The Statesman – Congress Leader wants Rahul Gandhi to expel Mani Shankar Aiyar over Pakistan remark

New Delhi-India, 13 February 2018. Suspended Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar has landed himself in hot waters yet again by reportedly saying that while most political parties in Pakistan want cordial relations with India, those in India are “still caught in a partially 1947 situation”.

“All political parties except the Jamaat-e-Islami say they want peace with India. Now this change in mindset that is taking place in Pakistan is not reflected in India,” NDTV quoted Mr Aiyar as saying in Karachi.

Agitated Congress leader Hanumantha Rao has informed that he will write to Congress president Rahul Gandhi requesting him to expel Aiyar.

“Mani Shankar Aiyar should stop giving such remarks, he has already been suspended. He should stay quiet,” the former lawmaker Rao told news agency ANI.

“I am writing to Rahul Gandhi ji asking him to expel Aiyar from the party,” he added.

Aiyar was suspended by the party in December 2017 after his “neech” slur against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.


The Statesman – Maneka Gandhi bats for child labour-free goods

New Delhi-India, 6 February 2018. Union Minister Maneka Gandhi has proposed that the government procure goods from vendors who can “certify” that they do not engage child labour, according to an official.

The women and child development minister has written to her counterpart in the commerce ministry, Suresh Prabhu, that by demanding products and services that do not engage children the government will set a precedent.

“All procurement through the GeM portal should be made only from such vendors who can certify that their goods and services are free from child labour,” the minister wrote in her letter.

Different ministries of central and state governments, as well as public sector undertakings, purchase their goods from an online portal called GeM or Government e-marketplace.

“If the government starts demanding child labour-free certified goods and services, it will also encourage non- government buyers to demand the same,” her letter adds.

The letter has also been shared with the ministries of finance and corporate affairs, labour and consumer affairs as well as Vice-Chairman of NITI Aayog Rajiv Kumar, appealing to them “to create an ecosystem where child labour gets eliminated by utilising the power of consumers”.

The Statesman – President Kovind, PM Modi greet nation on Guru Ravidas Jayanti

New Delhi, 31 January 2018. President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday paid tributes to the spiritual poet, Guru Ravidas, on the occasion of his birth anniversary. Guru Ravidas was a saint of the Bhakti Movement.

PM Modi Tweeted, “Guided by the rich ideals of Guru Ravidas Ji, we are working round the clock to build an India which is strong, inclusive and prosperous…where the fruits of development reach everybody and empower those who are poor.”

In series of Tweets, Modi also shared few lines of Guru Ravidas Ji :

”ऐसा चाहूँ राज मैं जहाँ मिलै सबन को अन्न। छोट बड़ो सब सम बसै, रैदास रहै प्रसन्न।।”

Earlier, on the eve of the Guru Ravidas Jayanti, President Ram Nath Kovind greeted the nation.

President Kovind in his Tweet said, “Greetings to all fellow citizens on Guru Ravidas Jayanti. His teachings & the message of equality, unity and social harmony inspire the nation.”

Revered in Buddhism, Sikhism and Hinduism, the 14th-century saint was born in Varanasi and was a leading figure in the Bhakti Movement.

The Statesman – Hafiz Saeed seeks protection from arrest ahead of UN team’s arrival in Pakistan

Lahore-Panjab-Pakistan, 24 January 2018. Mumbai-attack mastermind and JuD chief Hafiz Saeed on Tuesday filed a petition in the Lahore High Court seeking protection from arrest ahead of the arrival of the UNSC’s sanctions monitoring team, saying the government wants to arrest him at the behest of India and the USA.

The monitoring committee of the United Nations Security Council 1267 Sanctions Committee will be visiting Islamabad this week for an assessment of Islamabad’s compliance with the world body’s sanctions regime. The two-day visit is likely to begin from Thursday.

A media report on Monday said Pakistan will not allow the committee any direct access to Jamaat-ud Dawa (JuD) chief Saeed or his entities.

