Wed, 08 February 2023
Decide on Sena symbol after SC ruling: Uddhav to EC

Timeline  Refresh

23:25   Decide on Sena symbol after SC ruling: Uddhav to EC
Uddhav Thackeray, who heads a faction of the Shiv Sena, on Wednesday said that the decision by the Supreme Court on the disqualification of the party's rebel MLAs should come first and then by the Election Commission on whom the original party belongs to.
Addressing a press conference, Thackeray also asked why the EC froze the Shiv Sena' name and its bow and arrow' symbol when it has not been used by the rival Eknath Shinde faction yet.
The decision on disqualification should come first and then by the Election Commission (which faction is the original Shiv Sena), Thackerya said, adding that the apex court will start hearing the matter related to the disqualification of rebel MLAs on a daily basis from February 14.
The Shiv Sena was split after Shinde broke away last year, triggering the collapse of the Maha Vikash Aghadi government an alliance of Sena, Congress and Nationalist Congress Party led by Thackeray. He then joined hands with the BJP to become the chief minister.
Giving the sequence of events, Thackeray said the MLAs rebelled in June after which the Shiv Sena approached the Supreme Court seeking their disqualification, while the dissidents sought to stake claim over the party in July.
On January 30, the Thackeray and Shinde factions made their final submissions before the EC, asserting their claim to the party organisation and its poll symbol.
Stressing that the legislative wing of the party is not the original party, Thackeray said if this logic is taken into consideration, then anyone can become the prime minister or chief minister in the country using the power of money. -- PTI
23:10   Democracy cremated: Cong on Rahul's expunged remarks
The Congress on Wednesday strongly criticised the expunging of certain remarks made by Rahul Gandhi in Parliament targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and alleged that "democracy was cremated" in Lok Sabha.
Gandhi had made these remarks while participating in a debate on the Motion of Thanks on the President's Address in Lok Sabha on Tuesday.
In a tweet, without mentioning the expunging of his remarks, Gandhi said, "Mr Prime Minister, you cannot wipe out the voice of democracy."
"Indian people are asking you direct questions, you must reply," Gandhi said.
Later, while heading into Parliament during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's remarks in Lok Sabha, Gandhi asked reporters, "Why were my words expunged?"
Congress general secretary in-charge communications Jairam Ramesh said, "With the expunging of Rahul Gandhi's remarks on PM linked Adani Maha Mega Scam, deMOcracy was cremated in the Lok Sabha. OM Shanti."
In another tweet, Ramesh said, "18 remarks by Rahul Gandhi in LS expunged: 1.Every question asked of PM- deleted! 2. All references to relationship between Adani & Modi before 2014- deleted! 3.Misuse of agencies & foreign trips- deleted!"
"You can expunge,but you can't exterminate! Jagadguru of Jhoot stands exposed," the Congress general secretary said.
He also tweeted the three pages of expunged remarks.
In his remarks in Lok Sabha, Gandhi had alleged that the meteoric rise in Gautam Adani's fortunes happened after the BJP came to power in 2014 and he rose from the 609th to the second spot in the global rich list.
22:39   Child marriage crackdown: Temporary jails coming in Assam
As the crackdown on child marriage continued in Assam, the police are now setting up additional prison facilities to house the accused, with two such arrangements in Goalpara and Cachar districts already in the offing.
While accused from different districts have already been moved to the facility in Goalpara, another such temporary jail is coming up in Cachar as well.
"We have got the approval for setting up a temporary jail. It will be established in a non-functional existing government premises near Silchar," Cachar Superintendent of Police Nomal Mahatta told PTI.
He said building and other infrastructure are already available and security arrangements are now being put in place.
Mahatta added that the temporary jail will be used once the existing facilities run out of space.
In Goalpara district, a transit camp for doubtful and declared foreigners in Matia area is being used to accommodate accused in child marriage cases from neighbouring districts, a police official said.
"Some of the accused held in Nalbari, Barpeta and Kamrup districts are being brought to this temporary jail," he said.
The first dedicated centre to put suspected and declared foreigners in Assam, the Matia transit camp has a capacity to house 3,000 inmates, with 68 people moved into it in the first batch in January.
The opposition has criticised the manner in which the drive against child marriage was being carried out, equating the police action with "terrorising people".
Family members of those arrested have also been protesting against the operation.
The Kailash Satyarthi Children's Foundation has demanded that the Assam government provide a monthly assistance of Rs 2,000 to every woman whose husband has been arrested till he gets bail.
AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi had said that the Assam government should have concentrated on increasing literacy levels if it was actually seized of the problem of child marriage.
At least 2,528 people have been arrested and 4,074 cases registered in the state so far as part of the crackdown that began on Friday.
With the large number of household heads, in many cases the sole bread earners, being arrested, protests were staged in different parts of the state with wives, children and family members coming out on the streets.
"Our menfolk have been taken away by the police, leaving us without anyone to look after or to provide food for us," said Reshma Khatun, one of those protesting at Dhubri on Monday.
21:46   Suspected spy detained along India-Pak border in Jaisalmer
A man has been detained along the India-Pakistan international border in Rajasthan's Jaisalmer district on suspicion of espionage activities, police said on Wednesday.    
Haneef Khan, a resident of Jhalria village of the district, was detained by the Border Security Force (BSF) over his alleged links with Pakistani agents, Ramgarh police said. 
The man was later handed over to police for further investigation. -- PTI
21:42   'Russia will lose': Zelenskyy addresses UK lawmakers
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday predicted that Russia would lose the war against his country, and thanked the British people for their support from "Day One" since Moscow's military offensive. 
"I stand before you on behalf of our brave soldiers who are right now under artillery fire," Zelenskyy said in a rousing address to Parliament, during which he complimented the strong British character. 
Speaking of his country, Zelenskyy said Ukraine "will always come out on top of evil". 
"This lies at the core of our, and also your, traditions," he said ahead of his meeting with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. 
"Russia will lose", Zelenskyy in a historic address, wearing his trademark olive sweatshirt. 
This is his first visit to the UK since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. 
"We know freedom will win, we know Russia will lose and the victory will change the world," he declared in his address at Westminster Hall. 
To coincide with the visit, Sunak extended UK's ongoing support to train Ukrainian fighter jet pilots and marines to help upskill their defensive capabilities.  
Buckingham Palace has confirmed that the surprise visit, not announced in advance due to security reasons, will also include an audience with King Charles III.

According to UK government officials, the leaders will discuss a two-pronged approach to Britain's support for Ukraine, starting with an immediate surge of military equipment to the country to help counter Russia's "offensive" and reinforced by long-term support.  
"President Zelenskyy's visit to the UK is a testament to his country's courage, determination and fight, and a testament to the unbreakable friendship between our two countries," Sunak said. 
"Since 2014, the UK has provided vital training to Ukrainian forces, allowing them to defend their country, protect their sovereignty and fight for their territory. I am proud that today we will expand that training from soldiers to marines and fighter jet pilots, ensuring Ukraine has a military able to defend its interests well into the future," he said.
21:35   Netanyahu, Modi discuss ways to bolster 'close and important' ties: Israeli PMO
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, on Wednesday discussed ways to strengthen close and important relations between their countries and expressed their mutual desire to deepen cooperation in the fields of hi-tech, economy and security. 
This was the second phone call between the two leaders since Netanyahu returned to power in December last year. 
The phone call lasted for about 20 minutes, the Israeli PMO said. 
"The two leaders discussed ways to strengthen the close and important relations between Israel and India," a statement from the PMO said. 
"The two leaders expressed a mutual desire to deepen the cooperation between the countries in the fields of high-tech, economy and security, it added. 
In his call on January 11, Prime Minister Modi congratulated Netanyahu on being sworn in as the Prime Minister and emphasised the importance of continued cooperation between the two countries. 
Netanyahu, 73, was sworn-in as Israel's prime minister for a sixth time on December 29, last year, leading the Jewish state's most right-wing government to date. 

