Tamil Nadu govt presents budget 2024-25 with focus on '7 grand Tamil dream'

News Network
February 19, 2024

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Chennai, Feb 19: The Tamil Nadu government on Monday presented its budget for the year 2024-25, premising the exercise on the "7 grand Tamil dream," that included social justice and women's welfare at the core.

Finance Minister Thangam Thennarasu presented the budget and made a slew of announcements.

This included the 'Kalaignarin Kanavu Illam,' a housing scheme named after the late DMK patriarch and former Chief Minister M Karunanidhi. As per the scheme, 8 lakh concrete houses will be constructed in rural areas across the state to make it 'hut-free' by 2030, he said.

Social justice, welfare of the marginalised, making Tamil youth global achievers were among the 7 goals, Thennarasu said in his budget speech.

Among others, he announced allocating Rs 300 crore in budget for civic amenities including roads for areas nearby city corporations.

Thennarasu said the state has made very significant progress in poverty reduction through its welfare schemes.

The NITI Aayog has said that people below poverty line in Tamil Nadu was only about 2.2 per cent, he added.

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News Network
April 11,2024

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Bengaluru: With six children of Karnataka Ministers in the Lok Sabha poll arena, the campaign scene is getting spiced up in the high-stakes elections for the ruling Congress in the state. Prabha Mallikarjun, wife of Minister S S Mallikarjun, is also in the poll fray.

The grand old party tried its best to make several ministers enter the Lok Sabha election fray but none of them agreed and, instead, they proposed the candidature of their family members.

'Now, deliver' is the stern message of the Congress leadership to the ministers, putting the onus on them to ensure the victory of their kin, according to party sources.

The Congress secured only one seat in Karnataka in the 2019 general elections, and has now set an ambitious target of winning in 15 to 20 constituencies in the coming polls.

Elections in 28 constituencies in the State will be held in two phases on April 26 and May 7.

Sons of Laxmi Hebbalkar, Eshwar Khandre and H C Mahadevappa— Mrinal Ravindra Hebbalkar, Sagar Khandre and Sunil Bose— have been fielded from Belagavi (Belgaum), Bidar and Chamarajanagar, respectively.

Daughters of Satish Jarkiholi, Shivanand Patil and Ramalinga Reddy— Priyanka Jarkiholi, Samyukta Patil and Sowmya Reddy— are in contention in Chikkodi, Bagalkot and Bangalore South respectively.

Prabha Mallikarjun, wife of Minister S S Mallikarjun and daughter-in-law of veteran party leader Shamanur Shivashankarappa, is the party's nominee from Davangere.

"In this 'do or die' situation, the ministers have found the Lok Sabha election a launch pad for their children and relatives. We have to see how these ministers succeed in their mission," a Congress insider said.

Barring Sowmya Reddy, who is a former MLA, none of them have any legislative experience in elections. Stakes are high for some other ministers as well.

The party has fielded Radhakrishna Doddamani, son-in-law of Congress President M Mallikarjun Kharge in the family's home turf of Kalaburagi (Gulbarga), a seat held by the BJP.

Kharge's son and Minister Priyank Kharge has taken charge of spearheading the campaign in this segment, where his father had lost in the 2019 general elections.

"Priyank has taken this election as a prestige issue given the fact that the Congress president hails from here and had represented this constituency in the past in the Lok Sabha," a Congress leader said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had last month launched the BJP's formal campaign in Kalaburagi in what was seen as an aggressive message to the Congress.

Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister and State Congress chief D K Shivakumar's brother D K Suresh is seeking reelection in Bangalore Rural, where the BJP and JD(S) have fielded noted cardiologist and son-in-law of former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda.

The Congress which came to power in the state in May last year is seeking to ride on its five guarantee schemes of the government.

Sowmya Reddy, who is contesting from Bangalore South asked the women voters during a recent roadshow - "Do you travel in the buses? Which places have you visited in the recent past? Do you pay or travel for free?".

