The Indian Express – Mumbai: CSMT to be redeveloped into world-class station

Mumbai – Maharashtra – India, 28 November 2019. Indian Railway Stations Development Corporation (IRSDC) in coordination with Central Railway (CR) is working out a plan to redevelop CSMT station into a world-class station while restoring its heritage charm.

The redevelopment scheme will focus on creating waiting lounges on the lines of airports, segregating suburban commuter traffic from mainline while transforming the area around the station to go in sync with the main station building, which is a Grade-1 heritage structure.

The concept plan prepared by ISRDC has revived an old plan, which was estimated to cost Rs 2,700 crore for the entire redevelopment but had to be shelved in 2014.

A French firm, Arep Ville, was then appointed as a consultant. The plan was shelved as the land identified for commercial exploitation has to be used for railway projects for capacity augmentation.

In the new plan prepared by ISRDC, using the old consultancy report as the blueprint, an additional deck will be created over the mainline tracks for long-distance passengers. The deck will be on the lines of waiting lounges at airports.

To enhance the heritage look of the station building, encroachments around it will be removed. The annexe building constructed in 1929 and the building above the mainline platform will be restored to give them a heritage look.

Mumbai: CSMT to be redeveloped into world-class station – Sukhbir Badal again hands over the reins of SGPC to Gobind Singh Longowal

Sikh24 Editors

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 27 November 2019. In the annual general house meeting of SGPC held today, Bhai Gobind Singh Longowal has been unanimously reelected as a president for the third term. The 15 member executive body of the Shromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee also includes a woman member.

SGPC members Bhai Rajinder Singh Mehta and Bhai Gurbakhsh Singh Nawanshahr have been elected as senior and junior vice president while Bhai Harjinder Singh Dhami has been elected as general secretary of the apex Sikh body.

Names of the other 11 members are as follow:

  1. Bhai Bhupinder Singh Asand
  2. Bhai Jagsir Singh
  3. Bhai Harpal Singh Gora
  4. Bhai Sher Singh Mandwala
  5. Bhai Jasbir Singh
  6. Bhai Jasmer Singh
  7. Bhai Amarjit Singh Bhalaipur
  8. Bhai Surjit Singh Kang
  9. Bhai Indermohan Singh Lakhbirwala
  10. Bhai Magwinder Singh
  11. Bibi Kuldeep Kaur Tohra

The apex Sikh body’s general house has also passed a resolution condemning Supreme Court’s verdict on the disputed land of Babri Masjid.

Beside it, 10 opposition members walked out of the meeting to register their protest on the handling of the sacrilege incidents of 2015.

Sukhbir Badal again handovers reins of SGPC to Gobind Singh Longowal

Ieper/Ypres – Commemoration of 1918 armistice

Commemoration of 1918 armistice
12 November 2019

At the Indian monument
Ashoka Lions

Three Belgian blue barets (UN)
Gurka (?) piper

Gurka (?) piper, one Belgian blue baret and two red ones (?)

Belgian officers

On the left a South-African officer, on the right two Belgian officers.
The tall one in the middle is British and to his left and right India Army officers

Mixed group

The last post

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue – ‘Harassment & disrespect’: Indian government urged to confront Spain after Sikh pilot forced to remove turban at Madrid airport

Cominidad de Madrid – Spain, 28 November 2019. A prominent Sikh leader has called on New Delhi to confront the Spanish government, after an Indian Air Force pilot told him he was subjected to a ‘discriminatory’ search in Madrid.

The Sikh pilot, identified as Captain Simranjeet Singh Gujral, was reportedly harassed while passing through security at Madrid’s airport.

“The Madrid airport officials demanded him to remove his turban and asked for a manual check-up of his turban which is an offence in the eyes of a Sikh,” Manjinder Singh Sirsa, president of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee and a member of the Delhi Legislative Assembly, wrote in a letter to External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.

He noted that the air force captain was subjected to the invasive search even after clearing the airport’s metal detectors.

“Truly, this is a case of bias and racial attitude towards Sikhs at the Madrid airport,” Sirsa said.

Sharing his letter on Twitter, the Sikh politician expressed hope that the External Affairs Ministry would raise the issue on a “global level.” He also noted that Madrid airport officials “continue to hurt our sentiments and play the ‘ignorance’ card to their advantage.”

