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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Zealand: Sushma Swaraj reaches out to help family of Indian youth stabbed to death

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A 26-year-old youth from Sirsa in Punjab was stabbed to death allegedly by a girl in New Zealand last week and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has stepped in to help his family bring back home his mortal remains.Swaraj directed the Indian High Commission in New Zealand to help the family of deceased Hardeep Singh after they reached out to her on twitter.”Deol family – Rania (Sirsa) : I hv seen news report and given instructions to our High Commissioner in New Zealand,” the External Affairs Minister tweeted.According to Hardeep’s grandfather Baldev Singh Deol, he had gone to New Zealand on a study visa to pursue a course in hotel management.According to reports in New Zealand media, Hardeep suffered serious injuries during an assault on Christmas on Sunday at Cashmere house. He was taken to Christchurch Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.Local police said a 22-year-old woman has been arrested and charged with wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, adding the charge was likely to be replaced with a murder charge.They said the inquiry has been upgraded to a homicide investigation.The Minister, who is recuperating after undergoing a kidney transplant on December 10, is known for her prompt response to Indians who are in distress abroad, many of whom approach her through twitter for help.

2016: Pathankot, Kashmir unrest, president rule in Uttarakhand, Arunachal kept home ministry busy

New Delhi: Cross-border firing incidents, crackdown on “erring” NGOs and activities of Pakistan-based terror groups kept the Home Ministry busy in 2016 which saw the audacious attack on Pathankot airbase. Imposition of President’s rule in Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand and subsequent revocation by the Supreme Court in both the states, over 120 days of unrest in Jammu and Kashmir following killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani were some other issues that the ministry had to deal with.

The year saw prolonged tension along the India-Pakistan border due to fierce firing from Pakistani forces on Indian security posts and civilian areas forcing Home Minister Rajnath Singh to tell BSF not to count bullets if fired upon by Pakistan and give a “befitting” reply. Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorists carried out the strike at the Pathankot airbase, killing seven personnel and injuring 37 others. In its charge sheet, the NIA said JeM chief Maulana Masood Azhar, his brother and two others hatched the conspiracy.

The terror case saw an unusual move from India and Pakistan as Islamabad sent its probe team to Pathankot. However, the Pakistani team, upon its return, claimed India did not cooperate with them. Islamabad reciprocated by refusing to allow an Indian investigating team to visit Pakistan in connection with the Pathankot attack probe.

Union Home MInister Rajnath Singh. PTI

Union Home MInister Rajnath Singh. PTI

Not taking it lightly, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, during his visit to Pakistan for a Saarc meeting, delivered a blunt message to Islamabad asking it to stop encouraging terror groups and “glorification” of terrorists and also called for “strongest action” against nations supporting terrorism and their isolation.

The Home Ministry was also engaged in the fire-fight to control the unrest in Kashmir Valley arising after the killing of Wani on 8 July. For next four months, Kashmir Valley saw large-scale protests against Wani’s killing, complete shutdown of educational institutions, market and offices, thus badly affecting normal life.

The home minister himself led two all-party delegations and met cross sections of people, in an effort to bring peace in the restive Kashmir Valley. The Home Ministry, on behalf of the central government, was busy with handling the situation following imposition of President’s rule in Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

However, the central rule in both the states was set aside by the Supreme Court, leading to the Home Ministry receiving flak from various quarters.

The year also saw massive crackdown on NGOs, including on Greenpeace India, Islamic Research Foundation, founded by controversial preacher Zakir Naik, activist Teesta Setalvad’s two NGOs and one run by noted lawyer Indira Jaising, by the Ministry for their alleged violation of various provisions of Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act.

Notwithstanding the crackdown on NGOs, a total of Rs 1,452 crore foreign funds was received by various voluntary organisations during 2014-15. As many as 11,319 NGOs were derecognised by the Home Ministry in October after they failed to renew their registration under the FCRA.

In addition, the Centre also denied renewal of FCRA registration to 25 NGOs after they were allegedly found to be involved in anti-national activities. Later, during a review of the Foreigners Division of the Home Ministry, it was conveyed to Singh that licences of around 20,000 of 33,000 NGOs were cancelled by the government after they were found to be allegedly violating various provisions of the FCRA, thus barring them from receiving foreign funds.

Situation in northeastern states was by-and-large peaceful except in Manipur where blockade on two national highways by a Naga group against creation of seven new districts disrupted normal life, and led to rise in prices of essential commodities and violence in some parts of the state.

Violence perpetrated by Naxals were contained considerably and there were fewer incidents in some of the worst-hit areas of the 10 states affected by the menace. There were some incidents of online radicalisation by dreaded terror group Islamic State and reports of some youths desiring to join its network.

The Home Ministry feels that though Islamic State has not taken roots in India, it is influencing youths through Internet and social media. According to an estimate prepared by the intelligence agencies, at least 30 Indians have gone to Islamic State-held areas in Iraq-Syria to fight for the terrorist group after they were radicalised online, forcing security forces to keep a close eye on social media outlets and some radical websites.

At least six of them were killed in the conflict zone and 30 other Indians, who were radicalised by Islamic State elements, were prevented from travelling to West Asia.

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 12:07 IST

2016 in review: From Modi to Rahul – who rocked and who flopped in Indian politics

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India’s democracy is loud and vibrant, and 2016 was no different. The same political players tried to outmanoeuvre each other with clever retorts and strategies. While some thrived and soared high, others nose-dived, often risking public apathy and scary oblivion. With elections in four states and one union territory, demonetization, passage of GST and run-up to the elections in early 2017, it has been a busy year in Indian politics. Here is a report card of politicians who managed to strike the right note with their electorates and those who were left in the wayside.Politicians whose stock soared highNarendra Modi:In his third year as PM, many expected Modi to embark on some bold political moves to shore up his popularity. But few would have betted on demonetisation, a hitherto unknown term that has now entered the collective psyche of Indians. In one swoop, PM made the most audacious currency swap drill ever undertaken. While reactions from experts have been mixed, the public has so far steadfastly supported demonetization, targeted at reducing black money, counterfeit currencies, terror funding etc.The PM started the year with the afterglow of his Pakistan tour which was subsequently scuttled by the Pathankot attack. While Modi’s Pak policy has been a non-starter, domestically he has got decent support with BJP doing well in the polls, GST on the anvil and demonetization eliciting positive feedback so far. Rating: 9/10Arvind Kejriwal:He tweeted, ranted, did vipassana and again tweeted- rinse and repeat, throughout the year. Kejriwal may have fallen into the vicious trap of hyperventilation and playing the victim card over everything, retweeting inane tweets to fuel conspiracy theories, but he did what was the need of the hour. He remained PM Modi’s no 1 bête-noire, a possible focal point of concentration in case of a hung parliament in 2019. Kejriwal’s AAP has gone slightly off the rails in poll-bound Punjab, but it may again surprise pundits with a Delhi-esque performance. 2017, with elections in Punjab, Goa and Gujarat, will be a big year for Kejriwal’s future political ambitions. Rating- 8/10Mamata Banerjee: First they came with Saradha, then with Narada, then with Election Commission and then Didi won! 2016’s most decisive mandate was delivered by the Bengal voters who defied a hurriedly done Congress-Left alliance to grant TMC a massive mandate obliterating BJP to a mere footnote. But that was only the start of Didi’s political sojourn in 2016. She has attacked demonetization, like a bull in the china shop, trying to elevate her position from being a regional satrap to a serious national player. It’s early days, but the tactics seem to be working. Many parties who so far had kept Didi at bay are warming up to her. However, the persistent reports of riots from Bengal will surely keep Mamata worried as the year winds down. The land of Rabindra-Najrul falling into a cesspool of communal violence is the last thing India needs now. Rating: 7.5/10Sushma Swaraj: There are politicians, and then there is Sushma Swaraj. Even the most hardcore BJP baiter has good words to say about the ‘always happy to help’ External Affairs Minister. From rescuing Judith De-Souza to evacuating Indians stuck in the Gulf, Swaraj did all, with her easy charm and wit as suitable ally. She even helped a Pakistani girl when the relationship between the two countries had hit a new low. She won Twitter with her tweets even when critically ill from AIIMS and warmed our hearts. In the Modi govt’s uniform monochrome of clipped servitude, Swaraj has brought a dash of colour of spontaneity, and that makes her even more special. Rating: 7/10Pinarayi Vijayan: Vijayan not only defeated the Congress (the easier part), he also got the better of VS Achuthanandan to become CM of Kerala. With Bengal looking out of bounds, Kerala remains the last communist bastion. Kerala off late has received massive bad press for continued skirmishes between BJP and Left workers. The acid test for Vijayan is to crack down on such attacks firmly without looking at party affiliations. Rating: 6.5/10Special mention: J Jayalalithaa bucked trend of many decades to get re-elected as CM of Tamil Nadu. With DMK in the wane, it was the ideal time for her to really consolidate her party’s position in the state. Sadly, after prolonged illness, Tamil Nadu CM passed away in December, leaving her party AIADMK and the state to possible political uncertainty in the future.Politicians who failed to impress:Rahul Gandhi:Is that a bird, is that a plane, no it is the Sahara papers! Rahul Gandhi completely lost the plot in 2016, rehashing allegations made by others, comparing demonetization to an atomic bomb among others. The more he raised his voice, the lesser he made sense. With a Congress in free fall, throughout the year​, Rahul failed to outline how his party can be the better alternative. He travelled copious miles across the length and breadth of the country and gave numerous speeches. Full marks for trying, but sadly zero for execution. Rating: 1.5/10Smriti Irani: Fiery Smriti Irani was cut down to size (pun intended) when she was shunted from the high-profile HRD Ministry to the Textiles Ministry. While she was a favourite with the die-hard BJP fans for picking up fights with detractors, for the BJP top leadership, it became an unwanted distraction. Her ham-handed management of the Rohit Vemula and Kanhaiya Kumar saga took the sheen away from the Modi govt’s achievements among sections of the youth. Finally it cost Smriti her ministry. Ratings: 2/10Samajwadi Party leadership:When the year started, the Samajwadi Party was sitting pretty with the polls showing good numbers for the Akhilesh govt. But it has been all downhill since then, as an ugly power struggle played out in full public glare. The ageing patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav has much to ponder about with another round of fights ensuing with the distribution of tickets. Can SP get its house in order before the elections? Is the party headed for a split? 2017 hopes to provide us with all these answers. Ratings: 2.5/10Anandiben Patel:Anandiben Patel ‘retired’ citing her age, merely a year before polls are due in Gujarat. Gujarat is one state where BJP’s power has steadily depleted in the last two years with Modi leaving the state to his trusted lieutenant. The graft allegations and the botched up handling of the Patel agitation led to Anandiben’s unceremonious ouster. The agitation made a hero out of Hardik Patel. Can he hurt BJP electorally will only be known next year. Rating: 3/10Mehbooba Mufti: Hardliner Mufti took over the role of CM of J&K after her father’s demise. An alliance with BJP was always going to be tricky, but the Burhan Wani saga tested it fully. Mehbooba was caught in the midst, accused of not being tough towards separatists by one side and not showing empathy to those injured by others. She has survived and the alliance remains intact, but 2017 promises to be more challenging for her. Rating: 4/10Special mention: It was always going to be an uphill task for Assam’s Tarun Gogoi. Yet the octogenarian fought hard against massive anti-incumbency, saffron surge and general fatigue with the Congress. Finally, he lost the elections meekly after 15 years at the helm. His political career may be in terminal sunset, but Gogoi will be remembered as one of the rare politicians from North East to earn a national recognition due to his longevity and good work.This was DNA’s pick of 10 politicians who were in the limelight for the right or wrong reasons. Others like Arun Jaitley, Subramanian Swamy, Sonia Gandhi, Owaisi also made their mark, but didn’t change the political discourse dramatically. Now, all over to 2017 and the mother of all elections in Uttar Pradesh.

Taimur is to India what Hitler is to Israel: Saif and Kareena, please pay attention

When I first read the following tweet by Karan Johar about Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan’s newborn son, I was flabbergasted:

This was equivalent to an Israeli Muslim naming his or her son ‘Hitler’.

How could anyone in India name their son after a man who ordered so much bloodshed in India?

Then I thought, perhaps this was just the parents liking the sound of the name and that ‘Saifeena’ did not know of Taimur, the genocidal maniac who not just slaughtered tens of thousands of Hindus in Delhi, but massacred countless Muslims in Iran and Turkey ending up reducing the world’s population by five percent (17 million back then). Not even Hitler came close to being such a marauding hate-mongering symbol of racial and religious fanaticism.

However, Kareena herself quashed the benefit of doubt I gave to the parents. It has been widely reported that in a candid conversation with actor Neha Dhupia, Kareena revealed the background to naming her son Taimur: “Saif is a historian and would want a traditional old school name”.

What this says is that it wasn’t some innocent affection of a nice sounding name that caught papa’s attention, but rather a well-thought out process to name his son equivalent to his own war-like name Saif Ali’ (the sword of Prophet Mohammad’s son-in-law Ali).

Perhaps Saif overlooked the record of Taimur vis-à-vis Hindustan and Delhi, where he ordered the slaughter of 100,000 Hindus in just one night.


Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor and the newborn Taimur Ali Khan. Firstpost/Sachin Gokhale

Justin Marozzi, in his 2004 book Tamerlane: Sword of Islam, Conqueror of the world, writes:

The capture of the Delhi Sultanate was one of Timur’s (Taimur) greatest victories, arguably surpassing the likes of Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan because of the harsh conditions of the journey and the achievement of taking down one of the richest cities at the time. After Delhi fell to Timur’s army, uprisings by its citizens against the Turkic-Mongols began to occur, causing a bloody massacre within the city walls. After three days of citizens uprising within Delhi, it was said that the city reeked of the decomposing bodies of its citizens with their heads being erected like structures and the bodies left as food for the birds. Timur’s invasion and destruction of Delhi continued the chaos that was still consuming India, and the city would not be able to recover from the great loss it suffered for almost a century.

Notwithstanding the hatred Taimur had for Indians — Hindus and Muslims alike, the keeping of such warlike names for one’s son is also contrary to the Prophetic traditions of Islam and a betrayal of Mohammad’s guidance to Muslims. The late internationally renowned scholar on Islam and Sufism, Professor Annemarie Schimmel in her book Islamic Names, quotes a saying (hadith) by Prophet Mohammad that among the three obligations a Muslim father has towards his son “to select a good name for him”.

In suggesting a ‘good name’, the Prophet’s pronouncement was directed against ancient Arab custom of calling sons by frightening or harsh names like Harb (War), Sakhr (Rock), Murra (Bitterness). Or, may I add, Taimur (Steel).

Schimmel writes, “As outward signs are supposed to reflect the inner condition, children bearing such (harsh) names were certainly unfortunate, for a beautiful name — so one thought — was also the expression of a beautiful character: Adi guzel tadi guzel (Whose name is nice, his taste is also nice), as the Turkish proverb has it.

Alas, in the Indian subcontinent, Allah’s Islam is pitted against the mullah’s Islam and more often than not, the latter prevails.

Just imagine the outburst of goodwill in India if newborn Taimur Ali Khan had been named Tagore Ali Khan instead

I am told that countless other Indians outraged at the honouring of Taimur by Saif and Kareena have no right to interfere in their personal matters. I’m sorry, but unlike many star-struck Bollywood addicts, I consider critique of public figures, politicians or film stars; priests or princes fair game, especially when they are from my faith and when their actions have consequences on millions more.

This incident is not just about Taimur.

It’s a reflection of a larger ailment in Muslim society inside the Indian sub-continent. Its their comfort level with mass murdering invaders who still believe are their heroes. As one Islamic cleric told me on Zee TV, he considered invaders and marauders like Mahmud Ghaznawi, Muhammad Bin Qasim as his heroes, that he considered the murderous jihadi Mughal emperor Aurangzeb a saint.

As an Indian born in Pakistan and a Punjabi in Islam, I have often scratched my head wondering what is it about the culture and history of Mother India or Hindustan that we Muslims find unworthy of a tight cultural embrace?

What is so offensive about Bharat that hardly any of us in the last 1,000 years has been given a name that reflects this ancient civilisation nurtured by the Indus, Ganga, Narmada and the Brahmaputra rivers and protected by the Himalayas that rise in the West from Balochistan in the Arabian Sea, tower over us in the north across the K2 and the Everest before sweeping down into the Bay of Bengal in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

Charity, or in this case ignominy begins at home so let me start by my own name ‘Tarek’ and ‘Mahmood’, my brother. Why would our parents give us names of two men who invaded and looted Spain and India?

We could have been named Dara (after Dara Shikoh) and Bulle (after Bulle Shah). A more daring Indian Muslim parents could even have named us Atish and Ashok, but no, both of us and countless other Muslim boys in the Indian subcontinents are given Arab, Afghan, Turkish, Uzbek, or Persian names, but never ever names rooted in Hindustan’s history. Not necessarily with Hinduism, but plain Indian culture.

For instance, there are countless boys names Shams (Sun in Arabic), but hardly any with the Suraj (Sun in Hindi, Punjabi etc). What is it about Shams that is so different from Suraj, I wonder? Could it be that we Muslims of the Indian subcontinent harbour contempt for the very land that gave the Prophet’s progeny sanctuary?

Around the world, Muslims of Indonesia carry Indonesian names; the Turks do too and the Iranians and Kurds as well as the Baloch and Bosnians have distinct names that are not Arab. After all Megawati Sukarnoputri and Brahamdagh Bugti are not lesser Muslim for not wearing Arab names not is Turkey’s Erdogan or Iran’s Dariush Forouhar.

