Beatroot News: Text-only

Business

Swiggy’s health insurance coverage for riders based on deliveries

Swiggy’s system of health insurance for its riders uses a weekly ranking system that allows them to access health insurance depending on the number of “perfect” deliveries they make, according to a new report in Rest of World.

Originally rolled out in 2023, Swiggy’s gold, silver, and bronze rankings for its gig workers are based on a dynamic rating system that changes weekly depending on the quality and quantity of work.  Workers with a higher ranking get perks like the ability to book the following week’s shifts in advance and “attractive interest rates” on personal loans. The programme also includes health insurance as a benefit, which can change every week. 

Under this system, gold-rated workers receive health insurance for themselves and their families; in the silver category, the family is ineligible and bronze-rated workers are only eligible for accident-related benefits.  “The whole point of insurance is to reduce insecurity by giving people a safety net if something bad happens,” a labour researcher told Rest of World. 

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City

Eight students wounded in Kota hostel fire

A massive fire broke out on Sunday morning in a boys' hostel building injuring eight students in Kota with preliminary reports suggesting that the short circuit led to the blaze, police said. The incident happened at around 6.15 am in Landmark City under Kunhari police station, Superintendent of Police (SP) Kota city Amrita Duhan said.

According to initial investigation, a short circuit in an electric transformer installed on the ground floor of the five-storey hostel building led to the fire, the police said. The forensic team, however, is trying to ascertain the exact reason for the incident. Rakesh Vyas, a fire officer at Kota Municipal Corporation, said the hostel building was not equipped with fire safety measures and did not have fire NOC. He added that it's alarming that the transformer was installed inside the hostel building.

The police said the six injured students, including one who sustained severe burns, are receiving primary medical treatment at Maharao Bheem Singh (MBS) Hospital.

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Firing outside actor Salman Khan's home in Mumbai; security stepped up

Two motorbike-borne unidentified persons opened fire outside Bollywood superstar Salman Khan's house in Mumbai early this morning prompting the police to enhance security around his residence and launch a search for the accused, an official said.

The two persons fired four rounds outside the Galaxy Apartments in Mumbai's Bandra area, where the actor resides, at around 5 am and fled from the spot, the police official said. There was no official word from the police or Khan's family on whether the actor was present in the house at the time of the incident.

In March last year, an email threatening Khan was received at his office following which the Mumbai Police registered an FIR against gangsters Lawrence Bishnoi and Goldy Brar and another person under Indian Penal Code sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 506-II (criminal intimidation) and 34 (common intention).

In June 2022, an unidentified person threatened Khan via a handwritten note, they said.

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Fire erupts at eight-storey building in Mumbai’s BKC

A fire broke out on two floors of an eight-storey building at Bandra-Kurla Complex in Mumbai on Saturday afternoon and the firefighting operation is underway, an official said.

No one was reported injured in the blaze that erupted around 3.15 pm on the third and fourth floor of the Balaram building located next to the family court, the fire brigade official said.

It is a ‘level one’ (minor) fire, and four fire engines and water tankers have been pressed into service, he said.

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Several shanties gutted as major fire breaks out in Kolkata

A major fire broke out in the Dum Dum area of Kolkata on Saturday morning, gutting several shanties in a slum, officials said adding that no casualties have been reported so far in the incident.

At least eight fire tenders have been pressed into service to douse the blaze, as thick smoke and flames were seen billowing from the shanties, which were predominantly made of plastic and other flammable materials, they said. “Firefighting operations are underway as fire tenders are facing difficulties in accessing the location due to contested alleys but are trying our best to use alternate methods to douse the blaze,” a fire department official said. The cause of the blaze, however, is yet to be ascertained.

State fire minister Sujit Bose said that robots will be deployed wherever fire tenders are unable to access the spot.

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Landslide in Mumbai's Ghatkopar area, no report of injuries; some huts vacated

A landslide took place in Mumbai’s Ghatkopar area on Friday, though there was no report of anyone getting injured, a civic official said.

The incident took place in Himalaya society in the suburb's Govind Nagar locality at 9:15 pm, he said. "At least 10-12 huts near the rockface have been vacated as a precautionary measure and relief operations are underway at the site…Mumbai fire brigade, police and civic personnel have been deployed," he said.

Further details about the incident are awaited, the fire brigade official added.

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BMC warns of stringent action if property tax dues not paid by May 25

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on Friday warned of stringent action against those who do not pay their property tax by May 25, the deadline set for the financial year 2023-24.

In a release, the civic body appealed to the citizens to pay their property tax within the deadline, but did not specify what action it plans to initiate against those who fail to do so. During the last fiscal, the civic body collected Rs 3,195 crore property tax of FY 23-24.

Last week, the BMC decided to collect from May 1 double property tax from the shops and establishments for not displaying signboards in Marathi language or Devanagari script.

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Economy

Retail inflation drops to five-month low of 4.85% in March

Retail inflation in India reached a five-month low of 4.85% in March, primarily due to cooling food prices, and is approaching the Reserve Bank's target of 4%, according to the data released by the National Statistical Office (NSO) on Friday.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI)-based retail inflation was 5.09% in February and 5.66% in March 2023, with the lowest recorded at 4.875% in October 2023.

Inflation in the food basket was 8.52% in March, down from 8.66% in February. However, there was an increase in fruits and vegetables segments in March compared to February. The government has tasked the Reserve Bank to ensure inflation remains at 4%, with a margin of 2% on either side.

The central bank has projected retail inflation at 4.5% for the current fiscal assuming a normal monsoon. Geopolitical tensions pose an upside risk to commodity prices and supply chains. The RBI projected inflation at 4.9% for the April-June quarter and 3.8% for the September quarter.

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Election

BJP and Congress workers clash during TV channel debate in Madhya Pradesh

Workers and leaders of Congress and BJP allegedly attacked each other with sticks and plastic chairs, leaving some of them injured, during a poll debate organised by a news channel in a public park in Madhya Pradesh's Jabalpur on Saturday night.

Videos of two groups throwing plastic chairs and using sticks are doing rounds on social media. City Superintendent of Police Pankaj Mishra confirmed the incident. "One person was injured in this incident and hospitalised. Some activists have also suffered injuries," he said, adding that the process of filing FIRs by both sides is underway.

The BJP and the opposition Congress traded charges over violence. BJP MLA Abhilash Pandey claimed Congress leaders passed certain remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which were opposed by saffron workers.

On the other hand, former Congress MLA Vinay Saxena alleged that BJP workers had pushed a Congress supporter during the debate.

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Congress fields royal heavyweight against actor Kangana

The stage is set for a battle royale in Himachal Pradesh's Mandi Lok Sabha seat as the Congress has pitted state minister Vikramaditya Singh, the titular king of the erstwhile princely state of Bushahr, against BJP candidate and actor Kangana Ranaut.

Himachal Pradesh PWD Minister Vikramaditya Singh is the son of six-time chief minister Virbhadra Singh and Pratibha Singh, the sitting MP from Mandi and the Congress' state unit president. Historically, the Mandi constituency has favoured scions of erstwhile princely states, electing royals in 13 out of 19 elections, including two by polls since 1952.

Vikramaditya Singh, the two-time MLA from the Shimla (rural) assembly segment, is not new in the parliamentary constituency as his father and mother each won the seat thrice. In the 2021 Lok Sabha bypoll to the seat, Singh had campaigned extensively for his mother. Even before his candidature was announced, Vikramaditya Singh was involved in a spat with the actor-politician of Bollywood film 'Queen' fame with neither pulling any punches. While Singh had termed Ranaut "queen of controversies", the BJP's Mandi candidate indirectly termed the state minister as "Chota Pappu".

Last Thursday, Ranaut launched a blistering attack on Vikramaditya Singh, and said, "Yeh tumhare baap-dada ki riyasat nahin hai, ke tum mujhe dara, dhamka ke vapis bhej doge (This is not the estate of your father or grandfather that you will threaten me and send me back).

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Demand for private jets, choppers jumps by 40% ahead of Lok Sabha polls

With politicians and political party representatives crisscrossing the country for the Lok Sabha polls, the demand for chartered planes and helicopters has jumped up to 40% than previous polls. 

Moreover, the operators are expected to net 15-20% more earnings, according to industry experts. The hourly rates for chartered services have also spiked. The charge is about Rs 4.5 -5.25 lakh for an aircraft and around Rs 1.5- 1.7 lakh for a twin engine helicopter, they said. While the demand has surged compared to the normal times and previous election years, there are fewer fixed wing aircraft and helicopters available. Some of the operators are looking to take planes and helicopters on wet lease.

Generally, political parties use helicopters for their candidates and leaders to reach places in a shorter time, especially remote areas. An industry expert said the use of helicopters is being seen more in bigger states like Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

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Congress has organisational problems that need remedying: Amartya Sen

Noting that the Opposition in India has lost much of its power due to disunity, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen said the Congress has many organisational problems that need remedying.

In an interview with PTI, Sen said that a caste census might be an exercise to consider, but India needs greater empowerment for the underprivileged through better education, healthcare, and gender equity. The noted economist said he is "enormously proud" to be a citizen of a democratic country like India, but there is a need to "work harder to enhance the nation's democratic nature".

Sen said the opposition bloc INDIA failed to gain much traction, with its important allies such as JD(U) and RLD walking out. When asked what the Opposition lacks in taking on the BJP, he said, "The Opposition in India lost a lot of its power due to its disunity. Unity would have given it much more strength."

"Congress has many organisational problems that need remedying. The party's great past should inspire it," he said. Sen was also critical of the BJP-led NDA government over its economic policies. He claimed that widespread illiteracy and extraordinary gender inequality make it difficult for the poor in India to progress.

When asked about the Opposition's claim that the BJP might change the Constitution if it returned to power, Sen said changing the country's Constitution would not serve any purpose except aligning it with the government's "single-religion focus".

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Congress lodges complaint with Manipur CEO over firing at party election meeting

The Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) on Saturday requested the Chief Electoral Officer of Manipur to take action against anti-social elements who allegedly fired at an election meeting of Congress Inner Manipur Lok Sabha candidate Angomcha Bimol Akoijam at Phairembam in Bishnupur district.

In a letter to the CEO, the MPCC said on Friday at around 3.30 pm, some 400 to 500 people had gathered for an election-related public interaction programme… when suddenly gunshots were fired by unknown persons. The MPCC alleges that unknown gunmen threatened the organisers and crowd to disperse immediately.

Seeking legal actions, MPCC also urged for deployment of central armed police personnel in valley areas as “all valley areas are hyper-sensitive zones in the coming elections.

AICC in charge of Manipur, Tripura, and Nagaland, Girish Chodankar, has brought such incidents to the notice of the Chief Electoral Office and requested measures to stop threats. The elections for Inner Manipur Lok Sabha seat are scheduled for April 19.

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PM unveils BJP manifesto for Lok Sabha polls

Prime Minister Narendra Modi released the BJP's Lok Sabha manifesto today. The manifesto has a special focus on the poor, youth, farmers and women, and asserted that the need for a stable government with full majority was necessary when the world was passing through uncertain times.

The prime minister handed over the copies of the manifesto to representatives of the four broad groups — Gareeb, Yuva, Annadata and Nari Shakti (GYAN) — who are beneficiaries of government schemes. "In the last 10 years, BJP has implemented every aspect of its manifesto as a guarantee. BJP has restored the sanctity of the manifesto," Modi said at the release of the manifesto.

Modi asserted that the BJP will work towards implementing the one nation, one election initiative, and stressed that the Uniform Civil Code was in the national interest. "BJP will start working on the promises made in the manifesto immediately after the results are declared on June 4," Modi said. "I present this Sankalp Patra of the BJP as a document of 'Modi ki Guarantee' to the people of the nation for their blessings," he said.

Reaching out Tamil Nadu, where the BJP is seeking to get a foothold, Modi announced that the BJP will work towards building Thiruvalluvar cultural centres all over the world and  “undertake every effort to enhance the global reputation of Tamil language.” "Our Sankalp Patra empowers the four strong pillars of Viksit Bharat -- youth power, women power, poor and farmers. Our focus is on dignity of life, quality of life and employment through investments," Modi said.

Earlier addressing the gathering, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said the manifesto embodies the guarantees the prime minister had given to the people of the country. The manifesto talks about implementing the one nation, one poll initiatives, preparing common electoral rolls, abolishing waiting lists for train travel, expansion of 5G networks and organising Ramayan festivals world over.

Lok Sabha polls will be held in seven phases beginning April 19.

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Rs 45.59 cr cash, alcohol worth over Rs 151 cr seized in Karnataka so far

The Election Commission on Saturday said Rs 45.59 crore cash and alcohol worth over Rs 151 crore was seized and 1,650 FIRs with regard to seizures have been booked since the model code of conduct came into effect on March 16.

The general elections in Karnataka will be held in two phases on April 26 and May 7 in 28 constituencies.

The total seizures so far are worth Rs 345.89 crore, they said. According to a statement issued by the office of Karnataka Chief Electoral Officer, since the model code of conduct came into force, the flying squads, static surveillance teams and police authorities have seized Rs 46.59 crore cash, liquor bottles worth over Rs 151 crore, narcotic substances worth Rs 9.93 crore, gold worth Rs 56.86 crore and freebies worth Rs 7.73 crore among other seizures. The Excise Department has booked 2,086 heinous cases, 2,707 cases for breach of licence conditions, 123 NDPS (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act) and 13,833 cases under Section 15 (a) of Karnataka Excise Act 1965 and also 1,263 different types of vehicles have been seized.

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PM Modi’s ‘noob’ remark during election season triggers political slugfest

“If I say it (noob), you will assume it for a particular person,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday during an interaction with gamers who explained to him certain terminologies related to the gaming industry such as “noob” and “grind”.

As the Prime Minister’s remark set off a meme fest on social media, leaders of the ruling BJP seized the opportunity to taunt the Opposition, triggering a political slugfest. As top Indian online gamers explained that “noob” is a reference to someone who is a newbie or not very skilled at a game, Modi chuckled and said, “If I use this word during elections, people will wonder who am I referring to. If I say it, you will assume it for a particular person.”

While Modi did not mention any name, the reference triggered a political slugfest with Congress leader Pramod Tiwari slamming the Prime Minister over the remark.

