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SC to hear plea seeking CBI probe in Palghar mob-lynching case

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New Delhi [India], February 24 (ANI): The Supreme Court is set to hear the plea seeking a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the Palghar mob-lynching incident on Wednesday.
Maharashtra government had earlier informed the apex court that all guilty police officials have been punished or suspended from services.
The pleas also seek a probe by the CBI and registration of FIR against police officials for their alleged failure to prevent the mob from gathering in violation of the lockdown norms.
The case pertains to the mob lynching of two sadhus and their driver on the night of April 16 this year, when they were traveling from Kandivali in Mumbai to attend a funeral in Gujarat’s Surat amid the nationwide lockdown and their vehicle was stopped and they were allegedly attacked and killed by a mob in Gadchinchile village in the presence of police officers. (ANI)

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Days after G23 meet in Jammu, Azad says Congress win in upcoming polls a priority

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Days after leading the Congress’ ‘Shanti Sammelan’ in Jammu attended by senior party leaders, Congress veteran Ghulam Nabi Azad on Friday said the party’s victory in forthcoming Assembly elections in four states and one Union Territory is his top priority at the moment.

“Victory of Congress party in forthcoming assembly elections is my priority at the moment,” he told ANI. Senior Congress leader Azad who recently retired from Rajya Sabha and has been advocating reforms in Congress including immediate internal elections.

He also said he is available wherever he is invited by candidates or the party for campaigning.

Azad is one of the key members of ‘G-23’ (or the group of 23 dissenting leaders, who had questioned the party’s functioning in a letter to interim president Sonia Gandhi) calling for sweeping reforms in the party.

Last week Ghulam Nabi Azad along with other senior leaders openly expressed displeasure with the current state of affairs within Congress.

Recently at another public event, Azad drew parallels between himself and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, stating that the latter has not forgotten his roots and proudly calls himself a “chaiwala” as well as he does not hide his true self.

Following the statement, Congress party workers burnt his effigy and raised slogans against him in a protest in Jammu.

Many senior party leaders including Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) president (JKPCC) Ghulam Ahmad Mir called the remark an “anti-party activity” and demanded clarification from him.

A total of 824 assembly constituencies will be going for polls in four states–Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Assam– and the Union Territory of Puducherry between March 28 and April 29. Results will be declared on May 2.

With ANI inputs

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RHEA WAS INSTRUMENTAL IN PROCURING, FINANCING DRUGS: NCB IN SUSHANT SINGH CASE

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The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), which has been probing a drug angle in the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, on Friday filed a chargesheet before a special Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) court.

The chargesheet has named 33 accused, including Rhea Chakraborty, and contains the statement of 200 witnesses. The hard copy contains over 12,000 pages and the digital format is around 30,000 pages.

As per a report by news agency IANS, the chargesheet mentions briefly the role of Sushant’s girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty for being instrumental in procuring and financing the drugs.

A senior NCB official related to the probe wishing anonymity told IANS: “There have been instances in which the role of Rhea has been mentioned briefly in the charge sheet filed by the NCB in a court here.”

“Rhea was instrumental in procuring and financing drugs,” the official said, adding that Rhea’s financial transactions have been corroborated in the case.

The official pointed out that the cash transactions of Rhea and then digital transfers have been mentioned in the chargesheet corroborating the use of the money for procuring and financing drugs.

The first arrest by the agency was made in September; NCB had six months’ time to file the chargesheet. The case was registered in August after the Enforcement Directorate shared private WhatsApp chats sourcing drugs between Rhea Chakraborty, her brother Showik Chakraborty and some of Sushant Singh Rajput’s staff.

Rhea, Showik and Sushant’s staff, Samuel Miranda, Deepesh Sawant are out on bail, the agency arrested over 30 people in connection with the case.

The agency conducted raids in several locations of Maharashtra and claimed to have busted some rackets actively operating in the city and allegedly inside Bollywood in the last six months.

The agency recorded statements of actors Deepika Padukone, Sara Ali Khan, Rakul Preet, Shraddha Kapoor, Arjun Rampal among others.

Maharashtra minister Nawab Malik’s son-in-law Sameer Khan was also arrested in January. The NCB arrested film director Rishikesh Pawar who was a friend of Sushant Singh Rajput in February. Kshitij Ravi Prasad, who was previously associated with Dharma Production.

All the statements by the agency have been submitted to the court which will be verified and then the accused will have to appear in the court.

Sushant was found dead on 14 June 2020 after which many investigations were carried out and later the Narcotics Control Bureau started its probe into the drug angle from August 2020.

With ANI inputs

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SNUBBED BY OPEC, INDIA LOOKS AT EXCISE ROUTE TO REDUCE FUEL PRICES

Sources say that the duty cut may be as high as Rs 8 per litre on petrol and diesel so that consumers are provided immediate relief.

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International oil prices rose after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies (OPEC+) ignored India’s plea to ease production control. However, the government may surprise consumers with a sharp cut in excise duty on petrol and diesel to tame the rising prices of auto fuels in India.

Sources privy to the development said that the duty cut may be as high as Rs 8 per litre on the two fuels so that consumers are provided immediate relief.

