Sania Mirza


Anam Mirza, the stylist & sister of the famous tennis champion Sania Mirza, along with partner & entrepreneur Akbar Rasheed announced the launch of the 3rd season of their well – known fashion exhibition The Label Bazaar. After 2 very successful seasons of this exhibition, the duo is now taking it to 3 cities across India and who better to make this announcement than brand ambassador Sania Mirza. Providing all to do with fashion under one roof, from accessories to ethnic wear to shoes, bags & beauty, The Label Bazaar gives everything a shopaholic wants in one place. This 3 city tour will be happening between Jan, 2017 & Mar, 2017. “It’s always an amazing experience to work with family; there is a lot of understanding both ways. Anam & Akbar have a deep understanding of fashion and their consumers which is clearly visible in the brand and every exhibition they conduct. I’m glad to be a part of it and I’m looking forward to this 3 city tour and wish them all the luck,” says Sania Mirza. Continuing to recreate the magic in Mumbai & Chennai in 2017, The Label Bazaar is well – known for their extravagant exhibitions in Hyderabad, their hometown. “We are very excited to showcase designers from all over and bring together some of the best fashion designers under one roof for this 3 city tour,” says Anam


Akshay Kumar is excited about his lead role in JOLLY LLB 2, the sequel to Subhash Kapoor’s 2013 directorial. The actor feels that the character is inspired by Birbal, 1 of the 9 gems of Emperor Akbar’s court. In fact, Akki’s connection with the historical figure goes back to his childhood. Back then, his father Hari Om Bhatia used to read out to him the stories of Akbar & Birbal. As a young boy , the actor loved listening to tales of how the wise & quick – thinking royal advisor resolved issues with his intelligence, consequently bringing a smile to everyone’s faces and at the same time, also communicating a message through his actions. Eventually , when Akshay heard about his role in the film, he was enthused about playing a character that embodies similar qualities as his “bachpan ka hero”. Audiences are looking forward to the sequel, as the 1st film was appreciated for its interesting plot, which was based on a real -life incident.


The Trailer of ASHLEY, a romantic triller, produced by Swatantra Goel (Savi Goel, USA) is already trending on social media, attracting hug applause. ASHLEY stars Rishi Bhutani & Gurleen Chopra besides Mohit Baghel, Dolly Chawala, Dinesh Hingu, Birlbal & Shakti Kapoor. Savi Goel is a creative director while Keval Singh is the director. The music has been composed by Dushyant Dubey. The Story has been written by famous writer Mir Munir while screenplay & dialogues has been written by Savi Goel & Mir Munir. The film is slated to release on 6th Jan, 2017 across India.


The year 2016 is about to come to an end and if we look back at the year gone by it was filled with ups & downs for internationally acclaimed choreographer Sandip Soparrkar. On one side his personal life was the talk of the nation when his wife Jesse Randhawa and he announced their separation and on the other side his professional life got him loads of awards & accolades. In The United States of America he was bestowed with the “Visionary Award” by Lions Club International for developing a special Ballroom dance program for the visually impaired, the syllabus that he built is now practiced by the visually impaired people in USA. Back home in a grand ceremony Sandip was honoured with the “WOW Personality Award”. Winners of Worthiness Award was given to the dynamic choreographer by Shobhaa Arya, editor of Bliss Equity Lifestyle Lounge. The year indeed seemed to be very lucky for the choreographer as he received award after awards for his incredible contribution in the field of Dance. Renowned Guru Kumaran Swami gave the “Films Today Dream Achievers Award” to Sandip at a ceremony held in Mumbai recently. Prahlaad Modi, younger brother of PM Shri Narendra Modi & Counsul General of China in Mumbai were the chief guest for the evening. Sandip Soparrkar averred, “I feel privileged that both USA & India have recognized my work & appreciated my dance. These awards are like a pat on my back for always keeping dance ahead of me & my personal life.


Sunny Leone will receive PETA’s “Person Of The Year” award for her dedication to promoting the rescue of homeless dogs & cats, as well as her compassion for animals abused & killed for their skin. Earlier this year, the 35 – year – old star featured in an ad campaign by the organization which encouraged people to “be an angel” and adopt a homeless dog. “Animals have been close to my heart for as long as I can remember. A great line that I read which stays with me is “I see humans, but I don’t see humanity!” We should do what is right and humans are the only true voice that can help animals be free & loved. I believe as actors or celebrities it’s not just about the voice speaking out but also about our actions as a people. This last year I spent a lot of time working with dogs that were burned alive, boiled, amputated, beaten & tortured. Marc Ching at The Animal hope & wellness foundation opened my eyes to what is happening in parts of the world. Thank you Peta for allowing me to be one of your many voices and I plan to keep yelling out loud for animals to be safe! “ says Sunny Leone.


