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Jung not over? LG Anil Baijal non-commital on fixing relationship with Kejriwal

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former bureaucrat Anil Baijal took over as 20th Lt Governor of Delhi and struck a cautious note on where the LG’s office will stand in repairing the fractured relationship between the Centre and AAP government which had hit rock bottom under his predecessor. 70-year-old Baijal, who had served in a number of key positions at the Centre including as Union Home Secretary, was administered the oath of office and secrecy by Chief Justice of Delhi High Court G Rohini, 10 days after Najeeb Jung’s abrupt resignation as the LG.Baijal said addressing key challenges like women’s safety, pollution, traffic congestion and strengthening infrastructure will be his priority areas.The oath ceremony was attended by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, Delhi Chief Secretary MM Kutty, leader of Opposition in Delhi Assembly Vijender Gupta among others.On being asked about tussle between previous LG Jung and the city government on a range of issues including administrative control over the bureaucracy, Baijal said, “This is speculative. I don’t know why and how the relationship will improve. We will sit and talk and then you will get to know.”Welcoming Baijal’s appointment, Kejriwal said he was hopeful that under the new LG, governance in the national capital will see new momentum overcoming the past hurdles.”I am very hopeful that in the future, we all – MLAs, Delhi government, people of Delhi – will work with the Lt Governor for overall development of Delhi. “In the last few months, some works of Delhi government have come to a standstill. I hope that these works will be expedited,” Kejriwal said at an event at Delhi Assembly complex.Baijal said he will put his best efforts in improving law-and-order situation, women’s safety, traffic congestion besides strengthening infrastructure and civic amenities in the city.”Delhi is a megapolis which has several problems like women safety, law and order, huge population, infrastructure, civic agencies and congestion. We all know about these problems. We will work with elected government to solve them,” he told reporters. Baijal also thanked President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for giving him the responsibility. A 1969-batch IAS officer, Baijal had served as Union Home Secretary under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government besides holding key positions in other ministries.He was actively associated with the designing and countrywide roll-out of Rs 60,000-crore Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) launched by the Manmohan Singh government. Baijal had retired from service in 2006 as Urban Development Secretary. He had served as vice chairman of Delhi Development Authority and is known to be well versed with the city administration.The former bureaucrat was also on the executive council of think-tank Vivekananda International Foundation, several of whose former members have been appointed to senior positions by the Modi government including NSA Doval.Baijal, known to follow the rule book, will have to take a series of important decisions including on the report of Shunglu committee, set up by Jung to examine over 400 files pertaining to decisions taken by the AAP government in the last two years.The Shunglu committee has reportedly pointed out “irregularities” in some of the Kejriwal government’s decisions.His immediate task will also include appointing a new chairman of Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) which has been headless since November after the appointment of incumbent Krishna Saini was turned down by Jung.Jung and the AAP dispensation had clashed over a range of issues including transfer and posting of bureaucrats, setting up of enquiry commissions and among others.There was a running battle between L-G office and Kejriwal government with the latter constantly challenging the former’s supremacy in the city administration.Jung had won the court battle as the Delhi High Court had stamped the primacy of Lt Governor in the affairs of Government of NCT.However, AAP government had approached the Supreme Court challenging the high court verdict and during a recent hearing in the case, the apex court had said the elected government should have some powers.

Modi speech: Farmers’ fitting reply to critics as rabi sowing up, claims PM; announces sops

New Delhi – In a bonanza to farmers post demonetisation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday announced that government will bear interest for 60 days on crop loans taken by farmers from district cooperative banks and primary societies for sowing operations this Rabi season.

In his national address on the eve of the New Year, Modi also announced that the 3 crore ‘Kisan Credit Cards’ would be converted to RuPay Card within three months to help farmers purchase various inputs anywhere. Nabard will be given an additional Rs 20,000 crore to finance district cooperative banks and societies.

Prime minister Narendra Modi. File photoPrime minister Narendra Modi. File photo

Prime minister Narendra Modi. File photo

“In the last few weeks, an impression was sought to be created that agriculture sector has been destroyed. Farmers themselves have given a fitting reply to those who were doing so. Rabi sowing is up by 6 per cent when compared to last year. Fertiliser offtake is up by 9 per cent during this period,” Modi said.

The government has taken care to ensure that farmers do not suffer for want of access of seeds, fertilisers and credits, he added.

“Now, we have taken some more decisions in the interest of farmers. Farmers who had taken loan for the Rabi crop from district cooperative central banks and primary societies will not have to pay interest on such loans for a period of 60 days,” the Prime Minister said.

Farmers who have paid interest during the last two months will get this amount back directly in their bank accounts, he said.

Arrangements are being made to provide farmers better access to loans from district cooperative banks and primary societies, Modi said.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 21:55 IST

Thick fog blankets Delhi; 69 trains, 12 flights delayed

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Dense fog shrouded the national capital this morning with the minimum temperature dipping to 8.2 degrees Celsius, one notch above the season’s average.The blanket of fog also brought down visibility levels which affected train operations.As many as 69 north-bound trains were running late while 16 have been rescheduled, four cancelled a railways spokesperson said.Nine international flights have been delayed and one has been cancelled in Delhi. Three domestic flights have been delayed and two are cancelled.Visibility was recorded at 200 metres at 5.30 am, which subsequently improved to 400 metres by 8.30 am, a weather official said. “The maximum temperature is likely to be around 19 degrees Celsius and partly cloudy conditions will prevail through the day,” the official said.Humidity was maximum at 100% at 8.30 am. Yesterday, the maximum temperature had plunged to 18.5 degrees, two notches below the normal, while the minimum was recorded at 10.5 degrees Celsius.

Jaggi Vasudev on notebandi, nationalism and why he stands behind Narendra Modi

Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev is known for speaking his mind on a wide range of issues. In his new book Inner Engineering: A Yogi’s Guide to Joy (Penguin Random House India Pvt. Ltd), he has redefined spirituality. He does not describe himself as the usual ‘guru’, which he once called a four letter word. Instead, he prefixes it with another four-letter word ‘sadh’ to complete his self-description. To talk to us, he walked into a central Delhi garden, kissed gently by the winter sun, in a turban that hides the colour of his hair and a cotton-candy beard that gives it away. Spirituality for him is not a straight jacket. He enjoys playing ball, flies choppers and wears jeans when not in loose cotton pants, and surprises you by calling spirituality a ‘technology’. Spirituality is neither detachment, self-abnegation nor being less worldly than anybody else. He engages with every contemporary issue and doesn’t hold back. Though not politically aligned with any party or leader, he discusses demonetisation and nationalism, the two hot-button issues of the day. With the disclaimer that he is not ‘nationalistic freak’, he says India needs to stand behind somebody who has taken a huge political risk (a reference to Narendra Modi and demonetisation), and that emotional commitment to a country is an essential ingredient for nation-building. Edited excerpts:

Your book revolves around your healing principle of ‘Inner Engineering’. Can you explain the concept?

This is not a teaching, preaching, philosophy, religion, this is a technology for wellbeing. Show me one person who doesn’t need a technology for wellbeing? In India, the book is leading across sections and doing even better than fiction and that is a statement from the people that it was needed. When it comes to other aspects of our life, we employ science and tech to make things work. When it comes to religion, we still have silly philosophies and ideologies. Why? This is a movement from religion to responsibility. Without turning inward, there is no way you will have yourself the way you want yourself to be. When you can approach medicine in a scientific manner, why can’t you approach inner-wellbeing in a logically correct and scientifically verifiable way, I ask?

The reason why somebody feels insecure and miserable is because they haven’t taken charge of their inward and out of insecurities and the bad experience of life, people may do many things in reaction.

Political developments across the globe in 2016 suggest that countries are closing their doors. Is there a way to go inwards into your culture and identity without pitting them against that of another?
Going inwards is not about culture, it is not about politics or the positions that we take in the world. Going inwards is because the source of your experience is within you. The reason why somebody feels insecure and miserable is because they haven’t taken charge of their inward and out of insecurities and the bad experience of life, people may do many things in reaction. Going inwards means you are in charge of how you experience your life, you can make it beautiful or ugly, blissful or miserable. Right now, because people haven’t turned inwards, there is much fear of suffering and anxiety, and anger against each other. We are trying to fix the reactions, when we should be fixing the source.

In the context of demonetisation, tell us if India is more critical of governmental decisions than before and do most believe that policies are designed to harm them?

We are critical of governmental decisions because we are used to governments that don’t take any decisions. Now when any decision is made, we think it is wrong. We’ve been a developing nation f70 years because we are simply unwilling to fix the fundamentals. There are certain serious problems in the country, do you want to take them head-on or do you want to pussyfoot around them forever? Demonetisation is a little bit of a confrontation with the problem that nearly 60 percent transactions are beneath the radar. How do you run a nation when a little over two per cent pay taxes? How does a nation’s administration function effectively without revenue? This is a system coming from a colonial era and the nomenclature still continues. Even today, district administrators are called collectors because in those days their job was to collect taxes. Earlier, whoever didn’t pay tax was a hero. We are still in that hangover. We can’t live in little nations of comfort and wellbeing, it’s time that we work for the wellbeing of the nation as a whole and for that some painful steps have to be taken. Right now, the issue is that if I have to start my own business, I have to build my own road, generate electricity, and manage sewage. This is not an excuse to not be in the tax net. Only if we pay, we can demand services. Democracy is not a spectator sport, we can participate through various instruments on a daily basis and demand results. If 30 percent of the population doesn’t come in the tax net in the next 10 years, we won’t have a developed nation. Nothing significant happens without some pain.

That said, do you think the present government is doing a good job?

The present government is doing a very good job by wielding a stick at those who are not being compliant with the nation’s goals. But the political game in a democratic country is nebulous. They will have to do a few populist things. When somebody takes a huge political risk to correct something, you have to stand with them. Once people have elected a government, all of us should simply support it. If you pull their leg, how will they function? I am not politically aligned with a party or a fan of any leader but believe in the wellbeing of a democratic nation. If you have any other commitment going against the nation’s growth, it is a crime. Those who are sitting in comfortable places are doing these things without understanding what we are denying to those who have barely eaten. You go to the remotest parts of Africa and you’ll find that the children are bouncy and healthy. Though there is experience and cultural strength in India, we are not doing well on the ground.

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Do we define nationalism too much? Why has it become necessary to prove that we are Indian?
Right now the big issue is that of playing the national anthem in theatres. Because you have popcorn in one hand and cola in the other, you can’t stand up. If there is no pride about the country, how do you build a country? Nationalism is not an ultimate goal, but an immediate need to move the people in one direction, otherwise everybody has their own caste, creed, religion, all kinds of things. We are talking about nuances of liberal freedom when half the people have not eaten. Right now, we’re in the basics, let’s understand this. I am not a nationalistic freak, my work is beyond national, racial and religious borders, and my idea of humanity is 7.3 billion people. But the nation is the largest mass of people and to bind it together and take it forward, national identity is important. Emotional commitment to the country is needed.

Is this the era of collective rage, clashing opinions and a lack of action?
The rage is limited to the media. There is a big sense of satisfaction and fulfilment among the poorest of poor in this country, because they feel that for the first time somebody has hit the rich. I only wish this digitisation process had started a year earlier, and 30 to 40 percent of the population had moved into a cashless economy. People are protesting all the time. There is more activism in the country than activity, we need activity. We have inherited this from a pre-independence era where we call for a bandh, shut down electricity, rasta roko, rail roko. Gandhi’s technology was fine when someone else was ruling us. How do we shut down our own nation? I am not for mad fanaticism at all but I am asking, how do you move people without getting them emotionally identified with the nation?

Not all mental ailments are because of pathological causes, but also happen because of social causes. In the West, one of the biggest problems is loneliness. In India, there is no room for loneliness because someone is always walking over you.

A recent Bollywood movie Dear Zindagi discussed the subject of mental health. Does everybody secretly like to believe they are depressed or that they need to be rescued? Is the youth ready or nation building, if they are self-absorbed?
In India, the self-absorbed youth is only a small segment coming from affluent families in urban centres. The rest of them are not like that. The population is largely community-oriented, so people are not depressed on the same scale as Europeans are. Not all mental ailments are because of pathological causes, but also happen because of social causes. In the West, one of the biggest problems is loneliness. In India, there is no room for loneliness because someone is always walking over you. This may look like an irritant at some point but it helps people stay mentally healthy. We are slowly withdrawing from that and moving toward a different mode, and there will be a price to pay.

Is spiritualism now a capitalism-driven material need, just like a bag or a pair of jeans?
There is substantial medical and scientific evidence to prove that only when you are in a pleasant state of experience, your body and brain works at its best. If you want to succeed in the world, it is only a question of harnessing your body and brain to the fullest. If you do this successfully, will you become unsuccessful in the world? Miserable people are not successful. The spiritual process is a self-realisation. You can use a phone better if you know more about it. The same thing applies to the brain, the greatest and most sophisticated gadget on the planet. Spirituality is not a disability, it is the greatest empowerment you can receive, your body, mind, thought, emotions and energy will function for you and not against you if you know the nature of your existence fully. It’s just like you can either open up the cosmos with a phone, or just use it in a rudimentary way to SMS your friend.

Is social media leading to a rise in depression because one has constant access to other people’s achievements? Are we in a state of constant denial?
Every gift given to you is becoming a problem because you are trying to extract happiness from the world. You need to understand that all human experience happens from within. If you’re seeking joy from Facebook, you’ll be miserable because you’ll see wrong faces. Every technology that comes to you has come to enhance your life and not take away your joy. You have to move from compulsiveness to consciousness. Your very mind is the source of your misery. People want the brain of an earthworm? Why? It took us years of evolution to get here. Those who are joyful in their own way, by their own nature, their genius will unfold. Right now, the fear of suffering has cramped you up, you are blaming Facebook, blaming the phone, blaming technology. This is because your own intelligence has turned against you. If the source of your existence is in your hands, you will choose pleasantness.

Over 18,000 children have committed suicide in 2015, if we don’t accept that we are doing something fundamentally wrong, we have not gotten life properly. The entire world looked toward Indian culture for guidance when it came to life.

Why do we have to lose our peace and then find ways to bring it back?
Our schooling system is a leftover from the British times. They designed it mainly to demand obedience. This was her majesty’s requirement. We should have seen what kind of schooling we need for a free India. We need free human beings with a free-ranging mind. A large segment of population has been in extreme poverty and it all became about how to get a job. So, nobody could be trained about anything that concerns life. Over 18,000 children have committed suicide in 2015, if we don’t accept that we are doing something fundamentally wrong, we have not gotten life properly. The entire world looked toward Indian culture for guidance when it came to life. We are not making use of anything we know and are reinventing India from a western perspective. If you say anything Indian, people say mad nationalism is happening. There are 120 weaves in this country, we were the greatest textile nation in the country. But we are killing it totally because our brains are still in Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). At the same time, our Indianness shouldn’t be rigid, history shows us that we have been able to absorb anything that comes our way without resistance and still retained our culture. This is a nation that has explored the interiority of the human mechanism like none other, we have the USP for how a human being can be joyful. This is a methodology we can offer the entire world. First, at least a majority in India has to get this.

So, economic wellbeing isn’t enough for development?
Economic wellbeing alone will not translate into human wellbeing. For instance, in the export town of Tirupur in Tamil Nadu, almost everybody earns two to three times more than those in neighbouring towns. Last year, on Diwali, Tamil Nadu sold 36 crore worth of alcohol and in this about 24 to 25 crore was from Tirupur. It is a town of merely 8 lakh people. Wherever economic wellbeing has happened, 40 per cent has become diabetic. This is why we’re talking about yoga nation.

Can spiritual leaders take a political stand?
If you can stand for an election, why can’t I? I won’t but that’s my choice. I have as much right as you have to stand for elections.

What kind of India do you envision for in 2017?
Right now, 60 percent of the population is undernourished, we are producing half and substandard human beings. The next thing is empowerment. We can educate people toward better agriculture, skill people in different ways; human beings must be empowered to do whatever they want. The next thing is ecology. This is a very serious problem that has gone unattended. Some studies show, on an average, all Indian rivers are depleting by 8 percent per year. This means, in 15-20 years, rivers will become seasonal. For instance, Kaveri doesn’t reach the ocean for two and a half months. What are we going to leave for our children? Barren land? Fly from Delhi to Chennai and every five minutes you will see large patches of brown. When sunlight continuously falls, bio-activity sinks deeper and deeper; what you think is soil today will become sand tomorrow. The per capita potable water you had in 1947, today you have 19 – 20 percent of it. In 2020, you’ll have only 7 seven percent of it. We need drastic ecological policy steps, which people will hate like they hate demonetisation.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 10:09 IST

Demonetisation, staff crunch: Why the I-T dept is struggling to complete scrutiny assessment

With less than 36 hours for the 31 December deadline, the Income Tax (I-T) department staff and officials are burning the midnight oil to complete the scrutiny assessment.

Advancing of the scrutiny deadline, demonetisation and verification of lakhs of bank accounts — all have compounded into an unprecedented workload which the department is grappling with.
The direct tax department’s offices at Civic Centre on Minto Road, CR Building at ITO, Aaykar Bhawan at Laxmi Nagar in New Delhi to name a few are abuzz even after midnight, as the officials are busy in the disposal of time-barred assessment cases, which was 3.66 lakh as on 1 April.

