The Congress hit back, asking Modi as to who raked up the reservation issue in the first place and put the blame at the RSS’ doorstep.
Speaking at the foundation-laying ceremony of B.R. Ambedkar National Memorial here, Modi said, “Those who did not do anything for 60 years often spread lies. When (Atal Bihari) Vajpayeeji became the prime minister, they started saying that reservation will go. He was the prime minister for two terms. Nothing of that sort happened, but lies were still spread.”
In Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, where the BJP has been in power for many years, “nothing has ever happened to end reservation for Dalits and tribals”, but lies were still spread to mislead the people, he said.
Modi said such “misinformation campaigns” were carried out by people who only wanted to do politics on reservation.
“There are misgivings against us. But the truth is, we in the Bharatiya Janata Party have always had the utmost respect for Ambedkar,” the prime minister said.
Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari flayed Modi for his comments on reservation.
“The question to the prime minister is: Who raised the issue of revisiting reservation. Was it raised by the Congress? Was it raised by anybody in the opposition? The issue was raised by the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), by its chief Mohan Bhagwat.
“So, the prime minister would be well advised if he directs these queries with regard to revisiting reservation to its or to their ideological mentor,” Tewari said.
Meanwhile, former Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, who belongs to the Mahadalit caste in Bihar, advocated a review of the reservation policy that sets aside quota for the weaker sections of society in government jobs and educational institutions.
“I strongly feel that the reservation policy must be reviewed because otherwise those who actually require reservation are not benefitting,” Manjhi said in Patna on Monday.
Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha is part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.
Paying glowing tributes to Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar, Modi compared him with American civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr.
“If Martin Luther King Jr is seen as an image of fight against injustice, Ambedkar should also not be seen as second to anyone,” he said, adding that the Dalit leader was a ‘vishwamanav’ (world leader).
“Babasaheb was the voice of the marginalised,” the prime minister said, adding that the founding father of the Indian constitution should not be seen as a leader of any particular caste.
“Rather he was a protector of all human values. We should not limit him to our borders.”
“To call Ambedkar the messiah only of the Dalits is a great injustice to him. He raised his voice against all injustice,” Modi said.
The BJP and the Modi government have come under attack following the death of Dalit student Rohith Vemula in the Hyderabad University and alleged pressure from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to dilute the reservation policy.
At the end of the two-day national executive meet on Sunday, the BJP central leadership charted out a detailed roadmap to reach out to the Dalits.
The thrust of Ambedkar’s teachings for the people to get educated because education followed by organising the people can lead a community on the road to success and prosperity, said Modi.
“The struggle, as emphasised by Ambedkar’s teachings, can only come after these,” he said.
The prime minister said that his government was trying to realise Ambedkar’s dreams by providing electricity to 18,000 villages in a fixed time frame.
“When you get power supply in these villages, do not give credit to Modi. Give credit to Ambedkar.”
“These all are his ideas; only some people in between sabotaged these works,” he said in a veiled criticism of the Congress. He lamented that even after 60 years some villages in India remained in darkness.
Modi said farmers’ welfare figured prominently in Ambedkar’s economic philosophy.
“In order to realise one of his dreams, I will launch a technology on April 14 (birth anniversary of Ambedkar) that will help enable farmers get updated information about market rates of farm products,” the prime minister announced.
Meanwhile, the Congress expelled Saket Bahuguna, son of former Uttarakhand chief minister Vijay Bahuguna, and state Congress joint secretary Anil Gupta from the party.
A delegation of BJP leaders, headed by general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, marched from Vijay Chowk to Rashtrapati Bhavan and met President Pranab Mukherjee and sought dismissal of the Uttarakhand government.
However, the nine rebel Congress leaders were not part of the delegation.
“We requested the president to direct the governor to dismiss the Uttarakhand government and to give us time to prove our majority on the floor of the house. We have the support of 36 MLAs (in the 70-member house),” Vijayvargiya told reporters after the meeting.
He said Rawat had no moral right to remain as chief minister but “he is calling cabinet meetings and taking decisions”.
Asked about the rebel Congress leaders not joining the delegation, Vijayvargiya said: “They will meet the president separately.”
Shortly after the BJP delegation met the president, a delegation of Congress leaders also reached the president’s house and apprised him of the political situation in the state.
“We apprised the president of the situation in Uttarakhand and how the BJP with the help of the central government has been trying to dismantle opposition governments in the states especially Congress-ruled states,” Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad told reporters after the meeting.
The delegation comprised A.K. Antony, Motilal Vora, Ambika Soni, Ahmed Patel and Kapil Sibal.
