National News

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Patna, Jul 27 (PTI): The new Nitish Kumar-led NDA government in Bihar will seek trust vote in the state assembly tommorow.

“A one-day special session of the Bihar Assembly has been convened tomorrow in which the new government will seek trust vote,” Principal Secretary, Cabinet Coordination Department, Brajesh Mehrotra told reporters.

Mehrotra said two agendas have been set for the session after a brief meeting of the state Cabinet comprising Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his deputy Sushil Kumar Modi.

The first agenda was to cancel the decision of the previous grand alliance government to call a five-day Monsoon Session of the two Houses from July 28 to August 3.

“The second agenda was to convene a one-day special session of the assembly tomorrow to take up the trust vote,” he said.

Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi has asked the CM to take trust vote within two days of swearing-in.

The Nitish Kumar government has the support of 132 MLAs which included 71 members of JD(U) besides 53 of BJP, RLSP 2, LJP 2, HAM 1 and Independent 3.

In the 243-member Bihar house the magic figure is 122. Tomorrow’s session is likely to be a stormy one considering the belligerent mood displayed by the RJD which said it was not given a chance to form government despite being the single-largest party.

The RJD has claimed the support of 27 Congress MLAs, 2 CPI-ML legislators and some Independents. RJD leaders also claimed many JD(U) MLAs, who won the 2015 Bihar Assembly polls against the BJP, would cross over to them during tomorrow’s trust vote.

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New Delhi, Jul 26 (PTI): Catering services in all trains with pantry cars will be handed over to IRCTC by the year-end in order to improve onboard food quality, according to Railways.

Besides passengers in seven Rajdhani and six Shatabdi trains will have an option for e-catering facility.

IRCTC will be given responsibility of managing catering services in all trains with pantry cars be December end, Railway Board Member (Traffic) Mohd Jamshed said here today.

Till now, the zonal railways were managing catering services in majority trains as per the catering policy 2010.

There are about 350 trains including Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto which are equipped with pantry cars.

With a view to improve catering services at rail premises, Railways will also conduct third party audit at pantry cars, base kitchens and food stalls to ensure best practice.

“We have hired two reputed companies to do the third party audits at food stalls and pantry cars,” Jamshed said.

Railways has also undertaken a three-week drive to inspect food quality and hygienic condition at base kitchens.

The Railways formulated catering policy in 2005 and according to the policy, IRCTC, the tourism and catering wing of the Railways, was given catering responsibility for all trains.

In 2010, the then Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee announced the policy in which catering responsibility was taken away from the IRCTC and zonal railways were asked to look food services.

However, since complaints against food quality were increasing constantly, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu decided to go for a new catering policy aiming to improve food services at rail premises.

The new catering policy was announced in February under which IRCTC was given catering responsibility with stringent guidelines.

The new policy envisages separation of cooking and distribution of food.

Jamshed said now options have been given to passengers in a few Shatabdi, Rajdhani and Duronto trains to opt out of the catering services while booking tickets.

Catering services are mandatory in premier services like Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains and the catering cost is included in the ticket.

Seeking to explore the possibility of making mandatory catering services optional on trains, Railways had earlier announced in June last year to undertake the scheme on Nizamuddin-Mumbai August Kranti Rajdhani Express and Pune- Secunderabad Shatabdi Express.

Passengers have to specifically opt out from the mandatory food option and catering charges will be excluded from the ticket fare.

Catering charges ranging from Rs 175 to Rs 340 will be deducted from the total fare if the passenger opts out from the mandatory food options.

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 Personal experience shows that despite physical problems devotees can make darshan when SHE calls them

-By Shrikant Panda

Katra: Devotees across country and abroad thronged to Sanctum Sanctorum of Mata Vaishno Devi chanting “Jai Mata Di’ and “Jai Mata Rani”round the clock to get mothers blessings. I feel myself fortunate that I have visited the shrine 10 times since April; 2011 and my 11th visit is about to come in the coming of month of September.

Every time I visited Mata’s abode in foot without any carrier like horse, chopper or palanquin and cleared 30 km distance (to and fro) in 12 hours and that makes me feel spiritual bliss in this sojourn. Mata Vaishno Devi tests her devotees’ diligence. There are three caves in Mata’s abode. Out of these three, the main cave remains closed for the most part of the year. However, these three caves combined are too much for a single visit. Hence, two caves are open for devotees.

My first visit to Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine dates back to April, 2011. Prior to 2011

I was on complete fasting during Navratra twice in a year (taking milk and sarwat) without taking food that we eat everyday and on the 9th day I performed “Homa” and end fasting from the 10th day onwards. During my fasting I once dreamt of climbing mountain that leads to Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine. After dreaming this I was determined to realise this dream hoping that my dream could be a reality.

