Thu, 18 August 2022
Maha ATS to probe yacht carrying weapons case

Timeline  Refresh

23:44   Maha ATS to probe yacht carrying weapons case
The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad will investigate the yacht which was found to have drifted to the Raigad coast near Mumbai with AK-47 rifles on board on Thursday, a top police official said in Mumbai.
Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had said earlier in the day that on the  face of it there was no terror link as the yacht "Lady Han" was abandoned by its Australian owner Hana Lordorgan and her husband amid inclement weather near Muscat on June 26 while on their way to Europe.

"We are in the process of registering a First Information Report (FIR) under the Arms Act and will conduct further investigations," said ATS Chief  Vineet Agarwal. 

Police recovered some documents from the yacht and the ATS is investigating that too, he added.

Agrawal and his team rushed to Raigad after three AK-47 rifles and live rounds were found on the 16-meter-long yacht which was spotted at Harihareshwar. 

Local fishermen alerted the police about it, said Sanjay Mohite, Inspector General of Police, Konkan Range. 

This is the third incident of a vessel drifting to the Konkan coast in the recent past, said another official. 

Earlier a boat from Gujarat had ended up on the Murud coast while another boat had run aground at Kasa, he said.

An inflatable raft or lifeboat, which was found at Bharadkhol, was part of the yacht's accessories, he said. -- PTI
23:18   NSA Doval meets Russian Dy PM Denis Manturov
National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov held talks in Moscow with a focus on economic engagement. 
Doval was on a two-day visit to Russia. On Wednesday, he held talks with his Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev.
According to a Russian readout on Thursday, Manturov held talks with Doval in his capacity as Chair of the Russian part of the Intergovernmental Russia-India Commission for Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological, and Cultural Cooperation. 
It said the two sides discussed the development of trade and economic ties and current issues related to cooperation in other spheres of mutual interest, including the peaceful use of outer space.
"I think it is important to use the mechanism of the Intergovernmental Commission to the maximum degree in order to strengthen bilateral collaboration across the board," Manturov stressed, according to the readout.
In the last few months, India has increased the import of discounted crude oil from Russia notwithstanding increasing disquiet over it by several Western powers.
India's crude oil imports from Russia have jumped over 50 times since April and now it makes up for 10 per cent of all crude bought from overseas.
Last month, Russian Ambassador Denis Alipov said Russia appreciates India for not supporting attempts to isolate it in multilateral forums and that bilateral trade between the two countries is on an upswing.
India has not yet condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine and it has been maintaining that the crisis must be resolved through diplomacy and dialogue. -- PTI 
Illustration: Dominic Xavier/
Illustration: Dominic Xavier/
23:04   Govt hikes windfall profit tax on export of diesel, ATF; cuts tax on domestic crude oil
The government on Thursday hiked the windfall profit tax on the export of diesel to Rs 7 per litre and that on jet fuel exports to Rs 2 per litre but slashed the levy on domestically produced crude oil.
At the third fortnightly review, the government raised the windfall profit tax on the export of diesel to Rs 7 per litre from Rs 5 a litre and brought back a Rs 2 a litre tax on ATF (Aviation Turbine Fuel) exports, a finance ministry notification showed.
Last month, the government had scrapped the windfall profit tax on ATF exports.
Alongside, the tax on domestically produced crude oil has been cut to Rs 13,000 per tonne from Rs 17,000 a tonne. -- PTI  
22:37   Ex-BJP MP Subramanian Swamy meets Mamata
Former BJP MP Subramanian Swamy on Thursday paid a visit to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at the state secretariat here and they held a meeting for almost half an hour, a source in the administration said.
The source described the visit of Swamy, a staunch critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as a courtesy call. 
Swamy later tweeted: "Today I was in Kolkata and met the charismatic Mamata Banerjee. She is a courageous person. I admired her fight against the CPM in which she decimated the Communists."
He also shared a photograph of him with Banerjee, the Trinamool Congress supremo.
Following their meeting, speculation is rife about his political move. 
Swamy had called on Banerjee in November last year also in New Delhi. -- PTI 
22:30   RBI cancels licence of Deccan Urban Co-operative Bank
The Reserve Bank of India on Thursday said the licence of Deccan Urban Co-operative Bank, Karnataka, has been cancelled as the lender does not have adequate capital and earning prospects.
As per the data submitted by the bank, more than 99 per cent of the depositors are entitled to receive the full amount of their deposits from Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation (DICGC), the central bank said in a release.
The cooperative bank ceases to carry on banking business, with effect from the close of business on Thursday. 
"The bank does not have adequate capital and earning prospects," the RBI said while announcing the cancellation of the licence.
It also said the Vijayapur-based bank with its present financial position would be unable to pay its present depositors in full.
The RBI has requested the Commissioner for Cooperation and Registrar of Cooperative Societies, Karnataka, to issue an order for winding up the bank and appoint a liquidator for the bank.
On liquidation, every depositor would be entitled to receive deposit insurance claim amount of his/her deposits up to Rs 5 lakh DICGC. 
As of August 06, 2022, DICGC has already paid Rs 13.07 crore of the total insured deposits.
In another release, the RBI said it has imposed a penalty of Rs 5,93,000 on Obopay Mobile Technology India Private Limited for non-compliance with certain provisions of norms on Prepaid Payment Instruments (PPIs) and Know Your Customer (KYC).
The central bank, however, said that the penalty is based on deficiencies in regulatory compliance and is not intended to pronounce upon the validity of any transaction or agreement entered into by the entity with its customers. -- PTI
21:33   Ex-Lankan Prez Gotabaya to settle in US: Report
Former Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who fled the country last month amidst massive anti-government protests calling for his resignation, is awaiting to obtain a United States Green Card to return to America and settle there with his wife and son, a media report said on Thursday.
Sri Lankan newspaper Daily Mirror, citing highly-placed sources, claimed that Rajapaksa's lawyers in the United States had already begun the procedure last month for his application to obtain the Green Card as he was eligible to apply due to his wife Loma Rajapaksa being a US citizen.
In 2019, Rajapaksa renounced his US citizenship to contest the 2019 presidential polls.
Rajapaksa took early retirement from the Sri Lanka Army and moved into the field of information technology, before immigrating to the United States in 1998. He returned to Sri Lanka in 2005, 
The procedure will also now involve his lawyers in Colombo submitting the additional documents here in order to go ahead with the procedure, the daily said.

