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Pakistan seeks US support on implementation of Indus Waters Treaty with India

Islamabad: Pakistan has sought support of the US on the implementation of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) with India, as Secretary of State John Kerry called for an amicable settlement of the issue by New Delhi and Islamabad, media reported on Saturday.

The development came after Pakistan was irked by the World Bank pause in mediation to resolve differences over construction of two water projects by India.

The Express Tribune reported that Kerry made a phone call to Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Thursday night and discussed the row over the IWT implementation and the role of the World Bank (WB), which had brokered the treaty in 1960.

After Kerry’s call, US Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale also met Dar in Islamabad at the Finance Ministry.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

The back-to-back contacts highlight the importance of the water issue, which can potentially endanger regional stability if the situation slips out of control, according to sources at Finance Ministry.

“The US would like to see an amicable solution to this (water) issue,” a Finance Ministry statement quoted Kerry as saying.

Kerry told Dar that the WB president had informed him about Pakistan’s complaint against India on the IWT.

The water dispute has catapulted the US back into Pakistan’s economic picture.

The American civilian and military assistance to Pakistan has drastically come down in recent months and its implications on Pakistan’s fiscal situation have started emerging in the shape of a larger-than-anticipated budget deficit.

Independent analysts argue that Washington may not play an effective role in resolving the water dispute, as the Obama administration is preparing to hand over the White House to Donald Trump next month.

“Senator Dar indicated that the US support on the principles and legal position of Pakistan will be greatly appreciated,” stated the Finance Ministry.

Early this month, the WB had announced a pause in playing its legally binding role of mediator in the IWT implementation.

In October, Pakistan had approached the WB seeking appointment of the Chairman of Court of Arbitration to resolve a dispute over construction of two mega hydropower projects by India in violation of the IWT.

The Finance Minister told Kerry that the IWT was an international commitment and it was the WB’s responsibility to make sure India honoured the treaty and the water rights of hundreds of millions of Pakistani people were protected, said the finance ministry.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 13:03 IST

Army chief’s appointment: Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi breaks silence, says won’t resign

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Eastern Army Commander Lt. Gen. Praveen Bakshi finally broke silence on his resignation on Saturday. “I won’t resign. Extending all support to Lt. Gen. Bipin Rawat,” Lt. Gen. Bakshi said, while addressing the officers of Eastern Command via teleconference.This statement by the Lt. Gen. Bakshi comes in the wake of rumours and speculations doing the rounds that he might resign after being superseded by Lt. Gen. Bipin Rawat as the Army Chief.However, the Defence Ministry is yet to consider Lt. Gen. Bakshi’s name for the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) that could happen in the coming year.Lt. Gen. Bakshi is likely to meet Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar in January. Sources in the ministry say Lt. Gen. Bakshi could be offered an appointment outside of the military. Lt. Gen. Bakshi was to be leave till January 1. He joined office on Saturday at the Fort William, the army’s Eastern Command Headquarters.

Day after expulsion, Akhilesh Yadav holds meeting, majority of MLAs present

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Setting the stage for a show of strength, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, who was expelled from Samajwadi Party by his father and SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, on Saturday held a meeting at his residence where a majority of the 229 party MLAs were presentThough the exact number of those present at the meeting was not immediately known, insiders maintained that a majority of the 229 SP MLAs were present. Besides, some SP MLCs and senior party functionaries loyal to Akhilesh attended the meeting. Akhilesh is expected to meet his supporters and party workers later in the day to prove his strength.The chief minister’s 5-Kalidas Marg residence appeared to be the hub of high drama with youth supporters of Akhilesh assembling in large numbers to vent their fury over his expulsion and that of his uncle Ram Gopal Yadav.Political activities heated up right from the morning with a series of meetings planned during the day, when Mulayam will meet party candidates announced by him and state SP chief Shivpal Yadav, the warring uncle of Akhilesh.Meanwhile, Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh today termed the crisis in the party as “unfortunate” and asked party members to support Mulayam in the family feud. “I appeal to the party members to stand with Netaji (Mulayam). Whatever is happening is very unfortunate,” Amar, who had recently made a comeback to the party after a long exile, said. Mulayam had yesterday expelled his son Akhilesh and Ram Gopal from SP for six years after they put up candidates against the official nominees and summoned a party meet tomorrow, pushing the ruling party to the precipice of a split just ahead of the UP Assembly elections likely to be announced any day now. Mulayam had said he took the action against Akhilesh and Ram Gopal to save the party which he had built through hard efforts. “We have to save the party. The party comes first. That is why we are expelling both Akhilesh and Ram Gopal ,” he said.He explained that the decision was taken after Ram Gopal , in his capacity as general secretary, called an emergency meeting of the party on January 1 and Akhilesh “supported” it.

Pakistan seeks US support on Indus Waters Treaty

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Pakistan has sought the support of United States on the implementation of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) with India.US Secretary of State John Kerry had a telephone conversation with Pakistan Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Thursday. Kerry said that the World Bank President had recently informed him about Pakistan’s complaint against India on the subject of Indus Waters Treaty. Kerry urged for an amicable solution of the dispute between the two countries. “The US would like to see an amicable solution to this issue,” he was quoted as saying.Dar said that the Indus Waters Treaty is an international commitment and it is the responsibility of the World Bank to make sure that India honours this treaty and the water rights of hundreds of millions of people of Pakistan are protected. He said that the Court of Arbitration is a legal requirement and appointment of the Chairman of the Court of Arbitration must be fulfilled by the World Bank.Dar said that the World Bank President had been in touch with him in writing and also on telephone during the current month. He indicated that Washington’s support on the principles and legal position of Pakistan would be greatly appreciated. Kerry also appreciated the improvement in the economic indicators of Pakistan and congratulated Dar on the economic recovery brought about by Islamabad.Dar said that the government after having achieved macro-economic stability is now focused on achieving higher sustainable and inclusive economic growth. Kerry also recalled his association with Senator Ishaq Dar went back to the days when he was Leader of Opposition in the Pakistan Senate.The Finance Minister also warmly acknowledged his association with Secretary Kerry.

RBI’s refusal to share details under RTI is sheer arrogance, says activist Shailesh Gandhi

The most shocking aspect of the decision to demonetise the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes by NDA government is the lack of transparency. The government and the RBI, the monetary authority, have not yet revealed the exact reason why the decision was taken or even about the current status of the economy and cash supply. There have even not been regular press releases or statements from the authorities through out the last 51 days.

The country’s central bank remained silent in the initial days of the demonetisation when the citizens had a harrowing time with cash crunch at banks and ATMs coupled with long queues that also led to even a few deaths of senior citizens. The role of the Reserve Bank of India and its new governor Urjit Patel has come for severe criticism.

Shailesh Gandhi. Image courtesy Shailesh Gandhi's Facebook pageShailesh Gandhi. Image courtesy Shailesh Gandhi's Facebook page

Shailesh Gandhi. Image courtesy Shailesh Gandhi’s Facebook page

Shailesh Gandhi, former Information Commissioner with the Central Information Commission (CIC), New Delhi, filed a complaint with the CIC over the RBI’s refusal to answer queries under Right to Information Act by a non-disclosure policy put up on its site on November 30. In a conversation with Firspost, Gandhi explains why the RBI is on the course to setting a dangerous precedent by its refusal to answer queries and setting up its list under its non-disclosure policy which goes against the exemptions laid under the RTI Act, passed by the Supreme Court.

Excerpts from the conversation:

Your take on RBI’s unwillingness to respond to RTI queries.

This is sheer arrogance on the part of the RBI. Almost everyone in power dislikes transparency for themselves, be it the courts, bureaucrats, the RBI and even the media for that matter. Arrogance weighs with everyone who will say that in theory the RTI is good but when asked to release information, will remark: I am not corrupt. I am honest and clean and why should any ordinary citizen question me. Even the honest dislike the RTI and are happy to tell others to be transparent. It takes time to get used to being questions. It is 11 years since the RTI Act came into force.

What the RBI is doing by refusing to answer queries under RTI is denying citizens their fundamental rights. There are ten exemptions under the RTI. These do not include what the RBI is stating as exemption for itself. The central bank has also not given any reason for its actual rejection to the questions posed to it under the RTI.

Our RTI Act is the best in the world and we now rank at number 4 in terms of provisions of law and at 66 with regard to implementation. The Act is grossly misrepresented. The courts also have not been very enthusiastic about it.

You have filed a case against RBI’s refusal with the CIC

Yes, I have filed a complaint with the CIC on 16 December that the RBI is arbitrarily claiming exemption and have spread the net very wide in the garb of following the law and are actually defying the law. I did that because the RBI could set a bad precedent which is dangerous that could lead other public authorities to follow it, which could lead to increase in the load on the CIC. Everyone will compile their own non-disclosure list like the RBI has done and the CIC will not be able to penalise them. I hope the Supreme Court and the CIC takes cognisance of it.

The RBI has in its Disclosure Policy on its site on 30 November said that the list of information which shall not be given is justified by the proclamation that: ‘While compiling the ( nondisclosure) list, it has been the Bank’s endeavour to attain the objectives of the RTI Act, without jeopardizing the financial stability and economic interests of the State.’ Effectively it means that RBI arrogates to itself the right to lay down exemptions to disclosure of information in line with the objectives of the Act. This is the sole prerogative of Parliament which has provided the exemptions to disclosure in Section 8 and 9 of the RTI Act. The RBI’s disclosure policy is actually a non-disclosure. They are the masters and the judges themselves.

What are the 10 areas that are exempted under the RTI Act?

1) To give information, disclosures which would affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence; 2) information which has been expressly forbidden to be published by any court of law or tribunal or the disclosure of which may constitute contempt of court; 3) information, the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature; 4) information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information; 5) information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information; 6) information received in confidence from foreign government; 7) information, the disclosure of which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person or identify the source of information or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement or security purposes; 8) information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders; 9) cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers, Secretaries and other officers: Provided that the decisions of Council of Ministers, the reasons thereof, and the material on the basis of which the decisions were taken shall be made public after the decision has been taken, and the matter is complete, or over: Provided further that those matters which come under the exemptions specified in this section shall not be disclosed; 10) information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information: Provided that the information, which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.

When Supreme Court orders are not being adhered to by the RBI, can no action be taken on the institution?

When you defy SC orders, the CIC cannot do anything. The commission has the authority and power to say that the list you put up is too wide ranging and can’t be accepted. That’s all.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 12:24 IST

RBI’s refusal of details sheer arrogance, sets dangerous precedent: Activist Shailesh Gandhi

The most shocking aspect of the decision to demonetise the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes by NDA government is the lack of transparency. The government and the RBI, the monetary authority, have not yet revealed the exact reason why the decision was taken or even about the current status of the economy and cash supply. There have even not been regular press releases or statements from the authorities through out the last 51 days.

The country’s central bank remained silent in the initial days of the demonetisation when the citizens had a harrowing time with cash crunch at banks and ATMs coupled with long queues that also led to even a few deaths of senior citizens. The role of the Reserve Bank of India and its new governor Urjit Patel has come for severe criticism.

Shailesh Gandhi. Image courtesy Shailesh Gandhi's Facebook pageShailesh Gandhi. Image courtesy Shailesh Gandhi's Facebook page

Shailesh Gandhi. Image courtesy Shailesh Gandhi’s Facebook page

Shailesh Gandhi, former Information Commissioner with the Central Information Commission (CIC), New Delhi, filed a complaint with the CIC over the RBI’s refusal to answer queries under Right to Information Act by a non-disclosure policy put up on its site on November 30. In a conversation with Firspost, Gandhi explains why the RBI is on the course to setting a dangerous precedent by its refusal to answer queries and setting up its list under its non-disclosure policy which goes against the exemptions laid under the RTI Act, passed by the Supreme Court.

Excerpts from the conversation:

Your take on RBI’s unwillingness to respond to RTI queries.

This is sheer arrogance on the part of the RBI. Almost everyone in power dislikes transparency for themselves, be it the courts, bureaucrats, the RBI and even the media for that matter. Arrogance weighs with everyone who will say that in theory the RTI is good but when asked to release information, will remark: I am not corrupt. I am honest and clean and why should any ordinary citizen question me. Even the honest dislike the RTI and are happy to tell others to be transparent. It takes time to get used to being questions. It is 11 years since the RTI Act came into force.

What the RBI is doing by refusing to answer queries under RTI is denying citizens their fundamental rights. There are ten exemptions under the RTI. These do not include what the RBI is stating as exemption for itself. The central bank has also not given any reason for its actual rejection to the questions posed to it under the RTI.

Our RTI Act is the best in the world and we now rank at number 4 in terms of provisions of law and at 66 with regard to implementation. The Act is grossly misrepresented. The courts also have not been very enthusiastic about it.

You have filed a case against RBI’s refusal with the CIC

Yes, I have filed a complaint with the CIC on 16 December that the RBI is arbitrarily claiming exemption and have spread the net very wide in the garb of following the law and are actually defying the law. I did that because the RBI could set a bad precedent which is dangerous that could lead other public authorities to follow it, which could lead to increase in the load on the CIC. Everyone will compile their own non-disclosure list like the RBI has done and the CIC will not be able to penalise them. I hope the Supreme Court and the CIC takes cognisance of it.

The RBI has in its Disclosure Policy on its site on 30 November said that the list of information which shall not be given is justified by the proclamation that: ‘While compiling the ( nondisclosure) list, it has been the Bank’s endeavour to attain the objectives of the RTI Act, without jeopardizing the financial stability and economic interests of the State.’ Effectively it means that RBI arrogates to itself the right to lay down exemptions to disclosure of information in line with the objectives of the Act. This is the sole prerogative of Parliament which has provided the exemptions to disclosure in Section 8 and 9 of the RTI Act. The RBI’s disclosure policy is actually a non-disclosure. They are the masters and the judges themselves.

What are the 10 areas that are exempted under the RTI Act?

1) To give information, disclosures which would affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence; 2) information which has been expressly forbidden to be published by any court of law or tribunal or the disclosure of which may constitute contempt of court; 3) information, the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature; 4) information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information; 5) information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information; 6) information received in confidence from foreign government; 7) information, the disclosure of which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person or identify the source of information or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement or security purposes; 8) information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders; 9) cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers, Secretaries and other officers: Provided that the decisions of Council of Ministers, the reasons thereof, and the material on the basis of which the decisions were taken shall be made public after the decision has been taken, and the matter is complete, or over: Provided further that those matters which come under the exemptions specified in this section shall not be disclosed; 10) information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information: Provided that the information, which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.

When Supreme Court orders are not being adhered to by the RBI, can no action be taken on the institution?

When you defy SC orders, the CIC cannot do anything. The commission has the authority and power to say that the list you put up is too wide ranging and can’t be accepted. That’s all.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 12:24 IST

On his last day as Army Chief, Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag pays tribute to martyrs

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>General Dalbir Singh paid tribute at Amar Jawan Jyoti on his last day as Army Chief on Saturday. He will be replaced by Lieutenant General Bipin Rawat as new army chief.General Singh inspected the guard of honour on his last day as Army Chief. “I salute our martyrs who made supreme sacrifices in upholding honour of the nation,” he said. He also thanked the Centre for granting One Rank One Pension to the armed forces.He also thanked PM Narendra Modi and the Centre “for their full support and giving free hand in conduct of operations”. Gen Dalbir Singh praised the Indian Army saying ,”Indian army delievered that in the last 2 and a half years. Indian Army is fully prepared and well trained to tackle any challenges be it external or internal. I strongly believe that actions must speak louder than words.” “In 2012, we had killed 67 terrorists, 65 in 2013 & killed 141 terrorists alone in J&K this year,” said General Dalbir Singh on his last day as the Army Chief. (With ANI/PTI inputs)Lt Gen Bipin Rawat’s appointment as the new Army Chief had created a controversy as it superseding seniors Lt Gen Bakshi and Southern Army commander Lt Gen PM Hariz. It had also sparked a fierce political row between a section of the Opposition and the government.

Demonetization | If I was guided by electoral politics, I would never have done it: PM Modi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In his first interview post demonetization, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reflected on the concerns raised in the weeks since his surprise announcement on November 8. In an exclusive interview with India Today, Modi said, “The revenue collected will be used for the welfare of the poor, downtrodden and marginalised.”The Prime Minister said that these sections of the society were central to the government’s programmes and priorities. He rejected allegations by the opposition that the move was political, in view of the upcoming state elections. “It was a tough decision taken to clean up our economy and our society. If I were guided by short-term electoral politics, I would never have done so,” he said.Asserting the move to ban the high denomination had been welcomed by the 1.25 billion citizens of the country, the PM said that the public’s enthusiasm had not been affected by the dire predictions made by critics. “This acceptance, in my view, is even more historic than the decision itself,” he told the magazine.
ALSO READ Digi Dhan Mela: PM Modi launches BHIM app, now only thumb impression needed for secure digital transaction He also said that the absence of significant incident of unrest was not a small achievement. “At the same time, as with every other process, there is always room for improvement, and I believe that we can, and must, always improve,” he said.On the frequent changes in policy post the demonetization announcement, Modi said,”One must be able to distinguish between niti (policy) and ran-niti (strategy) and not put them in the same basket. The decision of demonetization, which reflects our niti, is unequivocally clear, unwavering and categorical. Our ran-niti, 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.” He also said that the changes in policy reflected the government’s ability to respond quickly and keeping up with the evolving situation.
ALSO READ Demonetization: PM Narendra Modi slams Congress for stalling debate, openly protecting dishonestyThe Prime Minister said that the return of the money to banks meant that there was a trail for every rupee and made it easier to track sources of black money and schemes of corruption. He also said that the GST and adoption of digital payments would be critical elements of system put in place the government to curb further generation of black money. The Prime called digitisation a major reform with multiple benefits, which include cleaning up of economy, proper accounting and sizing of the formal economy, greater ease and security, building of financial records and greater tax compliance.Addressing the common man’s anger against corruption, he said that it was also imperative to find ways to root out black money in politics. “Everyone, especially our political leaders and parties, will have to recognise and accept this groundswell. The tide is fast changing. Those who don’t evolve with it and insist on sticking to their old ways will only get swept away.You can read the full interview here.

