L A T E S T      N E W S

Ishrat Jahan fake encounter: CBI arrests Gujarat IPS officer

NEW DELHI: The CBI has arrested Gujarat Police officer G L Singhal in connection with the alleged fake encounter of 19-year old student Ishrat Jahan by a team of Ahmedabad crime branch officers in 2004.

Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) sources here said Singhal, an inducted IPS officer, who was then Assistant Commissioner of Police Crime Branch, was arrested by the agency in Ahmedabad and searches are going on at his residential and official premises.

The CBI in its FIR has alleged that Singhal who is now Superintendent of Police at State Crime Records Bureau played an active role in the encounter which was later found to be fake by the Special Investigation Team constituted by the Gujarat high court.

Jahan along with three others — Javed Sheikh, Zeeshan Johar and Amjad Ali Rana
— were killed by a team of Ahmedabad city crime branch officers on an empty road stretch between Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar on June 15, 2004.

After Jahan's mother complained about the alleged fake encounter, Gujarat high court constituted a Special Investigation Team which concluded that encounter was fake. Following the report, the High Court handed over the matter to the CBI and is monitoring the investigations.

The court had asked the agency to submit a progress report by March 15. — PTI







Govt taking steps to revive economy: Pranab

NEW DELHI: Expressing concern over declining growth, President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday said the government is taking steps to revive investment activity and boost economy. 

“Both global and domestic factors have affected our growth. We need to address the impact of both. My government has responded to the situation by taking several measures to revive investment activity and investor sentiment,” he said in his address to the joint sitting of Parliament at the beginning of the Budget Session. 

The economic growth during the 2012-13 is expected to fall to a decade low level of 5 per cent. It was 6.2 per cent in the previous fiscal. 

“The past year has been a very difficult one for the global economy ...It has been a difficult year for India also. 

“The Indian economy is currently experiencing slower growth. The real GDP grew by 5.4 per cent in the first half of the current fiscal year. This is significantly lower than the average of around 8 per cent in the last decade,” Mukherjee said, adding the government is taking steps to deal with factors responsible for the slowdown. 

On concerns over fiscal prudence, Mukherjee said, the government has announced a roadmap for fiscal consolidation and would contain the fiscal deficit to 5.3 per cent of the GDP in the current financial year. 

Referring to the issue of price rise, he said “inflation is easing gradually, it is still a problem ... There has been a moderation in core inflation and recovery in growth is likely“. 

The inflation based on Wholesale Price Index (WPI) plummeted to a three year low of 6.62 per cent in January. The retail inflation, however, continued to remain in double digit. 

The government, he added, is also working with States to reach a consensus on Goods and Services Tax (GST), which will streamline indirect taxation system. 

The address, a constitutional requirement, marks the commencement of the Budget session of Parliament. 

Mukherjee also announced that the government proposes to introduce the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill in this session as a “significant” measure towards judicial reforms. 

Global recession 

The President devoted a considerable part of the speech to the economic situation and the burden of gathering anxieties about slowdown, job security and employment prospects. 

“People are concerned about the security of our women and children. They are also anxious about timely delivery of their entitlements and about persisting social and economic inequality,” he said. 

Mukherjee said the past year has been “very difficult one” for the global economy. “Europe is in recession. Most emerging markets are growing very slowly. It has been a difficult year for India also. Both global and domestic factors have affected our growth. 

“We need to address the impact of both. My government has responded to the situation by taking several measures to revive investment activity and investor sentiment,” he said. 

Indian economy 

Mukherjee, who was Finance Minister before his election as President last July, noted that the Indian economy is currently experiencing slower growth. 

“Real GDP grew by 5.4 per cent in the first half of the current fiscal year. This is significantly lower than the average of around 8% in the last decade. Our slower growth is the consequence of a combination of global and domestic factors,” he said. 

The President assured the nation that the government was taking steps to deal with the factors responsible for the slowdown. 

“Inflation is easing gradually but is still a problem. In recent months, there have been positive developments too. 

There has been a moderation in core inflation and recovery in growth is likely. Policy measures announced during the year have also restored optimism at home and abroad,” he said. 

“My government has announced a road map for fiscal consolidation by containing the current year’s fiscal deficit at 5.3 per cent of the GDP. The government is also working with State Governments to reach a consensus on the Goods and Services Tax,” he said. 

Crime against women 

In his speech, he also referred to the enactment of a “path-breaking” the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, providing for stringent punishment for persons who commit or abet such offences. 

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill has already been passed by Lok Sabha for ensuring a safe and secure environment for women in work places. 

