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

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

Dec 30, 2016 21:32 IST


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

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

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

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

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

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

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98 Hindus murdered, 357 injured in Bangladesh this year: Report

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> According to a report made by Bangladesh Jatiya Hindu Mohajote (BJHM), at least 98 people from the Hindu community have been murdered and 357 others injured across the country till December 29 this year.Revealing the report at a press conference held in Dhaka Reporters? Unity today, BJHM executive president Sukrtity Mandal said the report was prepared based on reports published in different newspapers and their community sources, reports the Dhaka Tribune.The BJHM president also said that around 711 people either left the country or were threatened to leave the country, while 209 idols were damaged and 22 others were stolen.He further said 22 people of their community have also been missing while 38 people were kidnapped and eight others are in jail.According to United News of Bangladesh (UNB), 1,109 Hindus received death threat and attempts were made to kill 18 others during the said period.

ED registers criminal case against Zakir Naik, his foundation for money laundering

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Enforcement Directorate has registered a criminal case against controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik and his organisation IRF under money laundering laws.Officials said the agency’s zonal office in Mumbai has registered an FIR, called Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) in ED’s parlance, against Naik and others after taking cognisance of a similar complaint booked by the NIA under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against them.The ED, they said, will specifically look into the charges of alleged illegal funds laundered by the accused and the proceeds of crime in its probe.The agency has already scanned some banking transaction documents and other details against Naik and IRF and is soon expected to issue summons to take the probe forward.The National Investigation Agency had last month registered a case against 51-year-old Naik under anti-terror laws for allegedly promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and race.After registering the case against Naik, IRF and others, NIA along with Mumbai police had carried out searches at 10 places in the megapolis, including residential premises of some of the office bearers of the foundation, which was earlier put on restricted list by the Union Home Ministry for receiving funds from abroad.Naik, who has been staying in Saudi Arabia to evade arrest after his name surfaced during a probe into the Bangladesh terror strike earlier this year, has been booked along with unnamed IRF officials under section 153-A of IPC (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) beside various sections of UAPA.The charges, in the FIR registered by the NIA’s branch in Mumbai, were also slapped under sections 10 (being member of an unlawful organisation), 13 (punishment for being member of illegal organisation) and 18 of UAPA (punishment for being involved in a conspiracy for committing any terror act).IRF came under the scanner of security agencies after one of the terrorists involved in the Dhaka cafe attack had allegedly posted on social media that they had been inspired by Naik’s speeches. Some of the youths from Mumbai suburbs, who had left their home to join Islamic State earlier this year, were also allegedly inspired by the preacher. Naik’s speeches are banned in the UK, Canada and Malaysia.The Home Ministry has alleged that the NGO had “dubious” links to Peace TV, an international Islamic channel, accused of propagating terrorism.According to the Home Ministry, Naik, who heads the IRF, had allegedly made many provocative speeches and engaged in terror propaganda.Maharashtra Police has also registered criminal cases against Naik for his alleged involvement in radicalising Muslim youth and luring them into terror activities. Naik was alleged to have transferred IRF’s funds received from abroad to Peace TV for making “objectionable” programmes.

West Bengal: Howrah road mishap injures 31, leaves four critical

West Bengal: Howrah road mishap injures 31, leaves four critical



Howrah: At least 31 people were injured when a bus hit a lorry on NH6 due to dense fog in West Bengal’s Howrah district on Friday, police said.

The private bus with a complement of 50 passengers was heading to the beach resort of Digha from Madhyamgram in North 24 Parganas when it hit the lorry from behind at Ashariya village on NH6 near Bagnan, a police officer said.

At least 31 people, including the driver and the helper, were injured and rushed to Uluberia General hospital. The condition of four, including a woman, was stated to be critical, the officer said.

The lorry driver fled with the vehicle but the bus, which sustained damage, has been seized, the officer said.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 13:05 IST

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LIVE Australia Vs Pakistan Live Score

AUS vs PAK | Dec 26th, 2016

PAK 163 10 53.2




LIVE South Africa Vs Sri Lanka Live Score

SA vs SL | Dec 26th, 2016

SL 281 10 96.3




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Chilean Navy sailors accused of secretly filming female crewmates | Reuters

Chilean Navy sailors accused of secretly filming female crewmates | Reuters

Dec 29, 2016 23:16 IST


SANTIAGO Chilean authorities said on Thursday they are investigating allegations that female sailors were secretly videotaped in their quarters on a naval vessel and that those images were then shared via social media by other crew members.The Navy detained the sailors accused of secretly recording their female counterparts. It said “it roundly rejects these types of actions that insult our personnel and we reiterate our respect for the privacy of those that form part of the institution.”Chile’s Defense Minister Jose Antonio Gomez said that sanction for these actions would “set an example.”After receiving a complaint from a sailor who had seen the recordings of the women shared on a WhatsApp group, Chile’s naval prosecutor opened an investigation into at least nine seamen, the Estrella de Valparaiso newspaper reported on Thursday. Other local media said eight sailor are being investigated.According to the paper, investigators found “elaborate and complex technical [filming] apparatus” in various strategic locations on the ship.

“If it’s true what happened on the frigate Lynch it is unacceptable,” Chilean President Michelle Bachelet wrote on Twitter.”Let’s end all forms of violence against women!”

Earlier in December, a Chilean business leader sparked a social media storm and criticism by Bachelet for presenting the nation’s economy minister with an inflatable sex doll as a gift at an industry dinner.Despite being South America’s most prosperous nation by most measures, Chile is more socially conservative than many of its neighbors and traditional gender attitudes persist.

Abortion is illegal in all circumstances, divorce was only legalized in 2006, and women’s participation in the labor market remains low. (Reporting by Gram Slattery; Editing by Anthony Esposito and Andrea Ricci)

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

First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 23:16 IST

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LIVE Australia Vs Pakistan Live Score

AUS vs PAK | Dec 26th, 2016

AUS 465 6 113.5




LIVE South Africa Vs Sri Lanka Live Score

SA vs SL | Dec 26th, 2016

SL 240 5 83.0




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Tata Sons asks Cyrus Mistry to return all confidential information | Reuters

Tata Sons asks Cyrus Mistry to return all confidential information | Reuters

Dec 29, 2016 20:20 IST


MUMBAI Tata Sons demanded former chairman Cyrus Mistry return all confidential information and documents regarding the company in his possession, in its second legal notice in as many days.The letter, sent by Tata Sons’ lawyers, further demanded that Mistry sign a letter pledging not to disclose any confidential information regarding the company, including to affiliates, relatives and family members.”We have credible information that you have wrongfully and dishonestly taken movable property being confidential information,” said the letter, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.

The notice comes after Tata Sons, the holding firm for the $100 billion Tata conglomerate, on Tuesday accused Mistry of breaching confidentiality rules, and said it would take legal action against him.

(Reporting by Rafael Nam)

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

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

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LIVE Australia Vs Pakistan Live Score

AUS vs PAK | Dec 26th, 2016

AUS 465 6 113.5




LIVE South Africa Vs Sri Lanka Live Score

SA vs SL | Dec 26th, 2016

SL 240 5 83.0




LIVE New Zealand Vs Bangladesh Live Score

NZ vs BAN | Dec 29th, 2016

BAN 184 10 42.4




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Tackle ‘human wrong’ in the region: Hamid Ansari

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Vice President Hamid Ansari on Wednesday emphasised that there is a “crying need” to address ‘human security and human wrong’ in the region to ensure that perception and capacity can be developed for correctives. Ansari was in the city to release the book, ‘August Voices: What they said on 14-15 August 1947’ authored by Sudheendra Kulkarni, who heads Observer Research Foundation (ORF) Ansari also spoke of better respect of rights and dignity of citizens in Jammu and Kashmir and encouraging movement of people and trade including that of films for better relations in the region even as SAARC was failing. The function was held at the Fort Campus of Mumbai University after the venue was shifted from Anjuman-e-Islam in CST due to security reasons. It was attended by Vinod Tawde, education minister, Subhash Deshmukh, vice chancellor of Mumbai Univeristy, Dr. Zahir Kazi, president of Anjuman-E-Islam among others. The book pitches for rapproachment of India-Pakistan, and in Kulkarni’s words looks to “end the poisonous two-nation theory into three peace promoting nations” and bring “reconciliation and reunion” among them. For it, the book has speeches of eight eminent personalities from the freedom struggle and what they said. This, Kulkarni said, can be core for better relations and bigger union of the entirety of South Asia. “The thought did persist with some decision-makers that the impending happening was somewhat unreal, not altogether desirable, and hopefully transitory. The latter aspect, however, was not investigated or spelt out… The theme of the book before us is to project a scenario of the possibility of South Asian Union with the India-Pakistan-Bangladesh confederation at the core,” said Ansari. Backing solutions to ease relations between people that Kulkarni advocates, Ansari said, “Our author seeks a solution of plunging headlong into the core differences. He suggests a ‘cultural and spiritual confederation’ that would subdue and overcome extremist perceptions.” Such solutions, said Ansari come from common actions that are easier in times of convergence by moving beyond the “traditional paradigm of conventional security into those of human security and human wrong.”Ansari advocated this by better human security, movement of people, and trade without reasonable restrictions, and “conscious promotion” rather than “studied prevention of cultural exchanges, films and other cultural activities”. “The experience of SAARC has not been encouraging and therefore alternate strategies need to be explored. The proposed new structure would have to be voluntary and devoid of overt or covert coercion… Political commitment and modalities have to surface to resolve outstanding areas of disagreement. Foremost amongst these is what the Simla Agreement of 1972 called ‘a final settlement of Jammu and Kashmir’. Its domestic dimensions as well as trans-LOC incursions have been in the news of late. The state is doing all that is necessary to confront and repel terrorism. The state also has a duty to ensure that rights and dignity of our citizens in the state are respected and ensured and shortcomings effectively addressed.”

PM Modi should bring together India, Pakistan and Bangladesh: Sudheendra Kulkarni

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Observer Research Foundation chairman Sudheendra Kulkarni urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take the lead in bringing India, Pakistan and Bangladesh together in a “family reconciliation” for the better future of coming generations. “The idea of an India-Pakistan confederation was also mooted by Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya, the ideological guru of the BJP, and Dr Rammanohar Lohia, the great socialist leader, in 1964. In a recent speech, PM Modi has described Mahatma Gandhi, Deendayal Upadhyaya and Dr Lohia as three Great Indians of the 20th century,” Kulkarni said. “Since all three of them were in favour of a confederation, I urge PM Modi to take the lead in bringing India, Pakistan and Bangladesh together in a family reconciliation, leading ultimately to a family re-union,” he said addressing a gathering here at the launch of his book ‘August Voices: What they said on 14-15 August 1947’. He said that the people and governments of our three countries must refuse to live as prisoners of the past.”We must create a better future for our coming generations. A future of peace, shared progress, eradication of poverty, justice and dignity for every human being in our subcontinent. To do so is our moral responsibility towards humanity,” Kulkarni said. He added, that all three nations have the world’s largest number of poor, deprived and divided people with common civilisational ancestry.”Besides, neither India nor Pakistan nor Bangladesh can develop to their full potential without transitioning from discord to concord, from hostility to cooperation,” he said.Kulkarni said there is no lasting solution, acceptable to India and Pakistan, without some form of a confederal agreement between both nations.He said that neither the solution to the Kashmir issue, nor the larger idea of a confederation, can move even an inch without Pakistan taking firm measures to eliminate terrorism from its soil.”Pakistan must rid itself of terrorism and religious extremism for its own survival,” he said, adding that India, Pakistan and Bangladesh today have an unprecedented opportunity to move towards economic and infrastructural integration in a big way.”This can be done by India taking the lead in connecting the BCIM or Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Corridor with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), and extending it further to Afghanistan and Iran,” he said.Kulkarni said new trade, business and people-to- people connectivities will create inter-dependence.

India to liberalise visa rules for Bangladeshis to promote tourism

Dhaka: In a bid to ease the procurement of Indian tourist visas for Bangladeshis, India will now allow those with confirmed travel tickets to submit their visa applications directly without prior appointments.

“As part of ongoing efforts to streamline, liberalise and ease the process of securing Indian visas, the High Commission of India will allow all Bangladesh travellers with confirmed air, train or bus tickets to submit their tourist visa applications without e-token or prior appointment dates from 1 January 2017,” the Indian High Commission here said in a press release on Wednesday.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“The date of journey should be after seven days but within one month of submission of the visa application form,” it said.

The Indian Visa Application Centre in Mirpur will receive walk-in tourist visa applications from confirmed travellers and senior citizens from 1 January.

Those who already have appointment dates can continue to submit their tourist visa applications in centres at Gulshan, Uttara, Motijheel, Mymensingh, Barisal, Khulna, Jessore, Rangpur, Rajshahi, Chittagong and Sylhet.

The mission also said that its pilot project started in October for allowing walk-in visa application facility for women travellers and their immediate family members has been “very successful”.

The Mirpur visa application centre will start taking those walk-in applications from 1 January instead of the centre in Uttara, it said.

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 18:39 IST

Demonetisation is only part of clean-up of economy: Bibek Debroy tells Firstpost

Much before economists like Jagdish Bhagwati and Arvind Panagariya weighed in favour of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policies as Gujarat chief minister, Bibek Debroy stirred a hornets’ nest by praising the Gujarat development model. Debroy was then working in the Congress’ think tank — Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Contemporary Studies. Needless to say, Debroy had to quit. But that did not stop him from speaking his mind. Debroy drew close to Modi prior to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and played a critical role in shaping up his economic policies. He was drafted as a member of the Niti Aayog after the extinction of the Planning Commission. In the mean time, he was tasked with reviewing the functioning of the Indian Railways.

At the moment, Debroy wears many hats — one of them as a defender of demonetisation. He has been valiantly defending the government’s move to make currency notes of the denomination of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 illegal tender. He says that it is just a beginning to clean up the entire economic ecosystem. In a wide-ranging interview, Debroy explains the rationale and long-term impact of the move.

Here are some edited excerpts:

Since the demonetisation drive is coming to a close, can you explain for us the objectives, benefits and travails that the exercise entailed? As an economist and policy analyst, how do you sum it up?

One should not look at 8 November (the date on which Modi declared currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 as illegal tender) in isolation. The reason I am mentioning this is because there are various other things that have happened outside 8 November and will continue to happen outside 8 November. And the day should be considered from this broader perspective. Let me give some example of that. The creation of this new black income and I am deliberately using the phrase ‘black income’ because we are talking about specifics. And there is wealth which from an economist’s point of view is stock, and there is income which is of flow.

So far as the issue of creating fresh black income is concerned, 8 November was not meant to address that. There are other instruments to take care of that, like negotiating and re-negotiating agreements with Mauritius. This has already happened. Take for instance the restriction on cash transactions above Rs 20,000. Take something like the Real Estate Bill, which among other things promises that it would transform the real estate sector from unorganised to organised. It will not happen overnight but over the period of time. The prime minister has already indicated that many such measures will be introduced. And remember in the background of this the income declaration scheme has already happened.

File image of Bibek Debroy. Image credit: Forbes India

File image of Bibek Debroy. Image credit: Forbes India

There was a greater scrutiny of people who might have had black income. So when people are criticising the demonetisation it should be understood that there are other measures which are meant to check the creation of new black income and nobody is saying that this is the only way all the issues can be addressed.

Let’s take a new target and let me define the term ‘black’. There are two different uses of the term black. They are not quite the same. The first is when the activity is illegal like crime or drugs. The other type of black is when the activity is not illegal. So the income generation is perfectly illegal but the tax that ought to be paid was not paid. Nobody is denying that black exists in non-cash forms like gold or property. There are instruments that have been introduced to tackle this and will continue to be introduced. Just because the substantial part of this black income is in other forms does not mean that it (the matter of black cash) should not be addressed.

Let’s take the third point. In India, cash is used substantially. And it is obvious as India is not a developed country. No one is expecting the use of cash in India to disappear overnight. But look at the ratios. The GDP-cash ratio in India even till last year was 13 percent. Some 15 years ago it was nine percent. Someone needs to explain how this ratio increased from nine percent to 13 percent. Even if I assume that we need cash, it should be understood that when a country develops, the use of cash reduces. Then how and why did we witness this increase?

I look at countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. What is the GDP-cash ratio in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka? It is five percent or three percent. Even in Pakistan, it is nine percent. So let us accept that there is too much cash around. Let us also accept that there have been deliberate compulsions to use cash. Take for example the Payment of Wages Act. Section 6 of the Act, which has been there for years, has said you must pay wages in cash unless you have concurrence from the employee not to do so. Who will do so? Why should we have such a rule in this age? It is only now that things have changed; it should have been done years ago.

And take for instance the high fees on non-cash modes. Someone should have objected to the rates they charge. So let us also recognise that there have been disincentives not to use cash. Let us also remember that Jan Dhan Yojana accounts have already been made. So we have now more than 260 million accounts and many have RuPay cards. But sadly for them it is just a piece of plastic that will be used at ATMs as they have not been still educated and convinced that these RuPay card can be used for something else also.

Someone will come along and say, “Look at the unbanked population in India” and add that he doesn’t believe in Jan Dhan figures. So my response is that you shouldn’t believe in these figures. But here is the survey conducted in August — not by the government, but by a private institution, and it states that 97 to 98 percent of both rural and urban populations have bank accounts. Now, if one says that all of them are not using bank accounts, I may agree. But don’t say that they don’t have bank accounts.

How much exactly do the currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 account for in the economy? And how much of it have we got back?

There is a lot of confusion around as people are using two different bases. One is the RBI balance sheet figure which is slightly old and which puts the number at Rs 14 lakh crore. The other one is the figure on 8 November. It is the latest figure and it puts the number at almost Rs 16 lakh crore. Let’s stick to the Rs 16 lakh crore base. Now out of this how much was black? How much is going to come back into the system? To the best of my understanding, no one in the government has predicted or projected anything.

How much has already come in? We don’t really know. There are all kinds of figures floating around. These figures may not always be final.

Let’s take the example of fake currency. The fake currency check goes through three different layers. Once it has gone through all three it is very unlikely that it will be deposited in the banking system. But today when you are looking at the figures it is perfectly possible that fake currency was deposited earlier. Alternately, you go and take old notes at petrol pumps. It may be showing up in the accounts that petrol pumps maintain with the bank. It may also be showing up with the report that BPCL is giving to the government. So until the figures are final, one really does not know.

But the last figure I have is Rs 12 to 12.5 lakh crore. Which means, I personally think, that most people who were going to deposit it have already done so. Even if I accept that Rs 14 lakh crore comes in by the end of the month, the remaining Rs two lakh crore is not the indicator of success. A lot of criticism is happening that only Rs two lakh crore will be left. To the best of my knowledge, no one in the government has said that it is the criterion of success. And that’s because the money that is coming to the system has not become white. It will invite taxes and penalties if required and will have deeper scrutiny. Just because it is in the banking system does not mean it is legitimate.

I mentioned earlier that people who are holding cash are being dissuaded to do so. So it is good that it comes into the system. I think it is a success as people are realising that this initiative is a serious one. So there is not much point in my hanging on to cash. To my understanding, it is an attempt at cleaning up the entire system. So if I look at it narrowly just from an economist’s point of views, I am missing the true picture. This is the beginning of an attempt to clean up the gold market. I am not talking about jewellery market, which is different. It is also an attempt to clean up the financing of capital market transactions and real estate. And also, one has got electoral reforms as part of the debate agenda.

I am not saying that something substantial has happened, but it is part of the discourse. It should be seen as part of the broader process. You can dispute the survey figures. One survey says that 60 percent of the people are supporting you, another says that 80 percent back you. What you find across all surveys is that a large number of people are supporting the measure and it is because, I feel, they have realised that 8 November was just a small piece in the process.

My last point is when you are doing something like this you can plan perfectly. But when you do plan perfectly, it becomes impossible to preserve secrecy. To preserve secrecy, I may take some decisions, you in the same position may take some other decision. It cannot be the case that my decision will be perfect as I may not be able to assess all eventualities. But if you are in my place, you might also take decisions that might not have been perfect.

Obviously, there was inconvenience.