Amar Singh taunts Akhilesh for going against father Mulayam, asks SP members to support party supremo

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> A day after the feud in the Samajwadi Party widened with the suspension of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, the party’s general secretary Amar Singh on Saturday said he is supporting party’s chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and going against his decision is unconstitutional and immoral.Quoting a line from Srimad Bhagwat Puran: “Ram chandra keh gaye siya se aisa kalyug aayega, beta karega raj bechara baap jungal ke jayega,” Singh said that Mulayam is not only the father of the party but also the father of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister. “Those who are going against him are unconstitutional, immoral and are incorrect and I condemn them,” he said.Dubbing the rift taking place in the Samajwadi Party as ‘unfortunate’, Singh appealed to the party workers to support Mulayam in this crucial situation. “I appeal to the party members to stand with Netaji Mulayam Singh. Whatever is happening is very unfortunate,” Amar, who had recently made a comeback to the party after a long exile, said.Amar said, “The foundation of this party was laid by Mulayam Singh with much dedication and hard work. I have said this earlier and will say it now, that Mulayam Singh is the chief of SP and the father of Akhilesh Yadav as well,” he said. Meanwhile, Mulayam has called a Samajwadi Party’s Parliamentary board meeting today.The Samajwadi Party boss yesterday expelled Akhilesh and National General Secretary Ram Gopal Yadav from the party for six years over indiscipline. “I solely founded the party, what is their (Akhilesh and Ram Gopal) contribution? They are destroying the party,” he said. “To save the party, we have expelled both Ram Gopal and Akhilesh Yadav for six years from the party. No one has the right to call for a national executive meeting other than the party chief, and by doing this, you (Akhilesh and Ram Gopal) have hurt the party’s interest,”he added.This move comes after Akhilesh had released a list of 235 candidates out of the total 403 seats for upcoming state assembly elections on Thursday, rejecting the list announced by Mulayam Singh Yadav on Wednesday. “We have declared a list of 325 candidates for the 2017 assembly polls; 78 seats still remain. Names of the candidates for the rest of the 78 seats will be announced soon,” Mulayam had said on Wednesday.Akhilesh’s name did not figure in the first list. Mulayam said his son being the chief minister, can contest from any assembly seat he wishes to. With inputs from PTI)

Anil Baijal takes oath as Delhi Lieutenant Governor

Sat, 31 Dec 2016-11:32am , New Delhi , ANI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former union home secretary Anil Baijal on Saturday took oath as the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi at Raj Niwas. The oath was administered by Delhi High Court’s Chief Justice G Rohini.President Pranab Mukherjee earlier on December 28 accepted Najeeb Jung’s resignation and approved Baijal’s name as the next Lieutenant Governor of the National Capital Territory. Baijal, a 1969 batch India Administrative Service (IAS) officer of the Union Territories cadre, was removed as union home secretary when the UPA government assumed power in May 2004.The former bureaucrat has also been the vice-chairman of the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and had headed key public sector companies like Prasar Bharti and Indian Airlines.Jung had submitted his resignation on December 22, ending a nearly three-and-half-year-long eventful tenure, mostly marked by bitter confrontation with Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)-led Delhi government.

Demonetisation: Rs 4,500 per day ATM limit is of little help when 2/3 machines run dry

ATMs will dispense a maximum Rs 4,500 per day per account holder beginning 1 January, said a circular from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Friday. Friday marked the end of the 50-day period Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised he will take to bring back normalcy after the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes on 9 November. Earlier, daily limit was Rs 2,500 per day. An enhanced limit is a relief for citizens and will help to shorten queues further, but only in areas where ATMs are dispensing cash.

The problem is only a third of the total ATMs in the country (around 2 lakh) are dispensing cash and most of them are in urban centres with the periphery areas continuing to run dry, according to reports (read here and here). In other words, the enhanced ATM withdrawal limits would not help the people in non-metros much.

PTI file photoPTI file photo

PTI file photo

Banks are unable to fill their ATMs on account of an acute cash shortage, especially lower denomination notes that is persisting even after 50 days of demonetisation and the situation is unlikely to get better soon, said a few bankers this writer spoke to.

“We are looking at February-March before things become normal,” said one of the bankers. This is the reason banks have asked the government to extend the curbs on cash withdrawals beyond 30 December till the time there is adequate quantity of new currency infused in the banking system. Ultimately, it is the banker who has to face the angry customer.

The RBI has retained the weekly cash withdrawal limit of Rs 24,000. But, the problem is that banks are unable to honor even that amount and the customer is forced to often settle for what is available at the moment at the bank counter. Of course, this situation will ease further in the weeks ahead, but much depends on the ability of government mints to churn out sufficient units of new currency. Until 19 December, the RBI has infused Rs 5.92 lakh crore of currencies into the system, which is less than half of what the public has deposited in the form of invalidated notes (Rs 12.44 lakh crore as on 10 December).

On Friday, PM Modi launched a new payment app, BHIM, that allows anyone to transfer money to any bank accounts. The PM stressed on the need to embrace cashless payment modes at the earliest and elaborated on the incentives government planning to encourage individuals and merchants using electronic payment modes. A change into cashless economy is indeed good in an aspiring economy and government initiatives, such as UPI-supported BHIM app, are helpful to facilitate such a migration.

But, Modi’s immediate challenge remains to 1) normalise the cash situation in the economy; and 2) give a convincing cost-benefit analysis of the demonetisation exercise to 125 crore Indians. Modi has a major task of justifying his act that has pushed the economy into an economic standstill and has caused gross inconvenience to a large number of the population due to the lack of preparedness of the government to implement the currency swap.

When PM address the nation on the New Year Eve, there are questions he’ll need to answer on how did the note ban help the country to achieve the originally stated goals — black money, fake currency, corruption and terror funding. Also, most critically, the general public would expect clarity from the PM on when the cash crunch will end. The 50 days the PM sought has, for sure, eased the pain to an extent, but has not ended the cash crunch.

Another question the PM owes answer is clarity on the political funding. Though his government has repeatedly assured that rules will be same for all, there is lack of clarity on political funding since the government also says that provisions of existing laws will continue.

This would means that political parties will enjoy certain immunity from tax scrutiny since cash donations below Rs 20,000 do not require the source to be revealed. Can Modi score a point by stating that the government will work towards the necessary changes in laws to make all political donations through digital mode? If yes, that’ll be much bigger catalyst in the process of creating a cashless economy than announcing lucky draws.

For now, when the PM addresses the nation on the eve of new year, the big question common man probably would want to ask the PM is how long the current cash shortage will continue.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 11:28 IST

Thick fog blankets Delhi; 69 trains, 12 flights delayed

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Dense fog shrouded the national capital this morning with the minimum temperature dipping to 8.2 degrees Celsius, one notch above the season’s average.The blanket of fog also brought down visibility levels which affected train operations.As many as 69 north-bound trains were running late while 16 have been rescheduled, four cancelled a railways spokesperson said.Nine international flights have been delayed and one has been cancelled in Delhi. Three domestic flights have been delayed and two are cancelled.Visibility was recorded at 200 metres at 5.30 am, which subsequently improved to 400 metres by 8.30 am, a weather official said. “The maximum temperature is likely to be around 19 degrees Celsius and partly cloudy conditions will prevail through the day,” the official said.Humidity was maximum at 100% at 8.30 am. Yesterday, the maximum temperature had plunged to 18.5 degrees, two notches below the normal, while the minimum was recorded at 10.5 degrees Celsius.

Mamata Banerjee extends support to Akhilesh Yadav, asks him to stay strong

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Extending her support to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, his West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee has wished him well and asked him to stay strong. Sources said, Mamata spoke to Akhilesh last evening for about three minutes.The Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo’s support comes in the wake of Akhilesh’s suspension from the Samajwadi Party for six years. Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav yesterday expelled Akhilesh and national general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav from the party for six years over indiscipline.This move comes after Akhilesh had released a list of 235 candidates out of the total 403 seats for upcoming state assembly elections on Thursday, rejecting the list announced by Mulayam Singh Yadav on Wednesday. Akhilesh’s name did not figure in the first list. Mulayam said his son being the Chief Minister, can contest from any assembly seat he wishes to.

Sasikala Natarajan to formally take charge of AIADMK today

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>VK Sasikala Natarajan, 54, a close aide of late Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa, will on Saturday formally take charge as general secretary of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) at the party’s headquarters in Chennai.AIADMK party members had in a unanimous resolution adopted at the party’s general council meeting earlier this week, appointed Sasikala to the post. The AIADMK in its general body meeting passed a resolution to work under the leadership of Sasikala.The resolution was accepted by Sasikala, the confirmation of which was posted on the party’s Twitter handle. “AIADMK adopts resolution to work under the leadership of Chinnamma,” it read.After Jayalalithaa died, the party had announced that Natarajan would replace her as the chief of her party even though she is not technically qualified. The general secretary has to have completed five years as an active member.

Deadline to deposit banned notes ends today. Here’s a list of flip-flop in norms by Centre post demonetization

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The deadline to deposit old Rs. 500 and 1,000 currency notes ends on Saturday. However, the people will still have time to exchange the currency notes at designated Reserve Bank of India (RBI) counters till March 31 after giving valid reasons for not depositing defunct notes in their accounts by December 30. From today, it will be illegal to have the banned notes and one could be fined heavily for carrying them according to a new law.One can deposit old notes only in select branches of RBI after today’s deadline. Furnishing wrong information while depositing the old currency between January 1 and March 31 will attract a fine of Rs 5,000 or five times the amount. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to address the nation this evening, and according to reports, is expected to spell out the post-demonetization roadmap. This will be his second address to the nation since his announcement to scrap 1,000 and 500 rupees notes on November 8. While announcing the landmark decision, he had asked the people to give 50 days for demonetization and getting accustomed to a cashless economy. In a television address to the nation on November 8, Prime Minister Modi said, “The magnitude of cash in circulation is directly linked to the level of corruption. Inflation becomes worse through the deployment of cash earned in corrupt ways.” He said to break the grip of corruption and black money, the government has decided that from midnight Rs. 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes will cease to be legal tender. Till date, the government has made several changes to the norms.After reports on crop sowing taking a hit due to no availability of cash, the government allowed the farmers to buy seeds with old Rs 500 currency notes. A November 17 announcement allowed the farmers to withdraw up to Rs. 25,000 per week from their KYC-compliant account.Following reports on abuse of Jan Dhan accounts, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) capped the withdrawal limit to Rs 10,000 per month.On November 17, the government made more modifications to the existing rules. Families could now withdraw up to Rs. 2.5 lakh for weddings. The currency exchange limit was reduced from Rs 4,500 to Rs 2,000 per person.The traders in agricultural mandis were permitted to draw up to Rs 50,000 in cash per week to pay for sundry expenses like wages.Also, government employees up to Group C could draw Rs. 10,000 salary in advance in cash.The demonetization decision has also taken a toll on the common man, with reports of some dying while standing in queues to collect money. In between all this, Prime Minister Modi has continued to address the nation at various public gatherings and through his ‘Mann ki Baat’ radio programme.Making an emotional appeal at an event in Goa on November 13, Prime Minister Modi asked the “honest” people of the country to bear the hardships for another 50 days.Exactly two weeks later on November 27, the Prime Minister urged the farmers and small traders to go cashless at his monthly ‘Mann ki Baat’ address. “The common man will be trouble free if they are made aware of the digital financial transaction options,” he said asking the youth to lead the change.The opposition cornered the government during the Winter Session of Parliament over the inconvenience faced by the nation post-demonetization.

India-Singapore tax treaty amended, ‘reasonable burial’ to black money route, says Jaitley

India will start imposing capital gains tax on investments coming from Singapore from April and fully withdraw exemptions in two years as the two countries agreed to amend a decade-old treaty after New Delhi rolled back similar concessions to Mauritius and Cyprus earlier this year.

With the amendments, announced by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Friday, investors based in Singapore will no longer benefit from tax exemptions on capital gains taxes.

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

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Reuters file photo

Changes to the treaty with the Asian financial centre had been widely expected after India this year similarly re-drafted a 33-year old tax treaty with Mauritius. The tax treaty between India and Singapore had a provision that any changes in the Mauritius treaty would automatically apply to the one with the Asian country.

The move to tighten tax treaties is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s anti-corruption drive, which includes tightening loopholes for firms or rich individuals setting up a presence in jurisdictions with tax exemption treaties.

Regulators have long suspected rich Indians were routing cash through these tax jurisdictions, and channeling money back to India in a practice known as “round tripping”.

“We are able to give a reasonable burial to this black money route,” Jaitley told reporters at a news briefing. Capital gains tax will be imposed on investments from Singapore that are made from April onwards. The tax rate will be half the prevailing Indian rate for the next two years and rates will then be equated by April 2019. Jaitley said.

Singapore has been an increasingly popular source of foreign investment into India.Foreign direct investment flows from Singapore stood at $50.6 billion between April 2000 and Sept 2016, contributing more than 16 percent to total capital inflows during that period, second only to Mauritius.

According to Abhishek Goenka, partner, direct tax, PwC India, the renegotiation of the tax treaty with Singapore marks the culmination of a long process of renegotiation of the three key treaties that India had which provided exemptions from capital gains tax, ie, Mauritius, Cyprus and Singapore. Due to this the final outcome with regards to the Singapore treaty is not a surprise and most investors were expecting that it would mirror the new Mauritius treaty, which is what it is as far as capital gains is concerned.

However, he said the press release lacks clarity on some of the key provisions.

“It remains to be seen whether the existing limitation of benefits clause will continue to apply for the 2 year phase out period, or whether there will be a somewhat diluted requirement. The press release does not have details on whether there is also a reduction in the rate of withholding tax on interest to 7.5% as in the case of Mauritius. This will be a critical aspect before there can be complete parity between the two treaties,” Goenka said.

With Reuters

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 10:15 IST

Jaggi Vasudev on notebandi, nationalism and why he stands behind Narendra Modi

Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev is known for speaking his mind on a wide range of issues. In his new book Inner Engineering: A Yogi’s Guide to Joy (Penguin Random House India Pvt. Ltd), he has redefined spirituality. He does not describe himself as the usual ‘guru’, which he once called a four letter word. Instead, he prefixes it with another four-letter word ‘sadh’ to complete his self-description. To talk to us, he walked into a central Delhi garden, kissed gently by the winter sun, in a turban that hides the colour of his hair and a cotton-candy beard that gives it away. Spirituality for him is not a straight jacket. He enjoys playing ball, flies choppers and wears jeans when not in loose cotton pants, and surprises you by calling spirituality a ‘technology’. Spirituality is neither detachment, self-abnegation nor being less worldly than anybody else. He engages with every contemporary issue and doesn’t hold back. Though not politically aligned with any party or leader, he discusses demonetisation and nationalism, the two hot-button issues of the day. With the disclaimer that he is not ‘nationalistic freak’, he says India needs to stand behind somebody who has taken a huge political risk (a reference to Narendra Modi and demonetisation), and that emotional commitment to a country is an essential ingredient for nation-building. Edited excerpts:

Your book revolves around your healing principle of ‘Inner Engineering’. Can you explain the concept?

This is not a teaching, preaching, philosophy, religion, this is a technology for wellbeing. Show me one person who doesn’t need a technology for wellbeing? In India, the book is leading across sections and doing even better than fiction and that is a statement from the people that it was needed. When it comes to other aspects of our life, we employ science and tech to make things work. When it comes to religion, we still have silly philosophies and ideologies. Why? This is a movement from religion to responsibility. Without turning inward, there is no way you will have yourself the way you want yourself to be. When you can approach medicine in a scientific manner, why can’t you approach inner-wellbeing in a logically correct and scientifically verifiable way, I ask?

The reason why somebody feels insecure and miserable is because they haven’t taken charge of their inward and out of insecurities and the bad experience of life, people may do many things in reaction.

Political developments across the globe in 2016 suggest that countries are closing their doors. Is there a way to go inwards into your culture and identity without pitting them against that of another?
Going inwards is not about culture, it is not about politics or the positions that we take in the world. Going inwards is because the source of your experience is within you. The reason why somebody feels insecure and miserable is because they haven’t taken charge of their inward and out of insecurities and the bad experience of life, people may do many things in reaction. Going inwards means you are in charge of how you experience your life, you can make it beautiful or ugly, blissful or miserable. Right now, because people haven’t turned inwards, there is much fear of suffering and anxiety, and anger against each other. We are trying to fix the reactions, when we should be fixing the source.

In the context of demonetisation, tell us if India is more critical of governmental decisions than before and do most believe that policies are designed to harm them?

We are critical of governmental decisions because we are used to governments that don’t take any decisions. Now when any decision is made, we think it is wrong. We’ve been a developing nation f70 years because we are simply unwilling to fix the fundamentals. There are certain serious problems in the country, do you want to take them head-on or do you want to pussyfoot around them forever? Demonetisation is a little bit of a confrontation with the problem that nearly 60 percent transactions are beneath the radar. How do you run a nation when a little over two per cent pay taxes? How does a nation’s administration function effectively without revenue? This is a system coming from a colonial era and the nomenclature still continues. Even today, district administrators are called collectors because in those days their job was to collect taxes. Earlier, whoever didn’t pay tax was a hero. We are still in that hangover. We can’t live in little nations of comfort and wellbeing, it’s time that we work for the wellbeing of the nation as a whole and for that some painful steps have to be taken. Right now, the issue is that if I have to start my own business, I have to build my own road, generate electricity, and manage sewage. This is not an excuse to not be in the tax net. Only if we pay, we can demand services. Democracy is not a spectator sport, we can participate through various instruments on a daily basis and demand results. If 30 percent of the population doesn’t come in the tax net in the next 10 years, we won’t have a developed nation. Nothing significant happens without some pain.

That said, do you think the present government is doing a good job?

