Smriti Irani promises a new Hajj policy 'which reflects PM Modi's resolutions'

News Network
January 12, 2023


The Union government is likely to announce a new Hajj policy after scrapping the discretionary Hajj quota that was available with people in top constitutional posts and the minority affairs ministry. 

Earlier, union minister Smriti Irani announced govt’s decision to do away with VIP Hajj asserting that the step has been taken as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's resolve to end 'VIP culture'.

Around 500 people could go to Hajj through seats allocated to the President, Vice President, prime minister, minority affairs minister and Haj committee under the VIP Haj quota. The quota has now been scrapped.

Now all Haj pilgrims will go through the Hajj committee and private tour operators only. The move, as a letter states, is to stop the VIP culture.

There were 100 seats in the President's quota, 75 in the Vice President's quota, 75 in the PM quota and 50 in the minority affairs minister quota. Even the 200 seats with the Hajj Committee of India have been done away with.

“Prime Minister Modi had put forward his resolve to end VIP culture on the very first day of his term. VIP culture was put in place with respect to Hajj during the UPA rule under which there was a special quota allocated to the Ministry of Minority Affairs, Haj Committee and all those in top constitutional posts," Irani said.

She said that when it was started in 2012, there were around 5,000 seats under this special quota and if one knew someone in the government, one would be given a special category seat. 

"The government has ended that... The PM believed that if we have to do away with VIP culture completely then if there is any such special categorisation in any department, it should be ended," Irani said. She also said an exhaustive Hajj policy reflecting the PM's resolves and one that will take care of the poor's needs would be announced in the future.


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News Network
September 15,2023


Bengaluru, Sept 15: The Karnataka government on Friday organised a mega event of reading the Constitution's preamble as part of the 'International Day of Democracy' celebrations with tens of lakhs of people participating in the programme from India and abroad at the same time.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiaha led the celebrations, along with Deputy Chief Minister D K Shivakumar and several other guests, by reading the preamble -- "We, the People of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a Sovereign Democratic Republic and to secure to all its citizens....," in Kannada from the grand steps of 'Vidhan Soudha' here with a large number of school students and others in front of them joining in unison.

In June, the Karnataka government made it mandatory for all students of schools and colleges, whether government, aided or private, to read the preamble daily. It also made it compulsory to have a portrait of the preamble of the Constitution put up at all government and semi-government offices in the state.

Addressing the gathering, Siddaramaiah said the government has fulfilled four of the five 'guarantees' (pre-poll promises of the Congress) and "walked the talk".

"Protection of the Constitution is the duty of every citizen Our Constitution opens with We the people of India. If the wishes of the Constitution are not effectively understood and followed, it is not possible to build an equal society," the chief minister said.

As per the aspiration of the Constitution which calls for equal society and highlights secular principles, Siddaramaiah said his government has implemented schemes for the prosperity of all and their purpose was to return money back to the public to improve their lives.

"Our government has implemented programmes for the prosperity of all, as per the aspirations of equal society and secular principle of the Constitution," he said.

The chief minister said anti-Constitutional forces are trying to destroy the Constitution and implement Manusmriti again. He called on the state to be alert and aware about this.

"Destroying the Constitution and enforcing Manusmriti means 90% Indians will be forced back into slavery," he said and warned that a lot of conspiracies are going on for this.

Siddaramaiah said that after the adoption of the Constitution, the democratic system was officially implemented in India.

"The democratic system has been formed in our land since the time of Buddha and Basavanna (12th-century social reformer) The debates held in the Parliament during the promulgation of the Constitution seem to reflect the importance of our Constitution and the mindset of the opponents of the Constitution," the chief minister added.

Social Welfare Minister H C Mahadevappa, and several other Ministers and Chief Secretary Vandita Sharma also attended the event.

Mahadevappa had said on Wednesday that nearly 2.28 crore people from all walks of life within the country and abroad, have registered to read the Constitution's preamble.

"From within the country and abroad, 2, 27, 81,894 people have made online registration. We had expected 5 or 10 lakh people to register, but this has become a movement," Mahadevappa had said.

He had said that those from corporate, private, government and banking sectors, people from industries and NRIs from several countries have come forward to participate, and have registered.

"The intention is to make people, especially the youth, understand the idea of the democracy and the Constitution, and thereby they know the main purpose of the preamble, to lead a life with dignity, freedom and equality," Mahadevappa added.

The Social Welfare department had said that anyone who wants to read the Constitution on the same day (September 15) and at the same time of the main event, and get a participation certificate issued by the Government of Karnataka, needs to register.

On September 15, they can upload a video or picture of them reading the preamble, upon which they will be approved to download participation certificates from the same website, it said.

The minister spoke about the importance of making it mandatory to read the preamble at all formal functions of the state government, besides all schools, colleges and educational institutions.

Meanwhile, in view of the mega event, Bengaluru Traffic Police also issued an advisory suggesting diversion of vehicles to ensure smooth flow of traffic.


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News Network
September 11,2023


New Delhi, Sept 11: Trade, economy, defence, and cultural cooperation were the main topics of discussion between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud during the latter's State visit today.

During the high-profile meeting today at Delhi's Hyderabad House, the two leaders co-chaired the first leaders' meeting of the Strategic Partnership Council, a bilateral agreement between India and Saudi Arabia signed by the two nations in Riyadh in 2019.

"For India, Saudi Arabia counts as one of its closest and biggest strategic partners," PM Modi said. "India-Saudi Arabia partnership crucial for stability, welfare of region and world."

"We are adding a new dimension to our ties in tune with changing times. We have identified several initiatives to take our close partnership to the next level," he added.

