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Missionaries won’t be succesful in converting Hindus, because they don’t have strength: Mohan Bhagwat

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Raking up the issue of conversions, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said such attempts are unlikely to be successful in the country as the missionaries “do not have the strength”.Bhagwat pitched for Hindu unity and asked members of the community to come together irrespective of caste and language.”…after converting people to Christianity in the US, Europe, they (missionaries) are eyeing Asia. China calls itself secular, but will it allow itself to come under Christianity? No. Will Middle-East countries let it happen? No. They now think India is the place.”But they should keep it in mind, notwithstanding their strong push over 300 years, only six per cent of Indian population could be converted to Christianity. Because they do not have strength,” he said.The chief made the remarks while delivering valedictory address at Virat Hindu Sammelan, organised by Bharat Sevashram Sangh in Vansda in the district.Bhagwat sought to buttress his point by saying how two churches, one in the US and another in Birmingham in the UK, were converted into Ganesh temple and offices of Vishwa Hindu Parishad respectively, by a Hindu businessman in America.”This is the condition (of missionaries) in their own countries and they want to convert us. They cannot do it, they do not have that strength,” he added.Bhagwat asked Hindus to remember “who they are” and that their culture is “superior”.”Hindu community is in trouble. Which country are we living in? Our own country. This is our land, from the Himalayas (in the north) to the sea (in south). This is the land of our ancestors. Bharat Mata is mother of us all.”We have forgotten ourselves. We are all Hindus. Let our castes, languages we speak, regions we come from, gods we worship be different. Those who are sons of Bharat Mata, are Hindus. Hence, India is called Hindustan,” he said.Terming Hindu religion as one based on truth, Bhagwat said Hindus never tried to convert people pursuing other religions as they believe in co-existence.He urged people of all religions to “walk together” to make the world a better place and India a world leader.He reaffirmed the RSS stand that Hindus and non-Hindus living in “integrated India” have common ancestors who share the same DNA.Bhagwat urged the attendees to reach out to their “brothers”, to whom they have not gone for ages, keeping aside differences of caste, religion and language.”We should go to our brothers whom we have not gone to for ages. We did not go to them and hence these things (spread of other religions) are happening. We should go to them to share their pain, cooperate with them and perform our long-forgotten duty to make them aware of who they are, that we have common ancestors,” he added.

Pakistan to hand over dossier on India to new UN chief Antonio Guterres

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Pakistan would hand over a dossier on alleged Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav and evidence of attempted violation of maritime boundary by an Indian submarine to incoming UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Monday, his first working day after assuming office.Pakistan’s Permanent UN representative Maleeha Lodhi will officially pass on the dossier to Guterres at the UN headquarters in New York, Dawn reported, citing officials. “Soon after assuming office incoming UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres will get a feel of Pak-India rivalry as Islamabad is set to raise the issue of Indian interference with him,” the paper said.Pakistan claims that Jadhav, an Indian navy officer and an alleged operative of India’s intelligence agency RAW, was caught by its security forces earlier this year. His capture was announced in March and was flaunted by military as “proof of Indian interference and state-sponsored terrorism”.The government, which had pledged to expose alleged Indian hand in terrorism in Pakistan, domestically faced a lot of criticism for the delay in presenting to the international community evidence of Jadhav’s alleged involvement in subversive activities. Responding to criticism in the Senate, Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz had on December 7 said that “insufficient material” had been delaying the finalisation of the dossier. “It is not that material has been provided and it’s lacking in English and we are overcoming it. The (provided) material, in our view, was insufficient,” Aziz had told a meeting of the Senate Committee of the Whole House.”The required additional information” has now been made available and the dossier has been completed, the paper said, citing the officials.The officials did not share the specifics, but said it would contain proofs that India was allegedly patronising terrorism in Pakistan. The new UN chief would also be informed about the attempt by an Indian submarine to “intrude into Pakistani waters before it was spotted and forced to abandon the mission”, the paper said.The submarine incident, which happened last month, coincided with the fourth Pak-China joint naval exercise for promoting maritime security and stability in the region and the start of shipping activity under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor from Gwadar. Lodhi had in October 2015 presented three dossiers to the then secretary general Ban Ki-moon, which were said to be containing proofs of alleged Indian interference in Balochistan, Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Karachi. But, the move did not get much traction.When the attention of the officials was invited to the “credibility deficit” that Pakistan internationally faces, they expressed the hope that the UN would look into the fresh evidence that would be placed before it.

Bipin Rawat, Birender Singh Dhanoa assume charge as army, IAF chiefs

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>General Bipin Rawat assumed charge as India’s new army chief, while and Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa took over as the new chief of the Indian Air Force on Saturday.They succeed General Dalbir Singh and Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha respectively. Separate ceremonies were held on the South Block lawns and at the Air Headquarters. The new appointments were announced on December 16 by the government.Chief of Naval staff Admiral Sunil Lanba will head the Chiefs of Staff Committee.

Jaggi Vasudev on notebandi, nationalism and why he stands behind Narendra Modi

Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev is known for speaking his mind on a wide range of issues. In his new book Inner Engineering: A Yogi’s Guide to Joy (Penguin Random House India Pvt. Ltd), he has redefined spirituality. He does not describe himself as the usual ‘guru’, which he once called a four letter word. Instead, he prefixes it with another four-letter word ‘sadh’ to complete his self-description. To talk to us, he walked into a central Delhi garden, kissed gently by the winter sun, in a turban that hides the colour of his hair and a cotton-candy beard that gives it away. Spirituality for him is not a straight jacket. He enjoys playing ball, flies choppers and wears jeans when not in loose cotton pants, and surprises you by calling spirituality a ‘technology’. Spirituality is neither detachment, self-abnegation nor being less worldly than anybody else. He engages with every contemporary issue and doesn’t hold back. Though not politically aligned with any party or leader, he discusses demonetisation and nationalism, the two hot-button issues of the day. With the disclaimer that he is not ‘nationalistic freak’, he says India needs to stand behind somebody who has taken a huge political risk (a reference to Narendra Modi and demonetisation), and that emotional commitment to a country is an essential ingredient for nation-building. Edited excerpts:

Your book revolves around your healing principle of ‘Inner Engineering’. Can you explain the concept?

This is not a teaching, preaching, philosophy, religion, this is a technology for wellbeing. Show me one person who doesn’t need a technology for wellbeing? In India, the book is leading across sections and doing even better than fiction and that is a statement from the people that it was needed. When it comes to other aspects of our life, we employ science and tech to make things work. When it comes to religion, we still have silly philosophies and ideologies. Why? This is a movement from religion to responsibility. Without turning inward, there is no way you will have yourself the way you want yourself to be. When you can approach medicine in a scientific manner, why can’t you approach inner-wellbeing in a logically correct and scientifically verifiable way, I ask?

The reason why somebody feels insecure and miserable is because they haven’t taken charge of their inward and out of insecurities and the bad experience of life, people may do many things in reaction.

Political developments across the globe in 2016 suggest that countries are closing their doors. Is there a way to go inwards into your culture and identity without pitting them against that of another?
Going inwards is not about culture, it is not about politics or the positions that we take in the world. Going inwards is because the source of your experience is within you. The reason why somebody feels insecure and miserable is because they haven’t taken charge of their inward and out of insecurities and the bad experience of life, people may do many things in reaction. Going inwards means you are in charge of how you experience your life, you can make it beautiful or ugly, blissful or miserable. Right now, because people haven’t turned inwards, there is much fear of suffering and anxiety, and anger against each other. We are trying to fix the reactions, when we should be fixing the source.

In the context of demonetisation, tell us if India is more critical of governmental decisions than before and do most believe that policies are designed to harm them?

We are critical of governmental decisions because we are used to governments that don’t take any decisions. Now when any decision is made, we think it is wrong. We’ve been a developing nation f70 years because we are simply unwilling to fix the fundamentals. There are certain serious problems in the country, do you want to take them head-on or do you want to pussyfoot around them forever? Demonetisation is a little bit of a confrontation with the problem that nearly 60 percent transactions are beneath the radar. How do you run a nation when a little over two per cent pay taxes? How does a nation’s administration function effectively without revenue? This is a system coming from a colonial era and the nomenclature still continues. Even today, district administrators are called collectors because in those days their job was to collect taxes. Earlier, whoever didn’t pay tax was a hero. We are still in that hangover. We can’t live in little nations of comfort and wellbeing, it’s time that we work for the wellbeing of the nation as a whole and for that some painful steps have to be taken. Right now, the issue is that if I have to start my own business, I have to build my own road, generate electricity, and manage sewage. This is not an excuse to not be in the tax net. Only if we pay, we can demand services. Democracy is not a spectator sport, we can participate through various instruments on a daily basis and demand results. If 30 percent of the population doesn’t come in the tax net in the next 10 years, we won’t have a developed nation. Nothing significant happens without some pain.

That said, do you think the present government is doing a good job?

The present government is doing a very good job by wielding a stick at those who are not being compliant with the nation’s goals. But the political game in a democratic country is nebulous. They will have to do a few populist things. When somebody takes a huge political risk to correct something, you have to stand with them. Once people have elected a government, all of us should simply support it. If you pull their leg, how will they function? I am not politically aligned with a party or a fan of any leader but believe in the wellbeing of a democratic nation. If you have any other commitment going against the nation’s growth, it is a crime. Those who are sitting in comfortable places are doing these things without understanding what we are denying to those who have barely eaten. You go to the remotest parts of Africa and you’ll find that the children are bouncy and healthy. Though there is experience and cultural strength in India, we are not doing well on the ground.

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Do we define nationalism too much? Why has it become necessary to prove that we are Indian?
Right now the big issue is that of playing the national anthem in theatres. Because you have popcorn in one hand and cola in the other, you can’t stand up. If there is no pride about the country, how do you build a country? Nationalism is not an ultimate goal, but an immediate need to move the people in one direction, otherwise everybody has their own caste, creed, religion, all kinds of things. We are talking about nuances of liberal freedom when half the people have not eaten. Right now, we’re in the basics, let’s understand this. I am not a nationalistic freak, my work is beyond national, racial and religious borders, and my idea of humanity is 7.3 billion people. But the nation is the largest mass of people and to bind it together and take it forward, national identity is important. Emotional commitment to the country is needed.

Is this the era of collective rage, clashing opinions and a lack of action?
The rage is limited to the media. There is a big sense of satisfaction and fulfilment among the poorest of poor in this country, because they feel that for the first time somebody has hit the rich. I only wish this digitisation process had started a year earlier, and 30 to 40 percent of the population had moved into a cashless economy. People are protesting all the time. There is more activism in the country than activity, we need activity. We have inherited this from a pre-independence era where we call for a bandh, shut down electricity, rasta roko, rail roko. Gandhi’s technology was fine when someone else was ruling us. How do we shut down our own nation? I am not for mad fanaticism at all but I am asking, how do you move people without getting them emotionally identified with the nation?

Not all mental ailments are because of pathological causes, but also happen because of social causes. In the West, one of the biggest problems is loneliness. In India, there is no room for loneliness because someone is always walking over you.

A recent Bollywood movie Dear Zindagi discussed the subject of mental health. Does everybody secretly like to believe they are depressed or that they need to be rescued? Is the youth ready or nation building, if they are self-absorbed?
In India, the self-absorbed youth is only a small segment coming from affluent families in urban centres. The rest of them are not like that. The population is largely community-oriented, so people are not depressed on the same scale as Europeans are. Not all mental ailments are because of pathological causes, but also happen because of social causes. In the West, one of the biggest problems is loneliness. In India, there is no room for loneliness because someone is always walking over you. This may look like an irritant at some point but it helps people stay mentally healthy. We are slowly withdrawing from that and moving toward a different mode, and there will be a price to pay.

Is spiritualism now a capitalism-driven material need, just like a bag or a pair of jeans?
There is substantial medical and scientific evidence to prove that only when you are in a pleasant state of experience, your body and brain works at its best. If you want to succeed in the world, it is only a question of harnessing your body and brain to the fullest. If you do this successfully, will you become unsuccessful in the world? Miserable people are not successful. The spiritual process is a self-realisation. You can use a phone better if you know more about it. The same thing applies to the brain, the greatest and most sophisticated gadget on the planet. Spirituality is not a disability, it is the greatest empowerment you can receive, your body, mind, thought, emotions and energy will function for you and not against you if you know the nature of your existence fully. It’s just like you can either open up the cosmos with a phone, or just use it in a rudimentary way to SMS your friend.

Is social media leading to a rise in depression because one has constant access to other people’s achievements? Are we in a state of constant denial?
Every gift given to you is becoming a problem because you are trying to extract happiness from the world. You need to understand that all human experience happens from within. If you’re seeking joy from Facebook, you’ll be miserable because you’ll see wrong faces. Every technology that comes to you has come to enhance your life and not take away your joy. You have to move from compulsiveness to consciousness. Your very mind is the source of your misery. People want the brain of an earthworm? Why? It took us years of evolution to get here. Those who are joyful in their own way, by their own nature, their genius will unfold. Right now, the fear of suffering has cramped you up, you are blaming Facebook, blaming the phone, blaming technology. This is because your own intelligence has turned against you. If the source of your existence is in your hands, you will choose pleasantness.

Over 18,000 children have committed suicide in 2015, if we don’t accept that we are doing something fundamentally wrong, we have not gotten life properly. The entire world looked toward Indian culture for guidance when it came to life.

Why do we have to lose our peace and then find ways to bring it back?
Our schooling system is a leftover from the British times. They designed it mainly to demand obedience. This was her majesty’s requirement. We should have seen what kind of schooling we need for a free India. We need free human beings with a free-ranging mind. A large segment of population has been in extreme poverty and it all became about how to get a job. So, nobody could be trained about anything that concerns life. Over 18,000 children have committed suicide in 2015, if we don’t accept that we are doing something fundamentally wrong, we have not gotten life properly. The entire world looked toward Indian culture for guidance when it came to life. We are not making use of anything we know and are reinventing India from a western perspective. If you say anything Indian, people say mad nationalism is happening. There are 120 weaves in this country, we were the greatest textile nation in the country. But we are killing it totally because our brains are still in Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). At the same time, our Indianness shouldn’t be rigid, history shows us that we have been able to absorb anything that comes our way without resistance and still retained our culture. This is a nation that has explored the interiority of the human mechanism like none other, we have the USP for how a human being can be joyful. This is a methodology we can offer the entire world. First, at least a majority in India has to get this.

So, economic wellbeing isn’t enough for development?
Economic wellbeing alone will not translate into human wellbeing. For instance, in the export town of Tirupur in Tamil Nadu, almost everybody earns two to three times more than those in neighbouring towns. Last year, on Diwali, Tamil Nadu sold 36 crore worth of alcohol and in this about 24 to 25 crore was from Tirupur. It is a town of merely 8 lakh people. Wherever economic wellbeing has happened, 40 per cent has become diabetic. This is why we’re talking about yoga nation.

Can spiritual leaders take a political stand?
If you can stand for an election, why can’t I? I won’t but that’s my choice. I have as much right as you have to stand for elections.

What kind of India do you envision for in 2017?
Right now, 60 percent of the population is undernourished, we are producing half and substandard human beings. The next thing is empowerment. We can educate people toward better agriculture, skill people in different ways; human beings must be empowered to do whatever they want. The next thing is ecology. This is a very serious problem that has gone unattended. Some studies show, on an average, all Indian rivers are depleting by 8 percent per year. This means, in 15-20 years, rivers will become seasonal. For instance, Kaveri doesn’t reach the ocean for two and a half months. What are we going to leave for our children? Barren land? Fly from Delhi to Chennai and every five minutes you will see large patches of brown. When sunlight continuously falls, bio-activity sinks deeper and deeper; what you think is soil today will become sand tomorrow. The per capita potable water you had in 1947, today you have 19 – 20 percent of it. In 2020, you’ll have only 7 seven percent of it. We need drastic ecological policy steps, which people will hate like they hate demonetisation.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 10:09 IST

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

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

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

Freedom 251. IBNLiveFreedom 251. IBNLive

Freedom 251. IBNLive

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

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

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

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

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

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

Linear projects: A rising threat to our forests and wildlife: Fauna

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Earlier this month, on December 5, locals at Hojai in Assam’s Nagaon district witnessed a distressing incident. A speeding Kanyakumari-Dibrugarh Vivek Express rammed into three elephants, killing them. It included two pregnant elephants, who delivered stillborn calves. Only 12 days later, two adult elephants and a calf were killed when a train hit them 125kms away from Guwahati, again in Nagaon district. These two accidents along with another one on December 6 took the life of eight elephants in December alone.The accidents in Assam and the rise in proposed linear projects such as highways, railway line doubling, power transmission lines and canals once again bring to attention how perhaps certain developmental projects pose the biggest threats to our forests and wildlife. A deeper look into projects that have been both, proposed and cleared, reveals that they will pass through some of our most dense forests that are home to rich biodiversity, varied wildlife and are precious sources of freshwater in fast warming climate. In 2016, some crucial linear projects that will fragment our forests, were cleared or have made their way towards being cleared.Wildlife corridors under threatFor instance, in March, the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), chaired by the Prime Minister, cleared conversion of the 227-km long Gondia-Jabalpur line from narrow gauge to broad gauge. Of this 227km, 77km will pass through the Kanha-Pench tiger corridor, considered one of the most crucial in the country for it allows tigers from two different source populations and gene pools to move to newer territories.In Eastern India, the Indian Railways has approved expansion of the 156km long Sambalpur-Angul railway line, that already fragments Satkosia-Ushakoti-Badrama elephant and tiger landscape.Conservationists and wildlife activists have argued that while large linear projects should be avoided in forests and wildlife habitats, there is also an acute lack of standardized environmental safeguards.Lack of willIn the case of National Highway – 7 widening, that will pass through the Kanha-Pench wildlife corridor and the Pench tiger reserve, the National Highway Authority of India was dragged to court to have them construct environmental safeguards such as underpasses and overpasses for safe wildlife passage.The NH-7 case illustrated that government agencies were unwilling to initiate expenditure on environmental safeguards to prevent wildlife casualties, until courts ordered them to. Following this case, the union ministry for environment, forest and climate change commissioned the Wildlife Institute of India to prepare guidelines on incorporating environmental safeguards in linear infrastructure. The ministry also commissioned this report with a view to ensure speedy clearances for linear projects.The guidelines were made public in October and suggested minimum engineering solutions such as elevated ramps and sections should for wildlife to cross highways and fencing in case of railways. The guidelines though, do not have to be followed mandatory, as they have not been notified.Environmentalists have also questioned these guidelines. “I don’t think these guidelines will be followed because the project developers always try to go for safeguards that will be least expensive. We need to put in place a conservation fund for linear projects and project proponents ought to involve environmental experts at the start of the project and not at the clearance stage. These projects are fragmenting and damaging valuable forest resource,” said Anish Andheria,, President, Wildlife Conservation Trust, a non-profit organisation working in 110 protected areas across 19 states.Other conservationists said that the current dispensation has junked an earlier decision of the environment ministry to stop new roads in protected areas. “The NBWL, in its previous term, had recognised linear infrastructure as one of the major threats to forests and wildlife. This prompted formulation of guidelines that said that no new roads will be constructed in protected areas. Why were those guidelines junked? asks Prerna Bindra, conservationist and former member of NBWL standing committee.Upcoming projects passing through forests and protected areasProposed linear projects waiting for wildlife and forest clearance:Dedicated freight corridor passing through Gautam Buddha Sanctuary, home to leopards, bears and chitalCasterlock-Kulem railway line doubling and Tinaighat – Castlerock railway line doubling in Dandeli wildlife sanctuaryHubli-Ankola railway line will pass through Western Ghats forests, Bedthi conservation reserve at Yellapur and buffer region of Anshi Dandeli Tiger ReserveBarkhera-Budni third railway line construction in Ratapani wildlife sanctuary. Project will take up 104.75 hectares of the sanctuary

What will define citizenship in India and the world in 2017?