“I don’t know who he is talking about but he is talking about an Opposition member. Talking about someone who is educated at top universities... These are just political tactics of the BJP around the elections. This will backfire,” the Congress leader told reporters. BJP leader Shehzad Poonawalla took a swipe at the Congress, saying the reaction of the Opposition party's leader to Prime Minister Modi’s remark confirms who is actually the “noob” in politics.

“PM Narendra Modi did not name anybody but why are Congress leaders reacting and confirming ‘ki Rajniti ka Noob kaun hai’ (who is the noob in politics),” he said on X.

Bollywood actor and BJP candidate from Himachal Pradesh's Mandi Kangana Ranaut posted a clip of PM Modi's interaction with the gamers and asked, “Who is this Noob?” BJP National General Secretary Tarun Chugh said the entire country knows who the biggest “noob” is in the Opposition.

“There are many princes and princesses in the (I.N.D.I.A) alliance who do not know anything about the ground realities, have no idea about the problems of the country, and do not even know anything about the country. These leaders, who studied in five-star culture and seven-star schools and colleges, have landed in helicopters.

“There are many noobs in the alliance but you must know who the biggest noob is. The country also knows who the biggest noob is,” he told reporters. The comment also triggered a meme fest on social media with several users asking “Who is the Noob?”

Gamers Tirth Mehta, Animesh Agarwal, Anshu Bisht, Naman Mathur, Mithilesh Patankar, Ganesh Gangadhar, and Payal Dhare had a half-an-hour-long interactive session with PM Modi.

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Will keep alive Article 370 issue: Omar Abdullah

National Conference leader Omar Abdullah on Saturday stated that the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the abrogation of Article 370 does not end the issue and his party will continue to fight for the restoration of special status to Jammu and Kashmir until a dispensation comes at the Centre that is willing to discuss the restoration. "This government will not remain forever. There is no power on earth that can keep Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi in office in perpetuity, there is no power on earth that can keep the BJP in office forever. Every government has a finite term, some are longer, some are shorter. Why would you assume that no government will come in future that will be unwilling to talk to us on Article 370," Abdullah said.

Abdullah, who is contesting the Lok Sabha polls from north Kashmir Baramulla constituency, said the Supreme Court verdict on petitions challenging abrogation of the Article 370 was unfortunate.

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BJP to release its manifesto for Lok Sabha polls on Sunday

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is set to unveil its election manifesto, "Sankalp Patra," on April 14, in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President J P Nadda, Home Minister Amit Shah, and Defense Minister Rajnath Singh.

The manifesto committee, chaired by Defense Minister Rajnath Singh, has already held two meetings.

The BJP has received over 1.5 million suggestions for its manifesto, with the theme being ‘Modi's Guarantee: Developed India 2047,’ focusing on cultural nationalism. The Election Manifesto Committee has 27 members, including Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Union Minister Piyush Goyal, and 24 others.

The Congress party and several other political parties have already released their election manifestos. 

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Won’t withdraw nomination papers, says rebel BJP leader Eshwarappa

Rebel BJP leader and former Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister K S Eshwarappa on Saturday dismissed reports that he would withdraw his candidature for the Lok Sabha elections.

Eshwarappa on Friday filed his nomination papers as an independent candidate from Shivamogga Lok Sabha constituency. 

He will be contesting against BJP’s sitting MP and former Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa’s elder son B Y Raghavendra and Congress candidate Geetha Shivarajkumar. The rebel leader said his aim is to "strengthen" Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Eshwarappa said he demonstrated on Friday that youth power, women's power and farmers’ power were with him.

The former deputy CM who had served as BJP state president has rebelled against the party after the denial of a ticket to his son K E Kantesh from Haveri Lok Sabha constituency.

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Drunken youths stop Adhir Chowdhury’s car in Berhampore

A group of unidentified youths “stopped” the West Bengal Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury's car in his Lok Sabha constituency Baharampur and shouted "go back" slogan on Saturday.

Chowdhury, who is seeking re-election from the constituency, held the Trinamool Congress responsible for this and alleged that it was a practice started by the state's ruling party from last year's civic polls. "This is nothing but a ploy to stop me. The local TMC is behind this. They want people not to work for the Congress party. This is the same thing they had done during the civic polls last year," Chowdhury told reporters.

The leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha claimed that a group of "drunken" youths came in front of this vehicle when he was returning home after campaigning in the afternoon. "They were yelling: Go back, go back!! I stopped and asked them what their complaints were. Initially, only one person was there, but then several others joined him. I realised that it was organised by the TMC. But they would not be able to stop me in this way," he said.

Chowdhury said he informed the district superintendent of police on the matter and sought his intervention.

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SAD announces first list of seven candidates for Punjab

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on Saturday announced its first list of seven candidates, including senior party leaders Prem Singh Chandumajra from Anandpur Sahib and Daljit Singh Cheema from Gurdaspur.

The list also includes former MLA N K Sharma from Patiala, former minister Anil Joshi from Amritsar, Bikramjit Singh Khalsa from Fatehgarh Sahib, Rajwinder Singh from Faridkot, and Iqbal Singh Jhoonda from Sangrur seat.

Polling for 13 Lok Sabha seats is set to begin on June 1.

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BJP accuses Mamata of resorting to vote bank politics on Eid, TMC counters charges

The BJP on Thursday accused West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee of resorting to vote bank politics during Eid and attempting to polarise society.

BJP Rajya Sabha MP Samik Bhattacharya alleged that Banerjee tried to "sow the seeds of division" among people.

"Instead of spreading the message of amity, brotherhood among the Muslim brethren at the gathering on Red Road, the CM tried to sow the seeds of division and polarisation for her narrow vote bank politics," Bhattacharya alleged. Banerjee claimed that some people will try to "engineer riots" during elections and urged those who participated in the program not to fall prey to the plot.

Eid-ul-Fitr marks the culmination of the fasting month of Ramzan.

"We will not accept the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, National Register of Citizens and Uniform Civil Code. If we will live unitedly, nobody will be able to cause harm to us," Banerjee said. BJP leader Trinankur Bhattacharya said that Banerjee should unveil a roadmap to develop West Bengal, which belongs to all communities and improve their economic conditions. He called upon people of the state not to fall prey to the machinations of the TMC supremo.

Meanwhile, Trinamool Congress spokesperson Trinankur Bhattacharya said that Banerjee only pointed out the "hatred-filled, divisive, communal agenda of BJP-RSS which are using central forces to disrupt the communal amity in Bengal". He added that Banerjee is with the people around the year, participating in various religious festivals, such as Maa Durga, Chhat festival, Eid congregation, and iftar gatherings.

Labourers have been forced to migrate to other states due to the policy of the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre and its discriminatory attitude toward West Bengal, he added.

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LS polls: BSP announces Jagjit Chharbarh as candidate from Patiala seat

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) on Saturday announced Jagjit Chharbarh as its candidate for the Patiala Lok Sabha seat.

Chharbarh, who is the party's state general secretary, had contested elections from the state assembly segments of Rajpura and Ghanaur in 2012 and 2017, respectively. Patiala Lok Sabha seat is currently represented by Preneet Kaur.

The BSP has already announced its candidate from Hoshiarpur, Ferozepur, and Sangrur seats. The polling for 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab is scheduled for June 1.

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DMK has hurt people’s sentiments by insulting Sanatan Dharma, says Amit Shah

Senior BJP leader Amit Shah on Saturday accused the DMK of 'hurting' the sentiments of the people by insulting 'Sanatan Dharma' and called upon the people to reject the Dravidian party in the April 19 Lok Sabha election.

He said the DMK passed unsavoury remarks on the consecration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya. “The DMK party has hurt the sentiments of people by making insulting remarks on Sanatan Dharma. But on the other hand, the BJP government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi respected everyone and believed in unity,” Shah said at the roadshow in Kanyakumari Lok Sabha constituency in support of the party candidate Pon Radhakrishnan.

Shah, who addressed the cadres from his campaign vehicle, invoked the name of Lord Ram, before targetting the ruling dispensation. Hundreds of party cadres, invigorated by his visit, joined the BJP veteran in the road show from Mettukadai Junction, Thuckalay, to the Old Bus Stand in Kanyakumari. In his address, Shah said Modi was taking the country on the path of progress.

People in Tamil Nadu were chanting the "chaar sau par" (over 400 seats), he said, alluding to the BJP's target of achieving the said number of constituencies.

Shah also sought the people to vote for the party's candidate for the Vilavankode by-poll, V S Nandini, and ensure her victory.

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Autocracy detrimental to country, says Uddhav; bats for coalition govt at Centre

Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray on Saturday said autocracy was detrimental to the country and called for having a coalition government at the Centre, saying that such dispensations have "worked well" in the past.

There is a need for a strong leader, but he should take everybody along, he said.

Speaking at his residence 'Matoshree' in Mumbai, where office-bearers of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Bharat Rashtra Samiti (BRS) and Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) from Jalgaon district joined his party, he said that for the first time in the last 10 years, discontent was visible at such a large scale in the country. "Autocracy is detrimental to the country. There was a time when it was felt that there should be no coalition government. But P V Narasimha Rao, Atal Bihari Vajpayee as well as Manmohan Singh ran coalition governments well," the former chief minister pointed out.

"Barring some exceptions, coalition governments have worked in the country. We want a strong country and a coalition government. We want a strong leader, but who can take everyone together," Thackeray said.

He said the opposition I.N.D.I.A bloc can provide a coalition government. He also said the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) parties will soon hold joint rallies in the state.

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Odisha: Woman school teacher suspended for attending poll rally

A woman teacher of a government school in Odisha's Boudh has been suspended by the district election officer-cum-district collector for allegedly attending an election rally and procession, an official notification said on Saturday.

The woman teacher of Government Nodal High School at Dahya had allegedly participated in a political rally from Palaspat to Ambagaon in Kantamal assembly constituency two days ago in violation of ECI rules, it said. As per an ECI order dated March 15, 2024, and Odisha Government Servant's Conduct Rules, 1959, no government servant shall be a member of or be otherwise associated with any political or communal party or any organisation which takes part in politics or communal activities, nor shall he/she take part or subscribe in aid of assist in any other manner, any political or communal movement or activity.

Her suspension comes into effect immediately, the notification issued by Boudh District Election Officer-cum-District Collector J Sonal said.

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I am Congress soldier: Purnea's Independent candidate Pappu Yadav

Despite throwing his hat into the ring as an Independent candidate from Bihar's Purnea Lok Sabha seat, former MP Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav asserted that he still considers himself "a soldier of the Congress" and will remain with the party till his last breath.

According to a seat-sharing arrangement agreed upon by the opposition I.N.D.I.A bloc constituents in the state, the RJD nominated JD(U) turncoat Bima Bharti from Purnea, denying the seat to the Congress.

Yadav, who recently joined the grand old party, blamed RJD president Lalu Prasad for the apparent cracks in the opposition bloc in Purnea. "I am a soldier of the Congress and its leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi. I will remain (ideologically) with the party till my last breath. The ideology of the Congress is in my blood. I had never wanted a situation to emerge in Purnea where the I.N.D.I.A bloc’s constituents could be seen fighting each other, like in West Bengal and Kerala," Yadav said in an interview with PTI.

Notably, the state Congress has been requesting the five-time former MP to withdraw his nomination in view of the seat-sharing formula, but Pappu Yadav, who had won the Purnea seat thrice as an Independent in the 1990s, did not lend an ear to the party's advice. "This time I was offered two Lok Sabha seats - Madhepura and Supaul—by the RJD supremo but not the Purnea constituency. That was not acceptable at all…I just can’t compromise with my identity and ideology. Purnea is my ‘Karmbhoomi, and I will never leave it till my last breath. I will work hard to fight against corruption and develop the Seemanchal and Kosi region for the rest of my life," Yadav said.

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Had Modi not been there, Ayodhya Ram temple would not have been built: Raj Thackeray

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena president Raj Thackeray on Saturday claimed that had Prime Minister Narendra Modi not been there, the Ayodhya Ram temple would not have been built despite the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Talking to reporters, Thackeray, who has declared unconditional support to PM Modi for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, said MNS will prepare a list of leaders the ‘Mahayuti’ alliance can contact for poll coordination. Thackeray, however, parried questions on whether he will address rallies for the Mahayuti, Maharashtra’s ruling alliance of BJP, Shiv Sena and NCP.

Thackeray said he met his party men, office-bearers and frontal organisations, and asked them to canvass for Mahayuti-backed candidates, hoping that MNS leaders will get due respect. “Had Narendra Modi not been there, Ram temple would not have been built, even after the Supreme Court’s order. It would have remained as a pending issue,” Thackeray said.

Thackeray said the matter concerning the building of the Ram temple was pending since 1992 when the Babri mosque was pulled down.

“Certain good things which happen need to be lauded. On the one hand, there is an inefficient (leadership) and on the other hand, there is strong leadership. So we thought of supporting Narendra Modi,” Thackeray said, explaining his party’s alignment with the BJP. Hitting back at the Shiv Sena (UBT), led by his estranged cousin Uddhav Thackeray, for “picking holes” in his support to Modi, the MNS chief said they have “jaundiced eyes”.

Thackeray said he has certain demands about Maharashtra, including giving classical language status to Marathi and restoration of forts in the state which will be conveyed to the BJP.

He said it is obvious that Gujarat is dearer to Modi as he hails from there. But he should also focus on other states in the same manner, added the MNS chief.

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Challenge is to make voters move beyond TMC-BJP binary: CPI(M)’s Dipsita Dhar

Dipsita Dhar, a 32-year-old Left Front-backed CPI(M) candidate from the Serampore seat, believes that the real challenge for the Left in West Bengal for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls lies in shattering the perception that no alternative currently exists beyond the TMC-saffron camp binary.

The Serampore constituency falls largely in the state's Hooghly district, but it also encapsulates parts of neighbouring Howrah. Dhar takes on TMC veteran and incumbent advocate Kalyan Banerjee and his former son-in-law Kabir Shankar Bose representing the saffron brigade. “Take a close look at the 2021 state election results in my area and you will find that the BJP had placed itself comfortably as the prime challenger to Bengal’s ruling TMC. The Left forces were down to a distant third position in those polls,” she said.

Dhar claims that the panchayat polls of 2023 have changed the scenario, with the Left candidates rising to the number two position pushing the BJP out.

