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PM Modi’s New Year’s Eve Speech: BJP hails speech, Opp attacks PM

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Opposition parties attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for “failing” to show “sensitivity” towards people’s pain due to demonetisation in his address to the nation, while BJP hailed him for announcing a string of welfare measures for the weaker sections.Slamming Modi for his “lacklustre” address, Congress called him a merchant of “false promises” and wondered why he did not mention how many “lakhs of crores” in black money and fake currencies the government managed to wipe out through demonetisation in the last 50 days.Congress Spokesperson Randeep Surjewala alleged the Prime Minister totally failed to show any sensitivity to people’s pain as no relief from financial restrictions was announced despite widespread expectation.The Left parties attacked him for “failing” to address problems of the poor and farmers caused by demonetisation and charged him with delivering a “budget speech” in view of forthcoming assembly polls in UP and some other states.”He spoke like a pracharak for most of the 45-minute speech…It was like a budget speech,” CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said.BJP President Amit Shah, however, hailed Modi for welfare measures and called them “great step” towards opening the avenues for the weaker sections of the country.”The prime minister opened up avenues for poor, farmers and youth of this country after the record availability of money in the banks since Independence following the demonetisation. It is a great step for the weaker sections of the country,” he said.Surjewala said though crores of people were reeling under severe difficulties and a large number of them lost their jobs, Modi did not talk about any roadmap for them.”The Prime Minister’s so called cleansing drive took 125 lives of innocent Indians and put crores of people in severe difficulties. But Modi did not uttter a single word for those who died. This is reflection of his insensitivity to the peoples’ pain,” Surjewala said. Attacking Modi for not lifting restrictions on withdrawal of cash even after the 50-day period, the Congress spokesman said the PM only believes in “hitting headlines and giving no deadlines”. “The entire country was listening with curosity that the Prime Minister will lift the restrictions on withdrwal of their hard earned money from banks. But people will still have to reel under this economic anarchy.”The Prime Minister said it will take time to improve the banking system in the new year. It means he belives in hitting headlines and not giving deadlines,” he said.Yechury, who had asked a number of questions to the Prime Minister ahead of the latter’s address to the nation, rued Modi did not announce any compensation for daily wage earners, fishermen, agricultural workers “who were hit hard by demonetisation”.He also questioned why the Prime Minister did not announce debt waiver to farmers while Rs 1.12 crore taken in loans by corporates have been written off.”He (Modi) has talked about hardships of people standing in queues. But he said nothing on compensation to those 115 persons who died in queues while withdrawing money,” Yechury said.In a series of tweets, Shah said, “PM @narendramodi has given a futuristic & visionary address to the nation, sharing a series of welcome initiatives for poor & farmers.”PM @narendramodi wonderfully articulated the passion & enthusiasm with which 125 crore Indians supported the movement against corruption.”BJP leader and Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu also welcomed the announcements, tweeting, “I specially thank PM @narendramodi for reducing interest rate on housing.A big boost to housing sector & big boon to the poor &middle class,” he tweetedComing down hard on the PM, Surjewala said demonetisation has taken away the jobs, hit the farmers and traders and made life difficult for every section of the society but there was no word of relief for them in his address.”Who benefitted from the demonetisation. Only a handful of 50 people who are Modiji’s friend. This is why he said yesterday that the deposits of the people in the banks would be used for strengthening banking system and infrastructure.Noting that there was “nothing new” in PM’s announcements, he said Modi is selling what Congress was implementing whether the Rs 6,000 maternity benefit to pregnant poor women or interest subvention on houses for the poor.Stating that the decision of demonetisation has destroyed the back bone of poor and medial class, Surjewala said Modi should have announced 20 per cent bonus for farmers above MSP, compensation for those who lost job during this period among others.Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the ruling alliance partner in Bihar, said the address proves that even Modi himself has accepted that demonetisation has “failed.” In a series of tweets, party chief Lalu Yadav posed a series of questions to the PM on the demonetisation, saying the people of the country would be standing in the queues from Monday again.”Where is the report card, why did not (Prime Minister Modi) disclose how much black money (has been) unearthed. How much (money) has been deposited, how many jobs lost, how much is the loss to the economy and how it would be compensated,” Lalu tweeted.In another tweet, he sought to know from the PM how much money was spent on printing of new notes.Taking a dig at Modi’s speech, which did not mention any timeline for the return of normalcy in the banking system, he said the PM, who had in his November speech asked the people to bear the pain for 50 days, “did not give any deadline.””Prime Minister publicly misleading the nation is not a good sign. Nobody will have faith in such a Prime Minister,” he tweeted.”The boring speech of today signals that the PM has accepted that demonetisation has failed. Had there been even a single achievement he would have gone to the town, tom-toming it,” he said.”The country will be in the queues again on the eve of the new year, such an expressionless, ineffective and crawling pre-budget speech,” he said.He claimed that the PM has no “remorse” even after taking away the lives of hundreds of people, and 25 lakh people’s jobs.

UP Elections 2017: Ready to contest in all assembly seats, says Congress

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress on Saturday said it was ready to contest all assembly seats in the upcoming elections in Uttar Pradesh, even as it chose not to comment on the internal affairs of Samajwadi Party.”We are working in all the seats … We have said we are ready to contest all the seats in the state and we are preparing for the polls,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said. Asked about the fast-paced developments in ruling SP in UP, he said, “We don’t comment on the internal affairs of other parties. There had been a quarrel yesterday and today there was a patch up. It is a good thing. The family is together which is a good thing.”Speaking about the party’s campaign in the state, Surjewala said the Congress’ slogan is ’27 saal, UP behaal’ (27 years, UP in doldrums). Congress will contest the polls on the plank of development, rising above the caste and communal issues, he added.

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

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

Many questions remained unanswered, disappointed with PM Modi’s speech: Congress

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Slamming Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his “disappointing” address, Congress on Saturday wondered why he did not mention how many “lakhs of crores” of black money the government managed to wipe out through demonetization in the last 50 days.Congress Spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said demonetization has paralysed the economy but the Prime Minister in his address did not answer many crucial questions. “Mr Prime Minister, people wanted to know how many lakhs of crores of black money did you wipe out in the last 50 days? Why didn’t you speak about it,” he asked. Surjewala said “We are disappointed with PM’s speech as many questions were left unanswered. His decision paralyzed economy; country can’t run this way.”The Congress once again asked Modi to withdraw the restrictions imposed on withdrawals post demonetization. Surjewala said the “so-called cleansing drive took 125lives of innocent Indians and put crores of people in severe difficulties. But the Prime Minister did not uttter a single word for those who died.” He said the 50 days the Prime Minister had asked for were over but there was no announcement on when he will take back the restrictions on withdrawal of cash.”The entire country was listening with curiosity that the Prime Minister will lift the restrictions on withdrawal of their hard earned money from banks. But people will still have to reel under this economic anarchy. “The Prime Minister said it will take time to improve the banking system in the new year. It means he believes in hitting headlines and not giving deadlines,” the Congress spokesperson added.Coming down hard on the Prime Minister, Surjewala said demonetization has taken away the jobs, hit the farmers and traders and made life difficult for every section of the society but there was no word of relief for them in PM’s address. “Who benefited from demonetization. Only a handful of 50 people who are Modiji’s friend. This is why he said yesterday that the deposits of the people in the banks would be used for strengthening banking system and infrastructure.The Congress Spokesperson said National Food Security Act already has special focus on women and entitles them to receive “maternity benefit of not less than Rs 6,000 and that there was nothing new in PM’s announcement of the financial assistance for them”.

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

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

When even Sushma Swaraj couldn’t help an individual

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Saturday expressed inability in helping a British woman charity worker of Iranian origin who has been sentenced to one year imprisonment by a court in Odisha on charges of causing death of a tribal child due to negligence.Swaraj had sought a report from Odisha government on the case involving 28-year-old Narges K Ashtari.She said she cannot help the woman due to the court order. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif earlier this week has said that Iran will use all its capacity to secure Ashtari’s release. “I have received the report from Government of Odisha. The trial court has convicted Narges K Ashtari to one year imprisonment and Rs 3,00,000/- fine.”She has filed an appeal before Sessions Court which is pending. The appellate court has released her on bail pending appeal. This is a judicial order and the matter is sub judice.Therefore, I am unable to help in this case @BorisJohnson @JZarif,” Swaraj said in a series of tweets. She also tagged Zarif as well as British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson in her tweets. Ashtari, who runs an orphanage through her NGO Prishan Foundation in Rayagada district of Odisha, was found guilty by a court in the case relating to causing death to a child due to negligence. She faced the charges after the disappearance of the child in 2014, who is feared drowned.An online petition by social activists has recently sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention in seeking justice for Ashtari saying she has dedicated her life in serving orphan and abandoned children around the world. Earlier this week, the Iranian Foreign Minister had said “The Foreign Ministry considers it its duty to protect Iranian nationals residing abroad, including students, elites and businessmen… and will use all its capacity to support them and restore their rights.”He said the Iranian Foreign Ministry and Iran’s embassy in New Delhi are following up on her case though diplomatic, consular and legal channels. Born in Isfahan, central Iran, Ashtari’s parents moved to the UK when she was four years old.

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

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

My fellow citizens,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friends,

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

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

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

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

Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Demonetistion has dealt a severe blow to these trades.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friends,

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

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

Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Positive change has always found space in our country.

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

More and more people are transacting digitally.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year

Jai Hind !!!

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

Modi speech: Great expectations not belied but PM backs off from sharing details

It was Plato and Socrates more than Mark Anthony.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had this brilliant end of the year opportunity and he chose the sober road rather than raise the nation’s BP with shrill rhetoric.

It was more a lesson delivered than a soul-stirring speech.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTIPrime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

He did not get down and dirty and give us the brawl we wanted, the marching of the corrupt went missing. The script was far too mature and adult and cerebral to excite.

That is what his detractors will pick on.

As the sun slipped down for the last time in 2016 the tryst with India notwithstanding, a whole nation was more than just mad keen to know what he would say. This was the biggest show of the year.

But, in a lighter vein, Modi forgot to wish the nation a happy new year.

What magic did they expect at this fluid stage? Just because it was scheduled for new year’s eve does not give it a special dimension. Also, raising the pre-speech media hype was unfair and uncharitable.

Nothing changes tomorrow. People will live and die just like any other day. Consequently, to presume that Modi would give a road map with milestones was a bit much. He iterated the efforts of the past fifty days and heaped spoonfuls of praise on the public for joining in the battle.

Especially in assuaging the level of discomfort being admirably tolerated by his 1.2 billion mitrons.

He was unflappable. Chillingly blunt and so even-keeled that one wasn’t sure if it was the great orator or a subdued victor who has broken the back of corruption and is humble in that grasp on the laurel wreath.

Dropping the interest on low-cost housing was the first arrow to leave the quiver after the first twenty minutes of liquid sentiment.

We waited for more arrows and the praise for farmers came on the heels of informing us sans any date that the banks would get back to normal soon. How soon was left an open gate.

His new schemes were rural and based largely on reducing loan interests and giving the rural sector a boost with a 60-day payment vacation.

