Sat, 18 March 2023
Biden to host Modi for state dinner this summer

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20:57   Biden to host Modi for state dinner this summer
United States President Joe Biden plans to host Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a state dinner this summer, people familiar with the matter said, reported Bloomberg.

The White House aims for the state dinner to take place in June but the timing could slip.

However, a spokesman for the National Security Council declined to comment, reported Bloomberg.

Modi's formal state visit is a sign of the deepening US-India relationship in various fields including defence, technology, space exploration, trade and investments.

Moreover, the Biden administration advances policies and initiatives for a free and open Indo-Pacific to counter what it sees as a growing threat posed by China and India plays a key role in it.

India is hosting the Group of 20 (G20) leaders summit in New Delhi in September, where Russia's invasion of Ukraine will be among the chief topics of discussion.

It's unclear whether Russian President Vladimir Putin will attend the gathering, reported Bloomberg.

Biden is also expected to see Modi in Australia in May when the countries convene for the Quad summit along with the leaders of Australia and Japan.

Biden's dinner party with Modi will be his third official state visit and dinner, following ones for French President Emmanuel Macron in December and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on April 26.  -- ANI
20:13   Huge rock from Karnataka sent to Ayodhya for Lord Ram idol
A huge rock has been dispatched from Karkala in Udupi district of Karnataka to Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh for the construction of the idol of Lord Ram in the proposed Ram Mandir.

Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal workers performed pooja and sent the stone in a huge truck to Ayodhya, VHP sources said.

Karnataka Minister for Energy, Kannada and Culture V Sunil Kumar, who represents Karkala in the state legislature, attended the ceremony.

The rock, called Nellikaru stone, has the reputation of having unique properties and have been used in the construction of several famous sculptures that are displayed at prominent places.

It was selected by rock experts from a small hill on the banks of the Tungabhadra River.

Sources said stones are being brought from different parts of the country and even from Nepal to make the idol of Lord Ram.

One of these stones will be used to sculpt the grand idol of Lord Ram which will be installed at the temple.

The work of sculpting the idol has been entrusted to five artisans in the country.

The idol of Lord Ram Lalla will be installed at its original place in the proposed temple by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the third week of January, 2024, the sources said.   -- PTI
19:40   AAP alleges Rs 10,000cr scam by Adani companies
The Aam Aadmi Party on Saturday accused Adani Enterprise Limited of doing a Rs 10,000 crore scam in the generation and distribution of electricity in Rajasthan and Maharashtra and demanded a probe by central agencies into the matter.

Addressing a press conference, AAP spokesperson Sanjay Singh claimed that Adani Enterprise Limited (AEL) took the money for the generation and operation of electricity from the Maharashtra government and also pocketed the profit.

"Today I am exposing another scam. With the money looted in the scam, Delhi can be given free electricity for three years. Lack of resources is not the reason for expensive electricity in Rajasthan and Maharashtra. The reason is Adani's blatant corruption," he claimed.

Singh said that before 2014, Adani's six companies entered the power sector in Rajasthan and Maharashtra and not only took expenses for running operations, including generation of power, from the government, but also pocketed the profit they earned from the venture.

"On top of that, Adani used his brother Vinod Adani's fake company to get cheap machines from China at higher prices," the leader said, adding the money for machines was taken from the Maharashtra government.

The issue was flagged by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence but no action was taken because the Modi government came to power, Singh said.

"This is a Rs 10,000 crore-scam Adani bought machines for power generation from fake companies of his brother in Mauritius and Dubai at expensive prices and took money to buy them from the Maharashtra government," said Singh.

'DRI issued notices to six of Adani's companies for investigation. But Modi government is formed and DRI stops the investigation. CBI also does not register an FIR, nor does it take action,' he added.

'We hope CBI, ED, DRI and SEBI will raid Adani, and investigate corruption. Who will investigate this scam, when Modi is there to protect him!' the politician said.   -- PTI
19:08   Govt must answer who will resign: Cong on conman posing as PMO official
The Congress on Saturday expressed concern over the case of a conman posing as a Prime Minister's Office (PMO) official and getting requisite perks, saying if the government is serious about the country's security then it must make it clear who will resign for the lapse.

Kiran Bhai Patel from Gujarat has been arrested by police from a five-star hotel in Srinagar for posing as an 'additional secretary' in the PMO and enjoying security cover besides other hospitality.