The present government is doing a very good job by wielding a stick at those who are not being compliant with the nation’s goals. But the political game in a democratic country is nebulous. They will have to do a few populist things. When somebody takes a huge political risk to correct something, you have to stand with them. Once people have elected a government, all of us should simply support it. If you pull their leg, how will they function? I am not politically aligned with a party or a fan of any leader but believe in the wellbeing of a democratic nation. If you have any other commitment going against the nation’s growth, it is a crime. Those who are sitting in comfortable places are doing these things without understanding what we are denying to those who have barely eaten. You go to the remotest parts of Africa and you’ll find that the children are bouncy and healthy. Though there is experience and cultural strength in India, we are not doing well on the ground.

sadhguru 825sadhguru 825

Do we define nationalism too much? Why has it become necessary to prove that we are Indian?
Right now the big issue is that of playing the national anthem in theatres. Because you have popcorn in one hand and cola in the other, you can’t stand up. If there is no pride about the country, how do you build a country? Nationalism is not an ultimate goal, but an immediate need to move the people in one direction, otherwise everybody has their own caste, creed, religion, all kinds of things. We are talking about nuances of liberal freedom when half the people have not eaten. Right now, we’re in the basics, let’s understand this. I am not a nationalistic freak, my work is beyond national, racial and religious borders, and my idea of humanity is 7.3 billion people. But the nation is the largest mass of people and to bind it together and take it forward, national identity is important. Emotional commitment to the country is needed.

Is this the era of collective rage, clashing opinions and a lack of action?
The rage is limited to the media. There is a big sense of satisfaction and fulfilment among the poorest of poor in this country, because they feel that for the first time somebody has hit the rich. I only wish this digitisation process had started a year earlier, and 30 to 40 percent of the population had moved into a cashless economy. People are protesting all the time. There is more activism in the country than activity, we need activity. We have inherited this from a pre-independence era where we call for a bandh, shut down electricity, rasta roko, rail roko. Gandhi’s technology was fine when someone else was ruling us. How do we shut down our own nation? I am not for mad fanaticism at all but I am asking, how do you move people without getting them emotionally identified with the nation?

Not all mental ailments are because of pathological causes, but also happen because of social causes. In the West, one of the biggest problems is loneliness. In India, there is no room for loneliness because someone is always walking over you.

A recent Bollywood movie Dear Zindagi discussed the subject of mental health. Does everybody secretly like to believe they are depressed or that they need to be rescued? Is the youth ready or nation building, if they are self-absorbed?
In India, the self-absorbed youth is only a small segment coming from affluent families in urban centres. The rest of them are not like that. The population is largely community-oriented, so people are not depressed on the same scale as Europeans are. Not all mental ailments are because of pathological causes, but also happen because of social causes. In the West, one of the biggest problems is loneliness. In India, there is no room for loneliness because someone is always walking over you. This may look like an irritant at some point but it helps people stay mentally healthy. We are slowly withdrawing from that and moving toward a different mode, and there will be a price to pay.

Is spiritualism now a capitalism-driven material need, just like a bag or a pair of jeans?
There is substantial medical and scientific evidence to prove that only when you are in a pleasant state of experience, your body and brain works at its best. If you want to succeed in the world, it is only a question of harnessing your body and brain to the fullest. If you do this successfully, will you become unsuccessful in the world? Miserable people are not successful. The spiritual process is a self-realisation. You can use a phone better if you know more about it. The same thing applies to the brain, the greatest and most sophisticated gadget on the planet. Spirituality is not a disability, it is the greatest empowerment you can receive, your body, mind, thought, emotions and energy will function for you and not against you if you know the nature of your existence fully. It’s just like you can either open up the cosmos with a phone, or just use it in a rudimentary way to SMS your friend.

Is social media leading to a rise in depression because one has constant access to other people’s achievements? Are we in a state of constant denial?
Every gift given to you is becoming a problem because you are trying to extract happiness from the world. You need to understand that all human experience happens from within. If you’re seeking joy from Facebook, you’ll be miserable because you’ll see wrong faces. Every technology that comes to you has come to enhance your life and not take away your joy. You have to move from compulsiveness to consciousness. Your very mind is the source of your misery. People want the brain of an earthworm? Why? It took us years of evolution to get here. Those who are joyful in their own way, by their own nature, their genius will unfold. Right now, the fear of suffering has cramped you up, you are blaming Facebook, blaming the phone, blaming technology. This is because your own intelligence has turned against you. If the source of your existence is in your hands, you will choose pleasantness.

Over 18,000 children have committed suicide in 2015, if we don’t accept that we are doing something fundamentally wrong, we have not gotten life properly. The entire world looked toward Indian culture for guidance when it came to life.

Why do we have to lose our peace and then find ways to bring it back?
Our schooling system is a leftover from the British times. They designed it mainly to demand obedience. This was her majesty’s requirement. We should have seen what kind of schooling we need for a free India. We need free human beings with a free-ranging mind. A large segment of population has been in extreme poverty and it all became about how to get a job. So, nobody could be trained about anything that concerns life. Over 18,000 children have committed suicide in 2015, if we don’t accept that we are doing something fundamentally wrong, we have not gotten life properly. The entire world looked toward Indian culture for guidance when it came to life. We are not making use of anything we know and are reinventing India from a western perspective. If you say anything Indian, people say mad nationalism is happening. There are 120 weaves in this country, we were the greatest textile nation in the country. But we are killing it totally because our brains are still in Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). At the same time, our Indianness shouldn’t be rigid, history shows us that we have been able to absorb anything that comes our way without resistance and still retained our culture. This is a nation that has explored the interiority of the human mechanism like none other, we have the USP for how a human being can be joyful. This is a methodology we can offer the entire world. First, at least a majority in India has to get this.

So, economic wellbeing isn’t enough for development?
Economic wellbeing alone will not translate into human wellbeing. For instance, in the export town of Tirupur in Tamil Nadu, almost everybody earns two to three times more than those in neighbouring towns. Last year, on Diwali, Tamil Nadu sold 36 crore worth of alcohol and in this about 24 to 25 crore was from Tirupur. It is a town of merely 8 lakh people. Wherever economic wellbeing has happened, 40 per cent has become diabetic. This is why we’re talking about yoga nation.

Can spiritual leaders take a political stand?
If you can stand for an election, why can’t I? I won’t but that’s my choice. I have as much right as you have to stand for elections.

What kind of India do you envision for in 2017?
Right now, 60 percent of the population is undernourished, we are producing half and substandard human beings. The next thing is empowerment. We can educate people toward better agriculture, skill people in different ways; human beings must be empowered to do whatever they want. The next thing is ecology. This is a very serious problem that has gone unattended. Some studies show, on an average, all Indian rivers are depleting by 8 percent per year. This means, in 15-20 years, rivers will become seasonal. For instance, Kaveri doesn’t reach the ocean for two and a half months. What are we going to leave for our children? Barren land? Fly from Delhi to Chennai and every five minutes you will see large patches of brown. When sunlight continuously falls, bio-activity sinks deeper and deeper; what you think is soil today will become sand tomorrow. The per capita potable water you had in 1947, today you have 19 – 20 percent of it. In 2020, you’ll have only 7 seven percent of it. We need drastic ecological policy steps, which people will hate like they hate demonetisation.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 10:09 IST

Akhilesh Yadav chairs meeting with all SP MLAs

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Expelled Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav chaired a meeting of Samajwadi Party MLAs at 9 am on Saturday at his official residence.Mulayam Singh yesterday expelled Akhilesh and National General Secretary Ram Gopal Yadav from the party for six years over indiscipline late on Friday night. “I solely founded the party, what is their (Akhilesh and Ram Gopal) contribution? They are destroying the party,” he said. “To save the party, we have expelled both Ram Gopal and Akhilesh Yadav for six years from the party. No one has the right to call for a national executive meeting other than the party chief, and by doing this, you (Akhilesh and Ram Gopal) have hurt the party’s interest,” Mulayam told media here. “I will decide as to who will be the chief ministerial candidate of the party,” he insisted.This move comes after Akhilesh had released a list of 235 candidates out of the total 403 seats for upcoming state assembly elections on Thursday, rejecting the list announced by Mulayam Singh Yadav on Wednesday. “We have declared a list of 325 candidates for the 2017 assembly polls; 78 seats still remain. Names of the candidates for the rest of the 78 seats will be announced soon,” Mulayam had said on Wednesday. Akhilesh’s name did not figure in the first list. Mulayam said his son being the chief minister, can contest from any assembly seat he wishes to.

Demonetization: PM Narendra Modi slams Congress for stalling debate, openly protecting dishonest

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>PM Narendra Modi has slammed the Opposition in his recent interview to the IndiaToday for stalling debate in the Parliament following demonetization. He also accused them for using the Upper and Lower House for ‘openly supporting and protecting the dishonest’.”While Parliament sessions being washed out is a major concern, this blatant endorsement of dishonesty is even more disconcerting for the nation. Debate is critical in a democracy. Had they allowed a debate to take place, it would have revealed a number of dimensions of this mammoth exercise to the nation,” PM Modi said.He said he wanted to speak in both houses but couldn’t as the Congress didn’t allow it, despite the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s appeal to them, as they did not want to a debate in the Parliament over the issue of note ban. He also dismissed the allegations by the Congress that the demonetization was done for political gains. He said that the while the party claims that the note ban was a political decision it also blames the Centre of making the common man suffer. Questioning the two contradictory accusations, Modi said that Congress’ attack on him was illogical. “Maybe, as members of the Opposition, they have to conjure something up to criticise me about, however illogical it may be. I sympathise with their difficulty,” ModiHe also reiterated his earlier attack on the Congress that former prime minister Indira Gandhi had junked the proposal of note ban – as claimed by Madhav Godbole’s in his book Unfinished Innings: Recollections and Reflections of a Civil Servant.- fearing backlash in elections. Rebutting Manmohan SinghModi said indicated that it was ironic that the former prime minister Manmohan Singh called the note ban “monumental mismanagement” as despite Singh’s various high profile roles in the government for 45 years, many in the country ‘continued to live in poverty and deprivation”.He also said that by calling demonetization ‘organised loot’ , Singh was probably referring to the various scams under his own tenure as the prime minister in the UPA governance.

Demonetisation: RBI ups ATM withdrawal limit to Rs 4,500/day from 1 Jan

The Reserve Bank on Friday late night increased the withdrawal limit from ATMs to Rs 4,500 per day from the current Rs 2,500 from 1 January. However, there has been no change in the weekly withdrawal limit, which stands at Rs 24,000, including from ATM, for individuals (Rs 50,000 in case of small traders).

“On a review of the position, the daily limit of withdrawal from ATMs has been increased (within the overall weekly limits specified) with effect from January 1, 2017, from the existing Rs 2,500 to Rs 4,500 per day per card,” the central bank said in a notification.

atm-queueatm-queueFollowing demonetisation of old Rs 500/1000 notes from 9 November, limits had been imposed on withdrawal of cash from banks as well as ATMs.

The Reserve Bank’s notification further stated “there is no change in weekly withdrawal limits” and such disbursals “should predominantly be in the denomination of Rs 500”.

Earlier in the day, the RBI had permitted White Label ATM Operators (WLAOs) to source cash from retail outlets.

Most of the White Label ATMs are running dry since demonetisation as the operators were facing difficulties in sourcing cash from their sponsor bank(s).

Friday was the last day to deposit the invalid currency notes in banks. However, people still have time to exchange the currency notes at designated RBI counters till March 31 after giving valid reasons for not depositing defunct notes in their accounts by December 30.

However, it remains to be seen whether the relaxation in cash limits will be of any help to the customers as, according to media reports, banks do not yet have enough cash to supply to the ATMs.

A report in The Indian Express on Friday said only 40 percent of the 2.2 lakh ATMs in the country have cash to serve the public.

The report quotes Ramaswamy Venkatachalam, managing director, India and South Asia, Fidelity Information Services (FIS), as saying that banks are not meeting the “full cash requirement” to operate ATMs round the clock.

The RBI and the government also seem to be clueless about when the cash situation will return to normalcy, though they insist there is enough notes to dispense.

Even on the 50th day of demonetisation they have not been able to provide the update the details of the new currency issued and also the deposits of old notes received.

The last press release on the cash situation was on 21 December from the RBI. As of 19 December, the banks have issued Rs 5.93 lakh crore to public either over the counter or through ATMs. That is a nearly 40 percent of the cash sucked out of the system on 9 November, when the demonetisation came into effect.

In this backdrop, while the public and the authorities are remain clueless about when the cash situation will improve, the increase in withdrawal limit from ATMs would mean little for the customers.

With PTI

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 09:41 IST

Newsroom diaries 2016: Freedom 251, the story that made us question technology

Editor’s note: This article is part of a series of newsroom diaries by various members of the Firstpost team. These diaries will provide you with the journalist’s recollections of a particular bit of news coverage in 2016 in which she/he was deeply involved.

I’ve been covering technology for some years now. But on the evening of 16 February this year, news came in of a sub-Rs 500 smartphone to be launched in India. Personally, I considered it to be a con job. It seemed as tricky as a chain-marketing sham to make money from innocent customers. I was rather excited about the upcoming Mobile World Congress, which typically sets the pace for the kind of devices we are to expect through the rest of the year. When someone suggested that this could be a story worth following, I brushed it aside.

Freedom 251. IBNLiveFreedom 251. IBNLive

Freedom 251. IBNLive

The next morning I was proven wrong. And how. On the morning of 17 February, newspapers in the northern parts of India ran full front page ads of the Freedom 251, by Ringing Bells. Colleagues who would otherwise not care as much about what we covered in technology were following up by the minute. I was getting phone calls and messages about this latest sensation. That’s exactly what Freedom 251 was – a sensation.

I had colleagues in office who were interested in buying a dozen handsets. A dozen? I thought to myself. But that’s exactly the kind of hysteria I was witnessing. While the initial joy of discovering a product as cheap as the Freedom 251 was behind us, we knew we had to go deeper. We’d have to break the myth it was. I ridiculed the product. Fundamentally, I was convicted of my idea that India needs devices, but what the Freedom 251 offers somehow doesn’t make it for me. I was criticised on social media for my stand – going against the wave of having an Indian product. I was accused of being critical and pessimistic when the need was to support Indian products. I guess that’s typical of social media conversations these days. Especially in India.

We analysed the product, the specification sheet that the company had put out. Our finding was that it was simply not possible to manufacture a device at that price point. People didn’t want to accept that this simply wasn’t possible. It’s like saying everyone has the possibility of winning a lottery. Mass hysteria begins. Then no one wants to know that the lottery is a hoax. During the days of the initial surge in interest, Apple, Microsoft, Google and Facebook all seemed pale in comparison.

We worked towards getting access to the device. Media in Delhi were invited to a launch event. As I always think, Delhi is important. So yes, media in Delhi tried the device out. And did mention on social media how the device gives mixed reactions. There were a few who said ‘what more do you expect in Rs 251?’ while others said, ‘feels like a scam.’ And sitting in Mumbai, I was getting mixed reactions from my friends in Delhi who had tried the device. But even they were given access to a ‘prototype’ with the logo of another manufacturer. Fine so far. But even that manufacturer distanced themselves from the company – Ringing Bells. I’m glad today there’s no mention of Freedom 251 and that India has finally moved beyond. Moreover, our initial stand of doubting the feasibility stands vindicated.

But what I have with me now are a couple of thousands of emails. All sent with personal details. I’ve been on a deletion spree, but every time I embark on that task, something more important comes along, and I procrastinate the deletion. It’s funny how someone could send me emails with an order of two dozen Freedom 251 handset. I’m not remotely connected to them. I’m glad though that no one sent me money, else they’d be demanding refunds! I’m probably going to spend a few hours around New Years cleaning up my inbox.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 09:40 IST

Newsroom diaries 2016: From Kashmir to Syria, a year in terror

Editor’s note: This article is part of a series of newsroom diaries by various members of the Firstpost team. These diaries will provide you with the journalist’s recollections of a particular bit of news coverage in 2016 in which she/he was deeply involved.

In 2001 the world saw the devastating 9/11 attack, with awe and shock. That moment changed everything. We became a more scared group of people. Abandoned bags and clothing choices made us scared. This situation grew worse in 2016, for this year, we got normalised to terror attacks.

It was 2 January and a group of terrorists attacked an airbase in Pathankot, killing 8 people. This set the tone for the rest of the year and it was all downhill from there on.

The year saw some of the most incredulous attacks by Islamic State or IS-inspired terrorists. This included the Brussels airport attack where a coordinated attack by suicide bombers killed 32 people. Then was the Nice attack where a cargo truck was deliberately driven into a group of people on Bastille Day killing 86 and injuring 434. In December, the Syrian conflict had one of the worst repercussion beyond its borders with the assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey in Ankara. A 22-year-old Turkish gunman Andrey Karlov shot dead the 62-year-old diplomat in what appeared to be revenge for Russia’s part in the violence in Syria.

Russia’s ambassador to Turkey was assassinated in Ankara at an art exhibit by a lone Turkish gunman shouting “God is great!” and “don’t forget Aleppo, don’t forget Syria!”. The assassination was photographed and it presented one of the most chilling moments in 2016.

An unnamed gunman shouts after shooting the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, at a photo gallery in Ankara. APAn unnamed gunman shouts after shooting the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, at a photo gallery in Ankara. AP

An unnamed gunman shouts after shooting the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, at a photo gallery in Ankara. AP

The frequency of terror attacks in 2016 was so great that changing the Facebook display pictures became a daily activity for people who sympathised with the victims of these attacks. There were regular fights on social media over the media coverage allotted to a particular attack. The logic was that when a western country was attacked, people noticed, as opposed to when the middle-eastern belt or Asian and African belt was hit. This is probably why 2016 remained etched in people’s memories, for the rise in hits on the European civilisation.

