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House panel to visit Kashmir

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The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture is set to visit Kashmir on January 21. The 31-member committee, headed by Rajya Sabha MP from Andhra Pradesh T G Venkatesh, will undertake a “study visit” of Srinagar and Gulmarg from January 21 to 23.

The members of the committee will hold meetings with officials of the department of culture and tourism and Archaeological Survey of India, along with representatives of the UT of Jammu and Kashmir, with focus on “promotion and preservation of archaeological sites and artefacts in J&K”.



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Rijiju: Area where China built village under occupation since Cong regime

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Hours after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi attacked the government over the reported construction of a Chinese village in Arunachal Pradesh, Union minister Kiren Rijiju responded by saying the area in question was under Chinese occupation since the Congress’s regime.

Rijiju, the Lok Sabha Member from Arunachal West, tweeted, “Those locations you are referring to have been under Chinese occupation since very-very long Congress regime in India. How can a national leader is ignorant and unaware of sensitive facts?”

Meanwhile, sources in the Army said that the “model village” in question, built in Arunachal’s Upper Subansiri district, “has been in adverse occupation since 1959”. They said there used to be an Assam Rifles post at the location, which was overrun by the Chinese in 1959, and they have maintained their position there ever since.

The sources added that China has been building similar infrastructure in all sectors along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and Indian forces are monitoring them. They said that India too is strengthening the infrastructure on its side.

“The real situation is that they are working on their side, we are working on our side,” they said.

The sources said the current incident hasn’t surprised the forces. “This has been monitored and known for a long time, and has not caught the forces by alarm,” they mentioned.

On Monday, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in a statement had said, “We have seen recent reports on China undertaking construction work along the border areas with India. China has undertaken such infrastructure construction activity in the past several years. In response, our Government too has stepped up border infrastructure including the construction of roads, bridges etc, which has provided much needed connectivity to the local population along the border.”

The ministry added that the government “remains committed to the objective of creating infrastructure along the border areas for the improvement of livelihood of its citizens, including in Arunachal Pradesh” and it “keeps a constant watch on all developments having a bearing on India’s security and takes all the necessary measures to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity”.



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Cong doesn’t want farmer-govt talks to succeed: Prakash Javadekar

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UNION MINISTER and senior BJP leader Prakash Javadekar on Tuesday targeted Rahul Gandhi and said that the “Congress doesn’t want talks between farmers and the government to be successful”.

“Today Congress leader Rahul Gandhi inaugurated a book called ‘Kheti ka Khoon’. Congress has a lot of love for the word blood. ‘Khoon ki Dalali’, they have used words like this many times. I want to remind that you are saying kheti ka khoon but you have played a bloodsport. During Partition, lakhs of people died… In 1984, three thousand Sikhs were burnt alive in Delhi… Thousands of people were killed in Bhagalpur… Lakhs of farmers committed suicide. Was there no blood in their bodies? They did this during Congress rule,” Javadekar said at a press conference.

He said the Congress does not want the talks between the protesting farmers and government to succeed. “What is the Congress game here? Tomorrow is the 10th round of talks between the farmers and the government. How to make that unsuccessful at all costs. Because Congress doesn’t want that problems of farmers be solved, or that talks between the farmers and the government should be successful,” he said.

Earlier in the day, BJP president J P Nadda, taking to Twitter, accused Gandhi of demotivating the country in the fight against Covid. Posing a series of questions to Gandhi ahead of his press conference, he also accused the Congress of misleading the farmers. “When will Congress stop provoking and misleading farmers of India? Why did UPA stall the Swaminathan Commission report for years and did not increase the MSP? Why did farmers remain poor for decades under Congress Governments? Does he feel sympathy for farmers only in opposition?”



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Supreme Court-appointed committee: CJI says can’t disqualify a panel member over previous views

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In comments that may be relevant to the Supreme Court-appointed committee to look into issues related to the farm laws, Chief Justice of India S A Bobde Tuesday observed that a person will not be disqualified from being a member of any committee merely because he or she previously held an opinion on the subject being considered by it.

