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Lt Gen Rawat takes over as Army chief, Air Marshal Dhanoa takes charge as IAF chief

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Lt Gen Bipin Rawat on Saturday took over as the 27th chief of the 1.3 million strong Indian Army succeeding Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag, who retired after 42 years of service.Air Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa also took charge as the 25th Air Force Chief replacing Anup Raha.Gen Rawat superseded two senior most Lt Generals, Praveen Bakshi and P M Hariz.Lt Gen Bakshi, who heads the Kolkata-headquartered Eastern Command, announced “full support” to the new chief and told theatre officers through video conferencing he will continue to lead with “full professional sincerity as hither-to-fore”.”I convey my best wishes and full support of Eastern Command to Gen Bipin Rawat on having taken over as the Chief of Army Staff,” he said.Earlier, there was speculation that Lt Gen Bakshi may resign or take premature retirement. He had also met Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar recently.He requested that speculation and trolling in media and social media should stop and everyone should focus on contributing their best to the betterment of the army and the nation.The Eastern Commander called the new Army chief to congratulate him on taking over the reins of the army.Speculation is rife that Lt Gen Bakshi may be given the new post of Chief of Defence Staff pertaining which Parrikar will meet Prime Minster Narendra Modi next month.Sources, however, have indicated that no such development will take place.Gen Suhag, who superannuated today, said army is prepared to meet any challenge as he thanked the government for “providing a free hand” and implementing the One Rank One Pension scheme.He said that infiltration bids had increased during the year and the number of terrorists killed was nearly double the previous year.The General said the army focused on operational preparedness during his tenure.Suhag said that when he had taken over he had asserted the response of the army to any action against our interest would be immediate, adequate and intense. “Indian Army has done that in the last two-and-a-half years,” he said.Later at noon, he handed over the charge to Rawat, who was commissioned in the Fifth Battalion of the Eleven Gorkha Rifles in December 1978 from IMA, Dehradun. He was awarded the ‘Sword of Honour’ at the academy.Earlier in the day, Gen Suhag and Air Chief Marshal Raha paid tributes at Amar Jawan Jyoti and inspected the guard of honour.The new IAF chief, Air Marshal Dhanoa, had developed the country’s aerial targeting philosophy against potential adversaries and transformed the concept of air operations of the air force into contemporary war fighting practices.He has mainly flown Kiran and MiG-21 aircraft though he has the experience of flying the entire spectrum of fighter aircraft from Jaguar to state-of-the-art MiG-29 and Su-30 MKI.The Air Marshal has many feathers in his hat. As the commanding officer of a frontline ground attack fighter squadron, he led the IAF punch during the “Limited War” against Pakistan to drive the enemy out of their “dug in” defences in the icy heights of Kargil region.During the conflict, under his leadership and supervision, the squadron devised unique and innovative methods of bombing at night at altitudes never before attempted in the history of air warfare, the IAF said.Prior to the attack, the squadron had been adjudged as the best fighter squadron of western Air Command for its high degree of professionalism and peace-time training. After the conflict, it emerged as the most decorated IAF unit of Kargil War.He also holds the highest flying instructional category in the IAF and was handpicked to establish the “IAF Training Team” abroad.Gen Rawat has vast experience in high altitude warfare and counter-insurgency operations.He commanded an infantry battalion, along the Line of Actual Control in the Eastern Sector, a Rashtriya Rifles Sector and an Infantry Division in the Kashmir Valley, a Corps in the Eastern theatre and the Southern Command.He has tenanted instructional appointments at Indian Military Academy and at Army War College, Mhow.Gen Rawat has held important staff appointments at Directorate General of Military Operations and Military Secretary’s Branch at Army HQ.He has also been Major General General Staff (MGGS) at HQ Eastern Command.The General commanded a Multinational Brigade in a Chapter VII mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC). While serving with the United Nations, he was twice awarded the Force Commander’s Commendation.An alumni of Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, he has been awarded various medals of high honour for gallantry and distinguished service in a span of over 38 years in uniform.He also attended the Command and General Staff College (CGSC) course at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, USA.Academically inclined, Rawat has authored numerous articles on national security and leadership, which have been published in various journals and publications.He was awarded M.Phil in Defence Studies from Madras University. He has a Diploma in Management and another Diploma in Computer Studies.Gen Rawat has also completed his research on military media strategic studies and was awarded Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D) from Chaudhary Charan Singh University, Meerut in 2011.

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

PM Modi’s New Year’s Eve Speech at 7:30 PM | Live streaming and where to watch in India

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Rejecting media reports that the PM’s address to the nation at 7:30 PM on December 31, the BJP said that that the speech would go ahead as planned. The BJP Twitter handle tweeted: “Narendra Modi live address to the nation at 7:30 PM on Dec 31: Live streaming and where to watch in India.”Here’s how you can watch PM Modi’s address:Time: 7:30 PM IST on December 31, 2017Watch it on Facebook live on BJP’s pageWatch the live stream on YouTubeCheck it on the BJP websiteYou can also watch the speech on PM Modi’s website​The speech will also be broadcast on all TV channels including Zee News. ​DNA will add the links when the PM speaks. What we know so far? The BJP-led NDA Government, which has come under sharp criticism post the November 8 demonetization drive, will roll out a massive canvassing campaign beginning with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to the nation on December 31.Sources said all Central Ministers have been asked to visit at least 10 places and hold rallies and mass contact event so as to convince the masses about the decision to demonetize high-value currency notes.As many as 10 towns visited by each minister will be mix of rural and urban places and more focus will be on poll-bound states as Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and especially rural areas.In the wake of the realisation in the government that demonetization related problems will continue for some time, a detailed dossier on demonetization issue has been given to all Central Ministers explaining need of the drive to various milestones achieved along with its success stories.All mass media platforms from radio, TV to field publicity will be used.Sources disclosed that around 60-page documents have been distributed to all ministers by the Finance Ministry in which every aspect of demonetization has been described point by point.The Finance Minister in the document has described the need for initiating such a step, future action plan and impact on major policies.Prime Minister Modi had earlier urged the nation to give him 50 days post the demonetization decision to get things back on track. After demonetization, the government has taken a number of steps to ensure that no hardship is faced by tourists and the industry is not affected.Till date, the government has made several changes to the norms.The demonetization decision has also taken a toll on the common man, with reports of some dying while standing in queues to collect money.In between all this, Prime Minister Modi has continued to address the nation at various public gatherings and his ‘Mann ki Baat’ radio programme.

Demonetisation: The objective of accountability behind the ordinance extinguishing old notes

What was the agenda behind the cabinet approval for promulgating of an ordinance extinguishing the Reserve Bank of India’s liability for cancelled Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes? Was it a mere fulfilment of legal formality so as to prevent chances of someone claiming his right to encash disbanded notes on the basis of a promise to pay the bearer? If it was to fulfil only mere legal formalities, then the obvious question will be on what basis circulation of these very currency notes were made illegal with effect from 8 November midnight? Being a layman in legal matters, I leave it to the concerned experts to ponder over it.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

What else could be the motive behind the move now? Out of Rs 15.4 lakh crore scrapped currency notes, already Rs 14 lakh crore, which is a whopping 90.9 percent, have already come back to the banking system. By any standard, the current step is a major success, one aimed at making unaccounted income accountable. This is a clear indication of the grip of the incumbent government. It also indicates how seriously people take decisions initiated by the prime minister.

Assuming that still around Rs 1 lakh crore do not get accounted, nobody would have shown guts to claim its value merely on the basis of promise to pay the bearer. That would have remained as mere pieces of paper. At the most, these scrapped notes would have got the honour of getting exhibited under palliate clubs. Anyway, the government’s treasury would have got enriched by an amount equivalent to unclaimed part of scrapped currency notes which may not be more than five percent of the scrapped notes.

What could be the hidden agenda? What would be implications of the ordinance? It definitely reflects determination of the prime minister to tackle menace of black money for which he was given mandate by the people. Among those who declared their income, there will be those who end up paying penalty for not filing returns on time. At the most, their social image may get tarnished. But they don’t have alternate escape route under the determined government.

Who are these persons who don’t mind their ill-gotten wealth getting drained away? Obviously, these are the persons who simply cannot afford to declare their income and pay penalty as other simpletons have done. In this case, resolving of one problem means getting trapped into a much more dangerous web. How can corrupt politicians and bureaucrats declare black money and get away by simply paying penalty? Instead of resolving the problem, it would lead them into a deeper trap. It would automatically lead to investigation about sources of their income. They would end up accepting bribe which means likely end of their career and jail term.

It also has to do with nature of the person called Narendra Modi. Once he takes initiative to reach the target, he is known for trying to achieve it at any cost and go forward with the killing spirit. Perhaps the prime minister is determined to clean up the entire political spectrum and government machinery without sparing anybody. In the process, he may have to sacrifice many of his own colleagues apart from taking on political opponents. No doubt, it is really a bold step. It looks like the prime minister is aware of tremendous risk involved. His real support and strength in this fight against black money is from common men. Despite facing hardship of standing in queues for hours together, they still stand by the Prime Minister. In fact, the measure initiated by the prime minister to tackle black money has become a true people’s movement today. Any movement blessed by people is bound to be a success despite numerous hurdles.

(Dr Jagadish Shettigar is a former member of Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council and currently, Economics Professor at Birla Institute of Management Technology, Greater Noida.)

First Published On : Dec 31, 2016 17:25 IST

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

Demonetization: PM Narendra Modi slams Congress for stalling debate, openly protecting dishonest

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>PM Narendra Modi has slammed the Opposition in his recent interview to the IndiaToday for stalling debate in the Parliament following demonetization. He also accused them for using the Upper and Lower House for ‘openly supporting and protecting the dishonest’.”While Parliament sessions being washed out is a major concern, this blatant endorsement of dishonesty is even more disconcerting for the nation. Debate is critical in a democracy. Had they allowed a debate to take place, it would have revealed a number of dimensions of this mammoth exercise to the nation,” PM Modi said.He said he wanted to speak in both houses but couldn’t as the Congress didn’t allow it, despite the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s appeal to them, as they did not want to a debate in the Parliament over the issue of note ban. He also dismissed the allegations by the Congress that the demonetization was done for political gains. He said that the while the party claims that the note ban was a political decision it also blames the Centre of making the common man suffer. Questioning the two contradictory accusations, Modi said that Congress’ attack on him was illogical. “Maybe, as members of the Opposition, they have to conjure something up to criticise me about, however illogical it may be. I sympathise with their difficulty,” ModiHe also reiterated his earlier attack on the Congress that former prime minister Indira Gandhi had junked the proposal of note ban – as claimed by Madhav Godbole’s in his book Unfinished Innings: Recollections and Reflections of a Civil Servant.- fearing backlash in elections. Rebutting Manmohan SinghModi said indicated that it was ironic that the former prime minister Manmohan Singh called the note ban “monumental mismanagement” as despite Singh’s various high profile roles in the government for 45 years, many in the country ‘continued to live in poverty and deprivation”.He also said that by calling demonetization ‘organised loot’ , Singh was probably referring to the various scams under his own tenure as the prime minister in the UPA governance.

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

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

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

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

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

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.

NGO aims to create Zero Waste Zones in Capital

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Planting and sustaining 100 million trees by 2040 and managing as much as 50 per cent of the city’s waste by 2025 — These are some of the ambitious aims of the non-profit organisation Hara Jeevan. The group has a plan to make various places in the Capital ‘Zero Waste Zones’.Among other goals, the group also wants to spread awareness among youth and involve them in causes to save the environment. At present, their short-term goal is to manage as much as 5,000 metric tonnes of waste in Delhi by 2020.Members of the two-year-old organisation have been talking to RWAs, housing societies, and companies for the Zero Waste project. “The household waste management roadmap includes two steps — segregation of waste, and involvement of locals, including women and children, to spread awareness in the locality,” said Mohit Saini, a member of the NGO.The campaigners plan to set up a system of different bins in office premises. The waste collectors at homes will request people to give them segregated waste, following which manual segregation will also be done by the collectors. “The collected waste will then be processed. Biodegradable waste will be converted into manure, non-biodegradable waste such as paper, card board, plastic, and metal can be sold. The third category of waste includes thermocol, tetra packs, plastic wrappers, diapers, and medical waste, which cannot be sold,” Saini told DNA.The NGO is also in talks with the Municipal Corporations of Delhi (MCD) and the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) for processing of agri-waste, such as leaves, branches, and twigs, which will be converted into manure through mesh composting, which is a major requirement for the ‘Zero Waste Zones’.“We have already started the processing of waste from temples through mesh composting,” Saini said, adding, that the processing of waste from weddings and parties will be started gradually.“A team from Hara Jeevan will train the collectors on segregation of waste, composting, harvesting, and so on. We will also send train members in shredding, mixing in pits, sieving of compost generated etc,” he added.As part of the campaign, during the initial sessions, residents and employees in a particular place will be sensitised regarding segregation, waste management, its need and benefits. This would then be followed by the collection of waste by people hired through the RWAs. These collectors already collect waste from various localities, charging Rs 100 per house. The campaigners plan to give more money to collectors for waste segregation. “We are starting from SDA C-4 block, but intend to take the campaign further to Vasant Kunj, Vasant Vihar, and different societies of Rohini Sector 13. Following this, we plan to implement the plan throughout the National Capital Region (NCR),” Saini said.All they projects have primarily been funded by the NGO, but it intends to involve corporate houses as well as see the manure to generate revenue.

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.

Congress rattled at prospect of govt going after illegal money: Venkaiah Naidu

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Accusing Congress of trying to “tar” the government’s image by calling demonetization a scam, Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu on Thursday said the note ban move was an “anti-scam vaccine” but the opposition party is rattled at the prospect of the government going after illegal money.The I&B minister said the inconvenience that has been caused because of shortage of currency notes would decline further in January and the situation would rapidly improve thereafter.Naidu said that the government was trying to usher in cleanliness in all aspects of the society and this massive exercise is a form of ‘yagna’ and there could be inconvenience. “Some asuras are always trying disturb the peace during the yagna. But this Prime Minister is determined, he wants to make this transformation of India a reality,” he told reporters in New Delhi.
ALSO READ Congress should introspect its contribution to ills like corruption and black money: BJPNaidu said that while critics had claimed that Narendra Modi had mounted a tiger, he also knows how to dismount a tiger as he had done so many times in the past.He said that the Prime Minister has provided a “scandal-free government” in the last two-and-a-half years as per the mandate of 2014 and demonetization was a part of a grand strategy to usher in transparency.Demonetization was an “anti-scam vaccine introduced by the Prime Minister to prevent scams from taking place, to curb corruption and black money generation”, he said.He claimed that Congress and its friends are making baseless allegations and are “rattled by the prospect of the government going after those who made illegal deposits in banks and bought benami properties”.Claiming that politics of “spit and run” will not work, Naidu said that the government will not be distracted by “diversionary tactics.” “It will only further strengthen the resolve of the government to trace every trail of corruption over the last seven decades,” he claimed.Naidu also emphasised that the government aims to catch unscrupulous people who have tried to misuse the system and that legitimacy of big deposits will be scrutinised. The minister stressed that the government will not rest till the last rupee in black money is accounted for. Attacking Congress, Naidu said that while the party was claiming that demonetization was benefiting only the 1% who are rich, it should answer on why 99% people continue to be poor despite its long rule. He said that during the last one year, the government has initiated a series of steps aimed at benefiting the common man.The minister said that scandal-free governance, effective inflation management, increased FDI, enhanced pace of infrastructure creation, stepped up economic growth rate despite adversities, financial inclusion, transparent resource allocation, increased accountability and transparency in governance, positive macro-economic parameters among others have been the major outcomes of the efforts of the Modi dispensation in the past two-and-a-half years.On the tourism front, he said that there has been a notable growth in the comparative figures of foreign tourist arrival (FTA), foreign exchange earning (FEEs) and online sale of e tickets after demonetization.Regarding the agriculture sector, Naidu said that despite apprehensions about demonetization adversely impacting Rabi sowing, the overall sowing across the country surpassed 573.42 lakh hectares, which is higher than the average sowing area for the last five years. He said that Rabi sowing has increased by close to 6.37% this year.Referring to the railways, the minister said that earnings from cashless ticketing has increased 30% and the number of people booking reserved tickets online using credit and debit cards or online transaction which was at 58% in November, has now crossed 75%.Naidu also said that the prices of pulses were coming down while ease of doing business ranking improved from 142 to 130 at the global level.