Modi segued from the praise phase into the rural phase with a call to co-operatives to ease their interest level and in the next 90 days three crore farmers would have the Kisan card changed to the Rupay card to make it easier for them to engage in transactions.

Several of the small scale industries would be given relief and those small businessmen would benefit loans on lesser interest.

If you add the several initiatives they come up to quite a bit. Women upliftment, maternity health schemes, senior citizens, all were given an honorable mention, each section of society being gently disarmed with gratitude and courtesy.

It was a great way to lay the groundwork for something more tangible after multiple references to marching ‘together’ and acknowledging the public agony for the past two months.

There was no glee, none of that public rally mocking undertone the Modi has begun to love so much.
Way ahead of the game without the theatrics he could have taken demonetization by the scruff of its neck and shaken the demon out of it.

It may have been a risk but an Act in which the monologue that covered the catching of the big fish, the bringing in of money from abroad, cleansing the corruption in the bureaucracy and the government, in politics and its nexus with the underworld, something for us to say, yes, the schemes are great and should have been there anyway, but what about telling us what tomorrow brings.

He set off on that angle with the announcement that only 2.4 million Indians earn 10 lakh plus a year and we thought okay, here it comes, the harsh stuff. But it did not. He warned bankers and officials indeed but non-specifically.

He could have shared with us why the RBI is being cagey and not transparent.

Shared with the people at least how exactly these lakhs of crores (different figures depending on who you are reading) have changed the fiscal landscape and what percentage of the underground, parallel economy has been wrecked.

This is it. We do not know. The media flings figures with dozens of zeros in them and yet nobody has told us in specific who is hurt, how many of the bad guys have fallen and has their nefarious system collapsed.

At the end of all this we want something to justify the long hours in the queue and the ongoing discomfort. And this was the missing vital element.

One Lodha, one lawyer called Tandon raided or placed in custody do not a summer make. These guys should have been caught anyway, not because of demonetisation but because they should have been on the radar of the authorities period.

Why were these income tax raids and all these sleuths not playing pink panther with the same gusto before 8 November.

Modi should have used today to come out swinging from his corner and telling the people of India that the sacrifice they made and are still making has begun to pay off.

And if he could tell them step by simple step how the exercise is paying off he could also have shared some of the dirt.

I think the figures are now becoming mythical and have no impact. Perhaps Modi felt the same way and decided to go for concrete steps he is taking rather than offer instant sops.

The abrupt ending and the sudden goodbye came as a surprise… we were looking for more.

But that is our problem, not his.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 20:49 IST

Indian party chief reinstates sacked son Akhilesh Yadav

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

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

Dec 31, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. AP

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. AP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With inputs from agencies

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

BJP’s growth in Tripura due to ‘false campaign and our weakness’: CPI(M)

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The ruling CPI-M in Tripura has said the BJP managed to increase its vote in the recent bypolls in the state taking advantage of “our organisational weakness and by luring people with false assurances.” “The results of the recent two by-elections held for two Assembly seats and by-polls in panchayat seats show that the BJP managed to increase their votes,” Party Secretary Bijan Dhar told reporters last night.”All these things happened due to our organisational weakness and due to their alluring people by giving false assurances,” he said.”Taking advantage of being in power at the Centre they also misused money to woo voters,” Dhar said. He alleged that RSS, Bajrang Dal and BJP have brought their activists from outside the state for trying to build up a political base for the party.”Those activists are indulging in false campaign against the Left Front government and organising demonstrations in front of the residences of ministers, government offices and roads by raising false issues,” Dhar said.”We have asked the administration and common people to remain alert about the activities of the BJP activists,” he said.He said the opposition Congress has become “very weak” due to split in their party and the breakaway faction who formed Trinamool Congress in the state also could not be certain about their political future in the state.The Left Front has been in power for the last 23 years in Tripura.

Property Act: Opposition to SC ruling ‘misplaced’, says J&K finance minister Drabu

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Terming the opposition to SC ruling on the SARFAESI Act with respect to Jammu and Kashmir as “completely misplaced”, state Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu on Saturday said the apex court has only reaffirmed that the state laws prevail.”I think we will have a lot of occasion to discuss this in the Assembly, but I think it (opposition to the SC ruling) is completely misplaced… the Opposition has been doing this for very very long.”While speaking at a Jammu and Kashmir Bank event here, Drabu told reporters that “there is nothing in the Act (to be opposed). In fact, it reaffirms quite a few things, one of which is that the Transfer of Property Act actually prevails over SARFAESI (the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act)”.According to him, banks cannot sell any immovable mortgaged property to non-state subjects.”In the event of a bank taking recourse to property, they cannot sell it to a non-state subject and in the last budget, I had already made a provision for an asset recovery company with the J-K Bank which can buy these impaired assets,” he said.”So, I think the Opposition is completely clueless in what they are saying and bears no relation to what the Act has and it is not today, this has been going on since 2003,” he claimed.Referring to his stint in the bank as its chairman, he recalled making some pertinent proposals.”But I think what eventually has happened is we have got clarity on it that the Transfer of Property Act of J-K will actually prevail over this (SARFAESI) and you cannot sell any immovable mortgage property to non-state subjects.” It can be a huge business opportunity for J-K bank, he felt.Asked if the state would bring any other law on the issue, he said the law department will have to discuss the same.

I carry Amma in my soul, says Sasikala after taking reigns of AIADMK

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Pledging to take forward the legacy of Jayalalithaa, AIADMK General Secretary VK Sasikala on Saturday asserted that none other than party founder MG Ramachandran, Dravidian ideologue C N Annadurai and ‘Amma’ will be given prominence in the party.In her first formal address to functionaries after formally taking charge as party chief here, she said the AIADMK will continue to be run in the same way as during the time of Amma when it was administered with a level of “discipline as seen in the Army”.It will continue to follow in the footsteps of these great leaders who looked beyond caste and religion, she said. Her assertion comes against the backdrop of some murmur of protests against her taking over the post.Heaping encomiums on Jayalalithaa, she said, “let us follow like Vedas our Amma’s political lessons and her footsteps,” adding “this movement (AIADMK) which was shaped up by Amma is a people’s movement, this is people’s government, our journey will be in the path laid by Amma.” She said the “yardstick” followed by Jayalalithaa for elevation of cadres in the party organisation will continue to be the same and “we will not diverge even an iota from it.” Hailing Jayalalithaa for her courage, she said the late leader had stormed the male bastion of politics that has given confidence to women. “Today as a woman, if I have come forward to lead the party, a very important reason for it is the faith that crores of brothers and sisters will support me.” She said “no one can fill her (Jayalalithaa) vacuum even in another thousand years.””I carry Amma in my soul,” she said adding “we have assembled here to guard the confidence of Amma that it will be the AIADMK which will rule the State even for 100 more years …she was everything for me and for us all.” Thanking party leaders for unanimously naming her as party general secretary, Sasikala said she humbly accepted it out of a sense of duty. For the first time she publicly spoke on the death of Jayalalithaa amid demands for a probe by Opposition DMK.Sasikala said she had firmly believed that the former AIADMK chief would recover. “Although Amma’s health improved that facilitated her shift from Critical Care Unit to a private room, she had unfortunately passed away.”It was not thought of even in my dream and it was like a thunderbolt falling on one’s head(when she died)”, Sasikala said, adding her only wish had been Jayalalithaa’s well-being.

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

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

Emotional Sasikala takes charge as AIADMK Gen Secy, says she’ll sacrifice life for party & people

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>VK Sasikala Natarajan, 54, a close aide of late Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa, took charge as General Secretary of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) on Saturday at the party’s headquarters in Chennai.AIADMK party members had in a unanimous resolution adopted at the party’s general council meeting earlier this week, appointed Sasikala to the post.Chinnamma addressed AIADMK cadres at the party Head Quarters. She began by thanking her supporters for choosing her to be the next General Secretaryafter Jayalalithaa’s death.Breaking down with tears, she said that the despite Jayalalithaa’s demise party under her leadership will continue to rule the state. “Amma is not with us now but our party will rule here for the next 100 years,” she said.Sasikala said that she had dedicated her life to serving Jayalalithaa. “For Amma party was life and for me Amma is my life.We have tried our best to safeguard Amma; but unfortunately she passed away.”She reminded party workers to be loyal and committed towards the party to fulfil Jayalalithaa’s dream for the state. “Amma always expected loyalty and true work from all cadre and functionaries. I will sacrifice my life for my party and the crores of people. Amma’s dream will continue for Tamil Nadu,” she said. “This government is people’s government. We will follow the path shown by our Amma. If we stand united, future is ours,” she said. “In those days Indira Gandhi was the only woman leader in politics but Amma broke the tradition and made history,” said Sasikala about Jayalalithaa’s ascension to power as a woman. Sasikala also promised grand celebrations for entire year in 2017 for the centenary of AIADMK founder MG Ramachandran. “Centenary of AIADMK founder MG Ramachandran will be celebrated in a grand manner throughout the year,” said the new AIADMK General SecretaryAhead of taking charge, Sasikala paid tribute to Jayalalithaa.The AIADMK in its general body meeting passed a resolution to work under the leadership of Sasikala on Friday. The resolution was accepted by Sasikala, the confirmation of which was posted on the party’s Twitter handle. The close aide of late Jayalalithaa first garlanded the statue of party founder MG Ramachandran at the AIADMK headquarters after she arrived in the midst of tight security. She then proceeded to pay floral tributes to the portrait of Jayalalithaa. Sasikala formally assumed charge by signing papers after which she addressed the gathering outside.Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam handed over a copy of the resolution to Sasikala.En route to the party office, she was given a rousing welcome by party leaders, functionaries and cadres who had gathered in large numbers. Party activists had lined up on both sides of the road from the Poes Garden residence to the party headquarters at Royapettah to welcome her.Sasikala, clad in a light green saree with a pink border, greeted them with folded hands. Party flags, banners and festoons sporting bright images of Jayalalithaa and Sasikala were put up on roads, all along from Poes garden to Royapettah. Banners and hoardings hailed Sasikala as Chinnamma everywhere.After Jayalalithaa died, the party had announced that Natarajan would replace her as the chief of her party even though she is not technically qualified. The general secretary has to have completed five years as an active member. Jayalalithaa who passed away on December 5 evening after suffering cardiac arrest was the party’s general secretary from 1989 to 2016. With PTI/ANI inputs.

Demonetisation done without thinking about consequence: Nobel laureate Amartya Sen

Demonetisation done without thinking about consequence: Nobel laureate Amartya Sen

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

Amartya Sen. AFPAmartya Sen. AFP

Amartya Sen. AFP

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

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

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

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

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Pakistan seeks US support on implementation of Indus Waters Treaty with India

Islamabad: Pakistan has sought support of the US on the implementation of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) with India, as Secretary of State John Kerry called for an amicable settlement of the issue by New Delhi and Islamabad, media reported on Saturday.

The development came after Pakistan was irked by the World Bank pause in mediation to resolve differences over construction of two water projects by India.

The Express Tribune reported that Kerry made a phone call to Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Thursday night and discussed the row over the IWT implementation and the role of the World Bank (WB), which had brokered the treaty in 1960.