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As 2016 draws to a close and many of us are emotionally spent lamenting events that we consider undesirable, citizenship has emerged as one of the murkiest ideas of the last year. Who is a citizen? What does citizenship entail? What should be expected of citizens and what is owed to them? Where does the writ of the state end, vis-à-vis rights and privacy? Every major event of 2016 has raised one or more of these questions. ComplianceIn India, demonetization has put the spotlight on compliance. Introduced suddenly and executed shoddily, those struggling to cope have found their situation exacerbated by what seemed like daily changes in regulations. The on-the-ground reality of cash shortages and non-functioning ATMs have plunged countless Indians into crisis. The broadcasting style of the government—they pronounce, we scurry, no questions asked—has left Indians helpless. We must comply because we have no way to challenge or defy.The absence of large protests was offered the other day on television as evidence of the success of this move. The reality is that most of us have been too busy trying to figure out withdrawals and deposits to organise! Most beleaguered are bank staff who have gone in fifty days from making patriotic noises to lamenting their choice of career—to ordinary account-holders, they are the face of this arbitrary government and the recipients of public ire. We are all complying because we have no choice.“Compliance” is not a bad thing—laws, rules and regulations are presumably intended to benefit us. Citizens should obey them. But should we obey blindly and should we be expected to obey without debate? ‘To comply’ means to conform, to follow along, to observe, to submit—and in the absence of debate, discussion, questioning and accountability, all these words are inimical to democracy. Compliance achieved by enforcement suggests that there is no consensus on the appropriateness or utility of a regulation. And if there is no consensus, that means the law or rule has not really been discussed adequately.Parliament sessions are listed on the calendar but how many days do Parliamentarians actually do any session-time work—debates, questions and answers? All Indian parties are responsible for this breakdown but governments—all governments—have turned it into an opportunity to govern by ordinance. This is a windfall for anyone seeking to push their will through to the public. That makes enforced compliance of rules-never-debated sinister. Yes, Indians are past-masters at flouting rules. But stressing compliance over an understanding of the spirit of a law or regulation is not the answer; it suggests that the government is keener on making us obey than creating a climate in which we engage with and together fashion the frameworks of our lives.In 2017, what I want to know is, will my citizenship be measured solely and entirely—by government and fellow-citizens—in terms of my willingness to comply without question? I suspect so, given the tendency to cry ‘anti-national’ when faced with any debate or questions. Judging by the last two months, I would suggest that we have definitely entered a phase in which citizens are expected to be subjects of a state that knows best.Embed from Getty ImagesCredulityPolitical smarts, when I was growing up, involved questioning the actions of the state. Being interested in politics meant asking before obeying, challenging before accepting and endlessly debating. Being apolitical was manifested by finding the loopholes and generally believing that it made no difference who was in power or what they did. Both poles kept the rhetoric of political leaders in their place—“Nice to see you, but no one really believes what you say.”This is quite a different moment. We now desperately want to believe in our political leaders. We crave strong paternalistic leaders who will tell us what to do—whether or not they actually know. We are okay with being ruled by people who give directions to places they have never heard of. We just want them to sound confident. We want to be children and subjects who are led into a better future. We ask no questions. We have obliterated from our minds every historical memory and so we have no fear of a return to other fascist ages. We have no interest in political agency—we would even like to vote by SMS as if life were a reality show—and so we surrender it to strong men who know (always men, by the way!). This seems to be a worldwide phenomenon.We are content to swallow the dreams these strong men articulate, the road-maps they outline even if they keep shifting, their self-assessment as successful and visionary (this is after all, the age of self-nomination for awards and LinkedIn visionary leaders!) and their choice of a range of coercive measures. We accept with faith everything we are told about those who challenge them—human rights workers usually, who do their work in the face of great danger. Around the world, human rights NGOs are being charged with non-compliance—but it is becoming hard to distinguish whether it is non-compliance with rules and regulations or non-compliance with the government’s line that they are being framed and punished for. We have to remember that today it is them, but tomorrow, it could be any of us.Targeting dissenting elements in civil society is not unique to the present Indian government, to be fair. However, what has changed in the state-civil society equation is that citizens are stepping forward to sweep away any obstacles or rubble in the path of the state juggernaut. Nobody is asking questions. Most are not asking questions because they have chosen to live as subjects of a paternalist state that shows tough love for their own good. Some are not asking questions because they are afraid of being crushed by the juggernaut. A very small number are picking their battles so that they can outlast this moment. The fate of the handful of truly brave Indian citizens, who are undeterred in the face of government pressure and persecution and unsupported in this moment of absolute credulity on our parts, hangs in the balance. Will we ensure they survive 2017?ConvictionThe word ‘conviction’ is now associated more with being found guilty and punished than with having strong unassailable beliefs. Many of us around the world are proud of living in democratic political systems—in fact, those of us that occasionally ask questions are reminded that democracy involves accepting (unconscionable?) points of view and the outcomes of due process elections. Fair enough!This pride does not however seem to translate into much else. In an age when information is ubiquitous, democratic citizenship remains confined to expressing opinion and not seeking to have an informed opinion. This is why, on the morning after the Brexit vote, Google reported that the most-searched term of the day was “What is the EU?” Not knowing the answer to something, no longer precludes our having an opinion on it—that is democracy 2016-style. Democracy is about giving everyone a voice. The US presidential election suggests this is how we understand it: feeling alienated and excluded from the political and social changes of the last few decades, we can seek to exclude and alienate others. Democracy is not about inclusive and enabling processes but a tug-of-war about who is in and who is out. There are shades of this view of democracy to be found all over the world, including India and other parts of South Asia. We sway with the prevailing wind, giving uninformed opinion the clout of conviction. If someone comes to us sounding confident about what they are saying, we are convinced and do not find it necessary to question values, logic or facts. This is why “post-truth” was selected by the Oxford Dictionaries as the word of the year.Embed from Getty Images‘Conviction’ is a beautiful word. To say of someone that they are a person of strong convictions is to pay them a compliment. But should our convictions be so rigid that they cannot accommodate the experience of others? More critically, when we are talking about democracy and citizenship, should the strong men to whom we have handed over our agency be allowed to impose their convictions upon us?I want to know where we stand. As 2017 begins, I want to understand what we believe in—individually and collectively. Citizens of democratic states and societies around the world need to think about this and find ways to express themselves. Our casual submission betrays our values. Our silence emboldens those who would disregard our citizenship.Do we truly believe in democracy? If we did, our societies would not be as divided, our public debates replaced by monologues and tweet-binges and our ability to converse with each other so badly impaired. Our everyday engagement with politics seems confined to ‘who started it’ and ‘who said what to whom.’ Our so-called democratic convictions stop short of understanding citizenship and our own relationship with states. We see the purpose of government as ‘control’ (as reflected in many school civics lessons)—and so we submit to that control uncritically. Citizenship is naturally about compliance and credulity, rather than a conviction-driven engagement.CourageIn 2017, conviction-driven engagement will take even more courage than usual. We have lowered our defences everywhere to such a degree that every small thing—including writing a cheeky response to the requirement that we explain our deposits—appears bold. To say that we will not get Aadhaar cards (which, please note, are not mandatory) and we will not use a digital wallet now seem like volunteering to face bullets. What will we then do when the real lathis and bullets come?Where citizenship is expressed by over-eager compliance and utter credulity (really, rolling over and playing dead), then the work that is done by the groups like the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group is astoundingly brave. To understand how the politics of implementing demonetization ties in with the way that the government wants to suppress dissent, take this development. Shalini Gera, a lawyer from this group, travelled to Bijapur for a case and was told that a complaint had been filed against her for “exchanging old Rs 1,000 notes worth Rs 10 lakh for the Maoists.” Is this true or is this not true? Do we care enough to find out? The chances are we don’t. We are happy to believe that all human rights activists are engaged in nefarious activities involving anti-national elements. Because the government would never lie to us, would it? But people like Shalini Gera—or any of the many other human rights activists targeted by the government through tax probes or FCRA challenges—have the courage of their convictions. They stay the course. Thankfully.Right or wrong, every accused person has the right to due process and a legal defence. All citizens have the right to ask questions and get answers. The constitution of India gives us the right to ask what has happened to missing people; to expect that governments will do their work without exceeding their mandate and jurisdiction and to understand by what authority governments act. Citizenship is not an entitlement or a legal status alone; it is a privilege, and one that you exercise through agency, when political agency requires courage. Citizens—in India and other democratic countries—enjoy civil and political rights, but in 2017, we will get to see whether they have the conviction and the courage to reclaim and exercise them.CompassionIn 2016, political discussions hit a new low. At the good end, we had uncivil, uninformed and ad hominem discussions. At the bad end, we had trolling, cyber-bullying and hate speech. Sometimes, it was hard to tell the two ends apart. Nothing however, highlighted the absence of compassion from our public lives as much as the Syrian crisis and demonetisation.The world has been grappling with a Syrian exodus for a couple of years. As nearby states have quietly absorbed large numbers of refugees, this has precipitated an identity crisis and cultural debates in Europe and North America. To the extent that various European countries have taken in refugees and tried to help them settle down, this has become an issue in domestic politics. But even as we watched elections around Europe and discussed political trends there, news kept emerging from Syria about the deteriorating ground situation. People tweeted photos and blogged stories. We liked, favourited, shared and retweeted, and maybe signed petitions. What history will record is that we did nothing. More than a century since we began looking for collective security, we have not found a way to channel our compassion into action that strikes a good balance between interference and intervention, between helping and handling.Embed from Getty ImagesThe other, closer to home, is how middle-class Indians have responded to demonetization. When faced with questions about implementation and concerns about impact, I have been saddened by the things I hear people say.“Don’t worry about the poor! They have lots of cash.” “Do you think the street vendor is poor? He or she has other sources of income. And by the way, they don’t pay tax.” “See, everyone should have a bank account.”“What’s the problem? Soldiers fight on the front, we can’t stand in queues?” (Never mind the old, the frail, the arthritic and the diabetic, who stood for hours to maybe get a small portion of their money.)“It’s so easy to use digital if you have a smartphone.” (IF you have a smartphone, electricity and decent connectivity.)“Small businesses like tailors will take a hit but everything will be alright in the long run.” (“In the long run, we are all dead,” wrote Keynes.)Middle class resentment about those better-off seems logical. What has emerged is our resentment about those worse off than us. It is as if they are secretly better off. As we have palmed off our stashes of old notes to them, we have not considered that they might be accountable too. We do not consider whose who work in our homes and offices to be human, leave alone citizens. I have been alarmed by the payment in advance of salaries—does that portend a new version of bonded labour that ties the honest worker to the dishonest employer for an indefinite period?A government that appears callous and a credulous citizenry that seems to lack compassion—this is a lethal combination that is now in evidence worldwide. The likelihood that 2017 will redefine citizenship as a web of compassionate relationships seems non-existent, but because we cannot afford that pessimism, I list compassion here anyway.***What will we make of our citizenship in 2017? Wherever we live, it will be a year in which, consciously or unconsciously, we mark our place on the spectrum between credulous compliance and courage of conviction. Wherever we live, the experiences of others and our compassion for them will need to colour our political choices—if only because, in this political climate, any one of us could be the next person to need that support and compassion. As we countdown to this new Gregorian year, I wish you courage.Swarna Rajagopalan is a political scientist by training.

Absurd even by their standards: India slams Pakistan for calling RSS, Shiv Sena ‘terrorist organizations’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India slammed Pakistan for labelling certain Indian political parties and social organisations as terror outfits, calling it a “desperate attempt” at deflecting international focus from Islamabad’s complicity in “spawning” terrorist groups like LeT, JuD and JeM. External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said Pakistan Foreign Ministry’s statement yesterday linking political parties and social organisations to terror was “absurd even by Pakistan’s standards”. “Labelling bonafide Indian political parties and social and cultural organisations as terrorist organisations seems a desperate attempt to deflect international focus from Pakistan’s own complicity in spawning internationally proscribed organisations like LeT, JuD and JeM, which continue to target Pakistan’s neighbours from territory under Pakistan’s control,” he said. Swarup was responding to a query on Pakistan’s comments ysterday on Jammu and Kashmir and allegations against certain political parties and organisations.The official spokesperson of Pakistan Foreign Ministry had yesterday said, “Terrorist organisations such as RSS, Vishwa Hindu Prasad, Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal and other terrorist elements” are engaged in the drive to change demography of Kashmir.

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

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

Seven workers have died and several more are feared trapped in a coal mine that collapsed late evening on Thursday in the Lal Matia colliery of Godda district in Jharkhand, reports said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mine roof collapses in Dhanbad

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

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

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

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

With inputs from agencies

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 13:28 IST

Demonetisation Day 50: Pain from ‘Mahayagna’ eases in India, but not in Bharat; what have we gained?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi called demonetisation a ‘Mahayagna’ in his speech on the evening of 8 November when he scrapped Rs 500, Rs 1,000 currency notes asking citizens to ‘stand up and participate’ in the exercise to make it a grand success.

The note ban was initially sold as a war on black money, fake currency and terror funding and later as a project to create a cashless economy. Everyone, including Modi’s political rivals, lauded his intention behind note ban — cleansing the economy from illegal cash and fake currency and make each rupee floating in the banking system accountable to tax scrutiny — but in the same breath criticised the way the government and Reserve Bank of India (RBI) handled the implementation.

PM Modi asked for 50 days to end the common man’s pain. Post 50-days, let’s take a look at what has happened since the demonetisation announcement.

Prime minister Narendra Modi. PTI file photoPrime minister Narendra Modi. PTI file photo

Prime minister Narendra Modi. PTI file photo

To begin with, there were a series of flip-flops in rules that could have been avoided had there been a proper plan. More than 60 circulars were issued in just one month confusing both bankers and customers. Promises made by both the PM and RBI were broken adding to confusions.

Promises broken

Look at these statements: In his speech, Modi said “you will have 50 days to deposit your notes and there is no need for panic. Your money will remain yours. You need have no worry on this point. After depositing your money in your account, you can draw it when you need it. Keeping in mind the supply of new notes, in the first few days, there will be a limit of ten thousand rupees per day and twenty thousand rupees per week. This limit will be increased in the coming days.”

True, money in their bank accounts belonged to the citizens but Modi’s promise that people can withdraw as per their need wasn’t fulfilled since banks struggled to fill their ATMs and branches to meet the increasing customer demand. This was on account of three reasons: 1) the government mints couldn’t churn out enough new notes to meet the demand; it was beyond their capacity even after working in three shifts; 2) the fresh lot of new currencies that arrived were mostly Rs 2,000 notes; there were not enough change to go around; 3) people who managed to draw money started hoarding it as curbs on cash withdrawals created panic.

On Thursday, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley refused to acknowledge even a single case of ‘unrest’ during the 50 days of demonetisation.

But, what about the ruckus at the banks and ATMs causing inconvenience to the public reported from across the country linked to demonetisation? Surely, all of it can’t be fake.

During his parivartan rally in Moradabad, UP, Modi asked Jan Dhan account holders not to withdraw the black money deposited in their accounts and promised that he will find a way for them to keep that money. This wasn’t in good taste because he was effectively offering a reward to the benami account holders for abetting a wrongdoing.

In his 8 November speech, Modi assured the citizens that they don’t need to panic and can exchange their old currency till 30 December. “From 10th November till 24th November the limit for such exchange will be 4,000 rupees. From 25th November till 30th December, the limit will be increased.”

But, the government, in fact, chose to advance the deadline much before the promised date. Lastly, there was a 19 December circular from RBI restricting deposits above Rs 5,000 only once, which was later withdrawn. Here again, a promise made initially was broken.

Lack of preparedness, transparency

The point here is both the government and the RBI were not prepared to face the rush for cash as evident from the frequent change in rules in the days following the demonetisation announcement. Even though the RBI promised a weekly withdrawal limits of Rs 24,000 (hiked from the initial Rs 20,000) and Rs 2,500 from recalibrated ATMs (from Rs 2000 initially), banks were unable to give even this amount to customers, often leading to altercations between staff and customers.

After 50 days, the cash situation has improved for sure, but only mildly. The situation has indeed turned better in metros, where ATM queues are now shorter. But, in rural areas the situation hasn’t improved much. As this Indian Express ground report states: since most farmers maintained accounts in cooperative banks, they continue to be in a spot. The informal economy, which offers employment to millions of workers, has been shattered. It will take a long time before small entrepreneurs recover from the shock. The cooperative banking sector, which plays a prominent role in rural India, is struggling to survive.

The RBI’s reluctance to communicate effectively and lack of transparency in updating information in public domain, added to confusion. An end to the cash-crunch isn’t in sight yet. Till 19 December, the RBI has infused Rs 5.92 lakh crore in the banking system as against the Rs 15.44 lakh crore demonetised. Given the physical constraints of four mints run by the RBI and government, it is unlikely that cash situation will return to normal before March 2017, according to bankers. This means, the cash curbs will stay longer.

Economy impact

Demonetisation is sure to have short-term impact on the economy which is predominantly dependendent on cash transactions the signs of which are already visible. The RBI has lowered the GDP forecast for the year to 7.1 percent, so have most private forecasters. The consumption story has taken a hit. The services sector PMI sharply fell to 46.7 in November from 54.5 in October — that is the biggest monthly drop since November 2008, just two months after the global financial crisis hit the economy following the US investment bank Lehman Brothers going bust in September.

Similarly, the manufacturing PMI too has fallen with the index shrinking to 52.3 in November from October’s 22-month high of 54.4. data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), unemployment rates fell to less than 5 percent in the week of 27 November, but has since risen to 6.1 percent in the week of 4 December to 6.6 percent in the week ended 11 December and then to 7 percent in the week ended 18 December. The impact comes with a lag and we need to wait for fresh numbers. The full impact of the demonetisation resulted cash crunch will only unfold in the next few months. If the cash crunch prolongs, things can get worse.

RBI fighting a trust deficit

Another highlight of the 50-day period was the fall of the RBI, which faced criticism for giving up its autonomy and credibility. The RBI appeared clueless how to take the demonetisation process ahead from the beginning and faced criticism from former central bankers including Usha Thorat and K C Chakrabarty. According to a Bloomberg report, the RBI board approved demonetisation less than three hours before Modi announced the decision in a televised address to the nation.

Information on how many members favored or opposed the move isn’t “on record,” the RBI said in response to queries from Bloomberg News under the Right to Information Act, the report said.

The report also cited Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s comment to lawmakers on 16 November that it was RBI’s 10-member board that came up with the idea of note ban. Was the RBI forced to approve the idea of demonetisation is something only time will tell.

Demonetisation gains

Will demonetisation deliver its originally stated long-term gains of demonetisation — winning black money, killing fake currency and terror? Long-term gains are hard to predict at this stage. The tangible gains of demonetisation will dependent up on how much illegal cash is unearthed at the end of this exercise. Demonetisation as a trigger for Indians to shift to a digital world of finance is a far-stretched idea since such a change can’t happen overnight and should be gradual. As of now, only pains are visible.

