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None will be stopped from going to Sabarimala: Police chief

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Sabarimala temple

Nilackal (Kerala) Oct 17: Kerala Police chief Loknath Behra on Wednesday said no one will be stopped from going to Sabarimala as the chief priest of the Lord Ayyappa temple announced that women from the royal and tantri families will take part in the prayers.

“There is a very strong police presence in and around Sabarimala,” Behra told the media here as a police force of over 1,000 personnel took position in Nilackal and Pamba — the foothills of the famed Lord Ayyappa temple.

“None would be stopped nor would anyone be allowed to take law into their hands. Sabarimala is safe and anyone can come and pray,” the police chief added.

Activist and tantri family member Rahul Eashwar, who is leading the protest, was called up by Additional Director General of Police Anil Kanth earlier in the day.

Kanth told Eashwar that they should see to it that laws were not broken.

“We told the officer that we are not here to create any issues. All that we are doing is sit and pray. Senior members, including women from the royal and tantri families will be taking part in our prayer sessions, which will start very soon at Nilackal,” said Eashwar.

Wednesday, is going to be a crucial day for the temple, as at 5 p.m, the doors of the temple would be opened for the monthly pujas which would end on October 22.

This is the first time that the temple would be opening after the Supreme Court’s September 28 verdict allowing women in the 10-50 age group to enter the famed temple.

Barring the ruling Left government-led by Pinarayi Vijayan, the Congress, BJP and numerous Hindu organisations are on a war path warning of strong protests if any temple traditions were broken.

Early on Wednesday, police officers chased away a group of protesters who were holding fort at Nilackal and were stopping and checking vehicles, for any women in the age group between 10 and 50.

Inspector General of Police Manoj Abraham, who is in charge of security, told the media at Nilackal that the police is fully geared to face any eventualities.

“By now itself we have registered three cases and seven people have been arrested. We are unable to say if there would be any issues… None will be stopped anywhere and those who want to come can come,” said Abraham.

Those who are opposed to breaking the century old traditions of the temple include the Pandalam Royal family, the tantri family of Sabarimala temple and numerous Hindu organisations.

The custodian of the temple is the Travancore Devasom Board (TDB), which is presently led by senior CPI-M leader A.Padmakumar.

Former Congress legislator and previous TDB president Prayar Gopalakrishnan said that this temple is adored by lakhs of devotees around the world and it was not protest that they were doing.

“Instead we are showing extreme patience to see that the traditions of the temple is protected. We, the believers, are attached to no political parties and our only concern is that traditions should be protected and I will go to any extent, even laying down my life for it,” said Gopalakrishnan.

Earlier, the protesters stopped two women state government health officials who had come to take part in a routine meeting at the temple.

The women both medical doctors were allowed to go in only after they showed proof that they were above age 50.

Protesters also shooed away a few women police constables who were trying to go to areas of the temple town, which are out of bounds for women in the age group 10 to 50.

CPI-M legislator Raju Abraham under whose constituency the Sabarimala temple comes said that all wish and want there should be nothing that disturbs the peace of the temple town.

Firebrand senior BJP women leader Shoba Surendran said it was Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s ploy to post Abraham here.

“We warn the officials that they should not try to create problems and we express our strong resentment in the way our people who are protecting the rights of the temple was chased away by the police. We women will not sit idle,” said Surendran to the media at Nilackal.

Six time independent legislator P.C.George, under whose constituency Poonjar lies, which is nearby to the temple town said that he will see that no traditions of the temple is broken.

IANS

India

Opposition requests President to return farm Bills for reconsideration

After the meeting senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said, “the govt did not have the numbers and our request for division was ignored and even the resolution against the Bill was not allowed”

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Ram Nath Kovind

Opposition leaders met President Kovind on Wednesday and apprised him of the circumstances amid which the Farm Bills were passed in the Rajya Sabha on Sunday. They requested him to return the Bills for reconsideration to the House.

After the meeting Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said, “the government did not have the numbers and our request for division was ignored and even the resolution against the Bill was not allowed.”

The opposition said that the government ignored the demand for sending the Bills to a select committee.

Ahead of this meeting, the Congress and other opposition parties continued to protest in the Parliament complex here on Wednesday.

The protesting lawmakers marched from Gandhi’s statue in the complex to BR Ambedkar’s statue within the premises to register their protest while carrying placards.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh tweeted: “All MPs of the Congress and like-minded parties are marching from the Gandhi statue to the Ambedkar statue in Parliament to protest against anti-farmers and anti-workers Bills rubber stamped in Parliament in the most undemocratic manner by the Modi government.”

Earlier, the opposition leaders met in the chamber of Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad and decided to continue their protest over the Farm Bills.

