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WCD Ministry seeks monthly reports on sexual harassment

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry on Wednesday issued fresh guidelines in the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, asking all ministries and their departments to furnish monthly report on all sexual harassment cases registered in that particular month. The guidelines, issued via an order of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), mandated that the monthly report should also contain the details of cases disposed of and the action taken in the reported cases.The guidelines comes after a meeting that WCD Minister Maneka Gandhi had on October 26 with the heads of the internal complaints committees of different ministries and their departments wherein cases of sexual harassment which were pending with government offices were also examined.“On the basis of the discussions, it was decided that DoPT will issue fresh instructions so that some of the issues can be suitably addressed,” said a ministry release. Apart from that, Gandhi’s meeting had in attendance the director of DoPT.“The development is a procedural one, where we look toward plugging any gaps in the implementation of the act,” said a DoPT official, who issued the order, dated December 22, 2016.The new guidelines also stated that ‘as far as practical’ inquiries in such cases should be completed within 30 days of the complaints. And that, “in no case should it take more than 90 days as per the limit prescribed under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013,” it stated.The guidelines also mandated that no complainant should be victimised and that, for a period of five years from the day the complaint was made, the ICC should ensure that she is not subjected to vendetta, or is posted under the officer against whom the complaint is made, or any other officer who may subject her to any form of harassment.“In case of any victimisation, the complainant may submit a representation to the Secretary in the case of ministries/departments and head of the organisation in other cases. These representations should be dealt with sensitivity, in consultation with the complaints committee, ministries/departments and head of the organisation in other cases, and a decision taken within 15 days of the submission of the same,” the memorandum read. The guidelines come close on the heels of Gandhi announcing a review of the internal complaints committees in government offices.Late October this year, Maneka Gandhi announced the said committee because cases of delays in probes have been brought to her notice. She told DNA that she was compiling the cases in this regard.Over a month before that, in a DoPT memorandum dated September 9, 2016, and another dated July 11, 2016, the DoPT issued orders reiterating the seniority of the chairperson of the complaint committee.The orders maintained that the chairperson of the complaints committee “is legally competent to hold an inquiry into a case irrespective of the fact that the chairperson of such Committee is lower in rank to the employee against whom the allegations have been made” as per the July 11 mandate.Answering a Lok Sabha question in August last year, Gandhi said that there were 526 cases of sexual harassment at the workplace in 2014. She further informed that 57 cases were reported at office premises and 469 cases were registered at other places related to work during 2014.

Govt approves Rs 11,000 crore road projects for areas hit by worst Left-wing extremism

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The government has approved an over Rs 11,000-crore project to construct all-weather roads and improve connectivity for security reasons in nearly 40 districts worst hit by the Left-wing extremism and violence.Approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), the ‘Road Connectivity Project for Left Wing Extremism Affected Areas’ will provide connectivity in 35 worst affected LWE districts – which account for 90% of total LWE violence in the country – and 9 adjoining districts, critical from security angle.To be implemented as a vertical under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, more than 5,400 kilometres of road would be constructed/upgraded and 126 bridges/cross drainage works would be taken up at an estimated cost of Rs 11,724.53 crore. The roads will be operable through the year, irrespective of weather conditions.The fund sharing for the LWE road project will be same as the PMGSY – in the ratio of 60:40 between the Centre and states for all states except for North Eastern and three Himalayan States (Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand) for which it is 90:10.Finance Ministry will allocate Rs 7,034.72 crore to the Ministry of Rural Development for the project during the implementation period 2016-17 to 2019-20. Ministry of Rural Development will be the responsible for sponsoring and implementing the project.The roads taken up under the scheme would include Other District Roads (ODRs), Village Roads (VRs) and upgrading of the existing Major District Roads (MDRs), that are critical from the security point of view.Bridges up to a span of 100 metres, critical from security angle, would also be funded on these roads. National and state highways have been excluded from the project.The roads to be constructed under the scheme have been identified by the Ministry of Home Affairs in consultation with the state governments and security agencies.PMGSY was launched in 2000 as a centrally-sponsored scheme with the objective to provide all-weather road connectivity to all eligible unconnected habitations in the rural areas.

Demonetization: Maharashtra Congress to launch statewide stir from January, says Ashok Chavan

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) president Ashok Chavan on Wednesday said the party will launch a state wide stir from first week of January to protest against demonetization since the hardships of the common man continued even after the end of the 50-day window.Chavan was addressing party workers at a function here to mark the 132nd foundation day of the Congress.”Fifty days have passed since demonetization and despite assurance from Prime Minister Narendra Modi that people’s hardships will ease, the ground reality is different,” Chavan said.Attacking the Prime Minister, Chavan charged he should answer the questions posed by party Vice President Rahul Gandhi regarding allegations of bribery.Escalating his attack on Modi over note ban in the last couple of days, Rahul had said that demonetisation was not a surgical strike on corruption and black money as projected by the Prime Minister and his ministers but was an “economic robbery” and “firebombing on India’s poor”.Rahul says the Prime Minister has put “99 per cent people” in the country to hardships and not targeted the “1 per cent super rich” who “held all the black money”.According to him, five per cent of every online transactions in a cashless economy will go to “those 50 families”.The Congress VP has also been reiterating his charge of “crores of rupees” allegedly being paid to Modi by big business houses on different occasions when he was Gujarat Chief Minister and has sought the PM’s reply to the charges.

PM Modi condoles death of Sunderlal Patwa, calls him ‘dedicated leader’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the death of former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Sunderlal Patwa on Wednesday, and described him as a “hardworking and dedicated leader”. Patwa, 92, died on Wednesday morning at a local hospital after suffering a heart attack.”(I am) saddened on the passing away of Sunderlal Patwa. He was a hardworking & dedicated leader whose good work as MP CM will be remembered,” Modi said in a tweet.He also said that Patwa strengthened the BJP and was always admired by workers. “My thoughts are with his family. May his soul rest in peace,” the PM said in another tweets.BJP President Amit Shah also expressed his condolences over the demise of the veteran party leader. He said that Patwa held various responsibilities from Jansangh to BJP, and that his hard work and dedication will continue to inspire the party workers.All India Congress Committee (AICC) General Secretary Digvijaya Singh also paid tributes to Patwa, saying that his death is an irreparable loss for the state. “Patwaji was a fearless and hardworking leader,” he added.Terming Patwa as a “political thinker”, Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee president Arun Yadav said his demise is not only a loss to the state but also to the country’s politics. MP’s Public Relations Minister Narottam Mishra said that Patwa’s politics was for serving the society. “He continuously worked for the welfare of the society and the poor,” Mishra said.

Jharkhand native on streets after thrown out by in-laws, gurudwara

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Manjeet Kaur, a native of Bokaro in Jharkhand, pays Rs 25 at the Rakab Ganj Gurudwara every time she needs to use the washroom, ever since the Bangla Sahib Gurudwara authorities allegedly forced her to leave their premises.At the time of her menstrual cycle, she changes in the Delhi Police bus standing outside the Parliament Street police station. Kaur was thrown out of her house by her in-laws nearly nine months ago, and she has been making rounds of various Gurudwaras in the Capital since then. She has now filed a complaint against the Bangla Sahib Gurudwara authorities. Kaur got married in December 2015, and soon afterwards, her husband left the house saying his parents had dispossessed him of their property. A month later, Kaur was also allegedly evicted.Since then, the BSc graduate has been staying in various gurudwaras after selling off her belongings. “My in-laws asked me to leave. Then the Gurudwara authority also told me to leave the premises. Now, I am on the streets in the winters with all my belongings. My phone is not working and I cannot contact anyone,” said Kaur.The complaint registered at the Parliament Street police station, accessed by DNA, stated on December 4, the manager and two lady guards of the Gurudwara asked her to leave.Defending their stance, the Gurudwara authorities said a person was not allowed to stay inside the premises for more than 2 to 4 days. “In case a person wishes to stay in the premises, they need to write an application to the management. If the request and the reason is valid, only then he or she would be allowed to stay,” said Parminder Singh Pal, Media Advisor of the Delhi Gurudwara Committee.He added: “Resources are limited and we cannot allow everyone to stay here for long. The place is meant for people who are travelling and need to rest or who have made prior bookings.”When asked why she was not going to shelter homes, Kaur said the facilities have strict rules and she cannot use her laptop or mobile phone. “At shelter homes, everyone has to deposit their mobiles and laptops. I want to look for a job but I will be unable to do it there. Also, the washrooms are very dirty,” she said.She also said her mother has a meagre pension of Rs 1,600 and lives in a rented house in Bokaro. “I have not told my mother that I am living on the streets. I cannot go and live with her as I don’t want to be a burden on her,” Kaur said.She has also written to President Pranab Mukherjee and the head of all the Gurudwaras in Delhi, for justice. Often, she can be seen asking for help from people on the Parliament Street, and even makes calls from mobile phones of people working in buildings around the Parliament Street area. She now plans to sell her vanity case so that she can repair her phone and look for a job.

V K Sasikala all set to take over AIADMK

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The New Year could likely bring new tidings for V K Sasikala after ruling AIADMK’s district secretaries rallied round the Jaya aide. The former owner of a video rental store is all set to take over as the general secretary of a powerful political party with 49 MPs. The General Council and Executive Committee of the AIADMK will meet on December 29 to elect Sasikala as the new general secretary of the party. Sasikala, rather than showing haste in taking up the party post, has waited for all the district units to adopt resolutions backing her leadership. Almost all the ministers are in charge of the district units of the party as well. Thus, it has been easy for the ministers to hold meetings of the party units in their respective districts and drum up support for Sasikala. Although this is an orchestrated campaign, the ease with which Sasikala has been able to establish a stamp of authority so soon, has confounded the BJP which was hoping to fish in Tamil Nadu’s troubled waters.Meanwhile, the BJP is apparently trying to force the AIADMK into an alliance for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls as a cushion in case it does not get a majority on its own.Facing the prospect of a reduced number of MPs from UP and Bihar, and fearing a backlash in the wake of the demonetization chaos, the BJP is forced to look at new allies to shore up its strength with an eye on the next Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.The AIADMK, which bagged 37 out of 39 Lok Sabha seats, is the best ally for PM Modi in his attempts for a second term as PM. After 2004, the AIADMK led by Jayalalithaa had steadfastly ignored the BJP’s overtures for an alliance. An impression is gaining round in political circles that the BJP would like to do business with the ‘submissive’ CM Panneerselvam and not with Sasikala. Sasikala is expected to take small and significant steps to assume total control. Chinna Amma, as she likes to be called, will be a subtle replacement of the Amma.

Martial arts, song, dance, and poetry for Prakash Parv at festivities in Bihar

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The 350th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Gobind Singh Ji Maharaj from January 3 to 5 is expected to draw lakhs of devotees to Bihar.Customary prayers apart, the state government and the Takhat Sri Harmandir Ji Patna Saheb Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee have joined hands to set up several events such as gatka (traditional combat training using wooden sticks and swords), and martial arts, horse riding and jattha performances from New Year’s day.A majority of devotees are expected to arrive from December 30 and the organisers have prepared for the celebrations. At Gandhi Maidan the administration has set up a mini stadium for events. Horse riding, gatka and nishaanebazi shows by Nihang Sikhs and a Kavi-darbar will be the highlights. Ragi jatthas (recital of Gurbani), Dhaddi jatthas (poems featuring Sikh gurus using dhadd and sarangi), and Kavishri jatthas (recital of war poems without instruments) from different Takhats will perform. The government has also planned cultural events from January 1 to 5 for devotees visiting during Prakashotsava. Theatre acts such as Jat-Jatin, Bhad Patthar and Jugnu will be performed at Bharatiya Nritya Kala Mandir. The event will see performances by Dhrupad singer Pandit Raghubir Mallick, Mohiniattam dancer Gopika Verma, Sarod player Ustad Aashin Khan, Kathak dancer Rajiv Ranjan and Maithili singer Ranjana Jha.

Rajasthan govt tries to assure Gujjars on quota after stir threat

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>With Gujjars threatening to launch a fresh agitation for quota, Rajasthan government has assured the communities under the special backward classes that it would go for appropriate solution within the framework of law to protect their interest.The Rajasthan High Court had on December 9 struck down Special Backward Classes quota given to Gujjars and five other communities by the state government as the total reservation exceeded the permissible limit of 50%. “State Government is waiting for a certified copy of the Rajasthan high court judgment so that an appropriate solution, within the framework of law, can be arrived at,” a statement said.The government said that it always showed its commitment to the welfare and uplift of Special Backward Classes (SBCs) of the state and concrete steps had been taken in the past. “The decisions taken in the interest of the communities include convening a special session of the Rajasthan Legislative Assembly. “The Chief Minister had directed that all efforts have to be made to defend the legislation of 2015,” the statement said.The Rajasthan High Court has directed to suspend its December 9 order for a period of six weeks and that the appointments/admissions given by the Government of Rajasthan, pursuant to the 2015 Act, shall not be disturbed, it said Even before the orders of the High Court were passed, the Cabinet Sub-Committee constituted to look into and address issues related to the welfare of SBCs, met several times, it said.After the court order, the Gujjar Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti had threatened to launch a fresh agitation for quota. On November 28, 2012, the Rajasthan Cabinet had decided to provide a separate 5% quota to the SBCs without touching the 21 per cent reservation available to Other Backward Classes and taking the overall reservation in jobs and education to 54%.This had left Gujjars dissatisfied as it was susceptible to judicial rejection since its inception.Earlier too, an attempt was made to enhance five per cent of reservation over and above the prescribed limit in 2008 which was not permitted by high court. Then in 2009 and 2010, the high court had asked the OBC commission of the state to revisit the concession made by state government and after the study and recommendation of OBC Commission again, the Gujjars and five other communities were given 5% extra reservation in 2012 that has been struck down.The state has witnessed violent agitation by Gujjars several times since 2007, when the community members blocked national highways and railway tracks and were fired upon by the police.

Demonetization: Noted economists criticize PM Modi’s decision in Standing Committee of Finance

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Three out of four economists summoned by the Standing Committee of Finance headed by Congress MP Veerappa Moily, expressed deep anxiety and concern towards the demonetization being pursued by the Bhartiya Janata Party. Noted economists Kavita Rao, Professor at National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, Pronab Sen, former Chief Statistician to the government of India and Mahesh Vyas, CEO, Centre for Monitoring Indian economy were critical of the demonetization process whereas Rajiv Kumar, senior fellow, Centre for Policy Research argued for it in front of the committee. “This committee will submit its report on demonetization on the first day of the Budget Session of the Parliament,” said a member of the committee on the condition of anonymity.Sources confirmed to WION-DNA that the experts questioned how the conversion of cash economy into digital would take place within the confined time declared by the central government. All three economists who expressed concern on demonetization spoke on the issue of counterfeit currency, inflation and black money. The above mentioned economists argued in the committee that a lot of unaccounted black money does not exist in cash and is parked in other sectors of the economy. Sources also confirmed that three economists said that currency reform might end up spiking the inflation instead of reducing it. Lastly, it was also argued that for a meaningful war against black money, the government should denotify a part of the currency every two years.The Committee has decided to call Urjit Patel, Governor, Reserve Bank of India and members of the Indian Banking Association on January 19, 2017. The meeting was also attended by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.Even the Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to meet the economists on December 27 to discuss the state of the economy. The economists in the first half of the day will meet the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and spend the second half with the PM. Since the exercise has become politically contested, every opinion of experts in this field counts both for the government and the Opposition.

