Congress begins Mekedatu padayatra despite COVID curbs

News Network
January 9, 2022

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The Congress in Karnataka on Sunday began its 10 days 'padayatra' (march), demanding implementation of the Mekedatu project across the Cauvery river, despite the government's COVID-19 restrictions. Led by Congress' state president D K Shivakumar and Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly Siddaramaiah, the padayatra with the theme 'Namma Neeru Namma Hakku' (Our water, Our right) began at the Sangama, the confluence of Cauvery and Arkavathi rivers in Kanakapura here, which will be spanning a distance of over 100 km.

With participation from hundreds of workers, leaders and cultural groups, the principal opposition party in the state is going ahead with the march, as planned, unfazed by the government's warning of action in case of violation of COVID restrictions and rules.

It now remains to be seen what action will the government take, with a large number of people gathering in violation of rules and orders.

The Karnataka government has imposed a curfew on weekends and restricted public gatherings to fight the third wave of COVID-19, till January 19. It has also imposed night curfew, and has prohibited all rallies, dharnas, protests, among others.

Congress has maintained that it will hold the padayatra following COVID rules and guidelines

Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, Shivakumar, Siddaramaiah, former Chief Minister Veerappa Moily, and almost all the senior party leaders and legislators were present at the inaugural of the padayatra, that is likely to cove a distance of about 15 km on the day one.

Some religious leaders and film personalities like actor Duniya Vijay, actor and music director Sadhu Kokila, were among others seen at the inaugural.

Projecting it as an apolitical "Walk for Water," the Congress has invited seers of various mutts, organisations, leaders of various political parties, film personalities, Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce, among others to take part in the march.

Accusing the BJP government of trying to scuttle the padayatra, Siddaramaiah accused the ruling BJP of colluding with Tamil Nadu in delaying the implementation of Mekedatu project.

Claiming that the project was initiated by the Congress government led by him, he alleged that the ruling BJP has betrayed the people of the state by not getting environmental clearance despite being in power for last 2.5 years, and even accused the central government of not giving clearance, as the saffron party wants to expand its base in neighbouring Tamil Nadu.

"This padayatra is for getting water to Bengaluru and surrounding areas by implementing Mekedatu project, there is no stay for the project by courts or tribunals or Cauvery Water Management Authority.....Our padayatra will not stop, let how much ever the BJP try to stop it," he added.

Shivakumar, who is also MLA from Kanakapura, hitting out at Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai for trying to "thwart" the padayatra by asking the district administration to issue prohibitory orders, he dared him to arrest them if he could.

"This march is not for the Congress party or for the sake of power, it is for the sake of the people.... Like Congress fought against the British then for India's freedom, today we are fighting against BJP and Janata Dal.... SP (Superintendent of Police), Home Minister- you have issued orders against the law, we will not fear it....we will peacefully march following COVID rules," he added.

The Congress' march from Mekedatu to Bengaluru, covering about 15 of the 224 Assembly constituencies in the state, is demanding implementation of the Mekedatu project, which is being opposed by neighbouring Tamil Nadu.

Beginning at Sangama the padayatra is scheduled to pass through Kanakapura, Ramanagara and Bidadi, before culminating at Basavanagudi in Bengaluru on January 19.

Though the padayatra is being projected as apolitical, demanding the implementation of Mekedatu project, it is also seen as Congress' attempt to mobilise its cadres and consolidate its voter base in the old Mysuru region, which is a Vokkaliga bastion, where JD(S) is its traditional rival and the ruling BJP is attempting to make inroads, ahead of 2023 assembly polls.

Much is at stake for Shivakumar, the man behind this march, as several Congress functionaries believe that it is an attempt by the KPCC chief, ahead of assembly polls, to assert his Chief Ministerial ambitions, for which Siddaramaiah is also a strong contender. The party has seen several incidents of political one-upmanship between the two leaders last year.

Shivakumar took a dip in the river and performed pooja at the Sangam ahead of the padayatra's inaugural.

Both ruling BJP and JD(S) have hit out Congress calling its march as a "political stunt" ahead of assembly election next year, and has questioned its morality, accusing the grand old party of not putting any efforts to take the project forward while in power.

Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai has maintained that his government was committed to implement the project.

Karnataka government submitted a Detailed Project Report (DPR) to the Central Water Commission (CWC) in 2019, which was then referred to the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA), where it is stuck currently as Tamil Nadu which is the lower riparian state, has opposed the project tooth and nail.

Karnataka has maintained that the project within its territory will benefit both states as the surplus water stored can be managed between the two during the distress year, and its implementation will in no way affect the interests of Tamil Nadu's farming communities, as there will be no impact on its share of water.

While the neighbouring state is of the view that the project would "impound and divert" the uncontrolled water flow due to Tamil Nadu from Kabini sub- basin, the catchment area below Krishnarajasagara, and also from Simsha, Arkavathy and Suvarnavathi sub-basins besides other small streams.

The Mekedatu multipurpose (drinking and power) project, which involves building a balancing reservoir, near Kanakapura in Ramanagara district of Karnataka.

The project once completed is aimed at ensuring drinking water to Bengaluru and neighbouring areas (4.75 TMC) and also can generate 400 MW power, and the estimated cost of the project is Rs 9,000 crore.

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News Network
May 4,2022

Bhopal, May 4: Police have arrested nine persons in connection with the death of two tribal men who were allegedly assaulted by a group of people over suspicion of cow slaughter in Madhya Pradesh's Seoni district, an official said on Wednesday.