Saeed, anticipating a possible action against him and his organisations, filed the petition through his counsel A K Dogar seeking the court’s direction to the PML-N government restraining it from arresting him and taking action against JuD and Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation.

The founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) said the government of Pakistan has plans to take adverse action against him.

“The PML-N government wants to arrest me at the behest of United States and India,” he said, adding that the US and Indian lobby for the last many years has been trying to prove that he was “somehow involved in Mumbai attacks”.

Saeed further said the Punjab government of Shahbaz Sharif had detained him for 10 months without any legal ground. A judicial review board, however, ordered his release after the government’s failure to justify his house arrest.

Saeed requested the court to restrain the government from “acting in a manner which is not permitted by law and direct it to enforce fundamental rights of the petitioner under Article 9 of the Constitution at remain at liberty”.

Saeed also boasted that he is “founder/chairman of JuD and Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) and has established 142 schools, three universities and for the last many years is engaged in activities of public welfare”.

Talking to reporters in Lahore, Saeed said he would welcome the UN team to visit the JuD and FIF centres in the country.

“The UN team will come to know our public welfare work if it visits our centres,” he said.

The UN team’s visit is taking place amid increasing pressure on Pakistan from the US and Indian governments with respect to inadequate implementation of the sanctions on Saeed and entities linked to him.

The State Department had said last week that the US had clearly conveyed its concern to Pakistan on Saeed and called for his prosecution “to the fullest extent of the law”.

It also said that Saeed’s name was on the UN list of designated terrorists.

The Statesman – People had come to kill me, claims VHP leader Pravin Togadia

Gandhinagar-Gujarat-India, 16 January 2018. A day after he reappeared from his brief disappearance, Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s international working president Pravin Togadia on Tuesday expressed the possibility that he may be killed.

Togadia was found unconscious in a hospital in Shahibagh locality in Ahmedabad late on Monday after being reported missing on the day earlier.

“I am being targeted for a decade old case, there is an attempt to suppress my voice. Rajasthan Police team came to arrest me. Someone told me the plan was to kill,” Togadia said at a press conference in Ahmedabad.

Togadia said Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria assured him on the day that there was no police action underway against him.

“They told me ‘they have not sent any police’ and that ‘if something like this would be happening we would have known it’… When I realised the CM and Home Minister are denying the police action, I switched off all my mobile phone so that my location could not be traced…. later I got to know that they (police) have come with an arrest warrant,” he said.

On Monday, Togadia was brought by people to a private Chandra Mani hospital in an unconscious state, which the doctors claimed was caused by low level of sugar.

Meanwhile, Ahmedabad Crime Branch said it constituted a special team to look for the Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader who went missing amid allegations that the Rajasthan Police took him away.

The Statesman – Why atrocities on Dalits, minorities, farmers: Jignesh Mevani asks PM Modi

New Delhi-India, 10 January 2018. Gujarat Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani on Tuesday attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking why atrocities were being committed against Dalits, minorities and farmers in India and charged the BJP and RSS with instigating anti-Dalit violence in Bhima Koregaon in Maharasthra.

“The way in which Hardik (Patel), Alpesh (Thakore) and Jignesh (Mevani) with the support of the youth in Gujarat brought the BJP down from over 150 seats (target set by BJP in Gujarat) to 99 seats… That is the reason we are being targetted,” Mevani told his Yuva Hunkar rally here.

“And this is the reason why the people of the (Rashtriya Swayamsewak) Sangh and BJP spread violence in Bhima Koregaon,” he said, referring to the violence that broke out in Bhima Koregaon near Pune last week in which one person lost his life and several vehicles were damaged.

The rally for which the Delhi Police had originally denied permission was held at Jantar Mantar, a short distance from Parliament House in central Delhi. But Mevani and his supporters shelved plans to take out a procession to the Prime Minister’s Office.

