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Refrain from farm protest amid corona: Punjab govt

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Amarinder Singh

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday ordered an inquiry into a letter issued by a BDPO regarding the protests by farmers allegedly organised by the state government and his transfer to the headquarters.

The government has not organised any such protest, as claimed by the Block Development and Panchayat Officer (BDPO), said a government spokesperson.

Far from organising any protests by farmers, the government was in fact appealing to all political organisations to refrain from holding public gatherings in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic, he said.

The overzealous BDPO had, on his own, announced a protest dharna on September 21 and issued a letter to ask all Panchayat Secretaries in his block to intimate all sarpanches about it.

He had also wrongly claimed that Ministers and MLAs will join in these protests, said the spokesperson, rejecting any such plans by the state government.

The state had neither planned such protests against the farm ordinances nor asked the BDPO to issue the letter in question, said the spokesperson, adding that the Chief Minister had asked officials to inquire and pin the responsibility on officials for this incorrect communication.


Politics

Facebook must demonstrate neutrality, revamp its SOPs: Congress

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Karnataka, K.C. Venugopal

New Delhi: A day after the resignation of Facebook India’s controversial public policy head Ankhi Das, the Congress on Wednesday welcomed the change in Facebook India’s leadership team.

The Congress also said that the matter will not be resolved by just changing one individual.

“Facebook must demonstrate its neutrality through a thorough revamp of its institutional processes and standard operating procedures (SOPs), so as to ensure foolproof checks and balances that cannot be tinkered by an individual’s whims and political leanings,” said Congress General Secretary (organisation), K.C. Venugopal.

“It must also outline the steps taken to curb false, polarising and hate news/content spread rampantly on its platform, threatening India’s social harmony,” he added.

After American newspaper Wall Street Journal had on August 14 reported substantively on the blatant biases of Facebook India’s team headed by Ankhi Das, the Congress had raised the issue.

The newspaper had reported that Das and her political partisanship towards the ruling party and its leaders, by way of wilful propagation, was spreading spread fake and hate news.

Subsequently, the Congress wrote two formal letters to the CEO of Facebook Inc, Mark Zuckerberg, urging him to look into the matter seriously. Facebook responded to the letter reiterating its neutrality and promising due action.

Facebook India’s controversial public policy head Ankhi Das is leaving the company with immediate effect “to pursue her interest in public service”, the social networking giant announced on Tuesday.

“Ankhi has decided to step down from her role in Facebook to pursue her interest in public service. Ankhi was one of our earliest employees in India and played an instrumental role in the growth of the company and its services over the last nine years,” Ajit Mohan, Vice President and Managing Director, Facebook India, said in a statement.

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Election

Karnataka voter turnout up by 20% in biennial polls

In the 75-member Legislative Council, Congress has 28 members, BJP 27, Janata Dal (Secular) 14, one Independent, one Chairman while four seats are vacant.

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Bengaluru: Seemingly defying the pandemic fears, the voter turnout for the Legislative Council polls to four constituencies on Wednesday registered almost 20 per cent rise compared to 2014.

According to officials, polling began at 8 a.m. and ended at 5 p.m., and was peaceful across the four constituencies.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) had modified the timings due to the pandemic situation from the usual 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. schedule. The counting of votes will take place on November 2.

According to a statement released by the Chief Electoral Officer’s office, the Karnataka North-East Teachers’ (Kalaburagi) constituency recorded a poll percentage of 73.32 per cent, compared to 60.3 per cent recorded in 2014, up by 13 per cent.

The Bangalore Teachers’ constituency registered 66.2 per cent polling, while the figures were 44.9 per cent in 2014, up by 21.3 per cent.

The statement further said that Karnataka South-East Graduates’ (Bengaluru) constituency recorded a poll pecentage of 74.84 per cent compared to 52.25 per cent in 2014, up by 22.59 per cent. Karnataka West Graduates’ (Belagavi) constituency registered 70.17 polling, while the figures were 49.48 per cent in 2014, up by 20.63 per cent.

The elections assume significance for the BJP as it lacks a majority in the Council to pass crucial bills. The ruling BJP could not pass the farm bills and labour reforms amendment bills in the recently held legislative session as it could not get through the Upper House despite getting them passed in the Assembly.

The Council polls were necessitated by after the constituencies fell vacant due to the retirement of R. Chowda Reddy Thoopalli of JD(S), S.V. Sankanur of BJP, Sharanappa Mattur of Congress and Puttanna of JD(S).

As many as 40 candidates are in the fray in these four constituencies. Among them are the four whose retirement on June 30 warranted the elections. There are 2.35 lakh voters in these four constituencies.

Security was beefed up at the polling stations and prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC were also imposed in and around the booths.

The Election Commission had directed the returning officers to ensure that wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing are followed by the staff as well as the voters.

Following the guidelines, arrangements were been made for hand sanitisers and thermal screening at all the booths.

In the 75-member Legislative Council, Congress has 28 members, BJP 27, Janata Dal (Secular) 14, one Independent, one Chairman while four seats are vacant.

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Politics

Rahul Gandhi Exempted From Court Appearance In Defamation Case

Rahul Gandhi is facing the case for calling Amit Shah a “murder accused” at an election rally in Rajasthan before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

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Rahul Gandhi

Ahmedabad: A court in Ahmedabad on Tuesday granted Congress leader Rahul Gandhi a permanent exemption from appearance in a criminal defamation case he is facing over remarks against Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate RB Etaliya allowed Mr Gandhi’s plea seeking exemption, his lawyer said.

The Congress leader is facing the case for calling Mr Shah a “murder accused” at an election rally in Rajasthan before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Mr Gandhi’s lawyer had last September sought permanent exemption from appearance before the court for his client, stating that he was a leader of a national political party and had a busy schedule.

Hearing on the plea was delayed first due to adjournments sought by the lawyer for the complainant, BJP corporator Krishnavadan Brahmbhatt.

When Mr Brahmbhatt’s lawyer SV Raju was appointed Additional Solicitor General of India, and consequently needed permission of the Union Ministry of Law and Justice to appear in the case, it caused further delay.

The order on Mr Gandhi’s plea for permanent exemption from appearance is another criminal defamation case, filed by Ahmedabad District Cooperative Bank and its Chairman Ajay Patel, is also reserved for order by another city court, said Mr Gandhi’s lawyer PS Champaneri.

In the present case, Mr Brahmbhatt has said in his complaint that the slur used by Mr Gandhi was slanderous as Mr Shah was discharged in the Sohrabuddin Shaikh fake encounter case in 2015.

In January 2020, Mr Gandhi appeared before the court and pleaded “not guilty”. He was granted bail.

Ajay Patel’s complaint of defamation is about Mr Gandhi’s claim that the cooperative bank was involved in a “scam” where scrapped currency of ₹ 750 crore was swapped with valid currency within five days of demonetization in 2016.

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