Pak Invites Manmohan To Open Kartarpur

Pakistan government on Monday extended an invitation to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the inauguration of Kartarpur corridor that is scheduled to be held on November 9.

“We would like to extend an invitation to former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the inauguration function of Kartarpur Corridor. He also represents the Sikh community. We will also send him a formal invitation,” Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said.

The inauguration ceremony will take place three days before the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.

India has asked Pakistan to “reconsider” its decision to charge USD 20 as service charge from pilgrims visiting the Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara in Pakistan.

Initially, 5,000 pilgrims will be allowed to visit daily from India but later 10,000 pilgrims will be allowed per day, according to the Ministry of External Affairs.

Pakistan is building the corridor from the Indian side of the border to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, while the other part from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur up to the border is being built by India.

The four-lane highway connecting the Zero Point of the corridor up to National Highway-354 is being constructed by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI). Besides, a passenger terminal is also under construction.

The corridor will connect Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur with Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district of Punjab and facilitate visa-free movement of Indian pilgrims, who will have to just obtain a permit to visit Kartarpur Sahib, which was established in 1522 by Sikh faith founder Guru Nanak Dev. (ANI)


Delhi HC Denies Bail To Chidambaram

The Delhi High Court on Monday rejected the regular bail petition filed by senior Congress leader P Chidambaram who is currently in Tihar jail in connection with the INX Media case.

Justice Suresh Kumar Kait dismissed his plea observing that the investigation is in the advanced stage and that the accused might influence the witnesses.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had arrested Chidambaram on August 21 following which he was sent to judicial custody in Tihar jail till October 3 by a Delhi court.

While CBI is probing the corruption allegations, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) is looking into money laundering allegations against him in the case.

Chidambaram is facing probe for alleged irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance given to INX Media to the tune of Rs 305 crore in 2007 when he was the Union finance minister. (ANI)

 Manohar Lal Khattar Haryana

BJP Releases 1st List For Haryana Polls

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar will contest the forthcoming assembly elections in the state from Karnal with the BJP’s first list of candidates declared on Monday also having names of three prominent sportspersons – wrestlers Yogeshwar Dutt and Babita Phogat and former Indian hockey captain Sandeep Singh.

The party has fielded two candidates from the Muslim community in the Mewat region and the first list of 78 candidates also has nine women.

State BJP chief Subhash Barala will fight from Tohana. Olympian Yogeshwar Dutt has been fielded from Baroda (Sonipat), Sandeep Singh from Pehowa and Babita Phogat from Dadri. State Minister Anil Vij will again contest from Ambala Cantonment.

The BJP has denied party ticket to two ministers — Vipul Goel (Faridabad) and Rao Narbir Singh (Badshahpur) and five other MLAs. Thirty-eight sitting MLAs have been given the ticket once again.

Latika Sharma has been named to contest from Kalka seat, whereas Ambala City seat will be contested by Aseem Goel. Gyan Chanda Gupta will be fighting to represent Panchkula seat in the Assembly.

The party candidates include Latika Sharma (Kalka), Aseem Goel (Ambala City), Gyan Chand Gupta (Panchkula), Rajveer Barada (Mulana), Balwant Singh (Sadhaura), Kanwarpal Gujjar (Jagadhari), Ghanshyam Das Arora (Yamuna Nagar), Kandev Kamboj (Radaur), Pawan Saini (Ladwa), Krishna Bedi (Shahbad), Shubash Suda (Thanesar), Leelaram Gujjar (Kaithal), Bedpal (Pundi), and Ramkumar Kashyap (Indri).

The names were approved by BJP’s Central Election Committee at a meeting here on Sunday. (ANI)


‘Heavy Fine Is Must To Discipline Errant Drivers’

Nitish, 41, is a technology professional in Delhi-NCR, says Indian roads are full of negligent, rash drivers who put lives of other law-abiding road users at risk. Heavy penalities are a must to keep them in check

I live in Indirapuram and travel to Noida for work every day. On an average I commute about 50 kms each day. I have to navigate through a sea of vehicles on the road and be on high-alert while driving. But no matter how careful you are, you cannot rule out chances of an accident. There are many negligent, rash drivers on the road who put the life of several law abiding drivers at risk. The amendment to the Motor Vehicle Act will hopefully keep such irresponsible people in check.  

