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Dilip Kumar, Amitabh conferred Padma Vibhushan

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New Delhi:  BJP leader L.K. Advani, spiritual leader and philanthropist Aga Khan, actors Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan and Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal are among the nine named for India’s second highest civilian honour, the Padma Vibhushan, Sunday.

The awards, declared on the eve of Republic Day, are the first Padma honours announced by the Narendra Modi government which assumed office last May. It had last month conferred the nation’s highest honour – the Bharat Ratna – on former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and educationist Madan Mohan Malaviya.

A home ministry release said that President Pranab Mukherjee has approved conferment of Padma awards to 104 people – nine for Padma Vibhushan, 20 for Padma Bhushan and 75 for Padma Shri.

Seventeen of the awardees are women. Four have been named for Padma awards posthumously.

Also among the Padma Vibhushan awardees is senior nuclear scientist M.R.Srinivasan, 84, who had negotiated on behalf of India with Russia for supply of reactors for Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP).

“I am happy to receive the award. It is the recognition for the people who worked with me,” said Srinivasan, who has nearly 60 years experience in the Indian nuclear field and seen the construction of most of the country’s atomic power plants. He has been conferred the Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri earlier.

Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates and his wife Melinda, journalists Swapan Dasgupta and Rajat Sharma, lawyer Harish Salve, filmmaker Jahnu Barua, former chief election commissioner N.Gopalaswami, wrestler-turned-coach Satpal, maths “Nobel Prize” winner Manjul Bhargava and Carnatic singer Sudha Raghunathan are among the 20 recipients of the Padma Bhushan.

Barua, who is one of the six from the northeast to figure in the awards, commented: “It makes me happy. I feel that such recognition is necessary. A lot of good work is being done and such recognition will do good to the region.”

Economist Bibek Debroy, badminton player P.V. Sindhu, space scientists S. Arunan – the project director for India’s Mars mission – and S.K. Shivkumar, director of the Indian Space Research Organisation Satellite Centre and having a key role in building the deep space network (DSN) that was used in tracking the Chandrayaan and Mars Orbite inter-planetary satellites, are among those named for Padma Shri.

“I feel deeply honoured. All in the family are also elated. It is the recognition for the team members,” Arunan commented.

The list of Padma awardees includes some spiritual leaders – Swami Rambhadracharya (Padma Vibhushan), Swami Satyamitranand Giri and Shivakumara Swami (both Padma Bhushan) and Prtugal-based Jagat Guru Amrta Suryananda Maha Raja (Padma Shri) were in the list. Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and yoga guru Ramdev had declined to receive the awards after their names appeared in the media.

The Padma Bhushan awardees also include former Lok Sabha secretary general and constitutional expert Subhash C. Kashyap. While Bhargava is settled in the US, four others in the list are foreign nationals.

Prominent among those who have been conferred Padama Shri include Bollywood director Sanjay Leela Bhansali, lyricist Prasoon Joshi, music director Ravindra Jain, Gujarati writer Tarak Mehta and cartoonist Pran Kumar Sharma or Pran (posthumously), T.V. Mohandas Pai (trade and industry), Mithali Raj (sports) and J.S. Rajput (literature and education).

Sindhu said said she was pleasantly surprised.

“It feels really good. I am really happy to get this award. This will further motivate me to do better and win more matches and tournaments. My family is also very happy. I really did not expect this honour and it comes as a very pleasant surprise,” Sindhu commented over the phone from Hyderabad.

Padma awards are given in various disciplines and fields of activity such as art, social work, public affairs, science and engineering, trade and industry, medicine, literature and education, sports and civil service.

Padma Vibhushan is awarded for exceptional and distinguished service; Padma Bhushan for distinguished service of high order and Padma Shri for distinguished service in any field.

These awards are conferred by the president at ceremonial functions held at Rashtrapati Bhawan usually around March/April every year.

