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Modi speech: Here is a list of all schemes announced by the PM

Modi speech: Here is a list of all schemes announced by the PM

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New Delhi – Following is the list of sops that Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced during his speech on the eve of the New Year.

1) For the poor: Two new schemes under PM Awaas Yojna. Home loans for poor and middle class people up to Rs 9 lakh will get 4 percent exemption on interest and 3 percent for up to Rs 12 lakh loans.

Prime minister Narendra Modi. File photoPrime minister Narendra Modi. File photo

Prime minister Narendra Modi. File photo

2) For farmers: Sixty days interest waiver for farm loans taken from from district co-operative banks and co-operative societies.

3) For senior citizens: 8 percent interest up to Rs 7.5 lakh deposit by senior citizens in banks.

4) For small businesses: Credit guarantee for micro small and medium enterprises to be raised to Rs 2 crore from current Rs 1 crore.

5) For women: Pregnant women across India will be given Rs 6,000 in their bank accounts to take care of initial medical needs.

6) For farmers: The government will convert 3 crore Kisan Credit cards to RUpay Credit cards.

7) For small businesses: Banks have been asked to raise cash credit limit for small businesses to 25 percent from 20 percent.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 21:05 IST

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Jharkhand mine collapse: Death toll rises to 13 in Lalmatia coal mine mishap

Ranchi: The number of dead in Thursday’s Jharkhand coal mine cave-in has reached thirteen with the recovery of two more bodies on Saturday, police said.

People gather near the coal mine in Godda, Jharkhand, where several workers are trapped, after it collapsed on Thursday evening. PTI

“Two more bodies have been recovered on Saturday. The rescue operation is going on. There are chances of some more people still trapped in the debris,” said a police spokesperson to IANS. The tragedy occurred at the Rajmahal Opencast Project of Eastern Coalfields Limited (ECL) around 7.30 p.m. on Thursday.

The relatives of those killed took the visiting ECL officials hostage on Saturday morning at the accident site. Police, however, managed to rescue them after three hours. Rescue operations were being carried out by the National Disaster Response Force with assistance from the ECL, Bharat Cooking Coal Limited (BCCL), the state government and experts.

In a statement, the Coal Ministry said that senior officials from the Director General of Mines Safety (DGMS) were at the site and have started an enquiry into the incident. The Coal Ministry has termed the incident “unprecedented”.

An area of 300 metres length by 110 metres width solid floor of the overburden dump area slid down by about 35 metres involving around 9.5 million cubic metres of earth material.

“This could be due to failure of the bench edge along the hidden fault line/slip,” it said.

Besides the probe by the Director General of Mines Safety, a “high-level committee of experts” was constituted by Coal India Limited (CIL) to investigate the causes of the accident.

The Raghubar Das government has also announced a compensation of Rs two lakh each to the families of the deceased and Rs 25,000 for the injured.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 14:29 IST

Supreme Court dismisses plea against appointment of new Chief Justice of India

Supreme Court dismisses plea against appointment of new Chief Justice of India

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a petition seeking the quashing of Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar’s appointment as the next Chief Justice of India.

Supreme Court of India. Reuters

Supreme Court of India. Reuters

The vacation bench of Justice RK Agrawal and Justice DY Chandrachud dismissed as “without merit” the petition by the National Lawyers Campaign for Judicial Transparency and Reforms and others.

President Pranab Mukherjee on 19 December appointed Justice Khehar as the 44th Chief Justice of India. He will be sworn-in on 4 January, 2017. The incumbent Chief Justice TS Thakur retires on 3 January.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 14:20 IST

Delhi deputy CM Manish Sisodia’s office burgled: Documents, computers allegedly stolen

New Delhi: Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia’s office was burgled late night on Thursday, the city police said.

File photo. PTI

File photo of Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia. PTI

“There was a robbery at the Patparganj office of Deputy CM late night on Thursday. The exact time is not yet known,” deputy commissioner of police (East) Omvir Singh said.

“The district forensic team has lifted finger-prints from the crime scene,” Singh said.

“The office was being shifted and most of the articles were already moved. However, some documents and two computers were stolen,” he added.

Aam Aadmi Party worker Pankaj Singh told IANS that the lock of the office was broken and some documents, including letterheads as well as CPUs of two computers, were missing.

“The burglers also turned away the CCTV cameras and took away the DVRs that had the recordings,” Upendra Kumar, who is in-charge of the party office, said. The police, along with a dog squad, came to Sisodia’s office on Friday morning to investigate the theft, he added.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 12:21 IST

Demonetisation not politically motivated, says PM Narendra Modi ahead of 50-day deadline

With just a day left for the 50-day deadline for demonetisation’s benefits to show, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has claimed that the move has forced black money, whether belonging to corrupt politicians or bureaucrats, out in the open.

In an interview with India Today magazine, excerpts of which in text form were telecast by a group news channel, Modi said counterfeit Indian currency notes available with the enemies were instantly neutralised.

“Black money has been forced out into the open, whomsoever it may belong to, whether it is corrupt politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen or professionals,” said Modi on the outcome of his 8 November sudden move to demonetise Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes.

“Counterfeit notes, which our intelligence agencies have reported to be available in big volumes with our enemies, have been instantly neutralised. Similarly, cash held by terrorists, Maoists and other extremists has also been neutralised. There has been a crippling impact on dangerous and highly damaging illegal activities such as human trafficking and the narcotics trade as well,” he added.

PM Narendra Modi. File photo. PTI

PM Narendra Modi. File photo. PTI

“One must be able to distinguish between neeti (policy) and rann neeti (strategy) and not put them in the same basket. The decision of demonetisation, which reflects our neeti, is unequivocally clear, unwavering and categorical,” the prime minister said.

“Our rann neeti, however, needed to be different, aptly summarised by the age-old saying of tu daal daal, main paat paat. We must stay two steps ahead of the enemy. When problems are identified, we respond promptly and take necessary steps,” he added.

Modi said it speaks of the government’s “agility in responding quickly and keeping up with the evolving situation”.

“I know many will prefer if we issue one guideline and then allow them to walk roughshod over it. Let me assure them that no such thing will happen,” Modi said.

The prime minister also clarified that the objective behind the decision was to clean up the economy and curb the menace of black money.

“Our objective was to clean up the economy and society of the menace of black money, purging the distrust, artificial pressures and other ills that came with it,” he said.

“The revenue collected will be used for the welfare of the poor, downtrodden and the marginalised.”

Modi also urged citizens not to regard digital transactions as a short-term substitute for cash payments.

“Digital transactions should not be viewed as a short-term substitute for cash payments,” Modi told India Today magazine in an interview.

“Digital transactions facilitate formal accounting and sizing of the economy,” he said.

“They also deliver greater tax compliance,” he added.

On former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Modi said, “Regarding Manmohan Singh ji, it is interesting that the words ‘monumental mismanagement’ came from a leader who has been at the helm of India’s economic journey for around 45 years.”

“His reference to organised loot was perhaps a reference to the unending string of scams under his leadership… From the coal scam, to 2G and CWG scam. Demonetisation on the other hand is an unprecedented step to confiscate the loot of the corrupt,” he said.

“I pity a few of our opponents, especially the Congress leadership, for the desperation they have been exhibiting. Congress leaders are entirely preoccupied with only one thing — elections. There is nothing political in the demonetisation,” Modi said.

The prime minister said: “It was a tough decision taken to clean our economy and our society. If I were guided by short-term electoral politics, I would have never done so.”

First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 21:32 IST

Navy chief Sunil Lanba takes over as chairman, Chiefs of Staff committee

New Delhi: Navy Chief Sunil Lanba will take over charge as chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee on Saturday afternoon, and has been handed over the ceremonial baton by outgoing incumbent, IAF Chief Arup Raha.

The senior-most of the service chiefs is given the charge of the Chiefs of Staff committee.

On Thursday, Air Chief Marshal Raha handed over the baton to Admiral Lanba at a ceremony in the South Block, which houses the Defence Ministry.

Lanba will assume the charge from the afternoon of 31 December, the day Raha retires.

Indian Navy Chief Sunil Lanba. File photo. CNN-News18

Indian Navy Chief Sunil Lanba. File photo. CNN-News18

Army chief, Gen Dalbir Singh, who also retires from service on 31 December, and Principal Staff Officers of all three services and the Integrated Defence Staff were present on the occasion, an official statement said.

Admiral Lanba assumed command of the Indian Navy on 31 May, 2016. He is a navigation and direction specialist and has served onboard numerous ships in both the eastern and eastern fleets.

He is an alumnus of National Defence Academy (NDA), Defence Services Staff College (DSSC), Wellington, College of Defence Management (CDM) and Royal College of Defence Studies, London.

Air Chief Marshal Raha, the outgoing chairman, COSC had taken over as chairman COSC on 1 August, 2014, and under his stewardship, the services received a “vital boost in jointmanship”, the statement said.

“During his tenure, the Defence Communication Network got operationalised and training standards of the Tri Service Institutes such as NDA, DSSC and CDM were enhanced,” the statement said.

“The much awaited National War Museum got approval from the government. He was instrumental in enhancing the role of military diplomacy with friendly foreign countries. Various humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations during crisis situations both within and outside India such as Jammu and Kashmir floods, Chennai floods, evacuation of Indian and foreign nationals from Yemen and Nepal Earthquake were successfully conducted,” it said.

“He also played a pivotal role in formulation of DPP-16 thereby streamlining and fast tracking Defence Procurement which has so far been plagued by laborious procedures and long delays,” it said.

First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 20:15 IST

Note ban policy: RBI’s autonomy under threat, say experts

New Delhi: Has the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) under its new governor, Urjit Patel, surrendered its hard-fought autonomy? Many experts feel so, particularly after the manner in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s government has handled the demonetisation drive.

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, also a former governor of the RBI and a finance minister, lamented in Parliament recently that constant modifications in the country’s banking system following demonetisation was not good for the country or the RBI.

RBI Governor Urjit Patel. PTIRBI Governor Urjit Patel. PTI

RBI Governor Urjit Patel. PTI

“That reflects very poorly on the Prime Minister’s office, on the Finance Minister’s office and on the Reserve Bank of India,” he told the Rajya Sabha last month. “I’m very sorry the Reserve Bank of India has been exposed to this sort of criticism, which I think is fully justified.”

What is unclear in this whole exercise is how much say the country’s central bank — the apex monetary policy authority, established on April 1, 1935, following the enactment of the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934 — had in the policy decision.

“The government said the RBI has recommended the demonetisation. I do not know whether the government has forced the RBI to ask or the RBI took the call on its own,” RBI’s former Deputy Governor K.C. Chakrabarty told IANS over phone from London.

“I’ll not be able to say (on RBI’s views being valued) unless the minutes of the board meet is shown,” he added, alluding to some interference by the government, since RBI’s position has always been against demonetisation.

“That was the consistent view of the Reserve Bank in the past,” Chakrabarty said.

In a reply to Bloomberg, on a right-to-information query, the apex bank said that the decision to withdraw the legal tender character of the Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes was taken by the RBI board at 5.30 p.m. on November 8 — less than three hours before Modi announced it to the country.

Overnight, Rs 15.44 lakh crore or 86 percent of the currency in circulation was declared illegal. Norms were announced by the Prime Minister on how people could deal with such currency in their possession — which were subsequently changed on an almost daily basis.

Regarding autonomy, Chakrabarty said: “You must understand the autonomy that the RBI was getting from the government was because the government was to give the autonomy to the institution. If the government does not want to give anybody autonomy, the RBI cannot do anything.”

West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra was more direct.

“Most eminent people in India have been RBI governors, including the present governor (Urjit Patel). He is a good economist. Now the same autonomous institution has lost its teeth. It has been issuing notices and withdrawing notices as per government’s instructions,” Mitra told IANS.

“What is very dangerous regarding demonetisation has gone unnoticed. The deeper issue is that fundamental institutions of India of historic nature are being undermined and emasculated. Therefore, the faith in them by the people is under question today,” he added.

The money that was declared illegal is yet to be replaced in any substantial measure — at last count, the RBI said Rs 5.93 lakh crore of new Rs 2,000 and Rs 500 have been issued. Since November 10, most ATMs across the country have remained shut and those which do open their shutters run dry of cash very quickly. Bank cash counters have the same woes, despite restrictions on the amount that individuals or companies can withdraw.

Many bankers too seemed to have lost faith on the towering apex institution.

