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India-Pakistan ties: 439 Indian fishermen to return to home in January

Mumbai: Despite a complete halt to bilateral talks between India and Pakistan, 439 Indian fishermen languishing in Pakistani jails will return home in two batches, a pressure group said on Friday.

The move would bring good cheer to the fishing community as the first batch is scheduled to be home on Christmas.

Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) spokesperson Jatin Desai said that while 220 fishermen would be back on Sunday, the remaining 219 would return on 5 January 2017.

“The release is important as there is no bilateral talks and there is complete pause on the dialogue,” he added.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Desai said the PIPFPD has even urged the Indian government to reciprocate by releasing Pakistani fishermen languishing in Indian prisons.

Currently, there are 516 Indian fishermen nabbed and put in Karachi jails, while 80 Pakistani fisherfolk were put in prisons in Gujarat.

“The India-Pakistan Judicial Committee on Prisoners (IPJCP), set up in 2008 must meet urgently,” Desai said pointing out that both countries must pursue a ‘No Arrest Policy’ as far as fishermen were concerned.

They should also release all the confiscated fishing boats as it was their only means of livelihood, he added.

The IPJCP used to meet regularly every six months, but did not meet since the BJP-led government assumed power, Desai said.

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 13:32 IST

No need to go on defensive, Amit Shah tells party leaders

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>At a time when demonetization overshadowed the debate inside and outside Parliament, BJP chief Amit Shah is understood to have cautioned his party against going on the defensive or allowing political opponents to set the agenda.In a meeting with leaders of various departments of his party recently, Shah, according to sources, asked the party to go on the offensive and flaunt the Modi regime’s achievements such as OROP, Jan Dhan yojna and the fight against corruption through demonetization. He said the BJP should be setting the agenda while expressing concern that “despite all the work done by the government”, it was the rivals who were managing to do that, the sources said.He is believed to have said that the BJP had a resounding majority in Lok Sabha, an ideology and a strong organisation while Congress, with just 45 MPs in the Lower House at present, had none of these. Despite that, the Congress had managed to stay in power for decades, he said.The government-Opposition face-off over a debate on demonetization in Parliament had stalled the Winter Session, which was mid-way when Shah held the meeting. He, along with General Secretary (Organisation) Ram Lal, was taking stock of the progress made by the 19 departments he had announced around a year ago.After the assembly elections in UP, Uttarakhand and Punjab early in 2017, Shah and Ram Lal are likely to spend three days in every state to take stock of the functioning of the various departments, the sources said. Shah has been emphasising on strengthening the organisation,as part of a long-term political strategy. He said with some election or the other every year, the party should be battle-ready to face them.Shah told the media department to ensure positive coverage by generating a debate on burning issues. He asked how many editors or senior journalists it had interacted with after government took major steps like OROP. He said literature, data and fact sheets should be prepared so that the media is kept informed, according to the sources.Turning to the legal cell, he said despite several corruption cases surfacing in Congress-ruled Karnataka, it had not filed any PIL, according to sources. He said the members should find out what was happening on the ground and accordingly respond.The party president, who had been monitoring the functioning of the various party departments and getting regular feedback, however, said the intention of the exercise was not to criticise anybody.

Home Secretary met Najeeb Jung two days ago, was unaware of his resignation

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The sudden resignation of Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung seems to have caught the Home Ministry unaware with Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi saying Jung had given no indication two days ago when he had a meeting with him. “The LG met me day before yesterday but he did not give any indication of submitting his resignation. Another meeting of mine with the LG is scheduled for tomorrow (Friday)… I have come to know about his resignation only from the media,” Mehrishi told reporters as soon as the news flashed in TV channels.Delhi being a Union Territory, the LG looks after the Delhi Police and he reports to the Union Home Ministry. Jung regularly meets senior Home Ministry officials for various official works and in his recent interactions he had given no clue about his impending resignation from the post. Official sources said whenever the political leadership of the Central government wants to remove a Governor or LG, the onus of conveying the message, asking the incumbents to put in their papers, usually rests with the Union Home Secretary.In the case of Jung, Mehrishi had not conveyed any such message, sources said. It came as a surprise for the Home Ministry officials that Jung has decided to put in his papers without giving any hint in advance. In fact, sources said the LG had intimated the Home Secretary that from December 25 to January 1 he will be visiting Goa on a private tour.
ALSO READ Despite bitter-sweet experiences, we did a good job in Delhi with Najeeb Jung: Manish Sisodia Sources said there is no fixed tenure for a LG of any of the Union Territories even though a Governor is normally appointed for a period of five year or till further order “whichever is earlier”. The LG is appointed without specifying any tenure, sources said.

Demonetisation: Why PM Narendra Modi is India’s Lee Kuan Yew on adrenalin

Despite the political chatter, media natter and well-versed economic debate on demonetisation, one crucial question remains unanswered since 8 November.

The question is simple. What prompted Narendra Modi to usher in such a drastic change at a great risk to his career? Political leaders are codified genetically to be risk averse, even more so when it involves antagonizing their core support base. So to rephrase the question, why did Modi take such an insane risk?

If one discounts the larger conspiracy theory that this is all part of some elaborate scam — a theory that fails the first test of plausibility because scams are ploys that hoodwink the system to ensure maximum benefit at minimum risk — focusing on this key question may help decode the motive behind demonetisation that has confounded even the best of the economists.

A look at Modi’s trajectory of reform initiatives since he assumed the Prime Minister’s office reveals one clear pattern. Modi wants to initiate economic transformation of India through a top-down reformative approach. He is even willing, as a host of schemes and administrative steps would testify, to bulldoze his way to change which is always risky in such a large, culturally and economically diverse country such as ours.

He has so far found it hard to breeze through these systemic changes but that is more due to the rambunctious nature of our democracy and the structural challenges built within. The clear picture that emerges, however, that he is a man in a hurry. Modi is obsessed with the passion to trigger a positive change. He dreams of leaving an indelible mark in history. He is highly motivated to usher in sweeping, transformative adjustments and he wants to do it very, very quickly.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Social theorist and political psychologist Ashish Nandy, in an interview to The Wire, cites “developmental authoritarianism” to describe Modi’s move. Nandy says the PM believes in the Singapore model and is following the path of “every South East Asian leader who has tried to quicken development”.

While Nandy’s point is well taken, Modi differs from his South east Asian brethren in one key aspect. Unlike, for instance, Singapore, Indian Parliamentary democracy doesn’t allow Prime Ministers three decades of uninterrupted power. Modi must test his electoral fate at least by 2019 even as his party undergoes mini-referendums almost throughout his five-year tenure.

Therefore, Modi is India’s Lee Kuan Yew on adrenalin.

There’s one more aspect. The Prime Minister is mortally scared of the fate that befell Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Despite authoring deep-rooted, organic reforms and revolutionizing India’s market economy, Vajapyee failed to extend his mandate beyond one term. The root of Modi’s disruptive, almost brutal reformative step also lies in the lesson from Vajpayee’s defeat. It is imperative that we put demonetisation in this context, why Vajpayee India’s most underestimated reformer, failed to get reelected and how the government that followed first fed on the low-hanging growth fruit and then ravished the economy through a series of (if well-intentioned) missteps that left a scorched earth by 2014.

There is more than one metric to show that Indian economy really took off during the Vajpayee years as focus was laid on building the infrastructure, disinvestment goals were achieved, telecom revolution brought millions within mobile net and, as BBC apprises, “India became an emerging power in information technology, business processing outsourcing and biotechnology.”

The problem with structural reforms, as columnist Vivek Kaul put it in a 2014 column for Firstpost, that it takes a little time for the results to be evident and economy is not a “James Bond movie, where the storyline of one movie has very little connection with the next.” The author points out through a series of facts and figures that “the economic growth during the UPA rule fed on the economic growth during the NDA rule. The UPA has left the economy in shambles, and the government that takes over, will have a tough time turning it around.”

So the first lesson from Vajpayee defeat was, as Modi would have noted, that transformative reforms take more than a little time to deliver results and very often the regime that implements those are not the ones to reap the political benefits.

If ushering in quick changes was Modi’s first challenge, the second, equally difficult one was to reverse the almost negative growth and high inflation of UPA 2 years.

As columnist and author Niranjan Rajadhyaksha, while assessing UPA’s performance, wrote in a Livemint column in 2011, “the ruling alliance has not aggressively pushed economic reforms but seems to have decided to ride the growth wave unleashed by a higher savings rate, demographic power and the benefits of the reforms done by the Narasimha Rao, United Front and Atal Bihari Vajpayee governments since 1991. The inability to reform labour laws and build state capacity has meant that the UPA has taken the convenient way out —promising entitlements that cannot be sustained on our narrow tax base.”

One of the stated goals of demonetisation is to widen the narrow tax base by bringing in more of the informal sector into the banking net. In recent past, a lot of focus has been laid on how the Prime Minister has “shifted the narrative for demonetisation from black money eradication to cashless economy”. But the point is, one is intrinsically linked to the other. A more digitized economy will make it harder for unmonitored transactions to take place since cash typically leaves no trail. Economists in support of the move have pointed out how the transformative pain will be more than offset by long-term gains arising out of a more compliant and transparent tax base.

But Modi’s problem, as Harvard University professor Kenneth Rogoff points out in Financial Times, “is that there is just too much collateral damage… India did not have nearly sufficient stock of new currency on hand to replace the old, throwing the cash economy into seizure. But he also added that “in an economy profoundly crippled by tax evasion and corruption, India’s radical demonetisation may yet have positive long-run effects. In a sense, Mr Modi’s broader goal is to change the mindset of India.”

This, then, is the crux of Modi’s move. He wants to usher in a configurational change in the Indian economy that depends on a behavioral change. And as if that was in itself not mighty difficult to do, the Prime Minister just made it even more difficult for himself by settling a self-imposed goal that these changes must be initiated quickly enough so that at least some of the fruits are ripe enough to be plucked near the end of his term.

This may explain the insane risk that he has taken through demonetisation — a brute force that leaves in its wake huge amounts of collateral damage. And this may also explain the tearing hurry in inflicting a less-cash economy on an unprepared nation.

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 18:35 IST

India to contribute $500,000 to UN emergency response fund

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India has said it will contribute $500,000 to the United Nations’s emergency response fund for the year 2016-17 as it stressed that the international response is falling significantly short of the challenges posed by humanitarian crises across the world.Counsellor in India’s Permanent Mission to the UN Anjani Kumar said at the high-level Pledging Conference that the Government of India would be contributing $500,000 to the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) for the year 2016-17. India’s cumulative contribution to the fund so far has been $6 million. “Despite our own resource constraints, India has always been forthcoming within our ability and national circumstance in offering humanitarian assistance as per the needs and requests of our friends and partners,” Kumar said.Kumar added that the scale and instances of humanitarian crises around the world has been on the rise and the need for assistance to meet the challenges these crises pose has been unparalleled. Kumar said the number of people requiring urgent humanitarian assistance worldwide has quadrupled over the past 10 years and the international humanitarian response is falling significantly short of the challenges posed. “Addressing these needs require immediate attention. Any delay in providing assistance can have long term consequences. There is a need for coordination and partnership to meet these challenges,” Kumar said.Kumar said India has assisted in relief efforts in countries such as Afghanistan, Maldives, Nepal, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Yemen in a number of situations of natural disasters like tsunamis, earthquakes and cyclone. CERF pools contributions from donors mainly governments, but also, foundations, companies, charities and individuals into a single fund with a $450 million annual target. This money is set aside for immediate use at the onset of emergencies, in rapidly deteriorating situations and in protracted crises that fail to attract sufficient resources.In an average year, CERF allocates approximately $450 million to humanitarian operations in some 50 different countries. Since 2006, more than $3.7 billion has been allocated to help millions of people in 92 countries and territories across the world.

Result ‘fabricated’ by ‘blind bhakts’: Congress on 93% support for demonetization on NaMo app

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress alleged that the survey, conducted via an official app of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to gauge public opinion on demonetization comprised “manufactured questions and pre-fabricated answers by blind bhakts”.”Modi Govt manufactures yet another lie through self serving survey on demonetization. You can’t fool people of India through such gimmicks (sic),” party’s chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala tweeted.”A trumped up survey, manufactured questions & pre-fabricated answers by blind bhakts. Who cares for pain of common Indian?(sic)” he said in another tweet and alleged that only “rhetorical questions which left no room for us to disagree!” were asked in the survey.A day after the Prime Minister sought public feedback on the issue, the PMO today said more than 93 per cent of the five lakh people who participated in a survey on Narendra Modi App have supported demonetization.”Modi Ji has not demonetised the Indian currency; Modi Ji has demonetised the people of India,” the Congress leader later said in a statement.He said the government has failed to apologise for the deaths due to demonetization.”The government is so arrogant that it is not ready to acknowledge and express regrets over the deaths in the wake of demonetization. For the Prime Minister, his position has become important,” Surjewala said.”Even though 70 people have died due to the decision, Modiji is not ready to address Parliament,” he said, adding that the entire opposition is united against demonetization and will participate in the ‘Aakrosh Diwas’ protest on November 28.Surjwala said even after 13 days since the announcement of the decision to scrap Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes, people in towns and villages continue to face severe cash crunch.Attacking the Modi government over cross-border firing by Pakistani troops, he said that after a-month-and-a-half after the surgical strikes in PoK, India has lost 16 army men, six BSF jawans and 10 civilians in firing.”Despite these casualties, we are being told that we have a strong Prime Minister. We are still waiting to see strength of the 56 inch chest,” he said in the statement.

