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Rains claim 23 lives in Kerala in two days, 22,000 shifted to 315 relief camps across the state

Thiruvananthapuram: Incessant rain in Kerala have claimed 23 lives in the past two days. Over 22,000 people have been shifted to some 315 relief camps across the state, officials said.

Till late on Thursday the toll was eight, but a fresh count took the numbers to 23 on Friday. The worst affected districts include Malappuram, Kozhikode, Kannur, Wayanad, Kasargode and Idukki and the deaths have also been reported from these areas.

There has been 260 mm of rain in Wayanad -- the parliamentary constituency of former Congress President Rahul Gandhi. A huge landslide has marooned around 2,000 people in Meppadi in the district.

A temple, mosque and estate workers quarters have collapsed in the area. It's from this area that four bodies have been recovered from under the debris.

With the area still cut off, Gandhi has urged for help from the Centre. Authorities are trying their best to get the Air Force to begin rescue operations.

All schools, colleges and other educational institutions were shut in all the 14 districts on Friday keeping in mind the devastating rain and flood that had hit the state in a century last year.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has sought the Indian Army's help in relief and rescue operations. A dozen teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) are already at the job.

The situation worsened as the pace of the rising level of water is causing serious concern in parts of Pathanamthitta and Thrissur with most of the rivers there in spate.

Around 500 of those marooned in Meppadi have been moved to relief camps, a medical professional of the state government who is giving the required medical attention told the media that even though there are no serious ailments, all of them are in a state of mental shock.

We have assured all people, that they do not have to worry , as the state government will take care of their needs," State Education Minister C. Raveendranath said.

The railways have cancelled 12 trains and many had to be diverted. Road traffic has also been thrown out of gear with many stretches vanishing under water.

The Cochin airport has been closed till Sunday leaving hundreds of passengers stranded.


Maharashtra floods: 12 rescue teams of Indian Navy deployed in Sangli

Sangli: Amid flood-like situation in Maharashtra, 12 rescue teams of Indian Navy were deployed today in Sangli district in addition to the teams already present in Kolhapur.

The rescue teams left for Sangli last night by road after airlift was aborted due to unfavorable weather conditions in Kolhapur and Sangli districts. Police escorts were also provided green corridor till Sangli.

As many as 27 people have died due to floods in five districts of Pune division while more than two lakh people have been evacuated to safer places from three districts of Kolhapur, Sangli, and Satara.

"27 people died due to floods in 5 district of Pune division in Maharashtra. More than 2 lakh people have been evacuated to safe places till now from 3 districts including Kolhapur, Sangli, and Satara," said Deepak Mhaisekar, Divisional Commissioner, Pune Division.


Samjhauta Express arrives in Delhi 4.5 hours late after Pakistan announces suspension

New Delhi: The Samjhauta Express which was stopped at the Wagah border by Pakistani authorities on Thursday reached Delhi station at 8 am on Friday, four-and-a-half hours behind schedule, the railways said.

The train that runs between Indian and Pakistan came with 117 passengers, including 48 Pakistanis, it said.

On Thursday, these passengers were stranded at Wagah on the Pakistani side after it was stopped there by the neighbouring country's authorities citing security concerns.

The Indian railways had sent one engine along with crew and guard to escort the train from Wagah to Attari on the Indian side.

On Thursday, hundreds of passengers from both sides of the border were stuck for several hours waiting for security clearances following the disruption in the train service that connects Delhi and Lahore.

After several hours of waiting, the Samjhauta Express headed for Lahore departed from Attari at 6:41 pm with 103 passengers, including 10 Pakistanis, railway officials had said.

The train that arrived in Attari, escorted by Indian crew members, had 117 passengers, including 48 Pakistanis, on board, they said. From Attari, the train left around 8 pm on Thursday, officials said.

A day after Islamabad downgraded diplomatic ties with New Delhi over developments in Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan's Federal Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told the media in Islamabad on Thursday that Pakistan has closed the Samjhauta Express train service with India. However, railway officials here said the train has not been suspended.


Development pitch to voting rights: 10 significant statements from Modi’s address to nation on Kashmir

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about many issues such as terrorism, employment, opportunities and violation in a 40-minute long address to the nation. The address was after abrogation of Article 370 that received both criticism and appreciation.