He had three cases registered against him in his home state, police said on Friday.

At a press conference, Congress' media and publicity department head Pawan Khera said it was a very serious matter pertaining to the country's security and the government probably was not focussed on such matters as it was 'busy protecting the prime minister's best friend'.

"If anyone asks questions to the Modi government, he is anti-national. Which national interest are you serving? If you are at least a little serious about the security of the nation, then tell me that at the political level who will resign in this matter?" Khera said.

"Our three essential questions are -- can a PMO officer get Z+ security, should Z+ security be given and is Z+ security availed so easily. It is very important to know from which level the instructions to give security to a thug came?" he said.

In a sensitive area like Jammu and Kashmir, a person has been cheating the security forces for five months and is roaming in those areas with Z+ security by making a PMO card, where common citizens cannot go, he said and raised questions over the government's intelligence mechanism.

Khera said the government must answer whose resignation will be taken for this lapse.

The ruling party has such a toolkit that the one who asks questions of them is an anti-national while one person takes Z+ security by printing fake cards of the PMO, the Congress leader alleged.

According to court documents, Patel was on his third visit to the Kashmir valley and was subsequently nabbed by alert security officials on March 3.

Patel had claimed he had been given a mandate by the government to identify buyers for apple orchards in south Kashmir and a couple of IAS officers were in awe of him as he had been dropping names of high-ranking bureaucrats and politicians in the national capital.   -- PTI
18:35   Intel agencies closely watching Punjab situation
Intelligence agencies are keeping a close watch on the Punjab Police operation to arrest Khalistani sympathiser Amritpal Singh and his aides.

A senior official said that state had sought several companies of paramilitary forces and these have been provided to maintain law and order situation.

"We are keeping a close watch on the situation unfolding in Punjab. Intelligence Bureau (IB), Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), and other agencies are on their toes and regularly updating regarding the situation in Punjab," he said.

Another officer informed that additional companies of paramilitary which were sought by the state government have been deployed at various checkpoints and other locations in Punjab to deal with any law and order situation.

"We are keeping a close watch on developments and reporting it to seniors in Delhi. Agencies are keeping a watch on social media posts. We have come across several objectionable posts and memes that might have been shared by ISI operatives from Pakistan," he said.

The agencies have got reports of Amritpal Singh's connection with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence.

A source informed that when Amritpal Singh, who now heads 'Waris Punjab De', was in Dubai, he was in close touch with Jaswant Singh rode, brother of militant and chief of Pakistan-based International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF) Lakhbir Singh Rode.

Amritpal Singh's treasurer Basant Singh Daulatpura was getting funds from Pakistan.Security agencies have been keeping a close watch on the activities of Amritpal Singh since he came to Punjab last year.

Punjab Police were alerted about his activities regularly.

Punjab Police has requested people to maintain peace and harmony.

The police are working to maintain law and order and have requested people not to panic or spread fake news or hate speech.  -- Saurabh Trivedi/ANI
17:38   Collegium best system to appoint judges: CJI
Not every system is perfect but this is the best system available, Chief Justice of India Justice D Y Chandrachud said on Saturday while defending the Collegium system of judges appointing judges, a major bone of contention between the government and judiciary.

Speaking at the India Today Conclave, 2023, the CJI said judiciary has to be protected from outside influences if it has to be independent.

"Not every system is perfect but this is the best system we have developed. But the object was to protect the independence of the judiciary, which is a cardinal value. We have to insulate the judiciary from outside influences if the judiciary has to be independent," Justice Chandrachud said.

The CJI also responded to Law Minister Kiren Rijiju voicing displeasure over the Supreme Court Collegium revealing the government's reasons for not approving the names recommended by it for appointment as judges of constitutional courts.

"What is wrong about having a difference in perception? But, I have to deal with such differences with a sense of robust constitutional statesmanship. I do not want to join issues with the law minister, we are bound to have differences of perceptions," the CJI said.

Rijiju has been quite vocal against the Collegium system and  once even called it 'alien to our Constitution.

Justice Chandrachud said there is absolutely no pressure from the government on how to decide cases.

"In my 23 years of being a judge, no one has told me how to decide a case. There is absolutely no pressure from the government. The Election Commission judgment is proof that there is no pressure on the judiciary," CJI said.

