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Demonetisation: In Kerala, many back cashless drive but political opposition remains concern

Gafoor T was restless when he found 70 percent drop in sales in his tea powder shop at Kottakkal in Malappuram district of Kerala post-demonetisation. He did not have much hope when employees of the Akshaya Common Service Centre approached him with a suggestion to use e-wallet to overcome the cash crunch that hit his business.

Though Gafoor was aware of e-wallets, he was skeptical how his customers, who are mostly rural folks, will receive it. To his utter dismay, Gafoor found most people willing to use their mobile phones to buy tea leaves.

After he put up a board announcing acceptance of e-wallets outside his shop, Gafoor saw not only his old customers returning but also new ones joining him. This has helped him not only cover the loss but also gain additional 10 percent sales in just one month.

Niyas Pulppadan, Malappuram district coordinator of Akshaya, a project initiated by the Kerala government in 1990s to bridge digital divide, said many like Gafoor in the district had switched on to cashless transaction methods.

He told Firstpost that majority of the 850 merchants at Kottakkal were now using one or the other digital payment platforms to run their business. He said people both in rural and urban areas were eager to try the cashless transaction options.

All this is made possible by the intensive campaign launched by Akshaya, which was designated by the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology as the nodal agency for the ‘Go Cashless’ campaign in Kerala, to promote digital payment platforms among merchants and the general public.

digital-list

Cashless drive in Kerala has found many takers. Photo courtesy: TK Devasia

The drive being implemented through 2,654 Akshaya citizen service centres across Kerala with the help of banks and other agencies concerned and is aimed at bringing all 941 village panchayats, 87 municipalities and six corporations in the state into a cashless regime.

Niyas said almost all 94 panchayats and 12 municipalities in Malappuram district had completed the target and the district was ready to be declared as the first cashless district in India. A place is deemed to be cashless, when at least 10 traders and more than 40 consumers start using digital wallet as per the Government of India’s directive.

“We needed to enable only 4,240 consumers and 1,060 traders to use digital wallet to get the cashless district status according to the government norms. But we have already reached out to 18,650 people and more than 1,200 traders in the district. We expect an official declaration in the first week of January,” said Niyas.

PP Jayakumar, manager, e-Governance and networking, Akshaya, said Malappuram was able to march ahead as it has a well-knit Akshaya network and has the highest number of migrants working abroad.

Malappuram was the first district in the country to achieve total computer literacy. At least one member in every family in the district was made e-literate under the Akshaya project piloted in the district way back in 2002.

“The other districts that followed suit are also trying to keep pace with Malappuram. Districts like Thrissur, Kottayam, Kozhikode, Palakkad, and Pathanamthitta are closely following Malappuram,” Jayakumar said.

He told Firstpost that their attempt was to bring the entire state into cashless economy. Akshaya has covered more than 2 lakh people and 13,000 merchants in the state so far under the campaign, he added.

Jayakumar said they were trying to familiarise people with digital payment platforms by organising live demonstrations. At the training sessions, participants are also given tips on enhancing security for online banking.

The initial focus is on five platforms, namely debit/credit/prepaid cards issued by banks, USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data), Aadhaar-enabled payment system (AEPS), UPI (Unified Payments Interface) and e-wallet. Jayakumar said that the e-wallet system was preferred by most people.

He said that the merchants had initially shown hesitation in accepting digital payments because of their fear about tax liabilities. However, they overcame the fear when they were told about the convenience and advantages of cashless transaction.

“The small traders need not fear about tax liabilities as turnover up to Rs 10 lakhs is now exempted from tax. This may go up to Rs 20 lakhs when GST is implemented. As far as big traders are concerned, cashless transactions will minimise the need for maintaining records and free them from security concerns,” he added.

Jayakumar pointed out a sharp drop in burglary and thefts following demonetisation. The traders, who had initially opposed demonetisation, are now fully supporting the digital payment drive. The Kerala Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samithi, which is rated as the single largest trade body in the world, is actively associating with the ‘Go Cashless’ campaign.

Niyas said that the Malappuram unit of the traders’ body had taken the lead in creating awareness among the merchants and the general public about e-wallets. They have joined hands with Akshaya in taking e-wallets to the people, he added.

Jayakumar said that the ‘Go Cashless’ campaign may help Kerala to increase the digital transactions by 30 to 40 percent. The total digital transactions in the state are now estimated to be around 30 percent. The state can easily switch over to full cashless economy with little more efforts, he added.

However, Akshaya coordinators in some districts are concerned about lack of support from political parties to the campaign. Devi S Nath, the coordinator of Palakkad district, said that the local bodies ruled by certain political parties were showing reluctance in issuing the certificate declaring the panchayats cashless.

This is mainly because of the political opposition to the demonetisation scheme. All parties, barring the BJP, had come out against the scheme citing hardships caused to the people.

While the Congress-led Opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) is lying low after their initial round of protests, the CPM-led ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) is trying to intensify their agitation by organising a human chain across the state on 29 December .

Senior Akshaya officials said that the political opposition will not affect the campaign as cashless transaction will improve tax compliance and boost the state’s revenue. In fact, digital payment is a major component of the digital empowerment programme launched by the state government with a view to bridge the digital divide by 2020.

The programme is aimed at making 10 lakh people digitally literate. The services of around 40,000 student police cadets (SPCs) from 400 schools across the state are proposed to be used for the training.

Tablets have already been provided to the students as part of the training ahead of the campaign. The pilot phase of the project in the state capital of Thiruvananthapuram is now nearing completion. It has covered 10,000 people in the district so far.

Kerala has all infrastructures in place to embrace cashless economy. Besides 100 percent literacy, Kerala is one of the most banked states in the country today. The state achieved 100 percent bank account coverage for all the household way back in 2011. The state now has one bank branch for every 5,900 persons as against all India average of 11,000.

Apart from this, Kerala also became India’s first complete digital state in 2015 after it achieved 100 percent mobile density, 75 percent e-literacy, highest digital banking rate and broadband connection up to panchayat level. The state has implemented e-district programmes in all districts and has linked Aadhaar card with bank accounts.

Akshaya officials hope that the current campaign will enable Kerala to achieve another distinction of becoming India’s first cashless state.

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 14:02 IST

‘Nothing’ has been done to secure my release, laments abducted Indian Catholic priest Father Tom

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>An Indian Catholic priest abducted from Yemen this year appealed to Pope Francis and the Union government through a purported video to secure his release from his captors.”If I were a European priest, I would have been taken more seriously. I am from India. I am perhaps not considered as of much value,” said priest Father Tom Uzhunnalil in a weak voice in the video, aired by news channels in Kerala.”Dear Pope Francis, dear Holy Father, as a father please take care of my life. I am very much depressed. My health is deteriorating,” he said in the video, a day after Christmas.Father Uzhunnalil, who looked very weak, appeared to be reading out from a text placed before him.The veracity of the video, which was uploaded from You tube and Facebook, could neither be independently verified nor was the period when it was shot known.Father Uzhunnalil, who hails from Kerala, was abducted in March by terror group Islamic State which attacked an old-age home run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in southern Yemeni city of Aden.He claimed his captors have made many contacts with the Government of India–President and Prime Minister. “I am very sad that nothing has been done seriously in my regard,” he said.He said reports had said everything has been done to get his release, “but in reality nothing” has been done.Father Uzhunnalil said a news reporter abducted in the Middle East was released as she was from France.”I am from India and not considered. Dear people, I pray you all, ask you all, beg you all to do your might to help me to save my life. I need hospitalisation soon. Please come to my help quickly,” he said.The Union Government has said efforts are being made to secure Uzhunnalil’s release, but such attempts take time.External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had informed Parliament that Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself has spoken to various countries through which contacts can be established in Yemen.Swaraj had said it takes more time to secure release of people who are held captive and asked the MPs to keep “faith” in government’s efforts to trace the abducted priest.

Suresh Prabhu promises WiFi in 200 stations in the coming year

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As part of its programme to upgrade facilities for rail users, Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu said in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday that 200 more stations and some additional trains would be provided with Wi-Fi in 2017. Dedicating six Wi-Fi facilities to rail users at Kannur, Ernakulam and Kollam at a function here, he said 100 stations had been fitted with Wi-Fi this year and the target was to double this number in 2017. “More trains will also would be provided with Wi-Fi next year,” he said. “The objective is to have Wi-Fi facility in all railway stations in small cities and towns,” he said.The Minister said steps were also on to construct escalators in stations, he said. Welcoming the Kerala government’s decision to sign a Joint Venture with Railways for development projects in the state, he said that as partners, the railways would be developed in the state. “The Centre and state will have equity in the venture and funds for the projects will be raised through market borrowings with the consent of the state government,” he said.The resources spent under the JV would be in addition to funds earmarked in the Railway budget, he added. Stating that investment in railway infrastructure can bring development to its optimum level in Kerala, Prabhu said he had asked some banks to prepare a business plan for the state.Prabhu admitted that there was a lack of railway investment in Kerala and said the NDA government’s move was to reverse that trend. Referring to remittances to the state from Non-Resident Keralites, he said even they could invest in railway projects. “They can develop a railway station”, he said, adding that the key objective was to join hands for development. The Railways was also looking out for resources other than its normal revenue. They were also looking into the possibility of converting its hospitals as medical college hospitals, he said.Chief Minister Pinrayi Vijayan and G Sudhakaran, PWD Minister and in charge of Railways were among those present.

Kerala stares at worst drought in 115 years: State may impose water rationing system

It is the worst drought to have hit the state in 115 years. If the forecast of the State Meteorological Department is read along with the reports coming from the groundwater authorities, Kerala is on the verge of a crisis of unprecedented proportions.

The Kerala State Disaster Management Authority (KSDMA) has called upon the government to brace itself for the impending crisis. For the first time ever, the state might soon impose a water rationing system across households and industries as recommended by the KSDMA. Irrigation has already been stopped across three districts in the state.

While the state had received a deficient of 33.7 percent rains from the South West Monsoon (SWM) from July to September this year, the real villain had been the North West Monsoon (NWM) winds which has more or less deserted the state between October and December.

rain-kerala

A 61 percent shortage in rainfall in these months has come as a shocker to the weathermen dashing all hopes of a revival. Though the state government had declared Kerala a drought-hit state in October itself after the initial monsoon setback, it is only now that the severity is staring the Pinarayi Vijayan administration in its face.

The State Emergency Operations Centre in Thiruvananthapuram is now a virtual war room as inter-departmental teams comprising of revenue, water, power, district administration and crisis management brainstorm their way to mitigate the looming calamity.

“This is a 115 years return interval drought. If 2012 was a 100-year one, this is worse. Such meteorological occurrence is very rare. We had anticipated this in October itself and so the government went for the declaration. But the next few months will be just terrible for the state, something we have never seen before,’’ says Shekhar L Kuriakose, member secretary, KSDMA.

From the year 1881 to 2000, there were 66 drought years in the state. But none of them has been as severe as this one. The 2012 drought was perhaps the worst one until this year. The absence of summer showers had spoilt the party then.

But what makes this year’s dry spell even worse is evident from the numbers the Met department has. While 2012 recorded a deficient of 24 percent in the SWM, this year it is a record 33.7 percent short. Also in 2012, the NWM showers compensated for the initial loss, but this time round these rains have just stayed away — a negative 61 percent.

South-West-Monsoon-Rainfall-of-2016

Rainfall-from-1-October-to-21-December-2016

Though the rains had been scarce it had fallen widespread, perhaps the only reason, experts say the state’s flora has survived these dry months. But with no more rains on the horizon, and with the Met department completely ruling out any likelihood till the anticipated summer showers in April-May, the next few months are going to be the hardest since the state’s formation.

Water bodies will dry up, vegetation and crops will wilt on a large scale, and an immense heat wave will take over, the likes of which has never been witnessed by almost the entire population in their lifetimes, predict the experts. Scientists at the Meteorological department say their last chances of a rain revival died when the North West Monsoon stayed away. They blame the cyclonic systems that developed in the Bay of Bengal including the Vardah that hit Chennai as the primary reason for killing any chances of a depression in the Arabian Sea.

“The failure of consecutive monsoon systems is something which is very rare and that is clearly going to hit us badly. While last year we got 20 percent more rains than normal from the northwest, this time it’s running on a negative scale. So you can see what the impact will be,’’ says S Sudevan, director, State Meteorological Department.

The groundwater situation in the state too is moving from bad to worse. Though Kerala is blessed with rains more than six months in a year, the state’s topography hardly helps in retaining any of the water that falls on the ground.

The hilly terrain means water flows to the Arabian Sea in quickly unless there is a prolonged interval of heavy showers which is usually brought about by the NWM that falls in November and December. With NWM keeping away this time round, the groundwater table too has started looking dismal. Reports coming from reservoirs and dams across the state too had been far from encouraging. Almost all reservoirs have been recording fall in water level continuously.

“The water level is of course decreasing in almost all the reservoirs across the state and at this rate we will have water to last for the next 100 days only in most of the places. It is a very difficult drought situation and we are taking all measures to make it easy for the people,’’ said A Shainamol, managing director, Kerala Water Authority (KWA).

At a meeting chaired by the chief minister on 28 October, the government decided to enforce stringent controls in the use of the remaining stored water in the state. The KSDMA had suggested a 26-point agenda which the state government has put in place with the motto of ‘3Rs’ – ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ water. An order of preference has also been decided for use of water till May 2017 with drinking water at the top followed by use of water for household purpose and then for industrial use.

For the first time ever ‘water kiosks’ would be set up per grama panchayat. Tanker lorries, the usual mode of supplying drinking water will cater only to high water scarce areas. While the government has banned the use of fresh and potable water supplied by the public system for washing motor vehicles, industries that tap groundwater have been issued notices to stop productivity by 75 percent till the summer showers arrive in May. Also police protection has been given to all reservoirs to ensure pollution does not take place at any cost. Water, at the moment is most precious commodity in Kerala.

Power crisis looms large

With the water crisis all set to deepen, its impact is already showing on the power sector too. While the state needs annually 24,000 Million Units (MU) of power only 7,100 MU are generated at home while the rest is sourced from outside.

The bad news is that as the rains cease and water storage decreases the internal generation will fall to 5,200 MU which means close to 2,000 MU of power will have to be again bought from outside. This will put immense financial burden on the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB), the public sector agency, which is already feeling the pinch.

At the Idukki hydroelectric project which is the largest producer of power in the state there is only enough water to generate 40 percent of its total capacity.

With all the power plants put together in the state, a stock taken on 22 December shows that only 1,988 MU of power can be generated against previous years. While in 2015 it was 2,754 MU, in 2014 it was 3,246 MU taken on the same date.

power-kerala

In 2012 alone, when the state witnessed its earlier severe drought, the generation was 1,820 MU till the same period. With four months to go in this fiscal year, the state might just witness the lowest generation ever, exposing Kerala to frequent bouts of likely power cuts.

Sensing the situation, the Kerala State Electricity Regulatory Commission (KSERC), the regulatory body for tariff, has already proposed a usage based hike in electricity charges. From February to mitigate the losses the board will incur and to buy extra power units needed from outside to ensure that the state does not go in to darkness, consumers will have to pay an extra 10 to 50 paisa per unit depending on their consumption slabs.

For the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in Kerala the drought has hit it at the worst time politically. The government as a part of the state’s 60th year of formation had recently launched the ‘Haritha Keralam’ or the ‘Go Green’ project. A major part of the project involves the reclamation of ponds, streams and other water bodies and use them to revive the lost agricultural heritage of the state.

With the state hurtling towards the most severe drought in its history, this pet project which had been an election promise would have to be put on the back-burner for sometime. On the ground, the common man for the moment has not been affected except a few hyper sensitive areas in Palakad, Kannur and Thrissur districts where the water table has gone down considerably. The next few weeks are immensely crucial as the direct effects of the drought will start reflecting on the lives of the people in the state like never before.

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 14:31 IST

Ahead of Trupti Desai’s march, Kerala govt says women activists not allowed inside Sabarimala temple

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Kerala government said that the entry of Bhumata Brigade chief Trupti Desai on Monday will not be allowed in the Lord Ayyappa temple here, even as the activist plans to lead 100 odd women to the famous hill shrine in Sabarimala. There are restrictions for the entry of women between 10-50 years of age in the temple.”The Sabarimala temple is administered by Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) and its traditions and rules are applicable to everyone,” Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran told reporters here.”The matter with regard to entry of women of all age groups is already before the Supreme Court. There will be no change in the tradition and customs,” until a decision is taken by the Supreme Court, he said.The CPI(M)-led LDF government’s stand comes after it had filed an affidavit in the supreme court last month informing that it favoured the entry of women of all age groups in the Sabarimala temple.Trupti Desai had recently stated that she would be visiting the Lord Ayyappa temple next month with 100 odd activists and there was no change in her plans.Desai had earlier campaigned for the entry of women at the Shani Shingnapur, Trimbakeshwar Shiva temple and Haji Ali Dargah.

