Sat, 25 March 2023
Akal Takht Jathedar asks Amritpal to surrender
21:51 Passing out parade of 1st batch of Agniveers to be on March 28
The Passing Out Parade of the first batch of Agniveers is slated to take place at INS Chilka on March 28, the Navy said on Saturday.
Traditionally, Passing Out Parades have been conducted in the morning hours, however, this historic POP is scheduled to be conducted post-sunset, a first of its kind in the Indian armed forces, officials said.
Admiral R Hari Kumar, Chief of the Naval Staff will be the Chief Guest, and the Reviewing Officer of the POP, they said. The POP marks the successful completion of training of close to 2,600 Agniveers, including 273 women Agniveers, undergoing training at Chilka in Odisha.
"The Passing Out Parade (POP) of the First batch of Agniveers is scheduled at INS Chilka on March 28," the Navy said in a statement.
As part of their transformation to sea warriors, the Agniveers underwent 16 weeks of ab initio training at INS Chilka, the premier sailors' training establishment of the Indian Navy.
The training at INS Chilka encompassed academic, service and outdoor training, based on the core Naval values of duty, honour and courage, it said.
The successful trainees would be deployed on frontline warships for their sea training, the Navy said.
This first batch of Agniveers also includes those Agniveers (men and women) who were part of the Indian Navy Republic Day Parade contingent on the Kartavya Path on January 26 this year, officials said.
On June 14, 2022, the defence minister and the three Service chiefs launched the Agnipath Scheme. In consonance with the central government's initiative of a pan-India merit-based Agnipath recruitment scheme, Indian Navy oriented its selection, training and deployment methodology to lay the foundation of a contemporary, dynamic, younger and technically equipped future-ready, the statement said.
"The Navy further leveraged this opportunity to commence the entry of women Agniveers; consequently, close to 2,600 Agniveers including 273 women Agniveers were inducted in the Indian Navy, and commenced their training at INS Chilka, in November 2022," it added.
21:31 Akal Takht Jathedar asks Amritpal to surrender
Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh Saturday asked fugitive radical preacher Amritpal Singh to surrender before police and cooperate with investigation.
The Jathedar of Akal Takht (the highest temporal seat of Sikhs) also questioned police's competence, wondering why they have not been able to nab the self-styled Sikh preacher despite having such a big force.
"If Amritpal is out (of police net), then I will ask him to present (before police) and cooperate with (police) investigation," said the Jathedar.
Singh's remarks come in the wake of Punjab Police crackdown against radical preacher Amritpal Singh and elements of 'Waris Punjab De', an outfit headed by him.
Amritpal has been on the run since March 18, when the police crackdown began.
Several images and videos have shown him taking multiple vehicles to dodge police.
The preacher himself gave the police a slip and escaped their dragnet when his cavalcade was intercepted in Jalandhar district. His whereabouts are still unknown.
The Punjab government has slapped the strictest National Security Act against him and some of his associates.
In a video message on Saturday, the Jathedar said the biggest question in the mind of every Sikh living across the world is how Amritpal could not be arrested despite a big police force in the state. It raises a question over the functioning of the police, he said.
Singh said if the preacher has already been arrested, then police should say so. -- PTI
20:35 Land-for-jobs 'scam': Tejashwi quizzed for 8 hours
The Central Bureau of Investigation questioned Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav at its headquarters for more than eight hours on Saturday in an ongoing investigation concerning the land-for-jobs scam case, officials said.
Yadav had missed three earlier dates given by the agency and arrived at the CBI headquarters here at around 10:30 am according to his commitment to the Delhi High Court last week, they said.
Following necessary formalities, he was escorted to the investigating team which questioned him till around 8 PM with a nearly 90-minute lunch break, during which he went out of the building, they said.
The CBI's line of inquiry was believed to have focused on Yadav's financial transactions, including his purported links to AB Exports Private Limited and AK Infosystems Pvt Ltd.
Last week, the CBI assured the Delhi high court that Yadav would not be arrested this month.
The Rashtriya Janata Dal leader's counsel, Maninder Singh, had informed the high court that he would require some time to appear before the CBI investigators due to the ongoing Bihar Assembly session, scheduled to conclude on April 5.
The CBI's counsel, D P Singh, had argued that the Assembly was not convened on Saturdays and Yadav could appear before the agency on any Saturday in March according to his convenience.
Maninder Singh had told the court that Yadav would appear before the investigating officer at the CBI headquarters in Delhi at 10:30 am on March 25.
The RJD leader had sought quashing of the summonses issued against him on February 28, March 4 and March 11.
A special CBI court had already granted bail to Yadav's father Lalu Prasad, mother Rabri Devi, sister Misha Bharti and others in the same case on March 15.
20:04 BJP wants to finish off Oppn, democracy: Priyanka
Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Saturday slammed the Bharatiya Janata Party over the questioning of Rashtriya Janata Dal leaders Tejashwi Yadav and Misa Bharti by probe agencies, alleging that the ruling party wants to finish off the Opposition and democracy.
RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav's MP daughter Misa Bharti was questioned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in Delhi on Saturday in the railways land-for-jobs linked money laundering case.
Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav appeared before the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) here on Saturday to be interrogated in connection with the same scam, after skipping three previous dates.
Hitting out at the BJP, Priyanka Gandhi said in a tweet in Hindi, "BJP wants to finish off the Opposition and democracy from this country. That is why it is continuously attacking the voice of the people in the Opposition."