After Kerry’s call, US Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale also met Dar in Islamabad at the Finance Ministry.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

The back-to-back contacts highlight the importance of the water issue, which can potentially endanger regional stability if the situation slips out of control, according to sources at Finance Ministry.

“The US would like to see an amicable solution to this (water) issue,” a Finance Ministry statement quoted Kerry as saying.

Kerry told Dar that the WB president had informed him about Pakistan’s complaint against India on the IWT.

The water dispute has catapulted the US back into Pakistan’s economic picture.

The American civilian and military assistance to Pakistan has drastically come down in recent months and its implications on Pakistan’s fiscal situation have started emerging in the shape of a larger-than-anticipated budget deficit.

Independent analysts argue that Washington may not play an effective role in resolving the water dispute, as the Obama administration is preparing to hand over the White House to Donald Trump next month.

“Senator Dar indicated that the US support on the principles and legal position of Pakistan will be greatly appreciated,” stated the Finance Ministry.

Early this month, the WB had announced a pause in playing its legally binding role of mediator in the IWT implementation.

In October, Pakistan had approached the WB seeking appointment of the Chairman of Court of Arbitration to resolve a dispute over construction of two mega hydropower projects by India in violation of the IWT.

The Finance Minister told Kerry that the IWT was an international commitment and it was the WB’s responsibility to make sure India honoured the treaty and the water rights of hundreds of millions of Pakistani people were protected, said the finance ministry.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 13:03 IST

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

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

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

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

Shailesh Gandhi. Image courtesy Shailesh Gandhi’s Facebook page

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

Excerpts from the conversation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Demonetisation: Rs 4,500 per day ATM limit is of little help when 2/3 machines run dry

ATMs will dispense a maximum Rs 4,500 per day per account holder beginning 1 January, said a circular from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Friday. Friday marked the end of the 50-day period Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised he will take to bring back normalcy after the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes on 9 November. Earlier, daily limit was Rs 2,500 per day. An enhanced limit is a relief for citizens and will help to shorten queues further, but only in areas where ATMs are dispensing cash.

The problem is only a third of the total ATMs in the country (around 2 lakh) are dispensing cash and most of them are in urban centres with the periphery areas continuing to run dry, according to reports (read here and here). In other words, the enhanced ATM withdrawal limits would not help the people in non-metros much.

PTI file photoPTI file photo

PTI file photo

Banks are unable to fill their ATMs on account of an acute cash shortage, especially lower denomination notes that is persisting even after 50 days of demonetisation and the situation is unlikely to get better soon, said a few bankers this writer spoke to.

“We are looking at February-March before things become normal,” said one of the bankers. This is the reason banks have asked the government to extend the curbs on cash withdrawals beyond 30 December till the time there is adequate quantity of new currency infused in the banking system. Ultimately, it is the banker who has to face the angry customer.

The RBI has retained the weekly cash withdrawal limit of Rs 24,000. But, the problem is that banks are unable to honor even that amount and the customer is forced to often settle for what is available at the moment at the bank counter. Of course, this situation will ease further in the weeks ahead, but much depends on the ability of government mints to churn out sufficient units of new currency. Until 19 December, the RBI has infused Rs 5.92 lakh crore of currencies into the system, which is less than half of what the public has deposited in the form of invalidated notes (Rs 12.44 lakh crore as on 10 December).

On Friday, PM Modi launched a new payment app, BHIM, that allows anyone to transfer money to any bank accounts. The PM stressed on the need to embrace cashless payment modes at the earliest and elaborated on the incentives government planning to encourage individuals and merchants using electronic payment modes. A change into cashless economy is indeed good in an aspiring economy and government initiatives, such as UPI-supported BHIM app, are helpful to facilitate such a migration.

But, Modi’s immediate challenge remains to 1) normalise the cash situation in the economy; and 2) give a convincing cost-benefit analysis of the demonetisation exercise to 125 crore Indians. Modi has a major task of justifying his act that has pushed the economy into an economic standstill and has caused gross inconvenience to a large number of the population due to the lack of preparedness of the government to implement the currency swap.

When PM address the nation on the New Year Eve, there are questions he’ll need to answer on how did the note ban help the country to achieve the originally stated goals — black money, fake currency, corruption and terror funding. Also, most critically, the general public would expect clarity from the PM on when the cash crunch will end. The 50 days the PM sought has, for sure, eased the pain to an extent, but has not ended the cash crunch.

Another question the PM owes answer is clarity on the political funding. Though his government has repeatedly assured that rules will be same for all, there is lack of clarity on political funding since the government also says that provisions of existing laws will continue.

This would means that political parties will enjoy certain immunity from tax scrutiny since cash donations below Rs 20,000 do not require the source to be revealed. Can Modi score a point by stating that the government will work towards the necessary changes in laws to make all political donations through digital mode? If yes, that’ll be much bigger catalyst in the process of creating a cashless economy than announcing lucky draws.

For now, when the PM addresses the nation on the eve of new year, the big question common man probably would want to ask the PM is how long the current cash shortage will continue.

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 11:28 IST

BJP reaches out to Mary Kom ahead of Manipur polls

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>With barely a week for the poll dates in Manipur to be announced, BJP is trying to make inroads into the northeastern state by reaching out to world champion boxer Mary Kom to lead its campaign in the state election. Sources in the party said that the Olympian met party president Amit Shah last week.The meeting has sparked off speculation that the BJP was keen on Kom spearheading the party’s fight in the upcoming polls in the fragmented state. However, sources said the ball was now in her court.It was not known whether the BJP was considering her as its chief ministerial candidate. A close aide of the boxer, who is a Rajya Sabha member, said she had met some ministers in Delhi last week. “She is yet to join the party, and no decision on her future course of action has been taken yet,” said the aide. Kom was unavailable for comment.Manipur state BJP chief K Bhabananda Singh said that no directive has come from the Centre; but that he will support if any announcement to make Kom the CM candidate is made.With Mary belonging to the Kom tribe, it will be interesting to see how the party’s fortunes pan out in a state dominated mostly by the Meiteis. The absolute popularity that Mary enjoys outside the state needs to translate into votes for the BJP. Singh, however, says that he is ‘optimistic’ with the party’s great prospects.Yet, the stalemate between the Congress-led government and the United Naga Council is firmly in place, blocking the entry of essential goods.The other star face in the state, Irom Sharmila, who gave up her 16-year-long fast against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) early this year, caused a huge stir by announcing her plans to contest the elections. With an eroding popularity, Irom’s prospects will also be closely-watched.

Mumbai’s Krishna Mandir to get a new look

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>For the next two years, devotees who usually visit Shri Krishna Temple in Sion for Krishna Janmasthami will have to visit Ashraya in Navi Mumbai.The temple managed by the 90-year-old Bombay South Kanara Brahmin’s Association (BSKBA), will soon undergo renovation, giving the temple a new south Indian style of architecture. The association members have planned to relocate the existing deity of Lord Krishna on December 31 to Navi Mumbai for the next two years.Speaking about the new structure of the temple and the Lord Krishna idol which was kept in the temple since 1962, Suresh Rao, president of BSKBA, said, “The idol was donated by a Rajasthani sculptor who made the idol in Rajasthan. Most of the south Indian temples have similar structure but the architectural designs depend upon which deity’s idol is kept inside the temple. The temple is a part of a building right now, but, soon we will have a sanctum sanctorum (garbha gudhi) where only priest will be allowed to enter and main hall (mukha mantapa) with around 3500 ft space to conduct various religious function.”According to the history, the association was formed by the Kanara Brahmins who resided in the city for the cultural and social meet-ups and later made a temple adjoining their association building. Currently there are approximately 4,600 members.While the temple was made up of plaster of paris in the past, the new structure will be built from black stones. Giving more information, Rao added, “The structures of the temple will be made in Dakshina Kannada district of Karnataka by the sculptor and later on will be assembled here. There will be approximately 11 steps — also known as gopuram, on the dome which will have architectural designs of various god and goddess.”To mark this occasion and to give a grand farewell to the Lord, a colourful procession of the idol Krishna will take place from Gokul hall with a group of 70 artists performing various south Indian folk dances like Huli Vesha, Betala, Bhooth Kola Vesha, Keelu Kudure, Tattiraya, famous drummists (Chandai) from Kerala along with large number of members & devotees.“We have made a temporary temple in Ashrayas, a senior citizens’s home of BSKB Association. We will be carrying out a procession in nearby areas at Sion and later on relocate the idol. There are 70 artist who will be travelling from Mangalore.”

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

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

One little BHIM set to change India: Your thumb is your bank now, says PM Modi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>More than 50 days after announcing his demonetization move, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday launched the mobile app BHIM (Bharat Interface for Money) which he said would enable easier digital transactions for the common man.The app—an updated version of UPI (Unified Payment Interface) and USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data)—can be downloaded from the Android app store.Dedicating the new app to Dr BR Ambedkar, the Prime Minister said that Ambedkar had always worked for the poor. “Very few people know that Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar who gave us the Constitution, was a great economist and had even wrote a thesis on the Indian rupee…RBI was born out of Ambedkar’s thesis,” said Modi, adding that the app will empower small traders, tribals, and farmers.Modi also felicitated winners of the Lucky Grahak Yojana at the DigiDhan Mela in Talkatora stadium. The event saw a crowd of more than 5,000 people and around 65 stalls of banks, e-wallets and private players.The PM said the BHIM app can be used on any phone. “There is no need for Internet connectivity, one only needs a thumb,” said Modi adding, “There was a time when an illiterate was called angutha chaap. Now, the times have changed. Your thumb is your bank now. It has become your identity now.”Taking a dig at the Opposition, Modi said, “Look at the newspapers or video clips from three years ago; the news was all about what we had lost in scams. However, today, it is about what has come back or what is the gain?””Over the 100-day period, several families will be given the prizes. These schemes were launched as a Christmas gift to benefit poor,” Modi said reiterating that the mega draw will take place on April 14, the birth anniversary of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar.He said that India can once again bring back its past and become the sone ki chidiya (bird of gold) with an increased digital connectivity.”The day was not far off when the cash-based transaction will turn completely digital,” he emphasised. For the first time, India united to remove its own shortcomings, he said.Thanking the media for highlighting digital payment issues, he asked people to at least do five digital transactions from January 1, 2017.Meanwhile, several people attending the event said they are yet to open a bank account.”I don’t have an account. My children withdraw money for me whenever needed. I just wanted to meet Modi to highlight some of my problems,” said Malviya Nagar resident Gulab.The exhibitors, however, said the fair has given a common ground to the visitors to learn and operate on the different modes of digital payment.An exhibitor from the NPCI stall said they have received several enquiries from visitors, especially from the lower middle class strata, keen on operating the Aadhaar-enabled payment system and UPI as ways of digital transactions.”The best part is they could get an instant bank account here at the fair and get started with digital payments,” he said.

