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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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National

SC dismisses plea seeking execution of Nirbhaya death row convicts within 2 weeks

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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court dismissed a plea seeking execution within two weeks of death row convicts in the Nirbhaya gangrape and murder case. The plea was filed by laywer Alakh Alok Srivastava who had sought a direction to the government to execute all the four death row convicts – Mukesh, Pawan Gupta, Vinay Sharma and Akshay.

In his plea, Srivastava had said that despite a lapse of more than four and a half months from the date of dismissal of the review petitions of three convicts, the death penalty has not yet been executed. The plea said that in rape-cum-murder cases, the fate of the accused must be decided in a period of eight months from the lower court to the apex court.

The plea stated that a delay in execution of death penalty is a bad precedent and has resulted in increasing incidents of rapes being reported on daily basis. It said that the delay after over five years of their initial conviction “apparently gives an impression in the minds of the rapists that they would also be harmless if they commit such heinous crimes”.

The plea had also sought guidelines to prescribe strict timelines for speedy execution of death row convicts in rape-cum-murder cases, so that the remedies of appeal in high court, appeal, review, curative petition in the apex court and mercy petition before the president are exhausted by the convicts within maximum period of eight months.

The 23-year-old paramedic student was gangraped on the intervening night of December 16-17, 2012 inside a running bus in South Delhi by six persons. She was severely assaulted before being thrown out on the road. She succumbed to her injuries on December 29, 2012 at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore.

The apex court had earlier on July 9 dismissed the pleas of Mukesh, Pawan, and Vinay seeking review of the SC verdict which had upheld the judgements of the Delhi High Court and the lower court awarding death penalty to them.

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Taking inputs from MLAs, party workers on CM candidates: Rahul

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New Delhi: Amid hectic deliberations and lobbying for selection of chief ministers in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh, Congress president Rahul Gandhi said Thursday that the party was taking inputs from MLAs and workers and the names will be declared soon.

Gandhi held hectic deliberations with Congress workers earlier at his residence ahead of selecting the party’s chief ministers for the three states. “You will see chief ministers soon. We are taking inputs from MLAs, party workers and others,” he told reporters.

Meanwhile, the potential chief minister candidates in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh arrived in the city Thursday for a meeting with the Congress president who will take a final call on the top post in the states.

While Kamal Nath is considered top contender for the post in Madhya Pradesh, Ashok Gehlot leads the race in Rajasthan, but Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief Sachin Pilot is not giving up his claim and is putting up stiff resistance.

The contenders for the top post in Rajasthan — Gehlot and Pilot — and in Madhya Pradesh — Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia — arrived early morning in the national capital.

The Congress president will first meet party observers A K Antony for Madhya Pradesh and K C Venugopal for Rajasthan before meeting those in the race.

The observers had already held discussions with the newly-elected party MLAs in Jaipur and Bhopal Wednesday and would give their inputs to Gandhi on who the legislators want to be as their chief ministers. Over the last 24 hours, an audio message from Gandhi has gone to 7.3 lakh party workers across the three states in which they have been asked to name their chief ministerial choice.

In the audio message, he is heard congratulating the leaders for the party’s victory in the assembly elections in the three heartland states. “Now I want to ask you a vital question: Who should be the chief minister? Please mention just one name. I’m the only person who would know whom you are naming. No one in the party will know.

Please speak after the beep”.

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‘Ram temple issue may not click for BJP in 2019’: Pawar

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Mumbai: A day after the BJP’s poll debacle in three Hindi heartland states, NCP chief Sharad Pawar said the Ram temple issue might not work in favour of the BJP again, unlike in the past, if it is raised ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

He alleged that the BJP may try to create a communal divide on the temple issue which is a “matter of concern”.

The BJP is under pressure from its ideological mentor RSS, alliance partner Shiv Sena and Hindutva organisations which are demanding a parliamentary law or an ordinance for construction of Ram temple.

Sena MPs on Wednesday staged a protest in the Lok Sabha demanding immediate construction of the temple.

“The issue of Ram temple was used once in the past and the BJP stood benefited by it. In case they (the BJP) raise the issue again, people do not accept an issue twice… So, I don’t think it (Ram temple) will benefit them (the BJP),” Pawar said.

The veteran politician was speaking to reporters after meeting scores of party workers who had gathered here to greet him on his 78th birthday.

The BJP, which was in power in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh since the last 15 years, lost to the Congress in the assembly polls, results for which were announced Tuesday. The Congress also looks set to form government in Rajasthan, ruled by the BJP until now.

Stating that people do not accept the same issue twice, Pawar referred to the general elections held post Emergency and the assembly polls held in Maharashtra over the issue of ‘Samyukta (joint) Maharashtra’ in 1950s and 1960s.

He said Indira Gandhi-led Congress had to taste defeat in the 1977 Lok Sabha polls which was held after imposition of Emergency.

The Janata alliance of parties, opposed to the ruling Congress party, had won that elections riding on the anti-Congress wave.

“But that issue (Emergency) did not appeal to the people when the (Lok Sabha) elections were held again (in 1980),” he noted.

Pawar also recalled the Congress was defeated in Maharashtra in 1955-56 Assembly polls over the issue of the Samyukta Maharashtra.

“But in the 1962 Assembly polls, the Congress came back to power as people did not accept the Samyukta Maharashtra issue,” he added.

In his annual Vijaya Dashmi rally held in Nagpur this October, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat had demanded a law to pave the way for construction of the temple on the disputed site in Ayodhya.

Many Hindu organisations have been demanding construction of the temple, as promised by the BJP before coming to power in 2014.

The BJP has been saying that it was committed to the construction of the temple, but is silent on bringing an ordinance in Parliament for the purpose.

The matter of Ayodhya title suits is currently pending in the Supreme Court.

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