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Hum Hindustani

The Hot Mix Plant Owners Association- Punjab in a press conference held here on Friday criticised the senior Punjab government officials heading the Link Roads Scheme 2018 (Rs 1,700-crore projects) for allegedly putting bogus detail notice for inviting tender (DNIT) conditions.

Addressing mediapersons, president of the association Balwinder Singh Sidhwan, said, “Our association is giving employment to more than two lakh families in the state. As we have now declared a statewide boycott, we are no longer submitting tenders to the government. The families of labourers and workers are suffering as we are not carrying out any work. Even the roads which require an immediate repair in many rural areas are not being repaired and only the state government is responsible for all this.”

He informed that one of the conditions put by officials under DNIT stated that sensor paver for road should be 10-ft wide. It was not at all possible in reality to work with the sensor paver of such a short width as this would deteriorate the quality of road.

A senior vice-president of the association, Mohan Singh, said, “It seems the officials appointed by the government for laying down these conditions have no knowledge of the tenders, as all the DNIT conditions mentioned by the officials have nothing to do with the repair of link roads tenders. Rather the conditions are applicable on national highways”.

Press secretary of association Kulwinder Singh informed, “Despite paying 12 per cent GST, no reimbursement is being given to us by the government and even the cost of carrying seal coat material from the plant to the site has not been added in the list. Now when the cost of diesel is almost Rs 66-67, the cost of carriage is to be borne by contractors”.

State BJPpresident Shwait Malik on Friday alleged that the Congress, during recent incidents of violence in Phagwara, had conspired to put Punjab on the brink of a “highly explosive” situation for manipulating Dalit voters in the 2019 General Election. He said this while addressing his first press conference at the Press Club here.

A member of the Rajya Sabha, Malik said, “We met Governor VP Singh Badnore on Thursday seeking a Special Investigation Team  to probe the incident.”

The BJP president gave a list of 41 incidents of “Dalits’ exploitation” in Punjab since the Congress government took charge last year. Malik said the Congress, right from the beginning, did not allow good education to Dalits to facilitate them to rise socially and financially. “Dr BR Ambedkar was not given the place he deserved by the party. They have always been given the menial Class IV jobs of sweepers and peons and kept in background even in their own party. The community was only exploited as a vote bank,” he said.

Malik said, “Our government is developing five places as ‘panch teerth’ in his honour. Our party has given maximum Dalit MPs and MLAs. Verdict against SCs’ case has been given by the Supreme Court and we have filed a review petition.” Malik said, “There is an invisible government in Punjab. No ministers are visible among the common people and not even the Chief Minister. The government is being run by bureaucrats. Minister for Local Government Navjot Singh Sidhu has pointed out gaping loopholes in sand mining in the state. Differences between MP Pratap Singh Bajwa and CM Capt Amarinder Singh are a well-known fact. The expected announcement of portfolios to new ministers is bound to show the divided house of the party.”

Indian tennis ace Rohan Bopanna and his French partner Edouard Roger-Vasselin will aim to book their place in the finals of the Monte Carlo Masters when they head into their last-four clash of the men's doubles event at Monaco.

The Indo-French duo will cross swords with third-seed pair of Austria's Oliver Marach and Croatia's Mate Pavic for a place in the summit showdown.

Earlier, Bopanna and Roger-Vaselli eased past the Colombian team of Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, who reached the Australian Open final this year, 6-4, 6-4 in a one-sided quarter-final clash.

Earlier, the unseeded Indo-French duo had to work hard as they bounced back from a set down and saved three match points to clinch a 3-6, 6-4, 11-9 over two-time Grand Slam champions Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares in one hour and 22 minutes and seal a last-eight spot.

In another semi-finals clash of Monte Carlo, the fourth-seeded Bryan brothers will also take on Italian team of Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini for a place in the finals.

The Table Tennis Federation of India on Friday recommended Manika Batra, the country’s only quadruple medallist at the Commonwealth Games, for Arjuna Award. Harmeet Desai has also been recommended for the prestigious award.

