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Tag: chidambaram

AAP may field Delhi legislator Jarnail Singh against Punjab CM

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is likely to field its Delhi legislator Jarnail Singh, an anti-Sikh riot activist, against Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal in the upcoming state Assembly polls.The announcement is likely to be made by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in a couple of days at a rally at Lambi, a seat represented by Badal. “The rally should take place in a couple of days. Currently, the Akalis (Akali Dal) are creating hurdles to ensure that the rally does not take place,” a senior party leader said. The 43-year-old former scribe was sacked from the organisation for allegedly hurling a shoe at the then Home Minister P Chidambaram over the anti-Sikh riot issue.Singh, who is AAP legislator from Rajouri Garden, had also unsuccessfully contested 2014 Lok Sabha polls from West Delhi on the party ticket. Early this year, the party has elevated Singh as co-in-charge of Punjab and its spokesperson in the state. When contacted Singh said he was ready to take “any challenge” that the party asks him to take up.The party has already fielded prominent candidates like its Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann from Jalalabad, a seat represented by Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal. The party has also fielded Himmat Singh Shergill against Finance Minister Bikram Singh Majithia.

DMK supremo Karunanidhi discharged after undergoing tracheostomy

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi was discharged from a private hospital here after a week-long treatment for breathing difficulty caused by throat and lung infections, with doctors advising him complete rest.The course of antibiotics for the 93-year-old DMK chief has been completed and he has “recovered well” from breathing difficulty due to throat and lung infections, Executive Director of Kauvery Hospital Dr S Aravindan said.Karunanidhi was hospitalised on the night of December 15. The next day, he underwent tracheostomy to optimise breathing and the hospital had declared him as being stable.Dr Aravindan, in a statement today, said, “Doctors have advised him complete rest and restriction of visitors.” He said Karunanidhi needs tracheostomy tube for a few more weeks and added that medical and nursing care would continue to be provided at his home by the hospital.The DMK patriarch was given a warm welcome by senior party leaders and cadres when he arrived at his Gopalapuram residence. Earlier soon after his hospitalisation, there was a marked improvement in his condition and he even watched Rajinikanth blockbuster “Batcha” on his laptop.Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, former Union Minister P Chidambaram, AIADMK leaders M Thambidurai and D Jayakumar, among several other leaders, had visited him during his hospitalisation.Karunanidhi was in the same hospital between December 1 and 7 for drug allergy treatment.On October 25, DMK had announced that Karunanidhi was suffering from allergy “caused by a medicine he has been using” and advised rest by doctors. Though active for his age, the veteran DMK leader is not seen regularly in public and has been reacting to key issues and developments through his statements.The DMK general council meet scheduled for December 20, where party treasurer M K Stalin was expected to be declared working president, had to be cancelled in view of Karunanidhi’s hospitalisation.The DMK chief also had to skip campaigning for the November 19 polls to three constituencies in Tamil Nadu and instead appealed to voters through a statement to vote for his party.

PM Modi is making light of serious allegations to divert attention: Congress

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress MLA and leader of Opposition of the West Bengal Assembly, Abdul Mannan on Thursday criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mocking of the party vice president Rahul Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.“It is sad to see that the country is being led by a person who needs to be institutionalised. We have had leaders in the past who, on a slight allegation of corruption have stepped down from their posts and waited till they were given a clean chit. But our PM is not only silent on the issue, but is making fun of those who are making the allegations, to divert the attention,” Mannan said. He said that it was unfortunate that someone who hardly understood the country’s economy was criticising globally reputed economists and qualified persons such as Manmohan Singh and P Chidambaram.Referring to the demonetization policy he said, “It is clear that the PM’s decision is in favour of those who possess huge amounts of black money because the PM changes his stand on a daily basis. What would be his last decision, no one knows.”He said that the state Congress would build a movement in all the 294 Lok Sabha constituencies of the state. “The AICC direction has been to put up protest programmes across the state against the past corrupt practices of the PM who had been putting up an front of being a symbol of truth. Teams will be formed and led by state Congress leaders and they will visit every district and every Lok Sabha constituency. Some of the AICC leaders are also expected to turn up here to address public meetings,” Mannan said.The message that would be sent out to people is that the Prime Minister wears suits worth Rs 10 lakh and talks about being with the poor, whereas he himself is up to his eyes with corruption.

Manmohan Singh exposing his own misdeeds, says PM Modi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday took a potshot at the former prime minister Manmohan Singh for his disagreement over demonetization, saying that by raising objections, the latter is exposing his own misdeeds.”When I said things can be managed without cash in the pocket, the former prime minister said how can this be implemented in a country where 50 percent of the people are poor?Now tell me, if he is showing me his report card or mine? This legacy of poor has been provided by whom? I am happy that he has shown his own report card,” said Prime Minister Modi while speaking at the foundation ceremony of Mahamana Pt. Madan Mohan Malviya Cancer Centre here.The Prime Minister then shifted his focus towards former finance minister P. Chidambaram and sarcastically said the latter believes a cashless economy cannot come into form as more than 50 percent of the Indian villages do not have electricity, adding that this was doings of the former regime.”Chidambaram said in 50% of our villages there is no electricity, so how will a cashless economy take shape. Now tell me, have I de-electrified the villages. While criticising Modi, they are presenting their own report card,” said Prime Minister Modi.Commenting on Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, the Prime Minister said his speech held no relevance.”Since the time he has learnt how to speak, there is no extent to my happiness. Till 2009, there was no clue as to what is inside the packet (Gandhi). Better that he started speaking, at least we came to know that there is no scope of earthquake occurring,” said Modi.The Prime Minister opined that the opposition’s criticism is actually benefitting them, because by doing so they re exposing themselves and the ‘black heart’ of people is coming to light, in front of people.”Even they don’t know what they are doing. But it is good, because somebody’s black money is getting exposed and somebody’s ‘black mind’ (kaala mann) is uncovered.”Appreciating the support extended by the common man during the period of cash crunch, the Prime Minister said, “I want to tell the leaders of the nation, that we believe in the power of the 125 crore citizens. It is an exemplary example that the citizens are suffering so much, not for their own benefit, but for the nation’s development.”Lashing out at those who criticised the surgical strike and raised questions on the integrity of the armed forces, Prime Minister Modi said the army makes the nation proud, but still people doubt their bravery.”The soldiers go to Pakistan keeping their lives at stake and come back alive but some people have problem with even this,” he said.”Is it good to view institutions like this,” he added.

RBI changing rules like PM changes his clothes: Rahul Gandhi’s fresh jibe at Modi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In yet another swipe at Prime Minister over demonetization after RBI announced restrictions on depositing scrapped Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said the country’s central bank is changing rules “like the PM changes his clothes”.The Congress Vice President took to twitter to lash out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi after the AICC demanded rollback of the restriction under which an amount over Rs 50,00 in scrapped currency can be deposited only once per account till December 30. “RBI is changing rules like the PM changes his clothes,” Gandhi tweeted, while posting an article on the RBI rules announced post demonetization.The attack came as the Congress leader is all set to take the battle over the issue of demonetization to the turf of the Prime Minister with a rally at Mehsana in Gujarat on Wednesday.At a rally in Jaunpur, Rahul had on Monday said that only 1% people have 60% of the country’s wealth and that “Modi has made fun of 99% honest people through demonetization”.After Gujarat, Gandhi will be addressing rally at Bahraich in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh on December 22 and at Almora in Uttarkhand the next day.Assembly polls in Uttarkhand are also scheduled early next year. On December 24, Gandhi will be addressing a rally at Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh.Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram also slammed the new restrictions, calling them “desperate measures of a desperate government” at a time when hoarders have “laundered their money while the poor and the middle class have been left high and dry”.In a series of tweets, he wondered, “Old notes usable until Dec 15. Why can’t we deposit remaining notes until Dec 30 as notified?” Chidambaram said, “RBI makes new rule on deposit, FM contradicts. Who should citizen believe? Neither has credibility.”

Demonetisation: Why P Chidambaram’s charges of a gigantic scam doesn’t carry any weightage

The Congress party and its spokespersons were till recently dubbing the ongoing demonetisation exercise as a gigantic scam without a shred of evidence or whiff of verisimilitude but the suave P. Chidambaram the former finance minister in the UPA government latched onto the huge haul of new notes seized by the Modi government to turn the tables on it.

He said lakhs of newly minted Rs 2,000 notes tumbling out of cupboards of crooks pointed to a huge scam being perpetrated by the Modi government. But like with the earlier allegations of Congressmen about demonetisation being a scam, his post haste started singing elegy about the immense hardship caused to the public particularly the poor. The subtext was hardship and inconvenience was scam by itself. Touché!

P Chidambaram. PTIP Chidambaram. PTI

P Chidambaram. PTI

Shoot from the hip and then scoot is the stock in trade of Kejriwal who revels in tilting at the windmills and thirty seconds of fame wild charges bring. But for a seasoned politician and lawyer Chidambaram to do a Kejriwal shows desperation. In 2G scam that brought the downfall of the UPA II, the allegation was first-come-first served was a hush-hush way of awarding precious natural resources to cronies. Coal scam was worse. Coal blocks were allotted to cronies and sidekicks on the basis of screening committee recommendations gratis. The Apex Court rightly castigated the UPA government while recommending auction as the best way for distributing precious natural resources. The CAG’s quantification of both the scams at Rs 186,000 crore each gave further ammunition to the opposition charge of financial irregularities.

But in demonetisation, there is no whiff of irregularity much less a scam. If anything, there was an error of judgment and underestimation of the Indian crooks’ capability to extract a foot when given an inch. No fraud can be consummated without collusion. The crooks preyed on the cupidity of bank officials to get newly minted currency notes mostly of Rs 2,000 denomination in exchange for the demonetised ones by smugly producing fake identity cards mostly aadhaar. Exchange indeed was a powder keg waiting to explode. It conferred anonymity on crooks. But then they had not reckoned with the resolve and ability of the government to gun after them. Through informers, intelligence, spycams and what have you, the government has been successful in tracing the missing cash. More brazen was the act of depositing demonetised notes into the accounts of benamis and withdrawing them post haste.

Professor Bhagwati of Columbia University was bang on when he said demonetisation was one of those remedies that could have a range of repercussions some of them unpredictable. But that was not reason enough not to press ahead with it. On the contrary a good government is one, he said, that thinks on its feet as events unfold and neutralises the fraudsters quickly. The Modi government knew that the scheme could not be taken forward without enlisting banks but also knew that some of the bankers could prove to be its undoing. It wisely kept tabs on them.

Demonetisation then was a bitter pill that had to be swallowed in the face of failure of raids and numerous amnesty schemes to unearth black money sloshing around in the country. True it has brought in its wake untold inconveniences to the masses, making them stand in long queues and depriving some of their livelihood. But it was neither a scam nor a nostrum. Its biggest contribution is its success in mainstreaming the economy. That Rs 12.4 lakh crore has already poured into banks till 10 December, 2016 is a proof.

While the charge of scam was expected from the frustrated opposition clutching at straws and praying for Modi to trip, the charge of abdicating and disowning Indian rupee by the government itself is too ludicrous to warrant a reply. Suffice it to say, we have persisted with the Indian rupee and not hitched our stars to the American bandwagon like quite a few weak nations in the past. That is called dollarisation, a pusillanimous monetary theory that fatalistically condemns the nation to sink or swim with Uncle Sam.

First Published On : Dec 14, 2016 11:05 IST

Demonetisation impact: Will it help the economy and reverse jobless growth?

So what is demonetisation? Is it, as former finance minister P Chidambaram declared on Tuesday, “the biggest scam of the year”? Or is it, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been at pains to insist, a move that will curb black money, bring more into banking sector, widen the tax net and push us towards a more digitised economy? Does this, as the former finance minister claimed during a news conference, make poor people even poorer or will it, as Modi promised, create more jobs and diminish poverty?

In the heat and dust of a debate, often the larger points remain unnoticed while we squabble over perceptions. Demonetisation has unleashed a beast so strange and powerful that politicians, economists, media and every other stakeholder have since turned into blind men trying to describe an elephant.

S Gurumurthy. File photo. Reuters

S Gurumurthy. File photo. Reuters

While economists remain sharply divided over its impact (Amartya Sen and Larry Summers, for instance, have trashed it while Jagdish Bhagwati and Ken Rogoff see it as a bold, audacious move and a major reform), politicians bicker and commentators get tethered to their prejudicial divides, an interesting perspective has been offered by RSS ideologue S Gurumurthy.

A chartered accountant by profession and a commentator on matters economic and political in his own right, Gurumurthy, who is said to have the prime minister’s ear, has presented demonetisation as a much-needed remedy against “economic mismanagement” of the UPA years where sharp growth was accompanied by a rather strange fall in jobs.

His contention is that the economy under former prime minister Manmohan Singh, a noted economist and a former RBI governor, was fuelled by asset inflation that resulted in the creation of huge amount of black wealth. This unmonitored cash, according to him, drove up the real estate prices, stock market and gold that eventually pushed up the GDP but did little to create jobs and hence was not beneficial for the common man.

Speaking to CNN-News 18 during the sidelines of a seminar on Monday, Gurumurthy said that under Singh and Chidambaram, “the quantum jump in illicit cash in the economy fuelled an asset price bubble in gold, stocks and real estate, which reflected as high GDP growth in the UPA years and continuing till now. However, that growth couldn’t create jobs because it was black money spirited out of India and round-tripped back in the form of investment in assets,” he said.

In his column for Tuesday’s edition of The Hindu, the research professor of legal Anthropology at SASTRA University provided some figures to elaborate on his theory a little more, comparing the economies under NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee and UPA 1 under Manmohan Singh.

“During the NDA rule (1999-2004), real GDP grew by 27.8 percent, annually 5.5 percentage points. Annual money supply, that fuels inflation, by 15.3 percent. Prices by 23 percent, annually 4.6 percent.” He then goes on to calculate the rise in various metrics: stocks 32 percent; gold 38 percent and a “phenomenal” rise in jobs by almost 60 million. Under Manmohan Singh‘s UPA, however, says Gurumurthy, “real GDP grew by 50.8 percent, annually 8.4 percentage points — one-and-a-half times that of NDA’s,” but only 27 lakhs jobs were generated as against 600 lakhs during NDA’s 5 year-term, he writes.

He explains this jobless growth arising out of “asset price inflation, not production,” and goes on to add that stock and gold prices recorded a three-fold jump whereas property prices “doubled every two-three years.”

In his critique of demonetisation in Friday’s column for The Hindu, Singh had admitted that India’s cash to GDP ratio “is very high vis-à-vis other nations.”

What explains this high circulation of cash? Gurumurthy puts it on a rise in high denomination notes (HDNs) which make it easier to generate black wealth. He writes that while in 1999 cash with the public was 9.4 percent of nominal GDP, by 2007-08 it had jumped to 13 percent. This is an unusually high figure because rising bank and digital payments should have made the figure come down. HDNs in the hands of public, he writes, shot up from 34 percent in 2004 to 79 percent in 2010 and touched 87 percent the day Modi announced the decommissioning of notes.

During the Nani Palkhivala Memorial Lecture in Chennai on 30 November, Gurumurthy had cited celebrated French economist Thomas Piketty to say that the economic growth during 2004-2014 did not improve the lives of the poor because of “Piketty effect” and the higher GDP failed to haul people out of poverty,” according to another report in The Hindu.

How accurate is the RSS ideologue’s contention that Indian economy during UPA years was awash with “unmonitored cash”? Is it true that these years actually saw a fall in jobs despite high growth?

The Institute of Applied Manpower Research (IAMR), a think-tank of the Planning Commission, in a research paper published in 2013, found that not only did India witness jobless growth during the UPA tenure, it also saw millions pushed to become casual labour with little social security.

The authors, according to The Times of India report, revealed through their research that despite a phenomenal 8.5 percent growth in GDP, “employment in total and in non-agricultural sectors” did not grow. “This jobless growth in recent years”, they found, “was accompanied by growth in casualisation and informalisation”.

According to the study, as cited by The Times of India report, manufacturing sector saw the loss of 5 million jobs between 2005-10. The services sector witnessed only 4 million additional jobs in 2005-2010 (as compared to a massive growth of 18 million jobs during 2000-2005). This, the report said, was odd considering the growth period is often called that of ‘service-led’ growth.

If this points to a crippling problem that falsified growth while making it jobless, by sucking out extra, unmonitored cash, demonetisation may help the economy do a much-needed course-correction.

So the choice before the Modi government was to either maintain status quo — a combination of illicit cash fuelled high GDP and joblessness — or to reboot the economy through demonetisation that would trigger initial hardships but eventually restore real growth and jobs. Gurumurthy feels the government did the right thing by choosing the latter option.

As Columbia University Professor of Economics and Law Jagdish Bhagwati pointed out in his article (co-authored by Pravin Krishna and Suresh Sundaresan) for The Times of India, “Although the process is inconvenient, and subjects many households to hardships, it forces the cash from the black economy to be deposited into the banking system, potentially increasing transparency and expanding the tax base and revenues to the government from taxes and surcharges.”

The jury is still out on perhaps India’s most disruptive reform. But just as it would be foolish to tout demonetisation as a magic bullet, it similarly makes little sense to call it India’s biggest scam.

First Published On : Dec 13, 2016 17:16 IST

Demonetization: Chidambaram dubs it as ‘worst assault’ on poor, Rahul says measure will injure country

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress today unleashed a dual attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi over note ban woes with Rahul Gandhi accusing him of “waging a war” against the poor by rendering them “cashless” and P Chidambaram calling it a “biggest scam” of the year that needed to be probed.Flagging the impact of demonetization on the ground, Chidambaram dubbed it as a “thoughtless move”, “the worst assault” on the poor and worse than natural calamity for them while Gandhi said Modi’s vision of a cashless economy has rendered the poor “cashless”, robbing them of their hard- earned money.Before banning high-value notes, Chidambaram said Modi should at least have consulted his “own man” Yashwant Sinha so the “monumental mismanagement” could have been avoided. Taking a vox-pop-style referendum on demonetization among people standing in a bank queue in Dadri in Uttar Pradesh, Gandhi charged that the announcement by Modi on November 8 has enabled the conversion of black money into white.The Congress Vice President alleged that the NDA government has “blocked” the money of the poor through currency ban to favour a “handful of industrialists” and to liquidate banks that have extended loans worth “Rs 8 lakh crore” to them. Addressing a gathering at a wholesale market, Gandhi said, “The Prime Minister has brought honest people on the streets while the rich and the corrupt are taking money through the backdoor of banks.”It was done to ensure that the poor deposit their money in the banks, which will be used to repay the debt of around Rs 8 lakh crore owed by these industrialists to the banks.Modiji wants the money of the poor to remain in the banks for the next six to eight months,” he said.Gandhi said the measure will “injure” the country. He also accused the Prime Minister of shifting goalposts over the issue by listing the objective of the measures ranging from unearthing black money to curbing counterfeit currency. “Only 2 paise out of Rs 100 is counterfeit. Two days after Modiji made the announcement, terrorists, after they were slain, were found having new currency. Then he says he will make the economy cashless. He has made it cashless indeed, with the poor having no cash,” he said. Chidambaram while terming the exercise as “absurd” and “thoughtless” in a scathing attack on the Modi government sought to know how many economies in the world are cashless.”This is the worst assault on the poor in the country. demonetization has broken the back of 45 crore people. It is punishing the poor. I see no rich man affected by the ban,” the Congress leader told a press meet in Nagpur.”Daily wagers are out of work. Village markets and mandis have been shut for the last 30 days ” Chidambaram said.”World over small transactions are done in cash not by cards. To assume that India will go from 3 per cent to 100 per cent cashless in a matter of a few months, is an outlandish expectation,” he said.It was an illusion that demonetization was created to hurt the rich and help the poor, he said.Highlighting the woes of the people in remote areas, he said, “The pain in rural areas is indescribable.” The Congress leader while seeking a thorough probe by the SIT on the matter said that recent cash seizures in Rs 2,000 notes across the country point to the “biggest scam” arising out of the note ban.

