Beatroot News: Text-only

Business

Hyundai files for India IPO that could be country's biggest

Hyundai Motor's India unit has sought approval today for a stock market listing in Mumbai which could potentially be India’s biggest and will see the South Korean parent sell a stake of up to 17.5% in the company.

There are no details of the pricing of the initial public offering or the company's valuation, but sources have told Reuters that Hyundai aims to raise around $2.5-$3 billion at a valuation of up to $30 billion. Hyundai will not issue new shares in the IPO which will involve its South Korean parent selling part of its stake in the wholly owned unit to retail and other investors via a so-called "offer for sale" route.

Hyundai Motor India will be the country's first car maker to go public in two decades since Maruti Suzuki in 2003.

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Spice exports slip 20% amid concern over safety of MDH, Everest products

Amid an overall increase in India’s goods exports in May, spice exports fell by 20% year-on-year according to official trade data released on Friday. This follows Hong Kong and Singapore finding higher than permissible levels of pesticide ethylene oxide (EtO) in MDH and Everest shipments in April.

After registering a 51% and 12% year-on-year jump in spice exports in March and April respectively, spice exports slipped by 20.28% in May to $361.17 million. 

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City

Two women dead in wall collapse in Mumbai's Antop Hill area

Two women died after the wall of a three storey house collapsed in Antop Hill in Mumbai on Friday at around 9:25 pm, a civic official said.

"A wall portion of the second and third floor of the ground plus upper three floor hutment partially collapsed. Some of it is hanging precariously. Two women, identified as Shobadevi Mourya (45) and Zakirunissa Shaikh (50), were rushed to Sion Hospital where doctors declared them dead on arrival.”

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Losses in Chandni Chowk fire likely to be in crores

“Everything has turned to ashes — dreams, the shop and all its goods,” said a trader whose shop was destroyed in the massive blaze in Delhi's Chandni Chowk that even brought down two buildings in the area.

His was among over 50 shops that were gutted in a fire that required 50 fire tenders and 200 on-the-ground personnel to be brought under control after a 12-hour effort.

The number of shops that were damaged by the fire could still go up and the losses made by the traders could be in crores. The fire broke out in Chandni Chowk's Old Katra Marwadi Market on Thursday evening. There were no casualties.

It was 4.15 pm on Thursday when Narendra, 60, was having a regular call with one of his customers when he heard screaming.

“People were shouting about a fire. We already knew that our shop was in a narrow place. I immediately asked everyone in the shop to evacuate. Within a few minutes, everything was reduced to ash,” he said.

The shops that were gutted sold sarees, dupattas and other combustible items, according to officials. Delhi Fire Services chief Atul Garg said two buildings housing multiple shops, including the one where the fire started, collapsed due to the blaze.

Deepak Mahendru, president of Nai Sadak Traders Association, said that police and fire brigade teams are still keeping traders away from their shops as more buildings could still collapse.

According to the fire department, the fire erupted from a shop due to a short circuit in an air conditioner (AC) which spread to other shops. Due to the intensity of the fire, two buildings collapsed.

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Mumbai: Software engineer, family members lose Rs 5.14 cr in share trading fraud; two held

The Mumbai police have arrested two persons in connection with a case of online share trading fraud, in which a software engineer and his family members lost Rs 5.14 crore, an official said on Friday.

The police on Wednesday arrested a tuition teacher and a security guard, who allegedly provided bank accounts to cyber fraudsters for financial transactions, the official said. The fraud emerged after the engineer, a resident of Sakinaka, approached the Mumbai crime branch's cyber police in April. The engineer claimed to have been added to a WhatsApp group of online share traders in January and was asked to undergo training.

He downloaded an application and created a virtual account. His family members followed suit, transferring Rs 5.14 crore to various bank accounts in two months, the official said.

The victims' virtual account showed a profit of Rs 87.85 crore, but they couldn't withdraw the sum. During the probe, the police traced one of the victims to a security guard, Hampreetsingh Randhwa. Randhwa informed the police that Vimalprakash Gupta, a tuition teacher, had opened a bank account for him and given it to cyber fraudsters for financial transactions. Gupta was apprehended from Goregaon.

Investigations revealed that Gupta came in contact with cyber fraudsters on the Telegram app and was offered money if he helped them get bank accounts for financial transactions, the official added.

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Water production in Delhi decreasing continuously: Atishi

Delhi Water minister Atishi on Friday said water production in the national capital is decreasing continuously as less water is reaching the Yamuna river. The AAP dispensation has accused Haryana of not releasing Delhi's share of water.

"Due to less water reaching Yamuna, water production in Delhi is continuously decreasing. Under normal circumstances, 1005 MGD of water is produced in Delhi, but it has been continuously decreasing since last one week," she said in a post on X in Hindi. "Due to reduced production, there is water shortage in many parts of Delhi. Everyone is requested to use water very economically," she said.

Sharing figures, the minister said the water production on June 6 was 1,002 million gallons per day (MGD) which declined to 993 MGD the next day and 990 MGD on June 8.

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Over 50 shops gutted in Chandni Chowk fire in national capital

Firefighters toiled overnight in stifling heat to bring under control a massive fire that gutted over 50 shops in tightly-packed buildings in north Delhi’s Chandni Chowk area. Flames were still simmering under some collapsed portions of buildings and a cooling operation is underway, officials said on Friday.

The fire broke out around 5 pm on Thursday and was brought under control at 4:30 am. There were no casualties, Delhi Fire Services (DFS) chief Atul Garg said.

"Eight fire tenders have been deployed for the cooling operation," he said. Two buildings housing multiple shops, including the one where the fire started, collapsed due to the blaze. Small fires are still simmering in combustible items under the debris, Garg said.

The shops that were gutted sold sarees, dupattas and other combustible items, according to officials.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (North) M K Meena said forensics and electricity departments will conduct an inspection after the cooling operation is complete. An FIR is being registered in the matter, he said. Another officer said the fire broke out due to a short circuit in an air conditioner in a shop on the second floor of one of the buildings and it quickly spread to other shops.

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Rains return with thunder to Mumbai after brief break

After a two-day lull, it rained in most parts of Mumbai this morning, bringing relief to citizens from the hot and humid weather. The showers started with thunder, but there were no reports of major waterlogging anywhere in the city yet.

The official said that the public transport services of railways and BEST bus undertaking were largely normal, barring some delays. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has predicted a “generally cloudy sky with possibility of light to moderate rain in the city and suburbs” in the next 24 hours.

After the onset of monsoon over Mumbai on June 9, ahead of the normal date of its arrival on June 11, the rains had stayed away from the metropolis for the last two days, turning the weather in the metropolis sultry.

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Ghatkopar hoarding crash: Land was leased to advertising firm sans security deposit, say police

Permission to install a giant hoarding in Mumbai, whose crash killed 17 persons last month, near a petrol pump was given by the Government Railway Police (GRP) to an advertising firm without taking any security deposit, officials said on Thursday.

The 120x120 feet billboard crashed on May 13 on the petrol pump in suburban Ghatkopar amid gusty winds and heavy rains, killing 17 persons and injuring 74 others. The land in question was in possession of the Government Railway Police and permission to erect the hoarding near a petrol pump was given to M/s Ego Media Pvt Ltd for 10 years with the approval of then-GRP Commissioner Quaiser Khalid, a senior official said.

The GRP was receiving Rs 13 lakh per month as rent from the advertising firm for leasing out the land for the hoarding, he said.

As per the monthly rent, the GRP could have collected a security deposit of Rs 40 lakh from the advertising firm. However, the then-GRP commissioner allowed the private company to erect the hoarding without taking any security deposit, the official emphasised. Police are probing as to why the GRP, then-headed by Khalid, did not take security deposit from the advertising firm, he said.

The role of then-GRP officials and also of Mumbai civic officials concerned in giving permission for the billboard and other formalities is also being investigated by the police, he said.

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Blaze erupts in Delhi's Chandni Chowk, 40 fire tenders deployed, no casualty

A major fire broke out in the Chandni Chowk area of north Delhi on Thursday and spread to several shops, gutting goods and property worth crores of rupees, officials said. No one was reported hurt, they said.

"A call related to the fire was received at 5 pm from the Chandni Chowk area. The fire was in Marwadi Katra, Nai Sadak in Chandni Chowk," DFS chief Atul Garg said.

He said initially 14 fire tenders were rushed to the spot, but later 26 more vehicles were pressed into service. Talking with PTI, he said, "Now we are using a water bowser to douse the flames. We have rushed more than 10 fire vehicles. We are also taking precautions so that the fire can be contained at the earliest."

He further said that the main building from where the fire started has already collapsed and they are taking all precautionary measures to prevent further damage. The officer further said that the lanes are very narrow due to which fire tenders are struggling to reach the main spot, thus the department has to increase the fire hose to 200 to 300 metres.

"We are also using hydraulic machines to combat the fire from all the locations. The exact loss of the property and goods is yet to be ascertained since the dousing operation is continuing," he said.

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Delhi saw 90% hike in breeding of vector-borne diseases in homes in 2023: MCD report

Delhi's Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) reported a nearly 90% increase in the breeding of vector-borne diseases like dengue, malaria, and chikungunya during the monsoon season last year compared to 2022.

The report outlines the corporation's action plan for the upcoming monsoon season and shows a spike in the number of such breedings found during home inspections in the last four years since 2020.

Delhi recorded 3,25,875 cases of mosquito breeding at home in 2023, nearly 90 per cent higher than 1,71,931 in 2022, the data in the report shows. The year 2022 also saw a considerable dip in the number of house breeding cases by over 24,000 cases. In 2021, Delhi recorded 1,96,303 instances of such breedings. In 2020, instances of mosquito breeding at homes in Delhi stood at 1,09,550.

The number of legal notices issued by the MCD to owners of households where vector-borne disease breeding was found increased to 1,72,481 in 2023 from 1,22,282 in 2022, a 41% jump in a year.

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Diplomacy

Record student visas to Indians last year, expected to rise this year: US Embassy

After issuing a record 1,40,000 student visas last year, the US consular team in India is prepared to handle an anticipated increase in applications from Indian students in 2024.

A senior embassy official stated that this year's total is expected to be "similar or in excess" of last year's figures.

On Thursday, the US Mission in India hosted its eighth annual Student Visa Day across the country, with consular officers from New Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Mumbai interviewing visa applicants. American universities attract a large number of Indian students, and last year, the US consular team in India issued over 1,40,000 student visas, higher than for any other country setting a record for the third year in a row.

Syed Mujtaba Andrabi, acting Consul General at US Embassy in New Delhi, in an interaction with PTI at the embassy, said, "by the end of the day, we should have interviewed approximately 4,000 students."

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Economy

Wholesale inflation rises to 15-month high of 2.61% in May

The wholesale inflation rose to a 15-month high of 2.61% in May, as heatwave conditions pushed up prices of food items, specially vegetables, and on costlier manufactured products.

The wholesale price index (WPI) based inflation has been rising for three months in a row. It was 1.26% in the previous month and (-) 3.61% in May 2023. “Positive rate of inflation in May, 2024 is primarily due to increase in prices of food articles, manufacture of food products, crude petroleum & natural gas, mineral oils, other manufacturing etc,” the Ministry of Commerce & Industry said in a statement on Friday.

The May WPI print is at a 15-month high. The last high was seen in February 2023, when inflation was 3.85%. As per the data, inflation in food articles rose to a 10-month high of 9.82% in May.

Inflation in vegetables was 32.42% in May, up from 23.60% in the previous month. Onion inflation was at 58.05%, while potato was 64.05%. Pulses inflation rose 21.95% in May. Bank of Baroda economist Aditi Gupta said food inflation is also likely to remain elevated due to severe heatwave in the country. 

"With severe heatwave conditions persisting in several parts of the country, prices of vegetables and fruits are witnessing an upward momentum even in June '24 and are likely to keep inflation elevated in the near-term," Gupta said.

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Wholesale inflation rises for third straight month, food items costlier

The wholesale inflation rose for the third consecutive month in May at 2.61% on account of rise in prices of food articles, especially vegetables, and manufactured items.

The wholesale price index (WPI) based inflation was 1.26% in the previous month. It was (-) 3.61 per cent in May 2023. “Positive rate of inflation in May, 2024 is primarily due to increase in prices of food articles, manufacture of food products, crude petroleum & natural gas, mineral oils, other manufacturing etc,” the Ministry of Commerce & Industry said in a statement on Friday.