“There is some confusion regarding the law. Somebody may have an opinion before being part of the committee but his opinion can change. There is no way that such a person cannot be part of the committee,” the CJI observed during the hearing of a case that raised the question of inadequacies and inefficiencies in criminal trial.

The comments come at a time protesting farmers groups have said that they will not cooperate with the four-member committee constituted by the top court on January 12 in an attempt to find a solution to the farm laws issue, saying its members had taken a stand in favour of the farm laws in the past.

On Wednesday, the SC bench headed by the CJI is set to hear an application by the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Lok Shakti) seeking reconstitution of the panel.



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Drugs case: NCB to charge Deepika’s manager with financing illicit traffic

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The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) on Tuesday said that it will apply the charge of financing illicit traffic against Karishma Prakash, actor Deepika Padukone’s manager. The agency made the submission before the special court hearing the anticipatory bail application filed by Prakash last year.

Pending a decision on the plea, the NCB has agreed to not take any coercive steps against Prakash, whose house was raided last October by the central agency. The NCB has claimed that it recovered 1.7 gm of charas and at least two bottles of CBD oil from the house. Following this, Prakash had appeared before the agency for inquiry.

On Tuesday, the NCB said that it intends to invoke Section 27A of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act against Prakash. Section 27A, which carries a maximum punishment of 20 years, relates to illicit trafficking of drugs and harbouring of offenders. So far, Prakash’s the pre-arrest bail plea was limited to charges related to the alleged seizure of the banned substances.

Prakash’s lawyers told the special court that the NCB should make it clear what is the prima facie material based on which the section is to be applied.

Special Public Prosecutor Atul Sarpande, appearing for NCB, said that the accused is not entitled to ask for the evidence at this stage.



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Delhi HC notice to Centre on RTI applicant’s plea for info on Aarogya Setu

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Describing questions raised by an RTI applicant regarding the government’s Aarogya Setu app as those of “considerable national importance”, the Delhi High Court on Tuesday issued a notice to the government on a petition challenging a 2020 Central Information Commission (CIC) order in which the statutory body had observed that sufficient information regarding the app was already in public domain

“You cannot simply say it is in public domain…that may not be fair,” observed Justice Prathiba M Singh, adding that “there are various issues which have been raised in the present petition in respect of Aarogya Setu app which are of considerable public importance”.

While adjourning the matter for hearing to February 24, the court said the CIC has passed the order without affording a hearing to the petitioner. The court also ordered the petitioner and the Centre to place on record the information sought and received and that yet to be furnished.

In August 2020, RTI activist Saurav Das had filed an RTI application seeking to know details related to the project such as the origin of the proposal, approval details; companies, people, government departments involved; file notings related to the application, copies of communications involved in making or developing the application, among others.

Das had raised concerns the app’s use of data and its effect on the people’s right to privacy. On Tuesday, the petitioner informed that court that each authority he had approached continued to evade questions, after which he approached the CIC.

Advocate Rahul Sharma, who represented the CPIOs, told the court that substantial information exists in public domain and information running into more than 80 pages has already been given to the applicant.



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BJD threatens Odisha stir if Centre doesn’t accept demand to lift parboiled rice in 7 days

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The ruling BJD in Odisha has said that if the Centre does not accept the demand to lift surplus parboiled rice within seven days, “farmers will descend on the streets” and the “BJD will support and stand by the farmers”.

BJD leaders have alleged that by not lifting surplus rice, the Centre has held back the release of about Rs 6,040 crore in subsidy, placing the state under severe financial burden.

Ranendra Swain, Odisha Minister for Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare, Tuesday wrote to Union minister Piyush Goyal, saying that limiting procurement of parboiled rice will have “far reaching adverse consequences for the state”. “Asking the state to deliver surplus rice in the form of raw rice in Rabi and to limit procurement of parboiled rice in the kharif season to the extent of 50 percent of the last year FCI delivery will have far reaching adverse consequences for the state.”

The Food Corporation of India recently informed the state government that it will not be able to accept surplus parboiled rice during the rabi season as “there is a possibility of a glut of 185 lakh tonne parboiled rice stock across the country”, “choking its movement or disposal”.

