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Newsroom diaries 2016: Marathwada, elections, Olympics, demonetisation and how we covered them

This past week Facebook has resounded with plangent laments about the year that will not end.

Most timelines are lengthy dirges punctuated with cries of cashlessness, Aleppolessness, musiclessness and Baracklessness. Annus horribilis is the Latinate of choice.

There hasn’t been a better year for journalism in recent history. The sordidness of 2016 has presented our estate with sufficient opportunities to peel open and consider the human condition. It has allowed us to recount such stories that newsmen and women don’t often get to tell. This is especially true for a band of journalists relaying reports, opinion and analysis from a newsroom freed of the constraints that tie down a print publication — no curbs on article length, supporting media, revisions and improvements, narrative possibilities, and so on.

Firstpost is one such outfit.

The Firstpost newsroomThe Firstpost newsroom

The Firstpost newsroom

Four stories we’ve reported in the past year should serve to showcase the breadth of material (and digital reporting opportunities) 2016 has provided the Firstpost newsroom.

The first came early when a visiting former chief minister of Maharashtra told us of the seriousness of drought conditions in Marathwada. We dispatched three writers to the region, each equipped with a small camera — none had used one in the course of reporting — to record the extent of damage. The series that resulted from their month-long journey, encrusted as it was with rich media, helped set the general course of debate on state intervention and the failure of successive governments in instituting any lasting solutions to address water scarcity in Marathwada.

In preparing for elections held to elect members to five state Assemblies, in May, we resolved to replicate a television newsroom online; in-studio political analysts, an anchor, multiple video and audio feeds from the five states, data visualisation, combined with on-ground reportage, gathered by writers applying — many of them for the first time — the fundamental tenets of print journalism to digital storytelling methods.

Soon after, the sports desk — frugally peopled — came up against the Rio Olympics, which afforded them the chance to run one of the lengthiest live blogs Firstpost has operated thus far, spanning 16 days, book-ended by the two ceremonies at the Maracana Stadium.

The fourth story is a biphonic texture of two stories that occurred almost simultaneously, over the course of 24 hours, beginning 8 November: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise announcement that 86 percent of currency in circulation would be rendered invalid in 50 days‘ time, and an election in the US that advanced the likelihood of an orange-haired real estate huckster with tenuous grasp of policy occupying the Oval Room.

Both offered Firstpost the occasion to set off a lengthy, live, accretive discourse drawn from analysis that combined text, video and audio; we hadn’t embedded such a large volume of fragmentary opinion pieces in live blogs until then. The election allowed us to build on what we’d learnt in May — we ran an eight-hour broadcast on the website, with commentators weighing in live from Toronto, New Orleans, New York, Delhi, Dubai and Mumbai.

And from all accounts, those last two stories have yet to coil themselves to a close.

The fading days of 2016 could well serve as prologue for the year before us.

A newsroom is made not by the technology or resources at its disposal, but by those who inhabit it. For a more personalised view on the experiences of various members of the Firstpost newsroom while covering specific stories, check out the following accounts:

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 08:51 IST

Jharkhand: Facebook post leads to communal tension, 5 arrested

Wed, 28 Dec 2016-11:32pm , Medininagar (Jharkhand) , PTI

The objectionable material, posted on Facebook on Tuesday night, triggered communal tension in Medininagar town. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Five persons were on Wednesday arrested by the police here in Palamau district for allegedly attacking people and ransacking shops following a write-up on the social media on animal sacrifice.The objectionable material, posted on Facebook on Tuesday night, triggered communal tension in this town, prompting the police to act swiftly and arrest five persons, including Mohammad Taz who wrote the post, Palamau SP Indrajeet Mahatha said.Mahatha and Sub-Divisional Magistrate Nancy Sahay have gone to the area with an adequate force to restore law-and-order.A police contingent has been posted in the locality. The SP said the situation was now under control.

J&K HC orders Masarat Alam’s release from preventive custody immediately

Wed, 28 Dec 2016-12:52pm , Jammu and Kashmir , ANI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Wednesday directed Mehbooba Mufti-led government to immediately release separatist leader Masarat Alam from preventive custody.A bench of Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar quashed Alam’s detention after hearing his counsel Mian Abdul Qayoom and the state counsel.Alam, who has been languishing in jail for the past six years on charges of fomenting trouble and posing a threat to public safety in the Valley, was booked under the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA) following the 2010 violent unrest.

Bhubaneswar: Eight traffickers get life in prison for torturing & chopping off labourers’ hands

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Eight human traffickers found guilty of torturing and chopping off the hands of two labourers have received life prison sentences and hefty fines, a prosecutor said on Sunday, hoping the severity of the punishment would deter others.Prosecutor Dhirendra Nath Patra said the court in Bhubaneswar heard how the traffickers chopped off the hands of Nilambar Dhangdamajhi and Dayalu Nial in Odisha state on December 15, 2013.The two men were among of a group of 12 labourers who had taken money from labour agent Parvesh Duni in exchange for working for him but quickly realised he had trapped them.When the men found out they were being taken to Andhra Pradesh in southeastern India instead of Chhattisgarh state in central India as expected they tried to escape but were caught and locked up for hours before their hands were chopped off.News of the torture and confinement triggered widespread outrage and made national headlines in India which is estimated to have the highest number of modern day slaves of any country.Dhangdamajhi died on September 21 this year after years of illness.”Under the sentence Parvesh Duni and other traffickers will serve a life term in prison. They will also have to pay fines,” the prosecutor told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “This is a lesson for all.”Amidst the publicity, in 2014 the Supreme Court intervened and asked the Odisha government to fast track charges against the traffickers and provide rehabilitation for the two men whose stories are typical of many trapped in debt bondage in India.Modern slavery has become a catch-all term to describe human trafficking, debt bondage, forced marriage and other slave-like exploitation with an estimated 46 million people in slavery around the world.Dhangdamajhi was 32 when he took a loan of 14,000 rupees ($209) from labour agent Duni and agreed to work at a brick kiln in 2013.But he was taken to a paddy field, kept under house arrest and made to work for his traffickers who demanded he pay back the advance taken by all 12 labourers if he wanted to go home.Dayalu, who was 17 years old at the time, earlier told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that they were asked if they would rather have their hands or legs chopped off not agreeing to the new terms of contract.Patra said nine men were accused of the abuse and eight of these were arrested and were now in jail.A ninth man absconded ahead of the hearing that started in October last year and finished in March this year but he had been arrested recently and would now face trial.Authorities have freed around 282,000 workers trapped in bonded labour in 18 states in India since 1978, according to government data, although non-government organisations question these figures and the real extent of debt bondage in India.

Exclusive: After demonetisation, Narendra Modi to tackle benami properties, deals

It may not be a happy new year for benami property holders. Come 2017 and Income Tax (I-T) sleuths may be knocking at their doors. And if proved a “benamidar” (benami property holder), one is likely to face rigorous imprisonment from one year up to seven years.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given enough indications on various occasions about his intention to combat the black money menace in India by adopting stringent actions against people involved in benami properties and transactions.

And, to make it successful, unlike in the past, the Modi government has already cleared the ground making amendments in the original Benami Transaction (Prohibition) Act, 1988.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The provisions of the amended act came into force on 1 November 2016. It has given more teeth to the I-T Department to get cracking on benami properties and transactions, with a comprehensive tracking, identifying and finally taking stringent action against offenders.

Looking back at the Benami Transaction Act

More than two decades ago, in 1993-94 and 1994-95, two alternative budgets were presented by Delhi-based Citizens’ Parliament comprising 230 eminent citizens, including politicians from diverse political parties barring the Congress and the BJP.

The author of the two budgets was Professor Arun Kumar, a noted economist who holds authority on black money. The former professor of Economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) had suggested levying wealth tax and property tax on all properties.

“Nothing much has happened in taking action against benami property holders since 1988, when the Benami Transaction Act came into being. We had suggested in our alternative budget to levy wealth tax and property tax on all properties above 25 square yard (20.9 square metres). This will bring every property under the tax net,” Kumar told Firstpost.

“According to my estimate, 62 percent of our GDP — that is Rs 93 lakh crore is the black economy. Given the situation, identifying the benami property holders is a tough job. Will the tax department be able to do it?” said Kumar.

Amended Benami Transaction Act

The legal framework for dealing with benami transactions in the old Benami Transactions Act was weak and nothing much was achieved. Now, the amended act empowers the I-T Department to inquire into any person, place, documents or property during an investigation into any matter related to a benami property transaction.

“The amendments have made the act stricter. Apart from imprisonment and penalty up to 25 percent, the benami property will be confiscated. The property rights would go directly to the Centre, and the government can make use of the property as it wishes purportedly to help rural development plans. Now action will be taken against both the actual owner and the property holder under a bogus name,” a senior I-T official said.

The benamidars invest black money in buying land and houses through multiple channels and use bank accounts of different people. The real owner always remains unidentified. From politicians to bureaucrats — properties like land and flats are bought by floating bogus companies in the name of other people while the actual face behind benami transactions get away unnoticed, untracked.

“It was not easy to track the unknown entities in the past. But after the introduction of permanent account number (PAN) and filing of I-T Returns, the tax department has been able to collect information. Now, information from property registration office, online registration records, Annual Information Report filed with the tax department, the municipal corporation record, etc, have made tracking easy. The amended Benami Transactions Act will make escaping tougher for offenders. Punishment is now stringent,” said chartered accountant Abhishek Aneja.

What is an offence under the new Benami Transactions Act?

Any transaction made under a fictitious name; transaction made without the knowledge of the owner; person who owns the property is not traceable; amount paid to buy property from an unknown source; on records the owner is another person, whereas benefits go to the one who paid for the property yet doesn’t show up in the record of the purchase will be considered a benami.

Benami transactions could be a property or any other asset — movable, immovable, tangible, intangible, any right or interest, or legal documents. Gold or finance securities, stocks and shares can also fall under benami transaction if the requirements mentioned in the act are not met.

However, property held in the name of spouse or children, paid from known source or joint ownership of property with siblings or relatives, paid from known source — are exempted.

Tracking mechanism to be used
According to sources at the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), increasingly it’ll be immensely difficult for those having benami properties or going for benami transactions to escape from I-T radar.

The tax authority now has new tools to track benami property holders. Besides, 360-degree profiling of people who file tax returns, the Intelligence and Criminal Investigation wing of the Income Tax at CBDT receives information from multiple sources such as Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), banks, Registrar of properties, annual information report (AIR) from banks, hotels, grand weddings, tours and travel agencies, high-value purchases like house, cars, jewellery, consumer durables, payments made through cards, and from transactions that attract tax collected at source (TCS) and tax deducted at source (TDS).

The database prepared from the information gathered by collating manual and electronic intelligence goes to the data warehouse unit for analysis. A new Non-Filers Management System (NMS) matches the data being obtained from various sources.

“The non-intrusive surveillance capabilities of the I-T Department have been enhanced. There is a huge database with the I-T Department. Parameters have been set to select cases automatically. Based on it, the creditworthiness of the owner of a property is also matched with the I-T returns. The crackdown will be on all those who have been avoiding paying taxes and show their actual income,” a CBDT source said.

“Though it’s tough and challenging for the I-T Department to determine legal and illegal holdings, it’s not impossible now, unlike in the past. The government might also come up with a scheme giving the benami property holders a chance to voluntary declare their hidden assets. In case that happens, and a person doesn’t comply and is caught later, he/she will face stringent punishment,” the source added.

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 08:38 IST

Exclusive: After demonetisation, Narendra Modi sets sights on benami properties, deals

It may not be a happy new year for benami property holders. Come 2017 and Income Tax (I-T) sleuths may be knocking at their doors. And if proved a “benamidar” (benami property holder), one is likely to face rigorous imprisonment from one year up to seven years.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given enough indications on various occasions about his intention to combat the black money menace in India by adopting stringent actions against people involved in benami properties and transactions.

And, to make it successful, unlike in the past, the Modi government has already cleared the ground making amendments in the original Benami Transaction (Prohibition) Act, 1988.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The provisions of the amended act came into force on 1 November 2016. It has given more teeth to the I-T Department to get cracking on benami properties and transactions, with a comprehensive tracking, identifying and finally taking stringent action against offenders.

Looking back at the Benami Transaction Act

More than two decades ago, in 1993-94 and 1994-95, two alternative budgets were presented by Delhi-based Citizens’ Parliament comprising 230 eminent citizens, including politicians from diverse political parties barring the Congress and the BJP.

The author of the two budgets was Professor Arun Kumar, a noted economist who holds authority on black money. The former professor of Economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) had suggested levying wealth tax and property tax on all properties.

“Nothing much has happened in taking action against benami property holders since 1988, when the Benami Transaction Act came into being. We had suggested in our alternative budget to levy wealth tax and property tax on all properties above 25 square yard (20.9 square metres). This will bring every property under the tax net,” Kumar told Firstpost.

“According to my estimate, 62 percent of our GDP — that is Rs 93 lakh crore is the black economy. Given the situation, identifying the benami property holders is a tough job. Will the tax department be able to do it?” said Kumar.

Amended Benami Transaction Act

The legal framework for dealing with benami transactions in the old Benami Transactions Act was weak and nothing much was achieved. Now, the amended act empowers the I-T Department to inquire into any person, place, documents or property during an investigation into any matter related to a benami property transaction.

“The amendments have made the act stricter. Apart from imprisonment and penalty up to 25 percent, the benami property will be confiscated. The property rights would go directly to the Centre, and the government can make use of the property as it wishes purportedly to help rural development plans. Now action will be taken against both the actual owner and the property holder under a bogus name,” a senior I-T official said.

The benamidars invest black money in buying land and houses through multiple channels and use bank accounts of different people. The real owner always remains unidentified. From politicians to bureaucrats — properties like land and flats are bought by floating bogus companies in the name of other people while the actual face behind benami transactions get away unnoticed, untracked.

“It was not easy to track the unknown entities in the past. But after the introduction of permanent account number (PAN) and filing of I-T Returns, the tax department has been able to collect information. Now, information from property registration office, online registration records, Annual Information Report filed with the tax department, the municipal corporation record, etc, have made tracking easy. The amended Benami Transactions Act will make escaping tougher for offenders. Punishment is now stringent,” said chartered accountant Abhishek Aneja.

What is an offence under the new Benami Transactions Act?

Any transaction made under a fictitious name; transaction made without the knowledge of the owner; person who owns the property is not traceable; amount paid to buy property from an unknown source; on records the owner is another person, whereas benefits go to the one who paid for the property yet doesn’t show up in the record of the purchase will be considered a benami.

Benami transactions could be a property or any other asset — movable, immovable, tangible, intangible, any right or interest, or legal documents. Gold or finance securities, stocks and shares can also fall under benami transaction if the requirements mentioned in the act are not met.

However, property held in the name of spouse or children, paid from known source or joint ownership of property with siblings or relatives, paid from known source — are exempted.

Tracking mechanism to be used
According to sources at the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), increasingly it’ll be immensely difficult for those having benami properties or going for benami transactions to escape from I-T radar.

The tax authority now has new tools to track benami property holders. Besides, 360-degree profiling of people who file tax returns, the Intelligence and Criminal Investigation wing of the Income Tax at CBDT receives information from multiple sources such as Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), banks, Registrar of properties, annual information report (AIR) from banks, hotels, grand weddings, tours and travel agencies, high-value purchases like house, cars, jewellery, consumer durables, payments made through cards, and from transactions that attract tax collected at source (TCS) and tax deducted at source (TDS).

The database prepared from the information gathered by collating manual and electronic intelligence goes to the data warehouse unit for analysis. A new Non-Filers Management System (NMS) matches the data being obtained from various sources.

“The non-intrusive surveillance capabilities of the I-T Department have been enhanced. There is a huge database with the I-T Department. Parameters have been set to select cases automatically. Based on it, the creditworthiness of the owner of a property is also matched with the I-T returns. The crackdown will be on all those who have been avoiding paying taxes and show their actual income,” a CBDT source said.

“Though it’s tough and challenging for the I-T Department to determine legal and illegal holdings, it’s not impossible now, unlike in the past. The government might also come up with a scheme giving the benami property holders a chance to voluntary declare their hidden assets. In case that happens, and a person doesn’t comply and is caught later, he/she will face stringent punishment,” the source added.

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 08:35 IST

Demonetisation: Swipe machine shortage, security worries threaten to sour cashless dream

The government has a humongous task ahead driving transition into cashless economy as the public is forced to go cashless with inadequate infrastructure and security system in place. The lack of digital preparedness is already threatening to hit the consumption growth, data shows.

The data released in a State Bank of India report shows that value per card transaction has declined though the volume of transactions has increased post the surprise demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes on 8 November. India’s largest bank has pointed out that the reason for the decline could be the woeful shortage of PoS machines in the country. India has 15.1 lakh such machines, while it would need another 20 lakh to meet the demands of cashless transition, according to the report.

Another reason for the fall in transaction value is the general slowdown in spending as customers are holding on to whatever little cash they possess. If this trend continues, it is likely to hit the corporate earnings and in turn economic growth.



“Despite Government’s move to reduce the cash transactions in the economy, people are standing in queues to withdraw money from banks and ATMs. It is not easy to shift all the people to use digital mode in their day to day transaction, which may be due to a number of reasons like level of education, acceptability of technology, lack of infrastructure etc,” the SBI report has said.

The comment by the SBI  should come as an eye-opener for the government and RBI officials, who have been insisting that enough cash is being dispensed to meet the demand from the customers.