As per the data, inflation in food articles rose 9.82% in May, as against 7.74% in April. Inflation in vegetables was 32.42% in May, up from 23.60% in the previous month. Onion inflation was at 58.05%, while potato was 64.05%. Pulses inflation rose 21.95% in May.

The rise in May WPI is in contrast to the retail inflation data for the month. The Reserve Bank of India mainly takes into account retail inflation while framing monetary policy.

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Election

JD(U) announces candidate for Bihar bypoll

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's JD(U) on Friday announced its candidate for the Rupauli assembly constituency, where the resignation of multiple-term MLA Bima Bharti has necessitated a bypoll.

State JD(U) president Umesh Singh Kushwaha gave the party ticket to Kaladhar Prasad Mandal, who had contested the 2020 assembly polls, against Bharti, as an independent. Bharti, who had won the seat for JD(U) for the third time in a row, quit the party before the Lok Sabha polls to contest as the RJD candidate. The seat was won by independent candidate Pappu Yadav, while Bharti lost her deposit and finished third.

According to Kushwaha, the candidature of Mandal "has been approved by the chief minister", who is also the JD(U)'s national president.

The choice seems to have been driven by a high concentration, in Rupauli, of Gangotas, an extremely backward class to which Bharti also belonged. Bharti has indicated she is unwilling to contest the by-poll, but if the RJD decides to field its candidate, she would lobby for the ticket for her family members.

The RJD has an alliance with the CPI, which had contested the seat in 2020. The Left party has announced that it will contest the by-poll.

The last date for filing of nomination is June 21 and voting will take place on July 10.

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AAP leaders discuss Lok Sabha polls outcome

Senior Aam Aadmi Party leaders discussed the results of the Lok Sabha elections and pledged that they would work harder for the next general elections, a party leader said on Thursday. AAP fought at 22 Lok Sabha seats and managed to win just three in Punjab.

Despite an alliance with the Congress in Delhi, it lost all the four seats it contested at the hands of the BJP. "AAP definitely got fewer seats than expected, but the game is not over yet. We will come with new energy in the next election," AAP general secretary (organisation) Sandeep Pathak said.

He said that the decision of the people of Delhi was a top priority for the party. We acknowledged that "there must have been some shortcomings in our hard work" and pledged to work harder to win next time. Pathak said Assembly elections in Haryana and Delhi and by-elections in Punjab were the next goals of the party.

AAP Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh said that the top party leaders, including national convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia, and Satyender Jain, were put behind bars.

"If we wanted, we could have negotiated with them, but we have come to politics to work for people as leaders, not to become dealers," Singh asserted.

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Entertainment

What is the controversy surrounding the movie ‘Maharaj’?

Long Read

YRF Entertainment's 'Maharaj' did not premiere on Netflix on Friday as scheduled after the Gujarat High Court stayed its release. 

The film, in which Aamir Khan's son Junaid Khan makes his debut, caught the attention of social media users on Wednesday with hashtags such as "Boycott Netflix" and "Ban Maharaj Film" trending on X. 

Directed by Siddharth P Malhotra and produced by Aditya Chopra under YRF Entertainment, the movie also stars Jaideep Ahlawat.  And most unlike a mainstream film launching a star son, there were no trailers or teasers, barring a poster featuring Jaideep and Junaid.

The poster shows the two actors seen standing side by side with Jaideep's character sporting a 'tilak' on his forehead while Junaid's character, a journalist, is dressed in a waistcoat. Though Netflix and YRF haven't officially commented on the controversy surrounding the movie, they sent a joint press note to news outlets.

"We kindly request you to HOLD on publishing your reviews for the film 'Maharaj' online, in print or on any social media platforms, given the ongoing proceedings... Thank you for your support and patience. Sincerely, Team Netflix and YRF," the note read. According to a press release issued by Netflix last month, 'Maharaj' is set in pre-independent India and is based on the Maharaj Libel Case of 1862, which was ignited by "allegations of misconduct by a prominent figure". 

It follows Karsandas Mulji, a journalist and social reformer, who was a pioneering advocate for women's rights and social reform. "... the case garnered widespread attention and scrutiny, setting the stage for what many consider to be one of the most significant legal battles of all time," the streamer said.

The petitioners claimed before the Gujarat High Court their religious sentiments would be "seriously hurt" if the movie is permitted to be released, and it is likely to affect public order and incite violence against followers of the sect. They pointed out that the British-era court, which had decided the libel case, "castigates the Hindu religion and makes seriously blasphemous comments against Lord Krishna as well as the devotional songs and hymns".

The libel case was centred on a clash between a Vaishnavite religious leader and social reformer Mulji, who, in an article in a Gujarati weekly, alleged that the godman had sexual liaisons with his female devotees.

The petitioners argued that the movie was sought to be released in a secretive manner without a trailer or promotional events to avoid any access to the storyline. VHP leader Sadhvi Prachi was one of the many X users who called for a ban on "Maharaj".

Until when "Hindu saints" will continue to be insulted in films, asked another X user.

Another alleged that Aamir was launching his son in a "Hindumisic movie creating a false image of Sadhus and the Vallabh Sampradaya, by quoting an incident during the British regime (sic)". One X user also spoke of double standards when it comes to movies on Hinduism and Islam.

"Since the film is 'Maharaj'... it's on your gods and goddesses and religion, you are calling for a boycott. When it's about the other community, there is an attempt to sell as much hate as possible through films," the user said, referring to controversial movies such as "72 Hoorain" and "Hamare Barah".

The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the June 14 release of Annu Kapoor's movie "Hamare Baarah" after taking note of allegations that the film is derogatory to the Islamic faith and married Muslim women.  The boycott calls for 'Maharaj' recalled the controversy around Aamir's film 2022 film 'Laal Singh Chaddha', which also faced boycott calls over the superstar's 2015 comments that he was alarmed by a number of incidents of growing intolerance in India.

Earlier this year, Nayanthara-starrer 'Annapoorani' was pulled down from Netflix after some viewers said it hurt religious sentiments. The actor also issued an apology on social media.

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International

Modi, Meloni review progress of India-Italy strategic partnership

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Italian counterpart Giorgia Meloni have reviewed the progress of the bilateral strategic partnership and agreed to strengthen cooperation in global fora and multilateral initiatives, including the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor.

The two leaders met on Friday towards the end of Prime Minister Modi's day-long visit to Apulia, southern Italy, during which he thanked the Italian Prime Minister for the invitation to attend the G7 Summit. A Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) readout of the meeting said the leaders committed to fulfil their shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific and also discussed the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC).

“Both leaders look forward to joint activities to be implemented under the Indo-Pacific Ocean Initiative framework to fulfil their shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific," the Ministry of External Affairs said, amidst China's aggressive actions in the region. They also discussed important regional and global issues and agreed to strengthen cooperation in global fora and multilateral initiatives, including the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor, it said.

Billed as a path-breaking initiative, the IMEC envisages a vast road, railroad and shipping network among Saudi Arabia, India, the United States and Europe to ensure integration among Asia, the Middle East and the West.

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US military ran secret anti-vax campaign to undermine China during Covid: Report

The US military ran a secret campaign to fight China’s growing influence in the Philippines during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a report in Reuters.

It aimed to instil doubt about the safety and efficacy of vaccines and other life-saving aid that was being supplied by China.  This was done through “phoney internet accounts meant to impersonate Filipinos, the military’s propaganda efforts morphed into an anti-vax campaign. Social media posts decried the quality of face masks, test kits and the first vaccine that would become available in the Philippines – China’s Sinovac.”

The Reuters investigation identified around 300 accounts on X that shared descriptions shared by former US military officials who were aware of this secret operation.  Almost all were created in the summer of 2020 and centred on the slogan #Chinaangvirus. 

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Need to convert monopoly in technology into mass usage: PM Modi at G7 Outreach summit

The world community must work towards converting the monopoly in technology into mass usage to lay the foundation of an inclusive society and help eliminate social inequalities, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday.

In an address at the Outreach session of the summit of G7 advanced economies at Italy's Apulia region, Modi also said India will work with all countries to make Artificial Intelligence transparent, fair, secure, accessible and responsible. The prime minister said India's approach in the field of energy is based on four principles — availability, accessibility, affordability and acceptability.

Highlighting the challenges facing the countries of the Global South, Modi said they are bearing the brunt of uncertainties and tensions around the world.

"India has considered it its responsibility to place the priorities and concerns of the countries of the Global South on the world stage. We have given high priority to Africa in these efforts," he said. Prime Minister Modi spoke extensively on the importance of ending monopoly in technology.

"We have to collectively ensure that the benefits of technology reach all sections of society, to realise the potential of every person in the society, to help in removing social inequalities, and expand human powers instead of limiting them," he said. "This should not only be our desire, but our responsibility. We have to convert monopoly in technology into mass usage," he noted.

"We have to make technology creative, not destructive. Only then will we be able to lay the foundation of an inclusive society," the prime minister said.

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ANC’s Ramaphosa returns as President after agreement with other parties for GNU

The South African Parliament has elected Cyril Ramaphosa for another five-year term as president despite his African National Congress (ANC) having won only 40% of the ballot in the general elections held a fortnight ago.

Ramaphosa’s election after he was pitted against Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema ended the sitting, which earlier in the day also elected Thoko Didiza of the ANC as Speaker and Annelie Lotriet of the DA as Deputy Speaker.

Ramaphosa got 283 votes and Malema just 44. Ramaphosa is expected to announce his new cabinet after his inauguration on Wednesday.

His election, which ended days of speculation, came close to midnight on Friday after the session started at 10 in the morning with last-minute inter-party discussions to establish a government of national unity (GNU) and frequent interruptions and long voting processes.

The ANC teamed up with the largely-white Democratic Alliance (DA), and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), which came fifth, as well as the minority party Patriotic Front (PF), which has brought mixed reaction from both members of their respective parties and citizens.

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NBTC Group announces relief for Kuwait fire victims

Kuwait-based NBTC Group, whose workers died in the fire in one of its accommodations there, has announced Rs 8 lakh as immediate relief to each of the families of the deceased. In a statement, the company said it will continue to keep the families of the deceased as "part of the NBTC family".

"As a measure of immediate relief we have sanctioned INR 8 lakh to the families of each of the victims and INR 2 lakh to the families of those who are injured," the company said in a statement posted on its Linkedin profile. NBTC said it was greatly "shocked and saddened by the tragic incident" in one of its residential accommodations at Mangaf in Kuwait. The employees of the company were living in the building in Kuwait that caught fire killing 49 people on June 12.

Keralite K G Abraham, a prominent businessman from Niranam in Pathanamthitta district, is a partner and managing director of the NBTC group.

According to the Central Travancore Chamber of Commerce and Industry website, NBTC is the biggest construction group in Kuwait.

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PM Modi, Pope Francis embrace at G7 Summit Outreach session

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pope Francis met with a warm embrace at the Outreach session of the G7 Summit in Apulia, southern Italy, on Friday, where they joined other world leaders to discuss pressing global issues.

Modi was seen in a light-hearted exchange with the 87-year-old head of the worldwide Catholic Church, who was taken around the table in a wheelchair to greet each of the world leaders gathered at the summit venue of Borgo Egnazia. "It is up to each of us to make good use of AI,” the Pope said in his address at the Outreach session on the topic of Artificial Intelligence, Energy, Africa and the Mediterranean, attended by the participants of the G7 and other leaders of the Global South invited by Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni in her capacity as president of this year’s summit. She greeted the “Holy Father” and then joined the wheelchair-bound octogenarian as he greeted leaders with handshakes including US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and French President Emmanuel Macron among others.

The Prime Minister met Pope Francis during a private audience at the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican in October 2021.

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Way to peace is through 'dialogue and diplomacy': PM Modi to Zelenskyy

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday conveyed to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during a meeting that India believes in a "human-centric" approach and that the way to peace is through "dialogue and diplomacy".

Modi met Zelenskyy on the sidelines of the G-7 summit in Italy's Apulia region. The meeting between Modi and Zelenskyy came ahead of the Swiss Peace Summit.

India on Wednesday said it will participate in the upcoming peace summit on the Ukraine conflict at an "appropriate level".

The Peace Summit will take place at Bürgenstock in Lucerne on June 15 and 16. The Prime Minister described the meeting with the Ukrainian president as "very productive" and said India is eager to "further cement" bilateral relations with Ukraine.

"Had a very productive meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. India is eager to further cement bilateral relations with Ukraine," Modi said on 'X'. "Regarding the ongoing hostilities, reiterated that India believes in a human-centric approach and believes that the way to peace is through dialogue and diplomacy," he said.

