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Arunachal Pradesh to have BJP govt as 33 MLAs led by Pema Khandu join party

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The political turmoil in Andhra Pradesh has taken a positive turn for the BJP as 33 MLAs of the People’s Party of Arunachal Pradesh (PPA) have joined the party on Saturday.The MLAs were led by Pema Khandu who was on Thursday suspended from PPA among 10 other members.The 33 MLAs joined the BJP after a meeting today. Arunachal Pradesh now has a BJP government as the party has 2/3rd majority. The PPA, which had total 43 MLAs, had on Thursday midnight temporarily suspended Khandu, deputy chief minister Chhowna Mein and five other MLAs from the primary membership of the party for their alleged “anti-party activities”. It later suspended four other members. A total of eleven MLAs were suspended till now.The Pema Khandu government had claimed on Friday support of 49 of the 60 MLAs on Saturday , including 35 of Peoples Party of Arunachal (PPA) legislators, a day after he was suspended from his own party.Government spokesperson Bamang Felix had claimed that 35 out of the 43 PPA MLAs have reposed their faith and allegiance in the leadership of Khandu. “We have support of 49 MLAs including 35 PPA, 12 BJP along with one associate BJP member and one independent,” he claimed at a press conference here. Arunachal has been battling political instability since December last year when Congress dissidents revolted against former chief minister Nabam Tuki.After a series of dramatic developments, which included a special session held at a hotel to vote out Tuki, Congress rebel Kalikho Pul became chief minister in February with the help of 11 BJP lawmakersThe Congress then moved Supreme Court, which turned the clock back and restored Tuki’s government. But Tuki was out within days as he did not enjoy a majority in the 60-member assembly. Pul, who insisted that he be reinstated as chief minister, was left alone in the last minute when lawmakers supposedly backing him shifted their loyalties to Khandu. Pul committed suicide in August and a month later, Khandu walked out of Congress with 42 lawmakers and joined the PPA.

No cockfights on Sankranti, orders Hyderabad High Court

Tue, 27 Dec 2016-12:20am , Hyderabad , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Hyderabad High Court on Monday directed the Andhra Pradesh government to take all possible measures to prevent cockfights during the Sankranti (Pongal) festival.Collectors must ensure that no cockfights take place in their respective districts, said the court in response to a public interest litigation against the game involving rosters. Traditionally, these fights are organised in Andhra Pradesh on the occasion of Sankranti, especially in the coastal areas of the state.They have become contentious due to animal rights issues and also because betting and other illegal activities are associated with them.

Demonetisation: Note ban adds to cotton farmers’ misery in AP and Telangana

Crop losses, mounting debts and a spate of pest attacks apart, the cotton farmers of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh now have to deal with the demon of demonetisation as well.

“The note ban has been a worse epidemic than the white fly or pink bollworm for cotton farmers,” says Konda Surekha, a former minister from Warangal, one of the most prominent cotton-growing areas in Telangana. These farmers are sour that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had picked a wrong time for banning big currency notes — the harvest period of the Kharif season for cash crops like tobacco, tomato, groundnut, sugarcane and cotton. Now prices have fallen by 20 to 30 percent and they are unable to clear loans due to the ushering-in of the cashless regime in agricultural markets.

“My cotton stock withered at the market yard as traders said they had no cash to pay and offered cheques,” said Jagarlamudi Anil Babu, a cotton farmer of Prakasam district. Farmers say that banks would rather adjust cheques towards loans and interest than disburse cash.

A variety of issues abound for the cotton and textile industry like the non-implementation of the promised loan waiver, the delay in institutional credit and fall in global demand.

Cotton farmers in five districts of Telangana and six districts of AP are wringing hands in distress as cotton prices crashed to Rs 4,100 per quintal from Rs 5,600 per quintal in the pre-demonetisation period. “Adding to our woes, the traders are asking us to accept payments in cheques or scrapped notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000,” says a cotton grower from Inkollur in coastal Andhra who deferred cotton-plucking for a week due to demonetisation.

Representational image of a cotton-gatherer in Warangal. AFP

Representational image of a cotton farmer in Warangal. AFP

The RBI decision to allow scrapped notes circulation among farmers in marketing their produce and also purchase of seeds and fertilisers has given them temporary relief, but Telangana’s farmers say that Modi should have chosen mid-January to February for demonetisation. A cascading impact is evident from the distress on cotton farmers — weddings, house warming functions and thread ceremonies are either low-key affairs or deferred. Besides cotton, the tobacco industry is dominated by 70 percent cash transactions in the vicious circle of growers, lenders, commission agents and exporters.

Andhra Pradesh and Telangana contribute to one-third of the country’s cotton trade. Chirala in Guntur and Siricilla in Karimangar are popular for their handloom and lungi markets and concentration of looms – they are considered the biggest in Asia for exports to Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

According to the US-based International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) the currency crunch in India has created shortages in domestic textile market and also hit exports to global markets. Cotton exports from Australia, Mali, Burkina Faso and the US could fill up the gap caused by Indian cotton in 2016-17. The ICAC report also blamed the note ban as an ‘untimely move’ detrimental to the Indian cotton market, which could have a domino effect for the next two years.

Officially 21 cotton farmers had committed suicide in 2016 from June to December. Unofficially though, 61 farmers have committed suicide since June and 12 more in the months of November and December.

Since its birth as a new state in June 2014, Telangana has recorded 1,269 suicides. The Hyderabad-based Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA), estimates farmer suicides in Andhra Pradesh in the past 20 years (1995-2014) at 38,000. Lack of access to institutional credit and low crop insurance add to farmers’ woes. “Besides, in anticipation of loan waivers, a large number of farmers did not repay loans last year, and banks have refused loans this year,” points out GV Ramanjeyulu, executive director of CSA.

“They take up crops in Kharif with high interest loans and high expectations to wipe off old dues but often end up adding to their debts and consequent suicides,” says K Changal Reddy, a farmers’ representative.

 Local common sense

In many parts of Telangana and Andhra the crisis has been tackled with local common sense. “Farmers are deferring payments to daily wagers but pay partly in the form of rice and also stood guarantee to small loans taken by them in the local grocery shops,” says Palaparthi Srinivasa Rao, a cotton farmer of Srikakulam. Traders linked payments to fertilisers and seed suppliers for the benefit of farmers. “We also tied up with lorry operators and hotels to pay their dues from the amounts due to them,” says Gopalakrishnaiah, a cotton exporter in Guntur market.

Kuvulu Rythu Sangam (Andhra Pradesh Tenant Farmers’ Association) state secretary N Ranga Rao says that for the Kharif crop season, farmers needed Rs 3,200 crores to take up harvesting in about 40 lakh acres. Another Rs 2,400 crores is needed for the Rabi season. “Since private money lenders also do not have valid currencies now, we depend on government to release crop loans early,” he said.

The monthly report of the Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) said the cotton market in Andhra Pradesh, one of the major producers in the country, has plunged into a deep crisis in the aftermath of demonetisation, as trade and export transactions have almost come to a halt and cotton prices have slumped by Rs 1,000 per quintal from Rs 5,000 to Rs 4,100 in just 40 days. Though the CCI has opened over 40 purchasing centres and offered cash payments in Rs 2,000 notes, the farmers are unwilling to sell and choose to suffer rather than sell at the current prices.

Arrears in loan waiver payments

Although both Andhra and Telangana government announced farm loans waiver as a poll promise, they have been paying dues to banks in installments. Telangana government had pegged arrears at around Rs 18,000 crores and Andhra had reduced the burden to Rs 36,000 crores. Banks were advised to issue new crop loans with the promise that loans as of June 2013 would be borne by the government. However, the RBI had opposed the bulk farm loan waiver initiative of both the states and advised banks to release only crop loans in a guarded manner and ensure that until clearance of arrears, farmers’ slates would not be cleaned.

As a result, banks refuse to give fresh loans until old loans are either paid by the farmer or by the state government. As a result, farmers had to take up farming with savings and loans from private money lenders. “My money lender wants cash and not cheque,” says Bharatakka, a cotton farmer of Ibrahimpatnam in Nalgonda district.

Cotton crop grown in Andhra is sent to the ginning mills of Guntur district which supply cotton to textile mills in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Karnataka. According to market sources, almost 70-80 percent of transactions have come to a halt and the market has been hit hard. This has meant the denial of wages to over two lakh people engaged in cotton trading, spinning, ginning and harvesting activities in the state.

In Telangana too, the situation is similar. Traders are offering farmers sops now to get them to sell their cotton and accept cheques — trips to Mumbai, Shirdi and Tirupati are being offered. “If we deposit the cheques in the banks, the bankers will adjust it against loans and interest and the government will not reimburse it,” said Muthyala Reddy of Warangal.

“Cotton trade is always cash and carry activity and bank operations are hardly 10-15 percent. If we offer to pay online or through cards, our suppliers of seeds and fertilises will just reject,” says a cotton farmer, K Samaiah at Enumamula market yard in Warangal. “The ceiling on withdrawals had also made us delay payments. The government cap on withdrawal at Rs 24,000 per week has sandwiched the farmers,” says Phani Raj, a cotton trader at Chilakaluripeta.

Continuing trouble for cotton

The cotton crisis since 2014 in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh had led farmers to shift to other crops due to delay in institutional credit and an unending wait for farm loan waivers. The total area under cotton declined by 12 percent to 10.5 million hectares this year against 11.88 million hectares in 2015-16.

In 2015 and in early 2016 the crop was hit by the white fly and pink bollworm leading to 30 percent drop in yields. “We are asking the farmers not to use non-Bt cotton seed as refuge crop and reduce area under cotton,” says K Dhananjaya Reddy, commissioner for agriculture (Andhra Pradesh).

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 15:21 IST

Sabarimala: 31 injured in stampede; no lapse on part of police, says minister

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Thirty-one persons were injured in the stampede at the Lord Ayyappa temple here, Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran said on Monday and maintained that there was no lapse on the part of police.”Thirty-one persons were injured, two of them seriously.Eight of the injured have been admitted to Kottayam medical college hospital, three in Pathanamthitta Government hospital, two in Pamba and 18 at Sannidhanam hospital,” he told reporters.An action plan would also be formulated to ensure that such incidents do not recur, he said, adding there was no lapse on the part of police.”There was sufficient police at Sannidhanam. There were about 700 policemen on duty,” he said.The minister said that barricades would be strengthened in the coming three days when the shrine will remain closed.A joint inspection with police, Devaswom officials and the minister was held at the mishap site this morning.The temple had witnessed heavy rush yesterday, the penultimate day of the 41-day pilgrimage season, which concludes today with ‘Mandala Pooja’.A rope barricade gave way at Malaikappuram following which some of them fell down causing injuries to the pilgrims, who were mostly from Andhra Pradesh, TN and Telangana.One of the injured is from Kerala.Meanwhile, DGP Loknath Behara said a huge tragedy was averted at Sabarimala due to police intervention and denied reports that the stampede was due to ineffective police presence yesterday, despite a heavy rush of pilgrims.”Stampede was not due to the lapse of police,” he said.Behara said that IG D Sreejit, in charge of Sabarimala security, has been asked to file a report on the stampede today itself.”I have asked Sreejit to immediately enquire and download the CCTV visuals and file a report today itself,” Behara said.Sreejit said there were nine policemen at the spot and it was due to their presence that a calamity was averted.”It was due to their intervention that a big mishap was averted,” Sreejit told PTI.He said within 100 metres, there were 70 policemen, including NDRF.Following the incident, security has been strengthened and entry of pilgrims is being restricted.

Bhubaneswar: Eight traffickers get life in prison for torturing & chopping off labourers’ hands

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Eight human traffickers found guilty of torturing and chopping off the hands of two labourers have received life prison sentences and hefty fines, a prosecutor said on Sunday, hoping the severity of the punishment would deter others.Prosecutor Dhirendra Nath Patra said the court in Bhubaneswar heard how the traffickers chopped off the hands of Nilambar Dhangdamajhi and Dayalu Nial in Odisha state on December 15, 2013.The two men were among of a group of 12 labourers who had taken money from labour agent Parvesh Duni in exchange for working for him but quickly realised he had trapped them.When the men found out they were being taken to Andhra Pradesh in southeastern India instead of Chhattisgarh state in central India as expected they tried to escape but were caught and locked up for hours before their hands were chopped off.News of the torture and confinement triggered widespread outrage and made national headlines in India which is estimated to have the highest number of modern day slaves of any country.Dhangdamajhi died on September 21 this year after years of illness.”Under the sentence Parvesh Duni and other traffickers will serve a life term in prison. They will also have to pay fines,” the prosecutor told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “This is a lesson for all.”Amidst the publicity, in 2014 the Supreme Court intervened and asked the Odisha government to fast track charges against the traffickers and provide rehabilitation for the two men whose stories are typical of many trapped in debt bondage in India.Modern slavery has become a catch-all term to describe human trafficking, debt bondage, forced marriage and other slave-like exploitation with an estimated 46 million people in slavery around the world.Dhangdamajhi was 32 when he took a loan of 14,000 rupees ($209) from labour agent Duni and agreed to work at a brick kiln in 2013.But he was taken to a paddy field, kept under house arrest and made to work for his traffickers who demanded he pay back the advance taken by all 12 labourers if he wanted to go home.Dayalu, who was 17 years old at the time, earlier told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that they were asked if they would rather have their hands or legs chopped off not agreeing to the new terms of contract.Patra said nine men were accused of the abuse and eight of these were arrested and were now in jail.A ninth man absconded ahead of the hearing that started in October last year and finished in March this year but he had been arrested recently and would now face trial.Authorities have freed around 282,000 workers trapped in bonded labour in 18 states in India since 1978, according to government data, although non-government organisations question these figures and the real extent of debt bondage in India.

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

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

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

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

Representational images. PTIRepresentational images. PTI

Representational images. PTI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andhra Pradesh: CM lauds new digital payment mode, AadharPay

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu on Friday claimed that Krishna District Collector Babu Ahamed has come up with a solution to ease the currency crunch being faced by people following demonetization.AadharPay, a cashless payment system which needs only a smartphone and a biometric reader, can be used for transferring money with a thumb impression.The trader (or recipient of money) needs a smartphone fitted with biometric reader as an accessory. “I struggled for 40 days. I had sleepless nights. We searched the world and broke our heads to find a solution. But now, Babu has come up with a simple solution that will transform the nation,” the Chief Minister said at the conference of District Collectors.He felicitated the Collector at the conference. “Aadhar-enabled payments are the best way (to overcome the currency crisis). We will discuss this in our committee meeting,” Naidu said.”One can transfer money using AadharPay from any bank under one platform…It’s a simple solution but will transform the nation,” he added.

Demonetization: Comment made by Chandrababu Naidu unexpected, says BJP

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) on Thursday said the critical comment made by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu was unexpected as he is a responsible member of the ruling National Democratic Alliance(NDA).”Chandrababu Naidu is a seasoned politician and a responsible NDA partner, any irresponsible statement cannot be made by him. He is one of the first leaders to support the demonetization move and making such statement was not expected of him,” BJP leader Prem Shukla said in Mumbai.Naidu said, “It (demonetization) was not their wish”, but on Wednesday, refuted media reports that he was against demonetization, clarifying that he had only “commented on the lapses in the implementation”.
ALSO READ Breaking my head daily, but unable to find a solution: Naidu’s turnaround on demonetizationNaidu, in a statement, said he had expressed his concern over the suffering of people even after more than one month due to non-availability of currency. “It is very painful to see reports of old people collapsing while waiting at ATM counters,” he said.The Andhra Pradesh chief minister, who heads a 13-member committee appointed by the Central Government to look into demonetization issues, said he repeatedly appealed to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and local bankers to adopt a humanitarian approach to prevent inconvenience to people by delivering more number of small currency notes to rural areas.Stating that cashless and digital banking transaction is the only alternative to end the crisis, Naidu, who is spending more than three-four hours a day monitoring the cash distribution system, asked the officials to think innovatively to address the crisis and to encourage urban people to switch over to mobile-banking transactions and distribute the available small currency to farmers in rural areas to carry out agricultural operations for the current Rabi season.He said that cashless transactions were successfully implemented in all 29,000 fair price shops in the state and the dealers of FP shops were appointed as banking correspondents to solve currency problem in rural areas.Addressing a party function of Telugu Desam Party in Vijayawada on Tuesday, Naidu said, “Demonetization is not our will and wish hence our state people are also facing several problems.”Highlighting the problem faced by the people due to the move, he said people’s income has decreased and the Centre is unable to provide funds. “Income has decreased and findings are also not coming from the Central Government,” said Naidu, who had extended his support to the Prime Minister’s decision to ban high-denomination notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000, as “a moral victory for the TDP”.

Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary in I-T net, dept recovers Rs 48 lakh in new currency notes

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary P Rama Mohana Rao was surprised by Income-Tax (I-T) officials who stormed into his residence, 17/184, Anna Nagar, at 5.30 am on Wednesday, seizing a massive amount of black money and gold. Speaking to DNA, sources said that the search of Rao’s home unearthed an estimated Rs 18 lakh in cash and gold bars. Investigators have so far recovered Rs 48 lakh in new currency notes and 17 kg gold from the premises of Rao and his relatives.Investigating sources said that the powerful and well connected bureaucrat of the 1985 batch was thick with sand-mining baron and PWD contractor Sekar Reddy, whose home has also been recently raided by the I-T, the CBI and the ED. I-T officials questioned Mohana Rao about the seized assets from the house of Sekar Reddy and their links.A team of about 100 tax sleuths, aided by a platoon (about 35 personnel) of the Central Reserve Police Force, raided at least 15 premises in the state and neighbouring Andhra Pradesh as part of the tax evasion probe.TurnSources said that the department has found Rao’s name on seized documents taken from Reddy’s home. Allegedly, Rao was indulging in the conversion of old notes into gold.About 100 tax officials are still raiding 13 places belonging to Rao, his son, relatives, and other associates in Chennai, Bengaluru, and Chittoor. The raids, top I-T sources said, were launched against Rao’s son Vivek Papisetty and his relatives.Around Rs 18 lakh in new notes and two gold bars of 1 kg each were seized from the premises of Papisetty’s father-in-law based in Chittoor in Andhra Pradesh. I-T Department sources said on Wednesday that the raids had been going on in Badrinariyan’s house since 5.30 am. Badrinariyan is a close relative of Chittoor MLA DA Sathya Prabha, brother of former MP Adikesavulu. I-T officials also said that the raids are also linked to a tax evasion investigation against Rao’s son Vikram Rao. Earlier this month, taxmen had found over 100 kg of gold, Rs 96 crore in banned Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes and Rs 34 crore in new currency notes in raids at the homes of three Tamil Nadu businessmen, one of whom, J Shekar Reddy, allegedly has business links with the chief secretary’s son.Rao is one of Tamil Nadu’s most powerful bureaucrats. He is said to have played a key role in J Jayalalithaa’s companion Sasikala Natarajan coming to the forefront of politics in the state after the former chief minister died in hospital earlier this month.Meanwhile, sand mining baron Reddy was arrested on Wednesday. This comes a day after the ED registered a case against him and his associates on Tuesday. A CBI official said a case against the accused has been registered.Reddy was taken into custody after several hours of questioning by the CBI and has been sent to custody till January 3, 2017.Reddy’s arrest made headlines after I-T searches at his residence and office resulted in the seizure of Rs 131 crore and 127 kg of gold. The Rs 131 crore included newly introduced notes of Rs 2,000 worth Rs 34 crore (seized on two different occasions) besides 127 kg of gold found from him and his associates Srinivasa Reddy and Prem Kumar, whose homes were also raided.

Chandrababu Naidu’s demonetisation flip-flop continues, says he still backs govt move

After coming out in support of demonetisation initially, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu on Tuesday did a volte-face saying that this is not what they wished for, only to issue a clarification later that media reports were “misleading the country.”

It was earlier reported that Naidu had said that the solution to problems arising out of the note ban still remained elusive even 40 days after the step and it was not what he wished for. The U-turn was deemed significant as Naidu was one of the first non-BJP leaders to support the Narendra Modi government’s move.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu. AFP

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu. AFP

“Demonetisation was not our wish but it happened. More than 40 days after demonetisation, there are still a lot of problems but yet there appears to be no solution,” Naidu said addressing a workshop of Telugu Desam MPs, MLCs, MLAs and other leaders in Vijayawada on Tuesday.

However, according a report in News 18, he has now refuted such reports and clarified that his comments were misrepresented and he continues to believe that the note ban is a “good decision, although implementation challenges exist.”

“All that the chief minister had said was that post demonetisation, it was taking time for normalcy to return and that he is having to spend time resolving issues,” Naidu’s son and TDP youth wing leader Nara Lokesh told News18.

ANI also tweeted Naidu’s clarification stating that he only “expressed concerns over suffering of people.”

Naidu’s comments had ruffled feathers in the ruling dispensation, especially because he’s an NDA ally and heads the 13-member  committee appointed by centre to review demonetisation related issues, even as the BJP tried to play it down.

Earlier Naidu had voiced his concerns about the implementation lapses that were adding to the woes of the common man.

“It still remains a sensitive and complicated problem,” Naidu had observed.

“The people who are supposed to manage the crisis are incapable of doing anything. The RBI has not been able to do anything about it. It still remains a sensitive and complicated problem,” he has been quoted as saying in media reports.

“I am spending two hours daily to review the situation and ease the problems caused by demonetisation. I am breaking my head daily, but we are unable to find a solution to this problem,” said Naidu, who heads the 13-member central committee to look into demonetisation issues.

Naidu had been a strong proponent of ban on high denomination currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000. In fact, he had written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 12 October reiterating his demand.

On 9 November, hours after the Prime Minister came out with the demonetisation announcement, the Telugu Desam Party started claiming credit saying it was a “victory for Chandrababu” over his fight on corruption.

“This is a moral victory for the TDP,” it said on posts on Facebook and Twitter.

“Prime Minister Modi may have taken the decision now but Chandrababu had these thoughts even when he was in the opposition (2004-14). He had been fighting for scrapping of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes since then,” the TDP said in a Facebook post.

The party media cell dug out newspaper clippings dated back to 2013 June when Chandrababu raised the demand for the first time.

But as people started facing trouble in exchanging the scrapped notes as well as in withdrawing cash from their savings accounts, Chandrababu seemed to change his tone and started making critical remarks about the Centre’s move, particularly the introduction of Rs 2,000 notes.

“I am spending two hours daily to ease the problems caused by demonetisation. I am breaking my head daily but we are unable to find a solution to this problem,” the CM said on Tuesday.

“We could resolve the ‘August crisis’ (an internal party coup dating back to 1984) in 30 days but this (demonetisation) still persists,” he said.

He said banks were “not prepared” for a transition to digital economy. “They are unable to even register banking correspondents,” he added. Unless there were remedial measures, people’s woes would continue in the long-term, Chandrababu warned.

With inputs from PTI

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 21:00 IST

Modi’s cash crackdown supporter Chandrababu Naidu shows unease as anger grows among citizens

A leading political ally of Narendra Modi has abruptly distanced himself from the Indian prime minister’s move to scrap high-value banknotes, as broad initial support for the radical monetary reform showed signs of crumbling.

The shift by N. Chandrababu Naidu, chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, came six weeks after Modi announced to a stunned nation that he would scrap 86 percent of the cash in circulation.

While Modi remains by far India’s most popular politician, any crack in his authority could have negative implications in state elections next year that will set the tone for his expected bid for a second term in 2019.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTIPrime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Naidu’s regional party is allied to Modi’s nationalists and he heads a central committee set up to find ways to soften the impact on ordinary people of the crackdown against tax evaders, racketeers and bribe takers who rely on so-called “black cash”.

“I am breaking my head daily but we are unable to find a solution to this problem,” Naidu told party workers on Tuesday in the city of Vijayawada.

Modi, announcing the reform on 8 November, cautioned that people would face temporary hardship. He promised to restore normalcy by the end of the year, when a deadline to deposit old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 banknotes expires.

His announcement enjoyed popular support at first, with many people prepared to endure hardship as long as others are forced to give up their ill-gotten wealth or pay tax.

But continuing shortages of new Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 notes have caused tempers to rise as millions queue at banks and ATMs to draw money. With new Rs 500 notes, worth $7.50, in very short supply it is hard for people to buy necessities because of a shortage of change.

“Modi is now a one-man army, every political ally will blame him if the cash crisis does not come to an end in the next 10 days,” said P. Raja Rao, a political science professor in Hyderabad.

Furious over the lack of cash, mobs attacked six bank branches in Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday, forcing police to rescue bank staff.

The northern state, home to one in six Indians, is due to hold an election in early 2017 that is increasingly being viewed as a referendum on Modi’s demonetisation drive.

In the last 20 days, Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has won several local elections in western and northern states. Party officials said the wins were a clear endorsement of the new cash policy.

“Each and every Indian understands the genuine intention behind the bold move. They trust the prime minister and we hope our political allies put an end to their doubts,” said BJP spokesman Siddharth Nath Singh.

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 18:24 IST

Comments on demonetization were distorted: Chandrababu Naidu

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> A day after making critical remarks on demonetization, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu on Wednesday said his comments were “distorted” and that he has been supporting the exercise.He, however, said problems arising in the aftermath of demonetization “continue” as “we are going (about them) in a routine manner”. “We have to take an innovative approach,” he remarked. He heads the panel set up by the Centre to look into issues arising from demonetization. His party- TDP- is part of the NDA government. The 13-member committee would meet again on December 28 to work out solutions to the ongoing problem, he said.”I spoke to (NITI Aayog CEO) Amitabh Kant this morning and asked him to convene the meeting,” he said.He said he had sought a ban on high denomination notes “long ago” and written a letter to the Prime Minister seeking abolition of 500 and 1,000 rupee notes after the recent Income Disclosure Scheme.”I have supported this (demonetization) concept,” he said, inaugurating a two-day conference of district Collectors here. Addressing a workshop of Telugu Desam MPs, legislators and leaders here yesterday, he had said, “demonetization was not our wish but it happened. More than 40 days after demonetization, there are still a lot of problems but yet there appears to be no solution.””I am spending two hours daily to ease the problems caused by demonetization. I am breaking my head daily but we are unable to find a solution to this problem,” he had said.He claimed that his remarks were “distorted by some”. “I am disgusted with the way money is distributed during elections. Why should we spend money in elections? That’s why I wanted a ban on big notes,” Chandrababu said.”In my life, I did not focus on anything as much as I focused on demonetization. I troubled the bankers, RBI and the district Collectors by reviewing the situation for hours every day. But still things did not happen as fast as we wanted,” he said. “There is attitude problem. We could not make use of the available infrastructure and we could not innovate,” he said, referring to the problems being faced by people in the aftermath of note ban.”I am totally pained that we could not distribute welfare pensions on time this month. I was so angry. I gave a warning to the banks and then the RBI acted. From now on, we will distribute pensions physically and not through banks,” the Chief Minister said.He also spoke on other topics like growing number of divorces in the US, the problem of aged population in Japan and of ageing population in China and the advantage India has in terms of “demographic dividend”.

Demonetisation: Solutions are still elusive, says Chandrababu

Vijayawada: After coming out in support of demonetisation initially, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu on Tuesday appeared to do a volte face saying that this is not what they wished for and said the solution to problems arising out of the note ban still remained elusive even 40 days after the step.

“Demonetisation was not our wish but it happened. More than 40 days after demonetisation, there are still a lot of problems but yet there appears to be no solution,” Chandrababu said addressing a workshop of Telugu Desam MPs, MLCs, MLAs and other leaders in Vijayawada on Tuesday.

“It still remains a sensitive and complicated problem,” Chandrababu — who heads the 13-member central committee to look into demonetisation issues — observed.

It was Chandrababu who had been a strong proponent of ban on high denomination currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000. In fact, he had written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 12 October reiterating his demand.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu. AFP

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu. AFP

On 9 November, hours after the Prime Minister came out with the demonetisation announcement, the Telugu Desam Party started claiming credit saying it was a “victory for Chandrababu” over his fight on corruption.

“This is a moral victory for the TDP,” it said on posts on Facebook and Twitter.

“Prime Minister Modi may have taken the decision now but Chandrababu had these thoughts even when he was in the opposition (2004-14). He had been fighting for scrapping of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes since then,” the TDP said in a Facebook post.

The party media cell dug out newspaper clippings dated back to 2013 June when Chandrababu raised the demand for the first time.

But as people started facing trouble in exchanging the scrapped notes as well as in withdrawing cash from their savings accounts, Chandrababu seemed to change his tone and started making critical remarks about the Centre’s move, particularly the introduction of Rs 2,000 notes.

“I am spending two hours daily to ease the problems caused by demonetisation. I am breaking my head daily but we are unable to find a solution to this problem,” the CM said on Tuesday.

“We could resolve the ‘August crisis’ (an internal party coup dating back to 1984) in 30 days but this (demonetisation) still persists,” he said.

He said banks were “not prepared” for a transition to digital economy. “They are unable to even register banking correspondents,” he added. Unless there were remedial measures, people’s woes would continue in the long-term, Chandrababu warned.

First Published On : Dec 20, 2016 16:57 IST

Solution to note ban woes still out of reach: N Chandrababu Naidu

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu on Tuesday said demonetization was not what they wished for, adding he was still breaking his head as a solution to the ongoing (currency) crisis remained elusive.”Demonetization was not our wish but it happened. More than 40 days after demonetization, there are still a lot of problems but yet there appears to be no solution,” Chandrababu said addressing a workshop of Telugu Desam MPs, MLCs, MLAs and other leaders here today. “It still remains a sensitive and complicated problem,” Chandrababu — who heads the 13-member central committee to look into demonetization issues — observed.It was Chandrababu who had been a strong proponent of ban on high denomination currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000.In fact, he had written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 12 reiterating his demand. On November 9, hours after the Prime Minister came out with the demonetization announcement, the Telugu Desam Party started claiming credit saying it was a “victory for Chandrababu” over his fight on corruption. “This is a moral victory for the TDP,” it said on posts on Facebook and Twitter. Prime Minister Modi may have taken the decision now but Chandrababu had these thoughts even when he was in the opposition (2004-14). He had been fighting for scrapping of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes since then,” the TDP pointed in a Facebook post. The party media cell dug out newspaper clippings dated back to June 2013 when Chandrababu raised the demand for the first time.But as people started facing trouble in exchanging the scrapped notes as well as in withdrawing cash from their savings accounts, Chandrababu seemed to change his tone and started making critical remarks about the Centre s move, particularly the introduction of Rs 2000 notes. “I am spending two hours daily to ease the problems caused by demonetization. I am breaking my head daily but we are unable to find a solution to this problem,” the Chief Minister said today.”We could resolve the ‘August crisis’ (an internal party coup dating back to 1984) in 30 days but this (demonetization) still persists,” he pointed out.He said banks were “not prepared” for a transition to digital economy. “They are unable to even register banking correspondents,” he added.Unless there were remedial measures, people’s woes would continue in the long-term, Chandrababu warned.

A small dot signalled IMD of severe cyclonic storm Vardah

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A small dot marked on the screens of weathermen at the IMD signalled to them that a very severe cyclonic storm was building up in the South Andaman Sea, nine days ahead of the landfall of ‘Vardah’ that ravaged coastal Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. The dot on the screen signified pressure movement over a particular area, which had the potential of snowballing into a cyclone.Weathermen at the IMD’s Regional Specialised Meteorological Centre (RSMC) in Delhi, who monitor any slight change in weather patterns around India especially in the cyclone-prone Bay of Bengal, realised on December 3 that a low pressure area was being formed near the South Andaman Sea. The pressure belt had traversed from the South China Sea, flowing over Thailand and Vietnam which had reduced its speed considerably due to its contact with the land.”So, as soon as it reached the South Andman Sea, it again got traction. The warm water in the Indian Ocean and the South Andaman Sea gave it momentum and then started the process of forming a low pressure area. We realised that there was an anti-clockwise pattern, the wind speed around it had increased more than other parts of the sea,” said M Mohapatra, Additional Director General (Services) with the India Meteorological Department, who has been in the business of forecasting cyclones. He was also the head of Cyclone Warning Division during Phailin and Hudhud.September to December is also the time when weathermen at the Cyclone Warning Division of the IMD avoid taking leaves. For them, this is cyclone season.Realising that the low pressure area was developing into something stronger, the officials started gathering more data, pressing into service IMD’s two doppler radars at Chennai and Machilipatnam, coastal automatic weather stations and manned observatories, besides its buoys in the sea.Satellite images from INSAT-3D and Met services of Thailand and Malaysia were also used. With constant hourly updates, the data gathered was then coalesced, a usual practise. After analysis and clearance from senior meteorologists, a small dot was marked to track its path.With every passing day, the low pressure area became more intense. On December 6, it turned into a depression and graduated to deep depression the very next day. Since then there was daily monitoring and alert reports being sent to the Andaman and Nicobar Administration, and state governments of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Puducherry and Kerala.It was declared a cyclonic storm on the morning of December 8 and became a severe cyclonic storm on the midnight of December 9. Vardah was finally declared a very severe cyclonic storm on the evening of December 10.

Atrocities against SC, ST: BJP-ruled Rajasthan tops list, UP follows

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>BJP-ruled Rajasthan has reported the highest number of cases of atrocities against SCs and STs during 2013-15, followed by poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar, a new government report said, even as the Centre today flagged the issue of poor conviction rates in such cases. Rajasthan has registered 23,861 cases under the amended Prevention of Atrocities (PoA) Act, while UP and Bihar registered 23,556 and 21,061 cases respectively, according to the agenda papers for a meeting of a committee to review the implementation of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 held here today. Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil and Gujarat reported 14,016, 9,054, 8,084, 7,565, 6,546, 5,131 and 3,969 such crimes respectively during the years.The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment observed that during 2013-15, only 43.3% of the total cases registered (13,8077) were disposed of by courts and 25.7% of total cases disposed of by courts (59,779), ended in conviction. “In certain states, i.e. Andhra Pradesh (6.3%), Gujarat (3.1%), Karnataka (3.5%), Maharashtra (7.6%), Odisha (4.3%), Tamil Nadu (7.5%), Telangana (7.5%) and West Bengal (3%), the conviction rate was in single digit,” the agenda note read.The committee headed by Union Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thaawarchand Gehlot sought action taken report from state governments to improve the disposal and conviction rates in such cases. During the meeting, Gehlot pointed out that only 14 states have set up exclusive special courts for speedy trial of cases registered under the PoA Act.However, he rued there was no information about formation of such courts by 22 states and Union Territories including Delhi, Punjab, Jharkhand, Haryana, Goa, West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam etc and urged them to do the needful.Section 14 of the amended PoA Act provides for establishing of exclusive special courts for one or more districts and where number of cases under this Act is less, specification of Court of Session as a Special Court, with powers to take direct cognisance of the offences under the PoA Act.The Committee also wanted to know if the relief amount, that has been raised and made between Rs 85,000 to Rs 8,25,000 depending upon the nature of offence, is being given within seven days to the concerned persons as specified in the PoA Rules amended on April 14, 2016.

