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Modi speech: PM thanks Indians for standing by demonetisation, rewards them with sops

Amid the celebrations to mark the beginning of a new year, what caught the fancy of the people in different parts of the country and kept them glued to their television sets and radios was Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s address to the nation.

The prime minister’s speech comes 52 days after his announcement of demonetisation, made in a similar address to the nation on 8 November.

Screenshot of PM Modi during his New Year's Eve addressScreenshot of PM Modi during his New Year's Eve address

Screenshot of PM Modi during his New Year’s Eve address

On Saturday evening, Modi thanked 1.25 billion Indians for the resilience they showed in bearing the problems that came with his demonetisation drive, and doing so with much dignity and patience.

Lauding Indians with a couplet “Kuch baat hai ki hasti mitti nahi hamari“, Prime Minister Modi said, “People of India have lived and proved this adage. What India has done will find no parallel in the world.”

Repeatedly thanking and applauding Indians for supporting the demonetisation decision, calling it a “shuddhi yagna”, Modi said that the evils of corruption and black money compelled even honest people to bend in despair, and made him feel “suffocated”. Modi said that these people wanted relief from such suffocation.

Dwelling more upon the resilience of the people, Modi said that on numerous instances — be during the Indo-China war or the Kargil war with Pakistan — people of India have displayed immense sacrifice and resilience. He added that they were all fights with outsiders, but after demonetisation, people were fighting to kill their inner evil, which was comparatively more difficult.

Talking about how people reacted positively to demonetisation, Modi said that a time will come when the country’s intelligentsia will discuss the fight shown by people in defeating their inner demons and deformities. He said the resilience shown by the people in the last 50 days was an epitome of sacrifice to defeat what was wrong.

“The events of 8 November told us how 1.25 crore Indians took the trouble and made the efforts to prove that honesty and virtuosity are most important,” Prime Minister added.

Accepting the pain that people have to face because of demonetisation, Modi said, “I know that to withdraw your own money, you had to bear pain. People shared their pain with me. But I realised that you considered me your own. You showed that you don’t want to be left behind in this fight against corruption.”

He added that the government’s top priority will now be to normalise the functioning of the banking system. Modi said that there will be renewed focus on every aspect of the sector, and especially on making things normal in rural areas.

Stressing on the fact that tax evasion has now become all-pervasive in the country, Modi said that as per official records, only 24 lakh people claim to be earning more than Rs 10 lakh, which is unbelievable given the opulence that is on display in most of the cities.

Sending a clear message to the “corrupt and dishonest” citizens of the country, Modi said that is very obvious now as to what will happen to them. “The law will take its own course. But government’s priority will be to ensure how the honest can be helped and be supported,” he said.

While lauding the efforts of the banking sector, who “worked really hard” in the last 52 days, he also made it amply clear that the people, including government officials, who have indulged in fraudulent practices, will not be spared.

Apart from stressing on demonetisation warning wrong doers, and applauding the honest, Modi also announced a slew of reforms and schemes to benefit the rural poor. Some of them were: An eight percent interest rate will be guaranteed on deposits of upto Rs 7.5 lakh for 10 years for senior citizens; interest will be paid monthly. Modi also announced a 4 percent interest rate cut against home loans of up to Rs 9 lakhs, and 3 percent against home loans upto Rs 12 lakhs for the year 2017.

While there will be detailed analysis of the reforms, the prime minister has sent out a clear message in his New Year’s Eve address: While the honest can expect ache din, it will surely be bure din (tough times) for the corrupt.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 21:30 IST

Modi speech: Great expectations not belied but PM backs off from sharing details

It was Plato and Socrates more than Mark Anthony.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had this brilliant end of the year opportunity and he chose the sober road rather than raise the nation’s BP with shrill rhetoric.

It was more a lesson delivered than a soul-stirring speech.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTIPrime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

He did not get down and dirty and give us the brawl we wanted, the marching of the corrupt went missing. The script was far too mature and adult and cerebral to excite.

That is what his detractors will pick on.

As the sun slipped down for the last time in 2016 the tryst with India notwithstanding, a whole nation was more than just mad keen to know what he would say. This was the biggest show of the year.

But, in a lighter vein, Modi forgot to wish the nation a happy new year.

What magic did they expect at this fluid stage? Just because it was scheduled for new year’s eve does not give it a special dimension. Also, raising the pre-speech media hype was unfair and uncharitable.

Nothing changes tomorrow. People will live and die just like any other day. Consequently, to presume that Modi would give a road map with milestones was a bit much. He iterated the efforts of the past fifty days and heaped spoonfuls of praise on the public for joining in the battle.

Especially in assuaging the level of discomfort being admirably tolerated by his 1.2 billion mitrons.

He was unflappable. Chillingly blunt and so even-keeled that one wasn’t sure if it was the great orator or a subdued victor who has broken the back of corruption and is humble in that grasp on the laurel wreath.

Dropping the interest on low-cost housing was the first arrow to leave the quiver after the first twenty minutes of liquid sentiment.

We waited for more arrows and the praise for farmers came on the heels of informing us sans any date that the banks would get back to normal soon. How soon was left an open gate.

His new schemes were rural and based largely on reducing loan interests and giving the rural sector a boost with a 60-day payment vacation.

Modi segued from the praise phase into the rural phase with a call to co-operatives to ease their interest level and in the next 90 days three crore farmers would have the Kisan card changed to the Rupay card to make it easier for them to engage in transactions.

Several of the small scale industries would be given relief and those small businessmen would benefit loans on lesser interest.

If you add the several initiatives they come up to quite a bit. Women upliftment, maternity health schemes, senior citizens, all were given an honorable mention, each section of society being gently disarmed with gratitude and courtesy.

It was a great way to lay the groundwork for something more tangible after multiple references to marching ‘together’ and acknowledging the public agony for the past two months.

There was no glee, none of that public rally mocking undertone the Modi has begun to love so much.
Way ahead of the game without the theatrics he could have taken demonetization by the scruff of its neck and shaken the demon out of it.

It may have been a risk but an Act in which the monologue that covered the catching of the big fish, the bringing in of money from abroad, cleansing the corruption in the bureaucracy and the government, in politics and its nexus with the underworld, something for us to say, yes, the schemes are great and should have been there anyway, but what about telling us what tomorrow brings.

He set off on that angle with the announcement that only 2.4 million Indians earn 10 lakh plus a year and we thought okay, here it comes, the harsh stuff. But it did not. He warned bankers and officials indeed but non-specifically.

He could have shared with us why the RBI is being cagey and not transparent.

Shared with the people at least how exactly these lakhs of crores (different figures depending on who you are reading) have changed the fiscal landscape and what percentage of the underground, parallel economy has been wrecked.

This is it. We do not know. The media flings figures with dozens of zeros in them and yet nobody has told us in specific who is hurt, how many of the bad guys have fallen and has their nefarious system collapsed.

At the end of all this we want something to justify the long hours in the queue and the ongoing discomfort. And this was the missing vital element.

One Lodha, one lawyer called Tandon raided or placed in custody do not a summer make. These guys should have been caught anyway, not because of demonetisation but because they should have been on the radar of the authorities period.

Why were these income tax raids and all these sleuths not playing pink panther with the same gusto before 8 November.

Modi should have used today to come out swinging from his corner and telling the people of India that the sacrifice they made and are still making has begun to pay off.

And if he could tell them step by simple step how the exercise is paying off he could also have shared some of the dirt.

I think the figures are now becoming mythical and have no impact. Perhaps Modi felt the same way and decided to go for concrete steps he is taking rather than offer instant sops.

The abrupt ending and the sudden goodbye came as a surprise… we were looking for more.

But that is our problem, not his.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 20:49 IST

Demonetisation: The objective of accountability behind the ordinance extinguishing old notes

What was the agenda behind the cabinet approval for promulgating of an ordinance extinguishing the Reserve Bank of India’s liability for cancelled Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes? Was it a mere fulfilment of legal formality so as to prevent chances of someone claiming his right to encash disbanded notes on the basis of a promise to pay the bearer? If it was to fulfil only mere legal formalities, then the obvious question will be on what basis circulation of these very currency notes were made illegal with effect from 8 November midnight? Being a layman in legal matters, I leave it to the concerned experts to ponder over it.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

What else could be the motive behind the move now? Out of Rs 15.4 lakh crore scrapped currency notes, already Rs 14 lakh crore, which is a whopping 90.9 percent, have already come back to the banking system. By any standard, the current step is a major success, one aimed at making unaccounted income accountable. This is a clear indication of the grip of the incumbent government. It also indicates how seriously people take decisions initiated by the prime minister.

Assuming that still around Rs 1 lakh crore do not get accounted, nobody would have shown guts to claim its value merely on the basis of promise to pay the bearer. That would have remained as mere pieces of paper. At the most, these scrapped notes would have got the honour of getting exhibited under palliate clubs. Anyway, the government’s treasury would have got enriched by an amount equivalent to unclaimed part of scrapped currency notes which may not be more than five percent of the scrapped notes.

What could be the hidden agenda? What would be implications of the ordinance? It definitely reflects determination of the prime minister to tackle menace of black money for which he was given mandate by the people. Among those who declared their income, there will be those who end up paying penalty for not filing returns on time. At the most, their social image may get tarnished. But they don’t have alternate escape route under the determined government.

Who are these persons who don’t mind their ill-gotten wealth getting drained away? Obviously, these are the persons who simply cannot afford to declare their income and pay penalty as other simpletons have done. In this case, resolving of one problem means getting trapped into a much more dangerous web. How can corrupt politicians and bureaucrats declare black money and get away by simply paying penalty? Instead of resolving the problem, it would lead them into a deeper trap. It would automatically lead to investigation about sources of their income. They would end up accepting bribe which means likely end of their career and jail term.

It also has to do with nature of the person called Narendra Modi. Once he takes initiative to reach the target, he is known for trying to achieve it at any cost and go forward with the killing spirit. Perhaps the prime minister is determined to clean up the entire political spectrum and government machinery without sparing anybody. In the process, he may have to sacrifice many of his own colleagues apart from taking on political opponents. No doubt, it is really a bold step. It looks like the prime minister is aware of tremendous risk involved. His real support and strength in this fight against black money is from common men. Despite facing hardship of standing in queues for hours together, they still stand by the Prime Minister. In fact, the measure initiated by the prime minister to tackle black money has become a true people’s movement today. Any movement blessed by people is bound to be a success despite numerous hurdles.

(Dr Jagadish Shettigar is a former member of Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council and currently, Economics Professor at Birla Institute of Management Technology, Greater Noida.)

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 17:25 IST

Newsroom diaries 2016: Freedom 251, the story that made us question technology

Editor’s note: This article is part of a series of newsroom diaries by various members of the Firstpost team. These diaries will provide you with the journalist’s recollections of a particular bit of news coverage in 2016 in which she/he was deeply involved.

I’ve been covering technology for some years now. But on the evening of 16 February this year, news came in of a sub-Rs 500 smartphone to be launched in India. Personally, I considered it to be a con job. It seemed as tricky as a chain-marketing sham to make money from innocent customers. I was rather excited about the upcoming Mobile World Congress, which typically sets the pace for the kind of devices we are to expect through the rest of the year. When someone suggested that this could be a story worth following, I brushed it aside.

Freedom 251. IBNLiveFreedom 251. IBNLive

Freedom 251. IBNLive

The next morning I was proven wrong. And how. On the morning of 17 February, newspapers in the northern parts of India ran full front page ads of the Freedom 251, by Ringing Bells. Colleagues who would otherwise not care as much about what we covered in technology were following up by the minute. I was getting phone calls and messages about this latest sensation. That’s exactly what Freedom 251 was – a sensation.

I had colleagues in office who were interested in buying a dozen handsets. A dozen? I thought to myself. But that’s exactly the kind of hysteria I was witnessing. While the initial joy of discovering a product as cheap as the Freedom 251 was behind us, we knew we had to go deeper. We’d have to break the myth it was. I ridiculed the product. Fundamentally, I was convicted of my idea that India needs devices, but what the Freedom 251 offers somehow doesn’t make it for me. I was criticised on social media for my stand – going against the wave of having an Indian product. I was accused of being critical and pessimistic when the need was to support Indian products. I guess that’s typical of social media conversations these days. Especially in India.

We analysed the product, the specification sheet that the company had put out. Our finding was that it was simply not possible to manufacture a device at that price point. People didn’t want to accept that this simply wasn’t possible. It’s like saying everyone has the possibility of winning a lottery. Mass hysteria begins. Then no one wants to know that the lottery is a hoax. During the days of the initial surge in interest, Apple, Microsoft, Google and Facebook all seemed pale in comparison.

We worked towards getting access to the device. Media in Delhi were invited to a launch event. As I always think, Delhi is important. So yes, media in Delhi tried the device out. And did mention on social media how the device gives mixed reactions. There were a few who said ‘what more do you expect in Rs 251?’ while others said, ‘feels like a scam.’ And sitting in Mumbai, I was getting mixed reactions from my friends in Delhi who had tried the device. But even they were given access to a ‘prototype’ with the logo of another manufacturer. Fine so far. But even that manufacturer distanced themselves from the company – Ringing Bells. I’m glad today there’s no mention of Freedom 251 and that India has finally moved beyond. Moreover, our initial stand of doubting the feasibility stands vindicated.

But what I have with me now are a couple of thousands of emails. All sent with personal details. I’ve been on a deletion spree, but every time I embark on that task, something more important comes along, and I procrastinate the deletion. It’s funny how someone could send me emails with an order of two dozen Freedom 251 handset. I’m not remotely connected to them. I’m glad though that no one sent me money, else they’d be demanding refunds! I’m probably going to spend a few hours around New Years cleaning up my inbox.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 09:40 IST

Demonetisation was single biggest case of total mismanagement, says Chidambaram

New Delhi: Insisting that the Opposition’s concerns on demonetisation have been found correct, former Finance Minister P Chidambaram said Prime Minister Narendra Modi should now make a categorical announcement of an end to all restrictions on cash withdrawals.

P Chidambaram. PTIP Chidambaram. PTI

P Chidambaram. PTI

“When the prime minister addresses the nation, the people expect that he will make a categorical announcement that all restrictions on money have been ended,” Chidambaram told reporters at AICC headquarters on Friday.

The senior Congress leader said that the woes of demonetisation should come to an end by Friday evening as the prime minister had asked for time till 30 December. Noting that Modi had recently said at a rally that “through the note ban, in one stroke, we destroyed the world of terrorism, drug mafia, human trafficking and underworld”, he said that it was therefore, fair to expect that these objectives would be achieved by the end of today.

“It is fair to expect that beginning Monday, 2 January, 2017, all restrictions on money imposed on 8 November, 2016 will be removed and the people will be able to withdraw the money in their bank accounts. It is fair to expect that there will be no queues outside bank branches and ATMs. It is fair to expect that all ATMs will be open round the clock and fully stocked with
currency notes,” he said.

Chidambaram said that the only person who can assure the people on these matters is Modi himself, because the government has “dubbed all of us in the Opposition as supporters of black money hoarders and tax evaders”.

On the government’s claim that people are happy and there have been no incidents of rioting, he said people are patient. “But please don’t mistake patient people for happy people,” he had said.