Scrutiny assessment is the examination of the I-T returns by giving an opportunity to the assessee to substantiate the income declared and the expenses, deductions, etc claimed in the returns with evidences. The purpose of the I-T department is to verify whether the assessee has correctly shown his/her income or not.

Despite assessment, verification, search and seizures being a routine job, why has it become a Herculean task for the I-T department to meet government’s demand this time?

Five key reasons

1. Advancing of the assessment deadline: Earlier, the last date of disposal of scrutiny cases was 31 March, which has been changed to 31 December from this year.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

2. Demonetisation effect: After PM Narendra Modi announced demonetisation on 8 November, the I-T department got down to verifying bank accounts where large sums of money have been deposited. After 31 December, the banks will compile details of accounts where cash has been deposited and hand over a CD to I-T department by January end. “There are 25 crore Jan Dhan accounts and money has been deposited in these accounts. Now the department besides its routine work, will also have to verify the suspected accounts, send notices, follow it up…large number of cases will come up. It’s going to be a mammoth job,” an I-T official said.

3. Staff crunch: According to the I-T department, there’s shortage of staff at multiple levels. “There’s 35% shortfall at staff level. The department is top heavy, with more number of chief and principle commissioners, whereas there’s acute shortage at deputy and assistant commissioner and assessment officer levels. Due to shortage of inspectors, field work is getting badly affected. Now, post-demonetisation, pressure on staff will increase multifold,” Ashok Kumar Kanojia, president, Income Tax Employees Federation (ITEF), New Delhi said.

4. Infrastructure bottleneck: “Government promised laptops but has not yet been given. Privacy is a problem as two officers have to share a single room and an assessee would not like to talk in presence of another officer. Besides, the department has to do online scrutiny, but the capacity of the server is so low that often an officer has to wait for long to download information. Internet bandwidth is very low in comparison to the workload, so it takes long hours to dispose cases,” added association’s general secretary Ajay Sharma.

5. Jugglery of numbers: Out of nearly 25 crore Permanent Account Number (PAN) registered with the I-T department, only 5.6 crore file I-T Returns. According to I-T department, nearly 3 crore people pay taxes. The department conducts scrutiny on 1% of the total cases of declarations. “As on 1 April, there were 3.66 lakh scrutiny cases, which has increased by more than a lakh as on date. This itself speaks about the gigantic proportion of workload,” an official remarked.

Tough days ahead…

The tax officials have predicted 2017 as a tough time for them.

“The workload will increase in days to come as the I-T officials would now deal with the information coming from banks. The department has been facing staff crunch for quite some time and it’ll have to manage with the existing staff,” added former chairperson, Central Board of Direct Taxes, Praksah Chandra.

“The department staff and officials have been working without any weekly-offs to meet the deadline. For the last three months large number of staff members hasn’t even taken any leave. It has become cumbersome due to shortage of staff and lack of adequate infrastructure. Several times we’ve communicated it to the government, but to no avail. We don’t have any magic wand to complete this humongous workload,” added Kanojia.

Meanwhile, the Confederation of Central Government Employees & Workers and Income Tax Employees Federation have given a one-day strike call on 15 February. The 21-point charter of demands of the joint call includes the problems being faced by the tax department.

…Yet hopes are alive

“There are hurdles, staff crunch, etc, but as the department is accountable towards disposal of time-barring cases, every case will be completed within deadline, how difficult it may be. Despite mounting pressure, we know the department staff will ultimately perform,” said general secretary, IRS Association, Jayant Mishra said.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 18:29 IST

BJP, AAP all set for 2017 high-stakes Delhi municipal poll

New Delhi: The high-stakes municipal poll is likely to set the tone for the political battle in the national capital in 2017 in which BJP will seek to retain its turf facing an upbeat AAP which aims to replicate its stunning performance of 2015 in its civic polls debut.

The Arvind Kejriwal-led party had swept the Delhi Assembly elections in 2015 reducing BJP to just three seats while Congress failed to open its account.

The erstwhile unified Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) was trifurcated in 2012 into North, South and East Corporations.

BJP has been ruling the MCD and the subsequent three civic bodies for nearly 10 years.

The last municipal elections were held in 2012 in which BJP was voted back to power. The civic bye-polls in May saw AAP bagging 5 of the 13 seats, while Congress had made a spirited comeback by winning 4 seats, pushing BJP to third spot.

The three civic bodies, North Delhi Municipal Corporation, South Delhi Municipal Corporation and East Delhi Municipal Corporation constitute 272 seats, with NDMC and SDMC accounting for 104 seats each while 64 seats fall under EDMC.

File photo. PTI

File photo. PTI

The BJP, which dominates the civic bodies, was left with only three seats in the bypolls, signalling that the municipal elections next year could be a keenly-fought contest.

All three parties are gearing up to put their best foot forward, with BJP hoping to retain its turf amid changed political scenario while AAP seeks to replicate its performance, banking on the loyalty and support it earned from the assembly election.

Sanitation, education and health would be some of the major factors that would be weighing on voters mind during the polls.

AAP and BJP have already been at loggerheads over the sanitation and garbage disposal issue in the city, with one side blaming the other for lack of cleanliness in the city.

The Kejriwal-led party aims to target the BJP on sanitation grounds and conditions in unauthorised colonies, where a considerable chunk of voters in the city reside.

Delimitation will change the geography of many wards and AAP, BJP and Congress think that redrawing of the municipal limits could affect the outcome of the civic elections. Civic polls would be considered the litmus test for AAP in Delhi and the contest would be a keenly-watched one.

Besides, urban issues becoming poll planks, 2017 is also set to see Delhi Development Authority’s (DDA) launching its new Housing Scheme with 12,000 flats on offer. The scheme was earlier slated to be launched this Diwali.

Out of the total number of flats, most of them are in Rohini, Dwarka, Narela, Vasant Kunj and Jasola. Ten thousand unoccupied flats are from the 2014 scheme, while 2,000 are other flats which have been lying vacant.

Sources said most of the flats are one-bedroom LIG flats from the last housing scheme and no new flat is on offer this time.

“About 10,000 are LIG flats from 2014 DDA scheme. Unlike EWS (Economically Weaker Section) last time, in 2016 scheme there would be no such category,” a DDA official said.

From application to refund, the DDA this time has planned to make the scheme an online affair to reduce the long queues of flat buyers at its headquarters.

“Yes, plans are underway to make the process completely online,” a source said.

“We are in talks with certain vendors for upgrading our infrastructure to handle the expected increase in traffic. But, we are technologically capable of handling the online rush,” the source said.

The flagship Housing Scheme 2014 offered 25,040 flats across categories, with prices ranging between Rs 7 lakh and Rs 1.2 crore.

The online response had been so massive that the DDA’s official website crashed soon after the launch. The one-bedroom flats were offered in Dwarka, Rohini, Narela and Siraspur areas.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 16:09 IST

Delhi Police battled controversies, cracked high-profile cases in 2016

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>From arresting three JNU students on charges of sedition to booking of several AAP MLAs, 2016 saw Delhi Police battling a series of controversies even as it cracked a number of high-profile cases, nabbed wanted terrorists and busted an espionage ring involving a Pakistan High Commission staffer.Crime against women continued to rise and a number of brutal rape and assault cases kept the police on its toes though it managed to solve some of them in quick time.In June, a multi-city kidney racket involving doctors and touts was busted by Delhi Police while it arrested Khalistan Liberation Front chief Harminder Singh Mintoo who had escaped from Nabha jail. A number of persons suspected to have links with ISIS and al Qaeda were also caught in the course of the year.Women safety in the national capital continued to be a cause of concern with 1,981 cases of rape being reported till November 30 even as police launched a number of initiatives to contain crime against women.The brutal stabbing of a 21-year-old girl in Burari in broad daylight in September by a man who was allegedly stalking her for several months, and the videos of the shocking incident left people horrified. In February, the arrest of JNU Students Union president Kanhaiya Kumar and two others on charges of sedition for allegedly organising an event against hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, triggered a huge controversy with Opposition political parties slamming police for “working at the behest of ruling BJP”.The arrest of Kumar catapulted him to national fame and resulted in students protests across the country. The arrests also led to a nationwide debate on nationalism. Police had also come under severe criticism following attacks on journalists and students and teachers of JNU at the Patiala House court by some lawyers just before Kanhaiya was to be produced.In October, JNU student Najeeb Ahmed went missing, a day after he was allegedly involved in a brawl with some students including ABVP activists, leading to an agitation with students alleging police inaction in tracing him. The uneasy relationship between the AAP government and Delhi Police continued this year as police arrested nine AAP MLAs, drawing angry reaction from the party with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal alleging the law enforcing agency was acting at the behest of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.The MLAs arrested are Dinesh Mohaniya, Prakash Karwal, Gulab Singh, Amanatullah Khan, Somnath Bharti, Rituraj Govind, Naresh Balyan, Sharad Chauhan and Jagdeep Singh and the charges ranged from rioting, outraging the modesty of woman, sexual harassment, criminal intimidation and assault.Sandeep Kumar, who was sacked as Cabinet Minister over an “objectionable” CD, was arrested on rape charges on the complaint of the woman who purportedly figured in the CD.The Anti-Corruption headed by Mukesh Kumar Meena, was also involved in a tussle with the AAP dispensation over registration of cases and questioning of AAP ministers and MLAs, including deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, Kapil Mishra, Gopal Rai, Amanatullah Khan.The brutal killing of a 23-year-old Congolese national by three youths following a brawl over hiring an auto-rickshaw in south Delhi in May made national headlines as the government rushed to assure the African community in India of their safety.Delhi Police’s Special Cell continued to clamp down on terror activities with the arrest of six people for suspected links with al Qaeda and ISIS.The year ended with them nabbing Mintoo, who had escaped from Nabha jail, from Nizamuddin railway station here.In October, the Crime Branch also busted an espionage ring with the arrest of four people who were allegedly sharing sensitive defence documents and deployment details of BSF along the Indo-Pak border with a Pakistan High Commission staffer.The staffer Mehmood Akhtar was later declared persona non-grata by the government and he had to leave the country.Following the demonetization of high-value currencies, police raided various areas across the city and recovered over Rs 17 crore in illegal cash.The year ended with a 20-year-old girl, who was on a job hunt, allegedly being raped in a car in South Delhi’s Moti Bagh area, a grim throwback to the horrific Delhi gangrape of a para-medic student in a moving bus four years ago.The alleged suicides by former Director General Corporate Affairs B K Bansal and his son in September, two months after his wife and daughter committed suicide, allegedly due to harassment by CBI, not only drew criticism for the premier investigating agency but also for police as it didn’t register any case despite the presence of purported suicide notes of Bansal and his son.The contentious case of Sunanda Pushkar didn’t see any headway for the second consecutive year even as police accepted that her death was not natural and questioned her husband Shashi Tharoor and Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar in February.Some of the other developments in the case included the formation of a medical board to study the FBI report, sending reminders to Canada to send details of deleted chats from Tharoor and Sunanda’s Blackberry phones, and Enforcement Directorate being requested to investigate the financial irregularities related to now-defunct Kochi IPL franchise.Some of the high-profile cases being investigated by Delhi Police included hacking of Twitter and email accounts of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and missing files concerning Ishrat Jahan encounter from MHA.The Crime Branch cracked down on the notorious red light G B Road in the heart of the city in August dismantling a vast human trafficking and prostitution racket, arresting the kingpin couple and their several accomplices.The suicide by an ex-serviceman close to Ministry of Defence building over the OROP issue kept police busy with many politicians raising the issue and slamming Modi government.As many as 3,400 personnel of paramilitary and Delhi Police were deployed at banks and ATMs across the national capital after serpentine queues led to law-and-order problem in some areas.In the new year, police envisages to modernise its operations and reduce burden on its more than 80,000 personnel by mulling over the possibility of introducing eight-hour shifts on the lines of its Mumbai counterpart.Delhi Police will also be setting up a separate control room for handling calls on phone number 112, which will be India’s equivalent of 911 of the US’ all-in-one emergency services, that will be rolled out from January 1 and the closure of 100 that is the go-to solution for people in distress.

Delhi: Deputy CM Manish Sisodia’s office burgled; computers, documents missing

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia’s office in Vinod Nagar area of his Patparganj constituency in east Delhi has been burgled, with the thieves decamping with computers, documents, CCTV camera DVR among others, police said on Friday.”Some materials have been stolen from the reception area of the office which is in the process of being shifted. The burglary is expected to have taken place late last night. The matter is being probed,” said a senior police officer.Two computers, letter pad, hard disk, documents, digital video recorder of CCTV camera among others were stolen by the burglars who entered the premises by breaking the lock of the office, sources said.Police said they received a burglary call at around 9:20 AM following which a team was sent to the spot.”The whole office was ransacked and we we are trying to ascertain what others item are missing. The office was locked at 2:30 AM yesterday, In-charge of the office Upendra said.The matter is being probed, police added.

Delhi deputy CM Manish Sisodia’s office burgled: Documents, computers allegedly stolen

New Delhi: Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia’s office was burgled late night on Thursday, the city police said.

File photo. PTI

File photo of Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia. PTI

“There was a robbery at the Patparganj office of Deputy CM late night on Thursday. The exact time is not yet known,” deputy commissioner of police (East) Omvir Singh said.

“The district forensic team has lifted finger-prints from the crime scene,” Singh said.

“The office was being shifted and most of the articles were already moved. However, some documents and two computers were stolen,” he added.

Aam Aadmi Party worker Pankaj Singh told IANS that the lock of the office was broken and some documents, including letterheads as well as CPUs of two computers, were missing.

“The burglers also turned away the CCTV cameras and took away the DVRs that had the recordings,” Upendra Kumar, who is in-charge of the party office, said. The police, along with a dog squad, came to Sisodia’s office on Friday morning to investigate the theft, he added.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 12:21 IST

Exclusive: CISF to be the world’s largest aviation security player by 2030, says OP Singh

The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) that made a humble beginning in 1969 with a small strength of 3,129 men, has witnessed an exponential growth in terms of strength, portfolio and revenue earning. Today, with the latest sanctioned strength of 1.8 lakh armed personnel and 12 battalions, the CISF will be the world’s third largest aviation security expert by 2020. The only security force that earns its own salary, CISF has been aiming to be the largest player in the aviation security market by 2030.

On various aspects of the security force that guards the economic installations of the country, the CISF’s director-general, OP Singh, a 1983 batch IPS officer of Uttar Pradesh cadre spoke to Firstpost in an exclusive interview. Edited excerpts follow:

Prior to your appointment as CISF chief, you had been the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) chief and had stints in the CRPF and Special Protection Group (SPG). What challenges do you perceive as director-general of CISF?

I have worked with the CISF earlier and was in charge of 59 airports in the country. But it was only for a year. Working in the paramilitary forces is a challenging task and each (unit) has its own different way of performing its duty and dealing with crises and humanitarian work. CISF was created to secure the industrial environment. After the 1956 industrial policy, the country witnessed the emergence of large public sector undertakings (PSUs) and lots of industries. Following economic liberalisation and globalisation, there was a surge in the industrial sector and security of this sector became paramount. It emerged as a futuristic force, where the need was to secure the most sensitive installations and also those sectors like airports, seaports, Metro rail etc that have a direct impact on our economy. Our role is to protect all these vital economic installations in government, public and private sectors. We’re even protecting heritage sites.

How challenging is it for CISF to secure airports, especially after the Kandahar incident in which IA flight IC-814 was hijacked in 1999?

After the hijacking incident, the government decided to revamp airport security system in a big way, when the need was felt to give the responsibility of securing airports to a professional, dedicated and strong force. CISF was assigned the job and we were given the responsibility of Jaipur airport in 2000. Earlier, it was looked after by the state police. Ever since, aviation security was a new and highly challenging assignment for us.

The aviation sector is growing by leaps and bounds, and by 2020, CISF will be the world’s third largest aviation security expert. We’ll be the largest player in the aviation security market by 2030. Besides, aviation security is regulated by international standards and norms; CISF has to catch up with all these challenges.

CISF director-general OP Singh in his office. Firstpost/Debobrat Ghose

CISF director-general OP Singh in his office. Firstpost/Debobrat Ghose

How does CISF safeguard sensitive installations in nuclear and space sectors? 

Different treatment is required to protect various domains in the country. Here, technological advancement comes into play and therefore besides manual training, CISF goes for technological training, and gadgets become one of our most important USPs. From securing airports to nuclear plants and space centres, we require hi-tech gadgets. We undergo a high level of technological training combined with our soft and hard skills, physical reflexes, armed training, etc. So, CISF is a conglomeration of all these tools and techniques.

What is CISF’s modernisation plan? 

Technology is required in various fields of our functioning. For instance, in access control — which is the know-how required to gain access to a particular installation such as an airport building, or in perimeter security — the area of the airport which is banned for public and is under constant patrolling. You need different gadgets for these specialised jobs. For a quick response time to vulnerable and emergency situations like any terror threat, you need quick response teams to protect installations. Then screening and frisking all require technical gadgets. All CISF personnel, whether working in airports or in different fields, undergo specialised training as per requirement. Securing an airport requires different skills than for securing a nuclear power plant.

CISF wants to provide an integrated security solution under a single umbrella.

Is CISF’s backhand operation equally important?  

Of course. We provide training on computerisation, monitoring events via CCTV, post-investigation of incidents, analysis of events etc. On the basis of these, ground-level decisions are taken.

