Saturday, August 16, 2014, Chandigarh, India





L A T E S T      N E W S

23 killed as rains wreak havoc in U'khand, HP

New Delhi: Twenty-three persons were killed in rain-related incidents in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh as heavy showers wreaked havoc in the hill states even as humid conditions prevailed in most parts of North India today.

Seventeen persons were killed in separate incidents of cloudburst, house collapse and landslips in Pauri, Dehradun and Pithoragarh districts of Uttarakhand while six persons died in Himachal Pradesh.

The heavy rains in Uttarakhand, including in the state capital, flooded several roads cutting off nearly 250 residents of a village in Pauri district from the rest of the state and brought the water level in Ganga just half a metre down the danger mark at 340 metres at Ram Jhula in Rishikesh.

Fourteen casualties occurred in Pauri, two persons died in a landslip in Kishanpur area on the outskirts of Dehradun and one drowned in an overflowing rain-fed stream in Pithoragarh district, officials said.

While Dehradun recorded a maximum of 120 mm of rainfall, Rispana, Bindal and Jakhan rivers were in spate.

In Himachal Pradesh, incessant heavy monsoon rains, mostly in parts of Hamirpur and Una, disrupted normal life, leaving behind a trail of destruction.

Four members of a family, including two minors, were swept away by swirling waters of Kuhana Khud in Hamirpur, while another was buried in a landslide. Police also recovered the body of an unidentified youth.

A two-and-a-half-year old girl went missing after she washed away by a swollen rivulet in Sainre village.

The rains triggered landslides at various places and over 200 roads were blocked due to it along with road breaches.

Bangana in Una district was wettest in the region as it recorded 160 mm of rains. -- PTI

















Modi inducts INS Kolkata, says military prowess biggest deterrent to war

MUMBAI: Terming military might as the biggest deterrent to war, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said defence forces will be modernised to ensure that “nobody casts an evil eye” on the nation.

“Fighting a war and winning it has now become less difficult these days. But a modern military, armed with state-of-the-art weaponry alone, is a guarantee against war. When we are capable, no one can dare challenge us,” Modi said addressing a gathering after dedicating the largest indigenously-built warship INS Kolkata to the nation. “When people have a sense of our military capability, nobody will ever dare to cast an evil eye on our nation,” he said.

Stressing the importance of maritime security in fast expanding global trade and commerce, the Prime Minister said India, with its vast coastline, was playing a major role in it. “In the coming days, INS Kolkata will inspire confidence to those involved in maritime trade,” he said. 

Describing the building of the destroyer ship as a big achievement by India’s technicians, engineers and defence experts, Modi said the government is committed to modernising the defence forces so “our jawans don’t feel they are lagging behind in defending our nation.

“When I dedicate INS Kolkata to the nation, I am confident it will boost our military prowess and give confidence to our soldiers.”

Defence Minister Arun Jaitley and Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral RK Dhowan were present at the ceremony held at the Naval dockyard.

The warship, constructed by the Mazagon Dockyards Limited, has been designed by Navy’s design bureau. The 6,800 tonne warship is a technology demonstrator and will showcase a giant leap in shipbuilding technology in the country.

The Prime Minister had dedicated India’s largest warship INS Vikramaditya to the nation in June in his first outing after taking charge. 

Modi said the government has taken important decisions in its Budget and has given priority to “defence upgrade."

Referring to the decision of allowing 49 per cent FDI in defence, Modi said, “We have to import (military hardware) ... because of this one decision, India can become self-reliant in this sector. Our youth will become innovative and a day will come when India will export in this sector.”

INS Kolkata will be part of the Kolkata Class destroyers of the Indian Navy, which will include follow-on ships by the name of INS Kochi and INS Chennai, respectively. The keel of the warship was laid down in September 2003 and the ship was launched in 2006. Its original commissioning was planned in 2010 but there were delays. 

