L A T E S T      N E W S

PM announces Rs 1,000-cr relief for cyclone-hit Andhra  

VISAKHAPATNAM: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today announced Rs 1,000 crore as interim relief for the cyclone-hit Andhra Pradesh as he undertook a survey of the worst-affected city.

He also announced Rs 2 lakh for the family of those killed and Rs 50,000 for those injured in the tragedy caused by cyclone Hudhud.

Central government officials from various ministries would soon tour the region to assess damage and start work to restore normalcy, Modi told reporters.

He said restoring the basic needs of life, like water and electricity, were the government's immediate priorities.

"The exact damage will be assessed in due course time.

Meanwhile, I am announced Rs 1,000 crore as an interim relief," he said.

"I was jumping with joy until very recently over making Vizag a smart city and now this crisis has hit us ... we will soon come out of it. The government in its full strength is standing with the people," he said.

He said farmers have suffered extensive damage and a detailed survey will evaluate their losses and the government will act accordingly.

Hailing the exact forecast about the cyclone made by the Met Department, the Prime Minister said the "perfect" use of technology prepared both Union as well as state governments to deal with the cyclone as from its timing to velocity and direction, all details were predicted accurately in advance.

"In a way, technology has played an important role in dealing with the crisis," he said.

The natural disaster, Modi said, also saw both the Centre and the state government working "shoulder to shoulder" and it showed however "grave" a problem they can deal with it successfully together.

Insurance companies will be asked to survey the damage and work out claims at the earliest, he said. PTIBack


























Visakhapatnam remains without power, essential commodities 

VISAKHAPATNAM: People in this cyclone-ravaged port city in Andhra Pradesh continue to live without electricity and communication facilities for the third day Tuesday. The lack of drinking water, shortage of milk and other essential commodities have added to their woes.

Two days after severe cyclonic storm Hudhud battered the coast, the city of 18 lakh remained under darkness. Lack of water supply has hit them hard. There is no piped water supply of drinking water. The motor pumps installed in houses and apartments are not functioning as the power supply is yet to be restored.

Citizens complained that authorities have failed to supply water through tankers. Cashing in on the situation are greedy retailers, who are selling 20 liter water bottle for Rs 300.

Women holding their children were seen running around for milk. Many of them were standing in serpentine queues. At some places half-liter packet is being sold for Rs 50, twice its actual price.

With roads connecting the city to neighbouring districts yet to be cleared, milk and other essential commodities have not reached.

Mobile phones are not functioning in the city for third day as telecom services are yet to be restored. ATM machines are also not working.

Visakhapatnam, the biggest city in the state, still looks like a war zone with streets filled with felled trees, electricity poles, communication towers, wires, shattered pieces of glass and other debris.

National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams were busy clearing the roads. Officials said they were trying their best to restore electricity by Tuesday evening.

The cyclone which hit the coast near this city Sunday with heavy rains a gale speed of 185 kmph claimed 21 lives in three north coastal districts - Visakhapatnam, Srikakulam and Vijayanagaram.

About 600,000 people have taken shelter in relief camps set up by authorities in the three districts and adjoining East Godavari. The natural disaster has damaged nearly 7,000 houses, destroyed electricity and communication networks and paralysed transport.

State-owned Road Transport Corporation (RTC) resumed services in some parts of the region. However, train services were affected for the third day while air services to and from Visakhapatnam are yet to be resumed.

In Srikakulam district, which also remained without electricity, few villages were marooned. Some low-lying areas in Srikakulam town were also inundated. However, the district authorities heaved a sigh of relief as water levels receded in Nagavali and Vamsadhara rivers. IANS Back





















Stage set for high-stake elections in Maharashtra, Haryana 

NEW DELHI: Maharashtra and Haryana are all set to go to the polls tomorrow to elect their Assemblies in high-stakes elections seen as the first major test of Prime Minister Narendra Modi after the Lok Sabha polls as he pitched for BJP coming to power on its own in both the states.

This will also be the first elections in Maharashtra after established political formations Shiv Sena-BJP and Cong-NCP crumbled and the parties will be contesting alone after 15 years. The Congress and NCP had ruled the state for 15 continuous years from 1999.

In Haryana, too, BJP junked its allies and plumped for majority on its own to dislodge the Congress that had been ruling the state for the last 10 years.

The polling will begin at 7 am and conclude at 6 pm. Counting of votes will be held on October 19.

The high stakes in the elections could be seen from the fact that Modi addressed 38 rallies in a period of 10 days in both the states in a campaign that virtually became Modi versus the rest.

The Congress campaign in both the states was spearheaded by party president Sonia Gandhi, while for the NCP it was Sharad Pawar and for Shiv Sena it was father-son combination of Uddhav Thackeray and Aditya.