He is already Israel's longest-serving Prime Minister. 
During the previous phone call, Modi invited Netanyahu to visit India at a mutually convenient date. 
The ties between India and Israel have been on an upswing in the last few years in a range of sectors, including defence, agriculture and water. -- PTI 
20:59   Lok Sabha adjourned for lack of quorum
The Lok Sabha was adjourned for the day on Wednesday evening for a lack of quorum.
DMK member Dayanidhi Maran raised the issue of quorum after his party colleague T R Baalu completed his speech on a debate on the Union Budget.
Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla directed officials to ring the quorum bell to ensure presence of at least 55 members, which is 10 per cent of the total strength of the House.
As the government's floor managers failed to muster the required numbers, the Speaker adjourned the proceedings for the day. The Lok Sabha had extended its sitting till 8 pm to continue the debate on the Union Budget.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered a nearly 85-minute speech in reply to a debate on the Motion of Thanks on the President's Address in Lok Sabha.
After the House was adjourned, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury told reporters outside Parliament, "Soon after the prime minister completed his speech and left, all his sycophants also followed him. The House had to be adjourned for want of quorum." -- PTI
20:38   Unconstitutional Maha govt will fall soon: Aaditya
Shiv Sena-UBT leader and former Maharashtra minister Aaditya Thackeray on Wednesday said the "unconstitutional" state government headed by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde will not last long and fall very soon. 
Aaditya, son of Shiv Sena president and former chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, was addressing a rally at Badnapur in Jalna district as part of his 'Shiv Samvad Yatra'. 
"People of Maharashtra know how this government is being run. This unconstitutional government would not last for many days. It will fall very soon," he said.  
Aaditya's remarks came ahead of the Supreme Court starting hearing the matter related to the disqualification of 16 rebel MLAs of Shiv Sena daily beginning February 14. 
Shinde, who rebelled against Shiv Sena leadership last June leading to the collapse of the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government, heads the Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena (BSS) faction of Shiv Sena and shares power with the Bharatiya Janata Party.   
"I had asked chief minister Eknath Shinde and dared him to remove state governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari for insulting great personalities. He had insulted public icons and Maharashtra, but Shinde did not utter a single word," Aaditya alleged.
The Opposition has been demanding the removal of Koshyari for "insulting" Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj by calling him the "icon of olden times".
Aaditya also said he had challenged CM Shinde to contest the Assembly election against him from the Worli seat in Mumbai or Thane.
Aaditya represents the Worli Assembly seat while Thane is the home turf of the chief minister. 
He alleged the Shinde-BJP government was wasting public money. 
"They (rebel MLAs) had gone to see 'dongar and jhadi' (mountain and forest- a reference to the stay of rebel Shiv Sena MLAs at a hotel in Guwahati last year). They (chief minister Shinde and others) went to Davos (for World Economic Forum) and spent Rs 40 crore to see snow. How could they spend Rs 40 crore in just 28 hours? he asked. PTI  
20:29   Assam govt must provide assistance to child marriage victims: Satyarthi's foundation
Assam government's decision to eliminate child marriage by penalising the perpetrators was a welcome step but the state must provide financial assistance, legal support and rehabilitation to the victims, the Kailash Satyarthi Children's Foundation said on Wednesday.
The government should immediately provide Rs 2,000 per month from the Chief Minister's Relief Fund as financial assistance to every girl whose husband has been arrested and until he gets bail, said the organisation founded by the social reformer who received the Nobel Peace prize in 2014.
The state and district legal service authority should be directed to grant interim compensation within a week to all girls where the police have invoked sections under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO) along with sections of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA), 2006, it added.
Assistance should also be given to children born out of child marriages, the foundation's Managing Director Rahul Kumar Shrawat said in a statement.
"The action by the state government is the first ever stringent step by any state government in the country to protect children but we also appeal that the state government looks at the human aspects involved," it said.
"As young girls are victims of child marriage, we urge that the state government consider our proposals to provide immediate rehabilitation and compensation to the victims to reduce their sufferings," it added.
The foundation also extended assistance to the government for spreading awareness, legal aid and rehabilitation of child victims, and support to children who have suffered sexual abuse and are victims under the POCSO Act.
The Assam Police has arrested 2,528 people and registered 4,074 cases as part of the crackdown that began on Friday.
Justifying the action, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said teenage pregnancy accounted for nearly 17 per cent of over 6.2 lakh pregnant women last year in the state.
The opposition criticised the manner in which it was being carried out, equating the police action with "terrorising people".
Family members of those arrested have also been protesting against the operation.
The state cabinet recently approved a proposal to book men who have married girls below 14 years under the POCSO Act.
Cases under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 will be registered against those who have married girls in the age group of 14-18, the cabinet had decided.
The offenders will be arrested and the marriages declared illegal.
Assam has a high rate of maternal and infant mortality, with child marriage being identified as the primary cause, according to the National Family Health Survey. -- PTI 
19:48   No personal issues with Adani or Ambani, but...: Cong
Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury Wednesday said Rahul Gandhi hit the right chord by flagging the issue related to industrialist Gautam Adani, but insisted the party has no "personal issues" with Adani or Ambani. 
"We want the country to grow and have more industrialists," Chowdhury said, participating in a debate on the Motion of Thanks to the President's Address in Lok Sabha. 
"I am saying it openly, we have no personal issues with Adani ji. We have no personal issues with Ambani ji," he said. 
His remarks came a day after Gandhi led a blistering Opposition attack in Lok Sabha over a report by US-based short-seller Hindenburg Research. Gandhi had claimed that the meteoric rise in Adani's fortunes happened after the BJP came to power in 2014 and rose in the global rich list from the 609th to the second spot eventually.
Gandhi's arrow has hit the right target and he has made the BJP look like a "pappu", Chowdhury said, inviting a swift taunt from Home Minister Amit Shah who "You cannot call the honourable MP (Rahul Gandhi) Pappu".
Chowdhury said the issues Rahul Gandhi flagged are being discussed all over the country. He also accused the BJP of defending the Adani Group, and said never in the past has a ruling party has come out in the defence of one industrialist.
Chowdhury also said the BJP has time and again mentioned that President Droupadi Murmu comes from a tribal community, and "made it as an election issue".
The Congress leader said he wonders if Murmu was made President for political gains as earlier no one talked about the religion or caste of a president. This amounts to raising questions over her capabilities, he said.
"It looks as if you (BJP) have gifted" the post to a tribal woman, he said, adding 
He also said the Congress never called the prime minister as "OBC dada (brother)".
19:46   Sidharth-Kiara make 1st appearance as married couple
Newlyweds Kiara Advani and Sidharth Malhotra made their first public appearance together post their magical wedding in Jaisalmer. 

The couple was clicked at the Jaisalmer airport a while ago as they left for New Delhi. 

She was seen sporting a black velvet tracksuit but what made her look even better was the 'Sindoor' that she flaunted along with a 'mangalsutra' and 'chooda'! 

Sidharth, on the other hand, kept it casual in a leather jacket and denims. 

They walked hand-in-hand towards the paparazzi, with beaming smiles as the photographers congratulated them on their wedding.  

