Friday, 12 February 2016

Let’s forget the past: Bengal Congress, CPI-M leaders

Communist Party of India-Marxist politburo member Mohammed Salim and state Congress spokesman Om Prakash Mishra painted a grim picture of the state under the present rulers, Trinamool Congress, alleging that civil liberty was absent and opposition parties were victims of violence and terror tactics.
“When the house is on fire, we shout and call our neighbours. Then we don’t remember whether we had some old quarrel or disagreements with these neighbours,” Salim said at a discussion organised by the Press Club.
“Let us not live in the past. We have to respect the sentiments of the people who want freedom from the misrule and tyranny perpetrated by the Trinamool Congress,” he said.
He said that while the CPI-M had opposed the Congress during the Emergency, the present situation in the state was akin to an “undeclared emergency”.
“It is not the right time to harp on our past differences. But it is the right time to come together to fulfil our common goal of ridding Bengal of Trinamool misrule and taking it back on the road to progress,” said Salim, who is also a LokSabha member.
Mishra said there was no denying the fact that the two parties were at loggerheads during the 34 years of the CPI-M led Left Front rule.
“We may again have differences in the future. But this is not the right time to cling on to the past. We have to face the electorate jointly, as that is the wish of the people.”
However, Trinamool Congress leader Sabyasachi Bagchi claimed the alliance would be “fruitless” as the people have made up their mind to back the “mindboggling” development initiatives taken up by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
“We are not bothered whether the alliance is formed or not. We only know that the opposition is in no position to win, as people feel they are inimical to policies of development,” he said.
Meanwhile, CPI-M central committee member Shyamal Chakraborty exuded confidence that the committee would give its approval in favour of the alliance with the Congress.
“This is a state issue. Our recent party plenum said it was for the state unit of the party to take a stand in such cases. And on that basis it will be discussed by the central committee.”
Asked during a television programme about the Visakhapatnam party Congress’s electoral tactical line of having no truck with the Congress, Chakraborty said “the tactical line can always be changed depending on the ground situation”.
With the polls less than three months away, the state leadership of the CPI-M has been making overtures to the Congress for a joint fight against the Trinamool.
Last week, a majority of state Congress leaders also conveyed to party vice president Rahul Gandhi their desire to team up with the CPI-M at the hustings.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi will take the final decision on the possible alliance.
The Marxists have announced they would formalise their stand at a two-day state committee meeting from February 13.
The state committee’s decision would be conveyed to the CPI-M central committee, which is scheduled to hold a three-day session beginning February 16 to take the firnal decision on the alliance.

Eye on polls, Assam CM releases ‘Vision Assam-2030′

Unveiling the document at a function at the Assam Administrative Staff College, he said it envisions a transformed future for the people of Assam, free from all forms of deprivation, inequities and insecurity to be achieved within the next 15 years.
With this, Assam has become the “first state in the world” to have a vision document on Sustainable Development Goals, Gogoi claimed.
“This has been one of the long-felt desires of the government for immaculately articulating a development vision where all the people of Assam become stakeholders and they participate in the development process of the state.
“I am committed to realise Vision Assam-2030 where environment and development goes in sync with the other,” Gogoi said.
He said it will give a structured, broad framework to give a direction to all efforts of the government to eradicate poverty, illiteracy, hunger for ensuring health lives and achieving gender equality through women empowerment.
“Though there are problems, we need to find remedies to the problems to realise an Assam where inclusive and sustainable development becomes the crux of the society,” Gogoi said while seeking cooperation from sections of the society to extend their cooperation for the document.
Gogoi said that Jeffrey Sachs, one of the stakeholders of the Sustainable Development Goals, interacted with him over Skype from New York and lauded the Assam government’s achievement on being the first state in the world to have a vision framework for Sustainable Development Goals.
Sachs also informed him that he will share the Vision Assam-2030 with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Delhi government to decide on odd-even formula on Feb 11