And considering the racism and insults that Muslims from India-Pakistan-Bangladesh suffer at the hands of Arabs in West Asia, it makes the rejection of Bharatiya names by us Muslims even more tragic. Of course it’s the parent’s prerogative to name their children, but if Saif is a historian (as Kareena has claimed) and as a Muslim father, has sought a traditional Muslim name from history, I suggest he follow Allah’s Islam and ensure he does not violate the prophetic guidance in naming names.

How about Mansour? The great medieval Muslim rationalist and Sufi saint Mansour Hallaj who gave his life for standing up for the truth and who is admired universally.

In addition, the name Mansour should be familiar to you, isn’t it Saif? Or how about Tagore Ali Khan, that should ring a bell?

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 14:10 IST

Body of Delhi man to be brought from Tokyo tomorrow: Sushma Swaraj

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said the mortal remains of a man from Delhi, who died of cardiac arrest in Tokyo two weeks ago, will be brought back home tomorrow, days after his family sought government’s help citing financial constraints.Last week, the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) had sought Swaraj’s intervention after Radha Debi, wife of deceased Gopal Ram, approached it seeking help, saying his poor family was unable to bring the body back.Responding to the request, Swaraj had said government will bring back the body without delay and bear the expense. “The mortal remains will reach New Delhi by ANA flight from Tokyo on 24 December at 2400 hrs,” Swaraj tweeted today.The External Affairs Minister is known for her prompt response in addressing problems of distressed Indians abroad.Gopal Ram, 48, a resident of Ambedkar Nagar, had gone to Tokyo in September last year looking for greener pastures. He died of a cardiac arrest in the Japanese capital on December 10. “The family is severely distressed and needs your kind support. As we all aware you have been extremely pro-active in resolving such matters. Therefore, I am forwarding the representation along with this letter for your kind perusal. Hoping for your support in this matter,” DCW Chairperson Swati Maliwal had said in a letter to Swaraj last week. Gopal was working in Tokyo as a cook in a hotel and according to a family member he was fired within three months after which he started working in some local shop. His financial condition was bad because of which he was in distress, he said.On December 10, the family received a call from a person who worked with Gopal, saying that he has passed away following a heart attack.

Demonetisation: Chidambaram may be right in calling note ban a non-reform, but he shouldn’t forget the past

P Chidambaram, four-time finance minister and a senior Congress leader, has been an aggressive critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 8 November demonetisation drive, much like his colleagues in Congress party such as former PM Manmohan Singh and Vice president Rahul Gandhi. On Tuesday, inaugurating the Prof T D Lakdawala lecture series at the University of Mumbai, with a talk on ‘Twenty five years of Economic Reforms and Challenges Ahead’, Chidambaram escalated his attack by stating that the authors of note ban lacked elementary knowledge of economics.

“Whoever planted the idea of demonetisation should enroll in a graduate school of economics,” said Chidambaram. Chidambaram argues why demonetisation is not an economic reform but a ‘man-made tragedy’. To support his argument that why note ban isn’t an economic reform, the former FM said an economic reform can be defined as a new model whose effectiveness could be measured with its outcomes. “A reform can be judged on the parameters of enhanced output, efficiency and distributive justice,” Chidambaram said.

Senior Congress leader P Chidambram. AgenciesSenior Congress leader P Chidambram. Agencies

Senior Congress leader P Chidambram. Agencies

Some of the landmark reforms of last 25 years Chidambaram picked in his speech include 1991 foreign trade policy, doing away with industrial licences, moving away from fixed exchange rate to a market determined rate, direct reforms, private public partnership, capital market reforms, initiating Aadhaar-based direct benefit transfer.

Chidambaram concludes his reform talk saying the aim of many of these reforms was to end poverty. “Given the capital, the technology and the human resources available in the 21st century, if any country is poor, it is because of its own faults and failures,” said Chidambaram is quoted as saying by the Indian Express. Pro-demonetisation economists will cry foul with Chidambaram terming demonetisation as a non-reform. Note ban critics will cheer him.

Strictly going by Chidambaram’s definition, i.e if a reform is measurable by tangible output and efficiency of implementation, then demonetisation may not qualify to be called as an economic reform. Some of the stated gains of this exercise—rejuvenating the economy by recovering black money, ending corruption involving cash exchange, choking terror funding and as an effective trigger to nudge the society to non-cash transactions—can be evaluated only in the long-term. Reports of fresh cases of black money, fake currency seizure and terror attacks even before the demonetisation exercise over casts shadows on the effectiveness of the demonetisation exercise on these fronts.

As this writer had pointed out in an earlier article, it is naïve to imagine that swapping currency alone would kill illegal cash build up in the system, curb corruption and end organized terror. Also, at this stage, any tangible, meaningful gains for the exchequer out of demonetisation look doubtful considering the massive pain it will inflict on the economy in the approaching quarters.

A 1.5-2 percent slowdown in the GDP on account of cash-ban resulting in paralysis will be a major drag on the economy. The impact of job losses, slowdown in manufacturing and services will have cascading impact across the economy. Apart from the quantifiable impacts, the pain on the common man on account of prolonged cash crunch too should be taken into account when one does the final cost-benefit analysis of the demonetisation exercise. Unless positive results are proven in the long-term, not many can dispute Chidambaram if the former FM refuses to call the note ban an economic reform. It is more of a cleansing exercise and an economic experiment. Till hard results are visible, the fate of Modi’s demonetisation gamble, hangs in balance.

But, the problem with Chidambaram’s Tuesday talk arises where he begins to sermonize on the eradication of poverty as the end result of any major reforms and criticise the failure of the state for its failure to end poverty despite having all tools—capital, the technology and the human resources—at disposal. This is where the Harvard educated lawyer-turned-politician should perhaps also introspect the success of the UPA-regime in the last decade or so to achieve this critical end result. Facts should speak rather than political claims and counter claims. One of the major characteristics of that regime was a phase of jobless GDP growth.

According to a 2013 paper — ‘Joblessness and Informalisation: Challenges to Inclusive Growth in India’–by the Institute of Applied Manpower Research (IAMR), a think-tank of the erstwhile Planning Commission, not only has India witnessed jobless growth during the UPA’s tenure, it has also seen millions pushed to become casual labour with little social security. One cannot deny the link of unemployment trends to the poverty graph.

Between 2005 and 2010, the manufacturing sector saw the loss of 5 million jobs, it said. Also, the services sector, which witnessed 18 million jobs between 2000-2005, added only 4 million additional jobs in 2005-2010. Though the larger consensus is that poverty reduction has been quicker in the three-years to 2011-12 but going by the C Rangarajan panel, the fact is that one third of India (29.5 percent) remains poor, way above 21.9 percent estimated by Tendulkar committee. While there are no accurate estimates of poverty in the country, various indicators show a good number of Indians still lack access to labour, shelter and formal financial system.

This raises a key question. Despite the critical economic reform steps initiated in last several decades and despite UPA initiatives to increase social spending, provide employment through MGNREGS, how far India has achieved the desired results to end poverty is a matter of larger debate. While Chidambaram’s remarks on demonetisation are indeed valid, a counter question to him, thus, is why a significant chunk of Indians still live in poverty despite a series of economic reforms and having all tools of poverty eradication at disposal for long.

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 14:49 IST

Parsekar takes potshots at Rahul, says mere presence of Cong VP prompted many of his party leaders to quit

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Taking a jibe at Rahul Gandhi after his recent Goa visit, Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar said that the mere presence of Congress Vice-President in the state prompted many of his party leaders to quit the outfit.”See the impact of Rahul Gandhi s presence in Goa. First day, one of their legislators left the party, Parsekar said addressing Vijay Sankalp rally on Sunday night in Margao constituency.The CM was referring to the resignation of Congress legislator Mauvin Godinho on December 17 who joined BJP on the day when Gandhi addressed a rally in Fatorda village.”Second day, Congress former minister quit the party. Now let us see what is in store for the future and how many people are leaving,” Parsekar said referring to former Congress minister Manohar Asgaonkar, who quit the party and joined the MGPon Saturday.The Chief Minister also claimed that Rahul Gandhi had told local leaders to gather 50,000 people for his Goa rally but only a few thousands turned up.”This is because (Narendra) Modi meeting had a crowd of one lakh (held in the run up for 2014 Lok Sabha polls).But what we witnessed was that empty buses were arriving from different parts of the state for Gandhi’s rally,” he commented.Gandhi, at the Fatorda rally had accused PM Modi of working for one per cent super rich people at the cost of 99 per cent honest Indians.

Aleppo crisis: No tears are being shed for survivors, not in India anyway

“And what is Aleppo?” That fateful answer, to a TV anchor’s query “What would you do, if you were elected, about Aleppo,” is said to have sunk whatever chances Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson had of being taken seriously as a contender for the US Presidency.

Indian politicians need have no such worries. They’ll never have their Aleppo moment as no Indian journalist would bother to ask them such a question. Because no Indian reader or viewer would care to know the answer.

The civil war in Syria has already been going on almost as long as the Second World War. Over 2,000 days of bombing, killing, ransacking, pillage, rape, starvation, disease, displacement and all the horrors that accompany any war. But we were, at most, dimly aware of the havoc in a not so distant part of our continent until the refugee crisis rocked the Western world.

Even then, we may not have been overly concerned by what the UN humanitarian chief, Stephen O’Brien, had to say recently, that Syria is a “living hell” and a “pitiless and merciless abyss of a humanitarian catastrophe”. A “meltdown of humanity” in short. Not our business, we told ourselves.

Reports of seven-year-old Bana Alabed bravely tweeting about the horrors of life in east Aleppo, of doing homework while the bombs fall around her, may (or may not) have tickled our curiosity but that was all. Her tweet on Monday ready: “Final message – people are dying since last night. I am very surprised I am tweeting right now and still alive, 6:19 PM – 12 Dec 2016.”

The images of dazed and bloodied children sitting alone in the back of an ambulance or lying face down, dead, on a beach did move us, but the spark of compassion was only too momentary, the ensuing introspection all too brief.

Today the fight for Aleppo, Syria’s largest city till the killings denuded its numbers, is almost over but not the miseries of its long-suffering citizens. They stayed, and paid the price for not leaving their homeland with life and limb. But to Syria’s President and his allies they will only be seen as rebels or supporters of rebels, hence undeserving of any mercy. Aleppo will be cleansed of the anti-Assad opposition and anyone who sympathised with it, ruthlessly and systematically. We will be too busy living.

“Remember that terrifying moment in the film Hotel Rwanda?” a friend posted in Facebook. “When it’s clear no country is interested in helping those trapped in the civil war, except the UN camp guarded by UN peacekeeping force. That there is no shelter, no respite from the brutal violence, no escaping the bloodbath? As Aleppo goes down, it’s the same feeling of utter helplessness. There’s no power in the world to stop what’s likely to happen there as innocent people stare into the darkness.”

Should we care? After all, it’s not as if we don’t have enough crosses of our own to bear. Too many of them in fact, at any given time. Yeah, we are too vast, too varied, subject to too many natural man-made disasters, often all at the same time (think Chennai, clobbered by demonetisation, death and cyclone with barely any respite). News editors of this country are blessed: there’s rarely a slow news day in India.

Yet, with all our trials and tribulations, we used to, care that is. Not purely because of geo-political or economic reasons considerations but on humanitarian grounds too. As African National Congress leader Ahmed Kathrada, who spent 26 years in jail along with Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu, recalled in 2014, the 125th birth anniversary of our first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, “We will forever remain grateful to Nehru’s government for initiating the campaign to isolate apartheid South Africa.”

People carry their belongings as they flee the Kadi Askar area towards Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood, in rebel-held besieged Kadi Askar area of Aleppo, Syria on 5 December 2016. ReutersPeople carry their belongings as they flee the Kadi Askar area towards Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood, in rebel-held besieged Kadi Askar area of Aleppo, Syria on 5 December 2016. Reuters

People carry their belongings as they flee the Kadi Askar area towards Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood, in rebel-held besieged Kadi Askar area of Aleppo, Syria on 5 December 2016. Reuters

Yes, initiating. “It was only in the 1980s that the rest of the world started to follow the lead of India and the isolation of South Africa from all facets of global life took hold,” pointed out Kathrada. “The steadfastness of Nehru and the All-India Congress leaders served as beacons for the international anti-apartheid movement.”

Our world was larger, it went not just me, my family, my country that is the mantra today. For Nehru, the racial policy of the apartheid government of South Africa was the “greatest international immorality for a nation to carry on that way”. Apartheid became history almost three decades after his death, but he never wavered.

It may have been the times, it may have been the leader, Indians subscribed wholeheartedly. Even in the Eighties, when India earning its place under the sun in cricket, boycotting South Africa on the fields was seen as a badge of honour. Idealism mattered, self-interest was not defined so narrowly.

No longer. Though this is what separates the boys from the men in the international community. The courage to take a stand out of conviction and moral resoluteness, not because it serves some immediate accounting interest dictated by considerations of trade or investment or diplomacy. When we did, as in earthquake-ravaged Nepal, we beat our drums so much that we ended up making enemies of the very people we wanted to help.

No tears are being shed for Aleppo’s survivors, not in India anyway. Few Indians have family or friends there, it attracts few students or tourists from here and is not the stuff of our dreams and fantasies. So who cares who rules Syria and how.

If anything, the Modi government, predicated on the fear of terrorism and buying into Syria’s assertion that its fight was against radical Islam and not mere critics, has taken pains to keep on the right side of President Bashar al-Assad. Diplomatic contacts between the two countries have never faltered, extending even to the organising of yoga classes in the besieged country, courtesy a Delhi police officer tasked with protecting the Indian embassy who knows his pranayam too. Evidently it did not nothing to calm the tempers there.

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 12:24 IST

Sushma Swaraj named in FP’s Global Thinkers 2016 list, PM Modi says ‘very proud’

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who fashioned a novel brand of Twitter diplomacy, was named in the Global Thinkers List of 2016, compiled by Foreign Policy magazine. Swaraj was named in the “decision makers” category along with the Democratic Party’s nominee for US presidential election Hillary Clinton, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, etc.

In a website posting, the magazine recalled how, when around 10,000 Indian workers in Saudi Arabia faced a “food crisis” earlier this year due to job losses, Swaraj tweeted about the issue to six million followers on the social media website.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. AP

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. AP

“What followed was a weeks-long social media operation in which Swaraj posted information for migrants about rations provided by the Indian embassy, claims for unpaid wages, and government-organised transportation home,” it said.

Saying that this was not the first time Sushma Swaraj used the internet to reach out to people abroad, the posting said, “From evacuating Indians from Yemen to helping replace lost passports, Swaraj has earned the nickname ‘the common tweeple’s leader’ for her aggressive use of Twitter.”

Swaraj, who is recovering from a kidney transplant in New Delhi’s AIIMS, has resolved issues ranging from passport problems to rescuing overseas Indians trapped in conflict-prone conditions. Her popular perception was so positive that many came ahead to donate their kidneys for her transplant surgery. Swaraj has 6.8 million followers on Twitter.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Swaraj upon being named in the Foreign Policy list.

External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup also tweeted acknowledgement of the honour.

Senior BJP leaaders, including Venkaiah Naidu and Suresh Prabhu, sent out congratulatory messages for Swaraj. President Pranab Mukherjee congratulated the minister as well.

The magazine complimented Swaraj “for fashioning a novel brand of Twitter diplomacy”.

“From evacuating Indians from Yemen to helping replace lost passports, Swaraj has earned the nickname ‘the common tweeple’s leader’ for her aggressive use of Twitter,” the magazine noted.

With inputs from agencies

First Published On : Dec 14, 2016 18:59 IST

Rajnath Singh accuses Pakistan of dividing India on religious lines

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Home Minister Rajnath Singh accused Pakistan on Saturday of “conspiring” to divide India on religious lines but said it will not succeed. “Pakistan is conspiring to divide India on religious lines but it will not succeed. We were divided in 1947 on religious basis. We have not been able to forget that… All Indians are brothers, whether they are born from the womb of a Hindu mother or a Muslim mother,” he said addressing a Martyrs’ Day function in Kathua district.Singh said nowhere in the world other than India 72 sects of Islam live together peacefully. He said that as the Home Minister of the country, he wanted to make it clear that India is committed to taking along everybody and moving ahead on the path of development. He also offered India’s cooperation to Pakistan to eradicate the menace of terrorism from its soil. “If Pakistan is serious about eradicating terrorism but is incapable of doing that and wants cooperation, we are ready to help it eradicate terrorism from there,” the minister said.He said, “We want to live in peace with Pakistan but it has indulged in sponsoring a proxy war against India. “Every Prime Minister of India wanted to mend relations with Pakistan but it did not understand the language of peace and attacked India four times. But our brave soldiers gave them a befitting reply.”After repeated defeats, Pakistan has understood that it cannot defeat India in wars so it has resorted to sponsoring proxy war, he said, adding that “terrorism is the weapon of weak and not the brave”. Singh said that while the entire world was concerned about the spread of ISIS, the terrorist organisation has failed to spread its roots in India.

One month of demonetisation: We are no wiser today than we were 30 days ago

“Why did God create astrology?” “So that economics would appear a more accurate science!”

This is a joke doing the rounds in certain circles these days. There’s another on two economists stranded on an island who made millions of dollars selling their hats to each other. Of course, both the dollars and the hats are imaginary!

Humour in the grim days of demonetisation is possibly because it’s been one month and economists are still to provide us with anything accurate on the topic. And the millions of rupees they keep talking about could be more fiction than real. Worse, as if demonetisation was not complex enough for the layman’s comprehension, we have a whole army of wannabe economists dabbling in faux punditry to bring about even more confusion.