United States suffered the worst attack since 9/11

People take part in a protest against police brutality and in support of Black Lives Matter during a march in New York. ReutersPeople take part in a protest against police brutality and in support of Black Lives Matter during a march in New York. Reuters

People take part in a protest against police brutality and in support of Black Lives Matter during a march in New York. Reuters

This year, the United States suffered under attacks of gun-violence, fundamentalism and racial tension. The ‘Orlando terror attack’ where a 29-year-old Islamic State-inspired radical entered a gay nightclub and killed 49 people, was perhaps the biggest attack on the LGBTQ community. A hate-crime like this one spoke volumes about the rise of intolerance in a Trumpian era. The Orlando attack was the second major terror attack on the US soil since 9/11 and this reign of terror was further fuelled when the major movement for equality — Black Lives Matter — turned violent after the death of police officers during the protest rallies in Dallas and Baton Rouge.

Tentions escalate between India and Pakistan

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

In 2016, there was palpable tension between India and Pakistan and one of the possible reasons was how the year started for the two nations. In January, the Pathankot attack happened and it was the beginning of the signs of mistrust between the two nations. On 8 November, when news about PM Modi’s address to the nation came in, we all thought he was going to announce something in relation to taking strong action against Pakistan.

This notion was not unfounded. For 20 minutes between the announcement of address and the actual address, theories about war were floating on the desk. This was because a month ago, on 29 September, a military confrontation between India and Pakistan began. India claimed that it had conducted “surgical strikes” against militant launch pads across the Line of Control in Pakistani-administered Azad Kashmir, and inflicted “significant casualties”. This was touted as Modi’s surgical strike against Pakistan and was instigated by the 19 September Uri attack where 17 Indian soldiers were killed. The Uri attack was reported as “the deadliest attack on security forces in Kashmir in two decades”

The number of ceasefire violations had increased manifold since then. Out of the total number of 151 ceasefire violations in 2016, 110 of them happened since September.

The palpable tension between the two nations put everyone on edge.

The normalcy of terror attacks hit a raw nerve

There wasn’t just one moment or one incident which affected me the most this year. The normalcy of the situation hit a raw note. “What terror attack are we covering today,” was a frequently heard adage on the desk. The clinical process on the desk when one of these strikes happened was: prep the live blog, write the death toll copies, write analysis copies, do reaction copy, etc. Everybody got the hang of this process after the first few attacks.

However, the efficiency of the desk meant that too many of these attacks had happened and too many people had lost their lives. 2016 had ushered in a new era of normalcy.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 09:24 IST

Newsroom diaries 2016: Marathwada, elections, Olympics, demonetisation and how we covered them

This past week Facebook has resounded with plangent laments about the year that will not end.

Most timelines are lengthy dirges punctuated with cries of cashlessness, Aleppolessness, musiclessness and Baracklessness. Annus horribilis is the Latinate of choice.

There hasn’t been a better year for journalism in recent history. The sordidness of 2016 has presented our estate with sufficient opportunities to peel open and consider the human condition. It has allowed us to recount such stories that newsmen and women don’t often get to tell. This is especially true for a band of journalists relaying reports, opinion and analysis from a newsroom freed of the constraints that tie down a print publication — no curbs on article length, supporting media, revisions and improvements, narrative possibilities, and so on.

Firstpost is one such outfit.

The Firstpost newsroomThe Firstpost newsroom

The Firstpost newsroom

Four stories we’ve reported in the past year should serve to showcase the breadth of material (and digital reporting opportunities) 2016 has provided the Firstpost newsroom.

The first came early when a visiting former chief minister of Maharashtra told us of the seriousness of drought conditions in Marathwada. We dispatched three writers to the region, each equipped with a small camera — none had used one in the course of reporting — to record the extent of damage. The series that resulted from their month-long journey, encrusted as it was with rich media, helped set the general course of debate on state intervention and the failure of successive governments in instituting any lasting solutions to address water scarcity in Marathwada.

In preparing for elections held to elect members to five state Assemblies, in May, we resolved to replicate a television newsroom online; in-studio political analysts, an anchor, multiple video and audio feeds from the five states, data visualisation, combined with on-ground reportage, gathered by writers applying — many of them for the first time — the fundamental tenets of print journalism to digital storytelling methods.

Soon after, the sports desk — frugally peopled — came up against the Rio Olympics, which afforded them the chance to run one of the lengthiest live blogs Firstpost has operated thus far, spanning 16 days, book-ended by the two ceremonies at the Maracana Stadium.

The fourth story is a biphonic texture of two stories that occurred almost simultaneously, over the course of 24 hours, beginning 8 November: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise announcement that 86 percent of currency in circulation would be rendered invalid in 50 days‘ time, and an election in the US that advanced the likelihood of an orange-haired real estate huckster with tenuous grasp of policy occupying the Oval Room.

Both offered Firstpost the occasion to set off a lengthy, live, accretive discourse drawn from analysis that combined text, video and audio; we hadn’t embedded such a large volume of fragmentary opinion pieces in live blogs until then. The election allowed us to build on what we’d learnt in May — we ran an eight-hour broadcast on the website, with commentators weighing in live from Toronto, New Orleans, New York, Delhi, Dubai and Mumbai.

And from all accounts, those last two stories have yet to coil themselves to a close.

The fading days of 2016 could well serve as prologue for the year before us.

A newsroom is made not by the technology or resources at its disposal, but by those who inhabit it. For a more personalised view on the experiences of various members of the Firstpost newsroom while covering specific stories, check out the following accounts:

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 08:51 IST

DNA Morning Must Reads: ATM withdrawal limit hiked; ‘Yadavi’ in Samajwadi Party continues; PV Sindhu sportsperson of 2016, and more

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>1. Daily ATM withdrawal limit hiked to Rs 4,500 from January 1In a relief to common man, the Reserve Bank tonight said cash withdrawal limit from ATMs will be increased to Rs 4,500 per day from the current Rs 2,500 from January 1. Read more here2. Game UP: Samajwadi Party faces split as Mulayam expels AkhileshAfter Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav dropped a bombshell, expelling his son and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on Friday evening, all eyes are now on the party’s one-day national convention on Sunday. Read more here3. One little BHIM set to change India: Your thumb is your bank now, says PM ModiMore than 50 days after announcing his demonetization move, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday launched the mobile app BHIM (Bharat Interface for Money) which he said would enable easier digital transactions for the common man. Read more here4. DNA poll: Olympic silver medallist PV Sindhu voted Sportsperson of the Year, Virat Kohli finishes distant 2ndIn a year when Virat Kohli hit golden form, Dipa Karmakar’s Produnova made global headlines, Olympic silver-winning shuttler gets giant share of votes. Read more here5. The A to Z of music in 2016From Arijit Singh to Zayn Malik, read all about the year’s newsmakers and trends in music, here and elsewhere. Read more here

Demonetisation: Withdrawal limit from ATM hiked to Rs 4,500 per day from 1 January

Mumbai: In a relief to common man, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Friday said cash withdrawal limit from ATMs will be increased to Rs 4,500 per day from the current Rs 2,500 from 1 January.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

However, there has been no change in the weekly withdrawal limit, which stands at Rs 24,000, including from ATM, for individuals (Rs 50,000 in case of small traders).

“On a review of the position, the daily limit of withdrawal from ATMs has been increased (within the overall weekly limits specified) with effect from 1 January 2017, from the existing Rs 2,500 to Rs 4,500 per day per card,” the central bank said in a notification.

Following demonetisation of old Rs 500/1000 notes on 9 November, limits had been imposed on withdrawal of cash from banks as well as ATMs.

The RBI’s notification further stated “there is no change in weekly withdrawal limits” and such disbursals “should predominantly be in the denomination of Rs 500”.

Earlier in the day, the RBI had permitted White Label ATM Operators (WLAOs) to source cash from retail outlets.

Most of the White Label ATMs are running dry since demonetisation as the operators were facing difficulties in sourcing cash from their sponsor bank(s).

Friday was the last day to deposit the invalid currency notes in banks. However, people still have time to exchange the currency notes at designated RBI counters till March 31 after giving valid reasons for not depositing defunct notes in their accounts by December 30.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 08:34 IST

The A to Z of 2016

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A is Apple, Android, AI: And other state-of-the-art techB is for Brexit: A decision Britain may regretC is for Clinton: Her emails and her shimmyD is for Demonetization: The idea for a cashless economyE is for EU: That claims it has a migrant crisisF is for Fight: The war against terrorism, particularly ISISG is for Gandhis: India’s self-proclaimed first familyH is for Hombres: The good, the bad, and the uglyI is for ISIS: a group that’s anything but rationalJ is for Jingoism: If you don’t believe it, you’re anti-national K is for Kim, Kanye, Kyle and the other celebrities L is for Live streaming: so you’re a part of big storiesM is for Michelle: the Obama who is loved moreN is for Note: The phone that lost Samsung crores and croresO is for Orange: In the United States, it’s the New BlackP is for Potter: The Cursed Child (was it good or did it face flak?)Q is for Questions: For which answers we have noneR is for Russia: Because everyone assumes Putin’s scumS is for Stars: Many left us in 2016 and are now shining brightT is for Trump: Did America play its cards right?U is for Ugly: What we feel about 2016 dailyV is for Virat: Or as fans say, Kohli, Kohli, Kohli!W is for War: It gets murkier, will there be a WW III?X is for X-travagent wedding: Money spent by Janardhan ReddyY is for Yolo: the mantra employed to surviveZ is for Zika: A virus that had a 2016 thrive

Scandal stirrers of 2016_Tabloid

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Twas a year for scandal, with fatal acts of passion, messy divorces, public spats and corporate soap-operas. All of India’s well-known faces decided to rumble with each other. And we had front row seats to the biggest shows of the year…Twist of the yearDecember 2016 threw in a twist in the Sheena Bora case: that her step-father, media baron Peter Mukerjea was allegedly a co-conspirator in her abduction and subsequent murder.The Sheena Bora murder case broke in August 2015, when her mother Indrani Mukerjea, stepfather Sanjeev Khanna and Mukerjea’s driver Shyamvar Pinturam Rai were arrested by the Mumbai Police for allegedly abducting and killing her and subsequently burning and dumping her corpse; and the case got murkier over the course of 2016.Mukerjea, whose son Rahul’s engagement to Sheena was supposed to have enraged Indrani, was assumed to be an innocent bystander. But public prosecutor Bharat Badami said Mukerjea played a “very crucial role” in the murder. He presented the long list of emails and messages exchanged within the family, especially between Peter and his son Rahul, and his calls to Indrani. Badami pointed out a pattern in the calls and messages between Indrani and Peter. “After a call to Sheena, Indrani immediately called Peter and they spoke. They spoke even when she reached and found a spot to dispose of the body. Similarly, she had exchanged messages at every step with Peter,” Badami told the court.A few months in prison seems to have served as a spiritual and personality cleanse. While Peter has already started penning his memoir, Indrani has been transformed by the suffering of her fellow inmates, and has plans to donate her organs and 75 per cent of her property. She has also said to have translated 700 shlokas from the Gita, while we hope for a good kiss-and-tell bestseller.Creative divorcesAshima and LeenaIn February, designer duo Ashima (above left) and Leena (above right), who wove magic for over 20 years for their eponymous label ‘Ashima Leena’, decided to part ways. While Ashima Singh was the creative force, Leena Singh handled the brand’s business and management of production cycle. However, the ladies managed the creative divorce with the elegance one associates with their clothes. Leena Singh retains and continues to work under the brand name ‘Ashima Leena’, while Ashima launched her own label, Ashima Singh. She chose a different retail route, to make sure her new label did not clash with her old one, launching her store at Visaya Hotel in Panchsheel Park in Delhi.Armaan-AimanIn March, another designer duo’s creative partnership hit the rocks. Fresh flavour of the indie-crowd, designers Armaan Randhawa (below left) and Aiman Agha (below right), who designed under Armaan Aiman, went kaput. The duo had only been together for barely three years, showing first at GenNext at Lakmé Fashion Week (Winter/Festive) in 2013. They soon gained entry into the cool and quirky crowd, and announced their split the millennial way—through social media.On March 1, their Facebook page announced that the label was now simply called ‘Aiman.’ Agha refused to comment on her departure, while Randhawa said the reasons were personal and they remain good friends. When Lakme Fashion Week came around in August, Randhawa was back with his solo collection, EKAM.Art arrestIn 2015, artist Chintan Upadhyay was arrested for murdering his estranged wife and her lawyer Haresh Bhambhani. He allegedly even dumped their bodies in a Kandivli drain. Understandably, the art world dropped a few fine brushes over the news.The arrest only enhanced the price of Chintan’s work outside prison. In May, one of Hema’s friends, Sanchu Menon, wrote to prison authorities questioning why Chintan was getting unwarranted privileges in jail. Apparently, not only was the artist getting home-cooked khana, he was also allowed to paint in his cell and then sell those paintings for a handsome sum outside. Menon alleged that not only was this illegal, but Chintan was using this money to help the main accused Vidyadhar Rajbhar to stay in hiding.It was in Rajbhar’s art workshop that Hema and Bhambhani were allgedly murdered on December 11, 2015, and Vidyadhar, aka Gotu, remains an essential link in the case. It was reported in June 2016 that Rajbhar was working in a Chennai suburb.In August 2016, a 13-page confession was made before a magistrate by Pradeep Rajbhar, who used to work and live at the art workshop, Bansraj Art Company, where Hema and Harish were allegedly murdered. In his confession, Pradeep said he lured Hema at Chintan’s behest to the workshop with the promise of giving her a sex tape of Chintan with another woman. It was all allegedly part of a ruse to finish her off for filing a false complaint against him in court. In November, a sessions court in Dindoshi rejected Chintan’s second bail application.End of an affairFarhan Akhtar and Adhuna BhabaniMore than a little faith was shaken when Farhan Akhtar and Adhuna Bhabani parted ways after 16 years together. There were whispers that his co-star Aditi Rao Hydari’s presence could have caused a crack in the marriage as they grew close on the sets of Wazir.Their cool and unconventional marriage (Adhuna was older and more successful of the duo, and always maintained a non-star-wife identity) was surpassed only by the camaraderie with which they conducted their divorce.They filed for divorce on October 19, and both are attending the mandatory counselling sessions before it is finalised. There has been no mudslinging, allegation of affairs or fighting over their children (they have two girls together).They’ve concentrated on their careers. Adhuna’s B:Blunt launched a line of hair products and a funky ad promoting them using only bloggers; while Farhan starred in Wazir, Dil Dhadakne Do and Rock On 2.Farhan is also said to have moved on with Rock On co-actor (co-stars seems to be his dating pool. How’s that for minimal effort?) Shraddha Kapoor, with her allegedly moving into his bachelor pad in Bandra (until papa Shakti Kapoor apparently pulled her out and told her to take it slow).Though Adhuna still works on movie assignments, there seems to be an unwritten agreement that neither she nor anyone from her team will style Farhan for a while. In October, she apparently refused to style Farhan for a chat show after spotting his name on the guest list and requested that none from her team be asked to do so either.Jaidev Shroff and Poonam BhagatA couple that is not being elegant over the end of their association is art patron Poonam Bhagat (left) and industrialist husband Jaidev Shroff (inset). The two have hurled serious, criminal and even fantastical allegations at each other each other as they speed towards divorce.Shroff met Bhagat in 2000, when he was in the midst of divorce proceedings with first wife Romila, because of her alleged involvement with a Dubai-based businessman.The Shroff-Bhagat union was solemnised in 2005 and in October 2015, Shroff filed for divorce on grounds of “cruelty” towards him and his two daughters with Romila.In April, 2016, Shroff filed an FIR at Khar police station alleging that Bhagat performed black magic on him by administering a ‘magic potion’ in a glass of orange juice, allegedly obtained from a Bengali baba.In her application, Bhagat accused Shroff of domestic abuse for eleven years. She said he started hitting her within six months of their marriage and “giving her a black eye, and (breaking) her tooth by stuffing a mobile phone down her throat.” In 2008, Bhagat — then, pregnant — said she confronted Shroff about taking a former girlfriend to a family event.Bhagat says Shroff then slapped, pushed her to the ground and kicked her, which resulted in a miscarriage.If we were handing out an award for the messiest divorce of 2016, the Bhagat-Shroff saga would win hands down.Arbaaz-Malaika AroraThe Malaika Arora-Arbaaz Khan (impending) divorce has gained traction as the year ends. It served as a classic case of ‘are they-aren’t they’? Hints of the divorce started doing the rounds after Malaika dropped ‘Khan’ from her name at a dance reality show. Then they were spotted at the Bandra family court with their lawyers.Slowly, we heard of Malaika moving out of the house with son Arhaan and Salman trying to play ‘fixer’. But apparently bhai wasn’t able to forge a reunion, because they don’t share a close bond. Salman allegedly did not approve of her work, her clothes and her close circle of friends.The reasons for their split are supposedly more material than emotional. Sources say Malaika was not happy with Arbaaz’s unsuccessful career and did not like the fact that her husband “lived in the shadow of his superstar brother”. She is also said to have always felt like an outsider in the Khan family.Why do we feel this celebrity divorce may continue to make headlines in 2017?Best story spinnerIf Priyanka Chopra sneezed on the sets of Baywatch, we’d hear about it. The PR machinery for our export to Hollywood worked itself to exhaustion this year. When she had dinner with Gerard Butler, we heard they were dating. When she presented an award with actor Tom Hiddleston (above), she was said to have helped him get over his break-up with Taylor Swift. We hear Priyanka’s press agent has unrealistic expectations of her team, demanding a story about the star in the media every day. So don’t expect PeeCee, and her team, to slow down in 2017.Meltdown of the yearVikram Chatwal, a New York hotelier, came back on our gossip radar after he was accused of setting two dogs on fire outside his Manhattan home. Forty-four-year-old Chatwal, whose family owns a chain of hotels, has had a long turbulent history with drug abuse. He was admitted to rehab at Masina Hospital in Mumbai in 2009. In October 2016, Chatwal allegedly rushed out of his New York home to the street and attacked the two pups belonging to a passer-by saying, “They must die!” He then tried to set them on fire using a lighter and aerosol can.