Mere development not enough to win election: Subramanian Swamy

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>BJP MP Subramanian Swamy on Saturday said mere development of the society or nation was not enough to win the election and BJP can never win an election until it pushes forward Hindutva as it’s core agenda.Addressing a gathering in the Ruia College here, he said, “People often say that the governments should focus on developmental works, which should be, but our history says something else. It says that whichever government focused on only development in India could never win the election.”Swamy was here to release the book “Sachchai” written by Shivsena leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut.”Be it Narasimha Rao who abolished licence raj, Rajiv Gandhi who introduced industrial revolution in the country, Morarji Desai who brought down the prices of rations or N Chandra Babu Naidu, the reformer of Andhra Pradesh…All these people lost in subsequent elections,” Swamy added.”And we should not forget Atal Bihari Vajpayee ji too … who put forth India Shining slogan. Of course India was shining at economic front, but he could not win the election and number of seats were reduced to half,” the BJP leader added.”And this is why I emphasise that developmental works for a government are necessary but not everything,” Swamy said.”We won 2014 election on two basis. Putting forth the Gujarat model of governance and people set aside their caste perception, rose above it and voted for Hindutva. This is why I always moot Hindutva as a core issue to address and govern our country which is predominantly Hindu,” he added.

11 Oppn MLAs suspended from Telangana Assembly

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Nearly a dozen members of the Congress and TDP were suspended from the Telangana Legislative Assembly on Saturday over their demand for debate on defection of Opposition MLAs into ruling TRS.The suspension of nine Congress and two TDP MLAs for the day came as the Opposition members entered the well of the house.Talking to reporters after suspension, Congress MLA M Bhatti Vikramarka alleged that their suspension and alleged defection of Opposition members into TRS was against principles of democracy. The ruling TRS MLA G Suneetha told reporters that the Congress members tried to stall the House as they did not want the good work being done by the government to be discussed in the House.It was decided to take up any adjournment motion after Question Hour but Congress members tried to stall the proceedings, she said.Congress and TDP adopted double standards on defection as Opposition YSR Congress members have joined the ruling TDP in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh now and Opposition members were admitted into Congress when Y S Rajasekhar Reddy was Chief Minister in undivided Andhra Pradesh, she alleged.

Supreme court orders ban on liquor shops on State & National Highways across country

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Concerned over 1.5 lakh fatalities every year in road mishaps, the Supreme Court on Thursday ordered ban on liquor sales on state and national highways across the country.Supreme court bench headed by Chief Justice of India TS Thakur directed the order on a batch of pleas seeking a direction to amend excise laws to ensure that no liquor is sold alongside highways.However, the court said that the liquor shops can operate till the period they were having their licenses. “All existing licences of liquor shops on highways will not be renewed after March 31, 2017,” the court said.The court also said that all signages indicating presence of liquor shops will be prohibited on national and state highwaysEarlier, the court also rapped the Centre for not doing anything concrete leading it to “step in”. It has been alleged that despite the recommendation of a committee to ban the sale of alcohol on state and national highway, states like Andhra Pradesh and Telangana were sticking to their prevailing excise policies under which licences were being issued to liquor shops along the highways.”An analysis of road accident data 2015 reveals that around 1,374 accidents and 400 deaths take place every day on Indian roads, resulting in 57 accidents and loss of 17 lives on an average every hour.”India being a signatory to the Brasilia Declaration, it is imperative that policy guidelines are framed to control road accidents. Also, the excise policies of Indian states and Union territories should be amended to conform to the spirit of Article 47 r/w Article 21 of the Constitution of India,” one of the pleas had said.

Cyclone Vardah: Rajnath Singh takes stock of rescue efforts in TN, Andhra Pradesh

New Delhi: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday reviewed the relief operations in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh where cyclone Vardah made landfall, and ordered the Inter-Ministerial Central team be kept ready to be sent to Tamil Nadu immediately on the state government’s request.

Taking stock of the situation in a high level meeting, he “expressed his satisfaction on the preparedness of the Central and State agencies in handling the devastating cyclone which has resulted in minimising casualties”, an official statement said.

The meeting was attended by Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Member Secretary, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) Director General of RK Pachnanda and senior Home Ministry officers.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh. PTI

Home Minister Rajnath Singh. PTI

Pachnanda informed the Home Minister about the deployment of his force in the disaster hit states and the relief work done by them.

Eight NDRF teams consisting of 268 rescuers along with 29 boats had been deployed in Tamil Nadu, while three more teams consisting of 108 rescuers along with 15 boats have been sent to Chennai while six teams consisting of 205 rescuers along with 20 boats have been deployed in Andhra Pradesh.

According to the NDRF DG, the force are removing road blocks.

A government statement said a total 297 relief centers had been opened and 104 are in operation in Tamil Nadu as per status report at 10 a.m. on Tuesday.

“A total of 13,578 people have been evacuated to shelters and human losses reported 16, hut damages 55, trees fallen 9,154, electrical poles damaged 5,200, transformers damaged 71 and 152 of 312 blocked roads have been cleared,” the statement said.

It said that a total of 59 relief centres were in operation and 10,960 persons have been evacuated from vulnerable or low lying areas in Andhra Pradesh.

In Chittoor, two persons were killed, 391 villages affected, 602 poles fallen, 12 trees uprooted. All uprooted trees have been cleared and lifting of poles is in progress, it further said.

“The system is very likely to continue to move west-sothwestwards and weaken gradually into a well marked low pressure area during next six hours,” it said.

It also added that the flights had also become operational at Chennai Airport since Tuesday morning.

First Published On : Dec 13, 2016 19:23 IST

Tirupati temple may have to get FSSAI license to serve, make laddus

Soon, your Tirupati laddu may come with a food safety mark. A report published in The Hindu said that the Triumala Tirupati Devasthanam, which runs the renowned temple will have to obtain a license from the Food Safety Association of India (FSSAI).

Suneeti Toteja, director of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), a central body which regulates manufacturing, processing, distribution and sale of food in India, has written to the food commissioner of Andhra Pradesh, stating that the temple authority must adhere to the safety standards prescribed the Food Safety Standards Act, 2006.

Tirupati temple. AFPTirupati temple. AFP

Tirupati temple. AFP

Since laddu is a “food” under the act, the temple administration has to buy a license to distribute it, the letter continued. TTD is officially a Food Business Operator (FBO), as per the Act and is bound to follow the safety standards, the letter added.

Toteja letter had come in response to a Right To Information (RTI) application filed with the FSSAI complaining about the alleged unhygienic conditions under which the laddus are made by the TTD, the board which runs the renowned temple, The Hindu report said. Bengaluru-based T Narasimhamurthy had submitted the application.

According to food safety act, only those wearing clean clothes and not suffering from any kind of infections shall be allowed to manufacture and pack food, a Bangalore Mirror report stated. Narasimhamurthy has said that the laddus must have a expiry date, while a bill must be provided when it is purchased.

The Tirupati laddu has a 300-year history behind it, and is believed to have been invented in the 18th century. The laddu, offered to devotees as prasadam, is known for its unique taste, the tabloid added.

However, according to latest reports, the TTD has refused entry to food inspectors on the grounds that the temple kitchen is an auspicious place. The board also refused to consider the laddu as a food, since it believed devotees cannot be considered customers.

Narasimhamurthy is waiting for a reply from the food inspectors regarding the hygiene conditions in the kitchen.

First Published On : Dec 13, 2016 16:58 IST

Cyclone Vardah: Death toll rises to 10 in Tamil Nadu, more than 10,000 people rescued, schools to remain shut

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>More than 10,000 people were rescued and sheltered by the National Disaster Response Force in nearly 300 relief camps after very severe cyclonic storm ‘Vardah’, the most intense to have hit the Tamil Nadu capital in two decades made a landfall.The cyclone flattened homes, snapped communication lines and threw into disarray rail, road and air traffic as it crossed the coast near the Tamil Nadu capital, pounding Chennai, Tiruvallur and Kanchipuram with heavy rain and squall.Tamil Nadu government announced a solatium of Rs four lakh each to the next of the kin of their families.Govt aided schools, private schools, colleges & other educational institutions in Chennai, Kanchipuram & Tiruvallur to remain closed on Tuesday.The National Disaster Management Authority said that a total of 10,432 people were rescued by 19 NDRF teams in different parts of Tamil Nadu as the severe cyclone hit the state.As many as 296 relief camps were set up of which 97 have become become operational, the NDMA said in a statement.Altogether 11,857 food packets were also distributed by the NDRF. As many as 297 roads were blocked in Tamil Nadu after the cyclone’s landfall of which 89 were cleared so far.A total of 3,384 trees were fallen and 30 electric Transformers were also damaged. The NDMA said the cyclone will slow down by midnight and weaken by Tuesday.However, it asked people in cyclone-hit areas to remain indoors and not to venture out besides remaining calm. One NDRF team comprises of 35 personnel.The Southern Railway said the cyclone had caused severe impact to its infrastructure and prompted cancellation, diversion and suspension of rail services.”The intensity of the cyclone has had a severe impact on the infrastructure of Chennai Division, resulting in considerable damage. Overhead electrical lines have been damaged at several locations,” Anupam Sharma, Divisional Railway Manager, Southern Railway said.”As a result of disruption of overhead electrical lines, 16 trains have been held up in Jolarpettai Chennai Central section and four trains in Villupuram Chennai Egmore section.Several Chennai-bound trains have been regulated at various stations of Chennai division, he said.Although all efforts were being made to restore normalcy as early as possible, full assessment for restoration work was possible only after the cyclone has finally ebbed away, he added.Urgent steps were being taken to ensure movement of all Mail/Express trains which were held up mid-section. Passengers of all such trains were given maximum facilities so as to obviate the hardships to the extent possible, Sharma said.Operations at Chennai airport were suspended for the entire night, with nearly 170 services being disrupted through the day even as 10 flights were cancelled.A total of 44 international and 123 domestic services were affected as they were diverted to nearby airports like Bengaluru even as many stranded passengers were still waiting at domestic and international terminals. Steps were being taken to distribute food to them, they said. Departing flights to cities including Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru were cancelled.Meanwhile, though no major loss of life or property has been reported from Andhra Pradesh so far, heavy rains lashed Chittoor and SPS Nellore district, affecting normal life. A report from Amravati said as many as 18 fishermen from Tamil Nadu, who strayed into the Bay of Bengal yesterday despite warnings, were rescued from near the Sriharikota high altitude range in afternoon. Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu announced in evening that Andhra Pradesh was ready to extend all necessary help to neighbouring Tamil Nadu that bore the brunt of ‘Vardah’. With forecast of heavy rains for the next 24 hours in Nellore, Chittoor, Prakasam and Anantapuramu districts, the official machinery has been asked to remain on alert, mostly to prevent breach of tanks. Over 9,400 people living along the Bay of Bengal were evacuated to relief camps amid heavy rain.Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh to take stock of the situation in the two states and promised all help.

Cyclone Vardah as it happened: Four killed in Tamil Nadu, two fishermen go missing off Kakinada coast

Cyclone Vardah as it happened: Four killed in Tamil Nadu, two fishermen go missing off Kakinada coast

By Updated: Dec 12, 2016 21:36 IST

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New Delhi: Cyclonic storm Vardah, which was earlier expected to weaken considerably, may not see its intensity going down when it makes landfall near Chennai on Monday. According to the Cyclone Warning Division of the India Meteorological Department, (IMD), Vardah, which is currently, a very severe cyclonic storm, will weaken, but only to a severe cyclonic storm.

Cyclone Vardah over Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.Cyclone Vardah over Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

Cyclone Vardah over Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

The earlier forecast made by the IMD was that it would weaken into a cyclonic storm, thereby reducing its intensity considerably. At 9.30 am, the cyclone was lay centered around 105 kms east-northeast of Chennai.

By the time it makes a landfall, its wind speed is expected to be 100-110 kilometres per hours with winds gusting up to 120 kmph. The wind speed during a very severe cyclonic storm is 120 to 130 kmph. In a severe cyclonic storm the wind speed is somewhere between 110 to 80 kilometres per hour. One of the major reasons for destruction in any cyclone is the wind velocity, apart from heavy to heavy rains and flooding.

Rainfall at most places with isolated heavy to very heavy falls over south coastal Andhra Pradesh, north coastal Tamil Nadu and Puducherry is very likely during 36 hrs. The rainfall intensity will increase gradually becoming heavy to very heavy rainfall (7-19 cm) at a few places and isolated extremely heavy rainfall (20 centimetres) over Chennai, Thiruvallur and Kanchipuram districts of Tamil Nadu and Nellore and Prakasam districts of Andhra Pradesh on 12 December, the IMD said.

Tidal wave of about one metre height above the astronomical tide is very likely to inundate the low lying areas of Chennai, Thiruvallur and Kanchipuram districts of Tamil Nadu and Nellore districts of Andhra Pradesh during the time of landfall.

With inputs from PTI

First Published On : Dec 12, 2016 21:35 IST

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PV Narasimha Rao’s son Rajeswara Rao passes away

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao’s son and former MP PV Rajeswara Rao passed away in Hyderabad on Monday. He was 73. Rao had been suffering from heart-related complaint and he passed away at around 4 PM on Monday at a private hospital in Hyderabad, his nephew and Telangana BJP spokesperson NV Subhash said.Rajeswara Rao was Congress MP from Secunderabad here during the 1990s. He was also an accomplished singer and shuttle badminton player. Condoling the death of Rajeswara Rao, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao recalled his association with him.The departed leader had deep interest in public service, music and literature, the Chief Minister said, according to a release from his office. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu also mourned Rajeswara Rao’s demise. Chandrababu, in a message, extended his condolences to the bereaved family.YSR Congress president YS Jaganmohan Reddy too expressed grief over Rajeswara Rao’s death. “Rao was active in literary and cultural fields,” Jagan recalled in a statement.

Cyclone Vardah: Normal life hit in Tamil Nadu, schools, colleges to remain shut on Tuesday

Chennai: Heavy rains accompanied by high- velocity winds pounded the city and coastal districts of north Tamil Nadu as severe cyclonic storm Vardah commenced its landfall through the coast, killing two persons and forcing the evacuation of thousands of people from low-lying areas.

The cyclone, that triggered strong winds of nearly 100 km/hour, uprooted hundreds of trees and disrupted power supply lines besides land and air transport, throwing normal life out of gear.

“The cyclone is still crossing, only the eye portion has crossed… Presently it is calm. The entire system is expected to fully cross coast between 6 pm and 7 pm,” a top India Meteorological Department (IMD) official told PTI.

Showers and heavy winds will resume once the eastern portion of the system begins to blow over, the official said.

However, the respite is Vardah is “weakening” and is expected to be turn into a “cyclonic storm” in next three hours, said M Mohapatra, IMD Additional Director General (Services).

“The Cyclone made its landfall near Chennai between 2:30 pm to 4:30 pm bringing in winds clocking 11-120 kmph. It is showing signs of weakening and the wind speed will reduce to 60-70 kmph in next 3-4 hours,” he said.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam urged people in Chennai, Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram districts – where “Vardah” brought life to a virtual halt – not to venture out of their homes till an official announcement was made.

Two persons had died and 24 huts were damaged, most of them in Tiruvallur district, according to an official statement.

About 8,000 people from low-lying areas in north Chennai, Pazhaverkadu in Tiruvallur district and villages off Mamallapuram, in Kanchipuram district were safely evacuated to 95 relief shelters, officials said.

Authorities here were seen swiftly removing uprooted trees and restoring snapped power lines, trying to bring normalcy to enable vehicular traffic to resume.

The IMD’s latest inputs indicated that heavy wind and rains would continue till about 7 pm, Panneerselvam said, adding all arrangements are in place to handle the situation.

Coastal regions of northern Tamil Nadu — Chennai, Tiruvallur and Kanchipuram — continue to be on high alert even as people in low-lying areas were accommodated in relief centres.

Fishermen from Adyar and Tiruvanmiyur areas were accommodated in local schools and food and blankets were being distributed to them. State Ministers are visiting relief centres and inspecting distribution of food to the people, an official release said.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Under the impact of “Vardah”, hundreds of trees were uprooted, land and air transport was disrupted and normal life was thrown out of gear in many areas.

Power supply was suspended in many areas.

Long distance buses were stalled and traffic came to a grinding halt in most areas.

All suburban train services were also suspended by Southern Railway. Trains to various destinations, including Bangalore, Hyderabad, Madurai, Coimbaore were all cancelled, Southern Railway said.

Over 15 teams of NDRF have been deployed in various coastal regions of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, where over 9,400 people living along the Bay of Bengal coast were evacuated to relief camps amid heavy rains.

IMD Director-General K G Ramesh said, “Strong winds of 92km/h have been recorded. Chennai has been experiencing heavy rains since morning and heavy rainfall zone is persisting over west of Chennai and south of Chennai. This would continue for couple of hours more.

“…strong winds are there for northern parts of Chennai up to Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh.”

He said power transmission lines and cables on the poles have got damaged due to which traffic-related interruption will be there in the city and suburban areas also wherever heavy rainfall is taking place.

“Once the complete landfall takes place, dusty winds will then slowly recede over to coastlines by the night or middle of night and rainfall will continue in interior parts of Chennai, and definitely intensity will reduce over Chennai by midnight,” he added.

Responding to a question, Ramesh said strong surge will be to the north of the landfall point. “It is about the astronomical tide… Because of the full moon high tide is already there and so over and above, 1 metre surge is expected.”

When asked how severe was the cyclone compared to Phailin, which hit Odisha in 2013, he said “Vardah” is a “severe cyclonic storm” while Phailin was an “extremely severe cyclonic storm”.

“It will take six more hours for the storm to turn into a cyclonic storm,” Ramesh said.

Under the cyclone’s influence, rains at most places with “heavy to very heavy” falls at few places very likely to continue in Chennai, Thiruvallur and Kanchipuram districts of north Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh during next 12 hours after landfall.

