21 February 2014

  • Election Commission reviews preparedness of States and Union Territories for the smooth conduct of forthcoming General Elections; issues guidelines to political parties asking not to make undue promises in manifestos.

  • Aam Aadmi Party moves Supreme Court challenging imposition of President's rule in Delhi

  • In Pakistan,40 militants killed in  air strikes in the northwest tribal region.

  • Facebook acquires mobile messaging company WhatsApp for a whopping 1 lakh 20 thousand crore rupees.

The Election Commission has reviewed the preparedness of the States and Union Territories for the smooth conduct of forthcoming General Elections. The Commission held a meeting with  Chief Secretaries, DGPs, Chief Electoral Officers and other officials in New Delhi  in this regard yesterday. The Commission reviewed the status of compliance to  its recent instructions regarding transfers and postings, filling up of election related critical vacancies and  Budget provision for elections. It also took feedback about the  law and order situation and State-specific areas of concerns. In the meeting, the Commission emphasized the need for inter-State coordination to  ensure free and  fair  elections  across the country. It also asked the officials to carry out Vulnerability Mapping exercise to identify vulnerable areas and take advance precautionary measures.
The Commission has issued guidelines to political parties on manifestos, asking them not to make such promises which disturb the level-playing field and vitiate the atmosphere or exert undue influence on voters.  The Commission has also incorporated views of political parties in the guidelines. The poll body has included them as part of the Model Code of Conduct. The guidelines say political parties or candidates should explain the rationale for the promises made and broadly indicate the ways and means to meet the financial requirements for it. The Commission said that trust of voters should be sought only on those promises which are possible to be fulfilled. It said, the manifesto shall not contain anything repugnant to the ideals and principles enshrined in the constitution. It said the manifesto must be consistent with the letter and spirit of other provisions of the Model Code of Conduct.
The Aam Aadmi Party has moved the Supreme Court challenging the imposition of  President's rule in Delhi. The party filed a petition in the Apex Court yesterday against the Centre’s decision not to dissolve the Assembly and keep it in suspended animation. In its petition, the party described the decision as malafide and unconstitutional. President’s Rule was imposed in the national capital following resignation of the Arvind Kejriwal led AAP government.
The Supreme Court has taken serious view of the Sahara group not refunding 20,000 crore rupees of investors money despite its order. The Apex Court  yesterday asked Sahara Chief Subrata Roy to be personally present before it and allowed SEBI to go ahead with the sale of companies' properties to recover the funds. A bench of Justices K S Radhakrishnan and J S Khehar also directed three directors of the Sahara Group Companies to appear before the court on the 26th of this month.  The apex court in its judgement of August 31, 2012, had directed SEBI to attach properties and recover the money.
Parliament has passed the Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Bill-2014 to create separate Telangana state. The Rajya Sabha approved it by a voice vote yesterday. The Lok Sabha had passed the Bill on Tuesday. CPI(M) staged a walk-out in the Rajya Sabha as its demand for voting was not accepted. The main opposition BJP said though it was not fully satisfied with the provisions of the Bill, it is extending support to it in the interest of the people of Telangana. All the amendments moved by the opposition parties including the BJP were negated. 
Intervening in the discussion the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh announced grant of special Category Status to 13 districts of Seemandhra for a period of five years to put the state's finances on a firmer footing. He assured the House that the Centre will execute the Polavaram multi purpose project and will make further amendments if needed for Rehabilitation and Resettlement under the project. 
In Andhra Pradesh, celebrations broke out in Telangana region as Parliament approved the Bill. Our correspondent reports that hundreds of activists and leaders took out processions to Telangana Martyrs Memorial near the state Assembly and paid tributes.
            People came to streets in joy soon after the Rajya Sabha approved the historic Bill for the state bifurcation. In Hyderabad, the supporters of Telangana across the party lines danced in joy, distributed sweets and burst crackers at different places. Celebrations broke out at the offices of political parties and also at the Osmania University, the nerve centre of the agitation for separate state. Lakshmi, AIR News, Hyderabad 
In Pakistan, 40 militants have been killed in air strikes in the northwest tribal region. A Peshwar based report said that fighter jets pounded militant hideouts in the lawless Mir Ali area of North Waziristan Agency yesterday, killing the militants including many foreigners. Air strikes were also carried out in Khyber Agency. A factory, making explosives and IEDs was reportedly destroyed in the area. The strikes come soon after the government suspended talks with the Taliban after militants executed 23 Pakistani soldiers. The air strikes were sanctioned by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif himself.