The 73-year-old former President who is presently in a hotel in Bangkok along with his wife will return to Sri Lanka on August 25, cancelling his initial plan to remain in Thailand at least till November, the report said.
The daily said that two days ago, Rajapaksa consulted his lawyers and decided to return to Sri Lanka later this month as he was not allowed the freedom to move in Thailand as initially expected, due to security concerns.
Upon his arrival in Bangkok, Thai police advised the ousted President to remain indoors for security reasons.
The Bangkok Post newspaper reported that at the hotel, the location of which has not been disclosed, plainclothes police officers from the Special Branch Bureau had been deployed to ensure the safety of Rajapaksa. 
Officials had asked the former Sri Lankan president to remain within the hotel during his stay in the country.
Upon his return to Sri Lanka this month, the Cabinet will discuss providing Rajapaksa a state house and security accorded to a former President, the report said.
Rajapaksa fled to the Maldives last month and thereafter to Singapore. He entered Singapore on a medical visa and had it extended twice to remain there as much as possible. As his visa could not be extended further, Rajapaksa and his wife left for Thailand and was assured he could remain there till he finalises his third destination.
21:31   I am a 'permanent jaadugar' in Rajasthan: Gehlot
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Thursday said he is a "permanent jaadugar (magician)" in his state who has had repeated opportunities to serve the poor, as he urged people to repeat his government in the polls next year.
Gehlot, who was in Delhi to attend a meeting at the AICC headquarters to decide the roadmap for the party's protest against the government over rising prices, slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his "black magic" jibe at the Congress' protest on August 5.
"They talk about black magic. We have been against such black magic since childhood. Magic is different in which I believe, it involves tricks, but this black magic is something else," he said.
Gehlot's remarks came after Prime Minister Modi had lashed out at the Congress for wearing black dresses on August 5 in protest against price rise, saying those who believe in "kala jadu" will never be able to win the trust of the people again.
Asked if his magic was working and whether it would trump the BJP, Gehlot said, "My magic is permanent in the state. I am a permanent jaadugar there. It is different kind of magic which is constant. You look at the magic, the time I have always got for serving the people."
"My aim is to serve people till my last breath, to wipe their tears. If the person is poor I am standing with that person, this is my thinking," the Rajasthan chief minister said, adding that governments come and go but he stand strongly with this principle.
Gehlot said in his earlier terms as CM, he had governed well and brought in many schemes for the welfare of the people even though they lost in polls after five years in government.
"This time, I want people to repeat us. We have done so much work, our schemes have reached every household. I urge the people to bless us, schemes are stopped upon losing," he said. -- PTI
21:09   Dahi Handi gets sport tag in Maha, Govindas to get jobs
The Maharashtra government has decided to accord adventure sport status to 'Dahi Handi', a popular festival in which a human pyramid is formed to break an earthen pot filled with curd hanging mid-air, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde announced in the assembly on Thursday.
The adventure sport tag will allow young participants (called govindas) in Dahi Handi events, organised to celebrate the birth of Lord Krishna, to apply for government jobs under the sports quota.

Participants or their families will be provided with compensation in case of fatal or other injuries suffered by the players during the formation of human pyramids, the CM said on the eve of the festival which will be celebrated without any restrictions this year.

"The Maharashtra government has decided to recognise formation of human towers as part of Dahi Handi celebrations as an adventure sport. With this recognition, the players will become eligible to apply for government jobs under the sports quota," Shinde said in the Lower House.

In case of unfortunate death of a participant during the formation of human pyramids, his/her kin would get Rs 10 lakh as compensation from the state government. A player suffering serious injuries would receive Rs 7 lakh, while one with fractures would be paid Rs 5 lakh, he said.

The state government would also bear the medical treatment cost of 'govindas' (participants) in case they suffer injuries, Shinde said.

After two years of subdued revelry, the Dahi Handi festival is likely to be celebrated on a grand scale like during the pre-pandemic times in the state, especially in Mumbai, on Friday as the government has lifted all coronavirus-related curbs.