Azad also alleged that in Uttarakhand, Congress leaders, who are now in the Bharatiya Janata Party fold, were held captive by the BJP.
“We informed the president that BJP people took Congress leaders into their bus without their consent and presented them before Governor K.K. Paul. Our MLAs have been held captive by them,” he said.
He claimed that the BJP, with the help of the central government, was now putting pressure on the governor to advance the date fixed by him.
“The governor has asked Chief Minister Harish Rawat to prove his majority on March 28 but the BJP with the help of the Centre is now putting pressure on the governor to advance the date fixed to prove majority,” he said.
Azad also claimed that Rawat will prove his majority on the floor of the house.
Earlier on Monday, Rawat accused the BJP of spreading lies and trying to take political advantage of an internal rebellion in the Congress party.
“The BJP is trying to topple the democratically elected government as they have been doing it in other states. An all-powerful BJP government at the Centre is clearly misusing its position to murder democracy in Uttarakhand,” Rawat said at a press conference.
He also termed the BJP a party of “pseudo-nationalists” and accused it of making unverified and malicious allegations against his government for political gain.
“The BJP has levelled three allegations against me related to the land allotment for the smart city project and helping the mining mafia. I want to say categorically that all allegations are baseless,” he said.
Meanwhile, in a crackdown on rebel leaders, the Congress expelled SaketBahuguna and Anil Gupta from the party.
Bahuguna had contested the last Lok Sabha elections from Uttarakhand on a Congress ticket.
Sources told IANS that the Congress high command has asked Rawat to go ahead and tackle the rebellion with an iron hand.
The action indicated that the Congress leadership was not in a mood to initiate dialogue with the rebels and that it was even willing to sacrifice the government if needed.
The nine legislators who rebelled against the Rawat government in the state assembly last week have already been served show cause notice by the speaker.
Leader of the rebel group, Harak Singh Rawat has already been sacked as the agriculture minister.
Condemning “unequivocally” the terror attack that has so far resulted in 23 deaths, Gandhi said “such cowardly acts can never defeat the resolve of the entire world community to fight terrorism in all its manifestations”.
The Congress president said her party and the entire country stood with the people of Belgium in this hour of crisis, her party said in a series of tweets.
“She hoped and prayed that the casualty figures and the number of injured remain low,” a party tweet said.
Two massive explosions shattered Belgium’s Zaventem airport on Tuesday morning, four days after the arrest of a Paris terror attack suspect in Brussels.
Electing to bat first, New Zealand rode on Martin Guptill’s 48-ball 80 to post 180 for five wickets before restricting Pakistan to 158 for five in their 20 overs.
The win saw New Zealand move to the top of the Group B table with three wins from as many matches while Pakistan’s chances of advancing further dimmed after two straight losses.
Left-hander Sharjeel Khan (47) gave Pakistan a strong start in their reply to reach 76/1 in seven overs.
Kiwi skipper Kane Williamson introduced Ish Sodhi to produce the match’s defining phase.
The leg-spinner removed the dangerous looking Shahid Afridi and conceded only 25 runs from his four overs. He also created enough pressure for Mitchell Santner to pick up two wickets and strangle Pakistan to a 22-run defeat.
Pakistan needed 52 in 24 balls with six wickets in hand. But Umar Akmal and Shoaib Malik could hardly find the gaps, as Pakistan failed to hit a boundary in its last 31 balls and finished on 158 for five.
With its third consecutive win, New Zealand became the first team to qualify for the semi-finals.
Earlier, Martin Guptill led the way with some power-packed batting as New Zealand posted a challenging total of 180/5 in their World Twenty20 Group 2 match against Pakistan at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium here on Tuesday.
Guptill smashed 80 runs off 48 balls with 10 boundaries and three sixes. Ross Taylor, who remained on 36 off 23 deliveries and Corey Anderson (21) played useful knocks in the later stages of the innings.
Pacer Mohammad Sami (2/23) was the best performer among the Pakistan bowlers, although he did take some punishment from Guptill in his first spell. Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi (2/40) also bagged a couple of wickets.
This is New Zealand’s third match of the tournament. The Kiwis have made themselves near certain candidates for advancing to the semi-finals by winning both their previous matches, against hosts India and Australia. Another victory on Tuesday will see them through to the last-four stage as the top team in the group.
Electing to bat on winning the toss, New Zealand were off to a superb start with openers Guptill and Kane Williamson going great guns.
Guptill was the more aggressive of the two, handing out some rough treatment to the Pakistan bowlers while Williamson gave him steady support from the other end as the duo put together an opening partnership of 62 runs by the eighth over.
