Here are the day’s top stories:

Political meddling in economic data puts India’s global reputation at risk, warn 108 leading experts

A group of economists and social scientists on Thursday urged the Indian government to restore the integrity of statistical organisations as their national and global reputation was “at stake”. Any data unfavourable to the government “seems to get revised or suppressed on the basis of some questionable methodology”, they said, citing some recent examples.

Lok Sabha polls: 21 Opposition parties move Supreme Court on EVMs, hearing scheduled for Friday

As many as 21 Opposition parties have moved the Supreme Court, asking it to pass a direction that electronic voting machines be made tamper-proof. The court will hear the petitions on Friday. The parties want stricter standards and safety norms instituted to prevent EVM tampering. They also want 50% of Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail machines to be tallied with the voting machines.

Kerala: Seven-year-old tests positive for West Nile Virus, Centre sends team to the state

The Centre has sent a team to Kerala, where a seven-year-old boy from Malappuram district has tested positive for the West Nile virus. The team will review the situation and also help the state in management of the infection. The virus is transmitted to human beings through a mosquito bite, according to the United States-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Samjhauta Express blast: NIA court defers hearing to March 18 due to lawyers’ strike in Panchkula

A National Investigation Agency court hearing the 2007 Samjhauta Express blasts case postponed proceedings to March 18, due to a strike by the Panchkula district bar association. On March 11, the court had deferred the verdict to Thursday, after a Pakistani woman moved a petition claiming she had evidence related to the case.

Masood Azhar row: Arun Jaitley says Nehru was the ‘original sinner’ in securing China a UNSC seat

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday responded to Congress chief Rahul Gandhi’s criticism of the Narendra Modi-led government for failing to get Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar listed by the United Nations Security Council as a global terrorist. Jaitley said that former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Gandhi’s great-grandfather, was the “original sinner” as he had let China secure a seat in the council.

Rafale deal: Centre’s objections against review pleas are mala fide, Prashant Bhushan tells SC

Lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who has sought an inquiry into the Rafale jet deal, submitted before the Supreme Court on Thursday that it is settled law that a court should not be concerned about how a document is obtained if it happens to be relevant evidence. He said the objections raised by the Centre against his petition were mala fide.

Tamil Nadu transfers Pollachi serial sexual assault and blackmail case to CBI

The case relates to allegations that a gang of four men have been befriending hundreds of women on social media and then sexually molesting them, since 2013. In some cases, the men shot explicit videos of the women and used those to blackmail their victims, police said. Four men – N Satish, N Sabarirajan, T Vasanthakumar and K Thirunavukkarasu – have been arrested in Pollachi in connection with the case.

Kartarpur corridor: India and Pakistan hold ‘constructive’ talks, next meeting to be held on April 2

This was the first meeting between both countries in connection with the corridor and was held at the Attari-Wagah border on the Indian side in Punjab. The meeting was held in a cordial environment and officials discussed the draft agreement to facilitate the passage of pilgrims to Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, said the statement.

Shatrughan Sinha attacks Modi, claims its time for ‘new, better leadership’ before elections

Bharatiya Janata Party MP from Bihar Shatrughan Sinha on Thursday attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, calling for a “new, better leadership to take over” before the “government changes”. “Don’t you think it’s high time and the right time, before the government changes, that a new, better leadership takes over?” he tweeted, indirectly addressing Modi.

SC asks ex-Fortis promoters to clear debt after Shivinder Singh claims he has taken ‘sanyas’

The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered former Fortis Healthcare promoters and estranged brothers Malvinder Singh and Shivinder Singh to explain how they plan to pay the the Rs 3,500 crore it owes Daiichi Sankyo, Bar and Bench reported.

Congress leader Tom Vadakkan joins BJP, says the party reaction to Pulwama attack hurt him

Congress spokesperson Tom Vadakkan on Thursday announced that he has joined the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, less than a month before the Lok Sabha elections begin. Vadakkan said he left the Congress because of its reaction to the Pulwama attack on February 14 in which 40 security personnel were killed.

