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Tributes flow for soulful British pop idol George Michael, dead at 53 | Reuters

By Edward Baran

LONDON Madonna, Elton John and Paul McCartney paid tribute on Monday to British pop idol George Michael, who has died age 53 after a career of soulful ballads and dance songs that provided a soundtrack to much of the 1980s and 1990s.Michael burst to stardom with “Wham!, one of the most successful pop duos ever, with singles like “”Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and “”Careless Whisper”, before reinventing himself as a solo artist with sexually daring lyrics and multimillion-selling albums like “Faith” and “Listen Without Prejudice”.He passed away peacefully over Christmas, according to a statement from his publicist. British police said his death was “unexplained but not suspicious”. His manager, Michael Lippman, said the singer had died of heart failure, according to the BBC.”Heartbroken at the loss of my beloved friend Yog (nickname). Me, his loved ones, his friends, the world of music, the world at large. 4ever loved,” said former Wham! partner and school friend Andrew Ridgeley on Twitter. “Cleft with grief.” “Farewell My Friend. Another Great Artist leaves us,” Madonna tweeted.”George Michael’s sweet soul music will live on even after his sudden death,” said McCartney. “Having worked with him on a number of occasions his great talent always shone through and his self-deprecating sense of humour made the experience even more pleasurable.”

Michael was highly regarded by fellow musicians as a singer and songwriter – in addition to pop phenomenon – and was a 2017 nominee for the Songwriters Hall of Fame, but he was troubled for years by substance abuse and a topsy turvy private life.With flowing blond hair and handsome smile, Michael won legions of fans as a teenage pin-up in the early 1980s before going solo with “Faith” in 1987, among the more than 100 million albums he sold with Wham! and under his own name.While still in Wham!, Michael became the first Western pop act to perform in communist China, in 1985.

He was publicly outed as a homosexual when he was arrested in 1998 for “engaging in a lewd act” in a public restroom in Beverly Hills, California. But he parlayed that tabloid tale into a successful revamp of his career with the hit single “Outside,” accompanied by a video featuring LA police officers which showcased his sense of humour.On Monday, fans laid flowers and candles at his homes in London and Oxfordshire. “I have grown up with him – he was a songbook to the good times, the bad times. And he’s brought me here today just to say thank you, George, for the music,” said Kavita, a fan outside his home in London’s affluent Highgate district.

Michael’s friend and fellow musician Elton John, with whom he collaborated, said: “I have lost a beloved friend – the kindest, most generous soul and a brilliant artist. My heart goes out to his family and all of his fans.” Michael was born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou on June 25, 1963 in London to a Greek Cypriot family in a flat above a north London launderette. He played music on the London underground train system before finding global fame with Wham!.Michael’s death comes at the end of a year that has seen the passing of several popular music giants, including David Bowie, Prince and Leonard Cohen. Rick Parfitt, the guitarist of British rock group Status Quo, died on Saturday at 68. (Writing by Elisabeth O’Leary; editing by Mark Heinrich)

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

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 21:11 IST

Find out how India’s vastly unexplored 7,500 km coastline can generate millions of jobs

In many ways, India looked a gift-horse in the mouth. And the gift was water.

For centuries, India ignored the seas. It has a 7,500 km long coastline which it did not bother about very much. True, the government built 12 ports (government owned ports are called major ports). But it forgot to promote coastal development and coastal tourism. As a result India has a coastline that is largely uninhabited, leaving it open to incursions by smugglers and terrorists. India forgot the old adage that the best type of security is eyes on the ground.

The typical answer was that security concerns prevented the Indian Navy from allowing boats to ply along certain areas, or for boats to land in some other areas. Someone should have pointed naval officers to Portsmouth and Glasgow, where leisure and fishing boats bob around naval frigates.

For security, the Navy depends on excellent eaves dropping equipment, and guards who stand near the prow and watch the waters. Activity keeps them alert and awake. Had there been no boats around, they could not really be faulted for dozing off.



And Britain with its limited coastline earns over GNP 450 billion annually. India could have earned a lot more and even created employment for millions.

India forgot that a 7,500 km coastline is like a 7,500 km 40 lane highway that the country would not have to finance, build or even maintain. It was god’s gift to promote coastal tourism and coastal transport.

Ditto with India’s rivers. Like elsewhere in the world, the biggest cities India had were those on the shores of rivers or seas. But then came the railway network. The British wanted this to become viable and hence promoted rail travel. Riverine cities went into decline and so did India’s rivers. With a majority of population forsakes river travel, it is bound to go into disuse. And abetted by the collusive role that politicians and executives have played all along, it was not surprising that even rivers became polluted. They became repugnant, and traversed only by those who could not afford the rail network.

All this is about to change – and with a clear focus on both development and in creating jobs. Many of the changes India will witness will be on the coastal front, the river front and the connectivity of roads and rails to such spots. In an exclusive half-an-hour interview with R.N.Bhaskar of Firstpost, Rajive Kumar, Secretary, Shipping, outlined some of the key areas where such changes can be expected (click here for the full interview).


Kumar talks about the relevance of port-led development and what the Sagarmala scheme promoted by this government really means. He points out how this will lead to employment generation which is so crucial for a youthful population that India has. He expects such port-led development to generate around 40 lakh jobs, in addition to generating indirect employment for another 60 lakh people. He expects these targets to be achieved within the next five years. But port development – in itself – will continue for a longer period, and could generate many more jobs. The investment outlays planned for this entire exercise is expected to be in the region of Rs 4 lakh crore (4 trillion). The first phase is expected to be completed by 2020 and the second phase by 2025.

Kumar goes on to speak about the Sagarmala project which has four components. The first three of these will involve ensuring adequate port capacity. This is expected to double the existing port capacity of 1,550 million tones to around 3,000 million tones

The second phase will ensure fuller utilisation of existing ports. The ministry has already received 116 recommendations of which 60 have been completed. The adoption of these recommendations alone has allowed for an increase in port capacity by 80 million tonnes at zero cost. Turnaround time has been reduced from 5 days to 3.5 and the plan is to further reduce it to 3 days.

The third aspect is hinterland connectivity. The government has identified 82 road projects and 28 railway projects that need to be implemented. As many as 50 of the road projects will be taken by the NHAI (national Highways Authority of India) and the balance by state governments through their various bodies including the PWDs. Many of these would be taken up under the road ministry’s Bharatmala programme. The road projects also include 10 expressways.

Of the 28 railway projects, the railways will pick up 21. Kumar expects to invest Rs 1.5 lakh crore of the Rs 4 lakh crore of investments in such rail connectivity projects.

The problem will be with small projects that are crucial for the last mile connectivity. It is for this that the government has formed a new company called the Indian Port Rail Company. Then there is the Sagarmala Development Company (SDC) which has been mandated to take up equity participation in partnership with private players who could take up these projects.

In order to ensure that all these projects get taken up and get implemented properly, the government has set up an institutional mechanism. This will enable better cooperation between states and the ministry for implementing road, rail, and port and river projects in partnership with the states.

CEZs and community development

But the centerpiece of all these plans is to usher in what Kumar calls “port-led industrialization and the development of CEZs or coastal economic zones. Each coastal economic development zone will be attached to one port — either private or public. The government has identified 14 CEZs, and the process of working on land acquisition has already commenced.

But the most important part will be community development without which all the other plans might just crumble. This includes (a) fishery development and (b) skill development. The ministry has got studies done of 23 (of the total of 78) coastal districts and the rest of the studies should get completed by the end of this year.

Almost simultaneously, the government plans to promote coastal tourism along India’s coastline and also along its rivers. This includes promoting ocean cruises as well as river cruises. Development of beaches is also being explored with the tourism ministry. In order to give this a big thrust, suitable sections of the existing legal framework relating to cabotage are also being modified for specialised vessels like cruise boats, ro-ro (roll on roll off boats on which vehicles can just roll on and then roll off) and ro-pax vessels that allow passengers to be transported along with vehicles (22:57 to 26:00). In order to provide a greater thrust to commercial autonomy, the government wants to redefine the role of TAMP (Tariff Authority for Major Ports).

But the shipping ministry’s plans go beyond the domestic arena. It wants to look at the development of ports overseas as well for which Indian Ports Global (IPG) was formed a few years ago. The ministry hopes to rope in the private sector too for the development of ports overseas. India has already helped Myanmar develop the Sitwe port, and now India will be developing ports in Iran, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh as well. This will be in addition to the development of the Chabahar port in Iran which holds out enormous commercial and strategic significance for India.

Significantly, the vision for development includes the development of waterways. The government has already identified 111 waterways for navigation and of these 30 are being taken up for development during the next 3 years. As many as 8 of these are to be developed during this year itself. The government is also developing a design for building a 2500 tonne barge that can operate in rivers with a draft of just 2.5 meters. 2,500 tonnes would be equivalent to an entire freight train. Currently, there are barges that ferry as much as 2,000 tonnes per barge.

If all goes well, expect India to see a more vibrant coastline, and the emergence of many more jobs. All this is bound to translate into better economic well-being for most Indians. Not surprisingly, these plans are being called “harnessing the waters of life”.

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 16:08 IST

PM Modi should read history, will find out who betrayed nation: Congress hits back at jibe against Indira

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Congress back at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his party-first remark against it and said he should read history to know who puts the party before the nation. Congress spokesperson Kapil Sibal told the Prime Minister that his party fought the freedom struggle which Modi’s party had “opposed” and instead “sided” with the British. “Modiji said the BJP is the only nationalist party and all others are anti-national. The trouble is, Modiji doesn’t know history and neither is he interested in knowing it. Modiji should remember what his ideological masters did in 1947. “When the Indian National Congress was fighting the freedom struggle, they were on the British side and opposed us. For them, the organisation is first, the nation second. For us, the nation is always first. Today, Modiji has forsaken both the nation and the party. He only wants to see his own image on television,” he said.Sibal suggested that Modi reads history and also that of his party leaders who “supported” the British. He also dubbed the demonetisation decision taken by him unilaterally as “anti-national and anti-people” and said he quotes Chanakya, who never said that the King should speak a lie.”Did Chanakya say that a ruler should lie? We want to ask which party has the most black money? Modi ji should ask himself that,” he asked.Sibal also lamented that it is the first time when the Prime Minister did not speak in Parliament and neither allowed the opposition to speak.Taking a dig at him, the Congress leader said, he also may have been a little worried fearing an expose from the Congress when Parliament is in session.”I don’t know how far the new policy will be able to affect the person for whom it is intended. One thing is clear a large number of people belonging to the middle and lower middle classes will be hit hard on account of the demonetisation. “While we Congressmen have no sympathy for profiteers and dealers in the black market, it is not right to penalise honest Indians, who in good faith have their savings in notes of demonetised value,” he said quoting Dr Rajendra Prasad.”Does Modi ji want to call Dr Rajendra Prasad a scamster? That he was anti-national?” Sibal asked. The Congress leader said if Modi wanted to fight black money, he should start from his own party.”We want to ask which party has the most black money? Modiji should ask himself that. If Modiji wants to fight black money, he should start from his own party. When talking about black money, Modiji should look at his own house.” Sibal asked “When Modi ji was giving speeches before 2014 (general elections), were people paying him in cheques? We want to ask, who was paying him in cheques? Which cheques are used to pay shakhas? In Jhandewalan (RSS’ Delhi headquarters), are all payments made through cheques?.”

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”.

VVIP chopper scam: CBI yet to get full info on money trail from 8 countries contacted

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has not received complete responses in any of the Letter Rogatories (LR’s) it sent to eight countries to seek information on money trail related to the infamous AgustaWestland scam.According to official sources, the probe agency has sent eight LRs, which are basically judicial requests, since 2013 and has received “partial information” from six countries. Two of the eight countries have not even sent partial information even after the probe agency registered an official FIR on March, 2013.According to CBI officials, the probe agency during its investigation, that will enter its fourth year in March next year, sent LRs to Italy, Tunisia, UAE, Singapore, Mauritius, British Virgin Island, UAE and Switzerland. Excluding Singapore and UAE, six countries have sent a “partial execution report” which means that if the probe agency had sent 10 questions seeking information related to the AgustaWestland deal, only some of the queries have received a response.Official sources told DNA on Thursday that investigators probing the Rs 3,726 crore chopper scam have sent multiple reminders to the authorities in the eight countries requesting them to send out information about the scam. The latest reminder was sent to Mauritius which sent a response in November this year however the response too was a partial execution report.”Its a massive investigation and a major part of the probe involves accessing documents and data lying in various countries. When a probe such as AgustaWestland spreads to multiple countries, coordinating with authorities of those countries can be time consuming,” a senior CBI official told DNA, adding that authorities abroad have been cooperating with the probe agency so far.The CBI made its first arrests in the case on December 9 when it took into custody former Indian Air Force chief SP Tyagi, his cousin Sanjeev Tyagi and advocate Gautam Khaitan in the case related to procurement of 12 AW VVIP choppers from UK-based firm during the UPA-2 regime.According to the FIR, the CBI contended that in 2005, the former air chief abused his official position to change the consistent stand of the Indian Air Force (IAF) on the service ceiling of the VVIP choppers from 6000 metres to 4500 metres.On January 1, 2014, India scrapped the contract with AgustaWestland over alleged breach of contractual obligations and charges of paying kickbacks.The CBI alleged that the bribes were routed through multiple companies in India and abroad and involved middlemen and other individuals, including British national Christian Michel and Italian nationals Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa. Companies including Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland, Mohali-based IDS Infotech, Aeromatrix, IDS Tunisia and IDS Mauritius have also been named in the 2013 FIR by the CBI.The accused were first sent to CBI custody twice by a Delhi court. The CBI in its argument seeking custody claimed that crucial information was collected from three countries — Italy, Switzerland and Mauritius — via LRs and the accused were required to be confronted with it to unearth the larger conspiracy in the chopper deal case. Interestingly, authorities in Italy too has sent partial execution report, sources said.

SC refuses to quash parliamentary resolution against Markandey Katju over his remarks on Gandhi, Bose

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed the plea of former apex court judge Justice Markandey Katju seeking quashing of a resolution passed by Parliament condemning his remarks made in a blog on Mahatma Gandhi and Subhash Chandra Bose.

A bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur said the plea is being dismissed on merit.

The bench also comprising Justices PC Ghose and UU Lalit rejected preliminary objections that the plea was not maintainable.

Justice Lalit, who pronounced the judgement on behalf of the bench, said, “We have held that the plea is maintainable. We have dismissed the plea on merit”.

Justice Katju had on 29 June last year moved the apex court seeking quashing of resolutions passed against him by both Houses of Parliament for calling Mahatama Gandhi and Subhash C Bose as British and Japanese “agents” respectively.

File photo of Markandey Katju. PTI

File photo of Markandey Katju. PTI

The former judge, in his Facebook post, had said both Houses of Parliament condemned him for his statements “calling Gandhi a British agent, and Subhas Chandra Bose a Japanese agent” without even giving him a hearing.

A former chairperson of Press Council of India, Justice Katju had sought quashing of resolutions passed against him by Lok Sabha on 12 March and Rajya Sabha on 11 March.

He had also sought a direction to Lok Sabha Speaker and Chairman of Rajya Sabha that he be heard personally or through his duly designated lawyer(s).

His plea had alleged that both Houses of Parliament lacked “competence” to condemn him.

“Because, Parliament lacks the competence and authority to pass the impugned resolutions condemning the act of the petitioner, who is a private person.”

“They (LS and RS) are not competent to take cognizance of expressions of free speech of a private person like petitioner as power under Rule 171 of Lok Sabha Rules provides that the resolution must relate to act of Government. Thus Impugned Resolution does not fulfill the jurisdictional requirement and necessary jurisdictional facts are lacking,” it said.

The plea also referred to the reasons behind the alleged posts against Gandhi and Bose.

“That, the post in respect of Gandhiji in short made the point that by constantly using religious symbolism in politics for several decades, Gandhiji, in effect furthered the British Policy of Divide and Rule by alienating the Muslim population of the Indian sub-continent away from the national movement.”

“That, the post in respect of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, in short made the point that through his actions knowingly or unknowingly, he ended up perpetuating Japanese imperial interest in the Indian sub-continent,” the plea stated.