Demonetisation: BJP should hold back on laddoos till people count their cash

The Delhi BJP’s decision to go door-to-door with laddoos for those queuing up for their own money post demonetisation may be inspired by the old Indian age of the mithai, err, fruit of patience being sweet. But, in India’s hinterland, the reward of this patience is not just laddoos: Those in the queues are feasting on aloos (potatoes), foreign currency and even on bites of flesh.

A few days ago, while driving through a town in western Rajasthan, we came across a sight that’s now part of the Indian landscape. Outside a SBI Bank branch, people were queuing up at 5 am for currency notes.

“The situation has improved. Things are getting better. Earlier they used to queue up at 4 am,” our local driver said with a smirk. “Ok, now watch the fun,” he said. So we decided to wait.

Within a few minutes, pandemonium broke out in a queue meant for women. Amidst the fisticuffs, one women bit another’s arm, leading to a free-for-all, necessitating the arrival of cops, who quickly dispersed the queue with their sticks.

Start again, please. In the meantime, eat laddoos.

Allahabad : People standing in a long queue to withdraw cash from an ATM in Allahabad on Tuesday. PTI Photo (PTI12_13_2016_000084B)Allahabad : People standing in a long queue to withdraw cash from an ATM in Allahabad on Tuesday. PTI Photo (PTI12_13_2016_000084B)

Representational image. PTI

In the past week, traders in Kanpur distributed hundreds of kilos of potatoes free on Express Road, a busy intersection in the country’s leather capital. The reason: potato prices had slumped to less than Re 1 per kg since the demand had fallen because of shortage of cash. Since cold-storage of potatoes costs much more, traders decided to distribute potatoes gratis before they turn into garbage.

So there, at least one recorded benefit of demonetisation: Free potatoes.

Five days ago, a panic-stricken friend called up from Mauritius to find out if he should cancel his India tour with a family of 12, including six kids. “I hear they are not exchanging foreign currency. How will we survive?” he asked.

So, I decided to find out. “Sorry, there are no new currency notes available. They have all been sucked out of supply,” the owner of a currency exchange told me. “But, if you are ready to pay a premium, I can arrange some new notes,” he volunteered. How much? “The exchange rate is Rs 71.75, but I can get you 67,” he replies. That’s a neat profit (in black, of course) of around Rs 5 on every Euro (or Dollar) exchanged. And a mind-boggling rate of return on almost negligible investment. “Hoo-ah”, as Al Pacino famously exclaimed in Scent of a Woman, achche din are already there for those in the business of exchanging notes. Calls for laddoos!

Incredible India! Yes, of course, wait till the tourists go back to their countries and narrate incredible stories about how they had to beg, borrow and sing for survival during their dream vacation in India.

Let me come to the point: Demonetisation has had a huge impact. But, not only where it was intended. If the government was intending to act like a pinch-hitter before polls in Punjab and UP, it has also ended up scoring some self-goals. If it was counting on a surgical strike, some of the blast from the missile has hit its supporters too.

Soon after the decision was announced, the BJP relied on the Prime Minister’s charisma to build the narrative of the momentary pain being a sacrifice for the cause of the nation. As Firstpost has argued out in the past, suffering is noble only till it is less than that of the neighbour. What passes off as suffering in our pop culture of hypocrisy is just envy; the misplaced belief that cutting off your nose would spite the neighbour’s face. Doesn’t work.

In the context of demonetisation, the light at the end of the suffering was greed. Many held on to the belief that once the rich are deprived of their loot, the Robin hood of politics would distribute the largesse among the poor, especially through cash rewards in bank accounts. The imagery of the surgical strike on demonetisation was similar to a marauder raiding the enemy land at the head of mercenaries, promising them a share of the war-exploits. They thought, as the saying goes, there were laddoos in both hands.

But, that doesn’t seem to be happening. Windfall gains for RBI that were expected in various circles now appear a distant dream. The economy is reeling because of the lack of supply of notes and the consequent fall in demand. The unorganised sector is facing a temporary shutdown. Erstwhile Modi supporters like former HDFC chief Deepak Parekh and journalist Tavleen Singh are now worried about its impact. And, as former finance minister P Chidambaram argues, the decision has been slammed by a large number of economists and hurt the livelihoods of several Indians.

Also, the hunters themselves now appear turning into the hunted. A report in Rajasthan Patrika claims a sting operation by the government has revealed the evidence of widespread corruption in the entire system. The newspaper says the home ministry is sitting on the evidence of fraudulent transactions in thousands of bank accounts. In addition, a large number of the nearly 25 crore Jan Dhan accounts are under the scanner of income tax sleuths.

If, and it is a big if because of the numbers involved and the impact on elections, thousands of account holders and bank staff are grilled or prosecuted, they would certainly not be eating laddoos, or letting the BJP devour them in the next polls.

Since this is about sweets, let us revisit a famous laddoo story of the BJP. On 8 November last year, on the morning of the counting of votes in Bihar, the BJP started distributing laddoos the moment it heard that the first trends were predicting victory for it.

Within a few hours, as results pointed to a BJP rout, the sweets were all thrown away on Patna’s Bir Chand Patel Road for cows to eat.

On demonetisation too, the BJP should perhaps hold back the laddoos till people count their cash.

First Published On : Dec 13, 2016 16:03 IST

TNSTC to operate 140 special buses to Thiruvannamalai in view of festival Karthgai Deepam

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC) has announced special buses to be operated to Thiruvannamalai in view of Karthgai Deepam festival on December 12. The Kumbakonam division of TNSTC will ply 140 special buses to Thiruvannamalai, Vaitheeswarankoil, Ettukudi (both in Nagapattinam district) and Parakallakottai in Tiruvarur district on December 12, in connection with Karthigai deepam festival, General Manager of TNSTC, Kumbakonam division, S Gowrishankar said in a release here.He said the buses will be operated round-the-clock on Monday, from Nagapattinam, Tiruvarur, Vailankanni, Karaikal, Porayar, Chidambaram, Tiruvarur, Mayiladuthurai, Mannargudi, Nannilam, Vedaranyam and Thiruthuraipoondi. In addition to the 140 special buses, 593 buses that are plying in these routes will ply as usual, he added.The timing of the special buses had been scheduled in a way to facilitate the journey to and from Thiruvannamalai, Vaitheeswarankoil, Ettukudi and Parakalakottai, the release said. Help desks would be set up at important bus terminus in Nagapattinam, Tiruvarur and Thanjavur districts to assist the passengers, it added.

Why banks are unable to allow minimum weekly withdrawals of Rs 24,000: SC seeks Centre’s reply

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court on Friday sought the Centre’s response on issues like whether district cooperative banks could be allowed to accept deposits in demonetized notes with some stringent regulations and why banks are unable to allow minimum weekly withdrawals of Rs 24,000 to customers.The hearing, in which the Centre accused some advocates of politicising the issue in the garb of the public interest litigation, also witnessed the bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur expressing dismay over lawyers breaching decorum of the court by out-shouting each other. While the high-decibel hearing was on, the bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said though demonetization has been carried with long term beneficial aims, its immediate concern was to ease the inconvenience of the people and asked Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi to apprise it on December 14 on issues relating to district cooperative banks and the non-adherence to fixed weekly withdrawal limits by the banks.Further the bench said it would like to know the government’s stand on the demand for extending the order for hospitals to accept the fees in demonetized notes. Keeping in mind that the law under which the November 8 notification was issued for demonetization has been challenged, the bench proposed to frame legal questions and told Rohatgi that since a detailed and long hearing would be required, he should ponder over whether the matter can be referred to a five-judge constitution bench.The bench said it would take a decision on December 14 on the plea of the Centre that proceedings in various high courts on petitions relating to demonetization be stayed and transferred either to the apex court or one of the High Courts for adjudication. “Every day new petitions are being filed in the Supreme Court and in High Courts. The High Courts are adjourning the case for one day or two days… law officers are being asked to appear,” Rohatgi said and asked the bench to consider staying the proceedings in High Courts and transferring them either to the Supreme Court or to one high court.The bench also considered submissions of senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for one of petitioners opposing the demonetization, and the Attorney General in framing legal issues to be deliberated upon by it in future hearing. “We can straightaway frame the questions. The first one can be: whether the November 8 notification is ultra-vires to the Section 26 (2) (power to demonetize) of the Reserve Bank of India Act,” the bench said. Indicating that it was “open to the idea of sending the matters to a five-judge bench”, the bench said the second question could be whether the demonetization “falls foul of” Article 300A which says that no person shall be deprived of his/her property without a provision in law.Whether the decision is unconstitutional as it violates Article 14 (equality before the law) and Article 19(1)(g) (freedom to practice profession and occupation) under the Constitution, it said. Accepting Sibal’s suggestion, the bench said the question that the restriction on withdrawal of “legitimate and taxed money” by the banks is violative of various fundamental rights. “Whether district cooperative banks have been discriminated against by denial of the permission to accept deposits,” the bench posed. Sibal said he has also challenged the validity of the RBI Act provision on the ground of “excessive delegation of power” to demonetize currency notes.Then came the suggestion of the Attorney General who said that a question was “what is the scope of judicial review in the matters of fiscal/economic policy”. The bench accepted the suggestion. Raising the issue of CPI(M) filing the PIL in the instant matter, Rohatgi said another question would be “can a poltical party file the public interest litigation?” The bench, during the hearing, asked Attorney General about the benefits and objectives of the demonetization. Referring to the November 8 notification, Rohatgi said it was for fighting blackmoney, ill-gotten money used for terror financing and curbing fake currency.He said the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes constituted 86 per cent of total currency and the move was kept secret to make demonetization effective. “It was not possible to print ten lakh crore currency in advance and re-calibrate all ATMs in advance. The cat would have been out of the bag. There is bound to have been some kind of inconvenience,” the Attorney General said. He referred to the recent decision of the Centre to incentivise digital transcations and said that people would be benefitted if they pay for their rail and air tickets and other services digitally.Rohatgi said around 12 lakh crore demonetized currency notes have come back to the banking system. He submitted that economic policy decisions should not be judicially reviewed. While Rohatgi was making submissions, senior advocate and former finance minister P Chidambaram said there are only four lakh crore new currency notes that have been pumped and since there are only four printing press of RBI and the Centre, it was not possible to substitute demonetized currency notes before six-to-seven months.Chidambaram, Sibal and former foreign minister and senior advocate Salman Khurshid, appearing for different clients, were quite vocal and critical of the Centre’s move on demonetization. Chidambaram said that the government is “rationing” the currency distribution because the short fall is going to continue for quite sometime. He raised the issue of district cooperative banks which have been barred from accepting deposits in old demonetised notes and said that lakhs of peoples, specially farmers, are suffering due this.”I don’t see any farmers here. This is all bogey,” the Attorney General responded curtly. When the bench sought to know about the feasibility of allowing cooperative banks to accept deposits with stricter regulations, Rohatgi said it cannot be done as there are several practical impediments. Dealing with some of the impediments, he said accounts with the cooperative banks are not “KYC (know your customer) compliants” and as the societies are the account holders, it would be difficult to ascertain which individual member has deposited what amount.Instead of RBI, these cooperative banks are being regulated by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) and it is the matter of common knowledge as to who run these banks in various states, Rohatgi said. As lawyers were trying to out-shout each other for being heard, the CJI expressed his dismay, saying, “I have served 23 years on the bench and never seen such an unruly behaviour from the advocates.” The CJI said that he was in his last week as a judge and would be “going with a heavy heart” that lawyers behave in such a manner on sensitive issue like demonetization.The bench then cited the example of Chidambaram waiting patiently for his turn and said that you all should look at him. The Attorney General said that there are over one lakh societies in the country and “only God knows how many persons are behind them (societies).” He refuted the submission of Chidambaram that farmers are at the receiving end saying “this is all in the air. They can go and deposit in a nearby State Bank branch or any other bank”.When Sibal said that many farmers have no other bank accounts, Rohatgi said they can open now also. The top court had on December 2 asked the Centre to spell out the measures taken to ease suffering of and inconvenience to the people in rural areas. The Centre had on November 24 filed an affidavit in the apex court on demonetization and had said that the “bold move” would eradicate black money and slush funds operating since Independence which cast a “parallel economy” hitting the poor and the middle class.On November 29, the apex court had agreed to hear pleas of 14 cooperative banks of Kerala seeking its nod to transact business like banks and others seeking demonetization of any currency note higher than Rs 100 denomination.

You people are making it a fish market: CJI blasts junior lawyers while hearing demonetization plea

Fri, 9 Dec 2016-09:22pm , New Delhi , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”What kind of memory I would take with me,” was how a dejected Chief Justice of India TS Thakur, who is demitting office early next month, reacted when lawyers tried to out-shout each other during the hearing on demonetization.A visibly pained CJI made his displeasure known by saying that never in his career as a judge for 23 years he has seen such unruly behaviour when junior lawyers are shouting and attempting to pin down senior advocates and making the atmosphere of the court akin to a “fish market”. Justice Thakur was anguished when some of the lawyers raised their voice to interrupt the submission of Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who was arguing for the government, and senior advocates like Kapil Sibal and P Chidambaram. “This is not a way to argue. You people are making it a fish market. You people don’t want senior advocates like Sibal to speak. See Mr Chidambaram has not yet stood up. This is very unfortunate. In 23 years of me as a judge, I have not seen such behaviour. This is the last week as a judge and I would be going with a heavy heart. What kind of decorum is maintained? This is CJI’s court and yet no decorum. You can’t be allowed this kind of behaviour,” the CJI, who will be demitting office on January 3, said.

SC to hear pleas on demonetization on December 9

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The crucial hearing on the measures taken by the Centre to ease suffering of and inconvenience to people in rural areas, who are mostly dependent on cooperative banks, post-demonetization will be taken up by the Supreme Court on December 9.The apex court could not take up the matter today, as scheduled earlier, since Chief Justice TS Thakur, who had to head the bench, did not hold the court. The top court had on December 2 asked the Centre to spell out the measures taken to ease suffering of and inconvenience to the people in rural areas. While hearing a batch of pleas challenging various aspects of demonetization, the court had said that all the parties should sit together and prepare a list of categories of cases which could be referred to high courts and those that could be heard by the apex court.Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Centre, had said that the government was aware of the situation in cooperative banks which lack proper infrastructure and mechanism as compared to scheduled banks.The submission came after senior advocate P Chidambaram, appearing for cooperative banks, questioned the government’s decision, saying that the rural economy was almost paralysed due to non-inclusion of cooperative banks. The court was hearing a batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the decision to demonetise Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes, besides on the issue of inconvenience faced by the common man due to it.It had also asked the Attorney General to file an additional affidavit explaining the “schemes and steps” taken to ease the situation that has arisen due to demonetization.The Centre has recently moved the apex court seeking transfer of all the petitions pending in various high courts to either the Supreme Court or one of the high courts. It had on November 24 filed an affidavit in the apex court on demonetization and had said that the “bold move” would eradicate black money and slush funds operating since Independence which cast a “parallel economy” hitting the poor and the middle class. On November 29, the apex court had agreed to hear pleas of 14 cooperative banks of Kerala seeking its nod to transact business like banks and others seeking demonetization of any currency note higher than Rs 100 denomination.

How many more holes in Modi’s Income Declaration Scheme?: Chidambaram

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress leader P Chidambaram on Sunday raised questions about the Modi government’s Income Declaration Scheme, saying there could be “more holes” in the amnesty scheme after a Gujarati realtor claimed that Rs 13,860 crore black money he had announced did not belong to him. “There is a Rs 13,860 crore hole in the Rs 65,000 crore IDS ! How many more holes?,” Chidambaram tweeted.The former Union finance minister’s comment came after Ahmedabad-based realtor Mahesh Shah, who, a few days ago, had declared unaccounted income of Rs 13,860 crore, on Saturday appeared on a television show claiming that he was just a face for the money belonging to others. Shah on Saturday told the TV channel that he did not have any black money and the declared amount belongs to “some Indians” and he would contact Income Tax department and give the names of those who had convinced him to declare their unaccounted income as his own.No sooner did Shah appear on the channel making the dramatic claim, he was taken away for questioning by I-T sleuths from the office of the local channel for questioning. He was allowed to go home this morning after night-long interrogation by senior I-T personnel.

Supreme Court adjourns hearing on demonetization matter till Dec 5

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Centre to spell out measures taken to ease the sufferings and inconvenience of people in rural areas, who are mostly dependent on co-operative banks, post-demonetization.A bench of Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice D Y Chandrachud, while hearing a batch of pleas challenging various aspects of demonetization, said all the parties should sit together and prepare a list of categories of cases which could be referred to high courts and those that could be heard by the apex court.Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Centre, said that the government is aware of the situation in co-operative banks which lack proper infrastructure and mechanism as compared to scheduled banks.”Entire chapter in the additional affidavit filed by the Centre is dedicated to the issue of co-operative banks. It is not that we are not aware of the situation but these (the co-operative banks) lack proper facilities, mechanism and proper infrastructure as compared to scheduled banks,” he said.He said that the government has deliberately kept co-operative banks out of the drive as these did not have the expertise to detect fake currency.Rohatgi said, “Several cases are filed each passing day in various high courts on various aspects post demonetization and it is not possible to deal with cases simultaneously in Kerala, Kolkata, Jaipur and Mumbai… All these matter should be clubbed together and be referred to any one high court or the apex court should hear them.” Senior advocate P Chidambaram, appearing for co-operative banks, questioned the government’s decision, saying that the rural economy is almost paralysed due to non-inclusion of co- operative banks.Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for one of the petitioners, suggested that they will sit together and file the list of categories by Monday.The bench then posted the hearing on the matter to December 5.

Demonetisation: Will liquidity gush lead to interest rate, stamp duty, income tax rationalisation soon?