Day after Indian soldier’s body mutilated, Pakistan PM Sharif terms India’s counter offensive as ‘naked aggression’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday termed as “naked aggression” the “unprovoked firing” by India across the LoC that resulted in the death of four civilians and three soldiers and said India has failed to comprehend the gravity of the situation.In a statement, Sharif “condemned the Indian firing across the Line of Control (LoC) which targeted a passenger bus and also paid tribute to the soldiers killed in a separate firing incident across the LoC as tension mounted between the two countries after heavy exchanges.””Despite our exercise of maximum restraint in the wake of continuing naked Indian aggression along LoC resulting in the death of innocent civilians including children and women, India has failed to comprehend the gravity of the situation, he said.Sharif “condemned in the strongest words the unprovoked firing by Indian security forces on a civil bus carrying innocent civilians along LoC near Neelum valley.” He said no responsible state can permit targeting innocent civilians in general and ambulances carrying the injured in particular.”In fact, India is trying to divert the attention of the international community from the grave human rights violations and atrocities being committed by the Indian security forces in Kashmir,” he said.He said that Pakistan will never abandon their Kashmiri brethren and will continue to support them in their just and legitimate freedom struggle for their right to self-determination in accordance with the UNSC Resolutions.The Indian Army on Wednesday launched a counter offensive against Pakistan along the LoC after three Indian soldiers were killed, with body of one of them mutilated in a cross-LoC attack, even as Pakistani troops continued to shell Indian positions, injuring two BSF jawans. The offensive came hours after the Indian Army vowed “heavy retribution” to the attack on its soldier.The 2003 India-Pakistan ceasefire agreement has virtually become redundant with a whopping nearly 300 incidents of firing and shelling along LoC and IB in Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistani troops that resulted in death of 26 people, including 14 security personnel, since the surgical strike on terrorist launch pads in PoK.India and Pakistan entered into no-firing agreement along Indo-Pak border in Jammu and Kashmir in 2003.A total of 26 people, including 14 security personnel and 12 civilians, have been killed and more than 83 suffered injuries in Pakistani shelling and firing along IB and LoC in Jammu after the surgical strikes carried out by the Indian Army on September 29 this year.

#DNAInUP: Between a drought and a hard place

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>On October 24, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a Parivartan rally in Mahoba in Uttar Pradesh where he highlighted the presence of large numbers of migrant labourers in Gujarat. “When I met people from Bundelkhand in Gujarat, I would ask, are you from MP or UP? Most of the people say we are from UP. Why do people from UP’s Bundelkhand region leave their home? Because of the lack of jobs,” Modi posed the question and gave the answer. Dalit activists, however, have a different answer. “Who are these people from Bundelkhand who are going to Gujarat, Delhi and Mumbai? They are mostly Dalits who are landless labourers and marginal farmers,” says Kuldeep Kumar Baudh, convener of the Bundelkhand Dalit Adhikar Manch (BDAM), which is active in nearly 500 vilages in and around Jalaun district in UP. In Navalpura village in Jalaun district, Munna, a landless labourer, is preparing to travel to Surat. He had come home for Diwali, and after spending 20 days is packing to leave again. “All my life I have been a refugee. I am originally from Dehalkhand village, not far from here. The upper castes snatched my father’s land and forced us to flee. We settled in Navalpura, but because of the drought, there is no work on farms. Now, I have to go to Gujarat, and I have to also take my children out of school because it is not safe here. This village has nearly 50 hectares as common property which belongs to the gram sabha. If I get one acre, I can do some farming,” says Munna.But successive droughts in the Bundelkhand region have rendered small farms unviable and forced bigger farmers to cut back on hiring labourers. Despite agriculture proving unremunerative, there is a clamour for land. Delayed MGNREGA wage payments and a failure to generate works tied to the scheme have robbed the area of a vital safety net.In rural Bundelkhand, even as migration is disrupting the education of many children, some Dalits are accessing secondary education and beyond. But the education offered in the local government school at Navalpura is dismal. Ashok Kumar Dohare, who owns four bighas of land and has a motorbike, is one of the better-off Dalits in the village. He describes the school, “There are five classes, three teachers and 58 students in the school.Many of the upper castes who can afford to do so, send their children to private schools. The headmistress will not eat the mid-day meal here. We are certain that this is because the cook is a Dalit. If you want to find out about the learning, just quiz these children.” Rajni is in the fifth standard, but she cannot count over 50, does not know the multiplication tables or perform division, and cannot read her class book. However, the villagers are all praise for one teacher, Lakshmi, who does not take leave or let the students play truant. “All the children in the classes Lakshmi takes are doing very well. She teaches Hindi and Mathematics. She says that the government pays her salary and she will work hard to justify the salary,” Dohare says. Her students, Vikas and Kajal, both in the second grade, can read and do Mathematics better than Rajni. In Mangrol village, some distance away, Dalits complain about their names being eliminated from lists for PDS rations and non-allotment of land for pattas (a guarantee to allot land) dating back to 1976. According to them, local revenue and panchayat officers visit only the house of the village sarpanch and rarely venture across to Dalit bastis.A mobile tower looms large over Mangrol but so does the archaic practice of manual scavenging. In this large village with a population of over 3,000, most of the residents have mobile phones, but five families from the Valmiki community remain engaged in their traditional occupation. Phoolan Devi, makes the round of 15 households in the village in the mornings to clear out their dry latrines. “I get two sookha rotis from each house. During festivals, I get some clothes,” says Phoolan. The 30 rotis that Phoolan earns daily feeds her unemployed husband, Girdhari, his aged mother, Ramkali, and their four children.“Because we are in this profession, other parents do not let their children sit with mine in school. My children have to take plates from home for their mid-day meal unlike the others who are provided plates in school,” says Phoolan. Her four children—Vikas, Vasai, Kshetender and Vishwas—can fluently recite poems, read books and do arithmetic. They are the only bright spots in her existence and have found an able tutor in Rajesh Gautam.Rajesh is an 18-year-old ITI student who has taken upon himself the task of tutoring Dalit children in the locality. He says, “The schools teach virtually nothing. Moreover, the Dalit students are often asked to sit at the back of the class.” In his living room, there are charts depicting numerals up to 100, the English alphabet, human anatomy, multiplication tables, fruits, birds and the political map of India. “I manage to find at least two hours every day to teach children. I don’t want any one of them to drop out from school,” he says. It is in spotting dedicated youngsters like Rajesh that Baudh, now 27 years old, has spent the better part of the past four years. Baudh’s first exposure to the caste system was in school over his name. “My grandfather had named me Kuldeep Singh. A teacher said that a Dalit cannot use Singh as a surname and insisted that I be called Kuldeep Kumar.” Despite this bitter experience, Baudh resolved to study further and completed his B.Sc.While pursuing his Masters in Social Work, Baudh founded the BDAM in 2011. The Dalit activists of BDAM are firm supporters of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) but complain that the party has diluted its commitment to social justice while pursuing political acceptability. “We tell people from our community that they must stand up and raise their grievances and we will come and support you,” says Baudh. Slowly, but steadily, the green shoots of change are rising.In Kutra in Jalaun, Munshi Lal has led a dogged struggle to take possession of the land for which a patta was granted to him in 2010. Along with 26 other Dalits, he was on the verge of being allotted the land, when complaints surfaced of undeserving beneficiaries. “The sarpanch and the lekhpal should be probed to find how those already having sizeable land parcels made their way to the list. This was done to sabotage the award of land to us,” alleges Lal. He has filed RTI applications and approached a civil court, and is awaiting a favourable order.Interestingly, there is not a single landless Dalit household in Kutra. “All of us have one acre or one or two bighas. But that is not enough to sustain a household. We are then forced to lease land, but for that we have to take loans. Everyone here has agricultural loans or loans taken against the Kisan Credit Card,” says Babu Ram, Munshi Lal’s neighbour. Heavily in debt, Babu Ram decided to not to grow any crops this year and instead opt for work under MGNREGA. “I worked for 73 days this year. At Rs 172 per day, I am entitled to get Rs 12,556 but the sarpanch says the money is yet to be released from the government. I am frustrated. I may have to leave for Ahmedabad or Surat now.”For Dalits, the ascendancy of the BSP in the 1990s was a big morale booster. Between 2007 and 2012, when the BSP was in power, many landless Dalits received pattas, but the incumbent Samajwadi Party has shown little interest in granting them title deeds. As another assembly election looms, Dalits in Bundelkhand are pinning their hopes on the BSP returning to power. “My only demand from Mayawati in 2017 is that she should release village common property to landless Dalits,” says Munshi Lal. Echoes of India’s unfinished land reforms agenda continue to ring from our villages.

Not everyone who opposes your policy is corrupt: Mamata hits back at PM Modi’s ‘chit fund’ jibe

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Hitting out at PM Modi for criticising her opposition of the demonetization drive, Mamata Banerjee claimed that the people won’t ‘forgive the PM’. She wrote on Twitter; “Pradhan Mantri ji, you are equating corruption with anyone who opposes your policy. Are you the only magician? Listen to the voice of the people. Feel their pain. People will not forgive you for this. They are suffering.”In an indirect reference to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who is opposing the demonetization drive, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said that politicians under whom chit-fund scams prospered are now raising a finger at him even as the decision was not taken to trouble anyone but to safeguard future of India’s youth.‘Many people who had invested in chit-funds lost their lives, and politicians under whom the scams prospered are now raising a finger at me. The nation knows well that crores of poor people had invested in the chit-funds. I know those people who are raising their voices against me,’ said the Prime Minister, while launching the ‘Pradhanmantri Grameen Awas Yojna’, an ambitious housing scheme for rural poor.‘This decision on currency notes was not taken to trouble anyone, it was taken to safeguard future of our youth, but politicians under whom chit fund scams prospered are now questioning me,’ said Prime Minister Modi, while launching the ‘Pradhanmantri Grameen Awas Yojna’, an ambitious housing scheme for rural poor.‘The initiative of demonetizationwas highly appreciated by the poor. Despite difficulties, they have supported us. I had said that there would be inconveniences, but I want to commend the people who are supporting the government despite all difficulties. I can assure you all that your sacrifice won’t go in vain,’ he said.Fake currencies worth crores have been funnelled into the country and with this drugs and terrorism has flourished. More than Rs. 5 lakh crore has been deposited in banks so far. The poor and middle class citizens do not have access to black money. They are honest citizens and our efforts will help them,’ he said, adding that he will review notes’ ban and make changes.

Lost vision to pellets, J&K students still appear for exams

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A whiff of fresh air amid the unrest. For the record, the students, who suffered damage to their eye by pellet guns, sent a powerful message across when they wrote their Class X exams despite staring at a bleak future.Class X student Suhaib Nazir suffered vision impairment in one of his eyes when security forces fired pellets after clashes broke out in his area of Pulwama district in south Kashmir in July this year. Despite being operated once, the 16-year-old is unable to regain his eyesight.Suhaib decided to postpone his second surgery, and appear for his examination. “Doctors have recommended a second surgery. I told them that I will first sit for exams and later go for the operation,” said Suhaib.For Suhaib, education is the only means to achieve big in life and that is why he decided to give it a chance, despite not been able to concentrate fully. Such was his conviction that he did not opt for a writing assistant and wrote his papers on his own.“I did not opt for the assistant and wrote my papers myself. There was 50 per cent relaxation in the syllabus, which prompted me to write my papers before going for second surgery,” he said.More than 90 people have been killed and over 13,000 people injured in four-month unrest that started after the killing of Hizbul Mujahedeen poster boy Burhan Wani on July 7. Over 1,100 people, mostly teenagers, have suffered injuries in their eyes when security forces fired pellets to quell the violent mobs across Kashmir.Athar Hussain, 16, had undergone three surgeries to regain eyesight after he was hit by the pellets. So far doctors have little success in restoring his vision. He has been asked to remain ready for the fourth surgery so that he could regain his vision. When the exams were announced, Athar decided to give it a shot before going for the surgery. “It was difficult but I managed somehow. Education is the key and we have to pursue it,” he said.

Demonetization effect: Goa government employees want salary in cash

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Goa government employees have demanded that their salary for the current month be paid in cash rather than be deposited in bank accounts, considering the difficulties faced to withdraw money.Goa Government Employees Association (GGEA), in a written communication to Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar, said “to make the withdrawal of money hassle-free the salary of all the government employees should be paid in cash”.However, GGEA president John Nazareth welcomed the Centre’s decision to demonetize Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.”Despite the problems faced by government employees, GGEA welcomes the move and wishes government success in the same, as we feel that the step taken is progressive and constructive in improving the economy of the country in longer run,” he said.Nazareth said since Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has made it clear that it will take some time to streamline the situation, we request government to avoid the payment of salary through banks via ECS system and instead pay the salary in cash for the month of November or until the process of withdrawal of money through ATMs become hassle-free.”The request is made for payment of salary in cash as many government employees have reported that they have to stand in queue in the banks to withdraw their salary in parts which ultimately amounts to spending the time they would use in their offices to serve the public,” he said.”The non-presence of government employees to serve the people may result in public outcry and criticism,” GGEA added.

Demonetisation effect: Goa govt employees demand salary in cash

Panaji: Goa government employees have demanded that their salary for the current month be paid in cash rather than be deposited in bank accounts, considering the difficulties faced to withdraw money.

Goa Government Employees Association (GGEA), in a written communication to Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar, said, “to make the withdrawal of money hassle-free the salary of all the government employees should be paid in cash”.

Queue outside a SBI branch on Wednesday. PTI

Queue outside a SBI branch on Wednesday. PTI

However, GGEA president John Nazareth welcomed the Centre’s decision to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.

“Despite the problems faced by government employees, GGEA welcomes the move and wishes government success in the same, as we feel that the step taken is progressive and constructive
in improving the economy of the country in the longer run,” he said.

Nazareth said since Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has made it clear that it will take some time to streamline the situation, we request government to avoid the payment of salary through banks via ECS system and instead pay the salary in cash for the month of November or until the process of withdrawal of money through ATMs become hassle-free.

“The request is made for payment of salary in cash as many government employees have reported that they have to stand in queue in the banks to withdraw their salary in parts which ultimately amounts to spending the time they would use in their offices to serve the public,” he said.

“The non-presence of government employees to serve the people may result in public outcry and criticism,” GGEA added.

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

Situation at ATMs, bank branches grim in Bengal

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Serpentine queues were witnessed in front of banks as harassed people waited for hours to withdraw money here even as ATMs ran dry on the second day after ATM withdrawal was allowed following a two-day moratorium.There were reports of damage to equipment in a SBI e-corner here as people vent their ire. Despite efforts by banks to ease the situation, people complained that ATMs were running dry within hours of re-opening and timely refilling was not being done in the metropolis or in the districts. SBI CGM P P Senggupta said that about 1000 ATMs of 3000 were functional and acknowledged there are problems in currency management with logistics limitation. “There are are reports of some excess rush in a few locations. Currency management of Rs 100 notes and logistics limitation due to a sudden spurt in demand are creating some problems in meeting customers’ demand. People will also have to realise and behave judiciously during this period,” he said.The situation may continue for another few days before it normalises. The ATMs are managed by private agencies and they fail to cater to all ATMs despite their best efforts due to limited resource and such services can also not be ramped up overnight, according to bank officials.Things were also not smooth at bank counters for withdrawal or deposit of cash. People complained that even for deposits less than Rs 10,000 they are forced to bring an ID proof. “I’m an employee of a firm and came to Yes Bank Dalhouise branch to deposit old notes worth less than Rs 10,000 but the bank is asking for an ID proof for submitting the same. Government said it is mandatory for deposit in excess of Rs 2.5 lakh,” a confused employee of a small private firm complained.