The heavy penalties will act as a deterrent for the errant drivers, who do not respect other drivers or pedestrians. With these penalties, people will start taking traffic rules seriously. Earlier, the rich car owners would often be let off after shelling out ₹500. But now if the fine for an offence is ₹10, 000, then people would be careful. Penalising the parents of minors is also a welcome step. 

Under the new Act, the government has agreed to regulate the activities of taxi aggregators like Uber and Ola. Cab services have become as important for city-based population as is the telecommunication network. So if the telecom sector can have regulating bodies like Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the transport sector needs a regulatory body too. Cases of exorbitant surge-pricing, extra charge on rebooking after cancellation, random cancellation by drivers etc., and many such exploitative practices need to be kept in check by the government. 

The Centre can now formulate a broad guiding policy, while each state will have to figure out the nitty-gritties and the specific requirements and make the resultant policies on their own. The cab fare passenger safety would be directly under the government’s supervision. 

With the passing of this new Act, I hope that the roads become safer. Cases of road rage, rash driving are likely to go down. People will learn to drive more responsibly.

Plan For A Rajpath Revamp Is Fraught With Risks

Modi Govt’s idea to restructure the stretch from India Gate to Rashtrapati Bhavan is an attempt to bulldoze over things that do not conform with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Partys world view

Earlier this month, the Modi government announced an ambitious plan to redevelop, reinvent and rebuild the area around the four-kilometre stretch from the India Gate to the Rashtrapati Bhavan in the Indian Capital. Also known as the Central vista, the wide lawns in the heart of Delhi, are flanked by a host of buildings which house various Central government offices.

Besides the imposing Rashtrapati Bhavan, which rests on the Raisina Hill, the North and South Block as well as the circular Parliament House are among the well-known buildings providing a befitting backdrop to the sprawling India Gate lawns which were constructed between 1911 and 1931 when the British shifted the Capital from Calcutta to Delhi. The other buildings like Shastri Bhavan, Udyog Bhavan and Nirman Bhavan were constructed in the sixties to provide accommodation for government officers attached to various ministries.  

Dating back to the colonial era, the entire area represents a slice of history as it provides a glimpse of Delhi’s growth and evolution from a colony to an independent nation. Often compared to The Mall in Washington D.C, India Gate lawns are a favourite haunt of Delhi citizens for a leisurely stroll or an evening out with the family for ice-creams.

However, there is fear and concern in Delhi that its residents may be denied access to the Capital’s largest public space  while the skyline along the majestic Rajpath would be drastically altered  as the Modi government gets set to “build a new Capital”  by the year 2022 when India celebrates its 75th Independence Day. These fears have been fuelled, following the government’s recent announcement inviting proposals to redevelop the Central Vista, to construct a new common secretariat for all ministries and to build a new Parliament building. Alternatively, the present Parliament House could be revamped and modernised. A final call on this is yet to be taken but bids for the new mammoth project have already been floated.

Describing the proposed plan for a new Capital as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream project, Union housing and urban affairs minister Hardeep Puri justified the mega scheme, stating that several buildings in the Central Vista reflect the “colonial ethos that the country was subjected to” and that many buildings which were constructed in the sixties and seventies should have been torn down years ago.

Puri explained that the move had been necessitated as the present office buildings did not have sufficient space to accommodate the vast army of government officers. He proffered the same argument for the construction of a new Parliament building though he denied that the present one will be demolished. However, it could be converted into a museum along with the North and South Block buildings which currently house the prestigious Prime Minister’s Office and the ministries of defence, external affairs, home affairs, and finance.   

