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  • Taj Mahal entry fee hiked from Rs 50 to Rs 200 to protect monument

    Agra: Those wanting to see the main mausoleum at the Taj Mahal will need to buy an additional ticket of Rs 200 from Monday. Vasant Swarnakar, Archaeological Survey of India’s chief archaeologist in Agra, said domestic visitors will have to pay Rs 250 and foreign visitors Rs 1,300 to see the main mausoleum at the 17th-century monument.

    The visitors from SAARC countries will have to pay Rs 740 instead of Rs 540. The new ticketing system will help reduce the human load on the main structure. Visitors who buy the Rs 50 ticket would not be allowed to enter the main mausoleum, but would be able to move around the Taj and see the rear side, the Yamuna river front at the back. The Taj Mahal is considered one of the finest specimen of the Mughal architecture. In 1983, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was cited as “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.”

NATIONAL

  • Telangana Elections 2018: Stage set for counting of votes in state

    Hyderabad: The fate of 1,821 candidates contesting the Telangana Assembly election will be decided Tuesday when the counting of votes will be taken up. The maiden polls for the 119-seat Telangana Assembly were held on December 7 with a voter turnout of 73.20 per cent.

    Chief Electoral Officer Rajat Kumar said necessary arrangements have been made for the counting day and the strongrooms, where EVMs are kept, secured with central paramilitary forces providing “first cordon of security.” One of the strongroom keys is kept with the external observer and as precaution, political parties are also keeping a watch, he said. The counting will begin at 8am.

    “EVMs will be brought out polling station-wise and kept at the counting centres which will have 14 tables (except in Medchal which will have 28). And counting will go on. This will be done after the completion of the full postal ballot count. Counting will be done in the respective constituencies,” Kumar told PTI. “The winning candidate will be declared and certificate will be prepared after obtaining clearance from the Election Commission. With the approval of the ECI, the Chief Electoral Officer, will submit the list of winning candidates party-wise to the Governor,” he added.

    Though some exit polls indicate a clear edge to K Chandrashekar Rao-led Telangana Rashtra Samithi, the “Praja Kutami” alliance of Congress, Telugu Desam Party, CPI and Kodandaram-led Telangana Jana Samithi, appears confident of forming the government in the country’s youngest state, separated from Andhra Pradesh in June 2014. “We will win 100 seats,” Rao said repeatedly in campaign meetings.

    Congress president Rahul Gandhi had said the alliance led by his party is confident of winning the election “hands-down” and claimed Rao was showing “signs of nervousness and insecurity” in meetings he addressed as the campaign winded down. Predicting a fractured poll mandate in Telangana, the BJP claimed Sunday it would play a “vital role” in the formation of the government in the southern state. AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi Friday exuded confidence that his party would be successful in the Telangana assembly election. The party has fielded candidates in eight assembly segments in Hyderabad and is supporting TRS in other segments.

WORLD

  • Theresa May faces fight for her political life as parliamentary vote to decide fate of Brexit deal

    London: British Prime Minister Theresa May faces a fight for her political life this week in a parliamentary vote that will decide the fate of her Brexit divorce deal.

    The beleaguered leader’s splintered government appears to be facing a heavy defeat in parliament on Tuesday on the draft withdrawal agreement she signed with Brussels last month. The text defining terms on which the island nation leaves its main trading partner after 46 years is the most important to face the House of Commons in years.

    A big loss could spark immediate challenges to May from both within her Conservative Party and the opposition Labour party. It would also leave the tortuous Brexit process in a state of flux – and raise the prospects of a no-deal scenario – less than four months before the March 29 departure date.

    Media reports said May was under pressure from her cabinet to try to salvage the deal by delaying the vote and flying to Brussels to seek more concessions ahead of a planned summit with 27 fellow EU leaders on Thursday and Friday. But Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told the BBC on Sunday: “The vote is going ahead.”

    May’s team insists that her vision offers the cleanest break between the UK and EU that Brexit supporters could hope for at this late stage. A rejection by parliament “would mean grave uncertainty for the nation with a very real risk of no Brexit,” May told the Mail on Sunday.

    She also raised the spectre of an early election and a possible return to power of the opposition Labour Party for the first time since 2010. May said the prospects of Labour leader “Jeremy Corbyn getting his hands on power is a risk we cannot afford to take.” Newspapers have identified more than six current and former ministers in May’s cabinet who are also ready to run for her job should she falter over the coming days.

    EU supporters, meanwhile, are pinning their hopes on a European Court of Justice ruling on Monday on whether Britain’s parliament has the right to unilaterally halt Brexit in its tracks. May would have a tough job securing better divorce terms acceptable to the Northern Irish DUP party that has propped up her government for more than a year.

    EU President Donald Tusk signalled that no concessions would be made after speaking to May by phone on Sunday. Yet Brussels also wants to see May succeed and avert the economic nightmare that could unfold should Britain break away without any arrangements underpinning future trade. European officials said they might be able to find a way to offer a token concession in Brussels that May could take back to London. But they stressed that such tinkering cannot alter the basis of the withdrawal agreement itself.

    The two sides might “work on the (accompanying) protocol or clarify a point that is deemed important so that she can take it back to parliament,” an informed European source told AFP on condition of anonymity. May would then be expected to submit the touched-up version for a second vote at an unspecified date.

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