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Nation in dark on Naga settlement: Sonia



New Delhi/Kohima, Feb 19 : Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Friday accused the government of keeping the nation in the dark on the contents, nature and status of the peace dialogue with the National Socialist Council of Nagalim-Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM) faction.

“We are not privy to the contents of the Naga peace accord and we cannot give a blank cheque of support as of now,” Gandhi told the Parliamentary Working Committee of the Joint Legislators’ Forum (JLF) from Nagaland in New Delhi.

The delegation was led by Nagaland assembly Speaker Chotisuh Sazo. He was accompanied by Chief Minister T.R. Zeliang, Lok Sabha member Neiphiu Rio and a host of Nagaland legislators.

At the meeting, Gandhi promised the Naga parliamentarians of her party’s support for the Naga peace accord “if the contents of the agreement were in the interest of the Nagas, the Northeast and the nation”.

“We are not privy to the contents of the Naga peace accord and we cannot give a blank cheque of support,” an official statement issued by the Nagaland Chief Minister’s Office quoted her as saying.

“But when the government reveals the contents for discussion in parliament, and if it is in the interest of the Nagas, the Northeast and the nation, my party will surely support it,” Gandhi said.

However, she expressed solidarity with the Naga people for the need to find an amicable, honourable and permanent peace in the state.

The delegation explained to the Congress chief about the formation of the JLF comprising leaders of all political parties in the state, mainly to project a common voice of the representatives of the people of Nagaland on the urgency to solve the protracted Naga problem.

“The merger of the Congress legislators with the NPF was solely for the purpose of finding an early solution to the Naga political problem and not because of any other exigency,” the delegation said.

The delegation members later left for Kolkata to meet leaders of West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress.

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Delhi tree-felling: NGT to hear case on July 27




New Delhi, July 19: Continuing the hearing in an NGO’s plea that environmental clearance had been granted for felling of trees to re-develop seven residential colonies of Delhi without taking into account possible adverse effect on the ecology, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Thursday, has given more time to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest and several other bodies, like CPWD, traffic police, CPWD, DPCC, NDMC, DJB, SDMC, AIIMS, DDA, to file their replies.

Meanwhile, the NGT has ordered that status quo be maintained on tree-felling. The next date of hearing has been fixed as July 27.

NGT had issued notices to Municipality of Delhi, Central Pollution Control Board, Delhi Pollution Control Committee, COF, Delhi Police, New Delhi Municipal Corporation, Delhi Development Authority, South Delhi Municipal Corporation, Central Public Works Department and NBCC (India) Limited in the case.

But, none of the respondents in the case except NBCC, CPC, and Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) have replied in the case.

Today, the court has granted one week’s time for other parties to file their replies and fixed the next date of hearing for July 27.

Earlier this month, the Delhi High Court, in its interim order, had banned felling of trees in the city till further orders. The Court said, “East Kidwai Nagar will be demolished if need be, as it seems to be haphazard and doesn’t consider density and impact on neighbouring hospitals too.”

The petitions have been filed by NGOs Chetna and Green Circle against cutting of 16,500 trees which are likely to get chopped if the construction goes through.


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Odisha to witness heavy rainfall in next 24 hours



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Bhubaneswar, July 19: Heavy rainfall in several coastal districts of Odisha in the next 24 hours is likely due to a low-pressure area formed over the north Bay of Bengal, an official said on Thursday.

Regional Meteorological Centre Director H.R. Biswas said that Puri, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Cuttack, Khurda, Ganjam and Bhadrak districts will witness a downpour.

Due to the low pressure, rainfall is also likely to increase from July 20 in coastal and interior Odisha.

Meanwhile, an average of 3.4 mm rainfall was recorded in the last 24 hours in Odisha.


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Bihar: People killing thousands of frogs to appease rain gods

Farmers in drought-prone Magadh region comprising five districts — Gaya, Jehanabad, Aurangabad, Nawada and Arwal — in southern Bihar, are killing thousands of frogs to appease the rain Gods.



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Patna, July 19: Blind faith and superstition have taken over parts of Bihar as people sacrifice thousands of frogs to appease rain Gods in the state that has seen a 42 per cent deficit in rainfall this monsoon.

Farmers in drought-prone Magadh region comprising five districts — Gaya, Jehanabad, Aurangabad, Nawada and Arwal — in southern Bihar, are killing thousands of frogs to appease the rain Gods.

A group of farmers in Chiriyawan village under Atari block in Gaya crushed to death dozens of frogs to follow a ritual called “Beng Kutni”(crushing frogs). Similar rituals were also taking place at other villages.

With the Met predicting the dry spell to continue, farmers are worried and frustrated. They have turned to Gods. Most of them are praying, some have even giving in to old blind faith and superstition.

Baliram Singh, a villager of Chiriyawan said as per an age-old ritual, a group of women are supposed to dig a makeshift water body and fill it up with water brought from all the wells in the village. Then they are to catch dozens of live frogs from nearby bush and wetland and put them in the freshly dug water body and then hit them with bomboo sticks.

Taking the ritual further, they then prepare a garland of dead frogs and put it on a man from the village. The man in his turn has to hurl abuse. More the abuse more chances of rain.

This practice is also prevalent in East and West Champaran districts bordering Nepal. The farmers in Mithilanchal region comprising Darbhanga, Madhubani and Sitamarhi districts are also praying and performing different rituals for rains.

Mahender Yadav, who has been working with small and marginal farmers in the flood prone Koshi region of Saharsa, Supaul, Madhepura districts, said farmers even wed the frogs.

Of Bihar’s 37 districts, 22 have received 60 per cent less rainfall. Only six districts recorded normal rainfall. There are high deficits of 87 per cent in Vaishali, 82 per cent in Bhojpur and 72 per cent in Arwal.

Contrary to the India Meteorological Department (IMD) forecast of near normal monsoon rains in 2018 in Bihar, the state has so far recorded a deficit of nearly 42 per cent in rainfall.

It has received 203.2 mm of rainfall as against the normal average of 353.2 mm between June 1 to July 16, said Met official Sandip Kumar.

There is widespread fear of drought-like situation among millions of farmers who have faced similar situation thrice in the last seven years.

Poor monsoon has affected paddy farming which is in its peak season. Cultivation of paddy crop is water intensive.

Monsoon normally hits the state between June 12 and 14. But it was delayed by 12 to 14 days in 2018.


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