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Himachal: ARTRAC Unit gets appreciation award



Shimla, April 16 (IANS) Army Training Command (ARTRAC) Investiture Ceremony was held in the Himachal Pradesh capital on Tuesday.

General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, ARTRAC, Lt Gen Manjinder Singh, awarded ARTRAC unit appreciation to seven training establishments of the Indian Army for their outstanding performance.

The recipients of the prestigious award are the Military Intelligence Training School and Depot, Pune, Army Medical Corps Centre and College, Lucknow, Corps of Military Police Centre and School, Bangalore, Army Institute of Physical Training, Pune, Junior Leaders Academy, Bareilly, Wargaming Development Centre, New Delhi, and Special Forces Training School, Bakloh.

These training establishments have made exceptional contributions to enhance the training ethos and standards of the army, strengthening the foundation of a strong and resilient force for the 21st century

On behalf of the training establishments, the Commandants accompanied by Subedar Majors received the Unit Appreciation from the Army Commander in Shimla.

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In addition, four training Institutes including the Military College of Telecommunication Engineering, Mhow, Junior Leaders Academy, Bareilly, Corps of Military Engineering, Pune and Wargaming Development Center, New Delhi, were awarded with Financial Excellence Awards.

In the individual category, Lt Col JK Verma of Corps of Military Engineering, Pune, Maj Preeti Mudela and Maj T Irom of Military College of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering, Secunderabad, Maj Atul Pathania of Army Airborne Training School, Agra, Maj Gurpal Singh of Military College of Telecommunication and Engineering, Mhow, Nb Sub Sunil Patil of Electrical Mechanical Engineering School, Vadodara and Cfn Rahul Parmar of Simulator Development Division, Secunderabad were felicitated with Award of Technical Excellence for their innovations.



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June 4 will be 'big turning point' in building 'swarnim Bharat': PM Modi




New Delhi, May 29 (IANS) Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said that the next five years will play a decisive role in building a “swarnim Bharat” with the “big turning point” taking place on June 4 – the day results of the Lok Sabha elections are announced.

“Countries that gained independence along with us – many of them smaller in size and ordinary – have reached great heights. We had so much talent, skill and potential, a growing young population, but we kept falling behind,” said PM Modi while addressing an election rally in Mathurapur, his last in West Bengal during the ongoing 2024 elections.

Citing the transformation that has taken place over the last 10 years, he stated that the same India is now moving ahead with great speed and is being watched closely and praised by the entire world.

“For 60 years, the country was struggling in every sector… And, for the past 10 years, people have witnessed the progress that India is capable of making,” said PM Modi.

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The Prime Minister told the massive gathering that everyone in the world – be it the US, Australia, Japan or Europe – looks at India with respect now.

“You have made this happen, your one vote has given me the strength to hoist the Indian flag in the world,” he said.

As he addressed more public meetings in Odisha’s Mayurbhanj and Balasore later in the day, PM Modi continued to spotlight the progressive approach of his government, specifically listing improved sanitation facilities in villages and providing LPG connections, clean water, free food grains and medical treatment to people all over the country.

“India will become the third largest economic power in the world. In the next five years, we will witness an ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ in many sectors. We will see a complete transformation of highways, expressways, and railways. This will directly benefit our eastern regions, including Odisha,” assured PM Modi.


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LS polls: BJP to make big gains in east & south India, says Amit Shah ahead of final phase




New Delhi, May 29 (IANS) Union Home Minister Amit Shah, in an exclusive interview with Sanjay Pugalia, CEO and Editor-in-chief, AMG Media Network, on Wednesday shed light on how the BJP was moving closer to its ‘400 paar’ mission and which states will contribute majorly in achieving this target.

Amit Shah said that the party was slated for big gains in east and south India, traditionally its ‘weaker’ areas, besides recording thumping victory in its stronghold regions of north and west.

The Home Minister said that the party is expecting big gains in eastern states including Odisha and West Bengal, and Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in the south.

Breaking it down into numbers, he said that the party was expecting a much bigger victory in West Bengal, as compared to 2019 by fetching 24-30 out of a total of 42 seats.

“In Odisha, our target is to bag 17 (out of 21 LS seats) and 75 (out of 147 Assembly seats). In Telangana, we will win around 10 seats (out of 17 LS seats). In Andhra Pradesh, the BJP-led alliance will form the government, and we will also win a big chunk of Lok Sabha seats there too,” Amit Shah told NDTV in an exclusive interaction.

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He also said that the party will emerge as the single largest in at least four Eastern states.

“In the eastern zone, Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha, we will emerge as the biggest party. This is certain. And in the five states of South, Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, we will make significant gains,” he added.