Romulus’ love for the King

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>An American by birth and an Indian by heart, 73-years-old Romulus Earl Whitaker is a herpetologist and a wildlife conservationist. Because of his efforts, talks are on to establish the world’s first conservation reserve for King Cobras in Karnataka.One of deadliest species of snakes, King Cobras are widely found in South Asia and mostly in India’s Agumbe rainforest of Western Ghats, Karnataka. This region also records the second highest rainfall in the country.Who is Romulus?This Emmy award receiver is the founder of the Madras Snake Park, the Andaman and Nicobar Environment Trust (ANET), and the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust. In 2005, he bagged Whitley Award for his work in environment conservation. After receiving this award, he founded Agumbe Rainforest Research Station (ARRS) to study the habitat and behavioural patterns of King Cobra.The first encounter that Romulus had with a King Cobra was in 1971. He noted that Agumbe natives regarded the snake with reverence and care, although its one venomous bite can kill almost 20 people. He realised then that this was the perfect spot to set up a research centre.A research centre & a safe havenAnup Prakash, field director at ARRS said, “Functionally, the amount of respect and attention people here give to King Cobras compared to anywhere else in the world make it a sanctuary. However, officially there’s no such status designated as such but we are hoping that will be so soon. We have applied to the concerned authorities.” Discussions on sanctuary tag is on with stakeholders and forest departments, after which the proposal will be sent to the chief minister, who will need to sign it to make it official.According to Dhiraj Bhaisare, research administrator at ARRS, they have learnt the impacts and effects of translocation of the King Cobras. Apart from this they have observed, the reptiles’ feeding habits, scavenging & diving behaviour. “Besides this, we have followed their movement after dark when we found them feeding or hunting as late as two in the morning,” adds Dhiraj.(Have a story to tell? Write to us at [email protected])ARRS performs rescue operations tooARRS on an average receives two calls per day for rescue operation, often led by expert Ajay Vijay Giri, education officer.

Demonetization will cause 1.5% GDP loss

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

11 miners dead in Lalmatia colliery mishap in Jharkhand, rescue operations to resume Sat morning

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Ten miners were killed and an unspecified number feared trapped when a massive mound of earth came crashing down on them at Lalmatia open cast coal mine of Eastern Coalfields Ltd (ECL) Thursday night, the worst such disaster in over a decade.Heavy machinery was deployed as rescuers, including those from the NDRF, toiled through the day extricating bodies and looking for survivors. “Unfortunately the casualties have increased from seven in the morning to 10,” the coal ministry said in a statement.”Rescue teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Eastern Coalfields Ltd (ECL)/Bharat Coking Coal Ltd (BCCL), state government and experts have been continuously carrying out rescue work at the accident site of ECL’s Rajmahal Open Cast Expansion Project in district Godda, Jharkhand,” the statement said.Central Mine Planning and Design Institute (CMPDIL, the consultancy arm of Coal India Ltd., has deployed magneto meters along with imaging system for locating magnetic and conductive material up to a depth of 80 meters, the statement said.R R Mishra, officiating CMD of ECL, a Coal India subsidiary, said that the incident occurred at around 7:30 pm last night when excavators were working there following which rescue operations was launched immediately.Senior officials of Director General of Mines Safety (DGMS) have arrived at the site and launched an inquiry.All 10 excavators and dump trucks which were swamped under the debris have been recovered. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Coal Minister Piyush Goyal, Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das and other leaders have expressed grief over the loss of lives.”Saddened by the loss of lives at a mine in Jharkhand. My prayers are with those trapped inside. Spoke to CM Raghubar Das on the situation,” Modi said on twitter.Das said an assistance of Rs two lakh will be given to the families of the miners who died in the accident, while ECL also announced an ex-gratia compensation of Rs five lakh each to these families, in addition to the amount to be paid under the Workmen’s Compensation Act.14 miners were killed at Central Saunda coal mine in Ramgarh district of Jharkhand in August 2005. The country’s worst mining disaster had occurred at Chasnala in Dhanbad district in the then Bihar state in 1975 in which 375 lives were lost.

Indian politician Akhilesh Yadav sacked by his father Mulayam

The chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state is fired by the head of his party – his own father.

Taiwan announces U.S. itinerary for president, upsetting China | Reuters

By J.R. Wu
| TAIPEI

TAIPEI Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen will transit through Houston and San Francisco during a January visit to allies in Latin America, her office said Friday, prompting China to repeat a call for the United States to block any such stopover. Tsai’s office declined to comment on whether she would be meeting members of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s team, but the U.S. mission in Taiwan, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), said the visit would be “private and unofficial”.Trump angered China when he spoke to Tsai this month in a break with decades of precedent and cast doubt on his incoming administration’s commitment to Beijing’s “one China” policy.An adviser to Trump’s transition team said he thought “further high-level engagement for the foreseeable future is unlikely” when asked if any meetings were planned. The adviser did not want to be identified by name.China is deeply suspicious of Tsai, who it thinks wants to push for the formal independence of Taiwan, a self-governing island that Beijing regards as a renegade province, ineligible for state-to-state relations.China’s Foreign Ministry repeated a previous call for the United States not to allow the transit and not send any “wrong signals to Taiwan independence forces”.

“We think everyone is very clear on her real intentions,” the ministry said, without explaining.The United States, which switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979, has acknowledged the Chinese position that there is only “one China” and that Taiwan is part of it.Tsai is transiting through the United States on her way to and from visiting Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador. She will leave Taiwan on Jan. 7 and return on Jan. 15.Tsai will arrive in Houston on Jan. 7 and leave the following day. On her return, she will arrive in San Francisco on Jan. 13, Presidential Office spokesman Alex Huang told a regular news briefing.

The AIT said the transit did not contradict the “one China” policy.”President Tsai’s transit through the United States is based on long-standing U.S. practice and is consistent with the unofficial nature of our relations with Taiwan,” Alys Spensley, acting AIT spokeswoman, told Reuters.”There is no change to the U.S. ‘one China’ policy,” she added.

Spensley said Tsai’s transits would be “private and unofficial”. The U.S. State Department said AIT chairman Ambassador James Moriarty would greet Tsai in Houston and San Francisco.China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong’s Communist forces won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists fled to the island.Speaking to members of China’s largely ceremonial advisory body to parliament on Friday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said next year China would make “unremitting efforts” at unification and developing peaceful relations across the Taiwan Strait, state news agency Xinhua said.Taiwan had as many as 30 diplomatic allies in the mid-1990s, but now has formal relations with 21, mostly smaller and poorer nations in Latin America and the Pacific and also including the Vatican. (Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing and David Brunnstrom in Washington; Editing by Nick Macfie and James Dalgleish)

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

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 22:41 IST

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

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

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

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

India opens first school for transgender pupils

A school for transgender people opens in Kochi, to help school dropouts finish their education.

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

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

Demonetisation was single biggest case of total mismanagement, says Chidambaram

New Delhi: Insisting that the Opposition’s concerns on demonetisation have been found correct, former Finance Minister P Chidambaram said Prime Minister Narendra Modi should now make a categorical announcement of an end to all restrictions on cash withdrawals.

P Chidambaram. PTIP Chidambaram. PTI

P Chidambaram. PTI

“When the prime minister addresses the nation, the people expect that he will make a categorical announcement that all restrictions on money have been ended,” Chidambaram told reporters at AICC headquarters on Friday.

The senior Congress leader said that the woes of demonetisation should come to an end by Friday evening as the prime minister had asked for time till 30 December. Noting that Modi had recently said at a rally that “through the note ban, in one stroke, we destroyed the world of terrorism, drug mafia, human trafficking and underworld”, he said that it was therefore, fair to expect that these objectives would be achieved by the end of today.

“It is fair to expect that beginning Monday, 2 January, 2017, all restrictions on money imposed on 8 November, 2016 will be removed and the people will be able to withdraw the money in their bank accounts. It is fair to expect that there will be no queues outside bank branches and ATMs. It is fair to expect that all ATMs will be open round the clock and fully stocked with
currency notes,” he said.

Chidambaram said that the only person who can assure the people on these matters is Modi himself, because the government has “dubbed all of us in the Opposition as supporters of black money hoarders and tax evaders”.

On the government’s claim that people are happy and there have been no incidents of rioting, he said people are patient. “But please don’t mistake patient people for happy people,” he had said.

Seeking to debunk government’s claims on the benefits of demonetisation, he said, “Events of the last 50 days have proved us correct. Hoards of black money in new Rs 2,000 notes have been found.”

He further said that bribes have been given and taken in new Rs 2,000 notes and there is “no guarantee” that black money will not be demanded or generated in future or that bribes will not be given or taken in future in the new currency.

Dubbing the way the demonetisation was announced and implemented as a “single biggest case of total mismanagement”, he regretted the most momentous decision has been taken “without consulting key officials”.

Making a strong pitch for compensating people for the hardships they faced, he lamented that the government has “not uttered a word” about compensating the people for the economic losses heaped upon them by demonetisation.

He also demanded that the agenda note and the minutes of the meeting of the RBI board of directors held on 8 November, 2016, along with the Note for Cabinet on demonetisation placed before the Cabinet on 8 November, 2016, should be made
public.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 20:03 IST

Mamata defends scam-tainted Tapas Pal, claims Modi ‘insulted’ backward classes by naming app BHIM

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Hitting out at CBI for arresting TMC MP and actor Tapas Pal in connection with a chit fund case, Mamata Banerjee linked his arrest to the note ban protest. She was quoted saying by ANI: “PM promised to bring back black money but couldn’t do so; PM destroyed economy & endangered the country’s external & internal security. I hope the restrictions on cash withdrawal will be withdrawn; Will normalcy of life be restored now?”Linking the demonetization protest to Pal’s arrest, she added: “TMC is protesting against note ban that doesn’t mean we have to be arrested by CBI. TMC protesting against note ban that doesn’t mean they’ve to be arrested by CBI. Anyone can become ambassador for any state. Even Amitabh ji is promoting a state. Many film stars and cricketers promoted Sahara; Was Centre sleeping?”She added: “BJP is connected to Pearl group chit fund scam worth Rs 50,000 crore.” Continuing her tirade, she said: “Modi Babu, arrest all my MPs and MLAs if you want; You don’t need to summon us., we are ready; But we cannot be deterred. A lottery app has been named after Ambedkar by Centre; This is crude mentality and insult to backward classes.”Pal was arrested earlier after questioning. “We have arrested Tapas Pal for his alleged involvement in the Rose Valley Chit Fund scam. We had placed a few questions before him and he could not give any proper reply over the amount of money he had taken and on what basis,” a senior CBI official told PTI.Pal was interrogated for four hours. As he failed to give proper reply to any of the questions on his appointment as director to one of the Rose Valley companies or his involvement in the firm investing in Bengali film industry, the CBI decided to arrest him, the official said.The probe agency is likely to take him to Bhubaneswar for further questioning. CBI had issued summons to Tapas Pal on December 27 in connection with the alleged scam, which is one of the cases of the chit fund scams being probed by the investigating agency. He was asked to appear before the agency at its office in Salt Lake today.

PM Modi launches BHIM app, dedicated to Ambedkar, ahead of UP elections

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday launched the Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM) app at the Digi Dhan mela in the Talkatora Stadium in New Delhi and stressed on the importance of technology and digital transactions.

