21:14 AG Venugopal makes U-turn, says Rafale documents not stolen:
Attorney General K K Venugopal Friday claimed the Rafale documents were not stolen from the defence ministry and that what he meant in his submission before the Supreme Court was that petitioners in the application used “photocopies of the original” papers, deemed secret by the government.
His comments in the apex court on Wednesday that Rafale fighter jet deal documents were stolen caused a political row, with Congress president Rahul Gandhi targeting the government over stealing of such sensitive papers and seeking a criminal investigation.
“I am told that the opposition has alleged what was argued (in SC) was that files had been stolen from the Defence Ministry. This is wholly incorrect. The statement that files have been stolen is wholly incorrect,” he told PTI, in an apparent damage-control exercise.
Venugopal said the application filed by Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Prashant Bhushant, seeking from the court a review of its verdict dismissing pleas for a probe into against the Rafale deal, had annexed three documents which were photocopies of the original.
Official sources said the AG’s use of word stolen was probably “stronger” and could have been avoided.
The government had also warned The Hindu newspapers with a case under Official Secrets Act for publishing articles based on these documents. –PTI
20:57 Anant Ambani named member of Badrinath, Kedarnath temple committee:
Richest Indian Mukesh Ambani’s youngest son Anant was Friday appointed as a member of the Shri Badarinath Shri Kedarnath Mandir Committee.
An order issued by the Uttarakhand government on Friday named 10 members of the prestigious temple management committee.
Anant Ambani’s name figures at No.1 on the list.
Anant has been a regular visitor to the Badrinath and Kedarnath temples along with his parents.
Mukesh and his wife Nita have three children — twins Akash and Isha and Anant.
Ambanis had last year offered prayers at Kedarnath and Badrinath and sought the blessings of the presiding deities at the famous Himalayan shrines for the wedding of Isha Ambani.
The temple committee is headed by Mohan Prasad Thapliyal.
Badrinath or Badrinarayan Temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu which is situated in the town of Badrinath in Uttarakhand. The temple and town form one of the four Char Dham and Chota Char Dham pilgrimage sites.
Kedarnath Mandir is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Located on the Garhwal Himalayan range near the Mandakini river, Kedarnath temple opens to the general public only between the months of April and November due to extreme weather conditions. — PTI
20:53 Ensure safety, security of people from J-K: Centre to states:
The Centre on Friday asked all states and Union territories to ensure safety and security of people from Jammu and Kashmir by strengthening the existing mechanism, and take strict action against offenders.
The fresh advisory came two days after two Kashmiri dry-fruit sellers were attacked in Lucknow by members of a little-known right-wing group. Four people allegedly involved in the incident have been arrested so far.
“The ministry of home affairs through an advisory issued today to the states and Union territories asked them to reinforce the existing arrangements to ensure safety and security of persons belonging to Jammu and Kashmir residing in their respective jurisdictions,” a home ministry spokesperson said.
It also referred to its earlier advisory issued on February 16 asking the states to take all possible steps to ensure security of students and people belonging to Jammu and Kashmir as many of them were attacked in different parts of the country after the February 14 terror attack in Pulwama in which 40 CRPF jawans were killed.
“In view of some students and residents of Jammu and Kashmir experiencing intimidation and harassment, the MHA urged state/UT police authorities to take strict action against the offenders as per law,” the spokesperson said quoting the advisory.
Following a directive of the MHA, all states and union territories have already appointed nodal police officers who may be contacted by distressed people belong to Jammu and Kashmir.
Some people belonging to Jammu and Kashmir were attacked in states like Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, West Bengal and Jammu city after the Pulwama attack. — PTI
20:34 Govt reduces prices of 390 cancer drugs up to 87%:
The maximum retail price of 390 non-scheduled cancer medicines have been reduced by up to 87 per cent, which would result in annual savings of around Rs 800 crore for the patients, the government said Friday.
The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority on February 27 had brought 42 non-scheduled anti-cancer drugs under price control, capping trade margin at 30 per cent.
Manufacturers and hospitals were directed to convey the revised MRP, to be effective from March 8, based on the trade margin formula.
“The NPPA under Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers has put out list of 390 anti-cancer non-scheduled medicines with MRP reduction up to 87 per cent. The revised prices would come into effect from March 8, 2019,” an official release said.
A total of 390 brands — that is 91 per cent of the 426 brands reported by the manufacturers — showed downward price movement, it added.
This move is expected to benefit 22 lakh cancer patients in the country and would result in annual savings of around Rs 800 crore to the patients, the release said.
“The trade margin rationalisation for 42 anti-cancer drugs was rolled out as Proof of Concept, stressing on the new paradigm of self-regulation by the industry. The manufacturers of these 42 drugs have been directed not to reduce production volumes of brands under regulation,” it said.
While the MRP of 38 brands has been reduced by 75 per cent and more, 124 brands have seen reduction between 50 per cent to 75 per cent.
The MRP of 121 brands has been reduced between 25 per cent to 50 per cent, while the maximum retail price of 107 brands have been reduced below 25 per cent, the release said. — PTI
19:45 Fully prepared for emerging challenges: Army :
Army is fully prepared for emerging challenges
New Delhi [India], Mar 8 (ANI): Indian Army on Friday said to be fully prepared to deal with the “emerging challenges” out of the current scenario of “disinformation campaign” being orchestrated by the “terror sponsors.”