The government’s decision has led to serious concern among architects, urban planners and conservationists in the Capital in view of Modi’s known passion for constructing grand towering structures. More importantly, everyone is convinced that this mega project is an attempt to erase the past so that Modi can leave behind his own personal legacy. It fits in with the BJP’s moves to remove or downgrade buildings associated with the old regimes, especially the Nehruvian period. For instance, both the South Block building, as well as the Parliament House, serve as a constant reminder about the role played by the country’s first Prime Minister and other senior Congress leaders in the nationalist movement and building a modern India. Sadly, the BJP has no such icons to showcase and so the urgency to leave behind its own imprint.

Puri’s reference to the building reflecting “colonial ethos” has everyone particularly worried as it would appear that the Modi government wants to change the character of Central Vista and its surrounding areas which are dotted with heritage buildings. This is being viewed as a dangerous trend as it could set a precedent for designating Hindu and Mughal-style architecture and justifying the destruction of what does not conform with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s world view.

Though there is agreement that some of the latter-day government buildings do need to be revamped, there are strong reservations about the manner in which the government is rushing ahead with its plans. No proper guidelines have been laid down for the project though it has far-reaching implications for the Capital’s heritage zone.

No heritage assessment has been conducted about the state of the buildings to identify structures which need to be demolished or others which can be modernized without razing them. There has also been no consultation with various stakeholders and no public discussion on this massive project. The unilateral announcement came as surprise when the government, without giving any inkling about its intentions, invited bids for the redevelopment of the Central Vista.

While questioning the unseemly haste with which the government is proceeding with this project, architects and conservationists, including AGK Menon, Raj Rewal, and Gautam Bhatia have been at pains to point out that heritage buildings like the Parliament House and North and South Blocks should not be razed and instead these should be modernized while retaining the outer façade. They cite the examples of the Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. and the British Parliament (Westminster) in London in this regard as these have been upgraded over the years but the outward look has remained unchanged.      

As the debate on this project rages on, the Delhi chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage has drawn attention to specific issues in connection with this project. AGK Menon, chief consultant INTACH, pointed to the bid document laying down that guidelines must be followed for the redevelopment of the Central Vista. But there is no clarity on what these guidelines are as these have not been spelt out. “There are no objectively defined parameters in place to guide future development,” the INTACH statement added

Referring to the haste with which the government intends to carry out its plan, INTACH has pointed out, “The bid document states that the government wants to build a legacy for the next 150 years, but the timeline proposed to complete the project does not support this objective.”

Menon further pointed out that the financial terms set to identify potential bidders were designed in such a way to exclude the country’s best architects and planners. Seeking changes in the terms, Menon maintained that the financial terms for the bid “appear to be an open call to foreign players or large multinational Indian entities.”


5-Judge SC Bench To Hear Pleas On Art 370

A five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court will commence from October 1 onwards the hearing on a number of petitions challenging abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.

The constitution bench will be headed by Justice N V Ramana and comprise of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, R Subhash Reddy, B R Gavai and Surya Kant.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi is already hearing a batch of petitions challenging the abrogation of the provisions under Article 370 which conferred special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

The matter is slated for hearing on September 30.

Last month, the central government had abrogated the Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution of India and the Parliament had passed the Jammu and Kashmir (Reorganization) Act, 2019, bifurcating the state into two Union Territories — Jammu and Kashmir with legislature and Ladakh without one.

Following this, a batch of petitions was filed in the top court challenging the move. (ANI)


3 Terrorists Killed, Hostage Saved In J&K

Security forces on Saturday shot dead three terrorists who were holding hostage a civilian inside a house in Batote town of Ramban district in Jammu. The hostage was rescued safely.

One Army personnel was killed in the joint operation conducted by Army, Jammu and Kashmir police and CRPF officials in the Jammu-Srinagar Highway town.

Two Army personnel and one official from the Jammu and Kashmir police also sustained injuries in the encounter with the terrorists, which had been going on since the morning.

