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3 persons died at sand excavation site in MP’s Niwari

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Niwari (Madhya Pradesh) [India], February 17 (ANI): Three persons were severely injured and later succumbed to their injuries after sand mound fell over them in Ghatwaha village, Niwari on Tuesday.
According to Niwari Superintendent of Police Alok Kumar, “They were injured after sand mound fell over them. They died during the treatment in hospital.”
“We have reported the incident and have sent bodies for post mortem,” Niwari said.
Further investigation into the case is underway. (ANI)

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SC declines to hear plea seeking initiation of contempt against Maharashtra officials for rewarding killers of tigress ‘Avni’

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Mumbai (Maharashtra) [India], February 26 (ANI): The Supreme Court on Friday refused to entertain a plea seeking initiation of contempt of court proceedings against Maharashtra Chief Secretary Vikas Kharge and other state officials for announcing reward to people who had killed ‘Avni’, an adult tigress who had allegedly killed 13 people in the Yavatmal district in 2018.
A bench headed by the Chief Justice of India SA Bobde said, “We understand its a serious issue but we cannot interfere.”
The Chief Justice said that in an earlier litigation, the decision to kill the tiger was given by the court as the tigress was proved to be a man eater. “The state government has submitted a report in this regard which was accepted by the court,” said the bench.
“We cannot review the decision and say it was not a man-eater. The state officials in their reply said that the celebration after the tigress’ death was done by villagers. Officers have stated on oath that they did not celebrate the killing of the tigress,” the Bench said.
Earlier, the Bench had issued a notice to Chief Secretary Vikas Kharge and others on a contempt petition filed by wildlife researcher Sangeet Dongra, who said that the reward was granted flouting court directions.
The apex court had observed that the petition raised an “important point” regarding the flouting of court orders prohibiting awarding of rewards to persons who kill wild animals and issued contempt notices.
The petition has sought initiation of contempt of court proceedings against Kharge, AK Mishra Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, KM Abharna Deputy Conservator of Forest Pandharkawada, Anup Nayak Additional Director General for Project Tiger and Member Secretary of National Tiger Conservation Authority.
During the earlier hearing, Dogra in her plea sought action against those responsible for presenting misleading documents in the form of a false affidavit before the Court in 2018 which convinced the court that Avni is a man-eating tigress when her post mortem report revealed that she is not a man eater.
In 2018, the Supreme Court had permitted the killing of Avni, officially known as T1, if the attempts to tranquillize her fail. It further had directed that no prize or incentive should be declared for any person responsible for the killing of the tigress. Avni was killed in November 2018 and several wildlife activists termed it a ‘state-sponsored fake encounter’. (ANI)

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Sitharaman chairs meeting to discuss post-budget action points for infra roadmap

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New Delhi [India], February 26 (ANI): Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday chaired a virtual meeting with CEO of NITI Aayog Amitabh Kant and secretaries of 22 infrastructure ministries and departments to discuss post-budget action points for infrastructure roadmap ahead, informed the Finance Ministry.

According to a statement issued by the Ministry, this was the third review meeting by Sitharaman with ministries and departments about the importance of the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) and infrastructure sector to ensure faster post-COVID-19 recovery of the economy.

The NIP was launched with 6,835 projects; the project pipeline has now been expanded to nearly 7,600 projects. It has witnessed accelerated spending on infrastructure projects in ministries specially in Q2 and Q3 of financial year 2021, the statement read.

It has helped in targeting a substantial increase in infrastructure expenditure in many ministries in FY21 over expenditure done in FY20. Around 216 projects worth Rs 74,067 crore under Government of India infrastructure ministries have been completed till Q3 FY 21. Around 678 projects worth Rs 6 lakh crore have progressed from the lower stage to the upper stage of project formulation and implementation till Q3 FY 21. However, it has also been observed that ministries/departments need to work very hard in order to ensure achieving targets of the NIP.

The CEO of NITI Aayog gave a presentation on asset monetisation and highlighted various models for monetisation of core infrastructure assets and also spoke about finalising targets for asset monetisation.

