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Jung not over? LG Anil Baijal non-commital on fixing relationship with Kejriwal

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former bureaucrat Anil Baijal took over as 20th Lt Governor of Delhi and struck a cautious note on where the LG’s office will stand in repairing the fractured relationship between the Centre and AAP government which had hit rock bottom under his predecessor. 70-year-old Baijal, who had served in a number of key positions at the Centre including as Union Home Secretary, was administered the oath of office and secrecy by Chief Justice of Delhi High Court G Rohini, 10 days after Najeeb Jung’s abrupt resignation as the LG.Baijal said addressing key challenges like women’s safety, pollution, traffic congestion and strengthening infrastructure will be his priority areas.The oath ceremony was attended by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, Delhi Chief Secretary MM Kutty, leader of Opposition in Delhi Assembly Vijender Gupta among others.On being asked about tussle between previous LG Jung and the city government on a range of issues including administrative control over the bureaucracy, Baijal said, “This is speculative. I don’t know why and how the relationship will improve. We will sit and talk and then you will get to know.”Welcoming Baijal’s appointment, Kejriwal said he was hopeful that under the new LG, governance in the national capital will see new momentum overcoming the past hurdles.”I am very hopeful that in the future, we all – MLAs, Delhi government, people of Delhi – will work with the Lt Governor for overall development of Delhi. “In the last few months, some works of Delhi government have come to a standstill. I hope that these works will be expedited,” Kejriwal said at an event at Delhi Assembly complex.Baijal said he will put his best efforts in improving law-and-order situation, women’s safety, traffic congestion besides strengthening infrastructure and civic amenities in the city.”Delhi is a megapolis which has several problems like women safety, law and order, huge population, infrastructure, civic agencies and congestion. We all know about these problems. We will work with elected government to solve them,” he told reporters. Baijal also thanked President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for giving him the responsibility. A 1969-batch IAS officer, Baijal had served as Union Home Secretary under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government besides holding key positions in other ministries.He was actively associated with the designing and countrywide roll-out of Rs 60,000-crore Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) launched by the Manmohan Singh government. Baijal had retired from service in 2006 as Urban Development Secretary. He had served as vice chairman of Delhi Development Authority and is known to be well versed with the city administration.The former bureaucrat was also on the executive council of think-tank Vivekananda International Foundation, several of whose former members have been appointed to senior positions by the Modi government including NSA Doval.Baijal, known to follow the rule book, will have to take a series of important decisions including on the report of Shunglu committee, set up by Jung to examine over 400 files pertaining to decisions taken by the AAP government in the last two years.The Shunglu committee has reportedly pointed out “irregularities” in some of the Kejriwal government’s decisions.His immediate task will also include appointing a new chairman of Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) which has been headless since November after the appointment of incumbent Krishna Saini was turned down by Jung.Jung and the AAP dispensation had clashed over a range of issues including transfer and posting of bureaucrats, setting up of enquiry commissions and among others.There was a running battle between L-G office and Kejriwal government with the latter constantly challenging the former’s supremacy in the city administration.Jung had won the court battle as the Delhi High Court had stamped the primacy of Lt Governor in the affairs of Government of NCT.However, AAP government had approached the Supreme Court challenging the high court verdict and during a recent hearing in the case, the apex court had said the elected government should have some powers.

Pakistan arrests 66 Indian fishermen for ‘illegal fishing’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sixty-six Indian fishermen have been arrested for alleged illegal fishing in Pakistani waters and a court here remanded them into custody on Saturday.The Indian fishermen along with five boats were arrested last evening for “illegally” fishing in Pakistan’s territorial waters and have been sent to jail by a judicial magistrate.The Maritime Security Agency had arrested the fishermen and seized five boats yesterday, a spokesman for the agency said.”The fishermen were arrested after they remained in Pakistani waters in the Arabian Sea despite warnings to move out of our territorial waters,” the spokesman said.Earlier on November 20, the Pakistani Maritime Security Agency had arrested 43 Indian fishermen for entering its territorial waters.Amin Marri, the station house officer of Docks police station, said the fishermen were booked under the Foreigner’s Act and the Fisheries Act and had now been sent to jail on court orders after being provided with clothing and food by a welfare organisation.Pakistan and India frequently arrest fishermen as there is no clear demarcation of the maritime border in the Arabian Sea and these fishermen do not have boats equipped with the technology to know their precise location.

PM Modi’s New Year’s Eve Speech: Mamata says PM took over FM’s job, Kejriwal calls it ‘disappointing’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Describing Narendra Modi’s address to the nation tonight as a “pre-budget speech”, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee alleged that the Prime Minister deviated from the actual agenda of black money and demonetization. “PM deviated from actual agenda of black money & #DeMonetisation PM just took over post of Finance Minister and made pre-Budget speech (sic),” Banerjee said in a series of tweets.”So the FM was missing from this advance Budget Speech made by PM. Modi babu, empty vessels make the most noise,” she said claiming it was a “heartless, baseless speech”.Banerjee reminded the Prime Minister that he forgot to even pay respect to more than 112 citizens who died in queues to get cash.”Saying Nation Address & doing political vendetta. In the name of addressing the nation, Modi Babu is serving his selfish personal agenda,” she tweeted.”The Nation Address became the Budget Address.Financial Emergency continues in the name of black money cleanup. Money not available in banks. Still no concrete solutions to problems,” Banerjee said.Attacking Modi she said he wanted 50 days to deliver promises but “badly failed”.”PM who runs nation in the name of ‘Suddhikaran’ just underwent ‘Buddhiharan’,” she said adding promises were broken and he has snatched common man’s financial rights.She also asked where are the figures of demonetisation and how much of black money was recovered? “What did the nation gain after 50 days of excruciating pain,” the West Bengal CM asked while claiming that 2017 will mark the end of demonetisation and start of “DeModitisation”.”This will be the New Year Resolution of all 125 crore people of this great country,” she said. Questioning the restrictions imposed on cash withdrawal she said the government cannot simply “snatch away” economic rights of the people. “Modi Babu, public are not beggars. Why are there still restrictions on cash withdrawal?. 50 days are now over. How can you take away the rights of citizens to withdraw their own hard-earned money ? A government just cannot snatch away people’s economic rights,” she said. The Reserve Bank of India said last night that cash withdrawal limit from ATMs would be increased to Rs 4,500 per day from the current Rs 2,500 from January 1. However, there has been no change in the weekly withdrawal limit, which stands at Rs 24,000, including from ATM, for individuals and Rs 50,000 for small traders. Kejriwal calls speech ‘disappointing’ Terming Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address as “disappointing”, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal today accused him of “cheating” people and claimed that “not a single penny” of black money was recovered and there was no reduction in corruption due to demonetization. He also hit out at the prime minister for “not offering any relief” to the people suffering due to demonetization. In a series of tweets, Kejriwal said, “Modiji sounds so hollow now. People have stopped believing anything that he says. He has become a subject of ridicule internationally.”Modiji has cheated the entire nation. Neither a single penny of black money has been recovered nor has corruption come down. He has lost all credibility.”Prime Minister’s boring speech was heard patiently by the people in the hope that he will announce when can they withdraw their own money without restriction. In the end, they were disappointed.”Senior AAP leader Ashutosh also accused the prime minister of trying to “bribe” the people hit by the currency ban “by offering them sops” and termed his address as an “election speech”.”Modi’s speech was not about demonetization, but about election. He tried to bribe the people of India who are angry with him by giving them sops,” he said. Taking a dig at the prime minister’s address, Delhiminister Kapil Mishra said Modi sounded like “a doctor who has not understood his patient’s ailment”.Swaraj India chief Yogendra Yadav said the speech had no reference to the number of new currency notes printed or steps taken to curb black money. He described it as “below expectation”.”What happened to black money? How much black money (was) recovered? What are the future plans against black money? What about black money in politics?,” Yadav tweeted.

BSNL launches unlimited local and STD calls at Rs 144

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Cashing in on the rollout by several telecom operators offering unlimited free call facility, Government run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd on Saturday joined the bandwagon with launch of a new Rs 144 plan for its customers offering similar features.The plan, which is valid for six months, would offer unlimited local and STD calls to any network for a period of one month and it would come with 300MB data, BSNL Chairman and Managing Director Anupam Srivastava told reporters.After handing over two new packs to customers, Srivastava said with the new pack, calls are absolutely free and would be available for both pre-paid and post-paid customers. The telecom service provider was also taking up several initiatives including launch of 4,400 WiFi hotspots across the country.”We have 4,400 WIFI hotspots launched country wide. I think in Mahabalipuram near Chennai has a similar WiFi hotspots. Our immediate strategy is to expand this. In next one year, we will be having around 40,000 WiFi Hotspots across the country,” he said.Besides the company had also obtained 2500 Mhz from Government of India for launching service in rural areas, he said, adding BSNL would unveil classic LTE (Long Term Evolution) spectrum in phased manner.

There is chance of Sasikala becoming CM: Subramanian Swamy

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sasikala Natarajan becoming the AIADMK general secretary was the party’s internal matter and she could also become the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy said on Saturday. “It is purely an internal matter of the party. There is also a chance of her becoming the chief minister,” he told reporters here when asked about Sasikala’s appointment to the top post in AIADMK. On the criticism that Sasikala lacked the political ability for such a big post, Swamy shot back saying what capability did Sonia or Rahul Gandhi have when they took charge of the Congress. Swamy, who spent a week at an ayurveda centre here, said the verdict in the disproportionate assets case against late chief minister J Jayalalithaa and Sasikala was expected to be delivered by the Supreme Court next month.The case against Jayalalithaa and three others for allegedly amassing disproportionate wealth to the tune of Rs 66.65 crore during 1991-96 was filed on Swamy’s complaint. The BJP leader said with the changing political scenario in the state, the Tamil Nadu unit of the party required a new leadership as also new executive and general council members, adding that the party’s January 6-7 national executive meet could take a decision in this regard. Later, talking to reporters at the Chennai airport, Swamy said mediapersons did not ask questions when Sonia Gandhi took over as the Congress president.On demonetisation, he said the intention behind it was good and welcomed initiatives such as the BHIM app which he said will be accepted by the people. Swamy expressed confidence that the Supreme Court will give its nod to ‘jallikattu’ (a bull-taming sport) with some riders and the order would be delivered ahead of the coming Pongal festival.He blamed some “foreign-funded NGOs” for creating an alleged prejudice against the traditional sport and added that he too had argued in the apex court for allowing ‘jallikattu’ by putting forth “strong grounds”.To supervise the safe conduct of the event, a committee may be asked to monitor the sport, he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Modi speech full text: Indians showed resolute honesty can defeat dishonesty

Following is the full text of Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s address to the nation on the eve of New Year 2017:

My fellow citizens,

In a few hours, we will be ushering in the new year of 2017. 125 crore Indians will join the rest of the world, in welcoming it with new hope, new energy and new dreams.

Since Diwali, our nation has been witness to a historic rite of purification. The patience, discipline, and resolve displayed by 125 crore Indians, will play a critical role in shaping the future of the nation for years to come.

In God’s creation, humans are endowed with fundamental goodness.

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

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

With time, the distortions of badness creep in. People feel suffocated in a bad environment, and struggle to come out of it. Corruption, black money, and counterfeit notes had become so rampant in India’s social fabric, that even honest people were brought to their knees.

People were forced by circumstances, in defiance of their inherent goodness. It seemed at times, that the evils and corruptions of society, knowingly or unknowingly, intentionally or unintentionally, had become a part of our daily lives. Developments post-Diwali have shown, that crores of Indians were looking for an escape from this suffocation.

We have, during the external aggressions, of 1962, 1965, 1971 and Kargil; witnessed the intrinsic strength of our citizens. Such collective energy and patriotism is understandable, in the face of external threats. However, when crores of Indians unite to fight a war against internal evils, it is unparalleled.

Indians have, with firm resolve and infinite patience, faced difficulties with a smile, re-defining the concept of sacrifice. We have lived these ideals. 125 crore Indians have shown, in their fortitude, the importance we place in truth and goodness. This has been written on the sands of time.

Indians have displayed the strength of people power, utmost discipline, and the ability to discern the truth in a storm of disinformation. They have shown that resolute honesty, can defeat dishonesty.

They have shown how much, even people trapped in poverty, are willing to do, to build a glorious India. The people, through persistence, sweat and toil, have demonstrated to the world, an unparalleled example of citizen sacrifice, for the brighter future of a nation.

Usually, when people’s movements have arisen, the people and the government have been at loggerheads.

It is historic, that both the people and the government are on the same side in this battle against evil. The Government is well aware, that in this period, you had to queue up, and face difficulty in withdrawing your own money. I received letters from many people. They have shared their pain and sorrow with me, but also emphasized their support. You have talked to me as one of your own. In this fight against corruption and black money, it is clear that you wish to walk shoulder to shoulder with us. For us in Government, this is a blessing.

My effort is to take the banking system to normalcy as fast as possible in the new year. I have asked all concerned officers in the Government to focus their attention to this task. They have especially been told to proactively resolve the problems in rural and remote areas.

Friends,

There is no precedent globally, to what India has done. Nations similar to us do not have the amount of currency that we had. Over the last ten to twelve years, 500 and 1000 rupee currency notes were used less for legitimate transactions, and more for a parallel economy. The excess of cash was fuelling inflation and black-marketing. It was denying the poor, their due. Lack of cash causes difficulty, but excess of cash is even more troublesome. Our aim is to achieve a balance. Economists agree that when cash is outside the formal economy, it is a cause of worry. When it joins the mainstream, it is an opportunity for development.

I am sure, if great sons of India like Jayaprakash Narayan, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Ram Manohar Lohia, and Kamaraj had been present today, they would have applauded the patience, discipline and resolve of our countrymen.

In the past few weeks, there have been many gratifying instances – it would take weeks to list them.

It is a healthy trend for any nation, when the people wish to join the mainstream abiding by the law, and helping the Government in serving the poor.

Friends,

How long will we overlook facts that stare us in the face? I wish to share some information with you, which will either make you laugh, or make you angry. According to information with the Government, there are only 24 lakh people in India who accept that their annual income is more than 10 lakh rupees. Can we digest this? Look at the big bungalows and big cars around you.

If we look at any big city, it would have lakhs of people with annual income of more than 10 lakh. Do you not feel, that for the good of the country, this movement for honesty, needs to be further strengthened?