The government has claimed that as of 21 November 2016, close to Rs 5 lakh crore of deposits have poured into bank accounts in the form of demonetised currency notes. This gushing influx of cash is a reflection both of the staggering cash that rules the economy as well as the efficacy of the demonetisation scheme. Even the perpetual nay-sayer Arvind Kejriwal the Delhi Chief Minister grudgingly acknowledged that as much as Rs 12 lakh crore could pour into the bank accounts.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

At the start of the demonetisation scheme on 9 November 2016, the cash in circulation was Rs 17.54 lakh crore. Indeed the fresh gush of cash into the banking system would be gigantic in proportion if the figures of the first 12 days are extrapolated into the remaining 38 days of the 50 day scheme. The Indian tendency and experience is lash minute rush.

Political parties, religious and charitable trusts are likely to make a beeline for banks in the last week of December with wads of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes many of them suspected to be donated in a spirit of mutual back scratching by the crooks. Be that as it may.

Banks are going to be flush with cash. That would call for infusion of fresh capital mainly into the public sector banks. The government can imaginatively come out with public issues of various PSBs on attractive terms. It could do a power of good to the capital market which is at present going through a low mainly on account of depressing sentiments.

Another upshot of surge in deposits would be the inevitable reduction in lending rates that could go a long way in reviving the economy. The Indian money market has long been characterised by high interest rates due to scarcity of funds. With cash held clandestinely or in households entering the mainstream banking, interest rates could fall sharply. On the flip side however deposit rates are in for a fall. A few banks have already announced 15 to 20 basis points reduction in term deposit rates.

While heightened lending for agriculture, manufacturing and infrastructure building is likely to follow in the wake of this healthy deposit mobilisation, a sizeable part of these deposits may also end up as subscription to treasury bonds and other gilt papers.

Serendipitous fallout of the scheme is heightened awareness of digital banking. With cash becoming scarce, even iterant vendors are embracing mobile payments like Paytm and swiping card machines. The digital phobia and divide are happily vanishing thanks to the cash crisis. We Indians react only when a crisis explodes on one’s face.

Even some of the computer-literates and net savvy persons were till recently skeptical of online banking and use of cards. The Jan Dhan Yojana was pilloried by the opposition as accounts sans deposits. Once again it has taken a crisis to fill these accounts with hard cash. Villagers and agriculturists, swearing by cash, willy-nilly had to deposit the demonetised currencies into their account though there is some uncharitable explanation to the sudden phenomenon of Jan Dhan accounts springing to life– -money laundering by the crooks.

The government has learnt its lessons hopefully. High stamp duty is largely responsible for increased use of cash in real estate transactions. The central government is likely to lead by example with the Union Territories where the stamp duty rates are likely to be brought down sharply to 4 percent or so. The income tax rates are also likely to witness a drop in the budget 2017. For select companies, the rate is already 25 percent which is 5 percentage points less than the maximum marginal rate obtaining for individuals. The government must and is likely to bring down the maximum marginal rate to 25 percent both as a rational gesture and as thanksgiving for their forbearance during the cash crunch.

First Published On : Nov 23, 2016 11:50 IST

Indian civilsation existed before PM Modi came to power: P Chidambaram

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress leader P Chidambaram attacked the Narendra Modi government for obliterating everything about India before it came to power and said it believes there was no civilisation prior to that.”As far as the present government is concerned, India began, civilisation began only on May 26, 2014,” Chidambaram said at the Tatas-run Mumbai LitFest today while addressing a panel discussion on ‘Banking for the bottom billion’.The former Finance Minister was referring to the NDA government not adding the 13 crore no-frills accounts, opened during the UPA regime, with the Jan Dhan ones that were opened during the present government’s financial inclusion drive.While the UPA government had opened these accounts between 2004 and 2014 under its financial inclusion drive, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had relaunched this under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana on August 28, 2014, under which around 25.51 crore accounts have been opened so far.Chidambaram noted that as many as 13 crore no-frills accounts were opened under the UPA rule, but are blacked out now.”These 13 crore accounts which we opened between 2004 and 2014, under the guidance of C Rangarajan, as far as the (present) government is concerned, they don’t exist, they are blacked out,” he said, adding that “Jan Dhan is only another name for no-frills accounts”.The Congress leader praised the government’s efforts for this financial inclusion drive, but said by simply opening an account, one’s behaviour can’t be changed. “People must have money to deposit in the account, they must have a need to borrow from that account, otherwise account will remain dormant. So, how does our bankers jugad sense work? The government pulls them up for saying dormant accounts, they put one rupee from their pockets in those accounts,” he added.Earlier in the day, he had said the after-effects of the demonetisation will last longer than expected as it was carried out without much thinking and he also doubted if the government had consulted its Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian on this before taking the decision.”You are seeing the first-order effect of withdrawing, sucking out 86 per cent of the currency in circulation from the market. The first order will continue for several weeks now. Then, you will see the second-order effect,” he said.”My suspicion is the only knowledgeable economist in the government Arvind Subramanian was not consulted,” he said.

PM’s masterstroke: How the story unfolded

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>When the Army Chief Dalbir Singh, Navy Chief Sunil Lanba and the Indian Air Force Vice Chief B. S. Dhanoa arrived to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his office around 2 pm on Tuesday, they had expected to receive orders to launch a punitive action against Pakistan. But the meeting, where National Security Advisor Ajit Doval was also present, turned into a routine one with the PM asking for a briefing on the situation along the LoC, international border (IB) and the preparedness of the Armed Forces amid ceasefire violations after the surgical strikes in September.Their apprehensions were not unfounded. For many days now, top officials from the finance ministry and Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had been quarantined in a highly secretive portion of South Block, the seat of the defence ministry, away from the prying eyes of outsiders and journalists. Rumours were flying fast that these officials at this secret place were on a mission assessing and analysing the costs of strikes against Pakistan.Top sources here told DNA that the idea to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes had originated last June, when a report from the financial intelligence service concluded that the government’s scheme running till September 30, to unearth black money, would yield a paltry Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000 crore. This is when an old proposal submitted by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (DoBT) to then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in 2012 was taken out of the shelves, dusted and read. Taking note of these proposals, Prime Minister Narendra Modi acted on them.Such a dramatic address, as the Prime Minister made to the nation on Tuesday, should have not come as a surprise. Earlier too, the PM had made his intentions clear in a televised interview to a leading channel in September. He had said then: “No one should blame me if I take tough decisions after the 30th (of September). This money belongs to the country’s poor. No one has the right to loot this. This is my commitment. I am working with full force and will continue the effort (to act on black money),” he said.The planning for this ‘strike’ against black money was kept a well guarded secret. Even the PM’s cabinet ministers and other officials in the Finance Ministry were kept completely in the dark and were only informed of the plan shortly before Tuesday’s address. But they were not allowed to leave the room, where the cabinet meeting had been held, till the prime minister had finished his address.In the run-up to the PM’s declaration, the concerned officers were asked to prepare notes themselves, instead of depending on juniors, to avoid any leak of sensitive information. It is believed that the PM, while calling on President Pranab Mukherjee on October 1— to brief him about surgical strikes across the LoC— had broached the subject and asked for his guidance.It is not known what the President said to the PM but one can suspect he was enthusiastic about the idea. In fact, Mukherjee, as a finance minister in the UPA government, had taken this proposal to then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who, after a series of meetings, had shot it down.Senior Congress leader and former finance minister P. Chidambaram, who had succeeded Mukherjee admitted on Wednesday that such suggestions had come to the UPA government. “Yes, from time to time, suggestions were given on high denomination notes but it was then felt that perhaps the economic gains from this would not be so great,” he said. An acclaimed economist himself, former PM Manmohan Singh perhaps felt that the inconvenience caused to the common man would outweigh the economic gains.Sources from within the Congress party said, it was then felt that the economic activity would contract further in the country which was already under a spell of low growth.Once the quarantined officials reported on Tuesday morning that they had placed things in order, the notification was printed in the basement of the finance ministry in North Block— the same press where Union Budget is printed. In fact, in the preparation and printing of the Union Budget, around 100 officials remain locked up in North Block office till the Budget has been presented.But while the Congress may have considered this proposal while it was in government, it was certainly opposing them now. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi said in his tweets, the move was creating utter chaos for the common man.In one tweet he said. “Once again MrModi shows hw little he cares abt ordinary ppl of this country-farmers, small shopkeepers,housewives-all thrown into utter chaos.”At a press conference on Wednesday, senior Congress leader P Chidambaram stressed that the timing of the decision was wrong, particularly when it came just ahead of the month long marriage season across the country from November 15. Chidambaram said, “The introduction of new series of notes is estimated to cost between Rs 15,000-20,000 crore and hence the economic gains of demonetisation should be at least equal to that amount.”The former Finance Minister also pointed out that he hoped the decision would not meet the fate of another move introduced in 1978 by the then Janata government. The government had then removed high denomination notes —Rs 1,000, Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000— but this had failed to achieve its objective, as these notes were re-introduced shortly afterwards and the volume of unaccounted wealth and income was believed to have increased.On the other side, the BJP is hailing Prime Minister Modi for his “master stroke” in removing black money. However senior BJP leaders told DNA privately that they were worried over the decision and its possible fallout on the upcoming Assembly elections. These leaders said they hoped that the PM’s decision would not create panic, particularly in villages where the banking system is in its infancy and cash is much required. It remain to be seen how such people adjust to life with the new currency notes and how this move will impact the PM’s image, in the months to come.

Because of local inconveniences, circulation of black money cannot go on: Arun Jaitley

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Rejecting Rahul Gandhi’s charge that the demonetisation move has hit farmers, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Wednesday the Congress leader must “apply his mind” and understand that those in farming will not face any tax whether they keep their money at home or in banks. He denied Gandhi’s charge of common man being inconvenienced because of withdrawal of old Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes and also rejected former finance minister P Chidambaram’s estimation of cost of printing the new Rs 2,000 notes as “highly exaggerated”.”As far as Rahul Gandhi is concerned, he should understand that any person, especially poor and common man, will not face any inconvenience,” Jaitley told reporters in Delhi.As agriculture income is exempt from income tax, farmers face no levies whether they keep their money in banks (by depositing old and now withdrawn currency notes) or in their houses, he said, adding that in both cases no tax is levied on them. “If he keeps (money) in banks, then he can earn interest and money will also be safe. So they will have three advantages — no need to pay tax, earn interest, and money will be safe. If he stacks money unsafely at home, then he will face hardship,” he said. “So before giving such statement, he (Gandhi) should apply his mind and seriously ponder.”
ALSO READ War on Black Money | What were people searching on Google when PM Modi made the announcementGandhi had in a series of tweets targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the demonetisation move, saying “real culprits” who have stashed black money are “sitting tight” while lives of farmers, small shopkeepers and housewives “have been thrown in utter chaos.”Challenging Chidambaram’s reported statement that introducing new currency notes of Rs 2,000 and Rs 500 denomination will cost Rs 18,000-20,000 crore, he said, “It is a highly exaggerated figure which has been mentioned.” “After all when the entire currency is printed the cost would be known,” he said.
ALSO READ War on black money | Private hospitals urge govt to allow them take Rs 500, Rs1000 notes Chidambaram, he said, had the privilege of becoming the finance minister thrice. “It would have been better if he took steps… In all these three terms, had he taken any step to curtail black money? Which are these steps?” “Saying that because of local inconveniences, circulation of black money should go on within the country… these kind of alibis to continue black money hardly carry any weight,” he said.On Chidambaram’s worries about implementation, he said there would initially be restrictions on withdrawal. “But later on, it is your own money, whatever way you want to use it. Long term, the money is yours, no one is confiscating money.”Asked if the government’s move is linked to the upcoming assembly elections in states like Uttar Pradesh, he replied in the negative. “But if as a result of this decision, elections become cheaper it will be a good beginning,” he said.On reports of Cabinet ministers not being allowed to carry mobile phones in the meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday when the decision was taken, he said, “Well, its part of normal discipline that you don’t keep your phones on in Cabinet meeting.”

No formal proposal from Jammu and Kashmir govt to withdraw AFSPA: RTI

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> The Jammu and Kashmir government has not submitted any formal proposal for the withdrawal of the controversial AFSPA Act from the state, according to an RTI reply.”There is no formal proposal from the state government of Jammu and Kashmir for revocation of AFSPA,” Ministry of Home Affairs said in reply to an RTI query. Human rights activist M M Shuja had filed an RTI to the Union Home Ministry seeking information about the state government’s demand for revocation of AFSPA from the state. The Home Ministry also said that the revocation of the AFSPA has been reviewed from time to time.”It has been decided that time is not appropriate for withdrawal of AFSPA from J&K,” it said.Revocation of AFSPA has been on the agenda of both ruling PDP and opposition National Conference, which ruled the state in coalition with Congress from 2008 to 2014. PDP has been in power in the state since 2014 after forming a coalition government with the BJP. The RTI reply said the issue of revocation of AFSPA from Jammu and Kashmir has been raised by various sections of the society and individuals in Kashmir valley from time to time.”Omar Abdullah (then chief minister of J&K) also raised this issue in meeting with then Union Home Minister (P Chidambaram) on November 14, 2011 and during Conference of Chief Ministers on Internal Security on June 5, 2013,” it added. In July, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had said that in order to improve the situation in the state AFSPA should be revoked from some areas, beginning with 25 to 50 police stations, as an experiment.In reply to an earlier RTI query in June, the Home Ministry had said that no written request regarding revocation of the AFSPA has been received from government of Jammu and Kashmir state in the last two years.”The situation is reviewed in the Ministry from time to time. However, no formal meeting (has been) held regarding revocation of AFSPA in J&K during last two years,” the ministry had said in response to the earlier RTI application.

J&K: No formal proposal from govt to withdraw AFSPA, reveals RTI

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Jammu and Kashmir government has not submitted any formal proposal for the withdrawal of the controversial AFSPA Act from the state, according to an RTI reply.”There is no formal proposal from the state government of Jammu and Kashmir for revocation of AFSPA,” Ministry of Home Affairs said in reply to an RTI query.Human rights activist M M Shuja had filed an RTI to the Union Home Ministry seeking information about the state government’s demand for revocation of AFSPA from the state.The Home Ministry also said that the revocation of the AFSPA has been reviewed from time to time. “It has been decided that time is not appropriate for withdrawal of AFSPA from J&K.” “Revocation of AFSPA has been on the agenda of both ruling PDP and opposition National Conference, which ruled the state in coalition with Congress from 2008 to 2014,” it said.PDP has been in power in the state since 2014 after forming a coalition government with the BJP.The RTI reply said the issue of revocation of AFSPA from Jammu and Kashmir has been raised by various sections of the society and individuals in Kashmir valley from time to time. “Omar Abdullah (then chief minister of J&K) also raised this issue in meeting with then Union Home Minister (P Chidambaram) on November 14, 2011 and during Conference of Chief Ministers on Internal Security on June 5, 2013,” it added.In July, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had said that in order to improve the situation in the state AFSPA should be revoked from some areas, beginning with 25 to 50 police stations, as an experiment.In reply to an earlier RTI query in June, the Home Ministry had said that no written request regarding revocation of the AFSPA has been received from government of Jammu and Kashmir state in the last two years.”The situation is reviewed in the Ministry from time to time. However, no formal meeting (has been) held regarding revocation of AFSPA in J&K during last two years,” the ministry had said in response to the earlier RTI application.

P Chidambaram’s brainchild counter-terror body may still see the light of day

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former Home Minister P Chidambaram’s controversial brainchild, the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC), an overarching body to counter all kinds of terror threats in the country, is not out of favour yet and may still be revived by the Modi-led government.Incidentally, the BJP-ruled states, led by the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, had strongly opposed the constitution of NCTC during the Congress-led UPA-II government’s tenure. Sources said the Centre has not buried the NCTC yet and is trying to find out how it could be revived by making small changes, and how to bring the states on board.”The NCTC still exists on paper as it was passed by an executive order in February 2012 by the then home minister P Chidambaram. That order still exists as it has not been rescinded and can be put to use again,” sources said.They added that though no timeline has been fixed to revive the NCTC, the Centre is thinking about approaching the states on the issue again and is confident that they can be assured that the body will not be misused politically against their governments.In his speech at the Conference of Chief Ministers on NCTC, held on May 5, 2012, the then Gujarat CM Modi had termed the body a grievous assault on federalism. Hitting out at the executive order to create NCTC, Modi had said, “…the assertions and assumptions on which the NCTC order has been crafted casts the Central government in the role of the omnipresent, omniscient ruler, with the states portrayed as dependant vassals…”Sources in the security establishment, however, said that now in the chair of the Prime Minister, Modi seems to have understood the NCTC’s importance and role in preventing possible terror attacks with the help of analytics.Sources said the work on national intelligence grid (NatGrid), the other brainchild of Chidambaram, is going on as per the decision taken by the cabinet committee on security and it would complete its horizon 1 and 2 stage by September 2012.This means that NatGrid would start sharing seamless flow of information between 11 inquiring agencies, including IB, RAW, CBI, NTRO and so on, and 22 service provider agencies, such as banks, telephone services, airlines, railways, license issuing authorities etc.In its final stage named Horizon 4, the NatGrid is expected to connect with all possible sources having digital human interface that run close to 2,000 organisations, collate and analyse all the data and give the emerging threat scenarios to the NCTC.The subject of NCTC and other security-related issues, such as NatGrid, security of islands and coastal security was discussed in the parliamentary standing committee on home affairs on Friday. Chidambaram, who heads the committee, wanted to know whether there was any progress on NCTC or the government was planning to junk it.

NDTV’s stand on Chidambaram interview raises troubling ethical questions

When asked to bend they crawled

This remark described the spinelessness of the Indian media during the Emergency years in the mid-1970s. Forty years on, the media, at least a major section of it, appears to have turned crawling into a fine art. There’s no Emergency around, no visible pressure from the government to toe the line and no low-ranking official vetting content, yet many news outfits are on sycophantic overdrive. The impression that the media is the publicity arm of the ruling establishment is getting so strong that someday the government might actually intervene and ask them to develop a spine and stand up because it is getting too embarrassing.

File image of P Chidambaram. PTI

File image of P Chidambaram. PTI

Former Union minister P Chidambaram’s assessment of the media in his interview to The Indian Express doesn’t come without a context. “I want to raise a more fundamental question. Why are people falling in line? You are looking at it as a criticism of the government’s action. I am asking a different question, I am asking the media: why are you guys falling like nine pins to unjustified demands, if any, from the powers that be? I don’t know, if the powers that be made any demand. But why are you guys falling like nine pins? It’s sad. If the media, which fiercely protests, or used to fiercely protest any suggestion that the media should be restrained — why is it capitulating?” he told the paper.

There’s a backdrop to his remark.

