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LIVE! Banks, OMCs will bear card payment charges at petrol pumps: Pradhan

17:56  Banks, OMCs will bear card payment charges at petrol pumps: Pradhan:  Banks and oil marketing companies will bear transaction charges for the fuel bought using cards at petrol pumps, Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said today.

“The decision is very clear. Consumers will not be burdened with Merchant Discount Rate (MDR). Retail outlets (petrol pumps) will also be kept out of its purview. Now it is between banks and OMCs how they share it,” he said.

Pradhan was speaking to reporters after attending a meeting on the issue that was called by the Department of Financial Services, Ministry of Finance.

“It is a commercial decision and they (banks and OMCs) will sit together and sort it out,” he said.

MDR is a charge levied on merchants by banks for accepting payments through credit and debit cards. This charge was passed on to consumers but post-demonetisation, the government, in a bid to promote digital payments, waived it till December 30.

Banks, after that date, decided to pass on the MDR to petrol pump operators since the government mandate was very clear that consumers should not be burdened with any additional charge for using cards for payments.

Petrol pump owners threatened to stop accepting card payments, forcing the government to broker a settlement.

Pradhan said banks and oil companies will continue to discuss as to who should bear these charges and in what proportion.

“MDR charges will be levied as per RBI guidelines of December 16,” he said.

Asked if it will be shared equally between the oil marketing companies (OMCs) and banks, he said: “That is yet to be decided.” — PTI

17:48  Retail inflation eases to 3.41%:  JUST IN: December 2016 Consumer Price Index at 3.41 per cent, compared to November’s 3.63 per cent

Index of Industrial Production for November 2016 stands at 175.8, which is 5.7 per cent higher as compared to level in the month of November 2015. — ANI


17:34  Chief of banned Manipur outfit sent to police custody:   JUST IN: A Delhi court sends Manipur’s proscribed Kangleipak Communist Party chief Khoirom Ranjit to seven-day police custody.

His aide has been sent to two-day police custody.

They were arrested in the morning from New Delhi’s Mayur Vihar.

The duo was allegedly wanted in cases of series of terror strikes in Manipur.


17:06  Aspirations of the men need to be addressed: CRPF DG:  CRPF DG K Durga Prasad speaking to NDTV on video released by a CRPF jawan asking for parity with the Army.

Durga Prasad says that the issue raised by the jawan is not new. “We have raised the issue of pay parity with the government earlier. Some issues have been addressed, some are yet to be addressed. The contention is that the CRPF jawan is facing the same threats, doing the same job as an Army jawan, but is not given the same facilities or pay. We have made several demands for pay parity. Facilities in CRPF camps are a concern.

“Comparisons are odious in principle, but the aspirations of the men need to be addressed. Taking recourse to social media is not the healthiest way to run things. I would advise my officers to talk to the men. They shouldn’t have to take to social media to get their message across to the government.”  

The 26-year-old CRPF jawan, who hails from Mathura and is deployed in Mount Abu, posted a video alleging discrimination in between the facilities provided to Army and paramilitary forces.

Jeet Singh has stated in his video that, “We all do duties whether it is election related, gram panchayat, VIP security, Parliament house, airport, temple, mosque but facilities provided to CRPF are inferior to the armed forces.”


16:24  PIL in HC seeks scrapping of Shivaji memorial project:  A PIL has been filed in the Bombay High Court against the Maharashtra government’s ambitious Chhatrapati Shivaji memorial project, wherein a 192-metre-high statue of the Maratha warrior king will be constructed in the Arabian Sea at a total cost of Rs 3,600 crore.

The PIL, filed today by Mohan Bhide, a chartered accountant, claimed the government’s decision to spend Rs 3,600 crore on such a project was “illogical and uncalled for”.

“I have full respect and honour for Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. But I am against the huge expenditure of hard-earned tax payers’ money. The project of constructing a statue in the middle of the sea is nothing but a political stunt of all political parties operating in Maharashtra,” the PIL said.

Image: An artist’s impression of the Shivaji memorial project


16:20  Our intention not to lock horns with Lt Guv: Pondy Min:  The Narayanasamy government here is not for any confrontation with Lt Governor Kiran Bedi, but she should function in tandem with it for the overall development of the Union Territory, Puducherry Welfare Minister M Kandasamy said today.

