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I-T Dept recovers over Rs 150 crore cash after raids on distillery group

The Income Tax department on Thursday recovered over Rs 150 crore cash after it carried out searches against an Odisha-based distillery group on charges of alleged tax evasion, official sources said.

The raids were launched on Wednesday.  The department officials have deployed counting machines to ascertain the exact amount of cash that appears to be “unaccounted”, they said.

The sources identified the main business group under search as Boudh Distillery even as the tax officials also raided some linked entities. An email query sent by PTI to the company in this context did not elicit a response.

It was not clear if the cash was recovered from one or multiple locations.

The searches are being undertaken in capital Bhubaneswar, Balangir and Sambalpur apart from Ranchi and Kolkata, the sources said.

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Manipur legalises liquor sale after more than 30 years of ban

Manipur became a dry state in 1991 after the Manipur Liquor Prohibition Act came into force.

After more than 30 years of ban, the Manipur government has legalised sale and consumption of liquor in the state, a move that will help the state earn at least Rs 600 crore annually, an official said. According to an official, liquor can now be sold and consumed in greater Imphal, district headquarters, tourist locations, and registered hotel establishments with not less than 20 lodging rooms.

The decision to withdraw the liquor ban was taken during a cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister N Biren Singh on Monday.

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Rajasthan : BJP MLAs’ resort visit sets off speculations over CM post

Amid suspense over who the BJP will pick for the chief minister's post in Rajasthan, a visit by five MLAs to a resort on the outskirts of Jaipur created a buzz.

The father of MLA Lalit Meena claimed the newly elected legislator from Kishanganj had been confined there by the other four. After his father informed the party office, Meena was brought there on Wednesday morning. Meena, however, refused to elaborate on the incident, which is seen as an attempt at 'badabandi', holing up elected leaders in resorts as a show of strength. 

According to party sources, the five MLAs from the Kota division had checked into the resort on Tuesday night and had plans to shift to another resort in Kotputli. Meanwhile, the BJP's Rajasthan unit president CP Joshi said, "There is no 'badabandi'. The MLAs are in their constituencies," he said, adding that any decision on who will be the chief minister will be taken after the legislature party meeting.

Suspense over the chief ministerial face in Rajasthan prevailed ever since the party swept the Assembly poll in the state, winning 115 seats. Former chief minister Vasundhara Raje, and Union ministers Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and Arjun Ram Meghwal are considered among the frontrunners for the chief minister's post.

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Bhatti Vikramarka becomes Telangana’s first Dalit deputy CM

Revanth Reddy assumed the role of Telangana's inaugural Congress Chief Minister on Thursday. 

Governor Dr Tamilisai Soundararajan administered the oath to eleven additional ministers at Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium in Hyderabad. 

Notably, Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka made history as the state's first Dalit deputy chief minister, securing his fourth consecutive victory from the Madhira (SC) constituency in Khammam district. As the outgoing Assembly's CLP leader, Vikramarka played a pivotal role in the Congress's resurgence by undertaking a padayatra covering 1,400 km across 36 constituencies. Vikramarka, a member of the Pradesh Congress Committee executive committee from 1990 to 1992, entered the Assembly in 2009, subsequently serving as the chief whip until 2011 and later as the Assembly Deputy Speaker until 2014. He secured victories in the elections of 2014, 2018, and 2023.

In addition to Chief Minister Revanth Reddy, the Cabinet includes three Reddys: Uttam Kumar Reddy, Venkat Reddy, and Ponguleti Srinivasa Reddy. Ponnam Prabhakar and Konda Surekha represent the Other Backward Classes (OBC).  Dansari Anasuya (ST) and Damodar Raja Narasimha (SC) serve as the Dalit faces, while Sridhar Babu represents the Brahmins. Nageshwara Rao is the sole Kamma representative, and Krishna Rao hails from the Velama community.

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CM Vijayan accuses Kerala governor of not discharging duties

The ongoing war of words between the Left government and the Kerala Governor intensified further with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday alleging that Arif Mohammed Khan was not discharging his duties.