The leaders assessed the progress of the two ministerial committees of the Strategic Partnership Council, namely the Political, Security, Social and Cultural Cooperation Committee and the Economy and Investments Cooperation Committee. They also discussed all aspects of bilateral relations, including political, security, defence, trade, economy, culture, and people-to-people ties. Additionally, they discussed regional and international issues of mutual interest.

Prince Salman's 2nd State Visit

The Saudi Arabian Crown Prince was accorded a ceremonial reception at Rashtrapati Bhavan at 10 am, ahead of his meeting with PM Modi at 11 am.

"I am very glad to be here in India. I want to congratulate India for the G20 Summit," the Crown Prince said. 

After concluding his engagements with PM Modi and other dignitaries, Prince Salman will meet President Droupadi Murmu at Rashtrapati Bhavan at 6:30 PM before departing from New Delhi at 8:30 PM.

This is Prince Salman's second State visit to India.

During the two-day G20 Summit in New Delhi, Saudi Arabia was one of the signatories to the ambitious India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor.

The initiative, seen by many as a potential alternative to China's Belt and Road Initiative, was jointly announced by PM Modi and the leaders of the United States, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, France, Germany, Italy, and the European Union on the sidelines of the G20 summit.

"Yesterday, we took a decision to start a historic economic corridor between India, West Asia and Europe. This corridor will not only connect two countries but also help in providing economic growth, and digital connectivity between Asia, West Asia and Europe," PM Modi said. 

Once completed, the project can serve as a modern-day Silk Road that functioned as the central trade route facilitating economic partnerships, political alliances, and cultural integration across continents. 

Prime Minister Modi also cited Saudi Arabia's 'Vision 2030' initiative, an all-encompassing nationwide reform programme launched in 2016 for the economic, cultural and architectural development of the Middle Eastern country.

"Under your leadership and Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia has seen tremendous economic growth and I congratulate you for that," PM Modi said. 

India-Saudi Arabia Ties

India and Saudi Arabia have a long history of cordial and cooperative relations, with extensive people-to-people ties. According to government data, bilateral trade between the two countries reached an all-time high of USD 52.75 billion in fiscal year 2022-23.

PM Modi during his 2019 visit to Riyadh had said that India and Saudi Arabia have a Joint Committee on Defence Cooperation (JCDC) that meets regularly and that the two countries have identified a number of areas of mutual interest and cooperation in the field of defence and security.

The two economic powerhouses are also major trading partners. India is Saudi Arabia's second-largest trading partner, while Saudi Arabia is India's fourth-largest. The two countries have a strong partnership in the energy sector, with India importing a significant amount of oil from Saudi Arabia.


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News Network
September 21,2023


Bengaluru, Sept 21: JD(S) leader H D Kumaraswamy on Thursday left for New Delhi to meet Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP national President J P Nadda to discuss the alliance between the two parties in Karnataka for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

The former Chief Minister said his father and JD(S) patriarch H D Deve Gowda also may hold talks on this with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, if required.

Gowda, who is a Rajya Sabha member from Karnataka, is in Delhi.

"This evening there is a meeting, once we have the outcome of the meeting, tomorrow I will share everything openly with your Delhi correspondents", Kumarswamy said before leaving for the national capital.

Speaking to reporters here, he said, there has been no discussion on seat sharing between both parties till now.

"Neither have we thought about it (seats) so far, nor have they (BJP) proposed anything in this regard. When we discuss in the evening, we will discuss in detail about the current situation in all 28 (Lok Sabha) seats, what was the situation in the earlier election and what is the situation after the 2023 Assembly polls", added.

Asked whether the alliance will be finalised today, Kumaraswamy said, "Let's see". To a question as to whom he will be meeting in Delhi, he said, "Discussion is with their (BJP) decision makers like Amit Shah (Home Minister) and their President J P Nadda. If required Narendra Modi and Deve Gowda will talk".

Talks on alliance between the two parties have been in the limelight ever since veteran BJP leader B S Yediyurappa, who is also a parliamentary board member of the party, had earlier this month said his party will have an understanding with JD(S) for the Lok Sabha elections, and the regional outfit will contest in four LS seats in Karnataka, which has a total of 28 constituencies.

However, Yediyurappa subsequently said discussions in this regard have not reached finality yet, and Modi and Shah, who are busy with other responsibilities, may discuss and decide on the issue in a few days.

The BJP had swept the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in Karnataka, winning 25 seats, while an independent (Sumalatha Ambareesh from Mandya) backed by it won one seat. The Congress and JD(S) won one seat each.

In the elections to the 224-member Assembly held in May this year, the Congress bagged 135 seats, while the BJP secured 66 and the JD(S) 19.

Following the Assembly poll results, there were reports that JD(S) would enter into an alliance with the BJP to fight the Lok Sabha polls. It was also said that the JD(S) leaders had met BJP central leadership in Delhi in this regard.

However, Deve Gowda had subsequently indicated the party will contest the Lok Sabha polls alone.
JD(S) had contested the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in alliance with the Congress, as both parties were then running an coalition government under the Chief Ministership of Kumaraswamy.

Following the Assembly poll debacle, BJP, wary of its performance in the Lok Sabha elections, seems to be open for an alliance with JD(S), aimed at regaining maximum number of seats, sources from both parties said, adding, it hopes JD(S) votes may get transferred to it, especially in the old Mysuru region where the regional party has significant presence.

For JD(S), it is a matter of survival, and the party hopes to better its prospects by forging an alliance with BJP in the backdrop of the Congress reported attempts to weaken it by wooing its leaders, they said.

JD(S) had earlier formed governments in coalition with both BJP and Congress respectively for 20 months from January 2006, and for 14 months from May 2018, with Kumaraswamy as the chief minister.


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