China sticks to its stand on JeM chief Masood Azhar despite NIA chargesheet

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India’s move to charge sheet Masood Azhar in the Pathankot terror attack appears to have not made much impact on China as Beijing today said any move by New Delhi to bring about a UN ban on the JeM chief must be in line with rules and procedures laid down by the Security Council.”On the question of listing in the 1267 Committee, I have expressed the Chinese position many times,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told PTI in response to a question on NIA listing Azhar, the head of Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammad, as terrorist in the charge sheet on the attack on an air force base in Pathankot in January this year.”Listing in the 1267 Committee must be in line with the relevant resolutions of the UNSC and the rules of procedure of the Committee,” Hua said in a written reply here.
ALSO READ After Pathankot, JeM chief Masood Azhar owns up Nagrota attackNIA on Monday filed a charge sheet against Azhar, his brother and two others for hatching the conspiracy of the attack that killed seven personnel and injured 37 others.Hua’s reply came as China’s second technical hold in the UN blocking India’s move to list Azhar as a terrorist under the 1267 committee rules of the UNSC is set to expire towards the end of this month.
ALSO READ Pathankot airbase attack: NIA files chargesheet, names Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood AzharOn March 31, China, a veto-wielding permanent member of the UN Security Council, had blocked India’s move to impose a ban on Azhar under the Sanctions Committee of the Council.China was the only member in the 15-nation UN body to put a hold on India’s application with all other 14 members of the Council supporting New Delhi’s bid to place Azhar on the 1267 sanctions list that would subject him to an assets freeze and travel ban.Officials here say that India may have to apply again to the 1267 committee with the charge sheet details to press for its case as its present application will lapse following Beijing’s two technical holds.The two countries have been holding talks on China’s blocking Azhar’s case as well as India’s application to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).The talks appears to have not made much headway as China on December 12 said there is no change in both the cases.”As for India s application for Nuclear Suppliers Group and listing issue pursuant to resolution of 1267 (to list Azhar as terrorist) China’s position remains unchanged,” another Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang had said.His assertion that China’s stand remained unchanged in both NSG and Azhar’s cases was made while answering a question on Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar’s remarks last week at India-China think tank forum in New Delhi that China should not give a political colour to New Delhi’s efforts to access civilian nuclear technology, in reference to Beijing’s opposition to its NSG bid.Jaishankar had also expressed dismay over the two countries not being able to come together on the issue at critical international forums, a reference to China blocking the ban in the UN on Azhar.

10 days after kidney transplant, Sushma Swaraj discharged from AIIMS

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was discharged from AIIMS on Monday, 10 days after she underwent a kidney transplant at the premier hospital. Doctors decided to discharge her after all her latest biochemical tests were found normal including kidney function. “Sushma Swaraj has been discharged from Hospital at 7 PM after her postoperative uneventful recovery following kidney transplant operation on December 10,” the AIIMS said in a statement.Union Health Minister JP Nadda, who is President of AIIMS, visited Swaraj before her discharge and expressed satisfaction about her recovery. A team of doctors will continue to review Swaraj’s progress over next several weeks, AIIMS Director MC Misra said expressing happiness over her recovery.64-year-old Swaraj has been advised to restrict visitors for next three months at home and office to minimise the chances of infection. “A team of specialists, which included Transplant Surgeons, Nephrologist, Pulmonologist, Endocrinologist reviewed her on Monday for her post discharge advice regarding medications,” the AIIMS said.It further said necessary detailed advice has been given pertaining to her nutrition and diet, physiotherapy and fluid intake. Nadda also met the team of doctors and nurses who treated Swaraj and congratulated and complimented them for care provided to her. As no suitable donor was available in the immediate family, the transplant was done with the kidney from an unrelated donor and clearance for it was given by the Authorisation Committee of AIIMS.Swaraj has been suffering from diabetes for quite sometime and after it was found that she had renal failure, she was put on maintenance dialysis. On November 16, Swaraj had tweeted that she was in AIIMS because of kidney failure. Swaraj, who has been in and out of the hospital for last few months, was admitted to AIIMS on November 7. After Swaraj made public her health condition on social media, several people offered their kidneys to her.

SAD-BJP will ensure free travel to Sikh shrines in Pakistan if voted to power: Punjab CM Badal

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on Sunday said that if voted to power in the upcoming Assembly elections, the SAD-BJP alliance government would make all efforts required to ensure free pilgrimage to the Sikh shrines of Sri Nankana Sahib and Sri Panja Sahib in Pakistan. He was speaking at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium in New Delhi after a program on the life and philosophy of the tenth Sikh Guru, Sri Guru Gobind Singh in commemoration of his 350th Parkash Utsav. He said the historic holy shrines have been deprived from the Sikh panth as every Sikh yearns to pay obeisance in their daily prayer (Ardas).Badal said that the SAD-BJP government had already launched the Mukh Mantri Tirath Yatra Scheme to offer an opportunity to people to pay obeisance at Sri Nanded Sahib, Varanasi, Katra (Mata Vaishno Devi), Ajmer Sharif, Salasar, Madras and other holy cities.He asked the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) to run special buses from Delhi to Patna to facilitate devotees to pay obeisance at the birth place of Sri Guru Gobind Singh in January next year. “All such initiatives were feasible only when the pro-Panthic and pro-people government like SAD-BJP alliance was in power in the state,” he said.Lambasting Congress for the attack on Sri Harmandir Sahib, he said the party was ‘anti-Sikh’.CM Prakash Singh Badal and the Deputy CM Sukhbir Badal also unveiled a statue of legendary Sikh warrior Baba Banda Singh Bahadur installed at the Punjab Government’s estate Nabha House near Mandi House Chowk. Highlighting that the AAP led Delhi Government denied permission for the installation of this statue in Delhi, CM Badal said the Punjab government decided to get it installed at its own place in the national capital as a tribute to the Sikh martyr.

Cyclone Vardah: TNCC Chief mocks at BJP for not aiding post storm clean-up

Residents looking at uprooted trees in an area in Chennai. PTIResidents looking at uprooted trees in an area in Chennai. PTI

Residents looking at uprooted trees in an area in Chennai. PTI

Chennai: Tamil Nadu Congress Committee president Su Thirunavukkarasar  on Sunday charged the BJP leaders with not doing anything for the post cyclone clean-up efforts in the State, though the saffron party leaders posed for pictures espousing the Swachh Bharat campaign.

“They (BJP leaders) posed for pictures hailing the Swachh Bharat mission and they claimed to clean-up and now they did nothing for the post cyclone clean-up efforts,” he told reporters here at the airport. Thirunavukkarasar said the BJP leaders used the clean-up drive only for propaganda and photo opportunities and when a need arose for such efforts they did not deliver.

The remark of the state unit Congress chief comes against the background of hundreds of trees being cleared by civic workers, from the city roads. Cyclone ‘Vardah’ uprooted several trees, which fell everywhere blocking traffic in many locations in Chennai and neighbouring districts of Tiruvallur and Kanchipuram.

Condemning the fuel price hike, the TNCC Chief said, “The Centre did not lower the price when the crude prices were falling and now they have hiked the rate by passing the buck on the climbing crude prices.”

It did not bother about the impact of fuel price hike on the people, he said. He also urged the Centre to sanction Rs 5000 crore for Tamil Nadu towards cyclone relief and rehabilitation efforts.

First Published On : Dec 18, 2016 16:13 IST

CCS to take final decision on Chief of Defence Staff post

New Delhi: The Cabinet Committee on Security headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi will take the final decision on creating the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and Permanent Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee, the defence ministry has told a parliamentary panel.

The ministry told the Committee on Government Assurances that no major political party has responded to the
consultation process initiated by it to obtain their views on creation of the post of CDS.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. AFPPrime Minister Narendra Modi. AFP

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. AFP

In its response to the Assurances Committee, a report of which was tabled in the Lok Sabha on Thursday, the defence ministry said a Group of Ministers was set up in April 2000 to review the national security system in entirety and in particular, to consider the recommendations of the Kargil Review Committee and to formulate specific proposals for its implementations.

The GoM in its report submitted to the government in February 2001, recommended the creation of the institution of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).

The government approved the recommendations related to CDS after consultation with political parties as it required a “detailed examination of pros and cons of the proposal”.

The process of consultation was initiated by then defence minister Pranab Mukherjee.

“It is an extremely important and sensitive decision. It was decided that there should be consultations with all
political parties. We had initiated the process in March 2006,” Defence Secretary G Mohan Kumar told the panel.

So far, the opinion of 24 major political parties have been sought.

“We got response from only 10 political parties. Major political parties have not responded. Considering the fact
that this being a national issue, it is necessary that major political parties also give their opinion. But we do not have the fortune or good luck of getting their opinion,” he said.

The ministry also told the panel that the government had set up the Naresh Chandra Task Force on National Security in May 2011 to review the national security management system.

The task force recommended the creation of Permanent Post of Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC).

“Considering that there (are) two proposals for the establishment of the post of CDS and Permanent Chairman, CoSC, it is expected that at the time of a final decision the CCS on the recommendations of the NCTF, both proposals will be taken note of and the final decision, as and when would be taken to settle both the proposals,” the ministry said in its response to the committee.

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 22:41 IST

Demonetisation: Yogendra Yadav slams govt for seeking to dilute corruption bill

New Delhi: Terming the decision to devalue high-denomination notes a “pseudo war” against black money, anti-corruption activist Yogendra Yadav criticised the government for seeking to dilute the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA), saying this would weaken the actual battle against corruption and help the corrupt.

“The point we are trying to make is that it is pseudo war against black money. Not an actual war. It is a very small step in the larger picture of corruption issues in the country. The (amendment) bill will help the corrupt. We are going to pose 10 questions to the government,” Yadav told IANS ahead of a demonstration his Swaraj India Party is to hold on Sunday against black money and corruption — and the weakening of the anti-graft mechanism.

File image of Yogendra Yadav. PTI

File image of Yogendra Yadav. PTI

The Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, was first brought in 2013 and the Cabinet has approved the changes proposed by a Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha. The changes will dilute and defeat the whole purpose of the law, said Yadav, once a close aide of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal till he transformed into a full-time politician.

Various non-profit organisations and think-tanks are learnt to have made recommendations and suggestions to the government opposing the dilution of the Act.

The Bill has an new section that bars investigating agencies from initiating an inquiry or investigation against a public servant without the prior approval of the competent authority, which effectively means the political bosses, Yadav said, terming this the babu-neta nexus to protect the corrupt.

The existing law requires approval from a higher authority before prosecuting any public servant to protect honest officers from harassment, persecution and frivolous litigation.

The new Bill requires a court order to sanction prosecution against a corrupt public servant, which, Yadav said, would discourage victims of corruption and activists from prosecuting such individuals.

Priyanka Rao, a senior researcher with PRS Legislative Research, a not-for-profit outfit, termed the sanction before prosecution as “standard” but expressed concern over the proposed approval before inquiry or investigation.

“Is not the process of investigation (meant to establish) a prima facie case against someone? However, if at the start of an investigation you need approval, on what basis will you get this approval? It is a big challenge. How will we strike a balance between allowing honest officers to work smoothly and (ensuring) investigation and trial do not take a long time,” she wondered while speaking to IANS.

The amendment has done away with the protection cover to the bribe-giver against prosecution and makes both the bribe-giver and the bribe-taker equally punishable, which would deter the former — the victim — from speaking out in cases against public servants, Yadav contended.

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 13:50 IST

Food and Beverage Alliance policy guidelines are a good step, but India’s public health framework is a worry

In July, 2016, the Food and Beverage Alliance of India (FBAI) published a pledge by all its member companies, under the patronage of a global self-regulatory alliance of foods and beverage companies on ‘India’s Policy on Marketing Communications to Children’. Keeping in line with this pledge, several top food and beverage corporate brands such as Kellogg, Pepsi-Co, Mondelez India, Nestle and Coca-Cola, are preparing for the 31 December deadline for halting all advertisements of products directed at children below 12 years of age. This policy could, in many ways, completely change the ways in which the largest foods brands in the country are promoted. Moreover, it could also mean enormous changes in the public health landscape of the country.

Fatty foods must be discouraged and a national health policy framework should be in place. AFPFatty foods must be discouraged and a national health policy framework should be in place. AFP

Fatty foods must be discouraged and a national health policy framework should be in place. AFP

The FBAI policy states that all its members will either commit to “only advertise products to children under the age of 12 years that meet common FBAI pledge nutrition criteria” or not to advertise their products at all to children below the age of 12. The former commitment would require member companies to adhere to World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines for the establishment of nutrient profiles, which is used for various applications, including marketing of foods to children, health and nutrition claims, product labelling logos or symbols, information and education, provision of food to public institutions, and the use of economic tools to orient food consumption.. The policy will apply to marketing communications in a range of media — television, radio, print, cinema, online (including company-owned websites), DVD/CD-ROM, direct marketing, product placement, interactive games, outdoor marketing mobile and SMS marketing. The FBAI, the policy states, will also publish periodic reports to demonstrate compliance with this policy.

A number of countries have already established legislations and policy guidelines on food advertising for children and youth, understanding the implications of advertisements on the dietary practices of these age groups.

South Korea passed the Special Act on Safety Control of Children’s Dietary Life in 2009. The objective of the law is to contribute to the promotion of children’s health by regulating necessary matters for providing safe and well-balanced nutritional foods to help children develop good eating habits. To promote this objective, the act banned television advertisements on specific food categories during children’s prime time viewing, and also proscribed against gratuitous incentives when advertising children’s foods on TV, radio, and internet (such as offering free toys or gifts with the purchase of nutritionally inadequate foods). In the United Kingdom, the Committee on Advertising Practice (CAP) has prohibited advertising foods high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) on children’s television, stating the media has a responsibility to help curb the rise in childhood obesity and levels of diabetes.

The EU Health Coalition has also come up with a campaign called ‘AVMSD: What about our kids?’, describing it as “a key opportunity to free Europe’s young people from health-harmful marketing”. It targets the current Audio Visual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) by restricting the hours in which advertising for harmful and unhealthy foods and beverages would be aired. The three key measures in this campaign is that no television advertisements for alcohol or HFSS would run between 6 am to 11 pm, there would be effective marketing techniques in place against product placement, and it would be ensured that these rules would apply to foreign broadcasts as well.

Responsible advertising and marketing of food and drinks directed towards children and the youth is a World Health Organisation (WHO) prerogative, and it’s a key policy action within the WHO Global Action Plan 2013–2020 for the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs), which was endorsed by the World Health Assembly in May 2013. A recommendation from WHO is that governments play a leading role in reducing children’s overall exposure to food marketing and setting rules on the persuasive techniques companies can use, with a view to protect children from the adverse effects of unhealthy foods. Other key recommendations included that private sector markets understand that marketing of foods and drinks to children is an “international issue” and that there is a need for the corporate sector to be equally accountable for the outcome “…to promote responsible marketing including the development of a set of recommendations on the marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children, in order to reduce the impact of foods high in saturated fats, transfatty acids, free sugars, or salt, in dialogue with all relevant stakeholders, including private-sector parties, while ensuring avoidance of potential conflict of interest”.