In Zarine Khan’s show, Spices & Secrets on the channel Living Foodz, Esha gave viewers a rare peek into the celebrated Dharmendra – Hema Malini marriage and reveals that Dharmendra turns vegetarian when he’s on the dining table with Hema, who’s a strict vegetarian herself. “My parents marriage is what inspires my own relationship with Bharat. Like my mom, I too am a vegetarian, but my husband loves his meat – dishes. While my home has a mix of cuisines during meal – times, it still melts my heart when I see my strong Punjabi dad forgo his favorite non – vegetarian fare for my mom”, says Esha. On being asked about her absence from Bollywood post her marriage, Esha confessed that she misses acting, and would love to be back in the limelight if an exciting project comes her way. Over a scrumptious meal of vegetable biryani,
Daboo & Esha discuss how the nature of celebrity photoshoots have changed over the years. “When I started my career, portrait shoots were all the rage. But today the focus has shifted to capturing the oomph, with body shots being the centre of attention”, says Daboo. Esha seconds that, and gushes that Siddharth Malhotra’s photoshoots are her favourite to watch.


Bibia Films Pvt. Ltd attached the teaser trailer of their upcoming film JEENA ISI KA NAAM HAI in Mumbai along with Dangal. Director Keshhav Panneriy also gave audiences another surprise when they came to the theatres in the form of a 7Feet x 4Feet 3D standee with lighting in the creative, which has never been done by any Bollywood films. Both the teaser & the standee are far from being conventional, where you feel different emotions but still have many questions about the film. Keshhav Panneriy said, “JEENA ISI KA NAAM HAI is not just another film for me and my team but a soulful journey that’s being helmed by courageous hearts such as Purnima Mead, to create magic on screen.” JEENA ISI KA NAAM HAI is a family entertainer with a perfect blend of action, romance & comedy. The film stars Arbaaz Khan, Himansh Kohli, Manjari Fadnis, Ashutosh Rana, Rati Agnihotri, Supriya Pathak & Prem Chopra. The film is produced by Bibia Films Pvt. Ltd and the music is composed by Harry Anand, Onkar Minhas, Siddhant Madhav, Deepak Aggarwal & Vishoo Mukherjee. The film will release on 3rd Mar, 2017. Bibia Films Pvt. Ltd. is an Indo – US Film company co – partnered with Purnima Mead & Stanton Mead.


Khooshi Thakkar, Gurubhai Thakkar & Yogesh Lakhani of Bright, Srinivas Rao of “People’s Engineering”, Supriya Mukherji, Ekta Jain, Designer Archana Kochhar, Sana Khan & Avantika were present at the press conference of Bright Perfect Miss India 2016 in Mumbai. The participating models were introduced to the media. Archana Kochhar, Tanisha Singh, Ekta Jain, Salma Agah, Afzal Thakkar, Sasha Agah, Avantika Srivastava, Sana Khan et will judge the final event on 28th Dec, 2016 at HL Sun N Sand Juhu.


After some shocking revelations about her worst red carpet moment, the outspoken Farah Khan, who was the latest guest on Neha Dhupia’s audio show #NoFilterNeha, has revealed that Abhishek Bachchan would refuse to come on the sets of HAPPY NEW YEAR if Farah didn’t make breakfast for him!!! Well, aren’t we surprised to hear that Big B’s son can also throw small tantrums like these. While speaking to Neha, this is what Farah had to say – “So, I’ll tell you Neha, you have to come to my shoots. It’s because it’s a food fest. I believe that when you’re shooting, people should be happy. So, for breakfast we’ll have a dosa corner and then we have an English Breakfast corner. So, when Abhishek, I love him so I had to make breakfast for him every morning before shot otherwise he would not come on the floors. I had to literally make scrambled eggs or fry eggs for him and make sausages and like feed him.”