Let me divide it into different parts. One, the task was to get enough new notes to banks; two, naturally when there is a shortage there will be rationing. So in this scenario it is decided to take smaller denomination notes to rural areas; and three, it is one thing to get the notes to the bank and it is another to take it to ATMs. As a government you do not have much of control on how the banks take the money to the ATMs because it is outsourced. So there is a problem with banks and ATMs. I think, purely anecdotally as there is no data, that bank problem has decreased day-by-day even in Delhi and Mumbai. ATMs? Yes, there are still problems. I have no idea how long it will take.

From where did the word “windfall” gain currency in this entire exercise?

Right from the beginning, I have followed what the finance minister and the finance ministry have been saying. I have seen that there was a recognition that there are three different channels through which money will come. One is the money that does return. This reduces the liabilities of the RBI. When liabilities of the RBI are reduced that is not automatically the money that in any fraction has gone to or will go to the government. It is for RBI and finance ministry to take decisions. Today, sitting here we do not know how this part will be handled.

The second part is that there will be some money that will come into the banks, mostly public sector banks. It will ease their stressed assets problems and to that extent, it enables them to lend better. But again, the banks, even if they are public sector banks, are not the government. The third is the money that actually comes into the consolidated fund of India through taxes, penalties and other means.

Now I have two things to say on this. First, I have already mentioned the income declaration scheme. Over and above this, action has been taken by the income tax department. It has resulted in a lot of money coming in. Second, when I declare Rs 100 as additional income then those Rs 100 are not revenue to the government. Only the taxes and penalties are revenue to it. It is this money that the government can use for different purposes. How the government chooses to use it we will know partly on 1 February (Union Budget). I said ‘partly’ because we will not know the figure till the end of March, which is when the window shuts. As far as windfall gain is concerned, I don’t think the government has ever used this word.

When the prime minister announced demonetisation, he laid down certain objectives: Eliminating black money and fake currency, and tackling terrorist activities. But over time it seems that goalposts have changed.

No, I don’t think they have changed. There were multiple objectives. I will give you an example. On this issue, I have been giving interviews to different people. Somewhere, I would have said something to one person responding to specific questions and I would have said something different to another, but that does not mean that my focus changed. You see it is not a single objective. Lot of people are only referring to what the prime minister said after 8 Novembe. My request is that you look at what he has been saying earlier in his monthly radio broadcast Mann Ki Baat. This has been figuring in his speeches for quite some time. It is not fair to say that goalposts are changing.

Take the case of fake currency. I don’t think that the issue is absolute amount of fake currency. In 2014, the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) put the number at Rs 400 crore. There is an Intelligence Bureau (IB) figure of Rs 2,400 crore. It is not about what the exact value of fake currency is, but to understand that it does not take a lot of money for a terrorist attack with a lot of undesirable consequences. Even Rs 10 crore is good enough to cause enough damage. If I am destroying the counterfeit apparatus today there is no surety that it will not reappear in future. It has to be a continuous process.

So you are saying in a way that this talk of changing goalposts is not valid.

I think so. I have been listening to Modi. I think the most important objective here was to clean up the system.

Now the next strike in all probability will be on benami property. How do you think the government will be able to do this? How much impact will it have on real estate? Is there any assessment?

People have been complaining that real estate sector has been destroyed because of demonetisation. I ask what has been destroyed. Is it the value of the property? Is it the registered value of the property? There is a big difference between the two. Is it the black component or the white component? And the invariable reaction of anyone I speak to on this is that what has been destroyed is the black component. In Delhi, 50 percent of transactions use to be in black and 50 percent in white. Right now the system is in shock but I am certain that when it is stable, it will no longer be 50 percent black and 50 percent white. All of it may not go, but the amounts will reduce. Whenever the Goods and Services Tax (GST) is introduced, it will bring a lot more into the net. So it is part of the entire thing and not just 8 November.

The political part — the elections etc — requires a debate. It is not easy. And you have to also see that because of this a lot of poor people have started using non-cash means. So what I am seeing, though it is difficult to get it quantified, is that in many ways middle men are getting eliminated from the system.

How do you think it will impact the tax base?

Indirect tax will increase because of GST. There is a difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion. Tax avoidance is legal whereas tax evasion is illegal. So to broaden the direct income tax net, you need to take care of exemptions. Today, when a chartered accountant is not paying his taxes it is not always the case that he is evading. Rather he might have legitimate exemptions of which he can avail. I have a feeling that in future there will be a greater degree of enforcing that for certain transactions you cannot pay in cash. The segments that will be then made more accountable will be lawyers, chartered accountants and doctors.

There is another difficult issue that is linked to it: Taxing people in rural areas. Technically taxing agricultural income is a state subject but taxing non-agricultural income of the farmer is not a state subject. There is an issue there that is more about enforcement. So part of it is broadening the base, but also simultaneously ensuring that tax department, both direct and indirect, does not unnecessarily cause harassment to honest tax payers and I feel that we will see something on this line in the budget.

How do you react to reports of people illegally exchanging money? Do you feel that banks did not behave in the manner they were suppose to?

One of the channels that was misused quite a bit was exchange, which is really an RBI thing. I think there were three problems with banks. First, they were not very vigilant about the functioning of the ATMs. They were talking about whether the ATMs were calibrated, but I am talking about how many ATMs were working. Second, from the second day we knew from newspapers that bank officials, though they worked really hard, connived. How do we know that they connived? Because they have been caught. So there is a positive way also to look at this.

I am a little confused about the third as there is lack of information about it. There is a shortage of notes. When there is a shortage, there is a certain principle on which distribution is done. What is the principle that RBI follows in distributing notes to different banks and what is the principle that banks follow in distributing to different ATMs? I don’t have any information about this but I don’t think that this was done in a very rational kind of way. If a bank like SBI has many ATMs then the bank should have information on which ATM is used to what extent and the distribution should have taken place accordingly. Am I (as a bank) doing this with efficiency? I don’t think so.

Even in case of honesty, I am not very sure that it was very efficiently followed. But this is my analysis and is purely anecdotal. I often take this route between Khelgaon and Aurobindo Marg (in Delhi) and there are roughly 20 ATMs. Two days ago I found that 10 of them were working. If there is a general shortage then all should not be working. So I think it should be probed how they allocate money.

But there were so many news reports about how old currency was exchanged for a commission of 10 percent and 15 percent, which later came down to five percent.

If they have got less money, there is some destruction. There has been some tracking of this at aggregate level. Initially, when it happened, it was happening at 35 percent. It has not come down to five percent. It has come down to a 10 or 14 percent level. There is still destruction.

How do you react to the opinion emerging from the world around on demonetisation, some of them are calling it an ‘immoral act’?

I don’t understand what is immoral here. Let us get the principles clear.

Your money is in bank. No one said that you cannot use that money. All that has been said is that there is a limit on withdrawal.

You want to pay through cheque, you can do that freely. You do digital transactions, you are free to do that. So the first principle of criticism that I am being deprived of my property is factually incorrect. Please understand that someone who is based abroad does not know what is happening on ground here. They are forming their opinion on what you people are writing here in the Indian media.

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 09:40 IST

India, Bangladesh border to be completely sealed by mid 2018: Rajnath Singh

Guwahati: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said on Monday the security of the more than 200-kilometre-long Indo-Bangladesh border was a priority for the BJP government and it will be completely sealed in next one and a half years.

“We are committed to sealing the 223.7-km Indo-Bangladesh border and the process is on. It is expected to be completed within the next year and a half,” Singh said addressing BJP workers in Guwahati.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh. PTI

Home Minister Rajnath Singh. PTI

“Bangladesh is our neighbouring country and we share a good and warm relation, which we will continue to pursue and remain committed to in the future,” he said.

The Union minister, without referring to the issues of illegal migration and granting of citizenship to Hindu refugees, assured the people of Assam that BJP was committed to protect the interests of the indigenous population of the state as per Clause 6 of the Assam Accord.

“We are committed to Clause 6 of the Assam Accord and will protect it even if we have to amend the Constitution,” he said.

Referring to the updating of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, Singh said the process is underway and the state government should complete it soon.

The Union minister said the Centre will make no compromise on the issue of insurgency as he claimed that violence has considerably come down in the state.

“If any people or group have any grievances, problems or issues, we are ready to talk to them… We are ready to embrace them and talk. But if there is violence, there will be no compromise,” he added.

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 19:20 IST

Indo-Bangla border to be completely sealed by mid 2018: Rajnath Singh

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday said the security of the more than 200-kilometre-long Indo-Bangladesh border was a priority for the BJP government and it will be completely sealed in next one and a half years.”We are committed to sealing the 223.7-km Indo-Bangladesh border and the process is on. It is expected to be completed within the next year and a half,” Singh said addressing BJP workers here.”Bangladesh is our neighbouring country and we share a good and warm relation, which we will continue to pursue and remain committed to in the future,” he said. The Union minister, without referring to the issues of illegal migration and granting of citizenship to Hindu refugees, assured the people of Assam that BJP was committed to protect the interests of the indigenous population of the state as per Clause 6 of the Assam Accord.”We are committed to Clause 6 of the Assam Accord and will protect it even if we have to amend the Constitution,” he said. Referring to the updating of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, Singh said the process is underway and the state government should complete it soon. The Union minister said the Centre will make no compromise on the issue of insurgency as he claimed that violence has considerably come down in the state.”If any people or group have any grievances, problems or issues, we are ready to talk to them… We are ready to embrace them and talk. But if there is violence, there will be no compromise,” he added.

Militant hideout raided in Bangladesh

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The sound of an explosion and several gunshots were heard in the Bangladeshi capital on Saturday as police’s elite counter terrorism unit laid siege to a three-storey building where heavily-armed militants, belonging to a Islamist group behind the July 1 terror attack, are holed up.”The inmates have vowed to fight us with grenades… we are repeatedly asking them to give up,” Dhaka s police commissioner Asaduzzaman Mian told reporters at the scene at Ashkona area of the capital. He said two women already came out from the three-storey building with their children.Police said three militants believed to be operatives of neo-Jamaatun Mujahideen Bangladesh (neo-JMB) were inside the building.”One of the three is a son of a slain neo-JMB leader but we are yet to know the identity of two others,” Mia said.The outfit, said to be inclined to the Islamic State, was behind the July 1 terror attack on a Dhaka cafe in which 22 people, including 17 foreigners, were killed. The commissioner has said police wants to capture the militants alive without using force “as any miscalculation could appear deadly in this densely populated neighbourhood”.Another official at the scene said one of the two women who surrendered was the wife of a slain renegade ex-army major who was killed on September 2 this year in a police encounter during a nearly identical raid at Dhaka’s Mirpur area. The other woman was the wife of a neo-JMB leader.Witnesses said police was repeatedly asking the inmates to surrender using megaphones but they were threatening to detonate grenades tied to their bodies. Ambulances and fire fighting units were kept stand-by outside the building while elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and plainclothesmen cordoned off the area.

India v England: Ravindra Jadeja takes 7-48 to seal win in Chennai

England suffer a dismal batting collapse to slip to an innings-and-75-run defeat on the final day of the fifth Test against India in Chennai.

New American research study reconfirms distressing state of education in India

The recent report of New York based PEW Research Centre has analysed an inter-country comparison on the state of education, focusing on educational attainment among the major religions of the world. The Centre, part of the John Templeton Foundation, describes itself “as a non-partisan think tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world, while not taking any policy positions”. In possibly a first of its kind analysis, the report focuses on average number of years of schooling among the various religions of the world – it concludes that Jews average 13.4 years of schooling, compared to the international Christian average of 9.3 years, 7.9 years for the Buddhist – the depressing finding is that the Muslims and Hindus of the world undergo 5.6 years of schooling, as against the global average of 7.7 years.

The startling conclusion is that Hindus continue to have the lowest level of ‘educational attainment’ among other major religions of the world, despite substantial educational gains in the recent decade. “Hindu adults (age 25 and older) in the youngest generation analysed in the study have an average of 3.4 more years schooling than those in the oldest generation” – the good news stops there. ‘41 percent of Hindus have no formal education of any kind. Despite large gains by Hindu women across generations, Hindus still have a largest educational gender gap of any religious group’ – these are some of the findings of the 160 page detailed report of PEW Research Centre entitled ‘Region and Education around the World at Large’.

Representational image. Reuters.

Representational image. Reuters.

The report measures ‘educational attainment’, but does not assess the quality of education, using four broad levels of attainment and categories based on Unesco’s International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED). The focus of the study is on shares of population with no formal schooling coupled with post-secondary education, along with the average years of schooling to express the “level” of ‘educational attainment’ in the country’s population in a single number, based on a methodology created to capture cross-country comparison of educational attainment. The report groups 151 countries and territories, with available education and religious data, also listing the data sources used for each country, along with a comment on the challenges associated with measuring change in educational attainment across generations.

The vast majority of the world’s Hindus live in India (94 percent), or in Nepal and Bangladesh. In India, Hindus average 5.5 year schooling while in Nepal and Bangladesh the average is 3.9 and 4.6 years respectively. By startling contrast, the Hindus living in the US have 15.7 years of schooling, on average a full year more than the next most highly educated US religious group (Jews) and nearly 3 years more than the average American adult (12.9 years); Hindus in Europe also are highly educated, average 13.9 years of schooling, according to the report.

All this depressing news can well be generally collaborated by the recent similar studies by other international groups. Without going into the academic nitty-gritty, the broad picture emerging is the same. Various reports sharply highlight the abysmal state of education in India, in comparison with other countries; pointing to the public policy neglect that this sector has suffered over seven decades of our democracy. It is disturbing to note that as against the education of total world population of 7.9 years of average schooling, the advance country’s average 11.3 years of schooling, all developing country’s average 7.2 years of schooling – India trails behind at 5.6 years, at the very bottom of the pile. The only possible consolation is that India is only marginally ahead of Sub-Saharan Africa in this regard, trailing behind every region of Europe, Central Asia, Middle East as well as Latin America and the Caribbean. These findings are quite consistent with other international comparisons, including the ‘Legatum Prosperity Index’ of countries, in which India is close to the bottom. It is noteworthy that the European PISA Index, widely used as a measure of educational attainment and quality, which covers over 80 countries, does not include India in its study – anecdotal information refers to Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh inviting PISA for the study in the first decade of this century, which resulted in India being ranked second-last among the participating countries, just ahead of the last-placed Kirgizstan – surely this was ‘bad’ news; it is easier to shoot the messenger than receive bad news – thereafter India has had nothing to do with the PISA measurement system, labelling it irrational and unsuitable for India! The latest Barro-Lee Harvard findings in respect of South-Asian countries in relation to the other regions are apparently consistent with the above picture.

At Independence, the literacy rate in India was 11 percent. In the mid ‘40s, India as a founder Charter member of the post-war created United Nations, participated in the Declaration of Universal Right to Education. It took India six more decades to translate this internationally announced intention to domestic policy, through the enactment of the Right to Education (RTE). The RTE primarily stresses increased enrolment, with focus on school infrastructure – it has paid little attention to the critical issues of educational quality, and also on inclusivity which is an extremely important element in the Indian scene, relating to the economically and socially backward classes. There is no doubt that education now is much more widespread, and there are major gains in school participation over the past decade, along with noticeably improved gender balance, which are major gains. However, the good news ends here.

The NGO Pratham has been bringing out its Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) since 2005, on the basis of extensive household surveys conducted to assess children’s schooling status and basic reading levels in arithmetic. The 2000 survey covered 577 rural districts, and found that nearly half of the grade V students were not able to read at grade II level; and nearly the same proportion of grade V students did not have the basic arithmetic skills which they would have learned at the end of Grade II. The National Council of Research and Training (NCERT) has been conducting National Achievement Surveys periodically since 2001 for Classes III, V and VIII, covering all states. The latest NAS survey results which came out a couple of months back indicate a sharp fall in science, maths and English standards in comparison with the previous period. Clearly educational standards have fallen across the board, particularly in government schools all over the country. ASER 2014 also found that over 75 percent of children in Class III, over 50 percent in Class V and over 25 percent in Class VIII could not read text meant for the Class II level. At the all India level, the number of children in rural schools in Class II who could even recognise letters or the alphabets increased from 13.4 percent in 2010 to 32.5 percent in 2014. In the last year of the primary education in Class V, almost 20 percent of the children could only read letters, and are not literate even at this level; 14 percent could read words but not sentences; and 19 percent could read sentences but longer texts. Reading levels for children enrolled in government schools in Class V show a decline between 2010 and 2012. The gap in reading levels between children enrolled in government schools and private schools appears to be growing over time. Close to half of the children will finish eight years of schooling, but will still not have learned basic skills in arithmetic. While the PEW study focuses on number of years of schooling, the current fall in quality levels in India is a double-whammy – the current situation cannot be categorised as anything but catastrophic.

One additional word on the quality of the data which is recovered from the field will add to this disturbing portrayal. In 1994, the District Information System of Education (DISE) was introduced, designed to capture information from every school, routing it through the block level and aggregating at the district level for final compilation at state headquarters. U-DISE is now the ‘official statistics’; all other parallel connections for information is now discontinued. In concept, U-DISE is an extremely powerful instrument for gathering data, but its validity depends on the reliability of data being fed in the system. Since less than 10 percent schools have computers and reliable source of electricity, most of the data are generated manually and collated at block or district level. The reliability of the total data base at the state or national level is highly questionable, with wide variations among states.

The entire picture turns out to be one of great worry and concern. On the one hand, the average Indian gets less schooling than nearly every child in the world; even the existing data on average schooling and dropout rates are highly questionable. The quality of education at primary level, and indeed at all levels, is abysmal. All of this makes a terrible picture.

Indeed should this be so? As the PEW report points out, the child of Indian origin living in the US has higher educational attainments than any other ethnic community; the Indian child in Europe is among the most educated in that continent. There is enormous talent in the most backward regions of the most backward parts of India. There is sufficient evidence that the Indian child is as good a learner, given the opportunity, compared to any other in the world. In a relatively unknown experiment, the VidyaGyan school system of the Shiv Nadar Foundation, over the past eight years has been providing primary and secondary education to talented village children, selected only from rural government schools, coming from Below Poverty Line (BPL) families, and training them through good education and provision of minimal health care, leading up to the CBSE examinations – the results are amazing. Indeed in the 2016 CBSE Board examinations, every child passed the examination in the First Class, and most of them obtained merit admission to prestigious higher education institutions in India and abroad, some with full fellowship. No further proof is required of the potential to be educated – all that is required is give them basic coaching with decent nutrition facilities. It is a measure of the failure of governance over seven decades, that this fundamental aspect of human development in a democracy has been totally neglected.

This can be reversed in a decade. A new approach, with focus on quality, importance to the student and the teacher as opposed to the current accent on glorifying the politician and the bureaucrat in the field, with appropriate linkages with technology can transform the education scene. It is a tragedy that the critical importance of reforming the education sector has not yet been realised by our policy makers – the existing dispensation is apparently still under the illusion that continuation of existing policies, with incremental sporadic band-aid intervention is adequate. The PEW report is a reminder of our colossal blunders, and more importantly a call for urgent new action, if our democracy is to have a future.

First Published On : Dec 18, 2016 11:48 IST

Congress hits back at Modi over Indira Gandhi jibe, says he should stop ‘insulting’ former PMs

New Delhi: The Congress asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to stop “insulting” former heads of government, a day after the Prime Minister cited a book to say Indira Gandhi paid no heed to the Wanchoo Committee’s recommendation to demonetise high-value currency notes in 1971.

PM Narendra Modi had claimed. ReutersPM Narendra Modi had claimed. Reuters

PM Narendra Modi had accused Congress of putting its own interests before the nation’s. Reuters

“Stop insulting former prime ministers. Change the narrative and mindset. From Jawaharlal Nehru to Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Manmohan Singh to Indira Gandhi, it’s a long list. When you insult them you do not insult Indira and Nehru, you also insult Lal Bahadur Shastri and Morarji Desai who demonetised high-value currency in 1978,” the party’s deputy leader in Rajya Sabha, Anand Sharma, said at the FICCI conference.

Modi had cited a book to say that when the then Finance Minister YB Chavan went to Indira Gandhi in support of the exercise, she asked, “Only one question. Are no elections to be fought by the Congress party?”

Accusing the Congress of putting its interests before the country’s, he had said what should have been done in 1971 has been done now by his government and that the delay in launching demonetisation caused a lot of damage to the country.