PM Modi said that abolition of Article 370 is a dream of Sardar Patel, Babasaheb Ambedkar, Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Atal ji and crores of Indians has been fulfilled. PM Modi also said that the government respects those who opposed the decision and also asked people to put national interests supreme and help government in giving Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh a new direction.

Below are some important points from the address

Modi said that 42,000 innocent lives were lost in the past three decades. He reasoned that Pakistan was using Article 370 to increase terror. Modi believes that his Government move will secure the future in Jammu and Kashmir and improve the life of people.

Modi said Article 370 was the reason for separatism, corruption, terrorism and family rule.

People of Jammu and Kashmir were denied of benefits of legislation. He said over 1.5 crore people were deprived of it.


The life of people and children were hampering because of the Article 370. Now the people will have equal rights and responsibilities.

There will be more jobs as the vacant posts in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh will start to fill soon. Centre’s public sector units and private sector companies will also be encouraged to provide jobs.

The development in Jammu and Kashmir was not as it was supposed to be. Now the future of Jammu and Kashmir will be brighter. Moreover, Parliament's laws will also be applicable in the territories - Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

Once the situation in Jammu and Kashmir is normal there will be opportunities for filming jobs. Because, the place is most preferred destination for Bollywood movies. Modi believes that it can be biggest tourism destination because of its potential.

Earlier, people who came to India after 1947 had no right to vote in Jammu and Kashmir. Now after the abolition of Article 370 they will have right to vote in the territory too.

People of Jammu and Kashmir will now elect their own representatives as the Assembly elections will be held there too.

The status of Jammu and Kashmir as Union Territory will soon change and there will be more and more development. However, Ladakh will remain Union Territory.


Article 370: No change in our policy on Kashmir, says US

Washington DC: The United States on Thursday reiterated that there was no change in its policy over Kashmir and said it is working closely on resolving issues with both India and Pakistan.

The US has maintained that the Kashmir issue should be resolved bilaterally between India and Pakistan without any third-party mediation.

"We had a meeting with (External Affairs Minister S) Jaishankar in ASEAN (in Bangkok) and I know that he has had a number of phone calls.

He speaks with his counterparts on a daily basis...and pointed out how many State Department officials we have in the region," State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus told reporters during a briefing.

"We have a lot of engagement with India and Pakistan. We just have Prime Minister Khan here, not just because of Kashmir, which is certainly an incredibly important issue and something that we follow closely.

But we have a host of issues that we work with India and Pakistan quite closely. I would say that we are as a State Department, we are incredibly engaged in South-East Asia," she said.

The spokesperson was responding to a question on US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo reaching out to his counterparts in India and Pakistan over developments related to abrogation of Article 370 by New Delhi that granted a special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

Asked if there was any change in US' policy on Kashmir, Ortagus said, "No, there is no change." Tensions between India and Pakistan spiralled after the Indian Parliament on Tuesday passed a resolution to revoke Article 370 and a bill bifurcating Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories.

A rattled Islamabad then decided to downgrade bilateral ties with New Delhi and suspend all bilateral trade activities with the neighbouring country.

On August 2, Jaishankar, who met Pompeo on the sidelines of the 9th East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers meet in Bangkok, had conveyed to his counterpart that any discussion on Kashmir will only take place between India and Pakistan.

This came after India categorically rejected US President Donald Trump's offer to act as a mediator between New Delhi and Islamabad to resolve the Kashmir issue and reiterated that it is purely a bilateral matter.

During Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's visit to the US last month, Trump made a stunning claim that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had brought up the issue of Kashmir with him and asked him to meditate.


PM Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi, other leaders condole Sushma Swaraj's demise, hail her as remarkable leader

New Delhi: Leaders cutting across party lines expressed shock at the sudden demise of former external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday with Prime Minister Narendra Modi describing her as a remarkable leader who devoted her life to public service and the poor.

President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, former president Pranab Mukherjee and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi condoled Swaraj's demise and hailed her as a good orator and a distinguished parliamentarian. BJP president and Home Minister Amit Shah and several other union ministers, including Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, also expressed grief and remembered her affectionately.

Swaraj passed away on Tuesday night suffering a massive cardiac arrest. She was 67. The former Union minister was taken to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences around 9:30 PM in a critical condition and was straight away taken to the emergency ward where a team of doctors attended to her but could not revive the astute politician, AIIMS sources said. "A glorious chapter in Indian politics comes to an end. India grieves the demise of a remarkable leader who devoted her life to public service and bettering lives of the poor. Sushma Swaraj ji was one of her kind, who was a source of inspiration for crores of people," Modi said in a series of tweets.