The Supreme Court had recently ruled the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and election commissioners will be done by the President on the advise of a committee comprising the prime minister, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India.   -- PTI
17:13   Rajinikanth meets Uddhav Thackeray in Mumbai
Superstar Rajinikanth on Saturday met Shiv Sena-UBT leader Uddhav Thackeray at his residence in suburban Mumbai.

A party leader said it was a courtesy visit as the veteran actor has been an ardent supporter of the late Bal Thackeray, founder of Shiv Sena.

"It was a non-political meeting between Rajinikanth and Uddhav Thackeray," he said.

Thackeray's wife Rashmi and sons Aaditya and Tejas welcomed the actor at their residence 'Matoshree' in suburban Bandra.

Aaditya Thackeray, a former minister and sitting MLA, tweeted a picture of his family welcoming Rajinikanth with a bouquet and a shawl.

'An absolute delight to have Shri Rajnikant ji at Matoshree once again,' Aaditya tweeted.

Rajinikanth had met Bal Thackeray at Matoshree in October 2010.

In July 2021, Rajinikanth had announced that he would disband the Rajini Makkal Mandram, launched for his political entry, and reiterated that he had no intention of involving himself in politics in future.

The Shiv Sena faction led by Thackeray is a constituent of Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA), also comprising the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress.   -- PTI
16:53   Imran Khan case: Pak bans live coverage of events outside Islamabad court
Pakistan's electronic media watchdog on Saturday banned satellite television channels from broadcasting live coverage of events outside the Islamabad court where former prime minister Imran Khan is set to appear in a corruption case against him.

Khan, the 70-year-old chief of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, is scheduled to appear before the court of Additional District and Sessions Judge (ADSJ) Zafar Iqbal to attend proceedings on the complaint filed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for allegedly concealing details of gifts in his assets declarations.

In an advisory issued Saturday, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) stated that it has been observed with concern that satellite TV channels are showing live footage and images of a violent mob, and attacks on police and law enforcement agencies.

"Such footage/images were seen on TV screens without any editorial oversight during a recent standoff between political party workers and law enforcing agencies in Lahore wherein, a violent mob used petrol bombs, injuring unarmed policemen and blazing police vehicles. The live telecast of such footage on different satellite TV channels created chaos and panic among the viewers and Police."

The Pemra letter said that such activism by the mob not only jeopardises the law and order situation but also makes public properties and lives vulnerable.

The airing of such content violates a judgment of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the media regulator said.

According to a statement, Pemra referred to the clashes between PTI workers and law enforcement personnel outside Khan's Zaman Park residence, saying it had observed with concern that satellite TV channels were  showing live footages (sic) /images of a violent mob, attacks on police and law enforcing agencies.

Pemra, in its order, said that it has prohibited live/recorded coverage of any kind of rally, public gathering, or procession by any party, organisation and individual for March 18, including from the judicial complex, Islamabad.

The regulator further said that the license will be suspended in case of non-compliance with the order.

Khan has been in the crosshairs for buying gifts, including an expensive Graff wristwatch he had received as the premier at a discounted price from the state depository called Toshakhana and selling them for profit.

Khan was ousted from power in April last year after losing a no-confidence vote, which he alleged was part of a US-led conspiracy targeting him because of his independent foreign policy decisions on Russia, China and Afghanistan.

Since his ouster, Khan has been clamouring for immediate elections to oust what he termed an 'imported government' led by prime minister Shehbaz Sharif.

Sharif has maintained that elections will be held later this year once the parliament completes its five-year tenure.   -- PTI
Photograph: Sahil Salvi
Photograph: Sahil Salvi
16:26   Maha farmers call off long march to Mumbai
Protesting farmers and tribals, who were on their way to Mumbai on foot, called off their long march on Saturday, Communist Party of India-Marxist MLA Vinod Nikole said.

Nikole said all the demands by the farmers were taken into consideration in the state legislature and ground-level officers have received orders for the execution of government orders.

"So we are calling off the long march," Nikole.

Thousands of farmers and tribals had started from Dindori in Nashik district on Sunday last in support of their demands that included Rs 600 per quintal relief to onion farmers, 12-hour uninterrupted power supply to farmers and waiver of farm loans.