Seeking to debunk government’s claims on the benefits of demonetisation, he said, “Events of the last 50 days have proved us correct. Hoards of black money in new Rs 2,000 notes have been found.”

He further said that bribes have been given and taken in new Rs 2,000 notes and there is “no guarantee” that black money will not be demanded or generated in future or that bribes will not be given or taken in future in the new currency.

Dubbing the way the demonetisation was announced and implemented as a “single biggest case of total mismanagement”, he regretted the most momentous decision has been taken “without consulting key officials”.

Making a strong pitch for compensating people for the hardships they faced, he lamented that the government has “not uttered a word” about compensating the people for the economic losses heaped upon them by demonetisation.

He also demanded that the agenda note and the minutes of the meeting of the RBI board of directors held on 8 November, 2016, along with the Note for Cabinet on demonetisation placed before the Cabinet on 8 November, 2016, should be made
public.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 20:03 IST

India’s first transgender college principal resigns citing ‘non-cooperation’ from staff

Krishnagar: India’s first transgender college principal Manabi Bandopadhyay has submitted her resignation after about one-and-a-half years in office, expressing frustration at “non-cooperation” of a section of teachers and students of her institution.

Nadia District Magistrate Sumit Gupta on Thursday said he had received her letter of resignation from the post of Principal of Krishnagar Women’s College in the district on December 27 and forwarded it to the state Higher Education department on Wednesday.

Manabi Bandhopadhyay. Image courtesy: FacebookManabi Bandhopadhyay. Image courtesy: Facebook

Manabi Bandhopadhyay. Image courtesy: Facebook

Manabi alleged that she started facing non-cooperation from a section of teachers soon after she took over as the principal of the well-known women’s college on 9 June, 2015.

On the other hand, the teachers also levelled the same allegation against the principal, resulting in a standoff.

A four-member team, led by Joint Director of Public Instruction (DPI) RP Bhattacharjee, visited the college recently on a fact-finding mission and talked to the principal and teachers.

Manabi said, “All of my colleagues went against me. Some of the students went against me. I tried to bring back discipline and an atmosphere of education in the college. Most probably, that is why they went against me. I always got co-operation from the local administration, but never got it from my colleagues and students.”

She went on to say that she had been under tremendous mental pressure and could not take it anymore, forcing her to resign.

“I feel tired due to the agitation and gherao by the students and teachers. I faced a lot of legal notices from their end. I had come to this college with new hopes and dreams but I was defeated…,” she said.

Manabi (51), whose earlier name was Somnath, underwent a series of operations in 2003-2004 and became a woman. In 1995, she published the country’s first transgender magazine, Ob-Manab (sub-human).

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

Maharashtra: Govt to shut down liquor shops on national, state highways, says prepared to incur losses

Mumbai: Maharashtra government will implement the Supreme Court’s verdict of 15 December that directed all the states to shut down all liquor shops and vends on national and state highways.

State Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar cited the rising number of deaths in road accidents in the state while stating that the liquor shops on state and national highways will be closed.

“Maximum number of deaths due to road accidents were due to drunken driving. The SC verdict effectively means that 12,967 liquor shops in the state that fall within the 500 meter radius will have to shut down after March 31, 2017,” he told reporters in Mumbai.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Asked about the contention of the liquor lobby about revenue loss, Mungantiwar said, “anyway they are not in the business of selling holy water.”

The minister also said that the Maharashtra government was prepared to incur the loss in its revenue and will implement the order of the apex court.

“Out of the total 16,856 deaths in 2015-16, 13,212 deaths were road accident deaths and again out of that maximum of them were due to drunken driving,” Mungantiwar claimed. Meanwhile, officials said due to demonetisation, the department anticipates a 4.88 per cent decline in revenue between 1to 20 December.

As per State Excise departments data, the department had fixed the revenue income out of liquor for 2016 at Rs 15,343.96 crore.

The department had posted a revenue income of Rs 1,024.57 crore in November 2015, whereas the revenue income in November this year was Rs 1,027.35 crore, a rise of 0.27 per cent, shows the data.

As per the data, between 1 December to 20 December, 2015, the department posted a revenue income of Rs 670.25 crore, while the revenue for the same corresponding period this December stands at Rs 637.57 crore, a deficit of 4.88 percent.

Out of the total 12,967 liquor shops that will face closure after March 31, 2017, Pune district has maximum of 3,932 establishments, officials said. Of these 2,499 are in Nagpur, 2,225 in Kolhapur, , 2,224 in Aurangabad, 1,480 in Konkan region and 1,347 in Nashik district, they said.

There are a total of 24,572 country liquor, wine shops, permit rooms, clubs, beer shops, beer and wine serving outlets in the state, said officials.

According to them, the government has also directed its Superintendents of State Excise not to approve One Day temporary licenses (FL-4) to clubs that come within the radius of 500 meters from the boundaries of national, state highways and service roads.

First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 22:18 IST

Jonty Rhodes got thumbs up for naming daughter India, then why fuss over Taimur?

Now that Jonty Rhodes named his kid India in April this year we will give him the key to the country. While just a couple of days ago we handed the rusty ‘chain’ to Taimur because it drove so many of us into paroxysms of rage.

When the editor of Firstpost asked me if I could do a piece remarking on how this April announcement would largely be received like a benediction I burst out laughing and said half the Caribbean cricket team is of Indian origin, is it a big deal.

Jonty Rhodes. Getty ImagesJonty Rhodes. Getty Images

Jonty Rhodes. Getty Images

It is a nice thing, good show and all that, happy for the Rhodes (whose name might well have been given after Cecil of Rhodesia ) but not earth shattering in any way. We tend to get so carried away by names and associations that whether it is rage or praise, there is an out of bounds reaction. It is questionable but does it have something to do with a shortage of self-esteem. Why cannot all this be in the normal course of things instead of constantly looking like we are needy for approbation and endorsement.

Not that Jonty is the first. There have been some before him and Aussie star Chris Hemsworth (The Avengers) actually wanted to call his son Indiana (after Jones) but since the baby was a girl they lopped the ‘a’ off. That’s all.

And before we get too excited about it let’s take stock of the fact that as a favourite name it has dropped from 297 position in the Top 1,000 to nowhere on the list in 2011 and now supposedly at 927 or thereabouts.

It is a sobering thought that George Bush called his cat India which kind of puts things in perspective. And while we are on sobering thoughts India is actually derived from the Indus river most of which flows through Pakistan territory from its origins in Tibet.

I don’t think Jonty or anyone else intended to praise us as a people or extol our virtues, he just liked the sound of the name. Like the people of Dakota didn’t fall about because the Channings called their daughter that. But we will go overboard, make it look like we have been given a certificate of merit. Brooklyn, Camden, Austin, Alexandria, Sydney, Virginia, ask Paris Hilton or Savannah, it is not exceptional.

Famous people named India include India Hicks (English royalty and fashion model); India de Beaufort (British actress/musician) and that is about it.

This inclination we have to hug to our bosoms anyone with the Indian connection and set it to music like we had been awarded some accolade is pretty childish.

How quick we are to link up with someone who was remotely Indian in the distant past. VS Naipaul told us to buzz off and we still would not let up. We ran after Hargobind Khurana but we could not catch up. Vijay Singh putted us out and we still want to act as if he is Indian. Bobby Jindal won’t even admit it.

Oddly, Prince William, heir to the British throne has been found to have Indian ancestry and if he gets crowned one day we will have an Indian king in London and won’t that give us cheap thrills. Believe his DNA testing showed that the India part in his saliva is believed to originate from Williams’s great-great-great-great-great grandmother Eliza Kewark.

According to the Mail: “Although often described as Armenian, DNA analysis has revealed that she was at least half-Indian and is known to have lived in the country’s western region.”

Maharashtrian, Gujarati, khem cho, Willyum?

First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 21:45 IST

RBI and its broken promise: Is there no sanctity to the promissory notes?

The draconian punishments announced for keeping more than 10 notes of demonetised currency including a four-year jail sentence seems to be a defence mechanism to discourage any trigger happy Public Interest Litigator from suing the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for breaking its promise.

Every note carries the legend ‘I promise to pay the bearer the sum of…’ and the unilateral murder of these notes also leaves the RBI vulnerable to a breach of trust since the people were not party to the dissolution of the contractual obligation.

While illegally held notes or those that have been used for unlawful activities can be taxed and their holders penalised accordingly, the question that can be asked under the law is whether the promise still holds good.

Punish me as per the law but keep the written pledge.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

In purely technical terms, going by the written pledge, the RBI is obligated to exchange every one of the notes with those of lesser denominations including coins because that is what it has said it will do.

But, wait a minute. Does it owe us an explanation and while it can be accused of clumsiness, is it legally within its rights to ‘renege’ on its agreement?

The promissory note has its antecedents in the gold standard when a note could be exchanged for precious metals and is based on the Bank of England’s monetary system. In fact, at one stage, every note had the name of the individual to which it was given as legal tender.

Today, the note has the signature of the governor of the Reserve Bank and under his assurance the note per se is neither black, white, laundered or, in any way, reduced in value vis a vis the promise written on it.

As a legal conundrum how would the RBI defend itself? By citing the greater good? By underscoring the criminal element in its war on the parallel economy? By submitting that the pledge was initially broken by the people who misused the note and therefore rendered the promise null and void.

Perhaps the RBI’s best bet is to state that the Indian currency note is not a promissory note as it was in the old days but is money like the coins and, therefore, not accountable legally if the promise is not kept.

If that be so and this argument will be the mainstay of the government’s stand why have the legend on the note at all along with the governor’s signature? Doesn’t it have any sanctity?

The government will say that it is a convention with no locus standi in the court of law.

Consequently, since there is a ‘for’ and an ‘against’ argument, the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes that were demonetised each can have a day in court because its owner has had a pledge broken.

But it is a losing battle. Modern Indian currency is not officially seen as being a descendant of the old notes from the history books but just cash.

While most of us do not really care very much and will not do anything, one can question the premise that legally the RBI is duty-bound to honour every single note and see it as mutually exclusive from who owns it or what laws that the owner has broken.

The RBI, in simple terms, is not the police.

After all, if there is no value to the promise and the signature and the Indian currency is purely money why repeat this pompous commitment on the new notes.

Would this make for a stronger petition one cannot say but it is an interesting situation.

Problem there is that in no place on the note does it mention conditions under which this promise can be negated.

First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 14:05 IST

Demonetisation: Prime minister Narendra Modi to address nation on New Year eve

Prime minister Narendra Modi will address the nation on the New Year eve, said media reports. The address is likely to be at 7:30 in the evening.

Though it is not immediately known what the speech will be about, speculation is rife that it will be a stock taking of the demonetisation announced on 8 November.

The prime minister had announced the government’s surprise decision to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes in a stated aim to curb the fake currency, black money generation and terror funding.

The decision has deeply impacted the economy and normal lives of millions as it resulted in a severe cash crunch, which still continues.

PM Narendra ModiPM Narendra Modi

PM Narendra Modi

As the impact of the decision to replace about 86 percent of the currency in circulation unfolded on various sectors of the economy, the prime minister in a speech sought 50-day time period to deal with the situation. The deadline ends on 30 December.

The lack of preparation of the RBI and the government to deal with the evolving situation was evident as the printing of replacement currencies was slow and failed to keep pace with the rising demand for cash. Also even as the requirement was of more smaller denomination notes, the government released Rs 2,000 notes which did little to ease the crunch situation.

Frequent changes in rules regarding the withdrawal of cash and deposit of banned old notes added to the confusion of the public.

Ever since the pains heightened, there has been wide speculation that the prime minister will announce some sops for the rural and urban poor who have been hit badly as jobs dried up due to the sudden economic slowdown.

First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 11:55 IST

Kurla-Ambernath train derails near Kalyan, no reports of injury

Five coaches of an Amarnath-bound local from Kurla derailed near Kalyan on the Central line of the Mumbai suburban railways on Thursday morning, reports said.

The derailment took place between Kalyan and Vithalwadi station at 5.53 am, The Financial Express reported. However, no one is reported to have been injured.

Local train services on the Kalyan-Karjat route on the Central lines have been temporarily suspended and restoration work has already begun, various reports said.

AN NDTV report said that local train services between Ambernath and Karjat have been restored, and the Central Railway has requested the Kalyan Dombivali Municipal corporation to run extra buses between Kalyan and Ambarnath and CST-Kalyan to facilitate commuters during the peak hours.

The Central line of the Mumbai suburban railways has been struggling to match up with the increasing number of passengers with trains more than often running over capacity. The Central line had been in news recently, when on 7 December, commuters staged a rail roko at Titwala station protesting against a delay in the arrival of a train. A similar protest had been staged at Badlapur, another station on the Central line in August, The Times of India reported.

First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 08:52 IST

India needs about 200-250 Rafale aircafts to maintain edge: Arup Raha

New Delhi: Outgoing IAF chief Arup Raha on Wednesday made it clear that just 36 Rafale fighter jets would not suffice as India needs about 200-250 more fighters to maintain
its combat edge over adversaries.

The Air Chief Marshal, who is set to retire on 31 December, also rued that the tender for the much needed “force multiplier” mid air refuellers had to be withdrawn. He said a fresh tender is in the offing and the procurement will be speeded up.

Arup Raha. Image courtesy: PIBArup Raha. Image courtesy: PIB

Arup Raha. Image courtesy: PIB

Underlining that the teeth of any air force is the combat fleet, Raha said that the country needs another production line besides the Tejas.

He explained that the strength sanctioned by the government is 42 squadrons “which was a numerical value. He said what is needed “is also a capability mix”. Raha said India has enough of heavy weight fighters – the Su30 MKI – which will last for another 30-40 years. He said the light weight spectrum would be served by the 123 Tejas light combat aircraft ordered by the IAF.

Terming Rafale as an excellent aircraft, Raha said it comes in the medium weight spectrum. “It is tremendously capable in all its role. It is a multi-role aircraft and can be used very effectively. It can prove its worth in any situation,” Raha said.

“But we have just ordered 36 aircraft and we require more aircraft in this middle weight category to give entire spectrum of capability,” he said.

Raha said a void has been created in the past because of obsolescence and many of the squadrons will be past their use-by date.

“We have already used them for four decades plus. It is time to retire them and get new aircraft,” he said adding this void has to be filled up quickly and 36 Rafale aircraft “will not do as we require much more”.

“Over the next 10 years, we must have 200-250 aircraft. It has to be balanced out. In the heavy weight spectrum, we have enough. But in the medium weight category, we need to have more. Yes, about 200 will be very good,” he said.

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 18:39 IST

India to liberalise visa rules for Bangladeshis to promote tourism

Dhaka: In a bid to ease the procurement of Indian tourist visas for Bangladeshis, India will now allow those with confirmed travel tickets to submit their visa applications directly without prior appointments.

“As part of ongoing efforts to streamline, liberalise and ease the process of securing Indian visas, the High Commission of India will allow all Bangladesh travellers with confirmed air, train or bus tickets to submit their tourist visa applications without e-token or prior appointment dates from 1 January 2017,” the Indian High Commission here said in a press release on Wednesday.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“The date of journey should be after seven days but within one month of submission of the visa application form,” it said.

The Indian Visa Application Centre in Mirpur will receive walk-in tourist visa applications from confirmed travellers and senior citizens from 1 January.