There are no reports so far of Madrid airport responding to the allegations. Sikhs are routinely subjected to discriminatory behavior while traveling or living abroad, usually on account of their distinctive headgear. In 2017, for example, a Sikh New York taxi cab driver was attacked and had his turban stolen by a passenger. – Hindutva politics: Pragya Thakur’s Godse praises: What is a terror-accused doing in Parliament in the first place?

Punishing the MP by removing her from a parliamentary panel is like yelling at a thief for stealing after you handed him the keys to your house.

Rohan Venkataramakrishnan

New Delhi – India, 27 November 2019. Is anyone surprised that Bharatiya Janata Party Member of Parliament Pragya Singh Thakur called Mohandas Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse a “deshbhakt”, a patriot, in Parliament?

Thakur has made no secret of her admiration for Godse and indeed, called him a patriot even in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections after she was made a BJP candidate.

At the time, she had to apologise, and the BJP insisted that its views were not the same as hers. Prime Minister Narendra Modi even said he will never be able to forgive Thakur for her comments.

Yet nothing about her candidature changed and her electoral victory was celebrated.

On Thursday, a day after Thakur called Godse a deshbhakt in the Lok Sabha, and despite others in the party trying to claim she wasn’t talking about Gandhi’s assassin, the BJP has decided to take some action.

Thakur has been removed from the Parliamentary panel on defence. BJP working president J P Nadda said she will not be allowed to participate in parliamentary party meetings this session.

If that sounds like an appropriate punishment, it isn’t. Punishing Thakur by removing her from the Parliamentary defence panel is like yelling at a thief for stealing after you handed him the keys to your house. Why was he inside in the first place?

In the same vein, the question is not whether the punishment is apt, but why Thakur was even on a defence panel, and indeed, in Parliament in the first place.

Let’s not forget, Thakur has been accused of terrorism. She is among the alleged conspirators in the Malegaon blasts case, where explosives hidden in a motorcycle killed six people and injured more than 100 others in Maharashtra in 2008.

Her initial comment defending Godse also came in the context of terrorism, in which she said people should not call him a terrorist because he was actually a patriot.

Clearly, she subscribes to or, at the very least, admires Godse’s violent philosophy and has also been accused of committing terror herself, two data points that should have meant no mainstream political party even considering her for a Lok Sabha ticket, let alone a spot on a Parliamentary panel overseeing India’s defence.

But this is what the BJP chose to endorse. It should now hardly be surprising that Thakur espouses the views she has always held. Modi’s “will never forgive her” comments seemed to achieve nothing. And it is equally doubtful that the current punishments will somehow prompt a change of heart from Thakur.

At most, it seems as if the party is mildly embarassed by her comments because of the headlines they result in, not because of the implication that the BJP is endorsing and actually promoting a strain of thought that believes in hatred and violence. Indeed, for many in the party, that is a selling point, as the support for Thakur online on Wednesday demonstrated.

This is the India that the BJP wants: one where the ruling party openly encourages bigoted behaviour and policies, where any criticism is labeled anti-national, where those who were part of lynch mobs are garlanded. This is the India that the BJP has helped create. How can anyone be surprised that praise for Gandhi’s assassin made its way to Parliament?

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Tolo News – Logar activists in safe place: Human Rights Group

But freelance journalist Matiullah Sarwar claims he was threatened by an MP from Logar for helping with story.

Zahra Rahimi

Logar – Afghanistan, 27 November 2019. The National Directorate of Security (NDS) on Wednesday handed over two civil society activists, Musa Mahmoudi and Ehsanullah Hamidi, to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC).

The two men, who reported widespread allegations of sex abuse of boys in Logar province earlier in November, were detained by the NDS last week but released today after condemnation by Amnesty International, AIHRC, the UN as well as the US, UK, German, and Dutch embassies.

The NDS originally declined to confirm or deny reports that they held the activists, but on Tuesday the agency stated that they had taken the activists into custody to “protect” them from death threats, and the agency released a video of Musa Mahmoudi saying that his research on sex abuse (of students in Logar) was “incomplete” and “incorrect” and it was “exaggerated” by the media and he “apologizes to the people.”

US Ambassador John Bass on Twitter blasted the NDS, saying such “Soviet-style” tactics of coercing confessions was “appalling.”

This was re-tweeted by German ambassador Peter Prugel who commented: “This is just shameful and embarrassing and profoundly disturbs my perception of a professional NDS.”

The former head of the NDS, Rahmatullah Nabil, tweeted: “With full responsibility I can say that, without instruction from the Presidential Palace, NDS will not take such a decision on their own.”