This proves that people are moving beyond the binary of "TMC's misrule and BJP's communal polarization of masses" and calls it a "space of hope", she added. Granddaughter to Late Padma Nidhi Dhar, a three-time CPI(M) MLA from Domjur which forms part of the Serampore constituency, Dipsita, a student of Geography and graduate of Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi joined the CPI(M) in 2013 and became the All India Joint Secretary of SFI in 2018.

Dhar's personal brush with electoral politics began in 2021 when she unsuccessfully contested the Assembly election from Bally in Howrah, where she finished third after TMC's Rana Chatterjee and BJP's Baishali Dalmiya.

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Sanjay Singh pledges AAP backing for I.N.D.I.A. candidates in Uttar Pradesh

AAP Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh extended his party’s “unconditional support” to the candidates of the I.N.D.I.A. alliance — SP and Congress — in Uttar Pradesh during his first meeting with SP chief Akhilesh Yadav in Lucknow.

During a joint press briefing led by Akhilesh and Singh, the leaders underscored the significance of the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections in preserving "democracy and the Constitution." “The 2024 LS polls are not just ordinary elections, but a choice to save India’s democracy, Constitution, and the rights of the marginalised, oppressed, and deprived people who are being robbed and to protect the common man from inflation,” Singh said.

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BJP and AIMIM working hand in glove, alleges Digvijaya Singh

Veteran Congress leader Digvijaya Singh has accused the BJP and the AIMIM of being hand in glove with each other, and sought to know the source of funding of Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi.

He alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) instigates Hindus, while the All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), headed by Owaisi, provokes Muslims, but they complement each other and work in tandem. Singh was addressing a gathering on Friday night at Susner under Agar Malwa district, falling under Rajgarh Lok Sabha seat. Singh is a Congress nominee from this seat.

“Owaisi openly provokes Muslims in Hyderabad, the BJP provokes Hindus here. But I ask you where does the money come from to field Owaisi to cut the votes of Muslims? They always do politics together...They complement each other,” Singh alleged. Singh alleged that democracy has been murdered in the country and people are being sent to jails.

He said that West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee rightly said the BJP has become a washing machine to clean up tainted politicians.

Terming himself a true "Sanatani", the Congress leader said his party always supported the Sanatana Dharma, which believes in 'Sarva Dharma Samabhav' (all religions are equal). "I am devout Hindu and Gausevak. I am against the cow slaughter, but I don't ask for votes in the name of religion," he said, and added that credit of construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya goes to the court and not to the BJP.

He said that the cornerstone-laying of Ram Mandir was already carried out under former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi's rule at the same place, but they (BJP) opposed it.

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Chhattisgarh: 2 FIRs filed against Congress’ Bastar LS candidate for poll code violation

Police have registered two cases against senior Congress leader and the party’s Bastar Lok Sabha seat candidate Kawasi Lakhma in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district for allegedly violating the model code of conduct through his alleged objectionable remarks, officials said on Saturday.

While an FIR was registered against him at Mirtur police station for allegedly making an objectionable remark against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, another case was registered at Kutru police station for his alleged statement against police and administration, a district official said. The cases were registered on Friday evening based on the complaints lodged by the district returning officer, he said.

Lakhma, who represents the Konta assembly constituency in Sukma district and served as a minister in the previous Bhupesh Baghel-led Congress government, has been fielded by the party in the Bastar Lok Sabha seat. Bijapur district falls in Bastar Lok Sabha constituency.

As per the election official's complaint, Lakhma on April 8 evening held a public meeting in Mirtur without taking permission from the competent authority and made objectionable remarks against the PM in the local dialect, he said. Similarly on the same day, Lakhma held a public rally in Kutru cricket ground and made an objectionable remark against the police and district administration, he said.

At the rally, Lakhma said there is a reserve of tin near Tongpal (Sukma district) and the villagers told him that the police were taking measurements (of the forest area). He then asked the villagers to attack the police with bows and arrows, he added. Lakhma was booked under sections 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 500 (whoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and provisions of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, the official said, adding that a probe was underway. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also lodged a complaint with the Election Commission seeking to quash the candidature of Lakhma for allegedly making objectionable comments against the PM.

With this, a total of three FIRs have been registered against Lakhma for alleged violation of the model of conduct.

Earlier, he was booked for allegedly distributing cash to people outside a temple in Jagdalpur, the headquarter of Bastar district last month.

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Garhwal's women voters laud BJP's 'pro-women' schemes, flag delay in rehabilitating Chamoli victims

The passage of the women's reservation Bill and the "pro-women" schemes might help the BJP's fortunes, but the delay in rehabilitating victims of the Chamoli disaster is concerning, women voters in Uttrakhand's Garhwal region have said.

The high rate of unemployment in the region, the rising prices of essential commodities and the Agnipath scheme were some of the other troubling issues for the women voters ahead of Lok Sabha polls in the state. Rashmi Nautiyal, a resident of Chamoli district, said the participation of women in politics has increased over the last few years and they are learning to take a stand for themselves.

"We have seen several women-oriented schemes being launched by the government here. As a result, women are getting a sense of participation in the polls," Nautiyal said.

"Earlier, women used to follow male members of their family, however, now they are taking a stand for themselves," she added. According to official data, the Garhwal region has more than five lakh women voters. The BJP has fielded Anil Baluni from the seat, while the Congress has chosen Ganesh Godiyal as its candidate.

Aarti Thapliyal from Chamoli said women are more aware of their rights and they are actively participating in politics. "The awareness among women has increased nowadays. There was a trend earlier that a woman would be a ‘Gram Pradhan’, but her work was being looked after by her husband. She was there just to sign official documents.

"However, now women are more aware of their rights and they are actively participating in politics," Thapliyal said. In addition to the welfare schemes, the passage of the women's reservation Bill by the BJP government in Uttarakhand will sway the women voters of Garhwal towards the saffron party, said Pooja Naithani, a resident of Rudgraprayag.

Last year, Uttarakhand Governor Lt Gen Gurmit Singh (retd) had given his consent to a bill providing 30% horizontal reservation to domiciled women of the state in government jobs.

The Uttarakhand Public Services (Horizontal Reservation for Women) Bill, 2022 was passed by the state assembly on November 29, 2022.

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RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav releases party manifesto

Tejashwi Yadav, the former Bihar deputy chief minister and political scion of RJD founder Lalu Yadav, unveiled the Rashtriya Janata Dal's manifesto, dubbed 'Parivartan Patra', for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

Among its pledges, the manifesto promises the establishment of five new airports in Bihar to enhance connectivity within the state. During the unveiling ceremony attended by senior RJD leaders, Yadav highlighted the party's commitment to the people of Bihar and the nation, outlining a total of 24 promises encapsulated in the manifesto.

"We have released 'Parivartan Patra'. We have brought 24 'jan vachan' (public promise) for 2024. These 24 'jan vachan' are our commitments that we will fulfil," stated Yadav. In addition to the airport expansion initiative, Yadav also vowed to provide financial assistance of ₹1 lakh annually to economically disadvantaged "sisters" on Raksha Bandhan.

Furthermore, he affirmed the party's pledge to grant special status to Bihar and reinstate the Old Pension Scheme (OPS) if the INDIA bloc secures a governmental mandate.

"We will implement OPS (Old Pension Scheme) and we will provide special status to Bihar," Yadav affirmed.

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I.N.D.I alliance will deliver sweet victory on June 4: Stalin after receiving Mysore Pak from Rahul

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK president M K Stalin on Saturday said the I.N.D.I alliance will deliver a “sweet victory” on June 4.

Stalin who was pleasantly surprised over receiving Mysore Pak from Congress leader Rahul Gandhi during the latter’s visit to the state on Friday, expressed that he was “touched” by his “brother’s sweet gesture."

The two leaders had addressed a poll rally in Coimbatore. Posting a video of Gandhi jumping over a road divider and rapidly walking towards a sweet shop in Coimbatore to purchase Mysore Pak for him, Stalin said in a post on the social media platform X quoting a couplet from Thirukkural on the possession of love: “touched and overwhelmed by the 'sweet gesture' from my brother @RahulGandhi.”

“On June 4th, #INDIA will surely deliver him a sweet victory!” the DMK president said.

In the video that went viral on social media, Rahul Gandhi could be seen jumping over a road divider, crossing the road and walking swiftly into a sweet shop. When asked what he would like to purchase, he could be heard replying to the salesperson “I want Mysore Pak for my brother Stalin.”

After tasting the sample sweets offered to him, Gandhi could be seen paying for the gift pack, thanking the salesperson and posing for a group photo with the staff. He later walks up to Stalin and presents him the sweet gift, which the pleasantly surprised DMK president accepts.

Posting the video, the Congress said in a post “Shri @RahulGandhi gifts famous Mysore Pak to Shri @mkstalin. Celebrating the loving relationship he shares with the people of Tamil Nadu.”

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Congress’ pick in Gandhinagar, says not hesitant to fight against Amit Shah

Sonal Patel, whom the Congress has fielded against Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Gujarat's Gandhinagar Lok Sabha constituency, said she was not at all hesitant to fight the upcoming election against the senior BJP leader.

The 62-year-old leader, who is All India Congress Committee (AICC) secretary and the party co-incharge of Mumbai and western Maharashtra, claimed that anti-incumbency prevails as the BJP has failed to fulfil the aspirations of people. She also accused the ruling party of intimidating Congress workers in her constituency and sought a "level-playing field" in fighting elections.

In an interview to PTI, Patel said, "I had not asked for a ticket from the party as I was busy with Congress's affairs in Maharashtra, where I am co-incharge of Mumbai and Western Maharashtra. But the party fielded me from Gandhinagar and I accepted it."

The Lok Sabha elections in Gujarat will be held in a single phase on May 7 and the deadline for filing of nominations is April 19.

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Himachal Pradesh CM Sukhu targets rebels over Rajya Sabha poll cross-voting

Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu on Friday taunted the six rebel former Congress MLAs and alleged that they purchased big briefcases in Chandigarh to carry money.

During a public meeting at Galore, the chief minister took a jibe at the six dissidents and said when they bought briefcases in Chandigarh, their "kingpin" had bought two to carry money. When the money is recovered, it will be distributed among the people, he announced. Sukhu said a person who sells himself for money can never be forgiven.

Referring to the recent Rajya Sabha polls in which these MLAs cross-voted in favour of the BJP candidate, Sukhu said that the BJP has "stolen" one Rajya Sabha seat.

The people will give a befitting reply in elections by making the Congress victorious, he said.

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Swami Prasad Maurya extends support to Azad Samaj Party's Chandrashekhar Azad

Former Uttar Pradesh minister Swami Prasad Maurya, who left the Samajwadi Party and formed the Rashtriya Shoshit Samaj Party in February, on Friday extended support to the Azad Samaj Party (Kanshi Ram) candidate Chandrashekhar from the Nagina Lok Sabha seat.

In a post on the social media platform 'X', Maurya said, "The Rashtriya Shoshit Samaj Party (RSSP) extends support to Chandrashekhar Azad, the candidate of the Azad Samaj Party (Kanshi Ram) from the Lok Sabha constituency number-5, Nagina (reserved). " Maurya also appealed to the people of the Nagina constituency to elect Azad with an overwhelming majority.

Maurya has been a five-time member of the Legislative Assembly, a minister in governments led by Mayawati and Yogi Adityanath. Recently, Maurya had hit headlines with his controversial remarks on the Ramayana and the consecration ceremony of the Ram temple in Ayodhya.

Azad, a prominent leader of the scheduled caste who founded the Bhim Army, has formed a political party named the Azad Samaj Party (Kanshi Ram).

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My party is not fake like your degree: Uddhav to PM Modi

Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray on Friday hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his "fake Shiv Sena" remark, and said his party was not like "your degree".

Speaking at a campaign rally at Boisar near Mumbai for his party's Palghar Lok Sabha constituency candidate Bharti Kamdi, Thackeray also claimed that the opposition INDIA grouping will cross the 300-mark and defeat the BJP. "The Shiv Sena, founded by the Shiv Sena pramukh (Bal Thackeray) to fight for the rights of sons of soil, is being called fake. It is not your degree to call it fake," Thackeray said.

Earlier this week, at a rally in Maharashtra, Modi had dubbed the Thackeray-led Sena as fake. "INDIA alliance partner DMK is talking about finishing Sanatan and linking Sanatana Dharma to malaria and dengue. And the Congress and the fake Shiv Sena are calling the same people for rallies in Maharashtra," the PM had said.

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Counter fake news, ensure freebies are not distributed: EC tells poll observers

The Election Commission on Friday directed its observers deployed for the first phase of Lok Sabha polls to curb fake news and misinformation and to communicate facts to voters pro-actively.

The watchdog also instructed its 127 general, 67 police, and 167 expenditure observers to block the movement and distribution of cash, liquor, freebies, and narcotics in poll-bound constituencies. As many as 102 parliamentary constituencies in 21 states are scheduled to go to polls on April 19.

Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar and Election Commissioners Gyanesh Kumar and Sukhbir Singh Sandhu stressed the need to ensure polling stations have all amenities for voters, especially to combat heat.

The observers were reminded to remain physically available in their allocated constituencies during the election process and to ensure fair vulnerability mapping by district administration.

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Amit Shah holds roadshow in Kanyakumari

Senior BJP leader Amit Shah led a spirited roadshow in the Kanyakumari Lok Sabha constituency on Saturday to endorse the party's candidate, Pon Radhakrishnan, for the upcoming April 19 parliamentary election.

A multitude of party supporters, energised by his presence, enthusiastically participated in the procession, marching alongside Shah from Mettukadai Junction in Thuckalay to the Old Bus Stand in Kanyakumari. Shah greeted the cadres from his specially-designed vehicle and flashed the party’s Lotus symbol throughout the stretch, as party members chanted "Modi again", "Bharat Mata Ki Jai" and "Ponnar again."

Radhakrishnan, a former union minister, is fondly addressed as Ponnar by supporters.

Shah also urged the people to vote for the party's candidate for the Vilavankode bypoll, V S Nandini, and ensure her victory.

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Two former India hockey team captains in electoral battlefield in Odisha

Long Read

They have played captain innings in astroturf while representing the Indian hockey team, but this time they are trying their luck in the electoral battlefield in Sundergarh district, often referred to as the cradle of hockey in Odisha.