At this point, India lacks a framework of public health, legal and economic policies for effective implementation of the WHO recommendations that provide for a comprehensive reduction of marketing of foods high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars and salt to children. However, the FBAI policy guidelines seem like a good first step towards tackling this issue. That being said there needs to be regulations in place within the National Health Policy to cater to this issue, and it must be driven by the Ministry of Health, rather than being anchored by an alliance of private sector companies.

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 08:47 IST

Want assurance that pellet guns will not be used indiscriminately: Supreme Court

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court on Wednesday said pellet guns should not be used “indiscriminately” for controlling street protests in Jammu and Kashmir and be resorted to only after “proper application of mind” by the authorities.A bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur issued notices to the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir government while seeking their replies on a plea alleging “excessive” use of pellet guns in the state. The apex court also sought assistance of Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi on the issue and asked him to submit copy of the report submitted by the Expert Committee constituted for exploring other alternatives to pellet guns.”Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi is requested to assist this Court and to place on record a copy of the report, if any, submitted by the Expert Committee, constituted by the Government of India in terms of its Office Memorandum/Order dated July 26, 2016… Needful be done within six weeks from today,” the bench also comprising Justice D Y Chandrachud said while posting the matter for hearing on January 30. “All that we want is an assurance that pellet guns will not be used indiscriminately or excessively in the state and will be resorted to after proper application of mind,” the bench observed.The court was hearing an appeal filed by Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association against the High Court order seeking stay on use of pellet guns as a large number of people had been killed or injured due to its use. The Jammu and Kashmir High Court had on September 22 rejected the plea seeking a ban on use of pellet guns on the ground that the Centre had already constituted a Committee of Experts through its Memorandum dated July 26, 2016 for exploring alternatives to pellet guns.Taking note of the statement, the High Court had disposed of the petition, saying that no further direction was required since the matter was being looked at by the Centre. The High Court Bar Association challenged the order, contending that High Court should not have disposed the petition and instead waited or called for the report of the expert committee. The High Court had also declined to accept the plea to prosecute the officers who ordered use of pellet guns and those who actually fired them.It had also directed the authorities concerned to ensure that all the injured are extended adequate medical treatment by specialists for whatever injury they sustain.

Modi Govt. has no plans to lax norms for US donor agency Compassion International

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Despite strong US pressure, India has decided to stick to its decision of keeping Colorado-based child rights donor agency, Compassion International under prior permission watch list.Highly placed government sources said, the government has no plans to remove Compassion International from the prior permission category under which it was put in May this year on Intelligence Bureau’s assessment report for being involved in religious conversions.The tough stand of the government comes a day after US ambassador at-Large for international religious freedom David Saperstein said on Monday that US was hopeful of Indian government “accommodating” their concerns about Compassion international.”We are deeply concerned when civil society organizations who act peacefully are restricted from carrying out their obligations by the government. We really hope that groups like Compassion International, who have indicated they are willing to live by the laws of the land will be allowed to continue their partnership here,” said Saperstein adding the donor agency has communicated that if there have been any violations, though they have seen no documentation, they will fix it.However, the government official said Official said there are no plans to entertain US request and take Compassion International out from the prior permission watch list as, he claimed, there have been cases where people have been given inducements to convert their religion which country’s anti-conversion law does not permit.”The home ministry is only allowing Compassion to given grant to NGOs on case to case basis as per the prior permission category rules. So far we have got request to clear grant for 35 NGOs of which we cleared grant for 10 NGOs last month. We have received report on nine more NGOs and will soon release the grant to them if they are found not involved in religious conversions, “said the source. The home ministry had cleared Compassion’s grant of Rs. 2 crore to 10 NGOs last month.Last week, in what seemed India was softening its stand, additional secretary of foreigner division, Bipin Mallick, who was instrumental in cracking down on several NGOs was transferred to another division.Informed sources, however, believe that the government decided not to soften its stand fearing backlash from strong anti-conversion Hindu lobby back at home. A few days back, top American lawmakers had expressed grave concern over the alleged curbs imposed on a Christian charity organisation, whose representatives appeared before a Congressional hearing seeking change in New Delhi’s policies related to foreign funding of NGOs.”It is my hope that by bringing attention to this issue, as we’re doing here today, the 145,000 children will not be tragically denied the services they desperately need, and that American families… can continue to send the US $38 a month for food and education fees to the poorest of the poor,” Congressman Ed Royce, Chairman of the powerful House Foreign Relations Committee had said in his opening remarks.

CBSE Class 10 exams will be mandatory from 2017-18: Prakash Javadekar

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> The CBSE Board would meet at the end of this month and a resolution is set to be passed to make class X board exams compulsory for all its students from next academic session, HRD minister Prakash Javadekar has said.The minister also said the Human Resource Development Ministry (HRD) is working on an amendment to the Right to Education Act (RTE), and a proposal has been approved by the Law Ministry that would come to the Cabinet in a week or two. “This month there will be a CBSE Board meeting, in which there will be a resolution (for compulsory class X board exams). “So, I am very sure, from academic session 2017-18, Board examination will be mandatory for all students,” Javadekar told PTI.The minister also asserted that it was “unfair” that 23 million students in the country were taking various examinations -state boards and CBSE- and yet two million were not. Under the present norms, CBSE students can choose between the Board exam or a school based examination. On RTE amendment, he said once it is approved by the Cabinet, it will go to Parliament. “Even if it is referred to a Standing Committee, I hope by April, we will have an amendment which will allow states to take a call on whether to have detention or no detention,” Javadekar said.Presently, the ‘No Detention’ provision under the RTE Act does not allow students to be failed or detained till class VIII. The states will be given freedom to choose between having examination for classes V and VIII, Javadekar said. “But we are also simultaneously saying that if you take it and somebody’s detained, he should not lose one year. There should be a supplementary exam two months after and then he again joins the next batch. So that he does not lose a year but there is accountability for the student also,” the HRD minister said. “We don’t want to create exam oriented pressure on students but there has to be a challenge mode,” he said.

Respect: Army jawans helping staff of Bank Note Press print notes

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Army jawans are now assisting the Bank Note Press employees at Dewas in Madhya Pradesh who are tackling the huge demand for currency notes in the wake of demonetization.”Arrival of Army jawans at BNP has not only boosted the morale of employees but it would also help ramp up the production,” said Kamal Chouhan, president of BNP Employees Welfare Committee, speaking to PTI.BNP, which comes under the Security Printing and Minting Corporation of India (SPMCIL), had earlier called up the retired employees to help in the production. It has the capacity to produce two crore pieces of notes a day.”About 200 Army jawans have arrived from Gwalior and Mhow in the past two days,” said a senior official.As many as 1,300 employees of BNP, alongwith 30 retired employees who have been called up, are involved in the production of 15 million currency notes a day. “Now the production may go up to the full capacity of 20 million,” the officer said. BNP is at present printing notes of Rs 500 denomination.Army jawans would be helping with non-technical work, mainly the loading and transportation of currency notes to the nearest airport at Indore.Praveen Garg, CMD, SPMCIL, has visited the BNP twice after the demonetization announcement. He was informed about shortage of staff and subsequently the retired employees were summoned but the problem persisted, a source said.”CMD then wrote to the Centre urging it to make the Army jawans available,” the source added.

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

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

Pakistan raises ‘Indian hostility, belligerence’ with US senators

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Pakistan said that Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Syed Tariq Fatemi briefed the leadership of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on “negative implications” for peace in South Asia because of “Indian hostility and belligerence”.Fatemi met committee chairman and senator Bob Corker and Ranking Member Senator Ben Cardin at Capitol Hill in Washington. “Highlighting the massive human rights violations in Indian-occupied Kashmir as well as the continued tension across the Line of Control, Fatemi briefed the senators on the increasing negative implications for prospects of peace in South Asia because of Indian hostility and belligerence,” the Foreign Office here said in a statement.Fatemi informed the senators on how Pakistan had turned the page by focusing on improving economy and security in the country during the last three years, it said.The leadership of the committee acknowledged Pakistan’s role in promoting peace and security in the region and expressed the US desire to strengthen bilateral ties with Pakistan, which was a longstanding and important partner of the US, the statement said.Separately, Fatemi also met with the chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee and senator John McCain.He informed senator McCain about the overall security situation in the region and significant gains made by Pakistani forces following the successful military operations in North Waziristan which were aimed at eliminating all terrorists, without any discrimination, from Pakistani soil.The regional situation including Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan and the growing tension across the Line of Control and the Working Boundary were also discussed.McCain congratulated Pakistan on successful transition in the military command and reiterated the US commitment to remain engaged with Pakistan in promoting lasting peace and stability in the region. Fatemi is visiting the US as an envoy to build frayed ties with the new Republican leaders and the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump who will assume office on January 20.

Motion adopted in LS to suspend AAP MP Bhagwant Mann for rest of winter session

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A motion to suspend AAP MP Bhagwant Mann for remaining days of winter session has been adopted in Lok Sabha. Holding him guilty of putting the security of Parliament House and its occupants at risk, a parliamentary committee probing the videography issue has recommended suspension of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Lok Sabha MP Bhagwant Mann for the rest of the winter session. The committee in its report has held that the conduct of 43-year-old Mann, who had landed in a controversy in July after live-streaming from Parliament House on social media, was “highly objectionable” which shows him “bereft of basic knowledge, etiquettes and responsibilities of the office he holds”.BJP member Kirit Somaiya, who heads the 9-member panel constituted in July, tabled the report in the Lok Sabha on Thursday. It rejected Mann’s apology saying his statements to the panel were contradictory with the MP from Sangrur denying the charge that he had breached the Parliament’s security arrangements.Among these issues, it said, are “poor quality” images captured by the CCTV. “The committee, therefore, after due deliberations, recommends that Bhagwant Mann, MP, may be suspended for the remaining period of the current session i.e. the tenth session of the 16th Lok Sabha,” it said. The session is scheduled to end on December 16.The parliamentary panel said Mann did not take a coherent and consistent stand and it was only after being granted repeated opportunities to explain the “inherent contradictions” in his replies that he chose to correct himself. However, despite tendering unconditional apology he reiterated his earlier claims in which he denied that he breached security arrangements of Parliament House.”The committee feels that the same contradictions are repeatedly surfacing again and again in Mann’s communications and therefore the tendering his apology to it cannot be treated as unconditional apology,” it said.Asking him to refrain from such misdemeanour, the committee in its recommendations impressed upon him the “utmost need for strict adherence to norms and standards of etiquette, due compliance of the rules of procedure and well settled rich traditions of Parliament….” Speaker Sumitra Mahajan had constituted the committee on July 25.In a nearly 12-minute video, apparently shot on July 21, Mann gives a running commentary as his vehicle crosses security barricades and enters Parliament. Mann then enters a room where questions to be taken up inside Parliament were being sorted and describes the process.

Parliamentary Committee recommends increase in retirement age, fixing minimum tenure for CJI

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As the government and the judiciary exchange barbs over rising vacancies in courts, a Parliamentary committee on Thursday recommended increasing the retirement age of Supreme Court judges and fixing a “minimum tenure” for the Chief Justice of India and chief justices of high courts to ease shortage.In its report tabled on Thursday, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Personnel was critical of the government and the judiciary for not sticking to timelines to fill up vacancies in high courts. Seeking to make the present system of appointment of judges more transparent, the committee said the SC Collegium should inform the candidates whose name it has rejected on a particular ground.It said the government also rejects the recommendations of the collegium “without furnishing cogent reasons…such practices are against the principles of natural justice and leads to opaqueness in the appointment process”. On the issue of hiking the retirement age of SC judges from the present 65 to 67 years, it said the retirement age has remained unchanged since India became a Republic. The retirement age of high court judges was increased fro 60 to 62 in 1963.Referring to the short tenures the CJI and chief justices of high courts often have, the panel said in the last 20 years, 17 Chief Justices of India have been appointed and out of those, only three had tenure of more than two years. “Many of them had tenure of even less than one year,” it observed.It said chief justice of high courts in most cases get appointed for a less than two years term. Some of the chief justices also get elevated to the bench of Supreme Court, further shortening their tenure in high courts. “In many cases, the post of Chief Justice are not filled-up simultaneously and acting Chief Justice, appointed as a stop-gap arrangement, does not often take decision about names to be recommended to the Union Government/Supreme Court collegium for filling-up of vacancies in that High Court,” the panel said taking a grim view.It said that ensuring a minimum tenure may resolve the issue and asked the Law Ministry “to consider ways so that a Chief Justice in the High Courts and in the Supreme Court remains in position for a certain minimum tenure”. It also said that instead of five, a minimum of 11 judges of the Supreme Court should hear cases involving the validity of a Constitutional amendment. It also recommended the cases involving the interpretation of Constitution should not be heard by a Bench of less than 7 judges.

JNU missing student: Students involved in scuffle with Najeeb identified

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Students involved in the scuffle at Mahi-Mandvi hostel of JNU in October, that allegedly led to the mysterious disappearance of MSc student Najeeb Ahmad, have been identified and their immediate transfer from the hostel recommended. The office of the Chief Proctor has submitted its Proctorial Board report on the incident at the hostel, according to a statement from the office of Dean of Students at JNU.Sources said four students were identified by the university in connection with the scuffle. Najeeb had gone missing on October 15 following the scuffle allegedly with ABVP members the night before. “The report has identified the students involved in the reported scuffle, and has recommended their immediate transfer from their present hostel. It has also recommended that a strong warning should be issued to these students against repeating such scuffle in future,” the statement read.It also noted that the Vice-chancellor has approved the report and has suggested that after Ahmad is found, the disciplinary action awarded by the Warden’s Committee for vacating hostel premises by him may be “revisited”. The JNU administration has repeated its appeal to Ahmad, a MSc Biotechnology student, to return to university and resume academic pursuits without apprehensions.Delhi Police is trying to trace Ahmad but it has not been able to make any breakthrough even though a reward of Rs 10 lakh was announced by it for any information about him. The case was initially handled by a special investigation team of south Delhi Police but later the case was handed over to the force’s Crime Branch.The crime branch team was able to trace Ahmad’s movement on October 15 after they had found the auto driver who claimed to have dropped the student to Jamia Millia Islamia that day. The mysterious disappearance of Ahmad and failure of police to trace him led to protests by JNU students and various political outfits.The mother and sister of the missing student also participated in these protests with several political leaders including Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal slamming police for not being able to trace him.

Appointment of judges function of executive; distortion in Constitution gave rise to collegium: Parliamentary panel

New Delhi: Amid the tussle between the government and the Supreme Court over judicial appointments, a Parliamentary committee on Thursday said appointment of judges to the higher judiciary is essentially the function of executive, and asked the government to take appropriate steps to reverse the “distortions” in the original mandate of the Constitution.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Personnel said the “distortions” in the original mandate of the Constitution have arisen out of various Supreme Court orders which gave birth to the collegium system.

The Supreme Court of India. AFPThe Supreme Court of India. AFP

The Supreme Court of India. AFP

The report comes a little over a year after the Supreme Court struck down the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act which had sought to scrap the collegium system of judges appointing judges.

It also said that instead of five, a minimum of 11 judges of the Supreme Court should hear cases involving the validity of a Constitutional amendment. It also recommended cases involving interpretation of Constitution should not be heard by a Bench of less than 7 judges.

Over the course hearing on three cases, the Supreme Court has evolved the principle of judicial independence to mean that no other branch of the state, including the legislature and the executive, would have a major say in the appointment of judges.

