Sun, 25 July 2021
Regional parties should form national front: Badal
21:48 CDS visits areas along LoC in Dras sector of Kargil
Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat visited the areas long the Line of Control in Dras sector of Kargil district on Sunday, a day before Kargil Vijay Diwas, to review the prevailing security situation and operational preparedness, an official statement said.
President Ram Nath Kovind will visit Dras on Monday on 22nd anniversary of the Kargil Vijay Diwas to pay homage to the indomitable courage and sacrifice of the Indian armed forces during the Kargil conflict of 1999 at the Kargil War Memorial.
In 2019, bad weather had prevented the president from visiting Dras to participate in Kargil Vijay Diwas, and instead, he paid tributes by laying a wreath at a war memorial at the Army's 15 Corps headquarters in Badamibagh in Srinagar.
The Indian Army said on Twitter on Sunday, "General Bipin Rawat, CDS visited Dras sector along Line of Control and reviewed the prevailing security situation and operational preparedness."
"The CDS also interacted with troops and complimented them for their high morale and exhorted them to remain resolute and steadfast," it added. -- PTI
20:44 Congress alone can politically challenge BJP: Pilot
Congress leader Sachin Pilot said on Sunday that his party alone can politically challenge the Bharatiya Janata Party and provide an alternative to people.
Talking to reporters in his Tonk assembly constituency, the former deputy chief minister of Rajasthan also targeted the Modi government over alleged shortage of coronavirus vaccine.
India is the hub of vaccine manufacturing but the government has failed to ensure supply of doses in adequate quantity for inoculation of people, he said.
"People are suffering from inflation and they want change. Congress is the only political party which can challenge the BJP and give an alternative to people," he said.
Asked about his expectations from a likely reshuffle of the Rajasthan Cabinet and organisational rejig, Pilot said such issues are discussed at the right platform within the party.
"AICC (All India Congress Committee) general secretary in charge of Rajasthan Ajay Maken has held a meeting of PCC (Pradesh Congress Committee) today and has talked in detail. Nothing is left to say now," he said.
During his visit to Tonk, Pilot held a meeting with district administration and police officials and discussed various issues.
Earlier in the day, Pilot attended the PCC meeting which was addressed by Maken and senior leader K C Venugopal.
Maken and Venugopal also held discussions about the Cabinet expansion and political appointments with Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot Saturday night. -- PTI
20:18 Regional parties should form national front: Badal
Regional parties should come together and form a national front to take on the Bharatiay Janata Party in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, Shriomani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal said on Sunday and asserted that his party's story with the saffron party was over.
Underlining that issues of farmers are at the core of the SAD ideology, Badal said his party can never compromise on these and, therefore, severed its decades-old alliance with the BJP and moved out of the government at the Centre over three contentious farm laws.
"The SAD is a farmers' party and their issues are core of our ideology. Whatever may happen and whatever cost we may have to pay, we wouldn't let these laws be implemented in Punjab," Badal told PTI in an interview.
The Centre's three farm laws have triggered a protest by farmers.
In September last year, Badal's wife Harsimrat Kaur quit as Union minister in protest against the legislations.
The protesting farmers claim these laws will do away with the minimum support price system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporations. Over 10 rounds of talks with the government, which has been projecting the laws as major agricultural reforms, have failed to break the deadlock between the two sides.
Talking about the SAD's new alliance with the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Badal said the alliance between the two parties is permanent and that the Akali Dal's story with the BJP was over.
On the party's future course of action, Badal said that the SAD is talking to various regional parties so that they all can come on one platform before the 2024 general elections.
"There is a need for regional forces to get together. Regional forces are more connected to the ground and have better understanding of the people. We have been talking to various parties. Regional parties should come together and form a front before the 2024 general elections. And I am sure before 2024 this front will emerge as very strong force," he said.
Badal further said it would be a second front rather than a third front as the main opposition Congress is no more a pan-India party. The BJP will be the new front's main target. -- PTI
20:05 MI to play CSK on September 19 when IPL resumes in UAE
Defending champions Mumbai Indians will meet Chennai Super Kings in Dubai on September 19 when the IPL resumes in the United Arab Emirates.
The tournament was suspended in May after multiple COVID-19 cases were reported in its bio-bubble.
As reported earlier, the tournament is resuming on September 19 and the final will be played on October 15 with the ICC T20 World Cup starting two days later.
"Yes, we have just received the mail from BCCI and CSK will play MI on September 19. The first Qualifier will be held on October 10 while Eliminator will be held on October 11 and second qualifier on October 13. The final will be held on October 15," a franchise official told PTI on conditions of anonymity.
It is learnt that the standard quarantine rules and health protocols of the UAE applicable to all who are entering the country will also be applicable for IPL teams.
The tournament once again is set to be conducted closed doors at least for the starting of the remaining 31 matches in Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi.
