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Despite COVID-19, govt took up reforms to make India one of the top economies: Sitharaman

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New Delhi [India], February 13 (ANI): Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday said that the ongoing COVID-19 situation did not deter the Central government from taking measures for reforms that are necessary for sustaining long term growth for this country.
While replying to the discussion on the Union Budget in Lok Sabha, Sitharaman said that these reforms will lay a path for India to be one of the top economies of the world in the coming decade and further.
“I would like to highlight – stimulus plus reforms. The pandemic did not deter us from taking up reforms that would sustain long term growth. We have taken not just one-off reforms, not just now and then, but reforms rivetted in a policy which will give a neat background, a layout spread before the Parliament for people to know that this is a reform that will lay a path for India to be one of the top economies of the world in the coming decade and further,” the Finance Minister said.
She reiterated that India’s approach to the COVID-19 resulted in a retraction in the pandemic.
“Because we had an approach which was spearheaded from the front by the PM, we have had a retraction in the pandemic. Death rates are the lowest in the world and active cases have come down,” she said.
“This Budget draws from the experience of the Prime Minister when he was Chief Minister – on the ground in Gujarat, seen so many revivals happening at a time when the license quota raj was going away post-1991 and then based on that experience, commitment to reform was blended into this Budget,” the minister added.
Sitaraman, while replying to the discussion on the Union Budget in Rajya Sabha on Friday, slammed the Opposition and accused them of constantly alleging a false narrative that the government only worked for cronies and said several of the Centre’s schemes were for the poor.
She reminded members of the Upper House of several schemes that have been implemented for the poorer sections of the country, like the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana and the Pradhan Mantri Saubhagya Yojana.
She also said the Union Budget 2021-22 is the instrument through which Aatmanirbhar Bharat is to be attained and asserted that the government is also looking at “long-term sustainable growth”.
Finance Minister had presented the Union Budget 2021-22 in the Parliament on February 1. (ANI)

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Attukal Pongala: Devotees in Kerala to offer rituals at homes amid COVID-19

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Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala) [India], February 27 (ANI): Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, lakhs of devotees took part in the auspicious Attukal Pongala on Saturday.
This year, devotees are not allowed to offer ‘Pongala’ in public places or on roads side. But people can make the offering from their homes. Devotees will be allowed to enter the temple as per the COVID protocol.
The festival is all about the annual ritualistic offering — namely “Pongala” cooked with rice, jaggery and coconut in earthen pots — to the presiding deity of the Attukal Temple by women.
A large number of people today reached the temple to offer prayers.
The Pongala offering at the temple will be limited to the main hearth.
In the wake of COVID-19, temple authorities and district administration have decided to conduct pongala at devotee’s homes by following COVID-19 guidelines.
District collector Navjoth Singh Ghosa has declared a holiday on Saturday for the Thiruvananthapuram district and has asked people to follow COVID-19 protocols while offering pongala at homes.
Last year, the festival was conducted with restrictions due to COVID-19.
In 2009, the festival found a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the largest gathering of women (2.5 million). (ANI)

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Home Secretary Level talks: India, Bangladesh decide to enhance cooperation to prevent fake currency, contraband smuggling

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New Delhi [India], February 27 (ANI): Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh scheduled next month, both countries agreed to enhance the level of cooperation to prevent smuggling of Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN) and contraband across borders during the 19th Home Secretary Level Talks (HSLT) on Saturday.
According to an official release issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the 19th HSLT between India and Bangladesh was held virtually today in the backdrop of ‘MujibBarsho’, 50 years of Bangladesh Liberation War and the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries.
The Indian delegation was led by Ajay Kumar Bhalla, Union Home Secretary. Mostafa Kamal Uddin, Senior Secretary, Public Security Division, Ministry of Home Affairs of Bangladesh led the Bangladesh delegation.
“Both sides discussed early completion of pending fencing along the Indo-Bangladesh Border (IBB) as agreed by the Prime Ministers of the two countries,” said MHA.
It added that both sides appreciated the cooperation between the two countries and the action taken to address the menace of terrorism and extremism in an effective manner.
“The effective functioning of the Coordinated Border Management Plan (CBMP) to control the illegal cross border activities was appreciated by both sides. Both sides also agreed to further enhance the level of cooperation to prevent the smuggling of FICN and contraband,” MHA added. (ANI)

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Pralhad Joshi, Muraleedharan visit family of RSS worker killed in SDPI-RSS clash in Kerala