The court then created the collegium system, which has been in use since the judgement in the Second Judges Case was delivered in 1993. “After having gone through the Constitutional provisions, the intent behind them as enshrined in the debates of the Constituent Assembly, the developments following four Supreme Court judgements in Judges cases and the views expressed by the legal luminaries and the Bar, the Committee is of the opinion that appointment of judges of higher judiciary is essentially an executive function and is envisaged as a participatory Constitutional function to be jointly performed by the Judiciary and the Executive,” the committee said in its report tabled in Parliament Thursday.

It said the deliberate use of word ‘consultation’ in place of ‘concurrence’ in relevant provisions of the Constitution strengthens this opinion.

It said the panel is of the view that judicial appointments are a shared responsibility of the Executive and the Judiciary to be exercised jointly “with neither organ of the state having a primacy over the other”.

“The Committee, accordingly recommends that the distortion in the original mandate of the Constitution arising from the judgements of the apex court in the Second Judges case and subsequent cases needs to be reversed and the original Constitutional position needs to be respected in letter and spirit for which government may take appropriate measures.”

First Published On : Dec 8, 2016 20:54 IST

Imphal: Grenade found at residence of BJP leader

Thu, 8 Dec 2016-01:41pm , Imphal , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A hand grenade was found at the gates of the residence of Manipur BJP leader Th Chaoba at Utlou in Bishnupur district on Thursday.The grenade was discovered by the locals and was later recovered by security forces, a police officer said.Chaoba is the convenor of the State Election Management Committee of BJP in Manipur.No outfit has claimed responsibility for the act as yet.

Disability Bill yet to see light of day in Rajya Sabha

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>If one looks at the functioning of the Parliament, or the lack of it, in the last few days, it is no surprise that disability is not an important matter of discussion. In this winter session alone, the Rights of Persons With Disabilities Bill, 2016, has been listed for business four times at the Rajya Sabha. It is also no surprise that the Bill hasn’t been taken up for discussion even once.While in the last week, the Bill was listed twice, this week, it was up for discussion on Monday and Wednesday. The Bill has had a chequered past; it was first mooted in 2010 during the previous UPA government’s term. The bill was drafted by the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), an independent body of experts set up to draft the bill and monitor state policies on disability.With a minority in the Rajya Sabha, the BJP is not going to gain any favours from the Opposition in the Bill’s passage, says Indumathi Rao of the CBR Network. “They are wary of the NDA taking away the credit,” she says.While the Bill seeks to expand the scope of disability from the existing seven to 21 conditions, it also takes away from the 2014 Bill the need to have a commission for the disabled. Vikas Sharma of the Disability Helpline India says that the Bill also takes away the provision of political reservation, which was assured by former PM Manmohan Singh, as per the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Sharma says that he submitted a memorandum to the PMO on November 28, and the standing committee before that.“As per the 1995 Bill, the existing disability reservation quota is 3 per cent, and our demand was that it be raised to 6 per cent. The bill has, however, kept it at 4 per cent. Our demands were ignored and the bill was cleared by the Cabinet just two days later,” he said.There is an estimated 2.68 crore disabled persons in India, as per the 2011 census; this includes 1.5 crore men and 1.18 crore women.NEW EXTENDED LIST OF DISABILITYBlindnessLow-visionLeprosy cured personsHearing impairment (deaf and hard of hearing)Locomotor disabilityDwarfismIntellectual disabilityMental illnessAutism spectrum disorderCerebral palsyMuscular dystrophyChronic neurological conditionsSpecific learning disabilitiesMultiple sclerosisSpeech and language disabilityThalassemiaHaemophiliaSickleCell diseaseMultiple disabilitiesAcid attack victimParkinson’s disease.

Former FIFA president Blatter loses appeal against ban | Reuters

By Brian Homewood
| LAUSANNE, Switzerland

LAUSANNE, Switzerland Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter has lost his appeal against a six-year ban for ethics violations, imposed amid the biggest corruption scandal to shake the world soccer body, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) said on Monday.CAS ruled that Blatter had authorised payments to former European football boss Michel Platini worth over $2 million that amounted to “undue gifts” and therefore violated FIFA’s code of ethics.Blatter led FIFA for 17 years, resigning in June last year after several dozen football officials, including FIFA executive committee members and former members, had been indicted in the United States on graft charges, along with two sports marketing firms.The 80-year-old Swiss was not among those indicted, but became embroiled in scandal when he was banned from all football-related activity the following December by FIFA’s Ethics Committee along with Platini, then president of the European soccer body UEFA.The men were banned, initially for eight years, over a payment of 2 million Swiss francs ($1.98 million) that FIFA made to Platini in 2011, with Blatter’s approval, for work done a decade earlier.The bans were reduced to six years by FIFA’s appeals committee in February.Both men denied wrongdoing and Blatter said the payment related to a verbal agreement between them.CAS said in a statement that its three-man panel had determined that Blatter “breached the FIFA code of ethics since the payment amounted to an undue gift as it had no contractual basis”.

“The Panel further found that Mr Blatter unlawfully awarded contributions to Mr Platini under the FIFA Executive Committee retirement scheme which also amounted to an undue gifts,” said CAS.CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION
Swiss prosecutors have also begun investigating Blatter on suspicion of criminal mismanagement and misappropriation of funds over the payment, which they describe as “disloyal”, though he has not been charged.

And in September, FIFA’s Ethics Committee said it was investigating Blatter and two other former leading FIFA officials over the salaries and bonuses they had received while in office.At the same time, Swiss authorities are investigating whether bribes were paid on Blatter’s watch to help Russia and Qatar secure the right to host FIFA’s showpiece event, the four-yearly World Cup, awarded by the FIFA Executive Committee. Blatter, who must also pay a fine of 50,000 Swiss francs, said in a statement that he was not surprised by the CAS ruling.”The way the case progressed, no other verdict could be expected,” he said.

“What I find incomprehensible is that the existence of the oral agreement between FIFA and Michel Platini is still steadfastly negated, in spite of my testimony to the contrary.””I have experienced much in my 41 years in FIFA,” said Blatter, who joined FIFA as a development officer in 1975 and was initially stationed in Ethiopia. “I mostly learned that you can win in sport, but you can also lose. In this sense, I have to accept this decision, although it is difficult to follow it.”CAS cut Platini’s ban to four years in May but said that Blatter had not requested a reduction.”Mr Blatter requested the annulment of the ban but did not request a reduced penalty,” it said. “In any event, the panel determined that the sanction imposed was not disproportionate.” ($1 = 1.0093 Swiss francs) (Reporting by Brian Homewood and Joshua Franklin; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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

First Published On : Dec 5, 2016 21:00 IST

Kirti Azad, Bishan Bedi depose before Delhi govt panel on DDCA ‘graft’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Three former cricketers, including Kirti Azad and Bishan Singh Bedi, on Saturday deposed before a Delhi Assembly-appointed committee, comprising all AAP MLAs, in connection with the alleged “irregularities” in the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA).The nine-member committee, headed by AAP MLA Sourabh Bhardwaj, was set up by the Assembly in June to probe the alleged corruption in the city’s cricket and hockey bodies. The move is being seen as “unprecedented” as it is perhaps for the first time in the country that the proceedings of any probe committee were opened to the media by a state Assembly. Four meetings of the committee have been held in the past and this was the fifth one during which the proceedings were opened to the media persons.During his deposition, Azad, whose wife recently joined the Aam Aadmi Party, alleged “financial irregularities” in the DDCA during the tenure of Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley as the President of the cricket body.Meanwhile, slamming Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Leader of Opposition in Delhi Assembly Vijender Gupta alleged that the move was only to “defame” the Union Finance Minister.Kejriwal is fighting a defamation case in a court filed by Jaitley. While giving his statement before the committee, Azad alleged that despite giving several complaints of alleged corruption in the DDCA to police and CBI, no action has been taken so far. He claimed that the state cricket body has been a “den” of corruption.The committee has asked Azad to provide all documents which substantiate the corruption allegations in the DDCA to it and appropriate action will be taken. Apart from Azad and Bedi, former cricketer Surinder Khanna and one Sameer Bahadur also appeared before the committee, which will submit its report by the Sixth Session of the Assembly. Currently, the Fourth Session of the Assembly is underway.LoP Gupta, a BJP leader, while hitting out at Chief Minister Kejriwal, claimed that the AAP government was defaming Jaitley through the back door of the Committee on DDCA.Gupta said BJP will never allow such “unfair and illegal” practices. “Having failed to subvert defamation case against Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the courts, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has now entered into a conspiracy to defame him through the specially created unconstitutional inquiry committee to probe DDCA affairs by making public the proceedings of the committee,” he alleged in the statement. In December last year, a political war between AAP and BJP had erupted as the Delhi government-appointed committee formed had pointed out alleged “financial irregularities” in the state cricket body.

HC sets aside Centre’s ban on 344 combination drugs, terms it haphazard: All you need to know

New Delhi: The Centre’s ban of 344 fixed dose combination (FDC) drugs, including well-known brands like Corex cough syrup and Vicks Action 500 extra, was dealt a blow by the Delhi High Court when, on Friday, it set aside the decision, saying it was taken in a “haphazard manner” without consulting statutory bodies as mandated under the law.

Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw said that section 26A of Drugs and Cosmetics Act which provides the power to stop manufacture of drugs and cosmetics in public interest, does not vest the central government with “carte blanche” to regulate, restrict or prohibit the manufacture, sale or distribution of a drug.

The court said the “power of regulation, restriction or prohibition under section 26A cannot be exercised in public interest, for any reason other than the drug posing a risk to consumers thereof or having no therapeutic value or no therapeutic justification” and added that these aspects have to be considered by DTAB and DCC which was not done.

It said that the March 10, 2016 decision banning the 344 FDCs was issued based on the recommendations of the Kokate Committee and without consulting the Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB), Drugs Consultative Committee (DCC) or Central Drugs Laboratory which were bodies set up under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act.

The judge said that from the facts in the 454 petitions moved by pharma majors, like Pfizer, Glenmark, Procter and Gamble and Cipla, it has emerged “there was a total exclusion of DTAB, DCC and Central Drugs Laboratory and which in my view cannot be permitted”.

Representational image

Representational image

The court said, “If the law requires the government to exercise its power after taking advice from and in consultation with the statutory bodies created thereunder i.e. the DTAB and DCC, the exercise of power without such advice and consultation cannot be upheld even if exercised bona fide and in consultation with and on advice of other experts who may be as competent as the DTAB and DCC.

“The maxim, what is prescribed to be done in a particular way must be done in that way and no other way, would apply,” it said.

“Thus, the exercise of power by the central government in issuing the impugned notification is held to be not in consonance with the provisions of the Drugs Act. The petitions have to succeed on this ground,” the court said while allowing the 454 pleas.

In its 82-page verdict, the court said no power has been vested with the government under the Drugs Act to choose not to consult DTAB, DCC and Central Drugs Laboratory.

“Even otherwise it defies logic as to why would the central government, when has available to it the machinery (DTAB and DCC) provided under the Drugs Act itself to discharge the functions of a technical nature under section 26A, would, instead of using the said machinery choose to follow another course of action,” it said.

The court also noted that while in these proceedings the Centre contended that before issuing the notification under section 26A it was not required to consult the DTAB, it has itself been in the past seeking the advice of DTAB.

“Such inconsistent stand is not understandable,” it said.

“To say the least, the central government, though acting in public interest, seems to have gone about it in a haphazard manner. It claims the FDCs, for manufacture of which licences were issued by state licensing authorities between September, 1988 and 1st October, 2012 without the same having approval of the Drugs Controller, were wrongly granted such licences.

“However, instead of taking action for cancellation of said licences, the manufactures were asked to apply for licences to the Drugs Controller, while continuing to manufacture the drugs for which according to the central government licence was wrongly given,” it said.

What courts said earlier

The court had 14 March had stayed the operation of the Centre’s decision with regard to medicines of several pharma majors. The government had banned the 344 FDC drugs on the ground that they involve “risk” to humans and safer alternatives were available.

It had also said that the banned FDCs had no “therapeutic justification”. Some of the well-known medicines on which the ban on sale has been lifted include Pfizer’s Corex cough syrup, Glaxo’s Piriton expectorant and Crocin Cold, P&G’s Vicks Action 500 extra, Reckitt’s D’Cold, Piramal’s Saridon, Glenmark’s Ascoril and Alex cough syrups, Abbott’s Phensedyl cough syrup and Alembic’s Glycodin cough syrup.

During arguments, the drug companies had contended that the government has not properly implemented the powers under section 26A (power to prohibit manufacture of drugs and cosmetics in public interest) of Drugs and Cosmetics Act, under which the ban was ordered.

They had also argued that the ban order was passed without considering clinical data and had termed as “absurd” the government’s claim that it took the decision to ban FDCs on the ground that safer alternatives were available.

The government had banned over 300 FDC drugs on the ground that they involve “risk” to humans and safer alternatives were available. As per the 10 March notification, “On the basis of recommendations of an expert committee, the central government is satisfied that it is necessary and expedient in public interest to regulate by way of prohibition of manufacture for sale, sale and distribution for human use of said drugs in the country.”

Defending its stand, the Centre had argued that the FDC medicines are “new drugs” and thus, require licence from Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) for sale and manufacture. The government had also said there were no valid licences for making any of the banned FDCs and added it was difficult to implement any action at state level.

However, it had also said that the lack of approval for these FDCs were a secondary issue and the primary focus was that they “lacked safety and efficacy” and thus, “ban was the only answer”.

It had also said that the banned FDCs had no “therapeutic justification”. AIDAN, which had intervened in the matter, had argued that there were nearly 40,000 FDC drugs in Indian market and since the regulatory control over such medicines was allegedly “illusory”, the Centre’s decision to ban some of them “was the only move”.

Even the Indian Medical Association (IMA) had moved an application seeking intervention in the matter saying it has decided to support the Centre’s decision.

With inputs from agencies

First Published On : Dec 2, 2016 19:29 IST

India has urged China to change stand on Masood Azhar: Govt

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Government has urged China to reverse its technical hold on India’s request, which is co- sponsored by several prominent countries, to get Masood Azhar designated as terrorist by the UN, Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar said on Thursday. In a written reply in a question in the Rajya Sabha, Akbar said China has often repeated its concern on spread of terrorism and their desire to cooperate with India on this issue. On several occasions, China has reiterated with India their resolute opposition to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations with “zero tolerance”, and has agreed that there is no justification for terrorism. “Government has consistently highlighted to China regarding the threat of cross border terrorism emanating from Pakistan and affecting the region, including India.”Specifically, we have emphasised forcefully that while the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed has been proscribed by the UNSC Sanctions Committee…for its well known terror activities and links to the Al Qaeda, the designation of JeM s main leader, financier and motivator Azhar has been repeatedly put on a technical hold. “Accordingly, we have urged China to reverse its technical hold on India’s request to list Azhar under 1267 provisions. India’s request is co-sponsored by several prominent countries,” the Minister added.

India has urged China to change its stand on Masood Azhar: Govt tells Parliament

New Delhi: Government has urged China to reverse its technical hold on India’s request, which is co-sponsored by several prominent countries, to get Masood Azhar designated as terrorist by the UN, Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar said on Thursday.

File image of Masood Azhar. Reuters

File image of Masood Azhar. Reuters

In a written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha, Akbar said China has often repeated its concern on spread of terrorism and their desire to cooperate with India on this issue.