In the current scenario, the Indian Army remains fully prepared for emerging challenges. In the last three weeks, disinformation campaign by the adversary on digital media has increased, said a spokesperson of the Indian Army in a statement.
All ranks have been well sensitised of these disinformation campaigns and all ranks can see through the lie, deceit, and deception of the terror sponsors, he said.
On his official visit to India, General Raymond Thomas, Commander, US Special Operations Command, US Army, on Thursday called on the Army chief General Bipin Rawat.
Both the Generals deliberated on the developing regional security environment, the issue of global terrorism and Pakistans continued support to terrorism was also discussed, said the statement.
Acknowledging Indias role in peace and stability in the region, General Raymond emphasised on the need for further military cooperation in the field of technology and military to military exchanges between the two countries, said the statement further. — ANI
19:31 UP: PM inaugurates, lays foundation stone for projects worth Rs 32,500 cr:
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday inaugurated and laid foundation stone for projects worth Rs 32,500 crore in Ghaziabad.
The projects included foundation-laying of the ambitious Regional Rail Transport System that would connect Delhi and Meerut via Ghaziabad, inauguration of a new civil terminal building at the Hindon airport and an extension of the Delhi Metro’s Red Line.
“The RRTS is being built for more than Rs 30,000 crore. Once work is completed on the country’s first RRTS, the distance between Delhi and Meerut could be covered in just one hour,” he told the gathering.
Among the projects inaugurated by the PM in Ghaziabad are an extension of the Red Line of the Delhi Metro that would now connect Shaheed Sthal (New Bus Adda) to Dilshad Garden in Delhi, a new civil terminal building for commercial flights at the Hindon Airport, as it was only for Air Force operations.
The prime minister also inaugurated two model inter-colleges, one for boys and one for girls, in Loni town area, drinking water plant, sewage treatment facility and 180 houses built under the government’s Aasra residential scheme in Ghaziabad city.
Modi also laid foundation stone for multiple development projects in Union minister and BJP leader V K Singh’s Lok Sabha constituency, including an Integrated Traffic Management System (ITMS), the first phase of a 45-metre wide northern peripheral road and outer ring road, among others. — PTI
18:47 Nitish should have sought fresh mandate before joining NDA: Kishor:
Janata Dal-United national vice-president Prashant Kishor has said he did not concur with party chief Nitish Kumar’s method of realigning with the Bharatiya Janata Party and the exit from the mahagathbandhan (grand alliance), which should have ideally been followed by a fresh mandate.
The poll strategist-turned-politician made the observations during an interview with a news portal, which uploaded the over-an-hour video on Thursday.
Kishor’s remarks have ruffled some feathers within his own party as the interview went viral on the social media on Friday.
In the interview, Kishor has, however, pointed out that turnarounds by politicians were not unique to Kumar.
“You can look at Chandrababu Naidu, Naveen Patnaik and parties like the DMK. Looking back further, we have the example of the V P Singh government, which was supported both by the Left and the BJP,” he said.
Kishor also said there was no yardstick to measure if Kumar was right in taking the drastic decision of walking out of the mahagathbandhan — comprising the RJD and the Congress — in July, 2017.
“For those who saw in him (Kumar) a potential challenger to (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi, the move was a let-down. But those who were of the view that he had begun to compromise on governance in his zeal to take on Modi would feel he was right,” he said.
Asked to comment on the episode, Kishor said, “Keeping in view the interests of Bihar, I think it was okay. But I do not agree with the method adopted. I have said this earlier and I still hold the view, upon taking the decision to return to the BJP-led coalition, he should have ideally sought a fresh mandate.”
Kishor had earlier worked with Kumar as a poll strategist during the 2015 Bihar aassembly election, wherein the latter was the chief ministerial candidate of the mahagathbandhan, which came into being as a result of his forging an alliance with arch rival Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal.
18:31 BJP appoints Jay Panda party’s vice president, spokesperson:
Odisha leader Baijayant Jay Panda, who joined the Bharatiya Janata Party last week, was Friday appointed the party’s vice president and spokesperson.
BJP president Amit Shah’s decision to give him an important organisational responsibility signals the importance the party has given him as it looks to improve its tally in the eastern state during the coming Lok Sabha polls.
Panda, who owns an Odisha-based media group, had quit the Biju Janata Dal last year and also resigned from his Lok Sabha membership following his suspension from the regional party headed by state’s Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.
Assembly polls in the state will be held simultaneously with the Lok Sabha elections.
The BJP had won only one of its 21 Lok Sabha seats in 2014 but is hopeful of putting up a much better show there after it emerged as the main challenger to the BJD in the local polls. — PTI
18:08 Brave warriors don’t count bodies: Rajnath questions Balakot doubters:
Answering those raising questions over the Indian air strike on terror camp in Pakistan, Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday said brave warriors do not count bodies of those killed in an operation.
