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India needs to be self-reliant in defence production: Bhagwat

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New Delhi: Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat on Thursday said India cannot be assured about its security without becoming self-reliant in defence production while underlining that the country should purchase defence equipment from international market on its own terms.

Bhagwat was delivering his annual Vijyadashmi speech at the RSS headquarters in Nagpur. The Sangh was founded on the occasion of Vijyadashmi in 1925, and its chiefs’ annual speech has been used to put out the organisation’s perspectives on issues of national and social importance. Bhagwat’s remarks on defence production assume significance as the BJP-led government is under attack from the Congress over the Rafale fighter jet deal with France. “The country cannot be assured about its security without becoming self-reliant in defence production,” Bhagwat said. He said that to sell its products in the international market, sometimes a country needs to purchase something from a foreign nation. Thus, buying defence equipment may be a part of trade strategy, or at times required also, the RSS chief said. “This process of give-and-take in trade should not be stopped. It should be on our terms and we should not be dependent on anyone else for our security. We should get technology and enhance our domestic capacity,” he added.

Bhagwat said the country is not careless about its security but there is a need to be more active and vigilant. He asserted the country should become so powerful that no one dares to attack it. “India has always displayed its clear intent to maintain peaceful and cordial relations with all countries, in words and deeds — standing and acting firm and making prudent use of our capabilities while initiating bold actions wherever necessary in the context of national security,” Bhagwat said.

Speaking about the border and internal security, he said these are issues of foremost importance as a secure border and internal landscape provide the opportunity to the nation for making efforts towards prosperity and development. Underscoring the importance of keeping the morale of armed forces high, he said it was essential to be more attentive towards their and their families’ needs. “There have been some laudable efforts in this regard by the government.”

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Union government sources allege AAP govt ‘stonewalling’ Phase-IV metro

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New Delhi | The AAP government has “stonewalled” the progress of the Delhi’s Metro’s Phase-IV project, leading to “substantial delay” and inconvenience to people, Union government sources claimed Monday.

The fresh accusation comes amid an apparent tussle between the Centre and the Delhi government after the Arvind Kejriwal dispensation imposed a condition of 50-50 per cent operational loss sharing while giving approval to the Phase-IV of the metro network late last month.

A Delhi government spokesperson countered the allegation, saying, the city government has already cleared the project from its side and “any delay that is now happening is from the Centre’s side”.

Highly-placed sources in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (HUA) alleged that “delay tactics of the Delhi government has derailed the metro Phase-IV project”.

The Delhi government has “stonewalled” the progress of the Delhi Metro’s Phase-IV project, leading to “substantial delay” and “causing inconvenience to people”, the sources alleged.

However, the city government spokesperson said, “The Phase-IV project was cleared in December and we had made conditions quite clear.”

“We will respond further as and when we receive any communication from the Centre,” the spokesperson said.

The HUA officials recently had said that it was examining the condition that the Centre equally share any operational loss with the AAP government, while asserting that it was a state subject and that other states might raise similar demands.

Sources said the Delhi government in 2016 had not “conveyed financial commitments in their in-principle approval of the Phase-IV”.

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation on January 24, 2017 had submitted the proposal without commitment of sharing of 50 per cent subordinate debt towards central taxes by the Delhi government as the city government did not approve of it, they said.

This was “contrary to the existing practice being followed for all 50:50 joint venture metro rail projects”, including earlier phases of the Delhi Metro, sources claimed.

The Arvind Kejriwal government had on December 19 approved the much-awaited Phase-IV of the DMRC.

An official of the ministry had said the Delhi government had also put a condition in its approval that it will not have any liability on loan provided by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to fund the project.

Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had told reporters after the approval that the city government will give its share of Rs 9,707 crore towards the construction work under the project, which is estimated to cost around Rs 45,000 crore.

Among the projects chosen under the Phase-IV are Rithala-Narela (21.73 km), Janakpuri West-R K Ashram (28.92 km), Mukundpur-Maujpur (12.54 km), Inderlok-Indraprastha (12.58 km), Tughlakabad-Aerocity (20.20 km), and Lajpat Nagar-Saket G-Block (7.96 km).

A Delhi government official had late last month said “in the past one year, the ridership has gone down due to various reasons. So, if Delhi has to pay 100 per cent of the operational loss, it will not be financially viable for it”.

Also, there are certain corridors that may not be profitable in the future or even do not reach the break-even level, the official had said.

HUA sources on Monday said the two conditions imposed by the Delhi government is “contrary to condition of sanction of the Phase-III of the Delhi Metro wherein operational losses are to be borne by the Delhi government”.

As per the terms of sanction of other metro projects, “repayment of external loan and operational losses” are to be borne by the state governments, they said.

The DMRC on January 10 this year had submitted the Phase-IV detailed project report comprising six corridors with revised costs, sources said.

“The HUA Ministry has started the appraisal process,” sources told PTI.

“The proposal is under appraisal by an independent agency in terms of the Metro Rail Policy, 2017. Since, the proposal of the Delhi Metro Phase-IV has again been changed by the Delhi government to six corridors, it again requires fresh inter-ministerial consultation as part of the appraisal process,” a source said.

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Attempt to murder case registered against Congress MLA who ‘attacked’ colleague

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Bengaluru | A case of attempt to murder was registered on Monday against Congress MLA J N Ganesh in connection with the alleged brawl with lawmaker colleague Anand Singh at a resort near here, police said.

The case was registered based on a complaint by Singh, who has been hospitalised for injury suffered in the brawl late Saturday night.

Singh and Ganesh, both from Ballari district, had a heated argument and came to blows at the resort where the Congress MLAs were herded together amid alleged poaching attempt by the BJP.

According to the FIR, besides attempt to murder, Ganesh has been charged with causing grievous injuries and giving threats.

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Punjab Assembly Speaker serves notice to Khaira

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Chandigarh | Punjab Assembly Speaker Rana K P Singh on Monday served a notice to Bholath MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira for his disqualification from the state assembly.

Khaira has been given 15 days to file his reply as to why action under the provisions of the 10th Schedule of the Constitution should not be initiated against him, a spokesman said.

“The Vidhan Sabha has issued a notice to Bholath MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira for disqualification under the 10th Schedule of the Constitution of India,” he said.

The notice was given to Khaira following petitions filed by Leader of Opposition Harpal Singh Cheema and Harsimran Singh, a resident of Bholath.

“In their respective petitions, they made references to the Speaker for Khaira’s disqualification,” the spokesman said.

In case Khaira failed to give a reply within 15 days, it will be presumed that he has nothing to say in this regard, the spokesman added.

In his petition to the Speaker, Cheema had said that Khaira had voluntarily given up the membership of the AAP and had floated his own political party ‘Punjabi Ekta Party’.

He had quit the AAP on January 6, six months after he was ousted from the post of Leader of Opposition of the Punjab Assembly.

However, he had not resigned as MLA and had dared the AAP to get him disqualified.

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