The day when I boarded the train was a difficult period for me as I suffered a severe spinal pain and even taking pain killers that did not help much but “Bou,” my mother, – encouraged me to board the train saying, – ‘Mata Vaishno will certainly heal your pain and you will be able to make Darshan without any stumbling block as she has called you to visit.’

After hearing such encouraging words I boarded the Purushottam Express at 12 AM from Cuttack. Though pain persisted even after reaching New Delhi and Jammu Tawi through Shalimar Express, spinal pain was not in a position to recede. During this journey I came across one family who visited the shrine several times as they also encouraged me to continue this journey till you make darshan of Mata Vaishno expressing once you start climbing mountain you will not feel any pain and continue to carry on as Mata Vaishno called you to visit the shrine.

After hearing such inspirational words from this family, I took bath at a hotel in Katra and started climbing mountainous path to visit Mother’s abode. The path was steep and pressure on my waist and knee was enormous. I was determined to cross the hurdles. While climbing, pain was gradually eroding which made me confident enough to cross 13 km steep path. It was a great feeling and proud moment for me after reaching at Mother’s abode where clouds touched my body. The Bhavan is located at 6218 feet, i.e. 1906 meters about the sea level. This place has a strong spiritual aura around it and only true devotees who trek on foot for 13 kms to reach this point can feel it. The road leading to her abode is not an easy one. It is steep, rocky and the road is narrow, surrounded by ravines.

Similar problem erupted again in April, 2014 when my head was reeling under high percentage of blood sugar and I was unable to walk but my Bou again encouraged me to make your trip to Mata’s abode. While bathing at hotel in Katra my head was heavily reeling as first time I was diagnosed as diabetic (FBS-330 and PPBS-360) but I strengthened my mind and I heard the call of my consciences: “What is destined to happen will happen.”

I decided to climb the hill in foot. Fortunately I was successful and this trip was easiest ever out of 10 visits I have made to Mata Vaishno temple and Bhaironath temple (30 km to and fro). By the grace of Bou and my divine Mother Vaishno Devi I made 10 trips on foot from Katra to Trikuta hills and Bhaironath temple (to and fro) without any family members or friends.

Every time after making prayers at the Holy Cave, I moved towards Bhairo Baba darshan which is 2 km far from Mata’s abode. It’s worth mentioning that Mata Vaishno beheaded Bhairo as he always wanted to grab her and test her prowess. When Bhairon Nath lay dead at her feet, his severed head flown off with a force and fell at a distant hilltop. His soul, realizing his folly after his death, approached the Goddess and prayed her to forgive him for his misdeeds. The benevolent Goddess immediately felt compassionate towards him and granted him a boon that each and every devotee visiting her shrine would then also have to take a darshan of Bhairon, in order to complete their pilgrimage.
Hindus worship Vaishno Devi, also commonly referred to as Mata Rani and Vaishnavi is the very manifestation of the Goddess Shakti.

Followers of Mata Vaishno Devi believe that no one can visit her temple unless and until she issues a “bulawa” or “call” to them.

Irrespective of caste, creed and social status, it is said that a journey to the sacred shrine of Vaishno Devi can materialize if and only if she wills it and blesses the devotee with her darshan. In fact, many devotees have been said to experience this first hand. The converse is also said to be true. If there is a Call from the Deity, even those who had not planned for the trip are bound to go visit the Mother at her shrine.

Those desire to visit her shrine, therefore, make a fervent wish in their hearts and pray to her for showering her grace and granting darshan to them. Then, they surrender to her will and leave it to her to decide when it would be the right time for them to visit her Holy Abode.

There is no exact record as to when the shrine of Vaishno Devi came into existence. Certain geological studies seem to indicate that it may be nearly a million years old. Though the Vedas make no mention of Mata Vaishno Devi, the earliest reference to a mountain deity named Trikuta has been made in the Rig-Veda. It is worth noting here that the worship of Shakti and other deities started only during the Puranic era.

According to legend, at the time when the Mother Goddess was engaged in waging terrible wars against and destroying the  demons causing chaos in the world, Her three main manifestations, namely, Maha Kali, Maha Lakshmi and Maha Saraswati united into one single power, pooling in their collective spiritual strength. This unification created a bright aura and a beautiful young girl emerged from this aura. The girl asked the Mother Goddesses for instructions to proceed ahead with her mission. The Devis told her that her mission was to manifest on Earth and spend her time there, upholding Dharma or righteousness.