“Yes, the RBI seems to have lost its autonomy in the issue of demonetisation which has been totally mismanaged,” a chief executive of a bank told IANS, declining to be named.

“The RBI should have advised the government on the ground reality about withdrawing 86 percent of the currency notes in circulation and the logistical issues,” he added, suggesting that the central bank should have stuck to its ground.

In fact, Duvvuri Subbarao, former RBI Governor and Finance Secretary, has been rather candid about his relationship with the government and the finance minister (P. Chidambaram at that time) when he was at the helm at Mint Street, the headquarters of the RBI in Mumbai.

“Both have the same objective of growth, but RBI looks at long-term growth and the government looks at short term growth that results in different priorities for both. There is no way out,” Subbarao told IANS.

“It all depends on the chemistry between the finance minister and the governor,” he said.

But experts hope the question of autonomy could come under less pressure, now that a Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) has been named and has started functioning — with three representatives each from the government and the RBI, and the veto power with the Governor.

“I support formation of MPC, though it will curtail the decision-making powers of the RBI Governor,” said Subbarao. “The Governor will discuss and listen to all stakeholders in the committee, so he will not be solely responsible for the decision on interest rates.”

But some domain experts like M.R. Sivaraman, former Union Revenue Secretary and former Executive Director at the International Monetary Fund, don’t think demonetisation exercise, at least, reflects loss of the RBI’s autonomy. On the contrary, they feel it is RBI that should have handled the situation better.

“Demonetisation will curb black money, eliminate fake currency and bring out unaccounted cash stashed away into the banking system,” said former Infosys board member T.V. Mohandas Pai, dismissing suggestions about loss of independence.

First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 19:26 IST

Demonetisation impact: Double-digit growth in India’s tax collection figures, says Arun Jaitley

New Delhi: Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday said that the impact of demonetisation is clearly visible with tax collection figures seeing double-digit growth.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. PTIFinance Minister Arun Jaitley. PTI

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. PTI

“The impact of demonetisation on tax revenue and collection is already visible. There has been a 26.2 percent increase in central indirect tax collection till November 30,” he said at a press conference here, adding till 19 December, direct tax collection increase has been to the extent of 14.4 percent against a growth rate of only 8.3 percent previous year.

Till 19 December, the net increase in direct taxes has been 13.6 percent after factoring in the refunds, he said.

“In the central indirect taxes there is an increase of 26.2 percent till 30 November. Excise duty is up by 43.5 percent, service tax by 25.7 percent and custom duties up by 5.6 percent,” Jaitley said.

“Notwithstanding the critics, it is a very significant increase in all indirect taxes till November 30,” he added.

Life insurance, tourism, petroleum consumption, flow of mutual fund investment have all increased during this period, the Finance Minister said.

Jaitley said demonetisation has brought a large part of money into the formal banking system which has increased the ability of the banks to lend.

On the liquidity situation in the markets, he said that a major part of the demonetised currency has been replaced with new notes and circulation of Rs 500 has increased.

First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 16:51 IST

Demonetisation: Cash withdrawal cap may not be necessary from 1 January : Gangwar

New Delhi: The cap on cash withdrawal may not be necessary from 1 January, as 250-300 million currency notes were being printed on a daily basis, Minister of State for Finance Santosh Gangwar has said.

“I have been told that 25-30 crore notes are being printed on a daily basis. Continuing with the withdrawal cap is not necessary from January 1,” Gangwar told CNBC TV18 in an interview here on Thursday.

“Inconvenience of limited withdrawal will lessen after 30 December. Improvements can be seen in the transaction process in the last few days,” he added.

PTIPTI

PTI

The central government had demonetised Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes on 8 November, sending the whole nation into a tizzy. Long queues outside banks have been a daily occurrence since then because enough currency notes are not available with the banks.

The Minister said that sufficient quantities of new currency could not have been printed earlier as it would have leaked the news of demonetisation which was intended to be a surprise. This is particularly true for the new Rs 500 notes, printing of which, presumably, started after November 10.

“Could not print currency earlier as the news would have leaked,” he said.

There are four currency printing presses — one each in Nashik (Maharashtra), Dewas (Madhya Pradesh), Salboni (West Bengal) and Mysuru (Karnataka).

The first two are owned by the central government through the Security Printing and Minting Corporation of India Ltd. The other two — in Salboni and Mysuru — are part of the Bharatiya Reserve Bank Note Mudran Pvt. Ltd. (BRBNMPL), a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

If all three shifts run, the four presses would be able to print 40 billion notes a year, irrespective of the denomination.

The government had earlier said that it had no intention of printing new notes worth the entire demonetised currency i.e. Rs 15.44 lakh crore.

The requirement of the cash will be measured and according to that it will be pushed into circulation, the Finance Ministry had said.

According to estimates the government would have put about 50 per cent of Rs 15.44 lakh crore in circulation by December-end.

Gangwar said that post-demonetisation the government wants to move towards a less-cash society and not completely cashless society.

“We are not talking about cashless but less-cash,” he said.

On the government receiving flak for its decision of allowing only one-time deposits of amounts of over Rs 5,000, Gangwar said that it was rolled back after receiving people’s feedback.

“There’s nothing wrong in rolling back some decisions. We are answerable primarily to the common man more than the opposition party. We have rolled back certain decisions after receiving feedback,” he said.

First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 16:44 IST

Year in Review 2016: E-commerce rode on mobility, digitisation, demography

Kolkata/Bengaluru: The increasing use of digital technologies in buying and selling merchandise for convenience and mobility pushed e-commerce in India to an inflection point in 2016.

The rapid growth of smartphones and internet connectivity across the country, especially in tier-II and III cities, has given greater access to virtual shopping and e-tailing for the tech-savvy generation and millennials.

Even as e-tail behemoths Flipkart, Snapdeal and Amazon vied for a greater pie of the growing e-commerce market, enterprises and businesses in diverse sectors have joined the bandwagon to hard-sell their products by leveraging digital technology.

“E-commerce in India is at an inflection point, thanks to robust growth in consumer demand. Mobile penetration and increasing use of smart phones have led to the emergence of m-commerce, which accounted for about 40 percent of the sector’s sales this year,” Tata CLiQ Chief Executive Officer Ashutosh Pandey told IANS.

ReutersReuters

Reuters

According to a study by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IMAI), transition to mobile shopping is faster in India, which overtook the US this year in terms of active mobile users (220 million) and next only to China in user base.

The emergence of the Omni-channel model in e-tailing has also enabled netizens shop across e-portals, web sites, apps and in stores as per their convenience.

“As a result, e-commerce players are looking at seamless integration of online and offline stores to offer consumers a unique shopping experience in the virtual and real worlds,” Pandey asserted.

With digital payments increasing through multiple gateways for online and offline buying, the push for cashless transactions in the aftermath of the November 8 demonetisation has driven more and more consumers to e-shopping and m-shopping.

Greater use of cloud computing, data analytics and artificial intelligence has made e-commerce players not only competitive and smart in retaining their mass user-base but also map shopping trends and predict purchasing patterns to consolidate their dominant position for sustaining growth.

“The sector, however, continues to face a trust-deficit and last-mile delivery issues persist despite having robust logistics networks and partners. Lack of trust in online transactions makes many shoppers prefer cash on delivery, which is risky and time consuming,” Pandey lamented.

The sector is also bedevilled by infrastructure woes across cities and towns, increasing operational cost for timely delivery and expanding the customer base.

Though demonetisation has impacted the retail sector due to the cash crunch, digital transactions have enabled e-commerce firms to weather the crisis.

Growing at about 40 percent cumulative average growth rate (CAGR), the country’s e-commerce market is projected to touch a whopping $38 billion this fiscal (2016-17), with the online travel segment alone accounting for 70 percent, followed by e-tailing, financial services, classifieds, job searches and matrimony.

“The key drivers of the sector’s growth have been increased internet penetration, growing acceptability of online payments and an increase in per capita income,” a Snapdeal spokesperson said.

Favourable government policies and improving infrastructure have also contributed in connecting consumers and sellers across the country.

“The start-up ecosystem has gone through a phase of consolidation, indicating maturity in the sector for achieving scale, building capabilities and increasing the market share,” the spokesperson explained.

Given the demographics and rapid adoption of the internet, it’s advantage for all the stakeholders to grow and consolidate.

Global audit firm KMPG’s e-commerce partner Sreedhar Prasad said demonetisation had impacted the sector with a 30 percent dip in sales and, as a result, the annual growth may not show a big spike.

“The cost of business, including that of supply chains, remains a challenge. Unless the cost is regulated, profitability will be difficult in the sector,” Prasad added.

First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 13:04 IST

Nuke club NSG draft rule may allow India in, leave Pakistan out: Report

Washington: A draft proposal for accepting new members into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) paves the way for India’s entry but leaves Pakistan out, says a US-based arms control organisation. The Arms Control Association (ACA), Washington, also warns that relaxing membership rules will undermine non-proliferation.

Last week, the US media reported that Rafael Mariano Grossi, a former chairman of the NSG, had prepared a two-page document, explaining how a non-Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) state, like India and Pakistan, could join the group. Grossi was acting on behalf of the current chairman, Song Young-wan of South Korea, and his document enjoys a semi-official status, Dawn reported.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

To prevent India from blocking Pakistan from joining the NPT, Grossi’s draft note proposes that “one non-NPT member state should reach an understanding not to block consensus on membership for another non-NPT member state”.

But ACA’s Executive Director Daryl Kimball warns that “Pakistan still has grounds to object to the formula outlined by Grossi”.

He explains that the document will require Pakistan to meet the same criteria for membership as India “but, to engage in civil nuclear trade with NSG states, it would have to win a separate NSG exemption from the full-scope safeguards requirement”.

India is seeking membership of the NSG on the strength of the fact that it is already doing business with NSG members.

The 48-nation NSG is a nuclear technology control organisation formed in 1975 in response to India’s first nuclear weapons test, which used plutonium produced with nuclear technology from Canada and the US. The NSG seeks to prevent similar future misuses.

Current NSG membership rules require a state to sign the nuclear NPT before joining this exclusive club. India remains one of only three countries, with Israel and Pakistan, never to have signed the NPT. Earlier this year, India formally applied for membership and was followed by Pakistan. The US, and a host of other powerful western nations, back India’s application, but China and half a dozen other nations are blocking India’s membership, which requires a consensus of all members.

India hoped to join the group during NSG’s last plenary session, held in Seoul in June this year, but the meeting ended without taking any decision on New Delhi’s application.

First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 11:18 IST

Islamic State, Pakistan-sponsored terrorism keep NIA on its toes

New Delhi: Pakistan-sponsored terrorism and the Islamic State trying to weave its terror network in India kept the National Investigation Agency (NIA) busy throughout 2016.

The year began with one of the most audacious terror attacks on India when four Pakistani terrorists stormed the India Air Force (IAF) base in Pathankot on 2 January and killed seven soldiers.

The NIA, formed in the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, quickly sprang into action and traced links of the attack to Pakistan, blaming Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar for masterminding the strike that brought the improving New Delhi-Islamabad ties back to square-one.

Within months, the anti-terror probe agency filed a detailed charge sheet nailing Azhar and three of his accomplices for their detailed and meticulous planning of the attack.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

But the agency drew flak when the government allowed a Joint Investigation Team (JIT), which included an ISI officer, from Pakistan to visit the sensitive Pathankot military base to probe the incident.

Days after it took over the Pathankot probe, the NIA laid its hands on evidence of the Islamic State trying to expand its presence in India by radicalising youth as potential terrorists.

On 22 and 23 January, over two dozen raids were conducted across the country. Eighteen Islamic State suspects were arrested. Nine more, including a foreigner, were later held in separate raids in Uttar Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

The agency filed a charge sheet in June alleging that Islamic State sympathisers were seeking to establish an Islamist caliphate in India — Junoodul-Khilafa-Fil-Hind — and recruit Muslim youth to terrorism at the behest of Syria-based Shafi Armar alias Yusuf-Al-Hindi.

According to the NIA, Armar, a resident of Karnataka’s Bhatkal district and a senior Islamic State leader managing India recruitment, was in touch with the accused through social media networks.

He trained them how to prepare IEDs, identify training venues and provide logistics support for terror strikes.

However, the agency found itself in the midst of a controversy for going soft on alleged right-wing Hindu terror. On 13 May, it submitted the second and final report in the 29 September 2008, Malegaon bomb blast that killed six persons. The bombing was earlier blamed on the Abhinav Bharat group led by Sadhvi Pragya Thakur and Lt. Col. Srikant Purohit.