Talking to reporters, Kandasamy said, “Our (elected ministry) intention is not to lock horns with Lt Governor Kiran Bedi, but to ensure that welfare schemes meant for the poor and the have nots are implemented without any hiccups.”

He also stressed that the Lt Governor should also function “pro actively and in tandem with the elected ministry facilitating overall development of Puducherry.”

Already the fiscal position of Puducherry government “is very critical impacting welfare programmes, so let us concentrate on such issues cohesively,” he said.

The directives of the Centre to make payments including financial assistance under welfare schemes to beneficiaries through electronic mode was also causing “hardship to the poor and have-nots,” he claimed.

“Can the poor families draw cash from banks as they are bereft of accounts and are not in a position to go in for digital mode of withdrawal of money,” the Minister asked.

Image: Puducherry CM V Narayanasamy with Lt Governor Kiran Bedi


16:16  Ivanka not to take part in management of Trump’s biz empire:  Ivanka Trump, the 35-year-old daughter of US President-elect Donald Trump, will not play a management role in Trump Organisation as well as her own clothing and accessories firm. “When my father takes office as the 45th President of the United States of America, I will take a formal leave of absence from The Trump Organisation and my eponymous apparel and accessories brand. I will no longer be involved with the management or operations of either company,” Ivanka said in a Facebook post.


16:02  TCS reports 10.9% rise in Q3 profit, revenue up 8.7%:  India’s largest IT services firm Tata Consultancy Services kicked off the third quarter results for technology services companies today.   

TCS on Thursday reported net profit up 10.9 per cent to Rs 6,778 crore in the October-December quarter over year-ago period. Its revenue was up 8.7 per cent, to Rs 29,735 crore in the third quarter of 2016-17 fiscal.   

In July-September 2016-17, TCS had missed street expectations with 7.8% growth in revenue at Rs 29,284 crore.


15:54  India’s first Madame Tussauds museum to open in Delhi in June:  The first wax museum attraction Madame Tussauds will debut in Delhi this June with its operator Merlin Entertainments foraying into India with an investment plan of 50 million pounds over the next 10 years.

“Merlin Entertainments will open its first Madame Tussauds attraction in Delhi in June with 50 figures. 60 per cent of the figures will be local celebrities and rest global,” Merlin Entertainments Director New Openings Europe and Emerging Markets Marcel Kloos told reporters.

UK-based Merlin Enterprises runs 116 attractions in 24 countries and the company will be foraying into the Indian market with the launch of Madame Tussauds in the national capital.

15:52  Jallikattu: DMK to hold stir against State, Centre tomorrow:  With the Supreme Court rejecting the plea to pass judgement on Jallikattu before Pongal, DMK today blamed the Centre and State governments for the development and announced a state-wide stir tomorrow. DMK blamed both governments for “not taking appropriate, timely steps” to ensure conduct of the event.

15:37  Govt blinks on jawans’ videos, promises corrective steps :  With another report of “inferior” treatment being meted out to paramilitary jawans coming to light, the government today said it is taking all such incidents seriously and corrective steps are being taken to improve the conditions of service personnel and their food.

“Several things have come to light and we are taking them seriously. We are taking this issue (CRPF) seriously. We will ensure that such incident do not take place in future,” Union Minister Kiren Rijiju told reporters.

Rijiju was reacting to claims by a CRPF jawan, who in the video identified himself as Jeet Singh, that facilities being offered to paramilitary personnel were not at par with the Army.

This comes days after BSF jawan Tej Bahadur Yadav’s claim that poor quality food was being served to security personnel deployed along the border created uproar.

Rijiju said there was a need to upgrade the quality of food and government was working in that direction. “It is the responsibility of the government to work for the welfare of the jawans, who are its priority,” he said.

On the CRPF jawan’s claim, the Minister of State for Home said the issue should be properly investigated and a detailed report is yet to come. “Lets wait for the full report about this (CRPF) incident. It is not proper to comment now,” he said. Referring to Yadav’s claims, Rijiju said a report has been received from the BSF and several steps have been taken for improving quality of food being served to the jawans. “We are taking the issue very seriously,” he said. Official sources said Home Minister Rajnath Singh is personally monitoring the issue involving the BSF jawan and instructed the force to take corrective steps.

Image: CRPF jawan Jeet Singh wants parity with the army

15:21  CISF jawan opens fire on colleagues; kills three, 1 critical:  A CISF jawan allegedly opened fire on his colleagues, killing three of them and critically injuring another at their unit at a thermal power station in Aurangabad district of Bihar today.