Replying to this, the Congress leader said, “It is sad. 1971 was the year when India gave Indira Gandhi a massive mandate. The same year we were challenged by the then East Pakistan. India had 10 million refugees. Genocide was going on in what is now known as Bangladesh. China, siding with Pakistan, had moved troops to the border. India had the courage and strength to take the decision and the rest is history.”

The country had just celebrated Vijay Diwas on Friday to mark the win over Pakistan in the 1971 war. “It was a day to salute
Indira and not insult her,” Sharma said.

Taking a dig at Modi for calling himself a fakir, Sharma said, “I do not have that kind of a wardrobe but I will not call myself a fakir. We are public servants. We must serve people and understand their pain. We must have humility.”

Asked as to when Rahul Gandhi will make public the graft charges against Modi he claims to have proof of, Sharma said, “It will be done at the right time.”

He also alleged that BJP purchased land in many states before the prime minister announced the decision to scrap high-value
notes on 8 November and demanded the Centre bring a white paper on demonetisation. “Crores of rupees were deposited in banks and all that information should come through a white paper,” he said.

Sharma said the government in power needs to maintain balance “before issuing any narrative and for good governance. It is important to have a responsible opposition”.

First Published On : Dec 17, 2016 20:11 IST

We did great with the Hindus, want to thank you: Donald Trump

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>US President-elect Donald Trump has acknowledged the contribution of Indian-Americans in his electoral triumph, saying his victorious campaign did “great with the Hindus”.”We have a lot of people here tonight from the Indian community, Hindus. We did great with the Hindus,” Trump said while addressing thousands of his supporters during a “Thank You” rally in Orlando, Florida, the key battle ground state where he emerged victorious.The event in Florida, which has a sizeable Indian-American population, was attended by a large number of community members. This is for the first time that Trump has acknowledged the contribution of Indian-Americans and Hindus in his historic electoral victory. “Where are they? We have a big group. There they are. I want to thank you. You folks were amazing. They were amazing and voted and they were fantastic,” Trump said, pointing his fingers to the Indian-American community present at the rally.Fortnight before the elections, Trump attended a charity event organised by Republican Hindu Coalition to raise funds for Hindu victims of terror in Kashmir and Bangladesh. This was for the first time a presidential candidate attended an Indian-American event.In his address, Trump pledged to work for betterment of India-US relationship and said he would be the best friend of India in the White House. He praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his economic reforms and steps that he has taken to remove bureaucratic red tape. After Trump’s address, his family members visited temples in both Florida and Virginia; a first time for a presidential campaign.The Trump Campaign also released an advertisement in which he was seen saying “Aab Ki Baar Trump Sarkar”, copying Modi’s historic 2014 election punchline.Republican Hindu Coalition chairman Shalabh Salli Kumar said all this had an impact on voting pattern of Indian- Americans, who traditionally have been a strong Democratic supporters. Based on a survey, Kumar said more than 60% of the community members voted for Trump this time.In his address, Trump asked people to dream big. “Dream big and bold and daring. I am asking you to believe in yourself and asking you to believe in America. Together we will make America great again,” he said.Trump reiterated his plan of extreme vetting of refugee, asylum and visa applicants seeking to enter the US from regions where terrorists have strongholds. He said his administration will suspend immigration from some regions where applicants “cannot be safely processed or vetted” due to a lack of government records.

PM Modi pays tributes to armed forces on Bangla Liberation Day

Fri, 16 Dec 2016-07:50pm , New Delhi , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>On the occasion of Bangladesh Liberation Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday paid tributes to the armed forces for their valour and sacrifice in the 1971 war with Pakistan.”Vijay Diwas is a fitting reminder of the valour & sacrifice of all those who fought courageously in the 1971 war. Tributes to them,” he said.On this day in 1971, Pakistan’s army had surrendered before the joint forces of ‘Mukti Bahini’ of Bangladesh and Indian soldiers who fought side by side for the liberation of 750 million people of Bangladesh at that time.

VK Singh compares Pakistan army with Nazis for Bangladesh atrocities

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Drawing parallel between atrocities of Pakistani army in then East Pakistan and those by Nazi forces, Union Minister VK Singh on Friday said Pakistan army’s actions were against humanity which led to its downfall in the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war.The day of December 16 for all those who took part in the liberation war of Bangladesh evokes emotions and nostalgia, the former Indian army chief said. “The type of atrocities which went on in Bangladesh (before liberation) is something which probably the world has forgotten,” Singh said during a seminar on ‘1971 India-Pakistan War and the Liberation of Bangladesh’ organised by India Foundation at Nehru Memorial Museum and Library.”I do not think the people of Bangladesh of that period have forgotten, but the coming generations, probably have founded easier to put it somewhere in the corner and forget. “Those who have probably read some of those accounts (atrocities) they defy or belittle what the Nazis did during their period…,” the Minister of State for External Affairs said.”There was a race improvement camp (in Bangladesh). I do not think we have heard of such a thing after the Nazi period but it was there. How can we forget such atrocities. “How can we forget that a so-called professional army which was till 1947 a part of British Indian army could turn around in a manner which nobody does in the world,” he said.Singh said the 1971 war is important for India in many ways. “One, it changed the geography of south Asia in a manner in which the political lines were drawn. “Second, it was proved that the two-nation theory was wrong and when you talk of military history in the world, there is no other country which achieved so much militarily in such a short period of time. “I feel that we need to not only remember the sacrifices of our people, we also need to remember that there was an army which went on a rampage which did things which were against humanity and that was a reason for their downfall. If 93,000 people surrendered, it was because they had lost the will to stand up,” Singh said.The 13-day war was the greatest in military history of the world in many ways, the Minister said. “This kind of victory was achieved in the shortest possible period… when there was a big power which was ensuring that we do not liberate a country which was oppressed for so many years,” Singh said.This was a war which saw political and military leaderships rise to the occasion to combine their intellect to ensure that the victory was achieved in the shortest possible time, he said, adding that “I salute all the veterans who were participants of the war”.

Will soon name next IA and IAF chiefs: Manohar Parrikar

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

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

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

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

File photo of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

File photo of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

File photo of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

File photo of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Announcement of next army chief will be very soon, says Manohar Parrikar

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Friday said the announcement of the next army chief would be very soon. Parrikar along with three service chiefs paid tributes to the bravehearts who laid down their lives during 1971 India-Pakistan war on the occasion of Vijay Diwas. “I don’t have to stress the importance of the day. It’s a day when we achieved a decisive victory and created a new country,” Parrikar said.On this day in 1971, the chief of the Pakistani forces General Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi, along with 93,000 troops had surrendered unconditionally to the allied forces consisting of Indian Army and Mukti Bahini, led by General Jagjit Singh Aurora in Dhaka after their defeat in the war. The end of the war also resulted in subsequent secession of East Pakistan into Bangladesh.Special programmes are also being organised at the headquarters of the Eastern Command at the Fort William in Kolkata to celebrate the day.Led by Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan, a 72-member delegation of war veterans and Mukti Jodahas from the neighbouring country will take part in Vijay Diwas celebrations.

Hindus have ‘lowest level of education’ among major religions: Pew survey

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Hindus continue to have the lowest level of educational attainment among other major religions of the world despite having made substantial educational gains in recent decade, a latest Pew research said.”Hindus have made substantial educational gains in recent decades. Hindu adults (ages 25 and older) in the youngest generation analysed in the study, for example, have an average of 3.4 more years of schooling than those in the oldest generation,” Pew said.However, Hindus still have the lowest level of educational attainment of any major religious group in this study which is topped by Jews. Globally, the average 5.6 years of schooling, and 41 per cent of Hindus have no formal education of any kind. One-in-ten have post-secondary degrees, the report said.At the same time, despite large gains by Hindu women across generations, Hindus still have the largest educational gender gap of any religious group, said the report titled ‘Religion and Education Around the World Large’ released by Pew Research Center.In its report, running into 160 pages, Pew said Jews are more highly educated than any other major religious group around the world, while Muslims and Hindus tend to have the fewest years of formal schooling.Drawing on census and survey data from 151 countries, the study also finds large gender gaps in educational attainment within some major world religions.”For example, Muslim women around the globe have an average of 4.9 years of schooling, compared with 6.4 years among Muslim men. And formal education is especially low among Hindu women, who have 4.2 years of schooling on average, compared with 6.9 years among Hindu men,” the report said.”On average, Hindu men have 2.7 more years of schooling than Hindu women, and just over half of Hindu women (53 per cent) have no formal schooling, compared with 29 per cent of Hindu men,” the report said, adding that even in the youngest generation of adults in the study, Hindu women are considerably more likely than Hindu men to have received no formal education (38 per cent vs 20 per cent).The vast majority of the world’s Hindus live in India (94 per cent) or in the bordering countries of Nepal (2.3 per cent) and Bangladesh (1.2 per cent).”In these three countries, Hindus tend to have low levels of education; in India, Hindus average 5.5 years of schooling, while in Nepal and Bangladesh they average 3.9 and 4.6 years, respectively,” Pew said.”However, in countries outside the Asia-Pacific region, where Hindus are a small religious minority, they are much more highly educated and often are the most highly educated religious group in a particular country,” the report noted.For instance, Hindus in the US have 15.7 years of schooling, on average a full year more than the next most highly educated US religious group (Jews), and nearly three years more than the average American adult (12.9 years).Hindus in Europe also are highly educated, averaging 13.9 years of schooling, Pew said.

Indo-US military logistics pact is ‘mundane’: Richard Verma

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> US Ambassador to India Richard Verma on Wednesday said the military logistics memorandum agreement signed with India was mundane in nature and was only limited to logistics.”The logistics memorandum agreement between India and the US is only limited to logistics and mundane in nature. There is no question of India compromising on its security by signing the pact,” Verma told reporters at thePress Club here. He said the agreement would enable both countries to share bases, fuel and food and was a good recognition of where the bilateral ties stood today. CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury had earlier demanded the contents of the military logistics pact between India and the US be made public. Verma, who had been in office in India for the last two years, said the defence ties with India “stand on its own.” “Defence relations with India stand on its own and is not a buyer-seller relation,” the Ambassador said.He said both countries had important defence deals in the past as well. “We have a special cell in the Pentagon that looks only after these matters and the US does not have this kind of arrangement with any other country,” he said. “US and India are the world’s largest two democracies with 1.6 billion people. If the two countries are close friends, then the world will be a safer and a prosperous place. There is a ripple effect,” Verma said. To a query on the US’ position on Pakistan as an “exporter of terrorism”, Verma said there has been condemnation of cross-border terrorism from their side. “The US has been speaking about condemnation of cross-border terrorism which has to end. We want to see that kind of unity in our relations with India. With Pakistan, it is complex, based on cross-border terrorism. With India it is on a different plane,” he said.Asked about the future of Indo-US relations under the new dispensation, he said, “In the coming years, US and India relations will continue as it is today.” “Relations between India and US is on an upward trajectory and irreversible. Indians settled in the US will continue be the natural bridge between the two countries,” Verma said. “We believe it is the strategic interest of the US to see a stronger India. We strongly believe in that,” he said.On the economic front, he said US was the largest trading partner of India with two-way trade hovering at USD 100 billion. There were 500 US companies in India and 100 Indian companies in the US, he said. Verma was in the city to attend a seminar on regional connectivity where participants from Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Thailand were present, besides USA and India. He also said US was ready to share its best practices on dealing with border security to help countries in protecting their citizens.

Demonetisation: Meghalaya Police nabs three GNLA terrorists, hopes for more to surrender soon

Despite the Opposition claims that demonetisation has failed to make the desired impact on terrorist groups, Meghalaya Police has successfully used it as a tool to fight the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA), one of the dreaded outfits in the state.

The Meghalaya Police has not only contained regrouping of the terrorist outfit but also made one of its top leaders, Nikam C Momin alias Baichung C, surrender using demonetisation as part of its strategy. Momin, who is the second in command of the outfit surrendered on last Friday after failing to convert old currency notes amounting to Rs 27 lakh.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Anand Mishra, Superintendent of Police, South Garo Hills District told Firstpost, “Due to incessant operations by the Meghalaya Police, the group had already become weaker than earlier. Demonetisation came as a bolt from the blue for the outfit. It was like a final blow to the GNLA. ”

Soon after Momin, another aide of the group, Lingdho N Sangma, surrendered on the same night. The Meghalaya Police expect the entire group to surrender soon along with its commander-in-chief Sohan D Shira.

“We have to wait for a month or so before the entire GNLA winds up,” says Mishra.

The surrender by the two GNLA members has happened after repeated claims in the media that demonetisation has failed to create the desired impact on north eastern terrorist outfits since a large number of tribes in the region are exempted from income tax.

“It is true that many tribes in the region are free from the legal compulsion to file income tax returns. Hence, it is often believed that money deposited in the bank accounts of the tax exempted region are not subject to scrutiny,” said an official in Assam Police, posted in the Assam-Meghalaya border of the region.

“But it is clearly not the case. A person suspected to be transacting terror money can be subjected to investigation and interrogation,” he added.

Rather than waiting for the terrorist groups to get frustrated on account of failure in currency conversion, the Meghalaya Police prepared a pro-active counter-terrorism strategy tailored to take advantage of the situation created by demonetisation.

“We learnt from sources that the GNLA has enough old currency notes to convert into the new ones. Since the leaders could not come to the banks themselves to convert the currency, we had every reason to believe that they will employ conduits to do the same,” said Mishra. The Meghalaya Police kept an eye on the over-ground cadres of the terrorist outfit.

“Since effective sensitisation has been made among the people about the risk of converting currency derived from doubtful sources, people have become cautious. So, terror groups are now left with no other option but to send their over-ground cadres to exchange the currency,” says a police official in Assam.

The strategy helped the police arrest three conduits who deposited Rs 27 lakhs of terror money in a bank, thus leading to the surrender of Baichung.

Mishra also informed that the Meghalaya Police has seized one crore rupees terror money after demonetisaion.

Normally, the extortion money that the GNLA collects is kept in the form of cash by the militant outfit. “The group wraps the currency notes with polythene and put them in a dry moulded plastic water tank. These tanks are then buried in the forest,” Mishra said, explaining the money hiding method used by the GNLA.

Earlier, the north-eastern terrorist groups had the option to convert Indian Rupee to Bangladeshi currency. However, Mishra says that this option is closed for them after demonetisation because old Indian currency notes are also not accepted in Bangladesh eiher.

The GNLA has also been debilitated by repeated counter-insurgency measures launched by the Meghalaya Police. “Now the group is left with only 20 to 25 cadres. After the final blow of demonetisation, we hope all of them will surrender soon,” said Mishra.

First Published On : Dec 13, 2016 08:33 IST

Qatar’s new labour law won’t stop abuses of migrant workers, say rights groups | Reuters

By Ed Upright

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – – Qatar’s labour law reforms won’t end the abuse and exploitation faced by migrant workers in the country – and may even make it worse, human rights groups said on Monday.The Qatari government said a new law coming into effect on Tuesday will replace the controversial “kafala” or sponsorship system that forces foreign workers to seek their employer’s consent to change jobs or leave the country.Rights groups say the kafala system has forced workers to live in squalor and toil under dangerous, sometimes fatal, conditions which amount to modern-day slavery.Qatar is spending billions of dollars on infrastructure related to the World Cup it is hosting in 2022 and has imported hundreds of thousands of construction workers from countries such as India, Nepal and Bangladesh for ambitious building projects.The reforms won’t lead to significant changes on the ground, however, according to an Amnesty International report which says workers will continue to need their employer’s permission to change jobs and will still require exit permits to leave the oil-rich Gulf state.”This new law may get rid of the word ‘sponsorship’ but it leaves the same basic system intact,” James Lynch, deputy director for global issues at Amnesty International, said in a statement.

“FIFA [football’s governing body that organises the World Cup] its sponsors and foreign governments seeking business ties with Qatar cannot and must not use this reform to claim that the problem of migrant labour abuse has been solved.”According to Amnesty, abusive employers can also withhold workers’ passports under a new loophole – something that wasn’t allowed under the previous laws.The International Trade Union Confederation told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that despite the new laws, “Qatar remains a slave state”.

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said: “This is just new labels on old laws. The exit permit system still remains a fact of life. This is just a relabelling of an extremely exploitative system.”The Qatar government on Monday said the reforms would make it easier for migrant workers to change jobs and leave the country, bringing “tangible benefits”.”The new law is the latest step towards improving and protecting the rights of every expatriate worker in Qatar,” Labour Minister Issa al-Nuami said in a statement.

“We urge the international community not to draw any definitive conclusions until there has been time to see the new law in action.”The Qatari embassy in London did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Amnesty report on Monday.Bangladeshi labour activists said on Friday they had joined a lawsuit in Switzerland against FIFA for allegedly failing to use its influence to ensure people working on World Cup facilities in Qatar are treated fairly.The suit, filed in FIFA’s home city of Zurich with the backing of the Netherlands’ largest labour union, calls on FIFA to force Qatar to adopt “minimum labour standards” for migrant workers preparing for the tournament. (Reporting by Ed Upright; Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)

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

First Published On : Dec 13, 2016 00:24 IST

American connection in Indian Islamic State modules

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>An 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 recruiterAbu Isa al Amriki–one of the planners of the terror group’s external operations division which planned and executed terror attacks in foreign countries– to have set his eyes on India for recruitment of young Muslims. NIA officials have found glaring similarities in the modus operandi employed by al Amriki in at least two instances, Hyderabad module involving five men and a case of a lone wolf in Kolkata where the suspects were ready to commit terror acts in the name of IS. It has now prompted the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to keep a close eye and coordinate with the NIA on the Indian IS related cases.A team of FBI officials arrived in Kolkata, last week, to interrogate IS suspect Mohammad Masiuddin alias Musa, who was instructed by his handler to target foreigners particularly US nationals, behead them with machete and make videos of the act. In December 2015, the FBI uncovered a plot involving American citizens to attack revellers on new year’s eve with machete and knives in the name of IS. The man who masterminded the new year plot, Amriki, is now found to have influenced Hyderabad resident Ibrahim Yazdani.“We are in touch with the FBI and American authorities on the investigation in the IS cases. They have refused to accept Amriki as an American national (he is described as Sudanese) but have charged him in the New York case,’’ a senior NIA official said. He added that Amriki was using the social media platforms to influence people worldwide including US and Indian nationals to join IS in Syria or make terror attacks in their home country.Killed in April this year in a US coalition forces airstrike outside his home in Aleppo, Syria, Amriki and his wife were prominent recruiters for the IS. In an FBI investigation, Amriki was indicted for his role in recruitment and indoctrination of a New York resident Emanuel Lutchman to plan an attack on US soil. Lutchman was also advised to make a video making a pledge of allegiance to IS before making the operation, so that IS can claim responsibility for the attack.Like in the Lutchman plot, Amriki encouraged Yazdani to leave the land of kuffar (infidels) and make a hijra (immigrate) to Syria to join the IS. When Yazdani failed to travel to Syria, Amriki gave him contact of another Urdu speaking fighter who directed him to recruit more `brothers’ and form a module to make terror attack in India.In neighbouring Bangladesh, IS in alliance with Jamatul Mujaheedin Bangladesh– a home-grown terrorist group banned since 2005–carried a series of attacks targeting foreign nationals and minority community with machetes including the deadly attack at Holey Cafe in Dhaka. According to Kolkata police and NIA investigation, Massiudin was recruited by Abu Suleiman–allegedly one of the top JMB leaders in Bangladesh to commit terror attack, which IS will announce as its India operation.The overlapping trajectories involving machetes and foreign nationals, prompted the US Embassy in New Delhi last month to issue a travel advisory to American citizens warning of increased threats of attacks by IS.FBI interrogates IS Suspect MusaA team of FBI officials arrived in Kolkata, last week, to interrogate IS suspect Mohammad Masiuddin alias Musa, who was instructed by his handler to target foreigners particularly US nationals, behead them with machete and make videos of the act. In December 2015, the FBI uncovered a plot involving American citizens to attack revellers on new year’s eve with machete and knives in the name of IS. The man who masterminded the new year plot, Amriki, is now found to have influenced Hyderabad resident Ibrahim Yazdani.