Those who already have appointment dates can continue to submit their tourist visa applications in centres at Gulshan, Uttara, Motijheel, Mymensingh, Barisal, Khulna, Jessore, Rangpur, Rajshahi, Chittagong and Sylhet.

The mission also said that its pilot project started in October for allowing walk-in visa application facility for women travellers and their immediate family members has been “very successful”.

The Mirpur visa application centre will start taking those walk-in applications from 1 January instead of the centre in Uttara, it said.

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 18:39 IST

If Narendra Modi’s demonetisation drive isn’t successful, it’s down to our cynicism

It’s misplaced, but it exists. We have this inordinate cynicism about the removal of corruption. With the central government’s demonetisation drive about to complete its second anniversary next month, the army of doom and gloom is increasing its numbers.

We hear people saying Prime Minister Narendra Modi cannot eliminate corruption, and how his whole exercise is not worth a spit in the wind, because the crooks and the charlatans, the hundis and the hawalas, the gangsters and the hoarders will all be back collecting bribes in a couple of months, just wait and see.

The “wait and see” is said with a certain ill-concealed glee, as if we would be disappointed in case the fruits from the poisoned tree were actually squashed.

Narendra Modi. AFPNarendra Modi. AFP

Narendra Modi. AFP

I am not pro-Modi or anti-Modi, but I have just been thinking, what the heck, why are so many of us detracting from the herculean effort? No one else ever did it.

Though there are many hiccups and flaws, and we can point to all of them and exult in the mess, the fact is that the man has gone out on a limb and done something. Look at it this way: World War II lasted five years; many a battle was lost before the Allies pushed the Axis powers into a corner; many strategies were changed mid-way, campaigns reworked, troops repositioned. Nothing happened according to some preordained master plan.

Often they bumbled along, hoping for a break. England was one night away from considering surrender after the brutal Battle of Britain, Rommel thought his Afrika Korps would singlehandedly destroy the Allies, Japan blasted Pearl Harbor and let the US into a war it did not want to enter.

Modi too is at war. In a way, all of us are the troops. It is a massive undertaking and he needn’t have done it at all. But he has set the ball rolling and it is gathering speed.

That his PR machinery is weak and rickety and totally eclipsed by the mainstream media is a tragedy. Large sections of this mainstream media has found comfort in projecting Modi’s mission as having failed. If the prime minister has failed at anything, it’s in his inability to share the message effectively with the public. When you do something so drastic, you don’t put timelines on it. That was the one big mistake, because it was easily exploitable. Every time a correction has been made or a deadline reworked, we have screamed foul and mocked this as evidence of the BJP frontline groping in the dark.

“They do not know what they are doing, they have changed the deadline again!” This is now a mantra.

No one second guessed when the Vietnam War would end. Nobody in 1971 said we will have Pakistan surrender in the East by 16 December.

But we are doing the death dance over the 31 December deadline and getting all pointy fingered again.

Be fair. Public suffering and long queues have reduced; the discomfort is abating. Even at the worst of times, Indian resilience kicked in and the poor whose suffering has been sculpted into a sledgehammer hung in there. The anger that we, the media, showcase is only triggered by our highlighting scuffles. If things were indeed that bad, there would have been riots across the board.

The public took it on the chin; they are nowhere near being stirred into a rebellion, so lets not exaggerate their rage.

Point two: Millions of jobs have been lost. Really? Greedy bosses may have closed down their small scale and cottage industries and not paid their labour force by shrugging and claiming no cash, but they are going to open doors again and the slack will be pulled in because now that the cash flow has commenced, there is no cause to shut the companies. So, millions of jobs are not lost, just temporarily frozen.

Finally, point three: The filthy rich are happy bunnies. They have escaped the net. Not true. They may not confess it or even show it, but the underground is hurt, mortally hurt. The rich have been slapped in the fiscal face. This money did not fall from the skies, it belonged to someone who had concealed it. Hidden wealth has been discovered, so let’s not make it less than it is.

Oh, these guys are so smart they will make it again? Fine, let them start from zero, and if you want the truth, they can get going if you and I let them get going. If we become customers to the corrupt, what price on Modi or anyone else winning the war?

He will lose. Thanks to us.

Like I said, why are so many of us so confident that corruption is in our DNA and why do we speak of it with such misplaced pride.

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 17:54 IST

Hyderabad: Con men posing as CBI officials loot 40 kg gold from Muthoot Finance

Hyderabad: Posing as CBI officials, five unidentified persons looted 40 kg gold from a Muthoot Finance officer here on Wednesday, the city police said.

The con men escaped with gold ornaments valued at about Rs 10 crore after first gaining access through the CBI pretence and then threatening the staff with weapons at the Ramachandrapuram office of the company on the outskirts of the city.

Cyberabad Police Commissioner Sandeep Shandilya said they also looted Rs 1 lakh cash.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Initially police had stated that 46 kg gold was looted.

According to police, five persons came to Muthoot Finance branch in the morning and told the staff that they were Central Bureau of Investigation officials and wanted to check records and gold in the lockers as they were investigating a case of theft.

When the branch manager said he was not in a position to show the lockers without permission from top officials, the unidentified men threatened action against him for disobeying orders of CBI officials.

When the lockers were opened, the intruders started collecting the golden ornaments in their bags. As the employees raised objection, one of the men whipped out a gun, threatened the branch manager and other employees and locked them in a bathroom.

The robbers also took away the hard disk of CCTV cameras with them.

Police have launched a massive hunt for the robbers, who escaped in a black coloured Scorpio.

The police commissioner said 16 teams have been formed to track down the culprits. Police were trying to identify the con men by analysing the footage from CCTV cameras around Muthoot Finance branch.

The policemen were searching vehicles along Hyderabad-Mumbai highway from Ramachandrapuram to Zaheerabad town in Sangareddy district.

Meanwhile, dozens of account holders who had kept their gold in Muthoot Finance branch gathered outside and wanted to know from the officials as to when will they get back their gold.

The officials told the people that their gold was completely insured. They said nobody should be worried as Muthoot Finance has 160 tonnes of gold at 4,500 branches spread across the country.

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 17:21 IST

Hopeful of GST roll out from coming April: Ananth Kumar

Bengaluru: Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs H N Ananth Kumar on Tuesday expressed hope about the roll out of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime from coming April, saying the government is pushing ahead with the agenda.

“Our discussions with opposition parties and GST council is an ongoing process. I’m confident that once we have passed the constitutional amendment bill without any opposition in both houses of Parliament, ultimately GST council will also come out with unanimous decisions so that it can be given a legal framework in the Parliament of India,” he said.

Asked how hopeful he was about GST roll out as one approaches April, Kumar said, “We are pushing ahead with the agenda, I’m hopeful.”

The Union Minister was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the 21st convocation of the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) here.

File photo of Union Minister Anant Kumar. PTI

File photo of Union Minister Anant Kumar. PTI

The government intends to roll out the GST regime from 2017 April, but there are apprehensions that the date will be missed because the all powerful GST Council is yet to iron out several vexed issues, including jurisdiction of the Centre and state governments over tax payers.

The Council, headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and comprising state finance ministers, has so far met seven times after Parliament amended the Constitution for implementation of GST.

The next meeting is scheduled for 3 and 4 January  to decide on the contentious issue of dual control over assesses and the legislation on IGST.

“I am trying my best,” Jaitley had earlier said on the expected 1 April roll out schedule.

“I am not going to bind myself with anything. Our effort is to do it as quickly as possible and I think we are making a reasonable headway,” he had said.

On the demonetisation move, Kumar said the Prime Minister’s direct target was those who are in favour of black money, corruption, fake currency and terrorism that originates with its help.

Stating that people of the country are with Modi in his fight against corruption and black money, he said, “Its echo effect was visible in the by-elections at different places.”

He expressed confidence that people would adapt to the digital economy and cashless transactions in the same way they had to electronic voting machines and mobile communication.

Kumar noted that for 50 days people had peacefully cooperated despite difficulties, keeping their faith in the prime minister and said, “I salute their courage and will in taking this economic reform to its logical conclusion.”

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 18:54 IST

Kashmir security: Core group meets to chalk out strategy for winter

Srinagar: The core group on security in Kashmir on Tuesday reviewed the overall situation in the valley and chalked out security strategy for the winter months.

“The core group met on Tuesday at Badami Bagh Cantonment to review the overall situation and to draw the security strategy for the winters,” an army official said.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

He said the meeting was co-chaired by Lt General J S Sandhu, GOC Chinar Corps, and Director General of Police K Rajender Kumar.

Top officials of all the constituents of the core group, including civil administration and security agencies, attended the meeting.

Addressing the meeting, Lt General Sandhu complimented the members and officials of the core group for the high-level of synergy among all the agencies in addressing the security concerns of Kashmir.

The DGP expressed similar sentiments and elaborated on the key security initiatives that have been put into place to manage the law and order situation in the valley.

“The members deliberated upon various issues to evolve a comprehensive strategy to respond to the various external and internal security challenges. Plans for maintaining a robust counter-infiltration and counter-terrorism grid were discussed,” the official said.

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 18:13 IST

Shiv Sena’s ignorance is the real insult to Hanuman, not the mural at IIT-Bombay

In Indian mythology, Lord Hanuman is considered synonymous with strength, wisdom, loyalty, bravery, humility and brahmacharya.

Given that not all of these traits and qualities, especially celibacy, can be attributed to Shiv Sainiks, it is amusing to hear tales of their new-found bhakti for the Lord of monkeys.

On Monday morning, Shiv Sainiks forced organisers of an annual cultural festival at IIT-Bombay to remove a painting resembling Hanuman. According to reports, Shiv Sainiks had a problem with the way Hanuman was depicted in the painting.

Representational image. AFP

A file image of Shiv Sena followers. AFP

“The painting was in bad taste. It hurt the religious sentiments of many people. This is not the way to the portray a Hindu deity like Hanuman. Students should not have portrayed the deity like that,” Sena leader Datta Dalvi told the Indian Express.

Shiv Sainiks are known for their selective bouts of sensitivity, an affliction that has classical signs of bigotry, xenophobia (except for pop stars) and bullying. They are particularly renowned for the brand of bravery that has become the norm among “nationalists” in India: Attack individuals, artists, writers, vulnerable groups, in fact, everyone who can’t hit back — for everything else, there are, of course, the real soldiers.

Such is the nature of their bravado — throwing ink, digging up pitches, threatening singers, boycotting films, extorting donations in the name of soldiers, patriotism — that nothing about their antics now seems surprising. But, sometimes even the Shiv Sainiks outdo themselves. The incident at IIT-Bombay is one such incident of the Shiv Sainiks sliding further down into the bottomless pit of absurdity.

Let us not go into a debate on the right to freedom of expression or the argument about art transcending every boundary. Let us also not even talk about the role of art in seeing beyond the conventional, widening our horizon through creativity and intuitive logic. For the average Shiv Sainik, these arguments would be too much of an intellectual burden, even weightier than the burden of Dronagiri on Hanuman’s palm.

So, let us counter the outrage of the Shiv Sainiks with their own logic or the lack of it.

The Shiv Sainiks ordered the removal of the painting at IIT-Bombay because they objected to Hanuman’s depiction as a man carrying a pen in one hand instead of a mace. Yes, a pen in Hanuman’s hand hurt the Shiv Sainiks. Laugh if you want about their obscurantism. But, also pity the Shiv Sainiks. For they know nothing about the legend of Hanuman.

Nobody can be sure if they have heard of the old adage about the pen being mightier than the mace. But, being the self-proclaimed purveyors of Hindutva, they may have heard what their ancestors may have been chanting for centuries — Hanuman Chaalisa, an ode to the deity comprising 40 chaupais (quatrain) composed by Goswami Tulsidas.

What does Tulsidas tell us about Hanuman in the ode. He calls Hanuman gyangun sagar (an ocean of wisdom) and hails the lord of monkeys for knowing the truth of the three loks (heaven, earth and hell). To quote: Jai Hanuman Gyan-Gun Sagar, Jai Kapeesh Teehun Lok Ujagar. Further, Tulsidas calls Hanuman vidhyawan (erudite) and chatur (intelligent).

If Shiv Sainiks knew their mythology and related literature, they would have known that in the Tulsidas hymns, Hanuman is depicted as an unparalleled symbol of both bravery and wisdom. So, who is really insulting Hanuman by objecting his depiction as a man carrying a mountain in one hand and a pen in the other? Obviously the ignorant Shiv Sainiks.

Perhaps the Shiv Sainiks want even our deities to be cast in the mould of their idea of Hindutva: Where everyone is a brainless twit with a weapon slung on the shoulder; a raging blind bhakt unaware of our rich cultural heritage, wisdom and traditions.

The Shiv Sena is indeed an odd entity. It didn’t utter a sigh when hundreds of crores of taxpayer’s money was proposed to be spent on a statue in Maharashtra, a state facing acute water shortage, agrarian crisis and high incidence of debt-related suicides. It rarely, if ever, protests on issues that affect the aam aadmi. Instead, it pursues a strange brand of politics centred on peripheral, even inconsequential, debates around pseudo-nationalism, WhatsApp brand of bravery — all talk, no action — and selective pop patriotism inspired by notions of religious superiority, regional chauvinism and danda activism.

But, considering their claim of representing Hindutva and its interests, the least that can be expected of the Shiv Sainiks is to have some basic knowledge of our mythological traditions and the traits of the deities they claim to protect. Perhaps, to begin with, the Shiv Sainiks can chant the Hanuman Chalisa: It teaches the virtues of humility, bravery, wisdom and loyalty.

As Tulsidas said: Pray to Hanuman, like a buddhi-heen (bereft of wisdom, knowledge) for bal (strength), buddhi (wisdom), vidya (knowledge) and for getting rid of kalesh (problems) and all varieties of vikaar (ailments).

On current evidence, Shiv Sainiks need every bit of the Lord’s blessings!

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 15:07 IST

Income tax raids: Black money holders may have to pay up 137% in tax, penalty

There is more pain on the way for black money holders. The income tax department on Monday said they will have to bear taxes and penalties amounting to as high as 137 percent if they do not admit to or fail to explain the source of undisclosed income after being raided.

However, the total levy can touch 107.25 percent if the undisclosed income is admitted during search operations and that income substantiated, the department said in a release, adding the tax dodgers can come clean by paying 50 per cent on bank deposits post demonetisation.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

If one fails to admit his unexplained income during the course of search and in case, taxes are not paid and he does not substantiate the manner in which income is earned, then the tax incidence will be 137.25 percent, the tax department said in a release.

However, if undisclosed income is admitted during search, taxes are paid and return is filed before the specified date declaring this income and assessee substantiates the manner in which income is earned, then the tax rate will be 107.25 per cent, the release added.

“We are asking people to declare their undisclosed cash deposits in banks, post offices which have not been subject to tax earlier under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojna, 2016 (the scheme),” Principal Chief Commissioner of Income Tax (NWR) Rajendra Kumar said in Chandigarh on Monday.

This scheme which has come into effect on 17 December shall remain open for declarations up to 31 March, 2017, he said.

If the income is not admitted during search and the assessee is not able to substantiate the earning, it will attract 60 per cent tax, 60 per cent penalty, 15 per cent surcharge, 3 per cent education cess surcharge — amounting to 137.25 percent.