Officials said the incident was reported at about 12:30 am at the Nabinagar Power Generation Company Ltd (NPGCL) unit in the said district where the force is deployed for security duties to guard the facility.

The accused jawan has been identified as constable Balveer Singh who hails from Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh, while the deceased personnel have been reported to be two personnel in the ranks of Head Constable (HC), an Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) while another HC is critical.

The CISF jawan lost his cool following a dispute over leave and fired from his rifle, Superintendent of Police Dr Satyaprakash said. Balveer has been arrested, they said.

“Preliminary information states that Balveer opened fire on his other colleagues, using a service rifle, in an alleged fratricide incident. While three have been killed in the firing, one another is critical and has been rushed to a nearby hospital,” they said.

A Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) unit is deployed in the NPGCL unit as part of its mandate to secure the facility. They said the incident took place when Balveer allegedly used his INSAS rifle to shoot his colleagues who had assembled to leave for the shift change and after the first hit, he was overpowered by others present around.

15:14  CRPF jawan posts video seeking pay parity at par with army:  After the videos of BSF jawan Tej Bahadur Yadav went viral on social media, another clip posted by a CRPF constable has surfaced wherein the trooper has demanded “parity” for paramilitary personnel in pay and other benefits at par with the army.

The Central Reserve Police Force, the country’s largest paramilitary, today said it has taken “cognisance” of the issues raised by the jawan, who identified himself in the video as Jeet Singh.

“This is an old video. The jawan has service-related grievances and is seeking parity in pay and other benefits. An Inspector General rank officer of the force has already got in touch with him. We have made it clear that if there are any problems to the troops, we will address them immediately,” CRPF Director General told PTI.

He said he jawan had raised the issues when the OROP protests were taking place last year and the CRPF has brought all these issues to the knowledge of the “7th Pay Commission”. “You always want a better life than what you have..that is what he is asking. He has no complaints from the force,” Prasad said.

15:12  There’s a campaign to make Princess Leia an official Disney Princess. Read more

15:11  Demonetization is heralding a fundamental shift for the BJP: Swapan Dasgupta :  The finance minister, Arun Jaitley, was entirely right to stress the significant improvement in the government’s revenue collections in recent weeks as a pointer to the fact that the so-called calamitous effects of the November 8 demonetization have been overstated. However, while the full impact of Narendra Modi’s audacious ethical cleansing is yet to be fully grasped, either by economists or other policy makers, it is clear that demonetization looks set to have a profound effect on the politics of India, at least in the short and medium term. Read more


15:00  Gujarat inks Rs 66000 cr MoU with railways for manufacturing parts of bullet train:  Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said the state government has inked an Memorandum of Understanding with the Railways for manufacturing parts of bullet train wherein Rs 67000 crore of work will done in the state, reports the Indian Express.

“We are inking an MoU with Railways where by parts of high-speed bullet train will manufactured here. This will be attract work worth Rs 67000 crore to Gujarat,’ said Rupani at the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit on Thursday.


14:36  THE big challenge to Congress-mukt Bharat :  Priyanka Gandhi is set to play a leading and decisive role for the debilitated Congress in the Uttar Pradesh elections. A determined Priyanka is being projected with a clearly defined role and is strongly supported by Congress leaders.

Party veterans Raj Babbar, Ghulam Nabi Azad, P L Punia, Sanjay Singh, Rajiv Shukla, Pramod Tiwari, K L Sharma and many others are all slogging to revive the party in UP.

Congress grassroot workers are motivated this time. Prashant Kishor has a 500-strong hand-picked posse of committed surveyors-cum-campaigners. They are working overtime to promote the Congress in the state.

The Congress ticket is in demand for the first time in decades. Haseeb Ahmad, general secretary of the Allahabad District Congress Committee, has launched a campaign through his Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp accounts. 

Read the column on


14:21  Rahul mentally unstable, lowest IQ in Nehru clan: RSS :  RSS leader Rakesh Sinha on Thursday alleged that Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has the lowest intellectual level in the Nehru-Gandhi family and said that the latter has to learn politics from the scratch to understand the ideology of the right-wing organisation. Sinha said the country’s first prime minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and even his daughter Indira Gandhi never used this kind of language for the RSS.