As the cyclone moves inland, north interior districts of Tamil Nadu and Rayalaseema may also experience “heavy to very heavy rain” at isolated places during next 24 hours after landfall and squally winds reaching 40-50 kmph gusting to 60 kmph are likely during 12 hours after the landfall.

The state government said 37 fallen electricity poles were removed in affected areas of the state.

A total of 224 roads were blocked, of which 89 were cleared and 190 of 226 fallen trees removed. It said 266 relief centres are ready of which 95 are operational.

A total of 10,754 food packets were distributed to people in low-lying areas, now sheltered in relief centres.

Meanwhile, operations at Chennai airport were suspended for the entire night, with nearly 170 services being disrupted through the day even as 10 flights were cancelled.

A total of 44 international and 123 domestic services were affected as they were diverted to nearby airports like Bengaluru even as many stranded passengers were still waiting at waiting halls of Domestic and International terminals.

Steps were being taken to distribute food to them, they said.

Departing flights to cities including Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru were cancelled. Subsequently, there was no possibility of resuming operations, which were earlier announced suspended till 5 PM, officials said.

The strong winds damaged seven glass panels and roof at three places, officials said, adding that a car was damaged after an uprooted tree fell on it.

The Navy, Coast Guard and the Army have also pitched in with their assets for the relief operations.

Two Indian naval ships Shivalik and Kadmatt sailed out from Visakhapatnam early morning and proceeded to Chennai to augment relief efforts as part of ‘Operation Madad’.

These ships had embarked additional medical teams, divers, inflatable rubber boats, integral helicopter and relief material which include food, tentage, clothes, medicines, blankets.

Additional ships have been kept on standby to supplement efforts for undertaking Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations, should the situation demand.

The army had kept about seven columns (around 700 personnel) on standby along with equipment.

Army officials said one column from Garrison battalion in Chennai has been rushed to Ponneri and Thiruvalur districts.

Coast Guard authorities said three ships have been deployed for rendering search and rescue assistance.

All ships at Chennai, Vishakapatnam, and Karaikal among other places have been kept standby and ready for deployment.

One ship has already being deployed for search of two missing fishermen near Kakinada.

In addition to 10 diving teams embarked on Shivalik and Kadmatt, Flag Officer Tamil Nadu and Puducherry Naval Area (Fotna) has readied six diving teams for immediate deployment in consultation with the state administration while 22 diving teams have been kept on standby at Visakhapatnam for immediate deployment, should the situation warrant.

Shelter places have been identified and medical teams are also kept on standby for providing humanitarian assistance.

One Survey ship has been kept on standby to undertake harbour survey in case of requirement. Naval aircraft are also standing-by at the naval air stations Rajali and Dega to be pressed into action to augment relief operations.

First Published On : Dec 12, 2016 21:15 IST

Cyclone Vardah: IMD issues warning, says second arm is usually more disastrous

New Delhi: Sunshine, clear sky and no rains just after a cyclone is not an indication that the storm has passed, a meteorologist said on Monday, warning that the second arm of the cyclone is usually more destructive.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

According to Laxman Singh Rathore, who served as Director General of the India Meteorological Department during Cyclone Phailin and Hudhud, people tend to think that cyclone has passed when the first arm that hits coast bringing heavy rains and gusty winds.

Whenever a cyclone makes landfall, its first arm hits the coast, followed by the eye and then second arm. “When the eye, which is the Centre of the Cyclone, makes landfall, it is devoid of any cloud, gusty winds and has sunshine.

“People tend to think that cyclone has passed away. But the second arm of the cyclone is usually more destructive, bringing more rains and gusty winds. The storm surge is higher during this period,” said Rathore. He said people should be more cautious during this phase.

First Published On : Dec 12, 2016 15:07 IST

Cyclone Vardah inspires Rajinikanth memes: Storm is superstar ‘blowing out birthday candles’

Cyclone Vardah inspires Rajinikanth memes: Storm is superstar ‘blowing out birthday candles’

While coastal Andhra Pradesh, north coastal Tamil Nadu and Puducherry are experiencing heavy rainfall due to Cyclone Vardah, there are some who seem to have found humour in the situation — especially since the storm has coincided with the birthday of superstar Rajinikanth. Thailavaa (as Rajini is fondly called) turns 66 today and the cyclone-related birthday wishes for the actor just won’t stop.

The most popular meme seems to be that Cyclone Vardah is nothing but a result of Rajini blowing out his birthday candles. Clearly, Thailavaa’s fans seem to be on a different tangent altogether while the Tamil Nadu government has asked people not to step out of their houses till Monday evening at the very least.

Cyclone Vardah LIVE: Storm moves closer to Chennai coast; winds clock 100 kmph

So while businesses come to a halt, as does routine life, the Rajinikanth-Vardah jokes continue unabated.

Cyclone Vardah: Heavy rains hit Tamil Nadu coastal districts, high winds uprooot many trees

Cyclone Vardah disrupts normal life in Chennai, rail and flight services delayed

First Published On : Dec 12, 2016 14:56 IST

Cyclone Vardah: Govt taking all precautions at Kalpakkam nuclear power plant in Kancheepuram

New Delhi: Government has taken all precautions for the safety of Kalpakkam nuclear power plant as Tamil Nadu faces a severe cyclonic storm Vardah on Monday.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“All precautions are taken at nuclear plant Kalpakkam to face Vardah. So far all is well and plant operation is normal. The plant is in touch with the India Meteorological Department,” the National Disaster Management Authority said in a statement.

Kalpakkam is in Kancheepuram, which along with Chennai, Tiruvallur and Villupuram in northern Tamil Nadu, has been pounded by heavy rainfall and high velocity winds.

The Nuclear power Corporation of India-run power plant has two operational units which produces 440 MW power while another plant of 500 MW is undergoing construction.

The wind speed of cyclone Vardah reached 110-120 kmph as the landfall process began.

People are advised to remain in safe places and cooperate with state government officials and disaster management agencies, the NDMA said.

As many as 19 team of National Disaster Response Force (one team comprises of 35 personnel) have been deployed in coastal areas of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh to deal with any situation arising out of the cyclone’s landfall.

Fishermen are advised not to venture into sea along and off south Andhra Pradesh, north Tamil Nadu and Puducherry coasts during next two days.

So far 7,354 people from Tamil Nadu living in areas of possible landfall have been shifted to safer places and kept in 54 relief centres.

First Published On : Dec 12, 2016 14:48 IST

Demonetisation impact: Telangana, Andhra Pradesh compete with each other to go cashless

In these troubled times, the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have seen opportunity. As demonetisation and the subsequent cash crunch hit the country hard, chief ministers of AP and neighbouring Telangana are vying with each other to become ‘digitally enabled’, a move being seen as key to insulate themselves politically and beef up their already deficit state economies.

Chief Minister of Telangana K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) and N Chandrababu Naidu, Chief Minister of AP are offering themselves up as role model ‘Digital CMs’ to the Narendra Modi regime and have designed strategies individually.

Naidu launched ‘AP Purse’ last week, a government sponsored payment platform with 13 mobile banking and 10 mobile wallets. In turn, KCR launched an e-wallet enterprise in collaboration with ICICI Bank. “Why should we oppose demonetisation blindly? If Telangana has to survive, we have to go for cashless transactions to increase our revenue by five times,” said KCR at the Secretariat on Saturday.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The idea behind trying to push the cashless transactions agenda is a banal one. Both states are hopeful of enhancing the prospects of central assistance for their mega infrastructure development agenda. Hence the push to leapfrog financial platforms — in an effort to project their states as the choicest destinations for infusion of global investment, technology and project monetisation in the near future.

AP Purse

Launching the new platform AP Purse on Tuesday, Naidu said that the government introduced Marpu Nestam (Friend for change), to educate people on digital financial literacy. The government will pay incentives to agents who train people in digital financial literacy.

AP Purse is an app which will provide links to 13 mobile banking and 10 mobile wallets with Aadhaar card to pay bills and purchases to retail traders and vendors in a cashless way. “We will train engineering students to enlighten the traders, vendors and also the common man on use of bank accounts and ‘RUpay’ cards,” he said. He made 90 lakh DWCRA (self-help groups of women) members and 70 lakh beneficiaries of the MGNREGS to open bank accounts in villages.

Naidu, who interacted with bankers and RBI representatives, said that Rs 2,472 crores was available with banks and that they would get another Rs 1,100 crores in December to tide over the cash crunch but emphasised that a cashless regime by 2017 was a stark reality. A document released by the CMO ahead of the launch of AP Purse said that there were only 46,126 (rural) and 60,173 (urban) banking outlets with internet facility, out of a total of 3.83 branches. There were only 10,516 ATMs of which nearly 6,250 were in urban areas. The Naidu government has let loose a blitzkrieg of advertisements in newspapers, Telugu TV channels and radio on use of cards, particularly the RUpay card of Jan Dhan accounts.

Telangana e-wallet and the Siddipet experiment

KCR has introduced the e-wallet in collaboration with ICICI Bank to address grievances of farmers, traders and Jan Dhan account holders.

KCR said that the state was geared to go digital at all levels. To begin with, stamps and registrations, civil supplies, excise and all government payments, including salaries to govt employees, would be on cashless platform of UPIS (Uniform Payment Interface System). “It will not be possible to change people’s habits overnight. Cash transactions are part of our life and culture. Initially all transactions above Rs 500 will be cashless,” he said.

The Telangana government has introduced a cashless transaction model in Rythu Bazaars (farmer markets) for the benefit of vegetable vendors in Hyderabad and Siddipet in collaboration with HDFC Bank. Customers can buy daily vegetables with tokens linked to their Aadhaar and HDFC cards. Besides Siddipet, the facility of Aadhaar linking for debit cards has been launched in Gajwel and Warangal market yards as well. “This is a temporary arrangement until the change crisis is resolved and banks’ link to markets is completed,” says T Harish Rao, state marketing minister.

Telangana has 5,200 bank branches with one bank for every three to four villages and has one lakh POS machines. “For a complete cashless regime, Telangana needs 20 lakh POS (swiping machines),” says a state finance ministry official. He said Rs 75,000 crores of cash was in circulation in the state before demonetisation, accounting for 86 percent of the total money in the state but so far only Rs 35,000 crores in banned notes were deposited in banks and the Centre has pumped in Rs 12,500 crores.

“Telangana has fewer banks and ATMs than Andhra — 5,212 bank branches and 10,000 ATMs. Hardly one tenth of banks and ATMs are in rural areas and Hyderabad accounts for 90 percent of branches and ATMs. Internet connectivity is very poor and only 60 percent of ATMs function in Hyderabad,” said Mohammed Ali Shabbir, Opposition leader in the Telangana Legislative Council. He also termed KCR’s claim of achieving cashless regime by 2017 as deceptive since there was only one bank branch to service 10 villages and just 88 lakhs people out of 4-crore population had bank accounts, he said.

The Effect

Opposition criticisms apart, Hyderabad and many towns of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh’s Vijayawada and Rajahmundry witnessed public furore with large queues in front of ATMs and banks. “Satrol ho gaya (business has gone kaput)” say wholesale traders at Goshamahal, Feelkhana, Begum Bazar, Siddiambar Bazar, Monda and Pathergatti where traders took cash from retailers for bulk purchases. “We had roaring business with 80 percent in cash and 20 percent on cheques and now everybody is demanding credit,” says Syed Aneesuddin, a bulk goods trader at Feelkhana.

Many traders say business is down now as they cannot give discounts to retailers – thanks to online payments, they have to pay Goods and Service Tax. According to RBI figures, there are about 13 lakh POS units in Telangana and the demand was for a minimum of 54 lakh.

The decision to go digital immediately by the two states is to get the early bird benefits from the Centre and also to improve their monthly revenues. “If we prove to be enabled for cashless transactions, our credentials in international markets will be benchmarked for big global investments,” Naidu told reporters on Saturday at Vijayawada.

Both these revenue-starved states are willing to go to great lengths in order to increase fund inflow — even at the cost of spending heavily on improving infrastructure and reducing liquidity in the market. While AP claimed that it had lost over Rs 1,300 crores in revenue generation in just one month, Telangana says it lost nearly Rs 800 crores. Both the governments have promised lavish welfare measures and freebies. Coffers cannot be empty for too long. And so the Telugu speaking neighbours have decided to join the Centre’s chorus on encouraging cashless transactions.

First Published On : Dec 12, 2016 14:05 IST

Cyclone Vardah: Heavy rains hit Tamil Nadu coastal districts, high winds uprooot many trees

Chennai: Heavy rains on Monday pounded the city and north coastal districts of Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram in Tamil Nadu, inundating low lying areas, while high velocity winds uprooted hundreds of trees as the severe cyclonic storm Vardah reached about 60 kms northeast of Chennai and was likely to make landfall in the next couple of hours.

According to the IMD bulletin at noon, by the time Vardah hits the coast, winds with speed of 100-110 kmph to 120 kmph are like to sweep the region.

Squally winds hit Chennai this morning as the very severe cyclonic storm approached Tamil Nadu. Power supply was suspended in many parts of these regions as a precautionary measure.

The rains intensified as the cyclone neared leading to waterlogging in many areas.

The Tamil Nadu government had declared holiday for educational institutions in Chennai, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur, besides coastal taluks of Villupuram.

Rail and flight services in Chennai have been affected, officials said.

Around 25 incoming flights, including those from international destinations, were diverted to the nearby Hyderabad and Bangalore airports due to strong winds and poor visibility, airport officials said.

Nearly 25 outbound flights were delayed, officials said, adding that there was no inundation of the runway.

An emergency management team was on standby to meet any eventuality, they said.

The Southern Railways, meanwhile, announced suspension of services on the Chennai Beach and Velacherry MRTS route.

Similarly, suburban rail services on the MMC-Gummidipoondi line were also suspended until further notice. Some passenger trains coming to Chennai and leaving the city were also diverted.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The system was likely to move nearly westwards and weaken gradually while moving towards north Tamil Nadu and adjoining south Andhra Pradesh coasts.

However, according to the Cyclone Warning Division of the India Meteorological Department, (IMD), Vardah, which is currently, a very severe cyclonic storm, will weaken, but only to a severe cyclonic storm.

Over 15 teams of NDRF have been deployed in various coastal regions of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh which are on high alert due to the approaching cyclonic storm.

The armed forces have been asked to be on standby with the army, navy and air force prepared to be deployed anytime as and when required.

People in low-lying areas have been asked to move to safer zones.

Puducherry also experienced intermittent drizzle from early morning. The state government took precautionary steps to prevent tourists and other people from going close to the sea shore.

Police personnel were deployed on the entire two-and-a-half kilometre stretch of beach road and barricades were also put on all roads close to the sea shore. All schools and colleges are closed on Monday.

National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) chief RK Pachnanda said while eight teams are ready in various areas of Tamil Nadu, seven are in Andhra Pradesh, apart from few others in nearby locations.

“Some more teams are on alert in Arrakonam and Guntur and they can be transported immediately in case they are required. We are in constant touch with the two state governments, the Indian Meteorological Department and other relief agencies,” the NDRF Director General told PTI.

Nellore and Chittoor districts of Andhra Pradesh are also expected to affected.

Over 9,400 people in seven mandals along the Bay of Bengal coast in Nellore were evacuated to relief camps this morning amid heavy rains.

Eight fishermen belonging to Tamil Nadu were rescued from the sea near the Sriharikota High Altitude Range while search was on for ten more persons.

The holy Tirumala Hills have been receiving rainfall since last night, causing some hardship to devotees visiting the shrine of Lord Venkateswara.

Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu reviewed the situation through teleconference and asked the state agencies to remain on high alert to prevent loss of lives, officials said.

Meanwhile, the Navy said it has stationed two ships north of Chennai to render any immediate assistance.

“We have put two ships to sea — an ASW frigate and a stealth frigate. They are holding north of Chennai for immediate assistance if required,” Navy PRO Capt DK Sharma said.

He said winds of 120-150 kmph are sweeping the area and a lot of trees have been uprooted.

“We anticipate that with this kind of advance, the cyclone is likely to make landfall somewhere north of Chennai, short of Pulicat.”

He said the Navy is ready with humanitarian assistance like food, water, medicines and blankets.

“We have enough divers, doctors and integral helicopters should there be a need for immediate assistance or evacuation,” the officer said.

First Published On : Dec 12, 2016 13:24 IST

Cyclone Vardah LIVE: Winds clock 100 kmph; 7,357 people evacuated to 54 relief centres

Cyclone Vardah LIVE: Winds clock 100 kmph; 7,357 people evacuated to 54 relief centres

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By Updated: Dec 12, 2016 13:45 IST

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New Delhi: Cyclonic storm Vardah, which was earlier expected to weaken considerably, may not see its intensity going down when it makes landfall near Chennai on Monday. According to the Cyclone Warning Division of the India Meteorological Department, (IMD), Vardah, which is currently, a very severe cyclonic storm, will weaken, but only to a severe cyclonic storm.

Cyclone Vardah over Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.Cyclone Vardah over Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

Cyclone Vardah over Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

The earlier forecast made by the IMD was that it would weaken into a cyclonic storm, thereby reducing its intensity considerably. At 9.30 am, the cyclone was lay centered around 105 kms east-northeast of Chennai.

By the time it makes a landfall, its wind speed is expected to be 100-110 kilometres per hours with winds gusting up to 120 kmph. The wind speed during a very severe cyclonic storm is 120 to 130 kmph. In a severe cyclonic storm the wind speed is somewhere between 110 to 80 kilometres per hour. One of the major reasons for destruction in any cyclone is the wind velocity, apart from heavy to heavy rains and flooding.