While undertaking uphill journey one can make holy dip at Banganga which is 1 km distance from Katra and step into the Charanpaduka temple i.e. 3.5 km from Katra where Goddess rested a while at Charanpaduka before travelling to the Trikuta Hills. This place is so named, since it contains the foot prints of the deity. Though I visited 10 times but I never visited Adkuwari Cave till my 8th visit, this Adkuwari cave is the halfway mark to the Vaishno Devi shrine. This cave is also known as Garbhjune and very famous as Mata Vaishno is believed to have hidden for 9 months, in order to protect herself from Bhairon Nath. In my 9th attempt I was successful in crawling through this cave and fortunate to see inside of the cave the how Mata lived there for 9 months like an unborn child remains in mother’s womb for 9 months and this cave protected Mata from the ugly designs from demon Bhairabnath. The importance of this cave is that irrespective of fatness one can penetrate through this cave and can make an exit from other side without any hiccups. Mythology says if any one passes through this cave then the person gets Mokhya (free from cycle of birth) and if by chance the person is born again then he/she will enjoy glorious life without any struggle.


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Guwahati, Feb. 20: Amid political turmoil, Nagaland chief minister T.R. Zeliang submitted his resignation to governor P.B. Acharya in Kohima late on Sunday night. Mr Acharya accepted the resignation and asked him to continue in a caretaker capacity till alternative arrangements could be made, sources in the Kohima Raj Bhavan told this newspaper.

Mr Zeliang earlier announced in a signed statement to newspapers that he had decided to step down from office on Monday. In the statement, he said that he had decided to step down, and that an emergency meeting of the Nagaland Peoples Front Legislature Party would be convened on Monday to elect a consensus leader.

Saying he would tender his resignation at the MLAs’ meeting, Mr Zeliang said that the NPF Legislature Party that would meet at around 11 am would then elect the new leader.

Sources in the ruling Nagaland Peoples Front have indicated that the transition of power may not be very smooth, and that Mr Zeliang was still lobbying for his party president Shürhozelie Liezietsu as his successor.

Nagaland has been in turmoil since January after the Zeliang government decided to hold local body polls in 12 towns across the state while giving 33 per cent reservations to women as mandated by the law.

Tribal groups — under the banner of the Nagaland Tribes Action Committee (NTAC) and the Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) — which oppose the implementation of a Central law granting 33 per cent reservation for women in local body polls, intensified their agitation after Mr Zeliang refused to accept their demand that he step down.

However, intervention by New Delhi changed the course of the political scenario in the state within hours on February 17, when 42 MLAs — both NPF and Independent — switched their loyalty in favour of Lok Sabha MP and three-time former CM Neiphiu Rio as the next chief minister of the state.

Mr Rio, who was camping in Kohima and meeting legislators to muster support to take over the reins of power once again, refused to make any comment and said that he was waiting for the NPF Legislature Party meeting on Monday. In a related development, all the legislators camping at a resort in Assam’s Kaziranga National Park also reached Kohima on Sunday after a marathon meeting with Mr Rio.

Though Mr Zeliang was also expected to meet the legislators at Kaziranga, he chose to meet them only in Kohima. Sources close to Mr Zeliang said the chief minister had agreed to a smooth transition of power to Mr Rio in New Delhi, but after his meeting with the NPF president in Kohima and a discussion with some Central BJP leaders, he is believed to have decided to take a chance to create a consensus in favour of NPF president Liezietsu. Both camps was tightlipped about their next moves on Monday.

-Source: The Asian Age

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New Delhi, Feb. 20 (PTI): A 24-year-old woman from the northeast was allegedly raped by a man near Delhi’s Hauz Khas village, police said on Sunday.

The incident happened last night when the woman, who belongs to Manipur, was returning from a party in Hauz Khas village along with her friends and cousins, said a senior police officer.

The woman told police that around 11.30 pm she was offered a drop home by an unknown person.

He apparently told her that his vehicle was parked at some distance near Deer Park.

The accused, thereafter, on the pretext of guiding the woman, led her to an isolated stretch in the adjoining park area and allegedly raped her.

The woman somehow managed to escape from the spot and later informed the police.

A case under IPC section 376 (rape) has been registered and efforts are being made to ascertain the identity of the accused with the help of local intelligence and electronic surveillance, said the officer.

We have gathered vital clues in preliminary investigation and the accused will be nabbed soon, he added.

“We are in touch with the woman, and she is being counselled to help her recover from the trauma,” the officer said.


PARALAKHEMUNDI (ODISHA), FEB. 4: Centurion University of Technology & Management, Paralakhemundi, on Saturday hosted the sixth international conference on gerontology.

Gerontology, is the study of aging, has NOW become a major focus among different sections of society and institutions.