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Pakistani Anti-graft body wants travel ban on Nawaz Sharif, kin

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Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog has asked authorities to place ousted premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law on the Exit Control List to prevent them from leaving the country.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) sent a formal request to the ministry of interior. The interior ministry officials confirmed that the NAB wrote that names of Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar should be put on the Exit Control List (ECL), which listed individuals not allowed to leave Pakistan.

The NAB argued that as the trial of the three nears its conclusion, it is feared that they would leave the country.

Earlier, a similar request to place name of finance minister Ishaq Dar on ECL was not accepted, allowing him to go to London and never return.

Sharif, 68, and his family this week filed an application with the accountability court seeking a fortnight’s exemption from personal appearance from February 19 onwards to let them go to London to see Sharif’s ailing wife. Three cases were filed against Sharif and his family last year, including Avenfield properties, Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment, and Flagship Investments.

Maryam and Safdar are accused only in Avenfield properties case. The NAB had filed two supplementary references against Sharif, his sons Hasan and Hussain regarding Al-Azizia Steel Mills & Hill Metal Establishment and Flagship Investment cases.

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Pakistan “breaches obligations’ on nuclear arms reduction, UN court told

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The Hague: Pakistan is violating its “obligations” to the international community by failing to reduce its nuclear arsenal, the Marshall Islands told the UN’s highest court on Tuesday.

The small Pacific Island nation is this week launching three unusual cases against India, Pakistan and Britain before the International Court of Justice.

Majuro wants to put a new spotlight on the global nuclear threat, its lawyers said yesterday, by using its own experience with massive US-led nuclear tests in the 1940s and 1950s.

“Pakistan is in breach of its obligations owed to the international community as a whole,” when it comes to reducing its nuclear stockpile, said Nicholas Grief, one of the island nation’s lawyers.

Islamabad and its nuclear-armed neighbour India “continue to engage in a quantitative build-up and a qualitative improvement” of their atomic stockpiles, added Tony deBrum, a Marshallese government minister.

DeBrum warned that even a “limited nuclear war” involving the two countries would “threaten the existence” of his island nation people.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.

In 1998, the rival neighbours both demonstrated nuclear weapons capability.

The ICJ’s judges are holding hearings for the next week and a half to decide whether it is competent to hear the lawsuits brought against India and Pakistan — neither of which have signed the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

A third hearing against Britain — which has signed the NPT — scheduled to start on Wednesday will be devoted to “preliminary objections” raised by London.

The Marshalls initially sought to bring a case against nine countries it said possessed nuclear arms: Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States.
Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons.

But the Hague-based ICJ, set up in 1945 to rule in disputes between states, has only admitted three cases against Britain, India and Pakistan, because they have accepted the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction.

Pakistan’s lawyers did not attend Tuesday’s hearings.

It did however file a counter-claim against Majuro’s allegations saying “the court has no jurisdiction to deal with the application” and insisting that the case is “not admissible”, said ICJ President Ronny Abraham.

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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

New Delhi: Bangladesh is likely to drop Islam as its official religion following a series of attacks on people from other faiths in the country. The country’s Supreme Court is hearing a plea challenging the status of the official religion of the country to Islam.

Bangladesh, which was declared a secular country after its formation in 1971, was declared an Islamic country following a constitutional amendment in 1988.

According to a report in the Daily Mail, the plea has challenged the declaration of Islam as the national religion of the country.

The move is being supported by leaders from the minority communities like Hindus, Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

Bangladesh has 90 per cent of Muslims, 8 per cent Hindus and remaining constitutes Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

In last month, a Hindu priest was hacked to death following an attack on a temple in Panchgarh district. Two others were seriously injured in the attack. There have been several lethal attacks on writers and bloggers.

According to a report in the Independent, Islamist groups Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh and Ansarullah Bangla Team are believed to have carried out at least seven attacks on foreign and minority people in Bangladesh in the past year.

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