The Indian team members and all those English players who will take part in the IPL will be flying from Manchester to Dubai on a charter flight on September 15. -- PTI
19:18 No crisis in K'taka, Yediyurappa has done good work: Nadda
Amid speculation about a change of guard in Karnataka, Bharatiya Janata Party president J P Nadda on Sunday ruled out any leadership crisis in the southern state and said Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa has done good work.
He termed as baseless the Pegasus snooping allegations, and hit out at the opposition parties over it, saying that there was no issue left with them.
Talking to reporters in Panaji at the end of his two-day Goa visit, Nadda also said that the BJP would fight the assembly elections in Goa due early next year under the leadership of Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, but added that a formal decision about it would be taken by the party's parliamentary board.
On Karnataka, he said, "Yediyurappa has done good work. Karnataka is doing well. Yediyurappa is taking care of the things in his own way."
When asked if there is a leadership crisis in the southern state, Nadda said, "That is what you feel. We don't feel so."
Nadda's remarks assume significance as they came hours after the Karnataka CM said he will take an appropriate decision, once he receives directions from the BJP high command this evening, regarding his continuation in the post.
"By evening once it comes, you will also get to know about it, once it comes I will take an appropriate decision," Yediyurappa had said in Belagavi in response to a question whether the directions from the party high command in Delhi were expected today.
Replying to a question over the Pegasus snooping row, Nadda said, "It is baselessIt is issueless. The opposition parties led by the Congress do not have any issue which they want to raise for people. That is why they raise this kind of issue." -- PTI
18:43 COVID-19 effect: Schools report 20-50% dip in revenue; 55% teachers faced salary cut
With the COVID-19 pandemic leading to prolonged closure, majority of private schools across the country have reported a 20-50 per cent decrease in revenue, leading to reduction in teachers' salaries at some of them, a new report said.
The report by the Central Square Foundation, an NGO working on quality school education in India, is based on a study with over 1,100 respondents (parents, school administrators and teachers) across 20 states and union territories.
While over 55 per cent of schools said there was a major reduction in the number of new admissions this academic year, three-fourth of the schools have faced delays in RTE reimbursements.
Non-minority private schools have to provide free admissions to students selected by the state government under the 25 per cent RTE quota. In lieu of the free admissions, the state reimburses them an amount fixed in advance.
"Revenue decreased in the range of 20-50 pc for most schools but the cost heads have largely remained the same, thus making it difficult to continue operations seamlessly. Schools' revenues were hit by the inability of parents to pay fees regularly. This was highest among the urban schools. Fifty-five per cent of schools suggest that there was a major reduction in the number of new admissions in this academic year," the report said.
At least 77 per cent of schools said they are not interested in taking a loan
to support school finances during COVID-19, and only three per cent have successfully accessed loans, while five per cent are waiting for their loans to be processed.
"The schools reported that preferred source of loan is a public sector bank and
the least preferred source is an NBFC," it said.
At least 55 per cent of teachers across private schools faced a reduction in salary during the lockdown.
"Schools paid teachers partially since other cost heads (bills, rent, etc.) couldn't be avoided. Sixty-five per cent teachers' salaries were put on hold by low fee schools as compared to 37 per cent teachers whose salaries were put on hold by high fee schools. At least 54 pc teachers do not have an alternate source of income, 30 per cent supplemented their salary with private tutoring and coaching," the report said.
It noted that 55 per cent of teachers are highly confident that their schools will be able to continue operations till the situation returns to normal. The confidence level significantly reduces among rural school teachers and low-fee school teachers.
On the part of parents, at least 70 per cent of them reported that school fees remained the same, and only 50 per cent of parents reported paying the fees, indicating a massive dent in school revenues during the academic year, the report said.
"Twenty per cent parents reported an increased expenditure on technology and infrastructure and 15 pc reported increased education expenses. Seventy-eight pc parents reported that they will be able to continue to afford their child's education at the same school," it said. -- PTI
18:40 Separate force like NDRF to be formed in Maha: CM
Amid the rain havoc in parts of Maharashtra, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday said a separate force on the lines of the National Disaster Response Force will be set up in all districts of the state and the State Disaster Response Force will also be strengthened.
The number of deaths due to flooding, landslides and other rain-related incidents in parts of Maharashtra reached 113 on Sunday with one more casualty reported in the last 24 hours, while 100 people were missing after the monsoon fury, the state government said.
So far, 50 people have also been injured in these incidents, the government said in a statement.
On Sunday, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray visited Chiplun, the site of severe flooding in Ratnagiri district of the Konkan region.
Addressing a press conference in the rain-battered town, Thackeray said, "Considering the frequent natural calamities, a separate force on the lines of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) will be set up in all districts of the state. Similarly, a flood management machinery will also be set up."
He directed the local administration to provide food, water and medicines to the displaced people.
Thackeray also said he will not celebrate his birthday on July 27, in the wake of the rain havoc claiming several lives in Maharashtra, and asked people not to put up hoardings or come to meet him in person.
He said there should be no public programmes on his birthday in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, and urged people to contribute to the chief minister's relief fund.
Meanwhile, Union MSME Minister Narayan Rane, who also visited the rain-hit Chiplun town, lashed out at the chief minister over flood management, saying the local administration was irresponsible.