True, in the long term demonetisation may prove to be beneficial when more people come in the tax net. This coupled with the Goods and Services Tax (GST) rollout can reboot the economy. But, that point is still away. Adjusting to the loss to the economy and the pain suffered by common man that isn’t quantifiable, what will be the net gain to economy from demonetisation is a question PM Modi will have to answer with support of evidence when he once again face the electorate in 2019.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 12:01 IST

VVIP chopper scam: Singapore responds to CBI’s query on AgustaWestland

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Authorities in Singapore seem to have finally responded to queries which the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had sent through official routes, seeking information related to the infamous AgustaWestland scam. The recent development comes a day after former Air Force Chief SP Tyagi, an accused in the scam, was granted bail by a city court.The CBI now claims that the information it received from Singapore will aid its investigators to further the probe.The probe agency had sent eight Letters Rogatory (LRs), which are judicial requests, since 2013 and had received “partial information” from six countries. Two of the eight countries have not even sent partial information even after the probe agency registered an official FIR in March 2013.During its investigation, that will enter its fourth year in March next year, CBI sent LRs to Italy, Tunisia, UAE, Singapore, Mauritius, British Virgin Island, UAE and Switzerland. Excluding Singapore and UAE, six countries had sent a “partial execution report” which means that if the probe agency had sent 10 questions seeking information related to the AgustaWestland deal, only some of the queries received a response. Officials on Thursday, however, confirmed that Singapore had responded to the LR. “The new information is currently being examined by CBI and further action will be based on the probe findings,” a CBI official told DNA.In a major setback to CBI, a Delhi sessions court granted bail to former Air Force chief SP Tyagi on Tuesday. “During the arguments, the CBI failed to state as to how much cash was paid to the accused and when it was paid,” Special CBI Judge Arvind Kumar had noted.The CBI made its first arrests in the case on December 9 when it took into custody Tyagi, his cousin Sanjeev Tyagi and advocate Gautam Khaitan in the case related to procurement of 12 AW VVIP choppers from UK-based firm during the UPA-2 regime. According to the FIR, the CBI contended that in 2005, the former air chief abused his official position to change the consistent stand of the Indian Air Force (IAF) on the service ceiling of the VVIP choppers from 6000 metres to 4500 metres.

Navy Admiral Sunil Lanba appointed as chairman of Chiefs of Staff Committee

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba on Thursday took over the baton of the chairman of the chiefs of staff committee (CoSC) from outgoing IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha even as the government plans to create a new post to focus exclusively on inter-services issues and acquisitions.He would, however, be assuming charge as Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee with effect from afternoon of December 31.Army chief Gen Dalbir Singh, who also retires from service on December 31 and Principal Staff Officers of all three Services and HQ Integrated Defence Staff were present on the occasion.The government is working on either creating a post of chief of defence staff (CDS) or a permanent chairman CoSC chairman.While the contentious CDS is likely to be a five star post, the permanent Chairman COSC will be a four-star, a post that that the three Services have agreed to.Admiral Lanba assumed command of the Indian Navy on May 31 this year. He is a Navigation and Direction specialist and has served on board numerous ships in both the Eastern and Western Fleets. Air Chief Marshal Raha, had taken over as Chairman COSC on August 1, 2014. Under his stewardship, the Services received a vital boost in jointmanship, a statement by the Defence Ministry said.During his tenure the Defence Communication Network got operationalised and training standards of the Tri Service Institutes such as NDA, DSSC and CDM were enhanced. The much awaited National War Museum got approval from the government.He was instrumental in enhancing the role of military diplomacy with friendly foreign countries, the statement added.Various Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Operations during crisis situations both within and outside India such as J&K floods, Chennai floods, evacuation of Indian and foreign nationals from Yemen and Nepal Earthquake were successfully conducted.He also played a pivotal role in formulation of the new Defence Procurement Procedure, thereby “streamlining and fast tracking defence procurement which has so far been plagued by laborious procedures and long delays”.

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

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

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

Jonty Rhodes. Getty ImagesJonty Rhodes. Getty Images

Jonty Rhodes. Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maharashtrian, Gujarati, khem cho, Willyum?

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

Indian group makes it to Guinness Book of World Records for longest underwater human chain

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A group of 182 Indians from Pune have created a new world record for the longest underwater human chain, earning an entry into the Guinness Book of World Records. The feat was achieved under the banner of Chrysalis Entrepreneur Forum (India) at Koh Tao in Thailand on Tuesday. The earlier record was held by a group of 173 Italians. Milind Shalgar representing the group said that Dr Manish Gupta had led the team and they had been preparing for the Guinness record for the last six months. The group had carried an 8X12 feet​ tri-color flag and sang the national anthem before beginning their effort to create the record. They also performed a prayer for Lord Ganesha to succeed in their effort. All the 182 people had to wear scuba-diving attire, masks and cylinders and had to abide by the rules of the instructors. Video footage was sent to the arbitrator who interviewed all the members and then announced that the Indian group had broken the previous record to create a new Guinness Book World Record of the longest underwater human chain.

‘Natural to have differences’: China hopes for better ties with India in 2017

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>China hopes for better ties with India in 2017 by resolving differences over India’s admission into elite Nuclear Suppliers Group and listing of JeM chief Masood Azhar as terrorist by the UN as the two nations signed off their most engaging year bogged down by the twin issues.”This year has seen a steady development of China-India relations, with the two countries marching towards the goal of building a more closely-knit partnership for development,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said summing up Beijing’s perception of the outgoing year and its vision of Sino-Indian ties for the next year.”The leadership of the two countries have maintained frequent contacts” despite the differences, she said, referring to a number of meetings between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping at multilateral foras like G-20 and BRICS summit.
ALSO READ Won’t prejudge Chinese action on UN resolution on Masood Azhar: IndiaShe said that the dialogues and consultations have been going on in an orderly fashion at all levels and practical cooperation in various fields has been carried out steadily.”As close neighbours, it is natural for our two big countries to have differences, and we have been exploring ways to resolve them through diplomatic channels. The main theme of China-India relations remains friendship and cooperation,” she said, holding out hope for a more fruitful year for bilateral ties next year with the resolution of the two major issues.
ALSO READ UK reaffirms support to India’s bid for UNSC, NSG membership”For the year 2017, China would like to work with India for better implementation of the important consensus reached between the leadership, greater political mutual trust, wider mutually beneficial cooperation and properly management of differences so as to ensure a sustained and steady development of China-India relations,” she said.The strength of the deep diplomatic engagement between the two sides virtually begins with the New Year as China’s second “technical hold” on India’s application for listing Azhar as terrorist under UN’s 1267 Committee will expire on December 31, opening a new window for both the countries to address the issue which cast a shadow on Beijing s claim to fight terrorism in all forms as the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammad is already listed by the UN as terror group.With the end of the second technical hold by China, India is expected to submit a fresh application backed by a charge sheet filed recently by the National Investigation Agency against Azhar for his involvement in the Pathankot terror attack.The charge sheet was expected to further reinforce India’s case for a UN ban against Azhar. Other members of the Committee including UNSC permanent members, US, Russia, France and UK had backed it earlier.Indian officials hope that the charge sheet provides strong basis for the case for China to take a relook as Beijing in the past argued that sufficient evidence has not been provided.”Listing in the 1267 Committee must be in line with the relevant resolutions of the UNSC and the rules of procedure of the Committee,” Hua had said, replying to question on Azhar’s issue days after NIA filed charge sheet.On India s admission into the Nuclear Suppliers Group too Indian and Chinese officials hope for a way out next year as China, after blocking India’s bid, began an exercise to work out a “non-discriminatory formula” to admit new members.It is unclear yet whether a formula can be worked out where the other members of the NSG will agree for admission of China’s close ally Pakistan, whose record in nuclear proliferation during the time of its disgraced nuclear scientist Dr A Q Khan will be a stumbling block.China is advocating a two step approach for admission of countries who have not signed nuclear-Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in the NSG. As per the new stand announced by Beijing last month, it first wants to find a solution that is applicable to the admission of all non-NPT members followed by discussions to admit specific non-NPT member.Indian officials say it will make it another engaging year in Sino-Indian diplomacy on both Azhar and NSG fronts and hope that it would not be a futile exercise as happened this year.However, even after the resolution of the two issues, the larger issues like the USD 46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor remain. Modi himself raised this issue with Xi during their meeting at the Chinese city of Hangzhou in September.Significantly, as the year draws to a close, Lt Gen Amir Riaz, Commander of the Pakistan’s Southern Command which is based in Quetta, asked India to “shun enmity” with Pakistan and “join the USD 46-billion CPEC along with Iran, Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries and enjoy its benefits”.Chinese officials say Riaz’s comments are significant as they point to the backing of the Pakistan army.Hua said China is open for such a proposal and wondered “what is India s take on this whether this is a good sign from Pakistan”.While relations appears to have been bogged down over the NSG, Azhar and CEPC which involves Pakistan, officials on both sides say that 2016 was an year of deep engagement between both the countries covering almost all aspects of the relations including the military.

VVIP Chopper scam: CBI receives response from all eight countries, to begin fresh questioning

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday received reply from all the eight countries to its Letter Rogatory in connection with the Agusta Westland VVIP chopper case.Sources said the information provided by UAE and Singapore is of crucial importance to the CBI.”Both countries were recently approached through diplomatic channels for execution of the CBI’s letters rogatory (LRs) or judicial requests at the earliest. Now the agency has received responses to the LRs it sent to eight countries for establishing money trail in the Rs. 3,767 crore Agusta Westland VVIP helicopter deal case,” said sources.Mauritius, Tunisia, Italy, British Virgin Island, the UK and Switzerland are the other six countries where Letter Rogatory (a letter of formal request from court to a foreign court) was sent by the CBI, seeking assistance in probe and collection of documents in connection with this case.The CBI will very soon start a fresh round of questioning.Former Indian Air Force (IAF) chief Air Chief Marshal (Retd.) S. P. Tyagi, his cousin Sanjeev Tyagi and lawyer Gautam Khaitan were arrested on December 10 in connection with this case. The court had on December 17 sent all the three accused to judicial custody till December 30.The former Air Chief was yesterday granted bail on the condition that he will not leave Delhi or try to contact any witness in the case.Air Marshal (Retd.) Tyagi, who headed the Indian Air Force between 2004 and 2007, has been accused of abusing his official position to help AgustaWestland, a subsidiary of Italy based Finmeccanica, win the deal to supply a dozen helicopters meant for the country’s top politicians.

IAF sorties helped government fight cash crunch

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a bid to help the common man with the demonetization process, the government has been pressing the Indian Air Force (IAF) into action. From assisting in the functioning of currency printing presses 24×7 to airlifting cash, the IAF has already transported 610 tonnes of currency and will continue to do so over the next few days.”The Air Force has played an important role in lifting currency. We have done 35 sorties and transported 610 tonnes of cash till now, said Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha on Wednesday.”We have also helped in running one of the mints 24×7,” he added.The decision to rope in the IAF was taken about 10 days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced demonetization—making old Rs 500 and Rs. 1000 notes illegal and replacing them with new ones.It is unprecedented for IAF to transport cash which is usually done by train. Sources said since it was an “emergency-like situation” the IAF had been roped in to bring down delays in currency, reaching different centres across the country.The four currency printing centres are located in Nasik (Maharashtra), Devas (Madhya Pradesh), Mysore (Karnataka) and Salboni (West Bengal). Sources said the employees at the press have been working overtime to meet the cash demands in the country.From close by airfields in Mysore, Indore, Ozar and Kalaikunda, IAF planes are carrying out sorties almost daily to meet requirements.”The cash is transported by road to the airfields from where the Air Force transports it to different centre. This is saving time in transportation,” said a government official. The aircraft being used for transporting the currency are C 130, C17 and AN 32, sources said.Once the cash reaches the destination the local authorities take charge.Sources said initially there was a shortage in currency as the printing machines lacked the capacity to meet the increased demands. The government had announced printing of new Rs. 1000 notes but that has not begun yet.”While the Rs 2,000 notes and Rs 500 notes are being printed the void left due to non printing of Rs 1,000 note has created a crunch,” said a government official dealing with the subject.Officials privy to the details said out of a total currency requirement of 17.5 lakh crore, Rs 8 lakh crore is expected to be in 500 and Rs 7 lakh crore in 1,000 denominations. “10 per cent of this demand is being met per month,” the official added.The rest of the demand is to be met with other notes including Rs 2,000.

Congress should introspect its contribution to ills like corruption and black money: BJP

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Hitting back at Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi over his criticism of demonetization, Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said the opposition party should “introspect” its contribution towards ills like corruption and black money.Attacking the Congress, the Union Information and Broadcasting minister said the the party which has ruled India for the maximum time should give answers as it has all along “patronised” black money and corruption.He said that as the Congress celebrates its Foundation Day and it is only appropriate that the issue of black money, corruption etc, are “haunting” it.Referring to Rahul’s comments earlier in the day, Naidu said that the Congress Vice president had expressed unwisely his “vicarious pleasure” over what he thought that note withdrawal is a big failure in terms of unearthing black money. “This clearly shows that his party is with those who all along lived by black money and corruption….One of the objectives of note withdrawal has been to see that high value currency notes reach the system.”Whatever does not reach banking system obviously could be taken as unaccounted for money. It does not necessarily mean that all the currency that reached the banking system is white money,” Naidu said.One would have known by now that December 30 is not the last day of efforts for unearthing black money, he added. Claiming that spit and run won’t work, Naidu posed five questions to Rahul and Congress. He asked them to explain whether they believe that there is no black money and corruption in the country and there was no need for any measures to tackle them?If Congress believes that there is a problem of black money and corruption, why did it’s governments not take effective measures against them, he asked. Naidu also asked why Congress government brought the Benami Property law before Parliament in 1988 but did not subsequently notified it? Why some major opposition parties are refusing to join hands with Congress in its anti-note withdrawal campaign? he asked Naidu asked.Why Congress Government didn’t act on Supreme Court s directive for setting up SIT on black money, was Naidu’s fifth question. Referring to Congress Vice President’s remarks earlier, Naidu claimed that “Rahul’s smile and body language today clearly indicated that there is not much of black money in the country.”Then why don’t you muster courage and openly say so if his party’s assessment is that there is not much of black money, Naidu said. Everyone knows the close link between black money and corruption, Naidu said adding that if Congress says there is no black money in our economy, obviously, there is no place for corruption in our system. “Is this the stand of the Congress?” he asked. Naidu said that Congress is in panic and trying to create confusion. He claimed that Congress is worried as nobody was taking Rahul seriously, whether it is the people, opposition leaders or his own partymen. That is why the opposition leaders’ distanced from the meeting, Naidu claimed.Naidu said that Congress and communists are disappointed as the people have continued to support the crackdown on black money. Only some political parties which have been beneficiaries of the loot appear to be shaken, he claimed.When asked about the demand by Mamata Banerjee and Rahul Gandhi that the Prime Minister should quit, Naidu said that it was people’s love that had made Modi the Prime Minister and not the pleasure of these opposition leaders. Asked about the criticism by opposition regarding the use of Ordinance route by the Government, Naidu said that Congress has itself issued hundreds of ordinances.Responding to another question about West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Naidu said that she should first set her house in order.He added that secularism has been made to mean talking about only the minority. He said what is happening in Bengal is “disturbing.”In a question related to the happenings at the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) Naidu said it was a wrong decision and therefore the government had taken appropriate steps.Attacking the Congress, he said that rather than asking questions to the government, it should explain why it encouraged such people.

India to liberalise visa rules for Bangladeshis to promote tourism

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

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

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More details awaited.

With inputs from PTI

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

Demonetisation was a move towards formal economy, says Arvind Panagariya

Expressing their support for the November 8 demonetisation of high-value currency that has resulted in a major cash crunch, a group of experts on Tuesday told Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the move help to strengthen the process of formalising the Indian economy, the major part of which is organised informally.

“Demonetisation was discussed as a move towards formal economy,” NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Arvind Panagariya said, briefing reporters following Modi’s interaction here with a set of noted economists at a session on “Economic Policy – The Road Ahead” organised by the think-tank.

NITI Aayog, Vice-Chairman, Arvind Panagariya. Image courtesy PIBNITI Aayog, Vice-Chairman, Arvind Panagariya. Image courtesy PIB

NITI Aayog, Vice-Chairman, Arvind Panagariya. Image courtesy PIB

“All the speakers stressed the need to bring workers and activity into the formal sector,” Panagariya said in reference to the stated aims of the 8 November demonetisation announcement for curbing corruption, black money, counterfeit currency and terror financing.

Complementing the demonetisation process, he said it is the government’s drive to promote digital transactions and a less cash economy so as to move from the informal to greater formalisation of the economic system.

“The speakers pointed out that 90 per cent of the labour force in the country is still in the informal sector,” Panagariya added.

Besides Niti Aayog and Finance Ministry officials, the session was attended by economists and experts, including Pravin Krishna, Sukhpal Singh, Vijay Paul Sharma, Neelkanth Mishra, Surjit Bhalla, Pulak Ghosh, Govinda Rao, Madhav Chavan, N.K. Singh, Vivek Dehejia, Pramath Sinha, Sumit Bose and T.N. Ninan.

The meeting with experts to take stock of the economy assumes significance against the backdrop of the cash crunch after the government last month scrapped the Rs 1000 and Rs 500 notes.

Economists and various state governments have voiced concerns that demonetisation will disrupt the economy and drag down the GDP growth rate for this fiscal by up to two percentage points.

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 09:06 IST

Demonetisation: Cabinet to decide on note ban ordinance today; another U-turn on cards?

The Union Cabinet meeting today is likely to take up an ordinance to end the legal tender of the demonetised Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, media reports say. The ordinance will also likely specify the date when the notes will become illegal, which is widely speculated to be 30 December.

There have also been reports saying the ordinance is likely to impose penalties on anyone possessing the junked notes beyond 30 December when the deadline to deposit them in banks expires.

However, there has not been any official word on the move.

ReutersReuters

Reuters

The ordinance will formalise the demonetisation, which was an executive decision announced on 8 November. According to a report in The Indian Express, which quotes a government official, this is a requirement as otherwise the demonetised notes will continue as a legal tender.

“If we do not put an end date on the legal character of the old notes, then they can be infinitely valid as a legal tender,” the official has been quoted as saying in the report. Explaining the rationale, he also said ending the legal tender of all notes on 30 December is important as it will clear the uncertainty for the government on how much money has flown into the system.

The ordinance will extinguish the liability of the government and RBI towards the promise to pay the bearer of these notes their value because of a statutory requirement.

In 1978 a similar ordinance was issued to end the government’s liability after Rs 1,000, Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000 notes were demonetised by the Janata Party government under Morarji Desai.

According to the official cited in the IE report, the deposit of old notes will be allowed after 30 only in cases of exigencies.

However, if the government decides the cut-off date as 30 December that will be another U-turn by the government and the RBI. Prime minister Narendra Modi had on 8 November said the RBI window to deposit these notes will remain open beyond 30 December until 31 March. An ordinance that seeks to end the deposits on 30 December would mean the government and the RBI are going back on another promise they made to the common man.

The government had while announcing the demonetisation of the old currency allowed holders to either exchange them or deposit in bank and post office accounts. While the facility to exchange the old notes has since been withdrawn, depositors have time until Friday to deposit the holding in their accounts at the bank branches.

Media reports earlier said there could be a cap of holding no more than 10 notes of each after 30 December and violation of the rule could draw a fine of a minimum of Rs 50,000 or 5 times the amount in question — whichever is higher. However, there was no confirmation on this.

For those depositing any accounted funds, or black money, it has offered them an amnesty provided they paid 50 percent of it as tax and penalties and parked a quarter of it in a zero-interest bearing deposit for four years.