On several occasions, China has reiterated with India their resolute opposition to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations with “zero tolerance”, and has agreed that there is no justification for terrorism.

“Government has consistently highlighted to China regarding the threat of cross border terrorism emanating from Pakistan and affecting the region, including India.”

“Specifically, we have emphasised forcefully that while the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed has been proscribed by the UNSC Sanctions Committee…for its well-known terror activities and links to the Al Qaeda, the designation of JeM’s main leader, financier and motivator Azhar has been repeatedly put on a technical hold.”

“Accordingly, we have urged China to reverse its technical hold on India’s request to list Azhar under 1267 provisions. India’s request is co-sponsored by several prominent countries,” the Minister added.

First Published On : Dec 1, 2016 15:56 IST

Parliament canteens take lead, go cashless

The new facility may, however, kick off only by Friday or next Monday as Parliament Food Committee Chairman Jithendra Reddy said it will take three days to train the staff to use the machines.
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Just two days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi pleaded for a cashless economy, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan inaugurated 17 digital payment facility spots in Parliament House on Wednesday. The digital payment facility has been introduced in all canteens. The new facility may, however, kick off only by Friday or next Monday as Parliament Food Committee Chairman Jithendra Reddy said it will take three days to train the staff to use the machines.He said in the wake of cash crunch, people have been finding it difficult to make payments in Parliament canteens. “Sometimes, there is no cash to pay or sometimes there is no change available with the canteen cashier. Card payment will address that problem,” said Reddy, Lok Sabha member from Telangana Rashtra Samithi. The canteens in the Parliament House are run by the Railways, serving on an average 4,500 people during Parliament sessions.

Women can now enter Padmanabha Swamy temple in salwar kameez and churidars

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The centuries-old Padmanabha Swamy temple decided to relax its dress code for women on Tuesday, permitting devotees to wear the traditional Indian salwar kameez and churidar while worshipping at the shrine but the temple’s senior Tantri (priest) has voiced opposition to the decision.Earlier, women devotees had to wear a ‘mundu’ (dhoti) over their waist if they were attired in salwars and churidars before entering the famous shrine, considered the richest Hindu temple in the world. “A decision was taken today to allow women to wear salwar kameez and churidars..from this evening itself, devotees can offer worship wearing salwars and churidars,” Temple Executive officer KN Sateesh said.The Kerala High Court had recently disposed of a petition seeking permission to allow women to wear salwars and churidars inside the temple after directing the Executive officer to decide within 30 days on the matter. Sateesh said he had received mails and mass petitions from devotees, especially women, seeking a direction to temple authorities to permit wearing of salwar kameez and churidars inside the shrine.Devotees from all over the country visit the shrine throughout the year and had been wanting a change in the dress code. “Keralites have also wanted this saying it was more convenient..there is no justification for wearing a mundu on top of the salwars or churidars. It is a mockery,” he said.Sateesh said he had received several letters from IAS officers, scientists, doctors and from ordinary persons also seeking permission to be allowed to wear churidars as it was a ‘decent and dignified dress’. Salwar kameez and churidars were being allowed as it was a traditional Indian attire, he said, adding, however, jeans, tights and such other dresses will not be permitted.Meanwhile, the temple’s senior Tantri (priest) Nedumpilli Tharanalloor Parameshwaran Namboodiripad has voiced opposition to allowing women to wear salwar and churidar, saying it was against customs and age old traditions of the shrine. The present dress code should continue, he informed the Administrative Committee and Executive officer, temple sources said.The Administrative Committee has also said that the present dress code should be continued. “Such a decision has been taken after obtaining the written opinion of Tantri and also after gathering the opinion of other stake holders like the Trustee, ‘Ettara Yogam functionaries’ and a cross section of the devotees,” the committee said. “It is of the firm view that these kinds of issues which are superfluous are being raked up, only to sideline other important matters affecting the temple and its administration,” the committee said, adding, “the age old tradition in vogue cannot be changed without wider consultation.”According to temple customs, women should wear sarees, ‘mundu and neriyathu’ (set mundu), not cover their face while offering worship, while men have to wear mundu and be bare-chested. The Guruvayoor Sri Krishna temple had in 2007 amended its strict dress code for women devotees to allow them to enter the temple wearing salwar and churidars. Earlier, only those in sarees and traditional full skirts were allowed inside.The Padmanabha Swamy temple, built in an intricate fusion of the indigenous Kerala style and Dravidian style of architecture, has Lord Vishnu enshrined in the “Anantha Shayanam” posture, the eternal yogic sleep on the serpent Adisheshan, as its presiding deity.

Manipur: Irate customers vandalise SBI branches

Mon, 28 Nov 2016-07:48pm , Imphal , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Angry customers waiting for long to withdraw money vandalised two branches of the State Bank of India (SBI) in Manipur on Monday, police said. The SBI Manipur University branch in Imphal was vandalised by a section of customers and in the process, one policeman identified as Shyama Singh suffered minor injuries, police officials said.In another incident, window panes were smashed and the name plate of the SBI branch at Leimakhong in Imphal West district was uprooted by aggrieved customers, they said. Meanwhile, the nationwide protest by opposition parties against demonetization was also carried out in the state capital. President TN Haokip of Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee told reporters that the demonetization had severely affected the people and put the daily wage earners to immense hardship due to lack of currency notes.

Nitish supports demonetization

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Even as allies Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Congress gear up for November 28 demonstrations against big note ban, Bihar Chief Minister and JD (U) President Nitish Kumar remains vocal in his support for demonetization terming PM Narendra Modi’s ‘courageous’ move ‘in the interest of the nation’.Nitish has backed demonetization at various private and public events and on Saturday, the Bihar CM said his stand on the issue is a principled one. “I believe note ban has stopped several fraudulent practices. It is my personal view and I support any action against black money or corruption. This is also the opportune time for hitting at ‘benami properties’ to check black money and I request the PM to take quick action in the matter,” Nitish said.His statements, however, left his party colleagues in Delhi red faced, especially after former JD (U) president Sharad Yadav was seen rubbing shoulders with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Bannerjee in the Parliament last week to oppose note ban decision.In Bihar too, Nitish’s party, which has distanced itself November 28 demonstrations against demonetization, stands divided from alliance partners RJD and Congress, both of which have scheduled large scale protests across the state on Monday. RJD president Lalu Prasad had termed the move “farjical strike” (fake strike) after it was being called a surgical strike on black money. Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee (BPCC) president Ashok Choudhary too has said his party was ready to withdraw from the coalition on the note ban issue if the high command ordered so.The Bihar CM is also unlikely to participate in Mamata’s November 30 demonstration in Patna though RJD supremo Lalu Prasad may share the dais.Political commentators feel Nitish’s pro-demonetization stand and “inclination” towards the BJP may be due to several reasons – “his difficult equations with majority partner RJD in Bihar, Mamata trying to project a pan-India leader image after her thumping return in West Bengal and Nitish’s unsuccessful efforts in forging any major anti-BJP front in Uttar Pradesh.”While Nitish’s recent support for PM Modi was being seen in the backdrop of reports of him meeting BJP president Amit Shah, the Bihar CM rubbished it as a figment of media’s imagination saying he has not met Shah as has been reported by a section of the media. Incidentally, Shah on Sunday welcomed Nitish’s support for demonetization and thanked him for standing by PM Modi in his fight against black money.”I always do what I feel is correct but people try to infer political meaning in it,” Nitish said. Replying to Mamata’s allegations that Nitish may be supporting demonetization under some “political compulsion”, he said, “What compulsions will I have? I had even supported Pranab Mukherjee’s candidature for President when I was an NDA constituent.”

Delhi Queer Pride Parade: LGBTQ community rally for a ‘life without fear’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Draped in rainbow colours, hundreds of people on Sunday marched in the heart of the national capital for the 9th Queer Pride Parade to show solidarity with the LGBTQ community in making a united call for equality of gender and sexuality and seeking “a life without fear”.Organised by the Delhi Queer Pride Committee, the march kicked off from the corner of Barakhamba Road and Tolstoy Marg here, and saw members of the community as well as their friends and family members turn out with placards, masks and costumes.”Pride is an inter-mingling of many movements – feminism, anti-caste movements, for free speech, so this march is important as it is a united call for a prejudice-free India,” one of the participants said, requesting anonymity.Another participant, Delhi University student Esha, said unlike earlier occasions, it is important for queer people this year to shout back equally louder to combat “noise from homophobic groups and an unfriendly government”.”I’m not out yet so I tend to keep a low profile at LGBTQ events, but this year pride is important as a show of strength more than ever because noise from homophobic groups and an unfriendly government seems to have become louder. It is important that we as queer people should shout back equally louder,” Esha said.One of the organisers, Rituparna Borah, said this year’s parade saw a greater participation than the last year, with around 800-1,000 people turning out.”People from all walks of life, identifying with different sexual orientations and genders took part in the parade, that culminated at Jantar Mantar,” another organiser said.While the focus of the ‘pride’ has been the repeal of Section 377 that criminalises same-sex unions and the demand for dignity for people who do not conform to society’s ideas of sexual orientation or gender, different movements joined the parade this year in solidarity with the LGBTQ community.This year’s march was also in support of Dalits, Muslims, women, disabled, Kashmiris, people in the North-East, Adivasis, academics, filmmakers and students, according to an earlier statement on the Facebook page created for the event.The march saw demands being voiced by a wide section of society – from the demand to live free of fear to calls to break down patriarchal mindsets.”More than ever, we assert that our pride is inextricably tied to a broader demand for freedom and dignity for all,” a statement said.A participant, who works with a private company here, said, “We want to live without fear of any kind of repercussion from our family and from the workplace because of the gender we identify with. It is important to live a life without fear.”

HC calls Delhi’s waste mgmt dismal, summons civic chiefs

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The High Court on Friday termed the state of waste management in Delhi dismal and summoned all three municipal chiefs and sought an explanation for not adhering to the rules of garbage disposal in the national Capital.The summons came after the High Court was apprised that the rules regarding solid waste management and regulation of landfill sites were not being adhered to by the municipal bodies.The Bench comprising Justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Jayant Nath also sought the personal presence of the Member Secretary of Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) to explain whether the body has prosecuted anyone for causing pollution in National Capital Region (NCR).The officials have to appear before the court on December 1, 2016.The court said: “Why do we have these rules? Why do we make them? The problem with India is implementation. We cannot implement anything… such a dismal state of affairs. Just rubbish and malba (debris) everywhere.”Delhi produces approximately 10,000 tonnes of garbage daily. There are a total of four landfills in the national Capital — Okhla, Ghazipur, Bhalswa and Narela-Bawana. The first three have exceeded their capacity.The DPCC said in a statement that while none of the landfill sites came up with any authorisation, it cannot order their closure as it had not given permission to set them up in the first place. It added that it was the corporations’ duty to stop operation of these sites, once they reached a particular height.The court, however, did not agree with the submission and said it was DPCC’s duty as the watchdog to prevent pollution and it has to tell the corporations that their landfills do not conform to the norms.The Bench said that if authorities like the municipal corporations and Delhi Development Authority (DDA) say that they cannot do anything “then why should they be there? We will remove them”.— With agency inputs

PM Modi not courageous enough to face Parliament: Congress

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Congress on Thursday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not able to gather courage to face Parliament on the demonetization issue.”The Prime Minister is not able to gather that much of courage to face the Parliament and answer the question. Why is he running away from the battle ground? He uses to compare himself to the most powerful person,” said Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala.He further said it raises a question over his responsibility towards the people.On Wednesday, the Congress Party on took out a protest march over the demonetization move and alleged that the nation is suffering courtesy Prime Minister Modi’s declaration of an economic emergency.Holding placards, scores of Congress workers and supporters gathered here to vent their ire against the government’s move and raised slogans such as ‘Modi mitra kushal, janata behaal’ and ‘Abki baar janata ki mehnat ki kamai par vaar’.Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee (DPCC) chief Ajay Maken, who led the protest march towards Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s official 7, Lok Kalyan Marg, told the media that Prime Minister Modi is least bothered about the poor and lower income groups.The Winter Session of Parliament has not been able to transact any substantial business for the last five days due to opposition uproar over the demonetization of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 currency notes.

Pakistan reaching out to Indians against Modi’s ‘extremist policies’: Sartaj Aziz

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Pakistan has set up a high-level committee to formulate “a doable and sustainable” policy to highlight the Kashmir issue globally and is reaching out to Indians who are opposed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “extremist policies”, according to a media report today.The move was announced by Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz in Senate on Tuesday, according to Dawn newspaper. The committee will consist of senior officials from the ministries of defence, interior and information, Military Operations Directorate, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Intelligence Bureau (IB). Speaking about the status of the implementation of policy guidelines, Aziz said the committee was headed by Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry and could co-opt other members if required.Aziz said that another committee, chaired by the information secretary, had been formed to prepare fact sheets “to counter India’s propaganda campaign and design a media strategy to continuously highlight the Kashmiri freedom struggle”. This committee also includes representatives from the ministries of defence, foreign affairs and information technology, as well as members of the Military Operations Directorate, ISI and IB.Aziz said that the Ministry of Information Technology had been asked to prepare a comprehensive strategy to highlight the Kashmir issue via social media.He said that “steps were being taken to highlight Indian interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs, as well as its support for subversive activities and human rights violations in held Kashmir”, the report said.Aziz said that steps were already being taken to reach out to segments of the Indian public that were opposed to Modi’s extremist policies. “Our missions abroad, including in New Delhi, are making outreach efforts to emphasise the extremist Indian policies,” he remarked.Talking about measures to counter India’s efforts to isolate Pakistan in the region, Aziz said Pakistan was doing its utmost to engage the international community, including regional partners.He said Pakistan was supportive of all initiatives for peace and stability in the region, adding that this commitment to regional peace and stability was evident from the decision to participate in the Heart of Asia ministerial conference in Amritsar, despite the postponement of SAARC summit in Islamabad because of India.Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine, he said, was clearly spelt out and due restraint was being exercised. “Pakistan continues to exhibit maturity and statesmanship despite provocative statements by Indian leadership and the continued ceasefire violations across the LoC and working boundary having resulted in civilian casualties,” he said.He said there was a need for a positive response from India to move forward. He said that while Pakistan always conveyed a desire to resolve all outstanding issues through dialogue, India had chosen to attach conditions to the talks.

Indian journalist Malini Subramaniam honoured with International Press Freedom Award

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Indian journalist Malini Subramaniam has been conferred with the International Press Freedom Award for her reporting from the Naxal-infested Bastar area, one of the four journalists felicitated by the annual award for their commitment to a free press.She was honoured by the Committee to Protect Journalists along with El Salvador’s Oscar Martinez and Turkey’s Can Dundar. Jailed Egyptian photographer Abou Zeid, known as Shawkan, was given an award in absentia.Subramaniam, a contributor to the news website Scroll, has reported on abuses by police and security forces, sexual violence against women, the jailing of minors, the shutdown of schools, extrajudicial killings, and threats against journalists in the Bastar region in Chattisgarh, the CPJ said in a statement.”She has been interrogated, surveilled, and harassed by police and members of a pro-police vigilante group in connection with her critical coverage of human rights abuses and politics. Police have attempted to malign her and label her as a Maoist agent,” it said.Martinez was forced to flee El Salvador for three weeks after receiving death threats over an investigation into the killings of eight gang suspects by police.Dundar was another honoree. He was arrested on November 26, 2015, after publishing an article alleging the government intelligence service sought to send weapons to Syrian rebel groups. He was charged with disclosing state secrets, espionage and aiding a terrorist group and was sentenced to five years in prison. He remains free, after spending 92 days in jail, while his appeal is considered.Zeid has been jailed since August 14, 2013, on charges of weapons possession, illegal assembly, murder and attempted murder, the charges levied against hundreds of protesters in the clashes between Egyptian security forces and supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi. “These four brave journalists have risked their freedom–and their lives–to report to their societies and the global community about critical news events,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon.”CPJ is proud to honour these journalists who, in the face of repression and violence, continue to bring us vital news.” CPJ executive director Joel Simon said threats against journalism are increasing around the world.

