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Two sustain injuries after assailants open fire in Maharashtra’s Palghar

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Palghar (Maharashtra) [India], February 15 (ANI): Two persons sustained bullet injuries after three unknown assailants opened fire and attacked them with a sharp-edged weapon outside a bar in the Nalasopara area of Palghar on Sunday, said police.
According to police, the incident happened at around 9:30 pm yesterday.
Rajendra Kamble, in-charge of the Tulinj police station said, “Two persons have sustained bullet injuries and one of them has sustained injuries on the head. Four rounds of firing took place by three people… injured have been shifted to hospital.”
The police official said that weapon from the spot has been confiscated and further investigation into the matter is underway. (ANI)

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Economy comes out of recession, GDP up 0.4% in Dec quarter

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India’s GDP grew by 0.4 per cent in the October to December quarter (Q3 FY21), marking a return to positive zone after two-quarters of recession but showing a lingering weakness in the economy, government data showed on Friday.

A sharp improvement in the Covid-19 situation and rising public spending are the two factors behind uptick. “The GDP at constant (2011-12) prices in Q3 of 2020-21 is estimated at Rs 36.22 lakh crore as against Rs 36.08 lakh crore in Q3 of 2019-20, showing a growth of 0.4 per cent,” said the National Statistical Office (NSO).

A continuing fall in domestic consumption is seen as a strong reason behind the sluggish pace.

According to second advance estimates of economic growth, the real GDP in current financial year (2020-21) is estimated at negative 8 per cent as compared to growth rate of 4 per cent in 2019-20.

Investment recorded its first growth since December 2019, growing at 2.6% compared to a revised 6.8% fall in the previous quarter, while weakness in consumer demand eased.

Consumer spending – the main driver of the economy – dropped 2.4 % year-on-year in Oct-December compared to an 11.3% fall in the previous quarter, data showed.

The economy has returned to the “pre-pandemic times of positive growth rates”, a finance ministry statement said after the release of the GDP data, which it said reflected a continued V-shaped recovery.

“Significant recovery in manufacturing and construction augurs well for the support these sectors are expected to provide to growth in 2021/22,” said the statement, which also cautioned that India is not yet beyond “the danger of the pandemic”.

Economists have raised their forecasts for the current fiscal year and 2021-22, expecting a pick-up in government spending, consumer demand and a resumption of most economic activities curtailed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Agriculture sector is estimated to see a growth of 3 per cent in FY21 as compared to 4.3 per cent in 2019-20. The manufacturing sector is likely to contract by 8.4 per cent during FY21. More worryingly, services sectors like trade, hotel, transport are projected to contract by 18 per cent. However, electricity is likely to grow at 1.8 per cent.

Some analysts warn, however, that a recent rise in crude oil prices and a surge of Covid-19 cases in parts of the country may pose risks to the nascent recovery.

“There are some risks that need to be watched, including rising commodity prices,” Sakshi Gupta, senior economist at HDFC Bank, told Reuters, adding that the pace of recovery in the informal sector and contact-intensive services could be impacted by the resurgence of domestic virus cases.

The economy contracted by 23.9 per cent in the April to June quarter (Q1 FY21) and by 7.5 per cent in the July to September quarter (Q2 FY21) as normal activities were disrupted due to nationwide coronavirus lockdowns.

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EC SOUNDS BIG POLL BUGLE, BENGAL ELECTIONS IN 8 PHASES

824 Assembly constituencies to go for elections in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Assam and Puducherry from 27 March to 2 May; angry Mamata Banerjee asks if it’s on the PM’s suggestion.

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Voting for the Assembly elections in West Bengal will take place in eight phases, starting on 27 March, announced the Election Commission on Friday. Counting of votes will be done on 2 May.

“In the first phase, polling will take place on 30 seats. The second phase has been scheduled on April 1 and will cover 30 constituencies, followed by the third phase on April 6 for 31 seats and the fourth phase on April 10 for 44 constituencies,” said Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora.

“Voting for the fifth phase will take place on April 17 for 45 seats, sixth phase for 43 seats on April 22, seventh phase on April 26 for 36 seats and the last and eighth phase on April 29 for 35 seats,” the CEC said.

However, after the dates for the West Bengal Assembly polls were announced on Friday, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee questioned the Election Commission’s decision to divide the polls into eight phases and alleged that it was being done to suit the convenience of the BJP.

Addressing mediapersons, Banerjee said, “I request the ECI to consider West Bengal as their own state, not through the eyes of BJP. I respect the ECI’s decision, but why have they broken-up the districts? South 24 Parganas is our stronghold. Voting will be held in three different phases there. Has it been done for the convenience of PM Modi and Amit Shah?”