73-year-old dies in queue in Mumbai, crowd throng outside ATMs

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A 73-year-old man collapsed and died in a queue before a bank as cash-strapped people in the country’s financial capital and suburbs rushed to the ATM counters on Friday to withdraw some money to meet their daily expenses.Vishwanath Vartak, who was standing in the queue before an SBI branch for exchanging currency, collapsed and died on the spot at Navghar in Mulund in eastern suburbs, police said. Vartak had been standing for hours in the queue to exchange Rs.1000 and Rs.500 denomination notes. Though he was rushed to hospital by some people who saw him collapse, he was declared dead before admission, police said.Running out of money for the last two days, men and women had thronged the ATMs since early morning while in many places, to their disappointment, they found the machines not working. ATMs of various banks in south Mumbai, Lalbaugh, Parel, Dadar, Andheri, Ghatkopar and Mulund were found to be out of service and not dispensing money, forcing people to return empty-handed. Ajeet Singh, a media professional, said when he went to an ATM in suburban Andheri, he found it closed and was told by a bank executive to come after an hour or two.”When I went to exchange demonetized notes with new ones, I was told that the bank has not received the money yet and it would start exchanging it at 4 PM only,” he said. After finding some ATMs in the megacity not dispensing cash, Charles Asirvatham, an executive of a Malaysia-based company, took the twitter route to express his anguish. Sanjay Dubey, working with a garment outlet, said, “I approached an ATM in suburban Kalyan around 8.30 AM but it was shut. I hope government would take some corrective measures soon.”Claiming an SBI ATM to be non-functional, Gurudath Naik said he had complained about it to the bank’s chairperson. Despite the chaos, country’s largest public sector lender SBI said in statement: “29,176 ATMs of State Bank of India (SBI) are up and functioning, rest are expected to be operational by tomorrow.” The SBI group, which includes associate banks, have an ATM network of 55,000 across the country. Naresh Kadam, working in a pharmaceutical company, said he lined up before a new generation bank at 5.30 in the morning only to be greeted by a board after hours saying ‘ATM out of service due to technical reasons’.Narrating his vow, a senior citizen in Vikhroli said, “We thought of having some relief as banks were all set to open their ATMs today morning. But see what’s happening here. Even bank officials do not bother to make separate arrangements for the senior citizens. Who will listen to us.”

Tata-Mistry spat gets murkier with IHCL sexual harassment case; Cyrus camp denies charge

The Ratan TataCyrus Mistry spat just got murkier as details of a sexual harassment-related case, which was doing the rounds in the social media, were just made public through various media reports today.

A report in The Economic Times today said the handling of a sexual harassment complaint against Indian Hotels Company chief Rakesh Sarna may have been one of of the factors that led to the abrupt removal of Mistry as chairman of Tata Sons on 24 October.

Ratan Tata and Cyrus Mistry. AFPRatan Tata and Cyrus Mistry. AFP

Ratan Tata and Cyrus Mistry. AFP

According to the report, the woman who alleged sexual harassment by Sarna had written to Mistry on 3 November, 2015 revealing her decision to move out of the group due to the difficult situation.

On 9 November 2015, then group human resource head NS Rajan had requested the woman staffer to meet chief ethics officer Mukund Rajan and group general counsel Bharat Vasani.

The issue reached Ratan Tata by June 2016, who discussed the issue with Mistry. In July 2016, an investigation committee was formed. The panel is yet to submit a report, the report says.

According to a report on CNBC-TV18, Tata disapproved of the manner in which sexual harassment complaint against Sarna was handled by Mistry.

According to a report in The Times of India, the woman executive had quit the Tata group saying she would like to “move into an organisation which values and respects women’s rights”.

“During my seven months employment at Taj, I was subjected to repeated unwanted sexual advances from Mr Sarna. When I ignored or tried to rebuff them the environment turned hostile,” the ET report quotes citing the letter written by the complainant to the Tatas.

According to the portions of the letter reported in ToI, after the women complained to Mistry about Sarna’s misbehaviour, she was transferred back to Tata Sons, which she considered as a “demotion”.

However, when Firstpost contacted, Cyrus Mistry‘s office denied any lapse in dealing with the complaint.

It accepted that the woman approached Mistry and informed him that she had experienced unwelcome behaviour by a “senior Indian Hotels Company employee”.

“Mr Mistry was very upset as this was absolutely against his belief of a safe work environment. Mr Mistry set aside time to meet with her and assured her that the Tata Group stands fully committed to support her,” the statement said.

Mistry immediately initiated an interim measure of providing an appropriate short-term alternate and safe work environment until the matter could be investigated and appropriately addressed, the statement said.

“The Group HR Head was directed to create an appropriate interim position. An interim senior role, directly reporting to a Group Executive Council member in the Corporate Communications team was identified. Despite Tata Sons and IHCL having different grades and designation structures, care was taken to ensure that her current emoluments were protected. Despite several attempts to retain her, she decided not to accept the position and instead wished to pursue a career outside of Tatas,” the statement said.

She also was informed that the matter was being taken “very “seriously and promised a thorough enquiry.  “At her request to put the issue behind her, an enquiry was not set up at that point in time,” the statement said.

A senior independent director of IHCL constituted a committee to investigate the matter and the panel members included “very senior people independent of the company”.

“The report is awaited and the board of IHCL will decide on next steps on the basis of the Committee’s findings,” the statement said. A source from Mistry’s office said an action on Sarna can be taken only after the panel submits the report.

Mistry also instructed a review of the implementation of POSH (Prevention of Sexual Harassment) policy and practices across Tata Group companies. Representatives from various Tata companies, the Group Ethics Office, Group Legal and Group HR were included in this exercise to ensure the highest standards and values are protected, including providing a safe work environment for all Tata Group employees.

Maharashtra: Hungry for 2 days, Kalyan woman kills herself, 2 kids

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A 28-year-old Kalyan woman committed suicide on Thursday by drinking tea laced with rat poison. She served the same tea to her three children. Two of them died while the third one is in the hospital in a critical condition. Reportedly, the woman took the extreme step after a fight with her husband over the lack of food in the house.Police said the family hadn’t eaten in two days and Laxmi Waghe had fought with her husband Pradeep over the issue the previous night. In a fit of rage, Laxmi put rat poison in the morning tea and gave it to her three kids. Nazuka, 10, and Vansh, 7, died immediately while Vishal, 12, was admitted to the Thane civil hospital.“She wanted her husband to go fishing, so that they could buy some food. When the husband went for fishing in the morning, she drank poison-laced tea and gave it to her children as well,” said a Khadakpada police official.Meanwhile, Pradeep told DNA: “I was unable to get a good catch and we had no money for our needs. This led to regular fights. When I returned from the river, I found all of them unconscious. The locals rushed them to a nearby hospital, where they were declared dead on arrival.” Sukhada Narkar, PRO for the Thane police department, said: “We have registered a case under sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 328 (causing hurt by means of poison, etc.) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). We are investigating the matter from all angles. The victims’ viscera has been sent for forensic analysis.”Expressing concern over the incident, Vivek Pandit, founder of Shramjeevi Sanghatana, a tribal welfare organisation, said: “Despite 70 years of Independence, the Government is unable to resolve the problem of poverty. People either get killed or end their lives or become victim to malnourishment.”

Mayawati attacks Mohan Bhagwat for backing ‘good’ cow protectors

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Reacting sharply to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat backing “countless good people” working lawfully for cow protection, BSP chief Mayawati on Tuesday said lauding people “indulging in unlawful, violent and casteist” acts cannot be termed as an act of national interest.”Going against public sentiment and praising gau rakshaks whose several unlawful, violent and casteist acts have come to light cannot be termed as something in national interest,” Mayawati said in a statement.Terming Bhagwat’s call for identifying true gau rakhshaks as inspired by narrow communal thinking, Mayawati said, RSS should concentrate on “gau seva- an act of non-violence”, rather than on “gau raksha- which has violence inherent in it” and leads to incidents like the one in Una.Alleging that violent incidents in the name of gau raksha have been taking place in BJP-ruled states, Mayawati said since the Modi government came to power, first Muslims and now dalits are being targeted on the pretext of protecting cows.”Despite this, RSS chief’s statement for extending security to gau rakshaks can never be an act aimed at strengthening the nation,” she said, adding that though RSS chief speaks about connecting society but in reality is supporting those who work against it.The former chief minister also alleged there was an attempt to torch two dalits in Gorakhpur recently and termed it a result of casteist policies of the Samajwadi Party government.Earlier today RSS chief backed “countless good people” working lawfully for cow protection and said they should not be compared with those creating trouble in its name. “There should be a distinction between the two. Trouble- makers try to separate this distinction and create a big nuisance,” he said.

The Uri aftermath: A game of snakes and ladders

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In June 2015, Indian Special Forces, evidently, conducted a cross-border raid in Myanmar against hideouts of insurgent groups operating in the North East states, neutralizing several terrorists. This was in retaliation against the ambush on a military column which resulted in 18 soldiers being martyred earlier that month. The action reflected a more pro-active policy on the part of the Indian government. It had then been welcomed by Union Minister of State, Rajyavardhan Rathore, and several of his colleagues. They went so far as to suggest it was a message that neighbours who harbour terrorists would do well to heed. The Pakistan military and political establishment had then belligerently responded; the country’s Interior Minister, Nisar Ali Khan, unequivocally warned against any such misadventure, stating that “Pakistan is not Myanmar and India should not think of repeating such an exercise within Pakistani territory.”Given Pakistan’s unadulterated support for terror groups and their efforts at fanning separatist flames in the Kashmir Valley, it was only a matter of time before some serious enough provocation forced the Modi Government to explore more robust solutions. Pakistan engineered the Uri incident and also, possibly, timed it with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s appearance at the United Nation General Assembly. However, it is unlikely that Pakistan wanted the incident to be seen as anything other than a showpiece of reactions by locals against gross human rights violations committed by Indian security forces. Unfortunately, the unexpectedly large number of casualties had upset all calculations. Though Pakistan continued to stick with its narrative, the event forced the Modi Government to act so as not to lose all credibility. Despite Narendra Modi’s earlier rhetoric against the UPA government’s lackadaisical response to Pakistan in face of terror attacks in the past, the prime minister must be complimented for resisting pressure and not indulging in a purely knee-jerk reaction, which is devoid of substance.The targeted cross-border raids which were conducted on Wednesday night by elements from two of our Parachute (Special Forces) battalions, reportedly against seven terror launch pads within 2-3 km from the LoC in Pakistan Occupied territory in the Valley and the Rajouri-Poonch Sector was, therefore, not unexpected. Much has already been written about these raids, most in the realm of speculation, to bear repetition. Despite Pakistan’s denials, it is no longer in doubt that these raids happened, and militants along with some Pakistan army personnel were killed. Contrary to popular perceptions, it suffices to say that the Indian army has had a robust special operations capability since independence that has been used on several occasions, even abroad. One may recall their employment in Sierra Leone when our Parachute (Special Forces) elements led rescue operations to free our troops held hostage while serving on a UN Mission. Therefore, it can be clearly stated that despite the hoopla, this was a routine task for which they have been trained over the years. Having said that, such high-risk missions are always fraught with danger and success is never guaranteed.What has been different in this case is the political will displayed by the Indian government, not just in the matter of permitting the military to conduct these high-value raids, but also the preparation that has gone into organising them and the media blitz that has followed. Its selection of targets was clearly restricted to so-called “non-state actors” and not the military and the operation took place in territory that India claims is illegally occupied by Pakistan. By stating that this show of force was a preemptive defensive action against terrorists preparing to infiltrate, the government is clearly suggesting it was not keen to escalate the situation further. The coordination and assistance provided by the National Technical Research Organization (NTRO) and the Research and Analysis Wing(R&AW) in providing real-time intelligence on the chosen targets have been unprecedented. These factors have played a major role in the successful completion of the attack.Most importantly, despite its stated objective of not wanting to escalate the situation further, the government has taken precautions by evacuating villages along the international border in Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat. This clearly indicates its willingness to hang tough and, if required, up the ante and launch a counter-strike in the event Pakistan decides to respond. The government may even be signaling that in the case of escalation, it would be willing to put in motion the military’s Cold Start Doctrine that envisages capture of territory in the Punjab and Sindh regions of Pakistan.So where does all this leave Pakistan? For one thing, it suggests that Pakistan’s policy of nuclear blackmail and threats to deal with any Indian provocation by using tactical nuclear weapons appears to have run its course. As does its untrammeled and open support for militants working in tandem with the army. With the use of terror as state policy over the past few decades, Pakistan finds itself isolated on this issue by large sections of the international community. Thus, any escalation on its part is unlikely to be viewed kindly and can only make matters more difficult for it. Despite Pakistan’s efforts to suggest that the strikes are a figment of the Indian imagination, the credibility of its own denials have been greatly damaged, given the different voices emanating from the military and political establishment. There is a distinct possibility that public opinion may force Nawaz Sharief’s hand, in which case he may find himself between a rock and a hard place. The next few weeks will reveal whether this subcontinent finds itself plunged into another futile war or focuses on the more pressing challenges of countering endemic poverty and hunger that haunt both the nations.

China, India remain on path of ‘remarkable growth’, says Obama

Wed, 21 Sep 2016-12:40am , United Nations , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>US President Barack Obama on Tuesday said the international order has been so successful that China and India remain on a path of “remarkable growth”.”Indeed our international order has been so successful that we take it as a given that great powers no longer fight world wars. That the end of the Cold War lifted the shadow of nuclear Armageddon…that China and India remain on a path of remarkable growth,” Obama said in his final address to the UN General Assembly here. He said a quarter century after the end of the Cold war, the world is by many measures less violent and more prosperous than ever before yet the societies are filled with “uncertainty and unease and strife.””Despite enormous progress, as people lose trust in institutions, governing becomes more difficult and tensions between nations become more quick to surface,” he said. He said that nations face a choice of pressing forward with a better model of cooperation and integration or “we can retreat into a world sharply divided and ultimately in conflict along age old lines of nation and tribe and race and religion.”

