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Indian journalist wins Press Freedom Award for Courage in UK

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London: An Indian freelance journalist, who has been the target of online trolling and harassment for her investigative reports, has bagged the 2018 London Press Freedom Award for Courage. Swati Chaturvedi, author of the book ‘I am a Troll: Inside the Secret World of the BJP’s Digital Army’, beat shortlisted journalists from Italy, Turkey and Morocco for her work in exposing the “IT cell” within the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for keeping an army of angry trolls.

“This means a lot. But I think it is very sad that you have to win an award for courage just for doing your job,” Chaturvedi said at the first award ceremony organised by the UK chapter of Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) or Reporters Without Borders in London on Thursday evening.

“The US President (Donald Trump) saying we are the enemy of state; in India last year journalist Gauri Lankesh being gunned down outside her house; it is very frightening. There is something clearly very wrong,” she said.

“I don’t think journalists have stopped what they are doing, but the governments across the world have become very intolerant of any criticism or scrutiny.”

The columnist for print and broadcast media in India commended the work of organisations like the RSF, a non-profit organisation that works to document and combat attacks on journalists around the world.

Charturvedi added: “I get a lot of online threats but if I let that affect me, I won’t be able to do my job. It is heartening to see RSF speaking up for journalists because we have become an attacked, endangered species. At least there is someone advocating the rights of journalists.”

“I think it is scary to be a journalist in today’s world, especially if you are doing investigative journalism. But at the same time, it is very necessary,” she said.

Chaturvedi was among four worldwide winners at the awards held at Getty Images Gallery in London. “Recognising great journalism is important, not least because it sends a message of solidarity, proving that there is an international community will stand up for the free media no matter where it is threatened, or by whom,” said RSF UK Bureau Director Rebecca Vincent.

The ceremony highlighted the importance of press freedom and safety of journalists, especially in the wake of the killing of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul last month.


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6 killed, 18 injured in explosion at Pulgaon Army depot in Maharashtra’s Wardha

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Nagpur: At least 6 people were killed and 18 injured in a massive explosion at Pulgaon-based Central Ammunition Depot (CAD) in Wardha district, around 120 kms from Nagpur on Tuesday morning.

PRO Nagpur has confirmed that the tragedy occurred when the employees of the depot were disposing unused explosives in a military firing range area of Pulgaon.

“Today morning at 7.10 pm while carrying out the demolition of old explosives by the staff of ordnance factory Khamaria, Jabalpur there was an accident. The demolition was being carried out in the demolition land under the jurisdiction of central arms depot, Pulgaon. While carrying out the demolition there was an accident (sic) ,” said BBPande, PRONagpur.

“The officials of ordnance factory Khamaria, Jabalpur and of ordnance factory Chandrapur are rushing to the spot,” he added.

This is the second major blast in the depot in the last two years. In May 2016, 13 persons were killed in a major fire in the depot while disposing the explosives.

According to reports ,out of the six persons killed in the deadly fire-blast at the CAD, Pulgaon, two bodies were charred beyond recognition. The deceased are yet to be identified.

Pulgaon in Wardha houses the largest weapons stockpile in the country. The officials of the ordnance factory Khamaria, Jabalpur and of the ordance factory Chandrapur have rushed to the spot

These stocks include assorted weaponry including bombs, grenades, shells, rifles and other explosives. All the ordnance produced in different factories arrives at this facility before it is sent out to various forward bases.

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As Chandrababu Naidu meets Mamata Banerjee, BJP says ‘futile attempt’

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New Delhi: The BJP said that TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu is making futile attempts to build an alliance of opposition parties as many of them are resisting his efforts to grab a central role for himself and to project Congress president Rahul Gandhi as the leader of such a grouping.

BJP spokesperson G V L Narasimhra Rao also took a dig at Naidu after he announced in Kolkata, following a meeting with Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee, that a planned conclave of opposition parties for November 22 has been postponed.

The meeting will eventually be shelved given the competing interests of the proposed partners and Congress’s negative image, he said in a statement.

“Whatever may be Naidu’s political compulsions for his desperate actions, there is no credible alternative leader or party to challenge Prime Minister Narendra Modi or the BJP in national politics today. Naidu is making futile attempts at alliance building,” the Rajya Sabha member said.

The postponement of the opposition meet is a severe setback to “desperate and spirited” efforts of Naidu, who is Andhra Pradesh chief minister, to cobble up a “United Corrupt Alliance” with many potential partners resisting his attempts to grab a central role for himself and projecting Gandhi as a leader of the alliance, Rao said.

Naidu met West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and asserted that all parties opposing the BJP were united in their endeavour “to save the nation” and will chalk out a strategy to take on the saffron party ahead of the winter session of Parliament.

He told reporters that the November 22 conclave of opposition parties which was to be held in Delhi has been postponed due to ongoing assembly elections and a fresh date for the meeting will be announced soon.

Rao said Naidu’s potential partners may be wary of him as he has made “multiple opportunistic U-turns” in the recent past.

In April last year, Naidu had hailed PM Modi’s leadership in glorious terms and mooted in an NDA alliance meeting that Modi be made the NDA’s PM candidate again in 2019, Rao claimed.

“Naidu is seen in Andhra Pradesh as a U-turn CM running a very corrupt government. People of Andhra see Naidu’s somersault as a political ploy to blame the BJP for his failures,” he alleged.

Despite his frantic efforts, neither Naidu can save the Congress from a “Congress-mukt Bharat” (Congress-free India) nor his own party from “TDP-mukt Andhra Pradesh”, Rao claimed.

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To battle Delhi pollution, artificial rainfall being considered through cloud seeding

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New Delhi: The toxic air quality over the National Capital Region (NCR) has persisted through November, prompting union environment minister Mahesh Sharma to reveal that artificial rainfall through cloud seeding may be considered as the next step of action.

Delhi’s air quality has oscillated between ‘poor’, ‘very poor’ and ‘hazardous’ in the first three weeks of November. The days following Diwali were especially bad with air quality plummeting to toxic levels. Trucks were banned from entering the city – unless carrying essential items, while construction activities too were halted for a few days. The Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority, however, said that extending the ban was not a practical solution. It suggested bringing back the odd-even traffic system or taking diesel vehicles off Delhi roads.

While the proposals have not yet been implemented, Sharma said that if the air quality worsens, cloud seeding could be considered. “If the situation worsens then the option of ‘cloud seeding’ to induce rainfall artificially, as an immediate step, can be considered,” he told news agency ANI.

Cloud seeding, in simplified terms, refers to the process of injecting certain chemicals into clouds to induce more rainfall by increasing the moisture content.

While it is unclear how far cloud seeding could be of help, Delhi and adjoining areas need every help possible because residents – especially children, elderly and those with respiratory ailments – are suffering. Some studies have shown that residents in NCR may have a reduced lifespan by 10 years due to sustained exposure to air pollution here. Medical experts and environmentalists too have warned against severe health problems unless urgent measures are not put into place.

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