“Due to estimated bumper procurement, there is a possibility of glut of 185 lakh tonne parboiled rice stock across the country, thereby, choking its movement/disposal for years…In view of the above, it is required to give maximum delivery of raw rice to the extent of 50 per cent of the original estimates. It is also intimated that FCI will not be in a position to accept any surplus parboiled rice during rabi season 2020-21,” Satyaprakash Panda, AGM (Procurement) of the FCI, wrote to Vir Vikram Yadav, Secretary in the Odisha Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare department.

BJD leaders have threatened a statewide agitation. “Farmers will descend on the streets, if the demand for lifting 31 lakh tonne paddy of mostly parboiled rice for 2020-21 is not accepted by the Centre/FCI within a week. The BJD will support and stand by the farmers. We hope better sense prevails in the BJP and instead of shedding crocodile tears here, the party raises its voice against this injustice meted out to Odisha farmers,” said Rohit Pujari, deputy chief whip of the party.

However, the BJP hit out at the state government saying that the procurement of parboiled rice, unlike white rice, is capped and that the state government should procure it more as there is higher consumption within the state. “A farmer usually sells paddy, but not rice. The parboiled rice gives 7 per cent more production than white rice. Parboiled rice is consumed only in Odisha and some parts of northern India… since the parboiled rice is consumed more within the state, the procurement by the state should be more,” BJP state general secretary Lekhashree Samantsinghar said.



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Amid disgruntlement in state BJP, BSY on temple-visit spree

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Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa has carried out a series of visits to temples in the coastal Karnataka region over the last two days amid disgruntlement within the BJP’s state unit over the recent cabinet expansion and revival of a set of old corruption cases against Yediyurappa by the High Court.

The allotment of portfolios for the seven new ministers inducted on January 13 has been on hold for a week.

Yediyurappa has visited the Sri Krishna Temple in Udupi, Sri Venkataramana Temple at Karambali in Udupi, Sri Mahalakshmi Temple at Kapu and the Sri Vinayaka Temple in Kundapur in what he described as a partial break from political activities following the cabinet expansion. He has also hosted Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Home Minister Amit Shah since the expansion.

“I will seek God’s darshan and come back. Once I return, I will discuss with senior ministers (the issue of portfolio allocations). In one or two days it will be done,” Yediyurappa said before setting out on his visit to coastal Karnataka on Monday.

Since a visit to New Delhi on January 10 to obtain clearance for the cabinet expansion, the Chief Minister has appeared to be a forlorn figure with several BJP legislators, who have not been accommodated in the cabinet, targeting him and some alleging blackmail and bribery behind the choice of candidates. The Karnataka CM is expected to encounter more dissidence when portfolios are allocated for the cabinet later this month with several old and new ministers vying for plum portfolios.

Vijayapura MLA Basavaraj Patil Yatnal and MLC H Vishwanath have alluded to the existence of a CD — recorded by a close aide of the chief minister — which is being used against him by rivals.

“Only a weak chief minister will be blackmailed. It is their own party members who are making the allegations… it shows there is some truth in it,” said Siddaramaiah, former Karnataka CM and leader of the opposition Congress party in the state legislature, last week.

Yediyurappa is also up against three cases of corruption dating back to his earlier tenures as Deputy CM and CM which have been revived since December 22 following orders of the Karnataka High Court.

Siddaramaiah has claimed that Yediyurappa will not continue as Chief Minister beyond April, alleging that he was provided this information by an RSS insider.



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‘Indecent remarks’: Cong’s Siddiqui, BSP’s Rajbhar sent to judicial custody

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A local court in Lucknow sent former Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Naseemuddin Siddiqui and BSP leader Ram Achal Rajbhar to judicial custody on Tuesday. They had appeared before the court seeking bail in a case lodged against them for allegedly making indecent remarks during a protest at Hazratganj police station area in Lucknow in 2016.

The accused were protesting against objectionable remarks allegedly made by then BJP state vice-president Daya Shankar Singh against BSP chief Mayawati while speaking to party workers at a meeting in Mau. Daya Shankar had sparked outrage by allegedly accusing Mayawati of selling party election tickets. His wife Swati Singh is a minister in the Adityanath government.

Siddiqui has now joined the Congress and is a member of the UP Congress Advisory Committee.