While reviewing the performance of ministries/departments on NIP, Sitharaman emphasised that NIP will play a critical role in revitalising the economy post-pandemic. The Ministries/departments were requested to aim to achieve more than the NIP targets. 

The Finance Minister also highlighted that the NIP is not just central government budgetary expenditure on infrastructure and it also includes infra spending by states and private sector as well as expenditure through extra-budgetary resources. Therefore, Sithraman asked ministries/departments to actively work on getting project funded through innovative structuring and financing, provide all the help and support to private sector for enhanced infra spending. “The ministries/departments also need to explore PPP mode for viable projects and use government funding for pushing infrastructure projects which cannot be done in PPP mode,” she added.

Sitharaman during the discussion advised NITI Aayog to work on strengthening dispute resolution mechanism as updating MCAs as per international best practices.  

She also requested secretaries of ministries/departments to ensure their full and personal engagement in NIP implementation, updation on NIP portal and expedite implementation of NIP projects. (ANI)

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EC announces three-phased Assam Assembly polls from March 27, counting on May 2

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New Delhi [India], February 26 (ANI): The Election Commission of India on Friday announced that Assam will go to Assembly elections in three phases beginning March 27.
The counting of votes will take place on May 2.
Addressing a press conference, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said: “In Assam, elections shall be held in three phases. The first phase of notification is March 2 and 47 seats in 12 districts will go to the polls. The last date of nomination March 9 and the date of poll is March 27. In the second phase, 39 constituencies in 13 districts will go to polls on April 1. Forty Assembly constituencies in 12 districts to go on polls on April 6. Votes will be counted on May 2.”
With the announcement of the election schedule, the Model Code of Conduct has come into force in the state.
“Model Code of Conduct to come into force immediately after the announcement of the election dates. The commission has made adequate arrangements to ensure effective implementation of MCC guidelines,” Arora said.
Ashok Kumar has been appointed as a special police observer for Assam.
“In Assam in 2016, the polling stations were 24,890 and in 2021, there will be 33,530. The percentage increase in polling stations 35.71 per cent. The term of Assam is up to May 31, 2021. The number of Assembly seats is 126. Reserved seats for SC is eight and for STs it is 16,” Arora said.
Besides Assam, the ECI also announced the election schedule for Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Puducherry and Kerala.
The CEC said adequate CAPFs deployment shall be ensured during elections. “All critical, vulnerable polling stations identified and an adequate number of CAPFs will be deployed. Advance teams are already deployed in these States/UT,” he said.
“Postal ballot facility has been extended as an option to senior citizens aged 80 years and above, persons with disabilities and electors employed in essential services. A separate SOP (standard operating procedure) is there for COVID-19 patients, suspect COVID-19 patient. Polling time has been uniformly increased,” Arora added.
The CEC said door-to-door campaigning has been restricted to five persons including the candidate. Roadshows are allowed subjected to convoy breaking after five vehicles, he added.
“A 824 Assembly constituencies shall be going to polls. 18.68 crore voters will cast votes at 2.7 lakh polling stations in states/UT. More than 3 lakh service vote electors will be availing facilities of electronic transmitted postal ballet system,” Arora informed.
Earlier in January, the Assam Congress unit had announced that five political parties including Congress, All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), Communist Party of India (CPI), CPI(Marxist), CPI(Marxist-Leninist) and Anchalik Gana Morcha would contest the state Assembly polls together to oust the Sonowal government from power.
“In upcoming Assam Assembly polls Congress, All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), Communist Party of India (CPI), CPI(Marxist), CPI (Marxist-Leninist) and Anchalik Gana Morcha will fight together to oust BJP. We will keep our doors open for other regional and anti-BJP parties to join us,” Ripun Bora, President, Assam Congress said.
In 2016, the BJP scripted history and formed the government for the first time in the state ending Congress’s 15-year rule. BJP and its allies Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) won a combined 86 seats in the 126-member Assam Assembly. BJP bagged 60 seats, AGP 14 and BPF 12 seats.
Congress, which ran the state for three straight terms under the leadership of Tarun Gogoi, could manage to win only 26 seats.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, BJP won nine of the 14 parliamentary seats while its allies the AGP and the BPF drew a blank. On the other hand, Congress bagged three seats and the AIUDF and an independent won one seat each.
The Central Armed Police Forces have started moving to four poll-bound states and one Union Territory — Tamil Nadu, Assam, Puducherry, West Bengal and Kerala — to ensure peaceful conduct of the Assembly elections.
According to official communication, accessed by ANI, a total of 45 CAPFs companies will be deployed in Tamil Nadu, 40 in Assam, 10 in Puducherry, 125 in West Bengal and 30 companies in Kerala. (ANI)