Notably, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh are also voting to elect their Assemblies. In Odisha, CM Naveen Patnaik-led government is seeking a fresh term while in Andhra Pradesh, the BJP-TDP alliance is eyeing to oust the ruling YSR Congress.

Amit Shah’s big poll prediction ahead of the seventh and final phase of polls has given fresh vigour to the election mood.

In the seventh phase, a total of 57 Lok Sabha seats are going to polls with 26 seats spread across eastern states of Odisha, Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand.

On questions of whether “Ab ki baar 400 par” was a poll slogan or target based on facts, he replied: “When we won the 2014 elections on the slogan of absolute majority, many Delhi-based analysts said this was not possible. But we got the absolute majority. Then, in 2019, when we gave the slogan of 300 plus, people said it was not possible. People are saying the same this time.”

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Braving rarefied air and cold, Himachal tribals gung ho over casting their votes on June 1




Shimla, May 29 (IANS) Braving rarefied air and cold temperatures, when plains in northern India are reeling under a debilitating heatwave, voters in high-altitude Himalayan hamlets of Himachal Pradesh are gung ho about exercising their franchise on June 1.

A testament to the dedication to keep democracy alive, the world’s highest polling station Tashigang, located at a height of 15,256 feet above sea level, in the Spiti Valley, which is part of the Mandi parliamentary constituency, has 52 registered voters, comprising 30 men and 22 women.

“We are excited to cast our vote for a better future and a better life for generations to come,” remarked Tashigang resident Tenzin Lundup.

“Like the last elections (2022 Assembly polls), the polling station in Tashigang would again record 100 per cent polling,” added first-time voter, Kalzang Rinchen, a postgraduate preparing for exams for a government job.

The Lahaul-Spiti District has the lowest number of electorate — 25,273 — in the state, while Kinnaur has 59,943 voters.

The climatic conditions in these districts are harsh as much of the land falls under a cold desert.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has set up 92 polling stations in Lahaul-Spiti, while in Kinnaur there will be 128 polling stations.

“Polling is a difficult exercise in Lahaul-Spiti, Kinnaur and Chamba as one-third of the polling booths are located at altitudes above 13,000 feet.

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“The polling material has reached almost all polling stations. In some stations, staff will be airlifted from district headquarters a day before polling,” an election officer told IANS.

He said a majority of polling stations in Lahaul-Spiti and Kinnaur are connected by road.

Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines for Kaza, some 320 kms from state capital Shimla, were dropped by a helicopter of the Indian Air Force (IAF) on May 27.

The Spiti Valley has 29 polling stations. Thirteen gram panchayats fall in the Spiti Valley, mainly populated by tribals, who are largely Buddhist farmers.

The gram panchayats are Losar, Kibber, Kaza, Langcha, Demul, Lalung, Dhankar, Tabo, Gue, Hal, Khurik, Kungri and Saganam.

Another remote place in the state is the landlocked Pangi Valley in Chamba District. The Saach Pass is the gateway to the picturesque Pangi Valley.

Located at an altitude of 14,500 feet in Chamba District, it’s still closed for motorists after the winter snowfall.

Resident Commissioner Ritika Jindal, the first woman officer to opt for the Pangi posting, told IANS the material for 39 polling stations has reached Killar, the subdivisional headquarters of Pangi, located in the Pir-Panjal range of the Himalayas, via an IAF helicopter.

The Saach Pass, the shortest road link between Chamba town, some 450 km from the state capital, and Killar is expected to reopen in the first week of July.

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The Chask Bhatori and Kulal polling stations are the remotest in the Pangi Valley, where election officials will have to walk a distance of at least 14 km to conduct the poll. The valley last saw snowfall on May 2.

Lahaul-Spiti, along with other remote areas of Kinnaur District and Pangi and Bharmour subdivisions of Chamba District, are part of the sprawling Mandi constituency that covers almost two-thirds of the state.

In Mandi, Congress legislator Vikramaditya Singh, the scion of the erstwhile royal family, challenges actress Kangana Ranaut of the BJP.

A majority of the booths are scattered over rugged, cold and inhospitable terrain and poll officials have to trek hours to reach there.

Locals are largely Buddhist farmers who grow barley, potatoes, wheat and black peas.

Before 2019, the highest polling station was Hikkim (14,400 feet) located close to Tashigang. But in 2019, Tashigang was made a polling station.

The state Election Commission has also decided to set up one of the state’s remotest polling stations at Bara Bhangal in Kangra District at an altitude of over 2,800 metres not accessible by road. It falls in the Baijnath Assembly constituency that is part of the Kangra parliamentary seat.

Situated between the mighty Dhauladhar and Pir Panjal ranges of the Himalayas, Bara Bhangal is considered to be the remotest village with 469 electorates.