In this fight against corruption and black money, it is natural to debate the fate of the dishonest. What punishment will they get? The Law will take its own course, with its full force. But the priority of the Government now is how to help the honest, protect them, and ease their difficulty.How can honesty gain more prestige?

This Government is a friend of good people. And it aims to build an enabling environment for the dishonest to return to the path of goodness.

It is also a bitter truth, that people have complaints of bad experiences at the hands of Government machinery, and some government officers.

This reality cannot be wished away. No one can deny that Government officers have a greater responsibility than common citizens.

Therefore, it is the responsibility of all of us in Government, at central, state and local levels, to protect the common man, help the honest, and isolate the dishonest.

Friends, It is accepted the world over, that terrorism, Naxalism, Maoism, counterfeit currency trade, drug trade, human trafficking – all of these depend on black money.

These evils have become a festering sore on society and Governments.

Demonetistion has dealt a severe blow to these trades.

Today, youth who had turned to the wrong path, are returning to the mainstream in large numbers. If we remain vigilant, we can now save our children from returning to those evil ways of violence and cruelty. The fact that so much of the cash in circulation has been deposited in the banking system indicates the success of this mission.

Events of the last few days indicate that escape routes for the dishonest have all been sealed. Technology has played a big role. The habitual offenders will be forced to abandon their misdeeds and join the mainstream.

Friends, This also represents a golden opportunity for the country’s banking system. During this period, bank employees have worked day and night.

Female employees too, worked till late hours as part of this mission.

Post office staff, banking correspondents- all did exceptional work.

Amid this herculean effort, some grave crimes by some officers in some banks have come to light. Some Government officers have also committed serious offences, and tried to take advantage of the situation. They will not be spared.

At this historic juncture, I wish to make an appeal to the banks.

History is witness that the Indian banking system has never received such a large amount of money, in such a short time.

While respecting the autonomy of the banks, I appeal to them to move beyond their traditional priorities, and keep the poor, the lower middle class, and the middle class at the focus of their activities.

India is celebrating the centenary of Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay as Garib Kalyan Varsh. Banks should also not let this opportunity slip. They should take appropriate decisions in public interest promptly.

When policies and programmes are made with clear objectives in mind, not only are beneficiaries empowered, but both short term, and long term benefits are achieved. Spending is carefully scrutinized, and chances of good results are maximized.

The more the villages, the poor, the farmers, the dalits, the tribals, the marginalized, the oppressed, the deprived and women are empowered, and financially enabled to stand on their own feet, the stronger the country will become, and the faster will be the pace of development.

Friends, to further the principle of Sabka Saath – Sabka Vikaas, on the eve of the new year, Government is bringing some new programmes for the people.

Even so many years after independence, millions of poor do not have their own home. When black money increased in our economy, houses became out of reach of even the middle class. The Government has taken some major decisions to ensure homes for the poor, the neo middle class and the middle class.

Two new middle income categories have been created under the Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana in urban areas. Loans of up to 9 lakh rupees taken in 2017, will receive interest subvention of 4 per cent. Loans of up to 12 lakh rupees taken in 2017, will receive interest subvention of 3 per cent.

The number of houses being built for the poor, under the Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana in rural areas, is being increased by 33 per cent.

In addition to this, another scheme is being put in place for the neo middle and middle class in rural areas. Loans of up to 2 lakh rupees taken in 2017, for new housing, or extension of housing in rural areas, will receive an interest subvention of 3 per cent.

Friends in the last few weeks, an impression was sought to be created that the agriculture sector has been destroyed. Farmers themselves have given a fitting reply to those who were doing so. Rabi sowing is up by 6 per cent compared to last year. Fertilizer offtake is up by 9 per cent. During this period, the Government has taken care to ensure that farmers do not suffer for want of access to seeds, fertilisers and credit. Now, we have taken some more decisions in the interest of farmers.

Farmers who have taken loans for the Rabi crop from District Cooperative Central Banks and Primary Societies, will not have to pay interest on such loans for a period of 60 days. Farmers who have paid interest during the last two months, will receive these amounts back, directly into their bank accounts.

Arrangements are being made to provide farmers even better access to loans from cooperative banks and societies. NABARD created a fund of 21,000 crore rupees last month. Now, Government is adding 20,000 crore rupees more to this. The loss that NABARD suffers by giving loans to cooperative banks and societies at low interest rates, shall be borne by the Government of India.

The Government has decided, that 3 crore farmers who have Kisan Credit Cards, will be given RuPay debit cards within three months. Kisan Credit Cards were launched in 1998, but so far, it was essential to go to a bank, to use them. Now, farmers will have RuPay Debit Cards, which they can use anywhere.

Just as agriculture is vital for the economy, so are the medium and small scale enterprises also called the MSME sector. Government has taken some decisions in the interest of small and medium businesses, which will also boost employment.

Government of India underwrites loans given by banks to small businesses through a trust. So far, loans were covered upto one crore rupees. This limit is now being enhanced to 2 crore rupees. Earlier the scheme only covered bank loans. Hereafter it will cover loans given by NBFCs as well. This decision will enable better access to credit for small shop-owners and small enterprises. Banks and NBFCs will not levy high interest on these loans, as Government of India is bearing the cost of underwriting them.

Government has also asked banks to raise the credit limit for small industry from 20 per cent of turnover to 25 percent.

Banks have also been asked to increase working capital loans from 20 per cent of turnover to 30 per cent, for enterprises that transact digitally.
Many people connected with this sector have made cash deposits in the last few weeks. Banks have been asked to take this into account when deciding on working capital.

A few days back, Government announced a major tax relief for small businesses. Income of businesses with turnover of up to Rs 2 crores was calculated at 8% of the turnover. Now, for such businesses income from digital transactions will be calculated at 6%. This will effectively reduce their tax liability by 25%.

Friends,

The progress of the MUDRA Yojana has been very encouraging. Last year, nearly 3 and a half crore people have benefited from this. The Government now aims to double this, giving priority to Dalits, Tribals, Backward Classes and Women. A new scheme is being launched for pregnant women.
We are introducing a nation-wide scheme for financial assistance to pregnant women. 6000 rupees will be transferred directly to the bank accounts of pregnant women who undergo institutional delivery and vaccinate their children. This scheme will help reduce the maternal mortality rate, in a big way. This will help ensure nutrition before and after delivery, and improve the health of mother and child. So far, pregnant women in 53 districts were being given financial assistance of 4000 rupees, under a pilot project.

We are initiating a scheme for senior citizens. Banks often reduce their deposit rates, when they receive a large volume of money. This should not adversely impact senior citizens. Under the scheme, senior citizens will receive a fixed interest rate of 8 per cent for a period of 10 years, on deposits upto 7.5 lakh rupees. The interest will be paid monthly.

Friends,

Political parties, political leaders and electoral funding, figure prominently in any debate on corruption and black money.

The time has now come that all political leaders and parties respect the feelings of the nation’s honest citizens, and understand the anger of the people.

It is true that from time to time, political parties have made constructive efforts to improve the system.

I urge all parties and leaders to move away from a “holier than thou approach,” to come together in prioritising transparency, and take firm steps to free politics of black money and corruption.

In our country, people ranging from the common man to the President, have at some point or another, advocated simultaneous conduct of state and national elections.

This is to break the endless cycle of elections, reduce election expenditure, and minimize pressure on the administrative machinery.

The time has come for this to be seriously considered and debated.

Positive change has always found space in our country.

We can now see a positive momentum towards digital transactions in India.

More and more people are transacting digitally.

Yesterday, Government has launched a new, swadeshi platform for digital transactions – named BHIM after Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar.

BHIM stands for Bharat Interface for Money. I call upon the youth, the trading community, and farmers to connect with BHIM as much as possible. Friends, the developments, decisions, and policies that were put in place after Diwali, will of course be evaluated by economists.

It will be good if social scientists also do the same.

As a nation, India’s villages, poor, farmers, youth, educated and uneducated men and women, have all displayed infinite patience and people power. In a short time, the new year of 2017 will begin. Exactly 100 years ago, in 1917, Mahatma Gandhi initiated a Satyagraha in Champaran. Now, a century later, we witness that the people of India continue to share that feeling towards truth and goodness.

Today, Mahatma Gandhi is not among us. But the path towards truth that he showed us, is still most appropriate. As we begin the centenary year of the Satyagraha, let us recall the Mahatma and resolve to follow his message of truth and goodness.

We cannot allow this fight against black money and corruption to stop or slow down. Firmness in truth is a guarantee for success. A country of 125 crore, with 65 per cent below the age of 35, having the means, the resources, and the capability, has no reason to stay behind.

The new dawn of the New Year, comes with the resolve of new success.

Let us all come together, to move ahead overcoming obstacles and constraints.

Happy New Year

Jai Hind !!!

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 21:28 IST

From sops for senior citizens to affordable housing schemes: Top announcements by PM Modi on New Year’s Eve

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Addressing the nation on New Year’s Eve on the impact of demonetisztion and the roadmap ahead for the economy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said India has gone through a massive cleansing process and purification drive (Shuddhi Yatra). In a 43-minute-long address to the nation, he said the citizens of the country were desperate to break free of corruption, but had never been given a chance to do so earlier, and had in fact gotten used to the idea of offering extra money to get their jobs done.Prime Minister Modi said India has set a new example for the world through this 50-day-long demonetisation exercise, adding that their commitment and discipline to tackle the cash crunch would be a living example for generations to come. ‘This is the first instance in India’s history when the government and the people have fought shoulder to shoulder. I got thousands of letters from the people who shared their pain, but they reaffirmed their resolve to stick with the process to root out corruption and black money,’ he said.He further stated that “125 crore Indians have proved that they are willing to wait in line at banks, but do not wish to be even one step behind in the drive against corruption.” He said that what would me most surprising to a majority of the citizens would be that, “Just 24 lakh Indians had admitted to having an income of more than Rs.10 lakhs,’, which was indicative of the very high level of tax eva sion being perpetrated by those not abiding by the law. Expressing confidence that the New Year would see lesser queues outside banks and things returning to normal, Prime Minister Modi said, ‘Banks have never before seen this sort of influx of cash’, and he would like to see personnel of these institutions focusing on helping the middle class and the poor.Here are the top highlights of speech: 8% interest rate will be guaranteed on deposits of up to Rs 7.5 lakh for 10 years for senior citizens; interest will be paid monthlyRs 6,000 to be put into accounts of pregnant women in 650 districts for vaccination and other medical useTwo new schemes under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana to provide 4% interest waiver on loan of up to Rs 9 lakh and of 3% on loan up to Rs 12 lakh.Banks have been asked to raise cash credit limit to small business to 25% from 20%Government to stand guarantee for loans up to Rs 2 crore from current Rs 1 crore, to small businesses3% interest waiver on loan up to Rs 2 lakh for construction of houses in rural India.Government to pay interest for 60 days on loans taken by farmers for rabi season from district cooperative banks and primary societies

Modi speech: Here is a list of all schemes announced by the PM

Modi speech: Here is a list of all schemes announced by the PM

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New Delhi – Following is the list of sops that Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced during his speech on the eve of the New Year.

1) For the poor: Two new schemes under PM Awaas Yojna. Home loans for poor and middle class people up to Rs 9 lakh will get 4 percent exemption on interest and 3 percent for up to Rs 12 lakh loans.

Prime minister Narendra Modi. File photoPrime minister Narendra Modi. File photo

Prime minister Narendra Modi. File photo

2) For farmers: Sixty days interest waiver for farm loans taken from from district co-operative banks and co-operative societies.

3) For senior citizens: 8 percent interest up to Rs 7.5 lakh deposit by senior citizens in banks.

4) For small businesses: Credit guarantee for micro small and medium enterprises to be raised to Rs 2 crore from current Rs 1 crore.

5) For women: Pregnant women across India will be given Rs 6,000 in their bank accounts to take care of initial medical needs.

6) For farmers: The government will convert 3 crore Kisan Credit cards to RUpay Credit cards.

7) For small businesses: Banks have been asked to raise cash credit limit for small businesses to 25 percent from 20 percent.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 21:05 IST

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He didn’t say Mitron once, he has unfriended the nation: Twitter reacts to PM Modi’s speech

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi set out a stern warning of tough action against the “dishonest” people even as he announced a slew of sops for senior citizens, farmers, rural housing, women and small entrepreneurs to soften the blow of demonetisation. He also assuaged the honest people that the government will act as a friend to them so that their difficulties are eased. Among the sops announced in his address to the nation at the end of 50-day demonetisation period, Modi said senior citizens will get 8 per cent interest on deposits of upto Rs 7.5 lakh for 10 years and deposit of Rs 6000 into accounts of pregnant and lactating women in rural areas to meet medical expenses.For farmers, he announced that banks will not charge interest for 60 days on loans taken from district cooperative central bank and primary societies for rabi crop. For construction or expansion of a rural house, 3 per cent interest will be waived on loan of upto Rs 2 lakh. Announcing two new schemes under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, he said 4 per cent interest subvention on loans upto Rs 9 lakh and 3 per cent on loan upto Rs 12 lakh.”The law will take its course with full force. The government will help the honest and protect them and see their difficulties are eased. How honest will gain from the government. This government is a friend of good people and wants to build on the good environment for the people to return to goodness,” he said.Perhaps the most surprising bit was PM’s refusal to say the word Mitron. Here’s how Twitter reacted to his speech:

Indian party chief reinstates sacked son Akhilesh Yadav

Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister is allowed back into his party – a day after his father expelled him.

Modi speech live: PM rolls out slew of reforms, schemes to benefit rural poor

Dec 31, 2016

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address the nation on Saturday, in which he is expected to spell out the roadmap ahead after the expiry of the 50-day period for depositing of demonetised notes. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to address the nation before dawn of the New Year,” sources told PTI.

This will be his second address to the nation since his announcement in a similar address on 8 November to scrap Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes.

While announcing the landmark decision, he had asked the people to give 50 days for rolling it out.

Against this backdrop, the Prime Minister may speak about the roadmap ahead, especially on the steps to ease the cash flow that has been a major problem ever since demonetisation took place.

He may also speak on the steps to deal with the problems the economy faces after the demonetisation.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. AP

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. AP

The prime minister in his public meetings in the last few weeks has been urging the people to bear with the pain following the government’s decision and that it would start easing gradually once the 50-day period is over.

Modi also accused the Congress leadership of “desperation” in the face of his “tough” demonetisation decision and said it was the first time that a concerted effort was made by the Opposition to “openly” protect the dishonest through disruptions in Parliament.

