13:21 With smog covering around, Delhi’s air quality turns ‘severe’:
Delhi’s air quality deteriorated to ‘severe’ category Saturday as a cover of smog surrounded the national capital and prevented dispersion of pollutants, authorities said.
This is a fourth time this season that the air quality here has worsened to severe category. The first time it dipped to the severe category this year was just two days before Diwali.
A day after Diwali, which fell on December 7, the air quality again slipped to severe category on November 8. The third time it slipped into severe category was on December 12.
The overall air quality index of the city stood at 408, which falls in the ‘severe’ category, the Central Pollution Control Board data showed.
An AQI between 100 to 200 comes under the ‘moderate’ category, 201 and 300 is considered ‘poor’, 301 and 400 ‘very poor’, while that between 401 and 500 is ‘severe’.
Twenty-five areas of the national capital recorded severe air quality while 11 recorded very poor air quality, the CPCB said.
In Delhi, the overall PM2.5 level – fine particulate matter in the air with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometre – was recorded at 290 and the PM10 level at 458, the CPCB said.
In the National Capital Region, Ghaziabad recorded the worst air quality at an AQI of 451. Noida recorded severe air quality while Faridabad’s pollution level remained in the very poor category, the CPCB said.
The Centre-run System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting (SAFAR) said the air quality might improve over the next two days but would still remain in the very poor category. — PTI
13:11 Modi ‘unmade’ India, says Yashwant Sinha in no-holds-barred book:
GDP numbers are misleading, RBI’s autonomy is in extreme danger and demonetisation is the biggest banking scam, former finance minister Yashwant Sinha claims in his new book.
He also says that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s idea of self-employment is a “distraction from the more serious issue of unemployment and underemployment”.
Sinha, who has been quite vocal about the government’s policies since the past couple of years, quit the Bharatiya Janata Party in April.
Party leaders have been dismissing his allegations on several issues with BJP chief Amit Shah once asking if people should believe the ministers or those “who did not get jobs”.
According to Sinha, Modi blew a golden opportunity to send the economy soaring to new heights.
“He could have fixed the UPA’s legacy issues and fundamentally raised India from a poor country to a middle-income country, but he squandered the chance,” he says, adding his book demonstrates how “Modi unmade India”.
Though the book India Unmade: How the Modi Government Broke the Economy is a critique of the NDA government’s economic management, Sinha says he has not always been a critic of Modi.
“Nor do I have a personal vendetta against him for not appointing me minister or giving me some other post, as some people incorrectly speculate In fact, the truth is that I recognised his mettle early on and was one of the first senior Bharatiya Janata Party leaders to say he should be made the party’s prime ministerial candidate in the 2014 elections,” he claims.
He has been severely critical of Modi on demonetisation, jobs, GDP figures and Make in India among others policies and programmes.
“The Modi government’s lasting legacy will be the catastrophe that was the demonetisation of high-denomination currency on November 8, 2016,” he argues.
“Demonetisation was a whimsical decision that served no purpose of governance. It did, however, provide Modi with a populist campaign plank of having taken tough decisions to nab the corrupt rich. His decision paid a rich electoral dividend in Uttar Pradesh in 2017. But as far as the constantly shifting governance objectives of demonetisation went, it was a big zero,” he says.
On the second anniversary of demonetisation, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said that demonetisation resulted in increasing the tax base and a higher tax collection (both direct and indirect) for the government, thereby improving its fiscal health.
He had also clarified that the real purpose of demonetisation was not the confiscation of cash but to bring it to the formal economy and make the holders pay tax.
On Make in India, Sinha writes, “The malaise of Indian industry during Modi’s tenure is typified by his most famous flagship scheme, Make in India. It is his biggest failure; it is also an unoriginal idea. It is nothing more than a revival of the National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council that the UPA set up in 2004, whose first chairman was V Krishnamurthy.”
He also says that the growth rates were seemed to have been recalibrated to make the government’s economic management look good, with an average rate of 7.35 per cent over its first four years.
The jobs Modi mentioned like ‘pakoda’ sellers, autorickshaw drivers, tea-stall boys and newspaper deliverers are all in the informal sector and are nobody’s idea of an aspirational job, he says.
