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LIVE! Defence Minister rubbishes army’s concerns over shortage of funds

18:08  Defence Minister rubbishes army’s concerns over shortage of funds:  Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today brushed aside the Army’s concerns over severe shortage of funds to procure new equipment and weapons, asserting that there was no reason to worry as adequate financial resources are being made available to the armed forces.

The Army had told a Parliamentary Standing Committee that it was reeling under severe fund crunch and struggling to even make emergency procurement when there was a real possibility of a two-front war and both China as well as Pakistan were carrying out modernisation of their defence forces in “full swing”. The report of the committee was tabled in Parliament last month.

“The parliamentary standing committee has said lot more. I wish you had read the entire report of the committee. The standing committee report has said so many other things as well,” Sitharaman said when asked about the report during a press conference at the Defence Expo here.

Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Sarath Chand had told the parliamentary panel that inadequate allocation of funds in the defence budget for 2018-19 will hit the Army’s modernisation plan when Chinese military was competing to reach the level of the US.

He said 68 per cent of the Army’s equipment is in the vintage category, adding fund crunch will also impact the serviceability of the existing equipment and may even affect payment of instalments for past purchases.

When asked about the Vice Chief’s comments, Sitharaman did not give a direct reply but said the impression in certain quarters that the Defence Ministry was not doing anything was “wrong”.

“Our focus has been to prioritise what we have. We are ensuring maximum utilisation of funds. Things are happening in defence ministry,” she said.

The government allocated Rs 76,765 crore less to the Army, Navy and Air Force in the defence budget than what they had sought to purchase new weapons, aircraft, warships and other military hardware, according to official figures placed in Parliament last month.

The three forces had demanded Rs 1.60 lakh crore as capital outlay but were granted Rs 83,434 crore for the year 2018-19.

Referring to criticism of delays in procurement of bullet proof jackets for the armed forces, Sitharaman said it is not like “over the counter buying of things” and the government was putting sincere efforts to meet demands of the armed forces.

Sitharaman also said that the armed forces had been given free hand to go for equipment of their choice — be it Indian or imported. — PTI 

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17:23  Complaint against Smriti Irani’s education dismissed:   A Delhi court today rejected a complaint against Union Minister Smriti Irani for allegedly furnishing false declarations to the Election Commission of India at the time of filing nominations for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal dismissed the complaint noting that complainant Renu Gambhir, vice president of Socialist Party (India) Delhi Pradesh, has not appeared before the court on several dates, due to which her testimony has remained incomplete.

“The allegations are about giving some false declarations before the office of the returning officer of ECI from time to time. The complainant has stopped appearing in the case for many dates now.

“She has been partly examined as witness but her testimony was incomplete and despite court notice, she has not appeared. It seems that she is not interested in pursuing her case any further. No summoning order can be passed on the basis of the testimony of the complainant recorded so far because it is incomplete. Therefore, this complaint is dismissed,” the court said.

The complainant had alleged that Irani had furnished incorrect and contradictory information with regard to her education to contest the Lok Sabha elections.

The complaint was filed by Gambhir against Irani for offences punishable under sections 125A of the Representation of People Act, 1951 and 177 (furnishing false information), 199 (false statement made in declaration which is by law receivable as evidence), 417 (cheating), 418 (cheating with knowledge that wrongful loss may ensue to person whose interest offender is bound to protect), 463 (forgery) and 464 (making false document) of the IPC. PTI

16:56  257 dead in Algeria military plane crash.

16:54  Tamil outfit threatens to let loose snakes during IPL matches:  Little wonder the BCCI has decided to move the venue of the IPL matches from Chennai.

A Tamil outfit today threatened to let loose snakes into the Chepauk stadium in Chennai to protest over the Cauvery issue if another match of the cricket league is held at the venue. The snakes will not be poisonous as the intention is not to harm anybody, but to only express angst over the delay in formation of the Cauvery Management Board, Tamizhaga Vazhvurimai Katchi chief T Velmurugan said.

“If the IPL match is held on April 20 in Chennai as per schedule, I will hold the snake protest. I will let snakes into the stadium. There is no change in it,” he said.