The festival sees groups of  'govindas' moving around in cities and vying with each other in breaking Dahi Handis (earthen pots filled with yogurt and suspended in mid-air) and winning prizes. -- PTI
Bilkis Bano case convicts being welcomed
Bilkis Bano case convicts being welcomed
21:01   Are you not ashamed of such politics: Rahul attacks PM on BJP's 'support' to rape accused
The Bharatiya Janata Party's support to criminals displays the party's mindset towards women, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi alleged on Thursday and asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi if he was ashamed of "such politics".
He cited the examples of rape cases in Unnao and Hathras in Uttar Pradesh,  Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir and now Gujarat where the government this week released those convicted of rape and murder in the 2002 Bilkis Bano case.
"Unnao - worked to save BJP MLA. Kathua - rally in favour of rapists. Hathras - the government in favour of rapists. Gujarat - the release and honour of rapists. The support to criminals displays the petty mindset of the BJP towards women," Gandhi said in a tweet in Hindi.
"Are you not ashamed of such politics, Prime Minister ji," he asked.
In a tweet in Hindi, the Congress said on its official handle, "By waiving the punishment of the culprits of gangrape and murder, the BJP government of Gujarat has inflicted such pain on the entire civilized society including Bilkis Bano and her family, that cannot be repaired."
Discussing the release of the Bilkis Bano case convicts, senior Congress leader P Chidambaram added that two BJP MLAs were part of the review panel that granted them remission. 
"There is an interesting side story to the grant of remission to 11 persons convicted for gang rape in Gujarat. Among the Review Panel were two BJP MLAs Shri C. K. Raolji and Smt Suman Chauhan!
"Another member was Shri Murli Mulchandani who was a key witness for the prosecution in the Godhra Train burning case!" he alleged on Twitter.
He asked whether this was a neutral, non-partisan panel of experts in criminology and penology and said the district collector was the chairperson.
Gandhi and his Congress party have been attacking the BJP and the prime minister for releasing the rapists in the Bilkis Bano case by granting them remission.
Eleven convicts, sentenced to life imprisonment, walked out of the Godhra sub-jail on August 15 after the Gujarat government allowed their release under its remission policy. They had completed more than 15 years in jail. -- PTI
20:29   Farmers begin protest in Lakhimpur, want MoS sacked
Farmers from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh on Thursday began a three-day protest, demanding the sacking of Union minister Ajay Kumar Mishra over the violence here last year for which his son is in the dock.
The protesters, who included farmers from Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Tamil Nadu as well, also demanded a law on minimum support price (MSP) for their crops and withdrawal of the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2022.
Bhartiya Kisan Union-Tikait and other constituents of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) gave the call for the 75-hour-long sit-in from August 18 to 20 to seek "justice" in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence case.
The SKM had spearheaded the year-long sit-in at Delhi's borders which forced the Centre to withdraw three new agri laws.
Speaking to news persons at the dharna site, BKU national spokesperson Rakesh Tikait vowed that the SKM would continue its fight for justice to the farmers across the nation.
The Lakhimpur agitation was primarily to press for the dismissal of Ajay Kumar Mishra from the Union Cabinet, Tikait said. "Moreover, a law on minimum support price (MSP) to the farmers was also a major demand of the SKM," he added.
Mishra is the Union minister of state for Home.
"The (Modi) government is bent on handing over power supply to the private sector through the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2022. BKU and SKM would oppose this move as this would adversely affect the farming sector," Tikait said.
BKU (Lakhewal) state vice-president Avtar Singh Mehlo, who arrived at the dharna along with his supporters, said, "Our fight is for justice to the farmers killed in the Tikunia violence on October 3, 2021."
"We demand the sacking of Union MoS for Home Ajay Kumar Mishra, compensation to the families of farmers who died in the farmers' agitation, a law on MSP, and roll-back of the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2022," Mehlo said.
The Union minister's son, Ashish Mishra, is an accused in the violence that left eight people, including four farmers, dead at Lakhimpur Kheri last year.
Four farmers, who were part of a protest, were mowed down by an SUV, with the minister's son allegedly being one of its occupants. A driver and two BJP workers were allegedly lynched by angry farmers. A journalist had also died in the violence.
Ajay Kumar Mishra is a second-term BJP Lok Sabha MP from Kheri.
At the dharna site, volunteers mostly from Punjab were seen taking over the stay and 'langar' arrangements, cooking and serving food, tea and water to the agitating farmers.
Asked if permission had been taken for the agitation, district president of Bharatiya Kisan Union-Tikait (BKU-Tikait) and local convener of the agitation Dilbagh Singh Sandhu said "We had informed the district authorities about the agitation."
20:11   Severity of Sri Lanka's forex crisis eased: Central Bank governor
Sri Lanka's forex situation has "improved" and the economy has started to see favourable results due to decisions made by the Central Bank to mitigate the country's economic crisis, Central Bank Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe said on Thursday.
Sri Lanka is in the midst of an unprecedented economic crisis that has led to severe shortages of fuel and other essentials.
"The forex situation has improved now. We have been able to pay for essentials such as petrol, diesel and medicine," Weerasinghe said, adding that while the imports expenditure had decreased the exports had increased.
The Governor said that it was feared that inflation would rise to more than 70 per cent. But now we see it won't go high even with the current hike in electricity rates. We are hopeful it will come down," he said.
He, however, added that the current inflation which hover around 60 per cent needs improving.
Sri Lanka owes USD 51 billion in foreign debt, of which USD 28 billion must be paid by 2027.
The country's inflation surged to 60.8 per cent in July, up from 54.6 per cent in June, the crisis-hit country's statistics department Colombo Consumer Price Index has said, as food and fuel remained scarce amid dwindling foreign exchange reserves.
The island nation of 22 million also witnessed a major political churn in recent times following massive mass protests that forced former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee the country and resign from his post.
Weerasinghe also said that a delegation of the IMF will visit later this month which he said would lead to the staff level agreement needed for a bailout package sought by Sri Lanka. We have achieved our policy level targets so we hope to reach staff level agreement. This will certainly improve our position," he said.
On debt restructuring, a prerequisite for the IMF facility, Weerasinghe said, All creditors will be officially approached and we will present our overall macro programme that has been approved by the IMF.
Weerasinghe also said the Lankan economy would contract by 8 per cent over the earlier projection of 7.5 per cent negative growth.
In July, Rajapaksa's ally and Sri Lanka's newly-appointed president Ranil Wickremesinghe said he had aimed to reach an agreement with the IMF by early August, but the political turmoil in the country forced the international lender to push back the agreement by a month. -- PTI
20:07   Hope wisdom dawns on China: Jaishankar on LAC row
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Thursday that the relationship between India and China is going through an "extremely difficult phase" after what Beijing has done at the border and emphasised that the Asian Century will not happen if the two neighbours could not join hands.
Jaishankar made the remarks while responding to a series of questions after delivering a lecture on 'India's Vision of the Indo-Pacific' at the prestigious Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.
Responding to a question, Jaishankar said that the Asian Century will happen when China and India come together but the Asian Century will be difficult to happen if India and China could not come together.
"At the moment (the India-China) relationship is going through an extremely difficult phase after what China did at the border," he said.
Chinese and Indian troops are engaged in a prolonged standoff in Eastern Ladakh. 

The two sides have so far held 16 rounds of Corps Commander Level talks to resolve the standoff which erupted on May 5, 2020, following a violent clash in the Pangong lake areas.
"I think if India and China have to come together, there are many reasons to do so, not necessarily only Sri Lanka," he said, adding that it is in India and China's own interest to join hands.
"We very much hope that wisdom dawns on the Chinese side," he said while replying to another question from the audience.
Jaishankar said India has done the best of its abilities to assist Sri Lanka. This year alone India has extended USD 3.8 billion of support to Sri Lanka, including line of credits and swap arrangements, he said.
Sri Lanka, a nation of 22 million, is in the midst of an unprecedented economic crisis that has led to severe shortages of fuel and other essentials. The Sri Lankan government is negotiating with the IMF for a bailout package.
"Any help we can give to Sri Lanka at the IMF that we will naturally do," Jaishankar said.
20:04   Cong postpones mega rally against price rise in Delhi to Sep 4
The Congress on Thursday said it has postponed its mega rally at the Ramlila Maidan here against price rise and unemployment to September 4 in view of the Covid situation in the national capital.
Congress general secretary of communications Jairam Ramesh said the rally has been postponed in view of rising cases of COVID-19 in Delhi.
The rally was earlier scheduled for August 28.
"Due to the prevailing COVID-19 situation, the Congress party's Mehangai Par Halla Bol Rally at Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi, is being rescheduled from August 28 to September 4th. The rally will send a powerful message to the insensitive Modi sarkar," Ramesh said on Twitter.
While continue its fight against price rise, the Congress party has also decided to organise a series of "Mehangai Chaupal" meetings in all assembly constituencies from August 17 to 23 that will culminate in a mega rally in Delhi's Ramlila maidan.
The Congress will continue to spread awareness about the anti-people policies of the BJP government and increase pressure on it to change course, the party has said.
The party has also planned the launch of the "Bharat Jodo Yatra" from September 7 from Kanyakumari. The yatra, aimed at uniting the country, will culminate in February in Jammu and Kashmir. -- PTI 
19:38   Swamy takes swipe at BJP over top body revamp
A day after the Bharatiya Janata Party revamped its parliamentary board, its former MP Subramanian Swamy took a dig at its leadership for "lack" of organisational elections to fill office-bearer posts and alleged leaders are nominated to every post with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's approval.
"In early days of Janata Party and then BJP, we had party and parliamentary party elections to fill office bearers posts. Party Constitution requires it. Today in BJP there are no elections whatsoever ever. To every post is nominated a member with the approval of Modi," he claimed in a tweet.
BJP sources, though, said it has always been the convention within the party that its president nominates party members to different positions. The party national executive or other appropriate bodies then ratify the appointments, they added.
The maverick politician, who has long been critical of the Modi government over a number of issues, also met Trinamool Congress leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata on Thursday. -- PTI 
19:18   Man detained in suspected terror financing case in Jammu
The police detained a man in connection with a suspected terror financing case here, officials said.                  

