Diplomacy & culture interlinked, will showcase India’s soft power: Meenakshi Lekhi - The Daily Guardian
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Diplomacy & culture interlinked, will showcase India’s soft power: Meenakshi Lekhi

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Lok Sabha MP and eminent lawyer Meenakshi Lekhi has been appointed as Minister of State for External Affairs and the Culture Ministry. She spoke to The Daily Guardian as to how she will club work of the two ministries to serve the country and the national capital. Excerpts:

Q: The PM has given a big responsibility to you as two portfolios have been handed over to you. What are going to be your priorities?

A: The country must get right projection around the globe. Diplomacy and culture are interlinked and you may say that they are complimentary to each other. Therefore, we will showcase the soft power of India and will ensure that a positive image of the country goes around. We will tell the world how India had given so much to humanity and if there is anything good about a foreign country, we will try to replicate it here as well. 

Q: PM Modi always speaks about good governance. How will you ensure this in your own ministries?

A: Transparency is the first and foremost thing. We will work with honesty and ensure corruption-free governance. Will take merit-based decisions and policy would be just for all. These are the key elements of good governance preached by PM Modi. 

Q: You come from Delhi, only MP now from national capital. How you will serve people here in Delhi?

A: Delhi is our national capital and all embassies are located here only. Luckily, I got elected from that part of Delhi only. The history of Delhi dates back to the Pandava era when this was Indraprastha and even after that, entire history revolves around Delhi only. I will try and ensure that Delhi gets recognition on the world map and people know about its rich heritage.

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Supreme Court orders release of Rajiv Gandhi case convict

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the release of A.G. Perarivalan, one of the prime accused and convicts in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi 31 years ago, while invoking its extraordinary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution. Perarivalan was out on bail granted by the top court in March earlier this year after which he was released from the Pujhul prison in Chennai.

Article 142 of the Constitution allows the Supreme Court to pass any order necessary to do complete justice in any case or matter pending before it. A bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao and B.R. Gavai said that the state Cabinet’s decision is always binding on the Governor. It had said that the Tamil Nadu Governor was bound by the aid and advice given by the Tamil Nadu Council of Ministers under Article 161 of the Constitution, on the release of Perarivalan. Perarivalan had sought a premature release from jail based on the recommendation made by the Tamil Nadu government in September 2018. The apex court in its judgement held that the decision of the Governor to refer the mercy plea of Perarivalan to the President of India had no constitutional backing. The top court, while releasing Perarivalan, took into consideration his good conduct in jail, medical condition, educational qualifications (he acquired while in custody) and the pendency of his mercy plea with the Tamil

Nadu Governor. It also said that the inordinate delay in deciding Perarivalan’s early release plea by the Governor under Article 161 also warranted his release.

As the news of his release from incarceration broke, people, from actors to politicians, expressed happiness and congratulated Perarivalan and his family, particularly his mother Arputham Ammal, who had been running a campaign for years for the release of her son from prison. Actor Satyaraj of Bahubali fame, while expressing his happiness, said, “I thank the DMK government and Chief Minister Stalin on all their effort for the release of Perarivalan.” He added, “This is a release which will be celebrated across the world.”

The political class of the state saw in the release of Perarivalan a victory of the DMK party, which is in power in the state. DMK leader A. Saravanan, while applauding the historic SC judgment as a gesture of humanity, said, “This is a huge victory for DMK, because we have raised this issue for several years.” Welcome his release, Chief Minister M.K. Stalin, “Perarivalan has lost over 30 years in jail and now he is to take a fresh breath of freedom and I wish him well.”

Perarivalan was 19 years old when he was arrested in June 1991 by the SIT of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) formed in the wake of the cold-blooded assassination of the former Prime Minister on 21 May that year. That evening Rajiv Gandhi was at Sriperumbudur to address an election rally when an LTTE suicide bomber Dhanu blew herself up, while garlanding the former Prime Minister, killing him instantly. The blast was so powerful and devastating that it killed 15 people present at the venue. In all, 41 people were arrested and booked under the Terrorism and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, TADA. The TADA court handed out 26 accused death sentences, including to Murugan, Santhan, Perarivalan and Nalini, in January 1998 after prolonged trial.

The Supreme Court, however, upheld the death sentence awarded by the TADA Court to Murugan, Santhan, Perarivalan and Nalini, and commuted the death sentence of three other convicts to life, while releasing 19 other accused.

After the death penalty of Nalini was commuted to life by the then TN Governor in 2000, upon a recommendation from the state Cabinet, Santhan, Perarivalan and Nalini filed a mercy petition with the President of India in 2001, which was rejected in 2011. When they were about to be hanged, the Madras High Court came to their rescue and stayed the execution order in what it called the situation a “double jeopardy”. In 2014, the Supreme Court commuted the death sentences of all three convicts. In the meanwhile, Perarivalan’s mother Arputham Ammal had launched a sustained campaign for the release of her son. A parole granted by the state government in 2021 and the bail by the apex court a year later, Perarivalan now walks a free man.