Vijayan said, “the Governor has to function as a Governor. He is presently not discharging the duties of a Governor.” Khan on Wednesday had said that he was open to advice from the state government, “but not pressure from them.” Ever since the recent Supreme Court verdict quashing the reappointment of Gopinath Ravindran as V-C of Kannur University and berating the Left government for its “unwarranted intervention” in the matter, there has been a war of words between Governor and the Left government.

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Will have to put in extra hours to hear disqualification pleas: Maharashtra speaker

Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar said on Thursday that he would need to work extra hours to conduct hearings on disqualification petitions while guaranteeing the smooth functioning of the House. 

The state legislature’s Winter Session is currently underway in Nagpur. Narwekar said, “I need to ensure the smooth functioning of the legislative Assembly as well as complete the disqualification hearings pending before me. It looks like I will be working from 9 am to 10 pm in this period to give justice to both responsibilities.”

Narwekar said he will hear the petitions for two and a half hours on Thursday at Nagpur’s Vidhan Bhavan, adding that it would be challenging for him to pay attention to both hearings as well as smooth functioning of the House. Rahul Narwekar is hearing cross-petitions filed by rival Shiv Sena factions seeking to disqualify each other's MLAs following the party’s split last year. 

The Supreme Court has directed the speaker to make a decision on the disqualification petitions by December 31.

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Maharashtra government tables supplementary demands of Rs 55,520 crore in state assembly

On the first day of the winter session of the legislature on Thursday, the Eknath Shinde-led Maharashtra government tabled supplementary demands of Rs 55,520.77 crore in the state assembly.

Finance Minister Ajit Pawar tabled the supplementary demands, which are funds sought by the government in addition to the budgetary allocation. A statement released by the finance department stated that supplementary demands of Rs 19,244.34 crore were defined as mandatory expenditure, while demands of Rs 32,792.81 crore are required for different ongoing projects and schemes of the state government.

Furthermore, it stated that supplementary demands of Rs 3,483.62 crore are for the state's contribution to ongoing Union government schemes.

The actual impact of these supplemental demands on the state treasury would be Rs 48,384.66 crore.

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Revanth Reddy takes oath as Telangana CM

A Revanth Reddy was sworn in as Chief Minister of Telangana on Thursday. 

He took oath as the second Chief Minister of Telangana following the party’s victory in the recently concluded Assembly elections.

The swearing-in ceremony was held at the sprawling LB Stadium in Hyderabad.

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Amid tight fiscal, Revanth Reddy tasked with delivering six guarantees

The Congress’ robust campaign in Telangana highlighting the six guarantees is said to have been one of the reasons for the party to mark its victory in the state. However, finding the funds to deliver them will be a herculean task.

Besides the many political challenges he has to confront,  Revanth Reddy will have the daunting task of making the bleak coffers ring to be able to fulfil the “six guarantees”. The most attractive among the “six” is free travel for women in Telangana State Road Transport Corporation buses.

Sources in the state government told PTI that according to a rough estimate, the RTC earns Rs 2,500 crore annually through women passengers. 

If the scheme is implemented, the government will have to replenish the same amount to the Corporation which is reeling under accumulated losses of Rs 6,000 crore. The party promised to waive up to Rs two lakh farm loan. The BRS government had budgeted Rs 21,000 lakh crore to waive up to Rs one lakh. As per the calculation, the Congress government needs to allot at least 35,000 lakh crore for the next five years to implement the farm loan waiver.

According to the state government statistics, as many as 42 lakh farmers were identified as beneficiaries during the previous regime for the crop loan waiver. Similarly the Grand Old Party promised to give Rs 15,000 to farmers and Rs 12,000 to farm workers under the Rythu Bharosa guarantee scheme per acre annually.

Under the BRS government’s Rythu Bandhu, farmers were paid Rs 10,000 annually.

The previous BRS government has paid Rs 72,000 crore under a similar scheme as Rythu Bandhu during the past five and half years, with 70 lakh farmers benefiting. The latest instalment could not be released due to poll code. Now, if the Congress has to implement its scheme, it needs nearly Rs one lakh crore in the next five years.

