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Congress backs scrapping of Art 370: Manmohan Singh but not BJP’s high-handedness

Mumbai: After the Maharashtra BJP promised Bharat Ratna to VD Sawarkar, the Congress has made it clear that it is not opposed to Swarkar as a person, but is opposed to his ideology of the Hindutva. Former prime minister Manmohan Singh cleared his stand at a meet with intellectuals on Thursday.

Sawarkar was an accused in the Mahatma Gandhi assassination case, but was acquitted. Referring to the Hindu Mahasabha leader with a reverential “Savarkar-ji”, Singh said former Congress prime minister, late Indira Gandhi had issued a postal stamp in Savarkar’s memory.

“(But) we are not in favour of the Hindutva ideology that Savarkarji patronised and stood for. As far as the issue of giving Bharat Ratna, the government should take into consideration this aspect,” he said.

The Congress’s stand can be termed as a cautious and balanced one keeping in mind Maharashtra’s sentiment for Sawarkar. The party chose not to directly oppose Sawarkar, but expose his ideology which was against secularism of the country.

“The Congress does not need a certificate of patriotism from anyone, especially the RSS, which did not take part in the freedom struggle,” he said, while replying to criticism by the BJP for the Congress stand on Article 370.

Pointing out that it voted in favour of the abrogation of Article 370, but opposed the high-handed way in which it was done.

Addressing a press conference in Mumbai on Thursday, Singh said the Congress opposes the “high-handedness” with which Article 370 of the Constitution — which gave a special status to Jammu and Kashmir — was introduced in Parliament.

Earning goodwill of the people of Jammu & Kashmir was necessary before such a move, the former prime minister said.

“Congress voted in favour of the move (the abrogation) in Parliament, not against it. Congress feels that the Article 370 is a temporary measure, but if a change is to be brought, it has to be with the goodwill of the people of J&K,” he said.

Singh also hit out against the NDA government’s Citizenship Amendment Bill, calling it a divisive move that discriminates against the Muslims by facilitating Indian citizenship for persons of all faiths except Muslims.

He also claimed that for the first time in the history of Parliament such a divisive bill has been tabled.

On the National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise in Assam, the former prime minister said that the BJP expected that it will exclude Muslims, but 12 lakh out of the 19 lakh people who could not establish their citizenship status were Bengali Hindus.

There is a need to look at things in an objective manner in matters such as the NRC, and while people would want to identify foreign nationals and ensure they do not get any benefits, we need to look at the issue with full sympathy as a “human problem”, Singh said.

Row over ‘exclusion’ of Shivaji from standard 4 books under new board

Pune: Just days ahead of the Maharashtra assembly poll, a controversy has erupted over “exclusion” of the history of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj from Class IV books of the Maharashtra International Education Board (MIEB).

While the education department is being criticised over the exclusion, officials from the city-based Maharashtra State Council of Educational Research & Training (MSCERT) blamed the row on “misunderstanding” and asserted there was no attempt to drop Shivaji Maharaj from the syllabus.

Former school education minister Vinod Tawde on Thursday said there are no separate subjects up to Class IV under the MIEB curriculum. Separate subjects such as history, geography and science will be introduced only from Class V under the board which came into existence just four years ago, he said.

According to reports in a section of the media, the life and time of the 17th-century Marathi warrior has been “excluded” from Class IV books prescribed in the curriculum of the MIEB. “There has been some sort misunderstanding and half information over the issue.

There has been no attempt of removing the chapter on Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj from the books the of state board syllabus,” said Vikas Garad, deputy Director, MSCERT.

He said the MIEB has been recently introduced and 81- odd schools in the state are under this board. “The structure of the syllabus is theme-based and according to the structure, the subject of history will be introduced from Class V. In Class V, there will be topics on history and emphasis will be on ancient and medieval history,” he said.

Garad said from Class VI, there are plans to introduce an elaborate history on Shivaji Maharaj. “The objective is to provide a rich content about Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj to students who will have better understanding about the subject,” he said.

The Maharashtra International Education Board was constituted when Tawde was the school education minister. Tawde said, “There are no separate subjects till Class IV in this curriculum. Separate subjects such as history, geography and science will be introduced from Class V.”

“If you check standard VI books, you will find mention of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and his various achievements. The books also provide additional information about the society, its structure and useful management tactics used in those days which are also relevant today,” Tawde said.

“As the board was formulated just four years back, the first batch of Class VI is yet to come in. Once Class VI students come, they will be able to read better books we have prepared,” said the former minister.

Details of investment in Jammu and Kashmir would be available very soon: Nirmala Sitharaman

Washington: The details of the government's policy to attract more investments in Jammu and Kashmir would be available very soon, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, listing out the potential the area carries for investors in sectors like tourism, handicrafts, silk, production of saffron and apple.