The newly elected MLA also said that when he fought elections in Gujarat he always spoke about bringing people together.

“Throughout the election campaign, we said that for 22 years the BJP followed the politics of division, while we always spoke about binding people together,” he said. “We don’t follow love-jihad”.

“We only talk about love and harmony. We will celebrate April 14 and Valentine’s Day too,” he said.

Referring to the violence that marked the 200th anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon battle in Pune last week, he asked: “Why the violence took place in Bhima Koregaon?

“I don’t have to answer it but you have to answer me… This you have to answer why Rs 15 lakh didn’t come in everyone’s account, why no jobs to youth? Why farmers were shot dead in Mandsaur? Why no justice to the Una Dalit victims? Why Najeeb Ahmed went missing? Why Rohit Vemula died? We’ll ask all these questions from you, (Prime Minister Narendra) Modiji.”

Mevani, who won from Vadgam in Gujarat in Assembly elections, said elected representatives were not allowed to speak and that was Gujarat’s model.

Further targeting Modi, Mevani said he supported the government’s “Digital India” initiative but asked the Prime Minister to ensure a technology first “so that no one is made to die inside a sewer”.

He also sought an immediate release of Bhim Army founder Chandrashekhar Azad — a Dalit leader who has been jailed and the National Security Act (NSA) slapped against him for allegdly instigating violence in Saharanpur in June last year.

Former Jawaharlal Nehru University student leader Kanhaiya Kumar said the rally had been called “to protect the Constitution and not for any religion”. He alleged that the BJP was creating communal divisions to rule.

“The BJP does not want ‘Ram Rajya’… In the fight between Allah and Ram, the victory will always go to Nathuram (Godse),” said the student leader.

Earlier, scores of people gathered around the barricaded Parliament Street for the protest march planned by Mevani.

“No permission has been given to anyone (to hold a rally),” Joint Commissioner of Police Ajay Chaudhary told reporters here.

The Gujarat lawmaker slammed the police and the central government for denying permission to the protest.

“An elected representative is not allowed to speak… This is extremely unfortunate.”

Some 1,500 security personnel in riot gear, with tear gas launchers and water cannons, were deployed on Parliament Street. As many as 42 organisation, parties, associations and student groups, took part in the rally.

The Statesman – Railways to change century-old signalling system: Piyush Goyal

New Delhi-India, 3 January 2018. Railway Minister Piyush Goyal on Tuesday said that railways is planning to change the century-old signalling system with a modern network.

“A few days ago we had a meeting to discuss the century old signalling system which is currently in use. And in the coming years we will change the entire signalling system on our entire network,” Goyal told reporters here.

He said the railways will bring “most modern signalling system” for its rail network which will be more safe.

“The new advanced signalling system would allow trains to operate at higher frequency even on busy routes,” he said.

Goyal said track renewal work is going on at war footing and this year it has planned to replace 3,500 km of tracks.

“Earlier 233 km of tracks was changed every month, which has increased to 399 km in a month,” he said. Railways will invite global tenders for the procurement of rails, he said.

Indian Railways replaces about 2,500 km of old tracks on an average every year. In the current financial year, it’s renewing almost 3,500 km. It has a total route network of 64,000 km.

Emphasising on the safety of passengers and punctuality of trains during the winter season when dense fog engulfs northern India, he said that fog-safe devices have been given to all trains plying in the region.

The Minister said: “During winters a maximum speed limit of 60 kmph is permissible. But however, it is up to the driver to decide the speed for the safe passage of the train. And for safety purpose during winter we have given fog safe devices to all trains plying in northern India region”.

Asked about the issue of wait-listed train tickets, the Minister said that once the dedicated freight corridor work is completed the stress from the passenger lines would be reduced and more passenger trains can be brought on the same tracks.

“We are studying the means to attach 22 coaches on all the express trains as a standard procedure that would also increase the number of berths in every train,” he said.