After the Mumbai terror attack (26 November) in 2008, what is CISF’s brief in combating terror threats?  

After Mumbai, the mandate of the force was broadened to provide security cover to private establishments by amending the CISF Act. We have specialised training for anti-terror activities, which is provided to our people in the training institutes based in Madhya Pradesh and Greater Noida. Then we have VIP security. We conduct mock drills at various installations to measure up our preparedness for any such eventuality.

Is CISF providing security to installations based in the Red Corridor that is home to Naxals? 

Yes, in a big way. Our men have risen to the occasion by not only providing security to installations against Left-wing extremism but also in managing a big public domain — by providing safety and security to thousands of staff members working in the industrial sector. Our job is to protect all the economic installations like mines, steel and power plants, gas pipelines, rail tracks, etc in the Red Corridor from the Naxal threat looming over them.

Besides the Red Corridor, CISF is deployed in other sensitive areas in Jammu and Kashmir and North Eastern states to provide security to highly vulnerable and critical establishments.

How is CISF’s role evolving with the ever-expanding Delhi Metro?         

It’s one of the most challenging assignments, as lakhs of people commute every day — securing them is a big task. The population is increasing and the Delhi Metro network is undergoing its third phase of expansion. By sheer numerical strength of the Delhi Metro, it becomes a gigantic task to manage the network — we have to take care of access control, frisking, monitoring, safety and security of commuters, movements, tracking petty crimes, criminal behaviour, women, senior citizens, children safety, issue of human trafficking, missing children, and lost-and-found baggage systems. We’re flexible in finding  lost baggage both in Metros and at airports. We’ve deviced a mobile app for this need.

Can you tell more about this mobile app? 

It’s called the ‘Lost and Found App’. You can register yourself, log in and find your lost item. We can help you in finding your lost baggage. The app has received the ‘Ficci Smart Policing Award’.

Does CISF have any expansion plans? 

Looking at the way we’re expanding in various fields, the government has sanctioned an additional strength of 35,000. Recently, the Ministry of Home Affairs increased the manpower ceiling and now from a 1.45-lakh-strong force, we have 1.80 lakh people. We have to undergo a process of recruitment for this and then train them. We’ve been sanctioned two additional reserve battalions, one of which will be posted in the Maoist hotbed of Bastar in Chhattisgarh. Now, the CISF has 12 battalions and 1.80 lakh members of personnel.

The CISF is probably the only security force that earns its salary from its-…

Very true. CISF is a cost-reimbursement force. We’re the only security force in the country that earns its own salary. We provide security and get paid by our clients. We give security consultancy services to various PSUs. We’ve done consultancy for IIT-Kharagpur and Chennai; IDBI and ICICI banks; integrated steel plants; Tata Steel, Tata Power; Allahabad High Court; Tirupati and Thirumala Devasthanam etc.

After the Bhopal jail break incident, the Madhya Pradesh government approached us and we provided them security consultancy. Now they have asked us to do it for Indore, Gwalior and Jabalpur jails.

At present, we’re providing consultancy in safety paradigm and architecture to eight private installations including Reliance Refinery at Jamnagar (Gujarat), Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali Food and Herbal Park in Haridwar, Electronic City in Bengaluru. So far, we’ve done 134 consultancy services and we earn money out of this. This is our source of revenue as well as salary. We generate revenue for the government and deposit it with the government exchequer.

CISF director-general OP Singh in his office. Firstpost/Debobrat

CISF director-general OP Singh in his office. Firstpost/Debobrat

How important is the role of women in CISF?

Among the Central Armed Police Forces, the CISF has the largest number of women officers and personnel and they work on par with their male counterparts. Airports and Delhi Metro Rail are two areas where women personnel play a vital role. A group of women personnel has been trained in the Filipino martial art Pekiti Tirsia Kali to respond quickly and effectively against the aggressors.

Any overseas assignments?

The first contingent of the CISF went on a UN Mission to Cambodia in 1991-92. Our officers have also served in Mozambique, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Sudan, Cyprus, and Tunisia, among other countries.  The present — 8th CISF contingent comprises 140 handpicked, highly-trained armed personnel, who are assisting the Haitian National Police in weapon control and public security measures.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 11:38 IST

Delhi Metro: 400 cases of jaywalking on tracks this year, 88 suicide bids

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>While jaywalkers have proved irritants to road safety rules, the protected environs of the Delhi Metro have not remained unaffected from the contempt for approaching traffic, as CISF detected more than 400 cases of unauthorised walking on tracks of the rail network this year.The rail network in the national capital region, that carries an average of 26 lakh passengers per day, saw at least 88 suicide attempts during the period; 12 were successful.The security agency – mandated to provide an armed cover to the over 150 stations of the network in Delhi and adjoining cities of Ghaziabad, Noida, Faridabad and Gurgaon – reported that more than 340 people were fined for jaywalking on tracks after it handed them over to Metro authorities and police.These figures are reflected in a full-year data compiled by the force for 2016 and updated till the middle of December.Officials said unauthorised walking on tracks have been reported largely from elevated and ground stations, not many were detected from under-ground stations of the Delhi Metro.They said when caught on tracks, some commuters were diagnosed with depression, some were inebriated while others were trespassing or just jaywalking on the rails.”The CISF detected these people while monitoring the CCTV footage of the stations, during foot patrol or on information provided by Metro staff or commuters,” they said.Out of the 88 suicide incidents detected, 12 resulted in death while 11 were intercepted by Central Industrial Security Force personnel, 20 were saved due to timely intervention by people around and 45 were rushed to hospitals with injuries.To curb illegal trespassing and suicide attempts, the force undertakes surveillance operations regularly and deploys women and men personnel in plain clothes to keep an eye on anyone exhibiting suspicious behaviour.In a similar stead, more than 3,200 male passengers, travelling in all-women coaches of Delhi Metro, were made to de-board by the force, which runs an operation called ‘Kali’ to check the notorious activity and provide security to female commuters.CISF women personnel have been trained in Filipino martial art technique called ‘Pekiti-Tirsia Kali’ (hence operation Kali), which is a close-quarter unarmed combat skill used to take on multiple opponents at one time by using obscure objects usually worn on the body like a pen or a hairpin.

Rohit Tandon, Paras Lodha sent to 4-day ED custody by Delhi court in money laundering case

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A Delhi court on Thursday sent city- based lawyer Rohit Tandon and businessman Paras Mal Lodha, arrested in connection with a money laundering case, to four- day custody of the Enforcement Directorate.The duo were produced before Metropolitan Magistrate Ashok Kumar, who allowed their custodial interrogation till January 2.The ED had arrested Tandon in New Delhi Thursday morning in connection with a money laundering probe in a case of seizure of Rs 13.6 crore post demonetization after the police raided his law firm premises as part of an anti-black money operation. Lodha was arrested on December 21 and later the court had sent him to seven-day ED custody on December 22. Advocate Vikas Garg, appearing for the ED, moved two applications before the court seeking 14-day custodial interrogation of Tandon and seven days extension of custody Lodha. However, the court only allowed four days of custodial interrogation for both of them.The ED submitted that as per the FIR, Tandon knew about the details of persons involved in the alleged money laundering racket. “The accused is needed to trail the proceeds of crime and to co-relate the collected information and identify the beneficiaries,” he said.Senior advocate Mohit Mathur, appearing for Tandon, denied the allegations, saying “what they (ED) are saying is the proceeds of crime, I am saying it is my money”.”The Ministry of Finance does not say violating Centre’s November 8 demonetization notification will make it an offence. Any amount of money can be deposited in accounts till December 30,” he said.Seeking extension of Lodha’s ED custody, Garg said “in this matter, an amount of around Rs 20 crore is involved.Search was conducted in Delhi and Kolkata where five locker keys and computer data were collected. In the raid at his Delhi apartment, 10,000 incriminating documents were collected. Lodha is needed in order to correlate the collected data.”Lodha’s counsel Sushil Bajaj said there was no ground to extend the custody of his client who is entitled to be released on bail. “When ED says it has already probed and recovered things, then why is his custody needed? Nothing has been recovered from his possession,” he claimed and added that in case of custodial interrogation, Lodha’s lawyer should be permitted to be present.The counsel also sought medical attention for him as he was suffering from ailments like mouth cancer and also had brain tumour which was removed and has two stents in his arteries.The agency suspected that Tandon was allegedly instrumental in the illegal conversion of demonetized currency worth about Rs 60 crore in purported connivance with Lodha and arrested Kotak Mahindra Bank manager in Delhi, Ashish Kumar.With Tandon’s arrest, the investigative agencies have now nabbed some of the major players of the two high-profile black money rackets unearthed after the note ban.Tandon’s case pertains to an operation of Delhi Police’s Crime Branch and the Income Tax department earlier this month when they had seized Rs 13.6 crore, of which Rs 2.6 crore was in new currency, allegedly from a law firm that he is associated with.The ED had booked a PMLA case against him based on the police FIR. The lawyer was earlier separately searched by the tax department where it was said that he had declared undisclosed income worth over Rs 125 crore to the taxman.

What’s wrong if we gave info: Venkaiah Naidu asks on India “lobbying” for ratings upgrade

New Delhi: There is nothing wrong in the government presenting facts before an international ratings agency, Information and Broadcasting Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said today, striking a defiant note on being asked about reports that the government had “lobbied” Moody’s for a ratings upgrade and failed. This is perhaps the first time the government has acknowledged that it was in some dialogue with Moody’s for a rating review, though the minister did not take the name of the rating agency.

A Reuters report had said last week that while India criticised Moody’s ratings methods and pushed aggressively for an upgrade, the U.S.-based agency declined to budge citing concerns over the country’s debt levels and fragile banks. Winning a better credit rating on India’s sovereign debt would have been a much-needed endorsement of Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s economic stewardship, helping to attract foreign investment and accelerate growth.

File photo of Venkaiah Naidu. PTIFile photo of Venkaiah Naidu. PTI

File photo of Venkaiah Naidu. PTI

Previously unpublished correspondence between the Finance Ministry and Moody’s shows New Delhi failed to assuage the ratings agency’s concerns about the cost of its debt burden and a banking sector weighed down by $136 billion in bad loans, the piece went on to say.

On November 16, Moody’s affirmed its Baa3 issuer rating for India, while maintaining a positive outlook, saying the government’s efforts had not yet achieved conditions that would support an upgrade.

“Any agency rates on the basis of information available. What’s wrong if we gave information, placed facts before this agency? Rating is still done by them,” Naidu said while addressing media on achievements of two-and-a-half years of the Modi government.

In letters and emails written in October, the finance ministry questioned Moody’s methodology, saying it was not accounting for a steady decline in the India’s debt burden in recent years. It said the agency ignored countries’ levels of development when assessing their fiscal strength.

Rejecting those arguments, Moody’s said India’s debt situation was not as rosy as the government maintained and its banks were a cause for concern.

To another question on whether the Rs 2000 note will be withdrawn soon, Naidu said that concerns over this note being misused and RSS ideologue S Gurumurthy’ suggestion that it be withdrawn “will be kept in mind”. Does this mean the government will take Gurumurthy’s advice and put this particular currency denomination out of circulation soon?

This piece quotes an interview Gurumurthy gave to a television channel to say that the Rs 2,000 note was introduced only to meet the demand-supply gap after Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes were sucked out of circulation. And that the banks would be asked to hold back Rs 2,000 notes and replace them with lower denomination notes eventually.

Naidu gave out many statistics to buttress his assertion that the two-and-a-half years of the Modi government have been more productive than decades of Opposition rule.

Some stats:

The General insurance industry saw 29 percent growth with premium collection of Rs 9162.81 crore for the month of November.

Rabi sowing increased by 6.37 percent, number of foreign tourists was up by 9.3 percent and foreign exchange earnings increased by 14.4 percent this year

1,36,427 villages declared open defecation free, over three crore toilets built under ‘Swachch Bharat’

14.7 lakh houses approved under PM Awas Yojana. The minister is also known for coining catchy slogans on the go and he did not desist today from doing so. At various points during the interaction, he coined slogans like

Demonetisation is an anti-scam vaccine

It is our endeavor to transform this Desperate India to a New India.

Our government’s endeavour is to unleash the ‘might’ of money through a white money economy

India has changed, Congressmen haven’t

From red tape earlier to red carpet (for investors, under the Modi regime)

We want to create white money, opposition wants a white paper (On demonetisation)

In reply to a question on government’s lacking focus on the entertainment sector, Naidu immediately referred to Aamir Khan starrer ‘Dangal’ which has reported high box office collections since its Christmas release, in India and abroad. It is a little ironic that the minister chose to quote collections from a film where Khan is the lead, given its reported antipathy to comments this actor made sometime ago.

This story says e-commerce major was forced by people associated with the ruling party to end Khan’s contract as a brand ambassador after his comments were criticised by the BJP.

First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 18:49 IST

Punjab Elections 2017: Twitter war between Amarinder Singh and Arvind Kejriwal

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal were engaged in a war of words on Twitter with the former daring the AAP chief to contest against him in the upcoming Punjab polls.Kejriwal said he was not contesting Punjab Assembly elections and was fighting the Badals and state minister Bikram Singh Majithia to help free the state from the menace of drugs, following which Amarinder demanded an apology from him for making “false personal commitments”. “Always knew your screeching in Punjab was pure drama!Now that you’ve conceded,apologise for your months of lies & false personal commitments,” Amarinder said on Twitter.His reply came after Kejriwal said, “I m not fighting punjab elex. So, ur challenge hollow. We r fighting Badals/Majithia, who sunk Punjab in drugs. N u r fighting us, not them?” The Twitter war started with Aam Aadmi Party nominating former journalist and Delhi MLA Jarnail Singh to contest against Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal from Lambi constituency. Amarinder termed Jarnail as a “weak candidate” and alleged that AAP was “colluding” with the Badals. “Jarnail’s nomination bid from Lambi shows AAP-SAD collusion to ensure Badal’s victory. Reeks of an underhand deal!” the PCC chief tweeted.Kejriwal replied, “Sir, r u fighting against Prakash Badal ji or Sukhbir Badal or Majithia or safe seat?” Amarinder then dared Kejriwal to contest against him and tweeted, “Badals’ story is over. You tell me where you’re contesting from and I will come fight you there!” The AAP chief retorted, “So, u r fighting me, not Badals/drugs. Badals also say they will fight against me. U n Badals wish to fight agnst me not agnst each other.” The former Punjab chief minister shot back with a tweet saying, “I’ve defeated Jaitely-Majithia combine when you didn’t even know a thing about Punjab. But tell us, why are you so scared of fighting me?”Kejriwal then replied that he was not contesting Punjab polls and was only seeking to free Punjab from the menace of drugs mafia allegedly patronised by the present dispensation. Congress, which has been in political wilderness for a decade now after losing two successive elections at the hands of the ruling Akali Dal-BJP combine, is seeking to wrest back power. Amarinder, who is contesting his last elections, is Congress’ face in Punjab, but is pitted against entrant AAP which is giving Congress a good fight.Punjab Assembly elections are slated for early next year and the announcement of its schedule is likely soon.

From crimes against women to juvenile offenders, Indian courts acted tough in 2016

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A debatable amendment in juvenile law paved the way for prosecution of children between 16-18 years as adults for heinous offences with a 17-year-old rape accused becoming the first such offender to be tried in 2016 by one of the city trial courts, which acted tough in dealing with crime against women.From renowned climate scientist R K Pachauri to Peepli Live director Mahmood Farooqui to sacked AAP minister Sandeep Kumar, several well-known faces came under the lens for crime against women, as courts dealt with several cases of betrayal of relationships.”These are the times when gruesome crimes against women have become rampant and courts cannot turn a blind eye to the need to send a strong deterrent message to the perpetrators of such crimes. Such offences require exemplary punishment,” Additional Sessions Judge Sanjiv Jain remarked in his verdict in one of the cases.While the maximum punishment of death for two was pronounced in the Jigisha Ghosh murder case of 2009, the progress of a case which was keenly watched globally was the 2014 case of gangrape of a Danish national in which five vagabonds were sentenced to life.Several offences against women and children by their trusted friends or family members and persons in authority also shocked the conscience of the nation, with courts acting tough on the accused and saying perpetrators of such crimes do not deserve any sympathy.Courts “cannot and should not give a licence to those who keep on looking for opportunities to exploit the sentiments and vulnerability of girls”, Additional Sessions Judge Anuradha Shukla Bhardwaj said in another order. A widely-reported case was the award of seven-year jail term to Farooqui for raping an American friend at his residence.Pachauri, the ex-TERI boss, was under constant media glare in a case of sexual harassment lodged by his former colleague and continued to remain on bail. However, he was allowed to go abroad several times by various courts.While some activists criticised the latest amendment in the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 for treating offenders aged between 16-18 years as adults for heinous offences like rape and murder, a juvenile board this August transferred a rape case against a 17-year-old for prosecution by a regular court under the penal law.Among other such cases, two men were sentenced to life term and 10 years, one for raping a step-daughter and the other for violating his daughter and making her pregnant, with judges observing that the “sacrosanct relationship” of father and daughter was “demolished” and the children could not be given a safe environment.While a teacher was sent to jail for six months for sexually harassing a girl student in 2013, one of the Delhi courts sent JNU student, Anmol Ratan, to custody for betraying the trust of a fellow student who was allegedly raped by him after spiking her drink.Several Delhi courts dealt with over half-a-dozen cases of crime against women involving AAP leaders and MLAs including that of sacked minister Sandeep Kumar who spent two months in jail in a rape case after a CD of an alleged sex scandal surfaced. AAP members also faced prosecution in cases of crime against women ranging from sexual assault, molestation, attempt to murder, domestic violence, threat and abetment to suicide with controversial Okhla, Narela, Sangam Vihar and Deoli MLAs, Amanatullah Khan, Sharad Chauhan, Dinesh Mohaniya and Prakash Jarwal, respectively cooling their heels in Tihar jail for sometime in connection with one or the other offences against women.Former AAP minister Somnath Bharti’s encounter with law was far from over as the case lodged by his estranged wife for alleged domestic violence continued in a trial court. Another AAP worker Ramesh Bhardwaj, allegedly involved in abetting suicide of a woman party worker, was given bail by a court here after he remained in jail for some days.Cases of stalking and voyeurism affecting privacy of women were also dealt with sternly as the perpetrators got varying jail terms by courts which stressed the need for “zero tolerance” to crime against women and asked the government to formulate policies to sensitise youth towards gender equality.”Whether it is a public transport system or public place or shopping malls or multiplexes, women find themselves vulnerable to the threat of stalking everywhere,” a court observed.Even women, who lodged false rape cases, were not spared by the courts which pulled them up and directed initiation of perjury proceedings against them for misusing laws meant to protect them, with a court observing in one such case that a woman had humiliated the accused and “made a mockery of the judicial system”.A court here also felt it was time now to have laws to protect and restore the dignity of men charged with false rape cases “as everyone is just fighting to protect the honour of women”, and it has to be examined whether a person acquitted of rape charges be considered as a “rape survivor”.So was the position in a domestic violence case in which the court imposed a cost of Rs 10,000 on a woman for lodging a false case against her second husband and condemned it saying if she was spared, “a wrong message would go that laws to protect women are being misused.”To sum up the courts’ role in dealing with crimes against women, another judge observed “the increasing trend of crimes against women can be arrested only once the society realises that any form of deviance against women would not be tolerated and more so in extreme cases of brutality”. “Hence the criminal justice system must instill confidence in the minds of people, especially women.”

