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Sidhu takes a U-turn, says went to Pakistan on Imran Khan’s personal invite, not Rahul’s command

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New Delhi: Barely hours after claiming party president Rahul Gandhi sent him to Pakistan, Punjab Minister and Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu took a U-turn and denied his statement.

“Get your facts right before you distort them, Rahul Gandhi Ji never asked me to go to Pakistan. The whole world knows I went on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s personal invite,” he tweeted.

Sidhu had attended the groundbreaking ceremony of Kartarpur Sahib Corridor in Pakistan on November 28.

Earlier, the cricketer-turned-politician sought to clarify his recent visit to the neighbouring country despite Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s objection it the visit. Sidhu claimed that Rahul Gandhi had sent him to Pakistan for the groundbreaking ceremony of Kartarpur Sahib Corridor on November 28.

“My captain is Rahul Gandhi, he has sent me everywhere. Rahul Gandhi is also the captain of Captain Amarinder Singh (Mere captain Rahul Gandhi hain, unhone toh bheja hai har jagah. Hamare Captain sahab ke bhi Captain Rahul Gandhi ji hain),” Sidhu said.

He had added that the central leadership and atleast 20 Congress leaders had asked him to go to Pakistan. “Atleast 20 Congress leaders asked me to go, Central leadership asked me to go. Punjab Chief Minister is like my father, I told him that I had already promised them (Pakistan) that I will go,” said Sidhu.

Later, Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi backed Sidhu and hit out at the Centre for trying to divert people’s attention from the real issues. “It was his private visit (to Pakistan), Congress party has clarified, Sidhu has clarified, Punjab Govt has clarified. This rudderless Govt (Centre) is desperate and trying to divert attention from real issues,” Abhishek Manu Singhvi said.

Pakistan PM Imran Khan had inaugurated the opening ceremony of the facilities on November 28. Kartarpur corridor promises to help Sikh pilgrims from India offer prayers at the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur on the banks of Ravi river in Pakistan.

The issue of Kartarpur Sahib came into focus after Sidhu visited Pakistan in August to attend the oath-taking ceremony of Imran Khan as the Prime Minister. During his visit, he was seen hugging Pakistan Army chief Bajwa, leading to a massive controversy. At the time, Sidhu had defended himself by saying that the Pakistan Army chief had told him about the opening of a corridor to Kartarpur Sahib, which led to the hug.

Earlier, the Indian government said it will develop and build the corridor from Punjab’s Gurdaspur district to the International Border to facilitate Indian pilgrims to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur.


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National

Rafale deal was crystal clear from beginning: Rajnath

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New Delhi: Rafale deal was crystal clear from the beginning and the allegations of corruption into the deal were politically motivated, said Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh soon after the Supreme Court dismissed all the petitions seeking a court-monitored probe into the deal.

“The matter was crystal clear from the beginning and we have been saying that the allegations leveled by Congress were baseless and to gain political mileage,” Singh told reporters in one of the first reactions by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government after the verdict.

In a major relief to the central government, the top court on Friday dismissed all petitions pertaining to multi-million dollar Rafale fighter jets deal.

The bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, stated that there is no need to conduct an investigation in to details of Rafale pricing.

“We are satisfied that there is no occasion to doubt the process. Joint exercise has taken place and there is no element of financial benefits,” said CJI Gogoi.

The CJI added that, “Detailed scrutiny of Rafale deal is not required.”

The court was announcing its decision on the clutch of pleas seeking a court-monitored probe into the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets.

The apex court on November 14 had reserved its judgement in the case. The three-judge bench comprising CJI Gogoi, Justice S K Kaul and K M Joseph of the apex court heard petitioners and the government lawyers before reserving the verdict in the case.

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Country going through troubled times… but it’s a temporary phase: Pranab

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New Delhi: Former President Pranab Mukherjee said the country is going through troubled times but it was a temporary phase as Indians will “tenaciously fight it in order to re-establish the country’s unique national identity — etched in our Constitution”. Mukherjee was speaking at the Christmas celebrations organised by the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) in New Delhi.