“To understand RSS ideology, Rahul Gandhi has to learn politics from the scratch. Rahul Gandhi’s is not mentally stable. Rahul Gandhi has the lowest intellectual level in Nehru clan dynastic politics,” Sinha told ANI.

The Congress vice-president yesterday said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the RSS have destroyed the core spirit of India.”These people (BJP and RSS) think that they can rule by spreading hatred and fear among the people. The Congress Party will defeat and remove them from power. We do not hate them (BJP and RSS) but we will defeat their ideology,” Gandhi said.

He said the Congress party has always stood for dispelling the fear and asserted that India is strong and the country and its people do not to fear anything in this world.

14:18  Man gets Rs 500 notes with one-side blank in MP:  Days after a farmer in Madhya Pradesh received Rs 2,000 notes from a bank without the image of Mahatma Gandhi, an ATM at a village in Khargone district dispensed two ‘one-side blank’ currency of the new Rs 500 denomination.

Hemant Soni on Tuesday night used his card to withdraw Rs 1,500 from a public sector bank’s ATM at Segaon village, about 40 kms from Khargone district headquarters.

“Of the three Rs 500 notes, two were printed on one side while the other side was completely blank,” Soni said. He registered a complaint of the misprinted currency yesterday with the concerned bank officials, who subsequently replaced his notes with new ones.


14:05  Belgium charges two new suspects over Paris attacks:prosecutor:   Belgium has charged two new suspects in connection with the attacks in Paris in November 2015, claimed by the Islamic State group, which killed 130 people, federal prosecutors said today. The suspects, identified only as Farid K. and Meryem E B, “are suspected of having provided Khalid El Bakraoui with fake documents used during the preparations for the attacks in Paris,” the prosecutor said. Bakraoui was one of the three suicide bombers in deadly Brussels attacks in March last year.

13:58  CISF jawan opens fire on four colleagues in Aurangabad in Bihar in alleged fratricide, 2 killed: Official. 


13:57  Yoga may help treat chronic lower back pain:  Hardly a surprise, but for those who have back pain, this worth a read.

Practicing yoga may have health benefits for people with chronic lower back pain, according to a latest review of research conducted in India, the UK and the US.

Lower back pain is a common health problem, and is usually treated with self-care and over-the-counter medication. For some people it may last for three months or more, and at this point it is considered “chronic”.

Back pain is sometimes associated with a disease or condition, but the vast majority of lower back pain cases have an unknown cause, and as a result are described as non-specific.

Current guidelines state that exercise therapy may be beneficial, and in particular yoga is sometimes used as a treatment. “Our findings suggest that yoga exercise may lead to reducing the symptoms of lower back pain by a small amount,” said Susan Wieland from the University of Maryland in the US.

Try these yoga poses

13:46  My husband being forced to withdraw his complaint, says BSF jawan’s wife :  The wife of BSF jawan Tej Bahadur Yadav, who claimed that poor quality food was being served to soldiers on the Line of Control (LoC), on Thursday said that her husband is being pressurised to withdraw his complaint and apologise.

“He told me that he is being pressurised to take the complaint back, and apologise,” the BSF jawan’s wife Sharmila told ANI.

Earlier on Wednesday, Sharmila backed herb husband while asserting that what he did was not wrong as his intentions were to just bring out the truth.”What he did is not wrong… he showed the truth. he has just made a demand for good food and ‘roti.’ To say that he has a mental problem is wrong. If this was true, why was he sent to the border and was put on duty? Why was he not sent for treatment?” Sharmila asked.

The jawan’s son also backed him and said that it was not wrong to demand good food.

“How would we otherwise know what is happening. We just want a fair probe and justice,” he said.

The BSF earlier on Tuesday said the jawan was court-martialled in 2010 for indiscipline and aiming a gun at a senior officer even as it assured of a thorough probe into his allegations.He said the soldier was allowed to stay in the force on humanitarian grounds.


13:33  Rijiju backs BSF: Can’t draw conclusions based on one video:   Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju broke his silence on the BSF jawan Tej Bahadur Yadav’s audio tape, where he was heard complaining about the food served by BSF, pointing fingers at the whole machinery. Rijiju on Thursday said, “We should not come to conclusion on the basis of just one video.”

Rijiju’s statement came after the spouse of BSF soldier Tej Bahadur, leaked an audio tape where he was heard saying that “BSF is pretending to do an investigation.” His wife also claimed that a pressure is being built on Bahadur to take back his complaint.