So where are we four weeks after demonetisation by way of understanding what exactly it is? There is no clear answer, but here are some takeaways from the intense debate over it:

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Never trust economists to agree on anything: The basic facts about demonetisation are clear to everyone: That 86 percent of currency, amounting to somewhere around Rs 15 lakh crore, is sucked out of the system; the money that does not come back to the banking system before 30 December is taken as purged; that swelling bank deposits would make available more funds with banks for use; that the organised sector in the Indian economy would get bigger; that there’s pain to ordinary people and disruption of their normal lives from the move; and so on.

Beyond this, it’s all creative thinking. Demonetisation has produced a great deal of literature. Read through all of them and you find economists of repute almost equally divided in their opinion on its benefits. You have dire predictions for the economy as well as those dripping optimism, and contradictory views on how much the GDP would contract or how much money would enter the system. Perhaps you would be swayed one way or the other given your political leaning. But in the end, you realise you are no wiser than when you started; beyond the original facts, everything else is gas. Economists confuse more than they clarify.

The rise of the inner economist: Before Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s government undertook the demonetisation exercise, the ordinary people to economist ratio was in grave imbalance, perhaps in the range of 10,000,000:1. Now it is certainly better. We have a whole lot of simple people writing complex prose that only economists can produce. With Google as source of instant enlightenment, the tribe has expanded, nay exploded. But the arousal of the inner economist is not confined to this section only. Speak to auto-rickshaw drivers, maids at home, your regular milkman. They talk black money, notebandi and counterfeits with the conviction of experts. Demonetisation has certainly made economics more democratic.

Black money is something the other person has: The demonetisation debate was all about black money till the government decided to shift the focus to cashless transactions. No one is sure how much black money is lying around or what exactly constitutes such money — economists are still struggling to find a definitive number — but almost everyone in the queues outside banks are happy that those with black money have been dealt a nasty blow by Narendra Modi. Try to convince them that all hoarded money is not necessarily black money, or that clever people don’t make mattresses of their illicit money and they invest it elsewhere, you are likely to get a cold, hard stare. The blanket conclusion is the rich are rich because of black money. Demonetisation may have been hard on ordinary people but they won’t mind so long as the “rich” suffer too.

Indians can take a good deal of suffering: Call it Gandhian influence if you please: Indians have great tolerance for inconvenience if they are convinced that it serves a noble purpose. A month after they were made to stand in interminable queues and made to accept rationed cash there is still no harsh public reaction to demonetisation. Although there are signs of frustration, explosive anger outburst has been limited. A wicked interpretation would be to ask what else can they do but suffer. After every big incident in Mumbai — bomb blasts, the great flood, and terror attack — glowing tributes are paid to the never-say-die spirit of Mumbaikars. But does he have any option other than getting back to routine? That could be the case with all people at the queues. They would lose money if they lose patience. Thus the latter is certainly a bad idea.

Rest assured, after 50 days – the period Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sought from people – we would be exactly where we are now. One economist would be contradicting the other. Ordinary people would find themselves saddled with knowledge they don’t need. Economics would continue to be as inaccurate as astrology. Let’s wait and watch.

First Published On : Dec 9, 2016 15:51 IST

Steps for cashless transactions desperate act to mislead: Congress

Thu, 8 Dec 2016-11:55pm , New Delhi , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress on Thursday termed the steps announced by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to promote cashless transactions as a “desperate attempt to mislead and confuse” the country.Party leader Anand Sharma charged the government with being discriminatory in announcing such measures and demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi apologises for unleashing financial anarchy on the country. “What the finance minister has said today is a desperate act to mislead and confuse. In a country where less than 3 per cent use credit cards and debit cards, as per World Bank report only 11 per cent of Indians use cheque transactions.”How can you overnight transform India into a cashless society? I charge the government with being discriminatory and violative of the legal rights of the people. How can you say that you can do e-ticketing you will get compensation and those not having e-tickets will not get compensation in case of an accident,” he asked.Sharma said Jaitley understands law and should know the “illegality” of what he is saying.”You cannot discriminate. PM should apologise and atone for unleashing financial anarchy on the country,” he demanded.

India-Pak ties have become sluggish, but no impact on bilateral arrangements: Govt

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The government on Wednesday told the Lok Sabha that the India-Pakistan relationship has become “sluggish” but added that there has been no impact on bilateral arrangements, including on exchange of fishermen and prisoners caught on either side.Responding to a question related to Indian fishermen being arrested by Pakistan, Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh said, “The relationship between the two countries (India and Pakistan) has become sluggish. But that has had no impact on such bilateral agreements.” The minister added that mechanisms have been put in place to ensure release of fishermen caught by either side.In addition, an India-Pakistan Judicial Committee on Prisoners, consisting of retired judges from the higher judiciary of both countries, was constituted in 2008 to look into humanitarian aspects of the matter.The committee was also to recommend measures to ensure humane treatment and expeditious release of fishermen and prisoners, who have completed their prison term.”The last visit of the Committee to India was in 2013.It is now Pakistan’s turn to organise the next visit of the Committee and the government awaits further steps by Pakistan in this regard,” he said.Singh said there are 516 Indians languishing in Pakistani jails, which includes 55 fishermen while, as of July 2016, there are 270 Pakistani civil prisoners and 37 Pakistani fishermen in Indian jails.”During 2013, 2014 and 2015, three Indian civil prisoners and eight Indian fishermen have died in the custody of Pakistani authorities. In addition, one Indian civil prisoner and two Indian fishermen have died in 2016 so far,” Singh added.

Fewer rural women opting for private healthcare: Study shows increased access to government hospitals

By Devanik Saha

There was a 24 percent rise in rural women accessing public healthcare between 2004 and 2014, according to a new report by Brookings India, a think tank, significant in a country where half the rural population uses private healthcare, which is four times costlier.

Overall, there was a 6 percent rise in dependence on public healthcare for out-patients and 7 percent for in-patients over the decade ending 2014, said the Brookings report, which analysed National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) data over this period.

An in-patient is formally admitted for at least one night to a hospital, while an out-patient visits a hospital, clinic, or associated facility for diagnosis or treatment.

For out-patient care, 74.9 percent of ailing patients (who sought care) exclusively accessed a private facility in 2014, compared to 79.7 percent in 2004. The biggest decrease was seen among rural women, as we said. While 78.2 percent of them sought private care in 2004, 70.4 percent did in 2014.


Source: Brookings India, based on National Sample Survey Office data

In-patients depend less on the private sector than do out-patients, the data reveal.

The percentage of in-patients seeking public care increased from 42.3 percent in 2004 to 45.4 percent in 2014; the percentage of rural women accessing public care rose from 45.1 percent in 2004 to 56.1 percent in 2014.


Source: Brookings India, based on National Sample Survey Office data

“The number of people seeking private healthcare, however, might be an underestimation, as NSSO surveyors are instructed to mark all those who went to both government and private facilities as “only going to government facilities,” said the Brookings report.

Indians spend eight times more in a private hospital than a government hospital, according to this analysis of National Health Accounts (NHA) 2013-14 data by The Hindu.

Quality of care biggest constraint for not accessing public hospitals

Despite the decline in exclusive dependence on private care, 29 of every 1,000 Indians pointed to the unsatisfactory quality of healthcare, the most commonly cited reason for not accessing a public hospital.

Long waiting periods at government health services appears to be an increasing bottleneck in seeking public care. In 2004, 6.8 of every 1,000 cited this as a reason for not using a public hospital; it rose to 18.6 in 2014.

Of 930,000 doctors in India, 11.4 percent (106,000) work for the government. This means there is one government doctor for every 11,528 people, according to the National Health Profile 2015, IndiaSpend reported in November 2016.

Public-health centers across India’s rural areas–25,308 in 29 states and seven union territories–are short of more than 3,000 doctors, the scarcity rising 200 percent (or tripling) over 10 years, IndiaSpend reported in February 2016.

More people required medical care over a decade

The number of people not using medical services fell from 15.1 in every 1,000 in 2004 to 12.4 in 2014, which implies an 18 percent increase in Indians seeking some form of healthcare.

There was an increase, however, in the proportion of people not seeking services, as they felt their ailment wasn’t serious enough, and more women than men report not using healthcare due to the same reason–the gender gap has widened over the decade.

More Indian men are likely to be admitted to hospital during the last moments of life than women – 62.5 percent to 37.5 percent, IndiaSpend reported in November 2016. For every 1,000 men whose death is certified by medical professionals, the corresponding figure for women is 600.

The number of people not using healthcare due to financial reasons reduced from four of every 1,000 in 2004 to 0.7 in 2014, said the Brookings report, possibly a result of rising incomes or use of publicly funded health-insurance schemes implemented over the last 10 years by the central and state governments.

About 12 percent of the urban and 13 percent of the rural population got health insurance through the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (National Health Insurance Scheme) or similar plans, IndiaSpend reported in July 2015.

(Saha is an MA Gender and Development student at Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex.)

First Published On : Dec 7, 2016 13:09 IST

Tata-Cyrus spat: Trusts’ work exemplary but may need to redefine relation with group cos

New Delhi – The role of Tata Trusts, which together control about 66 percent in Tata Sons, the holding company of the $100 billion Tata group, has come into sharp focus in recent weeks. That the Tata Trusts are charitable in nature but continue to be majority shareholders in Tata Sons and through this association, in commercial group companies, is a proposition which is now being called into question by ousted Tata Sons’ chairman Cyrus Mistry.

Mistry has made numerous allegations of impropriety in the functioning of Tata Trusts and their interference in the workings of Tata Sons and therefore also of group companies. These charges have been stoutly denied by Tata Sons. But one must remember that the entire tussle over control of one of India’s largest business houses erupted precisely because for the first time in the group’s decades-old existence, two different people were heading Tata Sons and the two Trusts.

Cyrus Mistry was the chairman of Tata Sons while Ratan Tata headed Trusts. Mistry was ousted in October by a board resolution where Trusts’ nominees were also votaries and sooner rather than later, a successor to Ratan Tata will also have to be found to carry on the philanthropic activities of the Trusts.



That the Tata Trusts do commendable work in upholding public good has never been in doubt.

This piece points out that for nearly 125 years, these trusts have often been an “oasis for the poorest and most deprived of Indians. The oldest of the trusts, the JN Tata Endowment dates back to 1892 and the youngest, The Tata Education & Development Trust, was set up in 2008. Their vintage and the funds they have made available point to their commitment.”

It goes on to say that increasingly, from being a back-end provider of funds to non-government organisations (NGOs) and self-help groups, Tata trusts are now at the forefront of implementing new models of social work.

So there is no quarrel with the exemplary work the Trusts have been doing. The trouble lies almost entirely in the way their relationship with Tata Sons and commercial group companies is structured. Proxy advisory firm IiAS, which on the one hand has advised TCS shareholders to remove Mistry as chairman in the upcoming EGM, had, on the other hand, raised questions over the Tata Groups’ operating structure in a report last month.

It had noted that the Tata Trusts exert control over Tata Sons, which exerts control over operating companies, several of which are listed and subject to scrutiny by external stakeholders including shareholders. While shareholders expect these companies to operate along commercial lines, they are overlaid with additional expectations regarding behaviour and the brand.

“A philanthropy running a commercial business creates its own paradoxes. The Trusts elegantly solved this problem by putting Tata Sons between themselves and the operating companies….The Tata group needs to address possible areas of conflict and clearly set the terms of engagement between the three tiers of the group. They need to put in place an operating structure that outlives individuals,” IiAS said in a note to clients last month.

According to this piece, the choice of a successor to Ratan Tata as the head of the two Trusts is a crucial upcoming event. It says Tata Trusts have a unique position in India because they are allowed to hold shares in a commercial entity despite being completely income tax exempt given their charity work. The story quotes Noshir Dadrawala, CEO at Centre for Advancement of Philanthropy, a company specialising in the areas of charity law, as saying “Trust is not a corporate body. It is not a legal entity, it is a legal obligation. The Charity Commissioner can’t interfere with appointments and salaries. Good governance and best practices would demand that they make the succession plan clear to all stakeholders, including the public.”

The power to select Ratan Tata’s successor, therefore, lies in the hands of 20 trustees that run India’s most powerful charity organisation. There are no laws governing the selection of chairman of a charity organisation, according to Maharashtra Public Trust Act.

Meanwhile IiAS CEO Amit Tandon raised some pertinent points with regards to needless complexities in the Tata group structure, thanks to the role of Trusts in Tata Sons, and ways to deal with the mess.

First, he questioned even those members of the Trusts who do not sit on the Tata Sons’ board get information about group companies. “Ratan Tata, Soonawala are not on Tata Sons’ board. It is not obvious why they should get granular information about decisions at Tata operating company level.”

Second, he pointed out how the operation and functions of Trusts in general are opaque in India. “Trusts operate like blackboxes in this counrty. Unlike companies, where the Companies Act and other rules governing their functions are known to market participants, little is known about how trusts operate and the rules that govern there functioning.”

Third, he suggested that the Trusts need to look beyond dividend income from group companies for funding their charitable activities. “The whole issue of Trusts is very important because it is at the heart of the Tata-Mistry disagreement. Ratan Tata alleged that Trusts were not getting enough money by way of dividends for charitable activities. The trusts then need to look beyond dividend income and supplement equity holdings with a corpus that gives fixed returns.”

IiAS has suggested that to align the interests of the Tata Trusts and Tata Sons, the chairperson of the Tata Trusts and Tata Sons must be the same individual, noting that when this was the norm in the past, things “worked smoothly”. The firm has also advised that in future, independent CEOs should manage Tata Trusts and Tata Sons, with the chairperson being the custodian of the Tata brand.

This piece suggests that the composition of Tata Trusts has changed recently. “The composition of Tata Trusts has undergone a change in line with their allegiance to the prevailing chairman in the war against Cyrus Mistry. Less than three weeks after the controversial Tata Sons board meeting to sack Mistry, Venu Srinivasan was quietly made a trustee of Sir Dorabji Tata Trust. Of the seven trusts that cumulatively own 65.29% in Tata Sons, it is the single largest shareholder at just under 28%.”

Mistry has now sought government probe into the workings of Tata Trusts even as an income tax probe is already on. In 2013, the Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG) had alleged tax evasion by Tata Trusts. The CAG report had said: “In Maharashtra, DIT‐E, Mumbai, Jamshetji Tata Trust and NavajbaiRatan Tata Trust earned Rs 1,905 crore and Rs 1,234 crore on account of capital gain during AY 09 and AY 10 respectively and invested the same in prohibited mode of investments which is in contraventionto the provisions of section 13(1)(d) of Act. It resulted in short levy of tax of Rs. 1066.95 crore.”

First Published On : Dec 6, 2016 14:49 IST

Narendra Modi likely to appoint Sushma Swaraj replacement during Winter Session

In the coming weeks, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will appoint a full-time foreign minister to replace an ailing Sushma Swaraj, who was admitted to hospital last month after kidney failure.

Modi is looking for a likely successor to Swaraj from among the limited talent on BJP bench. It is expected that the appointment and a few changes in portfolios might take place after the Winter Session of Parliament ends. Sources told Firstpost that Swaraj, awaiting kidney transplant, is expected to remain out of active duty for many months. At a time when the world is witnessing significant political upheaval, the need to engage with Donald Trump’s administration, deepening tension with Pakistan, and several other issues need the attention of Swaraj.

File image of Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. AFP

File image of Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. AFP

Her medical condition makes it impossible for her to return to a normal schedule and she will stay in Aiims, Delhi until she is fit to get a kidney transplant and recovers from the post-operative surgery. As 2017 dawns, India will get ready to receive important international leaders ranging from the Saudi Arabia’s King Salman to Dubai’s Crown Prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed at the Republic Day parade. The prime minister is expected to make his much-awaited trip to Israel, the first by an Indian prime minister at a time when 25 years of diplomatic relations will be celebrated.

Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar — a personal choice of Modi’s — is due to complete his term in January. There is some speculation about his future and it is likely that he might get an extension.

At the Heart of Asia conference that finished in Amritsar on Sunday, the absence of Swaraj was more than felt. Unlike her predecessors in this job, she connected with ordinary Indians as foreign minister and forced officials in the ministry and Indian embassies abroad to become more sensitive to their needs or concerns. She used her Twitter handle to reach out to people in need and showed how a social media tool could be a weapon to help people in distress. From honeymooners to Indian labourers, from stranded people in war-torn Yemen and Libya, to people in need of medical assistance, Swaraj transformed the perceived role of a foreign minister.

Swaraj had, like most others in BJP, not readily backed Modi’s candidature for prime ministership in the run-up to Lok Sabha elections. She later fell in line and was picked up by Modi to be his foreign minister. Credit goes to her for managing the portfolio extremely well and for having used her personal charm to make friends. But, it was her connect with Indians in need of help and in distress that won her tremendous domestic support and appreciation from Modi.

First Published On : Dec 5, 2016 08:38 IST

Demonetisation: 5 hurdles to Narendra Modi’s push for cashless economy

By Devanik Saha

On 27 November, 2016, during an election rally in Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed that all Indians get familiar and make other familiar with cashless transactions.

The same day, during his radio programme Mann Ki Baat (What’s on my mind), he said: “Learn how this digital economy works. Learn the different ways you can use your bank accounts and internet banking. Learn how to effectively use the apps of various banks on your phones. Learn how to run your business without cash. Learn about card payments and other electronic modes of payment. Look at the malls and see how they function. A cashless economy is secure, it is clean. You have a leadership role to play in taking India towards an increasingly digital economy.” Modi and his cabinet ministers have now launched a major social-media effort to promote cashless transactions, which include e-banking (or banking over computers or mobile phones), debit and credit cards, card-swipe or “point-of-sales (PoS)” machines and digital wallets.