"There is no chief minister or administration in the state," alleged Rane, the Maratha leader having pockets of influence in the coastal Konkan region.
The state government had not made arrangements for providing food to the displaced people, the Union minister said, adding that he will submit a report to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. -- PTI
17:53 Govt 'insulting' farmers, it must repeal farm laws: Priyanka
After the Centre said it has no record of farmers who have died during the agitation at Delhi's borders against three agri laws since 2020, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Sunday alleged that the government has been constantly "insulting" the farmers and demanded that it must repeal the legislations.
Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar informed Parliament on Friday that the government has no record of farmers who have died during the agitation at Delhi's borders against three new farm laws since last year.
"The BJP government said in Parliament that neither it made any effort to know farmers' opinion on the three black agri laws nor does it have any data on how many farmers have been martyred," Priyanka Gandhi said.
Alleging that the government was looking at the issue from the prism of its "billionaire friends", the Congress general secretary said this government is "constantly insulting farmers".
She made the remarks in a tweet in Hindi using a Hindi hashtag which translated to "Take back black farm laws".
Farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, have been camping at Delhi's borders since November last year in protest against the three laws. Out of them, a small group of 200 farmers are now staging a protest at Jantar Mantar in central Delhi after getting special permission. -- PTI
17:52 Maha floods: 'Central war room' formed for coordination among 3 services
A 'central war room' has been established at the Department of Military Affairs in the Defence Ministry for close coordination among the three wings of the armed forces for flood relief operations in Maharashtra, the Indian Army said on Sunday.
With unprecedented rains and resultant overflowing of various rivers, a number of areas in Ratnagiri, Kolhapur, Sangli and several other districts of the state have been inundated.
"A central war room has been established at the Department of Military Affairs for close coordination between the three Services for ongoing flood relief operations in Maharashtra," the Indian Army said on Twitter on Sunday.
The number of deaths due to flooding, landslides and other rain-related incidents in parts of Maharashtra reached 113 on Sunday with one more casualty reported in the last 24 hours, while 100 people were missing after the monsoon fury.
On the request of the civil administration, the Indian Army's Southern Command has mobilised flood relief and rescue teams to assist locals in flood-affected areas.
As on Saturday, a total of 15 flood relief teams from Aundh Military Station and Bombay Engineering Group, Pune were deployed for flood relief and rescue operations in Sangli, Palus, Burli and Chiplun, an official statement said.
"The columns are involved in rescue of villagers stranded in submerged areas and restoring normalcy in the inundated areas. Over 100 people have already been rescued from the affected areas and relocated to safe locations," it had said on Saturday.
The Indian Army is also providing cooked meals and drinking water to the villagers.
Medical camps have been established wherein, teams of army doctors and nursing assistants have been deployed for providing necessary first aid and medicines to evacuated locals, the statement added. -- PTI
17:07 Olympic medallist Mirabai Chanu to get free pizza for life by Domino's
An Olympic medallist's wish is anybody's command.
Domino's Pizza has pledged free pizza for life to India's silver medallist Saikhom Mirabai Chanu, after the champion said she wished to eat pizza after her feat at the Tokyo Olympics.
The chain on Saturday also delivered pizzas to her family to celebrate Chanu winning the silver medal for India.
"Aapne kaha, aur humne sunn liya. We never want @mirabai_chanu to wait to eat again so we're treating her to FREE Domino's pizza for life! #PizzasForLife," Domino's Pizza tweeted.
On Saturday in her interview with an Indian media house after winning the medal Chanu said: "First of all, I will go and have a pizza. It has been a long time since I ate it. I will eat a lot today."
The video of the said interview was tagged to Pratik Potathe, CEO and Wholetime Director of Jubilant FoodWorks Ltd (JFL), which operates fast-food chains Domino's Pizza in India, suggesting him to deliver "Pizza for her - for life".
While replying to it, Pota said: "Done! That's the least we can do for someone who has brought so much honour for the country! #MirabaiChanu."
Three hours later, Pota shared photos on twitter of Domino's team in Imphal delivering pizzas to her family.
"Even as we prepare to give #MirabaiChanu a hero's welcome and let her eat pizzas to her heart's content, our Imphal team went to her house to congratulate her family with what else but Domino's Pizza @dominos_india. Congratulations @mirabai_chanu you have done India proud!" he tweeted.
JFL, part of Jubilant Bhartia group, is Domino's Pizza franchise for India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal.
It presently operates a network of 1,380 restaurants in 298 cities in India. -- PTI
16:39 No conflict: Maken ahead of Raj cabinet reshuffle
All India Congress Committee general secretary Ajay Maken on Sunday said there is no contradiction among the party's leaders in Rajasthan on the issue of cabinet reshuffle and that they have expressed confidence in the high command for the decision.
After meeting ministers, MLAs and office bearers at the party office in Jaipur, Maken said all of them have unanimously left the decision of the cabinet reshuffle on the party high command.
