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No passenger trains during ‘janata curfew’ on Sunday

The decision was taken by the Railway Board after a meeting with General Managers of zonal railways to contain the spread of novel coronavirus in India.

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New Delhi, March 20: In the wake of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s appeal for a ‘janata curfew’ on Sunday amid the novel coronavirus scare, the Indian Railways said on Friday that all passenger trains will remain cancelled during the period.

All long-distance mail or express and intercity trains originating between 4 am and 10 pm on March 22 will also remain cancelled.

A circular addressed to all zonal railways said: “Keeping in view the fact that the demand for rail travel will be vastly reduced during the janata curfew between 7 am and 9 pm on Sunday, zonal railways are hereby advised to regulate services. All passenger trains originating between March 21-22 midnight to 10 pm on March 22 shall not run. However, passenger train already on the go at 7 am on that day will be allowed to reach their destinations.”

The decision was taken by the Railway Board after a meeting with General Managers of zonal railways to contain the spread of novel coronavirus in India.

On Friday, 25 fresh cases were recorded in India, taking the total affected persons to 223. At least four persons have died, with one death each in Punjab, Maharashtra, Delhi and Karnataka.

The circular said that railway divisions should keep a watch and empty trains could be terminated short of their final destinations, if required.

The railways said that approximately 1,300 mail or express trains will remain cancelled on March 22.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday urged people to opt for a ‘janata curfew’ on Sunday from 7 am to 9 pm.

The railways said that suburban services in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, and Secundrabad shall be reduced to bare minimum only to cater to essential travel requirements.

The zonal railways authorities, as per the assessment of local conditions and requirements, will decide on the number of services.

Passengers alighting en route from trains already on way to their final destinations, and desirous of staying at those stations may be accommodated in waiting halls and rooms and concourse without overcrowding.

“Drinking water and refreshments (on payment) shall be arranged for to cater to the needs of such passengers,” the circular said.

The circular asked zonal authorities to keep a close watch on the situation at major railway stations and press into service special trains wherever needed to clear the rush of passengers.

The railways has till now cancelled over 245 pairs of trains amid the coronavirus crisis across the country.

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India at Afghan crossroads as Taliban cocks its guns

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India Army on Desert

New Delhi, July 3 : With Chinese bellicosity reverberating across the world, South Asia is bracing for another jolt — the epicentre of which is neighbouring Afghanistan. The tremors from Kabul will pass through Islamabad and hit Delhi, yet their intensity is not known. To what extent is India prepared is a question mark.

It all began on February 29, when the US signed a deal with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, to withdraw its forces from the war-torn country after almost 19 long years. Strangely it chose to leave out the elected Afghan government from a deal that impacts the future of Afghans.

The peace deal between the US and Taliban, remains a misnomer. Contrary to the spirit of the deal, the Taliban has increased attacks and the violence has engulfed the landlocked country – right from the maternity ward of a hospital in Kabul, to a gurdwara in prayers; from a funeral site in Nangarhar to a court in Paktia. And, not to mention dozens of Afghan security check-points where many hundreds of security personnel have died.

On its part, the Afghan government is implementing various provisions of the deal, like the release of Taliban prisoners, and President Ashraf Ghani has committed to join the intra-Afghan talks in Doha.

Doha is where the Taliban maintains its political office, and where the US-Taliban deal had been negotiated this February. The US Special Representative for Peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad has been chasing diverse parties including Pakistan for the intra-Afghan talks, reducing violence and release of prisoners. In his recent talks with Afghan leaders, Khalilzad reinforced that peace in Afghanistan is equivalent to peace in the region and the US is ready to invest in this sphere.

However, going by the high levels of violence inflicted by the Taliban the future looks bleak for the nation. It is not difficult to understand why the Taliban has stepped up its deadly attacks across the country – it is looking forward to an American withdrawal to enable a complete takeover of the country. The World Human Rights Watch Report has said that the Taliban”s widespread human rights abuses in areas under its control raise concerns about its willingness to adhere to future agreements.

Besides the two key nations — the US and Afghanistan, there always has been a high-stakes player — Pakistan, with its behind-the-scenes shelter and support to terror groups. In its efforts to control a resource-rich but unstable neighbour, it has played a pivotal role in keeping Afghanistan on the tenterhooks and vulnerable to attacks through battle-hardened terror groups. It has also put in considerable efforts to keep India at bay.

Indian intervention in Afghanistan has been diametrically opposite Pakistan”s — it has pumped in $2 billion aid and assistance for the Afghan people to rebuild the war-ravaged country and promote democracy. India has built dams, power stations, roads, hospitals and trained Afghan people in various aspects of administration and security.

With unprecedented developments happening in Afghanistan, many including Khalilzad are urging India to talk to Taliban. This is a view which even Zamir Kabulov, Russia”s special presidential envoy for Afghanistan, holds. The million dollar question is — how does India view the Taliban, which India has kept at an arm”s length for close to two decades now.

