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PM Modi’s New Year’s Eve Speech: BJP hails speech, Opp attacks PM

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Opposition parties attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for “failing” to show “sensitivity” towards people’s pain due to demonetisation in his address to the nation, while BJP hailed him for announcing a string of welfare measures for the weaker sections.Slamming Modi for his “lacklustre” address, Congress called him a merchant of “false promises” and wondered why he did not mention how many “lakhs of crores” in black money and fake currencies the government managed to wipe out through demonetisation in the last 50 days.Congress Spokesperson Randeep Surjewala alleged the Prime Minister totally failed to show any sensitivity to people’s pain as no relief from financial restrictions was announced despite widespread expectation.The Left parties attacked him for “failing” to address problems of the poor and farmers caused by demonetisation and charged him with delivering a “budget speech” in view of forthcoming assembly polls in UP and some other states.”He spoke like a pracharak for most of the 45-minute speech…It was like a budget speech,” CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said.BJP President Amit Shah, however, hailed Modi for welfare measures and called them “great step” towards opening the avenues for the weaker sections of the country.”The prime minister opened up avenues for poor, farmers and youth of this country after the record availability of money in the banks since Independence following the demonetisation. It is a great step for the weaker sections of the country,” he said.Surjewala said though crores of people were reeling under severe difficulties and a large number of them lost their jobs, Modi did not talk about any roadmap for them.”The Prime Minister’s so called cleansing drive took 125 lives of innocent Indians and put crores of people in severe difficulties. But Modi did not uttter a single word for those who died. This is reflection of his insensitivity to the peoples’ pain,” Surjewala said. Attacking Modi for not lifting restrictions on withdrawal of cash even after the 50-day period, the Congress spokesman said the PM only believes in “hitting headlines and giving no deadlines”. “The entire country was listening with curosity that the Prime Minister will lift the restrictions on withdrwal of their hard earned money from banks. But people will still have to reel under this economic anarchy.”The Prime Minister said it will take time to improve the banking system in the new year. It means he belives in hitting headlines and not giving deadlines,” he said.Yechury, who had asked a number of questions to the Prime Minister ahead of the latter’s address to the nation, rued Modi did not announce any compensation for daily wage earners, fishermen, agricultural workers “who were hit hard by demonetisation”.He also questioned why the Prime Minister did not announce debt waiver to farmers while Rs 1.12 crore taken in loans by corporates have been written off.”He (Modi) has talked about hardships of people standing in queues. But he said nothing on compensation to those 115 persons who died in queues while withdrawing money,” Yechury said.In a series of tweets, Shah said, “PM @narendramodi has given a futuristic & visionary address to the nation, sharing a series of welcome initiatives for poor & farmers.”PM @narendramodi wonderfully articulated the passion & enthusiasm with which 125 crore Indians supported the movement against corruption.”BJP leader and Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu also welcomed the announcements, tweeting, “I specially thank PM @narendramodi for reducing interest rate on housing.A big boost to housing sector & big boon to the poor &middle class,” he tweetedComing down hard on the PM, Surjewala said demonetisation has taken away the jobs, hit the farmers and traders and made life difficult for every section of the society but there was no word of relief for them in his address.”Who benefitted from the demonetisation. Only a handful of 50 people who are Modiji’s friend. This is why he said yesterday that the deposits of the people in the banks would be used for strengthening banking system and infrastructure.Noting that there was “nothing new” in PM’s announcements, he said Modi is selling what Congress was implementing whether the Rs 6,000 maternity benefit to pregnant poor women or interest subvention on houses for the poor.Stating that the decision of demonetisation has destroyed the back bone of poor and medial class, Surjewala said Modi should have announced 20 per cent bonus for farmers above MSP, compensation for those who lost job during this period among others.Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the ruling alliance partner in Bihar, said the address proves that even Modi himself has accepted that demonetisation has “failed.” In a series of tweets, party chief Lalu Yadav posed a series of questions to the PM on the demonetisation, saying the people of the country would be standing in the queues from Monday again.”Where is the report card, why did not (Prime Minister Modi) disclose how much black money (has been) unearthed. How much (money) has been deposited, how many jobs lost, how much is the loss to the economy and how it would be compensated,” Lalu tweeted.In another tweet, he sought to know from the PM how much money was spent on printing of new notes.Taking a dig at Modi’s speech, which did not mention any timeline for the return of normalcy in the banking system, he said the PM, who had in his November speech asked the people to bear the pain for 50 days, “did not give any deadline.””Prime Minister publicly misleading the nation is not a good sign. Nobody will have faith in such a Prime Minister,” he tweeted.”The boring speech of today signals that the PM has accepted that demonetisation has failed. Had there been even a single achievement he would have gone to the town, tom-toming it,” he said.”The country will be in the queues again on the eve of the new year, such an expressionless, ineffective and crawling pre-budget speech,” he said.He claimed that the PM has no “remorse” even after taking away the lives of hundreds of people, and 25 lakh people’s jobs.

Jharkhand mine collapse: Death toll rises to 13, as rescue operations continue

Godda (Jharkhand): The death toll climbed to 13 in the coal mine collapse at Lalmatia open cast coal mine of Eastern Coalfields Ltd (ECL), with the recovery of two more bodies on Saturday.

RR Mishra, officiating CMD of ECL, a Coal India subsidiary told PTI, “We have recovered two more bodies. We are carrying on the rescue operation in a systematic manner so that the situation does not aggravate as the debris is too much and it should not fall.”

Thirteen bodies have been recovered from the collapsed mine in Jharkhand. AFPThirteen bodies have been recovered from the collapsed mine in Jharkhand. AFP

Thirteen bodies have been recovered from the collapsed mine in Jharkhand. AFP

Danger zones have been declared around the place of incidents to restrict the entry of people there. Moreover, the district commissioner has also stationed police and CISF officials to restrict entry of people in the danger zone, Mishra said. “We have also called experts from outside to help us in the rescue operation. We have fully ensured that the rescue operations are done with proper safety measures. We have also come up with standard operating procedures which would help us in proper operations so that there is no loss to lives.”

Heavy machinery was deployed as rescuers, including those from the NDRF, toiled through the day extricating bodies and looking for survivors. Central Mine Planning and Design Institute (CMPDIL), the consultancy arm of Coal India Ltd, has deployed magneto meters along with imaging system for locating magnetic and conductive material up to a depth of 80 metres, the statement said.

Mishra said the incident occurred at around 7.30 pm on Thursday, when excavators were working there following which rescue operations was launched immediately. Senior officials of Director General of Mines Safety (DGMS) have arrived at the site and launched an inquiry.

Thirteen excavators and dump trucks which were swamped under the debris have been recovered. The All India Trade Union Congress has condemned Ministry of Power and Coal India for ignoring mine safety norms in open cast mine of ECL in Godda district.

This is the first big open coal mine disaster due to utter negligence of safety norms, it said. The mining was being operated by a contractor to whom Coal India had outsourced mining operations of the area, the union added. AITUC has demanded thorough inquiry and adequate compensation to the families of killed workers and observance of proper safety norms.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 19:00 IST

Mulayam reinstates Akhilesh Yadav: Amar Singh hails decision, says conspiracy to break party ‘failed’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh hailed SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav’s decision to revoke expulsion of his son Akhilesh Yadav and brother Ramgopal as the right thing and said the conspiracy to break the party and the family has “failed”.”Mulayam Singhji has done the right thing. He has given a message through his decision that he will not let either the Samajwadi Party or his family break till he is alive. The conspiracy of the people who wanted the party and the family to break has failed,” he said.Singh also clarified that he does not want to break the party.Congratulating Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and SP General Secretary Ramgopal Yadav, he said, “Those who had this misconception that I will try to break the party, I would like to tell them that I am not here to break the party. instead I want to keep it united.””If somebody is still hurt due to me, I want to tell that I am ready to sacrifice myself to ensure unity in SP pariwar and the workers,” he said.”We have to fight the communal forces and ensure that secular front is victorious in the upcoming elections,” Singh added.Earlier in the day, when Amar Singh was asked about the crisis in the party after supremo Mulayam Singh expelled Akhilesh and Ramgopal for six years after they put up candidates against the official nominees and summoned a party meet on Sunday.Amar had said, “The foundation of this party was laid by Mulayam Singh with much dedication and hard work. I have said this earlier and will say it now, that Mulayam Singh is the chief of SP and the father of Akhilesh Yadav as well,” he said.Mulayam had yesterday said he had taken the action against Akhilesh and Ramgopal to save the party which he had built through hard efforts.”We have to save the party. The party comes first. That is why we are expelling both Akhilesh and Ramgopal,” he had said.He explained that the decision was taken after Ramgopal, in his capacity as general secretary, called an emergency meeting of the party on January 1 and Akhilesh “supported” it.Ramgopal called the meeting after a showcause notice was issued to him and Akhilesh by Mulayam for releasing a list of candidates, parallel to the one issued officially by Mulayam.

Demonstration against Sasikala’s appointment as AIADMK chief

Sat, 31 Dec 2016-04:04pm , Cuddalore , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A small group of AIADMK cadres and supporters of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s niece, Deepa Jayakumar, on Saturday staged a black flag protest here against appointment of VK Sasikala as party General Secretary.The protesters alleged that Sasikala was chosen to the top post against the party’s rules and regulations. No arrests were made, police said. Sasikala formally assumed charge as the AIADMK general secretary today.

From Demonetisation to Donald Trump: The biggest stories of 2016, as voted by our readers

2016 was a remarkable year for news.

Filled with stories painted in all sorts of hues, it’s unlikely there’s been a year that was as uplifting as it was saddening, as rewarding as it was frustrating, as exhilarating, as shocking.

Roughly 10 days ago, we began asking you what you thought was the biggest story of the year across a variety of sections.

Here’s what you thought:

Let’s start with Business, where your biggest story of the year — somewhat unsurprisingly — was demonetisation.

In a surprising move, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the decision to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes on 8 November, and in the process, sucked out a major chunk of currency notes in the country. As there weren’t enough notes of smaller denominations to replace the banned ones, the move created an artificial cash crunch.

People queued up in front of banks and ATMs to withdraw cash and deposit old notes. As they are still struggling to come to terms with the situation, nobody has been able to fathom the real impact of the move on daily lives. Demonetisation will remain the biggest news story not only of 2016, but even in 2017.

Demonetisation, however, wasn’t just a business story. An all-encompassing story like that affected all walks of life.

Which is probably why you voted it the biggest story of the year in terms of General News too. But since that’s covered above, let’s look at the second biggest news story of the year: Donald Trump being elected President of the United States.

Reams of newsprint and hours of airtime have been devoted to just why this was such an earthshaking story. In fact, the very idea that a rank outsider — a joke candidate, if we’re being honest — at the start of the campaign trail could swat aside all opponents to become the (arguably) most powerful man in the world was laughable. And when it happened, it shook not just the US, but the world at large.

The road to the election was marked by mudslinging, insults, accusations, sexism and much more unpleasant stuff. Ever since it became official that Trump will take office in January 2017, the entire world has been wondering just what he will do when he enters the White House. It was both his journey to presidency and the concerns about what he will do next that made this such a massive story.

In Sports, it was the rise of PV Sindhu that found the most takers.

Sindhu became an overnight sensation after her stunning run at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where she came away with the silver medal. Her incredible ability, combined with her perseverance, made her the nation’s next biggest sporting icon of 2016. After Rio, she went on to win the China Open, her first Super Series title, the Malaysia Masters, and finished as runner-up in the Hong Kong Open.

On her debut at the season-ending Dubai World Super Series Final, she reached the semis and even avenged her Olympic loss to Carolina Marin in the group stage. With these brilliant performances, she consolidated both her own and India’s position as a force to be reckoned with in international badminton. Her dominance also neatly plugged the gap left by an injured Saina Nehwal, and we hope she continues to shine even brighter in the years to come.

In the world of Technology, it was the exploding Samsung Note 7 that you picked.

The Note 7 was quite an interesting phone. In fact, we at Firstpost had a chance to use the smartphone for a short bit when it was announced in India and came away impressed. Soon after its announcement, the phablet had started selling in a few markets. Not even a month had passed and around 30 different reports of certain units catching fire began to trickle in. This turned into a deluge and the first stock for India was delayed.

Samsung even issued a statement confirming the battery malfunction issue. The company immediately began sending out replacement units to Note 7 consumers. Sadly, the second and even third replacement units were still catching fire. It was a complete disaster. The smartphone was banned from flights and announcements were made advising Note 7 users not to use the handset while travelling. Nothing screams bad PR like such public service announcements at the airport.

After numerous replacements, the company had no choice but to announce a global recall of the smartphone. One of the biggest in consumer electronics history. It sent out boxes to consumers asking them to return the handset, as it was a serious threat. It even announced and rolled out software updates to restrict battery charging. Eventually, the Note 7 had to be killed.

In the world of Entertainment, you voted for the ban on Pakistani artistes.

In the aftermath of the Uri terror attack, followed by the surgical strikes in September this year, various sections of the population demanded a ban on Pakistani artistes from the film industry. This meant that any impending film, concert or event featuring a Pakistani artiste or actor had no place in India. Some members of the Cinema Owners Exhibitors Association of India announced they wouldn’t release films featuring Pakistani artistes in four states — Maharashtra, Goa, Gujarat and Karnataka.

The Indian Motion Pictures Producers Association also said that it had effectively banned any Pakistani artiste from India. This lead to a conflict in the release of Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. MNS chief Raj Thackeray took it upon himself to ensure this ban was followed. After much running around, and hush-hush conversations with the Maharashtra chief minister, the matter was finally resolved.

Which brings us to Social Media, where the most viral story of the year — as selected by you — was the visual of the Syrian boy covered in blood and dust.

Shared a million times over, this image of five-year old Omran Daqneesh emerged as the ultimate reminder of the horror and trauma thousands of people, especially children, face due to the Syrian civil war. Omran was one of five children wounded during a military strike.

Widely shared on social media, the photograph makes it impossible to forget little Omran in the ambulance, stunned by the bloody chaos. The video in which he is seen wiping dust and blood from his face is considered as one of the strongest visuals of the ravages of war in the past year.

And there you have it.

Those are the biggest stories of 2016, as voted by you.

Bring on 2017!

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 15:01 IST

Indian army prepared to meet any challenges, says General Dalbir Singh Suhag

Indian army prepared to meet any challenges, says General Dalbir Singh Suhag

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New Delhi: Indian army is prepared to meet any challenges, Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag who superannuated as Army chief said today.

