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Thick haze engulfs Delhi, air quality remains ‘severe’

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New Delhi : Delhi’s pollution level remained ‘severe’ for the second day as a thick haze engulfed the national capital, even as the authorities said there was significant improvement in the air quality as compared.

The overall air quality index was recorded at 426 which falls in the ‘severe’ category, according to data by the Central Pollution Control Board.

The Centre-run System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research or SAFAR said the city’s air quality has “improved significantly” since , but the recovery was slow due to low surface wind speed.

“At present, it continued to be in ‘severe’ but likely to improve further and will become ‘very poor’ by afternoon and will improve further by Saturday. The contribution of PM2.5 in PM10 which was 75 per cent on Thursday (against normal 55 per cent) has been reducing,” the SAFAR said.

It also said the contribution to the PM2.5 pollution due to stubble emission was marginal.

Twenty eight areas in Delhi recorded ‘severe’ air quality, while four areas recorded ‘very poor’ air quality, according to the data of the CPCB.

The PM2.5 (particles in the air with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres) level was recorded at 272 µgm-3.

The PM10 (particles in the air with a diameter of less than 10 micrometres) level was recorded six times the permissable limit at 422 µgm-3, according to SAFAR.

An AQI between 0 and 50 is considered “good”, 51 and 100 “satisfactory”, 101 and 200 “moderate”, 201 and 300 “poor”, 301 and 400 “very poor”, and 401 and 500 “severe”.

AQI above 500 falls in the “severe-plus emergency” category.

Delhi’s air quality on Thursday went off the charts to ‘severe plus’ emergency category as smog caused due to smoke from firecrackers engulfed the national capital.

The overall AQI Thursday was recorded in the “severe plus emergency” category at 642, according to the data by SAFAR.

The sharp spike in pollution on Thursday was caused by rampant burning of firecrackers that had led to the formation of a smoky layer across the national capital and drastically reduced visibility, authorities said.


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Chhattisgarh defies Maoists, records 70 per cent turnout

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Raipur: Defying Maoist threats, Chhattisgarh voters notched up an impressive 70 per cent turnout in the first phase of Assembly polls in 18 constituencies , even though the day began with Naxal attacks to scare away voters. At least six Naxals were reportedly killed and five security personnel were injured in encounters in Bijapur and Sukma districts.

Chhattisgarh chief electoral officer (CEO) Subrat Sahu said barring stray incidents of Maoist violence, the first phase of Assembly elections in the state was “by and large peaceful”.

The 18 constituencies where voting took place in the first phase are spread across eight Naxal-hit districts — Dantewada, Bijapur, Sukma, Bastar-Jagdalpur, Rajnandgaon, Kanker, Kondagaon and Narayanpur. In 2013, the Congress had won 12 seats and the BJP had bagged six. A total of 31.80 lakh voters were eligible to vote for 190 candidates in the first phase of election.

Despite the boycott call given by Naxals, tribals thronged the polling booths in large numbers in their respective areas to cast vote.

According to figures made available in the evening, the highest turnout of 72 per cent was recorded in Khuiji constituency while the lowest was 49 per cent in Dantewada. Kondagaon recorded 61.47 per cent, Keshkal 63.51 per cent, Kanker 62 per cent, Bastar 58 per cent, Khairagarh 70.14 per cent and Dongargarh and Dongargaon saw 71 per cent each.

Deputy election commissioner Umesh Sinha said, “Since there were queues outside several polling stations at the end of the scheduled voting time, the exact number of votes polled will be known later… It may match or surpass the 2013 figures.”

In the corresponding 18 constituencies, a turnout of 75.06 per cent was recorded in the 2013 elections, he said.

Earlier, Maoists ambushed a search party of security personnel at Pamed in Bijapur district leaving five CRPF jawans injured and triggered two improvised explosive device (IED) blasts at Tumakpak in Dantewada district to scare away voters.

Official reports said that the rebels stormed around a dozen villages in Dantewada district and held the local tribals hostage to prevent them from exercising their franchise.

Two troopers of Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (COBRA), a counterinsurgency with of CRPF, and three jawans of CRPF were injured when armed guerrillas ambushed a search party in Pamed in south Bastar district of Bijapur, said sources in the state intelligence bureau (SIB).

