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Modi to be sworn in as PM tomorrow

NEW DELHI: Narendra Modi, who led the BJP to an astounding victory in the Lok Sabha poll, will be sworn in as the Prime Minister tomorrow in the forecourt of the majestic Rashtrapati Bhavan at a grand function to be attended by foreign dignitaries, including SAARC leaders.

The swearing-in ceremony of the 15th Prime Minister of India would be attended by nearly 3,000 guests, including top leaders from SAARC countries like Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

President Pranab Mukherjee will administer the oath of office and secrecy to the 63-year-old Modi and his Council of Ministers in the presence of a host of leaders, including outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, besides leaders of various other parties and Chief Ministers of a number of states.

Modi's mother Hiraba is also expected to attend the ceremony.

Besides Sharif and Rajapaksa, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, Bhutan Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom will be among the foreign dignitaries attending the ceremony.

Bangladesh will be represented by Speaker Shirin Chaudhury as Premier Sheikh Hasina would be travelling to Japan at the time of the swearing-in.

This is the first time that the heads of states of SAARC nations have been invited to attend the swearing-in ceremony of the Indian Prime Minister.

Following in the footsteps of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Modi had expressed his desire to be sworn in at the forecourt so that a large number of visitors can be accommodated for the ceremony.

Earlier, Chandrashekar was another Prime Minister who had taken oath at the same venue.

The historic Durbar Hall of the Rashtrapati Bhavan is the usual venue for such ceremonies. But since it can accommodate about 500 people, the forecourt was decided as the suitable venue.

Known for his decisiveness and governance skills, Modi will be heading the first government in 30 years, where a single party has the absolute majority.

It has been a remarkable journey to the top during which he has been pilloried by his critics and adored by his supporters who believe he will pull India out of the rut in which it is stuck.

"I believe God has chosen me," Modi had said in the course of his relentless and focused election campaign that got the BJP its highest-ever tally of 282 seats, 10 more than the required majority number in the 543-member Lok Sabha, and catapulted the Gujarat Chief Minister to the pinnacle of power.

The BJP leader himself saw a combination of a very strong anti-Congress wave "together with an equally strong wave for the BJP and its NDA partners" during the marathon campaign and seized upon these to decimate the UPA.

A ground-to-air security cover on par with the Republic Day parade is being put in place for the swearing-in.

The Delhi Police said a multi-layered security ring is being thrown around Raisina Hills and all offices around it will be closed five hours before the event takes place.

"The offices around the Rashtrapati Bhavan will be shut at 1 pm, following which they will be sanitised by security agencies. The security will be on par with R-Day parade," said a senior police official.

Sources said the IAF will put in place an air defence system to secure the skies and snipers will be deployed on all high-rise buildings around the high-security area.

The police said all roads around Raisina Hills that lead to the Rashtrapati Bhavan will be barricaded as part of the security measures.

Mobile hit teams, anti-aircraft guns and sharpshooters of the NSG will also be deployed besides paramilitary personnel and Delhi Police commandos to secure the area.

Arrangements are being made at the Rashtrapati Bhavan for all the visiting VVIPs who will also be accompanied by their diplomatic teams, official sources said.

The Rashtrapati Bhavan is giving the final shape to preparations, which have been underway for the past few days.

The sprawling forecourt lawns of the Rashtrapati Bhavan are ready for the gala swearing-in ceremony. The lawns have been filled with chairs and arrangements are being made for visitors to brave the summer heat in the national Capital. — PTIBack














Pak, Sri Lanka release Indian fishermen

KARACHI/COLOMBO: In a goodwill gesture, Pakistan today freed 151 Indian fishermen, while Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa ordered the release of all detained Indian fishermen on the eve of the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi.

Authorities released 59 Indian fishermen from Malir jail in Karachi and another 92 from Nara jail in Hyderabad in Sindh province.

Syed Nazir Hussain, the Superintendent of Malir jail in Karachi, told PTI that the Indian prisoners were released on written directives of the interior and foreign ministries.

"Most of these prisoners are poor Indian fishermen who were arrested and brought here for trespassing into Pakistani territorial waters," he said.

The freed prisoners were taken in an air-conditioned bus from Karachi to Wagah border in Lahore from where they will be handed over to Indian authorities.

Justice (retd) Aslam Nasir Zahid who heads a legal aid NGO said the government had cooperated completely in the release of the prisoners.

He said his NGO had provided cash, free goods, clothes, gifts and air-conditioned buses to take them to Wagah border.

Some of the freed prisoners told Geo News channel that they were delighted to be going back to their families.

"We were treated well and not as serious criminals, but everyone wants to go home to their families," one prisoner said.