Out of the Rs 15.44 lakh crore worth of 500 and 1000 rupee notes in circulation on November 8, close to Rs 13 lakh crore have been deposited in accounts or exchanged for valid currency.

With PTI

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 08:37 IST

Serial testers and cursory checks – India’s flawed generic drug trials business | Reuters

By Zeba Siddiqui
| HYDERABAD

HYDERABAD Vasudeva Prakash left his job as a mechanic in Hyderabad three years ago for what he calls a more lucrative career: taking part in clinical trials on generic drugs.For two years, Prakash participated in trials of drugs being tested to treat HIV/AIDS and other diseases for contract research organizations (CROs) hired by global pharmaceutical companies. The drugs tested at Indian CROs have been key in getting several hundred medicines approved for sale around the world.Yet, Prakash did not follow international guidelines for testing – and the CROs that hired him didn’t require him to. He says that to earn more money he would participate in back-to-back trials on different drugs with gaps of only a few weeks or even a few days, instead of waiting the 90 days that the World Health Organization recommends.Half of more than a dozen volunteers interviewed by Reuters across four cities – Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, and New Delhi – also said they waited much less than 90 days between trials. In the past three-to-four years, they said they spent several months at a time in different cities so that they could participate in as many studies as possible.Prakash provided documentation proving he underwent trials with short gaps at Apotex Research Pvt Ltd, owned by Canadian drugmaker Apotex Inc; Lotus Labs, owned by U.S. generics giant Actavis; Ethics Bio Lab, owned since last year by U.S. drugmaker Par Pharmaceutical Inc; and India’s Semler Research Center Pvt Ltd, among others. Ethics Bio and Apotex did not respond to requests for comment. Lotus Labs and Semler said they had systems in place to check for cross-participation by trial volunteers.The guidelines of the WHO, which decides on approvals for drugs sold in several countries dependent on United Nations programs for basic medicines, are not legally-binding for the CROs. While India has guidelines on clinical trials, they don’t specify the length of time participants should take between trials.Still, the serial testing of some volunteers is raising new questions about the level of oversight of India’s generic drug trials industry, after some CROs came under recent international regulatory scrutiny. Last year, the European Medicines Agency banned about 700 medicines across Europe after an investigation revealed data tampering in some trials of generic drugs in India.International medical experts said that undergoing back-to-back trials endangers the health of patients participating. It can also compromise clinical data gathered through these trials, on the basis of which drugmakers seek approval to sell generic medicines around the world.“The time gap between participation in two different trials should be 90 days minimum,” said Stephanie Croft, a lead inspector at the WHO. “When [data] is incomplete or incorrect it could pose a serious risk to patients.”Gyanendra Nath Singh, head of India’s national drug watchdog, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO), said that it has been trying to inspect more CROs in the past two years. The watchdog is also considering the introduction of a track-and-trace system through which patients can be tracked across CROs, he told Reuters.“We are emphasizing on good regulatory practices … some reports have shown that the CROs have deviated from (the) system,” said Singh.India’s Health Ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

GLOBAL REACH
Several large international drugmakers, including Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd and Mylan NV, rely on CROs in India to carry out tests on cheaper versions of branded drugs. The aim of these so-called “bioequivalence” studies is to gauge whether non-branded drugs are equally safe and effective. The faster the trials are undertaken, the faster the drugs can come to market.In some major markets, such as the United States, being the first to launch a generic guarantees market exclusivity for a period of time, which can reap millions more in sales.International and local regulators have struggled to keep its oversight in line with the growth of an industry that expanded rapidly in the 2000s, as drugmakers shipped clinical trial work to India to save money. The market is estimated to have crossed $1 billion in 2016, according to consultants Frost and Sullivan.Over the past two years, international regulators have suspended or banned medicines tested by four major Indian CROs after finding manipulation of clinical trial data and other violations.Issues found at Indian CROs are “a big problem that is gaining more and more attention from all sorts of agencies,” said Anders Fuglsang, a consultant and former regulator long involved in audits and inspections of CROs around the world on behalf of international regulatory agencies and companies.Last year, the European Union banned about 700 medicines that had been approved based on clinical trial data provided by GVK Biosciences, then India’s largest CRO. European regulators said they found GVK had manipulated data concerning the heart readings of patients taking part in the study. GVK denied any violation, but several large drugmakers that had won drug approvals based on GVK’s data were asked to re-apply for approval with fresh evidence.

Such re-testing is a headache for drugmakers, as it is expensive, and delays lead to a loss in sales, said Nilesh Gupta, managing director of India’s Lupin Ltd, which was one of the companies to be affected by a U.S. ban on trials by Semler earlier this year.GVK, part of the Indian conglomerate GVK Group, has since limited its business interests in the generic drugs testing business, said Shankar Chelluri, a spokesman for the company. Overall, sentiment toward the generic drug trials business is weak, Chelluri said.Another CRO, Quest Life Sciences, was found last year to have manipulated clinical data on certain trials, according to inspection reports from the WHO and the UK’s medicines authority. The Spanish and German regulators had also found problems with Quest’s trials, and the WHO said it found Quest had falsified data on drugs including the antibiotic doxycycline hyclate and HIV/AIDS drugs lamivudine, zidovudine and nevirapine.Quest managing director T.S. Jaishankar said his CRO, which has conducted dozens of generic drug trials for companies including India’s top drugmaker Sun Pharmaceutical Industries, has since invested heavily in improving its systems and been cleared by all international regulators. In a response to Reuters, a spokeswoman for the European Medicines Agency said they were “closely monitoring” the involvement of Quest in the drug approval applications they receive.India, like other countries, has ethics committees – groups of independent experts – meant to approve the design and conduct of clinical trials. Their stamp of approval is required by foreign regulators considering allowing a generic drug to be sold. However, these committees depend on the CROs for reimbursement in exchange for reviewing trials. Three members of different committees Reuters spoke to said national guidelines did not clearly define their roles and responsibilities.In the wake of trial data manipulation scandals at CROs in the past three years, many large drugmakers including Swiss firm Novartis, have been shifting more critical trials back to the United States and Europe, according to consultants and industry executives.

Novartis is also ramping up its own checks of Indian CROs, said Bodo Lutz, a data integrity officer at the Swiss firm. Speaking on the sidelines of a conference in Hyderabad in July, he said: “We can’t rely on the regulators … we’re increasing our own audits.”VOLUNTEERING “LIKE AN ADDICTION”
Prakash, the former mechanic, said he was never asked by CROs, and their ‘agents’ who approached him for studies, about whether he had recently taken part in another trial.”Everybody does it. Once you start getting the money, it’s very hard to quit. It’s like an addiction,” said Prakash.He said after the first study, he began to regularly receive messages on his phone and Facebook, often from agents working on behalf of CROs, informing him about ongoing clinical trials where volunteers were required. Such messages included three key things: the city where the trial was being conducted, the total pay offered, and the “blood loss”, or the amount of blood the volunteer will need to provide.Venkatesh, from the southern city of Tirupathi, described travelling from Chennai to Hyderabad and then to Bangalore and Mangaluru for different trials.”I know of several people who participate in three or four trials in the same month,” said Venkatesh, who stopped volunteering two months ago and has since married. He did not want to be referred to by his full name.Prakash said he was paid 10,000-30,000 rupees ($147-$441) per trial, depending on the duration and type. He stopped participating after his health began to deteriorate last year at age 25.He now works at a call centre earning 20,000 rupees a month, but, despite knowing the risks, entered two more trials recently to raise cash.”I needed some money desperately so I did it, but I won’t do it again,” he said. (Additional reporting by Aditya Kalra in New Delhi; Editing by Martin Howell)

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

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 04:47 IST

Hafiz Saeed asks Pakistan govt not to forge friendship with India

Tue, 27 Dec 2016-03:06pm , Srinagar , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Jamaat-ud-Dawah chief and the 2008 Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed has asked the Pakistan government to refrain from forging friendship with India claiming that its forces are committing atrocities in Kashmir.He also alleged that the BJP government is trying to change the demographic status in Kashmir.”We are standing with Kashmiris and completely support freedom movement of Kashmir,” he said and criticised the Indian army for committing atrocities in Kashmir. He has urged the Pakistani government to solve problems of Kashmiris.”The Pakistani government should not look towards India’s friendship. Blood is being shed in Kashmir. Therefore, it is Pakistani government’s responsibility to solve their problems,” he said.

Shiv Sena forces Mood Indigo organisers to remove Hanuman mural, write apology

After protests from Shiv Sena, the organisers of the annual cultural festival Mood Indigo, have erased a mural bearing “close” resemblance to Hindu deity Hanuman, reports said.

The mural, painted on a wall of the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay campus, was removed after members of the political party Shiv Saina entered the campus on Monday demanding an immediate removal of the mural. The Shiv Sainiks also forced the administration to apologise for the murals and forced the students’ council, which organised the cultural fest to give a written apology.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The mural, touted as a geeky “modern Lord Hanuman”, depicts him carrying a mountain in one hand and a pen instead of mace on the other, and shows him dressed in shorts with smart watches, earphones, etc, something the Shiv Sena found in “bad taste”. The cultural festival presented several murals as part of one of the events.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Sena leader Datta Dalvi, who along with MLA Sunil Raut had reportedly directed the Sena workers to visit the campus and demand its removal, said, “The painting was in bad taste. It hurt the religious sentiments of many people. This is not the way to the portray a Hindu deity like Hanuman. Students should not have portrayed the deity like that.”

The Times of India quoted local Sena leader Nilesh Salunkhe as saying, “The painter took the liberty to distort Hanuman’s image with the Sanjeevani Parvat and it was insulting. The painting had Hanuman holding a pen, wearing shorts, knee pads, headphones, watches, a tie and spectacles. It also showed him wearing a slipper and a shoe. And the tail was replaced with the saffron flag. We found it derogatory,” said Salunkhe.

The wall depicting the controversial mural was reportedly whitewashed after the Shiv Sena leaders threatened to stall the festival until the painting was removed. The festival wrapped up on Monday.

Incidentally, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavais was one of the keynote speakers at the cultural festival on Monday.

Initially, the organisers agreed to cover it. “When we insisted on getting it removed, they whitewashed the wall and gave us an apology letter,” Salunkhe told The Times of India.

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 10:39 IST

Norway ‘child abuse’: India wants child united with natural parents, says Sushma Swaraj

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>After an Indian woman from Norway wrote to Sushma Swaraj about her son being taken away by Norwegian authorities, the Minister of External Affairs has said that India will convey to the officials that it wants child’s restoration with its parents. Gurvinderjit Kaur, whose son has been taken away by the Norwegian authorities, had approached the Indian Embassy in Oslo seeking government’s intervention, following which the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said it will now chalk out the future course of action in the case. Kaur had approached the Indian government with the “formal written” request in this regard, BJP leader Vijay Jolly said.”Our Ambassador in Norway is meeting the Norwegian authorities today regarding Aryan. I refuse to accept that foster parents can take better care of the child than the natural parents. The foster parents are totally ignorant of the Indian culture and our food habits.”We want restoration of Aryan to his natural parents. This is our firm stand and Indian Ambassador will convey this to the Norwegian authorities,” she said.Kaur and her husband, who is a Norwegian national, have alleged that authorities in that country have taken away their 5-year-old son Aryan, also a Norwegian national, on a frivolous complaint of abuse. In its response, the Norwegian Embassy had asked for “restraint” in the case, assuring that it is being handled with “complete sensitivity and awareness”.According to Jolly, the Indian Ambassador “is slated to meet highly placed Norwegian officials in Oslo on December 27”. Jolly also maintained that according to the mother, the child is being “daily served porridge and bread while he is fond of Indian food”.This is the third case since 2011 when children have been taken away from their Indian-origin parents by the authorities in Norway on the grounds of abuse.In 2011, a three-year-old and a one-year-old were separated from their parents, prompting the then UPA government to take up the issue with Norway.The Norwegian court later allowed the children to be reunited with their parents.In December 2012, an Indian couple was jailed on charges of ill treatment of their children, 7 and 2 years. Later, they were sent to their grandparents in Hyderabad.With agency inputs.

Watch out, bird lovers!

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>JA Baker, in his book, The Peregrine, writes how “binoculars and a hawk-like vigilance reduce the disadvantage of myopic human vision”. Mumbai-based naturalists and photographers Prakash Dubey and Sunjoy Monga, agree. As we go about our daily jaunts through the city, seeing it as mere concrete safaris, we continue to be unaware of the oases of bird-dotted spaces in the city.For starters, “keep an eye out for every bird, instead of fixating on a particular species,” says Monga. While the commonly spotted house crows, blue rock pigeons, black kites, Indian mynas, and sparrows may not excite you, chances are, with a vigilant eye, you’d also run into rose-ringed parakeets, coppersmith barbets, white-throated fantails, red-vented bulbuls, tailorbirds and purple-rumped sunbirds, koels, Indian cormorants or cattle egrets.Then there are the visitors. Dubey remembers a chance encounter with “the lovely Golden Oriole, a bright yellow bird with splashes of black and beautiful eyes,” on a peepul tree in his housing compound at Nepean Sea Road.Many other winter migrants or passage migrants park themselves in the city for a few days between late-September and March, as they escape the cold northern winters. So don’t be surprised if you find yourself looking at some exotic-looking species like the Eurasian roller, amur falcon, Eurasian wryneck, blue-tailed bee-eaters or even the paradise fly-catcher. How to recognise these beauties, you ask?Dubey suggests some background reading before you set out for your maiden bird excursion. Pocket-sized books by Salim Ali or Bikram Grewal are a safe bet, or you could turn to Sunjoy (Mongia)’s Birds of Mumbai.”Dubey says that birds, like human beings, have distinct personalities that can be understood only on close observation. Take the case of introverted birds like sparrows, thrushes, bulbuls and robins, who are often ousted from their territory by bigger bullies like mynas, crows or pigeons.Your chances of bird spotting depend on many things, says Dubey, especially the time of sighting. “Chances are, you’d get a better look at that beautiful plumage or the shiny beak at early morning before the sun is out, or towards late noon, when the birds are out hunting for sustenance and flitting in and out of their home,” he says.Monga recommends frequenting Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Karnala, Tungareshwar, stretches along the Uran-Palm Beach Road and the Bhandup Pumping station environs (along Thane Creek) for birding. Other sites include Elephanta, Lokhandwala Lake, Manori-Gorai belt, open lands along Thane creek and specific pockets in Aarey. Dubey says there are enough sites in Central and South Mumbai too, “Dongardwadi for peacocks and Sewry for flamingoes; Mahim Nature Park, stretches around the Byculla Zoo, Colaba Woods (Cuffe Parade), Sagar Upvan Hanging Garden, Five Gardens and parts of Navy Nagar are also ideal for bird spotting.” Monga says, “In these areas, you can have a fairly rewarding session on a quiet morning, especially if you can pick up a few bird calls over the Mumbai din.”To bring in more birds to the city, it will be nice to have authorities and housing societies replace exotic flowering plants with Indian trees like mango, peepul, kadam and ashoka tree, or the Indian fig tree, says Dubey. Using native bushes like lantana or local berry bushes instead of the usual bougainvillea hedges to mark boundaries can work wonders in attracting babblers, thrushes, bulbuls and robins, providing the smaller birds with a steady diet of insects. “What gives a city like Delhi an edge is its cover of permanently green tress, mostly the large, indigenous kind that provides shade to human beings and birds alike,” he says.

How Mormons find love in India

Ian Trueger visits a Mormon event in India, designed to help young followers find love.

Kerala: Rs 27 lakh stolen from Indian Overseas Bank

Mon, 26 Dec 2016-03:31pm , Thiruvalla , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a major heist, thieves broke open the safe of public sector Indian Overseas Bank (IOB) in Tholassery and decamped with Rs 27 lakh in old and new currency notes, police said on Monday.The theft came to light on Monday morning, when the bank opened after Christmas holiday, they said.Rs 16 lakh in old currency notes and Rs 11 lakh in new currency notes were found to have been stolen, police said.Finger print experts and dog squads are combing the bank premises, they added.

President Mukherjee, PM Modi congratulate DRDO scientists on Agni-V test

India successfully test-fired its nuclear-capable, inter-continental ballistic missile Agni 5, that has a range of over 5,000 km. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi today congratulated the DRDO scientists on the successful test-firing of nuclear-capable intercontinental missile Agni-V, saying it will add tremendous strength to the country’s strategic defence.”Congratulations DRDO for successfully test firing Agni V. It will enhance our strategic and deterrence capabilities,” Mukherjee tweeted after the test-firing of India’s most lethal missile from Abdul Kalam island off Odisha coast.The Prime Minister credited it to the hardwork of Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and its scientists.”Successful test firing of Agni V makes every Indian very proud. It will add tremendous strength to our strategic defence,” he said.It is the fourth developmental and second canisterised trial of the missile, which has a range of over 5,000 km.

Mohammed Shami: India cricketer defends wife against Twitter trolls

Mohammed Shami criticises social media users for trolling his wife over her choice of clothes.

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

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

File photo of Arun Jaitley. PTI

File photo of Arun Jaitley. PTI

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas cheer: Pakistan releases 220 Indian fishermen as a goodwill gesture

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Pakistan released 220 Indian fishermen, a goodwill gesture which comes amid strain in ties after the recent cross border terror incidents. The 220 fishermen released from Malir jail were arrested for allegedly entering Pakistan’s territorial waters illegally and fishing, jail superintendent Hassan Sehto told PTI. The fishermen boarded a train to Lahore, from where they will be handed over to Indian authorities at the Wagah border.”The interior ministry ordered the release of the 220 fishermen while 219 are still in our custody,” Sehto said.The goodwill gesture comes amid strain in ties between the two countries after Pakistan-based terrorists attacked an Indian army base in Uri in September.Last week, the Pakistan fishermen forum claimed that Indian maritime authorities had picked up dozens of Pakistani fishermen from inside Pakistan’s territorial waters near the Gujarat coastline and taken them away, though the government has not responded to the claim so far.