She was referring to 'Shakti' guarantee that offers free rides to Karnataka women in non-luxury government buses within the state. Reddy explained to the people about the four other guarantees— 'Gruha Lakshmi', 'Gruha Jyoti', 'Yuva Nidhi' and 'Anna Bhagya'.

"Who brought 'Achchhe Din'? Is it Congress or the BJP? Which 'Achchhe Din' you will vote for?" Reddy asked the women voters.

In Belagavi, Mrinal Ravindra Hebbalkar, is taking on BJP candidate and former Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar.

In campaign meetings, Minister Laxmi Hebbalkar reminded the crowd how Shettar had joined Congress when the BJP denied him a ticket in the 2023 Assembly election, only to return to the saffron party a few months later.

"Shettar is from Hubballi and we are from Belagavi. We know the problems prevailing here better than any 'outsider'. Today, BJP people are saying that they vote for Shettar keeping Prime Minister Narendra Modi in mind, but I want to know why he joined Congress and abused the BJP, Modi and former Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa," the minister asked.

The BJP swept the 2019 general elections in Karnataka winning 25 out of the 28 seats, while an independent backed by the party also won. The Congress and JD(S) which fought the elections together, secured one seat each.

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News Network
April 5,2024

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New Delhi: The Congress has released its manifesto for the 2024 Lok Sabha election, with jobs creation, development of infrastructure, and a national caste census among the major highlights.

The manifesto was released in Delhi by party boss Mallikarjun Kharge, who was flanked by senior leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. Former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram - who led the committee that drafted the document - was also present.

"This manifesto will be 'nyay ka dastavez' (a document for justice) in the political history of the country. From the five pillars of the 'Bharat Jodo Nyaya Yatra' - yuva (youth), kisan (farmers), naari (women), shramik (workers), and hissedari (equity), 25 guarantees will emerge... ," Mr Kharge said.

The overall theme of the manifesto is based on 'work', 'wealth', and 'welfare', the party said.

"'Work' means you must provide jobs. 'Wealth' must be created before it is distributed. 'Welfare' means taking care of the poorer sections," the Congress said.

Silent on CAA

While the manifesto is silent on the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act and restoration of Article 370, the party promises immediate restoration of statehood to Jammu and Kashmir.

Caste Census

One of the biggest talking points is the caste census - a political hot topic that has been in the headlines since the Bihar government's statewide survey was released in November.

The 48-page document promises to amend the Constitution to raise the 50 per cent cap on reservations for SCs, STs and OBCs, with Caste Census providing the latest data to go ahead with the affirmative action. Addressing land issues, the party also pledges to establish an authority to monitor the distribution of government land and surplus land under the land ceiling Acts to the poor.

MSP for Farmers

The party has also promised to implement MSP, or minimum support price, for farmer growing cash crops. The MSP issue has been at the heart of protests by farmers since 2020, when lakhs from across the country went on a months-long agitation against the centre's (now-scrapped) three farm laws.

The Congress has said it will give a permanent legal guarantee for MSP - a core demand for protesting farmers - based on the formula recommended by the Swaminathan Commission.

"Congress has been the only party that has lent its ear to the distress of the farmers and farm labourers, and we are determined to do everything possible to alleviate their pain and make agriculture a desirable livelihood," the party said, attacking the BJP's response to the farmers protest as "callous and brutal".

Poverty

The party also vowed to eliminate poverty by improving the fortunes of 23 crore people over the next decade. Mr Chidambaram attacked the BJP as a "government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich", and said it is "driven by the interests of the top 1 per cent".

"... but we will look at the bottom 50 per cent. The bottom 50 per cent is as important. It has been estimated 23 crore people are still poor in this country. The UPA lifted 24 crore people out of poverty and we promise, if the Congress-led government comes to power in 2024, we will lift 23 crore in 10 years."