After Rijiju’s statement, a PIL has been filed by an Ex-serviceman in Delhi HC seeking status report of all paramilitary forces in India over the allegations.

Bahadur has already been transferred to another unit and has been handed over the work of a plumber. After the job of a plumber of was assigned to Tej Bahadur, the BSF came forward and clarified that “he has not been punished’, adding that “he has been kept in a different unit so that there is an unbiased investigation.”  The BSF also assured that a justice would take place with the soldier.

On Monday, a soldier, in a shared video complained of poor treatment and lack of food supplies, clarifying that even though conditions for soldiers were tough they were provided with regular rations while asserting that the jawan in particular had a troubled past.

Also read: After BSF soldier, now CRPF jawan complains of ‘no pensions’ in video

Image: A video grab of BSF jawan Tej Bahadur Yadav.

13:19  Indian Participation in Kenyas Freedom Struggle:  In the wake of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s visit to India, do read this blog to understand how far back and how close India’s relations with Kenya go back. Incidentally, Jomo Kenyatta, the later Kenyan president mentioned in the blog, is Uhuru Kenyatta’s grandfather.

“Kenyans are still ignorant of their history, especially the one of the freedom struggle. A new generation has become of age without the awareness of the real history of the struggle that brought forth the current society.

“One of the ways to achieve this is to document authentic accounts on the history of the freedom struggle and the progressive anti colonial stand of the Kenyan people from all diverse backgrounds. The desire on the part of the people of Kenya to rule themselves gave amazing power to the freedom struggle.”


12:55  David Guetta’s Bangaluru concert cancelled:  French DJ David Guetta’s concert, scheduled here for tonight, has been scrapped with the organisers citing “law and order situation” following the molestation incident during New Year’s Eve as the reason.

The DJ, 49, is on a four-city tour which was expected to begin from Bangalore and then move to Mumbai, Hyderabad and New Delhi. “Due to the present law & order situation in Bengaluru following the events that transpired around New Year’s Eve, the authorities have recommended against holding the David Guetta concert scheduled today in the city.

“We at Sunburn tried our very best to make it happen but the authorities understandably are not prepared to take any chances. Hence today’s concert unfortunately stands cancelled,” Karan Singh, CEO, Sunburn, said in a statement.

The organisers said they hope to “reschedule” the concert if they get permission from the authorities and the artiste but there is no clarity at the moment. “Other shows in Mumbai, New Delhi and Hyderabad are on as per schedule,” Singh said.


12:54  Will XXX do well? Deepika’s got SRK’s good wishes!:  Good wishes have been pouring in for Deepika Padukone’s Hollywood debut and here comes a sweet message from the King of Bollywood with whom the leggy lass made her debut in the film industry.

Shah Rukh Khan, who recently attended the Dabboo Ratnani’s 2017 Calendar launch, sent across his best wishes as he said, “I have seen the posters and it seems like an interesting film. Since ‘xXx : Return of Xander Cage’ is an action film, I am sure it’s going to be loved by Indian audiences. I wish Deepika and co-star Vin Diesel all the luck.”

The 51-year-old, who was also quizzed if he was doing a cameo in Salman Khan’s ‘Tubelight’, dodged the question as he said, “I have also heard about the film. You should ask the producers about it.”On the work front, SRK is all set for his film ‘Raees’ to release on 25th of this month when it will clash with Hrithik Roshan starrer ‘Kabil’.

Pic: Rajesh Karkera


12:43  Feeling hot hot hot:  If you still can’t get enough of Deepika Padukone or Vin Diesel, here’s one more image of the hot pair (who share some amazing chemistry on screen) this morning. Vin Diesel arrived in Mumbai this morning and was welcomed by his XXX co-star Deepika Padukone. Diesel is in town to promote the movie in India. Next to Diesel is the film’s director DJ Caruso.’s Rajesh Karkera was there to get these shots for you.  Scroll down to see more pictures of the couple and the spectacular nauvari bikers. 

12:22  Tillerson opposes blanket ban on Muslims’ entry into US:  Donald Trump’s secretary of state pick Rex Tillerson has said he does not support blanket travel ban against Muslims even as he asserted that the US must win the war against Islamic terrorists not just on the battlefield, but in the war of ideas.

