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Odisha: Third phase of polling on May 25 with BJP eyeing a breakthrough

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Bhubaneswar, May 24 (IANS) The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had never focused so much on Odisha as it has been doing in the 2024 elections as the party hopes to wrest the power from the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD).

After the talks on alliance with BJD failed to materialise, the BJP resorted to an aggressive campaign mode in Odisha with party heavyweights from across the country visiting the state almost every day.

The third phase of polling in Odisha — for Lok Sabha and Assembly — will be held on Saturday (May 25).

Hardly a day passed without any BJP star campaigner and local heavyweights of the party addressing a poll rally in Odisha in the last couple of weeks.

Leading the campaign from the front is Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has so far addressed several poll rallies and also held massive roadshows in different parts of the state.

PM Modi has so far visited thrice to Odisha and addressed seven massive rallies at different constituencies of the state this month.

He has also led two massive roadshows at Bhubaneswar and Puri on May 10 and 20, respectively.

The Prime Minister is scheduled to visit the state again on May 29 for election campaigning.

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Union Home Minister Amit Shah has also visited the state several times for election campaigning in the last few weeks.

HM Shah also held a massive roadshow at Cuttack on May 15.

Other senior leaders who have so far campaigned in the state include Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, BJP national president J.P. Nadda, former Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb, Union Minister Giriraj Singh, cine stars Hema Malini and Arun Govil (who played the role of Lord Ram), and Chief Ministers of Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh — Himanta Biswa Sarma, Yogi Adityanath and Vishnu Deo Sai, respectively.

“Though PM Modi and other central leaders had visited the state during the previous elections as well, yet the campaign by BJP was never as intense in the past as it is this time,” said veteran journalist Rajaram Satpathy.

Not only has the frequency of visits to the state by senior BJP leaders increased but also the central leaders of the party, who used to avoid targeting the BJD government in the past, are now hitting out at the ruling party in the harshest possible way, a political analyst said.

The BJP strategists have weaponised several local issues to wrest power from BJD, aiming to end the nearly 25-year-old rule of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

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Major issues raised by BJP leaders during their campaign include a threat to Odisha Asmita (self-identity), missing keys of Ratna Bhandar, the treasury of Jagannath Temple at Puri, demolition of Mutts during Shree Jagannath Heritage Corridor Project, massive corruption and hijacking of the Central government schemes by BJD government, etc.

Among all the major poll planks, a threat to Odia Asmita, ‘Bhumiputra (son of the soil) vs outsider’ and Ratna Bhandar issues have taken centerstage in the election campaigning in the state.

It is pertinent here to mention that V.K. Pandian, the Tamil Nadu-born former Odisha cadre IAS officer, has emerged as the second most powerful leader in the ruling party and a probable successor to CM Naveen Patnaik.

According to analysts, the BJP leadership has been seeing it as a golden opportunity to strike an emotional chord with the voters by raking up the issue of threat to Odia Asmita, Odia culture, literature and language with an ‘outsider’ VK Pandian taking over the reins of government post elections.

The party’s top brass have unleashed a virulent attack against the ruling dispensation by constantly raking up the issue of threats to Odia culture, language and literature.

All the BJP leaders, from PM Modi to Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma, are assuring the voters in Odisha that if the BJP comes to power, a Bhumiputra will become the Chief Minister, not an ‘outsider’.

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The missing keys of Ratna Bhandar is one of the major issues being raised in every election rally by the BJP leaders.

PM Modi stated during one of the public rallies in Kandhamal that the keys of Ratna Bhandar have been missing for the last six years.

He said the devotees of Lord Jagannath and the people of Odisha have the right to know what happened to the keys.

“Why were duplicate keys made? Is the Ratna Bhandar opened during the night using duplicate keys? Are the ornaments of the Lord stolen? The government set up a Commission but its report has not been made public yet,” said PM Modi.

The party promised to make public the commission report on the Ratna Bhandar and unravel the truth behind the missing keys issue as soon as the BJP comes to power in the state.

How much the party has succeeded in swaying the voters in its favour with the help of these issues will only be ascertained with the declaration of results on June 4.