Antony asks senior Kerala Congress leaders to bury the hatchet

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Senior Congress leader A K Antony on Friday expressed displeasure over the ‘rift’ among top party leaders in the Kerala unit and told them to be ready to make compromises for strengthening the party’s grass root base.Former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, KPCC President V M Sudheeran and Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Ramesh Chennithala should be ready to compromise for the party’s growth, Antony said addressing a function organised to commemorate the 6th death anniversary of K Karunakaran at the KPCC office here.”The desire of myself and party high command is that Chandy, Chennithala and Sudheeran lead the party together,” he said at the function in which Sudheeran was among those present.The remarks of Antony, a senior Congress Working Committee member, assume significance as they come in the backdrop of differences among top leaders over recent selection of new DCC presidents.Apparently unhappy over the selection of new DCC chiefs, Chandy has been keeping away from party meetings. Antony, also a former chief Minister of the state, said he and Karunakaran had reached agreements on several party issues even though they had differences.”We continued to lead the party for 31 years as friends and rivals,” he said. Stating that party as in 1967 was passing through a difficult time, he said the main focus of the party leaders should be to widen its grass root base.The former defence minister also said there were several positive factors such as the “failure” of CPI-M led LDF government of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Narendra Modi government in the centre for the growth of party.Referring to the party affairs in the state, he said in defence parlance ‘there are generals, Officers in the party. But no artillery… That situation has to be changed.’ Leaders should be able to take the entire party together, Antony said adding it was difficult to have a generational shift in leadership. Antony said party workers should take up people’s issues and ‘should be ready even to go to jail’ for public cause.Besides skipping party meetings, Chandy had also abstained from attending the agitation organised by the Congress-led UDF in Delhi recently on demonetization, even as party leaders said his absence was due to some personal inconvenience. Chennithala had already indicated that there was differences among party leaders in Kerala over appointment of new DCC Presidents and he too was unhappy.

Former Kerala CM Oommen Chandy on solar scam: ‘Charges on role wrong; committed no crime’

Kochi: Holding his ground on the solar panel scam, which had rocked Kerala during the Congress-led UDF rule, former chief minister Oommen Chandy on Friday said that he had not committed any crime. “I have already rejected all the charges. I am fully confident that I have not committed any crime,” he said while deposing before a judicial commission probing charges in the solar panel scam, allegedly linked to his staff.

In his second deposition before the commission, headed by retired High Court judge Justice Sivarajan, the senior Congress leader claimed that all the charges levelled against him were legally proved wrong.

“Many things which had been said targeting me (in the solar scam) have already been proved wrong legally as also in the minds of the public,” he said during the cross-examination.

The commission had directed Chandy to be present for the cross-examination today.

He was cross-examined by the commission in January last in Thiruvananthapuram, when he was the Chief Minister.

Former CM of Kerala Oommen Chandy. AFP

Former CM of Kerala Oommen Chandy. AFP

During his deposition today, Chandy maintained that he had not interfered in the police probe into the case when he was Chief Minister.

Noting that no changes were made in the police team probing the case by the newly formed LDF government, which came to power seven months ago, Chandy said this suggested that police had been carrying out a free and fair probe even during UDF rule.

“The new government has not expressed any doubts about the approach of the probe team (appointed by the then UDF government),” the former Chief Minister said.

“I have not interfered in any stage of the investigation. In this case and other cases also. I have never done so. Free and fair investigation should be carried out in all investigations,” he said.

On being asked whether he had received telephone calls from a lawyer representing main accused (in solar scam) Saritha S Nair during the peak of the controversy, Chandy said he had not attended any of his calls.

The state government had appointed Justice Sivarajan to head the one-man commission on October 23, 2013, to probe the scam pertaining to alleged duping of investors by one Biju Radhakrishnan and his partner Saritha S Nair, who allegedly collected crores of rupees for a solar power project.

The two had allegedly canvassed the business by using top-level names, including that of Chandy.

While Saritha was granted bail after remaining behind bars for about nine months, Radhakrishnan is still in jail in connection with the alleged murder of his wife.

Chandy also rejected allegations by his former gunman Salim Raj that solar scam prime accused Saritha S Nair and the former CM used to talk to each other using his mobile phones.

Deposing before the panel, Salim Raj, a controversial police officer who was part of Chandy’s security, had alleged that a majority of calls from Saritha to his two phones were to talk to the then Chief Minister.

Chandy also rejected Saritha’s allegations that he had taken a bribe from her to set up solar projects, and said he had not taken bribe from anyone in his 50-year-long public life.

During her deposition before the panel, Saritha had alleged that she had paid a bribe of Rs 1.90 crore to Chandy through his personal aides to set up mega power projects in Kerala.

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 18:51 IST

Solar scam: Oommen Chandy deposes before judicial commission

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy deposed on Friday before a judicial commission probing charges in the solar panel scam, allegedly linked to his staff.The panel headed by Justice Sivarajan had directed the senior Congress leader to be present for cross-examination today. Chandy was cross-examined in January last, in a sitting of the Kochi-based commission held in Thiruvananthapuram, when he was the Chief Minister.Outside the Commission office, Chandy had said that he had already told the Commission whatever he had to say with regard to the scam occurred during his tenure. During the deposition, he had maintained that the charges against him and his office were “politically motivated” and denied any wrongdoing.The state government had appointed a retired High Court judge Sivarajan to head the one-man commission on October 23, 2013, to probe the scam pertaining to alleged duping of investors by one Biju Radhakrishnan and his partner Saritha S Nair, who allegedly collected crores of rupees for a solar power project. The two had allegedly canvassed business by using top level names, including that of Chandy.While Saritha was granted bail after remaining behind bars for about nine months, Radhakrishnan is still in jail in connection with the alleged murder of his wife.

Kerala govt seeks report on steps to check ragging

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Taking a serious view of incidents of alleged ragging in two professional colleges, the Kerala government has sought a report from educational institutions on steps to check the practise and warned of stern action against principals failing to stop it.”The report is also to ensure that students who indulge in ragging get the maximum punishment as per law,” Education Minister C Raveendranath said.He directed the higher education secretary to submit a report on steps taken by educational institutions, including professional colleges, to prevent ragging.The minister said there was a clear law to prevent physical and mental torture on students in the name of ragging and such incidents were unfortunately recurring in educational institutions.It was under these circumstances that the report was sought late last night to examine whether educational heads were discharging their responsibilities to prevent ragging. “Government will take stern action against heads of educational institutions who had committed lapses in this regard,” the minister said.Raveendranath said college principals have to submit a report on the steps taken as per law to check ragging and action initiated on complaints of ragging.As many as 21 students of a government medical college in Manjeri and seven from a Government Polytechnic College in Kottayam were suspended for allegedly ragging their juniors early this week.

India’s crackdown on cash imperils pivotal national tax reform | Reuters

By Rajesh Kumar Singh
| NEW DELHI

NEW DELHI Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s crackdown on the cash economy has shattered the consensus needed for a new national sales tax, plunging his boldest reform into limbo and threatening to entrench an economic slowdown.Modi’s government already had its work cut out to finalise a deal with India’s 29 federal states to launch a Goods and Services Tax (GST) on April 1 that would transform Asia’s third largest economy into a single market for the first time.But his decision to scrap 86 percent of the cash in circulation, in a bid to purge the economy of illicit “black money”, has caused huge disruption. A slump in business activity stemming from the cash crunch has caused the revenue of state governments, which collect value-added tax on goods and other duties, to slump by 25-40 percent.The states won’t risk another setback by rushing the sales tax into force.”The investment and economic environment in the country is in bad shape,” said West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra, who earlier head a panel tasked with building a consensus on the GST. “How is the country going to absorb the dual shock of GST and demonetisation?”The GST is India’s biggest tax overhaul since independence in 1947. It would replace a plethora of federal and state levies with one tax, easing compliance, broadening the revenue base and boosting productivity.It took Modi more than two years to forge a political compromise on the tax in August. Now, demonetisation “has created a trust deficit,” said Kerala Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac. “After this, I am not going to sit and compromise. They don’t deserve it.”LEFT IN THE LURCH

Failure to break the deadlock could tip India into a fiscal crisis: The GST would need to come into effect by mid-September, when the old system of indirect taxation is due to lapse.The lingering uncertainty is worrying companies needing to understand financial implications of the new tax. “With so many vital details still missing, they are feeling left in the lurch,” said Saloni Roy, a senior director at Deloitte.Modi’s shock move last month to scrap 500 and 1,000 rupee notes was aimed at India’s shadow economy. But the ensuing cash crunch has caused job losses, disrupted supply chains and slowed construction activity.With cash shortages showing no signs of abating, some economists are calling for emergency stimulus to cushion the economy against the impact of demonetisation.

Ambit Capital, a Mumbai brokerage, forecasts growth this fiscal year will be only half of the roughly 7 percent level many expect. The Reserve Bank of India has shaved its growth outlook by half a percentage point to 7.1 percent.To make up for their losses, states are seeking compensation and will press their case at a meeting in New Delhi on Thursday and Friday with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.He has already agreed to cover states’ revenue losses for five years after the GST’s launch, but further concessions would narrow his room for manoeuvre in his annual budget presented in February.One top finance ministry official dismissed demands for compensation for demonetisation as unreasonable. But states are adamant. “They have brought it upon us,” V. Narayanasamy, chief minister of Puducherry, told Reuters. “Now they must pay for our loss.”

COUNTING COSTS
The quibble is not just over lost revenue. Some states worry about the social and political costs of demonetisation.Take Kerala, where credit cooperatives that farmers and retired government workers rely on cannot swap old bills or issue fresh notes. The state alleges this has encouraged commercial banks to scout for their deposits, sparking a “run” on them.Odhisa’s chief minister has written to Modi, saying curbs imposed on primary agriculture societies were making it difficult for farmers to access crop loans and procurement payments.With the states smarting, they have hardened their stance on how to collect the new GST, which will have federal and state elements.They want sole control over businesses with annual turnover of 15 million rupees ($220,000) and so-called “dual control” over bigger firms. Jaitley opposes this, fearing tax collectors could end up at cross purposes.”We reached this far because states were willing to compromise,” said Isaac, Kerala’s finance minister, told Reuters. “If they want the GST, they will have to now concede to the states.” (Additional reporting by Manoj Kumar in New Delhi, Jatindra Dash in Bhubaneswar and Subrata Nagchoudhury in Kolkata; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Richard Borsuk)

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

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 23:13 IST

Kerala writer sedition case: No author will be charged in National Anthem cases, says Pinarayi Vijayan

Following strong protests from various quarters, including the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF), the Kerala police have let off a 27-year-old social activist taken into custody for his alleged links with Maoists and dropped sedition charges foisted against a writer and theatre activist in a case related to alleged disrespect shown to the National Anthem.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who controls the home portfolio, ordered the U turn after the action against social activist KP Nadir and writer Kamal C Chavara came under severe criticism from senior leaders of the party, including party veteran VS Achuthanandan and state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan.

Nadir was detained and charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) citing an old case related to distribution of Maoist pamphlets among Adivasi families at Aralam in the state’s northern district of Kannur.

Kerala Writer

Kamal C Chavara. Facebook

The sedition case under Section 124A of Indian Penal Code (IPC) was slapped against the writer on the basis of a complaint lodged by a Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha worker citing a Facebook post on National Anthem.

The post was an excerpt from his recent Malayalam novel entitled Smamashanangalude Notepusthakam (A book on Graveyards) talking about the relief felt by students, who are not allowed by their teachers to go to toilet during the class, when time comes for reciting the National Anthem at the end of the class.

Chavara was arrested from Kozhikode on the basis of an FIR registered at Karunagappally police station in his home district of Kollam. He was given bail after eight hours under the police detention. Chavara, who complained of nausea and breathlessness, was rushed to the Kozhikode Medical College Hospital.

Nadir was taken into custody when he went to the Medical College Hospital to see Chavara, who subsequently launched a hunger strike at the hospital demanding withdrawal of the cases registered against him and his friend.

State Director General of Police Loknath Behra said that he had directed the police to review the sedition charge under Section 124 of IPC levelled against the writer as it may not stand in a court of law. He said that Nadir was let off as the police did not have sufficient evidence to charge him with UAPA.

Kannur district superintendent of police Kori Sanjaykumar Gurudin said that they had freed Nadir after taking an undertaking that he will appear before the police whenever required. He said that the police may resume the case when they get the required evidence.

Human rights campaigners and civil rights activists had earlier rallied against the arrests after the writer-cum-theatre activist began a hunger strike at the hospital demanding withdrawal of the cases registered against him and his friend.

The activists viewed the action against the two at the behest of supporters of Sangh Parivar as an extension of their politics of intolerance in the state, which is known for its progressive stand on various issues. Many wondered how the Sangh Parivar is allowed to do moral policing in a Left-ruled state.

Achuthanandan expressed concern over the actions of the police. Citing the police action in a series of cases, including the ‘encounter deaths of two Maoists at Nilambur and the arrest of several delegates of the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) for not standing while reciting national anthem, the CPM veteran said these actions could strengthen people’s belief that the state was moving towards fascism.

“Kerala is a state where the dalits, tribals, writers and artists live without fear. It is the duty of the police to ensure that the writers in Kerala will not have to face the same fate of Govind Pansare or Kalburgi,” the senior CPM leader said.

Party secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan also came down heavily on the police. He termed the cases registered against the social activist and the writer under the controversial sections of UAPA and Section 124A of IPC unnecessary.

“It is not the policy of the LDF to silence dissent. The LDF government is against charging UAPA against individuals who raise political issues. There are some police officers who act against the government’s policy. The government will take stern action against such officers,” Balakrishnan said.

He did not see any ground for taking a case against Chavara. He felt it was sheer atrocity on the part of the police to register a case against him. However, the CPM leader claimed that he could get bail on sedition charges because the LDF government was in power.

CPM Politburo member and former minister MA Baby said the arrest and sedition charge look like a knee-jerk reaction from police. He said that the police had acted in a hasty manner without applying its mind and proper examination of the details.

The chief minister asserted that his government will not charge any writer with sedition in connection with the cases related to the National Anthem. A Facebook post by the CPI (M) quoted him as saying that currently there was no case against anybody in the state under sedition charge.

Human rights activists and political observers take the assertions of the chief minister and his party leaders with a pinch of salt. PA Pouran, secretary of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), thinks that the chief minister was allowing the state police to implement the Sangh Parivar agenda in Kerala.

“Pinarayi has appointed a Modi man as police chief in Kerala because he wants the Prime Minister’s favour in the SNC Lavalin case that hangs over his head. If the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which has investigated the case, presses its review petition strongly in the Kerala high court, Pinarayi may lose power,” says Pouran.

The human rights activist said that the chief minister had given a free hand to Loknath Behra to curry favour with the Central government. He pointed out that Pinarayi had refused to order a judicial inquiry into the encounter killing of the two Maoists despite strong protests from a section of his own party and its allies in the LDF because of this.

Biju Govind, a senior journalist based at Kozhikode, however, feels that the chief minister himself was using the police to implement his own agenda in the state. He said that it was becoming increasingly clear from Pinarayi’s speeches that he was trying for a Chinese model development in Kerala.

“He has appointed pro-liberal Harvard University professor Gita Gopinath as his economic advisor to woo capitalists. He is pushing several mega projects that need huge investments. Pinarayi does not want anybody to obstruct these projects. Therefore, he will not allow any dissent against his agenda,” says Biju.

The journalist said that Pinarayi was getting into the mould of Modi. “There are lot of similarities between the two. Both keep the media at a safe distance. They distrust their ministerial colleagues. I am not surprised if some heavy weights in the ministry find their way out in the next cabinet reshuffle,” says Biju.

Left-leaning political analyst NN Pearson says that the chief minister was able to have his writ in the state as he has a strong grip over the party. He said that Pinarayi will not allow anybody to assert themselves as long as he is at the helm.

First Published On : Dec 20, 2016 20:29 IST

Kerala: Five accused of ragging college student surrender

Kottayam: Five of the seven students accused in the ragging case in government polytechnic, in which a first year student suffered kidney damage, have surrendered before police, police said on Monday. The five senior students surrendered before the Deputy Superintendent of Police at Changanassery near here last night.

According to police, there are a total of seven accused in the case and two are still absconding.

On the night of 2 December, eight first-year students of the polytechnic at Nattakom here were allegedly subjected to brutal ragging by a gang of senior students at the men’s hostel of the college.

Two students — one hailing from Irinjalakkuda in Thrissur district, and another from Cheranallur in Ernakulam district — were seriously injured in the incident. They have been admitted to hospitals in Thrissur and Ernakulam respectively.

Representational image. Getty Images

Representational image. Getty Images

The student from Irinjalakkuda has been hospitalised with kidney damage, police said.

He was put on dialysis after doctors diagnosed him with kidney damage. The victim underwent dialysis three times after his admission in the hospital 11 days ago.

The accused allegedly forced the victim to consume liquor mixed with some harmful powder following six hours of brutal ragging which included hard physical exercises like push-ups.

The accused were absconding after police booked them for allegedly ragging their juniors in the hostel.

They have also been suspended from the institution.

Two cases have been registered against the accused based on two separate complaints by the two students, police said.

Meanwhile, the state human rights commission has sought a report from the education department on the alleged ragging incident.

First Published On : Dec 19, 2016 12:00 IST

DNA Morning Must Reads: Pampore attack despite intelligence warning; India lifts Junior Hockey World Cup trophy; and more

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>1. J&K: Pampore attack despite strong intelligence warningAccording to some senior officials of the Jammu and Kashmir police, all precautions were being taken but the race against time was lost when around 2 pm, three motorcycle-borne gunmen ambushed the convoy. Read more.2. Junior Hockey World Cup: India colts on cusp of new era, beat Belgium to lift trophy after 15 yearsWith junior hockey team manager Oltmans promising perfect hockey, hosts will hope to recreate history as they face Belgium in final today. Read more.3. Wary of increasing Chinese activity in neighbourhood, India to revive Special Service BureauThe move to revive the Bureau, in addition to a dedicated Mountain Corps and deployment of the Brahmos missiles along the Indo-China border. Read more.4. Writer from Kerala charged with sedition for allegedly insulting national anthemKamal C Chavara, alias Kamalsy Prana, was taken into custody on charges of insulting the national anthem in a Facebook post. Read more.5. Army chief appointment: Govt cites Rawat’s track record to blunt opposition’s attackOpposition has attacked the govt and asked for compelling reason behind not adhering to long established norms of seniority in Army Chief appointment. Read more.