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 12:53 IST

Bad news for Indians? UK planning to cut annual student visa figures by half

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> The UK government is finalising plans to cut annual student visa figures by nearly half, from the current 300,000 to 170,000, a media report said today amid a sharp fall in students coming to the country from outside Europe including India. Some university chiefs are also warning that many Indian students are already being denied visas on minor grounds as part of a wider move to cut immigration into the UK.”They are telling some students there is exactly the same quality of course available in India so why are you coming here. That is outrageous,” a UK vice-chancellor was quoted as saying by the Guardian newspaper.The move comes despite recent UK Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures indicating there has been a drastic drop in students coming to the UK from outside Europe.”There was a statistically significant decline in the number of non-EU citizens migrating to the UK to study, from 134,000 in the previous year to 111,000…there was a statistically significant decline in citizens of South Asia, with the number coming to study having almost halved,” ONS said in its ‘Migration Statistics Quarterly Report: August 2016’.India is the third-largest category in terms of student visa applications after the US and China, with 10,664 granted between June 2015 and 2016.”International students contribute, directly and indirectly, 14 billion pounds to the UK economy, making higher education one of this country’s most valuable exports…Over the last five years, the number of Indian students attending UK universities has halved. I have consistently asked the government to remove students from the net migration target,” said Lord Bilimoria, leading Indian-origin entrepreneur and Cobra Beer founder, who himself came to the UK as a student.”We should immediately re-introduce the two-year post-study work visa, which I fought hard to introduce before its withdrawal in 2012, to allow foreign students to implement their much-needed skills here and help boost our economy,” he added.During British Prime Minister Theresa May’s visit to India last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had stressed on the importance of access for Indian students to UK institutions.”Education is vital for our students and will define our engagement in a shared future. We must therefore encourage greater mobility and participation of young people in educational and research opportunities,” PM Modi had told May in his address at the UK India Tech Summit in New Delhi.However, senior university sources indicate the UK Home Office is on track for some dramatic immigration cuts in student visa numbers. While it has dismissed rumours of an annual cutback of more than two-thirds, the likely cut to around 170,000 seems likely to be enforced. A UK Home Office spokesperson said: “Claims the Home Office is modelling cuts to reduce international students to a third ie 100,000 a year are categorically untrue”.”We want to strengthen the system to support the best universities and those that stick to the rules to attract the best talent. The British people have sent a clear message that they want more control of immigration and we are committed to getting net migration down to sustainable levels in the tens of thousands,” he said.

Mature friend valuable than hysterical partner: MJ Akbar on Sino-Pak friendship

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a veiled dig at Sino-Pakistan friendship, Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar said a “mature” friend is far more valuable than a “hysterical” partner. Addressing the first India-China think-tank forum here, Akbar also said the time has come for India and China to regain the reputation of being a global manufacturing hub.He referred to the past when India accounted for 24% of the global manufacturing output and China 30%. “There cannot be any situation in which two nations do not have some differences. Of course, there will be some but mature nations can take their problems to a decent space of a dialogue table.”A mature friend is far, far more valuable than a hysterical partner,” Akbar said at the inauguration of the two-day forum. His remarks appeared as an indirect message to China which describes Pakistan as a “all weather ally” and has strong defence and trade ties with it. In the backdrop of the several terror strikes carried out in India by Pakistan-based groups, Akbar said dangers from terrorism are not limited to the fact that it kills people but also in its use of fear to divide people, especially in societies and nations which are built on pluralism.He warned that complacence was absolutely the “biggest danger” while dealing with new realities posed by terrorism. Commenting on the current situation in the region, the minister said, “Peace is sometimes more difficult to find than war.”He also said in the post British empire era, both India and China agreed that religion cannot be the basis of nationalism.”In the (Indian) sub-continent this idea was challenged by votaries of the Muslim League, who argued that religion could be basis of nation state. Parallel story that religion on which they wanted nation state, Islam, there is no history of Islam being basis of political unity,” he said.

Heart of Asia conference: Pakistan ’embarrassed’ on terrorism, but policy will continue

Rarely in a multilateral meeting or conference does a participating country become the principal target of attack by a country that is the “chair” or “co-chair”. But this was precisely what happened on Sunday at Amritsar during the Sixth Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia — Istanbul Process (HoA-IP), attended by 14 partner countries and more than 30 supporting countries and international organisations. The ‘hapless’ country happened to be Pakistan — the target of a hard-hitting attack by Afghan president Ashraf Ghani, whose country was the co-chair along with India of this edition of HoA-IP.

In fact, Afghanistan was just simply not the co-chair. It is the heart of the ‘Heart of Asia’ conference. This is because the principal goal of the HoA-IP, which was launched in November 2011 in Turkey, is to galvanise regional cooperation for peace, security and development in Afghanistan. That in the process it will also contribute to the stability and prosperity to Afghanistan’s extended neighbourhood in South Asia, Central Asia and West Asia is equally important, but Afghanistan remains the heart of the Istanbul process. And in this process of promoting peace and prosperity, the previous five Ministerial Conferences in Istanbul (2011), Kabul (2012), Almaty (2013), Beijing (2014), and Islamabad (2015) have facilitated both bilaterally and multilateral aid and developmental assistance worth billions of dollars.

However, peace and stability of Afghanistan remain elusive; the nascent Afghan democracy continues to be attacked by the religious extremists of various hues, Afghan soldiers continue to die on the battlefields and the Afghan people continue to be victims of terror attacks. And as long as this remains the state of affairs, there cannot be any secure development in Afghanistan. In other words, true realisation of the aid and economic assistance to Afghanistan depends most critically on the security of the Afghan people and the stability of the Afghan government. And that is not possible until and unless terrorists and sources of terror in Afghanistan are not taken care of.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, along with Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghani, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, MoS for External Affairs VK Singh and other delegates, poses for a group photo before the inauguration of the 6th Heart of Asia Ministerial Conference, in Amritsar on Sunday. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, along with Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghani, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, MoS for External Affairs VK Singh and other delegates, poses for a group photo before the inauguration of the 6th Heart of Asia Ministerial Conference, in Amritsar on Sunday. PTI

It is understandable therefore why the menace of terrorism dominated the Amritsar meet. While deliberating on this theme, various dimensions of terrorism came under discussion — identification of its source, base, networks, training and support. Terrorism is a multifaceted phenomenon; therefore, to tackle it requires a multifaceted approach. And in this endeavour, the Afghan president took the initiative in his inaugural speech at the Amritsar meet. He was at his candid best by saying that terrorism in this part of the world is a regional creation, the nerve centre being Pakistan.

Ghani was absolutely clear Pakistan has launched an “undeclared war” on his country by covertly supporting several terror networks including the Taliban. Pakistan is supporting the terror infrastructure and encouraging cross border terror attacks. In fact, he called for setting up of international mechanism to verify reality of such increasing attacks of late. “There should be an Asian or international regime, whatever is acceptable to Pakistan, in place to verify frontier activities and terrorist operations. We do not want blame games, we want verification,” he said.

But that was not all. He literally embarrassed Pakistan’s foreign policy advisor Sartaz Aziz, who was in the audience and who, as the representative of his country had already pledged $500 million for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

“We thank Pakistan for their pledges. This fund could very well be used to contain extremists because without peace any amount of assistance will not meet the needs of our people,” Ghani said, asserting that no amount of money can assist Afghanistan if there is support to terrorists by Pakistan.

In fact, 4 December must be considered a bad day for Pakistan’s diplomacy as its diplomats could not prevent the Amritsar Declaration from naming the terrorist organisations jeoparadising the security situation in Afghanistan. The declarations named Taliban, Islamic State/Daesh and its affiliates, the Haqqani Network, Al Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, East Turkistan Islamic Movement, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, TTP, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, Jundullah and other foreign terrorist fighters. Almost all of them are based in Pakistan. And the whole world knows that organisations like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad are the creations of the Pakistani Army.

We strongly call for concerted regional and international cooperation to ensure elimination of terrorism, in all its forms and manifestations, including dismantling of terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens in the Heart of Asia region, as well as disrupting all financial, tactical and logistical support for terrorism. In this regard, we call upon all states to take action against these terrorist entities in accordance with their respective national counter terrorism policies, their international obligations and the UN Global Counter Terrorism Strategy 2006,” the declaration said.

Importantly, the declaration has spoken of the dangers emanating from “the increase in production and cultivation of opium in Afghanistan, the volume of drug trafficking and demand in the HoA Region and beyond”. And here too, it is a common knowledge that the southern Afghanistan region bordering Pakistan is the main area where poppy is cultivated under the control of the Pakistan-based terrorists. When harvested, most of it is sent via Pakistan’s Balochistan province to the rest of the world (through land route to Iran and beyond) and water routes through Pakistan’s ports. In fact, poppy happens to be an important source of finance to the Pakistan-based terrorists, the other source being Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two countries in lead to promote Wahhabism (fundamentalist Islam) all over the world.

The sixth Ministerial Conference of the HoA-IP has wisely suggested that “a regional approach” to eliminate terrorism, a manifestation of radicalisation of the societies in the region, must:

“(U)tilise the capacities of men and women throughout the cross section of society of the region that includes political figures, religious leaders, educational institutions, opinion makers, youth, civil society, mass media and social networks. We undertake to develop such a regional approach to counter radicalisation by tasking our relevant experts from the fields of security, education and local governance to meet in the first half of 2017 to identify key areas to be addressed for developing this regional approach and provide recommendations to be presented to the Senior Officials Meeting of the HoA-IP in the first half of 2017 for further action on this critical issue.”

However, the key question is – will Pakistan listen? It is true that terrorism is also afflicting Pakistan, but then Pakistan cannot afford to do away with terror as an instrument of foreign policy against India and Afghanistan. Because, peace and stability in India and Afghanistan can never be the foreign policy goals of Pakistan in foreseeable future. We all know about India. But why so in the case of Afghanistan? There are many reasons for this, including the so-called strategic depth that Afghanistan provides to Pakistan in its war against India. But most important is the fact that once Afghanistan becomes strong, secure and stable, it will demand the return of its territories, particularly Waziristan (even Peshawar region). And this is something Pakistan will not easily allow.

Waziristan covers an area of 11,585 square kilometres (4,473 square miles) and is divided into what are defined as North and South Waziristan agencies. The total population today is estimated to be around a million. The region is one of the most inaccessible, has an extremely rugged terrain and has remained outside the direct control of the Pakistani government. The Wazir tribes, along with the Mehsuds and Dawars, inhabit the region and are fiercely independent. They did not bother the Pakistani government till the fall of the Taliban government in neighboring Afghanistan, when the region became a sanctuary for fleeing Al Qaeda and Taliban elements. In fact, they do not realise that the Durand Line, which marks the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, has made them Pakistanis.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani shake hands at 6th Heart of Asia Conference in Amritsar on Sunday. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani shake hands at 6th Heart of Asia Conference in Amritsar on Sunday. PTI

For them, the Durand Line is artificial in every sense of the term. The other side of the line, which is Afghan territory, is as much their land as the Pakistani side. They have never seen or accepted any restrictions on their movements or those of their “guests” across the Durand Line, nor are they in a mood to accept such restrictions.

In fact, going by history and ethnicity, they have more affinity with the people of present-day Afghanistan than those in Pakistan. And most importantly, no government in Afghanistan has formally accepted Waziristan as part of Pakistan. Sir Henry Mortimer Durand, who was foreign secretary in the colonial government of British India, signed a document with the king of Afghanistan Abdur Rahman Khan on 12 November, 1893, relating to the borders between Afghanistan and modern-day Pakistan, which was then India. The International Boundary was named the Durand Line. However, no legislative body in Afghanistan has ever ratified the document and the border issue is an ongoing contention between the two countries.

The Durand Line, which runs though areas inhabited by the Pashtuns, was never accepted by either the Afghan government — which signed it under duress — or the Pashtuns that sought to create their own homeland called Pashtunistan. In fact, in April 1919 during the Anglo-Afghan war, Afghan General Nadir Khan advanced to Thal in southern Waziristan to reclaim Afghan rights over the region. The area was recovered after a long fight where many were killed by the British Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer.

Besides, Afghanistan’s loya jirga or political meetings of 1949 had declared the Durand Line invalid as they saw it as ex parte on their side, since British India had ceased to exist in 1947. It proclaimed that the Afghan government did not recognise the Durand Line as a legal boundary between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

This being the situation, every government in Islamabad, military and non-military, has desperately tried to reach a bilateral agreement with successive regimes in Kabul to convert the Durand Line into an international border, but without success. Even when the Taliban took over Afghanistan, Pakistan, which aided and abetted the Taliban during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and was one of the few countries to have recognised the Taliban government in Kabul and allowed it to have an embassy in Islamabad, expected, in vain, a favourable response.

This explains why Pakistan will always want a dependent government in Kabul, which is more likely to ensure the de facto preservation of the lapsed and abrogated Durand Line even if it cannot be converted into an international border. But this is something no Afghan government can afford to agree with.

So, Pakistan will continue to perpetuate instability and chaos in Afghanistan.

First Published On : Dec 5, 2016 09:03 IST

When PM Modi’s old friend David Cameron dropped by

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Former British Prime Minister David Cameron called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi during which the two leaders discussed regional and global issues of mutual interest. Modi recalled his successful visit to the UK in November 2015, and thanked Cameron for his personal support and contribution to strengthening India-UK ties during his tenure as Prime Minister. “The two leaders discussed regional and global issues of mutual interest,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said. Cameron, who is visiting India and is scheduled to participate at an media event tomorrow, announced his resignation following victory for supporters favouring UK’s exit from the EU after divisive referendum campaign.

Income Tax dept charges Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh in foreign assets case

Chandigarh: The Income Tax department has filed a chargesheet against Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh in connection with its probe against him and his son in a case of alleged untaxed foreign assets.

Official sources said the department filed the prosecution complaint (equivalent to a police charge sheet) in a competent court in Ludhiana in Punjab yesterday and the former chief minister has been charged under section 277 of the I-T Act (false statement in verification) and IPC sections 176 (omission to give notice or information to public servant by person legally bound to give it), 177 (furnishing false information), 193 (punishment for false evidence) and 199 (false statement made in declaration which is by law receivable as evidence).

Amarinder took to Twitter to accuse Finance Minister Arun Jaitley of complicity.

Congress Party State President, Captain Amarinder Singh, flashes the victory sign after his party claimed victory in the state assembly elections in the northern city of Chandigarh February 24, 2002. India's opposition Congress party captured northern Punjab state in a regional election on Sunday, dealing a setback to the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). REUTERS/Str JSG/CP

Congress Punjab chief Captain Amarinder Singh. Reuters

According to the complaint, a copy of which was accessed by PTI, the I-T department said during its investigations Singh was “found to be the beneficiary” of a trust and other properties owned and created by his son Raninder in a foreign territory and when questioned about these, the Congress chief ministerial candidate for the state gave a “false statement on oath” about the ownership of these assets.

It said Singh was “actively involved” in the creation of these trusts and foreign properties which were not disclosed to the department for tax purposes. The department has already filed a similar complaint against Raninder and has charged him under section 276C of the I-T Act in the case (wilful attempt to evade tax) and the same charges would now apply on the senior Singh.

The case came to light when the Income Tax department received information about Raninder allegedly holding the offshore account in Switzerland as part of details received by the Central Board of Direct Taxes from its French counterparts in 2011.

The department had also detected movement of funds to Switzerland and creation of a trust and a few subsidiaries in the tax haven of British Virgin Islands allegedly by Raninder.

Both Amarinder and Raninder have denied any wrongdoing and termed as “false” the charges. Based on the earlier I-T department charge sheet, the Enforcement Directorate too had registered a case against Raninder under the provisions of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) sometime back and has also questioned him.

Jaitley had lost the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat in 2014 to Amarinder Singh. Only yesterday Amarinder had dared Jaitley to contest the Amritsar bypoll again, saying let it be a referendum on the Narendra Modi government’s demonetisation move.

First Published On : Dec 2, 2016 20:44 IST

Don’t mistake Pakistan’s ‘restraint’ for weakness: Raheel Sharif to India

Islamabad: Pakistan’s outgoing military chief warned India Tuesday it would be dangerous to mistake his country’s “restraint” over recent tensions in disputed Kashmir for weakness, as he handed over power to his successor.

The hugely popular General Raheel Sharif spoke at a colourful ceremony welcoming the incoming chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa at a stadium at army headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, adjacent to the capital Islamabad.

File image of Raheel Sharif. ReutersFile image of Raheel Sharif. Reuters

File image of Raheel Sharif. Reuters

“Unfortunately, in recent months, increasing state terrorism in (Indian) occupied Kashmir, and India’s aggressive steps have put the region’s peace in danger,” Sharif said.

“I want to make it clear to India that considering our policy of restraint a weakness would be dangerous for her,” he said to applause.

“This is reality, that in South Asia, lasting peace and progress is impossible without solution of the Kashmir issue. For that, international community’s special attention is necessary,” he continued.

Tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbours India and Pakistan have spiralled following a deadly assault on an Indian army base in September that New Delhi blamed on Pakistan-based militants.

India said it had responded to the September attack by carrying out “surgical strikes” across the heavily militarised border, sparking fury from Islamabad, which denied the strikes took place.

There have been repeated incidents of cross-border shellings and gunfire from both sides since, claiming the lives of dozens of people, including civilians.

Sharif spoke Tuesday as Indian police said armed militants had launched a fresh attack near the border with Pakistan, killing two soldiers.

Officials said the attack took place in Nagrota in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, which borders Pakistan and has seen repeated outbreaks of cross-border firing in recent weeks, and blamed it on “terrorists”.

Pakistan on Saturday named Bajwa as its new military chief as Sharif stepped down from a three-year tenure, winning praise for respecting democracy even as many Pakistanis called for him to extend his term.

Military bands played as uniformed soldiers marched at the ceremony Tuesday, where the outgoing chief gives his wooden cane to his successor, symbolising the handover of power.

The Pakistani military plays an outsize role in national life, offering the armed reassurance against arch-rival India that many Pakistanis see as vital to their identity.

Kashmir is one of the world’s most dangerous flashpoints, bitterly divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947 but claimed in full by both. The nuclear powers have already fought two wars over the mountainous region.