“Arre sankhya poochte ho aap, kitne log maare gaye? Sankhya poochne walo se kehna chahta hun, jo yudhveer hota hai, maare gaye logon ki ginti nahi karta hai (You are asking what is the casualty figure? I want to tell you that brave warriors do not count bodies of those killed),”‘ he said while addressing party workers in Rajasthan.
His comment came in the wake of questions being raised by various opposition parties about the casualties inflicted in the IAF strike at Jaish-e-Mohammad terror camp in Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on February 26.IAF chief Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa has said that the Indian fighter jets had hit the targets given to them but it was not the job of his force to count the bodies.
Indian intelligence sources have said that there were 300 active sim-cards at the camp just before the air strike was conducted, giving a hint about the strength of the terrorists present at the facility. — ANI
File pic: Rajnath Singh.
17:48 Rahul to launch LS poll campaign in Telangana tomorrow: Congress President Rahul Gandhi will kickstart the party campaign for the Lok Sabha elections in Telangana tomorrow, where it fared badly in the Assembly polls three months ago. AICC in-charge of party affairs in Telangana, R C Khuntia told PTI Friday that the Congress chief would address booth committee members.
In the December 7, 2018 Assembly elections, the Congress secured only 19 seats in the 119-member House with the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) returning to power after winning in 88 constituencies.
The Congress had forged an opposition alliance “Prajakutami” (People’s Front) for the Assembly election, along with the Telugu Desam Party, the CPI and the Telangana Jana Samiti. But this grouping came a cropper at the hustings.
The TDP, led by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, picked up only two seats, while the CPI and TJS drew a blank. For the coming Lok Sabha elections in Telangana, due by May, Khuntia said the Congress has decided to contest all the 17 seats on its own, and appealed to “like-minded parties” to support its candidates.
Asked if the TDP, CPI and TJS promised support to Congress candidates, Khuntia said: “They have said they will talk (discuss) in their party”. On when the Congress would announce candidates for the 17 seats, he said it’s expected by next week-end. — PTI
17:27 Pulwama attack: Families of slain CRPF personnel paid over Rs 1-cr ex-gratia:
Families of the 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel, killed in a recent terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district, have been paid over Rs 1 crore ex-gratia funds till now as per service rules, the force said Friday.
Officials said the ‘next of kin’ of these slain personnel will also get an additional ex-gratia amount that has been announced by various state governments, where the troops hailed from, in a case-to-case basis.
A total amount of over Rs 1.01 crore has been paid to the families of the 40 personnel who were killed in the Pulwama terror attack on February 14, an official from the force said.
He added that this amount includes Rs 35 lakh given by the central government as ex-gratia to the Central Armed Police Force personnel killed in the line of action, Rs 21.50 lakh under the risk fund, Rs 15 lakh from the ‘Bharat Ke Veer’ corpus and Rs 30 lakh from the SBI paramilitary service pay insurance cover.
The families additionally are also being provided financial benefits from various government and non-government agencies even as some institutions have volunteered to take care of education of the wards of these personnel, he said.
“Liberalised Pension Award is being given to all the 40 families and this amount equals to the last basic pay plus dearness allowance drawn by the killed personnel. This amount will be paid lifelong,” the official said.
He added that while in some cases, the ‘next of kin’ of the killed personnel have been offered jobs by state governments, they are also eligible for compassionate appointment for jobs in the CRPF.
The force is soon going to launch a special mobile application which has been designed specifically for redressal of grievances relating to the families of killed personnel of the force. This will be launched soon, he said. — PTI
17:11 PM deplores attacks on Kashmiris by ‘crazed people’, calls for strict action:
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday asked state governments to take strict action if there is any attack on Kashmiris, calling those who targeted them recently in Lucknow “crazed people.”
“It is very important to maintain an atmosphere of unity in the country,” Modi told a gathering in Kanpur, while referring to the recent assault on some Kashmiri vendors in Lucknow.
He said the UP government immediately acted against some “crazed people” who had targeted our “our Kashmiri brothers”.
“I would also like to request other state governments to take strict action, wherever such acts take place,” he said.
The prime minister was addressing a gathering after flagging off the commercial run on Lucknow Metro’s North-South corridor, through video conferencing from Kanpur.
Modi also laid the foundation stone for the Agra Metro Rail project at the same event. — PTI
16:26 Param Veer Chakra for Abhinandan: EPS writes to PM: Tamil Nadu CM Edappadi Palaniswami writes to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting a Param Veer Chakra (the country’s highest military honour) for Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman.
16:14 Kashmiris are, were and will remain our people: Rajnath: Home Minister Rajnath Singh reacts to the attack on Kashmiri street vendors in Lucknow on Wednesday, in which the attacker has been arrested. Addressing a rally in Beawar, Rajasthan, Singh said, “I want to convey a message to the entire country, I have heard of a few incidents against Kashmiri children. Kashmiris are, were and will remain our people. I have requested chief ministers of all states that Kashmiri students must be protected and loved.”
Two Kashmiris selling dry fruit were thrashed by a group of saffron-clad men in Daliganj locality in Lucknow, following which four persons have been arrested, police said on Thursday. The incident took place Wednesday evening, the latest in a series of cases in which Kashmiris across the country were targeted after the Pulwama terror attack.