National anthem row: Director Kamal gets Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan’s support

Sun, 18 Dec 2016-11:54pm , Kozhikode , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan came out in support of noted film director and Chalachitra Academy Chairman Kamal on Sunday, over his alleged remarks against the national anthem at IFFK in Thiruvananthapuram. Activists of Yuva Morcha, BJP’s youth wing, had on December 14 burnt Kamal’s effigy in protest against his alleged remarks on playing the national anthem before every show at IFFK.They had also allegedly addressed Kamal as ‘Kamaluddin’ and termed him “anti-national”. Speaking at an awards ceremony in Kozhikode, Vijayan alleged that the Sangh Parivar was behind the protests and that an attempt was being made to communalise the issue and derive political mileage out of it “The act of addressing Kamal as Kamaludeen only shows deep religious intolerance which will not work in Kerala. The government will take action against it. The Sangh Parivar’s certificate is not needed for Kamal,” he said.The issue had come into focus at the recently concluded International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) after police took 12 persons into custody on December 14 for showing disrespect to the national anthem. They reportedly refused to stand up while the anthem was being played. The activists had also charged that Kamal was behind selecting controversial Malayalam film “Ka Bodyscapes” which they alleged insulted the Hindu religion.

Just ditched: After marrying and duping 11 men, Kochi woman’s luck runs out

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A team of Kerala Police along with their Noida counterparts has arrested a woman and her two accomplices for duping over 10 men of several lakhs of rupees and jewellery after marrying them, in Noida sector 120.Loren Justin, a resident of Kochi, had registered a case in October against his wife Megha Bhargav, who, he alleged, had disappeared with jewellery worth Rs 15 lakh sometime after their marriage. Kerala Police during investigation found that Justin was the fourth man duped by Bhargav in the state. She had married fourmen in Kerala and duped them all, police said on Sunday.In total she had married 11 men in Kerala, Mumbai, Pune, Rajasthan and Indore, they said. Bhargav used to target divorcees and men with physical disabilities, they said, adding some days after the marriage she used to give food laced with sedatives to her husband and his family members and then eloped with cash and jewellery.Dinesh Yadav, SP (City), said, “Woman was traced to a house in Amrapali Zodiac Society in sector 120 here through electronic surveillance after which she was arrested last evening.” Her two accomplices were also arrested with her, police said.

Kerala: 22-year-old hospitalised after alleged ragging, doctors say his kidneys affected

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A 22-year-old student of Government Polytechnic College has been hospitalised in Thrissur, Kerala after he was allegedly ragged by eight students, said media reports.The accused forcibly fed the student with liquor mixed with some substances, and when he came home, he complained about kidney pain, reported Deccan Chronicle.The victim has alleged that he was forced to do intense physical exercises like push-ups for about five hours and drink liquor.Meanwhile, the police have booked eight students. They have also been suspended from the institution at Nattakom.In two separate, complaints lodged with police, two students have alleged that they were subjected to brutal ragging by the senior students of the institute.While one student is undergoing treatment at a hospital in Thrissur, another is admitted in a private hospital in Ernakulam, police said. The accused in the two separate incidents are members of the same group, they said.The state human rights commission has sought a report from the education department on the alleged ragging incident. (With agency inputs)

Kerala: Four, including three St Stephen’s students, drown in Periyar river

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Three students from Delhi’s St Stephen’s College and a resort owner from Kerala drowned in the Periyar river in the state this evening, police said.Third year Sanskrit students Anubhav Chandra and Aditya Patel, first year Chemistry student Kenneth John, and Benny, a private resort owner from Kerala, drowned around 6.30 PM at Paniyeli Poru — a tourist spot.The bodies were recovered and kept at the Taluk hospital at Perumbavoor, police said.Chandra hailed from Bihar and Patel belonged to Uttar Pradesh, police said. Kenneth John was a resident of Wayanad in Kerala. In Delhi, St Stephen’s College Principal John Varghese confirmed the news saying it was true and they were in the process of finding out more details.Police said the students had come to Kerala as part of a group of 11 students and 2 wardens to visit famous tourist spots. The incident occurred at Paniyeli Poru, a tourist spot where the river has dangerous clusters of slippery rocks, near Perumbavoor in Ernakulam district, police said.The spot is known for its death traps for tourists because of strong undercurrents, though the water is only few feet deep, police said.

Maoists observe fast in Coimbatore jail to protest Nilambur encounter

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Three of five Maoists lodged in the Central jail in Coimbatore observed a day-long fast today to condemn the ‘encounter’ killing of two Maoist leaders near Nilambur in Kerala.The three inmates, Roopesh, Anoop and Veeramani refused to take breakfast and lunch to protest the killings, which they termed as a “planned encounter,” jail sources said.However, two others, Shyna, wife of Roopesh and Kannan, who were arrested 18 months ago from Karumathampatti on the outskirts, did not not participate in the hunger strike, they said.Two Maoists, Kuppuswamy Devaraj (65), a central committee member of the outlawed maoist outfit and Ajitha (45), were killed in an encounter with the police in Nilambur forests in Malappuram district, Kerala, on November 24 during a combing operation.

Note ban will lead country to ‘national disaster’: AK Antony

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former Defence minister A K Antony on Tuesday said demonetization would lead the country toward a national disaster and that Prime Minister Narendra Modi does not deserve a pardon.He was addressing the leaders and workers of the party at Jantar Mantar who are protesting the alleged bias against the co-operative banking sector post demonetization.”India as a whole is moving toward a national disaster due to the decision taken by Narendra Modi. This has given a chance to black money holders to convert it into white. Modi doesn’t deserve forgiveness,” Antony said.He also accused the Centre of trying to strangulate the co-operative and the agriculture sectors in the state.AICC general secretary Mukul Wasnik, who was also present at the protest venue, said “people must punish the Prime Minister in a democratic manner”.Opposition leader in the Kerala Assembly, Ramesh Chennithala, said the state is heading toward a financial disaster as the non-resident Keralites (NRKs) feel that their money in co operative banks is not safe.UDF leaders from the state including N K Premachandran, P K Kunhalikutty and other prominent Congress leaders also participated in the protest.

Demonetisation in Kerala: LDF to organise ‘human chain’ protest against note ban on 29 December

Thiruvananthapuram: The ruling CPM-led LDF in Kerala will organise a ‘human chain’ across the state on 29 December as part of its plans to intensify protests against hardships faced by people due to the demonetisation scheme.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The ‘human chain’ would be formed from northern district Kasaragod to state capital in the south, Thiruvananthapuram, LDF convener Vaikom Viswan said.

“Not only party workers and sympathisers but everybody who share the same sentiments on the issue can participate in the human-chain protest,” he said.

Before organising the ‘human chain’, the front would conduct conventions in all panchayats across the state on 20 December while ‘Padayatras’ would be held on 22 December to create awareness among people about the drawbacks of withdrawing high denomination notes, he said.

Party volunteers would also conduct house visits at the booth level on 27 and 28 December in this regard, he said.

Alleging that only corporates have benefited from the demonetisation, Viswan said the decision to withdraw currency was taken by the Centre with “political motives.”

First Published On : Dec 13, 2016 15:12 IST

Kerala: Protest over detention of 12 for disrespecting National Anthem

Thiruvananthapuram: On Tuesday, a group of persons staged a protest in front of a theatre, protesting police taking into custody 12 persons for showing disrespect to the National Anthem at cinemas screening movies of the International Film Festival of Kerala.

“The national anthem is not a digital song. National flag is not an audio visual. Cinema is primarily an entertainment. Cinema hall is a place to sell entertainment,” a placard held by protesters at Tagore Theatre, the main venue of the ongoing festival, said.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

“Please don’t degrade my national anthem,” another placard said.

“We love Bharat. Nationalism cannot be imposed,” the protesters said.

In two separate cases, 12 persons were taken into custody for showing disrespect to the national anthem from theatres screening films connected to the festival last night.

They refused to stand up while the national anthem was being played, police said, adding, cases under IPC section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) had been registered.

Those arrested were later released on bail, they said.

First Published On : Dec 13, 2016 14:15 IST

Idukki bishop’s anti-birth control remark sparks outrage; rationalists term it anti-democratic

A Catholic bishop in Kerala has called on Christian couples to competitively produce children till the end of their reproductive capacity.

Idukki Bishop Mar Mathew Anikuzhikattil has given the call in a pastoral letter issued on the occasion of Christmas. The letter to be read in all parishes in the diocese on any Sunday during December termed creation a divine process and predicted miseries for those who upset it.

The Bishop’s call is viewed in social and political circles in the state as a reflection of the growing concern in the Church about the dwindling numbers of Christians in the state. Several other bishops had made similar calls before Anikuzhikattil.

Some churches even offered incentives to couples to have more children. While most churches offered free education and medical care in Church-run institutions, one in Wayanad district introduced cash incentives to couples who produce more children.

The St Vincent De Paul Forane Church at Kalpetta offered Rs 10,000 as fixed deposit in the name of every fifth child born in the family in the parish. The church set aside a part of the weekly Sunday collection to fund the programme.

Rent a priest aims to bring back people to Christianity. ReutersRent a priest aims to bring back people to Christianity. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

None of these efforts seem to have brought any change in the mindset of the faithful, who continue to limit the size of families by using either natural or artificial contraception that the Catholic Church dubs as sin. Studies showed that the Christian community had the highest rate of sterilisation in the state.

According to a study by KC Zachariah, former senior demographer with the World Bank and honorary fellow at the Centre for Development Studies (CDS), Thiruvananthapuram, the proportion of Christian couples who had undergone sterilisation by 1991 was nearly 50 percent as against 34 percent among Muslims and upper caste Hindus.

As a result of this, the population of Christians continued to decline. The 2011 census data shows that the share of Christians in the total population of the state had come down from 21 percent in 1971 to 18.4 percent in 2011.

Hindus have also witnessed a sharp decline in their population during the period. The share of the Hindus came down from 58.2 percent in 1971 to 53.6 percent in 2011. The gainer is apparently the Muslim community. Its share went up from 21.3 percent to 26.6 percent in the last four decades.

Christians had a growth rate higher than that of non-Christians in Kerala in the early part of the twentieth century. But the trend reversed by 1961, when the non-Christians started gaining upper hand. They maintained higher growth rates through the rest of the century.

After 1971, Christians grew at a rate lower than the average for other communities. By the end of the century, the rate of growth of the Christians was only 60 percent of the Hindu growth rate and less than half the growth rate of the Muslims.

Christians had outnumbered Muslims for much of the last century. The latter overtook the Christians in 1971 and is continuing their dominance. A study on religious denominations based on the 2011 census by Zachariah says that the numerical dominance of Muslims over the Christians is likely to accelerate in the coming decades.

“By the middle of the century, Muslims could constitute more than a third and Christians less than one-sixth of Kerala’s population. Similarly, by 2051, the Hindus could be less than 50 percent of the State’s population for the first time in Kerala’s history. However, they are unlikely to be outnumbered in the state by any other community at any time,” says Zachariah.

Numerically, Christians are the smallest among the three major religious groups in the state at present. They numbered just about 6.057 million according to the 2001 Census, and 6.141 million according to the 2011 Census.

None of these efforts seem to have brought any change in the mindset of the faithful, who continue to limit the size of families by using either natural or artificial contraception that the Catholic Church dubs as sin

Zachariah feels that the proportion of the Christian population in the total population would decrease to about 17 percent at the end of the first quarter of the 21st century. This means that the population of the community would come down to 5.9 million by 2031.

Zachariah believes that this would push down the Christian share from nearly one-fourth of the population before 1970 to less than one-sixth by the middle of the century. Among the Christian denominations, the non-Catholic Episcopal Syrian Christian communities and the Syro-Malankara Catholics are witnessing a decline in their population.

According to Zachariah, a major factor behind the decline is the below replacement fertility that the state reached in 1990s. Migration to other states in India and to other countries outside India and movement from one Christian denomination to another are other major factors cited by Zachariah.

The Idukki bishop has blamed the family planning for the present state of the Christian community. He believes that parents were adopting birth control measures for the sake of luxury.

“They consider children as a hurdle to their modern style of living. Our forefathers had welcomed new life even when there were no modern facilities to support life. They did not discard children by looking at their number or their quality. They treated every child as God’s gift,” Anikuzhikattil said.

The bishop said that the people who adopt birth control measures will be sowing seeds of anxiety and frustration in families. Life will be miserable for such people, the bishop said, adding that the loneliness faced by the elders was a result of this.

Describing those who say “no one needs to be born and live after they become a part of the population” as selfish and arrogant, the bishop has urged Christian couples to engage in creation as long as their body allows.

Rationalists have viewed the bishop’s call anti-democratic. U Kalanadhan, president of Kerala Rationalists Association, said that the Church was indulging in this kind of anti-democratic activities because they fear that they will lose their clout in the state.

Kalanadhan told Firstpost that the Church and other religious groups have been flexing their muscles because of the policy of religious appeasement followed by mainstream parties. He has called for the separation of religion from politics to end this menace.

Idukki diocese Family Apostolate Director Fr Joseph Kollakombil denied any motives behind the pastoral letter issued by the bishop. He said that the prelate had only tried to explain the Church’s stand on life.

“Christmas reminds us of the divine process of creation. It is quite natural for the clergy to underline the importance of life on the occasion. Bishop Anikuzhikattil has done only this. There is no need for reading between the lines,” said Fr Joseph.

However, his critics are not ready to take it without a pinch of salt, since the bishop has been raking up the issue in one form or the other for some time now. Last year, he kicked off a big controversy by accusing an Ezhava community organisation of weaning away Christian girls through ‘love jihad’.

The bishop had also come out against inter-faith marriages and delaying of marriage by youths. He termed inter-caste marriages ‘against Christianity’ and urged the faithful to resist the government’s attempts to promote them.

The bishop said that the youths were delaying marriages for the sake of education and career. He urged youths to give marriage priority over education.

Many of these remarks had created a big uproar in the state. Anikuzhikattil was forced to withdraw his statement on ‘love jihad’ and tender an apology after Hindu organisations joined hands against him. They accused him of spewing communal venom.

First Published On : Dec 13, 2016 12:12 IST

India’s landmark forest rights law hobbled by conflicting policies – report | Reuters

By Rina Chandran

MUMBAI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A landmark Indian forest rights law passed 10 years ago with the aim of protecting indigenous people has been crippled by conflicting legislation, and a lack of political will and funds to ensure its implementation, according to a report.More than a fifth of India’s population were expected to benefit from the 2006 Forest Rights Act covering vast areas of forest land roughly the size of Germany.Instead, only 3 percent of potential community forest rights have been granted so far, and conflicts between states and indigenous communities have been rising as demand for land increases in the world’s fastest growing major economy.”(The law) has the potential to conserve forests and biodiversity (and) improve local livelihoods,” Neema Pathak Broome, a researcher with rights group Kalpavriksh, said in the report released Tuesday by a citizens’ advocacy group.”Unfortunately, due to a lack of political will and intentional efforts to undermine the law, this vast potential for democratic forest governance remains unrealised.”

In the decade since the law was passed, the federal government and several states have introduced other laws that sometimes run counter to the Forest Rights Act.For example, a new federal law introduced in July that compensates for deforestation ignores the rights of indigenous people and the requirement for consent of the village council for use of forest land, activists said.The Ministry of Tribal Affairs, which is charged with implementing the 2006 law, is “understaffed and under-resourced”, while state forest departments are largely “hostile, at best apathetic” in implementing it, the report said.

The western states of Maharashtra and Gujarat, the eastern state of Odisha and the southern state of Kerala lead in recognising community and individual forest rights, the report said.States including Assam, Bihar, Goa, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand have lagged behind, it said.As well as conserving forests, the law has the potential to secure livelihoods, promote women’s rights and contain conflicts in areas hit by violent extremism, it said.

The government needs to mobilise political support and funds for its implementation and strengthen the Tribal Affairs Ministry and state agencies, the report said.”The biggest stumbling block is that there’s very limited understanding of the Forest Rights Act, even within the government,” Tushar Dash, from advocacy group Vasundhara, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.”They believe granting forest rights obstructs development, and are instead giving forest lands for industrial use. But it’s been established that protecting forest rights encourages development and helps conservation efforts far more.” (Reporting by Rina Chandran, Editing by Ros Russell; @rinachandran, Editing by Ros Russell. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.)

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

First Published On : Dec 13, 2016 00:03 IST

Six in custody at Kerala film festival for not standing up for national anthem

Thiruvananthapuram: Six persons, including a woman, were taken into custody by police on Monday for not standing up when the national anthem was played ahead of the screening of a film at the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK).

The IFFK organisers had made it very clear that the apex court guidelines will be followed by them at the 21st edition of the IFFK that began here Friday night and all the delegates have to stand up.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

At the Nishagandhi auditorium, five youth and a lady, despite after being told a few times by a policeman and the organisers, refused to stand up and were taken into custody.