Rainfall at most places with isolated heavy to very heavy falls over south coastal Andhra Pradesh, north coastal Tamil Nadu and Puducherry is very likely during 36 hrs. The rainfall intensity will increase gradually becoming heavy to very heavy rainfall (7-19 cm) at a few places and isolated extremely heavy rainfall (20 centimetres) over Chennai, Thiruvallur and Kanchipuram districts of Tamil Nadu and Nellore and Prakasam districts of Andhra Pradesh on 12 December, the IMD said.

Tidal wave of about one metre height above the astronomical tide is very likely to inundate the low lying areas of Chennai, Thiruvallur and Kanchipuram districts of Tamil Nadu and Nellore districts of Andhra Pradesh during the time of landfall.

With inputs from PTI

First Published On : Dec 12, 2016 12:58 IST

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Cylone Vardah LIVE: Storm unlikely to weaken after landfall; air and rail travel hit

Dec 12, 2016

Highlights

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New Delhi: Cyclonic storm Vardah, which was earlier expected to weaken considerably, may not see its intensity going down when it makes landfall near Chennai on Monday. According to the Cyclone Warning Division of the India Meteorological Department, (IMD), Vardah, which is currently, a very severe cyclonic storm, will weaken, but only to a severe cyclonic storm.

Cyclone Vardah over Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.Cyclone Vardah over Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

Cyclone Vardah over Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

The earlier forecast made by the IMD was that it would weaken into a cyclonic storm, thereby reducing its intensity considerably. At 9.30 am, the cyclone was lay centered around 105 kms east-northeast of Chennai.

By the time it makes a landfall, its wind speed is expected to be 100-110 kilometres per hours with winds gusting up to 120 kmph. The wind speed during a very severe cyclonic storm is 120 to 130 kmph. In a severe cyclonic storm the wind speed is somewhere between 110 to 80 kilometres per hour. One of the major reasons for destruction in any cyclone is the wind velocity, apart from heavy to heavy rains and flooding.

Rainfall at most places with isolated heavy to very heavy falls over south coastal Andhra Pradesh, north coastal Tamil Nadu and Puducherry is very likely during 36 hrs. The rainfall intensity will increase gradually becoming heavy to very heavy rainfall (7-19 cm) at a few places and isolated extremely heavy rainfall (20 centimetres) over Chennai, Thiruvallur and Kanchipuram districts of Tamil Nadu and Nellore and Prakasam districts of Andhra Pradesh on 12 December, the IMD said.

Tidal wave of about one metre height above the astronomical tide is very likely to inundate the low lying areas of Chennai, Thiruvallur and Kanchipuram districts of Tamil Nadu and Nellore districts of Andhra Pradesh during the time of landfall.

With inputs from PTI

First Published On : Dec 12, 2016 11:48 IST

Cyclone Vardah: Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh brace for impact; emergency measures in place

Chennai/Amaravati: Severe cyclonic storm ‘Vardah’ will make a landfall between north Tamil Nadu and south Andra Pradesh soon, as both the coastal states have put in place a number of measures to deal with it even as Tamil Nadu announced holiday for all educational institutions in four districts.

The Regional Meteorological Centre said Vardah lay centred at 330 kilometres east of Chennai at 1430 hours on Sunday and would move westwards before making landfall between north Tamil Nadu and south Andhra Pradesh coasts Tuesday afternoon. Under its impact, rains will start tonight and gradually increase tomorrow in the northern districts of Chennai, Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram, S Balachandran, Director, Area Cyclone Warning Centre, said.

On 12 December, heavy to very heavy rains are likely in some places in these districts, he said, adding, strong winds could gust upto 80-90 kilometres per hour. The sea would be rough, he said and asked fishermen to not to venture into the sea for the next 48 hours. Chief Minister O Panneerselvam held a meeting of the Tamil Nadu State Disaster Management Authority which also asked the armed forces to be on standby.

Image accessed from Indian Meterological Department.Image accessed from Indian Meterological Department.

Image accessed from Indian Meterological Department.

The Tamil Nadu government declared holiday for educational institutions in Chennai, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur, besides coastal taluks of Villupuram. “They should take necessary steps for ensuring the safety of their students especially hostel inmates and their water and food requirements,” an official release, detailing the discussions the Chief Minister had with his senior officials including Chief Secretary B Ramamohana Rao, said. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu reviewed the situation through a teleconference with Collectors and top officials this evening. He directed them to be alert and undertake necessary rescue and relief efforts in view of the cyclone threat. Food and other essential commodities should be kept ready in adequate quantities, he said. “Take all steps to prevent loss of lives and to minimise damages to crops and properties,” Naidu told the officials.

Tamil Nadu Government also asked private establishments and undertakings in these districts besides coastal taluks of Villupuram to allow their staff avail holiday or work from home. Panneerselvam gave instructions for appointment of senior IAS officers as monitoring officers for these districts to oversee and monitor cyclone related works in coordination with the District Collectors, the release said. “Arrangements to be made for evacuating people in low lying and vulnerable areas. Relief centres to be kept in readiness along with necessary food, water and other arrangements. Army, Navy, Air-force and Coast Guard have been alerted to be on standby for deployment as and when necessary,” it said.

The Tamil Nadu government has asked people to stay indoors during the heavy rains, stock adequate food, medicines and drinking water at home and use them judiciously. NDRF, SDRF, Fire and Rescue services department personnel have already been pre-positioned and shall be immediately utilised wherever necessary for rescue and relief operations, the release said. Teams will be deployed with adequate equipment like power saws and transportation for removing fallen trees and restoring traffic, it said.

The Hindu reported that operations at Chennai airport have been affected due to Vardah with 25 flights being diverted and nine incoming flights delayed.

Health department has been asked to take measures to organise special camps and to pre-position generators, emergency supplies, medicines and oxygen cylinders in Government hospitals. All emergency measures have been put in place in Andhra Pradesh, officials said. Three teams of NDRF personnel have been kept ready in Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh as heavy to very heavy rain ranging up to 17 cm is expected tomorrow. Chittoor and Kadapa districts are also expected to receive very heavy rainfall while Anantapuramu and Prakasam districts too will receive moderate rain. Four senior IAS officials have been deputed to Nellore, Chittoor, Kadapa and Prakasam districts to oversee rescue and relief operations.

One team of NDRF comprising around 40 personnel has been pre-positioned in Andhra Pradesh’s Nellore, one in Tada, one in Salurupeta, one in Oongle, and one in Chitpore district. In addition, another team is moving to Salurupeta while teams are on standby in Guntur and Hyderabad. Three NDRF teams were pre-positioned in Chennai, two in Tamil Nadu’s in Tiruvalur, one in Mahabalipuram. Sources said another team is on its way to Chennai while one team has been out on stand by at Arakkonam.

The Regional Meteorological Centre in Chennai said ‘Vardah’ lay centred at 330 km east of Chennai at 2.30 pm on Sunday and would move westwards before making landfall between north Tamil Nadu and south Andhra Pradesh coasts tomorrow afternoon. Under its impact, rains will start tonight and gradually increase tomorrow in the northern districts of Chennai, Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram, S Balachandran, Director, Area Cyclone Warning Centre, said.

Chief Minister O Panneerselvam held a meeting of the Tamil Nadu State Disaster Management Authority which also asked the armed forces to be on standby. The Tamil Nadu government has also declared holiday for educational institutions in Chennai, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur, besides coastal taluks of Villupuram. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu reviewed the situation through a teleconference with Collectors and top officials this evening. He directed them to be alert and undertake necessary rescue and relief efforts in view of the cyclone threat. Food and other essential commodities should be kept ready in adequate quantities, he said. “Take all steps to prevent loss of lives and to minimise damages to crops and properties,” Naidu told the officials.

Image accessed from IMDImage accessed from IMD

Image accessed from IMD

According to a bulletin from the India Meteorological Department, there would be light to moderate rainfall at many places with isolated heavy to very heavy falls over south coastal Andhra Pradesh and north coastal Tamil Nadu is very likely to commence from 11 December evening for subsequent 36 hours. Light to moderate rainfall very likely over north coastal Andhra Pradesh during the same period.  The sea condition would be rough to very rough along and off Andhra Pradesh and north Tamil Nadu coasts commencing from 11th December night. Sea
condition along and off these coasts will become high from 12th December morning. There is damage expected to thatched huts. Minor damage to power and communication lines due to breaking of branches should be expected. Fishermen are advised not to venture into sea along and off South Andhra Pradesh, north Tamil Nadu and Puducherry coasts for the next 48 hours.

Click on this image to see the visualisation of the storm.Click on this image to see the visualisation of the storm.

Click on this image to see the visualisation of the storm.

With inputs from PTI

First Published On : Dec 12, 2016 11:04 IST

Cyclone Vardah: Storm moves further, expected to make landfall near Chennai

Chennai: Chennai and its suburbs continue to receive rains since Sunday night with severe cyclonic storm set to cross close to the coast here on Monday afternoon, said weather department.

According to the meteorological department, the cyclonic storm Vardah over Bay of Bengal moved further at a speed of around 13 kmph.

It lay centred over west-central and adjoining southwest Bay of Bengal about 150 km east-northeast of Chennai and 290 km east-southeast of Nellore in Andhra Pradesh, the weather department said.

“The system is very likely to move nearly westwards and cross north Tamil Nadu and south Andhra Pradesh coasts, close to Chennai with a wind speed of 100-110 kmph gusting to 120 kmph by Monday afternoon,” a bulletin issued by meteorological department said.

IMD_1IMD_1

The MET department has predicted rainfall over south coastal Andhra Pradesh, north coastal Tamil Nadu and Puducherry over the next 36 hours (till Wednesday).

The rainfall intensity would increase gradually becoming heavy to very heavy rainfall (7-19 cm) at a few places and isolated extremely heavy rainfall (less than equal to 20 cm) over Chennai, Thiruvallur and Kanchipuram districts of Tamil Nadu and Nellore and Prakasam districts of Andhra Pradesh on December 12.

The weather department has warned of squally winds speed reaching 50-60 kmph gusting to 70 kmph along and off Andhra Pradesh and adjoining north Tamil Nadu coasts becoming 100-110 kmph gusting to 120 kmph during the time of landfall along and off Chennai, Thiruvallur and Kanchipuram districts of Tamil Nadu and Nellore and Prakasam districts of Andhra Pradesh.

The tidal wave of about one metre height above the astronomical tide is very likely to inundate the low lying areas of Chennai, Thiruvallur and Kanchipuram districts of Tamil Nadu and Nellore districts of Andhra Pradesh during the time of landfall.

Meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu government has taken necessary steps and precautions to meet the situation that may arise due to the cyclone.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam on Sunday reviewed the preparedness with ministers and officials.

District administrations and all field officers were put on high alert.

Similarly Army, Navy, Air-force and Coast Guard were also geared up to lend a helping hand when required.

The government declared a holiday for all government, government-aided private schools, colleges and other educational institutions in Chennai, Kanchipuram, Thiruvallur districts.

The Tamil Nadu government has also advised private sector organisations to allow their workers to avail holiday or work from home.

First Published On : Dec 12, 2016 10:04 IST

Cyclone Vardah: NDMA shares do’s and don’ts, safety tips

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh are on high alert as the severe cyclonic storm Vardah over west central and adjoining southwest Bay of Bengal moved further nearly west-southwest-wards and lay centred at about 180 km east-northeast of Chennai and 250 km east-southeast of Nellore according to Cyclone Warning Centre in Visakhapatnam. As the cyclone advances, people have been asked to stay indoors as a precautionary measure. Educational institutions in four districts will remain closed for today.The system is very likely to move nearly westwards and weaken gradually while moving towards north Tamil Nadu and adjoining south Andhra Pradesh coasts. It is very likely to cross north Tamil Nadu and south Andhra Pradesh coasts, close to Chennai as a cyclonic storm with a wind speed of 80 to 90 kmph gusting to 100 kmph by Monday afternoon. The National Disaster Management Authority has issued the following guidelines to help people get through the cyclone.NDMA’s cyclone advisoryHelplines

Cyclone Vardah: Torrential rains lash coastal districts of Tamil Nadu

Chennai: Heavy rains coupled with squally winds on Monday lashed the northern coastal districts of Tamil Nadu, including Chennai, as very severe cyclonic storm ‘Vardah’ was expected to make landfall this afternoon. Vardah lay 220 kilometres east-northeast of Chennai and 290 kilometre east-southeast of Nellore, the Meteorological office said.

IMD_1IMD_1

“The system is very likely to move nearly westwards and weaken gradually while moving towards north Tamil Nadu and adjoining south Andhra Pradesh coasts,” the office said.

“It is very likely to cross north Tamil Nadu and south Andhra Pradesh coasts, close to Chennai as a cyclonic storm with a wind speed of 80 to 90 kmph gusting to 100 kmph by 12th December 2016 afternoon,” it said.

Heavy rains lashed Chennai, Tiruvallore and Kancheepuram districts since early morning even as squally winds were witnessed in these districts. Power supply was suspended in many parts of these regions as a precautionary measure.

The armed forces have been asked to be on standby with the amy, navy and air force prepared to be deployed anytime as and when required. People in low-lying areas have been asked to move to safer zones even as various arms of the government were prepared to meet any eventuality. Flight services were so far operating smoothly, airport officials said.

First Published On : Dec 12, 2016 09:47 IST

DNA Morning Must Reads: Latest on Cyclone Vardah, GST, ‘Raees’ release & more

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Cyclone Vardah: Tamil Nadu announces holiday for schools in 4 districts, Andhra Pradesh braces for impactSevere cyclonic storm ‘Vardah’ will make a landfall between north Tamil Nadu and south Andhra Pradesh on Monday with both the coastal states putting in place a number of measures to deal with it and TN announcing holiday for all educational institutions in four districts. Read moreDemonetization leaves a trust deficit, consensus eludes GSTWith the trust between the government and the Opposition parties at a low ebb, thanks to feud over demonetization, the crucial Goods and Services Tax (GST) seems to be headed for a delay, that could well see it missing the April 1, 2017 deadline. Read moreAmerican connection in Indian Islamic State modulesAn emerging American link has come to light in the investigation of the Islamic State inspired terror cases with the National Investigation Agency (NIA) identifying a key recruiter. Read moreCyrus Mistry misled us to become chairman: TataTata Sons on Sunday said the committee that selected Cyrus Mistry as chairman was misled in its choice by Mistry’s statements and commitments for the Tata Group. Read more’Raees’: Pak actress Mahira Khan won’t promote film, Shah Rukh Khan tells MNS chief Raj ThackerayBollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan on Sunday met Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray at his residence in Mumbai. The meeting, that took place in the evening, assumes significance as Khan’s upcoming film Raees, which features Pakistani actress Mahira Khan, is scheduled for a release next month, party sources said. Read details

Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh brace to deal with Vardah as it makes landfall near Chennai tomorrow

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Severe cyclonic storm ‘Vardah’ over the Bay of Bengal will make landfall near Chennai on Monday, the weather office said on Sunday, as the coastal states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh brace to deal with it. The system is expected to bring heavy rainfall in coastal districts of Tamil Nadu, including Chennai, and southern Andhra Pradesh. “Vardah lay centred at about 440 km east of Chennai (at 0830 hrs today) and the system is expected to move westwards and cross Chennai by December 12 afternoon,” S Balachandran, Director, Area Cyclone Warning Centre, said in Chennai.However, its intensity will get reduced considerably by the time it makes the landfall. The MeT office in Delhi has briefed the PMO and the Cabinet Secretariat on the cyclonic storm. KJ Ramesh, Director General of the IMD said, “I have personally spoken to chief secretaries of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, while the regional MeT offices are in constant touch with the Disaster Management Commissioners of these two states.”Meanwhile, the Regional Meteorological Centre (RMC) at Chennai said the storm is expected to bring heavy rainfall in northern coastal districts of Tamil Nadu, including the capital city. Southern Andhra Pradesh is also expected to receive heavy showers. Wind speed would be in the order of 40-50 kph, it said. Isolated heavy to very heavy rain is likely to commence this evening in north Coastal Tamil Nadu and Puduchery and Southern Andhra Pradesh, the RMC said in its weather warning put on its website.
ALSO READ Cyclone Vardah to cross south coast of Andhra, Met dept issues alert for fishermenSqually winds and rough to very rough sea conditions are expected along and off Andhra Pradesh, north Tamil Nadu and Puducherry coasts from Sunday night, it said. “Storm surge of about 1 metre above astronomical tide is expected at the time of landfall,” the RMC said.IMD said it may cause damage to thatched huts and power and communication lines. The damage may also be caused to paddy crops, banana, papaya trees and orchards in Chennai, Thiruvallur and Kanchipuram districts of Tamil Nadu; Ongole and Nellore districts of Andhra Pradesh and Puducherry, the IMD said in its advisory.
ALSO READ Cyclone Vardah to cross Bay of Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh on alertIt also urged fishermen in Tamil Nadu, Puduchery and Andhra Pradesh coasts to keep away from the seas for the next 48 hours. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said NDRF teams have been deployed in Tamil Nadu on account of the cyclonic storm. National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams, each consisting of 38 rescuers, have been deployed in Chennai, Tiruvallore and Kancheepuram, the force said on its official Twitter handle. The teams have also been deployed at Nellore, Sulurpeta, Parkasham and Chittoor in Andhra Pradesh, it tweeted.The force has also asked people to get information from TV and radio on the cyclone and advised them to keep a stock of dry fruits and keep their mobile phones charged. Cyclone Nada, which later weakened, had made a landfall near Chennai in the first week of December, bringing much- needed showers in Tamil Nadu. The state has witnessed a below normal Southwest Monsoon as well as Northeast Monsoon, a phenomenon which brings rains in some parts of southern India, especially Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

No mechanism to deal with complaints against retired judges appointed in HCs: Law Ministry

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Days after agreeing with the judiciary to appoint retired judges in high courts to tackle rising cases, the Law Ministry has cautioned that there is no mechanism to deal with complaints of “wrongful acts” against them.As per the minutes of the meeting of the Chief Ministers- Chief Justices Conference held in April, approved after a gap of nearly six months in October, it has been resolved that “subject to integrity, suitability and performance of a person who has held the office as a judge of the high court, the provisions of Article 224 A can be invoked to deal with the extraordinary situation involving the large pendency of civil and criminal cases in the high courts…”The provision says that the chief justice of a high court, with the previous consent of the President (Centre), can request any person who has held the office of a judge of that court or any other high court to sit and act as a judge of the high court for that state.But now, the Department of Justice in the Law Ministry has told the Parliamentary standing Committee on Law and Personnel that “There is no mechanism to deal with the complaint against retired judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts.”It was a responding to a series of questions asked by the committee on judges’ appointment and vacancies in the higher judiciary.The department was asked to explain the “merits/demerits” of appointment of ad hoc judges in the Supreme Court and the 24 high courts.It said “impeachment is the only remedy to remove a sitting judge. However, in this case, if a retired judge indulges in wrongful act or omissions, no mechanism has been laid down in respect of retired judges.”According to the minutes of the meeting, appointment of retired judges in high courts can also help achieve the goal of ‘five plus zero’ pendency. ‘Five plus zero’ is an initiative toensure that cases pending for more than five years are taken up on priority basis and pendency of such cases is brought down to zero level.As on June 30 while the total sanctioned strength was 21,303, the subordinate courts were functioning with 16,192 judicial officers — a shortage of 5,111.The 24 high courts face a shortage of nearly 450 judges.Over three crore cases are pending in courts across India.So far, the government has received names of 18 former judges for appointment in four high courts.The 18 names have been received from the high courts of Andhra Pradesh/Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Allahabad and Calcutta.The names are under process, highly-placed sources said.