Bihar jailbreak: 5 prisoners escape from Central Jail in Buxar

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Five prisoners escaped from Central Jail in Bihar’s Buxar late Friday night, ANI reported.More details are awaited.This is the third major prison escape this year. On November 27, Khalistan Liberation Force terrorist (KLF) Harminder Singh Mintoo had escaped from Punjab’s Nabha Jail along with five others.On October 30, eight SIMI operatives escaped from Bhopal Central Jail. They were gunned down in an encounter by the state police.

Religious revolutions of ’16

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As the passing year witnessed greater disputes over various laws, people also came out disagreeing with beliefs and customary practices that had been kept on a pedestal. Not only did women come out protesting against age old traditions barring them from being as devotional as others. They also opposed religious personal laws demanding a better quality of life, denying being a victim of things which don’t hold relevance in the 21st century.While 2016 might go down in history as one of the worst years for a few, it did have some redeeming qualities. It was a good year for many a believers who received a huge return on their spiritual investment.The greatest of all victories was when the Shani Shignapur temple in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra finally agreed to let female worshippers in after 400 years. This was the result of a long-drawn-out battle spearheaded by the Bhumata Brigade, led by the firebrand Trupti Desai. The women waged a pitched battle for their right to worship and questioned age old patriarchal practices. Not stopping here, the group of feisty women are taking their battle to other temples like the Sabrimala in Kerela where women of a menstruating age are forbidden from entering and offering prayers.The Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) led by Zakia Soman and Noorjehan Niaz, pitched a similar battle to enter the inner sanctum of Mumbai’s Haji Ali Dargah. The ban that was just instituted four years ago, prohibited women from entering the inner sanctum of the dargah. In August this year the Bombay High Court held that the ban against women entering the inner sanctorm of the dargah contravenes Articles 14, 15 and 25 of the Constitution of India. The court ordered the Dargah Trust to lift the ban. Though the matter went to the Supreme Court, the women emerged victorious finally entering the shrine on November 30. It was indeed a moment of pride for the Christians across the world as well, as they rejoiced at Mother Teresa being granted ‘sainthood’. The Catholic nun who had devoted her life to caring for the dying and the destitute on the streets of Kolkata, was officially canonized at the Vatican this year and rechristened Saint Teresa of Calcutta by Pope Francis. From rationalists debating over the importance given to ‘miracles’ and amid the constant accusations of conversions, no one can doubt that the Missionaries of Charity have given hope and dignity to some poorest and most miserable people in the city.Meanwhile, Pope Francis also revealed a more inclusive face of the Roman Catholic Church by asking Christians to stop hate crimes and discrimination against the LGBT community. He said that the church must apologise to gay people for marginalising them. While he did not budge from the church’s stand on marriages as being an exclusive heterosexual privilege and did not endorse same sex marriages, this has been seen as a big step forward in making the church more rainbow friendly. Mumbai’s Cardinal Oswald Gracious too asserted that gay people were not criminals and all Christians must be welcomed by the church. With the rising debate over triple talaq and the growing demand to revise the Article, the Law Commission of India released a questionnaire in October on Uniform Civil Code (UCC) asking citizens for their suggestions. With the possible introduction of UCC giving rise to a heated debate across the country many fear that the law is actually a tool to erase cultural practices and religious identities. However, the UCC, at least prima facie, is merely a uniform law that would subvert all religion based personal laws in matters related to marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption and maintenance. Different faiths see UCC as a way to do away with mysogistic practices like triple talaq in Islam, polygamy in both Islam and Hinduism (permitted in Goa) and the practice of ‘maitri karar’ or ‘friendship agreement’, a practice in Gujarat that legally allows a man to have another women in his life apart from his wife. Women also hope matters related to mehr and dowry become clear. It remains to be seen how the UCC plays its part in bringing about greater gender justice.

Mumbai’s Krishna Mandir to get a new look

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>For the next two years, devotees who usually visit Shri Krishna Temple in Sion for Krishna Janmasthami will have to visit Ashraya in Navi Mumbai.The temple managed by the 90-year-old Bombay South Kanara Brahmin’s Association (BSKBA), will soon undergo renovation, giving the temple a new south Indian style of architecture. The association members have planned to relocate the existing deity of Lord Krishna on December 31 to Navi Mumbai for the next two years.Speaking about the new structure of the temple and the Lord Krishna idol which was kept in the temple since 1962, Suresh Rao, president of BSKBA, said, “The idol was donated by a Rajasthani sculptor who made the idol in Rajasthan. Most of the south Indian temples have similar structure but the architectural designs depend upon which deity’s idol is kept inside the temple. The temple is a part of a building right now, but, soon we will have a sanctum sanctorum (garbha gudhi) where only priest will be allowed to enter and main hall (mukha mantapa) with around 3500 ft space to conduct various religious function.”According to the history, the association was formed by the Kanara Brahmins who resided in the city for the cultural and social meet-ups and later made a temple adjoining their association building. Currently there are approximately 4,600 members.While the temple was made up of plaster of paris in the past, the new structure will be built from black stones. Giving more information, Rao added, “The structures of the temple will be made in Dakshina Kannada district of Karnataka by the sculptor and later on will be assembled here. There will be approximately 11 steps — also known as gopuram, on the dome which will have architectural designs of various god and goddess.”To mark this occasion and to give a grand farewell to the Lord, a colourful procession of the idol Krishna will take place from Gokul hall with a group of 70 artists performing various south Indian folk dances like Huli Vesha, Betala, Bhooth Kola Vesha, Keelu Kudure, Tattiraya, famous drummists (Chandai) from Kerala along with large number of members & devotees.“We have made a temporary temple in Ashrayas, a senior citizens’s home of BSKB Association. We will be carrying out a procession in nearby areas at Sion and later on relocate the idol. There are 70 artist who will be travelling from Mangalore.”

BJP reaches out to Mary Kom ahead of Manipur polls

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>With barely a week for the poll dates in Manipur to be announced, BJP is trying to make inroads into the northeastern state by reaching out to world champion boxer Mary Kom to lead its campaign in the state election. Sources in the party said that the Olympian met party president Amit Shah last week.The meeting has sparked off speculation that the BJP was keen on Kom spearheading the party’s fight in the upcoming polls in the fragmented state. However, sources said the ball was now in her court.It was not known whether the BJP was considering her as its chief ministerial candidate. A close aide of the boxer, who is a Rajya Sabha member, said she had met some ministers in Delhi last week. “She is yet to join the party, and no decision on her future course of action has been taken yet,” said the aide. Kom was unavailable for comment.Manipur state BJP chief K Bhabananda Singh said that no directive has come from the Centre; but that he will support if any announcement to make Kom the CM candidate is made.With Mary belonging to the Kom tribe, it will be interesting to see how the party’s fortunes pan out in a state dominated mostly by the Meiteis. The absolute popularity that Mary enjoys outside the state needs to translate into votes for the BJP. Singh, however, says that he is ‘optimistic’ with the party’s great prospects.Yet, the stalemate between the Congress-led government and the United Naga Council is firmly in place, blocking the entry of essential goods.The other star face in the state, Irom Sharmila, who gave up her 16-year-long fast against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) early this year, caused a huge stir by announcing her plans to contest the elections. With an eroding popularity, Irom’s prospects will also be closely-watched.

Linear projects: A rising threat to our forests and wildlife: Fauna

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Earlier this month, on December 5, locals at Hojai in Assam’s Nagaon district witnessed a distressing incident. A speeding Kanyakumari-Dibrugarh Vivek Express rammed into three elephants, killing them. It included two pregnant elephants, who delivered stillborn calves. Only 12 days later, two adult elephants and a calf were killed when a train hit them 125kms away from Guwahati, again in Nagaon district. These two accidents along with another one on December 6 took the life of eight elephants in December alone.The accidents in Assam and the rise in proposed linear projects such as highways, railway line doubling, power transmission lines and canals once again bring to attention how perhaps certain developmental projects pose the biggest threats to our forests and wildlife. A deeper look into projects that have been both, proposed and cleared, reveals that they will pass through some of our most dense forests that are home to rich biodiversity, varied wildlife and are precious sources of freshwater in fast warming climate. In 2016, some crucial linear projects that will fragment our forests, were cleared or have made their way towards being cleared.Wildlife corridors under threatFor instance, in March, the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), chaired by the Prime Minister, cleared conversion of the 227-km long Gondia-Jabalpur line from narrow gauge to broad gauge. Of this 227km, 77km will pass through the Kanha-Pench tiger corridor, considered one of the most crucial in the country for it allows tigers from two different source populations and gene pools to move to newer territories.In Eastern India, the Indian Railways has approved expansion of the 156km long Sambalpur-Angul railway line, that already fragments Satkosia-Ushakoti-Badrama elephant and tiger landscape.Conservationists and wildlife activists have argued that while large linear projects should be avoided in forests and wildlife habitats, there is also an acute lack of standardized environmental safeguards.Lack of willIn the case of National Highway – 7 widening, that will pass through the Kanha-Pench wildlife corridor and the Pench tiger reserve, the National Highway Authority of India was dragged to court to have them construct environmental safeguards such as underpasses and overpasses for safe wildlife passage.The NH-7 case illustrated that government agencies were unwilling to initiate expenditure on environmental safeguards to prevent wildlife casualties, until courts ordered them to. Following this case, the union ministry for environment, forest and climate change commissioned the Wildlife Institute of India to prepare guidelines on incorporating environmental safeguards in linear infrastructure. The ministry also commissioned this report with a view to ensure speedy clearances for linear projects.The guidelines were made public in October and suggested minimum engineering solutions such as elevated ramps and sections should for wildlife to cross highways and fencing in case of railways. The guidelines though, do not have to be followed mandatory, as they have not been notified.Environmentalists have also questioned these guidelines. “I don’t think these guidelines will be followed because the project developers always try to go for safeguards that will be least expensive. We need to put in place a conservation fund for linear projects and project proponents ought to involve environmental experts at the start of the project and not at the clearance stage. These projects are fragmenting and damaging valuable forest resource,” said Anish Andheria,, President, Wildlife Conservation Trust, a non-profit organisation working in 110 protected areas across 19 states.Other conservationists said that the current dispensation has junked an earlier decision of the environment ministry to stop new roads in protected areas. “The NBWL, in its previous term, had recognised linear infrastructure as one of the major threats to forests and wildlife. This prompted formulation of guidelines that said that no new roads will be constructed in protected areas. Why were those guidelines junked? asks Prerna Bindra, conservationist and former member of NBWL standing committee.Upcoming projects passing through forests and protected areasProposed linear projects waiting for wildlife and forest clearance:Dedicated freight corridor passing through Gautam Buddha Sanctuary, home to leopards, bears and chitalCasterlock-Kulem railway line doubling and Tinaighat – Castlerock railway line doubling in Dandeli wildlife sanctuaryHubli-Ankola railway line will pass through Western Ghats forests, Bedthi conservation reserve at Yellapur and buffer region of Anshi Dandeli Tiger ReserveBarkhera-Budni third railway line construction in Ratapani wildlife sanctuary. Project will take up 104.75 hectares of the sanctuary

Game UP: Samajwadi Party faces split as Mulayam expels Akhilesh

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>After Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav dropped a bombshell, expelling his son and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on Friday evening, all eyes are now on the party’s one-day national convention on Sunday.Mulayam also expelled his cousin and party general secretary Ramgopal Yadav for calling the emergency session of delegates, and accused him of “spoiling the career of the chief minister.” The SP chief said both Akhilesh and Ramgopal have been sacked for weakening the party and stated that his son didn’t even consulted him on state matters.In a fight to the finish, Mulayam and his brother Shivpal Yadav have summoned a meeting of party MLAs on Saturday and those named as candidates. Both factions of the Yadav family are vying to entice as many MLAs as they can to strengthen the party. “This expulsion is unconstitutional,” said Ramgopal, alleging that of late, the SP has made a practice of ignoring its playbook. “Half an hour after we were given notice, we were expelled. Even a criminal is given a chance to explain,” said a disgruntled Ramgopal.Party sources from Lucknow told DNA that the convention will appeal to Mulayam to continue to lead the party, but relook the list of candidates he had announced unilaterally on Wednesday and also revoke the decision to expel the Chief Minister. The list, announced by Mulayam, has several candidates backed by Shivpal whose candidacy had been fiercely opposed by Akhilesh. This included gangster-turned-politician Atiq Ahmed, who faces 44 serious criminal charges — including murder.Defying the party and his father, Akhilesh released his own rebel list on Thursday of 235 candidates. One of them included Rita Bahuguna Joshi. Formerly with the Congress before she switched to the BJP, Joshi is the MLA from Lucknow Cantt constituency.The party’s senior leader Madhukar Jaitley described the situation as “unfortunate”. He said a situation was unprecedented where a father, also the founder of the party, was compelled to expel his son. SP spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia said there was still room for reconciliation, but expressed concern at the move coming at a time when the state was on the verge of elections.Saturday will be a crucial day for the Mulayam and Shivpal camps, party sources said. The majority of MLAs have so far reposed their faith in the Chief Minister.On October 28, Akhilesh had mustered the support of 190 MLAs out of SP’s 229 against his uncle Shivpal. Besides legislators, the majority of party leaders as well owe allegiance to the Chief Minister, as they see him as the future of the party. Immediately after the decision, reports from Lucknow said workers thronged Akhilesh’s official residence, shouting slogans against Shivpal. Over 100 MLAs reached Akhilesh’s house to express support. There were also shouts of self-immolation as the crowds turned emotional.With elections now so close, there is hardly any possibility of the party replacing the Chief Minister now. In case of a majority of MLAs expressing a no-confidence motion, Akhilesh may be allowed to continue as caretaker. Otherwise, the state will move towards the imposition of President’s rule. Sources in Raj Bhawan said Governor Ram Naik is keeping a close eye on the developments, but, so far, no communication has been made to him from either the Mulayam or Akhilesh camp.Denying speculations that Akhilesh will resign, his loyalist Gomti Yadav said the CM will stay on till his last day in power.Already other parties are moving in to align forces. West Bengal CM and Trinamul Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee called up Akhilesh and offered support, saying “you are like my brother.” Congress leader Jayanta Prasad is already mediating between Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh for a possible electoral tie-up.While UP’s ruling party has been headed for a split for some time now, the break point came after Ramgopal called an emergency convention of the party in defiance of the party chief. This came after Mulayam issued a show-cause notice to his son, asking him why disciplinary action should not be taken against him for releasing a parallel list of candidates, which include several party leaders close to him and who did not make it to the official list released by his father a day before. Akhilesh’s list include 187 candidates who have also featured in his father’s list.The Chief Minister’s defiant move was seen as a last-ditch effort to pressure his father into reconsidering the candidacy of his key aides after they failed to reach common ground at a meeting in Lucknow. In recent months, Akhilesh has engaged in a bitter power tussle with Shivpal, who is the party’s UP chief. Notably, Shivpal was present next to Mulayam, when he announced the expulsion of Akhilesh.The SP’s internal battle gives an added advantage to the BJP and Mayawati’s BSP in the mega battle being touted as the semi-final before the general elections in 2019. Elections to UP’s 403 assembly seats are expected to be announced by the Election Commission any day now.The battle, which had been festering for over a year, had been triggered by Shivpal to control the party. This was resisted by Akhilesh, mentored by Ramgopal, his father’s cousin. Akhilesh has contended with a constant undermining of his decisions by Mulayam, under the alleged influence of Shivpal. Among the initiatives which his father thwarted include the lobbying for an alliance with the Congress for state elections, and a request to shun politicians with criminal backgrounds as candidates.Battle between the bahusIt is not just the father and son who are locked in a political battle. It is also a battle between the daughters-in-law. Aparna, wife of Mulayam’s second son Prateek, has stood by uncle Shivpal against Akhilesh’s wife Dimple, who is also an MP. Aparna had recently been handed a ticket from Lucknow Cantt. With the situation getting uglier between the father and the son, theories about the rift continue to emerge. Akhilesh’s supporters allege that Sadhna Gupta, the party chief’s second wife, and the Chief Minister’s stepmother, has instigated him against his eldest son. Now, with his expulsion, Akhilesh, Aparna and Sadhna are vying to become the youth face of the SP. Who will win the political games now remains to be seen.UP Caste Composition in 2016OBC 44%Dalits (Scs) 21.1%Tribals (Sts) 0.8%Forward Caste 16%Muslims 19.3%Christians 0.18%Out of OBCsYadavs -9%Lodhi -7%Jats -1.7%KUSHWAHA (MAURYA, SHAKYA, KOERI, KACHHI, SAINI) 4%Kurmi – 3%Other OBCs (including Sunars, few Muslim OBCs) -20%Jatavs Dalits -9%Non-Jatav Dalits (includes Pasis, Mallah and Valmikis) -11%

Romulus’ love for the King

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>An American by birth and an Indian by heart, 73-years-old Romulus Earl Whitaker is a herpetologist and a wildlife conservationist. Because of his efforts, talks are on to establish the world’s first conservation reserve for King Cobras in Karnataka.One of deadliest species of snakes, King Cobras are widely found in South Asia and mostly in India’s Agumbe rainforest of Western Ghats, Karnataka. This region also records the second highest rainfall in the country.Who is Romulus?This Emmy award receiver is the founder of the Madras Snake Park, the Andaman and Nicobar Environment Trust (ANET), and the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust. In 2005, he bagged Whitley Award for his work in environment conservation. After receiving this award, he founded Agumbe Rainforest Research Station (ARRS) to study the habitat and behavioural patterns of King Cobra.The first encounter that Romulus had with a King Cobra was in 1971. He noted that Agumbe natives regarded the snake with reverence and care, although its one venomous bite can kill almost 20 people. He realised then that this was the perfect spot to set up a research centre.A research centre & a safe havenAnup Prakash, field director at ARRS said, “Functionally, the amount of respect and attention people here give to King Cobras compared to anywhere else in the world make it a sanctuary. However, officially there’s no such status designated as such but we are hoping that will be so soon. We have applied to the concerned authorities.” Discussions on sanctuary tag is on with stakeholders and forest departments, after which the proposal will be sent to the chief minister, who will need to sign it to make it official.According to Dhiraj Bhaisare, research administrator at ARRS, they have learnt the impacts and effects of translocation of the King Cobras. Apart from this they have observed, the reptiles’ feeding habits, scavenging & diving behaviour. “Besides this, we have followed their movement after dark when we found them feeding or hunting as late as two in the morning,” adds Dhiraj.(Have a story to tell? Write to us at [email protected])ARRS performs rescue operations tooARRS on an average receives two calls per day for rescue operation, often led by expert Ajay Vijay Giri, education officer.