He also slammed Manmohan Singh, who had described demonetisation as a “monumental mismanagement” and an “organised loot”, and sarcastically said that his predecessor might have been referring to the “unending string of scams” like 2G, CWG and coal block allocation “under his leadership”.

Modi said while the honest will not be harassed, those with black wealth have “only a few days to hide” and will not be spared.

“I pity a few of our opponenets, especially the Congress leadeship, for the desperation they have been exhibiting…Congress leaders are entirely pre-occupied with only one thing – elections.”

“There is nothing political in the demonetisation decision…It was a tough decision taken to clean up our economy and our society. If I were guided by short term electoral politics, I would have never done so,” he told India Today in an interview.

With regard to the washout of the recent Winter session due to disruptions over demonetisation, the Prime Minister said the government tried its best to keep Parliament functioning.

“I was keen to speak in both Houses. Yet, there was a concerted attempt by the Congress to derail the functioning of the Houses rather than have a proper debate. While opposition in Parliament is understandable, this is the first time it is being used to protect the dishonest and that too so openly,” he said.

With inputs from agencies

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 20:00 IST

J&K: Partition refugees deserve domicile status, but this is not the time to play with fire

It is enough to make one want to scream!

Just five months ago, various sections of the ruling class seemed to be at the end of their tether with regard to Kashmir. Enraged teenagers held large parts of the Valley to ransom for several months. During that time, India’s Parliament humiliated itself by knocking on various leaders doors, only to be rebuffed. The army was called out in Kupwara and right across south Kashmir – although that last resort that was not used even when there was a greater rage on the streets in 2010.

Unrest in Kashmir Valley. ReutersUnrest in Kashmir Valley. Reuters

Unrest in Kashmir Valley. Reuters

There is every reason to believe that the unrest of 2016 has only subsided; it is not over. Anger still simmers. Indeed, many observers within Kashmir not only predict more unrest in 2017 but that it will surface much earlier in the year than it did in 2016.

And yet, various sections of what pass for political leaders have been playing short-term politics of the sort that prioritises expected advantage to one’s party over the national interest or the objective of long-term stable peace.

Even National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah did it in early December. And Mehbooba Mufti’s government did it in July.

The latest is the controversy over granting domicile certificates to those who are called ‘West Pakistan refugees’ in the state. These are the about 100,000 descendants of those who, during the murderous mayhem of the 1947 Partition violence, scrambled across the border from Pakistani Punjab into areas around Jammu.

Many of them are of Dalit background and have little political or economic clout. Ergo, they need positive discrimination from the state more than others.

The ‘West Pakistan refugees’ are distinct from those who fled that horrible year from Mirpur and Muzaffarabad areas on what are now Pakistan-controlled parts of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Large numbers of them and their descendants too live in Jammu – with all the rights of state subjects.

Several states, including Himachal, deny domicile rights to those who are not, or are not descended from, longtime residents. However, the denial of domicile rights — which basically boils down to access to state educational institutions, state government jobs and ownership of freehold property — to those who have been residents of the state for 70 years is clearly unjustified.

There can be no doubt that, owing to the special circumstances of their migration to the state, and the length of these families’ stay, they deserve the domicile status they were given a few days ago.

However, this is an inappropriate time to grant it. For, that grant has been resisted for decades by Kashmiri Muslims who fear that domicile status could be a first step towards their getting full citizenship of the state. That, they fear, could dilute their own demographic and political domination.

Explosive situation

I have pointed out before that the Kashmiri uprising of 2016 was different to the uprising of 2010 or 2008. One, Pakistan has been in far greater control this year than it was, particularly in 2008. Two, India does not face Pakistan alone on the battlefield that Kashmir has become. It is a Sino-Pak axis now. Three, the challenge may only have begun to emerge. Worse lies ahead than we experienced in 2016.

Of course, the BJP feels pressure to fulfill the poll promise it made to the refugees. Politically, it touches more than the 100,000 persons it directly affects, for the issue strikes a chord among many in the Jammu-Samba-Udhampur-Katra heartland of Hindu identity consciousness. So the BJP would fear an electoral backlash if its promise remains unfulfilled.

And yet, the dangers inherent in implementing this at this point are huge. Intelligence analysts may have advised that the beginning of the peak of an extraordinarily cold winter was the safest time to do it. Energy is low as people across the Valley try and cope with the cold and power outages.

Yet, anger over the issue has gathered steam. Hartals and stone-pelting demonstrations have begun again over the past few days. Independence leaders such as JKLF chief Yasin Malik and Bar Association president Abdul Qayoom have been given a fresh lease of popular support to demonstrate against the domicile status.

Once again, Pulwama has been a hub of unrest. The generally well-informed Ghulam Rasool Pandit had predicted to me that the unrest would revive again in 2017. “Why do you talk about summer?” he asked. “It could begin much sooner.” When I asked him about spring, he smiled laconically and asked why I did not consider January. Pandit is well connected on both sides of the conflict. His son, Naseer, became one of the best-known and popular militants of the area after he left the police to take up the gun. Naseer was killed last spring.

At that time, the police and government had made much of having demolished the insurgency with arrests and ‘kills’ of militants. A couple of months later, they seemed to be at the end of their tether in the face of mass rage.

The move to give West Pakistan Refugees domicile status may be entirely deserved on the face of it, but it stems from a similar sense of misplaced complacency. The nation may have to pay a huge price for such complacency and narrow political calculations.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 19:07 IST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DNA Evening Must Reads: PM Modi to address nation at 7.30 pm, updates on Mulayam-Akhilesh row, and more

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Yadav vs Yadav: Akhilesh back in SP fold, to make poll candidates list with MulayamFaced with an imminent split which could have drastically reduced his clout, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav today revoked the expulsion of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and his uncle Ramgopal, just a day after they were sacked for ‘indiscipline’. Read more hereAmid demonetization row, Rahul Gandhi leaves country to celebrate New YearAccording to various media reports, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has reportedly left the country to celebrate New Year in London. Read more herePM Modi’s New Year’s Eve Speech at 7:30 PM.Here’s where you can watch PM Modi’s address. BJP forms govt in Arunachal as Pema Khandu & 32 MLAs join partyIn a fast paced development, a BJP government was today installed in Arunachal Pradesh after 33, out of 43 Peoples’ Party of Arunachal (PPA) MLAs led by Chief Minister Pema Khandu, joined the saffron brigade in this politically fragile state. Read more hereAamir Khan’s ‘Dangal’ ROARS at the Box Office, mints Rs 216.12 crore in 8 days!Aamir Khan ‘s Dangal continues its victory marathon at the ticket windows on Day 8 of its release. Read more here

Mamata so engrossed with chit funds,she can’t think beyond lotteries: Piyush Goyal slams BHIM criticism

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Hiting back at West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for criticising the new BHIM app launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi , Power Minister Piyush Goyal on Saturday said she should think beyond her ‘own narrow interests.’Banerjee described the new Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM) as a lottery app, named after BR Ambedkar by the Centre. Goyal urged the West Bengal Chief Minister to understand that this is for the benefit of the poor and the deprived section of the society. “I urge her to go beyond her own narrow interests and consider it at the national interest for a change,” he added.The Minister said the app has nothing to do with the Lucky Grahak or DigiDhan Vyapar Yojanas and explained that BHIM app, which was launched by Prime Minister Narenda Modi yesterday, is for digital payments.Banerjee had said that the app is a reflection of crude mentality of the Centre and it insults the backward classes. “This app has nothing to do with the Lucky Grahak or DigiDhan Vyapar Yojanas. Mamataji is so engrossed and involved with lotteries and chit funds that she cannot see beyond lotteries,” Goyal told PTI.The Minister was of the view that the app will strengthen the digital payments infrastructure in the country. The UPI & USSD modes of payment for transacting business, and for paying for goods and services, will be made simpler, more robust and secure through this app, he said. “We are delighted that Bharat Ratna Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar’s name has been associated with this app,” he added. Elaborating further, Goyal said: I do hope that Mamataji will get out of her phobia of attacking everything that Prime Minister does for sensationalising things”.

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

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

BJP condemns Hurriyat leaders, says will continue to support the west Pakistani refugees

Jammu: BJP on Saturday condemned Hurriyat and other political parties for opposing the grant of domicile certificate to the west Pakistani refugees(WPRs) residing in Jammu and Kashmir and said it will continue to support the rights of the WPRs.

“Hartal called by Hurriyat and other separatist groups on Friday to oppose the grant of domicile certificate to WPRs is very unfortunate, unwarranted and uncalled for. BJP strongly opposes the efforts of these pro-Pakistan elements to politicise a humanitarian issue,” BJP state spokesperson Brig Anil Gupta (retd) said.

He condemned the attitude of Hurriyat and political parties who are opposing the grant of domicile certificate to the WPRs residing in the state and said what was more discomforting is that these people belong to economically backward segment of the society and have been denied the growth opportunities due to no fault of theirs.

“It is very unfortunate that a section of society living among us is termed as refugees and denied basic rights on the plea that they are not the state subjects and have migrated from West Pakistan at the time of partition,” he said.

Representative image. PTI

Representative image. PTI

Even after 70 years of independence they are being given this treatment in their own country due to the “parochial outlook” of the majority community in the state is tragic, Gupta said.

“It is the influx of illegal Bangladeshi and Burmese migrants that has resulted in the demographic change and ironically they do not raise any voice against them but welcome them.

“This highlights their communal outlook. Our Party will continue to support the WPR and ensure that justice is delivered to them,” he said.

Taking a dig at the National Conference’s stand, Gupta said political parties like NC are misquoting history and trying to mislead the people of Jammu using the name of late Maharaja Hari Singh.

“Their contention that State Subject laws were enacted by the Maharaja to safeguard the interest of Dogras is being quoted out of context.

“The State Subject Act was enacted by the Maharaja in 1927 to protect the rights of its citizens when J&K was an independent state.

“It was the Maharaja only who had acceded the state with India in 1947 and it was his desire that his state should be a part of Union of India,” he said.

He said, “All citizens of J&K are now citizens of India.”

Had the Maharaja been alive he would have himself ensured that any law that keeps his state away from rest of the country should be “abrogated”, the spokesperson said.

“He would have ensured that these helpless people are given all rights immediately and they would not have to suffer this humiliation for 70 years,” he said.

It was surprising and unfortunate that parties which had included this issue in their election manifestos in the past were now opposing the issue of the domicile certificate.

“The statements of Ambika Soni in Jammu and Congress spokesperson Meem Afzal in Srinagar clearly show that the Congress was only exploiting them for narrow political gains and now that their plight is being improved by the present BJP government they have joined hands with the Hurriyat and others to oppose the same,” he said.

“Issue of domicile certificate will enable the WP refugees to seek central government jobs including in the armed forces. There will be quota for them in the 5 IRP Battalions being raised under Prime Minister Special Package for J&K,” he said.

The contention that it is an attempt to change the state’s demography, Gupta said it is not understood as to how it will affect the demography of the state since they have been staying here since 1947.

“The State Subject Act was enacted by the Maharaja in 1927 to protect the rights of its citizens when J&K was an independent state.

“It was the Maharaja only who had acceded the state with India in 1947 and it was his desire that his state should be a part of Union of India,” he said.

He said, “All citizens of J&K are now citizens of India.” Had the Maharaja been alive he would have himself ensured that any law that keeps his state away from rest of the country should be “abrogated”, the spokesperson said.

“He would have ensured that these helpless people are given all rights immediately and they would not have to suffer this humiliation for 70 years,” he said.

It was surprising and unfortunate that parties which had included this issue in their election manifestos in the past were now opposing the issue of the domicile certificate.

“The statements of Ambika Soni in Jammu and Congress spokesperson Meem Afzal in Srinagar clearly show that the Congress was only exploiting them for narrow political gains and now that their plight is being improved by the present BJP government they have joined hands with the Hurriyat and others to oppose the same,” he said.

“Issue of domicile certificate will enable the WP refugees to seek central government jobs including in the armed forces. There will be quota for them in the 5 IRP Battalions being raised under Prime Minister Special Package for J&K,” he said.

The contention that it is an attempt to change the state’s demography, Gupta said it is not understood as to how it will affect the demography of the state since they have been staying here since 1947

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 17:56 IST

Will continue to support the rights of West Pakistani Refugees: BJP

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> BJP on Saturday condemned Hurriyat and other political parties for opposing the grant of domicile certificate to the West Pakistani Refugees residing in Jammu and Kashmir and said it will continue to support the rights of the WPRs.”Hartal called by Hurriyat and other separatist groups yesterday to oppose the grant of domicile certificate to WPRs is very unfortunate, unwarranted and uncalled for. BJP strongly opposes the efforts of these pro-Pakistan elements to politicise a humanitarian issue,” BJP state spokesperson Brig Anil Gupta (retd) said. He condemned the attitude of Hurriyat and political parties who are opposing the grant of domicile certificate to the WPRs residing in the state and said what was more discomforting is that these people belong to economically backward segment of the society and have been denied the growth opportunities due to no fault of theirs.”It is very unfortunate that a section of society living among us is termed as refugees and denied basic rights on the plea that they are not the state subjects and have migrated from West Pakistan at the time of partition,” he said. Even after 70 years of independence they are being given this treatment in their own country due to the “parochial outlook” of the majority community in the state is tragic, Gupta said. “It is the influx of illegal Bangladeshi and Burmese migrants that has resulted in the demographic change and ironically they do not raise any voice against them but welcome them.”This highlights their communal outlook. Our Party will continue to support the WPR and ensure that justice is delivered to them,” he said. Taking a dig at the National Conference’s stand, Gupta said political parties like NC are misquoting history and trying to mislead the people of Jammu using the name of late Maharaja Hari Singh. “Their contention that State Subject laws were enacted by the Maharaja to safeguard the interest of Dogras is being quoted out of context.”The State Subject Act was enacted by the Maharaja in 1927 to protect the rights of its citizens when J&K was an independent state. “It was the Maharaja only who had acceded the state with India in 1947 and it was his desire that his state should be a part of Union of India,” he said. He said, “All citizens of J&K are now citizens of India.” Had the Maharaja been alive he would have himself ensured that any law that keeps his state away from rest of the country should be “abrogated”, the spokesperson said.”He would have ensured that these helpless people are given all rights immediately and they would not have to suffer this humiliation for 70 years,” he said. It was surprising and unfortunate that parties which had included this issue in their election manifestos in the past were now opposing the issue of the domicile certificate. “The statements of Ambika Soni in Jammu and Congress spokesperson Meem Afzal in Srinagar clearly show that the Congress was only exploiting them for narrow political gains and now that their plight is being improved by the present BJP government they have joined hands with the Hurriyat and others to oppose the same,” he said.”Issue of domicile certificate will enable the WP refugees to seek central government jobs including in the armed forces.There will be quota for them in the 5 IRP Battalions being raised under Prime Minister Special Package for J&K,” he said. The contention that it is an attempt to change the state’s demography, Gupta said it is not understood as to how it will affect the demography of the state since they have been staying here since 1947. “The State Subject Act was enacted by the Maharaja in 1927 to protect the rights of its citizens when J&K was an independent state.”It was the Maharaja only who had acceded the state with India in 1947 and it was his desire that his state should be a part of Union of India,” he said. He said, “All citizens of J&K are now citizens of India.” Had the Maharaja been alive he would have himself ensured that any law that keeps his state away from rest of the country should be “abrogated”, the spokesperson said. “He would have ensured that these helpless people are given all rights immediately and they would not have to suffer this humiliation for 70 years,” he said.It was surprising and unfortunate that parties which had included this issue in their election manifestos in the past were now opposing the issue of the domicile certificate. “The statements of Ambika Soni in Jammu and Congress spokesperson Meem Afzal in Srinagar clearly show that the Congress was only exploiting them for narrow political gains and now that their plight is being improved by the present BJP government they have joined hands with the Hurriyat and others to oppose the same,” he said.”Issue of domicile certificate will enable the WP refugees to seek central government jobs including in the armed forces. There will be quota for them in the 5 IRP Battalions being raised under Prime Minister Special Package for J&K,” he said. The contention that it is an attempt to change the state’s demography, Gupta said it is not understood as to how it will affect the demography of the state since they have been staying here since 1947.

Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi rules out resignation, offers support to new army chief Bipin Rawat

Kolkata: Putting to rest all speculation about his resignation, Eastern Army Commander lieutenant general Praveen Bakshi assured his full support to General Bipin Rawat, who took charge as the new army chief superseding him.

Lt General Praveen Bakshi. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.Lt General Praveen Bakshi. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Lt General Praveen Bakshi. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

“I convey my best wishes and full support of Eastern Command to Gen. Bipin Rawat on having taken over as the Chief of Army Staff,” Bakshi said on Saturday. He also made it clear that he was not resigning, and even called the new army chief on the phone to congratulate him on taking over the reins of the army, an official said.

Speculation that he may seek premature retirement from service gained ground after he met Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on 21 December and then proceeded on leave after Christmas.

Bakshi was initially the frontrunner for the post of army chief. However, keeping aside the trend of seniority, the government appointed vice-chief of army, lieutenant general Bipin Rawat, a batch junior to Bakshi, as the new chief.

The army commander requested that speculation in media and trolling on social media should stop and everyone should focus on contributing their best to the betterment of the army and the nation.

At a function here on new year’s eve, he greeted all ranks of Army’s Eastern Command and said he would continue to lead the Command with full professional sincerity. He, however, continues to be on leave for the next few days.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 16:48 IST

Last minute patch-up in feud-ridden SP; Akhilesh Yadav, Ram Gopal back

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>After a massive show of strength by Akhilesh Yadav, who was expelled from SP by father Mulayam Singh Yadav, the party supremo on Saturday backed down revoking with immediate effect the expulsion orders of his son and brother Ram Gopal.After hectic confabulations involving Akhilesh Yadav’s warring uncle Shivpal Yadav, Mulayam and the Chief Minister, Shivpal tweeted that on the SP supremo’s directive, expulsion of Akhilesh and Ram Gopal Yadav from SP was being revoked with immediate effect. “I am coming after having met party chief Mulayam Singh along with CM Akhilesh Yadav. Netaji has given the order that the suspension orders of Akhilesh and Ram Gopal are terminated with immediate effect,” Shivpal said. “All of us together will fight communal forces and we will once again form a SP government in UP with full majority. These are my orders. We will hold discussions within ourselves and decide, and prepare for the upcoming elections,” he said. “All matters have been solved and we will fight the upcoming polls together. We will all sit togther with Netaji and I am sure all problems will be resolved,” he said. On a day of fast-paced developments, Akhilesh earlier in the day convened a meeting of SP legislators where over 200 of the 229 party MLAs turned up expressing their loyalty with the chief minister, a day after he was expelled from the party for indulging in “indiscipline”, pushing the ruling party to the precipice of a vertical split.Some SP MLCs and senior party functionaries loyal to Akhilesh also attended the meeting at the chief minister’s official residence at 5-Kalidas Marg.Senior SP leader and UP cabinet minister Azam Khan then arrived at the CM’s residence and after a brief stay, they drove to Mulayam’s bungalow at a stone’s throw distance.

Arunachal Pradesh to have BJP govt as 33 MLAs led by Pema Khandu join party

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The political turmoil in Andhra Pradesh has taken a positive turn for the BJP as 33 MLAs of the People’s Party of Arunachal Pradesh (PPA) have joined the party on Saturday.The MLAs were led by Pema Khandu who was on Thursday suspended from PPA among 10 other members.The 33 MLAs joined the BJP after a meeting today. Arunachal Pradesh now has a BJP government as the party has 2/3rd majority. The PPA, which had total 43 MLAs, had on Thursday midnight temporarily suspended Khandu, deputy chief minister Chhowna Mein and five other MLAs from the primary membership of the party for their alleged “anti-party activities”. It later suspended four other members. A total of eleven MLAs were suspended till now.The Pema Khandu government had claimed on Friday support of 49 of the 60 MLAs on Saturday , including 35 of Peoples Party of Arunachal (PPA) legislators, a day after he was suspended from his own party.Government spokesperson Bamang Felix had claimed that 35 out of the 43 PPA MLAs have reposed their faith and allegiance in the leadership of Khandu. “We have support of 49 MLAs including 35 PPA, 12 BJP along with one associate BJP member and one independent,” he claimed at a press conference here. Arunachal has been battling political instability since December last year when Congress dissidents revolted against former chief minister Nabam Tuki.After a series of dramatic developments, which included a special session held at a hotel to vote out Tuki, Congress rebel Kalikho Pul became chief minister in February with the help of 11 BJP lawmakersThe Congress then moved Supreme Court, which turned the clock back and restored Tuki’s government. But Tuki was out within days as he did not enjoy a majority in the 60-member assembly. Pul, who insisted that he be reinstated as chief minister, was left alone in the last minute when lawmakers supposedly backing him shifted their loyalties to Khandu. Pul committed suicide in August and a month later, Khandu walked out of Congress with 42 lawmakers and joined the PPA.

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

2016 was a remarkable year for news.

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

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

Here’s what you thought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And there you have it.

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

Bring on 2017!

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

Demoneization: Why are there restrictions on cash withdrawal? Mamata to Modi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Questioning the restrictions imposed on cash withdrawal, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday said the government cannot simply “snatch away” economic rights of the people.”Modi Babu, public are not beggars. Why are there still restrictions on cash withdrawal?,” Banerjee asked in a statement. “Fifty days are now over. How can you take away the rights of citizens to withdraw their own hard-earned money? A government just cannot snatch away people’s economic rights,” she said. The Reserve Bank of India said last night that cash withdrawal limit from ATMs would be increased to Rs 4,500 per day from the current Rs 2,500 from January 1.There has been no change in the weekly withdrawal limit, which stands at Rs 24,000, including from ATM, for individuals and Rs 50,000 for small traders.

Demonetization: Why are there restrictions on cash withdrawal? Mamata to Modi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Questioning the restrictions imposed on cash withdrawal, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday said the government cannot simply “snatch away” economic rights of the people.”Modi Babu, public are not beggars. Why are there still restrictions on cash withdrawal?,” Banerjee asked in a statement. “Fifty days are now over. How can you take away the rights of citizens to withdraw their own hard-earned money? A government just cannot snatch away people’s economic rights,” she said. The Reserve Bank of India said last night that cash withdrawal limit from ATMs would be increased to Rs 4,500 per day from the current Rs 2,500 from January 1.There has been no change in the weekly withdrawal limit, which stands at Rs 24,000, including from ATM, for individuals and Rs 50,000 for small traders.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Demonetisation done without thinking about consequence: Nobel laureate Amartya Sen

Demonetisation done without thinking about consequence: Nobel laureate Amartya Sen

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Nobel laureate Amartya Sen today said he felt the demonetisation decision was taken hurriedly without thinking about its consequence. “I don’t think that this (demonetisation) decision was taken after considering all sides. It was taken hurriedly without thinking of consequences,” he told media persons here.

Amartya Sen. AFPAmartya Sen. AFP

Amartya Sen. AFP

“So far economics is concerned I find no reasoning behind this decision. It will have adverse effect,” Sen said.

The Nobel laureate, who chairs Pratichi Trust, which works in the areas of health and education with special emphasis on gender equality, said implementation of midday meal project is not up to the mark in West Bengal.

“This project is very successful in Tamil Nadu, partly in Uttar Pradesh and other states. But in West Bengal the performance is average,” he said after attending a programme of the trust here.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 13:37 IST

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Jharkhand mine collapse: Death toll climbs to 12 as one more body is recovered

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>With the recovery of one more body on Saturday, the death toll climbed to 12 in the coal mine collapse at Lalmatia open cast coal mine of Eastern Coalfields Ltd (ECL), the worst such disaster in over a decade.RR Mishra, officiating CMD of ECL, a Coal India subsidiary told PTI, “We have recovered one more body at 10.30 AM. The total bodies recovered so far are 12. We have also recovered one more machine. We are carrying on the rescue operation in a systematic manner so that the situation does not aggravate as the debris is too much and they should not fall.” Danger zones have been declared around the place of incidents to restrict the entry of people there. Moreover, the district commissioner has also stationed police and CISF officials to restrict entry of people in the danger zone, Mishra said. “We have also called experts from outside to help us in the rescue operation. We have fully ensured that the rescue operations are done with proper safety measures. We have also come up with Standard Operating Procedures which would help us in proper operations so that there is no loss to lives,” Mishra added.Heavy machinery was deployed as rescuers, including those from the NDRF, toiled through the day yesterday extricating bodies and looking for survivors. Central Mine Planning and Design Institute (CMPDIL, the consultancy arm of Coal India Ltd, has deployed magneto meters along with imaging system for locating magnetic and conductive material up to a depth of 80 meters, the statement said. Mishra said the incident occurred at around 7.30 PM on Thursday when excavators were working there following which rescue operations was launched immediately. Senior officials of Director General of Mines Safety (DGMS) have arrived at the site and launched an inquiry.All 12 excavators and dump trucks which were swamped under the debris have been recovered.

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

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

Pakistan seeks US support on Indus Waters Treaty

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Pakistan has sought the support of United States on the implementation of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) with India.US Secretary of State John Kerry had a telephone conversation with Pakistan Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Thursday. Kerry said that the World Bank President had recently informed him about Pakistan’s complaint against India on the subject of Indus Waters Treaty. Kerry urged for an amicable solution of the dispute between the two countries. “The US would like to see an amicable solution to this issue,” he was quoted as saying.Dar said that the Indus Waters Treaty is an international commitment and it is the responsibility of the World Bank to make sure that India honours this treaty and the water rights of hundreds of millions of people of Pakistan are protected. He said that the Court of Arbitration is a legal requirement and appointment of the Chairman of the Court of Arbitration must be fulfilled by the World Bank.Dar said that the World Bank President had been in touch with him in writing and also on telephone during the current month. He indicated that Washington’s support on the principles and legal position of Pakistan would be greatly appreciated. Kerry also appreciated the improvement in the economic indicators of Pakistan and congratulated Dar on the economic recovery brought about by Islamabad.Dar said that the government after having achieved macro-economic stability is now focused on achieving higher sustainable and inclusive economic growth. Kerry also recalled his association with Senator Ishaq Dar went back to the days when he was Leader of Opposition in the Pakistan Senate.The Finance Minister also warmly acknowledged his association with Secretary Kerry.

RBI’s refusal of details sheer arrogance, sets dangerous precedent: Activist Shailesh Gandhi

The most shocking aspect of the decision to demonetise the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes by NDA government is the lack of transparency. The government and the RBI, the monetary authority, have not yet revealed the exact reason why the decision was taken or even about the current status of the economy and cash supply. There have even not been regular press releases or statements from the authorities through out the last 51 days.

The country’s central bank remained silent in the initial days of the demonetisation when the citizens had a harrowing time with cash crunch at banks and ATMs coupled with long queues that also led to even a few deaths of senior citizens. The role of the Reserve Bank of India and its new governor Urjit Patel has come for severe criticism.

Shailesh Gandhi. Image courtesy Shailesh Gandhi's Facebook pageShailesh Gandhi. Image courtesy Shailesh Gandhi's Facebook page

Shailesh Gandhi. Image courtesy Shailesh Gandhi’s Facebook page

Shailesh Gandhi, former Information Commissioner with the Central Information Commission (CIC), New Delhi, filed a complaint with the CIC over the RBI’s refusal to answer queries under Right to Information Act by a non-disclosure policy put up on its site on November 30. In a conversation with Firspost, Gandhi explains why the RBI is on the course to setting a dangerous precedent by its refusal to answer queries and setting up its list under its non-disclosure policy which goes against the exemptions laid under the RTI Act, passed by the Supreme Court.

Excerpts from the conversation:

Your take on RBI’s unwillingness to respond to RTI queries.

This is sheer arrogance on the part of the RBI. Almost everyone in power dislikes transparency for themselves, be it the courts, bureaucrats, the RBI and even the media for that matter. Arrogance weighs with everyone who will say that in theory the RTI is good but when asked to release information, will remark: I am not corrupt. I am honest and clean and why should any ordinary citizen question me. Even the honest dislike the RTI and are happy to tell others to be transparent. It takes time to get used to being questions. It is 11 years since the RTI Act came into force.

What the RBI is doing by refusing to answer queries under RTI is denying citizens their fundamental rights. There are ten exemptions under the RTI. These do not include what the RBI is stating as exemption for itself. The central bank has also not given any reason for its actual rejection to the questions posed to it under the RTI.

Our RTI Act is the best in the world and we now rank at number 4 in terms of provisions of law and at 66 with regard to implementation. The Act is grossly misrepresented. The courts also have not been very enthusiastic about it.