He hailed her as a "prolific orator and outstanding parliamentarian" and said she was admired and revered across party lines. "An excellent administrator, Sushma Ji set high standards in every ministry she handled. She played a key role in bettering India's ties with various nations. As a minister we also saw her compassionate side, helping fellow Indians," Modi said. Expressing shock over the demise of Swaraj, President Kovind tweeted, "The country has lost a much loved leader who epitomised dignity, courage & integrity in public life."

"Ever willing to help others, she will always be remembered for her service to the people of India," he said. Vice President Naidu said Swaraj's death was a huge loss to the country and a personal loss to him."She was an excellent administrator, outstanding Parliamentarian & a remarkable orator. My heartfelt condolences to bereaved family members," he tweeted. Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla said Swaraj despite being a politician, kept human sensibilities paramount. "As an MP, Sushma ji set new paradigms in the country. She always kept the interests of the country foremost and gave it expression. I salute Sushma ji's saintly memory. The shining sun of the India's political horizon has set in the form of Sushma Swaraj," he said.

Former president Pranab Mukherjee tweeted, "Shocked beyond words and distressed at the passing away of Smt SushmaSwaraj. An astute parliamentarian, an effective orator & an excellent humane leader, she will forever be remembered and missed. Hers was a story of hard work to heights. My deepest condolences and prayers." Home Minister Shah said she left an indelible mark in national politics. Describing her as a simple and rare politician, he said she was a strong voice of the BJP when it was in the opposition and left an indelible mark as a minister.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh described Swaraj as an extremely valued colleague, while Union minister Nitin Gadkari said her passing away was a personal loss for him, the BJP and the country. "Since the party's inception, she played a significant role in its expansion. When I was the President of BJP, she gave me guidance as an elder sister," Gadkari said.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said, "Deeply shocked to learn of the passing away of Smt Sushma Swaraj. Difficult to accept this news. The whole nation grieves, the Foreign Ministry even more so." BJP leader and former union minister Arun Jaitley said, "Saddened, pained and broken on demise of Sushmaji. She was one of the most outstanding politicians in the Present Era. She distinguished in all positions. She held Senior Positions with the Party, NDA Govt. & while in opposition. She leaves behind a void which is difficult to fill."

Senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi described Swaraj as an extraordinary political leader, a gifted orator and an exceptional Parliamentarian and said she had friendships across party lines. "My condolences to her family in this hour of grief. May her soul rest in peace. Om Shanti," he tweeted.

BJP working president J P Nadda said it is a sad incident for not only the BJP but for the entire country. "She inspired us, her last tweet tells us how she was involved in serving the nation in an emotional way," he said. Leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said Swaraj was a great human being and will always be remembered.

Former union minister P Chidambaram said, "Deeply saddened that Sushma Swaraj ji has passed away. She served her party and the country with loyalty, devotion and distinction." "She added a new, people friendly dimension to the office of Foreign Minister. My sincere and heartfelt condolences to her family and loved ones," the Congress leader said.

CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury said,"Saddened to hear of Sushma ji's passing away. Heartfelt condolences to Shri Swaraj Kaushal and Bansuri." The Diplomatic community in Delhi also joined the nation in sorrow over the sad demise of a "great woman" in Indian politics, and one that during her tenure as foreign minister strengthened the position of India in the World.


Sushma Swaraj's body to be kept at BJP HQ today, last rites at Lodhi crematorium

New Delhi: The body of former Union minister Sushma Swaraj will be kept for three hours at the BJP headquarters on Wednesday for people to pay tributes, BJP working president J P Nadda said.

Swaraj died late Tuesday night at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) after suffering a cardiac attack, doctors said. She was 67. The body will be kept at the party headquarters from 12pm-3 pm for people to pay their respects on Wednesday after which it will be taken to the Lodhi Crematorium for the last rites, Nadda told reporters at the hospital.

A host of Union ministers and other senior party leaders visited AIIMS and met the bereaved family of the former external affairs minister. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, Environment Minster Prakash Javadekar, HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal and Union Minister Smriti Irani were among the top leaders who visited the hospital.