Sidharth and Kiara tied the knot in Jaisalmer's Suryagarh on February 7.
19:44   Leopard strays into Ghaziabad court complex, injures 6 people
A leopard strayed into the court complex under the Kavinagar police station area in Uttar Pradesh's Ghaziabad on Wednesday afternoon and injured six people, police said.
"Around six people have sustained injuries after being attacked by the animal, which is still on the court premises," Assistant Commissioner of Police Abhishek Srivastav said.
A joint operation of police and the forest department is underway to rescue the leopard, he said.
According to police officials, the court premises were vacated after news of the animal's presence spread.
"Teams of the forest department and local police reached the complex and assisted some people who were stuck inside," Srivastav said, adding that the injured have been hospitalised. -- PTI 
19:27   India-Pak trade stood at $1.35bn during Apr-Dec 2022
The bilateral trade between India and Pakistan has increased to USD 1.35 billion during April-December 2022 as against USD 516.36 million in the whole 2021-22, Parliament was informed on Wednesday.
Similarly, the country's trade with China has aggregated at about USD 87 billion during the nine-month period of this fiscal, according to the data provided by Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Anupriya Patel in a written reply to the Lok Sabha.
In 2019, Pakistan suspended bilateral trade with India after New Delhi revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
The trade with Pakistan stood at USD 329.26 million in 2020-21 and USD 830.58 million in 2019-20, the data showed.
"The government continues to engage pro-actively with SAARC countries to strengthen trade and economic relations. Issues impacting bilateral trade raised by these countries are taken up for an early resolution," she said.
Replying to a separate question on foreign trade data, the minister said that the data are released in three stages -- press release (15th day of the following month); provisional data for 168 principal commodities (25th day of the following month) and the final data on the 45th day of the following month.
She said that the efforts at ensuring data availability with minimal discrepancies is a continuous process.
"The Department of Commerce has taken note of media reports on data discrepancies," she added. -- PTI
Shanelle Irani with her fiance Arjun Bhalla
Shanelle Irani with her fiance Arjun Bhalla
19:04   Smriti Irani's daughter to get married in Rajasthan tomorrow
Rajasthan is set to witness another high-profile wedding as Shanelle, daughter of Union cabinet minister Smriti Irani and Zubin Irani, is going to tie the knot with Canada-based lawyer Arjun Bhalla on Thursday.
On Tuesday, actors Sidharth Malhotra and Kiara Advani got married in an intimate ceremony in Rajasthan's Jaisalmer. The duo tied the knot in the presence of their families and close friends at the Suryagarh Palace.
Shanelle's wedding functions are being held at the famous Khimsar Fort in Nagaur district near Jodhpur.
The 16th century property owned by the former state minister Gajendra Singh Khimsar and nestled in the golden sand dunes has been decked up for the events starting from Wednesday.
While Zubin and the bride groom had already reached the venue on Tuesday, Irani, who could not on account of the session in Parliament, reached Jodhpur on Wednesday morning and headed straight to the venue by road to join the functions.
According to the fort sources, the guest list has already been provided to the fort management. Only 50 members have been invited to the wedding ceremonies and all are said to be family members and very close ones.
The ceremonies began with the rituals like 'mehandi' and application of turmeric on Wednesday and will culminate in the night with a musical and dance programme along with dinner.
"All the arrangements have been done in the fort with respect to the events of the wedding. We are committed to making the experience for the guests here memorable", said a fort official.
Khimsar, who belongs to the BJP, himself is taking care of all the arrangements of the wedding ceremonies. Strick security arrangements have been put in place in and around the fort to keep an eye on unwarranted elements and ensure privacy to the guests.
Arjun Bhalla and Shanelle, a law graduate, got engaged in 2021. -- PTI 
18:45   France's Total puts hydrogen partnership with Adani on hold
France's TotalEnergies, one of the largest foreign investors in billionare Gautam Adani's business empire, said it has put on hold participation in Indian conglomerate's USD 50 billion hydrogen project pending results of an audit launched following allegations by a US short-seller.
While the partnership with Adani group was announced in June last year, TotalEnergies has not yet signed a contract, the French group's chief executive Patrick Pouyanne said at earnings call.
As per the June 2022 announcement, TotalEnergies was to take 25 per cent equity in Adani New Industries Ltd (ANIL) - the Adani Group firm that is investing USD 50 billion over 10 years in green hydrogen ecosystem that includes an initial production capacity of 1 million tonnes before 2030.
"Obviously, the hydrogen project will be put on hold until we have clarity," Pouyanne said.
TotalEnergies, which has an exposure of USD 3.1 billion in Adani group, will wait for the result of an audit launched by the conglomerate in response to allegations of accounting and financial fraud levelled by Hindenburg Research.
Adani group has vehemently denied the allegations, calling them malicious and an "attack on India".
"It was announced, nothing was signed. It doesn't exist," Pouyanne said, referring to the hydrogen venture. "Mr Adani has other things to deal with now, it's just good sense to pause things while the audit goes forward." -- PTI 
18:35   1 Indian missing, 10 stuck in quake-Hit Turkey: Govt
Ten Indians are stuck in remote parts of earthquake-hit Turkiye but they are safe while one citizen is missing, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on Wednesday.
Secretary (West) in the MEA Sanjay Verma said the Indians in Turkiye are relatively safe.
He said the government is in touch with the family members of the Indian who is missing in Turkiye.
India has already sent relief materials to Turkiye in four military transport aircraft.
The death toll in Turkiye and Syria due to the 7.3-magnitude earthquake has gone past 11,000. -- PTI 
18:16   Farmers need to link bank a/c with Aadhaar by Feb 10 for getting PM Kisan benefits
Beneficiary farmers of PM Kisan Scheme will have to get their bank account e-KYC verified by February 10, an official said.
It has been made mandatory for the beneficiaries of the PM Kisan Scheme before February 10, 2023, for e-KYC, linking bank account with Aadhaar and direct benefit transfer to bank account for the next installment transfer, Meghraj Singh Ratnu, the state nodal officer of the scheme said.
He said that instructions have been given by the Government of India in this regard.
In a statement, Ratnu said that by January 2023, 67 per cent e-KYC and 88 per cent bank accounts have been linked to Aadhaar by the beneficiaries of this scheme in the state. In the state, about 24.45 lakh beneficiaries are yet to get e-KYC done and 1.94 akh beneficiaries are yet to link their bank accounts with Aadhaar.
He said that the beneficiaries who have not yet got e-KYC done and have not linked their bank account with Aadhaar, they must get it done before February 10. India Post Payments Bank has been authorized for the purpose. -- PTI
17:51   Gainers and losers in Sensex pack
Ending its two-day slide, the 30-share BSE Sensex on Wednesday rose by 377.75 points, or 0.63 per cent, to close at 60,663.79, with 24 of its constituents posting gains. 

The broader Nifty of the NSE spurted by 150.20 points or 0.85 per cent to settle at 17,871.70, riding on a rally in Adani Enterprises, Adani Ports and HDFC Life. 

The index opened higher and gained further to test the crucial hurdle at 17,900 in the day. Buying in index majors Reliance Industries, Infosys and TCS played a key role in the rebound. 

Among Sensex stocks, Bajaj Finance rose the most by 3.14 per cent. 

Ultratech Cement, Reliance Industries, Infosys, Wipro, HCL Tech, TCS, Bajaj Finserve, Tata Motors, Tech Mahindra, Titan and Maruti were among the major gainers. 

L&T declined the most by 1.62 per cent, followed by Bharti Airtel, Axis Bank, Kotak Bank and Hindustan Unilever. 

Shares of most of Adani group companies, hit by allegations of stock manipulation and accounting fraud by a US short seller, rallied after rating agencies allayed fears over debt taken by the group entities.
17:48   It's clear that Modi is protecting Adani: Rahul
Reacting to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's stinging attack on the Opposition, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi said that the PM did not answer his questions on Adani issue or did not talk about inquiry.
"I am not satisfied with (Modi's speech). No talk about inquiry (on Adani row). If he (Gautam Adani) is not a friend then he (PM) should have said that inquiry should be conducted. It's clear that the PM is protecting him (Gautam Adani)," Gandhi told reporters.

Replying to the debate on the Motion of Thanks on the President's Address in Lok Sabha, Modi said the world was looking at India with hope amid instability in some parts of the globe due to the once-in-a-century pandemic and conflicts.
"But some people who are neck deep in frustration refuse to accept India's growth story. They cannot see the achievements of 140 crore Indians," Modi said, targeting the Opposition.
The prime minister said people know Modi has come to their help in times of crisis. "How will they agree with your abuses and allegations," he told the Opposition.
"People trust in Modi not due to newspaper headlines or TV visuals but due to my years of dedication in the service of the people," Modi said.
17:26   Oppn MPs walk out of Lok Sabha as Modi speaks
Raising slogans, members of the BRS, Left parties and some members of the Congress walked out of Lok Sabha in protest as Prime Minister Narendra Modi was speaking.
17:13   False, nonsensical mudslinging at me: PM
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, speaking in Lok Sabha a day after Congress's Rahul Gandhi's attack on his government: "Those who are drunk in arrogance and think that only they have the knowledge, feel that only by abusing Modi will a way come out, that only through false, nonsensical mudslinging on Modi will a path be paved. It has been 22 years, they still have a misapprehension.

"Trust in Modi was not born out of newspaper headlines, not through faces on TV. (I have) given my life, every moment of mine for the people of the country, for the glorious future of the country."
17:07   UPA turned every opportunity into crisis: PM
PM Modi in Parliament: "A few people, drowning in despair, are unable to accept the country's progress. They don't see achievements of the people of the country. It's the result of the efforts of 140 crore people of the country due to which India is making a name. They don't see those achievements.

"Speed with which India's digital infrastructure has shown its strength and made a change towards modernity -- it's being studied by the entire world. I was in Bali for G20 Summit. Digital India was being appreciated everywhere and there was curiosity that how the country is doing this.

"During 10 years of UPA govt, inflation was in double digits and hence when something good happens, their sadness increases. In the history of the country's independence, 2004-2014 was full of scams. Terror attacks took place across the country in those 10 years."

Accusing the opposition of being so "immersed in despair" that they can't see the progress the country is making. "Why wouldn't it be so? Because In the decade between 2004 and 2014" he said, and launched into one of his sharpest attacks on the Congress.
File pic
File pic
16:56   Rahul enters Parl: Why were my words expunged?
"Why were my words expunged?" asks Congress MP Rahul Gandhi as he arrives in Parliament in the middle of PM's speech during motion of thanks to President's address, in Lok Sabha.

16:42   PM: UPA-led 2004-2014 was about scams
PM in Parliament: Between 2004-14, the UPA turned every opportunity into a problem. When the world was making advancements in technology, they were stuck in the 2G scam.
"In 2010, Commonwealth Games, an opportunity presented itself to show India's progress to the world, but even that turned into a huge scam.

"Today, all the credible institutions of the world, all experts who deeply study the global effects and can  also make predictions for the future, are very hopeful & excited for India. Why is this happening? Why is the entire world looking at India hopefully.
"The answer lies hidden in India's stability, its global reputation, its rising capability and new possibilities arising here."
16:38   PM: Some people sad about G20 presidency
PM speaking in Parliament wraps his speech in patriotic hues. 
"The pandemic, divided world and destruction due to war has cause instability in several countries. There is acute inflation, unemployment, food crisis in several countries. Which Indian would not be proud that even in such times, the nation is world's 5th largest economy?

"Today, there is positivity, hope, trust for India across the world. It is a matter of joy that today India has received the opportunity of G20 Presidency. It is a matter of pride for the country, for the 140 crore Indians. But I think this too is hurting some people.