You have filed a case against RBI’s refusal with the CIC

Yes, I have filed a complaint with the CIC on 16 December that the RBI is arbitrarily claiming exemption and have spread the net very wide in the garb of following the law and are actually defying the law. I did that because the RBI could set a bad precedent which is dangerous that could lead other public authorities to follow it, which could lead to increase in the load on the CIC. Everyone will compile their own non-disclosure list like the RBI has done and the CIC will not be able to penalise them. I hope the Supreme Court and the CIC takes cognisance of it.

The RBI has in its Disclosure Policy on its site on 30 November said that the list of information which shall not be given is justified by the proclamation that: ‘While compiling the ( nondisclosure) list, it has been the Bank’s endeavour to attain the objectives of the RTI Act, without jeopardizing the financial stability and economic interests of the State.’ Effectively it means that RBI arrogates to itself the right to lay down exemptions to disclosure of information in line with the objectives of the Act. This is the sole prerogative of Parliament which has provided the exemptions to disclosure in Section 8 and 9 of the RTI Act. The RBI’s disclosure policy is actually a non-disclosure. They are the masters and the judges themselves.

What are the 10 areas that are exempted under the RTI Act?

1) To give information, disclosures which would affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence; 2) information which has been expressly forbidden to be published by any court of law or tribunal or the disclosure of which may constitute contempt of court; 3) information, the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature; 4) information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information; 5) information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information; 6) information received in confidence from foreign government; 7) information, the disclosure of which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person or identify the source of information or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement or security purposes; 8) information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders; 9) cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers, Secretaries and other officers: Provided that the decisions of Council of Ministers, the reasons thereof, and the material on the basis of which the decisions were taken shall be made public after the decision has been taken, and the matter is complete, or over: Provided further that those matters which come under the exemptions specified in this section shall not be disclosed; 10) information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information: Provided that the information, which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.

When Supreme Court orders are not being adhered to by the RBI, can no action be taken on the institution?

When you defy SC orders, the CIC cannot do anything. The commission has the authority and power to say that the list you put up is too wide ranging and can’t be accepted. That’s all.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 12:24 IST

Demonetization | If I was guided by electoral politics, I would never have done it: PM Modi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In his first interview post demonetization, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reflected on the concerns raised in the weeks since his surprise announcement on November 8. In an exclusive interview with India Today, Modi said, “The revenue collected will be used for the welfare of the poor, downtrodden and marginalised.”The Prime Minister said that these sections of the society were central to the government’s programmes and priorities. He rejected allegations by the opposition that the move was political, in view of the upcoming state elections. “It was a tough decision taken to clean up our economy and our society. If I were guided by short-term electoral politics, I would never have done so,” he said.Asserting the move to ban the high denomination had been welcomed by the 1.25 billion citizens of the country, the PM said that the public’s enthusiasm had not been affected by the dire predictions made by critics. “This acceptance, in my view, is even more historic than the decision itself,” he told the magazine.
ALSO READ Digi Dhan Mela: PM Modi launches BHIM app, now only thumb impression needed for secure digital transaction He also said that the absence of significant incident of unrest was not a small achievement. “At the same time, as with every other process, there is always room for improvement, and I believe that we can, and must, always improve,” he said.On the frequent changes in policy post the demonetization announcement, Modi said,”One must be able to distinguish between niti (policy) and ran-niti (strategy) and not put them in the same basket. The decision of demonetization, which reflects our niti, is unequivocally clear, unwavering and categorical. Our ran-niti, however, needed to be different, aptly summarised by the age-old saying of ‘Tu daal-daal, main paat-paat’. We must stay two steps ahead of the enemy.” He also said that the changes in policy reflected the government’s ability to respond quickly and keeping up with the evolving situation.
ALSO READ Demonetization: PM Narendra Modi slams Congress for stalling debate, openly protecting dishonestyThe Prime Minister said that the return of the money to banks meant that there was a trail for every rupee and made it easier to track sources of black money and schemes of corruption. He also said that the GST and adoption of digital payments would be critical elements of system put in place the government to curb further generation of black money. The Prime called digitisation a major reform with multiple benefits, which include cleaning up of economy, proper accounting and sizing of the formal economy, greater ease and security, building of financial records and greater tax compliance.Addressing the common man’s anger against corruption, he said that it was also imperative to find ways to root out black money in politics. “Everyone, especially our political leaders and parties, will have to recognise and accept this groundswell. The tide is fast changing. Those who don’t evolve with it and insist on sticking to their old ways will only get swept away.You can read the full interview here.

Amar Singh taunts Akhilesh for going against father Mulayam, asks SP members to support party supremo

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> A day after the feud in the Samajwadi Party widened with the suspension of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, the party’s general secretary Amar Singh on Saturday said he is supporting party’s chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and going against his decision is unconstitutional and immoral.Quoting a line from Srimad Bhagwat Puran: “Ram chandra keh gaye siya se aisa kalyug aayega, beta karega raj bechara baap jungal ke jayega,” Singh said that Mulayam is not only the father of the party but also the father of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister. “Those who are going against him are unconstitutional, immoral and are incorrect and I condemn them,” he said.Dubbing the rift taking place in the Samajwadi Party as ‘unfortunate’, Singh appealed to the party workers to support Mulayam in this crucial situation. “I appeal to the party members to stand with Netaji Mulayam Singh. Whatever is happening is very unfortunate,” Amar, who had recently made a comeback to the party after a long exile, said.Amar said, “The foundation of this party was laid by Mulayam Singh with much dedication and hard work. I have said this earlier and will say it now, that Mulayam Singh is the chief of SP and the father of Akhilesh Yadav as well,” he said. Meanwhile, Mulayam has called a Samajwadi Party’s Parliamentary board meeting today.The Samajwadi Party boss yesterday expelled Akhilesh and National General Secretary Ram Gopal Yadav from the party for six years over indiscipline. “I solely founded the party, what is their (Akhilesh and Ram Gopal) contribution? They are destroying the party,” he said. “To save the party, we have expelled both Ram Gopal and Akhilesh Yadav for six years from the party. No one has the right to call for a national executive meeting other than the party chief, and by doing this, you (Akhilesh and Ram Gopal) have hurt the party’s interest,”he added.This move comes after Akhilesh had released a list of 235 candidates out of the total 403 seats for upcoming state assembly elections on Thursday, rejecting the list announced by Mulayam Singh Yadav on Wednesday. “We have declared a list of 325 candidates for the 2017 assembly polls; 78 seats still remain. Names of the candidates for the rest of the 78 seats will be announced soon,” Mulayam had said on Wednesday.Akhilesh’s name did not figure in the first list. Mulayam said his son being the chief minister, can contest from any assembly seat he wishes to. With inputs from PTI)

Mamata Banerjee extends support to Akhilesh Yadav, asks him to stay strong

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Extending her support to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, his West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee has wished him well and asked him to stay strong. Sources said, Mamata spoke to Akhilesh last evening for about three minutes.The Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo’s support comes in the wake of Akhilesh’s suspension from the Samajwadi Party for six years. Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav yesterday expelled Akhilesh and national general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav from the party for six years over indiscipline.This move comes after Akhilesh had released a list of 235 candidates out of the total 403 seats for upcoming state assembly elections on Thursday, rejecting the list announced by Mulayam Singh Yadav on Wednesday. Akhilesh’s name did not figure in the first list. Mulayam said his son being the Chief Minister, can contest from any assembly seat he wishes to.

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

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

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

Freedom 251. IBNLiveFreedom 251. IBNLive

Freedom 251. IBNLive

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

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

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

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

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

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

Newsroom diaries 2016: From Kashmir to Syria, a year in terror

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

In 2001 the world saw the devastating 9/11 attack, with awe and shock. That moment changed everything. We became a more scared group of people. Abandoned bags and clothing choices made us scared. This situation grew worse in 2016, for this year, we got normalised to terror attacks.

It was 2 January and a group of terrorists attacked an airbase in Pathankot, killing 8 people. This set the tone for the rest of the year and it was all downhill from there on.

The year saw some of the most incredulous attacks by Islamic State or IS-inspired terrorists. This included the Brussels airport attack where a coordinated attack by suicide bombers killed 32 people. Then was the Nice attack where a cargo truck was deliberately driven into a group of people on Bastille Day killing 86 and injuring 434. In December, the Syrian conflict had one of the worst repercussion beyond its borders with the assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey in Ankara. A 22-year-old Turkish gunman Andrey Karlov shot dead the 62-year-old diplomat in what appeared to be revenge for Russia’s part in the violence in Syria.

Russia’s ambassador to Turkey was assassinated in Ankara at an art exhibit by a lone Turkish gunman shouting “God is great!” and “don’t forget Aleppo, don’t forget Syria!”. The assassination was photographed and it presented one of the most chilling moments in 2016.

An unnamed gunman shouts after shooting the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, at a photo gallery in Ankara. APAn unnamed gunman shouts after shooting the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, at a photo gallery in Ankara. AP

An unnamed gunman shouts after shooting the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, at a photo gallery in Ankara. AP

The frequency of terror attacks in 2016 was so great that changing the Facebook display pictures became a daily activity for people who sympathised with the victims of these attacks. There were regular fights on social media over the media coverage allotted to a particular attack. The logic was that when a western country was attacked, people noticed, as opposed to when the middle-eastern belt or Asian and African belt was hit. This is probably why 2016 remained etched in people’s memories, for the rise in hits on the European civilisation.

United States suffered the worst attack since 9/11

People take part in a protest against police brutality and in support of Black Lives Matter during a march in New York. ReutersPeople take part in a protest against police brutality and in support of Black Lives Matter during a march in New York. Reuters

People take part in a protest against police brutality and in support of Black Lives Matter during a march in New York. Reuters

This year, the United States suffered under attacks of gun-violence, fundamentalism and racial tension. The ‘Orlando terror attack’ where a 29-year-old Islamic State-inspired radical entered a gay nightclub and killed 49 people, was perhaps the biggest attack on the LGBTQ community. A hate-crime like this one spoke volumes about the rise of intolerance in a Trumpian era. The Orlando attack was the second major terror attack on the US soil since 9/11 and this reign of terror was further fuelled when the major movement for equality — Black Lives Matter — turned violent after the death of police officers during the protest rallies in Dallas and Baton Rouge.

Tentions escalate between India and Pakistan

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

In 2016, there was palpable tension between India and Pakistan and one of the possible reasons was how the year started for the two nations. In January, the Pathankot attack happened and it was the beginning of the signs of mistrust between the two nations. On 8 November, when news about PM Modi’s address to the nation came in, we all thought he was going to announce something in relation to taking strong action against Pakistan.

This notion was not unfounded. For 20 minutes between the announcement of address and the actual address, theories about war were floating on the desk. This was because a month ago, on 29 September, a military confrontation between India and Pakistan began. India claimed that it had conducted “surgical strikes” against militant launch pads across the Line of Control in Pakistani-administered Azad Kashmir, and inflicted “significant casualties”. This was touted as Modi’s surgical strike against Pakistan and was instigated by the 19 September Uri attack where 17 Indian soldiers were killed. The Uri attack was reported as “the deadliest attack on security forces in Kashmir in two decades”

The number of ceasefire violations had increased manifold since then. Out of the total number of 151 ceasefire violations in 2016, 110 of them happened since September.

The palpable tension between the two nations put everyone on edge.

The normalcy of terror attacks hit a raw nerve

There wasn’t just one moment or one incident which affected me the most this year. The normalcy of the situation hit a raw note. “What terror attack are we covering today,” was a frequently heard adage on the desk. The clinical process on the desk when one of these strikes happened was: prep the live blog, write the death toll copies, write analysis copies, do reaction copy, etc. Everybody got the hang of this process after the first few attacks.

However, the efficiency of the desk meant that too many of these attacks had happened and too many people had lost their lives. 2016 had ushered in a new era of normalcy.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 09:24 IST

Demonetisation: Withdrawal limit from ATM hiked to Rs 4,500 per day from 1 January

Mumbai: In a relief to common man, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Friday said cash withdrawal limit from ATMs will be increased to Rs 4,500 per day from the current Rs 2,500 from 1 January.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

However, there has been no change in the weekly withdrawal limit, which stands at Rs 24,000, including from ATM, for individuals (Rs 50,000 in case of small traders).

“On a review of the position, the daily limit of withdrawal from ATMs has been increased (within the overall weekly limits specified) with effect from 1 January 2017, from the existing Rs 2,500 to Rs 4,500 per day per card,” the central bank said in a notification.

Following demonetisation of old Rs 500/1000 notes on 9 November, limits had been imposed on withdrawal of cash from banks as well as ATMs.

The RBI’s notification further stated “there is no change in weekly withdrawal limits” and such disbursals “should predominantly be in the denomination of Rs 500”.

Earlier in the day, the RBI had permitted White Label ATM Operators (WLAOs) to source cash from retail outlets.

Most of the White Label ATMs are running dry since demonetisation as the operators were facing difficulties in sourcing cash from their sponsor bank(s).

