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FBI Director Christopher Wray to visit India next week

Against the backdrop of Washington’s allegations about an Indian link to a foiled plot to kill a Sikh separatist on American soil, FBI Director Christopher Wray is all set to visit India next week. 

US ambassador to India Eric Garcetti referred to Wray's upcoming visit at an event. “This was the Number 1 country she (US Secretary of Treasury Janet Yellen) went to outside of the United States - four times this year. The Secretary of State (Antony Blinken) just came here for the third time. Secretary of Defense (Lloyd Austin) for the second time. The FBI director is here next week,” he said.

External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi, when asked about Wray's planned trip to India, said the visit is in the works as part of the overall bilateral cooperation in areas of cyber-security, counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics.

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Delhi government considers setting up own disaster response force

Furthering its aim to improve disaster preparedness in the national capital, the Delhi government is considering proposals to form an SDRF and set up a control room comprising staff from multiple agencies, officials said.

Revenue Minister Atishi has received a proposal from her department for constituting the SDRF team, owing to the national capital witnessing frequent tremors of late and the massive floods that affected parts of the city earlier this year. In a separate proposal, the revenue department has put forward the plan to set up a control room comprising operational staff from multiple agencies for better coordination during disaster situations.

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Revanth Reddy sworn in as Telangana Chief Minister

Congress legislature party leader A Revanth Reddy was on Thursday sworn in as Chief Minister of Telangana at a glittering ceremony in Hyderabad. 

The ceremony was attended by top Congress leaders, including Sonia Gandhi and Mallikarjun Kharge. Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan administered the oath of office and secrecy to Revanth Reddy and the ministers at L B Stadium.

Besides Revanth Reddy, Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka (Deputy Chief Minister), N Uttam Kumar Reddy, Komatireddy Venkata Reddy, C Damodar Rajanarasimha, D Sridhar Babu, Ponguleti Srinivas Reddy, Ponnam Prabhakar, Konda Surekha, D Anasuya (popularly known as Seethakka), Tummala Nageswara Rao and Jupally Krishna Rao took oath as ministers. Senior Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah, his deputy D K Shivakumar, and Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu also attended the ceremony.

After taking oath as chief minister, Revanth Reddy signed two files. They include one pertaining to implementation of six poll ‘guarantees’ of Congress and another providing a job to a disabled woman as per a promise made to her by Revanth Reddy in the past.

Revanth Reddy, along with his wife, took the blessings of Sonia Gandhi during the event. Sonia Gandhi hugged Seethakka and Surekha who went to her after taking oath as ministers. Addressing the gathering, Revanth Reddy said the barricades and iron fence around Pragati Bhavan, the Chief Minister's camp office-cum-official residence, were being dismantled while the swearing-in ceremony was in progress.

The CM's camp office-cum-official residence would be accessible to all henceforth, he said. Renaming Pragati Bhavan as ‘Jyotirao Phule Praja Bhavan’, he said a ‘Praja Darbar’ would be held at 10 AM on December 8.

Reddy also assured that he would take care of the Congress workers who worked hard in the past ten years.

The state government will do justice to the families of those who sacrificed their life for the sake of Telangana statehood, as well as the students and unemployed youth, he said.

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The intriguing political journey of Revanth Reddy

It was a classic case of a grassroots politician rising from the ranks and fighting to the finish line when Anumula Revanth Reddy, the determined Telangana PCC president, took over as the new Chief Minister of the state.

Reddy is credited with steering the Congress to power in Telangana by challenging both the mighty BRS, which had a stranglehold on Telangana politics, and the ambitious BJP, which was striving hard to emerge as the alternative. Reddy’s career in public life is intriguing as it began with student activism in the right-wing ABVP.  The 56-year-old Congress leader, Reddy, is known among fellow politicians, party members, and the public for his never-say-die attitude.

A fierce critic of Chandrasekhar Rao, Reddy has often been the target of vehement political attacks by the BRS and the AIMIM. Reddy, briefly associated with BRS (then TRS), was first elected to a political office in 2006 when he succeeded in a Zilla Parishad election. He was elected as a Zilla Parishad Territorial Constituency (ZPTC) member, then as an independent.