These are some of the tweets his cabinet ministers and their ministries issued in the four days after Modi’s first cashless-economy push:

India’s internet users surpass the US, but smartphone, internet penetration remain low

As many as 68 percent of transactions in India are done in cash, according to this analysis by Business Standard, while other estimates say 90 percent of all transactions are in cash. There are five hurdles to Modi’s ambition of converting India to a cashless economy:

1. 342 million internet users, 27 percent of Indians: Earlier this year, India surpassed the US to become the country with the second-largest number of Internet users, according to this June 2016 report by investment firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. There are 342 million internet subscribers (an Internet “penetration rate” of 27 percent) in India, data from Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) reveal.

The global median is 67 percent, IndiaSpend reported in March 2016. India lags most major economies and performs worse than Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and Indonesia, among other countries, the data reveal.

Put another way, 73 percent of Indians, or 912 million, do not have Internet access.

Of those who use the Internet, no more than 13 percent live in rural India (or 108 million of 833 million who live in rural areas), which has been worst hit by the November 8, 2016, invalidation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes that made up 86 percent of notes in circulation.

In urban India, 58 percent of people access the Internet.

2. Smartphone usage rate among adults 17 percent: For a majority of banking applications, a smartphone is a prerequisite. India is Asia-Pacific’s fastest-growing smartphone market, but no more than 17 percent of Indian adults own a smartphone, according to this 2016 survey by Pew Research. Only 7 percent of adults in low-income families own a smartphone; the figure for wealthier families is 22 percent.

3. 1.02 billion mobile subscriptions, but only 15 percent have broadband internet: India had 1.02 billion wireless subscriptions, but after scrubbing the data of inactive and duplicate connections, India has 930 million (90%) active subscribers, according to this November 2016 TRAI report. Of these, 154 million subscribers (15 percent) have broadband connections (3G + 4G).

4. Average page load time on mobile 5.5 seconds, China 2.6 seconds: The average time to load a page on a mobile phone is 5.5 seconds in India, compared to 2.6 seconds in China, 4.5 in Sri Lanka, 4.9 in Bangladesh and 5.8 in Pakistan, according to the “State of the internet Q1 2016” report by Akamai Technologies, a global content delivery network services provider. Israel has the fastest load time at 1.3 seconds.

Mobile Internet speeds will make users less likely to use their phones for banking transactions, with Oracle Maxymiser, a website optimisation tool by Oracle, a US multinational, reporting a two-second threshold before users stop an online transaction–although 68 percent of respondents reported they would not wait six seconds for pages or images to load on a bank’s website or mobile site.

5. 856 PoS machines per million Indians: There were 1.46 million PoS machines in use in India–that is, 856 machines per million people–according to this August 2016 Reserve Bank of India report. In 2015, Brazil–with a population 84 percent lower than India–had nearly 39 times as many machines (32,995), according to this 2015 report from Ernst & Young, a consultancy. The PoS machine rate was 4,000 per million people in China and Russia.

More than 70 percent of the PoS terminals are installed in India’s 15 largest cities, which contribute to more than 75 percent of transactions, says the Ernst and Young report. This has not changed after #notebandi, as the scrapping of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes is called colloquially.

Most requests for more PoS machines are still from “tier 1”, or metropolitan, cities, a banker with a leading private sector bank told the Indian Express on 29 November, 2016. “In tier 2 cities, customers are now slowly making the shift from using their debit cards to withdraw cash to using them for payments. The demand is progressing slowly,” he said.

As an incentive to banks and manufacturers of PoS terminals, the government has waived 12.5 percent excise duty and 4 percent special excise duty on these machines, as it hopes to install an additional 1 million PoS machines by March 2017.

Saha is an MA Gender and Development student at Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex.

First Published On : Dec 3, 2016 10:22 IST

SC verdict on National Anthem reinforces “pro-nationalist” winds of change blowing globally

The Supreme Court’s verdict directing cinema halls across the nation to play the National Anthem before a movie screening has elements that can also explain the success of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in recently concluded Assembly and Parliamentary bypolls in Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Sikkim and Tamil Nadu, and civic/panchayat polls in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan. These victories came despite the BJP’s image taking a beating following the Narendra Modi government’s demonetisation decision.

In fact, these common elements (of the Supreme Court order and the government’s demonitisation policy) add to the “global” discourse on liberalism and nationalism (including patriotism). I am using the word “global” because this debate is taking place all over the world, particularly in Europe and America.

The question of whether a man or woman should remain strictly an individual with all the “rights” of one, or do they become part of a group (as a social animal) that demands some “duties” (including loyalty).

Supreme Court of India. Reuters file imageSupreme Court of India. Reuters file image

Supreme Court of India. Reuters file image

In its order, the Supreme Court has said, “The directions are issued, for love and respect for the motherland is reflected when one shows respect to the National Anthem as well as to the National Flag. That apart, it would instill the feeling within one, a sense committed patriotism and nationalism.” According to the apex court, “A time has come, the citizens of the country must realise that they live in a nation and are duty bound to show respect to National Anthem, which is the symbol of constitutional patriotism to inherent national quality.”

It referred in this context to Article 51(A) (a) of the Constitution, which states that “it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem”.

It seems that the court isn’t impressed by arguments presented by Left-liberals that this particular article is part of the non-enforceable “directive principles” of the Indian Constitution. Inherent in the order is the notion that it is incumbent on every individual citizen to think beyond oneself and think about the greater good of the nation.

In my considered view, it’s in this same vein that Prime Minister Narendra Modi tells people to tolerate miseries and pain for some more time, as it’s a “bitter measure” that is good for the country as a whole in the long-term. It will bring unaccounted money into the national banking stream, reduce black money and curtail corruption, all of which will accelerate the national development, create jobs and reduce the gap between the rich and the poor. The point here is that individual sacrifices for collective good or national interests are needed at times. This fits into Modi’s slogans of “India First” and “Sab ke Saath, Sab ke Vikaas”.

And it appears that more and more Indians have bought the logic of Modi rather than that of his Left/liberal critics (including the opposition parties), who are highlighting only individual or sectional rights, particularly in ethnic terms. More and more Indians seem to be siding with the Prime Minister, as they dislike the prospect of balkanisation of India into identity groups, particularly when those groups dismiss the nation’s centuries-old history and culture as majoritarianism.

Accordingly, reactions of the Left liberals to the National Anthem verdict or about demonitisation have been very predictable: “Who are you to force me to display my patriotism?”, “Nationalism is a vital component of fascism, patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel”, and talking of “national interests is a manifestation of majoritarianism and xenophobia” etc.

They aren’t impressed by the argument that their agenda is essentially divisive, not inclusive. In fact, they have no problems when ethnic minorities talk of having their own civil laws and disrespect national symbols like the National Anthem, National Song or Yoga, saying that these are impositions of Hinduism. And they have no issues with illegal immigration from neighboring countries and slogans challenging the unity and integrity of India. They justify casteism in Indian politics as politicisation of caste and magnify separatist outlook as essential to “democratisation” of the polity. Such examples are only illustrative, not exhaustive.

It just so happens that at the intellectual level (level of the elites of the country), it has been an unequal battle between the “liberals” and “nationalists”, because the former has been overwhelmingly dominating the intellectual space (national media, educational establishments, think-tanks, NGOs, bureaucracy etc). Their influence on public policy has hitherto been inversely proportional to their number.

However, at the ground level, it’s the nationalists who’re gaining momentum and succeeding. This explains the Modi phenomenon in India and the Trump phenomenon in the US. As the noted weekly The Economist found out in one of its recent issues, “All around the world, nationalists are gaining ground.”

Examples it has cited include Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), who played an important role for Brexit; the Rightist National Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen having a great chance to do well in the coming French elections; Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant Party for Freedom in the Netherlands; Egypt president Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi legitimising his authoritarianism; and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan suppressing democracy for building a new Turkey. The magazine has also dealt with the phenomenon of Modi in India, Xi Jinping in China and Vladimir Putin in Russia.

Among the many reasons that the magazine cited, it said, “Communication tools have accelerated the spread of the new nationalism. Facebook and Twitter allow people to bypass the mainstream media’s cosmopolitan filter to talk to each other, swap news, meet and organise rallies.”

And, ironically, common men and the marginalised sections of the society (the blue-collar workers in particular) tend to repose their trust in the “nationalists”, who promise provide them jobs.

However, the above explanation is not fully satisfying given the fact that the Left liberals also talk of poor and jobs. In my considered view, therefore, Jonathan Haidt’s 2012 book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion makes a better sense. A social psychologist at the University of Virginia who, until 2009, considered himself a “partisan liberal”, Haidt explains human behaviour (including the choice of voting) through a catalog of six fundamental ideas: Care, fairness, liberty, loyalty, authority and sanctity” (alongside these, he also found related themes that carry moral weight like divinity, community, hierarchy, tradition, sin and degradation).

Going by Haidt, the Left liberals go by only the first three in his catalogue: Care, fairness and liberty; whereas the nationalists deal with all six, including loyalty, authority and sanctity. The worldviews Haidt discusses start with the group, not with the individual. And the group here could be families, armies and nations that nationalists exalt. “They assume that people should be treated differently according to social role or status — elders should be honored, subordinates should be protected. They suppress forms of self-expression that might weaken the social fabric. They assume interdependence, not autonomy. They prize order, not equality,” Haidt argues. “They’re common in history and are so across the globe, because they fit human nature.”

Through research, he shows how people punish cheaters, accept hierarchies and do not support equal distribution of benefits when contributions are unequal.

These are the ideas that one finds the most in the parties and leaders believing in nationalism, and most of them happen to be conservative. “And those who vote for them are not fools,” aren’t fools. As Haidt says, drawing from the experience of blue collared workers voting for the Republican party in the US, “They are voting for their moral interests that include moral capital — norms, practices and institutions, like religion and family values, that facilitate cooperation by constraining individualism.”

However, all this does not suggest that liberalism is a lost cause. What it means is that they need to reexamine their thought processes. There are innate contradictions among the nationalists too. Trump’s “America First” implies relative isolation of the country in global affairs, as was the case between two World Wars, and hence a challenge to the phenomenon of globalisation. But Modi’s “India First” depends more and more on globalisation itself. Also, it is equally a paradox that at a higher level — Modi’s support for globalisation is something that the Left liberals will not find fault with. All told, globalisation does not go with distinctiveness and yearns for an across-the-board leveling in which everything is the same — be it in sexual conduct, values, morality or  religion.

In other words, there are meeting points between liberalism and nationalism. But unfortunately, it’s the liberals, as the recent events in India and the US show, who are not prepared for a debate. They are increasingly becoming uncompromising, dogmatic and often malicious, their slogans for “dissent” notwithstanding

First Published On : Dec 2, 2016 16:32 IST

DNA Exclusive: First Indian al Qaeda fighter killed in Syria

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Internationally designated terrorist group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as Jabhat al Nusrah, the affiliate of al Qaeda in Syria has publicly announced the first casualty of an Indian fighter in the group. One Abu Salim al Hindi, also known as Abu Salih, was identified as an Indian national by the group in an obit. He is believed to have died in August in the bloody battle between Syrian coalition forces and jihadi rebel groups to break the siege of Aleppo.This is the first time an Indian fighter with al Qaeda splinter group is known to have died in Syria.Fursan al Sham media, an outlet based in Syria run by fighters affiliated with al Qaeda and JFS, released the obit of Abu Salim late Wednesday evening on Telegram channel. The group released details of his death after a three-month delay as it was seeking permission from the family to make the announcement public. “Abu Salim had asked his family be informed upon his death. Before releasing details of his martyrdom through media channels we asked his family’s permission,’’ an Indian fighter who was friends with Abu Salim told DNA. The release says that Abu Salim was the youngest child of his family and had kept contact with them before and after reaching Syria. His family in India is aware that he was in Syria with al Qaeda and he died in August.The obituary written by fellow fighters—known by their social media profiles as Pashtun and Life in Syria—provides a short background and glimpse of an Indian’s journey to the jihadi battlefield in the war-ravaged Levant region. “Abu Salim like many Indians was working for a company outside,” the release says without revealing his real name, identity or background. It however adds that before joining the jihad, Abu Salim was helping families of ‘martyrs’ with funds and logistics. “He once delivered money which reached 15 martyrs’ families,” the obit says. It is not known whether these families were Indian or of other nationalities, but indicates that Abu Salim was in close contact with terrorist groups before joining the al Qaeda affiliate in Syria. The armed conflict in Syria that began in 2011 after the mass protests of Arab Spring and the brutal crackdown by President Bashar Assad-led government forces, made Abu Salim determined to “fulfil his obligation of jihad which he had been guided to,” the obit says, adding, “Since a young age he was interested in jihad and after the invasion of Afghanistan, he decided to be a Mujahid… the events in Sham gave him this opportunity.”A large number of foreign fighters, not just from the Arab world but also from Europe, Canada, Australia and Asia, fled to Syria to join jihadi and rebel groups fighting the forces of President Assad. It is estimated that the conflict in Syria has led to the largest mobilisation of foreign fighters—over 40,000—since the Afghanistan jihad.The Islamic State’s ideology of Caliphate and call to all Muslims to join the holy war has also lured Indian Muslims who have fled to Syria from their homes in India or from abroad. According to Indian security agencies, around 68 Indians are fighting or staying in Syria as supporters of the Islamic State and al Qaeda. Many of them have joined from foreign countries including the Gulf, which has a large Indian diaspora. Abu Salim is one such case.Salim reached Syria via Turkey, making use of his contacts on social media platform of Twitter, where he found help from another Urdu-speaking foreign fighter. From the time he reached Syria, Abu Salim joined the battle in frontline even without proper military training, the release says. As the battle of Aleppo became intense, he spent days fighting the Syrian-Russian forces. In the first week of August, backed by Russian airstrikes, government loyal forces pounded the rebel held East Aleppo with ground assault. In a bloody confrontation between the JFS militants and pro-regime troops at ‘1070 building complex’ Abu Salim and his commander died. He was newly married.So far seven Indian nationals have died fighting with the Islamic States, including Kalyan resident Aman Tandel whose family received news of his death in Syria. Abu Salim is the first known casualty with IS’ rival group JFS. Canada-based researcher Amarnath Amarsingham, who studies violent extremism and foreign fighters, said many people assume that all foreign fighters are travelling to join ISIS, perhaps because of the media attention the group gets. “But many also join other groups in Syria including JFS. This includes Indians,” he said. Through his research, Amarsingham estimates that around 8-10 Indians have joined JFS in Syria. “The choice of joining IS, JFS or other rebel groups depends on the individual. What’s common amongst Nusra (JFS) fighters is they went to help Sunni Muslims against the regime of Assad. Like Abu Salim, who died during the brutal siege of Aleppo.’’Interestingly, while India banned the Islamic State under Section 35 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act in 2015, thus making any individual joining the group or supporting its activities to be charged with terror offences, AQ-linked Jabhat Fateh al Sham and its affiliates are not proscribed yet.

Narendra Modi’s ideas are grand break from the past, but when will we see results?

It was said about the French leader Valéry Giscard d’Estaing that the idea of a European Union thrilled him but the details bored him. I have often suspected that this attitude is to be found in many of the things that are taken up by this government.

Over two weeks have gone by since Narendra Modi‘s grand strike against black money and it is fair to say that two things need to be acknowledged. First, that the wide popular support for Modi is holding despite the inconvenience. Second, that the evidence of an economic problem caused by the shortage of cash is piling up through reports.

A file photo of Narendra Modi. PTIA file photo of Narendra Modi. PTI

A file photo of Narendra Modi. PTI

The reports are similar, whether from Surat or Ludhiana or Moradabad, all manufacturing centres. They speak of units either running under-capacity or shutting down because of lack of demand, and of raw materials being unavailable because of cash shortage. Another common factor is the reluctance of the units to keep labour and migrant workers being laid off or told to return home for now. We will have to wait for proper data to come in but if the anecdotal reports are indicators of something larger going on there is trouble ahead in December and the new year.

What explains the support for Modi which, and this cannot be denied, is wide and popular despite the uncertainty deliberately produced? Let us look at it since this period has also brought the Modi government to mid point. The unique thing about Modi’s time in office so far is his launching of magnificent schemes and major announcements. These launches and announcements capture the imagination of the country, certainly, they capture the attention of the media.

Make in India, bullet train, Smart Cities, Swachch Bharat, surgical strike, demonetisation. All of these and other initiatives of Modi share a pattern. They represent a grand break from the past. They promise to rip away the old and decayed and replace it with something new and better.

Do they achieve this to any extent? What are the real consequences? These we will know only in time. Let us look at one example. The surgical strike after the attack on Uri was meant to be a response to violence being sent from across the Line of Control. It has been reported that since the surgical strike, the Indian army has lost 20 soldiers. This happened mainly because the LoC, which was previously relatively peaceful under a ceasefire, has been aflame after the surgical strike.

The defence minister now says that the ceasefire is holding again but meanwhile 20 Indians are dead. So was the surgical strike a good decision? It is anti-national to answer that question in any way but one so we will leave it there. I should say however that the Indian soldier is worshipped and expected to martyr himself. There is only a sort of reverence for his contribution and no real respect for his life.

This theme of grand announcement leading up to something whose benefits and damage we are not certain of can be said about many announcements. The surgical strike against black money will, of course, take a little longer to show its real effect. But what about the bullet train, on which we are spending about Rs 1 lakh crore? What about expending diplomatic energy and the prime minister’s personal goodwill on the pursuit of a position in the nuclear suppliers group?

