Helicopter carrying Iran’s President suffers a ‘hard landing’; poor weather hampers rescue efforts

News Network
May 19, 2024

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A helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi suffered a “hard landing” on May 19, Iranian state media reported, without immediately elaborating.

Mr. Raisi was traveling in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province. State TV said the incident happened near Jolfa, a city on the border with the nation of Azerbaijan, some 600 kilometers (375 miles) northwest of the Iranian capital, Tehran.

Traveling with Raisi were Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, the governor of Iran’s East Azerbaijan province and other officials, the state-run IRNA news agency reported. One local government official used the word “crash” to describe the incident, but he acknowledged to an Iranian newspaper that he had yet to reach the site himself.

Neither IRNA nor state TV offered any information on Mr. Raisi’s condition.

Rescuers were attempting to reach the site, state TV said, but had been hampered by poor weather conditions. There had been heavy rain and fog reported with some wind. IRNA called the area a “forest.”

Mr. Raisi had been in Azerbaijan early Sunday to inaugurate a dam with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev. The dam is the third one that the two nations built on the Aras River. The visit came despite chilly relations between the two nations, including over a gun attack on Azerbaijan’s Embassy in Tehran in 2023, and Azerbaijan’s diplomatic relations with Israel, which Iran’s Shiite theocracy views as its main enemy in the region.

Iran flies a variety of helicopters in the country, but international sanctions make it difficult to obtain parts for them. Its military air fleet also largely dates back to before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Mr. Raisi, 63, is a revolutionary who formerly led the country’s judiciary. He is viewed as a protégé of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and some analysts have suggested he could replace the 85-year-old leader after his death or resignation from the role.

Mr. Raisi won Iran’s 2021 presidential election, a vote that saw the lowest turnout in the Islamic Republic’s history. Raisi is sanctioned by the U.S. in part over his involvement in the mass execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988 at the end of the bloody Iran-Iraq war.

Under Mr. Raisi, Iran now enriches uranium at nearly weapons-grade levels and hampers international inspections. Iran has armed Russia in its war on Ukraine, as well as launched a massive drone-and-missile attack on Israel amid its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. It also has continued arming proxy groups in the Mideast, like Yemen’s Houthi rebels and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

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News Network
June 5,2024

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Riding on the Hindutva wave and replacing sitting MPs with new candidates, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has succeeded in retaining its strongholds in coastal Karnataka — Uttara Kannada, Dakshina Kannada, and Udupi-Chikmagalur Lok Sabha constituencies.

Although the victory margins have decreased in all constituencies, a strong organizational network and the Hindutva factor seem to have helped the BJP overcome anti-incumbency sentiment. All three elected MPs will enter the Lok Sabha for the first time.

The Congress appears to have failed in mobilizing its grassroots volunteers and strengthening its organizational networks in these regions. Even the party's guarantee schemes did not seem to significantly influence the election outcomes.

Dakshina Kannada

In Dakshina Kannada, which faced a notable anti-incumbency sentiment, BJP’s Brijesh Chowta defeated Congress’ Padmaraj R. Poojary. Brijesh’s efforts to placate discontented BJP and RSS workers, his focus on the Hindutva factor, development, and local leaders’ efforts to unite various factions within the BJP contributed to his victory with a margin of 1,49,208 votes. In 2019, the BJP had won by a margin of 2,74,621.

Prime Minister Modi held a roadshow in Mangaluru to bolster support for the Dakshina Kannada and Udupi-Chikmagalur candidates, particularly after dissatisfaction with three-time MP Nalin Kumar Kateel’s unfulfilled promises became apparent.

Udupi-Chikmagalur

In Udupi-Chikmagalur, the BJP responded to the 'Go Back, Shobha' campaign by fielding former minister Kota Srinivas Poojary, who won with a margin of 2,59,175 votes against Congress candidate Jayaprakash Hegde. In 2019, the BJP’s margin was 3,49,599 votes. Poojary’s clean image, emphasis on Hindutva politics, the Modi wave, and support from majority communities were likely key factors in his victory.

The BJP appeared to be more effective than the Congress in strategizing to win over the Billavas and Bunts, two major communities in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi-Chikmagalur constituencies. Modi’s gesture of garlanding the statue of social reformer Narayana Guru, revered by the Billava community in Mangaluru, also resonated with voters.