Forty-four days have passed after the demonetisation announcement. People are still thronging the ATMs and bank branches to withdraw cash. According to the RBI, from 10 November to 19 December, banks have given away Rs 5,92,613 crore worth notes to the public.

The central bank has issued a total of 22.6 billion pieces of notes, of which 20.4 billion belonged to small denominations of Rs 10, Rs 20, Rs 50 and Rs 100. As much as 2.2 billion were higher denominations of Rs 2,000 and Rs 500. However, the bank has not yet given the data on how many Rs 500 notes have been dispatched.

The value of currency the RBI has released into the system is just about one-third of the Rs 15.44 lakh crore that was in circulation when the move was announced. This wide gap is the reason for the present cash crunch. What is making matters worse is the shortfall of PoS machines in the country.

The SBI report notes that over the last 6 years the average withdrawal from an ATM was around Rs 3,000 in a month. The bank calculates that this would mean around Rs 8,000 crore is required per day for smooth functioning of ATMs.

“This translates into Rs 3.7 lakh cash requirement per ATM per day to meet the customers requirements. This may be the amount of cash required for the daily transactions, a part of which needs to shift to digital,” it notes.

However, the immediate transaction value that needs to be shifted from ATM to other digital channels is a whopping Rs 46,000 crore per month, until the limit of Rs 2,500 at ATMs remains imposed, it said.

By this calculation, the bank doesn’t expect the government to withdraw the limit until January. However, that seems to be a very conservative estimate.

Govt needs to step up

In order to facilitate such a huge volume of transaction to digital, the government needs to step up. As the report notes, first and foremost a better ecosystem of incentives for the banks to deploy swipe machines has to be put in place.

“Simultaneously, the objective of the government should be very quickly bring on-board new merchants, particularly small and marginal traders, grocery shops, etc. on digital platform,” the report has noted.

As noted earlier, India has just 15.1 lakh PoS machines. In order to shift over to cashless, there is a requirement of 20 lakh more – that is more than double. When will this be met is anybody’s guess.

Along with it, there is an urgent requirement to invest in IT security systems, which also needs to be incentivised by the government, says the report.

This is a big challenge given the country has just been witness to one of the biggest ATM security breaches, in which lakhs of debit cards of various banks were compromised. The banks were then advising the customers to not use ATMs of other banks. Post the demonetisation which happened in a few weeks’ time after the debit card scare, this advise, interestingly, suddenly saw a reversal with the government itself asking the public to go to any bank ATM that has cash to withdraw money.

Clearly, in passing such an order to banks and customers, the government has just ignored the safety aspect completely. And that too at a time when the technological advance has rendered financial frauds boundary-less.

In a survey of 309 top corporate executives in India, consultancy firm Deloitte found 70 percent of the respondents expected frauds to increase in the next two years. And the survey was held well before the demonetisation started – during 1 October to 30 November.

Post the demonetisation, which has quickened the pace of transition to cashless, the possibility of frauds must have just increased.

“SMEs are struggling to mitigate even well-known frauds such as bribery and corruption. Given the inherent limitations of these organisations, there is need for government intervention to help tackle fraud,” said Rohit Mahajan, Deloitte India Head (Forensic – Financial Advisory), after releasing the sruvey resultes on Wednesday. According to him, the government start creating awareness about frauds and security systems among the small firms, which are all the more vulnerable to frauds.

The government, however, seems to be busy changing rules on a daily basis and making unsubstantiated claims, ignoring the pain that the customers, banks and companies are going through. It is high time it pulled up its socks and dealt with the emerging situation which seems to be already spinning out of control at least in some pockets.

First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 13:11 IST

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

By Mirwais Harooni

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

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

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

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

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

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

Address support to terror from outside Afghanistan: India to United Nations

United Nations: In a clear reference to Pakistan providing safe havens to terror groups, India has told the UN that the international community must urgently address the issue of backing to outfits like LeT, JeM and the Haqqani Network by “shadowy supporters” outside Afghanistan.

“Experience, as well as academic research, provides ample support for the assertion that conflicts in which foreign assistance is available to shadowy entities that fight legitimate state authorities tend to be more severe and last longer than other types of conflict,” India’s Ambassador to the UN Syed Akbaruddin said in a Security Council session on the situation in Afghanistan.

Without naming Pakistan, Akbaruddin said sustainable peace in Afghanistan is contingent upon terror groups and individuals being denied safe havens in the country’s neighbourhood and the international community must address the issue of the support that terror outfits like the Taliban and al-Qaeda get from their supporters outside Afghanistan.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“If we are to bring sustainable peace to Afghanistan, groups and individuals that perpetrate violence against the people and the government of Afghanistan must be denied safe havens and sanctuaries in Afghanistan’s neighbourhood,” he said.

“We need to address, as an imperative, the support that terrorist organisations like the Taliban, Haqqani Network, Daesh, al-Qaeda and its designated affiliates such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed which operate entirely outside the fabric of international law draw from their shadowy supporters outside Afghanistan,” Akbaruddin said at the United Nations on Monday.

He pointed out to the meeting in the 15-nation Council that it is apparent that efforts by nations for rebuilding institutions, infrastructure and networks in Afghanistan are being “undermined, schools are being destroyed, mosques bombarded and religious gatherings targeted”.

“It is also evident that those who perpetrate these heinous crimes have survived and thrived only with support and sanctuaries on the outside,” he said, in a veiled but strong reference to Pakistan.

Akbaruddin noted with concern that while the international community recommits to standing by the Afghan people each time the UN members discuss the situation in the war-torn country, the number of Afghan civilian and security forces casualties keeps rising.

“While the Taliban sanctions regime remains split for more than five years, the designated terrorist group makes concerted effort to capture and hold territory. Therefore, for numerous Afghan women, men and children there is no respite from the plague of terrorism,” he said.

The Indian envoy emphasised that the international community must introspect about the way it is approaching the situation in Afghanistan and whether there is need for course correction.

First Published On : Dec 20, 2016 13:11 IST

FBI, US Dept of Justice officials named witness in NIA’s Pathankot charge sheet

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Six protected persons, a jailed terrorist and officials of Federal Bureau of Investigation and US Department of Justice figure as witnesses in the charge sheet filed by NIA in the January 2 Pathankot air base attack.The NIA, which named Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Maulana Masood Azhar and three others as accused, submitted scientific, oral and technical evidences before the special NIA court at Panchkula in Chandigarh. Among the list of witnesses is Mohammed Sadeek alias Muviya, a resident of Ghalotiakalan in Pakistan’s Sialkot district and Abdul Rahman Mogul, a resident of Polas village of Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir’s Poonch district. These two witnesses had helped in identifying voices and a couple of bodies of the Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists who had carried out attack at the strategic IAF base in which seven personnel were killed and 37 others injured.NIA has submitted statement of six witnesses in a sealed cover before the court and prayed before the court that the names of these people should be kept secret under section 44(3) of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and Section 17 of National Investigation Agency Act (Protection of witnesses). The list of witnesses also names a Special Agent of FBI and an official of US Department of Justice who had executed the Indian request sent under Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty for getting the details from Facebook and other websites on which Jaish had uploaded an audio file claiming responsibility for the attack.
ALSO READ Pathankot airbase attack: NIA files chargesheet, names Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood AzharBesides Azhar, the NIA has named his brother Mufti Abdul Rauf Asgar and two handlers of four terrorists — Kashif Jaan and Shahid Latif in the charge sheet. There is no mention of Superintendent of Police Salwinder Singh, his cook Madan Gopal and his jeweller friend Rajesh Verma in the list of witnesses. Their vehicle was hijacked by four terrorists. While Singh and Gopal were released in a jungle, the terrorists had slit the throat of Verma, who managed to get immediate medical aid after the four terrorists abandoned him.

After demonetization fallout ‘least productive’ Parliament session ends

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The month-long Winter session of Parliament concluded on Friday, with the demonetization row ensuring a virtual washout and making it one of the “least productive” sessions in the last 15 years. Due to the repeated disruptions, Lok Sabha could function only for 15.75% and lost 92 hours while Rajya Sabha worked for 20.61% and lost about 86 hours.Negligible business was transacted during the 21 scheduled sittings of the session that began on November 16 and several important legislations like the one on GST were left pending. The only significant legislative action was the passage of the Rights of Persons with Disability Bill by both the Houses. Significantly, this bill was cleared on the last day on Friday after a brief debate and with rare bonhomie, similar to the one witnessed in the Rajya Sabha on it two days back.During the session, the Lok Sabha also passed the Income Tax Amendment Bill without any debate amid din but it could not be taken up for consideration in the Rajya Sabha. The only other legislative action was the approval of the Supplementary Demands for Grants. “This has been one of the least productive Question Hour sessions for Rajya Sabha in the last three Parliaments.Previously, one of the 480 questions and none of the 420 questions were answered orally in the Winter sessions of 2010 and 2013, respectively,” said PRS Legislative Research. While adjourning the two Houses sine die, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari expressed pain and anguish over the repeated disruptions.Ansari said “all sections” of the House need to introspect on the distinction between dissent, disruption and agitation. “Regular and continuous disruptions characterised this Session. The symbolism of dignified protests, so essential for orderly conduct of Parliamentary proceedings, was abandoned,” he lamented. “The prohibition in the Rules about shouting slogans, displaying posters and obstructing proceedings by leaving their assigned places was consistently ignored by all sections of the House,” he said, adding that “peace prevailed only when obituaries were read”.In the Rajya Sabha, the debate on demonetization took place on the first day of the session but subsequently the opposition continuously created uproar demanding presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the entire discussion. The debate was again taken up once for an hour when Modi was present but it could not be carried forward. The Rajya Sabha saw introduction of 12 bills but only one was passed. In the Lok Sabha, the debate could be hardly taken up even though both the government and opposition repeatedly said they were ready for a discussion on demonetization announced on November 8.The deadlock occurred as the opposition insisted on debate under a rule that entails voting, which was not acceptable to the ruling side. “This is not a good thing for all of us and this maligns our image in the eyes of people,” said the Speaker, expressing hope that future sessions would be more fruitful and productive and witness constructive debates and discussions.”I am hopeful of getting support of all political parties and members,” she said. The Speaker regretted that 21 sittings of the House lasted only 19 hours which saw 50 of the total 440 starred being answered on the floor and members raising 124 issues of urgent public importance. 11% of the questions could be answered orally. This was the least productive Question Hour of the 16th Lok Sabha, PRS said.The Speaker said though a discussion on demonetization of currency notes was on the agenda under 193 that does not entail voting, but only partial debate could take place. As deadlock between government and opposition persisted, an attempt was made to initiate the debate under Rule 193 which does not entail voting.TRS leader AP Jeethender Reddy tried to speak twice but members of some opposition parties, particularly Trinamool Congress, scuttled the bid by creating pandemonium. According to a press release issued by the Parliamentary Affairs Ministry, 10 bills were introduced in the Lok Sabha.Since June 2014, the Lok Sabha has passed 83 bills and spent 216 hours discussing them. On the other hand, Rajya Sabha has passed 73 Bills with a total discussion time of 121 hours. Lok Sabha has discussed 63% of the bills for more than 2 hours while Rajya Sabha has discussed 34% of the bills, the PRS Legislative said. Veteran Parliamentarian and BJP stalwart LK Advani expressed deep anguish over the way Parliament was being run and even remarked on Thursday that he felt like resigning.

NotePeCharcha Episode 3: Dhobipada’s adivasis bear brunt of demonetisation

While the effects of demonetisation on urban India are visibly apparent to those with access to mainstream English media, its impact on rural lives is so far vague. We travelled into the interiors of Maharashtra to examine the depth of the impact.

Firstpost sent out Apoorv Mishra, who was accompanied by his friends — Tahir Alimansoor and Kush Shah, into rural Maharashtra with an iPhone, a couple of mics, a GoPro and no institutional monetary support – they had borrowed money from friends and withdrawn all the cash permitted under prevalent restrictions.

To examine the impact of the ‘masterstroke’ at the grassroots level, the trio took the road to Dhobipada in a van. We found out the hardships borne by the tribals, post-Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cashless India.

To avail the services of the ATMs and banks, Dhobipada’s people have to travel to Kasara. The rickshaws, their only mode of transport, is not an option anymore as the cash crunch has left them with no money in hand.

The villagers are of the opinion that the demonetisation move has affected their livelihood vastly. The new currency note of Rs 2,000 is a big problem as there is a dearth of supply of smaller denomination currency notes.

“Where should I go with this new note of Rs 2,000? Should I keep wandering?” said a resident of the village. The villagers also mentioned that the district bank has stopped dispensing money.

Due to lack of change, vendors have started buying and selling goods on credit.

After going around the village and talking to the local residents, the trio also found out that the local businesses have been hit hard as people have reduced their expenditure.

“We have to stand for hours in line just to get a small amount of money, even if we get lucky,” said another resident.

A woman who sold bangles said there has been a fall in business in the past month, due to the stringent money supply in the economy.

Watch the video to find out more about our quest to dig out how demonetisation impacted daily lives in rural India.

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 18:33 IST

Railways lost over Rs 7 crore due to Naxal disruptions

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Indian railways lost more than Rs 7 crore in 2015 due to destruction of its property by Naxalites. According to sources, the states in which the railways suffered the maximum losses due to Naxal disruptions were Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Orissa.Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain disclosed the figures in a written reply to the Lok Sabha on Wednesday. He said railway property worth Rs 7,02,92,441 was damaged by Naxalites in 2015. The minister also informed the Parliament that the loss suffered by the railways due to Naxal activities in 2015 was less than the losses in 2014.Railways spent Rs 3,415 crore to safeguard its property in the 2014-15 and it has already spent Rs 3,833 on the same this year. The minister apprised the Parliament that the railways had taken many measures in order to protect its property but added that policing in railways was the responsibility of states. “Policing on railways is a state matter and prevention of crime, registration of cases, their investigation and maintenance of law and order is the statutory responsibility of the state police, which they discharge through Government Railway Police (GRP) of the state concerned,” Gohain said. He, however, added that the Railway Protection Force (RPF) supplements the efforts of GRP by deploying its staff on trains and railway stations.Listing measures to prevent sabotage of railway property and security of passengers, he said that railways had also installed CCTV cameras at 344 railway stations. Gohain added, “RPF personnel escorting trains in Naxalites/Maoists/insurgent affected areas are equipped with sophisticated weapons, sufficient ammunition, bullet proof jackets, walkie-talkies, dragon, search lights etc. ” Apart from the security personnel, dog squads are extensively engaged at railway stations and trains for anti-sabotage checking, said Gohain.

Massive raids across country unearth big black bucks

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The government’s crackdown on black money continued with a series of raids all across the country on Wednesday. From Pune to Delhi, to Bengaluru to Panaji, raids conducted by the CBI, Income Tax, ED, and police officials, unearthed large sums of money all across the country.In the national Capital, a raid carried out by the Crime Branch and the Income Tax department recovered over Rs 3.25 crores in old currency in denominations of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 from a budget hotel in the Karol Bagh area of Delhi. Five people have been arrested in conjunction with this raid.Officials said the accused had arrived in the Capital on Monday via a flight from Mumbai. They had received the cash from a Delhi-based hawala operator, identified as Vinod. The accused were supposed to then carry the black money back to Mumbai where it would be converted into white.Investigators said the accused had taken great pains to conceal the money. The cash had been kept in different suitcases and a cardboard box. Specialists had then been hired to pack the notes so that the money could not be detected by the airport scanning machines. The money was also packed with special tapes and wires to cheat X-ray machines, police sources said.In another raid, police entered the residence of one Sukhbir Shokeen. Shokeen works as a real estate agent and is the director of a company named Shokeen Real Estate. In his home, police officials found unaccounted for cash worth Rs 64,84,000 out of which Rs 11,34,000 was in denominations of Rs 2,000. Jewellery worth Rs 1,06,57,235 was also recovered from Shokeen’s residence. Police officials say that raids are also being conducted at his office premises which is said to be located in Rangpuri in south west Delhi.In Bengaluru, the IT department also seized Rs 2.93 crore in total with a large amount being recovered from a flat guarded by two ferocious dogs. IT officials told DNA that they had received a tipoff that an apartment in the Yeshwanthpur locality had some cash but they could not execute the search on Tuesday as the old lady living in the flat refused to cooperate with them.Finally, IT officials, along with the help of the local police, entered the flat on Wednesday upon which they found a locked room. “The locked room was opened and unexplained cash to the tune of Rs 2.89 crore, which included Rs 2.25 crore of new Rs 2,000 notes, was found. The cash has been seized and further investigations are on,” the IT department said in a statement.Meanwhile, in Goa’s capital Panaji, the IT department seized Rs 67.98 lakh in new notes of Rs 2,000 from a person who met the officials. Acting as decoy customers in desperate need of cash, the officials arrested the man and confiscated the cash “The seizure was made from a place called Banda on the Maharashtra-Goa border,” an official said.Post demonetization, the department’s investigative wings of Karnataka and Goa have seized a total of Rs 29.86 crore, with Rs 20.22 crore in new notes, 41.6 kg bullion and 14 kg jewellery so far. Officials in the investigative departments of these two states said that they have detected unaccounted income worth Rs 1,000 crore in these two states, so this is just the tip of the iceberg. So far, 36 raid operations have been carried out in both states.Other parts of India too saw raids with over Rs 2 crores, mostly in new notes, being seized in Chandigarh on Wednesday. And in a surprise incident, IT officials nabbed two men driving a two-wheeler which was carrying new notes worth up to Rs. 67 lakh, in Panaji. IT officials have now seized the cash, and are analysing the mobile phone data of the arrested men. The phone allegedly has details of those who are involved in money-laundering.The large amount of illegal cash being unearthed through raids, carried out by officials in the past few weeks, shows the government’s bid to unearth black money may be working. But officials continuously have to keep a sharp eye out as more and more innovative methods are being employed to smuggle out black money. In a recent instance, customs officials at the Delhi airport caught a couple returning from Bangkok, who were trying to smuggle 16 kg gold into the country. The gold had been placed in diapers.CBDT Tightens Rules for Revised ReturnsThe Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has warned taxpayers against misusing provisions for filing revised tax returns by manipulating earlier years’ figures of income, cash-in-hand, profits etc. with an intention to manipulate the current year’s undisclosed income.The CBDT stated that the provision to file revised returns of income u/s 139(5) of the Act has been stipulated for revising any omission or wrong statement made in the original return of income. It asserted that revision provisions cannot be used for resorting to making changes in the income initially declared so as to “drastically alter the form, substance and quantum of the earlier disclosed income.”Such manipulation in the amount of income, cash-in-hand, profits etc. and fudging of accounts may necessitate scrutiny of such cases and may also attract penalty/prosecution in appropriate cases as per provision of law.