He said the BHIM app had been named after Babasaheb Ambedkar. “Launch of BHIM app is significant. In addition to his role in making of the Constitution, Dr Ambedkar was also a great economist,” he said.

image: PIBimage: PIB

Image: PIB

The naming of the app may also be an attempt to placate the Dalits, a voter base which the Bharatiya Janata Party has been fast loosing hold on after Rohit Vemula’s suicide last year. The timing of the launch is also important as it comes just before the Uttar Pradesh elections.

Notably, the poor was the focus of the prime minister’s speech at the launch today.

“This is the treasury of the poor to digital payments,” the prime minister said adding “Technology is not the treasure of the wealthy, but power given to the poor.”

“The day is not far when the entire country’s trade will be done through this BHIM app,” said the prime minister. “BHIM app will be made so strong in the next two weeks that you won’t even need a mobile phone or smart phone, just your thumbprint.”

“Through Bhim, I’m giving the people the best view of the good times to come in 2017,” said the prime minister.

Modi also talked about the other initiatives launched by the government and said that the Lucky Grahak Yojana and DigiDhan Vyapar Yojana were “Christmas gifts” to the nation. He also said the government plans to reward those who used digi-payment options.

“There will be a mega draw on 14 April, the birth anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar, where rewards will be given to several people,” he said.

Taking a dig at the Opposition leaders who had criticised Modi’s call for a ‘less-cash society’ after demonetisation, Modi said, “There are some people who begin their day with disappointment. There are no options available for such people…When I talk about e-payment, some people doubt me and think I’m trying to bring something new,” Modi said, adding that technology like that had existed for a long time.

Modi also took a dig at the previous UPA government and said that earlier, people used to talk about the money lost due to scams like the coal scam and 2G scam. “But now, people are talking about the money which the country gained.”

Modi also thanked the media for asking questions post demonetisation. “In the last 50 days, media also questioned the government on how the country will become digital when poor don’t have mobile. I am thankful to the media as this has helped government formulate schemes and take up initiatives to empower the poor,” ANI quoted the prime minister as saying.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 17:49 IST

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

Nine bodies have been recovered from a coal mine that collapsed late evening on Thursday in the Lal Matia colliery of Godda district in Jharkhand, reports said. Rescue operations are still on and several more are feared trapped inside.

“So far, nine bodies have been recovered,” RR Amitabh, a general manager at the ECL project office told Reuters.

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

Coal India has a poor safety record, with 135 accidents reported last year, killing 37 people and injuring 141, the company said in a report, highlighting concern about working conditions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mine roof collapses in Dhanbad

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

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

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

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

With inputs from agencies

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 17:15 IST

Bye 2016, welcome 2017: There are many good reasons not to have a new year blast

Why do we celebrate the new year with such vengeance? For the past ten days, the first question the human race asks is, what are your plans.

Don’t have any. Nature does not have any. Not the moon nor the sun nor the stars are the least bothered about it. Flora and fauna don’t care, it is just another 24-hour cycle.

Avoid a new year party. ReutersAvoid a new year party. Reuters

Avoid a new year party. Reuters

And what exactly are we celebrating? Self-indulgence? Escapism? One step close to the dark night, that much more dimming of the light and what are we doing, we are leaping about with little hats on our heads blowing little tweeters in each other’s faces.

Come to think of it, New Year’s Eve is so reflective of our values as people.

The deception. Making resolutions that only 1 percent actually keep.

The cold-blooded ruthlessness. 2016 is out, kick the blighter in the back side, let’s go curry favour with 2017, just like we do to the new boss when he replaces the old one, overnight change of loyalty, the king is dead, long live the king. We do it in our offices all the time.

The hypocrisy. Hugging people we don’t know in a false sense of bonhomie and frigid warmth that will disappear in two minutes. The rest of the year, kill and plunder and destroy with glee.

We must love one another and I hate people who don’t but go gaga over people we cannot stand the rest of the year, oh please, give me a break.

Wastage. Gluttony rules the roost and we waste money, food and drink and largely make complete fools of ourselves and this we call having a blast.

The competitiveness. Oh, we are going to see the northern lights. We are off to the Costa del Sol. Decided to bring in the new year in Greece in Santorini.

Bring in the new year???? What an arrogance. You are not bringing in anything. The earth will continue its daily revolution and another day will dawn and wouldn’t it be far more rewarding to do one good deed per person rather than having three for the road and turning into a statistic.

It is not as though the massacre of the earth will stop or mankind will wake up a better race or children will not be exploited and we will ride posse against the common enemies of mankind: poverty, disease and injustice.

Come Monday morning nothing is going to change.

So why do we do it, this dog and pony exhibition of great joy and enthusiasm that the well-heeled engage into the total eyebrow-raising surprise of the majority who just go to bed because tomorrow they go to work. Like they do every day of the year.

Think of it. January, as a month, only came into being in 700 BC. And 1 January was chosen as the new year because Julius Caesar realised the sun and the calendar were out of synch so he arbitrarily added 96 days on the advice of his astrologers and made it work for him. It was no party for the astronomers and January was chosen to please Janus, the god of beginnings. Old Jules wanted to be on good terms with starters.

And if all this hasn’t ruined your mood entirely think of five other good reasons.

You’ll be paying for cheap over-priced drinks, be stuck in a miserable crowd in a miserable place having to say ‘aren’t we having fun’ every few minutes because the service sucks and you are actually miserable.

The food will be like swill if you can reach it.

Somebody will scratch your car if you can get it parked for a start and valet service will cost an arm and a leg.

Getting reunited with your car will take ninety minutes as you freeze in the cold, and some idiot on your table will get maudlin and mushy and sentimental and there goes your evening in a basket.

You’ll have to suffer stupid comments, several versions of stupid ‘see you next year’ jokes accompanied by false laughter and the music will drown out any chance of conversation.

Stay home. You will save yourself a hangover.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 16:47 IST

BJP, AAP all set for 2017 high-stakes Delhi municipal poll

New Delhi: The high-stakes municipal poll is likely to set the tone for the political battle in the national capital in 2017 in which BJP will seek to retain its turf facing an upbeat AAP which aims to replicate its stunning performance of 2015 in its civic polls debut.

The Arvind Kejriwal-led party had swept the Delhi Assembly elections in 2015 reducing BJP to just three seats while Congress failed to open its account.

The erstwhile unified Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) was trifurcated in 2012 into North, South and East Corporations.

BJP has been ruling the MCD and the subsequent three civic bodies for nearly 10 years.

The last municipal elections were held in 2012 in which BJP was voted back to power. The civic bye-polls in May saw AAP bagging 5 of the 13 seats, while Congress had made a spirited comeback by winning 4 seats, pushing BJP to third spot.

The three civic bodies, North Delhi Municipal Corporation, South Delhi Municipal Corporation and East Delhi Municipal Corporation constitute 272 seats, with NDMC and SDMC accounting for 104 seats each while 64 seats fall under EDMC.

File photo. PTI

File photo. PTI

The BJP, which dominates the civic bodies, was left with only three seats in the bypolls, signalling that the municipal elections next year could be a keenly-fought contest.

All three parties are gearing up to put their best foot forward, with BJP hoping to retain its turf amid changed political scenario while AAP seeks to replicate its performance, banking on the loyalty and support it earned from the assembly election.

Sanitation, education and health would be some of the major factors that would be weighing on voters mind during the polls.

AAP and BJP have already been at loggerheads over the sanitation and garbage disposal issue in the city, with one side blaming the other for lack of cleanliness in the city.

The Kejriwal-led party aims to target the BJP on sanitation grounds and conditions in unauthorised colonies, where a considerable chunk of voters in the city reside.

Delimitation will change the geography of many wards and AAP, BJP and Congress think that redrawing of the municipal limits could affect the outcome of the civic elections. Civic polls would be considered the litmus test for AAP in Delhi and the contest would be a keenly-watched one.

Besides, urban issues becoming poll planks, 2017 is also set to see Delhi Development Authority’s (DDA) launching its new Housing Scheme with 12,000 flats on offer. The scheme was earlier slated to be launched this Diwali.

Out of the total number of flats, most of them are in Rohini, Dwarka, Narela, Vasant Kunj and Jasola. Ten thousand unoccupied flats are from the 2014 scheme, while 2,000 are other flats which have been lying vacant.

Sources said most of the flats are one-bedroom LIG flats from the last housing scheme and no new flat is on offer this time.

“About 10,000 are LIG flats from 2014 DDA scheme. Unlike EWS (Economically Weaker Section) last time, in 2016 scheme there would be no such category,” a DDA official said.

From application to refund, the DDA this time has planned to make the scheme an online affair to reduce the long queues of flat buyers at its headquarters.

“Yes, plans are underway to make the process completely online,” a source said.

“We are in talks with certain vendors for upgrading our infrastructure to handle the expected increase in traffic. But, we are technologically capable of handling the online rush,” the source said.

The flagship Housing Scheme 2014 offered 25,040 flats across categories, with prices ranging between Rs 7 lakh and Rs 1.2 crore.

The online response had been so massive that the DDA’s official website crashed soon after the launch. The one-bedroom flats were offered in Dwarka, Rohini, Narela and Siraspur areas.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 16:09 IST

Madhya Pradesh plans to develop 1100 ‘climate-smart’ villages

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Madhya Pradesh has embarked on an ambitious plan to develop 1,100 ‘climate-smart’ villages with an aim to prepare farmers to manage the climate change risks timely and ensure good productivity.”The government has been planning to develop 1,100 villages as climate-smart villages in a period of next six years,” state Farmer Welfare & Agriculture Development Department Principal Secretary Dr Rajesh Rajora told PTI.He said 100 villages in each of the 11 agro-climatic zones of the state would be taken up under the plan, which would incur a cost about Rs 150 crore every year. “The work is being taken up under the National Agriculture Development Programme (NADP) and Indian National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture,” he said.In these villages, the farmers would be encouraged to go for short duration variety of crops, in addition to using drought-resistance seeds. “The focus would be on integrated agriculture, which comprises animal husbandry, fisheries, in addition to traditional farming. Agro-forestry would also be adopted in these villages,” Rajora said.Agro-forestry conserves and protects the natural resources as it helps water retention and stops soil erosion. He said integrated nutrients management would also be implemented to help in soil fertility and plant nutrients supply through optimisation of all possible sources of organic, inorganic and biological components.”In addition, the integrated pest management, zero tillage, raised bed gardening techniques and micro-irrigation would also be introduced in the climate smart villages. This would help farmers to increase the productivity amid all challenges of climate change,” he said.Zero tillage technique is a way of growing crops time and again without disturbing the soil through ploughing, another agriculture expert said. “The micro-irrigation systems like drip and sprinklers would not only reduce the water use but also lessen the use of fertilisers and energy,” he said. Rajora said the state government would seek help of International Crops Research Institute for Semi Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), an international NGO working in the field of agriculture, and Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), a global agriculture research partnership.”The Centre has set ICRISAT, the UN organisation, as nodal agency for developing the climate-smart villages. We would also seek expertise from scientists of two agriculture universities at Jabalpur and Gwalior in addition to state government’s scientists in various district headquarters,” he said.According to agriculture department officials, various equipment and sensors would also be used in these villages to help the farmers.The state government has already announced to open a soil testing laboratory at the block level. A plan is also on the anvil to provide soil health cards to farmers under state government’s efforts to double farmers’ income in five years.To ensure sustainable agriculture growth, MP has also constituted a ‘Krishi (agriculture) Cabinet’ for the purpose.The cabinet includes ministers of agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry, fisheries, cooperatives, water resources, Narmada valley development, energy, panchayat, rural development and SC/ST welfare departments.MP had also received Krishi Karman award for 2014-15, the fourth during past five years, for increasing the food grains production and productivity by 254 lakh tonnes and 1,719 kg per hectare, respectively.The state government also claimed to have increased the irrigated agriculture area to 40 lakh hectares from 7 lakh hectares in 2003.