However, Maken did not disclose a date of the cabinet expansion.
"I can say that there is no contradiction among the party leaders and they all have left the final decision about the cabinet expansion to the party high command," he told reporters.
Maken, together with AICC general secretary (organisation) K C Venugopal, arrived at the party office in Jaipur for the meeting. He said issues like inflation and the Pegasus matter were discussed.
Maken said he would come to Jaipur again on July 28 to hold discussions with MLAs on the appointment of district and block presidents of the party. -- PTI
16:02 PM must clarify in Parl: Chidambaram on Pegasus
Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Sunday said the government should either call for a joint parliamentary committee probe into the Pegasus snooping allegations or request the Supreme Court to appoint a sitting judge to investigate the matter, and demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi make a statement in Parliament clarifying whether there had been surveillance or not.
The former home minister said he was not sure that one can go to the extent of saying that the entire electoral mandate of 2019 was vitiated by the "unlawful snooping" but added that it may have "helped" the BJP to score that victory which has been "tainted" by the allegations.
In an interview with PTI, Chidambaram also said a probe by a joint parliamentary committee can be more effective than an investigation by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, asserting that the former would be more empowered by Parliament.
Asked about Parliament IT panel head Shashi Tharoor's remarks that the subject is "already on the mandate of my committee" and a JPC is not required, Chidambaram expressed doubts whether the IT panel with a majority of BJP members will allow a full investigation into the matter.
"The parliamentary committee rules are rather strict. For example they cannot take evidence openly but a JPC can be empowered by Parliament to take evidence in public view, to cross examine witnesses, and to summon documents. So I think a JPC will have far more powers than a parliamentary committee," he said.
At the same time, he said he is not diminishing the role of the parliamentary committee to the extent it can probe the matter and is welcome to do so.
Last Sunday, an international media consortium reported that over 300 verified Indian mobile phone numbers, including of two ministers, over 40 journalists, three opposition leaders besides scores of businesspersons and activists in India, could have been targeted for hacking through the Pegasus spyware of the Israeli firm NSO.
The government has been denying all Opposition allegations in the matter.
On the government's response to the allegations, Chidambaram referred to IT and Communications Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw statement in Parliament, saying he is obviously a very "clever minister" and therefore the statement has been "very cleverly worded".
"He (Vaishnaw) denies that there was any unauthorised surveillance. He does not deny that there was surveillance. He does not deny that there was authorised surveillance. Surely the minister knows the difference between authorised surveillance and unauthorised surveillance," the Congress leader said.
Posing questions for the government, he asked whether there was surveillance at all and whether snooping was done through Pegasus.
"If Pegasus spyware was used, who acquired it? Was it acquired by the government or by one of its agencies," he asked.
The Rajya Sabha member also asked the government to come clean on the amount paid to acquire the spyware.
"These are simple, straightforward questions which the average citizen is asking and the minister should answer that directly. After all, France has ordered an investigation when it was revealed that President (Emmanuel) Macron's number was one of the numbers that were hacked. Israel itself has ordered an investigation by its National Security Council," he said .
If two major countries can order investigation, why should India not order a probe and find answers to the four simple questions, he asked rhetorically.
Chidambaram said the matter also raises issues of national security because, if the government says that it did not conduct surveillance, then the question arises who conducted the snooping.
"Was it a rogue agency in India doing it without the knowledge of the government or was it a foreign agency hacking into Indian telephones without the knowledge of the government. Either way...it is a more serious matter than the government conducting the surveillance," he said.
Asked about the Opposition's demand of a Supreme Court-monitored probe and whether the top court should take it up suo motu, Chidambaram said he would not want to comment on what the court may or may not do, but pointed out that there is already a public interest litigation filed by one or two persons, separately, asking it to take suo motu cognisance of the Pegasus revelations.
15:19 No follow-up results after PM meet: Farooq Abdullah
A month after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's outreach to mainstream leaders of Jammu and Kashmir, National Conference president Farooq Abdullah said on Sunday that there has been "no follow-up results" on the ground.
Abdullah said this in reference to the prime minister's remarks at the June 24 meeting in New Delhi that he wanted to win the hearts of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and remove "Dilli ki doori" (the distance from Delhi) and "dil ki doori" (distance between hearts).
"That was a welcome statement but there is no effort on the ground to win the hearts of the people. People continue to be locked up and dissent is not tolerated. We want to see the change on the ground, a visible effort to win back the people who went through the trauma of their state being dismembered, its special status removed in one sudden blow," the three-time former chief minister told PTI.
"...we are yet to see any follow-up results even after a month," he said.
"Trust is something that has been missing from both sides (Delhi and Srinagar). Successive prime ministers -- Jawaharlal Nehru, Narasimha Rao, Atal Bihari Vajpayee -- made promises but the trust deficit has persisted," he added.
The 83-year-old veteran politician said that he and his party had attended the Delhi meeting because it was an invitation from the prime minister although he had no expectations from it. Yet, he had hoped for steps to win the hearts and minds of people but nothing had happened.