Demonetisation, cashless economy: Covering up the fiasco with a new trick means more trouble

Making a virtue of one’s mistake to escape embarrassment is an old childish trick, but if a central government indulges in it, it does say something about the character of the country.

What began as a sure-fire “surgical strike” on black money has mysteriously metamorphosed into a campaign for digital economy and cashless life. Despite the unprecedented man-made financial and economic disaster, which has no parallel in the world, imposed on the country’s poor and the middle class, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s midnight adventure purged no black money. Almost all the black money estimated to be in circulation has found its way into the banks and by the time the 50-day deadline ends, what might have been cleansed would, be at best, a pittance.

By then, the country would have had to endure all this costly madness — Rs 12,000 crore plus for printing new notes, unestimated transaction costs, about Rs 1.28 lakh crore of immediate loss to the economy and irreversible damage to various sectors and the lives of people — for practically nothing. A pilot study in wishful thinking when the premise itself had been rejected by skilled and experienced technocrats.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

That’s when the same eccentric idea gets dressed up as cashless economy and digital payments. By covering up the monumental fiasco with a new trick will lead India to more trouble, because the fundamental problem with the premise is, as Rahul Gandhi said, all cash is not black money and all black money is not in cash. The nationwide experiment of demonetisation so far has proved it beyond any reasonable doubt, and there’s no point in giving it a new spin.

If all cash is not black and all black money is not held in cash, how does petty cashless transactions prevent black money? In the best case scenario, it it will create enormous physical hardship for people and a lot of money for companies that make POS instruments and mobile and online payment firms. Does the nation or the people gain at all if people do their daily shopping using bank transfers and cards? Is it where most of the black money gets generated in India? If it’s about tax evasion by small-time vendors, wouldn’t the new GST-IT infrastructure handle it?

The government hasn’t made a cogent argument for such a move at all. All that it’s trying is to do is to cover up its failure and lack of cash because it thought of printing replacement currency only after killing 86 percent of it. After demonetisation, it’s another blunder that the government is getting into because more than 80 percent of the people are cash-dependent. It cannot be changed through a decision provoked by a distress.

It’s alright if the government had a policy on cashless/digital economy and is now rolling out a constitutionally valid process. If there was any such plan, it should have been discussed in Parliament, because some studies do suggest considerable cost in handling cash, ideally made into an Act, and implemented after framing the rules and putting an appropriate ecosystem in place. This is not a ship that can be built while sailing it.

Playing with most of the economic transactions in India without a master-plan and appropriate pilot studies before implementation is fraught with risks that might be more unforeseen than had been evident during demonetisation. Any simplistic move to address it will be like those Chinese grand idiocies (the sparrow story, the blood-plasma transfusion in Henan and Chairman Mao’s giant leap) or the social engineering experiences of Hitler (eugenics) and Sanjay Gandhi (family planning).

If the issue is really black money and if the intent is genuine, the way to go about is to implement the recommendations of the SIT on black money. In its fifth report, it does talk about curb on cash transactions, not at the grocery stores or petty shops, but at places where the money involved is big. It wanted the government to put a cap on cash transactions at Rs 300,000.

And guess what, the SIT wants it to be done through an Act. And that’s how it should be — not through knee jerk decisions or late night announcements. Did the government do anything on that? The SIT also said that government should make cash holding illegal beyond Rs 15 lakhs.

In fact, based on the experience of Indian ingenuity that was visible during the demonetisation, the government should raise the bar of stringency. Probably bring the Rs 300,000 limit to Rs 50,000 or even less. If only one percent of Americans use big dollar bills, the chances of the poor and middle class getting affected by such a cap in India must be negligible. This is the biggest transformative step the government could take, the real drive for cashless economy. An auto-driver or a beggar swiping cards is good only for WhatsApp.

Among other recommendations, the SIT wanted action on the generation of black money in education, charities and religious institutions and misuse of exemption from capitals gains tax. And probably most important of them all, it wanted transparency in participatory notes (P-notes), which are misused for whitening black money through round-tripping. Reportedly, the total value of P-note investments in India is 2.75 lakh crores with nearly a third of it coming from a tiny Cayman islands with 55,000 population. The Modi government is right — bulk of it came during the UPA regime. If you want to hit at the UPA, do it through policy.

Knowingly putting the cart before the horse defies logic, particularly for a G20 country. When there is a set of proposals from a committee of experts reporting to the Supreme Court suggest steps, why does the government drag its feet if it’s really serious about black money and black economy?

And it doesn’t hurt to admit that demonetisation was a mistake although the intent was genuine. It would make more sense if the failure is presented as a learning experience (unarguably the biggest monetary pilot in the world) on the entire range of issues related to the use of money that can help frame future policies, than being dressed up as a precursor to another pointless exercise.

It’s time to count one’s losses and move on.

First Published On : Dec 14, 2016 17:01 IST

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

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

Between Rijiju, SP Tyagi and demonetisation, Winter Session likely to be a washout

From 16 November to 14 December, we have finally reached the last three working days of Winter Session which, as I had mentioned in an earlier article (Parliament logjam eroding the basic tenets of India’s representative democracy), has witnessed near-total disruption causing the wastage of almost Rs 400 crore of taxpayers’ money.

Unfortunately, the unfolding of recent events inspire no confidence that the remaining 72 hours will see any proceedings being held, leave alone the passing of any of the pending 23 bills or even a meaningful debate on demonetisation.

If the decommissioning of notes brought about a hostile stasis in India’s supreme legislative body, the mood has been exacerbated by a game of chess that started with CBI’s arrest of former Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi in AgustaWestland case. As soon as BJP got political ammo with the IAF chief’s lawyer dragging Manmohan Singh-led PMO into the scam, the Congress on Tuesday hit back with gusto, unleashing a charge of its own by targeting Union minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju in what is being called Arunachal power project ‘scam’.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Whether or not former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh‘s office was involved in the procurement of VVIP choppers or Rijiju misused his office for nepotism is a moot point. What matters is Congress’s bishop trying to counter BJP’s rook in a complicated opening gambit. The Congress believes in the “scam” charge against Rijiju it finally has a deterrent against BJP stirring the political pot too much over AgustaWestland, a case which it finds distinctly uncomfortable to deal with.

Beset by consistent claims that all scams can be traced at its door, the Congress sees a golden chance in overturning the narrative. It has already demanded the removal of Rijiju, with spokesperson Randeep Surjewala saying, “The role of Kiren Rijiju in this issue is under cloud. He has no right to stay in office. He should either be dismissed by the prime minister or asked to resign till an independent probe is complete.”

Rijiju, however, has denied all charges. The minister told The Times of India that instead of leveling charges against him, the Congress should apologise to the nation and to him because “all the contract works were allotted during Congress’s time. All payments were (also) made during Congress’s time. We were not in the government. I was not even an MP at the time.”

The Grand Old Party, however, has taken an aggressive stance vowing to raise the issue both inside and outside the Parliament, an euphemism for more disruptive tactics. Congress’s belligerence is in contrast with its earlier ambivalence over demonetisation when it was unsure about openly criticising a move that had eradication of black money as one of its stated goals. But 35 days into the move, shoddy implementation, collusion of bank officials with the corrupt, an economy grinding to a halt and never-ending queues for elusive cash have slowly turned an euphoric electorate into a restive one.

Narendra Modi, who earlier looked to be running away with all plaudits for implementing a bold move, now has to spend considerable amount of time persuading the populace not to lose patience. In this fast altering economic and political scenario, the Opposition believes it has hit upon the right formula. It has forged a unity out of divergent views and goals and wants a debate in the Lower House with provision for voting. In Rajya Sabha, after many shifting of goal posts, it now wants the Prime Minister to sit through the entire debate and even apologise for his earlier remarks linking some political parties to black money.

Though the government has indicated that Modi will be present in the Parliament over the next three days (a key Opposition demand), it certainly won’t concede easy ground. It, therefore, remains to be seen how rest of the Winter Session pans out. Only a brave punter will bet against more disruptions.

First Published On : Dec 14, 2016 07:57 IST

Parliamentary Committee recommends increase in retirement age, fixing minimum tenure for CJI

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As the government and the judiciary exchange barbs over rising vacancies in courts, a Parliamentary committee on Thursday recommended increasing the retirement age of Supreme Court judges and fixing a “minimum tenure” for the Chief Justice of India and chief justices of high courts to ease shortage.In its report tabled on Thursday, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Personnel was critical of the government and the judiciary for not sticking to timelines to fill up vacancies in high courts. Seeking to make the present system of appointment of judges more transparent, the committee said the SC Collegium should inform the candidates whose name it has rejected on a particular ground.It said the government also rejects the recommendations of the collegium “without furnishing cogent reasons…such practices are against the principles of natural justice and leads to opaqueness in the appointment process”. On the issue of hiking the retirement age of SC judges from the present 65 to 67 years, it said the retirement age has remained unchanged since India became a Republic. The retirement age of high court judges was increased fro 60 to 62 in 1963.Referring to the short tenures the CJI and chief justices of high courts often have, the panel said in the last 20 years, 17 Chief Justices of India have been appointed and out of those, only three had tenure of more than two years. “Many of them had tenure of even less than one year,” it observed.It said chief justice of high courts in most cases get appointed for a less than two years term. Some of the chief justices also get elevated to the bench of Supreme Court, further shortening their tenure in high courts. “In many cases, the post of Chief Justice are not filled-up simultaneously and acting Chief Justice, appointed as a stop-gap arrangement, does not often take decision about names to be recommended to the Union Government/Supreme Court collegium for filling-up of vacancies in that High Court,” the panel said taking a grim view.It said that ensuring a minimum tenure may resolve the issue and asked the Law Ministry “to consider ways so that a Chief Justice in the High Courts and in the Supreme Court remains in position for a certain minimum tenure”. It also said that instead of five, a minimum of 11 judges of the Supreme Court should hear cases involving the validity of a Constitutional amendment. It also recommended the cases involving the interpretation of Constitution should not be heard by a Bench of less than 7 judges.

Demonetization: IT department seizes Rs 90 crore cash, 100 kg gold from Chennai jewellers

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Several Chennai-based jewellers were raided by the Income Tax department on Thursday, from whom Rs 90 crore and 100 kg gold has been seized.According to a Times of India report, officials of IT department searched eight jewellery shops in T Nagar, a hotel and homes of jewellery shop owners in Anna Nagar to recover black money in cash and gold.A senior IT official said, “One Srinivasa Reddy and his associate Shekar Reddy and their agent Prem are among the suspects. IT officials seized 70 kg of gold from a room in a hotel in the city. The culprits are suspected to be agents of some bigwigs.”
ALSO READ A yagna called demonetization: Omar Abdullah claims PM Modi using religion to deflect criticism Out of the cash and the gold seized, Rs 80 crore is in old scrapped notes whereas the remaining Rs 10 crore is in new Rs 2000 notes. The gold seized has been valued at Rs 30 crore.PM Modi had on November 8 declared that Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes would not be legal tender starting midnight that evening, which sent a wave of panic across the country with people trying to find ways to convert and hide their black money.

Demonetization: Must ensure #IndiaDefeatsBlackMoney, short-term pain will pave way for long-term gains: PM Modi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amid ongoing protests from the Opposition parties, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said that the government’s decision of demonetization had several gains and that people must ensure that India defeats black money.”The Government’s decision has several gains for farmers, traders, labourers, who are the economic backbone of our nation. I always said that the government’s measure will bring a degree of inconvenience but this short term pain will pave way for long term gains,” said Modi in a series of tweets.Stating that no longer will the progress and prosperity of rural India be curtailed by corruption and black money, Modi added, “Our villages must get their due. We also have a historic opportunity to embrace increased cashless payments and integrate latest technology in economic transactions.”Calling youngsters the agent of change, Modi said, “My young friends, you are agents of change who will make India corruption free and ensure more cashless transactions.””Together, we must ensure #IndiaDefeatsBlackMoney. This will empower the poor, neo-middle class, middle class & benefit future generations,” he added.Earlier in the day, Opposition leaders observed a ‘Black Day’ in Parliament premises to mark one month of the announcement of demonetization with Rahul Gandhi launching a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying his “foolish decision” had “devastated” the country.Leading the protest, Gandhi accused Modi of shying away from having a discussion on the issue in Parliament, but stressed that opposition parties will “not let him run away” from both Houses, where “everything will become clear” once the Prime Minister takes part in the debate.”The Prime Minister took this so-called bold decision. The bold decision can also be a foolish decision. And this was a foolish decision, it has devastated the country. More than 100 people have died. Farmers, fishermen, daily wage earners have been hit hard,” Rahul said.

Akali dal Pani Bachao puts ally BJO in fix

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Facing twin challenges from a resurgent Congress and a galvanised Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in Punjab is leaving no stone unturned to make launch of its election campaign on December 8 a grand success. The rally scheduled in Moga coinciding birth anniversary of Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal will also give a clarion call to protest against the river- water sharing agreement with neighboring Haryana.Ironically the rally, ‘Pani Bachao, Punjab Bachao’ is calling for snapping water sharing agreements with Haryana, currently being ruled by the BJP, which ironically is also alliance partner of SAD in Punjab.Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal said the party has collected signatures of over 20 lakh people for the campaign, which will be submitted to President Pranab Mukherjee. The Supreme Court had on November 25 ordered status quo on land acquired for the water project.“The rally is being organized to sensitize the youth of the state about the gravity of the situation,” said Chief Minister, Prakash Singh Badal, while talking to media on the sidelines of a Sangat Darshan in Patiala, here on Wednesday.The rally has angered the Opposition, which feels that rather making it an emotive issues in the state for the sake of garnering votes, the chief minister should take up issue with his political ally the prime minister Narenda Modi. “Rather than putting Punjab’s point of view in SYL issue in front of PM Narendra Modi, when he had visited Bathinda recently, the party is now raking up the issue to gain political mileage,” senior Congress leader, Sunil Jakhar told DNA.The party has roped in volunteers from across the districts to make the rally a success by arranging a network of buses to bring people from all districts. Apprehending any protests, it has also locked horns with the group of radical Sikhs by not granting permission to organize the Sarbat Khalsa on the same day, in Talwandi Sabo, 100 kms away from Moga.

Kashmir unrest: Rights group accuses India of ‘indiscriminate’ use of force against protesters

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> A US-based health rights group has accused Indian security forces of “excessive” and “indiscriminate” use of force against protesters with weapons like pellet guns during clashes in Kashmir this year, resulting in injuries and deaths.In their report, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) describes the excessive and indiscriminate use of force against protesters by Indian state police and Central Reserve Police Force with weapons misleadingly represented as “less than lethal”.These included tear gas grenades, pepper gas shells, live ammunition, and 12-gauge shotguns loaded with metal pellets, which account for the majority of injuries, it said in a report yesterday.”While Indian authorities claimed that the use of these weapons was meant to reduce the potential for injuries or fatalities, PHR researchers found that their use had in fact caused serious injury and death,” a media release said.It also accused security forces of using “intimidation tactics” against medical workers attempting to treat the injured.PHR said it found that authorities actively impeded protesters’ access to urgent medical care, both by harassing medical workers attempting to treat protesters and by preventing doctors from reaching the hospitals where they work.PHR called upon the Indian government to demonstrate its respect for the rights of all citizens by: prohibiting weapons for crowd control that are indiscriminate and cause excessive injury and death, namely the 12-gauge shotgun loaded with No9 shot; and provide adequate equipment and training to police forces to minimize injuries and deaths caused by police action.It also called upon India to cease unlawful practices that obstruct access to health care.