In case, the income is admitted during search and the assessee is able to substantiate the earning, it will attract 60 percent tax, 30 percent penalty, 15 per cent surcharge, 3 percent education cess surcharge — totalling to 107.25 percent.

The Taxation Laws (Second Amendment) Act, 2016 has amended the penalty provisions in respect of search and seizure cases, the release said.

The existing slab for penalty of 10 per cent, 20 percent and 60 per cent of income levied under section 271AAB has been rationalized to 30 per cent of income, if the income is admitted and taxes are paid. Otherwise, a penalty at the rate of 60 per cent of income shall be levied, the department said in the release.

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 07:42 IST

‘Internet connectivity still out of reach for 950 mn Indians’: Assocham-Deloitte study

New Delhi: India may have the world’s second largest internet user base, but connectivity remains out of reach for nearly 950 million citizens, a report said today.

“Even with the internet data plans in India being among the cheapest in the world and the average retail price of smartphones steadily declining, connectivity is still out of the reach of nearly 950 million Indians,” according to the Assocham-Deloitte joint study. India currently has about 350 million internet users, second only to China.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Internet penetration is increasing in India and the access to affordable broadband, smart devices and monthly data packages are required to spread digital literacy to make their ends meet, the study titled ‘Strategic national measures to combat cybercrime’ said.

Existing government infrastructure assets should be further leveraged for provision of digital services at remote locations, it said.

The study added that digital literacy needs to be increased by providing institutional trainings in schools, colleges and universities. It pitched for accelerating
partnerships with global technology leaders and using the workforce trained under Skill India to impart trainings.

An integrated approach between Digital India and Skill India needs to be constructed to design programmes and impart training, it said.

The report called for incentivising private sector players for developing infrastructure, providing services and promoting digital literacy as part of the Digital India programme.

“Start-ups should be involved to create and customise apps to local needs to increase adoption of digital technology,” it said adding that a framework needs to be defined for participation of private sector in skill development programs defining their role, expectations in terms of investments, content and job guarantees.

Besides, integration of local language and technology is also required to drive digital literacy.

The report said fear of cybercrime and breach of privacy have been deterrents in adoption of digital technologies in the country.

In order to encourage people to switch to digital means, it is important to provide awareness and education on cyber security, risks and safeguarding of information on the internet, it said.

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 19:31 IST

India, Bangladesh border to be completely sealed by mid 2018: Rajnath Singh

Guwahati: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said on Monday the security of the more than 200-kilometre-long Indo-Bangladesh border was a priority for the BJP government and it will be completely sealed in next one and a half years.

“We are committed to sealing the 223.7-km Indo-Bangladesh border and the process is on. It is expected to be completed within the next year and a half,” Singh said addressing BJP workers in Guwahati.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh. PTI

Home Minister Rajnath Singh. PTI

“Bangladesh is our neighbouring country and we share a good and warm relation, which we will continue to pursue and remain committed to in the future,” he said.

The Union minister, without referring to the issues of illegal migration and granting of citizenship to Hindu refugees, assured the people of Assam that BJP was committed to protect the interests of the indigenous population of the state as per Clause 6 of the Assam Accord.

“We are committed to Clause 6 of the Assam Accord and will protect it even if we have to amend the Constitution,” he said.

Referring to the updating of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, Singh said the process is underway and the state government should complete it soon.

The Union minister said the Centre will make no compromise on the issue of insurgency as he claimed that violence has considerably come down in the state.

“If any people or group have any grievances, problems or issues, we are ready to talk to them… We are ready to embrace them and talk. But if there is violence, there will be no compromise,” he added.

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 19:20 IST

Manipur violence: Centre rushes 4,000 additional paramilitary personnel

New Delhi: The Centre has rushed additional 4,000 paramilitary personnel to Manipur in its efforts to reopen a national highway which has been blocked for nearly two months by a Naga group.

With this, the total number of central security personnel deployed in the sensitive northeastern state for assisting the local administration for maintaining law and order has gone up to 17,500.

“Our top priority is now to reopen the National Highway-2 connecting Manipur (to Nagaland). While the other highway (NH-37) is reopened, we want to reopen the NH-2 too as early as possible,” a senior home ministry official said.

The security personnel were sent to the northeastern state keeping in view the security situation in the wake of violence following the economic blockade imposed by the Union Naga Council (UNC) on the National Highways since 1 November.

File photo. Reuters

File photo. Reuters

The UNC has imposed the economic blockade on NH-2 (Imphal-Dimapur) and NH 37 (Imphal-Jiribam) that serve as lifelines for the landlocked Manipur.

Curfew has been clamped in Imphal East district for the last fortnight after a mob torched and vandalised 22 passenger vehicles on the Imphal-Ukhrul road, while curfew in Imphal West district was imposed from evening to dawn.

In a stern message, the Centre had on Friday told the Manipur government that it can’t escape responsibility for the “humanitarian crisis” arising out of the 52-day economic blockade by a Naga group and must work to end it, while making it clear that nobody will be allowed to take political advantage out of it.

Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju, who was on a day-long visit to Congress-ruled Manipur as a central emissary, said it is completely unacceptable to have such kinds of blockades in which thousands are suffering and both the central and Manipur governments will work together to end it.

“The state government has not been able to end the blockade. It must end as soon as possible as law and order is the responsibility of the state government. Nobody will be allowed to take political advantage out of a humanitarian crisis where common people are suffering,” he had said.

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 18:11 IST

Committed to sealing border with Bangladesh in next year and half, says Rajnath Singh

Guwahati: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday said the security of the more than 200-kilometre-long Indo-Bangladesh border was a priority for the BJP government and it will be completely sealed in next one and a half years.

“We are committed to sealing the 223.7-km Indo-Bangladesh border and the process is on. It is expected to be completed within the next year and a half,” Singh said addressing BJP workers in Guwahati.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh. PTI

Home Minister Rajnath Singh. PTI

“Bangladesh is our neighbouring country and we share a good and warm relation, which we will continue to pursue and remain committed to in the future,” he said.

The Union minister, without referring to the issues of illegal migration and granting of citizenship to Hindu refugees, assured the people of Assam that BJP was committed to protect the interests of the indigenous population of the state as per Clause 6 of the Assam Accord.

“We are committed to Clause 6 of the Assam Accord and will protect it even if we have to amend the Constitution,” he said.

Referring to the updating of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, Singh said the process is underway and the state government should complete it soon.

The Union minister said the Centre will make no compromise on the issue of insurgency as he claimed that violence has considerably come down in the state.

“If any people or group have any grievances, problems or issues, we are ready to talk to them. We are ready to embrace them and talk. But if there is violence, there will be no compromise,” he added.

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 16:59 IST

Demonetisation: Fake notes of new Rs 2,000/500 worth Rs 26.10 lakh seized; 2 held in Gujarat

Rajkot: Two persons were arrested on Monday with counterfeit currency in the denominations of newly introduced Rs 2,000 and Rs 500, having a face value of Rs 26,10,000, police said.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

“Acting on a tip-off, the city crime branch sleuths intercepted a car at Hanuman Madhi area and arrested two persons with fake currency notes of Rs 2,000 with face value of Rs 26 lakh, and of Rs 500 with face value of Rs 10,000,” Rajkot Commissioner of Police Anupam Singh Gehlot told mediapersons here.

The arrested persons were identified as Hruday Jagani and Lakshman Chauhan, both hailing from Ahmedabad, he said.

The notes were kept inside the speaker box of the car in which they were travelling, Gehlot said.

He said a high quality colour printing machine was also seized from their possession which was used to print the currency notes.

The cover of notes’ bundles bore the tag and seal of a public sector bank to make them look like original, he said.

“Hruday used to work as a printer and has a sound technical know-how of printing and cutting notes with perfection so that they look like original,” Gehlot said.

“The mastermind was identified as one Jignesh Shah, who is a land broker in Ahmedabad. Jignesh would find customers looking to exchange their old currency notes, and would order printing of notes after he struck a deal with his customers,” the senior police officer said.

A search is on to nab Shah.

He said the accused might have supplied several such notes since demonetisation came into effect on November 9.

“They would bring such notes into circulation in different ways. They’d hide duplicate notes in the bundle of original notes so that it was supplied easily, and would earn around Rs 15,000-20,000 on supply of Rs 2 lakh,” Gehlot said.

“Another modus operandi was to hide blank notes below the Rs 2,000 lookalike duplicate notes,” he said.

Gehlot said ever since demonetisation came into effect, around Rs 2 crore worth of old notes and Rs 70 lakh of new notes were seized from Rajkot alone.

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 15:48 IST

PM Modi’s Black money hunt: From religion to cricket, there are many missing links in the battle

Three speeches over the weekend within barely 24 hours, two by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and one by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley sandwiched between the two, appear to give contradicting signals on the war against black money. Does this mean that South Block and North Block are working at cross purposes? Certainly not, in principle, but there are finer details that would make it appear that like the demonetisation drive that Modi launched on 8 November, there may be holes in the process that may invite more criticism than praise.

Modi said on Saturday at a function organised by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), the capital markets regulator, that those who gain from capital markets must contribute to nation building. Jaitley was forced to clarify that this was not a hint that long-term capital gains taxation, which currently stand at zero for equities, was set to be raised or strengthened.

File photo of India Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Reuters.File photo of India Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Reuters.

File photo of India Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Reuters.

Then again, on Sunday in his weekly “Mann Ki Baat” speech, Modi officially declared a war on “benami” property — assets held in the name of front persons or fictitious persons — citing a 1988 law given fresh lease of life earlier this year through suitable amendments.

It is quite possible that both these gentlemen are ignoring not one but quite a few elephants in the room.

The first is that the illegal act of tax evasion may be only a small portion of the legal business of tax avoidance in which de-facto evasion takes place without much of a fuss. This happens through religious and charitable trusts or seemingly public entities. The most glaring one in the public’s eyes has been the case of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) that merrily lords over hundreds of crores of rupees. Efforts were made during the UPA rule in 2009 to check this, but it is worthwhile to ask whether there has been any progress on the issue. On the face of it, it doesn’t seem so as illustrated by how temples and charities abuse donations to game the system.

Sadly in India, God is drawn in as an accomplice in tax evasion and money laundering. It seems more than a coincidence that Tamil Nadu business baron J Sekhar Reddy, from whose premises income tax officials unearthed more than Rs 100 crore in cash, was also a prominent member of the Tirupati temple board.

Between cricket and religion, India’s most popular activities, there is a lot for the taxman to worry about. Add to this the complicated abuse of family trusts, which the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy has discussed at length, the game becomes murkier.

Now, long-term capital gains are also an easy way to launder money for many. India did this year sign a double taxation avoidance agreement with Mauritius, which has been for years a source for money laundering but the changes take only prospective effect from 2017 in a limited way. Nothing can be done about the laundering that has been legitimised for decades through what is called “round-tripping” of local black money.

Without going into such international routes — which usually helps only foreign investors and the big boys of crony capitalism — even the local exemption from long-term capital gains tax can be used smartly to avoid taxes. Curbing the use of penny stocks to evade tax has been discussed within the government but Jaitley’s clarification over the weekend suggests nothing can be done about it or is being done about it. Indeed, there are serious issues on how penny stocks can be seen as a separate category for tax computation. Price-rigging — very easy when one person sells shares to another in a volatile market, is the key issue and it is not an easy one to police for the government.

In essence, we could say that the government faces a benami tsunami — and a lot of the measures taken by the NDA government can at best check prospective tax evasion. Maybe Sebi can crack the whip on some transactions but it is not an easy game. Modi’s war cry is welcome, but what he faces is not a battlefield but a labyrinth. When wars are announced from the South Block but battles have to be fought from across the street, the game is complicated.

(The author is a senior journalist. He tweets as @madversity)

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 14:49 IST

Agni-V: India’s first indigenously built ballistic missile to be tested today

Balasore (Odisha): India is set to test its indigenously developed intercontinental surface-to-surface nuclear capable ballistic missile ‘Agni-V’ from the Wheeler Island off Odisha coast on Monday.

Range co-ordination has reached its final stage for the fourth test of Agni-V missile, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) sources said.

If everything goes according to plan, the missile may be test launched on Monday, they said.

Representational image. CNN-News18

Representational image. CNN-News18

The three stage, solid propellant missile is to be test-fired from a mobile launcher from the launch complex-4 of the Integrated Test Range (ITR), the sources said.

It will be fourth developmental and second canisterised trial of the long range missile. While the first test was conducted on April 19, 2012, the second test was carried out on September 15, 2013 and the third on January 31, 2015 from
the same base.

The indigenously-developed surface-to-surface missile, Agni-V, is capable of striking a target more than 5,000 km. It is about 17-metre long, 2-metre wide and has launch weight of around 50 tonnes. The missile can carry a nuclear warhead of more than one tonne.

Unlike other missiles of Agni series, the latest one ‘Agni-V’ is the most advanced having some new technologies incorporated with it in terms of navigation and guidance, warhead and engine.

Lot of new technologies developed indigenously were successfully tested in the first Agni-5 trial. The redundant navigation systems, very high accuracy Ring Laser Gyro based Inertial Navigation System (RINS) and the most modern and accurate Micro Navigation System (MINS) had ensured the Missile reach the target point within few metres of accuracy.

The high-speed on board computer and fault tolerant software along with robust and reliable bus guided the missile flawlessly, an official said.

India has at present in its armoury of Agni series, Agni-I with 700 km range, Agni-II with 2,000 km range, Agni-III and Agni-IV with with 2,500 km to more than 3500 km range. After some few more trials, Agni-V will be inducted into the services, sources said.

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 10:30 IST

Pakistan releases Indian fishermen in bid to ease tensions with Delhi | Reuters

By Syed Raza Hassan
| KARACHI, Pakistan

KARACHI, Pakistan Pakistan released 220 Indian fishermen on Sunday as a goodwill gesture aimed at easing tensions with its neighbour, officials said.The men were arrested more than a year ago, accused of entering Pakistani waters in an area of the Arabian Sea where the border is unclear. India is also holding Pakistani fishermen for the same reason and Pakistan hopes its gesture – on the birthday of the nation’s father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, which coincides with Christmas Day – will be reciprocated.

“We have total of 518 Indian fishermen out of which 220 are being released today as a goodwill gesture of the Pakistan government. In the next phase, 219 fishermen will be released on Jan. 5,” Shunail Husain Shah, a police assistant superintendent, told Reuters.Relations between the nuclear-armed neighbours have been more fraught than usual since a crackdown by Indian forces on dissent in Indian-controlled Kashmir began in July. In September militants killed 18 soldiers at an Indian army base, an attack New Delhi blamed on Pakistan.

“We appreciate Pakistan’s goodwill gesture of releasing Indian fishermen, but we expect a similar reciprocal move by India, 156 Pakistani fishermen including 13 children are languishing in Indian jails,” Muhammad Ali Shah, president of Pakistan Fisher Folk, a fishermen’s rights body. told Reuters.The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea states that fishermen who cross territorial waters can be warned and fined but not arrested, and Shah called on both countries to respect that.