The opposition and the government are at loggerheads ever since the two farm Bills were passed amid a ruckus in the Upper House on Sunday. The third contentious Bill on essential commodities was passed by the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.

On Sunday, pandemonium broke out in the Upper House as the opposition protested over the two Farm Bills. Trinamool MP Derek O’Brien even approached the Chair and tried to snatch a mike while citing the rule book.

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Navy’s capabilities hit by PSUs’ lack of expertise, delays: CAG

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MiG 29K Indian Airforce

New Delhi, Sep 23 : The Indian Navy does not have adequate auxiliary vessels, landing platform docks, fleet tankers and cadet training ships, government’s financial watchdog, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) said on Wednesday.

It also said that the navy is facing problems due to inordinate delays in the acquisition process and lack of expertise of defence public sector undertakings (PSUs).

The CAG’s audit report on Defence Services, Navy and Coast Guard was tabled in Parliament on Wednesday.

In its performance audit on efficacy of auxiliary vessels — vessels designed to operate in support of combatant ships and other naval operations — in the Indian Navy, the government auditor stated that their strength was not increasing commensurately with the increase in the combat fleet.

“In fact, it was declining,” it said.

The planned targets for acquisition of auxiliary vessels could not be achieved due to inordinate delays in acquisition process, specifically, non-adherence to the prescribed timelines in conclusion of contracts, it said, pointing out that this was principally on account of lack of expertise of defence PSUs and non-assessment of capability of shipyards.

On assessment of landing platform dock (LPD), CAG stated that the existing capability of the LPD, which is used to transport troops, defence equipment, helicopters and vessels into a war zone, was found to be inadequate to meet requirements of amphibious and expeditionary operations.

The Indian Navy had decided to acquire this vital warfare ship in October 2010 at a cost of Rs 16,000 crore.

However, even after nine years, the contract has not been concluded.

“This was due to failure to fix a specified time frame for obtaining a Corporate Debt Restructuring exit certificate by one of the participating firms,” the report stated.

On fleet tankers, the CAG stated that due to the inadequate availability of fleet tankers, the Indian Navy was thus forced to hire ships from trade and these vessels are used for providing fuel, water, ammunition and stores to the fleet at sea.

The approval for acquisition of fleet tankers to a force level at a cost of Rs 9,045 crore was accorded in 2014. However, the contract was yet to be concluded till August 2019.

The CAG also stated that Indian Navy did not possess enough cadet training ships, and “therefore, converted normal fleet ships to training ships” but the “converted vessels, however, experienced severe limitations in operations”.

The contracts concluded (June 2011 and November 2012) for acquisition of three cadet training ships did not fructify and bank guarantees worth Rs 324.73 crore were yet to be encashed.

The audit also observed that there was loss due to irregular stepping-up of pay of sailors.

System-driven mass stepping-up of pay of 21,089 sailors was carried out by the Naval Pay Office between 2009 and 2011 by misinterpreting the rules and side-lining the relevant pre-audit checks.

“The wrong stepping-up of pay which was reverted in 2017 led to overpayment of at least Rs 22.70 crore. Incorrect fixation of pay and pension is not yet completely rectified,” it said.

It also stated that simulator and training aids were procured at a cost of Rs 120.66 crore in July 2015, and certain defects were noticed in the training aids but these were not rectified.

The training aids, therefore, could not be commissioned. Training was, therefore, imparted to pilots directly on Hawk Advanced Jet Trainers in live sortie flying mode, it said.

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CAG picks holes in Railway’s elaborate plans for Kumbh Mela

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Prayagraj, Kumbh 2019

New Delhi, Sep 23 : The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India on Wednesday pointed out various shortcomings in Railways’ elaborate plans to control rail traffic during the Kumbh Mela in 2019.

In the report tabled in both Parliament, the government auditor slammed the railways for failing to address issues such as running of special trains, works related to passenger amenities and safety, medical facilities to passengers, and waste management at station premises during the massive religious gathering.

It said that this led to inconvenience to passengers, who were not adequately addressed by the railways.

“Temporary fencing at vulnerable locations (track and station entry point) were not completed. This led to cases of free movement of cattle on tracks and passengers trespassing. Audit noted that the Railway estimated (September 2018) an evacuation of 33 lakh passengers, which was subsequently revised (December 2018) to 45.48 lakh. Railways initiated a figure of 73.66 lakh evacuation of passengers during Mela period,” it said.

It also noted that the Railways planned 821 special trains, but ran only 565.

“A significantly higher number of passengers, with fewer special trains resulted in large overcrowding of trains and caused much inconvenience to passengers,” it said.

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