Have the consequences been analysed with the rigour that is expected? I am not questioning the intention here, and I have no doubt that the government means well. I am merely curious to know whether my suspicions of it being enthusiastic about shooting first and aiming later are unfounded.

Modi is our most credible politician. No other leader could have led the nation into such turbulence with confidence that he would carry the day. He will remain popular for the rest of his remaining two and a half years and will be very difficult to beat in 2019. Many of the consequences of his actions will be stand revealed before that and I hope for his sake and for ours that he has been as interested in the details as he was thrilled by the grand idea.

First Published On : Nov 30, 2016 08:04 IST

We don’t give out citizenships automatically: Malaysia on Zakir Naik’s nationality

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Malaysia has dismissed media reports that controversial Indian preacher Zakir Naik had been granted citizenship by the country, saying it takes decades to become a Malaysian citizen. “We don’t give out (citizenships) automatically unless the person was born in the country to Malaysian parents,” Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed said on Sunday, rejecting media reports that the Islamist preacher had been granted citizenship by the country.”There are many processes to follow and it takes decades to become a Malaysian citizen. Besides, Naik is not an important religious personality for the Southeast Asia region as we should have our own moderate model of Islam which fits the soft culture of the people here,” Nur was quoted as saying by the Star online.However, an ethnic Indian NGO, Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF), said Home Minister Zahid Hamidi had denied Naik was given citizenship, but he was silent whether he was given a Permanent Resident status. HINDRAF alleged in a statement that Naik had been provided with immunity and support by the Malaysian government and allowed to continue his preaching that “clearly fostered the spirit of separateness and reinforced prejudice towards the Non-Muslim community in Malaysia.”Muslim majority Malaysia has a 25% ethnic Chinese who are mostly Buddhists and Christians and 8% ethnic Indians, a majority of whom are Hindus. HINDRAF president Wayathamoorthy alleged that thousands of Malaysian Indians still continued to live in a “stateless manner.”The National Investigation Agency (NIA) in India has charged Naik and banned his organisation Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) under section 153-A of IPC (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), besides various sections of anti-terror law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Demonetisation decision could worsen the country’s public health crisis

By Devanik Saha and Swagata Yadavar

A spate of deaths due to hospitals refusing to accept invalid currency notes has come to attention after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement invalidating 86% of India’s currency on November 8, 2016.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Unlike government-run hospitals, private hospitals have not been allowed to use defunct Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, potentially affecting 58% of Indians in rural areas who opt for private healthcare (68% in urban areas), according to National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) data.

In Noida, an infant died after Union Minister Mahesh Sharma’s Kailash Hospital reportedly asked for an advance of Rs 10,000 and then refused to take old currency notes.

An 18-month old baby died in Visakhapatnam as the parents didn’t have money to buy medicines, and a year-old infant in Mainpuri, Uttar Pradesh, died after reportedly being denied treatment by a local private doctor as his parents didn’t have money to pay for his treatment.

Despite multiple requests, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on November 17, 2016, that private hospitals would not accept old notes because that would encourage misuse of old currency.

Patients who had travelled away from their home states were particularly caught unaware by the move and faced a serious shortage of cash.

On a Mumbai footpath, a cancer patient and husband from Jharkhand struggle

IndiaSpend met 52-year-old Mahavir Malhar and his wife from Jharia, Jharkhand, staying on the footpath outside Mumbai’s Tata Memorial Hospital, a leading referral hospital for cancer patients nationwide. A labourer who earned Rs 200 every day before coming to Mumbai to address his wife’s ear cancer, Malhar had no usable cash.

“We do not have cash to buy meals or even tea,” said Malhar. Although treatment at Tata Memorial Hospital is free, and the hospital accepts old notes, staying in Mumbai is expensive for the couple. Since the note ban, their sons, also labourers, have not been able to send them money because of long lines at local banks.

“They are also daily wage earners and standing in a line for the whole day means loss of income,” said Malhar. The couple now depend on the free meals provided by the hospital and charitable trusts.

Indians spend eight times more in a private hospital than in a government institution

As we said, more than half of India’s population depends on private healthcare, despite the fact that private healthcare cost the poorest 20% of Indians more than 15 times their average monthly expenditure, according to this 2014 NSSO survey.

Other markers of India’s dependence on private healthcare:

• Up to 86% of the rural population (717 million people) and 82% of the urban population (309 million people) are without health expenditure support, IndiaSpend reported in July 2015.

• Indians spend eight times more in a private hospital than a government hospital, according to an analysis of National Health Accounts (NHA) 2013-14 data by The Hindu. The report estimated that households spent Rs 8,193 crore in government hospitals, an eighth of the Rs 62,628 crore spent in private hospitals.

• As much as 69% of health expenditure in India is private (out-of-pocket)–the highest proportion in the world–according to NHA data. Out-of-pocket expenditure is the share of expenses that patients pay to the healthcare provider without third-party insurance or government-subsidised treatment.


• Of 930,000 doctors in the country, only 106,000 work for the government. This means there is one government doctor for every 11,528 people, according to the National Health Profile 2015 report, IndiaSpend reported in November 2016.

• About 81% sanctioned posts of specialist medical professionals in community health centres were lying vacant, according to this 2015 rural health statistics report.

Therefore, the government’s decision to not allow private hospitals to accept old notes will restrict access to healthcare for a significant section of Indians, Scroll reported on November 21, 2016.

Post demonetisation, the Maharashtra government’s toll-free 108 helpline–the 24×7 emergency ambulance services number–is also reporting complaints against private hospitals refusing to accept cheques. The Scroll report talked about angry callers unable to buy medicines or seek treatment due to private hospitals not accepting Rs 500/1,000 notes.

Private hospitals report a fall in patients

Lack of cash is making patients prioritise their cash needs, and health issues tend to be pushed back on family priority lists, reported private practitioners from urban centres.

“There has a been a drop of 25%-30% in patients coming to our private out-patient (OPD) department,” said Manish Motwani, bariatric surgeon at Aastha Healthcare, Mumbai. He attributed the drop to a fall in non-emergency cases.

“There was a 40% drop in my patients in the OPD the next day of demonetisation; now the drop is of 10%-15%, but some of my other colleagues are seeing a drop of 50% in the number of hospitalisations,” said Pradeep Gadge, a Mumbai diabetologist. Many doctors said they were allowing patients known to them to pay later.

There has also been an increase in the number of patients in government hospitals, where treatment is largely free or at nominal charges. “We have seen an increase in the number of patients in our primary healthcare centre since the currency ban,” said Amol Bhusare, medical officer at Pallam, a small town in Maharashtra’s Marathwada region, east of Mumbai. Bhusare said two of his patients who had gone to a private diagnostic centre for a CT Scan at nearby Nanded city were turned back for bringing old notes.

Akhilesh Yadav, Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi and finance minister Arun Jaitley on November 17, 2016, to allow Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes at private hospitals and medicine shops till November 30, 2016.

“As Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 were banned in haste, those undergoing treatment at hospitals and nursing homes are facing a lot of problems,” said Yadav. “I, therefore, request you to intervene and allow private hospitals, nursing homes and medicine shops to accept these notes till at least November 30.”

A few hospitals have pleaded that they be allowed to accept older currency. Mumbai’s Bhatia Hospital wrote to the Prime Minister the day after his initial note-ban announcement. “We are one of the oldest charitable hospitals in Mumbai and requested (that) at least charitable hospitals be allowed to accept older notes,” said Rajeev Boudhankar, CEO of Bhatia Hospital. He said no patient has been turned away. They are accepting payments through other means, including cheques, although three cheques have bounced.

(Saha is an MA Gender and Development student at Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex. Yadavar is principal correspondent with IndiaSpend.)

( is a data-driven, public-interest journalism non-profit.)

First Published On : Nov 28, 2016 14:42 IST

Demonetisation: Shiv Sena backs NCP MP Udayan Raje Bhosale’s remarks on banks being ‘looted’

Mumbai: The Shiv Sena on Monday supported NCP MP Udayan Raje Bhosale’s remarks that people will “loot and destroy banks” if the situation arising after the demonetisation move does not improve soon, saying he has voiced the concerns of people on the cash chaos.

Representational image. News18

Representational image. News18

Bhosale, a descendant of Maratha warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji, while speaking at a function to pay homage to late Deputy Prime Minister YB Chavan at Sangli in the presence of several political bigwigs last week, had also said many BJP MPs and MLAs who were his close friends too have not accepted the demonetisation decision.

“Chhatrapati’s anguish has represented the feelings of common man. At one time, Udayan Raje had joined BJP and was even made a minister so BJP cannot him disown him now. If the government has courage, it should challenge Udayan Raje’s statements,” the Sena said in an editorial in party mouthpiece ‘Saamana’.

It said Bhosale has time and again voiced the concerns of people.

“After PM Narendra Modi‘s decision, people in rural areas have suffered a lot. Yet, no leader from rural areas is ready to speak against it. These leaders have their hands full with old notes and they are now in a piquant situation as they cannot remove that money nor can they keep it as it is,” the Sena said.

“During the British rule, Indians in Satara used to loot banks and government treasury. Udayan Raje, from the same Satara has warned the government that people will loot banks to live. Will the government shoot these people?” the Sena asked.

First Published On : Nov 28, 2016 13:53 IST

Shiv Sena backs NCP MP Udayan Raje Bhosale’s remarks on demonetisation

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Shiv Sena on Monday supported NCP MP Udayan Raje Bhosale’s remarks that people will “loot and destroy banks” if the situation arising after the demonetization move does not improve soon, saying he has voiced the concerns of people on the cash chaos. Bhosale, a descendant of Maratha warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji, while speaking at a function to pay homage to late Deputy Prime Minister YB Chavan at Sangli in the presence of several political bigwigs last week, had also said many BJP MPs and MLAs who were his close friends too have not accepted the demonetization decision.”Chhatrapati’s anguish has represented the feelings of common man. At one time, Udayan Raje had joined BJP and was even made a minister so BJP cannot him disown him now. If the government has courage, it should challenge Udayan Raje’s statements,” the Sena said in an editorial in party mouthpiece ‘Saamana’. It said Bhosale has time and again voiced the concerns of people.”After PM Narendra Modi’s decision, people in rural areas have suffered a lot. Yet, no leader from rural areas is ready to speak against it. These leaders have their hands full with old notes and they are now in a piquant situation as they cannot remove that money nor can they keep it as it is,” the Sena said.”During the British rule, Indians in Satara used to loot banks and government treasury. Udayan Raje, from the same Satara has warned the government that people will loot banks to live. Will the government shoot these people?” the Sena asked.

PM Modi gives mobile banking a push, says E-banking no difficult than WhatsApp

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Reiterating that he has set a 50-day time-frame for ringing in a new India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday appealed to the youth to go in for online banking, saying it was “no more difficult than WhatsApp”.Pointing out that demonetization was aimed at benefiting the poor – the farmers, labourers and other deprived sections of the society, Modi urged labourers to open bank accounts so that wages are credited directly to their accounts. “This will ensure that the minimum wages rule is followed. Also, once you have bank accounts, you can use e-wallet facility using any mobile phone,” he said.”You can buy simple phones which can also work like e-wallets. You do not need a smart phone. With e-wallet, you can make payments to small shops in your locality,” the PM said, sharing his thoughts in the 26th edition of Mann Ki Baat programme on All India Radio.He exhorted the youth to teach at least 10 families daily on how they could do cashless transactions through mobile apps, mobile banking and debit/credit cards. He said small shopkeepers had also adopted technology, mobile apps and mobile banking to serve their customers. “I would urge small shopkeepers to enter the digital world, download mobile apps of banks, get Point of Sale (PoS) machines… They should learn how business can be done without cash. This, rather than hurting your business, will make it grow. This way is also safe and secure,” Modi said.Seeking everyone’s cooperation to make the campaign against black money a success, the PM warned those trying hard to bring back black money into the system through benami transactions of severe punishment.He also praised people for helping to dedicate this year’s Diwali to soldiers. Quoting from a soldier’s letter, the PM said this Diwali, the soldiers felt like they are celebrating with 1.25 billion Indians and didn’t miss their family. Stating that soldiers must be remembered during festivals, celebrations and happy moments, he said that MyGov open forum will bring out a coffee table book, compiling select messages, letters, poetry, pictures and videos sent to soldiers.He also mentioned about his meeting with representatives of panchayat heads of Jammu and Kashmir, praising them for creating awareness on education, and expressed happiness that the recent board examinations saw 95 per cent attendance in the state.

19 of 55 stranded Indians from Iraq brought back home: EAM

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>19 of a group of 55 Indians, who were stranded in strife-torn Iraq, have returned home following efforts by the government. Minister of State for External Affairs told Rajya Sabha that Indian Consulate in Iraq’s Erbil has been making efforts to ensure return of the remaining 36 Indians.The Consul General had approached the Prime Minister and the Interior Minister of Kurdistan to ensure return of the Indians, mostly from Telengana, who had overstayed. “As a result of these efforts, a group of 19 Indian nationals has travelled back to India on November 10 without payment of any overstayal penalty,” Singh said.To another question, he said 39 requests for repatriation have been received by Indian Mission in Abu Dhabi and Dubai from persons hailing from Uttar Pradesh. He said a total of 15,431 grievances have been registered on MEA’s online Consular Services Management Portal ‘MADAD’ out of which 9,502 have been resolved.In a written reply to a question on Indians residing in war-torn countries, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj as per records, over 2,500 Indians are residing in Afghanistan, 9,000 in Iraq and about 100 Indians in Syria. The details of people who have not registered with the local missions and embassies were not available.She said government closely monitors the evolving security concerns in strife-torn countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, adding safety and security of Indians in these countries was a matter of foremost concern. “The government has established 24×7 helpline functional in the Indian Missions/Posts in these countries; and issues advisories whenever required,” she said.Replying to another question in Rajya Sabha, Singh said a total of 554 Indian fishermen were arrested in foreign waters during 2016.

Panama papers PIL: SC seeks Centre’s response on SEBI being made party

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday sought a response on the plea of market regulator SEBI that it has been dragged as a party in a PIL seeking a court-monitored CBI probe against Indians whose names have figured in Panama papers for allegedly holding bank accounts in foreign countries.

“We will require the petitioner to file an affidavit within four weeks showing as to how SEBI is connected with the present PIL,” a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy said.

Representational image. Getty Images.

Representational image. Getty Images.

The direction came when senior advocate Arvind Datar, appearing for SEBI, alleged that the market regulator has no role whatsoever in the the Panama paper leak case and it has been dragged in the list without any reason.

Meanwhile, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, sought dismissal of the PIL, filed by lawyer M L Sharma in his personal capacity, saying a Multi-Agency Group (MAG), comprising officials of CBDT, RBI, Financial Intelligence Unit and ED, has already been set up to ensure “speedy and coordinated” probe against Indians whose names have figured in Panama papers.

Moreover, as many as five reports have been submitted by MAG to the apex court-appointed Special Investigation Team on black money which is led by Justice (retd) M B Shah, he said, adding that MAG, in turn, has submitted those reports in sealed cover to a Supreme Court bench hearing black money case.

The Centre had on 3 October informed the court that a whopping Rs 8,186 crore, illegally kept in offshore banks by Indians, has been brought under the tax ambit despite constraints like non-sharing of information by Swiss authorities.

The Department of Economic Affairs of the Finance Ministry, in an affidavit, had said “an undisclosed income of Rs 8,186 crore (including protective assessment of Rs 1,485 crore) has been brought to tax, on account of deposits made in unreported foreign bank accounts”.

The ASG today told the apex court that the Centre is “bent upon to find out the truth and take appropriate action” in the Panama paper leak case and hence the plea be dismissed.

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

Demonetisation: Will liquidity gush lead to interest rate, stamp duty, income tax rationalisation soon?

The government has claimed that as of 21 November 2016, close to Rs 5 lakh crore of deposits have poured into bank accounts in the form of demonetised currency notes. This gushing influx of cash is a reflection both of the staggering cash that rules the economy as well as the efficacy of the demonetisation scheme. Even the perpetual nay-sayer Arvind Kejriwal the Delhi Chief Minister grudgingly acknowledged that as much as Rs 12 lakh crore could pour into the bank accounts.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

At the start of the demonetisation scheme on 9 November 2016, the cash in circulation was Rs 17.54 lakh crore. Indeed the fresh gush of cash into the banking system would be gigantic in proportion if the figures of the first 12 days are extrapolated into the remaining 38 days of the 50 day scheme. The Indian tendency and experience is lash minute rush.

Political parties, religious and charitable trusts are likely to make a beeline for banks in the last week of December with wads of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes many of them suspected to be donated in a spirit of mutual back scratching by the crooks. Be that as it may.

Banks are going to be flush with cash. That would call for infusion of fresh capital mainly into the public sector banks. The government can imaginatively come out with public issues of various PSBs on attractive terms. It could do a power of good to the capital market which is at present going through a low mainly on account of depressing sentiments.

Another upshot of surge in deposits would be the inevitable reduction in lending rates that could go a long way in reviving the economy. The Indian money market has long been characterised by high interest rates due to scarcity of funds. With cash held clandestinely or in households entering the mainstream banking, interest rates could fall sharply. On the flip side however deposit rates are in for a fall. A few banks have already announced 15 to 20 basis points reduction in term deposit rates.

While heightened lending for agriculture, manufacturing and infrastructure building is likely to follow in the wake of this healthy deposit mobilisation, a sizeable part of these deposits may also end up as subscription to treasury bonds and other gilt papers.