Senior journalist and political analyst S Nagesh Kumar said the first challenge that Revanth Reddy will face is the implementation of the six guarantees. “Karnataka also said the same thing that they will implement immediately...The state is reeling under a debt of Rs 5 lakh crore. The Centre has steadfastly refused to increase the borrowing limits under FRBM (Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act, 2003).

Nagesh Kumar further said Reddy will face strong Opposition within the party as well from the Opposition on fulfilling the poll promises.

According to the Telangana budget 2023-24, the total revenue was pegged at 2.16 lakh crore while the revenue expenditure was at 2.12 lakh crore. Telangana's outstanding public debt is estimated to be Rs 3,57,059 crore, according to the Budget estimates 2023-24 which is 23.8 per cent of GSDP.

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Maharashtra Winter Session: MVA leaders protest demanding farm loan waiver, higher MSPs

On the first day of the Maharashtra legislature's Winter Session, the Opposition protested outside the Vidhan Bhavan in Nagpur on Thursday, demanding farm loan waiver, paddy crop bonuses, and increased minimum support prices (MSP) for cotton and soybean.

Senior leaders from the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA), which includes the Shiv Sena (UBT), the Sharad Pawar faction of the NCP, and the Congress, chanted slogans against the government while holding orange and cotton garlands. Opposition leaders demanded immediate relief to farmers, including loan waivers, a Rs 1,000 bonus on paddy crops, Rs 14,000 and Rs 18,000 MSP for cotton and soybean, respectively

The Winter Session of the Maharashtra legislature is scheduled to be held here from today (December 7) to December 20. Assembly Leader of Opposition Vijay Wadettiwar stated that farmers have been affected by unseasonal rains and that lakhs of growers are not getting sufficient MSP for cotton and soybean.

"The government is doing only 'panchnamas' (survey) and making announcements. We want funds in farmers' accounts and no announcements," said Wadettiwar.

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Trigger warning: Suicide Kerala doctor allegedly dies by suicide over demands of BMW, gold, land as dowry; Fiance booked

Trigger warning: Suicide
Resident trainee doctor Shahana, a postgraduate student at the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College, was found dead in her apartment, on December 4. The police allege she died by suicide after another trainee doctor, her senior, at the institute backed out of marriage after her family could not meet his exorbitant dowry demands. 

Dr Shahana’s family had reportedly agreed to give 50 sovereigns of gold, properties worth Rs 50 lakhs and a car to Dr EA Ruwais. However, the prospective groom and his family demanded 150 sovereigns of gold, 15 acres of land and a BMW car as dowry, before eventually walking out of the wedding, leaving Shahana heartbroken.  The News Minute reports that a note, that is understood to be her suicide note spoke about people only bothering about money, but did not make a mention of dowry or take any names. 

The Kerala police on Wednesday took Ruwais into custody under charges pertaining to abetment of suicide and sections of the Dowry Prohibition Act. Indian Express quotes state crime records data to note that Kerala has reported eight dowry deaths till October this year. If you are aware of anyone facing mental health issues, please help. Here are some helpline numbers of suicide-prevention organisations. 

Vandrevala Foundation for Mental Health: 9999666555 or

TISS iCall: 022-25521111 (Monday-Saturday: 8 am to 10 pm)

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Odisha: ESMA invoked to ban strikes by staff of health department

In an effort to maintain uninterrupted medical services, the Odisha government has enforced the Orissa Essential Services (Maintenance) Act (ESMA), effectively banning strikes by various healthcare workers. This includes nurses, pharmacists, technicians, and Class III and IV employees, covering both regular and contractual staff.

The ESMA enforcement, which began on December 6, will be active for a period of six months. The Health department announced this decision on a Wednesday, emphasising the importance of continuous healthcare services for those in need.

The state health department expressed the necessity of this action, stating that it is crucial to prevent work stoppages among medical service employees. The prohibition extends to all government-run hospitals, medical colleges, and other health institutions that receive state funding. Additionally, the ban applies to employees at municipal and ESI hospitals, as well as specialised centres like the Acharya Harihar Regional Cancer Centre and the Regional Spinal Injury Centre in Cuttack, along with jail and police hospitals.