Abdullah insisted that restoration of "full, undiluted" statehood to Jammu and Kashmir should precede the elections to its assembly. All major parties have demanded that and the Centre should prove its bona fide by agreeing to that.
Asked if his party would take part in the elections if the statehood was not granted before that, the NC president said, "We will decide at that time when the bugle is blown. We will then sit down and decide what we should do."
In reply to a question about the fate of the People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, a conglomerate of six mainstream political parties including the NC and its arch rival PDP, Abdullah said the alliance stands and "we are together...we all are there. We haven't left."
He said the alliance was cobbled up together in a hurry when the special status of Jammu and Kashmir was abrogated on August 5, 2019. "We all are like-minded people who joined together to work for restoration, knowing fully well that under this government it will not be restored."
"But we will continue to fight democratically and legally. People after us will also stand and try and work for the restoration of this," he said.
Abdullah also pointed out that earlier this month the Delimitation Commission came to Jammu and Kashmir and no members of Parliament, who are its associate members, were invited to sit and watch the proceedings.
Abdullah, who currently represents Srinagar in Parliament, urged the opposition national political parties to "forget" their plans and standings and get together to put the pillar of democracy far more strongly because the "time is running out".
"The tragedy with India is that the opposition is divided and unless they unite for restoration of democracy and forget their own party plans and party standings, we will never be able to get our democratic structure back.
"And I think efforts are being made, I see they are trying to get together and I hope it does happen soon because time is running out," he said. -- PTI
14:59 Maha rain fury: 73 bodies recovered, 47 missing
Seventy-three bodies have been retrieved and 47 people are missing following landslides triggered by heavy rainfall in the coastal regions of Maharashtra, the National Disaster Response Force said on Sunday.
S N Pradhan, the Director General of the federal force, tweeted the latest data of its operations being undertaken in Raigad, Ratnagiri and Satara districts of the state.
As per the data, NDRF rescuers have retrieved a total of 73 bodies from these areas with the highest number of 44 from the worst-hit Taliye village under Mahad tehsil of Raigad.
Forty-seven people have been reported missing in these three districts, as per the data posted at 12:19 pm on Twitter.
The force has deployed 34 teams for relief and rescue operations in the affected regions of Maharashtra.
The NDRF is operating in landslide-affected Taliye in Raigad, Porase in Ratnagiri and Mirgaon, Ambeghar and Dhokawale in Satara district, the data said.
As per state government figures updated till Saturday, the death toll from the torrential rains that battered Maharashtra's Pune and Konkan divisions, triggering landslides in some areas stands at 112, including 52 in the coastal Raigad district alone.
As many as 1,35,313 people have been shifted to safer places, including 78,111 in western Maharashtra's Sangli district, followed by 40,882 in Kolhapur district.
The Krishna river in Sangli and Panchganga in Kolhapur are in flood though the rains were reported to have subsided on Saturday. -- PTI
14:27 Rahul slams govt for pace of Covid vaccinations
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Sunday questioned the pace of COVID-19 vaccination, and said had the country's "Mann ki Baat" been understood, such would not have been the state.
His remarks came just ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "Mann ki Baat" address to the people of the country.
"Had you understood the country's 'Mann ki Baat', such would not have been the state of vaccinations," Gandhi said in a tweet in Hindi.
He used the hashtag "WhereAreVaccines" to question the government on the inoculation rate.
The former Congress President also shared a video highlighting the alleged slow vaccination rate and media reports where people were not getting vaccines across the country.
The video highlighted India's vaccination equation which is aimed to stop the third wave of coronavirus and the target to vaccinate 60 per cent of population with both doses by December 2021.
The graph highlighted that the required vaccination rate (vaccinations per day) is 9.3 million per day (93 lakh) and the actual rate in the last seven days (average vaccinations per day) is 3.6 million per day, with a daily shortfall in the last seven days being 5.6 million per day.
It also highlighted the actual vaccinations on July 24(vaccinations in previous 24 hours) at 2.3 million per day with a shortfall today of 6.9 million per day.
The Congress has been criticising the government over the slow inoculations and the vaccine policy. -- PTI
13:43 Citizen should lead a 'Bharat Jodo Andolan': Modi
Stressing on 'Nation First, Always First' mantra, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday that as the country enters its 75th year of Independence, every citizen should lead a "Bharat Jodo Andolan" in the same manner as Mahatma Gandhi had led the "Bharat Chhodo Andolan".
In his monthly Mann Ki Baat radio broadcast, he noted that on the coming August 15 India will enter its 75th year of Independence and highlighted that Amrit Mahotsav is being celebrated throughout the country to mark that year.
The need of the nation is to unite and work towards national progress, Modi said.
"Just like Bapu (Mahatma Gandhi) led the 'Bharat Chhodo Andolan' (Quit India movement), every Indian must lead the 'Bharat Jodo Andolan (Unite India Movement)'. It is our responsibility that we do our work in such a manner that it helps in uniting our country which is full of diversities ," Modi said.