“The revenue projection from the oil sector for FY22 gives the government room to cut excise duty on petrol and diesel sharply to provide immediate relief to consumers. This is being examined and a call may be taken soon,” a government official was quoted as saying by news agency IANS.

Brent crude, the most widely used benchmark, on Friday rose nearly 1% to $67.44 a barrel after the OPEC+ agreed not to increase supplies in April awaiting more substantial recovery in demand.

Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan had in the run-up to Thursday’s OPEC meeting urged the producers’ group to ease production curbs to fulfil their promise of stable oil prices, citing that rising international oil prices were hurting economic recovery and demand. Earlier this week, Pradhan had said that India, where fuel demand is recovering to pre-pandemic levels, wants reasonable and responsible oil prices.

India is the world’s third-biggest oil importer and consumer, importing about 85% of its oil needs, and local retail rates in the country are benchmarked to international prices. India had supported the decision of OPEC+ to cut production last year in view of the oil demand collapsing due to the spread of Covid-19.

“At that point in time, the producers, especially OPEC, had assured the global market that by the beginning of 2021, demand will be coming back and production will be as usual. But I am sorry to say the production is yet to be normal,” he said. “If you do not supply properly, if there is a gap in demand and supply artificially (created), there is a price rise.”

The average price of crude oil India imports was less than $50 per barrel between April and December 2020 and comparable to the 2019-20 average rate of $60.47 in months thereafter. However, retail petrol and diesel prices are at historic highs now as the government has so far not rolled back the taxes it levied when prices plummeted almost a year back, and would rise further if the oil companies decide to pass on the surge in international oil prices to consumers.

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Dollar Smuggling Case: Kerala Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan summoned by Customs on March 12

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Kochi (Kerala) [India], March 6 (ANI): Customs department on Friday served notice to Kerala Assembly Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan asking him to appear before it on March 12 in connection with the dollar smuggling case.
The Speaker has been summoned to the Kochi office of the ED.
This comes after an affidavit submitted before the Kerala High Court earlier on Friday in which Customs Commissioner (Preventive) Sumit Kumar claimed that gold smuggling scam accused Swapna Suresh had disclosed that the smuggling of foreign currency was done at the instance of Vijayan and the Assembly Speaker with the help of the UAE Consulate.
“Suresh spoke with clarity about the smuggling of foreign currency at the instance of the Chief Minister and the Speaker with the help of the Consulate. She has also clearly stated about the improper and illegal activities of three ministers of the state cabinet and the Speaker,” the affidavit submitted before the High Court.
Earlier this year in January, K Ayyappan, the Assistant Private Secretary of Speaker Sreeramakrishnan was interrogated by Customs officials for nine hours in connection with the dollar smuggling case.
The case came to light during the investigation of the Kerala gold smuggling case, which is currently being probed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the Enforcement Directorate (ED), and the Customs department.
The matter, which pertains to the smuggling of gold in the state through diplomatic channels, had come to light after 30 kg gold worth Rs 14.82 crore smuggled in a consignment camouflaged as diplomatic baggage was busted by the Customs in Thiruvananthapuram on July 5, 2020.
The Vijayan-led LDF government in the state has been facing political heat in connection with the case. This comes ahead of Assembly polls in Kerala.
The Congress party sought the chief minister’s removal for his alleged involvement in the gold smuggling case. After four hours of heated debate on January 21, the State Assembly rejected this motion following which the opposition staged a walkout.
Meanwhile, the Left Democratic Front (LDF) convenor and acting CPI (M) state secretary A Vijayaraghavan on Friday said that the alliance will march to the Customs offices in Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode and Kochi on Saturday “in protest against the nefarious design by Customs department to defame LDF government and Kerala Chief Minister.”
“The Customs has taken over the political campaign of the BJP and the UDF. This repugnant move is being made by the Customs after the realisation that LDF cannot be defeated politically,” Vijayaraghavan said,
Also, a statement issued by the Communist Party of India (Maoist) said that the ED, Customs and CBI are writing statements and affidavits in the courts on the baseless allegations raised by the BJP and the Congress in the recent past.
On Thursday chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan alleged the Model Code of Conduct was violated by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman during her visit to Kerala and she is “attempting to attack” his government by using the Enforcement Directorate (ED). (ANI)

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Efforts from Ministry of Tribal Affairs help tribal women pave way for their economic development

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New Delhi [India], March 6 (ANI): Tribal women are now paving the way for economic development in their communities due to the efforts of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
For generations, Rakshaben Nitinbhai Patel’s (36) family in Dharampur, Gujarat relied on menial jobs to fend for themselves. But for the past 10 years, the family of six has seen a total change in its finances for the better. This transformation came after Patel driven by the poverty of her family was chosen by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs to train in the traditional art form Warli painting that belongs to her region-under the women empowerment scheme.
Warli painting is a tribal art form practiced by the tribal communities from the North Sahyadri range in Maharashtra. Patel learned the tribal art form in a local workshop organized by the Ministry. “Everybody does Warli painting in my village but they do regular stuff, I wanted to do something different in the workshop that can be sold in the market,” said Patel. So, she started painting bamboo handicraft products like showpieces, vases, etc. –
The idea clicked and now she sells over 30 exquisite hand-painted bamboo items at exhibitions organized by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) across India. She participates in six to seven exhibitions every year and the money earned takes care of her family’s financial needs throughout the year.
“This is a drastic change from our earlier life where my parents and ancestors worked on daily wages. And I really like doing this work as there is name, fame, and income. My entire family is proud of me,” she said. Thus, to ensure a bright future for her two kids, Patel has enrolled them in an English medium school.
Patel also ensures that her good fortune benefits the entire community and teaches painting to women at local workshops organized by NGOs.
“Besides training, we pay the students for the articles painted by them and these products are sold at the exhibition as well,” she said.