"One person has been called for questioning in connection with suspected terror financing," ADGP (Jammu Zone) Mukesh Singh said.                  

He said that police are investigating it.                  

According to sources, one person was detained at Jammu bus stand with Rs 10 lakh cash possibly for terror financing.  -- PTI
19:13   Missing Army captain's body found in MP river
Three days after an Army captain hailing from Kerala went missing while undergoing a training course in Pachmarhi in Madhya Pradesh's Narmadapuram, his body was recovered from a river in the district, the police said on Thursday. 

The deceased, Captain Nirmal Sivarajan (32), who hailed from Mamangalam in Ernakulam district of Kerala, was undergoing training at the Army Education Corps Centre at Pachmarhi when he went missing, Makhan Nagar sub divisional police pfficer Madan Mohan Samar said. 

The police said that the captain had fallen into the swollen Bachwada river while he was driving back to Pachmarhi on August 15 after meeting his wife, a Lieutenant posted in Jabalpur. 

They had got married just three months ago, they said. 

The captain was from Army Education Corps from Suratgarh (in Rajasthan), his acquaintance said. 

"The body, which was entangled in a tree in Bachwada river on Naseerabad road in Makhan Nagar tehsil, about 40 to 45 km from Narmadapuram district headquarters, was recovered by divers and police," Samar said. 

The army officer's car was also located in the river, about two kilometres away from his body, he added. 

Makhan Nagar police station inspector Hemant Shrivastava said the captain fell into the swollen river with his car and drowned while negotiating a culvert over the water body after taking a detour to reach Pachmarhi. 

After post-mortem, his body was handed over to army authorities, he added. -- PTI
19:01   Mumbai logs 1,201 Covid cases, highest since June 30
Mumbai on Thursday reported 1,201 new coronavirus infections, highest since June 30, along with two deaths, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation said.
On Wednesday the city had recorded 975 new infections and two pandemic-related deaths.  
The new cases in India's financial capital crossed the 1,000-mark for the first time after June 30 when 1,265 infections and one fatality had been reported.
The cases had dipped steadily thereafter. 
The city's caseload rose to 11,35,680 on Thursday while the death toll reached 19,670, the BMC release said. -- PTI 
18:50   One of Noida twin towers fully rigged with explosives
One of the Supertech's illegal twin towers in Noida has been fully rigged with explosives, as the charging process continued in full swing on Thursday, officials said. 

The nearly 100-metre tall structures are scheduled for demolition at 2.30 pm on August 28 in pursuance of a Supreme Court order that found the twin towers in Sector 93A were built in violation of norms. 

"The charging -- rigging of skeletal structures with explosives -- was started on August 13 and completed in the Ceyane tower on Wednesday. The work on Apex tower is underway. The charging process is expected to be completed next week," an official said. 

Ceyane is the smaller of the two towers and had 29 floors constructed when work was stopped on it. 

Apex is the taller tower with 32 floors constructed. Both the residential towers were supposed to have 40 storeys. 

Meanwhile, a meeting was underway among stakehokders, including Noida Authority, Emerald Court and ATS Village residents' groups, demolition firm Edifice Engineering, to discuss the evacuation plan for August 28 when the twin towers will be razed to ground. 

According to officials, discussion on road traffic management in the area on the demolition day is also part of the agenda of the meeting, which also included local police. -- PTI
18:44   Bhim Army chief detained at Jodhpur airport, again
Bhim Army chief Chandra Shekhar Aazad was once again detained at the airport in Jodhpur while on his way to Jalore to meet the family of a Dalit boy who died allegedly after being beaten up by his schoolteacher for touching a water pot. 

He was detained at the Jodhpur airport for over three hours on Wednesday and allowed to leave around 7.30 pm after he assured that that he would not go to Jalore, around 150 km from the airport. 

However, as he came out of the airport, Aazad told reporters that he won't return without meeting the boy's family. 

On Thursday, he came to Jodhpur in a flight from Delhi and the police took him to the police station near the airport. 

"Talks are going on at the police station," an official said. 

Meanwhile, Lok Janshakti Party leader Chirag Paswan reached Jalore from Delhi via road to meet the boy's family members. 

The probe into the case has so far could not establish that the boy was beaten up because he touched a water pot. 

"The investigation is going on but it could not be established so far that he was beaten because he touched a water pot," Jalore SP Harsh Vardhan Agarwalla said. 

Indra Meghwal, a student of a private school in Surana village of Rajasthan's Jalore district, was beaten up by his teacher on July 20 for allegedly touching a drinking water pot. -- PTI
18:40   Raju Srivastava critical, suffered brain damage
Popular comedian-actor Raju Srivastava, who has been in the intensive care unit of AIIMS for nine days following a heart attack, continues to be on the ventilator and is critical, sources said Thursday.
Srivastava was admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences here after he suffered a heart attack on August 10. The 58-year-old stand-up comic underwent an angioplasty the same day.
"He continues to be on life support and his health condition is critical. He has suffered brain damage. He has not yet gained consciousness," a source told PTI.
As worries mounted over the state of his health and some speculated that he was brain dead, his daughter Antara told PTI that "doctors are still treating him". She said she would not be able to comment further.
Srivastava, a stand-up comic who joined the BJP in 2014, was trending on Twitter on Thursday with many posts speculating about his health. 
Last week, Srivastava's family released a statement on his official Instagram page, saying his condition was "stable" and requesting people to "ignore any rumour/fake news being circulated".
A familiar face in the entertainment industry since the 1980s, Srivastava catapulted to fame after participating in the first season of the reality stand-up comedy show The Great Indian Laughter Challenge in 2005.
Srivastava has also featured in Hindi films such as Maine Pyar Kiya, Baazigar, the remake of Bombay to Goa and Aamdani Atthani Kharcha Rupaiya

He is the chairperson of the Film Development Council Uttar Pradesh. 
LB Das/Facebook
LB Das/Facebook
18:18   Sikkim speaker LB Das resigns ahead of Cabinet rejig
Sikkim assembly speaker LB Das has resigned, official sources said on Thursday. 

Das, the MLA of West Pendam, submitted his resignation on August 16, they said. 

The reason for his resignation was not immediately known but sources in his party Sikkim Krantakari Morcha said he is likely to be made a minister in the Prem Singh Tamang government. 

A cabinet reshuffle is on the cards during which Das is likely to be inducted, they said. 