"Her loss is irreparable and the void left by her can never be filled. It's a huge loss to the party and the nation," Nadda said. Swaraj was taken to AIIMS around 9:30 PM in a critical condition and was straight away taken to the emergency ward where a team of doctors attended to her but could not revive the astute politician, sources at the hospital said. The body was later taken to her Delhi residence, they said. Prasad said it was a personal loss for him.

"We used to address her as 'didi' and the respect she commanded was phenomenal. She was fine in the morning and then, suddenly, we got this news. It is a painful loss for me and for the nation," he said. Senior BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain also grieved the loss, saying Swaraj had guided him in his career and "she was a leader liked by everyone, from the ruling to the opposition parties". Her contribution in the external affairs ministry is substantial as she left a mark in the field, he said.


Was waiting to see this day in my lifetime: Sushma Swaraj's last tweet turns prophetic

New Delhi: Just hours before her demise, BJP stalwart Sushma Swaraj Tuesday congratulated Prime Minister Narendra Modi after the government revoked the special status for Jammu and Kashmir, saying "I was waiting to see this day in my lifetime".

Taking to Twitter in the evening, Swaraj said: "@narendramodi ji - Thank you Prime Minister. Thank you very much. I was waiting to see this day in my lifetime." This last tweet of Swaraj and the words used by her left scores of her supporters and admirers in shock and grief. This was her second tweet in as many days lauding the government over the move to revoke special status for Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcate the border state into two Union territories.

"I congratulate the Home Minister Shri @AmitShah ji for his outstanding performance in Rajya Sabha," she tweeted on Monday after the bills on J&K were passed in the Upper House.


Congress Working Committee slams Modi government for abrogating Article 370, says rights of state was violated

New Delhi: The Congress Working Committee late Tuesday deplored the "unilateral, brazen and totally undemocratic" manner in which provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution was abrogated and the state of Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated by the government into two Union Territories.

At a meeting of the Congress's highest decision-making body, the party accused the BJP of violating constitutional law, the states' rights, parliamentary procedure and democratic governance. Party sources said various party leaders made their points and the leadership respected the sentiments expressed by each of them. Rahul Gandhi said the party would stand with its ideology and opposed the manner in which the government went ahead with the decision against all democratic and constitutional norms, the sources said.

Gandhi, the sources added, pointed out that the party respected the sentiments of all, including those who have expressed divergent views as per the sentiment of people in their respective states and areas, but the party had to go by its ideological stand. Priyanka Gandhi also expressed similar views. The meeting, chaired by Rahul Gandhi, was attended by top party leaders Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, A K Antony, Ahmed Patel, Ghulam Nabi Azad, P Chidambaram besides Priyanka Gandhi, and they deliberated on the party's strategy going forward on J&K.

Former state chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad explained the entire Kashmir situation and the aftermath of the government's decision. The meeting of the CWC came after the party took a stand against the government action, while several Congress leaders such as Jyotiraditya Scindia and Janardan Dwivedi struck a divergent view and supported the Centre's action. It was held soon after Parliament approved the government's action of revoking the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated the border state into two Union Territories. The Congress has strongly opposed the move in both houses of Parliament and termed the government action as unconstitutional and undemocratic.

While some leaders expressed divergent views on the issue at the meeting, the resolution adopted at the meeting was unanimous. "The CWC deplores the unilateral, brazen and totally undemocratic manner in which Article 370 of the Constitution was abrogated and the State of Jammu and Kashmir was dismembered by misinterpreting the provisions of the Constitution," the CWC resolution stated. Reading out the resolution, Chidambaram said, "Every principle of Constitutional law, States' rights, Parliamentary procedure and democratic governance was violated."

"The CWC strongly reaffirmed the consistent and stated position of the Indian National Congress that J&K, including the areas under the illegal occupation of Pakistan and the part ceded by it to China, are integral part of the Republic of India. "The integration of J&K with India is final and irrevocable. CWC firmly asserted that all issues pertaining to J&K are internal matters of India and no outside interference will be tolerated," the CWC resolved.

The party reiterated its pledge to stand with the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and to fight BJP's "divisive and diabolical". The party also urged the people of Jammu and Kashmir to maintain peace and calm. The resolution further stated that Article 370 is the Constitutional recognition of the terms of the Instrument of Accession between the State of Jammu and Kashmir and India. "It deserved to be honoured until it was amended, after consultation with all sections of the people, and strictly in accordance with the Constitution of India," it said.