Banerjee alleged that the BJP was misusing its authority as the ruling party at the Centre to influence state polls. “The Centre cannot misuse its powers for a state election. If they do it, then they will have to face the music. We are common people. We will fight our battle. BJP has sent money to all districts through agencies. I request the ECI to stop the misuse of money.”

“The Union Home Minister should be concerned about the country. He cannot misuse his powers for elections here. We welcome the Prime Minister but he cannot misuse his powers for West Bengal polls,” added Banerjee.

The ECI has appointed two special police observers, Vivek Dubey and M.K. Das, for West Bengal. With the announcement of the election schedule, the Model Code of Conduct has come into force in the state.

The ECI on Friday also announced that, besides West Bengal, the states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Assam and Puducherry (Union Territory) shall be going for polls. “A total of 824 assembly constituencies shall be going for polls during these elections. 18.68 crore electors will cast votes at 2.7 lakh polling stations in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry,” added Arora.

The Tamil Nadu Assembly elections are to be held in a single phase on 6 April. Kerala also goes to polls on 6 April. The Assam Assembly elections will be held in three phases: The first on 27 March, the second on 1 April and the third on 6 April. Meanwhile, Puducherry elections will also be held on 6 April. Counting of all votes will be held on 2 May.

Addressing mediapersons, CEC Arora shared, “In the thick of the pandemic, ECI started test trials with elections of 18 seats to Rajya Sabha. After that came the challenge of the Bihar elections, it was indeed a watershed moment for ECI. It proved to be a litmus test. Voting turnout was 57.34 percent, exceeding the 2015 Assembly polls and 2019 Lok Sabha polls in the state.”

The terms of the legislative assemblies of five states—West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Kerala and Puducherry—will come to an end either in May or in June this year. Elections for the Legislative Assembly of West Bengal that comprises 294 seats will be held soon as the current tenure ends on 30 May.

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BSF recovers 60 Gelatin sticks, other arms, ammunitions from forest area in Odisha

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Bhubaneswar (Odisha) [India], February 27 (ANI): A team of Border Security Force (BSF) on Friday recovered 60 Gelatin sticks among other arms and ammunitions in Pindamali- Bhitarpara forest area.
“Based on intelligence received, a special operation was launched today in Pindamali- Bhitarpara forest area, Orissa. 60 Gelatin sticks, 50 electric detonators, 5 bundles of flexible wires, 30 small iron pellets and 2.5 kg urea were recovered in the operation,” read a statement by BSF.
On February 23, the BSF seized explosives suspected to have stored by Maoists at Huntalguda in the Chitrakonda Swabhiman forest area on Andhra-Odisha Border (AOB). (ANI)

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Odisha govt approves proposal to conduct survey of social, education condition of backward classes

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Bhubaneswar (Odisha) [India], February 26 (ANI): The Odisha government on Friday approved the proposal of the Odisha State Commission for Backward Classes to conduct a survey of the social and education condition of people belonging to the backward classes in the state.
“In exercise of power conferred by the sub section of 1 (a) of Section 9 of OSCBC (Amendment Act 2020, the government of Odisha have been pleased to approve the proposal of Odisha State Commission for Backward Classes to conduct a survey of social and education condition of people belonging to the backward classes in Odisha,” read a notification issued by the state government. (ANI)

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Odisha CM appreciates banks, districts for making coordinated efforts to improve lending to priority sectors

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Bhubaneshwar (Odisha) [India], February 26 (ANI): Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Friday appreciated the efforts of banks and districts for making coordinated efforts to improve lending to priority sectors.
“The banks and districts have done quite a commendable job in improving their performance in credit flow to Agriculture, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and Self Help Group (SHG) sector. I congratulate all the bankers for achieving the financial target meant for the SHG sector well ahead of time,” Patnaik said.