CMs’ committee on digital payments in favour of continuing incentives on cashless transactions

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu on Tuesday said there are plans to import one million PoS machines to enable cashless payments across India. Naidu, who is the convenor of the 13 member committee of chief ministers on digital payments, said that the committee would recommend continuation of the incentives beyond December 31.Naidu said the committee will present its interim report on digital payments movement to Prime Minister Narendra Modi within a week, while also planning a sustainable, long-term, policy to attract the majority in India to move to digital payments through providing incentives. “Our focus is on providing more incentives for making digital payments a mass movement,” Naidu told the media after the fourth meeting of the committee. The government has given certain incentives post demonetization like waiver of Merchant Discount Rate (MDR) on card usage till the year-end.“Two major breakthroughs using existing infrastructure have been Aadhaar Pay and modified versions of USSD and UPI, and the two would be launched soon,”Naidu said, adding that the technology has also been significantly upgraded for a larger number of Indians to pay digitally. “An app for UPI and interoperability of USSD and UPI has now been made possible which will be a major push for 600 million Indians to use digital payments,”Naidu said, adding that the committee is working with NITI Aayog to address existing constraints in connectivity, hardware and technical infrastructure to push cashless transactions.During the meeting, a presentation was made regarding the best practices and learnings from other countries for a digital economy in India.Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who was also part of the meeting, tweeted, “We stressed on inclusion of all cooperative, regional banks and DCCBs in this integrated app to make it more beneficial in rural areas.”NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Arvind Panagariya said IT industry body Nasscom, telephone operators and Niti Aayog have created a dedicated helpline – 14444 – for addressing all queries on digitial payments, which will soon be made operational.

Government relaxes coastal norms for Ambedkar memorial

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Just days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Statue off Mumbai’s coast, the Centre has paved the way for construction of Dr.Bhimrao Ambedkar memorial at the defunct Indu Mill in Parel. The union ministry for environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) has amended the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification, 2011, to insert a relaxation that will allow Maharashtra government to change land use for construction of the memorial.The amendment’s timing is of consequence as it will allow the BJP-led government to begin work on the memorial just weeks before the Election Commission imposes the Model code of conduct for the Mumbai civic polls and municipal body polls in other major cities such as Pune, Nasik, Amravati, Nagpur and Solapur. It also comes more than one year after the PM laid the foundation stone for the memorial last October, thus helping the government to expedite work and attract voters from backward castes.The relaxation for the memorial has been inserted under the Rules laid down for CRZ-II areas, specifically those in Mumbai. “Construction of memorial in the honour of Bharat Ratna Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar in Mumbai on Indu 6-Mills land shall be allowed with change in land use from industrial to construction of memorial in accordance with applicable Town and Country Planning Regulations”, said the new item added in the notification.The Ambedkar memorial is to be built on 12 acres of land in Indu Mill and the amendment frees up 5.5 acres of CRZ-II affected land that can now be taken over by the Maharashtra government.

Pakistan: Chinese-assisted 340 MW nuclear power plant inaugurated in Punjab province

Islamabad: Power-starved Pakistan on Wednesday received a major boost as a China-backed 340 MW nuclear power plant in its Punjab province was inaugurated by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who termed it as an “important milestone” in the government’s efforts to end the menace of load shedding.

The fourth nuclear plant Chashma-3 is located about 250 kilometres southwest of capital Islamabad at Chashma in Mianwali district where another plant Chashma-IV is also being built.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Sharif described the completion of C-3 as “another important milestone in the journey to eliminate the menace of load shedding from the country,” Radio Pakistan reported. He said the project is reflective of closer cooperation between Pakistan and China in science and technology.

“This cooperation is also beginning of a new era of development in the region,” he said. Sharif expressed confidence that Chashma-IV nuclear power plant would also become operational before its deadline of mid next year.

Chashma two and three power plants are the most efficient plants in the country, providing more than 600 MW of electricity to the national grid. Pakistan’s first nuclear plant was supplied by Canada in 1972.

Sharif appreciated Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) for its efforts for self reliance in fuel fabrication and said his government would extend every possible assistance to the Commission to help overcome the shortage of electricity in the country.

Referring to the generation target of 8,800 MW of nuclear energy by 2030, Sharif urged the Commission to accept the challenge of producing more than the target and play its full role in the development of the country.

Noting that there has been a marked reduction in load shedding during the last three years, Sharif pledged that the menace of load shedding would be over in 2018. Sharif said generation of additional 2200 MW of electricity through K-II and K-III would contribute towards this effort.

Pakistan has been grappling with power shortage and the unusually long hours of power outages has been haunting its people for about a decade. Sharif urged PAEC to take all possible measures to strengthen safety of existing and future power plants as per international standards.

Sharif thanked China for extending cooperation in nuclear field and said the two countries are actively cooperating in many other areas, including construction of roads, motorways, airports and upgradation of Pakistan Railways.

He said many projects were initiated under CPEC and their impact was now visible.

These projects are being implemented speedily and this would result in overcoming challenges of unemployment, poverty, backwardness and accelerating the pace of socio economic development, besides bringing all regions of the country more closer, he said.

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 20:27 IST

Dollar stirs from slumber as yield gap yawns | Reuters

By Marc Jones

LONDON The dollar, oil and world stocks rose on Wednesday following upbeat U.S. data that saw the gap between Treasuries and other benchmark global government bonds hit new highs.Europe’s main stock market, London’s FTSE, reopened with a gain of 0.5 percent as it played catch-up after similar run-ups in Germany and France and as Wall Street’s Dow Jones index eyed another crack at 20,000 points.The dollar also drove higher after U.S. consumer confidence shot to its loftiest in more than 15 years in December on hopes that President-elect Donald Trump will nurture further improvements in the world’s biggest economy.Having already jumped 16 percent against the Japanese currency since the U.S. election, the greenback gained a further 0.2 percent to 117.65 yen. It was up a similar amount against the euro and sterling at $1.0390 per euro and $1.2213 to the pound. “Everything is broadly dollar-supportive,” said Societe Generale’s head of currency strategy Kit Juckes.”We have come back from Christmas with some good U.S. data, (U.S.) bond yields are at the top end of their recent range, oil is edging higher and the Dow is flirting with 20,000 points.”Euro zone bond yields fell across the board as concerns about the strength of a rescue plan for Italian banks and normal year-end caution pushed investors to the safety of government debt.Germany’s 10-year yields hit their lowest in seven weeks at 0.18 percent. That in turn widened the yield gap to U.S. Treasuries, which act as the world’s benchmark borrowing rate, to a record high of 237 basis points.Oil prices – the other major market driver in recent weeks – climbed back towards a 1-1/2-year high, as promised output cuts loomed.

Oil has surged more than 50 percent this year despite plunging to a 12-year low in January. Brent was at $56.50 a barrel and U.S. crude at $54.25 after an overnight gain of 1.7 percent.In a sign that the world’s major oil producers may abide by their output agreement, Iraqi Oil Minister Jabar Ali al-Luaibi said on Wednesday his country, which has seen fast production growth in the past two years, would cut supply by between 200,000 and 210,000 barrels per day from January. Gazprom Neft also said it planned to boost oil output by less than it had intended before Russia joined the deal to cut supply.EMERGING JITTERS

Helped by the broadly robust tone to stock and commodity markets, the Australian dollar firmed.Australian stocks gained 1 percent. Indonesian shares added 1.9 percent, while Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.1 percent.Shanghai dipped 0.3 percent to continue a dire 2016. It has slumped the best part of 18 percent this year, having been a star performer in 2015, dampening an otherwise strong rebound in emerging markets after three straight years of losses.With the dollar and bond yields on the rise again and China’s yuan on the slide, investors are wondering whether the rally could falter.

Data from Morgan Stanley showed EM equity funds logged weekly outflows of $3.35 billion, the second largest of the year, while EM bond funds saw outflows of $800 million, which made it seven straight weeks of outflows.It said the cumulative drop in equity funds over the last eight weeks totalled $11.1 billion.Gold dipped though firmer oil prices and the upbeat U.S. data continued to support the wider commodity market. Copper on the London Metal Exchange was up 1 percent at $5,513 a tonne as trading resumed after the Christmas holidays. Iron ore on the Dalian Commodity Exchange extended gains after breaking a nine-day slump the previous day. It was up 3.5 percent at 569.0 yuan ($81.82) per tonne and has now risen about 170 percent this year, boosted by expectations of Chinese stimulus and hopes that the incoming Trump administration will increase U.S. infrastructure spending. “There is strong positive sentiment on the outlook for these industrial metals going into 2017,” said a Perth-based commodities trader.($1 = 6.9541 Chinese yuan) (Reporting by Marc Jones; Editing by John Stonestreet and Dale Hudson)

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

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 19:53 IST

After three month ban, Kashmir newspaper back on the stands

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Local English daily Kashmir Reader hit the stands on Wednesday after it was banned by the Jammu and Kashmir government for nearly three months on the charges that its publication was a threat to peace in the valley.The newspaper started its publication and distribution for the first time after it was banned through an order passed by District Magistrate, Srinagar on October 2.The District Magistrate’s order had alleged that the publication of Kashmir Reader posed a threat to peace in the valley which had been going through a period of turmoil since July following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.The revocation of the ban on the newspaper is seen as the first success for the newly-formed Kashmir Editors’ Guild, a body of all major dailies and weeklies published from the Valley.

Caste politics: Maha carves out new dept to woo 30% population of backward communities

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Playing another caste card in the state, the Devendra Fadnavis government on Tuesday cleared the decks to set-up a separate department especially for the Other Backward Classes/ nomadic/ denotified tribes/ Specially backward communities, carving out from the Social Justice and Special Justice Department. The department called, “Department of Denotified Tribes, Nomadic Tribes, Specially backward and Other Backward Classes” would be operational by April 1, 2017, says a cabinet note. The Centre doesn’t have a separate department for backward communities. As of now, the Chief Minister has kept the newly-formed department under him. It is likely to be given to some cabinet minister soon. The OBC/ nomadic/ denotified communities/ SBC together constitute 30% of the state’s population at 3.68 crore. This is the second time when an OBC department has been carved out from the social justice department in Maharahstra. “In 1999, the then Sena-BJP government had done ditto, however, the departments were merged again after the realisation that the move was impractical as they both spearheaded the same welfare schemes,” Rajkumar Badole, Minister of Social Justice and Social Asistance, said. Badole is now left with the Schedule Caste and Buddhist communities which are 13% of the total population. Badole assured the government will move in a planned way this time. As of now, 59 new posts have been created which will cost the exchequer Rs 2.2 crore, apart from recurring cost of Rs 1.5 crore annually. “Most of the people belonging to these communities are educationally and socially backward. The new department will be able to implement welfare schemes in a better way to uplift them ,” Badole said. The social justice department currently has a total budget of Rs 12,000 crore including planned and non-planned both for 24 schemes including educational and housing aid. Out of this, nearly Rs 2,000 crore is earmarked for the scholarships/ feeship to the students of OBC, VJ (Vimukti Jati or deonotified tribes) and NT (Nomadic tribes) communities. The department has been marred by massive corruption in the scholarship and free-ship schemes for many years. “Corruption is the major driving factor to establish a new ministry. Because of drainage of funds in the name of fake students, educational institutes and department officials managed to make huge money. But those who needed it remained out of purview of the schemes,” said a top official. A year ago, the government was forced to constitute a taskforce headed by Director General of Police (Planning) Dr K Venkatesham which has in its preliminary report, suspected a whopping 50% pilferage in the free-ship and scholarship schemes of underprivileged communities. Badole however insists that the move aims to empower the socially neglected communities and corruption has nothing to do with the decision. “Dr Venkatesham has not yet submitted the final report,” Badole said. After the cabinet meet, Fadnavis said, “The social justice department is overburdened with multiple responsibilities. Besides, there was a long pending demand for a separate ministry for OBCs.”

Demonetisation was a move towards formal economy, says Arvind Panagariya

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Air safety incidents at Goa and Delhi airport; 2 pilots suspended

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It was a day of miraculous escape for air passengers as two major accidents were averted on Tuesday. The first incident pertained to a Goa-Mumbai Jet flight which skidded off at the Goa airport on early morning resulting in 12 people getting injured. The flying licence of the two pilots was suspended and a probe by Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) of the Civil Aviation Ministry was launched soon after the incident. Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said a thorough time-bound investigation and corrective action shall be ensured.The second incident happened at national capital’s Indira Gandhi International Airport when an IndiGo and a SpiceJet aircraft came dangerously close to each other on the runway, allegedly because of bad weather and due to ‘miscommunication’ with the Air Traffic Control (ATC). Both incidents raised questions on India’s air safety record which is obviously a cause of worry as the country is one of the fastest growing aviation market.A three-member team of AAIB rushed to Goa for inspection of the spot of accident, sources in the Ministry said. “Prima facie the runway accident appears to be the pilot’s fault. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has withdrawn the flying privileges of the two pilots, including the Commander, pending the initial outcome of the probe,” a source at DGCA said. Officials in AAIB were of the same opinion. They said that in all ‘probability’ the accident took place because of the pilot’s fault, adding that the preliminary findings on the accident are likely to be submitted in a week’s time.The Jet Airways flight 9W 2374 with 161 people onboard veered off the runway at Dabolim airport in Goa while aligning for take-off. The incident took place at 5 am when the Boeing 737 aircraft turned a full 360 degrees and its nose touched the soft land while taxiing for take off early on Tuesday in Goa airport. The Jet Airways flight had arrived from Dubai and was heading to Mumbai. There was panic among the passengers and a few passengers suffered injuries even during the evacuation process. Some passengers had to be rushed to the local hospital and five of the 12 injured passengers were hospitalised till late evening.Sources in Indian Navy, which manages the Dabolim airport, said its prompt response in rescuing passengers prevented a ‘catastrophe’. The airport, which is located in the Navy facility INS Hansa in Vasco town, was closed down for a while, impacting movements of other flights and causing some flight diversions.The incident at Delhi’s IGI airport took place in the afternoon when an IndiGo flight had just arrived from Lucknow with 160 passengers and the Spicejet flight with 187 on board was about to take off for Hyderabad . The two aircraft came face-to-face and almost collided with each other, sources said. Officials from ATC, on condition of anonymity, blamed poor visibility for the situation. They said haze was particularly intense on Tuesday. 72 flights were delayed that day because of fog. However, officials from Delhi International Airport Limited — which manages the Delhi airport — rejected ATC’s charge and said the problem occurred because of miscommunication from ATC. IndiGo as well as SpiceJet confirmed that both planes saw each other coming from opposite directions but both airlines denied that there was any risk to the passengers.