The TVK chief, who has held protests on several pro-Tamil issues, said, “These snakes which we intend to let into the stadium will have absolutely no poison.” “Our idea is not to harm anybody, be it players, spectators or the police personnel on duty. We want to scare people away, let there be no cricket match now,” he told. — PTI.

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16:52  Rabri, Tejashwi “return” state security, slam Nitish Kumar:  Former Bihar Chief Minister Rabri Devi and her two sons, Tejashwi and Tej Pratap Yadav, today “returned” their state security cover, protesting withdrawal of guards from her residence in Patna.

State government officials and the ruling Janata Dal (United) defended the recall of security from Rabri Devi’s house last night, saying the house guards had been provided to her husband Lalu Prasad, who enjoys ‘Z’ category security.

Accordingly, the guards were asked to return as the RJD supremo is currently in jail, they said. “Just now at the stroke of midnight, Nitish Kumar has called back 18 house guards deployed in the security of the two ex-CMs. Surrendering our security to Nitish ji so that he can increase his own security as he is the most namby-pamby CM of the country,” Tejashwi Yadav said in a tweet.

“Returning the security (covers) provided to my mother Rabri Devi as ex-CM, to my brother as an MLA and to me as Leader of the Opposition. Hope Nitish Kumar gives up acting spitefully and concentrates on doing something constructive,” he added.

Rabri Devi, in a letter to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, said the recall of house guards has left the security of her residence and family in “tatters”.

“As soon as my husband went to jail on December 23, all the security personnel deployed in his security were withdrawn by the state government. Those who remained were part of the security cover provided to me and the residence allotted to me in the capacity of former chief minister,” she wrote.

Rabri Devi said she did not see any point in retaining the security personnel as an “eyewash”. “I am therefore returning herewith all security personnel and escort vehicles deployed at my residence. If anything untoward happens to me or my family members, the state Home Department and the minister in-charge of the same shall be responsible,” she said. The Bihar CM has kept the Home portfolio with himself.

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16:38  All IPL matches to be held away from Chennai: BCCI:   All IPL matches scheduled to be held in Chennai, to be shifted to another venue over the Cauvery water issue, says the BCCI.

Yesterday, massive anti-IPL protests by pro-Tamil groups erupted in Chennai with scores of activists including film directors being detained even as police chased away agitators in some places.

Protesters burnt yellow jerseys, the attire of Chennai Super Kings players, while two activists belonging to a pro-Tamil outfit threw slippers into the ground when the Chennai Super Kings-Kolkata Knight Riders match was in progress at the M A Chidambaram Stadium, police said.

The slippers fell near CSK fielder Ravindra Jadeja who was fielding at long-on. The incident occurred when the  eighth over was in progress with the Kolkata Knight Riders batting.

However, the match went on and the activists belonging to Naam Tamizhar,
detained.

Pro-Tamil groups like Tamizhaga Vazhvurimai Katchi (TVK) and a newly launched forum of Tamil directors had given a boycott call of the popular Indian Premier League.

They alleged that the game was being organised to divert attention from the raging Cauvery protests across the state.

Hundreds of activists of outfits like TVK, Naam Tamizhar and Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), besides some Muslim groups, staged road blockade at the arterial Anna Salai and TTK Salai, affecting traffic movement, police said.

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15:43  Jammu lawyers hold city to ransom:  The Jammu High Court Bar Association today struck work over various issues including demanding a CBI probe into the Kathua rape-cum-murder case and deportation of Rohingya immigrants, leading to disruption of normal life across the region.

The brutal rape and murder of an eight-year-old Bakerwal girl has polarised the normally peaceful town of Jammu, with the local Bar Association calling for a bandh against what it termed the “targeting of minority Dogras” while the state police had lodged a case against lawyers who allegedly tried to prevent it from filing a charge sheet against the accused.

Markets in Jammu city wore a deserted look as shops and schools remained closed while skeletal public transport was seen plying on various routes.

Majority of the private educational institutions also remained closed as a precautionary measure to avoid any untoward incident, officials said.

The strike, which was supported by several political and civil society groups except Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industries, was peaceful so far though rallies and protests were staged by lawyers and their supporters at various places in the city to ensure success of their strike call.