First Published On : Nov 29, 2016 13:32 IST

Demonetisation: Shiv Sena backs NCP MP Udayan Raje Bhosale’s remarks on banks being ‘looted’

Mumbai: The Shiv Sena on Monday supported NCP MP Udayan Raje Bhosale’s remarks that people will “loot and destroy banks” if the situation arising after the demonetisation move does not improve soon, saying he has voiced the concerns of people on the cash chaos.

Representational image. News18

Representational image. News18

Bhosale, a descendant of Maratha warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji, while speaking at a function to pay homage to late Deputy Prime Minister YB Chavan at Sangli in the presence of several political bigwigs last week, had also said many BJP MPs and MLAs who were his close friends too have not accepted the demonetisation decision.

“Chhatrapati’s anguish has represented the feelings of common man. At one time, Udayan Raje had joined BJP and was even made a minister so BJP cannot him disown him now. If the government has courage, it should challenge Udayan Raje’s statements,” the Sena said in an editorial in party mouthpiece ‘Saamana’.

It said Bhosale has time and again voiced the concerns of people.

“After PM Narendra Modi‘s decision, people in rural areas have suffered a lot. Yet, no leader from rural areas is ready to speak against it. These leaders have their hands full with old notes and they are now in a piquant situation as they cannot remove that money nor can they keep it as it is,” the Sena said.

“During the British rule, Indians in Satara used to loot banks and government treasury. Udayan Raje, from the same Satara has warned the government that people will loot banks to live. Will the government shoot these people?” the Sena asked.

First Published On : Nov 28, 2016 13:53 IST

Advocate alleges Coldplay dishonoured the national flag during their performance in Mumbai

New Delhi: An advocate has filed a complaint at north Delhi’s Roop Nagar Police Station on Tuesday against British rock band Coldplay for allegedly dishonouring the national flag during their performance at the Global Citizen Festival in Mumbai.

Chris Martin performs with the Indian flag at the Global Citizen Festival India. Sachin Gokhale/Firstpost

Chris Martin performs with the Indian flag at the Global Citizen Festival India. Sachin Gokhale/Firstpost

Gaurav Gulati, an advocate, has submitted a complaint against Coldplay and its frontman Chris Martin alleging, “They can be seen to dishonour our National Flag by tying it on the back of his jeans and dancing in objective positions (sic).”

“In the video/photo, it can be seen that the band had used our Indian National Flag to cover their musical instruments,” he said.

Gulati said an FIR should be filed against the band and the singer for dishonouring the national flag during their performance in Mumbai on Saturday.

On Sunday, NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik had alleged that lead singer of the rock band has “disrespected” the Indian flag during the band’s performance here.

First Published On : Nov 23, 2016 07:52 IST

No special favours for Britain, EU lawmakers tell Brexit chief | Reuters

By Alissa de Carbonnel

STRASBOURG European Parliament leaders told London’s Brexit negotiator on Tuesday that Britain should expect to be shut out of cooperation in areas it values once it leaves the European Union.David Davis met Guy Verhofstadt, the EU legislature’s lead Brexit negotiator, and Manfred Weber, a conservative ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel who leads the biggest bloc in the parliamentThe European Parliament must approve Britain’s divorce deal.The meetings were part of preparations before British Prime Minister Theresa May triggers negotiations under Article 50 of the EU treaty, which she has pledged to do by March. They focused on procedure, but there were hints of clashes to come.Weber voiced impatience with a lack of clarity from May on what she will ask for.In notably harsh terms, he said a suggestion from Davis that Britain remain in or closely tied to the EU’s single market while rejecting free immigration by Europeans or the oversight of EU courts was not workable.”Brexit means Brexit,” he said in Strasbourg, echoing May’s famously opaque definition of what her government will ask for following the June referendum vote to leave the Union.”I see a British government that keeps saying where it wants to cooperate closely and not how it wants to leave the European Union,” he told reporters after meeting Davis.

He said Davis voiced an interest in maintaining economic ties and also close cooperation in areas such as justice and criminal affairs.”So I must stress again: Brexit means Brexit, that means leaving the European Union, that means cutting off relations … and not cherry picking, not special relationships,” Weber said.Verhofstadt, a former Belgian prime minister and champion of much closer EU integration, again insisted that Britain could not enjoy the three freedoms of movement for goods, services and capital without the fourth, freedom of labour.He also insisted that the Brexit deal be wrapped up before the next EU legislative elections in May 2019.

Davis, asked if he wanted single market membership, said: “What we are after is that which is in the interest of the Union and in the interest of the United Kingdom: trading interests, business, manufacturing and services and the aim is to make it as open as possible … That’s the clear overarching aim.”He said he found Verhofstadt “a very nice man”. In September, when asked about the Belgian’s appointment, he remarked to a British lawmaker “Get thee behind me, Satan!”

“It is important to … first get to know each other, meet each other, get to trust each other and secondly to understand the structures,” he told Reuters after the meetings, a day after talks in Brussels with Michel Barnier, who will lead the overall negotiations run by the executive European Commission.Despite general efforts to maintain politeness on both sides, there were reminders in Strasbourg of the anger many European politicians feel toward Britain’s Brexit campaigners.Weber lashed out at Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson for having told Turkey he would help it join the EU after he had used the prospect of Turkish accession to urge British voters to leave the bloc to avoid immigration by Turks.”It’s unbelievable, it’s a provocation and it’s arrogant,” he said.Verhofstadt derided both fellow European Parliament lawmaker and Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, who suggested on Tuesday that May name Farage her U.S. envoy.”One clown in Washington is more than enough,” Verhofstadt told the chamber. (Writing by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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

First Published On : Nov 22, 2016 23:38 IST

Coldplay singer Chris Martin disrespected Indian flag during concert, alleges NCP

Mumbai: NCP spokesman Nawab Malik has alleged that lead singer of British rock band ‘Coldplay’ “disrespected” the Indian flag during the band’s concert.

“There is a video grab from Coldplay’s concert in Mumbai, where the band’s lead singer is seen insulting the Indian flag,” he alleged.

The former Maharashtra minister sought an unconditional apology from the singer, along with BJP and Shiv Sena leaders who were present at the concert, for allegedly “hurting the sentiments” of Indians.

The video of the alleged incident has gone viral on social media.

Representational image. Picture courtesy: YouTubeRepresentational image. Picture courtesy: YouTube

Representational image. Picture courtesy: YouTube

The band, lead by its frontman Chris Martin, ended the Global Citizen Festival India concert on a high note last evening by singing “Vande Mataram” with music maestro AR Rahman and also waved the national flag.

The band performed several memorable songs, including “Paradise”, “Viva La Vida”, “Yellow”, “Fix You”, for over an hour at the MMRDA grounds.

Several Bollywood celebrities and some international artists also shared the stage.

Among the celebrities present at the gala were Amitabh Bachchan, Alia Bhatt, Ranveer Singh, Katrina Kaif, Sonakshi Sinha, Parineeti Chopra, Monali Thakur, Arijit Singh, Arjun Rampal, Suzanne Khan as well as Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was earlier supposed to attend the event, could not make it. He, however, joined via a video link that was beamed live.

The festival, launched in 2012, partners with Global Poverty Project, a movement aiming to end extreme poverty by 2030.

The event had ran into controversy after NCP criticised the BJP-led state government for providing concessions for the festival, and said that it had been planned by the ruling party to woo voters for next year’s BMC polls.

First Published On : Nov 20, 2016 13:49 IST

Demonetisation: Narendra Modi governs like a general, but does he have a ‘grip’ on India?

Two of the things that Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he would bring to Delhi were decisiveness and governance. He has other qualities also of course, and people voted for them just as they did for these two named above. Modi is not a dynast and he has worked his way to where he is based only on merit. He has the reputation of being honest and there are no reports of high-level corruption in the Union Cabinet as there were in the time of Manmohan Singh.

However, these two qualities have been on display recently and we should look at how they have affected India. Decisiveness is the ability to take decisions quickly and firmly. This is often seen as a virtue. Being indecisive is seen as a weakness though often indecision is only another name for thinking something through carefully. And if there is uncertainly or turbulence beyond tolerable limits, one does not decide. On the other hand, the virtue of being decisive can also be seen as certitude, meaning being sure one is right intuitively rather than through knowledge.

File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTIFile image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Sanjay Gandhi was also decisive. He was a barely literate (Class 10) man who was given great power. He wielded it poorly and Indians suffered in unimaginable ways for his arrogance and his confidence that he knew what was right for all of us.

The second ability, governance, can be described by another word used by military historians. That word is ‘grip’. It means the ability of a general to be in total charge of his command. Knowing what his side is capable of and being prepared. Julius Caesar had grip and he had control over his armies in a time when communications was poor and supply lines very long. Though his record in battle is mixed, Gen Montgomery is thought to have had grip. He was not clueless as many other generals on the British side in the Second World War were.

Narendra Modi showed us his decisiveness when he acted to make useless the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes Indians held. This was sold as an act that would end or severely attack black money. We have not yet been told how that will happen except for Modi saying that the corrupt and the wealthy sitting on piles or warehouses of cash would now only have worthless paper.

Those who have run business, and I have owned and run a manufacturing and a services business, know that black money does not work like that. It is used, just like white money is used, as a means to expand business. It is held in goods and in property. In the purely liquid form, as cash, it is not particularly useful. The second reason given was that it would dent terrorist activity because that was being done by counterfeit money. Almost anything today can be sold as a good idea to Indians if it can be attached to terrorism. The media is less likely to question it.

Anyway, so Modi showed a flash of decisiveness. As a result of it we are living through days when the wretched of India, the hundreds of millions of poor who live on cash alone, are being used in an experiment. The opposition is terrified of Modi, with a couple of parties excepted, and that means that the demonetisation has not itself been opposed so far. Because this terrorism issue was stuck to it, Congress is too afraid to demand a rollback. They are not sure of the public mood and believe that there is enthusiasm for the act.

Meanwhile, this act of casual cruelty is bringing suffering and trauma to millions. Watching the Gujarati news channels, I was struck by how the English ones seem to be reporting from another country. Modi has told us the suffering Indians are going through will be justified by the dividend we will reap on 1 January. We shall see.

But meantime, having shown us decisiveness, he now needs to show us governance.

The government has bumbled along since Modi’s triumphant announcement. It has been doing things seemingly in reactive mode. It has been raising and lowering withdrawal limits, relaxing rules for some states arbitrarily, and introducing ad hoc administrative measures like inking of fingers.

Where is the talent and ability needed to bring calm to the chaos that anyone could have anticipated when the government makes a move of this magnitude? It would not be incorrect to say that at the moment it seems to be missing. This is his chance. With the country in a crisis that directly affects not a handful of people (as terrorism does) but hundreds of millions, we will know if Modi has grip.

First Published On : Nov 20, 2016 09:53 IST

Railways was a big colonial scam, Britishers started for ‘their own selfish reason’: Shashi Tharoor

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Thursday said the British started railways in India for “their own selfish reasons” and it was in fact a “very big colonial scam.” Tharoor said there is often a perception that Indians should be grateful to the British for giving the country the facility of Railways, something which is not really true.”Everyone thinks that the British gave us Railways, shouldn’t we be grateful. We don’t realise that the railways was a very big colonial scam. The purpose of the Raliways was to serve the British to extract goods, minerals, raw materials from the Indian hinterland which were hitherto inaccessible,” Tharoor, who is the Member of Parliament from Thiruvananthapuram, said. “To send soldiers there, get the labour to move and get these goods out of the hinterland… That was the first purpose,” he added.Tharoor was in conversation with noted author Amitav Ghosh about ‘The Legacy of the Raj’ during the opening ceremony of the 7th edition of ‘Tata Literature Live’ festival, here. Tharoor, who launched his book ‘An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India’ on the occasion, said building the railways “was the most profitable, safe investment in the entire British market throughout the time.” He said when the railway was started, there was a “great deal of racism” with only Europeans being offered the posts of ticket collector and station master, until much later when the positions were given only to Anglo-Indians.Apart from that, Tharoor said, the Indian passengers were never the priority for the British. “Indian passengers were not their priority. They had horrendous third class carriages with wooden benches but they charged the highest passenger rates in any railway in the world. “Whereas the British companies who were shipping freight on the railways, paid the lowest freight rates anywhere in the world. It was only after the Independence that we started reversing these practices,” he said.Tata Literature Live, a four-day literary extravaganza, will be held simultaneously at two cultural venues the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA), Nariman Point and Prithvi Theatre, Juhu. Ghosh and noted lyricist-poet Gulzar will be honoured with the Lifetime Achievement and Poet Laureate awards, respectively.

Bombay HC refuses to stay ‘Coldplay’ concert for non-payment of entertainment duty

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Bombay High Court on Thursday refused to stay the upcoming concert of British rock band ‘Coldplay’, but said the Maharashtra government should take an undertaking from the event organiser that it would be willing to pay the waived entertainment duty if the court directs so in future.A division bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice M S Sonak was hearing a public interest litigation filed by activists Anjali Damania and Hemant Gavande challenging the government’s decision to waive the entertainment duty for the concert.The concert by the British band is scheduled to be held on November 19 at the MMRDA grounds in suburban Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC). The petitioners have challenged the validity of the decision primarily on grounds that exemption from payment of entertainment duty under the Bombay Entertainment Duty Act-1923 can be given only for shows or programmes organised for charitable or educational purposes.
ALSO READ PIL filed in Bombay HC against waiving entertainment duty on ‘Coldplay’ concertActing Advocate General Rohit Deo on Thursday submitted to the court that the concept of the festival was different and that it was not just a rock show. “It is going to be an eight-hour-long programme and the concert by Coldplay is just a part of it. The festival is to create awareness and educate people mostly youngsters about three subjects – gender equality, education and clean water. These three are part of the 17 sustainable goals of the United Nations,” Deo said.He said that out of the 80,000 tickets, 65,000 will be given free of cost to those persons who show their contribution to society in the above mentioned subjects. “Out of the remaining 15,000 tickets, 11,000 will be sold by the organiser to meet the expenditure of the programme and 4,000 have been kept for dignitaries,” Deo said, adding that several industrialists and political leaders are expected to come.After hearing arguments of both the sides, the court said it cannot accept the contentions of the petitioners at this stage and hence, was not inclined to stay the concert. “However, in the interest of justice we cannot throw away this petition. As a precautionary measure, the state government is directed to take an undertaking from the organiser that in future if the petition succeeds, then they (organiser) would pay the necessary entertainment duty,” Chief Justice Chellur directed.The petitioners’ lawyer, Uday Warunjikar, argued that the organisers are from Delhi and, hence, there cannot be any guarantee that in future they will pay the entertainment duty. Warunjikar cited the example of a show for Michael Jackson organised by a company in 1996, stating in that case the high court had later ordered the organisers to deposit the entertainment duty in court. To this, the court said, “If you look at everything with tainted glasses then everything will appear yellow. We cannot suspect and doubt everything and every action of the state government.”The petition also challenged the MMRDA’s decision to grant 75% concession on rentals, which amounts to almost Rs 6 crore. The court then said it cannot interfere in this decision as it is the MMRDA’s discretion how much rent to levy.​

Pakistan warns British PM over India’s ‘aggressive posturing’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India’s “aggressive posturing” will affect peace in South Asia, Pakistan’s interior minister has told British Prime Minister Theresa May during a meeting here. Nisar Ali Khan had a scheduled meeting with Britain’s National Security Adviser, Mark Lyall Grant, at 10, Downing Street on Tuesday when the British premier “dropped in”, according to UK government sources. “India’s hegemonic stance and aggressive posturing is a threat to peace and stability in the region,” Khan said.”The world and our friends needed to do more to counter Indian designs against Pakistan and should stop seeing South Asia through the Indian prism…Pakistan would not cow down to bullying tactics…we reserve the right to avenge the blatant and unprovoked killing of our soldiers…The people of Pakistan and its security institutions are determined to wipe out terrorism from its soil,” he added. May reportedly conveyed her good wishes to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the Pakistani minister congratulated her on her assumption of office as prime minister.The Pakistani minister told reporters from the Pakistani media after the meeting that May was “looking forward” to visit Pakistan in the first half of 2017. He emphasised that May’s visit to Pakistan would be timely in the context of regional scenario prevailing in South Asia, and would open new channels of bilateral and multilateral cooperation and coordination.On peace in the region, he told Lyall Grant that “a peaceful and stable Afghanistan is in the interest of Pakistan”. He stressed that friendly relations of Pakistan with its neighbouring countries were based on the principle of reciprocity, which is a fundamental and important element of Pakistan’s foreign policy. Khan also held a meeting with UK home secretary Amber Rudd earlier this week.

PIL filed in Bombay HC against waiving entertainment duty on ‘Coldplay’ concert

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A PIL was, on Wednesday, filed in the Bombay High Court challenging Maharashtra government’s decision to waive off entertainment duty for the upcoming Coldplay concert in Mumbai, just three days ahead of the much-anticipated performance by the British rock band.The public interest litigation filed by activist Anjali Damania will come up for hearing tomorrow before a division bench headed by Chief Justice Manjula Chellur.The concert by the British band is scheduled to be held on November 19 at the MMRDA grounds in suburban Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC).The petition has challenged the government’s decision to waive off entertainment duty for the concert and also the MMRDA’s decision to grant 75% concession on rentals, which amount to almost Rs6 crore less.Damania’s lawyer Uday Warunjikar said the concert is a commercial activity and hence, such waivers cannot be granted.He said that granting such waivers was beyond the scope of the Bombay Entertainment Duty Act.Warunjikar mentioned the petition, on Wednesday, before the High Court which said it would hear it on Thursday.The petition has sought for both the entertainment duty and the ground concession money to be collected.