The assault on the Kashmiri vendors, which was caught on camera, was strongly condemned by Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, former chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir.
Several Kashmiris living outside the state have claimed they were harassed and attacked in the immediate aftermath of the Pulwama terrorist in which 40 Central Reserve Police Force men were killed.
15:52 IAF MiG-21 Bison crashes near Bikaner, pilot ejects safely: An IAF MiG-21 Bison from the Nal air base crashes near Bikaner. The MiG-21 was on a routine mission when it crashed after getting airborne The pilot of the aircraft ejected safely. A court of inquiry will investigate the cause of the accident. Bikaner SP Pradeep Mohan Sharma said the MIG aircraft crashed in Shobhasar ki Dhani, 12 km from Bikaner city. He said police teams have rushed the spot to cordon off the area. No loss of life has been reported.
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was flying a MiG-21 Bison on February 27, when he shot down the Pakistani F16 jet.
15:22 Swapna gets customised shoes for her 12-toed feet: Asian Games gold-medallist Indian heptathlete Swapna Burman has received a pair of customised shoes to fit her 12-toed feet. German global sportswear company Adidas created and delivered customised footwear for Swapna, who has been struggled to fit in her feet into regular shoes.
“I’m so excited to finally have these pairs. I have already started training in these and I know from here on I can focus entirely on improving my performances without worrying about any pain,” Swapna said.
“The journey from here should get easier. I would like to thank the adidas team in India and at the Athlete Services Lab for helping me with this solution.
“I shall continue to work hard and keep moving towards my goal of winning honours for the country.” Adidas took Swapna to their Athlete Services Lab in Herzogenaurach, Germany for a detailed footwear analysis.
“Taking into consideration the unique task we had at hand, we at adidas are proud to provide Swapna with unique pairs that shall help her across the seven different disciplines of Heptathlon,” said Sharad Singla, Director – Brand Marketing, adidas India.
Apart from Swapna, adidas recently signed athletes Hima Das and Nikhat Zareen amongst others to use sports as a catalyst to bring positive change. — PTI
14:54 Terrorist who lobbed grenade in Jammu bus stand is a juvenile: A teenager who allegedly lobbed a grenade at the Jammu bus stand, killing two men, is under 16 years of age and he told interrogators that he was paid Rs 50,000 by a Hizbul Mujahideen militant for it, officials said Friday.
This signals that terror groups have again started using underage boys for creating terror among the people in Jammu and Kashmir. The boy, who will turn 16 on March 12, was apprehended while fleeing after hurling the grenade at the bus stand that left two people dead and 31 others injured Thursday.
The officials said his Aadhaar card and other identity proofs, including school records, show his date of birth as March 12, 2003. The interrogators will now conduct an age test on the boy before initiating legal proceedings against him, they said.
According to the investigators, self-styled district chief of Kulgam’s Hizbul Mujahideen outfit Fayaz had passed on a grenade to an overground worker, Muzammil, for lobbing at a crowded place anywhere in Jammu.
Muzammil had developed cold feet and refused to throw it. He was then instructed to pass on the grenade to the boy who was codenamed “chotu”. The picture of juvenile was shown to Muzammil, who is at present in police custody, and he identified him as the person who had received the grenade, the officials said. This was the third grenade attack by terrorists on Jammu bus stand since May last and it comes just three weeks after the Pulwama terror strike on February 14 that killed 40 CRPF jawans, bringing India and Pakistan on brink of war.
The attack was carried out around 11.50 am resulting in the death of Mohammad Sharik, 17, and and injuries to 32 others, including 11 from the Valley, 10 from Jammu and others from outside the state. One more person identified as Mohammad Riyaz succumbed to his injuries this morning.
The arrest of juvenile indicated that militant groups will be using underage boys for throwing grenades as they can escape the stringent punishment from law. The boy is the eldest among the three children. He was studying in class ninth and his father is a painter by profession. As per the law, he will be sent to a juvenile home and the state government might file a petition before an appropriate court asking for his trial under stringent anti-terror law provisions.
Terror groups in the state had been hiring underaged boys in early 2000 who were used for throwing grenades at security forces for a handsome monetary considerations. However, the practice had come to an end by 2009 after police carried out effective counselling of parents in areas highly-infested by terrorism. — PTI
Image: Policemen and onlookers at the site of a grenade blast at a bus stand in Jammu. Mukesh Gupta/Reuters
14:15 Will pass women’s reservation bill if Cong comes to power: Rahul: Congress president Rahul Gandhi today promised to strive for the passage of the women’s reservation bill in Parliament and a policy of zero tolerance towards atrocities on women if his party comes to power.
“There is an urgent need to provide reservation for women in state assemblies and Lok Sabha to ensure their empowerment. The Congress is keen to ensure this,” Gandhi said during an interaction with women at a convention in Jeypore town of Odisha’s Koraput district.
“If the Congress comes to power, our approach will be zero tolerance towards atrocities against women. They should get speedy justice,” Gandhi said.
Referring to Odisha, Gandhi said if the grand old party is voted to power in the state, all women would be provided free education, be it in engineering or medical or any other field.
