The special trial court, conducting the trial in the Naroda Gamm massacre case during the 2002 riots, has asked former Gujarat minister and key accused Maya Kodnani to get BJP President Amit Shah to testify in her favour as defence witness by next Tuesday.While asking the accused to ensure that the witness testifies by September 12, the court said there will be no further adjournment of the case.In her application on Friday, Ms. Kodnani said since Mr. Shah is not “reachable” due to his busy schedule and constant mobility, “It is difficult to decide as to which address the summons be served to him.”Ms. Kodnani, who was convicted in the 2002 Naroda Patiya massacre case, in which 97 persons belonging to the minority community were killed, is a key accused in the Naroda Gaam massacre case, involving the brutal murder of 11 persons, also during the 2002 riots.Also read: 28 years for Maya Kodnani, Bajrangi to spend entire life in prisonShe had sought time till September 12, 2017 while Special judge P.B. Desai had granted time till September 8 for her to bring Mr. Shah to testify as defence witness.During the hearing, Ms. Kodnani urged the court to allow her to bring Mr Shah and 13 others as her witnesses to testify that she was not present at the site when the massacre was carried out.Among the 14 persons she listed as witnesses, 12 including her husband have already testified in her favour. Mr Shah is the last listed defence witness in her trial; all others have been cross-examined by the court.Verdict deferredIn a separate case, the Gujarat High Court has again deferred its verdict on Zakia Jafri’s challenge to an SIT court granting a clean chit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and others in a criminal conspiracy related to the 2002 riots.
Shedding its initial hesitation, the Odisha government on Thursday decided to be a part of the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme and extend all support for its implementation in the State, a senior official said. The announcement was made on a day when a leading farmers’ body — Navnirman Krushak Sangathan — called for dawn-to-dusk strike against the State government’s “lack of concern” towards its demands.Chief Secretary A.P. Padhi said the Central scheme (PM-Kisan), which promises to provide ₹6,000 per annum to small and marginal farmers having cultivable land up to two hectares (about five acres), will be launched in Odisha on February 24, along with the other States.Earlier, after receiving a formal communication from the Centre about the mega farmers’ welfare scheme, the Odisha government had not shown any interest and dubbed it inferior to its own Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA), also meant for providing financial assistance to farmers.Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan had said that the State was not implementing the Centre’s scheme for farmers over fears that all credit would go to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had on Wednesday attacked Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for depriving the farming community from taking advantage of the central scheme.Agriculture and Farmers Empowerment Secretary Saurabh Garg said a list of around 12.45 lakh first-phase beneficiaries of the State government’s KALIA scheme will be given to the Centre for inclusion in PM-Kisan.According to PM-Kisan, the first tranche of ₹2,000 will be directly transferred to the beneficiaries’ bank accounts on February 24. The Centre will fund this initiative completely.Peaceful protestNormal life across Odisha was affected on Thursday due to the farmers’ strike. Though the protest — backed by the Congress as well as the BJP — continued peacefully, the police picked up about 200 protesters from different parts of the State, including 70 from Bhubaneswar.Holding placards and raising anti-government slogans, agitating farmers blocked roads in the city as well on national highways, prompting the police to undertake preventive arrest of the farmers.“We have made elaborate security arrangements to maintain law and order in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack,” Commissioner of Police Satyajit Mohanty told reporters.Mr. Mohanty claimed normal life in the twin cities of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack remained largely unaffected by the strike. Government offices continued to function with adequate attendance, but educational institutions, major shops and business establishments remained closed and public transport vehicles were off the roads.Situation in Ganjam, Bhadrak, Jagatsinghpur, Kandhamal and Koraput districts remained by and large peaceful.NNKS leader Akshya Kumar alleged that the State government did not pay any heed to their demands for fair price, pension and prestige to cultivators, forcing them to call the strike.Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) chief Niranjan Patnaik, in a Twitter post, said, “Our ‘annadatas’ (providers of food) have suffered a lot due to the anti-farmer policies of the BJD and the BJP. Odisha Congress supports the bandh called by the farmers.” Odisha Agriculture and Finance Minister S.B. Behera termed the agitation “unfortunate”. “The timing is very wrong as it is being observed a day before the annual high school examinations… The strike has put mental pressure on students. It’s even more saddening that two national political parties have extended their support to the bandh,” Mr. Behera said.Authorities at Utkal University and Shree Jagannath Sanskrit University said they have postponed examinations scheduled for Thursday.