Yadav and Bharti are being "harassed" by the agencies, she said, adding: "We are all united against the attack on democracy."
Bharti, 46, is a Rajya Sabha MP of the Rashtriya Janata Dal. She went into the federal agency's office in central Delhi around 11 am following which her statement is understood to have been recorded under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
The federal agencies have recently initiated action in the case, with the CBI questioning Lalu Prasad and his wife and former Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi, and the ED carrying out raids against the RJD chief's family. -- PTI
19:28 FM reviews PSBs' performance amid stress in US
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday reviewed the performance of public sector banks (PSBs) on various financial health parameters and their resilience in the wake of the current global financial scenario emanating from the failure of some international banks in the US and Europe.
She urged the banks to remain vigilant about the interest rate risks and regularly undertake stress tests.
During the two hours meeting with MDs and CEOs of PSBs, an open discussion was held on the global scenario amid the failure of the Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and Signature Bank (SB), along with the issues leading to the crisis in Credit Suisse.
The meeting was also attended by Minister of State for Finance Bhagwat Karad, Financial Services Secretary Vivek Joshi and other senior officials, an official statement said.
She also discussed the developing and immediate external global financial stress from both short and long-term perspectives.
During the PSB review meeting, she emphasised that the banks should undertake due diligence and adhere to the regulatory framework by focusing on risk management and diversification of deposits and assets base.
The finance minister underlined that PSBs must look at business models closely to identify stress points, including concentration risks and adverse exposures, the statement said, adding that she also exhorted PSBs to use this opportunity to frame detailed crisis management and communication strategies.
The chiefs of PSBs apprised Sitharaman that they follow the best corporate governance practices, adhere to regulatory norms, ensure prudent liquidity management and continue to focus on having robust asset-liability and risk management.
Further, she was also informed by the PSBs that they are vigilant of developments in the global banking sector and are taking all possible steps to safeguard themselves from any potential financial shock.
All the major financial parameters indicate stable and resilient PSBs with robust financial health, it added.
The minister also stressed that PSBs must leverage the full potential of branches opened in International Financial Services Centres in GIFT City Gujarat to identify international opportunities, including prospects related to Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs).
She asked banks to take focused measures to attract deposits, given the steps taken by the government to reduce the tax arbitrage in some debt instruments and pivot their strengthened financial position to support the credit needs of the growing economy.
The minister asked banks to focus on credit outreach in states where the credit offtake is lower than the national average, particularly in the northeast and eastern parts of the country, and enhance business presence in new and emerging areas like One District One Product (ODOP), e-NAM and drones.
She said PSBs should promote the Mahila Samman Bachat Patra, announced in the Budget, through special drives and campaigns and also focus on increasing brick-and-mortar banking presence in border and coastal areas. -- PTI
19:15 Nitu Ghanghas wins India's 1st gold at World Boxing C'ships 2023
Commonwealth Games gold medallist Nitu Ghanghas (48kg) added a World Championship title to her name with a win over Mongolia's Lutsaikhan Altansetseg at the marquee tournament in Delhi on Saturday.
The Indian put up a stupendous performance to see off Altansetseg 5-0 and claim the title for the minimum weight category in front of a packed crowd.
Nitu started off aggressively, and used her combination of punches effectively to eke out a win.
With this victory, Nitu, a 2022 Strandja Memorial gold medallist, became the sixth Indian boxer to be crowned world champion.
Six-time champion Mary Kom (2002, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2018), Sarita Devi (2006), Jenny RL (2006), Lekha KC (2006) and Nikhat Zareen (2022) are the other pugilists who have won the world title. -- PTI
18:57 'My baby Jacqueline': Sukesh pens romantic note on his b'day
Sukesh Chandrashekhar, who is lodged in Mandoli jail in Delhi in connection with several frauds, wrote a letter to Bollywood actress Jacqueline Fernandez on his birthday and confessed his love for her.
He said that he was missing her on his birthday and referred to her as a "beautiful doll."
"My Bomma, I miss you a ton on this day of my birthday, I miss your energy around me, I have no words, but I know your love for me is never ending, is all over me. I know what is in your beautiful heart. I don't need proof and that's all that matters to me, baby. But I must admit, I am missing you, you know how much I love you my botta bomma," he wrote in the letter.
The letter further said, "You and your love is the bestest gift which is priceless in my life, you know I am here for you standing by you come what may. Love you my baby, thank you for giving me your heart. I also thank all my supporters and friends for all your wishes on my birthday. I have received hundreds of letters, greetings. I feel blessed, thank you."
Chandrashekhar is accused of cheating many people, including high-profile individuals such as former Fortis Healthcare promoter Shivinder Mohan Singh's wife Aditi Singh.
Chandrashekhar and his associates reportedly took money from Aditi posing as government officials and promising to secure bail for her husband who was in jail in a money laundering case. -- PTI
18:30 Rise in Covid: Hospitals to conduct mock drill on April 10, 11
Amid rising cases of COVID-19 and seasonal influenza, the government is planning a nationwide mock drill on April 10 and 11 to take stock of hospital preparedness.
According to a joint advisory issued by the Union Health Ministry and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Saturday, both public and private health facilities in all districts are expected to participate in the exercise aimed at taking stock of availability of medicines, hospital beds, medical equipment and medical oxygen.
The exact details of the mock drill shall be communicated to the states in the virtual meeting scheduled on March 27, the advisory stated.
The joint advisory highlighted that in the past several weeks, COVID-19 testing has declined in some states and the current testing levels are insufficient as compared to the standards prescribed by the World Health Organization (WHO), i.e 140 tests per million.