The ship had also suffered a mishap during the trial phase, when a Navy officer lost his life during an incident in the fire-fighting equipment of the vessel. The Prime Minister, on his day-long visit to Maharashtra, will also lay the foundation for a multi-crore SEZ and port connectivity project in Navi Mumbai, dedicate a powergrid’s transmission line and launch multiple road and highway projects in Solapur. — PTIBack














2 BSF jawans killed in militant attack in J&K 

Srinagar: Two BSF jawans were killed while four others injured when militants opened fired at their vehicle just outside Awantipora IAF airfield in Jammu and Kashmir today.

Officials said a squad of Border Security Force (BSF) personnel was changing guard at the airfield in Pulwama, 33 km from here, this afternoon when a group of militants opened fire at them from automatic weapons.

The BSF is deployed for securing the Indian Air Force airfield, and the squad that came under militant attack belongs to the 'G' company of BSF's 165th battalion.

"The militants opened fire at the BSF squad that was in a military gypsy. Two personnel were killed and four have been injured in the firing," a senior official said.

Immediately after the firing, the other BSF personnel present on the spot retaliated but the militants fled.

A reinforcement contingent of the Rashtriya Rifles and the BSF has reached the area for search and sanitisation task, they said.

The injured have been shifted to an Army base hospital in the vicinity of the airfield located, they said. 

A police spokesman said militants opened fire on the BSF vehicle at Kuil.

ASI R. Yadav and Head Constable S. Yadav succumbed to injuries. The other injured personnel have been identified as Head Constable Jai Prasad, constables Amar Bahadur, P Singh and Vinod Kumar, he said.

The militants, after carrying out the attack, fled in to the nearby orchards, the police said.

No militant outfit has claimed responsibility for the attack so far.

This is the fourth attack on security forces — second on BSF personnel — since August 11. Six persons, including five security personnel, have been killed and several injured in the violence.

On August 11, militants attacked a BSF convoy at Pampore injuring eight personnel. The next day militants shot dead constable of the Railway protection force.

On Thursday, militants attacked a police vehicle at Gallander in Pampore, resulting in death of two policemen and one civilian. — PTIBack



















Birender Singh joins BJP 

JIND (Haryana): Rebel Congress leader Chaudhary Birender Singh today joined the BJP in the presence of its chief Amit Shah at a rally here, ending his over four-decade association with the party in poll-bound Haryana.

Singh, 67, a Rajya Sabha MP, who had openly revolted against Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, made his announcement of joining the BJP along with his supporters, two days after he was suspended from the party.

His close confidant Jagbir Malik, a former Minister also joined the BJP along with him besides some other former MLAs.

"The path I have chosen for myself will help strengthen the BJP in Haryana in the next 15 years," Singh said.

Singh and former CWC member Jagmeet Brar were recently suspended by the Congress for "gross indiscipline" and "deliberately lowering the prestige of the party".

The veteran leader and former Haryana Finance Minister had openly revolted against Hooda and his quitting the ruling party has come as another jolt to the Congress in Haryana which has faced a series of desertions in the election year. Polls are due in October in the state.

Singh had earlier, while hitting out at Hooda, alleged that "the Congress in Haryana is no longer the party it used to be. It has now become Hooda's Congress".

Singh had also alleged that Hooda had centralised powers and it was one of the reasons why the Congress had fared poor in the Lok Sabha polls.

The Congress managed to win only one seat out of total ten LS seats in the state.

Singh told Shah at the rally that he along with his supporters will ensure the party's victory in the upcoming Assembly polls that will bring about a change in the state's polity.

A prominent leader from Haryana's Banger area had demanded that the Chief Minister should be changed so that Congress's prospects in the polls could improve. He had said he would not fight the Assembly polls under Hooda's leadership.

He had over the past one year openly criticised Hooda from several platforms for alleged "lopsided development" in the state.

Singh, lost the 2009 Assembly polls to former Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala from Uchana Kalan segment.