A selfie-machine that makes promises: Rahul Gandhi mocks PM Modi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Labelling Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a “selfie and promise-making machine”, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi said the promise of ‘achhe din’ is only meant for the PM’s industrialist friends and not for the poor. “Narendra Modi made different promises…of Rs 15 lakh in bank accounts of the people, fair price for farmers, employment to two crore and many others… He is a machine that takes selfies and makes promises,” Rahul said addressing a gathering during a road show here as part of his ongoing ‘Deoria to Dilli kisan yatra’.Accusing Modi of spreading communal disharmony among the people, Gandhi said, “Modi’s core competence is to create hatred among citizens…. Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Christians were living peacefully in the country.””During this yatra, I saw mandir and mazars alongside and this is how people live here.. but he (Modi) comes and makes Hindus fight with Muslims. In Haryana he pitted jats and non-jats against each other…We were in government for ten years but there were no riots. But there are riots as he comes,” Rahul said.He alleged ‘achhe din’ have come but only for the Prime Minister and his 12-15 industrialist friends, while the weak and poor suffer due to riots. “Despite all this, he(Modi) says he will bring development…yes, he will do it and bring achhe din but it will only be for himself and his 12 to 15 industrialist friends,” he said. “The weak and poor will suffer as there will be riots and fights…and the country which has to progress will lag behind,” Rahul said, adding, Congress and its leaders will not allow this to happen as this country belongs to everyone, all religions, all castes and every poor.Recalling the incident in Deoria, where farmers took away cots after the “khat sabha’, Rahul said the poor farmers were branded as ‘thieves’ but Vijay Mallay who fled away with Rs 10,000 crore is called merely a defaulter.”You saved the biggest thief .. you promise to give a fair and lovely scheme to convert your blackmoney into white,” he alleged.

Murli Manohar Joshi not invited to National Executive meeting?

Senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi was reportedly not invited for the party’s National Executive meeting which took place on Sunday. As per an IANS report, not only was Joshi was not called for the meeting – this despite him being in the city – but neither was he was featured in any of the hoardings and posters that were put up by BJP across the city. A disgruntled worker said to IANS, “What is it if not an insult to Joshi ji? He is deliberately being belittled. Why is he being treated like this?.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Joshi was elected as MP from the city thrice. He had to give up from contesting in Allahabad and fought elections from Varanasi in 2009 and Kanpur in 2014. He had make way for PM Modi to contest polls in Varanasi in Lok Sabha 2014 elections.

German Bakery blast: State to file appeal in Supreme Court against Baig’s acquittal

The state government is all set to file an appeal in the Supreme Court against Bombay High Court’s order acquitting the lone convict Mirza Himayat Baig in the 2010 German Bakery blast case in Pune.Baig was handed over death penalty by a special court for his involvement in the alleged terrorist act. The Bombay High Court had, however, found him guilty of the charge of possession of explosives and confirmed life imprisonment under sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Indian Penal Code and Explosive Substances Act but not for terror charges.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A highly placed source told dna “the draft of appeal is in the process and it will be filed once the apex court is re-opened after the summer vacation on June 29. Despite the testimonies of witnesses against Baig, the court had wrongly ignored them and granted relief to the accused.”Baig is currently in Arthur Road Central Jail, where he is currently lodged after his acquittal from terror charges.As many as 17 people died and over 50 were injured in the blast. In April 2013, when he was being awarded the death sentence, Baig had wept in court, pleading innocence and saying he was “the 18th victim of the blast”. The Maharashtra ATS had claimed he was the blast “mastermind”.The charge of IPC section 474 (possession of document, knowing it to be forged and intending to use it as genuine) was also confirmed — the maximum punishment of seven years will run concurrently.The prosecution had claimed recovery of RDX from the blast site, matching with traces found in Baig’s house.

Entire world is now attracted towards India, says PM Modi in Qatar

Doha: With the enhancement of India’s image globally, the whole world is attracted to India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday.

“Today, the whole world is attracted to India, is curious about India,” Modi said while addressing an Indian community reception on the second and concluding day of his two-day visit to Qatar. “You also must have felt the change underway in India,” he said after arriving to a rousing welcome to the reception.

“India’s image has been enhanced globally,” he said as members of the gathering chanted “Modi, Modi”.

Modi said that people of India living in Qatar were never away from India even for a minute. “They are reliving India on the soil of Qatar,” he said.

Image courtesy: Twitter/@MEAIndiaImage courtesy: Twitter/@MEAIndia

Image courtesy: Twitter/@MEAIndia

At around 630,000, Indians comprise the largest expatriate population in this Gulf nation.

“Global agencies are in agreement that if there is a fastest growing economy, it is India. Our growth rate is high,” the Prime Minister said, while pointing out that the world economy too was not doing well at the moment.

“Global purchasing power has gone down and adversely affected our exports. Despite that, we have clocked this high growth rate,” he said. “The quarterly figures, even as India has faced two consecutive droughts, reflect a praiseworthy 7.9 percent growth.”

Stating that corruption has troubled India for long, Modi said that “we are determined to eliminate it”.

“We have introduced several schemes for combating corruption, for fiscal discipline and economic reforms,” he said.

The Prime Minister concluded by saying that when the leaders of other nations he visits praise the achievements of the Indian diaspora, “my hear fills with pride and joy”.

Modi, who arrived here on Saturday afternoon from Afghanistan, visited a health camp for Indian workers soon after his arrival.

On Sunday, India and Qatar signed seven agreements following delegation level talks led by Modi and Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani.

Modi also met with top business leaders of Qatar and invited them to invest in India.

Later on Sunday, he will leave for Switzerland on the third leg of his foreign tour that will also take him to the US and Mexico.

More than 55% of terrorist attacks in 2015 took place in five countries, including India: US reports

Five countries including India, Pakistan and Afghanistan accounted for more than half of the terror attacks that took place across the globe in 2015, a US official has said.”More than 55% of all attacks took place in five countries, India, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Nigeria,” Acting US Coordinator for Counterterrorism Justin Siberell said on Tuesday. “And 74% of all deaths due to terrorist attacks took place in five countries, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Syria,” he said, adding the figures are based on the data compiled by the University of Maryland.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Although terror attacks took place in 92 countries in 2015, they were heavily concentrated geographically, as they have been for the past several years, Siberell said. The total number of terrorist attacks in 2015 decreased by 13% as compared to 2014, he said while releasing the annual Country Reports on Terrorism.”Total fatalities due to terrorist attacks decreased by 14%, principally as a result of fewer attacks and deaths in Iraq, Pakistan, and Nigeria. This represents the first decline in total terrorist attacks and resulting fatalities worldwide since 2012,” the official said. “At the same time, there were several countries, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey, where terrorist attacks and total deaths increased in 2015,” he added.The United States and its partners around the world face a significant challenge as they seek to contend with the return of foreign terror fighting forces from Iraq and Syria, the risk of terrorist groups exploiting migratory movements, and new technology and communications platforms that enable terrorist groups to more easily recruit adherents and inspire attacks. “ISIL (ISIS) remains the greatest terrorism threat globally. Despite the losses it sustained last year. ISIL continued to occupy large areas of Iraq and Syria,” Siberell said.ISIL’s territorial control in Iraq and Syria reached a high point in spring 2015 and began to diminish thereafter, he said, adding, it is worth noting that they did not have a significant battlefield victory in Iraq after May last year year and by the end of 2015, 40 percent of their territory in Iraq had been liberated. This number has continued to increase in 2016, he said.Responding to a question, Siberell said the number of terrorist attacks in Pakistan decreased in 2015 as compared to 2014, which was a particularly violent year in Pakistan. “The Pakistani government undertook a robust response against a number of militant groups and throughout that end of 2014 into 2015,” he said.”Pakistan is a key counterterrorism partner and we have an ongoing conversation with the Pakistani government for the need to address militant activities in Pakistan and it will remain a key partner in confronting terrorism in the South Asia region,” Siberell said.

AAP slams Modi for ‘not taking action’ against Robert Vadra

Aam Aadmi Party Punjab In-charge Sanjay Singh took attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for “not” taking action against Robert Vadra, son-in-Law of Congress Chief Sonia Gandhi, for his alleged involvement in scams.He alleged that before Lok Sabha elections Modi used to claim he would send Vadra to jail for his alleged involvement in land scam but after coming to power he “did not” utter his name even once.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Singh said Congress and BJP were “two sides of the same coin” and “befooling” the citizens of the country.Referring to reports that arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari allegedly facilitated purchase of a property in London for Vadra, Singh said, “Funds came from him (Bhandari)”, and it is “evident the money was paid to Vadra for securing (defence) deals in previous UPA government”.”Despite having all proofs against Vadra, what is stopping Modi from initiating action against him,” he said. “Before elections, BJP released a CD and booklet of allegations of scam against Robert Vadra, was that also a Jumla?” Singh asked. He demanded that Modi fulfil his promise by taking action against Vadra.

State or non-state, stop terror; lets fight poverty together: PM Modi to Pakistan

Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered to take the first step towards peace and comprehensive relationship with Pakistan, provided the country turns off the terrorism tap.In an interview to The Wall Street Journal, he asked Islamabad to remove the “self-imposed” obstacle of terrorism, which is coming in the way of friendship, describing the path to peace a “two-way street”. Modi, in his interview ahead of his Washington visit scheduled next month, asked Pakistan to play its part by putting a complete stop to any kind of support to terrorism – “whether state or non-state”.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Modi said his government’s proactive agenda for a peaceful and prosperous neighbourhood started from the very first day of his government. “I have said that the future that I wish for India is the future that I dream for my neighbours. My visit to Lahore was a clear projection of this belief,” he said.The main Opposition, Congress, however, attacked the PM’s Pakistan policy saying he was “going to their weddings, celebrating birthdays and inviting terrorism to Pathankot”. Senior party leader and leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad claimed that the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had isolated Islamabad diplomatically.But after Modi coming to power, Pakistani forces had committed “as many as 1,000” ceasefire violations and many other attacks were an example of the failure of Pakistan policy, he said.In his interview, Modi said: “In my view, our ties can truly scale great heights once Pakistan removes the self-imposed obstacle of terrorism in the path of our relationship. He said he has always maintained that instead of fighting with each other, India and Pakistan should together fight poverty.””Pakistan’s failure to take effective action in punishing the perpetrators of terror attacks limits the forward progress in our ties,” said the Prime Minister.In a significant comment, he said that there was no reason for India to change the non-alignment policy that is a legacy and has been in place. “We are acutely conscious of our responsibilities both in the region and internationally,” he said. On joining the US-led alliance to contain China, Modi said: “We don’t have any fighting with China today. We have a boundary dispute, but there is no tension or clashes.” He said people-to-people contacts with China have increased, besides trade and investment. “Despite the border dispute, there haven’t been any clashes. Not one bullet has been fired in 30 years,” he said.

Parties got over Rs 2,100 crore cash fund during state assembly polls from 2004 to 2015

Cash collections accounted for a whopping 63% of total funds or over Rs 2,100 crore garnered by various political parties during all state assembly polls between 2004 and 2015, a study showed today.The fund collection through cash was however relatively lower at 44 % (over Rs 1,000 crore) during three Lok Sabha elections held during this time period.The data collated by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), a Delhi-based think tank working on poll reforms, showed the parties collected Rs 2107.80 crore during 71 state assembly elections in this period.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Lok Sabha elections – Cheque payments​During the Lok Sabha elections held in 2004, 2009 and 2014, cheque payments accounted for the highest collection at 55 % (nearly Rs 1,300 crore), while cash accounted for Rs 1039.06 crore.In case of state polls, fund collected through cheque payments was Rs 1244.86 crore between 2004 and 2015. The study did not take into account the recent polls in five states.ADR said the analysis is based on statements submitted by the national and regional parties to the Election Commission of India. These statements contain information of funds collected and spent between announcement and completion of elections.In terms of expenditure, the the three Lok Sabha polls saw 83 % of spending, or Rs 2044.67 crores, through cheque while this %age was 65 % during assembly polls.India transparent”India is the least transparent country when it comes to funding of political parties,” Professor Trilochan Sastry of IIM Bangalore, a founder-member of ADR, said at a press conference here to release the survey results.The survey, which details the fundings collected and expenditure incurred by regional parties, noted that SP, AAP, AIADMK, BJD and SAD together collected Rs 267.14 crore, 62 % of the total funds declared by all the regional parties, during Lok Sabha polls.Collection and Expenditure”SP topped the charts with Rs 118 crore as collection and Rs 90.09 crore as expenditure. Despite contesting only in 2014 Lok Sabha elections, AAP came second in terms of collection by declaring Rs 51.83 crore. AIADMK is placed third with Rs 37.66 crore,” ADR said.SP, the ruling party in UP, trumped others in terms of amount collected and spent during the state polls as well. It collected Rs 186.8 crore and spent Rs 96.54 crore.AAP, which has contested two assembly elections till date, came second with Rs 38.54 crore as total funds collected and Rs 22.66 crore expenditure.ECI guidelinesAccording to the ECI guidelines, parties should not make any expenditure above Rs 20,000 in cash but there is no provision in the expenditure format for the parties to declare expenses below or above Rs 20,000, ADR said.”Hence, it appears that the parties are taking advantage of the opacity in the expenditure statements to collect and spend funds in cash,” the survey adds.It also consists a separate list of ‘defaulters’, listing parties who did not submit their expenditure statements between 2011-15.Among the national parties, statements of NCP and CPI are not available for two assembly elections held between 2011 and 2015.”The availability of election expenditure statements of regional parties is equally worrisome where the statements of JD(U) is unavailable for 15 assembly elections while that of SP is unavailable for 11 Assembly Elections,” it said.