–IANS

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UP man claims sex change operation without his consent, case filed

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Muzaffarnagar, June 21 (IANS) In a bizarre incident, a 20-year-old man in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar has alleged that he was operated for sex change without his consent at a local hospital, the police said.

However, the hospital has claimed that the man underwent the sex reassignment process of his own will.

The 20-year-old man claimed that one Om Prakash used to molest him.

On June 3, the man said Om Prakash took him to the hospital, where he was sedated and deceptively made to undergo an operation.

When he woke up the next morning, he found his genitals were cut off.

“When I woke up, Om Prakash told me that I am a woman now and that he would take me to Lucknow to marry me. He threatened to kill my father if I resisted,” the man said, adding that the doctors and staff at the hospital were colluding with Om Prakash.

Based on a complaint by the man’s father on June 16, the police have arrested Om Prakash.

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However, members of the Bharatiya Kisan Union staged a protest outside the hospital, alleging there was laxity in the police investigation.

According to farmer leader Shyam Pal, the doctors at the hospital were involved in the illegal organ trade.

“I believe there is a very big racket going on here where they remove vital organs of the body and sell them at a higher price,” he said.

Pal also demanded the government to direct the hospital to pay Rs 2 crore compensation to the man and his family.

Ramashish Singh, Circle Officer of Khatauli police station in Muzaffarnagar, said, “There was a case here in which a person was operated for sex change. His family members alleged that he was misled by another person and the operation was done. Whatever allegations have been made by them, have been taken into consideration. Further investigation is underway.”

However, hospital authorities denied the man’s claim that he was deceptively operated on.

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According to Chief Medical Superintendent Kirti Goswami, the man had been coming to the hospital regularly for two months to meet Raza Farooqui, a plastic surgeon.

Goswami said that the man identified as a woman and wanted to undergo sex reassignment surgery.

The Chief Medical Superintendent said that Farooqui referred the man to two psychiatrists to assess his mental condition, which is a prerequisite before a sex-change operation as per law.

The man was operated on only after the two psychiatrists deemed him mentally fit.

“The man came here to get admitted on June 4 and his operation was conducted on June 6. All these procedures are legal and were conducted under the supervision of Farooqui,” Goswami added.

Goswami also claimed that the authorities had a video of the man before his operation, in which he could be seen talking about undergoing an operation to change his gender.

–IANS

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Bengal train collision: Preliminary findings suggest combination of human, procedural lapses

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Kolkata, June 20 (IANS) Preliminary investigation by a joint observation committee in the Kanchanjunga Express–goods train collision on Monday morning suggests that a combination of two procedural lapses was the reason behind the accident, sources said on Thursday.

Sources said that the first procedural lapse was that the “absolute block system” was not followed in the case of the goods train that had hit Kanchanjunga Express from behind.

The absolute block system (ABS) is followed by railways in case the automatic signalling system is inactive within a particular area between two stations. In that case, a train will not be allowed to leave one station unless the preceding train in the same line (the ‘block’) leaves or crosses the next station ahead. However, as per a preliminary report, the goods train was given permission to leave the Rangapani station before the Kanchanjunga Express, which was moving in the same line, crossed the next station which was Chatter Hat.

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Had the ABS been strictly followed in this case the accident, which has taken 11 lives so far, could have been avoided.

While this was the first procedural lapse, as per the preliminary findings, the next human error was on the part of the loco-pilot (now deceased) of the goods train, where he overshot the prescribed speed limit while crossing a distance where the automatic signalling system is non-functional. As per norms, for the trains passing through such a distance, the speed should never exceed 15 km per hour, to maintain a reasonable distance between the two trains passing on the same line.

Preliminary findings suggest that the collision occurred due to the violation of the speed limit between the Rangapani and Chatter Hat stations.

At the same time, sources said, from the impact of the collision on the last four coaches of Kanchanjunga Express, the last two being the parcel coach and guard’s compartment, it was clear that the speed was well above the prescribed limit of 15 km an hour.

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–IANS

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Madhya Pradesh Police arrest over 1K involved in cattle smuggling in 6 months

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Bhopal, June 21 (IANS) The Madhya Pradesh Police have claimed to have registered as many as 575 cases in the last six months related to cattle smuggling and arrested a total of 1,121 people in this connection.

