HIGHLIGHTS

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New Delhi, Jan 29 (PTI) Following are the top stories at 12.30 pm: TOP STORIES PAR14 PRESIDENT-ADDRESS President Kovind condemns violence on Republic Day New Delhi: President Ram Nath Kovind on Thursday strongly defended the three contentious agri laws that have sparked intense protests from a section of farmers, and slammed as ''very unfortunate' the violence during the farmers' tractor parade on Republic Day.

DEL14 VIRUS-LD CASES COVID-19: India records 18,855 fresh cases, 163 more fatalities; recovery rate surges to 96.96 pc New Delhi: With 18,855 fresh cases, India's COVID-19 tally has gone up to 1,07,20,048, while the number of people who have recuperated from the disease has surged to 1,03,94,352, pushing the national recovery rate to 96.96 per cent, the health ministry said on Friday.

NATION DEL22 PM-PAR-SESSION FM gave four-five mini-budgets in 2020, upcoming budget will be seen as part of that series: PM Modi New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had to give four-five mini-budgets in the form of packages in 2020 and expressed confidence that the upcoming budget would also be seen as part of that series.

DEL3 NCR-FARMERS-LD GHAZIABAD Farmers' stir: Crowd swells at UP Gate, 'excess force' removed Ghaziabad (UP): Hundreds of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) members stayed put on the Delhi-Meerut Expressway on Friday as the crowd swelled there overnight, notwithstanding the Ghaziabad administration's ultimatum to vacate the UP Gate protest site.

DEL13 DL-BORDERS-SECURITY Heavy police deployment at Tikri, Singhu borders New Delhi: Delhi's border points at Tikri and Singhu remained under heavy police deployment on Friday in the aftermath of the violence that broke out during a tractor parade by farmers in the national capital on Republic Day, officials said.

BOM2 CG-CRPF-FRATRICIDE C'garh: CRPF jawan shoots dead one colleague, injures another Raipur: A CRPF jawan was killed and another one got injured after one of their colleagues opened fire at them at a camp of the paramilitary force in Chhattisgarh's Bastar district on Friday, police said.

CAL1 WB-GANGULY-CONDITION Sourav Ganguly's health condition stable after angioplasty Kolkata: Indian cricket board chief Sourav Ganguly's health condition is stable and he had a good sleep on Thursday night, while doctors are planning to carry out requisite medical examinations on him on Friday, a senior official of the hospital where he is admitted said.

CAL2 JH-RAPE-DEATH Jharkhand girl raped, poisoned to death; para-teacher arrested Medininagar (Jharkhand): A para-teacher has been arrested for allegedly raping and poisoning a 13-year-old girl to death in Jharkhand's Palamu district, police said on Friday.

LEGAL LGD2 DL-COURT-RIOTS-UAPA-KALITA Delhi riots: Court rejects Pinjra Tod activist Devangana Kalita's bail plea in UAPA case New Delhi: A court here has rejected the bail plea of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student and Pinjra Tod member Devangana Kalita, booked under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) in a northeast Delhi riots case.

BUSINESS DCM2 BIZ-NTPC-MEJA PLANT NTPC Meja JV plant's unit-2 to begin operations from Jan 31 New Delhi: State-run power giant NTPC on Friday said the 660 megawatt (MW) second unit of its joint venture Meja Urja Nigam will be commercially operational from January 31.

FOREIGN FGN7 UN-INDIA-VACCINE UN chief lauds India's COVID-19 vaccine assistance to nations United Nations: India's vaccine production capacity is one of the best assets the world has today, UN chief Antonio Guterres has said as he applauded India for supplying COVID-19 doses to nations around the world to combat the catastrophic global health crisis. By Yoshita Singh FGN12 US-PENTAGON-INDIA Biden admin to remain committed to a strong US-India bilateral relationship: Pentagon Washington: The Biden administration is going to remain committed to a strong bilateral relationship with India, the Pentagon has said, a day after US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke for the first time with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. By Lalit K Jha SPORTS SPF11 SPO-HOCK-WOM Indian women's hockey team lose 0-2 to Argentina Buenos Aires: Argentina comfortably beat Indian women 2-0 to register their second successive victory in the hockey series having won a thrilling opening game couple of days back. PTI RC