Wipro Chairperson Azim Premji gives 34% of his shares to charity

Wipro Ltd Chairperson and billionaire Azim Premji on Wednesday gave away 34% of his shares in the company to charitable causes. “With this action, the total value of the philanthropic endowment corpus contributed by Mr Premji is $21 billion [Rs 1.45 lakh crore], which includes 67% of economic ownership of Wipro,” the company said in a press release

EC observers to visit Jammu and Kashmir today to assess situation for Assembly elections

Election Commission of India observers will on Thursday visit Jammu and Kashmir to assess the “ground situation” for holding Assembly elections in the state. On March 10, the poll body had appointed former Indian Administrative Service officers Vinod Zutshi and Noor Muhammad, and former Indian Police Service officer AS Gill the special observers for Kashmir.

China defends move to block ban on Masood Azhar, says needs time to conduct thorough probe

China on Thursday sought to defend its move to once again block the United Nations Security Council’s bid to designate Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad’s chief Masood Azhar a global terrorist. It said it needs more time to conduct a “thorough, in-depth investigation” on the matter.

Wholesale price inflation rises to 2.93% in February from 2.6% the previous month

Wholesale prices in India rose to 2.93% in February from 2.6% in January on the back of increasing prices of primary articles, fuel and power, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry said in a statement on Thursday. January had recorded the lowest rate of inflation in 10 months.

‘Weak Modi is scared of Xi,’ says Rahul Gandhi after China blocks UN bid to ban Masood Azhar

Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Thursday blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi after China again blocked a move by the United Nations Security Council to designate Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad’s chief Masood Azhar a global terrorist. Gandhi claimed Modi was “weak” and “scared” of Chinese President Xi Jinping. “Weak Modi is scared of Xi,” he said in a tweet. “Not a word comes out of his mouth when China acts against India.”

Shillong Times case: Press Council of India to seek to implead itself in Meghalaya High Court order

The Press Council of India has said it will file an application to implead itself in the Meghalaya High Court’s order convicting Shillong Times’ editor Patricia Mukhim and publisher Shobha Chaudhuri for contempt. The council said the conviction of a newspaper editor will have “adverse impact” on the freedom of press.

Rajkot: At least 10 arrested for playing banned mobile game PUBG, released on bail

The Rajkot Police on Thursday said they had arrested at least 10 people for playing mobile game PUBG which has been banned in several districts of Gujarat, The Times of India reported.

‘Give us Masood Azhar’: Sushma Swaraj rules out talks with Pakistan until it cracks down on terror

Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday demanded that Pakistan hand over Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar to India. She said India refuses to negotiate with Pakistan until its creates an atmosphere free of terror. The terror outfit had claimed responsibility for the February 14 Pulwama attack in Jammu and Kashmir in which 40 security personnel were killed.

Government survey on jobs under Mudra scheme will be released after Lok Sabha polls, says report

The government will release the Labour Bureau’s survey on the number of jobs generated under the Micro Units Development & Refinance Agency (Mudra) scheme only after the Lok Sabha elections. The multi-phase elections will start on April 11, with the counting of votes scheduled for May 23.

State-run BSNL to use internal accruals to clear February salary dues of Rs 850 crore

State-owned telephone operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited on Wednesday said it will use its internal accruals to clear salary dues of around Rs 850 crore by March 20. The company, which has around 1.76 lakh employees, failed to pay them salaries for the last month.

‘Modi’s foreign policy a diplomatic disaster’: Congress after China blocks move to ban Masood Azhar

The Congress on Thursday criticised the Narendra Modi-led government after China blocked the United Nations Security Council’s move to designate Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad’s chief Masood Azhar a global terrorist.

Bhima Koregaon case: ‘Arrested activists were mobilising Dalits to overthrow Centre,’ claim police

The Maharashtra Police on Wednesday told the Bombay High Court that the activists who were arrested in connection with the 2018 Bhima Koregaon violence were mobilising Dalits in a bid to “overthrow the government”.

United States to set up six nuclear power plants in India

Washington and New Delhi on Wednesday announced the building of six United States nuclear power plants in India as part of an agreement to improve security and civil nuclear cooperation. The announcement follows a meeting between Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale and US Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Andrea Thompson in Washington.

Facebook and Instagram continue to be down for some users across the globe

Facebook appeared to still be inaccessible for several users on Thursday after many account holders across the globe reported that the social media website and app were down the previous evening.

Journalist and author Raghu Karnad wins $165,000 Windham-Campbell Prize

Delhi-based journalist and author Raghu Karnad was announced as one of eight recipients of Yale University’s Windham-Campbell Prize this year, in London. One of the world’s most lucrative literary awards, the prize is open to English language writers from across the world, with each winner receiving $165,000 to support their writing.