Born on November 8, 1969, in Kondareddypally village in Nagarkurnool district, Reddy was elected to the legislative council from the local bodies constituency in undivided Andhra Pradesh in 2007 as an independent. He joined the TDP and became a confidante of party chief and former Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu.

Reddy, a graduate in arts, was elected to the Legislative Assembly on a TDP ticket in 2009 and later in 2014 when Telangana was carved out of Andhra Pradesh.

He faced the biggest challenge of his political life in 2015 when he was allegedly caught on camera trying to bribe a nominated MLA to vote in favor of the TDP in a legislative council election. He was sent to jail in Hyderabad but was released on bail. He quit the TDP in October 2017 and joined the Congress the same year. Revanth Reddy lost the 2018 Assembly poll to the BRS candidate and remained in political wilderness for a while.

Reddy was elected to the Lok Sabha in the 2019 elections from Malkajgiri. He was appointed the PCC president in 2021 despite being junior in the Congress, leading to discontent among many seniors in the state Congress unit.

He had the challenging task of reviving the fortunes of the Congress amid difficult circumstances and succeeded in uniting the party leaders. The ruling BRS was at the peak of its power and glory after a resounding victory in the 2018 Assembly polls and 12 Congress MLAs joining the ruling party in 2019. The Congress continued to face setbacks as the BJP achieved significant wins in the bypolls for two Assembly constituencies.

Unfazed, Reddy continued to lead the party in the face of formidable challenges, and the Congress in Telangana witnessed a change in its fortunes after the Karnataka elections in May this year. Besides AICC president Mallikarjun Kharge, Rahul Gandhi, and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, he was the only state Congress leader who extensively campaigned during the recent assembly polls.

Reddy, a football enthusiast considered to be close to Rahul Gandhi and Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister D K Shivakumar. Reddy is the second Chief Minister of Telangana after KCR, who held the office from June 2, 2014, to December 3, 2023.

However, Revanth Reddy’s tenure could be challenging as he has to implement the six poll guarantees made by the Congress, face a robust Opposition led by the astute KCR, and manage his own party leaders seeking recognition while the party is in power.

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PM Modi credits ‘team spirit’ for BJP’s wins in Assembly polls

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday cited poll data for Assembly elections over the decades to assert that the BJP has become people's most preferred choice for governance.

Speaking at the BJP Parliamentary Party meeting, he said not any leader but “team spirit” should be credited for the party’s big win in the recent Assembly polls. He also asked party leaders to use the language preferred by the masses in their interaction with them. While giving an example, he said they should use ‘Modi ki guarantee’ instead of “Modi ji ki guarantee”.

Quoting Modi, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi told reporters that the Congress faced Assembly polls 40 times while in power in those states and could win only seven of them, having a dismal success rate of 18 percent. The corresponding figures for the BJP are 22 out of 39 times, a success rate of 56 percent, Modi noted.

Regional parties have fared better than the Congress but not the BJP as they won 18 of 36 times when in power, notching up a success rate of 50 percent.

It shows that the BJP is the most preferred party for running the government, he said.

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Cardinal Alencherry resigns as Major Archbishop and head of Syro-Malabar Church in Kerala

Head of the Syro-Malabar Church, Cardinal George Alencherry, announced his resignation from the post on Thursday.

His decision came amid an ongoing feud in the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, involving the implementation of a uniform Holy Mass and the church's land dealings. Alencherry held the position of Major Archbishop of the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese.

In a press conference, the Cardinal said that he had, back in 2019, tendered his resignation before the Pope, but the same was not accepted as the Church Synod did not agree with his decision. Subsequently, he again tendered his resignation in November last year and a year later the Pope accepted it and allowed him to relinquish his position as Major Archbishop and head of the Syro-Malabar Church, Alencherry said.