Officials from AIHRC confirmed that both activists had been handed-over.

“They have been released by the National Directorate of Security and currently they are being kept in a safe place,” said Zabiullah Farhang, head of AIHRC’s media department.

“This issue needs to be investigated, because it’s a threat to freedom of speech and press freedom,” said Reza Moeeni, a member of Reporters without Borders in Afghanistan.

“It has no legal justification. In our perspective, it is against the law and therefore unnacceptable. I think it was more a political approach to the issue rather than a legal action,” said legal expert Abdul Wahid Farzayee.

In a new development, Matiullah Sarwar, a freelance journalist in Logar, claimed he was threatened by Shapor Hussainzoi, a member of the Afghan parliament from Logar, because of his cooperation with Tolo News to report on the sexual abuse allegations.

“Matiullah Sarwar should be imprisoned tonight and he must be referred to the Attorney General,” said Shapor Hussainzoi on the audio recording that was obtained by TOLOnews. Tolo News report did not manage to get a comment from Hussainzoi.

“Shapor Hussainzoi will be responsible for any threat or action against me. Both the government and the human rights commission should be aware of this,” said Matiullah.

“Media outlets are pushing our society towards their desired path in pursuit of their personal interests. Foreign spy agencies are behind this to implement their ideology here. I pray that these topics that are circulating today are proved wrong,” said Sayed Ahmad Khadem, a lawmaker.

The NDS kept the two activists in captivity for five days. But the detention sparked a strong backlash inside and outside Afghanistan.

“If civil society activists are arrested and their rights are violated, then such a move will prevent our people from cooperating with the government,” said Samiullah, a resident in Kabul.

“This approach increases our fear and this also dampens our will to report those acts that are against the law,” said Helal, a resident in Kabul.

The Tribune – Not just Punjab officials, farmers in firing line too

Agriculture department starts compiling data on erring peasants

Aman Sood – Tribune News Service

Patiala – Panjab – India, 26 November 2019. A day after the Supreme Court came down heavily on Punjab authorities for failing to stop farm fires and asked why they shouldn’t be made to pay compensation to those suffering, it has emerged that the apex court has suggested similar action against erring farmers.

Acting accordingly, the state agriculture department is learnt to have started compiling data of the erring farmers and fines pending to date. The department, said sources, had started analysing the cases of the 2019 season separately. They said a separate list would be compiled of farmers who burnt paddy stubble after the SC banned the practice.

“We also issue notice to the learned counsel appearing on behalf of the farmers as to show cause why the orders of this court have been violated and why the farmers should not be asked to pay compensation, which may be determined by this court, and why the burden should not be fastened upon them also,” said the SC order on Monday.

As many as 201 fire incidents were reported on Monday itself. The residue burning continues despite registration of nearly 1,700 FIRs against farmers for flouting the ban.

“We are compiling the data pertaining to farm fires and only the total farm fires and fines for this season are left to be compiled. We will send the list to the government and if the Supreme Court clears us to collect the fines, necessary action will be taken,” said Punjab Agriculture Secretary Kahan Singh Pannu.

The Punjab Remote Sensing Centre has recorded around 2.25 lakh cases of stubble burning after the paddy harvesting season over the past four years. An amount of Rs 38.58 lakh had been recovered as penalty while Rs 2.83 crore was outstanding till the beginning of this year’s paddy season, as per government data.

Penalties worth over Rs 50 lakh have been levied in around 53,000 farm fire cases so far this season. The maximum challans were issued in 2018 and a fine of Rs 1.37 crore levied on defaulters. But only Rs 19 lakh could be collected. A few months ago, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had barred the state pollution control board from collecting fines from farmers.

An official said erring farmers, backed by politically inclined unions, refused to deposit fine and even took officials hostage when they were approached.

Paddy pain: dual challenge

  • Studies suggest area under paddy increased from 2.27 lakh hectares in 1960 to 30 lakh hectares in 2016
  • Total irrigated area over the period rose from about 38% to 98%, of which 73% is irrigated via tubewells
  • Paddy cultivation is also contributing to depletion of water table, posing a dual challenge for authorities

Gent-Sint-Pieters – Going to Ieper/Ypres again

12 November 2019

Like on the 11th of November I took the 08:36 to Ieper

I think this is the Tongeren – Hasselt – Brussel – Gent train

Another of these mixed-up trains that are
semidirect – fast – and all stations

Commemoration of 1918 armistice
12 November 2019

Menenpoort/Menen Gate

All male Sikhs are Singh
Not all Singhs are Sikh

Going by their first names some of these might be Sikhs

At the Indian Monument
Ashoka’s lions

Belgian veterans

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue – ‘He’s with all of us’: Vigil held for beloved South Hadley teacher Khalsa

Mosier third graders Stella Martinez, Violet Carillon and Nora Proulx talk Tuesday at a vigil for Parmatma Khalsa, seen in a self-portrait that serves, at right, as a cover for a collection of poems his students wrote about him that was given to his widow.