External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said that the two leaders reviewed bilateral relationship and exchanged views on the situation in Ukraine.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra were part of Modi's delegation at the talks. It is learnt that Zelenskyy briefed Modi on various aspects of the conflict.

Modi had met Zelenskyy on the sidelines of the previous G7 summit in Hiroshima in May last year as well.

India has been maintaining that the conflict in Ukraine must be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy.

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G7 focus switches to China, Pope to lead AI discussions

The Group of Seven leaders is preparing for a final day of talks at their annual summit, with China leading the agenda before Pope Francis puts in an historic appearance to discuss artificial intelligence.

The pope will be joined by 10 other heads of state and government, including the prime minister of India and the king of Jordan, as the G7 throws open its doors to outsiders to show it isn't an aloof, exclusive club. During the first day of their meeting in southern Italy, the G7 nations agreed on a deal to provide $50 billion of loans for Ukraine backed by interest from frozen Russian assets - hailing the accord as a powerful signal of Western resolve.

Friday's talks will be dominated by concerns surrounding China's excess industrial capacity, that Western governments say is distorting local markets, and its support for Russia's war-effort. The US has imposed sanctions on China-based firms supplying semiconductors to Russia amid concerns over Beijing's aggressive stance against Taiwan and run-ins with the Philippines over maritime claims.

US President Joe Biden stated that China is not supplying weapons to Russia but the ability to produce them and the technology available to do so, implying that it is actually helping Russia.

The issue will be raised with other leaders on Friday, a senior US official said.

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Israeli polls show Netanyahu party narrowing gap behind Gantz

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party has narrowly surpassed the centrist party of former minister Benny Gantz, who resigned from the wartime unity government on Sunday, two polls showed on Friday.

Two polls by Ma'ariv daily and Israel Hayom newspaper showed Likud winning 21 seats behind the National Unity Party on 24. The Ma'ariv poll last week showed Gantz's party on 27 seats, while at the start of the year, it was regularly polling in the high 30s.

Both polls showed a majority of voters would prefer Gantz as prime minister in a head-to-head choice with Netanyahu. Meanwhile, Netanyahu has refused to call early elections and would not face voters until 2026 if his coalition with religious and right-wing pro-settler parties holds power.

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Missile barrage hits northern Israel, emergency services report

Dozens of missiles were fired on Friday from southern Lebanon into the vicinity of the border town of Israel’s Kiryat Shemona, causing many fires in northern Israel, according to Israeli emergency services.

Warning sirens were heard in northern Israel, according to the IDF, and emergency services stated that teams were investigating the region, noting that there was property damage but no injuries.

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Migration, Indo-Pacific on agenda for G7 Summit ahead of PM Modi's meeting

The Group of Seven leading industrialised nations of the world discussed issues of migration followed by the Indo-Pacific and economic security on Friday, the second day of the three-day G7 Summit in the southern Italian region of Apulia.

The summit includes participants from the US, UK, Canada, Germany, France, Japan, the European Commission, and the European Council.

“We will be discussing the importance of our increased focus on the Indo-Pacific,” Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni and host of the G7 summit said. “Another key issue the Italian Presidency has prioritised is also linked to Africa, and not only to Africa, and that is the matter of migration and the increasingly concerning role of human trafficking organisations that are exploiting desperate human beings,” she said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be addressing an Outreach session on Artificial Intelligence, Energy, Africa and the Mediterranean.

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Gas cylinders, cardboard partitions, door to roof locked: Kuwait probe into building fire

Preliminary investigations into the Kuwait blaze in which 45 Indians were killed point towards glaring lapses such as around two dozen gas cylinders on the ground floor of the seven-storey building. 

Moreover, inflammable materials like paper, cardboard and plastic were used as partitions to separate the workers in the cramped rooms and the doors to the rooftop were locked, not allowing workers to escape to the rooftop, The Indian Express reported citing sources. Sources also said that the probable cause seems to be a short-circuit on the ground floor, which was aggravated by the two dozen gas cylinders that were stored and kept there. The kitchen was located on the ground floor.

These details emerged as Indian embassy officials met the survivors and the Kuwaiti investigators began probing the incident that claimed 49 lives early Wednesday. According to Kuwaiti authorities, 45 of the 49 dead have been identified as Indians and three from Philippines. One body is still to be identified. About 50 others were injured in the blaze in the building that housed 196 migrant workers in Mangaf, south of Kuwait City.

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PM Modi arrives in Italy for G7 Summit Outreach meet

Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Apulia, southern Italy, to attend the Outreach session of the G7 Summit and hold bilateral talks on a wide range of issues with world leaders on Friday.

“The Prime Minister of India has arrived at Brindisi Airport in Italy to participate in the G7 Summit,” Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said in a video message from the airport. “Tomorrow (Friday) is a packed day for him. We have several bilateral meetings with world leaders lined up. He will also be addressing the Outreach session of the G7 Summit,” he said.

During his day-long visit, Modi will be participating in a summit session entitled Artificial Intelligence, Energy, Africa-Mediterranean to be hosted by Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni and joined by Pope Francis. The Pope is also expected to hold bilateral talks with Modi, who has a series of meetings scheduled with the world leaders on the sidelines of the summit.  He said he was "glad" that his first foreign visit in his third consecutive term as Prime Minister was to Italy for the G7 Summit.

“I warmly recall my visit to Italy for the G20 Summit in 2021. Prime Minister Meloni's two visits to India last year were instrumental in infusing momentum and depth in our bilateral agenda. We remain committed to consolidate the India-Italy strategic partnership, and bolster cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and the Mediterranean regions,” his statement reads. India hosted the G20 Summit in New Delhi last September, which was also attended by the world leaders gathering at the Apulia meet being held under the Italian presidency. The Italian Prime Minister, Georgia Meloni, will welcome Modi as the President of the Council of Ministers of Italy on Friday.

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Markets

Sensex, Nifty hit fresh lifetime highs

Benchmark equity indices Sensex and Nifty hit their new closing lifetime highs on Friday, following buying in market heavyweights HDFC Bank, Reliance Industries and Mahindra & Mahindra amid encouraging export data.

Rising for the third straight session, the 30-share BSE Sensex climbed 181.87 points or 0.24% to settle at a new closing peak of 76,992.77. During the day, it jumped 270.4 points or 0.35% to 77,081.30. The NSE Nifty rallied 66.70 points or 0.29 per cent to hit a record closing high of 23,465.60. Intra-day, it rose 91.5 points or 0.39% to hit a fresh all-time high of 23,490.40.

Among the 30 Sensex companies, Mahindra & Mahindra, Titan, HDFC Bank, Reliance Industries, UltraTech Cement, Bajaj Finance, Axis Bank, Tata Motors and Asian Paints were the biggest gainers. On the other hand, Tech Mahindra, Tata Consultancy Services, Wipro, HCL Technologies, Larsen & Toubro and State Bank of India were among the major laggards.

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Mcap of BSE-listed firms at another record high of Rs 434.9 lakh crore

The market capitalisation of BSE-listed firms hit another record high of Rs 434.88 lakh crore on Friday as the BSE benchmark scaled new closing peak, rallying for the third day running.

In three days of rally, investors' wealth has gone up Rs 7.93 lakh crore. "The positive undertone of the market helped benchmark Nifty scale new highs and inch closer towards the 23,500-mark as cautious investors continued with their select buying approach in key frontline stocks.

"However, midcap and smallcap stocks have been seeing renewed buying interest with large-cap stocks facing higher valuation hurdles," said Prashanth Tapse, Senior V-P (Research), Mehta Equities Ltd.

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National

NEET Bihar probe ‘very much suggestive of paper leak’: Cops

Cops, part of the Economic Offences Unit in Bihar, which is probing allegations of a paper leak in the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) held on May 5, has reportedly said its investigation is “suggestive of a paper leak”.

“We had asked a set of questions to the National Testing Agency, which organises NEET. Our team has just received answers. We may have some follow-up questions. We have been working on some contacts we have received in the course of our investigation, which is very much suggestive of a paper leak,” Additional Director General of Police, EOU, N H Khan told The Indian Express. Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, however, said that apart from issues faced in just six centres out of roughly 4,500, NEET was conducted satisfactorily across the country. He denied allegations of a paper leak, but added that if anything is proven true, “no one will be spared”.

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Include content on 3 new criminal laws in training modules: Centre to staff training institutes

The Centre on Friday asked all training institutions under it to include content on the three new criminal laws, that will come into force from next month, in various programmes organised by them for the government employees, according to an official order.

They have been asked to make suitable use of the e-courses that offer an overview of the changes introduced through the new laws, which are available on iGoT (integrated government online training) Karmayogi portal, it said. The three new criminal laws — the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023, the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, 2023 and the Bharatiya Sakshaya Adhiniyam, 2023 — to replace the Indian Penal Code, 1860, the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, were notified on December 25, 2023. They will come into effect on July 1.

The staff training institutes have been asked to take assistance from the Bureau of Police Research and Development under the Ministry of Home Affairs for any assistance in "curating training programmes on the subject".

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J&K: Police conducts mock drill in Reasi district

The Jammu and Kashmir police along with other agencies on Friday conducted a mock drill for area domination and security of Mata Vaishno Devi shrine atop Trikuta hills in Jammu and Kashmir’s Reasi district.

Senior Superintendent of Police, Reasi, Mohita Sharma said the safety and security of the shrine and pilgrims is the prime responsibility of police and every effort will be made to ensure the same. The mock drill was conducted in base camp Katra and the shrine area.

The purpose of the mock drill was to ensure inter-agency coordination in the area of responsibility and duty assigned in case of any emergency and response thereof, the SSP said. This comes as terrorists struck at four places in Reasi, Kathua and Doda districts between Sunday and Wednesday, killing nine people, including seven pilgrims returning from Shiv Khori temple and a CRPF jawan.

Seven security personnel, 41 pilgrims and a villager were also injured in the attacks, while two terrorists were eliminated in one of the encounters in Kathua.

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UPSC exam: Delhi Metro Phase-III services to start at 6 am on June 16

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) has announced that train services on Phase-III sections will begin at 6 am on Sundays due to the upcoming UPSC examination.

The change is made to facilitate candidates appearing for the civil services (prelim) examination held by the Union Public Service Commission UPSC. The Phase-III sections include trains between Dilshad Garden-Shaheed Sthal, Noida City Centre-Noida Electronic City, Mundka-Brigadier Hoshiar Singh, Badarpur Border-Raja Nahar Singh (Ballabhgarh), Majlis Park-Shiv Vihar, Janakpuri West-Botanical Garden, and Dhansa Bus Stand-Dwarka.

Metro services on other sections will continue as usual from 6 am onwards, Dayal said.

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Delhi L-G grants prosecution sanction against Arundhati Roy under UAPA: Officials

Delhi Lt Governor V K Saxena has accorded sanction to prosecute author Arundhati Roy and a former professor in Kashmir under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for allegedly making provocative speeches at an event in the national capital 2010, Raj Niwas officials said on Friday. The FIR against Roy and former Central University of Kashmir professor Sheikh Showkat Hussain was registered following the orders of the Court of Metropolitan Magistrate, New Delhi, they added.

There was no immediate reaction from Roy and Hussain.

The FIR in the matter was registered on a complaint made by Sushil Pandit, a social activist from Kashmir, on October 28, 2010. Last October, the L-G had granted sanction to prosecute them under section 196 of CrPC for commission of offences punishable under different sections of the Indian Penal Code: 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief). Roy and Hussain had allegedly made provocative speeches at a conference organised under the banner of ‘Azadi - The Only Way’ on October 21, 2010 at LTG Auditorium, Copernicus Marg, in the national capital.

“The issues discussed and spoken about at the conference propagated the separation of Kashmir from India,” said the official.

Those who delivered speeches at the conference included Syed Ali Shah Geelani, SAR Geelani (anchor of the Conference and prime accused in the Parliament attack case), Arundhati Roy, Dr. Sheikh Showkat Hussain and Varavara Rao.

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Those who became arrogant were stopped at 241 by Lord Ram: Indresh Kumar

In hard-hitting remarks on the outcome of the Lok sabha polls, RSS leader Indresh Kumar slammed the ruling BJP for “arrogance” and the Opposition I.N.D.I.A bloc for being “anti-Ram”.

