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Another train derails near Kanpur: 62 injured

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>More than 60 passengers were injured in Wednesday’s Ajmer-Sealdah Express derailment accident near Kanpur, raising serious questions on the safety of train passengers in the country. While the cause of the accident could not be ascertained, sources said railway fracture was suspected to be the possible reason for derailment of 15 coaches Ajmer-Sealdeh Express.The incident comes just a month after 150 people were killed and more than 200 injured when 14 coaches of the Indore-Patna Express train derailed in Kanpur Dehat district of Uttar Pradesh on November 20. While the investigation report of that incident is yet to come out, initial report had suggested rail fracture as possible reason for that accident too. Incidentally, both these accidents occured in the early hours of morning.Wednesday’s mishap took place when the train was crossing a bridge overhead a dry canal in the area and reportedly two coaches of the train also fell in the canal. Some railway officials, who did not wish to be named, said it was almost miraculous that there were no casualties. They added that had the train been running on a high speed, the impact of the accident would have been much more. “The train had just pulled out of a railway station and its speed was rather slow. The train was travelling at a speed of 108km per hour,” an official said.Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu announced a thorough investigation into the accident and Commissioner Railway Safety of Northern Circle was put in charge of the inquiry. Sources in Railways said a possible fracture in the track appeared to be the prima facie cause of the mishap. Maintenance issues coupled with drop in temperature cause fracture in rails. A senior railway official, however, said that weather and fog had no role to play in Tuesday’s accident.There has been an increase in incidents of derailments this year. According to railways data, there have been 67 derailment cases this year since April while it was 52 in the corresponding period last year. Railway Board Member (Traffic) Mohd Jamshed however, said that the total number of accident cases has come down in comparison to previous years though the railways’ plan of action is to achieve zero accident target. The total number of accidents was 137 three years back which has come down to 87 this year, Jamshed said. Prabhu announced ex-gratia of Rs 50,000 for seriously injured and Rs 25,000 for people with minor injuries. 62 people suffered injuries and 11 of them had grievous injuries, a railway official said.

Kashmir: Cashless villages remain offline as poor internet mars adoption

Demonetisation and “cashless” are currently the hot topics for discussions at the shopfronts in Kashmiri villages, where people gather every evening and morning to discuss and debate all sundry things.

The Kashmir Valley along with rest of India is still reeling from the aftereffects of demonetisation which Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on 8 November. Now, there are reports emerging from the region that some of the villages in the valley have gone completely cashless.

Manzigam is one such village which has been recently declared cashless in Kashmir. It is around 25 kilometres from the main town of Anantnag.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

On 20 December, the village of Manzigam received a team of state government officials from the Common Service Centers (CSC) e-governance division. As part of central government’s “Digital India” campaign, CSC provides various services, mostly electronic, to the general public along with training them on how to use those services. The CSC team trained about 20 villagers for cashless transactions and provided information on various digital payment systems.

But going cashless is a slow process, more so, because some habits are hard to change.

A week since the training, most people in the Manzigam village are yet to understand the idea of cashless payments. They are still carrying cash in their pockets and it is evident that there is no implementation of cashless transactions on ground.

In one of the morning gatherings at a shopfront, few of the villagers described their experience when the government team visited.

Most of the villagers still look confused when they hear about their village becoming cashless. Many have heard the term cashless, but they have no idea about what exactly it is. Yet, they are quick to point out its effects. “Now we have to carry ATM cards like we used to carry our identity cards in the early 1990s to prove our identity to the security forces,” said one of the villagers who got in the middle of the discussion to offer prayers in a nearby mosque. However, another man in the early 30s said, “It would be beneficial.” Many nodded.

Some have no idea what payment swipe machines are or what was taught in the training. While talking to Firstpost, a villager named Arif Ahmad said, “Shopkeepers have to submit some forms (not knowing what exactly) to get the machines. I was busy and couldn’t attend the training class.”

He said that only around 30 people among the 300 families in the village attended the CSC camp.

Shopkeepers are the key enablers for implementation of the cashless monetary system in any village. Manzigam has around 10 shops which are yet to install payment swipe machines. They have been told to open Current Accounts so that they can accept payments through the machines. But many are reluctant, so they are still insisting on cash payments.

These problems aside, there are other logistical challenges too.

Manzigam has few smartphone users, poor internet connectivity, fluctuating electricity and the only broadband internet connection is at the only Khidmat centre.

Hamid, a 20-year-old shopkeeper from Manzigam doesn’t have a 4G-enabled smartphone which is the foremost priority for using mobile wallets in Kashmir these days as prepaid 3G mobile internet services are yet to resume after the 8 July killing of militant commander Burhaan Wani.

“I don’t have the internet on my phone yet, as I have a 3G phone. I somehow connect to Wi-Fi hotspots of my friends’ phones to access the internet.”

Hamid is, however, optimistic of having his own internet as he is expecting that Reliance Jio, a 4G service provider, may introduce internet services on 3G phones in near future. When asked about the internet speed in his village, he is quick to answer: “There is a cellular network in our neighbouring village. We go in the fields for faster internet speed, otherwise, it is frustrating.”

It’s a similar story with Lanura village in Central Kashmir’s Budgam district, which was the first village in Kashmir to go cashless. Various media reports say that the village has only got the tag of cashless, but on the ground, its implementation is zero.

The story repeats in other such villages of Kashmir which were declared and tagged as cashless villages. There seems to be no solid sign of practical adoption of cashless payment mechanisms by the villagers so far.

Talking to Firstpost, district manager of the CSC, Rayees Ahmad admitted that it is not easy to make villages go cashless. “It’s really hard to say how much time it will take to go cashless. No one can say,” he said.

Ahmad also pointed out the problem of poor internet connectivity and ban on prepaid mobile internet services. “Mobile network is not that good. Reliance Jio has brought some relief. But everybody cannot afford a 4G smartphone. It is necessary to lift the ban on prepaid mobile internet for going digital,” he added.

Many Kashmiris are of the opinion that it is not easy to implement and promote cashless transactions in the Valley as long as internet access remains susceptible to the law and order situation in Kashmir.

Mohammad Ishaq who hails from Anantnag while talking to Firstpost said, “In Kashmir, where prepaid internet is banned for more than five months, how can the government claim to have cashless villages.”

“If it is possible to go cashless amid these prevailing circumstances, then it will take no time for the whole Kashmir to go cashless,” he remarked sarcastically.

The author is a freelance journalist based in Srinagar. He focuses on the socio-political issues of the Kashmir Valley.

(Firstpost is from the same stable as Reliance Jio)

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 13:10 IST

Kanpur Train Accident: Two killed, 26 injured in Sealdah-Ajmer Express derailment

Two passengers were killed and 26 injured when fifteen coaches of the Ajmer-Sealdah Express, train no 12987, derailed near Rura, around 70 kilometres from Kanpur, on Wednesday, PTI said.

Though initial reports claimed casualties, Kanpur IG Zaki Ahmed told PTI that two passengers have been killed in the accident which took place at around 5.20 am. According to reports, rail traffic between Etawah and Kanpur is affected.

The Kanpur train accident took place when the train was crossing a bridge overhead a dry canal in the area, Northern Central Railways PRO Amit Malviya said.

Speaking to ANI, Anil Saxena, ADG, PR Railway said, “No casualties have been reported so far. Ambulances are already on the spot and rescue work is in progress. A medical train from Kanpur has also arrived on the spot. All trains between Etawah and Kanpur are affected, and we are trying to divert them to an alternate route.” Saxena also told ANI that:

Ahmed told PTI that 13 sleeper coaches and two general coaches of the train derailed in the accident. The injured have been rushed to a nearby hospital. Rescue and relief operations have been started at the accident spot with the district health department dispatching 14 ambulances and relief teams from Kanpur and Tundla, he said.

Buses have also been plied to drop the stranded passengers from the spot to Kanpur railway station.

The Delhi-Howrah route via Kanpur has been temporarily closed and the Shatabdi express from Delhi to Kanpur has been cancelled, Malviya said.

As per local sources, a few of the bogies of the train also fell into a canal, travellers stuck in it were yet to be rescued soon till 8 am, Times Now said.

Meanwhile, railway minister Suresh Prabhu said has announced an ex-gratia to the injured, on Twitter. He said, “I have directed CRB, all senior officials to personally ensure best possible help,” he tweeted, adding that a thorough investigation will be carried out to ascertain the cause. He also tweeted:

According to local police, the railway authorities have not arrived on the spot. The reason for the accident is not known as yet.

The Indian railways has also announced that four trains — 12826/Jharkhand Sampark Kranti Express, 12382/Poorva Express, 12312/Kalka Mail, 12488/Seemanchal Express — have been diverted.

The Railways have issued the helpline numbers for Kanpur — 0512-2323015, 2323016, 2323018 and for Allahabad — 0532-2408149, 2408128.

More details awaited.

With inputs from PTI

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 09:38 IST

J&K: ‘Chillai-Kalan’ begins, temperatures drop to six-year-low

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>’Chillai-Kalan’ the harshest 40-day period of winter in Kashmir – marked its beginning on Wednesday with mercury dipping to the season’s record low at several places including Srinagar which experienced a six-year-low night temperature in the month of December.Kashmir Valley and Ladakh region have been it by severe cold as the night temperature across the division, except Pahalgam and Gulmarg, dropped to the season’s lowest, an official of the MET Department here said. He said the mercury in Srinagar plunged further the freezing point to settle at minus 6.5 degrees Celsius – a degree below the previous night’s minimum of minus 5.5 degrees Celsius.The official said this was the coldest night of the season so far in the summer capital of the state and the mercury was at the six-year low for this month of the year. The city had recorded minus 6.6 degrees Celsius on December 27, 2010. The all-time low recorded in December in Srinagar is minus 12.8 degrees Celsius on December 13, 1934. The cold wave resulted in freezing of some water bodies, including the fringes of the famous Dal Lake here, and residential water supply pipes.Leh, in Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, also recorded the coldest night of the season as the mercury there settled at a low of minus 14.9 degrees Celsius- down from the previous night’s minus 14 degrees Celsius. He said Leh was the coldest recorded place in the state. The mercury in the nearby Kargil town settled at a low of minus 11.4 degrees Celsius which is the season s lowest so far there, the official said.Qazigund the gateway town to Kashmir Valley was another place which experienced the coldest night of the season, he said. He said the mercury in the town settled at a low of minus 5.6 degrees Celsius compared to minus 4.4 degrees Celsius on Tuesday.The official said the north Kashmir town of Kupwara recorded a low minus 5.5 degrees Celsius, against minus 4.8 degrees Celsius the previous night. He said Kupwara also registered the season’s lowest night temperature. Kokernag town of south Kashmir recorded a low of minus 3.8 degrees Celsius, the official said, adding it was also the lowest recorded temperature of the season there.The official said Pahalgam health resort in south Kashmir which serves as a base camp for the annual Amarnath Yatra recorded a low minus 6.9 degrees Celsius down from minus 6.2 degrees Celsius 24 hours earlier. He said the resort was the coldest place in the Valley.The mercury at the famous ski-resort of Gulmarg, in north Kashmir, settled at a low of minus 2.2 degrees Celsius, compared to Tuesday’s low of minus 3 degrees Celsius. The Meteorological Department has forecast mainly dry weather in the state over the week ahead, which could result in further drop in the night temperature.’Chillai-Kalan’ considered the harshest period of winter, when the chances of snowfall are most frequent and maximum and the temperature drops considerably, began today on a dry note. It ends on January 31 next year, but the cold wave continues even after that. The 40-day period is followed by a 20-day long ‘Chillai-Khurd’ (small cold) and a 10-day long ‘Chillai-Bachha’ (baby cold).

AP official found in possession of assets worth Rs 5 crore, Rs 7 lakh in new notes seized

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A senior official of Excise and Prohibition Department has been allegedly found in possession of assets worth about Rs five crore and Rs seven lakh in Rs 2,000 notes were also seized from him, Anti Corruption Bureau sources said on Sunday.Raids on the properties of Additional Commissioner K Lakshman Bhaskar were conducted at 11 places in AP and Telangana on Saturday and Sunday that led to unearthing of huge assets worth about Rs five crore, they said.New currency notes of Rs 2,000 denomination worth Rs seven lakh was also recovered from the accused.Several crucial documents relating to Bhaskar’s properties and his benamis were also seized during the raids, the ACB sources said.The sleuths are yet to open his lockers in various banks, which could reveal more treasure, they said.He was apprehended and taken to Visakhapatnam as part of investigation of the case, the sources said.Bhaskar, a native of Ramanapalem area in West Godavari, had worked in various Excise Department in Visakhapatnam.The raids were conducted in Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada, Hyderabad, Rajahmundry and his hometown Ramanapalem, they added.

Demonetization: Supreme Court says it will not ‘interfere’ in govt’s decision

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Chief Justice of India signed off on his last working day by questioning the constitutional validity of the demonetization of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes and the legality of the implemented policies as announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.A three-judge bench comprising of the chief justice along with Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud refused to “interfere” underlining that these were “matters of fiscal policies” and declined to issue any interim direction. The top court placed their faith in the government’s assurances that things would look up at the end of the 50th day on December 31. The apex court also stayed all ongoing petitions in the various high courts across the country and transferred them to a five-judge constitutional bench.The SC’s order came in response to a petition filed on November 10, against the government’s November 8 announcement of demonetizing Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes. Two petitions were filed by Delhi-based lawyers Vivek Narayan Sharma and Sangam Lal Pandey, while two others were filed by individuals, S Muthukumar and Adil Alvi. All petitioners, seeking a stay on demonetization, had alleged that the sudden decision created chaos and harassment to the public at large.The top court further framed questions on law after extensively hearing the matter by understanding the matter from a legal and political point of view from the Attorney General (AG) Mukul Rohatgi and by hearing the pains suffered by the common man from advocate Kapil Sibal representing the petitioners who filed the PIL.Though there is no immediate relief to the common man, the court has however started a debate on the constitutionality of passing such notifications. The bench touched upon the various issues the common man was plagued with and made observations.Withdrawal limitThe denial of right to withdraw the prescribed amount of Rs 24,000 per week despite a Reserve Bank of India (RBI) notification permitting the same was a cause of serious concern, the bench observed. Responding to complaints that banks are refusing to pay full prescribed amount on the ground of non-availability of enough volume of legal tender currency, it said the government was obliged to ensure that “its commitment made under the said notification is implemented without any exception.”Accepting the government’s claim that the old demonetized notes will be replaced by new legal tender notes in the form of Rs 500 and Rs 2000 progressively in right earnest, the court directed the authorities to fulfill their commitment, and to review the decision periodically, taking necessary corrective measures.Issue of secrecyThe top court agreed that the Centre’s call to maintain absolute secrecy before declaring Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes illegal was imperative to “unearth the black money or unaccounted money and to dry up the terror fund and defeat the attempt of circulation of large-scale counterfeit currency.”The bench accepted that to maintain secrecy, new currency notes could not be printed well in advance.District & co-op banksThe Bench accepted the Centre’s assurance that the RBI would credit the entire amount offered by the District Cooperative Banks for exchange after due verification in the form of demonetized notes, with the commensurate amount of legal tender notes.Exemption periodThe apex court hoped that the government would be “sensitive” to the needs of the common man observing that the decision to extend the exemption period to use demonetized notes at specified counters, even in case of emergency situation like hospitalization, travel by rail or air etc. was best left to the government. The Bench advised the government to take a “sympathetic” approach to the exemption of using the demonetized currency for emergencies.

Vardah turns into severe cyclone, to intensify in next 24 hours: NDMA

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The cyclonic storm Vardah turned into a severe cyclone, the National Disaster Management Authority tweeted on Saturday morning. The cyclone is currently 840 km South-SouthEast of Vishakhapatnam. The sea continued to be very rough around the Andhra coast, NDMA informed.The cyclone over southeast Bay of Bengal had moved west-northwestwards in the past six hours with a speed of 17 kmph. The system is very likely to move west-northwestwards and intensify further during next 24 hours, the NDMA said.”The cyclonic storm is very likely to maintain its peak intensity up to evening of December 11, 2016,” NDMA said.A fleet of seven ships and six helicopters on Friday evacuated 2,376 tourists, including several foreign nationals, stranded in two islands of the Andamans due to cyclonic weather since December 5. As the weather cleared in the morning, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and Union Territory (UT) administration started a joint evacuation drive and brought back all stranded tourists to Port Blair from Havelock and Neil islands of the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago. The tourists were stranded since Monday due to torrential rains, choppy seas and heavy winds as neither aircrafts nor ships could operate due to the inclement weather.As NASA’s Aqua satellite passed over the Bay of Bengal, Tropical Cyclone 05B was renamed Vardah and continued moving away from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.On December 8, 2:50 a.m. EST (0750 UTC), the Moderate Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument aboard NASA’s Terra satellite captured a visible image of Tropical Storm Vardah. The MODIS image clearly showed that the center of the storm was just southwest of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Thick bands of thunderstorms in the north and east of center continued to blanket the islands and bring rainfall and gusty winds.The Andaman Islands are an archipelago that consists of 550 islands, according to Andaman and Nicobar Tourism. There are 22 Nicobar Islands. All of the islands are known for white-sand beaches, mangroves and tropical rainforests.At 10 am EST (1500 UTC) on the same day, Tropical Storm Vardah’s maximum sustained winds were near 52 mph (45 knots/83 kph). It was centered near 11.7 degrees north latitude and 91.6 degrees east longitude, about 642 nautical miles south of Chittagong, Bangladesh. Vardah was moving to the northwest at 4.6 mph (4 knots/7.4 kph).The Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) noted “Animated enhanced infrared satellite imagery shows a recent resurgence in central convection (developing thunderstorms) building over the consolidated low level circulation center. A microwave image continues to show fragmented thunderstorm banding wrapping around the northern periphery with dry air located to the south.” Vardah is forecast to move west-northwest and head across the Bay of Bengal toward eastern India. The storm is expected to intensify to hurricane-force before landfall in India. With ANI/PTI inputs.