Last year in August, Pakistan had released around 337 Indian prisoners from jails. Later on Diwali also, 15 Indian fishermen were released as a goodwill gesture.

Pakistan maritime security forces frequently arrest Indian fishermen and seize their boats for fishing in its territorial waters.

According to Indian activists, at present around 229 Indian fishermen and about 780 Indian boats are in the custody of Pakistan.

In addition to this, 23 boats of Indian fishermen had been confiscated just during the ongoing fishing season.

Similarly, around 200 Pakistani fishermen with 150 boats were with India, according to compiled figures.

Meanwhile, a Sri Lankan presidential spokesman said Rajapaksa has ordered the release of all Indian fishermen ahead of his visit to India tomorrow.

This is the second instance when Sri Lanka is releasing Indian fishermen arrested by their navy for poaching.

In March, Rajapaksa had ordered the release of arrested fishermen after India abstained from voting on an anti-Sri Lanka motion at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

India was one of the 12 nations that abstained from voting on the UNHRC resolution, which prescribed an international probe into Sri Lanka’s alleged rights abuses.

India had previously backed two similar resolutions against Sri Lanka moved by the US.

Sri Lankan Fisheries Ministry officials, however, could not indicate the number of Indian fishermen currently in detention.— PTIBack














Modi effect: Rupee best performing Asia-Pacific currency

NEW DELHI: Boosted by capital inflows and euphoria around the incoming government, rupee’s surge to a 11-month high has made it the best performing currency in Asia-Pacific region against the US dollar so far in 2014.

With a gain of about 5.3 per cent since the start of this year, rupee has sprinted ahead of its other Asia-Pacific peers, including Indonesia’s rupiah and New Zealand dollar, in terms of year-to-date rise, shows an analysis of various currencies vis-a-vis the Greenback.

The rupee, which closed at 58.52 levels against the US dollar on the last trading day on Friday, has incidentally seen a lion’s share of 5.3 per cent gain in the past one month.

The Indian currency stood at Rs 61.8 level per US dollar at the start of 2014 and has recorded a gain of 327 paise in less than six months, partly helped by robust foreign-fund inflows. This marks a major turnaround since August last year when rupee touched its life-time low of 68.80.

“...positive sentiments out of the election results enabled us to upgrade our FII flows estimates by $5 billion to $20 billion, implying an overall BOP (balance of payment) surplus of $29 billion. We expect the USD/INR range to be 57—61 in FY 2015,” said Indranil Pan, Chief Economist of Kotak Mahindra Bank, in a report.

Under the leadership of its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, the BJP has recorded an unprecedented victory in the recently held Lok Sabha elections and the Gujarat strongman will be sworn in as Prime Minister on Monday.

The highest-ever tally in the Lok Sabha elections has helped the BJP secure a majority on its own, thus raising hopes of reforms to revive the economy.

In Asia-Pacific, the rupee’s gains versus the US dollar are followed by the Rupiah (Indonesia) that has appreciated 4.6 per cent, New Zealand dollar’s 3.75 per cent rise and Australian currency’s 3.5 per cent rise.

The Yen (Japan), the Won (South Korea) and the Ringgit (Malaysia) have gained between 2-3 per cent in this calendar year so far.

Philippines Peso has appreciated 1.6 per cent against the US dollar, followed by 0.5 per cent uptick in Thailand’s Baht and Singaporean dollar. While the Hong Kong dollar is almost unchanged since 2014 started, the Taiwan dollar and Chinese Yuan have lost value.

Some analysts, however, feel that the Indian rupee faces risk of some depreciation after its recent strong show.

“While Indian rupee is expected to depreciate slightly against the USD from current levels (we pencil USD/INR to hover around 60 for this fiscal year), we expect it to gain against Yen and Swiss Franc,” said a report from ICICI Bank Treasury Research Group. — PTIBack















UN medal for 8 Indian peacekeepers killed in line of duty

UNITED NATIONS: Eight Indian soldiers, who lost their lives while serving in UN peacekeeping operations last year, are among 106 military, police and civilian personnel to be posthumously awarded a prestigious UN medal this week for their courage and sacrifice in the line of duty.

The Dag Hammarskjold Medal, named after the second UN Secretary General, will be awarded on May 29, which is commemorated as the International Day of UN peacekeepers.

The fallen Indian peacekeepers to be awarded are Lt Col Mahipal Singh, Lance Naik Nand Kishore Joshi, Havildar Heera Lal, Naib Subedar Shiv Kumar Pal and Havildar Bharat Sasmal from the UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) who were killed in April last year when they were ambushed by about 200 attackers near Jonglei State as they escorted a UN convoy.

Subedar Dharmesh Sangwan and Subedar Kumar Pal Singh died in action in December last year in Akobo following an assault on an UNMISS base.