Panjab University welcomes Parliamentary Committee’s decision on Manmohan Singh

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Panjab University is looking forward to Manmohan Singh’s visit as his interaction with students will be a source of “inspiration” to them, its Vice Chancellor Arun Kumar Grover said on Wednesday, a day after a Parliamentary Committee paved the way for the former prime minister accepting a teaching assignment there.Singh cannot be disqualified as a Rajya Sabha member if he joins his alma mater, the Panjab University, which has offered him a prestigious teaching assignment, said the Joint Committee on Office of Profit. Grover has welcomed the development, the University’s Director Public Relations Vineet Punia said. “The University is looking forward to his visit at PU (Panjab University). His interaction with the students and the faculty would be a source of inspiration to all at PU,” added the Vice Chancellor.Panjab University had offered Chair Professorship to Singh as also some other personalities, Punia said.Soon after receiving the offer of Jawaharlal Nehru Chair Professorship from the University, Singh had approached the Rajya Sabha Chairman in July seeking advice as to whether accepting the position will attract disqualification under the provisions of Article 102(1)(a) of the Constitution for holding an ‘office of profit’.

MGK Menon: Administrator, institution builder; man who took IBM head on

Professor MGK Menon, who passed away at the age of 88 on Tuesday, was the last surviving architect of science and technology in independent India. He was perhaps the most powerful science administrator and institution builder the country ever had, occupying every single important post in science and technology administration including that of the Minister for Science and Technology during his career spanning half a century.

Mambillikalathil Govind Kumar Menon was the most prominent face of what is known as the “Bhabha school” or the “Atomic Energy School” in scientific circles. He was a protégé of Homi Jehangir Bhabha, the founder of atomic research in India. While he was conducting cosmic rays research at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Menon worked closely with Bhabha and had started handling affairs of the institute at the age of 33. Bhabha was preoccupied with the nuclear research programme while being the director of TIFR. When Bhabha was killed in an air crash in 1966, Menon emerged as the top choice for the post of the director even though he was just 37 years old.

A file image of MGK Menon. Courtesy: Dinesh C Sharma

A file image of MGK Menon. Courtesy: Dinesh C Sharma

His career as a science administrator began in 1971 when he was named the first secretary of the Department of Electronics (DoE), which was set up to make India self-reliant in electronics and computing. The backdrop of the DoE formation was the growing influence of International Business Machine (IBM) in the Indian market. Menon’s name was suggested to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by Vikram Sarabhai, who was the chairman of the Electronics Committee and also Indian National Committee on Space Research (a precursor to the Indian Space Research Organisation, ISRO). Incidentally, both Bhabha and Sarabhai used to address Menon as “Goku”.

In an interview he gave me in 2007, Menon revealed that he was reluctant to become a science administrator. He said he agreed to be the secretary of DoE on two conditions: first, he wanted to continue his position as the director of TIFR so that he could continue his research work; and second, he wanted the Electronics Commission (EC) to be located in Bombay so that he could divide time between Bombay and Delhi. Both the conditions were agreed to and the EC started operating from Air India building at Nariman Point.

Menon soon emerged as the czar of Indian science in the 1970s. Within two years of DoE coming into being, India had a vast infrastructure for electronics policy making, R&D, licensing and administrative control — all headed by him. All this while, Menon continued as Director of TIFR. In 1974, he was also appointed the scientific advisor to the defence minister.

After Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar (founder of CSIR), Menon became the most powerful science bureaucrat holding several key positions at the same time or in quick succession in the 1970s. He is also the only scientist to have headed all important scientific agencies during his career. After DoE, he became the secretary, Department of Science and Technology and director general of CSIR (holding a dual charge). After that he became the first secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, member of Planning Commission (Science), head of the Science Advisory Committee; and finally became Minister of State for Science and Technology in 1990. He was briefly chairman of ISRO and first chairman of the Commission for Additional Sources of Energy which subsequently became the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.

The Menon era at DoE was full of turmoil, though. His tenure is much misunderstood, and often, he was criticised for obstructing the growth of electronics industry. Menon told me that the role of DoE was promotional, but it had to operate under existing licensing regime which was restrictive. “You must understand that we (DoE) were not the government, we were part of the government. We were not the Parliament. It is the Parliament that lays the route in which the country should go. One of the earliest things that we did was to bring to the notice of the Prime Minister that the Industrial Development and Regulations Act is not valid for electronics. It is too slow, electronics is too fast.” Because of restriction on foreign equity, he said, the government refused entry to Texas Instruments (TI) which first approached DoE in the mid-1970s.

When TI Chairman Patrick Haggerty came to India with a project for Integrated Circuit (IC) manufacturing, he wanted 100 percent ownership and no restrictions in the form of “export obligation”. When Menon conveyed this to India Gandhi, she said, “It is a wonderful idea, I accept it, but I will not be able to get it through the political system.” During the interview with me, Menon recalled: “She told me bluntly: forget it. There was no way I could have brought in Texas Instruments. I was not the boss of the country. I only operated as secretary under Gandhi who was the prime minister, who told me it is not possible.”
While Menon wanted TI and other foreign players like Burroughs to come to India, his stand with IBM was different. He said he did not want IBM to leave but only mend its ways. In Menon’s words, “IBM wanted to play a dominant role in India as a 100 percent foreign company, leasing computers, mainly low-grade systems. I had any number of discussions with them, trying to persuade them ‘Please manufacture in India, bring your latest systems here’. I said train people here because the system of leasing and maintenance meant we remained dependent on them. But they were not prepared to do any of these things. They were not prepared to go down in equity. This was against the government policy.” Still, while acting tough with IBM, Menon deputed one of his close aides, N Seshagiri, to hold secret talks with the company in the US to avoid IBM’s exit from India, but these talks failed.

DoE under Menon funded electronics research in strategic areas and founded key bodies like the National Centre for Software Development, National Informatics Centre (NIC) and Computer Maintenance Corporation (CMC) among several others. DoE also encouraged states to establish State Electronics Development Corporations to promote electronics manufacturing. All these institutions developed skills in design, development and software writing which helped a great deal in developing an indigenous base in electronics and software in the 1980s.

Dinesh C Sharma is the author of the award-winning book The Outsourcer: The Story of India’s IT Revolution, MIT Press, 2015.

First Published On : Nov 23, 2016 14:23 IST

Kerala: LDF govt cancels order for Aranmula airport project

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Kerala government cancelled all orders related to the proposed Aranmula airport project on Wednesday, including the grant of in-principle sanction.A decision in this regard was taken at a cabinet meeting here, an official release said. The project, promoted by KGS Group, had run into trouble after it was mooted nearly seven years ago with environment groups and people in the area holding that it would cause environmental hazards. The CPI(M)-led LDF government in an affidavit filed in the Kerala High Court in a connected case in August had said that it had decided to take immediate steps to cancel its decision to notify approximately 500 acres of land in Aranmula as an industrial area. The government had also stated that it was found that the proposed project area constitutes large extent of paddy and wetland which cannot be legally converted for the purpose of a private company in view of existing legal provisions.The project, opposed by BJP in the state, came back to focus afresh after the Expert Appraisal Committee under the Environment Ministry had permitted KGS Group to conduct an environment study at a meeting on July 29.The National Green Tribunal had in 2014 set aside the environmental clearance given by the UPA government to the project and directed KGS Aranmula International Airport Ltd, the promoters, to stop construction at the site. The tribunal passed the order on a petition filed by the Aranmula Heritage Village Protection Action Council.The project also faced stiff resistance from devotees of Sri Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple, who said that the airport would cause structural damage to the temple.

Patna-Indore Express tragedy: Parliamentary Standing Committee’s red flag ignored

The deteriorating quality of food on the Rajdhani and the rail fare across trains seem to be two of the biggest discussion points each time the Railway Budget is presented.

But it’s time we set aside the Rajdhani food for a bit and focus on what should be at the core of everybody’s concern — whether or not passengers will reach their destinations safely, irrespective of budgetary allocations for various expenditure heads. Unfortunately, passenger safety seems to have been the least concern for the political class that sits over the financial fortunes of the Railways each year. And the recent Patna-Indore Express tragedy has once again highlighted this serious issue.

After the accident on Sunday, the government has initiated a probe to find out the possible cause of derailment. The accident site has been videographed, railway engineers and technical staff members were questioned and samples were collected from the debris to ascertain the factors that led to the derailment of 14 coaches of the Patna-Indore Express due to suspected rail fracture.
With as many as 146 deaths, it has become one of the worst rail disasters of recent times. And for once, the issue has united the railway employees’ unions across the political spectrum.

But, what after that?

The same old story of recommendations, promises and near-zero implementation is likely to repeat itself.

Rescue and relief work in progress after the Indore-Patna Express derailed near Kanpur Dehat on Sunday. PTI

Rescue and relief work in progress after the Indore-Patna Express derailed near Kanpur Dehat on Sunday. PTI

However, more than a decade ago in 2004, the Parliamentary Standing Committee in its report submitted to the 14th Lok Sabha had made radical observations on safety and the security of the Indian Railways. “We had recommended several measures for the safety and security of passengers in the Standing Committee report from the renewal of tracks to addressing the acute shortage of staff especially in the safety segment. But, barring a few, implementation of major recommendations was never done. So many passengers died in this accident. Had the new LHB-design coaches been used, as recommended, casualties could have been averted,” Basudeb Acharia, former chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Indian Railways and a seven-time Lok Sabha MP from Bengal told Firstpost.

A few Standing Committee observations:

– Resource crunch has been the basic cause for not proceeding with identified safety items like track-circuiting or renewal of the over-aged assets in the past three or four decades.

– Due to an acute shortage of staff at times, even the station masters have to perform commercial duties like the sale of tickets, booking of parcels/goods, attending public queries etc. In the process, there could be a lapse in train operations. Due to a shortfall in staff (that comes under the safety category), the safety of trains/operations has to be compromised.

– Against the 10 hours of duty from ‘rolling on’ to ‘rolling off’ and 12 hours of duty from signing on to sign off, the operational staff, especially gangmen and drivers, in actual practice have to work for even 22 to 24 hours at a stretch. At times, drivers have been found to be working for five consecutive days. Due to work stress and stifling conditions, the life of thousands of commuters is at risk and it certainly affects the safety of train operations.

– In order to earn more revenue, new trains have been introduced and many express trains were converted into super-fast ones and efforts are now being made to provide for commensurate safety safeguards and maintenance facilities. While doing so, proper care is not being taken to replace the over-aged rolling stock. The process of modernisation and renewal of track and maintenance lacks the desired attention.

– While the traffic has increased, the commensurate increase in assets for capacity-generation has not been there. The system is over-stretched, over-stressed and has a direct impact on the safety of the operations in running trains. Renewal and replacement of over-aged assets need to be expedited.

Rescue and relief work in progress after the Indore-Patna Express derailed near Kanpur Dehat on Sunday. PTI

Rescue and relief work in progress after the Indore-Patna Express derailed near Kanpur Dehat on Sunday. PTI

“Consecutive Rail Budgets have been ignoring the safety and security part and allocation in this segment is low in comparison to others. In a decade, the staff shortage has reached three lakh and due to this, time-bound renewal and maintenance of tracks is not happening,” added Acharia, who is also president of West Bengal Railway Contractor Labour Union.

The employees’ unions — whether Left or Right, are vocal against the current state of affairs in the Railways.

The RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Railway Mazdoor Sangh’s secretary-general, Ashok Shukla pointed out, “Every Rail Budget is politically-aimed. The number of trains is increased, populist announcements are made to keep the electorate happy, but ultimately the key concerns like passenger safety, track maintenance, renewal of tracks etc are compromised. The irony here is that Railways has set its standards in every category of operation, but fails to match it. Ultimately, the passengers have to pay the price.”

“There has been no real change in the mindset of Indian Railways since Independence. The political leadership has no control over bureaucracy even today. In the past decade, due to the government’s policy, there has been a massive curtailment in ground level staff, including loco drivers, whereas at the Rail Board-level, the number of members and officials has remained the same. The posts with permanent jobs have been filled by contractual workers, and the cascading effect is glaring,” Shukla added.

Rescue and relief work in progress after the Indore-Patna Express derailed near Kanpur Dehat on Sunday. PTI

Rescue and relief work in progress after the Indore-Patna Express derailed near Kanpur Dehat on Sunday. PTI

“There’s an acute staff crunch in the Railways and in the safety category, the shortfall is one lakh. Several staff members in sensitive positions including signal operators and drivers have to work beyond their capacity and working hours. It has been affecting the performance and safety is compromised. The Railway’s Depreciation Reserve Fund and Development Fund are getting depleted, and whatever is available is mere peanuts. Despite the Parliamentary Standing Committee and Kakodkar Committee’s recommendations, the government has shown a deaf ear to it and train accidents are continuing. We’re taking up this issue with the government,” a member of the Left-affiliated All-India Railwaymen’s Federation (AIRF) remarked.

First Published On : Nov 22, 2016 14:50 IST

Judges appointment row: Govt refuses to share draft MoP with Parliament panel for now

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Government has refused to share immediately a copy of the draft memorandum of procedure, a document to guide appointment of judges to higher judiciary, with a Parliamentary committee examining vacancies in the Supreme Court and high courts,saying it is a work in progress. The Committee has been informed that the document will be shared at an “appropriate time”.The department-related Standing Committee on Law and Personnel had asked the Department of Justice to share a copy of the draft MoP it has handed over to the Supreme Court collegium for its approval. The committee is examining the issue of inordinate delay in filling up vacancies in and the HCs. But in its response, the Department of Justice said, “Since the MoP — one dealing with appointment of SC judges and the other with HC — are still under finalisation in consultation with the Chief Justice of India as per the SC order dated December 16, 2015, it is work in progress.”Therefore, it is submitted that the draft MoP will be shared with the Parliamentary Committee at the appropriate time.”The government had handed over a revised MoP to the CJI on August 3 after the SC collegium objected to certain government proposals including the latter’s right to reject a candidate for judgeship and setting up a scrutiny panel to evaluate applications. In the revised draft, the government has reiterated that it should have the power to reject any name recommended by the Collegium on grounds of national security and public interest.In May, the Collegium had unanimously rejected the clause saying it amounted to interference in the functioning of the judiciary.While in the initial March draft, the government had refused to grant authority to the Collegium to send the same name again after it had been rejected, the new one says the government will inform the collegium about the reasons for rejecting its recommendation.As the government and the judiciary try to finalise the MoP, the Supreme Court has observed that justice delivery system is collapsing. The apex court has sent out a stern message to the Centre over non-execution of the collegium decision to transfer and appoint chief justices and judges in high courts, saying the logjam will not be tolerated and the court will intervene to make it accountable.