The release of Perarivalan, however, may pave the way for the freedom of six other convicts in the case. CM Stalin dropped such a hint when he said, “After the full details come out from the SC, we will see what legal action can be taken to initiate the release of the six other convicts.”

(With agency inputs)

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AT BRICS MEET INDIA TO FOCUS ON ENDING WAR IN UKRAINE

China to host the BRICS Foreign Ministers’ meeting on Thursday; in the presence of Russia, India will stress on the need to resolve the problems between Russia and Ukraine through dialogue and diplomacy.

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As the world continues to grapple with the economic and geopolitical repercussions of the Ukraine conflict, China will host the BRICS—Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa—Foreign Ministers’ meeting on Thursday in the virtual format. The meeting will give all the Foreign Ministers of the BRICS the much-needed opportunity to hold detailed deliberations on the economic, geopolitical and humanitarian aspects of the conflict, amid a situation where the West led by the United States continues to toughen its stand against Moscow for its military operations against Kyiv. This is the first meeting of BRICS Foreign Ministers since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Sources told The Daily Guardian that External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, who will join his counterparts at the BRICS interactions, is set to keep his focus on highlighting the humanitarian crises resulting from the conflict and violence. He will share details of the humanitarian assistance provided by India to the beleaguered people of war-ravaged Ukraine, with the emphasis on what more needs to be done in this area, sources added. “In addition to this, in the presence of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the EAM would give Moscow the message that the problem should be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy. He will also repeat the message of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that nobody is going to win in this war,” sources said.

“India is neither on the side of West nor on the side of the

rest; it is on the side of peace. This message will be given to all the member states of BRICS,” sources added. In fact, after PM Modi’s productive and fruitful meetings with key European leaders where India’s Ukraine position was appreciated, EAM Jaishankar does not want New Delhi to be seen endorsing any messages that amount to criticising the western countries including the US, officials said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin announced on Wednesday that: “The meeting of the BRICS Ministers of Foreign Affairs/International Relations will be held on May 19 in a virtual format. The meeting will be hosted by China’s State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and attended by South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor, Brazil’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Carlos Alberto Franco França, Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov and India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar.”

In another important development, during the meeting, BRICS Foreign Ministers will also have a dialogue with the Foreign Ministers of emerging markets and developing countries in the “BRICS+” format. China holds the chair of the BRICS this year. About China’s expectations of the BRICS Foreign Ministers’ meeting, Wang Wenbin said that the meeting would send a clear message of unity and make preparations for the annual summit of the five-member bloc.

“We will send a clear message of BRICS countries working together in solidarity, upholding true multilateralism, saying united fighting Covid-19, and promoting peaceful development,” he said. As next month’s BRICS summit is being held in the shadow of Russia’s military offensive against Ukraine, the Foreign Ministers of the grouping will elaborately discuss the conflict and its economic, political, and humanitarian outcomes.

The BRICS group of countries will hold the 14th edition of their annual summit next month with a focus on a “new era of global development”. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be joining the annual summit with China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin. This summit will also be held virtually next month.

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NHAI nod to build 80-km stretch under Greenfield Corridor, Haryana to acquire 480 hectares for project

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In a bid to strengthen transportation facilities and infrastructure the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) continues to construct and develop new highways across the country which is likely to create new opportunities for trade as well as commoners. In this series, the Union government has given nod to the construction of the Greenfield Corridor of 1600 kilometres valued at 35500 crores. It is pertinent to mention that the Greenfield Corridor will pass through the Ambala district of Haryana as a stretch of around 80 kilometres falls in Haryana. The construction of the controlled-access Greenfield Shamli-Ambala highway is to be constructed under Bharatmala Pariyojana giving another direct six-lane access between Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and further leading to Punjab. The process of acquisition of this project of the Terai belt is under process in Haryana.

Divulging the issue pertaining to this, RP Singh, a senior official of NHAI said that the government has given approval to the construction of this highway valued at around 35500 crores and 80 kilometres of the same falls in Haryana. Constructing search corridors will save new paths of development undoubtedly as well as new job opportunities for commoners. In this series, it is worth stating that a huge amount of rupees 2400 crore will be spent in two phases on this stretch falling in Haryana under this project. Besides, 480 hectares of land will be acquired and the process for the same has begun. It also came to light that this corridor aims to strengthen transportation as well as the movement of commercial activities in three states as no such corridor has been constructed either from North to East or East to North in this zone. Although there are many highways constructed while going from Delhi to Jammu, Kashmir, Punjab, and Himachal. Contrary to this no such highway does exist while going from Punjab to Uttar Pradesh or vice versa. The Greenfield corridor will have a width of 60 meters from starting and ending. Besides, it is a noticeable fact that bringing such new corridors is most likely to pave a new path for development and employment along with the promotion of tourism in the areas around the corridor. With an investment of aforesaid huge amount, the 1600 km-long highway is most likely to transform the road infrastructure and transportation of Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. Besides, it will be a blend of road infrastructure of global standards along environment-friendly roads and industry-friendly approaches.

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ED TO QUIZ TMC LEADER ABHISHEK IN KOLKATA

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On Tuesday, the Supreme Court directed the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to interrogate Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Abhishek Banerjee and his wife Rujira Banerjee in Kolkata instead of Delhi.