"We have to move forward with Nation First, Always First," he asserted.
Many programmes in connection with Amrit Mahotsav are being run, the prime minister said, adding that the ministry of culture has started an initiative to have maximum number of Indians sing the national anthem together. For this, a website, rashtragan.in, too has been created .
"With the help of this website, you can render the national anthem and record it, thereby getting connected with the campaign. I hope you connect yourselves with this novel initiative. In the days to come, you will get to see many such campaigns and efforts," he said.
The prime minister urged people to keep encouraging and supporting Indian athletes participating in the Tokyo Olympics.
He called on the people to support the Indian Olympics team on social media by joining the 'Victory Punch Campaign' which has already begun.
"You also share your victory punch along with your team and cheer for India," Modi said.
Noting that on July 26 the nation will mark Kargil Vijay Diwas, the prime minister asked people of the country to pay tributes to those who made our nation proud in 1999.
Talking about his Mann Ki Baat programme, he said it celebrates positivity and collectivity.
"I am unable to take up all the inputs I receive for Mann Ki Baat but I do forward many of them to government departments concerned, he said.
In the broadcast, he also cited a study done MyGov to highlight that out of those sending messages and suggestions for Mann Ki Baat close to 75 per cent are below the age of 35 years.
"I view this as a very good indicator. Mann Ki Baat is a medium which has positivity, sensitivity. In Mann Ki Baat, we talk about positive things; its character is collective," he said. -- PTI
13:03 President Kovind arrives in Srinagar for 4-day visit
President Ram Nath Kovind arrived in Srinagar on Sunday on a four-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, officials said.
They said Kovind arrived at the Srinagar airport at 11:15 am and was received by Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha and senior officers of the police and the civil administration.
During the July 25-28 trip, the President will visit Drass in Ladakh to pay homage to the indomitable courage and sacrifice of the Indian armed forces during the Kargil conflict of 1999 at the Kargil War Memorial on Monday on the 22nd anniversary of the Kargil Vijay Diwas, the officials said.
In 2019, bad weather had prevented the President from visiting Drass to participate in Kargil Vijay Diwas, and instead, he paid his tributes by laying a wreath at a war memorial at the Army's 15 Corps headquarters in Badamibagh in Srinagar.
On Tuesday, the President will address the 19th annual convocation of the University of Kashmir in Srinagar, they added.
As part of security measures for the President's visit, traffic on the two approach roads to Raj Bhawan -- where Kovind will stay -- has been diverted between Sunday and Wednesday.
A traffic department official said diversions have been placed in some areas of the city and no traffic is being allowed on Foreshore Road, along the famous Dal Lake from Dalgate and Nishat axis, as well as towards Gupkar. -- PTI
12:29 Will know by evening: Yediyurappa on possible exit
Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa on Sunday said he will take an appropriate decision, once he receives directions from the Bharatiya Janata Party high command this evening, regarding his continuation in the post.
"By evening once it comes, you will also get to know about it, once it comes I will take an appropriate decision," Yediyurappa said in response to a question whether the directions from the party high command in Delhi were expected today.
To a question on pontiffs holding a mega conclave in Bengaluru on Sunday, which is seen as expressing solidarity with him, he said, "there is no need for pontiffs to hold any meet, I have confidence in PM Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP national President J P Nadda."
Questioned about a Dalit Chief Minister replacing him, Yediyurappa said, "I'm not the one to decide about it, it is for the high command to decide. Let's first see what decision they will take today..."
Asked whether he was satisfied with his work for two years, he said, "if you are satisfied that's enough for me."
Indicating that Monday might be his last day in office, Yediyurappa had recently said that based on the instructions that the central leaders will give him on July 25, he will get on with "his work" from July 26.
His government will complete two years in office on July 26.
Meanwhile, scores of pontiffs are expected to participate in a "maga conclave" to be held in Bengaluru on Sunday, coinciding with the possible decision by the BJP central leadership on his exit.
Dingaleshwar Swamiji of Balehosur mutt, who had held a press meet in Bengaluru on July 23 to inform about the conclave with other Swamijis, had refused to connect the event directly with the possible leadership change, but it is being widely seen as an attempt to muster support to Yediyurappa and send out a message.
Yediyurappa is in flood and rain ravaged Belagavi district to review the relief and rescue operation there.
Noting that he will be visiting people affected by rains and floods, the chief minister said after visiting some affected villages and analysing the situation there, he will be heading back to Bengaluru.
"By the god's grace, rains have receded both yesterday and today and if the situation continues in the same way for the next couple of days, I'm confident that things will come under control," he said, adding that rains receding in Maharashtra is a good sign. -- PTI
12:19 Mumbai lift collapse: Toll rises to 6; building contractor, supervisor held
The death toll in the collapse of a lift at an under-construction building in Mumbai rose to six and police arrested its contractor and supervisor for allegedly flouting safety norms, an official said on Sunday.
On Saturday, five people were killed and one person was injured after the lift came crashing down at the construction site near Hanuman Gully in Worli area of central Mumbai.