He terms GDP figures as way below India’s potential. “But then India is the only country in the world that grows at 7.35 per cent, without investment, without industrial growth, without agricultural growth. Just like magic,” he writes in a sarcastic vein.
The GST concept, he says, is good because it is simple and will lead to lower prices because there won’t be any tax on tax; there’ll be tax set-offs at every stage; and it will widen the tax net for transactions. — PTI
12:33 Kumaraswamy-led K’taka Cabinet to be expanded, reshuffled today:
The much-awaited expansion and reshuffle of the six month-old H D Kumaraswamy-led coalition Cabinet in Karnataka would be carried out Saturday.
Two ministers — Ramesh Jarkiholi (Municipal Administration) and R Shankar (Forest and Environment) — are likely to be dropped, official sources said.
New ministers would be sworn in at 5.20 pm by Governor Vajubhai Vala at Raj Bhavan, the sources said.
According to a statement issued by the office of Congress Legislature Party Leader Siddaramaiah, Satish Jarkiholi, M B Patil, C S Shivalli, M T B Nagaraj, E Tukaram, P T Parameshwar Naik, Rahim Khan and R B Thimmapur would be inducted into the ministry.
The press statement came a day after the names were cleared by Congress president Rahul Gandhi.
Gandhi, after meeting party General Secretary in charge of Karnataka KC Venugopal, CLP leader Siddarmaiah, Pradesh Congress Chief Dinesh Gundu Rao and Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara gave the go-ahead on Friday night.
Ramesh Jarkiholi, who has been allegedly hobnobbing with BJP leaders and not attending Cabinet and party meetings is being replaced by his brother Satish Jarkiholi.
Shankar is an Independent lawmaker who is reportedly facing the axe over his reluctance to be an associate member of the Congress.
However, Congress’ coalition partner Janata Dal-Secular will not be part of this round of cabinet expansion, and is likely to induct new ministers from its side post Sankranthi, sources said.
According to the pact reached between the two partners at the time of formation of the coalition government in May, there are now six vacant ministerial positions left for the Congress and two for the JD-S.
This would be the second expansion in the ministry.
With the cabinet expansion exercise being deferred repeatedly, several aspirants, especially those from the Congress, had openly expressed their displeasure.
Despite reiteration by Congress leaders that the expansion would take place on the scheduled date (December 22), party MLAs were sceptical about it happening till the Lok Sabha polls early next year.
Some of them have also cited “Shoonya Masa” that is considered inauspicious, as the reason.
Along with cabinet expansion, appointment of MLAs as heads to boards and corporations, and parliamentary secretaries to ministers would also be made Saturday, the source said. — PTI
12:25 Imran Khan telephones UN chief, raises Kashmir issue: Official :
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan telephoned United Nations chief Antonio Guterres and raised the issue of Kashmir, a UN spokesman has said.
Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for the UN Secretary General, did not give further details about the conversation between Khan and Guterres.
When asked by PTI to comment on India’s strong retort to Khan that Pakistan should mind its own business and that Kashmir is an integral part of India, Dujarric said, “Our position on Kashmir has been reiterated. There is an observer group as mandated by the Security Council,”
He was referring to the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan.
Dujarric added that the Pakistani prime minister wanted to speak to the Secretary-General.
“It’s only normal that the Secretary-General speak to Heads of Governments and Heads of State and, as I said, I can confirm that the call took place and that the prime minister raised the issue of Kashmir,” Dujarric said.
In a set of recent tweets, Khan said that “Kashmiris must be allowed to decide their future”.
He also tweeted that Pakistan would raise the issue of India’s alleged human rights violations at the United Nations.
External affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar in response said that “the statements coming out from their side demonstrates the insincerity and duplicity”.
The UNMOGIP was established in January 1949 and currently has a total of 118 UN and civilian staff.
Following the India-Pakistan war in 1971 and a subsequent ceasefire agreement of December 17 of that year, the tasks of UNMOGIP have been to observe, to the extent possible, developments pertaining to the strict observance of the ceasefire and to report there on to the Secretary-General.