The Maharashtra Anti-Terror Squad, which was earlier probing the bombing, had filed charges against the two main accused in the attack. The NIA took over the case in 2011. And its chargesheet this year gave a clean chit to Thakur and watered down the case against Purohit.

The agency got one of its major successes when a Bengaluru court convicted 13 Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists in a 2012 conspiracy to kill prominent leaders, journalists and police officers in Karnataka and Maharashtra.

Another success came when a special court awarded the death sentence to five Indian Mujahideen operatives for their role in the 21 February 21 2013, Dilsukhnagar, Hyderabad, twin-blast case that claimed 18 lives.

In all, the NIA registered 33 cases in 2016. Twelve of them were related to Islamic State sympathisers, three against JeM, two of regarding counterfeit currency notes, two of Maoists and two more on terror incidents in northeastern India.

The agency also registered a case against controversial preacher and Islamic Research Foundation founder Zakir Naik on charges of misusing donations to radicalise youth.

The year also witnessed an unprecedented second extension given to NIA chief Sharad Kumar, making him the first Director General of the agency to be re-employed twice after his superannuation in 2015.

First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 09:21 IST

Hyderabad: Con men posing as CBI officials loot 40 kg gold from Muthoot Finance

Hyderabad: Posing as CBI officials, five unidentified persons looted 40 kg gold from a Muthoot Finance officer here on Wednesday, the city police said.

The con men escaped with gold ornaments valued at about Rs 10 crore after first gaining access through the CBI pretence and then threatening the staff with weapons at the Ramachandrapuram office of the company on the outskirts of the city.

Cyberabad Police Commissioner Sandeep Shandilya said they also looted Rs 1 lakh cash.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Initially police had stated that 46 kg gold was looted.

According to police, five persons came to Muthoot Finance branch in the morning and told the staff that they were Central Bureau of Investigation officials and wanted to check records and gold in the lockers as they were investigating a case of theft.

When the branch manager said he was not in a position to show the lockers without permission from top officials, the unidentified men threatened action against him for disobeying orders of CBI officials.

When the lockers were opened, the intruders started collecting the golden ornaments in their bags. As the employees raised objection, one of the men whipped out a gun, threatened the branch manager and other employees and locked them in a bathroom.

The robbers also took away the hard disk of CCTV cameras with them.

Police have launched a massive hunt for the robbers, who escaped in a black coloured Scorpio.

The police commissioner said 16 teams have been formed to track down the culprits. Police were trying to identify the con men by analysing the footage from CCTV cameras around Muthoot Finance branch.

The policemen were searching vehicles along Hyderabad-Mumbai highway from Ramachandrapuram to Zaheerabad town in Sangareddy district.

Meanwhile, dozens of account holders who had kept their gold in Muthoot Finance branch gathered outside and wanted to know from the officials as to when will they get back their gold.

The officials told the people that their gold was completely insured. They said nobody should be worried as Muthoot Finance has 160 tonnes of gold at 4,500 branches spread across the country.

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 17:21 IST

AgustaWestland scam: SP Tyagi like family member, but no sympathy if proven guilty, says IAF chief Raha

New Delhi: Indian Air Force (IAF) Chief, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, on Wednesday said his scam-tained predecessor SP Tyagi was like a “family member” but if corruption charges in the AgustaWestland helicopter deal were proven against him the force would have no sympathy for its former chief.

Addressing a press conference days before he is scheduled to retire as the IAF chief and Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee, Raha said the law of the land must be followed in the scam that has rattled the force with Tyagi’s arrest on 9 December for allegedly accepting bribes in clearing the procurement of 12 AW-101 VVIP helicopters from Britain-based AgustaWestland.

Tyagi — the first chief of any wing of the armed forces to be arrested in the country — was given bail by a court in Delhi on Monday. “Such issues have come up from time to time. Be it Bofors or be it some other acquisitions, there have been problems,” Raha said. He, however, admitted that if the corruption charges were proved it would be “bad for the armed forces, or whoever is involved”.

“It is not only the armed forces that are involved in procurement. There are so many agencies involved. Can’t pin the blame on one particular organisation or service. To my mind many of the issues that have sprung up in the recent times have their origin some time back, a decade back. These are being investigated. It is premature for me to say anything,” he said.

IAF chief Arup Raha. PIB

IAF chief Arup Raha. PIB

Raha said he didn’t know about the evidence the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI), which is probing the case, has against Tyagi. “The Air Force believes the law of the land has to be followed… Let the investigation be complete. Whatever the decision of the court, we will abide by that.”

He said Tyagi, as long as not convicted, should be given his due credit being a former IAF chief. “A former Air Chief is like an extended family. If anyone in my family goes through a rough patch I think we should stand by them… If charges are proved, then of course we have no sympathy.”

The CBI has alleged that Tyagi and other accused had received bribes from AgustaWestland for helping the manufacturer win the $556.262 million contract to purchase the helicopters for the Communication Squadron of the Indian Air Force to carry the President, Prime Minister and other VVIPs.

The accused had allegedly hatched a conspiracy to reduce the service ceiling of the helicopters from 6,000 meters to 4,500 meters to make AgustaWestland eligible for the contract.

The CBI claimed that Tyagi and his brothers received 126,000 euros after May 2004 and 200,000 euros after February 2005 in the form of consultancy fee from Gordian Services.

It added that Tyagi also received some amount in cash from Guido Ralph Haschke and Carlo Valentino Ferdinando Gerosa, who were linked with Gordian Services.

Tyagi, the Indian Air Force chief from 2004 to 2007, has denied the charges saying the deal was executed after his tenure.

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 15:33 IST

Balochistan: In no hurry to set up ‘government in exile’, says Naela Quadri

Kannur (Kerala): As part of drumming up support for setting up a ‘government in exile’, Baloch International Women’s Forum leader Naela Quadri Baloch has said they were in no hurry for it.

Baloch, who arrived in Kerala on Tuesday night as part of her effort at garnering support across the country, will speak on Wednesday at a public meeting in Thalassery near here.

Naela Qadri Baloch. File photo.

Naela Qadri Baloch. File photo. Firstpost

The meeting is being organised under the aegis of ‘Brennen Vibrant’, an organisation of the old activists of the RSS’s students wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad at Brennen College in Thalassery.

“Our goal is to set up a government in exile and we are in no hurry for that. We all know that it’s a long way ahead and we are now laying the foundation for it,” she said.

“What has come as a joy for us is that the people of Varanasi have extended their support to us and we wish to set it up there. We are also seeking the support of the Indian government for it,” said Quadri.

Quadri has been travelling across India and by now she has already addressed meetings in Delhi, Mumbai, Nagpur, Chandigarh and Bengaluru.

“I should say that at all these places the response was overwhelming, especially from the youths. What we are basically doing now is to garner support for our movement. As Balochis, we are now also connecting to our people who are settled across the world. In all we are about 40 million,” she said.

Several Baloch leaders from Pakistan and from other countries have begun visiting New Delhi since Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Independence Day address on August 15 highlighted the Baloch issue.

Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest province in terms of area, has witnessed a long-running insurgency for which Islamabad blames New Delhi.

Quadri, however, downplayed some reactions from her own people about her own role.

“I do not claim to be the leader. Our aim is to work together and at the moment we should not be wasting time on such things,” she said.

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 13:37 IST

Demonetisation was a move towards formal economy, says Arvind Panagariya

Expressing their support for the November 8 demonetisation of high-value currency that has resulted in a major cash crunch, a group of experts on Tuesday told Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the move help to strengthen the process of formalising the Indian economy, the major part of which is organised informally.

“Demonetisation was discussed as a move towards formal economy,” NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Arvind Panagariya said, briefing reporters following Modi’s interaction here with a set of noted economists at a session on “Economic Policy – The Road Ahead” organised by the think-tank.

NITI Aayog, Vice-Chairman, Arvind Panagariya. Image courtesy PIBNITI Aayog, Vice-Chairman, Arvind Panagariya. Image courtesy PIB

NITI Aayog, Vice-Chairman, Arvind Panagariya. Image courtesy PIB

“All the speakers stressed the need to bring workers and activity into the formal sector,” Panagariya said in reference to the stated aims of the 8 November demonetisation announcement for curbing corruption, black money, counterfeit currency and terror financing.

Complementing the demonetisation process, he said it is the government’s drive to promote digital transactions and a less cash economy so as to move from the informal to greater formalisation of the economic system.

“The speakers pointed out that 90 per cent of the labour force in the country is still in the informal sector,” Panagariya added.

Besides Niti Aayog and Finance Ministry officials, the session was attended by economists and experts, including Pravin Krishna, Sukhpal Singh, Vijay Paul Sharma, Neelkanth Mishra, Surjit Bhalla, Pulak Ghosh, Govinda Rao, Madhav Chavan, N.K. Singh, Vivek Dehejia, Pramath Sinha, Sumit Bose and T.N. Ninan.

The meeting with experts to take stock of the economy assumes significance against the backdrop of the cash crunch after the government last month scrapped the Rs 1000 and Rs 500 notes.

Economists and various state governments have voiced concerns that demonetisation will disrupt the economy and drag down the GDP growth rate for this fiscal by up to two percentage points.

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 09:06 IST

Opposition united, but some parties have local compulsions too: Rahul Gandhi

New Delhi: Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said all opposition parties — even those who did not attend a joint press conference in Delhi — were united on demonetisation and Prime Minister Narandra Modi’s alleged corruption.

The opposition is united on demonetisation and Modi’s corruption, though every party has some local compulsions and he respects it, the Congress leader said at the joint press conference in Delhi.

Rahul Gandhi's Twitter handle was hacked on 1 December. PTI

Rahul Gandhi’s Twitter handle was hacked on 1 December. PTI

Out of 16 opposition parties that opposed the government on demonetisation in the winter session of Parliament, only eight attended the joint presss conference, including the Congress, Trinamool Congress, DMK, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Janata Dal-Secular, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Indian Union Muslim League and All India United Democratic Front.

“Every day, during Parliament’s winter session, all parties were together on the issue of demonetisation. Not even one party was away.

“Every party said they are together on demonetisation and Modi’s corruption. But parties also have local compulsions and we respect those compulsions,” Gandhi said.

The Congress leader said: “Opposition unity is a process and it is going forward. You can ask all opposition parties — they will tell you uniformly that they agree on the stand we are taking on demonetisation and on the Prime Minister’s corruption.”

“There are slight differences in the perspective of these parties. We are happy to embrace them. We see all opposition parties as assets, as people who represent people in this country.

“Every party have some differences, but broadly, everyone will say that demonetisation is a failed experiment. All opposition parties believe in the democratic principles,” the Congress Vice-President added.

On meeting the Prime Minister on 16 December, the last day of Parliament session, which may have irked some political parties, Gandhi said: “I did a 30-day campaign where I committed to the people of Uttar Pradesh that I’ll take two crore of their forms they had filled up and submit to the Prime Minister. I only fulfilled that commitment.”

“I told them I’ll take these personally to the PM. It was a commitment to the farmers,” he added.

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 22:25 IST

Panchayat polls in Odisha to be held in five phases between 13-21 February

Bhubaneswar: The State Election Commission (SEC) on Tuesday announced dates for panchayat polls in Odisha.

The panchayat polls, which has been scheduled in five phases, will begin on 13 February, 2017, and end on 21 February, said a release.

With the announcement of poll dates, the model code of conduct came into effect in the state from Tuesday. It will be in force until the end of the last phase of the poll, it said.

Representative image. PTI

Representative image. PTI

“The aspiring candidates can file nominations between 11 January and 17 January next year. The papers will be scrutinised on January 18 and the last date for withdrawal of nominations is 21 January,” said State Election Commissioner R.N. Senapati.

The final list of contesting candidates will be declared on the same day.

The SEC has asked the district collectors to maintain law and order for smooth conduct of elections in their districts.

The elections will be held for the posts of 853 Zilla Parishad members, 6,802 Sarpanches, 6,801 Panchayat Samiti members and 92,052 ward members, in which 2,60,92,507 voters will exercise their franchise.

The state government has reserved 50 percent seats for women candidates in the panchayat elections.

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 16:04 IST

Indus water dispute: Pakistan’s FM talks to World Bank chief, objects to pausing arbitration process

Islamabad: World Bank President Jim Yong Kim called Pakistani Finance Minster Ishaq Dar on phone to discuss the Pakistan-India water dispute, an official said on Tuesday.