Testing at the levels of districts and blocks also varies, with some states heavily relying on the less sensitive rapid antigen tests.
"Hence it is critical to maintain optimum testing for COVID-19, equitably distributed (with suitable modifications to address emergence of new cluster of Covid cases) across the states. This is especially important to identify any emerging hotspots and take pre-emptive steps to curb virus transmission," it stated.
The joint advisory is in continuation of the Union Health Ministry's earlier communications dated March 10 and 16 on the issue of seasonal circulation of pan-respiratory pathogens in the country as well as public health response to COVID-19 in states and Union territories.
The advisory signed by Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan and Director General of ICMR Dr Rajiv Bahl stated that a gradual but sustained increase in trajectory of COVID-19 cases in the country is being witnessed since mid-February.
As on date, most of the active COVID-19 cases in the country are largely being reported by a few states like Kerala (26.4 per cent), Maharashtra (21.7 per cent), Gujarat (13.9 per cent), Karnataka (8.6 per cent) and Tamil Nadu (6.3 per cent).
"While the rates of hospitalization and death due to the disease remain low, largely because of the significant coverage achieved in terms of COVID-19 vaccination rates by all states and UTS, this gradual rise in cases needs reinvigorated public health actions to contain the surge," the advisory said. -- PTI
18:28 Was in Congress then: Khushbu on old Modi tweet
Targeted by the Congress over her 2018 tweet criticial of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP leader Khushbu Sundar on Saturday hit back at the opposition party saying she was speaking the "language of the leader" then as she was told to do so and questioned its 'desperation.'
She has not deleted the five year-old social media post and will not do so now, she said.
Congress picking on her in the wake of party leader Rahul Gandhi's Modi surname remarks that led to a Surat local court convicting him and him being disqualified as a Lok Sabha member, Sundar said it exposed how desperate the opposition party was.
The 2018 tweet of the National Commission for Women member has gone viral and she has not deleted the post.
Sundar, also BJP national executive committee member who had quit the Congress party and joined the saffron organisation in 2020 had posted a tweet in 2018 saying "...Let's change the meaning of #Modi to corruption..suits better."
Explaining the tweet, Khushbu said "I was in Congress party then and I was only performing my duty as the spokesperson of the Congress. This is the language we were supposed to speak and that is exactly what I was doing. I was following the party leader. This is his language."
"Not only does it show how desperate they (Congress party) are, but it exposes their level of ignorance on the issue they are raking up," she told PTI.
In the wake of Rahul Gandhi's disqualification over his equating the surname Modi to "thieves" the party was quick to pick on Khushbu's old tweet.
Party leader and Rajya Sabha MP Digvijaya Singh asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi via a Twitter post on Saturday morning, "will you make one of your disciples named Modi file a defamation case against Khushbu Sundar too?"
"I have never deleted any of the tweets on my timeline and I will not do so now," Sundar said.
She asked "what are the Congress leaders trying to do by picking on me? Are they equating me to Rahul Gandhi?"
17:39 'Very closely' following the developments in Punjab: Canada
Canada is "very closely" following the developments in Punjab and will continue to address the concerns of the community, Foreign Minister Melanie Joly has said amid Punjab Police's crackdown on radical preacher Amritpal Singh.
Joly was answering a question from Indo-Canadian MP Iqwinder S Gaheer in the House of Commons on Thursday.
"We are aware of the evolving situation in Punjab, and we are following it very closely. We look forward to a return to a more stable situation," she said.
"Canadians can always count on the Government of Canada to make sure that we will continue to address the concerns of many members of the community," she added.
Gaheer said he had heard about the ongoing mass suspension of Internet services in Punjab and asked Joly to update the House about the situation in India.
Responding to questions about foreign leaders and parliamentarians commenting on the action against Amritpal Singh, External Affairs Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi urged people residing abroad not to believe "inaccurate and motivated narratives" that are being circulated by some elements on social media.
"Authorities in Punjab are undertaking operations to nab a fugitive. Information regarding that operation is being shared by authorities concerned on a regular basis," the spokesman said in New Delhi.
Authorities in Punjab last week suspended internet and SMS services in the state following the police crackdown against elements of 'Waris Punjab De,' headed by the radical preacher.
Police in Punjab are still searching for Amritpal Singh.
Earlier on Wednesday Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in the House of Commons: 'We are looking forward to a swift return to a more stable situation."
Canada has also seen a rise in anti-India activities recently by Khalistan supporters who have vandalised some Hindu temples.
17:31 Rahul must be punished for insulting Savarkar: Shinde
Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde on Saturday claimed Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has insulted Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the OBC community and Hindutva ideologue V D Savarkar and should be "punished".
Replying to a debate on the Opposition sponsored "Last Week" resolution in the Legislative Assembly, the chief minister said the law under which Rahul Gandhi has been disqualified as an MP was enacted by the Congress-led UPA government and the Modi government has implemented it.
"Rahul Gandhi has been convicted and stands automatically disqualified as a member of Lok Sabha. But he continues to insult V D Savarkar by saying that he is not Savarkar to apologise. Who does he think he is? He must be punished," Shinde said.
Rahul Gandhi was disqualified as a Lok Sabha MP after a Surat court on Thursday sentenced him to two years in jail for criminal defamation over his 2019 "Modi surname" remark. The sentence is suspended for 30 days to allow Rahul to appeal in a higher court.
Shinde said Rahul Gandhi had insulted the OBC (Other Backward Classes) community by targeting the prime minister.