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Voting for Tamil Nadu assembly polls on April 6

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New Delhi [India], February 26 (ANI): Tamil Nadu assembly elections will be held in a single phase on April 6 and the counting of votes will be done on May 2, the Election Commission of India (ECI) announced on Friday.
With this announcement, the model code of conduct comes into force. The assembly elections in the southern state are important for the national as well as the regional political parties.
Polls will be held for 234 seats in Tamil Nadu with the Congress-DMK and BJP-AIADMK alliance being the major groups contesting against each other.
The Bharatiya Janata Party at the Centre and the AIADMK-led government in the state can sense the ascendance of the DMK and seem determined to base their strategy on issues such as OBC reservation and religion-related controversies.
The opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)-led front, which includes the Congress, had won 37 of the 39 Lok Sabha seats in Tamil Nadu in 2019.
AIADMK said they are running the government in accordance with J Jayalalithaa’s wishes. But with the support of the BJP at the centre, AIADMK implemented GST and demonetisation and introduced Neet exams in Tamil Nadu after the untimely death of Jayalalithaa in December 2016.
This is the first major set of elections to be held in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic after the Bihar election. The voting hours have been increased by an hour. The number of polling booths has also been increased from 66,007 to 88,936.
The state assembly elections will be conducted following all Covid-19 protocols issued by the Union Health Ministry. Similar to the Bihar polls, candidates for the election will also follow the guidelines while officials inside polling booths will wear masks, face shields, and gloves and use sanitisers. (ANI)

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Assembly Polls 2021: Puducherry to vote on April 6

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New Delhi [India], February 26 (ANI): Polling for 30 assembly seats in Puducherry will be held on April 6, the Election Commission of India (ECI) announced on Friday.
Of the 30 Assembly seats, five are reserved for the Scheduled Caste candidates. The voting hour has been increased by one hour in view of COVID-19. The counting of votes will be held on May 2, the commission said.
The Congress-led government in the Union Territory fell before completing its five-year term under the Chief Minister V Naraynawamy.
Narayanasamy had resigned on February 22 ahead of a floor test in the 33-member House (including three nominated) following the resignations of five Congress and one Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) legislators. On February 23, President Ram Nath Kovind accepted the resignation of Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy and his council of ministers.
Kiran Bedi was replaced as Puducherry L-G with Telangana governor Tamilisai Soundararajan being given the additional charge of the Union Territory.
In the 2016 Assembly polls, Congress had won 15 seats, All India NR Congress eight seats, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) got four seats, DMK walked away with two MLAs. BJP could not win any seats.
In the 2019 general elections, Dr Narayanasamy Kesavan of Congress won the single-seat from the Union Territory.
This year, BJP president of the Puducherry unit, V Saminathan is trying hard to woo voters with the help of the party’s central leadership.
On February 25, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for the development of Minor Port at Puducherry under Sagarmala Scheme. He also inaugurated the Blood Centre at Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER), Puducherry, which will function as a research laboratory and a training centre for the short- term and continuous blood bank personnel training in all aspects of transfusion.
Rahul Gandhi visited Puducherry on February 17 and addressed fishermen in the neighbouring Solai Nagar in the Muthialpet assembly constituency and interacted with students of the Bharathidasan Government College for women.
Puducherry Lt Governor today announced a 2 percent reduction in VAT (Value Added Tax) on petrol and diesel in the union territory before the announcement of dates by ECI.
Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora has said that the commission would ensure free, fair, inducement-free and COVID-19-safe elections. Of the 30 seats that will go to polls, 5 are reserved for Scheduled Caste (SC), he said.
After the Bihar assembly elections, which were held in November 2020, elections to Tamil Nadu along with three other states and Puducherry will also be held amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Election Commission has issued a protocol for voting. All poll officials will be vaccinated against Covid-19 before elections for five assembly polls, the commission said.
Central Armed Police Forces would be deployed and also special observers from other states would be nominated for monitoring the expenses during the assembly elections. (ANI)