They are Hockey India president and former Rajya Sabha MP Dilip Tirkey and ex-Indian hockey team captain Prabodh Tirkey. While Dilip Tirkey is the ruling Biju Janata Dal candidate for the Sundergarh (ST) Lok Sabha constituency, his junior and former India hockey captain, Prabodh Tirkey is the Congress candidate from the Talsara (ST) assembly segment also in Sundergarh district.

Both the BJD and Congress have picked Dilip Tirkey and Prabodh Tirkey in the electoral battle as Sundergarh is known as the cradle of hockey in the state and the game is very popular among the masses. According to Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, "Hockey is a way of life in tribal-dominated Sundergarh where toddlers start walking with hockey sticks."

Dilip Tirkey, 46, is pitted against former Union Minister and sitting BJP MP Jual Oram from the Sundergarh Lok Sabha seat.

"It is good that Dilip is in the fray. He is certainly a master in the hockey field, but I am a seasoned player in politics," Oram, a five-time MP said, adding that the BJP will retain the Sundergarh Lok Sabha seat. Dilip, who announced his retirement from hockey in 2010 after playing over 400 international matches, is also a former Rajya Sabha MP, claimed Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's popularity along with the BJD government's good works for the tribals will help him to win the polls.

Both Oram and Dilip Tirkey had faced each other in the Sundergarh Lok Sabha seat earlier in 2014 when the BJP candidate won the seat by a margin of 18,829 votes.

After a gap of 10 years, Tirkey and Oram will face each other again in the electoral field. While Dilip Tirkey has started working on a BJD strategy, Oram is visiting the villages across the parliamentary constituency, attending small functions and spending nights in tribal villages. Tirkey and Oram both hail from the tribal community.

The BJD has never won the Sundergarh Lok Sabha seat which has been won either by the Congress or BJP.

Oram was elected to Lok Sabha from this seat in 1998, 1999, 2004, 2014 and 2019. Prabodh, 39, who started informally meeting people before formally launching his election campaign, said he never stopped connecting with the people but is yet to formally kick-start his campaign. "I am getting a very positive response from the Congress people. They are excited to get me as a candidate," Prabodh said.

Apart from being a former star international hockey player, Prabodh is also the younger brother of another hockey icon Ignace Tirkey. Prabodh returned to his home in Nuapada village of Balishankara block after quitting his job with Air India. He is facing sitting MLA Bhavani Shankar Bhopi of BJP and BJD's Binay Toppo.

Both Dilip and Prabodh are popular and need no introduction to the people, particularly the youth. They have seen both Prabodh and Dilip in action on television, the duo need to display their heroism in the electoral battlefield.

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International

President Muizzu announces second batch of Indian troops leaving Maldives

Maldives’ President Mohamed Muizzu announced that Indian military personnel stationed on the second platform departed the Maldives last Thursday, as reported by local media Edition on Saturday. However, there has been no confirmation from the Indian side thus far.

President Muizzu also affirmed that the remaining contingent of Indian military personnel will depart the Maldives by the agreed date of May 10. He made these remarks during a campaign rally preceding the April 21 Parliamentary Election in the Maldives. "There is only one platform left. As the two countries have already signed, they [the remaining Indian military personnel] will also be recalled ahead of May 10. They will leave," President Muizzu was quoted by the report as saying.

"So that pledge is fulfilled, isn't it? All foreign military here will leave before May 10. So any pledge I make, I will work to fulfill to the greatest extent," he added.

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Indian mission in Israel issues new advisory; no evacuations after Iran's attacks

The Indian mission in Israel on Sunday issued a new "important advisory" for its citizens following Iran's attacks on the Jewish State with hundreds of projectiles. The advisory urged Indian nationals to remain calm and follow safety protocols diligently.

In an unprecedented attack, Iran and its proxies launched 330 missiles and drones on Israel on Saturday in retaliation to an alleged attack by Israel on a diplomatic installation of the Islamic Republic in Damascus in which several people were killed, including two top commanders. "In light of the recent events in the region, all Indian nationals in Israel are advised to stay calm and adhere to the safety protocols issued by the local authorities," the Indian mission said in the "important advisory" posted on its social media handles.

"The Embassy is closely monitoring the situation and it is in touch with the Israeli authorities and Indian community members to ensure the safety of all our nationals," it added. It also urged Indian nationals to register with the embassy at a given link.

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Israel warns confrontation with Iran is "not over"

Israel's defence minister asserted today that the confrontation with Iran “is not over”, following Iran's launch of hundreds of exploding drones and missiles in what appears to be its initial direct assault on Israel after years of clandestine conflict.

According to Israeli military officials on Sunday morning, the majority of the projectiles were intercepted, with those that struck causing only minimal damage. The United States claimed to have downed numerous drones and missiles in response to the attack. Prior to this Iran warned Israel of a larger attack on its territory should it retaliate against Tehran's overnight drone and missile attack, adding that US bases would be targeted if it extends any Israeli military action against Iran.

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Trigger warning: Gun violence Mass shooting in Chicago claims life of 7-year-old; seven injured

Trigger warning: Gun violence
Tragedy struck Chicago's Back of the Yards neighbourhood on Saturday evening, as a mass shooting around 9:30 pm claimed the life of a 7-year-old girl and left seven others wounded, including two children.

Immediate action was taken by the Chicago police upon arrival, administering life-saving measures such as tourniquets and chest seals to multiple victims found at the scene. Authorities stated that the victims were gathered outside for a family event when the shooting erupted. Among the injured, a 1-year-old boy sustained critical injuries after being shot multiple times and was rushed to the hospital. Tragically, a 7-year-old girl was fatally shot in the head. Additionally, a 7-year-old boy suffered multiple gunshot wounds and remained in critical condition.

The remaining five victims, adults aged between 19 and 40, also suffered gunshot wounds, though their conditions were undisclosed as of Saturday night. The police said the shooting was likely due to gang violence and not a random act. Witnesses reported seeing two gunmen running from the scene after shots were fired.

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24-year-old Indian student shot dead in car in Canada

Chirag Antil, a 24-year-old student from India was shot dead inside a car in Canada's South Vancouver on Friday night, the local police have said. They said Antil was found dead inside a vehicle after neighbours reported hearing gunshots at around 11 pm. 

Antil’s family is now raising money through a GoFundMe campaign to repatriate his remains to India according to a report in Vancouver City News.  Antil moved to Vancouver in September 2022, had just finished his MBA at University Canada West, and had recently gotten his work permit. According to his brother, he was heading out “to have a good night on his weekend when he got killed.”

“He had just finished a 14-hour shift, after work he came home, and ate his food. He had Saturday off so he thought ‘why don’t I go out.’ He had just left his place, and as he sat in his car, he got murdered — from what have been told,” he said.

The local police have said that there have been no arrests yet, but added that the investigation is underway. 

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Iran's military officials warn Israel and US against retaliation

Iran warned Israel of a larger attack on its territory should it retaliate against Tehran's overnight drone and missile attack, adding that US bases would be targeted if it extends any Israeli military action against Iran.

"Our response will be much larger than tonight's military action if Israel retaliates against Iran," armed forces chief of staff Major General Mohammad Bagheri told state TV. "Our operations are over and we have no intention to continue them.”

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Police in Australia identify the Sydney stabbing attacker who killed six

Police have identified the assailant who stabbed six people to death at a busy Sydney shopping centre before he was fatally shot by a police officer.

The attacker behind Saturday’s attack has been identified as Joel Cauchi, 40. NSW Assistant Police Commissioner Anthony Cooke told reporters that Cauchi suffered from yet unspecified mental health issues and police investigators weren't treating the attack as terrorism-related. "We are continuing to work through the profiling of the offender but very clearly to us at this stage it would appear that this is related to the mental health of the individual involved," Cooke said.

"There is still, to this point... no information we have received, no evidence we have recovered, no intelligence that we have gathered that would suggest that this was driven by any particular motivation - ideology or otherwise," he added.

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Seriously concerned at escalation of hostilities between Israel, Iran: India

Hours after Iran launched dozens of drones and missiles at Israel in a retaliatory attack, India said today, that it is concerned over escalating hostilities between the two sides that threaten regional peace and security.

In its reaction, India called for immediate de-escalation of the situation and return to the path of diplomacy. New Delhi said its embassies in the region are in close touch with the Indian community in the region. "It is vital that security and stability are maintained in the region," the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement.

On Saturday, the Iranian military seized a cargo ship with Israeli links near the Strait of Hormuz. The ship has 17 Indian crew members.

India is in touch with Iran to secure the release of Indians onboard the Portuguese-flagged vessel 'MSC Aries'.

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Nigeria becomes first country to roll out new meningitis vaccine: WHO

Nigeria has become the first country to introduce the Men5CV vaccine against meningitis, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Nigeria is a major hotspot for the disease, with a 50% increase in annual cases last year across 26 African countries regarded as meningitis hyperendemic countries.

“Nigeria's rollout brings us one step closer to our goal to eliminate meningitis by 2023," Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, was quoted as saying in a statement. Between October and mid-March, 1,742 cases were suspected in Nigeria, with 153 deaths recorded in seven states.

The new vaccine is reported to protect against the five major strains of the disease that are prevalent in Nigeria, unlike the initial vaccine that works against only one strain, said the WHO.

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Dutch airline KLM discontinues flights over Israel and Iran: Report

Dutch airline KLM has announced it will alter flight routes to avoid airspace over Israel and Iran, as reported by Dutch press agency ANP on Saturday, citing a spokesperson from KLM.

The decision, made by the Dutch arm of Air France-KLM, is described as a precautionary measure due to escalating tensions between Iran and Israel. However, KLM affirmed its commitment to continue flights to Tel Aviv, situated on Israel's Mediterranean coast.

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US helps Israel shoot down ‘nearly all’ Iran-launched attack drones; Biden vows support

The US, Canada and the UN have condemned the Iranian air attack on Israel, with President Joe Biden reaffirming America’s "ironclad commitment" to the Jewish nation and vowing to convene a meeting of the G-7 leaders later today to develop a coordinated response to the brazen assault.

Biden said "We helped Israel take down nearly all" of them. His comments came as American forces joined efforts to down drones and missiles launched by Tehran. "Earlier today, Iran—and its proxies operating out of Yemen, Syria and Iraq—launched an unprecedented air attack against military facilities in Israel. I condemn these attacks in the strongest possible terms," Biden said after his call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday.

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said the attack was aimed at "specific targets". Netanyahu called a war cabinet meeting after the start of the Iranian attack, and later spoke to President Biden, who said he had reaffirmed "America's ironclad commitment to the security of Israel".

Biden said at his direction, to support the defence of Israel, the US military moved aircraft and ballistic missile defence destroyers to the region over the course of the past week. “Thanks to these deployments and the extraordinary skill of our servicemembers, we helped Israel take down nearly all of the incoming drones and missiles,” he said.

In New York, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a statement condemned the serious escalation represented by the large-scale attack launched on Israel by Iran. “I call for an immediate cessation of these hostilities,” he said. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also unequivocally condemned Iran’s airborne attacks against Israel.

“We stand with Israel. After supporting Hamas’ brutal October 7 attack, the Iranian regime’s latest actions will further destabilise the region and make lasting peace more difficult,” he said.

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Israel says it intercepted 99% of over 300 missiles, drones fired by Iran

Iran launched hundreds of aerial drones and missiles at Israel, marking a widely anticipated reprisal attack for the strike on its consulate in Syria on April 1. 

Israel has now said that it and its allies have intercepted the vast majority of more than 300 drones and missiles launched by Iran. Tel Aviv said there were a small number of hits on its territory, including at an IDF base in southern Israel, while one seven-year-child has been injured.  Since the attacks began, sirens were sounded across Israel and loud explosions were heard over Jerusalem, with air defence systems shooting down objects over the city. 

"Tonight's wide-scale attack by Iran is a major escalation. Together with our allies and partners, we are operating at full force to defend the State of Israel and the people of Israel,” IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari.  The attacks are retaliation to an Israeli raid on the Iranian consulate in Syria on April 1, which killed seven IRGC officers, including a top commander. 

Iran says the matter can now “be deemed concluded”.  Hamas has said it affirmed “the natural right” of countries and peoples in the region to defend themselves “in the face of Zionist aggressions”, referring to Israel.

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19 killed in two days of Eid festivities in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province

The first two days of Eid festivities claimed 19 lives in various incidents in northwestern Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, a rescue official said on Saturday.

As many as 326 traffic accidents, 187 fire incidents, 10 drownings and two wall collapse incidents were reported from scenic and tourist spots, including Naran, Kaghan, Swat, and Galyat areas, due to the huge rush during the festivities, a spokesman for Rescue 1122 said. In all, 1,499 people were provided emergency medical cover and many were moved to hospitals.

At least 15 people celebrating Eid drowned when their boat capsized in the Indus River in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Thursday, authorities said.

The officials said they rescued 11 people alive and the search for the missing three was underway.

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Indian-origin couple hid in backroom during Sydney mall knife attack

An Indian-origin couple hid in a backroom and barricaded themselves with cardboard boxes along with dozens of others when a man went on a stabbing spree, killing six people before being shot dead by police at a busy shopping centre in Sydney on Saturday, according to a media report.

Shoi Ghoshal from Sydney told the ‘BBC’ that she and her husband Debashis Chakrabarty were at the Westfield shopping centre at Bondi Junction when the attack started to unfold. The 36-year-old described how they were inside a store when it became clear something was wrong.

Ghosal said they heard some people rushing inside the store and thought a fire had broken out but “people were saying someone is stabbing rampantly”.

“We went into a backroom, a storeroom, and used boxes to barricade ourselves in,” she said, estimating that there were between 20 and 25 people huddling inside. Ghosal said an elderly woman was crying for her husband who was still on the outside.

The group was later evacuated through the emergency exit of the mall, where they were met with the sight of a swarm of police cars.

“It was just beyond horrible. It plays on your mind that you could have been one of the victims. We are grateful we are safe and our thoughts are with those who have suffered. It is terrible for their families,” she told the ‘BBC’.

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FBI offers reward of up to USD 2,50,000 for information leading to arrest of an Indian

The FBI is now offering a reward of up to USD 2,50,000 for information leading to the arrest of a 33-year-old “extremely dangerous” Indian national who is wanted in the US for allegedly killing his wife in 2015.