Sitharaman made the comments while responding to a question during an interactive session with investors at the IMF headquarters here on Wednesday. The event was organized by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and US India Strategic and Partnership Forum. "We have started working in terms of making sure that the full potential of Jammu and Kashmir from various different aspects (is achieved)," she said.

The minister listed out the investment possibilities Jammu and Kashmir carries in different sectors like tourism, fine arts, handicrafts, wood work, carpets, silk, production of saffron and apple. "I think sooner the details of it (new policy) will be available," she said. India on August 5 scrapped Jammu and Kashmir's special status and bifurcated it into two Union Territories -- Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

In his address to the nation after revoking the special status given to Jammu and Kashmir, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said state companies as well as private companies will be encouraged to create jobs for the local youth in the region. "So very many things are all being put together to see how best a plan can be done," Sitharaman said.

Sooner, some kind of pattern would be worked out between the union home ministry and finance ministry and announced. "Work is on," she said, while responding to a question from a Dubai-based investor who is trying to mobilise funds to invest in Jammu and Kashmir. "I want to know from your perspective, after the change in this state, is there any special consideration being given to a State that has historically missed out on global and international investments?" she was asked.


Like you did for Narendra, give Devendra a second term: PM Modi

Mumbai: Addressing a rally at Kharghar in Navi Mumbai on Wednesday, even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed to voters to give Devendra Fadnavis a second chance, he predicted Fadnavis would be the next CM. Further, he also said the first flight would take off from the Navi Mumbai international airport soon but refrained from giving a specific timeline.

“Last year, I was in Navi Mumbai for the foundation ceremony of the airport. Flights will soon take off from here,” he said.

He expressed full confidence that the BJP and the Shiv Sena would form the next government and predicted, the ruling parties may win more than 250 seats. Endorsing Fadnavis, the first BJP chief minister of Maharashtra seeking a second term, Modi said the former had played a vital role in the state’s growth.

“Maharashtra has a big contribution to the country’s development. Now, in creating a New India, the state has an important role. Just like you elected Narendra in Delhi for a second term, elect Devendra for a second term in the state. The Narendra-Devendra formula is a super-hit in terms of development, it is the double engine of development in Maharashtra,” he said.

“When Narendra and Devendra stand together, they are not one plus one equals two, but one plus one becoming eleven,” he said, fuzzing up mathematics to lavish praise on Fadnavis.

He said the coastal Konkan belt was emerging as the main pillar for the economy of a ‘new Maharashtra’ with a slew of ongoing infrastructure projects, including the Navi Mumbai airport, the Mumbai trans Harbour Link and metro rail. These upcoming projects will provide new facilities to the fast-urbanising coastal region that is one of the big pillars of the economy of New India, he said.


Indian-American techie walks into police station with dead body, admits to killing 3 others

San Francisco: A 53-year-old Indian-origin IT professional has been arrested after he dramatically walked into a Northern California police station along with a dead body in his car and confessed to have killed three others at his apartment, over 350 kilometres away, according to US media reports.

All four victims in the grizzly incident are related to the suspect, Shankar Nagappa Hangud, Roseville Police Department Captain Joshua Simon said on Tuesday. Simon declined to name the four victims, but said they were all members of the suspect's family, two adults and two juveniles. Hangud, driving a red Mazda6, arrived at the police station in the city of Mount Shasta shortly after noon and told officers that he had killed people at his apartment in the Placer County city of Roseville, police said.

Simon said that Hangud, a Roseville resident, was in custody at the South Placer Jail after city detectives brought him back from Siskiyou County on Monday night and would face four charges of murder. Hangud was a data specialist and had worked for several companies in the Sacramento area, according to his LinkedIn profile. Hangud, who is being held without bail, refused any interviews, The Sacramento Bee newspaper reported.

"This incident has touched the lives of many in the area," Simon told reporters at a news conference on Tuesday, adding that such a killing had not occurred in the Placer County city of 130,000 in his recent memory. "It's a very sad, sad situation," he said. "The suspect himself drove to the Mount Shasta Police Department with one of the victims in his car and made a confession to them to start off this investigation," Simon said. Mt. Shasta Police chief Parish Cross said he and another officer went outside to the car to verify what Hangud had said was true.

"These are things that just don't happen everyday and when they do it is upsetting," said Cross. "I've been in the business a long time and I've seen a lot of unusual occurences, just upsetting occurences, but this one here is a whole new level. We are still in shock,", an affiliate of the ABC Television Network, reported. Hangud told police the address where to find the three other bodies and Roseville officers checked his apartment near Sacramento and discovered the additional victims, according to authorities, the NBC News reported.