Earlier, Hooda, when asked to comment if Singh's leaving the party would dent its prospects in the upcoming polls, had said in a democratic set-up, every leader has right to join any party.

The Chief Minister had said Birender Singh also has right to join any party and this would not affect the Congress in any manner.

In the election year, the Haryana Congress unit has been facing an exodus of leaders, some of whom have joined the BJP camp since the last Lok Sabha polls.

Prominent Congress leaders who have switched over to the saffron party include Rao Inderjit Singh who had also been vocal against Hooda.

Rao, who was then a Congress MP from Gurgaon, severed his four-decade-old ties with the Congress and contested as BJP nominee from Gurgaon and retained his seat. He is now a Minister in the Narendra Modi government.

Senior leader from Bhiwani region Dharambir also switched allegiance to the BJP and is now an MP from Bhiwani-Mahendergarh seat.

Former Union Minister Venod Sharma too ended his four-decade-old ties with the Congress to float his own Jan Chetna Party.

Ramesh Kaushik, won the Sonepat Lok Sabha constituency on a BJP ticket after quitting the Congress. Last week, four-time Congress MP Avtar Singh Bhadana also quit the party. — PTIBack

















Amit Shah announces new BJP team

NEW DELHI: Varun Gandhi was today dropped as general secretary by BJP president Amit Shah who constituted his new team, inducting former Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa as vice-president and new RSS pointsman Ram Madhav as general secretary.

A week after his formal anointment as party President, Shah announced his new team of party office bearers that includes 11 vice-presidents, eight general secretaries and 14 secretaries.

The new team also includes 10 party spokespersons, five of them are new.

While dropping Sultanpur MP Varun, whose mother Maneka Gandhi is a Minister in the Modi government, Shah has retained general secretaries JP Nadda, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Murlidhar Rao and Ramlal who will continue to take care of the organisation affairs.

Party sources said Varun has not been included because his mother has been included in the Modi Cabinet as Minister of State with independent charge.

The four new general secretaries are Ram Madhav, the RSS face who was sent to the party recently, outgoing BJP Mahila Morcha chief Saroj Pandey, Rajya Sabha MP from Rajasthan Bhupendra Yadav and Ram Shankar Katheriya.

Yeddyurappa, who had formed his own outfit after being forced to quit as Chief Minister following corruption charges but had rejoined on poll eve, is among the 11 vice-presidents in Shah's new team. Former Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi has been retained as vice-president.

The other vice-presidents are Bandaru Dattatreya and Satyapal Malik, both Lok Sabha members, Purushottam Rupala and Prabhat Jha, former state unit presidents and Raghuvar Das, a former Deputy Chief Minister of Jharkhand.

The other vice-presidents are Kiran Maheshwari (a former MP from Rajasthan), Vinay Sahasrabuddhe (one of the BJP's think tank), Renu Devi (from Bihar) and Lucknow Mayor Dinesh Sharma.

The team has a mix of party workers from across the country but has major representation from poll-bound states of Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand. The team also includes five OBCs, six women and has representation from SCs and STs as well. At least 80 per cent of Shah's team is below the age of 60.

Shah's new team has 14 secretaries. Shrikant Sharma, who heads the media unit of the party, is one of the new secretaries.

Siddharth Nath Singh, who was in charge of West Bengal where the party registered some success in the Lok Sabha poll, have been retained as secretaries.

Former Union Minister Pramod Mahajan's daughter Poonam Mahajan has also been made a secretary.

Other party secretaries are Shyam Jaju, Anil Jain, H Raja, Ramesh Deka, Sudha Yadav, Ram Shekar Netam, Arun Singh, R P Singh, Jyoti Dhruve, Tarun Chugh and Rajneesh Kumar.

The new team has retained Anurag Thakur as the youth wing chief and appointed former Aurangabad Mayor Vijaya Rahatkar as the new Mahila Morcha chief. 