Delhi Transport Minister Gopal Rai said here on Wednesday that the government had got an overwhelming response to the odd-even scheme in the feedback it obtained from people.
“Out of the 9,000 email suggestions, we have shortlisted the best 20. I will discuss them with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tomorrow (Thursday). He will announce the final schedule of the re-launch at a press conference,” Rai told reporters here.
Rai earlier in the day tweeted that a decision on the odd-even scheme will be taken on Thursday.
“The Delhi government will take a decision over the future of the odd-even (scheme) tomorrow. A report is being prepared today (Wednesday),” Rai said in the tweet.
The Delhi government implemented the scheme on a trial basis from January 1-15, under which odd-numbered four-wheelers were allowed to ply on odd dates and even-numbered vehicles on even dates.
Rai said the Delhi government had big plans to revamp the public transport. It will add 3,000 buses in phases to the current fleet.
“We have plans to induct 1,000 new cluster buses and another 1,000 air-conditioned buses to the Delhi Transport Corporation fleet by October. We are also in a process of running 1,000 premium buses by private operators,” said the minister.
He said premium buses will have slightly higher fares with comfortable seating.
Rai said the Delhi government will have an ‘e-rickshaw samwaad’, an interactive session with their drivers at the Ramlila ground here on February 17, where the chief minister will distribute subsidy cheques of Rs.15,000 each to registered e-rickshaw operators .
Transport department officials said that 4,600 e-rickshaw operators have already registered themselves with the Delhi government and many more are likely to join in the next one week.
The Delhi government is also expecting the Centre to provide 100 electric buses under AMRUT (Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation) by the end of this year.
The government said it is also working on sensitising auto-rickshaw and taxi drivers.
“We have introduced a four-hour mandatory counselling course for the auto-rickshaw and taxi drivers. Anyone who needs to renew his permit has to get a certificate of this course. Drivers or owners without this certificate will not be allowed to ply their vehicles,” said Rai.
He also said that the government is developing new bus depots in rural areas to provide last-mile connectivity to far-flung areas of the capital city.

Headley admits to getting terror funds from LeT, ISI

Continuing his deposition via video-conferencing from a US jail before Special TADA Court Judge G.A. Sanap, Headley said that the funds came through both Major Iqbal of Pakistan’s Inter Service Intelligence and his main contact in LeT Sajid Mir, besides his LeT associate, medico Tahawwur Rana, currently undergoing a 14-year jail in the US.
Rana had given an amount of around Rs.67,605 in October 2006, followed by $500 the next month (November 2006), another Rs.17,636 that month-end, and in December 2006, $1,000.
Besides, Headley said he had received $25,000 before he left for India, another Pakistani Rs.40,000 from Sajid Mir and Indian Rs.2000 from Major Iqbal that year, in January 2008, LeT’s Major Pasha gave Rs.80,000 while Major Iqbal gave another Rs.1,500.
During questioning by Special Public Prosecutor UjjwalNikam, he said on one or two occasions, Major Iqbal had also given him counterfeit currency notes.
Headley said Rana had visited Mumbai before the 26/11 terror attacks and was advised to leave for his own safety before they were actually executed.
Earlier, Headley told the Mumbai Special TADA Court that the Reserve Bank of India had rejected his application seeking clearance to open a business account in June 2007.
Making this revelation, Headley said he had received funds for terror from both LeT and Pakistan’s ISI which was used for gathering intelligence and other works in India, including starting a business.
With this funding, Headley said, he opened an office in south Mumbai’s Tardeo area on September 14, 2006 and the following month, on October 12, 2006, he even applied to Reserve Bank of India for permission to open a business account.
Interestingly, his visa consultant in Chicago, Raymond Sanders – who had earlier assisted him in procuring an Indian visa with false information – also helped him in the RBI formality, but the country’s apex bank rejected the application on June 1, 2007.
In January 2007, hoping to launch a business in India, Headley had hired an office in Tardeo A/C Market for Rs.13,500 per month and named his landlord as Vora and Maroo Bharucha who was his secretary at the office.
The opening of office and application to open a business bank account were in consonance with the earlier plans by his handlers who wanted him to start a business in India.
Thursday’s deposition was in continuation of the evidence which he recorded since Monday, with a day’s interruption on Wednesday owing to a technical glitch in the videolink.