The action came hours after activists of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s youth wing complained to state police chief Loknath Behra pointing out that some people at the screenings were not standing up when the national anthem was played.

First Published On : Dec 12, 2016 20:53 IST

Demonetization leaves a trust deficit, consensus eludes GST

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>With the trust between the government and the Opposition parties at a low ebb, thanks to feud over demonetization, the crucial Goods and Services Tax (GST) seems to be headed for a delay, that could well see it missing the April 1, 2017 deadline.This was apparent from the lack of consensus at the GST Council meeting—represented by ministers and officials of Union and state finance departments—on Sunday, and the decision to call off Monday’s sitting.The Council was looking to pass four proposed laws—Central GST (CGST, state GST (SGST), integrated GST (IGST) and Compensation Act—in the ongoing winter session that ends on December 16.With Finance Minister Arun Jailtey informing that the discussions on the legislations were initiated but would require more time and that the next meeting would be held on December 22 and 23, these Bills can now be presented only in the Budget session.“The discussion is moving quite satisfactorily. Hopefully, in the next meeting we will be able to clear them. Next sitting was tomorrow, but some of the states’ representatives wanted to return in view of the Eid,” said Jaitley.On whether postponement and failure to finalise the draft Bills would result in the government missing the April 1 deadline, Jaitley said: “The Budget session starts in January. Our target is April 1. If April 1 is the first possible date when it can be implemented then the last day is also constitutionally defined as September 16, 2017. We don’t have the luxury of time because after five months and 16 days, curtains will be down on the old taxation powers”.Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac said it was demonetization which had “eroded the mutual trust and the cordial environment”.“I come from Kerala, where the Centre’s demonetization is destroying its entire cooperative structure. Co-op sector accounts for more than one-third of bank deposits in Kerala and you (Centre) expects me to come and have a handshake on GST. So well, it’s their (Centre’s) own making,” said Isaac.MS Mani, senior director, Deloitte India, believes April 1 date for implementation of the proposed unified indirect tax was not completely ruled out by the outcome of Sunday’s meeting but it did point to a likelihood of its delay.He said that in all the discussion on date, the Council seems to have forgotten classification of goods and services under different rate brackets, which have been finalised. “Trade and industry are eagerly waiting not only for the date of introduction of GST but also for the rate application to the products and services manufactured by them,” he said. The Deloitte tax expert said it was sad to see an important economic and tax reform being swept by the political storm caused by demonetization.“Political reasons are determining the fate of GST, which is not the correct thing, because ideally GST is an economic and tax reform, and economic and tax reforms should not be dictated by political compulsions,” he lamented.

Sabarimala showdown: Bhumata Brigade, temple authorities in high-stakes game of who blinks first

Bhumata Brigade founder Trupti Desai has kicked the hornet’s nest by insisting she will go forward with her plans of taking a group of menstruating women to the Sabarimala hill shrine in Kerala next month.

Sabarimala is one of the most visited holy sites in the world, with an estimated 50-60 million devotees from all over the country undertaking the pilgrimage between 16 November and 14 January. Even this year, despite the hardships caused by the government’s demonetisation drive, there hasn’t been a dip in the arrival of pilgrims and offerings.

However, the shrine, run by government-controlled Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), restricts entry of women in the reproductive age (10 to 50 years) from entering the temple, claiming that Swami Ayyappa, the main deity of the temple, is a celibate. It’s this clause that the Pune-based gender rights activist Trupti Desai wants to correct. She has called for a protest march demanding women of all ages be allowed entry into the temple, which is located on a hilltop surrounded by mountains and dense forests in Pathanamthitta district.

Trupti Desai. PTI file imageTrupti Desai. PTI file image

Bhumata Brigade founder Trupti Desai. PTI file image

Though the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government backs Desai’s demand, it has asked her to wait until the Supreme Court takes a final decision on the plea pending before it. The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), however, has warned of bloodshed if the activists try to enter the temple during the season.

Trupti told Firstpost that the Bhumata Brigade will enter the temple before the season ends on 14 January. She said she was waiting for confirmation of women joining the mission to finalise their travel plans. The activist said she expects between 50 and 100 women to join in, and that they will go to Kerala by 10 January.

However, TDB president Prayar Gopalakrishnan said they will not allow the gender activists to get past Pathanamthjitta, the district headquarters, if they come to Kerala with the intention of entering the temple.

“I haven’t been maintaining good relations with the government after LDF came to power. I have been silent in order to avoid controversy on issues concerning the temple. But this will not stop me from acting in case there is a threat to the temple or the devotees,” Gopalakrishnan said.

He said he was still hopeful the government would stop the women. “Devotees will step in if the state government doesn’t,” he said, adding there could be serious law and order problems if this happens.

Gopalakrishnan said he was appointed by the previous Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) government to run the temple in accordance with all customs and traditions followed by it. He said that he considered it his duty to maintain the sanctity of the temple at all costs. “I will not spare any effort in fulfilling my duty. Nobody will be allowed to break the rules at Sabarimala as long as I am in this post. I don’t even mind losing my position for the sake of the temple,” the TDB chief said.

Various Ayyappa devotee organisations have also warned of action if the activists tried to enter the temple forcibly. The Akhila Bharatiya Ayyaappa Seva Sanghom, an all-India body of Sabarimala pilgrims, has asked Desai to desist from undertaking the visit to Sabarimala considering the sentiments of the devotees.

Rahul Eashwar, a member of the Sabarimala tantric family, said several organisations representing women devotees themselves had come forward to prevent women from going ahead with their plans. He said the members of these organisations will form a human chain to prevent Trupti and her supporters from crossing Pampa, the main halting point on the way to Sabarimala.

Eashwar said members of the Ayyappa Dharma Sena and other groups campaigning against women’s entry will position themselves against the Bhumata Brigade’s attempts to defy the ban on menstruating women. Rahul, grandson of the chief priest of the temple, pointed out that the current campaign for entry for women into Sabarimala did not have any support from women in Kerala. He said a majority of the women in the state were against diluting the divinity of the temple.

A group claiming to represent women devotees from the state has even moved the Supreme Court against the petition seeking entry for women into Sabarimala. The organisation called ‘People for Dharma’ has sought to implead in the pending case, saying they were ready to wait till menopause to enter the shrine.

The Chennai-based organisation had earlier run an online campaign mustering support against the feminists. The campaign, titled ‘Ready to Wait’, was a counter to the ‘Right to Bleed’ and ‘Right to Pray’ movements, both seeking equal rights for women at Sabarimala.

Devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran has also asserted that the government will not allow anybody to enter Sabarimala in defiance of the rules. He said that the Pune-based organisation had not approached the government with their plans so far. “We are against gender discrimination in places of worship. We have stated our position clearly before the Supreme Court. But this does not mean that we defy practices and customs in place,” he added.

Public works minister G Sudhakaran, who had backed the feminists’ demand in the apex court when he had held the Devaswom portfolio during the last term of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government, also said attempts by the Bhumata Brigade to forcibly enter the temple will create a serious law and order problems.

He advised the organisation to avoid such a situation and wait for the Supreme Court order on the petition filed by the Indian Young Lawyers Association in 2006. The apex court had questioned the legality of the practice followed at the Sabarimala shrine many times during the hearing.

Desai, who led successful campaigns for entry of women in Maharashtra — the Shani Shignapur temple in Ahmednagar and Haji Ali dargah in Mumbai — rejected the suggestion, saying that their demand was in accordance with their Constitutional rights.

“We don’t find any point in waiting for the final decision of the court to start our campaign. The court proceedings will go on. We are fighting for our Constitutional rights. Let both continue,” says Trupti.

She said that she and her supporters will go to Sabarimala by observing all rules that a devotee is supposed to follow. The custom at Sabarimala requires devotees to follow austerity for 41 days before the pilgrimage. Desai also said they will ensure the women will not be bleeding while trekking the hill.

“We understand the concerns of the temple authorities about menstrual bleeding. This normally lasts just four days. How anybody can keep away the women on grounds of impurity for the remaining 26 days of a month,” Desai asked, questioning the tradition followed at Sabarimala.

She added that the LDF government in the state will support her campaign, since it has already backed the demand in the apex court. She said they were expecting protection and cooperation from chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and his government.

First Published On : Dec 10, 2016 21:16 IST

Cauvery row: SC upholds maintainability of appeals against 2007 grant of CWDT

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court on Friday upheld the maintainability of appeals filed by Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala against the 2007 award of the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal (CWDT) on sharing of river water saying it has the “jurisdiction to decide the parameters, scope, authority and jurisdiction of the tribunal”.A three-judge bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra said the exposition of the principles of law, the intendment of the legislature and the ultimate purpose and effect of the provision compel it to “repel” the submissions raised on behalf of the Union of India that Section 6(2) bars the jurisdiction conferred on this court under Article 136.The bench also comprising Justices Amitava Roy and AM Khanwilkar said that from the provisions it is clear as crystal that Parliament did not intend to create any kind of embargo on the jurisdiction of this court and the provision section 6 (2) was inserted to give the binding effect to the award passed by the tribunal. “The founding fathers had not conferred the power on this court to entertain an original suit or complaint and that is luminescent from the language employed in Article 131 of the Constitution and from the series of pronouncements of this court,” the bench said, adding that the words “same force as on order or decision” cannot be treated as a decree for the purpose for excluding the jurisdiction of the apex court.
ALSO READ AIADMK calls for formation of Cauvery Management BoardElaborating, the court said that the award of tribunal cannot be a “decree as if this court has adjudicated the matter and decree is passed”. “Parliament has intended that the same (tribunal’s award) shall be executed or abided as if it is a decree of this court. It is to be borne in mind that a provision should not be interpreted to give a different colour which has a technical design rather than serving the object of the legislation,” it said.Referring to an earlier Constitution bench judgement of apex court, the bench said that it was held that this court cannot take cognisance of an original dispute or complaint. “The Constitution bench analysing the scheme of the 1956 Act has opined that the tribunal had the jurisdiction to grant interim relief. It has also been categorically ruled that this Court cannot take cognizance of original dispute,” it said.
ALSO READ DMK’s all party Cauvery meet will pressure Centre, Karnataka: Puducherry CM V Narayanasamy While referring to another verdict of the apex court, the bench said that “this court has jurisdiction to decide the parameters, scope, authority and jurisdiction of the tribunal”.It said that once a water dispute is adjudicated by the tribunal under the provisions of the Constitution, it loses the nature of dispute. “A person aggrieved can always have his remedy invoking the jurisdiction under Article 136 of the Constitution of India. We have not a scintilla of doubt in our mind that the founding fathers did not want the award or the final order passed by the tribunal to remain immune from challenge. That is neither the express language of Article 262(1) nor it is implied to states. Thus, the contention of the Union of India with regard to maintainability of the appeal by special leave under Article 136 of the Constitution of India on this score stands repelled,” it said.
ALSO READ Convene TN Assembly on Cauvery issue: All-party meet to state govtThe bench listed the appeals filed by three states to be heard on December 15, 2016 and directed that interim orders passed on October 18 will continue. On October 18, the apex court had directed Karnataka to keep supplying Tamil Nadu with 2,000 cusecs of water till further orders.The court had earlier said that it would first go into the issue of maintainability of appeals filed by Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala against the award of tribunal and then hear arguments on the report filed by Supervisory Committee formed to assess the ground realities in the Cauvery basin region.The Centre, through Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, had raised a preliminary objection claiming that the CWDT award amounted to a final decree in the dispute and the apex court had no jurisdiction to hear appeals against the award of the tribunal. But the states had contended that their appeals were maintainable saying the Supreme Court had the jurisdiction to adjudicate the appeals filed by the state against the award of tribunal and that no statute can take away the appellate powers of the apex court under Article 136 of the Constitution.

Justice Katju wants SC to hear contempt case before winter vacation

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former Supreme Court judge Justice Markandey Katju moved the apex court on Friday seeking early hearing of a contempt case against him for allegedly using “intemperate” language and “scandalising” the judiciary. A bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi agreed to look into the submission made by senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, on behalf of Justice Katju, who mentioned the matter for early hearing, saying it should be listed before the winter vacation. To this, the bench said, “You file a proper application and we will look into it”. Dhavan said that he has already filed the application. On November 11, the apex court had issued contempt notice to Justice Katju after taking note of Katju’s statement in a blog and said that it constituted a serious assault on judges and not on the judgement. Justice Katju had appeared in the court following its October 17 direction asking him to be present and debate his Facebook post criticising an SC verdict by which the convict in Soumya rape case had escaped gallows as he was acquitted of the murder charge.It had asked him to appear before the court to point out the “fundamental flaws” in the case. The issue of contempt was raised after the bench had dismissed the review petitions filed by the Kerala government and the mother of Soumya challenging the acquittal of the convict of the murder charge.Justice Katju had protested against the decision to issue contempt notice and said the judges were threatening him and it was not proper for them to behave in such manner with a former judge of the apex court. He was summoned as he in his blog had claimed that there was “grave error” in the judgement acquitting the accused in the murder case and he was asked to assist the bench during the hearing of the review petition. Justice Katju, through his Facebook post on September 15, had criticised the verdict commuting to life the death sentence awarded to Govindachamy for raping 23-year-old sales representative Soumya on February 1, 2011, after she fell out a moving train in Kerala.While issuing notice to Justice Katju, the bench had also quoted the post which said, “It is regrettable that the court has not read section 300 IPC (culpable homicide is murder, if the act by which the death is caused is done with the intention of causing death) carefully. The judgement needs to be reviewed in an open court hearing.”

Demonetisation: SC seeks govt stand on co-operative banks exchanging old notes

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday sought response of the Centre on the issues including whether the district cooperative banks can be allowed to accept deposits with certain conditions and can there be a minimum assured withdrawal from banks.

A bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur asked Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi to seek instruction and apprise it about the stand of the government on issues including the bar on district cooperative banks from accepting deposits in demonetised currency notes.

The bench also comprising justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud said that when the minimum weekly withdrawal limit has been fixed, then why people are not able to get that amount.

Supreme Court of India. Reuters

Supreme Court of India. Reuters

“Can we say that this will be the minimum assured weekly withrawal amount that a person can get from the bank,” the bench asked and while fixing the batch of petitions for further hearing on 14 December.

The bench, meanwhile, proposed to frame various legal questions to be deliberated upon in the future hearing.

Rohatgi sought a direction that cases in various high courts on the demonetisation issue be stayed. The bench said that it would take up this issue on next date of hearing.

The top court had on 2 December asked the Centre to spell out the measures taken to ease suffering of and inconvenience to the people in rural areas.

While hearing a batch of pleas challenging various aspects of demonetisation, the court had said that all parties should sit together and prepare a list of categories of cases which could be referred to high courts and those that could be heard by the apex court.

The AG had said that the government was aware of the situation in cooperative banks which lack proper infrastructure and mechanism as compared to scheduled banks.

The Centre had on 24 November filed an affidavit in the apex court on demonetisation and had said that the “bold move” would eradicate black money and slush funds operating since independence which cast a “parallel economy” hitting the poor and the middle class.

On 29 November, the apex court had agreed to hear pleas of 14 cooperative banks of Kerala seeking its nod to transact business like banks and others seeking demonetisation of any currency note higher than Rs 100 denomination.

First Published On : Dec 9, 2016 15:41 IST

How Kerala’s Kodinhi village was saved from communal riots after the killing of a Muslim convert

Faisal, a 32-year-old Muslim convert, was hacked to death in Kodinhi, a sleepy village in Kerala’s Malappuram district last month. Faisal — Anil Kumar before switching to Islam — was allegedly murdered by RSS workers at 5 am on 19 November, while he was on his way to the neighbouring Tirurangadi railway station to receive his in-laws.

Faisal had embraced Islam six months ago in Saudi Arabia, where he was working as a driver. His wife, Jesna (formerly Priya), two sons and a daughter, followed suit a week before his murder. He had been receiving death threats ever since he came home for a vacation in August this year. And he was murdered a day before he was to return to his workplace in Saudi Arabia. Police sources said Faisal was killed by a gang with the support of his relatives, as they feared he would convert more family members to Islam.

The news of the killing spread fast, and thousands converged at Kodinhi, 25 kilometres west of the district headquarters at Malappuram.

Many people converged to pay respects at Faisal's graveMany people converged to pay respects at Faisal's grave

Many people converged to pay respects at Faisal’s grave

The situation was tense and everyone feared retaliatory action against Hindus, a minority in the village. Members of the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), the political arm of right-wing Muslim outfit Popular Front of India (PFI), visited the village. And even as Faisal’s coffin was being carried to the burial ground at the Kodinhi mosque, their Taqbir chants (Allah is the greatest) reverberated the air. The ruling CPM dispensation in the state has been at loggerheads with the SDPI, and Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan had earlier described it as a “party that trains people to commit murder”.

Peace keepers

But when the situation threatened to get out of hand, Kodinhi found its saviours in the mosque committee and the Imam (the person who heads the prayers in the mosque). The mosque committee acted quickly and called for an immediate meeting of all Muslim organisations to chalk out plans. “We wanted to preserve communal harmony in Kodinhi. We also offered help for the police, as we knew it was difficult to control the 10,000-odd crowd who came to attend the funeral,” said PV Komukkutty Haji, one of the two secretaries of the committee.

The Muslim-majority Kodinhi village is part of Nannambra Grama Panchayath. It has 3,000 Muslim families and less than 200 Hindu families. “We decided to protect our Hindu brothers at any cost,” Haji said.