India has maintained that UNMOGIP has outlived its utility and is irrelevant after the Simla Agreement and the consequent establishment of the Line of Control. — PTI
11:55 31st GST Council meeting underway at Vigyan Bhavan under the chairmanship of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
11:39 23 killed in Nepal bus accident:
A bus carrying college students and their teachers back from an educational trip veered off a mountainous road and lunged into a ravine in Nepal, killing 23 people and injuring 14 others.
The fatal crash occurred on Friday when the bus was returning from Kapurkot in Salyan district.
According to the District Police Office, Dang, there were 37 persons — 34 students, two teachers and a diver, on the ill-fated bus, which drove off the road and fell some 700 metres down near Ramri village, about 400 kilometres west of the capital Kathmandu.
Fourteen persons, including five women, were injured in the incident.
The students and instructors from Krishna Sen Ichhuk Polytechnic Institute had been visiting a farm for their botany project, The Kathmandu Post reported.
Poor road infrastructure and reckless driving are the leading causes of accidents in Nepal. — PTI
11:04 US govt shutdown begins after no deal on border wall:
The US government began a Christmastime shutdown early on Saturday, after Congress adjourned without passing a federal spending bill or addressing President Donald Trump’s demand for money to build a border wall.
Operations for several key agencies ceased at 12:01 am Saturday (5:01 GMT), despite last-ditch talks that continued on Capitol Hill between White House officials and congressional leaders in both parties. — Agencies
10:55 Six terrorists killed in Pulwama encounter:
UPDATE: Six terrorists killed in encounter in South Kashmir’s Tral, Inspector General of Police Swayam Prakash Pani said.
The encounter broke out in Tral area of Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Saturday morning.
More details are awaited.
A string of terrorist activities has taken place in the week. — ANI, PTI
Image only for representation.
10:21 Senate, House adjourned as US govt set to shutdown:
A partial government shutdown is imminent as the United States House of Representatives and Senate was adjourned for the evening, as President Donald Trump and lawmakers remain at odds over border wall funding.
Although negotiations are underway in Congress to reach an agreement in an aim to prevent a government shutdown, virtually, there is no chance that a vote will take place on Friday night (local time).
On December 6, the Congress approved a two-week stopgap funding bill to keep the government agencies, including Homeland Security and State Department running to prevent a partial government shutdown till December 21.
With the deadline fast approaching, this would be the first time in 40 years that the US government will have been closed three times in a year, CNN reported.
Before adjournment, the Senate passed a bill to ensure federal employees who were granted leave of absence to get their back pay.
Earlier, Trump stated that he is prepared for a long government shutdown over funding for his proposed border wall.
Placing blame on the Democrats, Trump tweeted, “Shutdown today if Democrats do not vote for Border Security!”
The Democrats in the House have vowed not to support a bill that includes funding for Trump’s border wall, increasing the likelihood of a partial government shutdown on Friday midnight.
After assuming office in January last year, Trump had signed an executive order that initiated the process of building a wall on the US-Mexico border.
The Democrats and some Republicans do not support Trump’s agenda on building the wall and have urged US president to work with Congress on reforming the American immigration system. — ANI
JUST IN: Encounter underway between terrorists and security forces in Tral, Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir:
More details awaited.
09:00 Lamba to quit for not supporting AAP’s resolution on Rajiv Gandhi:
Aam Aadmi Party MLA Alka Lamba said on Friday night that she will tender her resignation as ‘demanded’ by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for not supporting a resolution in the assembly on revoking late former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi’s Bharat Ratna.
The Delhi assembly on Friday adopted a resolution on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in which it was demanded that the Bharat Ratna awarded to former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi be withdrawn, but the AAP swiftly distanced itself from the reference to the Congress leader.
The matter became a major crisis with AAP MLA Alka Lamba alleging she was ‘put under pressure’ to support the resolution, which she resisted and boycotted.
Lamba said she was ready to face ‘any consequences’ and claimed she spoke to AAP supremo and CM Kejriwal who, she said, asked her to resign as MLA.
“I am ready to do so”, she said.
The Chandni Chowk MLA said she was not happy with the demand to take back Bharat Ratna from Gandhi and staged a walkout in protest.
Interestingly, the AAP later distanced itself from the resolution.