They had reached Thane district's Vasind town, around 80km from Mumbai.  -- PTI
15:29   Punjab police cracks down on Amritpal, internet shut
Mobile internet services restricted in several districts of Punjab as the State Police launches action against Khalistani sympathiser 'Waris Punjab De' chief Amritpal Singh and his aides. 

More details awaited. -- ANI
15:01   6 aides of Amritpal arrested, claim supporters
Six aides of radical preacher Amritpal Singh Saturday were detained in Jalandhar, according to the cult leader's supporters.

However, there was no confirmation from police in this regard.

Some supporters of 'Waris Punjab De' chief shared some videos on social media claiming that policemen were chasing them.

A video also showed Amritpal sitting in a vehicle and one of his aides could be heard saying policemen were after 'Bhai saab' (Amritpal).

Another supporter in a field shared a video in which he was claiming that policemen were after him.

Last month, Amritpal and his supporters, some of them brandishing swords and guns, broke through barricades and barged into the Ajnala Police Station on the outskirts of the Amritsar city, and clashed with police for the release of one of Amritpal's aide.    -- PTI
14:12   Imran convoy vehicle overturns on way to Islamabad
A vehicle in Imran Khan's convoy overturned on Saturday while the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief was on his way to Islamabad to appear in court in the Toshakhana case, ARY News reported.

Earlier on Saturday, Imran Khan departed for Islamabad from his Zaman Park residence in Lahore.

The region is reportedly placed under heavy security in advance of Imran Khan's visit to Islamabad's Judiciary Complex in order to maintain peace and order and prevent anything unpleasant from happening.

On Friday the Pakistan government shifted the Toshakhana case hearing venue from the additional sessions court to a comparatively safer Judicial Complex over security concerns of Imran Khan, Pakistan-based Dawn newspaper reported.

Khan will appear before Additional Session Judge Zafar Iqbal in the case after he issued the former prime minister's non-bailable arrest warrants after he had frequently skipped court dates, alleging 'security threats' from his attorney.

On March 14, when the Islamabad police travelled to Lahore to arrest Khan in accordance with the court's instructions, they encountered resistance; as a result, more than 60 police officers from Islamabad and Punjab were hurt, and several PTI workers were also hurt, Geo News reported.

Meanwhile, Imran Khan also received protective bail in nine cases by Lahore High Court (LHC).

The protective bail was approved for five cases in Islamabad and three cases in Lahore.

Imran Khan secured bail in the cases filed in Lahore till March 27, whereas, the protective bail in five cases in Islamabad was approved till March 24.  -- ANI

IMAGE: Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, waves from the vehicle as he leaves from Lahore to appear before Islamabad high court, in Lahore, on March 18, 2023. Photograph: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters
13:41   EPS files nomination for post of AIADMK gen secy
All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam interim chief Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) on Saturday filed nomination for election to the party's powerful general secretary post, setting the ball rolling for his ultimate elevation, as rival leader O Panneerselvan slammed the 'pickpocket-like' approach of the EPS camp in holding the polls, alleging due party process was not followed.

EPS, as Palaniswami is addressed, filed his nomination at the party headquarters, nearly a month after the Supreme Court green-flagged his continuance as the AIADMK interim chief, dealing a blow to Pannerselvam (OPS) in his running feud with his rival over the leadership issue.

The OPS camp decried the election process and senior party leader Panruti S Ramachandran said they will move the court over the issue, even as Panneerselvam indicated he will meet the people on the matter.

A large conference will be held in Tiruchirappalli early April as part of the next course of action, he added.

Within hours of Palaniswami filing the nomination, Panneerselvam addressed a press conference, alleging the election process was not in conformity with party laws.

The organisational polls have to be held once in five years and the highest office is elected by primary members. Only the elected general secretary can later conduct organisational polls and appoint functionaries. Further, membership forms have to be given during this period to include new members and renew membership for existing ones, following which identity cards have to be given for both, he said.   -- PTI
13:01   Yogi becomes first UP CM to visit Kashi Vishwanath temple 100 times
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Saturday morning offered prayers at Kashi Vishwanath temple and became the first chief minister of Uttar Pradesh to visit the temple for the 100th time in the last six years, an official release said.

Yogi has been coming to the temple every 21 days on average since assuming power in 2017, to worship Baba Vishwanath and pray for the welfare of the people of the state and the country at large through the 'Shodashopachar' method.

Yogi came on a two-day visit to Varanasi for the 113th time on Friday.

