Top news of the day: Union Cabinet approves new agri credit societies in 2 lakh panchayats; ED says Kerala CM’s ex-principal secretary acquired proceeds of crime in bribery case, and more

The major news headlines of the day and more.

February 15, 2023 07:06 pm | Updated 07:06 pm IST

M. Sivasankar, arrested by the ED in the LIFE Mission bribery case, being taken back from Ernakulam General Hospital after medical examination on February 15. | Photo Credit: R. K. Nithin

M. Sivasankar, arrested by the ED in the LIFE Mission bribery case, being taken back from Ernakulam General Hospital after medical examination on February 15. | Photo Credit: R. K. Nithin

Union Cabinet approves plan to set up two lakh PACS, dairy, fishery cooperatives in next five years

In order to strengthen the cooperative sector, the Union Cabinet on February 15 approved setting up of new Primary Agricultural Credit Society (PACS) and dairy-fishery cooperatives in uncovered villages and panchayats. Its implementation will be done over a period of five years. 25 different facilities to be provided through them. Dairy and fishery will also be linked to the agri cooperatives. At present, there are around 63,000 functional PACS in the country.

Union cabinet sanctions 7 new battalions; 9,400 personnel for Sino-India LAC guarding ITBP

The Union Cabinet on February 15 sanctioned seven new battalions and an operational border base with a fresh strength of 9,400 personnel for the India-China LAC guarding force Indo-Tibetan Border Police, officials said. The proposal was cleared after the meeting of the cabinet that was chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. According to the government sanction, the fresh manpower will be utilised for manning 47 new border posts and a dozen ‘staging camps’ or troops bases along this frontier. The armies of India and China are engaged in a standoff in Ladakh since 2020.

Union Cabinet nod to ‘Vibrant Villages Programme’ for northern borders

The Union Cabinet on February 15 approved the centrally-sponsored ‘Vibrant Village Programme’ for financial years 2022-23 to 2025-26), under which holistic developmental works are to be undertaken in northern bordering villages, and with an outlay of ₹4,800 crore, Union minister Anurag Thakur said. The programme will cover 662 villages in the first phase, where job opportunities will be created to curb migration of local population and sustainable economic activities will be encouraged.

Union Cabinet gives nod to pact between India, South Africa on cooperation in disability sector

The Union Cabinet has approved signing of a pact between India and South Africa for cooperation in the disability sector, an official statement said on February 15. The bilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aims to encourage cooperation between the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities and South Africa through joint initiatives in the disability sector, it said.

Kerala CM’s ex-principal secretary Sivasankar acquired, possessed and concealed proceeds of crime in LIFE Mission bribery case, alleges ED

M. Sivasankar, former principal secretary to the Kerala Chief Minister, is guilty of the offence of money laundering by concealing the proceeds of crime, its possession and acquisition in the LIFE Mission bribery case, according to the Enforcement Directorate. The ED arrested him late on February 14. Explaining the grounds for arresting Mr. Sivasankar, the agency noted that the analysis of material evidence gathered in the case including digital evidence such as Whatsapp conversations, the IMEI Number of a mobile phone in his possession and the statements collected had established that he had committed the offence of money laundering as defined under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

Israeli-linked internet activity operating fake social media campaigns in India: report

A team of Israeli contractors who are feared to have interfered with more than 30 elections around the world have been linked with software to operate fake social media campaigns across several countries, including India, a report said on February 15. In an international investigation by a journalist consortium including by The Guardian newspaper in the U.K., a so-called “Team Jorge” unit has been linked with allegedly offering a sophisticated software package named Advanced Impact Media Solutions to commercial clients as one of its key services.

Adani-Hindenburg row | Supreme Court agrees to hear fresh PIL by Congress leader

The Supreme Court on February 15 listed a petition filed by Congress party leader Jaya Thakur for February 17 seeking investigation against the Adani Group on the basis of a report submitted by U.S.-based short seller firm, Hindenburg Research, accusing it of market manipulation and financial fraud. Media reports said the group of companies related to Adani lost about $100 billion in market value following the report.

Biden, PM Modi discussed importance of U.S.-India strategic technology partnership: White House

President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed the importance of the U.S.-India strategic technology partnership and committed to continue working together and in groups like the Quad to advance economic growth and expand cooperation on their shared priorities, a presidential spokesperson has said. A phone call between the two leaders took place on Tuesday following the announcement of a historic deal between Boeing and Air India for the latter to buy more than 200 planes from the American plane manufacturer.