On the latest episode of #NoFilterNeha, Neha Dhupia has managed to get the popular filmmaker Farah Khan. Farah, who is known to be honest and completely unfiltered in her thoughts & speech, was a delight to listen to. From speaking about her many actors in the industry to being honest in the famous “WORST EVER” game, she has truly spoken her thoughts out loud. When Neha asked her about her worst red carpet moment, you will be surprised to here what she had to say! She said -”My worst red carpet moment? When Karan told me i am wearing the red carpet and I’ve come. I was wearing a red dress and he said you know you are supposed to walk on a red carpet not wear the red carpet and come.”


HARAAMKHOR was banned by the Censor Board since they feared that its subject was very provocative. This Nawazuddin Siddiqui & Shweta Tripathi starrer revolves around an illicit relationship between a school teacher and his teenage student. Post the ban, the makers of the film, Producers Guneet Monga, Anurag Kashyap & Feroze Alameer along with director Shlok Sharma decided to get justice for the movie which made them file a case in the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal. After the appeal, a special panel was made to watch the movie during which their perception changed. The FCAT has passed a landmark judgment on Haraamkhor by not only clearing the film but also by giving it U / A certificate. The makers felt gratified when the tribunal recognized the social value of their film and were kind enough to support them and give it a U / A certificate. In their words, they felt that the film could be used for “furthering a social message and warning the girls to be aware of their rights”. Guneet Amarpreet Kaur said “It is indeed a landmark judgement and we are very happy that we can finally release the film and show it to our audience. After winning MAMI a lot of audiences have been asking for the film.” Shlok Sharma said, “Every film has its destiny and I’m very happy that HARAAMKHOR has finally fulfilled it. I’m so grateful to everyone who stood by me and the film through these testing times, especially Nawazbhai, Shweta & Guneet”
The film is all set to come on the celluloid silver screen on 13th Jan, 2017.


HOPE, started in 2006 is now the biggest annual event for pediatric cancer patients in Tata Memorial Hospital. This year, Aditya Roy Kapoor, Anurag Basu, Ganesh Acharya, Amol Gupte joined Priya Dutt & children fighting Cancer at Tata Memorial Hospital to ring in Christmas celebrations & to celebrate life and bring in cheer amongst the children. Aditya Roy Kapoor went a step further and sang his latest release “Humma Humma” from his upcoming movie OK JAANU, while playing his guitar, with a cancer survivor who is also a singer, and created a poignant moment for the entire audiences. Children fighting cancer & children who have survived cancer put up a brilliant show for the parents with their performances in Dance, drama & music. Amole Gupte & Aditya Roy Kapoor were awed by the exhibition of photographs, works of arts & crafts, displayed during the event. The children & their familes, over the last 3 months, were taught varied skills by professionals, while undergoing treatment for cancer, and had created these beautiful exhibits. The professor for photography, who gave these children a unique way of expressing their thoughts & their world, is Rajen Nair – a deaf & mute professional photographer, who has been leading this workshop for many years now.


The shooting of film RAMRATAN starring Daisy Shah & Rishi Bhutani is going on since last 15 days, where many sequences were picturised along with a song on a lavish set of a Palace with 300 hundred junior dancers on Daisy Shah & Rishi Bhutani under the choreography of Shabina Khan. The film RAMRATAN is being made under the banner of Sab Star Movies under the direction of Govind Sakariya, produced by Sanjay Patel, Ashwin Patel & Bharat Dodiya, co – produced by Kaushik Patel & Pankaj Dodiya, story & screenplay by Praful Parekh, dialogues by Anwar Shah, music by Bappi Lahiri, cinematography by Arvind Singh Puvar, associate creative direction by Ashok Ghosh & Dhananjay Singh, executive produced by Hemal Joshi, choreography by Lolipop, Mudassar & Shabina Khan, edited by Ashok Rumade & art by Pradeep Singh. The film Stars Daisy Shah, Rishi Bhutani, Mahesh Thakur, Sudha Chandran, Rajpal Yadav, Sumit Vats, Angela Krislinzki, Angel Thakur, Prashant Rajput & Satish Kaushik. Now only one song is balance to shoot, and the film will be completed.