The phone call on Monday was in relation with the latest dispute concerning two hydroelectric power plants — Kishan­ganga and Ratle — that India is building on the Indus river system, Dawn online reported.

Dar earlier wrote to Kim requesting him to help settle the water dispute between the two neighbouring nations.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

He said that delaying arbitration would seriously prejudice Pakistan’s interests and rights under the bilateral Indus Waters Treaty which was signed in 1960.

The letter explained that Pakistan was not withdrawing its earlier request to the bank to appoint the chairman of the Court of Arbitration and since this process had already been “inordinately delayed”, Islamabad wanted the bank to appoint the chairman as soon as possible.

Pakistan believes that further delay would hurt the country’s interests as India was working on completing the two projects. Dar said that once the projects are completed, it will be difficult to undo them.

The treaty distributed the Indus basin rivers between the two countries, giving India control over the three eastern rivers of Beas, Ravi and Sutlej, while Pakistan has the three western rivers of Indus, Chenab and Jhelum.

The treaty empowers the World Bank to arbitrate any water dispute between India and Pakistan.

Last week, Kim in a letter to the Finance Ministers of India and Pakistan, said he had decided to “pause” the bank’s arbitration and urged the two neighbours to decide by the end of January how they wanted to settle the dispute.

Pakistan asked the bank to appoint the chairman of the Court of Arbitration while India demanded the appointment of a neutral expert.

Kim said he was “pausing” arbitration to protect the Indus Waters Treaty, which has successfully resolved previous disputes between the two neighbours.

Tension over the water dispute intensified in November when Prime Minister Narendra Modi post the Uri attack which claimed the lives of 19 soldiers, said: “Blood and water cannot flow at the same time.”

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 14:35 IST

Mishap averted as Indigo, SpiceJet aircraft come face-to-face at IGI in Delhi

Mishap averted as Indigo, SpiceJet aircraft come face-to-face at IGI in Delhi

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New Delhi: A major mishap was averted in Delhi at the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) airport on Tuesday after an Indigo and a SpiceJet aircraft came face-to-face on the runway.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“An Indigo flight 6C-729 which was coming from Lucknow to Delhi with 176 passengers on board, post landing on the taxi way saw a SpiceJet aircraft in front of it,” Indigo spokesperson Ajay Jesra told IANS.

“The incident occurred on Tuesday morning and the matter has been reported to Air Traffic Control (ATC) and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA),” Jesra said.

According to officials, the DGCA has ordered a probe into the incident.

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 11:14 IST

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Demonetisation: Woman finds Rs 100 crore in Jan Dhan account, seeks PMO intervention

Ghaziabad: Shocked to find nearly Rs 100 crore in her Jan Dhan account in a Meerut branch of a state-run bank, a woman on Monday sought the PMO’s intervention after the bank officials did not attend to her complaint and kept asking her to come some other time.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

In the complaint to the PMO, sent by her husband Ziledar Singh, Sheetal Yadav said she maintained a Jan Dhan account in Sharda road branch of the State Bank of India (SBI). On 18 December, she went to draw money from the ATM of ICICI bank near their house and was shocked to see that her account stood at Rs 99,99,99,394.

Unable to believe it, she said she asked the person standing next to her in the queue to check it and he confirmed the same amount. She went to another ATM of YES bank nearby and found the same balance.

She continued to visit her bank for two days but the staff did not attend to her complaint and asked her to come after a day when the branch manager would assist her to rectify the matter. When she again went to the bank, she was sent back under another pretext.

Singh, who works in a transformer manufacturing company, said that his wife, working in the packaging department of a factory, draws a salary of Rs 5,000 per month while he also works on a meagre salary. They were shocked when this huge amount came into her account.

Frustrated over the local bank staff’s attitude, Singh said he asked an educated person to help them to send a mail to the PMO.

“We have posted a mail on 26 December to the PMO to help us in solving our problem from where about Rs 100 crore came into the account where the maximum limit of deposit is restricted to Rs 50,000 only,” he said, showing the ATM slips and bank passbook to the media.

No bank employee was available for comments.

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 22:12 IST

Demonetisation: Farmers to get 60 additional days for repayment of crop loans, says RBI

Mumbai: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Monday said that in view of demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, farmers, whose short term crop loan repayment date falls between 1 November and 31 December, will get an additional 60-day grace period.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“In view of the constraints faced by farmers for timely repayment of loan dues on account of withdrawal of legal tender status of Specified Bank Notes (SBNs), it has been decided by the government to provide an additional grace period of 60 days for prompt repayment incentive of 3 percent to those farmers whose crop loan dues are falling due between 1 November and 31 December,” RBI said in a notification.

Currently, according to the existing crop loan interest rebate scheme for 2016-17, apart from the two percent annual rebate, an additional interest rebate of 3 percent is also provided if the farmer repays the loan up to the actual date of repayment or the date fixed by banks for repayment, whichever is earlier.

This benefit does not accrue to those farmers who repay after one year of availing such loans.

If the farmers, whose crop loan repayment date falls between 1 November and 31 December, repay the crop loan within 60 days from their loan repayment date, the additional three percent interest rebate will continue to apply, it said.

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 20:56 IST

Agni-V: India conducts successful missile test, President Pranab Mukherjee congratulates

Bhubaneswar: India on Monday successfully test-fired its indigenously developed intercontinental surface-to-surface nuclear capable ballistic missile Agni-V from the Abdul Kalam Island off the Odisha coast in Balasore district.

This is the fourth and final test of the missile.

It was launched around 11.05 a.m. from a mobile launcher complex-4 of the Integrated Test Range (ITR), defence sources said.

“We are analysing the test launch after collecting information from radars. The report suggests it is a successful launch,” said an official source.

Representational image. Image courtesy News18

Representational image. Image courtesy News18

President Pranab Mukherjee congratulated the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for the successful launch.

“Congratulations DRDO for successfully test firing Agni-V. It will enhance our strategic and deterrence capabilities,” Mukherjee said in a tweet.

The missile is developed by the DRDO under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program.

The Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) Agni-V has the capability to strike targets anywhere in all of Asia and parts of Africa and Europe.

Agni-V is one of the most advanced missiles, which is capable of striking a target more than 5,000 km. It is about 17 metres long, 2-metre wide and has launch weight of around 50 tonnes.

The missile can carry a nuclear warhead of more than one tonne.

Once the Agni-V is inducted in the Indian military, India will join the super exclusive club of countries with ICBMs alongside the US, Russia, China, France and Britain.

The first test of Agni-V was conducted on 19 April 2012, while the second test was launched on September 15, 2013 and the third was on 31 January 2015.

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 13:28 IST

Demonetisation: Money deposited in banks has lost its earlier anonymity says Finance minister Arun Jaitley

New Delhi: Describing the currency being deposited in banks following last month’s demonetisation of high-value notes as money that has lost its earlier “anonymity”, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Sunday said these funds now available with the banks have strengthened the Indian banking system.

File photo of Arun Jaitley. PTI

File photo of Arun Jaitley. PTI

“The money that is being deposited in cash form after demonetisation, now the anonymity of that money is gone,” Jaitley said at the DigiDhan Mela event here to promote cashless transactions.

“When this money comes into the system, the banking system becomes stronger and there are funds available for rural development, social welfare programmes,” he said.

“Money in the system becomes part of the taxation system too.

The long-term benefit of this move is that the shadow, the parallel economy, which was not taxed, of which there was no accounting, which was not answerable, that is now becoming part of the economic system,” the Finance Minister said.

First Published On : Dec 25, 2016 18:21 IST

Delhi Metro’s Christmas spoiler: Commuters hassled as trains run late, hundreds stranded on Blue Line

New Delhi: Metro commuters in the capital on Sunday had a harrowing time for Christmas when they were left stranded on its Blue Line, with hundreds of them waiting at a single station for about 40 minutes.

Despite the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation’s (DMRC’s) intimation that there will be “slight” inconvenience in the Metro services on 25 December, the commuters were not quite prepared for the travails which they faced while going to offices, or meeting friends on the holiday.

“Let’s get down here, we can take an auto or something to reach Jantar Mantar,” a group of friends was heard saying at the Ramakrishna Asharam Marg Station where the train remained stood for over half an hour.

Representational images. PTIRepresentational images. PTI

Representational images. PTI

A couple deboarded the train at the same station for fresh air, since the prolonged delay caused the train to be filled to the rafters, many thought it better to wait outside the coach than inside.

Scores of others followed suit. The deboarded the train at the RK Ashram Marg Station, choosing to go with some other mode of transport.

The travails of the passengers were not limited to the inside of the train. One was faced with an extended line at the token counter — a fallout of returning passengers who had gone out and returned to the station after a slight breather.

Ill-managed planning added to the pains of the passengers when the train which were supposed to go till Indraprastha stranded passengers at Barakhamba Station, asking everyone to disembark.

“It took me three hours to reach here from Shadipur Station, which normally takes not more than half an hour,” Alisha, a psychologist at Apollo Hospital, told IANS.

Another man who was due to send ‘prasad’ to his home-state expressed his dismay when he was forced to deboard at the Barakhamba Station.

“This had happened last week too. I need to send the prasad (holy offering) to my hometown Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, how will I able to do that in time as my deliverer is due to leave soon,” Gopikrishna, a devotee at Ayyappa temple in RK Puram, said to IANS.

Sunil Sehgal, who owns a shop in Sadar Bazaar, said that he had to let go of five Metro trains at RK Ashram before he boarded one, only to deboard that two stations later.

The DMRC had issued an advisory on Friday that Metro services will be affected slightly owing to track maintenance work between Indraprastha and Yamuna Bank Stations, between 12 to 3 p.m.

First Published On : Dec 25, 2016 17:43 IST

PM Narendra Modi greets Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif on 66th birthday

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday greeted his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on his 66th birthday.

Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif. PTINarendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif. PTI

Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif. PTI

“Birthday wishes to Pakistan PM Mr. Nawaz Sharif. I pray for his long and healthy life,” Modi tweets.

The Prime Minister wished Sharid, right after greeting the nation on the ocassion of Christmas.

“Merry Christmas! We remember and celebrate the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. His message of peace, unity and compassion inspires us all,” the Prime Minsiter said in his Christmas tweet.

Modi then wished Atal Bihari Vajpayee on the occasion of his 91st birthday in a series of tweets along with a video of the two leaders together.

“Wishing our most beloved and widely respected Atal ji a happy birthday. I pray that he is blessed with good health and a long life,” he tweeted.

“Atal ji’s exemplary service and leadership has had a very positive impact on India’s growth trajectory. His great personality is endearing,” Modi added.

First Published On : Dec 25, 2016 12:01 IST

PM Modi says stock market success should benefit villages not Dalal Street or Lutyens

Raigad (Maharashtra): Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday stressed the crucial role played by financial markets for the growth of the Indian economy but warned of damages they can wreak if not properly regulated.

Inaugurating the new campus of National Institute of Securities Markets (NISM) run by the stock markets regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) at Panvel, Modi said India enjoyed a good name for its well-regulated securities markets and for them to function effectively, the participants needed to be well-informed.

“The government is very keen to encourage start-ups… Stock markets are essential for the start-up system,” Modi said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTIPrime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Calling for wider inclusion, Modi said our markets must show that they were able to successfully raise capital for projects benefiting the vast majority of our population, particularly related to infrastructure.

“The true measure of success (of the stock markets) is in its impact in villages, not on Dalal Street or Lutyens Delhi. Sebi should work for closer link between spot markets like e-NAM and derivatives markets to benefit the farmers,” Modi urged.

Discussing the economic highlights, the Prime Minister said in less than three years, the government has transformed the economy.

“In 2012-2013, fiscal deficit had reached alarming levels, currency was falling sharply, inflation was high and current account deficit was rising.

“Now, we have slashed fiscal deficit, public investments have increased, forex reserves are high, inflation is low at less than four per cent compared to nearly double-digit in the previous regime,” Modi pointed out.

He said the government has progressed on ‘Ease of Doing Business’, the GST, pending since years, would soon be a reality and FDI has reached record levels, even “our critics acknowledge our speed of work”.

Modi made it clear that India has a bright future in the long run, and the government would not take decisions for short-terms benefits, and would not shy from difficult decisions if they were in the interest of the nation.

“My aim it to make India developed in one generation,” he concluded.

Earlier, Modi arrived in Mumbai by an IAF aircraft for a daylong visit to Maharashtra and has a series of engagements during the day.

On his arrival at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport around noon, he was received by Maharashtra Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.