He also thanked the government for providing a free hand and implementing OROP.

He said that infiltration attempts had increased during the year and the number of terrorists killed too was nearly double the previous year.

The Indian army is prepared to meet any challenges, he said, adding that the force had focused on operational preparedness during his tenure.

Suhag said that when he had taken over he had said that the response of Indian army to any action against our interest would be immediate, adequate and intense.

Indian army has done that in the last two-and-half years, he said.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 13:53 IST

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Emotional Sasikala takes charge as AIADMK Gen Secy, says she’ll sacrifice life for party & people

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>VK Sasikala Natarajan, 54, a close aide of late Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa, took charge as General Secretary of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) on Saturday at the party’s headquarters in Chennai.AIADMK party members had in a unanimous resolution adopted at the party’s general council meeting earlier this week, appointed Sasikala to the post.Chinnamma addressed AIADMK cadres at the party Head Quarters. She began by thanking her supporters for choosing her to be the next General Secretaryafter Jayalalithaa’s death.Breaking down with tears, she said that the despite Jayalalithaa’s demise party under her leadership will continue to rule the state. “Amma is not with us now but our party will rule here for the next 100 years,” she said.Sasikala said that she had dedicated her life to serving Jayalalithaa. “For Amma party was life and for me Amma is my life.We have tried our best to safeguard Amma; but unfortunately she passed away.”She reminded party workers to be loyal and committed towards the party to fulfil Jayalalithaa’s dream for the state. “Amma always expected loyalty and true work from all cadre and functionaries. I will sacrifice my life for my party and the crores of people. Amma’s dream will continue for Tamil Nadu,” she said. “This government is people’s government. We will follow the path shown by our Amma. If we stand united, future is ours,” she said. “In those days Indira Gandhi was the only woman leader in politics but Amma broke the tradition and made history,” said Sasikala about Jayalalithaa’s ascension to power as a woman. Sasikala also promised grand celebrations for entire year in 2017 for the centenary of AIADMK founder MG Ramachandran. “Centenary of AIADMK founder MG Ramachandran will be celebrated in a grand manner throughout the year,” said the new AIADMK General SecretaryAhead of taking charge, Sasikala paid tribute to Jayalalithaa.The AIADMK in its general body meeting passed a resolution to work under the leadership of Sasikala on Friday. The resolution was accepted by Sasikala, the confirmation of which was posted on the party’s Twitter handle. The close aide of late Jayalalithaa first garlanded the statue of party founder MG Ramachandran at the AIADMK headquarters after she arrived in the midst of tight security. She then proceeded to pay floral tributes to the portrait of Jayalalithaa. Sasikala formally assumed charge by signing papers after which she addressed the gathering outside.Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam handed over a copy of the resolution to Sasikala.En route to the party office, she was given a rousing welcome by party leaders, functionaries and cadres who had gathered in large numbers. Party activists had lined up on both sides of the road from the Poes Garden residence to the party headquarters at Royapettah to welcome her.Sasikala, clad in a light green saree with a pink border, greeted them with folded hands. Party flags, banners and festoons sporting bright images of Jayalalithaa and Sasikala were put up on roads, all along from Poes garden to Royapettah. Banners and hoardings hailed Sasikala as Chinnamma everywhere.After Jayalalithaa died, the party had announced that Natarajan would replace her as the chief of her party even though she is not technically qualified. The general secretary has to have completed five years as an active member. Jayalalithaa who passed away on December 5 evening after suffering cardiac arrest was the party’s general secretary from 1989 to 2016. With PTI/ANI inputs.

Day after expulsion, Akhilesh Yadav holds meeting, majority of MLAs present

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Setting the stage for a show of strength, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, who was expelled from Samajwadi Party by his father and SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, on Saturday held a meeting at his residence where a majority of the 229 party MLAs were presentThough the exact number of those present at the meeting was not immediately known, insiders maintained that a majority of the 229 SP MLAs were present. Besides, some SP MLCs and senior party functionaries loyal to Akhilesh attended the meeting. Akhilesh is expected to meet his supporters and party workers later in the day to prove his strength.The chief minister’s 5-Kalidas Marg residence appeared to be the hub of high drama with youth supporters of Akhilesh assembling in large numbers to vent their fury over his expulsion and that of his uncle Ram Gopal Yadav.Political activities heated up right from the morning with a series of meetings planned during the day, when Mulayam will meet party candidates announced by him and state SP chief Shivpal Yadav, the warring uncle of Akhilesh.Meanwhile, Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh today termed the crisis in the party as “unfortunate” and asked party members to support Mulayam in the family feud. “I appeal to the party members to stand with Netaji (Mulayam). Whatever is happening is very unfortunate,” Amar, who had recently made a comeback to the party after a long exile, said. Mulayam had yesterday expelled his son Akhilesh and Ram Gopal from SP for six years after they put up candidates against the official nominees and summoned a party meet tomorrow, pushing the ruling party to the precipice of a split just ahead of the UP Assembly elections likely to be announced any day now. Mulayam had said he took the action against Akhilesh and Ram Gopal to save the party which he had built through hard efforts. “We have to save the party. The party comes first. That is why we are expelling both Akhilesh and Ram Gopal ,” he said.He explained that the decision was taken after Ram Gopal , in his capacity as general secretary, called an emergency meeting of the party on January 1 and Akhilesh “supported” it.

Akhilesh Yadav chairs meeting with all SP MLAs

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Expelled Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav chaired a meeting of Samajwadi Party MLAs at 9 am on Saturday at his official residence.Mulayam Singh yesterday expelled Akhilesh and National General Secretary Ram Gopal Yadav from the party for six years over indiscipline late on Friday night. “I solely founded the party, what is their (Akhilesh and Ram Gopal) contribution? They are destroying the party,” he said. “To save the party, we have expelled both Ram Gopal and Akhilesh Yadav for six years from the party. No one has the right to call for a national executive meeting other than the party chief, and by doing this, you (Akhilesh and Ram Gopal) have hurt the party’s interest,” Mulayam told media here. “I will decide as to who will be the chief ministerial candidate of the party,” he insisted.This move comes after Akhilesh had released a list of 235 candidates out of the total 403 seats for upcoming state assembly elections on Thursday, rejecting the list announced by Mulayam Singh Yadav on Wednesday. “We have declared a list of 325 candidates for the 2017 assembly polls; 78 seats still remain. Names of the candidates for the rest of the 78 seats will be announced soon,” Mulayam had said on Wednesday. Akhilesh’s name did not figure in the first list. Mulayam said his son being the chief minister, can contest from any assembly seat he wishes to.

Mulayam expels Akhilesh: Azam Khan hints at Amar Singh’s hand in Yadav feud, hopes BJP doesn’t capture power

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Expressing concern over bitter infighting in SP, Uttar Pradesh minister Azam Khan said the bad blood between members of the ruling family will add a dark chapter to its history. Appealing to the “pivots” of the party to consider the consequences of the conflict, he said: “They should think how historians will depict the diminishing relationship between the father and the son.”Whatever is happening… the bad blood will add a dark chapter to the party’s history and paint a grim picture of it. I am in a state of extreme shock and pain.” In a veiled attack on Amar Singh, Khan said: “Who is responsible for this gloomy state of affairs? A single person’s conspiracy and nefarious intention have put the state up for auction.”He urged people to have faith in the SP and asked the “kingpins” of the party to ensure that the BJP does not capture power in the state. With SP staring at a possible split due to open rebellion by Akhilesh Yadav, party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav has called a meeting tomorrow of all those allotted tickets by him even as the Chief Minister’s camp remained adamant on contesting against the official candidates of the party.Hectic attempts were said to be underway today by Mulayam to avert a split after the crisis reached a flash point late last night when Akhilesh “circulated” his own list of 235 candidates for the upcoming Assembly elections, parallel to the party’s official list of 393 nominees.Mulayam has convened a meeting here tomorrow of the 393 candidates who have been allotted tickets by him. Uttar Pradesh Assembly has 403 seats.Party insiders see the meeting with immense significance as the SP chief was likely gauge the sentiments of the candidates and conduct a fresh review of the list amid fears that the battle for control in SP left the party cadres divided and highly confused at grassroots level.This morning, Shivpal Yadav, the warring uncle of Akhilesh, met his brother Mulayam for nearly an hour, but it was not immediately known what transpired at the meeting.Shivpal did not answer questions of reporters waiting outside Mulayam’s residence.Mulayam’s cousin and SP General Secretary Ramgopal Yadav, who is Akhilesh supporter, asserted that there was no question of going back on the list prepared by the Chief Minister.In an apparent attack on Shivpal, he said many in the party do not want to see Akhilesh as Chief Minister again.”But, the fact remains that people of the state want him back as CM,” he claimed.He said Mulayam had convened a meeting on January 1 to take a final call on ticket distribution, “but due to pressure (from Shivpal), he announced the list on December 28”.Akhilesh’s list, which did not carry any signature, was made available on social media last night by defiant party MLAs who failed to get a ticket in the official list.Party observers said since names of 170 to 180 candidates figured in both the lists, it would be interesting to watch if they attended the meeting convened by Mulayam or opted out.Akhilesh, who was present at an official function here this morning, did not take questions from media persons.Though Akhilesh loyalists were enthusiastic to fight the elections “in the name of and as the face of the CM”, it was still not clear as to whether they would fight as Independents or float a new party.Prominent among those figuring in the list of Akhilesh are his hardcore loyalists — ministers Arvind Singh Gope, Pawan Pandey and Ram Govind Chaudhary, who were denied ticket by Mulayam. khilesh has been unhappy over the declaration ofcandidates by Mulayam which included certain names to whose nomination the Chief Minister had strong reservation.Mulayam, along with his brother and state party unit chief Shivpal, had announced the names at a hurriedly-convened press conference here on Wednesday when Akhilesh was away on a tour of Bundelkhand.Possibilities of a rapprochement dimmed when Shivpal announced the second list of 68 candidates late last night, thereby blocking the scope for minor adjustments to avoid perhaps a showdown between father-son duo before the polls.As the SP grappled with the unprecedented crisis, senior leader and UP minister Azam Khan voiced deep distress over the developments and said, “Bad blood between relatives has damaged the future of the state.”He said the feud in SP was being “celebrated” by its political rivals, especially BJP.

‘Chinnamma’ Sasikala to formally take over as AIADMK chief on Saturday

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>VK Sasikala, who was appointed to the top post in the AIADMK on Thursday, will formally take charge as its general secretary here on Saturday, the party has said.The AIADMK headquarters at Royapettah here is being spruced up for the occasion with a dais being set up near the MGR statue to facilitate Sasikala to pay tributes to the party founder before taking charge.In keeping with the Dravidian political ethos of paying tributes at memorials of leaders before key events, Sasikala placed a wreath and paid floral tributes to Jayalalithaa at her burial site in the MGR Memorial at Marina beach this evening.She also laid wreaths and paid floral tributes at the memorials of MG Ramachandran and Dravidian ideologue and former Tamil Nadu chief minister CN Annadurai.Amid chants of “compassionate mother Chinnamma” by her partymen, Sasikala showered flower petals on Jayalalithaa’s burial site.With moist eyes, she placed a copy of the party resolution appointing her as the AIADMK general secretary at the burial site.After silently praying for a while, she went around the site during which she paused and touched it twice as a mark of respect.On her arrival at the MGR Memorial, Sasikala was received by AIADMK presidium chairman E Madusudanan, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker and senior party leader M Thambidurai and state ministers, including Dindigul C Srinivasan and Edappadi K Palanisami.They accompanied her as she paid her respects to the late leaders.Party MPs, MLAs former ministers and legislators were also present on the occasion even as a large number of AIADMK cadre thronged the place.Earlier, former Puducherry chief minister and chief of the All India NR Congress (AINRC) N Rangaswamy met Sasikala at her Poes Garden residence and congratulated her on being appointed as the AIADMK chief.

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

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

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

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

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

Five key reasons

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

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

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

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

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

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

Tough days ahead…

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

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

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

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

…Yet hopes are alive

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

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

Jharkhand mine collapse: Nine workers dead, several feared trapped in Lalmatia colliery

Nine bodies have been recovered from a coal mine that collapsed late evening on Thursday in the Lal Matia colliery of Godda district in Jharkhand, reports said. Rescue operations are still on and several more are feared trapped inside.

“So far, nine bodies have been recovered,” RR Amitabh, a general manager at the ECL project office told Reuters.

While initial reports put the number of trapped at around 10, a CISF official told ANI that around 40-50 workers are suspected to be trapped inside the debris along with 40 vehicles of a private company operating at the site.

Coal India has a poor safety record, with 135 accidents reported last year, killing 37 people and injuring 141, the company said in a report, highlighting concern about working conditions.

IANS said that a heap of mud caved-in at the entry point of the colliery. Rescue operation could not begin due to night fog, the police said.

The incident, a government of India release said, took place at 7.30 pm on Thursday and that a control room has been set up at project office of Rajmahal Open Cast Expansion Project.

However, the exact number of people and vehicle trapped inside is not known. “This could only become clear after the rescue operation starts,” said Harilal Chauhan, Godda Superintendent of Police, earlier.

The locals said that there was a crack in the heap of mud which collapsed and blocked the entry point of the mine.

Mining operations were taking place about 200 feet beneath the ground. Though the cause of the accident is not known, the Ministry of Coal said that “prima facie…it could have been caused by a failure of the bench edge along the hidden fault line/slip”.

Police said that rescue operation is underway and that an NDRF team from Patna is already on its way to the site of the accident. It is expected to reach by noon, IANS said.

Meanwhile, according to The Indian Express, Jharkhand chief minister Raghubar Das directed the DGP and chief secretary to initiate relief and rescue operations at the earliest. “As of now, there are different versions of how many machines, vehicles and people are trapped. Relief and rescue operations are being initiated,” a police official told the newspaper.

Prime Minister Naredra Modi reportedly spoke with Das who announced ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakhs to the dead and Rs 25,000 to those injured in the accident. Das also tweeted saying:

Meanwhile, Ministry of Coal said that an Inquiry has been ordered in the incident by the director general of mines safety and CIL has constituted a high-level committee of experts to investigate into the causes of the accident. THE ECL also announced an ex-gratia compensation of Rs 5 lakhs each to the family of the deceased.

Some of the injured are being treated in a nearby hospital, ANI tweeted.

