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QBullet: Malegaon Blast Chargesheet; Latur Handed Water Train Bill

QBullet is your daily compilation of news stories which are making headlines across the country. 

Updated
India
7 min read
Drought-hit Latur has been sent a bill of about Rs. 2 crore by Railways for water train service. (Photo: AP Photo/ Rajanish Kakade )

1. Malegaon Blast Case: NIA Gives Clean Chit to Sadhvi Pragya Thakur

In its chargesheet to be filed in a Mumbai court on Friday, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has decided to give a clean chit to Sadhvi Pragya Thakur in the 2008 Malegaon blast case. According to a report in The Indian Express, the chargesheet will also state that the evidence against the other key accused Colonel Prasad Purohit was fabricated and the investigation led by Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) chief Hemant Karkare was faulty.

The Malegaon blast took place in 2008, (Photo: Reuters)
The Malegaon blast took place in 2008, (Photo: Reuters)

Charges against the accused, under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), are likely to be dropped, and instead the key accused – Sadhvi Pragya Thakur and Colonel Purohit – will be charged under provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Read the report here.
Also Read: DeQoded: The 2008 Malegaon Blasts Case

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2. AgustaWestland: No Sign of Wrongdoing in Chopper Deal, Says Former Defence Secretary

Former Defence Secretary Vijay Singh has said that all requisite rules were followed in the Rs 3,600-crore VVIP chopper contract and that the the AgustaWestland AW-101 helicopter was a proven platform that was suitable to the Air Force’s requirements, reports the Hindustan Times.

The AgustaWestland deal has caused an uproar in Parliament with both BJP and Congress trading accusations on the VVIP chopper deal. (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)&nbsp;
The AgustaWestland deal has caused an uproar in Parliament with both BJP and Congress trading accusations on the VVIP chopper deal. (Photo: The Quint
“There was no question of any pressure (to award the deal). It was above board and cleared purely on merit,” said Singh, who served as defence secretary during 2007-09 and was one of the key decision-makers who authorised the chopper trials to be held in the UK.
Hindustan Times Report 

Singh said that the agreement to include overseas trials as part of the deal was a routine matter. This has been extensively criticised by the BJP-led government in Parliament. He added that the procurement of VVIP choppers was done on the basis of specific recommendation by the Indian Air Force.

Read the report here.

3. Want RSS and Liquor-free Society, Says Nitish in Uttar Pradesh

Slamming the BJP’s nationalist politics, Nitish Kumar launched his Uttar Pradesh election campaign in Varanasi – Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home turf. He asked the people of UP to emulate the electoral result in Bihar and compare the work done by the UP and Bihar governments. He questioned the nationalist politics of the BJP and, in a jibe at the RSS, said those who weren’t part of the freedom movement have no right to talk about nationalism.

Read The Quint’s report here.

Taking on the ruling Samajwadi party, he criticised the party’s decision to walk out of the Grand Alliance in Bihar. Furthermore, he asked the Prime Minister to ban liquor across the country or at least in all BJP-ruled states, reports The Indian Express.

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4. Check! Railways Sends Latur Rs 2-Crore Water Bill

In what many consider an insensitive move, the Railways have sent drought-hit Latur a bill of Rs 2.16 crore for the water trains sent to the parched district. Received by the Collector of the district, Pandurang Pole, the bill has baffled many in the administration as there is uncertainty about the rate at which water was procured, reports The Indian Express.

Railways had received praise for delivering water trains to Latur. (Image altered by <b>The Quint</b>)
Railways had received praise for delivering water trains to Latur. (Image altered by The Quint)

While it is being speculated that the bill has been levied by the Centre, the move has led to criticism across party lines. Latur BJP MP Sunil Gaikwad has said that sending the bill was wrong while Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant has said that the Central government is making a business of drought. Latur has received four crore litres of water through water trains since April.

Read the report here.

Also Read:
Marathwada Drought: Water Train Only a Band-Aid Solution
Faces of Marathwada Drought and a ‘Peepli Live’ Moment in Latur
Drought-Hit Nanded and Latur Villagers, Living in a Thane Shelter

5. Banks’ Stressed Loans May Go Till Rs 13 Lakh Crore

Indian banks are staring at enormous bad debts. Stressed loans with domestic banks are expected to have crossed a whopping Rs 13 trillion (one trillion is equivalent to one lakh crore), surpassing the size of many economies around the globe, says a DNA report.

Estimates by India Ratings say that one-fifth (21 percent precisely) of the total bank credit is stressed. Total bank credit at the end of March 2016 stood at Rs 70 trillion.

