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16 dead, 2 million affected as 11 Bengal districts submerged

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Kolkata, July 27 : Heavy rains and water released by the Damodar Valley Corporation has led to at least 16 deaths in West Bengal, while around 165 villages were submerged in 11 districts, leaving over two million people affected in the state, official sources said here on Thursday.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee inspected some of the inundated areas in Hooghly and Howrah and held the Centre and the Damodar Valley Corporation responsible for what she called “man-made” floods.

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damodar valley corporation

A source at the state secretariat Nabanna said the deaths occurred due to reasons like drowning, snake bites and wall and house collapse as large parts of 104 blocks were inundated following intense rain since late Saturday.

Over 2 lakh hectares of cultivable land was submerged. The state government has opened 163 relief camps and also set up 36 temporary shelters for domestic animals.

“As per latest reports, 16 people have died since last Saturday for various reasons like drowning, snake bite and house and wall collapse in 11 districts. Over two million people are affected and 165 villages in 104 blocks are submerged,” the sources said.

They said close to 8,000 houses suffered complete destruction, while more than 44,000 were partially damaged.

Meanwhile, state Irrigation Minister Rajib Banerjee said Birbhum, West Midnapore, Hooghly, Murshidabad, Bankura and Howrah were the worst affected districts.

Rivers in at least six districts have breached their banks.

“Some small rivers in Murshidabad and other districts have burst their banks. Many blocks in Hooghly are under water,” the Minister said.

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Banerjee went hammer and tongs at the Centre and the DVC for the inundation in the southern districts of the state.

“This is man-made flood. This will go on till September. We will monitor the situation closely till first or second week of October. It has rained more this year and on top of that the water is being released. DVC is releasing water without informing us,” Banerjee told the media.

She interacted with locals and apprised them of the situation.

“What you see here is not due to rains. Over two lakh cusecs of water have been released. That water will reach the area by midnight. I can only apologise. Unless the DVC is revamped, the problem will persist,” she said.

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She demanded the central government should start dredging at places like Farraka Barrage and ports of Kolkata and Haldia to stop the flooding every year.

The DVC maintains that it has “no role” in releasing water as the decision is made by the Damodar Valley Reservoir Regulation Committee (DVRRC) that has representatives from the central and state governments.

“The regulatory authority is more dangerous. They don’t consider the plight of the public. They don’t understand. We alert the public on our own that DVC is releasing water. My throat is sore with requesting the Centre,” Mamata said.

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My phone is being tapped: Mamata

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Kolkata, Feb 18 (IANS) West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday said that her phone is being tapped by Central agencies.

While reacting to the terror attack on the CRPF convoy in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district, the Trinamool Congress chief levelled the charge of phone tapping against the Narendra Modi-led Central government.

“The Government had inputs from intelligence agencies on February 8 that such attacks might happen before elections. Why no action was taken? Why was the convoy of 78 vehicles allowed?…I also have intelligence reports that my phone is always tapped, as you all know,” she said.

Mamata also accused several Hindutva organisations including the RSS of hatching a conspiracy in the wake of the Pulwama attack to create divisions in the country, including in her state.

“In Hooghly’s Srerampore, they intervened in a community celebration. RSS workers are outsiders and they do not belong to Bengal. They are creating a riot like situation between Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians.

Banerjee said it’s a ploy to spread communal violence.

“It is a gameplan to spread communal violence. No one should fall in this trap. I have also heard that the RSS are forcing people to wear burqa and pose as child lifters.

“Rumours are being spread and some incidents have taken place in Kolkata as well. This is being done by the RSS, the BJP and the VHP, they only spread violence.”

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Akalis-BJP want privilege motion, sedition case against Sidhu

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Navjot Singh Sidhu

Chandigarh, Feb 18 (IANS) Upping the ante against Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, the Akali Dal and the BJP on Monday urged the Assembly Speaker to initiate a privilege motion against him for his comments in the aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack.