According to police, the injured person later succumbed to his injuries, which took the toll to six.
The deceased have been identified as Chinmay Anand Mandal (33), Bharat Anand Mandal (30), Anilkumar Nandlal Yadav, Avinash Das (35), Abhay Mistry Yadav (32) and Laxman Mandal (35).
The building's contractor and supervisor were arrested for allegedly not following safety norms during the construction work, a police official said.
They had not provided equipment like helmets and safety belts to the victims, the police said.
A case was registered against the accused under various Indian Penal Code sections, including 304 (II) (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), they added. -- PTI
12:13 About 90% Indians willing to pay a premium for buying EV: Survey
With global electric vehicles sales expected to boom in the next 12 months, nearly 90 per cent of consumers in India are willing to pay a premium for buying an EV, according to a survey by consultancy firm EY.
The EY Mobility Consumer Index, a survey of more than 9,000 respondents from 13 countries, including 1,000 respondents from India, also found that 40 per cent of the respondents were ready to pay a premium of up to 20 per cent. The survey concluded in the second half of July.
"Among the car buyers in India, 3 in 10 respondents would prefer to buy an electric/hydrogen vehicle," the survey said.
A majority of the respondents surveyed in India consider a driving range of 100 to 200 miles from a fully charged EV, EY said.
It further said, "Nearly 90 per cent of consumers in India are willing to pay a premium for buying an EV and over 40 per cent of respondents are ready to pay a premium of up to 20 per cent."
Existing and future EV owners, who intend to buy a car, have a relatively higher preference for digital channels compared to the existing and future ICE owners.
Commenting on the findings, EY India Partner and Automotive Sector Leader Vinay Raghunath said, "The reducing gap in cost of ownership between electric and other technology platforms and the increasing segment of consumers vocal about environmental impact will drive a fundamental change in consumer buying behaviour for electric vehicles."
He further said, "Consumers are willing to pay extra for an added value of being environmentally responsible."
According to the survey, the top reason for buying an EV is environmental concern, with 97 per cent also stating that the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened awareness and concerns about environmental issues.
About 67per cent of those looking to buy an EV feel it is their responsibility to reduce their personal environmental impact, and 69 per cent feel buying an EV is one way to achieve this goal.
When it comes to charging, the survey found that "nearly a third of the existing EV owners expect vehicle charging to take less than an hour compared to 45 per cent of the respondents who are planning to buy an EV". -- PTI
11:35 Pegasus: RS MP moves SC seeking probe
Rajya Sabha member John Brittas has moved the Supreme Court seeking a court-monitored probe into reports of alleged snooping of activists, politicians, journalists and constitutional functionaries using Israeli spyware Pegasus.
A massive political row has erupted after media reports claimed that Pegasus spyware was used to conduct surveillance on about 300 Indians, including ministers, political leaders, government officials and journalists.
Brittas, who has filed a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court, said that recent allegations of snooping has caused concern among a large section of people in India and that snooping would have a chilling effect on free speech and expression.
He has sought a court-monitored investigation into allegations of snooping using Pegasus spyware.
In a statement on Sunday, Brittas, who is a Communist Party of India-Marxist member, said that despite the very serious nature, the central government has not cared to investigate into the allegations involved in the issue but "made only a hopeful hope that the time tested processes in our country are well-established to ensure that unauthorised surveillance does not occur".
"Therefore, the queries were raised in the Indian Parliament with respect to this leakage. But the government has neither denied nor admitted the snooping by the spyware," he said.
Amid a row over the Pegasus spyware issue, the government had said that illegal surveillance was not possible with checks and balances in the country's laws and alleged that attempts were being made to malign the Indian democracy.
On July 19, IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw told the Lok Sabha that media reports on alleged snooping published a day before the start of the Monsoon Session of Parliament "cannot be a coincidence" and stressed that there is "no substance" behind the sensationalism.
However, the minister did not specify whether the Indian government was using Pegasus spyware.
Brittas, on Sunday, also claimed that allegations lead to two inferences, either snooping was done by the government or by a foreign agency.
If it was done by the government, then it was done in an unauthorised manner. If snooping was carried out by some foreign agency, then that is an act of external aggression and needs to be dealt in a serious manner, Brittas pointed out.
The NSO, the company which owns the technology, has also "clearly rubbished the claims in the report", the minister had said.
The NSO had said that the list of countries shown using Pegasus in the report was incorrect and many countries mentioned were not even the clients of the company, as per the minister's statement to the Lok Sabha on July 19. -- PTI
10:44 Owaisi's MIM not to tie up with SP for UP polls
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen denied reports of going for an alliance with the Samajwadi Party in the forthcoming Uttar Pradesh assembly polls.
Speaking to ANI, AIMIM Uttar Pradesh president Shaukat Ali said, "We have never said that the AIMIM will go for alliance with the Samajwadi Party if Akhilesh Yadav makes a Muslim leader as deputy chief minister if the party comes into power in Uttar Pradesh.