The two tribal men died on Tuesday morning after some people, allegedly belonging to the Bajrang Dal, beat them up over suspicion of cow slaughter in Simaria village under Kurai police station limits.

After the incident, a group led by opposition Congress legislator Arjun Singh Kakodia staged a six-hour-long protest on the Jabalpur-Nagpur highway on Tuesday, demanding job and financial assistance for the kin of the deceased. They ended the protest after an assurance from the district administration.

Local MP and Union minister Faggan Singh Kulaste said it is yet not clear whether the accused belonged to any organisation.

The dispute started over the meat (of cow) and it would not be correct as of now to say that any organisation is involved in the incident, Kulaste told reporters on Tuesday night in Seoni. He said action will be taken on the basis of an inquiry and nobody, irrespective of their association, will be spared.

According to an FIR registered following a complaint by Brajesh Batti, who was injured in the incident, a group of 15-20 people allegedly hit Sampatlal Batti, a resident of Sagar village, and Simaria resident Dhansay Inwati with sticks accusing them of cow slaughter between 2.30 am and 3 am on Tuesday. When Brajesh Batti arrived at the spot, he too was assaulted.

Inwati and Sampatlal Batti died around 6 am on Tuesday during treatment in the hospital, the complainant said.

Following the incident, police arrested Sher Singh Rathore (28), Ajay Sahu (27), Vedant Chouhan (18), Deepak Avadhia (38), Basant Raghuvanshi (32) and Raghunandan Raghuvanshi (20), all of whom have been named in the FIR, the police said in a press release.

Three suspects – Anshul Chourasia (22), Shivraj Raghuvanshi (23) and Rinku Pal (30) - were also arrested, the police said, adding that hunt was on for others involved in the incident.

Meanwhile, the district administration in an official release said a financial assistance worth Rs 8.25 lakh has been approved for the kin of each of the deceased. Also, Sampatlal Batti's daughter Sunita Batti has been appointed as a daily wage employee at a tribal girls' hostel in Barelipar village, and Dhansay Inwati's son Jaiprakash has been appointed as a daily wager at a higher secondary school in Vijaypani village, the release said.

Madhya Pradesh Congress chief Kamal Nath has constituted a committee of three-party legislators – Omkar Singh, Dr Ashok Marskole and Narayan Patta, all belonging to tribal community, to look into the incident, Nath's media coordinator and state Congress spokesman Narendra Saluja said.

State BJP president VD Sharma termed the incident as "inhuman" and assured that his party government in the state will not spare any of the culprits.

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News Network
May 16,2022

Varanasi, May 16: Shortly after a stunning claim that a suspected "shivling" had been found in a pond within the Gyanvapi Masjid complex in Uttar Pradesh's Varanasi, a court today ordered it closed off to the public.

According to the Hindutva lawyer, the "Shivling" or relic of the idol of Shiva was found on the last day of the court-mandated filming of the mosque complex following a petition seeking access to pray at a shrine behind the mosque.

This morning, water was drained from the pond and a "Shivling" was found, claimed Subhash Nandan Chaturvedi, the lawyer representing a group of Hindu women who have sought year-long access to pray at the shrine.

The pond, which is used for the Islamic "Wuzu" or purification rituals, must be sealed after the find, the petitioners requested the court. The court accepted the plea and ordered the Varanasi District Magistrate to ensure that the pond is not used, for now.

The court also said the District Magistrate, the police chief and a top Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) officer would make sure no one entered the sealed area.

Reports of a "shivling" being found within the mosque complex were not confirmed by the Varanasi District Magistrate, Kaushal Raj Sharma, when he spoke to the media earlier.

"No details of the survey of Gyanvapi mosque were disclosed by any member of the commission. The court is the custodian of the information about the survey. One member was debarred from the commission for about a few minutes yesterday, later admitted to the commission," Mr Sharma had told reporters.

The Gyanvapi mosque is located close to the iconic Kashi Vishwanath temple. The five women petitioners have asked the court to allow daily prayers before idols on its outer walls as well as other "visible and invisible deities within the old temple complex".

The site is currently open for prayers once a year.

The Varanasi Civil Court then ordered a video assessment of the mosque complex, including three domes, underground basements and the pond, and appointed a court commissioner for the task.

A part of this survey took place on May 6 but was halted after a dispute broke out over filming inside the mosque. The mosque committee said the court had not ordered videography inside the mosque.

The court-ordered filming was challenged before Allahabad High Court, which dismissed the case in April. The High Court order was challenged in the Supreme Court.

A lawyer representing the Gyanvapi Mosque trust that approached the Supreme Court against the filming order said it is at odds with the Places of Worship Act, 1991. The Supreme Court refused to stop the filming but agreed to consider listing the plea against the survey of the mosque complex.

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News Network
May 5,2022

Heavy rains accompanied by gusty winds claimed uprooted several trees across in parts of Karnataka including Hubballi on Wednesday.

The short spell of rain also claimed a life in Hubballi. Robin Marosh (33), who was travelling in an autorickshaw, died after a huge tree fell on the moving vehicle near Desai Circle. The driver of the auto sustained minor injuries.

Two passengers in a car behind the auto had a miraculous escape after a tree branch fell on their vehicle. Power supply was disrupted as electricity poles were uprooted in several areas.

Meanwhile, a woman and her son were struck dead by lightning in Megalahatti village of Molakalmuru taluk, Chitradurga district. The deceased have been identified as Marakka and Venkatesh.

They were returning home with their flock of sheep when it started raining. The two took shelter beneath a tree when they were struck by lightning.

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