“After I staged a walkout, I got a message from the chief minister to tender my resignation,” she told PTI.
When asked whether she will quit, Lamba added, “I have won on a party ticket. I will tender my resignation as demanded by the party.”
In a tweet, she said, “I was asked to support the resolution demanding taking back the Bharat Ratna awarded to former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Since I didn’t agree to this, I staged a walk out. I am ready to accept whatever punishment given to me.” — PTI
08:19 UP outfit books Naseeruddin Shah’s tickets to Pak:
The Uttar Pradesh Navnirman Sena on Friday said it will send veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah a air-ticket for Pakistan over his comments on the Bulandshahr violence.
The actor found himself at the centre of a major controversy over his remarks in reference to the killing of a policeman in Bulandshahr earlier this month.
He said the death of a cow was being given importance over killing of a policeman in the violence.
“If Naseeruddin Shah feels scared in India, he can go to Pakistan. The UPNS (Uttar Pradesh Navnirman Sena) has booked a air-ticket for him to Pakistan for August 14,” UPNS chief Amit Jani said.
“Like him, if anybody else feels scared, the UPNS will also book air-tickets for them to Pakistan,” he said.
Wondering why his comments on mob violence were being misconstrued with some people calling him a ‘traitor’, actor Shah said on Friday in Ajmer that he spoke as a ‘worried Indian’ and has the right to express concerns about the country he loves.
“What I said earlier was as a worried Indian. I have said this earlier as well. What did I say this time that I am being called a traitor? It is very strange,” Shah told reporters in Meerut at his alma mater, St Anselm’s Senior Secondary School.
“I have to bear criticism. If they have the right to criticise, then I also have the same right. I am expressing concerns about the country I love, the country that is my home. How is that a crime?” he asked.
Shah was responding to a question about the backlash he is receiving on social media following his remarks.
The actor had expressed anxiety over the growing mob violence in a video interview with Karwan-e-Mohabbat India, which the organisation shared on its YouTube channel on Monday.
In the interview, the actor expressed concern over the well-being of his children, who he said have not been brought up as followers of any particular religion. — PTI
00:20 Trump warns of ‘very long shutdown’ in absence of border wall funding:
United States President Donald Trump warned on Friday that a partial government shutdown would last ‘for a very long time’ if the lawmakers do not approve money for his long-promised wall along the Mexico border.
The entire US government on Friday braced for an imminent shutdown because of the stalemate between the White House and the opposition Democrats on funding of the border wall.
The House of Representatives, where the Republicans currently enjoy a majority, has already passed such a bill.
But in the Senate the ruling Republican party needs additional eight votes from the Democrats to approve more than $5 billion for a wall across the US-Mexico border, which Trump argues is essential to prevent illegal immigrants from entering the US.
“The Democrats, whose votes we need in the Senate, will probably vote against Border Security and the Wall even though they know it is desperately needed. If the Dems vote no, there will be a shutdown that will last for a very long time. People don’t want Open Borders and Crime!” he said.
He said the Democrats would be responsible for such a shut down.
“The Democrats now own the shutdown!” Trump said in a tweet on Friday as ‘Shutdown today if Democrats do not vote for Border Security!’ he said.
“No matter what happens today in the Senate, Republican House Members should be very proud of themselves. They flew back to Washington from all parts of the World in order to vote for Border Security and the Wall. Not one Democrat voted yes, and we won big. I am very proud of you!” Trump said.
In another tweet Trump said the Democrats were trying to belittle the concept of a wall by calling it old-fashioned.
“The fact is there is nothing else that will work, and that has been true for thousands of years. It’s like the wheel, there is nothing better,” he said.
“I know tech better than anyone, & technology on a Border is only effective in conjunction with a wall. Properly designed and built walls work, and the Democrats are lying when they say they don’t. In Israel the Wall is 99.9 per cent successful. Will not be any different on our Southern Border! Hundreds of USD Billions saved!” Trump said.
He asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to fight for the wall and border security as hard as he fought for anything.
“He will need Democrat votes, but as shown in the House, good things happen. If enough Dems don’t vote, it will be a Democrat Shutdown! House Republicans were great yesterday!” he said. — PTI