Union Minister Inaugurates ITO Skywalk, Accuses Delhi Government Of Stalling Project


Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri inaugurated the ITO Skywalk in New Delhi today.

New Delhi: 

Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri inaugurated the ITO Skywalk in New Delhi today and accused the Arvind Kejriwal-led government of stalling it for one year.

The minister also said the Delhi government created hindrance in execution of several other projects including the Metro Phase-IV.

Mr Puri, who also inaugurated a foot over bridge at ITO, alleged that a “false narrative” was being created around these projects and some people who have nothing to do with the project are trying to take credit.

The Union housing and urban affairs minister claimed that when the Delhi government, which was supposed to provide 20 per cent of the project cost, did not give its clearance, his ministry decided to execute it on its own.

The ITO Crossing and ‘W’ Point Junction are the two busiest crossings in the city.

There are over 25 major offices and other institutions located in this area. Approximately, 30,000 pedestrians cross various roads around ITO Crossing and ‘W’ Point. The skywalk, which has been constructed with a cost of Rs 55 crore, has six lifts.

“When I became the minister in September 2017, I was told that the skywalk project, which was cleared in 2016, was still awaiting the Delhi government’s nod. We then decided to execute this project on our own,” Mr Puri said.

Last week, Delhi Public Works Department (PWD) minister Satyendar Jain said none of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) ministers were invited for the inauguration of the project.

According to the Union housing and urban affairs ministry, the project has been executed with the funds provided by the Centre. The PWD of the Delhi government was an executing agency.

The Delhi government issued a statement saying, “No amount of tall claims and rhetoric will be able to mislead the people of Delhi, who will finally judge, whether cutting ribbons will be a substitute for hard work.”

It said that bureaucratic queries were raised about the necessity of the project and a former Delhi PWD secretary, now posted outside the city, raised questions about the need for such a project.

“His objections were, however, overruled by Deputy Chief Minister and Finance Minister Manish Sisodia who headed the Expenditure Finance Committee (EFC), which gave its approval for providing the Delhi government share of Rs 12 crore for the skywalk project,” the statement said.





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PM’s Appeal To Oil Producing Nations Gets A Negative From Saudi Minister


PM Modi meets CEOs and Experts from oil and gas sector from India and abroad in New Delhi

New Delhi: 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi today appealed to top oil producers, including Saudi Arabia, to help nations like India bridge what he called a “resource crunch” – a fallout of rising crude prices. At the third annual brainstorming session with chief executives of top global and Indian oil and gas companies, PM Modi underscored how high oil prices were hurting global growth and sought reasonable prices that work for both producers and consumers.

The rising crude oil prices have pushed the rupee down – this year it has fallen 14.5 per cent, making imports costlier. The country is heavily dependent on imports, with around 83 per cent of the fuel being bought from abroad.

“The oil market is producer driven and both the quantity and prices are determined by the oil-producing countries… Though there is enough production, the unique features of marketing in the oil sector have pushed up the oil prices,” a statement issued at the end of the meet quoted the prime minister as saying.

Saudi oil minister Khalid A Al-Falih, who was present at the meet, however, said oil prices were not within their control.

“Many factors lie outside the control of oil producers like us… we only control supply,” he told reporters. He, however, said he has met the Prime Minister and oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan and “assured them of full and continued commitment of meeting India’s oil demand and investing in India”.

The meet was held as petrol and diesel prices continued their upward march despite a drop in crude oil prices by 5 to 6 dollars a barrel. The hike has almost wiped out the Rs 2.50 cut made by the government last week.

Diesel now costs Rs 75.46 per litre in Delhi – slightly higher than Rs 75.45 a litre price when the government announced the excise duty cut on October 4. Petrol costs Rs 82.72 per litre and has witnessed an increase of Rs 1.22 per litre since the October 4 decision.

The Congress has kept up the pressure on the government over the oil price rise. “I don’t understand. World fuel prices are falling, how are the petrol prices rising? Modi-ji not putting money in your pocket, so whose pocket is he giving it?” party chief Rahul Gandhi has said.





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No Quitting, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar Will Complete Tenure, Says Goa BJP Chief


Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has been suffering from a pancreatic ailment. (File)

Panaji: 

Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar is in better health now and he would complete his tenure, Goa BJP Chief Vijay Tendulkar said.

Mr Parrikar has been suffering from a pancreatic ailment for the last seven months. With the 62-year-old being in hospitals in the country and abroad, the opposition Congress has been demanding his resignation. Today, the party wrote to President Ram Nath Kovind, asking him to ensure that the state assembly is not dissolved by “foul play” of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Last month, the Congress had submitted a memorandum to the governor, urging her not to dissolve the Assembly and instead invite it to form an alternative government.