RIP Amma: This Facebook post about J Jayalaithaa sums up her life perfectly

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> With Amma’s death, an entire nation came to a standstill. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa passed away on December 5 of cardiac arrest in Apollo Hospital after being hospitalised for 74 days with a lung infection. Her funeral was attended by a host of leaders including Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and President, Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday. “On many occasions I had interactions with her on all subjects concerning development and administration. She had a wonderful mastery over facts and theories,” he said where he paid his last respects to Jayalalithaa.Party men and public broke police cordons to have last glimpse of their beloved leader, throwing security arrangements out of gear. J Jayalalithaa charmed watchers with her acting and dance moves in over 140 films. She served as a Tamil Nadu chief minister for over 14 years from 1991 to 2016. A Facebook post on Amma’s life went viral and has been shared 23,000 times. The Facebook post of Charanya Kannan summarises Amma’s life, and why she will be irreplaceable even decades after her death. She wrote on Facebook: She was only 16 years old when she starred opposite M.G.R in Ayirathil Oruvan. The entire cast & crew would stand up every time the veteran actor walked in, but the Church Park educated, English speaking Jayalalitha sat there with her legs crossed, reading her book. It was this audacity that went on to define the rest of her political career. Obviously, she was a charming, multi-faceted actor who was trained in various dance forms. But not so obviously, she was well read and witty, she was intelligent and she knew it. It was not merely her affair with MGR that drew her to politics, it was her prolific ability to speak in English & Hindi with an intellect that could match an economist. When MGR died, she sat conspicuously at his head for an entire two days, relegating his wife Janaki to a sidelined spot. Janaki’s aids tried to push her away, in fact pinched her, stepped on her feet, but she refused to budge. When she got on to the carriage for the final procession, she was visibly pushed off it in front of all television cameras. This effrontery was what would help her survive all those years of politics that would follow. The entire party split into two after MGR’s death, but four years later united under her leadership to form one formidable opposition. She won against all odds. She was a white skinned Brahmin in a party that thrived due to its Dravidian anti-class rhetoric. She was a glamorous actor who cannot, by definition, be taken seriously. Above all, she was a woman trying to ascend to power in 1980s in Tamilnadu. An unmarried, childless woman. To put it in context, she was not only walking a path of thorns, she did it in an oxygen less chamber while her arms and legs were tied. It’s a feat that she survived at all, not to mention that she actually thrived. In 1989, when she opposed Karunanidhi’s presentation of the budget, she was almost disrobed in the assembly. This was in addition to being the recipient of lewd comments and hair pulling. This is probably the highest documented insult that a woman has ever faced in a state Assembly. Yet she persisted. She came out of that incident more guarded than ever before. She wrapped herself in layers of clothing and stopped wearing any jewelry at all. She succeeded at ‘desexualizing’ herself and branded herself as ‘amma’ (mother), the only known way to gain respect in that highly testosterone filled environment. Everyone knows her as the person who silences opposition and who creates sycophants who fall at her feet and worship her. This was the only possible way she could command, consolidate and hold on to the otherwise elusive power. If she was any more cordial than this, she might have as well been an airhostess. She played popular politics. When the DMK promised laptops, she provided table fans, mixers and grinders instead all branded with her cherubic photograph on it. She accumulated disproportionate assets in 1996, and has faced her share of atonement. However, no one else, not even men, could have been a formidable opposition to the DMK that has systematized corruption and nepotism in ways that she couldn’t. Forget her followers who baselessly immolate themselves or cut off their fingers in a spree of blind devotion towards her. I have spoken to several civil servants of the state who claim they function with lesser interference under her leadership than under the other party. And with four and a half years of her term left, there is no single leader that can fill her void. It will be several years, even decades, before another woman can even remotely achieve what she did in a state like Tamilnadu. Now her statues will come up all over the state, and for once I’m glad. In a few generations, all that will matter is that there is a woman’s statue as well, and that statue is not a mere kannagi who was venerated because she was a perfect wife, but of a woman who was a true and powerful leader of her own merit and her own making.

Rash driving: SC for amending laws to provide harsh punishment

Tue, 6 Dec 2016-03:55pm , New Delhi , ANI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Central Government to amend laws to provide harsh punishment for rash and negligent driving.An apex court bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra asserted that people are dying in road accidents, adding stringent law is the need of the hour. “There has to be fear of law among the people indulging in rash and reckless driving on roads at cost of others life,” the apex court bench said. “People were losing their lives and limbs in road accidents. There should be a fear of law,” the court added.Concerned about the menace of rash and negligent driving which claims nearly 400 lives on Indian roads every day, the Supreme Court had earlier this year said that the existing two-year imprisonment for the offence was grossly inadequate.

Speaker orders short duration debate on demonetization, Opposition fumes

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Riding on the support of three opposition parties – Biju Janata Dal (BJD), Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) and YSR Congress besides NDA partners, the government managed to start the debate on demonetization under Rule 193 in the Lok Sabha but could not take it beyond the first speaker amidst vociferous protests by the rest of the Opposition.Speaker Sumitra Mahajan acceded to the demand of treasury benches to begin the demonetization debate under Rule 193 amid vociferous protests by Congress, Trinamool Congress (TMC), Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Left parties who were demanding debate under Rule 184 that entails voting.Leader of Congress, Mallikarjun Kharge said the Opposition was ready to initiate the debate under Rule 184 instead of their original demand for under Rule 56 to bring an adjournment for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance.”We have come down from Rule 56 to Rule 184. Now the government should also come down from Rule 193 and agree to Rule 184,” he said. While TMC leader Sudip Bandhopadhyay and P Karunakaran of CPM and SP and BSP supported Kharge, Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) wanted the debate under Rule 193.However, as soon as TRS member AP Jithender Reddy rose to speak, Opposition members trooped into the well shouting slogans.Later minister for parliamentary affairs, Ananthkumar later said, “We want to know only one thing now whether the opposition wants a debate on demonetization at all. Emergent subject has been lost because of machination of Congress and TMC. They should also clarify their view on passage of four very important bills on Disability, Maternity benefits, HIV/AIDS prevention and Employees compensation. This omnibus obstruction is not only reprehensible but also mindless.”There was change in the situation in the Upper House as having superior strength, the Opposition parties kept up the pressure on the government through slogan shouting.Congress, BSP, SP and TMC members raised slogans demanding the government’s reply on the problems faced by employees and pensioners due to demonetisation.Leader of Opposition, Ghulam Nabi Azad said, “The government employees and pensioners are not getting their salaries. I want to know from the government if there is a financial emergency…When the ATMs in Parliament are not working, one can imagine what would be the condition in small cities and villages”Whenever, Deputy Chairman P J Kurien called for a discussion, Opposition members trooped into the Well raising slogans — “Logon Ka Paisa, Logon Ko Do (Give the money that belongs to people)”, “Hosh mein aao, Hosh mein aao, Pradhan Mantri House Mein Aao (Come to your senses, PM come to the House).”

After demonetization, Union Minister Giriraj backs sterilisation, faces criticism from opposition

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Union Minister Giriraj Singh has advocated ‘nasbandi’ (sterilisation) after demonetization for population control to spur development, but the idea was today trashed by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who said the country has seen the effect of such a move in the past.The Union Minister of State for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) had come up with the idea yesterday and said that after “notebandi” (demonetization), there is an urgent need to make laws for “nasbandi” (sterilisation) in the country. “India has 17 per cent of the world population which adds population equal to Australia every year. The country only has 2.5 per cent of land mass of the globe with only 4.2 per cent of water resources. In this scenario, the population explosion in the country is proving to be a big roadblock for development. We need a population control act to tide over the problem,” Singh had said.He had also reportedly talked about sterilisation to control the population growth at a function in his Nawada parliamentary constituency earlier.Chief Minister Nitish Kumar trashed the idea as “bakwaas” (nonsense).”The country has seen effect of nasbandi earlier,” he said, referring to the mandatory sterilisation drive during the Emergency period.Singh’s party BJP, however, chose to remain cautious over his remark. The party sought to distance itself from the word ‘nasbandi’, but asserted the need for birth control for nation’s development.”There may be some differences while choosing words to communicate one’s message. What Giriraj Singh meant to say is to have birth control measures in order to check population explosion. This is the government’s policy to go for birth control. Even some social organisations work in the field… I am not saying anything on nasbandi,” Bihar BJP president Nityanand Rai told PTI.Leaders from other parties slammed Singh for the remark, saying he is merely trying to create a sensation by making such statements. Bihar Congress president and minister Ashok Choudhary said, “People like Giriraj Singh, who belong to an ideology, are trying to create a sensation in the society by making such statements. If they are really concerned about the nation’s development, they should correct it through policy measures…He is trying to sow division in the society.” Stating that both the Central and state governments have already taken a lot of effective steps to check population, Choudhary said, “It has been found that wherever female literacy level is high, fertility rate is low and vice-versa. We are trying to create that kind of system and hence, the state government has decided to open 10+2 school in every panchayat.” RJD spokesman Mrityunjay Tiwari said Singh was known for his controversial statements.”No one takes note of his statements. He must respect the dignity of the post of minister,” he said.

Jayalalithaa’s illness brings forth issue of rudderless govts, order of succession

Editor’s note: The following article was originally published on 10 October, a few days after Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa was first hospitalised. It is being updated in light of the news that she suffered a cardiac attack on Sunday and at the time of writing, is said to be ‘very critical’.

The prolonged hospitalisation of the Tamil Nadu chief minster Jayalalithaa has brought to fore once again the question of rudderless states, the question that has neither been addressed by the Indian constitution nor by the Supreme Court even though the answer has never brooked any delay. She is reportedly under life support system in Chennai’s Apollo hospital which routinely gives a laconic bulletin about her fast recovery. And to make matters worse, there are credible reports of extra constitution persons like ex chief secretary issuing orders from the chief minister’s bedside. One wonders how the one under life support system can be consulted. Naturally, someone had to file public interest litigation (PIL) before the Madras High Court. File he did but the Court threw it out contemptuously whereas it deserved to be heard in all earnestness if only to bring the issue centrestage. In fact the Madras High Court ought to have commended the matter to the Supreme Court with a prayer that it be considered by a constitution bench.

Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa. AFPTamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa. AFP

Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa. AFP

It is amazing that our constitution makers who took elaborate pains in framing it thought nothing of this seminal issue though in all fairness they cannot be accused of sweeping it under the carpet when the founding fathers of the US constitution squarely addressed the issue. Under the US Presidential Succession Act, 1947, Jayalalithaa-like situation has been envisaged and answers. Should the US President die in harness or take ill or is otherwise unfit to carry out the humungous responsibilities of his office, the Vice President takes over and in his absence, speaker of the House of Representative and so on. To be sure, the US has adopted a presidential form of democracy unlike India’s Parliamentary but that hardly is a handicap for us in not addressing the issue of temporary vacuum in the office of chief minister or prime minister.

The Indian company law is only a shade better than the Indian Constitution in this regard. It says the Board of Directors of a company can appoint an alternate director when a director of a company is absent from India for a period of 3 months or more. In other words it too fails miserably in addressing the issue of line of succession. To be sure, it contains provisions for disqualification and removal of directors. For example a person of unsound mind cannot be appointed a director and should he subsequent to his appointment become imbecile, he must vacate the office forthwith. But this is neither here nor there. Imbecility is not an issue as much as dereliction of duty willy-nilly on health and other grounds is. But then listed companies are constantly under the watch of vigilant shareholders and in any case Boardrooms abhor vacuum so much so that vacancies are bound to be filled up sooner than later.
Politics however is less tolerant and indulgent of those in power, with opposition relishing the prospect of sniping at the alleged delinquent as is happening in Tamil Nadu where the opposition DMK is darkly hinting at the CM already being brain dead.

The issue has graver ramifications for the central government. The former prime minister Deve Gowda acquired the reputation of sleeping prime minister with the appellation going beyond mere figurative speech. He actually used to doze off. In the US, judges do not retire but can go on. However they are removed at the first hint of senility. Levity apart, we do not have any concrete guidelines on the issue of who steps into the shoes of the prime minister though the incumbent prime ministers take care to make their own arrangements like the former prime minister handing over the reins to the senior most minister Pranab Mukherjee whenever he was admitted into hospital for treatment. But then this is not one is asking for. When the prime minister Shastri died in Tashkent, the void was temporarily filled in by the supposedly docile Guzarilal Nanda and when prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated, her son Rajiv Gandhi was sworn in as the prime minister, unmindful of the raised eyebrows and hackles.

The political parties got together to pass the GST bill, a seminal piece of enabling constitution amendment. They must similarly get together to provide for a structured regime of succession and not leave it to chances and whims of politicians.

First Published On : Dec 5, 2016 15:15 IST

PM Modi, Afghan President Ghani hold bilateral talks; focus on trade, security

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday held bilateral talks focusing on a range of key issues including boosting trade and investment, India’s reconstruction activities in the war-ravaged country and ways to strengthen defence and security partnership.The issue of firming up an air cargo service pact between the two countries is understood to have figured in the talks which will give India a leverage in Afghanistan as Pakistan continued to deny transit link through its territory.Ghani arrived here last evening to attend the Heart of Asia Istanbul Process conference which began here yesterday.In the meeting, Modi assured Ghani of India’s continued support for ensuring peace and stability in Afghanistan.Also, Afghanistan is learnt to have sought enhanced supply of military hardware from India.Afghanistan has been trying to revamp its military to fight the resurgent Talibans after drawdown of NATO forces began nearly two years back.Sources said both India and Afghanistan were keen to finalise the air cargo agreement as soon as possible and that the broad contours of the pact were already finalised.India and Afghanistan have been exploring various connectivity projects for greater two-way trade.In May, India, Iran and Afghanistan had signed an agreement to set up a trade and transport corridor with Chabahar in Iran as the hub with an aim to develop a transit corridor.The sea-land route of Chabahar Port was designed to bypass Pakistan and the project was seen as India’s effort to counter China’s plan to develop Gwadar port in Pakistan.Afghanistan was very keen on deeper defence and security cooperation with India and there were indications that Ghani may press for ramping up supply of arms and military hardware from India though Pakistan would be unhappy if there was closer Indo-Afghan military cooperation.Last week, India had given to Afghanistan the last of the four military helicopters.India has trained hundreds of Afghan security personnel but has been adopting a cautious approach in providing weapons as it did not want to antagonise Pakistan.Afghanistan has also been seeking India’s assistance in making functional Soviet-era helicopters and transport aircraft which were not in flying condition.India has a strategic partnership with Afghanistan and is implementing projects worth USD 2 billion to help rebuild the country’s infrastructure.India has been supporting an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, broad-based and inclusive process of peace and reconciliation, and advocating the need for a sustained and long-term commitment to Afghanistan by the international community.

RBI eases cash balance requirements for banks | Reuters

By Suvashree Choudhury

MUMBAI The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will allow banks to use all their cash to meet the central bank’s new cash reserve ratio requirements, not just a certain amount of the money, in a technical but important move that could provide relief to the country’s banks.The RBI on Saturday had ordered banks to put all the deposits they accumulated between mid-September and mid-November under the central bank’s cash reserve ratio. The banks had been flooded with deposits after the government banned larger bank notes.That created problems for banks. Under India’s complicated rules for cash holdings, only a certain amount of the cash they hold in their vaults is eligible to be placed under cash reserve requirements. Those issues should now be resolved. The RBI in a statement on Wednesday widened the criteria for cash that can be included, including all the 500- and 1,000-rupee notes the government abolished this month.

“In the wake of deposits of specified bank notes in massive quantity and accumulations thereof, the above instructions have been revisited,” the RBI said.The move triggered a big rally in banking shares as well as bonds.Investors had worried that banks would have to scramble to get the cash required to place with the RBI under the more stringent cash reserve ratio requirements.

The 10-year benchmark bond’s yield fell 8 basis points to 6.24 percent on Wednesday, erasing almost all the losses on Monday after the RBI’s announcement. The yield rose as much as 15 bps to 6.34 percent then.The RBI said it will review the decision in the second half of February.

For RBI statement see (Editing by Rafael Nam, editing by Larry King)

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

First Published On : Nov 30, 2016 19:17 IST

Nagrota attack is a complete intelligence failure: Shiv Sena

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Hitting out at the Centre over the terror attack on an Army mess in Nagrota, Jammu and Kashmir, in which seven defence personnel were killed, the Shiv Sena on Wednesday dubbed it as a ‘complete intelligence failure’ and urged Prime Minister led government to launch a strict action against the hostile neighbour.”It doesn’t seem to be stopping. We need to take very strong action against Pakistan. I think one surgical strike was not enough. And the more astonishing and surprising facts are that the Army base camps are being targeted now. So, where is the intelligence, where is our information system? It is a complete failure that there used to be attacks on civilians, in the villages but now the army base camps and such place are being targeted,” Shiv Sena leader Manisha Kayande told ANI here.”After Pathankot this is the third attack, so it’s a complete intelligence failure and the government has to take stringent action against it,” she added.Echoing similar sentiment, another Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut called on the government to up the ante against Pakistan and stop gloating over the one lone surgical strike.”Ever since the Uri attack happened, Pakistan has turned the heat and unleashed a string of attacks on us, while we are still beating the drum about one, lone surgical strike. Yes, we did carry out a surgical strike but clearly that has not silenced Pakistan. One mere surgical strike does not amount to teaching Pakistan a lesson,” Raut told ANI.Meanwhile, extensive combing operations resumed on Wednesday morning in Nagrota.Army spokesman, Lt. Col Manish Mehta said that search and combing operation began with first day light.A group of heavily-armed terrorists in police uniform stormed an army unit in Nagrota in morning hours on Tuesday, triggering an intense gunbattle that lasted for hours.Seven army personnel, including two officers, were killed in this attack before three terrorists were killed in an armed stand-off which also involved a hostage-like situation with 12 soldiers, two ladies and two children being held captive.