“For this the engineering department of railways has taken up the work to increase the length of platforms at stations,” he said.

Asserting on safety and comfort of passengers, Goyal said: “The safety and comfort will come through two things, one by bringing modern technology in railways, and second, by providing good services in the train.

“And keeping in mind the safety and comfort of the passenger, in future we plan to build a network of about 10,000-11,000 km of Bullet train in the country, which would cover around two third of the entire rail network,” he said.

He said that railways wants to increase its income through freight.

“We want to capture 50 per cent of the freight business. We are also planning to bring more dedicated freight corridors,” he said.

The Minister said that railways shall give priority to agricultural products. “We want to achieve the target of three billion in the coming years,” he said.

On complaints of poor quality food, the Minister said that railways is going to give all its base kitchens to the Indian Rail Catering and Tourism Corporation.

He also said that railways plans to complete the entire recruitment process in a time-based manner.

“The entire recruitment process will be completed in nine months,” he added.

The Statesman – Congress condemns Pakistan for insulting Kulbhushan Jadhav’s kin

New Delhi-India, 27 December 2017. Condemning Pakistani authorities for inflicting insult on Kulbhushan Jadhav’s mother and wife by making them remove their mangalsutra, bangles, footwear and bindi and getting their dress changed, the Congress on Tuesday said India should give them “an appropriate reply”.

The party said the Indian government should immediately come up with a clear policy towards Pakistan.

“We condemn this conduct of the Pakistani authorities. This behaviour was inhuman. They have shown disrespect towards Indian women… The Congress party also wants that Kulbhushan Jadhav be released,” said Congress spokesperson Gaurav Gogoi.

“We express our concern. Jadhav has been charged in a military court when he is not a prisoner of war. He was not held during a military conflict. As long as he is charged in a military court, our party is concerned about his release…,” said Gogoi.

He said the Congress party wanted that the Indian government should make its policy clear as to how would secure Jadhav’s release.

Under the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) norm, the family had met him, but the party wanted him released.

“We condemn the actions of Pakistani government, because from the television visuals he looked very stressed. We are worried about his health conditions. He was also forced to give false statements.

“The assurance which was given by Pakistan to Indian government was not kept. India should take strict action against the manner in which Indians have been insulted. They should give them an appropriate reply,” he said.

The Congress leader also said that the flip-flop strategy of the government towards Pakistan was making the atmosphere very insecure for the people of India and the soldiers at the border.

“The government should immediately form a policy towards Pakistan,” Gogoi added.

Before being let in for meeting Kulbhushan Jadhav at the Foreign Office building in Islamabad, Pakistani authorities made his wife and mother remove their mangalsutra, bangles and bindi and also made them change their attire, India said on Tuesday.

India also termed the meeting conducted across glass panels as “lacking in credibility” and “intimidating”. The two sides spoke via a telephone speaker.

Jadhav, who is on death row on charges of alleged spying and terrorism, met his mother Avanti and wife Chetankul on Monday after 22 months of his arrest by Pakistan.

The Statesman – Congress committed sacrilege against Guru Gobind Singh

Chandigarh, 24 December 2017. The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on Sunday alleged that Congress government had committed sacrilege against Sri Guru Gobind Singh by swapping the face of Sikh Guru with the French statesman Napoleon Bonaparte in a computer-generated portrait recently published in the newspapers during the commemoration of the 350th birth anniversary of the Tenth Guru.

The party also demanded strict action against the erring officials and advertising agency as well.

In a statement released from the party headquarters, the SAD spokesperson and senior vice president Dr Daljit Singh Cheema alleged the painting in question, which was being shown as of Guru Gobind Singh in the advertisement released about the commemoration of the 350th birthday of the Tenth Guru, was actually that of French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.

He alleged the face of the Sikh Guru was swapped with the French ruler in the computer generated copy, and the origin of the tempered painting dating back to 1800s and came into existence almost after a century of Guru Sahib’s period.