Islamic State, Pakistan-sponsored terrorism keep NIA on its toes

New Delhi: Pakistan-sponsored terrorism and the Islamic State trying to weave its terror network in India kept the National Investigation Agency (NIA) busy throughout 2016.

The year began with one of the most audacious terror attacks on India when four Pakistani terrorists stormed the India Air Force (IAF) base in Pathankot on 2 January and killed seven soldiers.

The NIA, formed in the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, quickly sprang into action and traced links of the attack to Pakistan, blaming Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar for masterminding the strike that brought the improving New Delhi-Islamabad ties back to square-one.

Within months, the anti-terror probe agency filed a detailed charge sheet nailing Azhar and three of his accomplices for their detailed and meticulous planning of the attack.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

But the agency drew flak when the government allowed a Joint Investigation Team (JIT), which included an ISI officer, from Pakistan to visit the sensitive Pathankot military base to probe the incident.

Days after it took over the Pathankot probe, the NIA laid its hands on evidence of the Islamic State trying to expand its presence in India by radicalising youth as potential terrorists.

On 22 and 23 January, over two dozen raids were conducted across the country. Eighteen Islamic State suspects were arrested. Nine more, including a foreigner, were later held in separate raids in Uttar Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

The agency filed a charge sheet in June alleging that Islamic State sympathisers were seeking to establish an Islamist caliphate in India — Junoodul-Khilafa-Fil-Hind — and recruit Muslim youth to terrorism at the behest of Syria-based Shafi Armar alias Yusuf-Al-Hindi.

According to the NIA, Armar, a resident of Karnataka’s Bhatkal district and a senior Islamic State leader managing India recruitment, was in touch with the accused through social media networks.

He trained them how to prepare IEDs, identify training venues and provide logistics support for terror strikes.

However, the agency found itself in the midst of a controversy for going soft on alleged right-wing Hindu terror. On 13 May, it submitted the second and final report in the 29 September 2008, Malegaon bomb blast that killed six persons. The bombing was earlier blamed on the Abhinav Bharat group led by Sadhvi Pragya Thakur and Lt. Col. Srikant Purohit.

The Maharashtra Anti-Terror Squad, which was earlier probing the bombing, had filed charges against the two main accused in the attack. The NIA took over the case in 2011. And its chargesheet this year gave a clean chit to Thakur and watered down the case against Purohit.

The agency got one of its major successes when a Bengaluru court convicted 13 Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists in a 2012 conspiracy to kill prominent leaders, journalists and police officers in Karnataka and Maharashtra.

Another success came when a special court awarded the death sentence to five Indian Mujahideen operatives for their role in the 21 February 21 2013, Dilsukhnagar, Hyderabad, twin-blast case that claimed 18 lives.

In all, the NIA registered 33 cases in 2016. Twelve of them were related to Islamic State sympathisers, three against JeM, two of regarding counterfeit currency notes, two of Maoists and two more on terror incidents in northeastern India.

The agency also registered a case against controversial preacher and Islamic Research Foundation founder Zakir Naik on charges of misusing donations to radicalise youth.

The year also witnessed an unprecedented second extension given to NIA chief Sharad Kumar, making him the first Director General of the agency to be re-employed twice after his superannuation in 2015.

First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 09:21 IST

DNA Morning Must Reads: Jarnail Singh vs Parkash Badal in Punjab, train derailment in Mumbai & more

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>AAP announces Delhi MLA Jarnail Singh as candidate against Punjab CM from home turf LambiAfter declaring MP Bhagwant Mann as candidate from Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal’s constituency Jalalabad, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) announced Delhi MLA and Sikh rights activist Jarnail Singh as candidate to contest in the electoral battle against Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal from his home turf Lambi in Muktsar district. Read detailsMumbai: Five coaches of Kurla-Ambernath local derail, services on Kalyan-Karjat line suspendedFive coaches of Kurla-Ambernath local train derailed between Kalyan and Vithalwadi railway station, on Thursday morning. According to initial information, the incident took place at 5:50 am. However, no person has been injured, but services on Kalyan-Karjat line have been suspended. Read moreUP Assembly Elections | ‘No alliance with anyone’: Mulayam snubs son Akhilesh, leaves Congress in the coldSamajwadi Party (SP) supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav not only poured water on the dream of stitching together a grand alliance with Congress and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), but also snubbed his son, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, by announcing 325 candidates out of total of 403 for the upcoming assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. Read moreSasikala likely to be elected as AIADMK General Secretary todayVK Sasikala, former chief minister J Jayalalithaa’s aide, has not revealed her cards yet but she is expected to be elected the AIADMK General Secretary on December 29 as thousands of party executives, with their supporters, flooded Chennai today. Sasikala herself is expected to stay away while the party executive committee and general council will formally elect her as the leader. Read moreDemonetization: 600 tonnes and counting, IAF on mission cash liftIn a bid to help the common man with the demonetization process, the government has been pressing the Indian Air Force (IAF) into action. From assisting in the functioning of currency printing presses 24×7 to airlifting cash, the IAF has already transported 610 tonnes of currency and will continue to do so over the next few days. Read more

India has taken up movement to embrace digital transactions: PM Modi

Wed, 28 Dec 2016-11:55pm , New Delhi , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> India has taken up the movement to embrace digital transactions with “unprecedented vigour”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday night while commenting on DigiDhan Mela organised in Goa.”Today’s #DigiDhanMela in Goa saw widescale participation. Colleagues @manoharparrikar, Shri Shripad Naik & CM Parsekar also took part,” Modi tweeted. “India has taken up the movement to embrace digital transactions with unprecedented vigour. My gratitude to people of India,” he added.The Prime Minister said every DigiDhan mela is “a fine way of learning about digital payments & even inspiring others to use digital means.”

Mixing locations by Air Traffic Controller led to planes’ near collision at Delhi: AAI

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Air Traffic Controller inadvertently gave instructions to one aircraft to continue taxiing through a particular taxiway mixing its location with that of another plane that led to a near collision at Delhi airport on Tuesday, according to AAI.In a major safety lapse, two aircraft of IndiGo and SpiceJet came face-to-face barely 40 metres away on the same taxiway on Tuesday but providentially a disaster was averted after commanders of both the planes alerted the air traffic control and switched off their engines. Following the incident, the air traffic controller has been derostered pending investigation.While acknowledging that an air traffic controller mixed the locations of the two flights, AAI (Airports Authority of India) today also said SpiceJet flight did not question the incomplete ATC instruction for taxiing, adding that these human errors resulted in “traffic conflict situation”. In a detailed statement, AAI said IndiGo flight (6E-769) from Lucknow to Delhi after landing on runway-28 was taxiing via taxiway ‘E2’ for parking stand 12 as advised by ATC.The departing flight of SpiceJet (SG123) was not able to take off from runway 28 due to poor visibility and waiting to return to apron for parking, it said.Accordingly, the controller instructed SG123 to taxi via taxiway C and hold short of the taxiway ‘E2’ so that the two flights were not in conflict with each other. “The traffic density being high and complex, the controller inadvertently gave instructions to SG123 to continue taxi via E to stand 130, mixing its location with the location of SG263 which was holding on another taxiway ‘E’ for departure.”However, SG123 also did not question the incomplete ATC instruction for taxiing. These human errors resulted into traffic conflict situation. However, both aircraft stopped at safe distance and there was no risk to aircraft or passengers,” AAI said.Noting that the statement is being issued to avoid any fear among air passengers after yesterday’s incident, AAI said at times it may not be possible to eliminate human error. “At times it may not be possible to eliminate human error whether it is aviation or other industries but continuous efforts are being made by AAI to offset such human errors through Standard Operating Procedures, recurrent training to the controllers and introducing technology,” it said. Further, AAI said various reports appearing in the media are giving exaggerated version stating that the passengers had close shave, indicating a distorted interpretation that may create fear in the minds of air passengers. Safety record of ATC provided by AAI at Indian airports has been very good and comparable to best in the world, it added. PTI

Former Union Home Secretary Anil Baijal becomes new LG of Delhi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Career bureaucrat Anil Baijal was on Wednesday appointed as the new Lt Governor of Delhi, a post which has fallen vacant after sudden resignation of Najeeb Jung.70-year-old Baijal, a 1969 batch IAS officer, had served as Union Home Secretary under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government besides holding key positions in other ministries. The President accepted the resignation of Jung and also ordered for appointment of Baijal, who will be the 21st Lt Governor of the national capital. Baijal had retired from service in 2006 as Secretary, Urban Development Ministry. He is a former vice chairman of Delhi Development Authority Baijal was actively associated with the designing and roll-out of Rs 60,000 crore Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) launched by the Manmohan Singh government. The former bureaucrat was also on the executive council of the think-tank Vivekananda International Foundation, several of whose former members have been appointed to senior positions by the Modi government including National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. Jung had submitted his resignation on December 22, ending a nearly three-and-half-year-long eventful tenure, mostly marked by bitter confrontation with AAP government.

Punjab elections 2017: Amarinder Singh promises to bring special law to crack down on drug mafia

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Vowing to eradicate the drugs menace in Punjab within four weeks of coming to power, Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh promised on Wednesday a special law to crack down on the drug mafia and asserted that all those found guilty would be jailed and their property confiscated.”All drugs cases would be dealt with on fast-track basis under the new law, which would be brought immediately after (government) formation if elected to power,” he said. “Nobody would be spared,” Amarinder said. In a statement issued in Delhi, the PCC chief said the proposed legislation – part of the 9-point action plan of Congress — would provide for deterrent punishment and confiscation of property of all those found guilty of ruining the lives of Punjab’s youth with drugs.Accusing the Badal government of “allowing unchecked proliferation of drugs in the state to further their own vested interests”, Amarinder said an entire generation of youth had been destroyed because of the “patronage” accorded to the drug mafia by the present dispensation in Punjab. He made it clear that all steps would be taken, on priority basis, to tackle the drugs cases and ensure strict, deterrent punishment for drug dealers, suppliers and distributors.He welcomed the Election Commission’s decision to appoint a special team of narcotics control officers to check flow of drugs in his state during the Assembly polls. “The EC move on drugs was a clear endorsement of the Congress stand that the drugs menace was rampant in Punjab under the Badal regime,” he said.

AgustaWestland scam: SP Tyagi like family member, but no sympathy if proven guilty, says IAF chief Raha

New Delhi: Indian Air Force (IAF) Chief, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, on Wednesday said his scam-tained predecessor SP Tyagi was like a “family member” but if corruption charges in the AgustaWestland helicopter deal were proven against him the force would have no sympathy for its former chief.

Addressing a press conference days before he is scheduled to retire as the IAF chief and Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee, Raha said the law of the land must be followed in the scam that has rattled the force with Tyagi’s arrest on 9 December for allegedly accepting bribes in clearing the procurement of 12 AW-101 VVIP helicopters from Britain-based AgustaWestland.

Tyagi — the first chief of any wing of the armed forces to be arrested in the country — was given bail by a court in Delhi on Monday. “Such issues have come up from time to time. Be it Bofors or be it some other acquisitions, there have been problems,” Raha said. He, however, admitted that if the corruption charges were proved it would be “bad for the armed forces, or whoever is involved”.

“It is not only the armed forces that are involved in procurement. There are so many agencies involved. Can’t pin the blame on one particular organisation or service. To my mind many of the issues that have sprung up in the recent times have their origin some time back, a decade back. These are being investigated. It is premature for me to say anything,” he said.

IAF chief Arup Raha. PIB

IAF chief Arup Raha. PIB

Raha said he didn’t know about the evidence the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI), which is probing the case, has against Tyagi. “The Air Force believes the law of the land has to be followed… Let the investigation be complete. Whatever the decision of the court, we will abide by that.”

He said Tyagi, as long as not convicted, should be given his due credit being a former IAF chief. “A former Air Chief is like an extended family. If anyone in my family goes through a rough patch I think we should stand by them… If charges are proved, then of course we have no sympathy.”

The CBI has alleged that Tyagi and other accused had received bribes from AgustaWestland for helping the manufacturer win the $556.262 million contract to purchase the helicopters for the Communication Squadron of the Indian Air Force to carry the President, Prime Minister and other VVIPs.

The accused had allegedly hatched a conspiracy to reduce the service ceiling of the helicopters from 6,000 meters to 4,500 meters to make AgustaWestland eligible for the contract.

The CBI claimed that Tyagi and his brothers received 126,000 euros after May 2004 and 200,000 euros after February 2005 in the form of consultancy fee from Gordian Services.

It added that Tyagi also received some amount in cash from Guido Ralph Haschke and Carlo Valentino Ferdinando Gerosa, who were linked with Gordian Services.

Tyagi, the Indian Air Force chief from 2004 to 2007, has denied the charges saying the deal was executed after his tenure.

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 15:33 IST

SP Tyagi is like family, but won’t have sympathy if he’s found guilty: IAF chief Arup Raha

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Outgoing Air Force chief Arup Raha came out in support of former chief SP Tyagi, recently arrested in the Rs 3,600 AgustaWestland helicopter deal case being probed by the CBI, drawing a parallel with the Bofors case where charges of corruption could not be established.Calling Tyagi a member of the Air Force family, Raha said his sympathies were with the former chief. “If a member of your family goes through a rough patch, you will have sympathy for him. If he is found guilty, punish him,” Raha said on Wednesday while addressing a press conference. He is due to hang up his uniform on December 31.Raha appeared to downplay the allegations, saying nothing could be proved as in the Bofors case. “Corruption issues have come up from time to time. Despite investigation, not much was achieved,” he said.Tyagi, who has been granted bail, was recently arrested three years after CBI named him as an accused in the helicopter deal. The agency was not able to file a charge sheet but arrested him for custodial interrogation based on new facts.A Delhi court granted Tyagi bail despite CBI’s opposition. It is alleged that as Air Force chief Tyagi took kickbacks to change the specifications of the VVIP helicopters, swinging the deal in favour of AgustaWestland.

Balochistan: In no hurry to set up ‘government in exile’, says Naela Quadri

Kannur (Kerala): As part of drumming up support for setting up a ‘government in exile’, Baloch International Women’s Forum leader Naela Quadri Baloch has said they were in no hurry for it.

Baloch, who arrived in Kerala on Tuesday night as part of her effort at garnering support across the country, will speak on Wednesday at a public meeting in Thalassery near here.

Naela Qadri Baloch. File photo.

Naela Qadri Baloch. File photo. Firstpost

The meeting is being organised under the aegis of ‘Brennen Vibrant’, an organisation of the old activists of the RSS’s students wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad at Brennen College in Thalassery.

“Our goal is to set up a government in exile and we are in no hurry for that. We all know that it’s a long way ahead and we are now laying the foundation for it,” she said.

“What has come as a joy for us is that the people of Varanasi have extended their support to us and we wish to set it up there. We are also seeking the support of the Indian government for it,” said Quadri.

Quadri has been travelling across India and by now she has already addressed meetings in Delhi, Mumbai, Nagpur, Chandigarh and Bengaluru.

“I should say that at all these places the response was overwhelming, especially from the youths. What we are basically doing now is to garner support for our movement. As Balochis, we are now also connecting to our people who are settled across the world. In all we are about 40 million,” she said.

Several Baloch leaders from Pakistan and from other countries have begun visiting New Delhi since Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Independence Day address on August 15 highlighted the Baloch issue.

Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest province in terms of area, has witnessed a long-running insurgency for which Islamabad blames New Delhi.

Quadri, however, downplayed some reactions from her own people about her own role.

“I do not claim to be the leader. Our aim is to work together and at the moment we should not be wasting time on such things,” she said.

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 13:37 IST

People’s response to changes in passport rules positive: Sushma Swaraj

Tue, 27 Dec 2016-11:05pm , New Delhi , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday said she has received positive feedback on the changes made in the passport rule under which norms for various categories of applicants were simplified.Swaraj had last week sought response from people after the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) announced new passport rules, making host of changes for various categories of applicants including orphaned children, sadhus, single mothers and government employees.”#PassportRules came into effect on 26 December 2016. I am happy with the positive response received from all quarters,” she tweeted. The MEA had said the changes in rules were brought in to ensure that citizens get their passports in a timely, transparent and reliable manner.

Rs 104 crore deposit: Mayawati raises caste card, RS Prasad calls it ‘an insult to Dalits’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A day after the ED detected deposits of a whopping Rs 104 crore in BSP’s bank account, a furious party supremo Mayawati dubbed it as an attempt by “anti-dalit” BJP and Modi government to tarnish her party’s image by misusing the official machinery. Two senior ministers in the Modi dispensation, including BJP ally Ram Vilas Paswan of LJP, shot back, saying her dalit identity does not give her “licence” to engage in corruption and that the former UP chief minister was trying to “hide corruption” by raking up the issue of her origin.A major contender for power in the most populous state of the country which goes to polls a few months from now, Mayawati claimed the money detected by the Enforcement Directorate at a Delhi bank on Monday was accounted for and played the dalit card in her bid to turn the tables on BJP, calling it “anti-dalit”. “BJP leaders having casteist mentality do not want that a ‘dalit ki beti’ should get the master key of the biggest state’s politics and work for the welfare of 90% poor and deprived…it will bring an end to their capitalist politics,” she told a hurriedly called press conference in Lucknow.”All deposits are as per norms and party rules and the money was collected before note ban. Should we have thrown it?” she asked.Terming the ED action as an effort to tarnish BSP’s image ahead of UP Assembly elections just few months away, Mayawati said the “anti-Dalit” BJP managed a section of the media. “After I exposed the conspiracy of BJP in forcing an alliance between SP and Congress yesterday, BJP was taken aback and out of sheer frustration it indulged in such a petty act against BSP and family members of the party chief,” she alleged.BJP, which is seeking to re-establish its primacy in the key Hindi heartland state following a remarkable showing in the Lok Sabha polls there in 2014, hit back quickly, insisting she was trying to hide corruption by using her dalit identity. “Her allegations are baseless and we reject it with the contempt they deserve. If the Enforcement Directorate does a routine exercise, why is she so rattled? Will your corruption be hidden in the name of Dalits.”Does Mayawati want to say that her corruption should be seen as a fight against dalits? It is an insult of dalits,” Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told a press conference in Delhi. Noting that she did not deny the deposits in the BSP’s account, he asked, “It raises a bigger question. Is it a donation or money conversion exercise?”Paswan, a prominent dalit face in the ruling NDA, came down heavily on Mayawati, saying her origin does not give her a “licence” to indulge in corruption and that she should let the law take its own course. “My party LJP works for Dalits. We have six Lok Sabha members and the total money in LJP’s bank account is Rs 1,03,198. Being a daughter of a dalit does not give you licence to indulge in corruption. She must let law take its course and let authorities probe her party’s account,” he told reporters in the national capital.Mocking Mayawati’s strident opposition to demonetization since it was announced on November 8, the LJP president said it has now become clear “why the likes of her and RJD chief Lalu Prasad” have been its most vocal critics. “They were hit the hardest. That is why they are making so much of noise,” he said.Mayawati, however, insisted that “every rupee” in BSP’s account in a Delhi bank were accounted for. “We have account of every rupee deposited in bank…this money has been collected through membership fee all over the country and brought for deposit by converting it into big denomination notes as it is easy to carry from remote areas,” she said.Mayawati, however, said the ED action at BJP’s bidding was a “good omen” for her party as in 2007 too when the then NDA government at the Centre had raked up Taj corridor issue, it had helped her secure an absolute majority in the UP Assembly. “If Modi and central government take a few more decisions like note ban, it will make our return to power in UP easier …they will pave our way for an easy victory and I will not have to toil much…I want to thank them for it,” she said.The ED detected cash deposits totalling over Rs 104 crore in an account belonging to the BSP on Monday and Rs 1.43 crore in another belonging to Mayawati’s brother Anand at a branch of United Bank of India in Delhi during a routine survey and enquiry operations to check suspicious and huge cash deposits in banks post-demonetization. “BJP and other parties have also deposited their money in banks. Nobody is talking about that,” she said, adding it only proved the “anti-dalit and casteist mentality” of the ruling party.Targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, she demanded that he make public the deposits made by BJP during the 10 months preceding the November 8 decision of banning Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 currency notes. “If BJP and the PM have any truth and honesty left, they would have disclosed BJP’s deposits 10 months before November 8 and after that date while making BSP’s deposits public,” she said.Ravi Shankar Prasad rejected Mayawati’s claim that the ED’s action was linked to her assertion that the BJP was pushing SP and Congress for an alliance for the UP assembly polls. “This is nothing but her frustration. She made these comments only yesterday while deposits were made much earlier… As far as BJP is concerned, even if SP, BSP and Congress come together, it will emerge victorious,” he said.

Opposition united, but some parties have local compulsions too: Rahul Gandhi

New Delhi: Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said all opposition parties — even those who did not attend a joint press conference in Delhi — were united on demonetisation and Prime Minister Narandra Modi’s alleged corruption.

The opposition is united on demonetisation and Modi’s corruption, though every party has some local compulsions and he respects it, the Congress leader said at the joint press conference in Delhi.

Rahul Gandhi's Twitter handle was hacked on 1 December. PTI

Rahul Gandhi’s Twitter handle was hacked on 1 December. PTI

Out of 16 opposition parties that opposed the government on demonetisation in the winter session of Parliament, only eight attended the joint presss conference, including the Congress, Trinamool Congress, DMK, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Janata Dal-Secular, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Indian Union Muslim League and All India United Democratic Front.

“Every day, during Parliament’s winter session, all parties were together on the issue of demonetisation. Not even one party was away.

“Every party said they are together on demonetisation and Modi’s corruption. But parties also have local compulsions and we respect those compulsions,” Gandhi said.

The Congress leader said: “Opposition unity is a process and it is going forward. You can ask all opposition parties — they will tell you uniformly that they agree on the stand we are taking on demonetisation and on the Prime Minister’s corruption.”

“There are slight differences in the perspective of these parties. We are happy to embrace them. We see all opposition parties as assets, as people who represent people in this country.

“Every party have some differences, but broadly, everyone will say that demonetisation is a failed experiment. All opposition parties believe in the democratic principles,” the Congress Vice-President added.

On meeting the Prime Minister on 16 December, the last day of Parliament session, which may have irked some political parties, Gandhi said: “I did a 30-day campaign where I committed to the people of Uttar Pradesh that I’ll take two crore of their forms they had filled up and submit to the Prime Minister. I only fulfilled that commitment.”

“I told them I’ll take these personally to the PM. It was a commitment to the farmers,” he added.

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 22:25 IST

Air safety incidents at Delhi and Goa: Is it ‘human’ factor or shortage of staff at ATC?

New Delhi: Two air safety incidents on a single day, at Delhi and Goa airports, have led many of us to once again question India’s air safety record. Remember, India was downgraded by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States in 2014 for failing to have enough safety personnel, and a restoration of the rating took several months. Though it won’t be clear till a probe is completed on what lead to incidents this morning at Goa and Delhi, the fact is that manpower shortage in critical air functions could be a factor in frequent air incidents.

Take the critical ATC function – the Air Traffic Control (ATC) is still short staffed. Sources tell us the manpower needed is 3,600 personnel and only about 2,900 have been recruited till now. “These positions are being filled,”said an Airports Authority of India (AAI) official. A short staffed ATC apart, this story from Bloomberg quotes data from India’s safety regulator DGCA to say that air safety incidents, which prompted regulatory action, reached 280 this year till August, beating the 275 all of last year. It went on to predict that “At this pace, the number may rise to more than 400 by the end of 2016, making it the worst in three years for aviation safety”.



India is one of the fastest growing aviation markets across the globe and any increase in safety-related incidents is obviously a cause for worry. DGCA officials say there is no cause for worry and incidents sometimes happen due to the “human” factor. They also add that the country is following all internationally mandated safety protocols.

Earlier this month, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her party TMC had created a furore by alleging that an IndiGo flight carrying the CM was not allowed priority landing at Kolkata airport despite the pilots seeking emergency landing due to fuel shortage. This was stoutly denied by the airline, which said there was probably a miscommunication between the flight crew and the ATC about how much fuel the flight was left with. Instead of seeking an explanation from the ATC personnel, aviation regulator DGCA grounded IndiGo pilots in this case.

Meanwhile, early this morning, 9W 2374 Goa-Mumbai Jet Airways’ flight “veered off the runway while aligning for takeoff”, the airline tweeted. It later said 12 passengers had sustained injuries and still later, it said all but five have been discharged. This incident made Goa’s Dabolim airport inoperational for a few hours.

A regulatory source told Firstpost that the Goa incident is being treated as an accident and a team from Air Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) will reach Goa by the evening to begin inquiries. This person also said a preliminary idea about what caused the aircraft to turn 180 degrees will be there only by Thursday.

Civil Aviation Minister A Gajapathi Raju tweeted that “thorough time-bound investigation and corrective action shall be ensured. Action will also be taken in case there is violation of procedures”. The second incident involved a just-landed IndiGo flight and a ready-to-take-off Spicejet aircraft, with some news reports describing the two aircraft coming “Face to face”.

The regulatory source quoted above said as per preliminary findings, the ATC at Delhi allowed the SpiceJet flight to take off from the same taxiway where an IndiGo aircraft had landed minutes earlier. This indicates the possibility of it being an ATC error, though like we said earlier, the final picture will emerge only after the probe by DGCA is completed.

The regulatory source further said it could be a case of human error too. SpiceJet said in a statement that “SpiceJet flight SG 123 operating Delhi-Hyderabad was following ATC instructions at all times at the Delhi airport. While taxiing, the SpiceJet crew observed another aircraft on the same taxiway in the opposite direction. Acting promptly, the SpiceJet crew immediately stopped the aircraft and intimated the ATC. Safety is of utmost and primary concern at SpiceJet. At no stage the safety of passengers, crew and aircraft was compromised. All concerned authorities were immediately informed.”

And IndiGO also said in a statement that flight 6E 769 Lucknow-Delhi observed another aircraft in front of it while taxiing. “The Captain took the decision to switch off the engine and reported the incident to ATC. All 176 passengers and crew are safe…..flight was observing ATC instructions all the time at the Delhi airport”. According to data provided by MoS Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha in Lok Sabha earlier this month, there were 409 safety violations by the crew of scheduled, non-scheduled and general aviation aircraft in the last three years.

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 16:59 IST

US woman gangraped: Delhi court sentences four accused to two days of judicial custody

New Delhi: Four men, arrested for allegedly raping a US tourist in a 5-star hotel earlier this year, were on Tuesday sent to two-day judicial custody by a city court.

Metropolitan Magistrate Harvinder Singh sent the accused to Tihar Jail after Delhi Police moved an application seeking their judicial custody.

Yesterday, the police had arrested a tour guide, a driver, a cleaner and a hotel staff in connection with the alleged gangrape of the woman in April this year.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

The US national arrived here a few days ago to join the probe and recorded her statement in front of a judicial magistrate where she reiterated that she was gangraped by five persons in a five-star hotel here.

Four accused were arrested after the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) issued a notice to Delhi Police asking them why the Rape Crisis Cell of the women’s panel was not informed when the victim’s statement was recorded.

Earlier, the complainant had said she was not “satisfied” with the probe and was ready to come to India to identify the accused.

The woman had alleged that she was raped by the men for two days and also threatened with dire consequences if she reported the matter to anybody.

She had also stated that the accused had made a video of the act and threatened to make it public if she reported the matter to anyone. She had also told the police that the accused had claimed to have sexually assaulted a couple of other female tourists as well.

A team of psychologists and psychiatrists have been assisting the lady in recalling the details of the incident. The team is also working with the police in their investigation to tie up loose ends.

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 14:54 IST

Safety of passengers, crew cannot be compromised: IndiGo, SpiceJet

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>IndiGo and SpiceJet airlines on Tuesday issued a statement, saying safety of the passengers, crew and the aircraft are of top priority and at no time it can be compromised.This came hours after a major accident was averted at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International airport as aircrafts of both airlines came face-to-face on the runway. SpiceJet said that at no point of time the safety of its passengers was at risk. “SpiceJet flight SG 123 operating Delhi-Hyderabad was following ATC instructions at all times at the Delhi airport. While taxiing, crew observed another aircraft on same taxiway in opposite direction; Acting promptly, crew immediately intimated ATC. At no stage safety of passengers, crew and aircraft was compromised; All concerned authorities were immediately informed,” the statement read.IndiGo in its statement said that its 6E-769 flight (Lucknow-Delhi) observed the SpiceJet aircraft in front of it while taxiing and was following ATC instructions all the time at Delhi airport. “The IndiGo flight 6E-769 (Lucknow-Delhi) while taxing in at Delhi airport today morning, observed another aircraft in front of it. Following the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), the Caption-in-Command took the decision of switching off the engine and reported the incident to ATC,” IndiGo said.”All 176 passengers along with the crew are safe. IndiGo flight was observing ATC instructions all the time at Delhi airport. IndiGo has voluntarily informed the DGCA. This matter is being investigated by IndiGo safety department and the regulator. As an airline we rely upon ATC’s traffic advisory and ensure to comply with their instructions. At IndiGo, safety of the passengers, crew and the aircraft are of top priority and at no time it can be compromised,” the statement added.The incident has been reported to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), which has assured of a probe.

Income Tax department notice to AAP citing discrepancies in donors’ list

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Income Tax department has issued a notice to Aam Aadmi Party, citing discrepancies in the donors’ list submitted to tax officials and what had been put up on the party website.Terming the notice as “malicious”, AAP alleged that the BJP-led NDA government is harassing the party and targeting its donors.AAP national treasurer Raghav Chadha said, “Initially, there was an inadvertent error in the list submitted to the income tax department, which has been rectified in the revised ITR after receiving the notice.””To revise an IT return is the legitimate right of a party. Not even single donation is concealed by Aam Aadmi Party. We maintain 100 per cent transparency in donors’ details and the amount we receive. The IT department had issued us a notice and we have revised the IT return,” he said.The party had removed the donors’ list from its website claiming that its donors were being harassed by tax officials.Attacking AAP over the issue, Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari alleged that the funding details of Aam Aadmi Party are “manipulated”.”AAP seeking withdrawal of its accounts submitted to the authorities vindicates our stand. Arvind Kejriwal should make things clear right away as he has all through claimed to be champion of transparency in polity,” Tiwari said.Hitting back, Kejriwal tweeted, “AAP receives less than 8% of its donations in cash against 70-80% cash donations by Cong-BJP.”Another AAP leader blamed technical glitches for the error.”While we put all donations on the website, at times there are some technical errors. For instance, there have been cases in which a donor has tried to make payment, but the transaction could not becompleted. In that case, our website reflected that payment has been made, but we did not receive money in our bank account,” the leader said.

UP polls: Sheila Dikshit ‘amused’ to see speculations

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Senior Congress leader Sheila Dikshit on Tuesday rubbished reports suggesting that she has withdrawn her name as the party’s chief ministerial candidate for the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections.The former Delhi chief minister said that she was amused to see speculations that she has distanced herself from the Uttar Pradesh polls.Meanwhile, Dikshit also threw light on her upcoming visits to various places in the politically crucial state in the run up to the assembly polls. “Aligarh was not on my schedule. I will be in Barabanki tomorrow,” Dikshit tweeted.Earlier, it was reported that the former Delhi chief minister may withdraw her candidature after her name appeared on the Sahara list.The report said that Dikshit is unhappy with her name being surfaced in the recent Sahara diary leaks and Twitter fiasco following the same.With Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi over ‘ Sahara diaries’ bribery issue, a controversy erupted after the grand old party put out a list linked to it on Twitter in which a reference to Dikshit also allegedly figured.ikshit strongly denied the charges and trashed the documents, saying the Supreme Court has already made its observations on them.

Mishap averted as Indigo, SpiceJet aircraft come face-to-face at IGI in Delhi

Mishap averted as Indigo, SpiceJet aircraft come face-to-face at IGI in Delhi



New Delhi: A major mishap was averted in Delhi at the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) airport on Tuesday after an Indigo and a SpiceJet aircraft came face-to-face on the runway.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“An Indigo flight 6C-729 which was coming from Lucknow to Delhi with 176 passengers on board, post landing on the taxi way saw a SpiceJet aircraft in front of it,” Indigo spokesperson Ajay Jesra told IANS.

“The incident occurred on Tuesday morning and the matter has been reported to Air Traffic Control (ATC) and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA),” Jesra said.

According to officials, the DGCA has ordered a probe into the incident.