As part of this promise - and to empower women - the Congress said it would launch a 'Mahalakshmi' scheme to provide an unconditional cash transfer of Rs 1 lakh per year to the oldest female member of every poor family.  Beneficiaries will be identified as those from the bottom level of the income pyramid.

Inequality of income and opportunity remain India's ugliest truth. It is the moral and political responsibility of any government to ensure that every family is assured of a basic income every month, the party said.

National Security, China

The Congress said it "recognises that national security is not enhanced by chest-thumping or exaggerated claims, but by quiet attention to borders and resolute defence preparedness".

The party said it would work to restore status quo on the country's borders with China and "ensure areas where both armies patrolled in the past are again accessible to our soldiers".

This has been seen as a direct jab at the BJP over the military stand-off with China in parts of eastern Ladakh following violence in June 2020 that, the opposition has repeatedly claimed, led to New Delhi surrendering territory to Beijing.

On diplomatic tension with Maldives, the Congress said it work to "repair relations".

Healthcare

Universal free healthcare, including cost of diagnosis, surgery, and medication, will be made available, the party said. This will come with cashless insurance up to ₹ 25 lakh, like the model implemented in Rajasthan, when the Congress was in power.

"We promise that healthcare will be universal and free in public health centres, such as hospitals, clinics, PHCs, MHCs, and dispensaries, as well as health camps. Free healthcare will include examination, diagnosis, treatment, surgery, medicines, rehabilitation, and palliative care."

The Congress said it would also establish Assisted Living and Care Centres for disabled people and provide representation for them in local bodies.

Other Major Points

In a move likely to resonate strongly among unemployed youth struggling with massive loan debts, the party said it would "as a one-time measure of relief" write off all student educational loans, including unpaid interest. This amount will be calculated as on March 15.

Banks will be compensated by the government, the Congress said.

The party said it would also introduce a law to "recognise civil unions between couples belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community".

The Congress said it would amend laws to "combine the efficiency of EVM and transparency of ballot papers". "Voting will be through the EVM but the voter will be able to hold and deposit the machine-generated voting slip into the voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) unit," the party said.

2024 Lok Sabha Election

The election will be spread over seven phases beginning April 19. Votes will be declared June 4.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling BJP - which is yet to release its manifesto - are bidding for a third consecutive term.  They face a combined challenge from the opposition, which has united (for the most part) under the INDIA banner led by the Congress. 

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News Network
April 17,2024

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Dubai: Dubai was slapped by heavy floods as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was hit by extremely heavy rains on Tuesday. The desert city received over a year and a half's worth of rain in just a day even as heavy thunderstorms lashed other parts of the UAE.

Roads turned into rivers as they were filled up with water. Shopping centres like Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates were also seen flooding.

Schools across the UAE have been shut and are expected to remain closed on today as well.

According to a report by India Today, Dubai airport received about 100 mm of rain in just 12 hours on Tuesday and a total of 160 mm in the last 24 hours.

On average, Dubai receives about 88.9 mm of rain in a year, which concludes that the city received more than a year's rain in a day.

Dubai International Airport said on Wednesday it was experiencing significant disruption due to bad weather and was working to restore normal operations as quickly as possible.

Flights have been delayed or diverted and impacted by displaced crew, the airport said in a statement, adding that recovery would take some time.

Dubai's Emirates airline said that it was suspending check-in for passengers departing the airport from 8 am (0400 GMT) on Wednesday until midnight due to operational challenges caused by the bad weather and road conditions.

Dubai International was temporarily diverting arriving flights on Tuesday evening because of a storm, and operations were suspended for 25 minutes earlier in the day.

According to India Today, the airport stopped flight operations and issued a warning earlier today on X.

The Dubai International Airport requested the passengers to check their flight status.

Employees in Dubai have been told to work from home.

The UAE Government took to X and said, "Based on the directives of the Council of Ministers, it was decided to extend remote work until tomorrow, Wednesday, April 17, for all federal government employees, with the exception of jobs that require presence at the workplace, taking into account the weather condition that the country is going through."

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