One of the fishermen being released, who goes by the single name Naresh, told Reuters: “I am very happy, looking forward to meet my family back in Gujarat. We were treated nicely here, I will request the Indian government release the detained Pakistani fishermen as well.” (Reporting by Syed Raza Hassan; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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

First Published On : Dec 25, 2016 19:44 IST

Demonetisation: Money deposited in banks has lost its earlier anonymity says Finance minister Arun Jaitley

New Delhi: Describing the currency being deposited in banks following last month’s demonetisation of high-value notes as money that has lost its earlier “anonymity”, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Sunday said these funds now available with the banks have strengthened the Indian banking system.

File photo of Arun Jaitley. PTI

File photo of Arun Jaitley. PTI

“The money that is being deposited in cash form after demonetisation, now the anonymity of that money is gone,” Jaitley said at the DigiDhan Mela event here to promote cashless transactions.

“When this money comes into the system, the banking system becomes stronger and there are funds available for rural development, social welfare programmes,” he said.

“Money in the system becomes part of the taxation system too.

The long-term benefit of this move is that the shadow, the parallel economy, which was not taxed, of which there was no accounting, which was not answerable, that is now becoming part of the economic system,” the Finance Minister said.

First Published On : Dec 25, 2016 18:21 IST

Cashless economy: RTO offices in Delhi set to accept digital payments in 2017

New Delhi: Regional Transport Offices in the national capital are set to go cashless from January when fees for all services including driving licence, auto permit and fitness certificate can be paid electronically.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The Transport Department has started installing Point of Sale (PoS) machines at its zonal offices and the trial run of the cashless transaction system is being carried out at some places.

“From January, people coming to RTO offices can pay fee of various services — permits, driving licence, fitness certificates – using their debit, credit cards. Applicants won’t be required to make payments in cash,” a senior government official said.

There are 14 zonal offices of the Transport Department in the city. The official said that the move would ensure hassle-free services for the people of Delhi.

The step is in line with the Delhi government’s plan to bring all departments under cashless transaction system.

“At present, e-PoS machines are being installed at all zonal offices. Besides, computer software of the department is also being updated in view of the cashless transactions,” the official said.

Earlier this month, Transport Minister Satyendar Jain had directed his department to start accepting fees and payments in the form of bank drafts and pay orders for all transport services in view of cash crunch after demonetisation.

First Published On : Dec 25, 2016 12:24 IST

Christmas 2016: Celebrating birth of an impoverished migrant has a message for today’s world

An evocative line-drawing did the rounds of social media in the days leading up to Christmas. It showed an open stable with a bright star over it, fir trees on either side, and only a cow, a sheep and a donkey around an empty manger inside the stable.

A comic depicting the nativity scene. Image Courtesy: Joanna Wieruszewska, Marek Wieruszewski

A comic depicting the nativity scene. Image Courtesy: Joanna Wieruszewska, Marek Wieruszewski

The caption was thought-provoking: “A nativity scene without Jews,  Arabs,  Africans or refugees.”

Scenes commemorating the nativity (birth) of Jesus normally show an infant in the manger, surrounding by Mary, Joseph, shepherds and three ‘wise men from the East,’ — who are often depicted as Africans but could very well have been from India.

Amid the bright lights, presents, parties and decoration-festooned shopping splurges, it is easy to forget that Jesus’ parents were impoverished travellers who had been given shelter in a cattle shed, where he was born.

He remained poor through his life. Yet, without influence, social standing or political ambition, he resisted the rich and powerful. One of his most striking teachings is that it is tougher for a rich man to enter heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.

That is reminiscent of the Prophet Mohammed’s claim that ‘poverty is my pride.’ It also brings to mind Guru Nanak’s mendicant ways, Buddha’s insistence on begging, and the Jain emphasis on abnegation. The birth legends of Jesus and Krishna have some parallels too: both were predicted to be dangerous for tyrannous regimes.

Indeed, Jesus met a gruesome death, by crucifixion, partly owing to his trenchant criticism of the established clergy of his time. Accusing them of having turned the temple into a den of thieves and gamblers, he broke up a normal day’s gathering of the movers and shakers of his time in Jerusalem’s grand temple. He taught inclusivity, and privileged the poor and socially marginal.

Modern concerns

Amid the pomp and pageantry of religious practice, it is easy to forget the nature, values and attitudes of the man whose birth Christmas celebrates. But it is worth focusing on what Jesus actually represented, especially at a time when impoverishment, xenophobia, racism and refusal to give refuge, have become very potent issues — as that recent sketch on social media highlighted.

The issue of poverty came into prominence in the middle of the 20th century too, when the Western Church faced a lot of soul-searching.

The World Council of Churches, established by several leading Protestant and Orthodox Churches in 1948, pressed for social responsibility, environmental conservation and fraternal relations not only between different Church traditions but also different faiths. They grappled with apartheid, hunger, gender discrimination, and human rights in Latin America and elsewhere. ‘Justice,
Peace and the Integrity of Creation’ became the Council’s watchword around the 1970s and 1980s.

For the Roman Catholic Church too, the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s were a period of wrenching turbulence. Given its size and influence, that was of huge historical import. After Pope John XXIII called for a rethink of the Church’s modern agenda, a pro-poor, culturally ‘indigenised’, inclusive vision emerged.

Difficult journey

By the time the Vatican Council ended in 1965, a new pope was in office. Uneasy about rocking the boat, he sought to ease in changes moderately. But the election of the little known John Paul as his successor in 1978 jolted the establishment. This short-lived pope resisted traditional royal pageantry at his installation, and made it clear he wanted to clean out the system in the Vatican.

John Paul did not last. And, under Pope John Paul II and his lieutenant, Cardinal Ratzinger (who succeeded him as Pope Benedict XVI), the liberal, inclusive, gender-sensitive and pro-poor vision that the Vatican Council had set out were put aside.

Many observers thought that those two popes had erased the liberal legacy of the Vatican Council through their appointments of cardinals and bishops in the 35 years from 1978 to 2013. Indeed, among the electors in even 2005, only one cardinal other than Ratzinger had been appointed before 1978.

And yet, the spirit of the Vatican Council remained alive. It is clearly visible in Pope Francis — almost as if John Paul were back.

Like John Paul, Pope Francis has faced resistance to his efforts to change the ethos of the prelates who run the Church. For the third year running, he has complained about this publicly during his Christmas speech to Vatican prelates. Christmas is “the feast of the loving humility of God, of the God who upsets our logical expectations, the established order,” he told them on 22 December.

Indeed, a leaf out of Jesus’s life can upset those who thrive on fear and prejudice — those who are becoming today’s ‘established order.’

First Published On : Dec 25, 2016 08:46 IST

Green Tribunal dismisses plea to ban Christmas tree, Santa Claus costumes

New Delhi: Communal issues cannot be raised in the garb of environmental concerns, the National Green Tribunal has said while junking a plea for banning the use of Christmas trees and prohibiting the making of Santa Claus costumes.

The green panel, however, asked the Delhi government to ensure that there is no violation of environment laws and no pollution is caused due to the festivities.

Representational image. Getty images

“We do not see any dispute arising about the relevant provisions of Environment (Protection) Act. Law is the same for everyone without any discrimination on basis of caste, creed or religion.

“However, communal colour is being given in the name of schedule-I Act to the apparent grievances raised in the present application. We hope and trust Delhi government shall ensure implementation of Schedule I of National Green Tribunal Act, 2010. Hence, dismissed,” a bench headed by Justice UD Salvi said.

The order came on a plea filed by a religious group Ojasvi Party seeking directions to the Delhi government to prohibit the use of Christmas trees to save the environment from degradation claiming it involved plastic. It had sought a ban on the making of Santa Claus dresses to save wool and cotton from being wasted.

The petition had also sought prohibition on noise pollution which may be caused due to bursting of crackers on the eve of New Year and the use of loudspeakers after 10 pm.

A Christmas tree is a decorated tree, usually an evergreen conifer like pine or fir or an artificial tree of similar appearance, associated with the celebration of Christmas.

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 19:41 IST

China urges India to accept Pakistan’s ‘olive branch’, join CPEC

Beijing: China will strongly oppose any attempt to label Pakistan as “supporting terrorism”, Chinese official media said on Friday and suggested India to accept the “olive branch” extended by a top Pakistani military General to participate in the $46 billion economic corridor.

“Surprise aside (over General’s call), New Delhi should consider accepting the olive branch Pakistan has extended in a bid to participate in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor,” said an article in the state-run Global Times.

The comments came after Lt Gen Riaz, Commander of the Pakistan’s Southern Command which is based in Quetta, this week reportedly said India should “shun enmity” with Pakistan and “join the $46-billion CPEC along with Iran, Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries and enjoy its benefits”.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

“Such an opportunity could be transient. There is a possibility that the open attitude toward India joining the CPEC will quickly be overwhelmed by opposition voices from Pakistan if New Delhi does not respond in a timely manner to the General’s overture,” the article said.

“The best way to reduce hostilities is by establishing economic cooperation based on mutual benefits to put aside what cannot be reached by a consensus,” it said.

It said that India could boost its exports and slash its trade deficit with China via new trade routes that would be opened up by the CPEC. In addition, the northern part of India bordering Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir will gain more economic growth momentum if India joins the project, it said.

Another article in the same daily said “Riaz’s invitation, which came as a surprise to New Delhi, is mainly intended as a gesture. While he hinted at India’s intervention in the CPEC, he welcomed India’s participation in the project, demonstrating Pakistan does not want to exclude India.”

At the same time, it said, “if any country wants to label Pakistan as ‘supporting terrorism’ and discredit the country, then China and other countries who uphold justice will oppose such behaviour strongly”.

The article said that since President Xi Jinping visited Pakistan in April, 2015, the CPEC has advanced considerably.

“However, some international forces, and India in particular, are accustomed to look at the CPEC and the One Belt and One Road initiative from a geopolitical perspective.

On one side, this is relevant to the geopolitical competition mindset they insist on, on the other, this is because of their excessive speculation on the strategic implications of the CPEC and the Belt and Road,” it said.

“To ensure the smooth advancement of the CPEC, it is necessary for Pakistan to have a stable and peaceful domestic and periphery environment and a favourable profile,” it said.

On anti-terrorism, the Afghanistan peace process, and the peace and stability of Kashmir, Pakistan is making efforts to show international society its wish to pursue peace, it said.

“The CPEC is not only a bilateral cooperation, but also a multilateral project in the long-run, which aims at regional economic integration. So it’s open and inclusive, and China and Pakistan hope India, Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asian countries can participate and become stakeholders,” it added.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

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

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

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

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

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

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

Close to 70 lakh income tax non-filers for 2014-15 identified by authorities

The Income Tax Department has identified an additional 67.54 lakh potential non-filers who carried out high value transactions in 2014-15 but did not file return of income.

The Non-Filers Monitoring System (NMS) was initiated by CBDT, the policy making body of I-T Department, for identification of non-filers with potential tax liabilities.

“The Income Tax Department has conducted the fifth cycle of data matching which has identified an additional 67.54 lakh potential non-filers who have carried out high value transactions in the financial year 2014-15 but did not file return of income for the relevant assessment year i.e. AY 2015-16,” CBDT said in a statement.

ReutersReuters

Reuters

Non-filers have been identified based on data analytics carried out by the Systems Directorate of Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) about whom specific information is available in the Annual Information Return (AIR), Central Information Branch (CIB) and TDS/TCS databases.

“While the government urges all tax payers to disclose their true income and pay taxes accordingly, the Department would continue to pursue the non-filers vigorously till all the high potential non-filers are covered,” the statement said.

CBDT has made available in the ‘Compliance Module’ on the e-filing portal of the Income Tax Department the information relating to the identified non-filers.

The information will be visible only to the specific PAN holder when they log into the e-filing portal at https.//incometaxindiaefiling.gov.in.

“The PAN holder will be able to respond electronically and retain a copy of the submitted response for record purpose,” CBDT added.

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 08:25 IST

Jammu and Kashmir: Independent MLA Sheikh Rashid detained before protest march

Srinagar: Independent legislator Sheikh Abdul Rashid and his supporters were on Thursday detained as he tried to lead a protest march against Jammu and Kashmir government’s move to grant domicile certificates to West Pakistan Refugees.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Rashid attempted to lead the march from Sher-i-Kashmir Park here to Lal Chowk against the government decision. But as the protesters reached the GPO Srinagar, police swung into action and detained the independent legislator from north Kashmir’s Langate constituency, along with his supporters, a spokesman of his Awami Ittehad Party (AIP) said.

Talking to reporters before being detained, Rashid said the government decision to grant domicile certificates to West Pakistan Refugees (WPRs) was “totally unacceptable to us”.

He alleged that the state government was behaving as a “proxy” and “extension” of the Union government in Delhi.

“Time has come for Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to break this alliance (with BJP) and go to people once again (to seek votes),” he said. Rashid vowed to sit on a day-long “hunger strike” in front of chief minister’s residence at Gupkar here to protest the government decision.

The WPRs, settled in Jammu and Kashmir, are citizens of India and have the right to vote in parliamentary elections. However, they are not permanent residents of the state in terms of Jammu and Kashmir Constitution. They do not enjoy voting rights to the state assembly and local bodies.

First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 16:55 IST

Manipur economic blockade: Mary Kom urges PM Modi to intervene, resolve crisis

New Delhi: Distressed by the economic blockade that has crippled her home state Manipur, five-time world champion boxer and Rajya Sabha MP MC Mary Kom has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene and resolve the crisis.

File photo of Mary Kom. AP

File photo of Mary Kom. AP

The blockade has been imposed by United Naga Council to protest the state government’s decision to form seven new districts. The UNC claims the districts in the Naga-dominated hill areas will affect land holdings of Naga tribes settled in these areas.

The blockade which has surpassed 50 days now has crippled normal life in Manipur with scarcity of essential goods being a major concern apart form violence.

In a letter to Modi, Mary Kom, an Olympic bronze-medallist, urged him to try and resolve the issue at the earliest.

“It is to bring to your notice that the state of Manipur is going through the toughest of time with unrest situation. The whole section of communities, both in hills and valley, residing in Manipur are suffering due to the economic blockade and counter-blockade and have now turned into ugly consequences of greater destruction and if not intervened in time, there are possibilities of untoward happenings and the people are so insecure,” she wrote.

“Irrespective of the causes and reasons, I strongly recommend and request you to consider this prevailing situation in Manipur a serious matter and kindly intervene at the earliest for peaceful solution and the state be brought back to normalcy. This act will remain a great achievement and the people will remain in owe towards your kind intervention,” she said.

First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 15:32 IST

Tamil Nadu: Rama Mohana Rao sacked, Girija Vaidyanathan appointed as new chief secretary

Tamil Nadu’s chief secretary P Rama Mohana Rao was sacked from his post on Thursday following Income Tax Department’s raids on his official residence in Chennai, reports said.

Rao, who was appointed as the new chief secretary just six months ago in a major reshuffle, has been replaced by Girija Vaidyanathan, an Indian Administrative Service officer of the 1981 batch, CNN-News18 said.

Apart from taking on the role as chief secretary, Vaidyanathan will also hold full additional charge of vigilance commissioner and commissioner for administrative reforms, The Hindu said.

Vaidyanathan was serving as the additional chief secretary and commissioner of land administration in Tamil Nadu, CNN-News18, said. However, according to The Hindu, she is just two and half years away from retirement.