Later, around 3 p.m., Modi will perform the ‘bhoomipoojan’, ground breaking ritual, for the ambitious sea memorial dedicated to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj coming up in the Arabian Sea, around 1.5 km from Mumbai shoreline at Marine Drive.

Thereafter, Modi will go to the Bandra Kurla Complex and perform the ground breaking ritual for the mega-infra project, Mumbai Trans Harbour Link, two new Mumbai Metro lines and elevated road corridors.

In the evening, Modi is scheduled to visit Pune and lay the foundation stone for the proposed Pune Metro railway project.

First Published On : Dec 24, 2016 16:03 IST

GST council meeting: FM Jaitley ‘trying best’ for 1 April rollout even as logjam continues

GST council meeting: FM Jaitley ‘trying best’ for 1 April rollout even as logjam continues

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New Delhi: Finding no common ground on the issue of dual control or cross empowerment that deals with assessee jurisdiction, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council’s 7th meeting that came to an end on Friday raised grave concerns about its 1 April implementation date while Finance Minister Arun Jaitley saying that he was trying his best.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. PTI file photoFinance Minister Arun Jaitley. PTI file photo

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. PTI file photo

“I am trying my best (on deadline of 1 April). I don’t want to hasten the process of discussion and don’t want to delay the implementation,” Jaitley said at a press briefing after the Council meet ended.

The Finance Minister however said: “There was no issue raised on dual control today as we were working on legislations.”

The drafts of Central GST (cGST) and the compensation law have been mostly approved with the only portions relating to dual control being left out, he added.

Jaitley said that the two principle issues that still remain before the Council are Integrated GST (iGST) and cross empowerment.

“In iGST, definition of territory of states is pending. And the division of authority between assessing authorities of Centre and states is pending. The two issues will be taken up together at the next meeting on January 3-4,” he added.

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 18:05 IST

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2017 Punjab Assembly elections: Congress releases second list of candidates

2017 Punjab Assembly elections: Congress releases second list of candidates

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New Delhi: The Congress on Friday released the second list of 16 candidates for the upcoming Punjab Assembly elections. The names announced by Congress General Secretary Madhusudan Mistry include Barinderjit Singh Pahra from Gurdaspur.

Pahra’s father Kartar Singh Pahra was an MLA from 1997 until 2002 and he has been working in the constituency for the last several years.

The Central Election Committee (CEC) of the Congress had on Tuesday finalised 25 candidates in the second round, but it announced names of only 16 of them.

The party announced the first list of 61 nominees for the Punjab polls last week.

In the first list, the party retained as candidates 31 of its 42 legislators.

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 17:20 IST

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India-Pakistan ties: 439 Indian fishermen to return to home in January

Mumbai: Despite a complete halt to bilateral talks between India and Pakistan, 439 Indian fishermen languishing in Pakistani jails will return home in two batches, a pressure group said on Friday.

The move would bring good cheer to the fishing community as the first batch is scheduled to be home on Christmas.

Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) spokesperson Jatin Desai said that while 220 fishermen would be back on Sunday, the remaining 219 would return on 5 January 2017.

“The release is important as there is no bilateral talks and there is complete pause on the dialogue,” he added.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Desai said the PIPFPD has even urged the Indian government to reciprocate by releasing Pakistani fishermen languishing in Indian prisons.

Currently, there are 516 Indian fishermen nabbed and put in Karachi jails, while 80 Pakistani fisherfolk were put in prisons in Gujarat.

“The India-Pakistan Judicial Committee on Prisoners (IPJCP), set up in 2008 must meet urgently,” Desai said pointing out that both countries must pursue a ‘No Arrest Policy’ as far as fishermen were concerned.

They should also release all the confiscated fishing boats as it was their only means of livelihood, he added.

The IPJCP used to meet regularly every six months, but did not meet since the BJP-led government assumed power, Desai said.

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 13:32 IST

IT department identifies 67.54 lakh potential non-filers for 2014-15

IT department identifies 67.54 lakh potential non-filers for 2014-15

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New Delhi: The Income Tax Department has identified 67.54 lakh potential non-filers, who carried out high value transactions in 2014-15 but failed to file returns for the assessment year 2015-16, an official statement said on Thursday.

taxThinkstocktaxThinkstock

Thinkstock

“The Income Tax Department has conducted the fifth cycle of data matching which has identified an additional 67.54 lakh potential non-filers who have carried out high value transactions in the financial year 2014-15 but did not file return of income for the relevant assessment year 2015-16,” said a Finance Ministry statement.

The information relating to the identified non-filers has been made available in the ‘compliance module’ on the e-filing portal of the income tax department. The information will be visible only to the specific PAN holder when they log into the e-filing portal at https://incometaxindiaefiling.gov.in.

“The PAN holder will be able to respond electronically and retain a copy of the submitted response for record purpose,” the statement said.

“While the Government urges all tax payers to disclose their true income and pay taxes accordingly, the department would continue to pursue the non-filers vigorously till all the high potential non-filers are covered,” it added.

First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 19:49 IST

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GST Council to discuss crucial issue of dual control on Friday

New Delhi: The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council will on Friday, the second day of its ongoing seventh meet, discuss the vexed issue of cross empowerment or dual control of assessee jurisdiction under the pan-India indirect tax regime, said informed sources.

GST web portal screengrabGST web portal screengrab

GST web portal screengrab

“The issue of dual control is laid out in the agenda of this ongoing seventh Council meet. It will be discussed tomorrow (day-two),” Finance Ministry sources told IANS.

The solution to the critical issue has eluded consensus over six previous meetings of the GST Council.

Day one of the two-day Council meet ended on Thursday with no discussion on dual control but discussed the GST bills, the source added.

The three GST bills – Central GST (cGST), Integrated GST and State Compensation Law – need to be approved by the Council before they can be tabled in the Parliament.

The deadlock on the issue in the GST Council has raised questions on the targeted implementation date of 1 April, 2017 for the indirect tax regime.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has been emphasising that the luxury of time is not available for the GST implementation for the reason that if 1 April, 2017, is the first possible day it can be implemented, then the last date also is constitutionally defined as 16 September, 2017.

“So the discretion as to when to implement is only five months and 16 days and that’s why we don’t have the luxury of time because after five months, the curtains will come down on the old taxation powers,” Jaitley had said earlier.

With a serious question mark over the April 1 target, now that the legislations could not be tabled in the winter session, the plan appears to be to have GST come into force by default when the time given by the constitutional amendment will automatically expire for roll out of the new indirect tax regime.

First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 19:41 IST

Demonetisation: People, bankers in spot after RBI’s flip-flop adds to confusion

New Delhi: It is being called Reverse Bank of India, Rozana Bungling of India or even Rollback Bank of India and customers as well as bankers were in a spot on Wednesday after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) partially withdrew its earlier order that restricted deposits of over Rs 5,000 in spiked currency notes.

The partial rollback came after massive public anger over the central bank’s December 19 order allowing the deposit of over Rs 5,000 in now spiked Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes in bank accounts only once.

This too was possible only after a “satisfactory” explanation to at least two bank officials on why this was not done earlier since 8 November when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced demonetisation ostensibly to curb corruption and black money in India.

ReutersReuters

Reuters

But on Wednesday, the central bank made an exception for (Know Your Customer) KYC-compliant customers — meaning those who aren’t compliant with KYC norms will still be grilled.

The RBI order created an uproar because the government had earlier asked people to go easy because money in old denominations could be deposited till December 30 and there was no need to stand in long queues outside banks.

Bank employees and customers IANS spoke to said it has been a sea of confusion for them with the government’s and RBI’s ad hocism that has shaken the country’s faith in its banking system.

“I really don’t believe an institution like RBI, which is the trustee of our money, can do this,” Naresh Kumar Aggarwal, a chemist in south Delhi, told IANS.

Aggarwal had come to a State Bank of India (SBI) branch to deposit money in old currency notes. He said he was allowed to deposit but was still “interrogated by bank officials”.

“It is not about if I was able to satisfy them with my explanation. Of course, I did that. But why question me about my own money,” the chemist wondered.

An HDFC Bank employee in south Delhi, who didn’t wish to be named, said his office has dedicated one person for keeping check on RBI’s website to see if any order has been withdrawn or changed.

“I am not joking. There is so much confusion regarding what to do and what not do. We are under stress,” he said.

“Till Wednesday afternoon, we were doing what we were asked to do on Monday. People who came to deposit more than Rs 5,000 knew it was revoked and we were still waiting for a formal order. Arguments with angry customers was but natural,” Kumar said.

For many, anger gave way to sarcasm.

Vikas Sharma, a junior lawyer in Delhi High Court, said the central bank “needs an immediate name change”.

“Something that fits what it has been doing in the past six weeks. Call it the Reverse Bank of India. Afterall, it has been reversing its own decisions,” Sharma said standing in a queue outside an ATM outlet in Noida near Delhi.

Another man from the queue shouted: “Why not the Rollback Bank of India or even Rozana (daily) Bungling of India?”

Social media was also awash with criticism .

“Within two short months, the RBI has lost credibility and legitimacy built carefully over decades. Will take a long time to restore,” tweeted Sidharth Bhatia, a journalist.

Comedian Zakir Khan wrote about “59 new rules” in 43 days since demonetisation. “Bhai tum RBI ho ya boys’ hostel ke warden? (Are you the RBI or the warden of a boys hostel)”

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 18:57 IST

Congress leader Sajjan Kumar gets anticipatory bail in 1984 anti-Sikh riots case

Congress leader Sajjan Kumar gets anticipatory bail in 1984 anti-Sikh riots case

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New Delhi: A court on Wednesday granted anticipatory bail to Congress leader Sajjan Kumar in a case related to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

Sajjan Kumar. File photo. APSajjan Kumar. File photo. AP

Sajjan Kumar. File photo. AP

Additional Sessions Judge Vikash Dhull allowed the anticipatory bail plea of Sajjan Kumar, accused of instigating a mob to kill two Sikhs — Sohan Singh and son Avtar Singh — in Janakpuri on 1 November, 1984.

The case was taken up recently by a Special Investigation Team.

Nearly 3,000 Sikhs were killed, mostly in Delhi, in riots that followed the 1984 assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi by two of her Sikh bodyguards.

Some Congress politicians, Sajjan Kumar included, have been accused of leading the killer mobs.

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 15:43 IST

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Fire breaks out in Maharashtra; seven guests killed in blaze

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Gondia (Maharashtra): At least seven persons were killed in their sleep when a fire broke out in Hotel Bindal in this eastern Maharashtra town early on Wednesday, an official said.

“The blaze was noticed around 3.30 am when the victims were fast asleep. Six men have been charred to death. Some others are feared trapped inside,” Gondia police officer Jitendra Borkar told.

Five fire tenders and tankers were pressed into service to battle the flames which were brought under control after nearly seven hours.

A search is on to rescue some other guests feared trapped in the hotel. The cause of the fire is being investigated, Borkar added.

A tribal-dominated district, Gondia is around 170 km east of Nagpur and bordering Madhya Pradesh.

“Rescue work is underway and the fire brigade team is searching if any person is trapped inside the premises,” a fire officer said. Fire tenders were called from neighbouring Balaghat, Bhandara, Tumsar, Lanji and also from Adani Power Plant in Tirora to help douse the flames. There where nearly 15 guests staying in the hotel at the time of the mishap.

One person sustained serious injuries after he jumped from the second floor of the hotel following the fire. He died on way to Nagpur hospital, police said. Two bodies were charred beyond recognition while four others were found dead in their hotel rooms, they said.

On getting information, District Collector Abhimanyu Kale, Superintendent of Police Dilip Patil Bhujbal rushed to the site and supervised the rescue work. Police officials had a tough time in controlling the crowd that gathered outside the mishap site after the fire. The deceased were yet to be identified, police said, adding that two of them had apparently come to attend a marriage function.

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 13:34 IST

That extra slice of ham might just worsen your asthma: Here’s why

London: Love to gorge on ham, sausages and salami? Beware, a new study suggests that higher intake of cured and processed meats can worsen asthma symptoms.

Cured and processed meat is rich in nitrites, which may have a role in airway inflammation — a typical feature of asthma, the study said.

Cured and processed meat are not good for asthmatic patients says new study. Wikimedia Commons

Cured and processed meat are not good for asthmatic patients says new study. Wikimedia Commons

The findings showed that individuals who consumed four or more weekly servings of cured and processed meat were 76 percent more likely to experience worsening asthma symptoms.