BJP dares Mamata to ask TMC lawmakers to share bank details

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national secretary Rahul Sinha on Wednesday dared West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banrejee to ask her Trinamool Congress (TMC) lawmakers to disclose their bank details, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi has done with his party.”I would like to applaud our Prime Minister’s guts for this step. No other party would have dared to this to their own members. As decided by our party president Amit Shah, we will submit all bank related details and if possible share it with the public as well. Mamata doesn’t have the guts to take this step. She has been ranting because she has lost all of her money after Prime Minister Modi demonetized currency notes,” Sinha told ANI.Prime Minister Modi on Tuesday asked all BJP MPs and MLAs to give details of their bank accounts to party president Amit Shah from November 8, the day he announced the demonetization of currency notes, till December 31.The BJP leader’s remark came in response to Banrejee’s tweet who questioned the Prime Minister’s move wondering why the law makers were asked to submit their details post demonitization.Sinha further said that the opposition’s mouth would be ‘shut’ once all the BJP MPs and MLAs share their bank account details with the public.”I am absolutely sure that the public will appreciate our honesty. More than two-and-a-half years have passed since the Modi government took power and not a single corruption case has been registered against us,” he added.Sources said that the Prime Minister also instructed all lawmakers and legislators to submit their financial details by January 1, 2017.Banerjee questioning the move said, “Why only account details from Nov 8? Just 3 weeks. Why not last 2 1/2 years all details? PM Ji you think you alone are intelligent and the rest are … ??? After your 21 days of note bandi, the whole country is ghar bandi, so why this ..? (sic).

24 ISI agents arrested in 2016: Govt

Nine were detected in Rajasthan, six in Punjab, two in Gujarat, two in Jammu and Kashmir, one in Uttar Pradesh and four in Delhi, said the Centre. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As many as 24 ISI agents have been arrested for spying for the Pakistani intelligence agency so far this year, the Lok Sabha was informed on Tuesday.”In addition to these 24 agents, one Pakistani spy agent detected in October 2016 was Pakistan High Commission, New Delhi based intelligence officer Mehmood Akhtar,” Minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir said replying a written question.Of those, who were arrested so far this year, nine were detected in Rajasthan, six in Punjab, two in Gujarat, two in Jammu and Kashmir, one in Uttar Pradesh and four in Delhi.Ahir said some of the staff posted in Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi is suspected to be involved in running espionage network.The official who was apprehended by the Delhi Police for spying was consequently declared persona-non-grata by the Indian authorities. “The Government is taking adequate steps to counter such incidents in future. The Government is resolutely committed to take all necessary steps to ensure the security of the nation and the safety of our citizens,” he said.

Delhi bridge is India’s first to get intelligent measuring system

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The iconic old Yamuna Bridge of the Northern Railways (NR) is all set to become the country’s first railway bridge to have its camber tested electronically with the help of laser. Camber is a technical term for the upward deflection in girders of a bridge due to the stress exerted by traffic or trains moving on them. Confirming the development, NR Chief Spokesperson Neeraj Sharma said the contract to install the system, called the Intelligent Camber Measurement System, will be given in some time. The Expressions of Interest have already been called, he said.The old Yamuna Bridge was chosen as it fulfilled all the qualities the railways was looking for in this pilot project, a senior engineer from the NR’s Bridge Department told DNA. “It is old, carries a lot of traffic, is made of steel and is right within the limits of Delhi, making it easier to inspect. The project is being monitored at the divisional level, zonal level as well at the Railway Board. The offices of all these three set-ups are in Delhi,” he explained.At present, the camber measurement of bridges such as the old Yamuna Bridge is done manually, with the Engineering Department personnel having to walk on it with various measurement instruments and scales. “The disadvantage is that the measurements cannot be done in real time, that is when a train is passing on the bridge. With the Intelligent Camber Measurement System, however, real-time measurement of deflections on a bridge due to the forces exerted by a passing train can be recorded,” the official said. The officials are seeing the development as the railways’ slow but inevitable move towards the use of technology in matters concerning safety.On its edit page on November 22, in a ‘by invitation edit piece’ by Subodh Jain, Former Member (Engineering) Railway Board, DNA had highlighted the issue of over-dependence on humans for safety checking.Writing for DNA, Jain had stated: “The most striking feature of the Indian Railways is that no country operates such a massive system with so much technological backwardness. We are adding more trains year after year, more passengers are being carried from one place to another. The technological base of the system, however, remains the same as it was for the last several decades. Look at the way track fractures are checked even today by a single person walking in the wilderness in the cold night, with tools that have remained the same for years now.”

Another window for black money holders as govt looks to tweak Income-Tax?law

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Those having sleepless nights because of the old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes lying with them have now been given a window by the government, which placed a Bill in the Lok Sabha on Monday to tweak the provisions of the Income-Tax (I-T) Act.This legislation has an income disclosure scheme, under which black money holders can deposit the banned high-value currency notes in their accounts and declare them to the government. Once they do that, they can bring a part of that cash into the system after paying various levies.DNA simplifies the government move.What does the new black money scheme mean?The new scheme – Taxation and Investment Regime for Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, 2016′ (PMGKY) – is part of the Taxation Laws (Second Amendment) Bill, 2016 introduced in the Parliament on Monday. It attempts to plug loopholes in the I-T Act, 1961, which is being misused to conceal black money.What does it propose?Make penalty provisions more stringent and amend Section 271AAB for a two-tier tax penalty regime of 30 per cent and 60 per cent after presidential assent, which is expected soon.What does it mean to black money holders?They will get a window till December 30 for depositing unaccounted money in banks and come clean about it by paying higher tax, penalty and a surcharge of 49.9 per cent. The can deposit 25 per cent of unexplained income in a zero-rated government scheme with a four-year lock-in period.Is the 33 per cent surcharge levied on penalty?It is levied on the tax amount. For example, at 30 per cent, the tax paid on an undisclosed income of Rs 100 is Rs 30. The surcharge would be charged on Rs 30 at 33%, which comes to Rs 9.9. The penalty proposed is 10 per cent, which would be Rs 10. So, tax, penalty and surcharge on the unexplained income of Rs 100 would be Rs 49.9 or 49.9%.How much will they have to pay in total?Besides tax, penalty and surcharge, those who declare black money will also have to park 25% of that in the PMGKY scheme for four years without earning any interest. This means Rs 25 of the Rs 100 will fall there. So, the total amount to be paid to the government would be Rs 75 on undisclosed income of Rs 100.How much money will be at their disposal?Those declaring hidden wealth will be able to bring back Rs 25 of the unexplained Rs 100 back into circulation and into the formal sector. They can withdraw another Rs 25 after four years.What if they fail to make use of this window?Then they can file tax returns at the end of the financial year and declare unknown income. But they will have to pay 60 per cent tax, 25 per cent surcharge and 10 per cent penalty. This means, they will have to pay Rs 75 (tax, penalty and surcharge) on Rs 100 against Rs 50 during the window period.If they do not disclose income while filing returns, the 75 per cent levy would become 85 per cent. In case of misreporting or under-reporting or any other wrongdoing, they would be governed by the current provisions under Section 270A of a levy of 50 per cent (under-reporting) and up to 200 per cent (misreporting)

SC to examine plea for norms on security clearance to firms accused of economic offences

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to examine on Monday plea seeking framing of guidelines for grant of security clearance by the Centre to firms, accused of economic offences, from taking part in public auctions.”Issue notice,” a bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice D Y Chandrachud said while issuing notice to the Ministry of Home Affairs on the plea of BJP leader Subramanian Swamy. The Rajya Sabha MP submitted that the Delhi High Court and the Bombay High Court have recently taken divergent views on the issue of security clearance by MHA while dealing with e-auction process of private FM radio channels. The Bombay HC held that the grant of security clearance falls under the exclusive domain of MHA, he said, adding the Delhi High Court allowed Sun Group, controlled by Kalanidhi Maran and former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran, who are accused in the Aircel-Maxis scam case, to bid for the airwaves auction.Dealing with the nod to Sun Group to take part in the auction process of FM radio channels, Swamy said MHA refused security clearance and the Attorney General overturned its objection and gave opinion in favour of the group whose promoters are facing prosecution in the Aircel-Maxis scam. “Do you mean to say the grant of licence to a firm, facing prosecution for financial offences, would threaten national security. We feel security clearences are misnomer,” the bench observed. It, however, later issued notice on the plea. Swamy also said that till the time the apex court frames guidelines, the process of grant of licence to the firms, charged with economic offences, be stayed.The plea said, “The matters related to the national security of the country are specifically been delegated by the President of India to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and not to any other department or body of the Union.”That means any decision by the Home Ministry on the subject of the national security cannot be questioned by any other ministry or persons. The matter of national security being a specialised job, is therefore an exclusive domain of MHA,” it said. Swamy said that he was “alarmed that some of the 2G accused were being permitted on a doubtful and contrived security clearance to participate in the e-auction process of private FM radio channels (phase III) and airwaves held by the central government.””The control of the radio and airwaves as well as electronic media by the central government is an extremely important aspect of national security and this court has time and again emphasised that the national security cannot be compromised,” the plea said. Seeking guidelines from the court, the plea said that inadequate security clearance policy of the government and the two judgements of the Delhi and the Bombay high courts can be used as a ground to bypass the “mandatory security clearance process by the companies” and this could become a threat to national security.It alleged that “inadequacy” and “non-uniformity” in security clearance policy of the government has created this problem where a “tainted person or a company” can be part of a process which can have serious impact on the national security.

Demonetisation to eradicate black money, to benefit all: Govt tells Supreme Court

New Delhi: The Modi government on Thursday asserted in the Supreme Court that the “bold move” of demonetisation would eradicate black money and slush funds operating since Independence which cast a “parallel economy” hitting the poor and the middle class.

The Centre, which filed an affidavit on demonetisation, said the decision on which a total secrecy was maintained, would now help in proper implementation of the ambitious ‘Jan Dhan Yojana’ under which around 22 crore bank accounts for poor people have been opened as reports of unscrupulous elements using these accounts to convert their black money into white surfaced.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley during a Rajya Sabha proceeding on Thursday. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley during a Rajya Sabha proceeding on Thursday. PTI

Further, demonetisation is seen as a check on the real estate sector where prices get pushed up artificially, reducing the availability of affordable housing for the poor and the middle class.

Elaborating on several measures including the “thrust” given for increasing digital payments in the economy through credit and debit cards, internet banking, mobile apps and e-wallets, the Centre said their use has seen a jump of nearly 300 percent in the last 10 days.

In its affidavit, the Centre also gave reasons for maintaining secrecy about the move which was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi just after 8pm on 8 November and came into force from the midnight.

“The gigantic dimensions and possibilities of compromising on secrecy were taken into consideration. If elaborate prior arrangement for distribution of new currency notes were made prior to the announcement of the scheme, the very objective of the scheme would have been defeated.

Further, the scheme impacts several sectors in the short-term but promises large benefits in the economy in the medium-term,” the affidavit said.

The affidavit, filed a day before a crucial hearing, contended that “no serious attempt at this scale has been attempted in the past” and in the “two attempts made in 1946 and 1978, the scale of operation was not as expansive due to the sheer size of the cash component in the economy”.

Justifying the decision to do away with Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes which constituted 80 to 85 percent of the cash flow, the affidavit, settled by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, said, “The withdrawal of existing high denomination banknotes will curb funding of terrorists with the proceeds of FICN (fake Indian currency notes) and use of existing FICN network for subversive activities.”

“It will eliminate black money which casts long shadow of the parallel economy on our real economy. The poor and middle class, who are worst sufferers due to black money, will be benefited. It will reduce tax avoidance and bring more transactions into the formal economy,” it said.

“Information has been received that there is sudden spurt in the quantum of deposit in several Jan Dhan accounts. There are also reports of unscrupulous elements using Jan Dhan accounts of poor and innocent persons to convert their black money into white.

“Such spurt in deposits will be looked into closely. Jan Dhan account holders are requested not to allow their accounts to be misused by anyone,” it said.

Claiming that removal of high denomination currency notes of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 would lead to decline in real estate prices making affordable housing available to all, the affidavit said, “At present, there is excessive use of cash in real estate sector due to large cash transactions in areas
such as purchase of land and housing property. The real estate prices get pushed up artificially.

“This reduces the availability of affordable housing for the poor and middle class. Greater over-the-board transaction will lead to a decline in real estate prices making affordable housing available to all.”

The government said all necessary steps are being taken to reach every nook and corner of the country with new currency notes of Rs 2,000 and Rs 500 and accordingly ATMs are being recalibrated and emphasis was laid on printing more number of new legal tenders of greater value.

The Modi dispensation said the decision on demonetisation was in line with successive actions it has taken since coming to power in May 2014 after which an SIT was formed to go into the black money issue.

“The decision was taken keeping in view the need for continuous pressure for the eradication of black money, in line with successive action being taken since the last two years, starting with formation of SIT in June 2014, provisions for declaration of undisclosed foreign income in June 2015, the approval of the measures to incentivise digital payments and move towards a less cash economy in February 2016 and the introduction of the income declaration scheme in July 2016,” the affidavit said.

While seeking dismissal of the petitions challenging the 8 November notification on demonetisation, it said the scheme was in coherence with the legal provisions and such actions
can only be interfered by the courts if they are shown to be “arbitrary”, “unreasonable” and “illegal”.

Further, the demonetisation action fall in the realm of fiscal/economic policy and it is well-settled that there is a limited scope of judicial review over such actions, it said.

Elaborating the steps taken for better convenience of the public, the government said it was closely monitoring the implementation of the decision and to avoid inconvenience to the public, old high-denomination banknotes will continue to be accepted in carrying out emergent and urgent transactions.

It said old currency notes would be allowed for making payments in government hospitals and pharmacies in government hospitals, at railway ticketing counters, purchase at consumer cooperative stores and milk booths operated under authorisation of the central and state governments.

It would also be used for purchase of petrol, diesel and gas at stations operated by PSUs, for making payments to all toll plaza in the states and national highways, for payment on purchases of LPG gas cylinders, entry tickets for monuments maintained by the ASI, payments towards court fees and also for making payments towards utility charges including water and electricity.

First Published On : Nov 24, 2016 21:37 IST

Demonetization: SC to hear plea by Tamil Nadu-based co-operative society against curbs

Thu, 24 Nov 2016-12:50pm , New Delhi , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear on Friday a plea seeking a direction to the Centre and the RBI that a Tamil Nadu-based co-operative society be allowed to accept old demonetized currency notes and permit withdrawals.A bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur listed the plea for hearing on Friday when the counsel said that it was an urgent matter as the member of the co-operative society has not been able to withdraw and deposit the money.The plea has been filed by a Villupuram-based N K Kumar that he has not been able to withdraw his money deposited with Gingee Primary Agricultural Society in the area.The plea said that the co-operative society has been accepting deposits and has been maintaining locker facilities. It has sought an appropriate direction to respondents including the Centre and RBI to implement the regulation issued on November 8, 2016 which permitted financial institutions to pay to their customers having an account with them.

Home ministry official holds meeting with locals in Nawanshahr, seeks suggestion on demonetisation

Nawanshahr: A senior official with Union home ministry on Wednesday held a meeting with bankers, farmers, traders and businessmen here to seek suggestions for addressing the “problems” they were facing due to demonetisation of the old currency.

Dalip Kumar, a Union Joint Secretary (Home Affairs), New Delhi, on Wednesday visited the town and held a meeting with different sections of the society.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Locals including farmers and traders urged the official to convey to the Union government that the cap of Rs 50,000 fixed on withdrawal of money was quite insufficient and it needed to be raised on urgent basis to save trade and industry.

The Joint Secretary reportedly assured them of conveying their concerns to the government.

The Lead Bank Manager VK Sharma, apart from giving out the information concerning calibration of ATMs in the district, told the Secretary that new currency notes in the denomination of Rs 500 were yet to reach the district.

Meanwhile, a group of Non Resident Indians (NRI) who were on Punjab visit claimed that they were adversely affected by the scrapping of old currency.

Led by Rajpal Singh, NRIs who are settled in the US, Canada, the UK, and UAE said that they were clueless on how to exchange the scrapped Indian currency which is in their possession to cater to their day to day needs.

They submitted a memorandum to the government through the local district administration here saying that every year in winter hordes of NRIs visit their motherland to meet their families, relatives and to attend marriages and such other social functions, besides visiting their religious shrines to pay obeisance.

But this year they were facing grave problems due to the scrapping of high currency notes, Singh said. NRIs have urged the government to allow them the facility of withdrawing more cash from their accounts in view of their usually short stay in the country.

The deputation also urged for setting up of separate counters in banks to deal with their problems.

Rajpal Singh said in view of “hardships” triggered by non-availability of Indian currency while many NRIs have cut short their visit and returned to foreign countries, many others who were to visit India have started getting their tickets cancelled.

He said the government must come up with a plan to ensure hassle-free exchange of Indian currency which the NRIs usually keep in their homes for emergency situations.