People visited Faisal's house to offer condolences and financial support to the bereavedPeople visited Faisal's house to offer condolences and financial support to the bereaved

People visited Faisal’s house to offer condolences and financial support to the bereaved

Imam PA Hyderali Faisi said he feared the worst when he saw a huge crowd where the body was kept for public viewing. “It prompted me to urge people to desist from fomenting trouble,” he said. “The charged up SDPI members tried to ignite communal passion by chanting Takbir. It was against our tradition. Devotees normally chant La Ilaha Illallah (There is absolutely no deity worthy of worship except Allah) peacefully while carrying the coffin.”

“I once again made an announcement through the public address system before leading the funeral prayer. I exhorted them to keep faith in the law enforcement agencies. I also told them to not to participate in protest marches that would affect the communal harmony of the village,” he added.

These efforts paid dividends, as Kodinhi remained calm.

Fearing non-cooperation from Kodinhi villagers, the SDPI was forced to shift its protest march to the nearby town of Chemmad. “By the grace of God, our village remained peaceful. We are happy to protect it from a disaster,” Haji said. “If we didn’t interfere, fundamentalist organisations would have influenced youngsters to create havoc,” Faisi added.

The Imam who announced people to exercise restraitnt after Faisal's murderThe Imam who announced people to exercise restraitnt after Faisal's murder

The Imam who announced people to exercise restraitnt after Faisal’s murder

Paying respects

The Kodinhi Juma Masjid is the oldest among 25 mosques in Kodinhi village. Built by Sufi saint Mambaram Thangal, the mosque is the preferred place for both Hindus and Muslims to settle disputes. “When people fail to solve disputes, they come to the mosque on Fridays to find a solution,” Faisi said.

But now, devotees flock to the mosque on other days as well; they arrive in groups and offer prayers near Faisal’s grave. They also visit his uncle’s home, where his mother, wife and three children stay currently, to offer condolence and financial support. For them, Faisal is a martyr who gave his life for Islam, and they consider it their duty to pray for his departed soul.

A few days after Faisal’s killing, his mother, Minimol, also embraced Islam and took the name Jameela. “My son lost his life only because he embraced Islam. So, I too decided to follow his path. Moreover, I don’t want to leave my daughter-in-law and children alone,” said the grieving mother said. “I had planned to convert to Islam a few months ago. But I waited to get permission from my daughters. Faisal’s killing forced me to take this decision quickly.”

Faisal's mother Minimol, who also embraced Islam and took the name JameelaFaisal's mother Minimol, who also embraced Islam and took the name Jameela

Faisal’s mother Minimol, who also embraced Islam and took the name Jameela

Faisal’s murder had shocked villagers, cutting across religious lines. Devayani, who is busy preparing for a pilgrimage to Sabarimala, said she knew Faisal since childhood. “I was shocked to hear about his death. He didn’t do anything wrong. People have the right to believe or choose their religion. I never imagined such a thing would happen in our village. I will visit his mother after coming back from Sabarimala,” she said.

She stays close to the Kurumba Bhagavathi Temple, which was built in the land donated by the Kodinhi Juma Masjid many years ago. Alikkutty Haji, who stays close to Faisal’s house, said some fringe elements tried to create tension in the village after the killing. “We should not blame the whole community for a crime done by a few people. Hindus and Muslims have been living in perfect harmony in Kodinhi. We will preserve it at any cost,” he said.

The Koorba Bhagawathi Temple situated at the land donated by the Kodinhi Juma MasjidThe Koorba Bhagawathi Temple situated at the land donated by the Kodinhi Juma Masjid

The Koorba Bhagawathi Temple situated at the land donated by the Kodinhi Juma Masjid

Police action

Meanwhile, the police arrested three RSS workers — Babu, Appu and Sudheesh — on Tuesday and Wednesday in connection with Faisal’s killing. They had earlier picked up eight RSS workers, including the victim’s bother-in-law Vinod, for hatching the conspiracy. More arrests are expected in the coming days.

First Published On : Dec 8, 2016 15:22 IST

Kerala HC orders women cannot wear salwar kameez, churidar inside Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Within days of the centuries-old Padmanabha Swamy temple’s decision to to relax its dress code for women, the Kerala High Court on Thursday ordered that women should not be allowed to wear salwar kameez and churidar in the temple.Earlier, women devotees had to wear a ‘mundu’ (dhoti) over their waist if they were attired in salwars and churidars before entering the famous shrine, considered the richest Hindu temple in the world. The custom was stopped recently by Temple Executive officer KN Sateesh thereby permitting devotees to wear the traditional Indian salwar kameez and churidar while worshipping at the shrine. Many women had worn the salwar kameez and churidar without the mundu on December 1.The temple’s senior Tantri (priest), however, has voiced opposition to the decision. “A decision was taken today to allow women to wear salwar kameez and churidars..from this evening itself, devotees can offer worship wearing salwars and churidars,” said.

Padmanabhaswamy Temple dress code: Kerala HC upholds ban on salwar kameez

In a judicial order which can potentially raise a storm across the country, a divisional bench of the Kerala High Court on Thursday, ordered that women should not be allowed to wear salwar kameez and churidar inside the Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple, an ANI report said.

The latest order also states that the decision of the tantri or chief priest is final and the Temple Board does not have the authority to make the rules, a Mathrubhumi report said.

The order claims significance as last month, the temple executive officer of the renowned temple, broke age-old traditions allowing women wearing churidar or salwar kameez to enter the temple. This step was taken after the high court intervened following a petition by a woman devotee Riya Raj, The Indian Express reported.

The new petition was filed by private parties challenging the Kerala High Court’s November order.

According to this NDTV report, many members of the administrative board, which includes temple priests as well opposed the move and urged to continue the tradition.

However, just days after the November order, the new dress code was withdrawn by the temple board after protests from Hindu organisations, The Indian Express added.

According to traditions, only women wearing a saree, dhoti or long skirt are allowed to enter the temple premises, the NDTV report added.

First Published On : Dec 8, 2016 14:26 IST

‘Personal law not above Constitution’: Read Allahabad HC observation on Triple Talaq

The Allahabad High Court on Thursday called the practice of triple talaq among Muslims as ‘unconstitutional’. Saying that no personal law board is above the Constitution, the court held that triple talaq violates the fundamental rights of Muslim women.

Here is the operative part of Allahabad High Court’s observation: 

The question which disturbs the Court is should muslim wives suffer this tyranny for all times? Should their personal law remain so cruel towards these unfortunate wives? Whether the personal law can be amended suitably to alleviate their sufferings? The judicial conscience is disturbed at this monstrosity. The first wife has to live life for no fault of her but for the reason that her husband got attracted to a lady half of her age which is the reason for being divorced. The view that the Muslim husband enjoys an arbitrary, unilateral power to inflict evil instant divorce does not accord with Islamic injunctions. It is a popular fallacy that a Muslim male enjoys, under the Quaranic Law, unbridled authority to liquidate the marriage. The whole Quoran expressly forbids a man to seek pretexts for divorcing his wife, so long as she remains faithful and obedient to him. The Islamic law gives to the man primarily the faculty of dissolving the marriage, if the wife, by her indocility or her bad character, renders the married life unhappy; but in the absence of serious reasons, no man can justify a divorce, either in the eye of religion or the law. If he abandons his wife or puts her away in simple caprice, he draws upon himself the divine anger, for the curse of God, said the Prophet, rests on him who repudiates his wife capriciously. In other Islamic State, where the husband must satisfy the court about the reasons for divorce.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

However, Muslim law, as applied in India, has taken a course contrary to the spirit of what the Prophet or the Holy Quoran laid down and the same misconception vitiates the law dealing with the wife’s right to divorce. The divorce is permissible in Islam only in cases of extreme emergency. When all efforts for effecting a reconciliation have failed, the parties may proceed to a dissolution of the marriage by ‘Talaq’ or by ‘Khola’. The statement that “the whimsical and capricious divorce by the husband is good in law, though bad in theology” cannot be approved as the correct law. The correct law of talaq as ordained by the Holy Quran is that talaq must be for a reasonable cause and be preceded by attempts at reconciliation between the husband and the wife by two arbiters- one from the wife’s family and the other from the husband’s; if the attempts fail, talaq may be effected. (Ref: Pathayi v. Moideen 1968 KLT 763; A. Yousuf Rawther Vs. Sowramma, AIR 1971 Kerala 261; referred to with approval by the Supreme Court in Shamim Ara vs State Of U.P. & another : 2002 (7) SCC 518). The decision in Shamim Ara was rendered in 2002, wherein, the observation of the Division Bench judgment of the Kerala High Court was noticed and approved, which was rendered 20-30 years before.

Country has in recent times marched steps ahead in all walks of life including progressive interpretation of laws which cannot be lost sight of except by compromising with regressive trends…. “Law is dynamic and its meaning cannot be pedantic but purposeful.” (Refer– Bai Tahira Vs. Ali Hussain AIR 1979 SC 362).

The purpose of Law in a modern secular State based upon the Constitution is to bring about social change. The muslim community comprise a large percentage of Indian population, therefore, a large section of citizen, in particularly women, cannot be left to themselves to be governed by archaic customs and social practise under the garb of personal law purportedly having divine sanction. The women of the community continue to suffer bias, deprived of the protection, they should otherwise get through provisions in the Constitution that provide for equality and non discrimination.

India is a nation in the making, geographical boundaries alone do not define a nation. It is to be adjudged, amongst others, on the parameter of overall human development and how the society in particular treat their women; leaving such a large population to the whims & fancy of personal law which perpetuate gender inequality and is regressive, is not in the interest of society and the country. It impedes and drags India from becoming a nation. The instant divorce (Triple Talaq) though has been deprecated and not followed by all sects of muslim community in the country, however, is a cruel and the most demeaning form of divorce practised by the muslim community at large. Women cannot remain at the mercy of the patriarchal setup held under the clutches of sundry clerics having their own interpretation of the holy Quoran. Personal laws, of any community, cannot claim supremacy over the rights granted to the individuals by the Constitution.

I would not like to say anything further for the reason that the Supreme Court is seized with the matter.

In Shamim Ara, a statement merely made in the pleadings “written statement” though unsubstantiated that the wife was divorced upon delivering copy of the written statement, was not accepted by the Supreme Court and the subsequent marriage contracted by the husband was held void.

In the facts and circumstances of the present case, the petition stands dismissed. The legality of the marriage/divorce and rights of parties is kept open.

No cost.

First Published On : Dec 8, 2016 13:23 IST

Jayalalithaa’s demise: Govt offices, educational institutions in Kerala to remain shut on Tuesday

Thiruvananthapuram: Government offices and educational institutions in Kerala will remain shut on Tuesday as a mark of respect to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, who passed away after a prolonged illness.

A supporter of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa holds her photo. Reuters

A supporter of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa holds her photo. Reuters

In a press statement, the government declared a holiday for all government offices, including state owned Public Sector Undertakings and educational institutions.

Expressing his deep sorrow at the demise of Jayalalithaa who died on Monday night, State Governor P Sathasivam said she was the greatest woman political leader in contemporary India.

“In her we saw the perfect blending of the strong will of an able administrator and the compassion of a philanthropist.”

“In her sad demise, we have lost a unique mother’s touch that had brightened the lives of millions of people during the last three decades.”

In his condolence message, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan described Jayalalithaa as an extraordinary politician with a rare political acumen and administrative skills which made her a distinct leader in Indian politics.

She had a special liking for Kerala and always strived to uphold and maintain relations, Vijayan said.

“We do not have any other Chief Ministers in our country who have influenced people like this. Her passing away is not only a major loss to Tamil Nadu, but for the entire country.” Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala was among those who condoled her death.

Meanwhile, to prevent any untoward incidents, Kerala police strengthened security in the districts bordering Tamil Nadu with additional forces being deployed in the border areas of Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Idukki and Palakkad districts.

First Published On : Dec 6, 2016 08:40 IST

Sushma Swaraj asks Kerala govt to expedite trial of Japanese woman rape case

Fri, 2 Dec 2016-09:45pm , New Delhi , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has asked the Kerala government to expedite the trial in a case of alleged rape of a Japanese woman in the state’s Kovalam district last month.In a series of tweets, she said, “I asked for a report from Government of Kerala about the rape of a Japanese tourist on 25 Nov 2016. We have received the report.””The statement of the victim has been recorded before a Magistrate and the accused has been apprehended.””I have asked Government of Kerala to expedite the trial and keep us informed about the case.”According to Kerala Police, the 35-year-old Japanese woman was allegedly raped by a man from neighbouring Karnataka at Kovalam and a case was registered against him under section 376 (punishment for rape) of the Indian Penal Code.

Demonetization: SC asks Centre to spell out steps to ease inconvenience of people in rural India

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Centre to spell out measures taken to ease the sufferings and inconvenience of people in rural areas, who are mostly dependent on co-operative banks, post-demonetization.A bench of Chief Justice TS Thakur and Justice DY Chandrachud, while hearing a batch of pleas challenging various aspects of demonetization, said all the parties should sit together and prepare a list of categories of cases which could be referred to high courts and those that could be heard by the apex court.Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Centre, said that the government is aware of the situation in co-operative banks which lack proper infrastructure and mechanism as compared to scheduled banks. “Entire chapter in the additional affidavit filed by the Centre is dedicated to the issue of co-operative banks. It is not that we are not aware of the situation but these (the co-operative banks) lack proper facilities, mechanism and proper infrastructure as compared to scheduled banks,” he said.He said that the government has deliberately kept co-operative banks out of the drive as these did not have the expertise to detect fake currency. Rohatgi said, “Several cases are filed each passing day in various high courts on various aspects post demonetization and it is not possible to deal with cases simultaneously in Kerala, Kolkata, Jaipur and Mumbai… All these matter should be clubbed together and be referred to any one high court or the apex court should hear them.”Senior advocate P Chidambaram, appearing for co-operative banks, questioned the government’s decision, saying that the rural economy is almost paralysed due to non-inclusion of co-operative banks.Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for one of the petitioners, suggested that they will sit together and file the list of categories by Monday.The bench then posted the hearing on the matter to December 5.

RBI, banks take steps to save payday blues

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Finance ministry and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) are keeping a close watch as the payday approaches. Viewing the first week of the month as salary time, the central bank has released less cash in the past two days to ensure larger availability from December 1, sources said.Companies are looking for creative ways to help employees not stand in queues for getting their monthly salaries. The demand for cash cards has gone up by hundreds of thousands.Banks have a tough task at hand as pensioners and the salaried class queue up for monthly salaries. With state treasuries restricted from accepting or giving cash, state government employees and pensioners may find it difficult to get their monthly dues, not to mention the thousands of other employees in the organised and unorganised sectors.”While the RBI reserves may be depleting, it is also being replenished to ensure sufficient cash,” ministry officials said, adding that there was enough cash till December 31. The government was of the view that the ATM withdrawal quantum could be raised at a later stage when more Rs 500 notes will be made available.State governments, which were earlier worried about making payments to employees and pensioners through treasuries are now heaving a sigh of relief, with the RBI promising them adequate supply. Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Issac on Wednesday said that the state will face no difficulties on payday as the RBI has agreed to release Rs 1,000 crore to the state.Arundhati Bhattacharya, chairman of State Bank of India (SBI), told DNA: “We have also tried to use analytics to forecast cash requirements during salary period so as to ensure better preparedness. We hope to be able to undertake salary payments smoothly. Till date, we have tried our best to ensure that we are able to serve the maximum number of people – both at the branches and ATMs.”Bhattacharya added: “We would like to appeal to people to use debit cards for purchases rather than for drawing cash.”The RBI on Wednesday took steps to increase the liquidity situation to ensure adequate cash supply for stabilising the cash crunch scenario, triggered by demonetization.December 1 is also the payday for private and government sector, and most employees are now demanding salary in cash rather than online or cheque payment.Taking this into consideration, the Finance ministry has asked the RBI to step up liquidity to increase printing of currencies and circulation of the same.The bank explained that it is trying its best to increase cash circulation of Rs 100, Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes for all markets, apart from printing more currency notes. In the next one week, the RBI is expected to increase the cash circulation of the aforementioned denominations.Rituparna Chakraborty, President, Indian Staffing Federation (ISF), said that it will all also propel some desirable changes such as bringing the informal workers into the fold of formal workforce. Today, 94% of India’s workforce is in the informal sector, whose incomes do not even get properly accounted.”In the medium to long term, she feels employers engaging casual workers will be compelled to make payments to them only through banking or other formal modes. You will not see any impact of it (cash shortage due to demonetization) on large organisations and bigger metros. It would be only in sectors like real estate, construction and infrastructure, where a lot of work used to get done through cash,” Chakraborty added.