Irfan struck the first blow for Pakistan when he outfoxed Williamson with a slower one. The Kiwi right-hander mistimed his attempted drive as Shahid Afridi pulled off an easy catch at cover.
Incoming batsman Colin Munro did not last long as Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi struck in his very first over after coming on to bowl. Attempting a switch hit of a delivery which was pitched on the middle stump, the left-handed Munro hit the ball straight to Sharjeel Khan at sweeper cover.
But that did not affect the New Zealand run rate too much as Guptill and Corey Anderson continued to score at a brisk pace. The duo added 52 runs between them before Guptill tapped the ball onto his stumps while trying to dab an incoming delivery from Sami to third man.
Anderson also went back to the pavilion in the very next over as he mistimed a googly from Afridi. But Taylor ensured that the Kiwis finished their innings on a strong note.
New Zealand 180/5 in 20 overs (Martin Guptill 80, Ross Taylor 36 n.o.; Mohammad Sami 2-23, ShahidAfridi 2-40); Pakistan (Sharjeel Khan 47, Ahmed Shehzad 30, Mitchell Santner 2/29, Adam Milne 2/26).
In a statement, posted on North Korean website Uriminzokkiri, the North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said: “From this moment, the North’s army and revolutionary forces will push for a retaliatory war to eliminate the US and Park’s followers in the name of justice.”
The committee warned this was no empty threat, although it has made several such threats in the past too, without following it up with any attacks.
It also warned Pyongyang is running out of patience with the “reckless” provocations by South Korea and the US, in reference to the joint military manoeuvers being carried out by the allies in South Korean territory since early March, and which will continue till end April.
As part of these exercises, the largest ever conducted in the Korean Peninsula with more than 17,000 US and 300,000 South Korean troops, the two countries began a joint navy drill that includes the participation of a US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier on Tuesday.
North Korea, which considers these joint military exercises “invasion drills,” has responded with threats of pre-emptive strikes and launched several short and medium range missiles, including one on Monday.
He hoped India and Pakistan would evolve ways and means to include the people of Kashmir in the composite dialogue between the two countries.
Speaking to the media before leaving for New Delhi to attend the Pakistan Day function to which High Commissioner Abdul Basit has invited him, Mirwaiz said: “Hurriyat conference is not against any country or nation.
“We have always welcomed the dialogue process between India and Pakistan. We hope the two counties would evolve the ways and means to include the people of Kashmir in the composite dialogue process.
“We believe the vision of Atal Bihari Vajpayee would be carried forward in which he said issues should be settled within the parameters of ‘Insaniyat’ (Humanity) which is much greater than the parameters set by the constitution” .
Umer dismissed opposition to the separatist leaders attendance at the Pakistan Day functions in New Delhi.
“It is like creating a storm in the tea cup. We have always been attending these functions at the invitation of Pakistan High Commission. We go there to put forth our viewpoint and not to oppose anybody,” Umer said.
“Mutual help and the give and take policies would further boost the India-Bangladesh relations. The give and take policies must continue,” Sarkar told reporters here after joining the videoconferencing between the prime ministers of India and Bangladesh from their respective capitals.
“Supply of 100 MW electricity from India’s Tripura to Bangladesh and inauguration of third international internet gateway (IIG) in Agartala takes the bilateral cooperation of the two countries to a new height,” said Sarkar.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina, along with Sarkar on Wednesday launched the supply of power and the IIG through videoconferencing from their respective offices in New Delhi, Dhaka and Agartala.
Sarkar said that it would not have been possible to commission the 726 MW Palatana power project in southern Tripura if Bangladesh had not allowed India to carry weighty turbines and heavy and oversized machineries through its territory.
“When the Bangladeshi prime minister had visited Tripura in January 2012, she sought power from the Tripura power project and we readily accepted the demand. Later, then prime minister Manmohan Singh and incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi expedited the process,” he added.
Sarkar said that Hasina also readily agreed to allow India to construct a bridge over river Feni to get access to the Chittagong international sea port and agreed to share Bangladesh’s submarine cable link to improve internet facilities in India’s northeastern region.
The detailed project report is ready for the Fenibridge in bordering Sabroom in southern Tripura. “Works would be started after getting Rs.91.44 crore from the union commerce ministry.”
A 47-km transmission line was erected linking the power grid at Surjyamaninagar in western Tripura to the Comilla power grid in Bangladesh to supply 100 MW of electricity to the country.
This will be in addition to the 500 MW Bangladesh is already receiving from West Bengal.
Tripura Power Minister Manik Dey told reporters that that India’s NTPC Vidyut Vyapar Nigam Ltd. (NVVN) and the Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB), both state-run companies, signed an agreement to supply 100 MW of electricity to Bangladesh.
