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Right-wing activists gather in Ayodhya, high security in temple town, at Ram Janmabhoomi site

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Ayodhya

Ayodhya | The streets of Ayodhya are filled with right-wing activists who have poured in from various parts of the county for a VHP grand event on Sunday to push for construction of a Ram Temple here, even as security has been heightened in the temple town to maintain law and order.

Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s ‘Dharma Sabha’ is being touted as the largest congregation of ‘Ram bhakts’ in Ayodhya since the 1992 ‘kar seva’, with the Hindu outfit claiming a large number of people will attend it.

The congregation is happening less than two weeks ahead of the 26th anniversary of the demolition of the 16th century Babri Mosque, that had triggered unrest in this pilgirm town and riots in other parts of India.

The spectre of 1992 still haunts many people of both the communities who had directly or indirectly suffered in the violence that had erupted after the Mughal-era mosque was razed by a frenzied army of ‘kar sewaks’ (right-wing activists) on the fateful day of December 6.

The VHP has claimed that three lakh people, including seers, will attend its ‘Dharma Sabha’ to be held at Bade Bhakt Mal Ki Baghia, not far from the controversial Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas-run workshop, where work for building a temple has been underway since 1990.

An uneasy calm prevailed in Muslim-dominated areas like Dharam Kanta, and the mega event has triggered some apprehension over the safety of the town’s Muslim community.

Meanwhile, a senior police official said security has been stepped up in Ayodhya, in view of the VHP event and the presence of a large number of Shiv Sainiks in town. “We are prepared to meet all challenges, all arrangements are in place in the town, the district and its border area to avoid any untoward incident. We are keeping a tight vigil and security around Ram Janmabhoomi site has also been stepped up,” the senior official told PTI.

Chants of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ rent the air in the streets and around Saryu River, where the Yogi Adityanath government has also planned to install a 151-m statue of Lord Ram.

Mahant Dharamdas, a prominent seer in Ayodhya said: “The Supreme Court should heed to the sentiments of these people who have arrived in Ayodhaya today, with a pious belief that a Ram temple will be built soon.”

Security was also beefed up at Lakshman Qila on Saturday where Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray was welcomed after his arrival in Ayodhya. The Sena claimed to have brought several thousand supporters to Ayodhya for Thackeray’s events.

Arriving here ahead of Sunday’s VHP rally for a Ram temple, Thackeray asked the Narendra Modi government to wake up from a “Kumbhakarna-like slumber” and declare the date for its construction. “There is no political motive behind my visit to Ayodhya,” he claimed.

The Sena chief was greeted with slogans of “Jai Shri Ram” when he arrived in Ayodhya with his wife Rashmi and son Aditya. Mahant Nrityagopal Das, the chairman of the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, was among those who welcomed Thackeray at Lakshman Qila, where the Sena leader made the remarks. A drone monitored the event.

The streets of Ayodhya are awash with saffron colour as flag-bearing activists camped at ‘akharas’ moved around in various parts of the city, and held informal gathering. But, many in Ayodhya are miffed over these events, which seek to whip up communal frenzy.

Aman Kumar, a stone craftsmen when asked about the current situation surrounding the controversial temple issue, said: “People of Ayodhya, of all communities, have always lived in peace. It is outsiders and politicians with agenda, who come to our town and vitiate the atmosphere.”

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Government presented weak side on dance bars in Suprme Court due to nexus: NCP

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Supreme Court

Mumbai | The NCP on Thursday accused the Maharashtra government of presenting a weak side before the Supreme Court on the dance bar ban due to its alleged nexus with the association of bar owners.

It also demanded that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis takes immediate legal steps to ensure that dance bars do not start operating in the state once again. “The government presented a weak side before the Supreme Court in the case due to the nexus between the government and association of dance bar owners. Because of
this nexus, the present situation has emerged,” NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said.

Leader of the Opposition in the State Legislative Council Dhananjay Munde seconded Malik. “The government has once again fallen short in presenting its side on dance bar ban before the court. Concerned about effects of the decision in future. The government should immediately take legal steps to see dance bars do not start operating again,” Munde said on Twitter, tagging the Chief Minister’s office in the post.

The Supreme Court on Thursday paved the way for the reopening of dance bars in Maharashtra by setting aside some provisions of a 2016 law imposing restrictions on their licensing and functioning.

The apex court quashed the provisions of the Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dance in Hotels, Restaurants and Bar Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women
(Working therein) Act, 2016, like the mandatory installations of CCTV cameras in the dance bars saying they violated privacy.

The bench, however, upheld the provision restricting the timing of operation of dance bars from 6 pm to 11.30 pm.

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IITs, IISERs to mentor nearby schools in science & maths: Prakash Javadekar

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Prakash Javadekar

Ahmedabad | Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar on Thursday said the IITs, IISERs and universities in the country will mentor schools located close their campuses to ensure that students do not lag behind in mathematics and science subjects.