Friday was the last day to deposit the invalid currency notes in banks. However, people still have time to exchange the currency notes at designated RBI counters till March 31 after giving valid reasons for not depositing defunct notes in their accounts by December 30.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 08:34 IST

The A to Z of 2016

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A is Apple, Android, AI: And other state-of-the-art techB is for Brexit: A decision Britain may regretC is for Clinton: Her emails and her shimmyD is for Demonetization: The idea for a cashless economyE is for EU: That claims it has a migrant crisisF is for Fight: The war against terrorism, particularly ISISG is for Gandhis: India’s self-proclaimed first familyH is for Hombres: The good, the bad, and the uglyI is for ISIS: a group that’s anything but rationalJ is for Jingoism: If you don’t believe it, you’re anti-national K is for Kim, Kanye, Kyle and the other celebrities L is for Live streaming: so you’re a part of big storiesM is for Michelle: the Obama who is loved moreN is for Note: The phone that lost Samsung crores and croresO is for Orange: In the United States, it’s the New BlackP is for Potter: The Cursed Child (was it good or did it face flak?)Q is for Questions: For which answers we have noneR is for Russia: Because everyone assumes Putin’s scumS is for Stars: Many left us in 2016 and are now shining brightT is for Trump: Did America play its cards right?U is for Ugly: What we feel about 2016 dailyV is for Virat: Or as fans say, Kohli, Kohli, Kohli!W is for War: It gets murkier, will there be a WW III?X is for X-travagent wedding: Money spent by Janardhan ReddyY is for Yolo: the mantra employed to surviveZ is for Zika: A virus that had a 2016 thrive

Scandal stirrers of 2016_Tabloid

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Twas a year for scandal, with fatal acts of passion, messy divorces, public spats and corporate soap-operas. All of India’s well-known faces decided to rumble with each other. And we had front row seats to the biggest shows of the year…Twist of the yearDecember 2016 threw in a twist in the Sheena Bora case: that her step-father, media baron Peter Mukerjea was allegedly a co-conspirator in her abduction and subsequent murder.The Sheena Bora murder case broke in August 2015, when her mother Indrani Mukerjea, stepfather Sanjeev Khanna and Mukerjea’s driver Shyamvar Pinturam Rai were arrested by the Mumbai Police for allegedly abducting and killing her and subsequently burning and dumping her corpse; and the case got murkier over the course of 2016.Mukerjea, whose son Rahul’s engagement to Sheena was supposed to have enraged Indrani, was assumed to be an innocent bystander. But public prosecutor Bharat Badami said Mukerjea played a “very crucial role” in the murder. He presented the long list of emails and messages exchanged within the family, especially between Peter and his son Rahul, and his calls to Indrani. Badami pointed out a pattern in the calls and messages between Indrani and Peter. “After a call to Sheena, Indrani immediately called Peter and they spoke. They spoke even when she reached and found a spot to dispose of the body. Similarly, she had exchanged messages at every step with Peter,” Badami told the court.A few months in prison seems to have served as a spiritual and personality cleanse. While Peter has already started penning his memoir, Indrani has been transformed by the suffering of her fellow inmates, and has plans to donate her organs and 75 per cent of her property. She has also said to have translated 700 shlokas from the Gita, while we hope for a good kiss-and-tell bestseller.Creative divorcesAshima and LeenaIn February, designer duo Ashima (above left) and Leena (above right), who wove magic for over 20 years for their eponymous label ‘Ashima Leena’, decided to part ways. While Ashima Singh was the creative force, Leena Singh handled the brand’s business and management of production cycle. However, the ladies managed the creative divorce with the elegance one associates with their clothes. Leena Singh retains and continues to work under the brand name ‘Ashima Leena’, while Ashima launched her own label, Ashima Singh. She chose a different retail route, to make sure her new label did not clash with her old one, launching her store at Visaya Hotel in Panchsheel Park in Delhi.Armaan-AimanIn March, another designer duo’s creative partnership hit the rocks. Fresh flavour of the indie-crowd, designers Armaan Randhawa (below left) and Aiman Agha (below right), who designed under Armaan Aiman, went kaput. The duo had only been together for barely three years, showing first at GenNext at Lakmé Fashion Week (Winter/Festive) in 2013. They soon gained entry into the cool and quirky crowd, and announced their split the millennial way—through social media.On March 1, their Facebook page announced that the label was now simply called ‘Aiman.’ Agha refused to comment on her departure, while Randhawa said the reasons were personal and they remain good friends. When Lakme Fashion Week came around in August, Randhawa was back with his solo collection, EKAM.Art arrestIn 2015, artist Chintan Upadhyay was arrested for murdering his estranged wife and her lawyer Haresh Bhambhani. He allegedly even dumped their bodies in a Kandivli drain. Understandably, the art world dropped a few fine brushes over the news.The arrest only enhanced the price of Chintan’s work outside prison. In May, one of Hema’s friends, Sanchu Menon, wrote to prison authorities questioning why Chintan was getting unwarranted privileges in jail. Apparently, not only was the artist getting home-cooked khana, he was also allowed to paint in his cell and then sell those paintings for a handsome sum outside. Menon alleged that not only was this illegal, but Chintan was using this money to help the main accused Vidyadhar Rajbhar to stay in hiding.It was in Rajbhar’s art workshop that Hema and Bhambhani were allgedly murdered on December 11, 2015, and Vidyadhar, aka Gotu, remains an essential link in the case. It was reported in June 2016 that Rajbhar was working in a Chennai suburb.In August 2016, a 13-page confession was made before a magistrate by Pradeep Rajbhar, who used to work and live at the art workshop, Bansraj Art Company, where Hema and Harish were allegedly murdered. In his confession, Pradeep said he lured Hema at Chintan’s behest to the workshop with the promise of giving her a sex tape of Chintan with another woman. It was all allegedly part of a ruse to finish her off for filing a false complaint against him in court. In November, a sessions court in Dindoshi rejected Chintan’s second bail application.End of an affairFarhan Akhtar and Adhuna BhabaniMore than a little faith was shaken when Farhan Akhtar and Adhuna Bhabani parted ways after 16 years together. There were whispers that his co-star Aditi Rao Hydari’s presence could have caused a crack in the marriage as they grew close on the sets of Wazir.Their cool and unconventional marriage (Adhuna was older and more successful of the duo, and always maintained a non-star-wife identity) was surpassed only by the camaraderie with which they conducted their divorce.They filed for divorce on October 19, and both are attending the mandatory counselling sessions before it is finalised. There has been no mudslinging, allegation of affairs or fighting over their children (they have two girls together).They’ve concentrated on their careers. Adhuna’s B:Blunt launched a line of hair products and a funky ad promoting them using only bloggers; while Farhan starred in Wazir, Dil Dhadakne Do and Rock On 2.Farhan is also said to have moved on with Rock On co-actor (co-stars seems to be his dating pool. How’s that for minimal effort?) Shraddha Kapoor, with her allegedly moving into his bachelor pad in Bandra (until papa Shakti Kapoor apparently pulled her out and told her to take it slow).Though Adhuna still works on movie assignments, there seems to be an unwritten agreement that neither she nor anyone from her team will style Farhan for a while. In October, she apparently refused to style Farhan for a chat show after spotting his name on the guest list and requested that none from her team be asked to do so either.Jaidev Shroff and Poonam BhagatA couple that is not being elegant over the end of their association is art patron Poonam Bhagat (left) and industrialist husband Jaidev Shroff (inset). The two have hurled serious, criminal and even fantastical allegations at each other each other as they speed towards divorce.Shroff met Bhagat in 2000, when he was in the midst of divorce proceedings with first wife Romila, because of her alleged involvement with a Dubai-based businessman.The Shroff-Bhagat union was solemnised in 2005 and in October 2015, Shroff filed for divorce on grounds of “cruelty” towards him and his two daughters with Romila.In April, 2016, Shroff filed an FIR at Khar police station alleging that Bhagat performed black magic on him by administering a ‘magic potion’ in a glass of orange juice, allegedly obtained from a Bengali baba.In her application, Bhagat accused Shroff of domestic abuse for eleven years. She said he started hitting her within six months of their marriage and “giving her a black eye, and (breaking) her tooth by stuffing a mobile phone down her throat.” In 2008, Bhagat — then, pregnant — said she confronted Shroff about taking a former girlfriend to a family event.Bhagat says Shroff then slapped, pushed her to the ground and kicked her, which resulted in a miscarriage.If we were handing out an award for the messiest divorce of 2016, the Bhagat-Shroff saga would win hands down.Arbaaz-Malaika AroraThe Malaika Arora-Arbaaz Khan (impending) divorce has gained traction as the year ends. It served as a classic case of ‘are they-aren’t they’? Hints of the divorce started doing the rounds after Malaika dropped ‘Khan’ from her name at a dance reality show. Then they were spotted at the Bandra family court with their lawyers.Slowly, we heard of Malaika moving out of the house with son Arhaan and Salman trying to play ‘fixer’. But apparently bhai wasn’t able to forge a reunion, because they don’t share a close bond. Salman allegedly did not approve of her work, her clothes and her close circle of friends.The reasons for their split are supposedly more material than emotional. Sources say Malaika was not happy with Arbaaz’s unsuccessful career and did not like the fact that her husband “lived in the shadow of his superstar brother”. She is also said to have always felt like an outsider in the Khan family.Why do we feel this celebrity divorce may continue to make headlines in 2017?Best story spinnerIf Priyanka Chopra sneezed on the sets of Baywatch, we’d hear about it. The PR machinery for our export to Hollywood worked itself to exhaustion this year. When she had dinner with Gerard Butler, we heard they were dating. When she presented an award with actor Tom Hiddleston (above), she was said to have helped him get over his break-up with Taylor Swift. We hear Priyanka’s press agent has unrealistic expectations of her team, demanding a story about the star in the media every day. So don’t expect PeeCee, and her team, to slow down in 2017.Meltdown of the yearVikram Chatwal, a New York hotelier, came back on our gossip radar after he was accused of setting two dogs on fire outside his Manhattan home. Forty-four-year-old Chatwal, whose family owns a chain of hotels, has had a long turbulent history with drug abuse. He was admitted to rehab at Masina Hospital in Mumbai in 2009. In October 2016, Chatwal allegedly rushed out of his New York home to the street and attacked the two pups belonging to a passer-by saying, “They must die!” He then tried to set them on fire using a lighter and aerosol can.

Game UP: Samajwadi Party faces split as Mulayam expels Akhilesh

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>After Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav dropped a bombshell, expelling his son and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on Friday evening, all eyes are now on the party’s one-day national convention on Sunday.Mulayam also expelled his cousin and party general secretary Ramgopal Yadav for calling the emergency session of delegates, and accused him of “spoiling the career of the chief minister.” The SP chief said both Akhilesh and Ramgopal have been sacked for weakening the party and stated that his son didn’t even consulted him on state matters.In a fight to the finish, Mulayam and his brother Shivpal Yadav have summoned a meeting of party MLAs on Saturday and those named as candidates. Both factions of the Yadav family are vying to entice as many MLAs as they can to strengthen the party. “This expulsion is unconstitutional,” said Ramgopal, alleging that of late, the SP has made a practice of ignoring its playbook. “Half an hour after we were given notice, we were expelled. Even a criminal is given a chance to explain,” said a disgruntled Ramgopal.Party sources from Lucknow told DNA that the convention will appeal to Mulayam to continue to lead the party, but relook the list of candidates he had announced unilaterally on Wednesday and also revoke the decision to expel the Chief Minister. The list, announced by Mulayam, has several candidates backed by Shivpal whose candidacy had been fiercely opposed by Akhilesh. This included gangster-turned-politician Atiq Ahmed, who faces 44 serious criminal charges — including murder.Defying the party and his father, Akhilesh released his own rebel list on Thursday of 235 candidates. One of them included Rita Bahuguna Joshi. Formerly with the Congress before she switched to the BJP, Joshi is the MLA from Lucknow Cantt constituency.The party’s senior leader Madhukar Jaitley described the situation as “unfortunate”. He said a situation was unprecedented where a father, also the founder of the party, was compelled to expel his son. SP spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia said there was still room for reconciliation, but expressed concern at the move coming at a time when the state was on the verge of elections.Saturday will be a crucial day for the Mulayam and Shivpal camps, party sources said. The majority of MLAs have so far reposed their faith in the Chief Minister.On October 28, Akhilesh had mustered the support of 190 MLAs out of SP’s 229 against his uncle Shivpal. Besides legislators, the majority of party leaders as well owe allegiance to the Chief Minister, as they see him as the future of the party. Immediately after the decision, reports from Lucknow said workers thronged Akhilesh’s official residence, shouting slogans against Shivpal. Over 100 MLAs reached Akhilesh’s house to express support. There were also shouts of self-immolation as the crowds turned emotional.With elections now so close, there is hardly any possibility of the party replacing the Chief Minister now. In case of a majority of MLAs expressing a no-confidence motion, Akhilesh may be allowed to continue as caretaker. Otherwise, the state will move towards the imposition of President’s rule. Sources in Raj Bhawan said Governor Ram Naik is keeping a close eye on the developments, but, so far, no communication has been made to him from either the Mulayam or Akhilesh camp.Denying speculations that Akhilesh will resign, his loyalist Gomti Yadav said the CM will stay on till his last day in power.Already other parties are moving in to align forces. West Bengal CM and Trinamul Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee called up Akhilesh and offered support, saying “you are like my brother.” Congress leader Jayanta Prasad is already mediating between Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh for a possible electoral tie-up.While UP’s ruling party has been headed for a split for some time now, the break point came after Ramgopal called an emergency convention of the party in defiance of the party chief. This came after Mulayam issued a show-cause notice to his son, asking him why disciplinary action should not be taken against him for releasing a parallel list of candidates, which include several party leaders close to him and who did not make it to the official list released by his father a day before. Akhilesh’s list include 187 candidates who have also featured in his father’s list.The Chief Minister’s defiant move was seen as a last-ditch effort to pressure his father into reconsidering the candidacy of his key aides after they failed to reach common ground at a meeting in Lucknow. In recent months, Akhilesh has engaged in a bitter power tussle with Shivpal, who is the party’s UP chief. Notably, Shivpal was present next to Mulayam, when he announced the expulsion of Akhilesh.The SP’s internal battle gives an added advantage to the BJP and Mayawati’s BSP in the mega battle being touted as the semi-final before the general elections in 2019. Elections to UP’s 403 assembly seats are expected to be announced by the Election Commission any day now.The battle, which had been festering for over a year, had been triggered by Shivpal to control the party. This was resisted by Akhilesh, mentored by Ramgopal, his father’s cousin. Akhilesh has contended with a constant undermining of his decisions by Mulayam, under the alleged influence of Shivpal. Among the initiatives which his father thwarted include the lobbying for an alliance with the Congress for state elections, and a request to shun politicians with criminal backgrounds as candidates.Battle between the bahusIt is not just the father and son who are locked in a political battle. It is also a battle between the daughters-in-law. Aparna, wife of Mulayam’s second son Prateek, has stood by uncle Shivpal against Akhilesh’s wife Dimple, who is also an MP. Aparna had recently been handed a ticket from Lucknow Cantt. With the situation getting uglier between the father and the son, theories about the rift continue to emerge. Akhilesh’s supporters allege that Sadhna Gupta, the party chief’s second wife, and the Chief Minister’s stepmother, has instigated him against his eldest son. Now, with his expulsion, Akhilesh, Aparna and Sadhna are vying to become the youth face of the SP. Who will win the political games now remains to be seen.UP Caste Composition in 2016OBC 44%Dalits (Scs) 21.1%Tribals (Sts) 0.8%Forward Caste 16%Muslims 19.3%Christians 0.18%Out of OBCsYadavs -9%Lodhi -7%Jats -1.7%KUSHWAHA (MAURYA, SHAKYA, KOERI, KACHHI, SAINI) 4%Kurmi – 3%Other OBCs (including Sunars, few Muslim OBCs) -20%Jatavs Dalits -9%Non-Jatav Dalits (includes Pasis, Mallah and Valmikis) -11%

Centre shelves plan to set up world biggest solar power project in Leh

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Centre has dropped the plan to set up the world’s biggest solar power project in Leh owing to the huge transmission system cost.Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) had planned to set up 5,000 Mega Watt (MW) solar power project in Leh and 2,500 MW project in Kargil in 2013.The Leh administration had also identified the land for the project. But owing to the huge costs on the transmission system, the government decided to drop the project as of now.”The land too was identified where this project was to be established. But the transmission cost of the project was huge. So MNRE decided to drop it as of now,” T Gyalson, assistant director planning, Leh, told DNA.The solar power project was to be set up in the Leh district which is at the altitude of 11,562 feet and known as roof of the world. The project required at least 20,000 acre of the land in the cold desert. “We had identified the land at Chang Tha side for the project. But it did not take off because of the huge transmission cost”, said Gyalson.The ambitious project was supposed to not only meet the local energy demand but to make the restive Jammu and Kashmir a power surplus state.”India has 5,000 megawatt hydro power projects. It would have been the first solar power project with 5,000 megawatt capacity. It would have been world’s biggest in harnessing solar power,” said an officer.Cold desert of Ladakh has a huge potential in tapping the solar energy. Vast patches of barren land surrounded by gigantic mountains makes Leh a suitable place for setting up the solar power projects.However, the cold desert was left out from the scheme of things till 2013. It was after the experts realised the potential of Ladakh that the planners put their heads together and decided to harness the solar energy potential in a bid to make Jammu and Kashmir a power surplus state.”The evacuation for the transmission line is a big problem for executing the mega project. It is a very costly exercise. Therefore as of now, this project will not take off. However, we are working on smaller projects. There is a proposal for setting up small solar power plants. We are in the process of identifying the land for smaller projects,” said an official of MNRE.

