's life continues to motivate millions. Shivaji was born in 1630 in Shivneri. -- PTI
10:46   Woman raped in MP's Teregaon Forest, four held
Four persons, including the main accused, were arrested for allegedly raping a woman in Taregaon forest in Kabirdham district on February 17, said police on Wednesday.

As per the rape victim's complaint with the Teregaon Forest Station, she went to see a fair in Mavai village with people from her village. While she was coming back home, people on a four-wheeler vehicle near village Sunhera approached her and told her that they will drop her home as they are going to the same location.

Instead of moving towards the village, the said vehicle moved towards the forest and one of the four men, identified as Aditya Baiga from village Kesada, raped the woman.

On the basis of victim's complaint, an FIR under sections 376 (imprisonment for committing rape) and 34 (Acts committed by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of Indian Penal Code (IPC) was registered and police immediately started chasing the accused.

Within 24 hours, the main accused Alok alias Aditya and others -- Manaharan, Rajaram and Bhoramdev were arrested and sent to police remand.All accused are aged between 22 and 29, police said. -- ANI
10:30   Forest fire in HP
A forest fire breaks out in the Chaura area of Kinnaur district. More details awaited.
10:16   Delhi HC to hear plea on 'uniform minimum age of marriage' today
The Delhi High Court on Wednesday will hear the public interest litigation seeking equalising of the legal age of marriage for men and women saying the limit of 18 years for a woman, while it is 21 for a man, amounts to discrimination.

The plea seeking 'uniform minimum age of marriage' was filed by BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay.

"Kindly treat the accompanying application as an urgent one in accordance with the High Court rules and orders. Petitioner is filing this writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution. The matter is urgent in public interest as prayed," Kumar wrote to the Registrar of Delhi High Court.

At present, while men in India are permitted to get married at the age of 21, women are allowed to get married when they are 18. It is to mention that more than 125 countries in the world have a uniform age of marriage.

Earlier, the Delhi High Court had sought a reply of Centre on the said plea, but neither the Home Ministry nor the Law Ministry has filed a reply till date.

The litigant said the plea is filed in public interest under Article 226 and it challenges a blatant and ongoing form of discrimination against women.

"The discriminatory 'minimum age' limit for marriage for men and women is based in patriarchal stereotypes, has no scientific backing, perpetrates de jure and de facto inequality against women, and goes completely against the global trends," the plea said. The plea stated that differential bar discriminates against women and contravene with the fundamental principles of gender equality, gender justice and dignity of women and breaching Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution.The petitioner in his petition further stressed that women have a fundamental right to be free to pursue studies or occupations after finishing school at the age of 18.

"It is a social reality that women are expected (and often also pressurised) to beget children immediately after marriage and also forced to take up household chores in accordance with their stereotypical roles in the family. This harms their educational as well as economic pursuits and often impinges on their reproductive autonomy as well," the plea said.It added that a higher minimum age will ensure "more autonomy to women in every sense". -- ANI
10:07   246 elephants died in Odisha in last 3 years: Minister
As many as 246 elephants were killed in Odisha in the last three years, said Bikram Keshari Arukh, Forest and Environment Minister, while speaking in the State Assembly on Tuesday.

In a written reply to a question by BJP MLA Mukesh Mahaling in the State Assembly, Arukh said: "Between 2016-17 and 2018-19, a total of 246 elephants had died due to accidents, electrocution, natural and other causes."

As per 2017 elephant Census, Odisha has 1976 mammoths, including 330 at Simlipal forest division, Dhenkanal (169), Satakosia (147) and Athagarh (115).

He informed that the State government has taken several steps to protect elephants."The State government has taken several steps for elephant protection including setting up of jumbo reserves at Mayurbhanj, Sambalpur and Mahanadi to conserve their prime habitats and the government has also launched various management interventions," Arukh said.

"Besides, the State government is taking steps to restore 14 elephant corridors, plant saplings for the consumption of elephants, construction of water bodies and the steps are also being taken to prevent elephants from train accidents and electrocution," he said. -- ANI
09:48   India-US defence deal during Trump visit
India is set to finalise a long-pending defence deal with the United States during President Donald Trump two-day visit to India from February 24, a senior official has told ANI.