Dense fog in Delhi to get worse by this week: MET

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Fog continued to affect the national Capital on Tuesday, as a thick layer of smog—a dangerous mix of moisture and pollutants—affected visibility and raised pollution levels. MET officials said that the coming week is going to witness ‘moderate to dense fog’ with further lowering of temperature.””From Wednesday, thick fog will cover Delhi, parts of east Haryana and the whole of UP. This is because of a system building in the Bay of Bengal changing the wind pattern over the Northern regions. The dense fog cover mixed with moisture in the winds will not allow the pollutants to dispense in the air. This is a dangerous mix, as the smog witnessed post-Diwali was still dry but in the present case it will have the moisture of the fog making the air sticky and heavy,” said R Vishen, scientist in-charge, Regional Meteorological Centre (RMC), IMD.Officials at the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) sad that the coming days will see air quality deteriorating from the already ‘severe’ levels of air pollution recorded at four of the six monitoring stations on Tuesday evening. Officials said that temperatures are also likely to dip between this period by one to two degrees though the minimum temperature is not likely to see any change.”Lowering of temperature will mean there will be less sunshine not allowing the air pollutants to be lifted away,” added Vishen.The PM 2.5 levels (fine particles that can lodge deeply into the lungs) at these stations hung between 401 mg per cubic meters to 500 mg per cubic meters — four to eight times higher than the prescribed standards (60 mg per cubic meters).Doctors said that the prevailing smog is extremely hazardous for those having a history of respiratory illness and, in particular, for children and heart patients are advised to take special care.”This transition phase has a large number of health hazards. The situation is expected to aggravate in next few days with the drop in mercury levels. Large numbers of cases of heart attacks are reported during this period,” said Dr SP Byotra, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.According to MET officials, the visibility will reduce to less than 500 meters in the coming week. On Tuesday morning, visibility was recorded at 800 meters. Transportwise, the fog affected the air, road, and rail traffic with several flights being delayed and 54 north-bound trains running behind schedule.Environment experts said the ’emergency measures’ announced by the Delhi government on November 6 and the ‘graded response action plan’ submitted by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to the apex court on December 2, to combat air pollution, needed to be ‘stringently enforced’.”The plan to deal with different levels of pollution submitted in the Supreme Court on Friday now makes the neighbouring states (contributing majorly to the city’s pollution) legally bound to take action on the measures recommended to them. The plan has to be strictly enforced, to bring down pollution levels,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, Research and Advocacy & head of the air pollution and clean transportation programme, Centre for Science and Environment.Meanwhile, airport authorities also announced measures for dealing with fog today. The IGI airport has installed 18 Runway Visibility Range (RVR) equipment which will help flights land even in zero visibility. The real-time information will be given to the Air Traffic Controller, who will inform the airlines coming to Delhi so that they can schedule their landing.Commenting on the move, Delhi India Airport Ltd (DIAL) CEO, I Prabhakara Rao said: “Delhi Airport is capable of handling flight arrivals with Runway Visibility Range of up to 50 M. We aim to reduce delays and congestion due to fog, by devising a plan that would ensure smooth flow of flight information, on an almost real time basis, to the passengers.”

Demonetisation day 23: Cash shortage noted on payday as angry customers queue up again

Reeling under shortage of currency stock, banks across the country have resorted to rationing of cash in order to handle the huge payday rush at branches. Although claims were made by various banks that adequate arrangement would be in place to tide over the cash crisis on payday, branches are seen rationing cash depending on their currency stock position.

Some banks are disbursing only Rs 5,000 per person while those having better cash availability are offering Rs 10,000 or Rs 12,000 per withdrawal. Making matters worse, a large number of ATMs are still dry despite recalibration of nearly 80 percent of ATMs, while people are struggling with the problem of change as the operational ones dispense mostly high denomination Rs 2,000 notes.

The news updates of day 23 show how people across India queued up in large numbers outside banks and ATMs to withdraw cash from their first salary received after the 8 November demonetisation.

People wait for cash in Delhi

Long queues were witnessed outside most banks and functioning ATMs across the capital, residents said. At Lakshmi Nagar in east Delhi, hundreds queued up outside the only three ATMs that were dispensing cash. In Dilshad Garden, also in east Delhi, most ATMs were dry. There was a huge rush outside five banks in the locality. At an ATM in Khirki extension in south Delhi, people queued up outside banks much before they opened. “I have to pay my landlord, maid, newspaper guy and many others. I am not sure I will get cash as this ATM works only for an hour after it is refilled,” Nandini Gupta, a call centre employee waiting outside a Khirki extension ATM, said.

The scene was no different outside the ATMs in Connaught Place in the heart of the city. A resident of Noida near Delhi, Shiv Kumar, even queued up outside the ICICI Bank in Sector 18 hours before it opened.

Long queues at banks in Kolkata

Young working professionals to pensioners, a large number of people queued up at banks long before the start of banking operations on Thursday morning, the first payday after demonetisation.

A number of ATMs in Kolkata — in the city and suburbs — displayed “No Cash” notice while the functional ones mostly dispensed Rs 2,000 notes. Queues at banks in the city were relatively longer as many people wished to withdraw the maximum amount permitted to avoid a cash crunch over the next few days.

Representational images. PTI

Representational images. PTI

Cash shortage in Telangana, Andhra

The queues turned longer as people lined up as early as at 6 am at banks to draw the money to meet their financial commitments on the first day of the month. Employees of private firms including IT companies, pensioners, housewives, traders, students and daily wage earners all had the same complaint — low cash or no cash in banks.

Majority of the banks allowed customers to draw only Rs 4,000 to Rs 6,000. The situation was worse at ATMs, with almost all of them closed. A few, which opened in Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Visakhapatnam, Tirupati and other major towns, soon went dry. The new Rs 500 note is yet to reach the banks in the two states.

The Telangana government has asked nationalised banks to open special counters for employees and pensioners to pay cash. It also directed them to work extra hours to meet the demand.

Salary Day in Kerala

State Finance Minister Thomas Issac had said there was no issue as far as the government was considered in paying the one million-plus people their salaries and pensions. He had expected Rs 1,000 crore to arrive at the state treasury on Thursday, while the banks were also expected to get around Rs 1,200 crore.

However, serpentine queues were seen in front of state treasuries and banks (ATMs saw less of a crowd) across Kerala on Thursday. With ATMs having a ceiling of Rs 2,500, the withdrawal limit in treasuries and banks has been fixed at Rs 24,000 a week, and hence, there was less of a rush at ATMs. In Kerala’s commercial capital Kochi, the scene was much the same with people — mostly pensioners — queuing up before the treasuries and banks.

As a matter of abundant caution, additional police force was deployed in front of several banks and treasuries across the state.

No mayhem in Tripura

The crowds at banks and ATMs in Tripura on Thursday, the first salary day after demonetisation, was not as massive as feared by many. In Mizoram, the first consignment of new Rs 500 currency notes along with Rs 100 notes arrived two days back, easing the cash crunch somewhat.

Bank officials in Agartala said a large number of employees withdrew some money in advance from their accounts fearing a huge rush on the first of December. However, the cash crunch continues to be serious in semi-urban, remote and rural areas of Northeast India where most banks do not have adequate currency or where ATMs lack notes of various denomination.

With inputs from agencies

First Published On : Dec 1, 2016 15:34 IST

Pay day cash crunch: Painful queues, chaos return and it’s just the beginning

Queues returned to banks and ATMs on Wednesday as people rushed to withdraw cash after monthly salaries got credited in their bank accounts — the first since the high value currency was scrapped — signalling more pain as the crowd is likely to get bigger in from today (1 December).

A PTI report said queues at most of the ATMs and banks across the city on Wednesday were shorter than expected though there were complaints that cash dispensing machines were either dry or shut and customers could not draw the maximum permissible amount.

Most private companies in India credit salaries to their employees on the last day of a month even as labour laws allow wages to be disbursed on any day before the 10th of the next month.

PTIPTI

PTI

As soon as the salaries were credited, millions of employees began queuing up outside banks and ATMs across the country to withdraw cash to meet their monthly needs and pay their domestic helps, drivers and clear their monthly grocery and other bills.

Since the supply of notes from currency chests has failed to keep pace with the demand for cash after 86 percent of currency in circulation was declared illegal on 8 November, the chaos worsened on the payday as more households needed cash than earlier.

People were seen in bigger numbers waiting to withdraw money. Many were annoyed by the rush and the arbitrary withdrawal limits set by banks. And the situation could get worse in the coming days as more number of people will receive salaries.

What are the customers saying?

“I have to pay my maid and grocery bills in cash. I somehow managed to convince my landlord to accept the rent in cheque but I am bound to visit the bank for other payments,” said Vishakha Sharma from west Delhi.

The 27-year-old waited outside a bank for two hours. “It is so humiliating that we have to stand in long queues and beg for our own money.”

An MNC employee, Yogesh Yadav, said he had come to withdraw Rs 24,000 from his bank account but was given only Rs 10,000. “It’s the end of the month and I am supposed to pay bills. How will I manage?” Yadav asked.

A resident of Krishna Nagar in Delhi, Rahul Chauhan got his salary credited on Tuesday but could not withdraw even after standing in a queue at 3 a.m. on Wednesday.

“By the time my chance to enter the bank came, it ran out of cash.”

The case was not different in other parts of the country.

In Kolkata, in apprehension of a mad rush, people started queuing up outside banks and ATMs since morning.

“I am in the queue since 8.30 a.m.,” said Sougata Mitra, an employee of a private firm outside a Bank of India branch in central Kolkata.

It was 10.45 a.m. when IANS caught up with Mitra, and already 50-60 customers had lined up.

The first salary day after demonetization proved haranguing for the maximum city Mumbai where most ATMs ran dry. Desperate men and women drove from one place to another, halting wherever they saw an ATM alive, albeit with long queues.

Though many Mumbaikars have shifted to making certain payments online or by debit/credit cards, there are many bills which need to be paid in cash. Many feared that the situation could worsen on Thursday.

“Everything has come to a standstill. Worse, many online payments systems are jammed due to the sudden heavy traffic and payments are pending,” fumed a pharmaceutical consultant P. Venkataraman from Kandivali, a Mumbai suburb.

“I managed to get only Rs 4,000 this morning against the withdrawl limit of Rs 24,000 as I was told that there was hardly any cash supply to the banks in the last few days. I will have to wait and try my luck later in the day,” a South Mumbai resident has been quoted in a PTI report.

What are the banks saying?

Several banks ran out of cash within hours of opening on Wednesday. Some bank officials complained that they were getting cash much below what they need.

Various media reports put the cash situation at banks at about one-fifth of the demand. A report in The Times of India cites a bank official as saying that his branch received 15-20 percent of the required amount. Due to this, bankers were rationing withdrawals so that more customers were catered to.

“RBI is currently supplying cash based on a variety of calculations including how much a bank branch got the previous day. That will continue. We will continue to ration cash,” one banker has been quoted as saying in a report in The Economic Times.

However, bankers are not ready to be quoted and remain unnamed in the reports, probably for the fear of attracting the government’s wrath. Those who were named said the situation is all fine.

When asked about the cash crunch situation, Central Bank Executive Director R C Lodha told PTI, “We have made adequate arrangements to meet the higher demand for cash as salaries would be credited into customers account (as the month turns). In our bank there would be no shortage of cash.”

“At SBI we have enough currency supply. At some pockets there was shortage, but there also funds are being made available,” State Bank of India’s deputy managing director Manju Agarwal has also been quoted as saying in another PTI report.

It is to be noted that Indian Banks’ Association, the body of the bank management, has not come out with any statement regarding the demonetisation yet.

However, unnamed bank managers are painting a grim picture of the situation. They say the bank branches are not getting enough Rs 500 and Rs 100 notes to cater to the customers. Since these smaller denominations are in short supply, Rs 2,000 that are available now is not in demand since customers find it difficult get change.

A PTI report said nearly 70 percent of ATMs are now recalibrated, but they do not have cash. While people are struggling with the problem of change as the operational ones dispense mostly high denomination Rs 2,000 notes.

The rationing and short supply of smaller denomination notes are adding to the distress of the customers who are waiting in the queues for long time.

Many banks have made ‘SOS calls’ to the Reserve Bank for additional cash for the first few days of December to meet the initial rush of people, already fatigued standing in unending queues.

According to reports, they have started seeking security deployment at branches to manage the angry crowd.

Many banks are contemplating to set up additional counters for withdrawal to meet the rush.

What is the RBI and government saying?

Reports say they are taking steps to improve the situation. A report in The Times of India citing sources said the four printing presses that produce currency notes are now working in three shifts against the earlier two shifts. The aim to is increase the supply of Rs 500 and Rs 100 notes.

It further says citing sources that the RBI has increased the cash supply to banks by four times and the situation will be better today (Thursday).

However, there has not been any official update on the evolving situation from neither the RBI nor the finance ministry in the last two-three days.

Given the lack of information from the authorities, customers are likely to hoard cash anticipating further tightening. And if they do it will just put further pressure on the cash situation. The blame squarely rests on the government and the RBI.

What lies ahead?

As of now, expect more uncertainty and chaos. Even if the government and the RBI have put pressure to produce more Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, this is unlikely to ease the crunch easily. A government official has told the PTI that that there is a lag of 21 days for printed notes to reach markets.

The PTI report notes that 1 December, today, is the pay day and banks are gearing up to face a huge rush as people. The queues at branches across the country are likely to get lengthier.

What has made matter worse is the fact that a large number of ATMs are still dry even 23 days after the government scrapped Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.

And with pay day just dawning, it seems to be the beginning of the pain.

With IANS and PTI

First Published On : Dec 1, 2016 08:46 IST

Raveheart

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Aplace where powerful thumping bassline is accompanied by a cacophony of treble riffs, and the strange rhythmic beats that seduce your ears from underneath the apple trees is an ideal place for those seeking ‘inner peace’. This is a place which, as you go deeper into the forests, shows you the picture perfect range of snow-capped mountains in the background, and lush green flora-fauna in the surroundings. This is Himachal Pradesh—where the easy availability of the best quality charas has made it a favourite among revelers from around the world; a place chosen by some to get lost (and find themselves all over again).Not all who wander are lost“Follow the music! A brisk trek and maybe a few blocks down, you’ll start seeing these ravers—the party freaks—with their tents parked everywhere and their clothes off. They are easy to spot!”, said a local who grinned at me while conjuring the way to reach the rave haven.Many of the ‘adventure’ seekers come here to forget their worries, to get lost in nature. The North-Indian states, closely guarded by the Himalayas, provide a perfect landing spot for such escapades. Himachal Pradesh—a place bringing nature, music, drugs, and the revelers together—is slowly becoming one of the favorites. The current Indian generation is undergoing a social transitional phase. Locals in the area often join in and contribute by organizing parties that serve the psychedelic needs of the wandering souls. The cheap living standards and a favorable environment to grow and consume cannabis is an ideal location to stay and party for the adventure seekers.One such party was recently organised by a group of young locals and some members of a visiting Israeli group. Hallucinogens were easily available and the entire valley danced in a state of trance.We live in a strange world. The definition of freedom—the difference between what’s right and wrong is subtly dictated through age-old social conditioning. The wandering souls, seeking the unknown are often labeled as outsiders, rebels, mavericks or outcastes.What might be labeled as hedonistic drugs for some, many use it as mere mind expansion tools to seek the mystical; the unknown. Humans are psychologically wired to give meaning and derive explanations from the world around. The rave scenes offer a perfect setting for the mindful experiments. For many wanderers, getting lost in the labyrinths of their mind loops is the only possible way to unravel the treasured eternal truth.Imagine: three days and two nights of carefree-intense dancing to hypnotic-ground thumping music, the sun and the moon in beautiful alterations, the clouds overhead playing hide and seek, the beautiful hugs and the laughter, the surrounding pine trees, the occasional flow of rainfall and the ubiquitous drugs! The days are spent laughing at the previous night scenes, mingling with the new ‘like-headed’ friends and preparing for the next night. It is a common sight to find the party lovers at the local cafes rolling joints during the daytime. As night sets in, the entire valley ruptures into an ecstasy!Peace sells, but who’s selling?“The usage of charas—consumption and cultivation—is normal for the locals, mafias, and distributors. People want to compromise and thrive peacefully. But the police? The authorities? God! Live and let live!,” said one of the party visitor, distastefully summing up his insights about the ironical rave situations in the mountains.Some allege that organisers of such rave parties often seek permission from the district administration under the pretext of ‘cultural’ music and dance programs. The go-ahead comes with a warning to follow the Supreme Court’s guidelines on noise pollution, against collecting money and drug-use. But all the rules are openly flouted when the permission is granted. In many cases, the excessive indulgence comes at a cost of harming a peaceful and balanced ecosystem. A huge pile of scattered rubble, damaged flora and fauna, and erratic sound levels are some of the common remnants of such high-octane parties.However, it solely lies in the hands of the attendees to decide the fate of any party. A sensible or mature crowd rarely indulges in obscenity, rather, they take initiatives to unify with the surrounding and contribute towards a collective evolution. Our actions define the reactions we get.Many localities blame the outsiders for the evident changes in their surroundings. The Israelis are the most blamed lot. Maybe it is their practices that differ from the mainstream Indian culture or their omnipresence in several silent mountain valleys. Some parts of scenic Himachal Pradesh are virtually turning into Jewish settlements, with a large number of Israeli tourists coming in and settling here. Signboards in Hebrew are a common sight in these areas.The beliefs have, however, always been dual sided.For a major section of the local people, such events are one of the major sources of revenue. Lack of industries or companies makes tourism one of the most reliable source of income. Many bamboo-walled establishments can be seen housing popular Israeli cafes with mattresses on the ground, clean sheets and packaged and bottled goodies. Such appealing, hippie-looking cafes have become an attraction for many Indian tourists too. Collectively, these have helped sustain an entire generation of Himachali localities, who have learned to thrive on the mass tourism earnings of a few months. An empty cafe is rare during the peak season. One of the major reasons for the ongoing backlash by the government authorities is the involvement of drugs—the craze, the allure, the abuse, the bounty and the intricate business nuances. With the recent boom in social media, an irresistible imagery about the unknown, unheard-of mountain scenes has been etched in the minds of the people, drawing more crowd, who want to experience and answer the mountains’ call.Expensive proportionEven as the police deny thier existence, allegedly, the Russian and Israeli mafia have taken over cannabis cultivation here, because of the high-quality produce in these areas. The illegal durgs from Himachal Pradesh reach Goa, from where they are smuggled to other countries around the world.The foreigners have the option to rent a piece of land for as less as $100 (Rs 6,900 approximately) and cultivate high-grade charas (hash) in large volumes. This high-quality charas is then transported to different parts of the world. A tola (10 grams) of charas in India would cost around $30 (Rs 2,100 approximately) whereas, in Amsterdam—also a dry haven for Europe—the same quantity can easily earn up to $80 (Rs 5,500 approximately). Not only are the drugs cheap, but accommodation in remote villages of these Himalayan valleys is also easy on the pocket. A basement of a villager’s house can be rented at as little as Rs 500-Rs 1,000 a month. Since the foreigners prefer such kind of accommodation, it becomes difficult for the police to track them down. Hence, such towns become the ideal locations for rave parties.Records of Israeli, Russian, Italian, Japanese and Nigerian tourists show that many of them first reach Goa and then plan their trip to Delhi, Manali, and Dharamsala. Most of the foreigners staying in these towns often arrive on a multiple-entry tourist visa which allows them to stay in India for a certain time period at a strecth. Upon expiry of the stay, the tourists travel to the neighbouring countries (preferably Nepal), spend a week or two there and re-enter India with a renewed stay period. This network of drug peddlers has ensured stringent narcotic laws and task forces to fight the never-ending war on drugs.The lureWhat would be better than experiencing the charas induced trance in a lush green forest without having to deal with the dreaded Indian summer? The cheap and high-quality cannabis continues to hold an enduring appeal for foreigners.Some would argue about an invasion of personal space and right to experience and experiment with one’s mind. The current laws are going to prevail as long as a socio-economic factor is involved in this alluring business. Elaborate chains of drug smuggle are always going to sneak up right under the nose of narcotic authorities. People are always going to find an alternative for such elusive experiences. A vicious loop indeed.As an Israeli youth sitting outside one of these cafes summed up a conversation in his coarse voice. “After all, each of the outcomes, our future, the planet’s destiny—depends on the choices WE make—on the sides WE choose!” A dense cloud of smoke from his long chillum hit, slowly clear to reveal the words ‘RAVEHEART’ imprinted across the center of his T-shirt.