Demonetisation: Why experts bet that cash crunch will not impact rupee-dollar rate

A severe cash crunch in the banking system post demonetisation may have sent panic signals to the general public and left the government in a fix on how to address the crisis-phase. But, beyond this, what does this entire exercise mean for the financial markets? At least for the currency market, the post-demonetisation tremors aren’t a big deal, said currency experts. This is primarily because the rupee’s fortunes are more linked to the global factors at this stage, mainly the US factors, rather than domestic drivers, they said.

For this reason, demonetisation per se will not have any major impact on the Indian rupee-US dollar rate, experts said. “I don’t see any major reasons to worry as far as the currency is concerned,” said Abhishek Goenka, Founder and CEO of India Forex Advisors Pvt. Ltd. The post-demonetisation cash crunch in the system may not have any major bearing on the rupee-dollar rate, he said.

Representational imageRepresentational image

Representational image

“Right now there is a lot of buying in GSecs and tenure is going down,” said Goenka. “The FCNRB (foreign currency non resident bank) deposits is currently dominating the scene and also the US dollar because of which rupee depreciation is very rampant. All the global major currencies except the British pound have gone significantly weak against the US dollar. Historically, we had strong co-relations between the Chinese yuan and the Japanese yen, but the yuan has now hit quite high at 6.84  and the yen at 108  though we have been out-performers,” he said.

Harihar Krishnamurthy, head of treasury at First Rand Bank, too said the rupee value is primarily determined by the actions of the US Fed. “The dollar has been rallying strong globally against every other major currency except the pound. So the rupee has taken a pounding on that account,” he said.

Presently, the dollar is at an 11-month high against major currencies. Since the demonetisation announcement, the rupee has depreciated by Rs 1.13 or 1.69 percent from Rs 66.63 to Rs 67.75 on 15 November. The Sensex is down by 1286 points or 4.66 percent during the same period.

According to Krishnamurthy, rather than the demonetisation impact, any likely movement in the dollar value will have more bearing on the home currency in the short-term.

Demonetisation shocks

The Modi government’s decision, announced on 8 November, to withdraw Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denomination currency post midnight took people by surprise. The demonetisation  thus made these notes invalid in a major assault on black money, fake currency and corruption. In his 40-minute address on television, the PM said the notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 “will not be legal tender from midnight tonight” and these will be “just worthless piece of paper.” Though everyone welcomed the move, the subsequent cash drought in ATMs and bank branches, caused a panic among its customers.

Modi said people holding notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 can deposit the same in their bank and in post office accounts from 10 November till 30 December.  ATM withdrawals will be restricted to Rs 2,000 per day in the initial days and this limit will be raised to Rs 4,000 later, the PM said, which has now been raised to Rs 4,500. Withdrawals from bank accounts would be limited to Rs 10,000 a day and Rs 20,000 a week.

Even after a week post-demonetisation, the ATMs and bank branches are struggling to meet the panic-driven cash demand from regular customers.  Part of the reasons for the cash-drought is that people have been hoarding cash anticipating difficult days ahead. To understand the picture, one needs to look at only State Bank of India alone, the country’s largest lender by assets, which saw withdrawals to the tune of Rs 7,705 crores in currency notes of Rs 100 and Rs 2,000 in just five days since the demonetisation announcement.

The chaos that had reigned since the announcement continues till date, the 8th day.

Bank deposits have surged too. In the first four days ( from 10 – 13 November, up to 5 pm ) about Rs 3 lakh crore of old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 bank notes had been deposited in the banking system and about Rs 50,000 crore had been dispensed to customers by either withdrawal from their accounts or withdrawal from ATM’s or by exchange at the counter. Within these four days, the banking system has handled about 18 crore transactions.

However, with banks flush with deposits, interest rates are expected to go down. “Interest rates going down is an expectation or possibility from the RBI monetary policy because of liquidity in banking circle,” agrees Goenka. Historically, when there is an interest rate cut a knee jerk reaction in the dollar versus rupee would be always be slightly strong. As time passes after a day or two or three days, rupee would always depreciate, says Goenka.

If you look at interest rate differentials between India and US, this is going to further reduce, he says. “If there is an interest rate cut here and the US tenure has been going up 2.25 percent, the arbitrage that people would enjoy in terms of putting money in the bond markets or taking positions on the currency markets will ultimately reduce. That is one reason why there is significant fall in rupee dollar frequence,” he said.

Manish Thanawala, director, Greenback Forex Services said the immediate impact of demonetisation will be liquidity squeeze in the short-term, which could act as a drag on the businesses. “It could slow down businesses,” Thanawala said.

Subsequently, the glut in deposits and the panic-ridden withdrawal by customers will likely affect the consumer demand, Thanawala said, adding that there will be liquidity crunch because businesses too will conserve cash and that will lead to demand slowdown and this, in turn, will have cascading impacts in the industry.

(Data support from Kishor Kadam)

First Published On : Nov 16, 2016 10:07 IST

Scientists & researchers, here’s a chance to test your communication skills

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Young scientists, researchers and engineers, here’s your chance to make yourselves heard, especially if you are the kinds who can demystify complicated scientific subjects by making them easy to understand and interesting. For the first time, the British Council in India is accepting applications for FameLab, it’s international science communication training programme.“It’s a training programme in a competition format to get people to talk about science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine,” says Sharon Memis, Director West India, British Council. “It’s a bit like The X-Factor but with an intellectual slant.”Conceived as part of the Cheltenham Festival in 2005, FameLab partnered with British Council in 2007. More than 7,000 researchers from 30 countries across Europe, Asia and Africa have participated in the global competition thus far. The 2017 edition of FameLab is open to Indian participants for the first time, the deadline for which is November 15, 2016. “The year 2016 has been celebrated as the UK-India Year of Education, Research and Innovation, so it became the right time to bring this event to India now,” says Memis.The nine British Council offices across India have reached out to academic institutions such as the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISERs), as well as to private universities. While officials at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre were unaware about the competition, Memis says they’ve already received 220 applications from India.To participate (see below), applicants will have to upload a three-minute video in which they’ll have to present a concept from their field of study in a manner that enthrals the viewer and the panel of judges. “Make it funny, make it dramatic, make it jaw-dropping, eye-opening, lightbulb-poppingly brilliant,” advises Memis. “It’s about how creative a participant can get. A panel of judges will shortlist those who can shine in content, clarity and charisma. Therefore the presentation has to be scientifically accurate, easy to understand and presented with a wink and a smile.”Following regional workshops and regional finals, a shortlist of 120 applicants will be selected, who will win a spot on the science communication workshop by Indian and UK facilitators. Three final winners will emerge from the national finals to be held in January 2017.Last year, the competition winner was Dr Abhimanyu Veerakumarasivam from University Putra Malaysia. The cancer researcher defeated 26 finalists for his explanation of the cell cycle and why a disruption in it leads to metastasis of cancer tumours. His presentation highlighted the importance of science communication in making public health issues accessible to commoners as well as creating awareness of how cancers can be prevented through lifestyle changes. “Veerakumarasivam’s talk was informative and inspiring, winning the judges over on content, clarity and charisma,” adds Memis.How to apply for FameLab— Researchers, scientists, engineers over 20 years of age have to fill an application form available on website and attach a short video of their presentation. Applications are open until 15 November 2016 on the website— A panel of judges will review the applications and come up with a shortlist of the top 30 participants from four regions — North (8-10 December at IIT Delhi), South (27-29 November at University of Kerala), East (4-6 December at KIIT Bhubaneswar) and West (13-15 December at IIT Bombay) India.— These 120 applicants will then be part of a two-and-a-half day residential workshop on science communication conducted by expert Science Communicators from the UK along with Indian facilitators.— Winners from the regional rounds will also win a masterclass training programme before completing at a national final. The national winner will compete at the FameLab International Grand Finals in June 2017 at the Cheltenham Science Festival in the UK.

Karnataka edu minister says porn was WhatsApp forward, opened it ‘accidentally’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Karnataka’s primary and secondary education minister Tanveer Sait was found watching pornographic photographs on his mobile phone on Thursday during the Tipu Jayanthi celebrations in Raichur. On Friday, he told ANI that he had not been looking at the photos intentionally. “I did not open that picture (porn) intentionally, it was on a WhatsApp group and it opened accidentally,” Sait said.A media channel ran footage of the minister viewing photographs of skimpily-clad girls on his phone while on the dais during the celebrations organised as a tribute to Tipu Sultan, the ruler of erstwhile Mysore kingdom who fought against the British. The minister is seen browsing photographs of the girl while other speakers are lauding Tipu Sultan.Though the minister and the Congress are yet to react, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has been criticising the government for organising Tipu Jayanthi, has demanded the minister’s resignation. BJP leader KS Eshwarappa said: “He has no moral authority to continue as a minister, he should resign immediately.”This is the second such scandal that has surfaced in Karnataka in the recent times. In 2012, two BJP ministers were caught viewing porn on their mobile phones inside the legislative assembly.

Theresa May in India: Siddaramaiah raises concern over visas during meeting with British PM

Bengaluru: British Prime Minister Theresa May, who arrived in Bengaluru on Tuesday from New Delhi for a day-long visit, met Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah who during their talks raised the issue of rising cost of British visas.

“The two met at a star hotel near the international airport at Devanhalli and discussed bilateral issues,” said an official in Bengaluru.

File photo of Theresa May. AP

File photo of Theresa May. AP

Among the issues the Chief Minister raised with May were the rising cost of British visas to Indian IT professionals and visa curbs on Indian students going for higher studies in Britain.

“Siddaramaiah also briefed May about the state’s proactive policies for foreign direct investment in diverse sectors from British investors and the British industry.

“Karnataka is an attractive destination for investments in aerospace, biotech, IT, financial services, pharma and research and development,” said state Industries Minister RV Deshpande on the occasion.

Admitting that the British government’s recent decision to hike visa fee and tighten its rules for techies and business executives had caused disquiet to Indian firms and investors, Deshpande said the state government was as much concerned about their prospects as much as Britain is on passport rights for the financial services industry after Brexit.

“We are concerned about the difficulties in cross-border work. Restrictions prevent bright talent from working globally and inhibit competitiveness of the British industry,” asserted Deshpande.

The Chief Minister also prevailed upon May to grant time-bound visas for Indian software engineers to work on projects in Britain and return.

“Our IT professionals or software engineers are not looking for immigration visas but for projects, which are global operationally,” added Deshpande.

May also visited the state-run Stonehill primary school at Papanahalli on the city’s northern outskirts and interacted with its girls and boys.

After visiting Dynamatic Technologies Ltd at the Peenya industrial state in the northwest suburb and inspecting its aerospace facility in the afternoon, May will drive into the city for two-three other engagements, including a visit to an ancient Someshwara temple in the eastern suburb for the blessing of Hindu deity Shiva.

The 15th century temple is one the oldest in the southern state, dating back to the Chola period.

Elaborate arrangements have been made to ensure the safety and security of the visiting dignitary and her accompanying official delegation.

May is on a three-day maiden official visit to India since Sunday and the first country outside the European Union after she assumed office in July this year.

On way back to the airport, May will hold an hour-long interactive session with chief executives of India Inc at a start hotel in the city.

A delegation of Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) will call on her at the venue.

May is the fourth British Premier to visit Bengaluru after her (Conservative) Party’s then leader John Major on 9 January, 1997, Labour Party’s leader Tony Blair on 4 January, 2002 and David Cameron on 28 July, 2010.

“Vehicular traffic has been restricted and regulated on the routes May’s motorcade will take to the venues where her engagements are scheduled and to avoid grid lock on the main roads,” said a police official.

Delhi suffers choc-a-block traffic thanks to Chhat Puja, UK PM’s visit, JNU students’ protest

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Vehicular movement on on Monday remained affected in parts of the national capital, first in the morning owing to Chhat Puja and later in the evening in the wake of the VVIP movement and a protest by JNU students.”Due to the visits of British Prime Minister Theresa May and Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena to Delhi, many roads were closed due to VVIP movement. This might have led to traffic chaos,” said a senior traffic police officer.In the evening, JNU students protested outside police headquarters over the missing JNU student. The demonstration affected traffic movement at ITO in central Delhi and other stretches like Mathura Road, India Gate, he added. Sources said almost one-and-a-half lane on the road in front of the police headqaurters at ITO was packed with PCR vans from 1 PM, affecting the traffic movement on the busy stretch.Police had been deployed much before the JNU students arrived for the protest, with their PCR vans and barricades clogging the road from ITO metro station to PHQ, the sources added.Earlier in the morning, motorists had a harrowing time as roads of several parts of city witnessed huge traffic jams with devotees flocking the Yamuna ghats for early morning Chathh Puja. Among the roads which were affected were Vikas Marg, ITO, Kalindi Kunj, Kashmiri Gate, Wazirabad, Mayur Vihar, Ajmeri Gate were clogged with vehicular traffic.Early morning commuters heading to offices were stuck in heavy traffic jams on first working day of the week on the affected roads. The Vikas Marg was jam-packed with vehicles from Laxmi Nagar to ITO as devotees started returning back from Chathh Ghats after sunrise. Traffic was heavy at Kalindi Kunj towards Faridabad (both carriageways) due to Chhath Puja that ended today. Traffic movement was also slowed down from Chandgi Ram Akhara towards ISBT, Delhi Traffic Police officials said.

UK reaffirms support to India’s bid for UNSC, NSG membership

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Britain reaffirmed its support to India’s bid for permanent membership of the UN Security Council (UNSC) as the Prime Ministers of the two countries directed their officials concerned to have “close and regular consultations” on all matters related to the international body. The United Kingdom also welcomed India’s entry into the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), a key global non-proliferation objectives, and backed India’s bid for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) as well as other key export control regimes like the Australia Group.Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his British counterpart Theresa May also welcomed a fourth phase of the Joint UK-India Civil Nuclear Research Programme that will look at new technologies for enhancing nuclear safety, advanced materials for nuclear systems, waste management and future civil nuclear energy systems.The leaders directed their officials to have close and regular consultations on all matters related to the United Nations, including UN terrorist designations. Recognising that Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR) is a global challenge, India and the UK announced new research partnerships worth 80 million pounds, including establishment of a joint strategic group on AMR with a joint investment of up to 13 million pounds.The two sides said they would work together to support the multi-stakeholder model of internet governance. “The growing India-UK cyber relationship is a success story of the Defence and International Security Partnership (DISP),” a joint statement by the two Prime Ministers said.The two Prime Ministers also expressed desire to enter into a Framework for the UK-India Cyber Relationship. Projects to reduce post-harvest losses to benefit farmers, collaborations in health care and the launch of the second phase of joint research in women and children’s health in low-income settings were also announced.May also signalled the UK’s intention to join the International Solar Alliance. In their joint statement, both the Prime Ministers said they look forward to the celebration of 2017 as the India-UK Year of Culture and support the activities and programmes being planned, for example an exhibition of Indian Science in the Science Museum in London and another highlighting 400th death anniversary of William Shakespeare.

India asks UK to extradite Mallya, Agusta middleman

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> India on Monda asked Britain to extradite nearly 60 people wanted by it, including liquor baron Vijay Mallya and Chirstian Michel, the alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland helicopter deal, for bringing them back to face justice here.India and Britain also agreed to hold annual strategic dialogue at the level of Union Home Secretary to jointly deal with issues like terrorism, organised crimes, visa and immigration matters. The Indian list of around 60 wanted people was handed over to Britain during the bilateral talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his counterpart Theresa May. Britain also handed over to India a list of 17 people whose custody it seeks under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty or against whom Letters Rogatories had been issued, official sources said.While industrialist Vijay Mallya has been accused of money laundering, Chirstian Michel is the alleged middleman in the Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland helicopter deal. The two countries agreed not to allow fugitives and criminals escape law and resolved to facilitate outstanding extradition requests. In talks between Modi and May, the issue of extradition requests figured and officials dealing with the issue from both sides were directed to meet at the earliest.Sources said India expects forward movement in Mallya’s extradition from the UK following the talks. They said the specific issue of Mallya’s extradition had also figured in the talks between the two sides in the run up to the meeting between Modi and May. Asked whether Mallya issue figured in the talks, Joint Secretary (Europe) in the External Affairs Ministry Randhir Jaiswal referred to the Indo-UK joint statement issued after the discussions which said the two Prime Ministers affirmed their strong commitment to enhancing cooperation under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty.Former IPL boss Lalit Modi is also evading law in India and today’s talks may help Indian authorities to push for his early extradition as well. Michel is a British citizen and wanted by CBI while Mallya and Modi, who have made the UK their home, are wanted by the ED in money laundering cases. “The two leaders agreed that fugitives and criminals should not be allowed to escape the law. They expressed their strong commitment to facilitate outstanding extradition requests from both sides.”In this context, they directed that the officials dealing with extradition matters from both sides should meet at the earliest to develop better understanding of each countries legal processes and requirements; share best practices, and identify the causes of delays and expedite pending requests,” the statement said.The strategic dialogue between Union Home Secretary and his British counterpart, Permanent Secretary for Home Office, will begin from next year to discuss counter-terror cooperation, ways to deal with organised crimes besides bilateral visa and immigration matters, sources said.This is for the first time India and Britain will have such a mechanism for dealing with security issues. India already has an arrangement with the United States to have annual Homeland Security dialogue at the level of Union Home Minister. In a joint statement issued after the meeting, the two Prime Ministers affirmed their strong commitment to enhancing cooperation under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty.”The two leaders agreed that fugitives and criminals should not be allowed to escape the law. They expressed their strong commitment to facilitate outstanding extradition requests from both sides,” it said. In this context, the Prime Ministers directed that the officials dealing with extradition matters from both sides should meet at the earliest to develop better understanding of each countries’ legal processes and requirements; share best practices, and identify the causes of delays and expedite pending requests.They also agreed that regular interactions between the relevant India-UK authorities would be useful for resolving all outstanding cases expeditiously.