Trump will arrive in India on his maiden visit, accompanied by First Lady Melania Trump, Senior Advisor to the President of the United States Jared Kushner or daughter Ivanka Trump, along with United States Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and Secretary of Energy Dan Brouille.

The US President will reach Gujarat's capital city of Ahmedabad around the noon of February 24 and will address a mammoth crowd of more than 100,000 people which is expected to turn up for 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.

"The fact that a US President is going outside New Delhi to other cities -- and if you look at the reception that he will receive -- shows the admiration that the people of India have for the United States. And that's the biggest message that will come back to Washington," the senior official said.

The President is also likely to visit the Gandhi Ashram in Sabarmati.

The senior official reiterated that POTUS and FLOTUS are most likely to make a quick pit stop at Agra to visit the Taj Mahal, however, the trip is subjected to change, considering the short time frame of the travel.On 24th February itself, POTUS will arrive in the evening to attend talks in New Delhi. On Tuesday morning, the US President will first receive a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhawan as per protocol. Prime minister Modi could then accompany the US leader to the Gandhi Ashram (subjected to time availability if the Sabarmati ashram cannot be visited). The two leaders will then meet at the Hyderabad house and will call on official state meetings.

Both countries are separately working on a limited trade agreement ahead of the trip, after earlier imposing tit-for-tat tariffs on each other's imports. While there have been reports that a possible trade deal appears unlikely, the official conveyed, "the leaders are likely to discuss and possibly finalize not a complete but maybe a 'part' of a bilateral trade deal during the visit."

On Tuesday President Trump will meet with executives of Indian companies -- with business interests in the United States during his visit to the capital -- at an event organized by the US embassy in New Delhi. The companies expected to be represented at the meeting include the Indian oil and gas company Reliance Industries, Tata Sons, Bharat Forge, Mahindra and Mahindra.

POTUS's visit will conclude with an early banquet dinner, following which he will depart for Washington.

When asked about speculations of POTUS visiting Pakistan, Afghanistan or any other country in the South Asia region, the official said it's POTUS's 'stand-alone India visit.' -- ANI
09:40   Judge Sri Srinivasan becomes first Indian-American to lead powerful federal circuit court
Sri Srinivasan, a prominent Indian-American judge, has created history by becoming the first person of South Asian descent to lead a powerful federal circuit court considered next only to the US Supreme Court. Srinivasan, 52, became the Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.

An Obama appointee who has already been considered for a Supreme Court seat twice, donned the mantle of the chief judge of the DC federal court circuit on February 12. Srinivasan succeeded Judge Merrick Garland, who has been a member of the DC Circuit since 1997 and Chief Judge since 2013. 

He will remain on the bench, a press release said. Notably, Garland's nomination to the Supreme Court by the then president Barack Obama was blocked by Senate Republicans in 2016. Srinivasan, was appointed to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in May 2013. 

He was the first ever Indian-American to be appointed to the second most powerful court of the US. Neomi Rao, nominated by President Donald Trump, is the second Indian American on this powerful judiciary bench. "History being made on the DC Court of Appeals. Congratulations, Judge Srinivasan!' Senator Mark Warner said.

"Congratulations to Judge Sri Srinivasan on becoming the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit! A milestone for the Indian-American/Kansan community (and yet another piece of evidence my family can use that I'm underachieving),' US Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai said. 

According to The Washington Post, Srinivasan spoke recently about his path to the bench at an event celebrating women in the law, a field where men still dominate leadership positions. -- PTI
09:38   Coronavirus toll rises to 2004 in China
The death toll in China from novel coronavirus outbreak has risen to 2,004, with 136 new fatalities reported in the past 24 hours, the Chinese state health committee said Wednesday.

The number of confirmed cases has gone up by 1,749 to reach 74,185, the committee said.

The number of people who have recovered and have been discharged from hospitals has risen by 1,824 to 14,376.

"The state health committee has received from 31 provinces... information about 74,185 confirmed cases of infection with the new type of coronavirus, of which 57,805 people are currently infected (11,977 people are in serious condition), 14,376 people have been discharged from hospitals and 2,004 have died," the committee said.