All my cash is white: Mayawati

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A day after the Enforcement Directorate detected cash deposits totaling over Rs 104 crore in an account belonging to her party, Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati said on Tuesday that “every penny” was deposited in a bank account and not stashed in her office or at home.At a hurriedly convened news conference in Lucknow, the BSP leader was at her combative best as she accused the ruling BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of “misusing power and maligning the image” of her party ahead of crucial elections in Uttar Pradesh.Responding to allegations that the sources of the money were dubious, Mayawati said that the money had been deposited following due procedures. “We have an account of every rupee deposited in banks, but what about deposits by the BJP?” asked Mayawati. She also dared the PM to make public bank deposits by the BJP, which she alleged was “anti-Dalit”.”After I exposed the conspiracy of the BJP in forcing an alliance between the Samajwadi Party and Congress on Monday, BJP was taken aback, and out of sheer frustration it indulged in this petty act against my party and family members of the party chief,” she said.Reacting to Mayawati’s allegations, senior BJP leader and union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad took strong exception to her linking the ED’s move with the Dalit issue. “If the Enforcement Directorate is investigating some deposits, why should this be labelled as an ‘anti-Dalit’ issue? We can clearly dismiss this contention with some contempt,” he said.”The bigger question is that can corruption be hidden behind a Dalit card? What is Mayawati trying to say, that her corruption is a movement for the rights of Dalits? This is an insult to all the Dalits of India,” he told news persons. Prasad added that Mayawati had not denied the existence of the deposits in the account and asked if it was a donation or a money conversion exercise.”The development of scheduled castes should not be ‘mortgaged’ to corruption to one party or leader,” he said.In her news conference, Mayawati asked the PM to make public major expense, statement of deposits, and expenditures of the BJP. Her party, the BSP, is pitted in a do or die battle against the BJP, the SP and the Congress in a power packed contest in the UP elections. This election is being seen as the most crucial election before the national elections of 2019.Sources in the Enforcement Directorate have said that around Rs 104 crore were deposited in a United Bank of India account belonging to the BSP in the seven weeks since PM Modi banned 500 and Rs 1,000-rupee notes. At the same bank, Rs 1.43 crore were reportedly deposited in the account of Mayawati’s brother, Anand Kumar, sources said.Under the Income Tax Act, the income of political parties is exempt from tax provided all donations above Rs. 20,000 are taken by cheque and that in cash is properly documented, with full details of the donors. These accounts also have to be audited.Mayawati said the note ban came in the midst of the process of seeking donations from supporters for the elections. The old notes that the party had were deposited by due process and she had herself inspected accounts, she said, adding, “should we have thrown away the old notes?”Dismissing allegations against her brother, Mayawati said, “He has his own business and deposited money in bank account as per Income Tax norms.”Commenting on the alleged moves of the BJP against her, Mayawati said this action of BJP is a “good omen” for her party, as it had been in 2007. In 2007, the then BJP government at the Centre had raked up the Taj Corridor issue, but the issue helped her get absolute majority in the UP Assembly.”If Modi and his government take a few more decisions like note ban, it will make our return to power in UP easier… they will pave our way for an easy victory and I will not have to toil much… I want to thank them for it,” she said.”BJP and other parties have also deposited their money in banks. Nobody is talking about that,” she said, adding it only went on to prove the “anti-Dalit and casteist mentality” of the BJP.

India’s Agni-5 test: China hopes for strategic balance in South Asia

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> China today hoped that India’s testing of the nuclear-capable Agni-5 intercontinental ballistic missile complied with UN Security Council rules and safeguarded South Asia’s strategic balance even as Beijing maintained that the two nations are “not rivals but partners”.Taking exception to reports that the successful test of Agni-V was meant to target China, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said, “On your question on India test firing the Agni-5 ballistic missile, we have noted relevant reports,” to a question at a media briefing here. “On whether India can develop this ballistic missile that can carry nuclear weapons, I think relevant resolutions of the UNSC have clear rules,” she said without elaborating.We have always believed that safeguarding strategic balance and stability in South Asia is conducive for the peace and prosperity of countries in the region,” she said. The strategic balance in South Asia apparently referred to the military balance between India and Pakistan. Agni-5, a 5,000-km range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) is widely regarded as a strategic missile targeted at China as it can reach almost all parts of the Chinese mainland. Hua also criticised media reports in India and outside referring to the Agni-5 as targeted at China and aimed at correcting India’s strategic balance with Beijing.”On the test firing by India, we have also noted that some media, including Indian media and also some Japanese media, have speculated on whether this act of India is targeted at China,” she said. “I think, as to India’s intentions, you have to ask the Indian side,” she said adding that India and China are not rivals but partners. As for us, we think that the leaders of China and India have an important consensus which is that China and India are both important developing countries and emerging economies,” she said.”China and India are not rivals but partners. The Chinese side is willing to work with countries in the region including India to jointly safeguard lasting peace, prosperity and stability of the region,” she said and asked media to report more objectively. “We also hope that relevant media outlets do not indulge in arbitrary speculations and make objective reports and do more things conducive to developing mutual trust between China and India and peace and stability in the region,” she said.Experts say that proven ICBM capability currently exists only with the five major powers – the US, Russia, France, the UK and China.Russia’s land-based Satan missile can reach 16,000 kms, while China has ICBMs that can hit targets up to 13,000 kms.While India is part of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), China is not.

Ex-TN chief secy Rao slams Modi govt for I-T raids, claims ‘political vendetta’

Days after the Income Tax Department raided the house of the former chief secretary of Tamil Nadu P Rama Mohana Rao, he addressed the media on Tuesday and raised several questions about the “unconstitutional” raids. Speaking to the media, Rao, who was removed from the post of the chief secretary on 23 December, said that he still holds the post and authorities have no evidence against him.

“After 32 years of service, if this is the condition of a chief secretary, how can CRPF enter my house? Why did they not transfer me? This is political vendetta. I was under house arrest for over 26 hours. They (Centre) have no respect for the state government,” Rao said.

Rao thanked West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi for “supporting my cause” and also alleged that his life was in danger. “They did not have any search warrant against me. The search warrant had name of my son. They have found nothing — no incriminating documents were found during the raids,” Rao said. Pointing towards a room that was alleged to be a secret chamber by the income tax authorities, Rao said that it was the store room. “What secret chamber?” he asked.

Alleging interference from the BJP-led Centre, Rao also said that the Central government has no business raiding the house of a chief secretary of a state. “Where is the state government? What role or business does Government of India and CRPF have to enter a chief secretary’s chambers? Did they get the chief minister’s permission? Isn’t this a unconstitutional assault? Where’s the state govt? On whose permission did CRPF enter my house. If they wanted to search my house, they could have transferred me. How much time does it take for a chief minister to transfer a chief secretary?” asked Rao.

Remembering former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu J Jayalalithaa, Rao said that if she were here, this would have never happened. “If Honourable Madam (Jayalalithaa) was here today, this would not have happened. I managed Madam’s funeral and handled when Chennai was battered by the cyclone. My reputation precedes me. I am a big hurdle to many. I am a hardcore man and they fear me,” said Rao, adding that he feared for his life.

On 21 December, Income Tax authorities raided the house and office of Rao after a tip-off. The premises were searched by officials, who claimed to have recovered Rs 30 lakh in cash in new notes and five kilograms of gold besides getting “disclosure” about Rs five crore of unaccounted income. The raids were carried out at 15 places, including the office and the residence of Rao, his son Vivek and some relatives in Chennai and Chittoor in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, I-T sources had told PTI.

Rao was appointed as the Tamil Nadu chief secretary in June 2016.

Rao also refuted claims that he had any business links with mining baron Shekhar Reddy. A senior I-T official had told The Indian Express that the raids at Rao’s home and office were linked to the seizure of Rs 132 crore in cash (including Rs 34 crore in new notes) and 177 kilograms of gold from mining baron J Sekhar Reddy earlier this month. “Documents seized from Reddy’s premises were the major evidence, as they had details linked to Rao. It was a matter of ascertaining locations before launching the raid,” the official told the paper. Rao, however, on Tuesday said:

Within 24 hours after the raid, Girija Vaidyanathan, an officer with a no-nonsense work ethic, was appointed as Rao’s successor. The political class reportedly wanted to wait till an FIR was filed but was advised that the raid had already dented the image of the government and any delay would only reflect poorly on the AIADMK.

With inputs from agencies

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 11:49 IST

Mishap averted at Delhi airport as Indigo, SpiceJet aircraft come face-to-face

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A major accident was on Tuesday morning averted at the Delhi airport after an IndiGo and a SpiceJet aircraft came face-to-face on the runway at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport.The incident occurred when the Indigo flight was moving towards taxiway after landing and SpiceJet was ready for a takeoff.Meanwhile, the incident has been reported to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), which has assured of a probe.Earlier in the day, a Jet Airways flight with 161 people on board veered off the runway at Dabolim airport in Goa while aligning for take off, with 15 passengers suffering “minor” injuries during evacuation.(Developing story)

Congress-SP alliance for UP elections depends on BJP’s approval: Mayawati

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Commenting on possibility of a tie-up between Samajwadi Party and Congress before Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls, BSP supremo Mayawati said on Monday an alliance would be struck only if it benefits BJP. “SP and Congress alliance in UP will come into being only if BJP gives its approval and if it (BJP) feels it will gain from it…the green signal will be given by BJP after evaluating its gains and losses from such an alliance,” she told newspersons here.She said it was being stated that BJP was exerting pressure on SP chief and his family through Enforcement Directorate, I-T department and CBI through disproportionate assets cases, and “other weaknesses” to join hands with Congress to divide Muslim votes and stop BSP from coming to power. “Keeping in mind the chances of BSP coming to power in UP, it is being said BJP is showing threat of central government agencies like ED, I-T and CBI to SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and his family in connection with DA cases and other shortcomings to divide Muslim vote,” she claimed.Referring to Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s frequent statements favouring an alliance with Congress, Mayawati questioned as to why a person who has come to power on his own in the last Assembly elections is so keen on contesting the coming polls in an alliance. “Why is he so keen on taking the help of Congress which is on oxygen in the state…this fact has to be understood in depth by the people of the state or else SP will be able to take its political benefit,” she said.”The reality is that even if SP contests coming elections in alliance with Congress, it will not come back to power and the CM is well aware of this,” she said, adding if they contest in alliance and lose, SP will put the entire blame on Congress. “…(by doing so) the head of the SP government will be able to save his image in the eyes of the people…this has to be understood by Congress as well otherwise it (Cong) will go in oblivion in the state,” she said.Taking the Bihar elections example, Mayawati said “just as all secular voters” there decided to defeat BJP, they will show the same unity here and defeat the “dangerous” policies and programmes of BJP and vote for BSP. Cautioning Muslims against “designs” of her political rivals, Mayawati said even if SP and Congress came together it will be of no use as infighting in the Yadav family has split the ruling party into two camps – that of Akhilesh Yadav and Shivpal Yadav – and they will work against each other.”Yadav vote bank will get divided in the two camps and if Muslims vote for SP, this will directly benefit BJP,” she said. She was, however, confident “Muslims will not waste their votes” either on SP or on the alliance, in case it comes into being, “after having learnt the lesson in 2014 Lok Sabha elections”.”Muslims will this time vote only for a party or alliance which has the potential of defeating the saffron party candidates and they feel BSP is the only such party as it alone has 24% Dalit vote which together with Muslim vote bank becomes a major force,” she said. “Due to discriminatory development and jungle raj of the SP and BJP’s unfulfilled promises and hardships caused by note ban, even the upper castes and backwards are coming to BSP which alone can stop BJP from coming to power in UP,” she said.Claiming that SP has a tacit understanding with BJP, Mayawati said although her party had formed government in the state with BJP in the past, it had “never compromised” on its ideals. She, however, cautioned people, especially Muslims, that in order to divert voters’ attention from major issues, BJP might try to cash in on Ayodhya dispute for its “political and selfish” motives or engineer Hindu-Muslim riots during the elections and both communities need to remain vigilant.

Domestic carriers not operating from T3 has hit airport Metro

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Domestic low-cost carriers not operating from Terminal 3 has been a “setback” for the Airport Express Line of Delhi Metro, DMRC chief Mangu Singh has said.Although the premium corridor has scripted a turnaround of sorts with daily ridership touching a high of 50,000 in August this year, Singh suggested that the numbers could have been more had things panned out as per plan.When the 23-km-long corridor was being contemplated, it was planned that complete flight operations, including domestic, will be from T3, he said, but “we do not know” why authorities decided to continue with Terminal 1. “This is really a setback because we believe that passengers of domestic carriers use public transport. T3 people mostly travel in their own vehicles. However, we are running a feeder service between the two terminals and that has helped to some extent,” Singh said.At the planning stage, it was also envisaged that property development would be a major source of revenue for the corridor but low ridership was coming in its way, which prompted metro to slash fares, he said. The idea was that when footfall increases property development will follow, Singh said.Fares were cut by up to 50% in September last year to popularise the relatively expensive line that connects New Delhi Railway Station to T3. The maximum fare has been reduced to Rs 60 from Rs 180 while the minimum is Rs 10 against Rs 50 in 2013.As metro already had a robust system in place, operating the Airport corridor was not much of a challenge when it took over the operations from a private concessionaire in July 2013. “We had one big advantage because we were already operating a system. There were many things that we could simply absorb. Control centre was shifted here, similarly maintenance staff was shared. We could bring in a lot of efficiency as per operational and maintenance cost is concerned,” he said.As per official data, the average daily ridership figure of July, 2013, was 10,069. It subsequently rose to around 12,000 in March 2014 and further to 19,466 a year later.On August 28, 2015, more than 32,000 people had taken the corridor, also known as Orange Line and a year later it recorded the highest-ever ridership of 50,000.

Kashmir unrest: CM Mufti wants cases against youths not involved in ‘serious crimes’ reviewed

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Sunday ordered review of the cases filed against the youths who were not involved in “serious crimes” during the over five-month-long unrest in the Valley. An official spokesman said Mehbooba gave directions in this regard at a meeting called to review the pace of development works in south Kashmir. Apart from her Cabinet colleagues, many senior officers from police and civil administration were present in the meeting. “Though not many youths are in custody now, a lenient view may be taken of youths who were either not involved in any serious offence, or were too young,” the spokesman said quoting Mehbooba.The Valley had witnessed violent protest after killing of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani in an encounter with security forces on July 8. During the meeting, the CM impressed upon the officers to be responsive to the winter-specific needs of people in the Valley, particularly in sectors like power and water supply, firewood and fuel availability and ration, the spokesman said.She asked engineers of Power Development Department to rationalise their resources to address frequent power cuts during winters. Mehbooba also reviewed the stock and supply position of essential commodities like fuel, ration etc in the district and directed their regular augmentation. She directed the officers to keep tempo of developmental works on and double their efforts to make up for the lost time.She said though a good time of working season got lost this year, efforts should be made to make up by taking up and completing the works within or ahead of schedule. The meeting was told to work on several key development projects in the district is apace, including a 300-bed district hospital, Trauma Hospital at Bijbehara, degree colleges at Kokernag and Uttersoo, Pushwara bridge, polytechnic college at Larkipora, besides eight major bridges which are in various stages of completion.Earlier, the Chief Minister inaugurated the meeting Hall in the Dak Bungalow complex. Built at a cost of Rs 4.88 crore, the meeting hall is first-of-its-kind in south Kashmir. The Chief Minister also laid the foundation of Khanabal-Batapora road to be constructed by the Department of Disaster Management, the spokesman said.