One little BHIM set to change India: Your thumb is your bank now, says PM Modi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>More than 50 days after announcing his demonetization move, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday launched the mobile app BHIM (Bharat Interface for Money) which he said would enable easier digital transactions for the common man.The app—an updated version of UPI (Unified Payment Interface) and USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data)—can be downloaded from the Android app store.Dedicating the new app to Dr BR Ambedkar, the Prime Minister said that Ambedkar had always worked for the poor. “Very few people know that Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar who gave us the Constitution, was a great economist and had even wrote a thesis on the Indian rupee…RBI was born out of Ambedkar’s thesis,” said Modi, adding that the app will empower small traders, tribals, and farmers.Modi also felicitated winners of the Lucky Grahak Yojana at the DigiDhan Mela in Talkatora stadium. The event saw a crowd of more than 5,000 people and around 65 stalls of banks, e-wallets and private players.The PM said the BHIM app can be used on any phone. “There is no need for Internet connectivity, one only needs a thumb,” said Modi adding, “There was a time when an illiterate was called angutha chaap. Now, the times have changed. Your thumb is your bank now. It has become your identity now.”Taking a dig at the Opposition, Modi said, “Look at the newspapers or video clips from three years ago; the news was all about what we had lost in scams. However, today, it is about what has come back or what is the gain?””Over the 100-day period, several families will be given the prizes. These schemes were launched as a Christmas gift to benefit poor,” Modi said reiterating that the mega draw will take place on April 14, the birth anniversary of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar.He said that India can once again bring back its past and become the sone ki chidiya (bird of gold) with an increased digital connectivity.”The day was not far off when the cash-based transaction will turn completely digital,” he emphasised. For the first time, India united to remove its own shortcomings, he said.Thanking the media for highlighting digital payment issues, he asked people to at least do five digital transactions from January 1, 2017.Meanwhile, several people attending the event said they are yet to open a bank account.”I don’t have an account. My children withdraw money for me whenever needed. I just wanted to meet Modi to highlight some of my problems,” said Malviya Nagar resident Gulab.The exhibitors, however, said the fair has given a common ground to the visitors to learn and operate on the different modes of digital payment.An exhibitor from the NPCI stall said they have received several enquiries from visitors, especially from the lower middle class strata, keen on operating the Aadhaar-enabled payment system and UPI as ways of digital transactions.”The best part is they could get an instant bank account here at the fair and get started with digital payments,” he said.

Centre shelves plan to set up world biggest solar power project in Leh

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Centre has dropped the plan to set up the world’s biggest solar power project in Leh owing to the huge transmission system cost.Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) had planned to set up 5,000 Mega Watt (MW) solar power project in Leh and 2,500 MW project in Kargil in 2013.The Leh administration had also identified the land for the project. But owing to the huge costs on the transmission system, the government decided to drop the project as of now.”The land too was identified where this project was to be established. But the transmission cost of the project was huge. So MNRE decided to drop it as of now,” T Gyalson, assistant director planning, Leh, told DNA.The solar power project was to be set up in the Leh district which is at the altitude of 11,562 feet and known as roof of the world. The project required at least 20,000 acre of the land in the cold desert. “We had identified the land at Chang Tha side for the project. But it did not take off because of the huge transmission cost”, said Gyalson.The ambitious project was supposed to not only meet the local energy demand but to make the restive Jammu and Kashmir a power surplus state.”India has 5,000 megawatt hydro power projects. It would have been the first solar power project with 5,000 megawatt capacity. It would have been world’s biggest in harnessing solar power,” said an officer.Cold desert of Ladakh has a huge potential in tapping the solar energy. Vast patches of barren land surrounded by gigantic mountains makes Leh a suitable place for setting up the solar power projects.However, the cold desert was left out from the scheme of things till 2013. It was after the experts realised the potential of Ladakh that the planners put their heads together and decided to harness the solar energy potential in a bid to make Jammu and Kashmir a power surplus state.”The evacuation for the transmission line is a big problem for executing the mega project. It is a very costly exercise. Therefore as of now, this project will not take off. However, we are working on smaller projects. There is a proposal for setting up small solar power plants. We are in the process of identifying the land for smaller projects,” said an official of MNRE.

TMC MP Tapas Paul arrested in Rose Valley case

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Trinamul Congress (TMC) Lok Sabha MP and actor Tapas Paul was arrested on Friday after a four-hour-long questioning in two sessions at the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) office here for his alleged association with the Rose Valley Group.Paul had been the director of Brand Value Communication, the media division of the Group. His wife Nandini Paul, who was also an employee of the company, was also questioned on Friday.Sources said that he was arrested following several inconsistencies during interrogation. “He was mainly asked five questions: whether he had taken cash from the Rose Valley Group, what were the amenities he enjoyed as the director of the media wing, when had he written to the Centre against the chit fund companies of the state, why he had not mentioned Rose Valley when he had mentioned the Saradha Group and whether he had continued taking favours from the company even after stepping down from his post,” said a senior CBI official.He also said that the CBI had reasons to believe that Paul used to take cash from the company even after detaching himself from it. Sources said that Rose Valley employees had been questioned in the last one-and-a-half years and it was found out that Paul had met Goutam Kundu, who owned the company several times at different five-star hotels which Paul couldn’t give a satisfactory explanation to.Paul had been a TMC MLA for two terms from the Alipore constituency from 2001 till 2009 and had been representing the party in the Lok Sabha from 2009 from the Krishnanagar Lok Sabha constituency.Paul would be taken to Bhubaneswar and would be produced at a court there on Saturday and CBI officials said that they would seek Paul’s custody.In June 2010, he had written to Sebi and RBI against the chit fund companies in Bengal but had not mentioned Rose Valley at that time. Officials said that he had said that he did not know that Rose Valley raised money like a chit fund company but the CBI didn’t buy the theory.Another TMC MP, Sudip Bandopadhyay, had also been summoned by the CBI and he is believed to reach the CBI office on January 3.Interestingly, Paul’s arrest comes 50 days after the demonetization drive, against which the TMC had been vocal from the very beginning. Naturally, it has given rise to several political reactions from the TMC and other Opposition parties. TMC supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that it was political vendetta and that she was not surprised and she was not afraid too. “We have been protesting the demonetization policy and knew something like this will happen. They may arrest more of our MPs but we will not deter from our protest,” Mamata said at a press conference.State Congress president Adhir Chowdhury said that there may be other bigger names who should not be spared. “CBI investigation should be carried out the right way and the high and mighty should not be spared if found guilty. At the same time, no innocent person should be harassed,” he told DNA.CPI(M) MLA Sujan Chakraborty said, “Why only Tapas? He is not even the ear, which when pulled the head will be caught. Tapas is at the most the hand. Anyone who possesses money which has been siphoned off the common people should be arrested.”State BJP president Dilip Ghosh, however, said that it was only a matter of time. “It was inevitable. Why was he not arrested so far was the question. Another MP is also going to be questioned. He has been summoned by the CBI, but he is not going there probably he knows that he will be arrested too. There will be more such arrests, given the kind of corruption within the TMC,” Ghosh said.

Demonetization will cause 1.5% GDP loss

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former finance minister and Congress spokesperson P Chidambaram on Friday pegged the hit to the GDP at 1.5 per cent that is Rs 1.5 lakh crore as against former prime minister Manmohan Singh, who had pegged the loss to 2 per cent or more. He said the govt should not misread people’s patience as being happy with the demonetization, asking the Prime Minister to put an end to all restrictions on withdrawals of own money by the people and grant them back the economic freedom to withdraw as much money as they want in the new year.He said it is fair to expect that there shall be no queues outside bank branches and ATMs, that all ATMs will be open round the clock, fully stocked with currency notes, the bank will pay the money written on the cheque and not ask the drawer to draw another cheque of smaller amount.Dropping a hint that the whole demonetization exercise was PM Modi’s own brainwave, Chidambaram asked for making public the agenda note of the board of governors of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Cabinet note on the demonetization on November 8. He pointed out that RBI Governor Urjit Patel and only three non-official directors of the RBI Board met in Delhi at 5.30 pm on November 5 and took the decision to recommend demonetization of 85 per cent of the Indian currency in just 30 minutes. He wants to know how the governor and ‘three wise men’ reached such a momentous conclusion in so short a period and said that it should be made public what was discussed and if there were any dissents.Chidambaram said it would bring out the truth that everything was prescribed to both the RBI Board and the union ministers at the Cabinet meeting to have the command performance (as per the PM’s wish). He said he only hopes that there would not be another ‘surgical strike’ of this dimension on the people. Taunting at the BJP leaders describing the bank note withdrawal as a ‘surgical strike’, he said, “it should rather put all surgeons to shame.”

Arunachal strife: PPA says Pario to be CM, BJP claims Khandu has numbers

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As a politically tumultuous year in Arunachal Pradesh came to an end, the stage was set for another turmoil in the state assembly.Amidst reports that the ruling People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA) had announced that Takam Pario would take over as Chief Minister, the BJP ruled out any change in the top post saying Pema Khandu had the backing of a majority of MLAs.Khandu’s term seemed set to be cut short on Thursday night when his party suspended him, his deputy Chowna Mein and five other MLAs allegedly for anti-party activities. However, uncertainty continued on Friday as fissures within the PPA surfaced.”It was a failed coup by the Takam Pario group. Khandu has the backing of 33 of the 43 MLAs in the 60-member assembly,” BJP state president Tapir Gao told DNA. Besides, the BJP’s 12 MLAs and two independents are also backing Khandu, taking the total to 47.The BJP, which was an ally of the PPA, made it clear that it would support Khandu, and that there would be status quo in Arunachal Pradesh assembly.Government spokeperson Bamang Felix said 35 of the 43 PPA MLAs have reposed faith in Khandu’s leadership. “Everything is going normally as usual and the Chief Minister is still enjoying absolute majority,” he said.However, a section of PPA chose Pario, the richest MLA in the assembly, as its candidate to replace Khandu, who left the Congress in September and joined PPA. Party president Kahfa Bengia said Pario will be the next CM.Bengia said the party will now go to any length to ensure that they are in power. “Khandu and some MLAs were plotting to become turncoats by joining the BJP by January 15. The next few days will be crucial; if Khandu’s faction does something unconstitutional, we will take a legal recourse and revoke them from the party,” Bengia said over the phone from Itanagar.The PPA, the only regional party in the state, is an alliance partner in the BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA). The state has seen three different chief ministers in 2016.The political turf war began when Congress dissidents revolted against Nabam Tuki when he was chief minister. Congress rebel Kalikho Pul became CM with the support of 11 BJP MLAs. The Congress moved Supreme Court which restored Tuki government, only to be in power for a short term as he did not have the majority. However, MLAs backed Khandu instead of Pul, who committed suicide following which his wife won the election as BJP candidate.

China blocks India’s bid to sanction Masood Azhar again

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>China’s decision to once again block the proposal to list Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar as a designated terrorist under the “1267 regime” has triggered a sharp reaction from India.China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, had blocked India’s move with a six-month technical hold followed by a three- month extension. Officials here say that India may have to apply again to the 1267 Committee with charge sheet details to press for its case as its present application will lapse following Beijing’s two technical holds.Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup termed Beijing’s decision as an “unfortunate blow” and a step that confirms the prevalence of double standards in the fight against terrorism.India had approached the UN in February to include Azhar (for his link with al Qaeda) in the UN Security Council’s 1267 sanctions list in the aftermath of the January 2 terror attack on the Pathankot air base by JeM terrorists. The resolution will now go into cold storage, till a fresh listing is demanded by a UN Security Council member.He said that the international community is aware that JeM, which is proscribed by the UN, has been responsible for innumerable terrorist attacks on India, including the one on Pathankot air base. “The inability of the international community to list its leader Masood Azhar is an unfortunate blow to the concerted efforts to effectively counter all forms of terrorism, and confirms the prevalence of double standards in the fight against terrorism,” he said.Swarup further said that China’s decision is surprising as it has been affected by the scourge of terrorism and has declared opposition to all forms of terrorism. “As a consequence of this decision, the UN Security Council has again been prevented from acting against the leader of a listed terrorist organisation,” he added. India had expected China to be more understanding of the danger posed to all by terrorism and join India and others in fighting the common challenge of terrorism.Earlier also, India had expressed anger at the working methods at the UNSC, which is based on the principles of unanimity. Following the attack on US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and other associated groups in 1999, the Security Council passed a resolution known as “Resolution 1267” or “1267 Regime” under Article 41 of the UN, which established a sanction regime to cover individuals and entities associated with al Qaeda, Laden and/or the Taliban.The 1267 Resolution reads as follows: “The Security Council may decide what measures, not involving armed forces, are to be employed to give effect to its decisions, and it may call upon the members of the United Nations to apply such measures. These may include complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations.”The resolution requires countries to immediately freeze funds, financial assets or economic resources of individuals and entities designated by the UNSC with terrorism and terrorist financing.China was the only member in the 15-nation UN body to put a hold on India’s application.

Israel warns of New Year terror threat in India

Israel issues a warning of imminent terror attacks on tourists in India during New Year festivities.

Apologise for ‘blunder of demonetization’: Kejriwal attacks PM Modi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to tender an apology to the people during his address to the nation on New Year’s Eve on what he said was a “blunder of demonetization”.Kejriwal, also the national convener of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) which governs Delhi, said Modi has committed a blunder by demonetizing high-value notes and pushed India into a deep economic crisis.”Modi had demanded 50 days to implement the exercise, but there’s no sign of people recovering from its after shocks,” he said and demanded a roll back, suggesting that Modi should make an announcement in this regard in his address on Saturday.”There’s no solution other than rolling back demonetization,” the former Income Tax department official told reporters. Alleging that the RBI was “tight-lipped” on the amount of money demonetized or black money recovered, he asked the prime minister to explain how much of illegal wealth has returned and what amount of money was being pumped into the system.Initial estimates by RBI suggest Rs 14 lakh crore (in high-value notes) was in circulation, which has returned to RBI, but only Rs 4 lakh crore of new currency of Rs 2,000 notes was available for circulation, said Kejriwal, who had criticised the drive soon after it was launched on November 8.Financial experts all across the world have spoken against demonetization, he said, but only BJP president Amit Shah and “his team of sycophants” were hailing the decision. He also challenged the prime minister to order “any probe” against him. “I am not scared of Modi threats and open to any probe of my accounts by any central agency,” he said.Kejriwal maintained that Modi accepted bribes from big corporates such as Sahara and Birla.Modi had taken Rs 40 crore from Sahara on October 30, 2013 and Rs 25 crore from Birla group on November 12, 2013, he claimed, adding that the IT department has seized relevant documents from Sahara and Birla offices but no notice was issued to Modi.He said under the IT Act section 132(4A), any document recovered during raid is deemed to be true unless proved wrong by the party accused. “Not even a notice was issued to Modi and all Income Tax Commissioners dealing with the case were transferred,” he said.

Pune: CBI arrests income tax officer for accepting bribe of Rs 1 lakh

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has arrested an Income Tax Officer from Pune for demanding and accepting a bribe of Rs 1 lakh from the complainant.A case was registered under section 7 of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 on a complaint against Income Tax Officer (ITO), Ward 2(2), Income Tax Office, Swargate, Pune.It was alleged that the ITO, demanded bribe of Rs 2 lakh from the complainant to pass favourable orders in connection with his tax liability.The CBI laid a trap and caught the ITO red handed while demanding and accepting a bribe of Rs 1 lakh from the complainant.Searches have been conducted at the office and residential premises of the accused which led to recovery of incriminating documents relating to tax assessment of the complainant; cash of Rs. 5,04,030/-(approx); jewellery i.e 4 Gold biscuits weighing total 350 grams (approx); two flats in Pune and 4 acres land at Solapur, 9 Bank accounts and one bank locker (yet to be operated).The arrested accused is being produced on Friday before the Court of Special Judge, CBI Cases, Pune.

Apple to cut iPhone production in first quarter of 2017: report | Reuters

Apple to cut iPhone production in first quarter of 2017: report | Reuters

Dec 30, 2016 23:43 IST

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Apple Inc (AAPL.O) will trim production of iPhones by about 10 percent in the January-March quarter of 2017, the Nikkei financial daily reported on Thursday, citing calculations based on data from suppliers.The company had slashed output by 30 percent in January-March this year due to accumulated inventory, the paper said. Apple’s shares were down 0.84 percent in midday trading, in line with the Nasdaq stock index.

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment on the report.

(Reporting by Aishwarya Venugopal in Bengaluru and Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 23:43 IST

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Israel warns on travel to India, citing immediate threat of attacks | Reuters

Israel warns on travel to India, citing immediate threat of attacks | Reuters

Dec 30, 2016 23:39 IST

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JERUSALEM Israel’s anti-terrorism directorate issued a travel warning for India on Friday, citing an immediate threat of attack to Western and tourist targets, particularly in the south-west of the country.”A particular emphasis should be put on events in the coming days in connection with beach and club parties celebrating the New Year where a concentration of tourists will be high,” part of the warning said.The statement recommended that tourists avoid participation in such parties. It also called on families in Israel to contact their relatives in India and tell them of the threat.In addition, it recommended avoiding markets, festivals and crowded shopping areas. Unusually, the warning was published on Friday evening in Israel, after the start of the Jewish Sabbath, when government offices close for business.