Heavily penalise those violating construction norms: LG Najeeb Jung

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Lt Governor Najeeb Jung on Friday flagged garbage-burning and violation of construction norms as “serious” component of air pollution in the national capital, and directed the authorities to stop the work and “heavily penalise” the offenders.The Lt Governor also formed a committee of the three municipal commissioners to work out a comprehensive plan for cleanliness and check unauthorised construction going on in the city and directed that a report be submitted to him by December 2.Jung held a third review meeting to discuss the condition of air pollution, wherein he was apprised that PM 2.5 level and PM 10 level have come down by 1/4th and 1/3rd respectively from November 15 to 24. The meeting was attended by Delhi PWD Minister Satyendar Jain, Environment Minister Imran Hussain and officials of other departments concerned.He directed the MCDs and Delhi Police to ensure that Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) guidelines are followed where construction is on and violators are strictly dealt with and penalized. “Those failing to pay challan should be heavily penalised and the work should be stopped by agencies concerned,” Jung said.DPCC was asked to share the database of construction sites with the agencies concerned so that those can be monitored. All the three Municipal commissioners were told to hold meetings on air pollution every month and work out a plan to regulate entry of construction material in their areas.In the meeting, CSE director general Sunita Narain said there is no evidence to suggest that construction sites are the primary cause of pollution in Delhi. “Narain made the comment in the context of NGT’s recent observations of a possible ban on construction. Someone in the meeting said construction is behind one-third of pollution in Delhi. “She said it is not true and the focus should be on dust control measures, as these may also emanate from combustion,” Anumita Roychowdhury of CSE , who was also present in the meeting, said. Commissioner of south MCD informed that 1,305 challans have been issued for burning of dry leaves, garbage, while 853 challans have been issued for violation of construction and demolition norms. Five buildings have been sealed for dust pollution and 11 diesel generator sets impounded.DPCC informed that it has closed 32 Units of polluting factories in industrial areas and 163 in redevelopment areas. PWD secretary informed that eight out of 17 U-turns have been made operational at Delhi borders to prevent non destined vehicles from entering Delhi.Special CP (Traffic) said from November 7 to 24, as many as 27,798 vehicles have been checked at Delhi borders, out of which 6,051 have been turned back. Advisories have been issued to neighbouring states to prevent such vehicles from entering Delhi.4,464 vehicles have been challaned for not carrying Pollution Under Control Certificates and diesel vehicles, which are more than 15 years old, have been impounded. The Lt Governor directed the Transport Department to examine and suitably amend the Motor Vehicles Act for destruction of impounded vehicles. In the meeting, Jain submitted that traffic police must ensure that the trucks drive in the left lane alone and their entry into the city, as per the Lt. Governor’s directions, should be only after midnight.

Will stop every drop going waste in Pak and give to Indian farmers: PM Modi on Indus Water Treaty

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the waters of Sutlej, Beas and Ravi rivers that rightfully belong to India will be stopped from going waste in Pakistan and he will ensure that farmers here utilise it. “Indus Water Treaty- Sutlej, Beas, Ravi – the waters in these rivers belong to India and our farmers. It is not being used in the fields of Pakistan but flowing into the sea through Pakistan. “Now every drop of this water will be stopped and I will give that to farmers of Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir and Indian farmers.I am committed to this,” he said addressing a rally. He said a task force has been constituted to ensure that “each drop of water” that flows out of Sutlej, Beas and Ravi reaches Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir. “There is no reason that we cannot use our rights (over our waters) and let our farmers suffer,” he said, adding, “I need your blessings in order to fulfill your requirements for watering your fields.” The solution for the problems of water could be found out through common dialogue, he said. Criticising the previous governments at the Centre, Modi said, “Waters kept flowing to Pakistan, but successive governments kept sleeping on this issue and my farmer kept crying for the want of water.” “If Punjab farmers get sufficient amount of water, they could produce ‘gold’ from the soil and could fill the coffers of the country,” he said. “Our government is committed to work in tandem with the Badal government in Punjab to get farmers their rights and address their concerns,” he said. All you need to know about the Indus Water TreatyThe Indus Water Treaty (IWT) is a water sharing arrangement, signed in Karachi on September 19, 1960, by then Prime Minster Jawaharlal Nehru and Pakistan’s President General Ayub Khan. The World Bank (the erstwhile international bank for reconstruction and development) brokered the treaty and is also a party to it.The Indus system of rivers comprises three western rivers which includes the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab and three eastern rivers — the Sutlej, Beas and Ravi.What does the treaty grant India and Pakistan?Under the treaty, India has exclusive rights on the eastern rivers and their tributaries while Pakistan has exclusive rights on the western rivers. Pakistan also received a one-time financial compensation for the loss of water from the eastern rivers and to build a new canal system.The waters of the Indus basin begin in the Himalayan mountains in the region under China. The river flows from the hills through the arid and dry states of Punjab and Sindh, converging in Pakistan, and empties out in the Arabian Sea, south of Karachi.History of the TreatyDuring the first years of Partition, the water of the Indus was apportioned by the Inter-Dominion Accord of May 5, 1948 between India and Pakistan which required India to release sufficient waters to the Pakistani regions of the basin in return for annual payments from Pakistan. The accord was, however, meant to fulfil Pakistan’s immediate requirements and was to be followed by negotiations for a more permanent solution. Thereafter, though there was a stalemate. Read more… With inputs from PTI

Pakistan’s PIA considers Boeing, Airbus jets for fleet upgrade | Reuters

By Alexander Cornwell
| DUBAI

DUBAI Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is evaluating an order for wide-body Airbus (AIR.PA) and Boeing (BA.N) jets as it looks to upgrade its ageing fleet, an executive for the state-owned airline said on Tuesday.”Boeing 777X would be a good option,” the airline’s executive director of human resources and works, Raheel Ahmed, told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in Dubai, adding that PIA is also looking at the Airbus A330 and A350 models.PIA would consider purchasing the aircraft directly from the manufacturer and financing the order through a sale and leaseback arrangement, when an airline sells a jet to a lessor who then leases it back. It would also consider a direct leasing agreement, known as a dry lease.Ahmed did not say when PIA would order the jets or how many it could buy. It has a fleet of 38 narrow-body and wide-body Airbus and Boeing jets, with three A310s to be retired on Dec. 31, he added.

Ahmed also said PIA would cut its 18,000 workforce by between 3,000 and 3,500 employees by the end of 2017 as the Pakistan government looks to turn around the loss-making airline and sell-off a 49 percent stake.However, PIA later said Ahmed’s figures were incorrect, and no decision had as yet been taken on how many jobs would be cut or over what timeframe.

A meeting between Pakistan’s Privatization Commission and PIA top management was also held on Tuesday, “to determine the best suitable restructuring model to make PIA into a viable entity,” a senior government official who attended the meeting told Reuters. The official said restructuring would be done in two phases, carving out non-essential units within three to six months “to attain a clean balance sheet,” followed by the gradual carving out of other business units.

The airline would spin-off four “special business units” from January 2017, starting with its catering business and later its flight training, engineering and courier businesses.The units are planned to operate independently of PIA with their own general managers and marketing teams. PIA would later look to sell a stake in the units if they are profitable. (Additional reporting by Mehreen Zahra-Malik in Islamabad; Editing by Mark Potter and Alexander Smith)

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

First Published On : Nov 22, 2016 23:21 IST

Kolkata’s money lending ‘Kabuliwalas’ struggle to cope after demonetization

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Kabuliwalas in West Bengal have traditionally played the role of money lenders in the community, giving out small loans in times of crisis. However, they themselves are in crisis these days.In the 19th century, these Afghan migrants popularly known as ‘Kabuliwalas’, came to the eastern Indian city of Kolkata from Pashtunistan, the modern day Afghanistan-Pakistan, in search of greener pastures. They would go from from door to door selling attar (perfume), dry fruits, spices and fabrics procured from Afghanistan. Over the years, they became money lenders and would charge high interest rates. Still, Bengalis have a special place in their hearts for them because of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s endearing 1892 story about the friendship between a Kabuliwala and a five-year-old girl Mini. This story comes alive every time someone calls out, ‘Kabuliwala’ in the bylanes of the city. It might be a foreign land for him, but Nidim Khan, a third-generation Afghan money lender, says he feels at home in Kolkata. He, and several other Kabuliwalas have settled in the northern part of Kolkata and their building is famously known as the ‘Khan Kothi’. With minimal furniture and a beautiful carpet brought from Afghanistan, the house is neat and tidy. Nidim, a 28-year-old Afghan, who was born in Kabul, moved to Kolkata with his father a decade ago. Since then, he has been assisting his father in the business of money lending. But following the demonetization, he says they are trapped in a situation where they cannot recover the money they had lent or give out more money as loans to people. “We are not being able to recover the money as the people who had borrowed from us are repaying in old currency notes, which we cannot accept. People do not have enough Rs 100 notes or the new Rs 2,000 notes,” says Nidim adding, “They are asking for more time to repay their loan. On the other hand, we do not have new currency notes to give away as loans.”The Kabuliwalas do not hold bank accounts, which prevents them from exchanging old currency notes with them. “Since we are not Indian citizens, we do not hold any bank accounts. The currency notes in our possession are of no use to us as we cannot exchange them. We do not deal in bonds and agreements. Our business thrives on just promise and trust,” says Nidim’s father, Afroz who has been in the business of money lending for the past two decades in Kolkata. “While our income has dropped in the last few years, we have also had to reduce our interest rates from 10% to 5-6% flat. While we have been struggling with bad debts due to non-payment, the demonetization has hit our business harder,” added Afroz.

Mercury at sub-zero levels in Kashmir, Kargil is coldest

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Most places in Kashmir continued to reel under intense cold with the night temperature staying below the freezing point, while Kargil town in Ladakh region registered the season’s coldest night at minus 9.2 degrees Celsius. Srinagar recorded a low of minus 2.5 degrees Celsius – four degrees below normal during this part of the season, an official of the Meteorological Department here said, adding it was, however, a slight improvement from yesterday’s minus 2.7 degrees Celsius. Kargil was the coldest recorded place in Jammu and Kashmir as it witnessed the lowest night temperature of the season so far, the official said. The Leh town nearby also shivered at minus 8.4 degrees Celsius as the cold wave has hit the region owing to a prolonged dry spell.The minimum in Kupwara, in north Kashmir, also rose from minus 2.7 degrees Celsius yesterday to settle at minus 2.3 degrees Celsius, while Kokernag town in south was the only recorded place in the Valley where the night temperature remained above freezing point at 0.5 degree Celsius. The official said the hill resort of Pahalgam in south Kashmir recorded the minimum of minus 4.2 degrees Celsius, making it the coldest place in the Valley.The famous ski-resort of Gulmarg in north Kashmir registered the low of minus 0.4 degrees Celsius against yesterday’s minus 0.6 degrees Celsius, he said.The minimum temperature in the south Kashmir town of Qazigund was minus 2.2 degrees Celsius – same as that of the previous night. The official forecast mainly dry weather till November 20 but predicted light rainfall the next day.

Demonetization | Don’t use indelible ink in banks: Election Commission writes to Finance Ministry

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Election Commission of India on Friday asked the Finance Ministry not to use indelible ink in banks as it will create confusion in the state polls, reported ANI.Grappling with unending queues and frayed tempers in banks and to check operation of syndicates, government on Tuesday decided to introduce a system of marking customers exchanging defunct currency notes with indelible ink while monitoring suspicious deposits in Jan Dhan accounts. To stop repeat money exchangers thronging banks with invalid currency notes, banks have started applying indelible ink mark on the right hand index finger of customers in the select metro cities. SBI and few other banks in Delhi have started using indelible ink.According to SOP released by the RBI, indelible ink can be applied by the cashier or any other official designated by the bank before the notes are given to the customer so that while the exchange of notes is taking place, a few seconds elapse which will allow the ink to dry up and prevent removal of ink. Congress has accused the government of “branding” people through its “fascist act” of inking those exchanging demonetised currency notes even as it charged Prime Minister Narendra Modi with “disrespecting” Parliament by not hearing out concerns raised by members on demonetization.

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

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

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Demonetisation day eight: ATMs run dry, exchange limit lowered to Rs 2,000

In the evening of 8 November, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address to the nation, announced that Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 will no longer be legal tenders. He explained that the decision to demonetise high-value currency notes was taken to flush out black money and end corruption. Thus started the mad scramble for cash.

The move was supposed to give sleepless nights to black money hoarders, but ended up in serpentine queues outside banks and ATMs with anxious citizens putting their lives on hold to exchange old currency notes or simply to withdraw money from ATMs.

It’s been over a week since the demonetisation move came into place and the situation is far from normal. Banks are struggling to meet the demands, ATMs are running dry and there is mounting frustration and panic among people.

The government on Wednesday said it will take one more week to recalibrate half of the two lakh ATMs to dispense the new 500 and 2,000 rupee notes and the printing of new Rs 500 notes has been stepped up. Earlier in the week, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said that it will take up to three weeks for all two lakh ATMs in the country to be recalibrated.

People outside a bank in Gurugram. File photo. PTI

People outside a bank in Gurugram. File photo. PTI

Currently, the ATM withdrawal limit from savings bank accounts stands at Rs 2,500 a day, but some ATMs are dispensing only Rs 2,000 notes or Rs 100.

To identify people who have already exchanged money and reduce the chaos at banks and ATMs, banks were directed to start applying indelible ink mark on the right hand index finger of customers in select metro cities. As per the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for exchanging notes, concerned bank branches and post offices would put indelible ink mark on the right index finger of the customer so as to identify that he/she has exchanged the old currency notes once. However, many banks reported shortage or non-availability of ink, which did not make any difference in improving the situation.

On Wednesday, a cash-carrying van was attacked in Assam, killing the driver and three more people. Seventy-year-old Digambar Mariba Kasbe, who was standing in a queue outside a branch of SBI at Tuppain in Maharashtra’s Nanded district, collapsed and died, police said.

A 54-year-old bank employee died after he collapsed in a bank branch in Pune during office hours on Wednesday, officials said. According to the latest report, the death toll due to demonetisation now stands at 47.

Modi, at a public meeting in Goa, made a passionate appeal. “My dear countrymen, I have left my home, my family, everything for the nation. Some do it out of pressure. A large number of my countrymen want to be honest. I gave them chance to declare unaccounted money.” The government came under fire by the Opposition on the first day of Parliament Winter Session. The move was termed “ill-timed” and “ill-conceived”. While Congress’ Anand Sharma termed it “insensitive”, CPM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury took a dig at Modi had said, “It reminds me of Marie Antoinette who during the French Revolution said if they [people] don’t find bread, why don’t they eat cakes. Now, we have Modi Antoinette who says: ‘If you don’t have paper, use plastic’.”

Meanwhile, Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das on Thursday, announced a slew of measures to help tide over the cash crunch. The Government lowered the exchange limit for now-defunct Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes to Rs 2,000 from the existing cap of Rs 4,500, effective Friday.

Among other measures, it has allowed up to Rs 2.5 lakh cash withdrawal from bank account of a bride or groom or their parents for a marriage during the ongoing wedding season. Farmers will be permitted to withdraw up to Rs 25,000 per week and registered agri-traders Rs 50,00 per week from their bank accounts.

“Crop loans are sanctioned by various bank to farmers. The government has allowed Rs 25,000 per week for farmers to draw in cash, subject to the limit of which crops they are sowing. This cash can also be taken from their Kisan credit card,” Das said.

Another concession is for farmers who sell their produce through the various Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees.

(With inputs from agencies)

First Published On : Nov 17, 2016 12:41 IST

Demonetisation: Two numbers show how currency ban treats India’s rich and poor

In the chaotic days after the surprise announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, two figures have caught public attention nationwide (at least at this stage). The first is 47 and the second 550.

What are these numbers?

Well, 47 is the latest count of reported deaths across India that have been linked to the demonetisation chaos — mostly, it was elderly people died waiting in the queues to draw money from their own bank accounts, or to exchange their own old Rs 500, Rs 1,000 notes. The actual death count may be higher or lower since there is no accurate estimate other than media reports.

The second number, 550, refers to the fancy figure of Rs 550 crore.

That’s the amount Karnataka-based politician and mining baron, G Janardhana Reddy, spent to arrange the wedding spectacle for his only daughter, Bramhani, on Wednesday — a wedding attended by politicians from both the BJP and the Congress. Reddy recreated a palace to surprise his daughter.

There aren’t any examples better than these two numbers to depict how the rich and poor in this society have been treated by Modi’s historic demonetisation exercise. Those 47 who died from exhaustion and trauma in long queues and the Reddy wedding are two ends of this society in which we live. These figures tell us how the ‘rich and the powerful’ couldn’t care less about the cash crunch and how it is the common man, the janata janardhan, who is the actual sacrificial goat.