Inaugurated by noted educationist Dr Debi Prasanna Patnaik, the conference witnessed participation by a large number of experts from across the world.

The experts said, – with rising life expectancy and falling birth rates, average age of population is going up.

“There is increasing service needs for older persons all over the world, with related political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal consequences,” they said.

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5 NDRF, 2 ODRAF teams engaged in rescue and relief operations


Rayagada/Koraput, Jan. 22: The casualty figure in the 18448 Jadgadalpur-Hirakhand Express accident at Koneru under Vizianagaram district in Andhra Pradesh rose to 32 this morning with reports of retrieval of five more bodies from the mangled coaches.

The East Coal Railway (ECoR), however, confirmed 27 deaths.

Reports said as many as five units of National Disaster Rapid Action Force (NDRF) and two units of Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) have been pressed into rescue and relief operation.

Nine coaches of the 22-coach Hirakhand Express were seriously damaged when the train at about 11 pm on Saturday got derailed at hit a stationary goods train standing on the adjacent track at Koneru, nearly 27 km from Odisha’s Rayagada railway station.

The main cause of accident is yet to be assertained. A probe has also been ordered into the mishap.

At 3.25 AM on Sunday, 12 unaffected coaches of the train carrying the unharmed passengers left for Bhubaneswar by Sambalpur-Angul road.

According to East Coast Railway (ECoR) authorities, the Railways have tied up with Parvatipur bus depot manager for five buses. Another five buses each have been kept ready at Palkonda and Rayagada bus depots.

As many as 60 injured passengers been admitted in hospitals in Visakhapatnam and Parvatiparam in Andhra Pradesh and Rayagada in Odisha.

Railway minister Suresh Prabhu has ordered a probe into the accident.

Lingaraj Parida, nodal officer of ODRAF teams said rescue persons were working hard to retrieve the bodies and injured passengers from the affected coaches.

Railway minister Mr Prabhu announced Rs 2 lakh ex-gratia for the next of the kin the each deceased and Rs 50,000 and Rs 25,000 each respectively for seriously and partially injured persons.

The derailed coaches include one Second AC, one Third AC, two sleeper coaches, were derailed.

Reports also said that the engine and luggage van of train also got derailed.

General Manager of East Coast Railway Umesh Singh has left for the accident site to take stock of the situation.

At Rayagada, helpline numbers were issued. The helpline numbers are 06856-223400, 06856-223400, 06856-223500, 09439741181 and 9439741071.

Similarly, Visakhapatnam railway station authorities issued helpline numbers. The numbers are 0891-2746344, 08991-2746344 and 0891-2746300. Khurda Division also released 0674-2490670 as its helpline number.

According to East Coast Railway authorities at least four relief vans have been sent to the spot.


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New Delhi, Nov. 26: Completely discounting the probability of Mayawati’s Bahujan Samajwadi party (BSP) making any gains in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, BJP has said as far as chances of winning the polls are concerned, “BSP does not exist.”

The reply came to a question on whether the BJP leadership considers the UP elections more of a bipolar contest with the BSP, in the backdrop of other credible rival in the state, the ruling Samajwadi Party, engaged in the international factional battle.

A top BJP source said that, “It is a walkover BJP and that BSP does not exist as far as winning seats are concerned in the state.”

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New Delhi: Congress had ducked a query from the Law Commission on uniform civil code (UCC), arguing that the timing to seek views of political parties smacked of the government’s attempt to effect religious polarization.

The main opposition submitted its response to the Law Commission’s questionnaire without ansering if it was for promulgation of UCC or not, choosing instead to impute serious motives to the endeavour initiated by the Centre.

The party seems wary of being caught in a political crossfire between BJP and Muslim organizations over the triple talaq and UCC issues where being seen as supportive of a uniform code could end of alienating minority opinion.

According to sources, Congress questioned the government’s decision to selectively pick uniform civil code out of so many directive principles in the Constitution, arguing that the choice of the topic and timing of the move pointed to the Centre’s ulterior agenda.

Congress accused the government of trying to foment “divisiveness” between different religious and cultural groups over an issue which should have been resolved through a “happy consensus.” It also spoke about the issue of creating animosity between different social groups.

The decision to skip the query was taken by a Congress panle comprising Ahmed Patel, political secretary to party chief Sonia Gandhi; leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad,; senior lawyer Abhishek Singhvi and former law minister Veerappa Moily and Salman Khurshid.

The aggressive finger pointing at the ruling BJP betrays concern in Congress that taking a position on the sensitive subject can expose it to a polarizing fight between BJP and Muslim bodies which are opposed to UCC. Though unrelated; Muslim conservatives have also accused the BJP of undermining religious rights by opposing triple talaq.