The notification, issued by the Home (special section) department, clarifies that under Section 2 (b) of the ESMA, a strike is defined as any collective work stoppage or refusal to work or accept employment, including unauthorised absences, by those employed in essential services. This measure aims to ensure that essential medical services remain available without disruption.

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Siddaramaiah queries 798.03 crore IGST deduction; revenue minister raises concern

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has raised concerns about the Union government's decision to impose sanctions on states' share of the Integrated Goods and Services Tax (IGST). 

In a letter to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Siddaramaiah sought clarification on the deduction of ₹798.03 crore from Karnataka's IGST share. He expressed concerns about the adjustment labelled as "Adjustment of Advance Apportionment to make up a shortfall in IGST balance as of December 26, 2022.” While recognising the intricacies of financial matters, Siddaramaiah emphasised the need for detailed insights into critical aspects. He questioned the rationale behind allowing the accumulation of a substantial IGST negative balance, totaling ₹34,000 crore, and highlighted its potential impact on the state's finances.

Additionally, to promote transparency, Karnataka requested comprehensive information on the total negative IGST balance and the methodology used for distributing this amount among states for recovery. Revenue Minister Krishna Byre Gowda expressed deep concerns over the lack of transparency in the process, particularly regarding the unexpected deduction from Karnataka's IGST settlement.

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2 out of 3 new Telangana MLAs face criminal charges : Report

Approximately 69 percent of the successful candidates, out of the 119 in the Telangana Assembly elections, have criminal cases filed against them. Meanwhile, nearly all of them, specifically around 96 percent, possess assets valued at a minimum of ₹1 crore.

The average assets of all 119 winners amount to ₹38.88 crore, as per a report disclosed by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) on December 6. Out of the 119, 82 winning candidates are millionaires when assessed in dollar terms, considering the current exchange rate, where a millionaire in dollars has assets exceeding ₹8.33 crore. The report reveals that 73 candidates among the winners have acknowledged being named in ongoing criminal cases. The ADR, in collaboration with Telangana Election Watch, has also scrutinised the educational qualifications and other particulars of the incumbent MLAs.

The analysis is based on affidavits submitted by the successful candidates with their nomination papers to the Election Commission of India (ECI) ahead of the 2023 Assembly elections. Among the parties, the Congress has the highest number of new MLAs with criminal cases, with 51 out of 64 winning candidates (approximately 80 percent). Following closely is the BRS, where 19 out of 39 winners (about half) are facing criminal charges. The BJP comes next, with seven out of eight winning candidates (88 percent) having criminal cases, along with four out of seven (57 percent) from the All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) and CPI's lone Kothagudem winning candidate, K Sambasiva Rao.

Out of the 82 winning candidates with criminal charges, 59 (50 percent of the total 119) have declared serious criminal cases, including assault, murder, and crimes against women.

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ZPM leader to be sworn in as Mizoram’s chief minister tomorrow

Lalduhoma, the leader of the Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM), is set to be sworn in as the Chief Minister of Mizoram this Friday, according to HC Vanlalruata’s report.

On Wednesday, Lalduhoma, along with ZPM’s working president K Sapdanga and ex-deputy speaker Vanlalhlana, visited Governor Hari Babu Kambhampati at the Raj Bhavan in Aizawl to formally claim the right to establish the new state government. The inauguration of the ZPM-led ministry is scheduled to take place on the circular lawn of Raj Bhavan at 11 am. It is anticipated that K Sapdanga, who transitioned from journalism to politics, will assume the role of Deputy Chief Minister, although he has not publicly commented on this expectation.

Following the oath-taking ceremony, a pro-tem speaker will be appointed, and the inaugural session of the 9th Mizoram Assembly is slated for December 12. In a statement to the press, Lalduhoma announced that the incoming administration intends to halt all disbursements associated with the Socio-Economic Development Policy, which is the hallmark initiative of the departing MNF government, as well as put an end to all populist measures and giveaways.

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Maharashtra speaker says extra hours needed to hear disqualification pleas

Rahul Narwekar, the Speaker of the Maharashtra Assembly, has expressed his commitment to extending his work hours to ensure the thorough examination of disqualification petitions while maintaining the smooth operation of the legislative proceedings.