“All women, particularly tribals, Dalits and those belonging to the backward categories should get free education to ensure they are truly empowered,” Gandhi added.
At the outset, the Congress chief congratulated women on the occasion of International Women’s Day. — PTI
13:18 Sri Sri not neutral: Owaisi on Ravishankar as Ayodhya mediator : AIMIM Chief Asaduddin Owaisi on the SC order in the Ayodhya case: “Sri Sri Ravi Shankar who has been appointed a mediator had earlier made a statement ‘if Muslims don’t give up their claim on Ayodhya, India will become Syria.’ It would’ve been better if SC had appointed a neutral person.”
Spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravishankar, appointed by the Supreme Court as a member of a panel to mediate the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case, on Friday said everybody must move together to end long-standing conflicts.
The three-member panel is headed by former apex court judge F M I Kallifulla and also includes senior advocate Sriram Panchu. “We must all move together towards ending long-standing conflicts happily by maintaining harmony in society,” Sri Sri Ravishankar said.
“Respecting everyone, turning dreams to reality, ending long-standing conflicts happily and maintaining harmony in society — we must all move together towards these goals. #ayodhyamediation,” he tweeted.
The Supreme Court on Friday referred the politically sensitive case for mediation and gave the panel eight weeks to complete the process. A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said the panel should file a progress report of the proceedings within four weeks and complete the process within eight weeks. — PTI
12:43 Chief Ayodhya mediator Kallifulla: Will resolve issue amicably : First reactions from Justice (Retd) FM Ibrahim Kalifullah on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case.
“I understand the Supreme Court has appointed a mediation committee headed by me. I’m yet to receive the order copy. I can say if the committee has been constituted, we’ll take every effort to resolve the issue amicably,” he said.
The Supreme Court on Friday referred the politically sensitive Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case for mediation by a panel headed by former apex court judge FMI Kallifulla and gave it eight weeks to complete the process. The other members of the panel will be Sri Sri Ravishankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu, said a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi.
The bench directed that the mediation will be held at Faizabad in Uttar Pradesh and the process should start within a week from Friday. The bench, also comprising Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer, said the panel should file a progress report of the proceedings within four weeks and complete the process within eight weeks.
The apex court said “utmost confidentiality” should be maintained to ensure success of the mediation process and no media, neither print nor electronic, should report the proceedings. The panel of mediators can co-opt more members in the team, it said. In case of any difficulty, the chairman will inform the apex court registry about it, it added.
12:38 Prez accepts resignation of Mizoram governor : The President has accepted the resignation of Kummanam Rajasekharan as Governor of Mizoram. Prof. Jagdish Mukhi, Governor of Assam will now be discharging the functions of the Governor of Mizoram, in addition to his own duties, until regular arrangements for the office of the Governor of Mizoram is made, Rashtrapati Bhavan said in a communique.
12:36 Non-cooperation by SP govt delayed beautification project in Varanasi: PM: Prime Minister Narendra Modi Friday claimed that “non-cooperation” by the previous Samajwadi Party government in Uttar Pradesh was responsible for the delay in start of a beautification project in his Lok Sabha constituency.
He was addressing a gathering in Varanasi after laying the foundation stone for the Kashi Vishwanath Temple’s approach road and its beautification. “In the first three years there was non-cooperation of the state government. The developmental projects here took pace after you (people of Uttar Pradesh) made Yogi Adityanath the chief minister,” he said. “Had there been cooperation earlier, we would have launched the project instead of laying the foundation,” Modi said.
Attacking previous governments, the prime minister said, “In the past 70 years no government thought of Baba (Lord Shiva) and were silent. They took care of themselves but not of this place.” Noting that it was his “pleasure” to have initiated the work here at Kashi Vishwanath, he said, “I had dreamt for a long time to work for this place. When I was not in politics I came here several times and used to think that something should happen here.
“Bhole Baba ney tai kiya hoga baatein bahut karte ho yahan aao kuch karke dikhao,” (Lord Shiva must have decided that you talk too much, so now you should come here and do something),” he said, adding that due to blessings the fulfillment of his dream has started.
About the beautification project, Modi said this is “mukti (freedom) for Kashi Vishwanath Dham” which was surrounded with encroachment. “For the first time, we acquired nearby buildings, removed encroachments after which 40 ancient temples came to the fore. Many of them were encroached, kitchens were set up and people were living there,” he said.
Stating that the Kashi Vishwanath temple was “targeted by enemies”, he said they tried to destroy it but it again took “rebirth due to the faith” of people. “When Gandhiji came here, he was pained why is this place is like this. In his address in the BHU, he expressed his thoughts,” Modi said, suggesting the university should make the entire project a case study for research so that when it is completed the world can know how it happened.
“We will also try to trace the history of 40 temples discovered here and the government will also take care of them,” the PM said, adding the project will be a model for “protection and preservation” of temples and a combination of modern technology with ancient faith.
“It will give new identity to Kashi in the world. Maybe it’s in my fate. In 2014, when I came here I said ‘mai aaya nahi mujhe bulaya hai’ (I did not come here on my own, I was summoned). Maybe I came here for this work,” he said. — PTI
Image: Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered prayers at the Kashi Vishwanath Temple at Varanasi, earlier today.