Demonetization will cause 1.5% GDP loss

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former finance minister and Congress spokesperson P Chidambaram on Friday pegged the hit to the GDP at 1.5 per cent that is Rs 1.5 lakh crore as against former prime minister Manmohan Singh, who had pegged the loss to 2 per cent or more. He said the govt should not misread people’s patience as being happy with the demonetization, asking the Prime Minister to put an end to all restrictions on withdrawals of own money by the people and grant them back the economic freedom to withdraw as much money as they want in the new year.He said it is fair to expect that there shall be no queues outside bank branches and ATMs, that all ATMs will be open round the clock, fully stocked with currency notes, the bank will pay the money written on the cheque and not ask the drawer to draw another cheque of smaller amount.Dropping a hint that the whole demonetization exercise was PM Modi’s own brainwave, Chidambaram asked for making public the agenda note of the board of governors of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Cabinet note on the demonetization on November 8. He pointed out that RBI Governor Urjit Patel and only three non-official directors of the RBI Board met in Delhi at 5.30 pm on November 5 and took the decision to recommend demonetization of 85 per cent of the Indian currency in just 30 minutes. He wants to know how the governor and ‘three wise men’ reached such a momentous conclusion in so short a period and said that it should be made public what was discussed and if there were any dissents.Chidambaram said it would bring out the truth that everything was prescribed to both the RBI Board and the union ministers at the Cabinet meeting to have the command performance (as per the PM’s wish). He said he only hopes that there would not be another ‘surgical strike’ of this dimension on the people. Taunting at the BJP leaders describing the bank note withdrawal as a ‘surgical strike’, he said, “it should rather put all surgeons to shame.”

Arunachal strife: PPA says Pario to be CM, BJP claims Khandu has numbers

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As a politically tumultuous year in Arunachal Pradesh came to an end, the stage was set for another turmoil in the state assembly.Amidst reports that the ruling People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA) had announced that Takam Pario would take over as Chief Minister, the BJP ruled out any change in the top post saying Pema Khandu had the backing of a majority of MLAs.Khandu’s term seemed set to be cut short on Thursday night when his party suspended him, his deputy Chowna Mein and five other MLAs allegedly for anti-party activities. However, uncertainty continued on Friday as fissures within the PPA surfaced.”It was a failed coup by the Takam Pario group. Khandu has the backing of 33 of the 43 MLAs in the 60-member assembly,” BJP state president Tapir Gao told DNA. Besides, the BJP’s 12 MLAs and two independents are also backing Khandu, taking the total to 47.The BJP, which was an ally of the PPA, made it clear that it would support Khandu, and that there would be status quo in Arunachal Pradesh assembly.Government spokeperson Bamang Felix said 35 of the 43 PPA MLAs have reposed faith in Khandu’s leadership. “Everything is going normally as usual and the Chief Minister is still enjoying absolute majority,” he said.However, a section of PPA chose Pario, the richest MLA in the assembly, as its candidate to replace Khandu, who left the Congress in September and joined PPA. Party president Kahfa Bengia said Pario will be the next CM.Bengia said the party will now go to any length to ensure that they are in power. “Khandu and some MLAs were plotting to become turncoats by joining the BJP by January 15. The next few days will be crucial; if Khandu’s faction does something unconstitutional, we will take a legal recourse and revoke them from the party,” Bengia said over the phone from Itanagar.The PPA, the only regional party in the state, is an alliance partner in the BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA). The state has seen three different chief ministers in 2016.The political turf war began when Congress dissidents revolted against Nabam Tuki when he was chief minister. Congress rebel Kalikho Pul became CM with the support of 11 BJP MLAs. The Congress moved Supreme Court which restored Tuki government, only to be in power for a short term as he did not have the majority. However, MLAs backed Khandu instead of Pul, who committed suicide following which his wife won the election as BJP candidate.

Apologise for ‘blunder of demonetization’: Kejriwal attacks PM Modi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to tender an apology to the people during his address to the nation on New Year’s Eve on what he said was a “blunder of demonetization”.Kejriwal, also the national convener of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) which governs Delhi, said Modi has committed a blunder by demonetizing high-value notes and pushed India into a deep economic crisis.”Modi had demanded 50 days to implement the exercise, but there’s no sign of people recovering from its after shocks,” he said and demanded a roll back, suggesting that Modi should make an announcement in this regard in his address on Saturday.”There’s no solution other than rolling back demonetization,” the former Income Tax department official told reporters. Alleging that the RBI was “tight-lipped” on the amount of money demonetized or black money recovered, he asked the prime minister to explain how much of illegal wealth has returned and what amount of money was being pumped into the system.Initial estimates by RBI suggest Rs 14 lakh crore (in high-value notes) was in circulation, which has returned to RBI, but only Rs 4 lakh crore of new currency of Rs 2,000 notes was available for circulation, said Kejriwal, who had criticised the drive soon after it was launched on November 8.Financial experts all across the world have spoken against demonetization, he said, but only BJP president Amit Shah and “his team of sycophants” were hailing the decision. He also challenged the prime minister to order “any probe” against him. “I am not scared of Modi threats and open to any probe of my accounts by any central agency,” he said.Kejriwal maintained that Modi accepted bribes from big corporates such as Sahara and Birla.Modi had taken Rs 40 crore from Sahara on October 30, 2013 and Rs 25 crore from Birla group on November 12, 2013, he claimed, adding that the IT department has seized relevant documents from Sahara and Birla offices but no notice was issued to Modi.He said under the IT Act section 132(4A), any document recovered during raid is deemed to be true unless proved wrong by the party accused. “Not even a notice was issued to Modi and all Income Tax Commissioners dealing with the case were transferred,” he said.

Apple to cut iPhone production in first quarter of 2017: report | Reuters

Apple to cut iPhone production in first quarter of 2017: report | Reuters

Dec 30, 2016 23:43 IST

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Apple Inc (AAPL.O) will trim production of iPhones by about 10 percent in the January-March quarter of 2017, the Nikkei financial daily reported on Thursday, citing calculations based on data from suppliers.The company had slashed output by 30 percent in January-March this year due to accumulated inventory, the paper said. Apple’s shares were down 0.84 percent in midday trading, in line with the Nasdaq stock index.

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment on the report.

(Reporting by Aishwarya Venugopal in Bengaluru and Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 23:43 IST

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Israel issues severe travel warning for India, citing immediate threat of attacks

Fri, 30 Dec 2016-11:36pm , JERUSALEM , Reuters
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Israel’s anti-terrorism directorate on Friday issued a travel warning for India, citing an immediate threat of attack to Western and tourist targets, particularly in the south-west of the country.”A particular emphasis should be put on events in the coming days in connection with beach and club parties celebrating the New Year where a concentration of tourists will be high,” part of the warning said.

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

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

Israel issues severe travel warning for India, citing immediate threat of attacks | Reuters

Israel issues severe travel warning for India, citing immediate threat of attacks | Reuters

Dec 30, 2016 23:02 IST

‘);
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JERUSALEM Israel’s anti-terrorism directorate on Friday issued a travel warning for India, citing an immediate threat of attack to Western and tourist targets, particularly in the south-west of the country.”A particular emphasis should be put on events in the coming days in connection with beach and club parties celebrating the New Year where a concentration of tourists will be high,” part of the warning said.

(Writing by Ori Lewis; editing by Jason Neely)

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

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 23:02 IST

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JKLF chairman Yasin Malik detained before protest march in Pulwama

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>JKLF chairman Yasin Malik was on Friday detained at Pulwama as he led his supporters to stage a protest march against Jammu and Kashmir government’s decision to issue identity certificates to West Pakistani Refugees.Malik was detained along with several of his supporters.They were taken into preventive custody, a police official said.Separatists groups had called for protests on Friday against the government decision to issue identity certificates to West Pakistan Refugees living in the state since partition in 1947.The state government has decided to issue identity cards to the refugees and had to issue clarification after protests from opposition parties and separatists against the move. Initially, reports had said the opposition was against the government move to issue domicile certificates, but the state government said it was issuing identity certificates.Other political organisations, including BJP and Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party, have slammed separatists for opposing the issuance of certificates to the refugees.The refugees, settled in Jammu and Kashmir, are citizens of India and have the right to vote in parliamentary polls. However, they are not permanent residents of the state in terms of Jammu and Kashmir Constitution. They do not enjoy voting rights to the state assembly and local bodies.

CPI(M), Congress hail arrest of scam-tainted TMC MP Tapas Pal

Fri, 30 Dec 2016-10:15pm , Kolkata , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Hailing the arrest of TMC MP Tapas Pal by CBI, opposition CPI(M) and Congress on Friday hoped that the law would take its own course and “political match fixing” between TMC and BJP would not affect the progress of investigation.”We have been demanding this for a long time that CBI and ED should properly inquire into ponzi companies. But the investigation came to a complete halt after political match fixing between TMC and BJP. We hope such thing will not be repeated and the case will progress on its own merit and more such arrests will happen,” Leader of Opposition Abdul Mannan told reporters.Pal was on Friday arrested by CBI for his alleged involvement in the Rose Valley Chit Fund Scam.
ALSO READ Mamata defends scam-tainted Tapas Pal, claims Modi ‘insulted’ backward classes by naming app BHIM”This is not vendetta politics as TMC is claiming. The arrest is the result of the loot that TMC has done in ponzi scam. We feel that CBI should properly investigate the case and recover the money that has been looted,” CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty said.

Former Union Minister Balasaheb Vikhe Patil passes away after prolonged illness

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former Union Minister and Congress leader Eknathrao alias ‘Balasaheb’ Vikhe Patil passed away at his residence in Loni village in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra on Friday evening following prolonged illness, his family said. He was 84.Vikhe Patil largely kept away from public life in the last couple of years due to his illness. His son Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil is a senior Congress leader and currently the Leader of Opposition in the state assembly.Though a Congressman most of his career, Balasaheb was elected to Lok Sabha on Shiv Sena ticket in 1998 and became Minister of State for Finance in the NDA government. He was subsequently elevated as Minister for Heavy Industries. He returned to the Congress fold in 2004.His father, Vitthalrao Vikhe-Patil, was instrumental in setting up Asia’s first cooperative sugar mill at Loni.Born on April 10, 1932, Balasaheb Vikhe Patil first entered the Lok Sabha in 1971 from Ahmednagar district and continued to represent Kopargaon Lok Sabha constituency for the next 20 years.He also had a brief stint as president of Maharashtra Samajwadi Congress, a Congress splinter group, during 1977-79.Vikhe Patil family commanded a strong political base in the Ahmednagar area through a network of cooperative societies and educational institutes including medical and engineering colleges.He was also a founder president of Maharashtra Pani Parishad, an NGO which focused on efficient use of water and training of farmers.He received the Padma Bhushan in 2010.

Delhi: Fresh fight between AAP govt and Centre ahead of new LG Anil Baijal’s oath

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The CBI raids in Delhi government secretariat on Friday stoked a fresh confrontation between the AAP and the Centre with a combative Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal once again asking the Prime Minister to agree to a probe into the controversial ‘Sahara-Birla’ papers.Hours after the agency raided the office of former OSD of Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain over alleged illegal appointments, Kejriwal sought to turn the tables on Prime Minister Narendra Modi by raking up the Sahara Birla papers, an issue over which he has been targeting the PM.Referring to the raids on his former Principal Secretary Rajendra Kumar’s office last December, that had also triggered a political firestorm, Kejriwal said Modi not agreeing to an investigation by a Delhi government-appointed panel will prove that the PM “does not have the guts”.Kejriwal taunted Modi saying the 2015 CBI raid in the Delhi secretariat had thrown up “four mufflers” and that even the cost of the raid could not be recovered. Modiji had found a corrupt only in me at that point, Kejriwal said.”Today he (Modi) got a raid conducted on Satyendar Jain. But we are not going to be scared by your CBI,” Kejriwal said.Earlier, Kejriwal also got into a social media duel with Leader of Opposition in the Delhi Assembly Vijender Gupta who accused the Chief Minister of peddling false charges, which he said won’t “mitigate your own crime”.”You levelled false charges against my wife as well, used foul language against a woman. We are not scared of any probe but there has to be a crime,” Gupta tweeted.Kejriwal alleged that the CBI has filed “seven FIRs” against Jain and “two” against Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, but did not elaborate.CBI carried out searches at the office of the former OSD of Jain in connection with alleged irregularities in his appointment at Chacha Nehru Bal Chikitsalya and subsequently as an aide to the Minister.A senior government official said that it is a prerogative of the minister to appoint his OSD and that there was no irregularity involved in appointing Nikunj Aggarwal to the post.”Since October, he has not been holding any official post in the Delhi government as Health Minister Satyendar Jain had discontinued his service. Aggarwal had been appointed on contractual basis,” the official said.Reacting strongly, Jain tweeted, “CBI raided my office today. We will not bow down by these acts. Why not investigate Sahara Birla Diaries.”