File image of G Janardhana Reddy. PTI

File image of G Janardhana Reddy. PTI

Reddy is only a symbol of a club of the rich and politically-powerful in this country, who are immune to the general rules that apply to the janata in this country. This club never bothered about Modi’s currency ban.

The Reddy show

How did Reddy manage Rs 550 crore for his daughter’s marriage extravaganza? If this entire sum was plastic currency or electronic currency, Reddy holds the answer to how to turn India’s deeply-locked cash economy into a cashless one in a matter of days — he should be made the Union finance minister or Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor, as the incumbents in these positions are struggling to achieve this goal.

Or else, even if a fifth of the money Reddy spent was in cash and if we assume that all of these aren’t Rs 100, Rs 50 and Rs 10 notes that Reddy had stored in his secret chamber before the currency ban, then the following question arises: How did Reddy manage to get new currency (to the tune of Rs 100 crore or more when common man is forced to  stand in queues for hours before so much as a glimpse of new currency notes or even the old Rs 100 note?

Did some banker or a childhood friend in the government help Reddy to get what was required to pay for the Rs 550-crore wedding gala?

The answer should come from the Income Tax Department, the police, the financial intelligence unit and ultimately, the Narendra Modi government. And it isn’t limited only to Reddy; all similar cases should be identified and investigated. The guilty should be brought before the law of the land.

It’s true that Reddy is known for the abundance of his wealth. He has every right to conduct the wedding ceremony in whichever way he wants. Nobody has any right to sneak into an individual’s private life and then analyse his personal affairs. But the current scenario warrants a closer look.

All of us — the salaried, the small traders, the vegetable vendors, the safaiwallahs, the chaiwallahs, the school teachers, the bank clerks and the taxiwallahs — have money in our bank accounts, although the figures may not be even a fraction of Reddy’s fortune.

But, logic says that the difficulties that apply to the common man should apply to Reddy as well, if the rules are same for every citizen. Right?

If that is the case, we need the government to tell us how the ‘pain of child birth’ is so different for two ends of society? Yes, all of us are eagerly waiting to see the baby and still curious to know why the double standard?

What the two figures — 47 and 550 — tell us is that the ones who are supposed to be taken care by the political establishment — the aam aadmi — are left to die near ATMs and bank branches, while life is much the same as before for the highly privileged in society.

The Reddy wedding is a case that needs to be investigated thoroughly. But, the big irony is the failure of the Modi government in governing the whole exercise. It’s ironic because the government itself agrees that it was planning the demonetisation exercise for some six months. That’s a lot of time to plan and make the contingency measures ready.

But, still the super-brains in the government couldn’t visualise what would happen to the order of life among the majority of common people, when the decision was finally rolled out. Perhaps they expected an ideal situation whenin every citizen practiced self-discipline and drew only the bare minimum from ATMs. But, what the government failed to understand was mob psychology.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The government should have thought through the process and realised that that people would withdraw the maximum possible amount each time (Rs 2,500 as of now in certain ATMs) and the machines would run dry in matter of hours, if not minutes. It failed to see that people will hoard their own legitimate money anticipating bad days ahead, further complicating the matter.

There are people still, mainly senior citizens, office-goers and housewives, who haven’t been able to withdraw money in the past eight days and have cut short their expenditure to the maximum extent possible, while on the other hand the wealthy like Reddy still have a magic wand to get their cash and spend it for their ‘humble’ needs.  Just to understand the picture let’s assume that a bank fills around Rs 2 lakh in an ATM at a time.

The amount Reddy spent — Rs 550 crore — would fill 27,500 ATMs across the country. While the Reddy gala took place in Karnataka, there were many fathers who committed suicide across the country, as they couldn’t buy groceries or to meet other expenses for their daughters’ weddings. The loss of lives cannot be treated as a temporary pain; the issue is very serious.

A death count of 47 or so — as is being reported — happens only when there is a natural calamity or a vehicle mishap or a bomb blast, not when a “well thought-out” economic reform gets implemented by a government. No matter the long-term benefits of the demonetisation exercise, the Modi government is answerable for the difficulties and loss of lives the common man has faced in the days since the announcement.

The two figures — 47 and 550 — should be an eye opener to Modi and his ministers.

First Published On : Nov 17, 2016 12:04 IST

India’s carbon emissions increased by over 5 % in 2015: study

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India’s carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels increased by 5.2% while China’s decreased by 0.7 % in 2015, according to new research which found that global CO2 emissions remained nearly flat for three years in a row.India contributed 6.3 % of all global CO2 emissions, with emissions increasing 5.2 %, in 2015 continuing a period of strong growth, according to researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the UK and the Global Carbon Project.Global carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels did not grow in 2015 and are projected to rise only slightly in 2016, marking three years of almost no growth, they said.The projected rise of only 0.2 % for 2016 marks a clear break from the rapid emissions growth of 2.3 % per year in the decade to 2013, with just 0.7 % growth seen in 2014.The data shows emissions growth remained below one % despite GDP growth exceeding 3 %. Decreased use of coal in China is the main reason behind the 3-year slowdown.”This third year of almost no growth in emissions is unprecedented at a time of strong economic growth,” Professor Corinne Le Quere, Director of the Tyndall Centre at UEA who led the data analysis, said.”This is a great help for tackling climate change but it is not enough. Global emissions now need to decrease rapidly, not just stop growing,” Le Quere said.China – the biggest emitter of CO2 at 29 % – saw emissions decrease by 0.7 % in 2015, compared to growth of more than 5 % per year the previous decade.A further reduction of 0.5 % is projected for 2016, though with large uncertainties, researchers said.The US, the second biggest emitter of CO2 at 15 %, also reduced its coal use while increasing its oil and gas consumption and saw emissions decrease 2.6 % last year.US emissions are projected to decrease by 1.7 % in 2016.The EU’s 28 member states are the third largest emitter causing 10 % of emissions. The EU’s CO2 emissions went up 1.4 % in 2015, in contrast with longer term decreases.Although the break in emissions rise ties in with the pledges by countries to decrease emissions until 2030, it falls short of the reductions needed to limit climate change well below 2 degrees Celsius, researchers said.”If climate negotiators in Marrakesh can build momentum for further cuts in emissions, we could be making a serious start to addressing climate change,” said Le Quere.The Global Carbon Budget analysis also shows that, in spite of a lack of growth in emissions, the growth in atmospheric CO2 concentration was a record-high in 2015, and could be a record again in 2016 due to weak carbon sinks.”Part of the CO2 emissions are absorbed by the ocean and by trees. With temperatures soaring in 2015 and 2016, less CO2 was absorbed by trees because of the hot and dry conditions related to the El Nino event,” Le Quere said.The study was published in the journal Earth System Science Data.

River loses out to pollution

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>What begins as a story of the blessing of Lord Shiva, Godavari originates from Bramhagiri mountain in Trimbaksehwar and flows through Nashik, making it a holy place of pilgrimage and the seat of Simhastha Kumbhmela. However, the modern day Godavari is much less than a river. With population around it increasing day by day, the river has not only lost its charm but is losing its life as well.It was in 2012 that once again the river was completely covered with hyacinths, disturbing its eco system. A few people stood up to raise a movement for the cause of Godavari. Godavari Gatarikaran Virodhi Manch was formed and activists approached authorities demanding that untreated sewage released in the river be stopped. With no heed paid, a public interest litigation (PIL) to save Godavari was filed by Rajesh Pandit, Nishikant Pagare and a few others in the Bombay High Court.”A criminal case about mischief with navigable river was filed under IPC section 431 against the then municipal commissioner for intentionally polluting the river upstream of Ramkund”, states Rajesh Pandit. In the hearings that proceeded, the High Court observed that the state and the citizens both were responsible. While the state has failed to protect the river, the citizens have failed to perform their fundamental duties.As part of the proceedings the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board reported that ‘the water of Godavari in Nashik is unfit for human consumption and dangerous to health’. The High Court then asked NMC to put up boards on the banks of the river stating so and give police protection to the river. “This had happened for the first time in the history of Indian rivers that any river was asked to give police protection. However, barring the kumbhmela, the compliance of this order is not met’, Pandit observes.As part of the awareness drive, students took oath for not polluting the river. Presentations on pollution free Godavari were made at different platforms. The National Environmental Engineering and Research Institute (NEERI) who was asked to conduct a survey by the court also gave a thought of Green Kumbh for 2014-15. Taking the developments seriously, the court appointed a committee for Godavari, headed by the divisional commissioner, to oversee the implementation of it’s orders.The divisional commissioner formed a committee for Green Kumbh, including all departments of the government and NGOS. The CM then announced that the Kumbhmela would be dedicated to nature. With a charged force, the huge task of cleaning the Godavari was taken up on June 5, 2014. Thousands, participated in the massive drive where even senior authorities were seen cleaning the dirt and slush. Lakhs of cloth bags were distributed to create awareness of no plastic use. “The movement was also strengthened by water man of India Rajendra Singh who helped in changing the perspective of the fight to a movement”, states Pandit.Another activist Devang Jani filed a case in the High Court demanding that the concretisation done to the Godavari in Nashik during the Kumbhmela in 2002 be removed. “It was for the first time in the history of the river that in May 2016, the Ramkund went dry due to concretisation of the river bed,” he said. With all the awareness and the legal fight that has been going on there have been some gains. These may not be sufficient measures but the fact that a movement is raised in itself is a step in the right direction.

Shiv Sena requests FM Jaitley to extend deadline for usage of demonitised notes to December 30

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Shiv Sena urged Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday to extend the deadline for using the demonetised notes for utility payments and exchange till December 30. “The party has req the @FinMinIndia to extend the deadline of use of demonitised notes for utility payments and exchange till 30th December (sic),” Yuva Sena president Aaditya Thackeray tweeted.On Friday, tapping the popular mood amid reports of inconvenience to the people after the Centre demonetised high-value currency notes, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray had described the move as “torture for people” even as he dared Prime Minister Narendra Modi to conduct a “surgical strike” on the Swiss banks to bring back black money.The prime minister had, on November 8, announced his government’s decision to demonetise Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 currency notes. Long queues were seen outside banks even on Saturday as the people jostled to exchange the demonetised currency notes across the country. They had also queued up before ATMs to procure Rs 100 and new currency notes even as some of the machines went dry soon after they were stocked up due to the huge rush.

Duao mein yaad rakhna: The best tweets about demonetization of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes

On 8th November, Modi announced demonetisation of Rs 1000 and Rs 500 notes with effect from midnight, <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>On 8th November, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced demonetisation of Rs 1000 and Rs 500 notes with effect from midnight, making these notes invalid in a major assault on black money, fake currency and corruption. In his first televised address to the nation, Modi said people holding notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 can deposit the same in their bank and post office accounts from November 10 till December 30. The announcement came as quite a shock to the political and common class with ATMs running dry and people panicking about what to do with their money.Here are some of the best tweets and memes on the incident:

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.

War on Black Money: Note ban a bolt from blue in Uttar Pradesh?

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The decision to scrap Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes has come at a time when assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh are due and parties normally keep aside a substantial amount of unaccounted funds for campaigning.Though the parties are tight-lipped on the issue, the crackdown against black money has left many high and dry as Assembly elections are barely few months away.The role that cash plays in polls can be gauged from the fact that as much as Rs 1,039 crore of the total collections by parties over the past three Lok Sabha polls 2004, 2009 and 2014 was made in cash against Rs 1,299.53 crore by cheques. Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), which had analysed the I-T returns of political parties, said they declared collecting Rs 2,356 crore during the three parliamentary elections. Of this, 44 per cent or Rs 1,039 crore was in cash and the remaining was by cheque and in kind Rs 1,300 crore by cheque and Rs 17 crore in kind.While cash donations are declared by political parties in line with the Election Commission (EC) guidelines on transparency, seizures during polls indicate that much of the campaign funding is done through black money.For instance, around Rs 330 crore was seized by the EC in cash during the last general elections in 2014. Economist S P Tiwari said the government’s overdrive to root out black money and usher in an era of transparent transactions will remain meaningless as long as it allows political parties to collect donations in cash. “Political parties and elections are major sources of black money transactions,” Tiwari told PTI.With the crucial UP Assembly elections knocking at the door, major parties in the state are already in the process of replenishing their coffers with heavy cash contributions as funding high-voltage campaigns has become a costly affair with hi-tech measures being adopted by bigger parties. Lead players in the poll-bound state are understood to be re-working their strategies on how to manage the campaign with less money with Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes becoming illegal tender in one stroke.”Though all paties will be seriously hamstrung, it is going to be a level playing field for all of us,” said a leader, requesting anonymity. An assessment based on income tax filings by parties revealed that during the Lok Sabha elections of 2004, 2009 and 2014, parties collected over Rs 1,000 crore in cash, and the sources of more than 90 per cent of such funds were never disclosed. Majority of all funds collected by parties was from unknown sources. It is not surprising therefore that most of these contributions are made in cash, said another leader.ADR said Assembly elections too see huge collection of cash donations by political parties. “Collectively, during the 71 assembly elections held between 2004 and 2015, political parties declared collecting Rs 2,108 crore in cash (63 per cent of total funds) and Rs 1,245 crore by cheque (37 per cent),” it said.

Lakshmi, the wealth trinity, and Diwali

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Ask any Hindu family about the key observance of Diwali and they will tell you that it is Lakshmi Puja. Amongst the trader communities, the Gujaratis tend to do this puja on Dhanteras while Marwaris observe it on Diwali. The objective is the same: To invite Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, who sits on her lotus and bestows prosperity.People however often forget that Lakshmi is part of a trinity though, viz Lakshmi, Saraswati, and Kali. In the world of wealth too, there exists a holy trinity, which we call the sacred trinity of Risk, Return, and Time. Te reality is that you ignore this at your own peril. If you truly wish to move up in the hierarchy of the wealthy, then it is this trinity that could possibly help you.Lakshmi, Saraswati, and Kali preach pretty much the same thing as Risk, Return and Time. In the world of finance, risk is usually measured as the degree of uncertainty in an expected outcome. Risk is the possibility of losing some, or all, of the original investment. Investing smartly is more about knowing the risks than the returns. It’s entirely your responsibility to figure out what kind of risk each investment entails, and whether you’re willing to take it on. You need to examine an investment opportunity before you take the plunge. This is also what Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge and learning, is all about.According to Hindu mythology, Lakshmi is fickle, always curious about Saraswati’s whereabouts and follows her around. Similarly, reward is inherently tied up with risk. That’s precisely what Lakshmi and Saraswati are telling us. Study your investment risks to yield better returns.Where does this leave the third element, time? The wealthiest of people did not build their fortunes overnight. American money-advisor, Dave Ramsey says that, ‘building wealth is a marathon, not a sprint.’ In fact, Anthony Samuelson, the Nobel Prize winning economist said, ‘Investing should be more like watching paint dry or watching grass grow. If you want excitement, take $800 and go to Las Vegas.’ Historically, some of the worst short-term market losses have given way to substantial market recovery. One always needs to remember that time in the market is much more important than timing the market.Kali is the feminine form of the noun kaala—the one who is time. We visualize Kali as the goddess of death in her fiery form but what is death if not the end of time for a person? In that sense, Kali is symbolic of time. She is also symbolic of transformation (think getting out of an investment after it has played itselfout).Remember one thing though. Lakshmi and Saraswati are like quarrelling sisters. Lakshmi jealously follows Saraswati so that Saraswati may not get the better of her. Unfortunately, Saraswati tends to leave owing to the friction that is created by the arrival of Lakshmi on the scene. In effect, we tend to throw caution to the winds when we’ve made handsome returns. The only one who can keep the two sisters united at the same place and at the same time is Ganesha. That Ganesha is you.(Best-selling author Ashwin Sanghi and serial entrepreneur Sunil Dalal are co-authors of 13 steps to Bloody Good Wealth, published by Westland in October 2016)

Tata Sons hits back; burden of proof is on Cyrus Mistry to back the charges

The Ratan TataCyrus Mistry fracas has spiraled quickly, with both camps airing a fair amount of their dirty laundry out in public. Many are anticipating an historic legal clash to take place between the two titans of Indian industry soon.

While Cyrus Mistry has a number of legal options at his disposal under the extant legal framework as well as the Company’s Articles of Association, his best bet would be to go through his father’s company, Shapoorji Pallonji, a principal shareholder in Tata Sons, and file a petition for oppression and mismanagement under Sections 397 and 398 of the Companies Act, 1956.

The Tata Group, however, also seems to have enough evidence but Mistry’s claims put up a strong defence in front of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT).

Cyrus Mistry. APCyrus Mistry. AP

Cyrus Mistry. AP

Tata’s strategy predicates on being able to show that Mistry’s removal was in the best interest of the company and its shareholders. Let us explore what legal defences are open to Tata Sons under the Act.

As stated in an earlier article published by Firstpost, Section 397 provides for relief if the affairs of a company are conducted in a manner which is prejudicial to public interest or oppressive to any members. Section 398 provides that members of the company may apply to the Tribunal if a material change has taken place in the management or control of the Company, including but not limited to an alteration in its Board of directors, and that such a change will result in prejudice to public interest or the interests of the company.

Under this Section the Tribunal may pass orders to rectify the situation. Under the Act, Shapoorji Pallonji would have to establish that Mistry’s removal is an action that is detrimental to the interests of the Tata group.

For one, Mistry’s ouster was completely legal as per the Company’s Articles of Association. The Articles require the board of directors to vote on bringing a new chairman in and the same procedure is to be followed when removing the chairman of the board. This was the procedure followed when Mistry was brought in and when he was removed. Courts have established that bona fide decisions consistent with the company’s memorandum and articles are not to be equated with mismanagement even if they turn out to be erroneous or cause temporary losses.

The change in the control and management of the company and the appointment of new executives as a result thereof cannot be questioned under Section 398, and the court will not interfere with the affairs of a company in a case where the act complained of is within the realm of the company’s powers under its articles and memorandum.

In terms of Mistry’s email and the allegations he has levelled in it, specifically the losses that the salt-to-steel conglomerate incurred in certain business deals such as NTT Docomo, are not necessarily instances of mismanagement when viewed through the prism of recent court rulings. In fact, Mistry’s improper handling of the DoCoMo arbitration and the subsequent $1.2 billion that was awarded against Tata will certainly not bode in his favour in front of the NCLT.

The NCLT has a wide range of powers when disposing of a petition under Section 397 or 398 of the Act. These powers are enumerated in Section 402 and they include the ability to pass orders to regulate the company’s conduct in the future, termination of agreements between the company and directors, and any other matter in which it thinks a just and equitable provision should be made.

