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Congress MPs, MLAs to donate month’s salary to flood-hit Kerala



Randeep Singh Surjewala

New Delhi, Aug 18: The Congress on Saturday demanded that floods in Kerala should be declared a “national calamity.”

All elected representatives of the party would donate one month’s salary towards relief efforts in the state, it said.

The decision to donate salaries was taken at a meeting of Congress general secretaries, party in-charges of states, legislative party leaders and state unit chiefs, which was presided over by party chief Rahul Gandhi.

Gandhi had earlier in the day urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to immediately declare the floods in Kerala as “a national disaster.”

Briefing reporters after meeting of Congress office-bearers, party communications in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala said the Modi government should come forward to help Kerala where over 180 people have died and property worth over Rs 3,000 crore has been damaged due to floods.

“It was decided that all Congress MPs in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, Congress MLAs across India and party MLCs will donate one month’s salary, which will be sent through the AICC for relief measures in Kerala,” Surjewala said.

He said it was also decided that all Congress governments will come forward to help the people of the state.

Surjewala said Punjab government has already donated Rs 10 crore to the Kerala Relief Fund and JD-S and Congress- government in Karnataka has also donated Rs 10 crore to the relief measures. The government in Puducherry has also donated Rs 1 crore.

He said special relief committees will be formed in adjoining states including Karnataka, Tamil Nadu apart from Puducherry. Material collected by Congress workers will be sent to the people of Kerala.

Surjewala said the party also noted with concern the grave situation due to floods in Karnataka and some other parts of the country.

“Modiji should stop discriminating in matters of flood relief. The Prime Minister must rise above party-politics and come forward to help Kerala, Karnataka and other flood-affected states. The Prime Minister should declare Kerala floods as a national calamity,” Surjewala said.

Overflowing rivers and a series of landslides in Kerala have resulted in the death of 180 people as of Saturday morning, with over 3 lakh others forced to move to some hundreds of relief camps.



Opposition to meet before winter session of Parliament, chalk out next move: Naidu



Kolkata, Nov 19 : The much talked about meeting of parties opposed to the BJP to strategise against the saffron party in the next Lok Sabha elections has been postponed and may now be held after the current Assembly elections and before the start of the winter session of Parliament, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu and his West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee said after a meeting between them here.

Claiming that democracy in the country was in danger, Naidu, who is also the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief, said on Monday that there is a “democratic compulsion” for the senior opposition leaders to join hands to protect the nation.

Echoing his views, Banerjee said the meeting of anti-BJP parties would be held after campaigning in the Assembly elections and before the start of the winter session of Parliament.

“The meeting to be held on November 22 has been postponed due to the ongoing election campaign. We want to meet before the next parliamentary session. We are in discussions about it. The date of the meeting will be announced soon,” Naidu told reporters following the meeting at the state secretariat Nabanna here.

“Democracy in the country is in danger. So there is a democratic compulsion for us to join together. It is the responsibility of us, the senior leaders to protect the nation. Those who are opposing BJP will join together, discuss everything and chalk out a programme to go forward,” he said.

Naidu, whose TDP was earlier an ally of the BJP, has met a spectrum of leaders including Congress president Rahul Gandhi, NCP’s Sharad Pawar, DMK’s M.K. Stalin, National Conference’ Farooq Abdullah, former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda and BSP chief Mayawati to forge a front against the ruling party and had proposed a meeting of opposition parties to be held in New Delhi on November 22.

Terming the meeting with Banerjee as successful, Naidu said fighting together has become necessary as all major institutions in the country including the CBI, the Income Tax Department, the RBI are under threat while the nation’s economy is at a standstill.

“We have to protect the institutions… you name any institution, they are under severe pressure and threat. Be it the CBI, Income Tax, RBI every institution is under threat. Even the petrol and diesel prices are increasing, there is inflation, the whole nation’s economy is at a standstill,” he said.

When asked whether the Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, who has refused to be a part of the “mahagatbandhan” if the Congress is included, will be considered as an ally, Naidu said, “All these things, we are going to discuss. We are in touch with Mayawati ji along with everybody else.”

Banerjee, the Trinamool Congress supremo, said she has invited Naidu for her proposed opposition party meeting here in January next year, which was confirmed by the TDP chief.

“We are grateful that he has come here. I invited him also for the January 19 meeting. We are discussing the matters for the country’s interest and earlier, we also discussed so many things. Today, we discussed in detail about the next future plans. When the meeting will be decided, we will discuss the plan of action. We are working and speaking together,” Banerjee said.