India should deal with PoK, just like Indira Gandhi handled Bangladesh Liberation: Shiv Sena

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Shiv Sena on Saturday called on the Centre to abandon all endeavours for international help in dealing with the Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) issue and said that the matter should be handled in the way former prime minister Indira Gandhi dealt with the Bangladesh Liberation War- by going to war against Pakistan. Indira Gandhi had concluded that instead of taking in millions of refugees, it was economical to go to war against Pakistan and charged head on into the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971.Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said that India must handle the situation themselves and refrain from dragging the international community in the matter, as the same solution could be used by separatists over Kashmir. “We are not going to get any international help on this matter. If we talk about brining help from the global arena, then the separatists sitting in India and the Pakistan High Commissioner in Delhi will do the same for our Kashmir. India should interfere directly in PoK, the way Indira Gandhi did with Bangladesh,” Raut said.Asserting that the responsibility was solely on the Indian government in the matter, the Shiv Sena leader added that the Centre has shown the nation the dream of a unified India and must come through in it.Under Indira Gandhi’s India provided aid to about 10 million people who fled their homes to the neighbouring West Bengal, Tripura, Meghalaya and Assam, to escape the Pakistani army in 1971 India sent its troops to fight against Pakistani and at the end of a nine month-long war, Bangladesh was put on the world map.Meanwhile, anti-Pakistan protests erupted as Kashmiris complained of human rights violations by Islamabad on the people living along the Line of Control (LoC) in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). Pakistan police and paramilitary forces brutally assaulted leaders and activists of the Peace Committee, a coalition of progressive and nationalist organisations in PoK.The Peace Committee was protesting against the activities of Jihadi groups in the area and when they refused to stop their sloganeering and March, they were thrashed by the security personnel.Several people participating were severely injured after they were baton charged and hit by tear gas shells.The police and the paramilitary personnel also stopped the demonstrators from approaching the Line of Control (LoC).

Exclusive: Bangladesh panel finds insiders negligent in central bank heist | Reuters

By Serajul Quadir

DHAKA A Bangladesh government-appointed panel investigating the cyber-heist of $81 million from its central bank in February found five officials at the bank were guilty of negligence and carelessness, the head of the panel told Reuters on Thursday.In his first detailed comments on the inquiry since a report was submitted to the government in May, former central bank governor Mohammed Farashuddin said the officials were low to mid-level and were not directly involved in the crime. “They were negligent, careless and indirect accomplices,” he said in an interview in his office. “The committee came to the conclusion that the heist was essentially committed by external elements.”Bangladesh has so far refused to make the inquiry report public saying it wanted to deny perpetrators knowledge of the investigation into one of the world’s biggest cyber-heists.It was not immediately known if Bangladesh had shared the report with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, the main agency investigating the crime.Farashuddin did not name the officials he found were negligent. A senior central bank official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said no action had been taken against any employee since the inquiry report had not been made public.Bangladesh Bank spokesman Subhankar Saha declined comment.

Although over 10 months have passed since the heist, there have been no arrests and no word on who carried out the complex heist. Hackers used stolen credentials to try to transfer nearly $1 billion from Bangladesh Bank’s account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York through the SWIFT transaction system. Many of the transfer orders were blocked or reversed but $81 million was sent to accounts in a branch of Rizal Commercial Banking Corp (RCBC) in the Philippines.The money eventually went into the sprawling casino industry in the Philippines and most of it remains untraced.

Like Bangladesh police investigators, Farashuddin said the inquiry panel also found the hackers may have exploited loopholes in the bank’s online security when technicians hooked up the central bank’s local money transfer system with SWIFT’s international payments network late last year. SWIFT has denied charges that its technicians were responsible for exposing Bangladesh Bank’s systems to hackers.Reuters has reported earlier that Bangladesh Bank had not protected its computer system with a firewall, and used second-hand $10 electronic switches to network computers linked to SWIFT, weaknesses that the hackers may also have exploited.Farashuddin said that RCBC was responsible for allowing the stolen funds to be withdrawn and disbursed into the casino industry. Bangladesh has said it wants RCBC to compensate it for its losses.

RCBC has said Bangladesh Bank was “negligent” in letting the initial security breach take place there, and hence the Manila-based bank need not pay any compensation. So far only about $15 million of the stolen funds have been recovered.Farashuddin said his personal opinion was it would be better to make the inquiry report public, since it would make clear that some local officials were negligent but not responsible for the heist.”If the government would publish, then Bangladesh Bank’s position would be strengthened,” he said.Bangladesh’s law minister said earlier this week that his government would share the findings of the inquiry with Philippine authorities. (Writing by Krishna N. Das; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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

First Published On : Dec 8, 2016 20:51 IST

Kolkata: FBI team arrives to interrogate Islamic State operative Musa

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A seven-member team of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the domestic intelligence and security service of the United States, have arrived in West Bengal to interrogate ISIS operative Musa. The team arrived at the National Investigation Agency (NIA) office in Kolkata on Thursday afternoon. 25-year-old Mohammad Masiuddin alias Musa was arrested from Burdwan railway station by the CID on July 4 on charges of radicalising youths to join ISIS. Later, the probe was taken over by the NIA and the agency is currently probing his links to Jamaat-Ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and also the Dhaka attacks. While the Superintendent of Police of the zonal unit of NIA in Kolkata, Soumitra Dhar refused to divulge the reason of interrogation, sources in the NIA reveal that Musa had agreed to take on an assignment from a JMB leader Abu Suleiman to target foreigners and US nationals in India and behead them.In March 2015, Musa had met Abu Suleiman in West Bengal during his sister’s wedding. Musa had been in touch with Suleiman over Facebook, but Suleiman had expressed his wish to meet Musa in person. Later, Musa invited him to attend his sister’s wedding, held in Bengal. Suleiman is now on the run and both – the Indian and Bangladeshi governments are looking for him.Musa came under the scanner of CID and NIA after his e-mails and calls were traced to Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Syria. Officials in the investigating agency highlight that he had been touch with several ISIS operatives in Syria through social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Initial investigations revealed that he had also been in touch with several JMB operatives in Bangladesh.Earlier, in the month of August, a three-member-team of Bangladesh’s security intelligence department had also come to Kolkata to interrogate Musa.

Hindu temple vandalised, 7 idols smashed in Bangladesh

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A Hindu temple was vandalised and seven idols of goddess Kali were today destroyed by some miscreants in two separate incidents in Bangladesh, weeks after over 10 temples of the minority community were attacked in the Muslim- majority nation.The first incident came to light after people of Mymensinghorohi village in Netrokona district found the doors of a temple open this morning. Upon entering its premises, they noticed the temple was vandalised. Four broken idols of goddess Kali were also found lying close to the temple, a senior police officer told PTI. Immediately, police launched an investigation.”We have collected evidence of the vandalism and started a probe. It was learnt that the temple’s doors were not locked. We are looking for those behind this heinous act,” Netrokona sadar police Officer-in-Charge Shahnur-e-Alam said. Netrokona Additional District Magistrate Abdul Matin said those responsible will be punished.”We are treating the case with priority. A group with vested interests may have carried out the crime to disrupt communal harmony,” Netrokona Superintendent of Police Joydeb Chowdhury. In a separate incident, unidentified assailants vandalised three Kali statues in clandestine predawn attack on a Hindu temple in northwestern Pabna district.”Three statues of Hindu goddess Kali were found broken at a temple at Bera (sub-district) of Pabna… the miscreants visibly entered the temple early in the morning and damaged the statues,” a police officer told reporters in Pabna. Badal Ghosh, secretary of the Sharifpur Kali Temple committee, demanded immediate arrest of the attackers.There have been several incidents of attacks on Hindu temples in the past. In October last week, miscreants set on fire at least six houses of Hindus in a predawn attack in Brahmanbarhia district’s Nasirnagar, the place where at least 15 temples and more than 20 houses were vandalised after a Facebook post deemed offensive to Islam sparked outrage in the country.A cyber cafe owner was arrested last month for allegedly masterminding attacks on Hindu temples and houses. The attacks on several Hindu temples in Bangladesh were carried out under a well orchestrated plan aimed at grabbing lands of the minority community, National Human Rights Commission had said.

Indian Navy keeping close eye on Chinese ships in Indian Ocean region: Sunil Lanba

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Indian Navy on Friday said it was aware of the deployment and movement of Chinese naval ships and submarines in the Indian Ocean region, and that it has “kept a close eye” on them.Addressing the annual ‘Naval Day’ news conference in New Delhi, Navy Chief Sunil Lanba said a Chinese nuclear submarine was deployed in the Indian Ocean and it did a port call at Karachi harbour. “As far as People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy ships and submarines are concerned, the Indian Navy keeps a close eye and monitor their movements. We have maritime domain awareness of the deployment of PLA naval forces in the Indian Ocean region (IOR). We launch surveillance missions in the form of aircraft and ships to keep a track of them. They had started deployment of their submarines from 2012,” he said.The Navy also termed as “bogus” the claims made by Pakistan that an Indian submarine had entered into territorial waters. “There was no Indian submarine deployed in the area where the Pakistani Navy is claiming it to be. As far as repelling a submarine of any nation goes, it is not an easy task and the claim made by Pakistani Navy is totally bogus. We deploy submarines where there is an operational necessity and we will continue to deploy them,” Lanba said.The Pakistani Navy had last month claimed that it had prevented an Indian submarine from entering its territorial water. The Chief of Naval Staff said India’s primary area of interest was the IOR followed by Strait of Bab el Mandeb and the Strait of Hormuz.In response to a question on Indian Navy’s capabilities in the Pacific region, Lanba said, “The Navy is well within its capabilities to operate in the region.” Lanba also sought to downplay the Bangladesh Navy acquiring its first submarines from China, saying “India has a plan in place that takes into account what is happening in the neighborhood.”When asked about the South China sea dispute, the Navy chief said maritime issues should be solved as per United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). He added that the Kalavari Class Scorpene submarine will be commissioned next year. “She has successfully finished dry trials and further trials are in progress,” Lanba said.

Nagrota attack: Terrorists infiltrated through small tunnel near border, unexploded shells destroyed

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Keeping in mind the recent terror attack on an Army base in Nagrota, Jammu and Kashmir, the Ministry of Home Ministry (MHA) on Wednesday deployed a five-member team to visit the Indo-Bangladesh border in Bangaon to inspect the security arrangements.A meeting was also conducted with the Border Security Force (BSF) troops deployed at the border, asking them to increase surveillance to halt any infiltration bids from across the border.Briefing the media here, BSF DG KK Sharma said that concerted efforts have been made to modernise the nation’s border fences.”A part of Bangladesh border is unfenced including water bodies so humanly not possible for me to put manpower in such areas. We are making efforts to fill the unfenced gaps using technology,” he said.Talking about the recent Samba encounter, Sharma informed that the terrorists has infiltrated through a small tunnel in border area, adding that as of now no technology exists with the BSF to detect tunnels.”Since surgical strikes, more than 15 Pakistan Rangers have been killed and more than 10 militants neutralised. Also many Pakistan border outposts have been destroyed. Post surgical strikes, we started an operation called ‘Operation Rustom’ as we anticipated that problems won’t be confined to LoC and will affect the IB too,” Sharma said.Meanwhile, blinds (unexploded shells) were destroyed today at the site of the deadly terror attack on an army base in Nagrota, Jammu and Kashmir, by a bomb disposal team during the combing operations that are still underway.Extensive combing operations resumed today morning in Nagrota, where terrorists attacked an army base in which seven defence personnel lost their lives.

Demonetisation: Move restricts black money and insurgency in North East, albeit temporarily

Wearied by the long journey from Manipur to Delhi, Dina walked into the Chinese restaurant in Indra Vihar with heavy feet. He ordered a plate of chicken momos before joining two other friends from the north east, who were discussing the recent move of demonetisation by the government, over a cup of tea.

“Added to the tediousness of the journey is the suffering I went through by standing four hours at a stretch in a queue in front of a bank to get some money before I left for Delhi from Imphal,” Dina said, as if he was talking to himself. His friends Anirban Gogoi from Assam and James from Nagaland acknowledged his pain.

Times, they are often very difficult in the north east. Massive mismanagement in implementation of government schemes in many of the states and widespread terrorism have crippled economic growth and led to joblessness in the region for a long time. The recent addition to the list of problems is the suffering that demonetisation has caused.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

“But you cannot equate the pains caused by demonetisation with those of insurgency and economic slump the region,” said Dina with conviction.

The sales executive of a marketing company in Delhi explained why both these sufferings were different, “Demonetisation is meant to solve our problems created by black money and terror economy. So the pain we are going through while standing in a queue, is for a greater cause of our region.”

Dina’s view reflects the feelings of millions of north easterners who are happily standing four to five hours a day outside the banks hoping that their co-operation with the government of India in demonetisation will bring good days to the region by weakening terrorism and eliminating black money.

Black money and insurgency in north east India has a not-so-unknown relationship. The National Investigation Agency is probing cases of huge chunks of development money going to the hands of insurgent groups in North East India.

“There are also reports of some business organisations supporting insurgency financially,” said GM Srivastava, former DGP of Assam, who is presently in Delhi, Firstpost.

It is suspected that a chunk of black money earned by business houses go to the insurgent groups. But demonetisation has tightened the noose, both around the necks of black money hoarders and insurgent groups.

Imran Ali (name changed), an ex-cadre of ULFA said to Firstpost that some of his former colleagues in the insurgent outfit are eager to convert the old currency into new.

“Certainly, the insurgent groups are facing tremendous fund crunch after demonetisation,” said Srivastava, a renowned expert on north-eastern insurgency. “Insurgent leaders in the north-eastern parts of India have big cash reserves. Now those reserves have become useless overnight,” he added.

He added that most of these outfits keep their reserves outside the political territory of their country. Since most of these reserves are in old currency, they are facing severe cash crunch. “Some may try to convert currency in small amounts through persons close to them. But that does not fulfill their needs,” he further said.

But another top police official in Assam Police has some other more inputs. He said that though demonetisation has hit the insurgent groups, this situation could be temporary, for it is believed that loads of terror money has also been parked in banks in Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal.

“This money, which is in foreign currency right now can be converted into Indian currency later on. So the risk caused by terror money persists,” he added

GM Srivastava also agreed that terror groups have invested chunks of their money in business outside India. “Though demonetisation has pushed the insurgent groups to the wall, these effects could very well be short term. We need some more time to assess the situation in depth,” he contended.

Whatever the final effect of demonetisation on terrorism and black money in north-east India, the tightening of noose on terrorist outfits have raised hopes among many like Dina, in the region.

No wonder the ‘Bharat Bandh’ called by the CPM hardly made any impact in the state capitals of the region except at Agartala in Tripura, a state ruled by the party itself. The ‘Akrosh Divas’ called by the Congress too failed to attract much attention in the peripheral region.

First Published On : Nov 29, 2016 11:15 IST

Demonetisation: Opposition’s criticism of Modi govt irrational, writes JDU MP Harivansh

The demonetisation divide is disturbing.

Sitting on the opposite side of the treasury bench, it becomes a normal impulse to oppose the government. But moving beyond partisan politics, a few decisions need to be seen in the context of both their end purpose and the means employed, without divorcing one from the other. The recent decision by the BJP government to demonetise requires one such analysis.

Today, India is facing countless challenges; both internal and external. Externally, a major challenge is posed by increasing assertiveness of China, a country that started its development journey with us but is now challenging the world’s biggest superpower, the USA. It cannot be disputed that it was only after it became an economic super power that China’s presence started being felt on the global high table.

File image of JDU MP Harivansh. Screen grab from YouTube

File image of JDU MP Harivansh. Screen grab from YouTube

On 13 November, Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif inaugurated the operational activities of the strategic Gwadar Port, an important trade link between western China and the Arabian Sea. Gauging its strategic implications is not a tough job and is indeed a matter of concern for India. Fresh manoeuvring in the relationship of Bangladesh with China and Pakistan in the past few months compelled our defence minister to forge new ties with Bangladesh. The way India is being surrounded in the India Ocean also raises serious strategic concerns.

Without getting into the finer nuances of these issues, it is can be safely remarked that external challenges equal the internal ones, which are no less.

This country is of the youth. They are both our capital and strength. If we cannot provide employment to them, nation-building will not be possible. That is a categorical fact. The needs of our rapidly increasing population also need to be taken care of. Environment degradation is staring us in the face. We have mixed poison in the air and are inhaling it. Various reports have indicated how more people in India are dying than in China because of diseases caused by environmental degradation. It is not only impacting our health, it is impacting our society and our economy at large. If we don’t take strong steps in the economic realm, it is not very viable to expect the country to remain in its current shape.

Demonetisation and its desirability

Marx’s proposition that it is economic decisions that forge the historical narrative is so true and China is a living example of this. After Independence, the dream of making India great, a dream nurtured by the freedom fighters, was met with several roadblocks and the economic ones were the most gigantic among them.

To remove these roadblocks, it was only on two occasions that decisive steps — exuding full determination to bring a substantive change — were taken.

In 1969, the nationalisation of 14 banks by the Indira Gandhi government was a big step in regard to economic reforms. Also, the abolition of privy purses and nationalisation of coal mining in (1971-1973) was a decisive step that sent a very strong message to the people.

Again, decades of economic mismanagement pushed our economy to the wall compelling the PV Narasimha Rao government to initiate liberalisation and opening up of the economy in 1991.

The BJP government, while announcing the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes on 8 November, joined the same line of reforms. Its consequences will be judged in time, but it can be safely said that it would be beneficial for the economy at large, given that it is taken to its logical conclusion by initiating more reforms. It is the sheer misfortune of this country that a decision that provides a direction to the country and determines it destiny is seen through a political prism.

Politics has become a 24-hour vocation for almost all the political parties. Every step is evaluated in terms of personal and political gain.

Of course, there are exceptions like Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar who chose to see it from a different perspective, not allowing myopic oppositional politics to colour his views. On the very next day after the demonetisation announcement, Nitish supported the move. The reason for his support was simple: Cleansing Indian polity of black influence.

I have earlier, in various discussions in Parliament talked about the Mumbai blasts of 1993. And I have also highlighted that in the same year the NN Vohra Committee submitted its report. The committee highlighted the problem of the criminalisation of politics and of the nexus among criminals, politicians and bureaucrats in India. It showed how this nefarious syndicate is destroying this country. It pointed out that this syndicate draws its strength from black money. The report was completely forgotten. We should deliberate upon implementing its recommendations.

While we kept talking about curbing black money, a new power-broking class like Ponty Chadha, Matang Singh and Abhishek Verma and a host of political people who still hold important posts in different political parties, has emerged. Their sole interest is to generate black money on which to thrive. These power brokers have permeated defence deals, major policy decisions and even in the justice delivery system.

Demonetisation is an important but small step to check these trends. To take it to its logical conclusion, the government has to strike on benami property, where most of the black money is invested.

Tough economic decisions are required to strengthen democracy. Nitish’s decision to ban liquor — estimated to cause a revenue loss of thousands of crores — was to benefit the people at the bottom of the social pyramid. And when this happens it strengthens the democratic ethos of the country. In 2005, Bihar was written off by the leading publications of the world such as The Economist, TIME and Newsweek. It was declared as a hopeless case. But the same Economist magazine in 2010 talked about its transformation and turnaround. It was the result of some very strong legal and economic steps, like speedy trials — wherein 90,000 criminals where convicted in record time — and sounding the bugle against benami properties of corrupt government officials and politicians.

It is assumed that in a democracy, strong steps cannot be taken with decisiveness. And the long-held image of India as ‘soft state’ allows the corrupt and the thugs to turn audacious enough to openly endorse, support and perpetrate wrong.

Today top economists are arguing that the current demonetisation might be problematic in the short run but it will be beneficial in the long. Consider this: In Khairagarh, Chattisgarh, after 29 years, people came out in the open to pay up tax worth Rs 50 lakh. This is a story of a small district in Chattisgarh. In Ranchi, after demonetisation, Rs 1.16 crore was deposited as municipal tax in one week against Rs 20 lakh a week in normal times.

A Congress member asked in Parliament as to what was so great about demonetisation. It has happened earlier too. Now consider this: In 1945, of a total Rs 1,235 crore worth of currency, Rs 143 crore (11.57 percent) was demonetised. In 1978, out of Rs 9,512 crore, Rs 146 crore (1.53 percent) was demonetised. In the current exercise, of the Rs 16,41,500 crore currency, Rs 14, 21,539 crore (86.6 percent consisting of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denominations) has been demonetised.