Kept under house arrest due to Modi’s visit,’ claims Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam

Mumbai: Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam, who planned to lead a ‘silent’ march of party workers to the venue of Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s public meeting in Mumbai on Saturday, claimed he had been placed under “house arrest” by police which denied the charge.

Mumbai Police said the personnel deployed outside Nirupam’s residence were only part of the security arrangements made across the city in view of the PM’s visit for launching some major projects.

“The area outside my house is under heavy police bandobast and I am being prevented from stepping out,” Nirupam told PTI,

“In the present democratic set up Opposition leaders are being virtually kept under house-arrest,” he alleged.

File photo of Sanjay Nirupam. AFP

File photo of Sanjay Nirupam. AFP

Asked about Nirupam’s allegation, Mumbai Police spokesperson, DCP Ashok Dudhe. said, “We have deployed policemen across the city especially on the route of PM’s convoy to maintain law and order as well as to avoid any untoward incident during his visit.”

Nirupam said the morcha was planned as a peaceful march to highlight some live issues.

“We have a lot of questions for the PM. He should answer graft allegations made by our Vice President Rahul Gandhi instead of mocking him. Modi should also answer when the people will get back their right to deposit and withdraw their own hard earned money from banks. It is more than a month. Since demonetisation citizens are still suffering due to cash crunch,” he said.

AICC General Secretary in-charge of Maharashtra, Mohan Prakash accused the police of curbing the democratic rights of political rivals, which he alleged was being done at the behest of the government.

“Earlier, the government put restrictions on citizens’ rights to access their money and now there are restrictions on freedom of expression as well,” he said.

Condemning the “house arrest” of Nirupam, MPCC spokersperson Sachin Sawant said, “It is indeed, a black day for Indian democracy. This act confirms the fact that the BJP government has a sadist and fascist mindset, which denies the citizen’s basic fundamental constitutional right to protest peacefully.”

First Published On : Dec 25, 2016 11:48 IST

Birdsong replaces boom of guns at Indo-Pak border

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The boom of guns has given way to more soothing sounds along the Indo-Pak international border after winged guests kept their date with the famous Gharana wetland in the RS Pora sector of Jammu division.Earlier the shelling from across the border would scare the birds away. Now that the guns have fallen silent, the birds have stayed for the winter. “Fifteen days ago a shell landed near my quarter smashing its window panes. Since the arrival of birds there is no incident of shelling. If there is shelling again there will be effects on birds, they will flee to some other place,” Amit Kumar Sharma, Wildlife Warden, Jammu, told DNA.More than 1,300 migratory birds from different countries have arrived in the Gharana Wetland Conservation Reserve. Jammu and Kashmir Wildlife Protection Department officials are expecting more than 3,000 birds to arrive in the wetland this fall.“More than 750 bar-headed geese, which is our special feature, have so far arrived in the Gharana wetland. Other species which have arrived so far include pintail, common teal, mallard, black-headed ibis etc,” Sharma, Wildlife Warden said.The arrival of five pairs of majestic black-headed ibis at the wetland has rejuvenated enthusiasm among local bird watchers who await the arrival of their guests every year. “Last year, only one black-headed ibis had arrived at the wetland. This year, five black- headed ibis have arrived so far. This bird has a black head with curved beak,” said Sharma.Spread over 1,600 kanals (20 kanal equals one hectare) of land, the Gharana wetland has been notified as a Wetland Conservation Reserve. Falling under the North West Himalayan bio-geographical zone with sub-tropical climate, the major source of precipitation in the area is monsoon rains.This year, the birds which had earlier been fitted with tracking collars also arrived at the reserve, helping wildlife authorities monitor their migratory patterns and to map their routes. “Two bar-headed geese with neck collars have also arrived. For example, data from one neck collar reveal that the bird was first spotted at Pong Dam from which it has taken a flight to Gharana,” said Sharma.Jammu and Kashmir government has gone on an overdrive to promote the Gharana wetland as an eco-tourism paradise in the state. Every year before the arrival of the migratory birds, the authorities de-weed and de-silt the area to ensure the birds are comfortable in their winter homes. “Lots of bird watchers also visit this site,” said Sharma.

Cashless economy is ‘bigger dream’ than achche din: Akhilesh Yadav

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Taking a dig at Narendra Modi’s demonetization move, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav termed cashless economy as a “bigger dream” than ‘achche din’ and said the note ban will be an issue in the upcoming Assembly elections in the state.”The dream of cashless economy is a bigger one than achche din… it is however for the government to see how it will be realised,” he said at a function to distribute cheques to the families of martyrs and 14 persons who allegedly lost their lives while standing in queues outside ATMs/banks after demonetization. Attacking the BJP government on note ban, Yadav, without taking names, alleged that people have been betrayed and economy harmed.”Earlier (when the note ban was announced) people had faith, or rather confusion, that a big change will be brought… but soon after the very same people started saying that there could not have been a bigger loss to the economy… national and international economists are also writing about it. “It is for the government to see how it will work out the losses to the GDP but it is a fact the people had to face hardships and I have said earlier too that the government which pose problems are voted out by people,” he said, adding that in the coming elections those who had faced problems will stand against them.Uttar Pradesh is the first state in the country to announce compensation for the families of those who allegedly died while queuing up outside banks and ATMs for long post demonetization.Chief Minister had earlier this month announced Rs 2 lakh compensation for the families of ‘demonetization victims’. Giving examples of major risk in online transactions, Yadav said one of the accused arrested for fraudulently withdrawing money from someone’s account said that he was caught because he was a “novice”.”Anyone who becomes an expert in cyber crime will never be arrested,” the Chief Minister said after presenting cheques of Rs two lakh each to the families of 14 people who allegedly died while standing in bank queues.To a question on what will be the election issue, Yadav said “Development, road, water all will be elections issues… why would note ban not be an election issue”.Taking a dig at the BJP, Yadav said he has come to know that the ‘parivartan rath yatra’ was attacked by those standing in bank queue in Deoria recently… They need to remain alert while taking out the rath yatra and avoid banks on the route.” When asked about alliance, Yadav said party president Mulayam Singh Yadav will decide on alliance. “I have already said that SP is going to form a government and if we go into the polls in an alliance we will win more than 300 seats,” he said.Claiming that the next SP government will take forward the works undertaken by the present regime, Yadav said the state needs to be taken on a new direction towards development and prosperity. Over Centre’s schemes, Yadav said UP government was extending full support to central schemes saying that AIIMS was coming up in Rae Bareli and Gorakhpur only because the state provided land for it.”But if there is any scheme which farmers do not like or feel that they will not benefit from it what can UP government do.. it is for them to explain the benefits of their scheme to farmers and take their schemes to poor… take Jan Dhan Yojna, first it was stated that it is for the poor and when money was deposited it was termed as black money,” he said. Yadav reiterated that UP has had to suffer loss worth Rs 9,000 crore after Niti Ayog came into being.

Check for Calcutta University BA, B.Sc, B.Com Part II (Honours,General and Major) results 2016

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The long wait of anxious candidates are over. The University of Calcutta has released the result of the Bachelors of Arts (B.A), Bachelors of Science (B.Sc) and Bachelors of Commerce (B.Com), Part II, (Honours, General and Major) Examination 2016 results.It was declared at 1.00 pm on 23rd December. Here’s how you can check the results: Log on to the official website, on the link relevant for the candidates.You have to put your roll number to access the results.Click on the submit button after filling the relevant information.Take a printout of the results for future reference.All the best to the candidates.

Govt hopes Consumer Protection Bill to pass in Budget session

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The government on Friday said it is hopeful that the new Consumer Protection Bill 2015, that aims to impose harsh penalties on endorsement of misleading ads among others, will be passed in the forthcoming Budget session of Parliament.In August this year, the Centre had introduced the Consumer Protection Bill 2015 in Lok Sabha, to repeal the 30-year-old Consumer Protection Act. A Parliamentary Standing Committee had also submitted its recommendations in April.The Consumer Affairs Ministry has accepted some of the recommendations of the panel and finalised the draft Bill, which has also been vetted by the Group of Ministers, headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. “We were expecting the passage of the Consumer Protection Bill in Winter Session but that did not happen. We are hopeful that it will be passed in the Budget session of Parliament,” Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan told reporters.The Minister said that the government has made sweeping changes in the Bill as it now provides huge penalties on celebrities endorsing misleading advertisements and ban such offenders for up to three years. It also seeks to create a Consumer Protection Authority to fast-track grievance redressal of consumers on the lines of US and European countries. The Bill has a provision for product liability and penalties in certain cases of food poisoning.Highlighting the major achievements of his ministry in 2016, Paswan said that it came out with direct selling guidelines for the Rs 80 billion industry and companies have been asked to submit their declarations by January 24, 2017. That apart, the government has revised the Legal Metrology (Packaged commodities) Rules, 2011 to enable the competent authority under the Essential Commodities Act 1955 to fix standard quantities and retail sale prices of essential items.On pulses, the Minsiter said that the government has created a buffer stock of 7 lakh tonnes so far, both through imports and domestic procurement. The pulses from the buffer are being released to states and agencies for direct distribution to public at reasonable rates. So far, 55,000 tonnes of pulses have been released from the buffer, he said.Paswan said that the national food security law, under which highly subsidised foodgrains are distributed to the poor, has been implemented in all states this year.He said that significant reforms have been undertaken in Public Distribution System (PDS) to make it more transparent and leak proof and better targeting of food subsidy.

Dalai Lama presides over 2lakh Buddhists bringing in New Year

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The New Year will witness a sea of Buddhist monks and devotees at Bihar’s Bodh Gaya, where the 34th Kalachakra Puja is scheduled to be held from January 3 to 14. The Dalai Lama, who will preside over the ceremonies, is scheduled to reach Bihar, by the end of this month. “Kalachakra is one of the major religious festivals of Buddhists, and the preparations commenced almost four months in advance,” organising press officer Jamphel Shonu.Bodh Gaya, one of the most popular pilgrimage and tourist spots of Bihar which is home to the sacred Mahabodhi tree and temple, is set to host about two lakh national and international devotees, mostly Buddhists from Tibet, US and Europe, for the ceremonies.A major part of the preparation was construction of tent cities for accommodation of the visiting devotees and tourists, which is almost in its final phase. “We have also talked to the local district administration for public facilities and are getting all help,” he said. The construction of a mega-kitchen that can cook food for about one lakh persons every day is also underway.Several events such as prayer services, teachings, ritual dances and preliminary initiations are lined up from January 3, however, the main initiation ceremonies will be held between January 12 and 14. On the concluding day, there will be prayers for long life empowerment for the public and long life offering ceremony for the Dalai Lama.Strict security bandobast will be in place during the Kalachakra puja in the wake of 2013 Bodh Gaya serial blasts as well as the visit of the Dalai Lama, other dignitaries and lakhs of devotees and tourists. “Our political leader has already talked to the cops, who have assured us of taking foolproof safety measures,” the press officer said.As a number of tourists will be foreigners, the organising committee has also been in talks with the officials of the finance ministry to facilitate cash flow for devotees. “We have been assured that about 40-50 ATMs will be installed at the tent cities to avoid any cash crunch,” Shonu said.The Kalachakra Puja was earlier organised in Bodh Gaya in 2012 and 2003, and was thronged by about two lakh devotees on both occasions. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has instructed officials to leave no stone unturned for making the arrangements.

No need to go on defensive, Amit Shah tells party leaders

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>At a time when demonetization overshadowed the debate inside and outside Parliament, BJP chief Amit Shah is understood to have cautioned his party against going on the defensive or allowing political opponents to set the agenda.In a meeting with leaders of various departments of his party recently, Shah, according to sources, asked the party to go on the offensive and flaunt the Modi regime’s achievements such as OROP, Jan Dhan yojna and the fight against corruption through demonetization. He said the BJP should be setting the agenda while expressing concern that “despite all the work done by the government”, it was the rivals who were managing to do that, the sources said.He is believed to have said that the BJP had a resounding majority in Lok Sabha, an ideology and a strong organisation while Congress, with just 45 MPs in the Lower House at present, had none of these. Despite that, the Congress had managed to stay in power for decades, he said.The government-Opposition face-off over a debate on demonetization in Parliament had stalled the Winter Session, which was mid-way when Shah held the meeting. He, along with General Secretary (Organisation) Ram Lal, was taking stock of the progress made by the 19 departments he had announced around a year ago.After the assembly elections in UP, Uttarakhand and Punjab early in 2017, Shah and Ram Lal are likely to spend three days in every state to take stock of the functioning of the various departments, the sources said. Shah has been emphasising on strengthening the organisation,as part of a long-term political strategy. He said with some election or the other every year, the party should be battle-ready to face them.Shah told the media department to ensure positive coverage by generating a debate on burning issues. He asked how many editors or senior journalists it had interacted with after government took major steps like OROP. He said literature, data and fact sheets should be prepared so that the media is kept informed, according to the sources.Turning to the legal cell, he said despite several corruption cases surfacing in Congress-ruled Karnataka, it had not filed any PIL, according to sources. He said the members should find out what was happening on the ground and accordingly respond.The party president, who had been monitoring the functioning of the various party departments and getting regular feedback, however, said the intention of the exercise was not to criticise anybody.

Manipur economic blockade: Mary Kom urges PM Modi to intervene, resolve crisis

New Delhi: Distressed by the economic blockade that has crippled her home state Manipur, five-time world champion boxer and Rajya Sabha MP MC Mary Kom has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene and resolve the crisis.

File photo of Mary Kom. AP

File photo of Mary Kom. AP

The blockade has been imposed by United Naga Council to protest the state government’s decision to form seven new districts. The UNC claims the districts in the Naga-dominated hill areas will affect land holdings of Naga tribes settled in these areas.

The blockade which has surpassed 50 days now has crippled normal life in Manipur with scarcity of essential goods being a major concern apart form violence.

In a letter to Modi, Mary Kom, an Olympic bronze-medallist, urged him to try and resolve the issue at the earliest.

“It is to bring to your notice that the state of Manipur is going through the toughest of time with unrest situation. The whole section of communities, both in hills and valley, residing in Manipur are suffering due to the economic blockade and counter-blockade and have now turned into ugly consequences of greater destruction and if not intervened in time, there are possibilities of untoward happenings and the people are so insecure,” she wrote.

“Irrespective of the causes and reasons, I strongly recommend and request you to consider this prevailing situation in Manipur a serious matter and kindly intervene at the earliest for peaceful solution and the state be brought back to normalcy. This act will remain a great achievement and the people will remain in owe towards your kind intervention,” she said.