Bhadreshkumar Chetanbhai Patel, who was last known to be in the Newark area of New Jersey, is wanted for allegedly killing his wife Palak Patel by striking her multiple times with an object when they worked at a doughnut shop in Hanover, Maryland. Patel is on the FBI’s list of ‘Ten Most Wanted Fugitives’ and the federal agency announced a reward of up to USD 2,50,000 for information leading to his arrest.

Initially, the FBI had offered a USD 1,00,000 reward for information about Patel.

Patel has been charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder, first-degree assault, second-degree assault, and dangerous weapons with intent to injure, the FBI said in a statement. A federal arrest warrant was issued in the Maryland district court on April 20, 2015, after Patel was charged with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

According to a 2017 FBI press release, Patel and his wife worked the night shift at the doughnut shop of one of his relatives.

Investigators believe Patel killed his wife, who was 21 at the time, in a back room of the shop just before midnight on April 12, 2015. Patel allegedly stabbed his wife multiple times and fled by a rear door. According to the FBI, investigators theorise that Palak Patel wanted to return to India — their visas had expired the month before — and her husband was against the idea.

“The best guess is that he didn’t want her to leave,” said Special Agent Jonathan Shaffer, who was investigating the case from the FBI’s Baltimore Division.

“It’s possible he thought he would be disgraced by her leaving and returning to India."

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Iran will bear consequences for any escalation: Israeli military

The Israeli military on Saturday stated that Iran will bear the consequences if it chooses to escalate tensions in the region, adding that the Israeli military is on high alert.

"Iran will bear the consequences for choosing to escalate the situation any further," rear admiral Daniel Hagari said in a statement. 

"Israel is on high alert. We have increased our readiness to protect Israel from further Iranian aggression. We are also prepared to respond," Hagari added. The statement was issued following the previous statement regarding the seizure of a vessel between the United Arab Emirates and Iran.

This comes as Israel prepares for a potential direct assault from Iran within 24 to 48 hours, targeting either the southern or northern regions of the country.

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Sydney knife attacker shot dead after killing six in a mall

A man who fatally knifed six people in a Sydney mall was shot dead by police in the beachside suburb of Bondi on Saturday, police said, as hundreds fled the scene.

The assailant was shot by a police officer after he attacked shoppers in the busy Westfield Bondi Junction shopping centre, police said in a statement. Five of the six victims were women, and eight people, including a nine-month-old baby, were taken to the hospital with stab wounds, New South Wales Police Commissioner Karen Webb told a press conference.

Australia has some of the world's toughest gun and knife laws, and attacks like this are rare.

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Militants kill 11 people in Pakistan’s Balochistan province

At least 11 people, nine of them from Punjab province, were shot dead by militants in Pakistan's restive Balochistan in two separate incidents, authorities said on Saturday.

Nine of the deceased were travelling in a bus on the National Highway from Quetta to Taftan when they were stopped by unknown militants, who pulled them out of the bus and killed them later, an official said. “The bodies of these nine men were later found with bullet wounds in the nearby mountainous areas near a bridge,” he said.

“The bus was going from Quetta to Taftan when armed men stopped it and after identifying passengers took the nine men to the mountainous areas,” he added.

The victims were from Wazirabad, Mandi Bahauddin, and Gujranwala in Punjab province In a separate incident, a car was fired upon on the same highway in which two passengers were killed and two others injured.

Condemning the attacks, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif sought a report of the incident from authorities.

He also expressed condolences over the deaths and said that the terrorists and their facilitators will be brought to justice. Balochistan’s Chief Minister Mir Sarfaraz Bugti said that the terrorists involved in the killing of the 11 people on the Noshki highway would not be forgiven and hunted down soon.

Bugti that the terrorists involved in the attacks would be chased, adding that they aimed to sabotage the peace of Balochistan. No outfit has claimed responsibility for the killings but in recent weeks this year, there has been a surge in terror attacks by banned outfits and terrorists in the province in which security forces and installations have also been brazenly targeted.

The banned Balochistan Liberation Army has claimed to have carried out three major terror strikes in the province in recent weeks in Mach town, Gwadar port and a naval base in Turbat in which security forces killed some 17 militants.

Pakistan has been blaming Afghanistan for sheltering Pakistani Taliban terrorists, a charge dismissed by Kabul’s Taliban regime.

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Kashmiri Pandit outfit merges with Congress in Jammu

The All India Kashmiri Hindu Forum (AIKHF), a Kashmiri Pandit organisation, on Saturday merged with the Congress at its headquarters in Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh.

Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee president Vikar Rasool Wani welcomed AIKHF chairman Rattan Lal Bhan and other office bearers into the party fold. The AIKHF was formed in 1998. Hundreds of its members joining the Congress is a big boost for the party, Wani said.

He also called on all Kashmiri Pandit organisations to join the party and accused the BJP-led central government of "fooling" the community for the past 10 years.

The BJP has been in power for the last decade but has failed to do any work worth even 10 paise for the community, Wani said. "I appeal to other Kashmiri Pandit groups to come back to the Congress as the BJP is only fooling them for the last 10 years. The Nehru family originally belongs to Kashmir and has a lot of sympathy for the displaced pandits and so does the Congress party as a whole," he added.

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Man shot by police in Sydney mall following reports of stabbings

A man was shot at a mall in Sydney following reports of multiple people stabbed, police in the city said on Saturday.

Emergency responders rushed to Westfield Bondi Junction shortly before 4 p.m. (0600 GMT) following these reports, as confirmed by New South Wales Police in a statement.

"Authorities are advising people to steer clear of the area," the statement emphasized, while adding, "Investigations into the incident are ongoing, with no additional information available at present." Following the incident, hundreds of individuals were evacuated from the shopping center, as reported by news site ‘news.com.au’. State broadcaster ABC highlighted that some individuals remained trapped inside.

New South Wales state police confirmed an ongoing police operation but refrained from divulging further details.

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Pakistan Opposition alliance to launch countrywide drive against government

Imran Khan's party, within a "grand Opposition alliance," unveiled plans for a nationwide campaign on Saturday, denouncing the purported election rigging on February 8 and the alleged manipulation of the mandate by the current government.

The six-party alliance that includes Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, in a late-night meeting that continued till the early hours of Saturday decided to come together under the banner of Tehreek Tahafuz Ayeen-i-Pakistan (TTAP), a movement to protect the Constitution of Pakistan. Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chairman Mehmood Khan Achakzai was nominated as president of the alliance at the hours-long meeting, which was presided over by Balochistan National Party-Mengal chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal.

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Gopi Thotakura to become 1st Indian space tourist

Gopi Thotakura, an entrepreneur and a pilot, is set to become the first Indian to venture into space as a tourist on Amazon founder Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin’s NS-25 mission.

Thotakura was selected as one of the six crew members for the mission, making him the first Indian space tourist and the second Indian to venture into space after the Indian Army's Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma in 1984.

The flight date is yet to be announced, the aerospace company said. This mission will be the seventh human flight for the New Shepard programme and the 25th in its history. To date, the programme has flown 31 humans above the Karman line, the proposed conventional boundary between Earth's atmosphere and outer space.

New Shepard is a fully reusable sub-orbital launch vehicle developed for space tourism by Blue Origin.

According to Blue Origin, "Gopi is a pilot and aviator who learned how to fly before he could drive." He is the co-founder of Preserve Life Corp, a global centre for holistic wellness and applied health located near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

In addition to flying jets commercially, he pilots bush, aerobatic, and seaplanes, as well as gliders and hot air balloons, and has served as an international medical jet pilot. A lifelong traveller, his most recent adventure took him to the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Andhra Pradesh-born Thotakura is a graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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IMF confirms Kristalina Georgieva for second 5-year term

The IMF executive board confirmed on Friday that it has reappointed Kristalina Georgieva to serve for a second five-year term to run the international financial institution.

The decision means that Georgieva, who was the sole candidate to lead the IMF, will continue in office when her current term ends on September 30, 2024. The decision was taken by consensus, the IMF said in a statement confirming the board’s decision. “I am deeply grateful for the trust and support of the Fund’s Executive Board, representing our 190 members, and honoured to continue to lead the IMF as Managing Director,” Georgieva said in a statement.

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Foreign secretary Kwatra meets US officials, reviews progress of global strategic partnership

India's Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra has undertaken a detailed review with US officials on the progress made towards further consolidating the Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership between the two countries, according to a statement.

Kwatra is in the US this week for a series of meetings with senior officials of the US government and interaction with industry leaders to advance bilateral cooperation in areas like defence and technology.

The foreign secretary was on a three-day official visit to Washington and left for New York on Friday. "The visit is in keeping with the tradition of regular high-level exchanges between the two countries and provided an opportunity to further advance our growing and future-oriented partnership," the statement issued by the Indian Embassy said.

During his visit from April 10 to 12, Kwatra undertook a detailed review of the progress made towards further consolidating the India-US Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership, it said. Kwatra held meetings with Richard Verma, Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, Kurt Campbell, Deputy Secretary of State, as well as other senior officials.

He also held discussions with key officials at the National Security Council, the Department of Defense, the Department of Commerce and the Department of Energy.

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Israel on edge for Iranian retaliation after embassy strike

Israel is bracing for an attack by Iran or its proxies amid growing anxieties about retaliation for the killing last week of a senior officer in Iran's embassy in Damascus.

Countries including India, France, Poland and Russia have warned their citizens against travel to the region which is already on edge over the war in Gaza, now in its seventh month. White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby also said the threat from Iran was real and viable. The Israeli military on the other hand said it had not issued fresh instructions to civilians, but asked people to remain vigilant.

"Over the past day, the military has conducted a situational assessment and approved plans for a range of scenarios following reports and statements on an Iranian attack," chief military spokesman Daniel Hagari said on Friday. 

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New Zealand plans to celebrate centenary of 1926 Indian Army hockey team tour to NZ: Envoy

New Zealand has planned to mark the centenary of the 1926 tour of an Indian Army hockey team, which included a young Dhyan Chand, to that country as part of its vision to celebrate the "breadth of our sporting relationship", its envoy said on Friday.

Outgoing New Zealand's High Commissioner to India David Pine said 2026 will be a "special year of our relationship". He was speaking during an interaction hosted by think-tank Ananta Aspen Centre here. Asked about his nation's plan to mark the centenary of the historic tour, the envoy said, "Yes, we want to use it as a trigger to celebrate the breadth of our sporting relationship."

He said an informal committee has shaped up and things will grow with time.

"In 2026, we are looking to celebrate that. In 1926, the Indian Army Hockey Team came to New Zealand with great Dhyan Chand. They stayed for three months," Pine said, adding the touring team absolutely changed the way people engaged with it. "So, we will celebrate all our sporting connections," he said, adding that beyond cricket, weightlifting, judo, boxing and other sports connections will be celebrated.

New Zealand is also expecting a visit of an Indian prime minister to that country in 2026. "It's been a long-standing invitation," he said. The Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) was formed in 1925, one year after the formation of the International Hockey Federation (FIH), according to the official website of the Olympics.

"The IHF organised its first international tour in 1926 to New Zealand, where the Indian hockey men's team played 21 matches and won 18. The tournament saw the emergence of a young Dhyan Chand, who would go on to become arguably the best hockey player the world has ever seen," it said.

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Canada implements staff reductions across its missions in India

Canada has reduced dozens of its Indian staffers posted in its missions in India, months after New Delhi forced Ottawa to downsize its diplomatic presence.

A Canadian high commission spokesperson on Friday said the slashing of the size of the Indian staff was necessary given the reduction of Canadian staff in the country. "I can confirm that the Government of Canada has implemented some staff reductions across our network of missions in India," the official said.

The spokesperson said the high commission expresses its sincere gratitude for the resilience, dedication and service of its local staff in India.

"We can also confirm that Canada's visa application centres in India are operating as normal," the spokesperson added. The ties between India and Canada came under severe strain following Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's allegations in September of a "potential" involvement of Indian agents in the killing of Khalistani separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar on June 18 in British Columbia.

New Delhi rejected Trudeau's charges as "absurd".

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Legendary Italian fashion designer Roberto Cavalli dies

Italian fashion designer Roberto Cavalli, who was most known for his flamboyant animal prints on leather and textiles, has died aged 83. The fashion house that goes by his name announced the death on Instagram but provided no details.

An Italian news agency reported that he died at home in Florence after a long illness. In the 1970s Cavalli became renowned for his signature animal prints and an excessive, sexy style that remained his trademark throughout his long career.

Cavalli once explained his “animalier” inspiration with a popular quote: “I copy the dress of an animal because I love to copy God. I think God is the most fantastic designer.”

He began his fashion house in the early 1970s and quickly became an iconic brand, loved by top celebrities like Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow and Beyoncé.

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Historic Hindu temple demolished in Pakistan’s Khyber district

A historical Hindu temple near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border has been demolished and construction for a commercial complex has started at the site in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

The 'Khyber Temple' was situated in the border town of Landi Kotal Bazaar in the Khyber district but had been vanishing brick by brick over the years. The construction at the site started about 10-15 days ago. Officials from various administrative departments either denied they were aware of the existence of the Hindu temple or claimed the construction was happening according to the rules.

Claiming that there was a historical temple in the main Landi Kotal Bazaar, leading tribal journalist Ibrahim Shinwari, hailing from Landi Kotal, said: “The temple was located in the centre of the Landi Kotal bazaar, which was closed in 1947 after the local Hindu families migrated to India. It was partially damaged by some clerics and seminarians in 1992 following the demolition of the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya in India.” Recalling that as a child, he heard many stories about the temple from his forefathers, the journalist said, “There is no doubt in it that there was a temple named 'Khyber Temple' in Landi Kotal.”

Haroon Sarabdiyal of the Pakistan Hindu Mandir Management Committee insisted that it was the responsibility of the district administration and relevant government departments to ensure the protection and rehabilitation of historical buildings of religious importance to non-Muslims. “The archaeology and museums department, police, culture department, and local government were bound by the 2016 antiquity law to protect such sites, including places of worship,” he said.

The Dawn newspaper quoted Assistant Commissioner Landi Kotal, Muhammad Irshad, who expressed ignorance about the temple’s demolition and said, there is no mention of the temple in the official land record of Khyber tribal district.