“So far there is no report of any untoward bandh-related incident from anywhere,’ Senior Superintendent of Police, Jammu, Vivek Gupta told PTI.

He said police had made necessary arrangements to ensure that the bandh passes off peacefully.

The members of the Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party (pictured) on Wednesday staged a protest here, demanding a Central Bureau of Investigation-led inquiry in the Kathua rape case.

The protestors also demanded deportation of Rohingyas from Jammu.

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15:08  Don’t cremate body of Unnao gang-rape victim’s father: HC:  The Allahabad High Court today ordered that the body of the Unnao gang rape victim’s father should not be cremated, if already not done so. The man had died on Monday in custody after his 18-year-old daughter had accused a BJP MLA, his brother and his aides of raping her.

A bench of Chief Justice D B Bhosale and Justice Suneet Kumar passed the order taking cognisance of the gangrape case in Uttar Pradesh on a letter to the court by senior lawyer Gopal Swaroop Chaturvedi detailing the incident.

“If the body has not been cremated, then it shall not be cremated,” the court said. Chaturvedi also demanded fair investigation in the heinous crime and later, on the death of the victim’s father. The bench also sought the state government’s stand on the case while slating the matter for next hearing on April 12.

It also asked the advocate general or one of the additional advocate general to remain present during the course of hearing to apprise the court about the case and action being taken.   

However, the body of the woman’s father was cremated yesterday.

The police had yesterday arrested Atul Singh, brother of BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar, in connection with the gangrape of the woman and the custodial death of her father. The Supreme Court will also hear next week a plea for CBI probe into the Unnao gangrape case. —  PTI

Image: The Unnao rape victim.

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14:57  AAP removes rebel leader Kumar Vishwas as Rajasthan in-charge :   The Aam Aadmi Party has appointed its senior leader Deepak Bajpai as the party’s in-charge for the Rajasthan Assembly elections replacing Kumar Vishwas, saying the latter was not able to “devote” time in the state. Elections in Rajasthan are due later this year.

“Deepak Bajpai will be the in-charge of the Assembly elections in Rajasthan. Kumar Vishwas was not able to devote time for election preparations due to his preoccupations,”AAP national spokesperson Ashutosh said.

He said the AAP will contest the assembly polls in Rajasthan with full strength. Bajpai will prepare the list of candidates for the polls in the state and it will be finalised by the political affairs committee of the party, he said. —  PTI

14:41  The Supreme Court asks the BJP to approach the Calcutta High Court tomorrow to raise its grievances on the West Bengal panchayat polls.

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13:29  Indrani Mukerjea discharged from hospital:  Indrani Mukerjea discharged from Mumbai’s JJ Hospital.

The former media executive, arrested for the alleged killing of her daughter Sheena Bora, had an overdose of anti-depressants, which were not prescribed to her, the J J Hospital authorities in Mumbai said on Tuesday.

Mukerjea, 46, was on April 6, admitted to the state-run hospital, where she was brought in a “semi-conscious” condition from her cell in the Byculla Jail in south Mumbai.

She underwent a series of medical tests in the hospital.

“The reports of her urine sample showed a significant increase in the level of benzodiazepine, a class of anti-depressants,” a doctor from the hospital said, quoting from the reports of the Forensic Science Laboratory at Kalina..

“The medicine prescribed to her is amitriptyline, which is an anti-depressant, but certainly does not belong to the benzodiazepine class of drugs,” the doctor added.

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13:25  My husband is innocent: Unnao rape accused MLA’s wife :  Sangeeta Sengar, Unnao rape accused MLA Kuldeep Sengar’s wife, says her  husband is innocent. “If he is proven guilty, the entire family will give up their lives. The way evidences are being hidden, it is not correct, we want justice.”

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12:44  India to grow 7.3% this fiscal, fastest across Asia: ADB:  India’s economic growth will rise to 7.3 per cent this fiscal and further to 7.6 per cent in the next financial year, retaining the fastest-growing Asian economy tag, on the back of GST and banking reforms.