The minister, who was recently in Dhaka and attended a series of meetings to finalise the power tariff, said: “In Dhaka, several meetings were held to finalise the power tariff. It was decided that the electricity would be supplied to Bangladesh at Rs.5.5 per unit.”
“During the meeting, the Bangladesh prime minister was very keen to get more power from India as the country needs 8,000 MW of electricity to meet its needs.
The Tripura government is also ready to provide more power to Bangladesh if the central government has no objection,” Dey added.
During his visit to Dhaka on June 6-7 last year, Modi discussed power supply from Tripura with Hasina.
Modi had declared that India would eventually enhance the power supply to Bangladesh to 1,100 MW.
Kanhaiya Kumar told reporters on his arrival that he will visit the university in the evening to pay tributes to Rohith Vemula and meet his mother and brother.
“We are fighting for social justice on the campuses and to fulfil the dream of Rohith so that tomorrow no student has to say that his birth as a Dalit is an accident,” said Kanhaiya Kumar.
He is also expected to address students demanding justice for Rohith, who committed suicide on January 17 following his suspension along with four other Dalit students over a fracas with a Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) leader.
Kanhaiya Kumar’s visit comes at a time when the Hyderabad University is on the boil again.
Students on Tuesday resumed protests after Vice Chancellor P. AppaRao, who is blamed for the suicide, returned after nearly two months of leave.
The protest turned violent with clashes between protesting students and police. As many as 25 students have been arrested.
As part of the crackdown, police barred the entry of media persons and outsiders into the campus.
Congress MP Hanumanth Rao told reporters at the university main gate that AppaRao was sent back to provoke the students and foil Kanhaiya Kumar’s visit.
Communist Party of India (CPI) leader K. Narayana and others welcomed Kanhaiya Kumar when he reached Hyderabad airport. He drove straight to CR Foundation at Kondapur to attend a programme.
The student leader will reach the campus in the evening. He will be visiting the CPI state headquarters in the evening.
Kanahiya Kumar is scheduled to visit Sundaraiah Vignana Kendram of CPI-M on Thursday to address a gathering before leaving for Vijayawada to attend a programme at a college.
“The enactments repealed in reality have lost their meaning but are still on the statute book. The repealing of the Acts whose terms have ended will in no way cause any negative impact on actions that were validly taken under these laws… Their repeal will serve the purpose of cleaning the statute book,” an official statement said.
The cabinet meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Communications and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad called it “a very important decision” taken by the cabinet at its meeting here on Wednesday with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the chair.
He said a total of 2.95 crore houses are needed to be constructed as per the last Census and the target will be achieved by 2022 — the 75th year of India’s Independence.
Every poor family living in plains will get Rs.1.20 lakh and those living in “hilly and difficult” areas will receive an assistance of Rs.1.30 lakh under the “Housing for All” scheme, the minister said.
“This programme will run for 6-7 years,” Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters, adding the proposal is to run the scheme in two phases.
The government proposed “to construct one crore houses in the first three years”, he said. For this, he said, the government would need to spend nearly Rs.82,000crore.
“Out of which, Rs.65,000crore will be provided by budgetary provisions” and the rest will come from India’s apex development bank NABARD, Ravi Shankar Prasad said.
The minister stressed that “transparency in the selection of beneficiaries” will be maintained in the implementation of the schemes.
Masons to be employed for building the houses should be trained properly so that the construction is done as the per the regional requirements, he said.
Railway Board member (traffic) Mohammad Jamshed said the quota has been increased by 50 percent and would be applicable from April 1.
He launched these initiatives at a function at the Rail Bhavan here on Wednesday.
A ministry statement said women passengers aged 45 and above and pregnant women when travelling alone were also getting a combined reservation quota of two lower berths per coach in sleeper, AC II and III tier classes.
In 2015, the quota of two lower berths per coach in sleeper class was increased to four. Subsequently, the condition of ‘only when travelling alone’ was relaxed, the statement said.
It said this quota at present is available even in case of a single application of two passengers with a combination of senior citizens/female passengers above the age of 45/pregnant women.
The quota has now been enhanced to six lower berths per coach in sleeper class and three lower berths per coach in AC II and III classes, the statement said.
For Rajdhani, Duronto and fully AC Express trains, there will be four lower berths per coach reserved under the quota as against three lower berths per coach in case of normal mail/express trains.
The ministry also formulated revised scheme with rationalized lump sum rates for MGR system to provide economical and reliable alternative short lead traffic.
The ministry said for 18-km lead, the revised MGR rates would be around Rs.47 per tonne for 2-3 trips a day as compared to road rates of Rs.72 per tonne for the same lead.