Speaking to NDTV he sought proof of Indian military’s surgical strike on terrorist camps in PoK. The interview was never aired by the channel. The apparent reason: National security. When asked about this by website The Wire, NDTV responded thus: “…Like all decisions we take at NDTV, we are driven by editorial and journalistic integrity and the belief that the political mud slinging regarding the surgical strikes without a shred of evidence was actually damaging to our national security. We do not believe that we are obliged to carry every shred of drivel that has now come to pass as public discourse. I’d also like to stress that this is part of our normal editorial policy not to provide a platform to outrageous and wild accusations that thrive only on publicity…”

In his interview to The Indian Express, the former finance minister sought answers from the channel on three questions: One, which part of it constituted a threat to national security; two, which part is drivel, and three, which part of it was bizarre political bickering. He said he was still waiting for a response. If the development is indeed true, then it is one more case of a respectable channel losing its moral-ethical compass.

News organisations ensure that the content they produce pass through several filters, for reasons both quality and credibility, but consideration of national security — an expression that could be politically-loaded — was never one of those. It’s a new ‘new’ in Indian journalism. And it raises some troubling questions.

If BJP president Amit Shah’s views on the surgical strikes could be aired then why not Chidambaram’s?

How do you define national security? Is it an arbitrary call, suitably elastic in its moral aspect depending on the needs of those making newsroom decisions? In times when the government-media nexus can create and perpetuate artificial reality through the official narrative sanctified by the expression national security, shouldn’t there be scope for the counter-narrative? What if the same statement was made by a few former generals and not a political leader; would it still be against national interest? Where does all that leave journalists who are supposed to dig the truth out by asking questions? When the editors have the right to decide what is in national interest then why question the right of the government to do the same?

It’s curious that a respectable news outfit would seek to dismiss as drivel doubts expressed by someone who has been in the thick of India security matters for long years. This would be acceptable if the other view, which again comes without ‘any shred of evidence’ was treated with equal disdain as well. If proof is expected of one side, then it is only fair that the other is asked to do the same too. If BJP president Amit Shah’s views on the surgical strikes could be aired then why not Chidambaram’s? Again, as editors how do you draw the line in such cases?

There is nothing on record so far to show that this has been done at the behest of the government. But even if it is a purely editorial decision, it still raises troubling questions. Editors can and do excise stuff for reasons of quality, clarity and journalistic standards. But that rarely involves blocking out one part of a narrative. That would be less about editing and more about censoring.
That’s why NDTV‘s decision to put ‘national security above politics’ — whether voluntary or forced — is hard to digest.

NDTV versus Kashmir Reader: Are we able to see through the smokescreen?

On 2 October, the Jammu and Kashmir government banned the publication of the Srinagar-based English daily, Kashmir Reader, to prevent “disturbance of public tranquillity”. Now, The Editors Guild of India, an informal journalist body comprising of over 200 members from the media, has asked the state’s chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti, to look into the newspaper’s complaint and reconsider the ban.

On 6 October, the news channel NDTV ran a graphic during its primetime. Titled, “India above politics”, it said that “national security cannot be compromised by politics” and that “the current political debate threatens to do so.” It further said, “NDTV will not air any remarks that risk security for political advantage”. The graphic was aired following an internal mail by NDTV’s editorial director, Sonia Singh, explaining the channel’s new editorial policy.

The same morning, NDTV had run excerpts of an interview with the former Union Home Minister and senior Congress leader, P Chidambaram, conducted by the channel’s anchor, Barkha Dutt. In the excerpt, Chidambaram is seen criticising statements made by Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar, in the aftermath of the 29 September surgical strikes. But instead of airing the full interview like it had promised, NDTV ran the graphic statement and later even the excerpt was pulled off its website.

The graphic by NDTV that played on the 9 pm. Courtesy: Twitter/@ndtv

The graphic by NDTV that played on the 9 pm. Courtesy: Twitter/@ndtv

In a subsequent statement, NDTV said that it ran interviews “based on their relevance and newsworthiness in a continuum of developments”. It further said that “on matters of wild and unsubstantiated allegations, of which there is no shortage today in the country’s politics, we will not report them without the accuser offering proof that has been verified by us and found to be news-worthy.”

The channel did not clarify even after being asked by Chidambaram himself which part of his interview “contained remarks that risked security for political advantage.” It also did not specify what “wild and unsubstantiated allegations” Chidambaram had made, if any, or if the channel thought that an interview with a former Home Minister on a hot topic was not relevant or newsworthy.

Let’s for a minute try and go with NDTV’s decision. Let us say the channel thought it had genuine reasons (which have not been specified) for deciding to not air Chidambaram’s interview. Based on this judgment, the channel took a call and decided to cull the interview.

But how are these things supposed to work? A news channel and its editors can take a call on not airing a particular interview because it supposedly compromises national security, but an elected government cannot take a decision to ban a newspaper on the same principle?

Look at some of the reports Kashmir Reader chose to publish before its ban. On 12 August, it published a threat issued by pro-Pakistan groups, warning that those who defy them will be “treated as traitors and will be dealt [with] accordingly”. In another item, it openly carried a diktat by the United Jihad Council chief, Syed Salahuddin, asking pro-India politicians to resign and join them or else “the nation won’t spare them later”.

In yet another instance the newspaper carried a report of “rebel organisation Lashkar-e-Toyyaba [sic]” seeking permission from the separatist leadership to “eliminate Indian agents” in the state “who don’t mend their ways despite warned time and again”. The newspaper also chose to carry the full “protest calendar” issued by the separatist leadership allowing no relaxation to the Kashmiris.  In a blog post, a few years ago, one of the newspaper’s editors termed the exiled minority Hindus as “intestinal parasites.”

The call for lifting ban on the newspaper by champions of Press freedom prompted researcher and blogger, Vinayak Razdan, to write a post, citing the example of the 1966 agitation (to press for the ban on cow slaughter), in which hundreds of thousands of sadhus descended upon Delhi, attacking several government buildings, including the parliament. In the ensuing violence, several sadhus lost their lives while many were arrested.

Razdan writes:

Imagine if [the] Jan Sangh in response to the event had issued a diktat asking all Hindu state employees to choose between secular India or Hindu India… appealed them to join their movement…. imagine if all Hindu employees who chose Secular India were told to be ready for the “natural consequences

“… Imagine if this diktat was published in [the] Hindustan Times or [the] Times of India as a paid advertisement. The ad would have been inserted in stories about the pious life of dead sadhus and images of their dead gory faces. Imagine the consequences. What kind of publishing house [read: newspaper] would have carried such an ad and what kind of editors would have allowed such stories?”

On the guild’s website (which has not been updated to reflect its current office bearers), “upholding the freedom of the Press and striving for improvement of professional standards, safeguarding the editorial independence and taking appropriate steps to implement and further these aims” are listed as its main objectives. But while the guild has chosen to speak for a newspaper, we haven’t heard anything about the curious case of NDTV, especially when the guild’s website lists Barkha Dutt herself as one of the executive committee members (at least in 2014-15). What are we supposed to make of this silence? What is the criteria for intervention, or non-intervention, for that matter?

While these developments are unfolding, there is hope from Pakistan. The editor of the English daily Dawn, whose reporter has been barred from leaving the country (after he wrote a controversial story), has issued a strong statement, standing by both the story and by the “sacred oath to its (Dawn’s) readers to pursue its reporting fairly, independently and, above all, accurately.”

Sometime in 2004, a senior Bush administrator told a New York Times Magazine reporter, “We’re history’s actors… and you, all of you [journalists], will be left to just study what we do.” The problem with Indian journalism is that many of us falsely think of ourselves as history’s actors but might be ultimately left to study history made by editors of a neighbouring country.

Why has disability pension of defence personnel been halved: Congress hits out at Modi govt

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Taking the ongoing battle over the surgical strikes by the Army to another level, the Congress on Monday lashed out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for using the sacrifices of the Indian soldiers for his political gains and garner votes in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh and Punjab polls. Addressing a press conference here, party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala re-iterated that the UPA Government in its days had never politicised or beat the drum when they conducted surgical strikes, ‘because those who were supposed to get a strong response got the message and we were satisfied by that’, adding that ‘our brave Armed Forces were behind the victory and our government never tried to take credit for it.’ ‘Sacrifices made the army are being used to garner votes in U.P and Bihar. Our soldiers are being killed and the felicitation of our Defence Minister and posters lauding the Centre being put is a clear example of the government’s intentions,’ he said. Quoting former Army Chiefs, he further said that surgical strikes have been conducted throughout the years, but were never blown out of proportion or made a huge deal about, as they were covert operations with a certain purpose.Maintaining that the steps taken by the Prime Minister following the surgical strikes have been nothing but an insult to the Army, Surjewala called on the Centre to stop using the mission as a weapon for their political gain. Posing a question to the Prime Minister, the Congress leader asked that if he indeed was so concerned about the well being of army personnel, when why was his government so against the One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme.’Why are you against implementing OROP’ And why have you announced that the disability pensions of defence personnel have been halved since September 30th 2016′ Apologise to the nation and the army and fulfil your OROP promise,’ he said.Meanwhile, in the wake of the escalation of a war of words between the BJP and the Congress following a revelation that the Indian Army had conducted a surgical strike on Pakistani military outposts earlier in 2011, former external affairs minister Salman Khurshid said his former cabinet colleague P. Chidambaram made this disclosure to put the record straight as the incumbent regime was trying to create an impression that the UPA did nothing in its tenure.’This has been said very categorically by former home minister P. Chidambaram and it’s also been validated and repeated by other people. This has been said only for this purpose that an impression was being created by the government of the day that we never did anything when we were in power, I think that was unfair,’ Khurshid told ANI.As per reports, the Indian Army had carried out surgical strikes across the LoC in 2011 in retaliation to a surprise attack on an army post in Gugaldhar ridge in Kupwara in July that year which led to the death of 13 soldiers and beheading of six of them. In revenge, the Indian Army planned Operation Ginger.

NDTV drops Chidambaram’s interview on surgical strikes, says India’s security can’t be compromised

Even as the Centre and the Opposition are at loggerheads over the validity of 29 September surgical strikes by the Indian Army along the Line of Control (LoC), NDTV on Friday, decided not to air any views questioning the strikes and dropped an interview with former home minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on the issue, The News Minute reported.

“National security cannot be compromised by politics. The current political debate threatens to do this. NDTV will not air any remarks that risk security for political advantage,” NDTV had tweeted on 6 October.

On 3 October, the Congress had asked the government to put forth credible evidence of last week’s surgical strikes to expose Pakistan’s false propaganda.


The graphic by NDTV that played on the 9 pm. Courtesy: Twitter/@ndtv

Senior Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma had said Pakistan was misleading its people by claiming that no such attack had taken place.

In that backdrop, it would be necessary for the prime minister to “expose” Pakistan by putting forth credible evidence about the surgical strikes on the intervening night of 28 and 29 September, Sharma said.

“The government must expose Pakistan’s denial. It has all the tools and instruments to do so,” he had said.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal too had asked the prime minister to present evidence of the strike to give a befitting reply to Pakistan.

“Since the last two days, Pakistan is taking international journalists to the border and trying to show that surgical strikes never took place. Two days back, the United Nations gave a statement that there was no such activity on the border,” he had said.

“My blood boiled over these news reports (of the international media). Pakistan is indulging in smearing India’s image at the international level. I appeal to the Prime Minister that the way he and the Army taught Pakistan a lesson on ground, he should also unmask the propaganda by Pakistan at international level. The whole country is with you. I also appeal to the countrymen not to believe in the false campaign by Pakistan,” Kejriwal had said.

Cornering the Centre, former home minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Monday had also said that a major surgical strikes was carried out in 2013 but the then Congress government chose not to publicise it, reported India Today. However, Chidambaram did not ask for any evidence from the government.

Seven terror launch pads across the LoC were targeted by the Army on the night of 28 September in a nearly five-hour-long operation during which heli-borne and ground forces were deployed.

The announcement of the strikes came 11 days after the attack by Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad on an Indian army camp in Uri in Kashmir, after which Modi had said the attackers will not go “unpunished” and that they will not be forgiven.

With inputs from PTI

‘Necessary to teach a lesson to terrorists,’ says Sharad Pawar on surgical strikes

Nagpur: NCP Chief Sharad Pawar on Thursday supported the Narendra Modi government over surgical strikes by Army in PoK, saying it was necessary to teach a lesson to terrorists and those exporting terror and similar action were taken during the UPA regime but the then government did not boast about them.

File image of Sharad Pawar. Reuters.

File image of Sharad Pawar. Reuters.

The former Defence Minister also slammed those seeking evidence of the Army action, saying they were “foolish and most irresponsible”. “The government and Indian Army’s decision (to carry out the cross-LoC surgical strikes) was absolutely right for teaching a lesson to the terrorists and those exporting terror,” Pawar said during a meet-the-press programme.

He, however, said it would not be in the national interest to discuss about the Army operation. “No other government or country normally discusses such things on public platforms…No country is insane to talk publicly about the military operations,” he said.

“It is foolish and most irresponsible on the part of those demanding evidence of surgical strikes by the Army…It will be unnecessarily discussing the operational details of Army in public domain,” the NCP chief said. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Congress leaders P Chidambaram and Sanjay Nirupam have sought proof in support of the claim that the Indian Army had conducted the strikes across the LoC in PoK targeting seven terror launch pads.

Earlier, while speaking at a party convention here, he said, “There were four surgical strikes (across the LoC) when we (UPA) were in power. However, we did not publicise it.” Congratulating the Modi government over the surgical strikes, Pawar objected to the Army operation being made public. “Some things should not be made public,” he said.

“Our government carried out surgical strikes in Myanmar, but our operation was limited and we never tried to capitalise on it,” he said. About PM telling his cabinet colleagues not to create hysteria over the strikes, Pawar said the BJP leaders should avoid making statements (over the Army operation). “There is no need to make such statements,” Pawar said.

Complaint against Kejriwal, Congress leaders over surgical strike remarks

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former AAP leader Maruti Bhapkar on Wednesday filed a complaint seeking a sedition case against Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal as well as Congress leaders Sanjay Nirupam, P Chidambaram and Digvijaya Singh over their remarks about the surgical strikes by the Indian Army across the Line of Control.The complaint application, which was filed at the Pimpri police station, also sought registration of a criminal case Bollywood actors Salman Khan and Om Puri.As per the complaint, the Army’s surgical strikes were done with precision and it was made public by Army officials through a media briefing. It said, “remarks by Kejriwal, Nirupam, Singh and Chidambaram over the strikes somewhere support the stand of Pakistan”.Vivek Mugalikar, police inspector at Pimpri Police station said, “We have received the application from Bhapkar and we are seeking legal opinion from the lawyers and a decision of registering the case will be taken after hearing the opinion,” he said.

Rs 65,250 crore black money haul: A relief to Modi govt; now it’s time for final crackdown

At the end of Narendra Modi-government’s black money declaration scheme, the taxmen has amassed Rs 65,250 crore from 64,275 declarations. This means about Rs 30,000 crore will flow into the government’s tax kitty based on 45 percent tax requirement. The figure is a clear relief to the Modi-government, which has been facing questions on its poll promises on the black money.



The credit should go to the political will shown by the government and tax men’s hard work. With the deadline over now, it is time for final crackdown on persistent tax evaders, which is necessary to send a signal to the honest taxpayer that the government will walk the talk on tough action on the guilty.

Going by the reports so far, most of the declaration has happened in the last minute rush, when the realization gripped black money holders that, post the deadline, things may not be easy going ahead, particularly so when the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime kicks in next year.

The art of tax evasion will be much more difficult then. This is because at all stages, transactions will be recorded in the GST infrastructure. Considering this, it’s pretty clear that fear of being caught than the intent of complying with rules made the scheme successful. Also, the black money holders had a good reason to disclose their ill-gotten wealth since the government had offered relaxed payment terms for them than ever.

Consider this: Those who declared black money under the scheme can pay the 45 percent tax in three easy installments — 25 percent by 30 November, another 25 percent by 31 March 2017 and the balance amount by 30 September 2017. The 45 percent penalty black money holders need to pay include tax, surcharge and penalty. If someone with unaccounted money hasn’t used such easy installment scheme, he is either a fool or someone who knows to fool the taxmen for the rest of his life. The four-month black money scheme was announced by Jaitley in the Union Budget 2016. The government never called it an amnesty, but in principle, it was nothing but an amnesty offered to the tax evaders.

At the press conference on Saturday, Jaitley said the money will go to the consolidated fund of India and will be used for public welfare. But, the FM refused to give any more specifics of the scheme’s findings, including the states which have contributed most and the size of the black money collected for individuals, citing the confidentiality promised in the scheme. It is also not clear how many of these declarants are total non-tax payers or the sectors they do business.

But, ultimately, the tax department should now have a good sense about all these details that’ll guide their future actions. This is the second such scheme for black money holders announced by the Indian government in the recent years. The first was in 1997, during the Congress-led government, when P Chidambaram was the finance minister (when the government collected close to Rs 10,000 crore).

Besides that, after Modi government came to power, it announced a 90 days amnesty-like window for foreign black money holders charging them 60 percent tax. A total of Rs 4,147 crore of undeclared wealth was declared and the government garnered Rs 2,500 crore from the whole exercise, a paltry sum considering the kind of black money stashed abroad.

This time, the window is open for both resident and non-resident black money holders. Hunting down black money has been one of the biggest election promises of Modi in 2014. Ever since he came to power, the NDA-government has indeed acted on multiple fronts to recover black money both from India and abroad. This includes renegotiating bilateral treaties and information sharing with tax havens.

While the government has indeed progressed on black money hunt to a larger extent, the bigger point here is that the government should now crack-down on the guilty with all might, besides making it clear that such schemes are not going to be a continuous exercise. Else, this can send a wrong signal to the honest taxpayers, something experts have warned in the past.

For instance, both the justice K N Wanchoo Committee in 1971 and the Shankar Acharya Committee in 1985 had pointed out the ill-effects of announcing black money voluntary declaration schemes unless there is a compelling reason to do so. “Resorting to such a measure during normal times and that too frequently, would only shake the confidence of the honest taxpayers in the capacity of the government to deal with the law breakers and would invite contempt for its enforcement machinery,” the Wanchoo panel had said in 1971.

Let this be the last such scheme for those with ill-gotten wealth. Now is the time to go for final crackdown.

Uri effect: Parliamentary Panel on Home Affairs to review border security

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Against the backdrop of Uri terror attack and heightened tensions with Pakistan, the Parliamentary Committee on Home Affairs on Wednesday decided to take up urgently the review of border security as well as internal security capabilities.The newly-reconstituted committee, headed by former Home Minister P Chidambaram, which met here today for the first time, decided to have meetings on October 6 and 13 to discuss such subjects, sources told PTI here.On October 13, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi are expected to attend the meeting of the committee, the sources said. At the first meeting of the committee which was to decide on subjects to be taken up, opposition members pressed to discussing urgently the issues of border security and internal security in the country against the backdrop of Uri terror attack which has triggered tensions between India and Pakistan. “There are aspects which cannot wait,” a source said.The aspects to be reviewed include capacity of the paramilitary forces and police forces and status of the National Counter terrorism Centre (NCTC) and NATGRID which were supposed to strengthen the internal security, the sources said. The opposition members, including Derek O’Brien of Trinamool Congress, Sitaram Yechury of CPI(M), wanted to know about the proposal of police modernisation which has been hanging fire for long, the sources said. Chidambaram then told the meeting that the Finance Ministry had not released funds for it and thus the proposal was held up, the sources said.