Cyclonic storm likely to hit Tamil Nadu coast on December 2

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A cyclonic storm is likely to hit Tamil Nadu coast between Vedaranniyam and Chennai by December 2, the India Meteorological Department on Wednesdya said.According to Cyclone Warning Division of the IMD, satellite imagery indicates a depression has formed over southeast Bay of Bengal.It currently lays centred about 1070 km east-southeast of Chennai, 1030 km east-southeast of Puducherry and 720 km east-southeast of Trincomalee (Srilanka).”The system is very likely to move west-northwestwards, intensify into a deep depression during next 24 hours and into a cyclonic storm in subsequent 24 hours. It is very likely to cross north Tamil Nadu coast between Vedaranniyam and Chennai by the morning of December 2,” the IMD said.The IMD has advised fishermen not to venture into sea along and off Tamil Nadu and Puducherry coasts from evening of November 30 onwards. Those at sea are advised to return to the coast.Light to moderate rainfall at many places is very likely to commence over coastal Tamil Nadu from the evening of November 30.The intensity would increase with rainfall at most places and “heavy to very heavy rainfall” at a few places over coastal Tamil Nadu and Puducherry and isolated “heavy to very heavy rainfall” over interior Tamil Nadu on December 1 and 2, the IMD said.Light to moderate rainfall would occur at many places with isolated heavy falls very likely over Kerala on December 2 and 3.”Squally winds speed reaching 45-55 kmph gusting to 65 kmph would commence to prevail along and off Tamil Nadu and Puducherry coasts from December 1. Sea condition would be rough to very rough along off Tamil Nadu and Puducherry coasts from December 1 onward,” the IMD added.

Women can now enter Padmanabha Swamy temple in salwar kameez and churidars

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The centuries-old Padmanabha Swamy temple decided to relax its dress code for women on Tuesday, permitting devotees to wear the traditional Indian salwar kameez and churidar while worshipping at the shrine but the temple’s senior Tantri (priest) has voiced opposition to the decision.Earlier, women devotees had to wear a ‘mundu’ (dhoti) over their waist if they were attired in salwars and churidars before entering the famous shrine, considered the richest Hindu temple in the world. “A decision was taken today to allow women to wear salwar kameez and churidars..from this evening itself, devotees can offer worship wearing salwars and churidars,” Temple Executive officer KN Sateesh said.The Kerala High Court had recently disposed of a petition seeking permission to allow women to wear salwars and churidars inside the temple after directing the Executive officer to decide within 30 days on the matter. Sateesh said he had received mails and mass petitions from devotees, especially women, seeking a direction to temple authorities to permit wearing of salwar kameez and churidars inside the shrine.Devotees from all over the country visit the shrine throughout the year and had been wanting a change in the dress code. “Keralites have also wanted this saying it was more convenient..there is no justification for wearing a mundu on top of the salwars or churidars. It is a mockery,” he said.Sateesh said he had received several letters from IAS officers, scientists, doctors and from ordinary persons also seeking permission to be allowed to wear churidars as it was a ‘decent and dignified dress’. Salwar kameez and churidars were being allowed as it was a traditional Indian attire, he said, adding, however, jeans, tights and such other dresses will not be permitted.Meanwhile, the temple’s senior Tantri (priest) Nedumpilli Tharanalloor Parameshwaran Namboodiripad has voiced opposition to allowing women to wear salwar and churidar, saying it was against customs and age old traditions of the shrine. The present dress code should continue, he informed the Administrative Committee and Executive officer, temple sources said.The Administrative Committee has also said that the present dress code should be continued. “Such a decision has been taken after obtaining the written opinion of Tantri and also after gathering the opinion of other stake holders like the Trustee, ‘Ettara Yogam functionaries’ and a cross section of the devotees,” the committee said. “It is of the firm view that these kinds of issues which are superfluous are being raked up, only to sideline other important matters affecting the temple and its administration,” the committee said, adding, “the age old tradition in vogue cannot be changed without wider consultation.”According to temple customs, women should wear sarees, ‘mundu and neriyathu’ (set mundu), not cover their face while offering worship, while men have to wear mundu and be bare-chested. The Guruvayoor Sri Krishna temple had in 2007 amended its strict dress code for women devotees to allow them to enter the temple wearing salwar and churidars. Earlier, only those in sarees and traditional full skirts were allowed inside.The Padmanabha Swamy temple, built in an intricate fusion of the indigenous Kerala style and Dravidian style of architecture, has Lord Vishnu enshrined in the “Anantha Shayanam” posture, the eternal yogic sleep on the serpent Adisheshan, as its presiding deity.

NIA arrests 2 more al-Qaeda sympathisers in court bomb blast case

New Delhi: Carrying out with its probe in the blasts outside court premises in South India since April this year, NIA on Tuesday arrested two more persons for allegedly being involved in the conspiracy to carry out bomb explosions by a group sympathising with terror outfit al-Qaeda.

With Tuesday’s arrest, the number of people arrested in the case has gone upto five. The NIA, along with police forces from Tamil Nadu and Telangana, had arrested three persons on Monday for the five bomb blast cases in court premises of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka since April.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Among the arrests effected today was Mohammed Ayub Ali, who had been detained last night. Ali (25) of Madurai, who works as a public liaison officer for a hearing aid company, was placed under arrest today, NIA spokesman said.

The other person arrested was Shamsudeen, 25, a resident of Madurai after his name cropped up during interrogation of others arrested by the NIA.

The cases relate to blasts inside a vehicle at a parking place at district court complex, in Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh on April 7; in a parking area of CJM Court Complex at Kollam in Kerala on June 15; inside court complex at Mysuru on 1 August, in Nellore of Andhra Pradesh on September 12 and inside a toilet complex of judicial court, Malappuram in Kerala on 1 November.

The NIA had arrested Abbas Ali, Suleiman and Samsum Karim Raja, all residents of Tamil Nadu.

The NIA spokesman had claimed that the arrested accused “during sustained interrogation confessed to their involvement in these blasts.”

Ali, a school dropout, was working as a painter and also ran a library in the name ‘Darul Ilm’ at Madurai. Raja is a Commerce graduate and runs a chicken broiler shop at Kannimara Koil street in Madurai.

Suleiman was working in a software firm. He was the main leader of the terrorist group which was influenced by the ideology of Osama bin Laden.

The group had claimed responsibility for these blasts and circulated pamphlets, pen drives and CDs in the name of “The Base Movement”, translation of the word al Qaeda.

First Published On : Nov 29, 2016 15:51 IST

Al Qaeda plot: NIA arrests 2 more sympathisers

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Carrying out with its probe in the blasts outside court premises in South India since April this year, NIA arrested two more persons on Tuesday for allegedly being involved in the conspiracy to carry out bomb explosions by a group sympathising with terror outfit al-Qaeda.With today’s arrest, the number of people arrested in the case has gone upto five.The NIA, along with police forces from Tamil Nadu and Telangana, had arrested three persons yesterday for the five bomb blast cases in court premises of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka since April. Among the arrests effected today was Mohammed Ayub Ali, who had been detained last night. Ali (25) of Madurai, who works as a public liaison officer for a hearing aid company, was placed under arrest today, NIA spokesman said.The other person arrested was Shamsudeen, 25, a resident of Madurai after his name cropped up during interrogation of others arrested by the NIA. The cases relate to blasts inside a vehicle at a parking place at district court complex, in Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh on April 7; in a parking area of CJM Court Complex at Kollam in Kerala on June 15; inside court complex at Mysuru on August 1, in Nellore of Andhra Pradesh on September 12 and inside a toilet complex of judicial court, Malappuram in Kerala on November 1.The NIA had arrested Abbas Ali, Suleiman and Samsum Karim Raja, all residents of Tamil Nadu. The NIA spokesman had claimed that the arrested accused “during sustained interrogation confessed to their involvement in these blasts.”Ali, a school dropout, was working as a painter and also ran a library in the name ‘Darul Ilm’ at Madurai. Raja is a Commerce graduate and runs a chicken broiler shop at Kannimara Koil street in Madurai. Suleiman was working in a software firm. He was the main leader of the terrorist group which was influenced by the ideology of Osama bin Laden.The group had claimed responsibility for these blasts and circulated pamphlets, pen drives and CDs in the name of “The Base Movement”, translation of the word al Qaeda.

Opposition protest demonetization across the country, BJP calls Jan Akrosh Divas a ‘flop show’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Accusing the Centre of being “anti-poor”, non-BJP parties hit the streets across the country to protest against scrapping of high currency notes disrupting normal life in Left-ruled states of Kerala and Tripura where a bandh was observed.As the Centre’s demonetization drive completes three weeks, the protests were staged as part of the opposition’s ‘Jan Aakrosh Divas’. Terming as “flop show” the nation-wide strike and protest calls given by the opposition parties, the BJP said people have rejected both as they have no faith in “tainted” parties behind them.While the Left constituents called a 12-hour bandh, other parties including Congress and TMC only held protests. JD(U) and BJD did not participate in the protests. Hundreds of workers from various Opposition parties, led by DMK, were arrested when they staged protests across Tamil Nadu. The parties slammed the ban on Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes as a “war on rural poor” that was causing “hardship” to the common man.DMK Treasurer M K Stalin, state secretaries of CPI-M and CPI G Ramakrishnan and R Mutharasan respectively, along with a several workers of their parties were among those arrested when they staged protests separately in front of central government offices and nationalised banks, police said.During their protest in the national capital, seven Left parties including the CPI(M) and CPI decried the invalidation of old currency notes as “anti-poor and pro-corporate” and demanded that the government let people use these notes until it makes new notes available.Gwalior district Congress President Darshan Singh died of cardiac arrest in Gwalior soon after submitting a memorandum during the ‘Jan Aakrosh Diwas’ protest. Gwalior Divisional Commissioner S N Roopla said Singh was part of a Congress delegation which came for submitting the memorandum to him.In Kerala, the ruling CPI(M)-led LDF sponsored 12-hour strike against demonetization evoked a near total response.Shops and business establishments downed shutters and state- run KSRTC and private buses kept off the roads across the state in response to the strike which began at 6 AM.The Left Democratic Front took out marches at various places with state CPI-M Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan here attacking the Centre for causing ‘hardship’ to the people in the name of its crackdown on black money. TheOpposition Congress-led UDF, which did not participate in the hartal, took out a march to the Raj Bhavan instead to register its protest against the Centre’s decision to scrap high value notes and consequent crisis in the state’s cooperative sector.Ruling Congress in Karnataka held protests and rallies throughout the state against demonetisation. The protest affected the functioning of both the Houses of Karnataka Legislature, now in a 10-day winter session at Belagavi, as they did not sit today in line with the decision taken by the Business Advisory Committee (BAC).Life in Bengaluru and elsewhere remained normal with commercial establishments, educational institutions, banks and private offices working as usual and public transport and Metro maintaining their regular services.The state-wide 12-hour strike called by Left parties to in West Bengal failed to evoke much response. Government and private buses, trams and other private vehicles were seen plying on the road while most of the shops and markets were open. The strike call by the Left Front has been opposed by the ruling TMC.Train services of Eastern Railway in Sealdah and Howrah sections, besides Metro Rail services were also normal.Normal life was hit in Left-ruled Tripura with schools, colleges and shops remaining closed and vehicles staying off the roads. However, banks were open as they were out of the purview of the bandh.In Maharashtra, Congress and NCP hit the streets though normal life remained unaffected with no disruption to public transport or functioning of offices and businesses in Mumbai and other parts.

PM Modi has stopped nation with his demonetization drive: Mayawati

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati on Monday said that while her party is not supporting the opposition-led ‘Bharat Bandh’ it opposes the method of demonetization move adopted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”They are accusing the opposition of going ahead with the Bharat Bandh. They themselves have imposed the bandh by this move. We are not responsible for this,” Mayawati said.She further said that there was no preparation for this drastic step which has inconvenienced the common people. “We do not support corruption or black money, but we are against its implementation and the entire opposition is against it. Why is he not ready to answer in Parliament? He is making comments outside,” she said.The opposition parties have called for a countrywide protest today against what they call the government’s “mishandling” of the currency ban. Only the Left Front, which has a presence in Kerala, Bengal and Tripura, has called for a strike or ‘Bharat Bandh’ in the three states.Prime Minister Modi yesterday slammed the opposition for its all-India shutdown call over demonetization, saying the country instead needed an end to evils like corruption and black money.Addressing the BJP’s Parivartan Rally in Kasya assembly segment of Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh, the Prime Minister said, “On the one hand we are initiating steps to curb corruption, but on the other hand a few people are talking about ‘Bharat Bandh’.”He described demonetization as a cure to the 70-year-old disease of corruption.

Demonetisation: Shutdown by LDF in Kerala disrupts normal life; tourism, banking to be unaffected

Thiruvananthapuram: The shutdown called by Kerala’s ruling LDF on Monday appeared to be total as only private vehicles plied, offices registered minimal attendances, and normal life was crippled.

While the leading national opposition parties called for a nationwide protest the aftermath of the demonetisation, in Kerala the ruling Left Democratic Front government decided to organise a dawn-to-dusk shutdown.

The shutdown was called to denounce the demonetisation of high value currency which has left the cooperative banks in the state in turmoil.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Even though it was a state-wide shutdown, the organisers have left tourism activities and also the banking establishments out of the ambit of the call. They have also sought the pilgrims to the famed Sabarimala temple to be left unaffected by the shutdown.

Attendances in banks were poor, as vehicular traffic was affected.

The Pinarayi Vijayan-led government has also called the strike to protest the “rash” behaviour of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who declined to meet an all-party delegation from the state which wanted to apprise him of the turmoil in the cooperative sector.

The Congress-led opposition, however, expressed strong reservations over the shutdown.

Following the demonetisation, normal life has already turned upside down in the past 20 days and to further strain it would not be an answer to the woes, the Congress said.

Instead, the party decided it would stage a sit-in in front of the Kerala Raj Bhavan.

The officials at the Indian Space Research Organisation unit in Thiruvananthapuram worked under police security, as did the IT employees at Technopark in Thiruvananthapuram and at Kochi.

On 8 November, the central government demonetised the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes.

Two days later, permission was withdrawn for the 1,600-odd primary cooperative societies from accepting or exchanging the scrapped currency notes, creating widespread resentment in Kerala.

The total deposits in the cooperative banks are around Rs 1.27 lakh crore, says Kerala Cooperation Minister AC Moideen.

First Published On : Nov 28, 2016 12:42 IST

Demonetization: LDF strike begins in Kerala, tourism sector exempted

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The 12-hour strike called by the CPI(M)-led LDF government in Kerala, as part of the nationwide agitation by opposition parties against demonetization and the resultant crisis being faced by the cooperative sector in the state, began this morning.In the early hours of the strike which started at 6.00 am, autorickshaws were seen plying in some places, providing some relief to people.Police vehicles were used to transport railway passengers and patients coming from far off places to the Regional Cancer Centre here. Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) and private buses are keeping off roads in most places.Some Sabarimala pilgrims who arrived at Kottayam by train complained that they were unable to leave for the Ayyappa temple as buses were not plying. “We have been waiting for hours. Though some private taxis are available, we cannot afford them as the fares are exorbitant,” a man from Andhra Pradesh said. The tourism sector and vehicles of Sabarimala pilgrims have been exempted from the strike.Keeping in mind the peak tourist season, the government had decided to exempt tourists from the strike. It has issued instructions to all departments concerned, including police to take all possible steps to ensure that the tourism sector was not hit by the strike. Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran had also requested for exemption of tourists and tourist vehicles from the strike.German Cruise liner AIDAbella which had arrived in Kochi made a turnaround call at the Kochi port yesterday. At least 1000 tourists would be arriving at the airport today to embark the vessel, while some would be leaving it to explore various places. Tour operators were assured by Tourism Principal Secretary V Venu that the hartal would not affect the visitors.The opposition Congress-led UDF would be taking out a march to the Raj Bhavan here at 11.00 am on the crisis being faced by the cooperative sector. Banks, newspapers, milk supply, hospitals and marriage functions would be exempted from the shutdown, LDF convener Vaikom Viswam had said in a statement.The LDF had announced the strike as part of the nationwide protest against the Centre’s move of scrapping Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.

PM Modi’s refusal to meet all-party Kerala delegation insult to state: Oommen Chandy

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Senior Congress leader Oommen Chandy on Friday expressed strong displeasure with the central government over Prime Minister Narendra Modi refusing to meet an all-party delegation from Kerala, saying that it amounted to an insult to the state.He said the delegation wanted to highlight the “pain caused” to people due to demonetization and alleged that the Prime Minister was “evading” a discussion in Parliament and undermining its sovereignty.”It is shocking that you have denied permission to this delegation which not only amounts to an insult to Kerala, but also to the federal structure of India enshrined in our Constitution. Never before in the history of independent India has the Prime Minister declined to meet the delegation of a state,” Chandy said in a letter to Modi.The former Kerala chief minister also criticised the RBI for imposing restrictions on cooperative banks and said the sector accounted for more than Rs 1.30 lakh crore of total deposits in the state and played a crucial role in sustaining the rural economy. He said high-value notes cannot be withdrawn through a notification, but only by an act of Parliament. “Almost all political parties had welcomed the decision to demonetize Rs 500 and 1,000 notes as an anti-corruption measure. However, the ill-conceived and hastily implemented policy has plunged the common man’s life abruptly into abyss for no fault of theirs,” Chandy said, adding that nearly every section of society was reeling under the effects of demonetization.On the issue of bad debts, Chandy asked how can the Union government justify the decision to freeze Rs 7,000 crore or more loans of 63 willful defaulters? “This suggests that the Union government is indulging in selective patronage and crony capitalism. “It is also surprising to note that the Union government has taken no noteworthy steps to unearth and bring back the unaccounted black money in off-shore tax havens, which according to some reports, is more than Rs 30 lakh crore,” he said.