The novel coronavirus disease, dubbed COVID-19 by the World Health Organization (WHO), was first detected in Wuhan, China's Hubei Province, in late December 2019 and has since spread to more than 20 other countries. (Sputnik/ANI)
09:04   2 arrested from Geelani's residence in Srinagar
Two persons were arrested from the residence of Syed Ali Shah Geelani in Srinagar on Tuesday, said Jammu and Kashmir Police sources.

The two persons were arrested around 10:30 last night. 

Further details are awaited.

-- ANI
08:42   UIDAI clarifies on 127 notices sent in Hyderabad
The Unique Identification Authority of India said its Hyderabad office has sent notices to 127 people for allegedly obtaining Aadhaar numbers on "false pretences" but asserted these have nothing to do with citizenship.
The notices were issued after reports from the police, the UUIDAI said.

"Aadhaar is not a document of citizenship and UIDAI has been mandated under the Aadhaar Act to ascertain residency of a person in India for 182 days prior to applying for Aadhaar," the nodal body, which issues the 12-digit biometric ID, said in a statement.

The Supreme Court, in its landmark decision, has directed the UIDAI not to issue Aadhaar to illegal immigrants, it said.

"It may be noted that the regional office Hyderabad received reports from the state police that 127 people have obtained Aadhaar on false pretences, as in their preliminary enquiry they were found illegal immigrants who were not qualified to obtain an Aadhaar number," the UIDAI said.

As per the Aadhaar Act, such Aadhaar numbers are liable to be cancelled. 

"Therefore, the regional office Hyderabad has sent notices to them to appear in person and to substantiate their claims for getting an Aadhaar number," it said.

The UIDAI emphasised that these notices have "nothing to do with citizenship and cancellation of Aadhaar number is in no way related to the nationality of any resident". 

-- PTI
08:33   3 terrorists killed in Pulwama
At least three terrorists were killed in an encounter with security forces in Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir, police officials said on Wednesday.
Security forces launched a cordon and search operation in Tral area of Pulwama district late Tuesday night following information about presence of terrorists there, a police official said. 

He said during searches, an encounter broke out between terrorists and security forces.

Three unidentified terrorists were killed in the gunfight, the official said adding more details were awaited.

-- PTI
07:54   Saving trade deal with India for later: Trump
US President Donald Trump has said he is "saving the big deal" with India for later and he "does not know" if it will be done before the presidential election in November, clearly indicating that a major bilateral trade deal during his visit to Delhi next week might not be on the cards.

"We can have a trade deal with India. But I'm really saving the big deal for later," he told reporters at Joint Base Andrews Tuesday afternoon (local time).

Trump is scheduled to visit India on February 24 and 25.

The US and India could sign a "trade package" during the visit, according to media reports.

Asked whether he expects a trade deal with India before the visit, Trump said, "We're doing a very big trade deal with India. We'll have it. I don't know if it'll be done before the election, but we'll have a very big deal with India."

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, the point-person for trade negotiations with India, is likely to not accompany Trump to India, sources said. However, officials have not ruled it out altogether.

In an apparent dissatisfaction over US-India trade ties, Trump said, "We're not treated very well by India." But he praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said he is looking forward to his visit to India.

"I happen to like Prime Minister Modi a lot," Trump said.

"He told me we'll have seven million people between the airport and the event. And the stadium, I understand, is sort of semi under construction, but it's going to be the largest stadium in the world. So it's going to be very exciting... I hope you all enjoy it," he told reporters.

-- PTI
00:30   Ram Lalla idols to be shifted from makeshift temple
The idols of Ram Lalla which are kept at the sanctum sanctorum of a makeshift temple here will be shifted as construction of the Ram temple will begin from the site, the Ram Janmabhoomi temple's chief priest said on Tuesday. 
The idols will shifted to a place 200 metres away from the makeshift temple, priest Acharya Satyendra Das said.
"The construction of the Ram temple will begin from the 'Garbh Grih' (sanctum sanctorum)," he said. 
"Some engineers did the measurements of the land in order to shift the idols of Ram Lalla, however I did not meet them. The idols will be shifted and temporally installed towards Manas Bhawan," the chief priest said.
Once the construction is completed the idols will be brought back to their original place, the decree holder of the Ram Janmabhoomi premises, Triloki Nath Pandey, said. -- PTI