In its Asian Development Outlook, 2018, Manila-based ADB said, “risks to trade are high” and retaliatory actions could dent growth in the Asian region going forward. Indian economy grew 6.6 per cent in the last fiscal as it battled the lingering effects of demonetisation in 2016, businesses adjusting to goods and services tax (GST) in 2017, and a subdued agriculture.

The country’s economic growth was 7.1 per cent in 2016-17. With 7.3 per cent growth projected for this fiscal, India would be reversing the two-year declining trend.

“Despite the short-term costs, the benefits of reform such as the recently implemented GST will propel India’s future growth,” ADB Chief Economist Yasuyuki Sawada said. Robust foreign direct investment flows attracted by liberalised regulations and the government steps to improve the ease of doing business will further bolster growth, Sawada said. — PTI

12:33  Is weight loss an indicator of cancer? :  Sudden weight loss is the second highest risk factor for some forms of cancer, according to a study.

The study, led by the Universities of Oxford and Exeter, found that unintended weight loss is the second highest risk factor for colorectal, lung, pancreatic and renal cancers.

The research analysed the findings of 25 studies, incorporating data from more than 11.5 million patients in total, found that weight loss was linked with 10 types of cancer.

The analysis found that unintended weight loss in people over 60 exceeded the three per cent risk threshold for urgent investigation in NICE guidelines. In females over 60, the average risk across all sites involved was estimated to be up to 6.7 per cent, and in males up to 14.2 per cent.
— ANI

12:16  Data leak: IT minister seeks Rahul’s apology:  IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad today sought an apology from Congress president Rahul Gandhi for allegedly using Cambridge Analytica data to swing poll results and said “probity” demands that he should promise not to manipulate voters in the future.

Prasad said on Twitter that Cambridge Analytica’s role in manipulating elections is clear and Facebook has given an assurance to stop it and maintain integrity of India’s elections.

Using Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg’s apology for failing to protect the social media giant’s user data in the Cambridge Analytica scandal as a handle, Prasad said, “probity demands that @RahulGandhi should apologise & promise not to manipulate voters and divide the society in future”.

Last week, Zuckerberg admitted making a “huge mistake” as personal data of up to 87 million users may have been improperly shared with British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, a figure higher than the previous estimate of 50 million. — PTI

11:40  Saudi Aramco to buy 50% stake in $44-bln oil refinery in Maharashtra:  Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil producer, will buy 50 per cent stake in the mega USD 44-billion oil refinery in Maharashtra. A memorandum of understanding to this effect was signed on sidelines of the International Energy Forum conference in New Delhi. 

Saudi Oil Minister, Khalid A. Al-Falih, said India is a priority destination for Saudi investment and Aramco will continue to scout for opportunities beyond the west coast refinery. Saudi Arabia will supply half of the 60 million tonne capacity, he said. State-owned IOC, BPCL and HPCL will hold the remaining 50 per cent stake in the project. — PTI

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11:39  Zuckerberg says committed to ensure integrity of elections in India :  Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg today said his organisation was committed to ensure integrity of elections across the world, including India, as he testified before the US Congress amid a firestorm over the alleged hijacking of data of millions of Facebook users by British firm Cambridge Analytica. 

He said data privacy and foreign interference in elections were topics that they have discussed at the Facebook board meeting. 

“These are some of the biggest issues that the company has faced, and we feel a huge responsibility to get these right,” Zuckerberg told the US the lawmakers during the Congressional hearing, adding that “this is one of my top priorities in 2018”.

He said Facebook was taking steps to ensure integrity of elections in countries like the United States, India, Brazil, and Pakistan. “2018 is is an incredibly important year for elections. Not just in the US mid-terms, but, around the world, there are important elections — in India, Brazil, Mexico, Pakistan and Hungary — and we want to make sure we do everything we can to protect the integrity of these elections,” the Facebook founder and CEO said. 

Zuckerberg began his two-day hearing as his organisation faces charges of failing to prevent Cambridge Analytica, the data-mining firm affiliated with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, from gathering personal information from over 80 million users to try to influence election.