“The entire land in Landi Kotal Bazaar was owned by the state,” he said. The official maintained that a ‘no objection certificate’ has been issued to the builder for the renovation and repair of some old shops in Landi Kotal Bazaar.

The tehsil municipal authorities have granted permission for the commercial buildings or shops at all commercial and trade centres in tribal districts.

Tehsil Municipal Officer (TMO) Shahbaz Khan said that the local government was authorised to give the go-ahead signal for the construction of all commercial structures in the area only after their maps or drawings were approved and the requisite fees were deposited. The Municipal authorities admit that they do not have authentic and organised revenue records in Khyber district.

Abdus Samad, the former TMO during whose tenure the deal for the construction of a commercial building was struck, expressed complete ignorance about any such orders issued by his office.

Landi Kotal patwari Jamal Afridi claimed he was not aware of the construction activity at the temple’s site. He added that the revenue records had no mention of a mandir at that site.

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National

ECI initiates investigation into reported attack on Jagan Mohan Reddy

Following the report of Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy's injury, the Election Commission of India (ECI) instructed Mukesh Kumar Meena, Andhra Pradesh Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), to submit a report on the incident and identify those responsible.

"As per the directions of the ECI, I had spoken to the Vijayawada Commissioner of Police in the night and asked him to send a report on the incident in a day and to try to identify the miscreants as soon as possible," Meena informed The Hindu on Sunday. Unidentified individuals hurled stones at Chief Minister Jagan Reddy during his 'Memantha Siddham' bus yatra and roadshow in Vijayawada between 8 pm to 9 pm on Saturday, as part of his election campaign.

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Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards seize container ship with 17 Indians on board

As many as 17 Indians are on board an Israeli-linked container ship that has been seized by the Iranian military amid heightened tensions between Iran and Israel.

Official sources said India is in touch with Iranian authorities through diplomatic channels, both in Tehran and in Delhi, to ensure the welfare and early release of the Indian nationals. The Iranian action came amid increasing fears that Tehran may launch an attack on Israeli soil in retaliation to a strike on the Iranian consulate in Syria 12 days ago.

“We are aware that a cargo ship ‘MSC Aries’ has been taken control by Iran. We have learnt that there are 17 Indian nationals onboard,” said a source.

Reports said Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards seized MSC Aries on Saturday morning when it was sailing through the Strait of Hormuz.

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CBI FIR against second-biggest electoral bond buyer Megha Engineering

The CBI has registered an FIR against Hyderabad-based Megha Engineering and Infrastructure Ltd, which was the second-biggest buyer of electoral bonds worth Rs 966 crore, in an alleged bribery case.

Eight officials of the NISP and NMDC and two officials of MECON were also named in the FIR for receiving alleged bribe of around Rs 78 lakh in clearing bills of Rs 174 crore of Megha Engineering in connection with works related to Jagdalpur integrated steel plant, officials said Saturday. Megha Engineering had emerged as the second-biggest buyer of electoral bonds and donated the highest amount of about Rs 586 crore to the BJP, according to the data released by the Election Commission on March 21.

The company also donated Rs 195 crore to BRS, Rs 85 crore to DMK, and Rs 37 crore to YSRCP. The TDP got about Rs 25 crore from the company, while the Congress got Rs 17 crore. The JD-S, Jana Sena Party and the JD-U got smaller sums ranging from Rs 5 crore to Rs 10 crore. According to the FIR made public on Saturday, the CBI had registered a preliminary enquiry on August 10, 2023 about the alleged bribery in Rs 315 crore project related to works of intake well and pump house and cross-country pipeline at the integrated steel plant Jagdalpur which was awarded to the company.

Based on the findings of the preliminary enquiry, a recommendation was made on March 18 to register a regular case into the alleged bribery which was filed on March 31. The CBI has named eight officials of NISP and NMDC Ltd - retired executive director Prashant Dash, director (production) DK Mohanty, DGM PK Bhuyan, DM Naresh Babu, senior manager Subro Banerjee, retired CGM (finance) L Krishna Mohan, GM (finance) K Rajshekhar, manager (finance) Somnath Ghosh, who allegedly received Rs 73.85 lakh bribe.

The agency has also named two officials of MECON Ltd - AGM (contracts) Sanjeev Sahay and DGM (contracts) K Illavarsu - who allegedly received payment of Rs 5.01 lakh against the payment of Rs 174.41 crore by NMDC Ltd to MEIL against 73 invoices from Subhash Chandra Sangras, general manager, MEIL and Megha Engineering and unknown others.

Chandra and Megha Engineering have also been named as accused in the case.

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Kejriwal not being allowed in-person meetings with family in Tihar jail: Sanjay Singh

Senior AAP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh on Saturday claimed that Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was not being allowed in-person meetings with his family in Tihar jail.

Addressing a press conference, Singh said, "There is an attempt to break the morale of CM Kejriwal.”

“His family has not been allowed in-person meetings with him. They are only allowed to meet him through the jangla. This is inhuman. Even hardcore criminals are allowed in-person meetings," the AAP leader said. The 'mulakat jangla' is an iron mesh which separates the inmate from the visitor in a room inside the jail. A visitor and an inmate can talk to each other by sitting on different sides of the mesh.

"In the same Tihar jail, many meetings take place… but Arvind Kejriwal, a three-time elected chief minister, is being humiliated and made to meet his family through the jangla. This is happening at the behest of the BJP-led Central government," Singh said. "His rights as an inmate are being snatched," said the AAP leader, who was granted bail by the Supreme Court earlier this month in the Delhi excise policy case.

There was no immediate reaction from the Tihar administration.

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Terrorists don’t play by rules, so country’s response to them cannot have rules: EAM

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Friday stated that India is committed to responding to acts of terrorism from across the borders, and that there cannot be any rules in the country’s response to them.

He criticised the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) dispensation over its response to the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks in 2008, stating that after much deliberation at the government level, nothing fruitful came out at that time as it was felt that the cost of attacking Pakistan was more than not attacking it. He also mentioned that the country's foreign policy has undergone a change since 2014, and it is the way terrorism is dealt with.

He added that had India been clear from the start that Pakistan was indulging in terrorism, which India should not tolerate under any circumstances, the country would have had a vastly different policy. "We have to be very clear in our minds about terrorism; under no circumstances is terrorism acceptable from any neighbour or from anyone who uses terrorism to force you to sit at the negotiating table. This should never be accepted," he said.

He emphasized that if something like Mumbai happens and you do not react to it, how can you prevent the next one from happening? "They (terrorists) should not feel that since they are across the border, no one can touch them. Terrorists do not play by any rules. The response to terrorists cannot have any rules," he said.

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Sanjay Singh claims CM Kejriwal not being allowed to meet family in Tihar jail

Senior AAP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh on Saturday claimed that Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was not being allowed to meet his family in Tihar jail.

Singh said, "There is an attempt to break the morale of CM Kejriwal.”

“His family has not been allowed in-person meetings with him. They are only allowed to meet him through the jangla. This is inhuman. Even hardcore criminals are allowed in-person meetings," the AAP leader said. The 'mulakat jangla' is an iron mesh that separates inmates from visitors in a jail room. Kejriwal's meeting with Punjab counterpart Bhagwant Mann has been scheduled for April 15, but he can meet the AAP convener as a normal visitor in the jangla.

The Chief Minister met his wife Sunita Kejriwal and personal secretary Bibhav Kumar inside Tihar Jail on Tuesday.

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China has not occupied any of our land, situation sensitive, says Jaishankar

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar addressed the issue of border tension with China, asserting that there has been no occupation of Indian territory by China.

Speaking to reporters in Pune on Friday, Jaishankar described the situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) as "competitive, sensitive, and challenging."

He clarified that historically, both India and China have not stationed troops directly on the LAC, with deployments made on their respective sides. Jaishankar highlighted the events of 2020, where China's troop movements prompted a response from India, leading to a standoff. Despite ongoing military activities, he emphasised that there has been no territorial encroachment.

“China has not occupied any of our land. China has tried to bring its troops to the upper part of the mountainous areas along the LAC but the Indian Army also responded to it in the same manner,” Jaishankar said. 

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PM Modi interacts with country's top gamers

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday interacted with top Indian gamers on a host of issues relating to the gaming industry.

In a free-wheeling interaction regarding the future as well as the challenges before the e-gaming industry, the Prime Minister posed curious questions to the gamers while also trying his hands at some of the games. "People have offered different solutions. I have an alternative solution called Mission LIFE, which advocates for changing our daily lifestyle to benefit the environment. Now, envision a game aimed at addressing global climate issues, where the gamer must explore various methods and solutions to identify the most sustainable approach," Modi told the gamers during the interaction.

"What are these steps? How do we navigate through it and choose the best approach for success? Take swachhata as an example, the game theme could revolve around cleanliness and every child should play this game. Youngsters should embrace Indian values and understand their true significance," he said. The gamers discussed new developments in the gaming industry with the Prime Minister, who stressed how the government has recognised the creativity of the gamers, promoting the gaming industry in India.

They also engaged on issues concerning gambling versus gaming while discussing the participation of women in the gaming industry.

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Devotees in Punjab, Haryana offer prayers in Gurdwaras on Baisakhi

Devotees across Punjab and Haryana offered prayers at gurdwaras on the occasion of the Baisakhi festival on Saturday.

Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann greeted people on the occasion of 'Sajna Divas' of the 'Khalsa Panth' and 'Baisakhi'. Haryana Chief Minister Nayab Saini also greeted people on the occasion of Baisakhi. Devotees thronged the gurdwaras, including Amritsar’s Sri Harmandir Sahib also known as the Golden Temple, Sri Kesgarh Sahib in Anandpur Sahib, Damdama Sahib in Bathinda and Nada Sahib in Haryana's Panchkula and paid obeisance. Baisakhi festival marks the foundation day of the ''Khalsa Panth'' (Sikh order) by the tenth Sikh Guru, Gobind Singh.

On this auspicious day in 1699, Guru Gobind Singh created the 'Order of Khalsa' at the holy city of Sri Anandpur Sahib by baptising 'Panj Pyare’ (beloved ones) belonging to different castes. Baisakhi also marks the onset of harvest season.

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Rs 34 crore 'blood money' crowdfunded to resolve death penalty of Kerala man in Saudi Arabia

Keralites around the globe have rallied together, amassing a sum of Rs 34 crore by Friday through crowdfunding efforts to secure the release of Abdul Rahim, a native of Kozhikode facing the death penalty in Saudi Arabia.

Rahim has spent the past 18 years behind bars following an incident in 2006 when in his care, a 15-year-old boy, reliant on life support, passed away during a car journey. Subsequently, in 2018, a Saudi court sentenced Rahim to death—a ruling upheld by the nation's highest judicial authority.

Last year, the victim's family indicated their willingness to pardon Rahim in exchange for Rs 34 crore in 'blood money', setting April 16 as the deadline for payment to avert his execution.

However, Rahim's financially constrained family, who migrated to Saudi Arabia for employment, faced an arduous challenge in raising the required sum. Responding to the urgent need, residents of Rahim's locality in Kozhikode united to form an action committee and launched 'Save Abdul Rahim' app, facilitating transparent crowdfunding. Initially, the campaign garnered Rs 5 crore.

The campaign gained significant momentum as celebrities, politicians, and NRI groups joined in. Particularly, businessman Boby Chemmanur led a yatra from Thiruvananthapuram to Kasaragod, raising an extra Rs 1 crore. With contributions flooding in from diverse sources, the action committee met the Rs 34 crore goal by the deadline, bringing hope for Rahim's imminent release.

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PM Modi, President Murmu pay homage to Jallianwala Bagh massacre victims

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Droupadi Murmu on Saturday paid tributes to those killed in the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. Hundreds of peaceful protestors were killed in indiscriminate firing by British forces on this day in 1919.

"On behalf of my family members across the country, I pay my deepest respects to all the brave martyrs of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre," PM Modi wrote on X. President Murmu, in her post in Hindi on X, said, "My heartfelt tribute to all the freedom fighters who sacrificed everything for the motherland in Jallianwala Bagh! The countrymen will always be indebted to all those great souls who sacrificed their lives for swaraj. I am sure that the spirit of patriotism of those martyrs will always inspire the coming generations," President Murmu said in a post in Hindi on X.

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Rameshwaram Cafe blast suspects brought to Bengaluru on remand

Two prime accused in the Rameshwaram Cafe blast case were brought to Bengaluru by the NIA from Kolkata on transit remand, police sources said on Saturday.

Both will be taken for a routine medical test, after which they will be produced before the National Investigation Agency (NIA) court in Bengaluru. A court in Kolkata had on Friday granted a three-day transit remand to the two accused in the blast case, allowing the NIA to take them to the Karnataka capital.

The NIA had arrested Mussavir Hussain Shazib and Adbul Matheen Ahmed Taahaa from Kolkata for their alleged role in March 1 blast at Rameshwaram Cafe here, which left 10 people injured.

According to the NIA, Shazib placed the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) at the cafe and Taahaa was the mastermind, the officials said. Last month, the NIA announced a reward of Rs 10 lakh each for those providing information leading to the arrest of these two accused.

An IED explosion rocked the cafe located on ITPL Road, Brookefield, Bengaluru, on March 1. The NIA took over the probe on March 3.

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Two creators get YouTube notice on EVM videos, monetisation curbed

At least two YouTube creators, Meghnad and independent journalist Sohit Mishra, have been alerted by the platform that monetisation limits have been placed on their videos that pertain to EVMs and Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines.

This means the creators will not receive their share of advertisement revenue generated from such content. Mishra’s YouTube channel, Sohit Mishra Official, has over 3.68 lakh subscribers, and Mehgnad’s channel has over 42,000 subscribers. Indian Express reported that this comes months after YouTube started adding additional context under videos pertaining to the efficacy of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). 

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Defence ministry issues tender to HAL for procurement of 97 Tejas Mk-1A fighter jets

The defence ministry has issued a tender to state-run aerospace major Hindustan Aeronautics Limited for procurement of 97 light combat aircraft (LCA Mk-1A) Tejas for the Indian Air Force, officials said on Friday.

The fighter jets are expected to cost around Rs 67,000 crore. The Tejas aircraft is a potent platform for air combat and offensive air support missions while reconnaissance and anti-ship operations are its secondary roles.