Mine roof collapses in Dhanbad

In another incident, four workers suffered injuries, two of them seriously, when the roof of a mine partially collapsed at Putki Balihari area in Dhanbad district on Friday, PTI reported. The mine falls under Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL), a subsidiary of Coal India Limited.

A senior district official said the four contractual workers were taking cable to a shaft of the hydro mines in lift when a part of the roof suddenly caved in trapping them.

The four were rescued and taken to a hospital where the condition of two of them was stated to be serious, the official said.

While the cause of the collapse in the Dhanbad mine is being looked into, more details are awaited of the mine collapse in Godda district.

With inputs from agencies

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 17:15 IST

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

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

Arunachal Pradesh: Takam Pario likely to become next CM, Ram Madhav says BJP MLAs support Pema Khandu

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A day after suspending Pema Khandu, the Peoples’ Party of Arunachal (PPA) is likely to elect Takam Pario as the new Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh.The final statement is yet to come out after the PPA meeting.However, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) general secretary Ram Madhav said that around 12 BJP MLAs in Arunachal are lending support to the government led by suspended Peoples’ Party of Arunachal (PPA) leader Pema Khandu.”12 BJP MLAs in Arunachal strongly backing government led by Pema Khandu,” Ram Madhav to ANI.Takam Pario, Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) minister, is likely to be the next Arunachal Pradesh CM, said PPA President Kahfa Bengia.In a fast-paced development, PPA on Thursday late night suspended Khandu, Deputy Chief Minister Chowna Mein and five other party MLAs from the primary membership of the party temporarily with immediate effect for alleged anti-party activities.The five other MLAs are Jambey Tashi (Lumla), Passang Dorjee Sona (Mechuka), Chow Tewa Mein (Chowkham), Zingnu Namchom (Namsai) and Kamlung Mossang (Miao).PPA President Kahfa Bengia in an order stated that by virtue of the power vested in him by the Constitution of the party and the resolution adopted in the state executive committee meeting held on December 20, the MLAs are placed under suspension temporarily from the primary membership with immediate effect pending initiation of disciplinary proceedings.Bengia said prima facie he was satisfied with the proofs of their indulgence in gross “anti-party” activities.The order further stated that with the suspension, Khandu ceased to be the leader of the PPA Legislature Party.He directed the party MLAs and PPA functionaries not to attend any meeting called by Khandu and said that any members failing to comply with the order would have to face disciplinary action of the party.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is CISF’s modernisation plan? 

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

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

Is CISF’s backhand operation equally important?  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can you tell more about this mobile app? 

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

Does CISF have any expansion plans? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How important is the role of women in CISF?

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

Any overseas assignments?

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

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

Jayalalithaa’s death: Madras HC resonating voice of Tamil Nadu people, says DMK

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) on Friday said doubts raised by the Madras High Court over late chief minister J. Jayalalithaa’s death has resonated doubts of the people as health bulletins issued by Apollo Hospitals contained contradictory reports.”I think it (court) is resonating the voice of a people because during her entire stay in the hospital, no relevant or true information was forthcoming. Strangest of all things, the Tamil Nadu government did not utter a single word about the health of the CM, which was very strange,” said DMK leader Sarvanan.”Apart from that, the doctor’s reports are very contradictory. 10 news bulletins came, but none of the bulletins were signed by a doctor, except only one bulletin by Satya, she was the medical services director from Apollo Hospitals. Apart from that, everything else was issued by the chief executive officer, who was neither a doctor nor was he associated as someone treating Jayalalithaa,” he added.Justice S Vaidyanathan of the high court expressed doubts yesterday over the demise of the former All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam general secretary.”Media has raised a lot of doubts, personally I also have doubts about Jayalalithaa’s death,” said Justice Vaidyalingam.He was hearing the PIL filed by an AIADMK worker P A Joseph seeking an inquiry commission to probe the circumstances leading to the death of Jayalalithaa.”I personally find in case if I have doubt, I may order the exhumation of the body of the deceased and you have not told anything when she was alive,” Justice Vaidyanathan said.The AIADMK yesterday appointed Jayalalithaa’s close aide VK Sasikala as the party’ general secretary.In a unanimous resolution adopted at the party’s general council meeting, AIADMK members handed over control of the party to Sasikala.

Sasikala takes over Amma’s mantle, nominated gen secy

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>VK Sasikala, who was denied a party post all along by Jayalalithaa, was on Thursday unanimously nominated as the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) general secretary in the name of the departed Amma.Her nomination will be followed by a formal election at a general council (GC), but the die has been cast. Party seniors do not expect any other nomination for the post.The general council, which met at Vanagaram in suburban Chennai, was attended by over members, and nominated Sasikala as the interim leader till she is formally elected.Sasikala, as was expected, did not attend the meeting. Chief minister O Panneerselvam, who, along with senior leaders handed over the resolution to Sasikala, said she had accepted the request of the party.The council resolved that Jayalalithaa should be given the Bharat Ratna, the Magsaysay Award, and that her statue should be unveiled in Parliament. However, the focus was not on Jayalalithaa but her aide, Sasikala.Party presidium chairman E Madhusudhanan and former minister C Ponnaiyan were among those who spoke briefly on the resolutions. Ponnaiyan said there will be no contest for the post of general secretary.The elevation of Sasikala has come as a well-orchestrated puppet show, with her family members pulling all the strings in her favour. The Poes Garden will continue to be a power centre in Tamil Nadu, Amma or no Amma.At the moment, Sasikala is sitting pretty, having assumed all the powers of the general secretary. The next few steps would now be easier for her now that she is in full control of the party apparatus.With all district units, ministers and MLAs supporting her election, it is clear that her writ will run.However, on the day of her elevation, a shocker came from the Madras High Court, as a Bench observed that there were many unanswered questions surrounding the death of Jayalalithaa, which was a “mystery”. “The state government has failed to clear the doubts even after her death. Should her body be exhumed to know the truth?” they asked.Justice S Vaidyanathan and V Parthiban were hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition seeking the appointment of a commission comprising three retired Supreme Court (SC) judges to probe into the “mysterious” death of Jayalalithaa.The Bench ordered notice to the Centre, the Prime minister’s Office and the Tamil Nadu government, and censured the Union government for not revealing any information on the ”mystery” surrounding her death.”Representatives of the central government visited the hospital. Counsel for the Union government claims to know the details of the incidents. But still the authorities have not conveyed or brought out anything to the people, for reasons best known to them,” the petition of PA Stalin, a primary member of the AIADMK, said.He referred to the precedent of the Calcutta High Court in 1999, directing the constitution of a one-man commission of a retired apex court judge to probe into the death of Netaji Subhash ChandraBose.Stalin also wanted the court to pass interim order to the state authorities and the Apollo Hospitals calling for all official and other relevant records and documents in connection with the death.The judges referred to doubts mentioned in the media over the death of Jayalalithaa.”After the demise, everybody has a right to question. I personally have a doubt,” Justice Vaidyalingam said, adding, “One day it was told that she is walking, another day you said that she will come out and suddenly what happened. Even with regard to the health of late Chief Minister MGR, a video was released,” Justice Vaidyanathan said.When a special mention was made by senior counsel K M Vijayan, advocate general Muthukumaraswamy said there was no mystery in the death. The Bench referred the PIL to the Chief Justice to list the plea in an appropriate Bench.On a day when Sasikala assumed control of the party, the observations of the bench must have come as a shock to the Sasikala family.

Arunachal crisis: Ram Madhav says BJP will stand by CM Khandu

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The newly formed People’s Party of Arunachal Pradesh (PPA) is in crisis. The newly formed outfit has suspended its own chief minister Pema Khandu, son of former chief minister Dorji Khandu, who died in a helicopter crash four years back.The reason for the sudden shift in position is not known but the PPA has decided to suspend seven MLAs. The PPA also would be taking disciplinary action against the MLAs.A floor test is expected to take place in Itanagar on Friday (today). Sources say that the ruling party decided to do away with the chief minister because of his continued closeness with the Congress.Sources indicate that Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi was pretty much clued into the affairs of the development, which took place in the North-Eastern state. Sources also say that it would not affect the chance of the BJP-supported government as the suspension would not destabalise the government. The Congress had split last year with MLAs moving out of the stable lock, stock and barrel. Sources said that the MLAs had complained against Pema Khandu. The Congress tried its best to take legal recourse but the split in the party was so intensive that even legal help could not do much.Ram Madhav, BJP general secretary, who is in charge of the state, said: “The president does not have the power to remove the chief minister. BJP is supporting Pema Khandu’s government. The chairman can only do so. Let’s see what happens.”

Why can’t her body be exhumed? Madras HC raises questions over Jayalalithaa’s death

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>More than three weeks after the demise of former AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa, the Madras High Court on Thursday raised questions over the death of the former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and asked why her body can’t be exhumed.”Media has raised a lot of doubts, personally I also have doubts in Jayalalithaa’s death,” said Justice Vaidyanathan who was hearing a petition.”When she was admitted in hospital, it was said that she was on proper diet. At least after her death now, truth should be revealed,” Vaidyanathan said.The judge also went on to say that the court could order the exhumation and post-mortem of Jayalalithaa’s body, reported TheNewsMinute.A PIL has been filed in the Madras High Court seeking a commission comprising retired Supreme Court judges to look into “questionable incidents”, including her sudden hospitalisation, reported recovery and the cardiac arrest resulting in her death.
ALSO READ AIADMK appoints Jayalalithaa’s close confidante Sasikala as party General SecretaryPetitioner PA Joseph, a city resident, listed the sequence of events since Jayalalithaa’s admission to Apollo Hospital here on September 22 and claimed that the “secrecy” preceding her death gave rise to “grave doubts” in the minds of the people.The public interest litigation, which listed 12 respondents, including the Apollo Hospitals chairman, is likely to be taken up for hearing by the vacation bench of the court on December 29.The petitioner pleaded that the commission must peruse all the records, reports and documents in possession of the government as well as the hospital and look into “several questionable incidents”, including her sudden hospitalisation, reported recovery and the subsequent cardiac arrest resulting in her death on December.

Sasikala: The ‘new mother’ of Tamil Nadu politics

BBC Tamil’s Thirumalai Manivannan profiles Sasikala’s political and personal journey in Tamil Nadu.

AIADMK appoints Jayalalithaa’s close confidante Sasikala as party General Secretary

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) on Thursday adopted a resolution to work under leadership of Jayalalithaa’s close confidante VK Sasikala, who is also known as Chinnamma.The resolution was passed at the party’s general council meeting that is underway in Chennai.According to ANI, 14 resolutions were passed in AIADMK general body meeting, including one to confer late CM Jayalalithaa with the Magsaysay Award and the Nobel prize for World Peace.A resolution demanding Jayalalithaa’s birthday be celebrated as ‘National Farmers Day’ was also adopted in the meet.Top party leaders including party presidium E Madhusudhanan​ and Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, who is also the party treasurer were among the participants.
ALSO READ Wrong to nominate ‘Chinnamma’ as AIADMK gen secy, she tried to kill Jayalalithaa: Sasikala PushpaAfter the passing away of J Jayalalithaa on December 5, party cadres and top functionaries including Chief Minister O Panneerselvam had been urging Sasikala to assume the party’s top post of General Secretary and lead them.The venue of the meeting, Srivaru Venkatachalapathi Kalyana Mandapan sported life size hoardings of a smiling Jayalalithaa waving to party workers in the departed leader’s favourite green colour.Several leaders had also urged Sasikala to assume the mantle of both the party and governance as general secretary and Chief Minister respectively.On Wednesday, AIADMK cadres had allegedly attacked and injured the husband of expelled party MP Sasikala Pushpa, who was accused of trying to create a law-and-order problem ahead of the General Council meeting here.

Search panel reconstituted on orders of PMO for AIIMS director job

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The search-cum-selection committee, tasked with shortlisting names for the AIIMS director’s post, has been reconstituted following orders from the Prime Minister’s Office and it would be headed by the Health Secretary instead of the Union Health Minister.The new five-member panel will be led by Health Secretary C K Mishra as the chairman. The committee will include Principal Scientific Adviser to PM R Chidambaram, Secretary in Department of Health Research Soumya Swaminathan, Director General of Health Services (DGHS) Jagdish Prasad and Vice Chancellor of the Delhi University Yogesh Tyagi.The PMO last week had ordered reconstitution of the search panel based on DoPT guidelines amid allegations of nepotism against some members of the panel. “We had recommended the names for the search-cum- selection committee which has been approved by the DoPT and the order has come today,” a senior official in the Health Ministry said.Also, antecedents of applicants will be verified thoroughly before finalisation of names, sources in the Union Health Ministry said.As per rules, the search-cum-selection committee selects a name from the list of candidates which is then sent to the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) headed by the Prime Minister for final approval.It is learnt the move came after some applicants for the AIIMS top job accused some members of the panel of conflict of interest as they have close relationship with a particular candidate. They have also raised the issue of eligibility of promotee professors for the director’s post.Earlier, a search-cum-selection panel under the chairmanship of Health Minister J P Nadda was constituted to select the new Director of AIIMS. “The PMO had ordered the reconstitution of the committee after certain issues concerning members of the panel were raised. Also, DoPT had sought opinion of the PMO regarding AIIMS president J P Nadda chairing the panel,” a source said.According to sources, 53 eminent doctors, including 35 candidates from outside AIIMS, have applied for the post and the screening of applications is complete.The main contenders for the top post include V K Paul, Head of the Department (HOD) of Paediatrics, Randeep Guleria, HOD of Pulmonary Medicine and Sleep Disorders and Alka Kriplani, HOD of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.Current AIIMS director M C Mishra is set to retire on January 31 next year.

Viral Acharya, ‘Poor man’s Rajan’, new RBI Deputy Governor

New Delhi: Government today appointed Viral V Acharya, a New York University economics professor who once called himself ‘poor man’s Raghuram Rajan‘, as new Deputy Governor at the Reserve Bank of India.

The 42-year-old Acharya’s appointment for a three-year tenure was cleared by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet. He is taking over at a time when the central bank is facing criticism for repeated changes in the rules related to deposit and withdrawal of money, post-demonetisation.

He will fill the post that fell vacant after Urjit Patel was made RBI Governor to succeed Rajan with effect from 4 September. The existing three Deputy Governors of RBI are S S Mundra, N S Vishwanathan and R Gandhi.

Viral Acharya - RBI Deputy Governor. Image courtesy - NYU-Stern.Viral Acharya - RBI Deputy Governor. Image courtesy - NYU-Stern.