12:02 Will cooperate in mediation: AIMPLB’s Zafaryab Jilani:
First reactions from Zafaryab Jilani, AIMPLB member and convener of the Babri Masjid Action Committee on the SC order on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case.
“This is the first time that the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute is being court monitored. Earlier in the High Court (Allahabad) parties were called in the chamber (of the judges) and spoke to parties but there was no court mediation,” he added.
A three-judge bench of Justice SU Khan, Justice Sudhir Agarwal and Justice DV Sharma had delivered the 2010 verdict awarding two-thirds of the Ayodhya site to the Hindu parties and one-third to the Waqf Board.
Asked if he was hopeful that the issue will be resolved through mediation, Jilani said, I will not comment as it is against the confidentiality (clause) of the court.”
Jilani also declined to comment on the appointment of Art of Living Foundation’s Sri Sri Ravi Shankar as one of the three mediators in the case.
He said the the resolution of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute has not dragged on. “The court has given eight weeks for mediation and the issue will be dealt with within this period. We have already said that we will cooperate in the mediation. Now, whatever we have to say, we will say it to the mediation panel, not outside.”
The Supreme Court Friday referred the politically sensitive Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case for mediation and appointed former apex court judge Justice (retd) F M I Kallifulla as chairperson of the panel of mediators.
A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said the other members of the panel will be spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravishankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu. The bench directed that the mediation will be held at Faizabad in Uttar Pradesh and the process should start within a week from Friday.
The bench also comprising justices S A Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and SA Nazeer said the panel of mediators will file a progress report of the mediator proceedings within four weeks and the process should be completed within eight weeks. The apex court said that “utmost confidentiality” should be maintained to ensure success of mediation and neither print nor electronic media should report the proceedings.
The bench also directed that panel of mediators can co-opt more members in the team and in case of any difficulty the chairman will inform the apex court registry about it.
Fourteen appeals have been filed in the apex court against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment, delivered in four civil suits, that the 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya be partitioned equally among the three parties — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla. — PTI
11:16 SC gives 8 weeks to complete mediation in Ayodhya case : Update: Supreme Court says mediation process has to start within four weeks and to be completed within eight weeks. The next hearing is in six weeks. The SC has said that the mediation process must be kept extremely confidential, which means that the media cannot even report that the hearing is being held. The court also said that if the mediators have any problems they should approach the apex court directly. Supreme Court says, mediators can co-opt more on the panel if necessary. The Uttar Pradesh government to provide mediators all the facilities in Faizabad. Mediators can seek further legal assistance as and when required.
10:59 Update: Supreme Court says mediation process has to start within four weeks and to be completed within eight weeks. The next hearing is in six weeks.
10:53 Mediator Sri Sri’s views on the Ram Mandir issue: In March 2018, speaking to a television news channel, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar had said on the Ram Mandir issue: “If the Ram mandir issue is not solved, we will have a Syria in India.”
Speaking to India Today TV, Ravi Shankar added: “Muslims should give up their claim on Ayodhya as a goodwill gesture. Ayodhya is not place of faith for Muslims… We cannot make Lord Ram to be born in another place.”
While speaking to NDTV on the same issue, Ravi Shankar said, “If the court rules against a temple, there will be bloodshed. Do you think the Hindu majority will allow it (ruling against a temple)? They will garner resentment towards the Muslim community.”
10:50 Sri Sri among three mediators in Ayodhya case :
Just in: Supreme Court’s Constitution Bench refers Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case for court appointed and monitored mediation for a “permanent solution’.
Justice Khaliifulah (Retd) to be the chairman, for court appointed and monitored mediation for a “permanent solution’, and also comprise Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu. If the three mediators want they can actually add more mediators. . The mediation proceedings will take place in Faizabad. Supreme Court says mediation proceedings should be held on-camera.
The Supreme Court in its order also said that the reporting of the mediation proceedings in media will be banned. Four weeks have been given to the mediators arrive at a decision. The mediation will remain confidential.
10:38 Nirav Modi’s illegal Rs 100-cr bungalow to be blown up with dynamite today: In Maharashtra, authorities continue demolition of PNB scam accused Nirav Modi’s bungalow in Alibag, Raigad district. Fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi’s Rs 100 crore, 30,000 sq ft, plush Alibaug bungalow will be fully today using controlled blasting. Reports say explosives will be used to demolish it.
The 33,000 square foot luxurious bungalow is illegally build, violated coastal regulation zone norms and state regulations, say authorities.
However, the foundation of the structure is said to be so robust that authorities have so far struggled bringing it down using just heavy machinery, and may take months this way. To speed up the process, they have now decided to demolish the building through a controlled explosion, using dynamite.
The office of the District Collector of Raigad in Maharashtra on Tuesday started the second phase of the demolition of beach villa.
On Wednesday morning, a team of policemen and officials from the district collector’s office along with workers took down part of the structure, which were mainly of glass.
Image: Authorities have begun demolishing the bungalow, but the foundation is so robust that it will take months to bring it down. This is why it will be blown up with dynamite today. Pic: ANI
10:22 Mukesh Ambani’s son appointed member of Badri-Kedar temple committee : Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat appoints industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s son Anant Ambani as a member of the Badrinath Kedarnath Temple Committee. The BJP government at the Centre is also the ruling party in Uttarakhand.