The state legislature’s Winter Session is to convene in Nagpur from today to December 20. In a conversation with the media, Narwekar conveyed his determination to balance the efficient management of the assembly and the resolution of pending disqualification cases. He anticipates working from 9 am to 10 pm during this period to fulfil both duties effectively.

Narwekar is currently presiding over the hearings of mutual disqualification petitions submitted by opposing factions of the Shiv Sena, which emerged after the party’s division last year. The Shiv Sena (UBT) faction is pursuing the disqualification of 40 MLAs from the Shinde group, whose defection not only precipitated the fall of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in June 2022 but also led to a rift within the 57-year-old political party.

The Shinde faction has contested the authenticity of the documents used by the Thackeray-led group labelling them as “fake.” The Supreme Court has directed the Speaker to reach a decision on the disqualification petitions by December 31.

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90 of the newly elected MLAs in Madhya Pradesh are facing criminal cases

90 out of 230 MLAs, which constitutes nearly 39% of the assembly, have self-declared involvement in criminal cases in the recent Madhya Pradesh legislative assembly elections. Among these, 34 MLAs are facing grave charges that could lead to imprisonment of over five years, among other serious criteria.

The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), a non-profit organisation, noted a slight decrease from the 94 MLAs (41%) with declared criminal cases in the 2018 elections. The number of legislators facing severe criminal charges has also reduced from 47 in 2018 to 34 in 2023.

Pritam Lodhi of the BJP, representing Pichhore in Shivpuri district, is notably the sole MLA charged with murder. Additionally, five other MLAs are accused of attempted murder, and three have cases concerning crimes against women. Within the BJP, who won 163 seats, 51 legislators are implicated in criminal cases, with 16 facing serious charges. The Congress has 38 MLAs with criminal cases, 17 of whom are dealing with severe allegations.

Kamal Nath, the leader of the MP Congress party from Chhindwara, has disclosed two cases of forgery and cheating against him, though the court has yet to frame charges. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, elected from Budhni, has no pending cases against him. Serious criminal cases are defined by criteria such as offences punishable by a minimum of five years of imprisonment, non-bailable charges, electoral offences like bribery, financial crimes causing loss to the state treasury, violent crimes including assault, murder, kidnapping, rape, offences listed under Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act, crimes under the Prevention of Corruption Act, and offences against women.

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BJP MLA with Rs 296-cr assets tops the list of 205 crorepati lawmakers in Madhya Pradesh

In the recent Madhya Pradesh legislative assembly elections, a significant majority of the elected MLAs, amounting to 205 out of 230, are millionaires. Among them, state Congress president Kamal Nath is listed as one of the wealthiest, with assets exceeding Rs 134 crore. On average, the MLAs hold assets valued at Rs 11.77 crore.

Topping the affluence chart is BJP’s Chaitanya Kashyap from Ratlam City, with a declared wealth of Rs 296 crore. He is followed by his party mate Sanjay Satyendra Pathak from Vijayraghavgarh, who possesses Rs 242 crore in assets, as per the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) report.

The report highlights an increase in the number of millionaire MLAs from 187 in 2018 to 205 in 2023, with 144 belonging to the BJP and 61 to the Congress. The BJP emerged victorious in the assembly polls, securing 163 seats, an upsurge from their previous count of 109 in 2018. Conversely, the Congress faced a decline, dropping from 114 seats in 2018 to 66 seats. The Bharat Adivasi Party, a new contender, succeeded in winning a single constituency.

Kamlesh Dodiyar of the Bharat Adivasi Party stands out among the elected MLAs for having the least assets, declaring a sum of Rs 18 lakh. Out of the 205 millionaire MLAs, 102 have declared assets worth Rs 5 crore or more. Additionally, 71 legislators have assets ranging between Rs 2 crore and Rs 5 crore, while 48 have assets between Rs 50 lakh and Rs 2 crore. There are nine MLAs whose assets are valued at less than Rs 50 lakh.

The average asset value of the newly elected MLAs has risen to Rs 11.77 crore, up from Rs 10.17 crore in 2018.