"It appears that the victims were killed by this suspect over a few days time span," Simon said. "We're still working to put that timeline together." Hangud, who has been taken back to Placer County and booked into jail, was the sole suspect in the killings and there appeared to be no ongoing threat, police said. Investigators are asking anyone between Roseville and Mt. Shasta if they have seen Hangud and an adult man of Indian descent in the suspect's car, the report said.

Police said they were not ready to disclose a motive for Hangud's alleged acts; however, tax records showed that Hangud faced a federal tax lien of USD 178,603 from the Internal Revenue Service this year. Police believe Hangud "drove from Roseville and travelled to unknown places in Northern California, and ended up in Mount Shasta," Simon said.

His most recent employment was with a company called Social Interest Solutions, which provides IT services for state public assistance programs. The company, located at 1 Capitol Mall and operated by Oakland-based Alluma, declined to comment, but public records showed his employment there ended in 2018.

Court records show that Hangud's only previous encounter with law enforcement was for speeding in Placer County in 2016 in 2001. Before 2015, Hangud worked in the technology sector in the Bay Area and had previously lived in Dallas, Texas; Maryland; and New Jersey, according to public documents. Police said disclosure of the victims' identities was pending until next of kin are notified.


Over 14,000 farmers ended lives in last 5 years: Report

Mumbai: Four days before Maharashtra goes to the polls, the state’s revenue department has revealed that the number of farmers’ suicides doubled during the present BJP-Shiv Sena regime in the state. The report says that from 2014 until February this year, 14,456 farmers across Maharashtra had committed suicide.

These shocking numbers, have left the saffron alliance red-faced, as it has been bragging about its performance at its poll campaigns.

This information was obtained in response to a Right To Information (RTI) query filed by activist Shakeel Ahmed Shaikh, seeking information on the number of farmers’ deaths in Maharashtra from 2013 until now. The response received from the revenue and forest department reveals that over 154,000 farmers have committed suicide from 2013 till February 2019.

The report states, “A total of 1,296 farmers committed suicide in 2013, followed by 2,039 suicides reported in 2014. In 2015, 3,263 farmer suicides were reported, while the following year, a total of 3,080 such cases occurred. In 2017 and 2018, the number of suicides were 2,917 and 2,761 respectively,” the response of the revenue officials states. In the first two months of 2019 alone, reportedly, 396 farmers took their own lives.

As far as loan waivers to the kin of these farmers are concerned, the report claims that from 2013 to 2018, only 8,868 families have benefited from the government scheme, while 5,713 such families were found ‘ineligible’.

Accordingly, the opposition has used the numbers to corner Devendra Fadnavis-led government. The Congress has also accused the saffron alliance for under-reporting suicide cases.

“The government has under-reported the instances. I can say that there are more such cases than the ones made public. They have not brought on record the deaths of those farmers whose names were not mentioned in the 7/12 documents,” claimed Atul Londhe, Congress spokesperson.

“This government has failed miserably in improving the conditions of the farmers. It has failed to implement the Swaminathan Commission’s report and has only neglected farmers, leading to the present crisis,” Londhe alleged.

Londhe further said, the government had introduced the Goods and Service Tax and demonetisation in the most incorrect manner, causing a huge and adverse impact on businesses.

“In fact, the most unfortunate part is that in the last 70 years, farmers have not resorted to strikes the way we have been seeing for the last five years. Saffron parties are only using Lord Ram’s name to gain votes, but in reality, they are not following in his footsteps,” Londhe said.

Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena, having been made aware of these numbers, has claimed it would ‘continue to put pressure on the CM’ to ensure farmers were not compelled to kill themselves.

“We are dedicated to farmers. That is the reason we have been mounting pressure on the CM right from Day One and will continue to do so in order to ensure that the farmers get their rights,” said Priyanka Chaturvedi, the Sena spokesperson.

“In fact, we do not seek only karz maafi (loan waiver) for the farmers. We want them to be karz-mukt (free of loans) and for this, we are going to ensure that even in the future, the government will work for the betterment of farmers,” Chaturvedi claimed.


Acche din for ministers in BJP-Sena govt, wealth increased by Rs 142 cr

Mumbai: The BJP-Shiv Sena government has brought really “Acche Din” (good days) for the ministers in this government. In the last four years, the wealth of the prominent leaders of Fadnavis’ cabinet has increased by a total of Rs 142 crore. The information has been revealed in their affidavit they filed at the time of nomination.

If you look at the affidavits of the 18 candidates who are currently ministers in the Fadnavis government who are contesting on the BJP ticket, their average wealth is seen to have increased by 80 per cent in the last five years. The total wealth of these 18 ministers was Rs.179.80 crore in 2014 and it increased to Rs. 322.50 crore in 2019.