This is huge and unprecedented. In terms of the value of the currency, it is a whopping 73.656 percent more than the 1978 exercise. In terms of the number of notes that need to be removed, it is even more mind-boggling. Against around 10,00,000 (give or take a few lakh) notes taken out in 1978, this time around 22,56,00,00,000 (two thousand two hundred and fifty-six crore) pieces of currency will have to be taken out. That is, this time, the effort is 22,56,000 percent larger.

Now the government should ascertain the impact of demonetisation on Naxal funding, insurgency in Kashmir and the North East. It needs to enquire as to what extent the reports of note-burning like the one reported from Kolkata are true and who these people are. Information regarding this will justify the government’s move. And in due course, all efforts should be made to ensure that if we want to move towards a cashless economy, the infrastructure to support this dream is put in place quickly.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

What the Opposition should be doing now
Now what should be the role of the Opposition in this case? I think it should be of constructive deliberation. Rather than blindly opposing demonetisation, it is a moment when the Opposition should initiate a debate as to why in the last several decades, in spite of all the serious talk on the issues of corruption and black money, we failed to take any decisive steps.

In 1962, Lal Bahadur Shastri formed the Santhanam Committee to suggest ways to tackle corruption. While one of its recommendations did result in the setting up of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), several other important recommendations were never debated seriously. In the following years, numerous committees were formed on the same issue and several reports on corruption and black money were submitted to the government, but without any substantive outcome.

Corruption and black money was once a big issue. But over the decades, instead of sharpening the fight against corruption, ironically it got normalised by the shameless acceptance of its inevitability. In Jawaharlal Nehru’s first Cabinet, a minister named Keshav Dev Malaviya had to resign because he was accused of taking Rs 10,000 donation in elections.

Sankar Das, in his biography of Nehru, writes that in April 1963, certain charges of a minor nature were brought against KD Malaviya — a Central minister. Nehru asked SR Das, a Supreme Court judge, to ascertain whether there was a prima facie case against Malaviya. Nehru otherwise liked Malaviya because he had done useful work in helping develop oil prospecting in India. Das’ enquiry was not conducted openly; it was held in camera. However, Das found that there was a prima facie case against Malaviya on two out of six charges. Malaviya resigned.

This sort of aversion to corrupt practices has dissipated largely. It is an indisputable fact that black money is the direct outcome of corruption and there is a symbiotic relation between the two.

In the past 40 years, since the time I started observing social and political developments, the base and impact of black money has increased manifold. As members of the Opposition we need to look up how many committees were formed to check corruption and black money in last few decades and question why no steps were taken to implement their recommendations.

We need to ask if the governments till now were only interested in forming committees.

The World Bank has put the extent of India’s parallel economy at roughly 20 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP). The 2014 and 2009 Lok Sabha elections were evidently fought with black money. People like Baba Ramdev, Ram Jethmalani and Professor R Vaidyanathan were vocal about this. It can be nobody’s case that the host of social evils facilitated by black money can be allowed to remain. Now that the government has decided to demonetise currency, there is no point in irrationally criticising it.

Of course, some tough questions need to be asked of the government. But before that as an Opposition we should see that the government machinery ensures that people in the most distant places get the new notes in the shortest span of time.

Debate, dissect

CPM leader Sitaram Yechury speaks about demonetisation in the Rajya Sabha. PTI

CPM leader Sitaram Yechury speaks about demonetisation in the Rajya Sabha. PTI

Also, all the news that is emerging after demonetisation should be debated. A few days ago a leading financial paper reported that at the India-Bangladesh border, the fake currency racket has suffered a huge setback due to the demonetisation process. The same day Mint published a report headlined, ‘Hoarders woo friends to turn black money into white’. According to this report. big politicians and government officials are asking people to help them convert their black money into white for a commission.

Some other reports claimed that the government is monitoring the income of around 400 big jewellers. Given the fact that a 10-gram gold coin costs Rs 30,000, a briefcase full of such coins can hold black money worth crores. Another important concern is the way Jan Dhan accounts are being used to stash black money. According to a Times of India report, Rs 170 crore was deposited in these accounts in just three days. The government needs to probe all abnormal transactions in these accounts.

It is estimated that Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000 crore of hawala money is with terrorist organisations. According to some estimates, terrorists funding in Kashmir rides on this money and following demonetisation, this has been severely affected.

All these news reports — both positive and negative — need to be debated and dissected by the Opposition to ensure the government follows through and taken demonetisation to its logical end. The extent of black money is vast. According to World Bank, it is around 20 percent of the total GDP.

The government estimates it at a far more conservative Rs 15-20 lakh crore which is less than 20 percent of GDP. What is the exact extent of this is tough to ascertain. Professor Arun Kumar, who has written a very important book on the subject, has, in his article published in Economic and Political Weekly (subscription required), put the figure at 62 percent of the GDP. That, too, in 2013.

It is true that farmers, small businessmen and traders, patients, passengers and common people are facing huge problems. But in a decision of this scale, it was bound to happen. An argument has been made that people should have been given some time before announcing demonetisation. It is common sense that if such a big decision had leaked even 15 minutes before earlier, it would have had the potential of destroying the economy. It is natural that with a population of around 1.3 billion, there will be challenges. The government needs to provide immediate succour to the people and move quickly to mitigate the adverse impact of this massive move.

This is a fight against organised corruption. Information regarding tax havens on foreign shores was given to this government time and again. In 2015, the Black Money Bill was introduced to bring back black money. But a measly Rs 2,500 crore was netted.

Then came the income declaration scheme. By September-end, only Rs 65,000 crore had been received. If the estimated black money is Rs 10-15 lakh crore and only Rs 65,000 crore is received, it surely calls for some serious steps.

All said and done, there is no denying the fact that demonetisation is an audaciously positive move. But it can reach its logical end only if it is accompanied by electoral reforms, confiscation of benami properties and stern action against those still in possession of wealth disproportionate to their known source of income. These objectives if attained substantially would set India on a different course. Politics can come later.

The author is a former editor of Prabhat Khabar, a Rajya Sabha MP from Bihar and JDU spokesperson. Views are personal.

First Published On : Nov 22, 2016 10:32 IST

Denial of demonetisation crippling FICN and terror networks is dangerous, self-defeating

A narrative has gained currency of late that the demonetisation drive is akin to using a Bofors gun to kill a mosquito. Proponents of this theory — the entire ecosystem of our intelligentsia who has never accepted Narendra Modi as India’s Prime Minister, the privileged urban class and the opposition — base their theory on two arguments.

One, whatever be the size of India’s shadow economy — and here they reveal deep skepticism about latest World Bank figures that put it around 23 percent of the GDP — black money is too entrenched in our system to be ferreted out by inconveniencing people.

They believe that there was no need for such a radical step that puts in jeopardy so many lives. Hidden in this charge is the assumption that black money does not visibly harm the poor, the marginalised and it certainly wasn’t a problem big enough to have triggered this amount of chaos. Having consistently labelled the prime minister as “all talk and no action”, “a propagandist who works the headlines”, post 8 November this amorphous group has amusingly shifted to advocating status-quoism.

Notwithstanding the political positioning at work here, the efficacy of Modi’s inordinately risky and deeply disruptive move to root out black money is however a legit question. The jury is still out whether there were less painful methods that could have brought similar results. But that is part of a larger, ongoing debate.

In this piece, we will tackle the second argument against demonetisation. The theory that de-commissioning of notes, as a way to snuff out the fake currency racket, is too much ammo for too insignificant an objective.

This argument is deeply flawed and reveals a total lack of understanding of what fake currency racket is, how it functions and the terrible cost it forces on us. It is also a callous argument to make in a country where more security forces die due to left-wing extremism and insurgency movements than even cross-border terrorism. The move to decommission higher denomination notes was as much targeted towards black money as demolishing this Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN) industry that fuels terror networks in and around India, provides oxygen to forces of insurgency and serves to also destabilize the Indian economy.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The tentacles of this industry spreads across Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and China. Through a complex network of smuggling that involves banks, couriers and even diplomatic channels, these notes are then circulated throughout India.

An India Today report by Gaurav C Sawant states how Pakistan — which imports printing paper and ink far in excess of its own requirement and uses it to print FICN in government presses in Punjab and Balochistan province — uses the counterfeit currency to fund terror modules in several parts of India including Maharashtra and Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Bengal and Bihar. According to the report, Pakistan’s ISI routes these high-quality fake notes through Nepal, Bangladesh, Dubai, Thailand and even China.

Another article in Firstpost details the intricate functioning of ISI’s FICN network through retired brigadier-rank officers of Pakistani Army like Lala, who procured and supplied ‘RBI’ (ISI’s code name for fake India notes) through an intricate network of couriers and smugglers. The report quotes intelligence agency sources as saying that Modi’s action against black money has demolished a section of the ISI headquarters in Rawalpindi. The direct route for FICN, says the report, ran through Munabao-Khakrapar and the Attari border while the indirect route saw money coming to India through the UAE, Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Singapore before arriving in Kathmandu and Dhaka.

And this is just one part of the FICN industry. The other major hub lies within India in West Bengal’s Malda, the border district where fake currency is smuggled in from Bangladesh. Subrata Nagchoudhury’s report in Scroll details how many residents in Kaliachak have gone into a state of shock since the prime minister outlawed the high value notes. The lucrative trade running into crores has stopped almost overnight with rumours abounding of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 bills being dumped in rivers and fields.

According to Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju, an estimated Rs 70 crore worth of fake currency is pumped into India every year and Rs 400 crore of such notes is known to be in circulation in the country at any given time. Addressing a news conference in Delhi on Friday, the minister said: “Smuggling of fake Indian currency notes from three international borders — Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal — has completely halted after the evening of 8 November”. The collateral damage, according to Rijiju, also included proceeds from illegal sale of drugs, opium, arms and hawala transactions.

This choking of funds has resulted in Naxals going into a panic mode with reports emerging of Maoists using the Jan Dhan accounts of poor villagers to park or exchange their extortion cash which by some estimates runs into Rs 7000 crores in Bastar region alone. Latehar SP Anoop Birtharay told PTI that leftist extremists are using villagers to deposit their money into bank accounts so that it can be converted into legal currency.

According to data from South Asia Terrorism Portal, since 2005 till 13 November, 2016, a total of 7,270 people have died due to Maoist insurgency attacks. The figure includes 2934 civilians, 1850 security forces personnel and also 2486 extremists.

Well, may the Left and Congress shout on the floor of the House that fake currency constitutes only 0.02 percent of the total currency in circulation but to use reductionist logic and shrink the role of fake currency in fuelling cross-border and left-wing terrorism in India is intellectual dishonesty of the worst kind.

First Published On : Nov 19, 2016 18:48 IST

Pak syndicates may flood India with fake Rs 100 notes: NIA official

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The government’s move to remove the high currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 note has delivered a big blow to Pakistan-based syndicates who were producing fake notes and pumping them into India, via Punjab, Nepal, and Bangladesh. However, investigative officers have revealed that another major security threat is on the horizon. Sources say these syndicates still have the capacity to produce high quality fake Rs 100 notes and are likely to flood the Indian market in the coming few days.“The equipment, printing machines, and paper to imitate the old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 note has now been left redundant due to demonetization. But Pakistan still has the system to imitate Rs 100 notes. Though these are of lower value, they will be used to their optimum capacity to destabilise our economy,’’ said a National Investigation Agency (NIA) official.The NIA, tasked to investigate terrorism cases including those related to FICN, has in its investigations ascertained Pakistan to be the principal source of printing high quality counterfeited notes of three denominations: Rs 1,000, Rs 500 and Rs 100 and smuggling it in India. Since the old notes of Rs 100 denomination are still in circulation will not have any new design or additional security features the NIA, security, and other intelligence agencies, fear bulk pumping in this denomination from Pakistan-based syndicates. The threat is even more dangerous as since the announcement of demonetization, there has been a currency crunch of Rs 100 in the market. Security officials fear that in such an atmosphere if a big cache of counterfeited Rs 100 denomination is pumped into the India economy, it is likely to be lapped up as people are in need of it. Even before the demonetization measures, the Rs 100 note has been targeted by syndicates. The RBI’s currency management report released in August this year shows that denomination-wise the Rs 100 note constitutes 17.5 per cent of the total banknotes in circulation. The report also points out that the detection of counterfeit notes of Rs 100 has increased in the last two years. In 2014-15, the RBI detected 1,81,799 number of Rs 100 counterfeited notes from the total of 15,026,000,000 in circulation of the same denomination. This number increased to 2,21,447 fake Rs 100 notes in 2015-16 out of a total of 15,778,000,000. “The agencies in Pakistan dealing in FICN will not stop replicating Rs 100 notes,’’ the senior NIA officer said. He added,“This note is not the menace that higher denomination notes would have been, but it’s a threat that exists.”

Bhutan’s upper house blocks BBIN MVA pact: Is it a strategic setback for India?

In a major setback to India’s regional cooperation strategy, Bhutan’s Upper House has rejected a move to have the country join the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal Motor Vehicles Agreement (BBIN MVA), citing environmental concerns.

The four South Asian nations signed the BBIN agreement in June last year in Thimphu, Bhutan, in what was seen as a significant symbol of sub-regional unity. The agreement allowed for the regulation of passenger, personal and cargo vehicular traffic among the four countries.

However, there have been reservations among some sections within Bhutan about the viability of this agreement given that it was a small country.

After the National Assembly or the lower house of the Bhutanese parliament endorsed the agreement earlier this year, it forwarded it to the National Council for consideration. But, on Tuesday, the National Council voted against Bhutan joining the agreement.

According to Sonam Kinga, Chairman of the National Council, there were two votes for joining the agreement, 13 against, while five members abstained from voting.

The sub-regional pact was being seen as an important milestone in Prime Minister Modi’s much touted diplomatic agenda to ‘Look East’ and forge a regional cooperation boosting trade ties in the region. It was India, under the Prime Minister Modi. that introduced and pitched for the pact in the 2014 Saarc Summit in Kathmandu, urging the South Asian neighbours to fortify regional economic ties.

“”Our relations become stronger when we connect the lives of the ordinary citizens of our countries. That is why connectivity and services by rail and road are so important. We should also connect ourselves more by air,” Modi had said at the summit according to The Times of India.

But with Bhutan’s refusal to ratify the agreement, Modi’s dream to establish a seamless cargo and vehicular passageway in the region has hit a roadblock.

What is the BBIN MVA pact?

Route map of a BBIN friendship motor rally that was planned to highlight scope of cooperation under BBIN initiative. Twitter/ @silcharNOWRoute map of a BBIN friendship motor rally that was planned to highlight scope of cooperation under BBIN initiative. Twitter/ @silcharNOW

Route map of a BBIN friendship motor rally that was planned to highlight scope of cooperation under BBIN initiative. Twitter/ @silcharNOW

To boost trade relations, India had proposed a regional cooperation pact in the 2014 Saarc Summit, which entailed building a freight corridor connecting the south Asian nations with each other.

The MVA was proposed to reduce transport costs drastically and and foster development of multi-modal transport facilities for a better connectivity between the four countries. It allowed the member states to ply their vehicles in each other’s territory for transportation of cargo and passengers , including third country transport and passenger vehicles or personal vehicles.

All vehicles would however be required to obtain permits to enter another nation’s territory and bilateral border security arrangements will also remain in place.

A very optimistic deadline of October 2015 was slated for the implementation of the agreement after a six-month work plan was worked out in accordance with the protocols, according to Business Standard

However, the pact can only become operational when all nations ratify it.

India, Nepal and Bangladesh have already ratified the pact but Bhutan’s refusal is likely to delay the implementation of the key trade cooperation agreement further.

Although, India already holds bilateral motor vehicular pacts with Bangladesh and Nepal, a multilateral agreement could have bolstered regional cooperation manifolds.

The view from Bhutan

India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan had inked the agreement in June 2015 in Thimphu, the capital of the land-locked Himalayan nation. Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari had visited Thimphu to ink the deal sealing India’s commitment to the agreement, according to The Economic Times.

In Bhutan, those in favour of the agreement argued that the protocols for the terms and conditions of agreement were yet to be formulated and the country could negotiate to tilt the scales in its favour.

However, reservations from certain sections of Bhutan had been evident ever since the start of the ratification process. Senior government officials in the Union road transport and highways ministry had revealed that a “large cross-section of people in Bhutan, including lawmakers, had expressed concerns over the environmental impact of allowing large number of vehicles enter the country after it ratifies the pact,” according to a report in Hindustan Times.

Tourism is Bhutan's key revenue generating industry for its pristine natural habitat. Reuters

Tourism is Bhutan’s key revenue generating industry for its pristine natural habitat. Reuters

Another report in The Wire said, that although Bhutan’s lower house, called the National Assembly, passed the bill, it could only do so on the second attempt, indicating the Bhutanese discomfort with forging a multilateral pact with nations that have better infrastructural assets at their disposal.

Reports in local media too pointed out that Bhutan is a much smaller nation and a huge amount of traffic from its larger neighbours would strain the countries limited infrastructure and impact the environment.

An article from Bhutan News Network  states, “Environment protection is one of the four pillars of Bhutan’s gross national happiness, with sustainable development, promotion of cultural values and good governance being the others,” adding that the Opposition parties have been raising concern over the environmental impact of the increased vehicular traffic.

However, Bhutan’s reservation on damaging its environment is not unfounded. Tourism is Bhutan’s single largest revenue generating industry, and the small Himalayan nation has carefully guarded its pristine natural habitat. It has even worked out a “low-volume, high-value” tourism strategy and maintained its status of an elite tourist destination. It touts itself to be the “untouched Himalayan Paradise” charging tourists $250 a day as a minimum fee (a charge not applicable to Indian and Bangladeshi nationals) to witness the natural wealth abound, according to The Wire.

However, threat to environment is not the only loophole in Bhutan’s eyes. The land-locked nation finds itself gaining little from the agreement amid a long list of demerits.

Another article in Business Bhutanstates that there is more to the agreement than meets the eye. The article states that Bhutanese truckers have raised concerns that large number of foriegn transporters plying into Bhutan could eat into the local businesses. The article also states that the local transporters are also “unsure of the ramifications of chartering out into unexplored neighboring territories.”

Another article, in Kuensel Online, reported that the Bhutanese upper house, the National Council, was of the view that the merits of the agreement outweighed by the repercussions the tiny Himalayan nation would have to face. Some law makers were of the view that unrestrained influx of vehicles and people could dilute Bhutan’s culture and religion and possibly give rise to the crime rate in the region.  The committee also found that the pact was in conflict with Bhutan’s immigration act. Member’s of the committee also observed that Bhutan severely lacks the basic infrastructure of roads, bridges, checkpoints etc to implement the agreement.

Another major objection the committe took was to the principle of reciprocity in the agreement. “The committee could not be convinced that Bhutan would be able to ask other members to stop their vehicles at the border or take in fewer vehicles than what it would be allowed to send in their territory due to the principle of reciprocity spelt in the agreement,” the article quoted the National Council’s objection.

Another prominent lawmaker in the upper house, Dasho Tashi Wangyal flagged anothe concern, stating that the agreement could impact India-Bhutan relations negatively. He said that India faces multiple security threats and is battling infiltration from its neighbous. A free flow of people could give militants an opportunity to sneak into Bhutan, or use its territory to infiltrate into India, which may compromise the healthy relationship Thimpu enjoys with New Delhi.

A setback to India’s strategic interests?

India is keenly invested into the successful implementation of the BBIN MVA agrrement. What was originally mooted as a pan-south Asian initiative, was later downsized to a sub-regional cooperation pact after Pakistan’s last minute intransigence, which also snuffed out landlocked Afghanistan’s chances to be a part of the deal.

This was being seen as another diplomatic victory for India to isolate Pakistan and undertake a sub-regional cooperation without it’s rival neighbour. It was also contrived to be another jewel in Modi’s much touted neighbourhood-first policy, making it especially important to the ruling BJP.

With the MVA stuck in another bottleneck, it will be another blow to the Modi government’s agenda.

Add to this the fact that India traditionally enjoys close ties and considerable influence in the neighbouring nation. After Pakistan, Bhutan’s refusal to be a part of India’s ambitious scheme would only add insult to injury.

However, India has stayed wary of pushing Bhutan too hard on the issue as it is aware of the diplomatic repercussions of it. Bhutan lies in between India’s largest border dispute — that with China. Beijing has time and again expressed its willingness to establish and improve diplomatic ties with Bhutan. But Thimphu has not pursued ties with China, at least with any visible zeal,  to avoid creating any misunderstanding in its close ties with India.

