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#* Delhi LT Governor Najeeb Jung an agent of central govt, should be removed: Congress
New Delhi: As the tussle between Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung and Aam Aadmi Party continues, Congress on Saturday demanded Jung's removal.
Calling Jung an agent of the Central government, Congress leader Manish Tewari said, the sooner the Delhi Lieutenant Governor is removed the better it is.
Tewari's statement is certainly expected to give fodder to Arvind Kejriwal-led government to fire salvo at Jung.
The LG has been locked in a bitter tussle with Kejriwal over appointment and transfer of senior bureaucrats.
Earlier, the AAP convenor had described Jung as a 'BJP agent'.
Interestingly, BJP MP Udit Raj on Friday demanded the "removal" of Jung terming him as a "super king" for not heeding the views of elected representative, a day after three of his supporters were arrested for allegedly assaulting an IAS officer.
"The Lt Governor is behaving as a super king. He must be removed. I will write to the Centre against him," Udit Raj said adding that he had to wait for 3-4 days to talk to Jung to discuss "serious" public matters.
Reacting to the BJP MP's demand to remove Jung, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said that instead of making statements to the media, he should directly talk to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in this regard.
"Udit Raj's party has its own government .If he wants to remove the LG, he can. Why is he speaking to the media? He should directly talk to the Prime Minister," Sisodia said here.
#* PM Modi makes strong pitch for UNSC reforms, outlines India's green goals
New York: Prime Minister Narendra Modi pressed for reforms in the UN Security Council in order to maintain its relevance and credibility as an international body and for proper representation in the core UN body so that countries can strive to reach their goals more effectively.
In an address on Friday at the UN Sustainable Development Summit, Modi, speaking in Hindi, also outlined India's goals for fighting climate change and said he hoped developed countries would make separate provisions for fighting climate change without slotting it under the head of development.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the UN. PTIPrime Minister Narendra Modi at the UN. PTI
Making a strong pitch for reforms in the UNSC and its expanded membership, Modi said: "Change is necessary in the UNSC in order to maintain its relevance and credibility, as also proper representation by countries so that we are able strive for our goals more effectively."
Modi spoke of the need for reducing dependence on energy so that the world can strive towards "sustainable consumption". He suggested a global education programme to prepare future generations to protect the environment to make it sustainable.
"I hope that developed countries will fulfill their financial commitments towards development and climate change without in anyway putting the two under the same head," he said.
Modi outlined India's climate change goals saying he represents a culture that calls the earth "mother" and that India over the next seven years will create 175 GW of renewable energy capacity.
"I represent that culture that calls the earth Ma... The Vedas says that the earth is the mother and we are its sons," he said in Hindi at the summit.
He said that India has outlined ambitious programmes to fight climate change.
Besides creating 175 GW renewable energy capacity, the country would also stress on energy efficiency, tree plantation, coal tax, clean environment, cleaning up of rivers, waste to wealth movement and sustainable development.
He outlined the government's programmes towards financial inclusion, saying 180 million new bank accounts had been opened, which he termed as the biggest empowerment for the poor. He said the government was working towards a Pension Yojana to ensure pension reaches the poor.
Modi said earlier there was talk only of the private sector or public sector, but his government has focused on the "personal sector", like individual enterprise through micro finance, innovation, start ups, creating opportunities and providing clean water, power, health, education, hygiene for all — all that is needed to live a decent life.
He said the government has fixed a time limit for the programmes, and added that women empowerment is a major part of his government's policy through "Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao" (Save the girl child, educate the girl child), which the government has made into a household mantra. Another was to make agriculture more remunerative by connecting fields to markets.
Modi said his government is taking steps to mitigate the agrarian crisis, revive the manufacturing sector, improve the services sector, and stressing on investments in the infrastructure sector and focusing on creating smart cities, which are sustainable and the centres of development.
He said India's path is linked to sustainable development as it is linked to India's tradition of calling the earth Ma.
He said in the UN international cooperation should be at the centre of sustainable development and to fight climate change.
"The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities is the bedrock of our enterprise for a sustainable world," he stressed.
He called for an international partnership to fight climate change.
#* Four more Indians dead in Makkah stampede, toll 18
Four more Indian Haj pilgrims have died in the stampede at Makkah in Saudi Arabia, taking the toll to 18, the government announced on Saturday.