Theresa May becomes the second world leader after Obama to take a stroll in Hyderabad House gardens

Mon, 7 Nov 2016-08:07pm , New Delhi , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>After US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister Theresa May became the second world leader to take a stroll with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Hyderabad House garden in Delhi. Modi received May at the Hyderabad House and the two leaders were seen talking to each other during the brief stroll. They stopped for while near a pond full of water lilies before continuing their walk towards the iconic main building, used mostly to hold high profile bilateral events with visiting foreign dignitaries.The high levels of pollution in Delhi air was not a deterrent for the two leaders. “A time for reflection; an occasion to forge a special connection. The Prime Ministers take a walk in the gardens of Hyderabad House,” MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted.During his January, 2015 visit to India, Modi had hosted Obama for tea at the Hyderabad House gardens. The two leaders had taken a stroll under a warm wintry sun.

British PM Theresa May arrives in India on three-day visit

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>British Prime Minister Theresa May flew in on Sunday night on a three-day visit aimed at enhancing Indo-UK ties in the key areas of trade, investment, defence and security. On her first bilateral trip outside Europe since taking office in July in the aftermath of Britain voting to exit the European Union, May will hold talks with her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on Monday. She will also inaugurate jointly with him the India-UK Tech Summit.Before leaving London, she described India as the UK’s “most important and closest” friend and a leading power in the world, adding, “We will be promoting the best of Britain, sending out the message that we are open for business, and making the most of the opportunities offered by Brexit as the world’s foremost champion of free trade”.”I will be using this visit to reaffirm the importance of the strategic partnership we already have, which delivers huge benefits for both our countries, and to work with Prime Minister Modi to agree concrete steps to realise our shared vision of going even further in our cooperation across trade, investment, defence and security,” she added.May, who is accompanied by senior British ministers and a big trade delegation, will also travel to Bengluru on Tuesday where she will attend some business events and will meet the Karnataka Chief Minister.May, 60, is accompanied by a business delegation drawn from regions across the UK, including Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox and Trade Minister Greg Hands.The November 6-8 visit comes in the backdrop of the historic June referendum favouring Brexit and as part of the new May-led government to step up engagement with countries outside the 28-nation European Union.”She will deliver on her ambitious vision for Britain after Brexit, forging a new global role for the UK beyond the continent of Europe. She will also deliver on her pledge for an economy that works for all, by introducing new and emerging enterprises, as well as more established players, to the key Indian market,” an official statement in London said.According to the statement, a number of commercial deals are expected to be signed during the visit, creating and securing jobs at home and demonstrating market confidence in the strength of the British economy. She will meet with Modi tomorrow to discuss developing the bilateral strategic partnership, building on the deep links and existing co-operation. Alongside Modi, she will inaugurate the India-UK TECH Summit, South Asia’s largest technology conference.

After Brexit ruling, UK PM May says values independent judiciary | Reuters

After Brexit ruling, UK PM May says values independent judiciary | Reuters

Updated: Nov 6, 2016 23:57 IST


By Kylie MacLellan

NEW DELHI Prime Minister Theresa May said on Sunday that she valued the independence of the judiciary after some British newspapers strongly criticised the judges involved in a court ruling which could delay Brexit.England’s High Court triggered sharp criticism from some lawmakers and newspapers on Thursday when it ruled that the decision to begin Britain’s formal divorce talks with the European Union needed to be approved by parliament and could not be taken by the government alone.Sajid Javid, a member of May’s cabinet, called the ruling an “unacceptable” attempt to “frustrate the will of the British people”, while The Daily Mail newspaper said the three judges who handed down the ruling were “enemies of the people”.”I believe in and value the independence of our judiciary, I also value the freedom of our press. I think these both underpin our democracy and they are important. Of course the judges will look at the legal arguments,” May told reporters on the plane to India for her first bilateral visit outside the EU.

The government plans to appeal the ruling and Britain’s Supreme Court is expected to consider the case early next month.”We think we have strong legal arguments and we will be taking those arguments to the Supreme Court,” May said, noting that a separate legal challenge to Brexit, heard in Northern Ireland, had ruled that neither the province’s parliament nor its laws could override a decision by the British government.

May said the June 23 Brexit vote was a clear message Britons wanted to see control over freedom of movement from the EU and it was important that the government now delivers on that.”The people spoke on the 23rd of June, I think an important aspect that underpinned people’s approach to that vote was a concern that they had about control of movement of people from the EU into the UK,” she said.

Asked whether she will have dealt with the issue of free movement by the time of the next election, due in 2020, May said that was a matter for negotiation with the EU.”Obviously there are a lot of issues we have to deal with in that and it will be part of those discussions,” she said. (Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Ruth Pitchford)

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

India is one of Britain’s most important and closest friends: UK PM Theresa May

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Describing India as one of the UK’s “most important and closest” friends and a leading power in the world, Prime Minister Theresa May today said she will hold talks with counterpart Narendra Modi to bolster bilateral strategic ties in areas like defence, security and trade.Ahead of her visit to India – which is May’s first bilateral visit outside the UK, an article published in the ‘Sunday Telegraph’ quoted her as saying that she plans to “promote the best of Britain” during her three-day trade mission to New Delhi and Bengaluru.She writes: “One of our most important and closest friends has to be India a leading power in the world, with whom we share so much history, culture and so may values, and which is led by a Prime Minister who is undertaking a far-reaching programme of reform. “In other words, we are two countries with strong ties, a mature relationship and an opportunity to make that even deeper. That is why, today I will be travelling to India for my first bilateral visit outside Europe and first trade mission as Prime Minister, accompanied by a range of top British businesses, including some of our brightest small and medium enterprises.”We will be promoting the best of Britain, sending out the message that we are open for business, and making the most of the opportunities offered by Brexit as the world’s foremost champion of free trade.”May, who will hold bilateral talks with Prime Minister Modi tomorrow, said she will seek concrete steps to move the partnership forward during the meeting.”I will be using this visit to reaffirm the importance of the strategic partnership we already have, which delivers huge benefits for both our countries, and to work with Prime Minister Modi to agree to concrete steps to realise our shared vision of going even further in our cooperation across trade, investment, defence and security.”Building 100 new ‘Smart Cities’, encouraging firms to ‘Make in India’, getting the country online with ‘Digital India’, delivering better healthcare, infrastructure, skills and finance these form Prime Minister Modi’s vision, and with our world-class architects, lawyers, financiers, engineers, medics, academics and tech experts, Britain is the ideal partner to help achieve that, creating jobs and growth in both our countries.”Dismissing any talk of a free trade agreement (FTA), she said while an FTA cannot be signed until the official Brexit process, engagement with countries outside the EU can be stepped up. There is a great deal we can do right now to break down barriers to trade, open up new markets for British businesses and prepare the ground for ambitious free trade agreements once we have left the EU,” she said.”That’s why we are working with the Indians to strengthen intellectual property rights, enable the UK’s world-leading services sector to work in the India market, and offer support to Prime Minister Modi’s aim to make India an easier place to do business,” she said.”It is why we are introducing new British businesses to the opportunities on offer. And alongside this, while we will maintain our support for an EU-India free trade agreement, we will continue our dialogue with India about a future bilateral trade arrangement between our two countries,” she noted.She said her visit to India is about “collaboration” and highlighting the opportunities for new ways in which we can collaborate in future.”I want to encourage more Indian businesses to invest in Britain, I want to see more British firms doing business in India, and I want to work with Prime Minister Modi to deliver the ambitious visions we share for our countries.”Free trade and increased cooperation will make us all more secure and more prosperous. Take advantage of the opportunities before us, and I truly believe that this can be the partnership of the century,” she concluded.

Ahead of India visit, British opposition asks Theresa May to clarify UK’s role in Operation Blue Star

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The UK’s Opposition Labour party has called on British Prime Minister Theresa May to “come clean” about the role played by Britain in Operation Blue Star before her three-day visit to India starting Sunday.Labour party Deputy Leader, Tom Watson, said on Friday that Britain’s Sikh community deserves to know the truth in the wake of allegations by Sikh Federation UK that the UK Foreign Office had removed files with “new evidence” of British involvement in the military operation on Golden Temple in June 1984. “Before her visit to India, Theresa May must come clean about the role played by the UK in the attack on the Golden Temple in 1984 and subsequent events. There is increasing evidence that Margaret Thatcher s administration worked more closely with the Indian government than was known at the time,” Watson said in a statement.His statement followed claims that the Foreign Office had intentionally removed files referring to the possibility of the Special Air Services (SAS) unit of the British Army being involved after “an Indian request for military assistance in the setting up of a National Guard for internal security duties” during Operation Blue Star. While the Foreign Office said it had merely “borrowed” the files, the Labour party said the fact the files exist raise important questions. Watson added: “David Cameron’s previous inquiry failed to reveal the full facts and we now learn that vital new documents relating to the massacre have been removed from the National Archives by ministers. The revelation that these new documents exist suggest that Parliament may have been inadvertently misled by a former Foreign Secretary. After over 30 years of demanding answers, Britain’s Sikh community deserves to know the truth, no matter how embarrassing it is for the current government. After the failure of the Cabinet Secretary s internal inquiry, there should be a full independent investigation into these matters.”The Cabinet Secretary’s inquiry refers to an official UK government inquiry in 2014 into the exact nature of British involvement in the Indian Army operation at the Golden Temple. The inquiry had been ordered by then British Prime Minister David Cameron after documents released previously under the 30-year declassification rule had implied British SAS commanders had advised the Indian government as it drew up plans for the removal of militants from Golden Temple. “The report concludes that the nature of the UK s assistance was purely advisory, limited and provided to the Indian government at an early stage in their planning,” William Hague, then UK foreign secretary, had told the House of Commons in February 2014.Sikh Federation UK claims the latest note it found, marked confidential, was written on July 3, 1984, a month after the operation, which points to a more prominent British role. The note was written by a civil servant in the Foreign Office s South Asia department and copied to Ministry of Defence officials and the high commissioner in Delhi. Earlier on Friday, their lawyers wrote to UK home secretary Amber Rudd demanding an “independent investigation”. “The FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) borrowed some of their files from 1984 that were released to the National Archives so they could read the content following concerns raised by the Sikh Federation. They will return all the files in full shortly,” a UK government spokesperson said.

British PM’s passage to India poses dilemma on trade, migration | Reuters

By Douglas Busvine and Kylie MacLellan

NEW DELHI/LONDON Prime Minister Theresa May will find that the trade-off between market access and migration applies not just to Brexit when she visits India for her first non-EU bilateral trip since Britons voted to quit the bloc.Leading Brexiteers in May’s government have locked on to India’s $2 trillion economy and market of 1.3 billion people as a chance to diversify trade and cushion any blow that a “hard” exit from the EU market could inflict.It won’t be possible to cut a bilateral trade deal until Britain has left the EU, but May and host Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have an opportunity to stake out opening positions during her Nov. 6-8 visit.The process will not be easy. In addition to any eventual trade deal, India will want May to welcome more of its students and skilled workers, and that would require an unlikely U-turn from the tough line she has taken on immigration.”Immigration is one of the things India is going to push for,” said Dhruva Jaishankar, a foreign policy fellow at Brookings India. “But May is in a bit of a bind – if she gives in, the people who voted for Brexit will say: what did we vote for?”Take students: the number of study visas issued to Indian nationals fell from 68,238 in the year to June 2010 to 11,864 five years later, British figures show.Over the same period the number of visas Britain issued to Chinese students nearly doubled.The solution, says businessman and member of the British parliament’s upper house Karan Bilimoria, is to exclude foreign students from Britain’s statistics on net migration, which May vows to cut to below 100,000 annually, from 336,000 in the year to June 2015.”It just doesn’t make economic sense to send out the wrong message to international students, and that’s exactly what we are doing,” said Bilimoria, the chancellor of Birmingham university who as a young migrant from India went into business and launched the Cobra beer brand.

Indian companies, including in the growing IT services sector, want Britain to make it easier for their staff to visit on business. Bilimoria, who will travel with May, urged her to offer the same deal as it did to China – three-year multiple entry visas for less than 100 pounds.FAITH IN FREE TRADE
May and Modi will likely address the prospects for business cooperation at a high-profile technology summit in New Delhi on Monday.But, behind closed doors, Indian officials are expected to sound her out on the terms of the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union and what it will mean for Indian firms that treat Britain as a gateway to Europe.

“At this juncture, she has the obligation to explain how Brexit could change our ties,” said one senior Indian diplomat who requested anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the record.India has struggled for years to strike a free trade deal with the EU, with officials saying the bloc is a difficult partner to deal with because its leaders tend to deliver contradictory messages and often strike a tone they see as moralising.Anglophiles in New Delhi see the opportunity in Brexit for a win on bilateral trade. But experts caution that India, which has a history of foot-dragging at the World Trade Organization, is no standard-bearer of open markets.”In general, things move slowly in India,” said Alan Winters, director of the UK Trade Policy Observatory at the University of Sussex. Experience shows that dealing with India “is a bureaucratic and rather slow moving process”, he added.Bilateral trade in goods and services has moved sideways in recent years, totaling 19 billion pounds ($23.7 billion) in 2014, when Britain ran a deficit of 1.5 billion pounds.

UK foreign direct investment into India declined, meanwhile, to 3.6 billion pounds in 2014 from a peak of 13.6 billion in 2011.Any Brexiteers inclined to lapse into misty-eyed nostalgia about the common history and language of the two countries would be well advised not to.The Commonwealth that groups countries with historic ties to Britain has limited utility in the eyes of New Delhi, which considers itself a rising 21st century power and is looking for support in addressing the threats it says it faces.Those include Pakistan, India’s arch-rival that Modi recently branded as “the mother-ship of terrorism” following an attack on an Indian army base in September that killed 19 of its soldiers. Pakistan has denied any role.Analysts say May would do well to reprise the words of her predecessor, David Cameron, who on a 2010 visit said Pakistan should not “promote the export of terror”.”It’s a sensitive point in UK-India relations – we are seen as being too close to Pakistan,” said Shashank Joshi, a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London. ($1 = 0.8012 pounds) (Writing by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

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

Tipu a monarch, not a freedom fighter: Karnataka HC questions Tipu Jayanti

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> The Karnataka High Court on Thursday questioned the state government’s logic behind celebrating the birth anniversary of Tipu Sultan, observing he wasn’t a freedom fighter but a monarch who fought to safeguard his interests.”What is the logic behind celebrating Tipu Jayanti? Tipu was not a freedom fighter, but a monarch who fought the opponents to safeguard his interests,” Chief Justice Subhro Kamal Mukherjee, presiding over the division bench, observed. Justice R B Budhihal is the other member of the bench. The observation was made by the Chief Justice during a hearing on a Public Interest Litigation filed by South Kodagu- based K P Manjunatha, challenging government’s move to celebrate Tipu Jayanti.Justice Mukherjee also questioned the logic behind celebrating Tipu Jayanti amid fears of communal tension escalating in Kodagu district and other parts of the state. He observed that last year’s celebrations had resulted in a law-and-order situation after protesters resorted to violence. However, public counsel M R Naik defended the celebrations, saying Tipu was a great warrior who fought against the British.Countering the submissions, Sajan Poovaiah, counsel for the petitioner, said Tipu was a tyrant ruler who killed people belonging to many communities, including Kodavas, Konkanis and Christians.The hearing will resume tomorrow.The Congress government’s decision to observe the birth anniversary of the 18th century ruler of the erstwhile Mysore kingdom has stirred a major controversy, with opinion sharply divided among intellectuals, academia and different communities and organisations. Tipu Jayanti, slated to be celebrated across the state on November 10, is being observed since last year following a government decision, which had triggered a major row and caused violence in Kodagu district last November.RSS had stated recently it opposed the celebration and would stage protests against it as the ruler of the erstwhile Mysore kingdom was a “religious bigot and a violent sultan”.BJP has also expressed its strong opposition to ‘Tipu Jayanti’.

Tata Steel director says Ratan Tata was told to sell Europe business but he was unwilling

Washing dirty linen in public is not a bad thing. Especially when it comes to closely held companies because that is the only way we can get a glimpse of the goings on at such organisations. The Ratan TataCyrus Mistry fracas is proof of this.