Wealth of Water Resources Minister Babanrao Lonikar has seen the highest increase. The wealth of Lonikar, who is contesting from Partur constituency, has increased by Rs 27.10 crore in last 5 years. Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil’s wealth increased by 26 crores in last 5 years. In 2014, his wealth was Rs.3.02 crore and it increased Rs. 29.03 crore in 2019. The wealth of Pankaja Munde, who is the Minister of Women and Child Development, has increased by Rs. 21.70 crore.

There has also been an increase in the wealth of the Shiv Sena leaders who are in the cabinet of Fanavis. The wealth of Eknath Shinde, Minister of Public Works (Enterprises) has also increased. Shinde, who has a wealth of Rs. 7.50 crore in the year 2014, now has assets worth Rs.11.60 crore.


On Last Day of Hearing in Supreme Court, Sunni Waqf Board Seeks to Withdraw from Ayodhya Title Dispute

The move comes amid reports of a possible rift between members of the board following FIRs against its chairman ZA Faruqui.


New Delhi: On the last day of hearing in the Ayodhya land dispute case, the Sunni Waqf Board — one of the petitioners — has sought to withdraw from the title suit, the mediation panel has informed the Supreme Court.

The move comes amid reports of a possible rift between members of the board following FIRs against its chairman ZA Faruqui. The Uttar Pradesh government has recommended an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against Faruqui into alleged illegal sale and purchase of land for the board.


Faruqui was on Monday provided security on the orders of the apex court after he apprehended a threat to his life. A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi took note of the communication addressed to it by a member of the mediation committee that Faruqui has informed him about the threat.

Sources aware of the development said after the FIRs, Faruqui had attempted to change his Advocate-on-Record in the Ayodhya case. He allegedly also wrote to the mediation panel, asking for a fresh round of talks, without the knowledge of his legal team.

In its proposal to the mediation panel, the board has suggested giving up its claim on the disputed site but sought that Places of Worship Act, 1991, should be made water-tight. It has asked that the government take over maintenance of around 22 mosques in Ayodhya, many of which were damaged in the riots after the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

It has also asked the Supreme Court to form a committee to check the status of other religious places under the control of the Archaeological Survey of India.

Wednesday is the last day for hearings in the title dispute after the Supreme Court on Tuesday said it looked forward to conclude the arguments before its advanced deadline of October 17. A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi has been hearing the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit for 39 days and had earlier set the deadline to finish arguments on October 18. This was later brought forward to October 17, but the CJI on Tuesday indicated that it would like to conclude all arguments by Wednesday instead of Thursday.

The judgment will be reserved by the bench if the arguments conclude. The bench, also comprising justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and SA Nazeer will have to pronounce the ruling by November 17 as the CJI will retire on that date. If the judgment is not delivered before his retirement, the entire matter would have to be heard afresh.

The CJI has previously said the bench will have only four weeks to write the judgment and it will be a “miracle” if the court delivers the judgment in this time frame.

The court had sped up the hearing in the case that was pending for decades and conducted day-to-day hearing, including miscellaneous days reserved for other matters, to ensure that the bench arrives at a verdict.

The top court is hearing appeals against the September 2010 verdict of the Allahabad High Court. The high court had divided the disputed 2.77 acres of land, including the spot where the Babri Masjid stood until December 6, 1992, and the area around it, equally among the Nirmohi Akhara, the Sunni Central Waqf Board, UP, and Ramlalla Virajman.

The bid to arrive at a negotiated settlement to the dispute via a mediation process failed after Ramlalla Virajman said no to further mediation. Days later, the side arguing for the mosque also turned down an invitation by the Supreme Court-appointed mediators.

With the closing in of the verdict, the Ayodhya administration has tightened curbs imposed under Section 144 till December 10.


INX media case: ED arrests P Chidambaram after questioning him at Tihar jail


Farooq Abdullah detained at his house in Srinagar, daughter Safiya in judicial custody: Police

Srinagar: Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah has been detained at his house in Srinagar, police said on Wednesday.

Abdullah's daughter Safiya, who was detained yesterday during a protest against ending the state's special status, is in judicial custody, the Jammu and Kashmir police added.

Safiya and Abdulla's sister Suraiya Abdullah were detained in Srinagar on Tuesday afternoon during protests against the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories.


Many political leaders, including the Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar Abdullah have been placed under detention or house arrest since August after the central government announced its move on Kashmir.

People's Democratic Party (PDP) leader Mehbooba Mufti was also detained. The Supreme Court last month allowed Mufti's daughter Iltija to travel from Chennai to Srinagar to meet her mother.