Cyclone Vardah to cross Bay of Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh on alert

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>With severe cyclone Vardah expected to cross the Bay of Bengal coast in the next two days, the Andhra Pradesh government on Saturday placed the administrative machinery in SPS Nellore, Prakasam, Guntur and Krishna districts on high alert to meet any eventuality. Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu conducted a teleconference with officials of different departments this morning and directed them to take all precautionary measures. “I have cancelled my trip to the Gulf (scheduled to begin tomorrow). I will constantly monitor the situation,” he told the officials.The cyclone is currently 840 km south-southeast of Vishakhapatnam. The sea continued to be very rough around the Andhra coast, according to the National Disaster Management Authority. It moved west-northwestwards in the past few hours at the speed of 17 kmph. The system is very likely to move west-northwestwards and intensify further during the next 24 hours, the NDMA said. “The cyclonic storm is very likely to maintain its peak intensity up to evening of December 11, 2016,” NDMA added.According to the weather forecast, the cyclone may make a landfall somewhere between Kavali and Machilipatnam and under its impact rainfall is likely in the south coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh. “Keep adequate stocks of food and also cash. Electricity poles and cement should also be kept ready for any emergency,” the Chief Minister directed the officials. The Tamil Nadu Meteorological Department has predicted that it will make a landfall between Nellore and Machilipatnam on the evening of December 12. As a result, Chennai, Kanchipuram and Thiruvannamalai are expected to receive heavy rainfall.

Odisha, Chhattisgarh express concern on Polavaram design flood

“In an inter-state meeting held on June 2 convened by OSD, Ministry of Water Resources, the Governments of Odisha and Chhattisgarh expressed concerns on design flood, back water calculations etc,” said MoS for Water Resources Ministry Balyan <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Odisha and Chhattisgarh governments have expressed concern over design flood and back water calculations of the Polavaram project, Lok Sabha was informed on Thursday.Design floods are hypothetical floods used for planning and floodplain management investigations. It is defined by its probability of occurrence.”In an inter-state meeting held on June 2 convened by OSD, Ministry of Water Resources, the Governments of Odisha and Chhattisgarh expressed concerns on design flood, back water calculations etc,” Minister of State for Water Resources Sanjeev Kumar Balyan said during Question Hour, amid continued sloganeeering by Opposition members, many of whom were in the Well. Balyan said the Andhra Pradesh government shared relevant details again with the governments of Odisha and Chhattisgarh. “There is no further response/query from either of the states as per information provided by the Polavaram projects authority,” he said.The Minister said Odisha and Chhattisgarh have already accepted the reservoir operation schedule through Inter-State agreement between Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa on April 2, 1980.

8 held with unaccounted cash of Rs 58 lakh in new Rs 2,000 notes

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Eight persons were apprehended in Hyderabad and unaccounted money of Rs 58 lakh in new Rs 2,000 notes was seized from their possession, police said.The eight persons were apprehended after finding Rs 58 lakh in their possession during vehicle checking, a police release said. They belonged to different places in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.During the course of inquiry, they stated they collected the amounts from local people of their respective native places, villages on 8 to 10 per cent commission basis.”They came to Hyderabad with an intention to exchange the new currency of Rs 2,000 with old currency of Rs 1,000 or Rs 500 with commission of 25 to 30 per cent to make easy money. On further inquiry with them about the exchange of old currency, they stated that they will return to the people from whom they collected the amounts and again they will deposit in their respective accounts,” the release said.The apprehended persons, along with the seized unaccounted new currency and seizure report, would be sent to the Income Tax office for initiating appropriate action against them as per Income Tax Act, the release added.

Andhra Pradesh’s ‘war on drought’ fails to yield desired results

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The ‘war on drought’ announced with a lot fanfare by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu has failed to yield the desired results with groundnut crop output plummeting despite crores of rupees spent on providing water to the arid fields.Scanty rain during July-August prompted the state government to declare the ‘war’ on drought by deploying thousands of rain guns to wet standing groundnut crop in 15 lakh acres in Anantapuramu district, 4.5 lakh acres in Kurnool and two lakh acres in Chittoor as it faced the threat of drying up.The Chief Minister himself led the campaign by camping in Anantapuramu for over four days while at least 10 ministers, a number of legislators, 21 IAS officers, 80 deputy collector-rank officers and scores of other staff were drafted in these districts to oversee the operation. As many as 6,777 rain guns and 6,434 sprinklers have been deployed in Anantapuramu district, 2,285 rain guns and 2,686 sprinklers in Kurnool, 3,915 rain guns and 3,855 sprinklers in Chittoor and 356 each in Kadapa districts, according to government statistics.”Our aim is to save every acre of the crop and we are confident that we will succeed at least 90%,” Chandrababu had announced on August 30 before leaving for Anantapuramu.Incidentally, the Chief Minister, who boasts of a ‘realtime governance’ using his ‘CORE Dashboard’, sounded lost when asked why there was at least a 10-day delay in taking up drought mitigation measures. “My people had not told me. Neither did you people (media) report (the gravity of the situation),” he remarked.The ‘war’ cost the exchequer a whopping Rs 280 crore with Rs 160 crore spent on procuring the rain guns alone. The balance Rs 120 crore was spent on sprinklers, motor pumps, pipes, fuel and other needs, according to a senior official of the Disaster Management Department.The latest reports on crop cutting, however, are dismal. As against the normal yield of 1000 kg per hectare, the crop cutting experiment revealed that only 213 kg was achieved, indicating massive loss to the farmer.”Had nature been kind, we could have saved the crop. But we did our human effort,” Information and Public Relations Minister Palle Raghunatha Reddy, who hails from Anantapuramu district, observed. He said only Rs 29 crore was spent on the drought mitigation measures.Interestingly, less than ten days after the ‘war on drought’ was carried out, the Chief Minister released a glossy booklet with ‘success stories’ of his mission and how the hapless farmers of perennially drought-hit Anantapuramu appreciated his ‘innovative idea’ (of using rain guns). Asked about this, Palle said, “It was successful for that day”.Now, the state Agriculture Department is preparing a detailed report on the whole exercise and hopefully it should throw light on what went wrong.

World AIDS Day: United by HIV, those living with the condition build support systems

“You realise that the disease eats away at your very being. I’ve seen many girls come into Budhwarpet completely healthy, and then slowly, become sicker. Before HIV, I thought being positive was a great thing,” says Ranjana Devi.

Devi is not HIV positive, but she oversees the workings of a community organisation in Budhwarpet in Pune that administers health and social welfare services for female sex workers — a group that is immensely vulnerable given the nature of their work.

I meet Devi and many others like her in October 2015 during a capacity building workshop for leaders from various community organisations. And thus, began my annus mirabilis of working with over 1,20,000 key population individuals, through 84 community organisations, vulnerable to HIV and AIDS, consisting of female sex workers, gay men and transgenders.

Sex workers mark World AIDS Day in Kamathipura, Mumbai's red light district in 2014. Reuters

Sex workers mark World AIDS Day in Kamathipura, Mumbai’s red light district in 2014. Reuters

Sarala Tai, a board member of another community organisation, is carrying an eight-year-old “positive” girl. This girl’s mother was a street-based sex worker in Kolhapur, who died due to the lack of access to antiretroviral therapy (ART). In between the workshop, Sarala Tai tells me: “Aisa hi hai na, Madam. Yeh auratein chali jati hain aur bachha mujhe chhor jatin hain. Kya karungi main iska? Kaam bhi nahi sikha sakti (These women die and leave their children to me. What will I do with her? I cannot even make her learn the trade).”

Months later, in Rajamundry in Andhra Pradesh, I sense no despair in Nupur, a helpdesk facilitator. “HIV paas laya hum sab ko. CO (community organisation) kaise hota phir?” (HIV has brought us together. How else would our CO have existed?).

Harping on a similar note, in February 2016, Malavika, the President of the Idayam Thirunangaigal Munettra Sangam (ITMS), Namakkal — a community organisation for transgenders and gay men tells me: “(…) programme ne pehchaan di hai, madam (the HIV/AIDS programme bestowed us with identity).”

Stigma and discrimination is an everyday reality for the vulnerable

What I know of HIV and AIDS is through occasional field visits, pivot tables and legal declarations. With a background in gender-based violence in conflict areas, my lens is generally myopic — I often look at violent incidents against community members isolated from the looming lentivirus itself. But this is fast changing. Every day, stories of unbearable stigma and discrimination is slowly opening my eyes.

Obula, president of a female sex worker community organisation in Kadiri, Andhra Pradesh, recounted an incident of child sexual abuse in her jurisdiction from two years ago. The child was raped by influential people and left to die, she said. No stakeholders — neither the police nor lawyers from the Legal Aid Clinic — were ready to help because her mother, a sex-worker with an HIV positive status, would never stand a chance in front of a politician’s son.

An HIV positive sex worker in Sholapur, Shahnaz’s life’s earnings amounting to over Rs 3 lakhs were taken away by her gharwali — the brothel madam — because she was a victim of the disease. The gharwali emotionally and physically abused her in the course of the recovery of the money. The community organisation’s members stood by her side throughout the process of reporting the crime and battled the stigma and discrimination. And in the end, she received her money back.

Representational image. Reuters

“People who are affected by HIV are all living with an inferiority complex,” says Surbhi, who is gender-fluid and HIV positive. “They don’t say it openly, but I have said it. As far as I am concerned, I don’t have anything more in life. I have to be open. Basically, I’m an open type of person. Everybody knows, that I talk openly. So, I will talk about everything and put up with everything. If anyone beats me, I will take it, if someone scolds me, I will accept it. But everyone will not be like that. People who live in society, live under the blanket of prestige. I’m not in that blanket, so I don’t take it as something big,” she adds.

Community Organisations Born out of HIV Programmes

“The disease has claimed lives but it has also given us each other. This condition brings friends. I plan to write poetry on this and share with you,” says Vijji from Thiruvallur. Vijji is gender-fluid. She has lost a few friends to the virus, and finds solace in art and poetry.

A constant victim of ridicule and discrimination, Vijji was always different and understood the trauma of the HIV-positive population. “Community organisations help overcome the trauma and look ahead towards the future. Ironically, community organisations would not exist if HIV did not. It is odd, isn’t it?” she says.

Ushodaya Mahila Sangam (UMS) is a community organisation for female sex workers in Telangana. A total of 13 People Living with HIV (PLHIVs) are a part of UMS, and the team at UMS wanted to ensure a sustained arrangement of nutrition for them. They reached out to the Mandal Revenue Officer who in turn helped connect them with the Ration Dealers Association. The Ration Dealer Association and the team had a meeting where UMS explained the concept of vulnerability reduction to the president of the association and discussed how he could help them do more for these 13 most vulnerable. Since then, UMS has been receiving rice and wheat for its PLHIV members from the members of the Ration Dealers Association and an unflinching support from its president on all occasions.

Then there’s Sree Shakti Sangam (SSS) in Tirupati, which moved mountains for an HIV positive couple who fell in love and married in 2011. The SSS team reached out to the couple when the man’s CD4 count decreased to 22 and he needed to go for the second line treatment. Due to his deteriorated health condition, he was unable to work for over two months and needed urgent medical care. The team took proactive steps to raise money to ensure insurance to meet costs and ensured that their child was tested for HIV. At this point, the SSS team also explained to the couple about the benefits of insuring in PMJJBY and PMSBY schemes. They discovered that while he has a bank account, he does not have any money deposited in it. They decided to gather money from the community and got him insured him under the schemes of PMJJBY and PMSBY. Currently, the family is living happily with proper care and treatment and is confident about giving a bright future to their daughter who is not HIV positive

Peer Networks Serve as the Backbone of Community Support

The community is at the centre of the HIV response and intervention. For this, at the grassroots, a unique camaraderie exists within community members, which is capitalised on the ground to seamlessly connect members with services. Whether it is reporting and redressal of a violent incident or opening a bank account, or using government welfare services, the first point of contact is always another community member — an individual who has seen it all, and wants to reach out to others like her.

Since 2004, with the commencement of HIV/AIDS programmes, a cadre of women leaders have emerged as well. The objective of these programmes was to reduce the risk and vulnerability from HIV/AIDS infections, but in the process, it gave rise to a collective of sex workers who began questioning discriminatory legal and political frameworks. Since 2014, 2,130 women have assumed the role of women’s rights defenders within 71 community organisations in 47 districts spread across Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. These women are the basic structure of the community organisations and the primary advocates of human rights in the districts where they work. They are also usually the first responders to any instance of gender-based violence in their jurisdiction.

Sudha, a sex-worker who is HIV positive, was shunned by her in-laws. Living in Shahada Town with her son and daughter in law, she gave up sex work recently because of immense support from her peers at the community organisation. They regularly counselled her, provided her with nutrition and also supported her with financial planning. After struggling for years as a sex-worker and depending on others for financial resources, today, Sudha is no longer financially dependent. She has her own Kirana store.

Acceptance of diverse identities

In my opinion, what the HIV programme did was bring much-needed acceptance to a plethora of identities and sexual orientations and also offered space for movements and advocacy. For Malavika, a transgender, the programme gave her an identity. Her family disowned her, but the community and the community organisation embraced her with open arms, as did many stakeholders. She has advocated for the Transgender Bill, like many others in her community, and believes that this would not have been encouraged without the HIV programme in place.

Representational Image. Reuters

Representational Image. Reuters

Nayan who is gay, and secretly a part of a Jamat system in Theni, could come out to his parents when they were discussing HIV treatment. During the course of his life, Nayan has studied hotel management in the UK, where homosexuality is no longer looked down upon. He came back to India only when he realised that conditions for LGBTQI were becoming better. He participates in queer prides across India and hopes that one day, in his future, homosexuality and same-sex marriage in India will be legal.

I’ve been a part of the HIV programme for a little more than a year, and for a year, I’ve seen my life change little by little every day. In between field visits, the wait for HIV/AIDS Bill to get parliamentary approval and the faces of countless HIV-vulnerable community members, often my heart sinks: the United Nations and other international organisations, time and again, talk about eradicating the disease by 2030, but financial resources in the sector continue to dwindle. But in the middle of field visits, sometimes unnamed faces come to me and smile, and I retrieve my inspiration to work for them, with them.

First Published On : Dec 1, 2016 14:29 IST

Five held in TN over blasts in lower courts: NIA, Kerala cops fear ressurection of Al-Umma

The arrest of five persons from Tamil Nadu by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in connection with the blasts at five lower courts in south India strengthens the fears of Kerala police about the reincarnation of the proscribed Al-Umma as a new terror outfit.

Senior officials believe that the outfit called Base Movement is a regrouping of Al-Umma, which was banned following the Coimbatore blasts in 1998, and a section of the Al-qaeda. It came up with bases in Tamil Nadu and Kerala after Al-qaeda leader Ayman Al Zawahiri launched Al-qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) in August 2014.

A senior officer involved in the probe into the blast at Malappuram collectorate said that Al-Umma may have transformed into Base Movement after it came under police scanner in connection with various blasts including the one outside BJP’s office at Malleswaram in Bangalore.

The officer, who chose to remain anonymous, told Firstpost that the outlawed outfit may have assumed the new name in order to divert the attention of the security agencies. While Al-Umma mostly targetted Hindu shrines and leaders, the focus of the Base Movement so far has been courts.

The new outfit registered its presence by planting a bomb on the premises of a court complex at Chittoor in Andhra Pradesh on 7 April. The Chittoor blast was followed by a second blast at the collectorate-cum-district courts complex at Kollam in Kerala in June.