As the war of words between the Tata and Mistry camps intensifies, many details and views are being made public, which otherwise would not have been the case at all.

A report in the Business Standard has brought the focus on Tata Steel with an unnamed director of the company telling the newspaper that the decision to sell Tata Steel Europe was taken by the entire board and Mistry cannot be blamed solely for it.

“Dozens and dozens of meetings of the board took place, including with British labour unions and British ministers, who came to Mumbai,” the director has been quoted as saying in the report.



The Tata Steel director has also told the newspaper that the agenda of every meeting was send to all the directors and Ratan Tata too got these mails as he was chairman emeritus. So why didn’t he react when the decision was being taken, he asks.

Moreover, the director says when Tata was the chairman, he was advised to sell the loss-making operations. “But, it was Tata who was not willing to get out,” he has told the newspaper.

According to him, while finding fault with Cyrus Mistry, nobody is asking whether acquisition of Corus in 2007 was indeed a right one.

He has put his weight behind Mistry saying the ousted chairman was in no way responsible for the buyout at high cost, for he only inherited it. Mistry was only trying to clean it up.

The Tata camp had earlier indicated that the poor show by Tata Steel Europe was among the many reasons for ousting Mistry.

A report in The Financial Times had on 26 October said, citing analysts, that the sudden sacking “might raise question marks on the continuation” of the strategy to sell Tata Steel’s UK business. CLSA analysts quoted in the report said Mistry is thought to be behind the move to sell the European assets and with Ratan Tata back at the helm, this move is likely to be reversed.

On Monday, reacting to the changes at Tata Sons, Brickwork Ratings revised outlook for Tata Steel to negative though it continued to place the company in the ‘high degree of safety’ category with regard to the services to debt.

“Essentially the Rating reflects heightened management risk and the current stage of lack of clarity at group level management that may impact strategic decision-making at Tata Steel Ltd,” Brickwork had said.

In the letter to Tata Sons board, Mistry had said a fair value assessment of legacy hotspots such as Indian Hotels, Tata Motors PV, Tata Steel Europe, Tata Power Mundra and Tata Teleservices would result in a write-down of about Rs 118,000 crore.

“In the face of above challenges, I had to take many tough decisions with sensitive care to the group’s reputaion as well as containing panic amidst internal and external stakeholders…,” Mistry said in the letter defending his decision to sell certain assets of the group such as fertilizer and UK steel businesses.

A look at how Tata Steel’s debt burden increased will prove Mistry’s concerns right.

In 2006 March, the company had a minuscule debt of Rs 3,377 crore. This jumped to Rs 24,926 crore a year later and then more than doubled to Rs 53,625 crore the next year. The debt as of March 2016 stands at Rs 86,204 crore.

Indeed, why is nobody questioning the highly-leveraged buyout strategy at all?

One may make the argument that nobody expected the global financial crisis to break out in 2008 and continue to cripple demand for years to come. But how can one justify clinging on to a loss-making investment that drains millions of pounds on a monthly basis?

Like the Nano, Tata Steel Europe too seems to be an emotional investment for the Tatas.

(Data inputs from Kishor Kadam)

Rolls Royce made ‘secret payment’ of £10 million to Indian agent for Hawk aircrafts deal: Report

Tue, 1 Nov 2016-09:44am , London/New Delhi , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>British defence major Rolls Royce made ‘secret payments’ of around £10 million to an Indian defence agent that may have helped the company to win a big contract for engines on Hawk aircrafts used by the Indian Air Force, a media report said on Monday.The person who is alleged to have received the secret payment of over £10 million was arms dealer Sudhir Choudhrie, BBC reported. The arms dealer, who is on the Indian government’s blacklist of people suspected of “corrupt or irregular practice” is now settled in London.The blacklist warns government officials and ministers to be extra cautious while dealing with people and companies on the list. The report also quoted Choudhrie’s lawyer as saying that his client has never paid bribes to Indian government officials or acted as an illegal middleman in defence deals. Choudhrie also serves as an adviser on India to the Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron and his family.Meanwhile, Rolls-Royce said it was “fully co-operating with the authorities” and “cannot comment on ongoing investigations”. Hawk aircrafts are used by the Indian Air Force for training purposes.

Bharat Mata Ki Jai: How Jawaharlal Nehru’s Discovery of India offers a peek into the soul of India

I read Jawaharlal Nehru’s Discovery of India for the first time, when I had just joined college. Since then, I must have re-read it at least half a dozen times, the latest being in October when I was preparing for recording a conversation with Shyam Benegal for Kitab — my weekly show on Rajya Sabha TV. This time, the reading acquired added poignancy given the current environment characterised by vulgar, in fact hostile rejection of intellectual vocation; and political scene populated by “leaders” who proudly display their ignorance of Indian history and culture while aggressively professing great love and reverence for “Bharat Mata“. Naturally, some of this environment reflected in the recording also, when nonchalantly admitting their ignorance of the text, some of the audience condemned it nonetheless. After all, “why should anybody bother to read such a thick and obviously dated book?”

File image of a protest rally against the attacks on Dalits in Gujarat. Reuters

The leaders of India’s Struggle For Freedom envision a nation confident enough to look at itself critically, not suffering from self-pity of present or delusions of the past, committed to a just and inclusive growth-pattern. Reuters

The question was blunt enough and the answer can be similarly straight: “Going through this book will help you in knowing that leaders of our freedom movement were struggling not merely for political freedom, but for regaining the soul of India and for creating a just and compassionate society.”

The idea of India — a nation self-confident enough to look at itself critically, not suffering from self-pity of present or delusions of the past, committed to a just and inclusive growth-pattern, conscious of its historical role — was not Nehru’s alone. It was shared by all forward looking leaders and thinkers of his generation — their disagreements (sometimes quite acrimonious) notwithstanding. In fact, People like BR Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh were critical of the Congress party, precisely because they thought that it was not doing enough to realise the shared vision of an egalitarian and just society.

The slogan desiring the ‘Jai’ or victory of Bharat Mata was popularised during the freedom struggle. Nehru recalls that he used to ask his audiences the “meaning of the expression Bharat Mata“, and proceeds to decode the slogan. He writes, “…what counted ultimately were the people of India, people like them and me. who were spread all over this vast land. Bharat Mata — Mother India was essentially these millions of people, and victory to her meant victory to these people” (page 53).

There can be no “people” without shared memories, dreams and aspirations. And, “A nation like an individual has many personalities, many approaches to life. If there is sufficiently strong bond between these different personalities, it is well; otherwise those personalities split up and lead to disintegration and trouble” (page 562). To Nehru, “discovery” of India meant discovering the matrix of “strong bond” holding the personalty of India together and to identify the potential threats as well. It was a search of destiny, as given its human, material and cultural resources “India can only be in the frontline in the comity of nations; it is her destiny”.

Written in Ahmednagar Fort prison during April-September 1944, the “discovery” begins with reflections on national and international political situation of the time. In these, reflections are interwoven with the memories of his wife Kamla Nehru who after a prolonged illness, passed away in February, 1936. Nehru’s reflections on this admittedly less than perfect relationship reach to the fundamental “problem of human relationship” which is “often ignored in our fierce arguments about politics and economics”, he reminds his reader, “it was not so ignored in the old and wise civilisations of India and China” (page 34).

This book is an attempt to trace the evolution, nature and problems of the “wise civilisation of India”. Starting from reflections on contemporary political scene, the book turns into a poignant re-telling of the evolution of Indian society, its culture and economy. Nehru notes the remarkable continuity of Indian culture and its material context from Indus Valley Civilisation to his own time, and also the “break” in its natural growth caused by the British colonialism. Delving into the heritage of literature, art, science and philosophy, he underlines the crucial fact that one can not imagine Indian civilisation without diversity and dialogue amongst various viewpoints. He underlines the importance of scientific temper and method for understanding the mysteries of nature, but is clear about its limitations as well — science can hardly tell us anything about the purpose of life, hence there must be moral basis and ethical dimension to the life of individual, community and nation. To him, one of Gandhiji’s greatest contributions was his “stress on right means” (page 16), ie, the ethical idea of the purpose of life.

Quite contrary to popular ignorance, Nehru did not dismiss religion summarily. He was, of course motivated by the desire to see a “culture less based on religion, and more on morality and ethics” (page 577). As a matter of fact, by making ethics more important than dogma and belief as a principle of social organisation, Nehru is speaking here in a quintessentially Indian way. He did not fancy himself as a crusader against religion, because, “…religion had supplied some deeply felt inner human needs of human nature” (page 13). As for himself, he felt attracted “towards the advaita philosophy of Vedanta” and felt at home “in the old Indian or Greek pagan and pantheistic atmosphere, but minus the conception of God or Gods that was attached to it” (page 16).

In Nehru’s own words, this book is an attempt to “travel into the past and peep into the future”. He borrows TS Elliot’s words to describe his venture as an attempt to “balance myself on that point of intersection of the timeless and time” (page 627). This book, so directly concerned with the events of that time has a timeless quality, because such a balance on the “point of intersection of the timeless and time” is always needed in the lives of individuals and nations. More so, these days, when we seem to be living under the illusions regarding past and confusions regarding future, coupled with a disastrous lack of a higher ethical vision.

(All page numbers are Discovery of India, Penguin edition, New Delhi, 2010)

Kashmir a matter for India, Pakistan to sort out: British PM Theresa May

London: British Prime Minister Theresa May has said that the UK’s stand on Kashmir remains unchanged and it is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan to address.

The issue was raised in the House of Commons during the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions session on Wednesday by Pakistani-born Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi, who asked if the Kashmir issue would form part of May’s discussions during her visit to India next month.

File photo of UK Prime Minister Theresa May. ReutersFile photo of UK Prime Minister Theresa May. Reuters

File photo of UK Prime Minister Theresa May. Reuters

“I take the same view as this government has since it came into power, and indeed previously, which is that the issue of Kashmir is a matter for India and Pakistan to deal with and sort out,” the British PM said in Parliament, clearly indicating that Kashmir was unlikely to be on the agenda during her bilateral talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi when she visits India between 6 and 8 November.

Qureshi, who represents a heavily Pakistani-origin constituency of Bolton in north-west England, had questioned in the Commons: “Will the Prime Minister meet with me and cross-party colleagues to discuss the human rights abuses and the issue of self-determination for Kashmiri people, as was set out in the resolution of the UN in 1948 and can she raise this issue with the Indian Prime Minister.”

May, while dismissing any meeting herself, said: “The foreign secretary [Boris Johnson] has heard her representations and I am sure will be interested in taking those issues up with her.”

The British PM is scheduled to arrive in New Delhi on 6 November for her first overseas bilateral visit outside Europe.

Besides inaugurating the India-UK Tech Summit alongside Modi, she will be holding talks with her Indian counterpart before heading to Bengaluru.

May will be accompanied by a business delegation comprising small and medium enterprises from across the UK and her international trade minister, Liam Fox.

Resolution of Kashmir issue will ensure peace in the region: Nawaz Sharif

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday said Kashmir is the “core issue” between India and Pakistan and its resolution would ensure durable peace in the region. “Kashmir issue must be resolved according to the UN resolutions as per the commitments made by the Indian Government,” Sharif told British National Security Adviser Sir Mark Lyall Grant, who called on him at PM House here.Sharif said Kashmir is the “core issue” between India and Pakistan and its resolution would ensure durable peace in the region as he urged the world to take note of alleged human rights violations there, officials said.”The world community must take a note of the grave human rights violations and atrocities” in Kashmir, he said and claimed that over hundred people have been brutally killed, hundreds have been blinded by the use of pellet guns while thousands have been injured in the last few months alone.Sharif said that Pakistan is peace loving country and pursues the policy of maintaining friendly relationships with all its neighbours, they said. Grant appreciated his policy of reaching out to the neighbours for establishing cordial relationships with them. “We encourage and support your efforts for peaceful cooperation with your neighbouring countries,” Grant said.He said that the commitment of political government and armed forces, supported by the people of Pakistan have resulted into phenomenal victory against terrorism, referring to operation ‘Zarb-e-Azb’ in the northwestern tribal region. Grant congratulated the Prime Minister on successfully completing the IMF support programme and achieving macroeconomic stability.The British NSA also called on Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif at army headquarters today. “Matters of mutual interest and regional security came under discussion. The visiting dignitary acknowledged the significant achievements made by Pakistan in their fight against terrorism and continued efforts for regional peace and stability,” said a statement issued by the army.

Heavy workload possible reason for ‘serious mistakes’ made by SC in Soumya case: Katju    

Thiruvananthapuram: Former SC judge Markandey Katju said on Monday that the apex court had made some “serious mistakes” in the Soumya case by commuting the death sentence of the accused to life, and attributed it to “judges not being able to give much time to cases due to heavy workload of pending cases”.

In a Facebook post, he said, “I genuinely believe that the Supreme Court had made some serious mistakes in its judgement by reversing the death penalty awarded by Kerala High Court”.

“Possibly these mistakes were made because the court was so overburdened with work that it cannot give as much time to cases as they deserve, which they would have otherwise done, had it not been for this heavy load of cases to decide,” he said.

A file photo of Markandey Katju. PTIA file photo of Markandey Katju. PTI

A file photo of Markandey Katju. PTI

The Former Press Council Chairman also said that when he first heard that he had been issued notice, asking him to appear before the court on 11 November, he was “upset” as he thought the SC was trying to “humiliate” him since he had criticised their judgement and such an order was “unprecedented”.

Hence, he had initially said that he would not appear before the court as directed.

However, when he received the apex court’s notice and read it, Katju said he realised the court used “very respectful language to me and had requested me, not ordered me, to appear since they seemed to be sincere about their desire to reconsider their judgement and did not have a closed mind.”

“Since reading the Supreme Court notice, I felt that the judges had no intention to humiliate or insult me, rather were anxious to get my help in reconsidering their judgement, I have decided to appear on 11th November at 2 pm (the date and time fixed),” Justice Katju said.

Quoting celebrated British Judge Lord Denning, Katju said ‘The Judge has not been born who has not made a mistake’.

“We are all humans, and all of us make mistakes, but a gentleman is one who realises his mistake, acknowledges it,
and seeks to make amends,” Katju said.

“This should apply to judges too. I myself have sometimes made mistakes in my judgements,” he said.

At least four killed in India-Pakistan cross-border shelling | Reuters

At least four killed in India-Pakistan cross-border shelling | Reuters

Updated: Oct 24, 2016 19:11 IST


By Asad Hashim and Fayaz Bukhari

ISLAMABAD/SRINAGAR, India Shelling across the border between India and Pakistan killed two Pakistani civilians, an Indian soldier and a boy, military officials from the two sides said on Monday, as tension between the nuclear-armed neighbours simmers.Pakistan’s military said the shelling hit the sectors of Harpal, Pukhlian and Charwah along the disputed “working boundary”, which separates Pakistan’s Punjab province from Indian-administered Kashmir’s Jammu region.India’s military said the firing occurred in the Pura, Pargwal and Kanachak sectors.Both countries have claimed the disputed Kashmir region in full since partition and independence from the British in 1947, but administer separate portions of it. They have fought two of their three wars over the territory.

Tensions have been strained since July, when Indian forces killed a young Kashmiri fighter, prompting mass protests in Indian-administered Kashmir. The resulting crackdown by security forces has seen at least 80 Kashmiri protesters killed.Relations plummeted even further in September, when gunmen stormed an Indian military base in Uri, killing 18 Indian soldiers, the largest such attack in 14 years.

India blamed Pakistan for the attack, and in response said it had launched “surgical strikes” across the de facto border in Kashmir on Sept 29 to target Kashmiri fighters based there. Pakistan denied any incursion had occurred on its territory. Pakistan’s military said a one-year-old child was among the dead in Pakistan in the village of Janglora. Pakistani forces responded to the Indian firing and an exchange of fire continued through the night.

Fifteen civilians were wounded in the firing, Pakistan said.In India’s Jammu region, a Border Security Force (BSF) soldier was killed by the Pakistani firing, while another was wounded, a BSF spokesman told Reuters. A boy, one of five civilians also injured, later died of his wounds, he said. (Writing by Asad Hashim; Editing by Drazen Jorgic and Toby Chopra)

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

Indian electorate ‘castes’ its common sense away: When will our priorities change?

Caste-based politics. The very phrase makes you want to look for a bucket and be ill in. The more we deny it the more it strides onto centrestage and takes over.

Indians just don’t seem to be given the opportunity to exercise franchise for good governance or the credit for voting for a right candidate. I would even go as far as to say we rob ourselves of this right with such pathetic ease.

Not because he or she is good for the job, but because we invariably marinate it in caste and communal syrup. I am reading about Rita Bahaguna Joshi’s departure from Congress to the BJP and it is being seen as a clever ploy to win the Brahmin vote.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

We are all party to this conspiracy. Politicians thrive on it. Media propels it with gay abandon and not even the least bit of concern that it perpetuates what it critiques with such indignation. The public takes the bait every single time and fragments like a grenade, allowing the shrapnel to divide and rule with a fervour that even the British could not match.

Seventy years down the road, caste politics thrive and run our lives. Take UP and the 2017 elections. The arithmetic in the break-up of the numbers is all caste-oriented.

Here are several statements on record.