"Nobody among the 140 crore can be sad about it. There should be self-introspection as to who are the people who are sad about this too."
16:26   Zelenskyy in UK
UK PM Rishi Sunak shares this image with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. "Welcome to the UK, President @ZelenskyyUa," tweeted Sunak. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is on a visit to Britain on Wednesday, his first trip to the UK since Russia's invasion began nearly a year ago and only his second confirmed journey outside Ukraine during the war.
  The British government says Zelenskyy will hold talks with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, address Parliament and meet with UK military chiefs.
16:25   PM: Some people unhappy with India's success
PM in Parliament: "This government does not believe in reform out of compulsion but reform out of conviction.
India oversaw the world's largest vaccination drive.
India gave free vaccines to its citizens.
India gave free vaccines and medicines to more than 150+ nations.
Many countries around the world are thankful to India.
Some people are unhappy with this as well.
Today every global organisation sees hope in India. Our country now stands for a brighter future and new possibilities.
Today India has stability, a stable government."

He added, "When President's address was going on, some people avoided it. A tall leader even insulted the President. They displayed hatred against ST. When such things were said on TV, the sense of hatred deep within came out. Attempt was made to save oneself after writing a letter later."
16:14   PM: Entire ecosystem was excited yesterday
PM Modi takes a dig at Rahul Gandhi's speech in Parliament, says "People spoke according to their nature. Entire ecosystem was excited by some people's speech." 

Quoting poet Jigar Moradabadi, Modi said, "I was watching yesterday. After the speeches of a few people, some people were happily saying, "Ye hui na baat." Maybe they slept well & couldn't wake up (on time). For them it has been said, "Ye keh keh ke hum dil ko behla rahe hain,wo ab chal chuke hain, wo ab aa rahe hain".
16:08   PM's motion of thanks on Prez address begins
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's reply to the motion of thanks on the President's address in the Lok Sabha begins. 

The Lok Sabha has allocated a time of over 12 hours to discuss President's Address.

Earlier today, BJP MP Nishikant Dubey called for action against Rahul Gandhi for his attack on PM Modi Prime in parliament, over his links with billionaire Gautam Adani, saying the statements were "misleading, derogatory and indecent".

"The President has enhanced the pride of the tribal community. Today, after several years of independence, there is sense of pride in the tribal community and increase in their self-confidence. This nation and House is grateful to her for this," PM tells Parliament.
15:55   Under Operation Dost India steps up to help Turkey
India is providing materials, supplies, medical supplies, and equipment, to Syria as well as sending search and rescue teams to Turkey under 'Operation Dost', said External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Wednesday.

The search for survivors of the terrible earthquake that shook Turkey and Syria on Monday continues on Wednesday. Foreign aid from multiple countries has started arriving in the region.

 "Under #OperationDost, India is sending search and rescue teams, a field hospital, materials, medicines and equipment to Turkiye and Syria. This is an ongoing operation and we would be posting updates," Jaishankar tweeted.

According to aid organisations and rescuers, the number of fatalities is expected to rise as many people are still buried beneath the wreckage.

The Turkey-Syria earthquake death toll currently stands at 9,487, CNN reported citing officials as rescue operations continue in the disaster-hit countries. India dispatched its fourth batch of aid, including 54 members of the medical team from the Indian Army as part of the country's Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief on Tuesday.

Recently, over 6 tons of emergency relief assistance reached Syria and was received at the Damascus airport by Deputy Minister of Local Administration and Environment Moutaz Douaji. 

It included 3 truck-loads of protective gear, emergency use medicines, ECG machines and other medical items, the Ministry of External Affairs said in an official statement. -- ANI
15:54   Cong sticks to JPC demand on Adani issue
Rajya Sabha on Wednesday witnessed noisy scenes as Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge demanded a joint parliamentary committee probe on the allegations against the Adani Group, and asked if the rise of the industrialist was due to his friendship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

During the debate on the 'Motion of Thanks on the President's Address', Leader of the House Piyush Goyal and Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman strongly objected to 'insinuations' against the prime minister, who was also present in the House.

Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar asked opposition members not to use the platform of Parliament to make 'anti-national' statements based on foreign reports.

To this, the opposition members voiced strong objection for questioning their patriotism.

In 2014, the prime minister had made the statement 'na khaunga, na khane dunga', Kharge said, and asked, "Was it a jumla?"

The Congress leader also wondered if the prime minister was pandering to a select few industrialists.

Without naming Gautam Adani, who is in the middle of a political storm after the US-based short-seller Hindenburg Research's adverse report triggered a meltdown in the group stocks wiping out billions of dollars in market value, the Leader of Opposition said the wealth of a 'close friend' of Modi has grown 13 times in two-and-a-half years.

The individual's wealth has gone up from Rs 50,000 crore in 2014 to Rs 1 lakh crore in 2019, Kharge alleged, and wondered what miracle happened in two years that wealth of Rs 12 lakh crore has been acquired.

Stressing that he does not understand such a 'fast development', Kharge asked if it was because of the friendship.

To this, Dhankhar intervened and said the discourse cannot stoop to allegations which are not substantiated or to the use of 'loose expressions' and casting of aspersions without any basis.

Leader of the House Goyal also intervened and said Kharge was making an allegation which cannot be substantiated and about 'an association which has absolutely has no basis whatsoever'.

"He is talking of a purported wealth which does not have any merit. That is a share market calculation, in which the government has no role to play. It is for the regulators to see and for the share market participants to decide what value they give," Goyal asserted.

BJP member Sushil Modi also objected to the allegations and raised a point of order under Rule 238 (a), which states that no allegation of a defamatory or incriminatory nature shall be made by a member against any other member of the House unless the member making the allegation has given previous intimation to the Chairman.

Dhankhar said the points raised by the treasury bench is valid, and asked Kharge to put documents on record 'with respect to the allegations involving the name of the prime minister'.

"You have used expressions which are not appropriate," he said, adding they are 'stigmatic'.

Dhankhar asserted that every allegation made has to be authenticated.

Sitharaman also objected to Kharge's statement.

"It is one thing to say it is valuation, don't you understand? Please, alright, quote the valuation but they are subtly and overtly repeatedly insinuating against the honourable PM, that's what we are objecting to," she asserted.

When Kharge remarked that instead of strengthening public sector enterprises, which provide jobs to 10 lakh people, the government was letting public money to the tune of Rs 82,000 crore to be used to support the Adani Group, which employs 'only 30,000 people', Dhankhar intervened and said India has a robust mechanism on how people are awarded contracts.

"I am only cautioning the LoP that he is trying to give an impression that India is a country where contracts can be just given away," the chairman said, drawing sharp response from the opposition members.

Goyal said the chair is duty-bound to protect Indians to ensure that the national interest is not compromised.

Dhankhar said any comments made in the House should be in national interest and should be authenticated.

It cannot be an allegation without substance, he added.

Opposition members then jointly asked the Chairman to point out the anti-national comments that Kharge has made.

"Why I say so? An expression was given by the Leader of the Opposition that the largest democracy on earth is giving contracts like this," Dhankhar said.

Kharge retorted on the anti-national remark and said,"I differ with your opinion. If I speak the truth it is anti-national. I am not anti-national. I am more patriotic than anybody of you. I am a 'bhoomiputra'... don't try to suppress my feelings. You are looting the country and telling me that I am anti-national."

He then resumed his speech with a demand for setting up the JPC.

"If the scamster turns out to be pure like Harishchandra , we will go and garland them," he added.

Goyal intervened and said a JPC is set up when there are scams like 'Coalgate' or the 2G scam or there are allegations on the government on the issue of securities.

"If someone gives fact, any allegation is made on the government, someone should apprise that any contract has been given, someone should apprise anything wrong has been done then discuss it (JPC)," he said.

Kharge said he was unable to understand why ruling party members were running away from setting up a JPC.   -- PTI
The Morbi bridge collapsed in October last year
The Morbi bridge collapsed in October last year
15:46   Morbi bridge collapse: Oreva promoter sent to jail
2022 Morbi bridge collapse: Accused, Oreva Group promoter Jaysukh Patel sent to jail. He was produced before Morbi Sessions court today at the end of his 7-day police remand and was sent to jail after the Police didn't seek any further remand.

Patel, whose company was responsible for the operation and maintenance of the bridge, surrendered before the court on January 31 after it issued an arrest warrant against him. He was later arrested by the police.

On February 1, Patel was remanded to police custody for seven days by Morbi's Chief Judicial Magistrate M J Khan in the case of collapse of the suspension bridge here in October last year which claimed 135 lives.

Patel was produced before the magistrate on Wednesday after the completion of his police remand.
Sidhique Kappan
Sidhique Kappan
15:42   I Couldn't Believe I Was A Free Man: Sidhique Kappan
Delhi-based journalist Sidhique Kappan was imprisoned in Uttar Pradesh for more than two years.
He corrects Shobha Warrier, "I was in jail for two years, and five days short of four months."

Only a person who has experienced the horror of getting arrested while on his way to report a crime will know the magnitude of being in jail for doing his duty.

It was on October 5, 2020, that the Uttar Pradesh police arrested Kappan along with three other young men in Mathura under Section 17 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).The UP police alleged that the journalist was linked to the Popular Front of India, a Muslim organisation based out of Kerala, and charged him with sedition under UAPA.

Finally, after a prolonged legal fight, on February 2, 2023, Kappan walked out of jail after being granted bail in the case.

As per the bail norms, he has to be in Delhi and report to the police for six weeks.