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 11:14 IST

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US woman’s gangrape: Accused to be produced before Patiala House Court

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The four accused and arrested in connection with the alleged gang rape of a US national in a five-star hotel, will be produced before the Patiala House Court on Tuesday.The Delhi Police yesterday arrested a tour guide, driver, tourist bus helper and a hotel worker. “On December 3, the Delhi police registered a case in connection with the gangrape. The complainant was kind enough to come down to Delhi, got her statement recorded before police and court and helped in collecting evidence,” said Deependra Pathak, Joint Commissioner of Police, South West District.The lady in her complaint said she had arrived in Delhi on a tourist visa in March this year and was staying at the hotel when the crime took place.Reports suggest that the tourist guide during her stay arrived at the hotel along with four friends one day. The men shared a few drinks in the lady’s room following which they allegedly took turns to rape her.The woman, who went back to the US traumatised by the incident, had gone into depression.

Sonia Gandhi’s attempts to revive Oppn unity coming a cropper

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s attempts to parade a united opposition against the demonetization and to highlight the alleged corruption charges against Prime Minister Narendra Modi is coming a cropper with the Left and the JD(U), its ally in Bihar deciding to stay away from Tuesday meeting.It was supposed to be a big show of strength after leading an entire opposition during the recently concluded winter session of Parliament. The move set by Gandhi was seen to revive this unity, after it went to a toss on the last day of the session when Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi went alone to meet the Prime Minister without consulting other parties. A senior party leader drew parallels between Gandhi’s earlier attempts to supervise opposition unity following party’s Shimla conclave in 2003 which led to the ouster of the then NDA government led by Vajpayee. Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi are expected to attend the meeting. Off late, Sonia Gandhi has been avoiding public appearances owing to her ill health.Communist Party of India (Marxist) CPIM National General Secretary Sitaram Yechury was the first to publicly decline invitation to attend the joint Congress sponsored programme. “A press conference is called after consultation with all the parties concerned and then the day and time is fixed,” he said. But a confident Congress spokesman Jairam Ramesh, while admitting that some parties have expressed reservations said they will join latter, but there will be a united show of parties concerned about the current crises.There was no immediate confirmation from either the Samajwadi Party (SP) or the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Tariq Anwar has also expressed inability to come to Delhi on Tuesday.Janata Dal (U) leader KC Tyagi said his party had not yet decided whether to attend or not, but it would first like to know what the agenda was. He added that no “common minimum programme” has been decided on and pointed out that all the opposition parties do not have the same stand on note ban. The increasing proximity between the TMC and the Congress seems to have upset the Left. So far confirmations have come from Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and Rashtriya janata Dal (RJD) only.Ramesh cited local and regional compulsions for some parties not to be together on the same platform. “Whoever comes tomorrow will come and those who won’t will come the next time. Whoever comes tomorrow, you will see,” said Ramesh striking a philosophical note. He said the party will highlight two issues to take on the government both inside the Parliament and on the streets across the country. Rahul Gandhi also presided a meeting of state leaders at his residence on Monday evening, directing them to focus on two issues—demonetization as well as the corruption charges against the Prime Minister.Yechuri, who was the first to question Congress’ attempts of uniting opposition, said that a few days ago, he had told Congress interlocutors to reply to his three questions—Who all would be attending the meeting? What were the issues that would be highlighted? And whether there was going to be a joint action against the demonetization decision? “But, I have got no reply,” he said. Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee arrived here to attend the joint opposition meeting.The entries in the Sahara diary, which has become a weapon in the hands of Rahul Gandhi has been vehemently denied by former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. “It is all hearsay. There is no iota of truth in the allegations. I totally reject these allegations,” she said. She is also Congress party’s Chief Ministerial candidate for the Uttar Pradesh elections to be held in 2017.Reacting to her statement, Ramesh said his party was only demanding an independent probe into the ‘Sahara diaries’ in which Dikshit and some other chief ministers also purportedly figure. “There should be an independent probe into whoever’s name is there,” he said.He also demanded an independent probe against all those BJP leaders who allegedly knew of the demonetization decision before the Prime Minister announced it on November 8. He also asked for investigation into Ahmedabad District Cooperative Bank, which had received Rs 500 crore deposits within two days of demonetization.

Centre launches anti-cancer crusade

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Criticising the Delhi Government for its inability to implement laws on tobacco ban, Faggan Singh Kulaste, Minister of Health and Family Welfare on Monday said that the capital needed to step up its actions for tobacco control.“Sale of tobacco has been banned in the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra. In Delhi though, the ban on tobacco reflects only on papers,” he said at an event on Monday, where he launched, ‘Cancel Cancer’, a cancer awareness campaign.According to the latest data available with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, between April 2012 to September 2015, at least 13 states, including Delhi, didn’t issue any challan or fine for smoking in public.Speaking at the event held at the Lady Hardinge Medical College, he said, “Tobacco products are easily available at every nook and corner of our country and are being consumed mainly by the youth, specially school-going kids of the middle and poor class.” As part of the campaign on cancer, they aim to raise awareness on the lethal effects of tobacco, how it causes cancer and measures to control it. “Among other things, the campaign aims at educating people against the hazards of tobacco that is the root cause of cancer. The government supports this cause,” Kulaste said.According to a report released in 2013 by the Central Government one in every five person under 21 years of age is addicted to tobacco. The report also mentions that out of 2 crore homeless children in India, 40-70 per cent come in contact with some or the other form of intoxication.The Centre recently issued a complete ban on sale of food products containing tobacco and nicotine across India. These would include Gutka, Paan Masala, Zarda and tobacco-based flavoured mouth fresheners. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has directed all states to issue strict directions for banning the production, promotion and sale of these food products.

Jet Airways Goa-Mumbai flight with 161 on-board veers off runway, passengers safe

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>At least 15 people were injured after a Jet Airways flight from Goa to Mumbai skidded off the runway at Goa’s Dabolim airport on Tuesday morning while aligning for takeoff.”All passengers are safely evacuated, while some suffered minor injuries during the process”, Jet Airways said in a statement.According to ANI, 15 out of 154 passengers have being taken to hospital.”We regret to inform that flight 9W 2374 from GOI – BOM, with 154 guests ​and 7 crew, veered off the runway while aligning for takeoff,” it added.”All guests and crew have been safely evacuated. Few guests have sustained injuries during the evacuation process. Medical assistance is being coordinated to those injured by the Jet Airways team and the airport authorities,” reads the statement.Meanwhile, airport operations have been closed till 12.30 pm.In May, Jet Airways 9W 2793 aircraft commencing from Delhi to Indore had also skid off the runway.(Developing story: More details awaited)

Delhi: Reach office by 9.45 or face strict action, says state government

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Cracking the whip on lax officers, Delhi Chief Secretary MM Kutty has warned babus of strict action for not observing punctuality in attending their offices and directed them to come to office by 9.45 AM. This is the first strong message to officers from the Delhi’s top bureaucrat after he found that a large number of babus are not coming to office on time.Kutty has directed Secretary (GAD) to keep a watch on the attendance of officers and officials working in Delhi Secretariat and and also ensure that they mark their attendance in biometric attendance system by 9.45 AM.Kutty, a 1985-batch IAS officer, had taken charge as Delhi Chief Secretary on December 1, replacing Keval Kumar Sharma who has been transferred as OSD in the Union HRD Ministry. “Principal secretaries and secretaries ensure punctuality in their departments and if an officer/official is habitual late corner, then action may be taken against him or her as per rules,” he told officers, as per the official minutes of the recently-held meeting.He had been the Principal Secretary to former Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. He has also worked with the AAP government as the Finance Secretary. Delhi Secretariat houses offices of several important departments – Transport, Urban Development, Power, PWD, Finance – besides offices of all ministers, including Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.In the meeting, the issue of decline in collection of trade and taxes, excise and revenue departments was also raised and that, the Delhi Chief Secretaries has directed principal secretaries and secretaries to improve the same as they are the major source of generating revenue.

Govt’s revenue to increase due to demonetization: Nitin Gadkari

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said on Monday demonetization will help the government in increasing revenue and enable it to pump in more money in welfare schemes for the people.”Government’s revenue will increase. With the increase in revenue there would be more programmes for the welfare of the people,” Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari told reporters here.Underlining that like many other countries of the world, India is also moving towards a cash-less economy, the minister said “one has to face some difficulties in the beginning if something big has to be achieved. All turnover will be on record”.Asserting that the country was moving on the path of development, Gadkari said that honesty and transparency is the need of the hour and in the coming days the little difficulties being faced by the people would be reduced.”The Prime Minister asked for 50 days. I can see the queues getting shorter and in days to come there will be relief,” the minister said. On Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s accusation that BJP is “victimising” AAP’s Goa chief ministerial candidate Elvis Gomes, Gadkari said, “We have not done so. I am BJP’s in-charge of Goa assembly election… There is no question of doing so.”

India-Pakistan ties: Modi’s birthday wishes to Sharif don’t signal policy change

Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote a post in his Twitter account on Sunday:

His birthday wishes to his Pakistani counterpart have rekindled hopes that the stalled negotiations between India and Pakistan are about to resume. At least this, a section in the Pakistani press believes.

In fact, Pakistan’s Express Tribune has quoted an Indian diplomat in today’s edition saying that the Indian premier might review his current strategy towards Pakistan and offer another ‘olive branch’, possibly after state elections in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, scheduled to be held in March. The Indian diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity to the Pakistani publication, said that although the current public sentiment was not in favour of talks with Pakistan unless the issue of alleged cross-border terrorism was addressed, Modi knew how to galvanise public opinion.

“Whenever he (Modi) makes any overture to Pakistan, rest assured it will not be half-hearted,” the diplomat is quoted to have said.

Incidentally, last Friday, India’s external affairs ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup had said that India was prepared for talks with Pakistan, provided the latter ensured a peaceful atmosphere. “We have never refused talks, but Pakistan has to ensure a peaceful atmosphere. Pakistan needs to stop supporting terrorism. Pakistan should create a healthy atmosphere for talks,” he had said. In other words, the spokesman had clearly pointed out preconditions that Pakistan must fulfill before the resumption of bilateral talks by the two countries’ diplomats.

Against this background, how does one view Modi offering an olive branch through his birthday wishes? First of all, was it an olive branch at all as the Pakistani press suggests? Any answer to this question should be viewed in a historical context.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif. AFP

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif. AFP

India and Pakistan have fought four times, threatened each other many a time and quarrel most of the time. In between, they have talked of peace, negotiated some confidence building measures (CBMs) such as Liaqat-Nehru Pact (1950), Indus Water Treaty (1960), Simla Agreement (1972), Lahore Declaration (1999), Lahore-Delhi Bus Service, the “cricket diplomacy,” the resumption of the dialogue (Composite Bilateral Dialogue) between Pakistan and India in 2004. But then some crisis or other – in the form of war or a war-like situation – emerges. As a result, all the CBMs become null and void, the notable exceptions being the Indus water sharing treaty, the annual exchanges of the lists each other’s nuclear installations and notifying each other in advance in respect of ballistic missile flight tests.

And when the environment becomes little more manageable, mostly due to pressure from the civil society in both the countries and international demands, their leaders once again renegotiate, mainly to restore some of the CBMs that existed earlier. But again a new crisis in their bilateral relations invariably emerges. So the cycle goes on.

The above pattern has been noticed under the Modi regime too. Case in point: Remember how Modi had invited Sharif for his swearing-in ceremony. It was under his regime that last year (6 December) Indian and Pakistani officials, led by their respective national security advisers (Ajit Doval of India and Lt Gen (Retd) Nasser Khan Janjua of Pakistan) met at the neutral venue of Bangkok “secretly” to facilitate the foreign minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Pakistan on 8 December (even though it was shown as attending the Heart of Asia Conference). The Bangkok parley, perhaps, was the first instance of Indian and Pakistan officials utilising a neutral venue.

Going by the joint press release of the Bangkok meeting, “Discussions covered peace and security, terrorism, Jammu and Kashmir, and other issues, including tranquility along the LoC.” In other words, the talks, which lasted about four hours dealt with all important issues pertaining to bilateral relations. And that explains why though led by the NSAs, the talks also included the two foreign secretaries – S Jaishankar and his Pakistani counterpart Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhary.

However, the biggest peace gesture on the part of Modi was his stop-over at Lahore and a visit to Pakistan Prime Minister’s House there on 25 December last year on his return journey to Delhi from Kabul. For this gesture, Modi was criticised vehemently by the opposition parties in the country. But all these “peace overtures” of the Modi regime did not lead to the intended results.

Maybe Nawaz Sharif was helpless in reciprocating Modi’s sentiments, given Pakistan’s peculiar decision-making structure in which, it is the Army, not the elected leadership, that dictates the country’s policy towards India. And the results were there to be seen – terrorist attacks in Pathankot, Uri, Nagrota; relentless ceasefire violations on the line of control by Pakistan; and the months-long civil uprisings in the Kashmir valley sponsored by the Pakistani establishment.

But then, all this has been only one part of the story.

The other part of the story has been that unlike his predecessors, Modi has brought about some significant changes in the nuances in his approach towards Pakistan in this atmosphere of “no-talks”.

Whereas all his predecessors, including his party’s Atal Bihari Vajpayee, had only stressed on “Pakistan’s international isolation” following every major terrorists attack on India, Modi has gone steps ahead and simultaneously pursued threats and retaliatory measures against Pakistan. He has talked openly about Pakistan’s vulnerabilities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan; exposed Pakistan’s misdeeds in Pak-occupied- Kashmir, including Gilgit-Baltistan; and suggested the possibility of relooking at Indus-Water sharing treaty, hitherto considered unimaginable. Above all, the Modi government took a strategic decision at the apex level to go across the “Line of Control” to strike at the multiple terrorist bases simultaneously(so-called surgical strikes), as distinct from the previous routine retaliatory raids on other sides , all tactical decisions taken at the local commanders’ levels.

In other words, Modi is pursuing, to borrow American scholar Sumit Ganguly’s phrase, a ‘strategy of deterrence by punishment’, which implies that “Any time Pakistan provokes, be prepared to exact a cost”. The idea here is that if Pakistan realises that its misadventure against India has a cost involved(which Modi’s predecessors were not firm enough to extract), then it may be deterred. Of course, Ganguly, who has authored the recently released book titled “Deadly Impasse: Indo-Pakistani Relations at the Dawn of a New Century”, cautions that there is always that uncertain threshold of nuclear blackmail by Pakistan in this approach, but then “the strategy of deterrence by punishment” is worth pursuing.

And finally, in my considered view the most important change that has marked India’s policy towards Pakistan under Modi is questioning the very formula that was evolved by the then I K Gujral regime – the formula of pursuing the so-called “composite dialogue” that is aimed at building confidence building measures (CBMs) and “simultaneously” solving the “core disputes”, which for Pakistan is the solution of the so-called Kashmir dispute and for India is ending cross-border terrorism.

This is a formula that has not been practiced by two contending powers anywhere in the diplomatic history of the world. The CBMs are first attained so as to make the atmosphere conducive for the solution of the dispute; they lead to the solution, not otherwise. If there is the solution of the dispute or there is no dispute, the CBMs are redundant. That is why India and China ( or any other rivals, say the USA and the then USSR during the Cold War) have always said that the eventual solution of the boundary dispute will follow improvement in bilateral relations pertaining to other areas. But in case of India-Pakistan impasse, one sees this ridiculous composite dialogue approach that talks of development of the CBMs and solution of the core disputes “simultaneously”.

Therefore, the Modi government is right when it demands that Pakistan must stop supporting terrorism before normalcy is restored in bilateral relations. The Kashmir issue should not cloud the resolution of other irritants and that the best way to resolve the Kashmir issue is creating a conducive environment, which, so goes its logic, is possible when these “other irritants” – cultural and economic interactions, combating terrorism and transparency in nuclear weapons related matters etc. – are resolved.

This being the reality, what about the question whether or not the Modi government going to resume talks with Pakistan? Talks or no talks, Islamabad cannot satisfy New Delhi’s concerns over terrorism – in fact, it will never say that “terrorists” in Kashmir are not “freedom fighters”. On India’s part, it cannot satisfy Pakistan’s expectations in Kashmir – No government in Delhi will ever have courage to say that Kashmir is not the “inseparable “ part of India. In other words, there is that problem of “trust deficit” between the two countries. And as long as this deficit is there, the two countries will continue to engage in diplomatic shadowboxing, the intensity of which may vary from time to time.

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 18:39 IST

Delhi govt to make digital payments for transactions above Rs 5,000

New Delhi: The Delhi government has asked all its departments to make electronic payments to suppliers, contractors and institutions if the order value exceeds Rs 5,000.

The Finance Department of the Delhi government has issued an office memorandum deciding to implement the recent order of the Union Finance Ministry in this regard to promote e-payments.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

In the memorandum, the department has asked that payments should be made to contractors, suppliers and institutions through Real-Time Gross Settlement Systems (RTGS), National Electronic Funds Transfer (NEFT) and Electronic Clearing Service (ECS).

“It has been decided to implement the instructions (of the Union Finance Ministry)…in the departments, autonomous institutions, public sector undertakings and Corporations of Government of NCT of Delhi.

“Accordingly, all payments to the suppliers, contractors, grantee/loanee institutions etc. above Rs 5,000 may be made through electronic mode i.e RTGS, NEFT and ECS with immediate effect,” the Finance Department said in the memorandum.

The city administration’s move comes in line with the Centre’s decision to promote digitisation of payments following the announcement of demonetisation of 500 and 1,000 rupee notes on 8 November.