The BJP wants alliances in eastern UP with the Janvadi Party so it can get the MBC castes, including Lonia, Nonia, Gole-Thakur, Lonia-Chauhan and Dhobhi to vote for it. The aim is to target the non-Jatav Dalit vote and the non-Yadav backward class vote.

The BSP wants to capture the Dalit-Brahmin bloc and the Dalit-Muslim alliance.

The Rashtriya Lok Dal has lost its base in the Jat-Muslim enclave after the Muzaffarnagar riots and is now an also-ran unless it links up with the SP to lure the Jat vote.

One can break all this up to an even further sickening level. For example, the BJP is believed to be wooing castes such as Maurya, Murav and Kachhi by naming Keshav Prasad Maurya as its State unit president. Whether Maurya, bless his little heart, is a good administrator or not is not even a factor in the distant horizon.

Who thinks of all this? There must be an affection for it that questions intellect but obtains legitimacy from its popularity. Caste counts.

And when will the priorities change?

The hypocrisy is breathtaking. And it is not just UP. The same nonsense is the icing on the Punjab cake, too. Mayawati attacked the SAD-BJP alliance as anti-Dalit, called Arvind Kejriwal a ‘baniya’ and this was par for the political course.

Today, the BSP is trumpeting a 10 percent reservation for poor upper castes (and that is not an oxymoron) in the hope of closing in on the leaders.

AAP is marking the Sikhs and backing reputed human rights activists HS Phoolka in the hope of lifting the scab on 1984 and making that wound bleed into votes.

The BJP will fall back on the Khatris, Aroras, and Banias who are mainstays of the Hindu segment. But it will also try to win back the 30 percent Dalit population that it has alienated with its cow protection hostility and violence.

Everyone now loves the Dalits, and AAP will also hope to sweep enough of them up into its fold.

The SAD hopes to keep the farmers on its side (they being traditional voters) but, as an incumbent party, have been hurt by the zeal of the BJP partnership that has declared a bovine war on Dalits.

Into the mix where Kejriwal might well break the pattern, comes cricketer-comedian Navjot Singh Sidhu with a promise to splinter the vote banks further as he shakes the current political tree.

You read all this and you think, are we that stupid or, worse, do these political entities and their spin doctors believe that the electorate is that stupid and can be emotionally manipulated with such consummate ease?

Yes, we can be that stupid. This is the saddest and most dispiriting response one can get and it is valid. We love caste, we espouse it, feed it, grow it insidiously in our minds and let its vines creep into our psyche and control our thoughts and actions.

Caste overwhelms every other consideration to an extent that we can only watch stupefied as this virus mutates and resists all treatments based on common sense and the fact that we all bleed red.

So sit back, rub the fur of your caste and admire our rampant stupidity.

Shock for retired Babus: Centre decides to withdraw their perks

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The lifestyle of over 200 retired bureaucrats is all set to take a tumble and resemble that of a commoner very soon. The Centre has cracked the whip, ordering the Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) director generals to withdraw post-retirement perks — such as vehicles, drivers and attendants — of all retired IAS and IPS officers.Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi conveyed the decision in a meeting with the DGs of all CAPFs that he called for on Wednesday to specifically discuss this issue.Sources said that the decision is in sync with the direction from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to cut frills and bring down wasteful expenditure. They, however, refused to name the retired bureaucrats who are availing these perks, saying that they hope that the retired bureaucrats would themselves give it up before the order reaches them.“The numbers of vehicles, drivers and attendants is apparently pretty high as they are being used by over 200 retired bureaucrats. It is making a huge dent on the exchequer at the cost of taxpayers money. It is a dead investment and a vestige of the British era,” said sources.

Triple talaq: Uniform Civil Code doesn’t cost you the right to govern yourself

On 7 October the Central government filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court opposing practices like triple talaq and polygamy. The Government reasoned that these laws should be struck down as a measure towards gender equality. Needless to say this has caused concern among minority communities with reference to the status of their personal laws. The BJP promised a Uniform Civil Code and this affidavit is seen as one step towards that. The Constitution as part of its Directive Principles of State Policy also calls upon the state to endeavour to bring in a uniform civil code.

When the coming of British administration, the court systems underwent a radical shift and a modern judicial system was established in India. There was a common and uniform law of crimes that was established with the enactment of the Indian Penal Code in 1860 and this was followed by the enactment of various legislation, whose primary purpose was to make the laws uniform across the territory of India. However, this move towards uniformity did not translate to a harmonisation of personal laws and people continued to be governed by the religious laws applicable to them as was the case prior to British administration. However, to facilitate inter-religious and inter-caste marriages, a secular personal law to some extent was also enacted.

The Special Marriage Act of 1954 which repealed the Special Marriage Act of 1872 provides for the solemnisation and dissolution of marriages for people of two different faiths and people of the same faith. There is the Indian Succession Act of 1925 that provides for the general law of succession. The Guardian And Wards Act of 1890 provides for custody and guardianship of minor children.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

These special laws, though they appear secular do not allow a person in India to escape the baggage of personal law and in some cases also make it hostile for a person to choose to abide by these special laws. Section 21 of the Special Marriage Act of 1954 provides that the Indian Succession Act, 1925 will apply to the property of any person who was married under the act and excludes the personal law. However, in 1976 there was an an amendment inserting 21A, which had the effect of continuing the application of personal laws so far as they concerned two Hindus who had solemnised their marriage under the act. Till the 1976 amendment, Hindus who married under the act were expelled from any undivided family. The Act by it’s very scheme is hostile to the idea of persons who profess the same faith from opting out of the personal laws that apply to them.

In the absence of Section 21A of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 any two Hindus who got married under that law would effectively be opting out of the personal law applicable to them in so far as Marriage, Succession, Custody and Divorce are concerned. Two Non-Hindus and Hindu and a Non-Hindu who get married even today under this Act, effectively can opt out of the regulations of personal law so far as it governs them. The deletion of Section 21A would by itself create an opt-in uniform civil code across the country whereby any citizen could opt out of the personal laws governing them. Therefore India’s secular law to the extent it sill exists is an opt-in system. Parties are by default governed by their personal laws but can choose not to be by opting into the secular system.

The question now is, should the secular law be an opt in or an opt out. The Uniform Civil Code in India would be a right step forward in promoting national harmony and social cohesion. It would make all persons be subject to one governing law. However, the existence of a Uniform Civil Code need not be in direct opposition to the rights of communities to govern their own affairs. Secularism prevents the state from recognising or interfering in matters where it concerns religion, but it does not necessarily mean that the communities would not have the ability to govern themselves by way of contract.

In an opt out situation, two parties would be governed by the secular law, unless they have expressed their agreement to be governed by their personal laws. Making the governing law a question of agreement would go a long way to address concerns that minorities may have. In the United Kingdom, which has a secular law applicable to all, there is a body known as the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal which operates like any other arbitration body. Except, this body helps Muslim couples and Muslim parties resolve their disputes using arbitration governed by Sharia. This does not amount to courts determining or applying personal laws, but the parties choosing a third party arbitrator to decide the dispute. The tribunal has no power to grant a civil divorce, but can grant an Islamic divorce to satisfy the religious requirements of the community.

If India moves to a Uniform Civil Code, it may be beneficial to allow parties to mediate/arbitrate familial disputes and then present the decree for confirmation to the court. The court while confirming the decree can take into account the public policy prevailing and the interests of the children if any. However, this resort to religious law can only happen under the opt-out if both parties consent to it , either at the time of marriage or at the time of divorce. Further, there can be a provision, that persons who want their estate administered in accordance with religious laws, make and register wills to that effect allowing for their religious faith to be preserved.

India has the basic frameworks of a secular personal law which can be harmonised to form a Uniform Civil Code. However, the move to a Uniform Civil Code need not come at the cost of persons giving up their right to govern themselves according to their religion. It’s time India shifts from an Opt-in to an Opt-Out as far as religious personal law is concerned and make the secular law the default law of the country.

Adarsh Housing Society’s plea opposing Defence Ministry’s title suit rejected by Bombay HC

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Bombay High Court rejected a plea of scam-tainted Adarsh Housing Society in Mumbai on Thursday opposing a title suit filed by the Defence Ministry regarding the land on which the building stands. A bench headed by Chief Justice Manjula Chellur dismissed the appeal filed by Adarsh Society against the order of a single judge of the high court rejecting the society’s petition.The society had contended that the officer who signed the suit on behalf of the Defence Ministry was not authorised to do so. The ministry denied this contention. The Defence Ministry filed the suit in the Bombay High Court in December 2012, two years after it came to light that the 31 storey Adarsh building was constructed in violation of several civic and environmental norms.The Defence Ministry said the land belonged to it and it should be given its possession. The ministry alleged that the building was constructed “illegally and unlawfully”. The land was transferred to the Adarsh Society through fraud, collusion and connivance on the part of the society members, ministers and bureaucrats of Maharashtra government, it said.The society opposed the suit saying that only the Defence Estate Officer can file such suits. It relied on a government order issued in 1930, during the British rule, and ‘military land manual’ to make this claim. The High Court had ordered demolition of the Adarsh building after holding that it was constructed illegally. The Supreme Court stayed the order on the society’s appeal. The matter is still pending before the apex court.

Deadly Bangladesh blaze shows up safety gaps three years after factory collapse | Reuters

By Serajul Quadir and Ruma Paul

DHAKA Bangladesh’s safety inspectors twice extended an operating licence at a food and cigarette packaging plant in the capital Dhaka without making physical checks.That breach of rules is now being investigated by the government after a fire at the Tampaco Foils factory killed at least 39 people last month.The cause of the September 10 blaze, the country’s worst industrial accident since the 2013 Rana Plaza tragedy in which more than 1,100 mostly garment workers died, is unknown. The plant’s owner, a former member of parliament, has gone missing.Flammable materials stored on the factory floor, a gas leak, excessive use of gas and poorly positioned boilers are all being looked at as possible reasons.Syed Ahmed, head of the department charged with inspecting factories and commercial buildings, said his inspectors should have visited Tampaco before renewing its licence, but did not, partly because of a shortage of staff.”If we could have inspected the factory, then we may have noticed and could have taken action on those shortcomings, and this could have averted disaster,” Ahmed told Reuters.He said the department had launched an internal review to identify who was responsible for signing the documents.Interviews with Ahmed and more than 20 regulators, investigators, technicians and witnesses involved in the fire at the factory reveal a lack of oversight that the government is scrambling to fix.While inspections of plants making clothes for global brands have increased significantly since Rana Plaza – many carried out by or on behalf of Western companies – other sectors that also supply international firms have had less attention.”This disaster has opened our eyes to the fact that we must also focus on other factories,” Ahmed said.Mikail Shipar, secretary of the Labour and Employment Ministry, said the government was investigating why Tampaco’s licence was renewed without a visit. The operating licence is one of several required, but among the most important.”There will be a committee from this ministry and action will be taken if anyone is found guilty for this lack of oversight,” he told Reuters.Plans to expand Ahmed’s department of about 250 inspectors by nearly tenfold have picked up pace since the fire, Shipar added.The lack of resources is undermining safety for millions of Bangladeshi workers, as well as damaging the south Asian nation’s image among investors.The $28 billion garment industry is key, accounting for around 15 percent of the economy. More than four fifths of Bangladesh’s exports are to the clothing industry, making it the world’s second largest garment supplier after China.WESTERN COMPANY CHECKS
According to a senior inspection official, the licence at Tampaco, which supplies packaging to local firms and multinationals including British American Tobacco (BATS.L) and Nestle (NESN.S), was extended through 2015 and then again until the middle of 2017, both times with no visit.

When asked about the extension of the plant’s operating licence without inspections taking place, a British American Tobacco Bangladesh spokeswoman said the cigarette maker understood them to have been made by independent inspectors as stipulated by the government.”We understood, as part of our own review process, that all the necessary checks had been made,” she said in an emailed statement, adding that the company had reviewed Tampaco in 2012, 2014 and 2015, and had provided environment and health and safety training, including fire safety, in January, 2016.”At the time of the last review in October, 2015, British American Tobacco Bangladesh checked all required licences and they were found to be valid.”BAT Bangladesh also said it was bringing forward on-site reviews of all “priority suppliers” in Bangladesh.A Nestle spokeswoman said: “When more is known about the cause of this tragedy, we will work with the authorities and other stakeholders to determine how to avoid any such incidents in the future.”The company said the Tampaco plant had passed a fire safety and prevention audit by independent inspection company SGS in 2012, and Nestle, which conducts audits around every three years, was in the process of organizing the next one.BANGLADESH’S IMAGE PROBLEM
There are thousands of big factories and warehouses in Bangladesh, many of them making goods cheaply for multinational companies, with only a few hundred inspectors to check them.Improving safety is crucial to restoring the country’s image as a place to work and invest.

Beyond industrial safety, Islamist militants have increased attacks. In the worst incident, gunmen killed 22 people in a Dhaka cafe in July, most of them from abroad.”One of the risks for Bangladesh right now is that between the July terror attack, the legacy of Rana Plaza and now this (Tampaco fire), it begins to look like a non-desirable place to do business,” said Sarah Labowitz, co-head of NYU Stern’s Center for Business and Human Rights.”The government and industry really need to step up and respond.”Shipar said the government was preparing to beef up inspections in the non-garment sector.They would be concentrated in four industrial districts, three of them in or around Dhaka and one in the southeastern port city of Chittagong.”It is our estimate that roughly 4,000 factories will come under this project,” he said. “We cannot inspect all factories, and so we have to give priority to those factories that are prone to fires or explosions.”The problem is not only lack of staff.Coordination between inspection teams is problematic, and the labyrinthine licencing system can cause headaches for company bosses.”When we ask (for) documents or to implement recommendations … the management says they struggle with so many licences and do not understand which one should have priority,” said Abdus Sattar, who works in the factory inspection department.

The Tampaco factory is owned by Syed Mokbul Hussain, a former lawmaker.He told Reuters on the day of the blaze that Tampaco was “fully compliant”, but has not been contactable since to answer questions about the licencing process or other safety issues.Police said Hussain and nine top managers had gone into hiding since the fire.Habibur Rahman, a production officer of Tampaco, defended the company’s safety record.”Why would the owner ignore compliance issues after investing billions of taka?” he said.Factories are usually notified about inspections first, raising questions about their efficacy.One government inspector, who asked not to be named, told Reuters during a recent visit to a Dhaka plant that, if he arrived unannounced, more often than not he would be turned away.Promised reforms will come too late for the 39 people confirmed killed at Tampaco. Several people are missing and dozens more were injured.Abdul Momin, who survived the explosion and fire early that Saturday morning, was one of several witnesses who said they heard the hiss of gas before the blast rocked the building.”All of a sudden, I heard a blast,” said Mohammad Manowar Hossain, a long-time Tampaco worker, speaking from hospital recently where he was being treated for two broken legs.”I lost my senses. After I got my senses back, there were many injured workers lying beside me crying for help.”Ahmed, head of the inspection team, said Tampaco had been warned in 2014 about raw material storage and that it must ensure the safety of its gas riser – a piping component.It is not clear whether the recommendations were followed. (Additional reporting by Allison Martell in Toronto and Martinne Geller in London; Writing by Euan Rocha; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

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

Slumdog to Lion

It has been a long and bumpy ride for Dev Patel since the success of Danny Boyles’ Slumdog Millionaire, but he may have a winner on his hands with his new film, Lion.

Live: PM Modi, Arvind Kejriwal to address Dussehra gathering, attend festivities

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Security was heightened in Lucknow on Tuesday ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s participation in the Dussehra celebrations, police said.

Other than deploying the companies of Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) and Rapid Action Force (RAF), traffic was also diverted and security has been set in place for the high profile event in the Aishbagh locality.

File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Inspector General of Police (Lucknow) A Satish Ganesh said that despite security, efforts are being made to ensure that citizen did not face any problem.

Convenor of the event, city Mayor and BJP national Vice President Dinesh Sharma informed that Modi would be witnessing the ‘Ravan Vadh‘ during the Ram Leela programme.

Modi along with Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Governor Ram Naik and the minister representing Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav would attend the event.

Singh reached Lucknow on Monday evening ahead of Modi’s visit. The prime minister is expected to land in Lucknow at 6 pm and will further head for the venue of the celebrations, reported The Financial Express.

Yadav has been invited but his presence has not yet been confirmed.

Sharma’s disclaimer of “no politics” behind the Modi’s visit to Lucknow on Dussehra, all eyes and ears are on his visit and public address, according to a report by The Times of India.

The Hindustan Times speculates that terror could be the main topic of his speech.

Following an ‘aarti‘ of the actors essaying the mythological characters, Modi and Rajnath Singh would address the gathering.

Organisers informed that Modi would be gifted with a rare portrait of Hindu poet-saint Goswami Tulsidas and a copy of Ram Charit Manas among others.

They also said that the event would be broadcast live.

The Ram Leela in Aishbagh will complete 70 years, but this would be the first time that such a high-profile dignitary will attend the event, Mayor Sharma pointed out.

Apart from Modi, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal will also deliver speeches on Tuesday.

Rahul’s speech will be at the Ramlila maidan in New Delhi, which is expected to take place after 5 pm. Kejriwal is also expected to attend the Dussehra festivities at the Luv Kush Ramlila Maidan, reported

With inputs from agencies.