The expansive nature of the powers granted to the NCLT under the Act imposes a strict burden of proof on Shapoorji Pallonji and Cyrus Mistry to back their allegations against Tata.

The Tata group has already issued a response to Mistry’s email, stating that the allegations in his correspondence are baseless and that he was not hindered in any way when running the conglomerate. It will be interesting to see how Mistry attempts to take on an organization that has been around since the time of the American Civil War.

(The author is the founder of Hammurabi & Solomon and a visiting fellow with the Observer Research Foundation)

Bird flu scare in Kerala: Dead ducks burnt, decision to cull to be taken on Thursday

Bird flu scare in Kerala: Dead ducks burnt, decision to cull to be taken on Thursday

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Alappuzha: With four villages in Alappuzha district reporting ducks dropping dead, authorities have called a meeting on Thursday to decide if ducks in a one-kilometer radius, covering these villages, need to be culled.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

District officials on Wednesday burnt the dead ducks in the affected four villages, with Thakazhi reporting the maximum.

Around 500 dead ducks in Thakazhi village were burnt and the district authorities have decided to hold a final meeting of all stakeholders on Thursday to decide if culling needs to be undertaken in these four villages.

Two years ago, thousands of ducks and hens were culled in Alappuzha, Kottayam and Pathanamthitta districts following the outbreak of avian flu, which was then confirmed as H5N1 virus.

Keeping that in mind, state’s Animal Husbandry Minister K Raju earlier this week asked the district administration to investigate and warned the farmers to immediately report if poultry birds drop dead in significant numbers.

Tata sacking: Cyrus Mistry was ‘lame duck’ chairman

Tata Sons ex-chairman Cyrus Mistry attacks the firm and warns it faces the risk of huge writedowns.

Bird Flu scare escalates as 58 avian deaths reported in Delhi, 18 die in Gwalior; killer strain is H5N8

On Sunday, 10 ducks were found dead at the Hauz Khas deer park, which brings the total number of avian deaths in the national capital due to H5N8, to 58. The Delhi government has described this as a “sign of worry”.

Delhi Animal Husbandry Minister Gopal Rai confirmed that three crows, that were found dead earlier in the Sunder Nagar area, had also succumbed to the H5N8 avial influenza strain.

He visited the deer park along with DDA officials and doctors where the death toll due to suspected H5N8 viral strain has climbed to 43. Rai formed a 10-member team to spray anti-virus in the area, including on birds.

A private security guard wearing a mask stands next to a notice tied to a gate of the Deer Park which according to local media is temporarily closed to visitors as a precautionary measure after ... birds died due to bird flu. ReutersA private security guard wearing a mask stands next to a notice tied to a gate of the Deer Park which according to local media is temporarily closed to visitors as a precautionary measure after ... birds died due to bird flu. Reuters

A private security guard wearing a mask stands next to a notice tied to a gate of the Deer Park which according to local media is temporarily closed to visitors as a precautionary measure after 58 birds died in New Delhi due to bird flu. Reuters

“The strain (H5N8) is not as dangerous for humans as it is for birds. There has been no report of it affecting humans across the world. Monitoring is being done across Delhi’s parks and bird sanctuaries. The government is planning to issue a health advisory as well,” Rai said.

Meanwhile, three more painted storks died at the zoo in Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh, taking the number of birds suspected to have been killed by a new sub-type of bird flu to 18.

Three more birds are critical and may soon succumb, an official said. With at least two samples of the 15 painted storks that died earlier this week testing positive for the subtype H5N8 at the Bhopal-based Animal Disease Laboratory recently, the MP government has sounded an alert across the state, directing all 51 districts to immediately report any fowl mortality.

Seeking to allay concerns over a possible bird flu outbreak, the officer said, “There is no need to panic as the death (of painted storks) due to H5N8 virus has taken place in the wild (zoo).”

The, Gwalior Municipal Commissioner Anay Dwivedi told PTI that with these deaths, only six painted storks were left in the zoo enclosure and three of them are in critical condition.

Citing veterinarians, he said the storks may die soon. “The rest (three storks) too appear to be sick and may succumb tomorrow,” he said.

Governments kick up defence mechanism

Although the virus is not directly a threat to human health, the state governments in Delhi and Madhya Pradesh have issued advisories to the zoo administration to monitor the situation very closely.

In Delhi, Animal Husbandry Minister Gopa Rai told reporters , “Things are in control in the zoo (National Zoological Garden) but 10 more ducks died in the deer park today. So we decided that areas where birds are dying, anti-virus will be sprayed on them as well. Vitamins and garlic will be mixed in their food to boost immunity”.

Both the zoo and the DDA-run deer park continue to remain shut due to the bird flu scare. The city government’s coordination committee, formed to tackle the situation, will meet on Tuesday. Rai said the water of the deer park will be sent to the Bhopal laboratory to be tested.

The Delhi government had also set up a 23-member committee to coordinate work among various departments and to probe the reasons behind the bird deaths since last week.

“Also, we have decided to build a medicated subway at the entry gate in the market which will have medicines mixed with water. Every truck entering the market will have to pass through this water which will help in preventing the infection from spreading,” Rai said.

On Thursday, the government had taken 50 samples from birds in the zoo, various bird sanctuaries and poultry markets in the city and sent them to labs for analysis. Both the Delhi zoo and the Deer Park will remain shut until normalcy returns.

The first deaths of two migratory birds were reported on 14 October in the Delhi Zoo, where six more birds were found dead the next day. One more bird each died on 17 and 19 October.

According to a report in The Hindu, an alert has been sounded in Rajasthan as well and the state’s forest department will also conduct a survey on the recent deaths of birds in the forest areas.

Madhya Pradesh Animal Husbandry department also confirmed that an alert has been sounded in the state.  “We have sounded alert across the state. However, no fowl death has been reported from any part of state. Officers concerned are keeping a close watch,” Madhya Pradesh Animal Husbandry Director Dr RK Rokde said.

To a query on culling the birds, The Gwalior Municipal Commissioner Anay Dwivedi said they will take the call in this regard later, depending upon the situation. The commissioner said they were burning the dead fowls and burring them deep underground.

“Three falcons which were in the enclosure along with the painted storks, have been quarantined and they will be closely monitored for a month. These falcons are healthy,” the commissioner added.

On reopening the zoo, closed since the death of 15 painted storks, the officer said, “Possibly, we won’t open it for this entire month (October).”

According to 2012 census, MP had a population of 119 lakh domestic fowls. He said the state has 400-odd private poultry farms and nine government ones.

According to Rokde, a hen had died of bird flu in Burhanpur district of state in February this year. Sources said that around 9,000 fowls had been culled in the radius of one km from the area where the hen had died.

The Union Environment Ministry has also formed a three-member panel to keep a watch over the developments.

With inputs from agencies

Deep depression over Bay of Bengal, likely to turn into cyclonic storm

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Fishermen were asked by the IMD on Sunday to be cautions while venturing into sea along the Odisha coast in view of a deep depression over the Bay of Bengal, with the system likely to intensify into a cyclonic storm.A depression over east-central Bay of Bengal moved east-north-eastwards, intensified into a deep depression on Sunday and lay centered over east-central Bay of Bengal, about 950 km east-southeast of Gopalpur, the MeT Department said.The system is most likely to intensify into a cyclonic storm in 24 hours and move north-eastwards to reach close to north Myanmar coast shortly. Thereafter, it will recurve initially north-northwestwards skirting Myanmar coast and then north-westwards towards the of north-west Bay of Bengal, it said.While sporadic rainfall may occur in 11 districts in the central and north Odisha on October 26 and 27, weather elsewhere in the state would be generally dry during the next 24 hours, but the sky would be cloudy, Director of the Meteorological Centre here, Sarat Chandra Sahu said.However, Distant Cautionary Signal Number One (DC-I) has been hoisted at all ports in Odisha and fishermen are advised to be cautious while venturing into interior and distant sea along Odisha coast during the period.

Biggest IMFL seizure in Fatuha, dry Bihar

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In what is unquestionably the biggest seizure after the enforcement of total prohibition of liquor in Bihar, the state Excise department sleuths confiscated 1,100 cartons containing 10,500 litres of liquor during a raid near Fatuha in Patna district on Saturday.Acting on a tip off received by assistant excise commissioner (Patna) Krishna Kumar, the excise cops raided a godown in Fatuha Industrial Area where the smuggled Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) was being unloaded from a container truck. The truck as well as the liquor is from Haryana, according to the officials.The MRP of the contraband, containing popular brands of IMFL, is Rs two crore. However, it may be mentioned that in dry Bihar, the value of one bottle of alcohol increases several times if a smuggler illegally manages to provide it to a customer, sources said, adding, “This huge amount of liquor may have been smuggled keeping the Diwali festival in mind.” Bihar enforced total prohibition on April 5, but a harsher liquor law came into effect on October 2.”An FIR has been registered in this matter. Six people, including the kingpin and godown owner Anil Kumar Gupta, have been arrested and investigations are underway,” officials said.

Saying goodbye, the green way

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Come November 8 and Delhi’s busiest cremation facility, the Nigambodh Ghat on the banks of the Yamuna, will get six new pyres. These will be somewhat unusual in that while wooden logs will be used to burn the corpses, like in the traditional Hindu manner, the amount of wood used will be far less. Instead of the 250-400kgs of wood that’s required in general, these ‘green’ crematoriums will use 100-150 kgs, a 65-75% reduction.Mokshada Green Crematorium System, as it has been christened, is the result of a quarter-century of research on shamshan ghats by Ghaziabad-based mechanical engineer Vinod Kumar Agarwal.His attention was drawn to this excess need for pyre wood in 1992, when he saw pallbearers throw a body into the river because they couldn’t find enough dry wood to burn it. Agarwal used his years of experience as a foundry manager to come up with an environment-friendly and energy-efficient alternative, while keeping in mind traditional Hindu rituals.According to Agarwal’s research, 500 to 600 lakh trees are cut for cremation across India every year, releasing 80 lakh tonnes of carbon dioxide and eight lakh tonnes of ash into rivers. “Electric and gas-based crematoriums exist, but they haven’t found acceptance among the tradition-conscious. In Delhi, there are only 13 gas and electric pyres that execute 50-60 cremations every day, as opposed to the 450 conventional crematoriums that see 900-1,000 cremations daily.”The Mokshda system works because it uses wood in the traditional way, says Agarwal. “We have channelised the flow of air to minimise heat wastage,” he explains. Instead of placing the corpse on wood, which blocks circulation of oxygen needed for efficient combustion, leading to a higher utilisation of wood, Agarwal’s solution entails placing the corpse on a raised stainless steel platform, allowing for efficient combustion. This platform has an open canopy with a chimney above, allowing the heated air to escape. “Religious leaders testify that this system adheres to religious cremation norms,” says Agarwal.Despite such validation, his NGO Mokshda Paryavaran Evam Van Suraksha Samiti has managed to install only 50 of these pyres around the country. Of these, four are in Mumbai (installed in 2008), six in Ahmedabad and Delhi will soon see a total of 12.”In 2012, we compiled detailed project reports to install 15 Mokshda crematoriums on Manikarnika ghat in Varanasi and eight more in Allahabad, but those projects are stuck,” he says.More than bureaucratic procrastination or religious objections, what’s prevented a greater acceptance of these crematoriums are wood sellers who stand to lose business, and the priests who are in cohorts with them. “This is the reason they don’t tell people about it, or actively discourage people from opting for Mokshada,” laments Agarwal.Perhaps if PM Narendra Modi, who represents Varanasi in the Lok Sabha, champions Agarwal’s energy-efficient, environment-friendly crematorium, things might change.Life after death?You could be a treeIn 2013, a Spanish design company called Estudi Moline came up with an innovative way to go green, designing a Bios Urn. The biodegradable pot contains a seed and can be filled with the ashes of loved ones who have passed away. When planted, the seed germinates into a shoot which, as it grows, draws nutrition from the ashes. As the Bios Urn website says, it’s a way to change “the way people see death” by converting the “end of life” into a transformation, a “return to life through nature”.

Bird flu scare haunts Capital, Deer Park too shuts down

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Delhi government on Thursday shut down the Deer Park in Hauz Khas after it suspected that two birds found dead inside the park could be infected with bird flu. This is the second birding place in the Capital to be shut down, the first being the Delhi Zoo. As many as eight more birds have been found dead in various locations, taking the toll to 18.”All water bodies, park and forest areas in the Capital will be closely monitored,” said Delhi Rural Development Minister Gopal Rai.The latest move comes after the death of 10 birds at the Delhi Zoo, three of which have been positively identified as bird flu cases. Reports of bird deaths first came on October 14. According to zoo officials, the birds that perished were local migratory birds — Rosy Pelicans, Painted Storks and Ducks.At present, the zoo has around 40 Pelicans and 20 Ducks, while Painted Storks are coming in from Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.On Thursday, the government inspected various birding sites in the Capital and found two more dead ones in the Delhi Zoo. Three crows have also been found dead in the posh Sunder Nagar colony and another one in Tughlakabad.The government has formed a 23-member committee to look after the bird flu cases in Delhi. Four Rapid Response Teams were formed on Thursday, taking their total number to 10. The teams, comprising veterinarians, animal husbandry officials, and civic body officials are monitoring various birding sites.Around 100 more samples have been collected in the last two days from Ghazipur, Okhla Bird Sanctuary, Najafgarh drain, Yamuna Biodiversity Park and the Central Park in Hauz Khas and sent to a specialised Regional Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in Jalandhar.”We are collecting samples from most of the birding places in Delhi. On Wednesday, we collected around 50 samples from various parks and some more were collected on Thursday. The results will come in five to seven days. We will then compile a final report and take necessary action,” District Animal Husbandry officer Dr HC Dandotiya said.In the wake of increasing bird flu cases, the government has asked the Delhi Health Department to stock Tamiflu vaccine. “There is no need for panic now. We are continuously monitoring the situation in every birding site. The government will also issue guidelines to various Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) to spread awareness about the disease,” added Rai.Health experts have advised people to avoid consuming poultry products. “Humans get infected by avian flu when they come into contact with infected birds/poultry or consume infected poultry or come into contact with another infected human being. This infection has high mortality rates. No cases have so far been reported in India and a patient should be suspected to have this disease only if there is exposure to infected poultry or individuals,” said Dr Raman Abhi, Additional Director, Internal Medicine, Fortis Memorial Research Institute.What is Bird flu?Avian Influenza (AI), commonly called bird flu, is an infectious viral disease seen in birds. Most AI viruses do not infect humans. Some, such as A(H5N1) and A(H7N9), can infect humans.What are the symptoms?The common symptoms are sudden and severe onset of cough, cold, high fever and shortness of breath. This could lead to pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, multiple organ failure, rhabdomyolysis and acute kidney injury.What is the treatment?The treatment is the same as for swine flu. One must take Tamiflu, avoid self-medication and immediately consultant a specialist.

India’s food bowl: As Punjab exhausts groundwater, farmers eye new crops

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It is hailed as India’s granary, but the northwestern state of Punjab faces a drastic decline in agricultural output unless it halts the rapid depletion of its groundwater, experts warn.Groundwater irrigates almost three-quarters of Punjab’s agricultural land, but groundwater levels are dropping by 40 to 50 cm (16 to 20 inches) a year, according to Rajan Aggarwal, head of the soil and water engineering department at Punjab Agricultural University (PAU).That has left farmers like Ajmir Singh struggling as their irrigation wells dry up. “We are not able to find water even if we go down to 200 feet (61 m) or more at some places,” said Singh, who has farmed for 35 years in Jalandhar, 150km (95 miles) north of Chandigarh, the state capital.His neighbour, Pawanjeet Singh, said lack of irrigation water has forced him to sell part of the land that has been in his family for generations to a large-scale farmer who has the resources to drill for water at much deeper levels.”I took this decision with a heavy heart after I realised that drawing water for all my land is beyond my means,” Singh said.According to Aggarwal, groundwater has been overexploited in 110 of the state’s 138 administrative blocks.”This is alarming given that more than 73% of irrigation is taken care of by groundwater,” he said.Experts say dealing with the problem, in the region that led India’s Green Revolution in the 1970s, will require a rapid shift away from crops that require large amounts of water, such as rice and wheat, to less-thirsty pulses, maize, vegetables and sugarcane to safeguard the state’s agricultural economy.Rice and wheat make up 81 % of Punjab’s irrigated crops, according to a report by PAU. Although the state accounts for only 1.5 % of India’s geographical area, over the past two decades it has contributed 35 % of the nation’s rice production and 60 cent of its wheat.LOW RAINFALLAccording to Sunil Jain, regional director of the Central Ground Water Board for northwest India, groundwater started dropping in 1985 in Punjab, and has sunk to alarming levels in recent years.Thirty years ago farmers in most parts of the state could draw water at a depth of 10 metres (32 ft), but by 2015 this was 20 metres, while farmers in some central parts of the state are unable to find water even at 30 metres or deeper, he said.”There has been a substantial rise in groundwater utilisation, which has mainly happened because of the fact that Punjab gets less rainfall. Since paddy (rice) requires a lot of water, the farmers resort to heavy usage of groundwater for irrigating the paddy fields,” he said.Jain added that Punjab gets less than 700mm of rainfall annually. This compares to a national average of 1,083mm, according to the World Bank.Amit Kar, an economist at the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, attributed the groundwater shortage to government policies such as free electricity for irrigation, credit facilities and subsidies for digging wells and buying pumping equipment, as well as heavily subsidised diesel fuel for pumps.The PAU report said annual demand for irrigation in Punjab is 4.76 million hectare metres (mhm) against a total annual supply of 3.48 mhm from canal and groundwater resources.The deficit is met by overexploitation of deeper groundwater by farmers using nearly 1.4 million tube wells, which exacerbates the loss of more accessible groundwater. According to the PAU report, 3.5 million of Punjab’s 9.1 million workers make a living from agriculture or associated activities.Jain said the statistics suggest Punjab’s agricultural success may not be sustainable”Punjab’s exports of rice and wheat to other regions literally mean the export of its groundwater to those regions,” he said.Amitabh Kant, chief executive officer of the government’s National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog), predicted “the present rate of withdrawal will lead to complete exhaustion of groundwater within a decade” in the region.Kant said India, already water-stressed, is rapidly moving towards becoming water-scarce.TIME TO SWITCH?Switching to new crops is one way to ease the problem in Punjab, said PAU’s Aggarwal. Rice requires about four times as much water as maize, pulses or oilseeds, for instance.Vinod Kumar Singh, a scientist at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, said Punjab must make the shift at any cost.”The government has to make some policy decisions like assuring the farmers it will procure their produce other than paddy (rice) and wheat. Only then will they be convinced to switch over to these crops,” he said.Under India’s state-sponsored Public Distribution System, the national government buys staple foods like rice, wheat and sugar from farmers and sells them to citizens at fair or cheaper prices. Commodities worth $2.25 billion, including rice and wheat, are sold annually to about 160 million families.Jasbir Singh Bains, Punjab’s director of agriculture, said that system makes farmers reluctant to cultivate other crops.”We have started making efforts to popularise the cultivation of pulses, maize, vegetables and oilseeds,” Bains said. “For example, we have appealed to the central government to increase the procurement of pulses and are urging the farmers to grow vegetables, which also have a good market.”Farmers like Shamsher Singh, in Nokdar-Jalandhar, said they would switch to less thirsty crops with government help.”We are ready for this, but the government should give the guarantee that it will procure our products like it is doing in the case of wheat and rice,” he said.