Tamil Nadu Elections 2016: Do not be lured by freebies, Mayawati tells voters

Virtually attacking Dravidian parties in Tamil Nadu offering freebies in their poll manifesto, BSP supremo Mayawati today asked voters not to be lured by such inducements, saying they “will not solve your problems.” “Regional parties will lure you with freebies like cell phones. But they won’t solve your problems,” she said at an election rally here.While the ruling AIADMK has promised cell phones free of cost and 100 units of power to all if voted to power, DMK has assured free 3G/4G connections. Seeking votes for her party candidates in the Assembly polls to be held here on May 16, Mayawati said that people require jobs and an end to poverty. “These regional parties give you freebies. Don’t vote for them. You have to vote for the right party that will give you jobs and put an end to poverty,” she said at a well-attended rally without naming any parties.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Such a ‘right party’ is her BSP, she claimed while referring to the various pro-people measures implemented by her party-led government in Uttar Pradesh in its four terms. She said her party has never released a manifesto as “we believe in doing and not saying.” Despite 68 years since Independence, the economic condition of the weaker sections like Muslims, SC/STs and OBCs did not show any progress, the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister alleged and slammed different central governments for “not doing anything for their upliftment”.She expressed concern over crimes against Dalits, especially women. “Not a day passes without crimes against Dalit women in the country,” she said referring to the brutal rape and murder of a Dalit law student in Kerala.Even in Tamil Nadu, the voice of the weaker sections is being “muzzled” and no action is being taken against perpetrators of crimes against Dalits across the country, Mayawati alleged. “Let alone getting justice, even an FIR cannot be registered,” she claimed.The BSP chief alleged that most parties came to power with the “help of big corporates” and therefore any economic policies are drafted keeping them in mind and not the common people. BJP and RSS are trying to put an end to reservation in education and job, by seeking ‘review’ of the same, she alleged. Mayawati specifically singled out the BJP-led Central government, alleging that while the party was involving the corporates, it is however non-committal in providing reservation in the private sector.

Tolerate wealth, don’t prohibit its use: Raghuram Rajan

Noida: Calling money a “great equaliser”, Reserve Bank Governor Raghuram Rajan called for raising society’s tolerance towards wealth rather than prohibiting its use.

Rajan, who recently drew criticism for comparing Indian economy as ‘one-eyed king in the land of blind’, also said he has no problem with India’s growth, but it can do better.

“In a free market, all it takes to buy what you want is money. You do not need a pedigree, a great family history, the right table manners, or the right fashionable clothings or looks,” he said in his convocation address at the Shiv Nadar University here.

“It is because money has no odour, because it is the great equaliser, that so many people across history have been able to acquire resources and invested them to make the world we live in.”

File photo. PTIFile photo. PTI

RBI Governer Raghuram Rajan. File photo. PTI

Making it easier for Dalits to start business can do more to social status than any reservation, he noted.

“Rather than prohibiting the use of money and wealth, let us think about increasing society’s tolerance for its use,” he suggested.

Lamenting that income inequality within countries is on the rise, he said the need of the hour is providing effective access to school and healthcare, a non-discriminating job market with many jobs and equal opportunities for advancement regardless of gender, race or background.

“Indeed, making it easy for Dalits to start businesses may do more for their social status because money empowers (more) than many other forms of affirmative action,” the governor said.

On the country’s GDP, he said: “I have no problem with India’s growth. It is doing great. It could do better”.

India has emerged as the fastest growing large economies in the world with a growth rate of 7.6 per cent in 2015-16. It
is projected to expand by 7.5 per cent in the current fiscal.

Rajan said there is a strong link between society’s support for free markets and the fairness with which wealth and opportunity are distributed among the population.

“Unfortunately, even while inequality between countries is diminishing today, inequality within countries is increasing. Today, even well-run market economies seem to be favouring those who already have plenty,” he said.

This, he felt, is because skills and capabilities have become much more important in well-paid jobs, and those born under good circumstances have a much better chance of acquiring the same.

“The winner-take-all nature of many occupations, where a few of the most capable entrepreneurs and the best workers take most of the income, accentuates the value of early childhood preparation and hence, the benefit of being born to
the right parents in the right community,” he said.

The governor said income inequality is on the rise, with some having colossal incomes and others worrying about the next meal.

“What can we all do to restore faith in markets? We have to work to provide effective access to schooling and healthcare for all, a non-discriminating job market with many jobs, equal opportunities for further advancement regardless of gender, race or background,” he said.

These measures will “increase the perceived legitimacy of wealth and society’s willingness to broaden the areas where it is spent,” he said.

To students, Rajan’s piece of advice was that they should earn by creating perceptible value and, equally, spend to create value. “Not only will your work be more enjoyable, but you will strengthen the economic freedom we sometimes take for granted,” the governor added.

Given the importance of broadening access to all the deserving, Rajan emphasised on the need for affordable educational degrees.

“We also should make sure unscrupulous schools do not prey on uninformed students, leaving them with high debt and useless degrees,” he added

On the regulatory front, Rajan unleashed a slew of customer friendly measures like making bank licensing process on-tap (already two universal banks have been licensed and 11 payments banks are on the way), linking bank rates to marginal cost of funds, making large foreign banks to become local subsidiaries and tap-and-go payments among others.

On the policy side, Rajan and his deputy Urjit Patel would be credited for getting agreements to have an official inflation target, a more broad-based monetary policy committee and a public debt management agency outside RBI, among others.

However, many regulatory autonomy proponents may blame Rajan for being party to RBI losing autonomy under the proposed new MPC which does not envisage a veto for the Governor in rates decisions.

But his biggest headache has been the mounting NPAs and the recent rupee fall. Despite efforts from day one and putting in new structures to improve the balance sheets of banks, bad loans and restructured accounts have soared to 13.4 per cent of the system as of Q1 this fiscal year.

Similarly, the recent currency war launched by China amidst its slumping economy and the resultant flight of capital from across the world, (FIIs have pumped out over Rs 17,000 crore in August alone) the rupee has been at the receiving end. Last Tuesday the rupee had slumped to 66.65, while its historic low was 68.85 on August 30, 2013. Yesterday the rupee lost five paise to 66.24 to the dollar.

Industry and analysts are blaming high interest rate of 7.25 per cent for the low credit growth, which at little over
8 per cent has hit a two-decade low.

“Rajan’s focus on price and currency stability with absolute clarity has been his outstanding achievement,” is how domestic brokerage Centrum Capital’s Sandeep Nayak describes the two Rajan years.

May be the best way to describe Rajan is to quote his own words that “the central banks are not the cheerleaders of the market.”

Kolkata: Jadavpur University students protest against Vivek Agnihotri and screening of his film

Students of Jadavpur University protested against Vivek Agnihotri and the screening of his film on campus on Friday.The filmmaker, along with Bollywood actor Anupam Kher, was scheduled to attend a special screening of his film Buddha in a Traffic Jam at the Triguna Bhawan in the university. According to sources, Anupam Kher backed out from attending the screening in the last minute. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>When the university authorities learnt that the students were gathering to stage a protest against the screening, they also cancelled it at the last minute. The authorities cited the state elections as reason and said that the screening would violate the model code of conduct (MCC). Despite, the cancellation of the film, the filmmaker decided to go ahead with screening the film on campus and faced massive protests from the students. Agnihotri wrote on Twitter,As soon as Agnihotri reached the campus, he was shown black flags and placards by the students of Jadavpur University urging him to go back. Several RSS supporters had accompanied him to the university. Agnihotri later told ANI, “Unfortunate that film screening wasn’t allowed. It should have been allowed.”

Mumbai: More political than religious banners removed in 2015

If the number of banners, boards, posters, flags and other defacement removed in the city is any indication, then 2015 seemed to be the year of the “Godfathers” rather than the “Gods”. Far more political banners than religious and social ones were removed in 2015.Of the 12,853 banners, boards, posters, cut-outs, flags and other wall defacement removed, 4,924 were political banners, as compared to 4,893 in the religious and social categories. The number of commercial banners and posters stood at 1,200. As per the information provided under the Right To Information (RTI) Act, while 194 such items were removed in January, the number jumped to 2,539 by the year end.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The information was sought under the RTI Act by Andheri resident Ashok Pai. “I had sought the information when I saw the party flag of Shiv Sena hoisted on the statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) on the Western Express Highway (WEH),” said Pai.In his application, Pai asked if a political party flag could be hoisted at public places, if the BMC had given the permission for the same, and if so, then under what rule. He also sought the copy of the same and details of removal of flags from across the city.According to the reply given by the public information officer, who is also the deputy superintendent of licenses, political parties are not permitted to hoist their flags at any public places and that no such permission was given to any political party.Pai has now written to the municipal commissioner, seeking action against officials who did not take the action of removing political flags near the Shivaji Maharaj statue at the international airport. “Despite court orders, they are not acting on it,” said Pai. The information provided showed that the number of political banners and boards did not fall sizeably, despite court orders. dna tried contacting the license department but there was no response.

Ahmedabad: Shiv Sena workers tear banners of Pakistani singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s concert

Shiv Sena workers on Monday were seen tearing banners of Pakistani singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s concert which is scheduled to be held on April 30.A Shiv Sena worker said that it was very condemnable that Pakistani artists are coming to India when the country is suffering from various problems like drought, etc. “There is a problem of drought here. There are so many problems in the country. It is very condemnable that in such a situation Pakistani artists are coming,” he said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The Shiv Sena is opposed to Pakistani artists coming to India. The people, who are business-concerned, are calling these artists for their motives. We will attack all artists if they come. We will tear all posters of him,” he added.
ALSO READ Despite Shiv Sena’s threats, Ghulam Ali concert concludes peacefully in LucknowThe Shiv Sena workers had on Friday staged a protest against Pakistani ghazal singer Ustad Ghulam Ali in Varanasi. Holding placards in their hands, the protestors took to the streets and raised slogans against the Pakistani singer.Ghulam Ali is expected perform at the Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple in Varanasi during the inaugural day of an annual music concert beginning on April 26. The performance by Ali, who had participated in the concert last year as well, will be preceded by classical singer Pandit Vishwanath.

AAP government’s odd-even scheme receives mixed reaction, real test on Monday

Fewer private cars were seen on Delhi roads on Friday as the second phase of the odd-even scheme was rolled out. Thousands of policemen and civil defence volunteers were deployed at various areas of the city to enforce the odd-even rule. The scheme will run for 15 days, till 30 April. However, the actual impact of phase two can be assessed only on Monday as offices and schools will open after a long weekend.

“Odd even starts today. Let’s all join hands and resolve to make it a success,” Kejriwal had tweeted in the morning.

The Delhi government, which has projected the second phase of the road-rationing policy as the “decisive” one, said that 2,000 traffic personnel, 580 enforcement officials and over 5,000 civil defence volunteers have been deployed for smooth implementation of the scheme.

Violators were fined Rs 2,000, as per the relevant section of the Motor Vehicles Act. The scheme, however, will not be implemented on Sunday. Under the scheme, odd-numbered cars are allowed to run on odd dates while even-numbered cars are allowed on even dates.

Akshaya Mishra from Firstpost reported that there was not much resistance this time from the people of Delhi. While round one faced a lot of opposition, however, for the second phase, the protests were certainly less.

The roads were less congested as Friday was a holiday due to Ram Navami. The first phase of the policy, that was in force between 1 and 15 January, did not have its intended affect as it could not lower pollution “as much as expected,” but it significantly helped reduce traffic congestion in the city, Kejriwal had said.

Gauri Das Chakrovarty, who works in Noida and has an even number car, told Firstpost that the scheme will not make a difference in the pollution levels as evident from the January experiment. “This is just harassment. I do not think much will change. My experience of last time tells me that it neither can improve traffic nor air quality,” Chakrovarty.

As the day progressed, traffic police, civil defence volunteers started pulling up violators of the odd-even rule and imposed a fine of Rs 2,000.

The Delhi government formed 120 teams comprising officials of the transport department to punish errant motorists. The traffic police had identified 200 intersections across the city where their personnel were deployed in teams.

The highest number of challans were reported from south Delhi, closely followed by the western part of the city, with 129 and 108 challans respectively issued till 1 pm today, a senior official said.

As many as 511 motorists were challaned between 8 am and 1 pm, the official said. Delhi Traffic Police has strategically chosen over 200 intersections in the city where 2,000 officials have been deployed in teams of three to 10 depending upon the volume of traffic there.

Also, a 20-member Special Task Force was set up to look into matters reported by the mobile teams.
Over 500 persons were challaned by Delhi Traffic Police for violating the odd-even norms in the first five hours of the second phase of the road-rationing formula implemented in the national capital today.

Roshni Sethi, Delhi Civil Defence personnel at Nehru Place told Firstpost: “The violators are giving flimsy excuses like they were unaware of the odd-even drive. Moreover, they are arguing to avoid paying fine. People are even saying that they took out their even numbered cars as they are moving within the local vicinity. Our job is to create awareness among people on the road and assist traffic police in enforcing the law.”

Rajesh Kalra, a trader at Lajpat Nagar, was found arguing with traffic cops. Despite Delhi Civil Defence members trying make him understand his mistake, he told Firstpost, “I was not going on the main road but just took a turn from the traffic signal to get inside Lajpat Nagar market from where I operate. I had been trying to convince police but they refused to listen to my plea. It’s very difficult to move in the local area without vehicle especially for traders like us.”

Many commuters had a tough time getting autorickshaws. A commuter who was planning to visit in relatives along with his family, told


: “Despite putting ‘On Duty’ board, 15 autorickshaw drivers refused to take us. Moreover, they they are acting pricey. Everyday, I pay Rs 30 from my house to the Metro station. But today, they asked for Rs 50 to 60. Odd-even drive is good, but the Delhi government must ensure proper functioning of autos.”

Despite the number of defaulters, many of the Delhi residents gave the scheme a thumbs up and insisted that it should be implemented permanently for 15 days every month.

“We want the scheme to be made permanent. We only know what we have to face while managing the traffic during office hours,” a traffic cop posted at Pragati Maidan told Firstpost.

Kejriwal has also stated that his government is seriously considering to enforce the measure for 15 days every month. Sources told PTI that any decision in this regard will be taken after analysing impact of the second phase of the odd-even scheme in reducing pollution.

The only change in the blueprint of the policy’s implementation from its first phase is the exemption given to cars carrying children in school uniform apart from those being driven by women, VIPs except Ministers in the AAP government and CNG vehicles with mandatory stickers.

The government has conceded that it has not been able to find a solution to the problem of cars going to pick up children after school hours during the scheme. Kejriwal has suggested car pooling to parents to avoid problems.

With inputs from PTI

As Latur braves 2-year-old drought, 10,000 lts of water wasted on BJP leader’s helipad

At a time when several parts of Maharashtra are facing severe water crisis, thousands of litres of water were used for a make-shift helipad at a village, close to the airport, where revenue minister Eknath Khadse landed for reviewing drought situation in Latur district.