The Principal District Judge Court complex at Mysuru in Karantaka was the third target, when a pressure cooker bomb went off there on 1 August. This was followed by a fourth low-intensity blast on the premises of Nellore district court in Andhra Pradesh on September 12 and the fifth near the first class magistrate court at Malappuram in Kerala.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Reports said that the outfit had planned more such attacks in Maharashtra, Telengana and Kerala besides targeting nearly two dozen VIPs, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The NIA got the details of the plan from the interrogation of the five persons arrested from Madurai and Chennai on Monday and Tuesday respectively.

Although all the Base Movement operatives detained by the NIA are from Tamil Nadu, the state did not figure in their target. Police officials believe that this may be to avoid any suspicion and ensure their smooth operation from Tamil Nadu.

The Al-Umma was banned following its involvement in the Coimbatore blasts. The judicial probe into the blast revealed that the outfit that came into existence in the wake of the Babri Mosque demolition in 1992 hatched the explosion in a bid to eliminate senior BJP leader L K Advani.

The probe found that blasts in which 58 people were killed was hatched by Al-Umma with the help of Kerala-based People’s Democratic Party headed by Abdul Nasser Madhani to avenge the demolition of the Babri mosque.

Police officials believe that the Base Movement may have been trying to build itself by scaling up its targets gradually. Their initial operations were not intended to kill anybody. The IEDs used for the low intensity blasts in the five places did not have any shrapnel attached to it. The devices were planted at places where minimum casualties could occur.

Sunil Babu K, Kanhangad deputy superintendent of police and the investigating officer of the case, said the initial objective of outfit was only to spread fear. They also may have sought to send a message by selecting lower courts as their targets. The officer said that the outfit was concerned over the continued detention of Madhani in a jail in Bangalore and the killing of five Muslim youths in a police encounter in Andhra Pradesh in April 2015.

In a pen-drive left at the Chittur blast site, the activists of the Base Movement had referred to the killing of the youths, who included erstwhile Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) leader Viqaruddin Ahmed. They were killed while being taken to a court.

Soon After the blast at Chittur, the group had also sent a letter to the Deputy Commissioner of Commercial Taxes there claiming that they had carried out the explosion as an act of retaliation for the killing of the youths.

The Base Movement had begun its activities after informing Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. A letter sent by post to his secretary in January 2015 informed him that they were beginning their activities that year. The letter contained a map of India and a picture of slain Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The second letter was sent to French consulate in Bengaluru in January 2016 marking their protest against the visit of their President Francois Hollande. It also contained the map of India and Osama bin Laden’s picture. The group had left these signs behind the two explosions at Kollam and Malappuram in Kerala as well. However, the NIA has not got any clue regarding involvement of people from the state in the blasts.

Malappuram district superintendent of police Debesh Kumar Behera does not rule the involvement of local people behind the blast at the collectorate. He said that a team of police officials from the district would question the five persons arrested by the NIA to find out their local links.

“The NIA and police officials from different states are involved in the investigation. We will have to wait till the arrested persons are remanded to the police custody for interrogating them. We hope to get a chance by the end of this week,” the SP told the Firstpost. He said that the police did not know much about the Base Movement. He said that he also could not confirm whether members of the erstwhile Al-Umma were behind the new group until they investigated the matter thoroughly.

Highly placed sources said NIA would take over the investigation as there are striking similarities between all the recent blasts. The special investigation team formed by the Kerala police to investigate the blast had suspected some persons with links with Al-Umma behind the blast.

They include K P Noohu alias Mankave Rasheed, who has been absconding since the Coimbatore blast and Ooma Babu and S Kunjimuhammad, two of the accused in the blast case. All the three hail from north Kerala.

The sources believe that Abubacker Siddique alias Kakkam, who is declared as one of the 12 most wanted extremists, could have brought the different terror modules under the single banner of the Base Movement. A post graduate in English literature, he carries a reward of Rs.2 lakhs on his head.

Siddique, who hails from Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu, has seven cases pending against him, including the blast at Hindu Munnani office in Chennai in 1995, parcel bomb case in Nagapattinam in 1995, Trichy cantonment bomb case in 1999 and Chittoor bomb blast case in 2016.

A team of police officials from Malappuram had visited his house at Nagapttinam following the blast at the collectorate. Siddique who had received training in Pakistan and Afghanistan is suspected to be behind the letters that the Base Movement sent to various people.

Thrissur Range Inspector General of Police S Ajith Kumar, who is monitoring the investigation, said that only NIA would be able to say more about the links of various people with the terrorist outfit involved in the blasts. He said that the state police was rendering all required assistance to the agency in the investigation.

First Published On : Nov 30, 2016 19:38 IST

Al Qaeda plot: NIA arrests 2 more sympathisers

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Carrying out with its probe in the blasts outside court premises in South India since April this year, NIA arrested two more persons on Tuesday for allegedly being involved in the conspiracy to carry out bomb explosions by a group sympathising with terror outfit al-Qaeda.With today’s arrest, the number of people arrested in the case has gone upto five.The NIA, along with police forces from Tamil Nadu and Telangana, had arrested three persons yesterday for the five bomb blast cases in court premises of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka since April. Among the arrests effected today was Mohammed Ayub Ali, who had been detained last night. Ali (25) of Madurai, who works as a public liaison officer for a hearing aid company, was placed under arrest today, NIA spokesman said.The other person arrested was Shamsudeen, 25, a resident of Madurai after his name cropped up during interrogation of others arrested by the NIA. The cases relate to blasts inside a vehicle at a parking place at district court complex, in Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh on April 7; in a parking area of CJM Court Complex at Kollam in Kerala on June 15; inside court complex at Mysuru on August 1, in Nellore of Andhra Pradesh on September 12 and inside a toilet complex of judicial court, Malappuram in Kerala on November 1.The NIA had arrested Abbas Ali, Suleiman and Samsum Karim Raja, all residents of Tamil Nadu. The NIA spokesman had claimed that the arrested accused “during sustained interrogation confessed to their involvement in these blasts.”Ali, a school dropout, was working as a painter and also ran a library in the name ‘Darul Ilm’ at Madurai. Raja is a Commerce graduate and runs a chicken broiler shop at Kannimara Koil street in Madurai. Suleiman was working in a software firm. He was the main leader of the terrorist group which was influenced by the ideology of Osama bin Laden.The group had claimed responsibility for these blasts and circulated pamphlets, pen drives and CDs in the name of “The Base Movement”, translation of the word al Qaeda.

Congress cries foul as K Chandrasekhar Rao moves to new official bungalow

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao moved into his new official residential buildings complex at Begumpet in Hyderabad on Thursday though main opposition Congress cried foul claiming that “over Rs 40 crore of public money” has been “wasted” on its construction.On the occasion, the CM performed a string of rituals to mark the event. Rao, who had been staying in the Chief Minister’s Camp Office built during YS Rajasekhara Reddy’s regime in undivided Andhra Pradesh, moved into the sprawling new buildings complex after performing a traditional ceremony.Known to be a religious man, the TRS chief performed ‘Griha Pravesam’ (house warming ceremony) along with his wife as per traditional practices. The auspicious ‘muhurtham’ was 5:22 am. Under the guidance of seer Sri Tridandi Srimannarayana Chinna Jeeyar Swamy, Rao and his wife performed ‘Daiva Pravesam’, ‘Yati Pravesam’, ‘Go Pravesam’ and other rituals. ‘Sudarshana Homam’ and ‘Vastu Homam’ were also performed. Prayers of different religions were also recited on the occasion for the welfare of Telangana people.Governor of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana ESL Narasimhan, Telangana Legislative Assembly Speaker S Madhusudanachary, Legislative Council Chairman Swamy Goud, Deputy Chief Minister Mahmood Ali, state IT and Municipal Administration Minister and Rao’s son K T Rama Rao, Nizamabad MP K Kavitha, who is Chandrasekhar Rao’s daughter, and state irrigation minister T Harish Rao were among those present.Rao assumed office about two-and-half years ago as the first chief minister of the newly-created Telangana. The official buildings complex, including the CM’s residence and office, a conference hall and two existing buildings, has been named as Pragathi Bhavan by government. The conference hall, named ‘Janahita’, will serve as a meeting place for the Chief Minister. In ‘Janahita’, the CM will interact with various sections of the people, including farmers, workers, employees, artisans and a host of others on policy formulation and on their implementation, a state government release said.Slamming Rao over his “new posh bungalow”, state Congress president and MLA N Uttam Kumar Reddy alleged the new buildings complex was built “wasting over Rs 40 crore of public money”. He claimed that the cost of Chief Minister’s new house would be nearly Rs 150 crore if land price is also taken into account. Accusing Rao of “wasting public money to satisfy his Vastu beliefs”, Reddy maintained that such “wastage” is not permissible in a socialist and democratic country like India.According to some media reports, the posh complex came up on a space of over one lakh square feet, with several facilities and measures, including bullet-proof bathrooms.

Andhra Pradesh: Currency exchange gang busted, old and new notes of Rs 6.8 lakh seized

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Andhra Pradesh police have arrested a gang of 17 people including a woman and seized 6 lakh 80 thousands rupees from them for allegedly exchanging banned currency on commission basis for new currency.A sting operation was conducted along with a TV Channel which lead to the busting of the gang.Vijayawada Police Commissioner said last evening, the accused belong to different places in Guntur, West Godavari and Krishna districts who persuaded some merchants from Eluru.He said, the accused were trying to exchange the currency for 18 to 20 percent commission.He also said that seven merchants gave 6.8 lakh rupees to the gang for exchange. He said, the police are trying to find out the role of bankers, if any.

Demonetisation: SC to hear Centre’s plea for transferring currency ban cases on Wednesday

New Delhi: The Supreme Court will hear on Wednesday the Union government’s plea for transferring the petitions before various high courts challenging the 8 November demonetisation move.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who mentioned the petition before a bench of Chief Justice TS Thakur and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud for an early hearing, said that the central government sought the transfer of matters to the Supreme Court or to one high court.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

There are eight to 10 matters challenging the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes currently before various High Courts including Rajasthan, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Bombay and Gujarat.

The government also sought direction that all future petitions related to the demonetisation be filed in the same court to which the apex court would refer the existing petitions.

In the course of the hearing on 18 November, the top court had said that the people were approaching the courts because they are facing serious problems.

“That only shows the magnitude of the problem. The problem is serious. You can’t shut them from coming to courts. People are frantic to get money. People are affected. We may have riots in the streets. Let them go (to the courts),” it had said when Rohatgi had sought transfer of these cases to the Supreme Court.

While not passing any order on the government’s application seeking the transfer of all the cases scattered in various High Courts and the subordinate courts, the top court had asked it to file a proper petition seeking the transfer of these cases.

In the last hearing, the top court had indicated that it may transfer these cases to a particular High Court.

First Published On : Nov 21, 2016 17:08 IST

Babus to visit states to assess demonetization drive

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Senior bureaucrats working in central departments have been asked to visit states for on-the-spot assessment of demonetization drive and to provide their feedback.A total of 32 teams of nearly 70 senior officers–of the level of Additional Secretary and Joint Secretary– and those working as Director or Deputy Secretary have been formed by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT).”The officers have been deputed to undertake field visits in various states for making on-the-spot assessment of the situation and to provide feedback thereon,” an order said. The officers have been drawn from various central government departments.Teams of three officers each would visit Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab, it said. Two-member teams would visit Telangana, Kerala, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Goa and Assam. Whereas, teams of one official each would visit Nagaland, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Meghalaya, Manipur, Andaman and Nicobar, Lakshadweep, Puducherry and Sikkim. “Department of Economic Affairs will decide the dates/ duration of the field visits as well as the terms of the reference for the same,” the DoPT said.The Centre had on November 8 demonetized Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes in order to check black money, corruption, money laundering, terror financing as well as counterfeiting of currency notes.Large number of people are queuing up at banks since then to exchange old notes and withdrawing money as ATMs are also being calibrated by the government to dispense newly-introduced Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 denomination notes.

Impact of human activity on extreme weather events on rise

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Anthropogenic climate change had an increased impact on the occurrence of several extreme weather events recorded between 2011-2015, especially those involving extreme high temperatures, a scientific assessment by World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has revealed. According to WMO, the impact of human induced climate change on such events has increased by a factor of 10. Though not all extreme events bear a stamp of anthropogenic climate change, several of them have a direct relation to it while some have an indirect relation, which manifest in increasing its risks.”The influence of climate change on the daily lives of people has been clear due to the multiplication and intensification of extreme events, including heatwaves to record rainfall and damaging floods,” said P.Taalas, Secretary-General, WMO.In India, the 2013 Uttarakhand flood disaster and the 2015 heat wave were the two biggest extreme weather events which killed over 8,000 people, the WMO noted. While the report does not attribute a direct relation between anthropogenic climate change and the Uttarakhand disaster, it has said that the largest human impact has been on rising occurrences of extreme heat, as seen during the 2015 heat wave.The 2015 Indian sub-continent heat wave that killed over 4,000 in India and Pakistan was the worst heat wave globally in the past five years, the report said. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US, assessed 2015, a strong El Niño year, as the world’s driest year over land since 1993″The most consistent influence of anthropogenic climate change has been on the rising occureence of extreme heat varying from a duration of few days to a full year. In some studies, the probability of the observed event has increased 10 times or more as a result of human induced climate change.”The 2015 heatwave, though shorter in duration than previous ones, was more intense and saw temperatures rise to nearly 50 degree Celsius. Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Odisha were the worst hit states. The WMO noted that, “although temperatures near or above 45°C are not uncommon at the that time of year (summer) in many parts of interior India, such temperatures during the 2015 pre-monsoon region in extended to near coastal regions that do not normally experience such extreme heat, including Andhra Pradesh in Eastern India, where the heat was also accompanied by very high humidity.”In terms of casualties, the worst single short-period event of the 2011-2015 period was Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in the Philippines in November 2013. The death toll for Haiyan (Yolanda) was estimated at over 7,800 people, with 4.1 million people displaced.

Hyderabad High Court issues notice to 20 YSRC MLAs over defection to TDP

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Hyderabad High Court on Monday issued notices to 20 MLAs from YSR Congress, who crossed over to ruling TDP in Andhra Pradesh, seeking their response on maintainability of the writ petitions that were filed seeking their disqualification.The petitioner’s counsel earlier filed writ petitions before the High Court submitting that the disqualification petitions pertaining to their (20 MLAs) defection are pending before the Speaker of AP Legislative Assembly.The writs questioned “inaction” of the Speaker in not disposing of the disqualification petitions and sought directions to the Speaker to initiate proceedings against those MLAs.However, AP Additional Advocate General D Srinivas today objected to the petitions saying that the writ petitions are not maintainable after which the court issued notices to the 20 MLAs with regard to maintainability of the writ petitions.”The High Court issued notices to the MLAs to hear on admissibility of the writ petitions and not with regard to the merits of the case. The court in its order clarified that it wants to hear the MLAs on the maintainability of the writ petitions,” Srinivas told PTI.The Court posted the matter after four weeks.The defection of legislators from the lone opposition party to the Telugu Desam Party(TDP) started with two YSR Congress MLAs from Kurnool district on February 22 and so far 20 MLAs have switched over to the ruling party.

Patna: Chhath festival ends peacefully with prayers and offerings to the morning sun

Patna: The four-day Chhath festival ended peacefully in Bihar on Monday morning with millions of people, mostly women, ignoring the morning chill and taking a dip in the river to offer prayers to the rising sun.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Devotees, known as ‘varti‘, ended their 36-hour fast by offering prayers and floating lighted earthen lamps in the river and other water bodies. They also sang traditional songs and distributed offerings among family members, relatives and neighbours.

The offerings comprised fruits, home-made sweets like thekuas, pedas, pakwan, chawal ke laddoo (sweets made of rice), raw vegetables and the first crop from the fields. All the sweets and offerings were arranged in baskets and trays made of bamboo.

Chhath passing off peacefully barring a few minor incidents is a big relief to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and the state administration, which had made elaborate security arrangements.

The Sun, considered the god of energy and life force, is worshipped during Chhath for well being, prosperity and progress.

The devotees had been offering prayers to the rising and setting sun since Friday.

According to officials, more than five lakh people gathered on the banks of the Ganges and Punpur rivers in the last two days to offer prayers to the Sun God in Patna and neighbouring districts.

Large crowds were also seen in Gaya, Bhagalpur, Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga, Purnea and other districts of the state.

The celebrations began with devotees taking a dip in the river, a tradition known as ‘nahai khai’. It was followed by the ritual of ‘kharna’ on Saturday when sweet dishes were prepared and distributed among relatives and friends.

The festival, once limited to Bihar, has become popular across the country due to the large scale migration of workers from the state.

Chhath was widely celebrated in metros like Kolkata, New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad and states like Assam, Punjab, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and even Tamil Nadu.

Naxal leader Rama Krishna not in custody: Andhra Police tells HC

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Top naxalite leader Rama Krishna is not in the custody of Andhra Pradesh Police, the Hyderabad High Court was, on Thursday, informed by the police.Following submission from the state police, the court asked the petitioner, who is Krishna alias RK’s wife, to produce before it any material with regard to him and gave her two weeks.A division bench of justices CV Nagarjuna Reddy and MSK Jaiswal had earlier directed the Andhra Pradesh government to file counter affidavit informing the court whether RK was in police custody or not, by Thursday while hearing a habeas corpus plea filed last week by RK’s wife Kandula Sirisha.In the wake of an exchange of fire on Andhra-Odisha border on October 24 in which 24 Maoists were killed, doubts were expressed by RK’s wife and relatives and party comrades that he might be in police custody.In the habeas corpus petition, RK s wife Sirisha sought directions to the state government to produce the outlaw before the court and to record his statement for appropriate action.Responding to the petition, Visakhapatnam Rural District Superintendent of Police Rahul Dev Sharma filed an affidavit before the court that the husband is not in the custody of police.”In fact the records reveal that the husband of the petitioner is a member of the Central Committee of CPI (ML), which is a banned Organisation and there are around 40 cases registered against RK at various police stations of Andhra Pradesh.”The police could not apprehend the husband of the petitioner till date in connection with those pending criminal cases,” the SP submitted.The senior police officer further submitted that the incident of exchange of fire has occurred in the territory of Odisha state and requested the court to dismiss the petition.Referring to the affidavit of AP Police that RK is not in their custody, the court told the petitioner, “In absence of material, if you (petitioner) have any material produce it,” after which the petitioner sought time to file reply.The court then posted the matter after two weeks to enable the petitioner to file material, if any with regard to RK.AP Police had on Wednesday informed the High Court that joint teams of AP and Odisha police had to “fire in self-defence”, which resulted in the death of 24 Maoists in Malkangiri district of Odisha area on October 24.