"Savarkar is a patriot. Why insult a patriotic person? Maharashtra will not tolerate the insult of PM Modi and Savarkar. People will not let him (Rahul Gandhi) move on the streets of Maharashtra," he said.
Addressing a press conference in Delhi over his disqualification, Rahul Gandhi said that "My name is not Savarkar, my name is Gandhi and Gandhi does not offer an apology to anyone".
Shinde took a dig at the Opposition, which comprises Shiv Sena (UBT), NCP, and Congress, for demanding the suspension of some legislators of the ruling alliance who had hit a poster of Rahul Gandhi with slippers on the stairs of the Maharashtra Legislature complex some days ago.
"As the Opposition doesn't want to listen to the development work of our government, their members fled from the House," the chief minister said referring to members of the Opposition staging a walkout earlier in the day. -- PTI
16:36 Mahatma didn't have a university degree? Tushar Gandhi rubbishes J-K LG's claim
Mahatma Gandhi's great grandson Tushar Gandhi has rubbished Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir Manoj Sinha's claim that the Father of the Nation did not have a single university degree.
"M. K. Gandhi passed 2 Matrics 1 from Alfred High School Rajkot, 2nd it's equivalent in London, British Matriculation. He acquired, by studying & passing exams a Law Degree from Inner Temple, a law College affiliated to London University & simultaneously got two diplomas one in Latin the other in French. Issued to educate the Deputy Governor of J&K," Tushar Gandhi tweeted.
Sinha had spoken about Gandhiji's educational qualifications while delivering a keynote address for Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Memorial Lecture at ITM Gwalior on Thursday.
"Did you know that he did not have a single university degree or qualification. There are many of us who think that Mahatma Gandhi had a law degree. No, he did not. His only qualification was a high school diploma. He qualified to practice law. He did not have a law degree," Sinha had said.
Slamming Sinha's remarks, Tushar Gandhi tweeted, "I have dispatched a copy of Bapu's Autobiography to Rajbhavan Jammu with the hope that if the Deputy Governor can read he will educate himself."
"I agree, Bapu did not hold a degree in Entire Law!" Tushar Gandhi tweeted. -- PTI
16:26 Sentence awarded to Rahul excessive: Prashant Kishor
Political strategist turned activist Prashant Kishor on Saturday termed as "excessive" the two years' imprisonment awarded to Rahul Gandhi in a defamation case and urged the ruling dispensation to show "a big heart" on the Congress leader's disqualification.
Kishor, who is now touring Bihar, his home state, as part of "Jan Suraaj" campaign, also underscored that the Congress did not seem to be well prepared to reach out to the masses with the message that it has been wronged.
"I am not a legal expert but with due respect to the process of law, the sentence awarded to Rahul Gandhi seems to be excessive. In the heat of elections, people say all types of things. This was not the first instance and not going to be the last", asserted the IPAC founder who has, in his professional capacity, worked with many political parties, including the BJP and the Congress.
"Two years in prison seems to be excessive for what is essentially a defamation case", said Kishor, adding "I would like to remind the government at the Centre of a famous line by Atal Bihari Vajpayee that nobody becomes great with a petty heart (chhote man se koi bada nahin ban jaata)".
"The ruling dispensation may hide behind technicalities and insist that Rahul Gandhi's disqualification was inevitable, given his conviction. I would still say they should have taken a leaf out of the book of late Vajpayee, their own revered leader and not rushed to disqualify Rahul Gandhi", said Kishor.
"They (the BJP) are in power today. The onus was on them to have shown a big heart. They should have waited for a few days and allowed the aggrieved party to go in appeal and acted only if no relief was in sight", added Kishor, who first shot into limelight with his handling of the spectacularly successful Lok Sabha poll campaign of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014.
Kishor, who decided to return to his home state and launch "Jan Suraaj" after his proposal to revamp the Congress failed to take off, despite several rounds of talks with the top leadership, also had a word of advice for the grand old party.
"The Congress seems to have little realisation of what it is up against. Its top brass needs to understand that you cannot fight a political battle simply by sitting in Delhi, tweeting furiously and staging marches to the Parliament", he said.
"I would like to share my own experience here, in Marhaura block of Saran district. I am yet to come across a single Congress worker who is meeting people and trying to explain to them how it is being wronged. There are more than one lakh panchayats across the country. I wonder if Congress workers made an effort in any of these", he added.
16:24 12 people hurt, 30 houses damaged as tornado hits Punjab's Fazilka
At least 12 people were injured and 30 houses damaged after a tornado hit the Bakenwala village in this Punjab district, officials said on Saturday.
The tornado also damaged standing crops in the fields and kinnow orchards, they said.
Bakenwala resident Gurmukh Singh said, "Villagers saw the tornado around 4 pm on Friday."
It caused damage in a 2-2.5-km area, he said.
Deputy Commissioner Senu Duggal, who visited the affected village, said the administration shifted those villagers whose houses were damaged to the local government school.
"The administration will also begin the process to assess the loss of property and crop that will be compensated by the government," Duggal said.
A video of the tornado wreaking havoc was widely circulated on social media.
The injured have been admitted to the civil hospital in Fazilka. -- PTI
15:36 Cong to encash Rahul conviction in K'tka poll: BJP
Senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad on Saturday rubbished the contention that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's conviction in a defamation case and the subsequent disqualification was linked to the latter's raising of the Adani Group issue.
Rahul Gandhi made the defamatory remarks way back in 2019, Prasad said.