First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 15:32 IST

Damage to India’s economic growth will be bigger than RBI’s estimates: Report

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Damage to India’s economic growth is likely to be bigger than the RBI’s estimates, as there could be a sharper slowdown in the near-term as cash shortage is likely to extend into the first quarter of next year, says a Nomura report.”We concur with the RBI’s view that the impact of demonetization is likely to be transitory. However, with the cash shortage spilling over into Q1 2017, our leading indicators are pointing to a sharper slowdown in near-term growth,” the Japanese financial services major said in a research note.Nomura further said, “As such, we expect the growth damage to be larger than the RBI’s estimates”.The report also said November’s CPI readings suggest that demonetization contributed 25-30 bps to the fall in headline CPI inflation via lower perishable item prices, slightly more than the RBI’s estimate of 10-15 bps, and most core inflation measures eased by 20 bps in November.”In this backdrop, and barring any major global disruption, we believe growth and inflation readings will be supportive of policy easing,” it said.Nomura expects the RBI to cut the repo rate by 25 bps to 6 per cent in February and stay on hold thereafter, once the transitory effects start to fade.On December 7, RBI kept interest rates unchanged despite calls for lowering it while it slashed the economic growth projection by half a per cent to 7.1 in the first policy review post demonetization.The next monetary policy meet is on February 8.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Demonetisation: Rising discomfort between banks, customers could spoil Modi’s well-intentioned move

Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna (PMJDY) announced by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi from ramparts of the Red Fort on 15 August, 2014 was by all measure the most ambitious financial scheme launched post Independence. Goalpost set up by the Prime Minister was simple: bring the entire unbanked population under formal banking net by opening at least one bank account for each household in the country.

The initial target of opening 7.5 crore new accounts through regular brick-and-mortar branches was met before the deadline. In January 2015, in less than five months, 11.5 crore accounts were opened under Jan Dhan Yojana. The figures fetched the government Guinness Book of World Records entry for opening the maximum number of bank accounts in the shortest possible time.

But along with this motivating figure, serious concerns were also raised over the non-operational or zero balance accounts. Out of the total 11.5 crore accounts opened only 28 percent were operational.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

At that time Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, while speaking on the issue of zero-balance accounts, had said that direct benefit transfer would ensure that non-operational accounts will be made opeartive in coming times.

That happened to a great extent. Although several accounts were made operational, the usage of core banking services were not instilled to a major extent among the people at large.

As of now under the scheme 25.98 crore accounts were opened till 14 December. According to official statistics 100 percent household coverage in majority of the states have been achieved.

Now consider this: According to an official data 23.22 percent of the accounts are still having zero balance. The problem with these large number of zero-balance accounts was mainly due to lack of constructive communication among bankers and its new clients.

As stated by the vision document of the PMJDY the plan envisaged “universal access to banking facilities with at least one basic banking account for every household, financial literacy, access to credit, insurance and pension facility. In addition, the beneficiaries would get RuPay Debit card having inbuilt accident insurance cover of Rs 1 lakh”. Another additional feature in the scheme was Rs 5,000 overdraft facility for Aadhar-linked accounts.

The reason for the persisting existence of the zero-balance accounts is simple: people still lacked banking habits and the government and bankers to a greater extent stressed on additional benefits PMJDY provided in the form of accident insurance cover of Rs 1 lakh and Rs 5,000 overdraft facility.

Talking to host of beneficiaries it became evident that in most of the cases they opened the bank account with an intention of getting additional benefits. Benefits being part of the formal banking structure was hardly a motivation in most of the cases. And to the greater extent it was in the manner in which bankers choose to motivate people for opening the bank accounts.

In the post-demonetisation period the same lack of communication and miscommunication is creating confusion among people. And it is being accentuated by the repeated change in rules regarding deposit and withdrawal of the demonetised currency notes.

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in a circular on 19 December said in the remaining days of this month, one can make deposits in Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes in excess of Rs 5,000 only once per account and if anybody wants to deposit cash in the banned currency in excess of that amount, he will have to explain in the presence of at least two officers on why didn’t he do it earlier. Even if the deposits are made in small amounts multiple times, and add up to the magic number of Rs 5,000, the person stands exposed to questions.

A day after the RBI circular, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley clarified that no questions will be asked if any amount of old currency is deposited in one go, but repeated deposits may provoke queries.

The Business Standard report quoted Jaitley saying, “If they go and deposit with bank any amount of currency no questions are going to be asked to them and therefore the 5,000 rupee limit does not apply to them if they go and deposit it once. But if they are going to go everyday and deposit some currency, same person, that gives rise to suspicion that where is he acquiring this currency from. In that event a person may have something to worry about. Therefore everyone is advised whatever old currency you have please go and deposit it now”.

In spite of this clarification in many places banks are refusing to accept any amount exceeding Rs 5000. A report published in Business Line states, “Consumers across the country were complaining that banks were refusing to take deposits even after giving detailed explanations. The new rules say that banks should accept the demonetised notes in excess of ₹5,000 only once and that too after the depositor has been questioned by two officials”

Since the demonetisation banks across the country are defying the orders issued by the RBI. In many smaller towns and cities, banks were seen categorically rejecting the cheques even with the permissible Rs 24,000 withdrawal amount. Arbitrary rationing was a common place in banks. The exception that Rs 2.5 lakh could be withdrawn by the families organising a wedding, was in many cases not honoured by the banks.

While the launch and successful meeting of set targets under PMJDY was commendable, mistaking it for a resilient and robust banking system was a fallacy that lays exposed in the current demonetisation process. In PMJDY the opening of crore accounts was made possible because largely people saw it as a dole out, where they did not have to incur any expenses. The fact that business correspondents (BC) and bank branches through camps and awareness drive reached out to people in large number that helped PMJDY achieve its target. But then the lack of communication between the bankers and their new found clients rendered the entire exercise futile to a greater extent as majority of the people were not using their accounts as reflected in the large number of zero-balance accounts.

For any financial decision to succeed it is required that people understand its intent and its procedural implementation. In the current demonetisation drive while the intent is clear to any objective observer, it is its implementation that is creating confusion which in turn is getting accentuated due to lack of communication between bankers and its clients. Communicating in clear terms is the only way that post-demonetisation confusion can be tackled. Any miscommunication fails the very purpose of the most well-intentioned move as implementation of PMJDY proves.

First Published On : Dec 22, 2016 12:05 IST

Now, Law Ministry to bring tribals under Uniform Civil Code, too

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>While debate over Muslim Personal Law is still raging in the country, the Law Commission has now decided to bring tribals under the ambit of the proposed Uniform Civil Code (UCC). Tribals in India have so far governed themselves and decided their own customs through special constitutional rights.Top sources in the commission and law ministry told dna that the commission is soon likely to come up with its second questionnaire seeking public opinion on whether tribals should be brought under UCC.The questionnaire is also likely to have questions pertaining to certain practices that are part of some tribal cultures. Some controversial practices in tribals include wife-swapping and mating of minors.In October, the law panel came out with its first questionnaire, asking citizens to give their views on ending several religious practices and customs that had been branded anti-women in major religions—Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. It sought public views on controversial practices such as triple talaq, polygamy, polyandry, Maitri-Karar and a long waiting period for divorce in Christianity. Maitri-Karar, even though banned by law, is still practised sporadically in Gujarat.Through this, a married Hindu man signs a friendship pact on stamp paper with another woman and brings her home to live together.That questionnaire did not have any specific questions related to tribals but a certain section of the community has already moved the Supreme Court against the UCC. In their petition, they contended that government was making an attempt to impose UCC which will be against their ethos, customs and religious practices. To this, the commission had said they were open to suggestions and objections from tribals.Sources in the commission and law ministry confirmed the development and said that the decision to include tribals in UCC was taken in a high level meeting on December 7. The officials also discussed the desirability and feasibility of a supplementary questionnaire for the purpose of engaging tribals in the debate and the law commission chairman Justice BS Chauhan gave a go-ahead to the idea of second questionnaire, sources said.”Certain constitutional and legal safeguards available to various communities and groups such as Article 371 A, 371 B, article 244 read with fifth and sixth schedule of the Constitution of India, Section 1 of CrPC and section 1 of IPC also needs to be taken into consideration while working on a Uniform Civil Code,” Sources quoted Justice Chauhan from December 7 meeting.Article 371 A gives special status to Nagaland, which houses a significant tribal population while article 371 B grants special status to Assam which again houses many tribes. Nagaland in fact has cultural autonomy in following their traditional practices as Article 371 A bars legislation by Parliament on “Naga Customary law and procedure”.Similarly, the thrust of Article 244, the fifth and sixth schedule is the protection of cultural distinctiveness of tribals across the country.There are total 645 district tribes in the country and the states which have maximum tribal population are North Eastern states, Chhatisgarh, Odisha, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh etc.According to sources, the panel decided to include tribals in the proposed UCC after analyzing responses to the first questionnaire.Sources said responses to the Commission from Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) and West Bangal Chief Ministers Trinamool Congress formed the basis of the idea.The two political parties questioned the fallout of the Uniform Civil Code on the constitutional provisions which provide special status to tribals.Quoting AIMIM’s response to the commission, a source said, “Will a Uniform Civil Code not violate certain provisions of the Constitution. If exceptions may be created for certain groups-then what shall be the basis of such exceptions?”

Lt Gen Bipin Rawat is next army chief: Govt did what it thought right, it’s time to end row

Appointment of Lieutenant General Bipin Rawat as the next Chief of Army Staff superseding Lieutenant General Praveen Bakshi and Lieutenant General PM Hariz has got the self-appointed social media critics going ballistic on the internet. It has also given enough to feed the monstrous hunger that the media has for breaking news. Many writers have mentioned that there has been precedence of such supersession. Having known all the three officers closely, one is at a loss to explain one’s feelings. Lieutenant General Bakshi is an intellectual, straight shooter, dynamic and a thoroughly professional officer who is a dear friend and a course mate.

Lieutenant General Bipin Rawat. File photo. Getty ImagesLieutenant General Bipin Rawat. File photo. Getty Images

Lieutenant General Bipin Rawat. File photo. Getty Images

Lieutenant General Hariz is again a very competent officer and a junior in service but became the author’s boss due to residual service requirements. A mature and simple officer, he conducts himself with dignity. Lieutenant General Rawat, took over the command of the corps from this author. He is a humane, mature, professionally sound and a second generation officer. Appointments Committee of the Cabinet would have had a tough time picking one among them as the next COAS of the Indian Army. Since the supersession issue mainly pertains to these three officers, other officers considered are not mentioned here.

Be that as it may, the procedure followed is very simple and has been alluded to by some writers. A panel of all eligible army commanders and vice chief of army staff is sent to the defence ministry by the army headquarters. The defence minister makes his recommendations and sends it to the Appointments Committee of the cabinet. Previously, the appointments committee of the cabinet used to comprise of the Prime Minister, Home Minister, Foreign Minister, Defence Minister and the Finance Minister. Under this government, it has been simplified and reduced to the Prime Minister and the Home Minister. A thorough 360-degree review of the individual is carried out for all promotions to and above the rank of Major General. Similarly, in this case too such a review would have been done. One is confident that all three would have been above board. After the panel is drawn and recommendations are made by the defence ministry it is purely the call of the appointments committee of the cabinet to make the selection of the next Chief of Army Staff. Needless to say that it is the prerogative of the government of the day to select the COAS of its choice.

A quick glance at the selection procedure of other democracies would be highly perceptive at this time. The organisational structure of many of the advanced countries is different from that of our country. The USA follows a theatre commands system whose commanders directly interact with the Secretary of the State for Defence and the President. In the USA, a Chief of Staff is considered to be the equivalent of the Chief of Army Staff in India. UK follows the system of a Chief of Defence Staff who has an advisory role and a Chief of General Staff who commands the army directly. Australia has a Chief of Defence Staff and a Chief of Army. Pakistan also follows a system of a Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and a Chief of Army. Sri Lanka follows a similar system to ours. One cannot compare China and other communist countries with India on this subject as “political correctness” plays a major role in such selections and the system is different.

In the USA, the selection of Chief of Staff (COS) is governed by the rule “10 US Code 3033 – Chief of Staff”. Unlike the COAS of the Indian Army, the Chief of Staff of the Army is an administrative position and does not have operational command authority over the army. The COS is recommended by the Secretary of the Army, nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. In the UK, the equivalent of the COAS is the Chief of General Staff. The Ministry of Defence headed by the Secretary of State for Defence, recommends the names for Chief of General Staff and he is nominated by the Prime Minister. By the exercise of Royal Prerogative Powers, powers to appoint the senior leaders of the services is vested in the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence. The Queen, remains the ultimate authority. A similar system is followed in the Australian Army. In Germany, the Army Chief is designated as the Inspector of the Army (Generalinspekteur derNationaleVolkarmee). In peacetime, and in a state of tension, command of the Armed Forces is vested in the Federal Minister of Defence. It is only in a state of defence, which can be declared only with a two-third majority in the Bundestag (Lower House), that the power of command over the Armed Forces is passed to the Federal Chancellor.

While the systems may differ in various countries, the underlying principle in appointing the Chief of Army remains the same. That is, the political dispensation holds the privilege of choosing the person it likes to have as the Chief of its Army.

There has been disappointment and anger in some quarters about the supersession particularly those who are close friends of Lieutenant General Bakshi and Lieutenant General Hariz. This is but natural. Once the dust on this issue settles down and it dawns on people that the civilian government’s supremacy is to be respected, things will return to normal. Already, it has appeared in the media that things have reverted to normalcy and Lieutenant General Bakshi is back to his regular work schedule. Nothing less would have been expected from the true soldier that he is known to be. Similarly, Lieutenant General Hariz can also be expected to do the same. If these two generals who were directly affected have behaved in a manner befitting their stature and reputation, it behoves on all others to behave in a like manner. There are also rumours making the rounds that they will be accommodated as Permanent Chairman of Chief of Staff and Vice Chancellor, Indian National Defence University respectively. Again, it is required to keep in mind that it is the prerogative of the government to take a decision on these appointments. There is also a need to have confidence in the government that it will take the decisions in the best interests of the country.

This author has closely watched two of the COASs functioning and is convinced that every COAS works hard for the army. Therefore, we should hold the hands of Lieutenant General Rawat and support him in all his endeavours to take our famed army to higher glory.

The author is a retired lieutenant general of the Indian Army.

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 19:20 IST

India lauds Fidel Castro in UN homage to late Cuban leader

United Nations: Paying tributes to Cuba’s late leader Fidel Castro, India said Cubans under him have achieved notable success in areas like education and health despite “outside pressures” and Havana’s “significant voice” for the cause of the Global South brought the two countries together.

“Fidel Castro indeed towered on the global stage. Under his leadership the people of Cuba achieved notable development successes in areas such as education and healthcare, despite outside pressures,” India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin said at a special commemorative meeting in the General Assembly yesterday to pay tribute to the late commander of the Cuban revolution. Akbaruddin said Cuba gave a “significant voice” for the cause of the Global South, and this is what drew India and Cuba together.

Over the years, the two nations have worked together closely at the UN to promote the aspects of economic equity and social justice in international relations, he added. Nearly 30 envoys representing regional groups and nations paid tributes to Castro, who died at age of 90 on November 25, and his indelible legacy during the ceremony, presided over by General Assembly President Peter Thomson. While speakers included Russia, South Africa, Iran and China, there were no representatives from Western nations. Akbaruddin said Indians learnt about Castro’s demise last month “with a sense of loss.”

File image of Fidel Castro. APFile image of Fidel Castro. AP

File image of Fidel Castro. AP

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had described Castro as one of the most iconic personalities of the 20th century and had captured the emotions of India’s one billion people when he stated that the country mourns the loss of a “great friend”, Akbaruddin added.