On Wednesday, the I-T Department had initiated raids on 13 premises including Rao’s official residence in Chennai, his son, Vivek’s house in the city, and that of his relatives in Andhra Pradesh.

According to reports, the raids started at Rao’s Annanagar residence in Chennai for 24 hours, during which the tax officials recovered Rs 30 lakh in new Rs 2,000 notes, five kilogrammes of gold and documents with details of undisclosed assets worth about Rs 5 crore, The Indian Express said.

Reports also said that the raid was conducted based on information received from some road contractors who were detained for questioning based on previous raids. Rao was appointed chief secretary in June this year.

First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 13:00 IST

Demonetisation: Agri output may remain high, but subdued farm income to hit rural consumption

The impact of demonetisation on agriculture is an indirect one. There are two cropping seasons in India. The monsoon crop, which is kharif, was in the midst of harvesting while the winter crop, or rabi, was in the first stages of sowing when the announcement was made. A good monsoon ensured that the kharif crop across all commodities was good, while the moisture retention meant that the rabi crop would follow suit. The demonetisation exercise began on 8 November, which was at the confluence of these two phenomena and had implications for both the activities.

The kharif crop requires labour for harvesting and has to be supported by the logistics structures in the form of transportation and storage to the final selling point which is the mandi. As every link in this chain is almost entirely settled in cash, the absence of currency in the system has affected the overall post-harvest activity. Hence, while the harvest has been very good which will get reflected in the production numbers, the products have often been sold at a very low price thus affecting the incomes of farmers which in turn impacts spending power. The RBI did react to the situation once the impact was assessed and gave priority to the supply of cash to the rural areas with the limits being enhanced for these purposes. The problem was hence addressed to an extent.

ReutersReuters

Reuters

The rabi crop has gotten impacted to begin with due to the non-availability of currency to buy seeds and fertilizers. While the use of kisan cards is fairly satisfactory, a substantial part is still dealt with cash as the kharif income is used for purchase of seed for the second season. Second, the logistics support in rural India has come to a standstill as while the RBI intervention has led to an easier flow of cash to the farmers, the same has not happened for the support services. Transport operators in particular were affected. Third, employing labour for sowing has also been a challenge for crops like wheat, chana and mustard, which are the main rabi crops. This has raised some concern on the future prospects of the crop.

The area under cultivation under rabi crops is higher at 519 lakh hectares compared with 490 lakh hectares at the same point last year. For all the three main crops, wheat, oilseeds and pulses, area under cultivation this year so far till 16 December has been higher and would not under normal circumstances provoke concern. However the non-availability of currency for these transactions has raised some apprehension even though the final sowing numbers would be better than last year.

In particular wheat prospects have been monitored quite closely as it is expected that with the absence of rains in winter the progress of the crop will be affected. This in turn can affect the final output, which is a problem considering that private estimates have put the output for 2015-16 to be lower than 2014-15 thus leading to decline in stocks. The official numbers put 2015-16 output higher by 7 million tonnes though procurement was 5 million tonnes lower, which is unusual. This is one reason as to why the government has withdrawn the duty on import of wheat so that overall stocks are augmented.

The farm sector was to witness a turnaround this year on account of a good monsoon with growth of around 5 percent expected after two years of drought. The story had been progressing according to plan but the distortion caused by demonetisation, which meant the drying up of cash in the rural economy, has cast a cloud over this optimal situation. While overall growth will definitely continue to be high at probably between 4-5 percent which is only marginally lower than expectation, the lower value of the crop due to lower prices for kharif output in case of pulses and horticulture would impact the income of farmers.

It may also be pointed out that it was expected that the rural spending contribution to growth would be significant after two years of negative growth. Now, the cash crunch has compounded the problem as it has resulted in lower realisations for farmers as they have received lower prices on account of distress sale at the mandis. The implication is that there will be a hiatus between rural and urban spending and the lag can be one or two quarters.

The demonetisation scheme has affected agriculture and linked activities not just in terms of affecting output at the margin, but also lowering potential income as this sector is almost fully cash driven. Until such time that the situation normalises, which will take between 3-6 months before cash is freely available, the farmers would be under stress. This will show not just in consumption demand for industrial goods but also linked activity like transport, packing, labour used in planting and harvesting. There would hence be a multiplier effect on income and consumption.

The writer is chief economist, CARE Ratings. Views are personal.

First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 10:55 IST

Demonetisation: Concerns on farm output minimal, but rural demand may feel the heat amid cash crunch

The impact of demonetisation on agriculture is an indirect one. There are two cropping seasons in India. The monsoon crop, which is kharif, was in the midst of harvesting while the winter crop, or rabi, was in the first stages of sowing when the announcement was made. A good monsoon ensured that the kharif crop across all commodities was good, while the moisture retention meant that the rabi crop would follow suit. The demonetisation exercise began on 8 November, which was at the confluence of these two phenomena and had implications for both the activities.

The kharif crop requires labour for harvesting and has to be supported by the logistics structures in the form of transportation and storage to the final selling point which is the mandi. As every link in this chain is almost entirely settled in cash, the absence of currency in the system has affected the overall post-harvest activity. Hence, while the harvest has been very good which will get reflected in the production numbers, the products have often been sold at a very low price thus affecting the incomes of farmers which in turn impacts spending power. The RBI did react to the situation once the impact was assessed and gave priority to the supply of cash to the rural areas with the limits being enhanced for these purposes. The problem was hence addressed to an extent.

ReutersReuters

Reuters

The rabi crop has gotten impacted to begin with due to the non-availability of currency to buy seeds and fertilizers. While the use of kisan cards is fairly satisfactory, a substantial part is still dealt with cash as the kharif income is used for purchase of seed for the second season. Second, the logistics support in rural India has come to a standstill as while the RBI intervention has led to an easier flow of cash to the farmers, the same has not happened for the support services. Transport operators in particular were affected. Third, employing labour for sowing has also been a challenge for crops like wheat, chana and mustard, which are the main rabi crops. This has raised some concern on the future prospects of the crop.

The area under cultivation under rabi crops is higher at 519 lakh hectares compared with 490 lakh hectares at the same point last year. For all the three main crops, wheat, oilseeds and pulses, area under cultivation this year so far till 16 December has been higher and would not under normal circumstances provoke concern. However the non-availability of currency for these transactions has raised some apprehension even though the final sowing numbers would be better than last year.

In particular wheat prospects have been monitored quite closely as it is expected that with the absence of rains in winter the progress of the crop will be affected. This in turn can affect the final output, which is a problem considering that private estimates have put the output for 2015-16 to be lower than 2014-15 thus leading to decline in stocks. The official numbers put 2015-16 output higher by 7 million tonnes though procurement was 5 million tonnes lower, which is unusual. This is one reason as to why the government has withdrawn the duty on import of wheat so that overall stocks are augmented.

The farm sector was to witness a turnaround this year on account of a good monsoon with growth of around 5 percent expected after two years of drought. The story had been progressing according to plan but the distortion caused by demonetisation, which meant the drying up of cash in the rural economy, has cast a cloud over this optimal situation. While overall growth will definitely continue to be high at probably between 4-5 percent which is only marginally lower than expectation, the lower value of the crop due to lower prices for kharif output in case of pulses and horticulture would impact the income of farmers.

It may also be pointed out that it was expected that the rural spending contribution to growth would be significant after two years of negative growth. Now, the cash crunch has compounded the problem as it has resulted in lower realisations for farmers as they have received lower prices on account of distress sale at the mandis. The implication is that there will be a hiatus between rural and urban spending and the lag can be one or two quarters.

The demonetisation scheme has affected agriculture and linked activities not just in terms of affecting output at the margin, but also lowering potential income as this sector is almost fully cash driven. Until such time that the situation normalises, which will take between 3-6 months before cash is freely available, the farmers would be under stress. This will show not just in consumption demand for industrial goods but also linked activity like transport, packing, labour used in planting and harvesting. There would hence be a multiplier effect on income and consumption.

The writer is chief economist, CARE Ratings. Views are personal.

First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 10:55 IST

Taliban claim attack on house of Afghan member of parliament | Reuters

By Mirwais Harooni
| KABUL

KABUL Tha Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on the house of an Afghan member of parliament on Wednesday night that officials said killed at least five people and wounded a number of others.A security official said one attacker blew himself up at the house of Mir Wali, a member of parliament from the volatile southern province of Helmand, killing three security guards and allowing two other gunmen to get into the compound, where a meeting was underway.Mir Wali was wounded by shattered glass and other guests were also hurt in the attack, in which at least two civilians were killed.

Among the dead was Hafiz Barakzai, son of another prominent member of parliament, who was shot and killed while helping people to escape from the compound, his brother told Reuters.The incident underlined the fragile security situation in Kabul, which has seen repeated attacks by suicide bombers and gunmen in recent months. Helmand, one of the strongholds of the Taliban and source of much of the world’s opium, has fallen increasingly under insurgent control over the past two years.

The main Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s incident. He said “an important military meeting” of officials from Helmand was underway when the attack took place.Officials said police special forces were at the scene and were concentrating on evacuating people from the house and nearby areas.

The surviving gunmen were still believed to be inside the house, with local news station Tolo News quoting local residents as saying the sound of gunfire and explosions could be heard. (Reporting by Mirwais Harooni; writing by James Mackenzie; editing by Ralph Boulton)

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

First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 00:51 IST

Demonetisation: People, bankers in spot after RBI’s flip-flop adds to confusion

New Delhi: It is being called Reverse Bank of India, Rozana Bungling of India or even Rollback Bank of India and customers as well as bankers were in a spot on Wednesday after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) partially withdrew its earlier order that restricted deposits of over Rs 5,000 in spiked currency notes.

The partial rollback came after massive public anger over the central bank’s December 19 order allowing the deposit of over Rs 5,000 in now spiked Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes in bank accounts only once.

This too was possible only after a “satisfactory” explanation to at least two bank officials on why this was not done earlier since 8 November when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced demonetisation ostensibly to curb corruption and black money in India.

ReutersReuters

Reuters

But on Wednesday, the central bank made an exception for (Know Your Customer) KYC-compliant customers — meaning those who aren’t compliant with KYC norms will still be grilled.

The RBI order created an uproar because the government had earlier asked people to go easy because money in old denominations could be deposited till December 30 and there was no need to stand in long queues outside banks.

Bank employees and customers IANS spoke to said it has been a sea of confusion for them with the government’s and RBI’s ad hocism that has shaken the country’s faith in its banking system.

“I really don’t believe an institution like RBI, which is the trustee of our money, can do this,” Naresh Kumar Aggarwal, a chemist in south Delhi, told IANS.

Aggarwal had come to a State Bank of India (SBI) branch to deposit money in old currency notes. He said he was allowed to deposit but was still “interrogated by bank officials”.

“It is not about if I was able to satisfy them with my explanation. Of course, I did that. But why question me about my own money,” the chemist wondered.

An HDFC Bank employee in south Delhi, who didn’t wish to be named, said his office has dedicated one person for keeping check on RBI’s website to see if any order has been withdrawn or changed.

“I am not joking. There is so much confusion regarding what to do and what not do. We are under stress,” he said.

“Till Wednesday afternoon, we were doing what we were asked to do on Monday. People who came to deposit more than Rs 5,000 knew it was revoked and we were still waiting for a formal order. Arguments with angry customers was but natural,” Kumar said.

For many, anger gave way to sarcasm.

Vikas Sharma, a junior lawyer in Delhi High Court, said the central bank “needs an immediate name change”.

“Something that fits what it has been doing in the past six weeks. Call it the Reverse Bank of India. Afterall, it has been reversing its own decisions,” Sharma said standing in a queue outside an ATM outlet in Noida near Delhi.

Another man from the queue shouted: “Why not the Rollback Bank of India or even Rozana (daily) Bungling of India?”

Social media was also awash with criticism .

“Within two short months, the RBI has lost credibility and legitimacy built carefully over decades. Will take a long time to restore,” tweeted Sidharth Bhatia, a journalist.

Comedian Zakir Khan wrote about “59 new rules” in 43 days since demonetisation. “Bhai tum RBI ho ya boys’ hostel ke warden? (Are you the RBI or the warden of a boys hostel)”

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 18:57 IST

Jayalalithaa’s supporters immortalise her with a 68-kilogram idli tribute

Late Tamil Nadu chief Minister J Jayalalithaa’s supporters continue to pay tribute to her, after her demise on 5 December. A group of supporters made a 68 kilogram idli, a south Indian delicacy, with Jayalalithaa’s face on it.

The 68-kilogram idli, was displayed at Chennai’s famous Marina Beach, where she was buried. The pictures of the idli went viral on the internet and Twitter users, expectedly, reacted to it. Much to the amusement of many, this was an unusual way of expression of love and support.

Amma’s supporters have always taken the bizarre route. Earlier, fans and supporters got themselves inked with tattoos of Amma on their bodies. Another supporter volunteered to nail himself to a cross demanding that Amma be reinstated as the state’s chief minister.

AIADMK claimed in its release that at least 597 supporters died out of grief upon hearing the news of Jayalalithaa’s demise.

The Tamil Nadu government, now led by O Panneerselvam, has declared a relief package of Rs 3 lakh to the families of those who died of grief.

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 15:25 IST

I-T raid at TN chief secy’s home: Mamata Banerjee slams govt, asks why Amit Shah was spared

Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday criticised the I-T raid at the residence of Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary P Rama Mohana Rao, saying such a “vindictive and unethical” act by the central agencies devalues the institution of head of the civil service.

File image of Mamata Banerjee. PTI

File image of Mamata Banerjee. PTI

“Why this vindictive, unethical, technically improper action? Is it only to disturb the federal structure? Why do not they raid Amit Shah and others…” she said in a statement.

Mamata said corruption needs to be strongly condemned, but “the raid on Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary by central agencies devalues the institution of head of the civil service”.

“The proper procedure should have been to take the state leadership into confidence and removing him from the post prior to any preemptive action, based on information,” she said.

“Earlier the Principal Secretary of Arvind Kejriwal was raided and harassed. Now I read Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu has also been raided,” Mamata said.

The Income-Tax department on Wednesday conducted searches at over a dozen locations in connection with its tax evasion probe against the son and few other relatives of Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary P Rama Mohana Rao.

It is understood that the official residence of the Chief Secretary in Chennai was also raided.

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 14:14 IST

Demonetisation: Customers in spot as banks say no to deposits above Rs 5,000 despite finmin directive

Finance minister Arun Jaitley’s clarification on Monday late night that banks will take more than Rs 5,000 deposits from customers without questioning if the amount is deposited in one go seems to have fallen flat as bankers are refusing to take such deposits without a written declaration, say various news reports.

According to a report in The Times of India, bankers are following the Reserve Bank of India’s notification issued on Monday in letter and spirit which has given rise to the difficult situation.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The RBI and the finance ministry on Monday morning put out notifications saying customers will be allowed to deposit old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes worth more than Rs 5,000 only once before 30 December. Even then, they will have to satisfactorily explain to two bank officials why the deposits were not done earlier.

“Tenders of SBNs (specified bank notes) in excess of Rs 5,000 into a bank account will be received for credit only once during the remaining period till December 30, 2016. The credit in such cases shall be afforded only after questioning tenderer, on record, in the presence of at least two officials of the bank, as to why this could not be deposited earlier and receiving a satisfactory explanation. The explanation should be kept on record to facilitate an audit trail at a later stage. An appropriate flag also should be raised in CBS to that effect so that no more tenders are allowed,” said the RBI’s notification.