Earlier this month, the Centre had lowered the threshold for making such payments from Rs 10,000 to Rs 5,000, a move that was aimed at attaining the goal of complete digitisation of government payments.

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 15:22 IST

VVIP Chopper scam: Ex-Air Force Chief SP Tyagi gets bail, can’t leave Delhi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A Delhi court on Monday granted bail to former Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal (retired) SP Tyagi in the AgustaWestland chopper scam case.The Court granted bail to Tyagi on a surety of Rs 2 lakh. However, the court directed him not to leave Delhi NCR and not to tamper with evidence.The judicial custody of Sanjeev Tyagi and Gautam Khaitan’s will continue as the court will hear the bail plea on January 4.The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) counsel earlier on December 23 requested the court not to disclose evidences to anyone saying that if the evidence gathered will be disclose, there would be implication on future investigation.Commenting on the bail issued to all the three accused related to the scam, the investigating agency had said they are on pre-charge sheet stage and a very crucial time of investigation is going on.Counter attacking the CBI’s plea, SP Tyagi’s counsel said, “CBI isn’t showing or telling evidence against him and if he (SP Tyagi) tries to prove his innocence, they will accuse him of non-cooperation since he’s not incriminating himself.”Tyagi’s counsel hjad also alleged that CBI in the last four years has never been able to establish any evidence against ex-air chief regarding receipt of any bribe.Tyagi has been accused of influencing the deal in favour of AgustaWestland during his tenure as the IAF chief.He has, however, repeatedly denied the allegations.

Delhi: Wazirpur schools’ issues brought to govt’s notice

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Directorate of Education (DoE) organised yet another School Management Committee (SMC) Sabha on Sunday, involving government schools located in the Wazirpur Vidhan Sabha constituency.SMC members, comprising parents, social workers and principals of the government schools in Wazirpur, assembled at the Government Girls Senior Secondary School (GGSSS) in Ashok Vihar to share their grievances with the government officials. The officials from the Public Works Department (PWD), Delhi Jal Board (DJB), Delhi Police, the Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM), and the Deputy Director (Education), were invited to reply to queries put forth by the SMC members.”Through these meetings, parents, students, and the school administration community are provided a one-on-one platform to discuss and resolve their problems as a team,” said Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA Rajesh Gupta. The common problems ranged from shortage of teachers, water supply, electricity connection, parking, and renovation and maintenance of schools. “RO systems were promised in our school a year ago but not even one has been installed. A new hall was built but its tiles have started to come off. We also have a fire system in our school but no one knows if it works,” complained a member of the Bharat Nagar School SMC.Students also put forth their problems, such as shortage of water during the evening shift, the huge amount of home work, no facilities at computer laboratory, and lack of sports equipment. “Sometimes, we don’t even have water to wash hands. We also want some clubs in the school, so that we can show our teamwork and leadership qualities,” said Amit Kumar, a student of GBSSS, Phase II, Ashok Vihar.Meanwhile, the SHO promised more vigilant patrolling close to schools during the closing hours. The PWD gave timelines regarding minor repairs in schools. Filtering of drinking water and maintenance of ROs emerged as a major issue of concern for all schools, for which the PWD would be issuing guidelines soon. SMC Sabha is a unique model of governance devised by the AAP government to bring multiple stakeholders together to cut down on bureaucratic coordination hurdles. The model has increased accountability of officials, not just to their seniors but also to people at large.

Delhi: Kathputli Colony residents fear relocation will kill their art

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Artistes have to shift to one-room tenements, which they say are too small to store their artworks; they are also concerned that new neighbours may object to their late-evening rehearsals.”We clearly told them to go back. We are not going to let them encroach upon our land,” says Rashmi Singh, 25, a resident of India’s largest artistes’ ghetto — Kathputli Colony, literally meaning the Puppet Colony.The 3,000-odd families in the locality have been living in constant fear of losing their homes to Delhi Development Authority’s (DDA) bulldozers since last week, when DDA officials, accompanied by policemen, asked them to vacate the area and shift to a transit camp at Anand Parbat, till the colony is redeveloped.The residents of the colony include puppeteers, magicians, acrobats, storytellers, folk singers, dancers and painters, among others. Almost all the families, originally from different parts of the country, settled here nearly 45 years ago.”My grandparents, who were puppeteers, moved here from the Alwar district of Rajasthan. Since then, we have been living here. How can the DDA ask us to leave our homeland?” Rashmi asks.On Friday, Delhi Home Minister Satyendar Jain extended his support to Kathputli Colony residents, and wrote a letter to Union Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu, stating that residents were being “forced” to leave the area.The colony was the first slum taken up for in-situ redevelopment by the DDA in 2009, in collaboration with private firm Raheja Developers. As per the plan, families will have to move to single-room temporary houses in a resettlement area in Anand Parbat, till the construction of their permanent houses in the Kathputli Colony is completed.Nearly 500 families had moved to make-shift homes in 2013, while rest of them refused to do so, saying the DDA should give them written assurance that every family would get a house, and also sought to know the time it would take to build their permanent houses. Prabhat Singh, 52, says demolition of Kathputli Colony will also demolish their art. “Can you imagine fitting in artworks of half-a-century in a single-room flat?”he asks.He adds: “The resettlement will affect our freewheeling lifestyle. Once the artistes start living in expensive flats, their lifestyle will change and egos will inflate. We live like gypsies. Our day starts in the evening, when we start practicing, and it goes on till late in the night. Will the new neighbours allow us to organise our rehearsals?” Puran Bhatt, a resident who had been spearheading protests against the DDA, says: “The residents of Kathputli Colony have represented the country throughout the world. Even the government calls us to perform when a foreign delegation visits. But when it comes to our rights, it turns mute.”

Gandhi vs Modi: Joint opposition meeting on Monday to discuss charges of ‘personal corruption’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress is striving for uniting the opposition on the issue of Rahul Gandhi’s charges of “personal corruption” against the Prime Minister and plans are afoot for a joint press conference by its President Sonia Gandhi and other opposition leaders on December 27. While there is no formal word from Congress about the initiative or the press conference, reports from Kolkata said West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee will be attending a joint opposition meeting on December 27. She is scheduled to arrive in Delhi on Monday. Leaders of Left parties said they have been approached by Congress but are not aware of the details. They also remained non-committal about their participation in the meeting. Sources said NCP, JD(U) and some other opposition parties have also been approached by Congress for the joint meeting to step up the attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government.The sources said NCP leader Tariq Anwar, CPI leader D Raja and Mamata Banerjee have been approached, besides some other leaders. Congress is working towards projecting a united opposition to dispel the impression that cracks developed in the opposition ranks on the last day of the Winter Session of Parliament on December 16 when some parties backed out at the last minute from an opposition delegation to meet the President.Congress’ move comes close on the heels of Rahul Gandhi targeting the Prime Minister on his home turf of Mehsana in Gujarat last week in which he made the allegations against Modi. BJP leaders have dismissed the charges levelled by Rahul. The Prime Minister too had mocked Rahul, who in turn, hit back at Modi saying that the PM could make as much fun of him as he can but he should say whether the charge of corruption is correct or not. The Congress Vice President had also emphasised on an independent probe.A TMC leader said, “Our party supremo will go to Delhi tomorrow and will attend the meeting of opposition parties on December 27. In that meeting, the next line of action will be discussed.”Besides this, Banerjee is likely to hold a separate meeting with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. She will also be meeting some other leaders. The just-concluded Parliament session had seen several opposition parties getting their act together as a united force by holding daily meetings to strategise their plans to target the government. This was for the first time that such meetings to strategise opposition plans took place since Modi took charge as the Prime Minister.Meanwhile, a senior Congress leader, who declined to be identified, has raised doubts over the strategy, saying that the plan to step up attack on Modi might not hold ground as former Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit’s name has also allegedly figured in the same documents. She has junked the charges.

What 2017 has in store for BJP…

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>If BJP retrieved some momentum back in its favour in 2016 with a maiden assembly election win in Assam, the biggest question on the minds of its top brass was whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetization gamble will pay off in the new year in a series of assembly polls, especially in Uttar Pradesh. BJP President Amit Shah will look back at the passing year with fondness as it presented him with some promising rewards and shored up his authority after back-to-back massive defeats in Delhi and Bihar in the preceding year had prompted leaders within the party, including veterans like LK Advani, to point fingers at him.The saffron party put up a creditable show in Kerala and West Bengal, two states where it has been traditionally weak, pulled off wins in bypolls held across the country, including in Assam and Madhya Pradesh, besides in local polls in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra. Its impressive show in Maharashtra and the tiny municipal corporation of Chandigarh was held by the party as an evidence of people’s support to demonetization at a time it has come under intense attack from a united Opposition over the decision, cited by the government as a measure against black money and corruption.While economic fallout of the radical exercise will take some time to be evaluated, there won’t be a long wait before its political implications are out in the open. Five states, including Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur, are going to the assembly polls early next year and demonetization has clearly emerged as the war cry of not only the saffron party but also its rivals, who have latched onto the hardships facing people in form of long queues outside banks and ATMs to term the measure anti-people.Besides Uttar Pradesh, it has a lot at stake in polls to three other state assemblies, including Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa. In Manipur, it has never been in power but has forged a strong regional alliance to have a realistic shot at power. In Punjab and Goa, the presence of AAP has upset the conventional poll dynamics and BJP, which is in power in both the states is trying hard to keep the Arvind Kejriwal-led outfit at bay while battling its traditional rival Congress.However, it is capturing the big prize of Uttar Pradesh, which sends 80 members to the Lok Sabha compared to 22 of four other states together, that is at the heart of BJP’s poll strategy in the fag end of the outgoing year. After taking over as the party chief in January for the second time, Shah continued with his efforts to build the organisation in states which he has identified as important for BJP’s poll prospects in 2019 Lok Sabha polls. He believes that it is imperative for the party to put up a decent performance in states like Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal, Telangana and Kerala– the coromandal region– besides northeastern states if it is to repeat its strong show in 2014 Lok Sabha elections.It will be hard for the party to repeat let alone better its landslide win in the western India besides the Hindi heartland of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and any loss in these regions can be made up by better shows in the coastal and northeastern states, BJP leaders believe. A win in Assam and vote share of more than 15 and 10% in Kerala and West Bengal were seen by the party as a big step to this direction.Though its performance in Tamil Nadu was disappointing it looks at ruling AIADMK as a friendly outfit with which it can have a political understanding. The untimely death of Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa has brought the leadership of two parties closer as the state government leans on the central government for support.Appointments of a number of state chiefs, including in Punjab and Bihar, underlined efforts of the saffron outfit, which has for decades been identified with Brahmin-bania support base, to broaden its appeal among the backward castes and Dalits, two Hindu groups which may have supported it in the past but never embraced it.Shah surprised many within the party by appointing Manoj Tiwari as Delhi BJP president as he is seen as an outsider with no ideological upbringing of the sort its regional satraps are expected to have. It was a clear indication that he was willing to move on from the city’s entrenched leadership which has failed to deliver in polls.If 2014 was the milestone year in the BJP’s history as it emerged stronger than ever before, 2015 exposed it to the limits of solely banking on Modi’s charisma. This year, BJP used its organisational heft and credible local leadership, as in the case of Assam where Sarbananda Sonowal turned out to be its lucky mascot, to expand into newer territory. However, it will be the new year that can provide the strongest signal yet of whether its hope of a repeat of 2014 landslide in the next Lok Sabha polls will ride on firm foundations or not. Uttar Pradesh will decide.

Anna Hazare writes letter to Kejriwal, says painful that Delhi CM didn’t fulfill promises

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Anti-graft crusader Anna Hazare today castigated Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for “not fulfilling the promise” of putting his party’s donors list in public domain, at a time when the AAP has been questioning the Congress and BJP over their source of funding.In a letter to Kejriwal, dated December 23, the veteran activist, popularly known as Anna and also a ‘father-figure’ for the AAP, took a dig at the Delhi Chief Minister and said if change has to be brought into the system, then the leadership should “walk the talk”. “For the betterment of country and the society, I kept aside several important works related to people in Maharashtra and gave you my time without any selfish interest and dreamt big for the country. But my dream has been shattered,” Hazare, who launched an anti-graft crusade, said.He also referred to a letter written to him by Munish Raizada, a US-based medico and suspended AAP member, pointing out that donors’ records have gone off the party website since June 2016. Raizada also launched ‘no chanda’ (no donation) satyagraha at Raj Ghat today. AAP’s national treasurer Raghav Chadha claimed that Hazare was being misled by Congress leaders on the issue while the BJP is using state agencies to threaten its donors.On behalf of Kejriwal, he also challenged BJP President Amit Shah and Congress President Sonia Gandhi to come out clean on party donors and have a debate on the issue at Jantar Mantar. “You made several promises, which includes putting the donations received by the AAP on the party website. “The talks of social change, which we espoused, are fading and politics and money are becoming important. The sense of humility is also fading.”Or else, you would not have taken off the names of people from your website who gave donations to the party during trying times,” Hazare said.He also expressed displeasure over functioning of the AAP. Hazare said that while other parties get donations from people for their “selfish interests”, people give funds to AAP to bring in change. “You penned a book on Gram Swaraj. The way you are going…is this the way to Gram Swaraj? This is the question before me. What is the difference between your party and other political outfits?” Hazare said.”You promised change to me and the people. It pains because the promise has not been fulfilled. You have made several such promises to me and people,” Hazare said.Chadha said AAP is the only party that has transparency in its source of funding and 92 per cent of its donations come through banking channels like net banking, credit and debit card and cheques. “Congress leaders like Muish Raizada are misleading Anna while BJP uses state agenices to harass our donors. Raizada has joined the Congress,” Chadha claimed.

Delhi fog: 52 trains delayed, five rescheduled

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Poor visibility due to dense fog encompassed the national capital on Saturday as around 52 trains have been delayed, five rescheduled and one train has been cancelled.With this thousands of passengers were left stranded at New Delhi Railway Station due to dense fog conditions in several parts of North India.Poor visibility due to dense fog has also been reported in Kanpur.

Snapchatters from across the world save a 20-year-old pregnant Delhi girl from committing suicide

For her, it was the end of the world as she could only foresee a dark future for herself. When this 20-year-old Delhi girl became pregnant she became so distraught that she expressed her intention on social media to kill herself to guard the family’s reputation. Shocked at her intention, folks on Snapchat took it upon themselves to prevent a tragedy, emerge the girl out of depression and show her the bright path ahead. And, they did that successfully.

She posted an image on The Artidote’s Snapchat channel– it was curating a feed of responses from around the world—and she received supportive messages in response to her post that said she was on the verge of committing suicide due to an unexpected pregnancy.


The other Snapchatters who saw the post quickly responded with supportive messages and encouraged her to brave the storm.


People from across the world raised her spirits. In addition to empathising with her, some even offered to talk her out of the situation.

They tried different ways and persuaded her to refrain from taking the drastic step.


new delhinew delhi


Messages from Delhi, Kuwait and different parts of the world poured in and helped the Delhi girl gather courage and confront her mother.




After confronting her mother, she posted a picture that said she was going to see the gynecologist with her mother. She also replied to The Artidote and thanked everyone who instilled the courage in her, and “saved” her life.





This episode of kindness and humanity is proof that the power of Social media stands tall in the face adversities.

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 20:22 IST

Delhi HC allows Ajay Chautala to attend son Dushyant’s marriage functions

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>INLD leader Ajay Chautala, who is serving a 10-year jail term in a teachers’ recruitment scam case, was today allowed by the Delhi High Court to attend the marriage function of his son and MP Dushyant Chautala.The leader, who was on parole since November 28 and was restrained from moving out of the national capital, has sought modification of the order, saying he be allowed to attend his son’s ‘roka’ ceremony at Sirsa in Haryana on December 25. The application came up for hearing before Justice Vipin Sanghi who allowed the leader’s plea to attend two ceremonies to be held at different locations in Sirsa and Gurgaon.Advocate Amit Sahni, appearing for the convict, said the ‘ring’ ceremony was scheduled on January 3 next year and sought permission to the petitioner to leave the territory of Delhi to “enable him to attend and perform the customs on both the dates”.Allowing the plea, the court asked the leader to surrender before the jail authorities on January 5 next year, the date already fixed. On November 28, the court had granted a month’s parole to Ajay for maintaining “social ties” but restrained him from taking part in political activities. The court had restricted Ajay’s movement while directing him not to leave Delhi without permission from the authorities concerned.The Supreme Court on August 3 last year had dismissed the appeals of Ajay and his father O P Chautala challenging the high court’s verdict upholding their conviction and sentence of 10 years awarded by a trial court in the junior basic trained (JBT) teachers recruitment scam case.The high court had on March 5, 2015, upheld the 10-year jail term awarded to Chautalas and three others, saying, “The overwhelming evidence showed the shocking and spine-chilling state of affairs in the country.”The father-son duo and 53 others, including two IAS officers, were among 55 persons convicted on January 16, 2013 by the trial court for illegally recruiting 3,206 JBT teachers in Haryana in 2000.

Income tax officials raid Kotak Bank branch, bank denies fake accounts

The Income Tax Department on Friday questioned the manager of a Kotak Mahindra Bank branch here in connection with two of its customer accounts, officials said.

According to a police official, a “raid” was conducted in the morning on the Kasturba Gandhi Marg branch in the heart of Delhi.