Send Arvind Kejriwal and co to Pampore so that they can find proof

Even as Indian troops take on holed up terrorists in Pampore and try to flush them out, Kejriwal, Chidambaram, Nirupam and Alok must be deeply concerned that it is not happening and is just another sidetrack by prime minister Narendra Modi to shift the attention away from showing evidence of the surgical strikes that they so vehemently disbelieve.

And if they are meeting in conclave to discuss the honesty quotient of the ongoing Pampore assault they can always find comfort in the fact that why is it always Pampore. Suspicious, what…maybe the BJP has a movie set there. It happened in 2013, then it happened again when a bus carrying soldiers of the 161 battalion were ambushed so isn’t there something fishy about it all. Right?

This can be their basis for attacking the BJP government for not doing enough to strengthen our forces and their security in Pampore and allowing these militants to enter the Jammu and Kashmir Entrepreneurship Development Institute (JKEDI) where suspected militants have taken refuge.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

After all, if the media can chance it and go there to cover the attack, why can’t our politicians do much the same. Give them a flak jacket and let them get a taste of what it feels like to hear the ping of bullets flying around and the stench of cordite bruising their tender nostrils.

That way at least we will not have to hear them tell us it never happened or that they have to seek proof that it did.

This is actually not facetious as a suggestion. These people have embarrassed us so much these past few days by spreading doubt and even making our armed forces come off as liars that there have to be consequences which go beyond merely criticism.

You do not believe the militant camps were attacked well then, next time, come along and join the party. You have nothing to fear since you don’t accept it is occurring anyway so no worries.

It is one thing to lacerate the BJP government for behaving as if they were some embodiment of the Dussehra spirit and had personally gone out to slay Raavan and other sundry dragons and make political capital out of things but quite another to suggest that a three star General would hold a post operation press conference in full uniform and lie about what was done.

That is the part which galls.

If there is anything to cavil about it is the use of the phrase ‘surgical strike’ in its purest military sense. It is a sudden pre-emptive attack that wipes out the enemy completely and ends that chapter. In this case we destroyed several camps but we have not eliminated the threat or dismantled the hostile infrastructure. The attack on Baramulla almost soon after indicates that the operation was a successful raid on specific targets but not truly surgical in that nothing has changed.The threat is still a clear and present danger.

Time the government stopped bleeding the issue to its advantage and strengthened its front-line. That government building in Jammu and Kashmir currently occupied by militants. Get rid of it. Now, that might qualify as surgical.

Two years of Swachh Bharat: As South Asia goes on open defecation free drive, personal choices can make the difference

As the whole of South Asia goes on a commendable open defecation free drive with the People’s Republic of Bangladesh leading the way, I am left wondering what kind of thoughts and sensitivities will determine the choice of latrine in the millions of new entrants to “closed” defecation spaces. And I looked back at my own evolution and engagement with such spaces.

I was in a conference on visual perception in Barcelona recently, when I encountered a problem I haven’t had in a very long time. Where I was staying, the latrine room had a commode, a toilet paper roll but no other external water source. I am a Bengali, born and brought up in Bengal, in a home and a family, where after passing “doing the needful”, I have learned to use my hand and some water to clean myself up and thereafter clean by hand with water and soap. In certain situations, especially earlier in my ancestral village, I have been taught to use coal ash in place of soap. That was the training. Till about age 12, I had never sat on a commode. I was used to squatting. Around 12 years of age, we moved to our new place in the same neighborhood. That new place had 2 bathrooms – one had a commode and the other had a squat latrine. I have always preferred squatting but at certain times I did use the commode. In my early commode days, I used to prefer to squat on the plastic flap rim of the commode itself and once I did fall down unable to maintain that delicate balance on a thin rim not meant to squat upon. In time I learned to use the commode well. I sat on it ‘like a chair’ but didn’t squat. The water supply was there. So was the water mug and nearby tap. Things were fine.

Representational Image. ReutersRepresentational Image. Reuters

Representational Image. Reuters

The first time I went to a place that didn’t have any water source for cleaning myself up, I didn’t know what to do. What I did was that I took a huge amount of rolled paper before I got into the act, got outside and drenched the paper in water, and then cleaned myself up with that very moist sloppy mush of toilet paper, hoping to do a clean job. The problem was that at times some tiny bits of paper stuck around adamantly after I did this. I would only get to clean up with water after I got home. Since this no-water, only-paper scenario happened very, very rarely, it wasn’t really a problem. Nor was it a problem in airplanes where the drench method worked in cooped up mid-air privacy. It still does. I also went to Japan where they like us Bengalis. They appreciate the value of water near their latrines. But that didn’t prepare me for the USA.

When I went to the USA to do my PhD, things changed radically. In my first year, I lived in the PhD student dormitory of Harvard University, where the floor had a common bathroom-latrine complex for men. The latrines were separate stalls but since the footfall was high, I was embarrassed to take this glob of drenched toilet paper into the stall with me. This embarrassment came from standing out, may be of being looked upon as an uncivilized brown that did weird things in the latrine, may be trying to ‘fit in’. Looking back, I feel that trying to fit in and integrate has never been popular in the USA, which integrated with native tribes by conquering their lands combined with physical annihilation – one of the least talked about genocides of the recent past. As a mark of their “integration” to the new continent, the English named the slice of land that they had newly grabbed, as simply “New England”. Very imaginative and integrationist indeed. But I digress. I tried to do things the dry way, with the nagging dirty feeling making me scrape harder than I should have. I ended up with an infection leading to a very painful fistula that required two bouts of surgery and a long convalescence period. I had learned my lesson. From the second year, I lived off-campus, in a place that had a latrine with a nearby tap. I look upon those “dry days” of mine with horror. When I had discussed this issue with a friend who was trying to get ‘civilized’ at break-neck speed, taunted me and said “You want to go back to squatting?” with a tone that put me as a crouching chimpanzee and him as an upright not-yet-but-soon-to-be white man. I had gathered up my brown confidence and said, “Yes”. One of the things that Europe was introduced to, due to the Crusades, was soap! I wasn’t going to take cleanliness lessons from paper-people.

When I had discussed this issue with a friend who was trying to get ‘civilized’ at break-neck speed, taunted me and said “You want to go back to squatting?” with a tone that put me as a crouching chimpanzee and him as an upright not-yet-but-soon-to-be white man. I had gathered up my brown confidence and said, “Yes”. One of the things that Europe was introduced to, due to the Crusades, was soap! I wasn’t going to take cleanliness lessons from paper-people.

Now I work in Bengal. My workplace has both squat and sit options, both with strategically placed hand-held water nozzles. I have always preferred the squat latrine over ‘The Thinker’ sitting latrine. My parent’s new home has only sitting option. After a lifetime of squatting, their muscles are now not strong enough to sustain that. I am thankful to my workplace for providing me with a choice. Most ‘diversity’ totting, cosmopolitan places don’t. But this Euro-American cosmopolitanism has always been a way to gate-keep malleable coloured folks from the rougher ones. To some, the distance of their behind from the floor is a measure of progress, class, refinement and upliftment such that once ‘uplifted’ and ‘papered’, they can’t dream of choosing to squat down and water up. The personal can be political.

As India ratifies Paris agreement, it should remember Mahatma Gandhi’s vision on sustainable development

The significance of India ratifying the Paris climate deal on 2 October hits home when we keep in mind that Gandhi’s thoughts on sustainable development were so much ahead of contemporary times. Gandhi, during his time, believed that modern economy was “propelled by a frenzy of greed and indulges in an orgy of envy”. Further, that this unbridled predatory materialism came at the cost of bleeding the environment dry and exhausting finite natural resources. Crucially, Gandhi’s commitment to an “economy of permanence” predated the modern awareness of dangers posed by unsustainable models of development. He propagated his thoughts decades before climate change came to be treated as a serious subject of discourse, and of national and international concern.

However, Gandhi’s own party — the Congress — which ruled India for the major part of the post-independence era, found more virtue in Jawaharlal Nehru’s model of high growth-powered development than in Gandhi’s ecological economism. Paradoxically, it was left to Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to partially reinstate Gandhi’s economic philosophy. He has linked Gandhi’s till-now neglected, if not forgotten, thoughts on ecology to the Paris climate deal that was signed in December 2015.

File Image Delhi through the smog.AFPFile Image Delhi through the smog.AFP

Representational image. AFP

It is another matter of course, that a separate discussion may be required on the Paris deal itself, which many leading environmentalists have described as inadequate. In a column in the Business Standard in December 2015, this is what the leading environmentalist Sunita Narain wrote about the deal: “… read the fine print, and it becomes clear that poorer countries have lost big time. This battle is to save the world from catastrophic climate change impacts so that rich industrialised countries do their fair share to reduce emissions and the emerging world gets its right to development and support to develop differently.”

Narain did concede that the effort to cap global temperature increase to below 1.5 degrees Celsius is definitely a move in the positive direction. But with a caveat. She argued that if the world wished to cap temperatures then it also has to lower greenhouse emissions: “The Paris agreement fails in this totally.” Targets have not been set for developed nations to move towards more aggressive emission cuts.

“What is even worse is that Paris cements climate apartheid — so that the historical responsibility of the developed world of creating the problem of emissions is erased. Worse, the burden of future transition moves to the still developing world,” Narain argued, critiquing the agreement. The pact will come into effect following its ratification by at least 55 countries, accounting for 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

While Narain’s too-little too-late argument does carry weight, India’s ratification of the Paris deal would appear to signify (if only on paper for the time being,) its apparent intent to take seriously the phenomenon of global warming and its catastrophic consequences already manifesting themselves in multiple ways. Not just that, the government will have to factor in the concerns of climate change in the process of initiating or amending economic and environmental policies. In fact, if India is serious about implementing the Paris deal, the government would have to completely rethink its conventional approach to development. As we have already seen, investors of all stripes — national as well as foreign — tend to frown upon environmental regulations and their strict enforcement.

If it is serious about tackling the challenges posed by climate change, then the government, in the coming days and months, will have to send all stakeholders an uncompromising message: business cannot go on as usual. Such an approach is not likely to go down well with various developmental sectors, particularly the burgeoning real estate industry. But there are no soft options left.

He propagated his thoughts decades before climate change came to be treated as a serious subject of discourse, and of national and international concern

It may be worthwhile in this context to recall what author Amitav Ghosh said in an interview to Elizabeth Kuruvilla in LiveMint in July 2016. When asked how we can address the concerns of climate change as laid out in his recent book The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable, Ghosh replied, “We can’t in any way address this issue until we address the causes of it. Which is the economic model we’re now pursuing, a model that is solely oriented towards perpetual growth. That is the first issue that we have to confront.”

He further argued that “we can’t carry on living as though everybody can expand their carbon footprint or their energy footprint. If you don’t acknowledge that how can you even begin to have a serious conversation about this? And that is exactly what this document is about. It is about perpetual growth. It’s just trying to find the different means of perpetual growth.”

Therefore, while the symbolic power of ratifying the Paris accord on 2 October is undeniably powerful, it will all come to naught if the requisite follow through is missing. And there doesn’t seem to be much cause of optimism on that front.

After military raid, India looks at economic and diplomatic measures to pressure Pakistan

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Beyond Thursday’s surgical strike by Indian special forces, New Delhi is considering new economic and diplomatic measures to bring pressure to bear on its neighbour, Indian officials said.In a rare public acknowledgement, Indian officials said teams of elite troops crossed the de facto border dividing the nuclear-armed rivals in the Himalayan state, killing several militants it believed were planning to attack major cities.The raids were a direct response to an attack earlier this month on an army base in Kashmir that India blamed on Pakistan-based militants.Pakistan denied India had conducted raids on territory it administers and said it was not involved in stoking trouble in Indian-controlled Kashmir. It has demanded New Delhi produce credible evidence to back its claims.Some Indian officials said the military was not planning further attacks or a major military offensive against Pakistan.But they said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government was debating whether to use New Delhi’s rising economic and diplomatic weight to squeeze Pakistan, a country one-fifth its size and with an economy seven times smaller.”The objective is not just to go across the border and kill 10-12 people,” said an Indian security official involved in the daily consultations since the Sept. 18 attack on an army base in the border town of Uri in which 18 Indian soldiers were killed.”The objective is to bring about a change in Pakistani behaviour, and for that you need to move on multiple levels.”The strategy will involve all instruments of national power. Military is only one of the options,” added the official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.Options under consideration include choking trade with Pakistan that takes place through third countries such as the United Arab Emirates, officials said, even though it is limited and in India’s favour.New Delhi is also considering building dams on rivers running into Pakistan and intensifying diplomatic pressure, hoping that it can show other countries how militants based in Pakistan impact the rest of the world, the officials added.According to one of them, India could try to dissuade international companies from conducting business in Pakistan.ON THE OFFENSIVEThe steps being considered signal a far more assertive posture by India under Modi’s nationalist administration than the previous government, but it risks further escalating tensions between the countries.Recent Indian governments have held off launching military strikes, including when gunmen from Pakistan mounted a three-day assault on Mumbai in 2008, for fear it could invite retaliation from Pakistan that could escalate into a nuclear conflict in the worst-case scenario.One Indian security official described the new Indian approach as moving from a “defensive posture to defensive offence”, under which India works on the vulnerabilities of Pakistan – its economy, internal security and international image as an unstable nation, home to militant Islamist groups.”Pakistan’s vulnerability is many times higher than that of India,” the official said.Hours after Thursday’s raid, one Indian government official said New Delhi would review its economic relationship, including trade flows, with Pakistan.But he downplayed the possibility of India taking measures such as blocking travel between the two countries, saying the reality of policy-making was much more sober.Official trade between India and Pakistan was a modest $2.6 billion in 2014, but informal trade is estimated to be closer to $5 billion, with jewellery, textiles and machinery exported from India through third country ports such as Dubai.India’s informal imports from Pakistan through the same channels consist of textiles, dry fruits, spices and cement.Indian security planners said a crackdown on such trade, in which some former members of Pakistan’s powerful military are believed to be active, would help increase the pressure.The head of Pakistan’s Board of Investment, Miftah Ismail, said sanctions had usually not worked elsewhere in the world.He said there was little trade between the two countries, and since much of it was in India’s favour, any restrictions would affect India more than Pakistan.”If India does (go ahead with economic sanctions), Pakistan will somehow react, and we will further impoverish the people in both countries,” said Ismail, who is also a special assistant to the Pakistan prime minister.”I don’t see anything good coming out of this.”

‘Horrible’ attack like in Uri obviously escalates tensions: US on surgical strikes

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A terrorist attack like the one on an Indian Army camp in Uri “escalates tensions”, United States have said, asking Pakistan to take action against UN-designated terrorist outfits and delegitimise them.”Obviously, an (terrorist) attack like that (in Uri) escalates tensions. What I don’t want to do is try to get into, you know, some sort of broad characterisation one way or the other but obviously an attack like this is horrific and…”, the State Department Spokesman, John Kirby, told reporters.The spokesperson was interrupted by a reporter mid-way that her question was about India’s response to the September 18 Uri attack.
ALSO READ Indian Army surgical strike destroys 7 terror launch pads; govt reassures foreign envoys, Oppn over strikes”But the Indian response is that — is that the kind of escalation that Secretary Kerry was warning against?” the journalist asked referring to the telephonic conversation between the Secretary of State John Kerry and the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj earlier this week.Kirby was quick to clarify that he was referring to the Uri terrorist attack. “Oh, I thought you were talking about the Uri attack,” the spokesman said.
ALSO READ ‘A real message has gone’: Shashi Tharoor lauds Indian Army after surgical strike On September 27, Kerry spoke with Swaraj. For technical reason, the conversation was spread over two separate calls.”I can confirm for you that the secretary spoke with — on the 27th, so earlier this week, with Indian External Affairs Minister Swaraj and reiterated his strong condemnation of the September 18 Uri attack. He condemned terrorism in all its forms and he cautioned against any escalation intentions,” he said.
ALSO READ Uri payback: Decoding the role of Indian Army’s Special Forces in the surgical strikeResponding to questions, Kirby called for de-escalation of tension between the two countries. “We’ve seen those reports (of Indian surgical attack), we’re following the situation closely as I think you can understand. We also understand that the Indian and Pakistani militaries have been in communication,” he said.”We believe that continued communication is obviously important to reduce tensions. We’ve repeatedly expressed our concerns regarding the danger that terrorism poses to the region and we all know that terrorism in many ways knows no border,” Kirby said.”We continue to urge actions to combat and de-legitimise terrorist groups like LeT, and Haqqani Network, Jaish-E-Mohammed. So, this is something that we’re obviously keenly focused on,” Kirby said in response to a question.Counter-terrorism co-operation, he said, is something that the United States is always working at with its partners in the region.”We’re always trying to get better at combating terrorism in the region. There are many ways you can do that, you know, through information sharing regimens and increasing communication between all parties involved,” he said.But he refused to entertain question on if there was any co-operation between India and the United States on the latest Indian operation.”I don’t have a specific laundry list here to read out to you because, frankly, it’s something that we’ve been constantly working at with our partners in the region,” he said.Kirby said America’s message to both sides has been the same in terms of encouraging them to increase communication to deal with this threat and to avoid steps that escalate the tensions.”I think I’m not going to get into characterising each and every step along the way there.”But obviously, what we want to see is increased cooperation against what is a very shared common threat for both countries, and to see steps being taken to deal with it by all sides,” Kirby said.Meanwhile the US Ambassador to India, Richard Verma, who was in Washington DC has rushed back to New Delhi.”As far as I know, he’s returning to New Delhi. My understanding is that he believed that it was, appropriate for him to go back.”He has got a big job. There a lot of responsibilities that come with it. And, obviously it’s a very dynamic situation and he felt it was prudent to go back. We support that,” Kirby said.