Modi govt made Pak pay price for terrorism against India: Arun Jaitley

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Noting that the Narendra Modi government did not believe in “helplessness” or allowing issues to persist, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Friday said the firmness with which the Centre acted has finally paid off as Pakistan was made to realise that its indulgence in terrorism against India would become “unbearable” for that country.”People were surprised that the Government of India could take such a decision (surgical strikes) and our armed forces could, with such great competence and patriotism, execute it,” Jaitley told a gathering of BJP workers after he was felicitated for granting a special development package to Andhra Pradesh.”We saw, for over two months, one of the worst ever crises in Kashmir. But, you have a strong leader and a strong government at the Centre which was not willing to give a single signal that it was going to yield at the cost of national unity. The firmness has paid,” he said.”Pakistan had made it a routine activity to allow its territory to be used for terrorism against India. Historically, our response used to be that ‘we will raise it at the international fora, will isolate Pakistan…some diplomatic initiatives will be taken…For the first time, you have a government in Delhi which has told the neighbouring country that if you indulge in terrorism against India, you will pay the price for it. And, the cost of allowing your territory to be used for terrorism will become unbearable on you,” the Finance Minister said. He said India would continue to be the “fastest growing economy” in the world for at least another year.”Notwithstanding the slowdown of the world economy, even today, for two years in a row, despite a global economic crisis, India has become the fastest growing economy in the world. Hopefully, it will be so for the next one year,” Jaitley said.”Half the tenure of this government is over and it has wiped out the word corruption from the corridors of Delhi. Even today, when people speak of corruption, they speak of corruption of the previous government. Nobody is even willing to raise an issue against this government,” he said.The manner in which the Narendra Modi government was functioning, it was establishing a “new political culture” in the country, Jaitley said.”You have in the Prime Minister a leader who has the courage and capacity to take decisions. He is even willing to take tough decisions, at times, even unpopular decisions, provided they are in the larger interest of the country,” he said.”Today, people say, he (Modi) is moving too fast. That is how governments are supposed to be led. On the issue of national security, he has shown clarity of mind and firmness which are attached to the very character and philosophy of the BJP,” the Finance Minister said.Union Information and Broadcasting Minister M Venkaiah Naidu, BJP Andhra Pradesh affairs in-charge Siddharth Nath Singh, state party chief and MP K Haribabu, state ministers K Srinivas and P Manikyala Rao were present at the event among others.

Maoists on the run: Support for the ‘ideological’ terrorists is now dwindling

In 1971, the playground of the high school, where I studied in Srikakulam, Andhra Pradesh was taken over by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). We didn’t mind it because the jawans played volley ball with us and gave us chapathis at lunch time. The CRPF was there in big strength to weed out Naxalites who infested the countryside around.

Two years after the 1967 “peasant uprising” in West Bengal’s Naxalbari — the village that got the group their name — the Naxalites began to unleash terror in the Srikakulam district, bordering what was then Orissa.

It’s more or less in the same region that Maoists — as Naxalites call themselves now — have been getting a severe beating from the police forces of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha this week. After Monday’s ‘encounter’ at Malkangiri in Odisha, in which 24 Maoists were killed, the police are continuing their combing operations in the area. They have gunned down six more Maoists since Monday and among those killed are some of their important “leaders”, while many others are still on the run.

Perhaps the Naxals have never had it so bad since the death of their original founder Charu Mazumdar in the police lockup in 1972. With a publicly professed goal to ‘overthrow’ the Indian government through ‘armed struggle’ and ‘extreme violence’, they decimated thousands of security personnel and civilians in the last five decades. However, they are now coming to learn that terror begets terror.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Forty-five years after I left Srikakulam, I still remember the stories of Naxalites beheading landlords who according to them were exploiting the peasants.

And to spread terror, they circulated photographs of severed heads they hung from doorposts of the landowners’ homes. I remember those gruesome photographs as if I saw them yesterday. And with the blood of those they butchered, they wrote slogans about “revolution” on the walls , declaring their allegiance to Marx and Lenin.

It was not till many years later that I was able to meet some Naxalites in the bowels of rural Telangana. They were all young, both boys and girls, ranging from postgraduates to school or college dropouts. They were gung-ho about the revolution that they day-dreamed was just round the corner to metamorphose India into a heaven on earth, a society of equals where there would be no injustice.

They threw at me rhetoric that included phrases like “fight against imperialists”, “annihilation of class enemies” and “armed struggle”.

At first they looked like cases of juvenile delinquency, kids out to have ideological fun who would soon get bored with it and settle down to jobs and marriages. Some did, but many went on and on, and the “movement” grew from village to village, district to district and state to state.

It was with both fear and hope that villagers, especially adivasis, supported them. The rural folk was terrified of what the red mobs, with weapons looted from police stations, would do if they didn’t back them. At the same time, villagers who were victims of exploitation at the hands of landlords, corrupt officials and the police saw hope in the Naxalites. Moreover, Indira Gandhi’s institutionalisation of caste-based vote-bank politics and corruption added to the neglect by successive Congress regimes in the states only drove adivasis closer to the Marxist-Leninist ‘soldiers’.

And by the time different Naxal outfits merged into Communist Party of India (Maoist) in 2004, they became active in what is called India’s Red Corridor, starting from the Nepal border and cutting through West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and parts of Karnataka and Kerala. The Maoists, as they were called since the merger, had an army of nearly 12,000 foot soldiers across states.

Besides, they had, and still have, lakhs of supporters and sympathisers everywhere, especially among academic bauddhiks (so-called intellectuals) who routinely find places in the media and dubious institutions starting from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) to small-town colleges. Most of the bauddhiks, at least the ones I had the misfortune of being acquainted with, talk Maoism by day and drown themselves in scotch by night, but that’s another matter.

It’s not surprising that the Maoists virtually run parallel governments in small parts of the Red Corridor, collecting taxes, providing amenities like healthcare and even running kangaroo courts for quick justice. All this filled the Maoists with the cheap thrills of a “successful revolution”.

At some point, they were also in touch with Sri Lanka’s Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for weapons and training, and they still have an open channel of communication with their counterparts in Nepal. The talk of Maoists joining hands with Islamic terrorists or getting arms from China has, however, never been confirmed.

On a rare occasion in 2006, even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, known for his economy of words, spoke up. He described Maoists as the “biggest internal-security threat” India faced. In 2009, the CPI (Maoist) was banned under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Maoist numbers and support dwindling

The good news, however, is that all this has been changing, even if at a slow pace. Their numbers have been dwindling and support diminishing.

The decline of the movement is not a sudden development. In a rare interview to Rahul Pandita, author of ‘Hello Bastar: The Untold Story of India’s Maoist Movement’, the General Secretary of the CPI (Maoist) and the supreme commander of the Maoists Mupalla Laxman Rao alias Ganapathi admitted in 2009, “Our war is in the stage of strategic defence … (it) will last for some more time.”

The Maoists were also in touch with LTTE for weapons and training, and they still communicate with their counterparts in Nepal. The talk of Maoists joining hands with Islamic terrorists or getting arms from China has, however, never been confirmed.

And in 2013, According to a report in TehelkaGanapathi admitted in a letter to party members that Maoists faced a leadership crisis with numbers of both leaders and members on the decline.

Indeed, the strength of the party’s Politburo has dropped from 14 to seven and the Central Committee from 40 to about 20, with the rest either killed by the police or lodged in jails. The number of the party’s active members or armed soldiers has fallen from nearly 12,000 to about 8,000.

This could be attributed to the fact that the police forces across states have stepped up their hunt for Maoists, killing them in real or fake encounters, and welfare schemes of governments have been benefitting affected villages, though to a small extent.

Besides, Maoists have also been digging their own graves by turning arrogant. Stories of their atrocities — killing innocent villagers on a mere suspicion of being police informers and forced recruitment — have been heard with increasing regularity. And they have been increasingly resorting to extortion, blackmail, illegal mining and even poppy cultivation to raise money for their operations.

Moreover, there has been internal bickering. The rift between the dominant Telugu lobby and the non-Telugu leaders and members has been widening. A good number of them have surrendered to the police and turned informers.

It’s clear that this week’s police ‘encounters’ on the AP-Odisha border were made possible because either the villagers or disgruntled Maoists blew the whistle.

The Maoists are down, yes, though not out. But now is the time to totally weed them out and remove the ideological pollution from India’s rural-scape. As in the case of forest brigand Veerappan, the Maoists’ biggest strength has been support from villagers, voluntary or forced. The authorities have been trying, and must continue to, deprive them of this support.

Any let-up in the combing operations by the police or the welfare schemes aimed at tribals would only help the ideological terrorists to regain strength. Ideological or not, the Maoists are terrorists and members of a banned organisation, and they and their supporters and sympathisers must be dealt with accordingly.

Chandrababu Naidu’s plan to ban Rs 500, Rs 1,000 notes won’t cut through Andhra’s black money economy

Just few hours before the expiration of the Income Declaration Scheme (to disclose black money), officials at the Income Tax Towers at AC Guards in Hyderabad were in for a shock. A frail-bearded individual who claimed to be Gopalan had brought thirteen suitcases full of assorted currency, some in haphazard bundling. There were seven American Tourister suitcases with Rs 1,000 notes, and the rest with Rs 500 notes. It took a dozen of IT sleuths and half a dozen counting machines to complete the task in five hours.

The officials did not mind though, as the Finance Ministry ranked the team first, and announced a bonus for them all. “He made us famous and took us to top of the list,” says a senior IT official with glee.

Representational image. Reuters

It was not just the IT officers who were gleeful though. The ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP) too were in joy. The frail Gopalan had given them enough grist to start a mudslinging fest.

Immediately following this episode, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu launched a verbal attack on his opponent and Opposition leader YS Jaganmohan Reddy. “I want the Centre to demonetise all the Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes if it really wants to end the reign of black money in the country,” he said.

Naidu did not stop at this statement, though. He went ahead and wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his demand, but not bothering to explain his logic behind it. The publicity wing of the ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP) then launched a tirade against Jagan, alleging that he was the one who disclosed the hoard, citing sources from the NDA government.

Slugfest over black money

Sources told Firstpost that after the Congress came to power in 2004, Jagan had paid an income tax of Rs 7 crore against Rs 2.9 lakh he paid in 2002. In the wake of CBI cases foisted on him in 2012-13, Jagan had made advance tax payment of Rs 84 crore. In the 2014 election affidavit, he had mentioned an asset base of Rs 416 crore and liabilities of Rs 137 crore. In the year 2015, Jagan made an advance tax payment of Rs 22 crore. These figures are also bandied about by the TDP to fling mud at their main Opposition party, hoping that some of it will stick.

But Jagan and YSR Congress party leaders are not silent spectators. They ask how Chandrababu Naidu became rich with just two acres of ancestral property in his native Naravaripally village of Chittoor. They allege that Naidu amassed wealth during his first tenure, and now again in the current tenure. “Naidu had made corrupt money worth Rs 1.32 lakh crore after Amaravati, Pattiseema, Polavaram and Rayalaseema (irrigation) projects,” says Ambati Rambabu, YSRC spokesperson.

If Naidu could write a letter to the Prime Minister, so could Jagan. So, he wrote to the PM demanding all names involved in the disclosure of Rs 13,000 crore worth of black money in Hyderabad to be made public. “Why is Chandrababu alone privy to that information and not the public?” he asked in a two-page letter. The Prime Minister’s Office has not responded to either of these letters. “It is also an irony that just recently AP, under Naidu, has been ranked as the most corrupt state in the country by National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER),” adds Jagan.

Naidu’s son Lokesh jumped into the fray to take on Jagan disclosing family assets for the sixth time since 2011, an exercise Naidu began five years ago to gain a “Mr Clean” image ahead of polls. Naidu declared a net worth of Rs 3.73 crore (1,312 times less than Jagan) and his wife Bhuvaneshwari net worth was Rs 33.66 crore. Son Lokesh declared Rs 14.5 crore, daughter-in-law Brahmani declared Rs 5.38 crore and his grandson Devansh Naidu Rs 11.7 crore. “No other political family has declared its property list in such a transparent manner,” said Lokesh, as he made the declaration.

Andhra: Hub Of black money

Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, though separate states now, boast of a heritage of rich agricultural activity even before Independence. Wealth distribution, though, was uneven. While only four districts in Telangana had the potential for economic activity, the entire coastal region of what is now Andhra Pradesh, flourished, and with it, large scale corruption.

Black money dominates the lifestyle of the coastal regions — for instance, during Sankranti Pandugalu (harvest festival), mango and banana plantations are hired for week-long gambling, wine and women, an attraction for politicians and businessmen from across the country, who participate as guests.

A small village near Mogalthuru (native to film star Chiranjeevi) was known for its fine collection of Harley Davidson bikes, Lenovo laptops, Apple iPhone 6 smartphones, and Paris Hilton fashion. Recently one resident of this village acquired a Rolls Royce Phantom car, and it made a journey of only three kilometres every evening, because that was the length of the only motorable road in the village. “I earn as much as Rs 72 lakhs as my share from paddy, sugarcane and tobacco crops twice a year. I pay no tax and can buy anything,” says Sunil Raju, a farmer in Mogalthuru village.

Hyderabad: The new hub

In pre-Independent India, Hyderabad has always been a seat of enormous wealth. The last Nizam, Osman Ali Pasha, even doled out a plane load of gold to Pakistan in the initial days of its making. After his death, most of his wealth was squandered by his adopted son Nizam Mukkaram Jah and his brother Muffakam Jah.

From 1983, money began pouring into Hyderabad when Seemandhra industrialists saw opportunity and were assured of fair play by the TDP which had come to power for the first time. The vast agricultural wealth of Seemandhra flowed into Telangana. Farmers of Seemandhra ventured not only into Hyderabad, but also made investments wherever there was irrigation potential — Nizamabad, Karimnagar, Nalgonda and Khammam in Telangana; Raichur and Bellary in Karnataka; and Nanded, Aurangabad and Sholapur in Maharashtra. “Without political support, it is impossible to make huge investments and tackle the power of local musclemen,” explains Vadde Shobanadeswar Rao, a former TDP minister and businessman from Vijayawada.

N. Chandrababu Naidu, chief minister of Andhra Pradesh. Reuters

Most of the agricultural income has gone into creation of IT infrastructure in the city’s IT corridor and in creating residential spaces in Manikonda, Gachibowli, Nizampet, Jubilee Hills, Shamshabad and Shamirpet.

Rise of a parallel economy

Everybody wanted to cash in. A journalist-turned-real-estate-agent, Govind Reddy would have sack loads of currency in his car to buy vacant land available in the city. When he died in a car accident in 2008, police were shocked to find Rs 2 crore worth currency in his car. Farmers and small land holders around Hyderabad, Ranga Reddy and Medak districts had a windfall when Hyderabad became a major hub for IT activity under the initiatives of Chandrababu Naidu, and then BJP-led NDA government under Atal Behari Vajpayee. An acre of private land was quoted at Rs 10-15 crore during that boom period.

The story of K Raghunath Reddy is illustrative of the conditions prevailing at the time. Reddy, a school teacher with three acres in Manikonda, says he almost had a heart attack when buyers offered him Rs 10 crore per acre. His family wanted him to sell just one acre so that they could build a house with a courtyard to keep two buffaloes. “He asked the buyers to give him just Rs 1 crore at the time and keep the rest in deposit until he decided to make investments. Even then he could not handle the cash and spent most of it on a Singapore-Bangkok tour with family, and kept the rest in his toilet/bedroom in plastic bags,” said a family member who did not wish to be named. Reddy took his entire family and neighbours on a Singapore tour for a week, hosted by the buyers. He bought a Zen car for each of his family members as well, and installed air conditioners in his courtyard for the buffaloes.

The parallel black money economy also bred social and communal unrest, according to social analysts. “The rise of Maoism, a louder, shriller Telangana movement, the Seemandhra agitation, the birth of the TDP, failure of Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam party, growth of MIM, formation of YSRC — all of these are a fallout of the support or lack of it by these parallel forces,” says Nageswar Rao, a senior columnist based in Hyderabad.

This black parallel economy also dominated media circles. “How did ventures like Udayam, Vartha and Metro fail while others with highly prejudiced content are on top of the charts,” asks Rao.

A study conducted on the economic wealth of Andhra and Telangana by the Centre for Economic and Social Studies (CESS) in the wake of Telangana agitation, identified that huge parallel economy of both the regions were behind the protests. “They are fanning and funding, and function as custodians of this regional battle,” says the study submitted to the Justice Srikrishna Committee which was in charge of bifurcation. The same agency had surmised then that that the parallel black economy of the erstwhile united AP was worth over Rs 25 lakh crore.

The illegality runs deep and has a long history. Unfortunately, for Chandrababu Naidu, simply demonetising Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes will not help. And the Rs 13,000 crore worth of disclosures from Hyderabad are a mere tip of the black money iceberg.