The gruelling campaign for Lok Sabha election in Haryana, going to the polls in the sixth phase on May 12, ended on Friday with simultaneous rallies by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda in the Jat belt.Election in the 10 Lok Sabha seats in the State is being fought under the shadow of large-scale violence during the Jat agitation in 2016, conviction of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh two years ago and the recent split in the Indian National Lok Dal, with political analysts claiming an undercurrent in favour of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.As per the office of the Chief Electoral Officer, Haryana, 223 candidates, including 11 women, are in the fray, with the maximum 29 contestants trying their luck in the Sonipat Lok Sabha constituency and the lowest, 16 in Karnal. A total of 1,80,56,896 voters, including 83,40,173 women, are registered to exercise their franchise. Around 67,000 police personnel have been mobilised for the election duty.‘Battle of prestige’ The Congress and the BJP are locked in a direct contest on nine of 10 Lok Sabha seats in the State. In Hisar, Jannayak Janta Party leader Dushyant Chautala has made the fight three-cornered with Congress’ Bhavya Bishnoi and BJP’s Brijendra Singh being the other two heavyweight contestants in the fray. It is a battle of prestige for all the three candidates with political legacies to defend.The JJP has been contesting the election in an alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party, which has fielded its candidates on three seats. The Bahujan Samaj Party, which had snapped its ties with the INLD post the split, has been contesting the election in a tie-up with Loktanter Suraksha Party of former BJP MP from Kurukshetra, Raj Kumar Saini.Jat-dominated seatsA thrilling electoral battle is on the cards in the other two Jat-dominated constituencies too — Sonipat and Rohtak — with the BJP’s two non-Jat candidates pitted against the Congress’ Bhupinder Hooda and his son Deepender Singh Hooda. While the BJP is leaving no stone unturned to wrest the Rohtak Lok Sabha seat, a bastion of the Hoodas and the only seat won by the Congress in the State in 2014, Mr. Deepender Hooda is set for a tough battle with the Jat reservation agitation likely to cause polarisation of votes along caste lines. The Sonipat Lok Sabha election could well decide the political future of Mr. Bhupinder Hooda, who is seen as the tallest Jat leader in the State.Mr. Modi, during his three rallies in the State in Fatehabad, Kurukshetra and Rohtak, has mostly raised the issues of national security and corruption, besides accusing the Congress of personal attacks on him. Congress president Rahul Gandhi, on the other hand, has mostly talked about the party’s promise of NYAY (minimum income scheme) and separate budget for farmers, and attacked the BJP government on loss of jobs and business due to demonetisation and the flawed implementation of the Goods and Services Tax. He too has addressed three rallies at Gurugram, Bhiwani and Sirsa.
An evaluation report on India’s tiger reserves has put the spotlight on an alleged nexus between some officials of Kaziranga National Park and poachers.Kaziranga, a World Heritage Site designated by UNESCO, is more popular as the world’s best address for the one-horned rhino. It is also been a major tiger reserve covering an area of 1,080 sq km.Prime Minister Narendra Modi had earlier this week released the management effectiveness evaluation reports for tiger reserves across the country, including Kaziranga.The report says that some staff of Kaziranga Tiger Reserve may sometimes get involved in poaching by helping the poachers. To drive home the point, the report cites the poaching of three rhinos in as many days in November 2017 close to the Tunikati anti-poaching camp under the Burapahar Range.Anti-poaching camps “When there are 178 anti-poaching camps in a 911-sq-km area, each camp has to protect 5 sq km. Given the resources at the command of the personnel, it should not be difficult to guard the area effectively. Such poaching close to the camps leads to the suspicion of the involvement of officials,” it says.The report also notes Kaziranga’s management weakness in coordinating with forest officials of Karbi Anglong, which runs along the southern boundary of the tiger reserve. This is because the forest officials of Karbi Anglong, an autonomous tribal council, are not answerable to the heads of Assam’s Forest Department.The hills of Karbi Anglong not only provide shelter to the animals of Kaziranga during high floods but also cover for poachers, the report said.Railway lineAssam Forest Minister Parimal Suklabaidya had informed the 126-member State Assembly that an expert committee had been formed to study the proposal for laying a second track through Deepor Beel, a wetland on the western edge of Guwahati that was listed in 2002 as a Ramsar Site.“The panel will submit its report to the National Green Tribunal, which will decide on whether or not to go ahead with the project,” Mr. Suklabaidya said.
The National Housing Trust (NHT) has provided home grants totalling $43.2 million to help lower income contributors to purchase housing solutions in its newest scheme at Perth, Manchester.A total of 36 beneficiaries have received grants of $1.2 million to buy their lots. These funds were made available to persons earning no more than $10,000 weekly and who have been contributing to the NHT for at least 10 years without getting a benefit.The 592-acre Perth development, located just outside Mandeville, is the first major project undertaken by the NHT in Manchester. Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, on Wednesday, March 20, handed over service lots to the first 25 of 245 beneficiaries in Phase 1 of the development, following a bus tour of the project site.Managing Director of the NHT, Cecile Watson, said the income of the beneficiaries of the scheme range from near minimum wage to over $20,000 per week.“This is testament to how the NHT is pricing its housing solutions to bring them into the reach of its contributors at every income level,” Mrs. Watson stated.She explained that in keeping with a commitment to provide opportunities for young professionals, the Trust selected 40 persons, 25 to 40 years old, to benefit in the scheme.These include teachers, policemen, firemen and health professionals, who were selected on the basis of their contribution and whether they live or work in the parish.Additionally, 64 solutions were assigned by way of special benefit order to 41 low income contributors, subsidised at a cost of $27.88 million; one disabled applicant; 13 NHT staff. and nine public sector employees.The lots range in sizes from 7,500 sq ft. to a quarter of an acre, which is larger than most NHT scheme lots that are approximately 4,000 sq. ft. “At a conservative estimate of two NHT contributors per household, the 258 lots in Perth Phase 1 will benefit a minimum of 516 contributors and the lives of extended families will be transformed through the gift of home ownership in this scheme,” Mrs. Watson said.Meanwhile, National Security Minister and Member of Parliament, Central Manchester, Peter Bunting, welcomed the Perth beneficiaries to the constituency.He joined others in advocating that the new recipients incorporate in their building plans, adequate provisions for the conservation and storage of water.Since the NHT was established 37 years ago, it has constructed 285 housing schemes accounting for over 71,000 solutions, and financed thousands of other non scheme benefits, which have enabled contributors to buy land, build or purchase houses on the open market.By Andrea Braham, JIS Reporter