The election for the new speaker will be held on August 22, as per Raj Bhavan.
17:49   Nitish won't become PM in 7 lifetimes: RCP Singh
Former Janata Dal-United national president RCP Singh, who was in the eye of a political storm in Bihar, on Thursday said he was keeping "all options open", including a formal entry into the Bharatiya Janata Party.
The former Union minister also lashed out at Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for the latest political u-turn that saw the de facto JD-U leader dumping the Bharatiya Janata Party and realigning with the "Mahagathbandhan" of the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Congress and the Left.
"I have all options open", said Singh and when pointedly asked whether he would like to join the BJP, he quipped "why not?"
The bureaucrat turned politician, who had to give up his ministerial berth upon denial of another Rajya Sabha term by the JD(U), maintained that Kumar, the de facto leader of the party, "will not become the prime minister even if he were to be reborn seven times".
"These are not times of political instability in the country when Chandra Shekhar, H D Deve Gowda, I K Gujaral etc. could enjoy brief stints as PM, said Singh.
The JD-U accused Singh of having become a mole of the saffron camp.
He denied allegations of having acted against the JD-U's interests at BJP's behest in the last assembly polls of 2020, and a few months later, having become a Union minister without consent of the Bihar CM.
Ashok Gehlot
Ashok Gehlot
17:10   India will meet Pak's fate if...: Gehlot slams BJP
Rajasthan Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Ashok Gehlot on Thursday cautioned that India would meet the same fate as that of Pakistan if the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party tries to turn the country into a 'Hindu Rashtra'.        

The Congress' senior observer for the Gujarat Assembly elections also accused the BJP of fighting and winning elections only on the issue of religion.        

Gehlot has been on a two-day visit to the BJP-ruled Gujarat from Wednesday to hold meetings with party leaders to review their preparedness for the upcoming assembly polls, expected to be held in December this year.        

Talking to reporters on the last day of his visit, Gehlot said, "Many people, such as activists and journalists, have been jailed by the BJP across the country. They are fascist, who are winning elections only on the issue of religion. Otherwise, BJP does not have any ideology, policy or governance model."        

He cautioned that India would meet the same fate as Pakistan if the BJP tries to turn the country into a 'Hindu Rashtra'.         

"Politics based on religion is the easiest of all and even Adolf Hitler indulged in it," he said, while accusing the BJP of misguiding people in the name of "Gujarat model".         

Gehlot, who was in-charge of the Gujarat Congress in 2017, said, "We were very close to winning the 2017 Assembly elections. But unfortunately, the way PM Modi pitched himself and acted like a Bollywood actor during the campaign, we lost. To gain sympathy, he even distorted Congress leader Mani Shakar Aiyar's statement during the campaign and claimed that Aiyar called him a 'neech aadmi' (lowly person)."         

"At that time, people used to make fun of BJP's development model by saying 'Vikas has gone mad'. It was a big issue in 2017. To counter that slogan, Modiji, like an actor, came out with a slogan that 'I am Vikas'. He even landed on a river on a seaplane to win the elections," the senior Congress leader added. -- PTI
16:29   Bangladeshi national nabbed from near Indo-Pak border in Rajasthan
The Border Security Force nabbed a Bangladeshi national along the India-Pakistan International Border in Rajasthan's Jaisalmer on Thursday and handed him over to the police. 

Sarovar Hussain, 28, a citizen of Bangladesh, was nabbed from Posina village near Myajlar along the border, Jhinjhinyali police station SHO Hanwant Singh said. 

The police sources said the man was caught when he was trying to cross the border illegally. 

The SHO said the man would be handed over to security agencies for further interrogation on Friday. -- PTI
16:12   Flats for Rohingyas: Centre, Delhi govt lock horns
Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia on Thursday said he has written to Union Home Minister Amit Shah urging him to order a probe to ascertain on whose instructions the decision to shift Rohingya Muslims to apartments in the national capital was taken.

"We did not take any decision to shift Rohingya Muslims to flats. The Centre also says it didn't. Then who did it? Sisodia asked and demanded strict action against those behind the decision.Addressing a press conference," Sisodia said he has also urged the home minister to make clear the Centre's stand on the issue of shifting of Rohingya Muslims.

Sisodia claimed the Home Ministry came out with a clarification on the issue on Wednesday only after Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri's tweets on the move to shift Rohingyas was opposed by his Aam Aadmi Party and others.

Hours after Puri said that Rohingya refugees in the national capital will be shifted to flats for economically weaker section, the Union Home Ministry on Wednesday denied any such move and directed the Delhi government to ensure that 'illegal foreigners' remain in detention centres pending their extradition.

It also said that the Delhi government 'proposed to shift Rohingya Muslims to a new location'.

Rejecting the Union Home Ministry's claim that it was the Delhi government's proposal, Sisodia had alleged on Wednesday the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Centre was 'secretly' trying to give 'permanent residence' to Rohingya refugees in the national capital.  -- PTI
15:19   Suspicious boat with weapons found off Raigad coast
A suspicious boat with three AK-47 rifles and bullets was found off the Raigad coast in Maharashtra on Thursday, a police official said.

Some locals spotted the boat, having no crew member, in Shrivardhan area, located more than 190 km from Mumbai, and alerted security agencies.

Raigad Superintendent of Police Ashok Dudhe and other senior officials rushed the spot and searched the boat.

Three AK-47 rifles and some bullets were found on the boat and the police were conducting further investigation, the official said.

According to officials, the crew members of this boat had been rescued in June this year near the Oman coast.

The police said the boat came floating to the Raigad coast.  -- PTI
14:53   Are you not ashamed: Rahul attacks PM
The Bharatiya Janata Party's support to criminals displays the party's mindset towards women, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi alleged on Thursday and asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi if he was ashamed of 'such politics'.

He cited the examples of rape cases in Unnao and Hathras in Uttar Pradesh, Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir and now Gujarat where the government this week released those convicted of rape and murder in the 2002 Bilkis Bano case.

'Unnao - worked to save BJP MLA. Kathua - rally in favour of rapists. Hathras - the government in favour of rapists. Gujarat - the release and honour of rapists. The support to criminals displays the petty mindset of the BJP towards women,' Gandhi said in a tweet in Hindi.

'Are you not ashamed of such politics, Prime Minister ji,' he asked.

Discussing the release of the Bilkis Bano case convicts, senior Congress leader P Chidambaram added that two BJP MLAs were part of the review panel that granted them remission.

'There is an interesting side story to the grant of remission to 11 persons convicted for gang rape in Gujarat. Among the Review Panel were two BJP MLAs Shri C. K. Raolji and Shri Suman Chauhan!

'Another member was Shri Murli Mulchandani who was a key witness for the prosecution in the Godhra Train burning case!' he alleged on Twitter.

He asked whether this was a neutral, non-partisan panel of experts in criminology and penology and said the district collector was the chairperson.