Responding to a question regarding who would be the face of the proposed grand alliance of opposition parties, Banerjee said, “Everybody will be the face of this Mahagatbandhan (grand alliance).”

Naidu interjected to say that “all of us are senior to Modi”.

The West Bengal BJP leadership, however, refused to give any importance to the meeting stating that both Banerjee and Naidu are regional leaders and neither have any vote bank in the other’s state.

“Does Naidu have any supporter in Bengal? Or does Banerjee have any vote bank in Andhra Pradesh? Then what is the point of this meeting?” BJP National Secretary Rahul Sinha questioned.

Terming the proposed alliance between opposition leaders like Banerjee and Naidu as an “alliance of thieves”, Sinha said common people know that some corrupt leaders are getting united to save themselves from getting arrested by the CBI.

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India, Vietnam should revive maritime connect : Kovind



Hanoi, Nov 19 : President Ram Nath Kovind on Monday called for reviving maritime connect between India and Vietnam as he exhorted increase in bilateral trade from the current $ 12.8 billion and  more cooperation in the areas of agriculture, pharmaceuticals, textiles and IT.

“There was a flourishing maritime connect in the past. In the last 8 years, we have seen almost four fold increase in bilateral trade, from 3.7 billion US dollars in 2010 to 12.8 US dollars last year. Agriculture has been a key sector of our cooperation involving trade, investment and training,” Kovind said while addressing the Vietnam-India Business Forum here.

“We feel privileged to have supported the Vietnamese agricultural revolution through the establishment of Cuu Long Rice Research Institute,” he said.

Stating that Vietnam is a huge agricultural economy with agro-marine-forestry exports surpassing $35 billion last year, Kovind said that agricultural products already occupy over 45 per cent of India-Vietnam bilateral trade.

“Agro-processing, agro-chemicals, farm machinery, bio-technology and high-tech farming hold immense potential for bilateral cooperation,” he said.

“Indian industry can also learn from Vietnam’s success in crops such as coffee, pepper, cashew, fruits and vegetables.”

The President also said that the Indian pharmaceuticals industry, the third largest in terms of volume and the world’s largest provider of generic drugs, can partner Vietnam in providing quality health-care, medicines and medical devices for the public health system at an affordable cost.

“Indian pharmaceutical companies are also looking at domestic production opportunities in Vietnam,” Kovind said.

He pointed out that both India and Vietnam are leading players in the textile industry.

“We must cooperate further to facilitate integration of value chains,” Kovind said.

He also highlighted significant opportunities between the two sides in the oil and gas, power, infrastructure and renewable energy sectors.

Stating that the Indian IT services, including digital economy and fin-tech sector have much to offer to Vietnamese growth, Kovind said start-up sectors and innovation based industry must be encouraged to leverage each other.

“We must also learn from each other on how to improve productivity; how to approach the Fourth Industrial Revolution; how to promote innovation and entrepreneurship; and not the least, how to leverage technology for governance,” he stated.

Vietnam is a key partner country of India in Southeast Asia and served as New Delhi’s coordinator country with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) regional bloc till July this year

India and Vietnam have set a bilateral trade target of $15 billion by 2020.

Later, Kovind also addressed an Indian community reception during which he invited members of the community to attend next year’s Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, the External Affairs Ministry-organised conclave of the Indian diaspora.

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Rafale controversy won’t dent IAF image: Raghunath Nambiar



Guwahati, Nov 19:  The image of Indian Air Force (IAF) will not be dented due to the controversy regarding the Rafale fighter jets deal, said Air Marshal Raghunath Nambiar, the deputy chief of IAF.

He said this here on Monday while interacting with the media and added that the people can differentiate between chaff and grain.

Nambiar interacted with the media over the proposed visit of President Ram Nath Kovind to present the coveted President’s standard to 118 Helicopter Unit and colours to the Air Defence College at Guwahati Air Force Station on November 29.

“My fellow citizens can differentiate between chaff and grain. The place of armed forces in India is very sacred,” he said.

The opposition Congress has challenged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to participate in a debate over the details of the Rafale fighter jets deal signed with the French government.

Detailing on the IAF’s infrastructure development in the region, Nambiar said that the Force has operationalised six Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs) in Arunachal Pradesh. These facilities will be used by civilians. These ALGs include Mechuka, Tuting, Passighat, Ziro, Aalo and Walong.

“We are yet to operationalise the Vijaynagar ALG, for there is some road connectivity issue. Operationalisation of these ALGs will come as a major boost to tourism.”

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