Maharashtra will witness a five-cornered contest for the 288-member House. An electorate of about 8.25 crore will choose from 4,119 candidates in the fray, including 1,699 Independents.

While the Congress has fielded the largest number of 287 candidates, BJP has put up 280, Shiv Sena 282, NCP 278 and MNS 219.

With long-standing political alliances crumbling, the poll will test the mettle of four major parties Congress, NCP, BJP and Shiv Sena individually, with Raj Thackeray's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena trying to emerge as the X factor in the keenly watched contest. The Congress-NCP combine has been ruling the state for 15 years.

Modi addressed 27 rallies, rare by a Prime Minister in an Assembly election, in the absence of a BJP leader with pan-Maharashtra appeal. The death of Union Minister Gopinath Munde in a car crash soon after Lok Sabha polls deprived BJP of a popular face in the elections. His daughter Pankaja, contesting from Parli, is seen as the rising star in state politics.

During his campaign blitzkrieg in Maharashtra, Modi attacked the Congress and NCP for "colossal corruption" leading to state's "ruin" while showcasing Gujarat's development under him but steered clear of criticising BJP's estranged ally of 25 years Shiv Sena, with which the party snapped ties just before the election.

Prominent candidates in the poll arena include former Deputy CM Ajit Pawar and former ministers R.R. Patil and Chhagan Bhujbal of NCP, Devendra Fadnavis, Eknath Khadse, Vinod Tawde and Pankaja Munde of BJP, Subhash Desai, Suresh Jain and Deepak Kesarkar of Shiv Sena, former ministers Patangrao Kadam, Shivajirao Moghe and Rajendra Darda of the Congress and Bala Nandgaonkar of MNS.

In Haryana, about 1.63 crore voters, including 87.37 lakh women are eligible to vote at 16,357 polling stations to decide the fate of 1,351 candidates, including 109 women.

Modi criss-crossed Haryana addressing 11 election meetings at Sirsa, Gurgaon, Jind, Jagadhari, Sonipat and Rohtak. 

The INLD campaign was led by former Chief Minister and party supremo Om Parkash Chautala, who was out on bail on health grounds after being imprisoned in Tihar Jail at New Delhi in the teachers recruitment scam.

Chautala's outing was cut short after the CBI approached the Delhi High Court, saying that the INLD chief was violating the bail terms by addressing election meetings.

The INLD leader was asked to surrender before the Tihar Jail authorities and he was back in prison on Saturday evening.

The campaign in Haryana saw the Prime Minister targeting the Congress exploiting the controversy surrounding the land deals involving Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra, saying it symbolised the corruption of 10 years of Congress regime. He sought a majority for BJP, saying a hung Assembly will serve no one's interest.

The top guns battling it out in Haryana include the kin of the three famous 'Lals'.

Unlike in the recent past, when the fight was mainly between the Congress and the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), a number of new players threw their hats in the ring this time.

Besides 90 each candidates of the Congress and BJP, BSP, CPI and CPI-M have put up 87, 14 and 17 candidates, respectively.

The main contestants include Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Randeep Surjewala (Congress), former Chief Minister Om Parkash Chautala's son Abhay, daughter-in-law Naina and grandson Dushyant (INLD), former Union Minister Venod Sharma and his wife Shakti Rani (HJCP-V), former MP Kuldeep Bishnoi, his wife Renuka and elder brother and former Deputy Chief Minister Chander Mohan (HJC-BL). PTIBack















Situation in J&K not conducive for Assembly polls: Omar

NEW DELHI: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today said situation in the state was not conducive for holding Assembly elections due to the recent floods.

Talking to reporters after meeting Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Omar said while the state government has the capability to hold the elections, a distinction should be made whether it is the opportune time.

He, however, made it clear that it was the Election Commission which would take a final call.

"Look, my party (National Conference) has made it very clear that this is not the opportune time to hold the elections. We believe that at this point of time, people are struggling to rebuild their life," he said.

The six-year term of the 87-member Assembly ends on January 19, 2015.

The Chief Minister said the recent floods had not hit some sparsely-populated rural areas but some of the most heavily populated areas of the Kashmir Valley.

"The capital city anyway had less than optimum turnout in elections. Tomorrow when zero percentage turnout will happen in Srinagar, who will you blame for that. You certainly cannot blame me.

"Because I am not the one who is pushing for elections.

You have to blame those people who are trying to hold elections," he said.

Omar said by holding elections at this point of time, more misery will be brought to people and hence the National Conference made it clear its stand to the Election Commission even though the party was in minority in that meeting.

"We leave it to the Election Commission to decide. As far as the state government is concerned, as I am not talking here on behalf of the National Conference, the state government has made the distinction of whether we can hold the elections and whether we should hold the election.