IIT Madras websites hacked, institute says ‘examining’ issue

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Some auxiliary websites of the IIT Madras here have been found hacked and the institute on Friday said it was examining the “vulnerabilities” that led to the hacking episode.The institute said it runs a “main website and auxiliary sites,” and these were “maintained by different entities,” such as “centres, labs and student bodies.” “While the main website of IIT-M has not been hacked, some of the auxiliary sites were hacked yesterday. The hacking was discovered early in the morning and the auxiliary sites were taken down and subsequently restored,” the institute said in a release.”The institute is examining the vulnerabilities that led to the hacking of the auxiliary sites and is taking steps to address them,” it added.The hacking episode is also being debated in social media.

2008 Malegaon blast case: ATS killed two ‘missing’ accused in 2008 fake encounter, claims ex-cop

In a sensational revelation, a former officer of Maharashtra’s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) claimed that two accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast case, who were thought to be missing, were actually killed by the ATS in December 2008. Hindustan Times reported that in an application to the chief judicial magistrate’s court in Solapur on 19 August, 2016, suspended police inspector Mehboob Mujawar claimed Ramchandra Kalsangre and Sandeep Dange, currently wanted, were killed by ATS cops.  This information is contrary to the chargesheet filed by the ATS, which claimed the two are still on the run.

File image of Sadhvi Pragya. PTI

File image of Sadhvi Pragya. PTI

According to Mujawar, the two accused were brought to Mumbai from Indore in November 2008 were they were killed in a alleged fake encounter, Mid Day reported.

According to the paper, Mujawar was suspended in 2009 for allegedly threatening a terror suspect Ghulam Hussain Kasim Sahab Shaikh. The Times of India added that Mujawar was later accused of criminal intimidation and charged under the Arms Act. In his affidavit, he stated that he was falsely accused and while speaking to media, added that he was being hounded for being a witness to the encounter.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis assured of probing the matter, Times Now reported.

Malegaon blast took place on 29 September 2008, when a IED placed in a bike went off, killing six and ijuring 101 people.

Hindutva outfits were accused to have been the perpetrators of the attack, with the role of the Abhinav Bharat, a fringe right-wing group, coming under the scanner of the National Investigation Agency and the ATS. In 2009, ATS charged Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and Indian Army officer Lt Col Shrikant Prasad Purohit for criminal conspiracy under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). In 2015, however, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) dropped charges Sadhvi Pragya and 10 others for lack of evidence.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 14:14 IST

Delhi: Deputy CM Manish Sisodia’s office burgled; computers, documents missing

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia’s office in Vinod Nagar area of his Patparganj constituency in east Delhi has been burgled, with the thieves decamping with computers, documents, CCTV camera DVR among others, police said on Friday.”Some materials have been stolen from the reception area of the office which is in the process of being shifted. The burglary is expected to have taken place late last night. The matter is being probed,” said a senior police officer.Two computers, letter pad, hard disk, documents, digital video recorder of CCTV camera among others were stolen by the burglars who entered the premises by breaking the lock of the office, sources said.Police said they received a burglary call at around 9:20 AM following which a team was sent to the spot.”The whole office was ransacked and we we are trying to ascertain what others item are missing. The office was locked at 2:30 AM yesterday, In-charge of the office Upendra said.The matter is being probed, police added.

Exclusive: CISF to be the world’s largest aviation security player by 2030, says OP Singh

The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) that made a humble beginning in 1969 with a small strength of 3,129 men, has witnessed an exponential growth in terms of strength, portfolio and revenue earning. Today, with the latest sanctioned strength of 1.8 lakh armed personnel and 12 battalions, the CISF will be the world’s third largest aviation security expert by 2020. The only security force that earns its own salary, CISF has been aiming to be the largest player in the aviation security market by 2030.

On various aspects of the security force that guards the economic installations of the country, the CISF’s director-general, OP Singh, a 1983 batch IPS officer of Uttar Pradesh cadre spoke to Firstpost in an exclusive interview. Edited excerpts follow:

Prior to your appointment as CISF chief, you had been the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) chief and had stints in the CRPF and Special Protection Group (SPG). What challenges do you perceive as director-general of CISF?

I have worked with the CISF earlier and was in charge of 59 airports in the country. But it was only for a year. Working in the paramilitary forces is a challenging task and each (unit) has its own different way of performing its duty and dealing with crises and humanitarian work. CISF was created to secure the industrial environment. After the 1956 industrial policy, the country witnessed the emergence of large public sector undertakings (PSUs) and lots of industries. Following economic liberalisation and globalisation, there was a surge in the industrial sector and security of this sector became paramount. It emerged as a futuristic force, where the need was to secure the most sensitive installations and also those sectors like airports, seaports, Metro rail etc that have a direct impact on our economy. Our role is to protect all these vital economic installations in government, public and private sectors. We’re even protecting heritage sites.

How challenging is it for CISF to secure airports, especially after the Kandahar incident in which IA flight IC-814 was hijacked in 1999?

After the hijacking incident, the government decided to revamp airport security system in a big way, when the need was felt to give the responsibility of securing airports to a professional, dedicated and strong force. CISF was assigned the job and we were given the responsibility of Jaipur airport in 2000. Earlier, it was looked after by the state police. Ever since, aviation security was a new and highly challenging assignment for us.

The aviation sector is growing by leaps and bounds, and by 2020, CISF will be the world’s third largest aviation security expert. We’ll be the largest player in the aviation security market by 2030. Besides, aviation security is regulated by international standards and norms; CISF has to catch up with all these challenges.

CISF director-general OP Singh in his office. Firstpost/Debobrat Ghose

CISF director-general OP Singh in his office. Firstpost/Debobrat Ghose

How does CISF safeguard sensitive installations in nuclear and space sectors? 

Different treatment is required to protect various domains in the country. Here, technological advancement comes into play and therefore besides manual training, CISF goes for technological training, and gadgets become one of our most important USPs. From securing airports to nuclear plants and space centres, we require hi-tech gadgets. We undergo a high level of technological training combined with our soft and hard skills, physical reflexes, armed training, etc. So, CISF is a conglomeration of all these tools and techniques.

What is CISF’s modernisation plan? 

Technology is required in various fields of our functioning. For instance, in access control — which is the know-how required to gain access to a particular installation such as an airport building, or in perimeter security — the area of the airport which is banned for public and is under constant patrolling. You need different gadgets for these specialised jobs. For a quick response time to vulnerable and emergency situations like any terror threat, you need quick response teams to protect installations. Then screening and frisking all require technical gadgets. All CISF personnel, whether working in airports or in different fields, undergo specialised training as per requirement. Securing an airport requires different skills than for securing a nuclear power plant.

CISF wants to provide an integrated security solution under a single umbrella.

Is CISF’s backhand operation equally important?  

Of course. We provide training on computerisation, monitoring events via CCTV, post-investigation of incidents, analysis of events etc. On the basis of these, ground-level decisions are taken.

After the Mumbai terror attack (26 November) in 2008, what is CISF’s brief in combating terror threats?  

After Mumbai, the mandate of the force was broadened to provide security cover to private establishments by amending the CISF Act. We have specialised training for anti-terror activities, which is provided to our people in the training institutes based in Madhya Pradesh and Greater Noida. Then we have VIP security. We conduct mock drills at various installations to measure up our preparedness for any such eventuality.

Is CISF providing security to installations based in the Red Corridor that is home to Naxals? 

Yes, in a big way. Our men have risen to the occasion by not only providing security to installations against Left-wing extremism but also in managing a big public domain — by providing safety and security to thousands of staff members working in the industrial sector. Our job is to protect all the economic installations like mines, steel and power plants, gas pipelines, rail tracks, etc in the Red Corridor from the Naxal threat looming over them.

Besides the Red Corridor, CISF is deployed in other sensitive areas in Jammu and Kashmir and North Eastern states to provide security to highly vulnerable and critical establishments.

How is CISF’s role evolving with the ever-expanding Delhi Metro?         

It’s one of the most challenging assignments, as lakhs of people commute every day — securing them is a big task. The population is increasing and the Delhi Metro network is undergoing its third phase of expansion. By sheer numerical strength of the Delhi Metro, it becomes a gigantic task to manage the network — we have to take care of access control, frisking, monitoring, safety and security of commuters, movements, tracking petty crimes, criminal behaviour, women, senior citizens, children safety, issue of human trafficking, missing children, and lost-and-found baggage systems. We’re flexible in finding  lost baggage both in Metros and at airports. We’ve deviced a mobile app for this need.

Can you tell more about this mobile app? 

It’s called the ‘Lost and Found App’. You can register yourself, log in and find your lost item. We can help you in finding your lost baggage. The app has received the ‘Ficci Smart Policing Award’.

Does CISF have any expansion plans? 

Looking at the way we’re expanding in various fields, the government has sanctioned an additional strength of 35,000. Recently, the Ministry of Home Affairs increased the manpower ceiling and now from a 1.45-lakh-strong force, we have 1.80 lakh people. We have to undergo a process of recruitment for this and then train them. We’ve been sanctioned two additional reserve battalions, one of which will be posted in the Maoist hotbed of Bastar in Chhattisgarh. Now, the CISF has 12 battalions and 1.80 lakh members of personnel.

The CISF is probably the only security force that earns its salary from its-…

Very true. CISF is a cost-reimbursement force. We’re the only security force in the country that earns its own salary. We provide security and get paid by our clients. We give security consultancy services to various PSUs. We’ve done consultancy for IIT-Kharagpur and Chennai; IDBI and ICICI banks; integrated steel plants; Tata Steel, Tata Power; Allahabad High Court; Tirupati and Thirumala Devasthanam etc.

After the Bhopal jail break incident, the Madhya Pradesh government approached us and we provided them security consultancy. Now they have asked us to do it for Indore, Gwalior and Jabalpur jails.

At present, we’re providing consultancy in safety paradigm and architecture to eight private installations including Reliance Refinery at Jamnagar (Gujarat), Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali Food and Herbal Park in Haridwar, Electronic City in Bengaluru. So far, we’ve done 134 consultancy services and we earn money out of this. This is our source of revenue as well as salary. We generate revenue for the government and deposit it with the government exchequer.

CISF director-general OP Singh in his office. Firstpost/Debobrat

CISF director-general OP Singh in his office. Firstpost/Debobrat

How important is the role of women in CISF?

Among the Central Armed Police Forces, the CISF has the largest number of women officers and personnel and they work on par with their male counterparts. Airports and Delhi Metro Rail are two areas where women personnel play a vital role. A group of women personnel has been trained in the Filipino martial art Pekiti Tirsia Kali to respond quickly and effectively against the aggressors.

