New Delhi: Amid strong criticism of the use of pellet guns for mob control in Kashmir, Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday announced that the government will look at other non-lethal alternatives as “we all feel sad” over the loss of lives and injuries in the valley.
Replying to a debate on the Kashmir unrest in Lok Sabha where many members expressed concern over the injuries caused by pellet guns, he said an expert committee will be set up to recommend alternatives to pellet guns and it will submit its report in two months.
Describing the youth of Kashmir as “patriots”, he said in “there is an attempt to misguide some” of them and a “mindset that stokes baseless anger against India”.
Singh said Pakistan played a “key role” in fuelling tension and that the situation was “normalising” gradually.
He also reached out to other political parties, saying the government alone cannot solve problems in Kashmir and all parties would have to work together.
“We all feel sad over the lives lost and those injured,” Singh said but added that “barbarism” can have no place in the society, citing incidents where some people had celebrated when some security personnel were killed.
Referring to concerns expressed by members over the use of pellet guns, the Home Minister said one person had died due to injuries caused by these weapons, while 53 suffered injuries in eyes.
“We will form a committee of experts. It will see to it what non-lethal alternatives we can bring in place of pellet guns. It will give report in two months,” he said.
He said these guns, categorised as non-lethal, had not been used in Kashmir for the first time as they had been used earlier in 2010 when six people had been killed by these and 98 had sustained eye injuries, with five suffering complete blindness.
Singh rejected criticism that security forces used pellet guns indiscriminately but at the same time said it cannot be denied that someone might have committed some mistakes.
He said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has directed security forces to maintain “maximum restraint”.
“The youth of Kashmir are also patriots. There is an attempt to misguide some… There is a mindset that stokes baseless anger against India,” he said, adding that same “distorted mindset” can be seen in parts of Chhattisgarh, in a reference to Maoist violence there.
He described Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, whose killing in an encounter sparked the recent protests, as a “tech-savvy terrorist of new generation” who had exploited social media platforms to lure youths into picking up the gun.
Responding to opposition criticism that the Prime Minister was “beating drums” in Africa when Kashmir was burning, Singh said Modi was in touch with him during the tour also, enquiring about the situation and giving suggestions.
“I felt he (Modi) was in pain and worried. The first meeting he called after his return to India was to discuss Kashmir,” the Home Minister said. Pakistan played a “key role” in fomenting the recent trouble in Kashmir and it was sponsoring terrorism in India, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said today.
Observing that the situation in the Valley was “normalising” gradually, he singled out Pakistan for fomenting trouble there, saying it had played a “key role” in fuelling tension and that terrorism in India was sponsored by it.
Referring to the ‘black day’ observed by Pakistan on the killing a Hizbul Mujahedin terrorist in Kashmir, he said it has no right to interfere in India’s internal matters, but it was doing so to deflect attention from its failures as the people there were fighting along sectarian lines. “If there is terrorism in India, then it is Pakistan sponsored,” the Home Minister said. (PTI)
Mota Samadhiyala (Guj): Rahul Gandhi on Thursday met the family members of Dalits, who were thrashed while skinning a dead cow, and assured all possible help to the victims.
According to a kin of the victims, Gandhi, who spent around 40 minutes with the family members, said he is “ashamed” that such incidents are taking place in India.
Rahul, who was accompanied by Congress leaders Kumari Selja and Gurudas Kamat, also had tea with the family members of the victims in this remote village near Una town of Gir-Somnath district, where the incident took place on July 11.
“We narrated to him (Rahul) what happened with my cousins and uncle. He listened to us patiently and assured us all help so that we can get justice,” Jitu Sarvaiya, a cousin of the victims, told reporters after Gandhi left.
“Rahulji said he feels ashamed that such incidents are still taking place in the country and gave his personal number to us to contact in case of any emergency,” he said.
The Congress Vice President met Balubhai Sarvaiya and his family members, after landing at the nearby Union Territory of Diu. Seven of family members of Balubhai including him were beaten up in the incident.
“He (Rahul) also asked questions about issues and discrimination being faced by us in our village. We told them that still the practice of untouchability is prevalent here as we are made to stand away from others,” Jitu, who is studying engineering at a college in Bhavnagar district, said.