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Alappuzha (Kerala) [India], February 27 (ANI): Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi along with Union Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan on Saturday visited the house of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) worker Nandu R Krishna, who was allegedly killed by Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) members in Cherthala on Wednesday.
“Visited the residence of a bright 26-year-old RSS Karyakarta, Nandu R Krishna, who was hacked to death recently by SDPI activists in Alappuzha, Kerala. Also visited the residence of Nandu who was injured seriously in the incident,’ tweeted Joshi after the visit.
Speaking to the media after the visit, Muraleedharan accused that the Kerala government of not arresting the ‘real culprits’.
“They are not arresting the real culprits. Nandu R Krishna was brutally killed by an armed group with direct links to the Popular Front of India (PFI). Every time, organisations that are banned pop up in different names,” he said.
He said that there is no point in going after ‘names’ but there should be effective control in place to check such extremist groups are not given a free run. “Under Pinarayi Vijayan’s patronage, Jihadi extremists are getting a free-run and perpetrators are going scot-free,” said Muraleedharan.
He further said the Centre is closely following the issues and a possible ‘ban’ on such extremist elements is under consideration. “Centre is aware of what is going on and we will take an appropriate decision soon on such extremist groups,” he added.
The incident took place last Wednesday night, when after a march, SDPI and RSS workers clashed and an RSS worker was killed allegedly by some SDPI activists.
The police had arrested eight SDPI activists in connection with the incident. (ANI)

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Army begins public outreach program ‘A day with company commander’ in J-K’s Baramulla

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Baramulla (Jammu and Kashmir) [India], February 27 (ANI): With an aim to further strengthen the connect with the next generation of Kashmir, “A Day with Company Commander” a public outreach program was organised by the 52 RR camp of the Indian Army in the Delina area of Jammu Kashmir’s Baramulla.
Locals visited the Army camp and children played many games such as kabaddi, musical Chair, pour glass from the ball, tug of war at the camp.
Major General HS Sahi, GOC, Kilo Force (North Kashmir) said that the aim of the outreach program is to strengthen the Army’s relationship with people and children of the Kashmir valley.

“The children wholeheartedly participated in all the events with great enthusiasm and vigour,” Sahi said.
“The children also get the opportunity to know life inside the Army camp. They should feel that it is their friends who are in the army camp,” he added.
In the outreach program, Army doctors provided free medical check-ups and supplied free medicines to the locals.
” We are very happy to see them doing programs for our kids. Children were told about the National Defence Academy and career opportunities there. We have a very good relationship with the army,” said a local.
Khaji Hakimudin, an ex-serviceman, said,” I reside nearby the camp. We feel safe here because the camp provides us with protection. Whenever there is a program we are invited to attend.”
“Army gives sports kits to the children. They play volleyball at the camp with locals ”
Zayed Irfan, a boy at the camp, said,” It is a great feeling to play with many of my friends in such a big camp. I have learned a lot during the camp. Today I played Kabadi. It was great fun. I want to be an army officer”. (ANI)

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Cong-Left alliance, ISF to discuss seat sharing at 4:30 pm today

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Kolkata (West Bengal) [India], February 27 (ANI): The Congress-Left alliance and Indian Secular Front (ISF) will meet for a discussion regarding seat sharing at 4:30 pm on Saturday.
According to sources, the meeting will take place in Alimuddin.
Notably, ISF has made an alliance with Congress and Left Front to contest the upcoming Assembly polls in Bengal.
Meanwhile, the Election Commission of India on Friday announced that West Bengal will witness eight-phased Assembly polls (in contrast to seven-phased polling last time). While the voting will begin on March 27, the counting of votes will take place on May 2. (ANI)

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Uttarakhand: Rishikesh-Srinagar road closed due to landslide

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Rishikesh (Uttarakhand) [India], February 27 (ANI): Vehicular movement on the Rishikesh-Srinagar road near Kaudiyala has been suspended due to a landslide, officials said on Saturday.
“A landslide occurred at NH58 Rishikesh-Srinagar road in Tehri Garhwal. The road is closed near Kaudiyala due to the landslide,” said District Disaster Management Officer Brijesh Bhatt.
According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), Uttarakhand is likely to receive scattered rainfall and snowfall during the next 24 hours.
“Under the influence of western disturbance and cyclonic circulation over north Pakistan and neighborhood, fairly widespread rainfall and snowfall are very likely over Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh, Gilgit, Baltistan, Muzaffarabad and scattered rainfall and snowfall over Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand during the next 24 hours and isolated rainfall and snowfall over there region during subsequent during the next 24 hours,” IMD said in its Saturday bulletin.
A fresh western disturbance is likely to affect Western Himalayan regions from the night of March 2. (ANI)

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