Cheema said “I wonder why the Punjab government committed this grave sin of passing off the tempered painting of Napoleon as the Guru Sahib’s when there were plenty of the Tenth gurus’ paintings available”.

The Statesman – Government, opposition hold talks to resolve impasse over PM’s remarks against Manmohan Singh

New Delhi-India, 20 December 2017. The government and the opposition on Tuesday held meetings to resolve the impasse in Rajya Sabha over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “conspiracy with Pakistan” remark against his predecessor Manmohan Singh during the Gujarat poll campaign, but the stalemate on the issue continued.

Opposition leaders met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar and his deputy Vijay Goel in Parliament and sought a resolution of the issue.

They demanded that the prime minister should clarify his remarks in the Rajya Sabha.

The half-an-hour meeting in Jaitley’s chamber was attended by Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma, besides opposition leaders Ramgopal Yadav, Satish Misra, D Raja and others.

After the meeting, Jaitley separately met Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Azad in the latter’s chamber.

Earlier, before the House commenced, the Congress leaders had also met Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu for the resolution of the issue with the Vice President suggesting that the matter be resolved between the opposition and the government sitting across the table.

Azad also raised the issue in the House after which Naidu suggested that the two sides sit together and resolve the issue. Leader of the House Arun Jaitley agreed to do so and the two meetings with the opposition followed.

“The meeting has been held. Opposition leaders have given their proposition to the government,” Congress leader Anand Sharma told reporters.

“We are still waiting whether the justifiable demand of the opposition is acceptable to the prime minister so that we can bring a closure to the controversy which was painful, which was of his creation and was entirely avoidable,” he said.

Sharma said the prime minister has said something which in their view is a constitutional transgression because he holds the office of the prime minister.

“To say anything that casts aspersions which are insidious on the former prime minister who held his office with distinction for 10 years, former vice president, former Army chief and distinguished diplomats, they all are deeply anguished and they cannot speak for themselves,” he said.

Sharma said the opposition has been asking the government and the prime minister to clarify and restore the dignity of both his office and of the political narrative of the country.

“We can request him, we can demand, but it is up to him whether to redeem what he should believe or not…,” he said.

The Rajya Sabha, however, functioned today after the Chairman said the issue would be resolved.

Opposition members raised slogans and sought an apology.

Azad said the prime minister should come to the House and clarify what he said, as his charges that his predecessor was “conspiring” with Pakistan was “a big issue”.

Azad said allegations are levelled during elections but some are not good for democracy, politics and the country.

“Such allegations are deadly for those against whom they are made,” he said, adding that Manmohan Singh’s integrity and loyalty to the country has been questioned.

“Is he the person who is conspiring against the Indian state? Is the former prime minister, former vice president not loyal to the country? These allegations are made by no less than the prime minister.

“The prime minister of India should come to the House and explain his remarks and if the former prime minister and others are proved wrong, then action should be taken against them,” he told the House amid vociferous protests by Congress members, who raised slogans of “maafi mango” (apologise).

Naidu, while talking about his morning meeting with Congress leaders, said, “My suggestion was (that) it is not good for the country to see that the House is not running properly.”

“All things can be internally discussed…and dignity of Parliament should be maintained,” he said.

Azad said, “It is a matter of privilege. It should also be to the satisfaction of Manmohan Singh.” Azad said.

Earlier, Manmohan Singh had met Naidu and expressed his concerns to him.

“I have talked to him and have understood what he meant.

I have also received a note of what exactly he said and also what was said about the prime minister by others…calling names,” Naidu said, adding that the prime minister is the prime minister of the country and that has to be kept in mind by everybody.

Sharma said, “He is the Prime Minister and we are conscious of dignity of the office of Prime Minister, which we want him to restore.”

“We are waiting in what manner the Prime Minister seeks to address because it is not in the interest of the country or Indian democracy that a serving Prime Minister casts insidious aspersions on his immediate predecessor,” he said.