“We demanded from him that those who were involved in the incident should be given exemplary punishment and kept behind bars for their entire life or else they will once again do this to someone else,” he said.
“We also told him about police not coming to help us when cow activists were beating my cousin brothers,” he said.
“We also told him that after the brutal beating for skinning of dead cows. Our family has decided to leave this business of leather….we will work as labourers but never get involved in this traditional business of ours,” Jitu said.
“We also sought financial help describing the poor conditions of our family for education of our children so that in future they can have a standing of their own,” he said.
Later, Rahul Gandhi left for Rajkot where the victims of flogging are undergoing treatment.
Gujarat Congress MLA Shailesh Parmar later said that Rahul will give Rs 5 lakh as aid to family of the victims.
The Dalit protests over the incident have spread to several parts of the state unleashing violence, in which a head constable was killed during stone-pelting in Amreli. (PTI)
Chandigarh: Demanding the arrest of former Uttar Pradesh BJP vice-president Dayashankar Singh for making derogatory remarks against her party chief Mayawati, a local BSP leader Jannat Jahan-Ul-Haq today offered Rs 50 lakh to anyone who brings his tongue.
As the BSP workers held a protest here on Thursday against Singh’s remarks, Jannat Jahan, a party leader from here, courted controversy with her outburst. “The derogatory language used by Dayashankar against our party chief shows the BJP’s true character.
They do not know how to respect women. They are anti-Dalits, anti-farmers too and now anti-women also. Such a person (Dayashankar) should be sent to jail immediately,” she said during the protest.
She then added “Whosoever gets me his (Dayashankar’s) tongue, Jannat Jahan will give him Rs 50 lakh.” The BSP leader’s remarks evoked sharp reaction from BJP, which said the party had already acted against Dayashankar.
“Our party has already acted in the matter. My senior leader Arun Jaitley has expressed regret over the matter. What else do they want? Now, Jannat Jahan is making such remarks, a wrong cannot be countered by another wrong to make it right,” Chandigarh BJP President Sanjay Tandon said.
However, the BSP leader stuck to her remarks and told reporters after the protest that she stands by what she has said. “I stand by my statement. Mayawati ji is an iron lady of BSP, using such derogatory remarks cannot be tolerated,” she said. When asked what is the difference between her and the BJP leader who attacked Mayawati, Jahan said “It should be tit-for-tat in life. It should be tit-for-tat for me”. (PTI)
New Delhi: India’s progress is linked to that of all its neighbours, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday as he along with his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina inaugurated Petrapole-Benapole land port which will serve as a key trade route between the two countries.
Addressing via video conferencing the event which was also joined by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, he said Integrated Check Post (ICP) will serve to foster more economic integration and connectivity between India and Bangladesh.
Underlining that economic development and connectivity are very closely linked to each other, Modi said, “India’s progress is linked to progress of all its neighbours.”
He said inauguration of the “biggest land port in South Asia” is a “very important milestone” in the relations between India and Bangladesh.
“Both India and Bangladesh have not only ventured on the path of development but are also marching together,” he said. Petrapole-Benapole is a key land border crossing for India-Bangladesh trade, with over 50 per cent of bilateral trade passing through it.
Petrapole ICP will provide better facilities for effective and efficient discharge of functions such as security, immigration, customs. It will also provide support facilities for smooth cross-border movement of people, goods and transport.
Modi noted that every year 15 lakh people and one-and-a- half lakh trucks cross this border point. At the outset, he conveyed his deep condolences to Hasina over the loss of lives in the recent attacks and told her that India is with her in the fight against terror. “In the fight against terrorism, do not consider yourself alone. India’s full support is with you,” he said.
“It’s a matter of pain for me as well as for people of my country that there were two terror incidents in Dhaka and Kishoregunj during the holy month of Ramadan. It’s a sad moment when temples and their priests as also civilians were subjected to inhumane torture,” he said.