At least four Maoists were reportedly killed and some CRPF personnel suffered bullet wounds as a gun battle broke out when the troopers were on foot patrol in a forested area near Bijapur’s Majiguda village. “Four-five Naxals are reported to be dead but their bodies could not be collected due to continuous exchange of fire,” said D.M. Awasthi, special director general of police, anti-Naxal operations.

Two Maoists were killed in an encounter with District Reserve Guard (DRG) in Sukma district. “The encounter took place at 5.30 pm when DRG security parties were coming back from Chitolnar after giving cover to polling parties,” said Mr Awasthi.

Naxals triggered two IEDs at Tumakpak under Dornapal police limits in Datnewada district to scare away the tribal voters who reached local polling booths. However, there were no reports of casualty or injury to anybody in the incident.

The security forces recovered two IEDs weighing 10 kg and 5 kg from Kodkesa under Kanker district.

Earlier, malfunctioning of voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines and electronic voting machines (EVMs) were reported in several polling booths. Seventy VVPAT machines and 40 EVMs were replaced.

VVPAT machines were used for the first time in Chhattisgarh in the polls.

As many as 190 candidates are in fray in 18 Assembly seats in the first phase of election. Prominent leaders whose fates were sealed in EVMs in the first phase of polling on Monday included chief minister Raman Singh, his ministerial colleagues Kedar Kashyap and Mahesh Gagda and former Prime Minister late Atal Behari Vajapyee’s niece Karuna Shukla who has been pitted against the chief minister by Congress.

In the morning, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted and urged people to come out in large numbers to vote in the assembly polls.

“It’s the first phase of polling in Chhattisgarh. I request all voters to participate in the great festival of democracy with enthusiasm and come out in large numbers to vote,” Mr Modi tweeted.

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People travel thousands of miles, your Lordships dismiss cases: AG to CJI

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New Delhi: Attorney General K K Venugopal lodged protest in the Supreme Court against dismissal of cases without hearing the lawyers.

Venugopal’s protest came before a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi.

He said citizens from far flung areas of the country come to the apex court and the bench headed by the CJI was dismissing their petitions without hearing them at the admission stage.

“People come to this court after travelling thousands of miles and Your Lordships do not even hear their arguments and dismiss cases saying you have read it. This is not the way, at least at admission stage they should be heard,” the top law officer said.

The CJI, who was presiding the bench along with Justice S K Kaul, said that he was taking note of his concerns.

“Alright, Venugopal. We take your statement in the right spirit. You may now argue,” the CJI said.

Venugopal was appearing on behalf of Rajasthan government in a tax-related matter before the bench and when he sensed that the court was not inclined to entertain the plea, he made the protest.

The bench led by the CJI has been taking tough stand on urgent mentioning of cases and disposes them of quickly.

The law officer said that the bench should have issued the notice as it related to the revenue of the state. “It is related to revenue of a state… Why the CJI bench is hesitating to issue notice. It is about state government’s revenue,” Venugopal said.

“Do not presume we didn’t see the file…we might have misread it but we read it,” the CJI said.

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‘Those seeking bail giving certificate to Modi’: PM attacks Gandhi family

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Bilaspur: Prime Minister Narendra Modi attacked the Congress, targeting its president Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia, saying the party’s “politics begins and ends with one family”.

Addressing a poll rally in Bilaspur ahead of the second phase polling in the state on November 20, PM Modi also made a strong pitch for development, saying the pace of development under the Congress regime in the state was “far slow” than the one under the BJP-led government.

Singling out the Gandhis, PM Modi said the “mother-son duo” were out on bail and hit out at them for questioning the government’s demonetisation move.

“They forget it was due to demonetisation that they had to seek bail,” the Prime Minister said, adding “those seeking bail are giving certificate to Modi”.

PM Modi asserted the BJP was for development and that it was due to this commitment that the opposition was unable to understand how to compete with ruling party in elections.

He also targeted the Congress president, saying when Congress released its 36-point manifesto for Chhattisgarh polls, ‘Naamdaar’ (Rahul Gandhi) was referred to as ‘Sir’ 150 times which shows he is more important for them (Congress) than Chhattisgarh.

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