Total mismanagement and administrative collapse: P Chidambaram flays PM Modi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former finance minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Friday took a jibe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying since 50 days of the demonetization drive are over, all restrictions should be removed and normalcy should be restored.’It is fair to expect that there will be no queues outside bank branches and ATMs. It is fair to expect that all ATMs will be open round the clock and fully stocked with currency notes. It is fair to expect that the bank branch will pay out the money written on the cheque and not direct the drawer to write another cheque for a smaller amount,’ Chidambaram said while addressing media.Chidambaram sarcastically said that only the Prime Minister can provide an assurance on the removal of restrictions after 50 days of demonetization as the opposition has been dubbed as supporters of black money hoarders and tax evaders by him.’I wish I could hold out assurances on the matter (demonetization), but none of us in the opposition can, because the government has dubbed all of us in the opposition as supporters of black money hoarders and tax evaders,’ he said.Condemning the government for implementing a currency ban without prior planning, Chidambaram reiterated his opinion of demonetization being a case of total mismanagement.’I had also cautioned that the test of demonetization lies in the manner in which it will be implemented. It is now abundantly clear that the whole exercise was undertaken without forethought and planning; without consulting key officials; without understanding the crucial role of money in circulation’ Altogether, the whole exercise has been a case of total mismanagement, administrative collapse and widespread corruption,’ he said.Pointing towards government’s changing stand on the announcement, Chidambaram called it an absurd and undesirable goal. ‘The government has tried to change the narrative from black money and corruption to a cashless economy. No economy can become — or has become – totally cashless. We support encouraging high-value transactions to adopt the digital mode, but to insist that even low-value transactions should go cashless is an absurd and undesirable goal,’ he said.The minister also put forward his two demands and urged the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to make it public- 1. The Agenda note and the minutes of the meeting of the Board of Directors of RBI held on November 8, 2016; and2. The Note for Cabinet on demonetization placed before the Cabinet on November 8, 2016.Prime Minister Modi is all set to address the nation on New Year’s Eve regarding the same issue of demonetization, which marked its 50 days on Friday.

One civilian killed in cross-border firing at J&K’s Poonch sector

Jammu: One civilian was killed, as Pakistani Army indulged in heavy cross-border firing, targeting Indian positions and civilian areas along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch sector, prompting the Indian side to retaliate.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

“Pakistani troops targeted the Indian Army posts and civilian areas along the LoC in Poonch sector with small arms, automatic and mortars at 16:55 hours,” an army officer said. He said the army was retaliating strongly and effectively to the ceasefire violation.

One civilian has been killed in the ongoing firing, a senior police officer said.

On 16 December, Pakistan had violated ceasefire by targeting Indian positions along the LoC in Balakote sector of the same district. That had come after a lull of over three weeks, after the Indian troops had launched a counter-offensive on 23 November against the killing of three soldiers in the Machhil sector of north Kashmir’s Kupwara district.

In the cross-LoC attack by suspected Pakistani terrorists, three Indian soldiers were killed on 22 November, with body of one of them being mutilated. Following the incident, the Indian Army had vowed a heavy “retribution”.

The 2003 India-Pakistan ceasefire agreement has virtually become redundant with over 300 incidents of firing and shelling along the LoC and IB in Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistani troops.

Over 26 people, including 14 security personnel, have been killed in ceasefire violations since the surgical strike on terrorist launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 19:32 IST

China blocks India’s request for U.N. to blacklist Masood Azhar | Reuters

NEW DELHI China has blocked India’s request to add the head of the Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad to a U.N. Security Council blacklist of groups linked to al Qaeda, India said on Friday.India has accused Jaish-e-Mohammad and its top leader, Maulana Masood Azhar, of masterminding several attacks, including a deadly assault on an Indian air base in January.Pakistani security officials interrogated Azhar and his associates after the attack, and said they found no evidence linking him to it.Jaish-e-Mohammad has already been blacklisted by the 15-nation Security Council, but not Azhar, an Islamist hardliner and long-time foe of India.Foreign ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said that India had requested that Azhar be added to the list nine months ago and had received strong backing from all other members of the council.But China, which put a hold on the move in April, had now blocked it, he said.

“We had expected China would have been more understanding of the danger posed to all by terrorism,” he said in a statement.Swarup added that the inability of the international community to take the step showed the “prevalence of double standards in the fight against terrorism”.China’s foreign ministry said there were different views about the case, so China had put forward a “technical shelving” to give more time for consultation, but that regretfully no consensus had been reached.

China’s aim is to maintain the authority and effectiveness of name listing by the committee discussing the case, which accords with Security Council resolutions and is the responsible thing to do, it said in a statement sent to Reuters.China will continue to maintain communication with all parties, it added.

India has long accused its neighbour and rival Pakistan of using Jaish-e-Mohammad as a proxy to mount attacks on Indian soil, including in the disputed Kashmir region, and earlier gave what it called “actionable intelligence” to Pakistan, including telephone intercepts.Pakistan denies giving any aid to Kashmir-based militants.If Azhar was blacklisted by the U.N. Security Council, he would face a global travel ban and asset freeze. (Reporting by Paritosh Bansal in NEW DELHI and Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; editing by Mike Collett-White and Jason Neely)

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

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 19:02 IST

2016 was gloomy; 2017 may get gloomier: The new normal is bitter and disregards truth

2016 was a gloomy year.

Chaos overwhelmed order and noise trumped good sense all through. Propaganda suffocated truth and opinion rode roughshod over facts. At the end of it India appeared to have finally settled into the new normal.

Welcome to the post-truth age. And goodbye the old world obsessed with morality.

What is the defining feature of the new normal? It has to be obfuscation of and disregard for truth. It rides on the brute power of propaganda and not-so-subtle manipulation of mass opinion. Truth is no more simple black and white; it is imbued with many shades and ambiguities. Innuendos, insinuations and disinformation designed to be malicious and address the lowest common denominator play a role to cloud it.

Representational image.

Representational image.

India was angrier, bitter and more cynical than ever the whole of the year, thanks to the crudity in the air. The hate talk, the unbridled combativeness and expression of acrimony is likely to continue through the next year and beyond. The rise and rise of the emotion-driven, and sometimes irrational, Right is one reason why. The failure of those in the ideological Left and the middle to develop a convincing counter-argument to them is another. But the worst is the inability of the ordinary Indian to keep himself insulated from political developments and study the reality around dispassionately.

The new normal is characterised by low trust and the tendency of players, political and otherwise, to exploit the trust gap through calculated lies and half-truths spread among people. Lies are what remained in full play in 2016. Every allegation against every political leader in the media and elsewhere was falsehood. The choice of the word ‘lie’ is deliberate. Over the last two-and-half years we have been hearing of scandals and involvement of political biggies in them. Television channels produce irrefutable proof every other day. How come none of the accused is in jail so far? How come Robert Vadra‘s land deals make it to headlines every couple of months yet he is not even in the court once? Obviously, we were being fed untruth all along or someone wanted to keep us distracted from our many existential problems.

The worst part is, we as a people have started enjoying the lies, elevated them to some kind of mass entertainment. The spicier it is the better. Obviously, we don’t give a damn. We have made truth irrelevant to our lives and facts redundant.

In the process we have diminished ourselves morally. In the post-truth age morality, private, public and institutional has taken a dip. It was evident the way we bought propaganda peddled by politicians on both sides of the ideological divide with a conniving media with unrelenting relish and happily became part of their political wars. We forgot that the idea of India was bigger than any ideology or leader. It is unlikely to change anytime soon.

The diminishing of institutions of public trust is a dimension of the new normal. So when the judiciary passes a verdict it is no more accepted as sacrosanct; when the Army says it conducted surgical strikes there are as many doubters as believers and when the Reserve Bank of India offers facts on demonetisation, there is suspicion. The police no more inspires respect. Government, run by politicians as they are, has always been low on credibility. How does a democracy function when all its institutions lack vigour and the social capital called trust? We were too busy asserting ourselves over others to notice the damage to the institutions and with them the sense of order.

Yes, 2016 was gloomy. 2017 promises to be no better.

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

China blocks proposal at UN to list Masood Azhar as terrorist; India dismayed at ‘double standards’

New Delhi: China on Friday finally blocked India’s proposal to list Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief and Pathankot mastermind Masood Azhar as a designated terrorist by the UN, triggering a sharp reaction from New Delhi which termed it as “unfortunate blow” and a step that confirms prevalence of double standards in the fight against terrorism.

With China blocking India’s proposal, which was submitted in February to the 1267 Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council, New Delhi has to make a fresh listing request for Azhar to be banned by the global body, officials said.

After its submission, China twice imposed “technical” hold on the Indian proposal.

File photo of Azhar Masood. Reuters

File photo of Masood Azhar. Reuters

However, India said it will continue to push forward with resolute determination “through the use of all options available with us to bring perpetrators of terrorist violence to justice”.

Asserting that its submission received the strong backing of all other members of the 15-member Sanctions Committee, External Affairs Ministry said, “We note with concern China’s decision to block the proposal to list Masood Azhar…”

The international community is aware that the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed which is proscribed by the United Nations, has been responsible for innumerable terrorist attacks on India including the Pathankot Air Base attack.

“The inability of the international community to list its leader Masood Azhar is an unfortunate blow to the concerted efforts to effectively counter all forms of terrorism, and confirms prevalence of double standards in the fight against terrorism.”

MEA Spokesperson Vikas Swarup also said the decision by Beijing is surprising as China itself has been affected by the scourge of terrorism and has declared opposition to all forms of terrorism.

“As a consequence of this decision, the UN Security Council has again been prevented from acting against the leader of a listed terrorist organisation. We had expected China would have been more understanding of the danger posed to all by terrorism and would join India and others in fighting the common challenge of terrorism,” he added.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 18:10 IST

Two Malegaon blasts accused no more but falsely shown ‘alive’, claims suspended ATS cop

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a sensational claim, a suspended Maharashtra ATS officer has told a Solapur court that two of the absconding accused in 2008 Malegaon blasts case are in fact dead but falsely shown as “alive” by high ranking police officers.Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis described the allegation by Anti-Terrorism Squad’s(ATS) former senior inspector Mehmood Mujawar as “quite serious” and said the government will look into the matter.The application filed in August before a magistrate court in Solapur claimed that Sandeep Dange and Ramchandra Kalsangra, who are among the accused in the Malegaon blasts case, are “no more”. The details of the application surfaced in public domain on Thursday. Notably, Mujawar was suspended after a case under Arms Act and criminal intimidation was filed against him in a Solapur court.”Sandeep Dange and Ramji Kalsangra are in fact no more but are shown alive in Malegaon bomb blast case by high ranking police officers,” Mujawar alleged.The application was filed in the court by Mujawar on August 19 this year seeking early disposal of the case under Arms Act registered against him. Mujawar, in his application, alleged that the case was filed against him as a conspiracy and was a pressure tactic as he wanted to reveal the truth about the “death” of Dange and Kalsangra.When asked about Mujawar’s claim, former ATS chief K P Raghuvanshi rubbished it, saying, “I don’t even remember who this Mujawar is or if he was even part of the team that investigated the case.” “At least, in my tenure in ATS, nothing of this sort has happened,” Raghuvanshi said.A retired police official, who has worked in the ATS, questioned Mujawar’s claim, asking as to why the allegation is being made now after eight years. “Who had stopped this official from revealing these important facts before? We must not believe these claims,” the official, requesting anonymity, said.A bomb strapped to a motorcycle exploded in Malegaon on September 29, 2008, killing seven people and injuring around 100. “Although the allegations are quite serious, we will have to look into it because why since 2009 no action has been taken. The concerned person says that the letter was sent to DG(DGP) and still there is no action taken. So I think we need to verify whether what is stated in the letter is really true, whether it is really genuine. I think, as of now I can only say that we will have a serious look at the entire episode,” Fadnavis told reporters when asked to comment on the claim by Mujawar.NCP spokesman Nawab Malik demanded a probe into the allegation.According to the investigating agencies, the Malegaon blasts was carried out by right wing extremists and a total of 11 persons are presently in jail in the case, including Lt Col Prasad Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur.The state ATS, which was initially probing the case, had charged the accused under various sections of the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) and under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), Indian Penal Code, Indian Explosives Act and the Arms Act. However, when the case was handed over to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the agency filed a supplementary chargesheet by which charges under MCOCA were dropped on the ground that there wasn’t sufficient material.The NIA chargesheet also dropped Sadhvi and five others from the list of the accused. Apart from Sadhvi, those given clean chit by NIA are Shivnarayan Kalsangra, Shyam Sahu, Praveen Takkalki, Lokesh Sharma and Dhan Singh.

Mumbai youth who joined Islamic State killed in Syria, terror outfit calls him ‘martyr’

In an official acknowledgment, the Islamic State on Tuesday confirmed the death of Aman Tandel, the Kalyan youth who left for Syria to fight for the Islamic State, a report published in DNA said.

The Islamic State paid tribute to Tandel on Telegram, a social networking site. While hailing him a “martyr”, the message added that he died in Raqqah — a city under the control of the terror group, the report said.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

A report published in The Hindu on Thursday said that security agencies confirmed the death of the Kalyan youth. “We cannot say when and how it happened, but on the basis of accounts provided by the family and other foreign agencies, it is confirmed that Tandel died in clashes in Syria,” the paper quoted an official as saying.

In November, the family of Aman Tandel received an unknown call from Turkey informing them of his death in an airstrike, reported Mid Day.

Tandel, an electrical engineer, along with two others, travelled to Iraq on the pretext of a pilgrimage in June 2014. He is the second India-born Islamic State fighter to be killed after Saheem Tanki — who is believed to have been killed in August 2015, The Hindu reported.

Meanwhile, a Mumbra-based youth Tabrez Tambe, who reportedly joined the Islamic State, came under the scanner of the Maharashtra ATS after the investigation agency refused to accept his claim that he is incarcerated in Libya, reported Mumbai Mirror.

Tambe reportedly called his brother Saud two weeks back and informed him of his arrest by Libyan authorities, the report added.

However, the ATS claims it has not yet received any report on his detention from Libya. The investigative agency believed that Tambe might be faking the story to avoid being arrested in India.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 17:23 IST

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