"According to latest information, 18 Indians have died in the tragedy. Our mission is working with the Saudi authorities and family members to confirm the identities of the deceased and expedite the formalities for release of the mortal remains," the external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said in a statement.
He also said, "officials on the ground have been working continuously to ascertain information and reach out to family members of missing pilgrims."
Of the four dead, two are from Gujarat and one each from Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh.
The two pilgrims who were from Gujarat were -- Hafijabahen Satarsha Diwan and Syed Abdul Hussain. The pilgrim from Jharkhand was Rasul Ali, and from Uttar Pradesh, Moinuddin.
According to the list of 14 dead announced on Friday, nine of the victims were from Gujarat, while two each belonged to Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu and one was from Maharashtra.
Thirteen Indian pilgrims are among the injured.
At least 717 people have been confirmed dead in Thursday's stampede, the worst tragedy to hit the world's holiest Muslim pilgrimage in 25 years, while over 800 are injured.
#* Pope takes aim at global economic order at UN
Pope Francis urged a more humane global system that respects the poor and the environment, as he criticized the economic order, in an address to the United Nations today.
The pontiff, whose reform-minded approach has won him a rousing global following even from non-believers, offered his vision of a better world on his latest stop of a US tour that has brought thousands to the streets to welcome him.
Taking the UN rostrum, the leader of the world's more than one billion Catholics called for reform to global bodies, including the UN Security Council and financial lenders, to "limit every kind of abuse and usury."
ALSO READ: Pope throws weight behind Iran nuclear deal
In a wide-ranging speech, Francis touched on an array of hot-button topics, including the persecution of Christians, the Iran nuclear deal, drug trafficking -- "silently killing millions" -- and the rights of girls to an education.
"The international financial agencies should care for the sustainable development of countries and should ensure that they are not subjected to oppressive lending systems which, far from promoting progress, subject people to mechanisms which generate greater poverty, exclusion and dependence," Francis said.
Francis, the first Latin American pope, hails from Argentina -- where economic crises have fueled criticism of the conditions set by the International Monetary Fund and other institutions.
Francis also gave his latest passionate plea to protect the environment, as he voiced confidence that a high-stakes UN conference on climate change would reach a "fundamental and effective" agreement in Paris in December.
Reaffirming a "right to the environment," the pontiff, 78, said that the universe was "the fruit of a loving decision by the Creator" and that humanity "is not authorized to abuse it, much less to destroy it."
"A selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged," he said.
The poor fare worst because they are "forced to live off what is discarded and suffer unjustly from the abuse of the environment," he said.
Francis appealed for peace around the world and made his latest plea for the protection of Christians, as well as others, persecuted by extremists in Syria and Iraq.
The pope offered a strong endorsement of Iran's agreement with the United States and five other world powers to limit its nuclear program, a day after Francis spoke to the US Congress, where many lawmakers vehemently oppose the deal.
The Iran agreement "is proof of the potential of political goodwill, exercised with sincerity, patience and constancy," Francis said.
"I express my hope that this agreement will be lasting and efficacious, and bring forth the desired fruits with the cooperation of all the parties involved," he said.
#* Narendra Modi to lay foundation stone of new Andhra Pradesh capital on October 22
Prime Minister Narendra Modi would lay the foundation stone for Andhra Pradesh capital city of Amaravati on the auspicious day of Vijaya Dasami on October 22, Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu said in Vijayawada on
Modi has given his nod to attend the event, he told reporters after a meeting of the Capital Advisory Committee.
Naidu had already performed 'Bhumi Puja' for the capital city coming up in Vijayawada region. He reviewed the status of works for the foundation-laying ceremony on October 22 with the committee. "The location where the foundation stone will be laid should be vaastu-compliant and a picturesque spot. In future, it will become the nerve centre of Andhra Pradesh, signifying river-linking and a spot where soil from all mandals will be mixed with the soil of Amaravati," an official release quoted him as saying.
Naidu suggested developing the location into a public space. "It could have an exhibition from portraying Amaravati s past to what it is in the present to what it will be in the future," Naidu said.
Noting that the "Birth of Amaravati the People s Capital"-- should be a spectacular extravaganza that should create an emotional bond with people of Andhra Pradesh, he said every citizen of the state should participate in the capital-building.