South Hadley – Hampshire County – Massachusetts – USA, 26 November 2019. Hundreds gathered outside Mosier Elementary School on Tuesday for a candlelight vigil in memory of third-grade teacher Parmatma S Khalsa.

Khalsa, 44, taught at Mosier for four years and was known for his ability to understand his students and foster a love of learning. The Leverett resident died in a two-car crash in South Hadley on Thursday morning, which remains under investigation.

Among those gathered outside of Khalsa’s classroom were family members, students and their parents, and other members of the community. Attendees held candles, wore pins with ribbons on them, and released peace lanterns into the sky.

Khalsa’s wife, Jai Fuller, addressed the crowd that had gathered, telling mourners that she felt “like I’m meeting Mr Khalsa’s other family.”

Becoming a teacher was deeply fulfilling to he husband, she said, and changed him as a person.

“He just cared so much about all the children,” Fuller said.

Khalsa was strongly guided by his Sikh faith, Fuller said, adding that their tradition holds that the soul lives on while “the body is just like a house for the spirit, for the soul.”

“I think he wants all of you to know that he’s OK, He’s with me, he’s with all of us,” she said.

The Hindu – Maharashtra poltics: Aaditya Thackeray and Rohit Pawar the centre of attraction as MLAs take oath

Hugs, selfies and sulks at House

Alok Deshpande

Mumbai – Maharashtra – India, 27 November 2019. Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MP Supriya Sule welcoming MLAs of her party, the Congress and the Shiv Sena, jubilant supporters hugging each other and sulking Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders exuding confidence that the government won’t last for more than six months.

These were some of the scenes in the Maharashtra Assembly on Wednesday as the newly elected MLAs took oath.

Ms Sule was among the first NCP leaders to arrive at the legislature building. She stood at the entrance and greeted all MLAs coming for the oath-taking ceremony. Her cousin and NCP leader, Ajit Pawar, who had attempted rebellion but backtracked and returned to the party, hugged her before entering the building.

Will do as told

“I am with the NCP and Sharad Pawar is our leader. I will do as Sharad Pawar tells me to do,” Mr Ajit Pawar said. Ms Sule expressed happiness over the fact that three parties were coming together to form the government.

On Wednesday, 287 of the 288 MLAs took oath. Former Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar was not present in the Assembly owing to a family function at his native district Chandrapur. Pro-tem Speaker Kalidas Kolambkar, who was sworn in by the Governor on Tuesday night, administered the oath.

Shiv Sena MLA Aaditya Thackeray and NCP MLA Rohit Pawar, both elected for the first time and touted as future leaders of their respective parties, were the centre of attraction with a huge crowd surrounding them to click selfies and greet them.

The young leaders posed together showing the victory sign for a special photo session on the Assembly building staircase.

Apart from the two leaders, the new Assembly consists of youngsters such as Dheeraj Deshmukh, Ruturaj Patil, Zeeshan Siddiqui of the Congress, Yogesh Kadam of the Sena, Aditi Tatkare of the NCP, and Ram Satpute of the BJP.

“The mandate of the people is to create a new Maharashtra. We youngsters will all work under the leadership of our senior leaders and for the welfare of common people of Maharashtra,” said Mr Thackeray.

Senior NCP and Congress leaders were however seen cautioning the over enthusiastic supporters that despite Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray being the Chief Minister-designate, the real test of the government will be on the Assembly floor after the swearing-in ceremony.

“The election of the Assembly Speaker will be an extremely important move. We have not loosened up. All our MLAs will remain in hotels till the government clears the trust vote,” said Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan.

Meanwhile, sulking BJP MLAs were seen expressing doubts in hushed voices about the stability of the government. “There is going to be internal conflict in this government and we will now wait till one of the three parties breaks away. It won’t take more than three months,” said a former minister and BJP MLA.

Wait for the next instalment: Watch this space !
Man in Blue