Modi also thanked Mamata for joining the programme and appreciated her role in improving India-Bangladesh ties. (PTI)
Guwahati: Noisy scenes were witnessed in the Assam Assembly for the second day in a row over the Special Category Status issue as the opposition Congress staged a brief walkout alleging partiality by the Speaker over allowing a discussion on the matter. During Zero Hour, Speaker Ranjeet Kumar Dass asked state Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to give a statement on media reports that the Special Category Status state tag has been withdrawn from Assam.
Congress MLA Rakibul Hussain objected to it, saying he was not allowed to raise the issue as Point of Order during Zero Hour Wednesday. “You (Speaker) did not allow us to raise the issue and asked us to bring it through a device. We have not raised the issue yet. How can a Minister answer it?” he asked.
He was joined by other Congress MLAs, who were confronted by ruling party members, leading to a noisy scene.
“The House is not running on any rule. It is being run on your (Speaker) own wish and interest. In protest, we decide to leave the House,” Hussain said before walking out with all Congress MLAs.
In the absence of the Congress members, Sarma gave his reply by saying that only the nomenclature for the spacial treatment to Assam has been changed.
“Earlier, the nomenclature was Special Category Status State and now it has been renamed as North East and Hill States. We continue to get special assistance as recommended by the 14th Finance Commission,” he added.
The minister also said Assam continues to get fund in 90:10 and 80:20 pattern for many Centrally-sponsored schemes along with 100 per cent assistance in some.
Mentioning the schemes, Sarma said: “If you need the detail of funds received under the schemes, I will give that in the House on Monday. “As I said earlier, I reiterate my statement that Assam got Rs 5,000 crore more during 2015-16 compared to 2014-15 from the Centre. Assam continues to get the benefits of the Special Category Status state,” he said.
As soon as Sarma finished his statement, Congress returned to the House to join the rest of the business of the day.
On Wednesday, Congress had demanded a clarification from Assam government over continuation of Special Category status to the state following reports of Centre withdrawing the benefit. Hussain had raised the issue as Point of Order after the Question Hour in the Assembly by showing a local news paper report quoting Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley that Centre withdrew the benefit from Assam and North East as a whole.
However, the Speaker refused a discussion and asked the opposition to bring the issue through a proper device.
On Tuesday, in reply to a query from Congress MLA Ajanta Neog, Sarma had said the state continues to enjoy the Special Category Status tag even after the NDA government came to power at the Centre in 2014.
During the last two years, the Centre released Rs 58,016.42 crore to the state since 2014-15 financial year, he had informed the House. (PTI)
Guwahati: Assam Assembly Speaker Ranjeet Kumar Dass on Thursday said he will discuss with leaders of all political parties over taking a delegation to the Centre for granting ST status to six communities of the state. “I will discuss the issue with the leaders of all political parties. After that I will take a decision about taking an all-party delegation to the Centre,” Dass said during the Question Hour in the Assembly.
AGP MLA Phani Bhusan Choudhury requested the Speaker to lead an all-party delegation to New Delhi to meet the Prime Minister and press for granting ST status to Koch-Rajbongshi, Tai-Ahom, Chutia, Moran, Motak and Tea tribes.
“During the last Assembly, we had discussed this issue many times and decided to take an all-party delegation under the leadership of the Speaker to the Prime Minister. However, we could not meet him,” he said.
Congress MLA Rakibul Hussain informed the House about his party’s support on this issue. Earlier, replying to a query by AGP MLA Ramendra Narayan Kalita, Welfare of Plain Tribes and Backward Classes Minister Pramila Rani Brahma said the previous Congress government had done many work on this issue. “The earlier government had set up a committee under the chairmanship of Home Secretary. Our government is also very serious about the issue,” she said.
Brahma informed the House that the state government has been periodically writing to the Centre for granting ST status to the six communities.
An Additional Chief Secretary and an Additional Director General of Police have attended two meetings called by the Centre on this issue, she said. (PTI)
Guwahati: A total of 239 rhinos were killed by poachers in the last 16 years in Assam, Forest Minister Pramila Rani Brahma said on Thursday.