Zuckerberg slams Facebook director over offensive Tweet

Zuckerberg came down heavily on Facebook board member Marc Andreessen for his offensive tweet that created an uproar on the social media.
“I want to respond to Marc Andreessen’s comments about India yesterday. I found the comments deeply upsetting, and they do not represent the way Facebook or I think at all,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post.
“India has been personally important to me and Facebook. Early on in my thinking about our mission, I travelled to India and was inspired by the humanity, spirit and values of the people. It solidified my understanding that when all people have the power to share their experiences, the entire world will make progress,” he said.
Earlier, a tweet by Andreessen left many Indians lashing out against him on Facebook as well as on Twitter.
Andreessen wrote on Twitter: “Anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades. Why stop now?”
Although the tweet was subsequently deleted, the comment — made after India’s telecom watchdog the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said no to discriminatory pricing of data content — led to several Indians storming the social networking sites with angry reactions.
According to Zuckerberg, Facebook stands for helping to connect people and giving them voice to shape their own future.
“But to shape the future we need to understand the past. As our community in India has grown, I’ve gained a deeper appreciation for the need to understand India’s history and culture,” he posted.
“I’ve been inspired by how much progress India has made in building a strong nation and the largest democracy in the world, and I look forward to strengthening my connection to the country,” the 31-year-old billionaire added.
On Monday, TRAI said in a much-awaited regulatory order that “No service provider shall offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content.”
“No service provider shall enter into any arrangement, agreement or contract, by whatever name called, with any person, natural or legal, that has the effect of discriminatory tariffs for data services being offered or charged to the consumer on the basis of content,” the watchdog added.
Reacting to the TRAI order, Facebook said it was “disappointed with the outcome”, but will continue its “efforts to eliminate barriers and give the unconnected an easier path to the Internet”.
“While I am disappointed with the decision, I want to personally communicate that we are committed to keep working to break down barriers to connectivity in India and around the world. has many initiatives, and we will keep working until everyone has access to the internet,” Zuckerberg had posted on Facebook.

AAP to repeat Delhi in Punjab: Kejriwal

“We are winning (in Punjab),” Kejriwal told a group of journalists at his residence here. “Delhi will be repeated in Punjab.”
He said the Congress may be the runner up in the Punjab battle. “The Akalis are in a bad shape.”
Kejriwal led the Aam Aadmi Party to a sweeping win in February last year in Delhi, where it secured 67 of the 70 seats.
He said the party now had workers in every pooling booth and had started door to door campaigning all across Punjab.
“By the time others wake up, their game will be over,” he said, drawing a parallel with Delhi.
Asked who would be the AAP’s chief ministerial candidate, he replied: “We will reveal that at the right moment.”
Kejriwal, however, said his party was not looking at the next LokSabha elections now and would not contest the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections next year.
“We will go step by step. We don’t have the bandwidth in UP.”

All Delhi homes to get water by next December: Kejriwal

“By next December, barring 30-40 localities, there will be water supply in all homes,” he told the media here.
Kejriwal added that despite giving limited free water and water subsidy, the Delhi Jal Board’s revenue had gone up Rs.176 crore since he took office in February last year.

Sonia arrives in Rae Bareli on two-day visit

Soon after landing at the Fursatganj airstrip, she drove to Rae Bareli and held a chaupal (open interaction) at Sardar village where she interacted with locals, women and farmers.
Giving them a patient hearing as they raised their problems, Sonia assured them of all possible help. She is slated to meet party workers and local Congress leaders later in the day.
Sonia was in the constituency after a gap of five months. She last visited Rae Bareli on September 9-10, 2015.