Uttara Kannada

In Uttara Kannada, BJP’s Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri defeated Congress’ Anjali Nimbalkar by 3,37,428 votes. In 2019, the BJP’s victory margin was 4,79,649 votes. Despite local leaders’ demands to field a younger candidate, the party chose the six-time MLA and former state minister. The Modi appeal and Hindutva politics were significant factors, along with the outsider tag of the Congress candidate.

The Congress had won five out of eight Assembly segments in Uttara Kannada in last year’s elections, indicating potential for a competitive race. However, a rally by Modi in Sirsi shifted the momentum in favor of Kageri, who campaigned heavily on Modi's popularity rather than his own track record.

Public discontent

Udupi-based political analyst Rajaram Tallur noted that the reduced victory margins signal public discontent with the BJP. However, the Congress failed to capitalize on this sentiment due to a lack of charismatic leaders, insufficient organizational efforts, and a defeatist attitude regarding their chances in these seats.

Yellapur-based political analyst Sriranga Katti highlighted that Kageri’s reliance on Modi's appeal rather than his own achievements was a decisive factor in Uttara Kannada.

Overall, the BJP's combination of new candidates, a strong organizational framework, and leveraging the Hindutva narrative helped it retain its coastal Karnataka strongholds, while the Congress struggled to make significant inroads.

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News Network
June 14,2024

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Kochi: An Indian Air Force (IAF) flight carrying the mortal remains of the Indians who died in the tragic fire incident in Kuwait two days ago, landed at the international airport here on Friday.

The IAF C30J aircraft is carrying the bodies of the Indians and of them 31 were received at the airport here.

The 31 bodies include 23 Keralites, 7 Tamilians and one person from Karnataka, officials said.

Officials had said that 49 people were killed in the fire in the Al-Mangaf building on June 12 and majority of them were Indians; the remaining were Pakistani, Filipino, Egyptian and Nepali nationals.

The blaze in the seven-storey building that housed 196 migrant workers in Mangaf, south of Kuwait City, on Wednesday killed 49 people and injured around 50 others. 

A preliminary probe has indicated glaring lapses – there were around two dozen gas cylinders on the ground floor of the building; inflammable materials were used as partitions to separate the workers in the cramped rooms; the doors to the rooftop were locked, etc.

Ernakulam Range DIG Putta Vimaladitya earlier said that all the required arrangements have been made to receive the bodies at the airport. 

“We have coordinated with the family members of the victims. Once the bodies are received, they will be properly escorted to their respective places.” Vimaladitya said.

A dedicated vehicle will be provided for each body, the DIG said. Heavy police force and ambulances have been deployed at the airport in Kochi.

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Agencies
June 16,2024

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Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Sunday said that some irregularities have come to light regarding the NEET examinations while speaking to news agency ANI.

Pradhan told the publication, "On the recommendations of Supreme Court, the order has been given for re-test of 1,563 candidates," further adding, "Some irregularities have come to light in two places. I assure students and parents that the government has taken this seriously."

Pradhan admitted in the interview that a lot of improvement is required in the National Testing Agency (NTA), the autonomous body tasked with conducting nationwide competitive examinations.

"Even if the big officials of the NTA are found guilty, they will not be spared," Pradhan said while adding, "The government is concerned about this, no culprit will be spared, they will get the harshest punishment."

The National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (UG), or NEET, was held on May 5 across 4,750 centres with around 24 lakh candidates appearing for it. The results were expected to be declared on June 14 but were announced on June 4 -- the day the general election results were announced -- apparently because the evaluation of the answer sheets was completed earlier.

There have been allegations of question paper leaks in states like Bihar and other irregularities in the pan-India exam.

The Centre and the National Testing Agency on Thursday told the Supreme Court they had cancelled the grace marks given to 1,563 candidates who took the examination for admission to MBBS and other such courses.

They will have the option to either take a re-test or forgo the compensatory marks awarded to them for loss of time, the Centre said.

The Congress had on Friday questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "silence" on the matter and asserted that only a Supreme Court-monitored forensic probe could safeguard the future of lakhs of young students.

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