Talking to reporters in Patna soon after Gandhi's press conference in Delhi, Prasad also alleged that the Congress did not press into service its battery of lawyers to immediately obtain a stay on Gandhi's conviction by a Gujarat court with a view to "encashing" the issue in the upcoming assembly polls in Karnataka.
The former union minister also charged Gandhi with having been "abusive, not critical" in his utterances about the Modi surname which led to the defamation suit.
He asserted that the Congress leader had "insulted OBCs, an issue that will be taken up in all earnestness by the BJP across the country". -- PTI
14:55 Karma has eventually caught up with Rahul: Himanta
Rahul Gandhi could have apologised or withdrawn the comments for which he was sentenced by a Surat court, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Saturday.
A slip of tongue sometimes happens and ''we have experienced it too, but we issue a statement apologising, saying it was unintentional. Gandhi could have done the same and the matter would have ended there'', Sarma said on the sidelines of a programme in Guwahati.
Gandhi, however, did not apologise nor withdraw the comments over the last five years which goes to ''show that it was intentional and made to abuse the OBC community,'' Sarma claimed, referring to the Surat court's verdict convicting Gandhi in a defamation case and subsequent disqualification as a Lok Sabha MP.
Other chief ministers in the eastern region, many ruled by opposition parties have however come out against the disqualification.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday without naming Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, said the country is witnessing a new low in a constitutional democracy.
"In PM Modi's New India, Opposition leaders have become the prime target of BJP ! While BJP leaders with criminal antecedents are inducted into the cabinet, opposition leaders are disqualified for their speeches," the fiery TMC Supremo said in a tweet.
Similarly, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren too on Friday attacked the BJP-led government at the Centre , termin gthe disqualification 'Aapat Kaal' (emergency) for the nation.
"In today's 'Amrit Kaal' Opposition leaders are being coerced and silenced by using every tool of power by BJP and the Centre," Soren said in a tweet.
"It is not that he had to apologise to any BJP members or Prime Minister Narendra but he did not do so and showed his arrogance'', the Assam Chief Minister on Saturday said.
''This is a judicial process....a cycle and there is nothing political in it. The decision has been taken after a prolonged judicial process of five years'', he said.
The chief minister referring to the judgement said ''Karma (destiny) has eventually caught up with him."
However, he indicated that judicial recourse remained is open, and Gandhi ''can challenge the verdict in the high court or Supreme Court'', the Chief minister added. -- PTI
14:14 Centre played 'role' in Rahul disqualification: JD-U
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal-United on Saturday charged the Narendra Modi government at the Centre with having played an "active role" in ensuring "hasty" disqualification of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi from the Lok Sabha.
JD-U national president Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan also alleged that the Central Bureau of Investigation case against Bihar Deputy Chief Minister and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, was an instance of "central agencies being used to settle scores with political opponents".
Lalan was responding to questions in Patna, from reporters on the disqualification of Gandhi following his conviction, by a Gujarat court, in a defamation case.
"A due procedure should be followed in disqualification of a member of Parliament and legislature upon conviction in a case. There should be a notification from the Election Commission on which the Lok Sabha Speaker should act after seeking the approval of the President. Obviously, this takes some time", said Lalan.
He added, "in case of Rahul Gandhi, though the disqualification was ordered in less than 24 hours of the court order. The hasty manner (hadbadi) shows that the government at the Centre has played an active role in the episode".
"This also shows that the ruling dispensation's exasperation (baukhlahat) and desperation (hataasha). But the people of the country are smart enough and they (the BJP) will be held to account (hisab kar diya jaaega) at the appropriate time", said the close aide of the Bihar CM, who had quit the NDA last year and has since become a strong votary of opposition unity.
Asked about Tejashwi Yadav, who was appearing before the CBI at Delhi for questioning in the land for jobs scam, Lalan said "this is yet another instance of the Centre's use of its agencies for political purposes".
"They say that the irregularities took place in 2008. Even if one accepts their theory that till 2014 the UPA was in power and it was supported by RJD hence no action was initiated, what had stopped these people (NDA) from taking action for so many years", asked the JD(U) chief.
He alleged "it is not a mere coincidence that the case against Tejashwi Yadav has resurfaced after the BJP's loss of power in Bihar and our realignment with the RJD. But I would say that in this case, too, the people will hold those in power at the Centre to account".
14:03 Maha assembly condemns BBC over its documentary on Gujarat riots
The Maharashtra Legislative Assembly on Saturday condemned the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) for its documentary on the 2002 Gujarat riots, saying it had tried to malign the country's judiciary and create a religious divide.
A resolution on this was moved by Bharatiya Janata Party member Atul Bhatkhalkar and was put to vote by Speaker Rahul Narvekar. The resolution condemned the UK broadcaster for the documentary, saying it had tried to create a religious divide and malign India's judiciary.
The House passed the resolution by a voice vote. The Opposition was not present in the House when the resolution was taken up.
Opposition members had staged a walkout alleging delay in the Speaker's decision on taking action against those who had slapped a poster of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi with footwear on the legislature premises.
BBC recently sparked controversy and protests in India after it aired a two-part series titled India: The Modi Question, claiming it investigated certain aspects relating to the 2002 Gujarat riots when Modi was the chief minister of the state.
India dismissed it as a "propaganda piece" and said it is designed to push a particular "discredited narrative" and that the continuing colonial mindset is "blatantly visible" in the series. -- PTI
13:55 Govt decides to reduce areas under AFSPA in NE: Shah
Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Saturday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government has once again decided to decrease the jurisdiction of "disturbed areas" declared under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, or AFSPA, in Nagaland, Assam and Manipur.