Rohit Rao, official spokesperson of Kotak Mahindra Bank, said in a statement: “IT department has visited the bank’s branch in connection with survey of two of its customers and their related accounts.



“No KYC deficiencies were noted in these two customers. The IT department did question the Branch Manager and no adverse report has been submitted to the bank so far.”

Rao said the bank had a “robust system of regularly and proactively filing necessary reports with the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) for all large transactions.

“The bank denies that there were any fake accounts. The bank is extending full cooperation to the investigating authorities.”

Another private sector bank, Axis Bank has been in news after income tax department and enforcement directorate have detected illegal activities at some of its branches after the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.

The bank’s Ahmedabad branch was raided on Thursday and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) put transactions worth Rs 89 crore under scanner. The raid was conducted at Mayamnagar branch of the bank and the ED scrutinised 19 accounts.

The ED had earlier registered a money laundering case in the alleged forging of a customer’s identity to conduct huge illegal transactions in the branch of Noida for conversion of black money into white post demonetisation.

The bank, according to a PTI report, had suspended 24 employees and 50 accounts after the I-T raids unearthed such illegal activities.


First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 15:19 IST

Let Centre complete Agusta probe, nail culprits under law: AK Antony

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former defence minister AK Antony on Thursday said let the Centre complete the investigation into the Agustawestland Scam and bring the guilty to book.”In our time, when we found something wrong, we only ordered an enquiry, cancelled the contract, fought in Italy and won. So, let them complete the probe. This Government has been there for two-and-a-half years; they must complete the enquiry and bring the guilty to justice.” Antony said.The Delhi Court had earlier adjourned the hearing on the bail plea of former air chief SP Tyagi, his cousin Sanjeev Tyagi and businessman-cum-lawyer Gautam Khaitan in the AgustaWestland chopper scam case till December 23.”All evidences asked by ED or CBI have been provided. Details of properties, bank accounts and foreign trips were handed over,” said the former air chief’s counsel.The Patiala House court on December 17 had remanded the trio to judicial custody till December 30 as their CBI custody ended.Also, The CBI had moved court seeking a 10-day custody to interrogate Tyagi and the other accused in the case.Tyagi has been accused of influencing the deal in favour of AgustaWestland during his tenure as the IAF chief.He has, however, repeatedly denied the allegations.

After Pak General, Chinese media suggests India to join CPEC

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>China will strongly oppose any attempt to label Pakistan as “supporting terrorism”, Chinese official media said on Friday and suggested India to accept the “olive branch” extended by a top Pakistani military General to participate in the $46 billion economic corridor. “Surprise aside (over General’s call), New Delhi should consider accepting the olive branch Pakistan has extended in a bid to participate in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor,” said an article in the state-run Global Times.The comments came after Lt Gen Riaz, Commander of the Pakistan’s Southern Command which is based in Quetta, this week reportedly said India should “shun enmity” with Pakistan and “join the $46-billion CPEC along with Iran, Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries and enjoy its benefits”.”Such an opportunity could be transient. There is a possibility that the open attitude toward India joining the CPEC will quickly be overwhelmed by opposition voices from Pakistan if New Delhi does not respond in a timely manner to the General’s overture,” the article said. “The best way to reduce hostilities is by establishing economic cooperation based on mutual benefits to put aside what cannot be reached by a consensus,” it said.
ALSO READ India should ‘shun enmity’ and join CPEC: Top Pakistan GeneralIt said that India could boost its exports and slash its trade deficit with China via new trade routes that would be opened up by the CPEC. In addition, the northern part of India bordering Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir will gain more economic growth momentum if India joins the project, it said.Another article in the same daily said “Riaz’s invitation, which came as a surprise to New Delhi, is mainly intended as a gesture. While he hinted at India’s intervention in the CPEC, he welcomed India’s participation in the project, demonstrating Pakistan does not want to exclude India.” At the same time, it said, “if any country wants to label Pakistan as ‘supporting terrorism’ and discredit the country, then China and other countries who uphold justice will oppose such behaviour strongly”.The article said that since President Xi Jinping visited Pakistan in April, 2015, the CPEC has advanced considerably. “However, some international forces, and India in particular, are accustomed to look at the CPEC and the One Belt and One Road initiative from a geopolitical perspective.On one side, this is relevant to the geopolitical competition mindset they insist on, on the other, this is because of their excessive speculation on the strategic implications of the CPEC and the Belt and Road,” it said. “To ensure the smooth advancement of the CPEC, it is necessary for Pakistan to have a stable and peaceful domestic and periphery environment and a favourable profile,” it said.On anti-terrorism, the Afghanistan peace process, and the peace and stability of Kashmir, Pakistan is making efforts to show international society its wish to pursue peace, it said. “The CPEC is not only a bilateral cooperation, but also a multilateral project in the long-run, which aims at regional economic integration. So it’s open and inclusive, and China and Pakistan hope India, Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asian countries can participate and become stakeholders,” it added.

Delhi L-G Najeeb Jung meets Narendra Modi; govt puts resignation in abeyance: Reports

Najeeb Jung, who resigned as Delhi’s lieutenant-governor on Thursday, met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday. However, various TV reports suggest that the government has kept his resignation in abeyance.

Speaking to NDTV, Najeeb Jung claimed that he wanted to quit in 2014, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged him to carry on. He added that he requested the prime minister to relieve him after three years as Delhi L-G.

The meeting comes hours after Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and met Jung after the latter’s resignation. The ex-Jamia Milia Islamia vice-chancellor put in his papers about 18 months ahead of his scheduled end of term. The move surprised many, triggering off a war of words between the ruling AAP, BJP and the Congress.

Meanwhile, media reports say that the Centre is already searching for Jung’s replacement. According to The Tribune, two former home secretaries, Anil Baijal and GK Pillai, are the frontrunners to replace the ex-IAS officer.

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 13:28 IST

Burmese Christians in India and a possible clue to why Europe’s Muslim refugees are converting to Christianity

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Maybe the purpose of religion is bigger than resolving existential dilemmas. Maybe religion is a way of life or the orientation of a lifestyle. Perhaps, religion is identity. And, the divine gain from it is as definite as it is abstract, as personal as it is general.

Is that the reason why those who have been displaced by religiopolitical violence still harbour a wish to practice or even preach a faith? On 27 November, Pastor Matthias Linke of the Evangelisch-Freikirchliche Gemeinde church baptised a newly converted Muslim refugee during a ceremony in Berlin. Reading reports about conversions to Christianity that are taking place in Germany, one of the spin-offs of what is the bloody modern day reality of Syria and Iraq, Cung Dawt feels the need to talk about the ironies of life.

Lack of interpreters among Burmese Christian refugees often results in a wrong diagnosis. Image courtesy: Pallavi Rebbapragada

Lack of interpreters among Burmese Christian refugees often results in a wrong diagnosis. Image courtesy: Pallavi Rebbapragada

A Burmese refugee from the Christian Chin community, Dawt lives in a ghetto in Janak Puri and has grisly tales to tell. “I was born a Christian in Burma and never felt safe in my country. Not all (Burmese) refugees are Muslim. If one religion uses state funds to propagate its tenets, other faiths will be wiped out,” says the 30-year-old who was a student of BSc at Kaley University in the Chin region of Burma when Buddhist monks set his neighbourhood on fire during a demonstration.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are about 5,000 Chin refugees and asylum seekers living in the capital. Dawt got here in 2008. He says people come here from different Chin tribes, including Zomi, Tedim, Falam, Cho, Hakha, Mara and Mizo among others (Mara and Mizo tribes share their ethnicity with tribes from North East India). They live in urban villages in West Delhi like Hastsal, Vikas Nagar, Sitapuri and Bindapur. They mostly work in factories producing emergency lights, in mobile repairing shops, or as housemaids. Since the UNHCR “blue card” is not recognised by employers in the formal sector, most families are surviving on less than Rs 6,000 a month.

Earlier this month, The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) published a report titled Hidden Plight: Christian Minorities in Burma. This states that “Christian denominations strongly opposed the Religious Conversion Law, one of the package of bills for the so-called ‘protection of race and religion’. Originally proposed and drafted by Ma Ba Tha and signed into law by President Thein Sein in 2015, each of the four discriminatory laws — regulating monogamy, marriage, birth spacing and religious conversion — restrict religious freedom and undermine women’s rights. The Religious Conversion Law unlawfully restricts the right to freely choose a religion, interferes with proselytising, and could be used to criminalise such activities. Although the law is not currently being implemented — as there are no accompanying bylaws (usually required before a law can be enforced in Burma) — it is already having an indirect impact.”

Deep inside Chin ghettos in the Indian capital, entire families live in rooms not bigger than five bathtubs put together. There are pictures Jesus Christ pasted on pink or green walls of the ghetto, several of them badly scratched by wind and time. You find shops barely stocked with blankets and bed sheets. Along the reedy streets, some of the refugees have spread out frogs cooked with bitter leaves, some offer fried batches of Burmese samosa (same filling as the Indian one but square-shaped). The community heads to the night bazaars for purchasing rejected vegetables at cheaper rates. A majority were below the poverty line even in Burma where the price of vegetables, fish, meat and rice skyrocketed along with the violence.

Burmese3_Pallavi Rebbapragada

Religion has emerged as a binding factor for each Burmese tribe in India. Image courtesy: Pallavi Rebbapragada

In the ghetto, tribal structures, offices, churches and pastors protect the community’s sense of belonging. The Jesuit Refugee Society (JRS) is an international catholic organisation that provides assistance to refugees in 50 countries. In Delhi, it engages the Chin community in livelihood training programmes featuring skill-imparting courses in tailoring, computers and English. As per its observations, the Church is a unifying factor and every tribe is well-organised under the Churches.

Attending Church services is considered to be a sacred obligation in the lives of the Chins. Practically all the Chin members attend the Church services without fail. Some families also consider it a good Christian practice to give 10 percent of their earnings every month to the Church. Apart from fulfilling religious services, some pastors try to help the families in whatever ways possible.

“We, the Chins, have great community spirit. In our small homes, we meet and greet each other. Sometimes, our level of freeness and warmth is misunderstood by the landlords and they feel our women do business with their bodies,” informs Dawt.

The community depends on landlords for their voter IDs along with electricity and water bills that have to be submitted to the Foreigner Regional Registration Office (FRRO) to get a residence permit. In some cases, the UNHCR card doesn’t even help them secure a phone connection. The closest hospital is Deen Dayal Upadhyay, where, they say, doctors usually belittle their illnesses and prescribe paracetamols even in cases where they require serious medical attention.

Prem Kumar, assistant director at JRS (Delhi), points out that the difficulty in fully empowering the Burmese refugees is the language barrier; there is a diversity of dialects even among the tribes. Although they are free to attend government schools, Chin refugee children attend community schools set up by the Church. These schools do not have a fixed syllabus and children of different age groups learn together without gradations. The older the child is, the harder it is for him or her to gain working knowledge of either Hindi or English.

In 2013, JRS identified that among the Chin refugees in Delhi, the literacy levels of the children was lower than that of their parents.

Burmese4_Pallavi Rebbapragada

Burmese Chin Refugees don’t find jobs in the formal sectors and most end up selling small goods on streets

Back in Burma, the USCIRF report goes on to state “there are no state-run universities in Chin State, and bureaucratic hurdles such as changing household registration documents plus other associated costs of relocating elsewhere in Burma for further studies are prohibitive for many Chin. Instead, many choose to study at Christian institutions in Chin State. However, the government does not officially recognise degrees and other qualifications offered by Christian theological colleges and universities, which means graduates from Christian institutions can’t secure employment in the government sector.”

It adds, “Kachin, Naga, and Chin Christian employees are routinely overlooked for promotion within the civil service and other government sectors in favour of Buddhists. For example, in the Chin State capital of Hakha, all but two of the department heads within the state-level administration are Burmese Buddhists. When Christians do hold government positions, they face sanctions if they refuse to support Buddhist activities. In some cases, the authorities take contributions from Christian civil servants’ salaries for Buddhist activities, such as building pagodas and organising Buddhist New Year (Thingyan) celebrations, a practice continued from the time of military rule until today.”

Some kilometres away from Janak Puri is Vikas Nagar where Rohingya Christians are giving tough competition to the Chins. The Rohingya Christians (not more than 150) live in 30 tents. These Rohingyas are converted from Islam to Christianity and hail from the Burmese Rakhine state. The plight, persecutions and trafficking of Rohingya Muslims, considered illegal immigrants from Bangladesh by many in the Burmese state, is common knowledge.

Recently, a UN official said that Myanmar is carrying out “ethnic cleansing” of Rohingya Muslims as stories of gangrape, torture and murder emerge from among the thousands who have fled to Bangladesh. The Rohingya Christians, however, are scattered and scarce.

Shona Mia, the leader of the community in Delhi, says he was born stateless in 1980. He informs that out of the 60 children in their community in Delhi, only six to seven attend school. Their language is different from the ones spoken by the Chins and hence their children benefit from the Chin community schools. Rohingya children work as rag pickers and the adults mainly segregate waste or work in paper factories.

In one of these tents, people with distinctly Muslim names — Anwar, Salam, Iman Husain — swiftly quote from the Bible while making Christmas decorations out of crumpled waste paper.

“The bible saves us. It keeps us together in troubled times,” they say.

However, for these believers, the Grinch has stolen Christmas and Santa doesn’t exist.

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 13:11 IST

Gurgaon: 21-year-old woman drugged & raped, falls into shaft while trying to flee

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A 21-year-woman was allegedly drugged and raped by two men in southwest Delhi’s Dwarka, following which the accused were arrested, police said.The accused have been identified Sunil (26) and Himmat(22), DCP(Southwest) Surender Kumar said.The woman claimed that she was brought forcefully from Gurgaon to a flat in southwest Delhi on Wednesday night where the accused drugged raped her, they said.The flat is rented by Nitin, Sunil’s driver. Nitin was out of town when Himmat and Sunil allegedly took the girl there.The incident came to light while the girl was trying to escape from the flat and fell from the window into the shaft and sustained severe injuries. While trying to prevent her from escaping, Himmat also fell from the window, police said, adding Sunil had gone out when this happened.Hearing the duo’s cries, the neighbours made a PCR call alleging that some thieves were hiding in the shaft.The girl sustained severe back injuries and was taken to DDU Hospital from where she was referred to Safdarjung Hospital where her condition is stated to be stable, they said.After gaining consciousness, she told police that the duo raped her after she lost consciousness upon being drugged.The accused were arrested after the woman’s medical examination was conducted, police said.On the other hand, the accused claimed she came with them willingly and that they didn’t kidnap her. They said Sunil had gone out to get some food while Himmat and the girl were drinking in the flat.They claimed that Sunil and the woman were standing near the window when they lost balance and fell, they said.Himmat hails from Mahendragarh in Haryana and had come to Delhi around 15-20 days back to work with Sunil, whose cars were earlier plying for Uber, a police official said.

AAP, Cong should not do politics on Najeeb Jung’s resignation: Kiren Rijiju

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Union Minister Kiren Rijiju criticised the Aam Aadmi Party and Congress for “doing politics” over the resignation of Delhi LG Najeeb Jung. “I don’t know what problems do the AAP and Congress have. When Jung was working, they were demanding resignation. Now since he has resigned, they are questioning why he has resigned. Should Jung have resigned by taking permission from AAP and Congress?,” Rijiju said.The Minister of State for Home said the AAP and Congress leaders have no locus standi to ask questions. He asked the two parties “to give up doing politics” over Jung’s resignation.Rijiju also refused to speculate on the reasons behind Jung’s resignation saying only Jung could tell it.
ALSO READ LG v/s AAP: A timeline of the battle between Najeeb Jung and Arvind KejriwalRaising questions over Jung’s sudden resignation, Delhi Congress Chief Ajay Maken had demanded that the Centre should explain the reasons behind his “unceremonious exit”, saying there is more to it than meets the eye. The AAP had alleged that Jung worked under the “influence” of the Modi dispensation and questioned whether the power tussle between the Centre and Delhi government will continue even after the appointment of a new LG. “Modi government promotes its people. We hope he gets a better posting after this. I am unhappy that his tenure was disgraceful. Now that he has gone, good luck to him. Najeeb Jung’s behaviour was not his. He was under the influence of someone. We hope the next LG gives priority to issues concerning people and does not work under anyone’s influence,” AAP’s Kumar Vishwas had said.

Gangrape case: 25-year-old US national questioned by Delhi Police

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The 25-year-old US national, who was allegedly gangraped by a group of men earlier this year in a five-star hotel here, was on Thursday questioned by Delhi Police to determine the sequence of events.She arrived here a couple of days ago to join the probe and on Thursday she underwent a medical examination and recorded her statement under section 164 of the CrPC before a magistrate.Today, the investigating team interacted with her to fill in the gaps in her complaint and to firm up their case, a senior police officer said.Earlier, she had said that she was not satisfied with the probe and was ready to come to India to identify the accused.On December 8, the tourist guide, accused of raping her along with his accomplices, was questioned by police after his arrival from Nepal. Police had identified the man and contacted him while he was in Nepal.
ALSO READ Gangrape case: US national arrives in India to join probeThe tour guide had denied his involvement in the matter and told police that the victim had given him a positive feedback in the forms and internal inquiry by the travel agency hadn’t found him guilty.The woman had alleged that she was raped by the men for two days. They also threatened her with dire consequences. She had also said the accused had made a video of the act and had threatened to make it public if she reported the matter to anyone.