This could include difficulty in breathing, chest tightness and shortness of breath.

“This research extends the deleterious effect of cured meat on health, and the effect of diet on asthma in adults, and provides a novel analytic approach regarding the role of BMI in the diet-asthma association,” said Zhen Li from Paul Brousse Hospital in Paris, France.

The results showed that cured and processed meat plays a potential role in lung function and health, the researchers added.

For the study, the team examined 971 adults (49 per cent men). Their dietary intake was measured using food frequency questionnaires encompassing 118 items in 46 food groups.

Cured meat intake (ham, sausage, salami) was classified as low (for one or fewer) weekly servings, medium (for one-four) weekly servings and high for four or more.

Being overweight or obese, which was previously linked to worsening asthma, accounted for just 14 percent of this association, thereby suggesting that meat intake was independently linked to symptoms.

The study was published online in the journal Thorax.

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 13:07 IST

Manohar Parrikar has a advice for Goan Media critics: Take off clothes and dance naked

Panaji: In a stern critique of a section of the Goan media, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said his advice to those who blabber needlessly was to take off their clothes and dance naked to get publicity.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTIDefence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Parrikar, who attended a Bharatiya Janata Party meeting in Sattari sub district in north Goa, located 40 km from Panaji, was speaking on Monday vis-a-vis the limits of criticism.

“I still remember in 1968 during the Watergate issue, he (an editor) had written a large editorial advising (Richard) Nixon. Now, how could an editorial written by him in Marathi reach Nixon? He is in America.

“Some people do not understand their limits. They keep blabbering. I have some good advice for them. Remove your clothes and dance naked (kapde kadha ani nagde nacha).

“One will get even better publicity,” Parrikar said, while referring to an editor of a vernacular newspaper in Panaji.

“I give one advice to those who abuse to get publicity. There was a newspaper here. It is still there. I will not take its name. It had an editor.

“He was an international level editor, he was brought here in his old age. His newspaper had a sale of 1,000…” the former Goa Chief Minister said.

First Published On : Dec 20, 2016 22:08 IST

Demonetisation: Jaitley claims enough cash in system, but discrepancies emerge in RBI, govt numbers

New Delhi: Several new and large discrepancies have emerged in the stated positions of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the government on the printing and distribution of new currencies following the demonetisation of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes on 8 November.

These discrepancies include a highly unlikely surge in the supply of high-denomination notes in two days. They also show substantial divergence in figures given by the central banker and those given by the government in Parliament. And finally there’s an unexplained hiatus in the supply of notes for 11 days.

Either parliament has been misled, or claims about the supply by the RBI are flawed.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Let’s look at the figures in chronological order:

On 28 November, the RBI issued a press release saying that the public had withdrawn Rs 2.16 lakh crore in new notes from accounts or ATMs till 27 November. As RBI chose not to give any break-up of this amount, it is fair to assume that some of this was in lower denomination notes of Rs 100 or less.

However, according to a written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha, the Minister of State for Finance, Arjun Ram Meghwal, categorically stated that, by 29 November, a total of 1,608 million pieces (160.8 crore) of Rs 2,000 denomination and 156 million (15.6 crore) pieces of Rs 500 had been supplied — a total of 1,764 million pieces (or 1.76 billion) amounting to a little over Rs 3.29 lakh crore. The minister’s reply came on 6 December.

There are two significant points to note here:

One, that the government’s number implies that the currency disbursal had shot up by over Rs 1.13 lakh crore in just two days. This, when the RBI had supplied Rs 2.16 lakh crore in 17 days till then — at an average of only Rs 12,700 crore a day.

Moreover, Meghwal’s number pertained only to high denomination notes, whereas the RBI number was a mix of all denominations. In other words, the discrepancy between the two sets of numbers would have been even higher if the minister’s reply in Parliament had included the smaller denomination currency notes disbursed till 29 November.

Now things begin to get even more curiouser.

On the day the monetary policy was announced (7 December), the RBI revealed a new set of disbursal figures. The Deputy Governor of RBI, R Gandhi, said a total of Rs 4 lakh crore had been disbursed as of the previous day.

Of this amount, Rs 1.06 lakh crore was in smaller denomination currency notes, according to Gandhi, while the rest — Rs 2.94 lakh crore — implicitly, was by way of high-denomination notes.

This figure of Rs 2.94 lakh crore, which was announced seven days after the date of disbursal given in Parliament reply, is substantially less than the amount of Rs 3.29 lakh crore mentioned in the minister’s written statement about supply till 29 November.

Yet again, on 12 December, Gandhi, while speaking to reporters, said that a total of 1.7 billion notes of higher denomination of Rs 2,000 and Rs 500 had been issued to the public till 10 December.

That means, a full 11 days after Meghwal’s reply that 1.76 billion high-value notes had been disbursed by 29 November, the RBI was stating that the notes given out had been less or at best the same — if one assumes that he was giving a rounded-off figure of 1.7 billion.

Was the disbursal or printing of new notes stopped from 29 November to 10 December?

How does the RBI square with these discrepancies?

Further, the government has been talking about the printing presses working overtime. Economic Affairs Secretary, Shaktikant Das, told Doordarshan in an interview on 17 December that 80 percent to 90 percent of the currency being printed a few days after the demonetisation date was of Rs 500 notes.

According to Meghwal’s information, the amount of Rs 500 notes supplied till November 29, a full 20 days after demonetisation, was only Rs 7,800 crore (15.6 crore notes).

In comparison to the value of notes that were demonetised — Rs 8.58 lakh crore — the new Rs 500 notes amount to less than one per cent (0.91 per cent).

If we take Gandhi’s words at face value, then, even on November 10 — more than a month after demonetisation came into effect — there was not much change.

Of course, the Rs 2,000 notes, which the Economic Affairs Secretary has said were being printed for “months” are considerably more in circulation.

The value of such notes supplied on 29 November was Rs 3.21 lakh crore (160.8 crore x Rs 2,000) — almost 47 per cent compared to value of Rs 6.86 lakh crore (of Rs 1,000) demonetised. But Rs 2,000 notes are not easy to spend and have created a bottleneck in the cash economy.

Again, according to Gandhi’s information, till December 10, there seems to have been no change even in the Rs 2,000 notes circulated.

The shortage of notes, it seems, would continue much beyond the 50 days that the prime minister has mentioned.

First Published On : Dec 20, 2016 15:38 IST

India, Kyrgyzstan to work against terrorism and extremism: PM Modi

New Delhi: India and Kyrgyzstan on Tuesday pledged to work together to prevent youths from falling prey to the common challenges of terrorism and extremism, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said.

Modi was addressing a joint media conference with visiting Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev, who arrived in India on Sunday, leading a high-level delegation comprising of ministers, officials and business leaders.

Modi and Atambayev held talks at the Hyderabad House as the two countries signed a number of agreements to enhance their defence and economic ties.

PM Modi. PTIPM Modi. PTI

PM Modi. PTI

“We discussed how we could work together to secure our youth and society from common challenges of terrorism, extremism and radicalism,” Modi said.

“We agreed on the need to overcome these challenges for the common benefit” of the two countries, Modi said.

Modi described Kyrgyzstan “a valuable partner in our common pursuit of making Central Asia a region of sustainable peace, stability and prosperity”.

The Prime Minister said the two countries would encourage better engagement in healthcare, tourism, IT and agriculture, mining and energy and build on bilateral cooperation, including “capacity building and training”.

First Published On : Dec 20, 2016 15:16 IST

India renews efforts to seek UN action against LeT, JeM, their ‘shadowy supporters’

United Nations: India has renewed its demand for international action against Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror groups and “their shadowy supporters”.

Denouncing the two organisations, whose leadership is based in Pakistan, as affiliates of Al Qaeda, India’s Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin told the Security Council that it was imperative to take action against the support they get from outside.

File image of Syed Akbaruddin. IBNliveFile image of Syed Akbaruddin. IBNlive

File image of Syed Akbaruddin. IBNlive

In an implied criticism of China, he blamed the “split” in the UN bodies that mete out sanctions on terrorist organisations for the world body’s inability to deal with the terrorism.

China has blocked India’s efforts to have international sanctions imposed on Pakistan-based JeM chief Masood Azhar by a committee that takes action against Al Qaeda and its affiliates. Azhar was behind the attack on the Pathankot air force base this year that left seven Indian soldiers dead.

As a member of the Security Council, China has also provided cover for Pakistan releasing on bail Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the LeT commander who masterminded the 2008 attack on Mumbai which killed more than 160 people. He was already on the UN list of those facing sanctions as terrorists.

“We need to address, as an imperative, the support that terrorist organizations like the Taliban, Haqqani Network, Daesh, AI Qaeda and its designated affiliates such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed which operate entirely outside the fabric of international law draw from their shadowy supporters outside Afghanistan,” Akbaruddin said.

“While the Taliban sanctions regime remains split for more than five years, the designated terrorist group makes concerted effort to capture and hold territory,” he said.

“Therefore, for numerous Afghan women, men and children there is no respite from the plague of terrorism.”

The international community has to make “it clear that we will neither roll over in the face of terror, nor will we of allow the roll back of the achievements of the resolute people and government of Afghanistan in the last decade and a half,” Akbaruddin said.

First Published On : Dec 20, 2016 14:46 IST

India boycotts international tech meet in Pakistan signalling tension between two nations

Islamabad: India has pulled out of an international conference on transfer of technology being hosted by Pakistan in the latest sign of heightened tensions between the two neighbours.

Ministry of Science and Technology officials said New Delhi initially confirmed its participation in the three-day session of the Governing Council of a UN affiliated institute that promotes transfer of technology from small and medium sized enterprises in the Asia-Pacific region.

The conference of the Asian and Pacific Centre for Transfer of Technology (APCTT) kicked off in Islamabad on Monday.

Representational imageRepresentational image

Representational image

“Just hours before the meeting was to start, the Indian delegation cancelled its trip saying their head delegate had contracted food poisoning,” an official of the ministry told the media.

Bangla­desh and Iran were the other countries who did not participate in the conference. China, Fiji, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Samoa, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam attended the meeting.

The council, which meets once a year, advises on the future and reviews the working of the centre located in India under the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (Esacap).

The meeting will approve projects to be undertaken in 2017. Out of the total five projects, India has submitted one titled “Feed the Future India”.

The project is aimed at enhancing food security in selected least-developed countries through the establishment of an agricultural innovation accelerator platform in India with USAID funding of $1.5 million.

India had earlier in November boycotted the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) that was to be held in Islamabad.

First Published On : Dec 20, 2016 13:27 IST

CPM slams govt for political interference in appointing new Army Chief

CPM slams govt for political interference in appointing new Army Chief

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New Delhi: The CPM on Monday criticised the government for bypassing the established convention while naming a new army chief and said the military should not be subject to political interference.

“The appointment of the new Chief of Army Staff has been done bypassing the established convention of the senior most General assuming the post,” the Communist Party of India-Marxist said.

“The Modi government’s departure from this precedent has raised questions about the intent and motivation of the government,” it said in a statement.

“The Indian Army should not be subject to any political interference.”

The government on Saturday named Lt Gen Bipin Rawat as the next chief of the Indian Army, overlooking the seniority of two senior Lt Generals.

First Published On : Dec 19, 2016 18:23 IST

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JNU missing student case: Delhi Police search university campus for Najeeb

New Delhi: Police on Monday reached the sprawling Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus in search of a student who went missing over two months ago.

Crime Branch personnel searched different parts of the campus with sniffer dogs in a desperate bid to find out what happened to Najeeb, whose disappearance had led to unending protests in the university.

Representational image. CNN-News18Representational image. CNN-News18

Representational image. CNN-News18

A police officer said Najeeb’s hostel, classrooms, rooftops and other deserted places were scanned.

“A search operation is on in various parts of the JNU campus to get clues which can help police locate Najeeb,” Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime Branch) Ravindra Yadav said.

The search began as police have been unable to get any trace of the missing Najeeb, who went missing on 15 October following a scuffle the previous night with members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarti Parishad (ABVP). The ABVP has denied any involvement in Najeeb’s disappearance.

Police have raised the reward amount for providing information that could help locate Najeeb from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh.

The Delhi High Court has directed the police to scan the entire JNU campus.

The court said the police were also free to search Jamia Millia Islamia where Najeeb was reportedly dropped by an auto-rickshaw driver after he left from JNU campus.