Known for being a perfectionist, talented actor Shahid Kapoor immerses himself into any character that he does. For the upcoming Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s PADMAVATI Shahid essays the role of Raja Ratan Singh Rawal of Chittor while Deepika plays his wife queen of Chittor, Rani Padmavati. The actor has immersed himself and is continuously doing night shifts for the same. To get into the character of the role as a King, Shahid is busy undergoing sword fighting & horse riding classes during the day while shooting during the night. Source close to Shahid says, “Being a perfectionist, Shahid has hired a personal trainer who is busy training him in sword fighting as well as horse riding lessons. The actor wants to get everything right and bring more authenticity to his role. The actor is busy shooting at night for the film while he is taking classes during the day.” Going by Shahid’s Instagram it looks like the actor is working on his body. He has gotten deep into the skin of, we have been also hearing about his sizzling chemistry with Deepika and that Sanjay Leela Bhansali is very happy with the way the shoot is going on.


CHAUHAR: THE BEGINNING OF A REVOLUTION stars Amit Singh Kashyap & Richa Dixit in the main leads and is a true love story from Bihar, which explores the never seen facts about the Indian society. The story is based on a popular love saga remembered as “Reshma – Chauharmal Ka Khela”. Other actors include Amar Jyoti, Vivekanand Jha, Vijay Singh Pal, Dinkar Bhardwaj & Anil Patang. Directed by Raghubeer Singh & produced by Dinkar Bhardwaj. Rupak Sharar is the writer for story, screenplay & dialogues.

ALIIFF proudly welcomes Veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal as the 2017 edition Festival Director


Founder Director of Indywood Film Carnival, Sohan Roy, proudly announced veteran film maker, Shyam Benegal, as Festival Director of the 3rd Edition of All Lights India International Film Festival (ALIIFF). The event will be conducted from 7th Oct, 2017 to 10th Oct, 2017.

Regarded as the “Father of Alternative Cinema”, Shyam Benegal is a 7 time winner of National Film Award for Best feature Films in Hindi. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1976 & the Padma Bhushan in 1991 and bestowed with the highest award in Indian Cinema for lifetime Achievement, the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for the year 2005. Also, reckoned as a well respected documentary filmmaker, Shyam Benegal is a legendary and one of the most influential filmmakers in India.

All Lights India International Film Festival (ALIIFF), the flagship event of Indywood Film Carnival, is a unique platform for global film industry to portray excellence in film making. With an aim to inspire, nurture & integrate, All Lights India International Film Festival (ALIIFF) brings together the different aspects of the Indian Cinema industry facilitating congregation of people & nations. The film festival will be organized by All Lights Film Society – the premier global film services organization.

All Lights India International Film Festival (ALIIFF) saw an overwhelming participation of National & International delegates in 2016 making the event a grand success. The festival witnessed about 135 films from over 42 countries, grand red carpet screenings & networking events.

Indywood Film Carnival had its 1st edition at Kochi India from 15th Nov, 2015 – 19th Nov, 2015 followed by the 2nd edition at Ramoji Film City, Hyderabad from 24th Sept, 2016 – 27th Sept, 2016.

Breaking conventional finesse & embracing the unique cultural & linguistic diaspora, the 3rd edition of Indywood Film Carnival will celebrate exciting events including All lights India International Film Festival (ALIIFF), Indywood Film Market (IFM), International Film Business Awards, Golden Frames Award, Red Carpet closing ceremony, Panel discussions, Master classes, workshops, Seminars, Film Tourism, Investors Meet, Excellence Awards and much more.


Zayn Malik (Photo: Miller Mobley)

Zayn Malik (Photo: Miller Mobley)

Zayn Malik has topped the longest – running 50 Sexiest Asian Men list for a 2nd year in a row. The former One Direction member rounded off a dream year that saw him launch a hugely successful solo singing career to come number one again in the popular poll compiled by UK based Eastern Eye Newspaper. India cinematic heartthrob Hrithik Roshan, who topped the poll in 2014 and was dethroned by Zayn Malik in 2015, once again came in 2nd & Pakistani actor Fawad Khan was in the 3rd position.

The 23 – year – old, Zayn Malik is the youngest ever to top the poll in 2015, once again topped the list based on millions of votes and heat generated by celebrities in 2016. The latest win continued the incredible momentum generated by the unstoppable pop superstar, who has topped the charts and gained massive attention across the globe, including in media & on social networking sites.