The directorate did not say what prompted the warning.In 2012, the wife of Israeli diplomat stationed in India, her driver and two others were wounded in a bomb attack on her car. Israel and India share close military ties.

(Writing by Ori Lewis, editing by Larry King)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 23:39 IST

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Israel issues severe travel warning for India, citing immediate threat of attacks

Fri, 30 Dec 2016-11:36pm , JERUSALEM , Reuters
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Israel’s anti-terrorism directorate on Friday issued a travel warning for India, citing an immediate threat of attack to Western and tourist targets, particularly in the south-west of the country.”A particular emphasis should be put on events in the coming days in connection with beach and club parties celebrating the New Year where a concentration of tourists will be high,” part of the warning said.

11 miners dead in Lalmatia colliery mishap in Jharkhand, rescue operations to resume Sat morning

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Ten miners were killed and an unspecified number feared trapped when a massive mound of earth came crashing down on them at Lalmatia open cast coal mine of Eastern Coalfields Ltd (ECL) Thursday night, the worst such disaster in over a decade.Heavy machinery was deployed as rescuers, including those from the NDRF, toiled through the day extricating bodies and looking for survivors. “Unfortunately the casualties have increased from seven in the morning to 10,” the coal ministry said in a statement.”Rescue teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Eastern Coalfields Ltd (ECL)/Bharat Coking Coal Ltd (BCCL), state government and experts have been continuously carrying out rescue work at the accident site of ECL’s Rajmahal Open Cast Expansion Project in district Godda, Jharkhand,” the statement said.Central Mine Planning and Design Institute (CMPDIL, the consultancy arm of Coal India Ltd., has deployed magneto meters along with imaging system for locating magnetic and conductive material up to a depth of 80 meters, the statement said.R R Mishra, officiating CMD of ECL, a Coal India subsidiary, said that the incident occurred at around 7:30 pm last night when excavators were working there following which rescue operations was launched immediately.Senior officials of Director General of Mines Safety (DGMS) have arrived at the site and launched an inquiry.All 10 excavators and dump trucks which were swamped under the debris have been recovered. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Coal Minister Piyush Goyal, Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das and other leaders have expressed grief over the loss of lives.”Saddened by the loss of lives at a mine in Jharkhand. My prayers are with those trapped inside. Spoke to CM Raghubar Das on the situation,” Modi said on twitter.Das said an assistance of Rs two lakh will be given to the families of the miners who died in the accident, while ECL also announced an ex-gratia compensation of Rs five lakh each to these families, in addition to the amount to be paid under the Workmen’s Compensation Act.14 miners were killed at Central Saunda coal mine in Ramgarh district of Jharkhand in August 2005. The country’s worst mining disaster had occurred at Chasnala in Dhanbad district in the then Bihar state in 1975 in which 375 lives were lost.

Chhattisgarh: BJP registers victory in municipal council polls

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>BJP on Friday registered victory in the Bhilai-Charoda municipal corporation and Sarangarh municipal council polls putting to rest speculation that demonetisation would impact party’s prospects in the recently held civic elections in Chhattisgarh.”BJP’s nominee Chandrakanta Mandle won the mayor’s seat in Bhilai-Charoda, defeating Congress candidate Jyoti Banjare by a margin of 4922 votes,” a state election official said. Mandle received 27,184 votes followed by Banjare in the second position of the tally with 22,262 votes, he added.Likewise, BJP’s Amit Agrawal defeated Congress’ Suraj Tiwari for the post of president of Sarangarh Municipal Council by 1096 votes. Agrawal secured 6221 votes, while Tiwari got 5125 votes.BJP put up a good show in Bhilai-Charoda winning 16 out of 40 wards (for corporators) while the main Opposition Congress managed to get 13 and remaining 11 went to Independent candidates.Besides, BJP also won byelection held in four wards for corporators and Independent candidates emerged victorious in 2 wards (by-poll).”The victory clearly indicates that it is peoples’ stamp of approval for demonetisation decision of Prime Minister. It is also a signal that people of the state will bring BJP to power for the fourth consecutive time in the next 2018 assembly election,” state BJP chief Dharamlal Kaushik told reporters.The victory that came on the 50th day of demonetisation brought cheer to Chief Minister Raman Singh led BJP who had suffered a setback in the urban body election for 10 municipal corporations held in 2014-15.Congress had won four out of 10 corporations then while the ruling BJP was reduced to four, two less from previous time in that election.Besides, rest of the two seats were won by Independent candidates.

Mulayam expels Akhilesh: Azam Khan hints at Amar Singh’s hand in Yadav feud, hopes BJP doesn’t capture power

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Expressing concern over bitter infighting in SP, Uttar Pradesh minister Azam Khan said the bad blood between members of the ruling family will add a dark chapter to its history. Appealing to the “pivots” of the party to consider the consequences of the conflict, he said: “They should think how historians will depict the diminishing relationship between the father and the son.”Whatever is happening… the bad blood will add a dark chapter to the party’s history and paint a grim picture of it. I am in a state of extreme shock and pain.” In a veiled attack on Amar Singh, Khan said: “Who is responsible for this gloomy state of affairs? A single person’s conspiracy and nefarious intention have put the state up for auction.”He urged people to have faith in the SP and asked the “kingpins” of the party to ensure that the BJP does not capture power in the state. With SP staring at a possible split due to open rebellion by Akhilesh Yadav, party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav has called a meeting tomorrow of all those allotted tickets by him even as the Chief Minister’s camp remained adamant on contesting against the official candidates of the party.Hectic attempts were said to be underway today by Mulayam to avert a split after the crisis reached a flash point late last night when Akhilesh “circulated” his own list of 235 candidates for the upcoming Assembly elections, parallel to the party’s official list of 393 nominees.Mulayam has convened a meeting here tomorrow of the 393 candidates who have been allotted tickets by him. Uttar Pradesh Assembly has 403 seats.Party insiders see the meeting with immense significance as the SP chief was likely gauge the sentiments of the candidates and conduct a fresh review of the list amid fears that the battle for control in SP left the party cadres divided and highly confused at grassroots level.This morning, Shivpal Yadav, the warring uncle of Akhilesh, met his brother Mulayam for nearly an hour, but it was not immediately known what transpired at the meeting.Shivpal did not answer questions of reporters waiting outside Mulayam’s residence.Mulayam’s cousin and SP General Secretary Ramgopal Yadav, who is Akhilesh supporter, asserted that there was no question of going back on the list prepared by the Chief Minister.In an apparent attack on Shivpal, he said many in the party do not want to see Akhilesh as Chief Minister again.”But, the fact remains that people of the state want him back as CM,” he claimed.He said Mulayam had convened a meeting on January 1 to take a final call on ticket distribution, “but due to pressure (from Shivpal), he announced the list on December 28”.Akhilesh’s list, which did not carry any signature, was made available on social media last night by defiant party MLAs who failed to get a ticket in the official list.Party observers said since names of 170 to 180 candidates figured in both the lists, it would be interesting to watch if they attended the meeting convened by Mulayam or opted out.Akhilesh, who was present at an official function here this morning, did not take questions from media persons.Though Akhilesh loyalists were enthusiastic to fight the elections “in the name of and as the face of the CM”, it was still not clear as to whether they would fight as Independents or float a new party.Prominent among those figuring in the list of Akhilesh are his hardcore loyalists — ministers Arvind Singh Gope, Pawan Pandey and Ram Govind Chaudhary, who were denied ticket by Mulayam. khilesh has been unhappy over the declaration ofcandidates by Mulayam which included certain names to whose nomination the Chief Minister had strong reservation.Mulayam, along with his brother and state party unit chief Shivpal, had announced the names at a hurriedly-convened press conference here on Wednesday when Akhilesh was away on a tour of Bundelkhand.Possibilities of a rapprochement dimmed when Shivpal announced the second list of 68 candidates late last night, thereby blocking the scope for minor adjustments to avoid perhaps a showdown between father-son duo before the polls.As the SP grappled with the unprecedented crisis, senior leader and UP minister Azam Khan voiced deep distress over the developments and said, “Bad blood between relatives has damaged the future of the state.”He said the feud in SP was being “celebrated” by its political rivals, especially BJP.

Mulayam expels UP CM Akhilesh: Here’s a timeline of the Yadav clan Dangal

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The ruling Samajawadi Party was on Friday on the precipice of a split with party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav expelling his son and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and cousin general secretary Ramgopal Yadav for six years after they put up candidates against the official nominees and summoned a party meet on Sunday. Ahead of the 2017 UP Elections, Mulayam’s announcement may have been sudden but the feud in the Yadav family have been taking a turn for the worse since the past few months. The latter half of this year has seen the family at constant loggerheads. Here’s a timeline chronicling the disintegration of the Uttar Pradesh’s Samajawadi Party:August 15: Samajwadi Party plans to merge with with gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari’s Qaumi Ekta Dal(QED). As a result, brother Shivpal Yadav threatens to resign from the party, which is averted by Mulayam Singh Yadav in view of the UP elections.
ALSO READ Yadav vs Yadav Dangal: Mulayam Singh expels Akhilesh and Ram Gopal from SP for six years September 13: Akhilesh steps down from his position in the party as the UP unit chief and Mulayam appoints Shivpal as the Samajwadi Party’s State President. On the same day, Akhilesh strips uncle Shivpal Yadav of key portfolios.September 15: Ramgopal Yadav, another brother of Mulayam and Samajwadi Party general secretary says there is no ‘sankat’ (rift) in the party and it was a wrong decision to remove Akhilesh Yadav as the president of the Samajwadi Party. The day also sees Shivpal resign from the Uttar Pradesh cabinet and quit as the state unit president of Samajwadi Party. This was a result of Akhilesh deciding to sack two ministers from his cabinet – Gayatri Prajapati and Rajkishore Singh over allegations of corruption. Both the leaders were considered close to Shivpal.September 17: Akhilesh Yadav announces that Shivpal will continue as the SP State President. Sacked Mines Minister, Gayatri Prasad Prajapati re-inducted in the Uttar Pradesh cabinet.September 18: Shivpal Yadav expels Ramgopal Yadav and another leader for their alleged involvement in land grabbing. Additionally, Shivpal also expels party MLC Arvind Pratap Yadav, who is a nephew of Ramgopal Yadav and former village head in Etawah.September 19: Shivpal’s firing of seven youth leaders result in a number of youth leaders close to Akhilesh Yadav quitting the party.October 14: “The Chief ministerial candidate will be decided by the elected party legislatures and parliamentary board. This is our job,” Mulayam snubs Akhilesh by saying that the party’s Chief Ministerial candidate will be decided by elected party legislatures after the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. October 17: With much hesitation, Akhilesh is endorsed by Mulayam as the presumptive chief ministerial candidate of the party ahead of state Elections.October 23: Akhilesh sacks Shivpal along with three other ministers from the government.December 25: Akhilesh submits his own list of 403 probable candidates for the upcoming Assembly elections.December 28: Mulayam announces his own list of candidates for 325 of the 403 Assembly seat.December 29: Akhilesh revolts and releases his own list of 235 candidates for the upcoming Assembly elections.December 30: The Yadav feud reached its peak on Friday when Mulayam expelled Akhilesh along with cousin Ramgopal for anti-party activities. “We have to save the party. The party comes first. That is why we are expelling both Akhilesh and Ramgopal,” Mulayam said.(With agency inputs)

Israel issues severe travel warning for India, citing immediate threat of attacks | Reuters

Israel issues severe travel warning for India, citing immediate threat of attacks | Reuters

Dec 30, 2016 23:02 IST

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JERUSALEM Israel’s anti-terrorism directorate on Friday issued a travel warning for India, citing an immediate threat of attack to Western and tourist targets, particularly in the south-west of the country.”A particular emphasis should be put on events in the coming days in connection with beach and club parties celebrating the New Year where a concentration of tourists will be high,” part of the warning said.

(Writing by Ori Lewis; editing by Jason Neely)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 23:02 IST

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Indian politician Akhilesh Yadav sacked by his father Mulayam

The chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state is fired by the head of his party – his own father.

Living in denial? Mamata Banerjee says no communal clashes in Dhulagarh

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today said no communal clash took place at Dhulagarh in Howrah district and termed it as “local problem”. “It is a small matter. It is a local problem. That was not a communal problem. I will stick to police’s version,” she told mediapersons at the state secretariat. Earlier in the day the Chief Minister denied any incident of rioting at Dhulagarh and alleged that “wrong information” was being given on social media. “In the last 15 days, social media is running wrong information on an incident which did not take place at all,” Banerjee said at a programme here in an apparent reference to reports of violence earlier this month at Dhulagarh, which is barely 20 km from the state secretariat.”In order to break news one must not act irresponsibly. If something has really happened then you (media) have every right to report it but I think a field survey must be done,” she said.Her remarks came even as a senior government official had yesterday said strict actions were taken against those involved in the Dhulagarh violence and the process of giving compensation to the affected has started.The state government, Banerjee said today, is the first to help a family when their home is damaged or they are affected.”If there is an accident, we immediately take steps to help the family…. We do it on humanitarian grounds but we do not do any publicity,” she said.District police said inhabitants are wary of returning to their homes at Dhulagarh. Delegations of BJP, CPI(M) and Congress were stopped from visiting the troubled areas of the district and police superintendent of Howrah (Rural) Sabyasachi Raman Mishra was transferred in the wake of violence within less than a fortnight of his appointment.BJP has hit out at Banerjee over the Dhulagarh incident.”This is height of politics of appeasement. I want to ask those intellectuals, who cried over 2002 riots in Gujarat and then intolerant India, that when are they going to Kolkata,” Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had said yesterday. Earlier, a non-bailable warrant was filed against Zee News reporters by the government of West Bengal for covering the Dhulagarh riots, claimed Zee News editor Sudhir Chaudhury.. He had written on Twitter: “@MamataOfficial Govt files FIR against me& @ZeeNews reporter for covering #DhulagarhRiots with Non Bailable sections. FIR for showing truth?”Zee News Chief Editor Sudhir Chaudhary wrote on Facebook: “ Just to inform all of you Mamta Banerjee Govt has filed an FIR against me and ZeeNews reporter Pooja Mehta and cameraperson Tanmay Mukherjee for covering Dhulagarh Riots on Zee News.The FIR has non bailable sections which is enough to gauge their intentions to arrest me and my colleagues. Pooja Mehta is just 25 and got the taste of Mamta’s intolerance so early in life in the form of a non bailable FIR.This is what a young girl reporter getting to learn from a woman chief minister who claims to be the champion of democracy.It’s another low point in our democracy to see a democratically elected govt using police force to curb media in an effort to suppress uncomfortable facts and reality.When you can’t manage media,use the state machinery to conquer the media only to conceal the failures of your administration. It shows the intolerance of a chief minister who is using the state machinery as her personal fiefdom and acting like a feudal lord. I see the positive side of this blunder as a window for all free minds of this nation to act and show fascist forces their actual place. Or once again Selfish Politics will prevail? That’s my fear. #IntolerantMamta”On December 13, clashes between two communities erupted following the Milad-ul-Nabi celebrations in Dhulagarh. Locals in the village alleged that ‘unprovoked’ clashes erupted after an infuriated mob in a procession of Milad-ul-Nabi celebrations started charging bombs at the houses. However, members in the procession allege that they were prevented from taking out the procession, following which violent clashes broke out.A week after clashes erupted in Howrah district’s Dhulagarh, the Bengal governor Keshari Nath Trpathi summoned Bengal Director General of Police (DGP), Surajit Kar Purkayastha on Thursday. This comes a day after BJP Rajya Sabha MP Roopa Ganguly led a delegation and met the victims of Dhulagarh incident.Disclaimer: Zee News is DNA’s sister organisation.

Taiwan announces U.S. itinerary for president, upsetting China | Reuters

By J.R. Wu
| TAIPEI

TAIPEI Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen will transit through Houston and San Francisco during a January visit to allies in Latin America, her office said Friday, prompting China to repeat a call for the United States to block any such stopover. Tsai’s office declined to comment on whether she would be meeting members of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s team, but the U.S. mission in Taiwan, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), said the visit would be “private and unofficial”.Trump angered China when he spoke to Tsai this month in a break with decades of precedent and cast doubt on his incoming administration’s commitment to Beijing’s “one China” policy.An adviser to Trump’s transition team said he thought “further high-level engagement for the foreseeable future is unlikely” when asked if any meetings were planned. The adviser did not want to be identified by name.China is deeply suspicious of Tsai, who it thinks wants to push for the formal independence of Taiwan, a self-governing island that Beijing regards as a renegade province, ineligible for state-to-state relations.China’s Foreign Ministry repeated a previous call for the United States not to allow the transit and not send any “wrong signals to Taiwan independence forces”.

“We think everyone is very clear on her real intentions,” the ministry said, without explaining.The United States, which switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979, has acknowledged the Chinese position that there is only “one China” and that Taiwan is part of it.Tsai is transiting through the United States on her way to and from visiting Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador. She will leave Taiwan on Jan. 7 and return on Jan. 15.Tsai will arrive in Houston on Jan. 7 and leave the following day. On her return, she will arrive in San Francisco on Jan. 13, Presidential Office spokesman Alex Huang told a regular news briefing.

The AIT said the transit did not contradict the “one China” policy.”President Tsai’s transit through the United States is based on long-standing U.S. practice and is consistent with the unofficial nature of our relations with Taiwan,” Alys Spensley, acting AIT spokeswoman, told Reuters.”There is no change to the U.S. ‘one China’ policy,” she added.

