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YSRCP MLC sentenced to jail in 28-year-old case of tonsuring Dalits, gets bail (Lead)



Visakhapatnam, April 16 (IANS) A special court in Andhra Pradesh’s Visakhapatnam on Tuesday sentenced YSR Congress Party MLC Thota Trimurthulu and nine others to imprisonment for 18 months for tonsuring two Dalit youths 28 years ago, but hours later, the district court granted him bail.

Trimurthulu, who is also the YSRCP candidate for the Mandapeta Assembly seat in Konaseema district in the next month’s polls, approached the district court after XI Additional District and Session Court-cum-special court for trial of cases under SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act pronounced its verdict in the sensational case of 1996.

The ruling party leader said he would challenge the special court’s verdict in the High Court.

The special court imposed a fine of Rs 2.5 lakh on the main accused Trimurthulu. The fine on others ranged from Rs 20,000 to Rs 1.5 lakh.

The court also ordered a compensation of Rs.1.20 lakh to Koti Chinna Raju and Dandala Venkata Ratnam, who were tonsured by Trimurthulu and others.

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The case had created a sensation in 1996 and the victims and their families have been awaiting justice for over two and a half decades.

On December 29, 1996, Trimurthulu, the then independent MLA of Ramachandrapuram, had tonsured two Dalit youngsters Koti Chinna Raju and Dandala Venkata Ratnam and beat up three others, Challapaudi Pattabhiramayya, Kanikella Ganapati, and Puvvala Venkata Ramana of Venkatayapalem in East Godavari district as they had opposed him in Assembly elections.

The Dalit youth had worked for polling agents of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

On a complaint by the two victims, a case was registered in 1997 at Draksharamam police station in East Godavari district.

Trimurthulu was later elected as MLA on the TDP ticket in 1999 and 2014. He later joined the YSR Congress.

The victims have welcomed the court order saying justice was finally done after 28 years. The reaction from Dalit groups and people’s organisations was mixed. Few of them said the punishment awarded to convicts was not proportionate to the nature of the crime committed by them.

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Jahan Ara, counsel of the victims, said the quantum of punishment awarded was disappointing.

The incident, which had occurred in Venkatayapalem village in the combined East Godavari district, had triggered protests by Dalit groups and human rights organisations.

Trimurthulu was arrested along with other accused and was jailed for 87 days. The then TDP government had also constituted the Justice Puttaswamy Commission to probe the incident.

Based on its report, a Government Order (GO) was issued, giving clean chit to Trimurthulu. The victims had challenged the GO in the Andhra Pradesh High Court, which had passed orders for questioning Trimurthulu.

In 2008, the investigation was re-opened in the case.

Senior lawyer and activist Bojja Tarakam had filed a petition in the High Court in 2015. The High Court directed the government to conduct a thorough investigation into the case and do justice to the victims.

On the directions of the High Court, the special court in Visakhapatnam began the trial in 2017. There was another twist in the case when authorities refused to issue caste certificates to the victims, claiming that they were not Dalits but Christians.

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After protests by Dalit and civil liberties groups and the direction of the Supreme Court, caste certificates were issued to them in June 2019.

The case was adjourned for143 times.

There were 24 witnesses in the case and 11 of them died due to old age or ill-health. Among the victims, Puvvala Venkat Ramna passed away.

Following the court order, police stepped up the security in Venkatayapalem and also at Draksharamam, which are now in Dr B.R. Ambedkar Konaseema district.



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Minister admits NCP MLA rooted for reinstating tainted doctor as Sassoon Hospital MS




Pune, May 30 (IANS) Maharashtra Medical Education Minister Hasan Mushrif has admitted that a ruling MahaYuti ally Nationalist Congress Party had recommended the reinstatement of the tainted medico, Ajay Taware – now arrested and suspended – to the coveted post of Medical Superintendent (MS) in Sassoon General Hospital, here on Thursday.

The recommendation was made by MLA Sunil Tingre, and a letter purportedly penned by him had gone viral on social media last week, though the legislator had vehemently denied the development.

Mushrif said that Tingre had written the recommendation letter around December 2023 which he (as Minister) had endorsed for further action to the concerned hospital authorities.

When questioned over this, Mushrif pointed a finger at the hospital Dean Vinayak Kale – currently sent on compulsory leave – asking why he failed to oppose the name of Taware.

“If he (Kale) did not consider Taware to be a suitable candidate for the MS post, then why did he not clearly inform the government about it,” Mushrif shot back, as fresh developments continued to crop up almost daily since the May 19 Porsche crash.

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On May 29, Kale hinted at the involvement of the legislator and the minister in the return of Taware as the MS despite his questionable professional record at the hospital.

Incidentally, Tingre is under a cloud for attempting to use his political clout and misguide the police investigations, and the Opposition parties have questioned whether the legislator’s son was also in the Porsche along with the builder’s minor son.

Targetting the government, Congress’ Leader of Opposition (Assembly) Vijay Wadettiwar has alleged that a “top person” in the regime was reportedly shielding the officials and the murky goings-on at the Sassoon General Hospital and would reveal the names later.