The CM visits Kashi at least once a month and on each visit, he reviews and conducts field inspections of development works in the city.

After taking charge of Uttar Pradesh for the first time, Yogi Adityanath visited Lord Visheshwar 74 times from 2017 to March 2022 to seek blessings.   -- ANI
12:28   Anurag Thakur cautions media against...
Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur on Saturday urged the media fraternity in the country to remain cautious and desist from giving its space to narratives that threaten the nation's integrity.

Substandard and illogical opinions, delivered freely from within or abroad, could not destroy the democratic nature of the country, he added.

"I urge the media fraternity to remain cautious and desist from giving its space intentionally or unintentionally to such voices and narratives that have the potential to threaten the integrity of India," he said.

The minister was speaking while participating as a special guest in the centenary celebrations of eminent Malayalam daily Mathrubhumi.

He said there is a proverb that facts are sacred and opinion is free.

"I want to emphasise here that the democratic nature of our great nation will always remain a fact, no matter how many substandard and illogical opinions are delivered freely from within or abroad," Thakur added.  -- PTI
11:55   Bihar YouTuber held for fake migrant videos
Bihar YouTuber Manish Kashyap, accused of circulating misleading and hysterical video of residents of Bihar working in Tamil Nadu, surrendered at Jagdishpur police station in Bettiah due to raids by Bihar Police and EOU, says Bihar Police.