“The Chief Minister is better now and the rumours that are being spread that he will resign from his post are false. The coalition government has been formed for 5 years and the CM will complete his tenure,” Mr Tendulkar told reporters.

Mr Parrikkar, who was the defence minister in Narendra Modi government, was sent to his home state to take charge of a tricky coalition in March last year. While the Congress had emerged as the single largest party, winning 17 of the 40 seats, the BJP, which won 13 seats, had moved swiftly to form a coalition and stake claim to form government.

Mr Parrikar’s health, however, has deteriorated since. On Sunday, the Chief Minister returned to Panaji after being hospitalised for nearly a month at Delhi’s All-India Institute of Medical Sciences. Two days before his discharge, he held a cabinet meeting at the hospital and also met allies and the BJP core committee to ensure smooth functioning of the government in his absence.

Mr Tendulkar, who met the Chief Minister at his home today, said he would take rest for two more days before meeting party office-bearers and government officials. Hours before, Mr Parrikar’s office issued a statement, saying doctors had advised him to take rest for a week. Mr Parrikar’s health, the statement read, has improved.

Union Minister Shripad Naik yesterday said Mr Parrikar should have stayed back at the AIIMS till he recovered fully. “I still cannot believe it. I met him day before yesterday. His health has improved over last 15 days but I feel he should stay there for a few days more,” news agency Press Trust of India quoted Mr Naik as saying.

Over the last seven months, Mr Parikkar has been treated at hospitals of Goa, Mumbai and Delhi. He has also visited New York thrice for medical treatment.





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Minister MJ Akbar Sues Journalist For Defamation Over #MeToo Allegations


MJ Akbar had said yesterday that his lawyers were exploring legal action on the allegations

New Delhi: 

Union Minister MJ Akbar, accused of sexual harassment by a dozen women in India’s #MeToo movement, has filed a defamation case against the first woman who named him, journalist Priya Ramani.

MJ Akbar had said yesterday that his lawyers were exploring legal action on the allegations, which prompted calls for his resignation from the government.

The former editor of newspapers like The Telegraph and the Asian Age, was named by Priya Ramani in a tweet on October 8. She said MJ Akbar was the man she had referred to in an incident she had shared in a magazine article a year ago, when the Harvey Weinstein scandal in the US fuelled an avalanche of #MeToo allegations.

In his defamation suit, Mr Akbar has accused her of “willfully, deliberately, intentionally and maliciously defaming” him on “completely false, frivolous, unjustifiable and scandalous grounds” and harming his goodwill and reputation.

The minister said the journalist had caused “great humiliation” to him.

On Sunday, as he returned from a week-long foreign trip, Mr Akbar made it clear he would contest the allegations rather than resign.

“Accusation without evidence has become a viral fever among some sections,” said Mr Akbar, 67, in  in his first detailed response to the allegations that exploded in his absence. He called the allegations false, fabricated, wild and baseless, and “spiced up by innuendo”.

Alleging that the accusers had come out with the charges just a few months before the general election, Mr Akbar said: “Lies do not have legs, but they do contain poison, which can be whipped into a frenzy.”

After Ms Ramani named him, more women posted their stories against MJ Akbar – Prerna Singh Bindra, Ghazala Wahab, Shutapa Paul, Anju Bharti, Suparna Sharma, Shuma Raha, Malini Bhupta, Kanika Gahlout, Kadambari M Wade, Majlie de Puy Kamp and Ruth David.

Outrage over the allegations have been limited to journalists and activists. Political parties have largely kept silent on Mr Akbar.

The Congress said he should “explain or quit” but its top leader, Rahul Gandhi, avoided taking his name while expressing his support for the #MeToo movement.





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Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal Welcomes Verdict After 7 Army Personnel Convicted In Fake Encounter Case


Sarbananda Sonowal was referring to the verdict delivered on Saturday. (File)

Guwahati: 

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Monday welcomed a general court martial verdict sentencing seven Army personnel, including a major general, to life imprisonment for a fake encounter 24 years ago and said it would strengthen people’s faith in the judiciary and the Army.

The court martial looked into the extra-judicial killing of five people after a unit of the Punjab Regiment picked them up along with four others from different places in Tinsukia between February 17-19 in 1994.

Those found guilty are Major General A K Lal, Colonels Thomas Mathew and R S Sibiren and JCOs and NCOs Dilip Singh, Jagdeo Singh, Albindar Singh and Shivendar Singh.