Viral Acharya – RBI Deputy Governor. Image courtesy – NYU-Stern.

Like Rajan, Acharya also comes from an academic background and has also co-authored in the past at least three papers with the former RBI governor. These papers included ‘Sovereign debt, government myopia, and the financial sector’, ‘The Internal Governance of Firms’ and ‘Government Myopia and Debt in a Dynamic Setting.

Acharya has often praised Rajan for his works and once said “Raghu has been a great source of inspiration for me”. While giving a Deutsche Bank Prize in Financial Economics plenary lecture in 2013, Acharya had narrated an incident when someone asked him on a flight whether he was Raghuram Rajan, after seeing him, an Indian, with papers on banking and crisis.

He quipped that was the day when he realised that if he had Rajan as a “role model” and could get even 5-10 percent of him, he could have easily passed off as “poor man’s Raghuram Rajan” on flights.

Just like Rajan, Acharya has also been a strong votary of the independence of central banks and favoured them being “democratically accountable, yet be operationally independent from political influence”.

Acharya is known for his research in theoretical and empirical analysis of systemic risks of the financial sector, its regulation and genesis in government-induced distortions, according to the profile on the NYU website.

The research areas also span across credit and liquidity risks, agency-theoretic foundations as well as their general equilibrium consequences, it says.

Acharya is the C V Starr Professor of Economics in the Department of Finance at the New York University Stern School of Business (NYU-Stern).

An alumnus of IIT, Mumbai, with a degree of Bachelor of Technology in Computer Science and Engineering in 1995 and PhD in Finance from NYU-Stern in 2001, Acharya was with the London Business School (2001-08) and served as the Academic Director of the Coller Institute of Private Equity at LBS (2007-09) and a Senior Houblon-Normal Research Fellow at the Bank of England (Summer 2008).

He has also served as Director, NSE-NYU Stern Initiative on the Study of Indian Capital Markets, and has been a member of Sebi’s International Advisory Board.

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

Dhulagarh riots: West Bengal town on the boil after communal violence

Dhulagarh, a town 25 kilometres west of Kolkata, has been simmering for the past fortnight, following communal clashes that saw people’s houses and shops being targetted and set on fire. A Times Now report said 65 people have been arrested, and the state administration has asked the DGP Surajit Kar Purakayastha to take prompt action against the culprits and to ensure peace.

The tension erupted on 12 December, when two groups clashed as a procession was brought out in the area last week. After the groups were not allowed to carry out the procession, the Times Now website reported, they hurled bombs at each other, and the angry mob also looted and torched people’s homes.

The next day, on 13 December, the occasion of Milad-ul-Nabi, there were further clashes in the area. A section of locals claim the clashes were unprovoked, according to a report in the DNA newspaper. Local residents claim that they had to flee with their children and elderly as soon as the mob hurled country-made bombs at their houses. Later, the mob allegedly looted the houses and fled with the money and jewellery, later also setting it on fire.

People's houses were targeted in Dhulagarh. Image courtesy: Twitter/@Leopard212People's houses were targeted in Dhulagarh. Image courtesy: Twitter/@Leopard212

People’s houses were targeted in Dhulagarh. Image courtesy: Twitter/@Leopard212

“Nothing is left. We are looted of all our belongings. They ransacked and vandalised our houses and eventually set them on fire. We could not save a single penny from our houses, only managed to save our children and ran for life,” said a local, Lakshmi Mallya.

The violence didn’t stop there, however. The next day, a Muslim mob allegedly attacked Hindu homes and shops and them ablaze, reported The Indian Express. “Policemen rushed to the spot and managed to diffuse the tension. But the next day, for almost two hours, there was a stand-off between the police and rioters from both communities. They were carrying bombs. We used tear gas shells. Finally, we had to call in reinforcements to bring the situation under control,” an officer said.

A case of rioting and breaking communal harmony was registered against members of both communities. “The situation is under control. Forces, including RAF, have been posted at Dhulagarh to maintain peace,” the newspaper quoted the officer as saying.

However, despite the heavy presence of police and armed forces in the area, things didn’t return to normalcy. A Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) delegation — comprising party leaders Jagdambika Pal, Satpal Singh, state president Dilip Ghosh and national secretary Rahul Sinha, and several volunteers — was stopped at Ekabbarapur Road, about one kilometre away from the spot where the clashes had taken place a few days ago, reported The Quint.

Angered by this, the BJP delegation, along with thousand-odd supporters, blocked the road in protest. Alleging that there is no law and order in the state, Pal said the government was following “appeasement politics towards a particular community”. Ghosh alleged right-wing Muslim outfits and Simi activists have entered the area and were creating trouble. He also said BJP was not given prior any information about prohibitory orders being imposed in Dhulagarh. “We are surprised that police did not allow us to approach the people in the area to know about their plight of sufferings,” Ghosh said.

However, perhaps in an attempt to prove that they weren’t targeting one specific political party, the police also stopped a CPM delegation from entering the violence-scarred area. The CPM team comprised party general secretary Sitaram Yechury, Lok Sabha MP Mohammad Salim and MLA Sujan Chakraborty, among others, said another report in The Indian Express.

Having addressed a public rally at Dhulagarh Chaurasta (crossing) and appealed for peace, the CPM leaders tried marching to the locality where arson and clashes had occurred, but the police stopped them. “If we are not being allowed to enter even now, and there is Section 144 of CrPC imposed, it means the situation still hasn’t been brought under control,” Salim said. “Our demand is for the state government to bring normalcy immediately, and paying monetary compensation for those affected by violence.”

Under fire from various quarters, the state government imposed restrictions on the media regarding coverage of the Dhulagarh violence. According to The New Indian Express, the state government even went a step ahead and slapped a non-bailable offence against three employees of the TV channel Zee News, including editor Sudhir Chaudhary, West Bengal correspondent Pooja Mehta and cameraperson Tanmay Mukherjee under Section 153A (promoting enmity) of the Indian Penal Code. However, the Sankrail police didn’t confirm registering an FIR. “We register over 30 FIRs on a daily basis. We can’t distinguish which are related to Dhulagarh,” said a police officer at the Sankrail police station.

Chaudhary took to social networking site Facebook to call the action taken against his channel an example of the West Bengal government’s “intolerance”. “It’s another low point in our democracy to see a democratically elected govt using police force to curb media in an effort to suppress uncomfortable facts and reality. When you can’t manage media,use the state machinery to conquer the media only to conceal the failures of your administration. It shows the intolerance of a chief minister who is using the state machinery as her personal fiefdom and acting like a feudal lord,” he wrote.

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 16:29 IST

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

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

Former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Sunderlal Patwa passes away after brief illness

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Veteran BJP leader and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Sunderlal Patwa passed away in Bhopal on Wednesday after a brief illness. He was 92.Patwa’s wife had died a few years back and they had no children. His nephew Surendra Patwa is Minister for Culture and Tourism in the present BJP-led state government. Patwa suffered a heart attack in the morning and was rushed to hospital where he breathed his last, Bansal Hospital’s Executive Director Dr Skand Trivedi said.Soon after getting information about Patwa’s demise, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan rushed to the hospital. Later, Chouhan condoled the death of the senior BJP leader. In a tweet, he recalled Patwa’s life-long contribution for the development of Madhya Pradesh and said his death is an irreparable loss to the state.Born on November 11, 1924, Patwa served as Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister twice, first for a brief spell of less than a month in 1980 and later, riding on the Ram Mandir ‘wave’, he came back to power in March 1990.However, his second stint on the seat of power was curtailed by imposition of the President’s rule in 1992 after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. He was also elected as the Lok Sabha member from Chhindwara in the 1997 by-poll by defeating Congress strongman Kamal Nath in his home turf. Later, Nath wrested the seat from him in 1998, the party sources said.In 1999 general elections, Patwa won the Hoshangabad Lok Sabha seat and became a Cabinet-raked minister in the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government at the Centre, they added.

Kanpur Train Accident: Two killed, 44 injured in Sealdah-Ajmer Express derailment

Fifteen coaches of the Ajmer-Sealdah Express, Train number 12987, derailed near Rura, around 70 kilometres from Kanpur, on Wednesday, PTI reportd. It was initally reported that two people were dead and 26 were injured. Railways, however, later confirmed that no deaths have been reported and put the number of injured at 44.

While Kanpur IG Zaki Ahmed told PTI that two people have been killed in the mishap, railways are yet to confirm the same.

The Kanpur train accident took place when the train was crossing a bridge overhead a dry canal in the area, Northern Central Railways PRO Amit Malviya said. According to reports, rail traffic between Etawah and Kanpur is affected.

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

Rescue  and relief works in progress at the site of accident where  Ajmer-Sealdah express train derailed early on Wednesday near Rura railway station in Kanpur dehat district on Wednesday. PTIRescue  and relief works in progress at the site of accident where  Ajmer-Sealdah express train derailed early on Wednesday near Rura railway station in Kanpur dehat district on Wednesday. PTI

Rescue works in progress at the site of where Ajmer-Sealdah express train derailed early on Wednesday. PTI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More details awaited.

With inputs from PTI

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 11:32 IST

Demonetisation countdown to day 50: Banks want cash curbs to stay beyond 30 Dec

Banks have asked the government to extend the curbs on cash withdrawal beyond the deadline of 30 December as there is not enough currency notes in the system yet to meet the demand from customers.

After the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes 8 November, there has been a cash crunch in the country as printing of replacement notes at the government and RBI-owned presses have not been able to keep pace with the demand. The demonetisation had sucked out about 86 percent of the currency in circulation.

In order to help banks, the government had restricted the withdrawal at Rs 24,000 per account per week from the branch and Rs 2,500 per card at ATMs. According to a report in The Indian Express, now the banks want the curbs to stay until there is sufficient currency notes available in the system. The government had earlier indicated that the limits will be revoked after 30 December, when the deadline for depositing old currency notes with banks ends.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The report says there is a growing consensus among bankers that the restrictions would have to continue even in the New Year so as to maintain orderly working at the banks. According to a banker quoted in the report, these restrictions are necessary as otherwise the public might flock to the ATMs and banks to withdraw cash, while there is no currency notes available. “That will become a problem,” the banker has been quoted as saying in the report.

The Indian Banks’s Association (IBA), however, has said it has not given any written representation to the government on this.

Earlier PTI haad reported that the restrictions are likely to continue beyond 30 December.

Banks at many places are not in a position to disburse even the current limit of Rs 24,000 per week due to cash crunch and are rationing the valid currency depending on cash availability. If this limit is withdrawn for individual and businesses from 2 January, it is unlikely that banks would be able to disburse the higher demand for valid currencies given the current cash position.

“Most of us think that the withdrawal limit would not be completely withdrawn. It is a possibility that it could be relaxed if the cash situation improves,” said a senior public sector bank official.

At a time when banks are struggling to meet the demand of individual customers, it would be impossible to service MSME and big corporates which requires cash in large quantity, the official said, the practical way would be to relax it gradually.

Recently, SBI Chairperson Arundhati Bhattacharya had also indicated that restriction on withdrawals cannot be lifted entirely unless more cash is made available to banks.

After the demonetisation of high value Rs. 500/1000 notes, the government has fixed a limit of Rs. 24,000 per week on withdrawal from bank accounts and Rs. 2,500 per day from ATMs in view of the currency crunch that followed.

The government and the RBI has not specified when the restrictions will be withdrawn. Finance Secretary Ashok Lavasa had said the withdrawal cap would be will be reviewed after December 30.

Even bank unions are also of the opinion that the restrictions cannot be done away with in one go.

All India Bank Officers’ Confederation (AIBOC) General Secretary Harvinder Singh had also said that in all likelihood the restriction on withdrawal would continue for some more time in the best interest of banks as well as customers at large.

The situation of currency supply is known to everyone and it would be difficult to lift the limit from January 2, Singh said, adding that SME and small businesses are waiting for cap to go so that they can withdraw as per their requirement.

Reserve Bank of India has infused Rs. 5.92 lakh crore in the banking system between November 9 and December 19 against Rs. 15.4 lakh crore of scrapped notes.

According to RBI, banks had got deposits of Rs. 12.4 lakh crore defunct notes by December 10.

(With PTI)

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 10:03 IST

Caste politics: Maha carves out new dept to woo 30% population of backward communities

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Playing another caste card in the state, the Devendra Fadnavis government on Tuesday cleared the decks to set-up a separate department especially for the Other Backward Classes/ nomadic/ denotified tribes/ Specially backward communities, carving out from the Social Justice and Special Justice Department. The department called, “Department of Denotified Tribes, Nomadic Tribes, Specially backward and Other Backward Classes” would be operational by April 1, 2017, says a cabinet note. The Centre doesn’t have a separate department for backward communities. As of now, the Chief Minister has kept the newly-formed department under him. It is likely to be given to some cabinet minister soon. The OBC/ nomadic/ denotified communities/ SBC together constitute 30% of the state’s population at 3.68 crore. This is the second time when an OBC department has been carved out from the social justice department in Maharahstra. “In 1999, the then Sena-BJP government had done ditto, however, the departments were merged again after the realisation that the move was impractical as they both spearheaded the same welfare schemes,” Rajkumar Badole, Minister of Social Justice and Social Asistance, said. Badole is now left with the Schedule Caste and Buddhist communities which are 13% of the total population. Badole assured the government will move in a planned way this time. As of now, 59 new posts have been created which will cost the exchequer Rs 2.2 crore, apart from recurring cost of Rs 1.5 crore annually. “Most of the people belonging to these communities are educationally and socially backward. The new department will be able to implement welfare schemes in a better way to uplift them ,” Badole said. The social justice department currently has a total budget of Rs 12,000 crore including planned and non-planned both for 24 schemes including educational and housing aid. Out of this, nearly Rs 2,000 crore is earmarked for the scholarships/ feeship to the students of OBC, VJ (Vimukti Jati or deonotified tribes) and NT (Nomadic tribes) communities. The department has been marred by massive corruption in the scholarship and free-ship schemes for many years. “Corruption is the major driving factor to establish a new ministry. Because of drainage of funds in the name of fake students, educational institutes and department officials managed to make huge money. But those who needed it remained out of purview of the schemes,” said a top official. A year ago, the government was forced to constitute a taskforce headed by Director General of Police (Planning) Dr K Venkatesham which has in its preliminary report, suspected a whopping 50% pilferage in the free-ship and scholarship schemes of underprivileged communities. Badole however insists that the move aims to empower the socially neglected communities and corruption has nothing to do with the decision. “Dr Venkatesham has not yet submitted the final report,” Badole said. After the cabinet meet, Fadnavis said, “The social justice department is overburdened with multiple responsibilities. Besides, there was a long pending demand for a separate ministry for OBCs.”