“I think what’s important is that we are able to make a judgement about the people that are coming into the country. And so no, I do not support a blanket type rejection of any particular group of people,” the 64-year-old former ExxonMobil CEO told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his confirmation hearing yesterday.

“But clearly, we have serious challenges to be able to vet people coming into the country particularly, under the current circumstances because of the instability in the parts of the world that it’s occurring,” he said.


12:13  RBI governor runs away from media. Literally :  RBI Governor Urjit Patel sprinted his way to safety from the pursuit of the media contingent at the Vibrant Gujarat summit in Ahmedabad, ostensibly to dodge uncomfortable questions on demonetisation, reports Deccan Herald.

On the second day of the summit, Patel addressed a session on “Macro and Micro Drivers of Business Potential of IFSCs in India’ at the Mahatma Mandir, the summit’s venue.

Realising that a large media contingent was waiting for him at the entrance of the first floor seminar hall, Patel sneaked away through the back entrance and broke into a run when he observed media persons running after him.

The RBI governor managed to out-sprint the perplexed media persons who wanted to pose some discomforting questions on the RBI’s role in implementing demonetisation. He descended the staircase two at a time and jumped into his car before the media could reach him.

12:06  PIL filed by ex-serviceman in Delhi HC seeking status report of all paramilitary forces in India over allegations of BSF Jawan in his video

11:58  Rajdeep Sardesai @sardesairajdeep breaking: Cong set to ally with Goa Forward and Babush Monserrate. Babush has faced charges of rape and corruption! #Goaelection.


11:43  NO Jallikattu this Pongal, SC tells TN, AIADMK says CM will take action:   Just in: Setback for Tamil Nadu government: The Supreme Court turned down a plea seeking its intervention in revoking its ban on Jallikattu, a bull-taming sport practiced during the Tamil festival of Pongal, ANI reported. The apex court said while the draft of the judgment has been prepared, it is not possible to deliver a verdict before Saturday when Pongal is set to be celebrated in Tamil Nadu. The apex court, which had first banned the sport in 2014 citing animal cruelty, had upheld the order last year when it dismissed the state governments review petition.

The AIADMK says the CM will take action. “Amma was very keen on Jallikattu. We need Central govt to support us,” AIADMK leader CR Saraswathi said.  Police have also foiled a Jallikattu attempt at Cuddalore.

All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam General Secretary VK Sasikala on Wednesday wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking promulgation of an ordinance for conduct of the bull taming sport Jallikattu, noting that the ban on it had caused “resentment” in the state.

Sasikala’s letter to the prime minister on the issue comes days after Chief Minister O Panneerselvam urged the Centre to promulgate an ordinance for the conduct of the sport.

“No cruelty is practised on the animals per se. Also bulls are worshipped as a deity by the religious in Tamil Nadu and care is always taken by the youth taming them (to) not to inflict any pain on them,” Sasikala told Modi in a letter.

“The ban on Jallikkattu has incensed the public of Tamil Nadu and the youth in particular, and all efforts have to be taken to revoke it,” she said.


11:10  On Priyanka Gandhi Vadera’s birthday today, wishes from her sister-in-law.

Monicka Vadera @mvadera One of my biggest inspirations,a woman of impeccable poise & beauty. Happy birthday sis in law #PriyankaGandhi!! Wishing her health & happiness.

10:57  US, Australian hostages appear in Afghan Taliban video:  An American and an Australian have appeared in a Taliban hostage video, five months after they were kidnapped from Kabul. Gunmen wearing police uniforms abducted the two professors at the American University of Afghanistan in the heart of the Afghan capital on August 7, seizing them from their vehicle after smashing the passenger window.

The 13-minute, 35-second video circulated by Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid yesterday offers the first apparent proof that they were still alive. Australia said today it “has been working closely with other governments to secure the release” of the hostage, but would not elaborate citing his family’s wishes and safety concerns.


10:34  Amazon removes Indian flag doormats after Sushma’s visa threat :  After strong protest by India over Amazon selling doormats depicting Indian flag, the e-retail giant today removed the offensive article from its Canadian website.

A spokesman for Amazon based at its headquarters in Seattle told The Washington Post that the doormat was no longer for sale on its website.

Taking strong exception to Amazon Canada selling doormats depicting Indian flag, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj yesterday asked the e-retailer to withdraw the products and tender an unconditional apology, failing which no official of Amazon will be granted Indian visa and the ones issued earlier will also be rescinded.