However, this time around, Bhutan seems to be resolved to assert itself wherever it feels its interests are sacrificed.

With inputs from agencies

First Published On : Nov 18, 2016 18:03 IST

Syndicates working overnight to crack new Rs 2,000 note: Sources

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The coming few weeks, it seems, will be crucial for the Rs 2,000 note. Intelligence sources reveal that Bangladesh-based criminal syndicates manufacturing Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN) are studying “features” of this new note to create counterfeit currency.According to a senior BSF official, a number of copies of Rs 2,000 rupee notes have been seized across the country in Bangladesh, but so far he claims such replicas are mere scanned copies. These are made out of paper instead of rag which is used to make original currency. The same material has to be used to create a high quality counterfeit.”The recently seized Rs 2,000 notes are mere copies which have been scanned to make it look like a currency note. It will take time for FICN gangs to regroup and we are hoping to counter any such attempts of counterfeiting,” the official told DNA. He, however, added that syndicates would soon ramp up efforts to create and circulate fake currency.So far though, security officials say they are pleased with initiatives introduced by the RBI which has made counterfeiting currency more difficult. In 2015, the RBI had introduced modifications to the now defunct Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 note that was especially difficult for FICN syndicates to crack.This year too, RBI modifications had sent FICN gangs operating in South Bengal, especially in Malda, into a tizzy. And now it remains to be seen how the recently issued Rs 2,000 note stands up against counterfeiting. In fact, security officials are already studying possible methods by which counterfeiters could look to copy and circulate fake currency.”There are 16 main features of an Indian currency note, four of which are invisible to the naked eye. Till 2014, the fake notes coming out of Bangladesh were increasing in quality. The 2015 modifications by RBI however marked an end to this and the result was that most notes seized by us were of 2014 make. Furthermore, more modifications introduced in the notes issued in January this year had made it more difficult for FICN to produce a good quality counterfeit,” said an intelligence official.The tough modifications introduced by the RBI, has ensured that security agencies so far are enjoying increased success in cracking down and seizing fake currency. According to government data, fake currency seized in South Bengal, including Malda, was a whopping Rs 1.7 crore in 2014, Rs 2.6 crore in 2015 and Rs 1.3 crore this year till October.”Most of the seizures made by the BSF or other probe agencies such as National Investigation Agency in 2015-16 were of 2014 make and most of seizures we made showed signs that the gangs were not able to crack the new modifications. The last big haul of the 2014 make fake currency was recovered on October 22 in Kaliachawk, (Malda district, West Bengal)” the official said.Officials also pointed out that the strict security measures introduced in the Rs 2,000 note ensures that copying and issuing such currency would require a huge network and major financial backing.”Indian currency is made out of pure rag which is only available with sovereign governments. To copy and circulate fake currency a vast international network would be required, which can only become possible with some state backing. For example, the security threads that exists in all our currency notes today can only be accessed by a sovereign government,” said a BSF official posted along the Indo-Bangladesh border.

Earthquake with 5.0 magnitude hits northeastern states

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>An earthquake measuring 5.0 on the Richter scale on Tuesday morning rocked the northeastern states.There were no reports of any casualties or damage.The tremor was felt at 7.40 a.m. with an epicentre located in Assam’s Karimganj district bordering Bangladesh, reported IANS quoting an official of the Regional Seismological Centre.Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur – are considered by seismologists as the sixth major earthquake-prone belt in the world.

War on terror funding started five months ago in Bangladesh

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It’s no secret that FICN (Fake Indian Currency Notes) are being used by Bangladesh-based terror groups to fund terrorist activities in India. But recently these groups have been feeling the heat. According to intelligence sources, an ongoing “war on terror funding” in Bangladesh, which began five months ago in July this year, has been yielding good results.Data from security agencies reveal that in July, FICN counterfeiters—operating on the India-Bangladesh border—would sell one lakh fake currency notes for 20,000-25,000 Indian rupees. Today, the self same counterfeiters sell the same one lakh fake currency for Rs 40,000. This suggests counterfeiters are bleeding their pockets dry, thus affecting terror and terrorism activities in both countries.Security officials confirm this to be the case. A senior NIA official explained to DNA just what danger the FICN networks had been posing to the country: “For years the FICN syndicates have been working in areas along the India-Bangladesh border, where they provided tacit support to terror groups. FICN is important to terror groups as it gives them the power to purchase weapons and a chance to hit the Indian economy where it hurts most.”One of the big reasons for success in stamping out FICN has been the increasing cooperation of the Bangladeshi authorities. Intelligence agencies point out that July 1 terror attack where terrorists opened fire at the Holy Artisan Bakery in Gulshan Park in Dhaka was the tipping point for Bangladeshi authorities. 24 people, including two police officers, were killed in the attack, believed to have been carried out by the terror group, the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).But Indian intelligence officials say it was not until the attack on an Eid congregation in Sholakia Eidgah, in Kishoreganj, Bangladesh, on July 7, that an extensive plan to counter terror activities was devised. A senior BSF official said: “Soon after the attacks in Bangladesh, counter terrorism and transitional crime (CTTC) unit, RAB (Rapid Action Battalion) and the Dhaka metropolitan police started offensive action against terrorists.The FICN network was clearly affected by the Bangladeshi offensive. On the July 1 attack, one lakh fake currency notes would cost anything between 20,000-25,000 Indian rupees.On July 27, SWAT, Rapid Action Battalion (Rab), Detective Branch of police (DB) and Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) carried out a joint operation in Kalyanpur termed ‘Storm 26’. Nine suspected terrorists were killed, ensuring the FICN rates shifted up to Rs 28,000-30,000. The rates further raised in August and September when Bangladeshi authorities intensified their offensive and any party interested in purchasing would pay 35,000-38,000 rupees for one lakh FICN’s.”The operation in Azimpur, the killing of JMB chief Tamim Chowdhary and the killing of Zahidul Islam served as a crucial blow to the terror group and a marked dip was seen in the FICN business,” said a source. Islam was a retired major of Bangladesh Army and was allegedly the military trainer of JMB. While the group’s chief Tamim was gunned down on August 27, Islam was killed in the first week of September. Following the two killings, CTTC unit captured three suspected female militants during a raid in Dhaka’s Azimpur area.But while these measures have clearly affected the FICN syndicate officials warn that there is no room for complacency.”Due to these anti-terrorist operations, smugglers associated with terrorist groups went underground and supply of FICN decreased. As a result rates fluctuated to 35-38,000 per lakh (Indian rupees),” a BSF official said. He added, “Presently smuggling activity has decreased due to the non-availability of money. So while there may be a lull period now, we must be on our guard when the new currency hits the market freely.”

Kolkata: Private hospitals help patients to tackle cash crunch post demonetization

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>With the cash crunch presenting a serious problem to patients in making payments to the medical facilities for treatment received, most city hospitals in the city have come forward to help them by accepting cheques and debit or credit cards.Some hospitals in the city are also accepting ‘undertaking’ in emergency cases promising future payment. Cheques are being accepted by most medical facilities from local people as well as overseas patients, mostly from Bangladesh and Nepal. Medica Super Speciality Hospital vice-chairman and consultant cardiac surgeon Dr Kunal Sarkar said, “It’s our responsibility to provide treatment to our patients. We have started a helpline where patients can contact us. In cases of emergency, we are accepting undertakings from patients (both local and foreign).”Sarkar said the hospital authority was also asking patients to bring one local guarantor, though there was an element of risk involved in asking them do so. “This is only a temporary crisis, anyway,” he remarked.AMRI Group of Hospitals Group CEO Rupak Barua said that the medical facility was accepting cheques as well as debit and credit cards. “We are asking our patients in cases of emergency to bring one local guarantor. And in cases of surgeries we are requesting them to deposit cheques two to three days prior the operation is scheduled,” Barua said.Talking to PTI, Narayana Health Network Zonal director (East) R Venkatesh said that they offered free consultation on November 9, the day after demonetisation was announced by the Centre, across all specialities in the state to extend maximum help to people. “We have not refused treatment during this period. Most patients from Bangladesh or Nepal are paying through US currency or using RTGS. In some cases we are accepting cheques. Otherwise patients are paying through credit or debit cards also. There are cases when we have admitted patients on credit and helped patients on highly discounted bills,” Venkatesh said.The Apollo Gleneagles Hospital is also accepting cheques and because the facility has a foreign exchange counter at the hospital, foreign patients admitted there are not facing any problem, a senior official said.”Most of the patients are paying through plastic cards. But we are accepting cheques also. We are not facing any problem at our facility,” the senior official said.

Go FM way, digital DRM too expensive, AIR told

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>AIR should phase out short wave and medium wave services, accessed through the once ubiquitous transistors and radio sets, and focus on FM instead, recommends an IIT-Bombay report while giving a thumbs down to the digital DRM technology that the public broadcaster is pushing. With most people accessing radio on their mobiles or car stereos, only a small fraction of listeners in urban areas use the difficult-to-buy transistors and radio sets, says the technical audit report on All India Radio’s short wave and medium wave services. Barely 10 per cent of people, mostly the elderly, in urban localities listen to short wave or medium wave services, Girish Kumar, professor in IIT-B’s electrical engineering department who headed the team conducting the audit for AIR’s parent body Prasar Bharati, told DNA. Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) receivers, pegged by AIR as a technology replacement for Soviet-era worn-out short and medium wave transmitters, are just too expensive, the report says. Though a DRM transmitter can give higher range than others, installing a larger number of FM transmitters can help cover the entire country.However, AIR continues to replace short and medium wave transmitters in the country with DRM transmitters even though the technology has few takers in India, sources disclosed. “During the audit, I visited prominent electronic stores of Mumbai to buy a transistor. However, no transistor, radio set or even a DRM receiver was available there. They are available only in some online sites. But some people in rural areas are still using decade-old radio sets or handheld transistors,” Kumar said. “That is why our report had strongly recommended shutting down short wave and medium wave services for AIR and augment the number of FM towers instead.” This would help in rural areas too where mobile phones with FM services are increasing. DRM transmitters, Kumar explained, can offer good range but listeners have to buy a receiver that could be as expensive as Rs.15,000. “Why would people buy a DRM receiver to listen to radio when they can do the same on their mobile phones or their cars?” he asked.“Even for the newly installed DRM transmitter in Malad, there are barely any takers, both because of expensive receivers and lack of awareness about it,” he said.In the 11th Plan, Rs.9.29 billion has been earmarked for AIR to go digital. The new channel, AIR Maitree, that broadcasts programmes to Bangladesh is transmitted through a digital transmitter even though most people in Bangladesh avail FM radio services on their phones and hardly use DRM receivers. There is no feedback gathering mechanism to check if AIR Maitree programmes are being heard in Bangladesh at all, sources admitted.Audit detailsThe audit included field measurements at more than 13,000 locations and above 9,000 people surveys. Most people do not have a good medium wave, short wave radio receivers and the quality of medium wave reception is not as good as FM radio.In fact, most people interviewed are unaware of AIR’s outdated short wave and medium wave services, the report states.Barring hilly and border areas, medium wave services should be shut in metro and all major cities and the number of FM transmitters should be increased, it says and suggests important programmes on medium wave and short wave services be broadcast via FM radio.At present, 145 medium wave and 48 short wave transmitters are located in 125 cities of India. Being from the Soviet era, most of the equipment is now worn out. Non-availability of spare parts has added to the problem. As a result, there is poor transmission of signals in most parts of the country.

West Bengal: BJP state president Dilip Ghosh arrested for blocking road, released later

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh was on Tuesday arrested by Kolkata Police for holding a road blockade to demand land and other rights for the people of enclaves in Coochbehar district which were given to India by Bangladesh.Ghosh, along with 26 others, was arrested during the agitation on Central Avenue. The road blockade which lasted for more than half an hour caused huge traffic snarls in the entire central Kolkata region.”Ghosh and 26 others were arrested for blocking the road. Ghosh was later released,” an official of Kolkata Police said.Ghosh along with party workers and leaders had organised a rally demanding land and other rights for people of Chitmahal. The rally started from Sealdah station to College square and was followed by a sit in at College Square- Central Avenue.”It has been more than a year that enclaves were exchanged. But the enclave dwellers are yet to get their rights for land and job opportunities.The state government is sitting idle and doing nothing. Quick disposal of land records and settlements were promised. But these demands are yet to be met,” Ghosh said.Later, when Ghosh blocked the road, he along with others was arrested.Bangladesh and India have exchanged 162 adversely-held enclaves on August 1, 2015 at the stroke of midnight, ending one of the world’s most complex border disputes that had lingered since seven decades.Altogether 111 Indian enclaves measuring 17,160 acres became Bangladesh territory and similarly, 51 Bangladesh enclaves measuring 7,110 acres became Indian territory.All the Indian enclaves are located in West Bengal’s Coochbehar district. The 51 enclaves are spread across Dinhata, Mekliganj, Sitai, Sitalkuchi and Toofanganj assembly constituencies.

Citizenship Act: BJP’s religion-based amendment threatens the secular fabric of India

The Union government has proposed certain changes to India’s citizenship laws, in the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. The present legal framework has no provision for religion-based citizenship and the proposed amendment plans to change that.

At present, an illegal migrant entering the territory of the Indian Union is prohibited from becoming a citizen. The amendment proposes that illegal migrants belonging to six specific religious minority communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan will not be prohibited from attaining citizenship, even if they migrated to the territory illegally.

The move, to mark out illegal migrants of specific religious minorities originating from neighbouring sovereign territories for special treatment, started a little while back. In a series of orders between September 2015 and July 2016, the government exempted from deportation the illegal migrants belonging to the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian religion. These previous moves laid down the framework for the present proposed amendment.

The BJP has now proposed an amendment to offer Indian citizenship to a section of migrants based on their religion. ReutersThe BJP has now proposed an amendment to offer Indian citizenship to a section of migrants based on their religion. Reuters

The BJP has now proposed an amendment to offer Indian citizenship to a section of migrants based on their religion. Reuters

Illegal migrants from these countries belong to all religions. However, the reasons of illegal migration are not similar across all religions. Having said that, the reasons are also not similar across all adherents of a particular religion.

The elephant in the room is that Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh are Muslim majority sovereign territories. But that’s not all. These are also territories where in the last many decades the population proportion of non-Muslims has continually fallen, in contrast to the Hindu majority Indian Union where the population proportion of Christians and Muslims have sharply risen over the last few decades.

By this basic factor, it can be surmised that the minority situation in the Indian Union is far from ideal and that the situation differs from its neighbours. Population proportion surely cannot be the only measure of welfare of a community but, as far as growing and thriving in numbers is concerned, India’s situation is better compared to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Given the reality of the communal partition of British colonial territories of the subcontinent, the post-colonial fragments maintain in its body politic that ‘partition’ ideology of communal homelands. This imagination shows up in practice in various ways, overt and covert, in a continuum of toxic destructiveness.

It is probably not accidental then that the subcontinent’s only post-colonial fragment that has seen a decrease in population proportion of those belonging to the majority religious community is also the only one where the Constitution does not mention any specific state religion.

Many powerful political parties, all with Hindus constituting a majority of their voter base, have expressed their opposition to this proposed amendment precisely on that count – the way it names who it includes and by implication, who it excludes.

The Trinamool Congress (TMC), which rules West Bengal, a state that is probably host to the largest number of illegal immigrants, has opposed the proposal. Veteran Trinamool Member of Parliament (MP) Saugata Roy said, “We have decided that we will oppose the amendment on the floor of Parliament. This amendment is an attack on the secular fabric of our country. How can there be discrimination on the basis of religion? If you are Hindu, you will be eligible and if you are Muslim, you will be kept out? Our Constitution does not allow this. The West Bengal government will also oppose it.”

Roy is correct. The proposed amendment does include and exclude on the basis of religion. But it is not as if this was unprecedented. Various other legislations or proposed legislations have done that in all but name – including the almost irrelevant Enemy Property Act (which discriminated against Muslims, without mentioning that explicitly) or the proposed and shelved Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill (which discriminated against Hindus, being the commonest majority community in most territories of India).

In practical political terms, the TMC probably has calculated that it cannot appear to support a legislation that clearly excludes members of a religious community who form nearly 30 percent of the population in West Bengal and is represented even more disproportionately higher in its supporter base.

Such a stance is a game of extreme brinkmanship given West Bengal is also host to the largest number of Hindu refugees, who keep on coming from Bangladesh in incessant trickles and spurts to this day – a phenomenon that will continue into the foreseeable future.

The recent large-scale anti-Hindu attacks by Muslim radicals in Brahmanbaria district in Bangladesh, in collusion with a section of the local branch of the ruling party, inspires little hope that migrations into West Bengal triggered by persecution of religious minorities in East Bengal (present day Bangladesh) will stop anytime soon.

The reverse, that is, migration to East Bengal from West Bengal due to religious persecution has not happened in any significant numbers since the mid-sixties. Thus, in a post-Partition state which is tacitly conceived as a permanent Hindu Bengali majority homeland since 1947, the non-acknowledgment of the special status of non-Muslim, primarily Hindu, Bengalis vis-à-vis West Bengal and worse still, the narrative of parity that TMC seems to advocate might be used to consolidate the already existing communal divisions in West Bengal. This divide has gotten much worse since the rise of BJP in the state, especially in pockets with significant non-Bengali populations. The recent communal disturbances in Chandannagar are a case in point.

For all practical purposes, India denies citizenship to those who crossed over from East Bengal after 25 March 1971, the day when major atrocities by the Pakistan army started in Dhaka. The 2003 Citizenship (Amendment) Act took away the possibility of birth right citizenship from the children of many of those who fled persecution in East Bengal.

Due to the amendment, many Dalit Bengalis were identified as ‘infiltrators’ and deportation proceedings were started. The Matuas, one of the largest low caste groups of primarily East Bengali of the Namasudras origin settled in West Bengal, have long been protesting this 2003 amendment, passed by a BJP-led government.

Ultimately, the persecuted Hindus of East Bengal (refugees and residents) are mere pawns.

The prime beneficiaries of Partition crafted the Nehru-Liaquat Pact of 1950. Many did not move due to the false sense of assurance (including the assurance of the door being permanently open) that came with this largely ceremonial gesture.

By this, India effectively washed off its hands from the ‘minority problem’ in Pakistan. ‘Shutting the door’ has been the Indian policy post-1971 (similar to what Pakistan did to stranded Pakistanis in Dhaka); something it cannot implement – one of the natural consequences of claiming full monitoring abilities over an absurd frontier.

For decades, India has systematically discriminated against the Eastern frontier refugees (mostly Bengalis) on questions of compensation, entitlement, relief, citizenship, etc compared to the Western frontier (Punjabi and Sindhi) refugees. The Indian Union owes reparation to these people, for the Indian Union’s creation and its geographical contours are intimately tied to their migration and impoverishment.

In Assam, the other state that will be most affected by this decision, the fault-lines are different.  All strands of Assamese nationalism, from the independence seeking United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent) to the BJP-collaborator Asom Gana Parishad, oppose the proposed amendment. Powerful Assamese nationalist student bodies like AASU and AJYCP also oppose it.

However, here the fault-line is more along ethnic lines. As per the terms of the Assam accord of 1985, all illegal migrants who have entered Assam after 24 March, 1971 are to be identified and deported. Even with its Muslim exclusion, this proposed amendment will pave the path to citizenship for many Hindu Bengalis who are illegal migrants in Assam.

The BJP hopes that its anti-Muslim plank (couched not so subtly under the anti-Bangladeshi slogan) will help “unite” non-Muslims across ethnic lines. That is precisely the uniting factor in its much-touted North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA).

Himanta Biswa Sarma, former AASU activist, a Congressman till recently and now top BJP organisation man in Assam, has clearly learnt the communally divisive political lines of his new party when he says, “The whole thing is that we have to decide who our enemy is. Who is our enemy, the 1-1.5 lakh people or the 55 lakh people?”

Those numbers ostensibly correspond to numbers of Hindu Bengali and Muslim Bengali illegal migrants in Assam respectively. This tactical accommodation of Hindu Bengalis into the fold shows the existential crisis of Assamese nationalism, whose homeland imaginary has always been so over-stretched that it now cannot stand up effectively to the BJP.

The BJP, meanwhile, has taken on the mantle of Assamese demographic anxiety with an obligatory Hindu unity twist to suit its Delhi headquarters.  The proposed amendment thus is a direct contravention of the Assam accord – arguably the biggest achievement of the Assamese nationalist current.

