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Telangana polls not with four states if state is not ready: CEC

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OP Rawat

New Delhi, Sep 12 : Assembly elections will not be held in Telangana along with those in four states this year-end if the preparedness of the poll machinery in the southern state is not “statisfactory”, Chief Election Commissioner O.P. Rawat said on Wednesday.

Elections can be held in January or February in Telangana which has time upto March 5, 2019 for constitution of the new Assembly, he said.

“I can’t say. There is a compulsion that it must be held within six months but let me clarify there is no such law. This six months time frame is based on a Supreme Court ruling. The apex court says elections must be held at the first instance after dissolution of a state assembly and should not be delayed more than six months,” Rawat told IANS in an interview.

He was asked about the early possibility of polls in Telangana where the government headed by Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) has dissolved the Assembly and sought early elections.

Pressed further if there was a possibility of the polls in Telangana being held separately from those to be held in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram, he said, “If their (Telangana’s) preparedness is not satisfactory, we will not take a risk (of holding immediate elections).

“But if the state is prepared, there is no reason we can’t hold elections there along with Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram. We can hold polls if Telangana is prepared. But there is a big ‘if’,” he said.

Rawat said that since the Supreme Court wants to hold elections at the earlist or as soon as possible, “we have taken immediate steps” for the conduct of polls.

Asked if it was still a matter of work to be done before the Commission comes to a conclusion on the election schedule in Telangana, the CEC said: “Correct.”

Giving the background of the process of elections in Telangana, he said “since Telangana Assembly has been dissolved, we immediately started preparations for the next assembly polls in the state. We have asked the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Telangana about the level of preparedness. We got his inputs and have sent a team from here.”

The Telangana CEO has said he “is battle ready, but we will wait for the report of our team. We always verify. The Commission always verifies on the ground whatever claim is made about poll preparedness,” the CEC said.

To a question whether the Telangana polls can be clubbed with the polls in the four states, Rawat said, “I can’t say if Telangana can be clubbed with the four states. The other states have been preparing for over two months, whereas Telangana was preparing for the Lok Sabha polls. But how far they are prepared, it will be assessed by the EC team.”

Rawat indicated that if Telangana polls were not held along with those in four states, then it would not be held close to completion of the polls in those states, where elections should be completed by mid-December.

Asked whether in that case polls in Telangana could be pushed to December, he said “it can be in January or February. They have time up to March 5.”

Giving reasons as to why polls cannot be held in close succession, he said: “The tradition has been to not hold elections in a series because the result of one affects the outcomes of others. It is not held in that proximity. One or two months gap is ok. Not 10 days (gap),” he added.

Asked about the controversy regarding the talk of a virtual schedule by Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao after dissolving the Assembly, Rawat said, “This is not acceptable. This is wrong. The sole authority to announce elections is vested with the Election Commission. It is for the poll authority to announce a poll schedule. Nobody else can do it. It is wrong. It is not legal.”

To a query about the Chief Minister’s claim that he had talked to the CEC, he said: “The CM never met us or talked to me.”

It was the chief secretary, who met officials in the Commission and dropped the hint about the dissolution and early polls.

A former Chief Secretary from the state also met officials and dropped the hint. Both were told by EC officials that “we don’t speak on hypothetical situation. The Assembly is still there,” he said.

To queries about lack of updated rolls in Telangana, Rawat said: “There is no point in time when there is no electoral roll. There is always a roll. In Telangana too, we have an electoral roll with reference to January 1, 2018. Only thing is when polls are to be held, the Commission takes the pain of revising the electoral rolls to provide one more opportunity to those people who missed the bus.”

In this connection, he said, the election authorities in the state have been asked to take up the second summary revision of rolls and complete it by October 8 so that the rolls are ready for the polls.

(V.S. Chandrasekar and Mohd Asim Khan can be contacted at [email protected] and [email protected]n)

Analysis

YouTube testing new video recommendation format: Report

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San Francisco, Jan 16 : Google-owned video sharing platform YouTube is testing a new video recommendation format that displays blue bubbles on the screen with relevant keywords and related topic suggestions, facilitating easier browsing, media reported.

“The screenshots obtained show these blue bubbles just underneath the video player showing more specific video recommendations,” The Verge reported on Tuesday.

The video-sharing platform is currently testing the feature with some users on its main desktop page as well as on the mobile app.

For sometime now users have been complaining that the videos recommended on the side on YouTube’s interface often have little to do with the current video, making recommendations a point of contention for the platform.

“It’s unclear if the videos that populate from the new recommendation bubbles will face similar algorithmic issues that YouTube’s recommendation feed currently suffers,” the report added.

There has not been any word from YouTube as of now on the working of these blue bubbles and whether or not they will roll out the test feature to a bigger group in the coming months.

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Analysis

2002 Gujarat riots: Judge P.B. Desai ignored evidence, says activist Harsh Mander

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Harsh Mander

New Delhi, Jan 9 : Special SIT court judge P.B. Desai “ignored evidence” that former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, who was killed in a mob attack in Ahmedabad’s Gulberg Housing Society during the 2002 riots, did all that was possible within his power to protect Muslims from the “rage of the mob” and instead echoed the position of then Chief Minister Narendra Modi that his killing was only a “reaction” to his “action” of shooting at the mob, says human rights activist Harsh Mander.