Khadse said “very little” water was used for making the helipad in Belkund and that the issue was being blown out of proportion, IBNLive reported.

Local officials used 10,000 litres water for the helipad at Belkund village where the minister paid a visit to review the drought and water scarcity relief measures on Friday.

Senior BJP leader Eknath Khadse. PTI

Maharashtra revenue minister Eknath Khadse. PTI

Incidentally, Belkund is just around 40 km from Latur. When asked about this “wastage” when Latur is being supplied water through rail wagons, Khadse, a senior BJP leader, said he wasn’t aware of the issue. Opposition NCP termed the use of water as “arrogance” of power” by the BJP-led government.

NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik told PTI the incident shows the government is “non-serious” on drought and has become “arrogant” due to power. “The minister could have landed at Latur where there is a proper airport and then driven to the village in a few minutes.

But Khadse wanted to insult people in the drought-affected area who are struggling for a single drop of water,” he said. Latur is one of the worst-affected districts in Marathwada region and of late two special trains carrying water were rushed to the parched city to tide over the crisis.

Meanwhile, ruling BJP spokesperson, Shaina NC, defended the Khadse saying, “Khadseji is a senior minister not keeping greatest of health. Despite that he went to Latur to have a meeting with collectors of Beed, Osmanbad and Latur and all the drought affected areas where a mammoth project was unfolded ,” Shaina NC said.

With inputs from PTI

Kollam temple fire: It is just another reminder of Kerala’s fireworks craze

Kerala’s craze for fireworks at temple festivals is well-known. Beginning with the Malayali New Year — Vishu, fireworks are the norm for every festival, religious or otherwise. Despite Diwali not being celebrated in the southern state with too much gusto, crackers find their place in all other festivals. Church functions too see displays of fireworks.

Malayalis though take this tradition seriously, despite a long history of such accidents and deaths due to firecrackers gone rogue. Ajay Krishna, a resident of Paravoor, in the vicinity of the Puttingal Temple, says the problem lies in the competitive nature of the bursting of fireworks.

A view of a collapsed building after a massive fire broke out during a fireworks display in Kerala on Sunday. PTI

A view of a collapsed building after a massive fire broke out during a fireworks display in Kerala on Sunday. PTI

“Initially, it began as a way of worship and subsequently it became all about showing off one’s money power,” said Ajay, an eyewitness to the explosion, who managed to escape the disaster in the nick of time. “Rich people began to purchase and burst more expensive firecrackers. It is a dangerous game. It is because of this the authorities banned competitive bursting of firecrackers this year,” he said.

Thiruvananthapuram resident, R Navaneethankannan, a frequent pilgrim at the Puttingal temple told Firstpost that superstition plays a large role in the tradition. “Many people believe that if they burst fireworks, evil forces will stay away,” he explained. “This practice of bursting fireworks can be seen in every temple. People believe that their prayers will be answered if they burst firecrackers,” he added.

“During the era of kings, people would conduct small competitions by bursting fireworks. That tradition continues today. In many districts there are restrictions on this practice. But since it is connected with religious fervor, the authorities are struggling to control this menace,” he continued.

Despite the authorities issuing a ban on competitive firecrackers in Puttingal, temple authorities decided to allow it to go ahead without following proper safety norms. “Even though the residents around the temple kept asking for the practice to be stopped repeatedly, authorities did not take any action,” said Ajay Krishna, a resident of Paravoor.

“The Sabarimala fire accident of 1952 in which 70 people died is notorious and Sunday’s Puttingal tragedy is bigger than that,” said Thiruvananthapuram resident Navaneethakannan. “The media focuses on this issue when such big tragedies take place but everyday there are smaller fire accidents continually happening due to this practice of bursting fireworks,” he said.

In 1990, 25 people were killed in a similar explosion caused by fireworks at the Malanada temple in Kerala. In January this year, one woman lost her life in a similar accident at the Maradu Kottaram Bhagavathy temple near Kochi. 300 people have died between 2006 and 2011 in fireworks mishaps, according to the Kerala government’s data.

The tragedy has already been politicised barely two months before an election that is seeing much polarising rhetoric. Social media is abuzz with allegations that perhaps a particular community has been targeted in this fire.

It will perhaps be the first task of the next government to bring in stringent regulations for fireworks to ensure such loss of lives does not take place once again.

The author tweets @anandkso

India has ignited new hope in world, seen as bright star: PM Narendra Modi

India has strengthened its economy despite the adverse global conditions and has ignited a “new hope” in the world, with some describing it as a “bright star”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday.He said India has a lot to give to the world, particularly in terms of talented workforce with modern skills, and his government is working in this direction with the mantra of ‘sabka sath, sabka vikas’ (with all, development for all). Addressing a gathering of Indian community here on the first day of his two-day visit, Modi said India was earlier “one of the countries” in the world but now it has become “very important country”.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Despite adverse conditions globally, India has strengthened its economy…. Today, India is progressing economically and the world is looking at us…The country of over a crore people can do a lot,” he said. The Prime Minister said that India has ignited “new hope” and “new excitement” because of its democratic values and the government’s mantra of ‘sabka sath, sabka vikas’.He said the World Bank and all the rating agencies say that the economic development in India has generated a “ray of hope” and some say India is a “bright star”.At the brief event which saw ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ slogan being chanted by some in the audience, Modi said one of the reasons for the country’s economic progress is the political stability. He noted that India now has a government with full majority after 30 years.He said India’s youth is the country’s strength. “The world needs a workforce that is talented and well versed with technology,” the Prime Minister said, adding India is making strides in agriculture, industry and services sector.

Delhi Budget: AAP allocates Rs 676 crore to provide drinking water to all households by 2017

The AAP government in Delhi on Monday proposed drinking water to all authorised and unauthorised colonies by 2017 through pipelines and allocated Rs 676 crore for the financial year 2016-17 for this.”Despite being in the national capital, we have to drink bottled water. Our aim is to provide drinking water through pipelines to all households in authorised or unauthorised colonies by December 2017,” Finance Minister Manish Sisodia today said while presenting the annual budget.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The AAP minister said it was the endeavour of the Arvind Kejriwal government to supply clean drinking water to every Delhite and “eradicate the water tanker mafia” from the city.”300 new unauthorised colonies will be provided piped water supply in the year 2016-17. I have allocated 676 crore for this purpose,” he said.Sisodia said his government had taken a decision earlier to provide 20 kilo litre of water free of cost to every citizen and this budget only emphasises “our commitment towards the people of Delhi.”The Kejriwal government also proposed to partly or fully waive arrears of people in connection with disputed or inflated water bills.”We have decided to waive 100% arrears for the consumers belonging to ‘E’, ‘F’, ‘G’ & ‘H’ category colonies, 75% in ‘D’ category, 50% in ‘C’ and 25% in ‘A’ & ‘B’ categories with complete remission of late payment surcharge,” he said.With regard to water connection, the city government also proposed to reduce the development charge from Rs 440 per sqm to Rs 100 per sqm in unauthorised colonies enrolling and benefitting almost 130,000 consumers.Sisodia also said the government has “increased 10 per cent of potable water by commissioning three major water treatment plants at Dwarka, Bawana and Okhla which were lying completely idle”.”Also, the Delhi Jal Board will roll out a comprehensive rainwater harvesting scheme, water-bodies revival policy and summer action plan to ensure that Delhi doesn’t suffer in any way for want of water,” he said.On sanitation, the Finance Minister said, though the Sewage Master Plan proposes sewage network to all households by 2036, “our government will try to achieve that goal in 10 years”.”I propose Rs 1,976 crore of plan outlay for water supply and sanitation sector, which is 9.6% of total plan outlay,” he said.

Odisha has not received any assistance for 2015 drought, says minister

Odisha government on Monday said it has not yet received any financial assistance from National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF) to tackle the acute drought situation in 2015.Replying to a question by Congress member Taraprasad Bahinipati, Revenue and Disaster Management Minister Bijayshree Routray told the Assembly “Despite an acute drought, the state government has not received any assistance from the NDRF in 2015-16 fiscal.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Keeping the drought situation in view, the state government has already released Rs 519.41 crore for distribution of agriculture input subsidy among the affected farmers by March 18, 2016, Routray said adding Rs 251.99 crore has already been given to the farmers. The state government had, however, received Rs 147.40 crore out of Rs 399.83 crore from the Centre towards Cyclone Phalin of 2013, the minister said.At least 28 of the state’s 30 districts were affected by the drought in 2015. The state government had demanded drought assistance of Rs 2,344.99 crore.

Mumbai: Residents based around Sanjay Gandhi National Park take out protest rally

Thousands of residents in and around the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) in suburban Borivli here took out two protest rallies today, supported by Aam Aadmi Party workers, against government’s inaction towards not rehabilitating them.AAP national spokesperson Preeti Sharma Menon said that around 5,000 families residing in the vicinity of SGNP were asked to vacate their homes following a Bombay High Court order. The court had it also issued directives regarding their rehabilitation. However, no concrete actions have been taken by civic body BMC and state government for a long time now.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”These are nearly 20,000 people living in and around the national park. Many of them are the original natives of Mumbai. Unfortunately, BMC and the state government have always turned a blind eye to their basic needs,” Menon said.Sharma claimed that the government had promised these residents shelters with all basic amenities like water, electricity and sanitation for the past many years and had even collected Rs 7000 from them. Despite several reminders and requests no action has been taken.One of the rally started from Damunagar in Magathane while the second from Vaishali Nagar in Dahisar to Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivali.According to a AAP volunteer, AAP North Mumbai office has come forward to lodge complaints of residents with authorities concerned in the recent past.

Delhi High Court dismisses plea to cancel RK Pachauri’s anticipatory bail

The Delhi High court on Friday dismissed the complainant’s plea to quash R K Pachauri’s anticipatory bail granted to him. The high court’s decision came merely two days after the Delhi police filed a charge sheet in a trial court here accusing Pachauri, the executive vice chairman of The Energy Research Institute (TERI) of sexually harassing a former female colleague.The petitioner sought the cancellation of the anticipatory bail claiming that free and fair investigation” could not be carried out if Pachauri was “allowed to roam around freely”. However, after filing the charge sheet, the Delhi police stated that there is “sufficient evidence” to implicate the TERI chief.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Petitioner’s (woman) counsel has failed to impress as far as what purpose custodial interrogation of Pachauri is required. While granting anticipatory bail to Pachauri, safeguarding the petitioner’s interest and that of the investigating agency, stringent conditions have already been imposed upon the accused,” Justice S P Garg said.While hearing arguments from the state as well as the victim, the court noted that the Additional Standing counsel or the investigating officer did not seek the cancellation of the bail or press for custodial interrogation of the accused.”The police has already filed a charge sheet, hence, this order was purely academic in interest,” the victim’s counsel Prashant Mendriatta stated.Pachauri has been charged with sexual harassment and stalking under sections 354, 354(a), 354(d) (molestation) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code. Despite these charges, Pachauri was elevated to the position of Executive Vice Chairman of TERI. Soon after, a second complainant – a former colleague, came forward accusing Pachauri of sexual harassment.Pachauri has now been forced to go on an indefinite leave till the court case and the matter has been resolved.

Budget 2016: The time is ripe for a hard look; Parrikar has made his point

By Deba R Mohanty

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has made the following important points in the current session of Parliament and elsewhere in the last one month: a) if pensions for forces are included in the defence budget, it could account for 2.2 percent of the GDP; b) eight squadrons of light combat aircraft in the next eight years; c) world’s highest battlefield in Siachen Glaciers would not be vacated; d) all service chiefs should review and cancel old and irrelevant defence purchase proposals; e) India is seriously considering fighter plane purchase under ‘Make in India’ category; and f) transparent defence procurement will save money.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTIDefence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Security considerations aside, most of these statements have one thing in common – how to rationalise resources for maximization of India’s national defence interests. None of his predecessors have touched upon so many important points in such aplomb in a relatively short time, which otherwise suggests that he is firmly settled in his position and is not afraid of opining on contentious issues.

What kind of a defence budget is the government likely to propose this year? Will it witness a substantive increase beyond an average increase of 12 percent from previous year’s revised estimates to be somewhere between Rs 2,80,000 crore and 3,00,000 crore (last year’s budget was Rs 2, 46, 727 crore)? How will a modest increase, say for example, increase of 7-8 percent, be viewed at by the country in general and armed forces in particular? Most importantly, how much should India ideally allocate for its national defence purposes? Such questions need in-depth examination.

Resources allocations on national defence can be broadly analysed based on facts and figures (although minor details on specifics still elude research-based interpretations), but relating them to results on ground is always a subjective interpretation. This is the reason why, in the absence of detailed data and when blended with aspirations of armed forces, Indian defence budget is always perceived to be deficient, especially by retired military officers, bureaucrats and journalists. As analyses on defence budget seldom get into fundamentals, deficient resources allocations overwhelm our collective imagination.

A set of four perceptions needs to be deconstructed. First, India is spending much less in comparison to its known adversaries as well as (known) major powers. This is largely true in terms of military expenditure in both current and constant prices. In both terms, the percentage of US military expenditure has come down from 53 to 42 percent in the last five years, while the same has graduated from 8 to 12 percent China in the corresponding period. Many such data based inferences can be drawn. India’s share is slightly below 2 percent of global military expenditure, an improvement from 1.4 percent from 2010. Such figures are confusing for the very simple reason that bulk of military expenses, as provided by countries on a yearly basis, disclose little of their resources allocations and hide some details.

Second, at the national level, India is supposedly spending less on national defence. Parrikar deconstructed this notion in his statement in Parliament, unprecedented in the history of budgetary estimates in India. As repeatedly argued in my previous pieces on resources allocations for national defence over a period of time, India’s spending on national defence has been reasonable, keeping in mind our cumulative national resources and priorities.

India’s declared devotion to national defence stands roughly at 14 percent of central government expenditure (CGE) and about 1.7 percent of GDP, which excludes pensions and a few other items. I am told by members from responsible quarters that items like ‘military stores’ contain items that should actually be in ‘capital’ side. Taken together, as Parrikar said, India’s defence budget would account for 2.2 percent of GDP. Please note that last year’s defence pensions was close to Rs 56,000 crore. You have to factor in OROP (Rs 12,000 crore), ex-welfare health insurance (close to Rs 2000 crore) and 7th pay commission liabilities (exact figure yet to be in public domain) in time to come. Such expenses, if included in ‘revenue’ side of expenditure, could actually radically deconstruct our earlier assumptions about a 55 (revenue): 45 (capital) ratio, in favour of revenue expenditure – a horrendously imbalanced national defence budget. Parrikar must be applauded for bringing this anomaly in defence budget calculations.