First Published On : Dec 19, 2016 16:11 IST

Demonetisation: Cashlessness sting still painful on day 41

New Delhi: There was no respite in sight for cash-strapped people on Monday as queues outside banks and ATMs for withdrawing money continued across the city with rising anger and pain.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

An IANS correspondent who visited about 10 banks and ATMs across the city, found over 150 people outside Punjab National Bank and State Bank of India in Kalkaji area of south Delhi.

Similar conditions were witnessed outside the Indian Overseas Bank, ICICI Bank and Axis Bank in Preet Vihar area in east Delhi.

Jaswant Sharma, a security guard with a law firm and resident of Kalkaji extension, told IANS: “Since the day I got my salary I am looking for an ATM to withdraw some cash. Three of my attempts have gone in vein as the ATM machine runs out of cash before my turn comes.

Asked if he supports the government’s move of scrapping the old Rs 500 and 1,000 notes, Sharma said: “I have nothing to do with the government decision, I just want to withdraw some cash as I am left with only Rs 10 in my pocket. Cash is the necessity.”

“I have borrowed the bicycle from one of my friend to reach here,” he rued.

There were around 300 people outside the Yes Bank and HDFC ATM kiosk in Kalkaji area around 12.30 a.m. which was dispensing cash till early morning.

Balkishan, a lawyer who had arrived at the ATM to withdraw cash with his 12-year-old son, told IANS: “At most of the places people in the queues do not allow withdrawal from multiple cards. So I have come with my son to withdraw money from two cards.”

“We cannot stand in bank or ATM queue everyday, what comes in mere Rs 2,500,” he asked.

However, similar situation was witnessed outside the banks on Monday morning, which opened after Sunday. Hundreds of people were seen waiting for their turn.

Balwinder Singh, a resident of South Extension Part II who was standing outside Punjab National Bank in south Delhi, told IANS: “It is completely mismanaged show.”

“The government has made the middle and working class people suffer. Today I have skipped my office for the third time since demonetisation to withdraw cash.”

“Is government going to pay me for the days I have skipped my office to withdraw some cash?” he said.

Echoing similar opinion, Neha Sharma, an IT professional working with an MNC in Noida, said: “We cannot skip office everytime by giving the excuse that we need to withdraw some cash.”

“The government has set the limit of Rs 24,000 a week, but the bank officials are only giving Rs 4,000,” she rued.

“How do we manage our expenses for whole month in just Rs 4,000,” she asked.

Serpentine queues have been witnessed across the country after the government’s November 8 decision to spike higher currency notes to curb “black money and corruption”.

First Published On : Dec 19, 2016 12:32 IST

Indian Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba to visit Japan to expand maritime relations

New Delhi: To consolidate and expand the maritime relation between New Delhi and Tokyo, India’s Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba will visit Japan from 19 December, a statement said on Sunday.

During the visit, Admiral Lanba will hold discussions with the Japanese Navy chief, the Defence Minister and the Chief of Joint Staff besides other senior officials and dignitaries.

Defence cooperation between India and Japan is primarily focused towards maritime cooperation, the statement said.

The Navy is waiting for the government’s approval to purchase 12 US-2i amphibious aircraft from Japanese aircraft maker ShinMaywa for Rs 10,000 crore.

This will be the largest defence purchase from Japan after it ended its five decades old self-imposed embargo defence export. The deal is stuck since 2013.

Sunil Lanba. CNN News 18Sunil Lanba. CNN News 18

Sunil Lanba. CNN News 18

Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force has participated in the Malabar naval exercise in 2007, 2009, 2014 prior to being included as a regular member in the exercise since last year.

The force participated in Malabar 15 and 16 held respectively in the Bay of Bengal and Western Pacific.

Japan was in 2014 included as an observer in the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, a maritime cooperation construct conceptualised and pioneered by the Indian Navy in 2008.

The aggressive posturing of the Chinese Navy in East Asia and South China sea has compelled both India and Japan to formulate a joint maritime strategy.

India and Japan share similar maritime challenges such as long coastline, extensive exclusive economic zone, coastal security, large coastal shipping and fishing fleet, and both navies have opportunities to learn from each other’s experiences.

First Published On : Dec 18, 2016 18:16 IST

Hyderabad: Bank head injured in firing, police on the hunt for attacker

Hyderabad: Bank head injured in firing, police on the hunt for attacker

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Hyderabad: The head of a bank was injured when an unidentified person fired at him at his apartment on Sunday, police said.

Manmath Dalai, Chief Executive Officer of KBS Local Area Bank, was shifted to a private hospital and he is said to be out of danger.

The incident occurred in Masab Tank in the heart of the city.

Police said a man came to the apartment inquiring about Dalai. He went to the official’s flat and after a few minutes the guard heard the sound of gunfire.

“A bullet hit the bank official in his leg. We have launched a hunt for the unidentified attacker who escaped on his motorbike,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police Venkateswara Rao.

First Published On : Dec 18, 2016 16:29 IST

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Lt Gen Bipin Rawat ‘best suited’ to deal with emerging challenges: Defence Ministry sources

New Delhi: The Defence Ministry insisted on Sunday that Lt Gen Bipin Rawat, named the next Army Chief overlooking the generally followed seniority norm, was “best suited” for the job.

The appointment of Lt Gen Rawat has ignored the seniority of Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi and Southern Army Commander Lt Gen PM Hariz who have spent longer years in service.

Lt Gen Bakshi was not appointed the Vice-Chief when the post fell vacant in September and Lt Gen Rawat was brought in from the Southern Command.

Lt Gen Bipin Rawat. Image courtesy: Twitter@adgpi

Lt Gen Bipin Rawat. Image courtesy: [email protected]

“He was found the best suited among the Lt Generals, to deal with emerging challenges, including a reorganised and restructured military force in the north, continuing terrorism and proxy war from the west, and the situation in the North East,” a source in the ministry said.

On Friday, asked if the line of succession will be broken, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had cryptically remarked: “Line of succession is decided by the people.”

Lt Gen Rawat was commissioned in the Fifth Battalion of the 11 Gorkha Rifles in December 1978 from the Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehradun, where he was awarded the ‘Sword of Honour’.

He has commanded an infantry battalion along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), a Rashtriya Rifles Sector and an infantry division in the Kashmir Valley.

He also has vast experience in high altitude warfare and counter insurgency operations.

“Lt Gen Rawat has tremendous hands on experience of serving in combat areas and at various functional levels in the Indian Army over the last three decades,” said the source who did not want to be named.

“He has handled various operational responsibilities in many areas, including along the LoC (Line of Control) with Pakistan, LAC with China and in the northeast,” the source said.

“He is known for his balanced approach towards soldiering, compassion, and connect with civil society. His experience as GOC-in-C (general officer commanding-in-chief) Southern Army Command in Mechanised Warfare has been focused towards the western borders, in coordination with the other two services,” the source added.

Soon after the appointment was announced, the Congress questioned the government decision.

Congress leader Manish Tewari tweeted: “Why has seniority not been respected in appointment of Army Chief? Why have Lt. Gen. Pravin Bakshi and Lt. Gen. Mohamed Ali Hariz been superseded, Mr PM (Narendra Modi)?”

The Defence Ministry on Saturday night announced the names of the next chiefs of Army and Indian Air Force, 13 days before General Dalbir Singh and Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha are to retire.

Air Marshal BS Dhanoa will be the next chief of IAF.

Commissioned into the IAF’s fighter stream in June 1978, Dhanoa, who has flown various types of fighter aircraft and is a qualified Flying Instructor, commanded a fighter squadron during the Kargil Operations and flew numerous night strike missions in the mountainous terrain.

He has also held a number of important operational appointments including commanding a fighter base and leading the Indian Military Training Team in Bhutan.

He has also served as Chief Instructor (Air) at the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Intelligence) and Senior Air Staff Officer (Chief of Staff) of two operational commands.

First Published On : Dec 18, 2016 13:56 IST

PM Narendra Modi invites suggestions for Mann ki Baat

PM Narendra Modi invites suggestions for Mann ki Baat

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New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday invited suggestions on topics and themes from public for his monthly ‘Mann Ki Baat’ radio address.

He asked the people to share their suggestions for this year’s last such programme, to be aired on 25 December, by calling on a toll free number or through a mobile application dedicated to inputs.

Those interested in giving their suggestions can either call the toll free number 1800-11-7800 and record their message in English or Hindi or download the ‘Narendra Modi‘ app from his website.

Modi’s year-ending ‘Mann Ki Baat’ address on 25 December — which besides being the Christmas Day also happens to be former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s birthday — will be aired at 11am on All India Radio.

First Published On : Dec 18, 2016 13:52 IST

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Lt Gen Bipin Rawat’s appointment as next Army chief: Congress seeks explanation from Modi govt

New Delhi: The Congress has questioned Lt General Bipin Rawat’s appointment as the new Army Chief.

“Why has seniority not been respected in appointment of Army Chief? Why have Lt General Pravin Bakshi and Lt General Mohamed Ali Hariz been superseded, Mr PM (Narendra Modi)?” Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari posted on his Twitter account on Saturday.

“Why has third senior most officer Lt Gen Bipin Rawat, with due respects to his professionalism, superseded other two in a hierarchical force?” he asked.

Tewari further corrected himself saying: “Correction, General Rawat is not third but fourth senior most. Even Lt General BS Negi Army commander Central Command is senior to him? Why Mr PM?”

“And I only hope and pray it is untrue that this supersession in the Army is not a precursor to suppressions in other institutions like SC?” Tewari asked.

Lt General Bipin Rawat would be the new Army Chief and Air Marshal BS Dhanoa the new chief of Indian Air Force, the Defence Ministry announced on Saturday.

Lt General Rawat and Air Marshal Dhanoa, presently the Vice Chiefs of their respective services, will take over on 31 December, when incumbents General Dalbir Singh and Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha demit office on retirement from service.

First Published On : Dec 18, 2016 13:12 IST

India, Tajikistan to work on trade links through Chabahar Port: PM Modi

New Delhi: India and Tajikistan will work closely on developing trade and transport links through the Chabahar Port in Iran, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday after the signing of agreements with the Central Asian nation on enhancing economic ties and curbing double taxation, money laundering and terrorism.

“We will work on trade and transit linkages through Chabahar Port in Iran,” Modi said after his talks with visiting Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon here.

Modi emphasised that he and Rahmon had agreed to increase the “scope and scale of our economic engagement especially trade and investment traffic” between the two nations.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Tajikistan President Emomalih Rahmon during the joint statement at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Saturday. PTIPrime Minister Narendra Modi and Tajikistan President Emomalih Rahmon during the joint statement at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Saturday. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Tajikistan President Emomalih Rahmon during the joint statement at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Saturday. PTI

He described Tajikistan “a valued friend and strategic partner” of India and said the two countries face multiple-security challenges in their extended neighbourhood, including in Afghanistan.

The Prime Minister said India and Tajikistan have decided to strengthen cooperation in fighting terrorism and radicalism in the region by way of exchange of information between the security agencies of the two countries.

“We agreed that peace in Afghanistan is very important for the region,” Modi said.

Modi appreciated Tajikistan’s role in the Central Asian region “as a mainstay against the forces of extremism, radicalism and terrorism”.

Rahmon, who is visiting India from 14-18 December, was earlier accorded a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhavan here.

Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said it was “a special Saturday for Indian diplomacy” after President Rahmon received the welcome.

First Published On : Dec 17, 2016 17:07 IST

Ahead of Christmas, Mizoram govt inks truce with rebel outfit to ensure peace

Aizawl: Days before Christmas, the Mizoram government signed a ceasefire agreement with a militant outfit to facilitate people of the Christian-dominated state to celebrate the carnival and New Year under undisturbed ambience, an official said in Aizawl on Saturday.

The Mizoram government has been holding peace talks with Manipur-based terror outfit Hmar People’s Convention-Democratic (HPC-D) to find a solution of the outfit’s demand for an autonomous council.

Silent for now. ReutersSilent for now. Reuters

Silent for now. Reuters

The third round of talks between the Mizoram government and the HPC-D held in Aizawl on Friday in which the outfit members deposited three AK-47 rifles, one INSAS rifle, four point 9 mm pistols, 17 magazines of different arms and 74 rounds of ammunition. These arms and ammunition were earlier snatched by the terror outfit from the Mizoram police.

The six-member HPC-D team was led by the group’s working chairman LT Hmar and the outfit’s leaders from Manipur and Mizoram while the government delegation was headed by additional secretary (home department) Lalbiakzama.