Speaking at the 'Ramrath Ayodhya Yatra Darshan Poojan Samaroh' at Kanota near Jaipur, the RSS national executive member did not mention the rivals by name but suggested that the poll outcome reflected their attitudes. “The party which did the bhakti (of lord Ram) but became arrogant was stopped at 241 but it was made the biggest party,” he said, in an apparent reference to Narendra Modi-led BJP which got 240 seats in the Lok Sabha seats.

“And those who had no faith in Ram, they together were stopped at 234,” he said, apparently referring to the I.N.D.I.A bloc. “See the 'Vidhan' of Ram Rajya in democracy; those who did 'Bhakti (worshipped) of Ram but gradually turned arrogant, that party emerged as the biggest party, but the vote and power that should have been given was stopped by God due to their arrogance,” he said.

"Those who opposed Ram, none of them was given power. Even all of them together were made number two. God's justice is true and enjoyable," he said. "Those who worship Ram should be humble and those who oppose Ram, the Lord himself dealt with them," he said.

He said Lord Ram does not discriminate and does not punish. "Ram does not make anyone lament. Ram gives justice to everyone. He gives and will keep on giving. Lord Ram was always just and will remain so," he said. Kumar also said Lord Ram protected people and did good to Ravana too.

The remark came days after RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said that a true 'sevak' does not have arrogance and serves the people by maintaining 'dignity'.

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Sunetra Pawar says will accept Central ministry post if offered

Set to be elected unopposed to the Rajya Sabha, Sunetra Pawar, wife of Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra Ajit Pawar, on Friday said she will be happy to accept any offer of berth in the Union Council of Ministers and strive to make most of the opportunity.

She said her party NCP is doing an introspection of her loss in the Baramati Lok Sabha seat in Pune district and will take corrective measures post the analysis. Sunetra Pawar lost to her sister-in-law and NCP (Sharadchandra Pawar) MP Supriya Sule in the western Maharashtra constituency.

On Thursday, she filed her nomination papers in Mumbai as the NCP candidate for a Rajya Sabha bypoll in the state. Since she is the only candidate in the fray, Sunetra Pawar is set to be elected unopposed to the Upper House of Parliament. The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), headed by Ajit Pawar, a BJP ally, currently has no representation in the new BJP-led NDA government at the Centre which was sworn-in on Sunday last. 

The NCP turned down the BJP's offer to accommodate senior leader Praful Patel as a minister of state with independent charge in the new NDA government.

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Withdraw laws that curb press freedom: Media bodies

Journalists’ associations have urged the government to withdraw laws that are aimed at curbing press freedom and replace the Press Council of India with a body that includes broadcast and digital media.

The government must ensure that the right to know of people is not trampled upon, the journalists' bodies said. At a meeting held on May 28, attended by representatives of 15 press bodies, they also demanded that the government restore the Working Journalist and Other Newspaper Employees (Condition Of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955, and the Working Journalists (Fixation of Rates of Wages) Act, 1958, as well as include broadcast and digital media journalists in the laws' ambit. “The sweeping provisions under laws such as the proposed Broadcast Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023, the Digital Personal Data Protection Act, 2023, the Press and Registration of Periodicals Act, 2023, and more importantly, the Information Technology Amendment Rules, 2023, which grant authority to the government to remove any online content pertaining to its business that it deems to be false or misleading, are meant to silence the press,” the journalists' associations said in a joint statement. In the meeting, which was attended by representatives of press bodies such as the Press Club of India, the Press Association, the Digipub News India Foundation and the Indian Women Press Corps, also noted that there were apprehensions of control and regulation and may place unreasonable restrictions on the citizens' right to know.

They also said the government will have to ensure that the proposed future laws should not impede press freedom, while upholding the right to privacy of citizens. "The exiting laws and future legislations should not be leveraged to block or takedown legitimate news content across platforms viz. print, television and internet," the journalists' bodies said in the statement.

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After Kochi, plane carrying bodies of Kuwait fire victims arrives in Delhi

An IAF aircraft carrying the bodies of 14 of the 45 Indians who died in a devastating fire at a building in Kuwait landed in Delhi from Kerala's Kochi on Friday evening, a senior official said.

A C-130J aircraft carrying the 45 bodies landed at the Kochi international airport around 10.30 am. Thirty-one bodies were received at the airport by Central and state ministers, including Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. The remaining 14 bodies were sent to Delhi in the same aircraft as a domestic flight from Kochi, airport authorities in Kerala said.

After the plane arrived in the national capital, newly elected MPs Yogender Chandolia and Kamaljeet Sehrawat stood on the tarmac with folded hands as the caskets were lowered from the aircraft. The special IAF aircraft had taken off for Kochi from Kuwait on Friday morning.

At least 49 foreign workers were killed and 50 others injured in the fire on Wednesday at the seven-storey building in Kuwait's Mangaf.

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Amit Shah reviews J&K security situation; calls high-level meeting

Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Friday reviewed the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir in the wake of several terror incidents there, including an attack on a bus ferrying pilgrims, sources said.

He called a high-level meeting on June 16, to be attended by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir Manoj Sinha, top officials of the Army, CRPF and others to review the prevailing situation in the Union Territory and steps taken to check terror incidents. During Sunday's meeting, the home minister will also take stock of the preparedness for the annual Amarnath Yatra which will begin on June 29, sources said.

The home minister was briefed about the prevailing situation in Jammu and Kashmir and the steps taken following the terror incidents, they said. Terrorists struck at four places in Reasi, Kathua and Doda districts of Jammu and Kashmir over the past four days, killing nine pilgrims and a CRPF jawan, and leaving seven security personnel and several others injured.

Two suspected Pakistani terrorists were also killed in an encounter with security forces in Kathua district and a large quantity of arms and ammunition were recovered from them.

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Mirwaiz Farooq appeals to Kashmiri Pandits to return to homeland

It is time to reconcile and rebuild the broken bonds, Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said on Friday as he appealed to the Kashmiri Pandits to return to their homeland.

A large number of Kashmiri Pandits left their homes and fled the Valley in 1990 in the wake of the eruption of militancy in the region.

In his address at the Friday congregation at the historic Jamia Masjid in Nowhatta area, he felicitated the Kashmiri Pandit community on the occasion of Mela Kheer Bhawani. Thousands of Kashmiri Pandits paid obeisance at the Mata Kheer Bhawani temple at Tulmulla in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district on Friday.

Mela Kheer Bhawani - an annual event at the Kheer Bhawani temple dedicated to Rangya Devi - is also celebrated in other shrines and temples in Jammu and Kashmir to mark ‘Zyeth Atham’ or ‘Jyeshtha Ashtami’. “Today is Mela Kheer Bhawani and I would like to felicitate our Kashmiri Pandit community on this occasion. I would also once again ask them to return to their homeland which awaits them and live here as they did in the past in our common and shared heritage. It is time to reconcile and rebuild the broken bonds. We owe it to our next generation,” he said.

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YRF’s ‘Maharaj’ doesn't drop on Netflix after Gujarat High Court stays release

YRF Entertainment's 'Maharaj' did not premiere on Netflix on Friday as scheduled after the Gujarat High Court stayed its release. 

The film, in which Aamir Khan's son Junaid Khan makes his debut, caught the attention of social media users on Wednesday with hashtags such as "Boycott Netflix" and "Ban Maharaj Film" trending on X. On Thursday, Aamir Khan was also trending on the social media platform. Responding to a petition by members of Pushtimarg, a Vaishnava sect of Hinduism, the Gujarat High Court stayed the film's release on Thursday. 

A single-judge Bench of Justice Sangeeta Vishen passed the order against the film and issued notices to the Centre, Netflix and Yash Raj Films. 

The court has posted the matter for further hearing on June 18. "YRF and Netflix are challenging the stay order. The matter is in court. Maharaj is based on a real-life case. It is adapted from Saurabh Shah's book titled 'Maharaj'. The author has also come out to say that the film does not vilify the Vaishnav community or the religion.

"It is about a social reformer who brought about a positive change in society. The makers are hopeful for a positive outcome on this," a trade source said.

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Sheena Bora case: Remains of victim recovered by cops have gone missing, CBI court told

The bones and remains allegedly of Sheena Bora that were recovered by police in Raigad in Maharashtra are not traceable, the prosecution told a Central Bureau of Investigation court that is conducting the trial in the case.

The prosecution made this revelation during the deposition of a forensic expert doctor from state-run JJ hospital in Mumbai.  The court is currently recording the testimony of the forensics expert who had first examined the bones recovered by Pen police in 2012 from the spot where Sheena Bora's burnt body was buried.

Indrani Mukerjea is the prime accused in the murder case of her daughter Sheena Bora. 

The 24-year-old was allegedly killed in April 2012, as per police, while the murder came to light in 2015. On Thursday, special public prosecutor C J Nandode told court the articles (bones and remains of victim's body), which were referred and examined by the witness (forensics expert), are not traceable despite a diligent search.

Nandode further told court the prosecution intends to proceed with further chief-examination of the witness without showing the articles to her as they are untraceable. The CBI court adjourned the matter to June 27 for further recording of evidence after defence advocates said they have no objection to prosecution's request.

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PM Modi meets British counterpart Rishi Sunak

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday met his British counterpart Rishi Sunak and is believed to have discussed bilateral relations and issues of common interests.

The two leaders met on the sidelines of the G7 summit in the southern Italian resort city. Sunak and Modi last met in person at the G20 Summit in New Delhi last September, when they had agreed to accelerate the FTA talks with the hope of signing off before India's general election.

The India-UK Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations, which began in January 2022, aim to significantly enhance bilateral trade, currently worth around 38.1 billion pounds a year. The talks are expected to resume after a new UK government is elected on July 4.

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Priyanka urges Centre, Uttarakhand government to prevent forest fire incidents

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Friday urged the Centre and the Uttarakhand government to take steps to prevent forest fire incidents and make effective efforts with everyone's cooperation to save the Himalayas.

Her remarks came after four forest workers were killed and four others injured while extinguishing a fire at the Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary under the Civil Soyam Forest Division in Almora district of Uttarakhand. In a post in Hindi on X, Gandhi said, "The news of the death of four employees who went to extinguish the forest fire in Almora, Uttarakhand and many others getting injured is extremely saddening. I pray to God for everyone. I request the state government to provide compensation and assistance at every possible level to the affected families." The forests of Uttarakhand have been burning continuously for the past several months and hundreds of hectares of forest have been destroyed, she noted.

"Climate change has had the greatest impact on our Himalayas and mountain environment. I appeal to the central and state governments to take measures to prevent incidents of fire and to make effective efforts on a large scale with everyone's cooperation to save the Himalayas," she said.

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NEET scam is Vyapam 2.0; why is PM Modi silent: Congress

Stepping up its attack on the government over the NEET exam issue, the Congress on Friday questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “silence” on the matter.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge claimed that the Modi government has started "covering up the NEET scam" through Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and the National Testing Agency (NTA). “If the paper was not leaked in NEET then - why were 13 accused arrested in Bihar due to paper leak? Did the Economic Offences Unit (EOU) of Patna police not expose the payment of Rs 30 lakh-Rs 50 lakh to the education mafia and organised gangs involved in the racket in exchange for papers?” he said in a post in Hindi on X. "Has NEET-UG cheating racket not been busted in Godhra, Gujarat? In which three people are involved including a person running a coaching centre, a teacher and another person and according to Gujarat Police, transactions of more than Rs 12 crore have come to light between the accused?" Kharge said.

"What conclusion is drawn from this? Was the Modi government trying to fool the people of the country earlier or now? The Modi government has crushed the aspirations of 24 lakh youth," Kharge said. "Out of these 1 lakh seats, around 55,000 are in government colleges where seats are reserved for SC, ST, OBC, EWS categories. This time the Modi government has misused the NTA and has massively rigged the marks and ranks, due to which the cut-off for reserved seats has also increased," the Congress chief alleged.

Addressing a press conference on the issue at the AICC headquarters, Congress' media and publicity department head Pawan Khera claimed that the "NEET scam is Vyapam 2.0" and the Modi government wants to whitewash it. The scam in Vyapam or Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board broke out in 2013, wherein candidates had bribed officials and rigged exams by deploying imposters to write their answer sheets.

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Reasi attack survivor recalls terror attack on bus in Jammu and Kashmir

Terrorists kept firing at the bus even after it fell into the gorge, Neelam Gupta, who was one of the 41 injured in the attack in Jammu and Kashmir's Reasi district, said, recalling the June 9 incident.

Nine people were killed in the attack on the vehicle that was carrying pilgrims from the Shiv Khori temple to the Mata Vaishno Devi shrine in Katra. The 53-seater bus veered off the road due to indiscriminate firing by the terrorists and fell into the gorge near Teryath village in the Poni. The pilgrims were from Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi.