In a series of tweets, Shah said this decision has been taken on account of significant improvement in the security situation in northeast India.
"A historic day for the Northeast! PM @narendramodi led GoI has once again decided to decrease the disturbed areas in Nagaland, Assam and Manipur under the AFSPA. This decision has been taken on account of significant improvement in the security situation in North-East India," he said.
Shah said for the first time in India's history, Modi prioritised security, peace and development in the northeast and as a result of it, the region is now rapidly heading on the path of peace and development.
He expressed gratitude to the prime minister for bringing positive change in the lives of the people of the northeast and connecting the region with the hearts of the rest of India.
"Congratulations to our sisters and brothers of the Northeast on this momentous occasion," Shah said.
The AFSPA gives armed forces personnel, operating in disturbed areas, sweeping powers to search, arrest, and to open fire if they deem it necessary for "the maintenance of public order".
An area or district is notified as a disturbed area under the AFSPA to facilitate the operations of the armed forces. -- PTI
13:35 I'm disqualified as PM is scared of my next speech on Adani: Rahul
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi today addresses first press conference after being disqualified from the Lok Sabha.
Gandhi said that he has been disqualified as Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scared of his next speech on Gautam Adani.
"The prime minister is scared of my next speech on Adani, and I have seen it in his eyes. That is why, first the distraction and then the disqualification," said Gandhi.
"I am not interested in anything but the truth. I only speak the truth, it is my work and I will keep doing it even if I get disqualified or get arrested. This country has given me everything and that is why I do this," he added.
Rahul said the 'whole drama that is been orchestrated' to defend the prime minister from the question over his links with Adani.
"This is the whole drama that is been orchestrated to defend the Prime Minister from the simple question- Who's Rs 20,000 crore went to Adani's shell companies? I am not scared of these threats, disqualifications or prison sentences," Rahul Gandhi said.
Rahul further added, "My speech made in Parliament was expunged, and later I wrote a detailed reply to the Lok Sabha Speaker. Some ministers lied about me, that I sought help from foreign powers. But there is no such thing I have done. I will not stop asking questions. I will keep questioning the relationship between PM Modi and Adani."
12:51 Money-laundering case: Court adjourns hearing on Sisodia's bail plea till April 5
A Delhi court on Saturday adjourned till April 5 the hearing on the bail plea of Aam Aadmi Party leader Manish Sisodia, who has been arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in a money-laundering case arising out of the excise policy matter.
Special Judge MK Nagpal adjourned the hearing after Sisodia's counsel sought time to respond to the ED's reply filed on his client's bail plea.
Sisodia's counsel told the court that he needed some time to make detailed arguments in the matter.
On March 9, the ED arrested former Delhi deputy chief minister Sisodia at the Tihar jail, where he was lodged in connection with a separate case being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation.
The CBI arrested the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader on February 26 in connection with alleged corruption in the formulation and implementation of the now-scrapped Delhi excise policy for 2021-22.
The court had on Friday said it would pronounce its order on Sisodia's bail plea in the CBI case on March 31. -- PTI
12:37 Modi inaugurates free-of-cost medical college & hospital in Karnataka
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday inaugurated 'Sri Madhusudan Sai Institute of Medical Sciences and Research' (SMSIMSR) & 'Sri Sathya Sai Rajeswari Memorial Block', a totally-free-of-cost medical college and hospital, at Sathya Sai Grama, Muddenahalli in Chikkaballapura district.
The SMSIMSR hospital has been established by Sri Sathya Sai University for Human Excellence, an official release said.
Situated in a rural area and established with a vision of de-commercialising medical education and healthcare, SMSIMSR would provide medical education and quality medical care -- completely free of cost to all, it said.
The institute will start functioning from the academic year 2023, the release said. -- PTI
12:34 Absurd: Sibal on BJP's Rahul 'insulted OBCs' claim
Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal on Saturday took a swipe at two Bharatiya Janata Party ministers for accusing Congress leader Rahul Gandhi of insulting OBCs with his "Modi surname" remark in 2019, saying they were "insulting" people's intelligence by making such an "absurd allegation".
Gandhi was on Friday disqualified from the Lok Sabha, nearly 24 hours after a Surat court convicted him in a defamation case.
The court in Gujarat's Surat sentenced Gandhi to two years in jail in a defamation case filed on a complaint by BJP MLA Purnesh Modi for his remark -- "How come all thieves have Modi as the common surname?"
Addressing a press conference on Friday, BJP leaders and Union ministers Dharmendra Pradhan and Anurag Thakur had accused Gandhi of insulting OBCs.
Reacting to their remarks, former law minister Sibal said on Twitter, "Dharmendra Pradhan, Anurag Thakur: 'Rahul insulted OBCs'. By making such an absurd allegation you are 'insulting' our intelligence."
Sibal, who was a Union minister during the UPA 1 and 2 regimes, quit the Congress in May last year and was elected to the Rajya Sabha as an independent member with the Samajwadi Party's support.
Several Opposition leaders have rallied behind Gandhi after his disqualification and hit out at the government, accusing it of targeting political opponents. -- PTI
12:31 Gujarat CMO official resigns son's links with conman
A senior official in the Gujarat Chief Minister's Office (CMO) has resigned after his son's name cropped up in connection with a case involving alleged conman Kiran Patel, who was arrested for allegedly posing as a top official of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), government sources said.