Replying to a query of Congress MLA Ajanta Neog during Question Hour in the Assembly, Brahma said the 239 rhinos were killed by poachers from 2001 to July 2016. “The morale of forest staff is very low. There is no proper basic amenities. Transit camps are in dilapidated conditions and there are no facilities of drinking water. They do not even get their ration every month – it is given only once or twice in a year,” she said.
The minister said the department had employed casual staff, but unfortunately their pays are not regular. “It is said that money is sanctioned for uniforms, but they do not get it… How will they survive? I discussed the issue with the chief minister as we are serious about stopping poaching,” Brahma said.
She said the equipment, including arms such as .303 rifles, are of very old technology and most times there is scarcity of bullets. “We need to modernise the equipment. We need to provide good transit camps, uniforms, shoes and all other facilities. My first priority is to prevent poaching, but I cannot claim that I will be able to fully eliminate poaching,” Brahma said, adding that there is a big international racket operating for rhino horns for its medicinal value. “In Assam, a horn is sold for Rs 1.5 lakh and above. Once it crosses international border, its value touches crore. In Myanmar, it is Rs two crore and it is Rs three crore in China. So unless we break this racket, sporadic incidents of poaching will continue,” the minister said.
She informed the house that a total of 705 poachers have been identified and 661 of them have been arrested since 2001. Congress MLA Rakibul Hussain appealed to all parties and organisations to rise above politics on rhino poaching issue and condemn the poachers strongly instead of blaming each other.
On BJP MLA Padma Hazarika’s allegation that government officials, including police, are involved in poaching, Brahma said she does not have any proof of that yet. She also said a video-monitored counting will be initiated soon on each treasury across the state to evaluate how many horns are stored and if those are real or made of bamboo. (PTI)
Agartala: Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari on Wednesday asked ministry officials to send a technical team to the northeast region to restore Tripura’s lifeline, National Highway-8, which has been badly damaged by rains of the past many weeks.
“Three Tripura parliamentarians met Gadkari in New Delhi on Wednesday to apprise him of the condition of NH-8. The minister directed officials to send a technical team to the spot,” Tripura’s Lok Sabha member Jitendra Chowdhury told IANS over phone from Delhi.
“Gadkari ordered for steps to restore the national highway immediately. We have submitted photographs and documents on the precarious condition of the highways in the region.”
Road Transport and Highways Ministry Secretary Sanjay Mitra was also present during the meeting.
The NH-8 has turned into a muddy field with knee-deep mud at Lowerpoah in south Assam adjoining northern Tripura, thereby almost cutting off Tripura from the rest of the country.
Tripura and other northeastern states are mostly dependent on highways for the supply of essential goods, food grain and fuels from other parts of India.
The supplies to Tripura have continued to be hit severely for more than one and a half months now even as the state government sought the Centre’s and Assam government’s intervention to repair the NH-8.
Following the shortages caused by disruption of both rail and road traffic, prices of essential commodities and fuel have shot up in Tripura.
The situation worsened as the train services between Tripura, Mizoram, Manipur and southern Assam and the rest of India became irregular for more than two months due to damage to the rail tracks in the mountainous Dima Hasao district of Assam.
Tripura Chief Secretary Yashpal Singh, who visited the damaged stretch of the highway on Monday, told IANS: “I have talked to the ministry secretary and the Assam Chief Secretary. I requested them to restore the road.”
Tripura Food and Civil Supplies Minister Bhanulal Saha said the state government has suggested that food grain, essential items and fuel be transported to Tripura through Bangladesh.
“The Food Corporation of India and the Indian Oil Corporation officials assured us they have taken steps to transport food grains, petrol and diesel through Bangladesh. For this, the Guwahati-Dawki-Dharmanagar route and Bangladesh’s Ashuganj river port would be used,” Saha told reporters.
Tripura Public Works Department Minister Badal Choudhury also spoke to Assam’s PWD Minister Parimal Suklabaidya and sought his intervention to overcome the crisis.