More details awaited.   -- ANI
11:08   India's daily Covid tally crosses 800 after 126 days
India's single-day tally of COVID-19 cases crossed 800 after 126 days on Saturday, while the number of active cases climbed to 5,389, according to Union health ministry data.
With 843 fresh infections, the country's caseload increased to 4.46 crore (4,46,94,349). The death toll rose to 5,30,799 with four fatalities, the data updated at 8 am stated.
While Jharkhand and Maharashtra reported one death each, two were reconciled by Kerala.
At 5,839, the active cases now comprise 0.01 per cent of the total infections. The national COVID-19 recovery rate was recorded at 98.80 per cent, according to the health ministry website.
The number of people who have recuperated from the disease surged to 4,41,58,161 and the case fatality rate stands at 1.19 per cent.
According to the ministry's website, 220.64 crore doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered under the nationwide vaccination drive. -- PTI 
11:00   India never halted trade ties with Pak: Diplomat
India never halted trade relations with Pakistan and wants to move towards normalising business ties, a senior Indian diplomat in Islamabad has said, stressing that today's diplomacy focuses on tourism, trade and technology because money speaks its own language.
Suresh Kumar, India's Deputy High Commissioner to Pakistan made these remarks on Friday while speaking at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), the Dawn newspaper reported.
India always wants better relations with Pakistan because we cannot change our geography, he said.
We want to move towards normal relations with Pakistan. We also didn't stop trade with Pakistan, as it was Pakistan that did it, he said.
It would be better to see how we can change our problems and situations, Kumar said.
In 2019, Pakistan suspended bilateral trade with India and expelled its High Commissioner in Islamabad after New Delhi revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
India has been maintaining that it desires normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan while insisting that the onus is on Islamabad to create an environment that is free of terror and hostility for such an engagement.
The trade with Pakistan stood at USD 329.26 million in 2020-21 and USD 830.58 million in 2019-20, the data showed.
He agreed that the number of visas issued by the Indian embassy to Pakistanis dropped during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, he insisted that the number has now increased, as 30,000 visas were being issued every year, which he said was a huge number.
Kumar said the Indian government was also issuing medical and sports visas to Pakistanis.
He said gone were the days when diplomacy used to focus on compiling political reports. Today's diplomacy, he said, revolved around tourism, trade and technology as money speaks its own language.
India was presently doing trade of USD 120 billion with China, in which the balance of trade is towards China, he said, stressing that imports are not always wrong and also have advantages.
10:24   Maha: Man participating in farmers' foot march dies
A 58-year-old participant in the long march of thousands of farmers and tribals from Nashik district in North Maharashtra to Mumbai has died, an official said on Saturday.
Pundalik Ambo Jadhav, a resident of a village near Dindori in Nashik, was taken to a hospital in Shahpur on Friday afternoon after he complained of uneasiness. After he felt better, Jadhav returned to the place where the protesters are camping, said the official.
The 200km foot march by thousands of farmers and tribals started from Dindori on Sunday last in support of their demands. It has reached Thane district's Vasind town, around 80km from Mumbai. Their demands include Rs 600 per quintal relief to onion farmers, 12-hour uninterrupted power supply to farmers and waiver of farm loans.
After having dinner around 8 pm on Friday, Jadhav vomited and again started feeling uneasy. He was rushed to the Shahapur hospital where doctors declared him brought dead, said the official.
The station house officer at Vasind police station that a case of accidental death has been registered and Jadhav's body has been sent for a postmortem.
Chief Minister Eknath Shinde told the state Assembly on Friday that he had held discussions with a farmers' delegation over 14 points, including forest rights, encroachment of forest land, transfer of land belonging to temple trusts and grazing grounds to cultivators for farming.
Appealing to the farmers to withdraw their long march, Shinde said the decisions taken will be implemented immediately.
Onion growers, facing losses due to low prices of the commodity and damage to crops by unseasonal rains, will be given Rs 350 per quintal as financial relief, he said. -- PTI 
09:44   Modi to become PM for 3rd term in 2024: Shah
Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Friday said the BJP-led NDA will form government again in 2024 and Narendra Modi will become prime minister for a third consecutive term.
Participating the India Today Conclave in New Delhi, Shah also said ever since the Modi government came to power, issues related to three hotspots -- Jammu and Kashmir, the Northeast and Naxal -- were by and large resolved.
Since a surgical strike was carried out against terrorists inside Pakistan, no foreign power dared to interfere in the internal affairs of the country, the home minister said.
"People will decide who will be the next prime minister of the country. I have visited every part of the country and have realised that again the BJP will form the government and Modi will become the prime minister for a third consecutive term," he said.
Shah said since the 1970s, this would be for the first time that a prime minister will get the people's mandate for the third consecutive term.
Asked about the number of seats the NDA will get in the 2024 general elections, the minister said it would be more than 2019. "We (the BJP) will get more than 303 seats," he said.
The BJP got 303 seats in the 2019 general elections and the NDA got over 350 seats out of the total 543 Lok Sabha constituencies.
Shah said when the Modi government came to power for the first time in 2014, 60 crore people had no bank accounts, 10 crore people had no access to toilets and three crore people had no electricity connections.
The Modi government has given all of them access to banks, toilets, free food, electricity and gas connections, he said.
Not only that, externally, if there is a problem in the world, other leaders look towards Modi and what he thinks and what he believes, Shah said.
He said the COVID-19 pandemic was handled very efficiently by the Modi government and it successfully inoculated all citizens of the country.
Asked about his role as Union home minister, Shah said he was satisfied that problems in three hotspots -- Jammu and Kashmir, the Northeast and Naxal were by and large resolved.
There is 70 per cent drop in violence in Jammu and Kashmir, 60 per cent less violence in Naxal-affected areas, and many insurgents have surrendered and peace agreements signed in the Northeast, he said.
Besides these, Shah said, under the Modi government, Article 370 was scrapped, Ram temple is being built and issues related to the Triple Talaq resolved.
Asked when elections could be held in Jammu and Kashmir, the home minister said the Election Commission will decide about it when it gets ready to conduct the polls.
"When the EC will seek a report from the home ministry, we will provide it immediately," he said. -- PTI 
08:48   Maha: 5 die in unseasonal rains, hailstorms in Marathwada; crops damaged
Unseasonal rains and hailstorms this week killed five persons and damaged crops spread across nearly 4,950 hectares in Maharashtra's Marathwada region, the local administration said on Friday.
According to a report prepared by the divisional commissioner's office, an average rainfall of 2.4 mm was recorded in the eight districts of the Marathwada region in central Maharashtra.
The highest rainfall was recorded in Nanded (5.7 mm) on Friday, it said.
Five persons -- all from Parbhani district -- lost their lives in different incidents related to unseasonal rains and hailstorms that occurred on Thursday (March 16) and Friday (March 17), while 23 other residents of the region were injured, said the report.
The report said 22 large animals and five small ones also perished.
The unseasonal rains and hailstorms also damaged crops across 4946.44 hectares. The highest loss was in Nanded district (4,794 hectares) followed by Aurangabad (152.44 hectares), it added. -- PTI 
08:22   WHO accuses China of hiding data on Covid origin
The World Health Organisation rebuked Chinese officials for withholding scientific research that may reveal the origin of the coronavirus, The New York Times reported.