“We sent her nomination today. With such a strong performance in Gold Coast, it will be very difficult for the (government) committee to ignore her,” a TTFI official told PTI.

Batra created history in Gold Coast, single-handedly taking India to a maiden team gold before winning a singles gold, another first.

The 22-year-old beat world number four and triple Olympic medallist, Feng Tianwei of Singapore, twice in the tournament.

She also secured a women’s doubles silver alongside Mouma Das and mixed doubles bronze with G Sathiyan. Her next assignment is the World Team Championships in Sweden from April 29.

Harmeet Desai, who was part of the men’s team that won the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games, has also been recommended for the Arjuna Award.

Acclaimed filmmaker Rajkumar Hirani, who is busy with the post-production of his upcoming film Sanju, featuring actor Ranbir Kapoor, has confirmed that the film’s teaser will be released on Tuesday morning.

Refuting news of its release during an IPL match on April 24, Hirani said: “It is not a correct news that it is going to be released during the Indian Premier League (IPL) match. As far as I understand, we are launching the teaser before that.

“It will be in the morning of April 24. In the evening, it will be shown during the IPL match.”

Hirani said this while interacting with the media on Friday, along with Subhash Ghai at the 5th Veda Session organised by Whistling Woods International Film Institute.

There were reports earlier that Hirani would release the first look of the biopic on Sanjay Dutt before the April 24 IPL clash and a teaser would be shown in the presence of Ranbir and Sanjay on the Cricket Live show on Star Sports.

When asked whether Sanju would help to re-establish Ranbir again, the 3 Idiots and PK director said: “He was always a Superstar. He never went away.

“He is fantastic actor and I really enjoyed working with him and in future, I would love to work with him again on a film.”

Talking about the need of more film institutes in India, on the lines of Whistling Woods Institute, Hirani said: “I think we need more number of film institute’s as we have very less.

“There are channels, we are making so many films in a year. We are the largest producer of films in the world. There are television shows and now there is the digital platform as well, so, for all that, we need good technicians.

“I feel Subhash Ghai is doing a commendable work through his Whistling Woods Institute by imparting knowledge to film students. My son also studies here so it is inspiring to see the kind of work happening here.”

Sanju is a biographical drama, written and directed by Rajkumar Hirani and produced by Vidhu Vinod Chopra. The film is based on the life of actor Sanjay Dutt, with Ranbir Kapoor portraying the role.

The country’s foreign exchange reserves expanded by USD 1.217 billion to touch a life-time high of USD 426.082 billion in the week to April 13, helped by rise in foreign currency assets, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said.

In the previous week, the reserves had increased by USD 503.6 million to reach USD 424.864 billion.

It had crossed the USD 400-billion mark for the first time in the week to September 8, 2017, but has since been fluctuating.

In the reporting week, the foreign currency assets, a major component of the overall reserves, increased by USD 1.202 billion to USD 400.978 billion.

Expressed in the US dollar terms, the foreign currency assets include the effect of appreciation or depreciation of the non-US currencies such as euro, pound and Japanese yen held in the reserves.

Gold reserves remained unchanged at USD 21.484 billion in the reporting week, the central bank said.

The special drawing rights with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) increased by USD 6.6 million to USD 1.540 billion.

The country’s reserve position with the IMF also rose by USD 8.9 million to USD 2.079 billion, RBI said.

The Palestinians said Friday they want the UN Human Rights Council to establish a commission to carry out an independent investigation of the Israeli military’s killing and wounding of Palestinians during protests in Gaza.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian UN ambassador, said his counterpart in Geneva will start the process early next week with initial consultations that will hopefully culminate in an emergency meeting of the rights council and approval of a resolution authorizing a body “to investigate these crimes”.

“It seems that the Israeli occupying forces are not restraining themselves, they’re not listening to anyone and they are continuing with this massacre,” Mansour told reporters.

For a fourth week, several thousand people in Gaza staged protests on the border with Israel to protest its blockade of the Hamas-ruled territory and press for a “right of return” of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to what is now Israel.