As a mark of respect to the legendary leader, members of both houses of the Indian Parliament had paid tributes to the late leader. The Indian envoy told the General Assembly that India was one of the first countries to recognise Castro’s government after the Cuban revolution in 1959. “Fidel Castro was a stalwart of the Non Aligned Movement during the Cold War years, when India and Cuba commenced their close partnership to advance the interests of developing countries,” Akbaruddin said.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in his message on the occasion said, Castro was “one of the most important Latin American leaders of the 20th century” and “the most influential shaper of Cuban history since his own hero, Jose Marti, struggled for Cuban independence in the late 19th century.”

The outgoing UN Chief said as president, Castro turned Cuba into a “regional model of access to education and public health” and “until his last days he was deeply concerned about the future of humanity and challenges of the current times.” Castro left “a major imprint on his country and global politics,” Ban said in remarks read by Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Miroslav Jenca. Lauding Castro’s “charismatic and wise leadership,” Akbaruddin said India will always “remember and cherish our friendship” with the “strong leader of a resilient nation.”

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 13:46 IST

6 reasons why, despite being criticised, demonetization has failed to halt BJP’s victory march

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It’s been over six weeks since November 8, when the unthinkable happened. In one fell swoop, PM Modi delegitimised Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes in an audacious bid to curb black money. What has happened post that has been nothing short of chaotic. The RBI and the Finance Ministry have literally made up rules on the go, chopping up and changing one arbitrary decision after another. It has been a baptism by fire for them, trying to outdo money launderers and black money hoarders. Unfortunately, hardworking average Indians have been caught in the crossfire. The latest decision to scrutinise any deposit above Rs 5,000 (issued this Monday) has left even the most ardent supporters of demonetization baffled.The Opposition has gone hammer and tongs over PM Modi’s decision, with Rahul Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal almost indulging in a game to outdo each other by ramping up the rhetoric against the government. No one can disagree the common people have been greatly disadvantaged by currency swap and that the Opposition parties have tried their best to latch on to it. Yet, something curious seems to be happening in India’s political firmament. Across the states, the lotus continues to bloom unabated, notwithstanding the urban backlash BJP has received. The Maharashtra municipal poll results (till the third phase), by-elections in six states and the latest result from Chandigarh municipal corporation poll shows no signs of the BJP wave slowing down. If anything, it seems to have picked up after a momentary lull. What explains this dichotomy? Let’s look at some of the possible causes.PM Modi’s personal charisma‘Hum to fakir aadmi hai, jhola leke chal padenge’. To a large extent, this statement, made at a rally at Moradabad on December 3, explains Modi’s rustic charm and appeal among his core vote base. He is looked upon as an honest crusader against corruption, with no family to pass on wealth to or curry favour for. This is in stark contrast to the general dynasty-centric political norms in India, where often lineage and not ability dictates a person’s post in an organisation. The appeal of a quintessential outsider embarking on a Himalayan shake-up is too irresistible for a large section of the urban population, who had so far equated politicians with a staid pace of work and a penchant for amassing wealth. Modi offers a refreshing change in that regard and many are giving him the benefit of doubt for at least trying to change the system, notwithstanding the gigantic loopholes in the implementation. If the 2014 mandate demanded a big bang shake-up of the status quo, Modi has provided it via demonetization. Schadenfreude among common peopleThe German word ‘schadenfreude’ refers to the pleasure derived from someone else’s pain. The reaction to demonetization has been a textbook case of this. People have stood in line for hours and yet not complained, thinking that the wealthy must be suffering a lot more. The fault lines between the poor and the rich have always been stark, hence demonetization has been hailed as a great leveller. This is something PM Modi has managed to sell well by essentially branding the move as a pro-poor step meant to tighten the screws on the unscrupulous rich. Whether it has happened in reality or the rich have managed to give them a slip is immaterial. The perception lingers and that’s what matters in politics.‘Nation building’ in the age of hashtag activismIn another example of potent political messaging, the PM has managed to convey that all the hardships faced by the common man would not be in vain. In fact, it is an important path of nation building, a sacrifice of few hours for the greater good. To paraphrase PM Modi, this is the line to end all the queues of the past 70 years. At a time, when cyber warriors are in abundance, trolling people for not conforming to their set of beliefs, demonetization gives them the validation of not merely being hashtag activists. ‘If the soldiers can stand guard in Siachen, why can’t you stand in line?’ has been an oft-repeated argument in the last couple of weeks. For many who can’t ever think of joining the army or performing a similar level of sacrifice, standing in a queue for the sake of the nation is a quick path to patriotic nirvana.Shifting goalpost has helpedThe government has constantly shifted its goalpost about what exactly the main objective of demonetization is. From the initial thrust of eradicating black money and counterfeit currency, the focus has shifted to promoting digital economy. An aggressive PR campaign has meant that the real issues have been obfuscated. The government has managed to remain unscathed so far without quite revealing what it has gained from the entire exercise. Public reaction may take a turn for the worse when Q3 results of industries and other related economic indices are released in January 2017.Opposition’s unconvincing tiradeFrom day 1, some of the major allegations the Opposition has raised have been about how BJP workers and leaders were in the loop and how businessmen close to BJP were taken into confidence before the decision was announced publicly. Many accusations have been hurled but none have stuck so far, owing to the lack of any tangible proof. Merely calling demonetization a scam doesn’t make it one without any clear evidence. The Opposition may have lost out on a trick here by questioning the intent of demonetization rather than its merit. Sorry state of CongressThe present and future of the principle Opposition party, Congress, remains bleak like a moonless night. In many states, the party remains radar-less without an empowered state unit. With a top heavy structure providing no coherent leadership, Congress has islands of influence of local satraps. It doesn’t have any organised plan to counter BJP’s rampage. Congress was supposed to gain in Chandigarh, but fell by the wayside. In Maharashtra, BJP is making inroads in Congress’ deepest bastions. Punjab is its best shot in the next batch of elections, which will take place in 3-4 months. Yet the party looks wobbly, unsure of its next move. It has given BJP the breathing space to commit a few mistakes of its own without getting severely penalised. The BJP-SAD alliance is widely expected to lose Punjab and yet it managed to increase its numbers in the Chandigarh municipal polls. While it would be wrong to over-analyse the data, owing to the absence of AAP which didn’t take part in the elections, one thing is for sure. BJP-SAD is not a spent force in Punjab, and Congress and AAP can only ignore the ruling alliance at their own peril. In a border state like Punjab, where terrorism, drugs and counterfeit currency are big causes of concern, demonetization may even have a positive effect on voters as it is likely to crack down on these burning problems.Can BJP continue this momentum into the five state polls in 3 months time? A lot will depend on how quickly the system normalises post December 30. The PM asked for 50 days to get rid of black money. The citizens of India seem to have given its ‘pradhan sevak’ that grace period, but patience may run out soon.It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that demonetization hits a section of dedicated BJP voters badly— the trader community and the urban upper class. Yet PM Modi has used his courage of conviction to implement the scheme. Only the future will tell if he can upend all political calculations and end up with a new larger voting block, steadfastly supporting his decisions. That will be no less radical than the decision of demonetization itself.

All you need to know about Praveen Bakshi, the frontrunner who was superseded to post of Army Chief

When the Centre chose vice-chief of army staff, lieutenant general Bipin Rawat, to succeed the outgoing Army Chief, General Dalbir Singh Suhag, it overlooked the senior-most officer of the world’s third largest army, lieutenant general Praveen Bakshi. Here’s all you need to know about Bakshi and the possible reasons why he may have been superseded.

National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla alumni:

Bakshi is a graduate of the National Defence Academy, the premier training institute for all military officers. He was later commissioned into the Skinner’s Horse regiment.

Lt General Praveen Bakshi. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Lt General Praveen Bakshi. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Served two army commands

Lt General Bakshi has been at the helm of two major army commands, the Udhampur-based Northern Command and Kolkata-based Eastern Command.

Currently, he is the General Officer Commanding of the Eastern Command, which handles the anti-terror operations in the crucial North East states bordering China, Bhutan and Myanmar. Previously, he was the chief of staff of the Northern Command.

Experience in handling operations and commands:

While Rawat is an infantry officer, Bakshi is an armoured officer. He has commanded an armoured brigade in the Western sector, a division in the deserts of Rajasthan, and army corps in the plains of Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir, The Economic Times noted.

The Eastern Command chief has also been decorated with the prestigious Ati Vishisht Seva Medal and the Vishisht Seva Medal.

May become first ever chief of defence staff

Media reports suggest that Lt General Bakshi might take over as India’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). The proposed position was first mooted after the Kargil War. The CDS would be the one point contact for the defence minister and prime minister on matters of India’s defence security.

First Published On : Dec 20, 2016 17:21 IST

Chandigarh Municipal Corporation polls: Results out on Tuesday after record voting percentage

The results of Chandigarh Municipal Corporation elections will be announced on Tuesday at seven counting centres in the city. Elections to 26 civic wards of Chandigarh were held on Sunday with both BJP and Congress making demonetisation a major poll issue. 122 candidates, including 67 Independents, are in the fray for the civic polls. The polling was conducted at 460 booths from 8 am to 5 pm.

Both Congress and BJP contested from all 26 wards, while BSP has also put up candidates in the fray from 17 wards. The Municipal Corporation has 36 members, of which 26 are elected councillors, nine are nominated councillors and one is an MP (ex-officio member of the House). At present, BJP has 15 councillors, Congress has nine, BSP has one and one is independent candidate.

While the BJP is trying to cash in on demonetisation, Congress has made it a major issue with its city unit leaders saying the move was implemented without any “application of mind” as it has put the public to “great hardships”.

Around 51 percent voters exercised their franchise for 26 wards of Chandigarh Municipal Corporation the polling to which passed off peacefully.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

“Around 51 percent voters have exercised their franchise. The polling was peaceful,” Tarseem Lal, an election office spokesman said here after conclusion of polls quoting initial estimates of polling percentage. The total number of voters recorded were 5,07,627, including 2,37,374 female voters. 800 EVMs were used at 445 polling booths and over 4000 cops were deployed for smooth conduct of polling process.

The overall polling percentage in the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation election jumped to a record 59.54 percent, following a re-polling in a ward of the civic body after officials noticed some discrepancies.

The re-polling in ward seven registered 71.48 polling, Tarseem Lal, an election office spokesman said here, adding that the overall poll percentage for the 26 wards was 59.54. It was ordered after electoral officials noticed that the number of votes polled yesterday had exceeded the number of voters in a booth of the ward. Since it’s inception, the polling in the civic body election had remained below 50 per cent. In 2011, the polling percentage to the MC was 59.37.

Post demonetisation, the election to 26 wards of Chandigarh Municipal Corporation is a litmus test for both BJP and Congress. Prominent among those included three-time councillor and former Mayor Subash Chawala (Cong), BJP’s leader Saurabh Joshi                                                                                                          and Congress stalwart Devinder Singh Babla and present mayor Arun Sood of BJP.

The results will be test of prestige of key political faces MP Kirron Kher (BJP), former Chandigarh MPs Pawan Kumar Bansal (Cong), Harmohan Dhawan (BJP), Satya Pal Jain (BJP) and Chandigarh BJP president Sanjay Tandon. All these political bigwigs have a key identity in Chandigarh, the results will somehow set their political future too, besides their current role in local politics.

All political bigwigs from Chandigarh intensively campaigned for their party candidates in the polls.

First Published On : Dec 20, 2016 11:51 IST

Chandigarh Municipal Corporation polls: BJP and Akali Dal combine registers landslide win

Punjab’s ruling BJP and Akali Dal combine have scored a landslide win in municipal elections in capital Chandigarh reported NDTV. The victory is important as it comes just ahead of crucial state assembly polls. The allies have won 21 of the 26 seats, while the Congress managed just four; one seat was won by an independent candidate.

Amit Shah has said that every poll win after 8 November is an approval of the people for the demonetisation decision.

BJP MP from Chandigarh Kirron Kher has said that the victory is a result of implementing Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s schemes at ground level and that the results prove it right.

The results of Chandigarh Municipal Corporation elections was announced on Tuesday at seven counting centres in the city. Elections to 26 civic wards of Chandigarh were held on Sunday with both BJP and Congress making demonetisation a major poll issue. 122 candidates, including 67 Independents, are in the fray for the civic polls. The polling was conducted at 460 booths from 8 am to 5 pm.

Both Congress and BJP contested from all 26 wards, while BSP has also put up candidates in the fray from 17 wards. The Municipal Corporation has 36 members, of which 26 are elected councillors, nine are nominated councillors and one is an MP (ex-officio member of the House). At present, BJP has 15 councillors, Congress has nine, BSP has one and one is independent candidate.

While the BJP is trying to cash in on demonetisation, Congress has made it a major issue with its city unit leaders saying the move was implemented without any “application of mind” as it has put the public to “great hardships”.

Around 51 percent voters exercised their franchise for 26 wards of Chandigarh Municipal Corporation the polling to which passed off peacefully.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

“Around 51 percent voters have exercised their franchise. The polling was peaceful,” Tarseem Lal, an election office spokesman said here after conclusion of polls quoting initial estimates of polling percentage. The total number of voters recorded were 5,07,627, including 2,37,374 female voters. 800 EVMs were used at 445 polling booths and over 4000 cops were deployed for smooth conduct of polling process.

The overall polling percentage in the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation election jumped to a record 59.54 percent, following a re-polling in a ward of the civic body after officials noticed some discrepancies.

The re-polling in ward seven registered 71.48 polling, Tarseem Lal, an election office spokesman said here, adding that the overall poll percentage for the 26 wards was 59.54. It was ordered after electoral officials noticed that the number of votes polled yesterday had exceeded the number of voters in a booth of the ward. Since it’s inception, the polling in the civic body election had remained below 50 per cent. In 2011, the polling percentage to the MC was 59.37.

Post demonetisation, the election to 26 wards of Chandigarh Municipal Corporation is a litmus test for both BJP and Congress. Prominent among those included three-time councillor and former Mayor Subash Chawala (Cong), BJP’s leader Saurabh Joshi                                                                                                          and Congress stalwart Devinder Singh Babla and present mayor Arun Sood of BJP.

The results will be test of prestige of key political faces MP Kirron Kher (BJP), former Chandigarh MPs Pawan Kumar Bansal (Cong), Harmohan Dhawan (BJP), Satya Pal Jain (BJP) and Chandigarh BJP president Sanjay Tandon. All these political bigwigs have a key identity in Chandigarh, the results will somehow set their political future too, besides their current role in local politics. All political bigwigs from Chandigarh intensively campaigned for their party candidates in the polls.

First Published On : Dec 20, 2016 11:51 IST

Four RSS men in poll-bound Punjab get VIP security cover from Centre

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Four RSS functionaries in poll- bound Punjab have been accorded a VIP security cover of paramilitary commandos by the Union government.Officials said the decision to accord an ‘X’ category security cover of CISF personnel was taken after central security agencies assessed that there was a threat to these leaders in view of an attack on Jalandhar-based Sangh leader Jagdish Gagneja early this year.The four Rashtriya Sawayamsevak Sangh leaders are Rameshwar Dass (Ludhiana), Pramod Ji (Amritsar), Ramgopal Ji (Jalandhar) and Kuldeep Ji Bhagat (Jalandhar).Sources said four separate Central Industrial Security Force teams will soon take over the task and a squad will be dispatched to Punjab.Under the ‘X’ category, about 5-6 armed commandos are deployed with each VIP, they said.A similar cover was recently accorded to a senior journalist of a TV news channel.The CISF has over 70 VIPs, including the new protectees, under it.RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval are among prominent VIPs protected by the CISF, tasked primarily to secure major civil airports and vital installations in the country.Elections to Punjab assembly are expected to be held in February-March next year along with four other states of Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur.