Mamata govt filed FIR against Zee News reporters for covering Dhulagarh riots, says Sudhir Chaudhury

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a case of crackdown on press freedom, a non-bailable warrant was filed against Zee News reporters by the government of West Bengal for covering the Dhulagarh riots, claims Zee News editor Sudhir Chaudhury.. He wrote on Twitter: “@MamataOfficial Govt files FIR against me& @ZeeNews reporter for covering #DhulagarhRiots with Non Bailable sections. FIR for showing truth?”Zee News Chief Editor Sudhir Chaudhary wrote on Facebook: “ Just to inform all of you Mamta Banerjee Govt has filed an FIR against me and ZeeNews reporter Pooja Mehta and cameraperson Tanmay Mukherjee for covering Dhulagarh Riots on Zee News.The FIR has non bailable sections which is enough to gauge their intentions to arrest me and my colleagues. Pooja Mehta is just 25 and got the taste of Mamta’s intolerance so early in life in the form of a non bailable FIR.This is what a young girl reporter getting to learn from a woman chief minister who claims to be the champion of democracy.It’s another low point in our democracy to see a democratically elected govt using police force to curb media in an effort to suppress uncomfortable facts and reality.When you can’t manage media,use the state machinery to conquer the media only to conceal the failures of your administration. It shows the intolerance of a chief minister who is using the state machinery as her personal fiefdom and acting like a feudal lord. I see the positive side of this blunder as a window for all free minds of this nation to act and show fascist forces their actual place. Or once again Selfish Politics will prevail? That’s my fear. #IntolerantMamta”On December 13, clashes between two communities erupted following the Milad-ul-Nabi celebrations in Dhulagarh. Locals in the village alleged that ‘unprovoked’ clashes erupted after an infuriated mob in a procession of Milad-ul-Nabi celebrations started charging bombs at the houses. However, members in the procession allege that they were prevented from taking out the procession, following which violent clashes broke out.A week after clashes erupted in Howrah district’s Dhulagarh, the Bengal governor Keshari Nath Trpathi summoned Bengal Director General of Police (DGP), Surajit Kar Purkayastha on Thursday. This comes a day after BJP Rajya Sabha MP Roopa Ganguly led a delegation and met the victims of Dhulagarh incident.Disclaimer: Zee News is DNA’s sister organisation.

BJP seeks headcount of illegally staying Rohingya, Bangladeshi Muslims in Jammu

Jammu: Following the outcry in Kashmir Valley over providing the identity certificates to the Hindu West Pakistani refugees, BJP MLAs have now slammed their own government for being lax in allowing the settlement of over 6,000 Rohingya Muslims in Hindu dominated Jammu region even as they have the got the work permits from the government of India to carry out different jobs in the state.

The saffron party members have also asked the state government to take measures to “stop” the illegal settlement of Bangladeshi Muslims.

Representational Image. ReutersRepresentational Image. Reuters

Representational Image. Reuters

As per government figures, there are over 6,000 Rohingya refugees who are living in different areas of the Jammu city, a predominately Hindu majority area and are settled there for more than six years now. Over 1,200 Burmese refugee families comprising nearly 6,000 people are settled in some of the congested areas of Jammu city including Narwal. Inspector General of Police, Jammu range, Danish Rana, said that the Rohingya Muslims have been given the work permits by the government and are not “living illegally in Jammu areas”. “The number of people is over 6,000 and they are staying legally here. They have the work permit which has been issued by the government of India. They are Rohingya Muslims from Burma and are settled here due to the differences with Buddhist population in their own country.”

He said that the Rohingya Muslims started coming to Jammu region over six years back and “over a period of time their number has increased”. “They are mostly doing odd-jobs and are rag-pickers and even do begging to eke out a living,” Rana said.

However, the BJP MLAs have now demanded that the state government should spell out a policy on “whether Rohingya and Bangladeshi Muslims can stay in the state.” BJP’s Nowshera MLA, Ravinder Raina, said that the matter will be taken up in the upcoming budget session of the state assembly which is beginning in Jammu from 2 January.

“The government should spell out a policy on Rohingya Muslims. It is a very serious matter and the government should find out how have they come to the state. They are living without permission and could be a threat to the security of the state. We will ask the government to be serious about the issue and clear its policy,” Raina said.

BJP’s Ram Nagar MLA, Ranbir Singh Pathania, said that those Bangladeshi and Rohingya Muslims who are living illegally here should be dealt sternly. “Thos who are living illegally shall be dealt as per the law,” Pathania said.

Police officials, however, admit that many of the Bangladeshi nationals are living illegally. “Yes there are many who are living illegally,” said Rana. He said that there are many who are overstaying the period for which they have been permitted against valid travel documents adding there “were others who have entered illegally by crossing the border.’’ A senior police official said, “Since many of the Bangladeshi nationals having entered clandestinely there is a difficulty in having an exact record of those who are settled in the state.”

Legislator Raina demanded that a head count of the people who are residing in the state should be done. BJP MLAs have sought a clear policy even as the New Delhi has advised the government of Myanmar that “communal harmony” should be maintained in the Rakhine state of the country where the Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims have shown frequent differences. As per government documents, “the developments in the Rakhine state of Myanmar including the importance of maintaining communal harmony has been taken up by GOI (government of India)with the government of Myanmar.”

The government records reveal that the number of foreign nationals including those from Bangladesh who have been deported to their countries was significantly lesser in Jammu and Kashmir than other states. The number of those who have been deported from Delhi in the year 2009, 2010 and 2011 was 1,645, 989 and 161 respectively. However, from Jammu and Kashmir, the number per year has remained between one to three only.

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 16:03 IST

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

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

Kerala: Appointment of commission to re-examine UAPA cases sought

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Association of Muslim Scholars of India has urged the Centre to set up a commission to re-examine the cases registered under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) against “innocent people” in the guise of national security.”The Centre should appoint a commission to re-examine the cases filed under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) that have been imposed on innocent people under the guise of national security,”General Secretary of the Association, Kanthapuram AP Abubacker Musliyar said. He was delivering the keynote address at the international Milad Conference by ‘Jamia Markaz,’ here on December 25. He further said, the freedom of religion and freedom to believe and practice one’s faith is one of the cornerstones provided in the Constitution.Any attempt to curb this basic right should be fought by all means, a release from Markaz’s media wing quoted him as saying. “We will oppose tooth and nail every attempt to deny the citizens, comprising those from multi-faith communities, the right to live according to their religious convictions and ideals and also carry out a nation-wide system of unified civil code,” Musliyar added.A host of Muslim scholars representing different countries and international associations attended the conference.

Manipur govt extends suspension of mobile data for another week

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Even as the Centre has deployed additional 4,000 paramilitary forces in Manipur in a bid to reopen National Highway-2, the state government on Tuesday extended the suspension of mobile data services for another week.The United Naga Council has imposed the economic blockade on NH-2 (Imphal-Dimapur) and NH 37 (Imphal-Jiribam) that serve as lifelines for the state.Curfew has been imposed 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.The Centre last week came down heavily on Manipur Government for failing to resolve the economic blockade on the National Highway-2, which has throttled the supply of essential goods.In a scathing letter to Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the state government had taken no steps to ensure that the NH-2 is kept open or at least movement of convoy is made, despite MHA officials being in constant touch with state officials.”For the sake of people of Manipur, I call upon you to discharge these constitutional obligations with utmost promptness, while reiterating Government of India’s commitment to support your forces in keeping NH-2 open,” the letter read.Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju, who visited Congress-ruled Manipur last week 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.Meanwhile, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) General Secretary Ram Madhav yesterday alleged that the Congress Government in Manipur was not clearing the economic blockade in the state for political benefits, adding that the Manipur Chief Minister should have cleared the blockade.”The Manipur Chief Minister is playing games with lives of people of the valley. The government of India from day one asked him to avail all required support from Centre,” Madhav said.

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

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A major accident was on Tuesday morning averted at the Delhi airport after an IndiGo and a SpiceJet aircraft came face-to-face on the runway at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport.The incident occurred when the Indigo flight was moving towards taxiway after landing and SpiceJet was ready for a takeoff.Meanwhile, the incident has been reported to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), which has assured of a probe.Earlier in the day, a Jet Airways flight with 161 people on board veered off the runway at Dabolim airport in Goa while aligning for take off, with 15 passengers suffering “minor” injuries during evacuation.(Developing story)

Congress calls for all-opposition anti-demonetisation meet, Left, JD(U) and NCP to skip

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Congress Party has called for a anti-demonetization meeting on Tuesday.The meeting will be followed by a joint press conference to be addressed by Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and other opposition leaders. Congress president Sonia Gandhi is also expected to join.However, its attempt to unite all opposition parties against demonetization has suffered a severe jolt with the Left, Janata Dal United and the Nationalist Congress Party expressing their inability to attend.The meeting is seen as an attempt on the part of the grand old party to paper over the cracks that developed when several opposition parties skipped the joint march to Rashtrapati Bhawan on December 16 over demonetization.Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury yesterday said there were no consultations and things were not planned properly for the joint meeting.He, however, said there is no dispute within the opposition on demonetization and its impact on the people.JD (U) and NCP sources have also cited improper co-ordination as a reason for not participating.JD (U) leader K C Tyagi said no common minimum programme has been worked out for it, adding that all opposition parties do not have the same stand on the banning of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 currency notes.Congress leader and former union minister Jairam Ramesh, however, has downplayed some political parties skipping the meeting, citing local and regional compulsions as reasons for non-particpation.Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is in New Delhi for the meeting. DMK, RJD and others are also scheduled to participate.

Congress to hold country-wide protests against demonetization from January 5

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress on Monday announced it will hold country-wide protests on January 5 at all district headquarters and on January 8 at the block level to highlight the common man’s woes due to demonetization and the “personal corruption” by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.At a meeting of all top Congress leaders chaired by party’s vice president Rahul Gandhi it was decided to involve the commoner in the fight against demonetization.Sources said Congress will also hold pressers across the country at the central and the state level on December 29 and 30 and later on January 2 at the district level, where the “personal corruption” by thePrime Minister and sufferings of common people will be highlighted. The meeting was attended by all party general secretaries and secretaries, PCC chiefs and other top leaders at the central and the state level.The sources said that in the first phase, Congress will agitate at district headquarters on January 5 and in the second phase, it will take this fight to the block level with Mahila Congress holding such agitations and demonstrations on January 8. Addressing the party men, Gandhi alleged demonetization has turned out to be a “scam” and that the Prime Minister has “indulged” in corruption and has not come clean on the “Sahara diaries” bribery issue. “If an independent probe is held, Modiji will stand exposed,” he is reported to have said at the meeting.Gandhi also asked party men to gear up for taking their fight to the public and highlight the “personal corruption” by the Prime Minister and the woes of the common man due to note ban. During the meeting, Gandhi sought feedback from state leaders on note ban woes. Starting December 29 and 30, Congress will push for withdrawal of all financial restrictions imposed on the common man post-demonetization and ask the government to allow the public deposit and withdraw money freely from their bank accounts.”We will also highlight the personal corruption by the Prime Minister… and the suffering of the common people due to demonetization,” Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said. The party will focus on highlighting “losses suffered by people, who lost their jobs due to demonetization, contraction of economy and the hardships of the poor, farmers and traders”. Prime Minister Narendra Modi while announcing the decision to invalidate 500 and 1000 rupee notes on November 8 had said there would some inconvenience to people for the initial 50-day period that ends on December 30.

Manipur: BJP slams CM Okram Ibobi Singh, Centre rushes 4000 paramiltary personnel

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Ram Madhav, the National General Secretary of the BJP hit out at Manipur CM Okram Ibobi Singh over the blockade in Manipur by the United Naga Council. He was quoted by ANI: “Manipur CM was asked to take help from forces & clear blockade, but blockade apparently politically suited him, so didn’t do needful. Manipur CM playing games with lives of people of Valley, Govt of India from day one asked him to avail all required support from Centre.”Earlier, the BJP appealed the United Naga Council (UNC) to immediately withdraw the ongoing economic blockade on the highways of Manipur. BJP spokesperson N Biren appealed the UNC to withdraw the blockade which entered its 56th day today and sought “another forum” to achieve its demands.Biren was speaking to the reporters on his return from Delhi, where an eight-member BJP delegation met top central leaders including Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on the issue. Biren said, “The ruling Congress government is answerable to the people of the state for the hardship faced by them”.He questioned whether it has made any formal effort at the Centre regarding the presence of NSCN(IM) camps in the Manipur, the number of its cadre present in the state.He also sought to know whether there have been any effort to demolish the NSCN(IM)’s designated camps in the state as the ceasefire agreement between NSCN(IM) and the Centre does not cover Manipur. Biren also asked whether the state government has made any move to identify the perpetrators of the twin ambush on Manipur police at Lokchao and Bongyang in Tengnoupal district which claimed the lives of three policemen earlier this month. If there has been any such move, BJP demanded that the documents be made public. He also said the BJP was for a neutral CBI or NIA inquiry into the attacks on Manipur police. Later, lone BJP MLA Bishwajit said BJP’s philosophy is nation first, party second and self last. Centre rushes 4000 paramilitary personnel to Manipur The Centre has rushed additional 4,000 paramilitary personnel to Manipur in its efforts to reopen a national highway which has 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 November 1.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.