As the Sassoon General Hospital is caught in the eye of the Porsche crash storm, the axe is falling on several officials with the Dean eased out on compulsory leave and replaced by Chandrakant Mhaske.

Two senior medicos Ajay Taware and Shrihar Halnor plus a peon Atul Ghatkamble were arrested and suspended, and they shall be produced before a Pune Court later in the day for extension of their custody.

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The police have also questioned over two dozen other staffers of the hospital including medicos, nurses, administrative and medical employees for the probe.



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Outlook for Indian economy bright, 7 pc growth likely in 2024-25: RBI




Mumbai, May 30 (IANS) The outlook for the Indian economy remains bright with the GDP growth likely to be at a robust 7 per cent in 2024-25, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said in its annual report released on Thursday.

Against the backdrop of subdued global economic activity and multiple headwinds, the Indian economy expanded at a robust pace in 2023-24, with real GDP growth accelerating to 7.6 per cent from 7.0 per cent in the previous year – the third successive year of 7 per cent or above growth, the report pointed out.

The sustained strengthening of macroeconomic fundamentals, robust financial and corporate sectors and a resilient external sector are expected to drive growth in 2024-25, the report stated.

The government’s continued thrust on capex while pursuing fiscal consolidation, and consumer and business optimism augur well for investment and consumption demand, it added.

According to the report, the prospects for agriculture and rural activity appear favourable due to the ebbing El Nino and the expected above-normal southwest monsoon.

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The extension of Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) scheme for a period of five more years with effect from January 1, 2024 will strengthen national food security.

The government’s focus on AatmaNirbhar Oilseeds Abhiyan, the expansion of environmentally sustainable nano diammonium phosphate (DAP) in all agro-climatic zones and the promotion of bioeconomy through a new bio-manufacturing and bio-foundry scheme in the interim Union Budget 2024-25 would also support the agriculture sector.

The Union government’s impetus to growth-inducing capital spending is likely to be sustained in 2024-25 with more than half of borrowings directed towards financing of capital outlay.

The central government extended the financial assistance scheme for states’ capital expenditure to 2024-25 with an outlay of Rs 1.3 lakh crore. The budgeted reduction in gross market borrowings from 5.3 per cent of GDP in 2023-24 (RE) to 4.3 per cent of GDP in 2024-25 (BE) will enhance the flow of funds to the private sector and support private investment.

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The fiscal outlook for states remains favourable, with adequate fiscal room to pursue increased capital expenditure. The digitalisation of the tax system has enhanced tax collections, with the Centre’s direct tax revenues budgeted to reach 6.7 per cent of GDP in 2024-25, the highest in three decades, it adds.



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Ahead of PM Modi's Kanyakumari trip, his 33-year-old picture from Rock Memorial surfaces




New Delhi, May 30 (IANS) Prime Minister Narendra Modi is all set to mark the end of a hectic poll campaign and head to Kanyakumari on Thursday, for a two-day meditation at the iconic Vivekananda Rock Memorial.

Ahead of PM Modi’s visit to down south, his 33-year-old pictures from the iconic spot surfaced on social media on Thursday and took the netizens by storm.

The pictures dated December 11, 1991, are from Ekta Yatra that commenced from the iconic Vivekananda Rock Memorial in Kanyakumari and ended in Kashmir. In the viral pictures, all the ‘Ekta Yatris’ including Narendra Modi and party veteran Dr Murli Manohar Joshi can be seen circumambulating the statue of Swami Vivekananda to pay their respects.

Notably, the Ekta Yatra, also termed as the Unity March was launched in December 1991 from Kanyakumari and culminated on January 26, 1992, with the hoisting of the national flag in Srinagar.

The Ekta Yatra was led by veteran BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi while Narendra Modi, then a BJP worker, served as a key pivot in organising the march.

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The goal of the Yatra was to send a strong message to the world that India would stand firm and united against the forces of terror. The journey spanning 14 states resonated deeply with the people and showed the country’s unwavering commitment to national unity.

Starting from May 30-June 1, PM Modi is set to undertake 48-hour meditation at Dhyan Mandapam, the spot where Swami Vivekananda meditated in 1892. The Rock Memorial monument was built to pay tribute to the Hindu philosopher-saint.

It is said that Swami Vivekananda after wandering across the country meditated here for three days and attained a vision for a developed India.

PM Modi had undertaken a similar spiritual journey after the culmination of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. His visit to Uttarakhand after the high-octane campaign and meditation inside a cave near the Kedarnath shrine drew global headlines.



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Rajkot fire tragedy: 27 victims identified through DNA tests




Rajkot, May 30 (IANS) In the aftermath of the fire incident at the TRP Game Zone in Rajkot, authorities have identified 27 victims through DNA matching.

Since the bodies were charred beyond recognition, the state government had to take the help of a forensic science lab to identify the victims through DNA profiling.