Reviewing the performance over credit linkages with bankers, collectors and top officers of the state government through a virtual platform, the Chief Minister said that there has been considerable progress in credit disbursement to the priority sector during the last two months.
Since the last review meeting two months back, he said, that he had requested all to go the extra mile in these crisis times and ensure adequate and timely credit supply to help the most vulnerable sections of society and economy -farmers, women and MSMEs.
Patnaik further said that his government is always concerned to safeguard and protect the interest of the vulnerable and disadvantaged groups. “The farmers, Mission Shakti groups and MSMEs are our lakhs of entrepreneurs who are in need of credit to run and expand their business. We need to support them in the true spirit,” he added.
Highlighting the importance of Agriculture, MSME and Mission Shakti, he stated that to take forward the momentum created in the last few months, the budgetary provisions for these sectors have been substantially increased for the Financial Year 2021-22.
“We are also providing Interest Subvention under various schemes to reduce the interest burden on the people and to enhance credit linkage,” he added.
The Chief Minister said that from the last meeting in December about Rs 1600 crores more has gone to Mission Shakti groups which is about Rs 500 Crores more than the annual target.
According to an official release, it was revealed in the meeting that the annual credit target for SHGs was Rs 3240 crores. But by January, the SHGs have already received credits over Rs 3745 crores.
Focusing on farmers, the Chief Minister said, “They are the backbone of our state. We should provide them with timely credit. We have been able to help the farmers with credit so far in most districts.”
It was informed in the meeting that last year crop loan was Rs 20 thousand Crore which has been increased to Rs 20,606 Crore this year.
Coming to MSMEs, the CM said that they are the backbone of our economy and have a significant role in employment.
Expressing happiness that the overall credit flow to MSMEs during the last two months’ was satisfactory, the Chief Minister stated that the MSME sector has received credits over Rs 26,000 crores which is expected to touch the target of Rs 20,457 crore by March. (ANI)

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G-23 leaders reach Jammu, likely to give strong message to Gandhis tomorrow

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Jammu (Jammu and Kashmir) [India], February 26 (ANI): Congress party’s dissenters, also known as the G-23 (or the group of 23 dissenting leaders who had questioned the party’s functioning in a letter to interim president Sonia Gandhi) reached Jammu late on Friday night.
Among the leaders who reached Jammu included Ghulam Nabi Azad, Kapil Sibal, Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Raj Babbar. They arrived at the residence of senior Congress leader late Janak Raj Gupta. They all belong to North India.

Days after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s “North-South” remark, fireworks are likely within the Congress party, as upset senior Congress leaders from north India are expected to make a strong statement against the top party leadership in Jammu on Saturday.
While Congress scion Rahul Gandhi is scheduled to head towards the poll-bound Tamil Nadu on Saturday, G-23 leaders will hold a show of strength in Jammu.
On the condition of anonymity, a senior leader of the Congress G-23 told ANI on Friday that it is a message to Rahul Gandhi: “We will tell the country that from north to south, India is one.”
Last year in August, G-23 leaders through a letter to interim Congress President Sonia Gandhi expressed their discontent and urged the top leadership of Congress to bring immediate reforms, including organisational elections from the grass-roots to the Congress Working Committee (CWC) level.
Now, they are once again up in arms against the Gandhi family and their loyal close circle who are holding key positions in the party and the parliament.
A senior leader from G-23 said, “What’s happening in Congress today is a clear violation of the agreement reached in Congress Working Committee in December last year, but there are no signs of any reforms or election.”
According to G-23 sources, the leaders are also furious over the treatment meted out to Ghulam Nabi Azad, who recently retired from Rajya Sabha and was not accommodated by the Congress high command.
A leader from the G-23 group said, “When other parties were offering seat to Azad, PM spoke so well about him. Our congress party leadership showed no respect to him. In fact, a lawyer who is fighting cases of Robert Vadra has been brought to Rajya Sabha.”
A senior leader from the G-23 grouping told ANI that the flashpoint or the tipping point is the north-south statement made by Rahul Gandhi in Kerala recently.
According to sources, Congress’ top leadership is aware about the moves of G-23 leaders.
A top source in the party said leadership is keeping an eye on the whole episode and “not in a hurry to come to any conclusion”.
It is also important to note down that Gandhis have not reacted in the episodes yet, although the last attempt was made to cool down the situation was done in December last year, when G-23 leaders were invited by Sonia Gandhi at her residence for meeting.
According to sources, a few of the Congress leaders were kept out of the meeting on the request of G-23 leaders.
Later, it was said that more of these meetings will be held in near future and issues raised by G-23 leaders will be addressed by the party. However, no such meeting has been called till now and no efforts have been made to address their concerns.
While addressing a public rally in Thiruvananthapuram earlier this week, Rahul said, “For the first 15 years, I was an MP in the North. I got used to a different type of politics. For me, coming to Kerala was refreshing as suddenly I found that people are interested in issues and not just superficially but going into detail in issues.”
Several leaders, including Union Minister Prakash Javadekar, BJP president JP Nadda and Union Minister of State for Finance, Anurag Thakur slammed the Wayanad MP for his statements, accusing him of creating a “north-south” divide.
The BJP had latched onto the comments of Rahul Gandhi and cornered him by alleging that the statement reeked of a bias against North Indians. (ANI)

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