India still looks at Afghanistan as a democratic country that elects a people”s government, while the Taliban is still viewed as a terror group, power hungry and a Pakistani stooge. Indian thinking is still governed by the good old-fashioned theory of an ideal Afghanistan where all tribes come together to hold elections, where terror groups drop their arms and the Afghans climb up the development charts with roads, dams, schools and hospitals with Indian support.

With unbelievable violence engulfing Afghanistan, this looks like an impossible reality. An Indian pipe dream. But what is still possible amidst these impossibilities is that India opens up a window to talk with the Taliban.

The Taliban has made reconciliatory gestures towards India which have been surprising. It has already said that the revocation of Article 370 in Kashmir was an internal matter of India. And, it has said a couple of times that it is open to talks with India. In fact, even the Afghan government has indicated that India should join the intra-Afghan talks as the country has always been supportive of peace in Afghanistan. It wants India to drop its opposition to the Taliban and lend strength to the peace process.

While calls for India”s role in the peace process echo from all sides, the only opposition has come from arch enemy Pakistan, which is still busy playing its ”running with the hare and hunting with the hounds” game. Even as it poses with the US as an ally in the Afghan peace process, it has been sheltering and training various terror groups in attacking both Afghan and Indian interests.

However, the good news for India is that the terror groups are mutating in the Afghan battlefield. While the Taliban is warming up to India, the formidable terror group, Haqqani Network, shares Pakistan”s line of thinking.

The fast-paced developments in Afghanistan have left the field wide open for India to drop its nonchalance and join the talks, paving the way for a bigger Indian role once the US completely withdraws from the region. As the various players in the Afghanistan theatre know, India”s stand at the talks will only be from a point of peace and from a perspective of the Afghan people.

We know that there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies in international relations. People evolve, entities change but peace still remains a goal worth pursuing. India has pursued that goal for millions of Afghan people for long. It should not give up now.

By : Rahul Kumar

(This content is being carried under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)

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After Priyanka Eviction, Govt Clarifies that Advani-Joshi allotted bungalows on security grounds

Advani and Joshi have got government accommodation on the instructions of the Ministry of Home Affairs on the basis of threat perception. Both of them also have Z-plus security.

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LK Advani Manohar Joshi

New Delhi, July 3 : The ruling party and the opposition have been at loggerheads ever since the central government ordered Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to vacate the government bungalow allotted to her in New Delhi. The Congress is accusing the government of adopting double standards with regard to the Gandhi family. In such a situation, the government has issued a clarification.

The government said that on the basis of the Public Premises Amendment Bill 2019, Priyanka has been ordered to vacate the government bungalow. This amended law came into force in September 2019.

It has also been said by the government that accommodation is provided for a specified period to those who are in public service. According to this rule, government accommodation cannot be allotted on the basis of security other than to those who are SPG protected. Priyanka had been getting SPG protection since 1997, so she was allotted government accommodation. But now she is not getting SPG protection.

On giving government accommodation to senior BJP leaders Lal Krishna Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, the Centre has said that the Cabinet Committee on Accommodation has decided to give Advani and Joshi government accommodation as an exception based on security threat perception. Based on this rule, Advani can live in a government bungalow for his lifetime, while Joshi is entitled to a government bungalow till June 25, 2022.

Advani and Joshi have got government accommodation on the instructions of the Ministry of Home Affairs on the basis of threat perception. Both of them also have Z-plus security.

The Urban Housing Ministry has asked Priyanka to vacate the Lodhi Road government bungalow within a month or by August 1. Besides, she has also been asked to pay the outstanding rent of Rs 3.46 lakh for the bungalow. The Ministry has said in the notice that due to withdrawal of SPG security, she cannot live in a government bungalow now as per the rule.

In an official release, the Ministry has said that if she does not vacate the bungalow in a month, she will have to pay a fine.

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Rahul Gandhi on Kanpur firing: Another proof of hooliganism in Uttar Pradesh

A massive search operation has been launched to nab Vikas Dubey. The police are also using electronic surveillance. The police have recovered cartridges of AK-47 from the site of the incident.

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Rahul Gandhi

New Delhi, July 3 : Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday raised questions about the safety of the common people in Uttar Pradesh after eight policemen were shot dead in Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur district.

“Another proof of hooliganism in Uttar Pradesh. When the police are not safe, how will the public be?” Rahul Gandhi said, quoting a news report.

He also extended his heartfelt condolences to the families of the deceased police personnel and wished a speedy recovery to those injured.

Eight police personnel, including a circle officer, were shot dead and six policemen seriously injured when a local criminal Vikas Dubey and his gang sprayed them with bullets in Kanpur.

Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has expressed grief over the incident and offered his condolences to the families of the deceased.

A massive search operation has been launched to nab Vikas Dubey. The police are also using electronic surveillance. The police have recovered cartridges of AK-47 from the site of the incident.

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