Serendipitous fallout of the scheme is heightened awareness of digital banking. With cash becoming scarce, even iterant vendors are embracing mobile payments like Paytm and swiping card machines. The digital phobia and divide are happily vanishing thanks to the cash crisis. We Indians react only when a crisis explodes on one’s face.

Even some of the computer-literates and net savvy persons were till recently skeptical of online banking and use of cards. The Jan Dhan Yojana was pilloried by the opposition as accounts sans deposits. Once again it has taken a crisis to fill these accounts with hard cash. Villagers and agriculturists, swearing by cash, willy-nilly had to deposit the demonetised currencies into their account though there is some uncharitable explanation to the sudden phenomenon of Jan Dhan accounts springing to life– -money laundering by the crooks.

The government has learnt its lessons hopefully. High stamp duty is largely responsible for increased use of cash in real estate transactions. The central government is likely to lead by example with the Union Territories where the stamp duty rates are likely to be brought down sharply to 4 percent or so. The income tax rates are also likely to witness a drop in the budget 2017. For select companies, the rate is already 25 percent which is 5 percentage points less than the maximum marginal rate obtaining for individuals. The government must and is likely to bring down the maximum marginal rate to 25 percent both as a rational gesture and as thanksgiving for their forbearance during the cash crunch.

First Published On : Nov 23, 2016 11:50 IST

NIA likely to go FBI way, govt may empower probe agency to investigate abroad

New Delhi: A proposal has been mooted by the government for arming National Investigation Agency (NIA) with a provision to register a case and investigate if an Indian is killed or injured in a terror act overseas.

NIA may soon get mandate to probe abroad if needed. AFPNIA may soon get mandate to probe abroad if needed. AFP

NIA may soon get mandate to probe abroad if needed. AFP

This information was shared by Minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir while replying to written questions in Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

“A proposal to enable the NIA to take up investigation of scheduled offences committed beyond India is being put out for public consultations,” he said in a brief reply to a question asked by BJP member Anurag Thakur whether government is considering to grant powers to NIA to conduct probe on attacks on Indians and properties abroad.

Such a proposal is available with probe agencies like FBI and Scotland Yard and federal agencies of Germany and Israel who can carry out parallel probe abroad when their nationals are killed in a terror attack.

FBI had registered separate cases in 1995 kidnapping of foreign tourists in Kashmir, IC-814 hijacking case and Mumbai terror attack as its citizens were either injured or killed in these terror acts.

According to officials, such a proposal will depend on relations to the particular country where the crime has taken place.

A senior official said once such a provision is included in the NIA Act, it would help the agency in quickly moving a request to the foreign country for allowing its team to carry out a probe.

First Published On : Nov 22, 2016 22:44 IST

Centre may empower NIA to investigate overseas incidents involving Indian casualties

New Delhi: A proposal has been mooted by the government for arming National Investigation Agency (NIA) with a provision to register a case and investigate if an Indian is killed or injured in a terror act overseas.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

This information was shared by Minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir, while replying to written questions in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday. “A proposal to enable the NIA to take up investigation of scheduled offences committed beyond India is being put out for public consultations,” he said in a brief reply to a question asked by BJP member Anurag Thakur whether government is considering to grant powers to NIA to conduct probe on attacks on Indians and properties abroad.

Such a proposal is available with probe agencies like FBI and Scotland Yard and federal agencies of Germany and Israel, who can carry out parallel probes abroad if their nationals are killed in a terror attack.

FBI had registered separate cases in the 1995 kidnapping of foreign tourists in Kashmir, the IC-814 hijacking case and Mumbai terror attack, as its citizens were injured or killed in these terror acts.

According to officials, such a proposal will depend on relations to the particular country where the crime has taken place.

A senior official said once such a provision is included in the NIA Act, it would help the agency in quickly moving a request to the foreign country for allowing its team to carry out a probe.

First Published On : Nov 22, 2016 18:12 IST

Demonetisation is an opportunity to trim wedding expenses, and ensure a social revolution

I was once visited by a scholar from Ireland. He had to cross the Cricket Club of India before reaching my office, and the first thing he asked was about the “huge circus-type atmosphere” at the venue. I told him that it was an Indian wedding, and if it was at the CCI, it must be a well-heeled, big, fat wedding.

His jaw dropped. “It’s a carnival!” he exclaimed, adding that his own wedding in Dublin — which was a “big affair” — had about 40 people, including his bride and the officiating priest. It was my jaw’s turn to drop. Most poor but not indigent people have bigger wedding in India, I told him.

Organising weddings in under Rs 2.5 lakh will be a challenge. Representational image. Reuters

Organising weddings in under Rs 2.5 lakh will be a challenge. Representational image. Reuters

Now that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has set a Rs 2.5 lakh cash withdrawal limit for families with upcoming weddings, could this be an opportunity to make Indian weddings inexpensive and ensure a social revolution? It possibly is, though it may not have been the government’s intent when the limit was first set. When the government first announced the demonetisation drive, it hadn’t even realised it was the wedding season and people were halfway through their planning and preparation.

All the cash one might have stashed is trash now, and one has to make do with the Rs 2.5 lakh allowed till 31 December for wedding-related expenses. Already, everyone is talking about the difficulty in organising weddings with such limited provisioning, but not about devising ways and means to make them cheaper. A simpler wedding and a good marriage thereafter can be the preferred option.

The stipulation for the limited withdrawal could be an opportunity rather than cause for lament. Only parents or the person getting married can withdraw. Which implies that the limit set is per wedding, not per person getting married. The couple cannot pool their respective Rs 2.5 lakh to make it a Rs 5 lakh gala. And parents cannot chip in to make it a million-rupee event!

This should be the moment social leaders come forward and push for reforms for wedding expenses. My domestic help, who is now debt-ridden after her daughter’s wedding, recently told me that it cost her Rs 4 lakh. Most families celebrate big weddings by exhausting all their savings, though they later rue the consequences.

After all, “Shadi toh ek hi bar hoti hai na mere beti ka?”

This, of course, excludes those who have riches and oodles of cash, like the Janardhan Reddys of Karnataka, who reportedly spent Rs 500 cr on one family wedding! Had it not been for the brouhaha around the Reddy wedding, and the demonetisation said to be aimed at black money, Income Tax inspectors may not have visited the Reddy family offices.

Planned weddings cannot be called off, for that is the most embarrassing thing to happen, and even worse is when a bride or groom fails to turn up for the event. Now, one reason seems to be not having cash to disburse, because most weddings are organised mostly by cash transactions. Even the caterer takes a part by cheque, the rest in cash, like builders do. Weddings in rich families are when the kala dhan flows out.

The RBI also wants banks to “encourage families to incur wedding expenses through non-cash means — cheques or drafts, credit or debit cards, pre-paid cards, mobile transfers, internet banking channels, NEFT/RTGS and the like. But those who do go for really big fat weddings cannot do that for a while post-demonetisation, unless they cheat and build an untaxed — or tax-evaded — corpus.

Scaling down weddings and making a virtue out of a necessity is in order. Who knows, this could even set a trend. Even if Rs 2.5 lakh is withdrawn, the banker not claiming paucity of cash to honour a cheque, there are other hurdles. Cash disbursals have to be by certifying that the payee had no bank account to have received a cheque instead. There is a lot of record-keeping involved.

Just the other day, a politician on a news television debate had angrily, and unhelpfully, asked whether anyone could get married with “just Rs 2.5 lakh”. Fact is, this guy was both right and wrong. One could, but does not. Most Indians do spend more Rs 2.5 lakh for a wedding-related event. The baraat, the mehendi, the dinner spread, the decorations all need money to be organised.

But one can cut costs. The set practice today is to have a wedding with the cousin’s mother-in-law’s second cousin being invited and giving her gifts, which the receiver may have no use for. And then, with a repeat guest list, an elaborate reception with a huge dinner including a chaat counter, where everyone waits restlessly in a queue to go and meet the couple and be photographed. Who among us has ever had such a group photograph sent to us to see? The newly married couple, tired after the wedding, wearing a trousseau of some expense and unlikely the be worn ever again, except a couple of times soon after the wedding. She may have — in fact most do — added weight. After that, the weight gain makes the groom’s three-piece suit tighter at the waist.

Therefore, keeping it simple makes eminent sense. Not just for now. For all times.

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

Is demonetisation BJP’s Waterloo in the making? Data certainly suggests so

The “surgical strike” on Indian currency notes has all the classical signs of quackery. People are dying in large numbers, there is pain and suffering all around, and the after-effects threaten to cause financial havoc. Yet, those responsible for the botched operation are prescribing more nostrum and promises daily. It’s all a cold play for them.

Almost a fortnight after notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 were outlawed, the complete lack of planning and competence is obvious. Here’s how:

– We were told that ATMs and banks would replace cash fast. But it may take nearly six months to print currency that could fill the void in the system. The mints just don’t have the capacity to print notes worth Rs 14 lakh crore that may have to be exchanged.

Narendra Modi. PTI

Narendra Modi. PTI

– We were told that counterfeit notes would turn into pieces of scrap. But banks are now reporting that large amounts of fake currency are being tendered at the counters and getting replaced with new notes. The overworked banking system just doesn’t have the time and wherewithal to check counterfeit currency. Besides, the cost of printing those notes and the effect of demonetisation on the GDP, make the counterfeit currency threat appear loose change.

- We were told that large amounts of illegal assets would be disclosed too. But that looks like another jumla now. Cash forms just about six per cent (that’s the most liberal estimate) of the country’s black economy GDP as this Hindustan Times report points out referring to Income-Tax probes between April 1 to October 31 in 2016. And, some of this may never return to the banks in the end since a major portion may have already been laundered or syphoned off to offshore accounts because some people could have had prior information about the government’s decision.

– We were told that outlawing old notes would break the back of terror networks and tame Pakistan. Well, just a couple of days ago, terrorists struck in Assam. On Monday morning, India woke up to the news of Pakistan shelling the border and killing one more jawan. For them, it is business as usual. And if you are reading too much into the silence in Kashmir, probably you are among those who believe that Kashmiris were throwing bricks of gold instead of stones at security forces.

It is obvious the surgery is not going to cure anything. Writing in The Economic Times, Amit Varma argues that even if this were implemented right, we would not have been spared the havoc it has caused. “Indeed, Burkean conservatives and Hayekian libertarians alike would be aghast at Modi’s actions, as he propels India towards the Soviet Union so admired by Nehru, with its state oppression, artificial shortages and infamous queues,” he argues.

Given that economics is not every politician’s cup of tea, what were the experts in this country drinking while rolling out this scheme? Did nobody tell the government that only 53 percent India has bank accounts? Did nobody tell them that printing Rs 2,000 notes will create more problems because nobody would have smaller notes to break them? Did nobody tell them that at the least they should print notes that could fit in the ATM cassettes, and print smaller notes first? Did nobody have the sense to laugh at the joke of moving towards a cashless economy with notes of higher denominations?

Ad-hocism, knee-jerkism and post facto wisdom are in circulation as cash disappears. Everyday rules for withdrawal change and new farmans are issued prompting WAGs to joke that one should quickly withdraw money while they are using indelible ink on fingers. For, tomorrow somebody might suggest the idea of blackening the entire face to mark people.

The government appears as clueless as a fielding captain whose bowlers are being thrashed all around the park. Out of desperation, the captain is changing the field placement after every delivery, in the hope that something may work.

Two days after the government unleashed surgical strife on millions of Indians through its policy of demonetisation of the poor and the honest, Firstpost had argued that this will be the BJP’s Waterloo. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his team should read the writing on the wall: change is coming.

The BJP’s core constituency of traders is despondent. Unorganised labour, farmers and small traders have suffered huge losses over the past fortnight and fear a financial freeze over the next two-quarters. The worst is yet to come, though. Some estimates suggest the GDP may fall by half, down to around 3.5 percent in the next financial year. According to Ambit Capital, the economy may get paralysed over the next few months.

Politics in India may run on empty jumlas but the economy can’t survive on empty coffers. So, when the full impact of demonetisation is felt by the market, growth shrinks, jobs disappear and cash goes out of supply. There will be a backlash. The final price of demonetisation could be heavy for the BJP.

They say you learn by reading and observing, but here the BJP seems to have dived into boiling oil to take some valuable lessons home. As a scribe friend said: only diehard bhakts wouldn’t mind that.

However, if the government is looking for lessons, I would suggest a Panchtantra tale: A king once befriended a monkey and made him his guard. One day, while the king was asleep, the monkey stuck a fly on the king’s nose with a sword. Morale of the story: Good intentions are nothing if not backed by common sense.

First Published On : Nov 21, 2016 12:46 IST

Coldplay singer Chris Martin disrespected Indian flag during concert, alleges NCP

Mumbai: NCP spokesman Nawab Malik has alleged that lead singer of British rock band ‘Coldplay’ “disrespected” the Indian flag during the band’s concert.

“There is a video grab from Coldplay’s concert in Mumbai, where the band’s lead singer is seen insulting the Indian flag,” he alleged.

The former Maharashtra minister sought an unconditional apology from the singer, along with BJP and Shiv Sena leaders who were present at the concert, for allegedly “hurting the sentiments” of Indians.

The video of the alleged incident has gone viral on social media.

Representational image. Picture courtesy: YouTubeRepresentational image. Picture courtesy: YouTube

Representational image. Picture courtesy: YouTube

The band, lead by its frontman Chris Martin, ended the Global Citizen Festival India concert on a high note last evening by singing “Vande Mataram” with music maestro AR Rahman and also waved the national flag.

The band performed several memorable songs, including “Paradise”, “Viva La Vida”, “Yellow”, “Fix You”, for over an hour at the MMRDA grounds.

Several Bollywood celebrities and some international artists also shared the stage.

Among the celebrities present at the gala were Amitabh Bachchan, Alia Bhatt, Ranveer Singh, Katrina Kaif, Sonakshi Sinha, Parineeti Chopra, Monali Thakur, Arijit Singh, Arjun Rampal, Suzanne Khan as well as Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was earlier supposed to attend the event, could not make it. He, however, joined via a video link that was beamed live.

The festival, launched in 2012, partners with Global Poverty Project, a movement aiming to end extreme poverty by 2030.

The event had ran into controversy after NCP criticised the BJP-led state government for providing concessions for the festival, and said that it had been planned by the ruling party to woo voters for next year’s BMC polls.

First Published On : Nov 20, 2016 13:49 IST

Coldplay in trouble? NCP alleges lead singer Chris Martin insulted tricolour during concert

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>NCP spokesman Nawab Malik has alleged that lead singer of British rock band ‘Coldplay’ “disrespected” the Indian flag during the band’s concert here. “There Is a video grab from Coldplay’s concert in Mumbai, where the band’s lead singer is seen insulting the Indian flag,” he alleged.The former Maharashtra minister sought an unconditional apology from the singer, along with BJP and Shiv Sena leaders who were present at the concert, for allegedly “hurting the sentiments” of Indians. The video of the alleged incident has gone viral on social media.The band, lead by its frontman Chris Martin, ended the Global Citizen Festival India concert on a high note last evening by singing “Vande Mataram” with music maestro AR Rahman and also waved the national flag.The band performed several memorable songs, including “Paradise”, “Viva La Vida”, “Yellow”, “Fix You”, for over an hour at the MMRDA grounds. Several Bollywood celebrities and some international artists also shared the stage.Among the celebrities present at the gala were Amitabh Bachchan, Alia Bhatt, Ranveer Singh, Katrina Kaif, Sonakshi Sinha, Parineeti Chopra, Monali Thakur, Arijit Singh, Arjun Rampal, Suzanne Khan as well as Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was earlier supposed to attend the event, could not make it. He, however, joined via a video link that was beamed live.The festival, launched in 2012, partners with Global Poverty Project, a movement aiming to end extreme poverty by 2030. The event had ran into controversy after NCP criticised the BJP-led state government for providing concessions for the festival, and said that it had been planned by the ruling party to woo voters for next year’s BMC polls.

Demonetisation: Nearly 10 days in, the pain has yet to ease for the common man

On the evening of 8 November, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address to the nation, announced the demonetisation of Rs 500, and Rs 1,000 notes, it gave a sense of hope that we finally have a government which was taking decisive action against black money and corruption. A slew of steps were announced as well to ease the transition.

The prime minister presented a passionate case:

“To break the grip of corruption and black money, we have decided that the five hundred rupee and thousand rupee currency notes presently in use will no longer be legal tender from midnight tonight, that is 8th November 2016…This step will strengthen the hands of the common man in the fight against corruption, black money and fake currency.” 

Within minutes, the Modi government’s sudden but big move was extolled, debated, dissected and analysed, however, the good feeling soon ebbed away leading to panic and anxiety: How to get rid of the old defunct Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes?

Since 8 November, the lines in front of banks and ATMs have only grown and so has the frustration and helplessness of citizens. While representatives of the government have repeatedly assured that the situation will normalise soon, people are not buying it anymore. Despite the prime minister various members of his Cabinet appealing to the country to focus on the big picture, life for the majority of Indians has been reduced to an endless queue.

People stand in long queues outside a bank. PTI

People stand in long queues outside a bank. PTI

Gauging the mood of the nation, Modi made an emotional appeal in Goa: “Dear countrymen, please give me these 50 days. I am not demanding anything else. If you face any difficulty after that, if you find me dishonest in my efforts, you can punish me in whatever way you would wish to at any crossroad of the country.”

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday said that move to demonetise the high-value notes was “very well-planned”, and added that the rush in bank branches is “significantly” coming down and 22,000 ATMs are getting recalibrated daily in order to dispense Rs 100, and new Rs 500 and 2,000 notes.