After more than two years, he is with his wife and three children who have traveled from Malappuram in Kerala to be with him.
Shobha spoke to Kappan five days after his release. Read the first part of a two-part interview here. 
RBI governor Shaktikanta Das
RBI governor Shaktikanta Das
15:36   India Inc on RBI rate hike
Nilesh Shah, Managing Director, Kotak Mahindra Asset Management Company: "The RBI is playing like Indian cricket team in third one day against New Zealand. Dont take foot of the pedal. After hitting every bowler out of stadium, they dismissed all the batsmen cheaply. The RBI could have said victory over inflation is in sight but instead they are going for absolute containment."

Abheek Barua, Chief Economist and Executive Vice President, HDFC Bank: The policy tone was hawkish as the RBI recognised that they are still away from achieving their objective of durable disinflation. In terms of the inflation risks, the RBI highlighted the elevated nature of core inflation and continuing global risks that could push up domestic inflation going forward. 
"Despite the comments on liquidity conditions remaining accommodative compared to pre-pandemic levels signalling a somewhat hawkish tone we expect the RBI to maintain adequate liquidity surplus to remain growth supportive going forward."

The 25 basis points hike in key policy rate by RBI is in line with expectations, and hopefully is the last in the current cycle of rate increase which started in May 2022 in view of rising inflation, opined industry bodies and experts.

It was the sixth hike in a row, though the quantum was low. The central bank has cumulatively hiked repo rate by 250 basis points since May last year in a bid to contain rising inflation in the wake of global geopolitical tensions.
15:29   Covid cases in India 17 times more than reported
The actual COVID-19 infections in India may be around 17 times higher than the official figure, a study led by researchers at Banaras Hindu University (BHU) suggests. 

 According to government data, nearly 4.5 crore people in India have been infected with COVID-19 so far.

 However, the study published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases (IJID) estimated that the actual coronavirus cases in the country may be between 58 to 98 crores. The research "has shown that the actual corona infection in India was at least 17 times higher," according to a statement by BHU. 

 "The discrepancy observed in our study is due to the overwhelming number of asymptomatic people, which was several-fold higher than the true official infection," said BHU geneticist Professor Gyaneshwer Chaubey. 

 "Asymptomatic cases were more inclined towards the younger population," Chaubey, who led the study, told PTI. The study involved 88 scientists from 34 research institutes across the country. 

 The team conducted serosurvey (antibody testing) among 2,301 individuals in urban areas of fourteen Indian districts in six states during the month of September-December 2020. The most striking aspect of this study was that a large proportion of the Indian population was asymptomatic for COVID infection and the age group 26-35 had the maximum number of asymptomatic people, the researchers said.

 Antibody tests in people after any coronavirus wave accurately assesses the actual infection, they said. The team conducted the research among a large number of people -- street vendors -- living in urban areas from fourteen Indian districts who are most at risk of corona infection.

 "For the first time, we have used a novel approach to estimate the frequency of people infected in a certain geographical region," said BHU's Prajjval Pratap Singh, the study's first author. Samples were taken of only those people who self-reported that they never had any Covid symptoms or positive RT PCR test. -- PTI
14:57   India rushes 3rd NDRF team to Turkey
A fresh team of 51 National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel is being rushed to earthquake-hit Turkiye even as two teams present there have launched rescue operations at multiple collapsed structures, Director General of the force Atul Karwal said Wednesday.

 The third team of the federal contingency force has already been airlifted from Varanasi to Delhi and the rescuers are expected to leave for the disaster-struck nation by tonight on board an IAF plane, he said. 

 According to an international press report, the death toll in the catastrophic Monday quake has surpassed 9,000 even as countries across the globe are rushing aid and manpower to provide succor to the people of Turkiye and neighbouring Syria. 

 Karwal told PTI that the two teams sent on Tuesday, comprising a total 101 personnel, have been given their area of operation in Turkiye and they are in action now deployed at Nurdagi in Gaziantep province while the other is present around Urfa area. 

 "Our teams have started the rescue work and authorities from the Indian Embassy and Turkiye administration are coordinating with them. The third team is preparing to depart after a request in this regard was received by the Indian government from Turkiye," the DG said. 

 Officials said the NDRF rescuers have been informed that as many as 600 buildings of varying sizes have collapsed across Turkiye after the massive quake. 

 The NDRF will work to extricate live victims from under the rubble, provide first-aid to the injured and entrust them to medical response authorities, another officer said. He said the force is using chip and stone cutters to breach fallen concrete slabs and other infrastructure, and has deep radars that pick feeble sounds like the heartbeat or sound of a person. 

 The DG said said the two teams that were sent are self-sufficient and can sustain themselves for almost a fortnight as they have carried rations, tents and other logistics for their survival in the disaster zone. 

 "We have provided our rescuers special winter clothing to work in the extreme cold climate of Turkiye. This clothing has been borrowed from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police and some others," Karwal said. -- PTI
KBK Graphics
KBK Graphics
14:50   RBI policy rates over three years
The Monetary Policy Committee of the Reserve Bank of India decided to raise the key benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points to 6.5 per cent on Wednesday. 
14:32   Adani case can't impact system: RBI chief
Domestic banks' exposure to the Adani Group is "not very significant", and the system is strong and large enough to not get impacted by a single case, the Reserve Bank said on Wednesday. 

 Replying to a specific question on whether the RBI will give any guidance to lenders on their exposures to the Adani group, given certain flags raised by rating agencies, Deputy Governor MK Jain said the domestic banks' exposures are "not very significant" and termed the exposures against shares as "insignificant". 

 "Our domestic banks' exposure is against the underlying assets, the operating cash flows and the projects under implementation. And not based on the market capitalisation," Jain said while speaking to reporters at the customary post-policy review press conference. 

 Governor Shaktikanta Das said the RBI has made its own assessments and found that its large exposure guidelines, which cap exposures to a single company or a group, are fully complied with by all the lenders.

"...the strength, the size and the resilience of the Indian banking system now are much stronger and larger to be affected by an individual incident or a case like this," he added. 

 It can be noted that in the last fortnight, a short seller research firm in the US came out with a report on the Adani Group, accusing the conglomerate of severe shortcomings in governance. 

 The Ahmedabad-based group has denied all the allegations, but the market price of the group companies' shares has taken a severe beating, losing as much as half their value. 

Fearing a risk to banks because of their exposures. Banks' shares also witnessed sell-offs. 

 Das made it clear that a bank's lending calls are not done on the market capitalisation of a company, but take into account the fundamentals of a company, the cash flows expected and other factors that come up in an appraisal process. 

 He said that the loan appraisal process at banks has also undergone improvements over the last few years, and listed out the steps taken to improve the governance and resilience of banks. 

 These include guidelines on governance, audit committees, risk management committees and making it mandatory to appoint chief risk officers and chief compliance officers, Das said. He said the banking system is "stable and continues to be strong" in a reiteration of the proactive statement on the developments at the Adani Group, which the central bank had put out last Friday. -- ANI
Jill Biden kisses Doug Emhoff
Jill Biden kisses Doug Emhoff
14:19   Did Jill Biden just kiss Kamala Harris' husband?
US First lady Jill Biden kissed Vice President Kamala Harris' husband, Doug Emhoff 'on the lips' ahead of the State of the Union Address on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Fox News reported. 

On Tuesday night at the national Capitol, President Biden delivered his second State of the Union address, the first after he lost the majority in the US House of Representatives. Soon after, the moment of the two sharing a kiss went viral on Twitter, with several social media users passing remarks.

"Jill Biden just kissed Kamala Harris' husband on the lips. Didn't see that one coming," a person wrote on Twitter. "Did Jill Biden just kiss Kamala's husband on the LIPS?!," another said. "Sexy start to the State of the Union tonight with Dr Jill Biden and Kamala's husband with a heck of a hello kiss," wrote another. 

 After the Republicans seized control of the House of Representatives, Biden is giving his first significant speech before a divided Congress. He pushed Republicans "friends" to cooperate.
Pic: Umar Ganie
Pic: Umar Ganie
14:11   Police stop Mehbooba's protest march to Parl
Police prevented PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti from taking out a march to Parliament here on Wednesday to protest against an ongoing anti-encroachment drive in Jammu and Kashmir. 

 Accompanied by scores of party workers, Mehbooba planned to march from Railway Bhawan to Parliament, where she wanted to inform opposition parties about the Jammu and Kashmir administration's "bulldozer policy". 

 However, police detained the former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister, and took her and her party workers to Jantar Mantar. The protesters dispersed from Jantar Mantar. 

 "We had come to inform the public, opposition parties and members of the ruling BJP about the misery faced by the public at large in Jammu and Kashmir.

 "If we can't go to Parliament, I wonder where we should go then. Does the government want us to get our grievances redressed at the United Nations," Mehbooba asked.

 There is no rule of law that can be seen in Jammu and Kashmir and "we came all the way to Delhi to speak our hearts out. But it seems that here also the voice of the general public is muzzled," she said.