Gandhi and his Congress party have been attacking the Bharatiya Janata Party and the prime minister for releasing the rapists in the Bilkis Bano case by granting them remission.

Eleven convicts, sentenced to life imprisonment, walked out of the Godhra sub-jail on August 15 after the Gujarat government allowed their release under its remission policy.

They had completed more than 15 years in jail. A special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Mumbai on January 21, 2008, had sentenced the 11 to life imprisonment on charges of gangrape and murder of seven members of Bilkis Bano's family.

Their conviction was later upheld by the Bombay high court.

Bilkis Bano was 21 years old and five months pregnant when she was gangraped while fleeing the violence that broke out after the Godhra train burning. Among those killed were three-year-old daughter.   -- PTI
14:00   China-Russia to conduct joint military exercises
China's Defence Ministry has announced that its People's Liberation Army will participate in the strategic command and staff exercise Vostok-2022 in Russia in which India, Belarus, Tajikistan and Mongolia are also participants.

'According to the annual China-Russia military cooperation plan and consensus reached by the two sides, the Chinese People's Liberation Army will send some troops to Russia to take part in the Vostok (East)-2022 strategic exercise,' the Chinese defence ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

The Chinese defence ministry said that India, Belarus, Tajikistan, and Mongolia will also send troops for the exercise but the Indian army has not made any official comment on this.

'The Chinese military's participation in the exercise is unrelated to the current international and regional situation but designed to deepen practical and friendly cooperation with the militaries of participating countries, enhance the level of strategic coordination and strengthen the ability to cope with various security threats,' the statement further reads.

According to Russian News Agency, TASS, the Vostok-2022 strategic command and staff exercise will be held under the command of the chief of Russia's General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, at 13 training grounds in the Eastern Military District.

The exercises are expected to take place between August 30 and September 5.The Russian Defence Ministry stated, earlier, that during the drills the participating forces would practice measures to maintain military security in the eastern region.

China is a key partner of Russia.

Beijing has been a reliable purchaser of Russian military equipment since the 1990s, with sales to China making up 25-50 per cent of Russia's foreign military sales, Fox News reported.

Relations between the two countries have sometimes been strained as Russia in the past has accused the Chinese of stealing intellectual property, yet even with those disputes the sides have moved closer and the joint military exercises have continued.

The last Vostok military exercises took place in 2018 and were joined by Mongolia and China, marking the first time countries outside the former Soviet bloc participated.

Nearly 300,000 troops took part in addition to 36,000 vehicles, 1,000 aircraft and 80 warships, the largest since the days of the Soviet Union, according to Fox News.  -- ANI
13:45   OPS extends olive branch to 'dear brother' EPS
All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader O Panneerselvam on Thursday extended an olive branch to his rival, 'dear brother' Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) to run the party jointly and said 'let bygones be bygones'.

A day after securing a high court order against the July 11 AIADMK general council meet that expelled him and picked Palaniswami as interim General Secretary, Panneerselvam said there had never been an issue with dual leadership but said the arrangement of 'joint leadership' was brought in to steer the party in the absence of late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa.

"After Amma's death (in December 2016), dear brother Palaniswami became CM and we travelled along extending good cooperation. Many democratic duties were discharged by us," he said.

"After Amma's death, Dharmayudham was undertaken (by him against deposed leader V K Sasikala and her family) and as per the wishes of party workers and leaders, it was decided as a policy that AIADMK will function under joint leadership," he told reporters.

As a result, the Coordinator (OPS) and the joint coordinator (EPS) posts were created, Panneerselvam added. There was no shortcoming in this aspect from either leaders as they diligently performed the roles in the interest of the party and within the ambit of its laws, the former CM said.

AIADMK workers had set their political path as 'brothers' of the party founder, the late CM MG Ramachandran and 'sons' of Amma (Jayalalithaa), but due to some 'difference of opinion' there was an 'abnormal situation', OPS said, in an apparent reference to the differences with Palaniswami.

"Let bygones be bygones...would never say it affected us...1.5 crore party workers and the people who desire the good rule of MGR and Amma want this movement to remain united. Without holding any grudges of the past bitterness, we should throw them away (as) the party's unity should be the sole idea," he said.   -- PTI
13:17   Uproar in Maha assembly after health minister fails to reply to questions
Maharashtra's newly appointed Health Minister Tanaji Sawant on Thursday failed to reply to questions raised in the Maharashtra Assembly over issues like elephantiasis and illegal abortions, which led to an uproar in the House.

The House proceedings during the Question Hour were disrupted after Sawant failed to give satisfactory answers.

Some members asked questions about Palghar district reporting a rise in the number of cases of elephantiasis and illegal abortions in Beed district.

Sawant said, "I have no information on any of the questions. I have taken charge of the ministry a couple of days ago."

Leader of Opposition Ajit Pawar asked Speaker Rahul Narvekar to intervene as Sawant could not give a satisfactory reply to the questions.

Sawant had served as the state water conservation minister in 2019 under the then chief minister Devendra Fadnavis.

He had stoked a controversy by attributing a breach in Tiware dam in Ratnagiri district, which led to the death of 18 people, to the weakening of wall by crabs.

Sawant had called the dam breach incident a 'natural calamity'.  -- PTI
12:37   ED, CBI will finish Trinamool in 6 months: Suvendu
The Leader of Opposition in West Bengal, Suvendu Adhikari on Thursday said that the ruling Trinamool Congress won't last even for the next six months in the state.

His remarks came after the ruling party put up posters claiming that a 'new and reformed TMC' come in the next six months.

"Enforcement Directorate and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) are doing their job. This party (TMC) will not last for even six months, December is their deadline," LoP Suvendu Adhikari said in Purba Medinipur.

Adhikari referred to raids against those connected with the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC recently.

A close associate of chief minister Banerjee-- Anubrata Mondal-- has been sent to CBI custody till August 20.

The CBI on September 21, 2020, arrested a former Border Security Force (BSF) Commandant, in connection with an illegal cattle smuggling case across the Indo-Bangladesh border, in which the name of Monday popped up.

Former West Bengal Minister Partha Chatterjee and his close associate Arpita Mukherjee were sent for judicial custody till today (Thursday) after being held in connection with the School Service Commission (SSC) recruitment scam case.

The ED claimed to have unearthed many disproportionate assets of Partha Chatterjee since his arrest, of which were three flats in West Bengal's Diamond City.

The ED sleuths have also claimed to have recovered around Rs 50 crore in cash, along with jewellery.   -- ANI
12:07   Defamation case: Raut asked to appear before court via video conference
A magistrate court in Mumbai on Thursday directed Arthur Jail authorities to produce Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut before it through video conferencing in connection with a defamation complaint filed by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kirit Somaiya's wife Medha Somaiya.