If the results of India’s two large private banks, ICICI Bank and Axis Bank, are anything to go by, then the bad loans for banks are only set to rise by alarming proportions.(Photo: Reuters)
If the results of India’s two large private banks, ICICI Bank and Axis Bank, are anything to go by, then the bad loans for banks are only set to rise by alarming proportions.(Photo: Reuters)
For the financial year 2015-16, banks are expected to report Rs 9.3 trillion in bad loans, but this does not fully recognise the complete stress in the banking sector, say banking experts. Abhishek Bhattacharya, director at India Ratings, said, “The unrecognised stressed debt is the danger that banks face. It will be prudent for banks to recognise this debt and set aside capital for it. We expect banks to report Rs 9.3 trillion loans, but this camouflages the actual problem.”
DNA Report

While policy decisions have led to distress in the power and steel sectors, the current problem is also an outcome of the over-leveraging by Indian companies and careless lending by banks.

Read the report here.

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6. Make in India, But Not For Factories?

Although China is taking the biggest hit, all Asian manufacturing industries are shrinking with it. (Photo: Reuters)
Although China is taking the biggest hit, all Asian manufacturing industries are shrinking with it. (Photo: Reuters)

Despite efforts to pump up the manufacturing sector by the Centre, growth in factory output has continued to sputter, tumbling to 0.1 percent in March from 2 percent in the previous month, reports The Telegraph.

While it was expected that the growth would be around 2.5 percent, growth of 0.1 percent in industrial output is a huge disappointment for the markets and economists alike. Recognising the slow growth rate as worrying, the business community in India has called for reforms to simulate economy and boost demand.

Read the report here.

7. War of Words Between Sushma Swaraj And Oommen Chandy over Libya Rescue

A Twitter war kicked off between Union Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy after he claimed credit for the rescue of 29 stranded Indians, including 16 Keralites, in strife-torn Libya. Swaraj asserted that it was the Centre who had paid for the rescue of the stranded Indians. Nurses who landed from Libya told reporters at the Kochi airport that no government helped them, adding another layer to the controversy.

Read The Quint’s report here.

29 stranded Indians, including 16 Keralites, in strife-torn Libya were rescued. (Photo: PTI)&nbsp;
29 stranded Indians, including 16 Keralites, in strife-torn Libya were rescued. (Photo: PTI) 

Chandy also stated that he and the State Culture Minister KC Joseph had gone to New Delhi ‘multiple times’ to meet Swaraj to seek Central intervention for their return. According to him, the Union government sympathised, but did nothing else. He asserted that the state government will foot the airfare bill for their return journey, reports The Hindu.

Read the report here.

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8. West Bengal Engineer to Face Trial for ISIS Terror Online

Mehdi Masroor Biswas might be facing trial for ISIS terror activities online. (Photo Courtesy: <i><a href="http://www.thenewsminute.com/article/bengaluru-police-file-37000-page-charge-sheet-against-mehdi-masroor-biswas">The News Minute</a></i>)
Mehdi Masroor Biswas might be facing trial for ISIS terror activities online. (Photo Courtesy: The News Minute)

Mehdi Masroor Biswas’ activities supporting the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria online have caused him to face trial on charges of cyber terrorism in a case that might set a precedent for other cases of cyber terrorism.

Biswas’ Twitter handle was ranked in the top 10 ISIS accounts and regularly accessed by Western ISIS fighters. He was arrested in Bengaluru in 2014, and a special court in the city has ruled that given evidence with the police on his criminal activities, there is sufficient ground to charge him with cyberterrorism, reports The Indian Express.

Read the report here.

9. Opinion | Mamata and Jayalalithaa: A Tale of Two Baronesses

A woman walks past a poster of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha (Photo: Reuters)
A woman walks past a poster of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha (Photo: Reuters)

They both run tightly-controlled, one-woman parties, evoke a mixture of fear and awe and are prominent figures in the political space in India, yet Mamata Banerjee and Jayalalitha are two very different politicians and leaders. Rajdeep Sardesai in the Hindustan Times explores the governance styles and flaws of both women and what 2016 may hold in store for them.

And yet, despite their many flaws, what is undeniable is that both Amma and Didi are mass leaders, able to establish an instant connect with the bulk of their voters, especially women. Both have been able to sustain their politics around a consciously shaped pro-poor image, of being leaders who can be trusted with reaching out to those outside the privileged elite. Jayalalithaa’s liquor policy may have been a breach of trust, forcing her to now course correct and push for prohibition. Mamata’s ‘maa, mati, manush’ slogan may appear hollow now, but it hasn’t stopped her from being seen as a champion of the underclass.

Read the article here.

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