Spensley said Tsai’s transits would be “private and unofficial”. The U.S. State Department said AIT chairman Ambassador James Moriarty would greet Tsai in Houston and San Francisco.China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong’s Communist forces won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists fled to the island.Speaking to members of China’s largely ceremonial advisory body to parliament on Friday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said next year China would make “unremitting efforts” at unification and developing peaceful relations across the Taiwan Strait, state news agency Xinhua said.Taiwan had as many as 30 diplomatic allies in the mid-1990s, but now has formal relations with 21, mostly smaller and poorer nations in Latin America and the Pacific and also including the Vatican. (Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing and David Brunnstrom in Washington; Editing by Nick Macfie and James Dalgleish)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 22:41 IST

JKLF chairman Yasin Malik detained before protest march in Pulwama

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>JKLF chairman Yasin Malik was on Friday detained at Pulwama as he led his supporters to stage a protest march against Jammu and Kashmir government’s decision to issue identity certificates to West Pakistani Refugees.Malik was detained along with several of his supporters.They were taken into preventive custody, a police official said.Separatists groups had called for protests on Friday against the government decision to issue identity certificates to West Pakistan Refugees living in the state since partition in 1947.The state government has decided to issue identity cards to the refugees and had to issue clarification after protests from opposition parties and separatists against the move. Initially, reports had said the opposition was against the government move to issue domicile certificates, but the state government said it was issuing identity certificates.Other political organisations, including BJP and Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party, have slammed separatists for opposing the issuance of certificates to the refugees.The refugees, settled in Jammu and Kashmir, are citizens of India and have the right to vote in parliamentary polls. However, they are not permanent residents of the state in terms of Jammu and Kashmir Constitution. They do not enjoy voting rights to the state assembly and local bodies.

What will define citizenship in India and the world in 2017?

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As 2016 draws to a close and many of us are emotionally spent lamenting events that we consider undesirable, citizenship has emerged as one of the murkiest ideas of the last year. Who is a citizen? What does citizenship entail? What should be expected of citizens and what is owed to them? Where does the writ of the state end, vis-à-vis rights and privacy? Every major event of 2016 has raised one or more of these questions. ComplianceIn India, demonetization has put the spotlight on compliance. Introduced suddenly and executed shoddily, those struggling to cope have found their situation exacerbated by what seemed like daily changes in regulations. The on-the-ground reality of cash shortages and non-functioning ATMs have plunged countless Indians into crisis. The broadcasting style of the government—they pronounce, we scurry, no questions asked—has left Indians helpless. We must comply because we have no way to challenge or defy.The absence of large protests was offered the other day on television as evidence of the success of this move. The reality is that most of us have been too busy trying to figure out withdrawals and deposits to organise! Most beleaguered are bank staff who have gone in fifty days from making patriotic noises to lamenting their choice of career—to ordinary account-holders, they are the face of this arbitrary government and the recipients of public ire. We are all complying because we have no choice.“Compliance” is not a bad thing—laws, rules and regulations are presumably intended to benefit us. Citizens should obey them. But should we obey blindly and should we be expected to obey without debate? ‘To comply’ means to conform, to follow along, to observe, to submit—and in the absence of debate, discussion, questioning and accountability, all these words are inimical to democracy. Compliance achieved by enforcement suggests that there is no consensus on the appropriateness or utility of a regulation. And if there is no consensus, that means the law or rule has not really been discussed adequately.Parliament sessions are listed on the calendar but how many days do Parliamentarians actually do any session-time work—debates, questions and answers? All Indian parties are responsible for this breakdown but governments—all governments—have turned it into an opportunity to govern by ordinance. This is a windfall for anyone seeking to push their will through to the public. That makes enforced compliance of rules-never-debated sinister. Yes, Indians are past-masters at flouting rules. But stressing compliance over an understanding of the spirit of a law or regulation is not the answer; it suggests that the government is keener on making us obey than creating a climate in which we engage with and together fashion the frameworks of our lives.In 2017, what I want to know is, will my citizenship be measured solely and entirely—by government and fellow-citizens—in terms of my willingness to comply without question? I suspect so, given the tendency to cry ‘anti-national’ when faced with any debate or questions. Judging by the last two months, I would suggest that we have definitely entered a phase in which citizens are expected to be subjects of a state that knows best.Embed from Getty ImagesCredulityPolitical smarts, when I was growing up, involved questioning the actions of the state. Being interested in politics meant asking before obeying, challenging before accepting and endlessly debating. Being apolitical was manifested by finding the loopholes and generally believing that it made no difference who was in power or what they did. Both poles kept the rhetoric of political leaders in their place—“Nice to see you, but no one really believes what you say.”This is quite a different moment. We now desperately want to believe in our political leaders. We crave strong paternalistic leaders who will tell us what to do—whether or not they actually know. We are okay with being ruled by people who give directions to places they have never heard of. We just want them to sound confident. We want to be children and subjects who are led into a better future. We ask no questions. We have obliterated from our minds every historical memory and so we have no fear of a return to other fascist ages. We have no interest in political agency—we would even like to vote by SMS as if life were a reality show—and so we surrender it to strong men who know (always men, by the way!). This seems to be a worldwide phenomenon.We are content to swallow the dreams these strong men articulate, the road-maps they outline even if they keep shifting, their self-assessment as successful and visionary (this is after all, the age of self-nomination for awards and LinkedIn visionary leaders!) and their choice of a range of coercive measures. We accept with faith everything we are told about those who challenge them—human rights workers usually, who do their work in the face of great danger. Around the world, human rights NGOs are being charged with non-compliance—but it is becoming hard to distinguish whether it is non-compliance with rules and regulations or non-compliance with the government’s line that they are being framed and punished for. We have to remember that today it is them, but tomorrow, it could be any of us.Targeting dissenting elements in civil society is not unique to the present Indian government, to be fair. However, what has changed in the state-civil society equation is that citizens are stepping forward to sweep away any obstacles or rubble in the path of the state juggernaut. Nobody is asking questions. Most are not asking questions because they have chosen to live as subjects of a paternalist state that shows tough love for their own good. Some are not asking questions because they are afraid of being crushed by the juggernaut. A very small number are picking their battles so that they can outlast this moment. The fate of the handful of truly brave Indian citizens, who are undeterred in the face of government pressure and persecution and unsupported in this moment of absolute credulity on our parts, hangs in the balance. Will we ensure they survive 2017?ConvictionThe word ‘conviction’ is now associated more with being found guilty and punished than with having strong unassailable beliefs. Many of us around the world are proud of living in democratic political systems—in fact, those of us that occasionally ask questions are reminded that democracy involves accepting (unconscionable?) points of view and the outcomes of due process elections. Fair enough!This pride does not however seem to translate into much else. In an age when information is ubiquitous, democratic citizenship remains confined to expressing opinion and not seeking to have an informed opinion. This is why, on the morning after the Brexit vote, Google reported that the most-searched term of the day was “What is the EU?” Not knowing the answer to something, no longer precludes our having an opinion on it—that is democracy 2016-style. Democracy is about giving everyone a voice. The US presidential election suggests this is how we understand it: feeling alienated and excluded from the political and social changes of the last few decades, we can seek to exclude and alienate others. Democracy is not about inclusive and enabling processes but a tug-of-war about who is in and who is out. There are shades of this view of democracy to be found all over the world, including India and other parts of South Asia. We sway with the prevailing wind, giving uninformed opinion the clout of conviction. If someone comes to us sounding confident about what they are saying, we are convinced and do not find it necessary to question values, logic or facts. This is why “post-truth” was selected by the Oxford Dictionaries as the word of the year.Embed from Getty Images‘Conviction’ is a beautiful word. To say of someone that they are a person of strong convictions is to pay them a compliment. But should our convictions be so rigid that they cannot accommodate the experience of others? More critically, when we are talking about democracy and citizenship, should the strong men to whom we have handed over our agency be allowed to impose their convictions upon us?I want to know where we stand. As 2017 begins, I want to understand what we believe in—individually and collectively. Citizens of democratic states and societies around the world need to think about this and find ways to express themselves. Our casual submission betrays our values. Our silence emboldens those who would disregard our citizenship.Do we truly believe in democracy? If we did, our societies would not be as divided, our public debates replaced by monologues and tweet-binges and our ability to converse with each other so badly impaired. Our everyday engagement with politics seems confined to ‘who started it’ and ‘who said what to whom.’ Our so-called democratic convictions stop short of understanding citizenship and our own relationship with states. We see the purpose of government as ‘control’ (as reflected in many school civics lessons)—and so we submit to that control uncritically. Citizenship is naturally about compliance and credulity, rather than a conviction-driven engagement.CourageIn 2017, conviction-driven engagement will take even more courage than usual. We have lowered our defences everywhere to such a degree that every small thing—including writing a cheeky response to the requirement that we explain our deposits—appears bold. To say that we will not get Aadhaar cards (which, please note, are not mandatory) and we will not use a digital wallet now seem like volunteering to face bullets. What will we then do when the real lathis and bullets come?Where citizenship is expressed by over-eager compliance and utter credulity (really, rolling over and playing dead), then the work that is done by the groups like the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group is astoundingly brave. To understand how the politics of implementing demonetization ties in with the way that the government wants to suppress dissent, take this development. Shalini Gera, a lawyer from this group, travelled to Bijapur for a case and was told that a complaint had been filed against her for “exchanging old Rs 1,000 notes worth Rs 10 lakh for the Maoists.” Is this true or is this not true? Do we care enough to find out? The chances are we don’t. We are happy to believe that all human rights activists are engaged in nefarious activities involving anti-national elements. Because the government would never lie to us, would it? But people like Shalini Gera—or any of the many other human rights activists targeted by the government through tax probes or FCRA challenges—have the courage of their convictions. They stay the course. Thankfully.Right or wrong, every accused person has the right to due process and a legal defence. All citizens have the right to ask questions and get answers. The constitution of India gives us the right to ask what has happened to missing people; to expect that governments will do their work without exceeding their mandate and jurisdiction and to understand by what authority governments act. Citizenship is not an entitlement or a legal status alone; it is a privilege, and one that you exercise through agency, when political agency requires courage. Citizens—in India and other democratic countries—enjoy civil and political rights, but in 2017, we will get to see whether they have the conviction and the courage to reclaim and exercise them.CompassionIn 2016, political discussions hit a new low. At the good end, we had uncivil, uninformed and ad hominem discussions. At the bad end, we had trolling, cyber-bullying and hate speech. Sometimes, it was hard to tell the two ends apart. Nothing however, highlighted the absence of compassion from our public lives as much as the Syrian crisis and demonetisation.The world has been grappling with a Syrian exodus for a couple of years. As nearby states have quietly absorbed large numbers of refugees, this has precipitated an identity crisis and cultural debates in Europe and North America. To the extent that various European countries have taken in refugees and tried to help them settle down, this has become an issue in domestic politics. But even as we watched elections around Europe and discussed political trends there, news kept emerging from Syria about the deteriorating ground situation. People tweeted photos and blogged stories. We liked, favourited, shared and retweeted, and maybe signed petitions. What history will record is that we did nothing. More than a century since we began looking for collective security, we have not found a way to channel our compassion into action that strikes a good balance between interference and intervention, between helping and handling.Embed from Getty ImagesThe other, closer to home, is how middle-class Indians have responded to demonetization. When faced with questions about implementation and concerns about impact, I have been saddened by the things I hear people say.“Don’t worry about the poor! They have lots of cash.” “Do you think the street vendor is poor? He or she has other sources of income. And by the way, they don’t pay tax.” “See, everyone should have a bank account.”“What’s the problem? Soldiers fight on the front, we can’t stand in queues?” (Never mind the old, the frail, the arthritic and the diabetic, who stood for hours to maybe get a small portion of their money.)“It’s so easy to use digital if you have a smartphone.” (IF you have a smartphone, electricity and decent connectivity.)“Small businesses like tailors will take a hit but everything will be alright in the long run.” (“In the long run, we are all dead,” wrote Keynes.)Middle class resentment about those better-off seems logical. What has emerged is our resentment about those worse off than us. It is as if they are secretly better off. As we have palmed off our stashes of old notes to them, we have not considered that they might be accountable too. We do not consider whose who work in our homes and offices to be human, leave alone citizens. I have been alarmed by the payment in advance of salaries—does that portend a new version of bonded labour that ties the honest worker to the dishonest employer for an indefinite period?A government that appears callous and a credulous citizenry that seems to lack compassion—this is a lethal combination that is now in evidence worldwide. The likelihood that 2017 will redefine citizenship as a web of compassionate relationships seems non-existent, but because we cannot afford that pessimism, I list compassion here anyway.***What will we make of our citizenship in 2017? Wherever we live, it will be a year in which, consciously or unconsciously, we mark our place on the spectrum between credulous compliance and courage of conviction. Wherever we live, the experiences of others and our compassion for them will need to colour our political choices—if only because, in this political climate, any one of us could be the next person to need that support and compassion. As we countdown to this new Gregorian year, I wish you courage.Swarna Rajagopalan is a political scientist by training.

CPI(M), Congress hail arrest of scam-tainted TMC MP Tapas Pal

Fri, 30 Dec 2016-10:15pm , Kolkata , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Hailing the arrest of TMC MP Tapas Pal by CBI, opposition CPI(M) and Congress on Friday hoped that the law would take its own course and “political match fixing” between TMC and BJP would not affect the progress of investigation.”We have been demanding this for a long time that CBI and ED should properly inquire into ponzi companies. But the investigation came to a complete halt after political match fixing between TMC and BJP. We hope such thing will not be repeated and the case will progress on its own merit and more such arrests will happen,” Leader of Opposition Abdul Mannan told reporters.Pal was on Friday arrested by CBI for his alleged involvement in the Rose Valley Chit Fund Scam.
ALSO READ Mamata defends scam-tainted Tapas Pal, claims Modi ‘insulted’ backward classes by naming app BHIM”This is not vendetta politics as TMC is claiming. The arrest is the result of the loot that TMC has done in ponzi scam. We feel that CBI should properly investigate the case and recover the money that has been looted,” CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty said.

Former Union Minister Balasaheb Vikhe Patil passes away after prolonged illness

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former Union Minister and Congress leader Eknathrao alias ‘Balasaheb’ Vikhe Patil passed away at his residence in Loni village in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra on Friday evening following prolonged illness, his family said. He was 84.Vikhe Patil largely kept away from public life in the last couple of years due to his illness. His son Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil is a senior Congress leader and currently the Leader of Opposition in the state assembly.Though a Congressman most of his career, Balasaheb was elected to Lok Sabha on Shiv Sena ticket in 1998 and became Minister of State for Finance in the NDA government. He was subsequently elevated as Minister for Heavy Industries. He returned to the Congress fold in 2004.His father, Vitthalrao Vikhe-Patil, was instrumental in setting up Asia’s first cooperative sugar mill at Loni.Born on April 10, 1932, Balasaheb Vikhe Patil first entered the Lok Sabha in 1971 from Ahmednagar district and continued to represent Kopargaon Lok Sabha constituency for the next 20 years.He also had a brief stint as president of Maharashtra Samajwadi Congress, a Congress splinter group, during 1977-79.Vikhe Patil family commanded a strong political base in the Ahmednagar area through a network of cooperative societies and educational institutes including medical and engineering colleges.He was also a founder president of Maharashtra Pani Parishad, an NGO which focused on efficient use of water and training of farmers.He received the Padma Bhushan in 2010.

Delhi: Fresh fight between AAP govt and Centre ahead of new LG Anil Baijal’s oath

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The CBI raids in Delhi government secretariat on Friday stoked a fresh confrontation between the AAP and the Centre with a combative Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal once again asking the Prime Minister to agree to a probe into the controversial ‘Sahara-Birla’ papers.Hours after the agency raided the office of former OSD of Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain over alleged illegal appointments, Kejriwal sought to turn the tables on Prime Minister Narendra Modi by raking up the Sahara Birla papers, an issue over which he has been targeting the PM.Referring to the raids on his former Principal Secretary Rajendra Kumar’s office last December, that had also triggered a political firestorm, Kejriwal said Modi not agreeing to an investigation by a Delhi government-appointed panel will prove that the PM “does not have the guts”.Kejriwal taunted Modi saying the 2015 CBI raid in the Delhi secretariat had thrown up “four mufflers” and that even the cost of the raid could not be recovered. Modiji had found a corrupt only in me at that point, Kejriwal said.”Today he (Modi) got a raid conducted on Satyendar Jain. But we are not going to be scared by your CBI,” Kejriwal said.Earlier, Kejriwal also got into a social media duel with Leader of Opposition in the Delhi Assembly Vijender Gupta who accused the Chief Minister of peddling false charges, which he said won’t “mitigate your own crime”.”You levelled false charges against my wife as well, used foul language against a woman. We are not scared of any probe but there has to be a crime,” Gupta tweeted.Kejriwal alleged that the CBI has filed “seven FIRs” against Jain and “two” against Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, but did not elaborate.CBI carried out searches at the office of the former OSD of Jain in connection with alleged irregularities in his appointment at Chacha Nehru Bal Chikitsalya and subsequently as an aide to the Minister.A senior government official said that it is a prerogative of the minister to appoint his OSD and that there was no irregularity involved in appointing Nikunj Aggarwal to the post.”Since October, he has not been holding any official post in the Delhi government as Health Minister Satyendar Jain had discontinued his service. Aggarwal had been appointed on contractual basis,” the official said.Reacting strongly, Jain tweeted, “CBI raided my office today. We will not bow down by these acts. Why not investigate Sahara Birla Diaries.”

British police say George Michael autopsy inconclusive, more tests needed | Reuters

British police say George Michael autopsy inconclusive, more tests needed | Reuters

Dec 30, 2016 21:32 IST

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LONDON The cause of singer George Michael’s death this week is unclear after an initial autopsy and more tests are needed, British police said on Friday.British singer Michael, who became one of the pop idols of the 1980s with Wham! and then forged a career as a successful solo artist, died at his home in southern England on Sunday. He was 53.”A post mortem examination was carried out yesterday as part of the investigation into the death of George Michael,” Thames Valley police said.

“The cause of death is inconclusive and further tests will now be carried out. The results of these tests are unlikely to be known for several weeks,” they added in a statement.British police had said that Michael’s death was “unexplained but not suspicious”. Michael’s manager, Michael Lippman, said he had died of heart failure.

In the mid-1980s, “Wham! were one of the most successful pop duos with singles such as “”Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”, “”Careless Whisper”, ““Last Christmas” and ““The Edge of Heaven”.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Stephen Addison and Alison Williams)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 21:32 IST

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