P Chidambaram changed affidavit in Ishrat Jahan case: Kiren Rijiju

New Delhi: Union Minister Kiren Rijiju on Saturday night accused P Chidamabarm of “changing” an affidavit filed in connection with the encounter killing of Ishrat Jahan alleging the former Home Minister had brushed aside the intelligence inputs that suggested that the Mumbra girl had terrorist links.

“When the first affidavit was filed, if the content needs to be changed there must be some basis. There must be some point because of which the need to change the affidavit is required.

Kiren RijijuKiren Rijiju

A file photo of Kiren Rijiju. Ibnlive

“But in this case when Chidambaram has all of a sudden decided to brush aside all the intelligence inputs and a fresh affidavit to be filed giving a clean chit to a terrorist, this is such a serious matter that we can’t just throw it away.

“The origin of the change of the affidavit was P Chidambaram. I have stated earlier also that the Home Minister of India, who is in-charge of the security of this nation, if goes ahead to the extent of giving a clean chit to a terrorist, it is a very serious matter,” Rijiju, Union Minister of State for Home, said.

He added “how the Home Minister and the Home Secretary are in so much of divergent position” that there is a de-link of some critical papers, that is to be seen.

“We would like to know if the Law Ministry was really involved that is why the papers, documents which are missing will give us a very critical lead information about all the inferences that we have drawn,” he said.

Chidambaram has already accused the Modi government of creating a “fake controversy” over the two affidavits filed in the case.

“The report caused an uproar in Gujarat and elsewhere. The first affidavit was misinterpreted and misused to defend the encounter. It was, therefore, necessary to clarify the first affidavit.

“Hence, a ‘further affidavit’ was filed on 29 September, 2009 clarifying that intelligence inputs ‘do not constitute conclusive proof and it is for the state government and the state police to act on such inputs’,” he had said.

Rahul Gandhi is in London with a ‘special friend’, says Subramanian Swamy

Thiruvananthapuram: Rajya Sabha BJP MP Subramanian Swamy, holding forth on various Congress leaders, said that Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi is with a “special friend” in London.

File image of Subramanian Swamy. PTI

File image of Subramanian Swamy. PTI

When the media pointed out that Gandhi had spent some time in Kumarakom a few years back, Swamy shot back, “No, now it’s not like that, he is right now in London with a ‘special friend’.”

On Monday, a day after his 46th birthday, Gandhi announced that he is going abroad on a short visit for a “few days”.

He also said that “What one now needs to know is how many passports he (Gandhi) has”.

“In London, documents have now come out about his status, and now he says that ‘Swamy has to come out with documents’. It’s not me who has to do it. Instead it’s he who has to come out with the documents. He is now running away from it,” said Swamy.

He also did not spare Robert Vadra, who earlier in the day called him an “attention seeker” and a “classist” for his comment that ministers who wear a coat and tie look like waiters.

Targeting the previous UPA regime at the Centre on corruption, Swamy said “Very soon, you will see that the Congress Working Committee can be held in Tihar Jail.”

“P Chidambaram and his entire family will certainly go to jail in the Aircel case and so would other Congress leaders who have various other cases against them. It wouldn’t be long when the CWC can be held inside the jail,” said Swamy.

Training his guns on Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha member and Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, he said he has always said that Tharoor knows who killed his wife.

“He knows who killed her and how they did it,” added Swamy.

Former Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit to head panel for Indira Gandhi Birth Centenary

Former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has been made the convenor of the Indira Gandhi Birth Centenary Celebrations Implementation Committee, constituted by Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Thursday.Former Union ministers Mani Shankar Aiyar and Anand Sharma are co-convenors of the committee which has AICC General Secretary Mukul Wasnik as Secretary. Party leaders Ajay Maken, Priya Dutt, Milind Deora, Imran Kidwai and D K Shiva Kumar are on the 12-member panel.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Another committee constituted for the celebrations is headed by Sonia Gandhi and has a number of senior leaders including Rahul Gandhi and Manmohan Singh as members.The Indira Gandhi Birth Centenary Celebrations Committee also includes Tarun Gogoi, Karan Singh, Madhavsinh Solanki, A K Antony, Mohsina Kidwai, Shivraj Patil, P Chidambaram, Sushilkumar Shinde and Mallikarjun Kharge. Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was born on November 19, 1917.

Raghuram Rajan exit: Will experts reveal reality behind doomsday predictions?

A non-economist like me is highly confused.

For the past month or two, volumes of opinions and news reports – in print, digital and broadcast – articulated by a number of leading economists and financial experts have been telling ordinary citizens that they should thank their stars for living in India at a time when Raghuram Rajan is the RBI governor. Based on their analysis, I was indeed thanking my stars.

The sum and substance of their argument was that India would be doomed in case Rajan ceases to be the governor, the foreign capital will leave on a supersonic jet from India, the economy will collapse, and though India will still be called India it would look more like Afghanistan, Sudan, Ethiopia et al.

Come 4 September, no NRI will ever again believe in India. No industry and business will ever believe in India. RBI without Raghuram Rajan would be like Agra without Taj Mahal. Now was the time to curse the stars, for it looked like Rajan was leaving.

They meant to say that the highest ever inflow of foreign capital, achieved in the year in 2015-16, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been boasting about – US$ 55.46 billion as against US$ 36.04 billion during the financial year 2013-14 – was an intellectual heist.

The FDI figures were correct, they said, but the inflow was not because of the so called dynamism of Modi, or the Make in India, Digital India mantras etc, or the meetings he had with NRIs, heads of governments and nations and with business leaders across the globe. It was because, collectively and individually, the world saw Rajan as the chief of the central bank and because of the confidence he inspired in them.

So in a way, for foreign investors India was Rajan and Rajan was India, as simple as that. But didn’t we hear something like this a few decades ago, India is Indira and Indira is India, albeit in an entirely different context.

A file photo of Raghuram Rajan. PTIA file photo of Raghuram Rajan. PTI

A file photo of Raghuram Rajan. PTI

I believed the learned writers. After all, they are supposed to know about this intricate subject. They have travelled the world and have high sounding degrees from some of the best known institutions in the world or had served at fanciful positions in various governments at the Centre or been part of some research institute or the other.

It also didn’t matter that the industry, which till other day, was said to be unhappy with Rajan’s resistance to cut interest rates but suddenly they all came together to tell that Rajan was a superman, a demi-God who has taken avatar in India during the worst of times. He was as badly needed to be there at the helm in RBI as a good monsoon in the parched lands of Vidarbha.

I started wondering if it will be alright when Rajan leaves after another three years term, say with an extension till 2019, or if he is so indispensable then why not give him a special term – retirement at 75 so that in next 20-23 years he can take India on a course where nothing can ever hamper us. People would not even care to elect a prime minister or a chief minister, or who it was, for Rajan’s RBI will take economy to a path where even Saudi Kings would envy us.

I had my self-interest. I didn’t want a deluge to hit India and by consequence my family, friends acquaintance and so on, I secretly began praying for better sense to prevail on the Modi government so that it gives an extension to Rajan.

Some of us had seen and even suffered in the 2008-09 meltdown. Based on these arguments, I started worrying about those who worked in multinationals and in companies with foreign capital inflow.

If there was such a massive breakdown in the economy, then even the mightiest of Indian companies would have serious problems, for the world economy is now interconnected. A sense of insecurity was making life difficult for those who cared to read the experts.

The experts had also implied that we must thank the two great visionaries in erstwhile UPA 2 regime, the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and then Finance Minister P Chidambaram. If those two, under the able guidance of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, had not spotted and enticed a brilliant Raghuram Rajan to first accept the post of Chief Economic Advisor in 2012 and then be the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India for a three-year term beginning in first week of September 2016, then India by now would yet again have become a land of snake charmers and spices.

And yes, a few days ago Chidambaram had said that, “Modi government didn’t deserve Raghuram Rajan”. Rahul Gandhi expressed gratitude to him through a tweet, “Thank you Dr Rajan for steering the economy in difficult times. People like you make India great”, while lamenting in another tweet that Modi didn’t need experts like him. In September last year, Rajan on his part had the most awe inspiring statement, “My name is Raghuram Rajan and I do what I do.”

I quietly thanked Manmohan Singh, Chidambaram and Sonia Gandhi for bringing him back to India and entrusting him charge of the Indian economy. But why did the economy nosedive and inflation reach an all time high during 2012-14, when he took charge in government and RBI? Why did banks give more loans to Vijay Mallya? And why did corruption plague the UPA government?

Perhaps because he had just come in and his patrons didn’t really understand his policies and it led to a situation where UPA – a regime that brought him in was thrown out of power in May 2014 with such force that no one had seen ever before – reduced to a paltry double digit number of 44. Chidambaram didn’t have the courage to even contest elections, Manmohan Singh announced his retirement and Rahul Gandhi‘s votes were reduced by over a lakh.

That thought was confusing. The economic expert writings had not reflected on that period. Should Modi not be thanked for giving Rajan the space to make the turnaround that he wished to make. But the experts were telling us that Rajan as an individual was bigger than the institution, the RBI. Superheroes are always bigger. Remember T. N. Seshan, former Chief Election Commissioner of India. We were also told that the economy moved on right track because Rajan had conflicts with government and that he did what he wanted.

What was most assuring under the circumstances was Rajan’s own headline grabbing one liner delivered on 7 June, just a fortnight back, “It would be cruel of me to spoil all the fun the press is having.”

This meant that he was having fun at what was appearing in press and would be there for a longer haul, and he indicated that he wished that. But who on earth would like to leave the post of RBI Governor, till he is forced out (non-extension of term).

On Saturday evening, when many were in the process of spending a good time with their family, Rajan dropped a bombshell – he is quitting, well not quitting but going back to the part of world he knows better, academia in the University of Chicago, USA. India or its economy was orphaned over the weekend.

In his e-mail to a sundry staffers in RBI, also released to the media, he told us first-hand what experts had told us before, that he saved the day for India, “I took office in September 2013 as the 23rd Governor of the Reserve Bank of India. At that time, the currency was plunging daily, inflation was high, and growth was weak. India was then deemed one of the `Fragile Five’. In my opening statement as Governor, I laid out an agenda for action that I had discussed with you……By implementing these measures, I said we would `build a bridge to the future, over the stormy waves produced by global financial markets’,”

“Today, I feel proud that we at the Reserve Bank have delivered on all these proposals……We have done far more than was laid out in that initial statement, including helping the government reform the process of appointing Public Sector Bank management………I will be returning to academia when my term as Governor ends on September 4, 2016.  I will, of course, always be available to serve my country when needed,” Rajan said.

Was he telling about his achievements or was he telling us about the inefficiencies or lack of grasp and aptitude of previous RBI governors?

His words were very assuring, always be “available to serve”, but then a number of experts explained that “when needed” wouldn’t be in the life time of the Modi government.

Eminent economist Ashok Desai, who served as Chief Consultant with ministry of finance in 1991-93 when Manmohan Singh was finance minister, wrote for Firstpost: “But I do hope he will not get too busy, for there is one thing he should take time out for, namely, write a book about India. It would be great if he told us in his own words about what went wrong between him and India; the more frankly he does it, the better,”

“But even if he does not indulge in luminous candour, even if he keeps the J-word (apparently referring to Jaitley) out of it, his very style will make it riveting reading; in fact, the more he shrouds the shocking real events in civility, the better it will read. And who knows, he may throw out some good ideas about how to reform our economy. There may not be much chance of doing so under the present regime. But regimes come and go; ideas live on – until proved wrong,” Desai wrote.

Some others predicted that on Monday, when the markets opened, rupee would get devalued and that stocks at all markets would plunge to a new low.

By afternoon Desai was proven wrong. Modi government announced its resolve to go on the reform path, without the sage counsel of Rajan. The single biggest announcement concerning FDI in recent times was announced – in nine major sectors including 100 percent in defence, civil aviation and pharma.

The stock market boomed again. The rupee remained stable. The economists, and rival Congress party, predicting the gloomy doomsday arrival after Rajan’s exit were caught unaware. The Congress fielded Rahul Gandhi’s close confidante Jairam Ramesh to declare that, “it is a panic reaction to show the world that it is business as usual even after Raghuram Rajan has announced his exit.”

It didn’t matter that Ramesh had been a union minister, and very well knew that such decisions are arrived at after months of deliberations and file pushing at various levels. It also didn’t matter that some of these announcements were made in this year’s budget speech by the finance minister. If Ramesh is to be believed, then the Modi government rushed through all the paper work in just one day – something that the UPA government couldn’t do in 10 years in power.

One hopes now that the same economic experts would return on the subject to clear confusion, without painting Rajan as a demi-God and without implying that the previous governors were virtual time wasters.

Ishrat Jahan case: Half-truths better than Chidambaram’s half-baked truths

Now look, men…there may be a god up there, or then again there may not be; but assuming for a moment that there is, you should be pretty sure that he is on P Chidambaram’s side in India.

If there is any doubt, one should read his column in the Indian Express that deals with his ethical and moral positioning in relation to the killing of Ishrat Jahan and three others in Gujarat in 2004. With clever use of words and marshalling of selective facts, he tries to give the impression that he has always stood for justice, morality and ethics.

As I have argued in an earlier Firstpost story, the eminence of a lawyer is directly proportional to his ease with words. And Chidambaram is an eminent lawyer.

In his column, Chidambaram argued that he would not like to guess if the encounter was fake or genuine. And that by amending the affidavit, he had taken a correct legal and moral position – of de-linking Ishrat Jahan’s antecedents with the extra-judicial execution of four persons by the Gujarat police.

In a clever sleight of hand, he acknowledges that there might have been intelligence inputs from Central agencies on Ishrat Jahan and her associates, but that that must not be taken as an excuse for killing them without trial.

Only a seasoned lawyer like Chidambaram could pretend to be so naïve as to not know that India’s internal security establishment has over the years acquired the features of a killing machine. Perhaps nobody else, with the honourable exception of Chidambaram, would need a judiciary-mandated probe to reveal the reality of Ishrat’s fake encounter. Right from the word go, it was a FAKE encounter – in capital letters.

But is this not the reality of all such encounters in India, in which criminals are claimed to have been gunned down by valiant policemen in the dead of night in lonely places?

File image of P Chidambaram. PTIFile image of P Chidambaram. PTI

File image of P Chidambaram. PTI

Any person with an elementary understanding of the intelligence bureau’s operation cell would know how agencies use their “assets” and do not hesitate to “neutralise” them when they become a liability. This ruthlessness has become intrinsic to the statecraft.

This was very much on display when Chidambaram gave the go-ahead signal to security forces and launched a massive combing operation against Maoists in the forests of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha, during his tenure as home minister.

The summary execution of scores of Maoists was not even preceded by Kangaroo trials. They were bumped off at the slightest suspicion by a vengeful state. Chidambaram’s abiding faith in the dictum “innocent till proven guilty” had never stirred his conscience back then.

Top Maoist leaders like Kishanji, Appa Rao and Kondal Reddy were gunned down in encounters which appeared to be as genuine or fake as that of Ishrat Jahan. The security agencies of the Centre and the state of Jharkhand, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh collaborated to engineer these encounters.

Of course the spate of extra-judicial executions happening routinely in Jammu and Kashmir and the troubled regions of North Eastern states did not abate during Chidambaram’s time. Rather, there was enough indication of the state expressing its machismo more through guns than dialogues. Much of the criminality of the state was brushed under the carpet with the belief that skeletons would rarely tumble out of the closet.

In Ishrat Jahan’s case, it would be absolutely wrong to find fault with Chidambaram’s decision to amend the affidavit in the court. The problem is not that he decided not to stick to the truth but to a half-truth, which is worse than a lie.

In the affidavit, he carefully avoided talking about the collusive roles of the IB and the then national security advisor M K Narayanan. The fact that such IB-aided operations are prevalent in the country is conveniently overlooked to persist with the illegality of the state.

Ishrat Jahan’s encounter was picked with the sole objective of enmeshing an adversary like the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, and to nail him down in a criminal case. This is the precise reason why Chidambaram inducted an officer like Kuldeep Sharma, despite stiff opposition to his central deputation by the state government in the home ministry.

The home ministry then turned into a veritable palace of conspiracy to topple the Gujarat government by promoting a split in top administrative and the police set up. This is the sequel in which Chidambaram’s amended affidavit is seen – and not in his noble declaration of abiding faith in “innocent till proven guilty”.

Perhaps it would have been much better if Chidambaram would have bared the hideous face of the state and had demanded that the internal security establishment – including intelligence agencies – be held accountable for its acts.

A parliamentary oversight on the functioning of the intelligence agencies is certainly a prerequisite for the evolution of a benign state. Instead, the former home minister chose to express his “righteous indignation” on a case that bespeaks more about his guilt than his innocence.

Ishrat Jahan missing files case: Probe officer tutored witness during investigation, says report

Union Home Ministry official BK Prasad, who led the investigation into the ‘missing documents’ in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case, informed a witness about the questions he would ask and also tutored him on how to answer them, reports The Indian Express.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The probe was being carried out to find out the circumstances under which the UPA government dropped references in the second affidavit to Ishrat’s alleged connection to Lashkar-e-Toiba, and led to a CBI probe into her June 15, 2004 encounter.According to an IE phone recording on 25 April, 2016, BK Prasad was reportedly talking to Ashok Kumar, Joint Secretary (Parliament, Hindi Division and Nodal Officer for monitoring of court cases) in the Department of Commerce. The report says Prasad told Kumar that while giving his statement, he would be asked whether he had seen the paper (belonging to the Ishrat Jahan case). Prasad then tutors Kumar to say that he should reply to the question saying that he had not seen the paper. He then reportedly tells Kumar that if he gives a different response, then questions would be raised about him having played a role in the disappearance of the files.Kumar was supposed to give his statement the next day of the phone call. He was Director in the Internal Security division of the Home Ministry from 1 March, 2011 to 23 December, 2011, which was in-charge of the Ishrat Jahan case at that time.While Kumar has not denied getting a call from Prasad regarding the inquiry, he did not give details about the conversation. Meanwhile, Prasad gave a statement to IE denying that officers responded to his questions based on any tutoring as suggested by the report. Prasad is a 1983 batch IAS officer of Tamil Nadu cadre and was supposed to retire on May 31 but his service was extended till July 31.Meanwhile, former UPA Home Minister P Chidambaram who was in hot water over the missing files issue said, “The report comprehensively exposes the fake controversy created by the NDA government on the two affidavits filed by the Central government in the Ishrat Jahan case. It completely vindicates the position that I had taken on the two affidavits.”I take full responsibility for filing the ‘further affidavit’ which was absolutely the correct thing to do. “The moral of the story is that even a doctored report (of the Inquiry Officer) cannot hide the truth. The real issue is whether Ishrat Jahan and three others were killed in a genuine encounter or a fake encounter. Only the trial of the case, pending since July 2013, will bring out the truth.”