“It is a welcome judgement. The judgement will strengthen people’s faith in judiciary and the Army,” Mr Sonowal told PTI.

He said the verdict, which was delivered on Saturday, will be a deterrent to people in authority not to engage in unlawful acts and to behave responsibly and in a fair manner.

The verdict will give solace to the families of the victims, who were innocent students and youths, the chief minister added.

The summary general court martial, held at the 2 Infantry Mountain Division at Dinjan in Dibrugarh district of Assam, held the seven army personnel guilty and sentenced them to life imprisonment.

Mr Sonowal said the judgement is a reflection of India’s democratic values where human rights and fairness are respected.

“The Army has also worked in a fair manner without any prejudice,” he said.

During the 1994 fake encounter at Dangori in Tinsukia district of Assam, Mr Sonowal was president of the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and had sought an impartial probe into the case.

“The long wait of the families for justice has come to an end and I hope the higher authorities will uphold the judgement,” he said.

The verdict will have to be confirmed by the “higher competent authorities” like the Eastern Command in Kolkata and Army Headquarters in New Delhi.

The Army men can file appeals against the verdict before the armed forces tribunal and the Supreme Court.

The Army detained the group of nine at the Dhola Army camp after the general manager of Assam Frontier Tea Limited at Talap Tea Estate, Rameswar Singh, was killed by Ulfa terrorists.

Five of them were later killed in the infamous Dangori fake encounter case on February 23, 1994. They were Prabin Sonowal, Pradip Dutta, Debajit Biswas, Akhil Sonowal and Bhaben Moran. 





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Chandrashekhar Bawankule, Maharashtra Minister Says Online Liquor Sale To Be Allowed, Backtracks


Mumbai: 

A Maharashtra minister said Sunday that the BJP-led government had decided to allow online sale and home delivery of liquor in the state, but later stated that only a proposal in this regard had been received.

“We want to curb the instances of drunken driving. Allowing home delivery of liquor will help in this,” Excise Minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule told PTI Sunday morning, without elaborating as to when the decision would come into effect.

However, apparently fearing backlash over the announcement from opposition parties and anti-liquor activists, the minister later said that only a proposal had been received.

“We have a received an application requesting framing of a policy for purchase of liquor online from home. However, the government has not thought about it, nor there has been any policy (framed),” Mr Bawankule told reporters in Nagpur.

He also said that his department recently took action against 35 liquor shops in the state for providing foreign liquor at customers’ doorstep by taking orders through certain WhatsApp groups.

Earlier, a senior official in the excise department had told PTI that increasing the revenue was also a prime objective behind the decision to allow online sale of liquor.

The government is losing sizable excise tax due to closure of around 3,000 liquor outlets located near the highways owing to the Supreme Court’s order, he said.

Also, the reduction in prices of petrol and diesel earlier this month has caused some strain on the state’s treasury, the official had added.





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prime minister narendra modi will meet petroleum companies chiefs today


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Maharashtra minister says online liquor sale to be allowed, then Backtracks


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Delhi Minister Seeks Rajendra Pal Gautam Seeks Action Over ‘Casteist’ Question In Recruitment Exam


Rajendra Pal Gautam has said will seek action against the Delhi Subordinate Services Selection Board.

New Delhi: 

Delhi minister Rajendra Pal Gautam on Sunday demanded action against officials of the Delhi Subordinate Services Selection Board (DSSSB) over a “racist and misogynist question” asked in an examination conducted for recruitment of primary teachers.

“The purported question was asked in the Hindi section of the examination held yesterday. It had four options pointing to a caste-based system of the Brahminical Society. It is a multiple choice question and the answers are highly racist and gender insensitive,” the minister alleged

In a statement, the Delhi social welfare minister expressed “serious concern” on the issue and said that he will ask Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash to take appropriate action against the DSSSB.

“Setting a caste-based question which ostensibly hurts the sentiments of the community in addition to being highly disrespectful to women demonstrates the state of mind of those at the helm of the DSSSB,” the statement read.

The minister said he will speak with the chief secretary on Monday to demand an interim investigation into the issue.

The DSSSB in a statement said the question with “casteist” undertones appeared due to an “inadvertent error”.

“It is clarified that the procedure of paper setting is highly confidential and secretive in nature and the contents of the paper are not shared with the board officials. They are revealed for the very first time before the candidates only,” the statement said.

It said that the appearance of any such question which “may have unintentionally hurt the sentiments of any section of society is deeply regretted”.

The DSSSB said the question would not be evaluated during the evaluation process.

