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Dead men don’t talk: Delhi journalist covering Vyapam scam dies mysteriously

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Image by India Today
Image by India Today

 

By NewsGram Staff Writer 

Bhopal/New Delhi: A journalist from a Delhi-based TV channel investigating Vyapam scam mysteriously fell ill and died in a hospital on Saturday, officials said.

Akshay Singh of TV channel Aaj Tak died in Jhabua on Saturday afternoon.

The Congress party voiced concern about the “more than 40 mysterious deaths of individuals associated with the Vyapam scam”. The party said the issue needs to be probed thoroughly.

Akshay Singh was in Madhya Pradesh for coverage of the recent deaths due to the scam in the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (MPPEB) or Vyapam.

On Saturday, he was in Meghnagar in Jhabua to talk to the family members of scam-accused Namrata Damor, who was found dead under mysterious circumstances.

Jhabua Superintendent of Police Abid Khan told IANS that Akshay Singh and his two colleagues interviewed the family members for around an hour, after which the journalist suddenly fell ill. He was taken to a hospital, where doctors declared him dead.

Sources said that after the interview was over, Akshay Singh and his colleagues went to get some documents photocopied, when he fell ill and began foaming at the mouth.

The alleged manipulation in the selection process for government jobs in Madhya Pradesh, conducted by Vyapam, is being probed by a Special Investigation Team.

Congress leader R.S. Surjewala said in a statement: “The Congress party is pained at and condoles the untimely death of Akshay Singh, the Aaj Tak/India Today reporter investigating the Vyapam Scam in Madhya Pradesh.

“His death, coming after more than 40 mysterious deaths of individuals associated with the Vyapam scam raises very serious concerns and questions and needs to be investigated thoroughly and impartially.”

The India Today Group, in a statement, said it was deeply saddened by the untimely death of Akshay Singh, who was working with Aaj Tak as a special correspondent since December 2013.

It said Akshay Singh was part of Aaj Tak’s ‘special investigation team’ and was on an assignment in Madhya Pradesh investigating the Vyapam scam for the past four days.

“The cause of his sudden demise is not yet clear,” it said adding “We hope that doctors and law enforcement agencies are able to establish the cause of Akshay’s death.”

Finance minister Arun Jaitley paid condolences on the death of the journalist.

jaitley tweets

(With inputs from IANS)

 

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With The Elections Coming Up, Indian Government Promises Farmers Their Income Support

The government said the fiscal deficit this year will rise from 3.3 percent to 3.4 percent due to the outlay for the income scheme for farmers.

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Farmers, India
An Indian woman helps her farmer husband irrigate a paddy field using a traditional system, on the outskirts of Gauhati, India, Feb. 1, 2019. VOA

With an eye on wooing voters ahead of what is expected to be a tough national election, India’s Hindu nationalist government announced cash handouts of billions of dollars for poor farmers.

In the annual budget presented in parliament Friday, interim Finance Minister Piyush Goyal said 120 million farmers with less than two hectares of land would get an income of $85 a year.

Goyal announced that the measure, which will cost about $10.5 billion, would be implemented with immediate effect. “This will pave the way for them to earn a respectable living,” he said. “Such support will help them avoid indebtedness.”

India, Farmers
Interim Finance Minister Piyush Goyal, center, holds a briefcase containing federal budget documents with Junior Finance ministers Shiv Pratap Shukla, center right, and Pon Radhakrishnan, left, upon their arrival at the parliament house in New Delhi, India, Feb. 1, 2019. VOA

Farmers complain that a sharp decline in crop prices has hurt their incomes and driven millions into debt. Rural experts said they were not sure whether the measure will assuage disgruntled rural communities that have been demanding loan waivers and better prices for their produce.

The government also announced a pension scheme of about $40 a month for nearly 100 million poor workers in the country’s vast unorganized sector and tax breaks for the middle classes.

The welfare measures come as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party tries to address rising discontent in the country — there is growing anger in rural areas over falling crop prices and widespread worries that his government has failed to create jobs to meet the needs of the country’s huge young population.

The Bharatiya Janata Party recently lost elections in three heartland states, raising concerns it could struggle to win a majority in the upcoming elections. Modi had sailed to power in 2014 on the promise of creating millions of jobs.

Modi, India, Farmers
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, center, is garlanded by BJP leaders on the first day of the two-day Bharatiya Janata Party national convention in New Delhi, Jan. 11, 2019. VOA

Although economic growth numbers have been good, lack of jobs has emerged as the biggest challenge for Modi. A report in the Business Standard newspaper says a government survey that has not been released pegs the unemployment rate at a 45-year high of 6.1 percent.

Expressing optimism that “India is solidly back on track and marching towards growth and prosperity,” Goyal said that infrastructure projects such as building roads in rural areas will boost employment.

The opposition Congress Party slammed the income support of $85 a year announced for farmers as inadequate. Saying that it is not going to be transformational, senior party leader Shashi Tharoor tweeted, “₹6000 [6,000 rupees, or $84] in income support for farmers boils down to ₹500 [500 rupees, or $7] per month. Is that supposed to enable them to live with the honor and dignity?”

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The Congress Party is also trying to woo voters with the promise of a minimum income for the poor if it wins the upcoming general election. The BJP has dismissed the pledge as unaffordable, while economists have expressed concern that the “competitive populism” by India’s two main parties ahead of general elections could strain the country’s finances.

The government said the fiscal deficit this year will rise from 3.3 percent to 3.4 percent due to the outlay for the income scheme for farmers. (VOA)