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Centre banishes VIP red beacons, Congress says mere symbolism

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Aru Jaitley
Photo IANS

New Delhi, April 19 : The central government on Wednesday announced no dignitary will be allowed to flaunt red beacons atop their vehicles from May 1, and necessary changes in the laws for the purpose are being brought about. The Congress termed the decision “ridiculous” and as a mere “symbolic politics”.

The decision was taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who informed the cabinet about it.

“From May 1, no red beacon will be allowed atop any official vehicle. There will be no exceptions,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told reporters here after the cabinet meeting.

“It is more precisely the Prime Minister’s decision. He only informed the cabinet about it,” Jaitley told reporters after the cabinet meet.

Vehicles involved in emergency and relief and rescue services, ambulances, and fire services, will, however, be allowed to put blue beacons, the minister said.

Jaitley said the government will bring about the necessary amendment to the Central Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989, in this regard.

“Rule 108 deals with use of red, white and blue lights on vehicles. Rule 108-1 (III) says the Centre and states can specify dignitaries who can use beacons on their (official) vehicles. It is a central rule and is being abolished from the rule book,” Jaitley said.

He said it means no dignitary at the Centre or in states could henceforth use beacons on their vehicles.

Asked if there would be exceptions like the President or the Prime Minister for the use of red beacon on their cars, Jaitley said there can’t be any exceptions “when the rule itself is not there in the rule book”.

The minister said Rule 108 (2) that empowers the Centre and state governments to use blue beacons with flasher is also being changed.

“Only defined emergency services will be allowed to use blue beacons with flasher,” Jaitley said.

The decision intends to strengthen democratic values in the country, the Finance Minister said, and added that the consequential changes required to be made in other rules will also be made.

The red beacon had over the decades become an instrument of political appeasement in the country with state governments “granting” such beacons to functionaries of the ruling party even when they held no constitutional posts.

Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari had the red beacon of his vehicle removed soon after the cabinet meeting.

“The government is of the considered opinion that beacons on vehicles are perceived symbols of VIP culture and have no place in a democratic country,” Gadkari said. “They have no relevance whatsoever.”

The Congress, however, termed the decision as “symbolic politics” and “ridiculous”.

“This is not something new. The Supreme Court had on December 10, 2013, ordered which vehicles would be allowed to have beacons atop them,” said Congress spokesman and former Union Minister Manish Tiwari.

“Now, after three years of this decision, if the BJP is trying to do politics over it and try to gain the high moral ground, then it is ridiculous,” he added.

Tiwari said that some parts of the apex court decision had already been effected.

(IANS)

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Farmers take to streets in Rajasthan, Haryana, demand implementation of Swaminathan report & full loan waiver

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farmers protest in Rajasthan
Farmers in Rajasthan staged a massive protest demanding complete loan waiver and implementation of MS Swaminathan report

Jaipur, Feb 23: Rajasthan and Haryana have been witnessing massive protest by farmers, who are demanding a complete loan waiver and implementation of MS Swaminathan’s report. 

The farmers are protesting in different places of Haryana including Faridabad and Gharaunda. Speaking to ANI, the district president of Kisan Union, Ajay Rana said, “the protest is against the unfulfilled promises by Modi government, instead of finding the solution and implementing Swaminathan report the government only gave us more problems.”

Earlier on Thursday Rajasthan farmers staged a massive protest on Jaipur-Sikar highway to press for fulfilment of their demands, including complete loan waiver and implementation of the recommendations of Swaminathan Commission.

The farmers first tried to gherao the state assembly, but as they were not allowed to enter Jaipur, they staged a demonstration on the road, leading to serpentine tailbacks.

Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje announced in her budget speech that debts up to Rs 50,000 would be waived off, but the farmers are demanding a full waiver.

Meanwhile, despite massive police deployment at the city’s borders, some farmers managed to sneak into the city, in response to the call given by Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha.

Later, they held a meeting at the Majdoor Kisan Bhawan in the city, which was addressed by Kisan Sabha president Ashok Dhaval and vice president Dulichand Meena, among others.

farmers protest 2

Thereafter, the protesting farmers, which also included women, proceeded towards the state Secretariat. But they were detained by police.
Sources said the state government had arrested Kisan Mahasabha president Amara Ram, Pemaram and over 80 farmer leaders two days back to avert the protest.

Independent MLA Kirodilal Meena and Hanuman Beliwal, who announced forming a third front a few months back, were also part of this protest.

Speaking to the media, Home Minister Gulabchand Kataria said the farmers were stopped on the outskirts in line with the orders issued by the high court, and that no serious cases had been registered against any of them.

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Loan default case: CBI arrests Rotomac firm owner Vikram Kothari, son

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New Delhi, Feb 23: The CBI on Thursday held Rotomac pen owner Vikram Kothari and his son Rahul on charges of cheating a consortium of banks of Rs 3,695 crore (including interest) by siphoning off loans sanctioned to his company for procurement of wheat and other goods for export.

The Income Tax Department also issued a show-cause notice to Kothari asking why prosecution be not initiated against the group.

The agency arrested the two after day-long questioning at the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) headquarters in south Delhi’s Lodi Road area.

It was the Kotharis’ questioning for the fourth consecutive day since the probe agency lodged the case against him and his family, and conducted raids at their residential and office premises in Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur.

The CBI filed the FIR on Sunday night following a complaint against Kothari, his wife Sadhana and son Rahul, from the Bank of Baroda.

Vikram Kothari is the Chairman and Managing Director of Rotomac while his wife and son are Directors.

Kothari had obtained Rs 2,919 crore from Bank of India (Rs 754.77 crore), Bank of Baroda (Rs 456.63 crore), Indian Overseas Bank (Rs 771.07 crore), Union Bank of India (Rs 458.95 crore), Allahabad Bank (Rs 330.68 crore), Bank of Maharashtra (Rs 49.82 crore) and Oriental Bank of Commerce (Rs 97.47 crore), the FIR said.

Kothari, his wife, son, firm Rotomac, some unidentified bank officials and private persons were booked over the charges of criminal conspiracy, cheating and forgery under the Indian Penal Code and Prevention of Corruption Act.

In its complaint, the  Bank of Baroda said that the banks had extended credit to the Kanpur-based firm and its related companies from 2008 onwards.

Earlier, the probe agency had earlier seized several belongings of Kothari and his kin, including laptops and mobile phones.

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Modi greets Trudeau with hug at ceremonial reception

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Narendra Modi with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family
Narendra Modi with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family (Photo-ANI)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who arrived in India on 23rd February met Prime minister Narendra Modi at Rashtrapati Bhawan today.

Earlier the Canadian Prime Minister was welcomed with a Guard of Honour at Rashtrapati Bhawan. Several MOUs are expected to be signed between India and Canada. Trudeau also met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in Delhi.

The visiting dignitary and his family have visited Agra, Ahmedabad, Mumbai and Amritsar.

While Modi did not accompany Trudeau to Ahmedabad, a meeting with Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh in Amritsar on Wednesday was organised only at the last moment.

Ties between New Delhi and Ottawa have been frosty of late as Canada was being seen as offering a platform to separatists demanding an independent Khalistan.

On Thursday, fresh storm blew after it came to light that the Canadian High Commission here had extended an invitation to a convicted Khalistan separatist, Jaspa Atwal, for a reception in honour of Trudeau.

The High Commission then rescinded the invitation while the Indian External Affairs Ministry said that it was ascertaining how a visa was issued to Atwal who holds a Canadian passport.

Trudeau later said that the matter was being taken “extremely seriously” and that Atwal should never have received an invitation.

With Inputs From IANS

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