Odd-even scheme to return April 15-30: Kejriwal

He told a news conference that this was decided following feedback from the people of Delhi in the wake of the January 1-15 experiment which he and his ministers said had proved to be a hit.
“The next phase of the odd-even scheme will start from April 15,” he said, adding that two-wheelers and women motorists would continue to be exempted.
He said the scheme cannot be implemented on a permanent basis in Delhi — home to nearly 90 lakh vehicles — till public transport was in a position to cope with all those who would take to it.
“If we implement the scheme on the nearly 30 lakh two-wheelers, there will be chaos.”
Kejriwal said the Delhi government was discussing whether the scheme — under which cars with odd registration numbers would ply on odd dates and those with even numbers on even dates — should be enforced every 15 days a month.
“This is only under discussion now,” he said, flanked by Transport Minister Gopal Rai.
“If the people of Delhi cooperate, if they can bear with the difficulties for six days a month, then we can think of this.”
According to Kejriwal, when traffic curbs are implemented for two weeks, each category of car owners is affected only for a maximum of six days as the scheme is not applicable on Sundays.
The Aam Aadmi Party leader added that about 500 retired military personnel would be recruited to enforce the odd-even curbs in April.
He said most people in Delhi wanted exemption given to the VIPs in January to go.
Kejriwal indicated he was not ready for this.
“We will request VIPs to follow the (odd-even) system. But we will keep the exemptions. The more the VIPs follow it voluntarily, it will be good.”

Congress should apologise to Ishrat encounter heroes: BJP

“The Congress president and vice president should apologise to the heroes who killed LeT terrorist Ishrat Jahan and her accomplices,” BJP leader Shrikant Sharma said here.
The IshratJahan encounter took place in Gujarat on June 15, 2004, and was led by Deputy Inspector General D.G. Vanzara, who was later jailed in the Sohrabuddin Shaikh encounter case.
“Instead of praising the brave policemen, questions were raised on their sincerity and they were put behind bars by the Congress regime. Now the mask has come off their faces,” he added.
Sharma alleged that the Congress had tried to politicise terror in order to defame the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He also alleged that it tried to influence the NIA and CBI probes into the encounter case.

SC to hear Sonia, Rahul plea in Herald case

A bench of Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar and Justice C. Nagappan are expected to hear the matter as plea by the Gandhis, party treasurer Motilal Vora, Sam Pitroda and Suman Dubey is listed before them for hearing on Friday.
Besides challenging the high court order of December 7, 2015, both the Gandhis have sought the stay of the proceedings before the trial court till their plea was decided by the top court and grant of exemption from personal appearance before the lower court.
However, they have said that they would appear before the trial court as and when “desired by the magistrate in accordance with law”.
The Congress leaders have also challenged the Delhi High Court order on the grounds of its going into the merits of the case and making adverse observations.
Sonia Gandhi, in her petition, has said that on “one hand, high court holds that the actions of the accused ‘smacks of criminality’, and in the same breath, goes on to hold that ‘what species of criminal offence is made out is not required to be seen at this initial stage'”.
The approach of the high court “is untenable in law. It is submitted that ‘criminality’ cannot be divorced from the offences prescribed under the Penal Code. If the ingredients of the offences alleged are not at all made out even prima facie, there cannot be any ‘criminality'”, she said in her plea.
On the question of locus of Swamy in agitating the matter, the Congress chief noted that “interestingly, a single judge (of the high court) himself raised the question of locus standi. Even before the petitioners went ahead with their arguments, the complainant was asked to assist in the matter qua the issue of locus standi”.
Summons had been issued by the trial court on June 26, 2015 on Swamy’s complaint alleging “cheating” in the acquisition of Associated Journals Ltd. (AJL) by Young India Ltd. (YIL) – “a firm in which Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi each own a 38 percent stake”.
Swamy had claimed that the Gandhis, as majority shareholders of YIL, benefited from the acquisition of AJL.
He had alleged that AJL had received an interest-free loan of Rs.90.25 crore from the Congress and that the party transferred the debt to YIL for Rs.50 lakh.
At the time, AJL, which had Vora as its chairman, claimed that it could not repay the loan and agreed to transfer the company and its assets to YIL.
The Congress, while challenging the summons before the high court, had contended that Swamy was a political opponent and the criminal proceedings were initiated only with an intent to secure an oblique political objective. They had contended that the complaint made by Swamy against them was only “allegations without any supporting proof”.

