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2100 HRS.

21st March, 2018


  • BJP questions links between the Congress and consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica, accused of illegally harvesting personal information from Facebook, to influence polls in several countries; Congress denies the charge as fake agenda.
  • Government warns Facebook of legal action against misuse of Indian citizens' data.
  • Cabinet approves launch of Ayushman Bharat National Health Protection Mission to benefit 10 crore poor families.
  • Four security force personnel killed in the ongoing gunfight with terrorists in Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Proceedings in Parliament continued to remain paralyzed today amidst Opposition uproar on various issues.
  • Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani launches free wi-fi service in Udwada village of Gujarat's Valsad district; six thousand citizens to benefit.
  • Delhi High Court issues notices to former Telecom Minister A Raja, DMK MP Kanimozhi and others on pleas by ED and CBI challenging their acquittal in 2G Spectrum case.
  • In Afghanistan, at least 29 people killed in an explosion by Islamic State in Kabul as people celebrated Navroz.


BJP today questioned the alleged links between the Congress and Cambridge Analytica, a data mining firm accused of harvesting personal information from Facebook illegally to influence polls in several countries. Briefing reporters in New Delhi, party leader and Union Information Technology and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad cited media reports about the Congress' plan to use the firm's services for the next Lok Sabha elections and to boost its president Rahul Gandhi's profile. He said, the firm has been accused of using sleaze and fake news to influence elections and asked if the Congress too plans to walk the same path.

"जिस तरह के रस्ते को वो अपनाते है सेक्स, स्लीज़ एंड फेक न्यूज़ क्या कांग्रेस पार्टी हिंदुस्तान के वोटर्स को प्रभावित करने के लिए इनके माध्यम से वही रस्ते अपनाने जा रही है? 

Let Mr Rahul Gandhi explain what is the role of Cambridge Ayalytica in the social media profile of Rahul Gandhi."

Mr. Prasad warned Facebook of stringent legal action against any misuse of data of Indians on its platform.

"We fully support freedom of press, we support freedom of speak and expression, we fully support free exchange of ideas on social media. But any attempt covert or overt by the social media including Facebook of trying to influence India's electrol process through undesirable means will neither be appreciated nor be permitted. Let Facebook note it very very clearly."

Meanwhile, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said the government will conduct a probe into allegations of data theft to bring out the truth. Talking to reporters in New Delhi, he said the government will not take the matter lightly.

"Since it is a breach of the faith of the comman man, the government of the day is not going to take it lightly. The government is ofcourse going to investigate and the truth would be brought to the fore."

Mr Patra also rejected the allegation that BJP had taken service of this company during 2014 Lok Sabha polls. He also accused Congress of compromising people's personal data for political gains.


Congress has denied its links with Cambridge Analytica. Talking to reporters in New Delhi today, party leader Randeep Singh Surjewala accused the BJP of producing and setting fake agendas.

"Indian National Congress or the Congress President have never used and never hired the services of the company called Cambridge Analytica mentioned by the Union Law Minister. This is a fake agenda, a white lie being dished out on fake facts."


The Union Cabinet has approved the launch of Ayushman Bharat -National Health Protection mission. The decision was taken at a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi today. The Scheme has the benefit cover of 5 lakh rupees per family per year. The target beneficiaries under the scheme will be over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families. The benefits of the scheme are portable across the country. A beneficiary will be allowed to take cashless benefits from any public and private empaneled hospitals across the country. The scheme will subsume the ongoing centrally sponsored schemes- Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana and senior citizen health insurance scheme.


In Jammu & Kashmir, two personnel of J&K police and two  Army jawans were killed during the ongoing gunfight between terrorists and security forces in Halmatpura area of Kupwara district. Three other security force personnel were injured.

More from our correspondent: Four terrorists were killed in the gunfight yesterday evening while another body of a terrorist was retrieved from the encounter site, taking the death toll of terrorists to five. Security sources told AIR that at least two more terrorists are present in the area involved in the gunfight.

"Security sources told AIR that a cordon and search operation was launched after a group of at least seven militants had fired upon Army Area Domination Patrol at Check Fatehkhan forest area of Halmatpura in frontier Kupwara district yesterday afternoon. The anti militancy operation resumed on 2nd consecutive day today morning after it was suspended late last evening due to darkness. Meanwhile, additional contingents of special forces have been called in to neutralize the remaining militants. Tariq Rather, AIR News, Srinagar."


Both the Houses of Parliament were adjourned for the day today as well amidst Opposition uproar. As soon as the Lok Sabha met at noon after its first adjournment, members from TRS and AIADMK again trooped into the well raising slogans in support of their demands. TRS members were demanding increase in the reservation quota for jobs in Telangana, while AIADMK members wanted the setting up of a Cauvery Management Board. Amid noisy scenes, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said, since the House is not in order, she is not in a position to take up the No Confidence Motion moved by YSR Congress and TDP members. 

The scene was no different in the Rajya Sabha. As soon as the House met, the members from AIADMK, TDP and Congress went into the well raising slogans on various issues. As the stalemate continued, chairman M Venkaiah Naidu adjourned the House till tomorrow.



Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani and Communication Minister Manoj Sinha today launched free Wi-Fi service for Sansad Adarsh Gram, in Udwada village of Valsad district in Gujarat through video conferencing in New Delhi. Ms Irani said, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of Digital India is being fulfilled.