Omar said during his meeting with the Home Minister, he has discussed with him the steps taken for relief and rehabilitation of the flood-affected people.

"We have given a memorandum yesterday. An inter-ministerial team will visit Jammu and Kashmir soon. They will then decide a package," he said.

Referring to the tension along the border with Pakistan, Omar said flag meetings between the forces of the two countries were important as tension could be reduced through talks in such meetings, so that ceasefire comes into force.

But security forces have to retaliate if there is fire from across the border as they were targeting civilian areas, he said.

The state government wants the ceasefire to be maintained, he said.

Asked about hoisting of a flag of terrorist organisation ISIS in the Kashmir Valley, the Chief Minister said it was the job of "some idiots" but unfortunately a section of the media was trying to highlight the incident.

He said a case has been registered, the suspects have been identified and some arrests also have been made. PTIBack
















J-K cop wins UN's international female peacekeeper award 

UNITED NATIONS: An Indian police inspector has been named recipient of a prestigious international female peacekeeper award by the UN's police division for her "exceptional achievements" in her duty with the UN mission in Afghanistan, including her efforts towards helping victims of sexual and gender-based violence.

Inspector Shakti Devi of the Jammu and Kashmir Police, currently deployed in the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), has been awarded the International Female Police Peacekeeper Award 2014.

Devi has been honoured for her "exceptional achievements" in leading the establishment of Women Police Councils in several parts of Afghanistan, the UN Police Division said in a communication to the Indian mission here.

It said Devi has contributed to the improvement of the status of female police and has effectively helped the police of Afghanistan move towards achieving their goals of fully adopting democratic principles of policing.

"In addition, her consistent engagement in improving the service for victims of sexual and gender-based violence has led to successful investigation and prosecution," the UN agency said.

The award was delivered during the International Association of Women Police (IAWP) conference held earlier this month in Winnipeg, Canada.

The honour is a competitive award given to an outstanding female police peacekeeper serving in a UN peace operation.

The objectives of the award are to promote an understanding of police in peace operations throughout the world, highlight the efforts of female police in global peace operations, increase understanding of the roles of women officers in various countries and encourage participation in UN peace operations by all countries of the world.

It is also aimed at promoting membership in the UN International Female Police Peacekeepers Network and increasing international understanding and awareness of women in international police peacekeeping and in the network.

The award is organised in collaboration with the IAWP Awards programme and delivered during its annual conference.

India is the largest contributor to UN peacekeeping operations, having contributed more than 170,000 troops in 43 out of 69 peacekeeping missions mandated by the United Nations Security Council so far.

The UN owes India USD 110 million, the second highest outstanding payment to any country, for costs relating to peacekeeping operations and troops. -PTI Back











Five held guilty in Dhaula Kuan gangrape case

NEW DELHI: A Delhi court today convicted all the five accused of abducting and gangraping a 30-year-old BPO executive from the northeast in south Delhi's Dhaula Kuan area in 2010.

They will be sentenced on Friday.

"All accused are found guilty of abducting and gangraping the victim ... come for the order on sentence on October 17," Additional Sessions Judge Virender Bhatt said.

The court convicted Usman, alias Kale; Shamshad, alias Khutkan; Shahid, alias Chhota Billi; Iqbal, alias Bada Billi; and Kamruddin, alias Mobile, for the offences of kidnapping (365), gangrape (376 (2G)), criminal intimidation (506) and sharing common intention (34) under the IPC.

The court, however, acquitted Usman of charges under the Arms Act. He was the only accused charged under this section.

According to the police, all the convicts had abducted the victim on November 24, 2010 while she was walking home with her friend after her shift had ended. The convicts then took the victim to Mongolpuri, allegedly gangraped her, and left her at an isolated road.

On October 10, the court had fixed the date of pronouncement of verdict for today.

The court had reserved the verdict after the police denied the alleged discrepancies raised by the counsel for Usman on September 22, claiming that blood sample collected from the victim was planted on his pants to ensure matching of DNA samples. PTIBack















Sidhu attacks Punjab govt after removal of security cover

CHANDIGARH: Former BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu today claimed that his security cover has been withdrawn, as he attacked the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) government in Punjab for indulging in "petty" politics and hitting "below the belt".

The move comes close on the heels of Sidhu's attack on SAD in poll-bound Haryana, where it is in alliance with INLD.

"There were three security personnel provided to me for security. All of them have been withdrawn," Sidhu told PTI over phone.

Asked if he saw this as a consequence of his attack on SAD, BJP's ally in Punjab, during his poll campaigning for BJP candidates in Haryana, Sidhu said while he could not answer that, but added, "I will continue to walk the path of truth".

"I will not shy away from saying the truth and will not buckle under any pressure. Those who walk the path of truth have nothing to fear. If they believe in playing petty politics, what one can say," the former MP from Amritsar said.