 The PDP and other political parties of Jammu and Kashmir have denounced the anti-encroachment drive and asked the administration to stop it. They have said that it is affecting the poor. PTI

Image: JK Alliance Democratic Party Workers protest against the state government's ongoing anti-encroachment and eviction drive in Jammu and Kashmir, in Srinagar. 
14:06   Scammers sending WA messages to top tier employees pretending to be their CEO
Cybersecurity researchers on Monday said they have discovered a spear phishing campaign targeting multiple IT firms where scammers were sending WhatsApp messages to top tier employees' personal numbers pretending to be their CEO.
Read the report here.
13:37   Over 9,000 dead in Turkey-Syria earthquake
Turkey-Syria earthquake death toll passes 9,000.
Another earthquake of magnitude 4.3 jolted Nurdagi district, a city in Gaziantep Province of Turkey on Wednesday. The quake was reported around 8:31 am at a depth of 10 km, 15 km south of Nurdagi at the location, 37.032degN 36.721degE, reported by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). 

More than 9,000 have been killed and tens of thousands injured after a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Turkey and Syria on Monday, according to officials. 

Agencies have said those numbers could rise significantly as many people remain trapped under the rubble, reported CNN. 

 Thousands of buildings collapsed in both countries and aid agencies are particularly worried about northwestern Syria, where more than 4 million people were already relying on humanitarian assistance. Freezing weather conditions are further endangering survivors and complicating rescue efforts, as more than 100 aftershocks have struck the region.

Image: A child is carried out by rescuers from the site of a damaged building in Hatay, Turkey, on February 7. Photograph: Umit Bektas/Reuters
13:34   Lucknow can be soon renamed to...: UP deputy CM
Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Brajesh Pathak made a big statement about the demand to change the name of Lucknow and said that it is well known that it was the city of Lakshman.

"The government will give an update about the name change," said the deputy CM, as he reached Bhadohi on Wednesday.

In Bhadohi, the deputy CM held a review meeting regarding the progress of various schemes and development works.

Later, he also unveiled a statue of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Suriyava.

On this occasion, Pathak referred to the demand of BJP MP Sangam Lal Gupta to change the name of Lucknow.

He said that everyone knows that Lucknow was the city of Lakshman. "There will be further talks about the change of name."

BJP MP Sangam Lal Gupta on Tuesday urged Union Home Minister Amit Shah to change the name of Uttar Pradesh's capital city to 'Lakhanpur or Lakshmanpur'.

Stating that the city was earlier named 'Lakhanpur' or 'Lakshmanpur' in the Treta Yug, the BJP MP claimed that Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula renamed it to Lucknow.

Gupta said that Lucknow was gifted by Lord Ram as King of Ayodhya to his brother Laksham in the Treta Yug, which is why the city was known as 'Lakhanpur' or 'Lakshmanpur'.

'Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, was according to the local beliefs, gifted by Maryada Purushottam Lord Shri Ram to Shri Laxman ji in Treta Yug and for that reason it was named 'Lakhanpur' or 'Lakshmanpur'. But later in the 48th century, Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula renamed it to Lucknow. It has been called Lucknow in the same tradition,' the BJP MP wrote in his letter to the home minister.

'It is worth mentioning here that today, in a country that is rich in glorious cultural heritage, it seems completely wrong to give a signal of slavery by telling stories of luxury and wastefulness of the Nawabs of Lucknow to our future generations, even in the 'Amrit Kaal'. Due to this, Lord Dalhousie acquired Awadh and merged it with the British Empire and Nawab Wajid Ali Shah accepted British subordination,' he added.

Gupta requested Shah to rename the Uttar Pradesh capital city in order to 'preserve India's cultural heritage'.

'I request you to change the name of the capital of Uttar Pradesh Lucknow to Lakhanpur or Lakshmanpur in Amrit Kaal in order to preserve India's cultural heritage and glorious history by erasing the symbol of slavery,' Gupta tweeted.

Notably, various BJP leaders have also referred to Hyderabad as Bhagyanagar and demands have been raised in the past to rename the city.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also referred to Telangana's capital as Bhagyanagar during his address to the party workers at the BJP National Executive meeting in July 2022.   -- ANI
TMC MP Mohua Moitra
TMC MP Mohua Moitra
13:02   On unparliamentary language Mohua Moitra says...
Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra who sparked a furore by using "unparliamentary language" in Lok Sabha on Wednesday defended her usage of the word stating that she will call an apple an apple and not an orange. 

 "I do not know what kind of language I am supposed to use. And I am quite surprised that BJP is today teaching us parliamentary etiquette. I will call an apple an apple, not an orange...," Mitra said while speaking to media persons outside Parliament today. 

 The Trinamool MP said that yesterday was an auspicious day for Indian democracy as the country could see the "extent of Adani gate scandal". "There should be furore about this because this topic is about Adani which they have tried to shut us up since 2019. Yesterday all of us showed India for the first time what is 'Adanigate' all about. Now BJP has been trying to shove this under the carpet for the past three years. Yesterday was a 'shubh din' (auspicious day) for Indian democracy because the people of the country could see exactly what the BJP was trying to hide. I am glad all Opposition parties together came out. People of India could see the extent of the Adani gate scandal." 

 Moitra said if the ruling BJP will take her to the privileges committee, she will welcome it and will put her side of the story.

 "If you saw my speech and you saw the kind of heckling that gentleman...I would not call him a honourable representative from Delhi did the entire time. I was not even allowed to speak. He heckled me continuously. I asked for protection from the chairperson five time. The chairperson was unable to give me protection. Whatever I said was not on the record," Moitra said. -- ANI
12:32   Foreign tourist inflow to India up by 4 times after pandemic: Govt
Union Culture and Tourism Minister G Kishan Reddy on Wednesday said nearly 69 lakh foreign tourists visited India in 2022, indicating a four-fold increase in the number of arrivals after two years of negative growth during COVID-19 pandemic.

 Reddy was addressing the Tourism Working Group (TWG) meeting organised at the Tent City in Gujarat's Rann of Kutch as part of India's G20 presidency. He said a 'National Tourism Mission' is also being formulated to ensure the digitalisation of the tourism sector in mission mode. 

 "The world faced difficult times during the COVID-19 pandemic. The tourism sector in particular has been severely affected because of COVID-19. But, after two years of negative growth, India received approximately 6.9 million tourists from abroad in 2022. This is a four-fold increase in the number of arrivals to India," the minister said. The increase in tourist inflow indicates that "our efforts for achieving resilient growth in tourism are progressing in the right direction," he said. 

 This is the second G20 event in the state after the 'Business 20 Inception' programme held in Gandhinagar last month. More than 100 delegates from India and other participating countries are attending the first TWG meeting. Reddy said the Ministry of Tourism, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is celebrating this year as 'Visit India 2023', focussing on inbound travel to India. 

 "We have 40 UNESCO heritage sites, and we observe more than 1,000 festivals every year," he said. During the last eight years, the country has built extensive tourism infrastructure to improve the tourism experience, he said. -- PTI
12:30   BJP wants action against Rahul for PM-Adani remarks
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi on Wednesday demanded that action be taken against Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for his certain objectionable comments made in Lok Sabha, and that they be expunged from the records. 

 Certain remarks of Gandhi made in the House on Tuesday have already been expunged from the records. As soon as the House met for the day, Joshi raised the issue saying that under Parliamentary rules one should serve a notice beforehand if he or she wants to make allegations against anyone. 

"The Congress leader has made some remarks yesterday. Those were very objectionable and baseless allegations. Those should be expunged and action should be taken against him," he told Speaker Om Birla. 

 The minister said a privilege motion will be moved against Gandhi for his comments. He said a privilege notice has already been served but it was not even authenticated. However, the speaker did not take any decision immediately but said he would examine the matter and accordingly decide.

 Gandhi Tuesday led a blistering opposition attack in Lok Sabha over the Hindenburg report, claiming that the meteoric rise in Gautam Adani's fortunes happened after the BJP came to power in 2014 as he rose in the global rich list from the 609th to the second spot eventually. 

The Congress leader's remarks drew a sharp response from the treasury benches, with Law Minister Kiren Rijiju asking him not to level "wild allegations" and to furnish proof of his claims. 

 Outside Parliament, BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad accused Gandhi of making baseless, shameless and reckless allegations and charged that the Congress and the Gandhi family were involved in "big scams" that "tarnished" the image of the country. The Speaker also disapproved of the Congress leader displaying certain pictures in the House. 

 "If you show posters, they (BJP) will show posters of the Rajasthan chief minister (with Adani). Parliament is not for these things," Birla said. -- PTI
12:08   Iqbal Mirchi Case: ED attaches Praful Patel's house
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) confirmed the attachment of properties of former minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Praful Patel in the Iqbal Mirchi case.

The attached property includes four floors in the prime property Ceejay House at Worli belonging to Praful Patel and his family. Praful Patel will have to evacuate these four floors now from the prime property of Ceejay House in Worli. 

 ED said that the attachment was done last year, and now the adjudicating authority has confirmed the attachment of the said properties. 