Besides, more than 7,000 cows were rescued from illegal possession during the same period.

The police said that most cases of cattle smuggling were reported in Balaghat, Seoni, Chhindwara, Barwani, Khargone, Burhanpur, Ujjain, Ratlam and Neemuch districts.

A source said the operation against cattle smuggling was carried out extensively following the direction received from Chief Minister Mohan Yadav.

“Several teams of police were formed across the state and the routes that were used frequently for cow trafficking were identified. Sources were developed in particular regions to get real-time information and the cases of 10 years were examined,” a police source said.

The BJP-led Madhya Pradesh government has been strict on cattle smuggling and the sale of meat in open places for the last several years.

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Notably, Chief Minister Mohan Yadav, in one of his initial orders after taking over charge of the CM Office, directed the police to take strict action against cattle smuggling.

The recent action in Mandala where 11 houses were demolished was as part of action against the illegal beef trading in the state, a police officer said.

The action was taken after a tip-off was received that numerous cows had been held captive for slaughtering.

–IANS

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BJP and Congress conspiring to privatise Singareni Collieries, alleges BRS

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Hyderabad, June 21 (IANS) The Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) on Thursday alleged both the BJP and the Congress were conspiring to privatise Singareni Collieries Company Ltd (SCCL) through the auction of coal mines.

BRS Working President K.T. Rama Rao said the BJP government at the Centre and the Congress government in Telangana were undermining Singareni by opting to auction coal mines in Telangana instead of allocating them directly to Singareni.

He slammed the state government for participating in the auction of mines instead of demanding direct allocation to Singareni.

“The Central government is auctioning more than 60 mines in the country, including Singareni, starting tomorrow. The state government’s participation in the auction contradicts their previous stance of opposing the auction and seeking direct allocation from the Central government to Singareni,” he said.

He also reminded the public that the present Chief Minister A. Revanth Reddy had written a letter to the Central government seeking the cancellation of the Singareni mines auction and requesting direct allocation to Singareni.

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KTR, as the BRS leader is popularly known, questioned Revanth Reddy’s silence now over the Central government’s auction of mines in the Singareni area, considering his opposition earlier.

He claimed that BRS and its government had stalled the auctioning of coal mines in the Singareni area for the past nine years to safeguard Singareni’s future.

“With 16 MPs, neighbouring state’s Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu is trying to halt the privatisation of Vizag Steel Plant and safeguarding their state’s interests. In contrast, the 16 elected MPs from Telangana, both from Congress and BJP, remain silent despite the Central government’s attempt to harm the state’s prospects through the mines auction,” he said.

KTR demanded that all MPs and the two Union Ministers from Telangana should immediately take steps to cancel the Singareni mines auction. He also accused the Central ministers from Telangana of harming the state’s interests by remaining silent on this matter. KTR stated that the same Central government made the Vizag Steel Plant incur losses by not allocating dedicated mines.

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The BRS leader also said that even if companies participate in the auction and get the mining rights, the BRS would cancel the leases “once they come into power after four and a half years”.

–IANS

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Railway to resume Garib Rath Express between Kolkata, Guwahati, Agartala

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Guwahati, June 21 (IANS) The Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) would resume the services of two pairs of Garib Rath Express on the Agartala-Kolkata and Guwahati-Kolkata routes from next month, officials said here on Thursday.

NFR’s Chief Public Relations Officer Sabyasachi De said that the Garib Rath Express would run on the Agartala-Kolkata route every Wednesday from July 3 and it would run on the Kolkata- Agartala route every Sunday from July 7.

The CPRO said that the Garib Rath Express would run on the Guwahati-Kolkata route every Saturday from July 6. Similarly, the train would run on the Kolkata-Guwahati route every Thursday from July 4.

De said that resuming the services of these express trains would fulfil the long-standing demand of the people of the region. Rail connectivity in the northeast would be strengthened with West Bengal and its capital by these services. This would highly benefit the patients, students, and other commuters of the adjacent states, apart from promoting economic growth and commerce, the CPRO added.

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–IANS

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