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Tainted Bihar minister resigns within 72 hours of taking oath

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JD-U MLA Mewalal Choudhary has left office after protests over his appointment as Education Minister. Questions are now being raised regarding a 2017 FIR against him and why Chief Minister Nitish Kumar appointed him in the first place.

In what is being described as an inauspicious beginning for the newly appointed Nitish Kumar government, Bihar’s education minister and JD-U MLA Mewalal Choudhary resigned from his post within less than 72 hours of taking oath.

Choudhary, who had met the CM on Wednesday, submitted his resignation on Thursday afternoon, following protests from various quarters over his appointment in the Nitish cabinet.

The 67-year-old Choudhary, who is a JDU MLA from Tarapur in Munger, was suspended from the party by Nitish Kumar himself in 2017 after an FIR had been registered against him over alleged irregularities in appointments during his tenure as the vice chancellor of the Bihar Agriculture University, Sabour, in Bhagalpur district. President Ram Nath Kovind, who was then the Governor of Bihar, had constituted an inquiry commission to probe the charges against Choudhary after the then Leader of Opposition, Sushil Modi, had written to Kovind.

Sources said that the antecedents of the MLAs who were to take oath on Monday were also vetted by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who had come to Patna for the oath-taking ceremony on Monday. The fact that Nitish and his advisors ignored the pending case against Choudhary has also raised questions on why he was picked up in the first place. More important to note is that it was Nitish’s closest associate in the BJP, Sushil Modi, who had sought the inquiry against Choudhary in 2017.

As per Choudhary’s election affidavit, an FIR, 35/2017, had been registered by the Sabour police station against him, under sections 409, 420, 467, 468, 471 and 120 (B) of the Indian Penal Code for “irregularities in the construction of buildings and in the appointments of 161 Assistant and Junior Scientists while he was the VC of Bihar Agriculture University”. The case is being heard by a court in Bhagalpur. After the February 2017 FIR, Choudhary had gone underground, following which, the JDU had suspended him – a step which had been termed by JD-U spokesperson Neeraj Kumar as an ‘example of the good governance of Nitish Kumar”.

The said irregularities in the appointments were allegedly done by Choudhary in 2012, which had come to light after he demitted office in 2015. The Bihar Agriculture University later constituted a probe committee headed by Justice (retired) Syed Mohammed Mahfooz Alam of the Patna High court.

According to Patna-based political observers, the continuance of Choudhary had become untenable as his presence would have hurt the BJP’s promise of good governance and the fact that its campaign was focused against the ‘jungle raj’ of the RJD during the Lalu-Rabri rule. “The BJP prevailed upon Nitish to remove Choudhary from the cabinet. BJP is numerically the strongest party in the alliance and it will, in the near future too, ensure that Nitish does not take any step which hurts the image of the BJP,” a Patna-based political observer said. Significantly, earlier this week, Bihar IPS officer Amitabh Kumar Das wrote a letter to the state DGP, alleging that Choudhary’s wife, Neeta, who died due at her home after suffering burn injuries on 27 May 2019, was killed due to a political conspiracy and that her death was related to the irregularities that had taken place at the agriculture university under Choudhary’s tenure. He has asked the police chief to constitute an SIT and question Choudhary.

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BILL AND MELINDA GATES ARE OFFICIALLY DIVORCED

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WASHINGTON: The divorce between Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates has been finalised. As per CNN report, filing with the King County Superior Court in Washington made the move official. Melinda French Gates filed the petition for divorce in King County, Washington.

Bill and Melinda announced in May that they would be ending their marriage after 27 years, saying, “we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives.”

However, the duo said they will continue to work together at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Meanwhile, the foundation said last month that the organisation was planning a two-year trial period to see if the pair could continue working together effectively.

“If after two years either decide they cannot continue to work together as co-chairs, French Gates will resign her position as co-chair and trustee,” CEO Mark Suzman said. In the weeks following the initial announcement of the divorce, Bill faced allegations of questionable workplace conduct in the early years at Microsoft.

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BLINKEN ANNOUNCES US REFUGEE ADMISSIONS PROGRAMME FOR AFGHAN NATIONALS

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a US refugee admissions programme Priority 2 designation for Afghan nationals on Monday. The US is weeks away from completing military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Blinken, during a press briefing, said, “The State Department is announcing a new resettlement program for Afghans who assisted the United States, but who do not qualify for special immigrant visas. We’ve created a Priority-2 or P-2 designation, granting access to the US refugee admissions program for many of these Afghans and their family members.”

He said that even as the US forces withdraw from Afghanistan, the US will remain deeply engaged with the country.

