Foreign envoys agreed there were free and fair elections in J-K: Srinagar Mayor Junaid Mattu - The Daily Guardian
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Foreign envoys agreed there were free and fair elections in J-K: Srinagar Mayor Junaid Mattu

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New Delhi [India], February 17 (ANI): There was a consensus among foreign envoys of 24 countries who are on a two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir that there were free and fair elections in the Union Territory, which is the biggest attestation to the empowerment of democracy, said Srinagar Municipal Corporation Mayor Junaid Mattu on Wednesday.
The Srinagar mayor told ANI that the visiting dignitaries were apprised of the “landmark elections of District Development Council (DDC) and urban local bodies.”
“The visiting dignitaries were apprised of the landmark elections of DDC and urban local bodies. They wanted to know the ground realities. Elected representatives from all political opinions and parties participated. The key issue discussed was the decentralisation of power and planning and empowerment of the grassroots representatives,” he said.
Mattu said that the most important thing happening now is the “empowerment of local elected representatives at the grassroots level in the valley.”
“The foreign envoys spoke to elected representatives from all political parties. The common denominator was that all of them said that there were free and fair elections. Free and fair elections are the biggest attestation to the empowerment of democracy,” he added.
The visit of foreign envoys has come in the backdrop of District Development Council polls, which saw huge participation and restoration of 4G mobile internet in the entire region after 18 months, which many see as a return of full normalcy in the Union Territory.
This is the first visit by foreign diplomats to Jammu and Kashmir since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Two batches of foreign diplomats had visited J-K in January and February last year after the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019. (ANI)

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Chennithala demands resignation of state fisheries minister over deep-sea trawling contract

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Kochi (Kerala) [India], February 28 (ANI): Congress leader and Leader of Opposition in Kerala Assembly Ramesh Chennithala on Saturday demanded the resignation of the state Fisheries Minister J Mercykutty Amma over the alleged corruption in a Rs 5000-crore deal the Kerala government is said to have signed to open up deep-sea fishing in the Kerala waters to EMCC International Pvt. Ltd, an American multinational company.
“No other government in Kerala would have deceived the people like this. Representatives of the EMCC met the Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan twice. It was Mercykutty Amma who took EMCC team to Cliff House (official residence of Kerala CM),” Chennithala claimed.
“The fisheries minister should resign,” he demanded.
Chennithala had levelled corruption charges against Fisheries Minister J Mercykutty Amma and Industries Minister EP Jayarajan and accused them of being the “chief conspirators” of the deep sea deal.
“The memorandum of understanding (MoU) of Rs 5000 crore project was signed at the Global Investors Meet Ascent 2020 in Kochi. The project involves fishing with 400 deep-sea trawlers, five mother fishing vessels, and nets that can shift to the bottom of the sea. Supplementary agreements in this regard were signed between the Government of Kerala and EMCC International last week,” Chennithala alleged during the Kollam stretch of his ‘Aishwarya Kerala Yatra’.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had earlier rejected allegations of the Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala about a purported agreement concerning the deep-sea fishing project and said the government only intervenes for the betterment of the entire fishermen community and ‘fake campaign’ will not work.
The elections for 140-member Kerala Assembly will be held on April 6. (ANI)

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Mamata should see the violence during past elections: Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury after she questioned 8-phase polls

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Kolkata [India], February 27 (ANI): Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury on Saturday slammed West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for questioning the Election Commission of India’s (ECI) decision to conduct the Assembly polls in eight phases saying that she should see the violence during Panchayat and other elections in the past.
“Mamata Banerjee should look at the mirror and see what she has done in the past years. There has been violence in Bengal during the Panchayat and other elections. Law and order situation had gone out of hand. In other states also, elections are conducted in phases. I think we should not have any problem and raise questions on ECI. It is Mamata Banerjee who has a problem with it,” Chowdhury told ANI.
On the Congress-Left-ISF alliance, Chowdhury said, “Initially, Congress and the Left Front alliance was smooth. Then, the (Indian Secular Front) ISF entered into the electoral arena and expressed their desire to participate in the alliance. Left parties have already forged an alliance with them but Congress still has not been able to do it.”
Meanwhile, the Election Commission of India on Friday announced that West Bengal will witness eight-phased Assembly polls. While the voting will begin on March 27, the counting of votes will take place on May 2.
West Bengal is likely to witness a triangular contest this time with TMC, Congress-Left alliance and BJP in the fray.
While Mamata Banerjee is seeking her third consecutive term, BJP has set a target of winning 200 seats in the 294-member state Assembly. Congress and the Left have stitched the alliance for the polls and had already finalised the seat-sharing agreement. They are also in touch with the Indian Secular Front (ISF), recently floated by influential minority leader Abbas Siddique.
In 2016, West Bengal Assembly elections, out of the 294 seats, Congress had managed to win 44 seats while the Left Front bagged 33 seats. The ruling TMC secured 211 seats and the BJP had won 3 seats. (ANI)

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Border residents in J-K’s Baramulla relieved after ceasefire agreement