Eastern Eye’s award – winning entertainment editor Asjad Nazir, who founded the list and puts it together annually said Zayn Malik received more global attention than any other Asian star in 2015 and got even more in 2016. “The singer / songwriter showed comprehensively there was life after boy band One Direction with a rip – roaring start to his solo career. It was as if he struck a match, casually threw it at the world and stepped back to watch a wildfire sweep across the continents with his songs burning up the charts. The hot right now pop superstar saw media going into meltdown, social networking sites overheat and countless fans seeing their own temperatures skyrocket,” said Asjad Nazir.

The mass interest in the 13th edition of the list was such that it was trending on Twitter across different countries including India during the voting process. Popular Indian television star Ashish Sharma (4) & Bollywood’s current box office king Salman Khan (5) complete the top 5. Others in the 2016 top 10 are Barun Sobti (6), Shahid Kapoor (7), Vivian Dsena (8), Ali Zafar (9) & Ranveer Singh (10).

The highest placed newcomer in this year’s list is 24 – year – old Indian television actor Param Singh (19) and the oldest in 51 – year – old Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan (17).The youngest in the 13 edition of the list is 18 – year – old Pakistani tea – stall holder Arshad Khan (31), who is the 1st man to be ever included as an editor’s choice. “Impoverished teenager Arshad Khan broke the Internet earlier this year when his photograph serving tea sent females around the world into a frenzy. He has since been plucked from obscurity and gained global media attention along with a new career in modeling. He makes the list for representing the every day man and for showing the most impossible dream can come,” said Asjad Nazir.

Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone, who will make her Hollywood debut in soon to be released thriller xXx: Return Of Xander Cage, had earlier topped the 50 Sexiest Asian Women list for the 1st time ever.

Hrithik Roshan (2) remained the highest placed Indian for the 6th year in succession & Virat Kohli (23) was once again the only sportsman to make the list. “Apart from now being the most eligible bachelor in Bollywood, Hrithik remains the biggest pin up the industry has to offer and that was once again showed by the volume of votes he received,” said Asjad Nazir.

Ali Zafar (9), had been the highest placed Pakistani in the list for the last 9 years, but was finally toppled by fellow countryman Fawad Khan (3) in the 2016 edition.

Others in the 2016 list include last year’s highest placed newcomer Parth Samthaan (11), Varun Dhawan (12), Gautam Rode (15), Akshay Kumar (20), Karan Tacker (24), Sidhant Gupta (27), Arjun Kapoor (37), Diljit Dosanjh (42), Harshvardhan Rane (45) & Namik Paul (49).

The full countdown of 2016’s 50 Sexiest Asian Men is published in the UK’s most established & popular Asian newspaper, Eastern Eye, on 16th Dec, 2016. “This remains the most relatable list of hottest men published anywhere in the world and explains the large number of guys who vote,” Asjad Nazir explained.

To round it off Asjad Nazir is an award -winning entertainment writer, who has had over 6 million words published globally during his career and has the longest running weekly newspaper column in UK, which has been going strong for 16 years. He has interviewed over 1000 major celebrities, hosted podcasts for Apple that have been made available to over 850 million iTunes users for free and is perhaps the biggest supporter of new talent in UK, having given over 2000 newcomers their 1st major press coverage. Asjad Nazir has been used as an expert by major radio & TV including BBC world news, written 3 books on Indian cinema and is currently producing a major TV talk show featuring A – list international celebrities. In 2015 – 2016 over 600 media globally covered his work in some way. He founded the long running 50 Sexiest Asian Men & Women lists in 2003, which generate millions of votes annually and gain global media coverage.

About The Asian Media & Marketing Group

With a 48 – year heritage, The Asian Media & Marketing Group (AMG), publishes a stable of market leading magazines for the Asian community in UK & USA. The company hosts a number of hugely successful events & award dinners affiliated with its magazines. AMG is now Britain’s biggest Asian publishing house and its titles includes Eastern Eye newspaper, Garavi Gujarat newsweekly, Asian Trader, Pharmacy Business, Asian Hospitality, the Asian Rich List, the Asian Rich List Midlands and the GG2 Power List.

Baghdad: Double bomb attack hits Al Sinak market

At least 27 killed and dozens wounded as blasts triggered by suicide bombers hit crowd during morning rush.

Iraqis look at the aftermath following a double blast in Al Sinak [Sabah Arar/AFP]

Iraqis look at the aftermath following a double blast in Al Sinak [Sabah Arar/AFP]

by Al Jazeera

At least 27 people were killed and 57 others wounded as two bombs exploded in the centre of Baghdad, according to police officials.