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Cyclone Michaung: PM Modi asks MHA to release in advance Centre’s contribution to AP, TN

In the wake of the floods due to cyclone Michaung, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has instructed the Ministry of Home Affairs to release in advance the second instalment of the Center’s contribution to the SDRF of Rs 450 crore for Tamil Nadu and Rs 493.60 crore for Andhra Pradesh, Union Home Minister Amit Shah shared in a post on X.

Prime Minister Modi has approved a Rs 561.29 crore urban flood mitigation project for the Integrated Urban Flood Management Activities for Chennai Basin Project under the National Disaster Mitigation Fund, including central assistance of Rs 500 crore, Shah said. The severe cyclonic storm Michaung left behind a trail of destruction in Andhra Pradesh, damaging 770-kilometre roads, uprooting trees and killing livestock. According to data supplied by the Chief Minister's Office (CMO), Michaung's impact affected almost 40 lakh people from 194 villages and two cities, including the flooding of 25 villages.

After Michaung caused havoc in the metropolis and adjoining regions, people in Tamil Nadu's capital city Chennai are dealing with stagnant water and power outages in various locations and suburbs. Rajnath Singh conducts aerial survey of flood-hit TN

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday conducted an aerial survey of flood-hit northern Tamil Nadu and discussed the extent of damage caused by cyclone Michaung with Chief Minister M K Stalin. 

Singh surveyed Chennai and nearby areas and was briefed by CM Stalin on the cyclone, damage caused, and the need for relief from the Centre. The state government has already sought an interim Central relief of Rs 5,060 crore. Union Minister of State L Murugan accompanied Singh.

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Visva-Bharati replaces controversial plaques on Unesco tag to Santiniketan

After a massive political backlash, Visva-Bharati has finally replaced the plaques commemorating Unesco’s world heritage tag to Santiniketan.

Santiniketan, where Rabindranath Tagore built Visva-Bharati over a century ago, was inscribed on the Unesco World Heritage List in September. The central varsity installed three plaques to commemorate it, but the plaques did not have Tagore’s name. Instead, it had those of PM Narendra Modi, who is the chancellor, and then vice-chancellor Bidyut Chakraborty.

The incident triggered a political furore with CM Mamata Banerjee, the state’s opposition BJP and several noted personalities criticising Chakraborty, who retired last month. The text on the new plaques has been approved by the Union Education Ministry, and it does not have references to anyone other than Tagore, officials said.

“Established in rural West Bengal in 1901 by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, Santiniketan became a cradle of learning and education firmly rooted in India’s classical traditions,” read the newly installed plaques.

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ED files first charge sheet against Chinese smartphone maker vivo-India, others

The Enforcement Directorate has lodged its first charge sheet on Thursday in connection with the money laundering investigation involving Chinese smartphone manufacturer Vivo and others.

The prosecution complaint, filed under the criminal sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), lists Vivo-India as an accused, along with individuals previously arrested in the case, including the MD of Lava International, Hari Om Rai. The ED had arrested four individuals, asserting that their activities led to wrongful gains for Vivo-India, impacting India's economic sovereignty.

The agency had conducted raids in July last year, claiming to uncover a significant money laundering network involving Chinese nationals and multiple Indian companies. The ED alleged that Rs 62,476 crore was "illegally" transferred by vivo-India to China to evade Indian taxes. In response, Vivo-India emphasised adherence to ethical principles and legal compliance, while Rai denied any association with the Chinese firm since 2014. 

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Inquiry panel set up for Silkyara tunnel collapse, to submit initial report in 10 days

The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways established a five-member expert committee on Wednesday to probe the structural failure of the Silkyara tunnel in Uttarkashi. The panel is tasked with delivering an initial report on the collapse within 10 days and a comprehensive report within one month.

Additionally, within 45 days, the committee will suggest revisions to the standard operating procedures for tunnel collapses and outline safety protocols for construction. The committee, sanctioned by Anurag Jain, the Union Secretary of Road Transport and Highways, will be chaired by R K Dhiman, the Additional Director General of the Border Roads Organisation. The team also includes a representative from Indian Railways and two academic professors.