“My government is also deeply concerned about incidents of sexual offences against women. After considering the recommendations of the Justice J.S. Verma Committee, the government has promulgated an ordinance, amending the criminal law to provide for stringent punishment for heinous sexual offences against women. 

“The government has also begun to implement a series of administrative measures to improve the safety and security of women in the country,” the President said. — PTI








Jaya cancels sports event; DMK, AIADMK protest during Pranab's speech

CHENNAI/NEW DELHI: Amid protests over the alleged brutal killing of slain LTTE chief V Prabhakaran's son, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa on Thursday called off the 20th Asian Athletics Championships scheduled to be held in Chennai in July, saying Lankan players have no place in the state.

Jayalalithaa said her government had written to the Asian Athletics Association in Singapore seeking that Lankan team be desisted from participation considering the "sentiments" of the people in Tamil Nadu, as the Lankan government was "repeatedly acting against the ethnic minorities".

In the Capital, DMK and AIADMK MPs shouted slogans over Sri Lankan Tamil issue during the maiden address of President Pranab Mukherjee in Parliament.

As soon as the President began his address to the joint sitting in the Central Hall, DMK and AIADMK members raised slogans.

The exact contents of the slogans could not be heard, but apparently they were referring to the killing of the 12-year-old son of slain LTTE chief Prabhakaran allegedly by Sri Lankan soldiers.

Union ministers Rajiv Shukla and V Narayanasamy waved at the protesting MPs to take their seats.

An unperturbed President, however, continued reading his speech despite the commotion.

The decision comes a day after Jayalalithaa slammed the Lankan government over the "inhuman act" of alleged cold blooded killing of 12-year-old Balachandran by the Lankan army, which has also evoked a strong condemnation from various political parties in Tamil Nadu including DMK.

The sporting body had been requested to intimate to the Lankan government in the appropriate way the state government decision, Jayalalithaa said.

"It had been requested that they update us on the follow-up action with copies of the letter sent to Secretaries of Union external affairs and sports ministries. But there has been no information from the Association so far".

"Since there has been no favourable response from the Asian Athletics Association, my government will at no cost accept holding the event, in which Sri Lanka is also participating, in Tamil Nadu. Tamils also will never accept it," she said in a statement.

The upcoming sporting event will not be conducted by Tamil Nadu government in any part of the state and the Association will be asked to hold it elsewhere, she said.

She reiterated her charge that the killing of Balachandran was a "a grave war-crime which cannot be forgiven." — PTI







Bansal likely to announce 100 new trains in Rail Budget

NEW DELHI: The Railways is planning to introduce about 100 trains, including AC double deckers, new passenger services and extension of services to cater to the demands of various states in the Rail Budget 2013-14.

As far as rolling stock programme is concerned, the announcement will be made for manufacturing of 4200 new coaches including 600 LHB coaches in the Rail Budget.

While provision for manufacturing of 670 new locomotives including 20 LNG locos will be made, the budget will also account for manufacturing of about 16,000 new wagons.

"The focus of the Rail Budget this year is on providing more amenities to passengers. Attempts have been made to cater to the demands of all regions including Northeast as there were representations for new trains from various states," sources in the Railway Ministry said.

While services of some express trains have been extended, frequency of certain popular trains have also been increased keeping the demand of people's representatives in mind.

"About 100 new trains will be announced in the budget," the sources said.

Last year, Railways had announced launching of 175 trains including passenger services.

Maintaining cleanliness and hygiene in trains and stations, providing quality linen, upgradation of fire-fighting arrangements and new facilities for differently abled persons are some of the measures likely to be announced by Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal in his maiden budget speech on February 26.

The proposal to provide braille stickers inside coaches for assisting visually impaired passengers are among the measures likely to be announced by Bansal.

A total of 543 trains have been identified for providing on board house keeping scheme (OBHS) to keep toilets and coaches clean and hygienic.

The Railways have also proposed to set up about 10 mechanised laundries to improve supply of clean and quality linens on trains.

New measures for fire suppression system in AC coaches and pantry cars, which are more fire prone, are likely to be announced in the Railway Budget.

Cash-strapped railways, which has sought Rs 38,000 crore as general budgetary support (GBS) from the Finance Ministry, is likely to get about Rs 28,000 crore for the next fiscal.

Last year, it had got Rs 24,000 crore as GBS. — PTI







Kohinoor is ours, won't be returned, British PM tells India

AMRITSAR: British Prime Minister David Cameron says a giant diamond his country forced India to hand over in the colonial era that was set in a royal crown will not be returned.