While it is true that Delhi-centric political forces never wanted the Assam accord to be implemented, no one has declared the accord to be null and void yet. As of now, the proposed amendment contains no Assam exception clause which it ideally should, if the government thinks that it should not renege on the pledge given to the people of Assam in the turbulent days of the Assam movement.

The problem with “accords” is that they are done in good faith between entities who expect each other to keep their word. If there is no Assam exception in the final bill, it will mean that the Assam accord was a fraud executed by the government on the people of Assam.

With regards to the illegal migrant issue, one has to distinguish between victims of human rights violations (including but not only religious persecution), that is, refugees, and those who migrate due other reasons. Such cases can be assessed on a case by case basis. A blanket inclusion for non-Muslims and a blanket exclusion of Muslims is clearly discriminatory.

The citizenship debate is primarily a demographic dominance and anxiety debate. The Indian Union is primarily made up of Hindu majority homelands or part homelands of ethno-linguistic nationalities. Thus, the fear of being swamped in their own homeland in a demographic and economic sense is behind many of these debates.

Given the hugely different fertility rates between Hindi and non-Hindi states in the Indian Union, another demographic invasion that is presently not illegal also threatens the socio-cultural-political fabric of many parts of India. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu has boldly opened this debate.

The reality is that it is not within the feasible limits of ability of the Indian Union administration to deport all existing illegal migrants who are simply economic migrants. Nor will it be possible to stop such illegal migration in the near future.

A possible solution in such a scenario can be in the form of amnesty for all Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan origin illegal migrants with the possibility of dual or tiered citizenship and expanded work permits schemes.

At the same time, other demographic anxieties that exist between different parts of India can also be addressed within such citizenship frameworks that keep Indian Union citizenship as a common framework and also give state governments expanded control of residency rights, property ownership, entry and settling rules so that diversity is robustly preserved in the united framework.

A model for this already exists in various states of India in the form of residency based property ownership laws and entry control mechanisms through permits. Such initiatives need to be expanded as part of a thorough reform of the citizenship question.

Gulshan Kumar’s killer Daud Merchant walks out of Dhaka jail

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Bangladesh freed a top aide of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim on Monday on the expiry of his jail term for cross-border intrusion, sparking speculations about his extradition to India where he was convicted for killing Bollywood music baron Gulshan Kumar in 1997. Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said Daud Merchant was released as his jail term expired but did not clarify whether he was handed over to India, where he is to stand trial. “He (Merchant) has been released. His prison term for illegal trespass into Bangladesh ended some time ago,” he said.Merchant walked out of the Dhaka Central Jail in the afternoon. Known to be close to Mumbai mafia don Dawood Ibrahim, Merchant was jailed by a Bangladeshi court for five years which expired in December 2014. He was briefly released, but was immediately rearrested and prison official said he was detained under a law meant for people accused of “suspicious movement” for the past three years.Allegedly a contract killer, he was sentenced to life term in India in 2002 for killing Kumar who headed the music company T-Series in 1997. Kumar was shot while he was coming out of a temple on August 12, 1997. Merchant, however, filed an appeal against his conviction. He absconded after being released on parole in April, 2009 to visit his family in Mumbai.The same year, detectives arrested him from Brahmanbarhia’s Mourail, with two associates, while he was hiding in the residence of one Kamal Mian. He was then sentenced to five years in prison for intruding and illegally staying in Bangladesh.Merchant’s release came 11 months after Bangladesh authorities said that they decided to extradite Merchant. In January, the home minister had said that Dhaka was working to extradite him.

Cow slaughter banned even during Mughal rule: Rajnath Singh

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>There was a need to take states into confidence on banning cow slaughter, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said on Sunday, maintaining that cow was protected even during Mughal rule.”Cow slaughter and beef was banned since the vedic times. Even during the Mughal rule, it was banned during the times of Bahadurshah Zafar, Akbar and Jehangir. It has even been written in the ‘Babarnama’ that one cannot rule over Hindustan unless you stop cow slaughter,” he said at a function in New Delhi in memory of those killed during a demonstration on the issue 50 years ago.The Home Minister said there was a need to take the states into confidence on the matter, though many states have already banned cow slaughter after increased awareness over the issue.”As far as cow is concerned, it is not just a cultural issue, it is an issue of faith. But besides being an issue of faith, it is also an issue which should be viewed from economic, historical and scientific perspective,” he said.Singh said the NDA government was working towards enforcing complete ban on smuggling of cattle to Bangladesh and taken a number of steps in this regard, but achieved only “partial success” keeping in view the long borders.”I want to tell you on behalf of our government that we want that cow shuld be protected. We have tried to stop the smuggling of cows to Bangladesh from across the borders. But the borders are very vast and we have achieved only partial success. We have taken a number of measures and will try to put a complete ban on smuggling of cows, but I feel this will take some time,” Singh said, adding Article 48 of the Constitution mentions that governments will work to stop cow slaughter.”We should understand that India is a federal country and there is need to take the states into confidence. Many states have already banned cow slaughter and recently Jharkhand has done so,” he said.Paying tributes to those who died on November 7, 1966 while raising the issue of cow slaughter in Delhi, the Home Minister said “I believe they gave their supreme sacrifice for a big goal. I pay my tributes to them. I also laud you for remembering them even after 50 years.”His remarks come days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi dubbed some people protecting cows as “criminals” masquerading as cow vigilantes and sought action against them.RSS general secretary Bhayyaji Joshi said cow protection movement has come a long way as “there is a government now in place whose Home Minister is sitting among cow protectors and paying homage” to those killed 50 years ago for seeking efforts in this direction.

Mandatory voting in army: With military facing disparaging assaults, why every soldier must vote

• It showed the rapid spread and growth of mafias and economic lobbies which have, over the years, developed extensive network with bureaucrats/government functionaries, politicians, media persons and strategically located individuals in the non-state sector; with some also having international linkages, including with foreign intelligence agencies.

• It established that any leakage about the linkages of crime syndicate with senior government functionaries or political leaders in the states or at the Centre could have a destabilising effect on the functioning of the government.

Naturally, the above report has remained buried somewhere because it poses the threat of “destabilising” the functioning of any government. India is not like Singapore, a country where 150 politicians and bureaucrats were jailed overnight when their equivalent of the Lokpal Bill came into being.

No wonder then that former Defense Minister AK Antony couldn’t sleep after discovering the capabilities of the army’s Technical Support Division (TSD). As a result, the TSD was killed off pronto, on trumped up charges, because it “could” have been intercepted by the “mafia”.

Never mind the fact that the mobile interceptors in question were actually imported by the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), which functions directly under the Ministry of Defence (MoD), and not the army.

China is known to extract value in strategic terms for financial gain. Similarly, the mafia can extract value by attracting foreign funding. As a result, the military is continuously put down and many of the defence-industrial complexes remain out-dated.

The prime minister may push hard for “ease of business” but the mafia gets massive foreign funding, and which country wants to see a strong India? The inability to act against the mafia makes it bolder. Remember the efforts under the previous government to hollow the system by pitting the IB against the CBI?

But then the realisation dawned that the IPS manning the intelligence agencies were also privy to the mafia dealings. So now, the mafia is going full blast against the military; even trying to pitch the CAPF against the military (remember the police baton charging military veterans at Jantar Mantar).

In terms of ranking and emoluments, the bureaucracy and civilian defence employees should be left aside. Of course, unlike any other country in the world, the same ranks and uniforms of the military, were quietly introduced into the police forces.

When some military veterans first gave a call for a protest at Jantar Mantar in 2015, an organisation called “Patriots Front” wrote a letter to the prime minister, warning him of a military coup and recommended that “anti-coup measures be put in place”.

Even today, the so called “patriots” dismiss the soldiers’ demands as just “whining”. The soldiers just want their status to be respected, as given in the Constitution and they want the serious imbalances and disparities between soldiers and other government civil employees be rectified, taking into account the average career earnings including pension benefits.

For example, the non-functional upgradation (NFU) demand of the armed forces was reportedly turned down on the pretext that it was applicable only to class ‘A’ officers, like IAS, IFS, IPS, IRS, etc. That begs the question: What is the class of the military officers who are commissioned by the President of India?

Does the government have an explanation for this? Why should 45 percent of the defence pension outlay be consumed by 22 percent civilians under the MoD?

In such an environment, what should the military do? There is no need for the service chiefs to bow down to such “unlawful commands”, even as the mafia appears to be hell-bent upon demolishing the military.

But aside from representing the hierarchy on specific issues, the least the service chiefs must do is to ensure that soldiers must not be denied their right to cast their vote, especially since many of their fundamental rights are already severely curbed as part of their service.

The manner in which caste, creed, and religion are played in our country clearly indicate that anything and everything goes, and anything can be sold for votes. Even US President Barrack Obama celebrated Diwali in the White House and so did the United Nations (perhaps on the behest of the US) with an eye on the Indian origin voters going into next week’s Presidential election.

Fortunately, the Election Commission of India has authorised every military soldier to vote during the elections (both state and local) at the station they are posted in — thanks to the efforts of Rajeev Chandrashekhar, former member of parliament.

Legislative Assembly elections are due in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Goa and Manipur next year, and the battle lines are tightly drawn; especially in UP, where every vote will count.

When the army formations voted during the 2007 Uttar Pradesh Assembly Election, the change in the political attitude towards the army was electric. Interestingly, on discovering that army division at Allahabad would also participate in the 2007 election, a recent Congress defectee from Allahabad to BJP, had executed a summersault at par with perhaps Dipa Karmakar; from complaining against the army to becoming all sugar and honey, in all but a few seconds.

It is true that no political party wants the military to vote as the soldiers vote without a consideration for caste, creed, religion, in the true spirit of “India first”. This often upsets the political calculations. Not only will there be hints for the military to abstain, spanners will be put out like — first get your voter identity cards made; and that voting is impossible where soldiers with even one day of service are authorised to vote.

But, there is precedence to overcome this. In the 2007 Uttar Pradesh Assembly Election, serving soldiers were permitted to vote showing their service identity cards, and the list of eligible military voters was submitted to both the UP and the Election Commission well in advance. In fact, special voting booths were established within military cantonments, where soldiers voted under the supervision of Election Commission representatives.

With Gujarat passing a law to make voting mandatory, this approach should be adopted as dictum even in the military. With the military facing disparaging assaults, every soldier must at least get to vote. This should be the resolve of the service chiefs.

There should be no need for one chief to convince the other two. The three service chiefs actually owe this to their command. The routine instructions for getting soldiers voting cards fooled no one. The only question that remains is, do the chairman chiefs of Staff Committee and the service chiefs have it in them?

The author is veteran Lt Gen of Indian Army.

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How West Bengal became an easy transit point for terror outfits

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>West Bengal with its porous borders has turned into an easy transit point and secure hideout for the agents of terror outfits like Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and Pakistani secret service ISI.”West Bengal’s border is porous and this was used by militant groups to get an entry into the country and spread to other states. This is nothing new. The state has became a safe and secure shelter for them,” a top CID officer said. Militant outfits like JMB, IS and ISI operatives are recruiting agents and training them here, he added. A special task force of Kolkata Police had arrested six top JMB militants, including four wanted, in connection with the 2014 Khagragarh blast case, from West Bengal and Assam in September.”Taking advantage of the unemployment situation, the agents have been recruiting people with ease. These groups also have recruitment cells which look for possible youths either studying in senior schools or looking for job as their possible targets,” the CID official said, adding social networking sites have played crucial roles in this connection. “Now one can scan through anybody’s profile sitting thousands of kilometres away in another country to choose a possible candidate. Then the message goes to the outfit’s local agent to do the needful to get the person under its umbrella,” he said.The officer cited the arrest of 18-year-old student of a private polytechnique college in Durgapur in Burdwan district, Ashik Ahmed by NIA for his links to the ISIS in March. Ashik, who was trying to build an unit of ISIS in West Bengal, was the second youth to be arrested from the state after Mehdi Masroor Biswas, for his links to the Pakistani agency. A senior officer of Kolkata Police told PTI that the state’s strategic location along the international border and the slack security arrangement at a few places have made such incidents possible through the last decade or more.In December last year Kolkata Police STF had arrested one labourer, a couple of passport agents, a college student and a bartender for alleged links with ISI. The arrest of the bartender from the central part of the city had revealed that a network of ISI agents were working in the state, he added. The officer said, “Specific roles were given to each of these agents by ISI. Some are here to recruit agents, some others to collect information from areas where either the Navy, Army or the Air Force have their base.” “There are people who smuggle in high quality fake Indian currency notes and spread them here with the aim to devastate the economy,” he said. Intelligence sources here said JMB and the IS have spread their network in Howrah, and North and South 24 Parganas districts.”They have set up organisational bases in districts like Murshidabad, Nadia, Burdwan and Birbhum and we are probing whether they have spread into other states like Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya etc,” the officer said. “The ISI agents first bring outsiders into the country through Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan and help them settle by providing fake passports, fake voter identity cards, Aadhar cards and ration cards,” the CID officer said.The cultivation of illegal poppy in the state and smuggling it to other parts even across the border to foreign lands has become one of the principal source of funds for terror outfits like ISIS and JMB. Districts like Malda, Murshidabad, Birbhum, Burdwan and Bankura have seen a spurt in illicit poppy cultivation mainly because of the easy way of producing it, he added.

‘Pakistan will cease to exist on world map’: Jammu and Kashmir deputy CM Nirmal Singh

Jammu: Alleging Pakistan for “destabilising” Jammu and Kashmir, Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh on Thursday said the neighbouring country is a “failed state” and time would come when it will “cease to exist on the world map”.

“Time will come when Pakistan will not be on the map of world. It will have similar fate as that in the period when Bangladesh was carved out,” Singh said. He said Pakistan has turned “jittery” following surgical strikes on terror launch pads by Indian Army in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK).

Representational image. Image courtesy: IBNLive

Representational image. Image courtesy: IBNLive

“It is now resorting to continuous ceasefire violations and pushing in militants to destabilise Jammu and Kashmir. It also engineering what is happening in Kashmir Valley,” Singh said.

“Pakistan has been isolated with the proactive and strong campaign launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi across the globe. It has been isolated on the global map and has become a failed and a terrorist state,” he claimed.

He was speaking at a function to commemorate the 69th Martyrdom day of Brigadier Rajendra Singh (MVC posthumous), organised at latter’s birth place Bagoona at Rajinderpura village in Samba district.

Recalling the bravery and sacrifice of Rajendra, the Deputy Chief Minister said personalities like him inspire us to stand for the sovereignty and integration of the country.

He exhorted upon the youth to remember and emulate the bravery of such heroes. Singh said the government is committed to the welfare of soldiers and their families and informed that it was contemplating to formulate a policy for providing jobs and compensation for wards of martyred soldiers.

Zakir Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation to be declared ‘unlawful association’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>An NGO promoted by controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik will soon be banned under the anti-terror law, with the Home Ministry preparing a draft cabinet note for it. Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) will be declared an ‘unlawful association’ under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act after investigations by the Home Ministry found it to be allegedly having dubious links with Peace TV, an international Islamic channel, accused of propagating terrorism, an official source said.According to the draft note, which is also based on the inputs from Maharashtra Police, Naik, who heads the IRF, has allegedly made many provocative speeches and engaged in terror propaganda. Maharashtra Police has also registered criminal cases against Naik for his alleged involvement in radicalisation of youths and luring them into terror activities, a source said.Naik also transferred IRF’s foreign funds to Peace TV for making “objectionable” programmes. Most of the programmes, which were made in India, contained alleged hate speeches of Naik, who had reportedly “urged all Muslims to be terrorists” through Peace TV, sources claimed. Two educational trusts run by Naik have also come under the scanner of the Home Ministry and agencies are looking into their activities.The draft note will soon be placed before the Union Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for its approval, sources said. Naik is accused of radicalising youths into terror and receiving foreign funds and spending those to lure young people into terrorism. He came under the scanner of the security agencies after Bangladeshi newspaper Daily Star reported that one of the perpetrators of the July 1 terror attack in Dhaka, Rohan Imtiaz, ran propaganda on Facebook last year quoting Naik.Naik in a lecture, aired on Peace TV, had reportedly “urged all Muslims to be terrorists”. The Islamic orator is banned in the UK and Canada for his hate speech aimed against other religions. He is among 16 banned Islamic scholars in Malaysia. He is popular in Bangladesh through his Peace TV, although his preachings often demean other religions and even other Muslim sects. The Mumbai-based preacher has not returned to India ever since the controversy came to light.

Assam students’ union protests proposed amendment of Citizenship Act: Here’s what you should know

The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) has been protesting against the proposed amendment to the Citizenship Act 1955 – introduced in Lok Sabha on 19 July – for granting refugees from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan citizenship. They have been taking out marches across the state since 18 October.

Stating that the AASU will not accept giving religious colour to the illegal Bangladeshi issue and the proposed amendment is an example of political injustice, AASU adviser Samujjwal Bhattacharya said, “The proposed amendment to the Bill is a threat to the identity of local people. Since Independence, North East has been subjected to economic exploitation and political injustice.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“The latest Bill is another example of political injustice. The Centre is treating us as second class citizens.”

Stating that if the Centre was actually encouraging infiltration by bringing in the amendment to the Citizenship Act, Bhattacharya warned of sustained movements across Assam if the Bill was not withdrawn immediately.

What is The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016?

The proposed 2016 Amendment Bill of the Citizenship Act 1955 – currently under consideration of the Joint Select Committee of the Parliament – will make illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, eligible for citizenship.

It is, however, required of the applicant to have resided in India during the last 12 months, and for 11 of the previous 14 years. The Bill, however, relaxes this 11 year requirement to six years for persons belonging to the same six religions and three countries.

The Bill would also violate the fundamental of Assam Accord of 1985, where the illegal migrants who had entered Assam from Bangladesh after  25 March, 1971, were to be extradited.

Key aspect of the Bill

The Bill provides that the registration of Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders may be cancelled if they violate any law. This is a wide ground that may cover a range of violations, including minor offences (eg. parking in a no parking zone).

This amendment may also violate the right to equality guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution because it provides differential treatment to illegal migrants on the basis of their religion.

Article 14, which assures equality to all persons, citizens and foreigners, only permits laws to differentiate between groups of people if the rationale for doing so serves a reasonable purpose.

According to the PRS legislative brief, the reasons fails to explain the rationale behind differentiating between illegal migrants on the basis of the religion they belong to.

With inputs from PTI

‘Prove sincerity’ before formalising ceasefire accord: Congress to Abdul Basit

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Congress party on Wednesday said Pakistan should first prove its sincerity in wanting a dialogue with India and stop repeated border violations or the promotion of terrorism before demanding formalization of the November 2003 ceasefire agreement.Rejecting Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit’s suggestion categorically, Congress leader PC Chacko told ANI, “We have a clear stand that terror and talks cannot go together. We are always for discussion. Even after the Bangladesh war, we had the Shimla Agreement, every time a violation took place, it came from their side only. Pakistan should know that the solution lies only in discussion.”In the backdrop of sharp increase in ceasefire violations along the International Border by the Pakistan Rangers, High Commissioner Basit had on Monday called upon India to formalise the 2003 ceasefire agreement before the situation ‘deteriorates’ further. Basit said it was important to enforce confidence building measures and called the firing at the Line of Control and the International Border an ‘unnecessary escalation’.”We need to move from symbolism to substance and from conflict management to conflict resolution. If would serve better purpose if we tone down the rhetoric and build new bridges of trust,” Basit said at an event in New Delhi. Pakistan forces have been violating the ceasefire repeatedly in the Jammu region and the Kashmir Valley. There have been a number of casualties and injuries to people as a result. More than 40 ceasefire violations have been reported in Jammu and Kashmir since India carried out surgical attacks in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) on September 29-30.