Highlighting the importance of subjects like science, mathematics, engineering and technology in the 21st century, he said it is vital to foster research tendency among students right from the primary schools.

“Maths can be taught in an entertaining way. For the students to study and understand maths and science properly, not very big equipment, but simple ideas are required. Hence, primary school teachers play a big role,” Javadekar told reporters here.

“We have decided today- the Modi government has also decided- that IITs, IISERs (Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research), large and good universities will mentor 10-15 nearby schools and ensure that students in those schools are given proper training in science and maths so they do not lag behind (in these subjects),” he said.

Javadekar was speaking on the sidelines of inauguration of exhibitions- one on futuristic technology and another by the American Museum of Natural History on the future of space exploration, at the Science City as part of the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit.

The minister said right pedagogy is required to cultivate the interest of primary school students in these two subjects. “Study shows that once students lag behind in maths or science, the gap increases and they fall behind further. Therefore, it is important how you explain science and mathematics to them,” he said.

According to him, the Modi government has taken many steps to promote the culture of innovation in the country by setting up innovation and incubation centres, allowing start-ups to run even from hostel rooms, launching IMPRINT India initiative, offering Rs 1 lakh per month to the PM Research Fellows, among others.

He said over 100 research projects are currently going on in Indian institutes and universities, and the government has so far set up 2,000 Atal Tinkering Labs and will establish another 3,000 such facilities across the country. He said participation in Smart India Hackathon has grown from 40,000 to 1.5 lakh in three years.

“On the basis of all this, I am sure our investment in research will grow, and an environment of science, engineering, technology, mathematics, research and attitude of innovation will start in schools…We are encouraging the tendency (among students) to explore solutions to the society’s problems,” he said.

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NGT slams Volkswagen for not depositing Rs 100 crore as per its 2018 order

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Volkswagen

New Delhi | The National Green Tribunal (NGT) Thursday slammed German auto major Volkswagen for not depositing Rs 100 crore in accordance with its November 16, 2018 order and directed it to submit the amount within 24 hours.

A bench headed by NGT chairperson Adarsh Kumar Goel took strong exception to the non-compliance of its order by the automobile giant and asked it to give an undertaking that it will submit the amount by 5 PM Friday.

“Why have you not complied with our order when there is no stay. We will not give you any further time,” the bench, also comprising Justice S P Wangdi, said while asking Volkswagen to submit an affidavit of compliance after depositing the amount.

The apex tribunal also said that in case the amount is not deposited by Friday, the directors of the company will be sent to jail. The tribunal deferred the matter for hearing after it was informed that the Supreme Court is also seized of the issue.

A spokesperson of Volkswagen Group India said that all cars of the company are complying with the emission norms in India. “The Volkswagen Group reiterates that all cars from the group are compliant with the emission norms in India. The order of the NGT is already under challenge before the Supreme Court. However, the Volkswagen Group India will comply with the order of NGT and deposit the money, as directed,” Volkswagen Group India spokesperson said.

On November 16 last year, the tribunal had said that the use of ‘cheat device’ by Volkswagen in diesel cars in India leads to inference of environmental damage and had asked the German auto major to deposit an interim amount of Rs 100 crore with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

The NGT had said that even though the standards may be stricter in other countries, “the very fact of deceit devices being installed by the manufacturers calls for an inference of prima-facie violation of environment”.

The tribunal had constituted a joint team of representatives of the CPCB, Ministry of Heavy Industries, Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) and National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, to give its expert opinion on whether the manufacturer has exceeded the prescribed environmental norms and fair estimate of the damage caused to the environment.

The tribunal was hearing pleas filed by a school teacher, Saloni Ailawadi, and a few others seeking ban on sale of Volkswagen vehicles for alleged violation of emission norms. The tribunal had said ARAI found Nitrogen oxide emissions to be five to nine times higher than the laboratory test limits. The tribunal said that even if there is 100 per cent recall, for the past violation of norms, the auto manufacturer cannot avoid its responsibility.

A ‘cheat’ or ‘defeat device’ is a software in diesel engines to manipulate emission tests by changing the performance of the cars globally.Volkswagen India had in December 2015 announced the recall of 3,23,700 lakh vehicles in India to fix the emission software after ARAI conducted tests on some models and found that their on-road emissions were 1.1 times to 2.6 times higher than the applicable BS-IV norms.

The automobile giant had admitted to the use of ‘defeat device’ in 11 million diesel engine cars sold in the US, Europe and other global markets to manipulate emission test results.

After the tests by ARAI, Volkswagen India had undertaken to rejig the software by recalling around 3.23 lakh vehicles fitted with EA 189 diesel engines which were in alleged violation of emission norms.

The company, however, had said that the recall in India was purely voluntary in nature as it did not face any charges regarding violating emission norms in India unlike in the US.

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