Gadchiroli can be naxalfree in five years if other departments give their 100%: Abhinav Deshmukh

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>What is your biggest challenge?To win people’s confidence and handle sensitivities of my staff which is not only the largest in the state (5,600) but works in most difficult area. In other districts we deal with other crimes. In Gadchiroli, other crimes are almost nil. Here, apart from fighting with the leftwing extremists, we have to engage with the people in different ways. There is a huge gap between administration and people in this area because of inaccessibility. This vacuum was occupied by the naxals. Now, we have to replace the Naxals and occupy that space with better administration.There are around 12,000 police personnel deployed in the district including C-60, CRPF and SRPF. Still the district is faraway from curbing naxalism. Why?South Gadchiroli is still naxal dominated because of hilly forest terrain. Moreover, we share border with naxal affected districts of Chhattisgarh. While we have been focusing on one district with full force, Chhattisgarh police have to look after six districts with naxal dominance.Don’t we have inter-state collaboration to share the information?We do have joint operations and meetings. But naxals are surviving because of jungle and borders. Over 4,000 sq km of Abujhmarh which is spread between Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh offers safe heaven to naxals.What is the total number of naxals active in this district? What strategies are being adopted to make the district naxal-free?There are 205 active naxals now. While Andhra people hold top posts (in CPI-Maoist), those from Maharashtra are only junior members. Our strategy depends on their tactics. Encounters, arrests, surrenders and confidence building among villagers-all are being used.Is there any effect of demonetisation on Naxalism?Post 8 November, 11 naxals have surrendered in the district. Total surrenders this year has been 44. From making up their mind to sending us feelers and leaving the group and reach to us safely, it usually takes around two months to surrender. We will have to wait for another two-three months to assess the impact of demonetisation on naxals.Tribals often complained of police atrocities. How would you justify that?We have told our people to be extra-sensitive. Some cops do behave irrationally sometimes but such incidents could be very few. Besides, naxal supporters run false propaganda against cops as well.What needs to be done to curb naxalism now?We have controlled naxalims considerably. Its time for other departments to put in their efforts to fill the development backlog. Then only we can curb naxalism.But villagers say there is no government department on ground except police.Other departments suffer with staff shortage. Those who are transferred in this district, don’t join. Hence, government schemes are poorly implemented. Now, we are holding camps to disburse loans, make aadhar cards and caste documents of tribals. People expect us to address every problem. Over 30 villages are unelectrified and some are half electrified.Power outage is very common in rainy season when no body turns up to re-connect. Road connectivity is another major issues. Children seek good eduction. We share all these information with the concerned departments.How many years it would take to curb naxalism from this area?With all government departments coming together to give their best, naxal problem can be wiped out from Gadchiroli district within five years. This is an achievable target.

Battle against left wing extremists in Gadchiroli become intense: One state, 205 Naxals and 12,000 cops

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Maharashtra’s only naxal infested district, Gadchiroli, now has 205 active naxalites compared to more than 300 who were active a couple of years ago, says the latest statistics of the police. There were 500 Naxal fighters in 2010.Increasing number of surrenders, nearly 104 in two years, is being touted as “major success” by the Gadchiroli police. Prominent rebels surrendered in past two years include Sunil Mattami, member of divisional committee of Dalam (naxal group) and Gopi, commander of a local Dalam, who carried rewards of Rs 16 and 12 lakh on their head respectively.Besides, there were 60 arrests and 16 encounters of naxals in the same period. “There is no recruitment from the district in last four years”, claim cops.The all-out war against guerrilla fighters, lucrative surrender policy and social networking to win confidence of the tribes caught in the crossfire has been working well so far in Gadchiroli which is one of the 35 heavily naxal-affected districts in the country.Also Read: Gadchiroli can be naxalfree in five years if other departments give their 100%: Abhinav Deshmukh At present, nearly 12,000 cops including C-60 unit, Central Reserved Police Force and State Reserve Police Force are guarding the district, round-the-clock with most advanced equipment such as Under Barrel Grenade Launcher (UBGL), Multiple Grenade launcher (MGR), Sport Configurable Rifle, Light machine guns, X-95 assault rifle, AK-47 and high tech navigation devices.However, incidents of naxal activities and death of civilians and cops continue to give security forces a tough time. Several naxal-infested villages such as Hikker and Binagonda in the district remain unguarded with no police presence till 17-18 km.Also Read: In Gadchiroli: Tribals at crossfire between cops and NaxalsAs per the statistics of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, Maharashtra witnessed 66 incidents in 2016 till November end in which 19 people including cops, their “informers” and civilians have lost life. Although, the same number of civilian and cops deaths occurred a year ago, it seems less compared to 2014 when 28 people were killed.The southern part of the district mainly comprising Sironcha, Aheri, Etapalli and Bhamragad are infested with the activities of naxalites since early eighties. “The naxalites usually operate in the remote and fur flung parts of the district where access is tough due to difficult terrain and dense forest. Besides, these areas share border with the naxal affected districts of Chattisgarh which further helps Naxals”, says Abhinav Deshmukh, superintendent of the police, Gadchiroli.Over 500 civilians have lost life to Naxalism in last 30 years in the state of Maharashtra of which 90% deaths were in the Gadchiroli only. Since 2004, average 10 policemen have also died every year in the district.The district has been home to naxalites of People’s War Group (PWG ) since early eighties. The PWG now operates under the banner of Communist Party of India (Maoist).In February last year, police posts were opened in the villages of Regdi and Kotmi for the first time. Ashok Bhapkar, who supervised the opening of Kotmi police post and now heads the Surrender Cell told DNA, “We patrolled the villages on foot, organised sports tournaments and held meetings to organise women’s groups and participated in local festivals to win people’s confidence.”The Naxal surrender and rehab policy also comes with substantial cash reward (Rs 2-25 lakh depending upon the ranks) and has been propagated across the district as ‘Kaun Banega Lakhpati’ scheme through posters in affected areas.Deshmukh said, “They are also given plot to construct house in specially designated colony-Navsanjeevan. We help them get work and avail benefit of government loans for tribals.”Meanwhile, to counter the efforts of cops, the CPI (Maoist) has given a call for celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Naxalbari armed uprising from 23-29 May 2017, the centenary of the Bolshevik Revolution from 7-13 November 2017 and Karl Marx birth bicentenary 5-11 May 2018. This has alerted the cops.

Pay Rs 10,000 fine for throwing waste in public place: NGT

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Municipal solid waste (MSW) is one of the most serious pollutants in the country specially in Delhi, the National Green Tribunal has said while announcing a fine of Rs 10,000 on those found throwing waste at public places.The green panel said that all authorities are under ‘statutory’ obligation to ensure that waste is “collected, transported and disposed” of in accordance with Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 so that it does not cause public health hazards.”All major sources of municipal solid waste generation hotels, restaurants, slaughter houses, vegetable markets etc. should be directed to provide segregated waste and handover the same to the Corporation in accordance with rules. Any such body, person, hotels, residents, slaughter houses, vegetable markets etc. which does not comply with the directions or throw their waste over any drain or public place shall be liable to pay environmental compensation at the rate of Rs 10,000 per default,” a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said.The tribunal noted that the national capital generates 9,600 metric tonnes of municipal solid waste per day and there is no “clear map” ready with the municipal bodies to deal with the huge quantity of waste.It also directed Commissioner of each of the corporations to submit a scheme within a month before the Tribunal for providing incentive to the people who give segregated waste at source, “by way of rebate in property tax and on other hand to impose penalties on residents, societies, RWAs who do not provide segregated waste”.”It should be kept in mind that as per polluter pays principle, each person would be liable to pay for causing pollution, if the waste is generated. It is the duty of a citizen to ensure that said waste is handled properly and not to cause any pollution or cause inconvenience to other persons. The entire burden cannot be shifted on the state and authorities,” the bench said.The directions came while hearing a plea relating to mismanagement of municipal solid waste in Delhi and the terrible conditions that are prevailing near landfill sites.

Pampore attack despite strong intelligence warning

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>About 24 hours before a convoy of Rashtriya Rifles was ambushed near the Kadlibal area in Pampore town on Saturday afternoon, intelligence agencies had dispatched information of a “possible terror attack” on the Srinagar-Jammu Highway.While intelligence agencies based in the Valley have, on multiple occasions, dispatched similar inputs, it is the brazenness of this particular ambush that has security forces, especially in areas close to National Highways, concerned.Officials told DNA on Sunday that not only has the highway crossing through Pampore area become increasingly vulnerable to such ambush, but the elaborate planning that takes place before such attacks is a growing concern.For instance, the intelligence input before the Pampore attack on Saturday, in which three Rashtriya Rifles personnel lost their lives, had stated that proscribed outfits were planning a major stand-off with the Indian armed forces on the highway. It even had specifics that there was a strong possibility that convoys would be targeted using Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).According to a senior security official in Kashmir, at 12.30 pm on Friday, a message based on human intelligence was dispatched. It warned security forces of the possible attack.”Credible input suggests that militants have planned IED blasts followed by firing on NHW or a major town today (Friday). Take all necessary precautions,” read the portion of the input.According to some senior officials of the Jammu and Kashmir police, all precautions were being taken but the race against time was lost when around 2 pm, three motorcycle-borne gunmen ambushed the convoy. The exchange of fire lasted around 10 minutes, following which the militants escaped.What has the security establishment now thinking is the elaborate ambush plans, starting from planting IEDs, surprise attacks on convoys and a well thought-out escape route.Sources say areas in city outskirts like Pampore in south Kashmir is considered more vulnerable to such attacks, especially since the Entrepreneur Development Institute (EDI) is located near Sempore. The EDI, too, has come under attack on more than one occasion and the area is one of the link roads that connects south Kashmir with Srinagar city.The area is strategic for militant activities as it is located between Tral, Pulwama areas like Kakapora, Ratnipora and Khrew. On the other side of the river are open vast fields, which provides a good escape route.”The presence of militants in Pulwama and in areas close to the banks of Jhelum river is the reason that the highway has witnessed so many attacks,”said a senior J&K police official.This year alone, seven major attacks on the Srinagar-Jammu highway, mainly in south Kashmir, have taken place, with Pampore being the fourth such attack in the Valley since August.What is more troublesome is the indication that emanates from ambush. They suggest the capability and network of groups like the Laskhar-e-Toiba (LeT) and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), which are suspected to behind the Saturday attack.IEDs are an added worry. Sources say the use if IEDs had decreased since the armed insurgency erupted in Kashmir in late 80s.One of the first IED blasts that announced the arrival of insurgency was in July 1988 in the Lal Chowk area of Srinagar. Over the years, convoys have witnessed the same tactics. However, the counter-insurgency witnessed in the Valley in the past three decades had rendered the usage of IEDs to a minimal, with militants resorting to attacks using grenades.A senior intelligence official told DNA that local youth who who joined HuM or LeT in the past few years did not get training in making IEDs, but now some of them are trained by “foreign militants, “referring to Pakistani nationals fighting under LeT. It is likely that local militants, who mostly make the Hizb ranks, might have received training in making IEDs as well.Last month, a bullet-proof ‘Rakshak’ jeep of the police came under attack in Awantipora of Pulwama district, which injured three police officials.

Akhilesh govt to be remembered just as BJP is remembered for 1992 Ayodhya demolition: Mayawati

Lucknow: BSP chief Mayawati on Sunday dubbed ruling Samajwadi Party’s observance of a ‘Minority Rights Day’ as symbolism and asked UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav to come out of BJP’s “clutches” to honestly work for the welfare of minorities.

“SP government in UP has snatched the rights of religious minorities, particularly Muslims, and merely symbolic observance of Minority Rights Day will do no good to these communities,” she said, noting that the state has witnessed more than 400 incidents of communal violence, including the riots in Muzaffarnagar, during the past five years.

“The CM should come out of the clutches of BJP and work for their welfare, which he has not done during his tenure,” she said in a statement.

File photo of BSP Supremo Mayawati. PTI

File photo of BSP Supremo Mayawati. PTI

Her strong comments came after Samajwadi Party held an event where the chief minister launched schemes for the minority community.

Mayawati said the Akhilesh Yadav government would be remembered in the same way as BJP is remembered for the 1992 Ayodhya demolition and Congress for communal riots in Moradabad, Hashimpura and Bhagalpur.

The BSP supremo said it was surprising that whenever SP came to power in Uttar Pradesh, BJP gained strength. “SP government owes an answer to the people on this country,” she said, accusing both parties of complementing and supplementing each other.

She also asked why adequate compensation was not given to Muzaffarnagar riot victims and why jobs were not provided to those whose family members were killed in 2013.

Mayawati asserted that only during BSP rule, there was no major communal flare-up in the state.

She said the law and order situation in the state has hit its nadir and ridiculed the chief minister’s “tall claims” on crime control.

First Published On : Dec 18, 2016 18:38 IST

Pakistani cinemas to resume screening of Indian movies from tomorrow

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Cinemas in Pakistan will start screening Indian movies from Monday as film exhibitors and cinema owners lifted the self-imposed suspension on their screening that was put in place after escalating Indo-Pak tensions following the Uri terror attack.Zoraish Lashari, Chairman of the Film Exhibitors Association, told reporters that after thorough discussions with parties concerned, it has been decided that screening of Indian films would resume from Monday.”The cinema owners and other stakeholders in the industry have been hit by the decision to impose a temporary suspension on screening of Indian films. A lot of investment has been made into upgrading or building new cineplexes and multiplexes and the business at this time is dependent on screening of latest Indian films,” he said yesterday.The cinema houses’ owners said that they had only suspended the screening of Indian films but had not completely banned them.Movies which were missed and could not be screened due to the suspension will be screened first, said Nadeem Mandviwala of Atrium cinemas.The first film to be screened will be actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s Freaky Ali.”We lifted the suspension as a cinema guild. We took this decision because we would like to support them (Indian cinemas) and expect them to support us,” Aadil Mandviwala, Director Mandviwala Entertainment, was quoted as saying by the Dawn.The Pakistan Film Exhibitors and Distributors Association, which includes most owners of cineplexes, multiplexes and single screen cinemas in the country, had announced to “temporarily” stop screening Indian films soon after tensions escalated between Pakistan and India following the Uri terror attack and cross border firing incidents in late September.The exhibitors and cinema owners had taken the decision voluntarily after the Indian Motion Pictures Producers’ Association (IMPPA) announced a ban on Pakistani artistes and technicians working in India.Sources in the industry said that most of the cinema owners, exhibitors and importers of Indian films had got panicky after Pakistani films including old and fresh releases and even latest Hollywood movies failed to fill up the halls.”Plus in recent weeks several Indian films have been released while everyone is eagerly anticipating the release of Aamir Khan’s ‘Dangal’,” a source said.One source, however, said some cinema owners were still apprehensive of any backlash from religious parities or groups once they resumed screening of Indian films and have asked for protection if required.”A private media group is presently trying to import and release ‘Dangal’ in Pakistan,” the source added.Pakistan’s leading English newspaper ‘Dawn’ had in a editorial last month termed the ban on screening of Indian films in Pakistani cinemas as “damaging” and said Pakistani cinema houses were losing money because of the move.The Media and Marketing Manager of a major chain of cineplexes, Sabina Islam, said 75 per cent of the revenues generated in the industry came from screening of Indian films.Pakistan is considered as the third largest market for Indian films.Indian movies returned to Pakistani cinema houses in 2008 after a 43-year-long hiatus imposed during the 1965 war.

