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Mahatma’s dream of ‘Clean Bharat’ fulfilled by government, he says

Highlighting achievements: Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing BJP workers at a meeting at the Ahmedabad airport on Wednesday. PTIPTI

On the occasion of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared the country open defecation-free, claiming success for the government’s initiative under which every household now apparently has access to a toilet.

“I am satisfied that on the occasion of Gandhi at 150, we are witnessing the fulfilment of his dream of Swachh Bharat. I feel lucky that on this occasion, when India has successfully stopped open defecation, I’m here at the ashram,” he wrote in the visitor’s book at Mahatma Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram on Wednesday.

“The world is impressed by our success on the open defecation-free front, and is giving awards to us,” Mr. Modi said, declaring that the country had achieved cleanliness in urban and rural areas, thanks to the government’s push to build toilets.

Map unveiled

The Prime Minister pressed a remote, unveiling the map of India as open defecation-free at the Sabarmati riverfront ground in the presence of more than 20,000 village heads from across the country and also representatives from several countries. “Today, rural India has declared itself open defecation-free. This is a great achievement of the Swachh Bharat movement, which has people’s participation,” the Prime Minister said.

“On the call of Mahatma Gandhi during the freedom movement, people of the country mobilised for ‘satyagrah’ and they did the same now for ‘swachhagrah’,” he said.

“In 60 months, 600 million people have been given access to toilets, more than 110 million toilets have been built. The whole world is amazed to hear this,” he said.

‘A milestone’

“However, this achievement is just a milestone, and we should not stop here. The movement has to continue,” he said, adding that sanitation, environment conservation and animals were dear to Mahatma Gandhi.

Mr. Modi credited ground-level volunteers with making Swachhta and toilets a common man’s topic after the government launched the initiative.

“This mission helped to make the toilet, which was earlier a difficult topic, a common topic of discussion. From girls who demanded a toilet before marriage to Bollywood, everyone contributed to the mission to make India an open defecation-free country,” he added, acknowledging the contribution of every section in the public movement

Tells allies to forgo deals with Russia

On a day when External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said he was “reasonably convinced” of persuading the U.S. to accept India’s decision on the purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defence system, U.S. officials warned that any such purchase might risk sanctions.

“We urge all of our allies and partners to forgo transactions with Russia that risk triggering sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA),” a State Department spokesperson told The Hindu through email, hours after Mr. Jaishankar’s comments on Tuesday.

India agreed to purchase the surface-to-air missile system from Russia in 2018 for about $5.2 billion, risking sanctions under the CAATSA. Sanctions could kick in when the first payment for the equipment is made, unless the U.S. President grants a waiver.

‘Waivers not automatic’

U.S. government officials have repeatedly said, in the Indian context, that countries should not assume that waivers are automatic.

Mr. Jaishankar, who is on a visit to Washington, following the United Nations General Assembly high-level week in New York, has held or will hold meetings with U.S. government officials, including Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.

The State Department, however, said Mr. Pompeo had not made any decision regarding India’s transactions, when asked about possible sanctions. “The Secretary has not made any determination regarding the significance of any transaction involving India. We cannot prejudge whether a specific transaction would result in sanctions,” a spokesperson told The Hindu.

Indian legal demands for content removal are the fourth highest in the world

Despite the rising censorship of Twitter posts and accounts on the basis of legal demands from the Indian government, law enforcement agencies and others over the last five years, the lack of transparency behind suspensions, blocked tweets and the practice of shadow-banning has left users angry.

Between June and December 2018 (the last period for which data are available), the Indian government, the law enforcement agencies and others made 657 legal demands for content removal, besides 10 court orders. Overall, 2,228 accounts were reported, of which 95 accounts and 114 tweets were withheld.

100-fold increase

Indian demands for content removal were the fourth highest in the world for this period, and have increased 100-fold from the same period five years ago.