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Assembly polls in Kerala to be held on April 6, counting on May 2

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New Delhi [India], February 26 (ANI): The election for 140-member Kerala Assembly will be held on April 6, the Election Commission of India (ECI) announced on Friday.
For Assembly poll 2021, the number of polling booths in Kerala has been extended from 21,498 to 40,771. The counting of votes will be held on May 2.
According to the commission, of the 140 Assembly seats, 14 seats are reserved for SC category and two are reserved for ST category candidates.
With this, the Model Code of Conduct has come into force immediately after the announcement of the election dates. The tenure of the Kerala legislative assembly will come to an end on June 1, 2021.
In the 2016 Kerala assembly election, the CPI(M)-led Left Front bagged 91 seats in 140-member Assembly. The BJP could only win from the Nemom constituency. CPI(M)’s Pinrayi Vijayan is the current Chief Minister of Kerala and he is hoping to return to power after the polls.
In the 2019 general elections, the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) coalition has registered a remarkable victory with wins in 19 out of the 20 parliamentary constituencies. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi who is spearheading the campaign for Assembly polls 2021 is Lok Sabha MP from Waynad.
Political parties including the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress and other parties have started campaigning even before the date of the poll. There are two front which is contesting the election are– United Democratic Front (UDF) led by Congress and comprising like-minded parties and Left Democratic Front (LDF) led by CPM-M comprising up of left and like-minded parties
A faction in the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), a constituent in the ruling LDF has decided to part ways with the CPI(M)-led alliance and join the Congress-led front.
Ahead of the Kerala election 2021, ‘Metro Man’ E Sreedharan joined the BJP. Sreedharan has also expressed his wish to become the Chief Minister of Kerala if BJP comes to power in the state. “If BJP comes to power in Kerala, I am ready to become the chief minister. The party has not asked me till now as it is too premature. But if BJP asks me, I am willing to take up the post and show how a state can be run efficiently like we are running DMRC,” Sreedharan had told ANI earlier.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath recently flagged off Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s Vijaya Yatra from Kasaragod, Kerala in presence of state party president K Surendran. A host of BJP national leaders will visit Kerala to partake in the Vijaya Yatra rally in various districts which includes – Union Minister Gen VK Singh, former Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis, Union Minister Pralhad Joshi, Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Union Minister Smriti Irani among others. Union Home Minister Amit Shah will be present at the concluding session of the rally on March 7 in Thiruvananthapuram.
Among the issues which will likely to gain space in the campaign are the Kerala Gold smuggling case, the alleged backdoor appointment made by Left Democratic Front (LDF) government.
The Kerala gold smuggling case pertains to the smuggling of gold in the state through diplomatic channels. It had come to light after 30 kg gold worth Rs 14.82 crores smuggled in a consignment camouflaged as diplomatic baggage was busted by the Customs in Thiruvananthapuram on July 5, 2020. It is being probed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), NIA and Customs department.
The opposition leader had Ramesh Chennithala alleged that maximum illegal appointments were carried out in the IT department, a portfolio handled by the Chief Minister himself. The Congress and the United Democratic Front have been attacking the state government over the protest of Public Service Commission rank holders in Thiruvananthapuram.
After the Bihar assembly elections, which were held in November 2020, elections to Tamil Nadu along with three other states and Puducherry will also be held amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Election Commission has issued a protocol for voting. All poll officials will be vaccinated against Covid-19 before elections for five assemblies polls, the commission said.
Central Armed Police Forces would be deployed and also special observers from other states would be nominated for monitoring the expenses during the assembly election. (ANI)

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