Third, Parrikar’s statements on eight squardons of fighters, emphasises fighter aircraft production through indigenous means, transparent procurement procedures for pruning of capital expenses and abandoning of long-pending and irrelevant purchases, point to one simple point with three connotations – tighten your belt, be ready for collaborative approach but make products and systems here, and most importantly, be ready for a pruned budget. He has already given a hind that against an import bill of Rs 35,000 crore in 2014-15, a Rs 1,000 crore reduction has already been witnessed in 2015-16. This indicative trend is likely to continue till he is at the helm of affairs.

Last but certainly not the least, Parrikar, a minister who seems to ask basic questions and has demonstrated a habit of shaking rank and file of organs he heads (sacking of the head of DRDO without much murmur in public, branding armed forces as ‘erratic buyers’, instructing armed forces to review their defence procurement plans, to cite a few), must have advised his colleague Arun Jaitley on what kind of a budget he wants.

Indian defence budget 2016-17 is thus going to be a defining development, to say the least. Each aspect of the budget needs to be deconstructed further.

What is India’s caste system?

How does India’s caste system work?

Patiala House court attack: Supreme Court to hear PIL today

Following the attack on students and scribes outside the Patiala House court, the Supreme Court is set to hear the PIL on the case on Wednesday, after journalists moved the apex court on Tuesday.In a memorandum, the journalists told the apex court to punish those responsible for the violence outside the Delhi court.Journalists from different organisations marched to the Supreme Court on Tuesday in protest against the mob violence outside the Patiala House court where lawyers and politicians were seen beating up scribes and students.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Marching from the Press Club here, the journalists chanted slogans against Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi.”When we were reporting from the site, around 15 people ganged up on us asking us to leave. We called the police for help but they said that they could not do anything. After they saw me recording the footage of them beating up others, they threatened me saying that if I don’t leave they will break my bones. Despite all this, if Bassi calls it a minor scuffle then it’s incredible. I’m just doing my job here, they don’t want to hear the truth,” an NDTV reporter told ANI.

Patiala House court scuffle: Police is yet to make any arrests

A day after the attack on journalists, students and teachers of JNU in the Patiala House Court in New Delhi, the police are yet to arrest any of the perpetrators. Despite having conducted a thorough analysis of several video grabs today, the police have failed to identify any of the accused.On Tuesday morning, a group of journalists approached senior police officials and identified one of the lawyers, who was seen attacking students in a video, as one Vikram Singh Chauhan, a police official said. Later in the day, the photograph of a poster surfaced on social media, suggesting that Chauhan is linked with BJP. However, the authenticity of the image could not be verified by the police.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The police also claimed that they could not trace Chauhan and the allegations can be verified only when he is questioned. When contacted, Chauhan told PTI, “Around 100 to 150 goons who claimed to be from JNU entered the court premises and occupied seats of lawyers. When we asked them to vacate the seats, they started abusing us and it were them who attacked us first. We could not tolerate such hooliganism.”
ALSO READ Lawyer who led mob against scribes defends himself; says JNU students started the fightUnder mounting attack over police inaction when journalists and JNU students were being thrashed in a court complex, Delhi Police Commissioner B S Bassi today said the alleged negligence is being probed and the guilty will face legal action.Asked why policemen present at the Patiala House Court did not intervene when the assault was going on, Bassi said the issue pertains to people from “two different lines of thought” confronting each other in a charged environment.On Monday, groups of lawyers had beaten up journalists and JNU students and teachers in the Court complex ahead of the hearing of the sedition case registered against JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar in connection with an event at the university last week to protest the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru.Following the incident, two FIRs were registered against unnamed persons under relevant Sections of the IPC, with the police taking suo motu cognisance of the entire episode.

Five militants killed, army loses two soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir encounter

A soldier from Maharashtra has made the country proud by fighting gallantly against the highly entrenched militants before laying down his life for the motherland in Jammu and Kashmir.Naik Shinde Shankar Chandrabhan of Bayale village in Nashik district of Maharashtra was among two soldiers of Indian Army who attained martyrdom while fighting highly-trained militants in Zoonreshi village of Chowkibal in Kupwara district on Saturday. Another martyr who made the country proud was identified as Gunner Sahadev Maruti of Karnataka.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Five militants were killed in the operation that lasted for more than 20 hours in the upper reaches of Kupwara. Two other ranks of the Indian army suffered injuries in the operation.Survived by his wife and two children, Naik Shinde was the second soldier of Maharashtra who died in the line of duty in the last 10 days in J&K.Sepoy nursing assistant Suryawanshi SV of Satara, Maharashtra was among the 10 soldiers who were buried under the tonnes of snow and ice after massive avalanche hit their post at the altitude of 19,600 feet in Siachen glacier on February 3.Coming from a humble agriculture background, 34-year-old Naik Shinde was the younger of two brothers. Fondly called Master for his instructional capabilities, Naik Shinde in his 15 years of service has served at difficult and hostile places across the globe.A physically fit having exceptional firing skills, Naik Shinde was part of UN peace keeping mission in Southern Sudan in 2012. Earlier in 2006-07 he was posted in the same RR unit to combat militancy. His elder brother is junior commissioned officer in the elite Para (Special Forces) battalion of Indian armyYoungest of three brothers, Gunner Sahdev, 26, has been a district level player of Kabaddi and Volleyball.Good in academics who secured first division in matriculation, Gunner Sahdev was engaged on November 15 and was to proceed for marriage in a week’s time. He purposely delayed the marriage to allow prospective bride to complete her education.It was a raw courage filled with indomitable spirit and coupled with patriotic fervour that defined Naik Shinde Shankar Chandrabhan and Gunner Sahadev Maruti, both from the 41 Rashtriya Riffles (RR), in their fight against militancy in Jammu and Kashmir.The two were part of the assault team that took on the militants at the first sight after receiving the tip off about their presence in the village. Displaying exemplary valour, the two soldiers engaged the militants in a fierce gun fight before getting hit by a volley of bullets. Even after receiving gun shots, the soldiers did not leave but continued to fight the militants to prevent their escape.”The army lost two of its gallant soldiers who were the leading scouts. Despite bearing the brunt of the initial volley of fire, stood their ground for each other and the rest of the search team thus facilitating elimination of all five terrorists,” said Colonel NN Joshi, defence spokesman at Srinagar.Both soldiers belonged to 41 RR, the same unit, which was spearheading one of the longest anti militancy operations in high altitude Manigah forests of Kupwara in November last year. On November 17, 2015 Colonel Santosh Mahadik, a highly decorated para-commando of Satara Maharashtra, who was commanding officer of the 41 RR, died fighting militants at Manigah forest area.The joint operation was launched by the army and J&K police on Friday after receiving information on the presence of some terrorists in the Zoonreshi village.”Despite the disadvantage of being fired upon by terrorists from the upper floor of the house, the soldiers immediately retaliated. As the soldiers engaged the terrorists, additional reinforcement effectively cordoned off the house to prevent escape of the terrorists. The operation which continued overnight has resulted in elimination of five terrorists,” said Col Joshi.

‘Ashamed to refer to the institution as alma mater’: TERI alumna slams Pachauri reinstatement

In light of the latest developments in the RK Pachauri case, a growing number of former students at TERI University and employees at TERI have been speaking out. The following is a letter from a TERI University alumna who is concerned about the message TERI is sending out by reinstating Pachauri despite the grave allegations against him:

I am an alumna of TERI University. It is the place where I, as a Masters student of Natural Resource Management way back in 2008, was exposed to inspiring teachers and a wonderful peer group. It is where I explored my own interests as a young woman and budding researcher. TERI University served me well and I have proudly watched it expand. Today, TERI alumni hold important posts in prestigious organisations, tackling some of the most critical problems of our generation — from climate change to energy access, from disaster management to environmental policy.

File image of RK Pachauri. AFP

File image of RK Pachauri. AFP

And so, the events of the past year sadden and anger me deeply. What actually happened? In mid-February, 2015, a young female employee of TERI lodged an FIR against Dr RK Pachauri on charges of sexual harassment amounting to molestation and criminal intimidation. Despite these charges, he continued to be the Director-General of TERI and the complainant quit the organisation, frustrated with inaction within TERI. Despite being removed as IPCC chief and remaining under investigation, Dr Pachauri was recently appointed as a vice-chairman with executive powers at TERI.

As an alumna and (until now) proud member of the TERI community, this development is a significant letdown. Over this week, alumni across batches have united to demand the governing council to reconsider its decision to reinstate Dr Pachauri. Several others have taken to social media to put pressure on the GC.

The key points about which we, as alumni, are concerned are as follows:

-Continued silence from the governing council, all of whom are eminent public intellectuals and leaders in their fields, and must surely realise that Dr Pachauri’s appointment empowers him to continue to intimidate witnesses of the case, legitimately.
-The message TERI is sending out to their employees and TERI University students by creating an environment of fear and intimidation — where people may feel persecuted for raising their voices against injustice, misconduct, malpractice, discrimination — or in the fear that the alleged accused will be back in a more powerful position.
-The precedent this sets for the wider discourse of gender discrimination and sexual harassment at workplaces in India.

TERI is an internationally renowned organisation — one that has nurtured a wonderful cohort of intellectuals and practitioners. However, the GC’s apathy, Dr Pachauri’s continued appointment, and the complainant’s year-long fight makes me wonder if TERI deserves the stoic support its alumni has always given it. Across batches, alumni are unitedly saying that they are ashamed to refer to the institution as their alma mater. As professionals and individuals committed to safe and fair workspaces, they are asking the TERI GC to reconsider its decision and reinstate the trust of all its employees, student and alumni in the institution once again.

For without its people and their passions, any institution, no matter how tall, is hollow.

Chandni Singh,
MSc Natural Resource Management (TERI University’s batch of 2008)

Here is the petition signed by a number of TERI alumni:

Cover Letter TERI

Visas of two Pakistan International Airlines officials not renewed by India

Visas of two Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) officials have not been renewed by India for nearly a month, an act termed as “unfair” by Pakistan, which said it would impair people-to-people contact between the two countries.PIA’s Saeed Ahmed Khan and Shabbir Ahmed, who are station managers for the airlines in Delhi and Mumbai respectively, applied on December 21, 2015 for the renewal of their visas valid till January 7, 2016, according to Pakistani sources.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Despite their applying well in time for the renewal, the Indian authorities have not renewed the entry documents. This is creating big problems for the duo in discharging their professional duty apart from facing personal difficulties,” the sources sai.When contacted, Indian officials said,”matter is under consideration of relevant authorities.” PIA, the national carrier of Pakistan, is the only airline that provides direct air link between the two countries. It operates three flights from Delhi and two from Mumbai every week.It is understood that Pakistan has taken up the issue with the External Affairs Ministry and conveyed that delay in renewal of their visas will not help in improvement of bilateral relations especially when the two countries have decided to re-engage.

Political grandstanding, official disengagement have made MCD mess ugly: Former Delhi Chief Secy

Amid the blame game and confrontation between the Aam Aadmi Party-led Delhi government and the Bharatiya Janata Party-led municipal corporations, the indefinite strike of the civic body employees entered its tenth day on Friday. Despite the Delhi High Court’s intervention and a stern warning by commissioners of North and East MCDs to employees to call off the strike and resume duties with “immediate effect or face action”, the striking doctors, paramedical staff, engineers, teachers and sanitation workers are not ready to bow down. They are demanding a “permanent solution” to their salary problem.

Firstpost spoke to former Delhi Chief Secretary Shailaja Chandra and sought to know from her the origin of the present crisis. She said every year the commissioners of the corporation – during her time it was a single entity – would plead for a grant or a soft loan to clear the salaries of the employees, citing reasons why the corporation had run short of funds. Invariably, the lament from the corporation even then was that the finance and urban development departments had not taken important factors into account and omitted making provisions for supporting MCD.

MCD strike. PTIMCD strike. PTI

MCD strike. PTI

“It was a regular feature and had happened during my tenure as chief secretary as well. But it used to be resolved with some give and take on both sides. The effort being to harmonise the points of view of the finance department and the municipal corporation. Politics never came into the picture. If the impasse continued, the discussions were raised at the level of the chief minister and there would invariably get resolved.

“In no case did the differences reach the media and certainly not the streets by allowing mounds of garbage to accumulate everywhere. The bottom line was very simple: a solution had to be found and citizens should not be harassed, come what may. It was an unwritten understanding and the political executive and officers from the government and the MCD understood this,” she said.

“This dispute is an annual feature and is something that can be resolved. If there are anomalies caused by trifurcation, these have to be addressed and solutions found. The answer does not lie in blaming each other and stopping salaries,” she said.

Asked how the issues used to be resolved earlier, she explained, “There was always disagreement. Either the finance secretary or the chief secretary would take a call. Or if that did not work, the corporation commissioner would raise the level by meeting the chief minister (CM) or the lieutenant governor (LG) and seek their intervention because the matter was not receiving due attention at the official level. Despite the NCT government and the central government being from different and opposing political parties, the CM or the LG always used to give a hearing and take an administrative decision.”

Why is the same not happening now?

Because unfortunately, according to the former bureaucrat, it has become a subject for political grandstanding in full public view. Also worrying is the fact that officers do not seem to be exerting themselves perhaps because their advice is not heeded. “Officers find solutions when they are asked to do it. But if they are told to stay away, why will they give any suggestion and how will anything ever get done? After all, you may have any number of advisers but if you don’t rely on precedents and the institutional memory available confusion will take over,” she added.

Moreover no one, said Chandra, is exerting themselves to raise revenue. “If some drastic improvement is promised through taxation, public will go along but first they must see a tangible benefit which will come in a time-bound manner. If such an approach is adopted, the government may also not mind doing some temporary hand-holding. But one does not find that vision in the corporations,” she said.

The former chief secretary is not convinced that funds of the order claimed have been denied by the Delhi government “because from the figures put out in the press, which have not been contradicted by anybody, it is apparent that the government has been incrementally raising the amount of money given every year. And in no way has it gone down this year”.

It means, according to Chandra, the corporations – particularly the North and the East – have failed to raise property taxes, which is very irresponsible.