Neelam was in the bus along with her husband Devi Prasad Gupta, son Prince, daughter Palak, sister Bittan, relative Dinesh Gupta and friend Deepak Kumar Rai, and they all returned home in Uttar Pradesh's Gonda district on Thursday night after undergoing treatment in Jammu.

Besides them, Rajesh Gupta, the eighth from the district who was injured in the attack, is still admitted at the Jammu hospital and his condition is critical. He is Neelam Gupta's brother. The terrorists were targeting the bus' driver and the vehicle overturned and fell into the gorge, said Devi Prasad Gupta, a resident of Bhikharipur village.

"We left for Jammu on June 4 by train. Our plan included visiting the Maa Vaishno Devi shrine on June 9, the day our bus was attacked," he said.

Neelam Gupta said even after the bus fell into the gorge, the terrorists kept firing. It seemed that their target was to kill everybody on the bus, she said. The passengers were scared and lay low to avoid being hit by bullets, she said and added that "after sometime, when the firing stopped and we were sure the terrorists left, those injured were slowly taken out from the bus by locals".

In some time, security personnel also arrived at the spot and those hurt were taken to hospital in ambulances, Neelam Gupta, who suffered a fracture in her left leg, recalled.

Devi Prasad Gupta said he still has pain in his left ribs and hands.

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Kuwait fire: Mortal remains of 31 Indians received at Kochi airport

The mortal remains of 31 Indians who died in the Kuwait fire tragedy were received at the international airport in Kochi on Friday by Central and state ministers, including Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who paid tributes to the deceased.

An Indian Air Force (IAF) flight carrying the mortal remains of 45 Indians who died in the tragic fire incident two days ago, landed at the international airport at around 10.30 am. Of the 45 mortal remains carried by the IAF C30J aircraft, 31 were received at the airport.

The 31 bodies include 23 Keralites, seven Tamilians and one person from Karnataka, officials said.

Vijayan, speaking to reporters at the airport, said that 'pravasis' (expatriates) were the lifeline of Kerala and the deaths of so many Indian expatriates in the fire was a "huge disaster for the country". “It is an unending loss for the families of the deceased. The Kuwaiti government has taken strong and effective action following the incident and the Indian government intervened in a good way.

“Measures need to be taken to prevent a recurrence of such an incident and it is hoped that the Kuwaiti government will take the requisite action for the same,” the CM said. Minister of State for Tourism and Petroleum Suresh Gopi, who was at the airport to receive the mortal remains, said that 'pravasis' are held in high regard by the state and Centre for the hard work they put in while working abroad.

"The tragedy is very painful," he said.

Union MoS for External Affairs Kirti Vardhan Singh, who accompanied the mortal remains on the IAF flight, and Tamil Nadu Minister for Minorities Welfare and Non-Resident Tamils Welfare Gingee K S Masthan also paid tributes to the deceased at the Cochin airport.

A guard of honour was given by the police to the deceased. The customs, immigration and airport health office related process for the 45 bodies were done at CIAL itself, the airport authorities said.

After the 31 bodies were received at the airport, the remaining 14 were sent to Delhi in the same aircraft as a domestic flight, CIAL said.

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Two jawans injured in Naxal IED blast in Chhattisgarh

Two personnel of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) were injured after an improvised explosive device (IED) planted by Naxalites went off in Chhattisgarh’s Narayanpur district on Friday, police said.

The incident took place around 6.30 am in the forest near Kutul village under Kohkameta police station area when a team of ITBP’s 53rd battalion was out on an area domination operation, a police official said. Two ITBP personnel came in contact with the IED triggering an explosion that caused superficial splinter injuries to them, he said.

The wounded jawans were rushed to a hospital here and they were said to be out of danger, he said, adding that a search operation is underway in the area.

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Kuwait fire tragedy: IAF flight carrying mortal remains of Indians lands at Kochi airport

An Indian Air Force (IAF) flight carrying the mortal remains of the Indians who died in the tragic fire incident in Kuwait two days ago, landed at the international airport in Kochi on Friday.

The IAF C30J aircraft is carrying the bodies of the Indians and of them 31 were received at the airport here.

The 31 bodies include 23 Keralites, 7 Tamilians and one person from Karnataka, officials said. Officials had said that 49 people were killed in the fire in the Al-Mangaf building on June 12 and majority of them were Indians; the remaining were Pakistani, Filipino, Egyptian and Nepali nationals.

The building in southern Kuwait's Mangaf area housed around 195 migrant workers.

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Reciting national anthem during morning assembly now compulsory in all Jammu and Kashmir schools

The School Education Department of Jammu and Kashmir has directed all schools in the Union Territory to start the morning assembly with the national anthem.

The Principal Secretary to the Government, School Education Department, through a circular directed all schools to make the morning assembly uniform across the Union Territory. The department said the morning assemblies have proved to be an invaluable ritual in instilling a sense of unity and discipline among the students.

"They (assemblies) serve as platforms to nurture the values of moral integrity, shared community and mental tranquillity. However, it has been observed that such a significant ritual/ tradition is not being carried out uniformly across various schools of JK UT," the circular, which suggested 16 steps for the schools to follow.

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Denied permission to visit Kuwait for fire relief efforts: Kerala health minister

Kerala Health Minister Veena George has claimed she was denied permission by the Union Government to travel to Kuwait. The purpose of the visit was to coordinate relief efforts for Keralites affected by a tragic fire incident in the Gulf nation, she said.

"What we just sought from the central government was the permission to travel to Kuwait to stand with our people affected by the tragedy and coordinate activities there. That permission is denied," George told reporters on Thursday night. The fire incident has claimed the lives of 49 people, with 45 of them being Indians. Out of these, 24 are reportedly from Kerala.

The state government had decided to send George to Kuwait to help with the relief efforts, including treatment for the injured and the repatriation of the deceased. She reportedly waited for hours at the airport, hoping for permission from the Ministry of External Affairs.

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Ajit Doval reappointed as National Security Advisor for third term

Former IPS officer Ajit Doval has been reappointed as the National Security Advisor (NSA) for the third consecutive term, according to a government order issued on Thursday.

The Cabinet Appointments Committee's directive specifies that Doval's tenure will run concurrently with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s term or until further notice, whichever comes first. His third term commenced on June 10, during which he will hold the rank of Cabinet Minister as per the official order. The specific terms and conditions of his appointment will be communicated separately.

Simultaneously, the Appointments Committee has endorsed the appointment of retired IAS officer PK Mishra as Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister. Mishra's tenure will align with that of the Prime Minister or until further directives are issued.

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NEET-UG: Number of top rankers to go down to 61 from 67 as NTA withdraws grace marks

The National Testing Agency (NTA) has withdrawn the grace marks awarded to 1,563 students who took the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test-Undergraduate (NEET-UG), 2024, leading to a decrease in the top rankers from 67 to 61.

Six of these 1,563 candidates who appeared in the medical entrance exam from a centre in Haryana had shared the top rank with 61 others.

"Six out of these 1,563 candidates shared the first rank with 61 others. The number of top rankers will now go down from 67 to 61," a senior National Testing Agency (NTA) official said. Unless these candidates take a retest and score 720 out of 720, they will not regain their top spot, the official added.

Asked about how the ranks of other candidates will be impacted, the official explained, "The scores of these 1,563 candidates will now be the pre-normalisation scores and not one with grace marks. A revised rank list will be issued only when we know how many of these candidates want to take a retest."

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P K Mishra to continue as Principal Secretary to PM Modi

Former IAS officer P K Mishra has been re-appointed as the Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a Personnel Ministry order said.

His appointment will come into effect from June 10, 2024, it said.

"His appointment will be co-terminus with the term of the Prime Minister or until further orders whichever is earlier," the order said.

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G7: AI, energy, Africa to be in focus, says PM Modi

As he embarks on a visit to Italy to attend an Outreach session at the G7 summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said its focus would be on Artificial Intelligence, energy, Africa, and the Mediterranean.

The G7 comprises the US, the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Canada and Japan.

Italy is holding the current presidency of the G7 (Group of Seven) and is hosting the summit in that capacity. Modi said this in a departure statement before leaving for the European nation in his first foreign trip after becoming Prime Minister for a third term.

The Prime Minister said issues crucial for the Global South will also be deliberated upon at the Outreach session. The G7 summit, to be held in the luxury resort of Borgo Egnazia in Italy's Apulia region from June 13 to 15, is expected to be dominated by the raging war in Ukraine and the conflict in Gaza.

"At the invitation of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, I am travelling to Apulia region in Italy to participate in the G7 Outreach summit on June 14," Modi said.

Modi will have a bilateral meeting with Italian Prime Minister Meloni. A key focus of the Italian presidency has been to defend the rules-based international system.

According to Italy, Russia's war of aggression on Ukraine has undermined its principles and triggered growing instability, with multiple crises unfolding worldwide. 

The G7 will give equal importance to the conflict in the Middle East, with its consequences for the global agenda, it says. The bloc expanded into the G8 between 1997 and 2013, with the inclusion of Russia. 

However, Russia's participation was suspended in 2014 following its annexation of Crimea.

Besides India, Italy has invited leaders from 11 developing countries in Africa, South America and the Indo-Pacific region to attend the summit. Though the European Union is not a member of the G7, it attends the annual summit.

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Parliament

Lok Sabha Speaker’s election to be held on June 26

The Lok Sabha will elect its new Speaker on June 26 for which notices for motions supporting candidates can be submitted by members by 12 noon a day prior, the Lok Sabha secretariat has said.

The 18th Lok Sabha will meet for the first time on June 24 and the session will conclude on July 3. At any time before 12 noon on the day preceding the date fixed for the election, any member can give notice in writing to the secretary general of a motion supporting another member for the office of the Speaker, a Lok Sabha bulletin noted.

While first two days will be devoted for oath-taking of newly-elected members, June 26 has been fixed for the election of the Speaker. On June 27, President Droupadi Murmu will address a joint sitting of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.

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Politics

Ajit Pawar NCP sends Sunetra Pawar to Rajya Sabha; discontent brews

The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president and Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar’s wife Sunetra Pawar was named as the party’s nominee for the Rajya Sabha bypoll on Thursday.

The Indian Express notes that the development is likely to ruffle many feathers in the NCP even though senior party leader and minister Chhagan Bhujbal claimed that he was not upset over rejection of his claim to this nomination. “The party’s core group members have unanimously decided to give the Rajya Sabha seat to Sunetra Pawar. Several people, including me, wanted this seat but after discussions, we have decided that Sunetra Pawar should be sent to the Rajya Sabha. I am not at all upset by this decision. We have taken this decision for the party,” Bhujbal said.

Replying to a question whether he was disappointed by the NCP leadership’s move, Bhujbal told reporters, “Can you see it on my face?...When you work in a party, you have to make certain sacrifices. Interest of the party is paramount.”

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Sports

T20 World Cup: First-timers USA knock out Pakistan, join India in Super Eight

Partly made up of men moonlighting as cricketers when not doing their primary jobs, the USA team cleared the group stage of T20 World Cup in its very first attempt after its match against Ireland was called off in Lauderhill, Florida, on Friday, knocking out former champions Pakistan from the tournament.

Thanks to their wins over neighbours Canada and heavyweights Pakistan in their first two outings, the USA joined India in the Super Eight stage of the T20 showpiece after their final group match was washed out. The washout meant heavyweights Pakistan bowed out of the tournament which they won way back in 2009, even as the USA fuelled the game's growth in the land of opportunities by advancing to the next stage.

USA ended the group league campaign with five points from four games and Pakistan, even if they win their last match against Ireland, can reach a maximum of four points. Pakistan went down to India in New York on Sunday in a close game, failing to chase a target of 120. Before that, in their opening game in Dallas, they suffered a shocking Super Over loss to the USA.

The back-to-back defeats meant Pakistan's chances of advancing to the Super Eight were already out of their own hands. It is yet another global tournament where the unpredictable Pakistanis again left it too late.

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T20 World Cup: England eye dominant show to stay in Super 8 contention

Defending champions England will be eager to brush aside Namibia ruthlessly in North Sound (Antigua) on Saturday and stay relevant in the race to the T20 World Cup Super Eight stage.

England were living on the edge after a washout against Scotland and a loss against Australia, but the Ben Stokes-led side turned it around in style with an eight-wicket win over Oman. After bundling out Oman for 47, England raced past the target in just 3.1 overs, a record margin of 101 balls to spare.