File pic: Mukesh Ambani with son Anant.
10:16 Will there be mediation in Ayodhya case? SC to take decision today:
The Supreme Court is scheduled to pronounce today whether to refer Ayodhya’s Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case to mediation for amicable settlement.
A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi on Wednesday had reserved the order after hearing various contesting parties.
Hindu bodies except Nirmohi Akhara have opposed the suggestion of the apex court to refer the issue for mediation, while Muslim bodies have supported it.
The bench, also comprising Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer, had concluded the hearing by asking stakeholders to give the names of possible mediators.
The bench had said it was conscious of the gravity and impact of the issue on ‘public sentiment’ and also on ‘body politics of the country’.
It has also said that the judges were aware of the history and was seeing that the dispute be resolved amicably as ‘It is not only about property. It is about mind, heart and healing, if possible’.
The bench had also said it was not appropriate to pre-judge that the mediation would fail and people would not agree with the decision.
“We are conscious about the gravity of the issue and we are also conscious about its impact on body politic of the country. We understand how it goes and are looking at minds, hearts and healing if possible,” the bench said.
Fourteen appeals have been filed in the apex court against the 2010 Allahabad high court judgment, delivered in four civil suits, that the 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya be partitioned equally among the three parties — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.
09:53 UN appoints Padma Lakshmi as Goodwill Ambassador:
Indian-American television personality and food expert Padma Lakshmi has been appointed by the United Nations Development Programme as its newest Goodwill Ambassador, supporting the agency’s fight against inequality and discrimination around the world.
UNDP announced Lakshmi’s appointment on Thursday, on the eve of International Women’s Day.
In her new role, the Emmy-nominated television personality and award-winning author will mobilise support for the Sustainable Development Goals with a focus on fighting inequality, discrimination and empowering the disenfranchised.
Lakshmi was named the Goodwill Ambassador by UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner.
“As we celebrate International Women’s Day let’s remember that women and girls face some of the worst discrimination and hardships in the world,” Lakshmi said at a press conference held at UNDP headquarters.
She said her main focus as UNDP Goodwill Ambassador will be to shine a spotlight on the fact that inequality can affect people in rich and poor countries alike.
“Many nations have greatly reduced poverty, but inequality has proved more stubborn,” she said.
“Inequality is further compounded by gender, age, ethnicity and race. It especially affects women, minorities and others who face unimaginable discrimination in the societies in which they live.
Steiner said Lakshmi has a strong record of speaking out for those who have been left behind and of fighting discrimination.
“We need more voices like hers to ensure we can meet the vision of the Sustainable Development Goals our shared roadmap for peace and prosperity for people and the planet,” he added.
Lakshmi has been a judge and host, as well as executive producer, of Bravo Television’s Emmy award-winning series Top Chef.
She is also a New York Times bestselling author, the co-founder of the Endometriosis Foundation of America, a Visiting Scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an ambassador for the American Civil Liberties Union advocating for immigrants’ rights.
09:26 ‘Happy to be surrounded by 4 strong women’: Vadra’s message for Women’s Day:
Robert Vadra, husband of Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, in a Facebook post on Women’s Day said, “Today and every day is your day! Make the most of it. May India become a safe and secured country of your dream…Wish all wonderful women, a Happy Women’s Day!
Describing his mother, mother-in-law, wife and daughter as “hardworking, courageous, compassionate and determined”, Vadra, who is being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with alleged land scams, said that he is “happy to be surrounded by four strong women.”
Adding a postscript he said, “I will celebrate the day with them, once I am back from ED interrogation. I have already deposed for 10 days of almost 64 hours, cooperating with the interrogations. I believe in truth and justice.”
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has made it clear that she is not worried about the questioning of her husband Robert Vadra. The Congress has vehemently denied any wrongdoing by the businessman, alleging that that the actions of the investigating agencies are being driven by the ruling BJP.
09:04 President, PM Modi extend greetings on Women’s Day :
On the occasion of International Women’s Day, President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended their greetings.
President Kovind in a message said “On International Women’s Day, greetings to women in India and across the world. Women are the sheet-anchor of society, an inspiration for their families and for our nation. Let us strive to ensure equality of opportunity for every woman and every girl child.”
In a message released on the eve of the International Women’s Day he extended his best wishes to all on this happy day.
“This day is dedicated to woman power. Keeping pace with the changing times, women have proved themselves in every sphere of life and have won laurels for their talent. I am confident that Indian society will continue progressing towards greater womens empowerment and the continuous emphasis on gender equity will usher in new opportunities for women and for society,” he said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday extended his greetings and saluted women power.
“On International Women’s Day, we salute our indomitable Nari Shakti,” he tweeted.
“We are proud to have taken numerous decisions that have furthered women empowerment. Every Indian is proud of the stupendous accomplishments of women in various spheres. #NewIndia4NariShakti,” he added.
In a video, he goes on to commend women for making strides in all fields, taking the country forward.