Besides thousands of goods-laden trucks, several hundred oil tankers carrying fuel from Guwahati are stuck ahead of the damaged highway areas in Assam’s Karimganj district, adjoining northern Tripura. (IANS)
SHILLONG: The State Cabinet on Friday approved the amendment to ensure prompt declaration of results of interviews conducted by the District Selection Committees (DSCs) besides giving a go ahead to the Draft Meghalaya Water Resources Engineering Services Rules, 2016. The Cabinet also decided to regularize the post of 16 grade III and IV employees of the PHE department to give effect to the Agreement signed by the Department of Public Health Engineering and Hima Mawphlang in 1978 for implementation of Greater Shillong Water Supply Scheme (GSWSS).
Reacting to a query after the Cabinet meeting Chief Minister Mukul Sangma blamed the Centre for poor implementation of GSWSS.
In a decisive step aimed at achieving increased transparency, the State Cabinet on Thursday approved an amendment to ensure prompt declaration of results of interviews conducted by the DSCs.
The approved amendment deals with the composition and functioning besides the procedure for direct recruitment to various categories of posts which come under the purview of the DSCs. Addressing newsmen after the meeting here on Thursday, Chief Minister Mukul Sangma said that the Cabinet approved the proposal after taking note of the fact that there was a need for quick declaration of results of interviews conducted by the DSCs for filling up of the various vacancies.
Sangma categorically stated that the DSCs have been directed to accurately verify the number of vacancies before advertising them. This assumes significance considering the fact that many a selected candidate has not been recommended by the Committees in the past for want of vacancies leading to several protests.
The chief minister added that the DSCs would now have to make the recommendations immediately after the declaration of results.
Elaborating more on the matter, Sangma pointed out that there has been undue delay in the whole process of conducting recruitment by the DSCs and the declaration of results on many occasions, due to certain guidelines pertaining to the written exams.
The amendment seeks to do away with components like lengthy essays, précis writing etc., and replace them with objective type questions to fast track the evaluation process of papers in order to ensure that results are declared without delay.
According to Sangma, as per the amendment, candidates going through the recruitment process under the respective DSCs would have to attempt a total of 300 marks which would include 70 marks for General English in objective format, 130 for Aptitude, 30 for General Knowledge and another 30 marks for the interview.
He added that in certain cases where ad hoc appointments on an urgent basis are a must, prior approval of the government would have to be taken.
On pointing out that the members of DSC are mostly political appointees, Sangma asserted, “Who is not a political appointee…Our democracy comes at a price. The purpose and objective is to ensure check and balance in the true spirit of democracy.”
Regularization of posts
The State Cabinet also decided to regularize the post of 16 grade III and IV employees of the PHE department to give effect to the Agreement signed by the Department of Public Health Engineering and Hima Mawphlang in 1978 for implementation of Greater Shillong Water Supply Scheme (GSWSS).
Speaking to media persons after the Cabinet meeting here on Thursday, Chief Minister Mukul Sangma said that the agreement was signed considering the fact that a huge area of land was acquired for the GSWSS without any compensation and taxes being paid and as per the understanding, local tribal people from the area were to be given jobs in the Government sector.
According to Sangma, the services of the employees were never regularized and after examining the matter, the Cabinet decided to go ahead with the process which was to benefit 17 employees hailing from the jurisdiction of Hima Mawphlang.
However, one of the employees had died in the year 2001 and hence services of 16 employees were regularized.
Reacting to a query about “several appointments being made under the GWSS project”, the Chief Minister said that such appointments, if any, will not come under the purview of regularization.
“The appointments which are being regularized are an offshoot of the agreement,” he clarified.
He further said that the Government has called for 20 per cent cut on the departmental expenditures and added that all project related expenditures will have to be justified from here on.
“There will be no more scope for departments to engage any employee on wages and beyond what is required,” Sangma asserted.
Mukul blames Centre
When asked about the poor implementation of the different phases of GSWSS, the chief minister said that the project is linked to JNNURM and likewise its guidelines came on the way of speedy implementation.
He pointed out that the State Government is engaging with the Centre on the matter.
Stating that he is not justifying the delay, Sangma, however, said that the Centre should not apply the same guidelines to the whole country since specific provisions came in the way for Meghalaya creating hurdles in the project.
“We have been deprived of what would have come to us,” Sangma said.
Draft Meghalaya Water Resources Engineering Services Rules
The Draft Meghalaya Water Resources Engineering Services Rules, 2016 was also approved.