When contacted by The Hindu about such cases of censorship and the process followed to ensure transparency, a Twitter spokesperson refused to answer specific questions, saying, “We don’t comment on individual accounts for privacy and security reasons... At Twitter, no one is above our rules. We enforce our policies judiciously and impartially for all users — regardless of their political beliefs and background.”

Information on official legal requests made to Twitter is published twice a year, the spokesperson added.

According to Twitter records, many content removal demands from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology simply cited a violation of Section 69(A) of the Information Technology Act, 2000. When Twitter receives such a demand, it sends an email notice to the affected user. (Twitter says it does not send such notifications if prohibited from doing so.)

Gulsher migrated to India with his family in May

A Pakistani national, who claims to have migrated to India along with his family in May this year, has moved the Delhi High Court after a government school in the Capital rejected admission of his three children.

Gulsher, who is currently living at Bhatti Mines, Chhatarpur, in Delhi along with his family, said their case for Indian citizenship was under consideration by the Centre.

In his petition, filed through advocate Ashok Aggarwal, he claimed that he and his family migrated to India as they were “persecuted and traumatised by Pakistani authorities”.

“These Hindu families who migrated from Pakistan to India have a large number of school-age children who are required to be admitted in government schools so as to enable them to continue their education,” the plea said.

Age objection

Mr. Gulsher’s children — Sanjina Bai, Moona Kumari and Ravi Kumar — were seeking admission in different classes in a government school in Chhatarpur, but they were denied admission on the ground that they are overaged.

Advocate Aggarwal cited the case of another Pakistani Hindu refugee girl in 2016 who, despite having no educational documents, was granted admission in a Delhi school by relaxing the rules after her case was referred by then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

The petition claimed that the case of the three children was put up before the Delhi government through the All India Parents Association. “However, no response has been received so far from the Directorate of Education, Delhi government,” the plea said.

Photo taken in cinema hall lands seven errant sub-inspectors in trouble

In plain sight: The photo that the sub-inspectors took at a theatre in Koilakuntla on Wednesday. U. SUBRAMANYAM The Hindu

While fans of ‘Megastar’ Chiranjeevi erupted in joy and broke into a dance to watch the ‘first day, first show’ of his latest movie Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy on Wednesday, seven sub-inspectors of police in Kurnool district had to face the music.

The policemen now face disciplinary action after they “bunked” duty to watch the new release.

The day saw overwhelming excitement among fans of Chiranjeevi as this was a project he had taken up after a long gap. The movie opened in cinemas across the country in different languages.

People could not wait to see their favourite star essaying the role of the freedom fighter Uyyalawada Narasimha Reddy. ‘The first day, first show’ craze was all-pervasive, with fans ready to do anything to get inside the cinemas. Apparently, so were police officers.

The lucky ones who made it included a set of seven young sub-inspectors from Bandi Atmakur, Nandivargam, Kolimigundla, Allagadda Special Branch, Racharla, Owk, and Gospadu in Kurnool district, who gave their duties the go-by and went to a cinema in Koilakuntla for a special early morning show.

One of them, perhaps overjoyed by the festive mood, captured the moment by clicking a picture and posting it on a social media platform after the show. Little did he or the others realise that this would land them in trouble.

The image was brought to the notice of Superintendent of Police K. Fakeerappa, who asked the Deputy Superintendents of Police of Nandyal, Allagadda and Dhone to hold an inquiry against the sub-inspectors.

Though it was an early morning show, what seems to have ticked off the Superintendent of Police was that these officers gathered at a theatre in Koilakuntla from different mandals.

No leave sought

The errant policemen had not sought permission nor did they apply for leave. Apart from that, a major reason for initiating action against them was the fact that it was Gandhi Jayanti. Also, Village Secretariats, a welfare delivery scheme run by the Andhra Pradesh government, was to be inaugurated on Wednesday.

“The sub-inspectors picked a wrong day to skip work,” said the officer. “If it were any other day, they might even have gotten away with it!”

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