Sepoy Rameshwar Singh, deployed as a peacekeeper in the UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) was killed in February 2013.

In honour of the fallen peacekeepers and those who continue to serve in the cause of peace, several commemorative events would be held at the United Nations headquarters here on the Peacekeepers Day.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would oversee a solemn wreath-laying ceremony in honour of all fallen peacekeepers at the Peacekeepers Memorial.

Ban would then make remarks at a ceremony at which the Dag Hammarskjold Medal would be awarded to 106 peacekeepers who lost their lives in 2013.

The medals for military and police personnel would be received by representatives of the respective permanent missions to be forwarded on to the next of kin.

India has been among the largest troop contributors to UN peacekeeping operations. It has contributed more than 1,70,000 troops to 43 of the 68 UN peacekeeping missions since the inception of UN peacekeeping more than 60 years ago.

Currently, a total of 8,132 Indian soldiers are deployed in 10 critical UN peacekeeping missions across the world, including 429 in Haiti, 4,034 in Congo, 193 in Golan Heights, 894 in Lebanon, 250 in Liberia and eight in Cote d'Ivoire.

The Dag Hammarskjold Medal was established in December 2000 and is awarded posthumously to members of peacekeeping operations who lost their lives during service.

Hammarskjold, a Swedish diplomat, died in a mysterious 1961 plane crash. He was posthumously awarded a Nobel Peace Prize the year he died. — PTIBack














Fate of Governors hangs in balance 

NEW DELHI: Fate of more than ten Governors, including Karnataka's H.R. Bhardwaj and Punjab's Shivraj V. Patil, appointed by the outgoing UPA Government hangs in balance, with indications that the new dispensation may politely ask them to vacate the Raj Bhavans.

Officials said the Narendra Modi Government, which will take charge tomorrow, is unlikely to go for wholesale sacking of the Governors but there is every possibility that some of them may be politely asked to put in papers to pave way for new appointments.

"It is quite normal for a new government to ask some of the occupants of Raj Bhavans to resign as their scheme of things may not suit those holding the high constitutional posts," an official said.

Among the Governors, Bhardwaj (Karnataka), Jagannath Pahadiya (Haryana), Devanand Konwar (Tripura) and Margaret Alva (Rajasthan) will complete their full five-year term in next three-four months.

While Bhardwaj had a strained relationship with the previous BJP government in Karnataka, Alva reportedly shares cordial relations with Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje.

Those who will complete their tenure in six to eight months are Kamla Beniwal (Gujarat), M.K. Narayanan (West Bengal), J.B. Patnaik (Assam), Patil (Punjab) and Urmila Singh (Himachal Pradesh).

Beniwal's spat with the Modi Government in Gujarat over theappointment of Lokayukta in the state is well known.

Former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit was appointed as Kerala Governor in March this year, Jammu and Kashmir Governor N.N. Vohra was given a second term in April 2013 and former Home Secretary V.K. Duggal was appointed Governor of Manipur in December 2013.

Other Governors who may come under review of the new NDA Government are B.L. Joshi (serving his second term in Uttar Pradesh), B.V. Wanchoo (Goa), K. Sankaranarayanan (serving his second term in Maharashtra), K Rosaiah (Tamil Nadu), Ram Naresh Yadav (Madhya Pradesh), D.Y. Patil (Bihar), Shriniwas Dadasaheb Patil (Sikkim), Aziz Quereshi (Uttarakhand), Vakkom Purushothaman (Mizoram) and Syed Ahmed (Jharkhand).

Chhattisgarh Governor Shekhar Dutta, Arunachal Pradesh's Lt General (retd) Nirbhay Sharma, Nagaland's Ashwani Kumar and Meghalaya's K.K. Paul may also come under the scrutiny of the new government. — PTIBack












13-year-old Purna becomes youngest girl to scale Everest

Hyderabad: In a historic feat for Indian mountaineering, 13-year-old Malavath Purna today became the youngest female climber to scale the Mount Everest.

Purna was accompanied by Sadhanapalli Anand Kumar (16), a Class IX student from Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh, and completed the feat this morning.

Anand and Purna are both students of the Andhra Pradesh Social Welfare Educational Society.

“They climbed Everest at 6 am today after a 52-day long expedition,” he said.

“Purna created a record by becoming by youngest girl to climb the Everest,” he said.

The duo were selected among about 150 children who were initially chosen for adventure sports as part of the society’s initiative to promote excellence in the students of the society, he said.

Twenty of them were sent to a prestigious mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling for training and nine among them weresent on expedition to Indo-China border earlier.

The two students with a higher degree of toughness and endurance were sent to the Everest Expedition in April, he said.

The two students were now returning to the base camp, the official added. — PTIBack




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