War on black money: After demonetization, PM Modi promises to go after ‘benami properties’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Vowing to carry forward the war against corruption and black money post-demonetization, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the government will soon operationalise a strong law to effectively deal with ‘benami’ properties and this was just the beginning. Making his last monthly address this year in his “Mann ki Baat” programme, he defended the frequent changes in the rules of demonetization, saying these have been done to reduce the people’s problems and defeat such forces who are out to thwart his government’s fight against black money and corruption.Modi sought the cooperation of public in making the “war on corruption” a success and said the wrongdoings of some are being caught only with the support of common people who are coming forward with concrete information about hoarders.”I assure you that this is not the end. This is just the beginning in our fight against corruption. We have to win this war against corruption and black money. There is no question of stopping or going back in this fight,” he said.The Prime Minister also lamented the logjam in Parliament that evoked displeasure from the President and the Vice President besides all-round public indignation and ire, saying he wanted a good discussion on this campaign as well as on political funding, had both Houses run properly.He said some people who are spreading rumours that political parties enjoy all concessions and exemptions “are wrong and all are equal before law” and they have to abide by it.”It was my earnest wish that the ongoing campaign against corruption and black money, including the realm of political parties and political funding, be discussed extensively in the Parliament. Had the House functioned properly, there would have been comprehensive deliberation.”Some people are spreading rumours that political parties enjoy all kinds of concessions. These people are absolutely in the wrong. The law applies equally to all. Whether it is an individual, an organisation or a political party, everyone has to abide by law and one will have to,” he said, adding that people who cannot endorse corruption and black money openly resort to searching for faults of the government relentlessly.Giving a push to his plea for cashless economy, Modi also launched two new schemes for traders and customers that will dole out 15,000 prizes every day to those making digital transactions. Defending the frequent changes being made in rules afterdemonetization, Modi said “the government, being a sensitive government, amends rules as required, keeping the convenience of the people as its foremost consideration, so that citizens are not subjected to hardships.”Terming this war against corruption as “an extraordinary one”, he said the forces involved in “this murky enterprise of perfidy and corruption” have to be defeated as they are devising new tactics to thwart government’s efforts every day.”To counter these new offensives, we too have to devise appropriate new responses and anti-dotes. When the opponents keep on trying out new tactics, we have to counteract decisively since we have resolved to eradicate the corrupt, shady businesses and black money,” he said.Lauding the public for their support in exposing the wrong-doings of some, who are devising “newer wily ways and means” to counter the fight against corruption, the Prime Minister sought more public support.”Everyday many new people are being taken into custody, currency notes are being seized, raids are being carried out.Influential persons are being caught. The secret is that my sources of such information are people themselves.”Information being received from common citizens is many times higher than that being obtained through government machinery,” he said, adding that people were taking risks to expose such elements. He asked them to share such information on e-mail address of the government as also on the MyGov App.Modi also talked about the Benami Property law that came into being in 1988, but neither its rules were framed, nor was it notified and laid dormant for years.”We have retrieved it and turned it into an incisive law against ‘Benami Property’. In the coming days, this law will also become operational. For the benefit of the nation, for the benefit of the people, whatever needs to be done will be accorded our top priority,” he said.The Prime Minister, however, lauded both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha for passage of the DisabilitiesBill to secure the rights of disabled and also their honour and dignity. The new law, he said, is in consonance with the spirit expressed by the United Nations.He also wished the people on Christmas and remembered former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on his birthday while wishing him good health and long life.Modi also congratulated the Indian Cricket team for its emphatic 4-0 victory over England, as also the performances of some young players like Karun Nair who scored a triple century, K L Rahul for scoring a brilliant 199, besides the leadership provided by Captain Virat Kohli and off-spin bowler R Ashwin. He also complimented the Junior Hockey Team for lifting the World Cup and the Indian Women’s Hockey Team that won the Asian Champions Trophy.

Thank you for supporting demonetization: Full text of PM Modi’s Christmas special Mann Ki Baat

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Modi said many people had written to him and some had praised the government’s move to demonetise Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 currency notes. However, they have also spoken about the problems they faced due to demonetization, he said.‘Many are writing to me- ‘Modi ji thak mat jaana, ruk mat jaana aur jitna kathor kadam utha sakte ho uthao’. The people wrote to me about the problems they faced during recent times, some praised demonetisation and how it is an effective step in fighting corruption. Gurumani on MyGov app have appreciated government’s effort to curb black money, his sentiments are shared by rest of the country. I thank the people as they not only went through hardships but also answered back those who tried to mislead them,’ he added.‘Lot of questions are being raised on frequent change of rules, but I want to say that I have decided to take those indulging in corruption,’ he said. Prime Minister Modi said black money hoarders are being nabbed across the country. ‘Secret is that information by common people enables us to do it,’ he added.Assuring the nation that this is not the end but the beginning of his government’s endeavor to fight against corruption, Prime Minister Modi said, ‘It is our priority to do whatever it takes for the betterment of our nation. People are spreading rumours that political parties are exempted, this isn’t true.’Regretting the washout of the Winter Session of Parliament, Prime Minister Modi said, ‘If Parliament would have functioned there would have been fruitful discussions.’Read the full text below: My fellow countrymen, Namaskar, many felicitations and season’s greetings to you on the occasion of Christmas. Today is the day to give importance in our lives to service, sacrifice and compassion. Jesus had said – “The poor do not need our favours but our acceptance with affection.” In the Gospel According to Saint Luke, it is written that – “Jesus not only served the poor but also praised the service done by the poor,” and this is what real empowerment is. A tale associated with this incident is also very popular. It has been mentioned in that story that Jesus was standing near the treasury of a temple; many rich people came and donated bountifully; then a poor widow came and parted with only two copper coins. Now just two copper coins really do not amount to much. Thus it was natural that there was a lot of curiosity in the minds of the disciples gathered there. Then, Jesus declared that the widow was the greatest of those donors because while the others had donated substantially, that widow had given away all she possessed. Today, 25th December, is also the birth anniversary of Mahamana Madan Mohan Malviyaji, who kindled resolve and self confidence in the psyche of the Indian people and gave a new direction to modern education. My most sincere and heartfelt tributes to Malviyaji on his birth anniversary. About two days ago, I had the opportunity to launch many a developmental work in Banaras, the sacred workplace of Malviyaji. I also laid the foundation stone of Mahamana Madan Mohan Malviya Cancer Centre in BHU at Varanasi. This Cancer Centre is going to be a boon for the people of not only eastern Uttar Pradesh but for the people of Jharkhand and Bihar also. Today is also the birthday of Bharat Ratna and former Prime Minister Venerable Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ji. This country can never forget Atalji’s contributions. Under his leadership, the country proudly grew in stature in the field of nuclear power also. Whether in the role of a party leader, Member of Parliament, a minister or the Prime Minister, Atalji always established an ideal. I salute Atalji on his birthday and pray to God for his good health. As a party worker I had the privilege of working with Atalji. Many memories emerge before my eyes. This morning when I tweeted, I shared a video, in which you can see for yourself how as a small party worker one had the fortune of having affection showered upon him by Atalji. Today, on Christmas Day, as a gift the countrymen are going to get the benefit of two schemes. In a way it is the beginning of two new schemes. Throughout the entire country, be it villages or towns, the educated or the illiterate, there is an atmosphere of curiosity as to what is cashless, how cashless business can take place, how can one make purchases without using cash! Everybody wants to understand and learn from each other. To encourage this trend, to strengthen mobile banking and to inculcate the habit of making e-payments, the Government of India is launching from today encouragement schemes for consumers as well as traders. To encourage customers, the scheme is ‘Lucky Grahak Yojana’ and to encourage traders the scheme is ‘Digi Dhan Vyapaar Yojana’. Today, on 25th December, as a Christmas gift, fifteen thousand people will get rewards through a draw system, whereby each of the fifteen thousand winners will have one thousand rupees into their accounts and this will be not for today only; starting today this scheme will continue for the next 100 days. Everyday fifteen thousand people are going to receive rewards of one thousand rupees each. In the next 100 days, lakhs of families are going to receive crores of rupees as gift, but you will be entitled to this gift only if you make use of mobile banking, e-banking, RuPay Card, UPI, USSD – such means and methods of digital payment. The draw for rewards will be done based on your use of such digital payment methods. In addition, there would be a grand draw once every week for such customers in which the prize money will be in lakhs of rupees and three months later on April 14th, on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar, there would be a mega bumper draw where rewards would be in crores of rupees. ‘Digi Dhan Vyapar Yojana’ is mainly for traders and businessmen. Traders should adopt this scheme themselves and should encourage their customers too in order to make their business cashless. Such traders will also be rewarded separately and there would be thousands of these rewards. The traders will run their business activities smoothly and will also have an opportunity to win rewards. This scheme has been designed keeping all sections of society in mind, with a special focus on the poor and the lower middle class segments. Therefore only those will get its benefits who make a purchase worth more than 50 rupees but less than three thousand rupees. Those who make purchases of more than three thousand rupees will not be entitled to rewards under this scheme. Even the poor people can use USSD on simple feature or ordinary mobile phones to buy and sell goods as well as make payments and thus all of them can also become prospective beneficiaries of this reward scheme. In rural areas too, people can buy or sell through AEPS and they can also win rewards. Many will be surprised to know that now there are about 30 Crore, i.e. 300 million RuPay Cards in India, out of which 200 million RuPay Cards belong to poor families which have ‘Jan Dhan’ accounts. These 300 million people can immediately become part of this rewards scheme. I have confidence that the countrymen will evince interest in this system and if you enquire from the young people around you, they would surely be aware of these things and on your asking will tell you about these. Come on, if there is a child studying in 10th or 12th standard in your family, he or she will also be able to teach you well about this. It is as simple as sending WhatsApp messages on the mobile. My dear countrymen, I feel delighted to learn that the awareness about how to use technology, making e-payments, making online payments is spreading very fast. During the past few days, the cashless transactions, or cashless trading has increased by 200 to 300%. To give cashless trading a big impetus, Government of India has taken a very major decision. The business community, our traders can well comprehend how momentous this decision is. Those businessmen who adopt digital transactions, who develop online payment process instead of cash transactions in their trade activities will get Income Tax rebate. I congratulate all the states and union territories, who have promoted this campaign in their own way. The Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Mr. Chandrababu Naidu is the head of a committee which is considering various schemes under this. However, I have seen that the governments also have initiated and implemented many schemes. I’ve been told that Assam Government has decided to grant a 10% discount on property tax and business license fee if payments are made through digital transaction. The branches of Grameen, that is, Rural Banks there getting 75% of their customers to make at least two digital transactions between January and March will get 50 thousands rupees rewards from the government. They have announced that under the ‘Uttam Panchayat for Digi-Transaction’, rewards of 5 lakh rupees will be given to villages doing 100% digital transaction till 31st March, 2017. Assam Government has decided to reward 5 thousand rupees to the first 10 farmers as ‘Digital Krishak Shiromani’, who will buy seeds and fertilizers entirely through digital payments. I congratulate Assam Government and also all those state governments who have taken such initiatives. A number of organisations have also successfully carried out many experiments to promote digital transactions amongst the rural folk and poor farmers. I have been told that GNFC or Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilizers & Chemicals Limited, which primarily manufactures fertilizers, has installed a thousand PoS machines for sale of fertilizers for the convenience of farmers and in just a few days 35 thousand farmers were sold 5 lakh sacs of fertilizers on digital payment and this was accomplished in only two weeks! And the interesting fact is that compared to last year the fertilizer sales of GNFC have gone up by 27 percent. Brothers and sisters, the informal sector occupies a major segment in our economy and in our pattern of life and mostly these people are paid wages for their labour and hard work in cash. They are paid their salaries in cash and we know that due to this, they are exploited also. If they are to receive 100 rupees, they get only 80 rupees, if they are to be paid 80 rupees, they are given only 50 rupees. They are deprived of facilities like insurance and those associated with health sector. But now the practice of cashless payment is being adopted; the money is being directly deposited into banks. In a way, the informal sector is getting converted into the formal sector, exploitation is coming to an end, the cut, which had to be paid earlier, has stopped now and it has become possible for the worker, the artisan, such poor persons to get their full amount of money. In addition, they are also becoming entitled to the other benefits due to them. Our country is blessed with the maximum number of young people. Thus, we are favourably placed for using technology. A country like India should be ahead of everybody else in this field. Our youth have benefitted quite a lot from ‘Start-Ups’. This digital movement is a golden opportunity for our youth. They should impart to this as much strength as they can with their new ideas, technology and processes. But we must also connect with the drive to rid the country of black money and corruption with all our might. My dear countrymen, I request every month before ‘Mann Ki Baat’ that you please give your suggestions, share your thoughts; and of the thousands of such suggestions received this time on MyGov, on NarendraModiApp, I can definitely say that 80 to 90% suggestions were pertaining to the war against corruption and black money, there was mention of demonetization. After I examined all the suggestions, I can say that these can macroscopically be roughly divided into three categories. Some have written in detail about people facing difficulties and encountering inconveniences. The other group of correspondents have stressed that this is such a good work being carried out for the welfare of the country, such a sacred task but they have also noted that in spite of this there are many scams being committed and new avenues of dishonesty are being explored. The third group is the one which has, while wholeheartedly supporting the action being taken, clearly stressed that this fight must be carried forward; corruption and black money must be completely destroyed and if this requires even more tough steps to be taken, those must be taken. We have many people writing this most emphatically. I am thankful to the countrymen for helping me by writing these innumerable letters to me. Shriman Gurumani Kewal has written on MyGov – “This step of reigning in black money is praiseworthy. We citizens are facing some difficulties, but we are all fighting against corruption and we are happy that we are making a contribution in this fight. We are battling corruption, black money etc on the lines of Military Forces.” The sentiment behind Gurumani Kewalji’s text is being echoed in every nook and corner of the country. All of us are experiencing it. When the people face problems, undergo hardships, rare will be a fellow human being who will not empathise. I feel as much pain as you do. But when a task is taken up with a noble objective, to realise a lofty intent, with a clear conscience, the countrymen stay firm courageously amidst all these trials and tribulations. These people are the real Agents of Change, pioneers of transformation. I thank people for one more reason. They have not only braved hardships, but have also powerfully given a retort to those limited few who have been trying to mislead them. So many rumours were spread, even the fight against corruption and black money was sought to be tainted with shades of communalism. Somebody spread a rumour that the spelling on the currency note was faulty, someone said salt prices had spiraled, someone proclaimed that the 2000 rupee note would also be withdrawn, even 500 and 100 rupee denominations notes were rumoured to be on their way out. But I have seen that despite rampant rumour mongering, citizens have stood firm with their faith intact. And not just that, many people came to the fore and through their creativity and intelligence, exposed the rumour mongers, brought out the falsity of the rumours and established the truth. I salute this great ability of the people also from the core of my heart. My dear countrymen, I am experiencing one thing every moment. When a hundred and twenty five crore countrymen are standing by you, nothing is impossible. The people represent the will of the Almighty and their blessings become His blessings. I thank the people of this country and salute them for participating in this Mahayagya against black money and corruption with utmost zeal. It was my earnest wish that the ongoing campaign against corruption and black money, including the realm of political parties and political funding, be discussed extensively in the Parliament. Had the House functioned properly, there would have been comprehensive deliberation. Some people are spreading rumours that political parties enjoy all kinds of concessions. These people are absolutely in the wrong. The law applies equally to all. Whether it is an individual, an organisation or a political party, everyone has to abide by law and one will have to. People, who cannot endorse corruption and black money openly, resort to searching for faults of the government relentlessly. Another issue which comes up is this. Why are rules changed time and again? This government is for the sake of the people. The government continuously endeavours to take a feedback from them. What are the areas of difficulty for the people? What are the rules that are creating hindrances? And what are the possible solutions? The government, being a sensitive government, amends rules as required, keeping the convenience of the people as its foremost consideration, so that citizens are not subjected to hardships. On the other hand, as I’d said earlier, on the 8th to be precise, this drive, this war is an extraordinary one. For the past 70 years, what kind of forces are involved in this murky enterprise of perfidy and corruption? How mighty are they? When I have resolved to wage battle against them, they too come up with new tactics everyday to thwart the government’s efforts. To counter these new offensives, we too have to devise appropriate new responses and antidotes. When the opponents keep on trying out new tactics, we have to counteract decisively, since we have resolved to eradicate the corrupt, shady businesses and black money. On the other hand, many people have mentioned in their letters all kinds of wrongdoing which are going on; how newer wily ways and means are being devised. In this context, I offer my heartiest salutations to my dear countrymen for one very remarkable thing. These days you must be seeing on T.V. and newspapers, everyday many new people are being taken into custody, currency notes are being seized, raids are being carried out. Influential persons are being caught. How has all this been made possible? Should I let out the secret? The secret is that my sources of such information are people themselves. Information being received from common citizens is many times higher than that being obtained through government machinery. And we are by and large being successful in our operations on account of the awareness and alertness that the people have displayed. Can anyone imagine the level of risk, which the aware citizen of my country is taking to expose such elements! The information received has largely proved to be fruitful. For those of you wanting to share such information, you can send it on an e-mail address set up by the government for this purpose. You can also provide it on MyGov. The government is committed to fight all such wrongdoings and maladies. And when we have your active support, this fight becomes much easier. Thirdly, there is another group of letter writers, also existing in large numbers. They say – Modiji, do not feel exhausted, do not stop and take the most stringent measures that you can. Now that you have chosen this path, the journey should culminate at its intended and logical destination. I specially thank writers of such letters, since their writing exudes a certain confidence, fortified with blessings. I sincerely assure you that this is in no way going to be a full stop. This is just the beginning. We have to win this battle and the question of feeling exhausted or stopping simply does not arise. Armed with the good wishes of a hundred and twenty five crore countrymen, there is no question of a retreat. You are possibly aware of a Law about Benami Property in our country which came into being in 1988, but neither were its rules ever framed, nor was it notified. It just lay dormant gathering dust. We have retrieved it and turned it into an incisive law against ‘Benami Property’. In the coming days, this law will also become operational. For the benefit of the Nation, for the benefit of the people, whatever needs to be done will be accorded our top priority. My dear countrymen, I had mentioned in last month’s ‘Mann Ki Baat’ that even amidst these hardships our farmers toiled tirelessly and broke last year’s record in sowing. It is a sign of good times for the agricultural sector. The diligent hard work by this country’s workers, and farmers, and youth has scripted a new chapter of success with flying colours. Recently India proudly inscribed her name in various sectors of the global economic scenario. It is solely on account of the tireless exertions of our countrymen that on myriad indicators, India has charted an upward trajectory in global rankings. India’s ranking has gone up in the Doing Business Report of the World Bank. We are trying our best to raise the level of the business practices in India to match the best practices in the world on equal footing. And we are succeeding in that. In the World Investment Report released by UNCTAD, India’s position has risen to third in the Top Prospective Host Economies for 2016-18. In the Global Competitive Report of the World Economic Forum, India has made a big leap upwards by 32 ranks. In the Global Innovation Index 2016, we have moved up 16 rungs and in the Logistics Performance Index 2016 of the World Bank, we have risen by 19 ranks. There are many reports whose evaluation indicate that India is taking rapid strides ahead. My dear countrymen, this time the session of Parliament became the object of ire of our countrymen. Indignation was expressed everywhere about the activities in the Parliament. The President and Vice President also explicitly expressed their displeasure. But even in such a situation, sometimes good things also take place which create a sense of satisfaction in the mind. Amid the din in Parliament, an excellent task was accomplished, which has not attracted due attention of the country. Brothers and sisters, today with pride and joy I would like to mention that a bill in connection with my government’s mission on Divyangjan, that is, differently or specially abled people was passed in Parliament. For this, I extend my heartfelt gratitude to all the members of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. On behalf of millions of Divyangjan of the country I express my thanks. Our government is committed to the welfare of Divyaangs. Personally too, I have strived to lend momentum to this campaign. My intention was to ensure that the Divyangjan secure their due rights and also the honour and dignity that they are entitled to. Our efforts and our trust were fortified by our Divyaang brothers and sisters when they returned with 4 medals from the Paralympics. With their triumph, not only did they do the Nation proud, they pleasantly surprised many people through their capabilities and prowess. Our Divyaang brothers and sisters are an invaluable heritage, a precious endowment, just as every citizen of the country is. Today I am immensely delighted that the passing of this Law for the welfare of the Divyaangjan will open up additional avenues of employment for them. In government jobs, the extent of reservation for them has been enhanced to 4%. Special provisions have been provided for in this Law for their education, facilities and also for grievances. The extent of sensitivity of the government towards the Divyaangs can be assessed by the fact that during the last two years, the central government set up 4350 camps for Divyaangs, spent 352 crore rupees for distributing implements to 5,80,000 Divyaang brothers and sisters. The government has passed the new law in consonance with the spirit expressed by the United Nations. Earlier there were seven Divyaang categories; now adding fourteen new categories this has been expanded to twenty-one categories. Many such new categories of Divyaangs have been included thereby providing them for the first time justice and opportunities. For example, categories like Thalassemia, Parkinson’s, or for that matter Dwarfism have been included. My young friends, during the last few weeks, news items coming in from the world of sports have made all of us proud. Being Indians, it is but natural for us to feel elated. In the cricket series against England, India has triumphed 4-0. In this, the performance of some of the younger players deserves a special word of praise. The young Karun Nair scored a triple century and K. L. Rahul played a brilliant 199 run innings. Test captain Virat Kohli batted extremely well and also provided inspiring leadership. Indian Cricket team’s off-spin bowler R. Ashwin has been declared ‘Cricketer of the Year’ as well as ‘Best Test Cricketer’ by the ICC for the year 2016. My heartiest congratulations and many good wishes go to all of them. After a gap of 15 years, there was good news, in fact grand news from the hockey arena too. The Junior Hockey Team lifted the World Cup. This festive occasion came to us after fifteen years as the Junior Hockey team won the World Cup. Heartiest congratulations to these young players for this grand feat. This achievement is a very good omen for the future of our Hockey team. Last month our Women players too won laurels. Indian Women’s Hockey Team won the Asian Champions Trophy and just a few days ago in the under-18 Asia Cup, Indian Women’s Hockey Team secured the Bronze Medal. I congratulate all our Cricket and Hockey team players from the core of my heart. My dear countrymen, may 2017 be a year full of joy and enthusiasm; may all your resolves be crowned with success; let us scale newer heights of progress; may the poorest of the poor get an opportunity to lead a better and fuller life of happiness and contentment; may 2017 be like this for all of us. For the year 2017, my best and brightest wishes to all my countrymen. Many, many thanks.