The expert group is set to inspect the site within a week and review all relevant project records and rescue operation details. They will scrutinise the Detailed Project Report (DPR) and the detailed design reports provided by the project contractor. The team will examine geological mapping, plans, and geotechnical and geophysical studies conducted during both the DPR phase and execution.

The panel’s investigation will encompass the site’s conditions, such as the areas of collapse, failures, the hydro-geology of the project region, and the type of ground. Additionally, the committee will evaluate the entire project implementation system by the contractor, consultant, and NHIDCL, including quality control measures.

The ministry has stated that the committee will conduct an in-depth analysis of the tunnel collapse, identifying potential causes and future risks based on the ground type and the sequence of events that led to the failures and collapses.

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Cyclone Michaung: IAF delivers 2,300 kg relief material in flood-hit Chennai

The Indian Air Force conducted relief operations in flood-affected Chennai suffering from the aftermath of Cyclone Michaung, dropping 2,300 kg of relief material in liaison with the Tamil Nadu government and various state agencies.

Four Chetak helicopters covered eight locations in South Chennai and eight locations in North Chennai, delivering Manali fertilisers. In the afternoon, Chetak helicopters from AFS Tambaram provided relief supplies in West Tambaram, Mudichur, Velachery, and Pallikaranai.

The Indian Navy conducted rescue efforts in Chennai's Pallikaranai and Thoraipakkam areas as the city faced the impacts of Cyclone Michuang.

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PM Modi to visit Dehradun to inaugurate Global Investors Summit

Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi will visit Dehradun, Uttarakhand on 8th December, 2023. At around 10:30 AM, he will inaugurate ‘Uttarakhand Global Investors Summit 2023’ being held at Forest Research Institute, Dehradun. Prime Minister will also address the gathering on the occasion.

‘Uttarakhand Global Investors Summit 2023’ is a step towards establishing Uttarakhand as a new investment destination. The two day summit is being held on 8th and 9th December, 2023 with the theme -  “Peace to Prosperity”.

The summit will be attended by thousands of investors and delegates from across the world. It will witness participation of Union Ministers, Ambassadors of various countries along with leading industrialists, among others.

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UGC urges implementation of NHRC advisory on child sexual abuse materials

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has instructed all higher education institutions (HEI) to implement the National Human Rights Commission's (NHRC) advisory safeguarding children's rights against child sexual abuse material (CSAM) production, distribution, and consumption.

UGC Secretary Manoj Joshi, in a letter to universities and colleges, emphasised disseminating NHRC's advisory information and executing its recommendations. HEIs were urged to report their actions on this matter to the UGC. The NHRC advisory highlighted 1,505 reported instances of CSAM-related activities in 2021 under relevant legal sections, highlighting the lasting psychological impact on children and their overall development disruption.

“Production of CSAM creates a permanent record of sexual abuse while its subsequent transmission and consumption via internet and other means results in perpetual victimisation of children thereby having a lasting psychological impact on the child leading to further disruption of his/her overall development,” the NHRC had noted.

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Tendulkar, Kohli, Big B, Ambani, Adani among 8,000 guests invited to Ram temple inauguration

The consecration ceremony of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, scheduled for January 22, will witness the attendance of distinguished figures such as cricketers Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli, business magnates Mukesh Ambani, Gautam Adani, and Ratan Tata, Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan, and actors Arun Govil and Dipika Chikhlia, famed for their roles as Ram and Sita in the ‘Ramayana’ TV series. The Ram Mandir Trust has extended invitations to a vast assembly of over 7,000 individuals, encompassing 3,000 VIPs. The ceremony will also honour the families of karsevaks who sacrificed their lives for the temple cause.

The guest list includes RSS leader Mohan Bhagwat, yoga guru Ramdev, an assembly of 4,000 seers, and a diverse group of writers, journalists, scientists, and other notable figures from various parts of India. Champat Rai, the General Secretary of the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Trust, shared plans to invite a representative from each of 50 foreign nations and the families of 50 karsevaks who perished during the temple movement.

