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Home Ministry’s list had debarred them, kin from applying for Indian visa

At least 312 Indian-origin Sikhs living in foreign countries have been removed from a Ministry of Home Affairs “adverse list”, enabling them to apply for an Indian visa and visit the country, a senior Ministry official said on Friday. Only two persons still remain on the list.

The official said that in future, Sikhs mentioned in the list could eventually apply for registration as Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) after they have applied for and held normal visa for a period of two years.

The Congress-led government in Punjab and the opposition Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) both claimed credit for the Centre’s move.

“The Government of India has reviewed the ‘adverse list’ containing 314 foreign nationals belonging to the Sikh community and brought it down to just two,” the Home Ministry official said. The two cases where individuals are still on the adverse list pertain to overstaying of visa.

An official explained that in the 1980s, when Sikh militancy was at its peak, many members of the community in India and abroad were influenced by anti-India propaganda.

“Some Sikhs fled India to escape the authorities, acquired foreign nationality and took asylum outside the country. They were placed in the adverse list till 2016, making them ineligible to avail visa services to visit India,” said the official.

Missions informed

The list prepared by the intelligence agencies was available with all Indian missions and was a major roadblock for persons seeking visas even for their family members who were not on the list.

“This practice has also been discontinued,” the official said.

“Consequently, all Indian missions have been advised to grant appropriate visa to all categories of asylees and derivative asylees (family members) whose names do not figure in the Central Adverse List, in line with the procedure followed for other categories of applicants of that nationality,” said the official.

“This review is a continuous and dynamic process and part of a regular exercise. Such a review will afford an opportunity to such Sikh foreign nationals to visit India, meet their family members and reconnect to their roots,” said the official.

Amarinder’s welcome

Responding to the Centre’s decision, Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh said his government had worked actively with the Centre for scrapping the list.

“Every Sikh has the right to visit Punjab and Darbar Sahib, including those who had gone astray in the surcharged atmosphere of the 1980s and 1990s, particularly in the wake of the Operation Bluestar and the anti-Sikh riots,” he said.

“Conceding the demand and argument of the State government, the Centre has virtually done away with the list that comprised 314 Sikh foreign nationals, with only two names of men not connected with Punjab now left on it. The Central government has also discontinued the practice of maintenance of local adverse lists by the respective Indian missions in various countries,” Capt. Singh said.

Appreciating the Centre’s decision, the Shiromani Akali Dal said the efforts of the party and its president Sukhbir Singh Badal had yielded positive results.

“We welcome the decision. Our party president had taken up the issue with the Centre and we are happy that the demand has been accepted,” said Daljeet Singh Cheema, former Minister and Akali Dal spokesperson. “We request that the names of the remaining two should also be dropped from the list,” he added.

Part of a seven-point action plan to combat air pollution

The vehicle rationing scheme will return to the Capital for the third time. file photo: Sushil Kumar Verma

The odd-even vehicle rationing scheme will return to the Capital for the third time in November, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said here on Friday.

The scheme, Mr. Kejriwal announced at a press conference, will be enforced from November 4 to 15 as part of a seven-point action plan mainly aimed at combating the detrimental effect that stubble and residual crop burning in neighbouring States such as Punjab and Haryana has on the Capital's ambient air quality in winter months.

The scheme entails allowing private vehicles whose registration number ends in even digits to ply on even dates and those with odd last digits to ply only on odd dates, with violators drawing a ₹2,000 fine. Women drivers and two-wheeler riders were exempted from the scheme on both the previous occasions.

“Studies conducted on the effect of the scheme say that when it is enforced, air pollution in Delhi is reduced by 10%-13%,” the Chief Minister said.

Oppn. flays move

The announcement triggered an immediate attack on the Aam Aadmi Party Delhi government from the Opposition BJP, with its Delhi unit chief Manoj Tiwari accusing Mr. Kejriwal of “harassing” the people of Delhi through the implementation of the scheme. Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari also reacted from Nagpur stating that there was “no such need” for the move.

Other measures

The Chief Minister also announced other measures of the ‘Parali Pradushan’ plan such as the distribution of free anti-pollution masks to citizens.

“The Delhi government will make large-scale procurement of around 50-60 lakh of the best quality N-95 anti-pollution masks which will be distributed among the people in October, before the spike in air pollution the next month,” he said.