“We have signed a temporary ceasefire agreement with the militant outfit to make easy people of the state to celebrate Christmas and New Year under a peaceful environment. The third rounds of talks were held under friendly atmosphere,” Lalbiakzama said, adding that both sides agreed to resume the fourth round of talks by mid-February next year.

The first round of peace talks between the Mizoram government and the HPC-D was held on 10 August and the second round on 5-6 October.

Lalbiakzama said that issues discussed in the talks included more autonomy and power to Sinlung Hill Development Council, which was functioning since 1994 in the northeastern part of the state neighbouring Manipur where a large number of tribals belonging to Hmar tribes are living.

HPC-D A leader LT Hmar after the meeting, said, “The demand for Hmar autonomous district council was no longer included in the talks.”

The Manipur-based militant outfit of the Hmar tribals has been triggering intermittent violent activities in Mizoram since 1994 demanding a separate autonomous district council under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution by carving out areas adjoining southern Manipur, northern Mizoram and southern Assam.

The negotiations between the state government and the HPC-D reached an impasse in 2013 on the issue of extension of the period of suspension of operations.

A six-month ceasefire between the Mizoram government and the militant outfit expired on 31 July 2013.

The state government held inconclusive talks with the outfit on 14 August 2013, to extend the period of ceasefire.

After the talks broke down over the suspension of operations against the terror group, a host of leaders of the outfit were arrested.

On 28 March 2015, the HPC-D guerillas ambushed a legislator’s convoy near Zokhawthlang village in north Mizoram, leaving three policemen dead and six others seriously wounded.

Mizoram is the first and only state in India which received Rs 182.45 crore from the central government in 2000-01 as “Peace Bonus” for keeping peace after decades of insurgency.

As Mizo National Front’s founder leader Laldenga, a former Indian Army official, became chief minister in 1986 after his group took to mainstream politics, peace and law and order returned to the Christian-majority Mizoram.

First Published On : Dec 17, 2016 16:21 IST

Demonetisation: Rahul Gandhi urges Narendra Modi to waive off farmer loans, PM non-committal

New Delhi: Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Friday met Prime minister Narendra Modi seeking a waiver of loans given to farmers.

A Gandhi-led Congress delegation also raised the issue of farmer suicides with Modi and urged him to write off the loans given to farmers like it has been done in the case of corporates.

File photo of Rahul Gandhi. PTI

File photo of Rahul Gandhi. PTI

“Thousands of farmers are committing suicide across the country. Every single day a farmer is committing suicide in Punjab. We met the Prime Minister and apprised him about the plight of farmers across the country,” Gandhi told the media.

“This government has waived off loans of Rs 1.40 lakh crore to corporates. So we urged the government to waive off the loans of the farmers as well,” he said.

The delegation comprised senior Congress leaders including Punjab state unit chief Captain Amarinder Singh and Leader of Congress in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge.

Gandhi also said that the government decision to remove import duty on wheat was a “terrible blow” to the farmers.

“The Prime Minister too admitted the condition of the farmers to be grave. But he did not say anything about waiving off the loans to farmers,” he said.

Gandhi’s meeting with Modi comes days after he vowed to expose the Prime Minister’s “personal complicity in corruption”.

First Published On : Dec 16, 2016 15:59 IST

Demonetisation: Govt responsible for no debate on note ban, alleges Opposition

New Delhi: Blaming the government for not allowing Parliament to work over demonetisation, some Opposition parties led by the Congress on Friday urged President Pranab Mukherjee to intervene.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

A host of Opposition leaders including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Vice President Rahul Gandhi, Trinamool Congress lawmaker Sudip Bandyopadhyay and Sharad Yadav of the Janata Dal United met Mukherjee and submitted a memorandum.

“Because of the government’s attitude, no debate on crucial issue of demonetisation was possible during the winter session of Parliament,” the memorandum said.

“We made best efforts to ensure that the demonetisation issue is discussed but the government did not allow our adjournment motion,” Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge told the media later.

“This government has endeavoured to break every principle of democracy and the entire responsibility of not allowing Parliament to function lies with the government,” he said.

First Published On : Dec 16, 2016 15:51 IST

Demonetisation: Supreme Court refuses to extend validity of old notes, puts onus on Centre

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday refused to pass any interim order extending exemptions permitting the use of scrapped currency notes for essential services, even medical, and left it to the Centre to take the call.

Observing that the Centre was sensitive enough to the situation, a bench headed by the Chief Justice of India TS Thakur said the government will consider and take appropriate decision from time-to-time to ease the hardships being faced by the people.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

While refusing to pass any interim order, the apex court referred to a larger bench of five judges the matter of a batch of petitions challenging the November 8 demonetisation decision of the government and the issues arising out of it.

The Supreme Court also stayed proceedings before various high courts and subordinate courts on the petitions arising out of the demonetisation, and directed that, henceforth, any petition challenging the November 8 decision or issues related to it could only be moved before the apex court.

Thereby, the SC barred all courts in the country from entertaining any petition challenging demonetisation.

First Published On : Dec 16, 2016 15:44 IST

Will soon name next IA and IAF chiefs: Manohar Parrikar

New Delhi: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said on Friday that he will soon name the next Indian Army and Indian Air Force chiefs.

He was speaking after paying tributes at the Amar Jawan Jyoti in New Delhi on Vijay Diwas or Victory Day that is observed on 16 December to mark the military triumph over Pakistan in 1971 which led to the creation of Bangladesh.

The Defence Minister, however, did not give a timeline for naming the new chiefs. Asked whether the line of succession might be broken in the appointment of the next army chief, Parrikar said cryptically: “Line of succession is decided by the people.”

The Indian Army chief, General Dalbir Singh, and the Indian Air Force Chief, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, are both set to retire on 31 December.

File photo of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

File photo of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

A file with nominations for the new chiefs is with the Prime Minister’s Office, and a formal announcement is expected after parliament’s winter session concludes on Friday, sources said.

The sources also added that the Eastern Army Commander, Lt. Gen. Praveen Bakshi; the Southern Army Commander, Lt. Gen. P.M. Hariz and the army vice chief, Lt Gen Bipin Rawat are in the fray to succeed Gen. Dalbir Singh.

Air Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa, a Kargil war veteran, and the IAF vice chief is in the fray for the top job.

Talking about the significance of 16 December, Parrikar said it was a day when India achieved a “decisive victory”.

“I don’t have to stress on the importance of this great day. This is the day when we achieved a decisive victory and created a new country,” he said.

On the next canisterisated test for Agni V missile, the minister said he would not like to comment much on it and said: “Testing goes on, I will not comment much. We have achieved 100 percent success in all the tests this year.”

First Published On : Dec 16, 2016 11:27 IST

Have cleared names for the next Indian Army chief and IAF chief, says Manohar Parrikar

New Delhi: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said on Friday that he will soon name the next Indian Army and Indian Air Force chiefs.

He was speaking after paying tributes at the Amar Jawan Jyoti in New Delhi on Vijay Diwas or Victory Day that is observed on 16 December to mark the military triumph over Pakistan in 1971 which led to the creation of Bangladesh.

The Defence Minister, however, did not give a timeline for naming the new chiefs. Asked whether the line of succession might be broken in the appointment of the next army chief, Parrikar said cryptically: “Line of succession is decided by the people.”

The Indian Army chief, General Dalbir Singh Suhaag, and the Indian Air Force Chief, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, are both set to retire on 31 December.

File photo of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

File photo of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

A file with nominations for the new chiefs is with the Prime Minister’s Office, and a formal announcement is expected after parliament’s winter session concludes on Friday, sources said.

The sources also added that the Eastern Army Commander, Lt General Praveen Bakshi; the Southern Army Commander, Lt. General PM Hariz and the army vice chief, Lt Gen Bipin Rawat are in the fray to succeed General Singh .

Air Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa, a Kargil war veteran, and the IAF vice chief is in the fray for the top job.

Talking about the significance of 16 December, Parrikar said it was a day when India achieved a “decisive victory”.

“I don’t have to stress on the importance of this great day. This is the day when we achieved a decisive victory and created a new country,” he said.

On the next canisterisated test for Agni V missile, the minister said he would not like to comment much on it and said: “Testing goes on, I will not comment much. We have achieved 100 percent success in all the tests this year.”

First Published On : Dec 16, 2016 11:27 IST

Karunanidhi admitted to hospital for throat and lung infection

Karunanidhi admitted to hospital for throat and lung infection

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Chennai: Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DML) President M Karunanidhi was admitted to Kauvery Hospital again on Thursday night due to throat and lung infection, said the hospital.

In a statement issued in Chennai, the hospital said Karunanidhi was readmitted with breathing difficulty due to throat and lung infection.

“The treatment has been initiated to clear his infection. He is stable and is being treated by a team of doctors,” the statement said.

Karunanidhi’s second spell of hospitalisation this month comes after a short interval.

It was only on 7 December, Karunanidhi was discharged from the hospital after being admitted on 1 December for optimisation of nutrition and hydration.

First Published On : Dec 16, 2016 08:16 IST

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Indus Waters Treaty is bilateral issue between India, Pakistan: Vikas Swarup

New Delhi: India on Thursday reiterated that the Indus Waters Treaty is a bilateral issue and technical questions and differences should be resolved bilaterally.

“India has always believed that the implementation of the Indus Waters Treaty, which includes the redressal of the technical questions and differences, should be done bilaterally between India and Pakistan,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said in his weekly media briefing.

“There are examples available where such matters had been successfully resolved bilaterally within the Permanent Indus Commission (such as the height of the freeboard for Kishan Ganga) or between the two governments as seen in the Salal Hydro Electric Project in 1978,” he said.

Vikas Swarup. File photo. Twitter @MEAIndia

Vikas Swarup. File photo. Twitter @MEAIndia

Earlier this week, the World Bank Group, which had brokered the 1960 treaty, announced a pause in the separate processes initiated by India and Pakistan to allow the two countries to consider alternative ways to resolve their disagreements.

According to a statement issued by the World Bank, the announcement temporarily halts the appointment of a neutral expert, as requested by India, and the chairman of the Court of Arbitration as requested by Pakistan, to resolve issues regarding the two power plants under construction by India along the Indus rivers system.

Following the 18 September cross-border terror attack on an army base at Uri in Jammu and Kashmir that claimed the lives of 19 Indian soldiers, New Delhi, which blamed Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad, said that it would consider revisiting the Indus Waters Treaty, under which India has control over three eastern rivers — Beas, Ravi and Sutlej — all flowing from Punjab and Pakistan, controls the western rivers of the Indus, Chenab and Jhelum that flow from Jammu and Kashmir.

Jammu and Kashmir has been demanding a review of the treaty as it robs the state of its rights to use the water of the rivers.

The current processes under the treaty concern the Kishenganga (330 MW) and Ratle (850 MW) hydroelectric power plants, being built by India on the Kishenganga and Chenab rivers respectively.

“Given the will to address these matters through the appropriate mechanisms provided for in the Indus Waters Treaty, there is no reason why the technical design parameters on which Pakistan has raised objections cannot be sorted out by professional, technical experts from both sides,” Swarup said.

“We had advised the World Bank not to rush for initiating two parallel processes simultaneously and hold more consultations,” he said.

“It is a matter of satisfaction that this point has now been recognised by the World Bank. We believe that these consultations should be given adequate time.”

The Indus Waters Treaty was seen as one of the most successful international treaties and has withstood frequent tensions between India and Pakistan, including conflict.

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 19:17 IST

International Tea Day: Mamata urges Centre to help tea workers hit by demonetisation

Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday yet again urged the Centre and RBI to “extend a helping hand to tea garden workers”, who she alleged were “dying” in the aftermath of demonetisation.

Her comments came on a day when RBI Governor Urjit Patel was in the city to attend the apex bank’s central board meet.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. File photo. PTI

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. File photo. PTI

On the occasion of the International Tea Day, Banerjee said in her tweet that the tea garden workers were hungry and dying due to demonetisation.

“RBI must immediately restore payments by our government through DMs (district magistrates),” Banerjee said.

She said as many as 97 people died following the 8 November decision.

The Trinamool Congress supremo had on Wednesday demanded that the RBI restore and continue payments by the state government till March 2017.

TMC legislators and senior state ministers organised a sit-in in front of the Reserve Bank of India office in Kolkata on Wednesday to protest against the insufficient supply of new currency notes in the state.

Banerjee also accused the central government of discriminating between states with regard to disbursement of cash from the RBI.

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 15:23 IST

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