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

The demonetisation divide is disturbing.

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

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

File image of JDU MP Harivansh. Screen grab from YouTube

File image of JDU MP Harivansh. Screen grab from YouTube

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

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

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

Demonetisation and its desirability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Debate, dissect

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Demonetization: Note ban hits farm produce, rates fallen by almost 20-30 %

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>After demonetization, the farmers products rates are down by almost 20-30% and they are hoping that the current situation will improve otherwise they will face the major financial crisis.Kailash Patil, resident of Jalgaon, produced cotton but there are no buyers in the market. “This year we had the bumper crops due to the good rainfall. Initially, the cotton per quintal rate was Rs 6,000 per quintal but now it has come down to Rs 5,000 per quintal. And, the same with my other produce -jowar, bajra, soybean also. The traders are asking us to take the old currencies while the district co-operative bank where I have got an account, is not accepting the old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currencies,” Patil said.Another farmer Sanjay Patil from Bhadgaon said that the traders are telling them to take the cheque as a payment of their produce. “In my village, there is no bank so where should I go and deposit the money? This is harvest time. I cannot afford to go to town and stand in queue to open an account and neglect the crops. The cash transaction was easy and comfortable for us. The government’s demonetization decision disturbed the entire our economy,” he said.Patil said, “We welcome the idea of fighting against black money and corruption. But where is the system and infrastructure that can ease our woes. The authority should have first created the infrastructure – bank in each village, round the clock electricity, and other required facilities. In villages, we face frequent power cuts so you can imagine other facilities. We are really in trouble. We produced really good crops this year but demonetization spoiled our dream of getting the good rates,” he added.Kushal Patil, the food grains traders at the Agriculture Product Market Committee (APMC) at Dhule, said that the small traders who were raising money on high interest from private money lenders and paying to farmers are completely finished now. “We can do business by issuing the cheques and transferring the payment through RTGS. However, farmers are not willing to accept it. They simply say that they do not have bank accounts. And those with accounts say if the money is deposited in the bank, the bank will deduct their loan amount taken from the respective banks first. They will not get anything even after selling their produces. So they are afraid to deposit cheque in banks as well. They want the payment in cash only,” Patil said.He said the farmers has a tendency to repay the banks crops loan in March or April at the end of their harvest season. “If the banks start deducting the money right now, how they will pay money to private money lenders from whom they had taken money at high interest rates. Besides, they have to pay for other expenses as well. Farmers are the most affected community after demonetization. They are reluctant to bring their produce in market at all,” Patil said.Sanjay Pansare, director at APMC, Vashi said that the fruit market is down by almost 50-60%. “People are spending the money on the essential commodities and needs only. Fruits come later. Therefore the fruit market is badly affected. There are small vendors who still come with the old currencies only. We are ready to accept, but the later government will only harass us when we go to banks to deposit,” Pansare said.

Priyanka Gandhi to play a ‘major role’ in UP Assembly Election

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Priyanka Gandhi will campaign for Congress and play a “major role” in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election to be held early next year, party leaders said today. “She (Priyanka) is going to play a major role. Let everything be finalised,” UP Congress campaign committee chairman Sanjay Singh said. “It has been decided that she will campaign for the party in the state elections. She has accepted our request to campaign. Whenever we will get her schedule, we will use her time accordingly,” Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee chief Raj Babbar said.He added that once the elections schedule will be announced, it will bring more clarity on her plans for campaign in the state. Earlier, Babbar had said Priyanka’s presence will give confidence and energy not only to the party men but also to the people across the state. He had also mentioned that if she gives enough time then Priyanka could campaign in all the 403 constituencies in Uttar Pradesh.In the past, Priyanka has not campaigned in elections outside Amethi and Raebareli Lok Sabha constituencies, represented by her brother Rahul Gandhi and mother Sonia Gandhi respectively.A large section of Congress leaders believes that the party will gain immensely if she campaigns across the state.

War on black money: PM Modi urges BJP MPs to explain benefits of demonetization to public

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants BJP MPs to publicise “benefits” of the demonetization and also counter the opposition’s charges against it during this weekend as the political battle over the measure heats up in and outside Parliament. Sources said the MPs have been asked to interact with people and the media to disseminate information about the move’s positive impact and also assuage public concerns caused by long waiting queues outside banks and ATMs to exchange old notes and withdraw money.The party leadership has asked its allies to follow suit and take on the opposition. BJP’s Parliamentary Party office has given all the MPs, including those of its allies, a compilation of the RBI’s and Finance Ministry’s communication over demonetization so that they could use the information to inform the masses and counter the opposition’s points, sources said.A party leader pointed out the relaxations announced by the government for farmers or families hosting wedding ceremony and said these should be spread among the masses.The saffron party is working overtime to dispel any negative publicity, especially in poll-bound states like UP, over the radical move and deployed its rank and file to project the exercise as an important step against black money, corruption and fake currency. SP and BSP, its main rivals in Uttar Pradesh, have flayed the measure, calling it “anti-poor”. Two other regional parties, TMC and AAP, have gone a step further and demanded a roll back failing which they will launch a country-wide agitation. Proceedings in both the Houses in Parliament were a virtual washout today due to noisy protests by opposition members over the issue. On a day the demonetization issue rocked both the houses of Parliament, scores of Youth Congress workers held a march, alleging withdrawal of high-value notes was part of a “big scam” and aimed at looting public money.Addressing the protesters, senior party leader Anand Sharma charged Modi with committing “injustice” to the country and “spoiling” India’s image globally by implementing the decision without preparation. He demanded that a Joint Parliamentary Committee be appointed to probe the alleged leak of information about the impending decision to demonetise the high-value notes.”A debate is on in the Parliament and there is a deadlock. Opposition has demanded that Prime Minister listen to us and explain his move. They (ruling party) say Narendra Modi is in Parliament premises but will not come to the House.What is this,” Sharma said.He also challenged the Prime Minister to a debate with the Opposition on demonetization.”We will not allow him to pile up miseries on the common citizens. It is such a big scam and loot of public money. We have demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe it. Our fight will continue till the government relents and demand for probe is met,” he said.Continuing his tirade against Modi over demonetization, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the Prime Minister cannot decide the way people of the country live and warned of widespread protest against the “unacceptable” step.

Demonetisation: Govt eases restrictions on farmers, allows withdrawal up to Rs 50,000 per week

New Delhi: With cash crunch following demonetisation impacting agri sector, the government on Thursday eased guidelines for farmers by allowing them to withdraw up to Rs 50,000 cash per week from bank.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Besides, it has also extended the deadline for payment of crop insurance premium by 15 days and permitted APMC-registered traders to withdraw up to Rs 50,000 per week.

These steps will ensure that sowing takes place adequately in the Rabi season and enough cash is available to the farmers to buy fertiliser, seeds and other inputs, Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das told reporters in New Delhi.

“The government has decided to permit the farmers to draw up to Rs 25,000 per week against the crop loan sanctioned and credited to their accounts, subject to the limits…and this will also apply to Kisan Credit Cards,” he said.

These accounts have to be in the name of the concerned farmers, the accounts will have to be KYC compliant, Das said.

Besides, if the farmers receive payments either by way of cheques or RTGS into the bank accounts, they can withdraw up to Rs 25,000 per week, Das said.

Similarly, the registered traders with the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) markets also will be permitted to draw Rs 50,000 per week to meet various cash requirements like payment of wages to workers and other sundry expenses.

“So, this will facilitate smooth procurement process and help farmers to sell their produce without any difficulty,” Das said.

The government has also allowed its Group C employees, including from PSUs, defence and railways, to get salaries up to Rs 10,000 in cash in advance which will be adjusted against their November salary. “It is expected that this will relief pressure on banks,” Das said.

Following the demonetisation of 500 and 1,000 rupee notes on 8 November by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the government allowed withdrawal of up to Rs 24,000 per week per person through cheque and Rs 2,500 from ATMs.

First Published On : Nov 17, 2016 13:09 IST

Rs 650 crore water and property taxes collected in four days

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Maharashtra government continues to reap the benefits of the Union government’s decision of demonitization. State Urban Development Secretary Manisha Mhaiskar said they had collected over Rs650 crore as water and property tax in the last four days. “The government has extended the tax collection deadline by another ten days, and we hope to reach our target of Rs1,000 in collections up to November 24,” she added. The good news is that citizens can use their Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes to pay taxes. Mhaiskar said they are in the process of collecting taxes systematically. “We have decided to urge tax defaulters to pay their water bills and property taxes. We have even reached out to defaulters personally through emails and text messages. We have in our possession the list of defaulters in descending order. We hope to collect all dues by the end of our drive,” she said, adding the municipal corporation has the right to attach defaulters’ property if they fail to cough up their taxes. According to Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) data, the civic body has received Rs12 crore — the highest collection of dues, followed by the civic bodies of Pune, Kalyan-Dombivli and Pimpri-Chinchwad. BMC sources said the civic body has the scope to recover huge taxes. “BMC has to collect a total water bill of Rs1,200 crore, but the recovery system has not been encouraging. People queue up to pay their taxes, but civic officials do not respond quickly. So, there are quite a few citizens who leave midway without paying their taxes,”said Rajkumar Singh, a resident of Kurla.A senior government official said citizens are now motivated to pay their taxes. “Most citizens stash a certain amount of cash at home. It is the win-win situation for both of the citizens and the civic body. People should take full advantage of the situation,” he said.Moreover, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Tuesday formed a committee headed by Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar to resolve the issue pertaining to the Agriculture Produce Market Committee’s transactions, government transports issues and RBI rejection to district co-operative banks to collect cancelled denominations.

Sonia Gandhi heads Congress meet ahead of winter session of Parliament

Sonia Gandhi heads Congress meet ahead of winter session of Parliament

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New Delhi: Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday chaired a meeting at 10, Janpath in New Delhi to discuss the strategy ahead of the winter session of the Parliament which begins on Wednesday.

File photo of Sonia Gandhi. AP

File photo of Sonia Gandhi. AP

Congress will take up the issue of demonetisation during the parliament session to corner the government.

It will also oppose the Goods and Services Tax (GST) if four slabs of taxation up to 28 percent are introduced.

After skipping the Congress Working Committee meet on 7 November, due to health reasons, Sonia Gandhi chaired Tuesday’s meet attended by party Vice President Rahul Gandhi and other senior Congress leaders.

First Published On : Nov 15, 2016 12:47 IST

India’s nominee to be re-appointed to UN Joint Inspection Unit

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A top Indian diplomat will be re-appointed to the only independent external oversight body of the United Nations system following his endorsement as the sole candidate of the Asia-Pacific Group.Ambassador A Gopinathan is to be re-appointed to the Joint Inspection Unit of the United Nations by the General Assembly, the only independent external oversight body of the United Nations system mandated to conduct evaluations, inspections and investigations system-wide. Gopinath’s re-appointment follows his nomination by India and endorsement as the sole candidate of the Asia-Pacific Group. He will serve from January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2022. Gopinathan was first appointed to the UN body for a term from January 2013 to December 2017. At that election, he had secured 106 votes out of 183 votes and had defeated Ambassador Zhang Yan of China, India’s Permanent Mission to the UN said in a statement. He is currently serving as Chairman of the Joint Inspection Unit.India also won elections to key UN organs during the past few days. First Secretary in India’s Permanent Mission to the UN Mahesh Kumar was elected last week by acclamation to the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ). The committee plays a crucial role in helping the General Assembly’s Fifth Committee, which deals with administrative and budgetary issues, examine the organisation’s budget and numerous management initiatives.The Investments Committee appointed eight members to serve three-year terms of office, beginning January 2017.The eight members included India’s Madhav Dhar, Japan’s Masakazu Arikawa, China’s Simon Jiang and Germany’s Achim Kassow among others. Kumar’s election came just a day after 33-year-old Indian lawyer Aniruddha Rajput won a hotly-contested election in the UN General Assembly for membership to the International Law Commission, the United Nations organ tasked with the progressive development of international law and its codification. Rajput got 160 votes, topping the Asia Pacific group in voting that was held by way of secret ballot.

Demonetization ke side-effects: How Kolkata went into a sex overdrive after PM Modi’s annoucement

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As demonetisation of high value notes hit small businessmen across the city, sex workers of Sonagachi, South Asia’s largest red-light area, here are seeing brisk business as they are accepting high denomination notes. “Our girls have been asked to accept Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. But they are telling customers that they will not accept those after this week. Therefore there is a huge rush of customers. “Although sex workers in top categories are facing no problem but those who take only Rs 300 to Rs 400 are facing great difficulty,” said Bharati, the mentor of the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, a sex workers’ organisation which claims to have over one lakh registered sex workers under it across Bengal.Sex workers who charge below Rs 500 are facing tough time as they have hardly got any customers in the last two days. Prospective customers first inquire whether the sex workers will accept Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes. “If we say no, we will lose the customer. We have to accept the notes and Durbar and Usha bank had assured us that our money will not go in waste,” said Rekha, a sex worker.In the last two days, sex workers in and around Sonagachi have deposited more than Rs 55 lakh in Usha Multipurpose Cooperative Bank, which was formed and is run by former sex workers since 2001 for women in the same trade. “Due to the huge rush of customers in Sonagachi, the sex workers in last two days have deposited more than Rs 50 lakh in their bank accounts in Usha Bank. Generally sex workers prefer to keep money in their homes but after demonetisation, there is a rush among them to deposit the money in the bank,” Shantanu, a senior official of Usha Bank said. In normal circumstances, Usha Bank carries out a business of around Rs five lakh per day.

No one wants to see Sonia Gandhi replaced in her absence: Digvijaya Singh

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Days after Congress Working Committee (CWC) expressed “strong sentiment” for Rahul Gandhi’s elevation as party president, senior leader Digvijaya Singh on Thursday said the call on the issue will be taken by incumbent chief Sonia Gandhi at “right time”.”No one wants to sort of see that Sonia Gandhi is replaced in her absence. No one has criticised the decision to elevate Rahul Gandhi. Unanimously, CWC has said that it’s high time that Rahul Gandhi should take up the leadership,” the AICC general secretary said.At its meeting held in Delhi earlier this week, the highest decision-making body of the Congress had unanimously voiced “strong sentiment” for the elevation of the Congress vice-president as party chief. Sonia couldn’t attend that meeting apparently on health grounds.”…Now the issue is Sonia Gandhi is president of Congress so she has to take a call. No one wants to sort of see that Sonia is replaced in her absence. She could not attend the meeting because she was unwell,” Singh said. He further said, “The decision is with her. Whenever she feels the timing is right she will take a decision. Sonia is undisputed leader of the Congress party.”