Second affidavit was discussed with law minister but was not recorded: Panel

The report on missing papers from Ishrat Jahan files submitted on Wednesday though does not fix responsibility for five missing documents, it says were “removed knowingly or unknowingly or misplaced” between September 18 to 28, 2009, it indicates that there could be much more behind filing the supplementary affidavit.The report raises an important point that there was a discussion with regard to the supplementary affidavit with the then law minister Veerappa Moily but it was not recorded either by the joint secretary or the home secretary.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”However, it is a fact that the discussion in the chamber of the Hon’ble law minister regarding the supplementary affidavit has not been recorded by the JS or the HS,” the report notes down.G K Pillai was the union home secretary then, while the internal security division was being headed by joint secretary Deverakonda Diptivilasa.Sources said that this could form the basis of a further probe by a higher panel or even an agency.So far the known facts are that the supplementary affidavit was changed by at the behest of the then union minister P Chidambaram. And Chidambaram has been candid enough to accept it.”When it was brought to my notice that the first affidavit was ambiguous, it was my duty to correct it as a minister after consulting the home secretary, director intelligence bureau, and other officers,” Chidambaram said earlier.Explaining the rationale behind changing the affidavit, Chidambaram said, “It was essentially concerned dealing with allegations of intelligence inputs which were available with the central government and which are shared on a regular basis with state governments. The primary concern of central government was to see the intelligence inputs gathered by central security agencies and their efforts were not discredited. It should be clear to all, such inputs do not constitute the conclusive proof.”Chidambaram’s retort had come in response to Pillai’s statement in which he wondered why reference to Ishrat Jahan and three others as Lashkar operatives was deleted and it was done at the “political level”.Wrapping up investigations into missing papers from Ishrat Jahan file, one-man probe panel head by additional secretary B K Prasad has concluded that some papers were “removed knowingly or unknowingly or misplaced” between September 18 – 28, 2009, when P Chidambaram was the union home minister. During the probe, Prasad examined 11 officials who handled Ishrat Jahan case files.The report concluded five documents as missing from the Ishrat files — office copy of the letter and enclosure sent by the then home secretary to the attorney-general on September 18, 2009, office copy of the letter sent Home Secretary to the A-G on September 23, 2009, draft further affidavit as vetted by the A-G, draft further affidavit amended by home minister Chidambaram on September 24, 2009 and office copy of the further affidavit filed with the Gujarat High Court on September 29, 2009.One document, letter sent by home secretary to A-G on September 18, 2009, was, however, retrieved from a computer hard disk.

Chidambaram files nomination for Rajya Sabha from Maharashtra

Senior Congress leader and former Union Finance minister P Chidambaram on Tuesday filed his nomination papers for the biennial elections to Rajya Sabha from Maharashtra.Accompanied by former state Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, MPCC president Ashok Chavan, former Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Leader of Opposition in state Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil and other party leaders, Chidambaram filed the papers at the Vidhan Bhawan here.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>His son Karti Chidambaram was also present when he filed his nomination before the returning officer.Chidambaram, 70, did not contest the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and his son Karti had unsuccessfully fought from his native Sivaganga constituency in Tamil Nadu.Today is the last day for filing the nominations for the biennial elections to Rajya Sabha to be held on June 11.In Maharashtra, six RS seats are up for grabs.The biennial elections to 57 seats in Rajya Sabha are necessitated as 55 members from 15 states are retiring between June and August.

Shiv Sena slams Congress for fielding Chidambaram from Maharashtra for Rajya Sabha

Shiv Sena on Monday slammed Congress for fielding former Union minister P Chidambaram from Maharashtra for the Rajya Sabha poll, saying the party has “damaged itself by foisting him on the state”.An editorial in Sena mouthpiece ‘Saamana’ noted that the ED has sent Letters Rogatory (judicial requests) to UK and Singapore in connection with its money laundering probe in the Aircel-Maxis deal case and parallel investigations in the financial transactions of some companies belonging to friends of former Finance Minister P Chidambaram’s son Karti.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”It has also been alleged that Chidambaram amended the affidavit to drop references to Ishrat Jahan’s LeT link, in order to prove the ‘human bomb’ of LeT innocent,” the editorial said.”Considering all this, Congress has damaged itself by foisting Chidambaram on Maharashtra. The answer to the question whether wisdom will dawn on Congress has come in the negative,” it said.”Whom to nominate for Rajya Sabha is its (Congress’) internal issue. But Congress has sinned in fielding Chidambaram, who has no place left in Tamil Nadu,” it said.While Karti has denied any wrongdoing and has reiterated his cooperation with probe agencies, his father P Chidambaram had accused the government of a “malicious onslaught” launched by it against his family.”All said and done, senior leaders enter the House of Elders. Two lawyers, Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal were nominated to defend the Congress, but has Congress left anything (to defend) in the country,” the Sena asked.The duo’s entry into Rajya Sabha won’t make much of a difference as Congress is helpless before the barrage unleashed by Subramanian Swamy, it said.”More than defending Congress, the duo’s candidature seems to have been finalised for defending Sonia and Rahul Gandhi,” the Sena said.

Failing to get RS renomination, Congress MP Vijay Darda meets Nitin Gadkari

Congress MP Vijay Darda, who failed to get party renomination for the upcoming Rajya Sabha polls from Maharashtra, on Sunday called on senior BJP leader Nitin Gadkari at the latter’s residence in Nagpur, raising eyebrows in political circles.In a surprise move, the Congress high command yesterday declared former Union minister P Chidambaram as the party nominee to the upper house from Maharashtra. Terms of both Darda and his Rajya Sabha colleague from Congress, Avinash Pande, also from Nagpur, end on July 4.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>According to sources, the closed-door meeting between Darda and the Union Shipping and Transport Minister lasted for about an hour. When asked what transpired between them, Darda merely said, “It was the decision of the Congress high-command to nominate Chidambaram from Maharashtra”. However, he did no elaborate on his future plans.Biennial elections to 57 seats in the Upper House of Parliament will be held on June 11. Six of these seats are in Maharashtra with two each held by Congress and NCP, and one each by BJP and Sena.The retiring Rajya Sabha MPs from the state are Ishwarlal Jain and Praful Patel (NCP), Vijay Darda and Avinash Pande (Congress), Union Minister Piyush Goyal (BJP) and Sanjay Raut (Sena). Given their current strength in the Assembly, it is highly unlikely either the Congress or the NCP will field more than one nominee. The Congress has 42 MLAs and the NCP 41.Former Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, ex-MP and educationist Bhalchandra Mungekar were also in the race for Rajya Sabha from Maharashtra, but were pipped by Chidambaram. 70-year-old Chidambaram did not contest the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and his son Karti had unsuccessfully fought from his native Sivaganga constituency in Tamil Nadu.

Where are the jobs? asks P Chidambaram

Responding to BJP government’s celebrations trumpeting achievements of two years of its rule, the Congress on Saturday fielded former finance minister P Chidambaram to raise pointers at the ‘economic downturns’.Chidambaram’s appearance to take on the BJP after a long gap incidentally coincided with Congress nominating him for Rajya Sabha from Maharashtra for the biennial elections along with Kapil Sibal and Jairam Ramesh from Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka respectively.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Describing Modi government’s positives as meagre and not amounting to even a ‘bare pass’ in the overall score card, Chidambaram asked, “Where are the jobs? The most notable failure of the NDA government has been in job creation.””The average citizens need jobs and incomes. They do not consume GDP numbers,” said Chidambaram raising questions on the methodology of calculating GDP which he said, “If calculated under the methodology of old series would be around 5% and not 7.6%.””The ferment in universities can be partly attributed to the bleak future faced by graduates. Besides, there are millions of young people who will complete no more than 8 or 10 years of school education and will have no special skills. Where are the jobs for them?” Chidambaram asked.The former finance minister pointed out that annual sales growth of all firms in 2015-16 was negative at — 5.7% while annual sales growth of manufacturing firms was negative at – 11.2%.”These are reflected in credit growth which is at a 20 year low of 9.8%. They are also reflected in merchandise exports which was -15.5% in 2015-16. They are also reflected in the slump in merchandise exports which was – 15.5% in 2015-16,” said Chidambaram.Taking a pick on Modi government’s ambitious ‘Make in India’ programme, Chidambaram described it as a non-starter.”…The bulk of the FDI inflows have come into the Services and not into Manufacturing. 893 projects were classified as stalled projects in March 2016. According to CMIE, 1137 projects slipped into the categories of stalled/shelved/abandoned in the last two years. There is no evidence of private investment in Greenfield manufacturing industries,” said Chidambaram.Wondering why there is no clarity if the government and the RBI have agreed on the strategy for inflation management that has increased from 3.7% in July 2015 to 5.4% in April, 2016, Chidambaram said, “In the absence of an agreed strategy, inflation is bound to increase.”Simultaneously, the Congress also released a 60-page booklet titled ‘Sachchai Ka Aina – Pragati Ki Tham Gayi Chaal Do Saal, Desh Ka Bura Haal’ that takes pot shots on various schemes and policy decisions of Modi government along with cartoons showing PM Modi as an unsuccessful dream merchant.

Where are the jobs Mr Prime Minister? Chidambaram asks BJP after 2 years’ of Modi

New Delhi: The Congress on Saturday questioned the BJP-led NDA government for its “failure to create jobs” during its two-year rule and said that Narendra Modi-led government’s record in agriculture was dismal.

Congress leader P. Chidambaram. Getty ImagesCongress leader P. Chidambaram. Getty Images

Congress leader P Chidambaram. Getty Images

Senior Congress leader P Chadambaram, in a press conference here on completion of two years of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, said: “Growth was negative at -0.2 percent in 2014-15 and a meagre 1.1 percent in 2015-16.”

The government failed to anticipate and tackle the acute distress in rural India, he said.

“Where are the jobs? The most notable failure of the NDA government has been in job creation,” the Congress leader said.

“The ferment in universities can be partly attributed to the bleak future faced by university graduates. Besides, there are millions of young people who will complete no more than 8 or 10 years of school education and will have no special skills. Where are the jobs for them,” Chidambaram said.

He further said: “There is little to cheer in the GDP numbers. There is a growing dichotomy between the GDP numbers and the other economic indicators.

“If calculated under the methodology of the old series, the estimate for 2015-16 would be about 5 percent and not 7.6 percent. The average citizens need jobs and incomes. They do not consume GDP numbers,” he added.

Chidambaram, Sibal, Ramesh nominated for Rajya Sabha polls as Congress packs firepower

Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram is Congress nominee from Maharashtra for the biennial elections to Rajya Sabha while senior leaders Kapil Sibal and Jairam Ramesh have been named from –Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka respectively.Others nominated in the polls include Oscar Fernandes from Karnataka, Congress general secretary Ambika Soni from Punjab, Chaya Verma from Chhattisgarh, Vivek Tankha from Madhya Pradesh and Pradeep Tamta from Uttarakhand.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The decision was taken by party president Sonia Gandhi.70-year-old Chidambaram did not contest the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and his son Karti had unsuccessfully fought from his native Sivaganga constituency in Tamil Nadu.One nomination from Karnataka has been left to the party general secretary and PCC chief and CLP leader to decide.The entry of Chidambaram and Sibal in Rajya Sabha and renomination of Ramesh would strengthen the party’s attack on the government in the Upper House where the NDA lacks majority.Former Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde as also former party MP Bhalchandra Mungekar were among a large number of party leaders lobbying for the lone seat from Maharashtra.AICC secretary Avinash Pandey is the retiring member from the state.Tankha is a senior advocate and Tamta is a known loyalist of Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat.Renomination of Soni from Punjab was a forgone conclusion in view of the Assembly election in the state next year. She is the chairperson of the campaign committee.Fernandes who has been renominated from Karnataka is on the board of Young Indian Pvt Limited which looks after the National Herald.Ramesh as a former Rural Development Minister had been at the forefront of the attack on the NDA government over Land Ordinance Bill and Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the alleged GSPC scam.

UPA and LeT worked in tandem on Ishrat Jahan case, claims Rijiju

New Delhi: Union Minister Kiren Rijuju on Friday stoked a fresh controversy on the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case by accusing the then Home Ministry headed by P Chidambaram of working in “tandem” with terror outfit LeT, a charge vehemently denied by Congress which demanded his immediate sacking.

In an interview to TV Today, Rijuju, who holds the post of Minister of State for Home, listed a sequence of events in the Ishrat Jahan case and said initially Lashker-e-Taiba (LeT) had claimed that she was a martyr but changed its statement the day a “particular officer” was made in-charge of the investigations from CBI.

Union Minister Kiren Rijiju. PIB

Union Minister Kiren Rijiju. PIB

He did not name the officer but it was Gujarat IPS officer Satish Verma who probed the case.

“In Ishrat Jahan case, the first day when the encounter took place the LeT declared Ishrat as a martyr soon after the encounter. And the day a particular police official was appointed, a Gujarat IPS officer….the Lashkar changed their statement, saying they had made an error and Ishrat was not part of their module.

“See how the Home Ministry and LeT were working in tandem. It is such a disastrous thing to happen in such a great country like India,” he said.

He said he personally admired the then Home Minister P Chidambaram but the case had raised question marks on his credibility.

“…we don’t feel that Chidambaram was alone in giving a clean chit to a LeT aide. Rather, it must have been very coordinated, calibrated effort of a Congress party involving the top leadership, otherwise Chidambaram alone will not do that,” he claimed.

Reacting strongly to this, Congress spokesman Manish Tewari said “this minister needs to be sacked immediately” and termed his claims as “most irresponsible and outrageous.”

“This is absolutely preposterous,” he added.

Ishrat, Javed Shaikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjadali Akbarali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were killed in the encounter with Gujarat Police on the outskirts of Ahmedabad on 15 June, 2004.

Nirbhaya Fund: SC asks Centre why Rs 2,000 crore corpus not being disbursed among sexual offence victims

The Supreme Court on Thursday issued a notice to the Centre and all state governments questioning the non-utilization of the Nirbhaya Fund introduced in 2012.The apex court asked as to why Rs 2,000 crore corpus was not being utilised and disbursed among the victims of sexual offences. It also sought response from the Centre and states on forming a national plan for providing compensation to rape victims and witness protection programme.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>All state governments have been asked to respond within six weeks.The bench passed the order after senior advocate Indira Jaisingh, assisting the Supreme Court in a case arising from nine PILs on the issue, pleaded that the states were not giving necessary information to her.”The states were supposed to set up one-stop crisis centres in each district. As many as 653 such crisis centres were supposed to be in place across the country, but they have not provided information whether they had done so,” Jaisingh said.She submitted that the state governments should be directed to pay reasonable compensation to the victims as some were giving as little as Rs. 25,000.The apex court had made Jaisingh amicus curiae in the 2012 Nipun Saxena case.Saxena, a law student, had after the December 16 gang-rape case in2012 filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the apex court, questioning the constitutional validity of the two-finger test and had questioned about the formation of a victim’s compensation board as per a 1996 Supreme Court directive.Nirbhaya Fund was announced by Government of India in its 2013 Union Budget. According to the then finance minister P. Chidambaram, this fund is expected to support initiatives by the government and NGOs working towards protecting the dignity and ensuring safety of women in India.

Digvijaya Singh seeks judicial probe into Batla House encounter

Nagpur: AICC general secretary Digvijaya Singh on Tuesday asked the central government to order a judicial probe into the “fake” 2008 encounter at Batla House in Delhi in which two suspected terrorists and a police officer were killed.

Digvijay Singh. PTI

Digvijay Singh. PTI

“Batla House encounter was fake. I dare the BJP to go for a judicial probe. I still stand by my remarks on the encounter. I don’t know who is Bada Sajid or Chhota Sajid,” Singh told reporters here.

According to the reports, Mohammed Sajid alias Bada Sajid is one of the six persons who feature in the 22-minute video allegedly posted by the Islamic State recently, though NIA is still identifying them.

The issue of the encounter, which had taken place when the Congress-led UPA government was in power, cropped up again recently amid a claim by an alleged ISIS operative that he had fled Batla House right before the police raided it.

When asked if he should apologise as the claim of the ISIS operative insinuates that the shootout was genuine, Singh shot back saying, “Why should I apologise?”.

When Singh had claimed first time that the encounter was fake it caused a sharp political divide with BJP, which was then in opposition, accused the Congress of playing vote bank politics.

Interestingly, then Union Home Minister P Chidambaram had insisted that the gunfight between security forces and terrorists was “genuine”.

Latching on the ISIS video, BJP had on Monday alluded to Singh as a “pseudo secularist” and stated the saffron party’s stand that the gunbattle was “genuine” has been vindicated.

When asked about the ISIS video, Singh said he would not like to say anything, “but I stick to my stand (that the encounter was fake)”.

On mega star Amitabh Bachchan hosting the second anniversary event of the Modi government at India Gate on 28 May, Singh said, “BJP is known for displaying such pomp and show-off (sic)”.

Singh said he would visit the Prime Minister’s Lok Sabha constituency, Varanasi on May 26 and “expose” Modi’s development claims of last two years.

On reports that Sharad Pawar-led NCP is in favour of continuation of Sonia Gandhi as the president of Congress, Singh said, “If they (NCP) are so worried about Congress, then they should better merge their party with us”.

In 2009, the Delhi High Court had declined to institute a judicial probe into the gunbattle.

A Delhi court in 2013 had sentenced to life the lone convict and suspected Indian Mujahideen operative Shahzad Ahmad in the case for killing decorated police officer MC Sharma and injuring two other policemen.

Parliament won’t function if Rahul, Sonia and other leaders targeted with ‘false cases’: Kapil Sibal

Congress leader Kapil Sibal accused BJP of targeting its leaders by lodging false cases against them and said Parliament will not function if this continues. On claims by BJP that it would get the key GST Bill passed in Parliament in its next session, he dubbed the Modi government as a “majoritarian” government which can get anything done, “sometimes by threats and sometimes with love”. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Parliament will run when you do the right politics and do the right things to take the country forward,” he said at a conclave of TV news channel News24. Accusing the Modi dispensation of indulging in vendetta politics, he said “when they were in the opposition, they never allowed Parliament to function for the last ten years. In the last two years what they were doing, we never did like that. We never lodged false cases against their leaders, never targeted them.” Sibal said what BJP is doing is to target Sonia Gandhi and then target Rahul, besides other senior Congress leaders like P Chidambaram, Bhupinder Hooda, Harish Rawat, Virbhadra Singh and Ashok Chavan. “Then they will lodge false cases against them. If you do like this and your slogan is Congress-mukt India, then Parliament will not function. Because, Parliament will only run when you do the right politics and do the right things to take the country forward,” he said in reply to a question on why Congress did not allow Parliament to function.Asked if “surgery” is required in Congress after recent assembly poll debacle, the former Union Minister said if the country has to move forward ‘surgery’ has to be carried out. “For the country to move forward, there should be surgery everywhere. Change takes place with thought and with debate. I am sure my party will certainly have that debate,” he said. To a question on the Ishrat Jehan encounter killing case, the Congress leader asked “was CBI speaking a lie? Was the magisterial probe false?” He also attacked the Modi government of making “false promises” and said if one crore jobs are created “I will certainly back them. But the question is why do you tell a lie to people”?