The CWC said what the BJP government accomplished yesterday in the Rajya Sabha and today in the Lok Sabha has "grave implications" going well beyond J&K and calls into question the very idea of India being a Union of States. "Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India as one State and no government has the power to change its status or divide it or reduce any part of it to a Union Territory," the party said. The Indian National Congress pledges to stand with the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and to fight the BJP and its divisive and diabolical agenda with every power in its hands. We urge the people of J&K to maintain peace and calm.

Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, who earlier in the day stoked a controversy as he sought to know from the government whether Jammu and Kashmir was an internal matter or a bilateral issue, also attended the meeting. However, just ahead of the meeting, Scindia said he supported the move on Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh and the state's full integration into the Union of India, adding that it was in the interest of the country. "I support the move on #JammuAndKashmir & #Ladakh and its full integration into union of India," he tweeted.

"Would have been better if constitutional process had been followed. No questions could have been raised then. Nevertheless, this is in our country's interest and I support this," he said. While the meeting was on, senior Congress leader Anand Sharma put out a tweet saying Jammu and Kashmir joined the Indian Union as a state. "BJP govt ill thought decision of dividing the state and downgrading the strategically sensitive state is a first in history and changes geography and humiliates the people of Jammu and Kashmir," he said. The CWC was also expected to pass a resolution on the situation arising out of the government's move on Jammu and Kashmir.


China objects to Ladakh's formation as UT; India says do not comment on 'internal affairs'

Beijing/New Delhi: China on Tuesday objected to the formation of Ladakh as Union Territory by India, saying it undermined its territorial sovereignty, evoking a sharp reaction from New Delhi, which asked Beijing to refrain from commenting on its "internal affairs".

With the government bifurcating Jammu and Kashmir into two Union territories --Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh-- Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said China has always opposed to India's inclusion of the Chinese territory in the western sector of the China-India boundary into its administrative jurisdiction.

Reacting strongly, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said,"the J-K Reorganization Bill 2019, introduced by the government in Parliament on 5 August, which proposes the formation of a new 'Union Territory of Ladakh' is an internal matter concerning the territory of India. India does not comment on the internal affairs of other countries and similarly expects other countries to do likewise." While asserting that "recently India has continued to undermine China's territorial sovereignty by unilaterally changing its domestic law," Hua said such practice was "unacceptable and will not come into force."

She also said, "we urge India to exercise prudence in words and deeds concerning the boundary question, strictly abide by relevant agreements concluded between the two sides and avoid taking any move that may further complicate the boundary question." On his part, Kumar said,"so far as the India-China boundary question is concerned, the two sides have agreed to a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement of the boundary question on the basis of the 'Political Parameters and Guiding Principles' for the settlement of India-China boundary question."

Pending such a settlement, both sides have agreed to maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas on the basis of the relevant agreements, he added. India and China have 3,488-km long Line of Actual Control (LAC) between them. The two countries have held 21 rounds of Special Representatives talks so far to resolve the boundary dispute. Meanwhile, there were reports that China has not granted visas to a group of Indians planning to undertake Kailash Mansarovar yatra later this week. However, there was no official confirmation either from Indian or Chinese side.

In a separate response on exchange of fire along the Indo-Pak Line of Control and India revoking Article 370 to withdraw special status to Jammu and Kashmir, Hua asked India and Pakistan to exercise restraint, and avoid actions that "unilaterally" change the status quo and exacerbate tensions between them. Expressing "serious concern" over the situation in Kashmir, she said China's position on it was "clear and consistent". "This issue is a legacy of history between India and Pakistan, which is also the consensus of the international community.The parties concerned should exercise restraint and act with caution, especially to avoid actions that unilaterally change the status quo and exacerbate the tension," she said.

Hua also said,"the relevant sides need to exercise restraint and act prudently. In particular, they should refrain from taking actions that will unilaterally change the status quo and escalate tension. We call on both India and Pakistan to peacefully resolve the relevant disputes through dialogue and consultation and safeguard peace and stability in the region." This is the second statement issued by China on the Kashmir issue in recent weeks.

On July 26, China said India and Pakistan should peacefully settle the Kashmir issue and other disputes through dialogue and expressed its support to the international community, including the US, in playing a "constructive role" to improve ties between the two countries. The statement was issued in response to US President Donald Trump's offer to mediate between India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue during his meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in Washington. India rejected Trump's offer, saying that Kashmir is a bilateral issue.