Yadav vs Yadav: Fresh power play by Akhilesh, Shivpal over ticket distribution

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The contentious issue of ticket distribution today again exposed the rift in Samajwadi Party with state party chief Shivpal Yadav attacking Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav over his reported parallel list of candidates.The choice of candidates for 175 seats by Shivpal has apparently not gone down well with his defiant nephew Akhilesh who, according to party insiders, is understood to have prepared his own list of preferred candidates for all the 403 UP Assembly seats and sent it to his father and party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav.This is Akhilesh’s second power play in the last three days. On December 24, Akhilesh had met first-time MLAs at his residence and promised to give them party tickets.Chinks in the ruling party’s armour once again came to the fore when Shivpal sent out a series of tweets virtually suggesting that he was the boss when it came to distributing tickets for the assembly elections due in few months.Shivpal said the name of 175 candidates were already finalised and warned that any indiscipline would not be tolerated as it may harm the party’s image. He asserted that distribution of party tickets was done on on the basis of winnability.”Tickets will be distributed based on wins. So far 175 people have been given tickets. The Chief Minister will be selected by the legislature party which is according to the party’s constitution. No indiscipline will be tolerated in the party,” he tweeted in Hindi.While party sources maintained that Mulayam will take the final call on candidates, UP minister Juhi Singh sought to downplay any controversy over ticket distribution saying it was a non-issue.During their recent public turf war after Akhilesh was replaced with Shivpal as party chief by Mulayam, the former had insisted that he should have a say in the ticket distribution as the election was a test of his government’s performance.The latest development comes after Mulayam had brokered a fragile peace between Shivpal and Akhilesh as the infighting threatened to damage SP’s poll prospects.As differences over ticket distribution cropped up, opposition parties took a swipe at the ruling party in Uttar Pradesh.”This is a sign that the party (SP) is in total disarray and they talk about giving a fight to the BJP,” UP BJP General Secretary Vijay Bahadur Pathak said.The tussle in Samajwadi Party will prove to be its nemesis in the coming polls, Pathak said.Congress termed the development as SP’s “internal matter”.

AgustaWestland scam: SP Tyagi gets bail; court order on 2 other accused due on 4 Jan

The Patiala House Court on Monday granted bail to former Indian Air Force (IAF) chief SP Tyagi, accused of receiving kickbacks in AgustaWestland helicopter deal. Special CBI Judge Arvind Kumar granted the relief to SP Tyagi on a personal bond of Rs two lakh and one surety of like amount.

The court, however, imposed certain conditions on the accused and asked him not to try to influence the witnesses and hamper the probe. The bail applications of other two accused — Tyagi’s cousin Sanjeev Tyagi and lawyer Gautam Khaitan — are pending before the court which said it will decide both the pleas on 4 January. During the hearing of the bail plea, S P Tyagi’s advocate Maneka Guruswamy had said that her client “could not be deprived of freedom if the investigation is taking time to complete”.

In a sudden and first of its kind action, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had arrested SP Tyagi, his cousin Sanjeev, and a lawyer on 9 December in the sensational Rs 450 crore bribery case in the procurement of 12 VVIP helicopters from UK-based AgustaWestland during the UPA-II government.

Seventy-one-year-old SP Tyagi, who retired in 2007, was called for questioning at CBI headquarters along with his cousin and Chandigarh-based lawyer Gautam Khaitan, who were taken into custody after nearly four hours of grilling, PTI had reported.

These were the first arrests in the case by CBI which came three years after it registered an FIR in 2013 to probe the allegations in the aftermath of the details of the scam emerging in Italy where the prosecutors levelled allegations of corruption in the deal against the chief of Finmeccanica, the parent company of AgustaWestland.

On 23 December special CBI judge Arvind Kumar also reserved its order on the bail applications of SP Tyagi’s cousin Sanjeev and Khaitan and posted the matter for 26 December for pronouncing the order.

Former IAF chief SP Tyagi. PTI

Former IAF chief SP Tyagi. PTI

During proceedings, Additional Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, appearing for CBI, had opposed the bail pleas of the accused, saying if set free, they might influence witnesses and hamper the “multi-layered probe by various agencies in more than one jurisdictions involving several countries”.

“The persons are of high ranking… The investigation is going on and we are getting support from other countries. If they get bail, they may influence witnesses, destroy evidences and hamper the ongoing probe which is at a very crucial stage.

“We have evidences where the meetings unofficially took place for the purpose of crime. At this stage, please do not entertain their bail pleas. Let the probe be completed,” he said, seeking dismissal of the bail pleas of all three accused and adding that the matter has “tarnished country’s name.”

However, the CBI also told the court that “it is not our argument that the accused may flee from justice.”

On the court’s query whether the CBI had any material regarding S P Tyagi receiving money, the agency said the former IAF chief had purchased several properties for which the sources of income were not disclosed by him and alleged that he had abused his official position.

Opposing CBI’s contention, S P Tyagi’s advocate Maneka Guruswamy said his client “could not be deprived from freedom if the investigation is taking time to complete”.

She claimed before the court that in the last four years since the FIR was registered, the CBI has never been able to confront Tyagi with any incriminating evidence till date.

“The CBI has not demonstrated anything more than a statement that my client recieved some cash. He is already retired and not going to influence the probe and there is no evidence to suggest that he tried to do so in the past,” the counsel said.

Advocate Pramod Kumar Dubey, appearing for Khaitan, also countered CBI’s argument, claiming that the agency was trying to sensitise the matter and there was no allegation that his client had not joined the probe or tried to influence it.

Dubey had told the court that “if they had to hamper probe, they would have done it in the past three years.”

Sanjeev Tyagi’s counsel Manav Gupta also opposed CBI’s contention saying there was no reason to claim that if granted the relief, his client would hamper the probe.

The accused persons have sought bail on the ground that the evidence was documentary in nature and has already been seized by CBI and they have cooperated with the probe agency.

The court had on 17 December sent all the three accused to the judicial custody till 30 December.

The accused have alleged that the “CBI was trying to extract the confession using force”. The defence counsel had also claimed that there was no apprehension of them fleeing from justice or tampering with evidence.

The CBI had said it was a “very serious” and “a very high-profile” case requiring interrogation to unearth larger conspiracy as the “interest of the nation was compromised”. It had submitted that “one part of the crime was committed in India while various other angles are in foreign land.”

Tyagi’s counsel had earlier claimed that the decision to procure VVIP choppers from AgustaWestland was a “collective” one and Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) was also a part of it.

With inputs from agencies

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 12:26 IST

Watch: Sarabjit Singh’s sister Dalbir Kaur joins BJP ahead of Punjab elections

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Dalbir Kaur, the sister of Sarabjit Singh, who died in a Pakistan jail in 2013, joined the BJP on Sunday. “She joined the party in the presence of BJP MLA and Punjab Minister Surjit Jyani at a conference organised by the party’s Kisan Morcha here,” Punjab BJP Kisan Morcha general secretary Gurwinder Singh said in Fazilka.When asked by reporters, Kaur confirmed that she had joined the BJP. Kaur had grown close to the BJP even in 2005, during her struggle to get her brother out of jail, and there were reports of her joining the party.Sarabjit died following an attack on him by inmates of a Lahore prison in April 2013. He was convicted for terrorism and spying by a Pakistani court and sentenced to death in 1991. However, the government stayed his execution for an indefinite period in 2008. Meanwhile, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh could not attend the Kisan Morcha’s conference because of inclement weather.

Watch: Man caught on camera tying CM Siddaramiah’s shoelaces, BJP dubs him ‘arrogant pseudo-secularist’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In an embarrassment to Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, a video of a person tying his shoelaces at an event here has gone viral, prompting opposition BJP to dub him as ‘arrogant’ and ‘pseudo-secularist.’ The video shows a person bending down to tie the shoelaces of the Chief Minister and him looking elsewhere. Some reports said the man was Siddaramaiah’s Personal Assistant staying at his house in Mysuru, but the Chief Minister’s media advisor clarified in a tweet that he was a relative. “It is hereby clarified that the person tying CM Siddaramaiah’s shoelaces is not his staff, but his relative: Media Adviser to Karnataka CM,” the tweet said.The BJP was quick to react, with state party General Secretary C T Ravi dubbing Siddaramaiah as ‘arrogant’ and ‘pseudo socialist.’ “Arrogance of Pseudo Socialist @CMofKarnataka has no limits. Absolutely disgusting that Siddaramaiah gets his shoes fitted by an assistant,” Ravi tweeted. In March this year, Siddaramaiah had been mired in a controversy over an expensive watch gifted to him and he had handed it over to the Speaker in the state assembly, declaring it a state asset. He had written to the Speaker,saying he had paid ‘advance tax’ for the HUBLOT BIG BANG.301-M watch, claimed to be worth Rs 70 lakh and as Chief Minister, was following precedents set by his predecessors and declaring it as government asset Siddaramaiah had said the watch was presented to him by his Dubai-based NRI friend Dr Girish Chandra Varma in July 2015 at Bengaluru as a personal gift.

V K Sasikala all set to take over AIADMK

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

Cong, AAP will withdraw subsidies and concessions if voted to power: Parkash Singh Badal

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sharpening attack on Congress and AAP, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on Saturday said the two parties have shown “stiff resistance” to “pro-people” policies of the Akali government and asserted that if re-elected to power he would review “people-friendly” decisions like regularisation of employees.”By announcing that they (opposition) will review the pro-people decisions taken by the state government like regularisation of employees and others, Amarinder Singh (of Congress) and AAP leaders have proved that if voted to power they will withdraw the subsidies and concessions like free power, Atta-Dal, Shagun and others being given to the people,” he said. The Chief Minister was addressing public gatherings in village Dhaler Kalan, Sandhaur, Sherwani Kot, Ferozepur Kothala and others during Sangat Darshan programme in Malerkotla assembly segment.Congress state unit chief Amarinder Singh had earlier said that he would review all decisions taken by the SAD-BJP state government in the last three months, if his party comes to power. Singh, however, yesterday clarified that his statement was twisted and affirmed that no government appointments would be subjected to any scrutiny. Badal said that in last ten years, the SAD-BJP alliance had given free power to farmers at a cost of Rs 5,000 crore annually. He said now in a historic initiative the state government has decided to regularise the services of 30,000 employees by passing the bill in the state assembly.Badal said the SAD-BJP alliance has ensured the welfare of every strata of society by taking several “path-breaking initiatives” for providing jobs, quality health and education facilities and by starting several pro-poor schemes. The veteran Akali leader said Punjabis can never forgive the Congress party for its “sins” against Punjab. “Congress has irrelevantly meddled in the social, political, economic and even religious affairs of the state,” he said, adding that the Congress governments at the Centre had deliberately denied the state of Punjabi speaking areas, its capital Chandigarh and even its legitimate share in river waters. He said “no true Punjabi” can ever forgive Congress for sins like Operation Blue Star and the killing of innocents in 1984 anti-Sikh carnage. On the sidelines of Sangat Darshan, the Chief Minister said he would contest the election from the seat which would be allocated to him by the party. He said in a democratic set up party was the supreme and he had always obeyed by the decision of his party.Flaying the shameful act of vandalisation of Gurdwara in Calgary (Canada), Badal said this incident has bruised the psyche of every human being in general and Sikhs in particular. He said this incident needs to be condemned in strongest words as it was a crime against the humanity as the Sikh Gurus have shown the way of peace, communal harmony and welfare of all to the entire humanity. He said the government of India must ensure the safety and security of the law abiding members of the Punjabi diaspora abroad, which have been living in across the globe for decades as most civilised and productive members of the local society.

BJP delegation to visit Dhulagarh

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Following communal tension at Dhulagarh in Howrah district of West Bengal since last week, a team of three BJP Central leaders will visit the violence affected area and meet the families of victims.The team will comprise of Lok Sabha MPs Jagdambika Pal and Satyapal Singh. Rajya Sabha MP Roopa Ganguly was supposed to be the third member of the team but had been excluded because of her health conditions. She had fallen sick suddenly and had been admitted to AMRI Hospital. State BJP president Dilip Ghosh will also accompany them. “There had been serious communal disturbances in the area which the Centre has been apprised of and now the party national president Amit Shah wants a team to visit the place and take stock of the situation.Members of the team will visit the place, meet family members of the affected and later prepare a report and send it to the Centre. “We had earlier met the Governor regarding this and told him about the violence there. He had summoned the Director General of Police Surajit Kar Purkayastha on Thursday and questioned him regarding the instance of violence,” Ghosh said talking to DNA.A statement released on Thursday by the governor house said that the governor had asked the DGP to ensure peace in the area and to take strict action against offenders.He also added over 150 families have been rendered homeless owing to the violence. Criticising the role of the state and administration he said, “The votebank policy of Mamata Banerjee has led the police and administration to be mere spectators of the massacre. She tries to derive political dividend out of almost everything.” He added that media has been kept away from the place and that people were furious at the role of the government. “Those who have lost lakhs were given Rs 35,000 as compensation cheques. They had protested against it,” Ghosh added. The team would reach Dhulagarh on Saturday at about 1 pm.BJP leaders had alleged that instances of violence have risen during the reign of Mamata-led government.The Dhulagarh violence had sparked off last week when members of two communities had clashed when a procession by members of one community was taken out. Sources said that they started hurling bombs at each other and Howrah Police had to resort to lathi charge, fire tear gas shells and use water canon to bring the situation under control.

Never refused talks, but Pakistan has to ensure peaceful atmosphere: India

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> India on Friday said it was ready for talks with Pakistan on any issue provided that country creates an atmosphere for fruitful dialogue and stop taking help of violence and terrorism.Reacting to recent comments by Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that Islamabad wants peaceful settlement of matters with India, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said, “We have never refused talks, but Pakistan has to ensure a peaceful atmosphere. Pakistan needs to stop supporting terrorism. Pakistan should create a healthy atmosphere for talks.” Insisting that it was Pakistan which has to ensure that there are suitable conditions for bilateral talks, he said, “What we see is repeated incidents of cross-border firing at the LoC and terror attacks. Every other day, there are instances of infiltration. They are attacking our soldiers.” “It should create an atmosphere where they don’t take the help of violence and terrorism. And then we are ready for talks with Pakistan on any issue,” he added.On Pakistan Foreign Ministry alleging that India was trying to change the demographic composition of Jammu and Kashmir, Swarup said that country has no locus standi to make such comments. Asked about the comments by a senior Pakistani General that New Delhi should “shun enmity” with Islamabad and jointly reap the benefit of the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, he said it was a Chinese initiative which goes through sovereign part of India and Indian concerns over the issue have already been conveyed to parties concerned.The USD 46 billion CPEC aims to connect China’s western parts with the Arabian sea through Balochistan’s strategic Gwadar port. India has already expressed concern over the project that also passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

U.N. Security Council denounces Israeli settlements, U.S. abstains | Reuters

By Michelle Nichols
| UNITED NATIONS

UNITED NATIONS The United States on Friday allowed the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlements, defying pressure from President-elect Donald Trump, Israel and some U.S. lawmakers who urged Washington to wield its veto.An abstention by the United States paved the way for the 15-member international body to approve the resolution, with 14 votes in favour, prompting applause in the council chamber.”Israel rejects this shameful anti-Israel resolution at the U.N. and will not abide by its terms,” the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has encouraged the expansion of Jewish settlements in land captured by Israel in a 1967 war with its Arab neighbours, said in a statement.The Obama administration’s action broke with the long-standing American approach of shielding Israel, Washington’s long-time ally that receives more than $3 billion in annual U.S. military aid, from such action. The United States, along with Russia, France, Britain and China, has veto power on the council.The resolution, put forward by New Zealand, Malaysia, Venezuela and Senegal a day after Egypt withdrew it under pressure from Israel and Trump, was the first adopted by the council on Israel and the Palestinians in nearly eight years.U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the resolution and Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin called on Israel to “respect international law.”The U.S. abstention was seen as a parting shot by outgoing President Barack Obama, who has had an acrimonious relationship with Netanyahu and whose efforts to forge a peace agreement based on a “two-state” solution of creating a Palestinian state existing peacefully alongside Israel have proven futile. His administration has argued that continued Israeli settlement building has undermined chances of a peace deal.Israel and Trump had called on the Obama administration to veto the measure. Trump wrote on Twitter after the vote, “As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th,” referring to the day he succeeds Obama.Israel for decades has pursued a policy of constructing Jewish settlements on territory captured by Israel in a 1967 war with its Arab neighbours including the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Most countries view Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as illegal and an obstacle to peace. Israel disagrees.The Obama administration has deemed settlement expansion “illegitimate.” Successive administrations of both parties have criticized settlement activity but have done little to slow their growth.

INDEPENDENT STATE
The Palestinians want an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. The resolution demanded that Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem” and said the establishment of settlements by Israel has “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.”After the vote, the White House defended the U.S. abstention, saying that in the absence of any meaningful peace process, Obama took the decision to abstain. Criticizing Israel’s settlement policy, it said it had repeatedly warned Israel privately and publicly that settlement activity was increasing Israel’s international isolation.Ben Rhodes, White House deputy national security adviser, dismissed Trump’s criticism, noting that Obama remains president until Jan. 20.

“We could not in good conscience veto a resolution that expressed concerns about the very trends that are eroding the foundation for a two-state solution,” Rhodes told a conference call.Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said, said the United States did not raise a veto because the resolution “reflects the facts on the ground and is consistent with U.S. policy across Republican and Democratic administrations.”MORE THAN SYMBOLIC
The passage of the resolution changes nothing on the ground between Israel and the Palestinians and likely will be all but ignored by the incoming Trump administration.

But it was more than merely symbolic. It formally enshrined the international community’s disapproval of Israeli settlement building and could spur further Palestinian moves against Israel in international forums.The U.N. action was “a big blow to Israeli policy, a unanimous international condemnation of settlements and a strong support for the two-state solution,” a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in a statement published by the official Palestinian news agency Wafa.Israel’s U.N. ambassador, Danny Danon, called the resolution disgraceful, adding he had no doubt the incoming Trump administration and Ban’s successor as U.N. chief, former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres, “will usher in a new era in terms of the U.N.’s relationship with Israel”Israel has said the final status of the Jewish settlements should be determined in talks on Palestinian statehood. The last round of U.S.-led peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians collapsed in 2014.Trump, who called for a veto along with Netanyahu, is likely to be a more staunch supporter of Netanyahu’s right-wing policies. He named a hardline pro-Israel ambassador and vowed to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.Some U.S. lawmakers of both parties condemned the Obama administration’s abstention. Republican Senator John McCain said the abstention “marks a troubling departure from our nation’s long, bipartisan history of defending our ally Israel in the United Nations.”U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, who heads the Senate subcommittee that oversees American U.N. funding, threatened to pull financial support for the international body.The council last adopted a resolution on settlements in 1979, with the United States abstaining. Then it approved a resolution saying Israeli settlements had “no legal validity and constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.” (Writing by Will Dunham and Yara Bayoumy; Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem, Lesley Wroughton and Susan Heavey in Washington, Matt Spetalnick in New York and Ali Sawafta in Ramallah; Editing by Bill Trott and Cynthia Osterman)

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

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 21:18 IST

India will provide help to the mother whose boy has been taken away by Norway: Sushma Swaraj

New Delhi: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Friday said India will provide help on the request of the mother of the boy, who has been taken away by the Norway authorities even as Norwegian embassy here asked for “restraint” in the case, assuring that it is being handled with “complete sensitivity and awareness”.

Swaraj’s reaction came a day after she had asked the Indian Ambassador in Oslo to send a report on the allegations made by the couple that the Norwegian authorities took away their five-year-old child on frivolous complaint of abuse. While father and son are Norwegian nationals, the mother is an Indian citizen.

“I have received the report. Father and son are Norwegian nationals. We will represent on request of the mother, who is an Indian national,” Swaraj tweeted.

Reacting to the case, the Spokesperson in Norwegian Embassy said the mission is aware and understands “the concerns on the ongoing child welfare case involving an Norwegian/Indian family in Norway”.

File photo of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. PTI

File photo of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. PTI

“The Embassy would like to reiterate that child welfare cases are handled in accordance to the Norwegian Child Welfare Act, which includes directions from the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“The Act applies to all children in Norway, regardless of their background, residential status or citizenship. The basic principle of the Act is that the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.

“Since child welfare cases are highly sensitive, the cases are therefore subject to a strict duty of confidentiality. The Embassy, therefore, requests restraint and assures that the Norwegian authorities are dealing with the case with complete sensitivity and awareness. When available and permissible, updates on the case will be provided to the media and the general public.”

This is the third case since 2011 when children have been taken away from their Indian-origin parents by the authorities in Norway on the grounds of abuse.

In 2011, a three-year-old and a one-year-old were separated from their parents, prompting the then UPA government to take up the issue with Norway. The Norwegian court later allowed the children to be reunited with their parents.

In December 2012, an Indian couple was jailed on charges of ill treatment of their children, 7 and 2 years. Later, they were were sent to their grandparents in Hyderabad.

Later, briefing reporters, MEA Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said the Indian Embassy in Oslo is following up the matter.

“Our Ambassador has already established contact with the father who is a Norwegian citizen as is the child. The mother, however, is an Indian passport holder. Following the custody of the child by Norway’s Child Welfare Services (CWS), legal proceedings are currently underway regarding the continuation of such custody,” he said.

The ministry has been informed that the father has engaged a Norwegian lawyer to pursue the matter in the court, Swarup said.

“Given the seriousness of the issue, should we receive a formal representation from the mother, who is an Indian national, our Embassy remains fully prepared to engage with local authorities to impress upon them that this is a humanitarian issue and that the separation of a child from his parents is a matter of distress to the entire family,” he added.

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 20:55 IST

SC slams PIL opposing Justice Khehar’s elevation as Chief Justice of India

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court termed as “virtually infructuous” a petition filed by a group of lawyers opposing the elevation of Justice J S Khehar as next the Chief Justice of India, observing that the President of India has already issued a notification in this regard.Since the notification appointing Justice J S Khehar as the next Chief Justice of India has already been issued, the petition has virtually become infructuous,” a bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and L Nageswara Rao said.”There is nothing left in this petition as the President of India has issued the notification appointing Justice Khehar as the next CJI. Nothing is left in this now. If you want, we can allow you to withdraw the petition,” the bench said.However, the brief hearing witnessed an altercation among the members of the lawyers’ body as its vice president urged the apex court to list the matter for hearing on December 30, while the others urged the bench for liberty to file a plea afresh. To this, the bench observed, “You are fighting among yourselves”. The vice president of the petitioner, National Lawyers’ Campaign for Judicial Transparency and Reforms, requested the bench that there was something which they wanted to argue and he would call for a general body meeting of the members to decide on these aspects.”But nothing remains in this petition now,” the bench said. Some members of the lawyers’ body told the bench that there was no denial that the petition has become infructuous, so they should be given a liberty to file a fresh plea. The bench noted in its order that the notification appointing Justice Khehar as the next CJI has been issued on December 19.On December 19, President Pranab Mukherjee had cleared the name of Justice Khehar as the next CJI. The present CJI Justice T S Thakur demits office on January 3 next year.In its plea, the lawyers’ body has said that instead of Justice Khehar, Justice J Chelameshwar, who is now the fourth senior-most judge in the apex court, should be elevated as he had given a dissenting view when the National Judicial Appointments Commission was struck down by a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice Khehar.

Check wbresults.nic.in for Calcutta University BA, B.Sc, B.Com Part II (Honours,General and Major) results 2016

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The long wait of anxious candidates are over. The University of Calcutta has released the result of the Bachelors of Arts (B.A), Bachelors of Science (B.Sc) and Bachelors of Commerce (B.Com), Part II, (Honours, General and Major) Examination 2016 results.It was declared at 1.00 pm on 23rd December. Here’s how you can check the results: Log on to the official website, wbresults.nic.in.Click on the link relevant for the candidates.You have to put your roll number to access the results.Click on the submit button after filling the relevant information.Take a printout of the results for future reference.All the best to the candidates.

NRI couple in Norway lose custody of child, seeks Sushma Swaraj’s help: All you need to know

A five-and-a-half-year-old boy was taken away from his NRI parents by Norwegian authorities on Wednesday, reports said. The officials accused the parents of beating the child. This is the third such incident in the past five years where a child was taken away by the Child Welfare Department of Norway. Speaking to The Indian Express, the father of the boy, Anil Kumar said that the authorities did not even give them prior information. The child, Aryan, was taken into custody on 13 December from his kindergarten school at 9.30 am. “They did not give us prior information. At 10 am, the same day, four policemen came to my house, took my wife into custody, and interrogated her from 11.15 am to 2.45 pm,” said Kumar

Kumar, who is a citizen of Norway, moved to Oslo 26 years ago from Punjab and is a owner of an Indian restaurant. Speaking to CNN-News18, Aryan’s father said that the authorities had absolutely no evidence against them and that the authorities did not have summons to take Aryan.

“Aryan cannot sleep. He cries all the time and he misses us. Aryan’s mother (Gurvinderjit Kaur) hasn’t stopped crying. We have never hit him, there is no evidence against us,” Kumar told the channel.

Kumar, who also is the vice-president of the Overseas Friends of the BJP in Oslo, said that Aryan was sent to a children’s welfare home in Hamar, about 150 kilometres away from Oslo. Kumar is a Norwegian citizen and his wife holds an Indian passport. They have appealed to the Indian government for help alleging that their son was taken away without any evidence and is suffering at a children’s home under the custody of child welfare department. External Affair Minister Sushma Swaraj, on Thursday stepped in to help family.

Sushma sought a report from Indian Ambassador in Norway on the allegations made by the Indian couple that the Norwegian authorities had taken away their five-year-old child on frivolous complaint of abuse. BJP leader Vijay Jolly had written to her and the Indian Ambassador in Norway after the couple sought his help in getting back the custody of their child. The parents also alleged that the authorities asked leading questions to the child. “How will a small kid know? The questions were leading. We have never hit our child,” Kumar told News18.

Meanwhile, MEA officials said, “Our Embassy officials in Oslo have spoken to the boy’s father Anil Kumar Sharma and extended full support. However, Sharma informed the mission that he has hired a lawyer to represent him in the case.” When contacted, Norwegian Embassy spokesperson said, “The Embassy became aware of this case yesterday evening. We have asked relevant authorities in Norway to provide us with further information, and are awaiting their response.”

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“We met the child welfare officials twice, on 14 and 16 December, and they haven’t been able to produce any evidence. They said they received a complaint from a person. We are not sure who registered this baseless complaint against us… By doing this, he or she has ruined our family life,” Kumar was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.

In his letter to Indian Ambassador Debraj Pradhan, Jolly had raised concern on “forcible custody” of the boy Aryan by Child Welfare Department of Norway on “baseless and fabricated complaint” in Oslo on 13 December. Jolly said he has received a call from a senior MEA official saying that help will be given to the Indian couple.

The Indian embassy in Norway confirmed to News18 that Indian ambassador Debraj Pradhan has already spoken to the child’s father. Quoting sources, the channel reported that Kumar has hired a lawyer to defend his family in court and “the ambassador will be meeting him again.”

Norway’s child welfare department was tight-lipped on the exact facts of the case. News18 reported:

“When the channel (CNN-News18) emailed them to ascertain the status of the case and the charges against the parents they responded saying, “The Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion is responsible for the general child welfare policy. However, the government does not have the authority to comment on or intervene in individual cases.”

It is still not clear when the child would be returned to his parents. Government sources have indicated that the legal processes may take time.

This is the third case since 2011 when children have been taken away from their Indian-origin parents by the authorities in Norway on the grounds of abuse. In 2011, a three-year-old and a one-year-old were separated from their parents, prompting the then UPA government to take up the issue with Norway. The Norwegian court later allowed the children to be reunited with their parents. In December 2012, an Indian couple was jailed on charges of ill treatment of their children aged seven and two years old. Later, they were were sent to their grandparents in Hyderabad.

What does the Child Protection Laws in Norway specify?

The Norway child act places great importance on family ties and child’s upbringing in a healthy atmosphere with their parents. According to the  Norwegian Child Welfare Act is applicable to all children and their parents living in Norway, regardless of their residential status, religion and nationality. The general child welfare policy is mainly comes under the Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion in Norway. The child welfare cases are handled by the local child welfare services and their job is to conduct family investigations in case of child abuse.

The Child Welfare Service in Nowray is also known as Barnevernet. Barnevernet is an independent body and no ministers can instruct the board in decisions related to the welfare of child. Reports cite many cases where the Barnevernet has been criticised by social workers and child psychologists who argued that they need to reform their methods. Every year nearly 53,000 such cases were handled by the child welfare service in Norway.

How common is the practice of separating children?

The Indian Express reported that over 80 percent of cases where the Child Welfare Services concludes that some kind of intervention is needed, they offer various kinds of assistance to the parents. In 2014, at least 43,000 families got assistance and were let of, while 9,611 children were removed — temporarily or permanently — from the custody of the parents.