The capital city should be a dynamic city that all Telugus should be proud of, he added. During the brain-storming session, Naidu said sarpanches from all mandals in the state could carry soil from their places and culminate into a congregation in the capital region. "The soil brought from all the mandals could be mixed with Amaravati soil to establish an emotional connection..," the Chief Minister said.
#* Punjab: Akal Takht pardons Dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim
The highest temporal authority of the Sikhs - the Akal Takht- took everyone by surprise on Thursday after it accepted the apology and pardoned Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim. The Dera chief had drawn the ire of the people of Punjab in 2007 when he allegedly wore clothes associated with Guru Gobind Singh.
"The Akal Takht had received a written apology from the chief of the Sirsa-headquartered sect in which Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh has stated that he has deep respect and regard for Guru Gobind Singh as well as the Sikh religion and community. We are satisfied with his apology and have warned him not to repeat such instances in the future," Akal Takht head, Gyani Gurbachan Singh said.
Meanwhile, various Sikh organisations on Friday rejected Akal Takht's decision and accused its chief of betraying the entire Sikh community. Radical Sikh leaders have also termed the decision as politically motivated.
"The move is politically motivated. It was decided by the whole Sikh community not to pardon the person who had openly insulted the 10th Sikh Guru Gobind Singh. All this has been done under the influence of Shiromani Akali Dal and the BJP. We condemn the decision ," Dal Khalsa spokesperson, Kanwalpal Singh Bittu said.
While the state Congress president,Pratap Singh Bajwa refused to comment on the issue, senior BJP leader Manoranjan Kalia said forgiveness is part of our culture and there is no political motive behind exonerating the Dera chief eight years after the case was registered.
"The case dates back to the year 2007. In between two elections were organised.Had the BJP or Akali Dal benefit from the case the issue would have been settled earlier. The Akal Takht is independent to take decision and our party has nothing to do with it," Kalia said.
While the BJP and Akali Dal are eyeing baba's secret vote bank , radical Sikhs and opposition Congress have criticised the move as an effort to woo baba's supporters for the 2017 assembly elections in Punjab.
The Dera chief had also created a similar controversy on May 13,2007 by releasing a newspaper advertisement in which he had again dressed as Guru Gobind Singh.The advertisement had sparked protests in various parts of Punjab killing one and leaving more than 100 people injured.
#* Amid Sanatan Sanstha controversy, Goa's ultra-right finds a political home in the MGP
Panaji: The ultra-right in Goa has a political home now. As a political debate rages over Sanatan Sanstha here, the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party appears to be wooing aggressively the conservative Hindu vote bank which, it feels, is upset with the ‘Catholic-friendly’ BJP government in the state.
The 52-year-old political outfit, once a regional, grassroots powerhouse and now powered by the Dhavalikar brothers — Sudin and Deepak — both cabinet ministers and avowed fans of the controversial Sanatan Sanstha, is at the centre of interesting equations emerging in the state.
Last week, the Dhavalikar brothers were in the crosshairs of the media after their publicly-expressed support for the Sanstha, headquartered in Ramnathi, 35 km from Panaji, whose members have been accused by the police in Karnataka and Maharashtra, of killing leftist leader Govind Pansare and scholar Dr MM Kalburgi in Dharwad.
Representational image of MGP leader Sudin DhavilkarRepresentational image of MGP leader Sudin Dhavalikar
“Just because one of the seekers is arrested in a murder case, why is there a demand to ban the entire organisation? Sanatan Sanstha works for spirituality and propagation of Hindu religion,” Co-operatives minister Deepak Dhavalikar said on Wednesday (23 September), adding that his wife found “peace” by attending satsangs organised by the Sanstha.
The next day, his elder brother Public Works Department minister Sudin Dhavalikar, whose wife is also formally associated with the right-wing organisation, said: “Sanatan's name has always been dragged into a controversy because they are pro-Hindu and if they would have belonged to any other religion then their name would have not come (in public)”.
According to political commentators like Samir Kelekar, an Indian Institute of Technology — Mumbai alumnus, also a budding politician, there is an ultra-right wing fringe which the MGP is keen on grabbing ahead of the 2017 state Assembly elections.
“There is a small section of Goan youths who are getting radicalised,” Kelekar told Firstpost.
There appears to be a method to the MGP’s madness and unceasing obsession with the bikini and the ‘Western Culture’ bashing in Goa, which sees half a million sun-loving European tourists annually.