 Earlier, two floors in the Ceejay House belonging to Iqbal Mirchi family members were also attached by the ED. Praful Patel served as the Civil Aviation Minister and Minster of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises under the UPA government. -- ANI
11:56   India records 96 fresh Covid cases
India on Wednesday recorded 96 fresh COVID-19 cases, while the number of active cases increased to 1,785, according to Union health ministry data. With the new cases, the total tally stands at 4.46 crore (4,46,83,639). 

The death toll increased to 5,30,746 with one death reported from Uttar Pradesh, the data updated at 8 am stated. The daily positivity rate was recorded at 0.07 per cent and the weekly positivity rate at 0.08 per cent. 

 The active cases comprise 0.01 per cent of the total infections. The national COVID-19 recovery rate has increased to 98.81 per cent, according to the health ministry website.

 The number of people who have recuperated from the disease surged to 4,41,51,108, while the case fatality rate was recorded at 1.19 per cent. According to the ministry's website, 220.60 crore doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered so far under the nationwide vaccination drive.
11:42   Zoom to slash 1,300 jobs, CEO takes 98% pay cut
Zoom on Tuesday announced that it will lay off about 1,300 employees, or approximately 15 per cent of its staff, becoming the latest tech company to announce significant job cuts. 

In a message to employees on Zoom Blog, Zoom's Chief Executive Officer Eric Yuan said the layoffs will impact every part of the organization.

"We have made the tough but necessary decision to reduce our team by approximately 15 per cent and say goodbye to around 1,300 hardworking, talented colleagues," Eric Yuan wrote. 

Yuan stated that he and other executives will take a significant pay cut. In the message to employees, he admitted to making "mistakes" in how quickly the company grew during the pandemic.

"As the CEO and founder of Zoom, I am accountable for these mistakes and the actions we take today- and I want to show accountability not just in words but in my own actions," Eric Yuan wrote. -- ANI
11:29   SC to hear plea against acquittals in Chhawla case
The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to constitute a three-judge bench to consider a plea of the Delhi Police for review of its verdict acquitting three death row convicts in the gang-rape and murder case of a 19-year-old girl in Delhi's Chhawla area in 2012. 

 A bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala was told by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Delhi Police, that one of the accused acquitted by this court has recently slit a throat of a person. "

What I am saying is that all these accused, who were acquitted are hardened criminals. Therefore, we are seeking review of last year's verdict," Mehta said, adding that a three-judge bench headed by the then CJI had pronounced the verdict. 

 CJI Chandrachud then said it will constitute a bench of himself and Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Bela M Trivedi to hear the review plea. Mehta then requested the court to accord open court hearing on the review plea. The bench said it is up to the new bench to decide upon an open court hearing plea. 

 "We will see to it, when the new bench takes up the matter, the CJI said. The three were acquitted by the court on November 7, last year. PTI
11:13   Biden warns China: If you threaten us...
US President Joe Biden on Tuesday (local time) highlighted the "serious challenges" America faces "across the world" and warned China that Washington "will act to protect sovereignty if threatened" by Beijing.

Biden while delivering his first major speech to a divided Congress after Republicans took control of the House of Representatives, said, "If China threatens our sovereignty, we will act to protect our country. Let's be clear, winning the competition with China should unite all of us. We face serious challenges across the world. In the past two years, democracies have become stronger, not weaker." 

The US President said that when he took over the charge of office, the story was about how China was increasing its power and America was falling in the world.

"Not anymore. I've made clear with President Xi that we seek competition, not conflict," said Biden in his second State of the Union address at the US Capitol.

He said that the US is in the strongest position in decades to compete with China or anyone else in the world.

"I will make no apologies that we are investing to make America strong. Investing in American innovation, in industries that will define the future, and that China's government is intent on dominating. Investing in our alliances and working with our allies to protect our advanced technologies so they're not used against us. Modernizing our military to safeguard stability and deter aggression," said Biden.

Biden further stated that he is committed to working with China where it can advance American interests and benefit the world.

The US President also reiterated that "winning the competition with China should unite all of us," referring to Republicans working with him, decrying "fighting for the sake of fighting" in Washington.
11:01   India's GDP forecast for FY24 drops to 6.4%: RBI
The RBI on Tuesday projected India's economic growth to slow down to 6.4 per cent in FY24 from 7 per cent in the current fiscal, citing risks from geo-political tension and tightening global financial condition. 

 Announcing the bi-monthly monetary policy, Reserve Bank of India Governor Shaktikanta Das said the RBI's internal survey says manufacturing, services and infrastructure sector firms are optimistic of the business outlook. However, protracted geo-political tension, tightening global financial conditions and external demands continue as downside risks to the domestic outlook, he noted.

 "The real GDP growth for 2023-24 is projected at 6.4 per cent," Das said. In 2023-24, the growth in the June and September quarter is projected at 7.8 per cent and 6.2 per cent, respectively. 

In the December and March quarter, the GDP growth is estimated at 6 per cent and 5.8 per cent, respectively. 

 "Monetary policy will continue to be agile and alert to effectively address challenges to the economy," Das said. Several economists and rating agencies have projected India's real GDP growth to slow to between 6-6.5 per cent in the next fiscal. -- PTI
10:35   A little bit of Zambia for Kiara's wedding
All eyes on Kiara Advani's jewellery at her wedding. 
The bride looked gorgeous in a rose-hued lehenga with Swarovski crystals by Manish Malhotra, but it was the necklace that caught our eye.
Real or fake?
Well, that stunning necklace she has on is also designed by Manish Malhotra. 
"The exclusive set features an exquisite composition of ultra-fine handcut diamonds crafted with rare Zambian emeralds," the couturier wrote on the post about her jewellery.

As gorgeous as the bride, we say. 
10:27   RBI increases repo rate to 6.5%
RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das announces an increase in repo rate by 25 basis points to 6.5%.

"Unprecedented events of the last three years have put to test monetary policy across the world. Emerging market economies are facing sharp tradeoffs between supporting economic activity and controlling inflation while preserving policy credibility," Das said.

He added that the global economic outlook does not look as grim now as it did a few months ago and growth prospects in major economies have improved while inflation is on a descent though inflation still remains well-above the target in major economies. He said inflation is expected to average 5.6% in the 4th quarter of 2023-24.

The Reserve Bank projects GDP growth at 6.4 pc for 2023-24.
10:03   China used spy balloons over India: Report
China has operated a fleet of spy balloons targeting several countries including India and Japan, a media report has said, days after the US military shot down a Chinese surveillance craft floating over sensitive installations in the country. 

 US officials have briefed its friends and allies including India on the finds of the Chinese surveillance balloon that was shot down by a fighter jet off the coast of South Carolina in the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday. 

 On Monday, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman briefed officials from about 40 embassies here about it. 

 The surveillance balloon effort, which has operated for several years partly out of Hainan province off China's south coast, has collected information on military assets in countries and areas of emerging strategic interest to China including Japan, India, Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday. 

 The Post's report was based on interviews with several anonymous defence and intelligence officials. Officials have said these surveillance airships, operated in part by the PLA (People's Liberation Army) air force, have been spotted over five continents, the daily reported. These balloons are all part of a PRC ( People's Republic of China) fleet of balloons developed to conduct surveillance operations, which also violated the sovereignty of other countries, a senior defence official was quoted as saying. 

 According to the daily, in recent years, at least four balloons have been spotted over Hawaii, Florida, Texas and Guam in addition to the one tracked last week. 

 Three of the four instances took place during the Trump administration but were only recently identified as Chinese surveillance airships, it said. The Pentagon on Tuesday released a series of pictures recovering the high-altitude surveillance balloon. PTI
09:49   'Never thought my son would return dead'
The parents of a student from Khammam district of Telangana, who allegedly died of a gunshot wound in the United States, have requested the governments' help in bringing the body back home. 

 Akhil Sai Mahankali, 25, from Madhira town in Khammam district, died in the state of Alabama, US, on Monday and an Indian national was arrested and charged with manslaughter, police said. Mahankali was studying MS in the US. He went there a little over a year ago and did part-time jobs, his parents said on Tuesday. Their son had said his course would get completed in another three months and that he would get a job.

 His weeping mother said she never imagined her son would come back home dead. "We'd sent him for higher studies. Never imagined even in the dreams that we will lose our son like this," she said.

 His parents requested the Telangana, India and the US governments to help in sending their son's body to their native place. His family is planning to conduct the last rites at Miryalaguda. 

 Police and medical personnel in the US found Akhil Sai Mahankali with a life-threatening gunshot wound around 9.30 pm on Sunday. They took him to the hospital, where doctors pronounced him dead, according to the Montgomery Advertiser, a newspaper.

 Both the deceased and the accused are from Montgomery, the capital city of Alabama, it said, adding that the latter is now in jail. PTI
09:44   Spy balloon: China rejects US request for talks
China has rejected Washington's request for a telephone call between US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and his Beijing counterpart Wei Fenghe, The New York Times reported citing Pentagon. 

The request was made on Saturday soon after a US fighter aircraft shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina. 

 The Pentagon Press Secretary Brigadier General Patrick S Ryder in an emailed statement said that Washington believes in the importance of maintaining communication between the US and China. 