Zuckerberg said his one of the greatest regrets was that Facebook has been slow in identifying the Russian information operations in 2016. “We expected them to do a number of more traditional cyber attacks, which we did identify and notify the campaigns that they were trying to hack into them,” he said. — PTI

11:14  Saudi Aramco signs pact to buy stake in planned 60 million tonne refinery in Maharashtra.

11:11  PM calls for responsible pricing for affordable energy to all:  Prime Minster Narendra Modi today called for reasonable and responsible pricing to provide easy access of affordable energy to all. In the presence of oil cartel OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabian Oil Minister, Khalid A Al-Falih, 

Modi said efforts at artificially distorting prices were self-destructing. It is in the interest of oil producers that consuming markets grow, he said addressing the International Energy Forum conference in New Delhi. 

He further said that India needs energy which is accessible and affordable to the poor. Access to clean, affordable and sustainable supply of energy is key, he said, pitching for responsible pricing of oil and gas. 

The Prime Minister also said India has achieved high growth rate with low inflation. Stating that energy consumption has shifted to non-OECD countries, he said India will be a key driver of energy demand in the next 2-5 years. —  PTI

11:08  Shreyasi claims gold to swell India’s medals tally:  Shreyasi Singh held her nerve and produced some excellent shooting to win the women’s double trap gold medal in the 21st Commonwealth Games here today. Shreyasi shot 96 in the finals and beat Australia’s Emma Cox 2 shots to 1 in the shoot-off at Belmont Shooting Centre.

The other Indian contender in the field, Varsha Varman finished fourth with 86. The bronze medal went to Scotland’s Linda Pearson who shot 87 to finish a point ahead of Varsha, who held the third place for a while.

 The 26-year-old Shreyasi, thus, improved on her silver medal-winning effort at the Glasgow Games four years ago. Shreyasi was on the second position while Varsha was on the third position after three rounds.

 Recently, she won a silver medal in the double trap event at the 2017 Commonwealth Shooting Championships. Shreyasi, whose grandfather and father served in the National Rifle Association of India as its president, represented the country in two events at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games Delhi but failed to win a single medal. 

The Delhi-born Shreyasi won the individual silver medal in double trap in Glasgow and followed that by winning a bronze medal at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon. The result at the ongoing Games ensured the experienced shooter won the elusive gold. — PTI

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10:55  CJI is first among equals, can allocate cases, set up benches: SC :  The Supreme Court dismisses a petition seeking framing of guidelines for allocation of cases and constitution of benches. The court said the Chief Justice of India was first among equals and has the authority to decide allocation of cases and setting up of benches. 

The Supreme Court on Friday was moved by senior counsel Shanti Bhushan seeking direction that the exercise of authority as a master of roster by the Chief Justice of India in allocating the cases to different benches should be done in consultation with senior judges who are part of top court collegium.

In his PIL, he said that the authority of Chief Justice of India as a master of roster is not an “absolute, arbitrary, singular power” which may be exercised in his “sole discretion” and the CJI “must” exercise his authority in consultation with other senior judges who are also part of collegiums.

10:47  North East forum will solve interstate problems: Niti Aayog VC:  NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Rajeev Kumar on Tuesday said the ‘NITI Forum for North East’ is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision to start regional council, which would solve interstate problems of the area.

In the first meeting of the forum held in Agartala, Kumar said the reason which persuaded the Niti Aayog to be part of the council was the longing for fresh ideas.

“We want this forum beyond the routine thing, we are looking for fresh ideas. Think on the line to tap huge potential which this northeast region has. We need to supplement the northeast council by ideas, and focus on implementation,” he said. — ANI

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10:24  Bank stocks fall, IT stocks rise :  The BSE Sensex turned choppy and fell over 100 points, led by losses on banking, oil & gas, finance and auto counters, amid mixed Asian cues. The 30-share index opened on a positive note, only to turn negative and trade 130 points, or 0.38 per cent, lower at 33,750.74. 

The gauge had gained 861.18 points in the previous four sessions. The broader NSE Nifty too fell 35.50 points, or 0.34 per cent, to 10,366.75. Stocks of oil marketing companies such as HPCL, BPCL and IOC reeled under pressure and fell up to 1.07 per cent. Banking stocks, led by private lenders, succumbed to profit-booking after recent gains. 