The move, according to the ministry, was aimed at reducing the queues in front of the banks. However, two other unsaid reasons could be fear of money laundering through unsuspecting poor customers and also curbing the accrual of deposits at the banks which have already gone beyond expectations.

However, the directive came under criticism as customers felt the government has deviated from its promise made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 8 November that nobody needs to rush to the banks to deposit their cash as there is time until 30 December. After the backlash, the finance minister late night on Monday clarified that customers will be allowed to deposit any amount of old notes if it is done in one go. The clarification just compounded the confusion as it completely contradicted the RBI’s early morning notification.

It is to be noted that there has not been any notification yet on the clarification, which essentially remains a verbal communication to the media from Jaitley.

The bank staff are at the receiving end of the repeated policy flip-flops. A top bank official has told The Times of India that a memo based on the RBI notification has already been sent to the staff. That is the reason they are not ready to accept the deposit without questioning by two officials.

The new notification – 59th after demonetisation was announced on 8 November, according to The Indian Express – is likely to further worsen the relationship between the bank staff and customers. While front office staff are bound to follow the orders received from the RBI, customers on the other hand are going by the finance minister’s notification, prompting an increase in abuses on the banking staff.

What has compounded the situation is the clause that customers have to explain the reason for the delayed deposit to the satisfaction of the questioning bank officials. ‘Satisfaction’ is a subjective term, some of them pointed out to the ToI. What is satisfactory for customer may not be so for the officials. There can be difference between the two officials too.

As author and columnist Vivek Kaul says in his Facebook post, bank staff or officers can’t be blamed. They are neither experts in questioning nor in finding the source of funds.

The bank unions have many times earlier brought to the attention of the authorities the problems faced by the staff. In a letter to the finance minister and the RBI, they had said the central bank’s repeated reiteration that it is dispensing enough cash to the banks is aggravating the situation at the bank branches as customers feel the staff is hoarding the cash to serve the rich and wealthy and that the poor customers are being shortchanged.

Clearly, the new notification is only adding to pain of the customers and banks.

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 10:23 IST

Demonetisation: Digital transactions meet roadblocks in rural India, effects felt everywhere

After the central government’s demonetisation drive started on 8 November, fruit seller Yamuna Sahni was one of the first people to put up a board urging people to pay using PayTM. About a month and a half later today, he uses it only as the last option to receive payments. Explaining his reluctance to use cashless transactions, he says, “I can transfer a maximum of Rs 25,000 from my PayTM account to my bank account every month. So if I sell fruits worth more than that, I have to wait an extra month just to transfer the excess amount back to my bank. Though I have money, it gets blocked for a month, which means my working capital is affected.”

Sahni mentioned that while he has head this limit can be increased, he doesn’t know how it gets done.

Digital payments have picked up across the country in the last month-and-a-half, but the many impediments mean that the signs aren’t very encouraging.

Many small-time shopkeepers have begun accepting digital payment. ReutersMany small-time shopkeepers have begun accepting digital payment. Reuters

Many small-time shopkeepers have begun accepting digital payment. Reuters

Raju Yadav, who sells paan on the streets of Noida, says he too had opted for digital payments, but is now facing hurdles. “The wholesaler from whom I get my daily supplies doesn’t accept digital money. So I need to first transfer the money to my bank account, then write a cheque to my wholesaler to clear my dues,” he said.

Market watcher Bimal Jain, who works as an office bearer in the Punjab Haryana Delhi Chambers of Commerce, told Firstpost that people have started using digital modes of payments. “But we have to wait some more time before digital becomes the first option as a mode of payment,” he said, adding that cashless transactions have proliferated in Tier-I and Tier-II cities on account of unavailability of cash in accordance with demand.

“Unavailability of cash has definitely pushed digital transactions in these cities. But it will take more time for digital payments to pick up in Tier-III and Tier-IV cities,” he added.

But the problems faced by these towns in the country’s hinterland are felt even in the National Capital Region. Many weekly haats in Noida are considered to be good places to buy cheap fruits, vegetables and foodgrains. Most of them do not accept digital payments.

Raghav Choudhury, vegetable seller in one of these markets, says he purchases in wholesale from farmers of Uttar Pradesh. While he gets his supplies from the farmers on credit, he has to repay them in cash. “If I accept payment through Pay TM, how will I pay them back, since they do not use such modes of payments?” he asks.

On the other hand, many traders also believe that online payments will decrease their competitiveness. “People buy from us because we provide goods at cheaper rates. But digital payments may include service charge, which will add to our cost price and selling price,” he added.

PayTM charges minimum a of 1 percent and maximum of 4 percent as service charge on transfers from wallet to bank accounts. Jain said one way to encourage more digital transactions is by making them completely bereft of additional costs. He said the government should take special precautions to acquaint people with digital transactions, especially to encourage people in Tier-III and Tier-IV cities.

The Finance Ministry had launched a PR campaign to popularise digital transactions. ‘Span Communications’, a PR firm that won the campaign to make India a cashless economy said in a press release that it has come up with an ambitious plan to carry on the aggressive plan forward.

CEO Naresh Khetrapal said, “We live in a country where cash is king. Considering the demographics of India, the campaign will help create awareness about cashless transactions among the masses and embrace the new methods of payments in the digital era.”

First Published On : Dec 20, 2016 22:10 IST

CBSE body recommends making Board exams for Class X mandatory from 2018

New Delhi: Board exams for Class X are set to become compulsory for all CBSE students from 2018 as CBSE’s Governing body on Tuesday “unanimously approved” a proposal in this
regard.

Representational image. FirstpostRepresentational image. Firstpost

Representational image. Firstpost

At the meeting of the Governing body, its members agreed that from the academic session 2017-18, compulsory Board exams should be introduced for all students of Class X, sources told PTI in New Delhi.

The decision will now have to be approved by the government before it is implemented.

Currently, it is optional for CBSE students to choose either the Board exam or a school-based examination. HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar has in the past favoured making Board exam compulsory for CBSE students as is the practice in all state boards.

The sources said while there is a view that for the Class X Board exams, 80 percent weightage will be given to the marks scored in examinations while 20 percent weightage will be given to school-based evaluation.

In another key decision, the CBSE has decided to recommend to the HRD ministry that the three language formula, under which Hindi, English and modern Indian language are taught, should be extended to class IX and X as well from the current VI to VIII, a source said.

Oficials added that the Board also favoured sending a recommendation to the Centre that those languages which are listed in schedule VIII of the Constitution should be taught under the ‘Three language formula’ while languages which are “purely foreign” should be taught as a “fourth language as an elective subject.”

In the past the HRD ministry run Kendriya Vidyalayas (KV) used to offer German as a third language, but the practice was later discontinued.

The final call on these decisions will be taken by the government, a senior official said.

First Published On : Dec 20, 2016 21:33 IST

Demonetisation: Why PM Modi shouldn’t have offered another scheme for tax cheats

The new scheme for tax cheats that is in force now shows the desperation of the Narendra Modi government to somehow show demonetisation has indeed worked well in trapping the black money in the system.

This was necessitated as close to Rs 13 lakh crore has already returned to the banking system through deposits out of the Rs 15.4 lakh crore demonetised on 8 November.

It is anybody’s guess how much of these deposits will turn out to be ‘black money’ at the end of this whole exercise. Much depends on the taxman. Under this scheme Pradhan Manrti Garib Kalyan Yojana, evaders get another opportunity to bring out their ill-gotten wealth by paying 50 percent tax and penalty and by parking a quarter of their illegal assets in a scheme for four years.

Representational image. CNN-News18Representational image. CNN-News18

Representational image. CNN-News18

This is the last such scheme, the government has said, for black money holders — something they had said even when the first IDS (income declaration scheme) scheme for domestic black money holders was launched a few months ago.

That time, the government warning was that post September, there will be big crackdown and no chance will be given for anyone to come clean again. But here we are again with yet another black money scheme .

This, in all likelihood, will give an idea to the tax cheats that the ‘last chance’ for black money holders will keep returning periodically. The latest amnesty-like scheme tells us one clear thing. This is born out of the government’s growing realisation that demonetisation may not be an effective tool on the black money hunt.

Hence, the government was forced to once again offer incentives to tax cheats to get some money out of the shelves. The taxman has, so far, not found much luck in unearthing the illegal cash from raids, which is evident from the numbers given by the CBDT chairman last week. The department has so far conducted searches and seizures in about 291 cases, carried out surveys in 295 cases, where it has seized over Rs 316 crore including Rs 80 crore in new notes in raids, besides jewelry of Rs 76 crore, totaling Rs 393 crore, the chairman said.

The department has also sent over 3,000 notices on the basis of deposits in bank accounts. One needs to see how much illegal money is unearthed post this exercise. The other side of this exercise is that the honest taxpayer will feel foolish with repeated amnesty schemes for tax cheats.

In fact, the last black money scheme was even better for the evaders. Those who declared black money under the scheme had the option to pay the 45 percent tax in three easy installments — 25 percent by 30 November, another 25 percent by 31 March 2017 and the balance amount by 30 September 2017. The 45 percent penalty black money holders need to pay include tax, surcharge and penalty.

If someone with unaccounted money didn’t use such easy an installment scheme then, he is either a fool or someone who knows to fool the taxmen for the rest of his life. The chances that this time the tax amnesty scheme, which is open until 31 March 2017, may not yield much since the evader, who skipped the attractive September scheme, will now have to pay 50 percent of tax/ penalty and lock quarter of his deposits for four years. Rather, he would look for alternative ways such as benami channels.

Including the first scheme for foreign black money holders, this is the third amnesty the Modi government has offered to tax cheats. There is an obvious danger in rolling out back to back amnesty schemes. In the BJP Parliamentary meet, PM Modi mentioned the 1971 K N Wanchoo Committee report to support his ongoing demonetisation move.

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

Whether the scenario, under which Modi announced demonetisation and black money declaration scheme for tax cheats falls under the description of ‘normal times’ or not is a matter of debate. But, PM Modi will do well revisiting the Wanchoo report for clues on the consequences of back-to-back black money declaration schemes.

First Published On : Dec 20, 2016 16:11 IST

Demonetisation: Govt allows use of old notes for tax payment under PMGKY

New Delhi: The government today allowed use of junked Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes till 30 December for paying tax on disclosures made under the tax evasion amnesty scheme.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

After the shock demonetisation of high value notes on 8 November, the government allowed the banned currency to be deposited in bank accounts.

Those with unaccounted cash were offered a chance to come clean by paying 50 percent of it as tax, penalty and surcharge, while parking an additional 25 percent in a
non-interest bearing deposit for four years.

“An opportunity has been given to the public to make the payments towards tax, penalty, cess/surcharge and deposit under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) 2016 with the old bank notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 denomination up to December 30, 2016,” an official statement said.

Explaining the provision, an official said a holder of unaccounted cash in Rs 500/1000 notes can now deposit half of it in any of the 29 scheduled bank that are entitled to accept income tax on behalf of the government.

A quarter of the amount can be deposited in cash in the non-interest rate bearing PMGK Deposit Scheme 2016. The remaining 25 percent can then be deposited in individual bank account.

After 30 December, tax as well as the deposit will have to be made through cheque or RTGS transfer.

The government has allowed holders of the scrapped notes to deposit them in their bank accounts till 30 December. No scheduled bank will accept them after that date.

The official said the tax authorities are collating information about deposits made in banks post demonetisation and will send notices if any unaccounted income holder does not make disclosures under the amnesty scheme.

While some 3,000 tax notices have already been issued, more will be sent next month after the deposit deadline of 30 December closes.

Those whose bank deposits do not match their income would be asked to explain and offered a chance to come clean under the amnesty scheme, which closes on March 31.

Tax at the rate of 30 per cent of the undisclosed income, surcharge of 33 percent of tax and penalty of 10 percent of such income is payable besides mandatory deposit of 25 percent of the undisclosed income in the PMGK Deposit Scheme.

Income declared under the Scheme will not be included in the total income of the declarant under the Income Tax Act for any assessment year.

Not declaring the black money under the scheme now but showing it as income in the tax return form would lead to a total levy of 77.25 percent in taxes and penalty. In case the disclosure is not made either using the scheme or in return, a further 10 per cent penalty on tax will be levied followed by prosecution, he added.

First Published On : Dec 19, 2016 17:48 IST

Less tax for small traders on digital transactions: Govt

New Delhi: In a bid to promote less cash economy, the government today said small traders and businesses with a turnover of up to Rs 2 crore will pay less tax if they accept payments through banking and digital means.

A customer performs a transaction on an ATM at a branch of Hungary's largest lender OTP Bank in central Budapest July 24, 2013. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh (HUNGARY - Tags: BUSINESS) - RTX11X2YA customer performs a transaction on an ATM at a branch of Hungary's largest lender OTP Bank in central Budapest July 24, 2013. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh (HUNGARY - Tags: BUSINESS) - RTX11X2Y

Reuters

Under the existing Section 44AD of the Income-Tax Act, 1961, in case of certain assesses (an individual, HUF or a partnership firm other than LLP) carrying on any business having a turnover of Rs 2 crore or less, the profit is deemed to be 8 percent of the total turnover for taxation.

“…it has been decided to reduce the existing rate of deemed profit of 8 per cent under section 44AD of the Act to 6 percent in respect of the amount of total turnover or gross receipts received through banking channel/digital means for the financial year 2016-17,” the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) said in a communication.

The decision has been taken to achieve the government’s mission of moving towards a less cash economy and to incentivise small traders/businesses to proactively accept
payments by digital means, it said.

“However, the existing rate of deemed profit of 8 percent referred to in section 44AD of the Act, shall continue to apply in respect of total turnover or gross receipts received in cash,” the tax department added.

Legislative amendment in this regard would be carried out through the Finance Bill, 2017, the CBDT added.

Following decision to demonetise old Rs 500/1000 notes, the government has taken several measures to encourage digital payments to promote less cash economy.

First Published On : Dec 19, 2016 17:37 IST

Indian Railways cancels 78 trains till 15 Jan due to fog in northern India

New Delhi: Railways have decided to cancel 78 trains till 15 January next year in view of dense fog in many parts of north India reducing visibility.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Sealdha Express, North East Express, Begumpura Express, Lucknow Double-Decker Express, Gorakhpur Weekly Express, Jaipur-Chandigarh Express and Mau Express are among 78 trains which will remain cancelled till 15 January, said a senior Railway Ministry official.

Out of 78, there are 34 train services in Northern zone which include Chandigarh-Amritsar Express, Rohtak Intercity, Varanasi-Dehradun Express, Lichchavi Express and Unchahar Express which will remain non-operational till mid-January next year.

“Since the visibility has been reduced due to dense fog situation, we have taken precautionary measures by announcing cancellation of these trains in advance,” he said.

Regular announcements are being made to inform passengers about the train positions. Help desks have also been set up at various stations to guide people to avail train service for their destinations.

Loco drivers have been given strict instructions to drive slowly during the foggy weather.

About 34 Delhi-bound trains are running late by several hours on Monday due to bad weather.