Speaking to media persons after the Cabinet meeting here on Thursday, Deputy Chief Minister in charge of Water Resources, Rowell Lyngdoh said that till now the department was following the rules of Agriculture department under Irrigation branch.
“Now the department has framed its own rules for promotion and recruitment in three stages – first, a senior officer in the rank of Superintending Engineer, second, the Executive Engineer and thirdly the SDOs,” he said.
From C K Nayak
NEW DELHI: NPP MP Conrad Sangma on Thursday urged both the Centre and the Meghalaya Governments to take immediate steps to implement the peace agreement signed with the ANVC over two years ago, failing which the cadres will get further demoralized and in all probability fall back to insurgency thus swelling the woes of the already troubled Garo Hills.
Delivering his maiden speech in Parliament here on Thursday, Sangma said that non-implementation of the agreement with the ANVC will only induce the surrendered cadres to take up arms again.
“Left high and dry, the cadres have not got even a single rupee despite being promised a lot by both the State and the Central government,” Sangma said while cautioning that some of them are even toying with the idea of going back to the forest and create splinter groups.
The Tura MP also demanded the amendment to the Sixth Schedule as proposed earlier.
He drew parallels of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and the North East which he said hits the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
“In both the regions, development should precede peace,” he added.
Sangma also urged the Centre to withdraw the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers’ Act from the disturbed regions for it “has created a lot of ill will and caused suffering to the civilians”.
The young MP said that due to the faulty policy of the governments in the North East and Jammu and Kashmir there is a war like situation in the regions.
“The agitating civilians in J&K and North East are not fighting against us or our country. They have been driven to that situation by the wrong handling of certain vital issues,” he added.
“There is a lot of politics even while discussing serious situations with one party blaming the other,” Sangma lamented.
He also criticized successive governments for putting more security personnel on the border thus putting their lives at great risk.
“In today’s age of technology we should have the best of infrastructure in place along the border where our jawans can reach in minutes instead of becoming easy targets of the enemy despite expenditure of crores,” he said.
The Deputy Speaker tried to remind Sangma of the time limit but the other MPs requested the chair to grant him more time.
He also called for the strengthening of the intelligence network of the country to effectively deal with insurgents.
TURA, July 21: With an intention to seek welfare measures for surrendered cadres of various outfits of Garo Hills, a delegation of members of the peace committee of Garo Hills met various ministers of the State on Wednesday.
The committee met Home Minister, Roshan Warjri, Social Welfare Minister, Deborah Marak as well as the Parliamentary Secretary in-charge of industry, Limison D Sangma in Shillong to discuss matters related to the welfare of the surrendered cadres.
SHILLONG, July 20: The State Government will take all stakeholders on board and ask for their opinions before it reaches a decision on the vexed issue of mining the uranium deposits in the State as per what the Chief Minister of Meghalaya, Dr. Mukul Sangma said on Wednesday.
Itanagar, July 20 (IANS): Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu on Wednesday won the floor test in the assembly as 44 Congress legislators and two Independents voted for him.
The 11 Bharatiya Janata Party legislators voted against Khandu. The effective strength of the 60-member Arunachal Pradesh assembly is 58.
SHILLONG, July 20: The Youth Wing of the Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement has stated on Wednesday that the students in Meghalaya are carrying loads which are heavier than what beasts of burden do.
SHILLONG, July 20: The Governor of Meghalaya, V Shanmuganathan on Wednesday dubbed the members of the Rotary Club, Shillong as the ‘Diamonds of Meghalaya’ while lauding their efforts in service of the people of the State.
Speaking as the Chief Guest of the Installation Ceremony of the 60th Board of Directors of the Rotary Club Shillong for Rotary Year 2016-17 which was held at Hotel Pine Wood here, the Governor said, “You are all achievers, none of you are ordinary people. You are diamonds of Meghalaya.”
SHILLONG, July 20: City police has arrested one 47 – years old Vicky Chettri, a staff of Hotel Pegasus Crown, for murdering another staff of the Hotel. Police took on the investigation after becoming suspicious on checking the body of the victim, whose death was reported to police only after he had died.