When the unit area method of tax calculation was introduced, the understanding was that a Municipal Valuation Committee would be set up every two years which would recommend raising house tax proportionately. There are A to F category colonies and the number of dwelling units is known.

“In such a legislation, one can tax the colonies having more facilities at a higher rate and reduce it as one moves downwards to less affluent areas. But you cannot maintain status quo for more than 12 years, which is what they have done from 2003 (when the Act came into effect). Definitely if the scope of revenue collection is skewed in favour of South MCD (which is considered rich), it has to be set right through discussion and if that fails through legislation. But first the anomalies and the reasons for it have to be pinpointed leaving no room for claims and counter-claims as is happening now,” she said.

Of course, she said, South MCD is the newer part of the city with large organised residential colonies, expensive properties. But always saying that they are rich and we are poor is not a “tenable argument” because it is just a statement.

“Nobody so far has actually given the exact number of properties within the tax net in all the three corporations and the numbers that have been ignored either because of apathy or connivance. For any financial decision, one must have a figure on the number of dwelling units falling in categories A to H and how many dwellers are actually paying you taxes. Whole of the Walled City in North Delhi is also very congested and raising taxes there may not be easy or practical,” she said.

“Another argument is that East DMC has less income because it has too many unauthorised colonies but what proportion of their populace resides in these colonies? Are the regularised ones paying taxes? East DMC must declare the number of the taxable properties lying in its jurisdiction which are not being taxed. If they are in so much in the red, they should think of innovative measures to raise money,” she said and suggested few measures:

Why are people being permitted to park their vehicles on the roads at night? All the three civic bodies can independently or collectively frame policies to charge people heavily for using public space for private use. The same goes for cars and sentry boxes parked on pavements. As for those who display merchandise on the market pavements, they should be liable to be fined heavily or rent taken if they are being permitted to display or sell goods from public spaces.

It needs regulation and enforcement – but neither is being done. In all markets in the city, the pavements have completely been encroached upon. The fine is too low. Why? What steps are the Delhi government and the MCDs taking to increase income?

“I think that there may be a little truth in the fact that when it was a unified MCD, it was easier to take money from one pocket and put it into another and have some sort of equity. But it cannot become a lifetime excuse,” she added.

Asked why the Fourth Finance Commission, as demanded by the BJP, was not implemented and how legal is the Delhi government’s response that it would accept it only if the panel’s recommendation for handing over the DDA is accepted by the Centre, she replied “The recommendations of the Finance Commission could have been considered and implemented during President’s rule but perhaps being a complex and contentious matter, it was left for an elected government to take a view.”
She added: “When the government took over, it took the approach that the Finance Commission’s recommendations should be implemented fully. Along with the devolution of a percentage of the Delhi government’s resources on the MCDs, it has been stated by AAP spokesmen on TV channels that there were recommendations relating to handing over DDA to the Delhi government. But so far, no one has belled the cat. On a broader plane, if the report has indeed made recommendations relating to the DDA (I have not read the report ) but if it is correct, it is totally outside the purview of the Finance Commission. DDA deals with land, which is not constitutionally under the Delhi government. So, in a way, the AAP government is asking for a constitutional amendment while highlighting the narrow recommendation relating to the DDA. Therefore, it is not implementable and the whole matter has remained up in the clouds.”

Speaking from Bengaluru, where he is undergoing naturopathy treatment, Chief Minister Kejriwal on Wednesday announced a bailout package of Rs 693 crore in a bid to woo the agitating workers of the municipal corporations. He also said, “You cannot tell us to give the money and not give us DDA which is our due and integral to the Finance Commission’s recommendation.”

Salary row: Protesting MCD workers dump garbage outside Manish Sisodia’s house

Scores of municipal sanitation workers on Thursday staged a protest outside Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia’s official residence here, demanding “immediate” release of funds for their salaries.They also threatened to suspend work for an “indefinite” period if their demands are not met. “It has been two-three months that the workers have not received their salaries. Despite repeated requests, our demands have gone unheard. Hence, we have staged a protest here. We will call off work for an indefinite period if our demands are not met,” Sanjay Gehlot, president of Mazdoor Vikas Samyukta Morcha, said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Gehlot claimed that employees from all the three civic bodies have taken part in the strike. Besides salaries, the employees are seeking payment of arrears, regularisation of contract-based employees and unification of the three corporations.Workers attached to East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) had gone on strike making similar demands in October last year. But the strike was called off in the wake of a High Court order.

Nitish Kumar trashes ‘jungle raj’ barb, says ‘rule of law’ prevails

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday dismissed opposition’s charge of “jungle raj” in Bihar and asserted that “rule of law” prevailed in the state pointing to the action taken against JD(U) MLA Sarfaraz Alam in a case of misbehaviour and abusing a couple in a train.”There is neither jungle raj in Bihar nor will it ever come. There is rule of law and it will continue to exist,” Kumar said while speaking at a function to mark birth anniversary of socialist leader Karpoori Thakur.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”When a matter relating to a JD(U) MLA misbehaving and abusing a couple in a train came (to light), the party took stock of the situation and put the MLA under suspension,” he said narrating the incident related to JD(U) Jokihat MLA Alam.”My government belives that everybody is equal before law. No lawbreaker will be spared be it anybody. The government does not protect any law breaker, rather it facilitates the law breakers prosecution,” the CM said.The government keeps a close watch over all the incidents of crime and initiate prompt action over them, he said, adding, “Police is doing its job by arresting the culprits. Those policemen found slack in duty would not be spared.” “Despite these efforts a few people are indulging in baseless talks that jungle raj exists in the state,” he said taking an apparent dig at rival BJP.”There is no jungle raj here rather there is rule of law in the state.” Launching a frontal attack against BJP, Kumar said, “They are trying to paint a picture of fear by linking separate incidents of crime … More crime incidents are taking place outside Bihar but still they link up separate crime events and speak about jungle raj which is not true.” The CM referred to messages he received on WhatsApp in which, he said, people believed that “the truth is different from what is said about Bihar.”Rule of law is prevailing here and growth is taking place with justice,” he asserted. Kumar said he followed “coalition dharma”. “There is a common programme of the coalition on which work is being done in a mission mode.” JD(U) President Sharad Yadav, state party chief Basistha Narayan Singh and party MP Ramnath Thakur, son of socialist leader Karpoori Thakur, addressed the function.

Amit Shah’s reappointment as BJP president ‘good omen’: Congress

The Congress Party on Sunday dubbed Amit Shah’s reappointment as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president a ‘good omen’ and said that it would provide an opportunity for the Opposition to make a comeback. “There has been an internal friction and feeling of resentment within the BJP over Amit Shah. It is a good omen for the Congress and other opposition parties that a person like Amit Shah is reappointed as the national president of the BJP,” Congress leader Pramod Tiwari said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Seeing the role played by him in the assembly elections in Delhi and Bihar, his appointment will provide a good opportunity for the Opposition, including the Congress to make a comeback,” he added. Despite drawing flak from several quarters for poll debacles in Delhi and Bihar, the incumbent BJP president is tipped to be re-elected unopposed to the top post today.Almost all BJP-ruled state chief ministers, senior party leaders and union ministers joined Shah during the filling of his papers. However, several posters congratulating Shah in anticipation of his unopposed election as the party president have been put up at several places. Shah’s current tenure ended on Saturday and the new term would be his first full-term lasting three years. At present, he was completing the remaining tenure of former party president Rajnath Singh, who had demitted the post after joining the Union Cabinet as Home Minister in May 2014.Under Shah’s leadership, the BJP scaled new heights by coming to power in Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir. However, the party had to face defeats in Delhi and Bihar assembly elections, triggering some rumblings in the BJP.

Delhi’s air quality worsened after end of odd-even scheme: study

The first three working days after the end of the odd-even scheme saw rapid worsening of air quality with levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) registering a jump of more than 57 per cent on the first working day itself, according to an analysis by a green body. Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) said that Delhi has lost the air quality gains of odd and even scheme and the delayed winter will make pollution worse if quicker steps are not taken to sustain the gains.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It urged the Delhi government to immediately roll out its plan for the remaining part of the winter season and reduce traffic volume on a more sustained basis and allow public transport to perform more efficiently as was possible during the odd and even week. CSE also urged the government to implement the slew of orders which the Supreme Court gave yesterday including quick augmentation of bus and metro, stronger enforcement on diversion of truck traffic, closure notice on coal-based Badarpur Power Station power plant and serving notice to further advance implementation of Euro VI emissions standards for vehicles. “The gains of odd and even scheme were immediately lost after full traffic was back on the first Monday after the scheme came to a close. This was further aggravated by lower wind speed. On January 18, the PM2.5 levels shot up by 57 per cent within the day and once again rose to ‘severe’ category.”With an average city wide concentration of 277 microgram per cubic metre (cum), Delhi’s air quality was back in ‘severe’ category. The PM2.5 levels continued to remain in the ‘severe’ category on Tuesday with the levels further increasing to 281 micro gram per cum. “On Monday, pollution build up within the 24 hours was massive by as much as 101 micro gram per cum. Despite being a windier day this was 35 per cent greater build up on January 18 than the highest observed during odd-even period a jump of 75 micro gram per cum on January 11,” the CSE analysis said. CSE further said that this winter, out of all the severe smog episodes so far, the peak pollution during odd and even programme has been the lowest and this shows that despite hostile weather conditions – no wind, temperature dip and western disturbance peak pollution during odd-even scheme was much lower. “This validates the importance of emergency action. The fortnight, when the programme was implemented has clearly demonstrated that the peak pollution levels are lower than the normal smog peaks of the season despite adverse weather conditions,” said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, Executive Director, CSE.

India has highest number of stillbirths in the world – Report

According to a recent report, India was found to have the highest of number of stillbirths among 195 countries. The top countries with a high number of stillbirths include Nigeria, Pakistan, China and Ethiopia.There were reportedly 5,92,090 stillbirths in the past year in India. The data was compiled by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine with the World Health Organisation and UNICEF.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>When a foetus dies after 28 weeks of gestation it is referred to as stillbirth. The data revealed that the lowest rates were found in Iceland (1.3), Denmark (1.7), Finland (1.7) and the Netherlands (1.8). India ranked 157 on the list of 195 countries. The data showed that the estimated rate of stillbirth for India was 23.0 per 1,000 total births in 2015. While progress has been made in healthcare, stillbirths continue to be a neglected area globally. The study states, “Despite significant reductions in the number of maternal and child deaths, there has been little change in the number of stillbirths (in the third trimester of pregnancy) even though the majority are preventable. Half of all stillbirths occur during labour and birth, usually after a full nine-month pregnancy, and the research highlights that most of these 1.3 million deaths could be prevented with improved quality of care. Globally, 98% of all stillbirths occur in low-and middle-income countries.”The Lancet journal has also published a series of articles titled “Ending Preventable Stillbirth”. This states that the annual rate of reduction for stillbirths is 2.0%. This happens to be slower than the progress which has been made for maternal deaths (3.0%) and child deaths (4.5%). The study adds, “It also reveals the hidden consequences of stillbirth, with more than 4.2 million women living with symptoms of depression, often for years, in addition to economic loss for families and nations. The economic impact of stillbirth for families ranges from funeral costs for their baby to loss of earnings due to time off work, with data suggesting that 10% of bereaved parents remain off work for six months. The direct financial cost of stillbirth care is 10-70% greater than for a live birth, with additional costs to governments due to reduced productivity of grieving parents and increased welfare costs.”The report also states that an estimated 2.6 million third trimester stillbirths occurred in 2015 across the world with 98% occurring in low and middle-income countries.

Banned from temples, this Hindu sect has still found a way to worship Lord Ram

Mahettar Ram Tandon is still proud of the indelible message he carries almost five decades after he had the name of the Hindu god Ram tattooed over his entire body. Dressed in a simple white lungi, a traditional Indian garment, and wearing a peacock feather hat called a “mukut”, Tandon is part of the Ramnami Samaj religious movement in the eastern state of Chhattisgarh, one of India’s poorest regions. “It was my new birth the day I started having the tattoos,” he says. “The old me had died.” Denied entry to temples and forced to use separate wells, low-caste Hindus in the Chhattisgarh first tattooed their bodies and faces more than 100 years ago as an act of defiance and devotion. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Ramnamis wrote Ram’s name on their bodies as a message to higher-caste Indians that god was everywhere, regardless of a person’s caste or social standing. Now 76, Tandon’s purple tattoos have faded over decades under the harsh sun of his village of Jamgahan. In the nearby village of Gorba, Punai Bai, 75, spent more than two weeks aged 18 having her full body tattooed using dye made from mixing soot from a kerosene lamp with water.”God is for everybody, not just for one community,” says Bai, who lives in a one-room house with her son, daughter-in law and two grandchildren. Nowadays the tattoos of Ramnamis, who number 100,000 or more and live in dozens of villages spread across at least four districts of Chhattisgarh state, are usually on a smaller scale. Since the banning of caste-based discrimination in India in 1955, the lives of many lower-caste Indians have improved, villagers said. As young Ramnamis today also travel to other regions to study and look for work, younger generations usually avoid full-body tattoos.”The young generation just don’t feel good about having tattoos on their whole body,” says Tandon, who has always lived in his village of small mud houses surrounded by fields of grazing cattle, wheat and rice.”That doesn’t mean they don’t follow the faith.” Children born in the community are still required to be tattooed somewhere on their body, preferably on their chest, at least once by the age of two. According to their religious practices, Ramnamis do not drink or smoke, must chant the name “Ram” daily and are exhorted to treat everybody with equality and respect.Almost every Ramnami household owns a copy of the Ramayana epic, a book on Lord Rama’s life and teachings, along with small statues of Indian deities. Most followers’ homes in these villages have “Ram Ram” written in black on the outer and inner walls. Despite the 1955 legislation, centuries-old feudal attitudes persist in many parts of India and low-caste people, or Dalits, still face prejudice in every sector from education to employment.Tandon is optimistic about the Ramnamis’ relative change in fortunes since he had his body tattooed all those years ago.”The world is changing, the times are changing,” he says. “We have all realised that we are all the same.”

Student protesters to greet Gajendra Chauhan with cultural programme at FTII meeting today

“Despite a 139-day-long strike in the campus, several meetings with the ministers and the officials of information and broadcasting ministry, the questions we have raised have largely remained unanswered,” a statement released by the FTII students’ body read.

Amrita Nayak Dutta

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