Foreign Secretary Kwatra calls on PM Hasina, reaffirms India’s support for deeper economic partnership with Bangladesh

Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra on February 15 called on Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during which he reaffirmed India’s support for wider and deeper development and economic partnership with her country. Mr. Kwatra arrived in Dhaka on Tuesday evening from Kathmandu, Nepal, on a two-day visit. Bangladesh foreign ministry officials ahead of the visit said Kwatra’s scheduled talks with his counterpart were a part of regular FOCs, but their meeting was expected to partly prepare grounds for Prime Minister Hasina’s visit to New Delhi.

SP MLA Abdullah Azam Khan disqualified from U.P. Assembly after conviction in 15-year-old case

Samajwadi Party MLA Abdullah Azam Khan was disqualified from the Uttar Pradesh Assembly on February 15, an official said, days after a court sentenced him to two-year imprisonment in a 15-year-old case. The Representation of the People Act lists offences which can lead to disqualification of legislators and states that anyone sentenced to imprisonment of two years or more shall be disqualified “from the date of such conviction” and remain disqualified for another six years after serving time in jail.

I-T dept survey on BBC India continues for second day

The Income Tax department survey operation against the BBC India continued for the second day with the sleuths understood to be making copies of electronic and paper-based financial data of the organisation, officials said Wednesday, February 15. The tax department had launched the action on Tuesday at the British Broadcasting Corporation ‘s (BBC) Delhi and Mumbai offices along with at least two linked premises as part of an investigation into alleged tax evasion against the British broadcaster in India.

75% of defence capital budget is for domestic procurement: Rajnath

A record 75% or approximately ₹1 lakh crore of the defence capital procurement budget has been earmarked for domestic industry in the financial year 2023-24, up from 68% in the previous year, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh announced during the Bandhan ceremony at Aero India on February 15. The Bandhan ceremony was the conclusion of 266 partnerships including 201 Memoranda of Understanding (MoU), 53 major announcements, nine product launches and three Transfers of Technology, together worth around ₹80,000 crore, according to a Defence Ministry statement.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon resigns

Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon, the face of her country’s independence movement for eight years, has announced her intention to resign, amid criticism of her drive to make it easier for people to legally change genders. Ms. Sturgeon made the announcement on February 15 during a news conference at her official residence in Edinburgh, saying that part of serving well is knowing when to make way for someone else. “In my head and in my heart I know that time is now,” she told reporters. “That it’s right for me, for my party and my country.”

Pakistan court cancels Imran Khan’s bail in Election Commission protest case

A Pakistani anti-terrorism court in Islamabad on February 15 rejected the bail of former Prime Minister Imran Khan for failing to attend the court hearing of a case linked to protests outside the election commission, a ruling which could lead to his arrest. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf activists staged a protest after Khan was disqualified by the Election Commission of Pakistan in the prohibited funding case last year. In October last year, Police launched a case under the anti-terrorism laws and the former premier was on interim bail in the case.

U.S. military downs Iran-made drone in Syria

U.S. forces shot down an Iranian-made drone flying over a base housing American troops in northeastern Syria, the U.S. military said on February 15. The incident comes more than a week after a deadly 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked Turkey and Syria, followed by a significant deescalation of violence across the war-torn country. U.S. Central Command said in a statement that the reconnaissance drone flew over Mission Support Site Conoco on Tuesday afternoon before American forces shot it down.

India’s footwear, textile exports vulnerable to global slowdown: Report

A slowdown in 2023 in advanced economies, especially the U.S. and the eurozone, is expected to make India’s footwear and leather products export trade vulnerable, said Crisil Ratings. “Domestic labour-intensive sectors such as textiles, footwear, and leather depend significantly on these two regions, making them particularly vulnerable to a slowdown in these economies,” it said in a report titled ‘The Slowdown Shadow’. It said since these regions being two of India’s largest export destinations, a slowdown in their economies would lower demand for Indian exports.

India becomes top team across all formats in latest ICC rankings

As a result of the comprehensive victory over Australia in the Nagpur Test, Rohit Sharma and co. claimed the top spot in the latest ICC men’s Test ranking, making it the number-one team across all formats. With 115 points, India sat on the top of the Test ranking table while Australia was placed second with 111 points and England in the third spot with 106 points. In the ODI rankings, India was ranked the best team with 114 points, closely followed by Australia at the second spot with 112 points. New Zealand secured third position with 111 points. The T20I ranking list was dominated by India with 267 points, while England was second-placed, just one point behind the table-toppers with 266 points. Pakistan was in the third spot with 258 points.

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