“Three terrorists have been killed. The hostage has been rescued. Two police officials sustained bullet injuries and an Army personnel died. Operation is over now. They are the same terrorists who were seen in the morning,” Jammu Inspector General of Police (IG) Mukesh Singh told ANI.

Three terrorists entered a house in Batote in the morning while attempting to flee the security forces after engaging in a gunfight with them.

The encounter started after two of three terrorists tried to stop a civilian vehicle at Batote on the National Highway (NH) 244 but the owner did not stop the vehicle and informed the Army Quick Reaction Team (QRT).

The Public Relations Officer (PRO), Defence, Jammu said: “The QRT reacted promptly, established contact with the two individuals and an exchange of fire took place.”

Joint parties of Police, Army, and CRPF cordoned the area and exchange of fire ensued during which terrorists took shelter in a house.

“We got the information that terrorists have held a civilian hostage. We attempted to persuade terrorists to surrender. They refused to surrender even though they initially said they would. Their motive was to delay. SSP Ramban gave them a final warning to surrender and later we took action. It was a neat and clean action. Three terrorists have been eliminated and the hostage has been rescued,” Deputy Inspector General, CRPF PC Jha said.

Earlier, Army had the information of “possibly” five terrorists inside the house where they had taken a local resident hostage.

“One Mr Vijay (also known as Vijay Tailor) is a hostage in the house where the terrorists are holed up. The complex has an electronics shop in the front and house towards the rear. Vijay is the owner. Possibly five terrorists inside the house. They have so far refused to surrender. Exchange of firing is going on,” Army said in a statement earlier.

Two AK rifles and one pistol were recovered from the possession of terrorists. (ANI)


Afghans Cast Vote Despite Taliban Threat

Amid the threat of Taliban, millions of Afghans including several prominent leaders came out to vote in the country’s third presidential election on Saturday, despite skepticism about transparency and Taliban threat.

The incumbent President Ashraf Ghani who is seeking re-election was quoted as saying, “I thank all Afghans for their commitment to democracy and to a prosperous and sovereign Afghanistan. Participation in the elections indicates a commitment to the Constitution of Afghanistan. Elections determine the continuation of the democratic system in Afghanistan.”

The Afghanistan President made the remarks after casting his vote in Amani High School in Kabul.

Paying tributes to Afghan National Security and Defence Forces, the President said, “Afghan security forces are our pride and they have shown their commitment to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.” He also thanked women for their participation in the elections.

“Our plan for peace is ready, at the moment we are awaiting the verdict of the nation,” said Ghani.

Several other leaders including Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and Ghani’s Second Vice President Danish called on people to vote in large numbers.

Independent Electoral Complaints Commission (IECC) chief Zuhra Bayan Shinwari was quoted as saying that this was a “historic day for day for Afghanistan and our people.”

Several thousand Afghani Forces have been deployed across the country to provide security. The tight security is to counter possible threats by militants who have vowed to disrupt the poll process.

Earlier in the day, a blast had hit a polling centre in southern Khandahar city.

Almost 9.6 million people had registered to vote in the election, according to Independent Election Commission.

The road to the polls has been anything but certain, as a series of talks between the United States and the Taliban in the Qatari capital, Doha, threatened to derail the entire process, reported Al Jazeera.

The constant questioning of the polls continued until US President Donald Trump sent out a series of angry tweets declaring the talks dead after a Taliban-claimed bombing that resulted in deaths of at least 14 Afghan civilians and a US soldier.

Those tweets came just 20 days before the Afghan election.

The New York Times reported that preliminary results of the elections are not expected to be announced until October 17 and final results until November 7.

Afghanistan’s last presidential election, in 2014, was so stained by corruption, squabbling and fraud complaints that then-Secretary of State John Kerry stepped in to mediate a strained political marriage between the two top candidates, Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah — the leading candidates in this vote, as well.

Last October, parliamentary elections descended into chaos amid shouting matches and cries of ballot-stuffing and political payoffs. (ANI)