“We’ll continue to work toward an Afghanistan, where all Afghans can live in safety and security, and we will continue our support for Afghan institutions, and for the gains that the Afghan people have made over the past 20 years,” said Blinken.

“We will keep engaging intensely in diplomacy to advance negotiations between the Afghan government, the Taliban, with the goal of a political solution, which we believe is the only path to lasting peace. And we’ll keep working closely with countries in the region, which all have a stake in a stable, peaceful, democratic Afghanistan,” he stated.

Blinken said that Afghans who work with the United States or the International Security Assistance Force at some point since 2001 are facing acute fears of persecution or retribution that will likely grow as coalition forces leave the country.

He further added that “We have a special report the responsibility to these individuals. They stood with us. We will stand with them. Over the past 13 years, the State Department has issued more than 73,000 Special Immigrant Visas to eligible Afghans who have helped the United States, and also to their families. We’ll continue to welcome Afghan immigrants and refugees as our neighbours in gratitude for helping us, despite the danger. We won’t forget it.”

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AFGHAN PRESIDENT GHANI’S TIME HAS RUN OUT: TALIBAN

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KABUL: Taliban said that Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani’s “time has run out” on Monday. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid, while reacting to Ghani’s remark that the ongoing war is an external intrigue imposed on the people of Afghanistan, accused the President of lying and spreading false information.

A tweet by Mujahid said that his (Ghani’s) time is over and the announcement of warfare will not survive him. “Speech by @ashrafghani is nonsense, an attempt to control his fears & dire situation. Nation has decided to pursue & bring national traitors to justice. Declarations of war, accusations & lies cannot prolong Ghani’s life, his time has run out, God willing,” said Mujahid. 

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INDIA WANTS PEACEFUL RELATIONS, ONUS IS ON PAKISTAN: TIRUMURTI

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WASHINGTON: India’s Permanent Representative to United Nations, T.S. Tirumurti said that India desires to have peaceful and normal relations with Pakistan but in an atmosphere free from terror.

The Indian Ambassador to the UN informed that issues between the two countries should be resolved in an atmosphere free from terror, hostility, and violence and the onus is on Pakistan to create such an environment. “Pakistan should take credible and verifiable action not to allow any territory under their control to be used for cross border terrorism against India,” said Tirumurti. He also informed that India wants to keep a spotlight on counter-terrorism.

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US-China seek alignment of Afghan interests: Ned Price

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price has said that China’s interest in Afghanistan could be ‘an alignment of interest’ when it comes to what the US and China seek in Afghanistan.

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The People’s Republic of China (PRC) interest in Afghanistan could be “an alignment of interest” when it comes to what the US and China seek in Afghanistan, said US State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Monday. “There’s an alignment of interest in at least some areas when it comes to what we seek, what China seeks and what the broader international community seeks in Afghanistan,” Price told ANI on being asked what is US’ assessment of meeting between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Taliban delegation led by its Chief Negotiator Abdul Ghani Baradar.

Experts say thay although the US might once have fiercely resisted Chinese attempts to increase their influence inside Afghanistan, now Washington’s priority appears to keep away a civil war. Spokesperson Price also affirmed that is in no one’s interest to see Afghanistan descend into an all-out civil war. “It is in everyone’s interest to see a solution to the conflict that is just as durable as Afghan-led, and Afghan Owned,” he concluded.

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AMID COVID PANDEMIC, PMGKY REDUCES WORRIES OF THE POOR: PM MODI

Abhijit Bhatt

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Gandhinagar: Annotsav Day was celebrated on Tuesday on the occasion of the completion of five years of the Rupani government, as part of which a state-level program was organized in Dahod district in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a virtual dialogue with the beneficiaries of the grain welfare scheme. He asked whether the beneficiaries of Dahod and Rajkot have any problem in taking up the scheme or not. Modi said in a dialogue with the beneficiaries that the poor would get free foodgrains till Diwali. Modi praised the performance of the Gujarat government.

Prime Minister’s Poor Welfare Food Scheme is being praised all over the world. More than Rs 2 crore is being spent by the government under this scheme. The aim is that not a single person in India goes to bed hungry. Under this scheme, ration cardholders are being given double the amount of foodgrains than before. The plan is to run till Diwali.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday addressed the beneficiaries of Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana and said this scheme has reduced the worries of the poor and increased their confidence. Three and a half crore beneficiaries in Gujarat are getting the benefit of free foodgrains. “I commend the Gujarat government for this. Preference is given to workers from other parts of the country. Workers have benefited from this scheme. Gujarat is the first to offer the benefit of One Nation One Ration Card,” said the Prime Minister.

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