But the ground reality is completely different. People are camping overnight outside ATMs and banks. The urban salaried class of India might have moved to a cashless way of life. Thanks to the cab aggregators, payment gateways and mobile apps, surviving without hard cash may not seem to be so daunting. With the persisting cash crunch, it is the good old jugaad that has come to the rescue of many Indians. Mobile recharges in exchange of vegetables, online transfers instead of cash payments are the new norm. But what about thousands others who have never heard of payment gateways and net banking? India is far away from being a cashless society, forget online banking, there are many who don’t have debit cards or even banks accounts. There are senior citizens, who prefer to keep emergency funds at home, instead of making multiple trips to the ATM. Did the government take the plight of these people into account before plunging into this scheme?

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

You will only have to stand in a queue outside an ATM to realise the extent of Indian resilience, or may be it is desperation. People come stocked with food and juice as if its a prized picnic spot, there is free exchange of information, friends and family drop by or take turns to stand in queue, flared tempers turn into friendly banter — the Indian masses’ stoic acceptance of their lot is worth admiring. But it is not happy tales everywhere. There are reports of people collapsing while standing in queues, some have resulted in deaths. Office-goers have been forced to skip work to get hold of their hard-earned cash.

The situation in small towns and villages is worse.

TS Sudhir writes for Firstpost: Srinivas, a farmer in Siddipet town of Telangana, says “This is Rs 10,000, all in denominations of 2,000. This is of no use. I can neither buy a cup of tea for myself or a meal for Rs 5 nor buy a bus ticket.” While Aijaz Nazir interviewed Ghulam Ali from Anantnag in Kashmir, who said, “I need money to book a ticket for my daughter who studies outside Kashmir. Her exams are approaching and I am worried whether she will be able to attend those.” Ali used to book her tickets from home when internet services were functional in the Kashmir Valley.

Adding to the cash crisis, are the constant change in policies that many are finding difficult to track. Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das’ Thursday’s announcement that families that have an upcoming wedding, one member of the household can withdraw up to Rs 2,50,000 at one time came as good news, lowering the maximum sum that could be exchanged from Rs 4,500 to Rs 2,000 drew a lot of criticism.

Harry Stevens and Suchetana Ray wrote in the Hindustan Times, that to print new Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 notes and replace the Rs 14 trillion taken out of circulation, will take around six months.  “Printing 17.5 billion notes at a rate of three billion notes per month will take almost six months,” says the report.  The problems don’t end there. The notes have to distributed across the country and the ATMs have to recaliberated.

It’s day nine of demonetisation. Parliament is in uproar over the issue, protests are breaking out, politicians are fighting it out to earn some brownie points, but the line outside ATMs and banks are not moving. The situation has not improved since day one. Banks are overburdened, ATMs are running dry, government is busy is facing Opposition onslaught, while the masses wait in queues to get what is rightfully theirs.

And things show little sign of improving.

(With inputs from agencies)

First Published On : Nov 18, 2016 17:10 IST

Australia cuts stay of 457 visa holders, Indians to be adversely affected

Melbourne: Australia has announced changes to the ‘457 visa’ programme for skilled foreign workers to limit their ability to look for another job after their official employment ends, a move that will adversely affect Indians working in the country.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Foreign workers on a 457 visa will only now be able to stay in Australia for 60 days after their employment ends instead of 90.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton on Wednesday said, “From November 19, 2016 the period that a subclass 457 visa holder may remain in Australia after their employment ceases will be reduced from 90 days to 60 days.”

“The change is expected to assist in ensuring that the 457 programme met its intent of acting as a supplement to, rather than a substitute for, Australian workers apart from reducing the vulnerability of 457 visa holders, who were only permitted to work for an approved sponsor and were not eligible for unemployment benefits, from entering into informal employment arrangements.”

The minister said that the government was committed to ensuring that Australian workers have priority and to reducing the potential for temporary visa holders to be exploited.

“This change is about reducing competition from overseas workers for those Australians who are actively looking for work,” Dutton said.

“The Government values the contribution made by the many skilled persons who work in Australia on 457 visas, but where there is an Australian worker ready, willing and able to perform a role it is the government’s policy that they have priority,” he said.

He said the government’s approach compared with that of the former Labor government, which increased the time that 457 visa holders may remain in Australia when they cease employment from 28 days to 90 days in June 2013.

“The Subclass 457 programme was not effectively managed by Labor, as with so many other areas of government. Labor’s mismanagement saw the Subclass 457 programme grow from around 68,000 primary visa holders at the end of June 2010 to more than 110,000 when they were removed from office,” he said.

Upon coming to power, the Coalition undertook an independent review of the subclass 457 visa and has been implementing recommendations of that review since.

This change to 457 visa arrangements is part of the government’s ongoing commitment to ensure integrity in the programme.

The 457 visa is granted to foreign workers for four years and is designed to fill positions that are difficult to find Australians for, ABC Online said.

There are a range of different occupations on the list from different salary levels and different education backgrounds, including neurologists, midwives, cabinet makers and lift mechanics.

In the last financial year, the largest amount of visas were granted to cooks.

The largest number of workers come from India (26.8 percent), followed by employees from the UK (15 percent) and China (6.6 percent).

First Published On : Nov 18, 2016 09:28 IST

Decision to put indelible ink is senseless, Fascist and Nazist act of branding people: Congress

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress on accused the government of “branding” people through its “fascist act” of inking those exchanging demonetised currency notes even as it charged Prime Minister Narendra Modi with “disrespecting” Parliament by not hearing out concerns raised by members on demonetization.Party spokesperson Anand Sharma said the Modi government was “insulting and harassing” crores of Indians by subjecting them to stand in long queues to withdraw money and demanded apology from the Prime Minister and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. “The decision to put indelible ink on fingers of account holders is a senseless, Fascist and Nazist act of branding people. It is shameful that they have done so with foreign tourists. Instead of sermonising, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Finance minister should hang their heads in shame and apologise to the people,” he told PTI.He said the Prime Minister saying that he will not answer the concerns raised by opposition members in Parliament shows how he is “disrespecting” Parliament. “The PM’s stand in not being present in Parliament smacks of arrogance and disrespect for the institution of Parliament. Narendra Modi does not have the courage to face the truth and lacks the grace to apologise to the people for the suffering inflicted on crores of Indians,” he said. The Congress leader said India’s image globally has been besmirched with foreign missions issuing advisories to their citizens against travelling to India.Sharma also accused the Prime Minister of indulging in “selective leaks” from September onwards and said “it is government’s failure to maintain secrecy and selectively leak the proposed step to individuals and vested interests and groups identified with BJP.” “It is a big scam which demands an investigation. The opposition demand of JPC is fully justified and we are determined to press for it,” he said.

Sonam Gupta ‘bewafa’ once again, courtesy new notes

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Writing on currency notes is a strict no-no, with the government having stated that any defaced notes are immediately void. However, that’s not stopping internet trolls from using the new Rs 2,000 notes to breathe new life into an old joke.‘Sonam Gupta bewafa hai’ (Sonam Gupta is unfaithful) is something you might’ve already come across at some point. While no one really knows where this particular phrase was born, a lot of Indians will remember seeing it written in Devanagari script on Rs 10 notes at one time or another.Whoever the heartbroken lover may have been, what likely started out as spiteful comment spiralled into a common knowledge trend, similar to the ‘Beanbags’ graffiti spray painted across Mumbai’s walls in yesteryears. Eventually, the trend died down, and people stopped maligning the unidentified Sonam Gupta on their currency for fun. But now, thanks to the issuance of the new currency, people are once again sporting the phrase on their Rs 2,000 notes.It’s taken over social media, making thousands wonder – who is this heart-breaker Sonam Gupta? And do others who share her name find it as funny?Sonam Gupta (21), a commerce student from Mumbai, isn’t affected by the trend. “Some years ago too this had appeared all over social media,” she says. “We can’t take everything seriously. She believes that the jilted lover was stupid to make his personal grouse public. “I am constantly receiving messages and getting tagged in such posts all over social media. It doesn’t matter, people will stop after a while,” the college girl states. She isn’t ready to lose her sleep over something so stupid. “It’s not worth my attention,” she smirks.“One of my friends forwarded me a picture and then followed a queue of messages and posts. I’ve never even had a boyfriend in my entire life,” sighs Sonam Gupta, who is pursuing her Bachelor of Dental Surgery from Indore. Initially, she took it sportingly, finding humour in the coincidence of the name. “My family too laughed about it when they first read this online, but later they were equally irritated,” adds the 23-year-old. She says she is being ridiculed even in her college (being the only Sonam Gupta in her batch). Even her WhatsApp status indicates how bored of the joke she has become. “Hey there! I am not that ‘Bewafa Sonam’… so please stop sending me ‘Sonam Gupta Bewafa hai’ images and links.”Having been single her entire life, Hyderabad based Sonam Gupta says she couldn’t be bothered about the whole issue. “Why would I be angry or take it personally?” she asks.“I am not the unfaithful one. I am pretty chilled out about the whole thing,” laughs the 23-year-old. Although her friends have been teasing her with photos saying, “Look, you’re famous” she just replies with a smiley face. The engineer says she can’t even be mad at her friends, as she would have done exactly the same thing in their position. “It’s the way friends have fun,” she shrugs.

Demonetisation will hit agriculture, informal sector workers the most: Study

By Abhishek Waghmare

The demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes will hurt agriculture, informal sector workers — about 482 million people who earn cash incomes — and disrupt India’s consumption patterns for at least the next quarter, according to an assessment released last week by Deloitte, an international consulting firm.

In contrast, sectors like e-commerce and payment banks, payment gateways are set to gain as transactions using cashless methods will increase over the coming months, the Deloitte report said, emphasising that “the long-term outlook remains positive”.


Advertisement of an online payment gateway, PayTM, published on the front page of major newspapers on November 10, 2016

The lines to exchange defunct Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes grew across India, as fraying tempers and scuffles were reported.

Source: Indian Express.

The prime minister – who had promised working ATMs by day three – pleaded for 50 days to set the chaos right, and his government extended the validity of the old notes in select transactions for another 10 days.

While the short term impacts will be pronounced on the brick-and-mortar retail sector like kirana shops, vegetable and fruit vendors, long-term negative impacts on the real-estate sector are possible, the Deloitte report said.

“Overall, a likely negative impact on disposable income is expected along with disruption in the consumption patterns of the general populace,” said the report, which called demonetisation “arguably one of the most significant reform measures in its tenure” and “an expeditious move to boldly counter the black money and parallel economy”.

Others are not as optimistic. Demonetisation has perhaps “penalised” the entire informal sector and damaged it permanently”, especially the informal financial sector, which could account for a fourth of bank lending, or 26 percent of GDP, wrote Pronab Sen, country director of the India Central Programme of the International Growth Centre, a think tank.

“There is no doubt whatsoever that Modi has pulled off a major political and publicity coup and substantially enhanced his reputation as a muscular leader, but surely somebody needs to ask: at what price?” wrote Sen on 14 November, 2016 in Ideas for India, an economics and policy portal.

Rs 14 lakh crore – or $217 billion, 86 percent of the value of Indian currency then in circulation – became useless from midnight of 8 November, 2016, part of the government’s crackdown on black, or unaccounted, money, which accounts for about a fifth of the economy, as IndiaSpend reported on 8 November, 2016.

Agriculture, under stress for two years, was forecast to grow 4 percent

Agricultural growth in India contracted 0.2 percent in 2014-15 and grew no more than 1.2 percent in 2015-16, largely because of back-to-back droughts.

Agriculture was expected to grow at 4 percent this year according to this October 2016 CRISIL report, but demonetisation is likely to dent that forecast. India is currently in the midst of the winter sowing season, but farmers are reported to be running out of cash to buy seeds.


Source: Key Economic Indicators, Office of the Economic Advisor

* Note: For 2016-17, number represents prospective growth figures.

Indian farmers expect a record harvest this year, as IndiaSpend reported in October 2016, but the rural economy–on which 800 million people, or 65 percent of India’s population, depend – is largely driven by cash. Farmers buy seeds, fertilisers and farm equipment in cash, pay their workers in cash, and traders and commission agents pay farmers in cash.

The shortage of cash is spreading anger in the countryside.

Informal economy has limited access to internet, online payment

The informal economy — which presently employs more than 80 percent of India’s workforce — includes workers in small and medium industries, grocers, barbers, maids and others.

Roadside vendors, cab drivers, kirana stores and medical stores have stopped accepting Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.

People who do not use debit or credit cards, access the internet or use mobile banking and e-wallets will be the worst hit, said the Deloitte report. India has about 700 million debit and 25 million credit cards, according to this Reserve Bank of India data; about 950 million people (78 percent of the population), do not have an internet connection.

The demonetisation-led slowdown may also impact a key economic driver, private consumption, the things that people buy.

Private consumption, as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) has been steadily rising over five years to 2015-16, according to data from the office of government’s economic advisor.

Source: Key Economic Indicators, Office of the Economic Advisor

Note: * Provisional estimates

E-commerce, payment companies to benefit

As e-commerce websites stop cash-on-delivery – the most favoured option for Indian online shoppers, comprising 80 percent of sales – and struggle to hand over to banks the money they collected after demonetisation, the report predicted a rebound that will benefit both the e-commerce industry and companies facilitating payments to it, such as payment gateway companies, payments banks and electronic money transfer portals.

Online transactions in India rose 40 percent in 2015, IndiaSpend reported on 12 November, 2016.

Other possible impacts that the Deloitte report listed: A hit on foreign trade as the rupee currency appreciates; lower inflation and cheaper prices, especially in the real-estate sector.


Purchasing power of Indians in peril, says report

“As far as the real economy is concerned, there is going to be huge blow to purchasing power. All kinds of people who were accepting notes are going to refuse to accept the notes,” economics writer Swaminathan Anklesaria Aiyar, told the Economic Times.

“Domestically, there could be some turmoil as the effect will be disproportionately felt by the lower and upper income classes,” the Deloitte report said.

(The author is an analyst with IndiaSpend)

First Published On : Nov 15, 2016 11:10 IST

Demonetisation: Move over bhakts and trolls, citizens want unprejudiced debate, reliable info

Pained by the insults that the friends and foes of Narendra Modi are heaping on each other over his move to flush out black money, I write two separate notes to them and beg for ceasefire.

First to the Prime Minister’s friends:

If tweets were bullets and Facebook posts were poison-tipped arrows, half of Indians would have been dead by now. Neither your group nor the one that is rubbishing Modi’s move to flush out black money is in a mood to call truce.

It has been 96 hours since this cyber space dishum dishum began, and the ache in my head refuses to go away. My head feels as if two people are tugging my hair in opposite directions.

But a particular tweet nearly got me on Sunday. Even as I was reading it, mulling over the wisdom of it, I fell off my chair, got up after several minutes, shouted for water, gulped it down like a thirsty desert vagabond, got up, pinched my cheek to confirm I was awake, read it again and began to type these letters with a shaking finger.

Here is that tweet:

Okay. To talk about the inconveniences caused by demonetisation, I must either be corrupt to the marrow of my bone or I must be moonlighting for a mafia establishment run on money as black as Singareni coal. To be honest, I am neither of that. Yet, I have been inconvenienced by the sudden scrapping of the Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes. The move was a bolt from the blue.

People queued outside an ATM. PTI

People queued outside an ATM. PTI

Let me tell you about my mother. On 4 November, four days before Modi announced the currency ban, I withdrew Rs 30,000 from her pension account and handed it to her in Visakhapatnam for her expenses. Then I travelled a thousand kilometres to make my living — to reiterate, not from a mafia.

On the night of 8 November, I remembered to my utter shock that Rs 28,500 of the money I gave my mother was in Rs 500s. You can imagine her inconvenience. And I am far away.

On 10 November, when ATMs — or at least some of them — were expected to open after a day of closure, I made a dash for eight of them close to where I lived. Six were shut like graves, with not a word of explanation as to why. Two had no money. I was inconvenienced. I went to banks, but the helpful souls at the counters threw up their empty hands before my turn came in the queues that spilled onto streets. I was inconvenienced.

I repeated this routine every day without result, till no three words of any alphabet created such mixed emotions of fear, hope and hate like A, T and M. Then finally on 13 November, I found an ATM with cash. I am lucky, and I feel sorry for those who aren’t.

Yet, I continue to be inconvenienced — mentally — by reports of small businessmen shutting shops for lack of customers, hospitals turning away patients who can pay only with scrapped notes and senior citizens collapsing like heaps of bones or even dying in cash queues.

In his 8 November speech, Modi led us to believe that the inconvenience would last no longer than 72 hours. But it still goes on. That leaves us with uncomfortable questions. Did the government underestimate the hassles that the move would cause the common man? Or did it overestimate its own efficiency? Why didn’t it deal with this changeover on a war-footing?

Reports suggest that cash is available but distributing it to banks and ATMs is causing logistical nightmare. So why didn’t the government get the NGOs, the police, the military and the paramilitary forces into the operation?

An important point of this letter is that there is a group of people which wholeheartedly backs the move to ferret out the black money but that, at the same time, gives expression to its inconveniences. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this group is even larger than the other two representing Modi’s friends and foes.

Telling me not to talk about my inconvenience is like kicking the meal plate away from me and then stuff a ball of gag into my mouth. That intensifies the inconvenience.

And that amounts to a bias on your part.

Give us a break.

Dispassionate citizens are looking for dependable information and unprejudiced debate.


To the foes of Narendra Modi

You flummox me as much as the friends of Modi.