Officials said, “For those whose family members were missing, disaster management and police teams compiled lists at the incident site. Throughout the night of May 25, as bodies were recovered, they were taken to the Civil Hospital for postmortem and DNA sampling. Samples from the victims and their families were sent to FSL Gandhinagar via air ambulance for matching. Due to multiple family members reporting the same missing individuals, there were initially duplicate or similar names. After verification, the final list of deceased victims was compiled, confirming the deaths of 27 individuals, whose bodies were handed over to their next of kin.”

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The officials said that misleading information about burn victims being treated or deceased in private hospitals was debunked through statements from hospital authorities and videos released on social media.

“A complaint by Hiteshbhai alias Vijaybhai Labhshankar Pandya about his nephew and two other children being missing was found to be false, resulting in an FIR against him under IPC Section 211,” said the officials.

Each victim was assigned a Deputy Mamlatdar and a PSI to assist their families from the moment the bodies were handed over until the final rites, and to complete the process for CM Relief Fund and PM Relief Fund assistance, the officials added.

“FSL teams worked round the clock to match the DNA samples of the deceased with their families. Currently, there are no pending complaints from any family regarding missing members, and all 27 bodies have been handed over to their families,” the officials said, adding that they have designated contact points and phone numbers if any individual is still missing after the fire incident.

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In case of missing members, the families have urged to contact the Rajkot City Police Commissioner at 83209 65606 or 281 245 7777 or the SIT Chairperson Bharat B. Basiya, Assistant Police Commissioner, Crime, Rajkot City, at 90336 90990.

“Other contacts include SIT member M.R. Gondaliya, Police Inspector, DCB Police Station at 96876 54989, S.M. Jadhja, Police Inspector, B Division Police Station at 97149 00997, R.H. Zala, Police Sub-Inspector, LCB Zone-2 at 98258 55350, D.C. Sakariya, Police Sub-Inspector, DCB Police Station at 80000 40050, DCB Police Station at 0281 2444165, Rajkot Taluka Police Station at 0281 2563340, and the Rajkot City Police Control Room at 0281 2457777 (100),” said the officials.



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Welfare of the poor top priority, says PM Modi in Hoshiarpur




Hoshiarpur, May 30 (IANS) Stating that the welfare of the poor was his government’s top priority, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday took a pledge that he would not let anyone snatch the quota of the poor and Dalits.

“The Congress and INDI Alliance people are agitated with this effort of mine. Their track record has been of snatching reservation from the SCs, STs and OBCs. They are insulting the spirit of the Constitution, the spirit of Baba Saheb Ambedkar. They want to take away the reservation of Dalits and Backward Classes and give it only to the Muslims,” PM Modi said at a big rally in Punjab’s Hoshiarpur town.

The PM said that he had exposed the Opposition’s conspiracy and “this is why they are furious and keep abusing Modi”.

This was PM Modi’s fourth rally in Punjab, a last minute attempt to motivate the voters just hours ahead of the campaigning coming to a close for the final and seventh phase of the General Elections.

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From the Hoshiarpur (Reserved seat), once a Congress bastion, the BJP has fielded Anita Som Parkash, the wife of outgoing Union Minister Som Parkash.

The Congress gave the ticket to Yamini Gomar, the AAP nominated Congress turncoat Raj Kumar Chabbewal and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) made ex-minister Sohan Singh Thandal its candidate.

Citing Guru Ravidas as his inspiration, PM Modi said, “Empowering the poor is the top priority of my government, and this is greatly inspired by Guru Ravidas.

“Guru Ravidas had said, ‘I desire a state where everyone gets food, and where people of all statuses live together’. After forming the government, we will work towards the naming of the airport in Adampur after Guru Ravidas.”

PM Modi targeted the Congress and the INDIA bloc by saying, “We are hearing a lot about the Constitution from the people of INDI Alliance. These are the same people who strangled the Constitution during Emergency.

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“When in 1984, people of the Sikh community were being murdered, at that time, they did not think about the Constitution.”

Slamming the ruling AAP government, PM Modi said they have destroyed industry and farming.

He said the work on the roadmap for the first 125 days of the BJP’s third term has been completed.

An optimistic PM Modi, who gave a clarion call for making the 21st Century India’s century, said, “After decades, it is time for a full majority government at the Centre to score a hat-trick. Every Indian aligned with the Viksit Bharat dream, give us your blessings.”

Punjab will go to polls for 13 parliamentary seats on June 1.

In 2019, the BJP in alliance with the Akali Dal had contested three Lok Sabha seats (Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur), while the latter contested the remaining 10 seats.

At that time, the state ruling Congress had won eight seats — Amritsar, Faridkot, Anandpur Sahib, Jalandhar, Khadoor Sahib, Ludhiana, Fatehgarh Sahib and Patiala seats — while the Akali Dal won Bathinda and Ferozepur and the BJP Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur seats.

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The AAP won from Sangrur. In 1996, BSP founder Kanshi Ram had won this seat with the support of the Akali Dal. BSP supremo Mayawati also contested from the seat in 1992 but lost. The party still holds significant presence on the seat.



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