Assam: AASU launch mass stir against Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Central government’s decision to revise the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 1955 to grant citizenship to the persecuted Hindu migrants from Bangladesh is facing stiff opposition in the BJP-ruled state of Assam. As many as 26 ethnic organisations, along with influential All Assam Students Union (AASU), have launched a statewide stir to oppose the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016 which they say directly contradicts the historic Assam Accord which was signed in 1985 between AASU, Centre and state.These groups say the Bill of 2016 is directly conflicting the 1985 Assam Accord, which prohibits citizenship to any person whether Hindu or Muslim if found having entered the state from Bangladesh after March 24, 1971.The bill is likely to be presented for debate in the winter session of Parliament next month. It gives the right of citizenship to Hindus who claim they are fleeing persecution in Muslim-majority Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Even the BJP’s alliance partner, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), said, it will not allow the dilution of clauses of Assam Accord and wants every illegal migrants irrespective of caste and religion to leave Assam.”There cannot be a selective approach. We are committed to protecting the Assam Accord, which stipulates that anyone illegally entering Assam has to be deported to the countries of origin,” Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, senior leader Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and one of the signatories of Assam Accord told reporters in Guwahati.Many MPs at the parliamentary select committee now examining the clauses of the new bill have also voiced opposition. If passed, the bill would give the right of Indian citizenship to over 150,000 Bangladeshi Hindus who are currently residing in Assam and many more that would enter without any valid documents. The state Congress, has also threatened to join the statewide stir. The move is sowing dissensions between Hindu Bengali and Assamese leaders. The BJP, however, defended its move, saying the bill would ensure that Assam does not become a Muslim-majority state.”India is a natural home for persecuted Hindus. Where will they go? And granting citizenship to Hindu Bengalis will benefit Assam as it would stop Muslims from becoming a majority,” Himanta Biswa Sarma, BJP’s senior cabinet minister said.

India’s cotton exports to slump as Pakistan trims purchases | Reuters

India’s cotton exports to slump as Pakistan trims purchases | Reuters

Updated: Oct 24, 2016 19:40 IST


By Rajendra Jadhav

MUMBAI India’s cotton exports in 2016/17 are likely to fall 28 percent from a year ago to 5 million bales as its top buyer Pakistan is set to halve purchases due to rising hostilities and improvement in its own production, industry and government officials said.The lower shipments to Pakistan from the world’s biggest cotton producer will help other suppliers such as Brazil, the United States and some African countries in raising exports.Pakistan is likely to import 1 million to 1.5 million bales in the 2016/17 year that started on Oct. 1, down sharply from 2.7 million bales a year earlier, India’s Textile Commissioner Kavita Gupta told reporters on Monday.Gupta attributed the reduction to an improvement in Pakistan’s cotton production, but industry officials said exports are down due to rising tensions between the two countries.”Pakistan still needs to import, but Pakistani buyers are turning to Brazil and the U.S.,” said Pradeep Jain, a ginner based in Jalgaon in the western state of Maharashtra.

The nuclear-armed rivals have seen tensions ratchet up in the past few months over the disputed territory of Kashmir. Last month, militants that New Delhi says came from across the border attacked an army base in Uri in the state, killing 19 soldiers.In response, Indian officials said elite troops crossed into Pakistan-held territory to kill suspected militants.Pakistan, the world’s third-largest cotton consumer, usually starts importing from September, but exporters said the number of inquiries had slowed to a trickle in the last few weeks.

In 2015/16, Pakistan surpassed Bangladesh to become India’s biggest cotton buyer and accounted for 40 percent of exports.India has so far in the season contracted 500,000 bales for export as demand was weak from overseas buyers, Dhiren Sheth, president of the Cotton Association of India, said.By this time last year, Indian traders had signed contracts to export 1 million bales, dealers said.

India’s cotton output in 2016/17 could rise 3.8 percent from a year earlier to 35.1 million bales as yields are expected to increase due to good monsoon rains, Gupta said.”This year, area under cotton was lower but due to good monsoon rains and less impact from pests, we are estimating higher per-hectare yields,” she said.(1 Indian bale = 170 kg) (Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav)

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

After ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’ stir, MNS’ next target is traders

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Emboldened by its successful campaign against Bollywood film Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, MNS now wants traders to “sacrifice” their business with Pakistan for the sake of the “nation” even as cotton exporters today observed that the Raj Thackeray-led outfit’s stand will affect the industry.The stir by MNS against release of the Karan Johar film for featuring Pakistani actor Fawad Khan blew over on Saturday following mediation by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in a tripartite meeting among Thackeray, Johar, and Producers’ Guild president Mukesh Bhatt at the CM’s residence.Exploiting the controversy to the hilt ahead of the Mumbai municipal corporation polls next year, Thackeray on Saturday asked the filmmakers who had worked with Pakistani actors to contribute Rs 5 crore as “prayaschit” (penance) money to the Army Welfare Fund. MNS spokesperson Shalini Thackeray on Sunday demanded that the traders should sacrifice business for the sake of nation.”Nation should be first. If jawans are sacrificing their lives (at border), why can’t traders sacrifice their trade? Money making should be the secondary priority in case of Pakistan,” she said.”Pakistan has already violated the clauses of MFN status given by India. Now, it’s high time that India isolate Pakistan, not only on cultural issues but on trade (front) as well. Banning the film (ADHM) was only to set an example that India has started to isolate Pak…next comes trade,” she told PTI.The senior leader said MNS will definitely play its role in ensuring that all kinds of trade with Pakistan are stopped.”However, the government will have to play a major role as far as trade is concerned,” she said.Meanwhile, concerned over rising tensions between the two countries after the Uri attack coupled with aggressive posturing by MNS, the cotton traders said they are afraid of losing business to the tune of Rs 5,500 crore with Pakistan. Maharashtra is a major contributor in cotton manufacturing states, followed by Gujarat.According to Sharadram Sejpal, spokesperson of Power Loom Association, India had placed an order to import 20,000 bales cotton from Pakistan in June as there was low production in the domestic market.”Generally, we export cotton to Pakistan. But June period was bad. At a time when we are expecting a record breaking production (of cotton), MNS’s stand against Pakistani actors has affected the cotton industry as well and powerloom industry will ultimately have to suffer,” Sejpal said. He demanded that the Raj Thackeray-led party should keep politics away from trade.Reacting to this, Shalini said, “Cotton associations should themselves come up and stop exporting to Pak, instead of them banning our imports.”According to Pradeep Jain, who operates a ginning mill in Jalgaon, Maharashtra will record a bumper production of cotton this year as monsoon has been very good.”We will produce around 1 crore cotton bales (1 bale equals to 170 kg) this year and if exports are stuck due to sentiments of patriotism after Uri attack by Pakistan, it will have a negative impact on the cotton industry, specifically on cotton growing farmers,” he said.Jain said that Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam and China are the major importers of Indian cotton.”Pakistan starts import of cotton from September every year. It consumes an average of 20 to 25 lakh bales whereas Bangladesh consumes 20 lakh bales from Indian cotton exporters,” Jain said. Out of the total cotton production, an average 65 lakh bales of cotton are exported from India alone.

Bangladesh probe team questions 6 JMB operatives arrested in India

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Bangladesh’s elite anti-terror agency RAB arrived in India on Saturday morning to question Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen, Bangladesh (JMB) operatives that were arrested in India’s eastern state of West Bengal.A team of two investigators reached the National Investigation Agency (NIA) office and questioned the six JMB operatives, who were arrested by the Special Task Force of Kolkata Police last month.The team questioned and examined them to find out if they played any role in the attack at Dhaka’s high security zone, Gulshan. The agency will also explore their links with the Islamic State, if any.Currently, the six are under NIA custody and the agency is also examining them for their role in the October 2, 2014, Burdwan blast case in West Bengal. The six arrested include JMB’s Bengal unit chief, Inam alias Anwar Hussain, Maulana Yusuf, chief motivator of JMB across Madrasas in Bengal. Sahidul Islam, chief of the JMB in the North-eastern region. Md. Rubel alias Rafique is a resident of Jamalpur, Bangladesh and an expert in IEDs. Md. Abul Kalam was also an expert in IEDs and used to assist another operative, Sahidul. Jabirul Islam alias Jahidul Islam is a Bangladeshi national, who had entered India without any valid passport or visa.The six JMB operatives were arrested by the Special Task Force of Kolkata Police from West Bengal and several other eastern Indian states. Of the six, three are Bangladeshi nationals and three are Indian nationals of Bangladeshi origin. The arrested were running JMB sleeper cells and their modules were active in eastern and north-eastern India and were plotting a terror attack in the eastern region of India.Sources in the investigating agency highlight that these operatives were controlled and handled by JMB’s Majlish-e-Shura, think-tank, in charge of India, Salahuddin.

Ban terrorists, not artistes: Taslima Nasreen on boycott of Pakistanis artistes

New Delhi: Noted Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen on Wednesday slammed those who are boycotting Pakistani artistes, saying terrorists should be banned not artistes, and cautioned that such actions were similar to Hitler’s idea of ‘blood purity’.

In a series of tweets, Taslima, who is living in exile in India after facing death threats from fundamentalists in Bangladesh, said, “Ban terrorists. Don’t ban artists. Artistes belong to the places where art is honoured.

“Today you ban Pakistani artists. Tomorrow you ban Bangladeshi writers. You will live with yourselves. ‘Pure Indian’ blood. Hitler’s idea of ‘blood purity’.”

Hitler, who led Germany during World War II, propagated the idea of a “pure Aryan race” supremacy under Nazism, leading to the killings of millions of Jews and ban on mixed marriages.

Taslima’s came a day after filmmaker Karan Johar said he will not “engage with talent” from Pakistan in future and made a fervent appeal against stalling his upcoming film ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil‘ that features Fawad Khan.

In the aftermath of the Uri terror attack last month in which 19 Indian jawans were killed, the MNS issued an ultimatum to Pakistani artistes to leave India. They also threatened to stop the screening of films featuring artistes from Pakistan.

Subsequently, Indian Motion Pictures Producers Association passed a motion to ban the artistes from the neighbouring country.

The Cinema Owners Exhibitors Association of India recently decided not to screen the films with Pakistani actors in four states — Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Goa.

On Tuesday, Taslima had also tweeted on the issue of triple talaq saying, “No religious law is good. Better to have a strict separation between religion and state. Uniform civil code based on equality and justice urgently necessary.”

Indian media must expose Pakistan’s hand in terrorism in Afghanistan

Pakistani media and Pakistani bloggers have warned their government and security agencies that Pakistan is on the verge of global isolation. A prominent Pakistani daily in its editorial has blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi behind this move, saying he is sparing no effort in highlighting cross-border terror attacks by Pakistan at every international forum including indirectly calling Pakistan “mothership of terror” during the recent Brics meet. The editorial says, “Modi’s statement shows just how committed New Delhi is when it comes to isolating Pakistan globally. From cancelling SAARC summit to boycotting Pakistani artists, the Modi regime is hell-bent on weakening Pakistan at every international forum. When and if isolated, the impact would be drastic, and Pakistan would never want that.”

Not that the Pakistani government is not worried, as was disclosed by participants of the Heart Security Dialogue held in Afghanistan held recently, who had travelled to Pakistan earlier. The angst of the civil society in Pakistan is obvious as the above mentioned daily mentioned that the Pakistani government and security agencies “should at least have the decency to admit that Pakistan still isn’t 100 per cent sure which non-state actor is good or bad”, adding just days earlier, even a ruling party lawmaker demanded action against non-state actors who happen to be the very ones that New Delhi has alleged Islamabad is using for cross-border terrorist attacks. The paper also mentioned the episode of Dawn reporter Cyril Almeida.

Afghan soldiers inspects the site of suicide attack In Kabul. Image used for representational purpose. APAfghan soldiers inspects the site of suicide attack In Kabul. Image used for representational purpose. AP

Afghan soldiers inspects the site of suicide attack In Kabul. Image used for representational purpose. AP

With reference to Saarc, the summit that was scheduled in Islamabad is ‘postponed’ by Pakistan and not cancelled and to blame PM Modi for the same is wrong as Saarc members are sovereign nations who take their own decisions. For example, Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh recently stated a media interview, “It is over the situation in Pakistan that we decided to pull out (from the Saarc summit in Islamabad). Terror from Pakistan has gone everywhere, which is why many of us felt frustrated by Pakistan. India pulled because of the Uri attack, but for Bangladesh the reason is totally different. One of the other main reason of my government for Saarc pullout was hurt felt over Pakistan’s strident criticism of the war crimes process in Bangladesh in which dozen Jamaat-e-Islami leaders, accused of brutalities during the liberation war in 1971, have been hanged or indicted.” As to Pakistani film actors returning to Pakistan, it was of their own volition because they refused to sympathise with victims of Uri attack and condemn propagators of the dastardly attack and the Indian Motion Pictures Association (IMPA) who previously had held a condolence meet to sympathise with the victims of Army School, Abbotabad. IMPA indicted these Pakistani artist for making distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ terrorists.

But the most significant issue is that the term ‘non-state actor’ with reference to cross-border terrorism by Pakistan must be dropped being misnomer. There are no non-state actors in Pakistan undertaking cross-border terrorist acts. On the contrary, they are all state-supported; not only armed, funded, trained but also are operating mixed with disguised regulars from Pakistani Mujahid battalions and ISI operatives. The leaders of these so called non-state actors have been provided state protection, rabid mullahs like Hafiz Saeed and Azhar Masood are de-facto foreign policy spokespersons, terrorist organisations have been dovetailed with army establishments and intelligence reports indicate that terrorist along the LoC with India have been put in uniform of Pakistani Rangers post the surgical strikes by India.

While Indian media has been covering news reports about terror attacks in Afghanistan, it is imperative that Pakistan’s proxy war in Afghanistan be highlighted much more prominently, Afghanistan being our strategic partner. Report by UN Assistance Mission Afghanistan (Unama) released in July 2016 shows that 5,166 people were killed or maimed in Afghanistan between January to June 2016 and total civilian casualties as per “conservative estimates” between January 2009 and 30 June 2016 were 64,000 including 23000 killed and 41,000 injured. The UNAMA report goes on to say that majority of these casualties have been caused by the Taliban and groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Haqqani Network, Hezb-e-Islami, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Islamic Jihad Union, Islamic State etc. Look at the horrendous horrific human tragedy in Afghanistan mainly because of Pakistan’s export of terrorism.

It may be recalled that Musharraf, former President of Pakistan has been boasting, “Osama-bin-Laden, Ayman-al-Zawahiri, Haqqanis are our heroes ….. We trained the LeT against India.” Now LeT is also being used for proxy war against Afghanistan. Earlier we had Sartaj Aziz, Advisor on Foreign Affairs (then also NSA) to Pakistan Prime Minister telling to BBC in an interview, “Pakistan should not engage in a war with those (insurgents / militants) whose target is not Pakistan.” US intelligence had admitted in February 2016 that Both Taliban (Afghan and Pakistan) have largely coalesced. The link is the Haqqanis that are based in Pakistan past three decades plus and Sirajuddin Haqqani, chief of Haqqani network and protégé of ISI is deputy leader of Afghan Taliban. US intelligence also reveals that Khorasan branch of IS formed is “amalgamation of primarily disaffected and rebranded former Afghan Taliban and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) members”. Apparently, they were cobbled together in Peshawar region and have been pushed west into Afghanistan. Also, Voice of America recently reported Afghanistan officially telling Pakistan that Hafiz Saeed, former LeT chief is directing IS operations in Afghanistan.

It would be for the betterment of Pakistan if the Pakistani army returns to barracks and let true democracy flourish.

So the so called Islamic State (IS)  in Afghanistan is obviously mixed with LeT and other Pakistani proxies like JeM etc. The human toll in Afghanistan is mounting at incredible pace. Recently, 33 Muslim worshippers were killed and 82 injured in two separate terror attacks in Kabul and Balkh in Afghanistan. Intelligence now confirms that the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba, both Pakistan based, are also attacking Afghanistan. There should be little doubt that Pakistan’s military is doing all this with its stated aim of achieving ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan and influence Central Asia. Former Pakistani army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had admitted that Pakistan does not wish to ‘hold’ the cherished strategic depth but wants to ‘control’ it. In doing so, Pakistan is repeatedly targeting Hazaras in Afghanistan, aiming to create an ethnic divide.

There is also danger that the IS in Iraq-Syria under major attack will be welcomed by Pakistan with open arms and used for cross-border attacks. Pakistan is using JeM to attack both India and Afghanistan but China still continues to put its so-called ‘technical hold’ at the UN to stop Azhar Masood being branded terrorist; ‘technical hold” being an euphuism for abetting Pakistani terrorism. This, despite China being only country that is drilling oil commercially in Afghanistan since 2012 and making huge profits in copper mines extraction.

Not only are India and Afghanistan strategic partners, they are both being subjected to Pakistan’s proxy war. The Pakistani military may have acquired the hide of the rhinoceros but public opinion in Pakistan is important and latter’s concerns have begun to reflect in their media. It should therefore be incumbent on media of both countries, particularly of India, to prominently highlight Pakistan’s proxy war both on India and Afghanistan. A media blitz is warranted to expose the nefarious wrong doings and stranglehold of the Pakistani military on their own country leading them down the vortex of terror. While the youth in Pakistan are being systematically radicalised, they actually need to be exposed to what how and why the Pakistani military lost East Pakistan and 93,000 military personnel surrendered as prisoners of war. It would be for the betterment of Pakistan if the Pakistani army returns to barracks and let true democracy flourish.

The author is veteran Lt General of the Indian Army

Terrorism has become truly global challenge: Sushma Swaraj

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amid criticism that India failed to obtain consensus on reference to cross-border terrorism in BRICS declaration, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday said threat of terror featured strongly in the narrative of the Summit and there was a growing recognition that it has become a truly global challenge. Two days after the BRICS Summit in Goa where India’s forcefully highlighted terror emanating from Pakistan, she said there was no bigger global challenge than “state- sponsored” and “state-protected terrorism, asserting those supporting terror networks must be made to pay the cost. In clear reference to Pakistan, Swaraj said there is a need to extract costs from those who sponsor and support terrorists and provide them sanctuary and continue to make the “false distinction” between “good and bad terrorists”. Swaraj was delivering an address at the BRICS media forum. In an obvious reference to Pakistan blocking several pacts on transport and connectivity, Swaraj referred to growing cooperation on these issues among BIMSTEC nations, noting “There cannot be a greater contrast with those who reject even trade and connectivity for political reasons.” On deliberations at the BRICS, Swaraj said while the economic engagement and political cooperation remained key factors, there was a sharp realisation that global development and prosperity was very much dependent on continued peace and security. “Terrorism was universally recognised as a key threat to stability, progress and development. Consequently, it featured strongly in the conference narrative and its eventual outcome. Indeed, what we saw was not just an understanding of the dangers posed by terrorism to the economic aspirations of the world but a growing recognition that this has now become a truly global challenge that the international community can only ignore at its peril,” she said. There was criticism of the government after consensus eluded on reference to cross-border terror in BRICS declaration. Without naming any country, Swaraj said there has always been an overarching political context for the BRICS meetings which essentially underlines that a serious global discourse cannot be the “preserve” of a few countries with a “narrow agenda”. “There is a developing consensus that it cannot be business as usual. We must be prepared to extract costs for those who sponsor and support terrorists, who provide them sanctuary, and who, despite their own claimed victimhood, continue to make the false distinction between good and bad terrorists. “BRICS has always been global in its approach and today, there is no bigger global challenge than state-sponsored and state-protected terrorism,” she said. Swaraj said members of BIMSTEC- Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand represented the “polar opposite” of a terrorism “promoting polity”. “They are focused on improving the quality of life of their people, on skills and employment, on education and health, and on the quality of governance and the deepening of democracy. “These are nations who are actively promoting connectivity, cooperation and contacts amongst themselves. Their interface with the BRICS has a message in itself. This is that a world changing in a positive direction as reflected by the BRICS has its regional expression in a community like BIMSTEC that is able to visualize a prosperous collective future,” Swaraj said. On India’s chairmanship of BRICS, Swaraj said “we took the BRICS outside the conference room and endeavoured to instill it in popular thinking.” Talking about major initiatives by BRICS, she said the Summit represented a further advancement in terms of the breadth and focus of its discussions, adding the grouping has transformed over the years. “Initially, its deliberations concentrated more on economic and financial issues. But over the years, it has broadened to cover larger global issues, even as it has promoted the creation of BRICS institutions and mechanisms. “Key initiatives like a BRICS Rating Agency that can complement the New Development Bank, or the Railways Research Network and an Agriculture Research Platform that will allow us to leverage our specific strengths for mutual benefit are tangible goals that we believe can take the group forward,” she said.Swaraj said a total of 115 events were organised in the nine months of India’s chairmanship of the block.

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