The result has also done wonders to England's net run rate (NRR), the crucial separating factor between them and Scotland in Group B. The Three Lions' NRR leapt from -1.8 to +3.08, going past Scotland's +2.16. However, Scotland have five points to England's three. 

Hence, the former two-time champions will need to defeat Namibia to go equal with Scotland and then hope that the latter will lose to Australia, who have already qualified for Super Eight.

In that scenario, England will enter Super Eight with better NRR, but an upset win over Australia by Scotland or a washout at Gros Islet will eliminate Stokes and his wards. But skipper Stokes sounded confident after their massive win over Oman.

"I've been around long enough to know how it works," Stokes said after their win over Oman. "We know what's going on in the dressing room. We have lots of confidence in our team and we have another huge match to come," he added. The pitch at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium has offered steep bounce and turn.

England bowlers such as leg-spinner Adil Rashid (4/11) and the pace duo of Jofra Archer and Mark Wood, who claimed identical figures of 3/12, exploited it to their advantage while bowling out Oman for their lowest over T20I total of 47 - the overall fourth lowest in the T20 World Cup. Stokes will hope to win the toss again to unleash his bowlers against the inexperienced Namibia who had folded for 72 in their last match against Australia.

The match starts at 10.30 pm IST

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Fantastic Farooqi seals Afghanistan’s maiden Super Eight berth with rout of PNG

The pace combination of Fazalhaq Farooqi and Naveen-ul-Haq led Afghanistan's seven-wicket rout of Papua New Guinea in Tarouba (Trinidad) as the strife-torn country stormed into the T20 World Cup's Super Eight stage for the first time, knocking out group favourites New Zealand in the process. Gulbadin Naib scored an unbeaten 49 as Afghanistan gunned down the target of 96 in 15.1 overs overcoming early jitters. Put in to bat, PNG were bundled out for 95 with Farooqi and Naveen ripping through the line-up.

The Afghans will face title favourites India in their first Super Eight clash on June 20 in Barbados.

The result also meant that New Zealand, the 2021 finalists, were knocked out of the ICC showpiece. The Kiwis find themselves at the bottom of the table with two defeats from as many matches. Tournament co-hosts West Indies have already entered the Super Eight from Group C with six points, which is the same as the Afghans.

New Zealand will face Uganda and PNG in their remaining two matches, which will now be of mere academic interest. On Thursday, Farooqi took two wickets in two balls in his second over and finished with 3/16 from his four overs after Rashid Khan opted to bowl.

He now has tournament figures of 11.2-0-42-12 to lead the bowling chart.

His pace bowling partner Naveen provided the perfect assistance, returning with a miserly 2.5-0-4-2 as PNG were bowled out in 19.5 overs. Semo Kamea was run out in the penultimate delivery of their innings.

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Run-rate manipulation would've been against Spirit of Cricket: Cummins

Insisting that Josh Hazlewood’s remarks were not serious, Australia lead pacer Pat Cummins said they would have never tried to manipulate their net run rate to knock England out of the ongoing T20 World Cup, which would have been "against the Spirit of Cricket".

Pacer Hazlewood had sparked a controversy when he said Aussies would try to eliminate England from the tournament if there was such an opportunity for them in their upcoming Group B match against Scotland. “I think when you go out and play you are trying your best every time and if you are not, that's probably against the spirit of cricket. We haven't really thought too deeply because it's (NRR manipulation) never really popped up,” Cummins told reporters here.

Cummins said he had a talk with Hazlewood about the latter’s comments, and said the thought about NRR never really figured in anybody’s thought process. "I was speaking to Joshy, who had a bit of a joke about it the other day, and think it (his comments) got taken a little bit out of context. We'll go there and just try and play Scotland who have had a really good tournament so far and will be tough.

"It's (NRR) something you kind of discuss as one of the quirks of the set-up but in terms of does it change the way we play, absolutely not,” Cummins offered.

“I've never stepped into the field without the mindset of trying to take the game on and be aggressive, like the guys have so far,” he added.

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T20 World Cup: Afghanistan crush Papua New Guinea by seven wickets, storm into Super Eight

Afghanistan produced yet another splendid bowling display to defeat Papua New Guinea by seven wickets and advanced to the Super Eight Stage of the T20 World Cup Tarouba.

With three wins from as many matches, Afghanistan thus joined tournament co-hosts West Indies (6 points) from Group C to make it to the Super Eight. It also meant an early exit for 2021 finalists New Zealand who have suffered two losses in a row. Naveen-ul-Haq was the pick of the bowling returning with 2/4 from 2.5 overs, while Fazalhaq Farooqi claimed 3/16 to take his tally to 12 wickets in the tournament as Afghanistan bowled out PNG for 95 in 19.5 overs.

In reply, Afghanistan overcame early jitters to reach the target in 15.1 overs with Gulabdin Naib anchoring the chase with a 36 ball 49 not out.

Brief Scores: Papua New Guinea 95 all out in 19.5 overs (Kiplin Doriga 27, Alei Nao 13; Fazalaq Farooqi 3/16, Naveen-ul-Haq 2/4) lost to Afghanistan: 101/3 in 15.1 overs (Gulabdin Naib 49 not out) by 7 wickets.

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India's Divya Deshmukh wins World Junior Girls chess title

Eighteen-year-old International Master Divya Deshmukh of India outclassed Bulgaria’s Beloslava Krasteva to clinch the title in the World Junior Girls’ chess championship in Gandhinagar on Thursday.

With this win Divya,  a native of Nagpur, ended the tournament with 10 points out of a possible 11, half-point ahead of the second-placed Mariam Mkrtchyan of Armenia at the Gift City.

Mkrtchyan dashed the medal hopes of Rakshita Ravi in a one-sided game. The third place went to Ayan Allahverdiyeva of Azerbaijan, who scored a victory over Norman Kseniya of Russia to reach 8.5 points.

In the open section, Nogerbek Kazybek of Kazakhstan defeated overnight sole leader Mamikon Gharbyan of Armenia to win the title on better tiebreak ahead of Armenian Emin Ohanyan.

Ohanyan had a good game against Daniel Quizon but fell short on the tiebreak points and had to be satisfied with the second spot despite both scoring 8.5 points. Luka Budisavljevic of Serbia (8 points) also found himself on the right side of tiebreak points to close out the tournament with a third-place finish ahead of Tobias Koelle of Germany.

The best Indian performer in the open section was Grandmaster Pranav Anand who ended up on 10th with 7.5 points while winning against Arsen Davtyan of Armenia.

Amongst other Indians, Aditya Samant finished 11th while Anuj Shrivatri ended up on the 12th spot.

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AITA confirms Bopanna will pair with Balaji at Paris Games

The All India Tennis Association (AITA) on Thursday confirmed that Rohan Bopanna will pair with N Sriram Balaji in the men's doubles event at the Paris Olympics.

The PTI had reported that 44-year-old Bopanna has picked Balaji as his partner for the Games as the veteran Indian aims to take his final shot at an Olympic medal.

"The All India Tennis Association (AITA) is thrilled to announce that Rohan Bopanna and N. Sriram Balaji have qualified for the Paris Olympics 2024 in the tennis doubles event. Their journey to the Olympics marks a significant milestone for Indian tennis," AITA said in a press release. The decision was made at the selection committee meeting, chaired by former Davis Cup Captain Nandan Bal.

Yuki Bhambri, India's number two doubles player, was also in contention but according to AITA sources, Balaji's ability to move swiftly on the court worked in his favour.

Balachandran Manikkath, who is associated with Bopanna's Sports School in Bengaluru, will travel with the team as coach while Rebecca Van Orshaegen will be the physiotherapist.

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T20 World Cup: Bangladesh close in on Super 8 berth with 25-run win over Netherlands

Shakib Al Hasan regained form with a sublime half-century before leg-spinner Rishad Hossain struck twice at a crucial juncture as Bangladesh inched closer to Super 8s with a 25-run win over Netherlands in the T20 World Cup in Kingstown, St Vincent, on Thursday.

Set a target of 160, the Netherlands ended at 134 for eight in their allotted 20 overs at the picturesque Arnos Vale Ground, which was hosting an international for the first time in 10 overs.

The result meant Sri Lanka were knocked out of the tournament. Shakib roared back to form with a 46-ball 64 as Bangladesh posted a competitive 159 for five after being asked to bat.

Besides Shakib, Tanzid Hasan struck 35 off 26 balls and Mahmudullah chipped in with 25 off 21.

Brief scores: Bangladesh 159/5 in 20 overs (Shakib Al Hasan 64 not out; Paul Van Meekren 2/15, Aryan Dutty 2/17) beat Netherlands 134/8 in 20 overs (Sybrand Engelbrecht 33, Vikramjit Singh 26; Rishad Hossain 3/33).

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State

Trigger warning: Distressing details, death Passengers jump off train in Dhanbad over fire rumour, 3 killed

Trigger warning: Distressing details, death
Three passengers of the Sasaram Intercity Express were killed Friday evening after they jumped off the train over rumours of a fire, and were hit by a goods train on the adjacent track, officials said.

Some of the passengers were injured in the incident around 8 pm at Kumandih railway station in Dhanbad Division, its Divisional Railway Manager said.

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Assam aiming to produce 3,000 mw of solar power by 2027: CM Sarma

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Friday said the state was aiming to produce 3,000 mw of solar power by 2027. "We are already in the process of producing 200 mw of solar power. Within this year, the work for the rest will begin," he said.

Laying the foundation stone of a 25 mw solar power plant at Namrup in Dibrugarh, he said this would be the state's contribution towards the environment. The Namrup plant will be built at a cost of Rs 115 crore and once commissioned, it will add to the state's multi-pronged strategy to move towards a green energy regime, he said.

The project, a joint venture between Assam Power Generation Corporation and Oil India Limited, is expected to be complete by July 2025.

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Odisha: Policeman dies in explosion during disposal of seized firecrackers

A policeman died on Friday when seized firecrackers exploded during disposal on the bank of Kathajodi river in Odisha's Cuttack, officials said.

The policeman, identified as Havildar Pradip Malick who was a resident of Jagatpur, died on the spot, Additional DCP Anil Kumar Mishra said. Malick had been serving the police department for 24 years and recently joined the bomb disposal squad, he said.

Mishra said that a team of investigators was examining the spot to determine the circumstances leading to the accident. "A case of unnatural death has been registered and a detailed investigation is underway," he said.

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Gujarat: Residents oppose allotment of flat to Muslim woman under government scheme

Several residents of a housing complex built by the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) under a Gujarat government scheme have been staging protests against the allotment of a flat to a Muslim woman, who claims the locality is meant only for Hindus.

The residents are demanding the cancellation of the flat allotment and warning to intensify their agitation and take the matter to the state government and the Centre. The woman beneficiary said although she was allotted the house six years back, she could not move into it due to the opposition by other residents.

The Harni area, where the complex is located, is a locality of Hindu inhabitants and falls under the Disturbed Areas Act that bans the sale of property by members of one religious community to those from another community without the prior approval of the district collector in the declared as "disturbed areas", the residents claim. Municipal Commissioner of Vadodara, Dilip Rana, said he has received a representation from the residents of Motnath Residency in Harni area and an appropriate decision will be taken after studying all the relevant documents.

Motnath Residency, which has nearly 460 flats, is the VMC's housing project for the low income group families under the state government's Mukhyamantri Awas Yojana.

Residents have been staging protests and writing letters to different authorities after a Muslim woman, who currently lives in another area, was allotted a house in 2018.

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Jharkhand government to waive farm loans up to Rs 2 lakh

Jharkhand Agriculture Minister Badal Patralekh on Friday said the state government has decided to waive farm loans up to Rs 2 lakh, in an effort to give relief to over 1.91 lakh farmers.

The move follows the previous announcement in 2021-22, which waived loans up to Rs 50,000 for over 4.73 lakh farmers. "As per its promise, the state government had waived loans up to Rs 50,000 of more than 4.73 lakh farmers... The Jharkhand government has given an amount of over Rs 1,900 crore to banks," Patralekh said.

Patralekh also requested that bank officials send a proposal to the state government to close accounts that have become non-performing assets (NPAs) to help farmers become debt-free.

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Electricity in Punjab to cost more as PSERC hikes power tariff by 10-15 paise per unit

Electricity charges are set to cost more in Punjab with the power regulator PSERC announcing an increase in power tariff by 10 to 15 paise per unit for different categories of consumers.