The WHO on Friday also asked the Chinese official about the reasons behind not revealing the data three years ago and why, after it was published online in January, it could not be found now.

Before the data got vanished into the internet space, an international team of virus experts downloaded and began analysing the research. The team revealed that the data supports the idea that the pandemic could have begun from the illegally traded raccoon dogs, which infected the humans at China's Wuhan Huanan seafood wholesale market.

But the team couldn't reach the final result as the gene sequences were removed from a scientific database once the experts offered to collaborate on the analysis with their Chinese counterparts, according to The New York Times.

"These data could have -- and should have -- been shared three years ago," Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO's director general, said. 

The missing evidence now "needs to be shared with the international community immediately," he said.

According to the expert team, which was reviewing the data, the research offers evidence that raccoon dogs, fox-like animals known to spread coronaviruses, had left behind DNA in the same place in the Wuhan market that genetic signatures of the new coronavirus also were discovered.

To some experts, that finding suggests that the animals may have been infected and may have transmitted the virus to humans.

With huge amounts of genetic information drawn from swabs of animal cages, carts and other surfaces at the Wuhan market in early 2020, the genetic data had been the focus of restless anticipation among virus experts since they learned of it a year ago in a paper by Chinese scientists, reported The New York Times.

Meanwhile, a French biologist discovered the genetic sequences in the database last week and her team began mining for clues about the origins of the pandemic.

That team has not yet released a paper outlining the findings. But the researchers delivered an analysis of the material to a WHO advisory group studying Covid's origins this week in a meeting that also included a presentation by Chinese researchers regarding the same data.

The analysis seems to be different from what China has presented, according to Sarah Cobey, an epidemiologist and evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago.
00:03   SC to hear woman's plea against provision in Sharia law
The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a plea filed by a Muslim woman who claimed the provision of Shariat law to the extent of not giving equal share to a female compared to a male is 'discriminatory' and violative of the rights guaranteed under the Constitution.

A bench of justices Krishna Murari and Sanjay Karol was hearing the appeal against the Kerala high court's January 6 order filed by Bushara Ali, who claimed that it is her grievance that being a daughter, according to Shariat Law, she was only allotted half the shares as of her male counterparts.

The bench issued notice to petitioner's 11 siblings which include four sisters.

The plea, filed through advocate Bijo Mathew Joy, said Bushara is a decree holder in a partition suit whereby according to preliminary decree dated January 19, 1995, she was allotted 7/152 shares of the scheduled property having 1.44 acres each.

Joy said that a status quo has also been ordered by the apex court.

The plea filed by Bushara said, 'Petitioner is aggrieved by the final decree passed by the trial court wherein the petitioner was only allotted 4.82 cents of property marked as plot D of advocate commissioner's plan.'

Bushara said her father died intestate leaving behind his wife, seven sons and five daughters.

She said in her plea, 'It is the grievance of the petitioner that in spite of guarantee of the Constitution, Muslim women are subjected to discrimination. Even though the preliminary decree dated January 19, 1995 was not challenged and had become final, petitioner begs to submit that the partition of the property as per Shariat Law is discriminatory and same needs to be set aside. The Section 2 of the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937, to the extent of not giving equal share to a female compared to a male is violative of Article 15 of the Constitution and therefore void as per Article 13 of Constitution.'

The petition said that a similar issue is pending consideration before the court.

Referring to the 2017 verdict in triple talaq case, she said the 1937 Act is a pre-constitutional legislation which would fall directly within Article 13(1) of Constitution.

Article 13(1) states 'all laws in force in the territory of India immediately before the commencement of this Constitution, in so far as they are inconsistent with the provisions of this Part, shall, to the extent of such inconsistency, be void'.

Bushara said she raised the objections against the advocate commissioner's report and plan dated 2022 before the trial court but it was dismissed and the advocate commissioner's plan was accepted and based on that, the property having an extent of 4.82 cents was allotted to petitioner.

'The High Court in First Appeal, without even looking into the records and without considering my aforesaid objections to the Commission report erroneously dismissed the appeal,' she said.

Bushara sought interim order from the apex court restraining her siblings from alienating 80.44 cents of scheduled property as per advocate commissioner's report dated July 25, 2022.   -- PTI