The Trust has also reached out to judges, scientists, writers, poets, saints, priests, Shankaracharyas, ex-civil servants, retired military officers, lawyers, musicians, and recipients of the Padma awards. In a symbolic gesture, Ram Lalla will be enshrined in the temple as a five-year-old deity, represented by three idols crafted from stones sourced from Karnataka and Rajasthan. These idols are nearing completion and undergoing final refinements, with the most exquisite one to be chosen for the sacred consecration.

Sharad Sharma, the spokesperson for the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), mentioned that journalists who championed the Ram temple cause through their reporting have also been invited, acknowledging their role in the temple’s successful campaign. The VVIPs will gain access via barcode passes, with a registration link provided prior to the ceremony to generate the necessary entry passes.

The invitation, personally signed by Champat Rai, conveys the significance of the event: “After a prolonged struggle, the construction of the temple at Shri Ram Janmabhoomi is underway. On Paush Shukla Dwadashi, Vikram Samvat 2080, Monday, January 22, 2024, the new idol of Ram Lalla will be enshrined in the inner sanctum.”

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Persistent flooding: South Chennai still underwater after 72 hours

After torrential rain from cyclone Michaung, south Chennai faced water stagnation, power outages, and dwindling resources.

Despite normalcy returning elsewhere, areas like Karapakkam to Thoraipakkam, Sholinganallur to Semmancheri, Perumbakkam to Pallikaranai, and Velachery to Madipakkam remain heavily inundated. Frustrated residents are growing impatient due to the slow pace of work and report being marooned without essential supplies, with some stating that even water demands haven't been met.

A Pallikaranai resident mentioned blocked stretches and inundated areas, expressing a sense of isolation, saying, "This place feels like an island now." Several areas surrounding water bodies such as lakes have been overflowing with water and cut off from the rest of the city. Residents who were rescued in boats were perplexed at the lack of initiatives to drain the stagnated water.

"Water from a lake and a canal are overflowing in the area (Sholinganallur). Manpower is limited, so are boats. We are trying to help as many people as we can,” said an official of the Greater Chennai Corporation.

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Railways gave Rs 59,837 crore subsidy on passenger tickets in 2019-20: Ashwini Vaishnaw

The Indian Railways offered a subsidy of Rs 59,837 crore on passenger tickets in 2019-20 or a concession of 53% on an average to every person, Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday adding that the concession still continues.

The information was shared in response to a question by Congress MP Anto Antony from Kerala regarding restoring pre-Covid concessions for different categories of railway passengers. According to Vaishnaw, concessions beyond this subsidy amount are continuing for many categories like four categories of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjans), 11 categories of patients and eight categories of students. About 18 lakh patients and their escorts availed this special concession during 2022-23.

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Maybe politics wasn't Rahul's calling: Pranab Mukherjee remarked in book

Pranab Mukherjee was shocked by Rahul Gandhi's ordinance-tearing act in 2013 and said he has all the "arrogance" of his Gandhi-Nehru lineage without their political acumen, and that this episode was the "final nail in the coffin" for the Congress in the Lok Sabha polls the following year, a book on the late president said.

“In Pranab, My Father: A Daughter Remembers”, Sharmistha Mukherjee says that her father also told her that “maybe politics wasn’t Rahul’s calling” and his “lack of charisma and political understanding is creating a problem” besides his “frequent disappearing acts”. In 2013, Rahul Gandhi stepped into a press conference conducted by former Cabinet minister and party communication department chief Ajay Maken and aggressively criticised a planned government ordinance, calling it "complete nonsense" and said it should be torn. Then, very unexpectedly, he tore a copy of the ordinance. Mukherjee served as India's finance minister and later minister for External Affairs, Defence, Finance and Commerce. He was India’s 13th president (2012 to 2017). He died on August 31, 2020, at the age of 84.

Sharmistha further stated that her father himself was against the ordinance and in principle agreed with Rahul Gandhi.

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