"We clearly deny the reports stating that because neither I nor AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi made these statements."
"We said that the SP has got 20 per cent of Muslim votes in the previous elections and came into power but they did not make any Muslim as deputy chief minister," he said.
Owaisi on Saturday reportedly said that if SP chief Akhilesh Yadav agrees to make any Muslim MLA as the deputy chief minister in Uttar Pradesh then he is ready to form an alliance with the party.
The Hyderabad MP had earlier announced that the AIMIM will contest 100 seats in Uttar Pradesh polls scheduled early next year.
At present, there are 110 assembly constituencies where Muslim voters make up around 30-39 per cent.
On 44 seats, this percentage rises to 40-49 per cent while on 11 seats, the Muslim voters are around 50-65 per cent.
Owaisi had earlier visited Lucknow and has been in talks with smaller political outfits.
He is also part of 'Bhaagidari Sankalp Morcha'.
He is in touch with Om Prakash Rajbhar's Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP), Shivpal Singh Yadav's Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (PSP), Keshav Dev Maurya's Mahan Dal and Krishna Patel's Apna Dal.
In the 2017 assembly elections, the AIMIM fielded its candidates on 38 seats but could not manage to win even a single constituency.
It decided not to contest the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in Uttar Pradesh, however, Owaisi campaigned against the Bharatiya Janata Party.
In 2017, the BJP won a landslide victory winning 312 assembly seats.
The party secured a 39.67 per cent vote share in the elections for 403-member assembly.
The SP bagged 47 seats, the Bahujan Samaj Party won 19 while the Congress could manage to win only seven seats. -- ANI
09:47 Mamata to meet Cabinet before leaving for Delhi
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has called a special Cabinet meeting Monday before leaving for the national capital, sources in the government said Saturday.
According to the official sources, the reason behind calling this special Cabinet was yet not clear since the last meeting was held as recently as Thursday.
"The reason behind calling this special Cabinet is not clear. There could be discussions on some special issue. The ministers have been informed about the meeting. The CM will leave for Delhi after the Cabinet meeting," an official told PTI.
When contacted a senior minister in the state Cabinet said that 'even ministers like us have not been told why such a special Cabinet meeting was called'.
"We have come to know about it (the meeting) only today in the late evening. I think there could be a discussion on some important issues which the CM wants to brief the Cabinet about," he told PTI.
Banerjee is scheduled to leave for New Delhi Monday evening and would be there till July 29.
She is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on July 28.
She may also meet several Opposition leaders during her visit. -- PTI
09:02 Didn't know about content of app: Shilpa to cops
Bollywood actor Shilpa Shetty told police that she had no idea about the content of the 'Hot Shots' app through which her husband Raj Kundra allegedly distributed pornographic films, sources said on Saturday.
Kundra, a Mumbai-based businessman, was arrested by the police on July 19 for alleged production of pornographic films and their dissemination through apps.
In her statement given to the police on Friday, Shetty said she did not know about the content of the app, nor did she interfere in her husband's business, police sources said.
She was not linked to the app business in any way, the actor said, as per the sources.
She also told police that she had resigned from the post of director of Kundra's firm Viaan Industries.
The police seized a laptop from Kundra's house during search on Friday and also recovered some bank statements, sources said. -- PTI
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08:58 Terrorist killed in encounter in Kulgam
An unidentified terrorist was killed in an encounter with security forces in Kulgam district of Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday, police said.
Security forces launched a cordon and search operation in Munand area of the south Kashmir district on Sunday morning following inputs about the presence of terrorists there, a police official said.
As the forces were conducting searches in the area, the terrorists fired upon them, he said.
The forces retaliated, ensuing an encounter in which one terrorist was killed, the official said.
The operation is on and further details are awaited, he added. -- PTI
08:30 ED likely to book Kundra for money laundering
While investigating the porn film case, Mumbai Police Crime Branch has found a hidden cupboard in businessman Raj Kundra's Viaan and JL Stream office in Mumbai's Andheri during searches.
"Crime Branch has found a hidden cupboard in businessman Raj Kundra's Viaan and JL Stream office in Mumbai's Andheri during searches in connection with a pornography case," Mumbai Police informed.
As per sources, Raj Kundra will soon face money laundering and Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) cases against him as Enforcement Directorate (ED) is likely to register cases under these Acts against him.
Kundra, 45, was arrested by the Mumbai Police late on July 19 along with 11 other people on charges related to alleged creation of pornographic films and was placed in police custody till July 23.
Currently, the case involves alleged creation of pornographic films and publishing them through some apps.
Kundra has been named as the key conspirator by the Mumbai Police which has slapped charges against him under Sections 420 (cheating), 34 (common intention), 292 and 293 (related to obscene and indecent advertisements and displays) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) besides relevant sections of the IT Act and the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act.
A Mumbai court on July 20 sent businessman Kundra to police custody till July 23 and in another bail hearing his custody was later extended till July 27.
The case was registered with Crime Branch Mumbai in February 2021 about the creation of pornographic films and the use of apps. -- ANI