Other components of the seven-point plan include mechanised sweeping and water sprinkling on roads, tree plantation, and special measures to be put in place at 12 pollution hotspots in Delhi.

Mr. Kejriwal also appealed to Delhiites to avoid bursting crackers on Diwali in late October, and urged them to make more use of public transport.

The Delhi government, he said, will also hold a mega laser show on the eve of Diwali. While the burning of waste and garbage will be checked by deploying two ‘environmental marshals’ in each municipal ward, the Delhi government, will also set up a dedicated control room to monitor complaints related to air pollution.

The announcement comes a day after the Chief Minister met environment experts for suggestions on combating the air pollution spike the Capital faces in winter.

HC withdraws protection from arrest

Rajeev Kumar

The Calcutta High Court on Friday vacated the interim order providing protection from arrest to IPS officer and former Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar by the CBI in the Saradha scam.

Within hours of the order, a team of CBI officers arrived at Mr. Kumar’s residence at 34 Park Street and issued summons asking him to appear before the investigating agency on Saturday.

According to sources, Mr. Kumar, who is serving as Additional Director General, CID, is on leave.

Delivering the order, Justice Madhumati Mitra said a “blanket protection of not arresting is not available in law and would amount to unnecessary interference with the investigation”.

The court observed that counsel for the petitioner had failed to substantiate that the investigating agency [CBI in this case] was harassing him or trying to injure his reputation.

Justice Mitra said the allegation that Mr. Kumar had been singled out cannot be admitted before the court, since officers superior in rank to him had been interrogated by the CBI.

33, including two minors, drown in M.P., Maharashtra and Delhi

Rescue workers search the Lower Lake in Bhopal where two overcrowded boats capsized on Friday. A.M.FaruquiA_M_Faruqui

Thirty-three people, most of them in their 20s, drowned during the immersion of Ganesh idols in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Delhi, officials said on Friday. Some of the dead were minors, they said.

In Madhya Pradesh’s capital Bhopal, 11 people died when two overcrowded country boats carrying a 20-ft. tall idol for immersion in Lower Lake in Khatlapura capsized. Eight were rescued. Seventeen people were on the boats when the incident took place around 4.30 a.m., Bhopal Collector Tharun Kumar Pithode said.

In Maharashtra, at least 18 people drowned during the immersion of Ganesh idols.

Four people drowned in Amravati, three in Ratnagiri, two each in Nashik, Sindhudurg and Satara, one each in Thane, Dhule, Buldhana, Akola and Bhandara.

Two men and two women drowned in the Yamuna in Delhi during Ganesh idol immersion, officials said.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath ordered a magisterial inquiry and announced a compensation of ₹11 lakh each for the families of the victims.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “The capsizing of a boat at Khatlapura Ghat in Bhopal is saddening. In this hour of grief, our thoughts are with the families of those who lost their lives.”

In a first for a State, citizens can access details pertaining to 13 departments

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, second from left,inaugurating the portal on Friday. photo: Special arrangement

In a pioneering step, the first-ever public information portal was launched in Rajasthan on Friday promising to provide information about government authorities and departments suo motu to the public in the true spirit of the Right To Information Act. The portal has brought yet another distinction to Rajasthan, where the RTI movement had started in 1990s.

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot inaugurated the portal at B.M. Birla Auditorium here in the presence of former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, former Law Commission chairman Justice A.P. Shah and a galaxy of RTI activists, including Magsaysay Award winner Aruna Roy.

The State government collaborated with the civil society groups to develop the portal, the first of its kind in the country, initially giving information pertaining to 13 departments on a single platform.

In his inaugural address, Mr. Gehlot said the new web portal, named the Jan Soochna Portal-2019, would ensure compliance with Section 4(2) of the RTI Act mandating the public authorities to disclose information in the public domain, so that the people need not file applications under the law to obtain information. “I have a sentimental attachment with the RTI Act... I attended the first dharna seeking this right 20 years ago,” he said.

In a veiled reference to the RTI Amendment Bill passed by the Parliament recently, Mr. Gehlot said attempts to weaken the statute would only erode the resolve to bring transparency and accountability in administration.

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