2008 Malegaon blast: Shiv Sena targets UPA, demands action against ATS officials

The Shiv Sena on Friday downplayed the ongoing controversy over the clean chit given to Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur in the 2008 Malegaon blast case and dubbed the entire episode to be ‘bogus’, adding that it was an attempt made by former union home P. Chidambaram and the NCP government in Maharashtra to target the leaders having affiliation with the saffron outfits. Shiv Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut demanded a thorough probe against those Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) officers whom he alleged of conspiring the sequence of events in this case. “This controversy was conspired against our leaders, the whole case was bogus. May it be Sahdvi Pragya or Colonel Purohit. This whole case was fabricated…And the slogan of Hindu terrorism was coined. The then home minister P Chidambaram along with the NCP government’s home minister of Maharashtra wove this controversy. We in the Shiv Sena demand that this whole case should be shut as there is nothing in this case… How can you brand Colonel Purhit, who fought for the country, a terrorist?” Raut said. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The ATS, which was probing the case, took the statement of people by laying atrocities on them. Now, I want that all the ATS officers, who gave false relevance to this case, should be prosecuted and a departmental inquiry should be logged against them as they have made a false case,” he added. The NIA on Friday filed its chargesheet in the September 2008 Malegaon blasts case and dropped the names of Sadhvi Pragnya Singh Thakur and four others as ‘accused’. The Malegaon 2008 blast case was a first case in which Hindu extremists, including Lt Colonel Prasad Shrikant Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur were chargesheeted in 2009 by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad. The NIA took over the case in 2011.

Pakistan will never hand over Dawood Ibrahim to India, says Chidambaram

A day after the whereabouts of wanted gangster Dawood Ibrahim were reportedly revealed by CNN-News18, former Finance Minister P Chidambaram has claimed that “no Pakistan government is going to admit that Dawood has sought refuge in their country,” according to another CNN-News18 report.

Dawood Ibrahim. Ibnlive

Dawood Ibrahim. Ibnlive

Through a sting operation, it had earlier been reported that Ibrahim lived at D 13, Block 4, Clifton, Karachi in a huge bungalow barricaded on all sides.

As a response to the video of Ibrahim’s house released by the news channel, Chidambaram said, “the Pakistan government is never going to yield Dawood Ibrahim to you. They are never going to admit that Dawood has sought refuge there and even if they do, they are never going to make them available to you.”

Dawood’s address has been known to Indian intelligence agencies for a long time. Hindustan Times reported in 2015 that India possessed a telephone bill addressed to D 13, Block 4, Clifton in the name of Ibrahim’s wife Mehjabeen.

The Congress leader too referred to this in his statement. “The whole world knows that Dawood Ibrahim has an address in Pakistan. In fact we have shared with the Pakistan government. They have of course denied it,” he added, according to the CNN-News 18 report.

Pakistan has indeed been in denial. Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit asked the Indian government to “share information on Dawood, if you have any.” Chidambaram also commented on the efforts of the Indian government. He reportedly said that not being able to bring back Ibrahim is “not a failure of any Indian government. The problem is with Pakistan.”

Chidambaram’s remarks on Dawood Ibrahim come at a time when the MEA said that the government was pursuing the matter of bringing back the underworld don from Pakistan.

“Dawood is a UN-designated global terrorist and a fugitive of the Indian law. At several points of time, his details have been shared by India with Pakistan government, including his possible locations in Pakistan. We will continue to pursue this matter and we expect Pakistan to hand over this international terrorist to us,” MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup had said on Thursday.

With inputs from IANS

Going by vote share and his crushing of Congress, Modi’s a success: The Aakar Patel column

This month, Narendra Modi completes his first two years as prime minister of India.

Let’s have a look at how he has performed. He won the general election impressively, on the strength of his personality and his record. So let us start there.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. APPrime Minister Narendra Modi. AP

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. AP

Political record: Modi is and remains our most popular politician by far. The aura he had two years ago, he retains. Every opinion poll in the last years has shown his popularity at around 70 percent. This is what Americans call approval rating, and 70 percent is an incredibly high number. Particularly because opinion polling in India has become accurate in the last decade so this number is believable. Modi may be assisted by the fact that his rival Rahul Gandhi is not charismatic or competent, and that regional leaders like Nitish Kumar and Arvind Kejriwal do not have a large enough stage to project their talents. But even with this admission, it must be accepted that Modi has a credibility with Indians as nobody else has.

The Bharatiya Janata Party lost state elections in Delhi and Bihar but its march towards dominance and the Congress’s march towards irrelevance continues under Modi.

Economy: I was in conversation with P Chidambaram a few days ago, at an event to launch his book on his time in opposition. I asked him whether his analysis on Modi’s economic policies was not overly harsh. Even if the data on exports and manufacturing and companies’ profitability was grim, as he has been writing it is, surely two years is too little a span of time to judge Modi on economic performance? That is what I asked. No, Chidambaram said, it is 40 percent of the term.

It is fair to say that here the government has promised more than it has delivered. The breakout phase into double digit growth, more jobs, an escape from ‘socialist’ schemes like NREGA and Aadhar that Modi promised has not come. Indeed, he has embraced some of the policies he promised to end. I still believe that though the numbers indicate otherwise, Modi must be given time, at least another year if not 18 months, to show whether he has made a difference economically.

Corruption: This was one of the items on which the 2014 election was fought. It is said that Modi has either ended big ticket corruption in the Central government or news of it has not yet come out. As in Gujarat, he has been personally involved in this issue. I have known businessmen in Gujarat who have had to face corruption demands from those lower down, because it is impossible for one individual, however well-meaning, to change centuries of a culture. However, just as in Gujarat, I know Modi regularly calls people to ask if they are facing a problem from his ministers and bureaucrats, and he asks them to inform him if they are. He is active and well-meaning.

Legislation and governance: The role of a Central govenrnment is primarily to make new law. Governance, in the way we understand the word, meaning controlling the structure of the state, is secondary. I say this because any Union government governs India through a few hundred IAS officers. Given the smallness of the apparatus, it is not possible for there to be much difference in the governance performance of one party over another.

On legislation, it is not easy to name successes because a theme is missing. If we look at the Manmohan Singh government’s legislative focus, we can identity the following: Right to Information, Right to Food, Aadhar, Direct Benefits Transfer, Right to Education, Right to Work and so on. There is a clear narrative here: these laws are aimed at the poor.

Modi’s record lacks such focus. Perhaps this will emerge in time, but for now it does not exist. ‘Make in India’ and ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ are not legislative initiatives but slogans.

Foreign policy: It is strange that here there is a wide difference between the perception of amateurs and experts. Those who have been attracted to the spectacle of Modi’s first year have been impressed. The prime minister held many glittering events in foreign capitals where thousands of Indians gathered to cheer him. This was seen as a foreign policy success, though it was not. The truth, and experts admit it, is that Modi’s highly personalised diplomacy has been a failure. On Pakistan we have no policy that anyone can explain coherently. Modi’s record has been to talk, not-talk, embrace, sulk, fire back, blame, invite over, set conditions, remove conditions randomly. I hope he changes this because it shows India’s foreign policy as not being serious. On China also, Modi’s hope that his charm would be the magic ingredient turned out to be naive.

Overall: If we return to the first point, popularity, we should admit that Modi’s term has so far been a success. Electoral popularity is the only currency of success in democracies. It doesn’t really matter ultimately what individual commentators say or write about Modi. So long as he continues the BJP’s march towards greater voteshare, a bigger geographic spread and a crushing of the Comgress, he is a success.

P Chidambaram, wife Nalini party to MLM fraud that duped 12 lakh people, says BJP

Alleging that former union home minister P Chidambaram and his wife Nalini were in the know of the activities of the Hong Kong-based multi-level marketing (MLM) group – which operates under multiple names like Qnet, GoldQuest, QuestNet, QI Ltd etc – the state unit of the BJP, on Saturday, demanded an inquiry into the duping of 12 lakh people all over the country by the controversial group.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>BJP state unit chief spokesperson Madhav Bhandari informed mediapersons that he has already met chief minister Devendra Fadnavis in this regard and Fadnavis has assured a thorough inquiry into the operations of these firms in Maharashtra. Bhandari was accompanied by Gurupreet Singh Anand, who has filed a complaint with the economic offences wing of Mumbai Police, regarding duping of his wife by Qnet.Bhandari said that these companies have been functioning all over the country and have changed names after FIRs, arrests and court cases, thereby duping more and more citizens. He said the companies have duped 1.2 million Indian citizens to the tune of thousands of crores. Each of the investor has lost Rs 1 to 3 lakh in the scam. He said that Chidambaram and his wife were working as legal advisors of these firms for years and so well aware of the operations of these companies.Pointing out that an advocate, Mahesh Khanna from Chennai, had approached the chief vigilance commissioner (CVC) on the issue, Bhandari informed that the CVC had handed over the matter to CBI in July 2010 for necessary action but since Chidambaram was the union home minister then, the matter was pushed under the carpet. Bhandari alleged that names of Chidambarams, along with former union minister Shashi Tharoor, also figure in the case since advocate Khanna has listed Tharoor’s name as well and the matter is referred to the CBI.Bhandari said that Gurupreet Singh Anand had approached the Mumbai Police, but there too the investigation came under pressure and even Anand was coerced to withdraw his complaint. Bhandari said that the chief minister has assured that the police will get into the roots of this case and that he would also take up the matter with the union government.Pawar, Deshmukh named in plaintStating that names of former CM, late Vilasrao Deshmukh, and former agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, also have been mentioned by advocate Khanna in his complaint to the CVC, Bhandari said that the BJP, however, is desisting from levelling charges against them for want of documentary proof.

It’s the month of scandals! Panama Papers, Ishrat, 9/11, now AgustaWestland

April is the cruellest month, said TS Eliot.

It has certainly been true this year in the context of scandals involving politics and the establishment. We have seen the high and mighty, mostly politicians but also journalists, athletes, film stars and so on, named and shamed in this series of revelations, and there may be parallels between them, even though they are spread all over the world.

In the US, the #28pages issue is that of a redacted chapter of 28 pages from the 9/11 enquiry commission’s official report. Some suggest that these pages — that have been seen by a limited number of people — were deemed too damaging to one of the US’s principal allies, Saudi Arabia. A former senator, Bob Graham, who had seen the impugned pages, suggests so in so many words.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The #PanamaPapers scandal established the fact that there are many loopholes and tax havens that are used by the rich and powerful to hide their (possibly ill-gotten) gains from the taxman. The US has been, quite indignantly, suggesting that offshore tax havens have hidden billions of dollars from the eyes of their Internal Revenue Service, and have forced many countries, including the famously secretive Switzerland, to reveal details about those who might be doing so.

The #Ishratfile revelation, in India’s case, suggests a nexus of politicians, journalists, lawyers and various others engaging in a clear conspiracy to hide certain facts about that dead young woman. For the first time has such a scandal hit P Chidambaram, who has hitherto been untouched, partly because he has such authority that nobody dares question him, although his election in 2009 in Sivaganga, commentators have noted, did seem a trifle odd.

The court case about that drags on.

The #AgustaWestland scam is both more and less sensational than #Ishratfile. The latter does not surprise in the sense that most of us suspected that Ishrat Jahan was indeed a Lashkar-e-Taiba operative: Well, for one thing, the LeT itself said so before quietly removing that from its website. The extent to which the Nehru dynasty has been willing to go to eliminate Narendra Modi (literally or metaphorically is not surprising either: Remember the maut ka saudagar meme, for instance).

The extent of the AgustaWestland scam is sensational, however, especially because the revelation could not be blamed on partisan politics (as it has always been: The mainstream media will suggest that it was a witchhunt by the BJP, and thus, sweep it under the carpet). The fact that an Italian court (yes, Italian!) has said in so many words that Sonia Gandhi was directly involved makes a big difference to the Congress and its pets in the mainstream media.

They responded with thunderous silence.

The problem with all these scandals, of course, is how far they go in identifying and punishing the culprits. In India’s case, there is a history of major scams being buried if they somehow touch the Teflon-coated Nehru dynasty. For instance, the Bofors scandal really didn’t go that far in punishing the guilty. There are at least two reasons for this: One is the compromised judiciary, and the other is the compromised media. The third may well be that the BJP has no stomach for a fight.

Mossack Fonseca law firm offices in Panama City. Getty Images

Mossack Fonseca law firm offices in Panama City. Getty Images

Just as Bofors essentially fizzled out, there is the fear that AgustaWestland also will.

The media that should be the watchdogs of society, is clearly shown to be the lapdogs of certain vested interests in the AgustaWestland case: One of the principals had a multi-million dollar war-chest with which to influence media people. We knew this — after all, journalists who have been traditionally penurious, suddenly began to own Rs 52-crore houses (in at least one case involving an arch-dynast).

The case of the judiciary is more complex. Most people are afraid to say anything about them because of the fear of contempt-of-court, and I too shall desist, but only point out that there are two concerns: One is judicial over-reach, as the judiciary is taking on functions that properly belong to the executive and legislative branches, partly because they have been weak.

A graver concern is the very structure of the judicial system. For some strange reason, frivolous PILs (public interest litigation) can be brought directly to the Supreme Court, and the court wastes its time and energy on unimportant and downright ridiculous issues, such as IPL betting and the possibility that a condom label is obscene. There should be a wholesale revamp of the system so that the Supreme Court hears constitutional matters, and only constitutional matters, as befits an apex court.

To give the state high courts their independence, there should be the equivalent of the US’ Federal District Courts in various parts of the country to hear issues that are related to the Indian Union, and not to a state. There should also be the equivalent of Federal Appeals Courts, and only the ‘rarest of the rare’, weighty, constitutional matters, should be elevated to the Supreme Court. Today, any fool with deep pockets can bring any ridiculous PIL.

There are other issues with the courts, for instance their insistence on incestuous appointments (and the number of family members of former judges who get judgeships should raise an eyebrow or two), but it is better to not go there.

The third concern, of course, is that the BJP is not serious about bringing the Nehru dynasty to book. That has appeared true in the past, but may not be so any more, given that there is progress on the National Herald case, and now that the indefatigable Subramanian Swamy is in the Rajya Sabha, I get the feeling that we have not heard the last of #AgustaWestland.

But I see that the heat and light behind #28pages has diminished — it was probably timed to hurt Hillary Clinton in the New York Democratic primary, but failed to do so.

Similarly, the outrage over the #PanamaPapers has vanished. It is hard for people to remain angry, as they get fatigued and distracted by newer and juicier scandals.

I do hope that #Ishratfile and #AgustaWestland will not also vanish without a trace. In this, I am trusting Chidambaram: If he (and his son Karti with his vast global business empire) go down, I am pretty sure he’s going to bring down Sonia Gandhi and son, as well.

He’s not likely to go ‘gentle into that good night’, as Dylan Thomas said.

BJP raises Aircel-Maxis case in Lok Sabha, targets Chidambaram

BJP on Wednesday sought to target former Finance Minister P Chidambaram by raising the Aircel Maxis case in the Lok Sabha and demanding immediate filing of an FIR by CBI so that the guilty could be brought to book soon in the “open and shut case”.Raising the issue during zero hour, Nishikant Dubey said dramatic developments were taking place in the case after the Enforcement Directorate raids on firms linked to the scam. One of the raids has revealed that the grand-daughter of the former Finance Minister was the sole beneficiary in the will of four shareholders of a firm associated with the scam, making it an “open and shut case”, he claimed.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Without taking Chidambaram’s name, Dubey alleged that his son enjoyed ownership of some of the suspect firms having assets abroad.He alleged that the UPA rule reeked of corruption as he named some companies allegedly involved in the case. “CBI must file an FIR at the earliest so that the guilty could be brought to book”, he said amid protests from Congress members including Mallikarjun Kharge and K C Venugopal.Jyotiraditya Scindia was heard protesting to the Speaker as to why “double standards” were being adopted as the party was not allowed to raise the VVIP chopper scam issue on which it had given notice for an adjournment motion, but this one was allowed. BJD’s Bhartruhari Mahtab and Tathagata Satpathy demanded that the government respond in the matter.In the last session, AIADMK and BJD members had disrupted Parliament seeking a CBI probe into the Aircel-Maxis deal which they linked to Chidambaram s son Karti.

‘I didn’t sign affidavit’: Chidambaram tweets clarification on Ishrat Jahan case

Ishrat Jahan’s ghost is back to haunt P Chidambaram, screamed the headlines.

It was alleged that Chidambaram, during his tenure as Union Home Minister, had doctored the report about Ishrat Jahan to remove all references to the Lashkar-e-Taiba. Firstpost’s Ajay Singh had contended that “the revelations of sarkari hanky-panky in the Ishrat Jahan affidavits filed before the Supreme Court” is an “inconvenient moment for Chidambaram that will not go away in a hurry”.

On Monday, the first day of the second part of the Budget Session, Chidambaram took to social media to issue a point-by-point clarification:

As is to be expected from an eminent lawyer, his opening remarks were a thunderclap of sorts:

After which, he sought to quote another eminent personality (another play straight out of the lawyer’s handbook):

And finally, support to the ’embattled’ Raghuram Rajan (as these tweets would attempt to portray the RBI governor):

Now, on from the diversion to the issue at hand:

Which brings us to the second affidavit:

Ipso facto ergo sum?