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 15:02 IST

Maharashtra: 8 more handsets seized from Nashik prison, 3 officers suspended

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Eight more mobile phones have been recovered from barracks in the Nashik Central jail, days after some prisoners were shifted out following recovery of such gadgets, prison authorities said on Friday.Three jail officers have been suspended today in this connection by Deputy Inspector General (Prisons) Rajendra Dhamane, they said. With this, total 16 phones have been recovered from the prisoners’ barracks inside the jail in two weeks. During a search operation yesterday, eight mobile phones were found hidden at various places, including a washroom. However, the phones did not have the SIM cards, an official from Nashik Central Jail said.The jail authorities suspect that the prisoners used to talk on the phones. During the search carried out by senior jail officer Pramod Wagh and other staff, three mobile handsets were found hidden inside a wall while the other phones were recovered from a toilet and lofts in the barracks, officials said.Based on a complaint by a jail officer, the Nashik Road police late last night registered offences under relevant sections.Earlier, as many as 11 prisoners serving life sentence in the Nashik Central Jail were shifted to prisons in Pune and Navi Mumbai after mobile phones were found in some of their barracks.Following suspicion, a through search was carried out last week during which eight mobile phones were found in different barracks of the jail, an official had earlier said.

After Pak General, Chinese media suggests India to join CPEC

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

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

Kolkata: Arrested businessman Parasmal Lodha no stranger to controversies

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>All attention turned to the palatial five-storied Lodha House at Queens Park in South Kolkata’s posh Ballygunge area on Thursday morning, after the arrest of Kolkata-based businessman Parasmal Lodha by officials of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) at Mumbai airport.Lodha is alleged to have helped business tycoons in south India convert about Rs 25 crore of their unaccounted money in demonetized denominations into legal tenders, against a commission, through hawala routes.Sources said that he had been on the ED radar and officials had visited his residence two times earlier this week before he was finally arrested late last night while trying to leave the country. The agency also recovered Rs 2.6 lakh from his possession, in new currency notes.“We are hopeful that his arrest will give us new leads into others from Kolkata involved in the racket of converting illegal currency notes into new ones,” said a senior official.He said that officials who had come to Lodha’s residence had found that he had shifted to New Delhi in 2010 and used to visit his Queens Park residence once a month. “He had come to Kolkata last week and had left last Friday,” the official said.The residence was known to have been done up luxuriously and housed a collection of antiques. Officials said that Lodha’s wife was out of town, his two daughters were married and the house was taken care of by a staff of six members, including a driver and a caretaker.One of Lodha’s business associates, on the condition of anonymity, said that Lodha would hardly mingle with the business community in Kolkata and had run into controversies before. “He had been known for his association with several building projects where floors have been added illegally. Lodha had also been questioned by investigators after the Stephen Court fire on Park Street in March 2010, which killed 43 people,” he said. It had also been alleged that Lodha was involved in adding extra floors to building such as Bagaria Market and Nicco House.Parasmal Lodha had also hit the headlines in 1991 for taking over the then largest non-banking financial institution, Peerless General Finance and Investment Company Limited, alleging that it was being mismanaged and that he had plans of a thorough revamp of it.Apart from real estate, he had expanded his business to mining, consultancy firms and dealing in antiques. It is believed that he had shifted base to Delhi after finding the antique market more lucrative there.

Dhulagarh riot: Pressure mounts on Bengal govt as Governor summons DGP

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A week after clashes erupted in Howrah district’s Dhulagarh, the Bengal governor Keshari Nath Tripathi summoned Bengal Director General of Police (DGP), Surajit Kar Purkayastha on Thursday. This comes a day after BJP Rajya Sabha MP Roopa Ganguly led a delegation and met the victims of Dhulagarh incident.On the same day, the Bengal government removed the district Superintendent of Police, Sabyasachi Raman Mishra and posted him as SRP Sealdah, a post considered less significant. The Deputy Commissioner of Howrah Police Commissionerate (Traffic), Sumit Kumar was posted as the new Superintendent of Police, Howrah (rural) district.Meanwhile, a team comprising central leaders of the BJP are all set to visit Dhulagarh next week.On December 13, clashes between two communities erupted following the Milad-ul-Nabi celebrations in Dhulagarh. Locals in the village alleged that ‘unprovoked’ clashes erupted after an infuriated mob in a procession of Milad-ul-Nabi celebrations started charging bombs at the houses. However, members in the procession allege that they were prevented from taking out the procession, following which violent clashes broke out.Local residents claim that they had to flee with their children and elderly as soon as the mob hurled country-made bombs at their houses. Later, the mob allegedly looted the houses and fled with the money and jewellery, later, setting it on fire.“Nothing is left. We are looted of all our belongings. They ransacked and vandalised our houses and eventually set them on fire. We could not save a single penny from our houses, only managed to save our children and ran for life,” said a local, Lakshmi Mallya.

India and Pakistan should resolve their differences through dialogue: Ban Ki-moon

United Nations: Outgoing UN chief Ban Ki-moon has asked India and Pakistan to resolve their differences through dialogue and exercise restraint as he maintained his concern over the increase in tensions between the two neighbours along the Line of Control in recent months.

A file photo of Ban Ki-moon. ReutersA file photo of Ban Ki-moon. Reuters

A file photo of Ban Ki-moon. Reuters

The Secretary-General, whose 10-year tenure at the world organisation’s helm will end this month, has had a “very consistent position” on the situation in Kashmir, his deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters here yesterday in response to a question on tensions between India and Pakistan.

“All I can say is the Secretary-General has had a very consistent position. One fact we expressed even just last month, which is to say that he is following with concern the increase in tensions along the Line of Control and that he urges the Governments of India and Pakistan to exercise restraint and encourages them to continue their efforts to resolve their differences peacefully and through dialogue,” Haq said.

When asked by a Pakistani reporter that the Secretary-General has been “very reluctant” throughout his term to talk about the Indian-Pakistan conflict,Haq said he disagrees with such assessment. “I would disagree with you on that. We’ve had statements, including on the situations between India and Pakistan and on specifically on Kashmir. There have been statements and notes to correspondents. The last one was just a few weeks back, so I would just refer you back to those,” Haq said.

In a statement issued last month, Ban had expressed deep concern about the “deterioration” of the situation along the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir and called on all involved to prioritise the restoration of calm and stability in order to prevent any further escalation and loss of life. Ban has said that his good offices are available to India and Pakistan if “accepted by both sides”. Throughout the year, Pakistan brought up the Kashmir issue at various UN fora but its attempts to internationalise the Kashmir issue did not find resonance among the rest of the 191 member states of the UN.

First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 11:27 IST

Sasikala vs Sasikala: AIADMK files a petition to quash former MP’s petition

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>AIADMK filed a petition in the Madras High Court on Wednesday seeking quashing of the plea by expelled AIADMK MP Sasikala Pushpa and her husband to restrain the ruling party from appointing former chief minister Jayalalithaa’s aide VK Sasikala as party General Secretary. The petition was filed by AIADMK Presidium Chairman E Madhusudanan.Justice K Kalyanasundaram adjourned the case to December 23 and directed Rajya Sabha member Sasikala Pushpa and her husband Lingeswara Thilagan to file their counter in the matter. Sasikala Pushpa and her husband had on December 16 filed the plea seeking an interim injunction from the court from appointing Sasikala against the backdrop of a chorus by partymen in her support for the top party post.Referring to reports in the media that “few party members” wanted Sasikala, called “Chinnamma” by her party people, to assume the top party post, the counsel for the MP submitted that the primary eligibility to contest the election for the General Secretary is that the contestant must have been a primary member of the party continuously for five years as per the AIADMK bye-laws.Sasikala was expelled from the party by the then General Secretary Jayalalithaa in December 2011. It was only in March 2012 that she was again given the primary membership. So far, she has not completed the mandated five years, and hence, was ineligible to contest, counsel for Sasikala Pushpa had contended on December 16. KM Vijayan, counsel for the MP, had submitted that AIADMK bye-law under Section 20 (2) says that the General Secretary should be selected by all the primary members of all party units. He further submitted that AIADMK proposed to amend the party bye-laws to facilitate appointment of Sasikala as General Secretary.Assuming the rule of “continuous five-year membership” was amended, still the “basic structure” for selection of the General Secretary by all primary members of all party units cannot be amended, he said. Also, as per the Societies Registration Act, a minimum of 21 days notice has to be served on the members for attending the General Council, the counsel said.AIADMK counsel B Kumar had then submitted that Sasikala Pushpa was expelled from the party on August 1 this year. “She has not challenged her expulsion. She has no locus standi to comment about the activities of AIADMK.” He had said AIADMK, a recognised political party by the Election Commission, was not registered under the Societies Registration Act. AIADMK was registered as a political party under Representation of the People (RP) Act with the EC, he had submitted.

Foodgrain output in the country may scale peak next year

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The agriculture sector is all set to bounce back leaving two years of drought behind and may well pull off record foodgrain output of 270 million tonnes in 2016-17 on good rains, but farmers’ woes may continue due to adverse impact of notes ban and low sales realisation.The farm growth is estimated to rise at over 5% this fiscal, from 1.2% in the previous year, on the back of record kharif foodgrain production at 135 million tonnes (mt) and likely bumper output in the ongoing rabi season, helped by good monsoon in most parts of the country.”The agriculture sector has done well during the year. We received good monsoon after facing the drought year. Kharif in general was very good and rabi sowing has been brisk. We are hopeful of bumper production this year,” Agriculture Secretary Shobhana Pattanayak said in an interview.Although agri-experts have raised concerns about impact of demonetization on rabi crops and the likely effect of forecast of warm winter on wheat crop, the secretary said the government is not “downgrading” the target for 2016-17 crop year. “Our target is to achieve foodgrain production of 270 million tonnes while our last peak production was 265.04 mt in 2013-14 crop year (July-June),” he said.”Agriculture sector growth was lower last year because of drought. But from that level, we will move higher.” On farm sector growth, NITI Aayog Member Ramesh Chand said: “It will be spectacular growth after facing two drought years. We are expecting a growth of 5.5% this year.” The growth rate of agriculture and allied sectors will be 5.3% even if wheat productivity throughout the country is lower by 3% due to rise in temperature, he said.Asked about adverse impact of demonetization on farmers, Pattanayak said there is not much impact as the credit system has been strong in rural areas and farmers have become more resilient over the years. “Our farmers have witnessed very strong drought in last two years and yet they have bounced back. I don’t think it has really impacted,” he said. However, farmers’ organisations as well as former agriculture minister Sharad Pawar have expressed deep concern about impact of demonetization, saying farmers are unable to buy quality seeds and fertilisers for their rabi crop and are also facing problems in selling crops for want of demand.Despite record kharif production this year and expected good crop in the rabi season, farmers’ conditions continue to be grim due to lower sales realisation, with domestic and global commodity prices staying depressed. The demonetization of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes has also affected the domestic demand of fruits and vegetables, forcing farmers to sell their produce at throwaway price.About farmers’ woes, agri-economist Ashok Gulati said: “This year, production is likely to bounce back and therefore, much better than last year. However, farmers are already under debt. And prices of cotton, basmati rice and, with demonetization, many fresh fruits and vegetables are depressed. Because of that, despite higher production levels, farmers have not gained much.”2016 began on a sticky note as the country’s overall foodgrain output remained flat at 252 mt in 2015-16 crop year due to second straight year of drought. Pulse output fell to 16.5 mt resulting in high prices for most part of the year that kept the government on its toes, which took various steps to cool prices and bring relief to consumers.The measures like domestic procurement and import to boost local supplies helped ease the prices of tur and urad from about Rs 200 a kg, but chana continues to rule high. As per the official estimate, wheat output rose to 93.55 mt, from 86 mt, but FCI’s procurement fell sharply and domestic prices of wheat and its products began to rise towards the end of the year. The government scrapped import duties on wheat to boost domestic supply. To provide relief to farmers hit by the cash crunch, the government has given them an additional two months to repay their crop loans due in November-December and said prompt repayment will be eligible for the extra 3% interest subsidy.The government had earlier allowed farmers to buy seeds through old Rs 500 notes from central and state-owned seed companies as well as from ICAR and central varsities. It had also asked fertiliser companies to sell soil nutrient on credit basis to farmers. To check food inflation, import duties on palm oils and potatoes were reduced. Stock limit on sugar mills were also imposed to check prices although improved domestic rates helped industry clear arrears to farmers.The year also saw the successful rollout of the landmark National Food Security Act (NFSA) across the country. Programmes like new crop insurance scheme and eNAM to link all 585 mandis on an electronic trading platform were announced to augment farmers’ income.In this year’s budget, the government raised agri-credit by Rs 50,000 crore to Rs 9 lakh crore for the current fiscal and levied 0.5% Krishi Kalyan cess on all taxable services to fund farm initiatives. Eminent scientist M S Swaminathan hailed the new schemes, but stressed on proper implementation. He also wanted the government to pay farmers 50% more than the production cost as part of the minimum support price (MSP).Expressing concern over poor implementation of agri schemes, Gulati, the former chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, said: “The government should focus completely on agriculture and try to implement some of the programmes properly.”The year also witnessed the government fixing the maximum retail price and royalty for cotton seeds, including Bt cotton, based on its order issued at the fag end of 2015. The move was opposed by biotechnology firms while the domestic seed manufacturers were in favour of the decision.Global biotechnology major Monsanto threatened to re-evaluate its India business. It plans to introduce new products, besides entering into the legal battle against this order. However, NCP supremo Pawar recently attacked the NDA government for taking such a move, saying “Indian agriculture is being brought back to licence and control raj which is detrimental to the growth of the sector”. “The government of the day should not have hostility to improve systems and technologies,” he said, adding that the government is overly “cautious” on the technology front. In May, the agriculture ministry had come out with a notification to regulate the cotton seed market with provisions for compulsory legislations and capping of royalty rates at up to 10% of the retail price. But it was forced to withdraw this notification amid protest from biotech companies.Genetically modified (GM) mustard, developed by the Delhi University’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants, was in news throughout the year as regulatory body GEAC was vetting the proposal for commercial cultivation amid strong protest from green activists as well as RSS-backed Swadeshi Jagran Manch.Amid uncertainty over the government’s likely stand on GM crop cultivation, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) Director General Trilochan Mohapatra said: “From the research side, the transgenic crop which we have developed should be ready, irrespective of whether the government will release them for commercial cultivation or not.” Five transgenic crops — brinjal, tomatoes, banana, castor, shorgum — are ready for large-scale field trials (BRL1), he said, and many GM crops are ready for confined trials.It will be interesting to see the government’s approach in the new year towards allowing cultivation of GM crops, particularly in food crops. At present, the government has allowed commercial cultivation of Bt cotton and there is moratorium on Bt brinjal due to protest from green activists.In 2017, the ongoing legal battle involving global MNC Monsanto, the government and the domestic seed industry will be keenly watched as the outcome will shape the future of regulations for selling GM seeds.

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