First Published On : Nov 23, 2016 20:07 IST

SC expresses disappointment over Centre not appointing Lokpal

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> The Supreme Court on Wednesday expressed its disappointment over the Centre for not appointing Lokpal despite Parliament enacting a law in this regard in January 2014.While the Centre said that the amendment bill is pending in Parliament to include the leader of largest opposition party, a bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur said that Parliament, by not amending the law, cannot frustrate the mandate for appointment of Lokpal. The bench, also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao, asked Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi as to why the court can’t pass an order to include the leader of largest opposition party in the selection committee. The bench posted the matter for further hearing on December 7 when the AG would come back with instructions. Rohtagi told the bench that any order by the court in the present situation would amount to judicial legislation.Senior advocate Shanti Bhushan appearing for an NGO, Common Cause, said that the Lokpal Bill has been passed after a long struggle and alleged that the government is not doing anything. “We don’t have Lokpal even today, despite the Act being notified in 2014. Even jurist has not been appointed and the will of people is being frustrated. Do you require another Anna andolan?,” Bhushan said. He said that the apex court has to interpret the Lokpal Act to recognise the leader of the largest opposition party as the leader of the opposition (LoP).Rohatgi said that as per the provisions, the largest opposition party has to have a certain number of MPs in Parliament to claim the post of the leader of the opposition. He said therefore, the government is amending the Act to include the leader of the largest opposition party in the selection committee for appointment of Lokpal. “The amendment bill is pending in Parliament and it will take some time to get passed. There can’t be a protem situation in this case,” the AG said.To this, Bhushan said that it is a political trick and no Lokpal will be appointed. “There is a lack of political will. You can take my word. They will not pass this bill. The court should direct the first meeting of the committee to select the jurist,” Bhushan said. The apex court said that the LOP is “dispensable and things can proceed without the LOP”. If there is no LOP, then leader of the largest opposition party can be included in the selection committee, it said. Rohatgi said, “That’s what we have been saying. We have brought in the changes in the Act and the bill is pending before Parliament to include the leader of the largest opposition party in the committee.” Bhushan said that this problem has to be “solved or the political parties would frustrate the will of the people”.The senior advocate, while replying to the AG’s contention that asking Parliament to pass the amendment bill would amount to judicial legislation, said that the court is not interfering with the functioning of the House. “It is something which is outside Parliament and the court can pass directions with regard to that. It should direct that a time-bound meeting of the committee should be held,” Bhushan said.The court said, “Now we don’t have an LOP for past two- and-a-half years and it is likely that for the next two-and-a- half years, we would not have the LOP. “Since it is not likely to happen, there won’t be any LOP. Then will you allow the law to become redundant just because there is no LOP? An institution like this which is for probity in public life can’t be allowed to become redundant. This institution won’t work like this,” the court said.To this, the AG asked why the court is assuming that Parliament will not pass the amendment bill. It was Parliament which favoured and passed the Lokpal bill, he said. The bench said its an urgent situation and the institution like Lokpal should come up.

Demonetization ka side effect: Illegal opium trade in West Bengal’s Malda goes up in smoke

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has been vociferous in her criticism of demonetization, claiming the rural economy will be jeopardised by it. But in Malda, in North Bengal, demonetization has also affected the illegal opium trade in a big way.Malda is also a hub for illegal arms, cow smuggling and is referred to as India’s fake currency capital.The National Investigating Agency (NIA) in a report last year said that 90% of Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN) pushed into the country from Pakistan is routed through Bangladesh. Since Malda shares a porous border with Bangladesh, carriers smuggle the FICN into the country from here and release it into circulation. “Malda works as a landing point for agents, who circulate fake currency into the country. Malda shares its border with Nepal and Bhutan in the north and Bangladesh in the south. Agents who come from Bangladesh can easily sneak into our country as most of the International Border does not have fencing. Some agents even produce fake documents while entering our country,” a senior NIA official said.While the Bengal government has banned the cultivation of opium poppy, illicit opium trade has become rampant in the district and is partially dependent on the fake currency in circulation. Opium is a derivative of the poppy seed pod. Its cultivation takes place across three months – November, December and January in Malda. Agents from Bangladesh smuggle the poppy seeds and give it farmers. Farmers in return are increasingly cultivating the poppy seeds for better returns compared to the cultivation of other crops. “A bigha (0.4005 acres) of cultivable land yields 4 kgs of opium latex. The farmers scrape the latex before the poppy seeds mature and the latex is dried. For one kg of opium latex, a farmer is offered anywhere between Rs 60,000 – Rs 65,000 by the agent. Later, the villagers, who double up for the carriers, deliver the consignment from one point to another and receive a handsome amount of money, mostly fake currency notes. A carrier is supposed to cover a distance of 100 metres, which makes it difficult for the security agencies to keep track, as the entire village is engaged in it,” said a carrier, adding, “The final carrier hands it over to the agent and he deals with the drug mafias and the agents are paid Rs 1 lac for a kg of opium. The drug mafia later sends the consignment to other districts of Bengal like Birbhum and Murshidabad for processing. The opium latex is further processed into heroin and smuggled across the International Border into Bangladesh.” However, following the demonetization move, the opium trade has taken a hit and farmers are being offered Rs 30,000 for a kg of opium latex. “It is usually one of the most lucrative businesses. Cultivation of other crops depends highly on the rainfall we receive that particular year. But, cultivation of poppy is a great deal as it only takes three months to grow. It does not destroy the quality of the soil and keeps it ready for the cultivation of any other crop for the rest of the months. But, following the demonetization, we are being offered only half the amount of what was promised,” said a farmer, who refused to be named. He added, “The money that we used to receive also contained fake currency notes, but we did not mind as the fake notes were accepted anywhere in the district. Thousands of fake notes are in circulation in the district and no one refuses to accept it, hence we did not mind accepting those notes in the form of payment.” In the last five years, poppy cultivation has increased many folds. While the Kaliachawk-III was known for its poppy cultivation, it has now spread across Kaliachawk-I, II and Chachol-I, II besides blocks like Gajol, Bamongola and Habibpur. While the local police is taking up modern techniques like the use of drones to identify poppy fields and destroy them, farmers grow crops like sugarcane and maize on the periphery and use it as camouflage, making it difficult for identification. Last year, police reportedly destroyed several hundred acres of poppy fields. However, officials of the security agency reveal that some local police officials are hand in glove with the drug mafia and are often paid a commission to prevent destruction of their fields.

India needs to learn how to take care, improve health and living conditions of its cattle

Many people think that keeping a cow tied up in a dairy shed is a natural thing. When people see cows roaming on the roads, they react by saying that the dairy people should not let them loose and that they should be cared for and protected within the confines of a dairy. Instead of finding their own food – often from trashcans and garbage heaps – they should be fed within the shed.

While I think it is appalling to let cows out on the street to fend for themselves, keeping them in sheds permanently simply to be fed and to give milk, is even worse. Some spend their entire lives standing on concrete or dirt floors contaminated with blood, urine and faeces, often confined in crowded sheds.

In small and leaky sheds, the cow endures all types of weathers including rain and extreme temperatures, 24 hours a day. A shed may provide shade but certainly not a clean and comfortable resting area. Their ropes are so short that most cows have to keep their heads low all day long. In some cases, they have a rope going through their noses, so if they pull, their noses start bleeding.

Cows are often kept in unclean, crowded sheds. Representational image. AFP

Cows in India are often kept in unclean, crowded sheds. AFP

The cows have no access to their calves the entire day either. They show signs of stress from social isolation and an increased susceptibility to a number of diseases. They are not even allowed to graze freely for a few hours a day. According to food production scientists, milk production in India is the lowest in the world because cows and buffaloes are sick, unhappy, in constant pain and in a state of perpetual starvation. Cattle are large and they need exercise. They need the sun and fresh grass and movement without which they fall sick very soon.

A number of studies have shown that cows love to exercise. Being confined to a stall severely limits their natural activities such as walking, exploratory behaviour, grooming and licking their hindquarters. Lack of exercise leads to lameness or injury — a common reason for dairy cows to be sent for slaughter. Other causes of lameness include poor quality floors, cows being forced to stand for too long on hard surfaces and poor nutrition.

Often when cows and buffaloes are bathed — if you can call throwing a few buckets of cold water over them as bathing — the water is left to seep into the floor of the shed creating slurry and filth. The sheds always have a pungent odour of urine and are almost impossible to breathe in. There is no ventilation or light and the animals stand in the dark the whole day. The food troughs are never cleaned: fresh hay is simply piled on top of old, fermenting hay. Rats move in, and often the cows and buffaloes stop eating as they are liable to get bitten by the creatures already in the trough. Rat droppings become part of their food.

A highly contagious and erosive infection that affects the skin on the bulbs of the heel, digital dermatitis is caused by contact with slurry and thrives in damp and dirty conditions. The disease exists in dairy farms with poor hygiene and wet spaces.

Cows and buffaloes have a natural span of about 20 years and can produce milk for about eight years. But most dairies fail to recognise the veterinary care they need. After an injury or an illness is recognised — often at a young age of 3-5 years old ­— the cows are seen as worthless and sent to be slaughtered.

The dairy milker rarely washes his rough contaminated hands before he milks a cow. His hands hurt her and cause abscesses, and bacteria enters her body. Mastitis is the inflammation of the mammary gland and udder tissue and is a major endemic disease of dairy cattle. It occurs as a result of chemical, mechanical or thermal injury to the cow’s udder. When a cow is infected with mastitis, her milk-secreting tissues and various ducts throughout the udder can be damaged permanently by bacterial toxins. The inflammation leads to decreased milk production. The milk becomes contaminated, poisonous and unfit for consumption. But the buyer is never told of that. Milk is checked only for its fat content, but there is no check for bacterial load.

So many cows get endometritis — an infection of the inner layers of the uterus that reduces fertility and milk yield. The disease is spread and transmitted due to poor hygiene in a dairy farm.

When milk production reduces, the cattle gets sicker. It is then that the owner resorts to that dreadful injection of oxytocin which induces contractions in the uterus and forces the milk out. This also gives the animal labour pains twice a day and makes her sicker. Her uterus becomes inelastic and the farmer resorts to artificial insemination to make sure he gets calves quickly because he sees how sick she is.

Some animals also get ketosis, a disease that occurs in dairy cows and is characterised by partial anorexia and depression. The protein in her disease-riddled body breaks down. The bad smell, filth, darkness and rough milking combined with the pain in her joints and neck ache produce the unhealthiest, saddest being.

Unfortunately, there are no dairy laws in this country. And as a result, the milk yield of our cows and buffaloes is the lowest in the world and the worst nutritionally. Would you allow a new born baby to drink from the infected breast of his mother? No, of course not. But because of the filthy state of the dairies that produce milk, you are drinking diseased milk every day.

Is it better for the cows to wander around eating garbage, then? In the recent past, every village had gauchar land kept for the grazing of cows. Most heads of the villages have sold this land secretly, and now there is no place for the animals to go. They are stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea. They cannot stay in the sheds because those are appalling, and they are not allowed to move outside on the roads and the garbage dumps.

Has anyone considered their plight?

First Published On : Nov 22, 2016 15:18 IST

Why can’t you shift tanneries outside Kanpur, NGT asks UP

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Monday pulled up the Uttar Pradesh government for their lax attitude towards the health and environment hazards posed by the tannery hub at Jajmau, Kanpur, that grossly pollutes river Ganga. The tannery hub in Kanpur is perhaps the biggest in the country and accounts for nearly 40 per cent of the country’s leather exports. The NGT pulled up the authorities after they informed the bench that it will be difficult to shift the tanneries outside Kanpur, even as the industrial cluster discharges high amounts of carcinogenic chromium into the environment. The NGT’s principal bench is currently hearing a matter on industrial pollution in river Ganga, especially the highly polluted stretch between Haridwar and Kanpur. “Why can the industrial cluster not be shifted out of Kanpur? Should the industrial cluster take precedence over the fundamental right to environment and health?,”said NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar. The counsel for industries informed NGT that there are a total of 400 tanneries in Kanpur of which 211 units use chromium for tanning while 189 use vegetable tanning. Of the 211, 141 units have their own chromium recovery systems while 61 discharge their chromium into the common effluent treatment plant. Upon hearing that high concentration of chromium is discharged in spite of chromium recovery plants, the bench questioned both UP government and the industry counsel, “How is the chromium level high at discharge points. Either you are not operating chromium recovery plants or the units are not sending it to the CETP,” the bench said. The bench was informed that while mixing of sewage with wastewater from tanneries is one issue, the sub-optimal functioning of chromium recovery and treatment was another reason for high concentration of chromium. Chromium is used as a tanning agent to harden animal hides. It is carcinogenic and even as tanneries have their own chromium recovery or recycling systems, it is discharged into Ganga everyday. According to the Central Pollution Control Board, 9 million litres per day of industrial effluent is discharged into Ganga at Kanpur from the tanneries.

Odisha: 12 lakh seized from the house of recruitment agent

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In two separate incidents, Odisha Police arrested a youth on charge of circulating fake Rs 2,000 notes and recovered Rs 4.8 lakh stocked in the newly-introduced denomination post the Centre’s demonetization move.Madhusudan Meher of Jharsuguda was arrested while he was trying to use the fake currency at petrol pump in Sunarimunda, a senior police officer said. The petrol outlet staff handed him over to the cops. “The note is a colour photocopy of an original Rs 2,000 currency. A case has been registered at the Jharsuguda police station and investigation is underway,” Sub-divisional Police Officer (SDPO) of Jharsuguda, Bijay Nanda said.Meanwhile in Bolangir district, police seized over Rs 12 lakh from the house of a recruitment agent of migrant labourers, popularly known as ‘dadan sardar’ on charge of stashing huge amount of cash. The police raided the house of Khirasagar Bag, a dadan sardar at Tingra village under Saintala police station limits last night and seized Rs 12,75,900, Bolangir SP Asish Singh said.
ALSO READ Demonetization | Businessman detained with Rs 12 lakh cash at Goa-Karnataka borderSingh said though they raided house of Bag on a tip-off about fake notes but the police could not find any. Out of the total amount recovered, Rs 2,000 notes were also stored which totaled upto Rs 4.8 lakh, he said. “The police were investigating as to how Bag could arrange so many Rs 2,000 notes while people stand in lines to get cash from banks and ATMs,” Singh said.Police suspected that the man was using local people to get demonetised notes exchanged for new the Rs 2,000 notes in different banks. Bag, however, he could not be arrested as he absconded before the raid took place, police said.

Nitish Kumar govt releases its annual report card, gives itself full marks for ‘development with justice’

Patna: Promulgation of a stringent liquor law coupled with a string of new development initiatives to provide power, toilets and drinking water to every household were the highights of the annual report card released by the Nitish Kumar government on the completion of a year in office.

A function to mark the release of the report was slated for Sunday, but was cancelled in the wake of the Indore-Patna Express tragedy in which 143 passengers were killed, many of them from Bihar.

Kumar after assuming power in the state in 2005 had started the tradition of releasing an annual report card to give an account of government’s developmental and welfare initiatives taken during the year.

In continuation with this, the report, the first of the grand secular alliance headed by Kumar was released on Monday on the website of the state Information and Public Relations Department.

The 140-page report titled “Development with Justice Mahagathbandhan Government Ist year” showcases the launch of “Saat Nishchay” (seven resolves) to usher in allround development of the state in the next four years of the JD(U), RJD and Congress coalition ministry.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. PTIBihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. PTI

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. PTI

It asserts that “rule of law” prevailed in the state. “Stringent enforecement of legal procedures and provisions without any malice or discrimination have led to reduction in crime rates with effective punishment to criminals rendering them ineffective. We have cracked down strongly on organised crime and shall continue the momentum with strict enforcement,” the CM said at the outset.

While highlighting the new initiatives by way of launch of programmes to realise the goal under ‘seven resolves’, the state government in its report said that it would continue with programmes and policies of ‘Agriculture Roadmap’,’Mission Manav Vikas’ (Human resources development), ‘Kaushal vikas mission (skill development mission)’ and Industrial promotion and incentives.

“Reiterating our old commitments to programmes of good governance, we have taken some resolves for all-round development of the state,” the CM said in the report.

“Our programmes and schemes of education, health and SC/ST, OBC, BC and Minority welfare, women and child development will continue to be implemented in the same or even stronger vigour,” he added.

The “Saat Nishchay” promises to provide electricity, drinking water, sewage, toilet and road to every household.

Aimed at youth and women, it also has facilities like interest-free loan of Rs 4 lakh, start-up venture capital, free WiFi in colleges and universities and 35 percent reservation for women in all state government jobs.

Painting a rosy picture on economic front, the report card highlighted that Bihar registered a growth of 10.59 per cent in Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) in 2015-16, which is more than the national growth of 8.71 per cent for the corresponding year.

Percentage contribution of Bihar’s GSDP in India’s GDP increased to 3.05 per cent in GDP of the country in 2015-16 (Q) from 2.83 per cent in 2011-12, according to the report. The revised plan outlay for the financial year for 2016-17 is Rs 79014.99 crore, 26 times higher than it was in 2004-05 at Rs 3059.22 crore.

In addition to giving details of the ‘seven resolves’, the annual report card highlights some other landmark initiatives of the state by bringing in Public Grievance Redressal Act and newer measures in the field of disaster management and police reforms.

The Nitish Kumar government launched Public Grievance Redresal Act, 2015 on the occasion of Sampoorna Kranti Divas and World Environment Day on June 5, 2016 to hear the complaints of the common man and address them within a timeframe.

The report card also gives details of aims and objectives of prohibition.

The CM had announced his seven resolves on the eve of Bihar poll 2015 in an apparent response to Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s declaration of Rs 165 crore special package (which included Rs 40,000 of previous packages) during state election.

The resolution for youths provides special schemes/programmes/policies to enable them to become self-reliant. It has provisions like Rs 4 lakh interest-free loan to every 12th pass student willing to go for higher education. This loan is available for general courses like BA/BSC and professional/technical courses like engineering/medical/management/Law.

It is expected to cover 5 lakh students during this financial year itself. Other items included providing Rs 1000 monthly allowance for two year to youth between 20-25 years of age to search for jobs without bothering family, imparting basic training in communication skills (hindi & english), soft skills and basic computer skills, free WiFi in colleges and universities and start of a venture capital of Rs 500 crore to encourage young enterpreuners.

As part of women empowerment policy, 2015, the state government has reserved 35 per cent jobs for women across all cadres and services of the state with effect from 20th January, 2016.

The resolves include ensurinng electricity in every rural and Urban household in Bihar.