Police said the blasts, triggered by two suicide bombers went off on Saturday near car spare parts shops in Al Sinak during the morning rush. The first blast took place at the market’s entrance and the second was inside the area, police said.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL, also known as ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement posted on its Amaq website.

Baghdad has been on high alert since October 17, the start of Iraq’s largest military operation in years to retake ISIL’s stronghold of Mosul in the country’s north.

ISIL took Mosul in 2014, and has launched several attacks in Baghdad in recent months.

The area that was targeted on Saturday is packed with wholesale markets and usually teeming with daily workers unloading vans and wheeling carts around.

“Many of the victims were people from the spare parts shops in the area, they were gathered near a cart selling breakfast when the explosions went off,” said Ibrahim Mohammed Ali, who owns a nearby shop.

Torn clothes and mangled iron were strewn across the ground in pools of blood at the site of the wreckage near Rasheed street, one of the main thoroughfares in Baghdad, an AFP news agency photographer said.

Two arrested in connection with Prof MM Kalburgi murder

M M Kalburgi

Bengaluru: According to the sources, officials from Crime Investigation Department (CID) have arrested two persons in-connection with the murder case of renowned writer, thinker Prof MM Kalburgi. The officials had questioned several suspicious in connection with the murder of professor on October 15, 2015.

The sources said that, recently, the two suspected have acknowledged that they had murdered Prof Kalburgi for an immovable property dispute. The suspect added that they don’t have any information on the ideology, writings, books, philosophy and others of the professor instead they murdered him for property. The both accused were arrested from Kalburgi of Vijayapura district, home town of Prof Kaburgi. Meanwhile, there is no any official information on the matter either from CID or the state government.


New Army, IAF chiefs take over


New Delhi: New Army chief General Bipin Rawat and Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa on Saturday took over as the chiefs of the two services, with outgoing General Dalbir Singh and Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha handing over charge.


Akhilesh Yadav, Ram Gopal Yadav re-inducted a day after expulsion


Lucknow: In an anti-climactic development for its political rivals, the Samajwadi Party on Saturday revoked the expulsion of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and Ram Gopal Yadav.

Only hours earlier, on Friday, both were ousted from the party for six years on charges of indiscipline and anti-party activities.

The decision to revoke the expulsions was taken soon after meetings to broker peace between SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and his son Akhilesh Yadav were held at the senior Yadav’s 5 Vikramaditya Marg residence here.

After a closed-door meeting between Mulayam, Akhilesh, minister Azam Khan and state unit chief Shivpal Singh Yadav, orders were issued to withdraw the expulsions with immediate effect.

The Samajwadi Party soon removed the expulsion letters of both Akhilesh and Ram Gopal from its website.

“As per the directions of Netaji (Mulayam Singh Yadav), the expulsion of Akhilesh Yadav and Ram Gopal Yadav has been revoked with immediate effect,” Samajwadi Party leader Shivpal Singh Yadav tweeted.

Shivpal Singh Yadav, who is Akhilesh’s uncle, said the SP will fight the 2017 assembly elections unitedly to defeat the communal forces.

He also said that a new list of party candidates would be discussed and released later on.

Shivpal, who was backing his brother Mulayam Singh in the party infighting, said all was now well within the party.

Earlier, a meeting of party MLAs was called by the Chief Minister where almost 200 legislators turned up, signalling that Akhilesh enjoyed the support of a majority of party legislators.

Following a poor turnout at its own meeting, the Mulayam camp cancelled it and Urban Development Minister Azam, who is one of the founding members of the party, began brokering peace between the warring father-son duo.

Azam Khan was sent to the Chief Minister’s camp with a message that he should show some flexibility. Soon, Azam Khan drove back to Mulayam’s residence along with the Chief Minister.

Akhilesh reportedly touched Mulayam’s feet and said he wanted to gift him an electoral victory in the state.

“The two got emotional and the stage was set for Akhilesh’s return to the Samajwadi Party fold,” a source told IANS.

Mulayam was reluctant to take back cousin Ram Gopal Yadav, but yielded after persuasion by his son.

Mulayam, however, stood his ground on senior party leader Amar Singh’s retention in the party. The SP supremo, a former Chief Minister and ex-Defence Minister, refused to throw Amar Singh out of the party, as demanded by Akhilesh.

Yadav senior reportedly wondered aloud what wrong had Singh done to the Chief Minister.