Israeli soldiers firing from across a border fence killed four Palestinians Friday, bringing the number killed since the protest marches started in late March to 32, and the number wounded by live rounds to more than 1,600, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

Israel says it’s defending its border, and alleges Hamas uses protests as cover for attacks. The Palestinians say the rising casualty toll signals that Israel’s military is sticking to its open-fire rules against the protesters despite international criticism of the use of lethal force against unarmed demonstrators.

Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon said in a statement late Friday that “Hamas is continuing to instigate violence against Israel as rioters today used firebombs and other means in attempts to damage the fence and infiltrate our sovereign territory”.

He called on all UN officials “to condemn Hamas for encouraging violence, promoting instability and for the despicable act of exploiting women and children by placing them in harm’s way.”

The UN Security Council has not commented on the protests because the United States, Israel’s closest ally, has blocked proposed statements supported by most members critical of the high death toll and Israel’s use of force against protesters.

With Security Council action blocked, the Palestinians are turning to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council where there are no vetoes. Mansour noted that in the past, the Palestinians were successful in getting the rights council to authorize three different fact-finding missions and commissions.

He said the Palestinians will not accept an investigation announced by Israel into its military actions in Gaza because “it cannot be credible.”

An investigation must be independent and transparent, Mansour stressed, as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, other countries, and most recently six independent human rights investigators have called for.

The rights experts issued a joint statement on April 17 saying: “Despite Israel’s commitment to investigate the events of the past few weeks, security forces continue to use live ammunition and rubber bullets against the protesters, killing and wounding dozens of mostly unarmed protesters, women, men and children alike.”

The experts, including the special investigator on human rights in the Palestinian territories, expressed “outrage” that the shootings may have resulted in unlawful killings and injuries.

The joint statement welcomed an Israeli probe, but said an independent investigation “is the only way to truly address what has happened in Gaza, and to prevent its recurrence”.

The investigators cited reports that some Israel officials suggested the purpose of the Israeli probe is “to avoid scrutiny” from the international community and the International Criminal Court.

Thousands of mourners lined up to pay their final respects to former US first lady Barbara Bush who passed away this week.

A string of mourners, adults and children, were surprisingly greeted by former President George H W Bush, at the public viewing of his wife of 73 years.

Bush sat at the front of the cavernous sanctuary of St Martin’s Episcopal Church along with his daughter Doro, gazing up at the rose-draped casket holding his wife of 73 years.

Bush greeted mourners, many of whom were wearing his wife’s favourite colour, blue and trademark pearls. He also offered his hand and smiled as people shook it.

Bush died on Tuesday at her Houston home. She was 92.

Barbara and George Bush were married longer than any other presidential couple when she died Tuesday at their home in Houston. One of just two first ladies to have a child elected president, Barbara Bush was widely admired for her plainspoken style and her advocacy for causes including literacy and AIDS awareness.

The casket of the matriarch of the Bush dynasty arrived at St Martin’s Episcopal Church off Woodway Drive about 5 am.

The patriarch Bush arrived at the church just before 1 pm and, for about a half-hour, he shook the hands of people filing past the casket of the former first lady.

People attending the viewing lined up on Friday at Second Baptist Church, about 3 miles away, to undergo a security screening and board METRO shuttle buses that took them to St. Martin’s No foot traffic was permitted. Authorities said no backpacks, large bags or weapons were allowed, and photography was prohibited.

 “Treat this as if you’re going to a sporting event or to an airport,” Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said.

Woodway Drive from Chimney Rock Road to South Post Oak Lane was closed to most traffic for a portion of the day.

Even stricter traffic closures are expected Saturday for Bush’s memorial service, which begins at 11 am.

By late Friday evening, officials said around 3,000 people stopped by to pay their respects to Barbara Bush.

Republican Senator John Cornyn, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee were among those who have been to St. Martin’s Episcopal Church as Mrs. Bush is lying in repose.