Dinanath Bhargava who sketched national emblem dies at 89 in Indore

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Dinanath Bhargava, a co-artist in the team that sketched the national emblem ‘Lion Capital of Ashoka’ and decorated the pages of the Constitution’s manuscript, died at the age of 89 in Indore.Bhargava was suffering from cardiac ailments since the past decade.His daughter-in-law Sapekshi Bhargava said that he breathed his last on Saturday. “He is survived by four children including two sons,” she added.Born on November 1, 1927 at Multai in Betul district of Madhya Pradesh, Bhargava was chosen by noted painter Nandlal Bose, then the Principal of Kala Bhavan Shanti Niketan, in the group for designing the pages of the Indian Constitution’s manuscript.Bhargava was pursuing a 3-year Diploma in Fine Arts at Shanti Niketan at that time.The national emblem of India was adapted by the Government of India on 26th January 1950.

Maharashtra: Man held for raping minors in his SUV in Bhiwandi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A 35-year-old man from Bhiwandi, who used his four-wheeler to ferry school children, was arrested for allegedly raping two minor girls for the last six months, police said on Sunday.The accused, identified as Tulsiram Manere was held on Saturday night, Inspector SV Jadhav of Nizampura police station said.The accused molested and raped the victims, aged around 8 to 9, on several occasions inside his SUV and also at some other secluded places in the past six months, the officer said. It is suspected that Manera might have sexually abused more number of girls travelling in his car and as of now only two have disclosed about the offence.It was only after the teachers enquired with the parents of the victims about their absence from the school, the offence came to the light. “The two girls confided in their parents and told them about their sexual abuse. The parents then informed the school authority about it and subsequently a case was lodged by a teacher,” Jadhav said.The accused has been charged under sections 376 (rape), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code and under relevant sections of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act-2012, he said, adding, further probe was on.

PM Modi’s Mann ki Baat: Law against ‘benami’ properties to be operationalised soon

New Delhi: Vowing to carry forward the war against corruption and black money post-demonetisation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday that the government will soon operationalise a strong law to effectively deal with ‘benami’ properties and this was just the beginning.

Making his last monthly address this year in his “Mann ki Baat” programme, he defended the frequent changes in the rules of demonetisation, saying these have been done to reduce the people’s problems and defeat such forces who are out to thwart his government’s fight against black money and corruption.

Modi sought the cooperation of public in making the “war on corruption” a success and said the wrongdoings of some are being caught only with the support of common people who are coming forward with concrete information about hoarders.

“I assure you that this is not the end. This is just the beginning in our fight against corruption. We have to win this war against corruption and black money. There is no question of stopping or going back in this fight,” he said.

The Prime Minister also lamented the logjam in Parliament that evoked displeasure from the President and the Vice President besides all-round public indignation and ire, saying he wanted a good discussion on this campaign as well as on political funding, had both Houses run properly.

He said some people who are spreading rumours that political parties enjoy all concessions and exemptions “are wrong and all are equal before law” and they have to abide by it.

“It was my earnest wish that the ongoing campaign against corruption and black money, including the realm of political parties and political funding, be discussed extensively in the Parliament. Had the House functioned properly, there would have been comprehensive deliberation.

PM Modi. APPM Modi. AP

PM Modi. AP

“Some people are spreading rumours that political parties enjoy all kinds of concessions. These people are absolutely in the wrong. The law applies equally to all. Whether it is an individual, an organisation or a political party, everyone has to abide by law and one will have to,” he said, adding that people who cannot endorse corruption and black money openly resort to searching for faults of the government relentlessly.

Giving a push to his plea for cashless economy, Modi also launched two new schemes for traders and customers that will dole out 15,000 prizes every day to those making digital transactions.

Defending the frequent changes being made in rules after demonetisation, Modi said “the government, being a sensitive government, amends rules as required, keeping the convenience of the people as its foremost consideration, so that citizens are not subjected to hardships.”

Terming this war against corruption as “an extraordinary one”, he said the forces involved in “this murky enterprise of perfidy and corruption” have to be defeated as they are devising new tactics to thwart government’s efforts every day.

“To counter these new offensives, we too have to devise appropriate new responses and anti-dotes. When the opponents keep on trying out new tactics, we have to counteract decisively since we have resolved to eradicate the corrupt, shady businesses and black money,” he said.

Lauding the public for their support in exposing the wrong-doings of some, who are devising “newer wily ways and means” to counter the fight against corruption, the Prime Minister sought more public support.

“Everyday many new people are being taken into custody, currency notes are being seized, raids are being carried out. Influential persons are being caught. The secret is that my sources of such information are people themselves.

“Information being received from common citizens is many times higher than that being obtained through government machinery,” he said, adding that people were taking risks to expose such elements. He asked them to share such information on e-mail address of the government as also on the MyGov App.

Modi also talked about the Benami Property law that came into being in 1988, but neither its rules were framed, nor was it notified and laid dormant for years.

“We have retrieved it and turned it into an incisive law against ‘Benami Property’. In the coming days, this law will also become operational. For the benefit of the nation, for the benefit of the people, whatever needs to be done will be accorded our top priority,” he said.

The Prime Minister, however, lauded both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha for passage of the Disabilities Bill to secure the rights of disabled and also their honour and dignity. The new law, he said, is in consonance with the spirit expressed by the United Nations.

He also wished the people on Christmas and remembered former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on his birthday while wishing him good health and long life.

Modi also congratulated the Indian Cricket team for its emphatic 4-0 victory over England, as also the performances of some young players like Karun Nair who scored a triple century, K L Rahul for scoring a brilliant 199, besides the leadership provided by Captain Virat Kohli and off-spin bowler R Ashwin. He also complimented the Junior Hockey Team for lifting the World Cup and the Indian Women’s Hockey Team that won the Asian Champions Trophy.

First Published On : Dec 25, 2016 13:41 IST

Hello Mr Winemerchant

India’s Parsis take their food and drink seriously and even take their names from it.

Our tailor and the ‘ticking time bomb’

The challenge posed to India by Type 2 diabetes is set to increase further, according to experts

Pakistani Hindus can now avail Indian citizenship at Rs 100

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The registration fees for Hindus and other minority community people from three neighbouring countries, including Pakistan, as Indian citizens have been drastically reduced to as low as Rs 100 from Rs 15,000. In a gazette notification, the Home Ministry said the new rules will be applicable to minority communities- Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians- from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and living in India on Long Term Visa.However, for minority community people from countries other than the three, the fees will be Rs 10,000 for registration in India and Rs 15,000 if registered elsewhere. The changes have been made after amending various provisions of the Citizenship Rules 2009.The new rules also allow the minority members from the neighbouring countries to take oath of allegiance as an Indian citizen in front of Sub-Divisional Magistrate, in case of absence of Collector, Deputy Commissioner or District Magistrate.Welcoming the move, Hindu Singh Sodha, Chairman of the Seemant Lok Sangthan, a voluntary organisation fighting for the rights of the refugees, said the decision has come as a huge relief for minorities belonging to the neighbouring countries. “We had been demanding for delegating the citizenship powers of the District Collectors and reduction in the application fee to just Rs 100 per application for these poor people since long. “We are delighted that after series of meetings, our demand was honoured by the Home Ministry,” Sodha said.

If Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor did wrong in naming Taimur, then what about the Ashokas?

When a man with Lord Rama in his name grows up to be Independent India’s first terrorist, do we stop naming our children Nathu, Nathmal or Ram?

When an emperor named Asoka (Ashoka) murders his 99 step-brothers, throws them into Patna’s Agam Kuan, has a torture chamber that entitles him to the sobriquet of Chand (fierce), kills at least one lakh people, decapitates thousands in the battle of Kalinga, does it stop us from naming every Tom, Dick and Harry after him?

Bollywood actor Saif Ali Khan and his wife Kareena Kapoor with their newly born baby boy Taimur at their residence in Mumbai on Thursday. PTIBollywood actor Saif Ali Khan and his wife Kareena Kapoor with their newly born baby boy Taimur at their residence in Mumbai on Thursday. PTI

Bollywood actor Saif Ali Khan and his wife Kareena Kapoor with their newly born baby boy Taimur at their residence in Mumbai on Thursday. PTI

When Sikander (Alexander), who sacks several bastions and massacred many people in the Indian sub-continent, does it stop us from making his name a synonym for bravery and fortitude, the inspiration behind a BJP parliamentarian’s son?

So, what’s the big deal if Kareena and Saif Ali Khan decide to name their Taimur, a name linked to a ferocious west Asian conqueror who also did what Nathuram, Ashoka and Sikander did — kill, conquer, wage wars?

The hysteria among some right-wing trolls over Saifeena’s choice of the name for their newborn is typical of selective reading of history, deep-seated bigotry and typical rage over the fact that raiders from the West could scythe through this land of incapable warriors and kings whenever they wanted, made them fall to their knees at will. The chest-thumping trolls just can’t accept that most of the kings who ruled ancient and medieval India did not have the ability to protect their empires, win wars or stand up to raiders from the west. So, they take out this frustration on an infant, in a different age and time.

Great work, people. After fighting with Pakistan, Kashmiris and then anti-nationals at home, you have stooped to the level of a new-born! Now that really takes some serious kind of mental regression. In a civilised society, people would be expected to at least follow established rules of decency. Nobody drags a new-born child into their politics of hate and bigotry. What parents call their child is nobody’s business. But, not in the country we call Mahaan. Here such pettiness is paraded in the name nationalism, patriotism and Hindutva. Perhaps we don’t even get what may be Saif and Kareena’s may be an ode to Langa Tyaagi, the unforgettable character from a film both of them starred in.

A young man from an Uzbek tribe rises from being a thief to one of the biggest conquerors of his era, in spite of physical disabilities. He leads his men to victories from India in the east to the tip of Europe in the west. He establishes an empire from Tibet to south Russia, a regime that is both feared (obviously by the craven) and respected by peers in Spain and parts of Europe. He wages wars against Hindus, Christians and Muslims from Baghdad to Turkey and massacres their armies — like Ashoka did in the battle of Kalinga — with equal ferocity. His descendant Babar, another young man synonymous with exceptional leadership skills, bravery and fortitude, establishes a dynasty that rules India for more than 300 years. What is wrong if parents want their child named after such a man?

Seriously, who would you prefer as a role model? Perhaps the Rajput king Man Singh, who surrendered to the Mughals, struck matrimonial alliances to save their empires, became leader of Akbar’s armies that took on fellow-Rajputs like Rana Pratap. Our pride allows us to have a road named after him in New Delhi but the petty Indian ego gets hurt when two film stars name their son after a great warrior, leader, and a winner.

And, by the way, did Taimur not defeat a Mahmud Shah Tughlaq, a descendant of another dynasty that is believed to have put India under 1,200 years of ghulami? Oh wait, wasn’t an invader defeating a Sultan whose ancestors ended the reign of Hindu kings in India supposed to be cause celebre?

Taimur, in case we missed it, is a common name in Turkey, in spite of being known as the nemesis of the Ottoman Empire. In fact, though he ravaged and razed down cities across Central Asia, in almost every country he conquered parents have been proudly naming their children after Taimur. In Uzbekistan, he is considered a hero, the architect of Samarkand, a polyglot, patron of art and culture. So, what is so special about us Indians that make us wage a Twitter jihad if a child answers to a name thousands across the world do?

Finally, the entire argument that a name should be rejected because of its history is flawed. If the criteria were to be followed across the world, there would have been no Marie (Antoinette) in France, no Ivans (the Terrible) in the UK and Josephs (Stalins) in Europe, Stalins in DMK and Sikander’s in the saffron parivar.

As the Bard said: What’s in a name? Whom we call Nathu Ram may not turn out to be a Maryada Purshuttom. No?

First Published On : Dec 24, 2016 18:52 IST

Infantry combat vehicles to be fitted with sensors to detect nuclear, biological, chemical attacks

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a first, the infantry combat vehicles of the Indian army used for carrying troops into battle zones providing direct fire support will be fitted with automated sensors to detect a nuclear, biological or a chemical attack (NBC).The army plans to procure 1500 indigenously designed modern systems that can be installed on these vehicles. The decision has been taken in view of rising NBC warfare threats. The estimated cost of the project is Rs 1,265 crore.“It will be an automatic mechanism that can detect a threat and act accordingly, controlling air temperature, sealing the vehicle completely and shutting down the systems in the vehicle,” said an army officer.Currently, there is a manual system in case of a threat which is not very effective.Infantry fighting vehicles are armour installed and also allow personnel to fire from within making them distinct from armoured personnel carriers (APCs), which are transport vehicles armed only for self-defense and not specifically engineered to fight on their own.The decision to develop and design a system to combat such threats was taken by the Ministry of Defence on Friday as the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar gave the go ahead.Other than this, the DAC cleared the procurement of 55 low-level light weight radars at an estimated cost of Rs. 419 crore for the army and the Air Force that will give 3D images also to be designed indigenously by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).The government also gave clearance to the IAF to purchase one more C17 heavy transport aircraft and also gave the nod to the Coast Guard’s proposal to acquire six multi-mission maritime aircraft for Rs 5,500 crore.Two “classified” proposals for the acquisition of arms and ammunition for the Special Forces and another related to the Airborne Warning And Control System (AWACS) is also understood to have been cleared.The aircraft likely to be shortlisted for the Coast Guard is the C295, which is already been negotiated as a replacement for the Avro transport fleet of the air force.

You can’t make foreign policy based on domestic political issues: Shivshankar Menon