Woman engineer kidnapped in Ghaziabad

Deepti Sharma, who works at the company’s Gurgaon office, failed to return home in Kavi Nagar area of Ghaziabad on Wednesday night.
She usually took the Delhi Metro up to Vaishali station in Ghaziabad, and from there, she took an auto-rickshaw to her house, located around eight km from the station.
On Wednesday night, she left the Metro station around 8.30 p.m. and took a ‘shared’ auto-rickshaw along with three other passengers, including a woman.
After getting into the vehicle, she telephoned her father Narendra Sharma.
After travelling a distance of around 3-4 km, the woman co-passenger was reportedly forced to get down.
Sensing danger, Deepti called her father again and said the auto-rickshaw was taking her in a wrong direction. Her mobile phone was then switched off.
Her father along with some political leaders contacted police and filed a complaint.
Superintendent of Police (City) Salman Taj Patil said a case was registered and police launched a combing operation in the area, but nothing was found.
Ghaziabad residents on Thursday evening blocked traffic on national highway-24, and also staged a sit-in at the office of the senior superintendent of police.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Rahul to launch Congress campaign in Kerala

“He is expected to make some important announcements,” Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said here.
On his arrival here, Gandhi will attend the valedictory meeting of state Congress president V.M. Sudheeran’s state-wide yatra that has reached the capital city.
On Wednesday, he will take part in the executive meeting of the party unit besides meeting senior Congress leaders.
The elections to the 140-member Kerala assembly are expected to be held in April-May.
In 2011, the Congress, which heads the United Democratic Front (UDF), contested in 82 constituencies. It won 38 seats.
With erstwhile allies Communist Marxist Party (CMP) and Janadhipatya Samrakshana Samithi (JSS) breaking up and the Kerala Congress’ (Pillai) lone legislator joining the Left, the Congress may contest nine seats more.
The Indian Union Muslim League, the second largest ally of the UDF, is likely to get 24 seats to contest.
The Kerala Congress (Mani), which contested 15 seats last time and won nine, is expected to bargain for more seats. Ditto for the Revolutionary Socialist Party and the Janata Dal-U.

245 villages electrified last week: Government

“Of these electrified villages, 82 villages belong to Assam, 77 in Odisha, 69 in Jharkhand, 13 to Chhattisgarh and two each in Tripura and Madhya Pradesh,” the ministry said in a statement here.
A total of 5,027 villages have been electrified during 2015-16, till date, the statement said.
The government said it has decided to electrify the remaining 18,452 un-electrified villages by May 1, 2018.
“Out of the remaining 13,425 villages, 10,487 villages are to be electrified through grid; 1,997 villages through off-grid where grid solutions are out of reach due to geographical barriers and 941 villages are to be electrified by the their state governments,” it said.
“The project has been taken on mission mode and strategy for electrification consists of squeezed implementation schedule of 12 months with 12-stage milestones for village electrification monitoring with defined timelines,” the statement added.