For more Delhi news, click here





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Ready To Share Debt Details Of China Trade Corridor With IMF, Says Pak Finance Minister Asad Umar


The $50 billion CPEC connects Kashgar in western China with Gwadar port in Pakistan.

Islamabad: 

Pakistan is ready to share details of the debt related to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) with the IMF, Finance Minister Asad Umar has said while rejecting the US’ view that China-funded projects were to blame for the cash-strapped country’s current economic woes.

Speaking on his return from Indonesia where he requested International Monetary Fund’s Managing Director Christine Lagarde for a bailout package for Pakistan, Umar said the decision to approach the global lender was taken after consultations with friendly countries.

The IMF team, Umar said, was scheduled to arrive in Pakistan on November 7 to negotiate the programme, likely to span over a three-year period. He said Pakistan’s current year debt repayments were about USD 9 billion but obviously it would not entirely be available from the IMF.

Lagarde has made it clear that the IMF would require absolute transparency on Pakistan’s debts, including those owned by China under the USD 50 billion CPEC.

Umar, however, rejected the US State Department’s statement, suggesting that the debt accrued on the CPEC projects was to blame for Pakistan’s current economic crisis.

The US Friday said that the huge Chinese debt was responsible for the economic challenges in Pakistan, adding that it will review Islamabad’s bailout plea to the IMF from all angles, including the country’s debt position.

“We understand that Pakistan has formally requested assistance from the IMF. In all cases, we examine that closely from all angles of it, including Pakistan’s debt position, in evaluating any type of loan programme,” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert had said, adding this is something the US has been tracking fairly closely.

Responding to a question, Nauert said; “The secretary (of state Mike Pompeo) had spoken about this a few months back, I know, in some interviews not that long ago. I think part of the reason that Pakistan found itself in this situation is Chinese debt, and the fact that there is debt that governments have incurred that they maybe thought wouldn’t be so tough to bail themselves out of, but has become increasingly tough.”

Umar said the US was a key stakeholder in the IMF with about 16.5 per cent votes but enjoyed no veto power in its decision making that required majority 51 per cent votes.

He said no government in Pakistan irrespective of any political background could compromise on national security and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government, too, would not opt for an IMF programme if conditionalities are of that nature.

But Umar Saturday said the government will have to take difficult decisions that would be painful for people but necessary under international commitments to get out of the current severe economic situation.

The IMF, Umar said, had asked for details of loans, including ones secured in relation to the CPEC projects, for analysing the debt sustainability.

Pakistan would share “normal debt-related information about CPEC with the IMF”, the Express Tribune Sunday quoted the finance minister as saying.

Reiterating that the government had decided to approach the Fund in consultation with friendly countries, he said that talks with these countries were still under way. He did not identify these countries but Islamabad was in contact with China and Saudi Arabia in recent weeks.

Unlike 2013, said the minister, the global environment was not favourable to Pakistan that was why the government thoroughly deliberated upon this matter before approaching the IMF.

He said that Pakistan was facing a financing gap of USD 12 billion this year, adding that this gap would not be bridged by IMF alone.

“We will turn to friendly countries again if the IMF terms are unacceptable to Pakistan during talks on the programme,” he asserted.

The minister said that he had been contending for quite some time that economic conditions could lead to national security issues and the government would not compromise on matters of national security.

He also said that Saudi Arabia, China and the United Arab Emirates had not placed tough conditions for bailing Pakistan out.

But he declined to cite specific reasons why these countries had not provided any financial assistance to Pakistan, the report said.

Categorically rejecting the US assertion that the country was in an economic mess because of the CPEC-related debt repayments, Umar said that over the next three years, such repayments amounted to just USD 300 million a year, which “is very nominal against USD 9 billion of total debt repayments payable during this fiscal year alone”.

The “statement of state department spokesperson is 100 per cent wrong”, the minister said explaining that Pakistan’s financing gap for the current year was about USD 12 billion and total repayments to China averaged USD 300 million over the next three years.

“We totally disagree with that statement,” Umar said, adding that he had already explained this to the US representatives and also to the IMF chief.

“The American narrative is totally wrong narrative,” Umar was quoted as saying by the Dawn.

Without disclosing exact numbers, Umar said Pakistan’s net foreign currency reserves were far below than the current gross level of USD 8.3 billion.

The minister said that one of the reasons for widening current account deficit was increase in crude oil prices.

He acknowledged that the IMF programme would impact the lower and middle-income groups in Pakistan.

“We can perhaps live without the IMF but this could be more painful,” Umar added.





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