Any overseas assignments?

The first contingent of the CISF went on a UN Mission to Cambodia in 1991-92. Our officers have also served in Mozambique, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Sudan, Cyprus, and Tunisia, among other countries.  The present — 8th CISF contingent comprises 140 handpicked, highly-trained armed personnel, who are assisting the Haitian National Police in weapon control and public security measures.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 11:38 IST

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

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

Pakistan says Indus Waters Treaty can’t be abolished unilaterally

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Pakistan Foreign Office (FO) has said that Indian cannot abolish the Indus Waters Treaty, 1960, (IWT) unilaterally.Foreign Office spokesman Nafees Zakaria told media on Thursday, “Pakistan was closely monitoring the situation and would duly respond when any such situation arose. However, Pakistan was actively pursuing the issue at all appropriate fora, asking for neutral arbitration of the issue.”The News further quoted him, as saying, “We will assess India’s activities within the framework of the Indus Waters Treaty. The Indus Basin Treaty cannot be altered or suspended unilaterally. No country can abrogate the treaty.”He pointed out, “There is an arbitration mechanism to resolve the dispute regarding implementation of the treaty. We resolved many IWT disputes amicably in the past.”He also made a mention of the Kashmir issue, and said that “Pakistan wants to amicably resolve all the outstanding issues, including Kashmir, with India.”

Govt fields senior ministers to highlight achievements, defend demonetization

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>With the Congress chalking out a national agitation against the demonetization from next week, the government here on Thursday went all out to defend its note ban move, rolling out figures to prove that its drive to transition to a cashless economy had takers. The government fielded three senior ministers — Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Information and Broadcasting Minister Venkaiah Naidu and Ministry of Information Technology Ravi Shakar Prasad — to put forth an optimistic picture and highlight its achievements. Countering the opposition, the ruling BJP will also launch a massive political campaign to make people aware about digital economy.Jaitley said clear results from the notes ban were now coming in, tax collections were up, so was the life insurance business, petroleum consumption, tourism and investments in mutual funds. The minister countered naysayers who predicted that demonetization would have a severely adverse effect on the economy. “What was being predicted by the critics has to have a rationale with the revenue collections. Assessments can be unreal but revenue is real,” Jaitley said, adding that “in all the categories (of indirect tax) till November 30, there has been a significant increase in tax collection.” Till December 19, the income tax collection had gone up by 14.4%, he said.Giving a breakdown of central indirect tax collection, he said that the excise duty collection went up by 43.5%, service tax by 25.7% and customs duties by 5.6%. Even on a month-on-month basis, the tax collection this November was higher, he said.Prasad said, “Now the country is functioning at such a fast pace, but if the Congress party can’t see this, then it’s their loss.” He accused the main opposition party of being “the biggest patron of the corrupt and corruption”.Similarly, at a separate press conference, Naidu said that the note withdrawal was an effective Anti–Scam Vaccine to prevent scams taking place through corruption and black money generation. Attacking the Opposition, Naidu said that those rattled by the prospect of the government going after those who made illegitimate deposits in banks and bought benami properties were making such baseless allegations. “It is a cheap tactic to dilute the public perception about the potential benefits of note withdrawal. Government will not be retracted by such diversionary tactics,” he said.He further said that note withdrawal is a part of the grand anti-corruption strategy launched by the government in pursuit of the mandate give by the people in 2014 general elections but that some vested interested were questioning the initiatives against black money and corruption.Highlighting his government’s achievements, Naidu said his scandal-free governance, effective inflation management, increased Foreign Domestic Investments, enhanced pace of infrastructure creation, stepped up economic growth rate despite adversities, financial inclusion, transparent resource allocation, increased accountability and transparency in governance, positive macroeconomic parameters were among the achievements of the government in the past few years.Giving details about the tourism sector, he said that there had been notable growth in the comparative figures of Foreign Tourists Arrival (FTA) and Foreign Exchange Earnings (FEEs) and online sale of e–tickets after demonetization. The Minister said that earnings from cashless ticketing in Railways has increased by 30% and the number of people booking reserved tickets online using credit and debit cards or online transactions was at 58% in November, but had now reached over 75%.He also said that more than 26 crore accounts were opened under the Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana as a step towards financial inclusion. The Make in India initiative ensured enhanced the partnership between the government and the industry, he said, and India’s ease of business ranking had improved from 142 to 130 in the world.Naidu said that about 3.09 crore farmers were covered under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana in 2015-16 and 3.66 crores this year. He stated that over 19 lakh youth were trained in useful skills under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana. Under the Stand Up India scheme, Rs 500 crore had been allocated in 2016-17 budget. Over 2.5 lakh entrepreneurs had benefited from the scheme so far, Naidu said. He also said that 1.22 crore LPG connections had been provided to BPL households under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana. On the soil health card scheme for farmers, he said that over 2.5 crore health cards had been distributed so far.Prasad too opined that the demonetization was a big success and said that digital payments had gone up by anywhere between 300% to 1500% following the move. At another press conference, Prasad, who is also the law minister, said that the government was taking every step to make digital payments foolproof. “We are reinforcing all cyber security walls,” Prasad said, adding that the IT ministry will come out with a detailed plan in this regard within a fortnight. Prasad further said that the government was also considering whether amendments were required in the Income-Tax Act to plug loopholes which may have provided tax evaders a legitimate way of legalising their black money.

Demonetization failed to check black money: Sharad Pawar

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Thursday said Centre’s demonetization move has failed to curb black money in country and questioned the “real reason” behind its roll out.”Rural economy is collapsed. Farmers and cooperative movement are affected due to denomination. The move has failed to curb black money. Rs 14.38 lakh crore out of Rs 15.42 lakh crore are deposited in banks till date. If this is the outcome of this major decision then what was the real reason behind it?” he said.Pawar appealed to people to come on streets in a peaceful manner to protest against “hypocrisy” of the BJP-led Central government.He was speaking after inaugurating refurbished YB Chavan auditorium at a cooperative bank here.”Common people are standing in queues since last 50 days, but no black money-holder is seen standing there. The farmers have lost the hope due to fallen prices of agri products. All the sensible and common citizens are now worried about future,” he said.

Jayalalithaa’s death: Madras HC resonating voice of Tamil Nadu people, says DMK

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) on Friday said doubts raised by the Madras High Court over late chief minister J. Jayalalithaa’s death has resonated doubts of the people as health bulletins issued by Apollo Hospitals contained contradictory reports.”I think it (court) is resonating the voice of a people because during her entire stay in the hospital, no relevant or true information was forthcoming. Strangest of all things, the Tamil Nadu government did not utter a single word about the health of the CM, which was very strange,” said DMK leader Sarvanan.”Apart from that, the doctor’s reports are very contradictory. 10 news bulletins came, but none of the bulletins were signed by a doctor, except only one bulletin by Satya, she was the medical services director from Apollo Hospitals. Apart from that, everything else was issued by the chief executive officer, who was neither a doctor nor was he associated as someone treating Jayalalithaa,” he added.Justice S Vaidyanathan of the high court expressed doubts yesterday over the demise of the former All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam general secretary.”Media has raised a lot of doubts, personally I also have doubts about Jayalalithaa’s death,” said Justice Vaidyalingam.He was hearing the PIL filed by an AIADMK worker P A Joseph seeking an inquiry commission to probe the circumstances leading to the death of Jayalalithaa.”I personally find in case if I have doubt, I may order the exhumation of the body of the deceased and you have not told anything when she was alive,” Justice Vaidyanathan said.The AIADMK yesterday appointed Jayalalithaa’s close aide VK Sasikala as the party’ general secretary.In a unanimous resolution adopted at the party’s general council meeting, AIADMK members handed over control of the party to Sasikala.

Maharashtra: 6 killed in fire at bakery in Pune

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Six people were killed after a fire broke out at ‘Bakes and Cakes’ bakery in Maharashtra’s Pune early morning on Friday.According to initial information, the incident took place in at a bakery locating near Talab company in Kondhwa Khurd locality of the city. Reports said that six employees working in the bakery were charred to death.Though the exact reason for the fire is not known, a short circuit is believed to have caused the fire.Fire has been contained.(More details awaited)

Demonetisation Day 50: Deadline to deposit old Rs 500, Rs 1,000 notes ends today; crunch to continue

New Delhi: The 50-day deadline to deposit the old Rs 500/1,000 notes in banks comes to an end today but the cash crunch and queues before ATMs are likely to continue for some more time as currency printing presses have failed to meet the huge demand for new bills.

People, however, will still have time to exchange the currency notes at designated RBI counters till March 31 after giving valid reasons for not depositing defunct notes in their accounts by December 30.

The government is also planning to come out with an Ordinance making possession of old Rs 500/1,000 notes beyond a specified limit for numismatic purposes illegal and punishable.

PTIPTI

PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a surprise announcement on 8 November declared the old Rs 500 and 1,000 notes invalid.

The banks started accepting deposits in scrapped notes from November 10. However, very few ATMs opened on 11 November, as most of the machines had to be recalibrated for people
to get cash which was available in Rs 2,000 denomination.

Saddled with cash crunch, banks resorted to rationing of valid currency notes and fixed a withdrawal limit of Rs 24,000 per account in a week. Although the overall situation at banks has improved, ATMs still have to do some catching up. Many cash vending machines are still out of cash even after 50 days since demonetisation.

The government move was sharply criticised by the Opposition parties led by Congress and TMC.

With every passing day, the number of circulars from the government or the Reserve Bank kept on rising that led to confusion among bankers as well as the public. Bankers believe that restrictions on withdrawal of cash from banks and ATMs are likely to continue beyond December 30.

After the demonetisation, the government had fixed a limit of Rs 24,000 per week on withdrawal from bank accounts and Rs 2,500 per day from ATMs in view of the currency crunch.
The government and the RBI has not specified when the restrictions will be withdrawn. Finance Secretary Ashok Lavasa had said the withdrawal cap would be reviewed after December
30.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 09:01 IST

Jharkhand mine collapse: Several workers feared trapped in Lal Matia colliery

Several workers are feared trapped in a coal mine that collapsed late evening on Thursday in the Lal Matia colliery of Godda district in Jharkhand, reports said.

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

The coal mine is owned by Eastern Coalfields, a subsidiary of the government-owned Coal India Limited.

ANI tweeted that rescue operation is underway and that an NDRF team from Patna is already on its way to the site of the accident.

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

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

Mine roof collapses in Dhanbad

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

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

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

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

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 08:53 IST

Four workers injured in mine roof collapse in Jharkhand

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Four workers suffered injuries, two of them seriously, when the roof of a mine partially collapsed at Putki Balihari area in Dhanbad district on Thursday.The mine falls under Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL), a subsidiary of Coal India Limited.A senior district official said the four contractual workers were taking cable to a shaft of the hydro mines in lift when a part of the roof suddenly caved in trapping them.The four were rescued and taken to a hospital where the condition of two of them was stated to be serious, the official said.The two seriously injured were now under treatment at Central Hospital, Dhanbad while the other two were being treated at a local hospital in the neighbourhood of the mines and were out of danger, the official added.The cause of the collapse was being looked into, the official said.

