L A T E S T      N E W S

Amarinder aims to encash army background

AMRITSAR: Eyeing the large number of votes of ex-servicemen, Capt Amarinder Singh has been repeatedly invoking his army background and participation in the 1965 Indo-Pak war, an averment which his main rival BJP's Arun Jaitely may find hard to match in the April 30 polling.

Of the approximate 6.5 lakh ex-servicemen in Punjab, about 55,000 live in this border constituency, spread over nine assembly seats. Total voters in this Sikh-dominated constituency are about 15 lakh.

A leading ex-serviceman Lt Col Harjinder Singh Sangha said defence personnel are apolitical persons and will support right persons.

As far as votes for the former Chief Minister are concerned, he said, "I think ex-servicemen will definitely support Capt Amarinder as he is our representative." Realising the importance of ex-servicemen in the holy city, Amarinder has appointed Gurjit Singh Jawanda, who participated in the 1971 Indo-Pak war as Air Force pilot, to ensure that the former defence personnel vote for Congress.

"They (ex-servicemen) have no demands. They just want to live a life of dignity which they enjoy while in service," Capt Jawanda said, adding that the retired defence personnel consider the former Chief Minister to be one of their own.

Jawanda is expanding his team to directly contact ex-servicemen living in villages around Amritsar city.

He claims as Amarinder does not make "false promises" and 80 per cent of them will vote for him.

Jawanda blamed the SAD-BJP government for not doing anything for the segment, while Amarinder did a lot, like creating vocational programmes for children and widows.

If large numbers of ex-servicemen actually vote for the Congress candidate, it may make Jaitley's task of winning Amritsar exceedingly difficult.

In his media interactions and elsewhere, Amarinder has laid stress on his links with armed forces and Amritsar.

He reminded voters that it was his great grandfather Maharaja Rajinder Singh who donated a large tract of land on which the Khalsa College Amritsar stands.

He also talked about the development work he did for the city during his stint as Chief Minister (2002-07). - PTI










For Shinde, fourth term likely to be a cakewalk

SOLAPUR (Mah): Even though controversy dogged him since he took over as Union Home Minister for making some questionable statements, Sushil Kumar Shinde looks well set to romp home to a fourth Lok Sabha term from this traditional Congress bastion where the BJP challenge appears insipid despite the perceived "Modi wave".

Shinde, 73, not particularly known for verbal discretion -- who made a recent statement on "crushing" media, the one on Saffron terror camps, the banter that people will forget "coalgate" just as the "Bofors" got erased from their memory and his provocative jibe at Jaya Bachchan reminding her that she was in Parliament and should desist from Bollywood histrionics--does not seem to carry his Delhi baggage when he lands in his home constituency in Western Maharashtra.

An avowed Congress high command loyalist, who never fought shy of playing the Dalit card for climbing up the political ladder with an ever smiling face, Shinde's meteoric rise from a courtroom peon to the highest corridors of power has been truly remarkable for his journey from Maharashtra Chief Minister to the Union Home Ministry.

This time, Shinde who has just returned to his home turf to up the ante of his campaign, is being promoted in his absence by his MLA daughter Praniti and wife Ujwala.

BJP has fielded Sharad Bansode (50), who fought and lost against Shinde in the last 2009 Lok Sabha poll.

Solapur constituency, comprising urban and rural segments, goes to polls on April 17.

Bansode, considered popular among youths with his creation of a patriotic platform in the city for propagation of thoughts of freedom fighter Veer Savarkar, is however, not expected to penetrate the grass root vote bank of Congress that has formed the support base of Shinde.

Confident about Shinde's victory, Congress supporters of the Home minister say, "he has contributed a lot to Solapur's development by upgrading MIDC facilities and establishing NPTC power grid to spur industrial growth in various sectors as well as improving connectivity by implementing various highway construction projects for a better access to the city." However, questioning Shinde's work as MP, Bansode says, "Despite holding high office in Delhi, the Congress leader has failed to fulfil his promises of Solapur's development and acute water supply problem." - PTI












Three killed in J&K encounter

SRINAGAR: A Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) and two militants were killed, while four policemen were injured in an encounter between security forces and ultras in Kralpora area of Kupwara district.

Two policemen are missing after the encounter broke out between the two sides on Monday night, police sources said on Tuesday.

They said two militants and a JCO were killed in the gunbattle. 

Meanwhile, militants today shot at and critically injured another policeman in Anantnag town of south Kashmir and decamped with his service rifle.

Two militants shot at Constable Shabir Ahmad from a close range at Lal Chowk in Anantnag town, 52 kms from here, this morning, the police said.

They said the constable was hit by the bullet in the head. He was rushed to nearby district hospital from where he was referred to SKIMS Hospital here.