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, however, accused the SP’s first family of enacting a drama to take public attention away from the real issues.


Weekly cash limit stays, it’s Rs 4,500 daily at ATMs now


Mumbai: As the 50-day deadline of the demonetisation exercise announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8 ended on Friday, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) partially eased the restriction on withdrawal of cash from ATMs by raising the daily withdrawal limit from Rs 2,500 to Rs 4,500 on each debit card.

However, with a cash crunch and only close to 40 per cent of 2.2 lakh ATMs dispensing cash, there is no change in the weekly withdrawal limit of Rs 24,000. Such disbursals should predominantly be in the denomination of Rs 500 notes, the RBI said in a late night notification.

Earlier in the day, the RBI sent out circulars to all banks asking them to report information on collection of scrapped Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 bank notes on Friday itself.

“With the closure of the facility of exchange of SBNs (specified bank notes) at the close of business on December 30, 2016, all banks should report information on collection of SBNs on December 30, 2016 itself by email. Banks should make arrangements to gather the information from all its branches accordingly,” the RBI said.

The RBI further directed all bank branches, which have accumulated demonetised notes till December 30, 2016, to deposit the notes in any Issue Office of the Reserve Bank or a currency chest on December 31 itself.

The RBI had set a daily withdrawal limit of Rs 2,500 from ATMs and Rs 24,000 from bank accounts per day. However, bankers said they are for retaining the restrictions on cash withdrawals till there is adequate supply of notes. “These restrictions will only go away when there’s sufficient amount of bank notes in the system. Until and unless that happens, they cannot take away the restrictions. The moment they take away the restrictions, everybody will want to go and draw out a lot. That becomes a problem,” SBI chairman Arundhati Bhattacharya had told this paper recently.

As on November 8, there were 1,716.50 crore pieces of Rs 500 and 685.80 crore Rs 1,000 notes in circulation. The notes withdrawn from the system accounted for 86 per cent of the cash in circulation.

In order to prevent people from using others’ bank accounts to convert black money, the Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed amendments to the Income Tax Act, enabling the government to impose a higher penalty and tax rate on assessees of unexplained deposits, totalling up to 85 per cent.

On December 28, two days before the deadline for depositing old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes expired, the Cabinet approved promulgation of an Ordinance to make possession of a large number of scrapped bank notes a penal offence that will attract monetary fine. The Specified Bank Notes Cessation of Liabilities Ordinance makes holding of old Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes after March 31 beyond a threshold amount a criminal offence that will attract a monetary fine of Rs 10,000 or five times the cash held, whichever is higher. Furnishing wrong information while depositing the old currency between January 1 and March 31 will attract a fine of Rs 5,000 or five times the amount.

However, it is not clear if the penal provisions will apply to those holding the junked currency after the 50-day window to deposit them at banks ends on December 30, or after March 31, till which time deposit of old currency notes at specified Reserve Bank branches is open.


Sasikala takes over as AIADMK chief


Chennai: Amid chants of ‘Chinnamma Vazhagai’ by thousands of supporters, V K Sasikala today took charge as AIADMK general secretary, the top party post.

“Amma is always in my heart,” an emotionally charged Sasikala said after assuming charge, adding she had been with Jayalalithaa for party meetings for over 33 years and that the AIADMK will continue to rule for many years.

The close aide of late Jayalalithaa first garlanded the statue of party founder M G Ramachandran at the AIADMK headquarters here after she arrived in the midst of tight security.

She then proceeded to pay floral tributes to the portrait of Jayalalithaa.

Sasikala formally assumed charge by signing papers after which she proceeded to address the gathering outside.

En route to the party office, she was given a rousing welcome by party leaders, functionaries and cadres who had gathered in large numbers.

Party activists had lined up on both sides of the road from the Poes Garden residence to the party headquarters at Royapettah to welcome her.

Sasikala, clad in a light green saree with a pink border, greeted them with folded hands.

Party flags, banners and festoons sporting bright images of Jayalalithaa and Sasikala were put up on roads, all along from Poes garden to Royapettah.

Banners and hoardings hailed Sasikala as Chinnamma everywhere.

AIADMK presidium chairman E Madusudanan, party treasurer and Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, veteran party leader and Lok Sabha deputy speaker M Thambidurai, received Sasikala and accompanied her to the party office.

Party leaders led her to the office of the general secretary where she held discussions with Panneerselvam, who is also party treasurer, Madusudanan, Thambidurai, and others.

The AIADMK headquarters at Royapettah was spruced up for the occasion. A platform was set up near the MGR statue to facilitate Sasikala to pay tributes to the party founder before taking charge. Ministers, party MPs, MLAs also participated.

On December 29, a meeting of AIADMK’s top decision making body, the general council, which was attended by all top leaders including Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, took the decision to appoint her as part general secretary by adopting a resolution unanimously.


John Kerry: Israel can be Jewish or democratic, not both

US secretary of state outlines vision for peace between Israel and Palestine weeks ahead of Donald Trump’s inauguration.

Kerry's speech came just days after US abstained from a UN vote on settlements [EPA]

Kerry’s speech came just days after US abstained from a UN vote on settlements [EPA]

by Al Jazeera

Israel’s settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank threatens both hope for peace with the Palestinians and Israel’s own future as a democracy, John Kerry has said in a speech.

The US secretary of state sounded the warning on Wednesday in a final plea outlining the outgoing Obama administration’s vision for peace between Israel and Palestine.

“The settler agenda is defining the future in Israel. And their stated purpose is clear: They believe in one state: Greater Israel,” Kerry said.

“If the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or democratic, it cannot be both, and it won’t ever really be at peace,” he added.

The speech in Washington, DC comes days after the US abstained from a UN vote to halt all Israeli settlement activity in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

By declining to use its veto at the Security Council, the US enabled the adoption of the first UN resolution since 1979 to condemn Israel over its settlements policy.

Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett, reporting from Washington, DC, said: “Many question the timing of the US actions with just three weeks until the swearing in of President-elect Donald Trump. Supporters believe it is tough talk that should have come years earlier. Critics argue it shouldn’t have come at all.”

Trump, who had called on the US to veto the UN vote, told reporters that Israel is being treated “very, very unfairly”, maintaining that countries that are “horrible places” never get reprimanded at the Security Council.

He refused to directly answer a question about whether Israel should stop building settlements, saying he is “very, very strong on Israel”.

Settlements built on Palestinian land are considered illegal under international law.

There are close to 600,000 Israeli citizens living in Jewish-only housing settlements across the West Bank, and at least 200,000 in East Jerusalem, according to the Israeli human rights watchdog B’tselem.

Kerry defended the US decision to abstain from the UN vote, saying they voted “in accordance with our [US] values” and conscience.

“No one thinking seriously about peace can ignore the reality of the threat settlements pose to peace,” Kerry said. “The problem goes well beyond just settlements. Trends indicate a comprehensive effort to take West Bank land for Israel and prevent any Palestinian development there.”

Middle East reactions

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he was ready to resume peace talks if Israel agreed to freeze settlement construction.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said: “Abbas is fully convinced that just, comprehensive and lasting peace can be achieved, and it’s doable in all core issues on the basis on the Arab Peace Initiative.”

Specific terms of the Saudi-brokered initiative include ending the Israeli occupation, establishing a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital on the 1967 borders, and solving issues such as “refugees and prisoners on the basis of the relevant international legality resolutions”, said Erekat.

In his response to the speech, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Kerry’s words were a “great disappointment”.

“If the US is true to its word, it should now come out and say we will not allow any more resolutions in the Security Council on Israel, period,” he added.

The conflict was not about settlements but about “Israel’s very right to exist”, he said.

In his speech, Kerry insisted that Israel and a future Palestinian state should exist on the territory they held before the 1967 war, which could be achieved through “equivalent swaps” of land only by mutual consent.

Kerry said a fair and realistic solution must be found for the Palestinian refugee issue “with international assistance that includes compensation and options in assistance in finding permanent homes and acknowledgment of suffering”.

There are approximately five million registered Palestinian refugees, many living in camps across the occupied Palestinian territories as well as the neighbouring Arab countries, according to the UN refugee agency.

“Today, there are a similar number of Jews and Palestinians living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea,” said Kerry.

“They have a choice. They can choose to live together in one state, or they can separate into two states.”

Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons, reporting from Jerusalem, said Kerry’s speech was more of a “massive defence of the US administration’s actions in not vetoing the UN resolution” than a “blueprint for the future”.

Kerry has made it “clear to all where he and Obama stand on the dangers of the two-state solution falling apart”, he said.