He said that China has "declined" US' request to arrange call between Lloyd Austin and Wei Fenghe. "We believe in the importance of maintaining open lines of communication between the United States and the P.R.C. in order to responsibly manage the relationship," The New York Times quoted General Patrick Ryder as saying in an emailed statement, referring to the People's Republic of China. "Lines between our militaries are particularly important in moments like this," he added.

 As per the news report, General Ryder said, "Unfortunately, the P.R.C. has declined our request" to arrange a call with Wei Fenghe. He stated that the Pentagon will keep trying, according to The New York Times report. 

 US Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed a trip to Beijing that was due to take place last weekend after the balloon was spotted in the American skies. The Chinese balloon was first spotted over Montana, then it traversed the country before it was shot down by US fighter aircraft.
09:09   Biden says 'Made in America' is his top priority
US President Joe Biden has said that Made in America is the top priority of his administration and announced that bridges, roads and highways in the country will be made with American construction materials. 

 Biden in his second State of the Union Address on Tuesday said to maintain the strongest economy in the world, the US also needs the best infrastructure in the world. 

"The US used to be number 1 in the world in infrastructure, but then it fell to number 13th," he said. "Now we're coming back because we came together to pass the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the largest investment in infrastructure since President Eisenhower's Interstate Highway System," he said. 

 He said 'Buy American' has been the law of the land since 1933. "But for too long, past administrations have found ways to get around it. Not anymore," Biden said in his joint address to the US Congress. 

"Tonight, I'm also announcing new standards to require all construction materials used in federal infrastructure projects to be made in America. American-made lumber, glass, drywall, fiber optic cables," he said. 

 He said under his watch, American roads, bridges and highways will be made with American products. Biden asserted that his economic plan is about investing in places and people that have been forgotten. 

"Amid the economic upheaval of the past four decades, too many people have been left behind or treated like they're invisible, he noted. Maybe that's you, watching at home. You remember the jobs that went away. And you wonder whether a path even exists anymore for you and your children to get ahead without moving away. I get it," he said. -- PTI
09:01   CBI arrests auditor of KCR's daughter in Delhi excise policy case
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has arrested a Hyderabad-based chartered accountant (CA), understood to be the auditor of Bharat Rashtra Samiti MLC K Kavitha, in connection with the Delhi excise policy case, officials said on Wednesday.

The CBI had called the CA, Butchibabu Gorantla, to Delhi for questioning in connection with the excise policy case.

He was arrested on Tuesday evening as he was non-cooperative and his responses were found to be evasive, they said.

The CBI has alleged that Gorantla's role in the formulation and implementation of the now-scrapped Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22 caused 'wrongful gain' to Hyderabad-based wholesale and retail licensees and their beneficial owners.

The agency will produce him before a special court here on Wednesday.

The CBI had questioned Kavitha, the daughter of Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, in connection with the case in December last year. -- PTI
08:42   Was once jailed for hoisting Tricolor in J-K: Anurag Thakur
Asserting that there is no restriction in Kashmir to hoist the national flag after the abrogation of Article 370, Union Youth Affairs and Sports Minister Anurag Thakur on Tuesday said that he was once jailed for hoisting the Tricolor in the Union Territory.

"I was longest serving BJP Youth Wing President, from 2010 to 2017. I took a yatra from Kolkata to Kashmir to hoist the national flag. I was put in jail to hoist the national flag in Jammu and Kashmir. Today, I see Jammu and Kashmir is a different state with no such restrictions," Thakur said while speaking at the first Y20 meeting under G20 India at IIT Guwahati.

The minister further said that after August 2019, when the article was ruled out by the Central government there are no such restrictions in the territory.

"In Jammu and Kashmir, it was difficult to even hoist the national flag. But after the abrogation of Article 370, you could see last year during the 'Har Ghar Tiranga' program, there was a Tiranga hoisted on each and every house in Kashmir," Thakur said.

The first Y20 meeting in 2023, under G20 India, began in Guwahati on February 6.

The deliberations at the Youth20 were aimed at reaching out to the youth and holding consultations with them for ideas 'for a better tomorrow'.

More than 150 Youth delegates from G20 countries are participating in the three-day meeting.

Over 12,000 college and university students are also expected to participate in these events.

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma will also present research papers from students and academicians of Assam.

The state government, along with the Ministry of Youth Affairs, has taken up several initiatives to make the youth aware of Y20 and involve them in the process of nation-building.   -- ANI
08:15   Turkey-Syria earthquake toll tops 7,700
The death toll from the earthquakes that jolted Turkey and Syria has risen to at least 7,726, CNN reported.

At least 42,259 people have been injured in Turkey and Syria after deadly earthquakes.

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said that at least 5,894 people have died and 34,810 others have been injured in Turkey after earthquakes that jolted the country on Monday.

At least 1,832 people have died and 3,849 others have been injured in Syria, as per the CNN report.

Orhan Tatar, Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management Agency's general director (AFAD), said that at least 5,775 buildings collapsed after an earthquake hit Turkey on Monday, as per the news report.

On Tuesday, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said that around 7,500 Turkish soldiers are working in the earthquake-affected region to assist with rescue operations.

Hulusi Akar also said an additional 1,500 personnel will join the team on Wednesday.

Hulusi Akar said that 75 military aircraft have been dispatched to the region, as per the CNN report.

He added that nine commando battalions have arrived in the region from the west and four commando battalions from Cyprus will arrive in the region as well.

On Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared a three-month state of emergency in 10 southern provinces which were hit by massive quakes, Anadolu Agency reported.

While addressing the State Information Coordination Center in the capital Ankara, Erdogan said, "Based on the authority given to us by Article 119 of the Constitution, we decided to declare a state of emergency."

"We will quickly complete the presidential and parliamentary processes about the state of emergency decision, which will cover 10 provinces where earthquakes have occurred and will last for three months," he added.

Erdogan's remarks came after the 7.7 magnitude earthquake struck the Pazarcik district of Kahramanmaras province on Monday.

Later, a 7.6 magnitude quake centred in Kahramanmaras's Elbistan district rocked the region, affecting several other provinces, including Adana, Adiyaman, Diyarbakir, Gaziantep, as per the Anadolu Agency report.

The third earthquake of magnitude 6.0 hit Goksun, Turkey on Monday, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) said.

The earthquake was also felt in several countries in the region, including Syria and Lebanon.

In his remarks, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, "Both earthquakes were experienced at a distance of 7 kilometres on earth that exponentially increased the severity of the destruction," Anadolu Agency reported.

He further said, "It has caused great destruction in a very wide area compared to their counterparts. Therefore, we are faced with one of the biggest disasters not only in our Republic's history but also in our geography and the world."

As per the Anadolu Agency report, Erdogan emphasised that considering the devastating effect of the earthquake, they ordered expert personnel and vehicles from all over the country to immediately move to the region.

He stated that despite the difficulties caused by the weather conditions, the teams struggled selflessly to reach the disaster region and participate in the work.   -- ANI

IMAGE: A child is carried out by rescuers from the site of a damaged building in Hatay, Turkey, on February 7, 2023. Photograph: Umit Bektas/Reuters
00:36   Rakhi Sawant's husband Adil Durrani arrested
Bollywood actor Rakhi Sawant's husband Adil Durrani was arrested on  Tuesday night after she filed a complaint accusing him of assault, taking away money and jewellery from her flat without her knowledge and performing unnatural sex, among other charges, a police official said.

Earlier in the day, Durrani (30), a businessman who is also accused of harassing the 41-year-old actor for dowry, was brought to the Oshiwara police station in suburban Mumbai for questioning and later placed under arrest, he said.

According to the police official, the actor on late Monday night registered an FIR (first information report) against her husband for allegedly assaulting her, abusing, taking money and jewellery from her Oshiwara flat without her knowledge.

On Tuesday, the police added in the FIR Indian Penal Code sections related to dowry harassment and unnatural intercourse, he said.

Citing her statement to the police, the official said Sawant got in touch with Durrani in January 2022 and the two opened a joint business account.

Without her knowledge, Durrani withdrew more than Rs 1.5 crore from the account in June to buy a car, but she did not object as he promised to marry her, Sawant told the police, according to the official.

Later, Durrani allegedly assaulted the former 'Bigg Boss' contestant on two occasions, prompting her to lodge a non-cognisable offence against him, he said.

In the case of a non-cognizable offence, the police cannot arrest the accused without a warrant and cannot start an investigation without the permission of court.

As per Sawant, Durrani threatened her more than once, saying he would throw acid on her face or get her killed in a road accident, said the official. Sawant has also accused Durrani of forcing her to offer �namaz', he said.

On Sunday night, Sawant discovered that Rs 5 lakh cash and her mother's jewellery worth Rs 2.5 lakh were missing from her cupboard. She then learnt from the watchman of her building that Durrani had visited the flat in her absence, said the official.

Sawant approached the Oshiwara police on Monday night following which a first information report (FIR) was registered against Durrani under IPC sections 406 (breach of trust) and 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), said the official. -- PTI