08:37 Toll in grenade attack at Jammu bus stand climbs to 2: One more person has died in the hospital after succumbing to his injuries, increasing the death toll to 2 in the grenade attack at the Jammu bus stand on Thursday.
On Thursday, a grenade explosion rocked the crowded general bus stand in the heart of Jammu city killing a teenager and injuring 32 others.
The third grenade attack by terrorists on the Jammu bus stand since May last came just three weeks after the Pulwama terror strike on February 14 that killed 40 CRPF jawans bringing India and Pakistan on brink of war.
The grenade attack was carried out inside the general bus stand area around 11.50 am resulting in the death of 17-year-old Mohammad Sharik, police said.
08:22 Air India to operate 12 international, 40 domestic flights with all-women crew:
On International Womens Day, national carrier Air India will be flying 12 international flights and over 40 domestic flights with an all-women crew.
Air India is set to fly 12 all-women crew flights on its medium and long-haul international routes and over 40 return domestic and short-haul flights all over India to celebrate the International Women’s Day on March 8 this year, it said in a statement.
The international sectors that will have the all-women crew on its flights on March 8 are Delhi-Sydney, Mumbai-London, Delhi-Rome, Delhi-London, Mumbai-Delhi-Shanghai, Delhi-Paris, Mumbai-Newark, Mumbai-New York, Delhi-New York, Delhi-Washington, Delhi-Chicago and Delhi-San Francisco.
“Women pilots and cabin crew will be operating Airbus family aircraft as well as dreamliners to over 40 domestic destinations and back to commemorate the occasion,” the airline added.
07:55 Pak turns down visa request of UN team to interview Hafiz Saeed:
Pakistan turned down the visa request of a UN team which wanted to interview Mumbai attack mastermind and Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed on his application for removing his name from the UNSC sanctions list, according to UN sources.
Saeed was listed under UN Security Council Resolution 1267 in December 2008 after the Mumbai terror attack in which 10 Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists killed 166 people. He was released from house arrest in Pakistan in November 2017.
A representative from the Permanent Mission of Pakistan to the UN informed the UN Ombudsperson in October last year that no visa would be issued for their travel to Pakistan, UN sources said.
The UN Ombudsperson reviews requests from UN designated individuals and entities to be removed from the UN Sanctions Committee listing.
Sources said the Pakistani representative had sought that the visit be postponed till the beginning of 2019 but the Ombudsperson had made it clear that such an extension for the travel could not be given due relevant UNSC provisions.
The UN has rejected an appeal of Saeed, the 2008 Mumbai terror attack mastermind, to remove his name from its list of banned terrorists, they said.
Notably, the decision comes at a time when UN’s 1267 Sanctions Committee has received a new request to designate Jaish-e Mohammad chief Masood Azhar a global terrorist after the Pulwama terror attack in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed. Pakistan-based JeM has claimed responsibility for the strike.
00:20 BJP, supporters way ahead in political ad spend on FB: The Bharatiya Janata Party and its supporters accounted for a lion’s share of total political advertising worth over Rs 4 crore on Facebook, according to data compiled by the social media giant.
The advertisements run for the ruling dispensation range from promotion of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government policies to those of its leaders, including BJP president Amit Shah — all of which were not necessarily paid by the party but by its supporters.
From February till March 2, 2019, the social media giant showed 16,556 ads related to politics and issues of national importance with ad spends crossing more than Rs 4.13 crore, according to Facebook’s Ad Archive Report.
The specific date on which Facebook started collecting data was not disclosed. However, on February 7, it said the enforcement of the new features and the political advertisements policy, that includes having disclaimers, would start from February 21.
Facebook is providing weekly aggregated insights for advertisements related to politics. Beginning March 4, the report is being refreshed weekly, with data from Sunday to Saturday of each week, a company spokesperson said.
The top spender in the tally was page ‘Bharat Ke Mann Ki Baat’ that ran 1,168 ads and spent Rs 1.01 crore, followed by ‘Nation with NaMo’ that spent Rs 52.24 lakh and ‘MyGov India’ that had an ad spent of Rs 25.27 lakh.
The page ‘Bharatiya Janata Party’ had an ad spend of Rs 6.6 lakh, while Shah’s page had a spending of Rs 2.12 lakh.
Compared to this, the Congress and its supporters spend much lesser amounts with the highest being about Rs 48,000. Pages like ‘Im with Congress’, ‘Congress Party admirers forum’ and ‘Vote for Congress’ had spends of Rs 684, Rs 535 and Rs 490, respectively, during the February to March 2 period.
Telugu Desam Party spend Rs 35,867 during the said period.
In February, Facebook had said political advertisements on its platform would carry a ‘disclaimer’ offering details about those responsible for running the ad as the social media giant looks to bring transparency into political ads ahead of elections in India.
The Indian government had warned social media platforms of strong action if any attempt was made to influence the country’s electoral process through undesirable means.
Over the past few months, social media players like Facebook, Twitter, and Google have promised to infuse more transparency into political advertisements on their platforms, and have since announced a slew of measures as part of election integrity efforts.
Facebook, which has over 200 million users in India, has stated that it is committed to creating a new standard of transparency and authenticity for political advertising on its platform and Instagram. — PTI