The five spokespersons who have been retained in Amit Shah's team are M J Akbar, Shahnawaz Hussain, Sudhanshu Trivedi, Meenakshi Lekhi and Vijay Sonkar Shastri.

The new spokespersons are Nalin Kohli, Sambit Patra, Anil Baluni, G V L Narasimha Rao and Lalita Kumaramangalam.

Among the new secretaries, Shrikant Sharma and Sidharth Nath Singh have been given the responsibility of crucial Uttar Pradesh. — PTIBack
















Islamic State jihadists kill 80 in northern Iraq

BAGHDAD: Islamic State jihadists carried out a "massacre" in the northern Iraq village of Kocho, killing dozens of people, most of them members of the Yazidi religious minority, officials and a witness said on Saturday.

"They committed a massacre against the people," senior Iraqi official Hoshyar Zebari told AFP, citing sources from the region and intelligence information. "Around 80 of them have been killed."

A Kurdish official in Iraq's Dohuk province gave a similar death toll, while a witness said he saw a large number of bodies in the village.

In dusty, ill-equipped Bajid Kandala Camp in northern Iraq, Yazidis fleeing a jihadist offensive say members of their families — men, women and even babies — have been abducted by militants.

The mass kidnappings by the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group targeted those who either refused or simply could not flee a string of villages around Mount Sinjar, one of the minority's main ancestral homes in northern Iraq.

The refugees say the women and children are being held in IS-controlled prisons in Nineveh province, where a sweeping jihadist-led offensive was launched in June, and that many of the men are feared to have been executed.

Khodaida Jarda, a man in his 60s wearing a light brown robe, plastic flip-flops and a dusty white turban, listed the names of his nine missing relatives.

His voice shook as he told AFP: "Please write down their names. My son, 26-year-old Haidar, is among the missing."

Other Yazidis, just as distraught, gave similar accounts.

"My two cousins and my two uncles were kidnapped," said Jacqueline Ali, a 17-year-old high school student now sheltered at the Bajid Kandala camp near the Tigris River, in the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq.

Cradling her sister's infant, she spoke quietly as her large brown eyes welled up with tears.

"Their sisters and mothers are so scared for them that they have been refusing to eat since we arrived in the camp. We are really afraid for them," said Ali.

Amnesty International, which has been documenting the mass abductions, says thousands of Yazidis have been kidnapped by IS since an August 3 onslaught on their villages began.

The attack pushed the Yazidis out of their villages near the Iraq-Syria border. Survivors fled onto Mount Sinjar, where they were besieged by IS for days with little food or water.

Some 200,000 people escaped to safety in Iraq's Kurdish region, but others remain on the mountain, and Amnesty International's Senior Crisis Response Adviser Donatella Rovera said the fate of "thousands" of abductees remains uncertain.

"The victims are of all ages, from babies to elderly men and women," she told AFP.

She also said the kidnappings all appear to have happened in villages where residents dared to take up arms against the jihadists.

While IS has a track record of kidnapping in Syria, the group has not previously rounded up women and children en masse.

"It seems they took away entire families, all those who did not manage to flee," Rovera said.

Among the abductees are some 3,000 women and girls, who are being held separately from the men in IS-controlled Tal Afar east of Mount Sinjar, she said.

"We fear the men may have been executed," Rovera added, describing the kidnappings as a "crime" under international law.

Two women -- Leila Khalaf and Wadhan Khalaf -- were among those kidnapped from Mujamma Jazira village, said their relative Dakhil Atto Solo, adding that the abductions happened after residents tried to resist the IS attack.

"Of course we tried to defend our villages, but they had much bigger weapons. All we had were our Kalashnikovs," said Solo.

"They executed 300 men, and took the women to their prisons. Only God can save them now," he said.

Their children, said Solo, were rescued by the family.

"But the women were in a house surrounded by IS. We had to escape. Now, the children cry for their mothers all the time. 'Mama, mama,' they wail. But there is no mama, we tell them." — AFPBack




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