Lt Gen Bipin Rawat is next Army chief: Govt has superseded two of the best senior officers

Many senior army officers will not only be surprised but also deeply dismayed at the government’s decision to supersede the Indian Army’s two most senior officers while appointing Lt Gen Bipin Rawat as the next Chief of Army Staff. For, not only has seniority been given the go-by, the two officers who command almost unparalleled professional respect have been humiliated.

Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi, the Commander-in-Chief of the Eastern Command, was widely expected to take over as the next chief. Many in the Army looked forward to that eagerly. Not only was he the senior most, he is respected as an exceptional officer.

The officer next in line, Lt Gen PM Hariz, is equally respected as an outstanding professional of rare calibre. He has also been superseded.


Lt Gen Bipin Rawat with be the next Chief of Army Staff. News18

General Bakshi had been the Chief of Staff of the Northern Command at Udhampur before he took over as Army Commander in the East. He has had hands-on experience of the current situations on the major fronts on which India faces threats from both Pakistan and China. He was perfectly trained, prepared and suited for the top job.

Some senior army officers have even compared generals Bakshi and Hariz — and Lt Gen BS Hooda, who retired at the end of last month as Commander-in-Chief of the Northern Command — with the exceptional General BC Joshi, who was chief in 1993-94. Some rate Joshi as the best Chief of Army Staff India has had since Field Marshal Manekshaw retired in January 1973.

“It is very rare to have three such extraordinary officers near the top of the pyramid at the same time,” another very senior officer had remarked earlier this year. Now, the country faces the prospect of losing all three officers. For, it is possible that Generals Bakshi and Hariz may resign rather than serve under their junior.

The worst part of this denouement is that it comes at a time when the country faces a huge security challenge from the Sino-Pak axis. It would be a grave error to think the challenge in Jammu and Kashmir is a thing of the past. Militant attacks keep occurring (three soldiers were killed in one of two attacks reported on Saturday). There has been a lot of infiltration over the past couple of years, and unrest in such disturbed districts as Pulwama continues.

To lose three extraordinarily fine top officers at such a juncture is a compromise on national security. More importantly, this could have an adverse effect on morale down the line — particularly in the higher echelons of a force that has been through a lot of hard knocks in the past few months. Both superseded officers are hero-worshipped by many senior officers.

The fact that Lt Gen Hariz is a Muslim is irrelevant in the Armed Forces, which are more inclusive than perhaps any other major national institution. However, given the doubts that hang over the current government’s commitment to the country’s secular ideal, both domestically and internationally, his supersession gives a negative signal.

The greater irony is that this move has come from a government run by a political formation that strongly criticised Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for years after she superseded Lt Gen SK Sinha in 1983. Until now, that was the only time in the life of the republic that the senior most officer in the army was superseded in the appointment of a new chief of army staff.

This sort of thing is far more common in Pakistan, where the army is much more political than the Indian Army has so far been. If supersessions become the accepted and expected norm, officers would tend to invest in relationships with political parties and build other sorts of political alignments in the course of their careers, hoping for rewards.

That would not be good for the army.

It would be even worse for the country.

First Published On : Dec 18, 2016 08:35 IST

Dance of the Dragon: Why India is in urgent need of a new China policy

Between the heat and dust of demonetisation and the pounding of mortar shells across the Line of Control, the twin prongs occupying all headlines and mind space, a fast-evolving development demands our equal and undivided attention for the deep import it holds for the future. India is in dire need of a new China policy.

The delicate equilibrium that defined a major part of the three decades following 1962 Sino-Indian war coalesced into a more stable relationship with the signing of the Border Peace and Tranquility Agreement in 1993.

As former National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon, who played no small part in the signing of the contract during the PV Narasimha Rao government, writes in his book — Choices: Inside the Making of India’s Foreign Policy (176 Pages, Brookings Institution Press, 18 October, 2016), the agreement kept quiet one of the longest-running border disputes in the world across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) as both India and China got down to developing their economies and deepening their mutual engagement in other fields.

The deal formalised the status quo and ensured peace despite disagreements over the delineation of international boundary in no less than 16 places. This, writes Menon, has been possible because both countries saw merit in de-linking bilateral trade and normal state-to-state relationship from the “restrictions and inhibitions of the war”.

The strategy has served India well for at least a quarter of a century, a surprisingly long time considering the dynamic nature of foreign policy, but not anymore. There are increasing signs now that the balance of power between India and China has changed. There is now less equilibrium between both nations who may not yet be on a path of direct confrontation but find themselves frequently locking horns on several issues on their divergent paths towards emerging as new 21st century powers.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Not just clashing of mutual interest, a reevaluation of Sino-Indian relationship has also become imperative due to a shift in the balance of international order. As US seeks to look more inward, signaling an end to the post-Cold War era equilibrium where it was the sole superpower, the wane of American hegemony has coincided with the rise of China as a mercantile power rooted in a revisionist culture under President Xi Jinping.

Since the turn of the millennium, as Menon points out in his book, Beijing has clearly abandoned Deng Xiaoping’s 24-character-strategy — “Observe calmly; secure our position; cope with affairs calmly; hide our capacities and bide our time; be good at maintaining a low profile; and never claim leadership.”

Under a nationalist president, China now sees no merit in hiding its capacities and maintaining a low profile. It is bent on reclaiming the leadership mantle from a retreating US. By adopting a muscular and aggressive foreign policy, seeking a greater say in the global geopolitical order and recalibrating its strategic and maritime relationship with neighbours, Beijing no longer believes in biding its time.

In the recent years, it has invested considerable resources in increasing its land influence over Asia and Eurasia. It is building a formidable network of ports and other related infrastructure throughout the Indian Ocean and Western pacific littorals that may serve as the initial platform for its eventual global ambitions. This has obviously resulted in a heightening of tensions with India, the other regional power and US, the incumbent global superpower.

Even a cursory look at recent developments reflect a new exceptionalism in China’s beliefs — the mark of a nation confident about its rise. It bends rules when it comes to own strategic and military interests (like disregarding the Hague Tribunal Ruling on South China Sea) but when it comes to honoring strategic interests of other nations, it throws the rulebook. Consider the way it has unilaterally stalled India’s inclusion in the NSG Club by citing the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Beijing is furious with Donald Trump receiving a congratulatory telephone call from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and says the US President-elect is undermining One China policy, yet does not blink twice before siding with Pakistan on Kashmir, showing a scant regard to New Delhi’s One India policy.

China’s wielding of influence hasn’t been restricted to its geopolitical hypocrisy.

As Reuters reported, China has recently installed weapons, including anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems, on all seven of the artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea in blatant violation of international rules on a disputed area. It even went to the extent of seizing on Thursday an underwater drone deployed by a US oceanographic vessel in South China Sea, triggering a formal diplomatic protest and a demand from Pentagon for its return. US Senator Ben Cardin told Reuters on Friday that the seizure was “a remarkably brazen violation of international law.”

This is to point out that if China is not afraid of cocking a snook at the US, it will barely bat an eyelid while doing so against India.

As The Telegraph reported, China on Friday read the riot act and threatened India with a downgrading of bilateral ties because President Pranab Mukherjee had on 11 December played host to the Dalai Lama at Rashtrapati Bhavan during the opening ceremony of a children’s summit.

India has dismissed its concerns, saying that the Tibetan spiritual leader was attending a non-political event, but this building of pressure is consistent with China’s posturing. It had recently issued a similar threat against India over its $1 billion aid to Mongolia — another country that became subject to Chinese bullying by hosting the Dalai Lama.

It had even warned India of “endless trouble” in Sino-Indian ties if, as PTI had reported, India raises objections to China’s cargo service with Nepal, calling India’s aid to Mongolia “a bribe” to counter Beijing influence. India has so far acted with reticence but New Delhi can afford to ignore the provocations only at its peril.

This is not to say that India should wade headlong into a war with China. The Dragon uses provocations as a strategic tool to send across a message. It’s message to India is clear and unequivocal — that it is a bigger political and military power and New Delhi should take that into account while formulating its strategic interests.

From India’s point of view, the time is ripe for a re-engagement based on mutually agreeable interests. Peace with a China is imperative if India is to pursue its own trajectory to greatness.

First Published On : Dec 17, 2016 16:30 IST

Parliament clears Disabilities Bill 2014, but are women benefitting from this?

By Maya Palit

In July 2015, disability activist Nidhi Goyal told the media a hair-raising story about a young woman she had met in Gujarat. The young woman was visually challenged and her father had been secretly giving her birth control pills. Like many others in the country, he was labouring under the misconception that women with disabilities give birth to babies with disabilities, and the greater misconception that a person with disability does not have the right to be a parent. Her story is one of several instances that demonstrate the urgency of having laws in place to protect women with disabilities, who are especially vulnerable to discrimination.

With debates over demonetisation and corruption dominating the Winter Session of the Rajya Sabha, the chances of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill (2014) being discussed by the Upper House were looking slim. That was until Wednesday, when the Bill was passed without discussion with 119 amendments. The Bill will protect approximately 2.68 crore people with disabilities in the country.

The Bill has been praised for bringing in a more nuanced and expansive understanding of disability, as it now recognizes 19 conditions, including autism, Parkinson’s Disease and the impact of acid attack – far more than the seven that were in the first version of the Persons with Disabilities Act (1995). The most significant changes are the revision of the notion of ‘guardianship’, and that penalties have been introduced for violations of the Act. Two decades ago, there were no penal provisions, but now people can be punished with a jail term from six months up to two years, and a fine of between Rs 10,000 and Rs 5 lakh.

Representational imageRepresentational image

Representational image

Although, the disheartening thing about the Bill is that it hasn’t improved all that much on its clauses about women with disabilities. According to studies carried out by the research institute PRS Legislative, the ‘Penalty for outraging the modesty of a woman’ clause (Clause 105b) in the bill has ended up reducing the minimum penalty for offenders against women with disabilities. The minimum sentence is six months, as opposed to existing laws in the Indian Penal Code that give offenders a minimum sentence of one year. Shockingly, this was not amended in the new version of the Bill.

The Bill has been pretty disappointing on other fronts too. Although Clause 3 acknowledges that ‘special measures’ should be taken to protect the rights of women and children with disabilities, last year women’s rights activists campaigned for the incorporation of a separate sub section that would address the needs of women with disabilities and follow the guidelines set out by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

“The problems with the previous bill include Clause 105f, which stated that the Bill penalized anyone who performed forced sterilization on women with disabilities, but it made an exception for those with severe disabilities – in their cases, a guardian is allowed to consent for the procedure,” said Amba Salelkar, a legal researcher who works with the Equals Centre for Promotion of Social Justice. “This is a negation of women’s consent, and the denial of their full legal capacity is one of the major problems with the Bill. Because of course, women in general have their decision-making powers severely curtailed. The practices that keep impacting women – like the institutionalization of people with disabilities – are not adequately dealt with under the Bill. The Bill is set to regulate establishments and set up guardianship for people with disabilities, but really it gives no credence to how women with disabilities can further exercise their legal capacity and live independently within the community,” she added.

According to the recommendations laid out in a proposed draft (in possession of The Ladies Finger) that was prepared by Salelkar and gender rights activist Nidhi Goyal, “Women and girls with disabilities are often at greater risk, both within and outside the home, of violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation”. This is why they suggested a set of expansive measures, like the implementation of gender-specific programs, encouraging the representation of women with disabilities in decision-making bodies, collecting data on the barriers that prevent women with disabilities from entering education, disseminating information on sexual and reproductive health, and creating short stay facilities that could protect women victims of abuse.

There certainly need to be measures in place that protect women with disabilities from abuse and violence, but the State also has ‘positive obligations’ towards them, like ensuring bathroom facilities for them. And these need to be addressed in the form of tangible changes rather than tokenism.

It appears that the Bill has been watering down, rather than expanding its approach to the issues faced by disabled women. According to Salelkar, the 2011 draft had an entire section devoted to the subject, which was then diluted in 2012 and then even more in the 2014 Act. “A Bill about disability naturally needs to take a multipronged approach when it comes to women with disabilities, because of the double discrimination they face, which is why we campaigned last year for the inclusion of a separate chapter on women with disabilities. It is sad that that has been missed out and that the Bill has been passed without discussion,” she said.

The new Bill has a provision under Clause 13 that allows people to appeal against a district court’s decision about their guardianship. This could prove to be helpful for women who are being treated unfairly by their guardians, an improvement that has left some experts thinking that the useful amendments in the new Bill could have a positive impact on women. “If I were to zoom out and look at the bill in its entirety, I’d say it has come a long way, particularly with the guardianship clause. But the issues that confronted women still stand, like the lower stringency for termination of pregnancy (you require one rather than two medical personnel to confirm that the medical procedure had to be undertaken) and the lower penalties for outrage of a woman’s modesty,” said Nivedita Rao, a legal analyst who works with PRS Legislative.

There seemed to be a lot of quipping amongst MPs in the Rajya Sabha session about disability being hard to interpret, and that everyone in the House suffers from some form of intellectual disability. Perhaps a more useful discussion could have taken place about increasing protection for women with disabilities from sexual harassment and forced sterilization. Who knows, they might even have found the time to incorporate demands for a more expansive section on women into the Bill.

The Ladies Finger (TLF) is a leading online women’s magazine delivering fresh and witty perspectives on politics, culture, health, sex, work and everything in between.

First Published On : Dec 17, 2016 09:24 IST

MoEF issues draft pet shop rules to control registrations

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>With a view to check the largely unregulated business of pet shops, the union environment ministry on Friday brought out the Draft Pet Shop Rules that has laid down standards for registration of shops, veterinary care and minimum space required to house pets. The draft will be in the public domain for a month for suggestions and objections.Environment Minister Anil Dave said that the draft rules were brought out to make pet shops accountable and to prevent cruelty inflicted on animals. The State Animal Welfare Board’s along with municipal corporations, urban local bodies and district level Societies for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) will be responsible for implementation of these Rules. This is the second time after 2010 that the union environment ministry has brought out Pet Shop Rules.As per the new draft, all pet shop owners will have to register themselves with state animal welfare board across states. Representatives of state board’s, veterinary practitioners and representatives of society for prevention of cruelty to animals will inspect the shops before registrations. The rules also mandate that a minimum space is required to house birds, cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters in pet shops.“It is mandatory to maintain proper records of sale, purchase and death of animals and sickness in pet shops. Pet shop owners are also required to submit yearly reports to State Board, regarding animals sold traded, bartered, brokered, given away, boarded or exhibited during previous years, along with other information sought by State Board,” the Rules said.The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) and SPCAs across the country routinely receive complaints against pet shop owners for unethical practices and regarding cases of cheating customers. According to experts, in the absence of checks, pet shops are often cruel to animals as pets are kept in cramped spaces and are treated without proper veterinary case.“Scores of pet shops are completely unregulated and this encourages unethical practices. Pets are brought from unknown sources where unscientific breeding occurs. Pets are not given adequate healthcare and customers often buy unhealthy pets that are prone to diseases. Also, practices such as inbreeding are fairly common that gives rise to illness among pets,” said Major General (Retd) Dr R M Kharb, chairperson, AWBI.Kharb added, “The state animal welfare boards will have to increase manpower for effective implementation of these rules with cooperation from SPCAs.”