Raut was lodged at the Arthur Road jail in Mumbai following his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate in a money laundering case.

The Sewri metropolitan magistrate, hearing the defamation case filed by the BJP leader's wife, asked the jail authorities to produce Raut before the court at 12 noon on Thursday, her lawyer Vivekanand Gupta said.

Medha Somaiya in her complaint alleged that Raut had made baseless and completely defamatory allegations against her and her husband, accusing them of being involved in a scam worth Rs 100 crore over the construction and maintenance of some public toilets under the jurisdiction of the Mira Bhayander Municipal Corporation in Thane.

She has urged the court to begin proceedings against Raut on the charges of defamation as defined under sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code.  -- PTI
11:50   Sulking JD-U MLA wants party minister sacked
All is seemingly not well within the newly sworn-in Bihar government with Janata Dal-United MLA Bima Bharti taking a dig at her party colleague and five-time MLA Leshi Singh who was inducted as the Minister of Food and consumer protection in the Bihar government.

Bharti is apparently miffed at not being included into the cabinet after Singh was on Tuesday in the cabinet expansion inducted for the third time as minister.

"I'm upset with only JD-U MLA Leshi Singh that she's always chosen in the cabinet. What does the CM see in her? She is repeatedly involved in incidents in her area; brings disrepute against the party. Why are we not heard? Is it because we're from a backward caste?" said JD-U MLA Bima Bharti.

"If she is not removed from the post of minister, I will resign from the party. If my allegation against her is wrong then I will resign as an MLA," Bharti said.  -- ANI
11:08   Govt spent Rs 38 lakh on Trump's visit in 2020
The Centre spent approximately Rs 38 lakh on the 36-hour State visit by former United States President Donald Trump in 2020 in accommodation, meals, logistics etc, the External Affairs Ministry has told the Central Information Commission.

On his maiden visit to India, Trump accompanied by his wife Melania, daughter Ivanka, son-in-law Jared Kushner and several top officials had visited Ahmedabad, Agra, and New Delhi on February 24-25, 2020.

He had spent three hours in Ahmedabad on February 24 during which he attended a 22-km-long roadshow, paid tributes to Mahatma Gandhi at the Sabarmati Ashram, and addressed a mega gathering 'Namaste Trump' with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the newly built Motera Cricket Stadium.

Trump later flew to Agra on the same day to visit Taj Mahal. He visited the national capital on February 25 where he held bilateral talks with Modi.

One Mishall Bhathena in an RTI had sought to know from the External Affairs Ministry the total expenses incurred by the Indian government during the visit of the President and First Lady of the United States of America in February 2020, including the expense on food, security, housing, flights, transport, etc.

Bhathena who had filed the application on October 24, 2020, did not receive any response following which he filed a first appeal and later approached the Commission, the highest appellate authority in RTI matters.

The EAM gave a submission to the Commission on August 4, 2022 citing COVID-19 for the delay in furnishing a response.

Expenditure by host nations on incoming State Visits by Heads of State/Heads of Government is a well-established practice and in accordance with internationally accepted norms.

'In this context, the Government of India incurred certain expenses on accommodation, meals, logistics in connection with the State Visit to India by the US President Donald J Trump to India from 24-25 February.

'The expenditure is estimated at Rs 38,00,000 approximately,' the submission said.

After going through submissions, Chief Information Commissioner Y K Sinha said the ministry has explained the cause of delay in furnishing the reply satisfactorily.

'The Appellant has chosen not to buttress his case despite service of hearing notice. Hence the cause of dissatisfaction of the Appellant with the information provided cannot be ascertained," Sinha said.  -- PTI
10:23   India logs 72 Covid deaths in past 24 hrs
India saw a single day rise of 12,608 new coronavirus infections taking the total tally of COVID-19 cases to 4,42,98,864, while the active cases declined to 1,01,343, according to the Union health ministry data updated on Thursday.

The national death toll climbed to 5,27,206 with 72 fatalities, including 29 fatalities by Kerala, the data updated at 8 am stated.

The active cases comprised 0.23 per cent of the total infections, as the national COVID-19 recovery rate was recorded at 98.58 per cent, the health ministry said.

A decline of 3,715 cases was recorded in the active COVID-19 caseload in a span of 24 hours.

The daily positivity rate was recorded at 3.48 per cent, and weekly at 4.20 per cent, according to the health ministry.

The number of people who have recuperated from the disease has surged to 4,36,70,315.

The overall fatality rate to date stands at 1.19 per cent.

According to the ministry, 208.95 crore doses of COVID vaccine have been administered in the country so far under the nationwide COVID-19 vaccination drive.

India's COVID-19 tally had crossed the 20-lakh mark on August 7, 2020.

It crossed the grim milestone of two crore on May 4, 2021, and four crore on January 25 this year.

The 43 new fatalities composed of eight from Delhi, six from Maharashtra, five from Haryana, four each from Punjab and West Bengal, three from Karnataka, two each from Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Odisha, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh and one each from Chandigarh, Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand.  -- PTI
09:46   US, Taiwan begin trade talks to China's chagrin
The United States and Taiwan on Wednesday have started formal negotiations under a trade initiative to deepen the trade and investment relationship, in another move to support the island country.

Revealing a negotiating mandate for the US-Taiwan Initiative on 21st Century Trade announced on June 1, Deputy US Trade Representative Sarah Bianchi said, "Today, we begin negotiations with Taiwan under the auspices of AIT and TECRO that will deepen our trade and investment relationship, advance mutual trade priorities based on shared values, and promote innovation and inclusive economic growth for our workers and businesses."

The office of the US Trade Representative in a statement said that the first rounds of negotiations are expected to take place 'early this fall'.

'We plan to pursue an ambitious schedule for achieving high-standard commitments and meaningful outcomes covering the eleven trade areas in the negotiating mandate that will help build a fairer, more prosperous and resilient 21st-century economy,' Bianchi said in the statement.

Both the countries, under the auspices of AIT and TECRO, have set the agenda for negotiations on trade facilitation, good regulatory practices, strong anti-corruption standards, enhancing trade between our small and medium enterprises, deepening agriculture trade, removing discriminatory barriers to trade, digital trade, robust labour and environmental standards, as well as ways to address distortive practices of state-owned enterprises and non-market policies and practices.

According to the statement, the US will continue to consult with Congress and key stakeholders like labour, business, environmental groups, and others throughout the negotiations.

On June 1, 2022, under the auspices of AIT and TECRO, the United States and Taiwan announced their intent to develop an ambitious roadmap for negotiations under the US-Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Century Trade.

This new trade relationship seems to be like adding fuel to the US-China deteriorating relationship.

Earlier, State Department spokesperson Ned Price, Wednesday, said the US will continue to take steps that are resolute but also calm to uphold peace and stability in the face of Beijing's ongoing efforts to undermine the status quo of Taiwan.