“Har Ghar Bijli Lagaatar” launched on 15 November last promises to provide metered electricity connection to all households in the state. A total of 1387 villages without electricity connection have been identified under the scheme which intends to provide them power connection by end of 2018.

Another resolve promises to provide clean drinking water to every citizen of Bihar without any discrimination. This resolution is an unflinching endevour to provide clean drinking water in the homes of approximately 2 crore households.

Another ambitious resolution is to build toilet in every household to make Bihar free of open defecation. An approximate 1.68 crore toilet less families are being targetted to ensure they have toilet facility in the next 5 year.

The state government also promises to provide sewage and road facilities across the state. After implementation of the ‘Pradhanmantri Gram Sadak yojna’, left out habitations having no link shall be connected with pucca road, pucca drainage and by-lines will be provided in all villages and towns under the scheme “Ghar Tak Pakki Gali-Naliyaan.”

The state government also unveiled its dream of opening one engineering college in every district, one Bsc Nursing college in all Medical colleges, establishment of five more medical colleges in the state.

In the field of disaster management, it says that Bihar is the first state in the country to prepare 15 years “disaster risk reduction road map 2015-20. The card says that Bihar is the first state in the country to form and operate full time battalion of SDRF (State isaster Response Force) under control of Disaster Management Department to facilitate quick response and relief distribution.

There is arrangement of ex-gratia payment to the families of deceased persons within 24 hours codified, it added.

First Published On : Nov 21, 2016 20:10 IST

Demonetization: SC to hear Centre’s transfer plea on Wednesday

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear on November 23 a plea of the Centre seeking transfer of all demonetization cases to either one high court or the apex court.A bench of Chief Justice TS Thakur and Justice DY Chandrachud listed the matter after Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi mentioned it and sought an urgent hearing. Rohatgi said that as directed by the apex court on the last hearing of the case, the Centre has filed the transfer petition. The apex court had on November 18 dubbed as a “serious issue” the long queues outside banks and post offices and expressed its reservation on the Centre’s plea seeking a direction that no other court in the country should entertain petitions challenging the November 8 notification demonetizing Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 currency notes.It had made the remarks after the AG submitted that any matter relating to challenge to the demonetization issue be heard by the apex court only. However, the bench had said, “People are affected. People are frantic. People have the right to approach the courts,” noting that people were facing difficulties. The bench had questioned the relief measures undertaken by the Centre and asked why it had squeezed the exchange limit to Rs 2,000.The AG had then explained the situation by stating that after printing, the currency has to be moved to thousands of centres across the country and ATMs have to be re-calibrated.He had also said that Rs 100 notes are in circulation and the ATMs needed to be re-calibrated to issue new currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 2,000.The Centre had moved the apex court on November 17 seeking a stay on the proceedings before various high courts and other courts except the apex court against demonetization issue, saying otherwise it will create a lot of confusion. The apex court had on November 15 refused to stay the government’s demonetization notification, but asked it to spell out the steps taken to minimise public inconvenience.Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a televised address to the nation on November 8, had announced that Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes will no longer be legal tender from November 9. He had said the government has declared a “decisive war” against black money and corruption.

Clean Ganga | How can you regulate tanneries, if you can’t enter there, says NGT

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> has questioned the Uttar Pradesh government and its pollution control board over regulation of tanneries on the banks of river Ganga in Kanpur, asking how could they regulate them if their officials “can’t even enter their premises”.The NGT said industrial effluents, which contain high chromium, emanating from tannery clusters were polluting Ganga and even UP Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) was not aware of the actual number of tanneries till now.”You (UP and pollution control board) say that operation of tanneries should be regulated. But tell us one thing, how can you regulate them if your men cannot even enter their premises,” a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said.The observation came after UPPCB informed the bench that there were 400 tanneries in Kanpur which released effluents into the Jajmau drain and there was an urgent need to monitor their functioning to clean Ganga.The tribunal noted that all tanneries in Jajmau were not equipped with chromium recovery plants and immediate effort should be made to trap pollutants coming out of them.The tribunal had earlier asked the tanneries at Kanpur to clear their stand on shifting to some other place to stop uncontrolled discharge of effluents into the river. On November 15, the tribunal had stopped the government from spending “a single penny” for Ganga rejuvenation work between Haridwar and Unnao, saying a whopping Rs 20,000 crore was being spent on the entire national project by officials who did not even know about the river. The matter was listed for next hearing on November 21.The green panel has divided the work of cleaning the river in different segments — Gomukh to Haridwar (Phase-I), Haridwar to Unnao (termed as segment B of Phase-I), Unnao to border of Uttar Pradesh, border of Uttar Pradesh to border of Jharkhand and border of Jharkhand to Bay of Bengal.

Marrakesh climate meet ends on a mixed note

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Though it began under a cloud of uncertainty, as climate change denier Donald Trump was elected the next President of US, the annual climate conference at Marrakesh concluded Friday with a reaffirmation from countries to finish rulemaking for implementation of Paris agreement by 2018. The Paris agreement, that was adopted last December, became an international treaty in October as countries accounting for more than 55% of world’s greenhouse gas emissions ratified it. It was in this backdrop that more than 190 countries negotiated at Marrakesh to prepare the fine print for Paris deal’s. The agreement will kick-in after 2020 and countries decided that its rulebook should be completed by 2018. But, the consensus between developed and developing countries largely ended there. Differences persisted over crucial issues pertaining to climate finance, adaptation funds and scaling up reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases. Developed countries have committed to contribute $100 billion each year to help poorer and developing economies fight climate change for post-2020 action. A report by United Kingdom and Australia, sought to illustrate a ‘roadmap’ for generating this finance. But, this report was at the centre of much controversy as developing countries disagreed over its claims and accounting methodology. Eventually, the UN’s document on ‘Long-Term Finance’, ‘welcomed’ the submission of the controversial report, acknowledging it officially. This has left many developing and poor economies unhappy as the developed economies will be able to dominate discourse on generation of the all important climate finance. “The job here in Marrakech was to start writing the rulebook for the Paris Agreement and to take urgent action. But the issue of finance has thrown a spanner in the works. The general message to developing countries is ‘you’re on your own’. “Without real finance, and drastic cuts in emissions from rich countries, the planet doesn’t have a chance of staying under 1.5°C warming,” said Harjeet Singh, Global Lead on Climate, Action Aid. The replenishment of funds for adapting to climate change though, was one of positive developments from the Marrakesh conference. “There was a demand for replenishing the adaptation fund under the Paris agreement and that was done with $80 million. The issue of providing loss and damage finance to vulnerable countries though, will be taken up next year,” said Sanjay Vashist, Director, Climate Action Network, South Asia. Poor economies need adaptation fund to tackle the impacts of climate change on livelihoods.

War on black money: Rs 1 crore in scrapped Rs 1000 notes seized, 4 detained

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Rs 1 crore, in demonetized Rs 1000 currency notes, was seized from a luxury car at Vashi in Navi Mumbai and four persons were detained in this connection, police said on Saturday.”Acting on a tip-off, police laid a trap. When the car came and halted near a housing complex at Sector 28 in Vashi last evening, the police team checked the vehicle and found two bags full of currency notes of Rs 1000 denomination,” an official release by Navi Mumbai Police said.The four occupants of the vehicle, Prasad R Patil (36), an estate agent from Uran in Raigad district, Harishchandra Shinde (60), builder from Kharghar in Navi Mumbai, Pramod Padle (43), property agent and Avinash Jail (31), a cloth merchant, both from Byculla in Mumbai, have been detained and are being interrogated, Inspector Ashok Rajput said.During interrogation, the accused said they had come to Vashi to get the old notes exchanged, but did not reveal the source of the cash and where they planned to get the notes exchanged, police claimed.”As the four persons did not provide any documentary evidence of the source of the cash, the Income Tax Department has been informed about it. Their car worth Rs 10 lakh has also been seized,” they added.A case has been registered at Vashi Police Station on Saturday and further probe is on, police added.

JNU missing student’s case: Probe into Najeeb’s disappearance case hits roadblock

New Delhi: Delhi Police’s investigation into the mysterious disappearance of JNU student Najeeb Ahmed has hit a roadblock as the administration of Jamia Millia Islamia, where he was reportedly last seen, is allegedly not cooperating in the probe.

On Wednesday, the Crime Branch team had revealed that it has traced an auto driver who said he had dropped Najeeb at Jamia Millia Islamia.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

However, sources privy to the probe said the Jamia administration hasn’t shared the CCTV footage. “They aren’t cooperating with us. They haven’t yet shared the CCTV footage with us,” a source said.

Jamia authorities claimed that they have been cooperative in the probe. “They have approached us and we are cooperating with police in every possible way,” Jamia spokesperson said. Police had also said that Najeeb had hailed the auto himself and he wasn’t accompanied by anyone when he left the JNU campus thereby ruling out the theory that he was kidnapped.

On Wednesday, Delhi Police Commissioner Alok Kumar Verma also approved the increase in the reward amount from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 5 lakh owing to the “sensitivity” of the matter. Najeeb had gone missing on 15 October following an on-campus scuffle allegedly with ABVP members the night before.

Meanwhile, JNU Students Union President Mohit Pandey took to Twitter requesting an appointment with Vice Chancellor Jagadesh Kumar to seek a status report on Najeeb’s case. “Since our VC is only active on Twitter, we are tweeting to seek an appointment with him,” he said.

JNUSU General Secretary Satarupa Chakraborty tweeted, “Dear VC @mamidala90, we are waiting for your reply as JNUSU seeks urgent appointment.”

JNU students and teachers have been leading a movement alleging inaction on administration and Delhi Police’s part in tracing the missing student.

First Published On : Nov 18, 2016 12:04 IST

Opposition, govt differ on debate rules

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The government and Opposition are now at loggerheads over the rules under which demonetization should be debated in Lok Sabha.Even as Rajya Sabha suspended all business to debate the issue, the government has rejected the Opposition demand for an adjournment motion in the Lower House. The Opposition is, however, planning to insist on an adjournment motion when Lok Sabha meets on Thursday morning.The Opposition parties—Congress, Left, TMC, SP and RJD—made the proposal at a meeting of the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) of Lok Sabha on Wednesday morning. The government, however, expressed its reservations about accepting an adjournment motion, saying it was in favour of a debate under rule 193, entailing a simple debate. An adjournment motion, if admitted, leads to setting aside normal business of the House for discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance. The motion, that could entail voting, is allowed with the consent of the Speaker. Unlike in Rajya Sabha, where the government is in a minority, the treasury benches are numerically comfortable in Lok Sabha. Demonitisation was discussed on Wednesday in Rajya Sabha after all scheduled business was suspended.In Lok Sabha, six notices, mostly by the Left parties, were submitted seeking adjournment motion on demonitisation but the House adjourned after obituary references to world leaders and nine members, including sitting TMC MP Renuka Sinha. The government was of the view that a united message should go from Parliament that the political class was on the same platform when it came to fighting black money. According to the Opposition, it wanted to highlight the difficulties faced by the common man in the aftermath of demonetization. The Opposition is also trying to corner the government on what it has dubbed as “selective leakage” ahead of demonetization. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said her party will also seek an adjournment motion in Lok Sabha.

Demonetisation has boosted digital payments, says Freecharge’s Govind Rajan

While announcing demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated how the cash economy of India has been fuelling the growth of black money and corruption. And while it has been causing a lot of inconvenience to citizens, the move seems to have boosted digital modes of payments in India, says Govind Rajan, CEO, FreeCharge, who dropped by Firstpost on Wednesday to discuss how the demonetisation move has impacted the traditional, cash-based transaction system.

Rajan, who joined FreeCharge in 2015 tells us that Modi’s announcement on demonetisation has given digital payments a huge boost, adding that the move to digital payments is good for everyone, especially customers.

The main advantage, in his view, is a more efficient economy. Yes, the announcement did cause great inconvenience to a large number of people, but he’s happy that it’s also shifted the focus to a more secure payment platform.

Speaking of FreeCharge, an e-commerce website and digital wallet service all rolled into one, Rajan says that the number of transactions on their platform has gone up by 10 times.

“What we’re actually seeing is that the average value of the transaction is coming down. Customers are making smaller purchases, which is reflective of a daily purchase habit,” says Rajan.

Originally starting out as a quick means of recharging essential services, FreeCharge has since moved on to support electronic payments both online and offline. FreeCharge was acquired by Snapdeal in 2015.

FreeCharge isn’t the only player in this and it’s far from being the largest one. At last count, rival digital wallet service and e-commerce platform, PayTM, claimed 75 million daily transactions to FreeCharge’s 7 million.

Trust and inertia

Rajan places special emphasis on the word “inertia” when describing digital wallets. He believes that customers and merchants are only sticking to cash-based transactions because they’re comfortable with it.

He says that people have been using cash for so long that they’ve built up a level of trust and comfort with it. That whole experience of feeling the cash come and go feels more familiar than the relatively detached, virtual world of digital wallets.

In his own words, for some, “the transition is as drastic as switching from only oiling your hair to only shampooing it,” he says. You’re essentially doing the same thing, taking care of your hair, but the method is different. There’s a perceived security to the familiar.

“Not carrying cash on your person is in itself a big advantage in terms of security. Digital transactions are traceable and fraudulent transactions can’t be reversed. This is not possible with a cash transaction,” says Rajan.

On security
Digital transactions are inherently more secure because they use modern technology, says Rajan. FreeCharge alone performs over 500 security checks on every transaction. If there’s even one red flag, the transaction is cancelled. As an example, Rajan says that FreeCharge has a list of bank IFSC codes that are responsible for a lot of fraud and the company can simply blacklist those codes. You can’t do this with real cash.

Wallets store notes and these notes have some value, digital wallets do the same, except that the notes are virtual. You can also reverse digital transactions, track locations to prevent fraud and so much more. The RBI also has very strict guidelines in place and “the same mechanisms that authorise the cash in your wallet are behind digital wallets anyway,” he says.

While digital transactions are inherently more secure than cash transactions, they’re not perfect. The recent data breach, which compromised over 32 lakh debit cards is scary and unless digital wallet services follow stringent security protocols, there’s nothing stopping such a breach from happening again.

When asked about his thoughts on this, Rajan admitted that security was always a concern. However, he’s quick to point out that “the incidence of such fraud in India is half of what it is in the US and other western, developed countries.” He attributes at least part of this to the higher security standards, like two-step authentication, that’s been mandated by the RBI.

“There is a sense of fear, but people will overcome that once they experience the comfort and reliability of a digital transaction,” he adds. “These fears, part of them are rational, but part of them are because of inertia when you move from one product to the other.”

Rajan had a great deal more to say on Snapdeal’s acquisition of FreeCharge last year, the importance of design and the payment structure in the country. To learn about all this and more, watch the interview embedded above.

First Published On : Nov 16, 2016 21:19 IST

Nitish Kumar takes public opinion on prohibition law, rules out any compromise

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday heard opinion of people from different walks of life on the new liquor law in the state and said a joint sitting of the two houses of the state legislature would be called for a wider debate on prohibition.”After discussion with you all, a joint sitting of the two houses of the Bihar legislature would be called for a wider discussion on the new liquor law,” Kumar said at “Lok Samvad” programme where he heard the opinion of 40 select persons from different walks of life. “We want more discussion on prohibition which has yielded good result,” the CM said. Deputy Chief Minister Tejaswi Yadav, Excise and Prohibition minister Abdul Jalil Mastan, senior ministers Bijendra Prasad Yadav and Abdul Bari Siddiqui, Chief Secretary Anjani Kumar Singh, state police chief P K Thakur and Principal Secretary of Excise department Amir Subhani were present during the closed-door intercourse.The 40 select people, including lawyers, journalists, retired police personnel, doctors and professionals expressed their opinion as how to make the new Bihar Excise Act, 2016, which was notified on October 2 last, more effective. During the discussion, the CM categorically said there would be no compromise with the ban on liquor, spiced and domestic as well as Indian Made Foreign Liquor.Kumar said he wanted suggestions from people who had described the prohibition law as “draconian and a Talibani law” and alternative against stringent provisions. Kumar said that more than 16,000 people had been prosecuted under the liquor law, 80 per cent of whom were involved in illicit trade of alcohol.

Rs 1000, Rs 500 notes banned: SC may hear plea challenging demonetisation on 15 Nov

New Delhi: The Centre on Thursday filed a caveat in the Supreme Court that it be heard if the court entertains any petition on demonetisation of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes even as the apex court indicated that it may hear on 15 November a plea challenging the government decision.

“Let it be listed on Tuesday if the petition gets numbered by the registry,” a three-judge bench headed by Justice A R Dave said when a lawyer today sought urgent hearing of his plea on the ground that demonetisation is causing a lot of problem to the common citizens.

A customer waits to deposit 1000 Indian rupee banknotes in a cash deposit machine at bank in Mumbai, India. ReutersA customer waits to deposit 1000 Indian rupee banknotes in a cash deposit machine at bank in Mumbai, India. Reuters

A customer waits to deposit 1000 Indian rupee banknotes in a cash deposit machine at bank in Mumbai, India. Reuters

The Modi Government filed a caveat in the apex court registry saying that it be heard if the court entertains and passes some directions on the petitions. The plea was mentioned by advocate Sangam Lal Pandey who has filed the PIL in his personal capacity.

He has sought quashing of the November 8 notification of the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) of Finance Ministry on the grounds that the common public has not been granted sufficient time and as a result they are facing a lot of hardship.