AAP government files appeal on nursery admissions

A division bench of Chief Justice G. Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath agreed to hear the appeal of Delhi’s Aam Aadmi Party government on Wednesday.
A bench of Justice Manmohan on February 4, in an interim order, put on hold the city government’s January 6 circular scrapping 62 criteria, including the management quota, but accepted 11 criteria proposed by the private schools’ association, saying some of the 62 criteria fixed for private schools for nursery admissions were “untenable”.
The court restored the management quota, saying the private unaided private schools are “entitled to full autonomy” in administration.
The government filing the appeal before division bench said the practice of management quota was “deleterious” for school education’s development in Delhi and hence “must be stopped” and also it was “wholly non-transparent and susceptible to misuse”.
Upholding the autonomy of private unaided schools, the court said: “Promoters of a school who make investment at their own personal risk are entitled to full autonomy in administration, including the right to admit students”, and held that the government’s order infringed on their autonomy and students’ rights.
“The private unaided schools have maximum autonomy in day-to-day administration, including the right to admit students,” it said but asked the AAP government to take action against erring private schools which were “demanding money” from parents to admit kids under the management quota.
The January 6 order was passed “without any authority under law” or without approval of Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung, and was in direct conflict with the 2007 order (after recommendations of the expert Ganguly Committee) issued by the Lt. Governor, which accorded freedom to private unaided recognised schools to frame their own guidelines for nursery admissions, it added.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on January 6 said the decision to scrap the management quota was taken to bring in more transparency in the admission process, while the existing provision of 25 percent seats for students from poor families would remain in place.
Currently, the schools keep 20 percent or even more seats under the management quota, while 25 percent seats are reserved for students from economically weaker sections.
The remaining are open for the general category.

‘Return of jungle raj’ is an opposition conspiracy: Lalu Prasad

“Opposition parties are talking and spreading falsehood of return of ‘jungle raj’ in Bihar as part of conspiracy to defame the state again,” Lalu told reporters here on Sunday after his arrival from Delhi.
Lalu also dismissed the demand made on Saturday by Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) leader Chirag Paswan that President’s Rule be imposed in Bihar in view of the deteriorating law and order situation under the government of the ‘Grand Alliance’ of JD-U, RJD and the Congress.
Rule of law prevails in Bihar and there is no place for violence and lawlessness, said Lalu whose two sons, Tejaswi Prasad and Tej Pratap, are ministers in the state government, the former also being the deputy chief minister.
Chirag, son of Union minister Ramvilas Paswan, had spoken in the context of the killing on Friday of his party leader Brijnathi Singh by some people here. Singh was a criminal-turned-politician, known once as the terror of Raghopur area in Vaishali district.
“Brijnathji was shot dead within 10-15 km of the chief minister’s house. He was shot dead only because he and his family fought against Laluji in the VidhanSabha polls. I would definitely want to ask the chief minister if this is not political rivalry, then what is?” Chirag was quoted as saying in a media report.
Lalu said the opposition is not ready to realise its rejection by the people in the elections and so is trying to paint Bihar in a poor light.

BJP welcomes TRAI decision, says will boost ‘Digital India’

In a statement issued by Communications and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, the party said the decision was an expression of popular will and it will give a strong impetus to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream of a Digital India.
“The BJP wholeheartedly welcomes the TRAI decision on differential pricing. The decision is a clear expression of popular will. The decision is fully in line with the BJP-led NDA government’s vision of open and fair Internet and support to net neutrality, which it has reiterated time and again, on the floor of the parliament and outside,” the statement said.
The statement said the National Democratic Alliance government ensured unparalleled transparency in the entire issue of net neutrality.
“The BJP is confident that today’s decision will give a strong impetus to PM Modi’s dream of a Digital India. The party notes with joy that this decision was taken after extensive consultations between various stakeholders across the spectrum,” the statement said.
The party also attacked the Congress, saying it sought to mislead the people and stood exposed.
“The Congress tried its best to create an atmosphere of distrust and fear while the process was going on and in the process made a deplorable attempt to mislead the people for the sake of petty politics. Today they stand completely exposed,” the statement said.
It said the government made sure proper processes were followed at all levels “which eventually led to the victory of an open and equal Internet”.
The telecom watchdog on Monday said no to discriminatory pricing of data content in a move seen as an endorsement of net neutrality and a setback to offerings such as Facebook’s Free Basics and Airtel Zero.