The militants decamped with the AK rifle of the injured cop, the police added. An alert has been sounded in the area to track down the assailants. - PTI 











US H-1B visa cap reached in five days 

WASHINGTON: For the second consecutive year, the US has received sufficient number of applications in five days for its much coveted H-1B work visas to meet the Congressional mandated cap of 65,000.

On April 1, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) had started accepting the applications for the allocation of visas - highly popular among IT professionals - for the fiscal year 2015 beginning October 1, 2014.

This is the second consecutive year that the cap has been reached in the first five days. USCIS yesterday said it has also received more than the limit of 20,000 H-1B petitions filed under the US advanced degree exemption.

USCIS had said it anticipated receiving more than enough petitions to reach both caps by April 7.

"Before running a random selection process, USCIS will complete initial intake for all filings received during the filing period which ended on April 7," it said. Due to the high number of petitions, USCIS is not yet able to announce the date on which it will conduct the random selection process, it added.

"A computer-generated process will randomly select the number of petitions needed to meet the caps of 65,000 visas for the general category and 20,000 under the advanced degree exemption," it said, adding that it will reject and return filing fees for all cap-subject petitions that are not selected, unless found to be a duplicate filing.

However, USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise exempt from the cap.

"Petitions filed on behalf of current H-1B workers who have been counted previously against the cap will not be counted towards the congressionally mandated FY 2015 H-1B cap," USCIS said.

As per the Congressional mandated cap, USCIS can allocate a maximum of 65,000 H-1B visas for the fiscal year 2015 beginning October 1, 2014.

The cap has remained in place for the past several years. The first 20,000 H-1B petitions filed on behalf of individuals with a US master's degree or higher are exempt from the 65,000 cap. - PTI 











Blast on train kills 12 in SW Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: At least 12 people were killed and 30 others injured in a bomb blast on a train in Pakistan's restive southwestern Balochistan province today.

"The blast took place inside bogie number 9 of passenger Train Jaffar Express, which was on its way to Rawalpindi from Quetta," Qazi Hussain, DIG police Sibi said.

The explosion set the train on fire and completely destroyed one bogie in which 80 people were travelling.

"We have recovered 11 dead bodies from the train. They have been burnt to charcoal," said senior police official Mohammad Nazar, adding one injured person died in hospital.

The 30 injured are being treated at MS Civil Hospital.

"We have received the injured but no dead bodies have been brought to the hospital as of yet," Dr Ghulam Sarwar from the hospital told Express Tribune.

"It seems the explosive materials were planted inside the passenger train at Sibi railway station," a railway official said.

Emergency and rescue teams were dispatched to the blast site, TV channels here reported.

The Frontier Corps personnel and police have cordoned off the area. - PTI 














Kejriwal slapped again, second attack in last four days

NEW DELHI: Arvind Kejriwal was today slapped by a man during a roadshow in Sultanpuri area of North West Delhi in second such attack in last four days and the AAP leader immediately held BJP responsible for it.

The man identified as Lali, who is an autorickshaw driver, first garlanded Kejriwal and then slapped him following which the attacker was thrashed by AAP supporters.

AAP leader Manish Sisodia tweeted that Kejriwal was injured in his eye. Kejriwal's spectacles fell on the ground following the attack.

The 38-year-old attacker, a resident of Aman Vihar in Outer Delhi, has accused Kejriwal of not fulfilling promises made to the auto-drivers. He was later detained by the police.

"I do not understand why do some people resort to violence for becoming the Prime Minister. If you think by attacking us, we will keep quite then you are wrong. We will fight this battle till the last breath," Kejriwal said.

Later in a tweet, Kejriwal said, "I am just thinking - why am i being repeatedly attacked? Who r (are) the masterminds? What do they want? What do they achieve?" The AAP leader headed for Rajghat after the attack which has been condemned by both BJP and Congress.

"No one should slap anyone. This is against democracy. We do not support it," Congress leader Kapil Sibal said.

BJP Vijay Goel also criticised the attack on the AAP leader. "We do not approve such things. But there is one thing that there has been more opposition to AAP because they say something and do something else." AAP's Sisodia said people affected by AAP movement were trying to derail it.

"The people who indulge in politics of caste and religion, those who are involved in corruption are afraid of AAP. The politics in the country is changing and that is why they are resorting to such acts," he said.

This was second such attack on Kejriwal in the last four days. He was attacked by a 19-year-old youth during his campaigning in Dakshinpuri area of South Delhi on Friday.

The former Chief Minister has been attacked a number of times in the past.

On March 28, he was attacked by a man, who claimed to be a supporter of Anna Hazare, during his election rally in Haryana.

In Varanasi last month, protesters threw ink on Kejriwal and a number of other party leaders. - PTI 



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