India Asks United Nations To Conduct Visitor Tours In Hindi Language


The UN offers tours in its six languages – Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish.

United Nations: 

In its push to promote Hindi at the world body, India has reiterated its request to the UN to conduct tours for visitors to the headquarters in that language.

Saying that the tour is popular with Indians visiting New York, Deepak Misra, a minister in the Indian Mission, made the request while speaking at a meeting on Friday on information issues held by the General Assembly committee dealing with special political matters.

“The guided tour has been very popular with Indian tourists to New York and, as highlighted by our delegations last year. We urge the addition of guided tour in Hindi, India’s official language, to facilitate the tourists,” he said.

The UN now offers tours in its six official languages – Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish – as well as in German, Italian, Japanese, Korean and Portuguese.

The tours run between 45 minutes and an hour and cost $22 for adults and $15 for students and seniors.

Besides viewing the Security Council and General Assembly Chambers and visiting exhibits, the visitors get an overview from the tour guides of issues important to the UN like disarmament, peace and security, human rights and sustainable development.

Stressing the case for Hindi, Mr Misra said: “Genuine multilingualism promotes unity in diversity and international understanding by recognising the importance of communicating to the peoples of the world in their languages by bringing the common goals and ideals closer to the people.”

Mr Misra also asked the UN to publish its peacekeeping website in “the main languages” of the troop contributing countries.

He acknowledged that the UN was facing a financial crunch that affected its ability to expand its activities.

Therefore, he said, the Department of Public Information has to look at innovative ways to raise resources through initiatives like raising voluntary contributions to expand its global outreach activities in the widely-spoken non-official languages.

The UN began to incorporate Hindi in its social media outreach by launching a Twitter feed in the language in July.

Last month, the UN advertised for a Hindi Public Information Officer at its headquarters in New York.

The advertisement said that besides monitoring media, the officer’s responsibilities would include production of news stories and multimedia feature materials on UN activities.





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Don’t Give Amritsar Train Tragedy A Political Shape: Navjot Singh Sidhu


There was no motive behind this accident, said Navjot Singh Sidhu.

Amritsar: 

Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu said that train running over Dussehra revellers in Amritsar was an accident and that nobody had done it intentionally.

He, however, said there was a “big negligence” and asked his detractors not to do politics over the incident.

“It was an unfortunate incident. I talked to a few people who told me that some people were standing on the rail track and some were sitting on a stone near the track,” the minister said.

“When effigy of Ravana was lit, some people retreated back. Then the train came with a great speed and there was no horn and people did not come to know (about the approaching train) and it happened in a matter of just one or two seconds,” he said.

Defending his wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu, who was accused of leaving the accident site without bothering about the victims, the state culture minister said she was attending to patients at the hospital when allegations were being levelled against her.

“When I talked to my wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu on Friday, she was in a hospital,” he said.

“I fought elections from here because of my wife. She has been working here. Friday night, when accusations were being levelled against her, she was with the patients. She called me up on Friday. She came to know about the incident before reaching home. She then immediately reached here,” Mr Sidhu said.

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Amritsar train tragedy: Navjot Singh Sidhu attends to patients in hospital.

The Congress leader visited local hospitals and met the patients and their relatives on Saturday morning.

Mr Sidhu said when he learnt about the accident, he was shocked. He added that he was away to Calicut for a function on Friday.

Refusing to point fingers, the minister said, “Nobody has done it deliberately. However, there is a big negligence (behind this incident)…when I talk about negligence, some people did not even understand their responsibility”.

“Nobody had any intention to do this. There was no motive,” he said, adding the incident was an irreparable loss.

He also requested not to give the incident a “political shape”.

“The question is that the accident should not be given political shape. It is an accident. Do not make false allegations and do politics on this issue,” Mr Sidhu said.

Sixty people celebrating Dussehra were killed after a train ran over hundreds standing on a railway track in Amritsar on Friday evening. The tracks at Jaura Phatak were on higher ground, which gave a better view of the burning effigy of Ravana. As it was lit and fireworks went off, a section of the crowd retreated towards the tracks, where a large number of people were already standing to watch the celebrations. The people who were hit could not see or hear the train due to the exploding crackers.

People shouted slogans against Navjot Kaur Sidhu, who was present as chief guest during the event, alleging she left the venue after the accident. She, however, said she had left the place before the accident took place and rushed to the hospital the moment she came to know of it.

Shiromani Akali Dal leader Bikram Singh Majithia had also accused the former local MLA of “running away from the accident site”.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)





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Why 75,000 Tribals Are Planning A Mass Protest Against ‘Statue Of Unity’


The ‘Statue of Unity’ is set to be unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 31.

Ahmedabad: 

As the BJP government’s, both at the state and the Centre, gear up for the unveiling of the tallest statue in the world — “Statue of Unity” of Sardar Patel — by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 31, thousands of tribals in villages near the site are bracing for a major showdown against the project.

Local tribal organisations said as many as 75,000 tribals adversely affected by the Statue of Unity project would oppose the Prime Minister and the unveiling of statue at Kevadia in Narmada district.

“No food will be cooked in 72 villages affected by the entire project, as we will be mourning on that day, for the project is being carried out for our destruction,” said Dr. Praful Vasava, a tribal leader. Traditionally, food is not cooked in a tribal village when they are mourning for the dead.

He told IANS: “Our rights as tribals are being violated by the government. We don’t have anything against the great son of Gujarat, Sardar Patel, and his honour should be maintained. We are not against this development even, but this government’s development idea is lopsided and against the tribals.”

The tribals are complaining that their lands were taken away for the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Project, near the statue site, as well as for the statue of unity and all other tourism activities which have been planned in the area.

According to Mr Vasava, this “non-cooperation movement” is being supported by around 100 small and big tribal organisations across the state. He said, “Right from Banaskantha in North Gujarat to the Dangs district in South Gujarat, nine tribal districts will be joining us in the agitation. The ‘Bandh’ will not only be limited to schools, offices or commercial establishments, but households will also be silent (no cooking) on the 31st joining us.”

Out of the 72 villages affected by the statue project, the most affected are 32, where 19 villages are where rehabilitation has not been allegedly completed, six villages where the current Kevadia colony is situated and seven villages in Garudeshwar block, where only compensation has been paid but other commitments like land and jobs have not been fulfilled.

“The government took away our land and only paid us the money for it, but other commitments like alternative land, providing jobs to the affected have not been carried out as per the rehabilitation package, according to the Narmada Tribunal Authority. Some of the affected have not even accepted that money, opposing the land acquisition,” said Rameshbhai from Garudeshwar.

Of the people who had been allotted land, there are many who are not satisfied.

“Gujarat government gave me one hectare land in Sagbara region in lieu of my fertile cultivable land which was submerged in the Sardar Sarovar. But the entire land is uncultivable and totally unproductive. What am I to do with such piece of land?” asked Parchi Bondu, an affected tribal.





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Train Services Between Amritsar, Jalandhar Affected After Amritsar Accident


All the dead were Dussehra revellers watching the burning of Ravan effigies (Reuters)

New Delhi: 

All services between Jalandhar and Amritsar remained suspended hours after Dussehra revellers were mowed down by a train near Amritsar, railway officials said.

While some trains are being diverted, many are stranded near Jalandhar, they said.

“Train movement stopped after the accident as local people are sitting on the track,” a railway official said.

As of now, two trains – Bhatinda-Jammu Tawi and Jammu Tawi-Bhatinda – have been diverted towards Jalandhar-Pathankot route.

Two trains – Amritsar-Mumbai Golden Temple and Amritsar-Dehradun – are stuck at Amritsar because of the accident, the officials said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved Rs 2 lakh for the family of the dead and Rs 50,000 for the injured.

Railways has issued helpline numbers, 0183-2223171, 0183-2564485, for the kin of those injured and dead in the accident between Manawala and Ferozpur, where at least 60 people died after being run over by the train coming from Jalandhar to Amritsar at around 7 pm, officials said.

All the dead were Dussehra revellers watching the burning of Ravan effigies near the tracks.

While Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh announced Rs 5 lakh for kin of each of the dead and free treatment for the injured, officials said there was no decision as yet on any compensation from the railways.





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Ashok Chavan Of Congress Accuses PM Narendra Modi Of Lying About Number Of Houses Built In UPA Tenure


Congress leader Ashok Chavan accused PM Modi of lying and misleading people (File Photo)

Mumbai: 

Congress leader Ashok Chavan Friday refuted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s claim that the UPA government built only 25 lakh houses in its last four years, against 1.25 crore houses built by the present NDA government.

The UPA government built almost 25 lakh houses per year between 2004 and 2013, Mr Chavan, president of the Maharashtra unit of Congress, said in a statement.

Speaking in the temple town of Shirdi in Maharashtra Friday, PM Modi claimed that the previous government built 25 lakh houses for the poor in the last four years of its rule, while the present NDA government has constructed 1.25 crore houses in four years.

The Congress-led government was not serious about poverty alleviation, the Prime Minister alleged.

Mr Chavan accused PM Modi of lying and misleading people.

“Nobody can compete with Modi when it comes to speaking untruth. Devotees of Saibaba such as me are sad that the Prime Minister speaks lies even in Saibaba’s Shirdi,” the former Maharashtra chief minister said.

“Under the Indira Awas Yojana, between 2004 and 2013, during UPA government, 2.24 crore houses were constructed. Which means almost 25 lakh houses were completed every year,” Mr Chavan claimed.

As per the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report of 2014, the UPA government constructed 1.28 crore houses during 2008-2013, the Congress leader added.

The Rajiv Awas Yojana, launched in 2013, saw construction of 1.17 lakh houses in one year, he said.

PM Modi renamed the scheme as Sardar Patel National Urban Housing Mission with the promise of constructing two crore houses by 2022, but as of July 10, 2017, only 1.33 lakh houses had been built, Mr Chavan alleged.

“I pray to Saibaba to give the Prime Minister the wisdom to speak truth,” Mr Chavan said.

The Congress leader also alleged that the government spent Rs 5 crore on Friday’s function in Shirdi where PM Modi distributed keys of “ten houses” to beneficiaries of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana.





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Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu’s Wife, Guest At Punjab Event, Denies Leaving Scene Of Train Accident


Congress leader Navjot Kaur Sidhu blamed the Railways for the tragedy.

Amritsar: 

Punjab Congress leader Navjot Kaur Sidhu has denied allegations that she left a Dussehra event in Amritsar after a speeding train ran over 60 spectators on Friday evening.

Ms Kaur, the chief guest at the event, said it was shameful that certain individuals were politicising the tragic incident. “I heard about the deaths only after returning home. I called the Police Commissioner and I asked if I should come back, but he said there was way too much chaos. So I decided that I should at least save the ones who were injured, and take them to the hospital for treatment,” she added.

Witnesses at the scene of the accident had earlier alleged that the event was held without the permission of the authorities. “I blame the organiser for holding the event without gaining the requisite permission from the administration, and I blame Navjot Kaur Sidhu — the wife of Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu — for fleeing the scene after the incident. They have played a very dirty trick on us,” one of them had earlier alleged, demanding action against the organisers of the event. He said it was shameful that people who had come to celebrate Dussehra with so much joy had to go back grieving the loss of their loved ones.

Local media identified the organiser of the event as Mithoo Madan, a local councillor affiliated to the Congress.

Ms Kaur, however, said it was wrong to take advantage of such a tragic incident to further one’s political interests. “Dussehra festivities are held at this site every year. Are you saying that we asked them to stand on the tracks? Did we run the train over them? All the previous governments — even the Akali Dal administration — would hold Dussehra at the same spot. People who are politicising this should be ashamed,” she asserted.

The Congress leader, instead, blamed the Railways for the tragedy. “It was paramount that the Railways slow down the train at the site of a large event like this. How could they run their trains at such speed when there were so many people around? Half the people had moved away after listening to my speech. They did not even realise what had happened!” she said.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh each for the deceased’s kin, and said that he would personally visit the accident site to supervise rescue and relief operations.





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Learned About Husband’s Death In Pak Jail After A Month: Fisherman’s Wife


No senior authority from India or Pakistan have contacted the dead fisherman’s wife. (Representational)

Vadodara: 

The wife of a Gujarat resident on Thursday learnt of his death last month in a Pakistan jail after a letter from the dead man’s cellmate reached her.

Nanubhai Kanabhai Solanki (45), a fisherman from Karjadi village, in Una tehsil in the state’s Gir Somnath district, was arrested by Pakistan maritime authorities on November 11 last year, for allegedly straying into the neighbouring country’s waters.

A postcard dated September 30 sent by Vijay Vaja, Solanki’s cellmate, informing about the latter’s death was received by the dead man’s wife on Thursday.

Vaja wrote that Solanki had died in a jail in Karachi on September 15.

Jethiben Solanki (42), the dead fisherman’s wife, told PTI today that her husband had written to her three times while he was in jail.

“He had mentioned that he was keeping good health. I do not know what is the cause of his death. I received Vijay Vaja’s postcard on Thursday and our family comprising five sons and three daughters has gone into mourning,” she said.

Vaja is the brother-in-law of her daughter, Ms Jethiben informed.

She said that neither jail authorities from Pakistan nor anyone from the Indian ministry of external affairs had contacted her as yet in connection with her husband’s death.

Rajya Sabha lawmaker Parimal Nathwani today wrote to External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj asking her to help the family get Solanki’s body quickly.





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Dawood Ibrahim’s Henchman To Stand Trial In Britain For Money Laundering, Extortion


London: 

A “top lieutenant” of the D-Company – Dawood Ibrahim’s organised crime and terror network – will stand trial in Britain in February 2019 in his extradition case brought by the US authorities, a court said on Friday.

Pakistani national Jabir Moti, alias Jabir Motiwala, was remanded in custody to appear for a case management hearing on November 12, before a three-day trial scheduled between February 25 and 27 next year.

Moti, who appeared before Westminster Magistrates’ Court via live video link from Wandsworth prison in south-west London on Friday, is facing extradition to the US on money laundering and extortion charges. The 51-year-old had been denied bail during previous hearings and did not make any further application for bail on Friday.

 “As there is no bail application, I am remanding you in custody until November 12,” Judge Tan Ikram said.

Moti’s defence lawyer, Toby Cadman of Guernica law firm, told the court that his client had made an application in court to have his name changed on the case documents to Jabir Siddiq.

He also indicated that Moti’s defence intends to depose a number of legal experts as witnesses in the case, with the key issues being “abuse of process and entrapment” by the authorities.

Moti, who was arrested by British police in August, is believed to be a top henchman of Ibrahim, a key accused in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case.

He was repeatedly denied bail at previous hearings, with his defence team even presenting a letter from the Pakistani High Commissioner among the many sureties that he would not jump bail and abscond.

At the last hearing in September, the Pakistan government had vouched for Moti’s “good character”, which was termed as “pretty unusual and unequivocal support” by his counsel.

However, Judge Emma Arbuthnot, who presided over that hearing, was unconvinced that Moti did not pose a “flight risk” and denied him bail.

The US extradition request follows an FBI investigation dating back to 2005 and Moti was arrested by Scotland Yard from a London hotel on August 17, having arrived in the UK on business on a 10-year visa.

The London court has been told that Moti had been under investigation by the FBI as a key aide of the D-Company, “named after the leader of the company based in Pakistan (Ibrahim)”, associated with trafficking and money laundering through international smuggling routes across South Asia that were also linked to terrorist funding.

“For a fee, D-Company uses the power of violence for debt collection and has a reputation of intimidating members of the family of its debtors in India and Pakistan,” the prosecution had said in its case summary.

In his interactions with undercover agents in the US and Pakistan, Moti allegedly admitted to being involved with narcotics and dealing with large amounts of cash and the court was told that it is believed he is behind nearly USD 1.4 million laundered to date.

Moti’s defence team has disputed allegations of him being a key aide of the D-Company as “obvious nonsense”, describing their client as a “man of exemplary character” who was a tax paying, prominent businessman based in Karachi and accredited as a stockbroker, with a family stockbroking business dating back to the 1950s in Pakistan.





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Fireworks Muffled Siren Of Train That Ran Over 50 Celebrating Dussehra


Few noticed the closed level crossing, an indication that a train was going to pass.

New Delhi: 

At Joda Phatak in Amritsar this evening, hundreds had gathered close to the railway tracks to celebrate Dussehra. Less than 100 metres away, stood the near 20-foot-tall effigy of Ravan, which was to be burnt in the traditional finale to Dussehra celebrations, like every year.

To maintain a safe distance from the effigy, many stood on the train tracks, still managing to get a good view.

The evening program went on as planned, and finally, at 6:45 pm, the Ravan effigy was set afire. As massive fireworks went off in the dark sky, a section of the crowd retreated towards the tracks.

“When the effigy started to burn in full flow, people began running away from it fearing it may fall over them,” said an eyewitness.

Few noticed the closed level crossing, an indication that a train was going to pass.

A speeding train then rammed the crowd, crushing at least 50 to death. Over 70 others were rushed to hospital.

The deafening sound of multiple firecrackers going off at the same time had muffled the siren of the train, which was coming from Jalandhar.

“Out of nowhere came the train… Before anyone could realise what was happening, it ran over scores of people,” a man told reporters.

It took just about 10 to 15 seconds for the train to pass — and leave behind a heap of crushed and dismembered bodies. Video clips posted on social media showed the extent of devastation.

Wails and cries of people filled the air as friends and relatives frantically looked for their near and dear ones. Severed bodies, including of many children, were still lying on the accident site hours after the incident with angry people not allowing authorities to remove them.

The train driver informed the station master at the next station about the incident, officials said, adding his version would be recorded to determine the cause of the accident.

Train movement on the Jalandhar-Amritsar section (including Pathankot) has been suspended after the accident.

With inputs from agencies





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Punjab Expects 70 Per cent Drop In Stubble Burning This Season: Official


Stubble burning in Punjab and neighbouring Haryana is a major cause of air pollution.

Chandigarh: 

Punjab is expecting not more than 12,000 stubble burning incidents this season, a reduction of about 70 per cent compared to last year, on the back of a “vigorous” awareness drive and distribution of crop residue management machinery, an official said.

Stubble burning in Punjab and neighbouring Haryana is a major cause of air pollution not only in the two states but also in the national capital.

“We are not expecting more than 10,000 to 12,000 stubble burning incidents this season,” Punjab Agriculture Secretary K S Pannu told PTI on Thursday.

The number of farm fires have dropped over the years.

In 2016, Punjab witnessed 80,879 stubble burning incidents, which came down to 43,814 in 2017, official data said.

So far in 2018, the state has recorded 1,212 cases of paddy stubble burning as against 3,141 and 6,733 in the corresponding periods in 2017 and 2016 respectively.

According to the data, Amritsar has reported 412 stubble burning incidents so far this year, the state’s highest. It is followed by Tarn Taran with 225 incidents and Patiala with 159 incidents.

Satellite images of farm fires are being captured by Ludhiana-based Punjab Remote Sensing Centre (PRSC). Based on the images, the concerned district authorities are alerted, officials said.

The state has also launched a massive awareness drive for farmers to check the stubble burning incidents.

As many as 8,000 nodal officers have been appointed to spread awareness about the ill-effects of stubble burning in paddy growing villages.

“A large number of farmers in the state are cooperating with us in this drive. We have several instances in which villagers have sworn to not burn paddy straw,” KS Pannu said.

Schoolchildren have been roped in this awareness drive and asked to convince their parents to not burn paddy residue, he said.

Besides running an awareness drive, Punjab is betting on machinery for effective crop management.

The state has set a target to deliver 24,972 farm equipments including happy seeder, paddy straw chopper/cutter, mulcher, reversible mould board ploughs, shrub cutter, zero till drill, super straw management system on combine harvesters, rotary slasher and rotavator for managing paddy straw.

“So far around 20,000 machines have been delivered to individual farmers, cooperative societies and custom hiring centres and within a week the rest of the machines will also be distributed,” Mr Pannu said.

When asked about the farmers claim that the use of machines puts an additional cost burden of Rs 5,000 to Rs 6,000 per acre on them, he said, “The cost of managing paddy residue through these machines is minimal.”

For promotion of agricultural mechanisation for in-situ management of crop residue, the Centre has sanctioned Rs 695 crore to Punjab and Rs 137 crore to Haryana.

In addition to this, the two states are giving a 50 per cent subsidy on machines to individual farmers and 80 per cent to cooperative societies.

Every year as winter approaches, the smoke from the farm fires in Punjab and Haryana, combined with vehicular and industrial emissions and low wind speeds result in thick smog enveloping parts of north India.

The two states annually generate 220 lakh tonne and 65 lakh tonne of paddy stubble, respectively.

Punjab has so far earned Rs 10.77 lakh by penalising farmers who burnt paddy stubble. 





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