On Monday, the court had directed attachment of Rajbhar and Siddiqui’s properties after the accused, despite several summonses, did not appear before it.



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Netaji anniversary: Centre announces Jan 23 as ‘Parakram Diwas’; TMC, Bloc say BJP using Netaji as poll prop

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The Centre on Tuesday said that the birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose on January 23 will be observed as ‘Parakram Diwas” (Day of Valour) to honour his “indomitable spirit and selfless service to the nation”. The decision evoked sharp reactions from the Trinamool Congress and Forward Bloc, which accused the BJP-led government at the Centre of using Netaji for its politics ahead of the Assembly elections in West Bengal.

“The Government of India has decided to celebrate the 125th birth anniversary year of Netaji beginning from January 2021 in a befitting manner at the national and international level. In order to honour and remember Netaji’s indomitable spirit and selfless service to the nation, the Government of India has decided to celebrate his birth anniversary every year as ‘Parakram Diwas’ to inspire the people of this country, especially the youth, to act with fortitude in the face of adversity as Netaji did, and to infuse in them a spirit of patriotic fervour,” the Centre said.

Union minister Prahlad Singh Patel said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will participate in the first ‘Parakram Diwas’ programme in Kolkata on January 23 and inaugurate an exhibition on the grounds of National Library to mark Netaji’s 125th birth anniversary . The PM will also felicitate prominent members of the Indian National Army formed by Netaji and their family members in Kolkata on Saturday.

Another programme will be held in Haripura village in Gujarat’s Surat district where Bose was elected president of the Indian National Congress in 1938.

Accusing the Centre of using Netaji as a poll prop ahead of the elections in the state, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said, “We were the first to announce that we will celebrate the day as ‘Desh Prem Diwas’. What the Centre has announced is their discretion, but we are not happy. I think that the Central government should declare January 23 a national holiday. They (BJP) only remember Bengal just before the elections. They can’t even pronounce Bengal properly… The Centre had said that it would declassify all the files related to Netaji, but they have not.” The Trinamool Congress chief is scheduled to hold a rally in Netaji’s memory on January 23.

Before the Centre’s announcement, Banerjee said that the day will be celebrated as ‘Desh Prem Diwas’ in the state.

“Today is the 80th anniversary of Netaji’s ‘Great Escape’ from his Elgin Road residence to Europe. He overcame several hardships to lay the groundwork for his war against the British. His resilience is an inspiration for all. Jai Hind!” she tweeted.

Trinamool MP Saugata Roy said the Centre’s announcement to observe Netaji’s birth anniversary as ‘Parakram Diwas’ was not enough. “January 23 should be announced as a national holiday. It is our long-standing demand. As he was a national leader and head of Azad Hind Fauj, these two aspects are not reflected through ‘Parakram Diwas’. We had also demanded observance of the day as ‘Desh Prem Diwas’ (Patriotism Day). It appears to be a stunt keeping in mind the upcoming Assembly polls in the state, and not as a mark of respect to Netaji,” he said.

The Forward Bloc, which was founded by Netaji in 1939, also demanded that the day be observed as Desh Prem Diwas. “Instead of ‘Parakram Diwas’, the day should be celebrated as ‘Desh Prem Diwas’. The demand to observe January 23 as ‘Patriotism Day’ was made by the Left Front when it was in power,” said Forward Bloc state secretary Naren Chatterjee.

Netaji’s grandnephew Chandra Kumar Bose welcomed the decision but at the same time said it would have been appropriate had January 23 been declared ‘Desh Prem Diwas’.

“Netaji was India’s liberator. We welcome the announcement but people have been celebrating January 23 as ‘Desh Prem Diwas’. It would have been more appropriate, had the government announced it as ‘Desh Prem Diwas’. But we are happy about the announcement,” Chandra Kumar Bose said, adding, “We can celebrate the day as Parakram Diwas or Desh Prem Diwas but the main thing is to follow Netaji as idol of our politics. That should be the main promise of all the political parties in our country on the 125th birth anniversary of Netaji.”

Meanwhile, the Centre has constituted an 85-member high-level committee helmed by the PM to plan year-round programmes to mark the 125th birth anniversary of Netaji.



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