In November, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) had cleared the project to acquire 97 more Tejas jets for the Indian Air Force (IAF). The DAC also approved a proposal of the IAF to upgrade its Su-30 fighter fleet by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).

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K Kavitha threatened SC Reddy to pay Rs 25 crore to AAP: CBI in court

BRS leader K Kavitha "threatened" Aurobindo Pharma Promoter Sharath Chandra Reddy to pay Rs 25 crore to the Aam Aadmi Party for five retail zones allotted to his firm under the Delhi government's excise policy, the CBI has alleged in its statement to a Special Court on Friday, while seeking her custody.

Kavitha had told Reddy that in case of non-payment of money his business will be harmed in Telangana and Delhi under the excise policy, the CBI has alleged. Reddy, who was an accused under the PMLA case probed by the Enforcement Directorate, had turned an approver in the case. There has been no chargesheet  against him by the CBI yet.

Seeking custodial interrogation of Kavitha, the CBI told Special Judge Kaveri Baweja that it was on the "insistence and assurance" of Kavitha, daughter of former Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, that Reddy participated in the liquor business in the national capital.

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Politics

PM Modi cut off from people, their issues: Priyanka Gandhi

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Sunday criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi, stating that he is disconnected from the people and their concerns. 

She further alleged that Modi wields such authority that those in his proximity are hesitant to convey the truth to him. "Your biggest problem is inflation. I believe that Modiji is not able to understand that. When there is too much power, people do not tell the truth. Officers and colleagues are scared of telling him about the reality and then the individual gets cut off from people," Gandhi told a public meeting in Rajasthan's Jalore.

The rally was organised to garner support for Vaibhav Gehlot, the son of former Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot and the Congress candidate from Jalore in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

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Corruption increases when Congress comes to power: Rajnath Singh

Union minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday said corruption increases every time the Congress comes to power whereas there was not a single allegation of irregularity against the Narendra Modi government in its 10-year rule.

Singh stated that the Congress would be finished in Chhattisgarh after the Lok Sabha polls and the party would be extinct in the next few years. "Corruption increases whenever the Congress comes to power. Since Independence, the party has faced charges of corruption. However, no one can point a finger or level a single corruption charge at the Narendra Modi government," Singh said.

The Congress is like a piece of rusted iron and it has started resembling the "house" of reality show 'Bigg Boss' since all the leaders are busy tearing each other's clothes, he said.

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BJP-led Centre under-utilises budget for North-East: Congress

The Congress on Saturday accused the Centre of under-utilizing the budget for the North-East and claiming that it is the only political party capable of delivering justice to the states in the region.

"The Modi government's 'Bluff and Rule' policy continues to unravel. The Modi government has a history of allocating big budgets to the North East and then chronically underutilising these budgets in the last 10 years," Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said in a post on X. Ramesh stated that since 2014, the Modi government has only used the full budget for the northeast on two occasions. In June 2023, a report from the Controller General of Accounts revealed that the ministry used only Rs 989 crore (35.9%) of its allocated budget.

In 2020-21, the fund utilization for the North East Road Sector Development scheme was 52%, while for the North East Special Infrastructure Development scheme, only 34% of the funds were used, he said. The Congress leader claimed that the PM-DevINE scheme launched in 2022 outlays Rs 6,600 crore for the holistic development of the northeastern region. However, Ramesh said that only over 10% of the funds under the PM-DevINE were sanctioned.

"Given its history of bluffing with its big fund allocations and dramatic underutilisations, we await the details of how much in funds has actually reached the North East," Ramesh said.

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Mughal mindset: PM slams opposition leaders for non-vegetarian food video during Sawan

In a veiled attack on Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and RJD's Lalu Prasad Yadav, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Friday accused opposition leaders of demonstrating a 'Mughal mindset' and "teasing" the people of the country by consuming non-vegetarian food in the holy month of Sawan and posting it online.

Without naming anyone, Modi said individuals have the freedom to choose their dietary preferences, but the opposition leaders' intention behind their actions matter significantly. Addressing a public rally here in support of Union minister Jitendra Singh, who is fighting for a third term from Udhampur, Modi said eating non-vegetarian food during Navratri and Sawan and highlighting it hurt the feelings of people.

"These people will resort to abusing me and targeting me for saying this. But when it is beyond the point of tolerance, it is my duty in a democracy to tell the right things to people. That is my job. I am fulfilling my duty," he said. "The law does not stop anyone from eating anything, and neither does Modi. All are free to have vegetarian and non-vegetarian food whenever they want but the motive of these leaders was different."

RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav also recently released a video of him enjoying fish curry in a chopper. After he was criticised, he clarified the video was shot on April 8, a day before Navratri began.

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After 5-year stint with Congress, Manvendra Singh rejoins BJP

Former BJP MP Manvendra Singh, son of former union minister Jaswant Singh, returned to the saffron party on Friday following a five-year stint with the Congress in Barmer.

Manvendra, who had switched to Congress in October 2018, joined the BJP ahead of Friday’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi's rally in Barmer. He also shared the stage with other leaders of the BJP during the PM's rally. "Today I rejoined the BJP family and party workers in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Bhai Modi at Adarsh Stadium in Barmer. We are all committed to realising the public welfare policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the resolution of ‘Vikshit Bharat’," he said in a Facebook post.

Manvendra was elected as the BJP MLA from Barmer's Sheo assembly constituency in December 2013. When the BJP denied a ticket to Jaswant Singh, who then contested the Lok Sabha election as an independent and lost, Manvendra turned rebel and campaigned against the party’s candidate in support of his father.

Manvendra was suspended from the party ahead of the 2018 assembly elections.

He joined Congress who gave him a ticket for the Jhalrapatan assembly seat against the then-chief minister Vasundhara Raje, which he lost.

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Sports

Study shows India's 65% football talent concentrated to 5 states

New research by Richard Hood, a UEFA ‘A’ and AFC Pro licensed coach, and former head of player development at the All India Football Federation (AIFF), found that despite India's billion-plus population, over 65% of elite-level footballers come from just five states: Manipur, Mizoram, West Bengal, Punjab, and Goa, with a combined population of approximately 124.3 million according to the 2011 Census.

Out of the total 1,112 male players who have represented India in junior and senior national teams, as well as in the top two divisions of domestic leagues over the past 22 years, Richard Hood's analysis reveals an intriguing trend. Nearly 90% of India’s footballers originate from nine states and one city: Greater Mumbai, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Meghalaya, and Sikkim, alongside Manipur, Mizoram, West Bengal, Punjab, and Goa.

These regions, with a combined population of approximately 250 million according to the 2011 Census, represent just 20% of India’s population yet contribute to 90% of its top football talent.

Mapping India's football landscape would reveal a notable gap in the central region, symbolising the minimal presence of the world’s most beloved sport in the densely-populated Hindi heartland.

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Nepal’s Airee smashes six sixes in an over; third man to achieve the feat in T20Is

Nepal’s hard-hitting Dipendra Singh Airee became the third batter to smash six sixes in an over in T20 internationals at Al Amerat (Qatar) on Saturday.

Airee achieved the feat against hosts Qatar during the ongoing ACC Men’s Premier Cup T20 International fixture.

Thus, Airee joined an elite company of Yuvraj Singh (against Stuart Broad during T20 World Cup 2007) and Kieron Pollard (against Sri Lanka's Akila Dananjaya in 2021) as batters with six maximums in one over. The 24-year-old Airee remained unbeaten on a 21-ball 64 that included three fours and seven sixes at a monstrous strike rate 304.76.

Aasif Sheikh made 52 as Nepal posted 210 for seven. They had already beaten Malaysia by five wickets in the opening match on Friday.

In fact, the Nepal man became the fifth batsman to achieve this rare feat in international cricket, with Herschelle Gibbs of South Africa and USA's Jaskaran Malhotra completing it in ODIs earlier. However, Airee is no stranger to hitting six sixes. During Nepal's Hangzhou Asian Games T20I clash against Mongolia in September last year, he had pummeled six consecutive sixes across two overs.

That match also saw Nepal posting a world-record 314 for three before bowling out the opponent for 41.

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Ruturaj Gaikwad cut from same cloth as Dhoni: Stephen Fleming

Chennai Super Kings captain Ruturaj Gaikwad is cut from the same cloth as M S Dhoni and it is unfair to term the former “slow” while batting, said head coach Stephen Fleming on Saturday.

Gaikwad, who replaced Dhoni as the CSK captain at the beginning of this IPL, has had a mixed start to his leadership stint losing two away games and winning three at home. But at the same time, the 27-year-old Gaikwad has been criticised for “slow” batting. The right-handed opening batter has so far garnered 155 runs in five matches with a strike rate of 117.42.

“There's no difference. He's as cool as it gets. I know the last captain was pretty cool. But this guy is cut from the same cloth, so that's rubbed through,” Fleming said when asked if he had any discussion with Gaikwad in terms of differentiating between his leadership and his batting. “He is such an impressive young man around his game and what he needs to do. He's been, I think, unfairly put into a bracket where he's been called slow. But you have to have context to some of these stats,” Fleming told the media during CSK’s training session at the Wankhede Stadium.

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Rajasthan Royals win toss, opt to bowl against Dhawan-less Punjab Kings

Rajasthan Royals skipper Sanju Samson won the toss and elected to bowl against Punjab Kings, who will be led by Sam Curran, in their IPL match in Mullanpur (Chandigarh)on Saturday.

England all-rounder Curran will guide PBKS after regular skipper Shikhar Dhawan sat out with a niggle. For PBKS, Atharva Taide replaced Dhawan, while Liam Livingstone also returned to the XI.

Jos Buttler and Ravichandran Ashwin will miss out with Rovman Powell and Tanush Kotian coming in for RR.

“Jos isn't 100%, Ash bhai is having a niggle,” Samson said during the toss.

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India suffer 0-5 whitewash in Australia, lose fifth Test 2-3

The Indian men’s hockey team failed to avoid a 0-5 series whitewash after going down 2-3 in the fifth Test against Australia, completing a nightmare of a tour in Perth on Saturday.

The Indians entered the final game of the series after losing their previous four matches 1-5, 2-4, 1-2 and 1-3.  The rubber was significant as far as preparation is concerned ahead of the upcoming Paris Olympics.

Skipper Harmanpreet Singh (4th) and Boby Singh Dhami (53rd) were the goal scorers for India, while Australia sounded the board through Jeremy Hayward (20th), Ky Willott (38th) and Tim Brand (39th).

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Kolkata Knight Riders seek home comfort against Mayank Yadav-less Lucknow Super Giants

Two-time champions Kolkata Knight Riders will seek home comfort in their bid to return to winning ways when they face a depleted Lucknow Super Giants in an Indian Premier League match in Kolkata on Sunday.

The match will be KKR’s first of the five matches at home on the trot and the Gautam Gambhir-mentored side will be fully aware this can prove decisive to clinch the play-off spot for the first time since 2021.

In the points tally, nothing separates the two teams, both of whom have secured three wins each, and lost their respective last-round matches. KKR’s over-reliance on their Caribbean ageing duo of Sunil Narine and Andre Russell was exposed by defending champions Chennai Super Kings when they lost by seven wickets in their previous outing.

Narine (27) and Russell (10) failed with the bat and the team, who had posted two 200-plus scores from three matches on the back of the Caribbean duo’s blazing form, could manage an under par 137/9 at Chennai.

That sums up KKR’s batting that has relied on some odd fireworks and missed an anchor in the absence of Nitish Rana (finger injury), who is slated to sit out of another match. In the spotlight since the beginning of the season, KKR captain Shreyas Iyer has failed to impress and his scores give an abysmal picture - 0, 39 not out, 18 and 34.

Their another designated batter Venkatesh Iyer has three single digit scores this season to go with one odd fifty against Royal Challengers Bengaluru and the team, it seems, doesn't have a clear role for him.

From batting at No. 3 in their IPL opener against Sunrisers Hyderabad, Iyer was seen in the finisher's role at No. 7 and No. 5 in their last two matches. Ramandeep Singh also had a lean run after an impressive 35 against SRH.

The 2022 U-19 World Cup winning Angkrish Raghuvanshi has impressed the most following his 54 against Delhi Capitals. And he will like to return among runs after failing to convert his start against CSK.

The most-talked about signing Mitchell Starc's poor form with the ball has been the talk of the town. The Aussie speed gun has an economy of 11.00 and took his first wicket of this IPL against DC after giving away 100 runs in the first two matches.

Having come as Impact Subs, left-arm orthodox spinner Anukul Roy has been impressive and he would like to forge formidable partnership with Narine.

While KKR will be overwhelming favourites at Eden, LSG with their unassuming approach will not give up easily, even as they will miss their pace sensation Mayank Yadav for a second successive match. Recovering from a side strain that ruled him out of their match against Gujarat Titans, Mayank is doing “good” but skipper K L Rahul has said that he may take “a couple of more games before coming back”.

Mayank’s replacement Arshad Khan failed to impress, conceding at 10.73 runs over as they failed to defend 167 at home against DC last evening.

Mohsin Khan, who claimed 2/34 against Punjab Kings, could be a perfect replacement but it remains to be seen if he’s fully recovered from his hamstring injury that had sidelined the left-arm pacer. The team owned by Kolkata-based industrialist Sanjeev Goenka will hope for a much better show after mustering an average 167/7 against DC on Friday.

The likes of Quinton De Kock and Rahul will look to return among runs, while they also boast of a powerful line-up down the order with the likes of Marcus Stoinis and Nicholas Pooran. That they also have a formidable slow bowling lineup in Ravi Bishnoi and Krunal Pandya will pose some tough questions for KKR batters.

The match starts at 3.30 pm.

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M S Dhoni in spotlight as CSK and MI resume rivalry in new era

The legendary Mahendra Singh Dhoni will be in the spotlight in what could be his final game at the iconic Wankhede Stadium when defending champions Chennai Super Kings take on Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League on Sunday.

Dhoni returns to the hallowed turf of Wankhede for the first time as a non-captain of the CSK, potentially in his last IPL season. It will also be his first appearance as just a player for any team since November 2005.