The domestic category will see a 10-12 paise increase per unit, while the industry category will see a 15 paise increase per unit. The new tariff order will be effective from June 16 to March 31, 2025. In Punjab, domestic consumers receive 300 units of free electricity per month, but those using over 300 units will have to bear the burden.

The new tariff order increases rates for domestic consumers with loads up to 2 Kilo Watt (KW) with 0-100 units slab from Rs 4.19 a unit to Rs 4.29. For 101-300 units, the new rate will be Rs 6.76 per unit, an increase of 12 paise a unit. However, the rate for more than 300 units remains unchanged at Rs 7.75 per unit.

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Annamalai calls on Tamilisai, praises her hardwork for party

Tamil Nadu BJP president K Annamalai visited party leader Tamilisai Soundararajan in Chennai on Friday.

Annamalai's visit comes days after a war of words between supporters of Soundararajan and the Saffron party's state unit chief on the social media following BJP's electoral drubbing in Tamil Nadu. Also, senior leader and Home Minister Amit Shah spoke to her during the swearing-in ceremony of N Chandrababu Naidu as Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister. A video clip of their conversation became a political talking point.

After calling on Soundararajan at her residence here, Annamalai, in a post on X, said he was extremely happy to visit 'Akka Tamilisai,' a senior leader who functioned efficiently as the party's Tamil Nadu unit chief. Soundararajan, when she led the party in the state resolutely said that lotus will bloom in Tamil Nadu and worked hard to achieve it. Her "political experience and her advice is continuously providing an impetus for the party's growth," Annamalai said.

In a post on X, Soundararajan said she was happy to meet Annamalai. Putting speculation to rest, Soundararajan said on June 13: "Yesterday as I met our Honorable Home Minister Sri @AmitShah ji in AP for the first time after the 2024 elections he called me to ask about post-poll follow-up and the challenges faced.

"As I was elaborating, due to paucity of time with utmost concern, he advised me to carry out the political and constituency work intensively which was reassuring. This is to clarify all unwarranted speculations," she said. Soundararajan contested from the South Chennai Lok Sabha seat. She lost the election to DMK's Tamizhachi Thangapandian.

Her alleged comments on "criminal elements" in the BJP and that "the party would have won had there been an alliance with the AIADMK" were among the triggering factors.  Annamalai's supporters opposed such remarks and hit out at her, using memes as well in social media, for jumping the gun.

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Political rumblings in Maharashtra: Rifts and threats emerge within alliance government

Long Read

Tensions are rising within the ruling Mahayuti coalition in Maharashtra amid internal conflicts and open threats over unresolved issues like cabinet expansion and Rajya Sabha nominations.

Discord within the Nationalist Congress Party has surfaced with reports of discontent over the nomination of Sunetra Pawar, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar's wife, for a vacant Rajya Sabha seat. The move has sparked dissent within the NCP, notably expressed by veteran leader Chhagan Bhujbal, who had aspirations for the Rajya Sabha seat.

Bhujbal, a prominent OBC leader, hinted at feelings of being sidelined in the party's decision-making process, raising questions about the fairness of ticket allocations for both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha elections.

"There could be reasons (for not giving him tickets). Sometimes, it's destiny or some sort of compulsion," he said and refused to answer whether dynasty politics played a role.

Asked if injustice was meted out to him over Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha tickets, an apparently sulking Bhujbal said the question should be asked to "them". "It is my desire (to become an MP). That is why I was ready to contest from Nashik Lok Sabha seat. As I had been told that my ticket was finalised in Delhi, I had started working, but when the decision (to announce the name) dragged on for a month, I stopped as there was enough humiliation," Bhujbal said.

The Nashik ticket was eventually bagged by the Shiv Sena's Hemant Godse who lost to Rajabhau Waje of the rival Shiv Sena (UBT) in the polls. Ajit Pawar on Friday sought to downplay the apparent resentment in his party, stating that the decision to field his wife for Rajya Sabha bypoll was taken by the NCP's apex body, and denied reports that Bhujbal was upset.

Asked about media reports that Bhujbal, a cabinet minister, was sulking after Sunetra Pawar's nomination, the NCP president maintained that his party colleague himself told him that he was not upset.

Some people, including those from the opposition, and "our close friends" are planting such reports but there was no truth to them, Ajit Pawar said. In a separate development, Shiv Sena MLA Sanjay Shirsat issued a stern warning regarding delayed cabinet expansion in Maharashtra, stating that there would be dire consequences if the issue was further prolonged.

The state government, led by Sena chief Eknath Shinde, has faced criticism for its sluggish approach to cabinet expansions, with only two expansions taking place since assuming office in June 2022. Shirsat, a potential candidate for a cabinet position, called for clarity from the Chief Minister and deputy chief minister on the impending cabinet reshuffle, stressing the urgency of making a decisive announcement to avoid escalating tensions within the coalition.

"Everyone wants to become a minister, but no one says it. You cannot keep it stretching for long. Time has come to make a concrete decision. If the cabinet expansion is further delayed, the consequences will be bad," Shirsat said. As uncertainties and discontent simmer within the alliance government, the political landscape in Maharashtra remains fraught with challenges and internal power struggles.

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Consequences will be bad if cabinet expansion is delayed: Sena leader Shirsat

Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Shirsat on Friday warned that "consequences will be bad" if the cabinet expansion is delayed further in Maharashtra.

The Eknath Shinde government, which took over in June 2022 after the fall of the Maha Vikas Aghadi dispensation has seen just two cabinet expansions so far, one in 2022 and the other in July 2023 when NCP's Ajit Pawar and eight MLAs joined it. Shirsat, who is one of the contenders for a cabinet post, said the chief minister and deputy chief minister must state if there is going to be a cabinet expansion or not.

"Everyone wants to become a minister, but no one says it. You cannot keep it stretching for long. Time has come to make a concrete decision. If the cabinet expansion is further delayed, the consequences will be bad," Shirsat said.

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Pawan Kalyan named Deputy CM; allotted Rural Development portfolio

The Andhra Pradesh government on Friday designated Janasena chief Pawan Kalyan as the Deputy Chief Minister.

The actor-turned-politician has been allotted Panchayat Raj and Rural Development, Environment, Forests, and Science and Technology portfolios. Nara Lokesh, Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu's son, was given Human Resources Development, Information Technology and Communication portfolios, according to official TDP sources.

Anitha Vangalapudi would be the Home Minister.

P Narayana was allotted one of the key departments- Municipal Administration- which would be responsible for the development of the Amaravati capital region.

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Raaj Kumar Anand disqualified from membership of Delhi Assembly

Former Delhi social welfare minister Raaj Kumar Anand has been disqualified from the membership of the Delhi Assembly, Speaker Ram Niwas Goel said on Friday.

Anand had resigned from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the post of minister in the Delhi government in April to join the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). "He was given the date of June 10 for replying to the notice served to him but he did not reply. In the same notice, he was asked to be present physically on June 11 but he did not appear. He was given another chance to be physically present on June 14 but he did not come. His membership from the Delhi Assembly has been terminated," Goel told PTI.

Calls to Anand went unanswered. He was elected from the Patel Nagar reserved assembly constituency in the 2020 election.

Anand quit the AAP, levelling allegations of corruption and neglect of Dalit leaders and volunteers in the organisational appointments in the party.

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Monsoon session of Maharashtra Assembly from June 27

The monsoon session of the Maharashtra legislature will be held from June 27 to July 12, an official said on Friday.

The decision was taken at a meeting of the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) on Friday.

The state budget will be presented on June 28, the official said. The interim budget was tabled in February due to the Lok Sabha elections.

This session of the Maharashtra legislature in Mumbai will be the last one before the state heads to Assembly polls due in September-October.

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Union Minister V Somanna’s son, two others booked for fraud

An FIR has been registered against three persons, including Arun B S, son of Union Minister V Somanna, for alleged fraud and falsification of accounts in an event management company and also threatening a couple associated with the firm, police said on Friday.

The FIR was filed as per the direction of the 37th Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, they said. According to the FIR, one Trupthi has alleged that she and her husband Madhwaraj were running an event management company for the last 23 years and in 2013, while organising a government event, they met Arun, son of the Union Minister of State of Jal Shakti and Railways. 

In 2017, their company also organised a birthday party for Arun's daughter. Eventually, Arun entrusted the work of planning events for his friends and other family members to the complainant's company. In 2019, Arun and Madhwaraj started a company together under a partnership deed.

When the business allegedly incurred losses, Arun allegedly did not inform Madhwaraj and when he inquired about this, he was forced to resign from the company. Later, Arun also included new partners in the company. Thrupthi also alleged that she and her husband were also getting life threats. 

Madhwaraj's dividend in the company was also reduced from 30% to 10%. Many irregularities were committed including those related to the company's office space and registration, using fake documents, the FIR, filed on June 12, stated.

The complainant also alleged that her family was hounded by goons and her husband was locked up in a dark room and tortured, the FIR added further.

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I'm focussed on development, Maharashtra polls, says Ajit when asked about 'Organiser' article

Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar on Friday asserted his focus was on development and the upcoming assembly polls as he sought to sidestep questions related to an article in an RSS-linked publication that was critical of the BJP's alliance with the NCP.

Asked about the article published in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-affiliated magazine 'Organiser' after the Lok Sabha poll results, the NCP president, who joined the Shiv Sena-BJP government one year ago, said he does not want to speak on the issue. "A lot of leaders are expressing their views and opinions after the polls. In a democracy, it is their right to express their opinions and I do not want to react to them. I have focussed myself on development, how we can provide additional help and complete more development works. My attempt will be on how we, as Mahayuti, can face the state assembly polls with new energy," he told reporters in Pune when asked about the article.

The ruling Mahayuti consists of the Shiv Sena, the BJP and the Ajit Pawar-led NCP. Assembly polls in Maharashtra are due in October.

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Discontent among onion growers cost ruling 'Mahayuti' dearly in LS polls: Ajit Pawar

Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar on Friday acknowledged that discontent among onion growers, including low prices, contributed to the poor performance of the ruling Mahayuti's in the recent Lok Sabha elections.

He said the Shiv Sena-BJP-NCP alliance had to "pay the price" for discontent among farmers in the onion growing belt of the state, including Nashik, where the ruling coalition fared poorly in the polls. Pawar's statement came three days after Chief Minister Eknath Shinde admitted farm distress cost the Mahayuti alliance dearly.

"Onions made us cry in Nashik, soybean and cotton in Marathwada and Vidarbha (in polls)," he said.

Pawar said they were constantly speaking about the need for support price for onion, and said the interest of both farmers and consumers should be protected. He maintained that the Mahayuti faced a beating in all Lok Sabha seats in the onion growing belt barring Jalgaon and Raver.

A ban on onion export by the Centre in December last year led to protests by farmers, especially in the Nashik belt.

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Karnataka home minister denies reports actor Darshan getting ‘royal treatment’ at police station

Karnataka Home Minister G Parameshwara on Friday denied reports that "royal treatment" was being given to Kannada actor Darshan Thoogudeepa and his associates at a police station here, where they are held after their arrest in connection with a murder case.

He said Darshan is being given similar treatment as given to any other accused, adding that neither 'Biryani' was served nor special facilities were being provided to him. "I will instruct the police to take necessary measures in the interest of the public, but we should also let them investigate freely. It is not possible for police to give Biryani and royal treatment to the accused. It is not done and it should not be done," Parameshwara told reporters in Bengaluru.

"On hearing such (complaints) from you (media), I inquired. They (police) said, no such facilities are being given and it will not be done. How other accused are treated, he (Darshan) is also treated in the same way. There is no mercy.... They (police) should be given free hand. I have also inquired with the (Bengaluru Police) Commissioner," the minister said. He was responding to a question on reports of police causing inconvenience to the public near Annapoorneshwari Nagar police station, where Darshan is held, by restricting movement of people nearby by blocking roads, and not allowing even school vans and ambulances to pass by.

When pointed out that other complainants and those coming for passport verification are facing inconvenience in going to the police station, the minister said he will instruct the police to take necessary measures in this regard.

Darshan, popularly known as "Challenging Star", and his associates were arrested on Tuesday for the murder of 33-year-old Renukaswamy, a fan of the actor.

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It will be good if Yediyurappa appears before CID, says Karnataka Home Minister

Karnataka Home Minister G Parameshwara on Friday said that with a non-bailable arrest warrant against him in a POCSO case, it will be "good" if former Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa comes back to Bengaluru soon and appears before the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), which is probing it. 