In Turkey, at least 24 people were killed and many others injured late last night in an explosion near the Syrian - Turkish border in the southern province of Kilis. A media report said, about 20 people were killed at the blast scene and four injured died on the way to a nearby hospital.
The European Union, EU in an emergency meeting in Brussels has decided to impose sanctions against those held responsible for the violence in Ukraine. The sanctions include a ban to travel to the 28-nation bloc and the freezing of assets held in EU countries. Canada has also decided to impose sanction against Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych and his ministers linked to the violence against protesters. In addition to an expanded travel ban on the regime's senior leaders, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced new economic sanctions against Yanukovych and his supporters. 
The US has also expressed outrage over yesterday's violence in Ukraine in which at least 70 people were killed and over 500 injured.  Meanwhile, Ukrainian President told European Union envoys that he was willing to hold early elections this year.
Social media giant Facebook has announced that it has purchased popular mobile messaging company WhatsApp for a whopping one lakh 20 thousand crore rupees. It is the largest acquisition by the Mark Zuckerberg-led firm so far that will give it a stronghold in the market for messaging. WhatsApp has  more than 4.5 crore monthly users.  Under the agreement, WhatsApp co-founder and CEO Jan Koum will join Facebook Board of Directors. Facebook said the acquisition will not impact the WhatsApp's brand, which will be maintained and the company's headquarters will remain in California's Mountain View. WhatsApp's core messaging product and Facebook's existing messenger app will continue to operate as standalone applications.
International Monetary Fund, IMF has projected a higher 5.4 per cent economic growth for India in 2014-15. The IMF yesterday suggested strengthening of inflation management polices and doing away with supply bottlenecks for better GDP.  The IMF also sees inflation, driven by food prices, remaining near double digits in 2014-15. Though it said tight monetary policy is likely to slow growth recovery.
The Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs has launched an online shopping portal for the sale of authentic tribal products that will seek to create a 'niche' market for indigenous artisans. The e-commerce portal, which features 69 tribal products like textiles, metal artifacts and jewellery, was launched by Union Minister of Tribal Affairs Raj Kishore Chandra Deo yesterday.
World Number One Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Caroline Wozniacki and Alize Cornet have entered the Singles Semi finals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship. Serena Williams will take on French Alize Cornet today while Venus Williams will face Caroline Wozniacki to book a place in the final .
            The reigning World number Serena Williams has made her way to the Semi-final defeating Jelena Jankovic 6-2,6-2 in straight sets. She plays against Alize Cornet of France who beat Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro 7-5,6-3. Making a comeback, the former tennis queen Venus Williams demolished the challenge of tournament qualifier Flavia Pennetta 6-3, 7-5. Her opponent is another former World number one, Caroline Wozniacki who had an easy win over Soren Cirstea 6-2, 6-1. It is hard to make predictions, but if the tennis pundits are to be believed, Williams Sisters-Serena and Venus  may be seen in action for the title clash against each other in Dubai. Atul Tiwary, AIR News, Dubai
  • Rajya Sabha passing the Telangana Bill amid protests and chaos is the lead in most papers. 'Union gets 29th state' writes the Indian Express. 'Sweetener for Seemandhra' says the Hindustan Times, of the PM's six point plan for it, including a mega financial package.
  •  A news item on the front page of the Hindu says '2014 Lok Sabha polls will see most first time voters', and that 2 to 3 crore people in 18 to 19 age bracket have been enrolled to vote.
  • Asian Age reports that Anna Hazare is all set to campaign against Arvind Kejriwal in the Lok Sabha elections.
  • The Supreme Court staying the release of Rajiv Gandhi's assassins and ordering status quo till the hearing on 6th of March is covered prominently by the press.
  • Facebook buying WhatsApp for 19 billion dollars finds front page coverage in most papers. The Economic Times reports of VP (business development) Neeraj Arora who played a key role in the rise of Whats App.
  • 'End of Gurgaon toll takes toll on Delhi' writes the Pioneer, as it reports of massive traffic snarls on RTR flyover, Rajokri, Dhaula Kuan and Vasant Vihar.
  • Niira Radia being let off? Seems like that, as the Times of India writes that the CBI is likely to seek closure of the probe, as it has not found any criminality in the 14 preliminary enquires registered on the bases of the intercepted conversations,

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