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An official with the Election Commission told IANS the polling station of Bara Bhangal has been set up in Bir, where now 310 voters will exercise their franchise.

Owing to the difficult geographical conditions of the area, an auxiliary polling station will also be set up in Bara Bhangal where the remaining 159 voters will cast their votes.

The election official said since most trekking routes leading to Bara Bhangal are blocked by winter snow, helicopter is the only mode of transportation to reach there. However, Bara Bhangal is accessible on foot through the Thamsar Pass, located at an altitude of 4,700 metres.

The state ruling Congress has fielded its veteran and four-time Rajya Sabha MP Anand Sharma in his new battleground Kangra, the largest Lok Sabha constituency in terms of voters, against Rajiv Bhardwaj of the BJP, which ignored the sitting MP, Kishan Kapoor.

The Swar polling station in Mandi’s Chuhar Valley is located at a distance of 12 km from the road. The valley is infamous for cultivation of opium.

Polling for the four Lok Sabha seats in Himachal Pradesh — Shimla (Reserved), Kangra, Mandi and Hamirpur — is scheduled for June 1.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at



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VK Pandian terms ECI action against top cops as 'unfortunate'




Bhubaneswar, May 29 (IANS) V.K. Pandian, former bureaucrat and close aide of Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, on Wednesday termed the Election Commission’s action against two senior IPS officers, D.S. Kutey and Ashish Kumar Singh, as “unfortunate”.

On Tuesday, ADGP D.S. Kutey, the Special Secretary to the Chief Minister, was suspended by the ECI for unduly interfering in the conduct of elections in the state.

The ECI also asked the director of AIIMS Bhubaneswar to constitute a special medical board to conduct a health check-up of IGP Ashish Kumar Singh, in charge of the Chief Minister’s security, who has been on medical leave since May 4, 2024.

“It’s very unfortunate that the ECI has taken action against certain officers working in the Chief Minister’s office. The two officers in question are both outstanding officers. Both played key roles in controlling Maoist trouble in Odisha by risking their lives, be it in Gajapati, or Malkangiri. They have been awarded by the highest authorities in the country for their commitment, dedication, and sacrifice,” Pandian said.

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“This is very unfortunate and as per the design of the BJP, which can’t digest its imminent defeat in the hands of the BJD. It can’t stand against the popularity of CM Naveen Patnaik and his sway over the people of Odisha,” he added.

He also accused the ECI of taking action against the two officers at the behest of local BJP leaders.

Voting for the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections is being held simultaneously in Odisha in four phases from May 13 to June 1.



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Kerala HC rules child must receive love, support from both parents




Kochi, May 29 (IANS) A division bench of the Kerala High Court has said that it is in the best interest of the child to receive love and support from both parents unless proven that one parent is unworthy of custodial rights.

The court while considering a matrimonial appeal first interacted with the minor child (an 11-year-old girl) and found that she had no issues spending time with her father.

It then ruled, “While the court’s duty and responsibility in custody disputes is to ensure that both parents maintain a healthy relationship with the child. Non-custodial parents should have sufficient visitation rights to prevent the child from losing social, physical, and psychological contact with either parent. Only in extreme circumstances should one parent be denied contact, and reasons must be clearly stated if this occurs. Courts are responsible for defining the nature, manner, and specifics of visitation rights to safeguard the child’s continuous connection with both parents. The child’s need for both parents’ company takes precedence over the individual rights of the parents. In assessing custody, the court distinguishes between the child’s wishes and what is genuinely in the child’s best interest, taking into account all relevant circumstances,” said the court.

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The court thus upheld the Family Court’s order of granting visitation and contact rights to the father of the girl besides affirming the overnight custody given to him, who is in the Merchant Navy, for a few days during vacations and during his leave.

Incidentally, it was the mother of the child who approached the High Court after being upset by the Family Court’s decision in the overnight custody rights given to the father, as she pointed out that the child’s emotional and mental well-being will be affected by the execution of the Family Court’s order.

But the child’s father submitted that the daughter is entitled to the love, care and protection of both the parents and argued that the mother has no justifiable reasons to refuse custody rights to the father.

The High Court after going through all aspects pointed out that a child requires love, affection, and company of both parents, which is a basic human right for the child.

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The court further pointed out that children facing parental conflicts could have detrimental effects and long-lasting psychological effects.

“Such action of the fighting parents is unhealthy and deplorable, as it undermines the child’s sense of security and stability, fostering feelings of confusion, guilt, and emotional distress. The child who becomes embroiled in parental conflicts suffers long-lasting psychological effects. It is crucial for parents to recognise the detrimental impact of their disputes on their children and strive to present a united front, prioritizing the child’s need for love and support from both parents,” ruled the court and the matrimonial appeal was dismissed.



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