Hopefully, we’ll find out as this second part of the Budget Session stumbles on.

dna Exclusive| Tamil Nadu Elections 2016: Congress aligning with a Dravidian party is not enough anymore for victory, says Karti Chidambaram

Campaigning for the upcoming elections in Tamil Nadu is in full swing and the parties have already announced their candidates for the May 16 polls. The Congress, which has formed an alliance with the DMK, has been allocated 41 seats and Karti Chidambaram does not figure in it. In an exclusive chat with dna, former Union Minister of Finance P Chidambaram’s son, talks about why he chose not to contest, Congress’ prospects and more. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>You’re not contesting in this year’s elections. Why have you decided to stay away?I’m not staying away from the elections. In fact, I contested in the 2014 parliament elections. At this stage, considering my professional commitments, my temperament and overall situation and lifestyle, I think I’m not necessarily well-equipped to be a MLA right now. So I didn’t even seek a seat this time round. But that doesn’t mean I won’t contest future elections.
ALSO READ Tamil Nadu Elections 2016: Karti Chidambaram not contesting!So will you be campaigning?For sure I will campaign. There are friends who are contesting for the Congress and I will campaign for them definitely. There are also a few friends who are contesting in the alliance party so I may campaign for them too.
ALSO READ Karti is being targeted because he is my son, says P Chidambaram What do you think are the prospects for the Congress party this time round?This time it’s not an easy election to predict. For the first time, we’re having a multi-cornered contest and proliferation of many parties has happened in Tamil Nadu. Before there were only two dominant political parties and there was the Congress party. It was easy to predict when the Congress aligned with one of the major parties. And that alliance was the clear winner. But that has changed now. I don’t think a Dravidian party and the Congress party alone is enough anymore.There are other smaller parties who have become key players and we have to see who is affecting whom. But I still think the contest is between the two major Dravidian parties. Tamil Nadu politics till date is like the Coca Cola-Pepsi Cola war – they are the real dominant colas, everyone else is only a minor cola here. The real war is between the DMK and AIADMK like Pepsi and Coke and I think this elections too it’s the same. But in the other formations we have to see who is hurting whom. We need to see if the Third Front is taking away votes from the AIADMK or hurting the DMK.If you look at the 2009 elections, in every constituency Vijayakant polled over a lakh of votes, but the DMK-Congress won the seat. He essentially took away AIADMK votes. The MDMK could take away some votes as can the breakaway Congress party and the PMK in the northern districts. It’s going to be tough contest this year but the contest will be between the DMK and the AIADMK. Everyone else will only be a spoiler. Why do you think the Congress has not been able to regain any foothold in the state?I think it’s a systemic failure on the part of the Congress over the last five decades. This is a very presidential state. This is the first state which became presidential in its politics. You clearly need to identify a chief ministerial candidate and rally behind that candidate with the political formation. The Congress party has not been able to throw up a chief ministerial candidate acceptable not only to the party but acceptable to the public at large which the party can rally behind.The DMK and AIADMK have consistently been able to do that. If you look at Tamil Nadu, in the last 50 years, we have had only four chief ministers – Annadurai, Kalaignar, MGR and Jayalalithaa. Everyone else has been CM by default or just for a few months. So the election is essentially about a political party rallying behind a dominant leader. The Congress has never had anyone who can match to the stature and charisma of the leaders thrown up by these other parties. Until we do that, we will always only be a bit player here in Tamil Nadu politics. Tamil Nadu politics clearly wants an identifiable chief ministerial candidate. What is your sense of who will win this year’s elections?Obviously, I would want the DMK-Congress combine to win. That’s the natural tendency I have but as I said this will depend on many factors. People might say that past elections are not an indicator but I go by statistics. If you take the 2014 elections, it was a huge win for the AIADMK. And if you look at the data of 2009 and 2011, it’s going to be a close election. My political sense is that there’s an undercurrent of anti-incumbency. Whether we will be able to channel that properly and not dissipate it among the multiple parties remains to be seen. But looking at the campaigns, it is quite obvious that Chief Minister Jayalalithaa is a far more effective candidate as the leader of the opposition than when she is CM.The AIADMK campaign is really not catching anyone’s imagination at the moment and it seems to be defensive and insipid. As an opposition leader, her campaign was a lot sharper. The DMK’s campaign – particularly Stalin’s campaign – seems to be reaching out more and is an ears-to-the-ground type of campaign. That seems to have more momentum particularly with younger voters who want to see visibility and proximity. If you take visibility and proximity as markers, I think Stalin will score way higher than Jayalalithaa. Even though Kalaignar Karunanidhi is projected as the chief ministerial candidate, it’s rather obvious that the leadership in that party is clearly gravitating towards Stalin thanks to his feet on the ground, ears to the ground campaign in this election. In the 2014 parliament elections, you became the second Congress candidate in the state to garner more than one lakh votes. Were you disappointed you lost?I’ve been in active politics since 1996; I’ve run election campaigns for my father. I know statistics and data very well. I was absolutely sure that we will not be able to win any seat on our own and I was very clear about that from the beginning. There was no disappointment at all.I needed to make a point in the last elections that I’m not shy from contesting elections. Normally, there is a clamour for people to seek tickets when Congress is part of a large alliance but we had no alliance partner. I just wanted to stand up and be counted and I thought I did reasonably well. I stood second after Kanyakumari in terms of votes. It was quite gratifying. I think this accusation that I’m afraid of contesting elections has been buried forever.

Ishrat Jahan case: Congress hits back, accuses BJP of obstructing trial

Congress on Tuesday hit back at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah over the Ishrat Jahan case, accusing them of “obstructing” judicial process and taking to “patent falsehoods”.”The Prime Minister and the BJP President are shamelessly misleading the country and obstructing judicial process by blocking trial of accused in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case pending in a court in Ahmedabad, Gujarat,” Congress chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala said. He said Modi and Shah must tell the country the real motive behind “desperation” to shut down the trial.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”What is it that they seek to hide or are scared of needs to be placed before the nation? Is there some evidence available on that file of the court that goes against somebody very senior in the leadership of the BJP, which is scaring Amit Shah and Modi?” he asked.He alleged the Modi government is using a “web of selective news leaks, deceptive statements of its ministers and non-grant of sanction for prosecution of the accused to ensure mistrial and reinvestigation through pliable investigating agencies”.”Modi government is not only economical with the truth but is also relying upon patent falsehood to hide the facts,” Surjewala said, hitting back at BJP which accused it of aiding a “conspiracy to eliminate Narendra Modi” and claimed Congress President Sonia Gandhi “worked actively” on it.Surjewala said the Modi government seeks to “falsely hide” behind the language of pleadings before the High Court to ensure no trial takes place and truth does not come out.”This itself makes the motive of Prime Minister, BJP President and their ministers clearly suspect,” he said.”Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case has no connection to the then Congress government in any manner,” he said, adding findings of the fake encounter have been recorded in a judicial inquiry of the encounter by Ahmedabad Metropolitan Court after examining the entire evidence.Citing a media report which claimed that the then Home Minister P Chidambaram had signed the first affidavit in the encounter case, Union Minister and BJP leader Nirmala Sitharaman had said Congress, especially Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul, should take responsibility because Chidambaram did so as the party found itself not strong enough to fight Modi politically.

Ishrat Jahan case: Cong watched terror plot bloom, says BJP

New Delhi: Levelling serious allegations against the Congress over the Ishrat Jahan shootout case, the BJP on Monday said the Congress almost connived to get a political rival eliminated in Gujarat.

“Here is a political rival, the then chief minister of Gujarat, whom the Congress could not face politically. So they quietly saw a terror plot bloom,” union minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was the then Gujarat chief minister.

Ishrat Jahan. Image courtesy: IBNLiveIshrat Jahan. Image courtesy: IBNLive

Ishrat Jahan. Image courtesy: IBNLive

“The then union home minister gave two affidavits in court. They tried to show as if there was no terror plot, as if there was no threat to Modi’s life.”

She said that since both of the affidavits on a single matter can’t be true, the then home minister P. Chidambaram was either trying to “hide some facts or add something not germane to the case” in the submission before the court.

The BJP’s outburst came after a TV channel revealed that the first affidavit, which described Ishrat Jahan as a Lashkar-e-Taiba operative, was indeed signed by Chidambaram, who has been denying signing it.

However, the second affidavit said there was no conclusive evidence to suggest that Ishrat was linked to LeT.

“By politicising the Ishrat Jahan encounter case, the Congress has undermined the national security. They have weakened the entire security network,” Sitharaman said, adding whether the shootout was real or fake was a secondary matter.

Mumbai college girl Ishrat Jahan and her three alleged associates Pranesh Gopinath Pilai, Amjad Ali and Jishan Johar were killed by Gujarat Police in an allegedly staged shootout on June 15, 2004.

Gujarat Police had described the four as Pakistani-controlled terrorists who came from Jammu and Kashmir to assassinate then chief minister Modi.

In Feruary, LeT operative David Headley told a Mumbai court that Ishrat Jahan was a member of the Pakistan-based terror group.

Ishrat Jahan case: BJP ignoring ‘real’ issue of fake encounter killing, says Chidambaram

Senior Congress leader and former Union Home Minister P Chidambaram on Monday hit back at BJP saying the party of ignoring the “real” issue of “fake” encounter in which Ishrat Jahan was killed.Within hours of a BJP onslaught against Chidambaram and Gandhi family after a media report that he had approved the first affidavit in the case, he said he would not like to comment without “perusing the files and the noting”. But, he said, a second affidavit was filed in the case after thorough consultation with the then Home Secretary and Attorney General.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”My public statements on why the second affidavit was filed after due and full consultation with the Home Secretary and the Attorney General are self-explanatory. I have nothing to add,” he said in a statement.
ALSO READ Ishrat Jahan case: Congress quietly watched terror plot bloom, alleges BJPHe said the conclusion drawn from the first affidavit which named Ishrat Jahan as a terrorist and the second affidavit showing that she wasn’t a terrorist “are not the correct conclusions to be drawn from the two affidavits.””The IB only provides intelligence inputs. Whether a person is a terrorist or not has to be proved in a court of law on the basis of admissible evidence,” he said.And moreover, Chidambaram said, the real issue is, even if a person is suspected to be a terrorist, can that person be killed–as alleged–in a fake encounter?”Please focus on the real issue. That issue is sub-judice before a court of law,” he advised the BJP.

Stampede at Jayalalithaa’s Vriddhachalam campaign, 6 women in ICU

When 65-year-old Sandanam was asked to come to Amma’s campaign meet at Vriddhachalam on Monday, she readily agreed. The promise was a chance to see Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa up close, Rs 250 for attending the rally and a packet of biriyani. The event though turned out to be a nightmare. Sandanam, like hundreds of others, was caught in a stampede at the rally resulting from poor planning and the excessive summer heat.

All for a glimpse of their 'Amma'All for a glimpse of their 'Amma'

All for a glimpse of their ‘Amma’

Two people have died but the cause remains unclear. People say they waited for hours in the searing heat with no shade and many without water or food.

“They gave us only Rs 250 but the promised biriyani did not come,” said Sandanam speaking to Firstpost. “The heat was oppressive, and there was barely any water being distributed. We were begging people for water to drink. I ate a banana which the person sitting next to me had brought. So I was a little better off than the others,” she said.

Six women who were present at the rally were admitted to the ICU at the Vriddhachalam Government Hospital following the stampede that ensued at the venue of the public meeting. Two functionaries of the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) were carried out of the venue as they had collapsed. Radhakrishnan (45) from Jeyankondan and Karunakaran (50) from Chidambaram died due to unknown causes en route to the Mundiyambadi and Cuddalore Government Hospitals respectively.

What caused the stampede?

AIADMK workers who were present at the venue told Firstpost on condition of anonymity that each of the 13 candidates introduced at the Vriddhachalam public meeting by Jayalalithaa, were given targets for the number of people they had to bring to the venue. “Each of them was asked to bring 20,000 people to the rally,” said the source. “People from Ariyalur and Perambalur were brought to the venue at 9am itself and were sitting under the hot sun all day. They were not allowed to leave the venue once they entered it, because security was tight and they would not have been able to come back in,” he said.

He also alleged that Rs 50,000 was given to each of the organizers – block level AIADMK workers – to arrange food and water for the crowds they had brought. But like Sandanam recounted, many of those in the crowd did not get either food or water.

Eyewitnesses who did not wish to be named told Firstpost that once Jayalalithaa came to the stage by around 3pm, many in the audience began to try to leave. “They were not able to withstand the heat and there was no water either,” said the eyewitness. “Once they got a glimpse of Amma, they all wanted to leave.”

Women, who were gathered at the front right hand side of the stage, were the most affected, with a steady stream of people trying to leave the venue even as others surged forward to catch a glimpse of the AIADMK Supremo. A stampede then ensued and a number of women were caught in the crush. What made matters worse was that although there were eight gates into the venue itself, there was only one entrance from the road leading up to the venue, say eyewitnesses, meaning there was only one route in or out.

Police and hospital authorities are tight lipped as to the cause of death of the two AIADMK workers. Although there has been no official word from the party itself, its mouthpiece Jaya TV ran a line on the channel for some time, stating that Jayalalithaa condoled the death of two party workers due to illness.
During the 2014 Lok Sabha campaign, a 60-year-old man died and five women, including a police constable, were injured at Jaya’s rally held in Chidambaram. A stampede ensued as party workers charged towards the stage and the senior citizen from Ariyalur was caught in the crush. Police though, at the time, alleged that he died due to “chest pain”.

Jayalalithaa’s meeting was scheduled for 3pm, a very hot time of day, due to the fact that she is traveling by helicopter to and from campaign venues. She left from Chennai by chopper in the morning and returned to Chennai after the rally. Since the chopper cannot take off or land after sunset, her rally was scheduled for a time of day when the sun was beating down hard upon the crowd which had already been present for hours.

Twitter | @Kavita_Kishore

CRPF attacked in Dantewada: Policy paralysis continues to hamper anti-Naxal operations

The latest Maoist attack at Dantewada in Chhattisgarh on 30 March, that killed seven CRPF personnel and left many more injured in a fatal landmine blast, has again exposed our helplessness in tackling the Naxal menace.

How many more innocent people and security personnel need to die for the government to put an end to the red terror?

At the beginning of this decade, in 2010, the nation witnessed India’s worst-ever Maoist attack in Dantewada in which 76 CRPF personnel were killed.

The then Home Minister, P Chidambaram, offered his resignation over the massacre, saying that, “I accept full responsibility for what happened in Dantewada”. However, the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh rejected Chidambaram’s resignation.

Despite several large-scale massacres of security forces and civilians, and the government recognising the severity of the menace, nothing much has changed over the years.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The reasons vary from incident to incident — sometimes due to a failure to respond to an intelligence tip-off, or security forces not following SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures), a sudden ambush, or a lack of coordination between the Central Para Military Forces (CPMFs) and state police force and many more.

Where does the problem lie?

According to counter-insurgency experts dealing with Left Wing Extremism (LWE), the problem in curbing Naxalism lies in the nature of security forces deployed in Red Corridor, combat strategy, lack of coordination in sharing of intelligence inputs between the Centre and the state, and finally — most importantly — the lack of a national policy.

Policy front

Former Home Minister, Shivraj Patil, had called Maoists as ‘brothers and sisters’, while during Sushil Kumar Shinde’s tenure there was a lack of clarity on government’s policy front.

Eventually, it was P Chidambaram, who used the three words – “clear, hold and develop” — to prepare his strategy to counter Naxalism in the country.

He meant – to clear the area under Maoist influence, strengthen the hold of administration there and then start development.


In 2013, after 42 persons were killed, including top Chhattisgarh Congress leaders, jawans, cops and villagers in a Maoist attack at Darbha Ghati in Bastar, former PM Manmohan Singh had called for a two-pronged strategy to deal with LWE – to strengthen counter-terrorism efforts and address development issues simultaneously.

He had termed Naxalism as “the greatest internal security threat to our country.”

According to CPMF sources, it was during Chidambaram’s tenure as Home Minister that a large-scale deployment of security forces took place in Maoist zones, which continued for some time but later no scheme or action plan was formulated.

“Some Congress leaders even persuaded party president Sonia Gandhi that if strong action against Maoists continued, it would adversely affect the Congress vote bank in Naxal-affected areas,” a senior CPMF official said on conditions of anonymity.

No comprehensive national policy on Naxalism

“A national policy on Maoists is a must because every government has its own style of functioning for dealing with the issue. Our reluctance to act sternly on LWE is evident from the fact that there’s no national policy to deal with the Naxal menace,” said Prakash Singh, former director general, Border Security Force, and ex-member National Security Advisory Board.

“Everything is wrong in tackling the menace. From policy formulation to its implementation, nothing is right,” Singh said.

According to government sources, a policy draft was prepared to deal with the menace, but is yet to get moulded into a national policy.

“The present government is serious on this issue and several measures have been adopted. The government has a zero-tolerance policy against terrorism and the Home Minister has instructed all the Maoist-hit states to have no compromise in combating the menace,” the source said.

The absence of a comprehensive national policy in several cases has also led to a lack of coordination between the Centre and the state governments or between two state governments, when it comes to sharing and using of intelligence inputs.

In fact, the Maoists are always found to be a step ahead and they keep security forces on tenterhooks through their effective intelligence network.

“Nothing is clear on the strategy front. There are differences in perception between the Centre and the Naxal-hit states. Another big problem is that every state has its own agenda or priorities. Local police is the best, both for combating and gathering intelligence, but the state government needs to ensure its standard,” added Singh, who’s an expert on LWE.

Combat strategy: An upper hand to Maoists

Why does the State continue to remain helpless in front of some thousand-odd rebels? What goes wrong every time, allowing the Maoists to wipe out so many young lives?

“For the last few years, the Maoists have heavily concentrated on using landmines, which is the easiest and the safest mode for them. Earlier, it was ambush. Now by using IEDs, they trigger blasts and explosives are easily available to them, as they procure it from mining areas,” said Anil Kamboj, a counter-terrorism analyst.

“Landmines have a greater impact. In ambush tactics, the Maoist cadre also suffered loss of lives. So, now they heavily depend on landmine blasts, followed by random firing on security forces. Moreover, Maoists are well-versed with the terrain in comparison to the security forces and this gives them an upper hand. Security forces are constantly under the watch of the Maoists and every movement of theirs is being monitored,” Kamboj said.

Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) comprises a major portion of the central forces deployed in Maoist zones. However, the experts believe that CRPF still has to gain expertise in operating in the jungle terrain to counter Maoists.

“No doubt the CRPF is good on urban terrain, but when it comes to jungle warfare, they are yet to gain that expertise. On the other hand, Maoists are well-versed with their terrain. Greyhounds have been found to be more effective,” added Kamboj, a former senior fellow, Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA).

The Andhra Model

The Andhra model of dealing with Maoists, that comprises a comprehensive response model –political, development and security, has received appreciation, especially for its elite anti-Naxal force, the Greyhounds.

“The Greyhounds has been found to be the most effective in neutralising the Maoists. It involves years of painstakingly building-up the fighting capabilities of the state police, their training, logistics, intelligence and leadership,” said PV Ramana, a research fellow at IDSA.

“The political will and commitment of the state to curb the menace made Andhra model a success. It can serve as a relevant reference point for other affected states to craft their response in combating Maoist insurgency,” Ramana said.

Experts believe that there is a strong need to reconsider the deployment of forces in the Naxalite affected areas in order to restore the edge over the Maoists, who are well versed with the conditions prevalent in the terrain.

“The security forces, as of now, are hampered by weak leadership, inadequate training and lack of knowledge of the difficult terrain where Maoists operate. The leadership issue needs to be addressed,” added Maj Gen Dhruv C Katoch, former director, Centre for Land Warfare and Studies.

“Officers up to the rank of IG must lead by example and stay in deployment areas in the jungles with their troops,” Katoch said.