Speaking on the third and final day of a visit to India aimed at drumming up trade and investment, Cameron ruled out handing back the 105-carat Kohinoor diamond, now on display in the Tower of London. The diamond had been set in the crown of the current Queen Elizabeth's late mother.

One of the world's largest diamonds, some Indians, including Mahatma Gandhi's grandson, have demanded its return to atone for Britain's colonial past.

"I don't think that's the right approach," Cameron told reporters on Wednesday after becoming the first serving British prime minister to voice regret about one of the bloodiest episodes in colonial India, a massacre of unarmed civilians in the city of Amritsar in 1919.

"It is the same question with the Elgin Marbles," he said, referring to the classical Greek marble sculptures that Athens has long demanded be given back.

"The right answer is for the British Museum and other cultural institutions to do exactly what they do, which is to link up with other institutions around the world to make sure that the things which we have and look after so well are properly shared with people around the world.

"I certainly don't believe in 'returnism', as it were. I don't think that's sensible."

Britain's then colonial governor-general of India arranged for the huge diamond to be presented to Queen Victoria in 1850.

If Kate Middleton, the wife of Prince William, who is second in line to the throne, eventually becomes queen consort she will don the crown holding the diamond on official occasions.

When Elizabeth II made a state visit to India to mark the 50th anniversary of India's independence from Britain in 1997, many Indians demanded the return of the diamond.

Cameron is keen to tap into India's economic rise, but says he is anxious to focus on the present and future rather than "reach back" into the past. — Reuters






Trinamool workers allegedly chop off panchayat employee's ear

KOLKATA: Trinamool Congress workers allegedly chopped off the ear of a panchayat worker in West Bengal's Murshidabad district on Thursday for joining the two-day nationwide strike by major trade unions, police said.

"We have received information of the incident but no complaint has been registered so far," an officer of Jalangi police station, under which the incident happened, said.

The incident occurred in Jalangi in Murshidabad district, some 200 km from Kolkata, when Hazrat Omar, a panchayat worker arrived at his office on Thursday.

"I was sitting in the office when some Trinamool Congress goons came and asked why I was absent from office yesterday (Wednesday) and before I could reply they attacked me with a knife and cut a major portion of my left ear," said Omar.

Omar, who is undergoing treatment in a hospital, said he will file a police complaint after he is discharged.

Adhir Chowdhury, Congress parliamentarian from Berhampore constituency in the district, condemned the incident and demanded immediate punishment for the guilty.

"The Trinamool Congress has vowed to keep strikers at bay and this is what they are doing. Trinamool is now a party of goons who have gone out of control," said Chowdhury.

The February 20-21 strike has been called by 11 central trade unions to press a 10-point charter of demands. — IANS







Bank operations hit as strike enters day 2

New Delhi: Normal banking operations were hit for the second day today as public sector bank employees continued their strike.

The two-day nationwide strike call, demanding early wage revision among other issues, was given by United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU) that comprises nine national unions.

It was, however, business as usual at private sector banks like ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank.

Employees of public sector insurance companies, including LIC and New India Assurance, also participated in the strike.

Yesterday, cheque clearing operations, electronic fund transfers, forex transactions and money market operations were disrupted across the country due to the strike and the situation remained more or less similar as per the latest reports.

Apprehending disruption in normal operations, many public sector banks had already informed customers about the strike. Back







Maruti, Hero workers join Bharat bandh

New Delhi: Car market leader Maruti Suzuki India (MSI) and two-wheeler major Hero MotoCorp have declared holiday at their plants on Thursday following a strike call by workers unions' in the Gurgaon-Manesar belt in support of the two-day stir called by central trade unions that began on Wednesday.

"After a meeting with the management, it was agreed that tomorrow will be declared holiday at the two plants (Gurgaon and Manesar) and workers will compensate for it by working on Sunday," Maruti Udyog Kamgar Union (MUKU) General Secretary Kuldeep Jhangu said.

Earlier yesterday, he had said that MSI workers will also join the strike and "there will not be any production tomorrow, both at Maruti's Gurgaon and Manesar plants".

A statement Hero MotoCorp said the company has also declared holiday at its two plants at Gurgaon and Dharuhera.

"Keeping in mind the safety and best interests of our employees, we have decided to keep our plants at Gurgaon and Dharuhera closed on February 21st, Thursday. In order to compensate for this, we shall have an additional work day at a future date," a Hero MotoCorp spokesperson said.

Earlier, Hero MotoCorp Workers Union (HMCWU) President Kanwalpreet Singh said the workers at the company's Gurgoan factory will be on a "one day strike" on February 21.Back




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