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Sabarimala row: KJ Alphons hits out at Kerala government, 68 people taken into custody

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Sabarimala | Union Minister K J Alphons Monday slammed the Kerala government for turning the Sabarimala Temple complex into a “war zone” and lack of facilities at the shrine even as police detained 68 people from the complex in the early hours for holding protests.

Protests are being held across Kerala against the detention of the 68 persons even as the BJP demanded a judicial probe into the police action. The sanctum sanctorum of the Lord Ayyappa Temple opened Monday morning with very few devotees turning up early.

Police sources told PTI that 68 persons had been taken into preventive custody from the temple complex and brought to the Manniyar camp early this morning.Their details are being verified and their arrests have not been recorded yet.

Alphons, who arrived at Nilackal, the base camp, Monday morning, told reporters, “The state government has turned the temple complex into a war zone. The devotees are not militants, they are pilgrims.”  “What was the need to declare Section 144 at Sabarimala,” he asked. The minister said there was lack of basic facilities at the temple complex. The union government had provided Rs 100 crore for putting up various facilities at Sabarimala, he said.

The minister’s visit comes hours after the late night developments in Sabarimala when hundred-odd devotees held protests while chanting “nama japam” (chanting in the name of Lord Ayyappa) on Sunday. The protest by devotees at the ‘sannidhanam,’ on the second day of the two-month long pilgrim season, resulted in police taking into custody 68 persons early Monday morning, the first such incident witnessed at Sabarimala.

This had also led to protests across the state, including in front of the official residence of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in Thiruvananthapuram. Those taken into custody have been brought to the Manniyar police camp and BJP leaders led by Shobha Surendran are holding “nama japam” protest in front of the camp.

Hindu Aikya Vedi President, K P Sasikala, who is on her way to the shrine with her family members in connection with the “chorunnu ceremony” (rice feeding) of her grandsons, was served notice by Superintendent of Police Yatish Chandra at Nilackal this morning, asking her not to remain at the ‘sannidhanam’ beyond six hours. The KSRTC bus in which Sasikala was travelling with family members was stopped and the notice served by police personnel.

Chandra later told reporters that Sasikala has promised to return and gave an assurance that she was not going to the temple for creating any trouble. “Our aim is not to trouble anyone. We want devotees not to stay back at the sannidhanam, but come back. This will enable devotees to worship peacefully,” the officer said.

Sasikala was taken into preventive custody from near the temple premises two days ago for flouting police regulations and had been released after being produced before the Magistrate.

Describing the arrests as “cruel”, BJP state unit President, P S Sreedharan Pillai, said the party wants a judicial probe into it. The pilgrims were peacefully protesting at ‘sannidhanam’ against the lack of facilities and stringent restrictions imposed by the police at the temple complex. Devotees chanting ‘nama japam’ had gathered at the covered pathway to the temple and had refused to disperse even after the shrine closed at 11 pm.

Since prohibitory orders had been imposed, police informed them that they should leave and cannot stay back. Police sources said they had information that the protesters might create trouble at ‘Sannidhanam’ and they had take precautionary measures accordingly.

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Shakitikanta Das to be the new RBI governor

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Shakitikanta Das

New Delhi | Former Economic Affairs Secretary Shakikanta Das is likely to be the next Reserve Bank of India Governor after the resignation of Urjit Patel on December 10.

Shaktikanta Das, a retired 1980 batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of Tamil Nadu cadre was the member of the Fifteenth Finance Commission of India, and India’s Sherpa to G20. Das also worked as Union Economic Affairs Secretary, Union Revenue Secretary, Union Fertilizers Secretary, special secretary in the Department of Economic Affairs of the Ministry of Finance and as a joint secretary in the Department of Expenditure of the Ministry of Finance in the Indian government.

Earlier Urjit Patel on December 10 resigned from the post of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor. Patel’s three year team was to end in September 2019. Patel is also the first RBI governor to resign since 1990.

Submitting his resignation, Urjit Patel cited personal reasons and stepped down with immediate effect. He said, “On account of personal reasons, I have decided to step down from my current position effective immediately. It has been my privilege and honour to serve in the Reserve Bank of India in various capacities over the years,” Urjit Patel said in a statement. “The support and hard work of RBI staff, officers and management has been the proximate driver of the Bank’s considerable accomplishments in recent years. I take this opportunity to express gratitude to my colleagues and Directors of the RBI Central Board, and wish them all the best for the future,” he added.

 

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Four policemen killed by terrorists in J-K’s Shopian; weapons snatched

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Jaish-e-Mohammed

Srinagar | Four policemen were killed on Tuesday when Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists attacked a guard post outside a minority pocket in south Kashmir’s Shopian district, officials said.

The attack took place this afternoon when four policemen were sitting in a pre-fabricated room outside the pocket that houses six Kashmiri Pandit families.

A senior police official said that six Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists were led by former Special Police Officer Adil Bashir, who deserted in October and decamped eight weapons from a PDP legislator.

Quoting eyewitnesses, the police officer said that militants fired indiscriminately, killing three policemen on the spot and critically injuring one.

The injured policeman was rushed to an Army hospital, where he also succumbed to injuries, the official said.

The deceased have been identified as Anees Ahmad, Hamidullah, Mehraj ud Din and Abdul Majeed.

At the time of the incident, only one family was present at the minority pocket.

Immediately after the shootout, the terrorists fled with three Self Loading Rifles (SLRs) of the policemen, the official said, adding a cordon and search operation has been launched to nab the criminals.

The official said that an intercept had been received in which it was clear that Jaish-e-Mohammed, a banned terrorist organisation, was behind the barbaric act.

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PM Modi may visit Tripura in Feb to inaugurate projects: Officials

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Narendra Modi

Agartala | Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to visit Tripura in February to inaugurate several development projects, including an upgraded cancer centre, a government official said. The regional centre, which offers treatment to more than 2,000 cancer patients annually, is set to have a new building and modern equipment, he said.

According to government reports, 3,786 patients succumbed to cancer between 2013 and 2016 in the state.

Sanjoy Mishra, the media adviser to chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb, said a high-level meeting was convened Monday to review progress in the cancer hospital project. “The Prime Minister is scheduled to visit Tripura in February to inaugurate several developmental projects. The newly built building at the cancer centre is one of them. Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb on Monday reviewed the progress of the construction work at the centre,” Mishra said.

Chief Secretary LK Gupta, Public Works Department (PWD) secretary Manoj Kumar, and Health and Family Welfare secretary Samarjit Bhowmik were among those who attended Monday’s meeting, he said. “The CM would be visiting New Delhi tomorrow (Wednesday) and meet the prime minister to discuss various issues, including the inauguration of the cancer hospital building,” Mishra told reporters.

According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (2016-17), 40 percent of all cancer patients in the northeast suffer from head and neck malignancy, mainly caused by tobacco consumption.

Tripura tops in tobacco use in the region with 64.5 percent patients in the state admitting to nicotine consumption, the report added.

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