The public viewing came three days after Barbara Bush died at her Houston home at age 92, her husband George H W Bush by her side. She died of complications from congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, having announced days earlier that she would forgo additional medical treatment to focus on comfort care.

As first lady, Bush was also immensely relatable. Though her husband George H W Bush may have led the country, she somehow – through her charm and bluntness and genuine nature – appeared to the nation as a mother, or grandmother, rather than another politician.

The Houston Police Department is ramping up security this weekend as dignitaries make their way to Houston to attend services for the late former first lady Barbara Bush.

China has said it welcomed North Korea's decision to halt nuclear tests and intercontinental missile launches, with Pyongyang's chief ally saying the move would help promote denuclearisation in the flashpoint region.

"China believes the decision to stop nuclear tests and focus on developing the economy and improving people's living standards will help further ease the situation on the Korean peninsula and help to promote the process of denuclearisation and attempts to find a political settlement," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in a statement.

"China will support North Korea ... (to engage in) dialogue and consultation with the relevant parties."

The surprise announcement comes less than a week before the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets South Korean President Moon Jae-in for a summit in the Demilitarised Zone that divides the peninsula, ahead of an eagerly-awaited encounter with US President Donald Trump.

However, Kim gave no indication Pyongyang might be willing to give up its nuclear weapons, or the missiles with which it can reach the mainland United States.

For years, the impoverished North has pursued a "byungjin" policy of "simultaneous development" of both the military and the economy.

But the leader said that now North Korea was a powerful state, "the whole party and country" should concentrate on "socialist economic construction".

Los Angeles,

Missouri Governor Eric Greitens, already facing an invasion-of-privacy trial next month in connection with an extramarital affair, was charged separately on Friday with felony computer tampering tied to his political fund-raising.

The new case was brought by the same St. Louis prosecutor two days before the statute of limitations deadline for the charge, which stems from Greitens’ alleged theft of a donor list from the military veterans charity he created and ran for several years.

Greitens, a Republican under mounting pressure from Missouri politicians of both parties to resign since the sex scandal broke earlier this year, called the latest case part of a “smear” campaign orchestrated by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, a Democrat.

The governor, a former US Navy SEAL commando once seen as a rising star in the GOP, vowed to clear his name in court, declaring, “People will know the truth.”

His attorney Ed Dowd called the latest allegation against Greitens “absurd” and said his client was innocent.

“Now he’s being accused of stealing an email list from an organization he built? Give me a break,” Dowd said in a statement. “Not only did he create this list donor, by donor, friend by friend, but (the charity) still has the list.” The prosecutor’s office issued a summons for the governor to appear in court, rather than an arrest warrant, allowing Greitens to turn himself in for booking, a spokeswoman for Gardner said. She said the city attorney’s office would coordinate with Greitens’ defense team for his surrender.

A similar process was followed when Gardner brought an invasion of privacy indictment against Greitens in February - a case slated to go to trial on May 10.

According to Friday’s criminal complaint, the electronic theft occurred in April 2015, about a month after the privacy offense was alleged to have occurred, while Greitens was running for governor.

The complaint and accompanying “probable cause” statement accuse Greitens of felony computer data tampering to obtain and transmit the donor list of the veterans charity The Mission Continues without permission for his own political gain.

According to court documents in the case, Greitens directed another individual to obtain the donor list and furnish it to a fundraiser who was working on behalf of Greitens’ gubernatorial campaign.

The charity’s employee handbook and its non-disclosure agreements “prohibited disclosure of the donor list and the retention of it by anyone not employed by and working on behalf of The Mission Continues,” the probable cause statement said.

Prosecutors did not say whether anyone else faced charges in the investigation.

A growing number of Missouri’s elected officials, Democrats and Republicans alike, have called for Greitens’ ouster since he was charged in an unrelated case in which he was accused of taking a compromising photo of a woman with whom he was involved without her consent and threatening to blackmail her with it.

Both the invasion of privacy and computer tampering charges are felonies, each punishable by up to four years in prison.

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