Major Sensex losers were SBI, Adani Ports, ICICI Bank, Axis Bank, Yes Bank, Asian Paints, falling up to 2 per cent. ONGC, Sun Pharma, TCS, Infosys, Reliance Industries, were among the top gainers, rising up to 2.58 per cent. — PTI

10:17  Kulgam encounter: Mobile internet services suspended:   Update on the Kulgam encounter: Mobile internet services have been suspended in Kulgam and Anantnag districts of South Kasmir, in the wake of the encounter that is underway between the terrorists and security forces.  As a precautionary measure train services on the Srinagar-Banihal route have also been suspended. 

However, trains will be plying normally on Srinagar-Baramulla route. Six additional forces of the Central Reserve Police Force have been moved to the encounter site in Khudwani area of Kulgam, where two to three terrorists have been trapped till now.The Indian Army and Jammu and Kashmir Police are jointly carrying out the operation. — ANI

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10:11  ‘Family of journos who die on duty to get Rs 4 lakh’:  Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Tuesday announced that the family of any journalist who dies in the line of duty will receive a compensation of Rs 4 lakh.

Speaking at an award function for Madhya Pradesh journalists, the chief minister also announced that a financial aid would also be given to journalists if they receive an injury in any kind of accident.

Apart from this, Chouhan also promised to provide Rs 50,000 to the camerapersons in case their equipment gets damaged in the line of duty.

“We are also planning to make available loan facility for journalists so that they can own a home easily,” he said.

These announcements come in the wake of the alleged murder of a journalist in the Bhind district of the state.Sandeep Sharma, who had been reporting on illegal sand mining in the state, was mowed down on March 25 by a speeding truck. – ANI

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10:04  J-K: Civilian killed, 3 security personnel injured in encounter:  A civilian was killed and three security forces personnel injured today during an encounter with militants in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kulgam district, officials said.

Security forces launched a cordon and search operation in the district’s Khudwani area last night, following information about presence of militants there, the officials said. 

They said a gunbattle broke out between the militants and security forces in the early hours. Three security force personnel were injured in the initial exchange of firing, the officials said. Local residents started pelting security personnel with stones, leading to clashes, they said, adding that some civilians were injured.

The officials said a 25-year-old man succumbed to injuries at a hospital. It is not immediately known how the deceased got injured, they said. — PTI 

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09:47  Bandh called by lawyers supporting accused in Kathua rape, murder:  

The brutal rape and murder of an eight-year-old Bakerwal girl has polarised the normally peaceful town of Jammu, with the local Bar Association calling for a bandh against what it termed the “targeting of minority Dogras” while the state police lodged a case today against lawyers who allegedly tried to prevent it from filing a chargesheet against the accused.

The high-profile case has even divided the state’s polity, with at least two BJP ministers in the Mehbooba Mufti government questioning the role of the police.

The victim, who belonged to the nomadic Bakerwal Muslim community, had disappeared from near her home in the forests next to Rasana village in Kathua on January 10.

A week later, her body was found in the same area, and medical examination pointed towards sexual assault.

During initial investigations, police arrested a juvenile. Later the case was transferred to Jammu and Kashmir police’s crime branch with clear instructions from Director General of Police S P Vaid to catch the culprits, no matter how high and mighty.

Two Special Police Officers (SPOs) — Deepak Khajuria and Surinder Kumar — and later, another five persons, including former revenue official and the alleged conspirator, Sanji Ram (60), who surrendered before the special investigation team, were among those arrested.

The crime branch team, which submitted a set of two chargesheets, faced a tough time when local lawyers allegedly tried to prevent them from filing the documents before the court yesterday.

Today, the police filed an FIR against a group of lawyers. “An FIR has been lodged against a group of lawyers who held protests and tried to prevent the crime branch officials from performing their duty,” a senior police official told PTI.

He said that the lawyers had not been yet identified.

The Jammu Bar Association, on the other hand, alleged that minority Dogras of Jammu and Kashmir in Hiranagar were being “targeted” in the probe by the crime branch and called for a ‘Jammu Bandh’ tomorrow.

Political parties also traded charges over the handling of the case and the issue acquired a communal hue due to the alleged association of the accused with a right-wing group.