Hitesh Pandya, additional public relations officer in the CMO, resigned from his post on Friday over the controversy surrounding his son Amit Pandya for his connection with arrested conman Kiran Patel, they said.
Pandya, who was associated with the CMO for around two decades, tendered his resignation to Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel on Friday evening, the sources said.
Patel, a resident of the city's Ghodasar, was arrested by the Jammu and Kashmir Police on March 3 from a five-star hotel in Srinagar after authorities grew suspicious about his activities.
Pandya's son and one Jay Sitapara were reportedly accompanying Patel when he was arrested by the Jammu and Kashmir police. The duo were initially let go and later summoned by the police for questioning.
This comes even as the Ahmedabad police registered a fresh first information report (FIR) against Patel on cheating and criminal conspiracy charges for trying to usurp a senior citizen's bungalow here with his wife Malini Patel also named as an accused.
As per the complaint, Patel contacted the owner of a bungalow in a posh locality of Ahmedabad and claimed to be a real estate agent and took Rs 35 lakh from him for its renovation and took its possession by putting up their name plate outside it. The couple left the place after the owner returned. However, the owner later learnt through a court notice that Patel had filed a civil suit claiming ownership of the property. -- PTI
11:51 Every corner of world...: Tharoor on Rahul's disqualification
After Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's disqualification from Lok Sabha as a Member of Parliament, party leader Shashi Tharoor on Saturday shared remarks from various newspapers through a clip, alleging that Rahul Gandhi was "deliberately disqualified" and said that every corner of the world hears the voice of India.
Sharing a clip from various newspapers on Twitter, highlighting Rahul Gandhi's disqualification as a member of Lok Sabha, Tharoor said, "They tried to silence a voice. Now every corner of the world hears the voice of India."
Gandhi, representing Wayanad parliamentary constituency in Kerala, was on Friday disqualified from the Lok Sabha, a day after his conviction in a defamation case by a court in Surat in Gujarat.
The court sentenced Gandhi to two years in jail in a criminal defamation case over his 'Modi surname' remarks at a 2019 poll rally in Karnataka.
However, the court also granted him bail and suspended the sentence for 30 days to allow him to appeal in a higher court.
11:03 Tejashwi appears before CBI for questioning
Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav appeared before the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in New Delhi on Saturday to be interrogated in connection with the alleged land-for-jobs scam, after skipping three previous dates, officials said. Upon his arrival at the CBI headquarters at around 10.30 am, the Rashtriya Janata Dal leader was escorted to the investigation team after the completion of the necessary formalities.
The CBI had given an assurance to the Delhi high court last week that it would not arrest Yadav this month.
According to the RJD leader's counsel, Maninder Singh, Yadav had conveyed to the federal agency that he would require some time to appear before its sleuths as the ongoing Bihar assembly session is scheduled to conclude on April 5.
Singh had also told the court that Yadav would appear before the investigating officer at the CBI headquarters in Delhi at 10.30 am on March 25.
CBI's counsel D P Singh had told the court that the assembly is not convened on Saturdays and Yadav could appear before the agency on any Saturday in March according to his convenience.
The RJD leader had sought quashing of the summonses dated February 28, March 4 and March 11 issued against him.
On March 15, a special CBI court granted bail to Yadav's father Lalu Prasad, mother Rabri Devi -- both former Bihar chief ministers -- sister Misa Bharti and others in the land-for-jobs 'scam' case.
The CBI's investigation against the Yadav family and others is part of its ongoing probe into documents and evidence that surfaced after the first chargesheet was submitted and also into the alleged roles of the accused that could not be completed by the time the initial report was filed, according to officials.
The officials also said the fresh round of questioning of the accused is taking place as part of the 'further investigation' based on fresh inputs gathered during the agency's ongoing probe.
The CBI has alleged that during Lalu Prasad's tenure as the railway minister in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government from 2004 to 2009, favourite candidates were appointed in the railways in violation of norms and procedures, without any advertisement or public notice.
The agency has claimed that substitutes from Patna were appointed in various zonal railways located in Mumbai, Jabalpur, Kolkata, Jaipur and Hazipur.
As a quid pro quo, the candidates, either directly or through their immediate family members, allegedly sold land to Prasad's family members at highly-discounted rates. -- PTI
10:58 Delhi receives highest single-day rain in March in 3 years: IMD
Delhi received 12 mm of rainfall in a 24-hour period ending at 8.30 am on Saturday, the highest in a day in March in three years, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD).
The Safdarjung observatory, Delhi's primary weather station, recorded 12 mm rainfall between 8:30 am on Friday and 8.30 am on Saturday.
The city recorded a minimum temperature of 15.3 degrees Celsius, two notches below the season's average, the IMD said.
The relative humidity was recorded at 85 per cent at 8.30 am, it added.
The weatherman has forecast a partly cloudy sky during the day and the maximum temperature is likely to hover around 30 degrees Celsius.
At 9 am, Delhi's Air Quality Index (AQI) was recorded in the 'moderate' category at 102.
An AQI between zero and 50 is considered 'good', 51 and 100 'satisfactory', 101 and 200 'moderate', 201 and 300 'poor', 301 and 400 'very poor', and 401 and 500 'severe'.
Heavy rain lashed parts of the national capital on Friday evening. -- PTI
10:11 Congress to observe 'black day' in Wayanad
As part of a protest against the disqualification of Rahul Gandhi from Lok Sabha, Wayanad District Congress Committee chief N D Appachan said that the party will observe 'Black Day' on Saturday.