Maharashtra to step up intelligence cells to curb liquor smuggling

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In order to control smuggling of duty-evaded liquor into Maharashtra, the state excise department will set up specialised intelligence cells for the states which border Maharashtra and account for this illegal inflow of booze. This will enable the department to crackdown on such activities through co-ordinated raids and seizures with authorities from its neighbouring states.Maharashtra follows a high excise duty regime which leads to high retail prices of liquor. As the state excise department is the third-highest contributor to the state’s coffers, this smuggling bleeds the monetary resource of the state. Maharashtra, also serves as a transit point for the liquor being transported to neighboring Gujarat, which is a dry state.According to the state excise commissioner V Radha, this move will enable them to tighten the borders and launch co-ordinated action with agencies in other states to check smuggling. The department is also looking to work with other agencies like the Konkan Railways to stop smuggling from states like Goa. Radha says, “This will allow for specialisation for every border.””Since the duty rates in states like Goa are lesser than those in Maharashtra, the valuation and the MRP of liquor is also lower. So, this leads to this cheaper-priced booze being smuggled to Maharashtra for local sale due to the higher premiums involved,” said a senior official from the department, adding that the move will also ensure better co-ordination with authorities from other states for better vigilance.Liquor and black jaggery (used for hooch) is also brought in from Karnataka into Maharashtra, especially in border districts like Solapur while Chandrapur, which was the third district in Maharashtra where prohibition was imposed after Wardha and Gadchiroli, has liquor being clandestinely brought in from Telangana.”Today, our enforcement and vigilance is of a centralised nature. We are now looking to decentralise it further to help us know about those involved in smuggling liquor into Maharashtra, sites where it is stored and the modus operandi. We can cultivate sources in those states and take preventive action with help from the authorities there,” said another official.Maharashtra follows a policy of discouraging liquor consumption through high prices and low sales and has one of the highest excise duty regimes in India. However, neighboring states and union territories like Goa and Daman have comparatively liberal policies and the cheaper costs of liquor there lead to a huge incentive for smugglers and bootleggers to smuggle in the brew to Maharashtra. With neighboring Gujarat under prohibition, Maharashtra has also become a transit point for transporting liquor from states like Haryana and Madhya Pradesh to the dry state.In May, the state excise department also cracked a case involving smuggling of duplicate liquor from Goa, by making one of its first recoveries outside the state. However, officials involved in cracking such cases note that at times, local authorities in other states did not extend necessary co-operation to them.

Cauvery row: SC orders Karnataka govt to release 6000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu for 3 days from today

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court has ordered Karnataka government to release 6000 cusecs of Cauvery river water to Tamil Nadu for three days from Tuesday. The next hearing will be on Wednesday.The Supreme Court heard the Karnataka Government’s plea to modify an earlier order on the sharing Cauvery waters with Tamil Nadu. In its plea, Karnataka has said its reservoirs are dry and it can only release water to Tamil Nadu by the end of the year.Sources in the Tamil Nadu Government told ANI that the state government is likely to file a contempt plea against Karnataka Government for not following the apex court’s order. The petition came three days after Karnataka’s legislature passed a resolution saying the river will be used only for meeting the drinking water needs of villages and towns in the Cauvery Basin and Bengaluru.The resolutions, however, did not mention the top court’s order directing the state to release 6,000 cusecs every day (cubic feet per second) of water to Tamil Nadu till September 27. Karnataka has said its citizens would go thirsty and crops in the state will be ravaged if it releases any more water to Tamil Nadu. Over the past month, both states are fighting a legal battle in various courts over the sharing and distribution of Cauvery waters.

Nitish Kumar ropes in 40 lakh JD(U) workers to counter anti-prohibition protests

Patna: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday roped in more than 40 lakh JD(U) workers to counter “falsehood” spread against prohibition by some “affected intellectuals deprived of quota of 1-2 pegs.”

File photo of Nitish Kumar. PTI

File photo of Nitish Kumar. PTI

“A few intellectuals deprived of their quota of 1-2 pegs are spreading falsehoods regarding liquor ban in Bihar,” Kumar said at the one-day JD(U) state council meeting.

Kumar appealed to party workers to counter these falsehoods by vociferously speaking in favour of alcohol ban.

“In democracy power of speaking matters a lot…move your lips more strongly in favour of prohibition and other programmes of “sushashan” which should become voice of the nation,” the CM said.

Kumar, who is National President of JD(U) asked state party leadership to take out “prabhat pheri” and hold “sankalp sabha” on Gandhi Jayanti to promote “jan chetna” (peoples awareness) in favour of prohibition and “seven resolves”.

He also called for organising shivir (camp) and orientation programmes for more than 1.5 lakh active JD(U) workers for the same.

Newly re-elected Bihar JD(U) President Basisthan Narayan Singh promptly responded to CM’s call and announced the programmes for workers on 2 October.

Besides Singh, senior party leader Sharad Yadav and a host of state ministers, Members of Parliament, State Legislature and senior party office bearers were in attendance.

In the beginning of his speech, Kumar pointed to some media reports which claimed that there were negligible takers of CM’s offer of providing Sudha dairy outlets in place of closed liquor shops to protect livelihood of those employed there and said, “If they did not come to grab the offer what is my fault?”

“If anybody is really interested to make a reality check of prohibition visit any village in the state and see how happy the women and family are feeling,” he said highlighting merits of 5 April decision to declare Bihar a dry state.

Kumar has been facing criticism from opposition and also sections of civil society dubbing it as “talibani and draconian” in some media reports and discussions on TV channels on making liquor law more stringent by incorporating provisions of arrest of all adult members of a family in case of recovery of liquor from a home and community penalty against habitual violators of prohibition.

“Amendeded Liquor law will be notified from 2 October”, he said.

Maximum cases of chikungunya in Maharashtra recorded from Pune

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Over 90% of the total 439 cases of chikungunya in Maharashtra since January this year have been reported from Pune district, according to a latest Health Department report.”So far, 439 cases of chikungunya have been recorded in the state. Out of these, 393 cases are detected in Pune district between January 1 and August 31,” Joint Director, health department, Kanchan Jagtap said.In Pune, out of 393, 225 cases were reported from Pune city, while 168 from rural parts of the district, she said, adding that the figures indicate the city civic body needs to intensify surveillance and eliminate the breeding spots of aedes aegypti mosquito which causes dengue and chikungunya. She said neighbouring Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation has negligible number and only 14 cases were recorded till August 31.Meanwhile, apprising on rising menace dengue in the state, Jagtap said till August 31, a total of 2,572 cases were found to be positive for the vector-borne disease. Of the total number, 1,672 were recorded in urban parts of the state, while 900 in rural. “In August alone this year, 794 cases of dengue were detected in the state, of which 620 were found in urban areas,” the officer said. She attributed intermittent rainfall, accumulation of water, and absence of effective solid waste management as key reasons behind spiralling cases of chikungunya and dengue.”We have been issuing constant advisories to the civic bodies and asked them to strengthen the anti-larval and anti-mosquito surveillance, do constant fogging, create awareness among people to keep their surroundings dry and not allowing water accumulation,” said Jagtap.With Pune recording the maximum number of chikungunya cases, Jagtap said health department is constantly in touch with the civic authority and has asked it to adopt exhaustive measures to bring the cases down.”We have asked them to do mapping of most affected areas in the city and create awareness among people. I am sure that if exhaustive and preventive measures are adopted in the city, we collectively can get rid of diseases like dengue and chikungunya,” she said.

Uri terror attack: India’s priority should be stocking up on ammunition and weaponry

It was easy for the terrorists to reach the barbed wiring as the area surrounding the Uri camp was wooded and mountainous. They could have moved from rock to rock without detection. Even amateurs do it in weekend war games. That’s exactly why we were unable to catch the dacoits of the Chambal ravines. The terrain suited them.

File image from the Uri base attack in Jammu and Kashmir. PTI

File image from the Uri base attack in Jammu and Kashmir. PTI

If the camp had been at the centre of a circular cordon sanitaire with nothing but flat land spotlit at night, these killers would not have made it anywhere near the infantry battalion.

As a matter of fact, the response of the just relieved of duty soldiers was impressive in that they were able to shoot the intruders. Carrying heavy caliber weapons and hurling grenades does not require strategic genius and it speaks well for our boys that these killers did not melt back into the forest and the foliage without casualties. They probably expected to get away with it.

Having said that, the concern now is what India should do in retaliation. It is said that despite the five odd years of slack in dribbling away our ammunition and our weaponry into the red as far as shortages go, the investment master plan is to make us the fourth most potent armed forces in the world by 2019/2020.

That is still a pretty far distance away and the reality is now. As the shortage in what is projected as 125 out of 170 types of ammo (CAG 2013) with a nominal increase of just 15 percent since then our shabby government produced stuff isn’t going to cut the mustard. The Ordnance Factory Board is not able to deliver anywhere near the need and the augmentation from Russia isn’t enough.

It is remarkable that the government (present and past) will not permit projectiles to be manufactured by the private sector. If that permission was given, India would be able to reach its required supply in double-quick time.

We should go shopping today. Getting up to speed has to be a rushed priority never mind the bullet train, just get the bullets and get going now. Especially for Indian armour and its T72 and T90 tank regiments. High explosive fin propelled shells are of the essence. High explosive anti-tank (HEAT) shells have to be invested in. The western sector is a tank terrain and we all remember the battle of Shakargarh and Basantar in the Pathankot region. With the monsoon over, the marshes dry all conventional conflicts and even skirmishes have a role for the armoured corps.

War wastage reserves (WWR) are weapons and ammunition kept back in case of battle conditions where the firing rate is infinitely more.

The present estimate is between 8 and 20 days depending on whose report you are reading. India’s target has been 40 days because in all scenarios it is unlikely it can last longer. But to be at 50% of a best case scenario seems to be self-indulgent and blinkered.

It is a moot point in that there is a damn shortage, it is public knowledge and giving your adversary, this comfort is just not acceptable.

Quality and quantity, we need them both. Now.

In the interim on foreign policy front, India’s best bet is to use contempt washed in silence as a weapon.

Amnesty row: Facing flak from BJP, Kanataka Home Minister says he hasn’t given clean chit in sedition case

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Karnataka Home Minister G Parameshwara on Monday said that he was misinterpreted on the issue of the Amnesty International sedition case by vested interests. “I have been misinterpreted, that is why I did not want to react to it unnecessarily. The government of India has all the facilities to find that what Amnesty India is doing. If they are doing an anti-national activity, let them find it out and take an action. Nobody stops the centre, agencies or home ministry from taking any action. Why do they think that Karnataka is trying to protect them or give them a clean chit?” Parameshwara said.Parameshwara said that he has not given the Indian chapter of Amnesty a clean chit and added that the investigation is still going on. “I am not a fool to say that everything is being well and everything is going good. All I said is that I have not heard Amnesty International involved in any anti-national activity as per my knowledge. If there is anything else, that is fine, the law will take the appropriate course of action. That’s all I have said, and I am standing by my statement,” he added.He said, “We make statements but not in response to other’s statements. In this case, I have told that I have not come across this and they are trying to say that the state home minister is giving a clean chit, yet I have not given them a clean chit, investigation is on and how can they interpret to their own advantage. I had never interfered in any case, and I do not want to do it now also.” He added that if the (Police) commissioner has made a statement, let it be on record and the FIR, as to how they are handling it and take action accordingly, whether to close the case, or take it forward. The investigation officer is to decide and we are not to interfere in that.On Saturday, Parameshwara reportedly said Amnesty International did not do anything seditious by organising an event in support of Kashmiris. At an event organized by the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee to mark the birth anniversary of late Rajiv Gandhi and D Devaraj Urs, he had said: “I do not believe Amnesty International has conducted any seditious activity. Shouting slogans does not constitute anti-national activity.”Last week Karnataka Police had filed a case after anti-India slogans were allegedly raised during a debate on Kashmir organised by Amnesty in Bengaluru. The debate became muddled after some people from Kashmir, exchanged heated words with Kashmiri Pandit leader and former journalist RK Mattoo when he said, “The army is present everywhere in the North-East, Kashmir and other sundry places. I can tell you proudly that the Indian Army is one of the most disciplined armies in the world.””Pro-freedom” Kashmiris at the debate shouted slogans and policemen posted for the event eventually managed to pacify the two groups. Amnesty India said it had organised the event as part of a campaign to seek justice for “victims of human rights violations” in Jammu and Kashmir. It, however, said “it considers the right to freedom of expression under international human rights law protects the right to calmly advocate political solutions that do not involve incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.”

They trek with a motive of cleaning up…

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Five city-based youngsters have given trekking a twist. They not only organise treks to Raigad and Rajgad but have also started a clean-up initiative while trekking. 23-year-old Satyajeet Bhonsale along with his friends Arvind Sawant, Abhishek Sawant, Gajanan Patil and Swapnil Rane started the clean-up initiative while trekking on December 5, 2015. Since then they have conducted around seven clean-up treks. Out of seven, two were organised in Rajgad and five in Raigad.Sharing his view on the initiative Satyajeet said, “We have chosen trekking spots around Mumbai for this initiative. There is a lot of dry waste littered on the way to Raigad and Rajgad fort. These are also considered tourist spots. It is a disappointment to see such places in shabby condition.” Recollecting the amount of waste they collected, Satyajeet, added: “There is a lot of dry waste — majorly plastic. So far, we have collected over 600 kg of dry waste in Raigad.”The funds for the clean-up activity are collected through fees that they get by organising treks. “While we collect the fees from trekkers, we announce about the initiative well in advance. We require some materials to collect the waste and bring down to the base. Rather than dumping the waste, we give it for recycling. That is a best option to reduce the collected waste,” said Satyajeet. The group now has around 40 trekkers who volunteer for the clean-up drive. Speaking about the response they receive, Sawant said, “Our motto is to clean-up Raigad since it is an attractive spot. It is good to see people from different districts joining us.”

Ganga crosses extreme danger level in West Bengal

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The rising water level of the Ganga has crossed the extreme danger level in Malda district of West Bengal submerging vast areas in several villages affecting a population of nearly 20,000, a district official said on Sunday.Additional District Magistrate, Malda, Kanchan Chowdhury said the rise in the water level of the river was due to the release of 10 lakh cusecs of water from the Sone dam in Uttar Pradesh.The badly affected areas are Kalichak Block number 3, Pardewanapur-Shobhapur gram panchayat and Birnagar gram panchayat, the ADM said.The two gram panchayats have already been affected due to land erosion. Half of the area in Paranupnagar village has already been eroded, Chowdhury said, adding that roads had also been affected in the district due to the flooding.In Manikchak block, 10 villages have also been affected, the ADM said.Control rooms have been opened at the gram panchayat, block and district levels and villagers have been alerted last night. The district administration was keeping constant vigil and arrangements are being made to distribute tarpaulin and dry food among the affected. Flood centres will also be opened, Chowdhury added.The state Irrigation department has alerted the district administration to take all necessary steps to meet the situation.

Madhya Pradesh cabinet expansion: BJP veterans Babulal Gaur, Sartaj Singh asked to resign

Replicating the Modi government’s ‘Margdarshak Mandal’ concept, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Thursday dropped two senior ministers, apparently on ground of old age, as he expanded his council of ministers, inducting four ministers of cabinet rank and five MoS.Babulal Gaur (85) and Sartaj Singh (76), who held the important Home and PWD portfolios respectively, were shown the door. Both were said to have resigned following instructions from the BJP high command before the oath-taking ceremony.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”I was asked by the central leadership to resign,” Gaur, a former MP chief minister, told PTI.Several bigwigs in BJP, including party patriarch L K Advani, besides Murli Manohar Joshi, Jaswant Singh and Yashwant Sinha were marginalised in the party and not accomodated in the Modi government due to their advanced age.Advani and Joshi were included in the ‘Marg Darshak’ mandal, meant to mentor the party, but find themselves practically sidelined in the organisation. Both Gaur and Singh did not attend the oath-taking ceremony.Governor Ramnaresh Yadav administered the oath of office and secrecy to the four new cabinet ministers — Archana Chitnis, Rustam Singh, Jaibhan Singh Pawaiya and Omprakash Dhurve — at Raj Bhavan in Chouhan’s presence. Vishwas Sarang, Sanjay Pathak, Suryaprakash Meena, Lalita Yadav and Harsh Singh took oath as Ministers of State.There was speculation that Animal Husbandry and Fisheries Minister Kusum Mehdele too had been asked to resign because of her age, but when contacted an aide of the 71-year-old leader dismissed it as rumour. Sources said following today’s expansion, a Happiness Ministry, a first-of-its-kind in the country, will be created.The new ministry, inspired by Bhutan, which has the concept of ‘gross national happiness index’, will likely be headed by Chouhan himself, they said. The portfolios to the newly-inducted ministers will be distributed by tomorrow. There could be a rejig of portfolios as well, sources said. Chouhan’s council of ministers was last expanded in 2013.The Chouhan dispensation now has 20 cabinet ministers and nine ministers of state. Under the rules, the state can have a maximum of 33 ministers.Gaur was the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh from August 23, 2004, to November 29, 2005. Sartaj Singh was a minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s 13-day Government.

Hands on with India’s £3 smartphone

The BBC is given a first look at a smartphone costing less than £3, set to launch in India this week.

Maharashtra govt seeks $600 million loan from World Bank for irrigation projects

Kolhapur: Maharashtra government has sent a proposal to the World Bank seeking a loan of USD 600 million for a water conservation project to be implemented in about 20,000 drought-hit villages of the state, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said on Sunday.

Maharsahtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. PTI

Maharsahtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. PTI

“State government has sent a proposal to the World Bank seeking a loan of $600 million on low interest rate… it is anticipated to be sanctioned shortly. We envisage to utilise the fund by implementing a water conservation project in nearly 20,000 villages in next five years,” Fadnavis said while addressing a farmers’ rally in Kagal tehsil here.

He said the project, aided by the World Bank, will help drought-stricken villages overcome parched conditions which have been prevalent in the state for the last couple of years.