It was found during investigations that a group ‘Hindu Ekta Manch’, which was spread heading an agitation against state police’s probe, had also been opposing settlement of Gujjar and Bakerwal tribes in Kathua, an official said.

The matter escalated, when two BJP ministers in the ruling coalition — Industries and Commerce Minister Chander Parkash Ganga and Forest Minister Lal Singh hit out at the police for arresting “one or the other person at will”.

We too want that the real accused are punished…We have heard you. We will not allow this jungle raj, under which they (police) are picking up people at will, to continue. What kind of investigation are they doing? Forest Minister Lal Singh said questioning why the probe was not being handed over to the CBI.

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09:16  Uddhav would have been CM had Sena, BJP contested together, says Fadnavis:  

Expressing confidence that BJP and Shiv Sena would contest the coming polls together, Fadnavis said Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray would have become chief minister had the two parties contested the 2014 assembly elections together.

Fadnavis was speaking at a public interview conducted by Shiv Sena MP and Saamana executive editor Sanjay Raut at Lokmat Maharashtrian of The Year Award function.

Considering the fact that Raut is the harshest critic of the BJP-led governments at the Centre and the state and the hardline taken by Sena mouthpiece that he heads, it was expected that the interview would witness some tension. 

But, Fadnavis replied the tricky questions shrewdly and made it a point to show his willingness to take the Sena along. The so-called secular parties are coming together. It is time for the real secular parties believing in Hinduism to join hands, Fadnavis said.

Raut said it was the BJPs arrogance during the 2014 elections that had forced the Shiv Sena to snap ties. The CM said: We were ready to concede 147 seats but the Sena was insistent on 151 seats. Had the Sena accepted the offer, it could have won 120 seats, claiming the CMs chair. We would have won 105 seats by fighting on 127 seats. Uddhavji could have been the CM of the state, he said.

Fadnavis said Senas treatment towards the BJP compelled them to take Narayan Rane in its fold. On whether the next stop in his career would be Delhi, Fadnavis said: I will obey what the party asks me to do. If I am asked to go to Delhi tomorrow, I will go. If I am asked to return to Nagpur, I will do that.

08:55  Encounter underway in J-K’s Kulgam:  

An encounter is underway between terrorists and security forces at Khudwani area of Kulgam district in South Kashmir, according to official sources.

Two to three terrorists are reported to be holed up in the area.

The Indian Army and Jammu and Kashmir Police are jointly carrying out the operation.

Further details are awaited.

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08:15  Worried by data leak, PM wants servers in India:  

PM Narendra Modi is understood to have expressed serious concern over data leaks and alleged manipulation of user information by global internet and social media giants. According to top sources, the PM has instructed that data sharing should be regulated and servers be located within the country.

The issue came up for discussion during a recent meeting of the Union Cabinet, where the episode of data leakage and manipulation by Facebook and UK-based Cambridge Analytica was raised, said sources. “The PM said that servers that house data of millions of users should be located within India. The issue was thereafter discussed within the IT ministry which carried out a thorough review last week,” a top source said. 

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The majority of user data generated on platforms of top companies such as Google, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram is stored across servers located internationally. Moreover, access to these servers – and the information they hold – is highly regulated by US laws and certain international treaties.

Questions sent to Google, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram – regarding their plans for having local servers – and also on steps initiated towards data security, remained unanswered. The sources said the issue is being pursued on “top priority” by the government. “The PM has said that instruments should be established to ensure that user information is increasingly stored locally, and that its sharing is regulated. Data protection is of utmost concern in a highly-digital society… “

02:59  Zuckerberg says he is open to the ‘right regulation’:  

Senator Lindsey Graham asks Zuckerberg whether Facebook is a monopoly.

“It certainly doesn’t feel like that to me,” Zuckerberg replies, to chuckles.

To that Graham said, “Why should we let you self-regulate?”

Zuckerberg said, “I think the real question is what is the right regulation?”

He further said that Facebook will provide Graham’s office with suggestions for good regulations.

02:51  Zuckerberg dodges question on the need for a law to protect children from commercial usage of their personal data.