Rahul Gandhi was an MP from the Wayanad constituency in Kerala.
Earlier, Leader of the Opposition in Kerala, V D Satheesan said that the action against Rahul Gandhi was 'hasty and politically motivated'.
"The order disqualifying Rahul Gandhi from the post of MP in Lok Sabha was hasty and politically motivated. Congress will face the action of Lok Sabha Secretariat politically as well as legally", LoP said.
Satheesan said, "The decision of the Surat court is not final. Congress believes in democracy and rule of law. The country has a legal system that extends up to the Supreme Court. Rahul Gandhi will come back through the legal route. Neither Rahul nor Congress can be silenced by this. We will still raise our voice for democracy and secular values." -- ANI
09:33 Siddaramaiah fielded from Varuna in 1st Cong list
The Congress on Saturday announced its first list of 124 candidates for the upcoming assembly elections in Karnataka with former chief minister Siddaramaiah being fielded from his Varuna seat.
Pradesh Congress Committee chief D K Shivakumar will contest the elections from his Kanakapura assembly constituency, according to the list.
The party has fielded former deputy chief minister G Parameshwara from the Koratagere (SC) constituency.
Former ministers K H Muniappa and Priyank Kharge will contest from Devanahalli and Chitapur (SC), respectively.
Priyank is the son of Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge.
The party's central election committee cleared the first list of candidates after a meeting in Delhi on March 17.
The committee is chaired by Congress chief Kharge.
Rahul Gandhi was also present at the meeting.
The Congress is the first party to release its candidates' list for the elections in Karnataka.
The Election Commission is yet to announce the schedule for assembly polls in the southern state.
Assembly polls in Karnataka are slated before May when the tenure of the current assembly ends.
The Congress is seeking to wrest power from the Bharatiya Janata Party in the southern state. -- PTI
08:39 Rahul disqualified: Cong says Oppn unity must go further
Congress general secretary K C Venugopal on Friday thanked like-minded political parties for coming in support of Congress on the issue of Rahul Gandhi's disqualification from Lok Sabha and said the unity of opposition parties must go further against the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Centre.
"We are grateful to all like-minded political parties who came forward and supported us in this issue. I feel now, Congress is also realising that this unity of the opposition parties must go further or else this dictatorship government will ruin the country," Venugopal told mediapersons in New Delhi.
Rahul Gandhi's disqualification from Lok Sabha on Friday, a day after his conviction by a Surat court in a criminal defamation case, triggered a massive political row with the BJP stating that the Congress leader was 'a habitual loose cannon' and the Congress alleging that he was got 'deliberately disqualified'.
Opposition leaders slammed the government after the disqualification of Rahul Gandhi from Lok Sabha and the Congress said it will launch a people's moment on the issue.
While Congress leaders including Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and party chief Mallikarjun Kharge rallied behind Rahul Gandhi, opposition leaders including Mamata Banerjee, K Chandrashekar Rao, M K Stalin, Hemant Soren, Arvind Kejiwal, Sharad Yadav, Uddhav Thackeray and Akhilesh Yadav attacked the BJP-led government.
The Congress welcomed the support of opposition leaders and said the task of building opposition unity should be taken up in a systematic way.
It expressed confidence of legal relief in the case.
The party held a meeting in the evening, which was attended by party chief Mallikarjun Kharge and Sonia Gandhi, to chalk out the next course of action. -- ANI
01:13 Karnataka ex-CM Siddaramaiah slaps supporter, caught on camera
Former Karnataka Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Siddaramaiah allegedly slapped a supporter who had come to meet him at his residence in Bengaluru on Friday.
In a video that went viral on social media, Siddaramaiah could be seen surrounded by a crowd outside his residence.
The supporter had come to him amid a huge crowd of visitors there.
Meanwhile, Siddaramaiah said that his family had advised him to contest from the Varuna constituency in Mysuru in the upcoming assembly polls. -- ANI
Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan/Instagram/ANI
00:57 Mark Zuckerberg, wife Priscilla Chan blessed with their third daughter
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have been blessed with their third daughter.
On Friday, Mark took to Instagram and shared adorable pictures of the newborn.
The couple has named their daughter Aurelia. "Welcome to the world, Aurelia Chan Zuckerberg! You're such a little blessing," he captioned the post.
In one of the pictures, Zuckerberg can be seen smiling at his newborn.
A second picture shows Chan holding the baby girl close to her.
Netizens showered blessings and congratulatory wishes on the couple.
"So cute....congratulations," a social media user commented.
"This little princess is here...congratulations Mark," an Instagram user wrote.
The couple announced that Priscilla was pregnant back in September. They already share two children - daughters August, 5, and Max, 7. -- ANI
PWD men demolishing stairs at Congress headquarters in New Delhi/ANI Photo
00:46 AAP govt razes stairs of Congress hq in Delhi
Delhi's public works department, which comes within the administrative ambit of the Aam Aadmi Party government, on Friday razed the stairs of the under-construction headquarters of the Congress party after they were found to be encroaching the footpath towards the DDU Road in the national capital, an official said.
A PWD personnel at the spot said a survey of the under-construction building revealed that the stairs were built on the footpath and, hence, had to be demolished.
"A PWD survey revealed that the stairs were encroaching a footpath, thus necessitating the demolition," the PWD official said.
The demolition exercise at the under-construction Congress headquarters coincided with the disqualification of Rahul Gandhi as a member of the Lok Sabha on Friday. -- ANI