Medallist swimmer dances for a living

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>27-years-old Vishwas KS raised his leg to turn the water tap. He is about to take the mandatory shower before entering the pool. For this young man who lives all by himself in Bengaluru, having no hands has never been a hindrance — whether it be winning medals at world swimming championships or performing his day-to-day chores.Yet this international-level swimmer has to perform at dance shows to earn his bread and butter, and pay for his training which costs Rs 1.5 lakh a year. Vishwas has won three medals in 2016 Speedo Can Am Para Swimming Championships held in Canada. He won two silver, each in breaststroke and backstroke as well as a bronze in butterfly, this after winning three silver medals at Belagavi’s National Level Para-swimming Championship.His trip to Canada was arranged by NGO Astha and although the championship fetched medals, it brought him no prize money. A sum promised by the Karnataka government on his return, is yet to see the light of day.Tough past, a tougher presentVishwas lost his father in a mishap, and in the same incident he lost both his limbs when he was 10-years-old. After the accident, his family moved to Bengaluru where he went on to complete his graduation and took up odd jobs to make ends meet.While swimming training continued, Vishwas took up dancing. As word spread, he started getting more and more offers to perform. This is his primary source of income today. The Rs 6,000 pension the family receives after his father’s death is divided among all siblings, leaving hardly anything for Vishwas.Apart from NGOs which offer financial help, Vishwas performs at shows and concerts to pay his rent. He performs in almost 15 to 20 shows a year, including participating in one episode in the famous Kannada show ‘Maza with Sruza.’ Every morning though, he goes back into the pool back to his passion. A run to the podium against all odds Tamil Vanan D, Vishwas’s coach claims that he has learnt a lot from Vishwas. “At one point of time, I was shocked to see him swim all over the place, lacking proper training and skills. Today, he teaches new moves to me. Students of every age group get inspired,” Tamil says.It was only after intensive training for three years that he was finally ready as a professional swimmer. Vishwas trains every morning, starting at 5 am and practises for four hours and for two hours in the evening at Vijayanagar Aquatic Centre, Bengaluru.This swimmer, who can beat any average abled person in the sport, dreams of participating in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. “It is my aim to get a chance to swim in Paralympics and 2018 Commonwealth Games,” concludes Vishwas.

Delhi Metro: 400 cases of jaywalking on tracks this year, 88 suicide bids

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>While jaywalkers have proved irritants to road safety rules, the protected environs of the Delhi Metro have not remained unaffected from the contempt for approaching traffic, as CISF detected more than 400 cases of unauthorised walking on tracks of the rail network this year.The rail network in the national capital region, that carries an average of 26 lakh passengers per day, saw at least 88 suicide attempts during the period; 12 were successful.The security agency – mandated to provide an armed cover to the over 150 stations of the network in Delhi and adjoining cities of Ghaziabad, Noida, Faridabad and Gurgaon – reported that more than 340 people were fined for jaywalking on tracks after it handed them over to Metro authorities and police.These figures are reflected in a full-year data compiled by the force for 2016 and updated till the middle of December.Officials said unauthorised walking on tracks have been reported largely from elevated and ground stations, not many were detected from under-ground stations of the Delhi Metro.They said when caught on tracks, some commuters were diagnosed with depression, some were inebriated while others were trespassing or just jaywalking on the rails.”The CISF detected these people while monitoring the CCTV footage of the stations, during foot patrol or on information provided by Metro staff or commuters,” they said.Out of the 88 suicide incidents detected, 12 resulted in death while 11 were intercepted by Central Industrial Security Force personnel, 20 were saved due to timely intervention by people around and 45 were rushed to hospitals with injuries.To curb illegal trespassing and suicide attempts, the force undertakes surveillance operations regularly and deploys women and men personnel in plain clothes to keep an eye on anyone exhibiting suspicious behaviour.In a similar stead, more than 3,200 male passengers, travelling in all-women coaches of Delhi Metro, were made to de-board by the force, which runs an operation called ‘Kali’ to check the notorious activity and provide security to female commuters.CISF women personnel have been trained in Filipino martial art technique called ‘Pekiti-Tirsia Kali’ (hence operation Kali), which is a close-quarter unarmed combat skill used to take on multiple opponents at one time by using obscure objects usually worn on the body like a pen or a hairpin.

Rohit Tandon, Paras Lodha sent to 4-day ED custody by Delhi court in money laundering case

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A Delhi court on Thursday sent city- based lawyer Rohit Tandon and businessman Paras Mal Lodha, arrested in connection with a money laundering case, to four- day custody of the Enforcement Directorate.The duo were produced before Metropolitan Magistrate Ashok Kumar, who allowed their custodial interrogation till January 2.The ED had arrested Tandon in New Delhi Thursday morning in connection with a money laundering probe in a case of seizure of Rs 13.6 crore post demonetization after the police raided his law firm premises as part of an anti-black money operation. Lodha was arrested on December 21 and later the court had sent him to seven-day ED custody on December 22. Advocate Vikas Garg, appearing for the ED, moved two applications before the court seeking 14-day custodial interrogation of Tandon and seven days extension of custody Lodha. However, the court only allowed four days of custodial interrogation for both of them.The ED submitted that as per the FIR, Tandon knew about the details of persons involved in the alleged money laundering racket. “The accused is needed to trail the proceeds of crime and to co-relate the collected information and identify the beneficiaries,” he said.Senior advocate Mohit Mathur, appearing for Tandon, denied the allegations, saying “what they (ED) are saying is the proceeds of crime, I am saying it is my money”.”The Ministry of Finance does not say violating Centre’s November 8 demonetization notification will make it an offence. Any amount of money can be deposited in accounts till December 30,” he said.Seeking extension of Lodha’s ED custody, Garg said “in this matter, an amount of around Rs 20 crore is involved.Search was conducted in Delhi and Kolkata where five locker keys and computer data were collected. In the raid at his Delhi apartment, 10,000 incriminating documents were collected. Lodha is needed in order to correlate the collected data.”Lodha’s counsel Sushil Bajaj said there was no ground to extend the custody of his client who is entitled to be released on bail. “When ED says it has already probed and recovered things, then why is his custody needed? Nothing has been recovered from his possession,” he claimed and added that in case of custodial interrogation, Lodha’s lawyer should be permitted to be present.The counsel also sought medical attention for him as he was suffering from ailments like mouth cancer and also had brain tumour which was removed and has two stents in his arteries.The agency suspected that Tandon was allegedly instrumental in the illegal conversion of demonetized currency worth about Rs 60 crore in purported connivance with Lodha and arrested Kotak Mahindra Bank manager in Delhi, Ashish Kumar.With Tandon’s arrest, the investigative agencies have now nabbed some of the major players of the two high-profile black money rackets unearthed after the note ban.Tandon’s case pertains to an operation of Delhi Police’s Crime Branch and the Income Tax department earlier this month when they had seized Rs 13.6 crore, of which Rs 2.6 crore was in new currency, allegedly from a law firm that he is associated with.The ED had booked a PMLA case against him based on the police FIR. The lawyer was earlier separately searched by the tax department where it was said that he had declared undisclosed income worth over Rs 125 crore to the taxman.

Hurriyat leader Masarat Alam released from Kathua Jail, rearrested

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Hardline Hurriyat Conference leader Masarat Alam Bhat, who had been in custody under the Public Safety Act since April 2015, was released from Kathua district jail but subsequently re-arrested in another case.J&K High Court had ordered his release on Tuesday. “Masrat was released today in the case in which the high court had quashed his detention. But he was rearrested subsequently from jail in another case,” a senior Police officer told PTI.Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar, while allowing Masrat’s plea challenging the latest of the detention orders under Public Safety Act, held his detention illegal on several grounds. Masarat had been booked under PSA several times since April 2015 and the latest order in the series was issued by District Magistrate Baramulla.”…(the) order of detention…passed by the (deputy commissioner Baramulla) is quashed with a further direction to the (government) to release (Masrat) Alam forthwith from preventive custody,” the court had said in its order on Tuesday. According to the order, Masarat was accused of making the ongoing agitation “successful” from inside the jail.

1.5 cr free LPG connections issued to BPL households in less than 8 months

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Government has achieved its target of providing 1.5 crore free cooking gas (LPG) connections to poor households in less than 8 months.The Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUJ) aimed to provide 5 crore free LPG connections to BPL families in three years.The target for the first was set at 1.5 crore.The first year target has been “achieved within a span of less than 8 months and the scheme is being implemented now across 35 states/UTs,” an official statement said.A woman member of BPL family identified through Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) data is given a deposit free LPG connection with financial assistance of Rs 1,600 per connection.The scheme was announced in the Budget for 2016-17 with an allocation of Rs 8,000 crore for three years.Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched PMUJ on May 1 from Balia in Uttar Pradesh. “14 states/UTs having LPG coverage less than the national average, hilly states of J&K, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and all North-East States are identified as priority states for implementing the scheme,” the statement said.The top five states with maximum connections are UP (46 lakh), West Bengal (19 lakh), Bihar (19 lakh), Madhya Pradesh (17 lakh) and Rajasthan (14 lakh).These states constitutes nearly 75% of the total connections released.The households belonging to SC/ST constitute large chunk of beneficiaries with 35% of the connections being released to them. “With the implementation of PMUY, the national LPG coverage has increased from 61% (as on January 1) to 70% (as on December 12, 2016),” the statement added.

Get in line: Friday is your last chance to deposit old Rs 500, 1000 notes

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The 50-day deadline to deposit the old Rs 500/1,000 notes in banks comes to an end on Friday but the cash crunch and queues before ATMs are likely to continue for some more time as currency printing presses have failed to meet the huge demand for new bills.People, however, will still have time to exchange the currency notes at designated RBI counters till March 31 after giving valid reasons for not depositing defunct notes in their accounts by December 30.The government is also planning to come out with an Ordinance making possession of old Rs 500/1,000 notes beyond a specified limit for numismatic purposes illegal and punishable.Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a surprise announcement on November 8 declared the old Rs 500 and 1,000 notes invalid.The banks started accepting deposits in scrapped notes from November 10. However, a very few ATMs opened on November 11, as most of the machines had to be recalibrated, for people to get cash which was available in Rs 2,000 denomination.Saddled with cash crunch, banks resorted to rationing of valid currency notes and fixed a withdrawal limit of Rs 24,000 per account in a week. Although the overall situation at banks has improved, ATMs still have to do some catching up. Many cash vending machines are still out of cash even after 50 days since demonetization.The government move was sharply criticised by the Opposition parties led by Congress and TMC. With every passing day, the number of circulars from the government or the Reserve Bank kept on rising that led to confusion among bankers as well as the public.Bankers believe that restrictions on withdrawal of cash from banks and ATMs are likely to continue beyond December 30.After the demonetization, the government had fixed a limit of Rs 24,000 per week on withdrawal from bank accounts and Rs 2,500 per day from ATMs in view of the currency crunch.The government and the RBI has not specified when the restrictions will be withdrawn. Finance Secretary Ashok Lavasa had said the withdrawal cap would be reviewed after December 30.

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