The minister also asked the Indian Embassy to take up the matter with Amazon Canada. In a series of tweets, Swaraj had expressed her anger at the sale of such an offensive doormat by Amazon, which is seeking a big presence in India.

“Indian High Commission in Canada : This is unacceptable. Please take this up with Amazon at the highest level. “Amazon must tender unconditional apology. They must withdraw all products insulting our national flag immediately. “If this is not done forthwith, we will not grant Indian Visa to any Amazon official. We will also rescind the Visas issued earlier,” Swaraj said in her tweets after she received a complaint on Twitter.

Swaraj’s tweets went viral and led to an outrage on the social media by Indians and people of Indian-origin. “Her tweet storm escalated the protest into a possible diplomatic spat,” The Washington Post said.

Amazon founder and CEO Jeffrey P Bezos is also owner of The Washington Post. Amazon Canada removed the offensive doormat from its website. However, it was selling similar doormats with US and British flags.


10:29  Rudy taunts ‘vacationing’ Rahul Gandhi :  Union Minister of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Rajiv Pratap Rudy on Thursday poked fun at Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and said the latter seems disconnected with the ongoing developments in the nation as he was on a vacation.

Rudy said Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led NDA Government is making all efforts to serve all sections of the society.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is taking care of people from all walks of life. It is happening after a long time in our nation that all sections of the society are being looked after, several schemes for different sections of society are being implemented by the Modi government, I guess this is disturbing the Congress,” Rudy told ANI.

“I guess Rahul Gandhi was on a vacation (and) that’s why he has got disconnected with what is happening in the nation. And that’s why is making such comments,” he added.

Rahul, who yesterday led the Congress Working Committee’s meeting at New Delhi’s Talkatora Stadium in the absence of party president Sonia Gandhi, alleged that the Prime Minister has in the last two years destroyed institutions that were built over many years.

“Modi ji has done in two years, what we haven’t done in 60 years. He has destroyed institutions that were built over many years. The RBI (Reserve Bank of India) for example. The RSS and the BJP have ruined the RBI… Notes ban was a personal decision of Modi ji that was forced upon the RBI,” Rahul said.


10:21  As Paytm becomes a bank, what happens to the money in the wallet?:  Over the next five days, the money in 160 million Paytm wallets will show up in a corresponding number of Paytm Payment Bank wallets as the wallet company becomes a payments bank.

As news of the change emerged, some social media chatter created panic amongst Paytm users who thought they would lose the amount in their accounts. Paytm has scotched these rumours. Read more

10:15  BJP to release Goa and Punjab candidate list today at 11 am.

10:06  Market rally continues; Nifty tops 8,400:  NSE Nifty breached the crucial 8,400-mark and BSE Sensex gained 113 points in early trade today on sustained buying by domestic investors ahead of key macroeconomic data to be released later in the day. Besides, a positive start of the earnings season and firming trend on other Asian bourses also fuelled the domestic market sentiment. Investors cheered better-than expected Q3 numbers in IndusInd Bank.

TCS shares rose 0.82 per cent to Rs 2,342.00 ahead of Q3 earnings to be released later today. Nifty was trading above 8,400-level by rising 24.05 points or 0.28 per cent at 8,404.70.


09:49  Short-lived friendship? Nitish opposes Centre’s questionnaire on Uniform Civil Code :  

Nitish Kumar’s bonhomie with Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to have hit a snag days after they swapped high praise. The Bihar chief minister has made it clear that his opposition to a Uniform Civil Code stands.

Kumar has not just rejected the proposal in a 16-point questionnaire sent by the National Law Commission, but has also urged it to consult the “affected parties”.

A Uniform Civil Code would mean same family laws for all religions and communities.

After taking his law department’s opinion, the CM explained to his cabinet colleagues that one can’t even think of such vital change being contemplated on a “yes or no” basis.

Taking a detour from the opposition’s aggressive campaign against the centre’s notes ban and facing the anger of leaders like Mamata Banerjee, Kumar said he fully supported PM Modi’s anti-corruption move.

The PM returned the favour last week at a public meeting in Patna’s Gandhi Maidan to mark the birth anniversary of Guru Govind Singh. He praised Kumar’s move to ban liquor in Bihar.


09:40  Khanderi, submarine with superior stealth features, is launched:   India’s second Scorpene class submarine, INS Khanderi, was launched at the Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited in Mumbai today, with Union Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre presiding over the function. 