According to reports, the veteran BJP leader has gone to an “undisclosed” location in New Delhi. “Warrant has been issued, he will be brought and information will be gathered from him, and further action will be taken in accordance with law,” Parameshwara told reporters.

On Yediyurappa's whereabouts, Parameshwara said he is said to have gone to Delhi and has informed that he will be back on June 17.

"Now that a warrant has been issued, it is good if he comes back soon," he said. A Bengaluru court on Thursday issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against Yediyurappa in the case registered against him under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act on March 14 this year.

The Special Investigation Team of the CID had moved the First Fast Track Court seeking an arrest warrant against him since he failed to appear for questioning on Wednesday.

Yediyurappa had sought time to join the probe. According to police, Yediyurappa has been booked under the POCSO Act and Section 354 A (Sexual harassment) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) based on a complaint by the mother of a 17-year-old girl who alleged that he molested her daughter during a meeting on February two this year, at his residence in Dollars Colony.

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Bhujbal: Wanted to fight from Nashik, was keen on RS nomination as I wish to become an MP

Maharashtra minister and NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal said on Friday that he desires to become an MP and that’s why he was ready to contest the Lok Sabha polls from Nashik and also keen on Rajya Sabha nomination.

Bhujbal was replying to questions over reports claiming that he was upset after Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister and NCP president Ajit Pawar’s wife Sunetra Pawar was nominated for the Upper House.

Asked if injustice was meted out to him over Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha tickets, the prominent OBC leader said the question should be asked to “them”. Sunetra Pawar on Thursday filed nomination papers as the NCP candidate for the upcoming Rajya Sabha bypoll, days after she lost the Lok Sabha elections from Baramati. The bypoll was necessitated after Praful Patel vacated his seat and got elected for the full term of six years in February.

“It is my desire (to become an MP). That is why I was ready to contest from Nashik Lok Sabha seat. As I had been told that my ticket was finalised in Delhi, I had started working but when the decision (to announce the name) dragged on for a month, I stopped as there was enough humiliation,” said Bhujbal.

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Manipur government to provide Rs 10,000 to every flood-affected family

The Manipur government has decided to provide Rs 10,000 to every flood-affected family as “immediate relief”, an official said on Friday.

The decision in this regard was taken during a cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister N Biren Singh on Thursday evening, he said.

Over 1.88 lakh people have been affected and over 24,000 houses have been damaged in the floods in May.

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Elected from two constituencies, Sikkim Chief Minister vacates Soreng-Chakung

Sikkim Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang on Friday announced his decision to vacate Soreng-Chakung Assembly constituency and continue to represent Rhenock.

The Sikkim Krantikari Morcha supremo was elected from two seats in the Assembly elections.

The Conduct of Election Rules 1961 mandates that one of the two constituencies must be relinquished within 14 days of the announcement of results.

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Yaba tablets worth Rs 6 crore seized in Assam

Narcotic drugs valued at Rs six crore were seized in Assam's Cachar district on Friday, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said.

“Based on secret inputs, @cacharpolice carried a special operation in an inter-state border area and apprehended 3 people who were in possession of 21,000 YABA tablets worth Rs 6 crore,” Sarma posted on X. The consignment was brought from a neighbouring state, he said.

Earlier, 2,20,000 Yaba tablets worth more than Rs 66 crore were seized on Wednesday from Karimganj district. The police also recovered 36,000 tablets from Karbi Anglong district the same day.

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TMC announces candidates for assembly by-elections in Bengal

The ruling Trinamool Congress on Friday announced candidates for the July 10 by-elections to four assembly seats in West Bengal.

The Mamata Banerjee-led party has nominated Krishna Kalyani from Raiganj seat and Mukut Mani Adhikari from Ranaghat-Dakshin constituency.

Supti Pandey, the widow of former TMC MLA Sadhan Pandey, has been fielded from Maniktala seat in Kolkata, while Madhuparna Thakur has been nominated from Matua-dominated Bagda seat. Raiganj and Ranaghat assembly segments fell vacant after Kalyani and Adhikari, both BJP MLAs, switched over to the TMC and unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha polls.

The Maniktala seat fell vacant after the death of Sadhan Pande in 2022.

Bagda's sitting BJP MLA Biswajit Das had switched over to the TMC and unsuccessfully contested from the Bangaon Lok Sabha seat.

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Rajkot fire: Game zone co-owner held, arrests in case rise to 10

Police have arrested a co-owner of the Rajkot game zone, where a fire claimed 27 lives last month, taking the number of arrests in the case to ten, an official said on Friday.

Ashoksinh Jadeja, one of the six owners of the TRP game zone, surrendered before the police on Thursday evening, the official said.

Jadeja, who owns the land on which the game zone had come up, had been absconding after a fire devastated the recreation facility on May 25 in Gujarat's Rajkot city. Rajkot Police Commissioner Brajesh Kumar Jha confirmed on Friday that Jadeja is in the custody of the crime branch after his surrender.

Earlier, police had arrested five co-owners and a manager of the game zone. They also took into custody four government officials, including Rajkot's Town Planning Officer (TPO) M D Sagathia, assistant TPOs Mukesh Makwana and Gautam Joshi, and former station officer of Kalavad Road fire station Rohit Vigora.

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Remove encroachments on banks of rivers, ponds: Adityanath to officials

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has asked officials to immediately remove encroachments on the banks of rivers and ponds. He issued the instructions at a meeting on Thursday.

"There are encroachments on the banks of Ramganga river in Moradabad. A similar situation can be seen in Kashi, Saharanpur and other districts," the Chief Minister's Office said in a post on X quoting Adityanath. "At present, efforts are being made for the revival of the Kukrail river in Lucknow. Illegal settlements have been removed and (their residents have been) rehabilitated elsewhere. Similarly, work should be done in other districts as per local requirements," he said.

The chief minister asked the officials to ensure there are no settlements in the river basin. "Old ponds, ponds and other water bodies should be preserved. If there are any encroachments, they should be removed immediately," he added.

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Gujarat: Ex-cricketer and TMC MP Yusuf Pathan gets notice for ‘encroachment’

The BJP-ruled Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) in Gujarat has sent a notice to former India cricketer and newly elected Trinamool Congress (TMC) Lok Sabha MP Yusuf Pathan for allegedly encroaching on a plot of land the civic body said belongs to it.

While the notice was served to Pathan on June 6, VMC’s standing committee chairman Shital Mistry informed the media on Thursday after the issue was highlighted by former BJP corporator Vijay Pawar.

Former allrounder Pathan won from the Baharampur constituency in the Lok Sabha polls whose results were announced on June 4. Talking to reporters earlier in the day, Pawar had alleged that though the state government had rejected VMC's proposal to sell the plot to Pathan in 2012, the newly elected MP had encroached on the plot by constructing a compound wall.

"I don't have any grudge against Yusuf Pathan. A plot in Tanadalja area under TP 22 is a residential plot owned by VMC. In 2012, Pathan had demanded this plot from VMC because his house, which was under construction at that time, was adjacent to that plot. He had offered nearly Rs 57,000 per square metre,” Pawar told reporters. The proposal was cleared by the VMC at that time and it was passed in the general board meeting. However, the state government, which is the final authority in such matters, did not gave its approval, said Pawar.

"Though the proposal was rejected, the VMC did not put up a fence around the plot. Then I learnt that Pathan has encroached upon the plot by constructing a compound wall around it. Thus, I have asked the municipal corporation to conduct an inquiry,” said Pawar.

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Shah told me to carry out constituency work intensively: Soundararajan denies intra-party feud

BJP leader Tamilisai Soundararajan on Thursday said senior party leader Amit Shah asked her to "carry out political and constituency work intensively", a day after a video of her interaction with the Union home minister surfaced on the social media.

In the video clip from TDP leader Chandrababu Naidu’s swearing-in as Andhra Pradesh chief minister on Wednesday, Shah can be seen talking to Soundararajan in an animated manner while gesturing with his finger. In a post on X on Thursday evening, Soundararajan, who is the former Governor of Telangana, said she met Shah for the first time following the declaration of Lok Sabha poll results and the duo was talking about "post-poll follow-up".

"Yesterday as I met our Honorable Home Minister Sri @AmitShah ji in AP for the first time after the 2024 Elections he called me to ask about post poll followup and the challenges faced.

"As I was elaborating, due to paucity of time with utmost concern, he adviced to carry out the political and constituency work intensively which was reassuring. This is to clarify all unwarranted speculations," she said. Soundararajan contested from the South Chennai Lok Sabha seat. She lost the election to DMK's Tamizhachi Thangapandian.

Her comment assumes significance in the wake of rumours of an intra-party feud in the Tamil Nadu unit of the BJP.

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Sikkim CM's wife Krishna Kumari Rai quits as MLA, day after taking oath

Sikkim Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang's wife Krishna Kumari Rai on Thursday quit as an MLA, a day after taking oath, according to an official notification. The reason behind her sudden decision is not yet known.

She won the Namchi-Singhithang seat in the recent assembly polls, defeating Sikkim Democratic Front candidate Bimal Rai.

Speaker M N Sherpa has accepted Krishna Kumari Rai’s resignation, Sikkim Legislative Assembly Secretary Lalit Kumar Gurung said.

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BJP's Suvendu Adhikari stopped from entering Raj Bhavan along with 'victims' of post-poll violence

Police on Thursday prevented BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari from entering Raj Bhavan to meet West Bengal Governor C V Ananda Bose with alleged victims of post-poll violence, citing Section 144 of CrPC, which prohibits large gatherings outside the Governor House.

“We fail to understand how there are two sets of rules. Last year, Abhishek Banerjee organised a sit-in outside Raj Bhavan. There was no Sec 144 violation at that time, but as we want to meet the Governor, there is violation of prohibitory orders,” the BJP leader said. The BJP has levelled allegations of post-poll violence against the TMC, which the state's ruling party has denied.

"Allegations of TMC unleashing post-poll violence are completely wrong. It is the other way around. TMC workers have been attacked, beaten up and also killed in areas where the BJP has won the election. In Purba Mediniur district's Khejuri, our party workers have been beaten up and rendered homeless," TMC leader Kunal Ghosh said.

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Rajasthan Assembly session to begin on July 3

The second session of the 16th Rajasthan Assembly will begin on July 3. Governor Kalraj Mishra has convened the session from July 3, according to a release from the Raj Bhavan.

An assembly official said a full budget will be presented during the session.

Deputy Chief Minister and Finance Minister Diya Kumari had presented a Vote on Account (interim budget) in the assembly on February 8.

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Weather

Bengal government issues alert for northern districts after rain wreaks havoc in Sikkim

Following incessant rainfall causing devastation in neighbouring Sikkim resulting in overflowing of the Teesta river, the West Bengal Irrigation department issued an alert for the northern districts of the state, an official said on Friday.

The release of water from barrages has raised the river's water level, posing a threat of flood in areas on both sides of the river, he said.

Jalpaiguri district is in the floodplain of the Teesta, and a barrage across the river was built at Gajoldoba. "The water of Teesta is rising because of the release of water from barrages in Sikkim. Teesta is coming down with great speed and an alert has been issued in this regard. We have taken all precautionary measures. Leaves of all the officials have been cancelled," the official said.

The Jalpaiguri district administration has been using public address systems to ask inhabitants near the Teesta to move to higher land, while fishermen are advised not to venture into the river. Irrigation department officials have been sent for on-site inspection. The alert has been sounded in all blocks, and residents have been asked to leave river banks.

The Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts in the northern part of West Bengal share borders with Sikkim, where rain-triggered landslides left a trail of destruction and six dead people on Thursday.

In neighbouring Sikkim, at least six people were killed and 1,500 tourists were stranded as massive landslides caused devastation in Mangan district.

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IMD data shows India facing one of its longest, deadliest summers

In the summer, 14 of India's 36 subdivisions experienced over 15 heatwave days from March 1 to June 9, according to India Meteorological Department (IMD) data.

Odisha faced the most heatwave days (27), followed by Rajasthan (23), Gangetic West Bengal (21), and Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi, and West Uttar Pradesh, each with 20. Northeastern states, coastal Karnataka, and parts of Marathwada were the only areas largely unaffected. Even high-altitude regions like Jammu and Kashmir (6 days), Himachal Pradesh (12), and Uttarakhand (2) saw heatwaves, with coastal regions such as Kerala and Tamil Nadu experiencing five and fourteen days, respectively.

“We do not expect relief until at least June 18,” said Mahesh Palawat, vice president, climate and meteorology at Skymet Weather.

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❖ - Syndicated news, primarily from PTI

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