Even at 42, Dhoni’s glove-work remains impeccable and so does his assessment of the game. But CSK will hope that his tactical acumen also helps them improve a dismal away record this season, having suffered two defeats on the road. CSK would also hope their recent record against MI — four wins in the last five matches including their seven-wicket win here last season — holds them in good stead.

Two of IPL’s most successful teams with five titles each, both sides are witnessing a tectonic shift of leadership change with Hardik Pandya taking over the mantle from Rohit Sharma at MI and Ruturaj Gaikwad succeeding Dhoni at CSK, but there is nothing that suggests their intense rivalry would expect any such shift. If anything, CSK’s bowlers could be put to sword by the rampaging MI batters who have gone hammer and tongs at the flat pitches, scoring over 230 against Delhi Capitals and chasing down nearly 200 against Royal Challengers Bengaluru with more than four overs to spare.

Pandya's MI have found their footing after a jittery start. Their batters have done well in the last two outings and Suryakumar Yadav’s 17-ball fifty against RCB provides an ominous sign to CSK bowlers, who have shown mastery on slow, turning pitches at the Chepauk but remain untested on flat, batting-friendly surfaces.

Ishan Kishan (161 runs) and Rohit’s opening stand would thus be crucial in the scheme of things but CSK would also have a lot of assurance with their own batting. Skipper Gaikwad may not be a marauder with the bat but he can be the silent enforcer in the CSK line-up, which has the exuberance of Rachin Ravindra at the top, sturdiness of Daryl Mitchell in the middle and explosiveness of Shivam Dube (176 runs), Ravindra Jadeja and Dhoni in the death overs.

CSK would also be aware that seeing off the dexterous Jasprit Bumrah (10 wickets) and going after the rest of the MI bowling would be the key, since the others have given away runs at alarming rate while struggling with their line and lengths on placid surfaces.

Despite Bumrah’s five-wicket haul, MI leaked runs at a high rate to allow RCB get closer to the 200-run mark here a few nights ago. A lot will be riding on Shardul Thakur and Tushar Deshpande for CSK, who both return to their home ground, but Mustafizur Rahman (9 wickets) and the wily Jadeja would be the ones to watch out for given their recent exploits.

On their part, teams say "we want to get as many runs as possible" but by the look of it, scores around 220-230 while batting first could be the best way possible to ensure an upperhand at this venue.

The match starts 7:30 pm.

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Radhika dominates to reach women's 68 kg final

Radhika, the sole Indian female wrestler, secured her second medal at the senior Asian Championships by advancing to the 68kg final on Saturday in Bishkek.

With a previous silver at the U23 Asian Championships last year and a second-place finish at the senior Asian Championships in 2022, Radhika displayed dominance in her weight class.

She clinched victory in her first bout against Kazakhstan's Albina Kairgeldinova by technical superiority and then pinned Kyrgyzstan's Gulnura Tashtanbekova in the subsequent match. She will now face Japan's Nonoka Ozaki in the gold medal bout. Shivani Pawar (50kg) lost her quarterfinal 'by fall' to Ziqi Feng but made it to the bronze medal round after the Chinese entered the final.

In 55kg, Tamanna lost her qualification round by a comprehensive 0-9 margin to Moe Kiyooka but since the Japanese reached the final, the Indian bounced back into medal contention.

Pushpa Yadav (59kg) and Priya (76kg) also have a chance to end on the podium as their vanquishers also reached the finals to open the doors for them.

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Amit Panghal returns to Indian squad for last boxing Olympic qualifiers

World Championships silver medallist Amit Panghal has returned to the Indian squad, which saw wholesale changes for the final Olympic qualifying event, set to to be held in Bangkok from May 25 to June 2.

After Indian boxers' horrid run at the Olympic qualifiers in Italy last month, when not even one boxer could secure a quota, as many as five pugilists have lost their spot in the team for the second World Qualification Tournament.

The dismal show also led India's High Performanc Director Bernard Dunne to step down from his post. In the latest assessment, 2023 World Championships bronze medallist duo of Deepak Bhoria (51kg) and Mohammad Hussamudin (57kg), the six-time Asian Championships medallist Shiva Thapa (63.5kg), reigning national champion Lakshya Chahar (80kg) and 2022 Commonwealth games bronze medallist Jaisimine Lamboria (60kg) have lost their spot in the Indian team.

The country's lone men's world championships silver medallist (2019) Panghal, who won gold at the 2022 Commonwealth Games and the 2024 Strandja Memorial tournament, will get his first and final chance to seal his passage to his second Olympic Games, having competed in the Tokyo edition. He had lost out to Bhoria repeatedly in the assessment, hence missing out on the two qualifying events for the Paris Olympics - the Asian Games and the first World Olympic Qualifiers.

Another Strandja gold medallist and national champion Sachin Siwach (57kg) has also returned to the squad, replacing two-time CWG medallist Hussamudin. Sachin had also competed at the Asian Games last year. Himachal Pradesh's Abhinash Jamwal, who has dropped down from 67kg, scored more than the seasoned Shiva to earn a chance to compete in the light welterweight (63.5kg) category, while Abhimanyu Loura replaced Lakshya in 80kg.

Worlds bronze medallist Nishan Dev (71Kg), the lone boxer to go beyond his opening round in Italy, Sanjeet (92kg), and Hangzhou Asian Games bronze medallist Narender Berwal (+92kg) have retained their spots.

No male boxers from India has won a quota till now.

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Candidates Chess: Praggnanandhaa up against Alireza; Gukesh to face Gujrathi

Indian Grandmasters R Praggnanandhaa and D Gukesh would look to bridge the gap with leader Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia when they restart their campaigns in the eighth round of the Candidates chess tournament in Toronto.

Teen sensation Praggnanandhaa will be up against Frenchman Firouza Alireza, while Gukesh will take on compatriot Vidit Gujarathi when the tournament resumes on Saturday. While all three Indians have had a decent outing in the open section so far, it is defending champion Nepomniachtchi who is in prime position to complete a hat-trick of titles at the halfway stage.

With 4.5 points to his credit, Nepomniachtchi would be happy with his performance and stands as the favourite with half point more than nearest rivals Praggnanandhaa, Gukesh and top seed Fabiano Caruana of United States. Gujrathi on 3.5 points is known to rise towards the end of tournaments and one can expect him to come firing in the second half along with Hikaru Nakamura, who shares the fifth spot with him.

Alireza comes next in standings on the seventh spot with 2.5 points, a half point clear of Nijat Abasov of Azerbaijan.

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Mayank may miss a couple of more games, Frazer-McGurk came as a surprise: LSG's KL Rahul

Lucknow Super Giants skipper KL Rahul said on Friday that young Delhi Capitals batter Jake Frazer-McGurk took his team by surprise, adding that express pacer Mayank Yadav might have to cool his heels in the dugout for some more time to recover from a lower-abdomen niggle.

Delhi Capitals overhauled LSG's 167-run score in 18.1 overs for the loss of just four wickets with Australian Frazer-McGurk slamming 35-ball 55 on IPL debut and sharing a 77-run partnership with Rishabh Pant (41), even as Rahul sorely missed the services of Yadav. "McGurk, the new guys when they come in, was very unknown. We've watched a lot of videos of him but he hit the ball really well, credit to him," said Rahul.

Giving an update on Yadav, whose tearaway pace has rattled many a batters in IPL 2024, Rahul said, "Mayank is not too bad; he looks good, feeling good but we also want to make sure we don't rush him back in too early.

"He's young, we need to protect his body. He's itching to go, we just have to pull him back a little, maybe a couple of more games, before he comes back," added Rahul, who scored 39 on Friday.

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Delhi Capitals to win over Lucknow SuperGiants by six wickets

Australian youngster Jake Fraser-McGurk unleashed a flurry of big hits and shared a half-century partnership with skipper Rishabh Pant, allowing Delhi Capitals to defeat Lucknow Super Giants by six wickets in Lucknow on Friday.

Fraser-McGurk smashed five maximums in his 35-ball 55 and shared a 77-run stand with Pant (41 off 24 balls) as Delhi Capitals overhauled the hosts' 167/7 in 18.1 overs. Earlier, DC spinner Kuldeep Yadav (3/20) and left-arm pacer Khaleel Ahmed (2/41) tormented the LSG batters before Ayush Badoni hit an unbeaten 55 to take the hosts to a fighting score.

Kuldeep, returning to the side after missing three games due to groin issues, struck in his very first over grabbing the wickets of the dangerous Marcus Stoinis and Nicholas Pooran. He then got rid of LSG skipper Rahul for 39.

Brief Scores: Delhi Capitals 170 for 4 (Fraser-McGurk 55, Pant 41, Shaw 32, Bishnoi 2-25) beat Lucknow Super Giants 167 for 7 (Badoni 55*, Rahul 39, Kuldeep 3-20, Khaleel 2-41) by six wickets

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State

Andhra Pradesh CM injured in stone pelting incident during roadshow

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy was injured in pelting stones on Saturday by some people during his election campaign here, his office said.

The YSRCP president suffered a small cut on the left side of his temple during his "Memanta Siddham (We are all ready)" bus yatra. Saturday was the 14th day of Reddy's 21-day election campaign ahead of polling for the 175-member assembly and 25 Lok Sabha seats of the state on May 13. Counting of votes is scheduled on June 4. "A stone hit the chief minister while he was acknowledging the crowd as part of his bus tour at the Vivekananda School Centre in Singh Nagar, Vijayawada," a statement from the Chief Minister's Office (CMO) said.

On the advice of doctors, he was taken to the Vijayawada Government Hospital for treatment, following which he headed back to his night halt station at Kesarapalli in NTR district around 12:30 am on Sunday. A plastic surgeon administered two to three fine stitches on Reddy's wound, a doctor told reporters, adding that the chief minister has been advised not to sleep on his stomach. His treatment lasted for about 10 minutes, according to the doctor.

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Trigger warning: Suicide YouTuber couple ends life by jumping from seventh floor of a building

Trigger warning: Suicide
A live-in couple allegedly ended life by jumping from the seventh floor of a residential building Haryana's Jhajjar district, police said on Saturday.

Gravit (25) and Nandini (22) were YouTubers and hailed from Uttarakhand’s Dehradun, they said. They had been living in the residential building located in Bahadurgarh for the past one month, police said.

The couple was taken to a hospital where they were declared brought dead, they said, adding that it was yet to be ascertained why they took the extreme step. The bodies have been sent for post-mortem examination, police said.

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Spot inquiry points to ‘violation’ of human rights in Sandeshkhali, says NHRC

In a spot inquiry into the Sandeshkhali case in West Bengal, the NHRC has flagged “several instances of atrocities”, saying it indicates that there was a "violation of human rights" due to “negligence” in the prevention of such incidents.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), in its report, also observed that the “pervasive fear of reprisal, coupled with the power dynamics at play, acted as a formidable barrier”, preventing individuals from voicing their grievances. The rights panel has made several recommendations and sought an action taken report (ATR) within eight weeks on each of the recommendations made therein from the government of West Bengal, the NHRC said in a statement on Saturday.

The report has been uploaded on the NHRC website for “wider dissemination of information,” the statement said.

The Commission has sent its spot inquiry report to the Chief Secretary and DGP, West Bengal for submitting the ATR. The NHRC report made an observation that the "atmosphere due to the atrocities by the alleged accused persons rendered the victims silent", and intimidation, and terror made them “reluctant to seek justice".

This "climate of terror" not only "perpetuates the cycle of abuse" but also underscores the urgent need to create a safe and supportive environment for victims to "break free from the shackles of silence", it has observed.

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Ex DMK functionary, associates pumped Rs 40 cr drug money into films, real estate: ED

More than Rs 40 crore allegedly earned from drug trafficking was "injected" by now-sacked DMK functionary Jaffer Sadiq and his linked entities into sectors like film production, hospitality and real estate, the ED alleged on Saturday.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) made these claims in an official statement issued by the federal agency following its raids in this case at Chennai, Madurai and Tiruchirapalli on April 9. Sadiq, 36, was arrested by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) last month for his alleged involvement in the smuggling of about 3,500 kg of pseudoephedrine with a street value of more than Rs 2,000 crore.

He was expelled by the ruling DMK in Tamil Nadu in February after his name and purported links to the drugs network were mentioned by the NCB. The money laundering case stems from separate NCB and Customs department complaints filed against Sadiq and his partners on charges of indulging in "cross-border illegal trade of narcotics substances".

Sadiq, purportedly the mastermind behind an international drug trafficking syndicate, stands accused of smuggling pseudoephedrine camouflaged as health-mix powder and desiccated coconut to Australia and New Zealand, the ED said. It is alleged that he "funnelled" proceeds from drug sales into diversified ventures, including real estate, film production and logistics, serving as fronts for illicit activities, it said.

The search operation undertaken early this week targeted residences and businesses allegedly linked to entities "facilitating the laundering of cash generated by Sadiq," the agency alleged.

Evidence suggests, it said, the cash was layered through specific financiers before being injected into various sectors like movie production, the hospitality industry and acquiring immovable properties.

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NHRC flags human rights violations in Bengal’s troubled Sandeshkhali

The National Human Rights Commission on Saturday issued a report highlighting alleged human rights violations in West Bengal’s Sandeshkhali region, citing negligence in preventing or abating such violations by public servants.

The report has been sent to the Chief Secretary and Director General of Police of the state. The report highlights allegations of discrimination and denial of benefits from State/Central Government schemes, such as old age pension and MGNREGA, by officials in connection with the alleged group.

“Further, allegations of deprivation of the right to vote are serious in nature and undermine the democratic values of the nation,” the report said in one of its observations.

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Weather

Bad weather forces diversion of 22 flights at Delhi airport

As many as 22 flights were diverted at the Delhi airport on Saturday evening due to bad weather, according to an official.

Of them, nine flights were diverted to Jaipur, eight to Lucknow, two to Chandigarh, and one each to Varansi, Amritsar and Ahmedabad.

The official said nine flights of IndiGo, eight flights of Air India, and three flights of Vistara were among those that were diverted. The flights were diverted between 1500 hours and 1830 hours, the official added.

The Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) in the national capital handles around 1,300 flight movements daily. Rains hit parts of Delhi-NCR on Saturday evening, bringing respite from the heat.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) attributed the rains to an active western disturbance over northwest India. It has also forecast light rain accompanied by gusty winds on Sunday.

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❖ - Syndicated news, primarily from PTI

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