‘Lungi’ wearing visitor not allowed into Kerala Assembly

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A man wearing a white check lungi (kallimundu) was denied entry into the visitors’ gallery in the Kerala assembly on the ground it was an ‘informal’ dress, following which the state Human Rights Commission has sought a clarification from the officials. Kunjimoyin from Kondotty in Malappuram, who had come with a group of 38 persons to witness the assembly proceedings on Nov 8, was denied permission as he was wearing the white lungi.An upset Kunjimoyin filed a complaint before the Kerala Human Rights Commission stating that he was not prevented entry either at the gate or at the entrance of the assembly building. But he was not allowed to enter the visitor’s gallery.Commission has sought a clarification from legislative Secretary VK Babu Prakash on whether there was a dress code in the assembly.Meanwhile, the Assembly Speaker’s office said that ‘informal dressing is not allowed inside the house and gallery. That is the usual practise. A decorum has to be followed. The ‘Kallimundu’ is an informal dress and so the person was not allowed’, an official said.”We are adhering to the procedures followed by Parliament on dressing. Only exception is given to religious symbols,” he said.The complainant has said it was the custom of Malabar to wear white shirt and kallimundu during auspicious occasions and sought amendment of rules if there were rules against visiting the house wearing ‘kallimundu’.

UAE: Unemployed Indian lives on terrace for 8 months after employer withholds passport

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A jobless one-eyed Indian man has been living on the terrace of a building in the UAE for more than eight months without proper food after his employer, also an Indian, withheld his passport, a media report said today.Sajeev Rajan, an electrician in his early forties, belongs to Kollam in Kerala where his wife, two children and ageing parents live.He was left with no other option but to live on the terrace of a building in Ajman city because his employer had refused to return his passport after settling his dues, Khaleej Times reported.An exhausted Ranjan, worked for a Sharjah-based construction company and spent 236 days on the terrace because he does not have a job or money to get a bed space, said he stayed on the terrace even during the harsh summer, the report said. He has been surviving with the generosity of some construction workers and shop owners, it said.”Please send me home or I will die here… there is no money for food or room. I was living in the company accommodation for two years. My contract ended on March 11 and I wanted to go home. Working for 900 Dirham (Rs 16,761) per month did not meet my expectations,” he said.Ranjan alleged that his employer was not ready to relieve him from work and send him back home after clearing his gratuity and leave salary.”When my boss refused to settle my dues and release my passport, I went to the Sharjah immigration department with a complaint. Afterwards, my boss has been trying to delay the process. He is not abiding by the court order. He also filed an absconding case against me even though I had not absconded,” he said.On March 21, Ranjan was forced to vacate the company accommodation in Ajman.He has approached the labour court “several times”, the Indian Consulate, community associations and others “but nobody could help me”, the report said.”The employer from Punjab, India, promises to return my passport in front of officials who mediate for my release, but once he leaves their office, he refuses to hand it over to me,” he said.After his plight was highlighted by the paper, several people came forward with offers to buy air tickets, give him a job among others, the report added.

Demonetization: Man commits suicide, another collapses and dies in Kerala

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>An elderly man in Kerala allegedly ended his life on Monday fearing he would not be able to withdraw money deposited in a cooperative bank due to demonetization and another collapsed and died while standing in a queue in a bank, police said.A 73-year-old Omanakuttan Pillai from Cheruvillayil in Pamba valley in Kottayam district committed suicide by hanging in his bedroom, they said. Pillai had deposited Rs five lakh in a service Cooperative bank and following demonetization he grew apprehensive that he would not be able to withdraw his money, they said.In another incident, Chandrasekharan (68) collapsed and died while he was standing in a queue at a bank in Kollam district.The retired BSNL employee was waiting in the queue at Nallila branch of State Bank of Travancore during a second visit to the branch when he collapsed, police said.He had visited the branch in the morning, but on seeing the long queue, he returned after lunch to withdraw cash from his account. While waiting to collect his token, he is said to have collapsed.Though he was rushed to the hospital, his life could not be saved, they added.On November 11, a 75-year-old man, standing in a queue at a branch of the State Bank of Travancore, collapsed and died, while another died while filling forms to deposit his scrapped high denomination notes in the state.

Demonetisation in Kerala: Curbs on cooperative banks are hurting Non-Resident Keralites

Kerala is one of the few states where demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes generated so much heat. The state witnessed a rare phenomenon of the entire state Cabinet sitting on a day-long dharna with the mutually acrimonious ruling party and the Opposition joining hands against the Union Government over the issue.

Economic experts are wondering why the demonetisation move aimed at flushing out black money has met with so much protest in Kerala, which incidentally is the country’s first total banking and completely digitised state. They feel it could be because of pressure from the black money lobbies.

Firstpost spoke to a cross-section of experts to get a dispassionate view of the situation. This is the second in a four-part report. You can read the first part here.

The demonetisation of high-value currency has brought the cooperative banks in Kerala under glare. The decision of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to keep them out of the currency exchange business has put the entire sector with a network of over 2,500 branches across the state in the dock. The decision has pushed the ruling and Opposition fronts led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Congress respectively to the path of agitation. After completing a series of separate agitations, the two are gearing up for a joint strike against the Centre over the alleged discrimination shown to the cooperative sector.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who sat on a day-long dharna along with his cabinet colleagues before the RBI office in the state capital on Friday, has accused the Narendra Modi government of trying to destroy the sector that caters to nearly one crore people, especially in the rural areas, with a huge deposit of Rs.1.27 lakh crore.

However, the BJP, which is struggling hard to defend Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policy, has seen red in the unusual union of the bitter political rivals in the state against the Central government. Senior leaders of the party say that the two had joined hands as they may have stakes in the black money stashed in the cooperative banks. They have defended the RBI decision saying that it was prompted by the unwillingness of the cooperative banks to follow the RBI’s banking norms in their operations. They feel this may be because black money is the lifeline of cooperative banks in the state.

BJP general secretary K Surendran alleged that many politicians in the state had parked unaccounted money in the cooperative banks. He alleged that a prominent leader had deposited defunct currency notes worth Rs 12 crore in a cooperative bank in Kannur a day after demonetisation was announced. Surendran has asked the bank to furnish the details of all deposits received by them since 8 November. He said that many were depositing black money in cooperative banks as they don’t have to disclose the source. He said that this had encouraged hawala dealers, the real estate mafia and even terrorists to launder money through cooperative banks.

Describing the cooperative banks as a den of black money, the BJP leader has submitted a memorandum to Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to verify the money deposited in cooperative banks across the state and requested him to take the necessary action against tax evasion. The Income Tax Department has already begun the process. It has started issuing notices to cooperative banks to furnish details of the deposits. The I-T men are trying to take advantage of the helplessness of the depositors in pulling back the deposits in the current situation.

They are not able to withdraw the deposits since cooperative banks have not been provided with new currency notes. Cooperative banks have to go to regular banks to exchange the defunct notes. Since the current restriction on the withdrawal of money is applicable to cooperative banks as well, they will not be able to disburse large amounts at present. The black money estimated by the I-T departments of cooperative banks in Kerala is roughly Rs 30,000 crores. Leaders of both the LDF and UDF have denied the allegations. They have termed it as a figment of the imagination.

Leaders of both the front say that the BJP had taken up this to run a campaign against the cooperative banks. This is deliberate attempt to destroy the sector that plays a vital role in the state’s economy and rural prosperity.

“Cooperative banks came into existence in Kerala even before the formation of the state. It was part of a people’s movement to free the people from the clutches of money lenders. The BJP is trying to destroy this as they have not been able to make any inroads into the cooperative sector in the state”, said CPM MP A Sampath, who has been involved in the cooperative sector from his youth.

VD Satheeshan, vice-president of Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC), suspects a conspiracy to drive the huge deposits from cooperative banks to regular banks. He said that those behind the conspiracy were trying to do this by showing the cooperative banks in poor light. “The cooperative banks are following the principles of banking as laid down by the RBI but they are not allowed to take part in the demonetisation drive. This will paralyse the functioning of these banks resulting in a mass exodus of accounts,” says Satheeshan.

However, a former senior official of the State Cooperative Bank (SCB) in Thiruvananthapuram told Firstpost that the claims of the political leaders were true only in the case of state and district cooperative banks (DCB) that are fully computerised and function according to RBI norms. The SCB has 20 branches and the 14 DCBs have 716 branches across the state.

The former official, who did not want to be identified, said malpractices were taking place in the 46 Primary Cooperative Agriculture and Rural Development Banks (166 branches) and Primary Agricultural Credit Societies (1,638 societies) located in rural areas.

“Earlier, the customers in these institutions were mostly farmers and small traders, who deposited money in the banks only after striking a deal or selling some property. The situation changed after the Income Tax men started keeping track of banking transactions. This forced many from cities and towns to park unaccounted money in cooperative banks in rural areas,” he said.

Even Non-Resident Keralites have opted for cooperative banks for parking their money. Sharjah-based Pravasi Bandhu Welfare Trust chairman K  Shamsudheen said that the NRKs were showing preference for cooperative banks as they were offering higher interest rates — compared to commercial banks — without paying tax.

The current interest offered by commercial banks on NRE deposits is between six and seven percent while the cooperative banks offer between nine and 10 percent for one-year terms and beyond. Shamsudheen said that a large number of NRKs in West Asia had deposits in cooperative banks. He told Firstpost that many also had illegal resident accounts in commercial banks along with their NRE accounts. They have opened such accounts and deposited money in them in connivance with bank officials, said Shamsudheen, who has been running a campaign to cultivate saving habits among expatriates.

This perhaps explains high growth in the domestic deposits in commercial banks in the state in the recent years. The state-level bankers committee reported an increase of 71.31 percent in the domestic deposits in Kerala during 2014. The domestic deposits in the banks as on 31 December, 2014 were Rs 3.3 lakh crores.

File image of Pinarayi Vijayan. PTI

File image of Pinarayi Vijayan. PTI

Curiously, the NRE deposits grew only by 15.77 per cent during the period. The high growth of domestic deposits despite the recession has been baffling economists. VA Joseph, former managing director of Thrissur-based Catholic Syrian Bank, feels that the higher interest offered by banks and opening of new accounts under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana could be the main factors behind the sudden jump in the domestic deposits.

Economist Mary George does not agree. She said that the huge infusion of money into the domestic accounts could be the result of attempts by some people to legitimise the unaccounted money. Shamsudheen said many in the UAE, who deposited hawala money in resident accounts in regular banks, have started getting notices from the Income Tax department.

“Such a person in Dubai approached me for advice on how to save the money he illegally parked in a resident account in a private bank. There are many like him in West Asia. Demonetisation has put them in a big panic,” says Shamsudheen.

The I-T department put the cooperative banks under their scanner after they noticed a huge increase in their deposits in the past decade. However, their attempt to gather details of the deposits was resisted by the banks. A section of the banks even approached the Supreme Court against I-T scrutiny. The department investigation revealed that cooperative banks were the favourite channel for the real estate mafia, hawala dealers, corrupt officials and even politicians. They find it easy to deposit up to Rs 10 lakh in primary cooperative societies as they don’t have to report it to the RBI and I-T department. If the amount is higher, the banks help them in depositing money under fictitious names.

A primary cooperative society in Kozhikode district advised an NRK from Dubai to deposit the Rs 28 lakh he received from the sale of land in multiples of Rs two lakh. The bank employees facilitated the deposit of the entire amount by creating accounts in 14 names — most of them fictitious. Shamsudheen said that the man was now in a panic after the cooperative society failed to clear his doubt on recovering the money. Similarly, a Dubai-based woman, who put Rs 50 lakh in a cooperative bank in Kollam district, is confused after the bank expressed its difficulty in giving her the entire sum in one go.

The bank apparently cannot give more than Rs two lakh to a customer in one transaction as it could be hauled up by the I-T department. Shamsudheen said that the cooperative bank had advised the women to accept the money in different names. Shamsudheen added that demonetisation had put the customers of the cooperative banks in a total quandary. The NRK, who has been advising expatriates on safe investments, said that he was getting large number of calls from Keralites from all over the world day and night seeking his advice on their deposits in cooperative banks.

Thousands of people, who deposited money in cooperative banks thinking they will be as safe as in Swiss banks, are now in a panic. The hapless depositors are pinning their hopes on the agitation being launched by the ruling and Opposition fronts to get their money back.

Part One: Hawala, fake notes play big role in state’s economic growth

First Published On : Nov 22, 2016 11:29 IST

Bengal: Farmer’s body found hanging in Burdwan; family, TMC call it suicide over demonetisation

Firstpostimage

Demonetisation in Kerala: Hawala, fake notes play big role in state’s economic growth

Kerala is one of the few states where demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes generated so much heat. The state witnessed a rare phenomenon of the entire state Cabinet sitting on a day-long dharna with the mutually acrimonious ruling party and the Opposition joining hands against the Union Government over the issue.

Economic experts are wondering why the demonetisation move aimed at flushing out black money has met with so much protest in the 100 percent state, which incidentally is the country’s first total banking and completely digitised state. They feel it could be because of pressure from the black money lobbies.

Firstpost talked to a cross-section of experts to get an impassioned view of the situation. This is the first in a three-part report.

The five-year average growth rate of Kerala’s total revenue came down from 17.2 percent in 2006-11 to 14.20 in 2011-16. The share of primary and industry sectors to the state’s Gross Domestic Product (GSDP) declined from 39.2 and 26.3 percent respectively in 1980-81 to 12.5 and 25.11 percent respectively in 2014-15.

The agriculture and allied sector, which is key to the state’s economy, continued to record negative growth during the last five years. It was (-) 4.67 % in 2014-15 and (-) 2.13 percent in 2013-14. In spite of this, the state’s overall growth rate has been above the national average during the period except in 2014-15, when it was 6.49 percent.

This has been the pattern of the state’s growth in the last two decades. The growth rate of the state economy was above national average consistently in the last two decades in spite of negative growth in the primary sector, stagnation in the industrial sector and cyclical global economic recessions.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan leading a dharna in front of the RBI office at Thiruvananthapuram on Friday: Photo courtesy by T K Devasia.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan leading a dharna in front of the RBI office at Thiruvananthapuram on Friday: Photo courtesy by T K Devasia.

Similarly, the state has also been consistently maintaining the per capita income above national average. The per capita income of Kerala was Rs 127,166 during 2014-15 as against the all-India average of Rs 93,293.

The steady growth in the economy and per capita income without matching growth in the productive sectors of the economy is a paradox for many. Economists attribute this to foreign remittances that the state receives from nearly 2.75 million migrants, especially those from West Asia.

Deposits of non-residents (NRs) in banks in the state had crossed Rs 1 lakh crore in 2014-15. According to the state-level bankers committee, it climbed from Rs 66,190 crore in March 2013 to Rs 93,883 crore by 31 March, 2014, and further to Rs 109,603 crore in the last fiscal.

However, a section of economists argue that these remittances alone were not sufficient to help the economy register such a high growth. Mary George, former head of the department of economics, University of Kerala, is of the opinion that the state was maintaining high growth with the help of black money pumped into the state through various channels.

She considers hawala money as one of the main sources of black money circulating in Kerala. Hawala was the main channel of transfer of money when Keralites started migrating to West Asia in large numbers since early 1970s. This parallel system is the favourite mode of money transfer from the Middle East to India for a large number of Non-Resident Keralites (NRKs) even now, according to the economist.

Hawala does not involve physical movement of money. A person, who wishes to transfer money, needs to hand over the same to the agent at his end, who collects the money and informs his counterpart at the receiving end. The latter delivers the cash to the intended recipient at his door step after collecting the commission.

The money received at a location is compensated with a matching transfer of money in the opposite direction. The receipts are also some times compensated by way of exports of goods, under-invoicing or over invoicing exports or imports and other means.

Kerala emerged as a major destination to channel hawala money because of the state’s connections with Dubai, which is the global hawala hub. The hawala operators from other countries like Oman, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia route the hawala money to India and other destinations through Dubai.

Similarly, the hawala money received in Kerala goes to other states in the country. There are said to be about 400 hawala operators in the state to receive and distribute the hawala money. They are mostly based in the northern districts of Malappuram, Kozhikode, Palakkad and Kannur.

There is no reliable account of hawala money arriving in the state. While former state director general of police Jacob Punnose revealed a few years ago that Kerala was getting hawala money worth Rs 10,000 crores a year, oneindia.com quoted a Union Home Ministry report putting the annual hawala receipts at Rs 23,000 crores.

Former Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) director Hormis Tharakan said these were mere estimates and they could not be relied upon to make informed comments on the issue. He said there was no mechanism available to track the hawala money arriving in the country.

Mary George believes that the money received in Kerala through hawala channels could be much more since businessmen, smugglers and even extremist forces have started using the channel to transfer money. Migration experts do not contest this.

S Irudaya Rajan, head of the Research Unit on International Migration at the Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram, said that the money and goods coming to Kerala through unofficial channels were equivalent to the money received through legal channels.

“The remittances received through legal channels account for 36 percent of the state’s revenue. Though we have not done any specific studies on hawala operations, based on the data from our other studies, we estimate that transfers in the form of cash, gold and other goods through illegal channels will be the same as that of the remittances received through legal channels,” he added.

K V Shamsudheen, chairman of Sharjah-based Pravasi Bandhu Welfare Trust, said that the migrants were using the hawala channel even now because of high discount offered by the dealers. Hawala money is only one form of black money circulating in Kerala.

Apart from this, counterfeit currency pumped into the state from abroad and black money generated within the state by way of bribes received by corrupt officials and politicians and the sale of property are also believed to be substantial.

The state is prone to the menace as a large number of people from the north eastern states, who have easy access to fake Indian currency notes (FICN), come to the state for work. A senior police officer at Kozhikode said that fake currency was also coming to the state in large size through hawala.