In a letter to Speaker Rana K.P. Singh, the Shiromani Akali Dal and Bharatiya Janata Party legislators said that Sidhu’s statements defending Pakistan after the killing of 49 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers in the Pulwama attack on February 14 was a breach of privilege of a unanimous resolution moved by the Assembly in this regard.

“Navjot Sidhu spoke against the very essence of the resolution passed by the Vidhan Sabha on the same day by giving a clean chit to the Pakistan government. This was not a one off event. Mr Sidhu has continued to defend the Pakistan establishment and has now even become the voice of Pakistan’s ISI agency worldwide.

“This, as per rules, is a gross breach of privilege of the august House and you, Speaker Sahib, as its custodian, must initiate privilege proceedings against Mr Navjot Sidhu immediately,” the letter said.

The Assembly saw acrimonious scenes between Sidhu and SAD leader Bikram Singh Majithia. Both leaders exchanged barbs, called each other names and gestured angrily while being just 2-3 feet feet away as the SAD-BJP legislators demanded action against Sidhu for his “insensitive” comments after the Pulwama attack.

“The SAD-BJP members initiated corrective action because of the grave nature of the act which was bringing disrepute to the Vidhan Sabha and on all its members by their very association with it. It was decided to table a resolution today urging the centre to declare Pakistan a terrorist state and the need to take the strictest possible action against the Pakistan government and its terror machine,” the letter stated.

Talking to media here, five-time Chief Minister and SAD patron Parkash Singh Badal demanded that a sedition case be registered against Sidhu for his comments.

Badal also sought Sidhu’s expulsion from the Punjab cabinet for giving a clean chit to Pakistan and its intelligence agencies in the Pulwana terror attack case.

“Navjot Sidhu had committed an anti-national act by stating Pakistan could not be held responsible for the act of terror despite the Pakistan government’s open patronage and support to the Jaish-e-Mohammad outfit which has claimed responsibility for the same. A sedition case should be registered against him and he should be proceeded against immediately,” he demanded.

Badal said it was strange that while Congress President Rahul Gandhi had condemned Pakistan, his party’s minister in Punjab was defending Pakistan’s terrorist acts on Indian soil.

“The Congress party should make an example of Sidhu or so that in future no elected representative can ever indulge in any act which comprises the security of the nation and disrespects our armed forces personnel,” he added.

Majithia said the entire country was one in grief after the Pulwana attack but Sidhu was speaking differently.

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HC rejects plea challenging arrest of student leader in sedition case

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Veewon Thokchom

New Delhi, Feb 18 (IANS) The Delhi High Court on Monday rejected a plea challenging arrest and transit remand of Veewon Thokchom, advisor to the Manipur Students’ Association Delhi (MSAD), in connection with a sedition case.

The case was lodged against Thokchom for his comments on the Citizenship Bill on social media.

Justice Sunil Gaur said prima facie it appears the act committed by the accused was an attempt to spread hatred and create disaffection towards the government established by the law.

“Finding no infirmity in the impugned order, this petition and application are accordingly dismissed, while not commenting on the merit of the case,” the court ruled.

Thokchom, arrested in Delhi on February 15, had filed the petition through his brother challenging arrest and transit remand. He was arrested by a joint team of Delhi Police and Manipur Police.

The court granted the transit remand and allowed Manipur Police to take him and present him before a court concerned by February 19.

According to the police, as Thokchom’s messages on social media incited people, an FIR was registered against him under sedition charges.

The police said, “One message said ‘the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 will be passed and in such a situation people of Manipur may seek self-determination.’ Thokchom also referred to the incident of ‘June 18, 2001 when the Manipur Assembly complex was burned.'”

He is the second person from Manipur to be arrested on sedition charges in recent times.

Few months ago, Kishore Chandra, a news anchor with a local channel, was arrested for speaking out against a government function to mark the birth anniversary of Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi, saying she had nothing to do with Manipur.

Though a district and sessions court ordered his release, the Manipur government rearrested him from the court complex and detained him for one-year under the National Security Act.

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