First Published On : Dec 19, 2016 15:40 IST

Demonetisation: Cashlessness sting still painful on day 41

New Delhi: There was no respite in sight for cash-strapped people on Monday as queues outside banks and ATMs for withdrawing money continued across the city with rising anger and pain.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

An IANS correspondent who visited about 10 banks and ATMs across the city, found over 150 people outside Punjab National Bank and State Bank of India in Kalkaji area of south Delhi.

Similar conditions were witnessed outside the Indian Overseas Bank, ICICI Bank and Axis Bank in Preet Vihar area in east Delhi.

Jaswant Sharma, a security guard with a law firm and resident of Kalkaji extension, told IANS: “Since the day I got my salary I am looking for an ATM to withdraw some cash. Three of my attempts have gone in vein as the ATM machine runs out of cash before my turn comes.

Asked if he supports the government’s move of scrapping the old Rs 500 and 1,000 notes, Sharma said: “I have nothing to do with the government decision, I just want to withdraw some cash as I am left with only Rs 10 in my pocket. Cash is the necessity.”

“I have borrowed the bicycle from one of my friend to reach here,” he rued.

There were around 300 people outside the Yes Bank and HDFC ATM kiosk in Kalkaji area around 12.30 a.m. which was dispensing cash till early morning.

Balkishan, a lawyer who had arrived at the ATM to withdraw cash with his 12-year-old son, told IANS: “At most of the places people in the queues do not allow withdrawal from multiple cards. So I have come with my son to withdraw money from two cards.”

“We cannot stand in bank or ATM queue everyday, what comes in mere Rs 2,500,” he asked.

However, similar situation was witnessed outside the banks on Monday morning, which opened after Sunday. Hundreds of people were seen waiting for their turn.

Balwinder Singh, a resident of South Extension Part II who was standing outside Punjab National Bank in south Delhi, told IANS: “It is completely mismanaged show.”

“The government has made the middle and working class people suffer. Today I have skipped my office for the third time since demonetisation to withdraw cash.”

“Is government going to pay me for the days I have skipped my office to withdraw some cash?” he said.

Echoing similar opinion, Neha Sharma, an IT professional working with an MNC in Noida, said: “We cannot skip office everytime by giving the excuse that we need to withdraw some cash.”

“The government has set the limit of Rs 24,000 a week, but the bank officials are only giving Rs 4,000,” she rued.

“How do we manage our expenses for whole month in just Rs 4,000,” she asked.

Serpentine queues have been witnessed across the country after the government’s November 8 decision to spike higher currency notes to curb “black money and corruption”.

First Published On : Dec 19, 2016 12:32 IST

Kerala: Five accused of ragging college student surrender

Kottayam: Five of the seven students accused in the ragging case in government polytechnic, in which a first year student suffered kidney damage, have surrendered before police, police said on Monday. The five senior students surrendered before the Deputy Superintendent of Police at Changanassery near here last night.

According to police, there are a total of seven accused in the case and two are still absconding.

On the night of 2 December, eight first-year students of the polytechnic at Nattakom here were allegedly subjected to brutal ragging by a gang of senior students at the men’s hostel of the college.

Two students — one hailing from Irinjalakkuda in Thrissur district, and another from Cheranallur in Ernakulam district — were seriously injured in the incident. They have been admitted to hospitals in Thrissur and Ernakulam respectively.

Representational image. Getty Images

Representational image. Getty Images

The student from Irinjalakkuda has been hospitalised with kidney damage, police said.

He was put on dialysis after doctors diagnosed him with kidney damage. The victim underwent dialysis three times after his admission in the hospital 11 days ago.

The accused allegedly forced the victim to consume liquor mixed with some harmful powder following six hours of brutal ragging which included hard physical exercises like push-ups.

The accused were absconding after police booked them for allegedly ragging their juniors in the hostel.

They have also been suspended from the institution.

Two cases have been registered against the accused based on two separate complaints by the two students, police said.

Meanwhile, the state human rights commission has sought a report from the education department on the alleged ragging incident.

First Published On : Dec 19, 2016 12:00 IST

Bipin Rawat as next Army Chief: Superseding three army commanders sets an ugly precedent

Superseding three active General Officer(s) Commanding-in-Chief of three ‘armies’ has never occurred since 1947, so let’s stop talking about precedents. That is complete nonsense. Why are we so nice about the mishandled manner in which the new army chief (Bipin Rawat) was announced with 14 days to go instead of the customary 90 days? The only one precedent was the clumsy bypassing of Lt Gen Mani Sinha in place of Lt Gen Vaidya and General Sinha did what Generals do — he put in his resignation. As a protest. Hardly a high-water mark in the annals of military history, the way he was set aside.

Which is exactly what Lt Gen PM Hariz, Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi and Lt Gen BS Negi will do — either retire or simply put in their papers.

Bipin_Rawat_380_GettyBipin_Rawat_380_GettyConsequently, we will have three top commands in Southern, Eastern and Central armies without leadership around the same time since none of these officers will serve a junior at this high level.

In army lexicon they have been bypassed, period. They will go home. Has anybody figured out that between these three Generals — who have not been made chief — commanded 70 percent of the active forces in the Indian Army? If they were so average, why were they in charge?

Yes, the government has the right to do exactly what it wishes in the selection, even if others find fault with it. In the ranks of this government is a former chief who fought hard to stay in the job by making an issue of his age thereby setting the most shabby precedent in the Indian armed forces.

The fact that the new chief is in South Block and his three seniors are in active command indicates a definite flaw. The vice chief like the Vice President is a goodbye gift. No one knows what he does. The job is largely a sinecure. So how exactly did he stand out?

To supersede three Generals commanding your armies is either an act of arrogance or such incredible military insight that even the famous strategist Sun Tzu would have been impressed. How do you, and why do you bypass three Generals in active command of your armies?

Not only does this cause dismay, it jump-starts the domino principle with at least 50 potential three-star Generals and two-star aspirants reworking their career paths thanks to this announcement. We suddenly have three degrees of separation and several three-star officers looking at retirement will now look at the possible fourth star and realign their priorities.

You cannot really believe for a moment that between bureaucrats and politicians, they have a clue as to how effective or of what calibre these three sidelined officers are. You have to be naïve to think they know who suited them most or was of the highest calibre. To put it bluntly, as a fellow Gurkha officer incumbent General Suhag probably advocated his brother officer’s cause — the fact that General Rawat was in Delhi gave him access or at least presence in the capital while attending meetings in these troubled times also helped. He was relatively familiar.

Unlike his three seniors who are commanding active armies. Compare their career records — all first rate.

All this said, the government exercised a right. Will it change the dynamics of the Indian army? For sure. The government has found a trump card to keep its top echelons pliable, pliant and obedient and, oh yes, politically non-ambitious. Today, the fourth, tomorrow who knows? (Maybe the ninth).

First Published On : Dec 18, 2016 20:31 IST

Afghan migrants taken to hospital as Croatia arrests Bulgarians over trafficking | Reuters

BELGRADE Dozens of migrants, mainly from Afghanistan, have been taken to hospital in Croatia after police stopped a van carrying 67 people, and arrested two Bulgarian citizens suspected of human trafficking, the police said. The van, with British licence plates, was halted on the highway between the Serbian and Slovenian borders on Saturday evening during routine traffic control, according to the police. Forty-two migrants were taken immediately to hospital and some were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning, health minister Milan Kujundzic was quoted by the Hina news agency as saying. He said two of the 42 were boys aged 10 to 12, while the others were between 15 and 20. “Some of them were unconscious, some vomited when they were found,” Kujundzic said. “They were in serious condition, dehydrated and apparently have not eaten for five days.”

Some 650,000 people passed through Croatia from September 2015 to March this year on the so-called Balkan route used by migrants, mainly from Syria, heading towards western Europe, especially Germany.The route was largely shut down in March after a series of border closures.

Many migrants have turned to smugglers to help them cross borders illegally.

Austrian police found 71 dead migrants locked into a lorry in August 2015, and many officials fear another similar disaster. (Reporting by Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Andrew Bolton)

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

First Published On : Dec 18, 2016 19:24 IST

Kerala: Student brutally ragged in Kottayam Government Polytechnic College, suffers kidney damage

Kottayam : A first year student of the Government Polytechnic College in Kottayam has been hospitalised with kidney damage after he was brutally ragged by eight senior students, police said on Sunday.

Police said the student has been admitted to a hospital in Thrissur and was put on dialysis after doctors diagnosed him with kidney damage.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The accused allegedly forced the victim to consume liquor mixed with some harmful powder following six hours of brutal ragging which included hard physical exercises like push-ups.

The eight students of the institute at Nattakom in the district are absconding after police booked them for allegedly ragging their juniors in the hostel.

The students, accused of ragging first year pupils in the hostel attached to the polytechnic, were booked early this month. They have also been suspended from the institution.

The victim underwent dialysis three times after his admission in the hospital 10 days ago, police said.

Police in Chingavanam in the district is probing the case.

Meanwhile, former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy visited the student at the hospital in Thrissur. Chandy urged the government to bear the expenses of the student’s treatment.

Earlier, in two separate complaints lodged with police, two students, including the one currently undergoing treatment at the Thrissur hospital, had alleged that they were subjected to brutal ragging by their seniors at he institute.

The other pupil is admitted to a private hospital in Eranakulam, police said.

The accused in the two incidents are members of the same group. Two cases have been registered against them, police said, adding that investigation is underway.

Meanwhile, the state human rights commission has sought a report from the education department on the alleged ragging incident.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Black money hunt: Why protect political parties and harass the common man?

On a day the Narendra Modi government laid out the contours of new black money declaration scheme for tax cheats, it also left a big loophole that could potentially cause the entire exercise to fall apart— exempting deposits made by political parties from tax scrutiny and subsequent investigation.

This move is absurd, lacks logic and raises a big question on the very intent of the Modi government to unearth black money in the system at any cost.

Reason: The opaque political funding is the foundation of black money in any economy. It is that evil that feeds and nurtures all other forms of illegal cash in the system. Unless political funds are brought under tax scrutiny, everything else the government does in the name of black money hunt will be seen with suspicion.

PM ModiPM Modi

PM Modi

The government move also show how there is a clear double standard for the common man and political parties when it comes to black money hunt. The aaam aadmi is supposed to bare it all, answer questions, face harassment even if his money is legit but politician enjoys a God-given immunity.

Take a look at what the revenue secretary Hasmukh Adhia told reporters.

“If it is a deposit in the account of a political party, they are exempt. But if it is deposited in individual’s account then that information will come into our radar. If the individual is putting money in his own account, then we will get information.”

The Section 13A of the Income Tax Act, 1961 is what gives immunity for political parties in respect of their income from house property, other sources, capital gains and income by way of voluntary contributions received from any person.

Political parties will merrily use this opportunity to put their black money (money for which there is no real source or income that is not taxed) on the table and would say that they got it all from small donors (cash donations less than Rs 20,000 does not need any source). It is not difficult to make backdated donation receipts. This defeats the entire purpose of black money operation.

Analysis by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and National Election Watch in past few years shows that about 75 percent of the sources of funds to political parties remain unknown. Here is where the real problem lies.

When political parties arte party to accepting black money, how do one expect an honest action from them against the very same black money?

It is not a surprise that none of the opposition parties, including principal opposition party, Congress and its (occasionally) fiery leader Rahul Gandhi hasn’t uttered a word on political black money and hasn’t offered to give an example by daring to give own party’s financial details or declining any law-given immunity. That’s understood because all drinks from the same pot and it taste sweet.

But the larger question is why is it that always the common man suffer and the rich and powerful get away?

Why the double standard?

The ongoing demonetisation exercise, originally launched to counter black money and fake currency, has inflicted maximum pain on the poor, not the rich and powerful. The layman waits for hours in ATM/bank queue, face unemployment and financial loss, commits suicide because he couldn’t find enough cash for his daughter’s wedding amid the black money fight of the government, while the rich smiles all the way to the backdoors of banks.

Even in the post-demonetisation era, they have lavish weddings and joy of seeing bundles of new currency notes in their backyards, while it is a miracle for the aam aadmi even if he get hold of a few pieces of new currency.

PM Modi certainly owes an answer to 125 crore Indians, of which a good number are hard working middle class, on the government’s double standard to the common man and the political parties when it comes to the issue of black money.

First Published On : Dec 17, 2016 12:53 IST

Petrol price hiked by Rs 2.21 per litre, diesel to become dearer by Rs 1.79 per litre

New Delhi: Petrol price has been hiked by Rs 2.21 a litre and diesel by Rs 1.79 per litre, excluding local levies. The price revision was to come into effect from Thursday, but was deferred by a day, possibly to save the demonetisation-battered government from any blushes in Parliament. The revised rates will be effective from Friday midnight.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

This increase excludes local levies. The actual hike after considering VAT would be Rs 2.84 per litre in Delhi for petrol and Rs 2.11 for diesel.

After the hike, petrol in Delhi will cost Rs 68.94 per litre from midnight as against Rs 66.10 currently, said Indian Oil Corp., the nation’s largest fuel retailer. Similarly, a litre of diesel will cost Rs 56.68 as compared to Rs 54.57.

IOC, Bharat Petroleum Corp (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corp (HPCL) revise rates on 1st and 16th of every month based
on average international price in the previous fortnight. But an increase that was warranted because of a rise in international gasoline (petrol) price to $62.82 per barrel from $57.43 and that of diesel to $60.97 from $56.79 was not announced.

Industry sources said the deferment was because Parliament was in session and any hike would have added to the discomfort
of the government, particularly when it is facing heat over hardships caused by currency demonetisation. The Winter Session of Parliament ended on Friday afternoon.

Rates were last revised on 1 December, when petrol price was hiked by a marginal 13 paise a litre, but diesel rates were cut by 12 paise.

Prior to this price change, rates were hiked by Rs 1.46 a litre for petrol and Rs 1.53 per litre for diesel, excluding local levies, on 16 November.

“The current level of international product prices of petrol and diesel and Rupee-Dollar exchange rate warrant an increase in selling price of petrol and diesel, the impact of which is being passed on to the consumers with this price revision,” IOC said in a statement.

It said the movement of prices in the international oil market and foreign exchange rate shall continue to be monitored closely and developing trends of the market will be reflected in future price changes.

First Published On : Dec 16, 2016 22:31 IST

Cyclone Vardah: Tamil Nadu govt ‘prepared’ for vector-borne diseases in three affected districts

Chennai: The Tamil Nadu government on Friday said it has put in place preventive measures in the three Cyclone affected districts of Chennai, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur towards ensuring public health, including steps to prevent spread of vector-borne diseases.

File photo. Reuters

File photo. Reuters

Chief Minister O Panneerselvam reviewed the measures taken by the Health and Family Welfare Department to prevent spread of contagious diseases, the government said in a release.

As part of disease-prevention measures, the government has set up 161 mobile health units, pressed into service 119 numbers of Ambulance services, 50 each food protection and chlorination teams and 51 units to handle mosquito menace.

These steps were aimed at delivering health services to people of the affected areas, addressing emergency situations, ensuring safe and protected drinking water supply and prevention of vector-borne diseases by addressing mosquito menace, it said.

While 3,000 personnel had been employed in implementing these activities, the government has also stocked Rs 90 crore worth medicines and drugs, it said.

First Published On : Dec 16, 2016 15:39 IST

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