Goa has been a Portuguese colony for over 450 years and the four lakh-odd Christian population is often perceived as ‘Western’ by conservative Hindu politicians.
The MGP already has a share of the conservative Hindu vote-base with its pockets of strength in the state's Hindu-dominated hinterland, located far away from the more liberal and more cosmopolitan coastline. And it now wants to collect the spoils of the ultra conservative Hindu vote bank, abandoned for now by the BJP.
The BJP, which until some years back supported renaming of Goans streets and neighbourhoods named after Portuguese icons to ‘Indianised’ ones and trying to delete Good Friday from the list of state holidays, is now looking to actively woo the Catholic votebank — the saffron party currently has an unprecedented six Catholic legislators.
Be it from Sri Rama Sene’s chief Pramod Muthalik’s repeated attempts to enter into the state, where he has been banned for six months, or talk of 'pub culture' in a tourism-oriented state, an atmosphere of cultural combat is descending on the state otherwise associated with socio-religious amity.
The Dhavalikar brothers demand to ban bikinis, miniskirts and pub culture, their public support to making India a Hindu nation, are an obvious attempt to corner the ultra-Hindu Goan vote bank.
The Congress, which is struggling to re-carve political relevance in Goa, has already demanded a ban on the Sanstha, which it believes is sowing the seeds of religious terror in Goa.
“We demand declaring Sanatan Sanstha as a terrorist organisation and shutting down their terrorist camp at Ramnathi Ponda immediately and freezing all their arrests including bank accounts and probing their source of funding,” according to Congress spokesperson.
In a bid to take on the MGP, which has three legislators and is a coalition partner, the BJP has demanded a probe into the affairs of all members of the public, who are linked to the Sanstha, soon after the comments made by Dhavalikar.
“People having an association with the Sanatan Sanstha need to be probed because any of the organisations members are accused of participation in serious crimes including carrying out IED blasts and murders,” BJP spokesperson Vishnu Wagh said.
While the angst against the organisation grows, the Sanatan Sanstha itself has remained unfazed and said that it is the victim of a witch hunt.
“Chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar rightly said that it is not right to ban an organisation because of mistakes committed by one of its members,” Virendra Marathe managing trustee of Sanstha said even as it defended its implication in the case.
The writer is the Goa correspondent for the Indo-Asian News Service
#* Police trace Somnath Bharti's hideouts, pick up his dog
New Delhi: The "hide and seek" game continued between the city's ex-law minister Somnath Bharti and the police on Friday over a domestic violence case filed by his wife. Police have traced his hideout and picked up his dog from Malviya Nagar in south Delhi. Police source said it has traced the hideouts of Bharti, an Aam Aadmi Party leader, somewhere in Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh. It also picked up his pet Labrador --"Don" -- from his Malviya Nagar residence in south Delhi.
Don, which had allegedly attacked Bharti's wife Lipika Mitra at the behest of Bharti, is now at the centre of a police probe and was picked up on Friday. A member of the six Delhi police teams, searching for Bharti to arrest him, said: "Apart from changing his locations, the legislator is also using different mobile phones and sim cards.""Bharti has so far (within four days) changed more than six mobile phones and sim cards. The location of his last two sim cards indicated his movements somewhere in Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh," the official told IANS on condition of anonymity. Sources in Delhi Police said Bharti was changing his locations and was being accompanied by four-five of his close aides who were arranging safe shelter for him.
"Once Bharti is arrested, the people helping him will be prosecuted as per the law," said the official, adding that a separate FIR would soon be registered against the people who have allegedly harboured Bharti. The official said that Bharti left Delhi and moved towards Agra on Thursday morning.
"On Friday morning, a phone of some of his friends being used by him was traced near Haryana. But now the phone has been found switched off. His new location might be in western Uttar Pradesh." Joint Commissioner of Police Deependra Pathak told IANS that Bharti was behaving like a professional criminal and changing his locations. He said Bharti's location was somewhere in east Delhi on Wednesday but the next day he was traced in Agra in Uttar Pradesh but managed to give the slip to the police team that rushed there.
"Our separate teams are already conducting raids at different locations at his possible hideouts and he would be arrested soon. He is moving in different disguise. He was a law minister and he should join the investigations," added Pathak. In the past three days, the police have questioned around 12 people inquiring about Bharti's whereabouts and all of them are under the scanner for allegedly harbouring Bharti, which in itself is a criminal offence.
