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Dismiss Asthana plea seeking to quash FIR, CBI urges court

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Rakesh Asthana

New Delhi, Nov 1: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday urged the Delhi High Court to dismiss Special Director Rakesh Asthana’s plea seeking quashing of an FIR in a corruption case.

The CBI told Justice Najmi Waziri that a new investigating team took charge of the case recently and the agency is in the process of analysing the material and documents.

“Therefore, CBI seeks leave of this court to file a detailed affidavit in opposition at a later stage,” the CBI said.

The court extended its interim order to maintain status quo and interim relief from arrest granted to Asthana till November 14, the next date fixed for hearing.

The court’s direction came on Asthana’s plea seeking extension of the status quo order and to issue direction to the CBI not to take coercive steps against him.

The court was hearing the pleas of Asthana and suspended Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Devender Kumar seeking quashing of FIRs.

The central agency has also opposed Kumar’s plea.

The agency told the high court that the probe was going on with an “objective satisfaction” under the supervision of senior-level officers and at this stage, it cannot be challenged about the applicability of the sections mentioned in the FIR.

Last week, the CBI had arrested Kumar for allegedly forging documents in the bribery charge case against Asthana.

Kumar got bail on Wednesday by a trial court.

Meat exporter Moin Qureshi, who is facing multiple cases of money laundering and corruption, had paid a bribe to get a case against him settled, the agency said.

According to the CBI, Kumar fabricated the statement of Sana Sathish Babu, a witness in the Qureshi case, showing he recorded the statement on September 26 in Delhi. However, investigation revealed that Sana was not in Delhi on that day. He was in Hyderabad and joined the investigation only on October 1.

Asthana, a 1984-batch Indian Police Service (IPS) officer of the Gujarat cadre, is accused of accepting a bribe of Rs 2 crore from a businessman who was being investigated in the Qureshi case in order to “wreck” the investigation. The case was being examined by a special investigation team (SIT) headed by Asthana.

Kumar’s arrest came a day after the CBI registered an FIR against Asthana, Kumar and two others. The CBI has alleged that bribes were taken at least five times between December 2017 and October 2018.

In a dramatic post-midnight action, the government on October 24 divested CBI chief Alok Verma of his charge and made Joint Director M. Nageshwar Rao the interim Director. Asthana was also divested of all his supervisory responsibilities.

The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) took the decision after Verma and Asthana accused each other of taking bribes.

IANS

India

Airlines allowed to deploy up to 80% capacity in domestic sector

Passenger air services were suspended on March 25 due to the nationwide lockdown to check the spread of Covid-19, and domestic flights resumed in a phased manner from May 25.

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Preparing for Landing

New Delhi: The Centre has allowed domestic airlines to deploy up to 80 per cent of their pre-Covid flight capacity from an earlier 70 per cent, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Thursday.

In a tweet, Puri said: “Domestic operations recommenced with 30K passengers on 25 May & have now touched a high of 2.52 lakhs on 30 Nov 2020.”

“@MoCA_GoIa is now allowing domestic carriers to increase their operations from existing 70 per cent to 80 per cent of pre-Covid approved capacity.”

Last month, the Centre had allowed domestic airlines to deploy up to 70 per cent of their flight capacity, up from 60 per cent capacity utilisation in the domestic sector allowed with effect from September 2.

In June, the capacity was raised to 45 per cent from an initial 33 per cent.

Passenger air services were suspended on March 25 due to the nationwide lockdown to check the spread of Covid-19, and domestic flights resumed in a phased manner from May 25.

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Bengal government to provide tabs to 9.5 lakh students to facilitate online education

There are around 36,000 government and government-aided secondary schools, around 14,000 higher secondary schools and 636 madrasahs in the state.

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Mamata Banerjee

The state government will provide tabs to around 9.5 lakh students in government schools and government aided schools, chief minister Mamata Banerjee announced on Thursday.

“Because of the pandemic students are suffering. We will provide tabs to 9.5 lakh students studying in class 12 in government schools, government-aided schools and madrasahs. Computers would also be also provided to every secondary school to facilitate online education during pandemic,” Banerjee said at the state secretariat.

There are around 36,000 government and government-aided secondary schools, around 14,000 higher secondary schools and 636 madrasahs in the state.

“Many students are not being able to follow the online classes. The tabs would help the students even when they are pursuing their graduation,” said Banerjee.

With an eye on the crucial 2021 Bengal assembly elections, the chief minister also announced 3% dearness allowance for 10 lakh state government employees from January 1, 2021. This would cost the state exchequer Rs 2200 crore.

Speaking in another program during the day Banerjee said that Information Technology (IT) firms in West Bengal have registered 133% growth in the last eight years and IT exports have gone up by 175%.

“Many more investments are coming. On December 1, we cleared 20 proposals of setting up IT offices at Bengal Silicon Valley Hub with a proposed investment of Rs 3000 crore. They would directly employ 9000 IT professionals,” Banerjee said at a program

At present over 1500 IT companies, including Tata Consultancy Services, Wipro, Infosys, Cognizant and IBM among others, have their offices in West Bengal. The state has around 2.1 lakh IT professionals.

The chief minister while listing out a series of expansion plans of some of the top IT firms in the state said that while Nxtra Data of Bharti Airtel has come up with a proposal of Rs 350 crores, Wipro has an expansion plan worth Rs 500 crores in the state.

“Tata Consultancy Services is expected to increase their employment from the present 44,000 to around 61,000. Very soon their operation in West Bengal would be larger than their Bengaluru operation,” she said.

The chief minister added that while Cognizant Technology Solutions is also expected to expand further, ITC Infotech has almost completed their project in New Town and will employ around 3000 IT professionals there.

IT services giant Infosys will start construction of a proposed software development centre in the state by July 2021. They have been allotted 50 acres of land.

“Our youth will not have to roam in other states and across the world looking for jobs. They can work here,” Banerjee said.

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Farmers try to force their way into Delhi at Ghazipur border, stopped

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Delhi UP Ghazipur Border

New Delhi: Agitated farmers on Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border near Ghazipur on Thursday failed in their attempt to enter the national capital by breaking the barricades after the police pacified the situation.

“If a decision is not taken in 24 hours, we will break all the barricades at different locations and enter Delhi,” Pawan Khatana, Bharat Kisan Union’s Delhi-NCR President, told IANS after attempting to break the barricades.

Thousands of farmers protesting against the Central farm laws have laid siege at Ghazipur border and on the Delhi-Meerut Expressway in a bid to enter the national capital. The crowd swelled after around 100 tractors reached the protest site at noon.

The border points in the area continue to remain under heavy police cover with multilayered barricades in place.

In the morning, when the farmers had blocked the expressway, Gayendra Singh, SP (City), Ghaziabad, had said that the police were hopeful that the blockade will end soon on the key road leading to Delhi.

All eyes are now on the ongoing fourth round of talks between the farmers’ unions and the Centre. The third round talks had failed to break the deadlock on Tuesday.

The farmers have been sitting on protest for the last eight days at Delhi-Haryana and Delhi-Uttar Pradesh borders. Thousands of farmers have been camping at the Singhu border, while several other groups have blocked entry at the Delhi-Haryana border in Tikri, the Delhi-UP border in Ghazipur and the Delhi-UP border in Chilla.

The farmers are demanding that the three farm laws passed by the Parliament in September be repealed, expressing apprehension that they would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price (MSP) system, leaving them at the mercy of the big corporates.

The government has, however, maintained that the laws will provide farmers with better opportunities. It has also accused the opposition parties of “misleading” the farmers.

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