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President, PM to take part in Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary celebrations

Finishing touches: Work apace at the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur in Pakistan as part of the corridor project. AFP

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has agreed to be a part of the first ‘jatha’ (batch) of pilgrims to the Sikh shrine of Kartarpur Sahib across the border in Pakistan, while President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will participate in the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said on Thursday after formally inviting them.

He, however, made it clear that his government’s ‘jatha’, of which Dr. Singh will be a part,will visit only Kartarpur Sahib and not attend the opening ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor organised by the Pakistan government.

Last week, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi announced that their government had extended an invitation to Dr. Singh.

Capt. Amarinder Singh, in a statement, said: “There is no question of me going to Pakistan for the Kartarpur corridor opening and I feel Dr. Manmohan Singh will not go as well. There is a huge difference between visiting Pakistan and going to the Gurdwara through the Corridor.”

The clarification came after a section of the media reported that the Chief Minister and Dr. Singh had accepted the Pakistani invite. “As far as visiting Pakistan is concerned, the Chief Minister reiterated that he would not go there until Pakistan stops cross-border terrorism. Punjab was the worst sufferer of cross-border terrorism and he cannot think of going there till it stops,” a State government spokesperson said.

Kartarpur Sahib is a revered shrine of the Sikh community where Guru Nanak Dev settled down and lived for 18 years until his death. Though it is merely 4.7 km away, pilgrims from India have to take a circuitous route through Lahore to reach there.

In November last, India and Pakistan agreed to build the Kartarpur Corridor to connect Kartarpur Sahib with Dera Baba Nanak Sahib on the Indian side.

Capt. Amarinder Singh has requested President Kovind and Prime Minister Modi to attend the function of the opening of the corridor in Punjab.

“The Chief Minister urged them both, in particular, to participate in the Kartarpur Corridor opening at Dera Baba Nanak and the November 12 main programme at Sultanpur Lodhi in Kapurthala,” said the government spokesperson.

Multiple events

Ahead of Guru Nanak Dev’s birth anniversary or Parkash Purb, the State government has planned a series of events from November 5 to 15, including a plan to send an all-party delegation to Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak Dev that is now in Pakistan.

In his meeting with Prime Minister Modi, the Chief Minister is learnt to have requested “Mr. Modi’s personal intervention to give clearance for a jatha to visit the Nankana Sahib as well”.

‘No problems in bilateral ties’

Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina arriving in New Delhi on Thursday.AP

Bangladesh will try to highlight economic opportunities in relation with India, visiting Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said here on Thursday. The comments showed Dhaka’s desire to foreground the economic agenda which has been overshadowed by the fallout of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam and Home Minister Amit Shah’s description of Bangladesh citizens as “infiltrators”.

“There are no problems in bilateral ties. I have come here to discuss economic issues,” said Ms. Hasina in response to a question from The Hindu during a public reception held at the Bangladesh High Commission.

Ms. Hasina addressed the World Economic Forum (WEF) soon after arriving here on Thursday and presented Bangladesh as a fast-growing economy and an attractive investment destination in South Asia.

“It is time for global investors, particularly Indian entrepreneurs, to invest in Bangladesh in areas like education, light engineering, electronics, automotive industry, artificial intelligence — beyond the conventional menu,” said the visiting leader in her speech at the WEF.

Ms. Hasina is scheduled to hold official talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday, and several agreements are expected to be signed. According to sources, both sides are in talks for agreements for a Special Economic Zone and a skill development centre.

‘Article 370 was impeding its progress’

Amit Shah flagging off the Vande Bharat Express train on Thursday.R.V. Moorthy

Union Home Minister Amit Shah said on Thursday that Jammu & Kashmir would see huge development in the next decade.

He was speaking at the inauguration of a Vande Bharat Express train that will connect Delhi with the Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu through the Katra railway station. Accompanied by Railway Minister Piyush Goyal and Cabinet colleagues Jitendra Singh and Harsh Vardhan, Mr. Shah flagged off the train from the New Delhi railway station.

Recalling the role of the Swadeshi movement during British rule, Mr. Shah said the coaches of the new train were “made in India.”

The Minister lauded the government’s move to revoke Article 370 that gave special status to Jammu & Kashmir. “Every Indian had a feeling that [Article] 370 should go. The Narendra Modi government did it. The special status was the biggest impediment in the development of J&K... Kashmir will be one of the most developed States in the next 10 years... the process has begun with the inauguration of Vande Bharat,” he said.

He is under house arrest in Srinagar

Yousuf Tarigami

CPI(M) leader and former Jammu and Kashmir legislator Yousuf Tarigami has not been allowed by the Srinagar administration to attend a meeting of the central committee of the party under way in Delhi.

The central committee is the highest decision-making body of the party. The three-day meeting began on October 2.

“We had submitted an application to Srinagar District Magistrate Shahid Chaudhary well in time for the meeting. We didn’t get any reply; he didn’t even bother to meet us,” said Irfan Gul, a close aide of Mr. Tarigami and convener of the Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Youth Federation. Mr. Tarigami, 72, is under house arrest in Srinagar without any formal orders since August 5.

Mr. Tarigami, a four-time legislator, has not been allowed to travel or meet anyone.

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the Srinagar administration’s decision was contrary to the Supreme Court judgment.

“It’s very strange that he was denied permission even after the Supreme Court had said that he is not under detention and is free to move,” he told The Hindu.

Centre announces plans to conduct tests, release rankings early next month

Preliminary testing found that samples failed to meet the 42 parameters of the BIS standard. Representative ImageRepresentative Image

With a new investigation of Delhi tap water showing that it is not safe to drink, the Centre has announced plans to test the quality of piped drinking water in the States and release Swachh Pani rankings early next month. It is also trying to build a consensus to make quality standards for tap water a mandatory requirement.

Report by November

A team from the Bureau of Indian Standards has been sent to State capitals to collect samples of tap water to see if they meet quality standards, Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan told reporters on Thursday.

“We expect the report by the first week of November and will release Swachh Pani rankings to show which State is supplying safe drinking water at least in its capitals,” he said.

Meanwhile, Delhi has already failed that test. A BIS investigation of 11 tap water samples collected from various parts of the city – including the Minister’s home at Janpath and his office in Krishi Bhavan, both in central Delhi – shows that the capital’s water does not comply with quality standards.

Preliminary lab testing found that all the samples failed to meet the 42 parameters (including odour, PH levels, total dissolved solids and metal content) that make up the BIS standard. This shows that Delhi’s tap water is not safe to drink, said Mr. Paswan, adding that the final lab results would be made public soon.

“After seeing the preliminary report for Delhi, we are holding consultations to see if we can mandate BIS’ piped water standards at least in the national capital, the State capital and 100 smart cities,” said the Minister, adding that BIS would be writing to State governments seeking their views on the issue.

“All governments must agree on this issue, as it is a matter of people’s lives.”

He added that the Delhi government has indicated it is willing to make the BIS standard mandatory in the city.

Currently, it is mandatory for bottled water manufacturers to meet the BIS quality standard.

However, the BIS standard for tap water is voluntary for the public agencies which supply and distribute piped water.

Global standards

“The latest BIS standard was made in 2012, but it is not on par with international standards. I have asked BIS officials to see if we can match global quality,” said Mr. Paswan.

He was speaking after a meeting with representatives from BIS, the State-run Delhi Jal Board, which supplies and distributes most of the city’s water, the Centrally-controlled New Delhi Municipal Council, which distributes water in central Delhi, the Union Jal Shakti Ministry and the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).

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