If the Congress concurs with the demand in favour of UCC, it would attract attacks from minority groups, which can hurt the party’s prospects with a key vote bank in the coming assembly elections and beyond.

However, opposing UCC would lump it with other political parties which are in the cross-hairs of BJP which views the discussion as convenient tool to polarize Hindus.

Source: Subodh Ghildiya/TOI

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New Delhi, June 28: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sent a direct message of disapproval to Rajya Saha MP Subraminiam Swamy over the MP’s attack’s on RBI governor Raghuram Rajan and senior finance ministry officials questioning their loyalty to India’s interests, saying such comments were inappropriate and that Rajan’s patriotism is beyond doubt.

Mr Modi said this in an interview with Times Now editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami on Monday.

Strongly disapproving of Rajya Sabha Subramanian Swamy questioning RBI governor Raghuram Rajan’s “patriotism”, Mr Modi, without naming Mr Swamy, said that people must refrain from engaging in “publicity stunts”.

The Prime Minister said, “I believe Raghuram Rajan’s patriotism is no less than any of ours,” and added, “Whether it is in my party or not, still I think such things are inappropriate. This fondness for publicity is never going to do any good to the nation. People should conduct themselves with utmost responsibility. If anybody considers himself above the system, it is wrong.”

On the ongoing AgustaWestland helicopter scam, the Prime Minister, while refraining from mentioning the UPA, indicated that those involved in it appeared to be “quite wily and knew how to go about the deal”.

He, however, ruled out any political witch-hunt in the probe, saying that the investigating agencies will do a professional job and whatever names come up, “let’s see”. He did however, at the same time, say that a “sin” has been committed and those behind it have had a “big protective cover”. On the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls, the Prime Minister said that vikas would be the focus as that is the only way the country can progress.

“It’s my conviction, it’s my commitment. You must have seen during the 2014 elections that I fought elections on the issue of development. The new generation of the country only believes in development. I believe that the solution to all problems is in development,” he said.

Later in the interview he called himself an “apolitical Prime Minister” who, except during elections, never talks of politics.

On hotheads triggering communal tensions, he said that the media should not make heroes out of those people.

“Don’t make them heroes, they will stop. Why do you make them so big? I see such statements by people on TV, whose faces I haven’t even seen and they end up becoming spokesmen on TV,” he said.

Conceding that “there have been a lot of problems” in Parliament because of disruptions, he blamed the Congress and said that a party which has been in power for 60 years and which knows the nitty-gritty cannot behave in a way a new Opposition party behaves.

“A party which hasn’t been in power or hasn’t seen anything could behave in this way. For example, we are in power now, and consider in 2040 we become the Opposition party. So, in 2040 we can’t have the same conduct as the one we had in 2009 or 2010,” he said.

When asked about the lack of growth in terms of jobs, the Prime Minister claimed that the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana has helped in providing money to around three crore people involved in small businesses.

“This will help shopkeepers to keep their businesses open till late hours, just like malls function all week without a break. Once small business persons start expanding their work, they will require more helping hands and this will create more jobs,” he said.

Responding to rising inflation and higher prices of edible items, like cereals, Mr Modi said that the pace of inflation has come down compared to the rate at which it grew during the previous government’s tenure.

“Also, the prevailing drought for two consecutive years led to price rise… As stocks of pulses were inadequate they had to be imported, so their prices went up,” he said.

The Prime Minister said that he has often been asked about the issue of excessive elections in the country, which keep taking place almost every year. He said that even senior leaders from other parties recently asked him to find out a way.

Asked whether the BJP will take a call on holding Assembly as well as Lok Sabha elections simultaneously, he said, “It is for the Election Commission to initiate a discussion on electoral reforms… the body is respected by all parties and it should take the lead in this.”

Airing his views on his initial experience of governance after becoming Prime Minister, Mr Modi said that he was new to Delhi and had never been an MP before, but has tried his best to deliver on most promises made during the Lok Sabha elections.

“For me, the Prime Minister’s post was not a padbhaar but karyabhaar. Delhi was new for me, and the government was new, yet in a small span of time the nation has grown in every aspect,” Mr Modi said.

He said that social inclusion has been the base of his economic policies. These are based on the principle of antyodaya, which was propagated by Deen Dayal Upadhyay and even Gandhi spoke about it.

(Source: Times of India & Asian Age)


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By Our Correspondent Bhubaneswar, Jan. 10: Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Sajjan Sharma on Wednesday pointed fingers at Bargarh superintendent of police B Jugal Kishore for...

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