"प्रधानमंत्री जी द्वारा प्रेरित सांसद आदर्श ग्राम में आज उदवड़ा में विशेष आज बी.एस.एन.एल की ओर से सिर्फ लोकतंत्र को और सशक् किया है बल्कि एक सिविलाइजेशनल हेरिटेज है जो उदवड़ा में आज बसती है। प्रधानमंत्री जी ने डिजिटल इंडिया का जो सपना देखा, वो मनोज जी के नेतृत् में बी.एस.एन.एल. के सहयोग से साकार हो रहा है।"


Mrs Irani said, with the launch of Wi-Fi service, six thousand citizens in  the village as well as surrounding areas will be benefited. She said, they will be able to use unlimited internet data and with this, Udwada has become a digital village.

 Speaking on the occasion, Manoj Sinha said, one lakh gram panchayats have been linked digitally so far. He said, Optical Fibre Cable has been increased to 14 lakh kilometers.

"दो चरण में इस परियोजना का पूरा करना है। एक लाख ग्राम पंचायतों का लक्ष् हम दिसम्बर में प्राप् कर चुके हैं और डेढ़ लाख ग्राम पंचायतों का लक्ष् मार्च-19 तक प्राप् करना है।"


The Delhi High Court today issued a notice to former Telecom Minister A Raja, DMK MP Kanimozhi and others on the Enforcement Directorate's plea challenging their acquittal in a money laundering case arising out of the 2G spectrum allocation scam. Justice SP Garg issued another notice to them on a CBI plea challenging the special court order acquitting them in the case. The High Court also said, status quo would be maintained with regard to properties attached by the ED in the Prevention of Money Laundering Act case.

The special court had, in December last year, acquitted Raja, Kanimozhi and others in the cases registered by the CBI and the ED.


The Centre today sought the Supreme Court's permission to allow the CEO of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) for a PowerPoint presentation on Aadhaar scheme in the court to allay concerns. Hearing a number of pleas challenging the constitutional validity of Aadhaar and its enabling Act, Chief Justice Dipak Misra said, he will fix the time for the presentation after discussing the matter with other judges of the five-judge constitution bench he is heading.


President Ram Nath Kovind has stressed on the need to translate innovative ideas into accessible and affordable products and services for the people. Addressing the concluding session of the festival of Innovations and Entrepreneurship at Rashtrapati Bhavan today, Mr Kovind said, showcasing innovations is not the sole purpose of this Festival. He said, it is important to connect the bottom of the innovation pyramid with the other layers and to clear the path for grassroots innovations to be scaled up for mass adoption.

"This festival reflects the desire of all of us in India and particularly of Rashtrapati Bhawan to create a supportive eco-system for innovation to address unmet social needs as well as expand the frontier of technology and curosity."


In Afghanistan, at least 29 people have been killed and 52 others injured in an explosion in the capital, Kabul today. Tolo News reported that the terrorist group ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, which happened close to Kabul University and Ali Abad hospital. News reports quoted the interior ministry as saying that a suicide bomber had detonated his explosives while walking among a group of people. The attack happened as many Afghans are marking the Nowruz holiday, a celebration of the start of spring.


In Sri Lanka, the Joint opposition today handed over a  motion of no-confidence against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to the Parliament Speaker. It has been signed by a total of 55 MPs, including 51 from the Joint Opposition and 4 MPs from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).

"The no confidence motion may not threaten Prime minister immediately as he seems to have the numbers. But it will give the opposition to expose him on several issues including the differences within the unity government. SLFP MPs led by President Maithripala Sirisena has earlier asked for Mr. Ranil’s resignation which he refused. Prime minister is also facing demand from within the party for change in leadership but the party may come together to defeat the motion. Interestingly, the motion was not signed by former President Mahinda Rajapakse though he was present on the occasion. Santosh Kumar, AIR News, Colombo."


Domestic stocks today rose for the second day in a row. The Sensex settled above the 33,000-mark.

"The Sensex at Bombay Stock Exchange surged 139 points or 0.42 percent to 33,136. The Nifty at National Stock Exchange also added 31 points or 0.31 percent to 10,155. All other major Asian and European markets stocks were down today. The rupee at forex market ended at 65.21 against the US dollar ahead of the Federal Reserve's policy meet outcome. Gold prices fell by 40 rupees to 31,350 rupees per 10 grams at the bullion market in New Delhi. Silver also lost 150 rupees to 39,000 rupees per kg. And, oil today rose for a second day to hit the highest prices in six weeks. Brent crude futures rose 95 cents or 1.42 percent to 68.08 US dollar a barrel. With Sanjio Kumar Singh this is V. Ravi Kumar for AIR News."


The Centre has asked the States to submit their Annual Action Plan for 2018-19 by 15th of next month so that the funds related to Central schemes on Agriculture and allied sectors are disbursed immediately. Addressing the Chief Secretaries of States and senior officials of State Agriculture Departments via video conferencing in New Delhi today, Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh asked them to send inter-state criteria information on Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana urgently.


Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has introduced billing through Point of Sale (POS) hand held machines in trains to check overcharging by vendors. An official release said, the POS billing machines will be introduced in trains in a phased manner. IRCTC has already introduced POS machines in New Delhi -Karnataka Express on a pilot basis.


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