The submarine will undergo rigorous tests and trials till December 2017. 

The state-of-the-art features of this Scorpene class submarine include superior stealth and the ability to launch a crippling attack on the enemy using precision guided weapons. The attack can be launched with torpedoes, as well as tube-launched anti-ship missiles, while underwater or on surface. 

The stealth features will give it a scale of invulnerability unmatched by many submarines.  

The submarine is designed to operate in all theatres, including the tropics. All means and communications are provided to ensure inter-operability with other components of a naval task force. It can undertake multifarious types of missions typically undertaken by any modern submarine, ie, anti-surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, intelligence gathering, mine laying, area surveillance etc. 

Khanderi is named after the island fort of Maratha forces, which played a vital role in ensuring their supremacy at sea in the late 17th century.


08:52  Vin Diesel arrives in Mumbai in style!:   Hollywood actor Vin Diesel arrived in Mumbai at Kalina via a private airline this morning. He was welcomed by his XXX co-star Deepika Padukone. 

Diesel is in town to promote the movie in India. 

The actors, along with other members of the film’s cast and crew, have been on an extensive worldwide promotional spree to promote “xXx: Return of Xander Cage”. They are coming to India from London, before which they had visited Mexico.

The movie, a new installment in the “xXX” series after the 2002 film “xXx” and the 2005 entertainer “xXx: State of the Union”, is releasing in India on January 14, before anywhere else in the world. Directed by DJ Caruso, the film also stars Ruby Rose, Samuel L Jackson, Donnie Yen and Tony Jaa.

The actors will be addressing the media over a press conference, after which the actors will head to the High Street Phoenix, Courtyard where they would be attending a crowd event.


08:44  India launches second Scorpene-class submarine Khanderi:  

India launched the second Kalvari class submarine, named Khanderi, in Mumbai. Union Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre is present at the launch ceremony. 

This Scorpene-class submarine has superior stealth and can use guided weapons – torpedoes and tube-launched anti-ship missiles — on enemy subs from surface or underwater. Besides warfare, its varied functions will include intelligence gathering, mine laying and area surveillance etc.

The submarine will undergo rigorous trials till December, both in harbour and at sea, on surface and under water.


08:35  Waiting for Vin Diesel:  Vin Diesel, Hollywood actor, playing the lead role in xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, along side Deepika Padukone, is  land in Mumbai this morning ahead of the grand premier of the movie. 

Our correspondent Rajesh Karkera was at the Kalina airport waiting for the arrival of the big ticket star. 


08:02  Sushma tells Amazon to ‘apologise or no visa’ after flag doormats:  

Union minister Sushma Swaraj has demanded an unconditional apology from online retailer Amazon, which has been selling Indian flag themed doormats. The external affairs minister has demanded that the company withdraw the product immediately. Unless this is done, Amazon officials will not be given visas, she said in a series of tweets.

Disrespect to the national flag is a punishable offense in India.  It involves a three-year jail term and a fine or both.

The minister’s tweets read:

“Amazon must tender unconditional apology. They must withdraw all products insulting our national flag immediately.

“If this is not done forthwith, we will not grant Indian Visa to any Amazon official. We will also rescind the Visas issued earlier.”

The minister also asked the Indian embassy to take up the matter with Amazon Canada.

Swaraj’s response came after a Tweeter user tagged her, pointing out the sale of the flag floormats on Amazon.


00:44  People now run away hearing ‘mitron’: Uddhav takes a dig at PM:  Amid uncertainty over forging an alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party for high-stake Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation polls, which were announced on Wednesday, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray has said he has not received any proposal on seat-sharing so far even as he took a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Sena chief said though he expects the seat-sharing talks to begin on Wednesday he is also prepared to face any ‘eventuality’.

“Earlier, I used to start my address saying bhaiyon aur behno (brothers and sisters) or mitron (friends), but now I don’t use these terms as people have started running away when they hear this. Nowadays, the chai wala is the only one heard speaking,” he said without taking Modi’s name while addressing a gathering in Mumbai.

“Had I been negative about an alliance (with the BJP), I would not have sent party leaders to hold initial parleys. I have a formula on seat sharing but I have received no response as yet,” he said.

Uddhav said the decision to partner with BJP for zilla parishad polls will be taken by local leaders.

Source: Rediff