02:48  Zuckerberg dodges question on the need for a law to protect children from commercial usage of their personal data.

01:59  Zuckerberg agrees to help in passage of Honest Ads Act, a proposal to regulate online political advertising the same way as television, radio and print.

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01:53  Will do our best to maintain integrity of elections in India: Zuckerberg:  

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg during his congressional hearing said that he wants to ensure protection of integrity of elections, mentioning that he knows the importance of the upcoming polls in countries, including India, Hungary and Brazil. 

He noted that there are several important elections in 2018 in countries like India, Hungary and Brazil and his company wants to ensure protection of integrity in these elections.  

01:51  If you delete your account, all data is gone, confirms Zuckerberg.

01:33  Can Facebook take down hate speech within 24 hours? asks Senator Leahy. Zuckerberg replies by saying, “We are working on it.” 

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01:11  There are people in Russia to sabotage our elections: Zuckerberg :  

Zuckerberg says that there are people dedicated in Russia to sabotage our systems and elections.

When asked by Sen. Dianne Feinstein about what Facebook was doing to prevent foreign actors from interfering in US elections, Zukcerberg said, ” This is one of my top priorities is to get this right. One of my greatest regrets is we were slow in identifying the Russian operations in 2016.”

01:00  Facebook stock jumps 5% as CEO Mark Zuckerberg gets grilled in Senate.

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00:52  Committed to making things right in the long run: Zuckerberg :  

When one of the senators asked the Facebook CEO, wow is today’s apology different as you have apologised a lot in the past as well, Zuckerberg said,”  We started Facebook in a dorm room and we made mistakes. For the first 10 years, we focused on building tools to help people communicate. Now, we have realised that making tools are just not enough. But we are committed to making things right in the long run.” 

00:49  Zuckerberg answers in the positive when asked if Facebook had came across suspicious activity by an app in the past.

00:46  ‘Facebook doesn’t write privacy policy in detail’:  When asked why doesn’t Facebook disclose to the user all the ways that Facebook could use the data, Mark  Zuckerberg said, “Long privacy policies are confusing and difficult to understand for user. So, we do not write everything in detail in our privacy policy to make it simple for users.”
00:44  We are investigating every app now: Zuckerberg tells US Congress:  

Answering the United States Congress’s questions, Zuckerberg said that Facebook is now conducting a full investigation all apps 

“We are now conducting a full investigation all apps and if we suspect any app we will do a full audit,” Zuckerberg said.

00:36  Mark Zuckerberg sticks to the earlier press statement in his response. 

Here you can read his full testimony. 

00:33  It is not the first time that Facebook has mishandled its users information, says Senator Bill Nelsonon.

00:30  Naval helicopter makes emergency landing at Mumbai airport:  

A Navy helicopter made an emergency landing at the Santacruz airport tonight, officials said.

“All the three crew members and the helicopter are safe,” said spokesperson of the Western Naval Command.

The Seaking 42B helicopter made the emergency landing at 8.50 PM in view of an emergency indication on it’s engine.

“The pilot followed the laid down procedure on the engine overheat indication and made a safe landing. An investigation and defect rectification of the incident is being undertaken,” the naval official said. — PTI 

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00:15  ‘Will do everything to make sure Facebook remain a positive force’:  

Before appearing before the US senate, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted a message on his page.

“In an hour I’m going to testify in front of the Senate about how Facebook needs to take a broader view of our responsibility — not just to build tools, but to make sure those tools are used for good. I will do everything I can to make Facebook a place where everyone can stay closer with the people they care about, and to make sure it’s a positive force in the world,” he said with a photo of the Capitol Building’s west lawn.

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00:08  Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg testifies before US Congress:  

Facebook cheif executive officer Mark Zuckerberg is testifying at a joint hearing of the United States Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees, in the first of two congressional hearings for the Facebook founder.

The company is facing questions following reports that research firm Cambridge Analytica improperly gained access to the personal data of as many as 87 million Facebook users.

Zuckerberg is likely to face tough questions on user privacy, foreign meddling on the site and abuse of social media tools.

He’s scheduled to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee Wednesday.  

Source: Rediff

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