He says that “the learned judge”, who retired in December 2017, overlooked statements by surviving witnesses that Jafri made repeated desperate calls to senior police officers and other persons in authority, “including allegedly Chief Minister Modi”, pleading that security forces be sent to “disperse the crowd” and rescue those “against whom the mob had laid a powerful siege”.

Mander, who quit the IAS in Gujarat in the wake of the riots, makes these observations in his just released book, “Partitions of the Heart: Unmaking the Idea of India”, published by Penguin.

The 66-year-old activist, who works with survivors of mass violence and hunger as well as homeless persons and street children, goes on to quote the late journalist Kuldip Nayar to establish that Jafri had desperately telephoned him, “begging him to contact someone in authority to send in the police or the Army to rescue them”.

Mander says Nayar rang up the Union Home Ministry to convey to it the seriousness of the situation. The Home Ministry said it was in touch with the state government and was “watching” the situation. Jafri called again, pleading with Nayar to do something as the mob was threatening to lynch him.

In the chapter titled “Whatever happened in Gulberg Society?”, Mander contends that Jafri did everything within his power to protect “those who believed that his influence would shield them from the rage of the mob”. Mander says Jafri begged the mob to “take his life instead” and in a show of valour went out “to plead and negotiate” with the angry crowd.

“When he realised that no one in authority would come in for their protection, he also did pick up his licensed firearm and shoot at the crowd…,” Mander notes, describing it as the “final vain bid” on behalf of Jafri to protect the Muslims in the line of fire.

The author notes that in describing Jafri’s final resort to firing as an illegitimate action, the judge only echoed the position taken repeatedly by Modi, who had given an interview to a newspaper in which he had said that it was Jafri who had first fired at the mob.

“He forgot to say what a citizen is expected to do when a menacing mob, which has already slaughtered many, approaches him and the police has deliberately not responded to his pleas,” says Mander.

He says that it was as if even when under attack and surrounded by an armed mob warning to slaughter them, “and with acid bombs and burning rags flung at them”, a good Muslim victim should do nothing except plead, and this would ensure their safety.

Ehsan Jafri’s wife Zakia Jafri, according to Mander, was firmly convinced that her husband was killed because of a conspiracy that went right to the top of the state administration, beginning with Modi. The author notes that the court, in its judgement running into more than 1,300 pages, disagreed.

“It did indict 11 people for the murder but they were just foot soldiers,” observed Mander.

He further says that the story the survivors told the judge over prolonged hearings was consistent but Judge Desai was convinced that there was “no conspiracy behind the slaughter” and that the administration did all it could to control it.

“Jafri, by the judge’s reckoning, and that of Modi, was responsible for his own slaughter,” he laments.

Mander also argues in the book that recurring episodes of communal violence in Ahmedabad had altered the city’s demography, dividing it into Hindu and Muslim areas and Gulberg was among the last remaining “Muslim” settlements in the “Hindu” section of the city.

He says that Desai also disregarded the evidence in the conversations secretly taped by Tehelka reporters, mentioning that superior courts, according to Desai himself, have ruled that while a person cannot be convicted exclusively based on the evidence collected in such “sting operations”, such evidence is certainly “admissible as corroborative proof”.

“But he chose to disregard this evidence, not because there was proof that these video recordings were in any way doctored or false but simply because the Special Investigative Team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court of India chose to ignore this evidence,” says Mander.

According to Mander, the Tehelka recordings “certainly supported the theory that there was indeed a plan to collect, incite and arm the mob to undertake the gruesome slaughter”.

The SIT was headed by R.K. Raghavan, today Ambassador to Cyprus. Mander contends in the book that just because the investigators did not pursue Tehelka recordings in greater depth, Desai concluded that the “recordings cannot be relied upon as trustworthy of substantial evidence and establish any conspiracy herein”.

In the book, Mander takes stock of whether India has upheld the values it had set out to achieve and offers painful, unsparing insight into the contours of violence. The book is now available both online and in bookstores.

(Saket Suman can be contacted at [email protected])

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Analysis

Number of suicides highest in Army amongst three services

In the Air Force, the number of suspected suicides was 21 in 2017 and 19 in 2016. For the Navy, these numbers were 5 and 6 for 2017 and 2016, respectively.

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Ajit Doval

New Delhi, Jan 7 : The number of defence personnel committing suicide was highest in the Army amongst the three services in the last three years, data shows.

In 2018 alone, as many as 80 Army personnel are believed to have committed suicide. This number is 16 for Air Force and 08 for the Navy, Minister of State (MoS) for Defence Subhash Bhamre told the Rajya Sabha in a written reply on Monday.

In 2017, the number of Army men who are suspected to have committed suicide was 75, while in 2016 this number was 104.

In the Air Force, the number of suspected suicides was 21 in 2017 and 19 in 2016. For the Navy, these numbers were 5 and 6 for 2017 and 2016, respectively.

In his reply, the Minister said that various steps have been taken by the armed forces to create healthy environment for their officers and other ranks.

“Some of the steps include provision of better facilities such as clothing, food, married accommodation, travel facilities, schooling, recreation etc and periodic welfare meetings, promoting yoga and meditation as a tool for stress management, and training and deployment of psychological counsellors,” the reply read.

It said mental health awareness is provided during pre-induction training.

Besides, institutionalisation of projects “MILAP” and “SAHYOG” by the Army in Northern and Eastern Commands to reduce stress among troops has been done.

A helpline has also been established by the Army and the Air Force to provide professional counselling.

IANS

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