Delhi Pollution: Air quality improves marginally as wind speed picks up

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Delhi’s air quality improved marginally on Monday as wind speed picked up dispersing the pollutants and the thick cover of hazardous haze that shrouded the city for nearly a week.However, monitoring agency SAFAR had 24-hour-average (rolling) level of respirable pollutants PM 2.5 and PM 10 in the ‘severe’ category at 622 and 808 micrograms per cubic metre respectively at 5 PM. The alarming levels of pollution failed to dissuade Chhat revellers though from bursting firecrackers early in the morning. The 24-hour-average Air Quality Index (AQI) recorded by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) was 423 as against yesterday’s 497 which was the season’s worst.The visibility also improved as the city witnessed sunshine after several days. “The air quality has improved due to a little increase in wind speed, although the wind direction continues to be north-northwest. By Wednesday wind speed is likely to increase more and wind direction will also be easterly which is likely to further improve the air quality and turn it very poor from severe,” Project Director of SAFAR Gufran Beig told PTI.The wind direction is important from the point of view of stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana which falls in the northest region. Wind blowing from that direction brings pollutant-laden smoke to Delhi. The Delhi Pollution Control Committee’s (DPCC) real-time readings displayed a downward trend cutting across its monitoring stations. The city’s pollution hotspot Anand Vihar had a PM 10 reading of 1640 micrograms per cubic metre at 4 AM. It came down to 580 by 5 PM while PM 2.5 was at 145 micrograms per cubic metre.At Punjabi Bagh, PM 10 came down to 214 micrograms per cubic metre at 5 PM from a high of 1270 recorded at 10 AM. Other stations like Mandir Marg and RK Puram displayed similar trends. PM 2.5 and PM 10 are ultrafine particulates, the dominant pollutants in Delhi, which has recently been described as a “gas chamber” by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.The 24-hour prescribed standards of PM 2.5 and PM 10 are 60 and 100 respectively and prolonged exposure to anything beyond that harms the respiratory system and may cause cardiac complications.

May in India: UK visa rules a cause of concern for IT city

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As British Prime Minister Theresa May lands in the IT city on Tuesday, the Karnataka government expressed concerns on Monday over changes in the UK visa rules. “The recent decision of the UK government to make visas more expensive and more difficult is creating disquiet in Bengaluru,” Karnataka Industries Minister RV Deshpande said.Speaking to reporters here, he said just as London was concerned about passporting rights for its financial services industry after Brexit, “we are concerned about difficulties in cross border work”. “Technology is global today and restrictions like this, which prevent great talent from working globally, will inhibit competitiveness of the UK industry,” he added.Deshpande was speaking at an event organised to announce “ThinkBig 2016”, which is projected to be Asia’s largest women entrepreneurship and economic empowerment summit, to be held on November 14-15 here. Under the new visa rules announced last week by the UK Home Office, anyone applying after November 24 under the Tier 2 intra-company transfer (ICT) category would be required to meet a higher salary threshold requirement of 30,000 pounds from the earlier 20,800 pounds.
ALSO READ India, UK can leverage technological prowess for new opportunities: PM ModiStating that what IT industry needs was a visa which enabled their engineers to travel to the UK, work on the projects from 3/12 months and come back, he said they were not looking for immigration visas but for projects as such work is global. Pointing out there were also concerns relating to study and tourist visa, he expressed hope that the UK government would look into the request. “Together we can create a competitive partnership to address global markets…” he added.The ICT route is largely used by Indian IT companies in Britain, and the UK’s Migration Advisory Committee had found earlier this year that Indian IT workers accounted for nearly 90% of visas issued under this route. Dismayed at the UK’s proposed changes in visa system that will impact skilled IT migration, software body Nasscom had sought a high skilled worker mobility pact to safeguard the economic interests of both nations.According to sources, May, who will be on a day long visit to the city, is scheduled to hold a meeting with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah​. She is also expected to visit Dynamatics Technologies – an aerospace and hydraulic pumps manufacturer and Stonehill School.

Malkangiri encounter: Ill-fated peace talks in 2004 with Andhra govt reason behind recent bloodbath

The process of eliminating the agrarian uprising led by Left wing extremists in rural Andhra Pradesh that began in October 2004 has almost concluded 22 years later — on 24 October, 2016. The cold blooded encounter at Janti village of Malkangiri district of Odisha on the upper part of the Balimela reservoir had taken a toll of 30 armed Maoists, almost wiping out the rebels’ leadership in the Andhra-Odisha Border (AOB) region, termed as the last post of the CPI (Maoists). The location was just 30 kilometre north west of the region where Maoists had, eight years ago, blasted a boatload of Greyhound commandos on a combing operation with a rocket, killing 36 of them.

The revenge attack by anti-Naxal elite commandos in the last week of October in AOB, was more gruesome and cold blooded than the Maoist attack. The ultras were chased for over 12 hours in daylight and gunned down. Four fleeing Maoists, who were elderly and injured, were hacked mercilessly. ‘Show no mercy’ was the clear order of the Greyhound commander to his men before they began the raid in the wee hours of 24 October, catching most of them in their bed or while attending nature’s call in fields with their weapons an arm’s length away.

The Left wing extremists who began an agrarian revolution six decades ago, have lost over 4,000 cadre and the battle between them and the security forces has taken 9,000 civilian lives so far. The seeds for October’s bloodbath were sown on October 20, 2004, the day the ultras had come out of their hide-outs in forests to conduct ill-fated peace talks, an olive branch offered by the YS Rajasekhar Reddy-led Congress government in united Andhra Pradesh.

The interlocutors between the government and the People’s War Group of CPI (ML) were a band of human rights activists and journalists, who had no experience of dealing with such negotiations. A tragedy of errors unfolded. “It is a loss of a golden opportunity to bring peace in rural India,” popular civil rights activist and mathematics lecturer at Warangal, the late Dr K Balagopal had said at the time. Balagopal had kept himself aloof and watched the developments with a mixture of mistrust and hope.

The Congress government led by YS Rajasekhar Reddy had announced peace talks with Maoists as one of the poll promises in the election manifesto when it romped home to power in 2004 ending the decade-long Telugu Desam Party (TDP) hegemony in the state. YSR, as he was popularly known, had after a marathon padayatra of over 2,000 kms in 2003 had a whiff of ground realities of rural AP, the campaign of the armed rebels and also received support of some of these groups. He was also influenced by a report compiled by a CCC (Committee Of Concerned Citizens) led by respected retired IAS officer SR Sankaran, who, after touring Telangana districts and studying the status of farmers and rural development, had laid threadbare the need for peace in the Telangana districts. “We presented a copy of the report to Rajasekhar Reddy. The CCC report spoke volumes for ground realities and drove both sides to come to the negotiating table, even if it meant disagreement on many issues,” said Sankaran to this reporter in 2004.

After the electoral victory YSR invited the ultras of PWG – the People’s War Group – the biggest Maoist group in AP, for talks within months of taking charge. He set the ball rolling by declaring a ceasefire for three months against the rebels and directed state police forces to not harm them when they came face to face four times in the jungles of Nallamala, Visakhapatnam and AOB. “At least five top guns including Amar, Riyaaz, Sudhakar could not have made it to Hyderabad for talks if we had had our way in the combing operations,” said former DGP MV Bhaskar Rao.

Clumsy And confused beginnings

Neither the PWG leadership nor the Congress party was prepared for the “historic talks”. It took a lot of backroom manipulations by mediators and police officials that made the talks happen and also fail. Police officials wanted to use the situation for gaining reliable data on the Maoists, their hide-outs and also their strengths. The ageing extremist leadership was already losing ground wherever development and welfare activities in rural areas were on an upswing. The attempts of the ultras to stop connectivity – mobile towers, roads, bridges, schools and hostel buildings – was disliked and also protested by the rural populace.

Maoists rally at Uppal Ground in Hyderabad before the peace talks. Image sourced by GS Radhakrishna

Maoists rally at Uppal Ground in Hyderabad before the peace talks. Image sourced by GS Radhakrishna

The Maoists had, overtly or covertly, supported YSR over Chandrababu Naidu in the 2004 elections out of spite against the TDP supremo who had let loose a reign of terror in the jungles of Telangana and AP. Naidu had, in October 2003, survived an assassination attempt by the Maoists – a land mine blast near Tirupati and narrowly escaped.

Maoists had lost three Central Committee members Nalla Adi Reddy ‘Shyam’, Erram Reddy, Santosh Reddy ‘Mahesh’ and Seelam Naresh ‘Murali’ in 1999. A few Special Zonal Committee/State-level leaders such as Anupuram Komaraiah and some district-level leaders such as Polam Sudarshan Reddy, of Warangal and Nelakonda Rajitha of Karimnagar too had been killed during the TDP regime. The PWG had been wiped out from what they term is their flagship guerrilla zone – North Telangana Special Zone (NTSZ).

Then Congress Home Minister K Jana Reddy had told the state Assembly that he would never shake hands with extremists and that he had given freedom to state police to track and eliminate the “PWG menace”. But within two months, he signed an ordinance declaring ceasefire and also stood at the venue of the peace talks meeting to receive top PWG and Janashakti leaders with flower bouquets and garlands. Congress leaders, particularly Telangana leaders who had borne the brunt of extremist attacks, were wary of the YSR experiment. But the CM had convinced them that it would be a jackpot if the government pulled it through and resolve all land issues.

For the Congress party in Telangana, talks with Maoists was a good alternative as party cadres had turned extremist sympathisers in the battle against TDP. “We need to resolve issues with the extremists to bring peace in rural Telangana,” said Sridhar Babu of Warangal, a former minister and son of former Speaker Sripad Rao, who was killed by the PWG. The PWG had hoisted red flags in lands – private, forest and that belonging to the government Endowments Department – signalling that they stood occupied for redistribution among the landless.

However, the team of mediators led by SR Sankaran, KG Kannabiran, Gadar, G Kalyan Rao, and editor P Venkateswar Rao had tried to convince both sides that the peace talks would be in everyone’s best interests. A month ahead of the talks the mediators trekked to Nallamala forests and met Ramakrishna aka RK, secretary of the Maoists’ AP State Committee. “Maoists had a long list of complaints and were firm on keeping arms and countering state terror,” reminisced Pothuri Venkateswar Rao, senior editor who was part of the team of interlocutors.

Maoists come out of forests

Eleven Maoists who walked out of the Nallamala forest on 11 October were given a heroes’ welcome. Clad in camouflage fatigues, with rifles slung over their shoulders, they came out two hours behind schedule at 11.30 pm. Ramakrishna alias Akkiraju Hargopal had an AK47 hanging from his shoulder. A large contingent of police and plainclothesmen and electronic media besides some mediators had received them on the edge of the forest. In a ceremonial guard of honour presented by the Maoist cadre, the leaders returned their weapons to them and waited until the cadres disappeared into thick forests, as this reporter witnessed the proceedings.

With two police jeeps escorting them, the Maoist leaders travelled from Chinna Arutla in the Nallamala forests to Guttikonda near Guntur where they addressed a public meeting in the dead of night in the presence of local MLAs and police. Ramakrishna, who had been a legend for Telangana youth, had come out of the forests after 15 years. He was welcomed by villagers who raised slogans of ‘Lal Salam’ for him. RK spoke about jungle life, his commitment for land reforms and that power came only through the barrel of a gun. Later they were whisked away to Manjira guest house in Hyderabad which became their safe haven for the next four to five days. An entire floor was allocated to the Maoist leaders and mediators too stayed there. Later we were told that some of the 11-member team were actually the personal guards of Ramakrishna.

How the peace talks nosedived

Even before the talks began PWG leaders almost punctured the scope of talks. They released a press statement about the merger of the PWG with another group – MCC – now the CPI (Maoists) had become the largest armed rebel group in India with a presence in 14 states. The new outfit had set its goal to form a ‘Red Corridor from AP to Nepal’. Addressing the media, Ramakrishna also made the stand of the ultras clear — that they would not give up arms and also that they prioritised land reforms over everything. “The CPI (Maoists) would continue the protracted people’s war and the peace talks process would help in taking the movement forward,” he had said, making it clear that war against government was still the philosophy of the ultras.

The Maoists’ press conference took the spirit out of the peace talks and even mediators were speechless. They had hoped to bargain with government and somehow seal a peace treaty.

YSR too was peeved at the directions of Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil to not sign any agreement with PWG leaders without approval from the Centre. “The PWG is not just a regional group now. After merger with MCC, they are a pan-Indian group,” Patil told YSR on phone and also sent a team of three Home Ministry officials, including a joint director of the Intelligence Bureau to “assist” the state government in negotiations.

YSR was further informed that the demands list of the Maoists had to be vetted at the Centre and not state level. The state home minister was told constantly to consult the emissaries from the Union Home Ministry. But Jana Reddy was shocked when he learnt that the central agencies had better information about happenings in the convention hall of the Manjira Guest House than his own officials.

This reporter, who interacted with mediators and also senior police officials, found that the outcome of the peace talks was already known to most participants including the negotiators and officials. A face-saving resolution was passed and both parties inked their consent to meet within three months and continue the effort to end violence in rural AP.

maoist-leader-meet-GSRADHAKRISHNAN

Ramakrishna aka RK, secretary of the Maoists’ AP State Committee, meeting with other PWG leaders. Image sourced by GS Radhakrishna

The agreement was violated within two months. “It is against our principle to give up arms,” said Maoist spokesperson Azad. “The Maoist condition that they carry arms but will not use it against police or innocents is hilarious and absurd,” retorted YSR.

Aftermath of peace talks 

The aftermath of peace talks has been cruel to Maoists and to this day they rue having come for negotiations. They curse the mediators, who suffered later and became victims of state terror. “We were riding a tiger, either way, with govt or the Maoists. We tried sincerely in the interests of the rural peace and landless poor who were sandwiched between both,” said Pothuri Venkateswar Rao. Though Venkateswar Rao was spared, others like P Vara Vara Rao and G Kalyan Rao were arrested later and let off after months at Chanchalguda jail over false cases.

Human rights activist and a former secretary of AP Civil Liberties Committee Dr K Balagopal squarely blamed Chief Minister YSR for the failure of peace talks between the government and Maoists. “Dr Reddy always strived to scuttle the process. It is meaningless to tell Maoists that talks are being held to work out modalities for their disarming,” he said.

YSR is said to have washed his hands of the issue after the Centre stepped in and party president Sonia Gandhi urged him to lie low. His loss was that he lost a golden opportunity to consolidate the gains of his welfare measures and gains from the Padayatra.

On 20 October, 2004, when Naxal leaders went back to the forests, they were shown the path into Nallamala forests from Chinna Arutla from the same place where they had come out. Though the talks failed, it was a windfall for police intelligence agencies. “We gathered a lot of information on them individually,” an official told this reporter.

Four months later, on 3 February, 2005, Greyhounds commandos surrounded top Maoist leaders like Ramakrishna in their hideout in the Nallamala forests. As commandos awaited shoot orders from then DGP Swaranjit Singh, the Maoists roped in negotiators and got the government to call off the ambush and allow the Maoists to escape. Escape they did to Chhattisgarh. But the commandos smashed all the dens, arms dumps and informer systems in AP.

The intelligence gathered by the AP police was of great help to the UPA in the campaign against ultras in the north, particularly Chhattisgarh, Jharkand, Bihar and West Bengal. “Since the CPI (Maoists) is dominated by the Telugu speaking cadre, the info provided by AP police was of great help to keep tabs on the ultras in not only Chhattisgarh but also in West Bengal and Jharkhand,” said SRC Kalluri, DG of Bastar.

The Green Hunt campaign in Chhattisgarh brought windfall gains to the state BJP government and also to the UPA. And now, with the Janti village encounter in AOB, the Maoists have been hit hard. “We have lost our AOB leadership and connections with the tribal leaders. But the movement is not dead as the battle for land and livelihood of tribals and Dalits still rages on in Odisha, Chhattisgarh and also Jharkhand, besides AP and Telangana in a big way,” said CPI (Maoists) spokesperson Shyam.