Like a railroad worm burrowing into an apple, a suspicion gnaws at my mind. It’s that you are using demonetisation to indulge in demonisation of the man who is behind it all. You had closed your warped and dwarfed minds to the whole idea and were tweeting venom on Modi even before he had finished his 8 November announcement. From the start, you have been mulishly refusing to offer him even a tiny bit of a benefit of doubt that any civilised soul would extend to his worst enemy who professes good intentions.

The currency changeover caused inconvenience. It really did, in a big way. But to conform to your prejudices, you dwell on nothing but that, sometimes blowing the common man’s hassles out of proportions and sometimes spreading falsehoods. You are refusing to even acknowledge the possibility that the whole thing might after all do some good which it might.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

As you see it through your blinkered eyes, the sole purpose of demonetisation is to hassle honest citizens in the name of catching crooks. It’s as if, according to you, Modi were a suicidal maniac who has hit upon an idea to harass his own voters, daring them to vote for him in elections three years from now. And it’s as if Modi was Tughlaq who woke up one fine morning and decreed to his minions: “Change the currency!”

Fundamentally, you not only question the very utility of demonetisation but even attribute sinister motives to him, not by way of a healthy debate but by pouring scorn on the man who promises to fight corruption and begs for a chance to do it.

And you brim with questions, which include:

Do crooks always stack up black money in pillow covers and under the bed? Isn’t a good part of black money lying hidden in real estate, benami deals and gold? Are the troubles that people are being subjected to worth the effort? Can’t the crooks divide their black loot into small portions of less than Rs 2.5 lakh and distribute it to flunkeys and relatives to legalise it without penalty?

There are indeed reputed economists who believe that demonetisation is not an option to eradicate black money or corruption. And it’s indeed a mighty good thing to ask questions in a democracy.

But there is a problem. Scarcely hidden behind your questions is a pre-determined eagerness to knock the bottom out of Modi’s boat. And you then brand anyone not toeing your school of thought as a Modi bhakt. As a matter of fact, you yourselves, strike us as either the acolytes of the Nehru dynasty or bhakts of Karl Max who cannot have an opinion unless it runs contrary to that of Modi.

And that amounts to a bias on your part.

Give us a break.

Dispassionate citizens are looking for dependable information and unprejudiced debate.

(The author tweets @sprasadindia)

First Published On : Nov 15, 2016 08:24 IST

Demonetization: Yay or Nay

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>There are several opinions about PM Modi’s groundbreaking announcement—all 500 and 1,000 rupee notes are now banned in India. With all the havoc of the new 2,000 rupee notes, overcrowded banks and ATMs, the youth of India share their views on this new economic development.I think what PM Modi has done for our country is really brave, and India really needed it. The black money problem will probably never be completely resolved (because we’re Indians after all), but at the end of the day he’s reduced it by a substantial amount. It feels good that we’ll have a better distribution of money in the future, and of course reduced terrorism.— Maya Jindal, 18, PuneI know everyone thinks that this is good for us, but I personally feel it isn’t. I don’t think it benefits our generation in any way, because there is always a way people can convert their black money. It’s India we’re talking about. I don’t think there’s much good for our country. Even poor people have black money, and the citizens are being put through so much trouble, going to banks everyday and waiting in queues to get money. — Apeksha Chauhan, 17, Mumbai“People may find it tough to get exact change for a few weeks, but its just the initial teething problem. I think demonetization is a good decision to stop black money and corruption in the country. This decision has also resulted in recovering black money at many places.— Kapil Balagopal,17, MumbaiThe demonetization was a good move, but the government should have been prepared for the chaos that is happening now. People are badly effected because of this. Students don’t have time to stand in long queues as our exams are going on. Our pocket money has also been affected due to this mismanagement.— Hasti Vora, 17, MumbaiPM Modi has taken a bold step in deciding all of this, but I feel like it was a little sudden and not well planned.Many people are suffering right now. Nevertheless, he has done the right thing for our country, and I hope the future holds better things for India.— Ishan Makhija, 18, MumbaiWhat PM Modi did may have good intentions, but I feel it has not been planned out well enough. Banks and ATMs are running out of cash, and people are waiting for hours in queues to withdraw money every day. While all this was done to improve the lives of the poor, it is really the poor who are being affected right now ,since they may not have credit/debit cards. They are struggling to pay for their day to day affairs. I hope it all becomes better soon, and the PM’s plan works out for the better.— Nishi Panicker, 18, MumbaiThe fact that the PM has attempted to get our country rid of terrorists, black money, and make it move towards being more developed, is something I really respect him for. This is the only way India can actually progress, by eradicating black money. In all honesty, it might be difficult for the higher strata of society, but that’s okay. India needs to learn to think for others, pay their taxes, and that’s why the West is considered ‘developed’. — Gul Thakur, 18, ChennaiDemonetization was a good decision by the government. But when it was declared in the evening, travelling home back was really difficult for students on that day. We didn’t have any change to give autorickshaw-wallahs and the ATMs were not working either.— Aakash Kolekar, 18, MumbaiI completely support PM Modi’s decision, and I’m really looking forward to what he’s going to do next. It seems like it’s going to be a long process to get everything in order, but if it’s for the greater good, I’m okay with that.— Khushi Barjatya, 18, BangaloreI think that what PM Modi has done will definitely remove black money, bring more money back into circulation, destroy fake currency which destroys terrorism and increase government revenue. I think it’s a great move.— Araash Mehta, 15, Mumbai

ISIS operative confirms Maharashtra-based couple’s presence in IS-held Mosul: Report

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Subahani Haja Moideen, an Indian alleged to be an ISIS operative, arrested from Tamil Nadu, has reportedly told the National Investigation Agency (NIA), that he met a couple from Maharashtra in Islamic State-held territory Mosul, in Iraq, The Hindu reported.According to the report, confirming the presence of an Indian woman, Moideen reportedly told the investigators that during his stay in Iraq, he met the couple, and that they were the only Indians he had come across in Iraq.”He (Moideen) said he met them briefly in a public place,” a senior NIA official told the daily.
ALSO READ ISIS changes strategy, plans to use women as suicide bombers: ReportHowever, he also told the interrogators that he was not sure whether the couple were fighting for the IS.We are trying to determine if the woman went from India or travelled via a third country, the official said.
ALSO READ ‘Indian ISIS operative Subahani Haja Moideen knew Paris bombing accused’31-year-old Moideen was arrested by the NIA with the help of central security agencies and the state police, foiling designs of ISIS operatives to target a few judges of Kerala and foreign tourists visiting the coastal state.He was in Iraq for five months from April 8, 2015. He was taken to Mosul and underwent detailed ‘religious training’, followed by combat training, which included a course in automated weapons. He was then deputed to fight for almost two weeks.During the war, he told interrogators that he was paid $100 per month as an allowance by the ISIS besides being provided with accommodation and food.He arrived in Mumbai after a gap of six months in September last year on an emergency certificate, and returned to his ancestral place where he was staying with his wife. He later managed to get a job at a jewellery shop at Kadayanallur in Tamil Nadu.

Demonetization: PM Modi salutes undaunting spirit of Indians; says hoarders won’t be spared

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday saluted 125 crore Indians for their undaunting spirit, saying government will do everything to protect the interests of honest citizens, even as long serpentine queues were witnessed at bank branches for the third straight day across the country.Addressing Indian community in Japan’s Kobe before departing for India, PM Modi said, “I salute each and every Indian. Many families had weddings, health problems, they faced inconvenience but they accepted the decision.”Stating that we need to free India from the menace of poverty, Modi said, “This government will do everything to protect the interests of honest citizens. Money that has been looted has to be recovered. And the rules have to be same for everyone.””Will check records since Independence. If I come across unaccounted cash, no body will be spared,” Modi added.The Prime Minister also said that there is no guarantee that no new measure will be introduced after December 30 to crackdown on black money holders.Meanwhile, dubbing the demonetization of high currency notes as a “huge scam”, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal alleged BJP had told all its “friends” about the move much before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement and demanded its immediate roll back.People including elderly and women in large numbers were queueing up to get the valid currency notes needed to meet their daily expenses. To add to the misery still half of the ATMs are non-functional, making people agitated about the lack of infrastructure preparedness for the note exchange programme.

‘H-1B visa ‘potential area of conflict’ between Indo-US under Donald Trump’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Donald Trump’s administration would build on progress made in Indo-US ties and be less tolerant of Pakistan’s “dual policies” on terror, but the issue of H-1B visas could be a potential area of friction with New Delhi, a noted US expert on South Asian issues has said.”It seems likely that a Trump administration will build on the marked progress made in US-India relations over the last couple of years,” Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation, a top American think-tank said.She said there is bipartisan recognition in the US that India plays an important role when it comes to achieving American objectives in the Asia Pacific, namely ensuring a rules-based international order and free and open seaways.”President-elect Trump made several positive comments about India on the campaign trail, which seems to reflect his support for bolstering the partnership,” said Curtis, who at The Heritage, focuses on US national security issues and regional geopolitics.Curtis said Trump’s tougher stance on terrorism, in general, will find favour among Indians, who are wary of attacks by Pakistan-based terrorist groups.”It is expected that a Trump administration will work more closely with India on combating terrorism in the region and will be less tolerant of Pakistan’s dual policies toward terrorism,” Curtis said.However, H-1B is a potential area of conflict between the two countries, she noted.”One area of potential friction could be over the H1-B visa issue. It is still unclear how Trump’s global business background will impact on his commitment to protect American workers,” she said.”He has both acknowledged the importance of allowing high tech companies to access global talent, while also pointing out potential flaws and misuse of the H1-B visa program. His administration may seek some changes to the H1-B visa requirements but is unlikely to do away with the program completely,” Curtis said.

Donald Trump regime will be good for India, here are five reasons why

One of the strangest things about the 2016 US presidential election is how little we know about the winner: Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States.

To a certain extent, this is quite amusing given the excruciatingly lengthy nature of the campaign. As Emma Roller counted in The New York Times, “By Election Day, the campaign will have gone on for 597 days. In the span of which we’ve been paying attention to the same presidential campaign, we could have instead hosted approximately four Mexican elections, seven Canadian elections, 14 British elections, 14 Australian elections or 41 French elections.”

And yet despite numerous articles and several hours of TV debates over the last 19 months, tragically, all we have on Trump is a caricature as grotesque as his naked statues.

Narendra Modi and Donald TrumpNarendra Modi and Donald Trump

Narendra Modi and Donald Trump

We know that he boasts about grabbing female genitalia, walks in unannounced inside changing rooms of beauty pageants, doesn’t pay taxes, threatens immigrants and vows to ban Muslims. But apart from his scandals and moral failings what do we know about the man who will be the most powerful leader in the world? What do we know about his views on America’s foreign policy, trade relations, geostrategic and geopolitical affairs — stuff that may affect us and the world around us — beyond a few broad brush strokes?

This is chiefly because the media never took “Trump the candidate” seriously and dismissed him as a clown on the sidewalk. It remained trapped in a self-created illusion even though Trump was moving up the primaries, caucuses and knocking Republicans off (and fumbling his way through the debates). The media gave him no chance. Cocksure in belief and cocooned in utter disconnect from the people on the street, the media mistook the affluent coastal cities, a few Silicon Valley tycoons and Hollywood superstars for America.

So, now we are saddled with the task of deciphering how Trump presidency would impact the world and India based on the scrapings from his campaign. In the absence of the vetting that the media should have done before he was elected to the Oval Office, we must, post-facto, try to piece together a coherent picture.

I believe there are five broad areas to focus on when it comes to the Indo-US relationship under Donald Trump. These would be (in no specific order) geostrategic affairs, trade relations, immigration and visa policy, the personal equation between leaders of the two nations and bilateral relationship.

Geostrategic affairs: Early reactions indicate that Pakistan and China are nervous about resetting their relationship with the US. That would imply good news for India because America under the Democrats had been very convenient for both. While Pakistan has successfully exploited its geostrategic positioning to blackmail the US into providing a perpetual line of credit, China has sucked dry US manufacturing jobs and runs a huge trade surplus.

Not surprisingly, both nations have issued nervous statements, warning Washington that any change in the terms of engagements will end up harming US interests. While China is concerned about increased American isolationism, Pakistan’s nervousness stems from Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric and his open admiration for India.

At this point, it is difficult to be sure just how much of Trump’s campaign rhetoric will spill over and affect his normative thinking but any resetting of the US-Pak relationship should be good news for India. As Pakistan’s foreign policy analyst Hasan Aksari Rizvi told Reuters, “America will not abandon Pakistan, but definitely, Trump will be a tougher President than Hillary Clinton for Pakistan… I think India will have a better and smoother interaction compared to Pakistan.”

We get a peek into Trump’s mind when he talked to CNN in Wisconsin about the cocktail of radical Islamist terrorism and nuclear weaponry that is brewing in Pakistan, or his assertion in an American radio show last September that Pakistan is the world’s most dangerous country and the US needs to work very closely with India to check it. Again, one isn’t sure how much of this he may successfully carry into the White House when he sits down with the Secretary of State and his policy wonks but this should give an indication to Islamabad that it may not be business as usual.

Hillary Clinton’s presidency would have ensured a measure of continuity of Barack Obama’s policies. For China, though, Trump presidency might be a mixed bag. While more duties and tariffs on imports may hit China hard at a time when its domestic economy is grappling with a slowdown and bursting of credit bubble still looms as a Damoclean sword, it would be heartened by Trump’s assertion that he intends to reduce America’s interventionism in global affairs. Translation: American submarines might not patrol the South China Sea any longer.

When that happens, sovereign nations affected by China’s aggressive geopolitical ambition might veer towards the other great Asian power: India.

It would be pertinent to remember that at this stage, all of this is little more than guesswork and Trump is marvellously unpredictable.

Trade relations: Trump faces an incongruity of policies because the angry, forgotten men and women who propelled him to Oval Office demand a greater share of the economic spoils that globalisation promised but failed to deliver. A tiny few seemed to have gotten richer in a globalised world at the expense of a vast number of the discontented, and the inequality of wealth has caused an angry populace to install a protectionist leader at the helm.

Trump vowed, just like Nigel Farage (the father of Brexit) did, that he would slap duties, taxes and tariffs but in a world which runs on interconnectivity, that would mean raising costs of the nuts and bolts of the engine that drives America.

As New York Times points out, “the American economy depends on access to a global supply chain that produces parts used by innumerable industries, along with a great range of consumer goods. Mexico and China are central actors. Disruption threatens to increase costs for American households. Tariffs on China might provoke a trade war that could slow economic growth, while most likely just shifting factory work to Vietnam and India.”

If America raises the cost of trade with China, India stands to benefit in more ways than one.

Immigration policy: This has been the biggest area of concern for Indians. Given the fact that we are witnessing a global backlash against softer borders and easier immigration policies, one may be inclined to think that Trump’s term might be bad for India’s IT industry. But the reality isn’t so simple. Trump has been contradictory, at certain times he has been praising the contribution made by skilled Indian workers and at other times needling US companies for hiring them in large numbers.

As a report in Times of India elucidates, Trump said in October last year that he was in favour of bringing skilled foreign workers into the US, as long as they come legally. He repeated it in March saying how Silicon Valley cannot be run without Indians and that very smart ones educated in the US should be allowed to remain there. “Many people want to stay in this country and then want to do that. I think somebody that goes through years of college in this country we shouldn’t kick them out the day they graduate, which we do,” he added, according to the newspaper. Yet he has also canvassed for increasing the H1B visa fees to pressurise US companies into hiring domestic workers.

Overall, one gets an impression that Trump regime may not go for any radical overhaul of the system that has been working well.

The personal equation between leaders: Trump has never hidden his admiration for Narendra Modi and has been effusive in his praise for Hindus and Indians — though it isn’t clear just how much he understands the fact that the terms are not synonymous. Speaking to NDTV during a fundraiser organised by Republican Hindu Coalition, Trump said: “I have great respect for Hindus. I have so many friends that are Hindu and they are amazing entrepreneurs. I have jobs going up in India right now. I have great respect for India. It’s an amazing country.” He also asserted that were he to be elected, “Indian and Hindu community will have a true friend in the White House”.

He even borrowed Modi’s 2014 slogan during the campaign, tweaking it to “Ab ki baar, Trump sarkar” during an Indian American outreach programme. He has praised Modi’s leadership, his effort to simplify the tax system through GST and on his part, Modi has carefully veered away from reacting to any of the controversies that dogged Trump during the election campaign. With a better personal equation between the two leaders, Indo-US relationship should remain on the path of a greater synergy.

Bilateral relationship: When it comes to government to government relationship, A Trump regime might be just what the doctor ordered for India, which is boxed in by an irritant in Pakistan and a formidable power in China. Indo-US areas of interest converge on a number of issues and Trump, for one, has not been hesitant in calling India America’s “natural ally”.

As news agency PTI had reported, during the Republican Hindu caucus Trump extolled India before a cheering crowd as “the world’s largest democracy and a natural ally of the US”. He said, “Under a Trump Administration, we are going to become even better friends, in fact, I would take the term better out and we would be best friends… We are for free trade. We will have good trade deals with other countries. We are going to do a lot of business with India. We are going to have a phenomenal future together.”

Indian wonks and political leaders should find it easier to deal with a businessman rather than a career politician like Clinton who carried a greater understanding of bilateral relations but also a huge baggage of past mutual suspicion. Trump, who still has large business interests in India, should be a refreshing change. On India’s areas of foremost concern such as cross-border terrorism, Trump has taken a firmer stand than Clinton would have ever taken. A Trump regime should be good for India.

First Published On : Nov 11, 2016 16:56 IST