The cricketer-turned-politician said they (Akalis) have no answers to the questions he had raised.

Sidhu said that whatever he had been saying (about Akalis), they should have called him and discussed the matter across the table rather than taking such "petty steps and hitting below the belt".

However, when contacted, Home Secretary Jagpal Singh said he was busy in a meeting and ADGP (Security), Punjab, Dinkar Gupta did not take the calls.

Sidhu's wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu, BJP MLA from Amritsar (East) and Chief Parliamentary Secretary in the SAD-BJP Punjab government was also critical of the decision of the government.

She said that Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his Deputy, Sukhbir Singh Badal will be directly responsible if anything happens to her husband.

Navjot Kaur said that Sidhu enjoys a 'Y' category security cover.

"Earlier today, a security personnel attached with him got a call from his higher ups that all three personnel should immediately withdrawn from the security duty after which they left," she said.

She said that when Sidhu was an MP, there were eleven security personnel with him but as he did not contest this time, it had been pruned down.

Sidhu had attacked the Akalis, who are an ally of the BJP in Punjab, while campaigning for BJP candidates in Haryana recently.

Among other places, Sidhu had also campaigned against the Akalis on the seats of Ambala City and Kolianwali in Sirsa, both of which are being fought by Shiromani Akali Dal.

The remaining 88 seats in 90-member Haryana assembly are being contested by SAD's Haryana ally the INLD.

Taking a dig at SAD for tying up with INLD in Haryana, Sidhu had during his campaigning said, "Our allies hug us in Punjab, but in Haryana, they are wrestling with us (up against BJP), which is unethical...". PTI
















UN ignores
Pak bid to seek intervention on Kashmir 

UNITED NATIONS: Pakistan's latest efforts seeking UN intervention on the Kashmir issue have failed to draw any new response from the world body which reiterated that India and Pakistan need to resolve all differences through dialogue to find a long-term solution to the dispute.

Sartaj Aziz, adviser to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on national security and foreign affairs, had written to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on the recent border tension with India and sought the UN's intervention, stepping up its attempts to internationalise the Kashmir issue.

In the letter to Ban, Aziz said Pakistan believes the UN has an important role to play in promoting the objective of peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue, including through his "good offices".

Ban's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq, when asked to comment on the letter seeking Ban's intervention and his viewpoint on the issue, told reporters yesterday he would refer to a statement that was issued last week by Ban's spokesperson in which the UN chief encouraged India and Pakistan to resolve all differences through dialogue and engage constructively to find a long-term solution for peace and stability in Kashmir.

The Secretary-General is "concerned about the recent escalation of violence along the Line of Control between India and Pakistan. He deplores the loss of lives and the displacement of civilians on both sides," said the statement.

A war of words between the two countries over the situation at the LoC took place last week at the UN General Assembly where India said that it was a "matter of deep regret" that Pakistan violated the ceasefire, in which eight people were killed and several others injured.

India made it clear that its armed forces are "fully ready" to respond to "provocation".

India also said that the onus of creating a positive environment for normalisation of relations is on Pakistan.
The UN has long maintained an institutional presence in the contested area between the two countries.

The UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) observes and reports on ceasefire violations along and across the LoC and the working boundary between the South Asian neighbours in Jammu and Kashmir, as well as reports developments that could lead to ceasefire violations.

India has however always maintained that UNMOGIP has "outlived its relevance" and has "no role to play whatsoever" on the issue. -PTI














WHO: 10,000 new Ebola cases per week could be seen

GENEVA: A World Health Organisation official says there could be up to 10,000 new cases of Ebola per week within two months.

WHO assistant director-general Dr. Bruce Aylward says if the response to the Ebola crisis isn't stepped up within 60 days, "a lot more people will die" and there will be a huge need on the ground to deal with the spiraling numbers of cases.

He said WHO estimated there could up to 10,000 cases per week in two months.

Aylward said for the last four weeks, there have been about 1,000 new cases per week, though that figure includes suspected, confirmed and probable cases.

He said WHO is aiming to have 70 per cent of cases isolated within two months to reverse the outbreak.

WHO increased its Ebola death toll tally to 4,447, nearly all of them in West Africa, and the group said the number of probable and suspected cases was 8,914.

Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia have been hardest hit.

Aylward said WHO was very concerned about the continued spread of Ebola in the three countries' capital cities - Freetown, Conakry and Monrovia.

He noted that while certain areas were seeing cases decline, "that doesn't mean they will get to zero." He said the agency was still focused on trying to treat Ebola patients, despite the huge demands on the broken health systems in West Africa.

"It would be horrifically unethical to say that we're just going to isolate people," he said, noting that new strategies like handing out protective equipment to families and setting up very basic clinics - without much treatment - was a priority. -AP





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