Come Dussehra, RSS volunteers to don trousers instead of khaki shorts

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Come tomorrow and the RSS volunteers will cast away the khaki shorts, their trademark attire for 90 years, and don trousers, heralding a generational change in the organisation which is ruling BJP’s ideological mentor. The transformation in the RSS uniform comes into effect from Dussehra, which is also the Sangh’s foundation day.The RSS has also approved change in the colour of socks to be worn by its volunteers, replacing the old khaki with dark brown, to go with the brown trousers they would now wear, with white shirt and black cap. The traditional bamboo stick will, however, remain part of the uniform.Volunteers in the northern and eastern states, which witness harsh winter, will also wear dark brown sweaters. Orders for the first lot of one lakh such sweaters have already been placed.”Even though the readiness of society to work with Sangh on different issues has increased, the change in uniform has been made to take care of the comfort level and convenience while working. The transition heralds the change in Sangh in tune with the changing times,” RSS’ head of communications department Manmohan Vaidya told PTI. He said over 8 lakh trousers have been distributed, including 6 lakh stitched trousers, and cloth for another 2 lakh handed over to RSS offices in different parts of the country.Vaidya said the change in uniform was mooted in 2009 but there was no forward movement. The proposal was revived in 2015. After discussions, RSS leaders and volunteers arrived at a consensus that the uniform needs to change. The All-India Pratinidhi Sabha ratified the decision.The sartorial transition marks an end to an era in the Sangh whose members have for decades been identified with the khaki shorts, inspired by the uniform worn by the British constabulary. The shift is rooted in the Sangh’s desire to change by adopting a more convenient dress that is in tune with the changing times.”The issue of replacing the Sangh’s age-old attire has long been under debate and its top decision-making body, the All-India Pratinidhi Sabha, approved the apparel a few months ago,” said a senior Sangh leader.Another RSS leader Rajiv Tuli said the Sangh has been a flexible organisation which changes with the changing times. “Thus the change in attire,” he said. The change in uniform is also being seen as driven by the Sangh’s desire of attracting the younger generation to its fold.

West Bengal: Baharampore military station inaugurated by President Mukherjee

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>President Pranab Mukherjee inaugurated a new military station in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district on Saturday.Mukherjee, who had also laid the foundation stone of the project in 2014, said it would be a major military facility between Kolkata in the southern and Siliguri in northern part of the state. There used to be a military cantonment here during the British period. Because of this historic reason, the station has been named Baharampore military station, though it is actually located at Nabagram, around 25 km away from this district headquarter town.Though it was inaugurated on Saturday, the infrastructure development of the station will go on till 2018, after which it would have occupancy of over 8,000 troops including their families. It is being developed as a model military station with the state-of-the-art training and administrative facilities integrated with the existing natural features.Later at a brief programme at Suri in neighbouring Birbhum district, the President inaugurated a road named after his father Kamada Kinkar Mukherjee.

Confident that Jayalalithaa will return home in good health: Vaiko

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>MDMK leader Vaiko visited Apollo Hospitals on Saturday where Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa is undergoing treatment and expressed confidence that she would return home in good health. Vaiko, who later made a “friendly visit” on Tamil Nadu Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao, also slammed the DMK for demanding an interim arrangement to handle the Government till the time Jayalalithaa returned. “The Chief Minister is well. All the medical care is being given to her. She will return home in good health. The worries of lakhs of AIADMK workers will soon go,” he told reporters. He lauded Jayalalithaa for protecting the state’s rights on the Cauvery issue by approaching the Supreme Court. Vaiko said he was “shocked and grieved” after Jayalalithaa was admitted to the hospital last month, adding, he also held discussions with doctors treating her, including the British professional, Richard John Beale. He termed his meeting the Governor as a “friendly visit” as he had wanted to meet him. “We recollected old days,” he said and firmly denied that politics was discussed between the two.Asked about DMK Treasurer M K Stalin’s demand that an Interim or Deputy Chief Minister be appointed to handle matters like the Cauvery issue till Jayalalithaa returned, Vaiko said “there is no need” for such an arrangement. He recalled that when DMK President M Karunanidhi, as Chief Minister, was hospitalised for nearly 45 days in 2009, there was no such arrangement in place. CPI(M) state Secretary G Ramakrishnan also visited Apollo Hospitals and wished speedy recovery of Jayalalithaa.Meanwhile, prayers were held across the state by AIADMK supporters for the speedy recovery of their party chief. Among others, the state-run Tamil Nadu Music and Fine Arts University organised a mass prayer of students and teachers here for Jayalalithaa’s recovery.Devotional songs and music were played, including by the varsity’s Vice-Chancellor E Gayathri, a veena exponent. Prayers were also held by party supporters at different places of worship in different parts of the state. The Apollo hospital had yesterday said “Jayalalithaa continues to improve but requires a longer stay at the hospital”. Jayalalithaa was admitted to the hospital on September 22 after she complained of fever and dehydration.

UK’s new immigration policy will hit Indians

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The United Kingdom (UK) on Tuesday unveiled plans to further its crackdown on immigration through “work and study routes” from non-EU nations, in a move expected to make it difficult for British firms to hire professionals from countries like India.Home Secretary Amber Rudd told the annual Conservative Party conference in Birmingham she will be looking at a range of options to cut migration. “Leaving the EU is just one part of the strategy. We have to look at all sources of immigration if we mean business… We will be looking across work and study routes. This will include examining whether we should tighten the test companies have to take before recruiting from abroad,” Rudd said as she announced a new consultation on tightening immigration. New rules are expected to make it tougher for British companies wanting to bring in foreign professionals from outside the EU, including countries like India.”The test should ensure people coming here are filling gaps in the labour market, not taking jobs British people could do. But it’s become a tick box exercise, allowing some firms to get away with not training local people.”We won’t win in the world if we don’t do more to upskill our own workforce… I want us to look again at whether our immigration system provides the right incentives for businesses to invest in British workers,” she said.She also announced that from December, landlords that knowingly rent out property to people who have no right to be in the UK will be committing a criminal offence and could go to prison. Immigration checks will be a mandatory requirement for those wanting to get a licence to drive a taxi. From next year, banks will have to do regular checks to ensure they are not providing essential banking services to illegal migrants. The crackdown will affect students from India planning to study in the UK; their numbers are already at an all-time low.”We will also look for the first time at whether our student immigration rules should be tailored to the quality of the course and the quality of the educational institution…We need to look at whether this one size fits all approach really is right for the hundreds of different universities, providing thousands of different courses across the country,” the minister said.However, she stressed that the new rules will be brought in after consultation with businesses and universities. “This isn’t about pulling up the drawbridge. It’s about making sure students that come here, come to study. We’re consulting because we want to work with businesses and universities to get this next stage of our reforms right,” Rudd added.For migration within the EU, the home minister unveiled plans to overhaul legislation to make it easier to deport criminals and those who abuse UK laws while Britain negotiates its complete exit from the economic bloc.

Bihar liquor ban: Govt moves SC against Patna HC’s order; new policy also challenged

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A day after launching a new policy on liquor with harsher provisions, the Bihar government on Monday moved Supreme court against the Patna High Court order quashing the state government’s April 5 order on prohibition, describing it as ultra vires of Constitution.The unfazed state government took the step of approaching Supreme Court, after it came out with a new law banning liquor with more harsh provisions like the arrest of all adults in the event of recovery of the contraband in their house on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti.The government notified the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016 to ensure that the ban on sale and consumption of alcohol including Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) as well spiced and domestic liquor continued in the state.However, the new policy of the state government has also been challenged. ANI reported that the new liquor policy of the Bihar government was being challenged in the High Court by a former professor of Patna University who has filed an RTI.CM Nitish Kumar had on Sunday said that the new liquor law would be a real tribute to the Father of the Nation when the state is readying to observe the centenary celebration of Gandhiji’s Champaran Satyagraha against British rule from the state in early 2017. The new liquor law came into force in Bihar barely two days after the Patna High Court had on Friday quashed its April 5 notification.

India denies visa to Baloch leader Naela Quadri

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>What was to be an important discussion on the Balochistan freedom struggle in the Capital was dampened by the refusal of India to provide a visa to author and Baloch activist Naela Quadri Baloch, who is also the president of the World Baloch Women’s Forum. Her son, Baloch activist Mazdak Dilshad Baloch, however, was present at the event that took place at the Constitution Club of India on Saturday evening.The discussion, titled Baloch Nationality: Internal Colonisation of Balochistan by Pakistan, organised by India Policy Foundation, had on its panel GD Bakshi, Tarek Fatah, apart from Mazdak. Curiously, Naela was denied a visa while travelling from Kabul. Organisers of the event, who had sent out invitations with Naela’s name on them, said that the visa was not given due to some “technical reasons”.”She was first denied a visa due to some technical reasons; we reapplied. But, I think the time was too short a time for the Indian officials, with most bureaucrats in the MEA busy with the surgical strikes in Pakistan,” Rakesh Sinha, director at the IPF, told dna.Mazdak, however, remained clueless. “She had applied a while ago, and was in India over a month ago; I don’t know why was she denied a visa,” said Mazdak.The denial of the visa is significant given Prime Minister Modi’s clarion call to help the Balochi freedom struggle. And, Union minister of external affairs Sushma Swaraj’s speech at the UN last week bringing attention to the cause. However, the denial of the visa could also point at India’s reluctance to go beyond drawing accesses to the Balochi people in Pakistan.In the discussion, Mazdak spoke about the coolie camps in Balochistan. “Pakistanis torture, rape and murder Balochi people in these camps. And after that their bodies are airlifted and dumped on our hills. Most of these bodies have organs missing, and some are wrapped in the Balochi flag. This is done to tell us what will await our fate if we fight further for our independence,” he said.Tarek Fatah spoke about the duplicity of Jinnah, who duped the people of Balochistan. “We were a protectorate of the British government, not an Indian princely state,” he said. “We must remember that Qalat was the first embassy in Karachi where the Balochi flag would fly high. Balochistan was an independent state.”

CBI files closure report in British woman’s death case in Goa

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Six years after a 35-year-old British woman was found dead near Anjuna beach in Goa, the CBI has filed a closure report in the case as no evidence of assault or homicide has been found. The 50-page closure report in the death case of Denyse Sweeney was filed yesterday by a special team of CBI which arrived here from Mumbai. “The report has been filed before Judicial Magistrate First Class, Mapusa,” Nandkumar Nair, the head of CBI’s special branch in Mumbai, said.He said forensically, the cause of death was cerebral pulmonary oedema, which means accumulation of fluid in brain and lungs. There was no evidence of assault or homicide and also there was no eyewitness or circumstantial evidence due to which the closure report was filed, Nair said. Sweeney was on a holiday in Goa when she was found dead on April 16, 2010 near the toilet of a night club in Anjuna beach area. Local police had cited drug overdose as the reason behind the death, but later registered a case of murder after Sweeney’s family suspected foul play. The Central Bureau of Investigation had taken over the probe into the case in January.The development in Sweeney case came days after Goa Children’s Court in Panaji acquitted two men accused of drugging, sexually abusing and leaving to die British teenager Scarlett Eden Keeling at Anjuna beach in February 2008.

‘If tourists get murdered in Goa, they have no hope’: Scarlett Keeling’s mother shocked by acquittal

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Two local men accused of drugging, sexually abusing and leaving British teenage girl Scarlett Eden Keeling to die on Goa’s popular Anjuna beach in 2008 were today let off by a children’s court here. Goa Children’s Court Judge Vandana Tendulkar acquitted Samson D Souza and Placido Carvalho of all the charges in the eight-year-long high profile death case. Carvalho and Samson had been charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, sexual abuse and drugging. The verdict was announced in a jam packed court hall. Scarlett’s mother Fiona Mackeown expressed shock at the verdict.”I am shocked. I was not expecting acquittal. I was expecting conviction. I will challenge the order,” Fiona told reporters outside the court hall here. Speaking about the incident, Fiona told ANI: “I don’t have faith in the justice system here to give us justice, anymore.I had some hope in CBI but it is clear that either they are incompetent or corrupt & I believe they are not incompetent. If international tourist comes to Goa and gets murdered, they have no hope for justice in this system.”After her daughter’s body was found, Fiona had lived in Anjuna for a couple of weeks trying to piece together the evidence in the case. She flew down to Goa from Davon (UK) to be present in the court for the final verdict. CBI filed its chargesheet in the case in 2010 after the probe was handed over to the central agency from Goa Police on repeated pleas made by Scarlett s family.Goa Police was accused of trying to “hush up” the case. The 15-year-old’s bruised and semi-nude body was found at Anjuna beach on Feburary 19 2008, following which the police had claimed it as a case of drowning, but later registered it as culpable homicide. The case had grabbed international attention as British citizens used to be the largest number of tourists visiting Goa. The investigating agency had charged Samson of sexually abusing the girl and leaving her to die on Anjuna coast while Placido was accused of providing narcotics to her on the fateful day. “I am relieved. Justice has finally prevailed,” said Samson while talking to reporters after the verdict.The prosecution examined 31 witnesses, including the mother of the deceased during the trial.

Scarlett Keeling case: Verdict on rape and murder of British schoolgirl likely today

Goa: Two Indian men charged with raping and causing the death of British schoolgirl Scarlett Keeling on a Goa beach in 2008 will finally hear the verdicts against them later on Friday.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Fifteen-year-old Keeling’s bruised and semi-nude body was found on the popular Anjuna beach in the north of the small Indian tourist state, popular with Western hippies, eight years ago.

Samson D’Souza and Placido Carvalho were charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, using force with intent to outrage a woman’s modesty and of administering drugs with intent to harm.

“The culpable homicide charge is the most important charge because I believe that she was murdered,” Keeling’s mother Fiona MacKeown told AFP ahead of the verdict.

The teenager’s death became international news, shining a spotlight on the seedy side of the resort destination and also drawing attention to India’s sluggish justice system.

Police initially dismissed Keeling’s death as an accidental drowning but opened a murder investigation after MacKeown pushed for a second autopsy which proved she had been drugged and raped.

It showed that Keeling had suffered more than 50 injuries to her body.

The trial began in 2010 but has been dogged by numerous delays, including hearings of just one afternoon a month due to a backlog of cases and a public prosecutor withdrawing from proceedings.

A key witness, Briton Michael Mannion, known as “Masala Mike”, also refused to testify, dealing a huge blow to the prosecution’s case.

He had initially spoken of seeing D’Souza lying on top of Keeling on the beach shortly before she died.

MacKeown and her family were on a six-month holiday to India when she, Keeling and her other daughters went on an excursion to the southern state of Karnataka, but Keeling later returned alone to attend a party.

Her body was found on the morning of 18 February, 2008.

Police allege that D’Souza and Carvalho plied Keeling with a cocktail of drink and illegal drugs, including cocaine, before sexually assaulting her and leaving her to die by dumping her unconscious in shallow water where she drowned.

They deny all of the charges, claiming that the teenager died an accidental death after taking drugs of her own volition.

The verdict is due to be delivered at the children’s court in Goa’s state capital Panaji at 2.30 pm.

PM Modi fulfills his Independence day promise, hikes pension of freedom fighters by 20%

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The monthly pension of freedom fighters, including those who were incarcerated in Cellular jail in Andaman Islands or suffered outside British India, was hiked on Wednesday by around Rs 5,000 each. The decision to give 20% enhanced pension to all categories of freedom fighters, their spouses and dependents was taken at a meeting of the Union Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.The revised scale of pension has taken effect from August 15, 2016 and the revised total amount of pension will be taken as basic pension for the respective categories of freedom fighter pensioners for calculating Dearness Relief, an official statement said. The existing Dearness Relief system based on All India Consumer Price Index for Industrial workers, which was so far applicable to freedom fighter pensioners on annual basis, is being discontinued and replaced by the Dearness Allowance system applicable to central government employees twice a year.This will be termed as “Dearness Relief”, the appropriate term in case of pensioners, it said. Pension for freedom fighters in the category of ex-Andaman political prisoners and their spouses has been enhanced from Rs 24,775 to Rs 30,000 per month. Pension of freedom fighters, who suffered outside British India, has been raised from Rs 23,085 to Rs 28,000 per month. Pension of other freedom fighters, including those who were members of Indian National Army (INA), has been raised from Rs 21,395 to Rs 26,000 per month.
ALSO READ PM Modi keeps his words, Home Ministry hikes monthly pension of freedom fightersAddressing the nation on the 70th Independence Day from the Red Fort, the Prime Minister had announced a 20% hike in the pension for freedom fighters. Central freedom fighter pensioners and eligible dependents under ‘Swatantrata Sainik Samman Pension’ will get enhanced pension with effect from August 15, 2016.All freedom fighters and spouses and dependent parents, eligible daughter pensioners of deceased freedom fighters drawing pension under the Swatantrata Sainik Samman Pension Scheme, 1980 would be benefited by the decision. So far, 1,71,605 freedom fighters and their eligible dependents have been sanctioned pension under the scheme.
ALSO READ Independence Day gift for freedom fighters, BPL families as PM Modi announces benefitsAt present 37,981 freedom fighters and their eligible dependent pensioners are covered under the scheme. Of these, 11,690 are freedom fighters themselves, 24,792 are spouses (widows/widowers) and 1,490 are daughter pensioners.