"These steps across a range of areas will unfold over the coming weeks and months because we recognise that this challenge is long-term," Price said during a press briefing.

He said the United States expects China to continue 'military intimidation and coercive economic tactics' against Taiwan in the coming weeks.

Price added that China has maintained a heightened military air and maritime posture around Taiwan despite the end of exercises.

Furthermore, the State Department spokesperson said any US moves to counter China's activity around Taiwan will be consistent with the One China policy, the Taiwan Relations Act, and other measures.

Last week, a new delegation of US lawmakers visited Taiwan, less than two weeks after Pelosi's visit to the self-ruled island angered China and set off large-scale military drills in the Taiwan Strait.

On Tuesday, China staged military exercises in five areas of the South China Sea off the coast of the southeastern Guangdong province. Several zones of the Yellow Sea are also involved in the ongoing drills on August 17-19.   -- ANI
09:10   Gotabaya to return to Sri Lanka on August 24, says cousin
Gotabaya Rajapaksa will return to Sri Lanka on August 24, his cousin Udayanga Weeratunga said on Wednesday, over a month after the former president fled the country amid mass anti-government protests over an unprecedented economic crisis.

Sri Lanka, a country of 22 million people, is grappling with its worst economic turmoil in seven decades, leaving millions struggling to buy food, medicine, fuel and other essentials.

The massive protests that began in March culminated with Rajapaksa's resignation.

"He talked to me on the phone, I can tell you he will return to the country next week, said Weeratunga, who was Sri Lanka's ambassador to Russia from 2006 to 2015. Rajapaksa could return on August 24," he said, adding that the ousted president should not be re-elected for political positions.

But he can still do some service to the country as he had done previously, Weeratunga said of the 73-year-old former Sri Lankan president. Rajapaksa is currently staying at a hotel in Bangkok in the heart of Thailand's capital, where police have advised him to remain indoors for security reasons.

Rajapaksa arrived in Thailand from Singapore on August 11 on a charter flight for a temporary stay before seeking permanent asylum in another country.

He arrived in Bangkok on the same day that his visa in Singapore expired. A day earlier, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha had confirmed a temporary visit to Thailand by the 73-year-old embattled Sri Lankan leader for humanitarian reasons, and said he promised not to conduct political activities in the kingdom during his search for permanent asylum in another country.

The Sri Lankan government had directly appealed on behalf of the ousted President and sought permission to allow him to seek temporary shelter in Thailand.

After fleeing to the Maldives from Sri Lanka on July 13, Rajapaksa then flew to Singapore, where he announced his resignation as the president a day later after months of protests over Sri Lanka's unprecedented economic crisis.

A report earlier in the Daily Mirror newspaper had said Rajapaksa will return to Sri Lanka in November after his 90-day Thai visa runs out.

The anti-government protesters accused the Rajapaksa family, which has dominated Sri Lanka's political scene for nearly two decades, of plunging the country into the worst economic crisis since the country's independence in 1948 through mismanagement and corruption.

The country, with an acute foreign currency crisis that resulted in foreign debt default, had announced in April that it is suspending nearly $7 billion foreign debt repayment due for this year out of about $25 billion due through 2026.

Sri Lanka's total foreign debt stands at $51 billion.

The United Nations has warned that 5.7 million people require immediate humanitarian assistance, with Sri Lankans experiencing extreme shortages of essentials including food, fuel and medicines.

The new Sri Lankan government led by Rajapaksa's ally President Ranil Wickremesinghe faces the task of leading the country out of its economic collapse and restoring order.

Sri Lanka has seen months of mass unrest over the worst economic crisis, with the government declaring bankruptcy in mid-April by refusing to honour its international debt.  --  PTI
08:43   Top cleric among 20 killed in Kabul mosque blast
An explosion at a mosque in the north of the Afghan capital of Kabul killed 20 people and injured 40 more, media reports said.

The blast reportedly took place in a mosque in the Khair Khana area during evening prayers.

"As a result of an explosion in a mosque north of Kabul, 20 people were killed and another 40 were injured," an Afghan security source told Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera on Wednesday.

The Taliban claim they have full control of Afghanistan but the Islamic State continues carrying out attacks on civilians and police across the country.

The Taliban has not issued any statement on casualties, according to the Afghan news agency.

No terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the blast so far.

Among the dead is a top Islamic cleric named Amir Mohammad Kabuli.

Two weeks ago, two deadly blasts in Kabul took the lives of 10 people, injuring 40 others.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for both attacks.

This blast comes on the heels of one year of Taliban rule in Afghanistan.

Rights groups said the Taliban have broken multiple pledges to respect human rights and women's rights.

After capturing Kabul in August last year, the Islamic authorities have imposed severe restrictions on women's and girls' rights, suppressed the media, and arbitrarily detained, tortured, and summarily executed critics and perceived opponents, among other abuses.

The New York-based rights group in its report said Taliban human rights abuses have brought widespread condemnation and imperilled international efforts to address the country's dire humanitarian situation. -- ANI

IMAGE: Taliban fighters at the site of a blast in Kabul, on August 6, 2022. Photograph: Ali Khara/Reuters
Aaditya Thackeray
Aaditya Thackeray
01:15   Some MLAs in Shinde camp contacting us: Aaditya
Disgruntled MLAs from Eknath Shinde's faction are in touch with the Uddhav Thackeray group after the recent expansion of the Cabinet in Maharashtra, said former minister Aaditya Thackeray on Wednesday.

"Some MLAs are trapped in the Eknath Shinde faction are now contacting us after the Cabinet expansion. Our doors are open for all who want to join us back," Aaditya Thackeray said. 

Aaditya Thackeray also gave a challenge to turncoats to tender their resignations and fight elections again.

"All who want to stay there, tender your resignation and face us in elections," he added.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde last week expanded his Cabinet, inducting nine MLAs each of the rebel Shiv Sena camp and the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is supporting his government.

The Cabinet expansion comes over 40 days after Chief Minister Shinde and deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis were sworn in after a rebellion led by the former toppled the Udhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government in the state.

After recent political turbulence and with 18 ministers taking oath recently in Maharashtra, the western state's Chief Minister Eknath Shinde on Sunday announced the allocation of portfolios to newly-appointed ministers in the state Cabinet with deputy Chief Minister Fadnavis bagging major roles and ministries.

Shinde will look after general administration, urban development, information and public relations, public works department and several other major portfolios not allocated to other ministers.

Fadnavis will hold the portfolios of home, finance and planning, law and justice, water resources and command area development, housing, energy, and protocol.

Senior BJP leader Chandrakant Patil was allotted higher and technical education, textile industry and parliamentary work while Ravindra Chavhan was assigned ministry of public works (excluding public enterprises), food and civil supplies and consumer protection. -- ANI