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Your book talks about choices and a remarkable continuity of foreign policy during the tenure of three PMs – PV Narasimha Rao, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh. In your assessment, does this continuity still exist? And how necessary is continuity for the country’s foreign policy?I think all these three PMs had a similar approach to foreign policy. Their goal was to transform India, to make it a modern state. Also because that was a particular period when globalisation, open international trade and economics dominated the scene. Now the context has changed. But in practice, fundamentals of policy have remained the same. If you look at what this government has been doing – towards US, China, Russia and Pakistan, it has tried similar policies. But because the context has changed, the results were different. Today when you see tensions in relations with China, stress in relations with Pakistan, it is partly due to the changed context. Their behaviour has changed. We are at a very delicate stage as far as our foreign policy is concerned. I don’t think we can go on doing what we had always done.You have a history of dealing with China in the Indian foreign policy setup. Since relations with China warmed up in 1988, there had ensued an era of peace and tranquillity. Is there a shift in India’s dealings with China now? Should we attribute it to Chinese resurgence or India’s confrontationist attitude? What has happened with China is that the modus vivendi which we had worked out and formalised at the highest level when Rajiv Gandhi visited and which lasted for 30 years has changed. Our understanding was that we would discuss our differences, the boundary question, etc but we would not allow them to impede normal relations. We did trade, we did exchanges. We now have $72 billion trade; we cooperated where we could externally at the WTO Doha round, climate change, etc. That modus vivendi has broken down. Both countries have also changed.For instance, when we started economic reforms, the share of external economy (merchandise trade) to the GDP was a mere 14% . By 2014, it was 49.3%. Now that means our dependence on the external world is more. Today we have a real interest in freedom of navigation in South China Sea. China also has real interest in South China Sea. But that is a new phenomena. Both are major trading nations and it is in the interest of both to keep the sea lanes free and open. China says they are our waters. So there is an issue. You need to recalibrate the relationship. Look at China’s relationship with Pakistan today. In 1996, President Jiang Zemin told the Pakistani National Assembly that you should do with India what we do. Discuss differences, but do not let it affect the rest. Today it is reverse. China is investing $46 billion in Gwadar and the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). There is a problem today. Only thing we can do is sit together and discuss how we can respect each other’s core interests. And if they overlap or there are differences, how to manage them.Recently US President Elect Donald Trump announced that his administration would walk away from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, which means abandoning the Asian pivot as well, of which India was sheet anchor. How will it affect Indian interests?Trump has come to power on a pledge to disengage from the rest of the world, which we may call deglobalisation. On the TPP he always said he would not support it. But it is too early to say how it is going to work out. Trump has already surprised people by speaking to the Taiwanese leadership. He has the potential to be quite disruptive, but politicians don’t always implement what they promise during campaigns. Let us see.Why is India making an issue of the South China Sea when it is nowhere close to its neighbourhood? Especially as other East Asian countries bordering it are locked in security and economic partnership with China and brokering peace.I don’t think we are in confrontation. Some years ago, we had offered China a dialogue on maritime security, which would include all these issues such as our interests in the South China Sea and the Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean region. They are also interested in freedom of navigation in the Indian Ocean. Their oil also comes through Hormuz and Malacca Straits. We have new issues at hand. We need to discuss, obviously, the CPEC. Different countries have coped in different ways with the rise of China and with the change in balance of power they see around them. For us, Look East was a response to this, and now it has transformed into Act East.Can you bring some clarity to ‘One Belt One Road’ (OBOR), of which CPEC is also part. Does it make sense for India to stay out?My own personal view is that as long as the road is open for everybody to use and is in your interest to promote trade and commerce, there is no harm. If parts of OBOR work for you, use them. The parts which don’t work, and are actually offensive to your interests like CPEC, as it goes thorough Indian territory, you should oppose quite clearly. Other bits like ports, railways or pipelines that serve India’s interests , use them. But we must insist that the initiative is open to everybody and not exclusive; that no conditions are attached to it and is purely an economic initiative.The CPEC frankly doesn’t make economic sense. I read in Chinese newspapers that the pipeline along CPEC carrying oil will be 16.6 times more expensive than carrying oil by sea or by another road to China. It doesn’t make any economic sense, keeping in view the transport and railways passing through the world’s highest mountains and most insecure and difficult terrain. The port of Gwadar is next to Karachi. With all these factors, the immediate suspicion would be that it is for other purposes like military and strategic purposes, to project power in the Indian Ocean. So for me, CPEC is a problem. Indian government has made it clear why it has reservations about it.But if CPEC or OBOR aids development of the region, isn’t that in India’s interest?Again, if it works for the people, for development, we should use it. Look, we could run a bus between Srinagar and Muzaffarbad across the line, in the most heavily militarised territory with all the backlog of politics and whatever. You can find ways to make people’s lives easier. That is the responsibility of governments. But that doesn’t mean you give up your stand. Governments should not make people’s lives difficult.Coming back to the Sino-Indian border dispute, is there really a dispute? As per old census records, in 1891 the area of Jammu and Kashmir was 80,900 sq miles; in 1911 some 84,258 sq miles; in 1941, it came down to 82,258 sq miles and suddenly as the border dispute arose in 1961, the area was raised to 86,024 sq miles. Why these discrepancies and the logic behind the suddenly increased area?The fact is that until 1954, Survey of India maps used to show the border in the Western sector with Aksai Chin as an undefined border. At different stages people had different ideas. From our side there might have been a lack of precision. But let me tell you there was absolutely no Chinese presence in the region till 1950. By then they had come to Tibet and not to the border. We were consistent after that. Frankly, as I describe in the book, China manufactured a case. They didn’t say they had a problem until January 1959. I think you need to look at both sides. We were a new government; it took us time to figure out.But A. G. Noorani in his book, India-China Boundary Problem, has documented that under Jawaharlal Nehru, old maps were discarded and burned at the Ministry of External Affairs to create a case for a border dispute?You need to look at what happened in a context. This is why foreign policy is about choices. If you look at newly Independent India, there were plenty of problems – looking at refugee issues, the consequences of Partition, fighting a war in Kashmir with Pakistan, trying to integrate the states till 1958, etc. The settling of border issue was not number one priority in those conditions. The remarkable thing is that Nehru turned his attention to these problems and attended to them in the middle of all the things that were on his plate. I think it was remarkable. He showed the sense of history and the importance of these things. It is wrong to then say why they did this, why they didn’t do that. That would be unfair.The acid test of our foreign policy has been dealing with Pakistan. You seem too pessimistic that nothing can happen on that front. Frankly there are intuitional and structural issues in Pakistan that don’t allow it to have a normal , stable and predictable relationship with us. For me that is the root of the problem. We tried repeatedly and we had come quite close many times like in 2005. It is not that we don’t know solutions. We know how to move forward. But there are very strong forces, as I have mentioned in the book. We are actually dealing with many Pakistans. The ordinary Pakistan that includes civilians, businessmen, politicians have no animosity towards India. They are friendly. We spent three years there, made a lot of friends. As a family we were very happy there. But that is not all of Pakistan. There is the Pakistan of the establishment, of the ISI, jihadi organisations, religious right, etc. They have their own views. I don’t think they will permit a normal stable relationship. As long as they have power, as they have in the present chaos in Pakistan, they will not allow a relationship to grow. That is the source of my pessimism. I believe we should deal with different Pakistans differently.Is there a possibility of creating a constituency for peace?We cannot affect the balance of forces within Pakistan. We cannot structure Pakistan. Some world powers have tried , but failed. I am relatively pessimistic in the short term. In the long run, if one starts being rational towards your own interest, it will make peace. But there re are elements there which are very powerful, who will not permit it in today’s circumstances. That is why I am pessimistic.The peace process, you mention under your supervision which had reached a stage of breakthrough had devised a way to find a people centric rather a territory centric solution. Is there any way to pick up threads?Exactly, Dr. Manmohan Singh used to say make border irrelevant and minimise hardships to people. Yes, we did find ways. Whether it was bus, trade across the LoC. But resistance is there. It is a battle that has to be fought every time. I am sure we can reconnect threads. But the primary block is configuration of forces within Pakistan.You held the top security post in the country as NSA after a wealth of experience in foreign affairs, especially so in the neighbourhood. Does unpredictability in foreign policy help achieve goals?If you look at India as an actor, we have grown from the 10th largest economy to 3rd largest economy in the world from Vajpayee’s time. We have an interest in the way the world works. We did well out of globalisation. We are reformers. I cannot say that the present world order is perfect or ideal. But we have done well out of it recently. Now unpredictability is an insurgent tactic. It is a tactic for those who want to draw attention. India doesn’t have that problem. You have a challenge in running the system . For me unpredictability is a tactic, which captains and majors do. Yes deception, surprise, and shock at tactical level can work. But when it comes to strategy, unpredictability is not a good thing. People should know your red lines and core interests. You were the custodian of India’s nuclear arsenal as well. The element of unpredictability in our nuclear doctrine has not worked well. It has not even deterred or helped us change the security system to our advantage.What was our nuclear weapons designed for – it was to deter people from threatening us. That has worked. It was never designed to be used in wars or to stop terrorism. If you start saying nuclear weapon should do all these functions, then you say it has failed. But for me it has succeeded for its declared purpose. They are not war fighting weapons. You know the affect they can have. And with Pakistan, frankly in our case there is a three minute warning time. We are next door to each other. If you are bombing Pakistan, you are bombing yourself keeping in view the direction of winds etc. You have mentioned in the book, that when you went to meet Left leaders, they had congratulated you for the conclusion of Indo-US nuclear deal. But later they opposed it to the extent of attempting to bring down the Manmohan Singh government?We had met all the 12 conditions as laid down in public. They never expected it. They were surprised. Every party, not only the Left, later took position keeping in view their domestic constituencies and political calculations.Political argument was that you are becoming allies of the US. They took positions that suited them domestically . See the BJP, when they were in power previously, they started it. When they were in Opposition, they opposed it. And when they are back in power, they again started it.Increasingly foreign policy issues are being played in domestic politics. Is that tying the hands of governments to devise a long-term and an effective foreign policy?Let me put it in this way. Foreign policy has always been part of domestic politics in India. Pakistan policy has always been. If you look at China policy, Vajpayee made a reputation during his initial days by raising issues related to China. Through the 60s policy towards US has always been divisive . That is good. You must debate what is good for you. But today, foreign policy is being used for domestic proposes for the first time to an extent that it is worrying. You must determine foreign policy to India’s interest and not to a political party’s interest or a leader’s interest or a government’s interest. That is why I have mentioned that when we did the boundary agreement with China, Narasimha Rao insisted on going to talk to all Opposition leaders, right through the negotiations. You are doing India’s work, not Rao’s work or Congress party’s work. Discussion and dialogue are necessary, but I don’t think you make foreign policy on the basis of domestic political issues.You drafted much criticised Sharm ul Sheikh joint statement with Pakistan, which for the first time mentioned Baluchistan. Do you feel vindicated now, since this government has taken up the issue so vigorously?(Laughs) Well, I feel like laughing. But what can I say? I studied history in university. So I have taken the view that in the long run history will take a better view of these things. It was a moment, there was great optimism for a breakthrough. Criticism of this statement was aimed at addressing domestic politics. There was not a word about Kashmir in that statement. That was unprecedented. After the statement was issued, Pak PM Yusuf Raza Geelan came out of the room and on the stairs, the whole Pakistani media attacked him. And you should have seen his face, he was shaken. But when attacks started in India, then they thought it is Pakistan’s victory. Nobody had time for substance. As I said, everyone had their own agendas . It is interesting how history works. We were criticised for bringing the issue of Baluchistan in India-Pakistan discourse. But now they think, it is an important element in the discourse.

Rumours of dead bodies of Indians piling up in Saudi mortuaries is false: Vikas Swarup

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>External Affairs Ministry described as “completely factually misleading” reports that more than 150 bodies of people from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh were lying in various hospitals and mortuaries in Saudi Arabia. External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup also asserted that there are only about 10 cases that pertain to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.”This report is completely factually misleading. The report refers to 150 bodies from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.In reality, there are only about 10 cases that pertain to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. And the total number of bodies is nowhere near that number,” he said.He was reacting to a report which said at least 150 bodies of residents of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are piling up at mortuaries in Saudi Arabia for nearly a year with families unable to bring them back to Hyderabad for last rites and the Indian embassy in Riyadh has been of little help.Noting that there are more than 2 million Indians living and working in Saudi Arabia, Swarup said on average, there are 3-4 death cases registered every day on account of natural reasons.Most cases are ‘clear’ cases in which, as per the local norms, it takes around three weeks to send mortal remains even if the documents are in order, the spokesperson added.”In cases of unnatural death, like suicide, murder and industrial accident, and also in those cases wherein the families doubt the circumstances of death, the investigation procedure is very lengthy, causing delay in completion of documentation/transportation of mortal remains,” he said.Swarup further said in some cases, the families demand release of compensation first, before the dispatch of the mortal remains, whereas compensation is a legal process and takes a year.In other cases of delay, DNA samples from the families back home are needed to identify the body and complete the local procedures, he observed.”So at any given time there would be a number of cases, of all categories, being processed. The Embassy proactively follows all death cases on top priority. In fact, NOCs are issued by the Embassy on 24×7 basis.”In the Kafala system (sponsorship) being followed in Saudi Arabia, it is the responsibility of the sponsor to complete the paper-work and dispatch the mortal remains to India. Despite this legal position, the Embassy steps in wherever there are delays in the transportation of mortal remains,” Swarup said.

Demonetisation deadline: Does govt has no plan to get back crores of NRI ‘white money’?

Despite all the love sprayed on NRIs and those multiple Pravasi Divas conventions held in various parts of the country for various ministers to iterate their love for Indians abroad the week of good cheer is a bit soured.

With good reason. As airlines hike up the cost of tickets by nearly 250 percent (from the Gulf for sure) and families largely opt to stay home there is also a tangible sense of loss from the enormous vat of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes lying around the diaspora.

Awash in cash? PTIAwash in cash? PTI

Awash in cash? PTI

Assessed officially at 30 million people but probably higher by another five million with about Rs 5,000 being taken as the modest average lying with each person it comes to a sizeable Rs 15,000 crore and running.

Most of us keep a reasonable amount in high denomination notes with Rs 25,000 being the outer limit as per law to avoid delays at Indian airports in making foreign exchange and simply pull out the wads that have been lying under shirts and saris or used biscuit and chocolate tins to take a cab home and, in case banks are closed, have enough for Day One and Two.

The stories of long queues and no money and cards not working have made for a change in touching the base.

Relatives in the home country already stretched to breaking point are also not too keen to having us descend upon them en masse.

Rumours and half-truths that the government is listening to last moment pleas from community representatives for a delay in the 30 December deadline for these notes to be vacuumed in don’t seem to have much grounds and the odds are the Not Required Indian will stay not required. Perhaps in the grand scheme of things the sum from NRIs is not astronomical but why lose it.

The Customs form allows us to bring in Rs 25,000 though most of us carry less on each visit. And we do not take back much, just the leftover financial debris of the holiday.

This year the stress level has a different texture to it. For one, there is this fear that carrying banned notes might cause hassles at points of entry. No one wants to be taken aside because they are carrying six or seven crumpled notes. There is no logic in the fear but it exists anyway…there have been enough scare stories on the social platforms to make everyone a little concerned…and hugely confused.

And it does not make sense spending Rs 30,000 per passenger and more for a Y class ticket to make the end of the year deadline when such a low cast carrier ticket usually goes for Rs 10,000 or thereabouts. The situation as it stands is that these Rs 150 billion will be consumed by the clock. Come to think of it, the total is probably much more.

That these crores are going to be largely lost to the exchequer seems to be of no concern to the authorities. Even blue-collar labour has a note or two, often placed in their wallets for good luck by tearful parents sending their sons and daughters to foreign shores when they leave home…a kind of ‘shagun’ that has now lost its meaning.

You would think that one of the mandarins in the Ministry of Overseas Affairs would say, uh oh, that is a lot of money let’s create a blueprint for getting it back and instruct all banks to allow these monies to be sent by courier to the accounts up to Rs 25,000 and let it be accepted.

After all, look at the delicious irony. It is not black money. it is bright, shiny, pristine white money that people want to return.

Allowed to be in our possession by law. So why are NRIs being penalised indirectly for not breaking the law. Echo answers who?

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 19:37 IST

Acclaimed Bengali poet Shankha Ghosh to get 2016 Jnanpith Award

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Bengali poet and literary critic Shankha Ghosh will get the Jnanpith Award for 2016. The award is given for exceptional contribution in the fielf of literature. The award was constituted way back in 1965. He is the sixth Bengali to get this prestigious award. Shankha Ghosh born in Chandipur, present day Bangladesh is a leading authority on Rabindranath Tagore. He has earlier won the Sahitya Academy Award and the Padmabhushan for his contribution to Indian literature.

Two-day GST Council meet to end today: Key points over the vexed dual control issue

The two-day GST Council meet that began on Thursday (22 December) and will continue today would take forward the discussion on the remaining 7 chapters of the model GST law.

The council headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, which is meeting for the seventh time so far, will also take up the dual control issue and try to iron out differences on the vexed issue of jurisdiction over assessees in the new indirect tax regime.

Consensus has so far eluded on the model GST law in the previous meetings of the all-powerful GST Council. The subsequent GST legislations — CGST, IGST and compensation law — could not be introduced in the Winter session of Parliament that ended last week, and this has threatened the April 2017 rollout target of the GST.

Experts now say that implementation of GST should be postponed by three months to July next year as industry would need time to prepare their IT infrastructure.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Although, the Centre plans to implement the GST from 1 April, due to Constitutional compulsion the GST now could be rolled out by 16 September next year as the existing indirect taxes will come to an end, and it would not be possible for either Centre or the states to collect indirect taxes.

Day one of the two-day Council meet ended on Thursday with no discussion on dual control but discussed the GST bills.

However, Friday’s meeting will be important as the integrated GST Bill will discuss the contentious issue over the dual control of assessees. Besides this, the three GST bills – Central GST (cGST), Integrated GST and State Compensation Law – need to be approved by the Council before they can be tabled in the Parliament.

Failure to get a consensus on the issue would make it impossible for the government to implement the ambitious indirect tax reform from its target date of 1 April 2017, said a report in the Mint.

Already, finance minister Arun Jaitley has been emphasising that the luxury of time is not available for the GST implementation for the reason that if 1 April 2017, is the first possible day it can be implemented, then the last date also is constitutionally defined as 16 September, 2017.
This
“So the discretion as to when to implement is only five months and 16 days and that’s why we don’t have the luxury of time because after five months, the curtains will come down on the old taxation powers,” Jaitley had said earlier.

The dual control has been a sticking point between the Centre and the states, which has so far delayed consensus amongst the council members.

Here are the key points over this vexed issue.

1) The government wants to weigh on the pros and cons on the issues of cross empowerment to ensure single interface under GST, which will subsume excise, service tax, VAT and other local levies.

2) Dual control pertains to the issue of administration of transactions above Rs 1.5 crore. At the September meeting, it was decided that states would have exclusive jurisdiction over transactions below Rs 1.5 crore. For transactions above this amount, it was decided that a mechanism would be worked out to ensure that the same transaction would not be subject to dual audit/inspection by the centre and the state. This has resulted in tug of war between the Centre and states and has become a contentious issue.

3) State governments of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu and Kerala want exclusive control over small taxpayers below Rs 1.5 crore threshold. While the Centre has agreed to forego control on goods, but it is not yielding on services.

4) The GST council also arrived at an option of two proposals– horizontal division and vertical division to overcome the issue. a) Horizontal Division means tax payers would be divided both for administrative and audit purposes based on a cut off turnover. Those with a turnover over Rs 1.5 crore would be administered both by the Centre and states, while those with below Rs 1.5 crore would be administered solely by the state. b) The Vertical Division based on ratios assigns tax payers to a tax administration, Centre or state, for a period of 3 years for all purposes including audit. Tax payers could be divided in a ratio which would balance the interest of the Centre and the state, both with respect to revenue and spread of numbers.

5) The Centre, however, feels that horizontal division would be lopsided as 93 percent of Service Tax assessees and 85 percent of the VAT tax payers have a turnover below Rs 1.5 crore.

6) Last month, GST Council had failed to reach any conclusion on the dual control issue as states objected to non-availability of updated data on assessees of service tax, excise and VAT.

7) The updated figures shared by the Centre with the states shows the likely taxpayer base in GST would be 107 lakh, of which states account for 67 percent (71.7 lakh) and Centre is estimated to account for 33 percent (35.3 lakh). There are around 81.4 lakh VAT dealers, out of which active dealers are 66.5 lakh. For service tax, there are 38 lakh assessees, out of which 26 lakh are active assessees, while there are around 4,00,000 assessees for excise. Around 4,00,000 taxpayers are common to the Centre and the states, The Indian Express report said.

With PTI inputs

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 12:56 IST

The dairy farm putting a fresh face on India’s milk

About 70% of India’s milk is adulterated by the time it reaches consumers. We’ve been to visit one dairy farm in India offering something fresh.

Sixteen years since LeT attacked Red Fort: All you need to know about the terror attack

From Jawaharlal Nehru’s historic “At the stroke of midnight” speech on India’s independence day in 1947 to Narendra Modi‘s fiery “India will not bow before terrorism” address, Delhi’s Red Fort has always been witness to the greatest moments in Indian history. It has borne the marks of time and watched centuries of change sweep through the country.

But 16 years ago, it was on this day that the premises of the majestic fort were shaken up by gunshots, as Lashkar-e-Taiba militants shelled the military shelter inside the fort, killing two soldiers and one civilian.

The historic Red Fort is pictured in the old quarters of Delhi, India. Reuters

The historic Red Fort in the old quarters of Delhi, India. Reuters

The assault and the conspiracy

On a winter evening on 22 December, 2000, LeT militants sneaked into the Red Fort on the pretext of watching the light-and-sound show that retells the tale of the historic structure. According to a report in The Hindusix militants, with their arms hidden under leather jackets, entered the Red Fort around 7 pm through the Lahore Gate, the main entrance to the historic structure. They headed to watch the show scheduled for 7:30 pm. However, they later sneaked into the military shelters under the cover of darkness and fog.

According to another report in The Times of India, around 9 pm, the militants started firing indiscriminately on the guards of seventh battalion of Rajputana Rifles, killing two soldiers and a civilian guard. The militants then escaped through the Fort’s rear wall.

According to the report, the conspiracy was hatched in Pakistan and funded by top LeT operatives. The report further states that funds were transferred to terrorists through a Delhi-based hawala account operator, who was later nabbed by the Delhi police.

The Hindu report states that the prime accused, Ashfaq Ahmed, set up his base in India and opened a computer centre in Gaffur market as a cover for his activities. He then contacted five other terrorists — Abu Samal, Abu Sadd, Abu Sakhar, Billal and Haider, and set them up at a rented house in Delhi’s Batla House area. The terrorists did a recce of the Red Fort, it being a prominent tourist spot.

Ashfaq was later nabbed by the Delhi police based on some notes recovered from behind the Red Fort, according to the report.

The militants, the report states, had come to India on the behest of Pakistan’s intelligence wing ISI in 2000. The prime accused Ashfaq Ahmed, lodged at Tihar jail since 2000, came to India and married Rehmana Yousuf Farooqui, a girl of Indian origin. Rehmana was also arrested as she was reportedly in full knowledge of Ashfaq’s plan and assisted him. Another militant was later killed in an encounter on 26 December.

The legal battle

The Delhi police, after conducting an enquiry in the matter, finally filed a chargesheet against Ashfaq and 21 others in February 2001. However, the special sessions court hearing the matter framed charges only against 11, including Ashfaq and Rehmana, according to a report in Hindustan Times. The court sentenced Ashfaq to death, while his four accomplices, including his wife, were give seven years in prison. Two more militants convicted in the case were given a life term.

Ashfaq later approached the Delhi High Court against the verdict. The high court, however, upheld the lower court’s verdict and ruled that life sentences should be awarded to Ashfaq for waging a war against the country and murdering three people.