Enforcement agencies have reported a 360 percent increase in the flow of FICN to the state in 2015 compared to 2014. Though the total seized value of counterfeit money is worth only Rs 34.55 lakhs in 2015 compared to Rs 7.51 lakhs in 2014, police estimates that the seized amount is just below 10 percent of the actual volume being circulated in the state.

The NIA, which is investigating about eight FICN cases in Kerala, has tracked the role of Pakistan’s ISI in production and distribution of fake notes via Dubai, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Ports are still the hot destinations for the rackets to smuggle in FICNs. The new strategy is to smuggle in printed sheets of counterfeit and cut them to size in various hideouts in the state, according to an intelligence officer.

The NIA suspects that rackets, including those led by underworld gangsters of Indian origin, pump fake currency into India with assistance of the ISI. The agency had unearthed the links of the ISI and D-Company in a case they have investigated in Kerala. They also found the involvement of Dawood’s brother Anees Ibrahim and his close aide Aftab Batki in some cases.

Economists believe that the hawala money and counterfeit currency notes pumped into the state will certainly be playing a big role in the economic growth of Kerala and the high standards of life of the people in the state, which has achieved developed world levels of social development.

A National Sample Survey Organisation’s household consumer expenditure survey from July 2011 to June 2012 showed Kerala topped among large states in household per capita expenditure in rural areas and came second in urban areas. Haryana topped in urban expenditure.

Economists see the trace of black money in the mismatch between the declining tax revenue and the growing consumer expenditure.

The second and third part of the series will cover cooperative banks in Kerala and hawala money which is the main source of terror funding. 

First Published On : Nov 21, 2016 15:42 IST

Kerala: Rights groups alleges elephant torture during Vaikom Mahadeva Temple’s fest

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Thrissur-based animal rights campaigner Heritage Animal Task Force, condemned the alleged torture of elephants, who were paraded inside the Vaikom Mahadeva Temple in Kottayam district of Kerala as part of a festival, and claimed the parades were ‘unlawful’.In a letter to the Director, Project Elephant, Environment and Forest Ministry, it complained that more than three elephants were paraded inside the temple premises on November 16 and 17 during the annual Vaikkathashtamy festival and both parades were ‘unlawful’.”Both these elephant parades were unlawful as the Elephant Parade Rule issued by State Forest Secretary on March 13, 2013 specifically states that nobody has the freedom to allow entry of more than three elephants at a time,” Task Force secretary V K Venkitachalam said.But the officials of departments of Devaswom, the temple management body, police and forest remained mute spectators without initiating any penal action against those responsible “for this type of violations related to elephant parade,” he alleged in the letter.”Anyone can see the torture inflicted by placing flaming torch very near to the body of the elephants as part of the rituals. As the temple complex is brightly illuminated by electric lights, use of flaming torches are meant only to scare the elephants,” he claimed.The campaigner also urged the Centre to take steps to ban these types of ‘unlawful’ elephant parades at the earliest.

Zakir Naik case: Police hands over copy of Central notification to IRF

Mumbai: Police have handed over a copy of the Central notification banning Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) for five years to office-bearers of the city-based NGO, promoted by controversial preacher Zakir Naik.

File photo of Zakir Naik. Reuters

File photo of Zakir Naik. Reuters

“After receiving the copy of notification from Ministry of Home Affairs on Thursday, the Mumbai Police served it to IRF office-bearers (in their office at Dongri in Mumbai),” Deputy Commissioner of Police, Ashok Dudhe told PTI on Friday.

The Union cabinet had approved a proposal to outlaw the IRF on Tuesday for its alleged terror activities.

In a gazette notification, the Home Ministry had said the IRF and its members, particularly, the founder and its president Zakir Naik, has been encouraging and aiding its followers to promote or attempt to promote, on grounds of religion, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious communities.

IRF came on radar of investigative agencies after one of the terrorists in Dhaka attack had allegedly posted on social media that they had been inspired by Naik’s speeches.

Youths from Malavani in western suburbs who had left their home to join Islamic State earlier this year were also allegedly inspired by the preaching of the televangelist.

Police had arrested some members of IRF for allegedly motivating and radicalising group youths from Kasargod in Kerala to join the Islamic State. The case is under investigation of the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

Naik is currently out of country apparently to evade arrest, sources said.

First Published On : Nov 18, 2016 17:32 IST

Demonetisation: Pinarayi Vijayan protests Centre’s move, claims it will ‘destroy’ Kerala’s cooperative sector

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, along with his ministers, sat on a dharna in front of the RBI office in Thiruvananthapuram, protesting against the Centre’s move to “destroy” the cooperative sector in the state under the cover of demonetisation process, while also taking pot shots at Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Vijayan and his Cabinet colleagues marched from the Martyrs Column at Palayam to the RBI regional office in Thiruvananthapuram, before commencing the dharna.

The CM termed the Centre’s move a “political conspiracy”, backed by BJP, and rejected the saffron party’s charge that cooperative societies are “hub for black money”.

Attacking the Prime Minister, he said the demonetisation of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes “without taking proper precautionary measures” had led to the present “crisis” and hardships to people.

File photo of Pinarayi Vijayan. PTI

File photo of Pinarayi Vijayan. PTI

Arguing that about 84-86 percent of currency in circulation was that in the demonetised notes, he said the sudden withdrawal had led to the “present crisis”.

“It was not an appropriate decision of a seasoned administrator,” he said.

Vijayan said the cooperative sector was not being allowed to accept deposits and exchange demonetised Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes which had led to “deep crisis” and attributed this to the outcome of BJP’s “propaganda”.

“All financial transactions in these societies have accurate inspection systems and these are deposits of ordinary persons,” he said, adding, the sector stands with the people of the state.

Vijayan said he and state Finance Minister Thomas Issac had met Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on 14 November to apprise the Centre of the difficulties of the cooperative sector.

“We pointed out that primary agricultural cooperative societies should also be allowed to exchange notes and accept deposits. We thought there would be a favourable decision. But by afternoon, the Centre decided to take back the permission given to district banks also,” he said, adding, “this was not a normal action”.

Pointing out that some people may be shocked that cooperative sector in the state had such deposits of about Rs 1.27 lakh crore, he said, “The sector has grown step by step and people working in this field are socially committed”.

Highlighting the importance of cooperative societies in Kerala, he said 70 percent of agriculture loans for farmers were given by the sector. Besides, it also meets the day-to-day needs of the people, he said.

Vijayan said, “Cooperative sector in Kerala has a bond with the people right from their birth to their death. People depend for all their small needs on the sector”.

To save the cooperative sector, Kerala will fight unitedly, he said.

“We need to stand together on the issue. We need to fight out forces who are trying to destroy the sector,” he said.

A special Cabinet has been called later in the day to discuss the issues of the sector and an all-party meeting would be held on 21 November on the issue, he said.

CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said all India programmes and actions on the issue will be launched along with other opposition parties and his party would take the initiative.

First Published On : Nov 18, 2016 16:10 IST

Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan, ministers stage dharna outside RBI office

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, along with his ministers, sat on a dharna in front of the RBI office here protesting against the Centre’s move to “destroy” the cooperative sector in the state under the cover of demonetization process and also took pot shots at Prime Minister Narendra Modi.Vijayan and his Cabinet colleagues marched from the Martyrs Column at Palayam to the RBI regional office here, before commencing the dharna.The CM termed the Centre’s move a “political conspiracy”, backed by BJP, and rejected the saffron party’s charge that cooperative societies are “hub for black money”.Attacking the Prime Minister, he said the demonetization of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes “without taking proper precautionary measures” had led to the present “crisis” and hardships to people.Arguing that about 84-86% of currency in circulation was that in the demonetized notes, he said the sudden withdrawal had led to the “present crisis”. “It was not an appropriate decision of a seasoned administrator,” he said. Vijayan said the cooperative sector was not being allowed to accept deposits and exchange demonetized Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes which had led to “deep crisis” and attributed this to the outcome of BJP’s “propaganda”.”All financial transactions in these societies have accurate inspection system and these are deposits of ordinary persons,” he said, adding, the sector stands with the people of the state. Vijayan said he and state Finance Minister Thomas Issac had met Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on November 14 to apprise the Centre of the difficulties of the cooperative sector.”We pointed out that primary agricultural cooperative societies should also be allowed to exchange notes and accept deposits. We thought there would be a favourable decision. But by afternoon, the Centre decided to take back the permission given to district banks also,” he said, adding, “this was not a normal action”.Pointing that some people may be shocked that cooperative sector in the state had such deposits of about Rs 1.27 lakh crore, he said, “The sector has grown step by step and people working in this field are socially committed”.Highlighting the importance of cooperative societies in Kerala, he said 70% of agriculture loans for farmers were given by the sector. Besides, it also meets the day-to-day needs of the people, he said. Vijayan said, “Cooperative sector in Kerala has a bond with the people right from their birth to their death. People depend for all their small needs on the sector”. To save the cooperative sector, Kerala will fight unitedly, he said. “We need to stand together on the issue. We need to fight out forces who are trying to destroy the sector,” he said. A special Cabinet has been called later in the day to discuss the issues of the sector and an all-party meeting would be held on November 21 on the issue, he said. CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said all India programmes and actions on the issue will be launched along with other opposition parties and his party would take the initiative.

Zakir Naik saga: IRF ban marks end of an eventful story for Dongri preacher

Not many people outside the Muslim community knew Zakir Naik before he came under the scanner of security agencies and the media in the wake of the 1 July attacks in Dhaka. It may be recalled that on that day, terrorists killed 22 civilians and two police officers before five of them were killed. Immediately after the attack, a report appeared in one of the Bangladesh dailies that some off the terrorists, who participated in the attack, were inspired by Naik’s preaching. The paper later backtracked from its statement, but the controversy it triggered did not die down.

This created waves in India.

The media took this case up in a major way. Naik began appearing in national headlines almost on a daily basis and mostly for the wrong reasons. Even religious leaders from the Muslim community stood up against Naik and asked their members to refrain from listening to his speeches, saying his talks encourage violence and hostility towards non-Muslims. Some supported him too. The media frenzy continued and has not died down since then. Fearing arrest, Naik refused to return to India even when his father passed away recently.

On Tuesday, when the Narendra Modi government banned his NGO, Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) for five years, Naik’s eventful story of the past two decades seemingly came to an end.

File image of Zakir Naik. Screen grab from YouTube

File image of Zakir Naik. Screen grab from YouTube

How did it all begin?

The son of a physician and educationalist, Abdul Karim Naik, Zakir Naik too is a qualified medical practitioner, who never really practiced medicine.

Instead, his interest was in religious preaching from the very beginning. Naik called himself a student and an expert of ‘comparative religion’ but most of his speeches advocated the supremacy of Islam over other religions. Naik loved to play with words by selectively picking and interpreting religious scriptures to establish how Islam is one true religion and the remaining set of beliefs aren’t pure.

During his several speeches in India and abroad, he justified war against Islam’s enemies and in one instance, even ‘suicide bombing’, saying if there is a need to defend the religion from its enemies, there is no harm in self-sacrifice. The preacher also used his television channel, Peace TV to air his speeches. Naik exhorted that Muslims love their country more than anyone and will follow the law of the land, as long as it doesn’t come in the way of the law of creator. Thus, he put the idea of religion above the idea of patriotism and constitutional responsibility of every citizen to his country.

A closer look at previous speeches by the 51-year old showed certain dangers to the religious harmony of the country.

Naik’s illogical arguments about the relation between religion and the idea of a secular nation are flawed but convincing enough to those who believe in Islam’s supremacy. In a February 2012 video, addressing a large crowd, Naik implored Muslims to ‘fight for Islam’ and ‘disobey the law of the land if it goes against the law of the creator’. Saying “Vante Mataram”, Naik said, is not desirable not just for Muslims, even Hindus. Why? Because, Hinduism, Naik says, speaks against the concept of idol worship and hence, it is wrong to bow to the land.

In another, Naik endorsed Osama Bin Laden and Taliban as fighters of Islam and argued why Taliban and Bin Laden were not necessarily damaging the Islam. In one his videos, Naik says:

If he (Osama Bin Laden) is fighting the enemies of Islam, I’m for him. I don’t now what he is doing. I’m not in touch with him. I don’t know him personally. I read newspapers. If he is terrorising America, the terrorist, biggest terrorist, I’m with him. Every Muslim should be a terrorist. The thing is that if he is terrorising the terrorist, he is following Islam. Whether he is or not, I don’t know. Now don’t go around outside saying Zakir Naik is for Osama Bin Laden. If he is terrorising the terrorist I’m with him. I don’t know what he is. I cannot base my judgment only on news. But, you as Muslims, without checking up laying allegations is also wrong. I’m with those people who are holding the Quran. Even the full world is against them, I’m with them (sic)”

In short, Naik has been clever in his speeches not to get trapped by investigators by playing with words. But, ultimately, he couldn’t convince the investigators as evidenced by the Modi government’s action.

To be sure, Naik has been preaching for more than two decades. The content of his speeches has been pretty much the same all along. But, there was no investigation against him till recently. As Firstpost has noted before, during UPA rule, in 2013, a communication had gone to the Ministry of Home Affairs from the then prime minister Manmohan Singh about the potential threat caused by Naik’s speeches. This was based on a complaint submitted to the PMO. But, the matter ended there.

It took the Dhaka attacks for the Indian government to wake up to the problem (possibly due to media pressure) and initiate action against the Islamic preacher.

The deeper problems

But, it weren’t just his speeches that got Naik into trouble. The alleged links between his organisation IRF and terrorist activities in the country intensified the scrutiny of investigators on Naik and his organisation’s activities. Naik’s name was linked to cases in Kerala in which youths have been brainwashed to join the Islamic State. The Kerala Police has claimed that Arshi Qureshi, guest relations officer of the Mumbai-based Islamic Research Foundation, has links with the Islamic State. This raised questions on the way Naik’s NGO has been using funds, especially money coming from abroad in the form of donations. Early this months, the government banned foreign funding for Naik’s organisations. Naik has so far refused to return to the country and has addressed the media only through web conferences and television interviews.

It is unlikely that he’ll return to the country in the near future since that could lead to his immediate arrest.

The story, however, isn’t quite over yet. Banning Naik’s IRF will not undo the messages he has preached to youth all these years. There is a need to keep continuous vigil. Following the government’s five-year ban, reports suggests that Naik’s lawyers will seek legal recourse against the government’s decision. But, this won’t be easy since government action against the NGO is under the under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Naik might be planning his next moves sitting in Dubai, where he is currently believed to be.

But, the government’s action puts an end to the Naik episode, for now at least.

First Published On : Nov 16, 2016 14:02 IST

Demonetisation: How cash-strapped people are struggling to get a hold of their money

Nov 14, 2016

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With banks closed in many parts of the country, cash-strapped people started making a beeline, early in the morning, outside ATMs but with limited success as most of the cash vending machines are running dry.

Scuffle and heated exchanges were reported from ATMs and banks from many parts of the country.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Various sections of the society including small traders, restaurant owners, transporters etc started feeling the heat as the dependence on cash is very high.

Banks are unable to service as heavy rush making it difficult to handle the situation.

After government issued advisory banks have started making special arrangement for elderly and physically challenged.

In a bid to provide convenience to people, the Centre on Sunday eased key restrictions including raising daily withdrawal limit from bank accounts and ATMs as well as increased the amount of old and now defunct currency notes that can be exchanged.

To augment cash supplies, newly printed hard-to-fake Rs 500 notes were also released in market.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday night announced the surprise demonetisation of higher denomination notes.

After a review by the finance ministry, the limit of old and now defunct Rs 500 and 1,000 notes that can be exchanged for freshly minted Rs 2,000 and a new Rs 500 notes was increased from Rs 4,000 to Rs 4,500 yesterday.

Cash withdrawal limit at ATMs was hiked to Rs 2,500 from Rs 2,000 a day.

Over 12,000 Delhi Police, Rapid Action Force and paramilitary personnel were deployed on Sunday to maintain law and order as a large number of people queued up to withdraw money or get their notes exchanged at various banks and ATMs in the city.

Owing to a Sunday, there was more crowd outside banks and ATMs, and personnel of Delhi Police, RAF and paramilitary forces were ensuring that people stay in queues and maintain law and order, a Delhi Police official said.

“More than 12,000 personnel of Delhi Police were manning banks and ATMs across the city. They were ensuring that people stay in queues. We are committed to maintain law and order in the city,” Delhi Police spokesperson Rajan Bhagat said.

With inputs from agencies

First Published On : Nov 14, 2016 12:49 IST

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

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<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Angry customers waiting outside a branch of the State Bank of Travancore in Kollam district allegedly broke a glass door on Saturday after it decided to down shutters due to heavy rush even as serpentine queues were witnessed before various banks across Kerala.Due to the huge surge of customers at the SBT branch at Vavvakkam this morning, banking officials decided to down shutters for a while as around 200 persons were inside the branch, bank officials said. Apparently angered over this, more than 200 persons who were waiting in the queue outside the branch allegedly broke a glass door of the bank, officials said.According to them, the situation is now under control. Police were immediately informed and some persons were being questioned, they said. Meanwhile, long queues outside various branches across the state continued for the third day on Saturday with customers complaining that several ATMs were running out of money.On Friday, an elderly man standing in the queue to deposit cash collapsed and died at Haripad in Alappuzha district while another man fell to his death from a building housing a SBT branch while filling forms to deposit scrapped high denomination notes worth Rs 5.5 lakh at Thalassery in Kannur district.