Similarly, Jareen (30) who belongs to the Gujjar community from Paliur, Chamba in Himachal Pradesh is engaged in making organic products for the past five years. The idea was given to her by a foreign tourist that she diligently followed. And today with her sister-in-law Bano, she provides work to over 200 local tribal women. They make and sell organic products like flower essential oil, handmade- soaps, beeswax candles, room freshener, etc. These products are sold in MoTA’s exhibitions as well as in government showrooms.
“This work has given employment to our entire community,” says Jareen. “If the government continues to support us like this, then poverty from the tribal areas will be wiped out within a year,” she said excitedly.
Even Rajashree Rade, (30) from Vikramgad in Palghar, Maharashtra has taken her passion for Warli paintings to places. She learned the art from her husband Rajesh Rade, (32), around eight years ago. Today she makes photo frames, t-shirts, handkerchiefs, and wooden crafts with Warli painting.
“At times we are also called to paint murals on government buildings,” she said. Though the lockdown put a halt on their income, it has not dampened their spirits. “We hope that the exhibitions and other activities by the government start again soon. This will provide us and our entire neighborhood some income,” she added.
The success of these women in tribal art forms is fueling dreams of prosperity for others as well. For instance, Suman Munda, (21) from Jharkhand’s Isco village hopes that her Sohrai paintings help her become financially independent. Though she is pursuing graduation, she hopes that her training in the art form would help her in earning some income.
“I have participated in some exhibitions occasionally organized by the Ministry and earned good pocket money earlier. If I get a chance to do it professionally, I would be more than happy to do so,” said Munda. Sohrai is a ritualistic art form done on mud walls by tribal women during harvest festivals.
To help women like these to have a sustainable means of livelihood, the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs has established a Centre of Excellence (CoE) at the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM). Under this initiative, over 1000 tribal artisans from across India will undergo skilling/ mentoring sessions to get their products market-ready both in domestic and international markets.
International Women’s Day is celebrated every year on March 8. (ANI)

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Delhi couple resorts to crowdfunding for treatment of their infant suffering from rare genetic disorder

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New Delhi [India], March 6 (ANI): A couple living in Delhi’s Paschim Vihar are trying to raise Rs 16 crore through crowdfunding to save their 10-month-old child Rehansh’s life, who is suffering from Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) 1, a rare genetic disease.
SMA-1 is a genetic disorder in which a child is unable to attain his or her bodily development milestones corresponding to age.
“We came to know of the disease very late. When we took him to a doctor, the doctor said that there is only one treatment for this disease. We have only 13 months left. We have to get him treated in any way in the next 13 months. Crowdfunding is the only option left to us, but there is not much response yet because the amount is quite big. We appeal to the people and the government to come forward and help us save our child’s life,” Rehansh’s mother, Rudrakshi, told ANI.
“For four or five months, Rehansh had no problem, he was like a normal child. But after six months, he didn’t reflect the milestones he was expected to reach as per his age. Earlier, he used to sit with support, but after a while, he couldn’t sit up even with support. After that, when we saw him not corresponding to the normal milestones of a child, we consulted the doctor,” she added.
“The neurologist told us to get genetic counselling done and get SMA-1 tested. When we did the test, we found out that Rehan is an SMA-1 positive child,” she said.
She further informed that three years ago, gene therapy was developed as a treatment for SMA-1 that is not available in India. It is available only in the US and costs Rs 16 crores.
Dr Anne Mathew, who is treating the child, informed, “Children with this disease don’t survive beyond two years. He’s fine now but is going to get weaker and won’t be able to sit, swallow or breathe. There’s only one treatment where he can be given a missing genetic code via a virus. It’s a one-shot cure and the most expensive drug.”
Speaking to ANI, Rehansh’s father Manish Suri said, “If every family contributes even a little, we will be able to get our child treated. The doctor has told us that the disease is extremely rare, the ration is one in 10,000 children. We never thought that Rehansh had any problem because he was normal.”
“We came to know that the Mumbai-based couple saved their child Tiara through crowdfunding. The Indian government also helped them, so we have also used this platform to save our child and are appealing to the government and people to help us save our child’s life,” he added.
“Earlier, I was in a job. Later, I started stepped into property dealing. It is not happening now because Rehansh is in much need of care. The wife works in a bank but she has taken maternity leave. Since then, she is on leave without pay,” Manish further said. (ANI)

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