The people questioned so far about Bharti's whereabouts include his brother Loknath Bharti, whose name also figured on the complaint filed by Lipika Mitra, and Bharti's private secretary, and his sister Stuti apart from a few other employees in his office and party workers from Malviya Nagar. The office and residence of Bharti were raided on Tuesday evening after Bharti's anticipatory bail was dismissed by Delhi High Court. But he could not be found.
Bharti was named in an FIR filed at Dwarka north police station in west Delhi. Police said they filed the FIR following a June 10 complaint by Bharti's wife Lipika Mitra who said he had been abusing her since their marriage in 2010. She claimed that Bharti used to beat and torture her and once tried to kill her.
Delhi Police then registered an FIR against Bharti under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) relating to attempt to murder, cruelty towards wife, voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapon, criminal breach of trust, attempt to cause miscarriage without woman's consent, cheating and criminal intimidation.
#* Mercedes-Benz to locally assemble Maybach S500 at Pune plant
Giving a thrust to local manufacturing of luxury cars, automaker Mercedes-Benz rolled out the Maybach S500 sedan from its India plant, making the facility on the outskirts of Pune only the second outside Germany to produce the car.
Apart from the locally-manufactured Maybach S500, which will sell for Rs 1.67 crore, the German car major also introduced the imported Maybach S600 in the domestic market, which comes with a price tag of Rs 2.6 crore. Both prices are ex-showroom, Pune.
Mercedes-Benz India's (MBI) outgoing chief Eberhard Kern said the Maybach S500, at Rs 1.67 crore, is the costliest locally-assembled car in the country.
On the choice of Pune over other markets to locally assemble the Maybach, Kern said "this shows the amount of trust the group has in the ability of Indian management and engineers for making most luxury sedans.
"This will definitely give a big push to the government s 'Make in India' initiative. It also shows the proven prowess of India in manufacturing world class products."
Making both announcements, the outgoing managing director and chief executive also said that with this, Mercedes now assembles eight models at the Pune facility that has an annual capacity to make 20,000 units at its two assembly lines.
He said this makes Mercedes the largest among the luxe carmakers that includes German car majors BMW and Audi, and the Tatas-owned Jaguar Land Rover.
Between them, these four carmakers nearly control the 33,000 units a year luxury car market in the country.
Mercedes' list of locally assembled cars now includes the C, E, M, S Class models apart from the CLA, GLA and GL Class models, besides the MaybachS500.
"With the launch of the Mercedes Maybach S600, we now expand the current range of the S-Class with the addition of a vehicle that sets a new benchmark for exclusivity and meets even the most discerning of requirements in terms of appointments. The Maybach is the most prestigious and exclusive offering from us till date," Kern said.
The car is 207 mm longer than the S-Class with long wheelbase, he said, adding that from the technical side, the Maybach S600 is "more Mercedes" and from the luxury side "more Maybach".
He said the car is pitted against only two models the Rolls Royce and the Bentley.
It can be noted that Mercedes has overtaken its
compatriot and rival Audi to have the largest selling luxe car models.
While it logged 41% sales growth in first quarter of this year over the same period last year, the second quarter was better with 42% y-o-y growth.
Against this, the rivals have been growing at much slower pace. In 2014, the difference between Audi and Mercedes was only under 300 units, with Audi retaining the lead.
Kern, who is being transferred back to Europe after a three year stint during which time the company clawed back to the numero uno position in FY15, also introduced his successor Roland S Folger at the launch event.
Folger comes from Mercedes' Malaysian operations and will take charge from October 1.
Kern told PTI that he will be heading the processes for the Daimler group, which owns Mercedes-Benz and a clutch of other brands, and will be based in Belgium.
Kern, who will demit office on September 30, said India has been the most exciting market that he ever worked.
The Maybach S600 is the 12th model introduced by the company in the domestic market this year and it is slated to roll out three more before the end of December.
The company had said that it would roll out 15 models this year after having done 14 in 2014.
Kern said the Maybach S600, which is placed as the highest exclusive luxury saloon, has already been sold out till December, while booking for the locally assembled Maybach S500 begins today and will be available at all its 80 dealerships in 39 cities.
Mercedes has the largest manufacturing facility among the luxury carmakers with a capacity to roll out 20,000 units per year.