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Baramulla (Jammu and Kashmir) [India], February 27 (ANI): The agreement between India and Pakistan to cease firing along the Line of Control has brought happiness among residents of border areas in the Uri Sector in Baramulla as they can now lead normal lives.
“We are very happy that the Commanders from both sides have agreed to observe the ceasefire. Cross-border firings cause big problems in the lives of people living along the border. We used to face all kinds of troubles and difficulties. We are thankful to the government for this step. Now, we can live in peace,” said Abdul Razzak, a border resident.
The residents in the border areas of Nabila village, along the Line of Control (LoC), in the Uri sector in Baramulla are hoping for peace after India and Pakistan reiterated commitment for a ceasefire on borders.
“I am a resident of Nabila. The ceasefire observance decision has brought great relief to all of us living along the border. Our children could not go to school earlier. We had to face difficulties in our daily life. I want to thank the government for the move,” said Farid Khan, a local of Nabila.
Ceasefire violations, cross-LoC firings, and shelling are the biggest hurdle in the lives of people living near border areas of the Uri sector in Baramulla. Firing and shelling only bring pain for civilians living along LoC. Now, they are hoping that their problems will be solved after the ceasefire agreement.
The Uri sector witnessed a spurt in ceasefire violations during the last year. More than 12 people, including soldiers, were killed in more than 36 ceasefire violations while hundreds of structures suffered damage.
The most deadly ceasefire violation recently took place on November 13 last year in Kamalkote, when four civilians and two soldiers were killed while a civilian had lost both his legs. The incident caused massive damage to the property as well, forcing locals to flee temporarily from the area.
“Earlier due to shelling, we had to face many problems. We couldn’t even take out our cattle to pastures. Now after this agreement, we hope things will be normal for us,” said Shahid-ul Islam, Sarpanch of Nabila Village.
He added, “Our children also had difficulties going to school. I especially want to thank the Indian government for taking the initiative for this great step.”
Border residents of Nabila Village of Uri thanked prime ministers of both countries for taking this step.
Earlier on Thursday, after discussions between the Director Generals of Military Operations of India and Pakistan, the two sides have to cease firing along the Line of Control (LoC)and all other sectors with effect from midnight of February 24 to 25. (ANI)

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Andhra Pradesh reports 118 new COVID-19 cases

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Amaravati (Andhra Pradesh) [India], February 27 (ANI): Andhra Pradesh reported 118 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, taking the total count of cases to 8,89,799.
According to the state health department, Andhra Pradesh has 667 active COVID-19 cases as of now.
The death toll in the state due to coronavirus stands at 7,169. The total number of recoveries reached 8,81,963.
Meanwhile, 16,488 new COVID-19 cases and 113 deaths were reported in India during the last 24 hours, informed the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) on Saturday.
With this, the total coronavirus caseload in the country has gone up to 1,10,79,979, including 1,59,590 active cases and 1,07,63,451 discharges.
The COVID-19 death toll reached 1,56,938 on Saturday with additional 113 deaths. (ANI)

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India’s small, medium businesses solution to Chinese manufacturing: Rahul Gandhi

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Tirunelveli (Tamil Nadu) [India], February 27 (ANI): Ahead of the upcoming state Assembly elections, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Saturday said that India’s small and medium businesses are the solution to combat the challenge of the Chinese manufacturing and massive unemployment prevailing in the country.
“From phones to clothes, all are made in China. Our small and medium businesses are the solution. We have massive unemployment everywhere, it is a challenge for India. If Tamil Nadu government works effectively, we can also get Made in Tamil Nadu and Made in India products,” said Rahul Gandhi at a rally in Tirunelveli.
“If we have to take the challenge of Chinese manufacturing, the answer has to be the small and medium enterprise,” he added.
Noting that employment is one of the major challenges for the country, the former Congress chief said, “We have millions of dynamic youngsters with unbelievable energy, with dreams and they are unemployed. You can go to any state in India, you will find massive unemployment. Jobs is the central challenge for our country.”
“I am convinced that, if we get the government of Tamil Nadu to work effectively, behind this (displaying a phone) phone, we will find Made in Tamil Nadu and Made in India,” he added.
Rahul Gandhi also visited St. John’s Cathedral in Nazareth, Thoothukudi.
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. (ANI)

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‘Pappu’ busy catching fish, Congress will later say EVMs malfunctioned: Narottam Mishra

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Datia (Madhya Pradesh) [India], February 27 (ANI): Days after Rahul Gandhi swam with local fishermen in the Arabian Sea off Kerala’s coast, Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra on Saturday took a swipe at Congress to say that their ‘Pappu’ (fool) leader was busy catching fish now and the party will later blame the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) for malfunctioning when it faces defeat in the ensuing Assembly polls.
Mishra also drew a comparison to the rigorous campaigning by the BJP in the poll-bound states with the party roping in heavyweights including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
“Look at the difference. Modiji is campaigning in Tamil Nadu, Amit Shahji in West Bengal, Naddaji is in Assam, Rajnath Singh is in Kerala and ‘Pappu’ is catching fish. Then they will say the EVMs are malfunctioning,” Mishra told mediapersons here.
This comes two days after Gandhi during his tour in Kollam joined local fishermen in the high sea of Kerala to get a taste of their life and understand their issues.
He also dived into the water and swam for 10 minutes with two others before returning to the boat. The Wayanad MP interacted with the thousands of fisherfolk, including women, who had gathered at the Thangassery beach in the southern coastal district and said he admired and respected their work.
A total of 824 assembly constituencies shall be going for polls in four states–Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Assam– and the Union Territory of Puducherry.
The polling in these states will start from March 27 and end on April 29. The counting of votes for elections to four states and one UT will be held on May 2. (ANI)

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