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Eight Indian fishermen arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy

Eight fishermen from Pamban, a town in Tamil Nadu, venturing into the sea after six days of staying ashore due to bad weather, faced a setback as they were arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy on Wednesday.

The fishermen had set out on a boat and while on the high seas, the Sri Lankan Navy apprehended them, towing both the fishermen and their boat to the island nation, where the vessel was seized.

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Uttar Pradesh: 80 madrasas got Rs 100 crore foreign funds, finds SIT probe

A total of 80 madrasas in Uttar Pradesh received around Rs 100 crore foreign funds over the past three years, according to an ongoing probe by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) that was formed by the state government in October this year.

In many cases the money was deposited directly into the bank accounts of societies and NGOs that manage the madrasas, reported the Indian Express, citing a senior official involved in the matter. The state has approximately 25,000 madrasas of which more than 16,500 have been recognised by the UP Board of Madrasa Education. The SIT during its investigation identified individuals, societies and NGOs running the madrasas in the state and gathered information on their bank accounts.

And that is when it was found that money was transferred from “various locations around the world, particularly the Middle East, London and Dubai,” all of which are now under scrutiny. 

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Telangana: Revanth Reddy to be sworn in as Chief Minister today

Anumula Revanth Reddy, the Chief Minister-elect of Telangana, is set to be sworn in as the state’s new Chief Minister on Thursday, marking a new chapter following his party’s triumph in the recent Assembly elections.

The oath-taking ceremony for the 56-year-old leader is scheduled at the expansive LB Stadium at precisely 1.04 PM today (Thursday). In preparation for the ceremony, State Chief Secretary A Santhi Kumari and DGP Ravi Gupta convened with top officials to discuss logistics and also inspected the site on Wednesday. The event is anticipated to draw a crowd of approximately one lakh attendees.

Dignitaries such as Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) chairperson Sonia Gandhi and party leader Rahul Gandhi are expected to grace the swearing-in ceremony. Revanth Reddy, heralding the advent of a ‘people’s government’ on December 7, promised democratic and transparent governance and extended a public invitation to the swearing-in event.

Reports indicate that Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka, the newly elected Congress MLA and leader of the CLP in the preceding Assembly, is poised to be sworn in as the Deputy Chief Minister. D Raja, the General Secretary of CPI, confirmed his attendance at the ceremony following an invitation from Revanth Reddy. The CPI, which was a pre-poll partner of Congress in the recent assembly elections, has secured one seat.

The ceremony is also likely to be attended by Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and his deputy D K Shivakumar. Shivakumar, designated as one of the AICC observers, was tasked with coordinating the CLP meeting in Hyderabad. State DGP Ravi Gupta assured that adequate measures have been implemented to manage traffic and other aspects to minimise public inconvenience.

VVIPs arriving for the event will be landing at the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport on the outskirts of the city, while others will touch down at Begumpet Airport, with security arrangements in place for their reception. The AICC leadership officially designated Revanth Reddy as the CLP leader and the forthcoming Chief Minister of Telangana on Tuesday.

In a significant victory, the Congress ousted the Bharat Rashtra Samiti (BRS) in the recent Assembly elections, securing 64 of the 119 seats, with their pre-poll ally CPI winning one seat.

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Delhi government reduces winter vacation in schools to six days

The winter vacation for the academic year 2023-24 in the national capital was scheduled to start from January 1 and continue up to January 15. However, now it has been reduced.

According to a circular issued by the Directorate of Education on Wednesday, the winter vacation in Delhi schools will start from January 1, 2024 and continue till January 6. “In order to ensure that our students are not adversely affected due to the poor air quality in Delhi, a portion of winter vacation was given from November 9 to November 18," the circular added. 

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Delhi government reduces winter vacation in schools to six days

The winter vacation for the academic year 2023-24 in the national capital was scheduled to start from January 1 and continue upto January 15. However, now it has been reduced. 

According to a circular issued by the Directorate of Education on Wednesday, now the winter vacation in Delhi schools will start from January 1, 2024 and continue till January 6.  “In order to ensure that our students are not adversely affected due to the poor air quality in Delhi, a portion of winter vacation was given from November 9 to November 18," the circular added. 

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