“Divisive tendencies, intolerance and prejudiced ‘fear of the other’ seem to be defining us in place of the composite and yet diverse nation that we emerged in over 5000 years of co-existence, acceptance, adaptation and assimilation. However, it is my considered belief that this, like in the past, is a temporary phase,” Mukherjee said in his Christmas message.

On the growing intolerance, Mukherjee said the Constitution should be the only guiding ideology in the country as it was crucial for the growth of the country. “Our freedom to practice and propagate our religion, the freedom to set up educational institutions, to choose any occupation, all are important and they must be safeguarded. This is the bedrock of our democracy and the foundation for our strong growth… Constitutionalism, in its letter and spirit, should be our only guiding ideology.”

Mukherjee also highlighted the work carried out by the Church in India. “The most enduring image of the Catholic Church in India is the crores of Indians, who get educated in schools and colleges set up by the Church and millions of patients who get treated in the Holy Family Hospitals.”

Also at the celebrations were Union Minister Alphons Kannanthanam, Justice (retired) Kurien Joseph, Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma and CBCI president Cardinal Oswald Gracias among others.

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‘Army not job provider, do not feign disability or illness’: Gen Rawat

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Pune: Indian Army should not be looked upon as a job provider organisation, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat said in Pune , and warned personnel who feign illness or disability in order to avoid duty or get benefits.

He assured all help to former and serving soldiers who have actually suffered disability in the line of duty.

“Aksar dekha gaya hai ki log Bharatiya Sena ko ek employment ka jariya manate hai, naukari hasil karane ka jariya (It is often seen that people feel the Army is a means of employment, a means to get a job),” General Rawat said.

“I want to warn you, remove this misconception from your minds. The Army is not a means of employment. If you want to join the Army, you have to show physical and mental toughness. You should have the ability to face difficulties,” he said.

“Kai log, naujawan mere pass ate hai aur kahate ji mujhe Sena me naukari chahiye. Mein unhe kehta hu ki Bharatiya Sena naukari ka sadhan nahi hai. Naukri leni hai to Railways mein jaye… ya apna business khol dijiye (Many people, including youngsters, approach me with a request to give them jobs in the Army. I tell them that the Indian Army is not a means of employment. If you want jobs, then go to the Railways…or start your own business),” General Rawat said.

He was speaking at an event where around 600 serving and retired disabled soldiers from the Southern Command, the South Western Command and the Central Command were present.

The Army has declared 2018 as “Year of the Disabled Soldiers in the line of Duty”.

Soldiers and officers who feign disability will face action, General Rawat said.

“I have seen a section of soldiers and officers who call themselves disabled on grounds that they are suffering from high blood pressure, hypertension and diabetes, and seek concession from being deployed at difficult operational posts,” he said.

“These people are physically and mentally weak and can’t withstand stress. They should feel ashamed after seeing these men who are actually disabled but have given an exemplary performance,” he said, referring to wheelchair-bound soldiers who staged choreographed formations during the event.

“I would like to assure men who are really disabled that all possible aid, including financial help, will reach them, but those who feign disability to earn some disability benefits, I would like such men to beware or you will receive unpleasant instructions from the Army Headquarters in the coming days,” the Army chief said.

The Army knows that soldiers and officers work in adverse conditions and face medical difficulties, he added.

“We understand those difficulties….even the doctors, who provide medical assistance to you, understand at what extent your medical categorisation is right or wrong, and when they decide between right and wrong, some people go to courts and after getting verdict from the court, these soldiers proudly say that they received disability pension,” General Rawat said.

“Indian Army is committed to provide help to you. If you have any problem, kindly write to your unit and if you do not get help, please send a message on the dedicated number issued by the Army and I assure you that you will get an answer within a month,” he said.

The Army is collating data on soldiers who suffered disability in the line of duty, General Rawat said.

A dedicated officers’ team has been formed. They are reaching out to such men,” he added.

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