The chief minister said far more investment is needed in agriculture for sustainable and reasonable farming.

He appealed to the farmers and others to participate in the state-run Jalayukt Shivar Yojana.

“We have to focus on proper water management and will have to create water bodies in a decentralised manner. Big dams are necessary but decentralised water bodies are also
necessary,” Fadnavis said.

The chief minister also explained about the relation between drip and micro irrigation and better productivity in farms and said there is huge difference in irrigation through canals and drip.

“Drip irrigation definitely improves productivity. Keeping this in mind, state government is now in favour of supplying water through pipes instead of canals,” he said.

Meanwhile, Fadnavis said that development of Kolhapur airport is on the priority list of the government.

Addressing a function of local industrialists at Shiroli, the chief minister appealed to them to contribute towards ‘Make in India’.

He also assured his government’s support in introducing modern technology in foundry units in Kolhapur.

‘Come clean before 30 Sept’: PM Modi cautions tax evaders on Mann Ki Baat

On Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s metamorphosis from a capitalist leader to one pursuing socialist agenda appeared to be seamless. In his monthly address to the nation, known as “Mann Ki Baat”, Modi cautioned tax-evaders and requested them to comply with the tax regime, or to be prepared to face the music.

He burnished his socialist credentials by recalling the “excesses of emergency and incarceration of Jayaprakash Narayan”, imposed by Indira Gandhi 42-years back on 25 June. Modi’s speech incidentally, came a day after the country recalled and marked the anniversary of the emergency imposed, and the subsequent persecution.

PM Modi. Image courtesy: PIBPM Modi. Image courtesy: PIB

PM Modi. Image courtesy: PIB

Apart from touching on sundry issues that concerned science, entry of women fighter pilots and the cleanliness drive, Modi devoted his exposition mostly to send out a warning to tax-evaders, loud and clear. He pointed out that the government has given an exemption till 30 September to all tax-evaders – to disclose their assets and income – to come clean.

In a tone carrying unmistakable toughness, Modi said, “after 30 September, if people come to grief on account of non-compliance with the tax regime, the government cannot help.”

Providing statistics on high tax-payers in the country, he said that in a country of 1.25 billion people, only 1.5 lakh people were accounted for as earning an annual income beyond Rs 50 Lakh. “This is preposterous,” he said, adding that in big cities, there are lakhs of people who earn beyond this income limit. “This is evident when you look at the houses they live in,” the PM said.

Explaining the reason behind taking up this issue in his monthly radio address, Modi said that he wanted to give people a chance to show their willingness to comply with the law. Referring to his meetings with the country’s top revenue officials, he said that he had instructed tax officials to desist from harassing people, and to trust them till proven otherwise.

“I assure you that if you comply with the regime before 30 September, you will neither face any inquiry nor will you be asked about your source of income,” Modi said.

In a move that may have political implications, Modi was all praise for people belonging to the lower and lower-middle class, in his address on Sunday. He referred to some cases in particular, to highlight their contribution in nation-building. He referred to Chandrakant Kulkarni, a pensioner living on a Rs 16000 pension, who contributes Rs 5000 every month. Quite clearly, Modi was emphatic in his assertion that higher-income groups need to fall in line – the sooner the better.

Apparently, Prime Minister’s caution to tax-evaders – though concealed in a polite language – appeared to be the toughest ever, since the time when VP Singh launched a vigorous campaign against tax-evasion as finance minister during Rajiv Gandhi’s regime.

Modi was quite unambiguous in his assertion that the government was determined to bring those not complying with the tax-regime to book. He gave enough indications of launching a nationwide campaign, if the exemption scheme till 30 September fails to bring desired results.

There is little doubt that such a campaign is bound to make people that fall into these high groups quite jittery, but, at the same time, it would also get appreciation from a large section of the society, which is beyond the income tax net.

VP Singh’s political success in 1989 clearly rested on his relentless campaign against capitalists, and earned him the sobriquet of “Mr Clean”. In fact, he appeared cleaner than his own prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, and ultimately stood up against him.

Modi has, however, taken up this initiative himself, and has issued a warning to India’s super-rich in a manner that may have positive resonance among a large section of the society.

At the same time, it would make it difficult for his adversaries to paint his term as a pro-capitalist regime. In all probability, he is unlikely to go the ‘VP Singh-way’ – to target big corporate houses.

The message is aimed more towards those who thrive on illegal incomes and avoid the tax net, leading happy lives at the expense of national development. Now, it seems that the gala for tax-evaders is going to be over soon, if Modi’s “Mann ki Baat” is any indication.

On a green mission, with bombs in hand

They love to go on a carpet bombing, but with bombs of a different sort. The aim is not to annihilate, but to create greenery, by planting and nurturing more and more trees.And it’s this time of the year, when the soil is saturated in showers, that the ffroge – Friends For Reviving Our Green Earth – with bombs in hand, takes to the deforested areas in and around Mumbai.The making of the bomb, however, starts in summer itself. The seeds are collected from the public and schoolchildren and converted into seed bombs alias seed balls (see box). What next is to identify the target areas for bombing near the water bodies.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Says Vikas Mahajan, a businessman who started this initiative a few years ago, “We pick Sundays to go to the locations we have identified in the deforested areas. So far, over 400 seed balls have been sowed. This Sunday, 250 seed balls – made by students of Roseneil High School, Bhayander – will be sowed by our group in Shahapur, Kalamboli, Naigaon, Virar, Uran areas.”The seeds used are of native fruits and vegetables like watermelon, mangoes, jackfruit, lychee, chickoo, oranges, lemon. The technique is mainly employed in Japan. “Dispersing a seed to grow trees has less percentage of success because the seeds are mostly eaten away by ants or other insects. Seed bomb is a good method to increase the success percentage of seed germination,” said Mahajan.He says that the initiative is invoking good response from the public who are now coming forward to contribute seeds. “Many have couriered us dry seeds. Some come in person. A women group from Pune couriered me some seeds of mangoes, oranges, lemons recently. Seeds can be gifted at any point of the year, and could be that of seasonal fruits and vegetables. We will be sowing them once the monsoon commences,” he said.A nature lover from Chembur, Shilpa Sharma, 45, has initiated it in her locality. Sharma has been talking to her residential society members to collect the seed and make seed bombs to sow in the nearby areas. “The initiative should be taken up by every individual, instead of discarding seeds along with garbage. We are gathering like-minded people to team up for the initiative. This will help us track the growth of the plants.”What is seed bombing?It is a technique of introducing vegetation to land by throwing or dropping seed balls. Often, seed bombing projects are done with arid or off-limits areas. Provided enough water, adequate sunlight, and low competition from existing flora and fauna, seed-bombed barren land could be host to new plants in as little as a month.How to make a seed bombWash the seed and dry it in indirect sunlightMix 3 portions of mud and 1 portion of compost/manureAdd water to the mixture and prepare doughMake small mud ball out of the dough and insert seedsKeep the balls in a tray and dry them in indirect sunlightTo contribute seeds or for more details, mail to [email protected]

True hero: Mumbai HC judge offers to pay widowed woman’s son’s fees after he was refused admission

A Judge of the Bombay High Court has asked a school to consider giving admission to a student in Junior KG on payment of Rs 10,500 fees in instalments as his widowed mother cannot afford to give the entire amount at one go, failing which he offered to pay from his own pocket.Justice VM Kanade, sitting in a division bench along with Justice MS Sonak, at a hearing on Friday, asked Lokmanya Tilak High School at Tilak Nagar in Chembur to allow the mother of the four-year-old child pay the fees in instalments as she cannot afford to pay the entire amount immediately. “Please consider this or else I would pay…let the child be not deprived of getting education,” said Kanade, the seniormost HC Judge after the Chief Justice.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He was hearing a petition filed by the child’s mother who is seeking admission for her son in the school. The woman, Rita Kanojia, is a widow and works as a housemaid. She stays in slums near the school. Her husband, who ran a laundry service, died due to cancer in July 2014.Her two daughters are studying in Class III and IV in the same school. Now, she is seeking admission for her son Kartik in Junior KG. The family cannot afford the school fees, the court was told.During previous hearing, the Court had told the school authorities to grant admission to the child without insisting on payment of building development fund of Rs 19,500. Later, the school asked her to pay Rs 10,500 as school fees. As Kanojia was unable to give the amount in one go, she requested the school to let her pay in instalments.However, the school authorities refused to consider her plea and directed the watchman to prevent her from entering the school premises, her lawyer told the Court. “Please take a sympathetic view of the case and do not deprive the child from getting education,” the bench said.The bench asked the school authorities to respond to the petition and posted the matter for further hearing on June 27.

Jammu and Kashmir government rules out ban on liquor

The Jammu and Kashmir government has ruled-out a ban on sale and consumption of liquor in the only Muslim majority state of the country.”People should decide what they ought to do. We can’t force our will on them. Let the issue be addressed in the ambit of freedom of choice,” said Haseeb A Drabu, J&K minister for finance, while speaking in the Legislative Council.Batting for the self regulation, Drabu said individuals should decide for themselves not the government. “Choices are not enforced in the free society,” he said<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The government’s decision not to ban liquor has come in the backdrop of clamor for declaring the Jammu and Kashmir as dry state. Several religious and civil society groups have been demanding ban on liquor akin to Gujarat and Bihar.Leading the pro-ban campaign is Karwan-e-Islami (KeI), one of the largest religious organizations in J&K. “We will not remain silent. The government’s decision is unfortunate. We will intensify our campaign after the Eid. We will hit the streets to press for our demands to ban the liquor in the state”, Moulana Ghulam Rasool Hami, chairman of KeI, told dna.The demand for ban has come despite the fact that the Jammu and Kashmir is witnessing upward trend in the sale and consumption of different types of liquor.Official figures reveal that around 219718 lakh bottles of different types of liquor was sold in J&K in 2015-16. Around 169161 lakh bottles of liquor was sold in the state in 2014-15. In 2013-14, around 1,53,563 lakh bottles of liquor was sold in J&KLiquor sales is one of the biggest revenue generators for Jammu and Kashmir government. J&K excise department has realised Rs 531.88 crore revenue from liquor sales in 2015-16 compared to Rs 464.88 crore in 2014-15. In 2013-14, the department collected a revenue of Rs 439.04 crore from liquor sales in the state.Though most of the liquor is consumed in the Jammu region, the Kashmir valley too has seen a surge in the liquor sale and consumption despite the ban imposed by the ultras.Liquor vends were closed in Kashmir after ‘Allah Tigers’ issued a blanket ban on its sale and consumption in 1989 when militancy started in Kashmir. The outfit had even ransacked and looted the liquor shops forcing all of them to close down instantly. However, a few of them have reopened in the high security zones.

Fodder scam: Lalu Yadav appears before special CBI court in Ranchi

Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) patriarch and former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad Yadav appeared before a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) special court in Ranchi Jharkhand in connection with the fodder scam case.Lalu’s counsel Prabhat Kumar told ANI, “The case is pertaining to RC38A/1996, in which there are a total of 48 accused and most of them were evading personal appearance. That is why all the accused had been ordered by the court to appear before it.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”So far 15-17 accused have marked their presence in the court, and more are expected to visit. The court will take legal action against those who failed to comply with its order,” Kumar added.The fodder scam relates to fraudulent withdrawal of around 1,000 crore rupees by the Animal Husbandry department from various districts when Lalu was the Bihar chief minister from 1990 to 1997.On October 3, 2013, Lalu was sentenced to five years imprisonment in another case of fodder scam by a special CBI court, which had disqualified him from membership of Parliament and also renderedhim ineligible for contesting elections for 11 years.Besides Lalu, six other politicians and four retired IAS officers were also sentenced to prison terms for fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 37.7 crore from Chaibasa treasury (now in Jharkhand) when Lalu was heading the Janta Dal government in the early 1990s in erstwhile Bihar.Meanwhile, with important files related to the fodder scam reportedly missing from the animal and fisheries resources department office in Patna, Union Minister and BJP MP Rajiv Pratap Rudy alleged that this was all being done to get a clean-chit for RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav by his partner in crime Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.Rudy said this is all being done by the incumbent grand alliance government in Bihar to facilitate Lalu’s acquittal.”The missing files signify there are people in the system trying to get a clean-chit for Mr. Lalu Prasad Yadav. Mr. Lalu Prasad Yadav and Nitish Kumar are friends and they are partners in crime,” he told ANI.Rudy recalled that the RJD boss had to quit as the Bihar chief minister in 1997 because he was charged and sentenced in the fodder scam.”Thereafter, the CBI chargesheeted him. He was put behind the bars. He had to quit his position as the chief minister,” he said.”There are reports that the file pertaining to the Fodder scam has been stolen. And it clearly emphasises that there are people in the system who possibly would be working to give a clean-chit or to assist or facilitate the acquittal of Mr. Lalu Prasad Yadav,” he added.Continuing his tirade against the Nitish-Lalu duo, Rudy said crime has increased in Bihar, adding the state government has begun to protect the criminals.”It seems it’s a part of that very same chain. We are all very concerned that the process of law and the process of justice will stand vitiated if such incidents happen where the files pertaining to fodder scam are stolen,” he added.Meanwhile, an FIR has been registered at the Old Secretariat police station in this regard.The fodder scam involved the embezzlement of about Rs. 9.4 billion from the government treasury of Bihar.

Nitish Kumar claims crime rate down after alcohol ban in Bihar

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Friday claimed there has been a drastic decline in percentage of crimes in the last two months after complete prohibition was imposed in the state. “Heinous crimes have come down by 15 per cent in last two months,” he told a function in the temple town of Gaya.Likewise, cases of murder have come down by 32% in past two months in the wake of total prohibition since April 5, dacoity by 45 per cent, kidnapping for ransom by 76 per cent and road accidents by 32 per cent during the period, he said quoting police figures.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Kumar said a research on prisoners has brought to light the fact that 41 per cent of crimes were committed by them under the influence of liquor. He said there has been a social revolution by declaring Bihar a dry state. People were apprehensive on the success of prohibition in Bihar, but today 70 days have passed and the new rule has been successfully implemented in the state, he said.Kumar, who was addressing a function of women self help groups, exhorted the women in particular to keep strict vigil on prohibition in future too. He said the prohibition order was a tribute to the Father of the Nation when the state was celebrating 100 years of Mahatma Gandhi launching Champaran satyagraha in Bihar.Latter, Kumar presided over a meeting of peoples’ representatives and took their suggestions for developmental works in the region.

Bihar: BJP alleges stolen files were of fodder scam; seeks CBI probe

The BJP on Thursday refused to accept Bihar government’s claim that 500 odd stolen files of the state animal husbandry directorate were not connected with the fodder scam and alleged that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was trying to save RJD president Lalu Prasad and others accused in the over Rs 1000 crore scam.”More than 500 stolen files are related to fodder scam,” senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi claimed in a statement and demanded CBI inquiry into the issue.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Majority of the stolen files are related to cases under fodder scam in which hearing is pending in courts,” Modi, one of the petitioners in the Patna High Court in the scam in Animal Husbandry department during RJD rule, alleged.Besides, there are files linked to petitioners that included him (Sushil Modi), Rajeev Ranjan Singh Lallan and Prem Chandra Mishra, he alleged.”Lalu Prasad is a convict in a fodder scam case and is currently on bail. More than half-a-dozen other cases related to the fodder scam are pending against him,” he said and asked if theft of the files was part of a conspiracy to save the accused.”In a bid to save its face, the state government is arguing that files related to fodder scam have been handed over to CBI. The question is if these were dead files, why were they stolen?” he asked.Animal Husbandry Department Minister Awdesh Kumar Singh yesterday denied missing files were of fodder scam saying all such files related to that case have been handed over to the CBI which is investigating the scam.The minister said the missing files were related to retirement, pension and other departmental matters of employees from 1997 to 2011.Modi said the theft had been taken place on April 26 but the information regarding the theft was given four days later (April 30) and this proves it is a conspiracy.”Sixteen days after information about theft of files, an FIR was registered, and after 22 days of it an inspector did the formality of questioning about theft,” he claimed.”The fact is that Nitish Kumar wishes to save Lalu Prasad,” he alleged.”On one hand, Lalu Prasad ignored party workers and nominated noted lawyer Ram Jethmalani, who is arguing his case in fodder scam, to Rajya Sabha. On the other, a conspiracy was hatched to steal files related to fodder scam,” Modi said.

Devgad Alphonsos win back their aroma!

You may never forget that flavour and aroma. Devgad Alphonsos are Devgad Alphonsos, period! But the men who grow them and feed you have been an unhappy lot – for the past four years.During Alphonso season, mango growers from many other regions mislead customers by advertising their varieties as Devgad Alphonsos. Now, relief is on the way.Devgad Alphonso mango growers will now get what is called a Geographical Indicator (GI) registration in a month. This would help them retain the Devgad title and prevent other Alphonso growers from mis-selling their favourite produce.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The assistant registrar of GI at the patent office in Mumbai heard the case of three entities – Devgad Taluka Mango Growers’ Cooperative Society, Kelshi Mango Growers’ Society, which represents Ratnagiri Alphonsos, and Konkan Agricultural University.Omkar Sapre, board member, Devgad Taluka Mango Growers Cooperative Society, told dna that the hearing on Monday lasted three hours and the assistant registrar has admitted their claims.As per GI registration requirement, they presented National Chemical Laboratory reports as well as a research paper from Dharwad and a Government Resolution to press their case, Sapre said. The society had filed a GI application in 2012.In the recent past, mangoes from many areas are being sold as Hapoos, advertised as Devgad mangoes, Sapre said.Once customers find that these mangoes are of poor quality, they blame the Devgad brand. This has been happening for the last few years, he said. This is the prime reason the society has decided to approach the patent office.Konkan Agricultural University is also trying for GI for Alphonsos or Hapoos. Its claim is that Alphonsos are the same, irrespective of the geographical locations in which they are grown.”Even if one goes by the university’s logic, farmers from other areas like Karnataka should not be using the word Devgad and the society is trying for GI,” Sapre said.The Devgad society has taken strong exception to mangoes being sold as Hapoos and has suggested to the registration office that growers from respective areas should be asked to put a geographical indicator.]How is the flavour different?Devgad region has a fine, cool, temperate and bracing climate all through the year and even after heavy rainfalls, it remains comparatively dry as water is drained off to the creek very quickly. Hence, Devgad is free from epidemics. Mangoes taste sweeter when the mositure content of the soil in which they grow is less. That is why Devgad Alphonsos have a unique aroma and test.

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