A bench of Justices UU Lalit, S Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia said the ED has to give at least 24 hours prior notice to the couple before interrogation and simultaneously a notice shall be issued to the Commissioner of Police and Chief Secretary of Kolkata. The Supreme Court in an interim order stayed Delhi High Court March 11 order by which Banerjees’ pleas against the issuance of summons by the ED were dismissed.

If the ED interrogates Abhishek Banerjee and his wife in Kolkata, the apex court has stated that it will not allow any form of state meddling or obstruction.

The Supreme Court also issued notice to the ED on Banerjees’ appeal against the High Court order and sought a response within three weeks and posted the matter for hearing on July 19. The State of West Bengal assured the Supreme Court that complete assistance shall be rendered by West Bengal to ED officials.

The apex court further said that in case there is any interference, the ED shall approach the vacation court of the Supreme Court.

The West Bengal government has assured that in case any complaint is filed against ED officials no coercive action will be initiated, noted SC in its order. The ED is conducting the investigation in a money-laundering probe, linked to an alleged coal scam in West Bengal, in which the agency had issued summons to the Banerjee couple.

Abhishek Banerjee, the nephew of TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, had told the apex court that he is ready to be probed by the ED in Kolkata.

The Banerjees have contested the ED’s summons to appear in court in connection with a money laundering investigation into a purported coal scam in West Bengal.

They have asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the summons and prevent the ED from requesting their attendance in Delhi for questioning. They argued that the ED might examine them in Kolkata and requested a stay on the High Court’s judgement.

The petitioners have requested the Supreme Court to rule on whether the ED has the authority to call people from all over India to Delhi.

With inputs from ANI.

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POSTERS SURFACE IN BASIRHAT, RESIDENTS DECLARE ACTRESS-TURNED TMC MP NUSRAT JAHAN ‘MISSING’

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When the residents of Basirhat Lok Sabha constituency woke up on Wednesday, they saw posters screaming “MP of Basirhat Missing” pasted all around, leaving them wondering whose handiwork it could be. Though, few would have disagreed with the contents of the posters. For, the Bengali actress-turned-politician has been more visible for controversies of late than for working for the people of her constituency.

The Trinamool Congress MP is rather inaccessible to the residents of her own constituency. When they try to approach MP Nusrat to relate their problems and seek redress to them, sometimes four to five times, they are turned down, say locals. The posters are an expression of popular anger and disillusionment with the MP, they say, which is only growing with time. One such poster could be seen in Champatla panchayat area of Chaylap Haroa assembly segment.

“Basirhat MP Nusrat Jahan is missing, I want to find her,” read the poster.

Sources say the posters have been put up by Trinamool Congress workers of the constituency, showing the disaffection and anger among them for which the MP has to blame none other than herself.

The local party leaders, though, would blame the opposition parties for running such slanderous poster campaign against their MP.

Humayun Reza Chowdhury, head of the Degangar Champatla Panchayat, said, “Haji Nurul Islam was the MP of Basirhat from 2009 to 2014. The grassroots activists got him elected from among the common people and all the development work in the area was done by him. But now the Trinamool MP is not available. That’s why people in the area have put out such posters.”

Apart from her absence from and inaccessibility to the people of her constituency, there some more reasons behind the growing popular dissent against her. She was not a popular choice when she was declared a candidate by TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee. Yet Nusrat Jahan was voted to become their MP in 2019 parliamentary elections. Then, Nusrat Jahan has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. She hit the headlines when she married Nikhil Jain in Turkey in June 2019. The marriage did not last and they parted ways in 2021. It turned out that Jahan had married under Turkish law and did not register her marriage under the Special Marriage Act in India and the marriage was, in fact, a live-in relationship, according to her own admission last year.

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Tension in Punjab over ‘conversion’ of Guru’s inn into mosque

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The case of converting Guru ki Sarai into a mosque in Gujjara locality in Rajpura, Punjab, has gained momentum and police force has been deployed in the tehsil premises.

On Monday, the matter was heard in front of the SDM during which people of the Muslim-Sikh community were present. People from the Hindu community were also present.

This inn was given the form of a gurdwara. The Hindu side says that earlier people of Hindu and Sikh society used to serve here. After sometime, it was converted into a mosque without anyone’s consent and permission. The Hindu organizations have also protested against this incident.

SDM Himanshu Gupta says that the police force has been deployed to ensure that law and order situation does not deteriorate. This matter has been in discussion for many days.

The Hindu side alleges that people gather here every day at the time of Namaz. Also, the sound of loudspeaker causes trouble to the common people.

During the hearing, a large number of people including Punjab Dharmacharya, head of Gau Raksha Dal, Satish Kumar had reached. As the number of people increased, the police also increased their security arrangements to prevent any untoward incident.

On the other hand, RCFAI, a Kerala-based organization, had built three more mosques in the same district in 2019. After this the intelligence agencies were alerted. According to the report of the Ministry of Home Affairs, mosques have been built in districts adjoining Punjab with terror funding.

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