In a rare move, the Supreme Court put Ashfaq’s death sentence on hold in April 2014, according to Live Mint. Ashfaq appealed in the apex court that he has already served 13 years in prison, and the death sentence awarded to him would therefore be akin to a double punishment for one crime. He also petitioned that he had been suffering mentally and physically due to the long delays in judicial proceedings.

The apex court’s move was deemed rare as it had, in August 2011, upheld the sentence awarded by the sessions court and termed the attack on Red Fort as a “brazen and arrogant assault to overawe India”.

However, the Supreme Court in January 2016, took cognisance of Ashfaq’s appeal and has admitted his plea for a hearing. The Constitutional bench led by Chief Justice of India TS Thakur, hearing the matter, emphasised the finality of the death sentence and agreed to an open court hearing on why his punishment should be reversed, according to a report in The Indian Express.

As of now, Ashfaq is lodged at Tihar, and is awaiting the Supreme Court’s order on his fate.

First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 21:04 IST

President Mukherjee arrives in Hyderabad on ten-day southern sojourn

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>President Pranab Mukherjee arrived in Hyderabad on Thursday on a ten-day, annual southern sojourn. Governor ESL Narasimhan, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao and his cabinet colleagues besides Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya and senior officials received him at Hakimpet Airforce station.The President will stay at Rashtrapati Nilayam in Hyderabad, a former Nizam palace built in 1860 which stands on a sprawling 90 acres of grounds and now serves as a presidential retreat. Mukherjee will attend convocation at the Army College of Dental Sciences in Secunderabad on Friday. He will also address centenary celebrations of the Federation of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry.On December 24, he will inaugurate Mahila Dakshata Samiti and Bansilal Malani College of Nursing in Hyderabad. The next day he will visit Bengaluru to inaugurate 89th annual conference of Nikhil Bharat Banga Sahitya Sammelan, an official release said.On December 26, the President will attend the convocation of Maulana Azad National Urdu University here and on December 29, he will inaugurate the 77th session of Indian History Congress in Thiruvananthapuram. He will then travel to Mysuru where he would inaugurate the 17th National Jamboree of Bharat Scout and Guides.On December 30, the President will inaugurate Sri Shankara National Centre for Cancer Prevention and Research and Adamya Chetana Seva Utsav-2017 in Bengaluru. He will also host `At Home’ reception at the Rashtrapati Nilayam for senior dignitaries of the state, Ministers, officials and journalists.

Sushma Swaraj seeks report on 5-year-old child taken from Indian couple in Norway

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Thursday sought a report from Indian Ambassador in Norway on the allegations made by an Indian couple that the Norwegian authorities have taken away their five-year-old child on frivolous complaint of abuse.”I have asked Indian Ambassador in Norway to send me a report,” Swaraj tweeted.BJP leader Vijay Jolly had written to her and the Indian Ambassador in Norway after the couple sought his help in getting back the custody of their child.Meanwhile, MEA officials said, “Our Embassy officials in Oslo have spoken to the boy’s father Anil Kumar Sharma and extended full support. However, Sharma informed the mission that he has hired a lawyer to represent him in the case.” When contacted, Norwegian Embassy spokesperson said, “The Embassy became aware of this case yesterday evening. We have asked relevant authorities in Norway to provide us with further information, and are awaiting their response.” In his letter to Indian Ambassador Debraj Pradhan, Jolly had raised concern on “forcible custody” of the boy Aryan by Child Welfare Department of Norway on “baseless and fabricated complaint” in Oslo on December 13. Sharma is a member of ‘Overseas Friends of BJP’.Jolly said he has received a call from a senior MEA official saying that help will be given to the Indian couple.In 2011, a three-year-old and a one-year-old were separated from their parents, prompting the then UPA government to take up the issue with Norway. The Norwegian court later allowed the children to be reunited with their parents.In December 2012, an Indian couple was jailed on charges of ill treatment of their children, 7 and 2 years.Later, they were were sent to their grandparents in Hyderabad.

Demonetisation: Why Narendra Modi won’t have an easy win over India’s penchant for cash

The buzzword now in the post-demonetisation days is cashless economy. A change to ‘less-cash economy’ and then ‘cashless economy’ is the new punch line of Narendra Modi government’s changed demonetisation narrative. It believes in target-based massive disruptions in the social equilibrium to attain quick results, not gradual transition. For this reason, both the government and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) are pushing the banking system hard to nudge the public to embrace alternative payment modes to cash transactions, mainly using mobile payment platforms and Point of Sale terminals. Is India prepared for this change?

Going by the data available so far, the citizens in metros are willing to try out the new way of payments but the rural Indian isn’t yet ready for an overnight transition to a cashless world. That’s the sense one gets when analyses the RBI studies and other private surveys. According to an SBI research report, though there has been an increase in the volume of card-based transactions post 8 November (When PM Modi announced demonetisation), however the value per transaction has dropped.

It isn’t hard to understand why this has happened.

1) There isn’t enough infrastructure to propel a sudden spurt in digital payment activities.

2) There is a broader impact on consumer demand thanks to a drop in economic activities following the artificial cash-crunch.

3) A good number of people still do not trust the security features accompanying the digital payment instruments.

4) Laws aren’t strong enough in India as in developed countries to support the customer to compensate him for possible financial loss.

5) Despite all the digital India talk, internet and mobile penetration is far inadequate in non-metros to support the connectivity for seamless mobile-based financial transactions. A significant number of India’s 6 lakh odd villages still do not have good mobile, internet connectivity. According to TRAI report, only 15 percent of India’s 1.02 billion wireless subscribers have broadband connection.

A shop assistant uses an eftpos system at a Specialty Fashion Group owned Katies store in Sydney December 11, 2012. Australia is being invaded by a swathe of foreign retailers, piling pressure on a local industry already battered by weak consumer spending and ruthless internet competition. Picture taken December 11, 2012. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne (AUSTRALIA - Tags: BUSINESS FASHION) - RTR3BNKDA shop assistant uses an eftpos system at a Specialty Fashion Group owned Katies store in Sydney December 11, 2012. Australia is being invaded by a swathe of foreign retailers, piling pressure on a local industry already battered by weak consumer spending and ruthless internet competition. Picture taken December 11, 2012. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne (AUSTRALIA - Tags: BUSINESS FASHION) - RTR3BNKD

Reuters

Nevertheless, why there has been an increase in non-cash transactions since demonetisation? This spurt is artificial and a forced one by the government’s decision to pull out 86 percent of the currency in circulation in one go.

It is like saying when you artificially spike the price of vegetables to an unaffordable level to common man, he will start using meat and egg products more. That’s not necessarily because of his sudden love for meat but simply because vegetable isn’t affordable for now. For the same reason, when the veg prices come down again, there is a likelihood of many of these people returning to their old consumption pattern. Even in such a scenario, many vegetarians would rather start eating less than beginning to eat meat.

The current scenario, where the government and banking system is pushing citizens is something similar to this. The current spurt in the volume of non-cash transactions isn’t likely to sustain when the cash-crunch eases, unless there are good reasons (clear incentives) for someone to shift to the new mode. This is something one needs to wait and watch.

The reason for decline in per value transactions could be attributed to combination of factors mentioned above, of which a dip in consumer demand and lack of trust of plastic money transactions. The government’s well-intentioned move to progress the economy to a cashless mode needs more than short-term monetary incentives and lucky draws. These are mere gimmicks that might get only some short-term responses but not lasting results as this Firstpost report points out. The government needs to have a well laid out policy plan for the shift to digital economy that should happen over a period of time by preparing the infrastructure.

As the SBI report points out, India is lagging far behind when it comes to providing adequate infrastructure for cashless transactions. “Additionally, we may require an additional 20 lakh PoS machines. Interestingly, the per value transaction in post demonetization period has declined (though the no of transactions has increased) possibly reflecting less number of PoS machines in the country compared to the demand (India has 15.1 lakh PoS machines),” the report said.

This improvement in banking infrastructure is already happening, albeit in a slower pace, with more financial institutions like payments banks and small finance banks that are technology driven coming to the picture and bank accounts are being made available to hitherto unbanked through Jan Dhan Yojana scheme. Along with this, the banking system should make the customer aware about new mode of payments, instead of forcing someone, who hasn’t even used an ATM so far, to do it overnight.

According to an RBI concept paper on Card Acceptance Infrastructure, the average number of card transactions per inhabitant in India is among the lowest in major economies. Between Oct 2013 and Oct 2015, ATMs increased by around 43 percent while POS machines increased by around 28 percent. As of end-December 2015, the number of ATMs has increased to 1,93,580 while PoS machines had increased to 12,45,447 in the country.

As far as the usage is concerned, “from April 2015 to December 2015, the usage of debit cards at ATMs continues to account for around 88 percent of the total volume and around 94 percent of total value of debit card transactions. Usage of debit cards at POS machines accounts for only around 12 percent of total volume and 6 percent of total value of debit card transactions. This is despite the fact that between FY2012-13 and FY 2014-15 the debit card usage at POS machines registered a growth of 72 percent in terms of volume and 63 percent in terms of value,” the report said.

India’s penchant for cash is well known and even post demonetisation this nature is evident with people using their ATM/debit card more than ever but mainly for cash withdrawals, not purchases. India has around 94 crore debit cards but most of it is used for only cash withdrawals (read this report in The Indian Express). Then there are severe concerns about security issue on such transactions and laws to support a common customer in the event of loss from using technology platforms for financial transactions (read here). If the government hopes that it can bring about such a massive transformation, even hoping a less-cash society, in such a huge country in short-term, it is nothing but asking for the moon.

Such a change should happen on a need-based model, wherein a customer who has seen his income levels and financial literacy improves feels the need to migrate to the cashless mode, where the inspiration to shift comes from the customer not the government or banking system.

Having said this, over years, there has been an increase in non-cash transactions in the banking system with more number of people get accustomed to newer modes of payments. Things will improve when confidence builds up in electronic payment modes and infrastructure improves. But, empirical evidence available so far suggests that more than availability of infrastructure, India’s penchant for cash transactions will be the biggest hurdles of PM Modi’s cashless dream. A change in the mindset will be gradual and can’t be forced. Even if it is forced, the results are unlikely to sustain. There is no easy cure for India’s penchant for cash.

First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 15:11 IST

Manmohan Singh exposing his own misdeeds, says PM Modi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday took a potshot at the former prime minister Manmohan Singh for his disagreement over demonetization, saying that by raising objections, the latter is exposing his own misdeeds.”When I said things can be managed without cash in the pocket, the former prime minister said how can this be implemented in a country where 50 percent of the people are poor?Now tell me, if he is showing me his report card or mine? This legacy of poor has been provided by whom? I am happy that he has shown his own report card,” said Prime Minister Modi while speaking at the foundation ceremony of Mahamana Pt. Madan Mohan Malviya Cancer Centre here.The Prime Minister then shifted his focus towards former finance minister P. Chidambaram and sarcastically said the latter believes a cashless economy cannot come into form as more than 50 percent of the Indian villages do not have electricity, adding that this was doings of the former regime.”Chidambaram said in 50% of our villages there is no electricity, so how will a cashless economy take shape. Now tell me, have I de-electrified the villages. While criticising Modi, they are presenting their own report card,” said Prime Minister Modi.Commenting on Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, the Prime Minister said his speech held no relevance.”Since the time he has learnt how to speak, there is no extent to my happiness. Till 2009, there was no clue as to what is inside the packet (Gandhi). Better that he started speaking, at least we came to know that there is no scope of earthquake occurring,” said Modi.The Prime Minister opined that the opposition’s criticism is actually benefitting them, because by doing so they re exposing themselves and the ‘black heart’ of people is coming to light, in front of people.”Even they don’t know what they are doing. But it is good, because somebody’s black money is getting exposed and somebody’s ‘black mind’ (kaala mann) is uncovered.”Appreciating the support extended by the common man during the period of cash crunch, the Prime Minister said, “I want to tell the leaders of the nation, that we believe in the power of the 125 crore citizens. It is an exemplary example that the citizens are suffering so much, not for their own benefit, but for the nation’s development.”Lashing out at those who criticised the surgical strike and raised questions on the integrity of the armed forces, Prime Minister Modi said the army makes the nation proud, but still people doubt their bravery.”The soldiers go to Pakistan keeping their lives at stake and come back alive but some people have problem with even this,” he said.”Is it good to view institutions like this,” he added.

Major I-T raids since note ban: TN chief secy held; DRI seizes Rs 1.34 cr in new currency in Chennai

It has been more than a month since the Narendra Modi government decided to demonetise high-denomination notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 and even though queues outside banks and ATMs might have shortened from how they used to be, income tax officials have been busy with several high-profile seizures of cash and gold. Some of the seizures reflect poorly on the government — in a few instances new currency notes were seized as well which in turn raises questions about the BJP government’s decision.

Since 8 November, the Income Tax department has detected Over Rs 3,185 crore of undisclosed income, while seizing Rs 86 crore worth of new notes, as part of its country-wide operations against black money hoarders. Official sources said the taxman carried out a total of 677 search, survey and enquiry operations under the provisions of the Income Tax Act since the note ban was declared on 8 November, even as the department has issued over 3,100 notices to various entities on charges of tax evasion and hawala-like dealings.

The I-T department, they said, has also seized cash and jewellery worth over Rs 428 crore during the same period.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The agency has also referred over 220 cases to its sister agencies like the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to probe other financial crimes like money laundering, disproportionate assets and corruption as part of their legal mandate.

Here are some of the biggest raids conducted by tax sleuths since the high-profile cleanup of the Indian economy began:

Kolkata businessman raided

Kolkata businessman Parasmal Lodha was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate for allegedly converting over Rs 25 crore in demonetised currency notes into new ones, reports News18. According to the report, Lodha has links with industrialist J Shekhar Reddy, who was arrested along with his associate K Srinivasulu on Wednesday.

Chennai airport raid 

In the latest development, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence busted a hawala gang and seized Rs 1.34 Crore in Rs 2000 notes & $ 7000 from five persons in early morning hours, near Chennai airport, reported ANI.

Tamil Nadu chief secretary, his son under taxmen scanner

The house and office of Tamil Nadu chief secretary P Rama Mohana Rao was on Wednesday searched by Income Tax officials who claimed to have recovered Rs 30 lakh cash in new notes and five kgs of gold besides getting “disclosure” about Rs five crore of unaccounted income.

On Thursday, tax sleuths raided his son, Vivek Rao’s office in Chennai. Sources told NDTV that the taxmen are probing the source of funding for the six companies that Rao established in 2012.

Continuing raids in Chennai

On 20 November, taxmen raided the premises of a prominent engineering college after reports arose of the owner depositing Rs eight crore in unaccounted cash in the accounts of employees. IT officials later found that the amount was deposited in over 400 bank accounts.

According to The Indian Express, on 8 December, the IT department busted a money exchange racket in the Tamil Nadu capital, seizing Rs 90 crore in cash, of which 70 crore were in new notes, along with 100 kgs of gold.

The Income Tax officials on Monday seized demonetised currency notes worth Rs 10 crore and a few kilogrammes of diamond and gold jewellery during a raid in the house and showroom of a jeweller in Chennai.

BJP leader arrested with new notes

On 6 December, the Special Task Force arrested former West Bengal BJP leader Mahesh Sharma, after Rs 33 Lakh in form of Rs 2,000 notes was confiscated from him.

New notes found in ‘secret chamber’

In a surprise raid at a hawala operator’s residence in Hubballi led to the Karnataka and Goa taxmen unearthing Rs 5.7 crore in new cash, The Times of India reported. The stash of new cash, interestingly, was found in a secret chamber in the bathroom.

Post note ban Rs 30 crore seized in Maharashtra excluding Mumbai

Post demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, the Income Tax department seized about Rs 30 crore in cash, including Rs 12.32 crore in new bills, from Maharashtra, excluding Mumbai.

The cash was seized during 57 surveys and search operation carried out since the decommissioning of the old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, I-T department said in a release in Mumbai.

CBI raid at Hyderabad post offices

The CBI conducted surprise raids after the note ban. During one such search at the Himayatnagar Post office, the invetigation agency found Rs 40 lakh. The raid took place on reports of irregularites in phasing out of old currency notes.

Bahubali producer raided in Hyderabad

The IT department raided the residences and offices of the producers of the multi-lingual blockbuster Bahubali, Business Standard reported. Shobu Yarlagadda and Prasad Devineni, the two producers, were at the recieving end of the taxmen, as Rs 60 crore worth of new notes were found during the raids.

G Janardhan reddy under IT scanner

On 21 November, within days after G Janardhan Reddy’s daughter’s lavish wedding grabbed headlines for its splendour, Income Tax Department raided the mining baron’s offices in Bellari.

A team of five I-T Department officials raided the former BJP lawmaker’s Obulapuram Mining Company (OMC) offices.

NGO linked to Pakistan singer raided

On November 18, Delhi police and the IT department raided the offices of a NGO, Routes of Roots, run by the managers of eminent Pakistani singer Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan, after it recieved reports of illegal conversion of black money.

IT raids in Chandigarh college

The Enforcement Directorate on Monday seized Rs 50 lakh cash, including Rs 46.80 lakh in new notes, after raids at the premises of an educational institute’s owner. Acting on a tip-off, the ED sleuths swooped down on the premises of the owner of Swami Devi Dyal Group of Institutes in Chandigarh.

Over two crores seized from Meerut engineer

Cash worth more than Rs 2.67 crore in both old and new notes, and 30 kilograms of silver were seized from an engineer, working in the irrigation department, by the Income tax sleuths on Tuesday.

With inputs from PTI

First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 14:26 IST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UN Chief Ban Ki-moon asks India, Pakistan to resolve differences through dialogue

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Outgoing UN chief Ban Ki-moon has asked India and Pakistan to resolve their differences through dialogue and exercise restraint as he maintained his concern over the increase in tensions between the two neighbours along the Line of Control in recent months.The Secretary-General, whose 10-year tenure at the world organisation’s helm will end this month, has had a “very consistent position” on the situation in Kashmir, his deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters on Wednesday in response to a question on tensions between India and Pakistan.”All I can say is the Secretary-General has had a very consistent position. One fact we expressed even just last month, which is to say that he is following with concern the increase in tensions along the Line of Control and that he urges the Governments of India and Pakistan to exercise restraint and encourages them to continue their efforts to resolve their differences peacefully and through dialogue,” Haq said.When asked by a Pakistani reporter that the Secretary- General has been “very reluctant” throughout his term to talk about the Indian-Pakistan conflict, Haq said he disagrees with such assessment. “I would disagree with you on that. We’ve had statements, including on the situations between India and Pakistan and on specifically on Kashmir. There have been statements and notes to correspondents. The last one was just a few weeks back, so I would just refer you back to those,” Haq said.In a statement issued last month, Ban had expressed deep concern about the “deterioration” of the situation along the Line of Control in Kashmir and called on all involved to prioritise the restoration of calm and stability in order to prevent any further escalation and loss of life.Ban has said that his good offices are available to India and Pakistan if “accepted by both sides”.Throughout the year, Pakistan brought up the Kashmir issue at various UN fora but its attempts to internationalise the Kashmir issue did not find resonance among the rest of the 191 member states of the UN.

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

Tamil Nadu’s chief secretary P Rama Mohana Rao was sacked from his post on Thursday following Income Tax Department’s raids on his official residence in Chennai. He has been replaced by Girija Vaidyanathan, an Indian Administrative Service officer of the 1981 batch

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