Recently, it inaugurated its second assembly line at the plant located at Chakan near here, with 10,000 unit capacity and built at an investment of Rs 1,000 crore.
Piyush Arora, executive director, operations, said the company uses up to 60% of local parts for the eight models it assembles here but refused to share brand specific details.
He also said the company will continue to locally produce S350 and S500, which together makes one of the largest selling models for Mercedes.
Kern said these two models sell more than the rival
brands put together and though refused to share exact numbers but said they are four digits.
He said the group had five years back decided to discontinue the Maybach as a separate brand and make it a sub-brand Mercedes.
Apart from Maybach, the other sub-brand the company has is the performance SUVs called the Mercedes AMG.
The Maybach S600 comes with a 6-litre engine and was first globally launched last year and was sold out within two weeks of launch announcement in the country.
Claimed to be the 'world's quietest production saloon', the Maybach S600 offers 12 airbags and a pouch for the rear seat belts, which is a first in the country.
It also offers an air balancing package, enhanced leg-room with leg support for rear passengers, magic vision control, split view, and the highest level of customisation apart from offering the highest safety standards with a rear seatbelt air bags and cushion bags, both first in the country.
#* Facebook retools, rebrands Internet.org as Free Basics
Social networking giant Facebook is rebranding its Internet.org programme, which was in the midst of a controversy over alleged violation of Net neutrality, to ‘Free Basics’.
Armed with more services and stronger security measures, the rebranding will help Facebook distinguish the free basic Internet offering from the large number of activities the US-based company is pursuing to help get new users online across the globe.
The announcement comes days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to visit Facebook’s campus in California on September 27.
“We’re making this change to better distinguish the Internet.org initiative from the programmes and services that Facebook provides, including Free Basics. Anyone currently using the app will be able to continue using the Android app though it will now be called Free Basics by Facebook in Google Play. And the mobile Web version, which will redirect from the previous URL, can be accessed at Freebasics.com,” Internet.org Vice-President Chris Daniels told PTI.
He added that more than one billion people have access to Internet.org’s free basic services across Asia, Africa and Latin America today.
Launched last year, the programme has more than a dozen mobile operators on board across 17 countries offering basic Internet services without data charges to over a billion people. The programme aims to provide people with access to free basic services through Internet.org to help them discover the value of the Internet.
“Internet.org is working well. The programme has made an impact on people’s lives by providing free health, education, and economic information. For example, SmartBusiness, a Website that helps people learn to launch and run a business, now sees 5x more daily searches within their service since the launch in South Africa in July. This means that more people are getting access to important economic information,” he said.
India has over 8 lakh users of the Internet.org initiative that has been in the thick of the Net neutrality debate. As part of the global initiative, Facebook had partnered with telecom major Reliance Communications to offer free access to over 30 Websites without data charges to users in India.
Facebook faced criticism for launching the platform as it is seen violating the principle of Net neutrality, which is against any priority being accorded to an entity in the Internet traffic flow because of payments to service providers such as telecom companies.
Following a walkout by many of its publisher partners in India, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had come out in defence of the programme, saying it did not block or throttle services and is not in conflict with Net neutrality.
Daniels said the company has been in discussions with stakeholders to present its view on the issue.
“We have been in discussions with various stakeholders. We maintain that Internet.org is a medium to take Internet to the masses to help them understand the benefits of the worldwide Web,” he said.
Daniels further said: “There is no exclusivity with Reliance in India. We are in discussions with more telecom operators in the country to join the platform. But the unfounded criticism has slowed the conversation. Hopefully, we will soon have more partners on board.”
He reiterated that the company does not pay telecom operators for the data, but the service providers do see benefit as “people move on to paid services soon”.
In May, Facebook had also announced an open programme for developers to create services that integrate with Internet.org.
“Over the past few months, developers have adapted their services specifically for the Internet.org platform requirements, and today, more than 80 free basic services are available in India,” Facebook Director Product Partnerships Ime Archibong said.
“We saw a huge amount of enthusiasm from developers in India who have helped expand the range of resources that can be made available to people, giving them more choice and control over the services they can use through the app and Website.”
Among the new services on the platform in India are English Dost, MeraDoctor, M-Kisan, My Rights and SkyMet.
With Free Basics, Internet.org is also “making it safer” for people to connect to the Websites and services by encrypting information wherever possible.