The PIL has also sought a direction to the Centre that sufficient time be given to the citizens for exchanging the demonetised currency notes. Besides this petition, another plea was filed yesterday in the apex court seeking quashing of the decision to demonetise Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 currency notes on grounds that it infringed on citizens’ right to life and to trade, among others.

The PIL filed by Delhi-based lawyer Vivek Narayan Sharma, which could be listed for hearing during the week, has termed the notification of DEA as “dictatorial” claiming it did not grant reasonable time to citizens for exchanging the specified bank notes to legitimate notes to avoid “large scale mayhem, life threatening difficulties”.

The plea has sought either quashing of the notification or a direction to the Centre for grant of “reasonable time frame” to citizens for exchanging the demonetised currency notes to avoid difficulties.

The Prime Minister, in a televised address to the nation on November 8, had declared that high denomination notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 will not be legal tender from November 8 midnight. He had said that the Government has declared a “decisive” war against black money and corruption.

One suspicious financial transaction every 12 minutes; 2.23 lakh ‘black deals’ in 5 years: reveals FIU report

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>On October 27, two weeks before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s crackdown on black money by demonetising Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, the Finance Intelligence Unit (FIU) wrote to the finance ministry on the urgent need to tighten the noose around those involved in suspicious financial dealings.A worried FIU, which collects and analyses data to uncover patterns of transactions suggesting suspicion of money laundering and related crimes, put the spotlight on the problem following a report that revealed one suspicious financial transaction every 12 minutes in the five years during 2010-15, sources said.According to the report, accessed by DNA, there was a quantum jump in the number of suspicious transaction reports (STRs)— from 17,000 in the 2006-10 period to 2,23,000 in 2010-15.Raising serious questions on the nature of business activities in Maharashtra and Delhi, the report also says that the two states generate the maximum number of transactions conducted in an illicit manner. The two states are followed by Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Gujarat.The findings—which come to light just after the prime minister’s sudden and dramatic late evening announcement on Tuesday and should give a fillip to the campaign against black money hoarders—make a strong case to note trends for two biggest challenges of terrorism and black money facing the country, sources said. Terror financing is a major agenda of G20 countries.”Some notable trends during 2009-10 to 2014-15 are as follows. The banking sector contributed 68% of STR in conformity with their share in the financial assets (70%). The top 5 states having largest share in reporting of suspicious transactions are Maharashtra, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Gujarat,” the report states.The report goes on to add that public sector banks have the largest percentage ratio in terms of cash withdrawal to total debits and cash deposited to total credits. This indicates that public sector banks are generating STRs mainly on the basis of the cash component of the transaction. The insurance sector accounted for 6 per cent of STRs with Maharashtra topping the list. Mutual funds account for 2.57 per cent of STRs.What are STRsFIU records a transaction as suspicious if and where identity of the client is either fraud or forged or is conducted by someone who is on the Interpol watch list or has criminal records. It also covers unexplained transfers made in multiple accounts with no rationale or in dormant accounts, where nature of transaction is doubtful or where the value of transactions is made just below the reporting norm or threshold.

War on black money | Private hospitals urge govt to allow them take Rs 500, Rs1000 notes

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Leading private sector hospitals, including Fortis Healthcare and Paras Healthcare, have urged the government to allow them to accept Rs 500 and and Rs 1000 denomination notes. The government has authorised only government hospitals to accept these notes from patients.”In view of the hardship being caused to the large number of patients at private hospitals, we have made an urgent representation to the government that this exemption should apply equally, for payments, at private hospitals,” Fortis Healthcare said in a statement.The hospital is following up the matter with the authorities and hope the government will step in quickly to resolve the issue. Indian Spinal Injuries Centre too appealed to the finance ministry to allow private hospitals to accept Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes from patients for medical expenses.
ALSO READ War on black money | ‘Right to Life, trade infringed’, plea filed in Supreme Court”The decision to allow Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes only at government hospitals needs to encompass charitable and private hospitals and pharmacies as well,” HS Chhabra, Chief of Spine Service & Medical Director, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre said.He said patients and their families in such hospitals are facing a crisis. “I appeal to the government to look into their problem of these patients and to extend the relaxation it has made with regard to government hospitals to private hospitals too,” he added.
ALSO READ War on Black Money | What were people searching on Google when PM Modi made the announcementSharing similar views, Dharminder Nagar, MD and CEO Paras Healthcare said that the decision “appear to be creating hardships for many patients who are being treated at private hospitals, particularly those hailing from rural areas as they hardly use plastic money”. In a major fight against black money, fake currency, corruption and terror financing, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday night announced demonetisation of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes with effect from Wednesday.

India’s move to curb ‘black money’ will break backbone of traffickers : Satyarthi | Reuters

By Nita Bhalla

NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi has welcomed India’s overnight move to withdraw 500 and 1,000 rupee notes from circulation to crack down on corruption and counterfeit currency, saying it would also to help curb human trafficking and child slavery.The shock currency move, announced late on Tuesday by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, aims to bring billions of dollars worth of unaccounted wealth which people are hoarding, or “black money”, into the mainstream economy and curb corruption.From midnight on Tuesday, the highest denomination bank notes ceased to be legal tender for transactions other than exchanging them at banks for smaller notes. Banks are meant to alert the Reserve Bank of India and tax authorities of any unusually large sums being exchanged – which may be the product of ill-gotten gains.Child rights activist Satyarthi said human trafficking and child labour were amongst the largest sources of black money. “I commend the boldness of the step taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to put an end to black money and corruption,” he said in a statement on late on Wednesday.

“Every single rupee earned by the traffickers and slave masters is black money. This move will break their backbone.”India alone is home 40 percent of the world’s estimated 45.8 million slaves, according to a 2016 global slavery index published by the Australia-based Walk Free Foundation.Thousands of children, mostly from poor rural areas, are taken to cities every year by gangs who sell them into bonded labour or hire them out to unscrupulous employers.

Many end up as domestic workers or labourers in brick kilns, roadside restaurants or small textile and embroidery workshops. Many women and girls are sold into brothels.Modi came to office in 2014 promising a war against the shadow economy, winning him support from middle-class Indians who accuse politicians and businessmen of cheating the system. The abolition of 500- and 1,000-rupee notes came with virtually no warning. The old notes will be replaced with new ones in a move which is also designed to stop anti-India militants suspected of using fake notes to fund operations.

Satyarthi, whose charity Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement) is credited with rescuing more than 80,000 enslaved children, said billions of illicit dollars was being made from the buying and selling of children.”I have come across innumerable incidents where the agent or middle man earned at least 5,000 rupees ($75) for the placement of young boys in bonded labour and in cases of girls sold for prostitution and child marriages, this amount was around 200,000 rupees ($3,000),” he said.”This announcement will go a long way in fighting exploitation of children and corruption in an organised manner. It is a positive step towards creating a more prosperous India for the future generations,” added Satyarthi, who won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize jointly with Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousefzai. (Reporting by Nita Bhalla. Editing by Katie Nguyen. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit

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Where were your officials when attempt made to burn 2 more schools: J&K HC pulls up govt

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Jammu and Kashmir High Court has pulled up the state officials over continuing incidents of schools being targeted in the unrest-hit Valley even as it was informed that authorities are getting help from locals in keeping vigil at these buildings.The Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, told the court that six out of 11 attempts to target schools have been frustrated recently as there is overwhelming response from people towards safeguarding the schools.”Where were your officials when attempt was made to burn two more schools (on Sunday).”Compliance on papers is not enough,” a division bench comprising justices S Ramalingam and Ali Mohammad Magrey said yesterday while hearing a PIL on schools being burnt by unidentified attackers in the Valley.The bench said it was concerned about saving the schools.The High Court had taken suo motu cognizance of the incidents of burning of schools in Kashmir last month and directed the officials — Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Inspector General of Police Kashmir and Director School Education — to take steps to prevent any harm to more schools.The court had also sought a status report from them and directed them to be present in the court yesterday.The court, while rapping the Government for its failure to stop burning of schools, asked it to take effective measures for safeguarding the educational institutions.The IGP informed the court that besides schools, more than 100 government buildings have been damaged during the unrest.The Divisional Commissioner informed the court about the steps taken for safeguarding the schools, saying control rooms have been established which are in touch with the concerned police stations.The court directed these officials to make coordinated efforts to save the educational institutions from any kind of damage and to involve locals in the process in order to keep vigil on these buildings.The Divisional Commissioner said Village Level Committees, Sarpanches, Panches and Lumberdars were involved in the process of guarding the schools.The bench suggested that fire dousing equipments be made mandatory in public buildings.The court also suggested that services of contingent paid employees (temporary contract employees) of schools — with enhanced wages — can be utilised for keeping vigil on the school buildings.The Director School Education submitted that he has raised the issue of enhancement of wages for contingent paid employees with the Education Minister recently so that they can keep strong vigil on the school buildings.He has also submitted that control rooms at chief education officer and zonal education officer level have been established to safeguard the institutions.

New report questions China’s commitment to NSG, lays bare Pakistan dubious ways to nuke tech

China’s commitment to the NSG at a time when it so religiously throws the rulebook to block India’s bid to become a part of the elite nuclear club, stands on a dubious platform as a new report published by the King’s College of London exposes Pakistan’s web of lies and Beijing’s firm hand behind it.

Competing with India, Pakistan had also applied for the membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) with the implicit backing of China. Apart from its attempt to compete with India, it was also successfully lobbying against New Delhi’s membership and ensuring at least a delay in the decision.

Similar to India’s strategy to meet leaders from other countries and secure their support for its bid, Pakistan’s officials too embarked on a visit to Belarus and Kazakhstan to gain their backing.

The 48-member group will discuss the matter on 11 and 12 November during a plenary session in Vienna. At the NSG’s plenary session in Seoul, China had blocked India’s bid for membership. The meeting ended after an agreement was pushed by Australia and Mexico that a special meeting would be held in November to discuss the criteria for India’s entry.

China has refused to change its decision on India’s membership bid ahead of the Vienna meet. It said that it would only change its stance once rules for entry of non-NPT countries are finalised by the elite group.

Pakistan may hope to be considered for the NSG membership too in the Vienna meeting on Friday. It had told the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) that “the exemplary measures Islamabad had taken to strengthen nuclear safety establish its eligibility credentials,” according to a report by Dawn.

Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN Maleeha Lodhi said that Islamabad had implemented a comprehensive export control regime and ratified the 2005 amendment to the Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material among other measures which make it eligible to become an NSG member.

According to the King’s College report carried by The Hindustan Times, Pakistan’s continued use of front companies and other deceptive methods to obtain dual-use goods for its nuclear programme means it cannot expect to be welcomed into the NSG.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chinese President Xi Jinping. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chinese President Xi Jinping. PTI

Although China remains mum on its support to either India or Pakistan’s bid, its implicit support to Pakistan is evident from Islamabad’s move of applying formally to the group immediately after Beijing blocked New Delhi’s bid.

“Pakistan has the expertise, manpower, infrastructure, as well as the ability to supply NSG controlled items, goods and services for a full range of nuclear applications for peaceful uses,” Pakistan’s Foreign Office had said, according to a report by The Times of India.

However, the report by King’s College contradicts these claims. It also contends that China is either privy to Pakistan’s programmes, or negligent of its control over state-owned enterprises.

Project Alpha of the Centre for Science and Security Studies at King’s College concluded that Pakistan has a “deliberate strategy of using deceptive methods to obtain dual-use goods”. The country also has a network of at least 20 trading companies in China, Hong Kong, Dubai and Singapore.

Islamabad “continues its forty-year history of covert procurement for its nuclear weapon programme largely unabated” and even keeps its nuclear fuel cycle off-limits to IAEA inspection. It remains to be seen how it will reconcile its activities to be in resonance with the rules of the grouping.

Further, the report also reveals that China is the most important supplier of all forms of goods to Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programmes. China and its private entities continue to knowingly supply Pakistan’s strategic programmes.

This brings into question China’s adherence to the rules and requirements of the NSG group. It is almost impossible for Pakistan to single handedly become a nuclear exporter, as the report points out. It needs the assistance of its all-weather friend, who is interestingly a part of the elite group.

The report suggests that Beijing will have to adjust its sales relationship with Pakistan to avoid international criticism.

However, this brings the dubious nature of China and its commitment to the group to the front. Stalling India’s bid with the help of Pakistan might just be a clever move by Beijing. It is not in China’s interest to allow India a greater role in international politics or to ease India’s path to growth where its economic or military clout will challenge China, as R Jagannathan points out in this Firstpost article.

The report raises pertinent questions like, is China using Pakistan for all its nuclear activities while keeping a clean front itself? Or, is it strengthening Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions for its own benefit?

Nevertheless, it is also time for the group to take a note of this report and launch an inquiry against China.

Bengali youth stuck in Saudi Arabia after being sold as a slave

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A 23-year-old youth, Jayanta Biswas, from West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district was sold as a slave in Saudi Arabia by travel agents who lured him with a job. Biswas, an automobile engineer by profession, was promised a job in Saudi Arabia’s automobile industry by his agent. However, when he landed in Riyadh on May 15, 2016, he was sold to a Saudi master, Naief Bookme. Since then, he has been made to take care of the master’s house, cut grass, feed ostriches while living on just one meal a day.Biswas’s sister, Ria told the media, “My brother was lured by a job offer in the automobile industry in Saudi. He had paid a Delhi-based agent, Muneer Ahmed of Al-Hamd Consultant Services Rs one lakh. He was later sent to Riyadh on a tourist visa.However, he was promised of a work visa after he completed three months at his new job. Instead, he was sold as a slave and all his documents were taken away from him.”A distressed Biswas tried to reach out to his family members in West Bengal and even told them that he had been sexually abused on several occasions by his master.A month down the line, on July 16, he made an attempt to escape, only to be foiled by his master. Later, when he finally managed to escape, he contacted the Indian mission in Saudi. The officials at Saudi opened a file in his name and sent him to an NGO till his return to India. As soon as Biswas’s master learnt of his escape, he filed a complaint with the police that Biswas had stolen 10,000 riyals from his house. He was immediately arrested from the NGO on August 9. His family members paid Rs 35,000 to his agent for his release. He was released from jail on October 27. However, he is still stuck in Riyadh with no travel documents to return to India. Biswas’ family members have approached External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her department to provide temporary travel documents, however, they are yet to hear from the ministry.

There should be no glorification of terrorists: India and UK talk tough

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India and the UK agreed to start a strategic dialogue on home affairs issues on Monday covering areas like visas and organised crime even as they voiced concern over terrorism, which they saw as threat that was not a “limited security challenge” and whose arc spread “across nations and regions”. After holding extensive talks which covered a wide range issues including trade, investment, security and defence, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his British counterpart Theresa May called for Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of the November 2008 terrorist strike in Mumbai and 2016 Pathankot attack to justice.Addressing a joint press event with May, Modi said they discussed ways to purposefully work together to combat the growing forces of radicalisation and terrorism. “We agreed that it is not a limited security challenge. Its arc of threat spreads across nations and regions. Terrorists move across borders with ease and endanger the entire humanity. “I conveyed our deep concern to Prime Minister May regarding cross-border terrorism and the need for the international community to take strong action against States that support and sponsor terrorism,” he said.On her part, May said the two countries face the shared threat of terrorism as individual countries, as partners, and global powers, and have agreed to strengthen cooperation, in particular by sharing best practices to tackle use of internet by violent extremists. “We have also agreed to establish a strategic dialogue on Home affairs issues covering visas, returns and organised crime. As part of this we will step up speed and return of those Indians who have no right to be in the UK,” May said.The joint statement issued after the talks said May strongly condemned the September terrorist attack on the Indian Army Brigade headquarters in Uri and offered condolences to the victims and their families. In an obvious reference to Pakistan hailing slain Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani as “martyr”, the joint statement said, “There should be no glorification of terrorists or efforts to make a distinction between good and bad terrorists. They agreed that South Asia should be stable, prosperous and free from terror and called on all countries to work towards that goal.”Strongly affirming that terrorism is a serious threat to humanity, the leaders reiterated their strong commitment to combating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and stressed that there can be no justification for acts of terror on any grounds. They shared the view that there should be zero tolerance to terrorism, the statement said. Acknowledging that terrorism and violent extremism posed one of the most serious threats to international peace and security, Modi and May called for concerted global action against them “without selectivity”. They pitched for urgent measures to counter and prevent the spread of terrorism, violent extremism and radicalisation.The two Prime Ministers affirmed that the fight against terrorism should not only seek to disrupt and bring to justice terrorists, terror organisations and networks, but should also identify, hold accountable and take strong measures against all those who encourage, support and finance terrorism, provide sanctuary to terrorists and terror groups, and falsely extol their virtues.The statement also noted that both India and the UK had suffered the human cost of terrorism and now worked in partnership to tackle the threat terrorism and violent extremism posed. Our two countries understand the increasingly transnational challenge of terrorism which demands multilateral as well as bilateral cooperation. International cooperation to combat terrorism is at the core of successfully denying terrorists the space to radicalise, recruit and conduct attacks, they said.The leaders also noted the two countries continued to build upon 2015 Defence and International Security Partnership to deepen cooperation, including on countering terrorism, radicalisation, violent extremism and cyber security. “We will jointly set out areas on defence and security which make clear our future ambitions to design, make, exercise, train and co-operate together. And we will continue to consult and co-ordinate, across a range of global policy security challenges, in pursuit of our shared goal of a more secure world,” the joint document said.The leaders welcomed the recent UK-initiated joint statement on Preventing Violent Extremism launched at the Global Counter Terrorism Forum in New York. The two leaders also called for strengthening the existing international counter terrorism legal framework including through the adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT).